Uninvincible by Dringer

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Adventure, Sci-Fi
Published:2006-05-16 16:41:25
Updated:2006-08-27 11:32:36
Packaged:2021-04-22 00:47:44
Summary:Another adventure for Max and the flock. MaxFang

Table of Contents

1. Surprise
2. Mistake?
3. Recognition
4. Escape
5. Confrontation
6. Discovery
7. Explanation
8. Crushed
9. Breaking
10. Refreshed
11. Threats
12. Information
13. Family
14. Him

1. Surprise

Okay, you guys, this is my first fic, so please be nice to me. I'm really looking for a title because this one's so lame, so pleeaaase review. All right, this is just another random story about the Max and the others. Max/Fang. I don't really know where I'm going with this so I'm sorry if it takes me a while to update for the first few chaps. Okay, I've talked enough, so here we go:

My wings pushed down as I flew higher and higher. The air whistled around me and blew through my newly cut hair. I soared through the sky, beating my wings to gain more altitude. I took a quick glance around. Angel flew on my right side, Iggy floating under her. The Gasman rushed through the wind on my left, further ahead than the rest of us, and Nudge flew a little behind him.

I looked at the dark shape twenty feet below me. Fang. He was furthest from the flock. The rest of us floated to the side of under each other, giving just enough wing space and no more than that, but Fang always seemed to drift lower, as if there were an invisible bubble pushing him away. Fang had gotten a little strange these days. He talked less than usual, spent less time with the rest of the flock, and closed off his feelings better than ever. Something has to be going on. Maybe I should talk to him.

Of course, talking with Fang had been a little more than awkward lately- ever since he'd fought with Ari on the beach, ever since I'd done something I should have thought over first. But, there's me for you, me and my cute little mind that seems to be missing a few pieces.

Suddenly, something flashed in front of my face, headed upward. A few more shot up around us. Were they rocks? No, we were way too high. I looked down, trying to locate the source. The first thing I saw was Fang, now forty feet below, when just seconds before he had been twenty feet higher. I guess he was looking for them too. He was flying awkwardly, slanted as one wing flapped harder than the other, trying to dodge the small flying objects as he went lower.

"Bullets!" Fang suddenly yelled as he made an amateur swoop to the side.

Realizing the danger of the situation, I immediately flew higher, zigzagging and yelling for the others to do the same. Bullets whizzed past, screeching in my ears. I felt a sharp pain in my arm. Looking down, I saw that it was nothing more than a small graze, so I started searching the ground, trying to find our hunters. As I examined the ground, I found what I was looking for.

In a small clearing of trees, stood three boys, two holding guns aimed at us. Why is it always boys? Even though I knew that they assumed we were just large birds, it made me mad that they would try to shoot us. For one thing, the graze on my arm still stung, for the second, they shouldn't be hunting birds, and for the third, they were SHOOTING at us!

I felt the anger rise in my chest just as I noticed Fang. He was now a good fifty feet below us. We had moved up some, but he should have moved up more than us, or at least as much. What is it with him? I asked myself. I would definitely have to talk to him.

"Fang!" I called down. At first, I thought he hadn't heard me. As I was about to yell again, his face tilted up to look at me. I motioned for him to come up.

"Max, there's a cave right there," I heard the Gasman holler at me. Turning to look, I saw a ledge leading into a hole in the small mountain next to us. Making a quick decision, I nodded my approval and looked over my shoulder to make sure Fang was coming. As soon as I saw him flying after us, I turned left and made my way to the cave entrance.

I waited until Iggy had gone through, then tucked my wings in and dove through the opening. I felt my skin tear as my palms scraped along the dirt floor. Brushing my hands off, I felt for the cave ceiling, trying not to hit my head, when I realized that all of the others were standing, and I could see them perfectly fine. I stood up and looked at the ceiling. It was pretty high, and there were various holes dotting the cave walls, flooding the cavern with light, although most were too small to climb through.

Suddenly, a shadow fell across us. I looked at the entrance and saw Fang climbing through. Without sparing us a glance, he retreated to a shadowy corner, turning his face away from us at an angle that would allow him to see us if he wanted to.

Trying to distract the others from Fang's behavior, I told them to sit down around me. "Fan, do you want to come?" I asked, although I knew that he wouldn't. Proving my guess right, Fang shook his head slightly, without showing any other sign of life. Ignoring his actions, I asked the others where they wanted to stay.

"Why don't we just stay here?" Angel asked. I thought about it for a moment. There really wasn't any reason not to stay. Plus, it would mean that we wouldn't have to get past the hunters again. I shrugged, giving my approval.

"Yeah, that'd be cool," Iggy said. "This cave is awesome. It doesn't have a million rocks poking us, we aren't cramped, and it's not too hot or humid. This is way better than any of the other places we've been staying lately."

"It is pretty cool. So, is that all right with everyone if we stay here?" I glanced at Fan. Still motionless. Well, he wasn't objecting, I thought as the rest of the flock practically begged to stay. "Okay, then. We'll stay. Let's go flying."

"But, the hunters might still be out there," Nudge pointed out.

"We'll take an exit on the other side. Besides, the hunters have probably stopped looking for us by now." I stood up and looked at the top of the cavern, opposite to the side we'd entered through. I chose the biggest hole and pointed at it, telling the others to go out that way. As the flock flew out, I tried one last attempt with Fang. "Do you want to come flying with us?"

"I'll keep watch," he answered, pushing himself further into the shadows.

Sighing, I went to the hole I had pointed out and climbed up to it, pulling myself onto the ledge outside. I backed up to the mountain wall and pushed myself out, spreading my wings as I leaped off of the narrow ledge.

As soon as I saw how far the others were, I pushed harder, forgetting about the Erasers and all of my other problems, trying to quickly catch up with the flock.

After about an hour, we started drifting back towards our new cave home.

"I don't want to go back yet," Angel suddenly cried. "Lets just fly around the mountain for a while"

I nodded. Flying was always fun, but I needed to do something and this would be the perfect chance, while the rest of the flock was out. "Okay, I'm just going to make sure that Fang's all right." I flew toward the entrance we had gone through first. The rest of the holes were almost invisible from the outside, covered in shadows or bushes growing from the mountain's cracks.

As I approached the landing, I noticed a dark trail on the rock. The sun created a glare, making me assume that it was a liquid trail. I flared my wings, slowing down just before I landed. Picking myself off of the ground for the second time that day, I turned to see what the trail was, and my heart almost stopped.

I stared. The thick blood was still running off the edge, and there was a pool of it right in the front of the entrance. That's when I noticed the rock wall next to me. Less than a foot from my face, a now-dry bright red handprint smeared across the wall, creating the image of a hand dragging down the rocks.


Okay, how was it. Review please! Constructive criticism always welcome. Please, no flames. If you have any suggestions for the title, story, or anything in general, please tell me. Thanx! - Dringer

2. Mistake?

Okay, thank you to Superfreak9201, Indigowolf, and Greenmjolnir, for being my first reviewers. This chapter is a bit different- I just want to try a few things out. So, tell me what you like and then I'll keep going with it. And, I still need a story title. I don't like Realization very much, and I don't think it has much to do with the story, so, I want to change it. If you have any ideas, pleeaase review.

Disclaimer: sorry, I forgot to do a disclaimer last chapter. I don't own any of the characters, unless I decide to add new ones in later. This goes for the rest of the story.

Okay, Greenmjolnir, I didn't really think about the bullet thing. They definitely would have heard the bullets. Thanks for telling me; I'll try to think about that stuff from now on. Now, on with the story!

Erasers. As that thought popped into my head, I immediately felt my legs start moving of their own accord, heading into the cavern. Once again, I stared.

Fang sat in the shadowed corner, in the exact position he had been in when I'd left. There were no erasers in sight. "Fang?" I asked timidly, "Are you okay?"

He looked up at me, finally moving. "Yeah, I'm fine." He raised one of his eyebrows, asking, in his silent way, what would be wrong.

I walked forward, sitting down next o my friend. I slowly placed one hand on his shoulder and watched his eyebrows shoot up as I whispered, "Look, about what happened- well I don't really know what happened, actually. But, my point is-" I stopped and slowly pulled my hand away. Knowing what I would see, and hating it, I turned my hand over and looked at it.

My palm shone bright red, glistening in the evening light. My fingers tickled as the crimson blood flowed down them. I looked back up at Fang.

"What happened?" I demanded to know. When Fang didn't answer, I forced my hand back onto his shoulder, making him wince slightly, and started feeling for whatever had done this. "You know, this would be a lot easier if you would just tell me what happened," I continued as my hand ran down his back and over his wings, making sure nothing was broken. When I discovered that the wound wasn't on his back, wings, or shoulders, I hesitated. I knew that Fang was only tolerating me because he knew that I wouldn't let him go unless he forced me to, which he didn't want to do. I really didn't want to force him into that position, but I was definitely going to figure out what had done this to him.

I let my hands run along his sides, trying to get any indication of where he had been hurt. Suddenly, I remembered his awkward flying. He hadn't been trying to dodge the bullets; he'd already been hit by one. I went back to his wings, doing a more thorough examination now that I was pretty sure that that was where he'd been hit.

Then, I felt it. Moving his feathers apart, I saw a bullet-sized hole that seemed to be bleeding pretty badly, though, thankfully, the bullet hadn't gone through anything important, but I knew that it wasn't enough to have made the blood pool outside or to have soaked his shirt. So he'd been hit more than once. Great. "Fang, why didn't you tell us?" I asked the question that had been bothering me for what seemed like ages. He looked at me in surprise, as if I should know, then shrugged, looking away.

"Fang, please," I begged, horrified to hear my voice breaking. "Please, just tell me. Why won't you ever tell me?" I felt my face burn as a tear rolled down my cheek. I looked away. What was I doing? I shouldn't be crying over something stupid like this; I shouldn't be crying at all. But, still, it hurt. We were the flock; we were a family. We should be able to talk to each other- something Fang hadn't been doing in a very long time.

I looked back up at him, expecting to see him looking at me like I was insane. But, when my vision cleared, I saw him staring at me, not like I was insane, not even surprised at my words. Fang's face held an expression I couldn't place. "I'm sorry," he whispered, quickly looking away. I blinked in shock. Fang didn't apologize. It was just one thing that made him Fang. Not to mention, this was a really stupid thing to apologize for. Now I new what the expression on his face had been. It broke the Fang Rules too. Regret. I looked at my fellow flock member. This was a side of him I had never seen and, had it been anyone else, I would have said something mocking. But, this was Fang, and I was pretty sure that I wouldn't see this side often. If I made fun of him for it, I knew that I wouldn't see it again.

I stared at him, concentrating on his face until he turned to face me. "Where did the other bullet hit?" I asked, hoping that he would answer this time.

He didn't disappoint me. "I got one more in my wing." Under his direction, I examined his wings, finding one more bullet hole, close to the first, but it was too small to have created that much blood.

"Fang, there's at least on more. I know there is, so don't bother lying to me."

He studied me for a moment, then slowly moved his hand to his shirt, lifting it about six inches. I gasped as he revealed what I knew was the wound that had bled so much. Fang's stomach and side were covered in the shimmering crimson liquid.

"Fang, we have to get a bandage on. Take your shirt off." This time, he did look at me like I was insane. "What?" I asked. "Look, we have to do it. Okay?" He slowly nodded and continued pulling his shirt up as I went to the bags that had been shoved into a corner and started rummaging through them. Finally, I found the First Aid kit we had picked from a dumpster a while ago. I pulled some of the bandages and a roll of medical tape out of the white box and headed back to Fang.

He had completely gotten his shirt off now, so I could see that the rest of his chest was covered in the crimson liquid, as well. I quickly picked out a bandage roll, unrolled it, and gave one end to Fang. He looked at it questioningly. "Do you know if the bullet's still in?" I asked, hoping that it wasn't.

"It's not. I got it out while you guys were flying," he replied. I sighed in relief, then felt a pang of guilt as I thought of him in pain, trying to pull a bullet out of his own chest.

"Well, I guess that will make this faster, then. We need to wrap this around it, tight, so the blood won't come out so much," I explained.

He nodded, his brow creased in thought. "Okay, so how do we start?"

"Um, the others will be in soon, so we'll need to hurry, but, to start, we'll need a wet wash cloth. We just need to wash the blood off." I turned back to the bags, grabbed a washcloth, soaked it using one of the water bottles, and returned to Fang's side. Hesitantly, I raised the washcloth to his shoulder, going next to his wings, back, then chest. I noticed that the whole time I was cleaning the blood off, he stood frozen, barely breathing. Quickly, I dabbed the now blood-soaked cloth on the hole in his chest. As I did so, I saw him tighten in pain, although I knew he wouldn't say anything about it.

I quickly finished wiping the blood and told him to place his end of the bandage on the bullet hole. After he'd done it, I wrapped the bandage around him a few times, tightly, to stop the circulation and taped the other end down. "Alright, now we just need to put bandages on your wings." I grabbed the smaller bandages and placed them on the wounded spots in his wing.

I heard him shuffle his feet, self-consciously. "Are we done yet?" he asked.

"Yeah. Um, yeah, we're done." I slowly started walking away. "I better go check on the others."

"Max-" Fang called, half-questioning. "Thanks."

I felt my face lift in surprise. "Yeah, sure."

"Max, wait." I turned around and almost jumped back when I realized that Fang was now less than an inch away from me. I felt his had slide around my waist. "I need to tell you something," he muttered as his lips closed around mine. I felt the tears start running down my face again as I slid my arms around his neck, pressing myself against him and still trying not to touch his bandages. I savored the kiss, creating a permanent file in my brain to store it in. If only this could last forever.

"Uh, guys?"

Okay, I hope this was all right. Did you like it? I had to give the Max/Fang lovers something. But, for all of you who don't like it much, this story is not based around Max and Fang, so don't worry. I just wanted to switch it around a bit, see what you like. But, if you want the story to get better, you have to tell me. Review! Please. If I messed up with the medical/bandage stuff, I'm sorry, I don't really know much about it. And, it might take a little longer for me to update the next chapter, because school is ending and all my teachers decided to turn evil and load projects on me. Plus, I don't really know what I want to do with this, which is why you need to REVIEW! Just tell me what you want. Remember, constructive criticism always welcome. All right, I've wasted too much of your time. Cya- Dringer

3. Recognition

I'm back! But- I only had 2 reviews! So, thanks, indigowolf and superfreak9201. Please, you guys, I NEED reviews! All right, this is a pretty short chap, but I wanted to get one more in before I go on vacation this weekend. I'll be gone about a week, but that's probably not gonna be a problem for you because the second book comes out today! But, maybe you will REVIEW! Okay, I just wanted to let you guys know, last chapter, when Max was crying, it's not like she was a wimp or anything, but she's not like an invincible superperson. So, I just wanted to show that she's not all powerful or anything. Okay, so, here's the chapter.

"Uh, guys?" We practically jumped apart (Fang and Max-last chap). I looked over at the cave entrance, where the rest of the flock stood, staring at us. The Gasman was in front, and I realized that it had been his voice I'd heard. How long had they been standing there? I felt my face heat up. This could not look good.

I suddenly realized that Fang still had his shirt off. Catching my eye, he hurried over to his bag and put on a new shirt, ignoring the blood-covered one still lying on the floor.

"Hey, guys," I said, trying to sound perky and act as if nothing had happened.

"Hey, Max," Iggy replied, sounding normal. I sighed. At least he hadn't seen it. He seemed to recognize my relief, though, and said, "I'm not deaf, Max." My cheeks burned hotter. We hadn't been loud.

"So, what's going on, you guys?" Nudge asked timidly. "I mean, has this been happening for a while, or-"

"No," I practically gasped. Fang looked at me with a weird expression. I had to calm down. "Well, we were just, um…"

"Max was just helping me and we, uh, got caught up, or, uh…" Fang said helpfully.

"We saw blood," the Gasman stated.

"Yeah. Fang got hit by a few bullets earlier. I was just trying to help him clean up," I stuttered.

"Yeah, but I guess you helped him with a lot more than that," Angel piped in. I felt myself blush furiously again. I glanced at Fang and saw, to my surprise and pleasure at not being alone, that he was blushing, too. Wow, he was breaking a lot of Fang Rules today.

"Okay, you guys, you've had you laugh. Don't laugh anymore," I ordered. I looked at the rest of the flock. Fang was the only one who wasn't smirking. "Why don't you guys go back outside? Fang and I have to talk."

Still smirking, the flock filed out of the cave. I turned to Fang "So…" I began.

"Look, Max, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that; it just happened."

"What do you have to be sorry for? I asked, laughing. "Do you remember that night on the beach?"

"How could I forget?" he asked, a small grin forming on his face as he watched the blush return to my face.

"Max-" Fang started, immediately stopping as a crash sounded from the cave entrance.

"Iggy!" I heard Angel scream. With a glance my way, Fang darted toward the entrance, and jumped back just as he was about to go through. Dark shapes flooded into the cave, swarming around us.

The cave was almost black, now that the creatures were blocking all of the holes. But, I knew what they were. An acrid smell pushed at my senses, forcing me to put a hand over my mouth and nose in an attempt to keep the foul odor out. A small line of light flooded into the cavern, illuminating a single eye in the darkness. I froze as the eye turned my way, and the light went out. I could still feel it on me, staring.

A strong hand gripped my arm, pulling me down. I let the claws scrape my limbs as I was dragged to the ground. It couldn't be. I had recognized that eye, that person. It couldn't have happened.

The erasers injected something into my arm, but I didn't care. I felt as if I had lost one of the flock, although I knew that I hadn't. She had been my closest friend out of the flock (besides Jeb). First Jeb left, now they've taken her.

A single word floated through my head as the world darkened. Ella.

How was it? Please review and tell me. The pretty purple button is right down there. Click it. I still need a better title. Okay, well, I'm gonna be gone for a while, so I hope you're fine with just this chapter (and of course, School's Out- Forever, which I know is much more exciting). So, please review, and I'll update soon. The next chap will have action.

P.S. I need reviews- so I'm not going to update until I have at least five. So, just please review.

4. Escape

Hey, I'm back from a very cool camping place. Aspen Grove? Anyone heard of it? Well, it's very cool, in case you want to go. And, last week I finished School's Out- Forever! It is AWESOME! So you should read it very soon, if you haven't. But anyway, I think this is the longest chapter yet. So, I hope you enjoy. Remember, R&R. I NEED your ideas. So, please help me out. Cuz I still need a title, too. Here's the chap:

Blinding light flooded my vision. I quickly closed them. Then, slowly easing my eyelids up, I let my eyes adjust to the brightness. I tried to sit up, and noticed that my arms were bound by metal bands to the cold, hard table I was lying on. I tried to move my feet and felt the cold iron cut into my ankles. Perfect.

Well, Max, you've gotten yourself into a bit of a situation here, my Voice stated.

"Oh, really?" I asked aloud, making the sarcasm in my voice ring loud and clear. I hadn't heard from my Voice in a while, and I wasn't exactly thanking it for showing up now.

You need a goal, Max. Find your goal, my Voice reminded me.

I let my mind slip into memories. The last thing I remembered was the cave. Fang had been with me, and the others had been just outside. They could have gotten away, but as I thought of Angel's scream I predicted that they hadn't. At least one of my fellow flock members was here, too, but there might be more. Probably more. I had to get them out.

Good, Max. You have your goal. How do you reach it?

Well, I don't know, Voice. That is why I haven't done anything. So, if you're so great at giving advice, how about you give me some now? No response. I sighed. If I had to have a Voice in my head, couldn't I at least have a useful Voice?

I strained against the metal bands on my arms. Nothing happened. I pushed harder, feeling my muscles tighten as the metal remained immobile. I shoved myself forward against the bands, until I was sure the hard edges had cut into my skin. I struggled until I felt the blood running down my forearms. My face was heated and my back burned. The blood running across my limbs now felt like ice. I pushed myself harder, feeling like my head was about to burst. I wasn't going to break the metal. Just as I was about to give up, a bright orange stream of light shot up on my right. Just inches away from my face, the small strip of fire made me even hotter.

Where had it come from? I suddenly thought of the burning sensation on my back. I tried to spread my wings, wincing as my weight plucked feathers off of them. After straining against the ropes that I now knew were holding my wings behind me, I felt my left wing emerge from under my body. The few feathers that had come out were now spitting flames everywhere, making me feel like I was lying in a fire pit. Thankfully, my body seemed able to tolerate the heat. I struggled more, pushing my wings further out while straining against the bindings.

Suddenly, I heard a snap on my right side. My arm was free. I lifted the right half of my torso up, releasing my wings. As the flames flared higher, I felt the other bindings snap under the pressure.

Quickly jumping up, I flipped myself off of the table and onto the ground. I immediately sank back onto the burnt metal, though I stayed in a sitting position. I let my legs rest as I examined the black table. I could see exactly where my wings had been for most of the time. Next to the giant wing imprints lay a black string- the roped that my wings had been tied with. Slowly, I let my legs go back onto the hard ground, hoping that they had regained some of their power.

Max, my Voice suddenly put in, do you think that these flames just magically appeared?

I mentally hit myself. Of course- where had the fire come from? Well, I knew it had come from my wings- but how? I had just gotten a new power.


I made my way down yet another long, white hallway, trying to keep the smells from entering my senses by putting a hand over my nose. I ran quickly, pushing myself through one door, then the next, and the next. I thought about my new power. What else could my fire-wings do? I smiled as the possibilities flooded my mind.

Suddenly, I felt something hit my foot, sending me flying (or, not so much flying- more like tumbling through the air). I spread my wings, but it was too late. I crashed into the wall, creating an incredible amount of noise. Slowly, I stood up, trying to clear my mind. I glanced at the wall and, to my dismay, saw that a red smear from my arm now decorated it. I would have to hurry.

I set off running again, crashing through doors now that everyone in the School must have known I was there. I hurried around a corner, slamming into something that sent me tumbling to the ground. Again. Quickly looking up, I felt my mouth drop open. A full grown Eraser stood in front of me. But, it was not him that made me freeze. Behind the giant Eraser, others lined the hall. Some were fully grown while others looked like they were the newest batch yet. I hadn't seen a single Eraser in the past hour in the School, and now, the hall was full of them.

All I could see was the line of Erasers in front of me. They were squished together so I couldn't see behind them. There could have been hundreds of Erasers down that hall, or just the ten in front of me. Either way, it was too much. Realizing the danger of my situation, I shot up and down the hallway on my left, signaling the start of a chase behind me. As I raced down the hall, shoving things into the way of the Erasers, I thought of the others. Where were they?

Recognizing the double doors coming up on my right, I went to the side of the hall, and through the doors, into a room full of crates. I ran through the room, calling the flock and glancing into all of the crates to see if I recognized anyone.

Guilt flooded through my veins as I left all of the other caged kids behind me. But, the flock came first. I would save the other kids when I didn't have giant wolf-men chasing me. As I ran past a small crate, I heard a voice call out to me. "Max!" Quickly retracing my steps, I looked into the crate to see the Gasman's blue eyes staring up at me.

"Gazzy!" I whispered. I swiftly unlatched the cage, letting the young boy out.

The Gasman jumped out of the crate and, understanding my hurry, muttered a quick 'thank you' before running toward the other crates. "I saw where the others went," he whispered as we ran across the room. I stopped at another cage where Angel was held as Gazzy moved a few crates down to free Nudge. When the girls were out, we ran further, toward the other end of the room.

"Max, where were you?" Angel suddenly asked.

"Angel, I'm sorry, sweetie. I was in another room, all tied up," I murmured. "It took me a while to get out and find you guys."

"So, you just found us?" asked Nudge. "No Erasers?"

Suddenly, my mind went back to the Erasers. Where were they? Not that I wasn't thankful for not having them here, but shouldn't they have found me by now? Keeping the problem in my mind, I continued running, going through the possibilities.

We stopped at a large crate in the far corner of the room. Iggy was inside. As Nudge was freeing Iggy, the Gasman whispered, "Fang's cage is right there." Going over to the crate that Gazzy had pointed out, I froze.

"Gasman," I choked, "are you sure that this is his?"


My heart plunged inside my body. The cage was empty. "You guys, Fan's not in here."

I watched Nudge frown while Angel and the Gasman came to look in the cage themselves, trying not to panic. "They took him out about an hour ago," said Iggy.

I glanced over at him. "Did they say where?" Iggy shook his head. I felt panic rising in my chest. We were lucky that the Erasers hadn't found us yet. We couldn't just go around, looking in all of the rooms, and hoping we wouldn't run into anyone else.

I glanced at the others, wishing someone would just tell me what to do. "I have an idea," Nudge said suddenly. She walked to Fang's cage, placed her hand on the latch, and closed her eyes in concentration.

Just as here eyes snapped open, a huge, scarred Eraser burst through the double doors on the other side of the room. Ari. "Run!" I whispered. We raced to the nearest door. I could hear Ari advancing quickly, followed by innumerable Erasers. I yanked the door open, hoping that we wouldn't find Erasers on the other side.

As soon as I saw the empty hallway, I urged the others through the door, and we ran down the hall. "Wait!" yelled Nudge. "We have to go through that door." She pointed to the door that we had just passed.

Without question, we all darted through the door. This time I let Nudge lead the way, realizing that she had used her power to access the minds of the people who had taken Fang from his cage. We were going to find him. As we raced after Nudge, the passageway narrowed, leaving only enough room for us to go through in single file.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, Nudge stopped outside a door. She jerked her hand forward, to the doorknob, and shook it. "It's locked," she whispered.

"Okay, guys, step back," I told them. As the others moved away, I steeped in front of the door. Turning, I shot a quick sidekick at the door. I flew open. I stepped in and felt my eyebrows lift in surprise.

Fang stood in the middle of the room, a female Eraser struggling next to him. I heard a loud crack as he snapped her neck and let her body fall to the ground. The bodies of at least five other full grown Erasers littered the floor, some still twitching. The female had been the last one standing. Behind Fan, there was a metal chair with broken ropes still hanging off of it. They had tried to keep Fang tied down with ropes. And I had believed that these people were smart?

I walked over to Fang. He was covered in blood again. Although I knew that some of it was Eraser's blood, I was sure that most of it was his. I stepped behind him and started untangling the ropes that still bound his wings. "Are you okay?" I asked him.

"Yeah. How about you guys?"

"We're fine," replied Iggy. "But I don't know how you got all of these Erasers down," he added, making me wonder how he knew the number of Erasers in the room when they were mostly immobile. But I still let my eyes scan over the Erasers. There were a lot for one person to take on. Even if that person was a bird kid.

Suddenly, my eyes stopped on one of the Erasers. The female. I took a sharp breath and made my way over to her. Kneeling down, I looked at the back of her head, hoping I was wrong. I reached out, not noticing the others staring at me, and turned her face toward mine. I heard a gasp leave my mouth.

I felt my eyes burn as I stared into Ella's dead, empty ones. A tear rolled down my face, forcing me to wipe it away. I stood up and looked at the others. They were all gaping at me. Fang stood, glancing from me to the girl he had killed, and back to me, not knowing what he had done.

A burst of anger flooded my chest. "Let's go," I barely managed to whisper. I ran to the large window and threw myself at it, breaking the glass. I fell for a few seconds, then unfurled my wings, catching myself on the night air. I was free.

Alright, there's the fourth chapter. How was it? Please tell me. I need your ideas for the story and title. Even if you don't want to give me ideas, just tell me if you liked it or not. Okay, I'll update as soon as possible. I hope you have fun reading- Dringer

5. Confrontation

Hey guys, I'm sooooo sorry for the long wait. I just finished school, finally, and I had serious writer's block. I really need your ideas! But, now that school's out I should be able to update more often. Thanks to x Step On Me x for the title 'Uninvincible.' I finally got out of Realization. Okay, this chap isn't very long, even after the long wait, so, I'm sorry, but I'll try to make them longer from now on. So, here's the chapter:

I circled the small mountain under me. It seemed clear, but Erasers could be hiding inside the cave with our bags, waiting for us.

"I'll go in," Fang offered, giving me a short glance, then turning his face back to the mountain. Not looking at him, I considered the option. When I didn't object, Fang lowered himself into a dive, tucking his feathers in and copying the hawks we had flown with such a long time ago.

As Fang entered the cave, a pang of guilt hit me. Fang was part of the flock. I shouldn't be letting him put himself at risk like this. But, as that thought came, the image of Ella's dead body flooded my mind. A surge of involuntary anger filled my chest.

Suddenly, Fang stuck his head out of the entrance and waved for us to come in. I waited for the others to enter before I finally stooped into a dive and went in. The cave was illuminated with the dawn light. I made my way to the bags, where the rest of the flock was crouched, and picked up my pack.

"We have to go," I told the others. "The Erasers could come here at any time." I turned toward the hole in the wall, slipped the small bag onto my back, and jumped out. I spun in the air, letting myself flip as I fell, closing my eyes and listening to the wind as it rushed past. I fell for what seemed like forever, enjoying the quiet.

Finally, I felt a hand grasp my arm. My eyes snapped open. "Max, what are you doing?" Fang yelled from right above me. I felt the rage inside me suddenly explode and opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Fang, of all people, had no right to ask what I was doing.

I let my anger run down, and I could finally speak. "What do you mean 'what am I doing?'" I yelled back at him. "At least I didn't just kill an innocent girl!" I felt tears well up in my eyes as I finally let my frustration out. I watched Fang's face form into an expression of disgust. He let go of my arm, flying up to the others and leaving me in his position- at the bottom.

The flock started heading away, in the opposite direction of our mountain home. I watched as they flew, wondering if they even cared whether I stayed. Finally, when they had flown a good distance, Angel turned around. For a few seconds, she hovered, then she waved, motioning for me to follow. I quickly flew after her, telling her to keep going in order to keep up with the flock.

After a few hours of silent flying, we stopped. We landed in a small shelter in the forest. I quietly made my way over to a patch of grass, setting my bag on a rock and plopping onto the ground, exhausted by the hours of flight. I watched the others settle down and noticed that none of them were near me.

I sighed and stood up. "I'm going for a walk." Without waiting for a reply, I took off into the woods. After a few minutes of walking, I thought about flying instead. No, I was too tired.

"Max!" I heard a voice call quietly. "Max, where are you going?" I turned around. Iggy was standing about twenty feet away from me. He started walking forward. Man, how did he do it? I'd gone so far into the forest, and a blind kid could track me?

"Hey, Iggy," I replied just as quietly.

"Max, why are you mad at Fang?" asked Iggy. My head shot up at that. Why was I mad at Fang? I felt the familiar boil of anger return to my chest.

"Hmmm… I don't know, Iggy. Why would I be mad at Fang?" I snapped.

"Max, I'm not trying to start a fight, okay? Just chill out." Chill out? "I don't know who she was, but-"

She was an innocent girl, Iggy! She saved my life, she was my best normal friend!"

"Maybe she was, Max, but what about Fang?" Is he not your friend?" Iggy had started raising his voice.

"Iggy, you don't get it!" I yelled at him. "That was Ella! She was the one I stayed with when I got shot. She was the one who didn't treat me like a freak- the one who actually cared! I didn't have to take care of her; she didn't like me because I was the person she had to rely on! She liked me for being me." I felt my insides twist as I let my anger out.

"Okay, Max, I get it!" Iggy yelled back at me. "She was your friend! I can understand that. She was your friend- when she was human. Max, that person back there was not Ella! It was an Eraser, not even a person. That thing would have killed you or me or Fang the first chance it got! That was not your friend; it was a monster, a murderer, a freak! So, if you want to choose that thing trapped in your old friend's body over us, fine! But, you better make your choice really fast, 'cause we're not waiting!" He turned his back on me and stalked off.

I stood perfectly still for a few seconds, letting Iggy's words sink in. He was right. That's exactly what I'd been doing- choosing Ella, who had been kind to me for a couple of days, over the flock, who had been my family as long as I could remember.

Feeling guilty, Max? I'm glad Iggy had the sense to talk to you.

"Shut up, Voice!" I yelled. Everything fell silent around me. The birds were no longer chirping, I couldn't see the squirrels jumping around. The only movement came from a nearby river, its steady flow creating a soothing sound throughout the forest.

Good, Max, my Voice told me, just calm down. Now, go back to camp and hope that Iggy makes it back.

Hope that Iggy makes it back? What was that supposed to mean? Iggy had followed me here, all the way through the forest. But, he had done it by sound, and now he wasn't following my footsteps or anything besides his memory. Oh, no. I darted toward the place I had last seen him. "Iggy!" My voice sounded shrill even to my own ears. "Iggy, where are you?" I ran through the woods, yelling as loud as I could, though I had no clue whether or not Iggy was anywhere near me.

Suddenly, I heard something behind me. I whipped around. "Iggy!" I yelled, jumping forward and wrapping my arms around him.

"Woah, calm down, Max," said Iggy, no laughing and pushing me away. "Someone really needs a chill pill."

I stepped back, smiling in relief. "Sorry, I was just worried that…" I trailed off. Iggy didn't like talking about his certain loss of sense. "Well, I was just worried."

"Yeah, well, I bet the others are worried now," he stated, cocking his head, trying to hear anything nearby. "We should get back to camp."

"Okay, Are you up for flying?" I asked, hoping that he would respond the way I wanted him to.

"Uh… no. We did way too much earlier."

I sighed in relief. "Good, because I don't think I could get ten feet in the air." I paused. "I guess we should get going now." I started walking to the camp.

"Yeah." I heard Iggy's quiet footsteps come right behind me as I walked.


It took us about five minutes to walk back to the camp. When we arrived, the others looked up at us expectantly and I wondered what they wanted me to do. "Hey, guys," I said quietly.

"Hey." Fang's deep voice rang out, seeming loud in the silent clearing.

"I'm sorry I freaked out. It was stupid. I just saw Ella and I didn't know what to do. But you guys have been my best friends forever, and Fang, I know that you were just trying to, well, stay alive. You didn't even know that was Ella, and I guess it really wasn't. It was an Eraser. Ella died when the whitecoats did that to her. And, I'm just really sorry, but now I'm rambling, so I'm going to stop," I broke off.

"It's okay, Max," whispered Angel. She stood up and walked to me, wrapping her arms around my waist in that six-year-old hug. "Ella was your friend. You just got sad when you saw her. It's not your fault."

Okay, was it too bad? Sorry for the short chap and the kind of cheesy ending. But, like I said- I have writer's block. So, pleeaaasssseee review. If you have ANY ideas- tell me! I'll try to make the next chapter longer. Thanx- Dringer

6. Discovery

Hey, sorry for the long wait, once again. I had a family reunion and other things you don't care about, so here's the chapter, I hope you like it:

I woke up early the next morning. Immediately, I started my regular duties- making the fire, cooking (or burning) the food, and pretty much everything else.

After the smell of fried bacon had joined the smoke in the air, I shook the others awake, getting some amount of resistance from certain people I won't name. As we sat around the fire, listening to the quiet crunch of the roasted food, I contemplated our next move. Where were we going to go?

"Max, why do we let you cook?" asked Iggy as he tried to separate the edible pieces of his bacon from the inedible parts.

"It tastes better when it's crunchy," I defended myself.

"Hey, shut up," Fang ordered. As Gazzy turned to Fang and started to tell him to shut up, I noticed what Fang was doing and covered Gazzy's mouth.

The Gasman looked up at me questioningly, but he stayed quiet, so I put my hand down. With nothing but the crackling of the fire in our camp, I could hear a quick chopping sound coming from somewhere nearby. I turned around, and suddenly, a completely black helicopter flew up over the rocky mountain.

I jumped up to my feet. "Run!" I ordered the others. We quickly through our things into our bags and leaped into the air. My wings pumped hard and fast as I tried to gain altitude.

I watched as the others flew, making sure they were keeping up, and trying to control my own flying. We lowered ourselves into the treetops, where the leaves were plentiful, and tried to give ourselves some cover.

Finally, after many tiring minutes of full-speed flying, we landed. "I think we lost them," I told the others.

"Yeah, that's what people on TV say right before whoever was chasing them sneaks up and slits their throats."

I turned and stared at him for a few seconds. "Well, aren't we optimistic today," I muttered, looking away. "I guess we'd better get going if we don't want our throats slit." We started off through the forest at a hurried walk, giving our wings a rest.

"Max, where are we going?" asked Nudge.

"We're just getting away from the helicopter," I told her. "We'll stop soon." We continued pushing our way through the bushes, until the trees were thick with vines and the forest was looking more and more like a jungle. As we pushed our way through the greenery, the pines and oaks were being replaced by unnamable, luscious green trees filled with strange fruits I had never seen.

"Does anyone else think this is getting weird?" questioned Iggy, after we had literally run into a lime green bush, causing a swarm of rainbow-colored birds to flood the air just over our heads.

"Yes," replied Fang, as if there could be no other answer. "Definitely yes."

I shoved my way through the bush and almost tripped on a vine in front of me. I stomped on the vine and frowned in disgust as I heard a sickening squish. A dark liquid was now oozing out of the vine- only then did I notice its strange color. It was a light brownish green, with thick, dark circles decorating the skin. I slowly pulled my foot back, eyes wide in fear. Just then, a hissing sounded from above me. I froze, hoping that the others would do the same. They did. Sadly, it didn't help.

I slowly tilted my head up and what I saw made my eyes widen even more. A giant snake was descending from the branches above. I backed away, inching to the safety of the trees behind me, and always keeping an eye on the snake as it lowered itself.

After what felt like hours, we were no longer in the serpent's striking distance. I sighed and turned to the others. They all had an expression of shock plastered on their faces. Of course, Fang's expression of shock was just a slight raise of the eyebrows. I guess he was still following the Fang Rules.

"Are you guys alright?" I asked. They all nodded in turn. I looked at them, Iggy in particular. He had heard the hissing, but it must have been really confusing for him. He did look paler then usual. We would have to settle down soon- in a place without snakes that could swallow us whole.

"Come on. We need to get out of here," I continued. We started walking again, at a slower pace then before. After a few minutes of walking, I noticed that the trees and shrubs were disappearing. I glanced at Fang. He had noticed it too. I quickened my walk, hoping we'd find a clearing we could rest in. Then, I was forced to stop.

Once again, a bush was in our way. After checking for gigantic man-eating snakes, I pushed through the bush and climbed out on the other side. When I looked up, I drew in a sharp breath.

There was a small village before us.

Rows of small houses lined the clearing. Overall, there were about twenty. I stepped forward so the others could come out. One by one, the flock appeared behind me, gasping as they came through.

"Okay, first a monster snake tries to eat us, then we find some kind of civilization in the middle of a jungle that's not supposed to be here. This is insane. Why don't we just leave," suggested Fang. He grabbed my shoulder and tried to pull me back.

"Fang, no," I ordered. "We have to find out what this is."

"Max, this is stupid," Fang continued as I walked forward. "Let's just go." I kept going toward the houses until I was on the edge of the small camp. Once I knew the flock was behind me, I moved to the door of the nearest hut. I slowly reached out and turned the doorknob. Taking a deep breath, I stepped inside.

The house looked normal- or at least, what I'd always imagined as normal, because I hadn't been in many houses before. It had a living room, which also served as a kitchen, with a couch and even a TV on one side, and an oven, microwave, and table on the other. Three doors (not including the entrance) led out of the room. Two went into simple bedrooms with two small beds, a desk, and a lamp in each one. The last door led to a bathroom; there was a toilet, shower, and sink- no mirror.

As we explored the house, I wondered what kind of people lived here. Suddenly, as if in answer to my question, I noticed a single picture frame on the desk in one of the bedrooms. I hurried over to it and looked at the picture inside.

There were four people- two boys, two girls. They all had tiger stripe tattoos across their faces.

"Fang!" I called. "Come here." I studied the picture as the flock filed into the room. Just as I was about to hand the photo to Fang, a crash sounded from outside. I dropped the frame on the desk and ran out of the room, bursting out of the door we had come in through.

Blinding light filled my eyes. People were everywhere. What was going on? Slowly, my eyes adjusted to the bright sunlight and I could see what was going on around me. The rest of the flock had followed me outside, and people now surrounded us. They weren't normal people; they were the people from the picture- the people who lived here.

Their faces were covered in the tattoos, but underneath, they were pretty. It was an Eraser-like prettiness, cold and cruel, but the tattoos seemed to give them a warmth that no Eraser had ever had. I looked down at their hands and saw that their fingers were rough, their fingernails sharp. Turning back up to look at their faces, a boy, probably a year older than me, grinned. It was a twisted grin, not one of those happy, giddy grins that the Gasman always got, but that's not what I first noticed. The boy's teeth were sharp, sharper than a dog's even. They were long, and I was surprised that they even stayed under his lips. But, looking at the other people around me, I saw that they didn't. All of the people had sharp, pearly-white points coming out from under their upper lip. I just hadn't noticed it before. Once again, I studied the tattoos. They ran not only over the people's faces, but down their arms and every other visible place on their bodies.

Suddenly, I realized something. The tiger stripes that these people all seemed to have weren't tattoos. They were real.

Ooooh! What's gonna happen? Okay, I've already started the next chapter, so I'm REALLY going to try to update quicker than I have been. Thanks for reviews, ideas, and just reading. You guys are awesome. R&R, please. Thanx- Dringer

7. Explanation

Hello! I updated a little quicker, didn't I? Okay, just to let you know- in this chapter, I say tiger 'pack' even though tigers don't travel in packs. They travel alone, but this is a group and I didn't want to just say group, so I said 'pack.' And maybe 'pride' would have fit better, but only lions travel in prides, so I didn't do that. Uh, I also say 'tigrine' in this. I did some research kinda stuff and I think tigrine is right, but if any of you know, please tell me and I'll fix it or something. 'Cause tigrine doesn't sound as cool as 'avian' or 'lupine' and it makes it really obvious that it's a tiger. So, please help me with that. Hmm… anything else? Thanks for reviewing… please review more… I don't really have anything else to say, so we'll get on with the story.

"Do you think that you can do anything you want- trespass, intrude, and just get away with it?" I stared at the young boy who had grinned at me earlier. He seemed to be the leader. "I mean, did you honestly think we wouldn't catch you?" he continued.

"I told you this was a bad idea," muttered Fang from behind me.

The boy took a step forward. A malicious smile formed on his face as he continued walking toward me. Finally, when he was standing a few inches in front of me, his hot breath hitting my face, he leaned forward until our noses were actually touching. In less than a second, before I had time to react, he had grabbed my arm and twisted me around so my head was leaning on his shoulder, forced down by his hand, and I was facing the flock, with both of my hands pinned behind me.

I watched as Fang jumped forward, trying to get a hit at this guy when I felt a searing pain in my neck. "Wait," the tiger boy told Fang, "or I snap her neck." The pressure on my throat slowly faded as Fang backed away.

"Take them," ordered the boy. When none of the others moved, he repeated, "Take them!"

The striped people hesitantly moved toward the flock, but before they could get there, another voice sounded. "Stop! Josh, let go of her." The boy, Josh, slowly loosened his grip. As soon as I could, I spun around, turning so my back no longer faced this boy. When I was out of his reach, I turned to look at the person who had called him off. It was a girl, another tiger person. She was glaring at Josh, but she slowly turned to look at me.

"It's you," she whispered. I stood frozen for a few seconds as she gawked at me.

"Yep, it's me," I said nonchalantly.

She smiled. "I'm sorry," the girl apologized, laughing. "It's just- you're actually Maximum Ride." I stared at her now, wondering what I was to her. Why did she care who Maximum Ride was? "Oh, sorry! You still don't know who I am," she said, mistaking my puzzled features over who she thought I was for something else. "My name is Talon. I live here, with the rest of my kind. Do you understand, Max? We escaped from the school, too."

§ § §

The next morning I woke up and found, to my surprise that I was about the last one in the whole camp to wake up. The events from the day before flooded back to my mind. Talon; Josh; the tiger pack- the School's latest successful experiment.

"Boo," a lazy voice said behind me. I jumped about a foot in the air and landed on the floor next to the couch I had slept on. I whipped around to face the intruder, trying to recover my dignity as I did so. "I scared you," the trespasser snorted. "I scared the almighty Maximum Ride." He took a step forward.

"What do you want Josh?" I asked angrily. "Haven't you ever heard of knocking?" How had he gotten in so quietly? Or, more importantly, how long had he been here?

"Yes, I have, for your information." He took a long, dramatic breath before he continued. "But, seeing that you're sleeping in my hut, I didn't fell the need to."

I looked at him in confusion. "This is your hut?" I waited until he'd nodded before continuing. "So, where did you sleep?"

"Outside. I can use a little fresh air every once in a while, so I told Talon that you guys could have it." I was surprised by this gesture of kindness from him. Before now, Josh had been rude to me and the rest of the flock. He had tried to order the others around before Talon had shown up. But he had sacrificed his home for us? It made no sense.

"I'm sorry you couldn't sleep here. I didn't know anyone stayed here," I apologized. "I guess I thought it was a guest house, or something."

Josh laughed. It was a warm, welcoming laugh that didn't fit the cold personality he had had the day before. "Yeah, Max, 'cause we get a lot of guests around here." I felt my cheeks flush, and as soon as he saw it, he laughed again. I smiled. That laugh just made you do it. It was a mix between a purr and a roar, and I couldn't help liking it.

"Did you need something, Josh?" I asked, kindly this time.

"Yeah, um," he started, "well, Talon was just wondering if you were coming. The meeting starts in about five minutes." Suddenly, I remembered. Talon had said we were going to have a meeting this morning.

It was supposed to be about the whitecoats, the School, and anything else we might need to know. "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I forgot," I yelped. I leaped to my feet and ran to the door. Then I remembered Josh. Turning around, blushing again, I asked, "Are you coming?"

He smiled a nice, shiny smile that showed off his sharp teeth. "For a second I though you were going to leave me," he taunted.

"I would never do that," I replied, quickly walking out the door and making my way toward the center of the camp, where the meeting was supposed to be held. I heard someone coming up behind me and turned around, expecting Josh to be standing in front of me.

"Hey, Max," Gazzy enthused. "Are you coming to the meeting? All of the tigers are going to be there. I saw some who look my age. But most of them are older, like you." A small smile tugged at my lips at the boy's eagerness, but I felt a flood of disappointment that it wasn't Josh I was talking to.

"Yeah, Gazzy," I told him, "I'm coming to the meeting. We should head over there now. 'Kay?" The young boy nodded his head fervently. "Let's go." We quickly started toward the camp's center. This would be interesting.

"We're tigrine-sapien hybrids. The whitecoats created us to serve the same purpose as Erasers. We're called Hunters," Talon explained. "We were what the School was originally trying to create. Crossing a tiger, one of the world's most dangerous and powerful creatures, with a human, capable of thinking and strategizing- we were made to kill. The whitecoats tried for years. They wanted us; it was the ultimate goal. Finally the School kind of gave up. They moved on, trying to create other crossbreeds. They succeeded; they created the Erasers, and you six. Only recently did the School decide to try tiger crossbreeds again. And, this time, they succeeded. The only thing is, when they retried, they were so concentrated on creating us, the whitecoats forgot to control us. That's probably why they succeeded- there's a better chance of failure when you're trying to control the experiments, because the test subject often dies.

"See, when Erasers are made," she continued, "the whitecoats have to put implants in their human brains. They don't replace the brain; they just extract any part of the true human. They let the memories stay, but they cut out all real emotions and anything else that might cause the Eraser to resist. Sure, Erasers can feel; they feel anger, sadness, joy, and everything else- but none of it is real. After all of that is taken- they replace those parts of the brain with other things; hunger, the desire for a hunt, for blood- which is the only true emotion any good Eraser has ever felt. Of course, the whitecoats do make mistakes, like they did with us, and you.

"When they try to make new, better batches of Erasers, they can make errors. Sometimes they don't get all of the emotions out, or don't put the implant in correctly; sometimes they don't do anything at all- they create the Eraser just to see if it works, then they kill off those Erasers and try to make a new batch with the implants." Talon paused. "Do you get it, Max?"

"Yeah, but, if they made all of you without the implants, could they make Hunters with the controls?" An overwhelming silence landed on the large group. "They can, can't they?"

"Yes, it might take a little while, but they will, eventually," said a voice from behind me. I whirled around to find Josh just inches away. I noticed Fang tense up beside me. He still hadn't recovered from Josh's first attack on us.

"Josh, how do you do that? I swear, you make no sound, whatsoever. Are you going to sneak up on me some more? Because, you've done it plenty of times already, so you really don't have to do it anymore." I felt the rest of the flock look at me questioningly. Ignoring them, I turned back to Talon. "If the whitecoats find all of you, what will happen?" I watched her sparkling green eyes glance over the group of Hunters, her striped face frowning.

"Let's just say we don't want that to happened," she told me.

Okay, well, that's chapter 7. How was it? Once again, I really think that 'tigrine' sounds stupid, so if it's not right, pleeeaaassseee, tell me. Constructive criticism is ALWAYS welcome. Please review, too! And I'm sorry, but I only got 2 reviews last chap, so I'm gonna have to go back to waiting for 5! Sorry, but I need the ideas! I know some of the things I'm going to do in the story, but I don't really know the overall point of it. I need your ideas for what's going to happen! I'll try to update soon. Thanx- Dringer

8. Crushed

I am SO sorry I didn't update when I got the 5th review! I tried to, but there was this stupid error thing when I was trying to submit the document. So, I'm going to try again. I hope it works today. If you're reading this, it has.

Okay, I finally have the next chap. It took me a while to type this. I hate typing for long periods of time. It gets boring. But, oh- I read an AWESOME book yesterday. It's called Head Games by Mariah Fredericks and it is SO COOL! You should all read it. Alright, well, thank you KelleyFitzgerald, Yascarocks, and starry-eyes184 for reviewing. Thank you SO much Ime247 and EdwardAddict for reviewing SO many times. That was awesome. OK, I'm not gonna do the 5 review thing anymore. You can review if you want; if you don't want to, you don't have to, but it will just take longer to update 'cause I don't know what I'm doing next and I really need your ideas. Um, this might be a bit fluffy but I really wanted to get something kinda like this in. No one get mad at Fang in the end- he has GOOD reasons. I'm not going to tell you anymore, so, here's the chap:

"Hey," Fang greeted, walking into the hut and sitting on the couch next to me.

"Hey," I replied quietly. He tilted his head toward me, lifting one eyebrow. "What?" I snapped. I watched a smirk slowly form on his face while I waited for him to answer my question.

He never did.

Instead, he leaned forward until my shortened hair brushed across his face. Fang hesitated, but, before he could pull away, I leaned forward, closing the few inches left between us. Slowly, our lips met. I lost all though as Fang's hand slid over the back of my neck, pulling me closer. We were kissing for the third time, but this time no one was interrupting, and Fang was kissing me back. They do say that the third time is the charm.

Fang's soft lips slowly left mine, but he didn't pull away. He just sat there, his dark eyes staring into mine. "Max…" he whispered, but he was cut off. A loud knock sounded on the door. I looked at it and hesitantly stood up. I heard Fang stand as well, as I went to open the door.

I reached for the doorknob and pulled it open. "Max, I'm so glad you're here," Talon told me, coming inside. "I know that this is probably the smallest kind of civilization to ever exist, but I doubt I would have been able to find you if you hadn't been here." She paused, taking a quick breath. "Well, um, lunch is ready, and I was just wondering if you wanted to come with me. There are no other girl Hunters anywhere near my age, so it kind of gets lonely." That was true. I had seen a few guys who were probably in their teens, but there were no girls.

I laughed. "Yeah, I get that. Nudge isn't far from my age, but it does get lonely. I'll come." I turned around to make sure that was okay with Fang, but he wasn't there. I looked at the room he'd stayed in the night before and saw that the door was closed. Frowning now, I told Talon, "We should probably go." I followed her out the door and back to the center of the camp, which I now knew as Central Square, strangely enough.

We made our way to the fire pit where the food was being cooked and picked a plate off of the table. (These people were more civilized than us.) I slowly walked around the table, grabbed an apple, a piece of chicken, and a burnt, lumpy roll.

I followed Talon to a dark, wooden table where some other Hunters were already seated. "Hey, Maxy," one of them greeted; Josh. Talon quickly took her seat, so there was only one left- next to Josh. She quickly looked at me, a sly grin on her face, and turned back to her food.

I hesitantly took the seat next to the Hunter that had attacked me less than 24 hours ago. Searching for some form of distraction, I picked up the chicken I had gotten and took a bite of it. I immediately noticed that it had a flavor I was not used to. It wasn't a bad flavor, just different.

"Mmm, this is good chicken," I complimented when no one else said anything. Talon looked up at me. All of the others were now staring at me strangely, as well.

"Um, Max," said Talon, hesitantly, "this isn't chicken." I immediately stopped chewing. Not chicken?

"Oh. Well, what is it?" I asked, dreading the answer.

"It's, uh, squirrel," explained Talon.

"Squirrel," I choked out. Okay, I could deal. I am not going to gag. I am not going to gag. "Well, it's good," I lied, trying to force whole pieces of squirrel down my throat. Slowly, the others at the table turned away.

"Mmm…" growled Josh. "This is good squirrel. It's so good," he continued to moan, closing his eyes and letting his mouth hang open. He slowly opened his eyes and glanced my way, grinning as he saw my disgusted face. "What, Max? I thought you liked squirrel," he teased.

"Shut up," I muttered, turning back to my own food, and finishing the last few pieces of squirrel. The second I was sure that I didn't have to eat more squirrel, I sighed in relief and took a huge bite of my apple. I savored the sweet taste, trying to wash all thoughts of the meat out of my mind.

After my apple and roll had been devoured, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. I sat there for a moment, but I could feel myself becoming nervous, restless. I had to do something. Hesitantly, I stood and said, "See you guys later." I turned back to the food table and put my plate in the water bin where I had seen a few Hunters put theirs.

I started to walk back to the hut, anxious to speak to Fang, but as I left Central Square, I was intercepted. A dark blur jumped out in front of me and yelled, "Voila!" Josh stood in front of me, holding his arms wide, revealing himself as if he were a magic trick.

I couldn't help but smile. My anxiety faded as I looked at the Hunter before me. "Hello again, Josh,' I greeted him. "Do you need something?"

"Yes!" he exclaimed in a whisper, as if he had a secret. "I want to show you something." He spun around and started jogging away.

Confused, I started after him. I soon found out that his jog was much faster than mine. At a flat out run, I followed the Hunter into the strange jungle-forest. "Josh, wait!" I choked out, gasping for air. I really preferred flying. Realizing that I would kill myself trying to catch him, I slowed.

My head felt light when I stopped, and I swayed to the side. Max, what are you doing?

What do you think I'm doing? I yelled in my head, wishing my Voice would go away again.

Max, my Voice continued, despite my obvious anger, you don't know where you are. If you lose Josh, you lose yourself.

Finally, I took in what my Voice was saying. Josh. Where was he? I felt my breathing quicken. I had no way back to the camp, to my flock.

Suddenly, I heard something behind me. Spinning around, something moved behind a tree. "Josh!" I yelled, my voice breaking. "Josh?"

"Yeah?" I jumped when I heard the voice just next to me. What had been moving? Suddenly, Josh jumped through the bushes on my right.

"Oh, my gosh." I was breathing again. "Don't go that fast," I ordered him.

I felt a sheepish smile form on my face as a grin came across his. "Sorry," he laughed. I could tell he didn't mean it, but that was okay.

We started off at a brisk walk. I didn't know where he was taking me, but I wasn't worried. A half-smile took over my lips as I realized that I trusted him. I didn't know if that was good or not.

After what seemed like twenty minutes, we stopped. "Here it is," said Josh, looking back at me. I looked around. It was the same stuff we'd seen throughout the whole walk. Just as I was about to say something, Josh said, "No, not here. Here." He pointed to a space between two bushes. Then I realized I could hear water. Josh grabbed my hand, making me freeze in surprise as he dragged me through the opening. I closed my eyes, trying to protect them from the clingy bush limbs that were now surrounding me.

When I opened them, my jaw dropped.

We were enveloped by greenery. Trees of every kind circled the large clearing and lime green bushes filled the spaces between the trees. The ground was carpeted by lush green grass, dotted with bright flowers of ever color and size. Above us, the sky was a beautiful light blue with small ribbons of perfectly white clouds. Then my eyes settled on the waterfall. A baby blue stream fell down the mountain until it reached the glistening rocks and became the white foam, splashing through the jagged stones before it turned into a flowing river again.

Just then, I noticed Josh watching me. How long had I been staring? "It's great," I said, breaking the silence. "How'd you find it?"

He smiled. "It's not so hard to find things when you spend your life in a camp with nothing to do."

"Oh," I said stupidly. "But it really is beautiful."

"It's not the only beautiful thing here," he whispered. I shivered as I felt his breath on my neck. When had he gotten so close? Josh slowly wrapped his hand around mine and pulled it back, forcing me to face him. "You're beautiful, Max." He slid his hands onto my shoulders and pulled me forward.

Guilt and happiness tore at my heart as I felt my lips connect with Josh's. Chills ran down my spine as his hands moved down and wrapped around my waist, pulling me into his chest. I could hear his heart pounding as his lips moved over mine, pushing harder now. All thoughts drifted from my mind as I stood enclosed in Josh's arms.

But suddenly, I heard a seemingly loud CRACK from the bushes we had entered through. Jerking away from the Hunter, I looked over to the place the sound had come from. Just a bit further, a flash of black disappeared from sight. Fang. I darted through the hedge and began sprinting through the forest, following the almost silent footsteps of my fellow flock member.

Back in the camp, there was no sign of Fang. I quickly made my way to the hut, ignoring Talon as she asked what was wrong. When I got to the small house, I yanked the door open and ran inside.

"Fang!" I yelled, suddenly realizing that he was standing a few feet away, staring at me, disgusted. "Fang," I began, but he cut me off.

"Max, I don't care, okay?" he snapped at me, making his way to his temporary room.

I jumped in front of him. "No, Fang, I mean it. I am really sorry. I didn't want that to happen." I took a deep breath, seeing that he was listening for now. "There is nothing between me and Josh." I grabbed his wrist, trying to get him to understand me.

He jerked away. "Max, I really don't care." Fang backed away from me, glaring. "Go make out with Josh. I don't care. Just leave me out of it." He quickly pushed past me into the room, and slammed the door shut.

There's chapter 8! Was it okay? I hope it wasn't too fluffy. Please, please review! I'll try to update soon. Hey, does anyone know what squirrel tastes like? You guys- this is my second to longest chap! I'll try to make the next one longer to make up for such a long wait between updates because of the STUPID error. I'm sorry but that error really bugged me. OK, thanks for reading!- Dringer

P.S. Read Head Games!

9. Breaking

Hey, I'm finally updating! And we're celebrating because this is my longest chapter by 3 whole pages (I have no clue how many words that is)! Mm-hm. It's amazing, because this was the hardest chapter to write. I had serious writer's block, which is why I didn't update sooner. Actually, I didn't update very quickly because I had Girls Camp-which sucked, by the way- but now I'm back, so we're all happy. Or, at least I am. And, you guys- PLEASE review! I need your reviews, because like I said, I have REALLY BAD writer's block. I need ideas! Okay, I'll get on with the story now.

The next few days passed slowly, with nothing out of the ordinary. Or rather, with everything out of the ordinary. But, if everything is out of the ordinary, doesn't that make everything ordinary?

To sum it up, the flock was falling apart. Angel spent her time with other young Hunter girls, wandering through the village doing who-knows-what; Gazzy refused to leave the hut, saying that the tiger people looked at him strangely; Nudge spent all her time with a group of Hunters- all guys, because there were no teen girls- ranging from ten years old to my age; Iggy was having a hard time getting used to the new environment, now that there were so many noises; Fang spent all his time alone in the jungle, coming back only for sleep, and even then he avoided everyone, but he especially shunned me; and my new best friend was Josh, although Talon was sometimes included in whatever we were doing at the time.

We had been with the Hunters for a week now and I had a very strong urge to get my flock out of here. But how? They all seemed so much happier now that we were with other 'experiments.' Well, not all. Fang, Iggy, and the Gasman were pretty moody, and I wasn't exactly ecstatic. But Angel and Nudge were both having the time of their lives. Okay, two out of four liked it here, So, why hadn't we gone?

It couldn't have anything to do with a certain striped fifteen year old boy.

"Max!" I heard a now-familiar voice call.

Turning around, I replied, "Hey, Josh. What's up?"

"Do you want to go to the Oasis?"

The Oasis. I smiled as I remembered the alluring clearing in the forest. I had gone there with Josh about five times a day, every day, and I still couldn't get enough.

"Yeah," I told him. "Of course." Pulling myself off of the ground in front of our guest hut, I followed Josh to the edge of the woods.

As we started walking through the jungle, I went back to my meditation. After I had freaked out in the forest, it had been hard to explain what had happened. I felt myself frown as I remembered the conversation with Josh.

"Hey, Max. Are you okay?" I looked up at Josh and, after glancing at Fang's closed door, nodded. Immediately understanding that we had to be quiet, Josh whispered, "Do you want to talk?" When I glanced at him, exasperated, he quickly added, "Outside?"

Hesitantly, I stood up and walked over. Josh pulled the hut's door open and let me step out into the radiant sunlight. After a minute of silence, Josh asked, "So, what happened?"

I turned to him, trying to stop the tears that I knew could fall at any second. "I just…" I paused, not knowing what to say to him. "I'm sorry, but, I saw Fang and, I guess I freaked."

"Fang?" he asked. "What was Fang doing there?"

"I don't know- I mean, I guess he followed us, but-"

"Why would he follow us?"

"I don't know!" I whispered shrilly. "Okay? I don't know." I took a deep breath, saw that Josh was still waiting for an explanation, and decided to continue. "I just saw Fang, and it's really complicated, but I had to follow him."

"Well, you were moving pretty fast, so I'm going to guess that he was running too. I don't know exactly why he followed us, but I want you to tell me if my theory is right. Okay?" He paused, waiting for my answer. I slowly nodded. "Alright, so Fang followed us, saw us kissing, and he freaked out. So he ran away, and you had to follow him and make sure he hadn't gotten the wrong idea because he's part of your flock."

I nodded again, analyzing his assumption. "But Max, if you were trying to make sure that Fang hadn't gotten the wrong idea, what's the right idea?"

I paused. What had I been trying to do? Fang had been my best friend for most of my life, and lately he had been even more; then Josh had come, and what was he now?

Thoughts floated through my brain, jumping out of my grasp every time I caught a glimpse of them. I knew something was happening, but I couldn't understand what. "I don't know," I whispered almost inaudibly.

I slowly looked up at Josh, watching his green eyes study me as he tried to understand. He moved forward hesitantly, and wrapped his arms around me, enveloping me in a tight hug. I let my head rest on his shoulder and he whispered, "It's okay, Max. If you don't want anything to happen with us, it won't happen. It's fine." I felt a small smile lift my lips as I realized he was willing to wait for me. Maybe things would be fine.

As we made our way through the jungle, I studied the boy in front of me. His lazy yet quick walk accentuated the fluid movements of his limbs. Broad shoulders and medium brown hair made him look stocky, although from the side he was incredibly tall and thin. Josh looked back and smiled at me, letting me get a good look at his face while I smiled back. His teeth were as sharp as ever, and anyone could see he was a born predator. The stripes decorating his tanned skin went straight across his eyes- those bright cat eyes.

Then I noticed he had caught me staring, and I immediately stopped, looking away with a blush. But as soon as he turned away, I felt myself staring again. I couldn't help it. Because somewhere inside of me I was still hoping things would work for us.

When we finally reached the Oasis, we sat next to each other in companionable silence. Slowly, I felt a wall of tension form around us. Although I kept my head forward, I watched Josh through my peripheral view. He sat stiffly, his jaw strained. I watched his lips open and slam shut a few times and realized he wanted to say something.

Assuming he just wanted the silence broken, I whispered, "I love it here."

"Yeah," he managed to mutter. I turned to look at him and saw for the first time just how hard had his jaw clenched.

"Josh, is something wrong?" I asked hesitantly.

"Yeah," he said, with more conviction. He twisted around and looked me in the eye. Before I could register anything, he grabbed my hands in a grip that would make sure I didn't go anywhere. "Max, please don't run," he begged as I instinctively tried to yank away. "Max, please." I stopped, waiting for him to go on. "I really like you, Max, and I want to be with you."

I was paralyzed. This wasn't supposed to happen. My heart pounded as my head screamed, It's going too fast! Run, Max! Run! Before Josh could go on, I interrupted, "Josh, you said it was fine. It could wait."

"I know, Max. I know I did. I'm sorry. I can't do it, Max. Please, I just want to be with you." His pleading eyes burnt through my wet ones. "Max-"

"No, Josh. No."

"Why? Why not, Max? Because of Fang? Who cares about Fang?" I jerked back, a jolt of anger flooding through my body.

"Who cares about Fang?" I asked quietly. "I do, Josh. I've know him for my whole life, and I've known you for- what? The last week?" I watched Josh's striped face become distorted with fury as he realized I wasn't choosing him. "Josh, I'm sorry, but I have to go," I said, assured this time. I pulled away, only to be yanked back by Josh's strong grip. I tugged again, only to be dragged even closer. I knew my normally superior strength was no match for his tiger's. "Let go," I ordered firmly, but I knew I was shaking.

I continued attempting to get away as Josh stood up and began struggling to restrain me. After a few minutes of difficulty, Josh managed to pin my arms to my sides by wrapping one of his arms around my back, pressing my right arm and my wings down, and putting his other on my neck, keeping my left arm out of the way. I attempted to spread my wings, but he had them trapped.

"Josh, don't, please-" I begged as he pushed my head closer to his and put his lips on my won. I felt the now too familiar tears run down my cheeks as the forced kiss continued. My lungs were burning- Josh wouldn't back away. I struggled to get away, to get one breath, and used more precious oxygen in the process. I knew I wasn't fighting much anymore, but I didn't car. My brain was going numb with lack of air. Finally, after what seemed like a full thirty minutes, Josh let go, giving me less than an inch of space to breathe. After hardly any time at all, I felt his lips push on mine once again. I was still breathing, but I needed to do something before I passed out.

I could feel Josh pushing against me, until I was pressed against the rock wall. I was no longer shedding tears and my body was burning with anger. Just as I though I would faint, Josh leaped away with a yelp. At first I didn't know why, but I didn't really care much at the moment, either. I immediately spread my wings, ready to take flight, and found out what had happened. MY usually dappled white wings were now a colorful orange. Flames reached up to the sky, creating wisps of smoke. Josh stared at me, the girl with thirteen-foot firewings. A smirk appeared on my face as I flapped my wings, desperately hoping they would still carry me in fire-form.

They did. After one flap, I was ten feet in the air and still rising. Then I noticed what was happening below me. The flames had started a tree on fire, and the turbulence from my wings had spread it to the flowers, bushes, and other trees. The beautiful Oasis was burning before my eyes. Josh was running now, leaping through the flames that were spreading everywhere.

Not waiting to see what would happen, I started back to the Hunter's village, felling proud and disgusted with myself at the same time. I watched my wings as the fire distinguished, leaving my real wings looking like smoky shapes. Finally, the fire was completely out, and a dull glow became the only sign that anything had happened.

It took five minutes for me to get back to the village, but when I did arrive, I wished I hadn't. The whole town was an eerie orange, a reflection of the flames that seemed to be everywhere. These weren't from my wings. Hunters were running and screaming, and wolf-men that I seemed to recognize were chasing them. Erasers.

I landed in a somewhat shadowed corner near the hut that I had stayed in. I had to find the flock. Bursting through the hut's door, I yelled, "Fang, Iggy! You guys? Come on, Angel!" I searched the rooms, hoping I would find someone, but know I wouldn't.

After I had thoroughly examined the hut, I went to the door, desperately looking for the others. When I opened it, I jumped back a foot and stared at the knife being held in the exact place my stomach had been a second before. I hurried to the side before the knife's owner could thrust it forward again. As I ran to the window, the Eraser dashed in after me. He leaped into my path, blocking the only other escape.

Suddenly, a flaming board fell from the ceiling. It landed between us and we both looked up. The ceiling directly above us wasn't on fire, but looking into the gap the board had left, I could see that bright flames were burning through the roof.

Realizing we were both frozen, I started running. As I headed around the couch and toward the door, another board fell in front of me. I froze. I had to get out before the whole house collapsed.

With the board and flames blocking my way, I had nowhere to go but the bedroom and the bathroom. Suddenly, a whistling sound went past my ear. I turned and looked at the wall where a knife was now embedded. Then I chose the bedroom. But as I was about to go in, I heard someone yell, "No!" The sound had come from a few feet behind me. A sickening sound rang out and I slowly turned around. Josh stood between me and the Eraser, his back facing me, and I could see the tip of a bloody knife coming through his neck- right where my head would have been. I stared for a few seconds and then realized the Eraser wasn't doing anything but staring at Josh's form in confusion. The boards above me creaked and I started running- around the boards, over the couch, and through the door before the Eraser could react.

As I exited I heard the thud of Josh's fallen body. I knew I had tears in my eyes, and for once I didn't care. Josh had been a friend. Maybe he'd been a bit too friendly, but he'd saved my life, and I loved him for that.

"Max!" a voice called out. I turned and saw Angel, my Angel, running to me. A smile lit my face as she jumped into my arms. I held here as tight as I could without crushing her, and I never wanted to let go.

"Max," another voice said, "we need to go." I looked up at Fang. Trust him to ruing a happy moment.

"Okay," I whispered, still smiling. I let go of Angel, and spread my wings, taking off into the sky.

And it's done! Wow, that was a lot of typing. OK- sorry for the fluffy-ish ending. I hope it was okay. And finally- I'm sorry to say that it's going to be a while before I update again. I know I've been really bad at updating lately, and I'm sorry, so now I'm going to warn you because this is going to take longer than the other ones. When I started this story I had a few basic ideas that I wanted to do. I have used all of those ideas up. See- when I had the ideas it took a long time to update, but now it's going to take longer. I'm going to get some ideas and write a few chapters, then I'll update, and hopefully be able to keep up with it. But- it might take a while for me to get the ideas, so PLEASE- help and just review. Okay, thanx- Dringer

10. Refreshed

Hey, I'm FINALLY updating. I have the rest of my story pretty much planned out, so I'll try to make updates quick, but there's actually not too much left in the story. Well, I know that I've already made you wait too long, so I'll let you get on to the actual thing.

The autumn breeze seeped through my hair, cooling my head after long hours in the sun. How long had we been away from the Hunters? A week? A month? It had been long enough to fly across the country.

Utah wasn't a bad place. It had a bit of everything- green grass, flat lands, forests, mountains, city, and just a mix of wilderness. There were blue skies and fluffy white clouds one day, and the next there would be a giant storm full of lightning, rain, and sometimes hail. Those days made it impossible to fly. So, thankfully, today was a blues sky day, although the heat was soaring.

Suddenly, someone dropped down onto the rock beside me. I looked over to see Fang sitting in silence and I smiled. He really hadn't changed at all. One thing that had changed, though, was our friendship- and this time, in a good way.

After leaving the Hunters, things had been awkward between the two of us. I still don't know exactly what happened, but eventually our friendship had mended and turned into even more. Nothing was official, and I wasn't sure it ever would be, but Fang and I were closer than ever and something had formed between us. What that something was, I didn't know.

"Max!" a voice called from behind me. I turned around to see Angel looking my way. A smile was stretched across here face and she had here hands cupped so I could see something brown between her fingers. It was moving.

"Angel, what do you have?" I hurried over to her. She turned away from me, trying to hide it now that I'd disapproved. "Angel, sweetie, I need to know what it is." I reached out and turned her around. Slowly, I peeled her reluctant hands open and jumped back as something leaped at me.

"No!" yelped Angel. She immediately started chasing after the furry brown creature as it ran across the dirt trail. "It's getting away!" she screamed as the animal ran under some sagebrush and into a deep rabbit burrow.

"Angel," I called. She searched the sagebrush frantically, not aware that her temporary pet was gone. "Angel," I repeated, trying to get her attention. When she continued to ignore me, I walked over to her, placed my hands on her shoulders, and pulled her from the ground. "Angel, I'm sorry, but you know we can't keep a mouse."

She glared at me than looked back at her feet, purposefully ignoring me. "He was a mouse."

I raised my eyebrows. "Well, what was he?"

"He was a rat."

As I wondered what kind of rat would fit in a six year-old girl's hands, I said, "Angel, we can't have rats, either."

I pushed my hair out of my face and then I noticed Angel's. It was everywhere- whipping around her face and sometimes floating straight up for a few seconds. I turned around to see if Fang had noticed anything and saw him staring at the sky.

I looked up. Gray clouds had moved in fast so there was now only one small circle of clear sky, which was almost as gray as the clouds.

I took Angel's hand and, despite her struggle, took her over to the rock where Fang sat. The wind was blowing even harder. I hurried to gather the rest of the Flock and get them to the boulders as well.

As soon as we were all assembled, I yelled, "What's going on?" I pulled a lock of hair away from my face, which now stung because of the strands that had whipped it.

"Is it a tornado?" asked Gazzy, eyes wide with fear.

"Utah doesn't get many tornados," shouted Iggy over the roaring wind. "Maybe it's a micro burst!"

"Max!" I turned to look at Fang. "We're missing two food bags."

I frowned and looked through the bags we'd gathered. He was right. Two of the bags that we had filled with food just a week before were now gone. We barely had two days' worth left.

"We have to find them," I told the others.

"We can't go out there!" screeched Nudge.

I spared her a second's glance before turning back to Fang. "We can't get by without them." He nodded and stood. As I got up, I told the others, "You guys stay here. We'll be back soon."

Steeping out of the boulder's shelter felt like being hit by an eighteen-wheeler. I had to fight to stay upright. As soon as I saw Fang coming out behind me, I set off. Hunching my shoulders and bowing my head, I walked through a tall field to the clearing where we had been just earlier that day. When I reached the clearing, I had to kneel down to see the ground clearly through the blowing dust.

After I had searched the whole area, I stood up, but had to quickly duck down again when some sagebrush flew over my head. I hurried back into the field, now going against the wind.

Minutes late, the tall stalks were being ripped out of the ground around me. Crouched as low as I could get while still being capable of moving forward, I felt my skin being peeled off by the stems that were slapping my face. I was certain that the back of my head had swollen to the size of a watermelon after being hit by unknown objects.

I ducked as more sagebrush flew at me. When I stood back up, I barely had time to register the huge tree branch being hurled toward me before everything went black.

Dazzling light burned my eyes as I opened them. After squinting for a moment, I slowly lifted my eyelids until I had adjusted to the brightness.

As I stood up, I felt my feet stumble and barely managed to catch myself. I glared at the debris all around me. Fence posts, large boards, tree branches, and sagebrush made up most of the wreckage, but every once in a while I saw a soda can or a cardboard box.

I slowly started to kick my way through the trash, wondering the whole time where the Flock was. Were they safe? Had they been trapped? The worst possible scenarios ran through my mind as I walked. So much for 'not many tornados in Utah.'

Suddenly, I noticed that my way was blocked. A wall of garbage lay straight ahead of me. It stretched as far as I could see on both my right and left. The mound was huge, but I couldn't go back, and I couldn't fly with my wings being such a mess. I slowly started climbing, placing my feet on objects that could fall and start an avalanche of garbage, burying me under many feet of trash.

It took what seemed like hours for me to reach the top, and when I finally poked my head over the pile, I froze. The other side was almost completely clear of debris. A few stray branches were strewn around, but other than that, there was only one thing. A body laid face down in the dirt just one hundred feet ahead of me.

I rushed down the garbage pile, all thoughts of safety gone. I jumped over the stonewall that had caused the mound and started running to the shape in front of me.

As I approached, the form became clear. Fang didn't move from the pool of crimson he was lying in. I hurried forward, yelling his name again and again, then reached out to turn him over. His whole front side was covered in blood. I shook him in an attempt to wake him up. "Fang!"

"Fang!" mimicked a voice from behind me. I spun around. An Eraser stood about ten feet away, and behind him, more were approaching. I swiveled my head around and saw that they were everywhere. Every inch of the stonewall had part of an Eraser on it. They climbed quickly, coming straight toward me the second they hit the ground.

I could fly, but they had guns and I was too close. Plus I would have to leave Fang, which I wouldn't do. An Eraser approached me, and just as I was about to attack him, I heard a click from behind me.

"Don't move." I turned around to see the Eraser who had mocked me before. He had a gun- and it was pointed at Fang's head.

Was it okay? I know this wasn't a very exciting chapter, but I needed it in order to get to the rest of the story. Well, I'm going to update as soon as I can- it will be a lot quicker than last time. PLEASE review! They make me feel all tingly inside. Thanx- Dringer

11. Threats

Okay, we're getting closer to the end. Um, this one has a little more stuff then chapter 10, but I'm really just building it all up for the last chapter. So, please stick with me.

I sat in the corner of my crate, my wings bound to my back. The whitecoats didn't know exactly what had happened last time-even I didn't have a clue- but they'd figured out enough and they didn't particularly want me to set the School on fire.

So here I sat, in my cold, metal crate, hoping that by some miracle my family was okay and Fang and I would be able to get out of this.

"Maximum," a soothing voice called from somewhere off to my left. I turned around in my cage. "Max." I could hear the man move closer until finally, he stood right behind me and opened the crate so nothing stood between us. "Max, are you listening to me?" I kept my back turned toward him. "Max?"

"Go away, Batchelder." My voice was cold and hard, like the box I was caged in.

"No, Max. I'm not going anywhere," Jeb Batchelder objected. "And neither are you. We have Fang, Max." My back stiffened and he knew I was listening.

"What do you want, Jeb?"

"I just want you to listen to me." I could hear the plea in his voice, but that wasn't what made me cooperate.

"Max," continued Jeb, "I don't want you, or Fang, or any of the others to get hurt. But if you don't help me, I'm not going to have a choice."

"There's always a choice."

He sighed. "No, Max, not always." Reluctantly, I turned to look at him. "Max, sometimes we don't have a choice. This time, you don't have a choice. If you don't do what we're asking, everyone and everything will die."

"That's still a choice." I knew I was being stupid and stubborn, but I also knew I wouldn't like what they planned on asking me, so I was buying myself some time.

"Max, I'm sorry, but you're going to help us, whether you want to or not." Jeb slowly stood up and exited the room, leaving me to stare at the blank white wall where he had been. It was only a few minutes after when I realized that his last words were true.

I didn't know how long I'd been locked up. Hours, days, weeks? All I could feel was the ache in my stomach, begging for food I didn't have, and the cold stinging metal on my almost-numb skin.

How could I escape? I had tried and failed to break the crate, and I couldn't use my firewings, as I now called them. My body was weakening by the day, and I didn't know how long I would last.

"Which one?" The voice floated to me from the other side of the room; I barely noticed it. But after a moment I realized that a whitecoat I now recognized was leading an unfamiliar man to my crate.

"This is her?" It was the same voice from before, coming from the man I didn't know. He looked like an ordinary man- a ring of light brown hair around the back of his head while the top was bare, black dress shoes, old gray pants, a plaid shirt, and small round glasses framing his misty green eyes. But as I stared into those deep eyes, his voice replayed in my head. It wasn't the voice of a kind old man who always said hi when you passed; it was the voice of a man who had seen too many horrors, and a man who had learned to enjoy those horrors.

He stared down at me, as if I was a science project he'd been told to evaluate. His eyes took in every detail as he studied my dirty face, my mess of hair, and finally, my dappled wings. I wanted to shrink back, away from that piercing gaze, but there was nowhere to go.

"Okay," said the man, "take her."

Four Erasers stepped up from behind. Three of them stepped in front of the opening, blocking my way, while the other opened the crate's door and leaned down, roughly grabbing my arm. He pulled out a set of handcuffs and I immediately noticed that they were thicker than regular ones. I wouldn't be able to break them. He then grabbed two more metal cuffs, linked by a cable, and put them around my ankles. I was yanked out of my cage, and although it was the first chance I'd had to stand in days, I didn't. My legs were cramped and I didn't have any real desire to go anywhere unless they planned on freeing me, which wasn't very likely.

Two Erasers pulled me up, keeping me between them while the other two trailed behind. The men led the way, taking me to a place I knew I would not like. We moved at a quick pace, through hallways filled with the scent of bleach and past identical cream-colored doors.

"Wait!" someone yelled from behind me. My 'guards' stopped, and the two men turned around. I was forced to stay in my place, but I knew that it was Jeb who stood behind me. "Please," he panted, "let me speak to her for a moment." When no one said anything, he added, "It will be quick, and I think it might help."

Slowly, the unfamiliar man nodded, and the Erasers turned around, taking me through an open door on my left. They dragged me into a room with two chairs and two televisions. Jeb motioned for the Erasers to set me down in one of the chairs.

"I'd like to speak to Max alone." The wolf-like creatures glanced at each other, then at Jeb, and finally walked out the door, closing it behind them.

The man in front of me didn't say anything; he just walked over to the TV screens and turned them on, then retreated to the empty chair. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye, but he ignored me, so I turned my attention back to the televisions. When I finally took in the images that were flashing before me, my eyes bulged.

On one screen it showed a plain white room with a dark red puddle on the floor. In the middle of the puddle, a person lay on his side, curled up in pain. Fang had his wings strapped to his back like mine were, but he also had two large chains connected to his wrists, keeping him close to the back wall.

On the other, it showed a forest. Four people were walking through that forest, stepping over large rocks and fallen branches. A small dog trailed behind.

My whole family was being watched. Did the School always know where we were?

"Max, this is why you're going to cooperate with us." Jeb had finally decided to speak. "I told you that I didn't want anything to happen to you or the Flock. But sometimes I don't have any control over what happens." I glared at him. He had a lot of control over what would happen. "Max, please, just listen. If you don't do what we need you to do, someone's going to get hurt. They're going to get hurt. Just do what we ask, and everything will be fine. Okay?"

I didn't answer and he sighed. He slowly stood up and walked to the door. When he opened it, the Erasers practically jumped in. They walked over and picked me up. Jeb gave me one last pleading look before I was dragged out the door.

They had strapped me to a table- again. The only difference between now and the time I'd been here when Ella had become an Eraser was the fact that I wasn't alone in the room. Whitecoats were everywhere. The man I hadn't recognized, who I now knew as Dr. Jenkins, was there, too.

I had been blindfolded earlier, but I could still hear the people. I could also hear the sound of metal objects being scraped together. That worried me.

Finally, I felt someone removing the blindfold. I sighed in relief. When I saw what was going on around me, the relief vanished.

The whitecoats all held some kind of tool. Most were sharp. I glanced around and saw that there were even more things to worry about. On my right, under a cupboard, I could see pints of blood. Wires were draped across the room, connected to machines that I'd never seen before. A stack of bandages lay on a shelf next to me. Someone was going to be operated on. I had a feeling that that someone would be me.

As I worried about what I should do, a faint voice entered my brain.

"Max! Max!" it screamed.

I must be going insane, I thought. I couldn't actually be hearing that.

Think, Max.

Oh, hello, Voice, I silently replied. Or should I call you something else? How about O Smart One? Because, 'Think, Max,' is such great advice.

In my rant, I had almost forgotten about the person who had screamed my name. Or, actually, the person who I thought had screamed my name. But I was hearing it again.

The voice was shrill, scared; and I recognized it. An image of a young blonde girl appeared in my head. Angel.

The Flock had been captured.

Why is Fang always the one to get hurt? It happens in The Angel Experiment and School's Out- Forever. Now I'm doing it. Okay, well, I'll let you get on with your other stuff. PLEASE REVIEW! -Dringer

P.S. Does anyone remember the name of the company who was going to destroy the world?

12. Information

Thanks to everyone who reviewed! I love hearing from you! Okay, this chapter's short, but I'll update later today or tomorrow to make up for it. I'm sorry, because that one's short too, but that's why I'm updating so close together. I actually considered making it one chapter, but decided not to. Well, I hope you enjoy this.

The whitecoats had stopped walking around. Now they stood still, surrounding me. One of them had strung wires around my wings a few minutes before. Every few seconds the wires would emit sparks, lighting my feathers for a moment.

I now knew that whatever was happening had something to do with my new skill, but I didn't have any clue what the knives would be used for. I didn't want anyone operating on me, especially when I didn't know what they would do.

Dr. Jenkins, a man I wanted to wash from my brain, leaned toward me, smiling grotesquely. "Here comes the fun, Max," he whispered.

Before I could reply, the lights suddenly shut off. Then the monitors around me went blank, making the room pitch black.

"What happened?" asked Dr. Jenkins.

No one replied for a second; then a man frantically yelled, "Something's movi-" He'd been cut off. In the silence, I heard something large hit the floor.

"Get the lights back on!" I could recognize Jenkins voice, although this time I detected a hint of fear.

People immediately started scrambling to obey. In the midst of shuffling feet and almost silent whispers, I heard more bodies fall to the ground. I strained against my bonds, trying to prepare myself for whatever was coming, but failed miserably.

Suddenly, a hand gripped my arm. It was cool and I enjoyed the feeling after being hit by all of those sparks. Then I noticed that I was being freed. Both of my legs, as well as my right arm and my neck were loose. I felt my other arm being lifted up as it was freed too. Strong arms pulled me up and ripped the wires away from my back. Those same arms wrapped around me, taking the bindings off of my wings.

I froze as someone picked me up and carried me out of the room. The person carrying me hurried through the darkness, making swift and clean-cut turns as if he had memorized the path. Finally, I saw a spot of light at the end of the hall. We continued moving through the chaos, ignoring the rush of whitecoats and Erasers as they tried to find out what had happened.

After what seemed like a century, we burst out of the door and into the bright sunlight beyond. When we emerged, I had to close my eyes against the sun. I felt myself being set down and slowly opened my eyes. As soon as they'd adjusted, I remembered I wasn't alone.

Quickly, I spun around and stared at the person who'd saved me – an Eraser. I stumbled backward, trying to sort out what was happening.

"Surprised?" the Eraser asked feebly. When he noticed the way I was staring at him, he said, "Maximum, please listen to me. I don't want to hurt you."

"But-" I stuttered, "You're an Eraser."

He nodded and slowly growled, "Sometimes the School makes mistakes."

My mind flashed back to what Talon had said in our first official meeting. When they try to make new, better batches of Erasers, they can make errors.

"Maximum, you need to leave. You have to get away from here." I could hear the urgency in his voice, and I knew he was right.

"I can't leave," I whispered, worried that we were being watched. "The flock's here."

"It doesn't matter anymore. Get out of here." It was an order. "Leave."

So I did.

I hated myself. How could I have left the flock? Of course, I knew the answer to that. If I hadn't left them, I would have been captured and Captured Max wouldn't have been much use when I decided to rescue the others. Because I was going to rescue them. I just had to try something first.

I glanced at the disk in my hand. I was surprised I hadn't crushed it when I sat down on my back pocket. I tried to think back to my time in the School, particularly the black out. I couldn't remember anyone putting anything in my pocket, but I was almost positive it had been that Eraser.

I lifted the disk and inserted it into the library computer I was sitting at. The machine's love humming grew louder as it processed the information. I waited until a window popped up. When it did, I couldn't stop staring.

The world really was going to end.

Well, that's it for now. But remember, I will be updating in the next 24 hours. Please, please, PLEASE review! I need to know what you want if I'm ever going to get a really good story. So, constructive criticism is ALWAYS welcomed. Thanks- Dringer

13. Family

WOW- reviews! I got a ton in one day! Thanks, guys.

A twig snapped behind me, causing my body to spin around in search for the noise. I was outside of the School. Although I knew I was here to save the flock, I had no clue how.

As I scanned the area that the noise had come from, I felt something hard hit my back, forcing me onto the ground. I jumped to my feet, ready to attack.

"Max," croaked the shape in front of me.

"Fang?" I whispered. His normally olive skin was pale in complexion, except for the dark red streaks running off his forehead. He sat up slowly, making his deep breathing become even more ragged.

"Max!" I spun around, facing the School again. Nudge ran up and jumped on me, wrapping her arms around my shoulders. As I tried to complete the awkward hug, she began to ramble. "After you left we didn't know what to do and Iggy said it actually was a tornado so we had to find better shelter until you came back, but you didn't come back and we didn't know what to do so we just started flying but it was too windy so we had to walk; then Erasers found us and brought us to the School and the whitecoats stared at us and we didn't know where you were-"

I cut her off. "Breathe, Nudge. Just breathe." When the girl stayed silent, I asked, "Are the others here?"

Nudge nodded. "Guys!" she yelled. I quickly put my hand over her mouth. As the bushes around me started to rustle, I released Nudge and looked at the rest of the flock as they slowly appeared before me.

"Hey," I greeted them.

"Hey, Max," replied the Gasman.

"How'd you guys get out?" I finally asked the question that had been nagging at me since Fang had turned up.

"The Erasers-" explained Iggy, "they just let us go."

"It's just like Talon said, Max," Angel piped up. I smiled as the young girl jumped forward, excited to be out of her cage.

Just then the heavy breathing in my ears brought me back to reality. I turned around to look at Fang, trying to see how much damage had been done.

"I'll be fine, Max," he whispered as soon as he noticed me looking.

I nodded, unsure, but in a hurry. "Guys, I-" I paused, not knowing what to say. "I got some information."

Iggy looked up, still amazing me by knowing exactly where I was. "What kind of information, Max?"

"About us," I explained. "About our families." I could feel the tension wrapping around me, tightening at my throat until I couldn't speak.

"What about them?"

I glared at the ground, making sure my eyes never landed on the people I had grown up with. "They're dead," I whispered. The others looked like they would drop to the ground at any second; I wouldn't be surprised if they did. "The Erasers killed them."

"Why are we just standing here, right next to the School?" asked Gazzy, obviously trying to change the subject.

I suddenly realized the danger of the situation. We could be captured again in a single second. "Let's go."

"Why would they do it?" Angel asked in a voice so fragile that I was surprised she could speak at all. We sat on the cold floor of an abandoned apartment, trying to ignore the things that were scuttling across the room. Although I'd gotten rid of some of the cobwebs, the place was a mess.

"Because that was the only way to make sure that we didn't have anywhere to go." I glanced at Fang as he slouched against the wall. His breathing hadn't gotten better, but he'd been doing okay. "The whitecoats don't want us running home to Mommy and Daddy where we can live happily ever after." He paused, and then continued. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. They're dead and we have something more important to worry about." He glanced at me and I frowned. I hadn't expected him to bawl about his parents, but he could show a little emotion every once in a while. The sadness in his eyes told me that he did feel something; he just wasn't willing to reveal it. Even if he didn't want to expose his own feelings, he could let the others mourn a little.

But I knew he was right: Their parents were dead, and we had another serious problem. Of course, I had been trying to help them by letting them have some time to grieve, but I was getting impatient.

Because I had forgotten to mention one thing to the flock. My parents- they weren't dead.

"Fang's right," said Iggy. "We can deal with this later. We need to think about other things right now." He turned to me. "We have to stop it."

We flew silently through the air. I didn't know how long we'd flown, but I did know that I was ready to collapse. My stomach was empty and my wings ached.

I glanced at Fang. Although he'd never admit it, I knew he was in a lot o pain. If I was tired, I couldn't imagine how he felt.

Angel suddenly flew up next to me, jerking me out of my thoughts. "He'll be okay, Max," she whispered to me. "We can't stop yet."

I gave you her a reassuring smile. "I know. I'm just worried."

We continued flying, and Angel slowly fell back. Soaring through the canyon, I could feel the muscles in my wings pulling, straining to keep me in the air and I knew that if we didn't reach our destination soon, we would have to stop. Just as that thought passed through my head, we emerged from the canyon. A building loomed before us, towering above everything else. The side of the building displayed the company's logo, with one word written in the middle. Itex.

Well, that was kind of another fill-in chap. I know it didn't answer many questions, but you'll just have to guess for now. The next chapter is the last. It's really weird. I thought this story would be longer. The last one should be good, though. I'm having fun writing it. There should be some action, lots of emotion, and other stuff. So, thanks for reading. Please review! -Dringer

14. Him

Okay, it's the last chap! Sorry about the wait. School started, and this was a lot longer than normal. It's actually the longest chapter, so I hope that makes up for my slowness. OK, I really like this one, but I hope you guys will too, but I can't promise you that you will. But, it does have some action and other stuff, so I hope it's all right.

Warning: Character Death.

Itex- the reason we'd been created; the reason were mutant freaks. As I stared at the building, I could feel something burning inside me. I was glad we had come. I wanted to destroy the thing in front of me.

"That's it?" whispered Gazzy.

"That's it," confirmed Fang.

I could feel the flock beside me; sense the tension radiating from them. I'd never even thought that we might get some kind of emotion from the building. Adrenaline, yes; emotion, no.

"We need to get inside," I reminded the others, snapping out of my thoughts. I quickly started forward, listening to the crunching twigs as we got closer to the building.

"How do we get in?" asked Nudge.

I frowned and looked at Fang. He subtly shrugged and looked back at the Itex building. I returned my gaze to the building, as well. The flock stayed silent as I contemplated possible routes into Itex.

Finally, I decided. It probably wasn't the best way to go, but we were running out of time, and this would be quick and easy.

"Come on," I told the others, motioning for them to follow me.

We flew up, above the canyon wall, and straight toward the building. As I approached the roof, I turned sideways to slip through the metal cage meant to keep helicopters and jets away.

After the Gasman had guided Iggy in, taking extra precaution incase the bars were electric, Fang said, "The roof?" He paused, giving me a look that clearly told me I belonged in an asylum. "Gee, Max, aren't you creative?"

"Shut up," I muttered. "At least I got us in." Better than you could do, I added silently.

"Max? We should start," Angel reminded me.

"Yeah, Angel. You're right." Giving Fang one last glare, I walked over to the door that led into the building. When I got there, I discovered, to my surprise and delight, that it wasn't locked. We wouldn't be setting burglary alarms off today.

I stepped inside and realized that I wasn't in a stairwell, as I'd suspected. We stood in an enormous elevator. Little unlabeled buttons decorated one part of a wall.

"Which floor?" asked Gazzy. I didn't answer because, honestly, I had no clue. If we pressed the wrong button, we could end up on the wrong floor, where Erasers waited to ambush us.

"Here," said Nudge, sounding bored as she slipped past me so she could stand in front of the buttons. She lifted her fingers to each circle, waited for a moment, and continued. Finally, she settled on a floor. With one glance at me to make sure we were really doing this, she pressed the button.

The elevator slowly started moving and I felt my stomach tighten. Elevators were something I wasn't accustomed to, and I could definitely live without them.

With a jerk, the elevator stopped, and I thanked the Powers that Be that no one else had called the machine. As the doors opened, I felt the flock tense beside me, ready to spring into action.

When no one jumped forward in an attempt to kill us, I was surprised. For a company that planned to destroy the world, Itex didn't have very good security. There wasn't a person – or creature – in sight.

I took a cautious step into the large room before us. The lights were on, so someone had probably been there not too long ago. As the flock filed in behind me, I studied the equipment.

Computers took up every inch of space on the shelves. Colored wires hung from the ceiling, draped across the room, and littered the floor, creating a maze we had to get through in order to get out of the room.

There were two doors- one on each side. I chose the left. Hurrying through the mess of electronics, I tried not to strangle myself with the many extension cords that were hanging off various shelves. When I finally reached the metal door, I stopped, waiting for the flock to catch up to me.

As Nudge made her way around the final shelf, I opened the door- and felt my blood to ice.

"Well," muttered Fang, "at least we know where the security is."

I glared at him while trying to keep my head pointed forward. Nice time to be optimistic.

Bringing my eyes back to the hundreds of people who were now gaping at us, I realized why no one had intercepted us.

"Bail," I ordered, slamming the door shut just as the Erasers started moving toward us. "It's a trap." I hurried around one of the desks in the room and shoved it against the door, pushing anything I could against its legs.

While I was blocking the door, the sound of metal being crushed sounded from behind me. I turned around to see about ten Erasers burst in, the elevator's crumpled door lying at their feet.

We couldn't fight. The second we beat these Erasers- if we beat them- we would have more on us. Quickly looking over my options, I yelled, "The door!"

Racing to the door, I prayed that there would be no Erasers on the other side. My prayer was answered.

The room in front of us was empty of people, though it was filled with even more electronics. After barring the door, we ran down the aisles of this well-organized room to an exit on the other side.

We emerged into a narrow hallway leading straight forward. As I sprinted through the passage, I realized we were running to a dead end. There was no door on the other side of the hall. What was the point of a hallway that didn't lead to anything?

"Up there!" yelled Fang, pointing to the ceiling where an entry to the floor above us could be seen. I took a quick second to note Fang's extremely irregular breathing before I grabbed Angel and lifted her to the ceiling where she could open the latch. She quickly scrambled through the hole, and as she did, I heard a crash from the room behind us. They were coming.

The Gasman and Iggy quickly climbed through the hole, leaving me to watch the door burst open as Fang shoved Nudge upward to safety. With one glance at Fang, I jumped up, swung the door closed, and locked it, ignoring the outraged cries from the flock above. At least they would be safe.

I watched as the group of Erasers, whitecoats, and Itex scientists advanced on us. Hunching down, I sprung forward at the leading Eraser, beginning a hopeless battle.

As I fought, I saw Fang being thrown against the wall behind us and hoped he'd be okay. I quickly turned, swinging my leg into an Eraser's, temporarily getting rid of him. A strong hand lashed out at my back, hitting the small space between my shoulder blades. I spun around, clapping my hands over a female Eraser's ears, and heard a satisfying yelp.

I glanced back at Fang and saw him standing still- staring at the wall. He slowly reached forward to touch it. Just as I was about to yell for him to help me, I realized Fang wasn't touching the wall- his hand had gone through it.

I stopped and blinked, earning a hard hit to the back of my head. But sure enough, Fang's hand had disappeared, leaving his wrist connected to the wall.

He slowly turned to me, taking his hand back. "Max!" He motioned for me to go over, so, shoving Erasers off me, I slowly made my way to him. Fang reached for the wall, making a door swing open, revealing a passageway. Not questioning him, I jumped in and started running, listening to the door slam before another set of footsteps joined mine.

Racing down the passage with Fang mere inches behind me, I hoped the rest of the flock was okay. I could fell my heart pumping way too fast, my lungs burning, and I knew we had to stop. When the hall opened into a large room- a storage room, by the looks of it- I slowed, lurching forward as Fang failed to stop himself from running into me.

"We need to hide," I told him after we'd come to a complete stop. Without waiting for his answer, I veered off down a path between the stacks of boxes.

"The shelves," suggested Fang, his voice husky with lack of air.

I quickly glanced up at the area he was motioning to. Four large metal walkways encircled the room, holding even more crates and equipment. Nodding to him, I headed over to the wall and started climbing the ladder that led up to the first walkway. Once there, I moved on to the second.

"We should stay here." I gave Fang a questioning glance, so he continued. "If we go up to the fourth, we won't have any way down. I guess we could always jump, but… that would give them a pretty good shot at us." He paused and looked at me, then added, "If we're here, then we can jump and use the boxes for cover."

"Okay," I said, nodding. "Then we should probably hide now." I led the way to the space on the walkway just above the room's exit.

Crouching down behind a large crate, I let myself take a few good breaths before saying, "Now we wait."

When Fang settled down beside me, I noticed for the first time since we'd entered the building that he had lost more color in his face. He was almost as pale as he'd been when we'd left the School less then forty-eight hours ago.

"Hey," I said, catching his attention. "You okay?" He nodded slowly, his eyelids drooping. "Fang?" I could hear the urgency in my own voice.

"I'm okay, Max." His deep voice was soft, tired.

I leaned over to him. "Hey, Fang, we'll be out of here soon. Stay with me." I glanced around for something, maybe a glass of water, to keep him awake. When nothing stood out, I turned back to look at him. "Fang. Come on, it's not time to sleep."

"I'm not sleeping," he murmured, his voice completely contradicting his words.

I watched his mouth move in order to produce the few words, and just like that, I'd closed the small space between us. I felt his hard body lurch forward in surprise, but I didn't budge. Several seconds passed before his lips started responding, and by then I was sure I'd fully woken him.

Although Fang had tried his hardest to ignore any feelings he'd had toward me- feelings I'd tried not to return- I knew he didn't care at the moment.

After a long moment, we broke apart, and I realized I could hear footsteps coming through the hallway after us. They'd found a way in, but it had given us some time.

"Max, maybe we should keep going," advised Fang. "We caught our breath for a few seconds, and we can go now."

I didn't know what he felt, but I certainly hadn't caught my breath. If anything, my lungs were burning even more that they had when we'd been running.

"But then we would have wasted all this time," I muttered.

"No, we took a break- that's not a waste of time. Anyway, they'll probably follow our scent, which goes into the box aisles at the front of the room," he explained. "It will take a little while for them to get to where we are, with all of the clutter. And that will give us time to get further away."

I stared at him. Sure, we were in a potentially fatal situation, but had he forgotten that we'd just kissed? Well, if he had, I would too.

Making a quick decision in order to keep him from guessing my thoughts, I said, "Fine. Lets go." I got up and went around the large crate. Pulling my wings out just a bit, I leaped off of the walkway and hurried into the hall opposite the one we had entered through.

As the sounds behind us drew nearer, we hurried through the hall, opening random doors and hoping they would lead to something other than a closet. None of them did. Finally, we turned a corner and were forced to stop in order to keep from crashing into the door at the end of the hall.

"I guess that's where we go," I muttered. Moving forward and, half expecting it to be locked, turned the knob.

With an almost silent creak, the door slid open and I stepped inside. When I looked around, I could feel my mouth involuntarily drop open.

The room was filled with tanks of colored liquids, all with some kind of experiment inside of them. The smell of cleaner flooded my nostrils as I stared. X-rays plastered the wall, showing people with long necks or way too many toes.

"Do you think these guys could be any more connected to the School?" I asked, frowning. Jeb had always made it seem like Itex was an evil company that the whitecoats wanted to destroy, but I was having extremely vivid flashbacks to my time as a lab rat after seeing all of the familiar equipment.

"Max," whispered Fang, his voice seeming far away. I turned to see what he was looking at and realized that the School was definitely in contact with Itex.

I studied the X-ray, staring at the outline of the wings that were growing from the person's back. Although I couldn't be completely sure it was one of us, I had a strong feeling that it was.

"Come on," I told Fang, walking across the room to sit at a computer I had just spotted. Realizing I had no clue what to do, I asked, "Do you have any idea how to work this?" I had the average knowledge of computers, but I knew that this would probably be well protected.

Fang reached over and turned the monitor on. He frowned. "Max, everything's already open." I glanced at the screen. Sure enough, windows containing pages of information were pulled up, ready for our use. "Someone's been here recently."

"That's right," a voice behind us called out. "Someone's been here very recently." I spun around and watched a man step out from behind one of the metal tanks. He held a small pistol in his hands, pointing it straight at us. "Did you really think you could get away with this?"

"Max, this guy is nuts," whispered Fang. "He probably doesn't even know how to fire that gun. If we move fast enough, he's not going to hit us." He paused and thought about that. "And if he does… well, it probably won't be in a vital area."

"I don't care. We can't risk it yet."

"Hey!" When we ignored the man, he yelled again, "Hey! No whispering over there! I can here you!"

Knowing perfectly well that he couldn't, I whispered, "Just wait a minute."

"Stop it! I swear I'll shoot!"

"Okay, okay." I lifted my hands into the air and stood up, as far from Fang as I could get without making it look obvious. "We give up." I took a slow step to the side, making it look like I was simply shifting my weight. I noticed the man looking from me to Fang, not sure where to aim. His gun was pointed somewhere between us.

With one glance at Fang, I dove to the side, sliding behind a tank. The man fired, and I heard a loud crack from above me.

Quickly jumping up, I spread my wings and drifted further from the armed man, watching the tank's contents spill onto the floor. I stared at the liquid, watching it bubble on the floor. Then I noticed the computer. Obviously the most important thing in the room, it was now hissing as steam and sparks flew out of it.

I watched Fang go up behind the man and punch him, knocking him unconscious. Letting myself drop down, I made sure I avoided the large amount of acid, a difficult task after seeing all of the places covered with the substance.

"Max, we have to go," Fang suddenly told me.

"I know," I replied. "Hurry." I looked up, and sure enough, another door could be seen in the ceiling. I spread my wings and leaped into the air, flying up and quickly removing the padlock from the door as the sense of danger in my chest continued to grow.

Swinging the door open, I climbed up through it and stepped into a small room, almost empty compared to the others that we'd seen. As soon as Fang stood beside me, I started toward another door. When my hand reached the doorknob, a tremor ran through the building. I turned around and looked at Fang.

"Woah," he muttered. The floor shook again, this time harder. There was a pounding from the level above us. "We should keep moving," advised Fang, looking up at the spot where the sound had come from.

"Yeah," I agreed. I quickly pulled the door open and was just about to jump through when something fell in front of me. A crumbled piece of debris lay on the floor. Looking up, I saw a hole in the ceiling. "The building's falling down."

"Come on." Fang pushed past, grabbing me to make sure I kept up with him. We burst through the next door, emerging into a control room. Fang stopped.

"Fang, we have to go," I urged him.

"One second." He moved toward a few levers on the opposite wall. They were labeled, but I couldn't see what they said. I walked over to the wall as well, and started reading the labels.

"Power, water pumps, lab power…" I murmured aloud. You'd think a company planning to destroy the world would be a little more discreet.

"Max, a little help here, please." I looked over to see Fang pulling on a lever that seemed to be resisting him.

Moving over, I saw that it was labeled X184. I smirked. "That's not what I meant by discreet." Fang gave me a strange look, making me realize I had spoken aloud again. "Oh- sorry."

Ignoring the rumble in the ground, I grabbed the lever and pulled down. To my surprise, it barely budged. Fang reached for it again as I pulled, and slowly but surely, we pushed it down. I finally let go, breathing hard.

"Okay, now lets go," I said. Fang nodded and we hurried to the next room.

Bright light filled my eyes, catching me off guard. We couldn't be outside yet. I looked up and saw what had happened. The ceiling on the next few floors had caved in; we could fly out, as long as we avoided the remaining bits of ceiling.

I turned and smiled at Fang, signaling that I was going up. We spread our wings and I took off, avoiding a few falling pieces of debris. When I was barely two floors up, I heard and almost inaudible breath from behind me. I turned around and looked down, feeling my eyes widen when I saw what had happened.

Fang was bent over, still on the floor, with his left wing trapped under a large piece of the ceiling. He looked up, saw me waiting and said, "Go, Max! I'll be out in a second."

Was he insane? I wasn't going to leave him there. Just as I was about to go back down, he pulled his wing free. He glanced at me and nodded, telling me he was okay, and stretched his wings out, ready to fly. I turned my gaze back to the hole in the ceiling and started up again.

When I finally reached the place where the roof had fallen in, I pulled my wings tight to my back and lifted myself up, with one glance down to make sure Fang was okay.

I smiled as I reached the fresh air. Turning around, I was about to say something to Fang when I noticed a large part of the roof crumbling. As if in slow motion, it broke apart and slowly started falling.

I looked down at Fang, saw him staring up at me with his dark, sad eyes. He gave me a little half-smile, and I watched a piece of the building hit him, pushing him down and through the floors below.

I could feel myself blinking as warm tears fell out of my eyes. I couldn't think; I couldn't move. My arms and legs felt frozen, making my rapidly blinking eyes the only control I had over my body.

Fang. He was gone. He was really gone. I saw his face in my head again, that sad smile he'd given me. He was right behind me. How could it happen?

I fell forward as my foot broke through the roof. Automatically, I spread my wings, thankful that they'd followed my instruction this time. I took off, through the cage, and into the sky, not looking at the crumbling building under me. I saw four small dots on the ground and headed toward them, completely numb.

When I reached the others, they bombarded me with questions I couldn't even register, much less answer. "Max," Angel said, "what happened?"

"What took you so long?"

"Did you save the world, Max?"

"Max…" Iggy trailed off and instead asked, "Where's Fang?"

With one look at my face, the others fell silent. Angel's eyes slowly welled up with tears; Gazzy was frantically looking around him, blinking quickly; Nudge didn't bother to stop the tears as they rolled off her chin; and Iggy had a look of pure shock on his face.

I didn't say anything. Instead I turned and stared at the ruined building that I now hated so much more than I had just a few hours earlier.

It was over. It was finally over. But then again, for people like us, it could never truly be over.

Well, that's it. I hope it was all right. Please don't hate me because Fang died. He's actually my favorite character, so I wouldn't have killed him if it weren't necessary. Okay, well, thanks for reading my story! Please review and tell me what you think. - Dringer