Big Sky by AvengingMyInnocence

Category:Maximum Ride
Published:2008-11-03 12:21:06
Updated:2009-12-31 16:18:01
Packaged:2021-04-22 00:44:42

Table of Contents

1. Prologue
2. Chapters 1
3. Chapters 2
4. Chapters 3
5. Chapters 4
6. Chapters 5
7. Chapters 6
8. Chapters 7
9. Chapters 8
10. Chapters 9
11. Chapters 10
12. Chapters 11
13. Chapters 12
14. Chapters 13
15. Chapters 14
16. Chapters 15
17. Chapters 16 and 17
18. Chapters 18
19. Chapters 19
20. Chapters 20
21. Chapters 21
22. Chapters 22
23. Chapters 23
24. Chapters 24
25. Chapters 25
26. Chapters 26 Part 1
27. Chapters 26 Part 2
28. Chapters 27

1. Prologue

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PROLOGUE; Somewhere Over the Rainbow...

The wind blew...

It was simple as that... The wind blew and she followed.

There wasn't really any doubt that she would follow it. The wind was her home and it always would be.

That was how Kitty died.

She died following the wind to whereever it took her as she flew... I remember I used to love watching her. It was like she was only truly alive when she was in the air. Only ever felt anything when the wind was in her feathers...

And that was fine with me.

It wasn't a price to pay. It was a gift, to live with Kitty, I had to accept the fact that I would always be second to the wind. But, when it came down to it, I didn't mind being second... As long as I got to watch her fly...

Have you ever seen a raven fly?

The sun hits them just right and for just a moment they disappear in a flash of multi colors. Then, as your dazzled brain finds them again, you realized they never disappeared at all... You just got to see a little part of their souls in flight.

I guess it was the first time I saw her in the air that I fell in love with her.

All of her.

I would have, and still will do anything I can to make her happy... I'd never ask her to change, or stay on the ground. If I'd had the audacity to try I would be negating everything that made her the person I love.

Everything that she was born to be...

And I can't do that. I'm just not that kind of person...

Even if I am a monster...

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(NOTE; This first part is in Bernard's POV, so, bear with me... But, here it is...

Yeah, first part is short, but, it will get longer. I promise.)

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2. Chapters 1

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Chapter 1; The Maze

"Twenty-Five hundred dollars..." The bars clicked, clanked and clacked open and there he stood. Blonde, scruffy and just plain pathetic looking after having spent almost forty-eight hours in jail.

"For God's sake, Allan, I can understand if SHE got arrested, but YOU!

"Jesus, what were you thinking!"

The flat of Bernard's hand came up hard against the back of Allan's head and he flinched away grinding his teeth, hands clenching into fists.

"Enough with the head-thumping, OK? I got a headache..." He rubbed his scalp with rigid fingers and scowled at the man before him.

Bernard was tall, just under six feet. Olive skin, dark blue, near black eyes and a mess of dark hair that looked a little too long for a man his age.

But, instead of looking rediculous... It made him look younger.

Too young to be smacking someone up the side of the head... Especially a man he'd just sprung from jail.

"You just better be glad they couldn't charge you with anything other than suspicion of mischef... Thank GOD you didn't actually DO anything..."

"Hello! I'm here too!" A thin short woman with dark hair grumbled, glaring at Bernard's nose as if it were a cobra arching back to attack. "They confiscated my computer!"

"Yeah?" Bernard said, glaring back at her, "Well, YOU I can actually see causing mischef..."

"Sure... Pick on the lesbian... Real good boys, real good," And she pushed past them, heading toward the front desk to get her computer back.

Allan scratched his head again, staring after her his eyes narrowed, "She didn't shut up the whole time we were in there..."

Bernard nodded and grabbed the blonde man by the back of the jacket, hauling him forward, "Yeah, she's a real bitch... Now get moving or I'll leave you here."

"HEY!" He tried to wrestle free of the near vice like grip, "What the hell's got you so worked up?"

"My plane leaves in two hours, what do you expect... I was at the freaking airport, Allan... And I get a phone call that you're in the joint!"

"Oh, please, I wasn't in the joint... I was in the drunk tank."

"You were drunk!"

Allan waved his hand indignantly, "Big deal... What matters is that now I'm out, and we can get on with this... This search thingie... Whatever."

Bernard practically shoved him out of the building and toward his jeep. "I swear to God... You're twenty-two, Allan, I can't tell you not to get drunk, but for Crissake at least WAIT until I don't need you sober!"

Allan wrinkled up his nose and mocked the other man. "God forbid I should be allowed a few beers."

"YOU WERE RAMBLING ABOUT GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACIES IN THE MIDDLE OF A WASHINGTON DC PUB! NO, YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE A FEW BEERS!" Bernard slammed the flimsy door of the jeep and thrust his finger under the younger man's nose.

"CHRIST! What's got your panties in a wad!" He shoved Bernard's hand away violently.

The jeep started and even before Bernard had turned in his seat they were moving into the street, "I found one of my sons..."

Allan wobbled his head in mock sarcasm and was quiet for a ten count. "Aren't you gonna wait for Maria?"

"No... I paid her, she can get a cab."

"Have you checked the, uh..." He raised his eyebrows emphatically. "The Thing?"



"Nothing for two days."

Allan sighed and slouched in his seat. "Okay, fine... Then why are you so worried?"

"First off, NOTHING FOR TWO DAYS... And secondly, the guy I got my information from said they're planning a mass extermination of all confined 'Projects' in three days!"


Bernard's face went red and he glanced over at him, his eyes dark, "Are you thick in the head? 'MASS EXTERMINATION!' they're gonna kill him if I don't get there TODAY... I've got three days to get there, meet with this guy, make a plan and actually get IN there to get HIM out! Does that not seem a LITTLE bit stressful to you?"

"Please don't shout... When you shout your voice does that thing and I get a headache..."

"What thing?"

"It gets all high pitched and screechy, like nails on a chalkboard."

They slowed to a stop at a red light and Bernard's eyes closed, his head sinking forward until his brow rested on the stearing wheel. Slowly, he took three deep breaths and let them out in a hiss. Then he raised his head, not looking at Allan, because he was sure if he did, that he would end up murdering the man he had claimed as his brother.

"Listen... I need you to stay... Go back home... If something happens I'm gonna send the boys to you... Take care of them, OK?"

Allan was silent, staring stupidly at the side of Bernard's head.

"You're sending me home because I got drunk and started spouting stories about aliens?"

With a sigh Bernard closed his eyes, "No... I'm sending you home because I need someone there to take care of them if something happens to me."

"Nothing's gonna happen to you, Bernie. You're too smart."

"Smart has nothing to do with it... You don't have to be an idiot to get hurt... Smart people get hurt every day."

"You won't get hurt."

"We don't know that... And I NEED you to go home incase something DOES happen. It'll... It'll put my mind at ease, OK?"

Allan was silent, adamant that he was going to stay right by Bernard's side no matter what.

"Jesus, Allan... Listen to me, just this once, please..." His eyes begged and Allan felt himself sigh, and his head bobbed.

"Okay... I'll go back. But nothing's gonna happen to you. I know it."

They started forward again, slowly because the traffic was beginning to thicken.

"I hope you're right, Al... I hope to God you're right."


3. Chapters 2


Chapter 2; Certainty

The plane dropped...

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking... If you would all be so kind as to return to your seats, we're experiencing some mild turbulance."


He thought to himself.

If this is mild my name is Daffy Duck!

He turned his head and stared mournfully out the window to his left, seeing lightning flash from within a cloud as they flew over it.

It was an eerie sight. And it cast shadows across his eyes... Aging him...

Slowly, he drew his backpack into his lap from where he'd stowed it between his feet and pulled out a notebook and pen... Scrawling out a quick letter he hoped one day he might be able to give his sons... A letter that he hoped would give them a little glimpse of the person their mother was... Of the relationship their parents had shared...

If ever there was a free spirit, your mother was it.

She let me be a part of her life, let me share it with her, and I'm so greatful for it, for her. She could easily have said I was too much trouble and left, but she stayed. She stayed and she gave me a gift by not trying to change herself to fit my world. She expanded everything I knew, and everything I believed in, and I am still in love with her, even if all I have left is her memory...

If I can offer you one word of advice it would be this...

He paused... Trying to conjure up words that were adequite... Words that said everything he was trying to. But he just couldn't do it...

No matter how hard he tried, or how he ground his teeth and rubbed his temples, no words would come...

There were only his memories. Every breath, every second, recorded in his brain. Perpetuating Her into eternity.

What could he say that could possibly shed even the smallest sliver of light on what he was trying to convey...

The plane bounced again and it felt like his stomach rose into his mouth. And then he was writing... Slowly, his hand seeming to move of its own accord...

The sky is a big place... And it is as much yours as the earth is mine...

Your mother truly lived in the sky, and I think, in some way... She still does.


Sorry it took so long, you won't BELIEVE how sick I've been...


4. Chapters 3


Chapter 3; The Other Side of Darkness


"Is the status on Seven A still relatively the same?"

"Yes," She had a thick stereotypical Scottish accent and the word came out more 'yace'. "Hez feevar hasen rizzen, thoh. Is stell 'bout forteh-one Celsius."

"Have they done up the lab work already?" He turned from his cup of coffee and blinked at the woman sitting before a bank of computer monitors.

"Yes... Pneumonia." ('Yace... New-monya.')

A small spill of gray hair fell into her face. Just a small spill of it. The remainder was still as lively brown as it had been almost fifteen years before when their subject, Seven A, had been placed in their care. She pushed this spill behind her ear and let out a little sigh.

Seven A was a sensitive subject... She hated seeing him sick, especially when he was sick because of one of their experiments.

This one had been exposure to extreme low temperatures... And she'd been stupid enough to remain in the room with him when she herself was exhibiting signs of an upper respiratory infection...

Her-own illness had since cleared up, but his was now in full swing.

"Has the antipyretic had any affect?"

"Yes, his temperature was over forty-two. Thankfully, though the medicine has helped spectacularly."

"Don't want to crash him... Just bring it down a mite-"

Suddenly there was a buzzing sound from over head, as if a light had suddenly gotten some small bubble of moisture between its contact and the contact of the electricity hookup.

"Deirdre?" Came a rather gruff sounding half-mechanical voice from a speaker mounted behind a special tile above her head.


"Your son is here... And so is a rather acrimonious bobby."

The man with the coffee, one Gareth Osmett, gave Dierdre a sly, crooked grin as she stood from her chair before the computers.

"Living up to his name again, idn't he?" He grinned yet wider and watched as Dierdre rolled her eyes and gave him the two fingers as she drew her keycard lariat from about her neck and swiped it to open the door. She walked hastily down the hall and out of sight.

The 'rather acrimonious bobby' the security marm in the lobby had mentioned looked more like an inspector than just a plain bobby. He wore a suit, not the bluish black uniform of a street-bopper as her son called them. A finely made tailored suit of an ashy tweed color. His dark nearly black hair was combed and looked slightly wet, as if he'd wet said comb in the fountain by the privy and dragged it through his hair.

He was not an old man, as inspectors she was accustomed with, but was a younger man, early thirties but with the lines of an older man on his face... Mostly between his eyes and around his mouth...

Worries too much, that one...

She thought to herself.

The inspector, who looked a tad too familiar for Dierdre's taste, simply turned around, exposing a bright green slash of sprayed paint diagonally across his back.

Dierdre's face reddened with anger and she looked at her son with a murderous expression on her face. As if saying; 'What have you DONE you STUPID STUPID boy!'

Her son, a remarkably pale thin boy with dark blonde hair stood there staring into the corner bitterly, his arms crossed. He had a rather poor disposition toward acne, mostly on his forehead and chin. It was unusually bad, because, like his mother, when under duress he would rub those two areas with his finger tips. The Dermatologists had all said the same thing... 'Wash your hands more often, stay away from spray-paints or runny inks and it should clear up on its own.'

Needless to say, the appearance of the green painted inspector said that her son had not only ignored this advice, but had taken to spray painting police inspectors in his free time after school.

"What are you being charged with this time?" She said in a bitter voice.

He shifted his arms higher on his chest and his cheeks reddened, his eyes never leaving the corner. "Tagging a copper and sneaking into the cinema..."

"Sneaking into WHICH cinema?"

He glanced at her then, his teeth grinding and Dierdre cupped her forehead, "You're still only sixteen! You've got another two years before you're old enough to go into ... Into a place like that!"

He rolled his eyes back to the corner.

Dierdre felt the workings of another headache building behind her eyes and she wished desperately for a nice glass of Bordeaux... She glanced up at the inspector, noticed he was still standing there with his teeth gashed, his fingers tapping on his forearm. A look of what could have been annoyance, but what to Dierdre looked like hatred, plastered on his handsome face.

After a moment the inspector sighed and raised his eyebrows as if to say, 'I'll drop it, just this once. But never again NEVER again!'

She growled in frustration and pulled her keys from her pocket, holding them out to her son with a dark look on her face.

He took the keys and rolled his eyes then turned and stomped from the building, the inspector following him, that bright green slash standing out brightly against the tweed of his sport coat.

"Donnuh think for one minute you're off the hook, understand?" Dierdre stuck her head out of the building and shouted after her son. "We're ahgunnah have a LONG chat when I get home, Aaron Lyle Bond. A LOOOONG chat."


(NOTE! Yeah, now that you know what happens, that scene's a real downer... And yes, the 'inspector' WAS Bernard in disguise. The reason he looked so familiar to Dierdre wasn't because he'd brought her son in before, but was because he and his son have similar facial features.

I always pictured Aaron Hutchinson looking more like Bernard with the facial features and Fang more like him with the coloration of his hair, eyes and skin tone.)


5. Chapters 4


Chapter 4; Illusions Swept Away

"Ye do know, tha eff me mum knew bout alluh thess, she'd go mad!" Aaron held out the keys to the 'inspector' beside him, grinning crookedly.

Bernard grinned to himself solemnly, not liking it one single bit. He'd found one of his sons, yes... But he'd let them see him... They knew what he looked like, even if they didn't know who he was...

He was going to have to change something now, so he looked different before they broke in...

"Donnuh worry so much!" Aaron patted him on the back and jerked his thumb toward a pub down the street. "I tehll ye wha, go have a pint, I'll go find Rouschester an wehl meet ahthee wall at tehn, righ?"

Barnard nodded, even though he wasn't one to drink, and shuffled across the street. He didn't go to the pub, but went into a super market, stripped off his sport coat and draped it over his arm. Hiding the green slash of paint, then walked down the aisle marked 'Hair Care' and grabbed a random box of colorant from the shelf.

He'd become accustomed with stealing things in the last year. Stealing gas from gas stations, stealing food, stealing just about everything he didn't have the cash to pay for... Or stealing things he didn't want THEM to know he had...

He tucked the box of collorant under his coat and walked casually down the length of the aisle and outside. Surprised when the alarms didn't go off.

Then he went to the pub and shifted in silently. Not even noticed by the man sitting near the door, and slipped into the bathroom. That was something he'd always been good at... Sneaking around was one of his hobbies as a child... Mostly just sneaking into his older sister Kathy's room and stealing money or reading her diary... He locked the door and sat to work. Noticing that the box of colorant he'd bought was 'Midnight Blue' and he cringed but found he didn't have the courage to go back and steal another box. He'd just have to live with having blue hair...

If it meant he'd get his sons back then it was worth it.

He worked quickly, mixing the chemicals and grinding his teeth as he applied it to his hair. Then stood there, ignoring the pounding on the door when someone wanted in.

"Occupied!" He called, in his best British accent... Which sounded more Australian.

Then he pulled off his shirt, exposing a black T-shirt beneath, and pulled its tail from his pants.

Bernard was not a large man. He was about six feet tall, thin, olive skin and dark blue eyes... He had the same problem at twenty-nine that he'd had at sixteen... He was not very muscular, although anyone he'd gotten in a fight with would tell you that he could pack a punch... He had a wicked right hook...

After a few minutes he rinsed his hair, rubbed it dry with paper towels, then glanced up at his reflection, he realized that if he kept his hair in his face, he could pass for a twenty-year-old...

So long as nobody looked too close...

He thanked his mother for that... God Rest her Soul...

He took after his mother, who was born in Italy and met her husband, Bernard's father, while he was vacationing there with his family. They corresponded for a few years, and when she was eighteen, Bernard's father twenty, she flew to the states and they were married... Bernard's older sister Kathy came along two years later, six years after that Bernard himself was born.

His mother hadn't looked a day over thirty the day she died.

Bernard guessed the ability to look younger than one actually was, was a gift born of his DNA. So was the ability to look older than he actually was... Which was why he'd dyed gray streaks in his hair a few times and donned glasses.

Glasses always made someone look older. Especially the thin framed silver ones he had in his pocket.

"Blue... You've got blue hair Bernie!" He whispered to his reflection.

And indeed he did have blue hair... Dark-blue, almost the same color as his eyes.

The door shook as someone pounded on it again, "Come on! PACK IT IN!" Someone shouted angrilly.

Bernard ground his teeth, and turned to the window, high on the wall to his right. He shook his head, climbed onto the edge of the sink and pushed the window open, hefting himself up on his elbows and sliding out, snagging the leg of his trousers and tearing them in the left knee.

He dropped into the street like a stone and nearly fell, but grabbed the lip of a dumpster and caught himself.

He shook his head and reached up, pulling his hair into his face again as he started jogging away from the busy street behind him, farther down the alley. Not even pausing to watch as he tossed the paint stained jacket into a dumpster with the white shirt and continued on his way.

He'd changed his appearance, all he had to do now was lie low until ten, and then... Then it was go time...

Then he'd be able to save one of his boys.

Bernard hung around outside a movie theater not far from the pub where he'd dyed his hair, trying to blend in with a crowd of young people who also had funny colored hair and wore 'Punkish' looking outfits.

He sidled up to a group of them, who were passing around a cigarette and when one looked up at him, he motioned to it without speaking. Not wanting to give away that he was American. Although it felt like they could tell just by looking at him.

A thirty-year-old American trying to blend in with British teenagers. What a joke...

He'd picked up a smoking habit since Kitty's death... Mostly because he couldn't do anything else... He'd been stuck in a hospital for six months afterward and smoking gave him a reason to be outside... Outside where he could watch the birds and dream about her... Dream that maybe, one of those big birds he knew were buzzards, was actually one of his boys... Flying around up there high above the world...

He'd always loved watching Kitty fly... It was the expression on her face while she was doing it that made him wish he had wings too. She'd always looked so... So... Right.

Like she was the flawless example of 'right'...

She was the bridge between two worlds, his truth and his dreams... And watching her made it all real...

And after she was gone, he'd sat there outside the hospital in his wheelchair, smoking cigarettes, watching those big birds fly high above his head and dreaming that they were his wife and kids... Flying and bridging the gap...

So, now, he was addicted to cigarettes, and he hadn't gotten his pack from the pocket of that jacket before he'd tossed it. So now, here he was bumming one from a teenager.

But the kid didn't mind. He shook one from the pack, lit it and handed it over.

Bernard bobbed his head, thanking him, and walked a few paces away, shivering because now he was more than cold... He was freezing. And even though the cigarette helped, he couldn't shake the chill.

The kids moved off, and Bernard was left alone, shivering in the cold, watching cars pass him, wondering why in the hell he didn't just turn and go into the theater where it was warm. But, then he told himself.

His boys had lived through fourteen years of hell, and he was about to give in and go inside where it was warm because he was a little cold...

He shook his head, and when his cigarette had burned to the filter he shoved it into the ash tray by the lamp post he was standing beside, and shoved his hands into his pockets, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

He wouldn't go in when he knew in his heart his sons had gone through worse. He'd stay out here in the London cold so he would be able to understand a shred of what they'd gone through... He'd do it because he needed to know that he could... He needed to know that it was possible to survive it so he could tell his boys everything was going to be OK and know he wasn't lying to them.

The sun went down at about five thirty, and snow started falling... Spitting down and stinging Bernard's frozen arms, stinging his face and clinging to the blue hair on his head.

He stood out there for another two hours Mr. Potty-Mouth screaming in his head that strange litany of words 'shit fuck, fuck-fuck shit' in the weird little song he'd made up years and years before...

And then a hand came against his arm and Bernard jumped, spinning around, his hands curling into fists and he came face to face with a priest in a thick wool coat.

"It's all right," The priest said and held up his hand, "You've been standing out here for hours... Please, come with me and get something warm to drink before you die of exposure," The priest took his arm and pulled him across the deserted street to what reminded Bernard of a soup kitchen, but he realized was actually a mission house. Like the food pantries back home...

He was reluctant to go at first, until he realized he had a clear, unimpeded view of the 'building' from here. The building that looked more like a prison than anything else, with its high hedge and higher fence.

The priest dragged him inside and threw a blanket around his shoulders. Then went about preparing tea.

The priest didn't speak for a long while, just merely sat there and watched Bernard drink the tea and shiver as heat crept back into his limbs.

"Is there anything else I can get you? Something to eat perhaps?"

Bernard shook his head.

"Is there anything at all I can offer you that would help?"

And he felt himself chuckle dryly before he spoke. "I wish you could," Then he paused, gnawed his lip and spoke again. "Pray... That's all I ask... Pray that what I've got planned goes off without a hitch and that I'm somehow able to right a few wrongs tonight..."

The priest blinked then nodded, "May I ask what your plans are?"

"If I told you, you wouldn't believe me."

The priest nodded, "There are some who don't believe what I say either."

Bernard couldn't help but chuckle and he shifted the blanket around his shoulders, "I'm gonna go save someone I lost a long time ago tonight... If everything goes as planned."

This obviously piqued the priest's interest but he made no move to ask more, so Bernard said nothing about it.

"How long are you here, Father?"

"All night."

Bernard swallowed hard, feeling himself speak before he knew he had words in his mouth.

"If you have a knock on your door later, will you hide who comes in from others who will come later?"

The priest didn't nod, nor did he speak, so Bernard glanced at the clock, noticed the time, and stood, pulling the blanket from his shoulders and holding it out.

The priest took it and blinked at him, "What is your name, young man... So that I may pray for you?"

Bernard smiled but didn't answer, he just opened the door and stepped into the night.


6. Chapters 5


Chapter 5; A Lucrative Business, Murder

Aaron Bond and the girl he'd referred to as Rouschester, were standing in an alleyway halfway between the movie theater and the 'Building'. They both saw Bernard coming but didn't believe it was him until he was standing there shivering in his T-shirt.

"Wha ahv, ya done tuh ya 'ed!" Rouchester said in a thick accent.

Aaron swore she was from Bristol but Bernard didn't believe it. The girls accent was too... Too stereotypical to be anything but real... She was one of those few Brits who made all the others look bad.

And Bernard could tell that the pale pimply boy before him was about ready to rip her dowdy head off and punt it across the lane.

"We've gotta move fahst, Mum sahd summit 'bout startin' the extermination early on the phone when she rang," Aaron pulled his stocking cap on tighter over his head, hiding all his hair. "Sahd she'd be late."

Bernard's stomach tightened up so hard he was sure someone had replaced it with a lead weight.


His BOY!

Aaron laid a hand on his arm, "Wehll havtuh hurry... Naomi's got ehn all redeh. Rouschester's got the feed."

Bernard had no idea who Naomi was, but he wasn't ready to stick around and find out. Those people were planning to kill his son a full day early!

As they walked, taking the deserted alleyways and back streets, hiding in a few bushes until cars passed, Rouschester pulled out a computer from her bag and showed Bernard a window with a woman's face in it where she sat in a control room of sorts...

He recognized her immediately...

The woman from the front desk... The security marm...

They dashed across the lane, hiding in more bushes beside the fence and Aaron ground his teeth, forcing himself between two bars and into the lot the building was situated on.

Bernard exhaled completely and started squeezing through.

He wasn't as thin as he had been at sixteen and halfway through it felt as if he were going to tear off his genitals before he could make it... But he ground his teeth and forced himself through anyway. Landing hard on the snow grayed grass cupping himself.

Aaron pulled him up and dusted him off and Rouschester passed a cell phone in to the boy.

"'sawn vibrate... I'll set ih' off eff thairs troubles, aye?"

Aaron nodded and slipped it into his pocket.

Bernard paused, opening his mouth to thank the girl, but Aaron grabbed his arm and pulled him toward the building.

It loomed up at him like some concrete specter of death, and immediately he hated it... Wanted to hire his father's Contractor friend Lincolin Majors to knock the damned thing over with that rediculous Bob Cat the man kept parked in his front yard.

Aaron pressed his back against the side of the building and Bernard mimicked him, sliding along the icy rough surface until the little alcove where their entrance was came into view.

For almost a full minute they stood there in the shadows, snow blowing wildly around them, and then, in the background, church bells started tolling out Ten of the clock...

And the door swung open on a mechanical hinge.

Aaron darted through, yanking Bernard by the sleeve of his T-shirt and the door closed behind him with a metalic click.


7. Chapters 6


Chapter 6; Saving Graces

The hallways echoed with emptiness. Like giant sterile tubes streaching on into oblivion... Even though the building wasn't that big, doorways lined the hall on either side, all of them locked, all of them daunting.

Bernard rushed to the nearest door, cupping his hands around his eyes so he could gaze into the darkened room. Panic built in his chest...

Why was it so quiet? Why the HELL was it so QUIET!

"Which one is he in?" He moved on to the second and the third windows before Aaron gathered his wits long enough to speak.

"How should I know!" He said in a shrill voice and shoved his hands deeply into his pockets. "I'm just after mum's lab work... Some German bloke offered me thousand pounds for it..." He snuffed and pulled a silver key-card from his pocket, fiddling it between his fingers like a package of cigarettes.

Bernard gaped at him and as the boy passed he smacked him in the back of the head.

Aaron stumbled and turned, his eyes wide, angry. "OY! What the HELL was that for?"

"For being such an asshole..."

Aaron bared his teeth and after a minute turned and stalked down the hallway mumbling; 'nobody calls me an asshole' as he went.

Bernard shook his head, wondering in some deep part of his mind what his mother would think of kids today.

She would probably have shouted indignantly in Italian and started whipping them with one of her innumerable wooden spoons.

Bernard could remember vividly when his mother had caught him and Clark Donovan with a few dirty magazines and a bottle of cheap whiskey in the barn. She'd started screaming, grabbed both of them by the ear and thwacked their heads together.

Part of him wanted to introduce Aaron Bond to his mother... And had the woman still been alive, he would have found a way to do it.

To coin a phrase, Aaron Bond was a right git!

The boy was willing to break into his mother's lab, steal files and research notes for 'some German bloke' in exchange for a thousand pounds.

"What floor do they keep... To they keep the 'subjects' on..." A bitter taste flooded his mouth and Bernard felt nausea build in his stomach.

How could someone call a child a 'subject' how could a human being do something like this to another human being? Did they just not have souls?

Aaron scratched his head, "They're all over... Just... Open the doors and see iffin he's in there, aye?"

"You can just open the doors?"

Aaron rolled his eyes and held up the keycard. "Got to have this thing, don't ya..." He rolled his eyes, "Bloody idiot..." Then walked away mumbling again.

Bernard followed, like a kicked puppy and watched as Aaron paused before a door, slid the keycard into the slot, and pulled it open...

Inside was a supply closet. Mops and brooms, and weird things that looked like a stick with a small jet engine on it. He didn't know what the hell THAT was, and didn't care to.

Aaron pushed him inside and for a moment Bernard feared the kid was about to lock him in a closet and pull a runner! But Aaron followed him inside, kicked a few boxes off a bottom shelf and bent.

The boy fiddled with something under there, and the next second there was a loud hollow sound. Like a rod of some dense metal sliding through a thin long concrete shute.

And then the wall to his left slid open... Like something out of a movie. And Bernard found himself staring into an elevator. Pristine white with silver metal walls and ceiling.

Aaron pushed him into this also and Bernard turned on him, "Enough with the shoving, kid. Seriously. Didn't your mother ever teach you any manners?"

Aaron gave him the two fingers.

Not really knowing what it meant Bernard ignored him and turned to the walls, looking for some kind of number panel so he could choose what floor he wanted to search.

But, there was no number pad. The walls were all smooth and featureless.

Panic stole him for a few seconds, and he turned completely around twice in agitation then turned to glare at Aaron, as if to say 'what now genius?'

Aaron's face was a picture of pure amusement and he crossed his arms over his chest. "Level Three."

The elevator dinged... And started down.


8. Chapters 7


Chapter 7; Home Free

Dierdre Bond was, at that moment, on the other side of the building supervising as dog cages draped with black canvas were loaded onto a truck marked Wagner's Shnitzel that had a cartoon pig in linerhosen standing in front of the German flag, painted on the side.

Inconspicuous transfers were always a must... Most usually they used bread vans, or large Wal-Mart trucks to transport the subjects. In this case though, an authentic German Shnitzel van had been hijacked by a group of the E-3's... Which had subsequently... REMOVED the driver and he'd been replaced by a trusted employee. Dierdre's partner Gareth Osmett.

Gareth at the moment, was standing shivering on the loading dock in naught but his jockeys, putting on a sweatshirt and a pair of dirty, greasy looking trousers while speaking loudly in garbled German to a plump man with graying hair.

Dierdre didn't understand a word they were saying, but, at the moment, she didn't really care. She was checking off numbers on a sheet of paper attached to a clipboard in the crook of her arm.

"Right... Level 3 Role... Subjects Fourteen and Sixteen are loaded, Subject Seventeen and Twenty are in the process," She tapped the clipboard with the end of her pen.

"And Subjects Four, Five and Seven A, are due for extermination..." She said bitterly, her stomach tightening in anger.

Furious wasn't the word to describe how enraged she was.

Subject Seven A was her baby... She'd cared for him since he was six months old. She considered him almost a son.

A violation of Ethics she knew, but she couldn't help it... The Regional Director said that there was only minimal cognative capacity in the experiments, he said that the experiments were only as intelligent as parrots. They didn't learn, they didn't feel... They mimicked what they saw, they performed tasks only for instant gratification.

Like rats in mazes. They didn't learn, or KNOW which way to go, it was all a process of elimination... They took the routes before them because they were there, not because they had any idea where these routes would take them on down the line.

They didn't THINK of things, didn't feel curiosity, or longing to better themselves. The were just animals with human faces... Nothing more.

And yet, Dierdre felt some kind of 'love' for Seven A... A protective kind of love...

Like you love the dog! She would tell herself. You love him like you love the dog.

But part of her knew better...

Dierdre loved him like a son. When her own son was young she'd brought him in and Aaron and Seven A had played together for a while... Until The Regional Director had found out... Once he'd found out he'd put a stop to it...

Not by threatening to fire her, or asking her not to bring Aaron in... But by transferring Seven A into a different group... Instead of Control, he was now on a list of Experiments to recieve 'Treatments' as it was called...

Seven A was placed into different situations for days on end. The first of which when he was only three years old.

And afterward he wasn't the same... His smiles and playfullness was gone. Replaced by fear, and a breed of animalistic hatred...

But now, she supposed it would all be better. He wouldn't suffer any longer... He'd be put out of his misery.

Pneumonia was most usually fatal in birds... She knew. She tried to focus on that. Extermination was much better than a slow death by Pneumonia-

And then there was a high pitched noise... A loud screeching, and orange lights started flashing above her...

Gareth went rigid, one leg in his trousers, one out and suddenly people were rushing past them back into the main building. Shouting and pushing.

"DIERDRE!" Someone shouted.

When she turned her head she saw something horrible played out on the security screen hanging in the corner of the room...

She saw the Police Inspector from earlier running down the hallway with her own son on Section B of Level Three, and behind them stood open doors, and there were animals running loose in the hallway, following them... Animals... And Experiments.

She could only stare at her son's face... Stare in horror at it and wonder how the hell he could have gotten in, how he could do something like this!

She knew he'd always had a lawless streak, but this was beyond her... How was she going to explain to her boss? She would surely be fired...

The clipboard in her arms clattered to the ground and she started running, knowing that if she didn't get to her son first, THEY would...

And THEY wouldn't be nearly as understanding...



Aaron was opening the last cage in 3-13 when the cellphone in his pocket started vibrating... He jerked upright and not half a second later sirens went off.

"Fuckin' hell, Rouchester... Nice warning, aye?" He shouted into the phone then shoved it back into his pocket.

It was instantaneous and deafening.

Everything they'd let out of the cages suddenly went absolutely crazy. Screeching, yowling and running around aimlessly.

A dog with rabbit ears and a raccoon's tail yelped and ran into the corner, repeatedly bashing its furry head into the wall, as if it expected the wall to open up and admit it into the insulation.

Two large colorful birds squawked, collided mid-air, and fell to the ground unmoving.

And everything in the hallways that had been following them began to panic. Throwing themselves into open rooms and hiding back in cages.

And the odd animal/person, they'd found, which looked much like a dog with hands feet and a weirdly human looking head, curled into a ball in the floor and lie there unmoving.

But, Bernard and Aaron were spurred into action. Aaron darted out of the room and opened three more doors shouting to be heard over the ear piercing screech of sirens and alarms, "I've got to get to Mum's lab!" And he darted off.

Bernard's heart sank, "WHAT ABOUT THE KEY!"

Aaron didn't turn.


But the boy had already disappeared down another hallway.

Bernard snarled and turned, running into each room and throwing open cages, trying not to look at what he was releasing, because he no longer had time to mourn its sad predicament by trying to kindly coax whatever occupant there was, out into welcoming, loving arms.

He no longer had time for pleasantries. It was business time. He had to find his son in the next thirty seconds, or he never would.

He peered into rooms as he ran past, zig-zagging back and forth from door to door, and noticed most of the other rooms were empty, those that weren't, the occupants were lying at impossible angles in the floor, and didn't react when he banged his fist against the door.

A sick feeling entered his stomach when he realized all the occupied rooms past 3-19, were thusly occupied with dead things...

He went past panic as he continued running, trying to wrench open doors when something stirred inside, even if the movement was all in his head. He went past panic into something deeper, something more traumatizing.

He cursed Aaron, cursed him and hoped the idiot child caught some horrible disease and his inky-dinky-winky fell off.

And then, a knob turned in his fist and Barnard yanked the door open, rushing inside before he even looked to see what was in his way and-


He tripped and fell, sprawling himself on the hood of what looked like a miniature golf cart, smashing his face against the miniature dashboard. He lie there stunned for three precious seconds, shook himself, and climbed to his feet.

His mind worked quickly and he decided... If he could run fast. He could drive this ridiculous cart FASTER. Could probably run over those mad scientists THEY called 'Whitecoats' and not have to worry about them anymore.

As he plunged the little key into the ignition and turned it, Bernard wondered absently where THEY were...

The blog Allan had stumbled across in the DC library while he was looking for a good restaurant that sold a dozen barbecue chicken wings for cheap, was what Bernard had called a God Send.

And the photo Clark Donovan had sent them had not only confirmed what Bernard knew in his heart, but filled him with a breed of pride every father feels when he realizes his son is not only alive, but is also taking care of himself.

The blog was the only way Bernard knew his second son was still free. As long as the boy kept posting about his adventures, then he knew he was free.

But it was now a week and there was no new post...

Not only was it disheartening, but it was frightening as well.

What if something had happened to him? What if he'd been captured or killed?

Bernard didn't believe he'd be able to live with himself if something happened that he could have prevented.

The cart lurched forward, barely squeezing out the door and into the hallway.

The animals and 'Experiments' he'd already freed followed him, seeming to throng themselves at his back, hiding in his shadow...

And then he saw it... He wasn't sure how he knew... It was some weird sixth sense he supposed.

Because it was just a dark room like all the others... But, inside was a cage.

The cart's tires screeched against the tile, almost drowning out the wail of alarms and sirens. He could hear pounding feet and dogs barking off to his left and quickly he jumped to his feet, cupping his hands around his eyes and staring into the dark room...

The lump in the cage wasn't moving, and his stomach lurched.

He was too late! Oh, God, they'd already killed him!

He let out a wail. The kind of sound someone makes when they realize all their hopes and dreams are lying dead at their feet. It was the sound of denial, and of a mournful kind of rage everyone feels when they realize that they are mere mortals. One day they will die, and everyone they love will die too.

He pounded his fists on the door, and shouted at a few of the Experiments that had huddled on the cart in fear. They scattered, standing a few feet away staring at him in horror as he maneuvered the cart at an angle in the hallway some thirty feet from the door, and pressed the accelerator to the floor.

The battery powered engine screamed as it shot forward, and Bernard braced himself, jaw clenched, eyes squinted...

And ran the cart into the door at full speed.


9. Chapters 8


Chapter 8; Drums of War


He flinched and pried open one eye.

The sound of the sirens was muted and he wished his hands were thick enough to block it all out... To block out all the sound, simply because at the moment it made him sick to his stomach to hear it...

His chest rattled as he inhaled, and then it happened again...


And there was a terrible crash, much like the sound of a massive car accident... The dull thud of a large machine crashing into something at high speed and the door buckled inward, shattering the pristine darkness surrounding him in a blaze of iridescent white light.

For half a breath he was blinded by it, and then terror gripped him and all he could do was scream...

Scream and try to escape it because nothing he'd ever seen or experienced could be as terrible, or as potentially painful as whatever had just crashed through that door.

Bernard scrambled over the hood of the cart and into the room, apologies tumbling from his mouth like water over falls... And as his eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room they found what he'd been searching for, for fourteen years...

And for a moment, he stood there staring, shocked, horrified, and enraged by what he saw huddled in the cage before him.

It was a boy, fourteen years, one month and fifteen days old, his hair was brown, ruler straight and a mess of knots and sweat. He was terribly thin, his bones seeming to jut proudly beneath his skin, giving him a sharp, angular look. His wings looked too large, the white feathers dull and unhealthy, seeming to clump together and yet come apart at the same time.

He wore only a pair of pale blue shorts that looked not to have been washed in the whole extent of time the boy had been locked in this hellhole.

But when sunken, yet horribly large dark blue eyes pierced the curtain of dirty, unkempt hair they screamed outward with madness and all Bernard could think was a single word.


And just looking into his son's bruised, near imaciated face, seeing the pain and fear in those eyes tore a scream from him, and in the next instant the boy in the cage was thrashing around in a panic. His mouth hanging open far too widely, his thin bony hands tearing at the bars of the too small cage, his sick thin wings beating against his confinements, feathers flying...

Bernard didn't know what to do... Didn't know how to calm the child... Didn't know how to start.

When he was a very young boy, his mother had kept parakeets in a cage by the window. When the birds had gotten terribly frightened his mother had thrown a towel over the cage and the birds had calmed down.

But there was no towel now... No sheets...

And if the child in the cage, if his son was not calmed down quickly he would be come so terribly, so intensely frightened he would have a heart attack and die, just like the parakeets had the night of the tornado...

Bernard searched frantically, tearing through cabinets for something... ANYTHING... But there was nothing but terrifying implements of torture in those cabinets. Nothing but tubing, syringes files and paper surgical gowns...

Things that would only increase the boy's terror...

So he did the only thing that, at the moment, seemed rational... He unlocked the cage and dumped the boy out into the floor.

His head bounced against the tile and his wings opened hitting each wall, the ceiling, the floor, as he beat them, feathers flying around the room like snow flakes.

He scrambled, trying to climb to his feet, but his legs shook and he fell every time, seeming to flop around like a dying pigeon...

It was ugly to watch, ugly to witness, but Bernard could only press himself against the wall and stare because he knew to touch his own son now would be to drive the boy over the edge into madness.

So he merely stood there watching, his eyes wide, wondering if there would be anything he could do after the child was calmer. Wondering if there was any hope for this boy outside of a cage...

Captivity was all he'd ever known, would he be able to live in the real world? Or would the mere sight of it kill him...

Wings suddenly folded and the boy crawled quickly into the corner and huddled there under a counter, silent, shaking as if he were having a seizure, his eyes wide and unblinking, mouth open wide sucking in whooshing breath after whooshing breath, hands clawing at his own throat...

And then, blessedly, he sagged forward and was still. His thin chest heaving, eyes locked on Bernard's own.

For a moment it felt as though some kind of connection passed between them, some kind of bond...

But then it was gone and Bernard realized the full scope and futility of his actions...

The boy didn't know who he was... The boy thought he was the enemy...

And this realization broke something in him. Some small fragile little something that contained all his hopes of having a normal life with his children.

There was no normal... There was no hope.

His children had been hurt terribly. Traumatized by people like him... What untold horrors had his poor, helpless kids been subjected to?

Bernard's hands went out, his face falling in despair, his lower lip trembling because it felt as if at any moment he was going to break down into sobs. "Shhhhhh," He whispered, and slid limply down the wall, repeating the sound over and over, one long quiet shush...

The boy was silent, staring at him, all eyes... He didn't even breathe.

Bernard wouldn't have been surprised if the kid had pissed himself in his terror...

"It's OK, Buddy..." His hands were still up, empty, non-threatening. "Everything's gonna be OK, but I gotta get you out of here."

There was no reply, the boy just sat there staring.

The scream of sirens in another part of the building broke through the silence and Bernard shook himself, remembering where he was, what he had to do. Slowly, he climbed to his feet, bent over so as not to appear threatening. "We've got to go now, before They come back... If They come back, bad things'll happen."

Mentioning 'THEY' seemed to spur the boy into action because he flinched and tried to squish himself farther into the corner.

Bernard paused, his mind racing as he stared at the kid. There was no doubt in his mind that this was his son. He had Kitty's coloring, the shape of the boy's eyes... And something odd, something that felt perhaps as if it had rubbed off from Kitty, told him all he needed to know. This was one of his sons... He felt it in his soul.

And he would do whatever he had to do to save him.

"You have to follow me, OK? You've got to trust me or else we're both in deep shit, got it?" His voice was stern, commanding, and his heart hurt when the boy flinched away from him, his large round eyes filling with tears. "Now, get up."

He didn't move.

"Get up, NOW."

As much as it hurt him to shout, to frighten his son, it was imperative that he do so or else the kid might just sit there until THEY came back.

Slowly, the boy slunk forward out of his hiding place, his whole thin body tense, his wings trembling.

He looked like a dog that had been kicked too much... Like someone who was anticipating a beating.

You sons-of-bitches... I'm gonna kill every last one of you, I swear it... My poor boy... God, in Heaven... What did they do to him...

Anger was something Bernard was used to feeling. He'd been angry since the day Kitty was murdered. But now, the anger was changed... Now, he simply hurt... He hurt for his wife, he hurt for his children and everything they had been put through by these evil people.

Nobody deserved this... NOBODY...

He vowed then and there that he would do everything in his power to save his children from the anguish he felt... He would never let his kids feel this kind of hurt again.

When he was on his feet the boy looked even more pathetic than when he'd been stuffed in the cage.

His ribs were visible, a ladder of ridges down both sides, His arms looked much too long, his head too large for his body. He looked like one of those starving children from Africa that Bernard remembered seeing on the Unicef commercials... And to think that this poor starving child before him was his own son...

Bernard simply wanted to take the boy into his arms and hold him... Hold him as he'd done the day he was born...

Fourteen years had been stolen from him. Fourteen years of Hell... And he'd survived... That said a lot about the boy's character... And it said to Bernard that the boy was well over due for a nice, long vacation. A Relocation!

The boy's spindly legs shook under his own meager weight and Bernard knew the kid was on the verge of collapse... And it seemed as though, just when he thought it, the kid's body did it and barely half a second later his oldest son was sprawled out in a tangled, near pretzel like position on the ground...


10. Chapters 9


Chapter 9; Once Upon a Time

(14 years, 1 month, and 15 days earlier...)

Gravel, the color of powdered gold, popped beneath the tires of a truck as it ground to a sudden and abrupt halt on the side of the road.

Everywhere around them was a great, immense flatness. A few trees standing here and there in little clumps mostly close to water, were painted bright earthy colors...

Reds, browns, oranges and yellows...

This was Eastern Oklahoma... Barely fifty-four miles from Tulsa on a practically deserted Highway Ten... About ten miles from anywhere ironically...

Indistinct, guttural, terrified whimpers drifted out of the truck as the driver's side door flew open and a boy, about sixteen, who despite what he thought, despite what SHE thought, was still only a boy, lept out. His feet fumbling awkwardly in his untied, dirt stained, off gray Nikes as he stumbled around the truck, hissing a string of curses when his hands slid across the hot hood.

"Fuck-fuckfuck shit!"

His left foot caught on his right and he took one ... two ... three stumbling steps and fell to his hands and knees, but was up again quickly. Continuing his shambling run around the truck, yanking open the passenger side door.

A viscous liquid of some clear, white flecked type dripped out when he jerked the door open. Not a lot, barely enough to wet his shoes when the liquid dribbled on them... But enough to draw that odd litany of curses from him again, that seemed to be all that remained of his vocabulary.

"Shit fuck-fuckfuck shit!"

Somewhere in the back of his mind he thought those five words sounded oddly musical and in his brain he repeated them over and over. Unceasingly, because his rational mind had deserted him and there was nothing left but that part of him his mother had called 'Mr. Potty-mouth' and the great matriarch had often stuck bars of Dial soap in his mouth or smacked 'Mr. Potty-mouth's cheeks and over his seemingly limited vocabulary...

He did that now... Brought his right hand up and slapped it against that side of his face, leaving a red welt shaped like his palm and fingers from just above his eyebrow to his jaw.

Why he did it he wasn't sure... Mr. Potty-Mouth had taken over his body again and the only control he had was his eyes... And his eyes were seeing things that he didn't EVER want to see.

His eyes were seeing his wife... Who herself, despite what she thought and what HE believed, was still just a girl... As she laid in the seat, her legs jackknifed the flounce of her skirt riding up her thighs...

His eyes seemed to slide over her. From her bare feet, toes curled into the vinyl upholstery of the truck seat to the light gray shorts she was wearing under her dress, which were darkened with the same viscous liquid that was still dripping on his shoes, leaving tear droplet stains on the cuffs of his Levi's... Up her prostrate body to her protruding stomach where both hands were curled, clutching in pain and simple protectiveness... Her dark, nearly black eyes thrown wide, unblinking. Her lips, incredibly pale, set into a thin, grim line on her equally pale, grim face.

Mr. Potty-mouth seemed to have responded to the slap because his vulgar vocabulary was diminished into two simple words.

"Oh man."

His young bride turned to him as he put out his hands to her and half a second later she was vaguely aware of the wet flop of her shorts as he threw them into the weeds...

And then the second pain hit and she bore down on it. Not because it was time to do it, but because she was afraid and didn't know what else to do.

He cried out in shock, revulsion and fear and seemed to disappear for a moment, as if he'd fallen down again.

The next second he reappeared, between the twin mountain peaks of her knees his face slack, eyes wide enough to pop from his head and dangle about on the roots of his optic nerves. His teeth were gnashed together and there were flecks of what she guessed to be either blood or some other effluent fluid she didn't know the name of on his face. And he was holding a small, pale squirming thing in his arms, against the wet, slimy, bloody looking front of his T-shirt.

Boy Oh Boy! I've got a son! And holy-hell is he slippery! Almost dropped him there Kitten! But I kept my grip! I'm not such a clutz after all! But I'm not gonna tell you that I almost dropped the baby, not when you're in just the right position to kick my ever-lovin head off!

Instead of searching for a blanket or something, as he would have done had he been in his right mind. He merely cradled the slimy pale thrashing newborn to his chest with one hand and peeled his shirt off with the other, wrapping it around the baby and gently passing it into her arms...

Only then did he recover enough to grab one of their suitcases from the back of the truck and pull out what he thought was a blanket, but was actually just another T-shirt, this one black and sporting a silkscreen of the word 'METALLICA' in large white letters.

This time, when she pushed, he was ready and he was past being scared, he was past even feeling the reflective pain of what was happening. He supposed he was in shock... There was a ringing in his ears like he was in shock...

Maybe he'd gotten a concussion when he fell...

But this time he didn't nearly drop the poor baby, he caught the child and for a minute, as he was wrapping it up, wiping some gross looking gunk from the little boy's face. He held him close against his bare, slightly underdeveloped chest and stared down at him in awe...


And he smiled, smiled and felt himself crying at the same time.

You two're gonna change the world someday, arncha? You're gonna blow all of 'em away!

And he gently wrapped the T-shirt around the small, matted wet, light gray wings on his son's back...


(This chapter was for all the devoted fans of Wings of Wrath and Big Sky THANK YOU SO MUCH!)


11. Chapters 10


Chapter 10; Escape

Aaron unlocked the door to his mother's office and slipped inside, flipping on the light and going directly to her desk.

The files that German bloke wanted were quite specific... Thankfully, he'd written the names down, or else he'd been in quite a lot of trouble.

He dug in his pocket for the scrap of paper and flattened it on the desktop then began riffling through the drawers.

"Right... Subject Thirteen B... Subject Eight... Subject Nineteen... Project Orpheus... Project Firewall..." He pulled these thick packets from the drawers and stacked them on the desk beside the note, then paused and stole a few others that looked promising, including one marked 'CONFIDENTAL' in big red letters.

"Armageddon Concept... Sounds racy!" He stuffed that under his arm and kicked the drawer closed. He picked up the other files, wrapped a few of his mother's larger rubber bands around them and went for the door.


He paused, the short greasy hackles on the back of his neck standing on end.

Slowly, he turned and stared into a darkened closet space in the corner.

The door stood open half a crack and within this opening, all Aaron could see was darkness. A deep and smothering kind of darkness... The kind that made him nauseous and excited at the same time...

Like horror films watched in the dead of night with his school mates... Especially when they'd all had a beer or two...


Slowly, Aaron inched forward, the files tucked under his arm like a football, his left hand going out to push open the door...


He shoved the door open and the blackness greeted him...

As well as three sets of reddish reflecting eyes...

Aaron let out a shriek and made for the door, just as the three sets of eyes sprang forward after him.

He hit the opposite wall out in the hallway and shoved off from it, running as fast as his long uncoordinated legs would carry him. Running for his very life.

Behind him, he heard the thunder of feet... Or paws maybe... Sickening laughter and a voice he couldn't identify as male or female calling after him in a sweet, innocent, yet evil voice...

"Oh, yes... Do run... And jump... And SKIP!"

Aaron screamed, simply because he knew those things were gaining on him and no matter how fast he ran, they would always be able to run faster than him...

Oh, how he wished he'd stayed home... How he wished he'd NOT left Bernard... How he wished he'd kept his gob shut and not conversed with that bloody German bloke in the pub!

Damn him! DAMN HIM!

And Aaron bounced off the door in front of him... Bounced like some kind of rubber ball in a teenager's clothing.

He fell hard, all the breath woofing from his lungs... He felt blood running down his face and put a hand to it, the files strewn around him, completely forgotten.

His nose was twisted horribly to the left, and when he touched it he screamed and scrambled to his knees, fumbling in his pocket for the keycard... Only to realize he no longer had it... He'd left it in his mother's office!

And something laughed... A sweet, childishly feminine laugh, and Aaron turned his head... Only to see three of the most horrifying things he'd ever seen...

Werewolves... Or what he associated with werewolves...

One of them was missing a leg and went about on its hands and remaining foot. Another was missing an arm and an ear...

But the one in front... The one in front was a mess of metal and living flesh...

It looked almost as if its chest had been blown away and replaced with animatronic organs. Aaron could see them working away beneath the thin, transparent layer of skin stretched over muscle and bone... And its face was a roadmap of scars and bright pink burned, hairless flesh.

This one spoke again... Burned, scarred lips rolling back to expose a composition of normal and metal fangs... "What are you staring at, Fleshy!"

The two werewolf things in back snarled and snapped their jaws at him, heads down, eyes terribly alert, bodies so still they looked like statues...

Aaron's heart pounded in fear. His eyes wide, blood continuing to roll from his twisted nose.

"Please... Please, don't hurt me!" He blubbered and held up his hands beseechingly.

The werewolf in front smiled, or snarled, depending on how you looked at it... And laughed again...

"Hurt you? No... We won't hurt you... We just want to see what color your guts are... Red... Or yellow."

And the two flanking monstrosities leapt forward howling in a rabid kind of joy...


"Don't die... Please, GOD, don't let him die!" Bernard sobbed as he scrambled out of the crowded elevator.

The boy only weighed about thirty pounds soaking wet, Bernard thought as he carried his son down the hallway, toward the exit door, running as fast as he could.

There were others, a few children and a couple adults running toward the exit as well. Two of the children fell and didn't get back up, and one of the adults threw open the door, saw the outside, turned and ran back into the building screaming.

The others simply ran outside, forming tight knots as they started rushing back and forth making weird near animal like noises.

One young boy, about twelve span around twice on the spot, dropped to his hands and knees and started digging into the frozen ground with his large paddle shaped clawed hands.

A woman, barely twenty ran to the fence and grabbed the bars, letting out banshee like shrieks as she tried to gnaw her way through the iron.

Rauchester, the annoying girl Aaron had brought along was waving a flashlight about and Bernard ran to her, his heart hammering in his chest. Never more glad to see another person in his life.

The girl was in hysterics and as Bernard gently maneuvered his son between the bars and into the girl's arms he saw why played out on the laptop computer screen, where it sat on the sidewalk.

Aaron was sitting against a wall, still in the building, in plain view of the camera, and all around him on the ground was an explosion of dark, and ropelike protrusions from his stomach that Bernard guessed were the boy's own intestines... Either way, what he saw would haunt him for the rest of his life, because there were three creatures, what he first thought of as Werewolves but then recognized as what his second son had identified as 'Erasers' digging around in the blonde young man's carcass with their claws.

Rauchester was flabbergasted that the boy Bernard had handed to her weighed so little, but she was even more surprised by what the man with blue hair said to her.

"Take him down the street to the church, leave him there then go hide yourself."

The girl stood there for a full five seconds in shock. Tears still rolling down her face in horror of Aaron's murder.


She nodded and started an awkward shambling run down the street, Bernard's unconscious bird-son half in her arms, half draped over her shoulder his wings flopped limply open and dragging.

Bernard watched them go, his heart tearing in two, then he turned back to the others, still trying to get out, and began quickly instructing them on how to escape.


12. Chapters 11


Chapter 11; Breakfast

The cold was instantaneous and excruciating against his thin skin, but he didn't have the strength to shout at it, or to try and draw his wings around himself to ward off the chill.

He didn't even have the strength to open his eyes and see where this Person was taking him.

All he felt was pain and cold...

The pain of a shoulder in his aching stomach, the pain of having his wings flopping around above his head, and the pain of actually having his wings OPEN for the first time.

He welcomed the pain, at least it meant he was still alive...

And he cursed it, because it meant he was still alive and hadn't been blessed with death just yet.

Hands grabbed him, sharp fingers digging into his body, pulling him, and dropping him onto an icy platform that felt to be covered in steel wool.

What he wouldn't give for a piece of steel wool... He'd gladly swallow it so his insides would be cut to ribbons and he'd finally die.

Death had to be better than this pain...

He heard a muted sound, like a bell and he flinched, remembering that THEY had trained the OTHERS to attack at the sound of a bell, and he anticipated, no, knew more pain was on its way.

And then there were footfalls. Quick ones, someone running. And he pulled his arms over his head to protect his face and tried to curl his wings around himself, but they wouldn't move... The cold had reached too deeply into his aching, sick chest with its icy fingers and he just didn't have the strength to fight anymore.

And then the wall he'd been leaning against shifted away and he gave a short, startled cry as he fell sideways through nothingness and onto a smooth, but hard warm surface. Then he heard a man shouting strange words.

"Sweet JESUS!"

And suddenly hands were on him, soft, but urgent warm hands, on his arms, his shoulders, down his sides over his ribs, and on his wings.

He drew them closed and jerked away from the People, jerked away from their searching, grubby, pain bearing hands.

There was a sharp sound, like a book dropping to the floor, or a door slamming shut, and the hands were back, more insistent this time, and he started fighting. Knowing even as he did that it was a loosing fight. He'd never win...

And even if he did, he didn't think he'd want what he'd won... It might be worse than just giving up and letting the People do whatever they wanted to him...

He hissed in agitation, his eyes squeezed closed because he thought it was worse to see what torture they were planning... If you didn't see it you didn't anticipate it... It just happened without warning and you didn't have to worry about looking at the result...

Looking at what they'd done to you...

Feeling it was enough.

He scrambled, and began beating his wings, slapping the Person with the broadest part, knocking them around, hoping to give as much as he got.

He liked hearing them shout 'OW' or 'OUCH' a couple of times before they got to hurt him... It seemed like he was somehow paying them back for hurting him if he got them first.

This Person made a strangled horrified sound and shrank back from him, scurrying out of his reach. So he went still, wings raised, ready to come down like a fist if the Person got too close for comfort...

And everything was still for about thirty seconds...

Within these thirty seconds he was able to hear everything around him...

He heard the distant wail of sirens, a few distant screams, and closer sounds... A liquidy bubbling sound, the sound not that unlike the sound his stomach made when he wasn't given food for a few days... The sound of his own heart hammering away, the sound of his breath... And the sound of another's breathing... Of the Person's breathing...

Strange syllables whispered from this strange Person... From the strange calm, slow, quiet voice...

"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name... They Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..."

And then the smell hit him...

A deep... Bright smell...

The smell of bread... But bread unlike any he'd ever tasted...

Warm, soft bread...

He imagined it all, white with brown crusts... Soft and fluffy in the middle like the down of his wings, and a taste that was just enough salty and just enough heaven...

And another smell... a softer smell... Meaty... Almost like blood, but with a little tang...

And OH... It smelled so good...

Slowly, his eyes came open, one at a time, barely to slits...

Brightness assaulted his vision and at first he shrank back from it, covering his face with his hands, blinking and trying not to scream...

Then he began focusing...

The floor under him was odd... a wood floor, like the wood desk that sat a few yards from his cage...

There was a counter with cabinets, and an odd metal counter with a large metal THING on top, from which a frothy whiteness was wafting upward into the air then disappearing.

The meaty smell was coming from that thing... And the bready smell was coming from within the cabinet in its front.

Everything was bright... The colors woody and green... Colors he barely recognized.

Then there was the man...

On his knees hands tangled together under his chin...

An old man with white hair and a clean shaven face...

He wore all black, save a white square on his collar, and his eyes that seemed to take up all his face were wide and over flowing with tears...

For the longest time there they sat, staring at one another, each afraid to move and invoke the wrath of the other...

But slowly his wings began to tremble and he could no longer keep them open.

He did not ease them closed, but simply let them flop to his sides, half open and limp... Unable to do anything else.

The warmth of the room seeped into his body and he was wracked with chills. Sitting there shivering and quaking, out of fear and his body's need to warm itself...

"Are you alright?"

He flinched at the man's voice. Simply because he wasn't ready to hear it. But he wasn't sure how to answer so he remained still.

"Please, do not move... I'll be right back... I promise."

And as quickly as the man was on his feet, running from the room. The boy was forcing himself deep into the open cupboard kicking out the broom and mop, terrified by the clacking sounds they made upon impact with the floorboards.

Here, he huddled in the darkness behind the garbage can, trembling his eyes too wide, his mouth closed too tightly.

When the man returned and peered into the cupboard at him he hissed threateningly his wings twitching, the sick feathers raising to make himself appear larger.

Slowly the man eased to his knees and held out what he'd collected in the other room.

And when the boy saw it he panicked, thrashing around, trying to force himself farther into the cupboard, or through the back wall and into the other room.

"Calm down... It's alright, I assure you," The man with the funny collar said, "It's just a blanket to keep you warm..."

He collapsed back into the floor and was trying to right himself again when the man suddenly gave the blanket a toss and it came over him covering him completely, pinning him to the floor.

So, he fought it... Twisting himself tightly into it in his urgent attempt to escape.

He cried out, enraged and horrified, his mind nothing but anger and fear... And then he heard the man again, above his own cries...

"Shhhhhh, you're fine... Just relax... It's only to keep you warm..."

The man crab walked away, sitting with his back against the counter his hands resting lightly on his knees... And there he sat, silent, and still. Gently watching, his eyes holding not an ounce of malice...

The boy kept fighting for a while, until he realized the blanket was soft, not scratchy like the little one in his cage... This one was soft, and smelled gentle... Not harsh like chemicals...

It smelled good, and felt pleasant against his arms and legs.

He relaxed almost instantly when he came to the conclusion that there were no arms, no hands trying to grab him, or hold him still. There was no one there to hurt him...

So he sat wedged into the corner, only his face and hands protruding from the tangle of a blanket and stared at the man sitting against the counter...

But the man didn't move... Good... He didn't want the man to come anywhere near him.

His nose was clogged, and every breath he took sounded horrible and left him hungry for air. So he scrubbed at it with the edge of the blanket by his hand, clearing away as much of the clogging gunk as he could.

Slowly, the man rose to his feet and began fiddling with things on the odd metal counter. Moving the THING around, and pulling that wonderful bready smell from the cabinet in its belly.

The boy watched this in complete silence, his stomach rumbling like an engine.

The man glanced over his shoulder a few times, and the boy didn't like the look in his eyes... That, 'I'm watching you' look... He wished the man would go away so he could take that bready smell and devour it...

The shivering started again, worse than ever and he wrapped his arms around himself, holding that wonderful feeling blanket close to him... Trying to make himself small and quiet so not to be noticed.

He coughed a couple of times... That nasty near honking sound of what Dierdre had called 'New-moan-eeeeya'. And he must have dozed, because when he opened his eyes again, the sound of sirens in the distance had gone, and sitting before him on a little tray was a bowl of steaming something, and three slices of the oddest bread he'd ever seen.

The light brown fluffiness in the middle was fluffier than any he'd ever seen before. And the steamy stuff had cubes of whiteish, orange, and greenish stuff along with the meaty cubes...

"It's beef stew... Go on..." The man whispered from where he sat by the door...

The boy looked up and shrank back from it, on the verge of tears because the smell was so good, and yet, if it had come from one of THEM, it most likely had some kind of 'medicine' in it that would make him sleep or make him throw up...

If it had to be one of the two... He hoped it was sleep... He was absolutely exhausted... And yet, too frightened to actually allow himself to sleep.

"Go on... It's perfectly fine..." The man said in a calm voice and turned his eyes to a book in his hands.

The boy was able to pull one hand free of the blanket and he grabbed the bread, stuffing a whole warm slice into his mouth at a time.

The man chuckled to himself as he watched from the corner of his eye.

The bread tasted better than any he'd ever had before... Warm, and slightly salty... It tasted like...

He didn't have words to describe it, and didn't want to take the time to think of one when he could use that time to eat.

He bent over the bowl of 'beef stew' and sniffed at it, then using the spoon shoveled a few of the colorful cubes into his mouth. Barely chewing them before he swallowed.

Before he knew what had happened, the man was sitting in the small cupboard with him, casually reading over his book.

He watched the man warily, knowing that if he got too close there was now no where he could run.

His eyes flicked to the left and he saw a small window high up on the wall... And outside of it was something big... Something HUGE and tall and light gray against an eternal blackness...

And there was something on this huge light grayness... Something the same color, but with different shape...

His mouth dropped open and he felt every muscle and feather rise in shock.

There was a light gray, immobile person standing on a platform... A person with wings...


13. Chapters 12


Chapter 12; Lessons

"WHAT IS IT!" He shouted, his voice high and horrified as his arm came up, pointing.

The man's head jerked forward and his mouth fell open as he stared. His mind raced as his eyes flicked back and forth between the boy tangled in the blanket and the statue on the spire of the cathedral.

"Why, that's an angel, young man!" He said, as matter of factly, surprised the kid could talk at all with a mouth full of stew.

His wide eyes went wider and he leaned heavily against the wall behind him, feeling his wings trapped between the hard surface and his body.

Angel... That was an angel... A person with wings was an angel... Was he himself an angel?

He coughed again and turned back to the man by the door, "What's an angel?"

The man floundered for words and finally let out a sigh and scooted forward.

"An angel is a holy messenger, created by God."

"Who is God?"

For a moment the man, the priest, could only stare in shock and horror at the boy... winged boy, before him. How could the child not know? It was ... It was just AWFUL!

When the boy's wide eyes turned to him again the priest let out a sigh, taking in his pitiful appearance and wondering exactly what the boy was... Or if he even need to know... The pages of the old worn book in his hand flipped backward and he smiled gently.

"Let's just start at the beginning, shall we?"


Police sirens wailed on the next block and Bernard pressed his back against the side of the building, holding his hand out to warn the ones following him to stop and be still.

There were about ten children, ages between four and twelve, a boy who looked about seventeen, a young man and a woman, the woman pressed herself against the wall, and instantly, her skin started changing color to match the wet brick behind her...

The young man in front of her ground his teeth tightly together and ducked his head, fighting back the urge to scream at the horrible high pitched screech.

The children huddled together in a tight knot, whimpering and sobbing. Some even squeezing one another, their large eyes closed so tightly not even tears could escape them.

And the final boy, who looked to be about seventeen tiptoed forward to Bernard's side and tried to hide his face in the man's shoulder.

This poor kid had run out of the building, looked up at the sky, and simply fallen over in a dead faint... He hadn't made a sound as Bernard had roused him, or pushed him bodily through a gap in the fence, and he had yet to speak or make a sound louder than a cough when he'd popped through the bars and landed with a thump on the wet, frozen over sidewalk.

Bernard wondered if maybe, a thin vertical scar on the boy's throat didn't have something to do with his silence... A botched tracheotomy perhaps... Or a botched other surgery of some kind...

Other than that scar, Bernard didn't see a single thing that made the boy different. Of course, he was wearing a baggy long-sleeved shirt and pants, so, had he appeared different Bernard wouldn't have been able to tell.

The Other two though... Chameleon girl and the boy who Bernard had called 'Bumpo' because the poor kid had bumped his head no less than thirty times since he stepped foot out of his cage, were different. Very different.

Chameleon girl changed colors, and Bumpo... Bumpo had a tail... Not a fluffy, cute tail either... It looked, to Bernard, like a gerbil's tail, and he didn't want to call the kid 'Gerbil Boy'... That would just be degrading.

"Okay, Bumpy... You two make sure those kids stay close, got it?"

Bumpo nodded, and Bernard supposed the girl nodded, but he couldn't really see her.

The boy beside him wrapped both arms around his elbow and seemed to cling to him like a leech.

Slowly, the group of them inched down the alley listening to the fading police sirens in the background and the silence of snowfall around them.

Alleyways in England are not the same as alleyways in America. American Alleyways are usually dirty, smelly places where homeless people, rapists and drug dealers lurk... In England, this particular alleyway anyway, was rather clean, with no dumpsters, and no recessed doorways to hide in. They were as exposed here as they would have been on the street...

And if there was one thing Bernard no longer enjoyed... It was walking around exposed... Especially when the lives of fourteen children relied on him...

He peered around the corner and at the very end of the street sat the soup kitchen where earlier that night he had spoken briefly with the priest...

His son was there... His son was safe... He just had to be. Anything else, a possible accident, or if Rouchester took him someplace else would be simply unacceptable and he would probably loose his mind from it. He could only take so much, and he was almost to his breaking point...

"Come on..." And he started quickly down the street, focused on the little white door with two lamps outside.

Bumpo and Chameleon girl ran after him herding the children between them, and the poor silent boy's bare, frozen feet were barely fast enough to keep him upright.

He hadn't intended to bring anybody with him, but he couldn't just leave all those kids there. Not with a clear conscience...

So, now here he was, leading thirteen 'Experiments' down the street and hopefully to freedom.

He just hoped the police didn't notice the parade and that none of the children panicked and decided to run off and get hit by one of the cars rushing around two streets over.

At the moment, his sole purpose was to keep those kids quiet, and get them down the street to the soup kitchen without incident.

An almost tapping kind of sound came from behind him, a multitude of small bare feet slapping against snowy concrete sidewalk...

The sound was like a heartbeat... Beating away in his head, eating his sanity like a hungry little monster.

He knew it was dangerous to go through the front door, knew it was insane and one of the few things that would get them all noticed, as if running down the street in a clump wouldn't... But, he didn't really have a choice. There were cars rushing down streets to both sides of them. And trying to be evasive would only waste time. Time they just didn't have.

Yes, going directly there would expose their hiding spot, but going around would leave them exposed too long. Another police car could come around the corner any second. And besides, once they were there, once Bernard had his son again, THEN they could leave again, go some place much safer... He'd be willing to do that, but he just HAD to have his son back. He just HAD TO.

Bernard paused again, holding up his hand, and everyone behind him stopped. He looked both ways on the street, assuring himself that they would have time to run across and crowd into the main room of the soup kitchen before another car came by.

He motioned and the whole group seemed to move as one entity, like a school of small fish on a nature program. They darted across the street and Bernard shoved open the door.

The main room was dark and empty and quickly all the children were inside and seemingly lost in it.

The darkness and confined space was a comfort no doubt. They knew the darkness, they knew small spaces. They knew who was there and believed they knew what was going to happen.

Bernard could barely make out their figures as they scurried about, hiding under tables and cowering in corners...

And then the over head light came on and some poor child near the left hand corner of the room burst out screaming.

There, framed in the kitchen doorway was a new priest, his graying blonde hair a mess, a dressing gown thrown on wrong side out and tied hastily around his waist.

"What in Heaven's name!" He blinked stupidly at all the children around the room, then at the blue haired man standing there before him, his olive skin looking somehow gray-green, his eyes much too large and much too alert.

The priest marched forward and shoved a rigid finger against the tip of Bernard's nose. "What is the meaning of this!"

Bernard's mouth came open and for a few seconds he floundered, "W-where's the other priest... The older one who was here earlier."

The blonde man blinked, "Frances?" He lowered his hand, "Oh... er... Frances is next door in the rectory," His hands worked together, "Shall I go fetch him?"

Bernard shook his head, "No, I'll go... If it's OK..."

The priest nodded and turned to look at the children, "Why the devil are there so many kids in here? They aren't yours are they?" He yawned sleepily.


"Where are the parents? It's unlikely they would appreciate their children being out and about so early in the morn-morning."

Bernard hesitated, "They don't have parents, not in the sense that their parents know they're alive."

The priest's eyes went wide and he gave Bernard a suspicious look, "Why not..."

"It's a long story."

The priest smiled and narrowed his eyes. "I've got all the time in the world, son... Start explaining."

It took Bernard a grand total of two minutes to explain... Of course, like his mother, Bernard had the gift of gab... He could talk for hours on end quite quickly. He remembered Kitty had frequently cocked an eyebrow at him as if to ask if he ever shut up.

Bernard had only smiled at her silence and kept talking.

But he didn't smile at the priest's silence now. He was too busy trying to explain to the man why he needed to keep the children hidden and safe from even the police if they were to show up and start asking questions.

And by the time he'd finished speaking, he flat out couldn't remember a single word he'd said!

It was as if somebody else had been using his body for their own lingual purposes... He felt drained of all his strength and propped his hip on a nearby table so as not to fall on his face.

The priest stood there a moment staring, warring with his common sense, his faith and his urge to be a law abiding citizen of Her Majesty's Land...

In the end he sighed and led the children into a small room marked 'Wardrobe' and let them pick through all the clothing and the like until they resembled normal children. Complete with coats, shirts, pants, socks and shoes.

By this time most of the children had calmed down a little, they still grouped together around a single older child who seemed to have become the leader. None of the groups intermingled with other groups it seemed. So, Bernard guessed these 'Clubs' were of children from the same room or 'Series'...

They didn't talk with one another because they didn't know what to think of one another...

By this time though, Bernard's patience had worn away, as well as his last nerve and once he saw the children eating canned soups or cold cut sandwiches the blonde priest was still churning out, Bernard slipped out the back door and walked down the lane toward the rectory and the looming spire of the small cathedral.


14. Chapters 13


Chapter 13; Reunion

It had started raining again by the time Bernard made it to the rectory. The rain was freezing cold, and he could have sworn he heard thunder off in the distance, though he wasn't sure how.

He knocked on the back door twice, vowing to hunt down Rouchester and curse at her for bringing his boy here instead of the soup kitchen where he'd told her to bring him... But at the same time he didn't really care. His boy was safe, that's all that mattered to him. His son was safe, and he'd see him soon, be able to actually appreciate his presence.

The older priest, Frances, opened the door, a bland, removed expression on his face. "Yes?"

Bernard shoved his hair from his face and the priest's mouth burst into a wide, jubilant smile.

"COME IN! COME IN!" He opened the door wider and ushered Bernard in, chattering away in an excited voice.

"I'm so relieved that your back! You'll never believe it, NEVER BELIEVE IT!" He laughed to himself as he threw a kitchen towel at Bernard watching unblinking as the younger man dried his face and rubbed the rain from his hair.

The warmth of the kitchen was comforting and Bernard huddled near the stove for a few minutes listening to the priest's senseless banter about how he would NEVER believe it. How there was absolutely NOTHING on EARTH like it. How blessed he was, how extraordinary it was...

But, Bernard wanted to shake his head and tell the priest how he just wanted to give his son a hug and make sure the poor boy never again had to go through anything like he'd survived before that night.

He wanted to tell the priest that he just wanted to take the kid home and live in quiet peace... Let the boy have the life he was supposed to have had from the day he was born.

He turned to thank the priest and ask where his son was, when he noticed the man was standing just inside the broom cupboard staring down at a pile of blankets in the floor behind the garbage can.

Fear made every muscle in Bernard's body tighten like a bow string and he lunged across the room, expecting to see that his son hadn't been delivered at all, but some stray cat the priest had brought in had given birth to her first litter in the cupboard.

But his fear was short lived when he saw curled into a tight ball in the middle of the blanket mound, appearing to be only a head, arm and lightly feathered shoulder, was his son... A calm, serene look on his pale, near emaciated face as he slept...

"He ate twelve bowls of stew and an entire loaf of bread, can you believe that?"

Had Bernard been able to do anything but stare and thank God in his head, he would have said 'Yeah, I can believe it... His mother ate like a horse constantly... Never seemed to be able to eat enough... That's why my mom liked her so much... That's the thing that mom called providence... Kitty liked Italian food and my mom happened to be an Italian cook... Seems fitting he would eat a lot too...'

But all he was able to do at the moment was stand there and stare down at the sleeping boy, thinking that even though he'd been treated so wrongly, the way he was sleeping now, with the careless abandon of an infant, seemed so right...

This was how he should have lived all his life... Never being hungry, never being hurt or tortured... He deserved to sleep like there was nothing in the world that could hurt him. He deserved to live without fear, without worry, or without hiding what he was.

He was special, and he deserved to be respected and accepted by the whole world for what he was.

"I think you should sit, you look to be on your last legs..." Frances put a hand on Bernard's shoulder, pressing him down into a sitting position against the wall beside his son.

"I figured, from your accent, that you're American, am I correct?"

Bernard nodded, still not looking away from the sleeping boy.

"Well, how then, are you supposed to return home with him? He's in absolutely no condition to... To travel."

Bernard did look up then, realizing what Frances had meant, and to what he was alluding.

Frances' wizened old face wrinkled in anxiety and his hands twisted together. Then, as if he could hold it in no longer, he spoke. "Is it true... Can ... Is it possible that he could... Could..." He didn't seem to be able to speak the word, so he put his hands up, close to his body so as to minimize the word, almost as if it were possible to whisper body language by making the motions more confined... And flapped his fingers like wings.

Bernard didn't speak, but slowly nodded once.

The priest's face showed both utter shock and amazement and his eyes turned to the sleeping boy, his hand flying back and forth over his chest, crossing himself again and again... "I would love to see that... By God, that would be a wonderful sight!" He seemed to imagine it because he went very still, his eyes sort of glazed over.

Bernard left the man to his daydreaming and turned back to his son. Noticing how the boy's mouth seemed to tighten and tremble as if he were sucking his own thumb...

The thought both seemed wrong and right at the same time. He still couldn't believe that the boy was actually his son, and yet he also couldn't deny it. It seemed as if time had betrayed him, because there wasn't any possible way that the boy could be any older than a few months at the most... Just a small baby with downy little wings... It didn't seem possible that he was already a teenager.

I've missed my son's life... Those people didn't just steal his innocence, they stole the life he should have had... And that is unforgivable...

His hand went out, seemingly of its own volition and he touched the horribly dirty locks of his boy's hair, just as he'd done when the child was a baby... He could still remember it... Remember the clean warm smell as he'd held the little body close to his chest, feeling the tiny wings flexing against his arm. The small yet surprisingly strong grasp of little fingers around his own... Watching both little boys sleep. The darker baby always on the right, this one... His first always on the left...

It wasn't fair that this time had been stolen. It wasn't fair that his sons had been through such hell in their short lives. And he mourned the loss for them. Bore the brunt of the pain and sadness in one second as he finally realized he'd done it. One of his sons was free, living with friends on the run, alive and well, he prayed... And the other was here. Finally free, safe, and on the road to recovery from the nightmare of his life. A life that would now change for the better.

Okay, Bernard told himself after he'd taken a breath to recover from the death of his illusions. I've got one more stop to make... One more lab to break into, one more... And then we've only got to somehow make Them believe us on the Blog and we'll all be together again... It's gonna be hard, and it'll probably hurt at times, but at least we'll be together... Hell, if you don't want to stay with me I'd be happy just knowing that you guys are well and safe!

He smiled to himself and leaned his head back against the wall relaxing for the first time in fifteen years.

I just want you guys to be happy! Even if that isn't with me...


He must have dozed off, because what felt like only a few seconds later Bernard awoke to a hand tangling in the front of his shirt.

He came awake and was instantly so alert it caused him physical pain. There were voices just outside the closed door of the cupboard.

Frances the priest's... And a woman's... A familiar woman's voice.

The boy was pressed up so tightly to Bernard's side it hurt and he turned his head, staring down into wide horrified eyes.

The boy had scooted his whole 'bed' to the side and had incorporated Bernard's shoulder and right side into its structure.

A raw sense of protectiveness settled in Bernard's chest and he maneuvered himself between the boy and the door while the child still clung possessively to him.

It reminded him of a monkey he'd seen on a NOVA special... A kind of hopeless need for comfort that all other self preservation techniques are completely forgotten in the haze of utmost horror at whatever is going on.

"I know hiz 'eer... Thair's no yoos hidin' et..." Her voice was strained, and Bernard knew instantly who it was, and why she sounded on the verge of some kind of death.

It was Aaron's mother. And she'd come looking for the man responsible for her son's death.


15. Chapters 14


Chapter 14; Aaron

It was almost as if she could hear his thoughts, because barely half a second later the cupboard door flew open and the boy crushed himself so tightly into Bernard's side, that all lung capacity on that side of Bernard's body was lost.

There she was, framed in the doorway her eyes swollen and red rimmed. Her mouth set in a grim hateful line.

Bernard expected her to lunge at him with a knife, or to send in one of those 'Eraser' things to murder him and his boy. But instead, much to his surprise, she walked forward and knelt there before them. Staring at the boy's petrified face which was practically hidden by his father's side.

Dierdre put up a hand, calmingly and laid a stack of file folders on the floor by Bernard's outstretched feet. "Thair are onleh so many things I can tolerate-" tall-orhate "-an completely obliterating a person's work an' career isnnuh one of them."

And her face seemed to crumble.

Bernard didn't need to be told what had happened back at that Building...

Dierdre had found her son mauled to death, and her superiors had simply gone into her records and obliterated everything... Most likely in an attempt to cover their tracks they'd changed her government file...

Deleted her Doctoral degree, deleted her bank accounts, her pension, completely wiped out her good standing in the community and replaced it with a work of fiction that everyone would believe because it was 'on file'.

The people believed what the government told them to believe, and the government believed what was written... So, in effect, whoever had control over what was written had control of everything...

And in this case, The Regional Director was in charge... And he'd made sure to completely ruin Dierdre's life so nobody would realize what was going on in that weird prison like building in town...

Nobody would believe a woman who was supposedly an escaped inmate of the local Asylum, now would they?

Dierdre Bond's life was ruined, and the only thing she could do now was give this man what little hard evidence she did possess so that he would have a fighting chance to help overthrow the regime of Super Doctors that had taken over her beloved country.

"All the answers are there... Everythin' they're planning, everything they've done or had a finger in..." She wiped her nose on her sleeve. "You've got the key now... So, don't muck it up, alright?" She looked up sadly at the boy cowering in Bernard's side and tears began rolling down her face. For a moment she was quiet, and then, for no other reason than she must have actually had a conscience somewhere deep in her mind, Dierdre the Whitecoat spoke to the boy who was once her experiment...

"I'm sorry... I know it's not good enough... But I really am..."

And before she could stop herself she pulled something from her jacket pocket, a little dark booklet, and handed it to Bernard. Then, before he'd even taken it, she was on her feet and rushing out of the building.

Bernard hesitated before he looked down at what she'd given him. He took a moment to wrap his arms around his son's thin shivering body and give him a protective little squeeze before he opened the thing and inspected it.

There was a photo, most definitely his son's photo, but below it was someone else's information...

NAME; Aaron Lyle Bond

AGE; 16

DATE OF BIRTH; March 17 1991

It was a passport... A legal passport... And his son's ticket home...


16. Chapters 15


Chapter 15; Home Again

To be perfectly honest, Bernard had only seen Kitty bathe once. He was sure she'd done it, yes, but she'd only openly drawn a bath and soaked for a while once, and she'd come out looking pathetic... All her feathers saturated, unable to fold her wings... She'd been completely miserable until she'd been able to dry off... And then she'd complained of itchy wings until she'd been able to roll around in some silt dust for a few minutes.

So, the fact he'd had to physically wrestle his son into the tub was no great shock. The only thing that did actually surprise him besides how strong the boy was to be so thin, was how utterly filthy the water was by the time he let the boy climb out.

His hair, which had looked as dark as Bernard's was actually brown, lighter than Kitty's, and though he did have a darker complexion, he was much more pale than he'd appeared.

He'd scrubbed a pink sheen into his skin getting all that dirt off.

And his wings were not still yellow, but were bright white save a dappling of black on his primary feathers. The feathers shining with multi colors once the boy had been coaxed into dragging his hands over them a couple dozen times.

The relationship they had, at this point, was that of Father and three-year-old. Despite the fact the boy, Aaron, was fourteen, he acted like a three-year-old. A three-year-old with a mild mental handicap.

It was understandable, Bernard knew. He'd read many books on the subject of abuse and its repercussions on a child's ability to have a normal life. He'd also been there when Kitty was recovering from her experiences.

It was no wonder the boy was afraid of almost everything he saw. And it was also not at all surprising, that he didn't want to put on a shirt.

Kitty, when she'd been in private or wondering about on Bernard's family's farm, had gone around in a tying bikini top with her wings out, and she'd only ever put on a shirt when strangers would come for a visit, or Bernard himself would take her somewhere in the family truck. And even then she hated them... Hated them with a vengeance.

"Come on... You've gotta put it on," Bernard said, peering back into the broom cupboard where his son was cowering.

He'd put on the slacks they'd found in the clothes bin without complaint. He'd even put on socks and shoes, but he wouldn't go near the shirt. He saw it, and he started panicking...

The boy shook his head and tried to burrow into the blankets. He wasn't doing it spitefully, that was obvious. The boy was just afraid... So afraid he'd almost fainted twice already.

Bernard had contemplated cutting slits up the back of the shirt, but decided against it because they were about to get onto an airplane, and the last thing he needed was for the boy to become too comfortable and show some feathers in front of two hundred strangers.

He felt guilty for it, but it had to happen. It just had to happen.

"I promise, as soon as we get back, you can take it off again, OK?"

Aaron didn't give in, and Bernard had to corner him and shove it over his head. It physically caused Bernard pain to do it. To frighten his son so fundamentally that he would have to corner the boy to get him dressed. But what choice did he have? If he tried to talk him into it they'd miss their flight.

It also pained him to call his son 'Aaron'. When the boy had been born, he and Kitty had decided to name him Wesley Tyler Hutchinson... And his twin was to be named Lorcan Christopher... But, of course, that was out of the question now. If he were to call the boy Wesley while his identification said 'Aaron' they would run the risk of being discovered... And to call him Aaron now and 'Wesley' later would only confuse him in his fragile mental state.

So, Aaron was it.

As for his twin? Well, the boy had already picked his own name. Bernard knew it only because he'd been reading his Blog for weeks now. It wasn't necessarily something Bernard liked, but it was what the boy had picked so there was no changing it now, not when the kid didn't even know he, or his brother existed.

Frances was able to help Bernard coax Aaron into putting on a sweater and coat, and Bernard slipped those thin framed glasses from his pocket onto his son's face, explaining in soft words that it was important he keep them on, so nobody would recognize him and try to take him back to that awful Building.

He listened and obeyed thankfully...

And then came the hard part... Getting Aaron from the Rectory to the airport.

The child had no recollection of ever seeing the sky before. The largest place he'd ever seen was the rectory kitchen, which Bernard and Frances were able to cajole him into sitting in while he gobbled down his breakfast milk and loaf of bread. (That seemed to be all he could stomach eating at the moment.)

Once his stomach was full he seemed to be more complacent, because he didn't fight Bernard as he took his son's hand and led him outside... At lease he didn't fight until he'd looked up and seen the sky.

And then, he'd uttered the first words Bernard had ever heard him speak in a thin squeaky voice...


And he'd tried to dart back into the building and the broom cupboard where he felt safe... But Frances had shut the door quickly and Bernard had grabbed him, pinning the boy's wings between them through his clothes and for a while they'd stood there, Aaron's hands cupped over his face, his legs drawn up because he'd tried to collapse in on himself... And Bernard holding him, wondering again if it were possible that his son only weighed thirty pounds soaking wet.

"Its OK... Buddy, it's OK, I promise."

His heart thudded against his ribs and Bernard could feel it, feel it like a vibration through Aaron's chest, and he could hear the awful bong-like sounds of his breathing...

Pneumonia... I know that sound... Mom died of pneumonia...

"Don't worry, buddy... I promise, you're gonna be OK... I'm gonna get you home and everything'll be OK."

Aaron slowly lowered his feet to the ground and the whole walk down the lane to the street he had his face hidden in Bernard's shoulder, his hands tightly tangled in his father's sleeve.

In an attempt to build the boy's confidence, so he didn't cling to him like an abused monkey, Bernard started talking... Hoping to bring a kind of faux normalcy to his son's gait, that way not so many people would be staring at them.

"Have you ever heard of James Bond?"

Aaron shook his head.

"James Bond is a British Spy... I've seen just about all the movies... None of the newer ones... Piers Brosnan was... I don't know... Too 'pretty' to be Bond. I think Sean Connary was pretty good... Even though at the time movies were made with an air of cheesy-ness about them... Allan... He's your uncle... Allan could do the James Bond accent when we were younger... It's a lot like your accent, did you know that?"

A car zoomed past and Bernard had to grab the boy around the shoulders to keep him from completely loosing his wits.

"Can you say something for me later?"

The boy didn't respond, he just stood there in the circle of his father's arms shivering.

Bernard stuck out his arm and hailed a cab, grateful when one stopped before them. He gently pushed his son into the back of the cab and slid in also, digging in his pocket for a few of the pound notes he'd traded American money for at the local bank three days before. Then, in his best British accent, he spoke to the driver;

"Airport please."


17. Chapters 16 and 17


Chapter 16; First Flight

Somewhere between the back of the line and the ticket counter Bernard had completely explained the gist of James Bond to his son. He'd even mocked the accent a few times and taught the boy to say his name like the character...

"Bond... Aaron Bond."

And two girls further up the line who had been watching Aaron from the corners of their eyes giggled at each other and waved.

At first Bernard hadn't noticed... But then, he had... And he'd also seen the curious expression forming on his son's face...

The boy looked like he wasn't sure if he enjoyed the girls giggling and staring at him, or if he absolutely hated it...

But, when Aaron raised his fingers in a halfhearted wave at the girls Bernard knew better... The boy didn't know what the hell the girls were on about.

"They're flirting..."

Aaron looked at him with a 'verge-of-panic' expression on his overly thin face.

"It's a good thing, don't worry. It means they like you?"

He didn't speak, but that didn't stop Bernard form imagining what the boy must be thinking, 'What do you mean, like me?'

"It's a good thing... Just smile and wave at them."

Aaron smiled halfheartedly, more of a wince, and waved at the girls... Then quickly squished himself tightly against his father's side because at that moment a loudspeaker over their heads squawked.

Bernard bought two one-way tickets to The States, and herded Aaron toward the gate. His stomach tightened when he saw the security checkpoint, and for a few minutes his mind was blank and he honestly didn't know what the hell to do.

Aaron, sensing his father's fear, squished closer, so close he nearly knocked Bernard over.

"It's OK... You've just gotta calm down... Take off your shoes and your belt and put them in this basket," He demonstrated by doing it himself and dropping his backpack and Aaron's onto the conveyer belt that lead to the X-ray machine.

Aaron sat in the floor and began slowly untying his shoes... But ended up tying the laces in knots.

The two bulky security guards loomed over them as Bernard dropped to his knees to help. And, he felt himself speaking, coming up with a rather ingenious lie.

"I'm sorry for the delay, but he's autistic, he's afraid of new places and people... It's nothing personal... He just gets scared easily."

And everyone around him seemed to sigh and say 'Oh... well... alright then' and their tension relaxed a bit.

The security guards backed off and when Bernard finally had the shoe laces unknotted and had gotten Aaron to stand completely still while the guards ran the magnetic wand over him to make sure he wasn't carrying any weapons, he realized they might have a problem...

If they decided to pat Aaron down... They'd be able to tell the boy had wings.



Chapter 17; The Shake

Aaron was quiet, standing completely still as the guards waved the wand over him. Bernard was unsettled by how wide his eyes were under those glasses, and how tightly his jaw was clenched... And he was even more unsettled when the metal detector went off over Aaron's left shoulder.

The guard waved it over the spot again and it screeched, "Does he have any metal on him? A surgical pin perhaps?"

Bernard nodded calmly, calling on years of lying successfully to make him appear absolutely truthful.

"A temporary pin in his shoulder... He was supposed to have it out three days ago, but he got pneumonia and the doctors don't want him in while he's ill."

"Does he have a card for it?"

Beranrd went pale and shook his head, "I think his mother still has it in her purse."

The guards discussed this between themselves for a moment, and one ran his hand over the top of Aaron's shoulder, dangerously close to his wing, and Aaron became so tense, so rigid, Bernard was surprised he hadn't turned to stone.

"Go on, he's clear..."

Bernard had never been a praying man, but he did so now, he prayed and thanked God and all the saints in heaven, and let his son squeeze his arm until he bruised while he carried their bags toward the gate.

He didn't have any more trouble until the plane was already in the air. Which in and of itself was a miracle, because Aaron was seated right next to the window, but he supposed having his face hidden the whole time might have aided this along a bit.

They were about twenty minutes out when Bernard realized he hadn't gone to the bathroom since the night before. "I'll be right back," And he slipped his arm out of Aaron's and shuffled down the aisle toward the restroom.

He'd always hated airplane bathrooms, ever since he was a little boy and had found himself locked in one on a flight to Italy with his family.

But, never had he been so frightened after leaving one...

He made it back to his seat only to realize... Aaron was gone.


18. Chapters 18


Chapter 18; Hysteria at 20,000 Feet

For what felt like an hour he stood there staring at the empty seat, his mind racing, wondering where his son had gone, or if he'd dreamed the boy into existence and he was actually completely insane.

But then he felt a hand on his arm and he turned, his eyes wide, his jaw hanging open.

It was a woman. A flight attendant with light brown hair and bright green eyes. "Sir," She whispered, "I believe your friend is back here."

He followed her without question, and found the absolute last thing he expected when he returned to the end of the aisle from wince the young woman had come.

Aaron was hiding under the sink in the galley. Only his shoes visible... And a small crowd had gathered to stare at him.

"He followed you to the lavatory, and when you shut the door... He... He sort of... Slithered under the sink and now he's stuck we think."

Bernard dropped to his knees and peered back into the little cubby slightly amused. "You OK?"

Aaron nodded and his mouth moved, forming words Bernard didn't need to hear to understand.

'It's so big... I didn't know it'd be so big... Can we go back? I don't like it.' He was fingering the collar of his shirt nervously, and as Bernard's eyes adjusted to the darkness under the sink he realized his son's face was wet, and his eyes looked puffy.

"Is he alright, Sir?" The young woman asked, dropping to her knees beside them.

Bernard shook his head. His son wasn't OK. He doubted his son would ever be fully OK... But there was no way to help him now. He needed to be someplace familiar, someplace he could control.

"The man in Fourteen-C said that you said he was Autistic..."

Bernard nodded, agreeing with whatever the girl said simply because he wasn't in the mood to listen or argue.

"Do you want something to drink?" She leaned forward so she could see Aaron's face.

He nodded a few times in a row and when she handed him a glass of water he gulped it down then sat there holding the cup.

The girl smiled, "Feel any better?"

He shook his head.

"Well, that's no good... What's your name?"

Bernard bit his tongue to keep from answering.

Aaron paused, looked up and spoke, "Bond... Aaron Bond."

The girl shivered and Bernard wondered what it was about, then noticed the look on his son's face... That same curious expression from earlier... Kind of a forced smile...

"Well, Aaron, I've got a sandwich here with your name on it if you'd like to climb out of there."

For a moment he seemed to contemplate staying hidden under the sink, but when the idea of food had fully lodged itself in his mind, he inched out a little and sat there in the aisle while he devoured it.

By that time more of the passengers were peering out around their seats, or craning their necks to look at him and Bernard wanted to turn and shout at them, tell them to stop being such nosy assholes and mind their own 'effing' business, but, he tried to ignore them... Tried to anyway...

Aaron ate two sandwiches and was asking for a third when they hit the turbulence...

He released a squeak, grabbed Bernard about the neck, and tried to pull him under the sink.

Bernard choked when his son's thin arm contracted around his windpipe and for a moment he sat there leaned forward choking, half under the sink, half out.

There was a ding and a voice echoed in the cabin.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we're experiencing some mild turbulence, if you would be so kind as to return to your seats and fasten your safety harnesses, we're in for a bumpy night..."

A 'bumpy night' wasn't anywhere near close to what it actually was...

Bernard managed to get Aaron back into his seat, and the whole rest of the flight the boy was curled up tightly against him, grinding his teeth and either coughing or struggling for breath.

At one point Bernard was wondering if he would have to call out for a doctor because he was almost certain Aaron was about to keel over from the pneumonia... He flattened a hand on his son's face and found his skin quite hot. He knew it was normal for an Avian/human's temperature to run about 101 to 102, but this had to be much higher...

The kid had to be pushing 110...

At one point Bernard even asked the attendant for a glass of ice water, and he made the boy drink it then rub the ice on his face.

Aaron didn't mind it seemed, he did as he was told then curled back up in the seat and was still.

Bernard wondered if maybe he was being overly protective, or if he was just being a worrywart... Making up for all those years of things he wasn't there to worry about. But he believed he had a right to worry. Especially after what all his family had been through.

For a few hours he dozed, his head leaned over so his cheek rested on the crown of Aaron's head, savoring the closeness and wishing that he could somehow rewind time and give his boys the lives they deserved.

He seemed to wake every hour on the hour as the flight attendants brought around bottles of water or juice. And Bernard was even able to collect six packages of peanuts from other passengers he was sitting near when Aaron cracked open a bleary eye and whispered that he was hungry.

He watched the boy eat the nuts, then settled back down for another round of fitful slumber.

By the time they made it to their destination though, everything seemed 'OK' again, Aaron even waved at the Attendant who'd coaxed him from under the sink and flashed her a real smile.

He didn't cling helplessly to his father's arm as they left the plane, or as they claimed their baggage. He even sat across the table from Bernard at the food court and ate all five of his hamburgers and his 'chips' without completely freaking out when someone walked behind him.

He would go tense, yes, tense and watch them from the corner of his eye... But he didn't try to hide under the table. So, Bernard took it as a sign of improvement and ordered five more burgers to go...

The rental car Bernard had procured through Allan's credit card wasn't ready yet, which put Bernard off, but gave them some time to 'get to know one another'... Meaning, Bernard got to introduce his son to Airport Gift Shops, and bought the boy a proper T-shirt which he promptly took to the bathroom and cut slits up the back of.

Aaron seemed to enjoy having his wings out, so they stood there in the bathroom stall for a few minutes Aaron flexing his wings a little, Bernard listening for the slightest sound that would alert him to somebody else's presence in the bathroom.

He even let Aaron splash in the sink for a few minutes, watching as the boy thrust his hand forward at the little black sensor and stood agape as water spluttered out of a little hole in the wall. His smiled widening with each thrust of his wrists.

Bernard wondered absently what Aaron would do if he took the kid to the Water Park... He'd probably have a fit or end up splashing around until he was burnt into a crisp.

Aaron made a choked laughing sound and promptly splashed the mirror, staring at his reflection before smearing the water with his fingertips and poking his tongue out at himself.

He was like a little kid, Bernard decided as he watched him make a horrible mess, creating a puddle in the floor where he kept splashing the water. He only stopped the kid when he leaned forward to drink from it.

And then, Bernard decided, it really was time to go.


19. Chapters 19


Chapter 19; Unknown

Aaron's newfound confidence wore off shortly before sundown... They exited the terminal and Bernard waved the valet down... And Aaron wrapped himself around Bernard's side again. Hiding his face and mumbling incoherently.

"I can't drive with you clinging like that, Bud..." He made sure the child safety locks were on, and unfolded the two blankets from their packs in the backseat so Aaron could make himself comfortable.

The valet watched them from the corner of his eye, a little too much curiosity gleaming there.

Bernard didn't like the way the young man was watching them and he climbed behind the wheel, driving away before he'd even fastened his safety belt.

Driving in a car was a new experience. Once the sun was down Aaron's confidence came back, and he was sitting up, his face pressed against the window, mumbling to himself. And every so often waving at other people in passing cars.

The tension melted, and for a while at least Bernard was calm. Watching the road, trying to accustom himself with the idea of actually having fulfilled part of his promise to Kitty.

He'd gotten one of their sons back. He knew one more was safe, all he had to do now was...

"I dunno 'bout you... But I'm bloody tired!"

Bernard glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed Aaron was sitting there staring at him his faux glasses shoved high up onto his forehead. He couldn't help but smile at the boy.

"Well, then go on and go to sleep."

"What about you?"

"I've got to drive."

"Drive where?"

Bernard chuckled, "South."

"But, we're not going south... We're going West-South-West by..." His face screwed up and he angled his hand a little to the left... "That far."

"You can tell what direction we're pointing?"

Aaron nodded, "Can't you?"

"No... How do you know what direction we're facing?"

"'Cause I know where we've been... I... I can feel it."

For a few seconds they were quiet, and a truck passed, its headlights for a moment casting hollow shadows across Aaron's face.

"I know my kennel faced due East... And the hall where they tested me was thirty-seven paces North-West... They always had me running in a Southern direction... I'd know if we were facing South... I'd be able to feel it..." He yawned and laid over in the back seat, his head pillowed on his arm.

Bernard heard him fidgeting around as he wiggled his wings through the slits in his shirt and curled his feathers around himself for warmth. Something Kitty had done often when they'd ended up sleeping in the old truck.

"So, we're going the wrong way."

Bernard laughed, "No we're not."

"Yeah, we are... I told you."

He shook his head, "If you were in the air you could fly whatever direction you wanted to, but when you're on the ground, you can only drive where there's road."

"Why?" And then he popped his head back up, propping his chin on Bernard's shoulder his nose wrinkling up, eyes narrowing. "An' what do you mean fly?"

And Bernard almost slammed on the breaks in his shock.


20. Chapters 20


Chapter 20; Tutor

"I dunno about this... Are you sure, I won't be hurt?" Aaron said as he peered over the edge of the highway overpass where his father was walking down the hill, shining a flashlight left and right.

"Yeah," Bernard shouted back up at him, "I'm sure... You were born with wings for a reason, Bud... You've gotta learn to use them."


Bernard stopped and propped his hands on his hips, looking up and seeing Aaron's face peeking over the rail at him. Looking somehow small and catlike with his hands up like that and his lower lip out...

"Because you were born to do it. It's part of you, and I'm not going to deny you that experience... It would be wrong if I tried."

"Must I do it from such a height? You look so small down there!" His eyes got large and he shrank back from the edge a little. "I've never been up this far before... It's so long a ways to drop..."

"If you use your wings you won't drop. You'll fly."

"But, what if I can't? What if... What if they don't work?" He raised them for emphasis, and they did look somewhat puny with some of the feathers missing due to his former malnutrition.

"They'll work, its what you were made to do, Aaron."

"But, what if I'm hurt!"

Bernard chuckled and rolled his head on his shoulders flicking the light in his son's direction, "You're procrastinating now... I'll catch you if they don't work, OK?"

Aaron was silent, his wings sagging as he considered it. "Do you promise?"

"I promise... I'll catch you if you can't do it."

After a moment of deep agonizing thought, though it seemed, Aaron stood and climbed onto the railing, teetering precariously. He shook himself.

"Right then, what do I do?"

Pride bubbled in Bernard's chest and he quickly recalled memories of watching Kitty fly... And the details she'd given him when he asked how she'd done it.

"Stretch your wings out to each side as far as they'll go."

He did... And for a moment Bernard stared in awe...

The kid had to have a fifteen foot wingspan... At LEAST. And even though some of the feathers were sick or looked kind of weak, Aaron stood there with the confidence of a hawk before take off.

Did I do that? Did I give him that confidence? Bernard thought. No... He got that from Kitty... That's Kitty's boy up there... And look at him... Wow, just look at him...

"Okay, angle them forward a little... Kind of like you're going to push against the air with 'em... OK?"

Aaron nodded... Then shook his head, his face conveying sheer confusion...

For a few seconds Bernard thought on words... Wondering how he could explain it so the boy would understand...

"Okay... Tilt them forward a little... A little more- That's great, right there..."

And as he watched the boy began trembling, as if holding his wings open cost him great strength.

"Can you flap a little?"

Wings came up... And Aaron fell...

Bernard shot forward, his arms going up, the flashlight falling to the ground his heart hammering in his chest, and Aaron brought his wings down again.

He bobbed upward in the air... Sailed clear over Bernard's head with a frightened shriek...

And crashed face down in the middle of the highway, tumbling head over heels to a stop...


21. Chapters 21


Chapter 21; Lessons Learned

Gas station attendants in Kentucky are used to seeing pretty much anything you can think of...

Darron Bishop had personally seen seventeen cars with deer smashed through windshields pull up outside and ask to use the phone... He'd seen innumerable hunters come in sporting accidental self-inflicted gunshot wounds. He'd seen seven high speed chases shoot past the store, two robberies, nineteen car fires and two drunken teenagers getting-IT-on in the parking lot outside.

So, when a man with blue hair walked in dragging a young man with blood all over him, Darron wasn't surprised.

Very little surprised him in fact.

The boy was blubbering, blood matting his right eye closed and dripping from his nose and forehead. His whole right arm, from the elbow down was nothing but one large gory scrape, and the kid was limping as if, perhaps, his leg was in the same condition.

The man with blue hair, was greenish pale, his eyes mournful as he helped the kid inside.

"It's OK, you're OK!" He was saying, over and over in a calm kind of panicked voice.

And the kid was sobbing in a high pitched prepubescent voice, "Y-you p-p-prom-promised to catch me!"

"I'm sorry... I'm so so sorry..."

And then it would start over again.

"What happened?" Darron asked, in a rather unemotional tone.

And the guy with blue hair chuckled dryly, "Botched flying lesson."

Darron didn't even blink. "Oh... Well, Okay then."

Bernard kicked open the bathroom door and pulled Aaron inside, heading directly to the sinks and turning the water on full blast.

He knew it had to look worse than it actually was... Something told him that despite the amount of blood, it really wasn't THAT bad... But, he still felt horrible for not catching him... He'd broken the first promise he'd ever made to him...

Sweat broke out on Aaron's forehead and for a few minutes his sobs were reduced to wracking coughs, and then he stood there shivering, and watching through his left eye, breathing through gross clogged nostrils.

With most of the blood cleared away Bernard could identify that most of it was just cuts and scrapes... There were pieces of gravel still stuck in there that he'd have to get out... That would be an adventure, but nothing looked broken.

He wet a handful of paper towels and padded Aaron's arm with them, then wet a few more and cleared the blood from his face.

"There... You're fine... Just scrapes. Why are you cryin' over a few scrapes?"

"You p-promised to c-catch me..."

Bernard sighed and stared into Aaron's face with a hurt, regretful kind of expression. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch you, Aaron... I'm sorry... You flew right over my head!"

Aaron was quiet, he blinked, "Don't make me do it again."

"But you did it! You flew almost forty feet! You've got to tr-"


And he couldn't... It wasn't the argument, or its rationality, because Bernard could have just as easily used that annoying bicycle analogy. 'If you fall off, just get right back on'... But he couldn't...

It was Aaron's tone... And the look in his eye that reminded him so much of Kitty.

He couldn't anymore make Aaron try again than he could have denied Kitty anything she asked of him.

He couldn't even hold his son's gaze at that moment without feeling guilty... He lowered his eyes to the sink, and the smears of blood in it.

How could I have done this to him? He didn't deserve this...

"I won't make you do it again... I swear."

Aaron snuffed pathetically and glanced at his reflection in the mirror, "I'm sorry..."

Bernard started, "What? Why are you sorry? You've not done anything to be sorry for."

Aaron turned his head and stared at him, "I'm sorry I look like her... You get so sad every time you look at me..."

He was speechless, utterly speechless... For all of ten seconds, "Where'd you get that idea?"

Aaron looked at his father's hand, where the fingers curled gently around his elbow under the spigot... "I see it in my head every time you touch me... You think 'bout her when you see me and you get so sad..."

This startled him and instantly he released Aaron's arm, as if afraid he'd somehow poisoned his son.

Aaron flinched and snuffed again, "Is alright... It happens every time someone touches me..."

Bernard's mind raced and he wondered what the hell those freaks at that place had done to his son when he realized... Kitty had been able to do some pretty weird things... One of which had been she could tell when someone was lying by touching them... Was this like that?

"You can tell what I'm feeling when I touch you?"

Aaron shook his head, "It's different with every person... Sometimes I can see what they're thinking... Others I can just tell if they're lyin' or not... But, with you... With you, I can see your memories."


22. Chapters 22


Chapter 22; Explanations

"You remember when I was born... There was another one too... That was born with me."

Half a second later Bernard nodded, his reactions delayed because it was all so odd to him, so very alien he didn't know how to cope with it. "He's your twin brother..."

Aaron nodded, "You're looking for him as well... As well as the others," He gingerly rubbed his nose with a wad of tissue.

Bernard swallowed and lowered his voice to a whisper. "Your brother is with his friends... They're all like you... I'm hoping to get in contact with them-"

"So we'll all be like a big family..."

He nodded.

"But, first we've got to go to Mississippi to save the others... Because you're not done saving us yet... And you're worried about what you'll find there... Worried you won't be able to recognize them like you were able to me..."

It was like Aaron was somehow able to put all those frightening emotions Bernard had locked away into words... And drag them all out of hiding, plastering them onto the forefront of his mind...

All the fear, all the anger and guilt... It was like Aaron could pull them from his very soul and slap him in the face with them...

"You remember when mum was killed... You blame yourself... You feel bad because you couldn't save her... Because you could only lay there and watch while that woman cut-"

"That's enough!"

His voice seemed to echo in the bathroom and Aaron was instantly quiet, shrinking inward on himself because he expected to be hit...

The anger in Bernard swelled and he wanted to tell the boy to shut up... To shut his damned mouth and never to speak of THAT WOMAN ever again!

But he couldn't... All he could do was stand there and try not to start howling his own pain at the heavens like a wolf...

He'd been there when Kitty was killed... He'd lain there in the middle of the road not ten feet from his wife as that bitch had cut her open and taken the life from with in her, then let the 'Erasers' tear her to shreds before his eyes...

Bernard hated himself for it... Hated himself that he was unable to do anything but watch... He'd betrayed the love of his life... He'd watched her die and not tried to stop it...

It was his fault not Allan's that Kitty was dead... It was his fault his children no longer had a mother, and he would never forgive himself... He didn't have the right to ask for it...

"Let's finish getting you cleaned up..." Bernard gave himself a shake and yanked a few more paper towels from the dispenser and wet them under the faucet.

Aaron was quiet, his eyes averted as his father cleared the rest of the blood from his arm and face. He didn't even say anything when Bernard dropped into a crouch and began work on his leg... He just stood there silently, like a statue until the man finished. And then he went to sit in the car alone while Bernard bought a few supplies.

The night was cold, and a wind blew from the north, chilling him as he sat there in the open rear door staring down and to the right at a grease stain on the concrete.

A few cars passed on the highway but he didn't pay any attention to them... It was as if his whole world had been born and died in the expanse of two days... It was unfair, and he didn't like it... But it was a valuable lesson of life. Your dreams may come true, but never in the way that you expected them to... There was always a catch.

And this was his... His father would always be in some way eternally indebted to his mother's ghost, unable to fully appreciate his children's presence... Either by the un-based guilt over her death, or some other reason he had yet been unable to uncover. Bernard would never forgive himself for something he had absolutely no control over...

The truth Aaron had seen about his father's detrimental obsession with Kitty's death was this...

The truck had been run off the road, the rear axle broken... Kitty had gotten out and started running, intent on taking flight to escape but she had been pregnant and unable to make it.

Bernard had run after her when he realized she couldn't make it into the air and turned on the advancing van that contained their enemy with the small pistol he'd taken from his father... He'd emptied the chamber into the windshield and the van had run him over...

Both of his legs had been broken in multiple places, his ribs had broken, two fractured vertebra and internal bleeding...

He'd been on the verge of death... And still he blamed himself because he couldn't save her...

To Aaron, it seemed preposterous... There had been no way Bernard could have saved his wife without outside assistance or divine intervention...

But, then again...Despite having seen a few of Bernard's memories of the love he felt toward Kitty... Aaron, as of yet, had no example in which to base it, so, in essence, he had no concept of love, it was foreign to him...

He had no idea of the emotions that had, at the time, run through Bernard's core... And he wouldn't for years... Not until he himself knew what it was like to be a father and realize his children and wife were in dire jeopardy... And then he would understand all too well why Bernard blamed himself for Kitty's death and would accept no other explanation or reasoning but his own terribly skewed perception of what had actually happened...

It's all in how you look at it, he would one day say... But, at that moment, sitting in the back of that rental car, Aaron believed his father was crazy...


Can we smell that foreshadowing?


23. Chapters 23


(NOTE; When I wrote this chapter I didn't have access to the internet or the books, so I don't know exactly how many days it was between Max getting to England and the day she defeated the Director, if you do know, please let me know so I can change this! HOPE IT IS WORTH THE WAIT!)


Chapter 23; Thirteen

It took two days to get from Kentucky to Mississippi… Not because Bernard wasn't driving quickly because he was, but because he stopped the morning after Aaron's failed attempt at flight, at a local library… And found an Email he was not expecting…

Not only was he shocked at who it was from, but it also spurred a breed of determination within him and he tried like hell to reply to it but found he could not. Which made him quite angry…

So angry in fact that he drove in the wrong direction and got himself lost and had to rely on Aaron's sense of direction to get himself back to the highway. And trying to tell someone that heading straight south by air (which was how Aaron's directional sense was made) was different than heading south on land. Was difficult, especially when they had to drive due north for two hours before they could even get back to the highway to take them south…

He would never forget how agitated it made Aaron to know they were going in the wrong direction, tell his father so, and have a reply of; "That's how roads work."

So, two days later he was found stuck in traffic as he was entering Mississippi, just outside of Yazoo.

There were carloads of children on either side of him and Aaron had his face pressed against the glass staring in awe at them… More specifically a girl in the car beside theirs…

She looked to be about seventeen… Too old for Aaron in Bernard's taste… But, his ID did say he was sixteen… Even though it was a complete lie…

The girl had brown hair and brown eyes, and Bernard caught her holding a notebook up to her window with the words 'What's your name?' scribbled in marker on the pages.

And Aaron was staring at it stupidly…

"What's wrong?" Bernard said over his shoulder, trying to distract himself from the anger building over the traffic jam.

"She writes funny… I can't read it…"

Bernard glanced over his shoulder and saw the note… It looked perfectly legible to him. "Do you really need glasses or something? It looks fine."

"To you maybe… You can read…"

He paused and stared at his son in the rear view mirror, "You can't read?"

Aaron shook his head, "Father Frances showed me how to write 'God' and 'Angels'… But that's it…" He pressed his bruised face against the glass and waved at the girl again, his face brightening with an even larger smile.

The girl stared at him curiously, shook her head and pointed to her sign.

And Bernard hit the rear window button on the panel by his hand…

Aaron jerked back from the window in shock, for a few moments horrified by the new experience of having access to the BIGBIGBIG world and the air, and sounds and smells of it, but then his eyes locked on the girl again and he quickly forgot about all of that… He held tightly to the safety belt and leaned his head out smiling at the girl.

And she rolled down her window, leaning out grinning back.

She had a slightly Creole accent and when she said, "My name is Annette… I'm from Louisiana," it came out 'Loozeana'…

"Are you goin' to go bust up some Itex butt too?" Her smile widened to span her face.

Aaron just kind of sat there curled against the safety belt grinning like an idiot. Then, he shook himself. "I'm not sure what 'Itex' is, but we're going South now…"

The girl laughed, "What's your name?"

Aaron hesitated, as if it took him a moment to think of it, "Bond… Aaron Bond."

And Annette giggled, her face turning a bright shade of pink. "You mean like the movies?"

"If you mean James Bond, then yes… Only I've never seen the movies… Have you?"

She made a sound by pushing air between her lips and waved a hand, "All of 'em… My older brother is obsessed with 'em!"

Aaron's face lit up. "You've got a brother? I've got one also! We're twins, but I'm older by five minutes!" He squinted and pointed at her, as if it were such a big important detail that it bore a great responsibility as to point it out with added emphasis.

Annette laughed and the cars on that side of the road scooted forward a few feet. The other windows in her car rolled down and more faces stuck out into the air. "Hey, are you goin' Whitecoat huntin'?" A boy with a scraggly moustache said, snapping his fingers at Bernard.

Bernard blinked at him but didn't respond… He didn't trust the look in the boy's eyes.

"That's just my brother's friend Louis, don't mind him…" She pronounced the boy's name 'Loo-ee' and made a spinning motion at her temple with one finger.

Aaron didn't know what it meant, but something told him to agree with the girl none the less… Simply because he didn't know what else to do.

He'd never really had a conversation with someone before… As for Whitecoats… The only white coats he'd ever seen were worn by the doctors who had hurt him in England… And as far as he was concerned, he didn't ever want to go near them again… EVER.

"You really should come fight Itex with us… They're trying to take over the world."

Aaron's eyebrows scrunched down, "What?"

Annette rolled her eyes, "Itex is an evil corporation that is trying to kill Max and the flock!"

Bernard felt his stomach tighten and he turned his head to say something to Annette but Aaron got to it first.

"What Flock? And who the bloody hell is Max?"

And Annette's eyes went wide, her face pale, "You know… THE Flock!"

Aaron shook his head.

"BURD KIDS!" She wrinkled her nose up patronizingly, "Max and the Flock are Burd Kids!"

And for a minute it looked like Aaron might throw up as realization sat in. And then Bernard twisted in his seat and put a hand on his son's back to make sure he didn't try to put out his wings. They had to keep a low profile… If news spread from car to car that there was a real live bird-kid in a blue Chevy Celebrity then there would be no way Bernard would be able to make it to the damned lab before everything went to hell.

"Easy Aaron," He whispered…

But Aaron was unnaturally quiet as he leaned backward into the car and stared Bernard in the face. His dark eyes wide and full of tears…

Then he spoke.

"They can help… Dad, they can help us."

And for a length of time Bernard deemed immeasurable, he couldn't breathe… Couldn't think about anything except how grateful and how honored he felt to be called 'dad'…

He'd never been called 'dad' before… And the fact that after only four days Aaron had called him such seemed miraculous.

Aaron's face changed, taking on a puzzled expression and he cocked his head to the side, "What's wrong?"

Bernard shook his head, "Nothing's wrong…

"Are you thinking of mum again?"

"No… It's just … You… You called me 'Dad'…"

"Oh… Should I not?" He looked disappointed. "I only called you that because… Well, because that's what you're supposed to, right?"

Bernard gave his head a little shake, "You don't have to…"

"But, I want to."

He cleared his throat so he didn't choke, "Then feel free to do it."

Aaron shook his head, "You're acting weird…" Then turned to talk to the girl in the other car again. "How do you know they're bird-kids?"

And Bernard turned back around in his seat, his hands tight on the steering wheel because he would have buried his face in them otherwise.


About twenty minutes later car doors started opening and people started climbing out… Deciding the traffic jam was a crock put on by Itex itself, and the occupants started marching off.

By this time though, Annette's car had moved too far up the line for Aaron to talk to her, and he was lounging in the back seat scribbling 'Angel God' and 'God Angel' on his hand with a pen he'd found under his father's seat and reciting what Father Frances had told him about the two in a whisper to himself.

Bernard growled in his throat… "This isn't good."

Aaron raised his head and propped his chin on the back of his father's seat, "What's going on?"

"Just hold on to something…" And Bernard started the car's engine again. Twisting in his seat, his right arm braced on the back of the passenger seat as he stared out the back windshield, twisting the wheel left and right, trying somehow to turn the car around while stuck in dead traffic.

How he managed to get the car to a right angle to the others was beyond him, but there he was, perpendicular to the other cars, trying to squeeze between the front and back bumper of a Ford Explorer and an old Volkswagen Rabbit with a GreenPeace sticker in the back glass.

Paint screeched and Aaron clapped his hands over his ears, his feathers lifting in agitation under his shirt.

And then they were through, driving down a dead grassy slope following a multitude of young people and children.

A few of the older kids cheered as Bernard drove past, some slapped the hood and trunk with flat hands and released screeching shouts of approval and for some reason, Bernard was reminded of County Fair Days from back home… He chuckled to himself and shook his head.

These kids didn't know what they were up against… It was all a game to them. They didn't know what it was like to walk the halls of a place like Itex and see the horrible things they'd done.

The kids didn't know what it was like to see someone they loved murdered because of these people…

The kids didn't understand how dire a situation it was… They were so hung up on superheroes and the novelty of kids with wings that they didn't understand how much evil they were standing up against.

These doctors were hurting children. They were killing them like insects. Selling them like a chipped set of dishes to the highest bidder.

The kids didn't understand that to the children of Itex, life wasn't a game… It was hell.

Let them have their innocence, Bernard whispered in his head, Let them have their heroes and you go do the dirty work...

Just because you don't believe in heroes doesn't mean they can't and shouldn't… They have to loose it on their own… You're no better than the Whitecoats to want to take it from them… Let them have their dreams…

His hand went to his pack sitting on the seat beside him, and unconsciously he fished for a package of cigarettes he'd bought at the gas station…

He'd gone two days without one and he was in desperate need of one now…

Aaron poked his head over the top of the seat and watched in silent fascination.

Bernard rested his wrists on the steering wheel so he could see his hands and the 'road' at the same time, so he didn't run over some kid while he was trying to light a Marlborough or whateverthehell brand he'd bought… As long as it wasn't Virginia Slims he didn't care…

He cursed under his breath when he realized the car didn't have a cigarette lighter and punched the steering wheel, causing the horn to blast and frighten a few kids walking to the left of the car.

And then they came to the ditch…

Not a normal ditch either… This one was thirty feet deep, lined with boulders the size of couches and almost sixty feet across…

"Great… Just great, we get there and we've got to cross the fucking Panama Canal."

Aaron wrinkled his nose, "This isn't Panama… This is Mississippi."

Bernard rolled his eyes and shut off the engine. "You feel like walking?"

"Not especially… My leg still hurts."

"Well then, do you want to stay in the car?"

"No… I want to help."

"Then you're going to have to walk."

"Bullocks…" And begrudgingly he twisted around and crawled out, swinging on his jacket over his T-shirt wincing as the thick wool rubbed against his arm.

Bernard shoved his pack of cigarettes into his jacket pocket and poked one between his lips… He looked like some brooding hitman standing there patting himself down in search of a match or a lighter… All except the blueness of his hair that is…


He flinched and the back of his coat stood out…

Bernard chuckled and turned to look as Annette bounded up with a group of other children, her brother and Louis included.

Aaron took three stumbling steps back and pressed his side against Beranrd's his confidence evaporating.

"Come on, Bud… Don't be a sissy… Go talk to her," He prodded Aaron in the ribs with his elbow and fingered the cigarette between his lips.

Annette walked up, her hands behind her back, her face such a bright shade of pink it looked to Bernard like the girl had smeared red food coloring on her cheeks.

"I'm so glad you came to help!" Annette lowered her voice a little, to appear more serious. "You know… With the Flock saving and all…"

Aaron swallowed, "We were coming here anyway…"

Bernard rolled his eyes again and snapped his fingers at Louis, motioning to his cigarette.

Louis looked the type to have a lighter… Not for smoking things, no… Louis looked the type to burn things.

Annette smiled and bounced on the balls of her feet. "Soooo… After we save the world… You wanna go have burgers in town?"

Bernard choked on a laugh and barely caught the lighter Louis tossed at his head. Save the world my ass, he thought. You kids will be lucky to get away from that place alive… He turned away, but cocked his head to the side and listened into the 'conversation' if it could be called that, between his son and Annette.

"I had a burger once… At the Plane Building!" He pulled his jacket open and showed off his T-shirt. "See this! I got this there too!"

Annette giggled; "That's nice. There's a Charlie Jr.'s just down the road… They make good burgers!"

"I like burgers… What are they made of?"

Bernard noticed something then… An odd smell that tickled the back of his throat, and he turned toward Aaron with his eyebrows raised. He knew that smell… Well, maybe not that exact smell, but he knew that tickling in the back of his throat…

Aaron was giving off heavy pheromones…

He couldn't help but bite back a laugh… Especially when Annette shifted closer to him, her face growing even more pink…

Dear God, he's a chick magnet! Bernard laughed aloud, startling the kids and when they looked at him he shook his head and tossed Louis' lighter back to him then expelled a cloud of smoke.

"Don't mind me… I'm just a crazy old man…" He hunched his shoulders and squinted to appear older then waved at Aaron. "I'm goin' you can follow me if you want, or you can hang here with your friends."

Annette opened her mouth to say thank you and lead Aaron away… But the boy made a noise in his throat, halfway between a scream and a whine and darted off after Bernard with his hands out in front of him.

Bernard was actually surprised the boy came after him and paused long enough for Aaron to catch up with him and latch possessively onto his coat sleeve.

It took a while to pick his way down the slope. He wasn't near as nimble as he'd been before the 'incident'. His legs got stiff sometimes when he was on his feet a lot.

Annette and her group already passed them and were disappearing up the side of the other slope by the time Bernard was stepping over the little stream at the bottom. Aaron was some six feet behind him, hopping stone to stone when suddenly he stopped…

It was as if something echoed in his head as he stared down at the water flowing between the rocks… The tendrils of red algae mixed with dead plant life…

Bernard took a moment to catch his breath and rub at his left thigh on the other side of the water when he realized he couldn't hear Aaron moving behind him any more. Slowly he turned…

Aaron was standing on a rock beside one of the larger pools of water staring down into it as if entranced.

The boy was swaying gently, looking as if at any moment the wind were going to blow him away…

Bernard's skin prickled and he took a step toward his son… "Aaron?"

The boy slowly raised his head, looking thin and frightened and spoke in a trembling child's voice.

"There's blood in the water…"

Bernard was by his side in mere seconds. Staring at the twisting brownish red cloud in the water… To look at it you would think it was only the iron rich algae growing on the rocks disturbed by the many feet walking across the stones… But, the closer Bernard looked and the lower he bent… The more insidious it appeared…

He turned his head, spying the large culvert where the ditch ran under the highway… And noticed something odd about its hollow glowing 'O' of an interior…

The water was draining away into a little side culvert it appeared…

Bernard closed his eyes…

His breath slowed… His heartbeat quickened and the sounds changed in his ears…

"Pay attention…" She said, staring down at him from her perch on a higher tree limb. The golden summer heat of western Oklahoma making her appear all the more dark and exotic. "I can hear everything… The wind in the leaves… The bugs crawling around up there. I can smell the tree, the air, the dirt, the sky… Everything is an open door to me…"

He chuckled, scuffing a hand through his shortened hair; "Lucky."

She cocked her head to the side and gave him a look that said she was irritated, her pupils flicking small then large again, dark wings twitching.

He felt himself blush and hid a grin, looking at the ground; "Sorry…"

"I can always sense the world like a hawk… You have to learn to do it…"

The sounds of cars faded away, and the wind sang in his ears… He could feel it in the rise and fall of his own breath, he could feel the pulse of the earth in the beat of his heart… The ebb and flow of the planet's energies screamed LIFE-LIFE-LIFE-LIFE… And the hollow, echoing roar of water draining away into a long and empty shaft screamed FALSE-FALSE-FALSE-FALSE in its wake…

Slowly he opened his eyes, the world looking sharp and crisp around him, every little movement burned into his mind…

There is blood in the water…

The next second he was on his feet, Aaron's hand clamped in his, as they worked their way toward the culvert…

Their feet found a ledge inside the culvert, too skinny to walk on without leaning toward the curved wall of the metal and concrete tube. Aaron was shaking, radiating a thick aura of fear and a NEED to leave right that second. But also a NEED to not be alone… Alone made him helpless… And he didn't ever want to feel helpless again.

Bernard paused and turned his head, his body pressed tightly to the wall of the culvert, and looked at his son.

Aaron's face was too pale, his eyes too wide beneath the lenses of his false glasses. He trembled as if chilled… But he still followed… Dutifully, faithfully…

"You're doing great, buddy…" He put a hand over the curled knot Aaron's fist had become, trying to comfort him. "We're going to be OK… I'm not going to leave you."

Aaron ground his teeth uncertainly, but after a moment he nodded and they continued on their way.

The roar of falling water grew louder and Bernard saw what appeared to be a back hole to nothingness in the wall not very far ahead of him. He approached it slowly, quieting the scuff of his shoes against the cement and slowing his breathing. He paused and stuck a hand into his pocket, pulling out a small metal business card case with his father's initials on it, using it as a mirror to peer around the corner…

There was a gaping black hallway that seemed to go on forever and Bernard's stomach tightened up impossibly.

This is it, Bernie boy… This is it…

He moved, throwing out his left leg and straddling the opening, then digging in his pocket again for the small maglight he'd bought at the gas station. Shining it into the hallway, the blackness swallowed the light like an ancient monster and he felt himself swallow a thick sensation in his throat.

He shined the light around for a while, noticing a metal grate walkway in the floor, the water running along under it.

He knew, had there been moving traffic above them the sound would have been deafening, but because of the traffic jam there was only a loud, dull throb and the occasional car horn honking.

Bernard turned to Aaron and licked his lips nervously; "Are you ready?"

Aaron's whole body said 'no', but he nodded anyway.

Bernard put out his hand, feeling his son's smaller one tangle around his fingers and he took a moment to draw the boy forward into a rather awkward hug. "You're very brave, Aaron. Don't let anyone tell you you're not-"

"I'm not brave… I'm scared… I-I'm really s-scared."

"So am I…"

And they stepped into the dark tunnel that seemed to suck out the very courage from their souls…


(NOTE; Oh, yeah... Did anybody catch that? :D Let me know if you did.)

24. Chapters 24


Chapter 24; Hard Core Rescue Tactic

The grate flooring clanked and screeched beneath their feet and Bernard felt Aaron pressing obsessively into his back, clinging so tightly to his jacket he was finding it hard to walk without leaning backward into the boy's grip, hips thrust forward to keep him upright.

There was no light in the tunnel save that of Bernard's flashlight, and even that made everything seem all the more ominous. Water rushed below the grating, falling away to unseen depths as his light finally, after an almost unmentionable distance that left the sliver of daylight seen at the other end a small spot in the distance, Bernard's light flashed against a small metal latch set into the end of the tunnel.

It was a door… Beside which was a keypad and slot that he believed to be a card swipe. He fished in his pocket finding the envelope Deirdre had given him back in England.

There had been a keycard stashed in it, a blank one… He hadn't really trusted it at first, that was why he hadn't shown it to Aaron… But he knew damned well he wasn't going to be able to get through that door without a code, or a card or something…

He tried just pulling on the door latch to see if it would open, shaking it in its moorings.

Maybe he'd get lucky…


"Well… God… I've never been a praying kind of man, but if you get us in there, and out again safely I'd really appreciate it…" He pulled out the card and stared at it for a few minutes. Knowing that it could very well alert the people inside of his presence and or cause some trap to spring and imprison him here…

Grinding his teeth he glanced over his shoulder at Aaron. If they were captured, if it came to a point where he knew escape was impossible… Would Bernard have the heart to end his son's life to save him from more torture at the hands of these freaks?

Would he be able to spare the boy?

Please… Please, don't let it come to that… PLEASE!

He really never thought he'd be in this situation… Afraid to use a key that may lead him to the rest of his family. Afraid of what he would find on the other side of the door…

Part of him wanted to send Aaron back out to the car. Wanted to tell him to go back out and find Annette. To stay with here until he came back, and if he didn't to stay with Annette and try to get in touch with his brother and his friends…

If this keycard set of an alarm, or made bars come crashing down around them, Bernard would never forgive himself…

But he couldn't justify just standing there… Not when the card could also let them in without a hitch…

He ground his teeth and cursed bitterly, loudly, listening to it echo around them…

Aaron shivered; "W-what's wrong?"

Bernard flinched and closed his eyes tightly, "Nothin', buddy… Nothing at all…"

He swiped the card before he could comprehend what he'd done and stood there in shocked silence watching the little red light on the top of the box…

It flickered three times, then the green light flashed on and the buttons lit up…

"That's pretty…" Aaron leaned forward and promptly poked a few of the buttons.

Bernard slapped his hand away but the keypad flashed red, then green again emitting a small chirp that reminded Bernard of the noise ATMs made when you bumped them…

"Don't touch it…" Bernard leaned back over the keypad and used the greenish glow to examine the numbers written in black marker on the back. Then poised a rigid middle finger over the glowing buttons and punched them in. His unease growing when the keypad blinked to black just as he punched the last number.

Not two seconds later Something flashed above Bernard's head and a row of lights came on, blinking into murky, dirty life along the tunnel they'd just walked.

Aaron practically leapt into the air and Bernard grabbed him, slamming him against the wall and shielding him with his body.

The door sprang open, hitting Bernard in the back, connecting with the back of his head hard enough to stun him, and voices could be heard shouting from inside. Three men in white lab coats shot out the door, running, stripping off their lab coats and flinging them to the watery passageways on either side of the thin walkway. Tossing files, glasses, test tubes…

Aaron, who was too frightened for words that his father had slumped almost lifelessly against him when the door struck him, reached out and grabbed the door to keep it open.

He may not have been very observant, but Aaron did know that he and his father were trying to get INTO that place to save the others, and if that door closed, they'd never get in…

Whether or not the keycard had worked was irrelevant now, because the door had been opened from the other side. Had the three fleeing men taken the time to look over their shoulders they would have plainly seen Bernard and Aaron standing there, but, they were too preoccupied with saving their own skins to realize they'd just opened the place up to intruders.

"Dad…" Aaron shook him near frantically, eyes wide and fearful, his voice a thin hiss.

Bernard grunted, his eyes unfocused for a few seconds as he fought to get his legs under him. He hadn't taken such a sharp blow to the head in years… Nice to know his skull was still hard enough to protect his brain.

Bernard stood leaning away from his son, hand probing the back of his head, staring at his fingers, surprised when he couldn't find any blood. He was sure it had split his head open…

He shook his head a few times to clear it, noticed Aaron was holding the door open and took it, centering himself before he stepped inside, holding out his hand for his son.

"Come on, buddy…"

Aaron swallowed with some difficulty and followed, his eyes wide and darting. Panic written so plainly on his pale face Bernard could have sworn he could actually see the letters…

Large yellow lights were flashing in the corners, and along the ceiling… It reminded Bernard too keenly of the lights in the London Institute…

The hallways were different. Compact, and very hospital ward like, instead of long and sprawling as the ones in England had been. He felt oddly claustrophobic as he peered into rooms, seeing empty cages and sterilized environments.

He didn't hear the man approach… Didn't hear the hiccups in his steps until it was too late.

"Who the hell are you!"

Bernard turned, eyes wide and protective, arm going out holding Aaron behind him.

The man was a good four inches taller than him, slightly balding with strawberry blonde hair and glasses. He was dressed in khaki pants and a white dress shirt with a bright red tie and his name badge read; 'Harold La Fleur'… Doctor Harold La Fleur…

He stood there casually enough, looking down his nose at Bernard, taking in his dark blue hair and the wide, predatory/cornered animal expression on his face, then his eyes strayed back to Aaron's pallid face peeking around Bernard's shoulder. And those thin reddish blonde eyebrows drew down over his dark hazel eyes in realization.

"You're not supposed to be here…" He moved with the grace of someone who believes themselves invincible. His hard soled shoes clacking against the floor as he made his way toward the high desk in a niche along the right hand side of the ward, fingers lifting and going to a raised red button attached to the underside of the counter.

Bernard was on him faster than stink on a skunk.

Right hand coming up from somewhere around his knees, connecting with the man's stomach in such a solid blow Harold La Fleur's feet lifted clean off the ground with the force of it.

Aaron watched in a delighted kind of shock as his father's fist pulled back again, left hand grabbing Harold by the shoulder and pushing him away from the counter.

He took a stance like a dancer, light on his feet, right fist swooping up close to his body, quick, compact deadly punches that had much more force behind them than they looked.

Two blows to the gut had Harold falling against the wall sagging forward in on himself, his face an ashy blue color, gasping for breath…

Bernard let him slide down, his left heel coming down solidly on the man's instep, knee pressing upward threateningly to the redhead's groin. Left hand on throat, right hand drawn back to deliver another punch…

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Aaron felt a deep, resounding sense of pride that his old man could kick ass… And wondered if Bernard would ever teach him to fight like that… Although, he'd really rather not ever have to… Violence turned his stomach.

But Bernard leaned in ever so slightly applying pressure on Harold's throat and growled evilly in his ear.

"You know the layout of this place?"

Harold didn't answer, just glared menacingly teeth bared.

Bernard pressed harder with his knee, pinning the man's crotch between the metal plate in his knee and the concrete of the wall. "Care to try again?"

Harold whined pathetically at the pressure, his eyes starting to water.

And Bernard leaned forward again, whispering so his son wouldn't hear and spoke words he meant from the very bottom of his soul.

"If you don't fucking tell me what I want to know, I will castrate you make you eat your own balls then break your God damned neck…" He paused long enough to take a shuddering breath, "And I won't break it in a place that'll kill you… No… I'll break it about riiiiiiiiight here." He dug his fingers deeper into the man's throat, prodding with his fingertips for emphasis. "You won't die… Oh, no…" He laughed a little in his throat, like an insane child, "But you won't ever move again… Nope… You'll be a vegetable, an oozing, helpless, rotting shell of what used to be a man, trapped in your own head for the rest of your miserable life… I know enough about medicine to do it too… And I've got nothing to loose in this situation, so I might just do it anyway…" He leaned back and let the redhead, Harold La Fleur, see his face, and the honesty burning in his dark eyes.

Hazel eyes twitched left and right, searching midnight blue ones from a bloated, swelling red face… And Bernard felt a peculiar hot wetness spreading across the knee of his pants, and tears built in Harold's eyes…

"Aw… Did I make the baby cry?" Bernard patted his cheek mockingly.

"You gonna tell me what I want to know now, Mr. La Fleur?"

The man trembled but nodded, and Bernard let up the pressure on his throat.

"Subject 13… A and B… Where are they?"

Harold La Fleur's eyes widened in shock and he started laughing. "Th-thirteen? Y-you want th-thirteen!" His eyes closed and he started laughing harder, choking on his guffaws.

Bernard's lip rolled back and he rabbit punched him in the mouth. "Just show me where they are, you overgrown lab rat!"

Harold clutched his mouth pathetically and waited until Bernard released him before waddling, bow legged, clutching his wet crotch, down the hall.

Bernard glanced over his shoulder and jerked his head in Aaron's direction, telling the boy to follow.

And he did, this time standing taller, a small smile of admiration on his face…


And a secret is revealed… I'm so surprised nobody caught his in TWoW… In the castle Von Gasman sequence, Ter Borcht mentions 'The Thirteens' and that Daisy-David had to be separated from 'the fraternal'.


25. Chapters 25


Chapter 25; Am I Not My Brother's Keeper?

Harold La Fleur was a lead scientist… And here he was being manhandled by a guy with blue hair and eyes that matched…

Humiliation swept through him as he led the man down the hall, cupping his bruised genitals taking wide seesawing steps because it hurt.

His mind formulated many plans as he walked, catching the eye of the security cameras, knowing that they were being watched, and help was on the way…

Although, he wasn't that worried about the help… If this idiot wanted the Thirteens he could have them… Troublesome little brats they were, nobody had been able to get close enough to their room to turn on the gas flow to kill them, forget about getting close enough to poison the bastards…

The Thirteens were two of the most acute failures he'd ever seen. Also the only two failures who nobody could kill BECAUSE of their failure…

Anybody who got within six feet of their room dropped over sound asleep… And the robots were instantly destroyed if they got anywhere near them…

So far, the only one who'd ever gotten near their room was the cook… And that old bitch had been too soft hearted to simply put arsenic in their cereal and let them choke to death…

It was as if the little creeps could tell… Like they could read your mind…

Dangerous freaks…

So, they'd opted, once they'd received the directive to ship their successful experiments to Germany, to simply let them starve to death. The cook was laid off, her rotting corpse adorning some highway by now… And all that was left to do was wait until the little things died…

If this man wanted to get in there with him, Harold La Fleur wished him the best of luck…

The man would get within nine feet of the door and drop over like a dead fish, after that, all that would happen would be, Harold would then tie him up to a chair, and retaliate for his bruised ego and privates… The castration and paralyzing the man had spoken of seemed a little tame in his eyes. Yes… He'd get this blue haired man into a chair and show him the true meaning of the word suffering…

The room containing the Thirteens was set apart from the others, through an atrium you could see into the room through a small viewing window… If you were lucky enough to stay awake long enough to get near it…

Harold smiled as he presented the room with a flourish of hand motions and bowed slightly.

Bernard grabbed him by the collar of the shirt and dragged him forward into the atrium, his stomach a knot of worry.

It was too quiet… And the pins and plates in his legs and back were beginning to ache, almost like they did before a storm. Almost as if they were magnetic, drawn toward something… But that was absurd… The alloy that had been used in him was new, experimental and non magnetic…

Pushing Harold before him, Bernard entered the atrium…

It was as if heat shimmered around him, like a curtain and everything felt slightly off…

Harold was laughing under his breath, his body slowly sagging and Bernard released him, watching the man crumple to the floor… Where he promptly began to melt like an ice cream cone. His skin pale peach color with red bleeding through, pus yellow and green popping out as his eyes burst, his bones blackening like coals and ashing away…

He clapped a hand to his mouth, retching into his palm at the sight and the smell…

Oh, dear GOD the smell! Like rotting broccoli and road kill with a little hot septic on the side.

He stumbled backward, into the wall, staring in rapt horror as his own left hand began to decompose at a horrifying rate before his eyes.

He didn't feel any pain from it, but the lack of it hurt worse than anything. His eyes wide, mouth dropping open, Bernard screamed, watching his flesh melt, his bones burn from the inside out and his body fall apart around him…

And then there was pain… A blow to the side of his head, hard… So hard it could only have been a hard soled shoe, and his ear began to ring…

He couldn't see his attacker, couldn't hear anything but the sizzle and slop of his own body as it putrefied, but he could feel… And it felt like he was taking a savage beating.

Closing his eyes tightly Bernard lashed out, grabbing, tearing, kicking, punching, biting with limbs that he'd seen only seconds before waft out of existence.

Where was Aaron? Oh, GOD!

But then there were hands, one tangled in his hair, pulling and he lashed out at it with the rotting, nonexistent stump of his left hand, fingers that he didn't believe were there tightening around a thin bony wrist and he felt himself being dragged, his invisible assailant still beating and pounding on him…

But then his head popped out and he heard a mad noise, like a rabid animal attacking a corpse and pried one eye open.

He saw the ceiling, saw the door, and the hallway… He kicked and clawed a bit more, scooting backward into the hall and huddled against the opposite wall in horror, staring into the atrium of death where Harold La Fleur was, quite whole, fighting still with someone, or something that wasn't really there at all… Pounding his fists into the tile and literally foaming at the mouth, his eyes wide and filled with a blank, blind hatred.

And Bernard just sat there staring wide eyed, shivering, hugging his knees…

Aaron was beside him, holding his head and petting his hair, sobbing helplessly in words that weren't really words, but were more like infantile whines.

He sat like that for a long few minutes, until his crotch started feeling cold, and he looked down to notice he and Dr. La Fleur now had a matching disposition…

"Aw shit…" He slurred, pawing at the wetness curiously, his tongue feeling thick and slimy, he ran a trembling forearm over his mouth, clearing it of thick, foamed strings of drool and shook his head to clear it. Telling himself over and over that he wasn't hurt… He hadn't started melting… Whoever, or whatever was in that room had caused him to see it…

Whoever or whatever was in that room shared his DNA…

It frightened him deeply that someone who could cause such a violent, sick reaction could be related to him… Could be his offspring.

Well, now what… He thought to himself, still shaking like a sick old man, or a newborn deer. Too horrified to move, too sick with realization to try and approach again.

He was stuck… Utterly, and completely stuck.

Not by a door, or a pass code he'd been unable to dig up… But by his own children's power…

He hadn't really considered this when he'd decided to save them, as if it had been a conscious choice to do it… But, he hadn't thought of what he would do if the child was too powerful to handle…

Kitty's powers alone were frightening… Her unearthly strength when angered, that uncanny ability to calm him simply by touch, or to simply look at a bird, ANY bird, and somehow get it to do her bidding…

But this… Dear God… He couldn't do anything…

Aaron wiped at his face with trembling hands and turned his face toward the door, and the thrashing growling man in the atrium. His hands flexed nervously into fists and his jaw tightened…

And before Bernard could do anything at all, other than sit there and stare at him, Aaron was on his feet and standing in the atrium, head bowed, body trembling…

Bernard felt it like a wall crashing into him…

A chill went through the air and Aaron shivered violently, almost like a seizure, but he didn't fall down… Didn't start screaming or anything… He just stood there for a long while… Then calmly took three steps forward… And opened the door…


Aaron wasn't trying to be brave, not at all… He was scared to death in all actuality… But, he'd been able to read the hopelessness rolling off his father's form. The despair that he'd lost… That he wouldn't be able to fulfill his promise to Kitty… That he wouldn't be able to save their children…

And Aaron couldn't stand it…

The next thing he knew he was walking forward, and standing in the atrium, fully expecting to feel excruciating pain or shocks from the floor… Something…

Instead something cold had hit him in the face, stealing his breath and for a moment it felt like he was going to pass out…

Cold tentacles stabbed into his brain and images flashed in his head… Followed almost simultaneously by another cold wave… And quiet…

Fear gripped him so tightly, had there been water in his bladder it would have released just as his father's and Dr. La Fleur's… But, thankfully, he was empty…

He pried his eyes open, one at a time and blinked out hesitantly, expecting a hand to fall… To crush him or hit him…

But nothing happened…

So, he stepped to the door and twisted the knob…

Right into a strange, twisted cartoon world or bright colors, sketched trees and finger paints…

He had never seen anything like it, never expected to, and for a long while he stood in the doorway staring at it all in awe…


He called, hearing the cartoons eat the sound as soon as it was out of his mouth…

The cold tentacles in his brain drew him forward, gently, coaxing, and planting seeds of suggestion…

And there, amid the cartoon, sketchy rose bushes, was a child in a long, pink cartoon dress… Her hair splayed out on the pillow around her, sleeping peacefully…

He approached slowly, entranced by the child's beauty and his hand lifted to touch her rosy cheek…

And that's when everything changed…

Suddenly the cartoons melted and were replaced by blackness and clawing clutching shadows and a black ghost leapt at him from the corner, sharp evil teeth bared, eyes glowing red and evil, needle like claws scratching and pulling…

Aaron didn't so much as scream, as he released a shrill wail and launched himself backward against a wall he hadn't known was there, hadn't seen, and slid down, knocking over canisters, tearing open cabinets he couldn't see as the black THING attacked him, tearing him open and ripping out his insides.

He lashed out, slapping and clawing himself, his wings ripping through his t-shirt and fighting as well. Hitting with the broadest part, pummeling the demon…

He was knocked to the ground, weight on his chest and everything flashed painfully behind his eyes in a stab of white and blue…

He covered his face with his arms, pulling his wings over his head for added protection… And everything ground to a halt…

The weight on his chest was shivering… And behind that there was a shrill beeping noise and the rolling noise of something round spinning against tile…

Aaron slowly opened his eyes, curiosity getting the better of him and he peered out from between his feathers, fully expecting to come face to face with the demon again…

But what he saw instead almost stopped his heart…

There was a child sitting on his stomach… A thin child with greasy stringy dark hair and a filthy tear-streaked face…

Aaron's wings dropped open in shock and he raised up, eyes wide… Staring.

The child was wearing a torn hospital smock with a strip of IV tubing tied around its waist like a belt, a plastic bag tied around its neck like a cape…

"A-are y-you the prince?" The child said in a small, shivering voice…

"Carla s-said that someday… The Prince would come and wake her up…"

Aaron blinked in confusion, afraid to speak…

The child, as if sensing this, climbed to small dirty feet and padded across the room, behind a tattered stained curtain.

Hesitantly, expecting danger, Aaron climbed to his feet and followed, wings raised to land blows… He peeked around the curtain again and spied a sick parody of the sleeping girl he'd seen in the cartoon world…

She was wearing a ruined pink hospital smock, lying on soiled sheets… A crown of bent metal and tubing rested on her dark, dirty head, and her sunken eyes stared blindly upward…

The two children looked nearly identical, save the fact Aaron could now see that the child with shorter hair was a boy… But the girl…

She was skeletally thin, her joints drawn up in rigors. Her head lying crookedly on her thin neck… chest rising and falling unsteadily…

Aaron had seen other experiments before… He knew the signs, and the deep scars marring the small girl's frame made him shudder and clutch himself.

She was very, very sick… This girl.

Aaron felt a wail building in his chest and he opened his mouth, the sound coming out in a helpless cry. "DAAAAAAADDYYYYYY!"

And in the hallway Bernard, who'd risen to his feet and was standing helplessly in the doorway to the atrium, too afraid to press forward even to help his own son get past whatever monster was in there, gave a mournful howl and lunged across the threshold and into the room, tripping over the now unconscious and snoring form of Harold La Fleur.

He burst into the room and his eyes locked on Aaron where he stood at the foot of a filthy bed and gasped…

The smell in the room was wretched. Sickness, sweat and old bodily excretions…

He walked forward like a man being lead to the gallows and covered his mouth at what he saw on the bed… Unable to even so much as make a sound or tear his eyes away…

The boychild petted the girl's cheek gently and turned his dirty face from the visitors to press a kiss lovingly to her forehead, "Your Prince is here Aurora… Everyth-"

He didn't even get a chance to finish his sentence… Instead his eyes rolled back up into his head and he crumpled lifelessly onto the pillow beside his twin…


26. Chapters 26 Part 1


(Okay, just to clarify some things about the last chapters… Carla is the cook and she used to read stories to them and play games with them, the reason they didn't attack her when she came near was because she didn't mean them harm, Aurora is the little girl, and I DID mention her in TWoW, just not by name… And you will all probably hate me if you figure it out… :P Sorry about that.)


Chapter 26 Part 1; Persevere

Aaron was still in shock over the two children, especially when Bernard gently shook the boychild awake and lifted him to cling monkey-style to Aaron's back.

The boy clung desperately around Aaron's neck, nearly choking him, knees bending Aaron's weak, unhealthy feathers and snapping off a few.

Aaron didn't tell his father that it hurt, he could feel the absolute terror and weakness rolling off the little boy and decided having a few feathers pulled and broken was a small price to pay… He hooked his fingers under the boy's wrists to keep the bony little appendages from completely cutting off his air supply and watched his father as the man inspected and began to unhook the little girl from the machines.

Sticky little pads were gently pulled from her temples and brow, the machine monitoring her brainwaves disconnected. He read the words on the IV bags, making sure none of the medications were dire, glad that both bags, though empty, were just saline.

After she'd been completely removed from the machines and wires and tubes Bernard removed his coat and slid an arm beneath her, startled when his hand slid across her smooth back…

She didn't have wings…

Gently lifting her he inspected her back, making sure there weren't scars that meant the sickos had removed them, but there was nothing… He wrapped his coat around her snuggly and picked her up, cradling her to his chest and nodding to Aaron over his shoulder.

"Time to go…"

Aaron nodded, relief washing through him that they were going to leave. That they were going to get out of this horrible antiseptic smelling place and back into the open air.

He liked the open air… Just not the BigBigBig sky…

They walked out of the room, passing the still unconscious Harold La Fleur… Aaron paused by him a moment, and poked out his tongue hatefully.

The boy on his back giggled and tightened his grip.

Aaron continued on, following his father, feeling an odd warm bubbling in his chest when the boy he was carrying had giggled. It made him feel good…

And then there was a noise…

A distant, rolling sound… Like thunder…

Bernard stopped, a shiver working its way up his spine, and turned around.

The hallway behind them was long, the doors and lights shrinking off into a pinprick in the distance… And despite the fact they couldn't see anyone or anything down there… Bernard could feel someone or something watching them…


Bernard didn't speak, or react, he just kept staring…

A breeze kicked up, quite suddenly. Making Aaron's hair flutter, and a chill raised the hairs on the back of Bernard's neck.

Why was there wind? They were underground, there shouldn't have been wind…

The thunder sound rolled again, accompanied by a low, metallic groaning. Bernard related it to the sound of a boat on stormy water… Stressed metal seemed to groan like a dying man…

"Dad?" Aaron's voice seemed to be swallowed by whatever was happening and Bernard tossed his head at the boy.

"Get moving… Fast."

Aaron didn't need to be told twice, he started jogging, the little boy on his back tightening fingers around his neck.

The soft breeze seemed to pick up, whistling in his ears and Bernard could have sworn he heard a buzzing noise, not like bees, or high voltage electricity, but the buzz of hungry little mouths chew chew chewing away.

He was oddly reminded of the book 'The Langoliers'… And a sick feeling settled into the pit of his stomach. He imagined horrible toothy mouths without minds eating and eating and eating… Bloody and wet and hungry…

If he hadn't already wet himself, he would have done it then.

He glanced downward into the small girl's face… And IT happened.

Their eyes connected and instantly it felt as if cold, sharp spikes stabbed deep into Barnard's head, digging, and searching like voles in his mother's garden. Tunneling away like voracious worms… Wriggling and touching everything.

Images flashed in his head, memories replayed themselves at high speed… and suddenly the spikes were ripped out, almost violently.

Bernard grunted, white flashing behind his eyes, blinding him, his back arched, head dropping backward on his neck and his legs gave out.

Aaron turned and watched in a sick kind of curiosity as his father fell, skidding on his side, the girl still clutched protectively in his arms. His head made a dull sound, like a melon being dropped, against the tile when he hit.

For a few seconds, Aaron just stared at him, not sure what to do.

The wind continued to build and Bernard didn't move…

Suddenly there was a woman in blue scrubs and white sneakers, running at full tilt.

Aaron didn't recognize her, but she saw him, and didn't stop to ask questions, didn't stop at all… She just kept running toward the door he and his father had come in through her face a pallid mask of terror.

"Dad?" He called hoping to be heard above the wind.

But he didn't get an answer.

The little boy on his back groaned and clutched tighter, almost choking him and Aaron stumbled forward, dropping to his knees, shaking his father's shoulder. "Dad, wake up."

The little girl twitched uncomfortably in his arms and her eyes roved around searchingly.

"Oh, Aurora, you DIDN'T!" The boy slid off Aaron's back and padded bare footed to her side, bending and petting her lovingly. "He wasn't gonna hurt us! You saw! He's gonna takes us home and buy us pretty things and do hugs and kisses on us like Carla! Fluffies and pushpins for sure!"

Aaron had no idea what the child was talking about. He didn't know what a 'Fluffies' was, or what 'pushpins' were… But what he did know was that the girl had done something to his father.

"Dad, Daddy, wake up!" He shook him frantically, his mind focused with laser like precision on the fact that if his father wasn't awake, then whatever was coming on that fell wind was going to get them. Was going to do bad things to them. Needles, and knives, and cages and darkness…

The boy at his side went rigid, eyes widening, hands tightening in the dress like smock he was wearing.

And something hot puffed against the back of Aaron's neck… Breath-

Hot, putrid smelling breath and soft clicking noises…


I broke this chapter up into two parts because Paul is so freaking slow at editing stuff for me that I just gave up and posted what he had done… Blame him for the cliffhanger.


27. Chapters 26 Part 2


Chapter 26 Part 2; Persevere

Aaron didn't really think when he turned around, couldn't really think when he came face to face with a pale, smooth mask and a twinkling set of beady black eyes set deeply behind two diagonal slits in the flawless metal.

He'd never really seen anything like it before, and wasn't really scared of it to tell the truth. The boy behind him was making strange gibbering noises and Aaron glanced over his shoulder at him questioningly.

The pale, masked thing bobbed its head, snake like and Aaron noticed the girl in his unconscious father's arms was staring at the thing, their eyes locked… And he could have sworn that before, her eyes were dark, almost black… Not red…

But, now they were a glowing, bright vermillion, her pupils twitching from pinpricks to fully dilated, back and forth in a hypnotic dance of optical fancy…

The thing was making more clicking noises now, as if talking to her…

The girl didn't move, but a chilly sensation seemed to come off her, as if she were radiating the cold.

The clicking thing behind the mask made a hissing noise and lowered its head, scuttling backward, its clawed hands and feet clacking like high heels against the floor.

Aaron didn't get scared of the thing until he raised his eyes, until he saw at least fifty of them in the hallway, not ten feet from them, some clinging to the ceiling, others the walls… Crouched spider like, black billowy monstrosities, those masks turned toward them, watching their every move.

Aaron didn't get scared of them until he realized how quickly so many of them had appeared without his knowledge. He'd always been able to tell where and when people were coming from, but these THINGS had crept up on him.

He bared his teeth at them and raised his wings, his sick thin feathers lifting to make himself appear larger, more threatening.

They scared him just like the big big big sky did… An unknown thing he didn't understand…

And he wanted to be as big and threatening as possible… Even if it was a laughable concept considering his current appearance…

He had to protect his family, his father was unconscious, the boy and girl were too small to protect themselves against such monsters.

The THING paused a short distance away, bobbing its head this way and that, clicking in an odd cadence as if talking to those surrounding it. And perhaps it was, because the things all released a low, barely audible groaning noise and slid backward along the floor, walls and ceilings, disappearing into large vents, or around corners like a film played backward. Their motions grotesque and halting like stop-motion animation…

Aaron stared after them for a long few seconds, his heart pounding, wings still raised threateningly. Then, with a long last glare, he turned to his father.

He had time to shake him once before the sirens went off. Loud monotone buzzes set two seconds apart, and the yellow flashing lights in the corner turned dark red, the florescent lights flickering once, twice, and going dark.

Aaron clapped hands over his ears, crying out in pain and shock, and turned his eyes to the hallway behind them, he could see the red flashing lights all the way down it's length, and something frightening was happening to them…

The rumbling drone of wind was eating them. One by one, in rapid succession they were disappearing, and the wind was picking up speed.

Aaron's pulse quickened and he grabbed his father by the front of the shirt shaking him violently.


But Bernard wouldn't respond.

Aaron pawed at him, his eyes flicking between his father, and the black eating mass heading toward them at high speed…

He didn't know what to do.

He was afraid, it was dark, the loud noises hurt, and-

With a strangled growl he grabbed the little boy and slung him over his back, took his father by the collar of his shirt and the hair of his head and started dragging him toward the door. Muttering as he went his first ever curse words, an unintelligible tangle of syllables that, to anyone who would have happened to hear them, would have made them laugh.

"Oh wretch! WRETCH WRETCH WRETCH! Stupid crapping dogface, mustard ball shit biscuits!"

The mass chased them, gaining speed, and in one of the flashes of red light Aaron could make out a frothy front, like a spray of blood, and some horror stricken part of his brain recognized what he was seeing from a similar landmark he and his father had passed in the car…

There was a large mass of rushing, flooding, drowning water coming right for them.

It wasn't a surprise really, that the Whitecoats would destroy their work before letting it fall into the hands of another. It wasn't a surprise that they would use water to flush the building so to speak…

What surprised Aaron was the fact that he realized he would drown, knew he was about to die… And still he pulled on his father, dragging the man and the girl child in his arms toward the door.

What surprised Aaron was the fact that he didn't freeze up and fall to the floor in a ball and begin crying as he'd done in the cathedral in England…

He realized then, as his back hit the door and forced it open, as he toppled backward out of it, his father falling out heavily after him, that he had changed… He was not the same boy he had been merely days before.

And he also realized, as he kept falling, seeing much too late that the grating he and his father had walked on earlier was now gone, plummeting them all down a dark, echoing shaft into the abyss, his father's limp body following him… Along with tons and tons of 'Flush' water and debris… That death simply was never good enough with these people in white coats… No. They had to torture their subjects before such a release as death was even possible…

Aaron plunged feet first into fast moving water, the shock of striking it like hitting a brick wall.

His hand lost its hold on his father's shirt, but the tiny hands around his neck tightened inexorably as they disappeared into an unknown depth.

He was swept away, tumbling head over heels, bumping and hitting invisible structures in the crush.

Water forced its way into his ears, his nose and mouth. Down his throat and into his stomach…

The little body on his back was being pulled away, but Aaron's arms went out to him in the darkness, drawing the child forward and cradling the thrashing life to him.

He couldn't think here, under water. Drowning, screaming for air…

All he knew was that he was scared, and he was going to drown… And he was never going to see the big-big-big sky ever again…

And it was then that he knew he did want to… He wanted to look up into the endless blue above and breathe in the cool rushing air!

He didn't want to die here, underground, choking on water that tasted like death and salt… That got in his nose and in his ears …

He wanted to live!


And something hard and unyielding struck him in the back, grating against his feathers and his bones… Forcefully spitting him out of the flow and onto moist, cloying moldy smelling earth…

His eyes snapped open and he rolled instantly to the side, the small body in his arms forgotten as he choked and retched what he'd swallowed onto the gritty land he'd found.

He heard similar sounds not far away, but his eyes burned too badly to look.

Everything was dark anyway, with shafts of light slanting this way and that from somewhere above him.

He could still hear the rush of water, and a high sobbing sound… But he couldn't breathe!

He couldn't BREATHE!

A fist pounded on his back between his wings, and he choked out more brine and sludge, finally gasping in a lungful of air that smelled worse than that room had back at the place that was now flooded and dead.

"That's it, get it out!" Bernard's voice echoed near his ear and Aaron forced his head to turn, searching the dim light for his father's face.

There was an ugly looking bruise forming on his father's cheek, and a few scrapes and scratches here and there… But the man was alive. Panting, his blue hair wet and hanging in tendrils into his face… But he was alive, and awake!

Aaron glanced around in a daze for the two they'd rescued, and found them both quite easily.

The little boy was clinging to Bernard's other side, and the little girl was clutched tightly in his father's arms, her thin chest heaving, eyes closed in exhaustion.

Aaron choked, suddenly finding himself in tears as he shrank inwardly, curling his body to his father's side in search of comfort.

He'd been brave, hadn't he? He'd done good?

He could feel Bernard shaking through his clothes, feel the man's arms tighten protectively around the three of them, and Aaron also felt a large weight of tension lift suddenly from his father's frame… Relief swept through him, feeling almost like a fire being put out after years of burning and eating away at the world…

The man inhaled deeply the scent of sewer and brine, and released a sigh, his eyes flooding and overflowing.

"D-dad… W-where are we?" Aaron mumbled, fingers still clutching compulsively.

Bernard was tempted to say; 'It doesn't matter, we're together!' but he didn't. Instead he lifted his head and gazed around, finding what he was looking for not far away.

"Come on, just follow me…"

He snuffed back a wave of mucus in his nose as he climbed to his feet and stumbled, clutching his daughter, as they made their way toward the glow of an external storm drain.

It wasn't nearly as large as the culvert Bernard and Aaron had followed to find the access door, he had to walk in a crouch with his knees bent to get through, and when he did he noticed right away that they were much farther away from the car than he expected… In fact…

Bernard didn't know where the hell they were…


Sorry this took so long. A friend's mother died and things have been really hectic of late...

Again, sorry for the delay.


28. Chapters 27


Chapter 27; Homecoming

It was times like these that Bernard wished desperately that he had wings and knew how to use them.

It had been hours… He knew it had been hours, because his stomach was starting to grow petulantly and he only got hungry once a day… That and pain was slicing up and down his leg with every beat of his heart.

Two things that pointed to one big thing…

He'd missed his medication… He only got hungry when he'd missed his medication, and he only felt this much pain when he'd missed it by more than three hours.

And the part that took the cake was… His medication was in the car, some unknown distance away, along with all his supplies and belongings.

So, here they were, trudging through a swamp in what he prayed was still Mississippi, but what could have been Louisiana for all he knew… He had no idea how far they'd tumbled through that watery passageway beneath the earth, only to be spit out of some overgrown crack in the sewer like a wad of tough spinach.

And there came the food analogies.

He stumbled, sinking almost to his knees in viscous mud and sludge.

Bernard supposed he was lucky. At least they had yet to come across a snake or a gator… From what he remembered of science from school, gators didn't much like being stepped on, or near for that matter. They bit and ate anything that came close enough to their mouths to snap at… And snakes were partial to biting people and leaving them to die of some noxious poison or another…

He glanced over his shoulder again seeing Aaron trudging along, looking for all it was worth like some zombie in a horror movie.

He was covered in mud, scrapes and cuts marred his bruised face, his clothes were torn and stained… The poor kid looked a wreck. Almost as bad as the small child clinging monkey style to his back.

"Come on, guys, almost there!"

Aaron didn't answer, or even so much as nod, he just kept trudging, eyes dull and unfocused, following in his father's footsteps like a kicked dog.

Bernard shifted the girl's weight in his arms and continued onward, limping pathetically.

He didn't know how much longer they walked through the swamp before they found it… Didn't really want to know to tell you the truth, because it couldn't have been too much later, the pain and hopelessness simply making it seem like a longer amount of time.

But, find it he did…

It was like one of those strange 'Where's Waldo' picture books you buy for children, you can search and search for hours through the image and never find the stupid striped jerk, get fed up and throw the book across the room, then go to pick it up and spot him lounging under a shade tree near the fat woman in pink!

Finding It was just as sudden and unexpected, despite the fact it had been there a lot longer than Bernard and hadn't moved at all.

It, was a house…

One of those lovely large white things like out of Gone With The Wind… A sprawling mansion looking place with large oaks in the front yard with stringy masses of Spanish moss hanging from the branches, and perpetual puddles in the driveway…

For a long while Bernard just stared at it blinking owlishly, but then there was movement on the second story balcony, and a thin screen door slammed sharply with a groaning of rusty hinges.

Out stalked a girl.

She was practically stomping and Bernard pictured small bare feet leaving dents in the floorboards for some reason.

She was dressed in a white tank top and denim bibbed overalls that had been rolled up to the knees.

She sat a silver boom-box with large round black speakers on the thick balcony railing then seemed to simply HOP up onto it herself, holding onto one of the large round pillars and swinging back and forth absently, before, with one bare toe, she flipped a switch on the boom box and started playing music.

Bernard didn't know what kind of music it was, he wasn't 'IN' to the newer stuff. He preferred early nineties U2 to anything else… Mostly because Kitty had had an affinity for the lead singer, threatening to name one of their older sons 'Bono' because it was a 'good, solid name'…

Bernard remembered staring at her like she was a madwoman where she'd been lounging on a tree limb, her wings out, gently stroking the bulging bowl of her stomach…

The girl on the balcony balanced along for a while, her arms out, leaning purposefully out over the edge, staring down at a rather pitiful garden of what looked like potatoes and stunted roses with small overly red flowers.

She turned around, repeating her pacing motion on the railing, and the sunlight caught her hair, making the odd orange streaks in her brown locks shine almost golden.

Bernard shook his head at her. He didn't really know why, but a strange fatherly instinct was bubbling in his chest, and he wanted to shout at her; 'Get down from there before you fall and break your neck!'

But before he could, the girl noticed they were there, standing in her yard, staring at her.

She back flipped off the railing, tumbling through the air and ran back into the house, leaving her boom box on the balcony playing her loud new music.

A few seconds later the front door opened and a face poked out into the light.

"What are you doing in my yard!"

Bernard opened his mouth to ask if the girl's parents were around, but before he could, Aaron decided to speak up.

"We have to get back to the fucking Panama Canal!"

Bernard winced, and had he not been carrying his daughter, he would have covered his face in embarrassment.

The girl blinked and stepped out onto the porch scratching her head. She was rather tall for what Bernard suspected was her age, thin and tomboyish in appearance… Had he been in his right mind he might have suspected something simply by her height, but as it was, he was half mad with pain, and he was sick of smelling the stink coming off himself and his kids.

The girl bowed low and waved her hand in a flourish; "Well, I don't know where THAT is, but Town isn't but about three miles up the road there… I'd be happy to show you."

Bernard interjected before Aaron could speak again.

The boy's confidence was a good thing, yes, but there was such a thing as too trusting, and his son was older than this girl by a good two years if not more, not to mention, he had yet to see her parents.

"Is your mom or dad around?" Bernard shouted; "If they are, could I speak to them please?"

The girl visibly bristled, her hair seeming to puff up in agitation, and her dark eyes flashed. "Do you not think I know where Town is?"

Bernard shook his head; "I'd rather just talk to your parents, if that's OK."

Her upper lip rolled back in a sneer, exposing what Bernard suddenly realized, were canine teeth that protruded just a little too long to be natural…

Staring at her teeth made him realize one other thing… Her pupils weren't rounded like his, but were thin and slitted.

Well, he thought to himself… That explains where her parents are.


The girl, who had laughingly told him her name was Emily, once he'd explained where they'd come from. Said she'd been flushed from a smaller compound off to the north some four years before.

She didn't like anyone to get close to her, he discovered, and he pictured her somewhat like a feral cat. Shy of human interaction.

It was obvious she was taking good care of herself, she proved this by guiding them to the back of her house where there was a small pond. She padded out onto the dilapidated dock, dropped into a crouch… And hooked a seven-pound catfish right out of the water with her bare hands.

She laughed watching it flop about on the deck, pounced on it twice, and flung it back into the water.

Bernard watched it wistfully, his fingers itching as he followed the wet, glistening arch his assumed dinner made as it splashed back into the water and swam away…

True to her word, after she'd proven she could take care of herself without 'parents', and loaned some clothes to the two new additions to Bernard's family, she pulled on a pair of old, worn looking flipflops and started sauntering cat like down the road.

She bounced around them, giggling and every so often poking Aaron in the back, causing him to turn his head, his wings shifting under his soiled shirt.

She told jokes, laughed when Bernard told every single knock-knock joke he knew. Laughed when Aaron tripped and fell on his face…

Laughed when Bernard said he wanted a nice hot shower and his sweatpants. And he found himself laughing with her.

Even heard Aaron and the little boy laughing when she would run ahead, or fall behind only to leap and cling to Aaron's back, making purring sounds.

Bernard became accustomed to her presence, started thinking about how he was going to fit everyone into his car. Smiling to himself imagining car rides with her in the back seat singing some annoying song or another. Laughing and smiling fox like at Aaron.

It wasn't a conscious decision. She was alone without parents, and he certainly didn't mind being a father…

As soon as they were in sight of town, Bernard turned to ask her if she'd like to come with them, some part of him feeling responsible for her now that he knew she was indeed all alone…

But, when he turned his head to find her… She was gone.

He called out for her repeatedly, even backtracked looking for her footprints in the mud alongside the road…

But there was nothing.

He had just decided to turn around and head back toward her house when a shout reached his ears.


He turned his head, frustrated and tempted to tell the person to go away he'd lost someone and needed to find her quickly… But when he spotted the gleaming sheriff's badge on the man's chest his heart froze in his chest.

"Are you folks alright?"

Bernard scratched his head; "Did you see a girl," he held out his hand at about chest height; "This tall, orange streaks in her hair, overalls, sandals?"

The sheriff stared at him as if he were insane. "I only saw the fo' of you…" His hand slipped down to his hip holster and hovered near it; "Are you alright? You look a mite peaked…"

He nodded and glanced over his shoulder again miserably, questioning his own sanity… His eyes connected with those of the little boy he and Aaron had rescued, and there seemed to be a sadness in them, but at the same time resignation.

Bernard gave one last, longing look back the way they'd come and with a sigh turned to the sheriff; "Sorry, we're kind of lost…"

It's probably for the best, he told himself, She seemed happy… Who am I to say her idea of tranquility is wrong because it isn't like mine…


This chapter is dedicated to maxride333 who gave the 100th review for Big Sky. Her prize was Emily.

You never know, the cat may come back… ;)