Invidia: The Unwind Experiment by AmyQueen95

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Horror, Suspense
Characters:Fang, Max
Published:2010-08-02 22:28:25
Updated:2010-08-19 14:40:18
Packaged:2021-04-22 02:18:47
Summary:When Fang and Iggy are kidnapped by a mad scientist, Max is caught up in a race against time; not only to free them, but to escape with her own life. There will be horrors, there will be heartbreak, and nothing's as it seems. -WARNING: traumatic scenes-

Table of Contents

1. Hawaiian Vacation
2. Looking Like a Girl
3. Missing: Mutant Blind Kid
4. An Unwelcome Guest
5. An Unpleasant Awakening
6. Bored Prisoners
7. Meeting the Doctor
8. Rescue Attempt
9. Attempt Failed
10. I Dream of Max
11. Rescuer's Block
12. The Final Moments
13. Unwinding
14. Operation: Dolphin
15. Break In
16. Gracie
17. An Unpleasant Welcome
18. Trapped
19. Starting the Search
20. The Third Floor
21. Shattered Bottles
22. The First Challenge
23. Claustrophobics Need Not Attempt
24. What is Reality?
25. Another Puzzle
26. I Found Him!
27. The Dearly Divided
28. Not Your Fault
29. Deja Vu
30. Humpty Dumpty
31. Saying Goodbye
32. Can You Be Better?
33. As Real As You Want
34. The Final Puzzle Piece
35. Facing the Squeeze
36. Rewarding Excellence
37. A Second Chance
38. Transplanting
39. Escape and Adjustments
40. Epilogue

1. Hawaiian Vacation

Alriiiiighty, here we go: Hi, I'm Amy. Welcome to my fanfiction!

...Sorry, that was cheesy. *facepalm*

Anyways, my apologies to anyone who read my last full-length story (Zanna Assassin: Kill Maximum Ride) and had hopes that I would release another story sooner. I was a little... busy. *cough*lazy*cough* It's kind of sad how long it took me to finish this story—last month, I wasn't even halfway done. But I'm done now!

Now, IN CASE ANY OF YOU ARE SKIMMING PAST MY A/N BECAUSE YOU THINK I TALK TOO MUCH, at least read my explanation of the story's background:

This alternate history story starts soon after the events of MAX. Dr. Martinez, having recently recovered, has decided to take up Total's suggestion of a doggie wedding in Hawaii. Max and Fang are together, the world is currently safe, and the Flock doesn't have a care in the world. That is, until one of their own goes missing in the name of a madman's research: a project known only as Operation Unwind, taking place on the heavily-guarded Isle Invidia. Max finds herself racing against time as she struggles to find her missing Flock members. If she fails, it could very well be her unwinding.

Now, I don't know how many of you have read Neal Shusterman's Unwind.

For those of you who haven't: I recommend you check it out of your local library sometime, but you don't have to read it to understand the story—it's all MR characters, with a little bit of Unwind science.

For those of you who have: Good for you! But don't spoil the story for those who haven't, or I'll whack you with a large stick!

I don't own Maximum Ride or the Unwind universe. Now, without further ado, I present to you:

Invidia: The Unwind Experiment


Hawaiian Vacation

"Hawaii can be heaven and it can be hell." - Jeff Goldblum

Have you ever swum in the ocean surrounding Hawaii? No boats or scuba gear, just you, your best friend, and the amazing world that lies beneath the surface of the waters? If not, you're missing out; especially if you're a human-avian hybrid with an uncanny swimming ability.

Maximum Ride here, and sorry to brag, but you regular humans have no idea what you're missing out on. Do you know how awesome it is being able to swim into the depths of the ocean whenever you want? No air deprivation, no suffering from the bends or feeling the squish of the water pressure, just swimming and exploring the ocean floor. If there was any feeling that came close to feeling like flying, it was swimming through the ocean.

After Mom had recovered from her kidnapping escapade—which alone could have warranted a vacation—she agreed to Total's Hawaii wedding idea and booked the eight of us (plus the dogs) into a hotel that sat right on the beach. I'd tell you which beach, except that Mom used our real names to register at our first hotel, and, well, let's just say that if we hadn't switched hotels we'd have been blinded by the camera flashes for months.

Anyways, we had booked ourselves into the new hotel for a couple of weeks and were making the most of the sites and attractions. We tried to stay split up in public because of the press attention we had been getting, so for the most part we had grouped up into sets and set into 'regular' vacation routines: Iggy and Gazzy went to the beach a lot (but I forbade Iggy from letting Gazzy describe the scantily clad women to him), Ella and Nudge went shopping with Mom for souvenirs, and Angel helped Total and Akila arrange wedding details. As for me and Fang, we went swimming in the open water as much as we could.

In fact, we had been swimming through a coral reef together the afternoon that our problems started.

It was a beautiful day under the sea. Rays of light pierced through the surface of the ocean above us, beaming through the water and turning it clear blue. I could see the reef a few yards below me, teeming with schools of colourful fish that swarmed around the huge masses of coral. I looked over to my right and saw Fang gliding next to me, looking as free and happy as I felt on the inside. I caught his eye, and we both smiled. It was times like these that made me envy mermaids.

We hovered over the coral reef together for a moment, enjoying the beautiful view and the warmth of the ocean as it swirled around us and emphasized our environment. I felt Fang gently reach over and take my hand, making me blush and grin at the same time. We looked into each others' eyes, and in the back of my head I wondered if it was possible to kiss underwater without choking.

Unfortunately, I never got to find out. My sappy moment ended when Fang suddenly looked at his new waterproof watch (we needed some way to keep track of the time) and gestured that it was time to go. I frowned slightly, but I nodded and we started to swim back towards the shore.

We surfaced on the beach when the water was about waist length, and then we waded through the water the rest of the way to shore. Up ahead Iggy and Gazzy were sitting next to a gigantic sandcastle talking. "C'mon Gazzy!" Iggy moaned, "Max isn't around!"

"Iggy, why do you want to know what the girls look like?" Gazzy moaned, "Besides, there's almost no one on the beach right now! The only girls around are like twenty."

Iggy grinned, "That works for me."

"Oh really, Iggy?" I piped up, getting their attention.

"M-Max," Iggy stuttered, growing pale. "I was just—"

I reached over and whacked him hard across the side of his head. "Really Iggy," I scolded, "if you keep this up you're going to have a reputation!"

Fang rolled his eyes. "Where's my shirt?" he asked, glancing nervously as a young couple with a camera strolled down the beach in our direction. I glanced at my own wings, which were sticking out of the slits I had cut into the back of my one-piece bathing suit.

Gazzy pointed out our clothes, which were in a pile a few feet away. We ran over and put the baggy t-shirts on just as the couple walked past. They gave us a curious glance, but they continued walking down the beach without looking back at us.

I breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness," I said, "I don't want to switch hotels again."

"It's like people are so dazzled by the wings they totally forget what our faces look like," Iggy commented, a slight annoyance lingering in his voice.

"Yeah," I agreed, "but it suits our purposes. I like being able to walk outside without being mobbed, thank you very much."

"We need to go," Fang reminded, pointing to his watch, "your mom's expecting us back at one."

"Right," I confirmed, looking over at Iggy and the Gasman. "Let's get going guys, we need to dry off for the..." I took a deep breath, "wedding rehearsal." I nearly choked on the words as I said them. I still couldn't believe Total was going to all this trouble. He was a dog, for goodness sake! Weddings weren't part of his "heritage".

"I still can't believe that you're going to wear a big fancy dress," Gazzy snickered.

"Hey," I defended myself, "the dress isn't that fancy. It's just... satin."

Iggy expanded on the description, "Baby blue satin with a pleated skirt, I believe the saleswoman described it as." He smirked at me.

I defended myself, "It was the only thing Total and I could agree on!" Total and I had argued for nearly an hour over what kind of dresses the bridesmaids should wear:he was insisting that it was his right to decide on behalf of his mute bride, while I was declaring I was vetoing that right with my leader power. In the end, we settled on the baby blue satin (not my color, but better than pink or lilac) and chose a sleeveless dress design with a knee-length pleated skirt. I wasn't thrilled about the outfit, but the neckline was high enough that I didn't feel like I was falling out of my dress, and the pleats allowed for extra movement if necessary.

Anyways, after the boys had finished sniggering over the prospect of me 'looking like a girl for once' (thanks a lot guys) we went back to the hotel and dried off before meeting the others down in the lobby, each of us carrying our wedding outfit in a dry cleaning bag.

"Let's get this over with," I sighed, earning a smirk from Fang.

"Aw, come on Max!" Nudge exclaimed, "This will be fun!"

Fang is wondering what you'll look like in a dress, Angel added mentally.

That's...nice? Ducking my head slightly to hide my reddened cheeks, I asked Mom, "How far away is the beach?"

"About fifteen minutes away," she answered, "We went and looked around this morning."

"Then let's get going!" I motioned for the others to follow me outside to the rental van where Total and Akila were sitting in the back together, Total whispering sweet somethings to his fiancée.

"Oh, my dear Akila," Total cooed, "it is but a day until you are mine..."

"Cut the puppy love before I throw up," I groaned, climbing into the back of the van with Fang and Angel.

Total sniffed in annoyance. "You don't have to be jealous just because you've never been in love like I have."

Angel grinned mischievously. "Max might disagree with you on that."

I shot Angel a warning glance, and then looked at Fang. Even he looked a little pink around the edges.

"Angel, remember what we talked about before?" Mom reprimanded.

"Yes," Angel sighed, curling up in a pouty position. Hopefully while Mom was around she would refrain from divulging private thoughts and emotions.

Angel is only stating the obvious, the Voice chimed, Admit it, Maximum Ride, you are in love.

We're not even officially dating! I interjected. We just kind of... hang out together a lot.

Love goes much deeper than dating, Max, informed the Voice. Enjoy your relationship with Fang, and your relationship with the rest of your family, while you can.

I raised my eyebrows. While I can?

Someone is coming for one of your Flock members. Enjoy the day in case you can't get them back.

"Voice?" I asked. There was no reply.

"What did it say this time?" Fang questioned, bringing on a flood of interest from everyone else in the van.

"Okay, okay!" I exclaimed, getting everyone to calm down. "The Voice said that someone's coming for one of us today."

Nudge's eyes widened. "Who?" she asked.

"I don't know," I replied, "but I want everyone to be extra careful. Keep your eyes open, and don't go anywhere by yourself." I looked to the front of the van, "Mom, make sure you and Ella stick close to us."

"Will do," Mom replied, Ella nodding in agreement with her.

"What a horrible dampener to our wedding rehearsal day!" Total lamented, causing Akila to seemingly whimper in concurrence.

"How can you dampen something that involves blue satin and a dog in a dress?" I retorted, causing Total to huff in frustration from the trunk. Unfortunately, not even that witty comeback could remove the unsettling feeling of danger that now rested in my mind. I looked over at Fang, and our eyes locked for a brief moment—he was feeling the same way. Something was going to happen, and at that moment I could feel it more than anything else.

Just so you all know, I'm going to be posting the first five chapters today to give this story a kick start. The entire story's already written, so I plan on posting at least 5-6 times a week, if not every day. I'll be posting between one and three chapters at a time.

2. Looking Like a Girl


Looking Like a Girl

"Any girl can look glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid." - Hedy Lamarr

The beach Total picked for the ceremony appeared to be a picnic site, with lots of tables and fire pits spread out all over the place. It was strangely empty for such a nice place, but I tried not to overreact.

"Don't worry, Max," Angel reassured me, "we didn't have money for a booking, so we mixed up the signs marking the route to the beach." I frowned. I was going to have to have a talk with Angel about this. Redirecting traffic for a doggy wedding was not acceptable.

"But it's not just any doggy wedding," Angel insisted, picking up my thoughts, "it's Total's wedding!"

Before I was able to fully scold Angel my mom spoke up, "Alright everyone, there's a bathroom up that way! Let's get changed, then we can set up the lattice arch with the flowers." I rolled my eyes. Why of course there was a lattice arch with flowers! We needed somewhere for the priest to stand, after all.

No, we did not actually have a priest. How would we be able to explain the talking dog?

Anyways, we all walked down to the bathrooms and went our separate ways to change. Mom was the one performing the ceremony, so she didn't have to get changed (no fair!) so it was just me, Angel, Nudge and Ella in the bathroom.

Ella twirled in front of the mirror to see how she looked in the bridesmaid dress. "This is going to be so much fun!" she exclaimed, beaming at herself in the glass.

"I know, right?" Nudge chattered, "I just love all the prettiness involved with weddings! The dresses, the flowers, and I just think it's sooooo sweet when two people—or dogs I guess—commit to stick together their entire lives! I wish that I was in love like Total and Akila, except that I don't want to be in love with a dog..." Nudge realized that everyone was staring at her and shut up.

"I think it's really sweet too," Angel agreed. Then she turned to me and asked, with a teasing glint in her eye, "Hey Max, when are you and Fang going to have a wedding?"

My face dropped. "Uh..." was all I could say.

Ella raised her eyebrows, "Yeah Max," she quipped, "it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that you're head over heels for Fang."

"Being head over heels isn't the same as wanting to get married," I reminded her.

"So you admit to being head over heels?" Ella grinned.

I groaned, "Ella!" I really didn't need this conversation right now. Besides, I seriously doubted that Fang wanted to get married right now any more than I did.

"You really love each other, Max," Angel stated, "and you look really pretty right now. Why wouldn't Fang want to marry you?"

"It's more complicated than that, Angel." Still, I walked over to the bathroom mirror and looked more closely at myself. I had to admit, I looked pretty good. I mean, I still felt uncomfortable in the skirt, and the fabric was all weird and slippery, but at the same time... I looked like a girl. Nudge had even managed to untangle my rat's nest hair enough for it to look semi-presentable. It was almost a bit nice.

"See?" Angel piped up, running over and giving me a hug, "Fang's going to love how you look!"

"I guess..." I winced a little. All of these wedding preparations were diminishing my tough side. Still, I did look kind of nice.

Unfortunately, my one semi-girly moment was interrupted by a loud knocking on the bathroom door. "Max!" Fang yelled urgently.

I walked over to the door and opened it. "What's wrong?"

"Max, we—" Fang stopped talking and did a double-take, his eyes widening slightly. Apparently he had just noticed my dress. However, he quickly shook off his amazement and got to the point. "It's Iggy," he said, "We can't find him anywhere."

3. Missing: Mutant Blind Kid


Missing: Mutant Blind Kid

"Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated." - Lamartine

"What do you mean you can't find Iggy?" I exclaimed, my heart rate speeding up exponentially.

"Max!" Gazzy ran up next to Fang, "We looked all over the place for Iggy, but we can't find him! He left the bathroom right after he got changed, and when we got changed we went to look for him!" I realized that Fang and Gazzy were wearing tuxes. Hmmm, not bad... especially on Fang.

Unfortunately, since one of my Flock members was missing I couldn't take the time to fully appreciate the sight. "Maybe he's hiding in a bush or something." I offered hopefully.

"Why would he be in a bush?" Nudge asked sceptically. The other girls had, after hearing the bad news, huddled around the door next to the boys, waiting for my response.

I searched my mind for an answer. "Um, maybe he had to relieve himself?" I offered.

"But he was just in the bathroom..."

"Right." Everyone's faces looked grim as we all filed out of the bathroom and formed one group. The Voice's grim words from the van ride echoed in my memory. Someone is coming for one of your Flock members. Enjoy the day in case you can't get them back.

"What should we do now, Max?" Gazzy asked.

"We need to let Mom know," I told them, "and then we need to change back into our clothes and start looking for Iggy."

We walked back to the van, where mom was standing with Total and Akila. We told them the bad news about Iggy. "Oh dear!" Mom exclaimed, looking extremely worried, "What do you think happened?"

I sighed, "I think this was what the Voice was warning me about." Not that the warning did much good.

"But what does this mean?" Total exclaimed, snuggling up to Akila.

"You're going to have to put your wedding plans aside for a while, Total," I told him.

He howled in distress, "But what about the plans Akila and I had for our honeymoon? We were going to spend several weeks with Akila's side of the family on the Wendy K because they couldn't be here!"

Thank goodness, I thought, but only for a moment. I had important things to do than insulting Brigid in my head. "Well then you go ahead without us," I told him, "We can have a renewal of vows after we find Iggy."

"Where will you look first?" Mom asked.

"Well, we should probably double-check at the hotel," I decided. Maybe Iggy had gone back to grab something and had forgot to tell us. "If he's not there," I thought for a moment, "I don't know. Hopefully the Voice will have some helpful knowledge."

After getting changed and making sure everyone was ready to leave, I hugged mom and Ella goodbye. "Be careful," My mom reminded me.

"I will," I reassured her, waving farewell as we took off and flew back towards the hotel. I smiled to myself; even though I didn't need to be reminded to be careful, I never got tired of having a mother who cared about me.

We landed behind the hotel and then ran around to the front, looking abnormally wind-blown and flustered for such a nice day. "There was a helicopter incident," I fibbed when everyone stared at us.

We took the elevator upstairs to our room, and pulling out my hotel key I opened the door to the room Ella and I were sharing. I went over to the adjoining door that connected this room to the boys' room. "Iggy?" I called, peeking inside. The room was empty.

Just then Fang walked up behind me. "He's not in any of the other rooms." He told me.

I groaned. This was what I had feared all along. "Someone has Iggy," I declared, sitting down on the edge of my bed to put my head in my hands. It seems like I couldn't go more than a few weeks without a member of my family being kidnapped.

Nudge and Angel sat next to me on both sides and gave me scared hugs, and Gazzy and Fang stood in front of me with grimaces on their faces. "What will we do now, Max?" Nudge asked quietly.

I was about to reply, when suddenly the Voice cut into my thoughts. They've taken Iggy to take part in Operation Unwind. He will be the first mutant to participate in the program. Expect someone to come with further information today.

"Operation Unwind?" I wondered.

Suddenly I realized everyone was looking at me with puzzled expressions. "It's the Voice," I told them, "it said that Iggy's been taken for Operation Unwind."

"What's that?" Gazzy asked.

"I don't know," I told him, "but the Voice said that someone is coming with more information, so I guess all we can do is wait."

For the next hour or so we sat in the hotel room and half-heartedly watched television. Soap operas weren't as sappy and America's Funniest Home Videos as funny without Iggy to make stupid wisecracks every couple of minutes. Usually it was annoying, but now I'd give almost anything to have Iggy calling the girls on TV ugly (I'm sure the actresses would be so damaged by the opinion of a blind guy) and to have him throwing popcorn at Gazzy until the couch was covered with it.

"Do you think whoever is coming will show up soon?" Fang asked, clearly bored with the Hannah Montana re-run we were currently watching.

Before I could reply Gazzy shouted, "How can they not know that she's a fake? It's obviously a wig!"

"Shhhh!" Angel and Nudge hushed, staring intensely into the television screen.

"I'm not sure," I replied in response to Fang's question, "The Voice just said that—" I was interrupted by a loud knock on the door.

"Maybe that's them now," Angel suggested.

I stood up from the bed and walked over to the door, approaching cautiously in case there was an unpleasant surprise waiting on the other side. Grasping onto the door knob, I turned it slowly and opened the door a tiny crack to see who it was.

And once I saw who it was I immediately slammed the door shut.

4. An Unwelcome Guest


An Unwelcome Guest

"Come again when you can't stay so long." - Walter Sickert

Everyone stood up quickly, poised and ready to attack. "Who's there?" Fang asked.

Suddenly there was a muffled shout from the other side of the door. "Max!"

Everyone recognized the voice and eased up a bit. Fang smirked and said, "Shall we let Jeb in?"

I rolled my eyes and reluctantly opened the door. "What do you want, Jeb?" I asked.

Jeb stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. "I come bearing information on Iggy's whereabouts," He declared, sitting on the edge of the bed and opening his brief case. He pulled out a laptop and turned it on, pulling up files onto the screen. I guess he wasn't one to beat around the bush. "How long has he been gone?" he asked.

"Over an hour, I think," I told him.

Jeb nodded. "Plenty of time for them to put him into their database..." he muttered, typing on the computer. Finally he motioned for me to sit next to him. "This is Operation Unwind's main database," he told me. The first thing that came to mind was a question of just how Jeb had access to this information, but I decided to shut up for the time being.

Jeb clicked on a link, which led to a website containing what seemed to be a schedule:
















"What does this mean?" I asked Jeb. Experiment A was obviously Iggy, but who were Experiments B and C? "What time zone is this, Jeb?"

Jeb studied the page for a moment. "This time zone, I think," he decided, "The location listed is only a short distance off the coast of Honolulu." He frowned, "But I can't be certain how long this schedule stretches. The days may or may not occur one after the other."

"It says there are three study targets... Do you know who the other targets are? Or what procedures they're talking about?" I asked.

"No," Jeb replied, "but I suggest you be extra careful."

"You said you knew the location where they're taking Iggy," Fang spoke, "where is it?"

Jeb pulled up another window on his computer, this time a map of Hawaii and the surrounding ocean. "Location 1394051 is a small manmade island named Isle Invidia. It's been owned by various business men and organizations, but for the last few years it has served as the headquarters of the Operation Unwind project and a private residence for the staff taking part in it. It's headed up by a man who calls himself the Doctor."

He explained that the operation's main purpose was to improve the rate of success for transplants, namely through an experimental process called 'neuro-grafting.' He told us, "It's too complicated to explain right now, but if they were able to perfect the process it would be possible to transplant body parts as complex as arms and hearts with no ill effects."

I shuddered at the thought of what they might do with human-avian organs like Iggy's—or any of our organs, for that matter. Surely there were plenty of wealthy people in the world who were eager for healthy superhuman transplant parts, neuro-grafting or not.

Just then Angel got a suspicious look on her face. "Jeb," she spoke, "how do you know so much about Operation Unwind and Isle Invidia? And how do you have access to their website?" I realized that Angel had a point; Jeb knew an awful lot about this stuff.

We all looked to Jeb for an answer, distrust flaring. Jeb grew noticeably nervous as he searched for a reasonable answer to present. "I... was involved with the program part-time while I worked at the School," He breathed out, as if a heavy load had been lifted. "I was a consultant, mainly."

"What!" I yelled, "You were involved in another mad science project and you didn't tell us?" I stood up and glared at him. Jeb opened his mouth to defend himself, but before he could speak there was a loud pop and a hiss that came from the window.

I don't remember anything that happened after that.

5. An Unpleasant Awakening


An Unpleasant Awakening

"I feel not unlike a small boy, waking from a bad dream to find reality not much of an improvement." - John Byrne

When I woke up I was groggy, yet pleasantly surprised to find that even though I had a slight headache, I was not bound, endangered, or incarcerated in any way. Slowly I sat up with blurred eyes and a hazy mind, trying to figure out what had happened. Everyone else was apparently unconscious except for Jeb, who was on his computer again.

"Thanks for waking me up," I grumbled sarcastically, "now, what just happened?"

Jeb didn't reply for a moment, but then he stopped typing and said, "They neutralized us with a knockout gas." He pointed to the door. There was a note stuck to it with a scalpel:


I rolled my eyes. "They obviously don't know me very well." Though they sure went to a whole lot of trouble to scare us away from retrieving Iggy, I thought to myself.

Jeb snorted, "They never did pay attention to those memos we sent them."

"Oh, so now you're sending them mail, huh?" I glared at him, my anger rising up again. "Do you send them Christmas cards too? I can just imagine the photo: you, me, and Ari's coffin standing together in a laboratory."

"Max!" Jeb yelled, making me flinch. It was clear that I had hit a nerve. "I get it, alright? You think I'm a terrible person. But this was a... a more legititimate operation. Besides, I left the project the same time I left the School."

"It's obviously not very legit if they're kidnapping teenage boys."

"We weren't at the human testing phase when I left," Jeb told me. Clearly things had kicked up a notch since then. "Your unusual anatomy would make you kids prime targets for this kind of research."

I rolled my eyes. "How flattering," I said sarcastically.

My mind was going haywire trying to figure out what to do next. I leaned over and looked at the time on Jeb's computer, and I grimaced. More than an hour and a half had passed since we had arrived at the hotel room, which meant Iggy was probably already en route to that Isle Invidia science lab, if not already there. That meant we wouldn't be able to cut the delivery off before they got there, which also meant... "Jeb, how good is the island's security system?"

"Extremely good," he replied without hesitation, "nothing goes in or out without permission. They monitor all ships and planes with radar, and anything that hasn't been cleared by security is shot down with short-range missiles from the island. And that's not even mentioning the island's underwater defense system." He shook his head, "Or the in-land security."

I began to pace back and forth, trying to think. "Would the island complex be impenetrable if the radar was gone?" I asked.

Jeb scratched his head thoughtfully. "If it was taken out discreetly, it would be possible to get onto the island and sneak your way into the complex, I think." He paused, as if trying to remember more. "The main building was surrounded with electrified barbed wire fences and the gate was guarded at all hours. The inside of the building never needed an alarm system because scientists and doctors were there at all hours, but there was an extensive system of video cameras and electronic locks."

"Maybe if—" I cut myself off. Why was I conspiring with Jeb, of all people? "I think I can figure out how to get in," I told him. There was no need for him to be involved.

"No Max," Jeb shook his head, "the doors in that place are all locked. You won't be able to get further than the front lobby if you don't have the pass codes, security guards or not."

"I can get Nudge to feel for the password," I told him.

"Nudge's power is based on an ability to feel chemical traces, and those keypads are specially designed to clean themselves after every use to avoid leaving germs or residue that could contaminate experiments," Jeb informed me, then added, "as well as to keep people from using the residue to figure out the password."

I narrowed my eyes. "What are you saying, Jeb?"

"I'm saying," Jeb told me, "that you need me to come along. If you can get past the radar and take over the coastal security tower, I can take a boat to Invidia and help you get past the rest of the security system. Their system is good, but the Doctor never felt the need to change his passwords because no one has ever made it far enough to get into the lab." He continued, "I bet we could trigger a Code Z emergency, a full island evacuation. If we play it right, security should believe it."

"Jeb," I moaned. Before I could go on, however, Jeb cut me off.

"Max, you need me. Iggy and Fang need me too."

"But can't you—" I stopped in mid-sentence. "Iggy and Fang?"

"Yes," Jeb gave me a strange look, "We do want both of them safe and sound, don't we?"

I did a double-take of the room, checking on the sleeping members of the Flock. Angel...Gazzy...Nudge...where's Fang? My eyes widened, and I looked back at Jeb.

"You mean you didn't notice?" he asked, clearly surprised. I was surprised myself.

"They took Fang," I uttered, realizing that they hadn't come just to warn us after all. How had I not noticed this?

Jeb sighed, "You'd better wake the kids up, Max," he told me, "We have a lot of planning to do."

6. Bored Prisoners

Hello, all *adds up in head* twenty-four people who've read at least part of my story! Your attention is much appreciated. *smiles* Anyways, I hope you like the quotes I've added at the top of each chapter-those took me forever to find. Though was a huge help; I swear, you can find a quote on just about anything if you know where to look.

Anyways, here is the next chapter!


Bored Prisoners

"Is boredom anything less than the sense of one's faculties slowly dying?" - Arthur Helps

Fang drifted back into consciousness with a mild headache, unsure of what had just happened. The last thing he remembered was hearing a noise coming from the window, and then trying to stand up to warn Max. He had gotten dizzy and hit the floor, and then... nothing.

Suddenly Fang snapped out of his tired stupor and opened his eyes, remembering Max and the others. Were they alright? Was Jeb behind this latest stunt? He looked around, only to find himself lying flat on his back and staring at the ceiling of a dark room. He tried to sit up but, surprise surprise, he found himself firmly strapped down to a surgical table. He sighed, feeling extremely annoyed. Were a few months without capture and/or endangerment too much to ask?

Just then there was a slight groaning sound that came a couple yards away from Fang's left side. "Hello?" Someone called weakly, "Who's there?"

Fang cheered up slightly when he recognized the voice, and he turned his head to confirm the source of the voice. "Iggy?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah," Iggy replied, perking up when he realized it was Fang, "I heard someone else in here, but I couldn't tell who it was."

"Where are the others?" As far as Fang could tell, no one else was in the room.

"I don't know," Iggy admitted, "I'm as much in the dark as you are." He paused for a moment, he muttered, "Actually, seeing as I'm blind, I'm more in the dark."

Rolling his eyes, Fang couldn't help but smirk. "Got any escape plans?"

"No," Iggy sighed, "they stripped me off all weaponry while I was sleeping and put me in new clothes."

Indeed, Iggy was now wearing white sweat pants and a matching t-shirt. Fang looked down at himself and realized he was wearing the exact same thing. Inwardly he groaned; they stripped him of his family, his dignity, and now his clothes? This outfit was going to leave burn marks if he wore it in direct sunlight.

The boys didn't say much else to each other while they waited together in the darkness. What was there to say? It was clear that neither of them was capable of escaping at that moment; both of them were fastened securely to their tables with thick straps from head to toe. None of the straps were loose at all. No, all they could do was wait to see what happened next.

The room—and entire building—was eerily quiet as Fang and Iggy lay in the darkness waiting through the long hours. To pass the time, Fang analyzed as many details in his environment as he could. Judging by the degree to which the footsteps that walked past their room were muffled, the door to their room was thick, probably metal. That meant this room was designed either to keep something out, or keep something in. Fang was betting on the latter.

Turning his head both ways, he estimated the room to be about twelve feet by eight feet wide, with the roof sitting about four feet above his table—too small for wings or flying leaps in the unlikely event that either of them were suddenly let loose from their bindings. There were also no shelves or tables that could be used as weapons; the room was seemingly empty aside from the tables he and Iggy were strapped to, which were welded to the floor, as Fang discovered when he tried to scoot his table towards Iggy's.

The tables themselves were typical of medical facilities: they were made of cold metal and smelled faintly of Lysol, indicating their previous use. They were not built for comfort, but convenience, which made them extremely uncomfortable to lie on—especially when you were being held tightly against the surface with chafing straps. Fang had to wonder who else had been strapped to these tables before, and where those same individuals might be now.

After Fang had memorized every single detail he could think of—and a few he couldn't—he was left with absolutely nothing to do. Usually, when one of them was captured, the villain responsible for their imprisonment showed up within a couple of hours to deliver their brilliantly scripted soliloquy (if not scripted then excellently improvised) in order to inform them of what awful fate lay ahead for them and/or the entire world. At very least there would be something to keep them distracted such as creepy experiments, deadly minions, or oddly placed bowls of birdseed.

Now, however, it felt like the silence and suspense was going to drive him mad. Iggy was there, of course, but generally he needed someone else's words as verbal fodder to generate his brand of humour. Fang wasn't big on creating verbal fodder; he couldn't even think of anything to say. Aside from Iggy's occasional questions and mutterings, there was nothing to keep him preoccupied. He was almost to the point of wishing that today's bad guys would just bring on the torture already. Or maybe this was the torture: being forced to endure hour after hour of endless silence while the person responsible for their kidnapping finished off another victim.

"I'm bored," Iggy finally sighed. "I don't remember being this bored as a prisoner before."

"I know what you mean," Fang agreed.

"How long do you think we've been here?" Iggy asked.

Instinctively Fang tried to shrug, but he was held down by the straps. "I don't know," he told Iggy, "probably a few hours."

"Yeah," Iggy said, "I don't know about you, but I'm hungry. And I have to go to the bathroom."

"Great." Fang cringed slightly; he hadn't realized how hungry he was until Iggy had brought it up. Or how badly he had to go to the bathroom.

Trying his best not to squirm uncomfortably, Fang tried his best to settle down and try to sleep some of the time away. It was uncomfortable and drawn out at first, but eventually sleep came—it came almost too easily. As he drifted off to sleep, Fang's brain only partially registered the tiny hissing sound that came from the back corner of the room, and he was beyond the point of caring. What was he going to do about it? Besides, almost anything would be preferable to sitting awake in the dark any longer.

7. Meeting the Doctor

There's nothing quite like a sociopath. A killer, a mad scientist; both of them make for excellent stories. Though it's not directly related to my story, I think a couple of the key elements-the island and the Doctor, for example-were influenced by Dr. Franklin's Island by Ann Halam. It's an excellent book, so long as you have the stomach for it. You know, there's a bird girl in that book too... but there's a whole lot more bird than girl, if you know what I mean. *chuckles ominously*


Meeting the Doctor

"The reason doctors are so dangerous is that they believe in what they are doing." – Robert. S. Mendelsohn

Fang couldn't remember exactly what happened when he woke up again. He vaguely remembered being led to a bathroom and then crawling back onto a table, but he had been too loopy to register any real details. He had fallen asleep again, and then had woken up an unknown amount of time later. As the drugs wore off and he regained consciousness, however, he realized that he was back in the room he had been kept in previously—this time the light was on. Looking to the table next to him, Fang grimaced. Iggy was gone.

Just then the door opened, revealing a doctor-looking man wearing a white lab coat over top of green scrubs. At first glance, the man looked like the average family doctor, the type of guy who would check your heart rate and examine your mouth with a tongue depressor. Fang knew better than that, though; the man's eyes alone were a tip off to this particular doctor's intentions.

No sane person had a glint like that in their eye.

"Hello, Target B," Dr. Evil said, looking at the notes on his clipboard, "Or should I call you Fang?" he shook his head. "No, I think we should keep our relationship strictly professional. Target B it is, then. How are you feeling?"

Fang didn't say anything. Instead, he glared daggers at the doctor, making it very clear he wasn't in the mood for small talk; he rarely was, especially when he was being held prisoner by the person trying to initiate conversation. Shaking his head, the doctor sighed, "You're the strong, silent type, aren't you? I really should have read those memos on the human-avians they kept sending me." He shook his head and muttered something about the number of emails he received marked urgent.

Walking further into the room and closing the door behind him, Dr. Evil stood directly over Fang and stared down at him, making Fang feel terrifyingly small and helpless strapped down to the table. "You really are a wonderful specimen, aren't you?" the doctor cooed, staring intensely at Fang's physiology, all the while taking notes. "How fortunate it is to have two healthy male hybrids of the same approximate age and build... what is the age difference between you two? Please refresh my memory."

Fang scowled at the doctor. "Who are you?" he demanded. "What do you want?"

"You may call me the Doctor," he told Fang, "and I am what you would call the 'head scientist' around here." He smiled a sickly smile, "And you, as well as your friend, are the first human-avian hybrids to take part in Operation Unwind."

Though outwardly Fang's face was as blank as a slate, inwardly he rolled his eyes. Wow, what were the chances? He and Iggy were going to be the first bird kids ever (because there's so many of them to choose from) to be guinea pigs for the Doctor. How flattering.

"Your friend, Target A, should be back from his basic testing soon. Then we'll be taking you down the hall and run some tests on you too." The Doctor stared down at Fang excitedly, as if he were a child staring a brand new toy he couldn't wait to use. In a twisted way, Fang was the Doctor's toy—his toy to test and manipulate and push to the limit. What worried Fang the most about that was a simple fact about children's toys: they often got broken in the frenzy of playing games, sometimes ending up damaged beyond repair.

Sure enough, Iggy was wheeled back in a few minutes later by some nurses, looking very poorly indeed. He was lying on top of a gurney, drenched in sweat and tossing back and forth restlessly, panting and digging his nails into the bed sheets he was lying on top of.

"Strap him back onto the tabletop," the Doctor instructed his nurses, "then help me un-strap Target B and place him onto the gurney." Fang was suspicious. They were going to un-strap him from the table and they thought that he wasn't going to make a run for it? Just how did they plan on getting him to lie on the gurney without giving him an opportunity to run? Of course, Fang soon figured those questions out. As soon as the straps were off and he could move his limbs again, Fang tried to jump up and make a run for the door...only to find he couldn't move anything from the head down.

"Don't bother trying to move," the Doctor told Fang, "it's an anaesthetic agent I've invented for surgery. It keeps the patient awake during the entire procedure while numbing the body at the same time." He grinned another unholy grin, "It makes it easier to get feedback from my patients." Fang could barely feel anything as the Doctor and his assistants lifted him onto the same gurney they had used to wheel Iggy into the room. If he could have moved, he would have shuddered; this Doctor was bad news, and if security was always this tight there was next to no chance of escaping without help from the outside.

As Fang was wheeled down the hallway towards "basic testing", his mind went back to the schedule he saw on Jeb's computer before he was taken. Iggy was Target A, and clearly he was Target B. An unknown amount of time had passed since they had been delivered to their current location (Isle Invidia, presumably), and now they had advanced to Day 2 of Operation Unwind, the testing phase. Did that mean that tomorrow would be Day 3? If so, what procedures were going to happen to them? Also, the last scheduled surgery was for a Target C. Who was Target C?

For the next few hours Fang sat parked in a laboratory, unable to flinch or squirm on his gurney as the lab technicians and nurses swarmed around him. The lab technicians swarmed to take samples and ask questions, but the nurses seemed to be there just to try and cheer him up.

"We're almost done the blood tests," Cheery Nurse #1 declared spritely.

"You may feel a poking sensation when Glen inserts the needle into your arm," Cheery Nurse #2 informed him a few minutes later.

"You'll be able to move around for a while after this last swabbing," Cheery Nurse #3 chirped, causing Cheery Nurses #1 and #2 to chatter along excitedly as if it would make things better.

Fang wasn't buying any of it; these nurses were sincerely trying to make him feel better, but there was no cheering him up. He thought that it was kind of strange that such cheerful people would be involved with dark science institutions like Isle Invidia and projects like Operation Unwind, but Fang had suspicious feeling that, if this place specialized in transplant research, these nurses probably were in for the medical benefits; more than likely some of them had ailing relatives who needed the illegal transplants desperately. Or maybe they had gotten in over their heads and were too scared to quit.

Finally the testing was completed and Fang was wheeled out of the lab. However, instead of being returned to his room, he was transferred to another floor in the elevator and wheeled towards another room. "We have one final test for you, Fang," the Doctor said as he walked alongside the gurney, "and then you can go back to your friend." The nurses wheeled Fang's gurney into a large white room, which was empty except for a panel of glass set into one wall and a door-shaped panel in the other. There were several scientists standing behind the panel of glass and sitting in plush chairs, all of them holding pencils and clip boards.

"Here's an agent to counteract the anaesthetic," The Doctor told Fang, pulling out a syringe and injecting it into his arm, "You should be able to move in about thirty seconds or so." Then he turned around and left, taking his nurses with him.

After a few seconds Fang sat up slowly, his limbs still feeling slightly numb. Carefully, he stepped down from the gurney and walked around trying to regain his balance. The Doctor, who had now joined the other scientists, was sitting in his chair and smiling strangely again. Fang scowled; that man's smile was now officially on his personal Top Ten creepy list.

Suddenly there was a loud, quick sliding sound from across the room, followed by an angry snarl and the emergence of a large hairy animal as it rushed towards Fang in a blur of fangs and fur. The creature jumped and tried to pounce on Fang, but he was able to grab the gurney and throw it up at the creature as it jumped, knocking it down in mid-air. As the creature recoiled and prepared to charge Fang was finally able to get a good look at the creature: it was an Eraser!

The Eraser stood up on its two legs and lunged towards Fang, who quickly dodged the wolf man again and began to throw punches and kicks frantically. The Eraser, who, despite being out of practice, proved to be quite a formidable challenge for him, was relentless in its frenzied attempts to rip Fang's head off, leaving Fang with little time of reprieve in between attacks.

The battle lasted for what seemed like hours (though in reality it only lasted about fifteen minutes), and Fang found his body and mind seriously drained of resources as the battle dragged on. However, this Eraser was set to kill, and there was no way Fang was going to let this oversized dog overtake him. Taking a running leap, Fang used his wings to glide into the Eraser and deliver a hard kick to the base of its skull, killing it almost instantly. The Eraser fell to the floor, a menacing yet confused expression still painted across its face.

"Excuse me!" The Doctor's upset voice echoed throughout the room, "Did you really have to kill it? That Eraser was difficult to obtain!"

Fang looked over to the glass panel to see that the Doctor was standing in front of the glass, holding some sort of microphone. He scowled at him momentarily, and then turned his attention to the scientists behind him. He couldn't believe it; they were taking notes! They had locked him in a room with a practically rabid Eraser and forced them to battle to the death so they could take a few notes?

Fang was about to yell some angry words at the Doctor when there was another hissing noise in the room. Fang groaned, "Another gas, really?" The Doctor waved to Fang as he grew dizzy and fell to the floor, and even though the microphone was turned off, Fang was positive that the Doctor had been laughing maniacally as he watched Fang lose consciousness.

Fang woke up strapped to his table again, sweating profusely and feeling extremely groggy. It was dark in the room again, and Fang could only see the dark blur that was the ceiling. The noises in the room were muffled too; Iggy was saying something from across the room, but it sounded like he was talking from under water.

"Fang...awake...long..." Fang struggled to listen as Iggy said something about him and the tests they had both gone through. Suddenly the sound returned with a pop, and Fang was able to hear him say, "...he keeps using his weird drugs on us, and not just one type of drug either. All of these drugs he's using on us have different side-effects—like the one they gave us earlier. You were muttering all sorts of things earlier."

Fang moaned softly and tried to clear his vision by blinking several times. "I don't remember anything after collapsing... that freak Doctor is insane."

"Yeah," Iggy agreed, "I mean, I've met some sick people in the science world, but this is one big game to that guy. It's like we're a couple of dolls and he's jabbing us with voodoo pins." Iggy and Fang exchanged stories about their encounters with the Doctor, and they talked about what they should do next. "What can we do?" Iggy asked, "We're pretty much at the Doctor's mercy this time. There aren't any easily provoked Itex goons or crazy German scientists to manipulate around here; we can't even move our limbs without permission! This guy's insane, but he's smart. He's used to keeping people confined, I guess."

Unfortunately, Fang had to agree. It was so frustrating having to wait around for someone to come to their rescue when it was usually their job to help with the saving. "I hate feeling so helpless," he complained aloud.

"Me too," Iggy agreed, "but Max and the others will save us." There were a few moments of silence, and then, "So, do you want to know what you were babbling about in your drug-induced state?"

"Um..." Fang wasn't quite sure what to say.

Iggy grinned mischievously and told him, "It involved housecoats, Wal-Mart, and your desperate cries of longing for a certain someone." He winked at Fang.

Fang shot him a warning glare, but it was lost on his blind eyes. "Iggy..."

"You were crying out her name, begging for her to come back so you could see her beautiful eyes one last time."

Fang growled, "Iggy!"

Iggy smirked. "What exactly are Faxlets, Fang?"


Iggy, however, just cackled at Fang's flustered reaction. "Haha, Fang's one weakness discovered!"

Fang scowled at Iggy and snarled, "I sure hope you enjoy life as a eunuch, Ig, because when we get out of here you're as good as a girl." Iggy was fairly quiet after that.

8. Rescue Attempt

Hello, everybody! How are you today? How's your family? How's your pet mongoose? You don't have a pet mongoose? Well then I'm sorry you don't. Now, today I will be posting two chapters instead of one, because I'm awesome that way and I think these particular chapters go hand-in-hand. Yes, I have the entire story written beforehand, and yes, I'm going to make you wait for each and every update. The only person who's read the entire story besides me is my fanfiction consultant Fwa, and he's under sworn oath; if he tells anyone what happens in the end, I have the legal right to sell his property and vital organs for money to donate to NaNoWriMo (if you don't know what that is and you want to write a book someday, look it up). Of course, if you've read Unwind you might have a few guesses as to what happens.

Oh my gosh, I'm so proud of myself! I finally figured out how to use the poll thingie on ! After over two years... that's so intelligent of me. Anyways, here was the question I posted in my profile:

In the Fang vs. Dylan department, which scenario do you think is most likely to occur in the series?

a.) Fang and Dylan both live; Fang gets Max.

b.) Fang and Dylan both live; Dylan gets Max.

c.) Dylan dies; Fang gets Max.

d.) Fang dies; Dylan gets Max.

e.) Fang and Dylan both die.

Well, what do you think? Vote, vote, vote! Or I'll skip posting for a day. *hmph*


Rescue Attempt

"The rescue has reached a very delicate stage." – Matthew Gill

As soon as the kids were awake and our planning was done, we loaded into Jeb's car and drove to a secluded beach about an hour away. It was cloudy now, the sky above showing an abnormally stormy disposition for Hawaii. We unloaded out of the car, each one of us carrying a backpack full of supplies.

"This is about as close as we can get to Isle Invidia from here," Jeb said, "but if you fly directly north you should be able to see it to the east in about a couple of hours."

We went over the plan one more time: fly until were within sighting distance of the island, swim the rest of the way, and then sneak into the west security tower and try to take it over without setting off an alarm. Once that was done, Angel would fly back and tell Jeb it was safe to proceed. When he arrived, we'd evacuate the island and then search for our missing boys. Our plan functioned on the assumption that flying bird kids were too small for the radar to pick up; after all, we were far smaller than the boats and aircraft that the island's security system was designed to track.

"Let's get going guys," I said, motioning for the others to follow me, "I don't want to get caught in this storm."

We started running down the beach, when Jeb called out, "Be careful!"

I turned around momentarily. "No kidding, Jeb." Then I turned again and kept running, jumping and spreading my wings just as my feet were about to touch the water's lapping edge. I felt my heart race and my wings take flight as I glided right above the choppy waves that grew bigger as I flew farther from shore. I looked ahead and saw Angel, Gazzy, and Nudge already gaining altitude a few yards ahead of me. I quickened my pace slightly to catch up with them.

We flew silently against the wind, which was quickly picking up pace as the storm worsened, keeping our internal compasses turned north and our eyes to the east, trying to spot the island out of the horizon. It was getting difficult to see in the distance as the clouds got thicker (we had to find a balance between altitude and visibility: when we were too high up in the clouds we couldn't see anything, but we didn't want to fly too low or we might fall in the security tower's line of vision), but we kept our eyes peeled for any sight of land. The wind was getting harsher, our bodies were getting damper in the cloudy mist, and we were all starting to feel a little strained.

Finally, we spotted the island out of the skyline. "There it is, Max!" Gazzy exclaimed.

"I see it!" It was still far away, but with my eagle eyes I could already pick out details of Isle Invidia's shore. The first thing that struck me was how grey it looked: grey buildings, grey sky, and a generally grey atmosphere. Also, there seemed to be a large grey wall encompassing the entire complex. A lovely tropic island this was not.

"Okay, guys," I told them, "we're going to fly in as close as we can, and then we're going to start swimming. Be ready for my orders." It would be more difficult for Gazzy and Nudge, who had yet to develop gills, but if Angel towed Gazzy around and I towed Nudge underwater to conserve their energy, we would be able to swim a long time without resurfacing for air.

We continued to fly towards the island, and soon we had gotten so close to Invidia's shore I felt as if I could practically see up the barrels of the security guards' guns. It was time to start swimming. I was just about to give the command when a faint sound caught my ear. I paused in mid-air and listened closely. It was a faint whooshing or whistling sound, and its source somewhere beyond the veil of clouds. It was getting quickly louder, and by the time I realized what it was it was almost too late to react. "Missiles! I shouted, closing my wings and barely plummeting out of the projectile's path in time.

I continued to freefall until I was just above the ocean surface. I shot out my wings at the last minute, and then I looked around to see were my Flock had gone. They were nowhere to be seen.

"Angel? Gazzy? Nudge!"I called out, catching a draft with my wings and using it to propel myself up and away from the island. I could hear the sound of missiles that were still coming towards me, and I struggled to figure out how many there were and where they were coming from. Each time I tried to steer away from the trajectory of each projectile it seemed to alter its course to follow me, making evasion extremely difficult. I was only missed by a few inches several times.

I dove back down towards the ocean and glided over the choppy waters, keeping only a few feet between me and the waves. I pulled a sharp u-turn in the air (or as close as I can get to a u-turn when flying), trying to throw the missiles off my trail with sudden movements. It seemed to work temporarily, but I could already hear more missiles flying towards me in the distance, and I knew the other rockets would be adjusting their course quickly. I was running out of manoeuvres to pull.

I was just about to take a sharp turn to a left, but before I could I felt something latch onto my leg. Before I had time to react, I was plucked out of the air dragged down below the surface of the water.

9. Attempt Failed

Of all the people I've quoted at the beginning of my chapters, I'm pretty sure this is the first one I actually know-the rest of them I just found their flashy words and browsed through their Wikipedia page to make sure they weren't cult leaders or Nazis. :P I figure there are two types of reading girls in the world: the artsy girls who read the literary classics and critically acclaimed masterpieces, and the fangirls who read everything else. I, fortunately, am a fangirl.


Attempt Failed

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." - Thomas Edison

As I was pulled down into the ocean I looked up through the surface saw the missiles zoom in the air above, confused as to where their target went. I breathed a watery sigh of relief, and then focussed on trying to free myself. I began kicking and thrashing, and soon I felt two of the appendages on my leg give out and release me, but there were still others hanging onto me. I kept trying to free myself and swim upwards, until the first thing that had been hanging onto my leg floated up into my line of sight and smiled at me.

"Angel?" I gargled in the water. I looked down and saw that the two other things latched onto my legs were Nudge and Gazzy, who waved at me and then let go, floating up to the depth where Angel and I were floating. We lingered below the surface, watching and waiting as the missiles continued to zoom above us like confused bees looking for a flower to land on. Finally, however, the missiles disappeared, probably having run out of fuel and now lost in the ocean.

After waiting a few more seconds to make sure that no more missiles were on their way, we all resurfaced and tried to figure out what had just happened. "I thought you said we'd be too small for them to detect!" Nudge exclaimed, trying to push her water-sopped hair out of her face. We were all struggling to stay afloat in the choppy waters.

I tried to shrug in response, but it's hard to shrug when you're treading water. "They must have been expecting us," I panted in response, "they knew we'd try to rescue the guys so they fine-tuned their radar equipment." Either that or they were paranoid enough to always have their radar that fine-tuned. You never knew with mad scientists.

"What now, Max?" Gazzy asked, eyeing the island warily.

I scrambled to find an answer. "We'll go back to Jeb," I decided, "and figure out what our next course of action is." The kids seemed to accept my answer, and so we slowly started swimming towards mainland. It was slow-going, but I didn't want to risk getting back into the air until we were a safe distance from the island.

When I thought we were far enough from Isle Invidia, I dug into the waterproof backpack Jeb gave me and pulled out a six inch by one foot cardboard box. Fumbling to open the box while staying afloat, I handed the backpack to Gazzy and told everyone to stay back. I finally got the box open and hit the button and then—FWOOSH—the emergency life raft was inflated.

"Everybody on!" I shouted, helping the others onboard. After sufficiently shaking the water out of my wings, I used some extra rope to tie the raft to my ankles and then took off from the raft (probably one of my least favourite take-offs ever) and towed the kids towards the shore. It was shaky, but the clouds were starting to clear and the wind had died down; at least I wouldn't be blind or wind-chilled on our journey back.

I towed the kids as fast as I could without causing them to fall of the raft, but it was still pretty late when we arrived back at the beach. We were exhausted; it was difficult swimming and flying for five or so hours, even for us. When we finally got back Jeb was still waiting offshore on the boat he had hired, looking extremely worried. "What happened?" He exclaimed, his brow creased with concern.

"They shot missiles at us," I explained as we landed on the boat deck. "It made flying kind of difficult."

Jeb cursed under his breath and muttered, "So they've finally upgraded their security after all these years. What excellent timing on their part."

I rolled my eyes and asked, "Now what, smart guy? Our plan clearly isn't going to cut it."

"Just hang on. I need to figure this out," Jeb stewed over the situation for a couple minutes, before finally admitting that he didn't know what to do. As if we needed to be told that.

After re-docking the hired boat and paying the captain for his troubles, Jeb took us back to the hotel where he was staying, which was right near the beach. It was a nice hotel, possibly even nicer than the one we had been staying in with Mom and Ella, but it had a very...secluded feeling about it, as if it was a kind of place where reclusive millionaires or international runaways would feel right at home. Of course, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing; after being shot at by missiles, remaining hidden was a bit of a comfort.

Later that evening, after Jeb had checked us in to a couple of rooms near his, I showered off and then tried to straighten out my hair a little before bed. I didn't have a brush—all hygiene-related items in my possession had been left back at the other hotel, and none of us were up to going back to grab anything—but I managed to tidy it up enough so that it didn't look like a rat's nest.

After that, I looked into the mirror and took a long, hard look at my tired face. Were fourteen-year-olds supposed to be on the verge of getting wrinkles? Of course, with all of the stresses we faced on a regular basis, it was amazing we didn't look twenty years older. One of the miracles of genetic engineering, I guess.

I absently traced over the dark circles under my eyes with my finger and sighed. Only a few hours of panic and I was already a mess. My mind wandered back to Fang and Iggy. What were they doing right now? Were they hurt? Were they even alive? I didn't want to think about what might have happened to them since they were taken. At least most mad scientists wanted to keep us in one piece so they could study our physical capabilities; these people, this "Doctor" Jeb told us about, wanted to rip out the boys' vital organs and transplant them into who-knows-who, and we didn't even know exactly when he wanted to do it. How can you aim for a deadline you don't even know about?

I was so lost in my own worried thoughts that I didn't even notice when someone snuck up behind me and grabbed me by the arm. I jerked away from the grip on my arm and spun around to see who it was.

"Max?" Angel drew back her hand and looked up at me with a wide-eyed expression on her face.

"Oh, Angel." I felt slightly embarrassed now. "Sorry, I guess I'm just tense." I wondered why she wasn't asleep in her bed.

"I couldn't fall asleep," she answered, reading my thoughts. "We left Celeste at the other hotel, and I'm worried about... you know..."

"Yeah, I know." I sat on the edge of my bed so that I was facing Nudge, who was so exhausted that she had fallen asleep without even changing out of her soggy clothes. Angel sat on my lap and buried her head in the crook of my neck.

"I'm scared Max," she whispered, clinging on tighter. "I miss Iggy and Fang." It was strange having to comfort Angel in my arms, even though I had done it so many times before. These last few weeks she had been so independent, always doing her own thing—she had turned seven. She had become so bold, but now she was temporarily set back from her courageous attitude and acted her age. I sort of missed these moments.

"I know you're scared, sweetie," I told her, "but we have to be strong for Fang and Iggy so we can help them."

"Okay, Max," Angel smiled a little, "but... could I maybe sleep with you tonight?"

"Sure." I turned out the lights, and then we both crawled into bed and snuggled up next to each other. I smiled; I had missed moments like these with Angel.

"'Night Max," Angel said.

"Goodnight," I replied, trying to settle down for the night. I needed all the rest I could get—we had to think of a new plan tomorrow.

10. I Dream of Max

*grumbles* Meanies... nobody wants to vote on my poll! *sobs* You all hate me!

...Sorry, I've been cooped up in the house too long. *yawns* And I got to bed late last night.

Before I get on to the chapter, I'd just like to give a shout-out to WinterSky101: Your review/commentary was hilarious! As I told you before, the zombies were a nice touch. ;)


I Dream of Max

"I have had dreams and I have had nightmares, but I have conquered my nightmares because of my dreams." - Jonas Salk

The next span of time—how long the span had been Fang wasn't sure—of Fang and Iggy's imprisonment involved waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. For hours on end Fang and Iggy would just lie there, like furniture in storage at a warehouse. The only difference was that furniture couldn't get cabin fever. Sometimes the small, dark room made Fang want to scream frantically, like a crazy person who'd finally snapped. Unfortunately, that strategy would only tip the Doctor off to his crumbling resolution.

The only thing worse than the waiting was the drugs. The Doctor was a sick expert with medications, it seemed: every so often the Doctor or one of his assistants would come in and inject them with something, and then within a few seconds they'd find themselves caught up in a haze of bizarre symptoms. The Doctor was playing a dangerous game, overlapping experiments (Fang suspected these weren't the scheduled experiments he'd seen on the chart) that involved strange drugs; if one of his funky medications went awry he could end up a couple of specimens short.

What was worse than the potential danger of the drugs, though, was the actual experience of being under their influence. The Doctor was an absolute genius and madman, Fang had figured out—he did very stupid, scary things, yet at the same time he always knew what he was doing—when it came to medications. He figured out that Fang found solace and protection in silence and awareness, so he administered a chemical that induced chattiness and drowsiness—Fang still couldn't remember all the stupid things he said to Iggy. Iggy was a bitter blind guy who coped by making wisecracks, so the Doctor gave him drugs that made him believe he was seeing objects they weren't really there, as well as drugs to induce a numbing depression. Sometimes he'd just anaesthetize them and undo their straps so they would just sit there, unbound but unable to move. The Doctor was using his influencing drugs to break down their defences and their hopes for escape, and it was working all too well.

As far as he could tell, Iggy had plenty of fight left in him, but despite his outer calmness, Fang was ready to succumb to the Doctor's psychological torture. That is, until he was administered the worst—and strangely, the best—medication yet. It had been that experience that kept him fighting on the inside, even though on the outside he had no chance of escape.

Fang and Iggy had been sitting in the dark talking quietly to each other when the lab assistant had walked through the door (even though Fang couldn't see the door, he knew the sound of the assistant's footsteps) holding two syringes. "New test," he declared, earning a groan from Iggy and an eye roll from Fang.

Turning his head to the right, Fang watched as the assistant walked over to Iggy and injected one of the syringes into him. "That feels bad..." Iggy slurred as the drug took effect, tossing his head back and forth gently across the table. He was out.

It took all of Fang's inner discipline not to squirm or whimper as the assistant injected the same stuff into his arm as he did Iggy's—imagine it, Fang on the verge of whimpering. It was awful watching something bad happen to someone, knowing the whole time that it was going to happen to you next. Still, Fang clenched his jaw tightly and put on a brave face as the assistant slid the needle into his arm, injected the fluid, and then quickly withdrew the syringe and left the room.

For the first few moments there was no reaction in Fang's body as the serum pumped through his body; a physical calm before the storm. However, before Fang even had time to draw a breath to brace himself, he felt a feverish burning begin to crawl up his veins into his brain, causing a sudden, heated explosion behind his eyes. His breathing grew ragged and his body shivered violently underneath his bindings as his pores dripped with sweat, trying to get rid of the poison inside. Fang's eyelids grew heavy as lead, and soon his eyes were weighed shut in a sweaty blur of disorientation and memories. No longer was the line between sleep and consciousness constant, but instead his mind fluttered in between the two.

A few moments later, Fang became vaguely aware of someone entering the room, hearing footsteps and a voice that were muffled as if he were listening to them from the bottom of a dark well. He was unable to open his eyes, but he could make out Iggy's fuzzy voice across the room as the new voice seemed to circle around his presence in a predatory manor. Fang desperately wanted to cross the room and save his friend, but his body remained strapped to the table, keeping his muddled awareness trapped within it. Finally, the voice seemed to abandon Iggy, apparently having gotten whatever it had wanted from him in his weakened state. The echoing voice and footsteps then seemed to grow louder and nearer, causing chills to run up Fang's spine. It was coming for him next.

"Fang," another voice suddenly called. Fang felt himself dragged out of the land of the awake and pulled down into a delirious—yet strangely calming—dream state, filled with warmth and a strong sense of longing and distance.

"Target B—Fang!" The Doctor's blurry voice spoke down to him, "how are you feeling?"

Before Fang could even reply he was snatched back into his dream world, where the new voice seemed to be getting stronger. "Fang," it repeated, as if beckoning him to itself.

Suddenly he recognized the voice. "Max?" Fang thought he could see her outline in the distance, hidden behind the swirling shadows. "Max!" he called out again, hoping she would make herself more clear to him. Sure enough, Max appeared out of the darkness, though her personage seemed to retain a dark form, as if she were a vague etching of herself.

"I've missed you," Shadow Max said, putting her hand to his face.

"I've missed you too," Fang whispered, reaching out to touch her back. Unfortunately, he faded back into his conscious delirium before he had the chance to.

"—hallucinations, apparently. Are you able to—" Fang fought hard to put the Doctor's voice back out of his head, to leave the confusion of his feverous body to return to his dreams. In a few second he had returned to the shadowy Max, who was now looking at him sadly.

Shadow Max frowned sadly. "Fang," she sighed, "what have they done to you?"

"I don't understand," he told her.

"They've almost broken you," she warned, "I can tell. They've worn you down and tried to take away your will to survive. You can't let them win, Fang, you have to promise to keep fighting."

"—when the serum was first injected—" Fang resurfaced in the real world for a moment before delving back down.

"You have to promise me that you'll stay strong until we come for you." She told Fang, taking both of his hands into hers.

"But I'm so tired," Fang heaved, as if the pain he was feeling in the real world right now was starting to leak back into his subconscience. He felt so broken at that moment that he felt ready to collapse in on himself.

Suddenly the wispy dream Max took him harshly by the shoulders and looked him straight in the eye. "You have to promise me, Fang," she commanded with an urgent expression, "promise me you'll keep fighting them."

"—outbursts indicating psychological weakening—" another brief cut in from the Doctor's observations.

"Promise me, Fang!" Shadow Max seemed to be fighting for a grip on Fang's mind as the effect of the drugs began to anticlimax and he started to return fully to the conscious world.

"I promise, I promise!" Fang shouted, not caring if anyone in the real world heard him. He started to panic as Shadow Max flickered in and out of his mind as he seemed to float back up into his body and settle back into his own skull, which still throbbed with an intense pain. He reached out to grab Max back again, but she slid through his fingers like mist. Quickly he had no hands to move at all, but was instead strapped back to his table in the medical room. "Max, please, don't leave!" he begged, his heart aching and his head threatening to burst.

"I can't—"

"—approximate amount of sweat lost—"

"Just keep the promise, be strong for both—"

"—run some blood tests—"

"We'll be together again, I promise." Then Shadow Max disappeared completely, her absence filled with the gaudy, cheery voice of the Doctor as he completed his examination.

"Ah, good, you've returned from your initial high," the Doctor exclaimed, scribbling down notes on what Fang guessed was a clipboard (his eyes were still drooped shut, so he couldn't be certain). "Don't worry," the Doctor went on, "the symptoms will go away when the nurse comes in with the antidote." Fang heard the Doctor walk towards the door and open it, stepping out into the hall. "I won't be seeing you again until the big experiment, boys," he told them, "but fear not! I shall be watching through the security cameras!" Then with a slam of the door he was gone.

After what seemed like an eternity, a nurse finally came with syringes filled with medication that stopped the intense headaches and profuse sweating. Although feeling very wet and clammy, Fang was extremely grateful that the ordeal was over.

As soon as the nurse was gone, Fang whispered in a low voice, "Iggy?"

"Yeah?" Iggy replied, also whispering in a voice quiet enough that no normal human could hear it.

"When they gave you the drug, did you... see anything?"

Iggy shook his head, "No, why?"

"No reason." Fang was silent for a moment. "Iggy?" he asked again.


"Just... promise me that no matter what they do to us, we'll keep on fighting them on the inside."

"Um, alright," Iggy said, a bit confused, "I promise."

Fang felt relieved. Not even a thousand drugs could take away his will to stand against the Doctor and his torture tricks—Fang was sure of that now. However, it would be a difficult task, keeping himself from succumbing when half of the time he couldn't even trust his own thoughts and emotions. We have to keep strong, Fang told himself. They had to remember that Max was coming, that she would save them from the torture if they just held out until she got here.

And, considering how badly they were doing already, Max couldn't come soon enough.

11. Rescuer's Block

"Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day! I've got a beautiful feeling, everything's going my way!"

….Yeah, I like to sing show tunes. So sue me. It's a nice day.

Well at this point I figure I have about thirty readers or so, but I want to give a shout out to my awesome reviewers of the day:

1917Farmgirl – Thanks for the thought, and the encouraging feedback. :)

(again) WinterSky101 – I'm not sure if you're mentally stable, but I love your reviews. :P


Rescuer's Block

If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll get what you have always gotten. - John C. Maxwell

There are only two words that can describe the next two days: rescuer's block. It's kind of like writer's block, but instead of your story dying, your friends die when you have it. It's not something you want to have when a couple of your closest friends are in grave danger.

We spent most of both of those days in Jeb's room at the kitchen counter, scribbling down ideas and then crossing them out after we had deduced that they would be grossly ineffective and/or detrimental to bodily health. "Are you sure we couldn't just fly higher than the radar?" I asked Jeb.

"I told you, their radar goes far higher than your coasting altitude," he reminded me, "Besides, they'd spot you dive-bombing towards them."

"Well we have to think of something!" I shoved the scribbled papers off of the countertop in frustration. Time was not working in our favour, and at this point I could begin feel a phantom scalpel of anxiety dig into my spine—a scalpel that could be wholly real for the boys right now. The sky was constantly monitored, it was practically impossible to get authorization to dock at the island, and Jeb told us that even though we hadn't been detected when we dove below the surface of the ocean, there were torpedoes that went off in the water if you got within a couple of miles of Isle Invidia—if we had gone any closer to the island, we would have been blown to bits.

"How do you even know all of this?" Gazzy asked, narrowing his eyes.

"I had a friend who worked in the security department," Jeb explained. "We swapped trade secrets, sometimes."

"Well this is just frustrating!" Nudge declared. "We should just blow them up with our own weapons! Like, Angel could brainwash them into firing on themselves, or Gazzy could just gas them off the island! That would be so much easier, don't you—" she stopped chattering when she saw us glaring. "Sorry," she mumbled.

"No place is impossible to penetrate," I declared, "the island has to have a weakness."

"I don't know, Max," Jeb sighed, "The radar goes higher than you can fly, lower than you can swim, and they're armed to the hilt with projectiles. And that's just getting onto the island. If they upgraded their sea defences, who knows what they've done to their land security!"

"But we have to try!" I shouted, "Fang and Iggy are in danger, and we're the only ones who can help them." I slumped back into my chair, rubbing my temples to try and make my headache go away. I had barely slept the last couple of nights.

"Couldn't we just call the coast guard, or something?" Gazzy suggested.

Jeb shook his head. "Technically, the island's not part of the USA, so it's beyond the government's jurisdiction—though I'm sure that they've bribed the authorities too, just in case. We'd be hard-pressed to get a response from them. Besides, short of a small army of sea craft, I doubt they'd be able to get past the missile defence."

"Perfect," I mumbled, "an independent island country full of well-armed evil geniuses."

Just then Angel spoke up, "Jeb? What happens to all the animals around the island? Do they get blown up?"

"No, the radar is programmed to ignore anything the size and speed of swimming wildlife—" Jeb froze for a moment, and then exclaimed, "Angel, you're a genius!"

"What?" We all exclaimed.

"If Max and I can swim like the dolphins, we can get past the radar!" Angel beamed. "We can hitch a ride from them, and they can pull us close enough to the island, and at the right speed, so that we won't get shot at."

"But how do you know the dolphins will help you?" Gazzy asked.

Angel smiled mischievously. "I have my ways."

Fanfiction Addict

Once I had a real life

But now that's not the case

Because I am a fangirl

Writing fanfics all my days

I feast on virtual cookies

And wait for good reviews

And when I am not posting

I might read the canon too!

12. The Final Moments

Ah, now we get down to the final moments of our beloved bird boys... *sheds a tear* Alas, it all goes downhill from here.

Anyways, switching topics for a brief moment: how are you guys liking the story? I mean, about forty of you are reading it, but I'm not sure why-or why not. I'd love some constructive feedback: What do you like about this story? Why don't you like about this story? Is there anything I could have done better? I suppose I should warn you that the story kicks up a notch pretty soon, I'd still like to know what you think of the first few chapters.

Now, back to our poor, doomed bird boys. :'( Unwind fans, I think you know what's in store for them, but don't spoil it for everyone else!


The Final Moments

"Fear is pain arising from the anticipation of evil." - Aristotle

After the Max hallucination, Fang and Iggy hadn't been given any other drugs, other than the ones they received when they were set free to be fed and given bathroom breaks. It was a welcome time of solace and sanity for Fang, but he couldn't help but shudder at what the Doctor said the last time—they wouldn't see him again until the big experiment, the experiment they had been brought here for in the first place. These drug experiments had just been sick jokes, a way to psyche them out and break down their mental and emotional defenses.

Fang thought about what Jeb had told them about the Isle Invidia medical complex—its main line of research was the advancement of organ transplant technology. What did that mean for him and Iggy? Would they be transplant recipients, or transplant donors? If they did end up as donors, would they put them out of their misery beforehand and store them in coolers, or would they put them on life support and harvest their organs one by one as they were needed? In the darkest parts of his mind, Fang could almost picture him and Iggy lying on sterile white bed sheets, hooked up to life support equipment and stitched up in various places where their organs should have been located beneath the skin; barely alive, but not missing enough of their organs to be dead. He darkly wondered which one of them would give out first, if that ended up being the case...

No. Fang quickly shook off the thoughts, reminding himself that he had to keep on believing that help would come. Max was going to save them, he was certain of it. Even if she found him lying on a surgical table, strapped down and ready for operating, she'd break in and liberate them just in the nick of time. He trusted her.

Finally the time came for the experiments to begin. It had been an average "day" up until that point, though it could have been either day or night. However, Fang found that he was feeling very apprehensive about what was going to happen next. He didn't know what would happen to him in surgery, since no one had actually told him, but he had the distinct feeling something bad was heading his and Iggy's way. A few minutes later, the feeling was magnified tenfold—Fang could now hear the sound of squeaky gurney wheels approaching in the hallway, accompanied by the footsteps about half a dozen medical staff as they came to collect their victim. It was time for the first procedure.

"Fang," Iggy whispered, sounding like a frightened child, "I'm scared."

"Me too," Fang muttered, trying his best to remain steadfast, "but Max will save us."

"I know, but..." Iggy trailed off, his voice filled with uncertainty.

"Iggy," Fang said firmly, "Max is coming. Never stop believing that."

"Okay," Iggy nodded, just as the Doctor came in with his assistants and nurses.

Flicking on the lights and rolling the gurney next to Iggy's bed, the Doctor started giving out orders. "Inject Target A and put him onto the gurney," he gazed down at Iggy with a strange expression that Fang could only describe as a scientific craving, "we have a tight schedule to keep and we want to get Target B to the operating theatre on time."

Fang glared at the Doctor when he looked at him with the same sick fascination as he had with Iggy. This man had absolutely no compassion; that much was plain to see. He and Iggy were nothing but precious experiments to him, specimens that were there for his experimentation and enjoyment. To him, they were there for him to taunt, to torment, to flip inside out and then sew back up just to see how their nervous systems reacted.

Fang knew that he'd rather die than live in that man's hands.

After Iggy had been subdued and carefully secured to the gurney, the Doctor and his medical entourage filed out of the room and closed the door, this time leaving the lights on. Fang looked around at the drab grey walls and sighed. If he remembered the schedule correctly, his surgery would go down an hour after Iggy's. With a sick feeling rising in his stomach, Fang had to wonder what they were going to do to Iggy in that operating theater. And what they were going to him.

"Max is coming," he muttered, trying to calm himself with those re-affirming words. At that moment Fang hated feeling so helpless; he should be the one breaking free of the facility and busting Iggy out of the operating room, taking down the Doctor and his medical minions with a flash of his wings and a few punches. But no, he was strapped to a stupid steel table while his brother was being sliced apart by scalpels, maybe only a few yards away!

You can't let them win Fang, he reminded himself of Shadow Max's words, you have to promise to keep fighting. I promised, he thought, but how can I keep fighting when they keep sabotaging my mind and body? Fang was left pondering his current predicament until the doctors came and wheeled him away for his operation.

13. Unwinding

Hmmm... this is Chapter 13. That's fitting, I think. Also, notice that this chapter contains a quote from Unwind by Neal Shusterman. As you remember, I'm sure, I mentioned that some parts of my story are tied into themes from that book. I think the mad sciences of both universes go well together.

Anyways, we won't be hearing anything from Iggy or Fang after this, so say your goodbyes.



"Unwinds didn't go out with a bang-they didn't even go out with a whimper. They went out with the silence of a candle flame pinched between two fingers." – Neal Shusterman (Unwind)

The Doctor sat in the lounge behind the operating theater, watching the surgical assistants prepare bustle about to the patient for the unwinding procedure. He smiled satisfactorily to himself; he loved watching this particular procedure being performed. It was his pet project, the pinnacle of his discoveries and research efforts: It was Operation Unwind.

Though a few basic trial procedures had been executed beforehand—mainly on failed employees who were unable to remember their place on Isle Invidia—this would be the first time the unwinding procedure would be practiced in its entirety. Sure, this procedure could have been performed on regular humans, but where was the beauty in that? These male hybrids had the perfect anatomy—both in their advantages and disadvantages—to serve as his guinea pigs. He wished he had more specimens like them; he simply had to obtain Itex's cloning secrets. He never ceased to be amazed by the fact that Itex's labs had created massive numbers of these human-avians in only a short span of a few months—he knew this because many of the deceased byproducts were currently in storage in the hospital's morgue.

Finally everything was ready, and one of the assistants walked over to the intercom device on the wall and pressed the button to speak. "We are ready to begin the unwinding process," he informed the Doctor, "The surgeons are on their way right now."

"Excellent." Flipping the switch on his remote, the Doctor turned on the speaker system so he could hear the entire procedure as it commenced. He listened as the nurse, who had volunteered to tend to the target's emotional needs during the unwinding process, finished explaining the process to the test subject. "…the Doctor requires that we keep you conscious during the procedure. Besides, you have the right to know what's happening to you."

The patient scowled. "What if I don't want to?"

"You will," one of the surgical assistants said as he wiped the patient's legs down with disinfectant, "all of the Doctor's patients do."

The Doctor grinned in an unholy fashion as the patient tried to remain calm so as not to give away any sign of fear. His eyes may have been blank and his face clenched in a way to reflect a false sense of bravery, but the subtle tensing and shifting of his muscles gave the Doctor the same amount of pleasure he would have had if the patient had started screaming and flailed his arms wildly (though the paralyzing anesthetic, of course, made flailing impossible). Aside from the amusement of the watching a patient's physical and emotional reaction to experiencing their fate up close, leaving the patient awake during procedures also allowed the Doctor to receive direct feedback regarding the surgical efficiency and impact on the specimen. More researchers should do things his way, he decided.

"We've just inserted catheters into your carotid artery and jugular vein," the nurse explained to the patient, "Right now your blood is being replaced with an oxygen-rich solution." The Doctor made note of the dual tubes running to and from the target, one of them running red and the other one containing a greed fluid the color of antifreeze. The target was already beginning to turn green as his blood was drained and replaced with the fluid, giving him an unearthly half-dead look about him.

"We send the real stuff straight to the blood bank," added the assistant at the target's feet, "you can bet, you'll be helping research that's saving lives!" The human-avian blood would be a welcome addition to the Doctor's supplies.

The nurse kept on talking before the patient had a chance to say anything else. "The oxygen solution also contains an anesthetic that deadens pain receptors," she told him, patting his hand, "You'll be fully conscious, but you won't feel a thing." The anesthetic also contained a tiny bit of one of the Doctor's other special something drugs—not enough to make the target loopy, but enough to get him to talk. These hybrids were usually tight-lipped around anyone other than their own kind, and the Doctor wanted to know as much about their thought process as possible. Something useful was bound to slip out eventually.

Already he could tell that the patient's courageous stance was starting to fade. It was subtle at first, but soon the target had loosened up so much that his facial expressions now reflected what he was really feeling: hatred, bitterness, terror, and the vaguest bit of determination. No doubt the determination would fade away quickly—though it was surprising that he still managed to maintain a ridiculous glint of hope even after he had been informed of the—ahem—nature of the procedure a few minutes earlier. These hybrids were not easy to break.

At that moment the Doctor realized he had been caught up in his own thoughts and had missed the arrival of the first team of surgeons, as well as the first words exchanged between them and their patient. "Oh well," he muttered, "I'll watch the recordings later." He settled back in his chair and watched with enjoyment as the surgeons lifted first scalpels from their tray and began slicing into the patient's invaluable flesh.

You know, it's kind of creepy, thinking about how characters like the Doctor crawl their way out of my brain into my stories. Also, I seem to have a thing for sociopathic scientists... I have an original story manuscript (still a work in progress) where the antagonist is a cold, psychopathic lady scientist who raises her experiment as her own daughter. I guess there's something interesting/scary about people who have power over your life without truly ever caring about you-especially scientists. Hopefully, such people will stay on the page and not crawl into real life any time soon.

14. Operation: Dolphin

Hello, my wonderful but still extremely quiet readers! Hope you don't hate me for that last chapter. ;)

WinterSky101: you are the loyalest, most awesomistical reviewer ever, but I'm worried that you were pushed over the edge by that last update. Consider getting counselling. :P I'm just kidding. But thanks; you were my only reviewer for the last chapter, and your comments make me smile. *huggles*

Anyways, I hope you guys enjoy this next part. Don't worry, nobody gets operated on in this one. *grins innocently*


Operation: Dolphin

"Oh, look at me, I'm a flippy little dolphin, let me flip for you." – Finding Nemo

As Angel and I were towed through the water by a couple of Hawaiian spinner dolphins (who said they were more than happy to help, according to Angel), I felt my anxiety growing as we approached the island's firing zone. This was it; we were either going to evade detection and take down the island's radar, or we were going to have an unpleasant meeting with the end of a speeding torpedo. We had put a loop at the end of two ropes and put them in the dolphins' mouths so they could tug us, and as we dragged behind on the end of the rope we seemed to be going the right speed. Still, one false move and we could be in very deep water, literally and figuratively.

They say we're close to the island, Max, Angel told me, a nervous but determined expression on her face.

I clenched my jaw and gripped my rope tighter, at the same time trying to make my body glide through the water as smoothly as possible. Look like a dolphin, I told myself, you're not an intruder. You're an innocent, care-free dolphin. Just then I heard giggling in my head. Max, Angel said, you have really funny thoughts sometimes. I rolled my eyes and tried not to look too embarrassed. I just needed to relax and let the dolphins do their jobs.

I could tell almost immediately when we had entered the waters of Isle Invidia's danger zone. It wasn't so much a change of scenery as it was a psychological discomfort that began to build up in the back of my mind. Maybe my internal birdie navigation still remembered that the last time we were here we were shot at. And, by the way she was clutching her rope and squeezing her eyes shut, I could tell that Angel sensed it too. We both glided silently behind our dolphins, not daring to move a muscle, as if the ocean would suddenly realize we were frauds and turn us over to the wrath of the island. The tension was thick enough to cut with an over-used cliché.

After what seemed like an eternity, the fuzzy shape of the island's base came into view; a vast, brown-grey stretch that blocked out the ocean. We were almost there! The dolphins sped up, probably on order from Angel, and we finally came within the safety ring of the shore. It's safe now, Max, Angel told me, we can let go. I slowly unwrapped my stiff fingers from the end of the rope and allowed myself to drift forward towards the island's side.

I lifted my head and stared up towards the surface, amazed by how tall the island seemed from down here. It was like standing at the bottom of a cliff and staring up at whatever sat on the top—in this case, the Invidia complex. And we weren't even that deep, relative to the height of the island's base. I wondered for a moment how long it would take to swim down to the very bottom of the base.

However, setting my curiosity aside for the time being, I motioned to Angel to start swimming upward.

15. Break In



"What is a stealth bomber? It's a bomber that doesn't show up on radar, and you can't see it." – Robin Williams

It was a painfully long swim to the surface of the ocean—not because I was short of breath, obviously, but because I was anxious to get on with our plan. I silently prepared myself for what was ahead, running over all of Jeb's tips and descriptions in my head. Slowly, the light beaming down from above the surface grew brighter. I scanned the side of the island's base as I floated upwards, until finally up the cliff I could see what I was looking for: a shear line across the base of the island where it changed from rock to solid concrete and kept going upwards. I had finally reached the wall surrounding the island.

Angel floated up next to me and told me, Keep swimming towards the surface until we find a drain, and then started swimming upwards. I felt a bit annoyed taking orders from her, but I decided the problem wasn't important enough to pursue right now, so reluctantly I obeyed and followed her towards the surface.

You see, the wall around Invidia doesn't directly touch the dry part of the island. Think of the island as a pillar with a cone-shaped top. The pillar is the long, deep base of volcanic rock that holds the island up, and the tip of the cone is the island itself. The rest of the cone, which is underwater, is the gradual slope from the beach down into the water, which suddenly drops off where the cone meets the pillar. Basically, the drop-off is where the wall is perched, surrounding about a quarter mile of shallow ocean around the island.

Now you may be wondering, "Max, how are you and Angel going to get through a wall of cement that is four feet thick and fifty yards tall?" Well Jeb, knowing everything there is to know about mad science complexes, told us that near the bottom of the wall there are several round drainage pipes built in to allow for water flow. These pipes are covered by solid metal grates to prevent animals from swimming through them. However, seeing as these grates had been sitting underwater unmaintained for decades, one of them was (hopefully) bound to be loose.

Angel and I swam parallel to the wall for a few seconds, until finally the three-foot diameter grates came into view above us. We positioned ourselves in front of the first grate, secured our fingers along its edge, and tried pulling on it to make it come off. Nothing happened. We swam over to the next one, and tried again. It still didn't budge. We kept swimming from grate to grate, pulling as hard as we could but coming to no avail. There were pipes every eight yards, so we had plenty of opportunities, but after seventeen grates it was starting to get disheartening.

As we swam over to the next grate, I flexed my aching fingers and sighed a bubbly sigh. I analyzed the grate, trying to find some sign that it would come loose or provide some hint that would help us break in. No matter how I looked at it, though, it still looked like a dirty, barnacle-covered mesh of bars. Still, I grasped onto the edge, and once Angel had grabbed her end we tried to remove it. One, two three! Angel counted, and together we tugged on it as hard as we could. No luck, and now my fingers were beginning to bleed because the barnacles were cutting into them. It was amazing the sharks didn't smell me out.

However, Angel wasn't quite ready to give up on this one. Trying her best to remove some of the sludge from around the edges, she told me, Let's try again! And on the count of three, we tried pulling. One, two, three! This time, however, I felt the grate budge a little.

"It's working!" I gargled in excitement. Try again!

Slowly but surely we inched the grate off of its mounting, our fingers battered and arms sore but our spirits full of determination. We used the wall as leverage, pushing against it with our feet every time we yanked at the grate. Millimeter by millimeter it moved, until finally the grate came off with a final jerk. It was heavier than we had expected, and Angel and I both lost our grip. Oh well, I thought, as I watched the grate sink down into the depths, nobody would miss it anyways.

Angel and I quickly slipped through the pipe and swam through to the other side; I was relieved that there wasn't another grate on the other end of the pipe. On the inside of the wall I noticed that the water was a lot shallower—it wasn't swimming pool depth or anything, but I could see the ocean floor again. However, even though there was a lot more sunlight in the water to light our way, it didn't feel any cheerier than the murky ocean outside. The clear water and the blank white bottom just seemed... dead. I couldn't see any life at all down there, in the bleached-out sand below. I hoped that it wasn't an indicator of what we would find on the island.

Angel and I swam straight towards the island, our internal compasses locked on target. We had to take out the security tower on the east side of the island, I reminded myself. We needed to get rid of the guards and then shut off the radar so Jeb's boat could approach undetected by the missile defence system, then we had to set off the explosives Gazzy gave us so that everyone would evacuate the island. Then, once we had opened the shipyard gate for Jeb's boat, he could get us into the main building with his old pass codes.

Finally we were close enough to land that I could (and Angel almost could) stand on the bottom of the ocean floor while keeping my head above water. However, we stayed below the surface as long as we could, so that if someone decided to take a seaside walk they wouldn't spot us and call security. Of course, who would want to take a walk on such an industrial-looking coastline? If the CSM ever saw this beach they would freak. Anyways, eventually Angel and I had to crawl up onto shore. We then snuck over to the large concrete tower that stood in the middle of the beach, standing like a giant guardian over the bay. We had now reached the west security tower.

Okay, Angel, I said, I'll go around first and open the door. If it doesn't open, we'll wait for the next person who comes out and—

Or we could just do this. Before I could do anything, Angel leapt up into the air and flew up towards the security tower's windows. As Angel smiled and waved at whoever was inside, I could only imagine the expression on the guards' faces as they tried to decide whether they were seeing things or should call security. Before they could make up their minds, however, Angel smashed through the glass with a swift kick and dove inside the tower. I heard a couple of panicked shouts, and then nothing.

"It's safe, Max!" Angel called down to me. Glancing around one last time, I flew up to the tower to see what kind of aftermath Angel had left behind. Sure enough, when I crawled through the window I found Angel standing over two unconscious men, holding a fire extinguisher. "Help me tie them up!" she told me.

I glared at Angel, and then at the phone that was sitting on the counter in front of the radar screen, off the hook. A second or two more and those guards could have called in a whole army of security goons. "We'll talk about this later," I warned, but Angel just shrugged and started tying the men up with some masking tape she had found in one of their desk drawers. After the men were safely stripped of all passkeys and weapons, they were stashed at the bottom of the stairs (which locked on both sides, apparently) where they couldn't open the door or hop up the stairs to attack us if they woke up.

Taking off my waterproof backpack and unzipping it, I leafed through the supplies and pulled out a small grey box with nothing but a button and an indicator light on the front of it. According to Jeb, it was a special device that would loop back on the security system and make the main computer believe that it was still receiving read-outs from the tower's radar. Jeb gave me the guide that came with the device (where does he get this stuff, Evil Geniuses R Us?) and I had studied it cover to cover, but my fingers still trembled slightly as I located the main wire connecting the computers to the mainframe and pulled open the compartment o n the back of the device, revealing a large cluster of wires and conductors. The device had several wire-sized holes on each end, so I just had to align the wires properly inside of the box and then put the cover back on. Once I pressed the button on the front of the device, the indicator light (which would be red at first) would turn on and the device would clamp down on the wire. Once the wire had been tapped into and the box was sending the false signals back to the computer, the indicator light would then turn green. It seemed simple, but I had to make sure everything was placed just right. If I fudged this and the computer received messed up signals, we were in big trouble.

"Okay," I muttered, getting down on my knees," let's see what this baby can do." I singled out the correct wires placed them in the device, lining them up with the track inside, consulting my instruction manual (which I think might have been written in half-Greek) periodically. Once all the wires were in place I tweaked a couple of wires and double-checked some settings before feeling marginally satisfied that I had done everything right. Still, there was a tiny bit of doubt gnawing away at my surety. What if I had mixed the wires up? What if Jeb hadn't loaded the data into the device properly? However, I pushed my doubts aside and clamped the back of the device back into place, trapping the wire inside.

"Here goes nothing," I muttered, pressing the button. The red indicator light flicked on, and there was a long pause. "C'mon…" I muttered, urging the light to turn green. But it the light stayed red.

It was still red…

Still red…


16. Gracie



"I love kids. I was a kid myself, once." – Tom Cruise

Green! Finally, the light on the box turned green! The device had worked!

"Yes!" I exclaimed, looking over at Angel with excitement and relief. I promptly shut down the tower's radar system, and then told Angel, "Let's get going!" We used the guards' passkeys to get out of the tower (being careful to step over their unconscious bodies) and then we snuck away from the shore and in amongst the buildings. We found ourselves wandering through a residential section of the island, which had houses lined along every street. They weren't fancy houses, but they were well-maintained and looked like they'd be a nice place to live. Apparently the Doctor took good care of his employees.

One thing that struck me, though, was how grey the entire neighborhood looked. All of the houses had the same pale blue aluminum siding, with faded shingles and ash-colored doors, and through the front windows you could see the grayish walls and the dreary interiors. The neighborhood was also really empty-looking, though I assumed that was because it was the middle of the afternoon. They must have all left for their little mad laboratories to go sew monkey limbs onto unsuspecting victims.

I frowned slightly as I examined the area from where I was standing. I had been hoping to place the explosives so they'd detonate at a highpoint like a hill or tall building or something. This neighborhood was flat. It was so flat, all you could see along the horizon of grey-shingled roofs was a single, grey building complex that jutted out from the center of the island. I could already guess what that was. However, I didn't want to risk another close flirt with laboratory security again, so I decided just to pick a house and plant the explosives. "Okay, Angel, clone house number one, two, or three?"

"Three!" she exclaimed, grinning evilly. She pointed to one of the houses across the street. We crossed the road casually, like two normal kids walking through a normal neighborhood. Then, after making sure nobody was watching us, we pulled ten small semi-spheres out of my backpack, as well as a large wad of something that was a lot like silly putty. "Remember," I told Angel, "Gazzy said to stick these to the foundation at equal increments—that means placing them an equal distance apart from each other. Meet me at the end of the block when we're ready to detonate."

Angel rolled her eyes. "I know, Max. Don't be so patronizing." She grabbed her supplies and then left.

Since when does she know what 'patronizing' means? I wondered, shaking my head. Sometimes I wondered if she really was only seven.

After we split up, I circled around to the other side of the house toting my half of the explosives. I surveyed the length of the house, roughly dividing the foundation into three sections—I was saving the other two semi-spheres for the shorter length of the perimeter—and then I began tacking them on with the putty. I went to the back of the house and attached the last two explosives, and then I walked around to Angel's side of the house.

"Almost done?" I asked, seeing that she was still crouching by the side of the house. She was looking through one of the basement windows.

"Max," Angel said, "There's a little girl in there."

"What?" I crouched down next to Angel and peeked inside. "I don't see anyone..."

"She's hiding behind the couch." As if on cue, the top of a blonde head with two little blue eyes popped up from behind the grey sofa. The eyes widened slightly, and then the head ducked back down behind the couch.

"I'll go grab her," I told Angel, running to the front of the house. Not surprisingly, it was locked, but a couple of hard kicks make the perfect key to any door. I ran into the house and began opening doors, looking for the basement stairs. Finally I found the stairway and I raced downstairs into the small living room area. I walked over to the sofa and peeked behind the seat. Sure enough, the little girl was there, sitting against the wall clutching a couple of Barbie dolls.

"Hey, sweetie," I said in a friendly voice, "we need to get you out of the house."

The little girl shook her head violently. "Mommy said not to leave the basement 'till she comes home."

"Yes, but your house isn't safe, and we need to get you out of here." I held my hand out to her with a comforting smile. "We can wait for your mommy outside."

The little girl crossed her arms stubbornly, less bashful than before. "I'm staying right here!" she wiggled in place to emphasize her point.

I was feeling a bit impatient, but I kept my cool. "Sweetie, please?" I asked, "You could get hurt. Your mommy doesn't want you to get hurt, does she?"

"No…" the little girl trailed off in thought, and then sighed, "Okay, I go with you. But I wanna take my bunny!" she dropped her dolls and ran through an open door across the room. A few seconds later, she ran back to me, this time toting a fuzzy brown stuffed rabbit.

I felt a pang of guilt as I looked into the room she had just left; it was her bedroom. The walls were princess pink, and it was full of stuffed animals and fluffy pillows. This was someone's home, possibly the only home this little girl had known.

"Is there anything else you need to grab?" I asked, a lump forming in my throat, "Any special pictures, or toys? We might not be able to come back for a while."

The little girl widened her eyes. "You mean we might not ever come back ever?"

"Probably not," I admitted.

The little girl paused and scrunched up her face, deep in thought. Then she suddenly darted up the stairs, leaving me to follow. When I climbed the stairs I discovered that she had grabbed a large cloth laundry bag and started zipping around the house, grabbing various toys and tokens. I was amazed at how fast she was going—it's like her legs were moving nonstop. Finally she decided she had grabbed a sufficient amount of stuff and ran up to me. "Okay, we can go now!" she exclaimed.

"Wanna know about all my stuff?" she piped. I bit my lip and nodded, and we walked out of the house together. "Well," she started, pulling something out of the bag, "this picture is the one I drew for Mommy last week! She said she like the purple and the blue, 'cause those are her absolute favorite colors ever! And these were my very first teeny-tiny baby shoes..." she kept on telling me about all the different things she was holding, sounding a lot like Nudge. However, I didn't cover this little girl's mouth; she was so open towards me, so unaware of what we were trying to do.

We went outside and walked over to Angel, who the little girl cowered away from a little. "She's the one who was staring at me through the window," she whispered.

I held the girl's hand tightly, "It's okay, sweetie, this is Angel. She's a friend." I could imagine Angel being creepy to a small child, though.

The little girl looked up at me, nodded slightly, and then said, "If you're an angel, how come you don't have one of those shiny headband things?" She curved her thumbs and index fingers together over her head to form a halo.

"Angel is my name," Angel smiled, "what's yours?"

"My name is Gracie," the little girl said, "and I'm almost four years old!" she held out four fingers for emphasis.

Max, Angel said in my head, maybe we should find a different house. I feel kind of bad about blowing Gracie's home up.

Me too, I replied, we probably don't even need to blow up a house. There's got to be a shed or public building around here somewhere. Now you're probably thinking: Maximum Ride, going soft? Hey, I came here to sabotage mad scientists' experiments, not destroy the homes of little girls.

I'll go grab the explosives, and then we'll put Gracie back in the house and keep searching. I was about to say something to Gracie when suddenly there was a loud explosion behind us that nearly blew my ear drums out.

...and then Gracie and Angel died, and Max had to live out the rest of her life with one eye missing and a chunk of concrete lodged in her shoulder, as well as an unfortunate facial tick that made her left eye twitch. The End.

Or not.

17. An Unpleasant Welcome

Yay! As of yesterday approximately fifty people are reading my story! ...I'm not sure if that's good or not. *shrugs* Anyways, I'd like to give a shout-out to my newest reviewer: StephanieZorander! \:D/ She was one of my top reviewers for my story Zanna Assassin: Kill Maximum Ride. Love your feedback, SZ!

Say, has anyone read My Name is Fang: Welcome to My Hell by AngelwiththeClippedWings or Max: The War Eagle by Heart of Diamond? If not, you should-those stories are amazing. *nods*


An Unpleasant Welcome

"Welcome death, quoth the rat, when the trap fell." – Thomas Fuller

Angel and I instinctively dropped to the ground, and I took Gracie down with me and sheltered her with my body. I braced myself as there was a wave of heat and air pressure hit us and we were covered in concrete dust. I heard a window of the neighboring house shatter, as well as the sound of rocks hitting the ground and the aluminum siding.

After a few seconds I lifted my head up and looked around. Everything was covered with grey powder—us included—and there was a large hole in the house's wall and foundation close to where one of the explosives had been set. Somehow it had detonated early.

I got up off the ground and consoled Gracie, who was crying loudly, while we tried to figure out what had just happened. "Maybe that one was defective," I thought aloud. It was strange... it just didn't seem like Iggy and Gazzy to have defective equipment, especially when mishandling that equipment could result in an unpleasant death.

Gracie continued to scream and cry hysterically. "I want my mommy!" she wailed loudly.

Then, to add to the noise and confusion, the island's evacuation alarms went off, filling the air with the panicked noise of alert. The klaxons rang loudly in my ears, their wailing echoing from every building, lamppost, and every other structure erected in the neighborhood. Gracie screamed louder, and I picked her up—and her bag of keepsakes—and motioned for Angel to follow me. "We have to find her mom!" I shouted.

"What about the rest of the explosives?" Angel asked.

"Leave them!" I didn't want to risk carrying possibly faulty equipment along with us.

The street was quickly filling with teems of anxious people, mainly a mix of mothers with young children. The sound of worried parental voices and scared crying was almost as loud as the alarms as Angel and I looked around for anyone who looked remotely like Gracie.

"I want my mommy!" Gracie repeated.

"Can you see your mommy anywhere?" I asked her, propping her up on my shoulders. "Tell me if you see her. Angel, start scanning the crowd for any panicked mothers looking for a little girl named Gracie." Angel nodded, and started scanning nearby minds as the crowd grew thicker. The street was now filling rapidly as a large group of children and teenagers walked quickly down the road, guided by several adults (teachers probably) who were shouting out orders and reminding them of various rules and safety procedures. I guessed that there was a school on the island that had just been evacuated.

"Max, over here!" Angel shouted, pulling me down the street against the flow of the crowd.

"Do you see her, Gracie?" I asked the little girl as we followed Angel.

"No…" Suddenly Gracie's face lit up. "Yes! I see her! Mommy's over there!" She pointed to a short blonde woman in her early thirties who was wading through the crowd and shouting for her daughter.

We forced our way through the crowd and caught Gracie's mom's attention. "Hey!" I shouted, "Is this your daughter?"

"Gracie!" the woman exclaimed.

"Mommy!" As soon as I took Gracie off my shoulders she ran over to her mom and clinged onto her tightly.

"Thank you so much," Gracie's mom said to us, relief in her eyes, "I had just stepped out to get groceries from the supply depot when—"

"Mommy! Look at the stuff I have from the house, see? There's my picture and your special photo books and my bunny…" Gracie started babbling again about all the stuff she had saved from the house. Gracie's mom smiled at me one last time, and then picked her daughter up and started walking again. I felt kind of sad as I watched them walk away, and I wondered what would happen to them now that the island's security had been breached. Did Gracie's dad work in the research complex? Had I just saved a whitecoat's little girl? Even if her parents were in on the Doctor's scheme, it seemed unfair that she should have to go through this.

"Max, let's go!" Angel shouted, pulling me through the crowd again. She led me to the door of an open house, and pulled me into the basement with her. "We can hide here until the island is cleared out," she explained. I couldn't help but notice that the room in this house that had been Gracie's bedroom in the other house was just a boring office (colored grey, of course). I wondered where Gracie's parents had gotten the pink paint in an island full of dull color schemes. The alarms blared loudly for what seemed like an eternity, making my ears ring and my brain burn. There were alarms installed inside the house, so the walls didn't even help to muffle the noise. All I could do was plug my ears and wait for the noise to cut out.

Finally the noise let up, and Angel and I were left alone in blissful silence. Removing my hands from my ears, I breathed a sigh of relief. "I thought it would never end!" I exclaimed with exasperation.

Angel nodded with agreement, and then stood up. "We should tell the others it's safe now," she told me.

I nodded. "You go back to where the ship is waiting; I'll go see if the shipyard entrance is still open." We split up and went to complete our separate tasks. As it turns out, the large panel in the wall surrounding the harbor had already been resealed, but once the others arrived in the ship Nudge was able to crack the code and reopen it. We docked at one of the many empty floating platforms—which had been lined with boats until the evacuation, I assumed—and then we headed toward the central tower of this sea-bound research fortress: the medical complex.

"So you're positive you'll still remember how to get around this building?" I asked Jeb. "If you don't, we can manage fine on our own." Though according to him, the building could be a labyrinth to the inexperienced explorer.

"I'm sure I remember," Jeb assured me, "Besides, you'll need me to help you get into the building. Nudge won't be able to feel out the code, and the doors lock down when you get the password wrong." I looked at Jeb, scowling slightly. He wasn't saying it out loud, but I knew what he was communicating. He was telling me, don't try to make me expendable, Max. You need me for this one. And, as much as I hated admitting it, he was right.

We approached the security booth that stood guard over the gate that blocked the way to the complex parking lot. The gate was sealed shut, but the door to the booth was left open. Jeb entered the booth and fiddled with some of the controls inside. "…Fail-safe… emergency switch…" he mumbled, pressing a couple of the buttons on the control panel. There was a loud beep, and the gate slid open.

"Let's go," he motioned, leading us towards the sliding glass front door. He pressed a few buttons on a keypad next to the door, and that too slid open, revealing yet another door. However, this one was big and metallic.

Gazzy eyes widened when he saw the door. "Can we blow any of these doors up?" he asked excitedly.

"No!" was the unanimous answer.

"This is the strongest, most secure door in the complex," Jeb told us, "There's just a few smaller doors with keypads after this." Jeb punched in the code, and slowly the door slid out of the way, opening into a nice-looking lobby area—colored grey, of course. I swear, this island had a perpetual color scheme.

I strode into the lobby, taking a good look around. I'd never imagined a place like an experimental surgery hospital to have a waiting room or a lobby. From here, it almost seemed like a normal hospital. Almost. There was a central front desk in the room, which was bare except for a computer and a telephone. Walking over to the desk, I sat myself in front of the computer and started looking at the different files. I noticed one marked Avian Welcome Sequence. That's strange, I thought, moving the cursor towards the file...

"Anything interesting?" I nearly jumped when Jeb suddenly spoke. I turned around to see that he was now standing next to me, reading over my shoulder. Angel was standing there too.

However, I quickly regained my composure. "This one file looks interesting," I muttered.

Angel looked at the title. "Do you think it's about Fang and Iggy?"

"I don't know," I responded, clicking the file. "But could you go back outside and tell Gazzy and Nudge to stop fooling around by the—" SHWOOM! There was a loud metallic sound that cut me off.

I jumped out of my seat and tried to see what was happening, but I couldn't, because all the lights had gone out. "Report!" I shouted, but before anyone could respond the computer screen, which was right in front of me, turned on. The screen was all white, except for three words in the middle of the screen:


Mwah-hah-hah, I love this part of the story! This is where it starts to get really freaky, folks. *grins evilly*

Oh, and virtual cookies to whoever can tell me what a klaxon is! \:D/

18. Trapped



"As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them." – Ecclesiastes 9:12

I stared at the screen, unable to react, not even sure of what was happening. The screen blinked, and new words began to roll across the screen.









I groaned/shrieked as the screen went black again. "That sick little…" I didn't finish my sentence. There just wasn't a word terrible enough to describe this psycho. "Report!" I shouted again.

"I'm here," Angel piped up, "But I think Gazzy and Nudge are on the other side of the door." As if on cue, there was shouting and banging on the metal door from the other side.

"Aw crap," I muttered, walking towards the door. My eyes were starting to adjust to the darkness, and I could make out the outline of the sealed door. That loud metallic sound I'd heard earlier was the sound of the door closing. "Jeb? Are you here?" I turned around and saw that he was still standing near the computer. "Go open the door for them."

Jeb nodded and walked towards the door, moving slowly because his eyes were still trying to adapt. Feeling the keypad carefully, he re-entered the code. Once he finished entering it, he paused, waiting for something to happen. Nothing did. "The keypad is dead," Jeb told me, "the emergency lock-down was triggered."

"So we're trapped?" Angel asked. Jeb nodded.

I rolled my eyes. "That's just great."


Nudge and the Gasman stopped banging on the door and looked at each other. "Now what?" Gazzy exclaimed, "We can't just leave them in there!"

Nudge nodded. "We need to find another way in!"

Gazzy's face scrunched up in thought as he tried to think of a way to rescue the others. Suddenly his face lit up, and he said, "Start circling the building, especially up near the top. Maybe we can find a weak spot to blast through."

"Do you have any explosives left?" Nudge asked.

"No," Gazzy admitted, "but you saw how many houses and buildings there are around here. There has to be something we can use!" The two of them exited out the first door and took off into the air, eager to find a way into the complex.

19. Starting the Search


Starting the Search

"Writing a novel is actually searching for victims. As I write I keep looking for casualties. The stories uncover the casualties." - John Irving

"What do we do now?" I asked Jeb, "Isn't there another way out?"

"Not that I know of."

I frowned. A gigantic building with only one door? Their fire drills must be terrible. "I guess we're going to have to look for the boys without Nudge and Gazzy," I concluded, "and then we need to find a way out."

"What about the Doctor's time limit?" Angel asked.

I thought about it for a moment. As much as I hated being told what to do, I didn't want to risk getting in over my head; at least, not until I knew what exactly I was dealing with. "We should get out of here as soon as possible," I told her, "time limit or no time limit."

I walked towards one of the doors at the other end of the room and tried to open it. It was locked, but Jeb immediately walked over and entered the code. The door beeped, and then I was able to open it. "Where do you think they'd keep them?" I asked Jeb.

"I have no idea," Jeb admitted. "Operation Unwind isn't confined to a single area of the hospital; as the Doctor's primary project, there will be a great deal of Unwind-designated rooms throughout the complex." He paused, and then spoke, "I can think of a few places they might be, though."


"Well, they could be in one of the operating theaters, if we caught them in mid-surgery. They might be in one of the examination rooms, or maybe in the recovery wing. Or..." he grimaced, "they might be in the morgue, in the basement."

Chills ran down my spine, and I silently pleaded that neither of them would be there. "We'll check the examination rooms first," I decided, going through the door. Angel and Jeb followed behind me, and we found ourselves in a huge hallway. I pulled out an extra jacket I had in my backpack and used it to keep the door open, just in case the Doctor tried to lock us in like he did with the other door.

The doors in this hallway were fairly low-security, each of them having only a key swipe box which I could easily 'unlock' with my foot. Jeb explained that this level of the complex was mainly offices. "The fourth floor was always the main 'storage' floor of the hospital, with locked walk-in refrigerators and examination rooms to keep supplies and experiments in." Ah, the metaphorical dog crates of the complex. "If Fang and Iggy haven't gone into surgery yet, they're probably going to be on that floor."

"Where are the stairs?" Jeb led us over to the elevator and motioned to the door next to it. "We shouldn't take the elevator," I told him. I wasn't taking any chances, after what the Doctor had done with the computer and the door.

However, when Jeb tried to turn the knob, he couldn't do it. "That's strange," Jeb muttered, "There's not a lock on this door." At least, not one that we could see. I tried breaking the door open, but it wouldn't budge.

I looked at the elevator doors suspiciously. As if on cue, the elevator dinged and the doors opened. It was like the Doctor was saying, Go on, Max, get in. You're doing things my way now. I looked at Jeb, and then I looked at the elevator. Then, I looked down at Angel. There was an eerie look on her face, a combination of annoyance, determination, and curiosity. "Let's go," she murmured, stepping into the elevator. Cautiously I stepped inside next to her, and Jeb followed after me. The doors slid shut, and I pressed the button for the fourth floor.

Almost immediately after the elevator started falling.

20. The Third Floor

Well, whaddaya know, I've seem to have hit my halfway point! *celebrates* Though I can't believe I quoted Wikipedia for this chapter… *sigh* But do you know how hard it is to find a quote on the number three?

Anyways, thank you to all the lovely people who have reviewed my story thus far—sorry, but if I keep mentioning all your names I'll have to charge you advertising fees. ;) But maybe I'll mention a few other names, if new reviewers post.

I have to say, the elevator scene (as well as the disembodied voice) in this story was influenced by the elevator in the Disney Haunted Mansion. Usually I hate that kind of thing, but that place is freaky cheesin' awesome. The Black Widow Bride was really neat. I only regret that I didn't see the hanging corpse in the rafters while I was in the elevator... :(

Now, let the fanfiction fun continue!


The Third Floor

"Luck, especially bad luck, is said to 'come in threes.'" – Wikipedia

I instantly went into emergency mode, looking for a way to slow our descent, to keep the elevator from hitting the bottom of the shaft full-force. Can you plummet to your death from the first floor?

I never got the chance to find out, because as quickly as the elevator had started falling it stopped, jolting us enough to knock us over. I realized foolishly that we could have only fallen a few feet or so. I breathed a sigh of relief, and muttered, "He's messing with our heads."

The elevator started rising, and slowly the numbers on the read-out crawled up. 1…2…3… Wait, why have we stopped at three? I cried inwardly, We wanted four! The elevator, however, didn't seem to understand that. It opened into the third floor, and I stepped out. If the Doctor was watching from some security room or satellite feed, I didn't want to risk staying in the elevator and going against his sick little plan. Angel and Jeb apparently felt the same.

"Oh dear…" Jeb sighed, shaking his head.

"What is it?" I asked.

"I'm not familiar with the third floor," Jeb told me, "it was mainly reserved for the Doctor's… special projects."

I raised my eyebrows. "More special than experimental transplant surgeries?"

"He also dabbled in chemistry—hallucinatory drugs, especially. Some of the drugs he created he sold to different countries, but many were so dangerous that Itex told him to keep them to himself. They didn't want him messing up their plans with a chemical war."

I looked down the hallway for any sign of direction, any numbers or arrows or labels. All I could see was a really long, blank hallway lined with solid metal doors. I looked down the hallway for any sign of direction, any numbers or arrows or labels. All I could see was a really long, blank hallway lined with solid metal doors. "We need to find the stairs," I decided.

"We should check the rooms," Angel insisted.

"I doubt the boys are here," Jeb told her, but Angel was unconvinced.

"I think I hear someone's thoughts," she told me, her eyes sharp with concentration. "We need to search." She took off down the hallway, head high as she tried to pinpoint the source of thought.

There were red lights flashing in my head. There was something wrong with this floor. "Angel, don't go into any of the rooms!" I shouted, "It's not safe!"

Angel stopped, looked back at me with her cute, creepy stare, and then opened the door that stood beside her. She smiled defiantly, and then stepped inside. She closed the door behind her before I could intervene.

"Angel!" I yelled, running up to the door and trying to open it, to kick it open. It wouldn't budge.

"Oh dear," a loud voice boomed in the hallway, "It seems you have encountered another problem." I looked around, but I couldn't see anyone except Jeb, who looked as bewildered as I felt.

"Ah, Jeb Batchelder and Maximum Ride," the voice said, "so wonderful to talk to you at last. It's been a long time, Dr. Batchelder. Maximum, how did you enjoy the early detonation on your explosives? I nearly caught you of guard there, didn't I?" I knew immediately that it was the Doctor who was speaking to us.

"What game are you playing?" Jeb demanded angrily. "They're just kids!"

"But they're not, Dr. Batchelder. They're a valuable scientific resource unlike any other. They could quite well be the most valuable commodity in the scientific and global community." Um, excuse me? The 'commodity' was standing right there.

The Doctor continued, "At least I'm giving you an opportunity—that way if I don't get my specimens I still get some entertainment out of this arrangement."

"Some deal," I muttered.

"You should be glad, Maximum," the Doctor told me, "that your guide is still alive. I've always functioned with the rule that all my employees were either loyal or dead, but Dr. Batchelder seems determined to defy that regulation." The Doctor chuckled, "But that may change very soon.

"The challenge is still presented to you, Maximum: Can you find your three missing friends and escape the building before sunrise? If not, you can be sure we will have plenty of time to get to know each other."

"Yeah?" I retorted, "Well I've only talked to you for a few seconds and I already know enough about you to know that you're a freak!" My reply was left unanswered, though. The Doctor's voice was gone.

"He must have been speaking through the intercom system," Jeb concluded, examining the corners of the roof for speakers.

"Let's just find an open door and start looking for Angel," I told him, "she couldn't have gone too far." I started twisting door knobs, trying for the life of me (or Angel) to find one that would open. Finally, I came across one that would open. I carefully opened the door to see what was inside…

21. Shattered Bottles


Shattered Bottles

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." – Anton Chekhov

…It was a broom closet.

I cussed loudly and glared at the Doctor's invisible presence. "Oh yeah, you think you're real funny, don't you?" I could almost see his sick face smirking at me—it was really creepy, having an evil being watching and manipulating everything that happened to me. It was as if there was a demon lurking in the shadows. It made me nervous.

I turned back to make an angry remark at Jeb, but he had vanished. "Jeb?" I asked, "Where are you?"

There was silence for a moment, and then, "I'm in here," he called. Apparently he had found an open door.

I walked in the direction of his voice, spotting an opened door up ahead. When I approached it, I saw that it was dark inside. "Jeb?" I called again. There was no response this time. I stepped into the room and looked around, but all I could see was a room full of bottle-lined shelves. There was something wrong here.

I tried to turn around and tried to leave, but the door suddenly shut. On its own. "Oh, so that's how you're going to play?" I shouted, "Pick us off one by one?"

"I'm simply adding to the challenge, Maximum," the Doctor chimed.

"Please," I said sarcastically, "call me Max if we're going to be chatting so much."

"We'll only interact as I see it necessary." I could hear the chuckle the Doctor had hidden behind those words; he hadn't changed his tone or mood, but on the inside I knew he was laughing like the mad scientist that he was.

"So what are you going to do to me?" I asked, "Force me to re-alphabetize all your bottles? Don't you pay someone to do that?"

"Your flippancy is pointless, Max," The Doctor sneered, "And I have something far worse than bottle labels in store for you."

"Like what?" Unfortunately, I got my answer in a far more tangible way. I looked at the bottles on the shelf, each one of them labeled and sealed. The liquid contents had started shaking in their containers. Before I could even react I could feel the vibrations too, and I wobbled as the shaking grew more and more violent.

"What do you want from me!" I shouted angrily. However, the only response I received was the noise of a thousand glass bottles hitting the floor and shattering in a huge chemical display.

Say, has anyone submitted an entry to AngelwiththeClippedWings' "Pull a Patterson" challenge? If you've read the story My Name is Fang: Welcome to My Hell, you should! The challenge is to write a scene where Fang teaches Victoria to fly (though many of you may already know that), and AwtCW is accepting entries via PM or separately posted one-shots. It doesn't take long to write a scene—you should give it a try! :D

22. The First Challenge

Hmmm… you know how sometimes, when you're stuck at a restaurant and waiting for your parents to stop gabbing, you grab a napkin and a pen and start doodling? Most girls would draw puppies, or kittens, or flowers, or cute little Chibi images (at least, that's what my sister does, and she's about as normal as my family gets), but not me. Nope, I draw weird stuff—and last time I drew things I labeled them. A few of the captions include:






I'm sure you can imagine what those pictures must look like. :P


The First Challenge

"Challenges make you discover things about yourself you never really knew." – Cicely Tyson

I woke up on the floor, lying in a puddle of cleaner-scented fluid. I stood up, wary of my surroundings. I vaguely remembered the room shaking and the bottles falling to the floor. Had there been an explosion?

I suddenly felt a sharp stinging coming from my hand and face, and I looked down at my hand to see what the problem was. I scowled; I had been cut by some of the pieces of glass on the floor. I hoped that whatever had been in those bottles wasn't potentially dangerous.

Is that all you got, Doctor? I thought silently, not daring to say it out loud. Slowly, I picked myself up off the floor and checked myself for any other damage. Other than the cuts, which appeared to be glass-free, I felt fine. I noticed that now there was a door at the other end of the room that that had swung open, and cautiously I left the room to see what I could find.

I stepped into a dreary hallway, painted grey and lined with doors. There weren't any lights turned on, but a four-by-five window in the wall right of me lit the hall. I didn't know there were any windows in this building, I thought to myself. I made note of it as a potential escape route.

I wasn't sure how to proceed next. Did I check to see if any of the doors were open, or should I go back down the hallway to see where it led? Finally I decided to check the first door from the window and move progressively down as I went. Clutching the first doorknob and turning it, I took a deep breath, pushed open the door, and stepped inside the room.

It was dark inside the room—really, really dark, with no light even shining through from under the door. I took a small step forward and felt my shoe touch cold, smooth concrete. Where was I?

Suddenly the lights snapped on and I was nearly blinded by the brightness. Once my eyes adjusted I could see that I was in a small, empty room that was made of four white walls. The walls also seemed to be the source of lighting for the room, because there wasn't a visible ceiling; there was just a big, empty darkness above me.

"Well there's nothing in here," I muttered, turning to leave. However, when I turned to face the door I found myself looking at another blank wall. Uh-oh, I thought, alarms going off in my head.

"Welcome to your first obstacle, Max," the Doctor's voice boomed, chilling me to the bone. "Sorry if it puts you in a bit of a...squeeze."

Then the room started getting smaller.

23. Claustrophobics Need Not Attempt


Claustrophobics Need Not Attempt

"You'd better not have claustrophobia or you'll have problems in there." – Joli Robinson

A strange room plus shrinking walls equals a small space, which equals Max's claustrophobia flaring up. I was not happy.

Immediately I tried opening my wings for a takeoff, but I had been too slow. The room wasn't big enough for me to take off now, and the tips of my wings were squished up against the walls. Folding them back up, I tried taking a running jump and grabbing the top of one of the walls—since there was no roof, there had to be a substantial ledge that I could grab onto. Unfortunately, it was just a little bit out of my reach.

The room had now shrunk so that it was eight feet by eight feet and quickly getting smaller. I struggled to keep my breathing under control as I tried to figure out what to do. There were no walls, the floor was concrete, and I had no way of going up. The room had now shrunken to five feet, and my nerves were going crazy. Desperately I tried banging on the walls, but the only moving these walls were going to do was in my direction. Still, I couldn't give up; Maximum Ride was not about to be killed by an overly-cramped room, which at that point was not much bigger than a chimney.

Wait a minute... chimney! My mind flashed back to the time Angel was three, and it was Christmastime. We were watching Christmas specials on TV, and I remember laughing about how on How The Grinch Stole Christmas the Grinch had inched himself up the chimneys by bracing himself against one side of the shaft and using his legs to propel himself upward.

The room was only three feet wide now, but I was about to use its size to my advantage. Pressing my back against the wall, I planted one foot firmly against the other side. Then, I slowly lifted my other foot up and pushed, sliding my back upwards against the side of the wall. I continued to do this over and over, the space getting smaller and smaller until I was almost in a vertical position. It's a good thing I'm so skinny, or else I never would have made it.

Finally I had freed myself from the squeeze of the room (if that was even the right word for it by then) from the waist up. Unfortunately, my legs were clamped into the shrinking space which was closing fast. I grasped the sides of the gap and tried to pull myself out, fighting against the clamp of the contracting sides. My hips finally pulled free and I lifted my legs out, wobbling off balance slightly as I struggled to clear my feet of the gap so they wouldn't be squished flat. Unfortunately, the walls had fused together completely to close the gap, leaving me with only a square foot of area to balance on top of.

I carefully stood up onto my feet and looked around. There was nothing in this place except for the glowing pillar which had once been a set of walls. There was no roof, no floor, and no walls, at least not as far as I could see. "I guess this is where wings come in handy," I muttered, jumping off the pillar and spreading my wings.

Except, my wings didn't spread.

Immediately I began to panic. I wasn't wearing my jacket, and there were slits in my shirt, but my wings wouldn't unfurl. They were frozen; paralyzed and securely folded against my back. It was the first time in my life that my wings had ever failed me like this. Unable to react and too scared to scream, all I could do was fall silently to my death.

Nooooo! Not Max too! *weeps*

…I know, I know, I'm weeping over an ordeal that I caused. Talk about crocodile tears. But what can I say; I can't pass up a chance to be a drama queen. :P The song 'Drama Queen' by Family Force 5 comes to mind (love them!), but I promise I'm not quite that bad! Though you might think so right now, after reading this chapter. *frowns*

24. What is Reality?

Hooray! Hooray! A three chapter day!

The plot keeps on twisting,

And readers shout, "YAY!"

Hello, everybody! :D I'm so happy today, I thought I'd start off with a little poetry! I'm happy for several reasons:

1. My family's having one big birthday party for all the people who have summer birthdays (which is, like, at least four people)

2. I found time to update today, even though I've been busy blowing up balloons this afternoon.

3. MY HAIR IS SO FLUFFY! XD I just washed my hair, and it's so poofy it's awesome..

4. I have the word 'tongs' stuck in my head. How awesome is that? :D

5. The story is about to move to the next step of freaky, folks.

Hope you enjoy these new chapters... and welcome to the mindbend.


What is Reality?

"Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?" – M.C. Escher

I jerked awake, breathless and disoriented. Where was I? A moment ago I had been falling through empty space, my wings about as useful as a couple of potato sacks. I lifted my head and looked around, frowning. I realized I was back in the room with the broken medicine bottles scattered all over the floor. I looked at the cuts on my hands, and saw they were arranged differently than they had been before. How is that possible? What had just happened?

I tried to go back through the door I had originally come through—it was locked. Then, I turned back to the other door, hoping that one of the other doors down that hallway would be less life-threatening. However, I was surprised to see that in the place of the door there was now just a blank wall with red letters scrawled across its surface: WHAT IS REALITY? Chills went down my spine, and I looked around nervously. Had the shrinking room been some sort of nightmare?

I looked down at my chemical-stained clothes, and then at the spot where I had been lying on the floor; I also examined my cuts closely for any fluids that weren't supposed to be in there. Jeb had said the Doctor experimented with hallucinatory drugs...was that what had been in those bottles? If so, I probably had gotten mild traces of the chemicals soaked into my bloodstream when the bottles cut my arms and face and I fell into the spillage. I did not like this situation.

Cleaning myself and my backpack up as best I could, I walked towards the door to see if I could kick it open. I glanced back at the other wall, and to my surprise the red words had changed: ARE YOU REALLY AWAKE? I shuddered, and began kicking and slamming the door as hard as I could. No luck there. I felt a strange tingling sensation go up my back, as if a thousand tiny fingers were prodding me—and I knew what they wanted. Reluctantly, I turned back to look at the wall.

YOU CAN'T TRUST YOUR EYES, MAX, the red letters scrawled. Then suddenly, the letters were just gone; I can't explain how, since they didn't fade or vanish exactly, but one minute they were there and the next they just weren't. In their place was the missing door, which swung open, beckoning me to go through it.

I hated playing the Doctor's games, but I knew that to refuse would mean to give up. I hated giving up more than I hated playing people's games. "Alright, Doc," I muttered, "we'll do it your way."

I stepped back into the hallway, the door closing behind me. I decided against entering one of the rooms this time—last time had almost ended very badly. Instead, I was going to figure out where exactly I was in the hospital. The words on the wall said I couldn't trust my eyes, but there had to be some indication of where I was.

I walked cautiously down the hall, examining everything carefully with my eyes. It was hard to see (there wasn't a window at the end of the hall this time, which made me hope that maybe this time I was really here) but the dying fluorescent bulbs above me flickered enough to provide a marginal amount of light. I could see a sign on the wall ahead of me, but I couldn't quite make out the words from where I was standing. I got a bit closer, and I saw that there were three arrows with words over top of them, the first pointing down the left hall, and the other two pointing to the right:

ROOMS 1058-1178

ROOMS 1059-1179


I decided to go right—an elevator meant potential escape. If I couldn't search this floor without risking death or hallucinations, maybe the next floor up would provide an opportunity to search for everyone. The fourth floor was the storage floor, a place the boys are likely to be, according to Jeb. I decided I should start there and work my way up.

As I approached the elevator door, I felt apprehension in the pit of my stomach. I still remembered what happened the last time I had gotten into an elevator in this place. Still, I pressed the button and stepped inside as soon as the door opened. My breathing sped up as the doors slid closed, and I closed my eyes in anticipation. I just hoped the elevator would go up this time.

25. Another Puzzle


Another Puzzle

"A good puzzle, it's a fair thing. Nobody is lying. It's very clear, and the problem depends just on you."Erno Rubik

To my relief, the elevator went up to the fourth floor this time—no plummeting involved. The doors slid open, and I stepped into the hall. It wasn't too different from the third floor, at least in regard to color schemes and door arrangement. It felt different, though; not in a tangible way, but more in the ambiance it gave off. This floor was creepy in a whole different way.

I had no idea where to begin now that I was on my desired floor—I didn't exactly keep schematics of all the latest evil lairs inside my backpack. So I just wandered around the halls, listening for anything that might endanger my life or turn out to be one of my missing comrades. After a while it became a bit of a weary habit, wandering aimlessly as I start trying door after door to see if there's an unlocked room. There wasn't.

It was who knows how long before I realized I was lost. After seemingly endless wandering, I had tried to go back to the elevator, only to find that I couldn't. It was strange; I hadn't made that many turns, and surely the hallway looped back eventually. But it didn't, or at least it didn't seem to. Even my natural sense of direction was fuddled.

"It seems you let yourself fall asleep again, Max," the Doctor's voice chimed, filling the halls.

My blood boiled. "How are you even here?"

"I have my ways," the Doctor chuckled, "my technological resources reach farther than even Mr. Batchelder knows."

"Where am I?" I asked. Maybe if he was feeling cocky, he'd give something away.

"Bodily, you're still standing in the elevator, on your way up to fifth floor," he explained, "In your mind, however, you are right here."

"And where is that?"

"That is what you must deduce. Where are you, and how will you get out?"

Man, I really wanted to clobber that guy. "Great, I'm trapped in one giant mental puzzle." I had always hated being confined in body, but being trapped in my head was a new level of intrusion and imprisonment—not even my mental stability was guaranteed anymore. It was like the red letters had said: I couldn't trust my eyes. However, I knew I couldn't just sit around and wait for someone to wake me up; I would not be kept hostage inside my own mind.

I tried to think things through carefully, searching for a flaw in the Doctor's labyrinth dream world. All the doors were locked and too solid to break down, and there was no elevator. On top of that, the roof was too low and the hall too narrow for wings (though at least my wings seemed to be working this time).

Wait a minute... Suddenly I got an idea. I looked back up at the roof, and realized that it wasn't solid—it was made of those flimsy foamy panels that you can easily push out of the way. I couldn't fly out of here, but I could still go up.

I raised myself onto my tiptoes and reached for the roof panel above me. I could just barely touch it. I jumped up and down a few times, bumping the panel until I pushed it far enough out of the way to leave a reasonable gap. So far, so good. Then, I backed up several yards to get a running start. I sprinted forward as fast as I could, taking a running leap at the edge of the gap. I felt the measly frame holding the panels up slowly bend as I hung from it, so I quickly struggled to pull myself up into the roof. It was tricky trying to distribute my weight over the frame without falling through a tile, but it held. Now what was I supposed to do?

Keep going up, the Voice suggested. I guess not even the Doctor could keep the Voice out of my head.

I looked around at the cramped dark space. How?

Just then I felt the frame beneath me vibrate, and I heard a low rumble. At first I thought that the roof was about to collapse beneath me, when I realized what was happening. The elevator! I don't know how, but the elevator was still there, even though I couldn't see it. Judging by the vibrations I was feeling, it wasn't too far away.

Carefully I began to crawl forward, checking every step before I took it. The rumbling came in regular intervals, every few minutes, as if someone was actually around to use it. It kept getting stronger and stronger, until finally there was a paneled wall right in front of me. The vibrations started again and I pressed my hands against the wall. Yup, the elevator shaft was definitely behind this panel.

Thinking back, I wonder if elevator shafts are actually built the way they were in my mind—I was able to kick that panel out with my foot, which makes me question the structure's overall stability. Still, I wasn't about to complain; solid walls were much harder to penetrate, and I had yet to develop laser vision.

I peered into the shaft, glancing up and down to spot out the elevator. Right now, it was several floors below me. "Alright Max," I told myself, "just wait until the elevator comes back up and then hop on." A few seconds later, the elevator began to rise again, and I braced myself. Closer...closer...jump! I fell about five feet, landing on my hands and feet. The elevator lurched under the sudden weight put upon it, and as I struggled to keep my balance I became aware of a dangerous-looking set of churning gears in the center of the elevator roof. I definitely wanted to avoid getting caught in those. Once I was certain I wasn't going to lose my balance, I looked up and saw how high we had risen already. I wondered which floor we were going to.

After a few more floors I was suspicious. Why weren't we stopping? I could see the top of the shaft now, and I was worried. I still remembered my near-squishing from last time. As the space continued to get smaller, I thought to myself, this guy really likes toying with my claustrophobia.

I immediately sprang into action; I grabbed the elevator cable and began climbing upwards, looking for some way out. The elevator moved too quickly for me to pry any of the level doors open, and I couldn't reach them from the cable. There wasn't even enough room between the elevator and the shaft side to jump down. That left one option, the suggestion the Voice gave me: keep going up.

I reached the top of the shaft, and just as I had been hoping there was an emergency escape hatch, which was about three feet wide and was held closed with a simple latch. Unfortunately, I couldn't get at it from where I was hanging—I would have to wait until the elevator caught up with me. Once it was close enough, I lowered myself down onto the elevator roof again, and I waited until I was at a height where I could reach the latch. The space got smaller and smaller as I struggled to open the emergency hatch—the latch was a bit stiff. I was down on my knees by the time I got the hatch open, and I struggled to position myself directly under the opening so that I could open it as I was pushed upwards.

Unfortunately, my pant leg got stuck in those pesky gears, leaving my leg twisted to the side and ready to be squished. I popped open the hatch and let my head and arms stick out, and then I braced myself and try to yank my pant leg out. It started tearing as I pulled, but my jeans were quite thick, so the going was slow. The elevator kept rising, and my leg was lifted up at an awkward angle which made it harder to pull. I was sticking out of the hatch from the thighs up now, and there was only a few inches of space left for my leg. Why were tight squeezes becoming a habit nowadays? My pant leg finally tore where it was caught, and I yanked my leg through the hatch. The space closed up, leaving me sitting in the indented square that was once the open hatch. Yet another close call.

Just then I looked up and realized where I was. I was on the roof! Quickly I stood up, surveying the horizon. My hair blew in the wind as I looked over all the different buildings and houses on the island, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Open spaces didn't get much bigger than this—it was a nice contrast from the cramped confines of the complex.

Suddenly I was tired of fighting, tired of running from the dangers around me. At that moment I felt pressed, as if something was pushing down on me. I had to let go, at that moment, I had to give up and give in some way—and I knew just how I would. I stepped up onto the edge of the roof and spread out my wings as wide as I could make them go. I smiled contentedly to myself, and then I jumped, happy to dive-bomb through the air without a care in the world.

26. I Found Him!


I Found Him!

"I once was lost, but now I'm found." – John Newton

Suddenly I jolted back into my conscious body, disoriented. Nothing feels stranger than when you dream that you're falling and then suddenly wake up and find yourself on solid ground. My legs wobbled, and I struggled to keep my balance. The elevator door opened, and I stumbled out onto the fifth floor—I was on the fifth floor, right?—trying to regain my orientation. I was so dazed that I nearly screamed when I tripped over something—or rather, someone.

"Angel!" I yelped, "Where were you?"

"I couldn't find anything downstairs, so I came up here," Angel told me, "this is the floor with all the operating rooms. Most of the doors are open."

"Find anything?" I asked.

Angel shook her head. "No, but I've just started. Let's go."

She was about to go through another door when suddenly I called, "Angel, wait!" She turned and looked at me. I continued, "This may sound stupid, but this is real, right?" I looked around suspiciously.

"What?" Angel's eyes widened as the memories of the past minutes—hours?—flashed through my head.

I nodded grimly to her in acknowledgment. "Angel, if I fall asleep or just stop moving, I need you to get into my mind and pull me out." I instructed her. Angel nodded, and together we started searching the different rooms for any signs of the boys.

We searched room after room for any trace of the guys and Jeb, but to no avail. In fact, most of the operating theaters looked unused. We did, however, find one room where the operating table was covered in a fluorescent green slime. "I wonder what they did in here," I murmured to myself. After unsuccessfully determining what the green slime was, we kept moving, until finally we were down to our last hallway.

"You check the right side, I'll check the left," I told Angel. We split up and began searching.

As I searched room to room, I wondered what time it was. I got my answer when I found a portable digital clock in one of the rooms; it was already seven-thirty! How had so much time gone by?

You got a bit lost in your thoughts, Max, the Voice replied. I rolled my eyes.

However, before I could make a witty comeback Angel called out, "Max! I found him!"

You probably already know this, but I'm smiling to myself, enjoying your suffering as you wait in anticipation for the next update.

27. The Dearly Divided

*sniffles* This is probably the saddest/freakiest chapter in my entire story. :'( Just in case you think that I'm some sort of literary genius or something after reading this (ha!), I'd like to mention that the bulk of this chapter is a parody of Chapter 61 in Unwind, which is widely regarded as the creepiest, most horrific, and possibly most awesome chapter of the entire book. Obviously, Fang wasn't the one unwound in that book, but the format and lots of the dialogue pays homage to Shusterman's work.

Oh, I'd also like to give a shout-out to MyDarkHeart, who's been reviewing for the last few updates but has not been mentioned until now. MDH may or may not kill me with Spongebob clones before this story is over.

And now we proceed with the next chapter.


The Dearly Divided

"I'd rather be partly great than entirely useless." – Neal Shusterman (Unwind)

"Max! I found him!"

Who had Angel found? Fang or Iggy? I raced down the hallway to where Angel's voice had come from, bursting through the door. When I saw who was lying on the table I was filled with a combination of joy and disappointment—it was Iggy! Immediately I felt guilty for being disappointed it wasn't Fang, but I pushed my competing feelings aside and rushed to his side. Iggy was lying on the stainless steel table, unmoving except for the steady rhythm of his rising and falling chest. There were thick cotton pads taped over his eyes and an IV in his wrist.

Gently I shook him, trying to wake him up. "Iggy," I called quietly. No response. I tried again, this time a little louder, "Iggy!"

"Let me try," Angel suggested, focussing intensely on Iggy's body. A few seconds later Iggy began to sweat and gasp violently, his head and shoulders shooting up of the table. "Who's there!" he yelled, hyperventilating.

"Iggy, you need to relax!" I told him, gently pressing him back down onto the table.

"Max," Iggy sighed in relief, his breathing slowing down profusely. "You came. Fang said you'd come."

"You know I'll always come, Iggy," I smiled for a moment, before getting serious again. "What happened to you?"

Iggy shuddered, his body still recovering from whatever had happened. "I think they took my eyes out for research," he confessed, "but they used anaesthetic, so I still can't feel much up there." Suddenly he broke down, sobbing, "but I heard everything. They set up speakers and left me in here even after they were finished, just so I'd have to listen to what was happening."

I looked over at Angel, who had grown pale and now looked like she was also on the verge of tears. I guess she wasn't about to tell me what happened. "Iggy," I asked, dreading the answer to my question, "what did you hear? And where is Fang?"

"Fang," Iggy choked, "Fang is gone."

Fang was fifteen minutes in.

Fang tried to not lose his cool as the medical staff bustled around him, preparing him for his final surgery before his death—his unwinding. Technically he wouldn't be dead, they had told him. Every inch of his body would still be alive.

But he wouldn't be.

As he lay there, held to the table by the firm but padded restraints and covered by nothing other than a discreetly placed towel, Fang wondered if he had ever felt this scared before in his life, this hopeless. Fang wasn't used to feeling hopeless; Max had told them that there was always a plan, even when she didn't know it herself. However, lying on the surgical table, bound and only minutes away from certain death, Max's promises seemed so far away. Still, Fang held onto the tiny shred of hope of Max arriving to save the day; if not for him, then for Iggy. There was no use in both of them sitting in the Doctor's storage rooms. Max would come.

Fang's thoughts were interrupted by the nurse tending to him blotting sweat from his forehead. "Relax, I'm here to help you through this." Her cheery voice and kind words made the unwinding sound like it wasn't permanent, wasn't going to take his life from him at age fourteen. He wondered how she could smile like that knowing what was going to happen to him.

Suddenly Fang felt something pierce the right side of his neck, and then pierce again on the left, and he felt his fingertips tingle and his mind grow slightly foggy. "What's that?" he asked the nurse.

"That," she replied, "is the only pain you'll be feeling today."

"You're putting me under?"

"Not at all," she said, "the Doctor requires that we keep you conscious during the procedure. Besides, you have the right to know what's happening to you."

Fang scowled. "What if I don't want to?"

"You will," one of the surgical assistants piped up as he scrubbed down Fang's exposed legs with disinfectant, "all of the Doctor's patients do."

Fang felt a new wave of anger and terror well up inside of him, but he wouldn't give the Doctor or his goons the privilege of letting them see the full extent of his emotions. Unfortunately, it seemed to be getting more and more difficult to keep himself bottled up as time was running out. He almost felt like he should shout something at the nurse, but he decided against it as the nurse kept continued to fill him in on what was happening.

"We've just inserted catheters into your carotid artery and jugular vein," she told him. "Right now your blood is being replaced with a synthetic oxygen-rich solution."

"We send the real stuff straight to the blood bank," the assistant at his feet added, "you can bet, you'll be helping research that's saving lives."

Too bad my life is ending in the process, Fang added silently.

"The oxygen solution also contains an anesthetic that deadens pain receptors." The nurse patted his hand. "You'll be fully conscious, but you won't feel a thing."

Already Fang could feel his limbs already numbing as the surgical assistants removed the restraints so they wouldn't get in the way during the surgery. Now that he was paralyzed, there was no use for them now.

Before Fang could stop himself he snarled, "I hate this. I hate you. I hate all of you." Inwardly he slapped himself. He could practically feel the Doctor laughing at his outburst and wearing that disgusting smile of his.

However, the nurse was un-phased by his outburst. "I understand," she told him, her face barely flinching. Fang wondered if she had done this before.

Twenty-eight minutes in.

Finally all the prep work for the surgery was done and the first team of surgeons filed into the room. Fang narrowed his eyes at the group of surgeons in yellow scrubs, and wondered for a moment if he could convince them to work on him from the head down, to put him out of his misery. He knew the Doctor wouldn't let them, though, so he let the idea pass and tried to be brave as the surgeons began their work.

"Don't mind them," the nurse told him, holding his hand, "Talk to me."

Fang's lips felt deadened as he articulated his words, as if he were operating a puppet. He knew that they were moving, but he didn't feel the movement directly. "What do we talk about?" he asked.

"Anything you want."

Suddenly someone dropped an instrument at the other end of the table, causing it to fall to the floor with a clatter. Fang flinched, and the nurse held his hand tighter.

"You may feel a tugging sensation near your ankles," one of the surgeons told Fang. "It's nothing to worry about."

So this is it, I'm going to be surgically disassembled from the feet up; I'm going to be unwound. Fang tried to think of a curse word that was vile enough to hurl at the Doctor, wherever he was watching from, but he couldn't think of one that was quite bad enough to describe what was happening.

Forty-five minutes in.

It seemed like Fang was swarmed with surgeons constantly, all of them staring intensely at some part of his lower body. Even at the School, Fang couldn't remember ever having so many people focused on him at one time. He was morbidly tempted to look down and see what exactly they were focused on, but fortunately the nurse kept his focus off of the surgery by talking with him.

Fang was almost surprised by how much she knew about his life—they kept very accurate files about him. And, though it frustrated him to know that the nurse was very much a willing participant in this procedure, it was nice to have someone to talk to. Even Fang needed someone to talk to in his final hours.

"It's horrible what they did to all of you at the School," she sympathized.

Fang tried to shrug, but was unable to. "The wings were good."

"Scalpel," a surgeon called to one of his associates. Fang shuddered.

The nurse glared at the surgeon and then said to Fang, "You must really like having wings,"

"Except when they get me unwound."

"I know this isn't easy for you."

"All right," the surgeon declared, "clamp it off."

An hour and fifteen minutes.

The first surgeons cleared out for the next shift of doctors, who began to take an intense interest in his abdominal region. Fang tried to glance at his toes, but he couldn't see them. Instead, he sees a surgical assistant wiping off the lower half of the table. Fang took a quick, ragged breath; his time was growing shorter.

"Max is trying to save us right now," Fang blurted to the nurse, as if it was the most important thing in the world.

"That doesn't matter now," she told him, smiling sadly.

"She's too late for me, but she's coming to save Iggy, I know it. She's the unstoppable Maximum Ride." Now Fang knew for certain that they had given him drugs. He sounded like an idiot.

"Just let it go." Earlier the nurse would have squeezed his numb hand to comfort him. She couldn't do that anymore.

"Strong abdominal muscles," commented one of the doctors. "And look, I think you can see some of the muscles that attach to the wings…"

There was a loud clang of metal as the lower half of the surgical table was unhooked and pulled away. It reminded Fang of the noise that the cage doors at the School made when they were slammed shut. He could still remember the startled look the younger kids would get when they heard that noise, a wild-eyed terror that flashed across their faces in that brief moment.

At that moment Fang began to feel discomfort in his gut. Discomfort, a tickling sensation, but no pain. The surgeons lifted things away, and in a moment of curiosity Fang stole a look at what they are doing. There was no blood, just the oxygen rich solution the nurse told him about. It was green, a slimy fluorescent green. Even though Fang could hardly feel anything, he knew that he was quivering—he could see his muscles shaking.

"I'm scared," Fang whispered, beyond the point of composure and dignity.

"I know," the nurse said.

"I want you all to go to—" Fang cut himself off. "No, that's too good for you. I this happen to you just so you know what it feels like. That's a lot worse."

"That's natural." The nurse is still un-phased by his harsh words.

The surgeons cleared out and a new group came into the operating theater, taking an intense interest in his chest.

An hour forty-five.

"I'm afraid we need to stop talking now," the nurse told him.

"Don't go away." Fang immediately took back all the bad stuff he said about her in his head. She couldn't abandon him now, or there would be no one left to talk to, no one who at least pretended to treat him humanly. He wasn't ready to be abandoned.

"I'll be here," the nurse said, "but we won't be able to talk anymore."

The horror of her words caused Fang to reel with fear on the inside, threatening to make him scream or black out. However, the fear was quickly replaced by anger. He almost wanted to be abandoned now. Almost.

"You'll feel a tingling in your chest," one of the surgeons informed, "It's nothing to worry about."

Two hours, five minutes.

"Blink twice if you can hear me," the nurse tells him.

Blink, blink.

"You're being very brave."

Fang was now regretting all those times he could have talked and didn't. All the times he could have made wisecracks at Iggy, or read stories to Angel, or confided in Max about his feelings.

He hadn't talked to Max nearly enough.

It was intimidating that he had been reduced enough in size for the surgeons to gather around him, their yellow scrubs like flower pedals, as if Fang was lying in the middle of a flower. A flower of death. He heard the noise of another section of the table being taken away, and the surgeons moved in even closer. His claustrophobia was kicking in worse than before, but he had no fists left to clench and few muscles to tense. All he could do was clench his jaw and endure the silent terror.

Two hours, twenty minutes.

"You'll feel a tingling in your jaw," one of the surgeons told him, "it's nothing to worry about."

"Blink twice if you can hear me," the nurse added.

Blink, blink.


Fang locked his eyes on the nurse, and saw that her eyes were still smiling. They always smiled. Someone had made her with eternally smiling eyes. It reminded him a little of someone else he knew, except that she would never do something like this.

"I'm afraid you're going to have to stop blinking now," the nurse informed him. Fang tried to clench his jaw again, but there was nothing left to clench.

"Where's the clock?" one of the surgeons asked.

"Two hours, thirty-three minutes."

"Wow, at this rate we'll be almost an hour early."

Fang found himself in a place that wasn't quite darkness; it was just an absence of light. This must be what Iggy feels like every day. He could hear everything around him, but he could no longer communicate. Another team had just entered the room.

"I'm still here," the nurse insisted, but soon after she fell silent and walked away, her footsteps echoing in Fang's ears. The drugs they had given Fang to make him feel emotional and chatty had greatly worn off, but he couldn't help but feel a tinge of pain at the desertion. Of course, there probably wasn't much left of him to talk to anyways.

"You'll a feel a tingling in your scalp," a surgeon told Fang, "It's nothing to worry about." Nothing was ever something to worry about. After that the doctors acted as if Fang wasn't even there anymore.

"Did you hear about the security breach a couple of days ago?"

"They say the targets just disappeared out of thin air."

"Splitting the corpus callosum."

"Nice technique."

"Well, it's not brain surgery." All of the surgeons laughed loudly.

Memories tweaked and sparked in Fang's mind. Faces. Dreamlike pulses of light deep in his mind. Feelings. Things he hadn't thought about in years. The memories bloomed, then they were gone. When Fang was ten, Jeb took the Flock to the store to pick out their own clothes. There were all sorts of crazy, colorful choices of t-shirts, but Fang opted for black. Black, the color of darkness and solitude, the opposite of the white coats the School staff always wore. Plain, safe black.

"I wonder if it was those other bird kids we're supposed to be on the lookout for."

"I doubt they'd be stupid enough to try and break into this place."

"Starting on the left cerebral cortex."

Another memory was tweaked. When I was eleven, I decided that Max was my best friend. Everyone had best friends on TV, and Max and I always had fun together. It seemed like all the boy and girl best friends kept falling in love on TV, but I knew that would never happen to us.

"I mean, this place is impenetrable. Remember what they did to those boaters who floated out here by accident?"

"But what could have triggered the alarm?"

"Left temporal lobe."

When I was little, I use to shout and scream at the people in the white coats. They got really mad and hit me. They had scary wolf men who said they could 'erase' us off the face of the earth. Better to be quiet and stay alive than make noise and die.

"Maybe it was a really big bird or something."

"A big bird that can dodge missiles?"

"Did we get the auditory nerves?"

"Not yet. Getting them right n—"

I'm in a cage. I'm crying. The kids next to me are crying too. Nobody's coming to get us. We're huddled together in the corner wailing. We're scared. Really scared.

Left frontal lobe.

I…I…I don't feel so good.

Left octopial lobe.

I…I…I don't remember where…

Left parietal lobe.

I…I…I can't remember my name, but….

Right temporal.

…Max is coming.

Right frontal.

Max is…

Right parietal.










I sniffled, trying to hold back tears. "Th—thanks for telling me that, Iggy," I mumbled, "that must have been hard."

Iggy nodded, probably blinking back tears beneath the cotton pads. "They should have taken me instead," his voice cracked, "why couldn't they have taken me instead?" He broke down crying.

"It's not your fault, Iggy," I told him, choking back my emotions best I could, "you couldn't have done anything." But I could have done something, I realized. If I had gotten here just a few hours earlier, I might have stopped them from unwinding Fang. It was my fault Fang was dead.

Even though my entire life had always depended on not showing weakness, on being strong enough for everyone else to lean on, I couldn't stop myself from crying. I had to cry, or else my feelings would have built up inside of me until my heart burst. I sobbed loudly, accompanied by Iggy's broken crying and Angel's wailing. I felt like I was dying on the inside, knowing that Fang was dead and knowing that my Flock members were hurting as much as I was.

I knew that, no matter what happened to me after this, this would always be the worst day of my entire life; it was the day the once indestructible Maximum Ride learned what it felt like to be truly heartbroken.

Don't hate me! *hides in reviewer-proof shelter* Now, I know I just killed Maximum Ride's most beloved bird boy, but let's be rational here! *activates tomato-proof shields* If you kill me now-*dodges angry weasel projectiles*-you'll never find out what happens to Max and the others! Also-*puts up flood walls to block flood of tears*-I really don't want to die young! *angry mob starts pounding on the walls* DON'T KILL ME, PLEASE!

28. Not Your Fault

Okay, now that that part of the story is over with *whew* I thought I'd make a few apologies: Sorry for killing Fang. Sorry for giving some of you nightmares. Sorry that this next chapter is so short. Sorry that the Spongebob clones that certain individuals sent after me are no longer with us. Just... sorry. :P But don't worry, I changed my story summary a few minutes ago so that it has an appropriate label on it, and now that the worst is over we can move on from here.

So... here's the next chapter. I'm considering posting another chapter or two later, but we'll see.


Not Your Fault

You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one's own self. – Maya Angelou

By the time I had stopped crying I felt like my soul had been emptied out through my eyes and had formed a stain on Iggy's shirt—I literally left a wet spot on Iggy's left shoulder. I felt angry with myself for feeling this way, for showing so much weakness, but at the same time it felt good to let everything out. It was almost a relief, not always trying to stay on top, knowing what it was like to be weak. It was a guilty relief to fail.

"I don't even want to leave anymore," I sniffled, slumping against the wall. "Let them dissect us and pin us open and put us in glass display cases." I was almost getting used to the feeling of defeat. And after all, I couldn't save Fang; why should I survive when he didn't?

Angel and Iggy stopped sniffling and looked at me (well, Iggy didn't, but you know what I mean), almost stunned at what I just said. Iggy raised his eyebrows, lifting them out of their place beneath the cotton pads on his face. "Who are you, and what did you do with Maximum Ride?" When I didn't say anything, he went on, "Okay, Fang's dead! You were too late! Feel bad, cry a while. But it wasn't your fault."

"Yes it was!" I shouted, "I should have gotten here sooner! If I had been here a few hours earlier, Fang wouldn't be sitting in a cooler somewhere divided into separate containers like some freakin' leftover casserole!"

"And if you had gotten here earlier I might still have eyeballs in my sockets!" Iggy sighed, "Max, the only person who thinks the surgery was your fault is you. Do you think Fang would want you to surrender because of him?"

"No..." I mumbled.

"Then stop feeling sorry for yourself and go after the person who's really responsible!" I knew that if he still had eyes behind those thick cotton pads, they would somehow be staring directly into mine right now, begging me to keep going on for the Flock. For Fang.

I was silent for a moment. "You think I should go after the Doctor?"

"He's not God, Max," Iggy told me, "and he's just another one of those dumb scientists who underestimate you."

"But I don't even know if he's still on the island," I told him, "he's just sitting somewhere in his little security booth pressing buttons and giving me hallucinations."

"Hallucinations?" Iggy asked.

"Max?" Angel cut in.

"Hang on," I told her, "I fell in a puddle of chemicals and cut myself on some glass. A couple of times I dozed off and went into these weird trances—"

''—Max!" Angel cut in again.

"Hang on a sec, Angel!" I told her. "And I can't get out unless I figure out how to escape. It's like a creepy Twilight Zone-type puzzle—"

"MAX!" Angel shouted.

"What?" I finally asked.

"I can feel someone upstairs!"

I stopped and looked at her. "What do you mean, you can feel someone upstairs?"

"I can hear someone thinking," she told me.

"Who is it? Is it Jeb?" I asked.

She shook her head. "I don't think so. I still can't read him. Besides, this roof is really thick, so I can't tell what they're thinking about."

"Well Max, are you going to sit here feeling guilty, or are you going to help me up off this table so we can look for that stupid Doctor?" Iggy curled up the corners up his mouth, forming a slight smile. "I'm still feeling a bit stiff." He explained.

I smiled, and stood up. "You sound so old, Iggy," I joked, "did the surgical table throw your back out too?" Iggy and Angel grinned. I told Angel to keep close tabs on where those thoughts were coming from. "We're not leaving this place until the Doctor pays for what he did," I snarled, "in full."

29. Deja Vu

RIP to all the 135,856 Spongebob clones that died by my hands, you will all be missed by MyDarkHeart. *sigh* The things a girl will do to please her reviewers.

Anyways, it's probably late for most of you, but I decided to post another chapter tonight. Whether you read it today or tomorrow, you'll end up having a day with an extra chapter. You're welcome! :D


Déjà Vu

"It is, after all, the responsibility of the expert to operate the familiar and that of the leader to transcend it." – Henry Kissinger

I gave Iggy the set of clothes we had brought for him, and once he was changed and stable on his feet we got into the elevator and went up to the next floor. It turned out to be a floor full of walk-in refrigerators—there were all sorts of medical supplies and transplant organs in white plastic containers. How did I know what were in them? I was stupid enough to peek. You haven't seen gross until you've seen a liver that's been put on ice. Angel, who had lost track of the thought patterns, was searching keenly for the person thinking the thoughts she had picked up on earlier.

We went down the halls checking the fridges, looking for anything of interest, before Iggy got tired and had to sit down for a moment. I got worried when I saw how pale and exhausted he looked. "Were they feeding you at all?" I asked him, sitting next to him on the floor.

Iggy nodded. "I think so, I'm just tired...the drugs are still in my system, I think. My eyes sockets are still numb..."

I momentarily imagined what Iggy would look like now that he had empty eye sockets, but when I did Angel shot me a disgusted look. Sorry, I apologized. I made a mental note to take Iggy sunglasses shopping as soon as we were out of here. That is, if we ever did get out of here.

"Are you ready to go again, Iggy?" I looked over and saw that Iggy had slumped over onto my shoulder, either fainted or just too exhausted to stay awake.

"Should I wake him up again, Max?" Angel asked.

I shook my head. "He's been through a lot. Just let him sleep for a while."

We checked a few more of the refrigerators, but there wasn't anything especially interesting (other than the stored organs, of course) inside of them. After a while I got bored with this and decided we were wasting time going through all these fridges when we should be locating whoever Angel had overheard.

"Angel," I started, "Whoever you heard might be moving around. We shouldn't take the time to look through these rooms when we..." I trailed off when I realized Angel wasn't paying attention. She was staring down the hallway with a puzzled look on her face.

"Angel?" I asked.

"I can hear the thoughts," Angel informed me, "but they sound funny."

I cocked my eyebrow. "What do you mean, they sound funny?"

"The brain signals are really loud, but I can't make out any complete thoughts. The words and emotions aren't connected."

"Huh?" I didn't understand.

"The thoughts sound funny," she repeated. Suddenly she took off down the hallway, presumably in the direction of the thoughts.

I started to follow after her, only to stop and remember that Iggy was still slumped over on the floor. I looked back at him and sighed, "Come on, sleepyhead." I grabbed him by the arms and began dragging him across the slippery floor. Iggy snored on in unconscious bliss.

Unfortunately, I was so focussed on dragging Iggy around that I didn't notice where I wound up. When I finally looked up from the floor, I was nearly blinded by the sudden whiteness. I shut my eyes tightly, and then slowly opened them so I could adjust to the light. I looked around with squinted eyes, assessing my current predicament. We were in a big white room, which was empty except for a big window that stretched across one of the walls. It was behind that window that I finally saw my adversary.

"Ah, Max, Target A," the Doctor greeted us through the intercom with a chilling smile, "so nice of you to come."

I turned and saw that Iggy was now standing next to me, fully awake and extremely agitated. "Where are we?" He demanded.

"Oh, I think you'll remember this place. Take the pads off your eyes," the Doctor instructed.

Iggy did, and to my relief his watery blue eyes were still safe in their sockets. However, those eyes soon narrowed with recognition. "I remember this place," he muttered, "the room is bright enough for me to see shapes and outlines." He turned to face the window and squinted. "The Doctor's standing over there, right?"

"Yeah," I confirmed.

He nodded, and then turned to face the wall that was to the left of the windowed wall, taking a battle stance. "Prepare yourself," he told me. I was extremely confused, but I nodded and took the same stance as he did.

"Clever boy," the Doctor remarked. "I hope you two enjoy yourselves."

Almost immediately a door appeared out of the back wall, opening and unleashing a most unpleasant guest: an angry Eraser. "You've got to be kidding me!" I moaned, running towards the angry beast and throwing a series of kicks and punches. The Eraser was deterred, but only slightly. This was a strong one.

Instantly Iggy fled to my side, joining me in the assault as the Eraser clawed and chomped at us, trying to rip us into bite-sized chicken strips. I could tell that the limited vision the bright room provided him with allowed him to fight with more speed and skill than usual. However, there was little time to appreciate that fact at that moment.

"They did this to us before!" Iggy called to me, dodging the Eraser's angry fist and returning the favour with a roundhouse kick, "But last time I think it was real."

"We're both dreaming the same dream?" I asked, flying over the Eraser's head and dropping myself onto its shoulders to throw it off balance.

"Unless only one of us is really dreaming."

While we were sidetracked by our musings of subconsciousness, the Eraser took advantage of our slight distraction from the fight and kicked things up a notch. He grabbed me by the arm and threw me over his shoulder and onto the floor, knocking the wind out of me. When Iggy rushed to my aide, the Eraser tackled him and pinned him to the floor. I struggled to stand up and prevent Iggy from being mauled; however, when I looked up I saw that the Eraser wasn't attacking Iggy anymore. Instead, he was standing beside Iggy, looking down with a demeaning, fangful sneer on its face. This wasn't a normal Eraser, I realized, it was an Eraser that had been exaggerated and magnified by my imagination until it was ten times as terrifying and almost unstoppable.

Suddenly he turned to look at me, his eyes red-rimmed with bloodlust. "I think it's time to start the party," he snarled, saliva dripping from his violent jaws. He backed away from Iggy and looked towards the wall where he had come from.

Immediately the door opened up again, but this time instead of a single Eraser there was a swarm—at least fifty of them entered the room wearing their full werewolf form, their teeth gleaming with hunger and their eyes burning with excitement. They closed in around us and began taunting and intimidating us. "They could have gotten us something nicer to eat!" One of them barked, causing the rest of them to howl and cackle with amusement. They continued to teasingly snarl and claw at us for a few minutes, warming up for what they were about to do next.

"There was only one of them last time," Iggy whispered uneasily.

"Enough games!" The Doctor called impatiently from behind his glass panel, "Finish them off."

In an instant the Erasers were all over us, pouncing and clawing and chomping for flesh, almost as if we had been suddenly covered over by a dome of angry bears. Iggy and I quickly went into full-throttle defence mode, kicking and punching and elbowing at any chance we got. I was amazed that we were able to hold them off for so long, but I could tell that they were closing in on us very quickly.

The Erasers suddenly backed away from us, forming a fierce circle of claws and jaws. They began to bark, howl, and snap at us, forcing us into the middle of the circle. I was only a couple of feet from the nearest set of teeth, and I felt myself growing anxious as the small distance between me and those teeth began to close as the Erasers moved in towards us. "He likes to play on your claustrophobia," I told Iggy, "there's always something compressing about these hallucinations."

"Do you remember anything else?" Iggy asked, looking equally anxious.

I racked my brains for any other clue to solving this predicament. I suddenly remembered, "We have to go up!" I remembered. In both of my other dreams, I had to go up to get out. "U and A!"

We flew up above the hungry mob of Erasers, barely escaping their clawed grasps as they filled the gap where we had once stood. I sighed a breath of relief; up here, it was easier to see those Erasers for what they were: big, fake, exaggerated monsters from my imagination. However, I knew we couldn't stay up here forever.

"Now what do we do?" Iggy inquired.

"Try looking for a panel or another way out," I told him, going along the roof looking for an exit. "We have to go as high as we possibly can." However, our search proved grossly unproductive. The Erasers remained ravenous and outraged below us, like an angry ocean full of sharks, ready to tear us to shreds if we were to fall.

If we were to fall... Suddenly I remembered something else about my other dreams, and I moaned. "Oh no..."

"Max, what is it?"

"I think I know how to get out of this place."

"What! How?"

"You're not going to like it," I warned.

"What is it?"

"The only way out... is to fall out." With a final glance towards the angry pack of Erasers below, I gritted my teeth and folded my wings, allowing myself to plummet to my doom.

30. Humpty Dumpty

Haiiiii! :D How is everyone today? Anyone want to kill me? Anyone? *looks outside of reviewer-proof shelter* So far, no one else has sent an angry mob after me. However, until the hate mail and death threats stop, I think I'll stay safe and sound in my little shelter. Especially after this next chapter. 0:) But thanks again to all you who took the time to review—even if some of them made me cry myself to sleep. *sniffles*

Haha, not really.


Humpty Dumpty

"'Cause all the kings horses and all the king's men… couldn't put Humphrey together again." – Neal Shusterman (Unwind, the legend of Humphrey Dunfee)

I woke up with a start, and immediately I sat up to get a bearing on my surroundings. I had been sprawled on the floor, with Iggy—cotton pads still on his face—lying unconscious at my feet. I also had a terrible headache. Apparently I had dozed off while I was dragging Iggy down the hallway, and had just dropped onto the cold hallway floor, hitting my head in the process. I scowled. Not only could he fool me into thinking I had already woken up, as well as lull me to sleep when I was standing still, but apparently he could get to me even when I was moving around doing things. Was there no way to stay safe from these nightmares?

I got up onto my hands and knees and then crawled over towards Iggy. He was still in his trance, still stuck in the dream world. I could only imagine what he had shadowy shapes he had seen when I had dropped myself down into the deluge of Erasers. After a few minutes of unsuccessfully trying to wake him up, I decided that there wasn't anything I could do for him. I'd just have to hope he was brave enough to take my advice, unless Angel was somehow able to draw him out.

Speaking of which, I thought, where is Angel? "Angel?" I called, looking around to see if she was anywhere nearby. I grabbed Iggy by the arms again and dragged him down the hall, this time focusing as much effort as I could on staying awake. I tried reciting poems and lyrics in my head as I searched for Angel. I had just started reciting Humpty Dumpty in my head when I heard the tiny sniffles down the hallway. "Angel?" I called, saying the first line of the poem in my head. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall...

However, Angel didn't reply. I looked down the hall, and saw that there was an open door a few rooms down. I let go of Iggy's arms and walked quickly towards the door, hoping that Angel was actually in there and that it wasn't some sort of trick of the Doctor's. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall...

Sure enough, I peeked into the room—a walk-in refrigerator—and Angel was sitting there, crying on the floor. Arranged around her were a collection of plastic box-shaped containers. "Angel?" I repeated.

"I found the thoughts," Angel finally replied, sniffling. "This is why they sound all weird...all disconnected..." She started crying again.

"Disconnected—Angel, what are you talking about?" I kneeled next to her, putting my hand on her shoulder.

"It's Fang!" Angel yelled, letting her feelings loose, "It was his thoughts I was hearing!"

I looked at her strangely, feeling confused. "Angel, you know that's not possible. Fang is dead."

Angel looked up at me with wide, teary eyes, an eerie expression on her face. "Not dead," she said, "divided." She looked down at the collection of boxes next to her on the floor, and then up at the boxes that were still on the shelves of the refrigerator.

It took me a moment to understand what she was saying, but when I did understand it hit me like a ton of bricks. I looked at the labels on the boxes lying at Angel's feet: Cerebellum, Hippocampus, Medulla... "You mean..." A sick feeling swelled up in my gut, pushing up against my chest and pressing tears to the brims of my eyes.

Angel nodded, looking up at all the shelves. "This... this is where they're storing Fang. This is what's left of him."

I was suddenly overwhelmed by all of what had happened to me—all of what had happened to us. Not only had two of my closest friends been kidnapped, and then the one closest to me had been killed; now, on top of that, the dead one wasn't just normal dead, he was cut into a hundred pieces and stored in a refrigerator, the pieces of his brain still alive and thinking.

Everything had seemed like a dream up to this point, experiencing everything firsthand, yet believing eventually I would wake up and move on with my life. It was at that moment I realized what I had known all along but refused to accept: this was a cruel, unchangeable reality. It had just taken something as horrible as this to make it sink in. I couldn't handle this, I felt too confused and broken to carry on; and, to make things worse, the last line of the poem popped into my head and dug into my heart like a jagged knife. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again.

No one could put Fang together again either.

31. Saying Goodbye


Saying Goodbye

"The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected." – Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook)

Suddenly I felt the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach rise up my throat and into my mouth, overtaking me. I quickly got up off of the floor and started running down the hallway. I ran a ways down the hall and turned a corner before letting the sickness spill out onto the floor. That's right, I threw up—and don't you dare say anything bad about it. You would probably throw up too.

"Max?" Just then I realized that I hadn't been alone in the hallway after all.

"Oh, Jeb..." I blushed slightly, and tried to wipe the traces of vomit off my face. "Hi. Glad you found your way here."

"Have you found anything yet?" He asked, eying the sickly puddle I had just formed on the floor.

I nodded. "Iggy's alright, but Fang..." I trailed off. I didn't want to cry in front of Jeb.

However, Jeb nodded, understanding what I was saying. "I know. I found a computer, and a video recording popped up... I glanced through it enough to know what happened." He shuddered slightly.

"Come on," I mumbled, "Angel and Iggy are over here." I led him back to the refrigerator, where Angel was still sitting, crying and looking over the boxes containing Fang's brain bits. Her tears stopped when she saw that Jeb was standing there, and she tried her hardest to put on a brave face.

"The pieces of his brain are still working," she told him, "but they're all separated, so they can't form complete thoughts. His brain is alive but... in a divided state. Nobody's really there anymore."

Jeb nodded, looking at all the boxes that sat on the shelves. "So, this is the pinnacle of his research," he murmured, shaking his head, "the unwinding procedure. Incredible..."

"You think this is incredible?" I asked in disbelief. Couldn't he be considerate of our feelings just once?

"I didn't mean it that way, Max," Jeb said apologetically, "I just can't believe he actually pulled it off."

"Yeah, he pulled it off alright," I yelled angrily, "at Fang's expense! Are you happy now, Jeb? Your precious little bird kids couldn't save the world the way you wanted them to, but at least now you can surgically disassemble people and sell their parts on eBay, huh?" I didn't care what I said or did anymore, I was angry. All I wanted to do was scream at someone for a while and then curl up and die in a corner. "Well guess what, science man! Fang has been disassembled and stored in a bunch of plastic containers and in a few hours, when the sun rises, that's what's going to happen to all of us!" I turned away from him, not wanting to talk anymore.

Jeb was taken aback. "Max...I'm sorry. I was being insensitive. I'd do anything I could to bring Fang back, really, but the brain is a complicated organ—I could never reassemble it with only my basic experience with neuro-grafting. And, even if I could, there's no way of putting all these organs back together, it's just not possible with our time frame—"

"—I don't have to be told all the reasons why Fang's never going to be in once piece again, Jeb," I said bitterly, "I know that! I just... I just... I just want to be left alone!"

Jeb sighed. "Max, I know you don't like me—"

"—that's the understatement of the century—"

"—and I know you're hurting right now. I am too! You think you're the only ones who cared about him? Losing Fang is like losing a member of my family; like losing another son. But I don't want to lose my daughter, too."

Slowly I turned to look at him, unsure how to react. Since the whole 'save the world' escapade had started, Jeb had become less of a person and more of a complicated series of puzzles and mind games, as if there was always an ulterior motive to his words. Yet now he was plainly saying how he was feeling. Maybe, I wondered in a small part of my brain, if the puzzle of Jeb could be solved, could this puzzle be solved too?

"Jeb is right, Max," Angel spoke, "we can't give up now. We've come too far." She looked up at me with fire in her eyes. "We have to do this for Fang."

I bobbed my head slightly in agreement. "I—I know, Angel. We need to keep trying," I told her, my morale rising a little. "Sunrise will be here soon, and I don't want to be caught in here when that no good Doctor comes around." I smiled at her, then turned to Jeb, "You two go out and try to wake Iggy up. If you can't get him out, try to get into his head and remind him of my instructions." I turned back to the box-lined shelves. "I need a moment alone."

Angel and Jeb nodded, and then they turned to leave. I closed the door behind them, and then slid down against it until I was sitting on the floor. "Well Fang," I said out loud, "I guess this is it, for you and me. I probably sound stupid, speaking to a fridge full of body parts, but I guess I'm hoping some part of you can still hear me—a spirit, or a soul, or whatever." I took a deep breath, and said, "I wonder...have you gone somewhere else, or are you stuck in some in-between place because your brain is still alive but cut into a thousand pieces? I hope you're alright, wherever you are."

Tears began sliding down my cheeks. "I'm not ready for this Fang; I'm not ready to say goodbye. Did you hate me in those last moments, when they were unwinding you?" I sniffled, "I'm sorry I failed you, it's just... I'm not as perfect as everyone thinks I am, you know? I'd do anything to get you back." I sighed, and I stood to leave. "But I guess we can't change the past. So... I'm sorry I never told you I loved you into your face, okay? I love you." And with that, I turned to leave.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get the door to open.

32. Can You Be Better?


Can You Be Better?

"He who stops being better stops being good." – Oliver Cromwell

"That was a truly heartfelt speech, Max, very touching," the Doctor taunted through the intercom, "maybe you can speak at my funeral."

I gritted my teeth and clenched my fist. "If it's up to me, I'll be the reason you'll need a funeral!"I then called him a long string of rude names.

"Tisk-tisk, Maximum, such language of yours," he scolded.

"You are a monster," I snarled, "and you'll pay for what you've done."

"Determination... I admire that. Your beloved Fang was a very determined person too; and brave until the end." He chuckled, "Well, almost until the end. The last part was scary even for him." I shrieked as loud as my throat would let me, and then kicked the door as hard as I could. "Don't do that," he told me, "it's far too strong. You'll only injure yourself."

"Fang was a better person than you'll ever be!" I shouted angrily.

The Doctor, however, did not quite understand the 'better' I was trying to communicate. "Better... Your lover boy was good person maybe, but not better than me. I defeated him in the end, did I not?" He was silent for a moment. "But perhaps you, Maximum Ride, can be better?"

"What do you mean?" I narrowed my eyes.

"Can you be better than me?" The Doctor asked. "Because, you know, I believe in rewarding excellence. Let's see just how excellent you can be, Max." The intercom went silent, and the door swung open into the hallway. I looked around, and saw that a ways down the hall Iggy was now standing up, talking to Jeb and Angel. I decided not to bring up the topic of the boxes or what had just happened to me, since Iggy had just woken up and the last thing he needed to know was that. I left the refrigerator quickly and started towards the others.

"...too many shapes to see what happened to Max, so I wasn't sure what happened..." Iggy paused when he heard me approach. "Oh, Max, I was just telling them about our dream."

I nodded. "There's a pattern to them: escape the squeeze, climb as high as you can, and then fall."

"I wonder if it symbolizes something," Angel wondered aloud.

"If it does symbolize something," I replied, "then I don't know what."

"Maybe," Iggy suggested calmly, "it's another one of the Doctor's ways of breaking you down. Maybe it's saying, 'you can escape the danger for a little while and fly as high as you can to escape, but you'll always give in and fall back again.'" No one was sure how to respond to that suggestion.

"Well," Jeb began, trying to change the subject, "What's our next course of action?"

I shrugged. "Any suggestions? You know the building better than we do."

Jeb paused to think. "I say we should head towards the top floor. There might be an access to the roof up there."

"To the top floor it is, then," I declared, "now let's find an elevator."

However, when I turned back to look at the others, all I saw was darkness.

Some of the best/oddest comments I've gotten since I posted Chapter 27:

"I just read your story. I hate you." – Zeze


"That was... interesting. =P Honestly, dear? You need help." – Leela (my buddy! *huggles*)

"*grabs kitchen knife* You. Killed. Fang. … YAY! I hate Fangles after the last book, so let's celebrate! Woo, hoo! Woo, hoo! Woo, hoo! Now, here, you can have the knife. We can stab it into what's left of Fang together! WHEE!" – WinterSky101


"You're sick. I love it." – AngelwiththeClippedWings

BTW: I finally figured out how to use the poll thingie on , for real this time! :P *mutters* Whoever designed that program is an idiot... Anyways, I changed the poll, so check it out! It's labelled "Which way do you want Amy to die!" If there's a different poll listed as being up, just wait a while until the right one's there-I was doing some experimenting earlier, and takes forever to make changes sometimes.

33. As Real As You Want

Hmmm... this is an interesting part of the story. We're getting very close to the end, to the final showdown. It shall be very interesting-there will be a morgue, there will be internal conflict, and there will be a gun. *smiles to self* Ah yes, very interesting indeed.

But for now, let's see what kind of dreamworld Max has gotten herself into this time.


As Real As You Want

"Everything you can imagine is real." – Pablo Picasso

"Really, another hallucination? Already?" I said aloud. Obviously the Doctor wanted to have a little more fun. I looked around, but all I could see was blackness. Before I could start feeling around, however, a spotlight suddenly came on, revealing a tall ladder that stretched up into the beam of light that illuminated it. I realized that I was in the bottom of some sort of pit, and that that ladder was the only way out. This is strangely easy, I thought. Not that I was complaining.

However, things are never that simple, as I've been shown time and time again. "Max," a sad, familiar voice suddenly spoke.

I gasped, and turned around. "Fang." Sure enough, there he was, alive and intact.

"Why are you leaving, Max?" he asked, eying the ladder.

"I—I have to," I told him, "I need to climb up as high as I can."


"So I can escape this place."

"Oh." Fang frowned—as much as Fang ever frowns, anyways. "So you're leaving me again."

"That's not how it is, Fang..."

"Isn't it? It sure took you long enough to get here, and now you're already ready to abandon me."

"I don't want to leave you, Fang!" I insisted.

"Then don't leave."

"It's not that simple!"

"Why can't it be?" Fang stepped towards me. "Max, there's no future for us out there. I'm gone, stored inside a bunch of little boxes, and I've seen how've you've dealt with that. You're dying on the inside. We can't exist apart from each other, Max—in here, I exist for you, and you exist for me."

I looked up at the ladder, then back at Fang. "I don't understand...are you here with me the way Iggy was with me in my other dream? Or are you just something from my imagination?"

"Oh, Max..." Fang pulled me close, and I felt my heart flutter as I felt his embrace once again. It had been so hard living without him these last few days. "We're as real as you want us to be."

"Max? Max, wake up!" Jeb desperately tried to catch Max's attention, but she wasn't there anymore. She just stood in front of them with her head hung low, eyes twitching and lips moving silently. It was as if she was dreaming.

"What's happening?" Iggy asked, clearly confused.

"Max has drifted off again," Angel explained. She closed her eyes in concentration, trying to worm her way into Max's head.

Meanwhile, Jeb laid Max's rigid body on the floor, and then he and Iggy began checking for anything that would give a further hint as to what was happening to Max. Everything seemed normal, until...

"Jeb," Iggy spoke, "I think Max's pulse is dropping."

"Well if she's sleeping, that's not too—"

"No, I mean, it's really dropping. Like, insanely fast." His supersensitive fingers grasped Max's wrist, not able to time her pulse with a clock but still pretty sure of what he was feeling.

"Let me see." Jeb pressed his fingers against Max's throat and looked at his watch.

"I give up!" Angel suddenly declared, before being promptly shushed by Jeb, who was trying to concentrate. "I can't get into her head," she informed them in a quieter voice.

Finally, Jeb confirmed what Iggy had feared. "Her heart rate has dropped far lower than it should be. Did this happen to you when you were in a trance?"

Iggy shook his head. "I don't think so."

"I was able to talk to Iggy in his dream," Angel said, "It was just like he was sleeping. But Max's dream is... different."

"Well, whatever's going on in there, I guess Max will have to fight it on her own. Meanwhile, we'd better be prepared to perform CPR if necessary." Jeb looked down at his daughter's face, his brow furrowed with concern. Was it just the lighting, or was Max beginning to look paler? "C'mon Max," he muttered, "What's going on in there?"

34. The Final Puzzle Piece


The Final Puzzle Piece

"Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle."Lewis Carroll

It seemed like ages since Fang and I had been together, let alone since we actually had time to ourselves. I felt comfortable in his arms, as if that was where I had always belonged. Still, there was something in the back of my mind, telling me this was a big mistake. "I don't know if I should stay," I worried, "The others are still out there..."

"Forget about them," Fang murmured, burying his face in my neck and running his lips against my skin. I shuddered at the sensation. "Max, none of those problems are real here. This is our reality, just you and me."

"You and me..." I repeated wistfully, all but succumbing to his enticing words.

"After all, what is reality?" He whispered in my ear.

Suddenly I withdrew from him. "Wait a minute," I said. Those were the words that had been scrawled on the wall after the first dream. Suddenly, I realized what was happening, and the familiar wave of claustrophobia set in. This time, though, I was in a different kind of squeeze. Without saying another word, I turned away and began climbing the ladder.

"Max!" Fang called up to me, a hint of betrayal in his voice. "What are you doing?"

"I need to go!" I declared.


I stopped climbing and looked back down at him. "Fang," I told him, "you're dead. Or unwound, or whatever. The point is you aren't real. I can't spend the rest of my life in this dream world, this mental prison, when I have real people who need my help in the real world." I had escaped all of the close calls, the confinements that were closing in on me and directly threatening my life, but this puzzle was different from all the other ones. This time, I had to confront another force that was squeezing me in—my grief and anger, and my difficulty letting go of the past. But now that I had figured that out, I had to wonder: was falling back, succumbing, still the only way of solving this puzzle?

"You don't know what you're talking about, Max!" Fang shouted up at me.

"You're not real, Fang." I kept on climbing, hoping that Fang's voice would be silenced as I got higher up.

"Yes I am, Max! I'm real—everything around you is real! Feel it, touch it, look at it!"

"I can't trust my eyes, Fang! This is all a dream!"

"Think of everything we've been to each other. You can't just forget about us!"

"I'll never forget, Fang, but I have to move on." I climbed a little faster, wishing this dream would end.

"Why? So you can be with them? The same people who've hurt you, the same people who made sure we could never be together again?" I could hear the sharp hurt and bitterness in his voice increasing.

"Fang, get over yourself!"

"If you stay here, I can make it all become real again! All those times we spent together, all those times it felt like we were the only two people in the entire world." This dream Fang was getting hysterical.

"Shut up, Fang."

"Think about all those times you wished you said you loved me and you didn't!"

"SHUT UP!" Now I was getting hysterical. "The Doctor put these thoughts into you, when he created my dream." I knew that none of this was real, but that last remark had stung—it felt as if Fang was actually yelling at me.

"This is so typical of you, Max!" He called to me, "Any time things get complicated, you're always the first to split. Do I mean that little to you?"

Tears were streaming down my face. "I'm sorry I wasn't always there for you, but I have to move on."

"Not always there for me?If you had ever been there when it counted, I would still be alive in your so-called 'reality' wouldn't I?"

Finally, I reached the top of the ladder. I was high above the bottom of the pit, but the angry and hurt feelings etched onto Fang's face were still as clear as they had been down there. I was tired; tired of climbing, tired of Fang's words, tired of fighting these feelings. Was this really the only way to cope? How many more times would I have to give in to my pain? "I'm sorry I failed you, Fang," I whispered, letting go of the ladder and allowing myself to freefall.

"Her heart rate is rising! I can feel it!"

"I think she's waking up."

Slowly, I roused myself back into the land of the living and opened my eyes. Iggy, Angel, and Jeb were all standing over me, mixed expressions of concern and relief on their faces. "What happened?" I asked, a little confused and a bit dizzy.

"Your heart rate dropped," Iggy told me, "We were worried we might lose you."

"I feel alright," I told them. "It's just... Oh!" Just then I remembered everything that had happened, and suddenly it all made sense.

All these small challenges, these hallucinations, were just clues to a bigger puzzle, I realized. The Doctor was a very precise man; insane, but precise. These riddles were all telling me what I had to do, telling me how we could get out of here. In each of my dreams, I kept trying to move up and away from the problem, but I always ended up falling down in the end. That meant going upwards was not the solution—going up meant we would quite literally fall back down. No, if we kept avoiding the conflict, we would never get out. I knew now what we had to do: we had to go to the place with the most 'squeeze', the most discomfort and danger, and confront what we were trying to avoid most—we had to go downstairs to the morgue.

Then I realized something else: We didn't have to do anything. This was my battle—on top of being our way out, the Doctor's puzzle corresponded to my emotions, as the confrontation with Fang revealed to me. The claustrophobic feelings represented my negative emotions—my hatred, my grief, my unforgiveness for myself—the ones that, no matter how much I tried to push them away, kept on returning. I couldn't keep falling back to them in my moments of weakness; I had to face them head-on. No one could face them for me.

Man, this was a lot more philosophical than I thought.

"Guys, I have to go to the basement." I told them, standing up and brushing myself off.

"Why?" Iggy asked. "Isn't that the—"

"Yes, it's the morgue," I confirmed, "But don't you get it? We can't go to the top floor!"

I explained, "The Doctor knows that we'll try to escape from the roof, he's expecting that! If we go up there, we'll probably plummet down the elevator shaft to our deaths. We have to go to the place we want to avoid, the place that makes us scared and nervous." I was growing more and more certain of my theory as I spoke.

"We'll go together, then," Angel declared.

I shook my head. "This is something I have to do alone."

"But I want to go with you!" Angel whined.

"Angel, no—"

"You can't make me stay!" Angel turned and started towards the elevator.

I scowled. Lately she had been set on testing my authority, but now was not the time. "Angel," I said in my most grave, most commanding voice, "this is my battle, not yours. You need to stay here."

Angel turned around, prepared to protest. "But—"

"Of all the times you haven't listened to me, listen just this once!" I glared at her, frustrated and pleading.

Angel scowled, then sighed, and then reluctantly came back and stood next to Iggy and Jeb. "Thank you," I said quietly, before addressing the others. "If I'm not back in an hour, you'll have to find your own way out." I strode towards the elevator, the other following behind me. I pressed the down button, but when the doors open there was no lift, just the elevator cable. I wasn't too surprised.

No more falling and no more being carried; I have to face the danger on my own. Flashing a final uncertain smile to the others, I reached forward and grabbed the taut elevator cable and then lifted my feet off of the floor. Immediately I swung forward in to the shaft, both hands grasping the cable tightly. Once I felt stable I began shimmying down the cable and towards the basement. "Try to stay on this floor so I can find you!" I called to the others, whose peering faces grew shadowy and more distant as I lowered myself out of the dim lighting and into the dark shaft below.

35. Facing the Squeeze


Facing the Squeeze

"At the risk of sounding clichéd, I've been expecting you." – Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl)

Descending into the elevator shaft felt familiar to me, probably because of the second hallucination. Fortunately, though, this time I wasn't being snagged by grinding gears or squished against emergency exit hatches. This time, I was going down to the depths of myself to confront my deepest emotions and, hopefully, solve the mystery of the Isle Invidia medical complex. It felt like a final reconciliation, a final chance to settle the scores.

Somehow, I knew that if I messed this up, I wouldn't get a second chance.

Finally I reached the bottom of the shaft, which was dark and rather dusty. I wiped my hands, now blackened and sweaty, on my jeans and then stepped towards the door, looking for a way to open it. To my surprise, it opened on its own, as if it knew I was standing there and wanting to get through. It was a chilling reminder of how closely the Doctor had been watching us this whole time. How closely he had been watching me.

The basement was oddly well-lit, I thought, for a morgue. The fluorescent bulbs down here actually worked properly, as opposed to the rest of the building. The walls were a painted dull off-white color, which gave the room a disturbing kind of misleading cleanliness—it was as if the room was hiding one huge blood stain that had been covered up. It didn't take a genius to figure out what all the cabinets lining the walls were for.

"Ah, Maximum Ride," I felt a chill as I turned to face the voice that was all too familiar to me now. This time however, there were no dreams, no intercoms; I knew this time the Doctor was here in person. He stood in a doorway about twenty feet from me, wearing a lab coat and smiling at me a discomforting glint in his eye. "We finally meet," he declared, staring at me with a strange intensity. "My, you are a wonderful specimen! Such good teeth, despite all those years of neglect."

I realized that my mouth had been hanging open a little, and I shut my jaw angrily. Subconsciously I ran my tongue over my teeth. "What do you want?" I asked him.

The Doctor shook his head. "My, my, so direct to the point, just like your friend..." he looked at me with a sick sense of amusement. "Enjoy your dream reunion?"

I snorted. "Some reunion. That hallucination nearly killed me."

"It would have only killed you if you had chosen to stay in the dream. Living in the past has that effect on people, you know. It smothers their life in the present."

I rolled my eyes, and continued, "Look, I know there's something you want from me, so let's get on with it."

"You're a very intelligent young lady," the Doctor observed, "as your interpretation of my challenges confirms. But you do let your emotions get the best of you from time to time." Before I could reply, he continued, "What I want, dear Max, is for you to make a decision."

I raised my eyebrow. "What kind of decision?"

"Open cabinet 105, please." He motioned to the set of body-holding cabinets closest to me. Cautiously, without taking my eyes off of him, I walked towards the cabinets and found the desired drawer. He smiled at me again, saying, "I once asked you if you could be a better person than me. Do you remember?"

"How can I forget?" I rolled my eyes. "You know, girls like to have some privacy every now and then."

"Especially when talking to their dead boyfriends, I presume?"

"Something like that."

I opened the cabinet marked 105, fully expecting to see a body inside. However, what I found instead was equally shocking. "A gun?" I asked, even more confused than before.

"It's your choice, Max," the Doctor told me, spreading out his arms. "I'm an open target. You can shoot me if you want to, or you can let me go. It's up to you; which one will make you a better person than me?"

My eyes widened slightly as I realized what he was saying. Carefully I picked up the gun, and I found that it was a lot heaver than I'd expected. I'm sure I must have handled a gun before, but at that moment my mind was blank, as if I was staring at a foreign object. Could I do it? Could I really shoot Fang's killer? "You know, I've always had a no guns policy," I told the Doctor for no apparent reason.

"A wise policy," he commented, revealing nothing.

My mind flitted back to the time he had challenged me. "Perhaps, Maximum Ride, you can be better?" But back then the Doctor had used the word 'better' differently than I had. I had used the word to say that Fang was a good-hearted person with better intent than the Doctor; he had used it to say that he was superior to Fang because he had defeated him. Which usage was he referring to now? Was I supposed to be the better person, or was I supposed to be better than him, to dominate?

"You must make up your mind, Max," the Doctor smirked, "or you might lose your opportunity to fire."

"I'm thinking!" I exclaimed. I tried asking myself: how did this correspond with the puzzle? The basement represented my emotions; my anger, grief, and resentment, my hurt. I stopped trying to escape my feelings—which would have left me falling back into a relapse, or, in reality, falling down the elevator shaft—and instead I had faced them head on. So, the purpose of this confrontation must be to make me face my emotions, to force me to decide what to do with them. I had to deal with my emotions somehow. That left me with one question: should I appease my hatred, by shooting the Doctor, or should I let go of my pain, at let the Doctor go?

"Can I ask you one question, before I make my decision?" I finally asked.


"Why Fang and Iggy? Why any of the people you've done experiments on?"

The Doctor shook his head. "Now, answering that will just make you even angrier, hindering your ability to make a proper decision."

"Try me."

He sighed, "Well, alright. I will be blunt: I do not care about you, your friends, your lover, or anyone else I have ever encountered. I care only for myself and my science. You and your set are scientific assets, which I value. You are also rather entertaining to toy with, I must admit. The others I have used for experiments were traitors, employees who tried to blow the whistle on me or steal valuable research, which threatens both me and my science. I couldn't care less if Target B, your Fang, was a nice person or not. He was valuable to me." Before I even had time to let his words set in, he took off his lab coat and threw it to the floor. "He was very valuable indeed." My jaw dropped open and I nearly dropped the gun when I saw why the Doctor took his coat off.

He had wings.

Black wings that glinted slightly purple in the light.

Wings that I would recognize anytime and anywhere.

Those were Fang's wings.

The Doctor was Target C; the final scheduled procedure had been to graft Fang's wings onto his body.

I raised the gun and aimed it straight at his heart.

...Aaaaand this is where the story ends for today! :D Come again tomorrow to read the conclusion of this riveting climax! *plasters an annoying grin that says "I'm laughing at you in my head" on her face*

36. Rewarding Excellence

Alright, here I am with the chapter you've all been waiting for! :D Sorry I'm a little late updating, but, well, I wanted to leave you in suspense for as long as possible. *snickers* But my friend Leela convinced me to post tonight. :/ Of course, considering I'm the only person on the planet who seems not to be in EST sometimes, you're probably all in bed already, so I kind of win on that level. But whatever.

Anyways, here we go!


Rewarding Excellence

"Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude." – Ralph Marson

I could tell the Doctor was amused by my rage, but I was seeing too much red to care. He was wearing Fang's wings, that monster was wearing Fang's wings! It was an intrusion, an invasion of all Fang had been and all we were as human-avian hybrids; to take his pride and joy and sew them into the flesh of an ordinary human, and then flaunt them in front of me like they were some sort of carnival trinket. It was abominable! It was like ripping the wings off of a butterfly and gluing them onto an ugly, warty toad.

I clutched the gun even tighter, my hands shaking. "How dare you," I said in a low, shaky voice. "Didn't you take enough from him already?"

The Doctor looked at the wings, and stretched them out a little more. "Too much? I know, it would have been years before I was able to augment myself enough to actually fly with them, but I've transplanted and reconnected enough of the accompanying muscles that I'm able to flaunt them a bit." He flapped them mockingly. "It makes for a nice party trick, don't you think?"

I cried out at him in wild outrage and steadied my gun, re-aiming its barrel more narrowly in his direction. "You deserve to die for what you've done," I growled.

"Perhaps, by most people's standards," the Doctor conceded, his face now devoid of emotion, "but you are not most people, Maximum Ride. So tell me, can you be better?"

There was that phrase again. How could you not be better than a monster like this? He had caused so much pain; not just for me, but for many people. How many people had died trying to reveal the truth about his island of horrors? How many people had gotten just a little too greedy for their own good and paid a consequence far too great for their actions? I thought of Gracie, the little girl I had met when I first arrived on the island. This man, this Doctor, couldn't have cared less if she had died when that explosive detonated early and damaged her house. I should think anyone could be better than him.

Max, you don't have to sink to his level, the Voice chimed in, you've already unravelled his operation; not even the government can ignore the large flock of ships landing on the coast of Honolulu because of the evacuation. He knows his time is up, and he's trying to get to you, Max. Don't let him break you.

He broke me when he unwound Fang, I retorted bitterly.

But you weren't broken beyond repair.

"Well?" the Doctor asked.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a few moments. I saw Fang's life with me flashing before my eyes; Fang at the School, Fang in the E-shaped house, Fang over the last few months. He'd had so much left to live for, so much left to do and see. And now, he was gone. Nothing could ever bring him back.

"You deserve to die," I told him coldly.

"I see," the Doctor replied, as calm as ever.

"But," I said, "you're not worth the blood on my hands." I dropped the gun onto the floor, and then I kicked it over to the Doctor before I could change my mind. I had made my decision; I was going to be a better person than him by refusing to take a life out of vengeance. I had to let my anger go.

The Doctor carefully picked up the weapon, and he grinned at me. "Very good, Max," he told me. He played with the gun in his hands as he spoke, "This is a special gun, you know—I designed it myself. It's reversed, you see; if you had tried to fire it, the bullet would have flew out in the opposite direction and shot you straight through the heart." My blood ran cold at the thought, yet at the same time I felt relieved that I had made the right choice. I had solved the puzzle.

"And, as I promised, I shall reward your excellence with a gift. Check inside of cabinet 101 once I'm gone." The Doctor bobbed his head in farewell. "Have a nice life, Maximum Ride." Then with a flap of the wings on his back he turned around and walked away. I was still too stunned to move.

37. A Second Chance


A Second Chance

"We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance." – Harrison Ford

After a few moments I regained the ability to move, and I paced nervously trying to figure out what had just happened. Had I forgiven him? Had I decided he wasn't worth the trouble? How did I feel now? But my emotions were too muddled for me to tell. I felt like I could laugh, cry, and scream at the same time.

Suddenly I remembered what the Doctor had said about a gift. I spotted cabinet 101, and carefully I opened it to see what was inside. Sitting inside were a large plastic box and two marked envelopes: one for me, one for Jeb. I was curious because Jeb's was a lot thicker than mine, but I decided to read mine first.

Dear Maximum,

Thank you for a wonderful night of intrigue and competition. Even though you have probably destroyed my life's work, as well as made me a wanted fugitive, I enjoyed every minute of this evening, even though it was at your expense. I bear no ill feelings about what you've done to my career—it was probably time for me to retire anyways.

As a reward for surviving this ordeal and making wise choices, I have re-assembled the brain of your beloved for you, the one you call Fang—no need to thank me, it was unbelievably easy—and have left Dr. Batchelder extensive instructions on how to transplant the brain (and other necessary organs) into the damaged body of one of the deceased but well-preserved clones stored in my special gel suspension units, which are located in the back room. Their brains are damaged beyond reasonable repair, due to the vast clone elimination that took place in Germany, and they have been sitting there for months. I'd appreciate very much it if you could take one of them off of my hands.

For your purposes, I'd suggest the body in unit 234; it is largely undamaged except for a bullet through the eye, slight grazing of the ribcage, and the unfortunate shooting of its–ahem–more delicate organs. The parts are still in the room where you found them, and you will find that they are all well-labeled. I am confident that Dr. Batchelder's knowledge of biology and surgery will be sufficient to restore your friend to full health and reproductive capability—something you might appreciate in a few years, my dear—within a few hours.

Anyways, the best of luck to you and your set. Just be sure to leave before our agreed upon deadline, or I might still be tempted to keep you for myself.


The Doctor

I wasn't sure whether to smile, blush, grimace, or sob after reading the Doctor's letter. I was overwhelmed. All the rage, all the confusion and hurt and bewilderment that had been tumbling around inside of me just sort of faded, replaced by a mixture of hope and numbness. I could get Fang back, I realized. Fang wasn't gone forever. I now had a second chance I never dreamed I could get: I could still save Fang.

Realizing that time was short, I ran to the elevator shaft and pressed the up button. This time the elevator actually came, and I got to my desired floor without a hitch. I ran through the halls looking for the others. "Guys! Guys!" I shouted as I ran, "Guess what!" Finally I found them and told them my amazing news. I was beaming from ear to ear the entire time.

"This is incredible!" Jeb declared, running his hand through his hair.

I handed Jeb his letter, and he glanced over it quickly. "I know what parts we need," he confirmed. "Now let's go back to the refrigerator and find the right boxes."

And so we set to work on finding the right organs. Angel insisted on helping, but Jeb used discretion in which body parts he allowed Angel to look for. I, too, also avoided searching for the more private organs we needed. Jeb was a guy; he could handle the awkward stuff. We were quick in locating all the right parts we needed to repair the body in storage and then transplant Fang into it, partially because Iggy grew impatient from waiting and urged us to hurry up and find the parts already.

However, after twenty minutes of searching we still couldn't find either of Fang's eyes, and we needed one of them to replace the clone eye that had been shot. "We've double and triple-checked everything," Jeb confirmed. "I don't think they're in there."

"Then where are they?" I asked.

"Maybe they got tired of chillin' and left," Iggy joked, his grin pushing up on the cotton pads on his face.

Those cotton pads... Just then I was struck with a curious notion. "Iggy," I asked, "can you feel your eye sockets yet?"

Iggy paused, concentrating on the upper part of his face. "Uh, yeah," he said.

"Are your eyes still there?"

"Yup. I guess they kept them in after all."

My stomach churned slightly as a startling idea formed in my head. I knew what I had to do. "Iggy, close your eyes for a few seconds. I'm taking the pads off your face."

"Um, alright." The muscles around his eye sockets tightened, and carefully I peeled the tape off of his temples and pulled off the cotton pads, letting them fall to the floor. Iggy opened his eyes, and we gasped at the same time. My reason for gasping:

Iggy's eyes were dark like Fang's.

After blinking a few times to adjust to the light, Iggy focused on me with a look of awe on his face, and I knew what was happening: for the first time in years, he could see my face. "Max," Iggy whispered, as if he couldn't believe that I was actually standing there in front of him.

I nodded, still dazed by the sight of those eyes staring at me. They looked at me so intensely, just like they always had. It was like having a small bit of Fang back with me. "I guess we know what happened to Fang's eyes," I choked with a smile, my eyes brimming with tears. I wasn't sure if I was happy or horrified. Finally I gave up on deciding; I reached forward and hugged Iggy, and we just stood there for a while, embracing and crying as the bittersweet moment passed.

Awww, you see? Now none of you have to try and kill me anymore. :) Oh one more thing: The Game.

38. Transplanting

Wow, I can't believe this is my last update. :'( This story has been so much fun to post! I loved all your feedback-even when you tried to kill me. :P Well, let's wrap this story up.



"What happens to your soul when you get unwound?"
"Who says I even got one?"

Neal Shusterman (Unwind)

Once the moment was over we all decided that it would be best to switch Fang's eyes out of Iggy's skull for a pair of eyes from a (non-blind) Iggy clone, and then put Fang's eyes into the clone we were transplanting him into. They were Fang's eyes, after all. It didn't take long for Jeb to find an appropriate pair and transplant them into Iggy. "The neuro-grafting technology is amazing!" Jeb had marvelled as he worked, "it's improved and expanded so much since I was a consultant for the project."

"Like we really care," I said good-heartedly, rolling my eyes.

Once that procedure was over with, we helped Jeb lift Fang's new body out of the tank of green gel that it was stored in. It was strange, lifting that nearly-nude clone out of the tank and onto the gurney we prepared. Even after we lifted it out it was green-tinged because of the oxygen-rich solution that was actually inside its bloodstream. "This gel is another amazing invention," Jeb murmured, "It doesn't just preserve organs, it actually keeps them alive!"

"That's why I could hear all the parts of Fang's brain when they were in their separate boxes," Angel piped up. She was carrying the box with Fang's brain inside of it, guarding it as if it were the most valuable treasure in the world. In some ways, I guess it was.

"How's Fang doing?" I asked Angel, who had established contact with the brain a few minutes ago.

"He's confused, a bit scared," Angel informed us, "but it's definitely Fang in there." She smiled and grasped the box even tighter, almost as if she was giving Fang's brain a hug.

We wheeled the body into the elevator and brought it upstairs to the operating theater we had prepared. All the surfaces had been wiped clean, the proper equipment had been gathered, and all the blood and organs we would need were lined up together on the countertop. "Well, I guess we're ready to go," I declared. I turned to Jeb and asked, "How much time do we have left until sunrise?"

Jeb looked at his watch. "About six and a half hours, I'd estimate."

"Will that be enough time?"

"I think so."

Finally Jeb kicked out of the room so he could do is job. There was no waiting room or anything on that level, so the three of us sat on the floor with our backs against the wall as we waited anxiously for Jeb to finish. As I sat there taking in my surroundings, I realized how less-threatening the hospital seemed to me now. It was as if an evil spirit had been haunting it before, hanging over this place like a deadly curse. Now these halls seemed empty, pleasantly and naturally devoid of consciousness. Still, I couldn't help but wonder if the Doctor was still watching us from somewhere, checking in on us to see how we were doing.

At one point I looked over at Iggy, who was still getting used to his new eyes, which were now his usual blue. He allowed his eyes to dart back and forth across the hall, relishing each site with a clarity that I hadn't seen in a long time. "I didn't realize how much I missed seeing until now," Iggy spoke, when he saw that I was staring.

I nodded. "It must be nice to be back in your own pair of eyes. Sort of your pair, anyways." I grinned.

"Yeah," Iggy replied thoughtfully, "These eyes feel a little strange, but with Fang's eyes, it was really... weird. It's hard to explain, but it was almost as if those eyes remembered things from when they were a part of Fang. The details they focused on when they were looking around a room, and the way they looked at you..." he trailed off. "You know, with these eyes you're not half bad-looking, but with Fang's eyes," Iggy grinned, "you were the most beautiful girl in the world."

I blushed and looked down at the floor. "So, you really think Fang thinks I look nice?" I asked shyly.

"I repeat: he thinks you're the most beautiful girl in the world."

I smiled, and then I turned my attention to Angel, who stared blankly ahead as if she was concentrating on something. She had been monitoring Fang's brain the entire time, comforting Fang and filling him in on what was happening. "Jeb's started connecting Fang's brain to the clone's spinal cord," she informed us. "I can feel the connections forming."

"Tell Fang to be brave until this whole thing is over," I told Angel. She nodded, and then resumed her stance of concentration.

Time kept on ticking, slowly but surely, and soon nearly six hours had passed. "So, how are we going to get out?" Iggy finally asked me. "Unless I'm mistaken, we're still as good as lab rats if we don't get out of here before sunrise."

"I'm not sure," I admitted, "I thought that when I went downstairs to face the Doctor I'd find the way out. But we'll figure out something."

"Should we try looking around again, in case we missed something?"

I shook my head. We had looked around a little while earlier, and had found nothing. The main door was still locked, all the vents were too small for us to crawl through, and even though the Doctor had laid off the mind games and booby traps, the top floor was still inaccessible. I guess he wasn't letting us use the easy way out. And also, "I want to be here when Jeb is done with Fang."

As if on cue, Jeb stepped out into the hallway, his surgeon's outfit covered with blood stains and green slime. "He's done," Jeb declared, "and everything seems to have gone together perfectly." He motioned for us to follow him into the room. Sure enough, the body we had carried in was on the table, except this time the flesh wasn't tinged green, and the chest was slowly rising and falling. Also, the skull had been shaved clean and cut open, and was now held together by a tidy line of stitches. This was no longer just a body; it was Fang.

"I doubt he'll be up and walking any time soon," Jeb admitted, "but I think he'll be alright if we use the gurney to transport him."

"Now there's only the small matter of getting out of this place," Iggy muttered.

"Maybe we could—" Before Angel could even finish her sentence, there was a loud explosion and a deep vibrating that filled the room. I looked over at Iggy, who looked at Angel, who looked at Jeb, who looked back at me. All at once we said what was on our minds.


39. Escape and Adjustments


Escape and Adjustments

"You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?" – J.R.R. Tolkien

Sure enough, two floors up we found a large, gaping hole in the wall, which opened up into the empty blue sky above the island. Gazzy and Nudge stood next to it; Gazzy looking rather pleased, and Nudge looking a little bit scared. "That was my biggest one yet!" He exclaimed, "I was up all night working on it, but boy, this place has some awesome supplies if you know where to look!" He did a little happy dance to celebrate his victory. "It was just a matter of finding a weak point in the structure."

Nudge rolled her eyes. "As long as it got us into the building," she sighed. "Can we go home now?"

I nodded. "We just need to grab a few more things, and then we'll have to work together to lower Fang to the ground."

Nudge gasped. "Is he okay?"

I winced. "It's kind of a long story," I explained. "We'll tell you about it once we're on the boat."

An hour later we were all on the boat back to Hawaii, safe and sound. It was nice, just being able to kick back and let your hair blow in the sea breeze. I was able to unwind a little bit—the relaxing kind of unwind, that is.

"Max," Jeb called, approaching me as I stood at the side of the boat, "Fang's awake now. He wants to see you."

I nodded in acknowledgment. "I will in a minute." Then I turned my eyes to the east, taking in the beautiful colors that the sun had painted in the morning sky. "It sure is a nice sunrise, now that it's not a deadline." I remarked, giving Jeb a wry smile.

"It sure is," he agreed.

I started to leave, eager to go below deck and check on our patient, but then I turned back around one more time. "Hey Jeb?" I told him, "Thanks for what you did for Fang." Jeb didn't say anything, but he nodded and smiled at me. I smiled a little back, and then I ran below deck to check on Fang.

"Hey, sleeping beauty!" I chirped happily. Fang groaned in response. I walked towards him and stood alongside his gurney; he looked bald, battered, and extremely tired, but I could tell that he would be alright. "How do you feel?" I asked.

"Really strange," he replied. "It's weird... I look and feel mostly the same, but it's still not my body. It has different scars than I did, and it's just... strange." He sighed, "This body responds automatically to some things, like it still remembers whoever was in it the first time."

"Iggy mentioned that something like that happened when he had your eyes," I told him. "It's almost as if the body parts carry a little bit of their donor with them. I asked Jeb about it earlier; he says it's called cellular memory, and it happens to some people who receive transplant organs.

"That's why we transplanted both of your old eyes into the new body: to give you a couple of parts that we knew remembered how you liked to use them." I looked him directly in the eyes and grinned at him. Even though we only had to replace one of the body's eyes, we decided to transplant both eyes to help Fang—and the rest of us—adjust a little. The windows are the eyes to the soul, after all, and it was nice being able to look at Fang's face and see the same familiar windows.

"Hmmm... You know," I started nonchalantly, pulling up a chair and sitting next to the gurney, "Iggy also told me that when he had your eyes, I looked like the most beautiful girl in the world."

Fang's mouth curled up slightly at the ends. "That's one reason why I'm glad I got my own eyes back," he confessed, "this way I can still see how amazing you are." We were both silent for a moment, unsure what else we could say.

Finally, Fang added, "I knew you would come for us."

I sighed. "I feel like I let you down, though," I told him.

"But I'm here, aren't I?" Fang reached over and took my hand. It was strange, being grasped by these different yet familiar fingers. They were paler, and moved a bit differently than Fang's other hands. "Max," he said to me, "you're a fighter, and you always try your best. But sometimes your best isn't enough, and you have to deal with that." He looked up at me with his tired but intense eyes. "This time, though, it was enough."

I smiled, and then I leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. "Get some more rest, okay?"

"Okay." Fang shuddered slightly.

"Are you cold?" I asked.

"N-No, it's not that," He replied, blushing slightly, "it's just this body... I don't think he was ever kissed by a girl." He sighed, "I wonder if I'll ever get used to it, living in someone else's body. It doesn't feel right, that I'm using it and he's not."

"Well," I said, squeezing Fang's hand tightly, "think of it this way: whoever this body belonged to spent his entire life in a lab. He was never part of a family, never kissed a girl, probably never got to use his wings, and he died before he had a chance to grow up," I told him, "Do all the things he never got a chance to do. Do them for him." Fang didn't say anything in response, but nodded slowly.

"Now," I repeated, "you need to get some sleep."

I held Fang's hand for another couple of minutes as he was falling asleep, until finally he dozed off and his grip loosened. Slowly I stood up and slipped my hand out of his grasp. "I love you," I whispered into his ear, before turning and leaving. I didn't have the courage to say it right into his face yet, but maybe he could hear me in his dreams.

I went back to the upper deck, where I found Iggy and Gazzy watching the morning sky.

"I don't think I ever saw a sunrise when I was little," Iggy commented, "It sure is amazing."

Gazzy nodded. "I'm glad you can see again, Iggy."

"Me too."

"Hey guys," I greeted them, "Enjoying the view?" I smiled, and then told Iggy, "You know, it's a good thing we're heading back to Honolulu; we'll be able to show you all the sites and scenery."

"Not to mention I'll be able to hunt for beach bunnies on my own now," he muttered under his breath. I promptly swatted him in the back of the head. "Ow!" he yelped. "Don't be so violent."

"It's just what I do," I told him, walking away to another part of the boat. I looked back out at the ocean, which shimmered with the colors of the early morning light. So much had happened in just one night: I saved a friend, I lost a friend. I learned what it was like to have your heart break. I was forced to face my emotions in a way more painful than I had imagined. I helped the lives of my family, as well as my own life. I also learned that sometimes you have to push your feelings to the side and be the better person. I felt completely changed, in some ways.

In the corner of my mind I thought about what Fang and Iggy said about the cellular memory in the body parts (or the body, in Fang's case) they had received; how each part inexplicably carried a small fragment of their donor with it. If I was to ever be unwound like Fang, I mused, what might the person receiving my parts find out about me? If they received some of my muscles, would they know that I had wings? If they got my tongue, would they begin craving chocolate chip cookies or view dumpster diving as an acceptable way of obtaining food? But what I would want to be remembered most, I decided, was the way I would do anything for my family. If someone ever had a part of me inside of them, I would want them to feel the same loyalty and devotion to their family that I felt, to have the courage to risk everything for the people they cared about.

That's what love is, Max, the Voice said to me, and it's something that not even unwinding can destroy.

40. Epilogue


"The function of science fiction is not always to predict the future but sometimes to prevent it." — Frank Herbert

Once they became aware of the situation which caused a large fleet of boats full of people to flee to Hawaii, it took several weeks for the government and military sort out everything found on the island. Details were sketchy, and the only people left behind to help them were several security guards who had been bound and gagged when the evacuation of Isle Invidia allowed intruders a chance to invade the island (it appeared that they had searched the building and performed a surgery or autopsy of some sort, but experts still weren't certain as to what happened because large clips of the security footage had been deleted). Additional specialists—many of them employees of the complex before the evacuation—had to be called in to help interpret all the research and data, as well as evaluate the experiments and cadavers that had been left behind.

Once the details had been sorted and the reports had been filed, it was clear to all agents and officers assigned to the mission that they were dealing with something far beyond what they had imagined. The information was eventually passed up to the superiors, who then passed it on to their superiors. Eventually, a few of those superior superiors met discreetly to review the findings. After much discussion, it was decided that it would be in the best interest of everyone if the Isle Invidia research (both chemical and surgical) was withheld from the public—the video footage retrieved and data collected would cause too much of an upheaval in society at that point in time, and they didn't believe the benefits would outweigh the costs. So, the secrets of the isle were hidden away in the annals of bureaucracy and eventually forgotten.

It took the Flock a long time to adjust to the changes their time on the island had brought—especially for Fang, who spent years feeling like a soul trapped in a stranger's body. However, Max was there for him the whole journey, and with her support Fang was able to regain the confidence and sense of belonging he thought had been lost when he was unwound. He took Max's advice, living his life to the fullest as a tribute to the person who had died in that body without getting a chance to experience life.

Life was never easy for Max, Fang, and the rest of the Flock, but it was good. In the midst of the dangers and adventures, Fang and Max found the time to get married and have four children; all of them as determined and spirited as their parents. The kids grew up in the Arizona countryside, alongside their biological and Flock cousins, as well as their maternal grandparents (After the Invidia incident, Max and Jeb were on slightly friendlier terms). Eventually, they too grew up and had their own children, and in the end Max and Fang had thirteen grandchildren, as well as many great-grandchildren and a few great-great-grandchildren—human-avian hybrids were built to last, apparently. Max and Fang had a good, long life together, and when Fang passed away at age 122, after 104 years of marriage, he died knowing he had used his borrowed body well, giving it the life that its first owner never had the chance to live.

A few years before Fang's death, however, a war had broken out throughout the United States, which was not resolved until several months after he had been buried. The fight was between pro-life and pro-choice supporters who had escalated their protests to acts of war—the Heartland War, it was called. The violence got so out of hand that the original Flock members relocated to Colorado, building a house near the location of the E-shaped house, where they and their family could stay until the violence had passed. It was in that house that Max saw the ending of the Heartland War on the television...

It had been a fairly regular day; it was a bright, shining afternoon, which meant that everyone was outside. The sky was filled with bird children of all ages and colors—all of them doing tricks in the sky, racing, or playing tag with each other. On the ground, too, there were children playing, mostly the younger tykes and the handful of children who didn't have wings. There were even a few adults having some fun outside—Max watched from the front window as Gazzy and Reima, Max's 96-year-old daughter, did flips in the sky like they did when Rei was a little girl and Gazzy babysat her. Those two had always been close; one of Gazzy's granddaughters had even ended up marrying Reima's son, Brett. She also watched as Stella and Luna, Angel's eldest great-grandchildren, started flying around some of the cousins who didn't have wings. Yes, it was a wonderful day, and Max loved watching the way her massive family interacted.

Normally, Max herself would be outside too—after all, she was in better shape than most people a quarter of her age—but today she had been sitting inside, watching the news for updates on the war negotiations. The war had been worse than ever the last year or so (which was why such a large part of the family was here in Colorado, to escape the turmoil), but now it sounded like the end might be drawing near. With negotiations quickly underway between the two sides of the war and the government—which had mostly acted as a neutral force throughout the war, trying to keep the two sides from annihilating each other—it was possible that the fighting would be over by the end of the week. There had been hours of talking and speculation on the news, but so far nothing important.

Finally, a flashy-looking general came onto the screen and began to speak, addressing the nation regarding the progress of the war negotiations. Most of the introduction was a whole lot of bland talk about how terrible the war had been, and how a nation divided cannot stand, and so on. Max tried not to yawn. Finally, he got down to the point.

"We have reached a compromise," the general declared, "The government has agreed to ban abortion..."

"Really?" Max remarked.

"...if, in return, the pro-life forces will not protest to the passing of another bill, now being called the Bill of Life, which will legalize a completely different procedure—a sort of retroactive abortion." Max raised her eyebrows, waiting for the general to go on.

"This option, available to parents with children of ages thirteen to seventeen, will allow parents to free themselves from unwanted adolescents if, after a guaranteed right to exist until the age of thirteen, they find themselves unable or unwilling to care for their child. This procedure is completely non-life-destroying, and has been developed by Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Dr. Ivan Invidia. It has been dubbed 'unwinding' by the scientific community.'"

"WHAT!" Max yelped, causing Iggy to come out of the kitchen.

"What is it, Max?" He asked, looking a little concerned. "Did they say something important on TV?"

Max pointed to the screen as the general continued, "The unwinding procedure, based greatly off of Dr. Invidia's work in the development of neuro-grafting, allows a patient to be completely surgically disassembled and then used for transplant parts—which, as you know, have become dangerously scarce in recent years. Legalizing this procedure and making it available to unwilling parents will reduce the youth crime rate, increase the supply of transplant organs, and end the bitterness that has torn our nation apart." He said more after that, but Max and Iggy had stopped paying attention.

"Do you think...?" Iggy trailed off.

"A procedure called unwinding developed by a Dr. Invidia?" Max repeated. "It's just a little too coincidental for my tastes." Suddenly she walked over to the computer, sat down, and began typing.

"What are you doing?" Iggy asked.

"Looking this Invidia guy up." The screen blinked with search results, and Max clicked on the picture search link. She gasped when the page loaded. The photos were of a man who appeared to be in his late thirties, with blonde hair, a dark beard, and tanned skin. However, behind the hair and the beard, it was easy to see who was lurking: It was a younger, cheerier copy of Fang. An exact copy.

"The Doctor," Max and Iggy murmured.

Max sighed, and shook her head. "Fang, I'm glad you never had to see that," she muttered, closing the search window on the screen. A terrible ending to a terrible war, she thought glumly.

And so it was: every teenager aged thirteen to eighteen, if so desired by their parents or guardians, could be unwound and used for transplant organs. The plan was viewed as a huge success—the war ended, the crime rate went down, and the availability of healthy transplant organs increased exponentially. And, technically, no one ever died; since every part of each person was alive in another body, the pro-lifers didn't protest the procedure. In fact, many of them readily agreed to the government's solution.

Everything seemed ideal to everyone (minus the people being unwound). Everyone, that is, except Max and the Flock. Even after all these years, Max had never forgotten what it was like—what it was like to be sought after for your body, to have your fate ripped out of your hands, to lose someone to unwinding without fully losing them. She also remembered that, even if you took someone apart and gave their organs to someone else, you could never fully make them disappear. The voices of the sacrificed would live on, the memories of the unwound locked inside transplant parts and shared with the ones who knew and loved them. Their cries would also be echoed by the survivors who would be sought after but never found—and there would be survivors. Yes, as long as there were voices speaking out, there would be someone fighting against unwinding.

However, it was not Max's fight anymore—the torch would be passed down to others.

The End! :D

Oh my goodness, I can't believe I'm already at the end of the story! :'( Well thank you everyone for reading, and a special thanks to everyone who took the time to review-you guys brightened my days with your encouraging, threatening, and full-out hilarious comments. I hope you all enjoyed reading, and I hope that if you haven't already, leave comment telling me what you thought of the story. It's helpful getting feedback on my work. Oh, and my apologies to anyone who got nightmares after Chapter 27, *anxious* hopefully the ending will help cancel out the psychological horror you experienced a little bit. Also, a special shout-out to AngelwiththeClippedWings, who's mentioned me in his A/Ns for My Name is Fang: Welcome to My Hell several times. Again, if you haven't read it, read it now! It's an awesome story!

I'm hoping to post another fanfiction sooner than I did last time, but in case I don't, goodbye! *waves* I already have another idea in the works, so keep your eyes peeled!