Escape by carino2

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Adventure, Sci-Fi
Published:2008-04-25 20:22:35
Updated:2008-06-10 14:07:38
Packaged:2021-05-07 02:27:52
Summary:What was life like for the flock before Jeb saved them from the school? This is Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy, and Angel before they escaped for the first time, and the story of their escape.

Table of Contents

1. Prologue
2. 1
3. 2
4. 3

1. Prologue

Nighttime. I happened to glance out the window just as the last of the sun's glow disappeared from the horizon, as surely as if someone had pulled the plug. It was already almost 9:00, which meant that it was almost time for the latest in the series of tests that we'd been forced to undergo. I, of course, had no idea why they did the tests in the nighttime—where they trying to see if one of us was half owl? —and it was little conciliation that the workers were probably kept in the dark as much as I was. More in the dark, actually—I have excellent night vision. But all humor aside, I was sick to death of being tethered all the time like a dog on a leash. Sick of running through mazes and jumping through hoops to suit their every whim. Sick of being tortured when I refused. But most of all, I was sick of being alive.

Let's just get this out of the way right now: I'm not sure if I believe in a God or not. I mean, for one, I've never really had a chance to explore my spiritual side. And despite all of our education, I'm not really sure what religion is about. But here's what I do know: whether or not there was some higher power watching over the world, the six of us—Me, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy, and Angel—had been dealt a pretty crappy hand. And yes, killing yourself may be the ultimate sin, but don't think it hadn't come to mind in the past. You try living in hell surrounded by Scientists who only keep you alive so they can test you in some other completely torturous way. Try subsisting on five hours of sleep for every twenty-four that pass, and those that you get not even necessarily at night or in a row. Try having to run for two hours straight on a treadmill in the middle of a nice, sunny, freaking hot August afternoon for fear of being electrocuted and/or starved if you fail, and as a reward for making it, getting only a cup of water along with thirty minutes of rest. And then doing it again. See, I wasn't kidding about the hell part.

Oh, and one more thing guaranteed to make a kid miserable if the horrible living standards and inexhaustible supply of messed up scientists doesn't do it first? Try having wings.

"Wings," I hear you say, "Cool! I want wings!" No, my sadly mistaken friend, you do not. Yes, all six of us can fly (hence we call ourselves, 'The Flock'), and the view is damn great from up high, but would you like to know the downside of having wings? For one, it gives the scientists further ideas for potential horrible tests. Have you ever tried keeping yourself aloft with only one wing? No, I don't suppose you would have, but I'll give you some advice in case you ever pick up a pair of wings at Wal-Mart: don't even think about it. It hurt like hell, and I could only stay up for five minutes before crashing painfully back to earth. To add insult to injury, Fang, who is my junior by four months, beat me by two minutes. I hate losing, especially to a boy, and Fang felt obliged to rub it in since I usually beat him. Nothing like a bit of friendly in-flock competition to keep you going when it's four in the afternoon and you've been flying for eight hours straight with no food of water! But that's off topic.

Thanks to the fact that I'm part bird, I'm scrutinized by every scientist who sees me (Yes, I have wings; you made me that way), treated like I'm part animal (Do you sleep in a dog crate? My money's on 'no'), and my metabolism is way sped up. I admit this comes in handy when I get hurt, because I have incredibly fast recovery. But I need more food than the average human person does by about 1,000 calories a day and they feed me like I'm on a diet.

And the number one reason why being a half avian and having wings is bad? Because if I ever try to leave The School, I'll be killed.

2. 1

The testing that night wasn't all that bad. Relatively speaking, that is. I mean, I'd choose a warm bed with fluffy pillows any day as compared to being studied by various groups of mad scientists. Or, hey, enough food and a safe life. But tonight, they were only assessing our endurance as we flew. Hallelujah for small miracles. The way it was set up, we had to fly laps around a pole that we were joined to and see how many laps we could get/how long we could stay up until we fell asleep mid-flight. It definitely wasn't my idea of fun, but it was a lot better than many other things we'd been forced to suffer through. For once, all of us were together and we had a chance to stretch out our wings. Yes, the ankle tethers did put a bit of a damper on things, but you win some, you lose some.

It had been forever since the flock been able to talk freely, but I guessed that at 100 feet above the ground, we were reasonably safe. Unless they'd implanted a microphone or something into one of us, which I wouldn't put past them, but it was highly unlikely. I decided it was a risk I was willing to take.

"So, how is everyone?" I asked as casually as I could manage. "Anything new and interesting come up lately?"

"I learned about Hitler yesterday," Nudge piped up. "Did you know that even though he had brown eyes and hair, he thought there should only be people with blue eyes and blonde hair? I mean, how dumb is that?"

"Uh-huh." I tried to sound interested, but failed. Maybe Nudge would get the point and stop talking? Or, you know, I could always start a comparison between Hitler and the mad scientists at The School and turn it into sort of a life lesson. But that could quickly get out of hand.

"And I learned about the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all that." She prattled on, oblivious to the fact that I had to try hard to not tune her out.

"That's great, Nudge, really," I said. I was trying to be tactful, since Civil Rights would mean a lot to her, but she was definitely fraying my nerves. "But actually, I was more referring to anything that could help us get out of here?"

The flock fell silent, and I swear I could feel Fang rolling his eyes at me.

"Max," he said softly, so that no one else could hear, "I know you want to get out of here. We all do. We all have, for the past ten years." He glanced down at the younger kids. "Past two years," he amended for tiny Angel's sake. "But the fact is, the only way one of us would get away would be if one of our ankle tethers suddenly broke. And even then, provided the scientists didn't shoot us out of the air, we'd have no idea what to do. We've never been out there."

I bit my lip. It was true, but I couldn't just accept things the way they were now. I wanted to get out, to know. I wanted to see the ocean up close and go shopping in the New York City I'd read about. To get away from the evil scientists who would graft bird DNA into that of innocent children and do tests like this on a two-year-old who had just learned to fly. I wanted it so bad that I'd risk my life for it, and maybe even the lives of the rest of the flock as well. Was that what Fang was talking about? I shut the door on my emotions, not wanting to admit that I was in the wrong.

"I'm not giving up, Max." I looked over to see Fang still next to me, his eyes expressionless as ever. "I'll keep looking." He glanced around again, making sure we were out of range of the younger kids and Iggy. "But you should be a bit less…enthusiastic about escaping. Each day that nothing happens it gets harder for everyone else. You have to be strong, Max. Quit getting their hopes up. You're only hurting them more."

Shock and pain flitted across my face. I wanted to scream, to hit Fang hard for thinking that I'd tell the kids that we were leaving if it wasn't possible. I wanted to dissolve in tears because he was probably right, which meant I'd let everyone else down. However, since I couldn't do any of the things previously listed without the flock thinking I'd broken down, I simply sped up, leaving Fang and his blistering words far behind. His accusations rung true; I'd been leading the children on with some daydream of mine, and it was the furthest thing from fair. But if I thought about that now, it was likely I'd explode. I concentrated instead on the feel of the cool night air ruffling my feathers.

"Max?" Nudge flew up behind me. "I'm sorry if I annoyed you. It's just, you know, I thought Martin Luther King, Jr. was really cool."

"It's fine, Nudge, it wasn't you." I lied through my teeth. Maybe Martin Luther King, Jr. had the right idea about change, the way he tried to do it peacefully. Yeah, and maybe this was all just a bad dream.

"Max?" It was Nudge again. I glanced back at her, her curly black hair swept behind her by the wind. She looked so young and so vulnerable that I just wanted to give her a huge hug. Which was of course way out of the question since we were flying. She took a deep breath, almost as if nervous to say whatever it was. "When are we getting out of here?"

I felt her disappointment washing over me, verifying the truth of Fang's words. You have to be strong, Max. You're only hurting them more.

"I don't know, sweetie." I said. "I don't know."

3. 2

A/N- I'm not so sure about some of the things in this chapter, so constructive crit (or even flames, if that's the only way you can accomplish it...) are more than welcome. Thanks!

After many, many hours of circling the pole, I was about ready to collapse. I regretted even thinking nice things about this test earlier in the night. Angel had gone down after an hour, which was almost a miracle if you considered her age. Unfortunately, the whitecoats hadn't quite seen it that way. They had seemed more geared toward making her able to fly to China and back, and so had shocked her repeatedly because she wouldn't—couldn't—get back into the air. This had continued until I'd dropped down to help her, a few minutes after the start of the discipline. The whitecoats had then decided that, since I was so eager to lend a hand, I could carry her for the rest of my flight. I didn't regret my decision to save Angel from them, but I was now becoming extremely tired from supporting her weight as well as my own. Though she only weighed in at about 20 pounds, that was near 30 of my body weight. To top it off, she wasn't even able to fly every once in awhile to ease the burden. The testing had tired her out so much that a few hours ago, she'd literally fallen asleep in my arms.

The second major thing on my mind right now was Fang. I still couldn't believe what he'd said to me. He was so undeniably mean sometimes, and though my anger at him had probably given me energy that fueled my flight, that in no way made up for what had transpired. Now, though, in the early hours of the morning, I was cold (I'm not sure how), tired, and hungry, and I missed his company, regardless of whether he was a jerk or not. Iggy was still flying with us, but somehow his presence wasn't the same. Since he'd lost the use of his eyes, Iggy had become more withdrawn as if only he could understand what was going on inside. Fang, though he could be an arrogant little jerk sometimes, understood me best of anyone in the flock. Plus, he had a great sense of humor, when he felt like being funny. I'd known him for my whole life, and whenever we fought, I missed him.

I looked at the sky to see if I could gauge how long we'd been flying, and what's more, how long Fang and I had been ignoring each other. Judging by the position of the stars, it was early morning; maybe three or four o'clock? If that was correct, then we'd been at this for at least six hours—well, Iggy, Fang, and I had. Gaz had dropped out about an hour after Angel, and then Nudge awhile after him. Thankfully, no Tasers had been used as incentive for them to continue their flights. Perhaps the whitecoats decided that directly torturing one innocent kid was enough for the night, since they had the indirect torture of the rest of us on their consciences as well. I didn't know if the whitecoats in this place even had consciences, nor did I feel like spending the time right now to figure it out. I concentrated instead on staying aloft. My wings ached, my ears were numb from the cold, and my eyes itched of tiredness. Angel seemed to weigh more every minute.

Come on, Max. I thought. You can do this. I focused on flapping my wings; up and down. The air conforming to my feathers felt so nice, and I bent my mind on that instead of, say, the excruciating pain in my shoulders.

"Give Angel to me."

"Huh?" I looked over, certain I'd misheard. But no, there was Fang flying next to me, arms gesturing for the burden that Angel had become.

I looked down at the girl in my arms. She was my baby, not literally, but probably my favorite in the flock.

"It's fine," I said. "She's not that heavy." Why oh why did I feel the need to show off and act tough when I was obviously tired as crap? Perhaps it was my competitive nature, perhaps it was because Fang's words from before were still ringing in my ears. You have to be strong, Max. Good ammunition, that.

In Fang's defense, he could tell that I was lying. "Max," he started in his no-nonsense voice, "You look exhausted. You've been slowing considerably and rolling your shoulders nonstop. You're not fine. Now, stop being stubborn and give me Angel."

I gave him the meanest look I could muster at the moment. "No. I'm learning how to be strong." Ha. Let's see how he took that.

In response to my stubborn and somewhat ridiculous comment, Fang changed paths so he could cut me off, blocking any further flight on my part. "Max. Give. Me. Angel."

I scowled. Now who was being ridiculous and stubborn? When I failed to comply, he simply swooped in and took Angel from me. Damn. He'd taken away any leverage I might have had. And I wasn't about to lay down and take the crap he was shoveling me.

Silently, I thanked him for relieving me, but I didn't let it show. I let out my anger "What's this? I try to follow your instructions and you tell me I'm doing that wrong too? Hard to please, aren't you?" I hated how weak and pathetic I sounded, but I wasn't planning on letting him control me like he was my freaking husband from medieval times or something. Weak though my retort was, I thought he looked slightly hurt for a moment. Then again, it could have just been wishful thinking.

"Max, let's just forget about that," he said, all pacifistic now. He was certainly taking this calmly.

"Forget about it? Forget about it? Are you insane? You tell me that I've been doing everything wrong and then expect me to just forget about it? You must be out of your freaking mind!"

Fang opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted by a voice from below.

"Hey, you two. I don't know what's going on up there and I don't care, unless you don't get a move on. Then, I'll be ready to administer some punishment when you come down from there." Apparently the whitecoats weren't morally opposed to torturing another few kids then, especially if said children had wings and a penchant for disobeying. I tell you, it would have almost been worth whatever punishment they had planned for us just so Fang and I could finish the argument, but as it was, the choice wasn't necessary. Being smarter than the average test-tube babies, we could fly and talk at the same time.

Once we had achieved having our wings propel us through the air again, Fang managed to get out what he'd been on the verge of saying before. "I was only telling you the truth, Max. I was trying to do you a favor. I was trying to do us all a favor."

As you can possibly imagine, this didn't make me thrilled in the least. I wanted Fang to pay for what he'd said, or, at the very least, apologize. However, that seemed as likely as the Flock's escape from the lab. I would use the common cliché involving the flight of pigs to describe the likelihood of this, but seeing what had been done to us, that wasn't so meaningful anymore. I mean, when Fang was acting like he was, he could be quite accurate described as a pig. But I digress. The thing about him, though, is this: he doesn't speak often, but when he does, he usually gets what he wants. That and the fact that he's almost impossible to crack is usually to the Flock's advantage. Tonight, though, I was ready to add both of these things to my list of complaints about his character.

"The best way you could do these kids a favor would be to get them out of here," I said, having finally come up with a halfway decent retort. "Then it wouldn't matter what's been said or done because they'd be able to leave it all behind."

"Yes, Max, I got your point about that!" Finally, he was starting to get agitated. "I already told you, I want to get out of here too. But my point is, you keep getting their hopes up and we're really no closer to escaping than we've ever been!"

"At least they still have hope, though." I countered. "They need that. Especially if you're ever actually planning an escape. Like, more of a plan than a broken tether." I was really on a roll now. "If we want to get out, then we'll need them all to help. If I give them something to look forward to, then they'll remember it and their desire will fuel their efforts. They'll have something to live for!"

"We'll also need a stroke of luck to get out," added Fang. "And to them, getting away from this—" here he waved his hand around "is probably incentive enough. But I get what you're trying to say." He couldn't let anything go, could he? No, him being nice about it would definitely be asking too much. From him, though, this was a lot. As much as I could expect, really. I hadn't exactly handled the situation in the best way possible, either.

I flew silently for a moment, just letting his words sink in.

"And Max?" I glanced his way. "Sorry for being…kind of a jerk before. I was just trying to get a point across."

I nodded. "Well, you hit home."

He half smiled and then so did I, grateful that once again things were okay between us. My eyes raked the sky with new appreciation, and in doing so, noticed the faintest blaze of sunlight starting to appear on the horizon. It was almost morning, then.

"Look," I nodded to the East. "Light."

"Yeah," came Iggy's voice from below, "Since I can totally see that." I started, and then began to laugh. In the midst of arguing with Fang, I'd forgotten that Iggy was still up here, too.

"It's pretty." Yet another unexpected voice chimed it. Fang and I both smiled down at Angel, who had woken up. She was so precious, Angel was, and she hadn't been in this world for long enough that she was bitter because of who, or what, we were. I was scared for the day that she'd figure it out—she had already dealt with so much at such a young age—but for now, she remained blissfully ignorant of our abnormalities. Her naïveté, I think, did the Flock some good. Somehow, in being unaware of how incredibly wrong this was, she retained the ability to brighten any situation just by being there. That wasn't the half of it, though. She kept us informed of what was going on around us. See, the reason she could do this—and the reason she'd been forced to grow up so fast—was because Angel, our baby, could read people's minds.

4. 3

A/N Sorry it's been so long since I updated. Once I got over my writers block and typed this whole thing up, my flash drive crashed and I lost it all. So I had to completely retype it. I had the rough rough version written out, of course, but I'm not as happy as I was with this the first time around. Therefore, harsh crits are greatly appreciated.
Secondly, I need to thank Adrienne-sensei for beta-ing this for me and putting up with my crappy un-proofed writing. I owe you one.
And last of all, I need to warn you that I won't be posting anything for a couple of weeks because I'm going on vacation. Hopefully I'll have some new chapters written by the time I return, though.
Sorry that was the longest authors note you've likely ever read (or skipped). Without further ado…enjoy chapter 3!

(Wait, I forgot…sorry.)Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. If I did, the phrase Global Warming would never appear in conjunction with Maximum Ride.

"Let's go down," said Angel, unfurling her wings and jumping out of Fang's arms. "I'm hungry." She soared downward, back toward the prison we'd been in our whole lives.

As much as I hated to follow her, I had to. Our only respite from the School's walls was just another experiment, and I was in no shape to leave. I needed food before I fainted from hunger. Falling from this high up could be dangerous. Angling my body downward, I slowly spiraled to earth much like a leaf falling from its tree.

Angel landed easily, gracefully, and smiled up at Fang, Iggy, and me. Her smile triggered one of my own, but I unfortunately did not manage to copy her landing. After flying, my legs always took some time to adjust, and I think I might have mentioned that I was tired. As a result, I plowed into the ground and ended up laying flat on my face. And I stayed there. Nothing, nothing could make me move now. Well, maybe the promise of food and a warm bed would have, but save that, I was staying put. I heard footsteps behind me and prepared myself for whatever form of torture the scientists would use to rouse me. Instead, I felt a hand gently brushing my hair away from my face.

"Max?" It was Fang. I cracked my eyes open and tried to smile, but even that was out of reach at the moment. Thankfully, Fang didn't remark on my exhaustion and weakness. I already knew that these were things that I needed to get under control so they wouldn't be taken advantage of by the whitecoats, but I figured I would work on strength later. Prioritize, I had always been told. Well, right now staying conscious was number one on my to-do list, and it was taking all of my remaining energy.

I felt rather than saw Fang sit down next to me as what I recognized as a symbol of solidarity. Just his being there helped me to relax. Fang, I knew, would not move until I did, and even then, it would be in order to stay with me until I was feeling… strong again. While I was out of it, I knew he'd also protect me. Angel and Iggy came to join us too, though whether this was a show of support from Angel or an exhibition of uncertainty, I wasn't sure. She was smart for a two-year-old, but unity would be a big concept for even her to grasp.

"What's wrong?" she asked, confirming my earlier suspicions of confusion. As Fang explained, I let his voice lull me into a stupor. The four of us sat there together as the warm California sun came up.

I'm not sure how much later it was that the whitecoats came to collect us, but it probably wasn't much. The scientists at the School weren't ones for delay. Probably the only reason I'd been allowed to lay here as long as I had was because they had to discuss the peculiar behavior of Subject 6. But since they were here now, I had to find a way to get myself to wherever they wanted me to be. Moving was not what I wanted to do now, but being hurt because I refused to move was even less desirable. Fang provided a solution to my problem by helping me to my feet and practically carrying me across the grounds. Once we were inside our building, the whitecoats led us to a recuperation room and locked us in without a word. Had I not been so exhausted, I would have had a few words for them. I had quite an impressive vocabulary for a 10-year-old. As it was, I dramatically flopped down in the middle of the floor. Nudge and Gazzy, who had been no doubt awakened by our entrance, stared out at me, wide-eyed, through the bars.

Yeah, you heard me right—bars. See, most of the time when we're not being either fed or experimented on in some horrible way, the six of us are locked up in dog crates. Why they used dog crates, I wasn't sure… I guess PetSmart was out of mutant bird kid crates on shopping day. But the fact that the guards hadn't cheerfully locked Iggy, Fang, Angel, and I into our cages upon our return meant that one of the previously listed choices was about to take place. I sincerely hoped that it would be the food option, and that it would happen soon.

"Hey, Iggy, want to get us out?" asked Nudge. Short and to the point. Very un-Nudge like, but altogether quite effective. Iggy nodded and dug out an assortment of lock picks from his pocket. It didn't take him long to free her, and soon Gazzy was out of his cage as well. Does it bug us that a blind guy can pick locks better than the rest of us? No, actually. If we let it get to us, the six of us would spend a lot more time in our cages when we were in solitary. I quite appreciated the time to stretch out. Besides, just because Iggy was blind didn't mean he was helpless. Along with being the best at liberating us from supposedly secure locations, the boy also has a talent for making bombs. Which could really come in handy if The Flock ever got around to escaping. But I digress.

Nudge and Gazzy crawled out of their cages and joined me on the floor, though they managed to do it in a slightly less dramatic way. I sat up for their benefit and partly so I didn't look as weak. "How are you guys?"

"Starving." Nudge answered. "They hardly gave us any food." As if on cue, the door opened and in came one of the lower-ranked whitecoats with some sort of edible substance. I was beyond caring what it was. I would have eaten liver and pickled pigs' feet had that been what was on the menu. Thankfully, this offering was a bit easier to digest, if not particularly appetizing: plain toast, oatmeal, applesauce, and soup. I guess the kitchens had been informed of my weakened state and wanted to make sure I could keep everything down all right. Either that, or this was their idea of a joke.

The whitecoat who entered looked mildly surprised to see all six of us uncaged, but his expression turned to one of pure terror when we rushed him for the food. I suppose he thought we were after him. Maybe he was one of the underclassmen who had never been briefed on our behaviors. He emptied his hands of the food trays as quickly as possible, no doubt aided by our enthusiasm, and slammed the door behind him when he left.

We heard him checking the lock from outside and all six of us burst out laughing.

After the meal, we were given time to rest without being shut in our cages first. I gratefully took the opportunity to pass out in the middle of the floor.

Sometime later, I was awakened by the arrival of a sadistic scientist. I groaned and rolled away from the sound. Screw the School, and screw the scientists. I was staying right here.

I felt the unmistakable shock of a taser on my back. Then again, maybe it wouldn't hurt to hear what the guy had to say. Maybe he only wanted me to get back into my cage. Yeah, right. And anyway, it appeared as if I was going to be mercilessly flogged until I responded.

Suddenly and completely unexpectedly, the pain stopped. Surprise turned out to be a stronger motivator than corporal punishment, and I cracked open my eyes. My first sight was that of the completely dismantled weapon. Thanks to Fang, it now looked like a pile of junk that you would find hiding in the back of someone's closet.

"Can't you see she's exhausted?" he asked, threateningly. I could feel the waves of anger pulsing off his skin, and made a mental note to never seriously piss him off. The whitecoat, however, was either very illiterate when it came to body language or extremely brave because he held his ground.

"She's coming with me." He said with a hint of steel in his voice.

Maybe the guy was naïve and didn't believe that Fang would actually attack him. Come to think of it, I didn't remember dealing with him before.

"No." said Fang. "She's not. She's getting her rest so she doesn't die."

Or maybe the whitecoat had reinforcements. Yep, that was probably it. These people never operated alone.

I was so busy contemplating whether or not I wanted to go with the illiterate/naïve/reinforced whitecoat that it took awhile for Fang's last sentence to sink in. She's getting her rest so she doesn't die.

Great, just great. Now Fang was apparently worried for my health, when I thought he'd gotten over that earlier. To avoid a fight and save everyone a lot of trouble, I decided to get up and go along with the whitecoat's wishes. They'd eventually get me to cooperate anyway, and the rest of the flock didn't need any more trouble right now. Not to mention that I wasn't in the mood for more punishment. Accordingly, I rolled over and sat up. Oh. It hurt like hell. I was sore in muscles I didn't even know I had. It was so tempting for me to give up, but I wouldn't let myself offload my troubles on the rest of the flock. This was my burden. I steeled myself, then climbed slowly to my feet. I managed to stay standing and I wasn't even swaying that much. In fact, the only sign of my weakness was the fact that my legs were shaking, which was barely even noticeable.

Fang gave me one of his scrutinizing glares and I revised my opinion. Okay, you could see it, but that didn't mean that I wasn't up to whatever task I was about to be assigned. As long as said assignment didn't require me to stand for more than five minutes at a time, I'd be fine. It could be one of those computerized tests that monitored my reflexes.

I shook my head. I really needed to get this optimism crap under control. This had been what Fang was talking about when he accused me of spreading false hope. Instead, I braced myself for the worse conceivable test under my current circumstances. That would definitely be something that required me to run or fly, but whatever. I wasn't going to back down now. Accordingly, I concentrated on not weaving like a drunken sailor as I walked to the door.

"Max. Are you insane?" asked Fang incredulously. I looked at him and raised my eyebrows in a Who, me? type of gesture. "You can barely walk." He hissed through his teeth. "You're in no shape to do this." He paused. "You don't have to go." He was almost pleading by now, but I refused to back down.

"I'm going," I said, in a soft but intense voice. "I can do this." But whether I was reassuring myself or him, I wasn't sure.

The set of Fang's jaw told me he was displeased; however, he wasn't going to try to stop me. I'd chosen my own path, and I consequently followed the whitecoat out the door. Just before the door shut, I caught a glimpse of five faces filled with fear.

The click of the lock verified my isolation.