Broken Angel by EndOfTheEarth

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Drama, Sci-Fi
Characters:Angel, Max
Published:2011-07-30 23:21:02
Updated:2011-08-02 23:11:53
Packaged:2021-04-04 15:46:59
Summary:Continues where "School of Thought" left off. Follow the shadow story that Max was never aware of as Angel works to save the flock, the world, and her soul from the vengeful scientist who created her.

Table of Contents

1. Not So Special
2. Buying the Bear
3. The Price of Life
4. A Brief Chat with God

1. Not So Special

This story continues from my previous tale, School of Thought, which can be found on my fanfiction profile. It outlined the early days of the flock through their first transit to New York in The Angel Experiment. This story begins shortly thereafter.

At age six, Angel was already aware that she was a very special girl.

Of everyone in her little 'flock,' Max always gave her the most attention, but that wasn't so big of a deal; her brother Gazzy also got plenty of that.

Of everyone in the world, she had a pair of fully functional wings, big, swan-white and powerful. Angel didn't think this that important either; she knew five other people with wings, and Max's were much, much larger and more powerful than hers.

Of everyone she'd met, Angel knew that she was the only one who could read minds. But even this made her only feel so special. You didn't need to read minds to know a lot about the world. There were people like Jeb Batchelder and Dr. Robert Drake who seemed to know everything she could think of. They couldn't read minds—or, rather, she prayed that they couldn't. Robert Drake was the closest thing she had to a biological father, and the things that he'd done to her—the things that he'd implied that she would do, seemed at once both terribly frightening, and painfully real.

No. What made Angel special wasn't her family, or body, or powers; it was her ability to feel immense terror, and not let anyone else see it. When Max had fallen out of the sky from the effects of Jeb's old and bad Voice program, she'd shown proper concern, but kept her mouth shut. When Dr. Drake had invaded her mind, demanding her to direct her family to New York or otherwise withhold important information that Max and the others craved about their respective pasts, she had shuddered in terror, but then complied, presenting the flock with a mostly straight-faced list of answers. When the same Dr. Drake had let her into his mind to see what the future held for her; a landscape of distorted pictures she could barely comprehend but which nonetheless carried an overwhelming sense of crushing darkness and unimaginable powers that threatened to swallow her very being—she had wanted to scream, needed to scream, but couldn't. No matter how hard she tried, how often she curled into a ball and prayed that the pressure of those images would leave, they continued to haunt her. Even so, it simply never registered on her face; as far as Max knew, the worst Angel had suffered were calisthenics and doctors needles, and therefore was under the impression that they could sympathize.

How very wrong she was.

They had only been in New York for a few days, but to Angel it felt like they'd been wandering the city for an eternity. They'd been to restaurants, the zoo, the subways, the library, dodging Erasers or looking for the location of the Institute for Higher Living. In the middle of it, Max had claimed to have a working Voice, which was slowly giving her instructions too; instructions which she seemed all too willing to follow.

Don't do it! Angel wanted to scream at her, Don't follow a single word it says! They want to control you! Just like they want to control me! Shut it out Max!

But the Erasers had already attacked them once, so someone in the School had to know where they were. Perhaps they were tracking them somehow. And Dr. Drake was really high up in the School, he ordered the Erasers, and if he really was that determined, Max wouldn't stand a chance. The only way to keep Max and the others safe was, again, to play along and pray for a miracle.

"I think we should get on the Madison Avenue bus," Max was saying.

"Why?" Fang asked, giving Max a confused look.

Max mouthed a phrase to Fang. Angel didn't need to hear it to know she was saying "The Voice," the image was clear enough in Max's mind. Fang replied quietly in kind, prompting Max to shout, "I don't know! Maybe we should do what it says for a while—to see."

"Do what what says?" Gazzy asked. Again, Angel noticed, it didn't take a mind reader to pick up on things. Even if Gazzy couldn't read minds, he was still really smart.

Angel waited for a half-baked reply, but was surprised to hear Fang explain, "Max has been hearing a voice, inside her. We don't know what it is."

As Nudge asked for clarification, Angel shot a quick glance up and down Fourteenth Street. She couldn't see anyone Eraser-like, that didn't mean they weren't there. She also didn't feel any Eraser-like minds around her, but that only went so far—about thirty feet in any direction. That had been growing too, Angel noticed. Before she had been taken to the School, it couldn't have been a radius of more than twenty feet.

From there, Max led them at a quick pace down the street, fourteen whole blocks. It would have been easier to fly, Angel knew, much, much easier, but Max had insisted on keeping a low profile. As she walked her eyes drifted down to the gum-covered sidewalk and the measured paces of her flockmates. Max, she noticed, had really long legs. She took maybe one stride to Angel's two, probably didn't notice either.

One day, Angel, you won't have to walk if you don't want to.

Angel felt the blood drain from her face. If Jeb wanted to use the Voice toy around with Max, that was one thing. It was less personal, and the quests seemed, so far, to be kind and easygoing. Dr. Drake hadn't said a single word since the information that he'd asked Angel to deliver about their parents, and now here he was again, whispering into her head.

I don't mind, Angel lied back, I like walking.

Someday soon, everyone will know who you are, Drake's Voice continued, no one will care if you fly then—except Max. And you'll have such beautiful wings. They'll be bigger than Max's, you know, and stronger too.

Angel shook her head, a very slow motion that no one else caught but her. I'll never be better than Max, she reaffirmed, I'll always be smaller, and she'll always be able to do more. And I like it that way. Please, leave me alone.

In her head, Robert's voice gave an amused chuckle. Tsk, tsk. Angel, you already are far more powerful than Max, you just haven't noticed yet. I've been waiting for this day for years. A whole new world is about to open up for you Angel, and we'll take the first step together.

They had arrived at the bus stop, where the bus was already loading passengers. Max placed a small handful of coins into the fare collector, and gestured for Angel and the others to follow her towards the back of the bus.

Together? Angel asked, But you're back at the School.

Am I?

Angel glanced about the bus. She was crushed next to Max, tightly holding her hand. Was Drake coming for her?

At that moment, the man in the seat directly next to her lowered his copy of The Wall Street Journal. Angel recognized him instantly; the graying dark hair and deep brown eyes that, as the last time the two met, seemed to glow with a contained animal fire. Robert Drake gave her a quick glance, and then raised his newspaper again. Using the Voice he gave her one more command.

Say nothing, or else I shall blow up this bus.

Note: This chapter contains dialogue from The Angel Experiment, Chapter 89.

2. Buying the Bear

Angel kept her eyes fixed on the window past Dr. Drake's shoulder, using her peripheral vision to look over the geneticist. If his threat was true, that he actually was capable of blowing up the bus, then she didn't see exactly how he would go about doing it. Gazzy knew all about explosives, but nothing about hiding them. No, Angel had learned enough about that from reading the minds of the New Yorkers they had passed by that week. Many of them were thinking about people who had flown big jumbo jets into skyscrapers a few years ago. Others were thinking about the policemen who periodically checked people's bags—maybe they were looking for bombs in them. Yet another group of people with large black hats, funny hair, and who spoke to each other in a language Angel couldn't understand worried about people in another country who would stuff explosives under their shirts and blow themselves up.

Drake didn't seem like the type to do carry explosives that close, Angel considered, and she couldn't read his mind—it seemed that Drake and Jeb had come up with a way to block her; she still didn't quite understand how. A quick glance at the luggage rack above the geneticist's head revealed a large black duffel bag, stamped on the side with the words ITEXICON WORLDWIDE INC. Angel had seen those words at the School, but wasn't sure if they were connected to the scientists. Maybe the explosives were in there? Maybe Drake had a remote detonator?

What do you want with me? Angel asked.

The same few things I've always wanted, Drake replied, turning the page in his newspaper, to see you grow, improve, and maybe take out those miserable saps that run the School so that you may do so in relative safety.

Angel glanced up at Max. She was staring towards the front of the bus, lost in her own head. Maybe she was talking to her own Voice? I don't need you to do that.

At that moment, the bus screeched to a halt and the driver declared "Fifty-Eighth Street! This is where the fun is!"

Next to her, Max jumped, as if she'd been stuck by a cattle prod, and hurriedly tugged Angel along to the bus's rear exit. When you get inside the store, Drake instructed, you are to meet me at the end of the stuffed animals aisle.

Before Angel had time to ask what store Drake had meant, she realized that Max was pulling her across the street and towards the largest toy store she'd ever seen. It had huge glass windows and a large sign "AFO Schmidt" displayed proximately atop its front doors. Inside Angel could both see and hear the thoughts of dozens of children milling about, looking for that perfect toy.

By chance the stuffed animal aisle was almost at the entrance of the building. Stuffed lions, giraffes and bears were lined in orderly rows, all within arm's reach, all with big, warm dark eyes.

Her own eyes wide, Angel wandered towards the end of the aisle. Drake was absent, but tucked amongst a group of stuffed zebras was a stuffed bear, not much bigger than her forearm. Tentatively, she picked it up, admiring its soft fur and warm sewn-on grin. If only the world was run by stuffed animals, Angel thought to herself, they have nothing to hide and they're always happy to see you. A small smile spread over her face as she turned the bear around in her hands. And it's just like me too. Winged, and a bit out of place. Maybe Max will let me have it?

Praying for a miracle, Angel returned to Max and tugged on her flockmate's sleeve. As she did so, she let some of her own weariness seep into her face. Perhaps after what she'd been through, Max would understand.

"I'm so sorry Angel," Max replied, staring at the price tag, "This bear is forty-nine dollars…I don't have anywhere near that…"

Max continued her parade of poor (or so they seemed to Angel) excuses, finishing up by stroking her hair and handing her back the bear.

In that instant, Angel was overcome by a singular frustration; Max hadn't been though the same hell she'd been through the past few weeks. Her face was suddenly warm as Angel felt the blood rush to her head. "But I want it!" she declared vehemently, shoving the bear back at Max.

In kind, Angel noticed as the side of Max's face drooped, the beginning of a scowl, and her eyes drifted from false compassion to an ice-cold stare. "I said no," Max stated flatly, "That's it, kiddo."

Almost at the point of tears, Angel wandered back up the aisle, hugging the little bear to her chest. Maybe she shared more with the bear than she'd first suspected; would she too remain alone, forever?

You can still get the bear, you know.

Angel looked up to notice Robert Drake sitting on a bench at the end of the aisle. He had the duffel bag at his side, and the newspaper tucked under one arm. In fact, Dr. Drake added, I highly recommend you get the bear. The data chips I've installed in its chest stuffing are worth far more than forty-nine dollars—closer to forty-nine million, in fact, and must get to someone very, very special. If it doesn't happen, things may turn out very badly for your little flock.

Just as suddenly, Angel suddenly wanted nothing to do with the bear—the warm eyes were suddenly as fake as Max's had been upon refusing her, and the smile was the silent amusement of a conspirator. I can't, Angel hastily argued, Max won't buy it.

Of course not, Drake countered indignantly, ask someone else.

Why would they buy me the bear any more than Max would?

A slow smile grew on Drake's face. You've changed, Angel, but you don't know it yet. Ask the old lady behind you to buy it, but when you do so, reach out with your mind, the same way you do when trying to read it. But this time, don't just read it; force her to buy the bear. Demand it.

Slowly, Angel turned. Sure enough, an older woman was browsing through a case of stuffed penguins. Behind her, Nudge was still looking through stuffed lions, and Max seemed to be engrossed in a board game in the adjacent aisle.

Putting on her best I-am-sad look, Angel cautiously approached the old lady. "Hello?" Angel asked, her voice shaking with worry as to what might happen.

The lady turned to face her, only half interested, and replied with the same faux-concern Max had shown, "Oh, hello dear. That's a nice bear you have there. Are your parents going to buy that for you?"

At the mention of her parents Angel clamped her jaw shut. If only…

"It's forty-nine dollars," Angel replied matter-of-factly, as if that answered the question.

"That's really expensive. You know, dear, when I was your age, that same bear might have been only a nickel?"

Angel took a deep breath and held up the bear to the old lady. As she did so she reached forward with her mind, as if to read the lady's thoughts. Then, in unison with her voice, Angel shoved into the lady's mind a very firm concept, "You will buy the bear for me."

For a moment, neither said anything. Angel blinked, and she realized that while focusing on the lady, the store had seemed to drop away for a moment, the way things sometimes did when she was thinking deep thoughts. The old lady had a strange look on her face, as if she had been thinking about something as well. "You know," the lady said slowly, hesitantly, "I could buy the bear for you."

Angel gave a fake grin and nodded, then followed the lady to the cashier. She barely had time to wonder if her mind-suggestion had actually worked when the rest of the flock was suddenly about her. "What was that about?" Max demanded, "Why did that woman buy you that bear? That thing cost forty-nine dollars." Iggy concurred, adding that he hadn't been bought anything.

Squeezing the bear to her chest, lest Max demand she return it, Angel spat out a half-truth, "Nothing…I just asked…I really, really wanted it."

None of her flockmates said anything; even Gazzy gave her a confused and worried look. Max took another glance about the store, then muttered, "We're leaving."

They were already outside the toy store before Max pressed further. "So you just asked a stranger to buy you an expensive toy, and she did?"

You can tell them, Drake suddenly interrupted her, it will help keep you safe, it will help me get my computer chips to their destination, and maybe Max will give you the respect you deserve.

Relieved that she could tell the truth, Angel patted the stuffed bear and stated, as nonchalantly as she could, "Yeah. I just asked her to buy it for me. You know, with my mind."

Once, long, long ago Angel faintly remembered seeing Max look absolutely dumbfounded the first time she beat the entire flock in a game of "Twenty Questions" without asking a single one of them an actual question—it had been the first time she'd been able to read their minds without nearly touching her forehead to theirs. The look Max gave her now was very similar.

Quickly, Angel gave Max some idea of what she'd done, but realized halfway through describing the old lady's reaction that she hadn't come up with a name for the bear. Quickly, she cast her thoughts into the head of a a greasy-haired college student on the sidewalk corner and dug up the first thought she could find, a vague image of a very scantily-clad young woman spread out on a bed—for a purpose that Angel couldn't entirely discern or understand—which in turn was attached to a name, along with a number of other words that also escaped Angel's understanding. "I'm going to call it Celeste," Angel finished, hoping Max wouldn't find the name too odd.

In response, Max put up a very brief argument, how it wasn't alright to influence people to do things that they didn't want to do, then went very silent. A quick peak revealed to Angel that Max was in the middle of talking to her Voice, and action which was still causing her great pain.

Max said nothing for a while, then briefly ranted on how difficult it was to find the information Angel had suggested. You shouldn't mind Max, Angel wanted to say, they want you to find the Institute. The longer it takes, the safer we are, the happier I'll be.

In almost immediate response, Drake's Voice shot back, Cowardice will get you nowhere, Angel.

Angel gave a frustrated huff. Who says I want to go where bravery would take me?

Because the world doesn't work that way. Sink or swim, Angel.

"Hello Kids!"

Angel was suddenly snapped out of her reverie as two Erasers dove from the front of a building, skin rippling, gnashing large wolfish teeth. In an instant, one was almost in her face.

Up until she'd been kidnapped, Angel had lead a surprisingly calm life for a six-year-old flying mind reader. Therefore, the trauma of being attacked by the School's foul dog-soldiers wasn't something that left her mind so easily.

She screamed, half expecting to feel those same teeth dig into her shoulder and tear her arm from her body.

Max's reaction was surprisingly fast. She hauled Angel backward, away from the charging Eraser, and raced after the flock back down the streets of New York. She was fast, very fast. Angel almost tripped every other step in comparison as they hurtled down the sidewalk toward the intersection.

Please, Angel pleaded, Dr. Drake, call them off. Give me a hint! Help us! Help me!

For a moment, Drake was silent. Then, in a voice Angel couldn't determine as cold or snide replied flatly, Don't lose the bear.

There was a sudden pain in her left hand and the world spun. For an instant Angel was tumbling through the air, out of control. She caught a brief image of Max being hauled off her feet, and then tumbled again into firm arms.

The next face she saw was the Eraser's.

This chapter contains dialogue elements from The Angel Experiment, Chapters 89-93

3. The Price of Life

But Angel was mistaken, the Eraser had not come for her; it already had what it wanted. With a snarl it dumped Max over its shoulder and started back the way it had come. It didn't make her feel any better though, she continued to scream as the Eraser trotted down the sidewalk, Max resisting pitifully with ineffectual scratches and punches, Fang rocketing after them.

Unsympathetic as Max was, she meant quite a lot to Angel. She had, after all, saved her from the School and raised her to be who she was.

For the briefest moment, the Eraser glanced back and Angel, unable to do anything more than hurl hateful words at it, shouted, "Die damn it, die!"

Just as suddenly, the Eraser crumpled, dropping Max onto the sidewalk.

For a moment, Angel stood, silently aghast. None of the New Yorkers seemed to be reacting or even caring. Max and Fang were approaching the Eraser together, examining it.

Did I just—she began, but Drake's Voice interrupted her almost immediately.

Well played, Angel. You exceeded even my expectations with that one.

"Come on!" Gazzy yelled excitedly, pushing past her in the direction of the dead Eraser. Angel, unsure what to do, ran after him.

I killed it, she realized, a new batch of tears welling up in her eyes, it was trying to hurt Max, so I killed it.

Upon reaching Max, Angel buried her face in her flockmate's chest. Above her, she heard Max whisper down at her, "Hey, It's okay Angel, I'm alright, it's okay."

Slowly Angel turned her head and saw Fang inspecting the Eraser again. That was when she realized that none of them knew what had happened. She had killed. Even if it was an Eraser, Max had told her time and time again that that was the worst possible thing one person could do to another. It was why Max hated the School so much—they didn't just make mutants, they killed them too. Does it make me that different from them? Angel wondered.

Max took Angel's hand again, softly this time, and led her along. The rest of the flock followed in tow. As they went, Angel glanced behind them now and again. An NYPD officer was standing over the deceased Eraser and was speaking rapidly into a radio. Would the School give the Eraser a proper burial once they got a hold of it again? It was unlikely, Angel realized, the School would probably incinerate it.

Suddenly, Max stopped and bent down to inspect something in a nearby street storm grate. As she did so Drake's Voice interrupted Angel's thoughts yet again with, Do you have the bear?

Angel looked down and saw the stuffed bear right where she had left it, tucked into her waistband. Drake hadn't told her where he wanted Celeste or the expensive microchips it contained delivered to.

"I can use it if I can figure out the password," Max stated flatly. Angel looked up to find the flock leader holding a plastic card, like a credit card.

Jeb's idea, not mine, Drake remarked.

Would you please leave me alone? Angel moaned back. Drake hadn't been this chatty since they'd talked in the School, and it was getting annoying oppressively fast. She briefly wondered if Max's Voice was this persistent.

Fine, Drake commented, I'll be waiting.

"Let's just get into the park," Max suggested, "Nice, safe Central Park."

"It's unlawful to climb trees in Central Park!"

Angel shifted groggily on her tree branch. She was still exhausted from the previous day's running and fighting. In the end the entire flock had gathered in a tree. With no Dr. Robert Drake to aggravate her and the minds of the other people in the park shut out (her reading radius had grown again, she'd noticed) Angel had slept like a rock. Even so, it was a far stretch from her bed in the old E-shaped house, her arms and legs were cramped from how she'd arranged herself between the branches and trunk.

Below them another NYPD officer was shouting up at them. "It's unlawful to climb trees in Central Park," the policeman declared, "Please come down at once."

Slightly below her, Angel noticed, Max was already awake and giving instructions, "…make a run for it…connect up at, like, Fifty-Fourth Street and 5th avenue."

Drowsily, Angel followed Iggy out of the tree. The officer was still lecturing them, and another police car had arrived, dumping out another two officers who didn't look any happier to be out of bed than she was.

At that moment, Max harshly whispered, "NOW."

Working to avoid the policemen and her scattering flockmates, Angel backpedaled and spun, charging further into the park. Well, that wasn't so bad, Angel thought to herself, It could have been much worse, I could have dropped—

It was then that Angel noticed the lack of extra pressure in her waistband. A quick look down revealed what she had already begun to fear; Celeste the stuffed bear was missing.

Angel spun in place, braking her forward momentum, and turned back towards the tree. The bear was right underneath it; she must have dropped it during her sleep. "Celeste!" she shrieked, and dove towards it.

Just as quickly, she heard a loud, "NO!" and suddenly Max was at her side, yanking her away firmly by the hand. Shocked and frustrated, Angel dug her shoes into the hard park dirt and tried to pry Max's hand from her wrist. I must get Celeste! She thought to herself, If I don't, then Dr. Drakes terrible thing will happen, and more people will get hurt because of me!

But Max wasn't having any of it. The yank became a strong pull, and Angel was suddenly up in the air, but only for the briefest of moments before falling into Fang's open arms which in turn closed like metal clamps about her as he sprinted away from the bear, the tree, and the police officers.

"Celeste!" Angel shrieked, "Celeste!"

"I'll get you another one!" Max called. Once again, Angel fumed at Max's mandatory ignorance. If only she could tell her…

"I don't want another one!" Angel screamed, but it was no use. The stuffed bear was out of her hands.

If killing an Eraser hadn't been bad enough, Angel realized, by losing that bear, she may have done far worse.

She might have just killed her entire family.

Contains dialogue elements from The Angel Experiment, chapters 94 and 96.

4. A Brief Chat with God

You've got to be kidding me.

Angel's eyes popped open. She'd been crying since they'd left Celeste and the NYPD officers behind in Central Park. Hearing Drake's Voice in her head again, she wasn't sure how to react. It sounded at the same time frustrated and amused.

You lost the bear, Drake remarked, I told you not to lose the bear.

It wasn't my fault! Angel protested. Max and Fang were shouting at each other again, trying to develop a plan of where to run. She couldn't hear them, and really didn't care. Celeste slipped out when I was asleep. When we woke up, I didn't notice until it was too late.

There's a price for failure, Angel, Drake stated, his tone dark and stern, I may be able to fix this, but mark my words, there will be consequences. I'll be expecting more from you. Do you understand?

She said nothing as she quietly weighed the options in front of her. The pain of damaging the flock versus the pain of damaging herself—the choices were terrible. On the one hand, her innocence had been betrayed, and going along with Dr. Drake in embracing the…changes was sure to rip it from her even further. On the other hand, the flock was her family, and she couldn't stand the thought of any of them getting hurt. She shuddered briefly at the mental image of an Eraser, slowly gauging lines through the side of Gazzy's face.

"A church!" Nudge suddenly exclaimed, "I've never been in one. Can we go?"

Angel looked up. Across the street a massive stone building, "Saint Patrick's Cathedral," stood out against the business skyscrapers and hotel projects. Unlike Nudge, Angel knew what the inside of a church looked like—the minds of the New Yorkers she'd glanced through had plenty of images of Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, and other places of worship. At this point, she didn't know what to think—she was too preoccupied waiting for Dr. Drake to get back to her.

Much to Angel's surprise Max nodded and began to tug Angel across the street.

As it happened, the church was surprisingly packed for a weekday. Despite this, it struck Angel how quiet everyone was. With deliberate care she reached out and listened.

I need just a little more time, one woman at the front of the room was thinking, a little more, then I'll be ready to tell him. Why must it be so hard when he makes me feel so bad anyway?

They won't listen to me, thought a man near her in a business suit, with those stock decisions, they'll crash the company for sure. Then how will I feed my wife and son? Please, let them understand.

It didn't make any sense to Angel. Did all these people have Voices? That was impossible, they didn't look like escaped experiments. "What are those people doing?" Angel whispered to Max.

"I think they're praying," Max whispered in response. That much was obvious. But who to? Whomever it was, the other people in the building must have thought someone was listening. It was worth a shot. "Let's pray too," Angel suggested, then joined some of the adults at the front, kneeling and bowing her head as they did.

Now what? she wondered, glancing left and right through half-open eyes.

"We're praying to God, right?" Nudge asked, asking her question for her.

"I think that's the general idea," Max replied, only half sure herself.

Angel sighed and tried to organize her thoughts.

Now you have to be kidding me, Drake burst in, you don't need any of this, it doesn't help. I made my wants a reality; you can do the same without shouting into the air like some psychopath.

Quietly, Angel ignored him. In all honesty, Angel had no idea if there was or wasn't a God, but regardless, she supposed it was worth a shot.

Nudge was finishing up a short statement about wanting to see her real parents when Angel firmly shut her eyes. Drake would be listening too, and Angel realized that it wouldn't just be God she was addressing.

"Please get Celeste back to me," she whispered, "And help me to grow up to be just like Max. And keep everyone safe. And do something bad to the bad guys. They should not be able to hurt us anymore."

When they finally left the church—Max had been given another clue by her Voice—Drake finally decided to talk to Angel again.

You don't honestly think that's going to do anything, Drake asked, do you?

Angel gave a near-imperceptible shrug. I don't know, but I feel good for trying. The world's a sad place; I'll take a good feeling any day.

Drake had nothing to say to that.

In a marked police van across the street, Robert Drake shut off his Voice headset. At his side, Jeb did the same. "Well," Jeb remarked, "You gave that girl one heck of a brain, I'll give you that."

Robert shot him a harsh look in response. "I gave all my subjects superior brains—no thanks to your little humanizing training program. They're weapons, we were ordered to make them into weapons. If we want them to survive, then we still must make them into weapons."

"That's your philosophy," Jeb answered with a frown, "I'll take a human over a soulless guided missile any day."

For a moment, neither of them said a thing, then Jeb commented, "They prayed for the same thing, you know."


"Max and Angel both prayed for Celeste—the stuffed bear with the data chips."

From a box at his side, Robert retrieved the stuffed animal. Jeb had, in turn, taken it from the NYPD after the flock had been chased out of Central Park. Once upon a time, he recalled, when Angel wasn't much taller than his knee she used to love that bear. He'd ordered it custom-made from a commercial Itex facility in Taiwan, and when he'd given it to her so long ago she'd stated at it in wide-eyed adoration. Because of her age, the School did not need to wipe her memories as they'd had to do with Max and the others before sending them off to live with Jeb; she didn't have much of a long term memory to remove. Instead, they'd handed the bear back to Robert shortly after Jeb had kidnapped Angel when he took the other hybrids. Seeing her react to the bear the first time in AFO Schmidt had made him wonder if she recalled as well, but he'd been proven wrong when he identified its true purpose.

"I was going to give it to Ari, then send him and a team of Erasers to go and attempt a capture," Drake explained, "They'll fail, of course, but it will give Angel the opportunity she needs to get it back, now that her mind-control powers have developed enough to be useful."

"Not yet," Jeb stated, "They need a break. They need time to find the Institute, and they ought to be able to relax. They've been chased enough today, let them rest."

Robert shot Jeb an evil grin. "Like hell I will. This afternoon I'll give them such a scare that they'll sleep like boulders tonight.

Contains dialogue elements from The Angel Experiment chapters 97 and 98.