A Little Person Called God by nyanja14

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Adventure, Romance
Characters:Fang, Max
Published:2007-01-07 20:21:18
Updated:2008-06-13 15:26:15
Packaged:2021-04-04 14:16:25
Summary:God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages. Sequel to A Little Place Called Home. Max's and Fang's POV. Faxness. Rated T for Language and Dark Themes. DISCONTINUED

Table of Contents

1. True Silence
2. Don't Get Excited
3. Sweet Sixteen
4. Colored
5. The Letter S
6. Self Control and Self Mutilation
7. D Like In Dog
8. The Dumping of Infomation
9. Beyond the Grave
10. Revelations
11. For A Reason
12. Curiosity Killed
13. The Greater Good
14. Dead, Dying, and Down
15. Christ Like
16. Weeds and Wrenches
17. Tally Marked
18. Don't Get Excited Again

1. True Silence

A/N: That's right. Myrah's back. A Little Person Called God has officially begun. This is the prologue. It is short. Sorry. It might take me a while to update since school is starting again tomorrow, but I'll get Chapter One up soon as possible.

DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ A LITTLE PLACE CALLED HOME. This is the sequel- it will make no sense. ALPCH is a very long story, but I assure you it is worth your time to read.

THIS STORY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RELIGION! So don't get offend by the title because you've got something against Christianity.

ALSO: This time, instead of Random Myrah Facts, we will have Not So Random Quotes. I'm kinda OCD about quotations... I've got a whole notebook of them at my disposal. They could come from anywhere- songs, books, movies, some of my own original pieces... hope you guys enjoy.

NSRQ#1: "Meeting you was fate, becoming your friend was a choice, but falling in love with you I had no control over." -a sappy Hallmark card

Disclaimer/Copyright: I do not own Maximum Ride. I do own this story and ALPCH.

Prologue: True Silence




Silence has a whole new meaning now.

Usually, silence is a comfort, a niche in life that I've grown used to. Silence used to mean no spoken words or sounds, just discrete, loaded glances and a few minute hand gestures traded with the person I knew best.

This new silence is… painful. Sure we talk. But it's basic, meaningless conversation that is required to pass between us. Any glances are met with flushed faces on either end of the look. Gestures are just… pointless with nothing to back them up.

And now I know- that old quiet I used to relish in, that was not silence.

This is silence.

I hate it.

The worst part is that it's my fault. I'm worried that I might've trashed our fragile friendship. It never made sense for us to be friends. We're polar opposites- if the whitecoats hadn't played God and tinkered with our destinies, we never would've met. If we were normal, she'd be the popular, pretty girl that everyone secretly envied. I'd be the invisible boy, the wallpaper that people ignore. Completely different layers of the social pyramid, the ones that never come together. If we were normal, she'd look right through me and I wouldn't care less.

But we weren't normal. We were far from it. And somehow, during our imprisonment in plastic dogcrates, we managed to form a friendship that made no sense.

But I must of been crazy to think that there was the slightest possibility we could be something more than just friends.

I'm an idiot.

A prickly sensation crept down my neck and I glanced up, catching Max red handed in the act of giving me The Look. She blushes scarlet and flaps harder, surging ahead of me. My eyes follow her in a detached sort of way. The Look. Ever since New Year's Eve, every now and then I'll catch Max watching me with this weird, unreadable expression on her face. I've spent hours trying to decipher it, trying to figure out what it's supposed to mean. It seems like part worry, part revelation, part… something else. I really have no idea. But it keeps me up at night, attempting to comprehend the message her eyes are unconsciously sending me.

I sigh aloud to the few birds of prey that have been shadowing us ever since we hit the state border. More than anything, I wanted to do something to shatter the new silence. If Max didn't feel the same way about me, I could live. As long as our friendship could be salvaged from the wreckage of that night, I would be happy. That was all I needed.

But so far, our friendship seemed like it had been broken beyond repair.

And there was only one person who could be the Krazy Glue to stick the pieces back together:





A/N again: Well, I hope you guys enjoy ALPCG. It's going to take me a while to update. Sorry that this is so short!

2. Don't Get Excited


Author's Note:

Yes, I HATE these things too. But this is necessary.

I regret to inform you that A Little Person Called God is on haitus until further notice. (Don't hurt me!) I'm under a lot of stress right now, and I have an infamous record for not dealing well under lots of extreme stress- (coughcoughdepressionwhenIwastwelvecough).

I do not have the time to write anything unless it is an assignment given to me by my Creative Writing teachers. The homework is piling up and I've got lots of crap taking up my after school time. Not to mention, my father is drunk, my mom is dying, and the possibility of me moving is growing more immense by the minute. But don't feel sorry for me- I've lived through worse. That's just life. (I'm telling you now though, if you've got a happy family, be extremely grateful.)

So, A Little Place Called God is taking a break. I apologize. I swear- (cross my heart, hope to sing, take a chainsaw to my wing)- that I will make up for this. I promise you a twoshot covering Fang's depression period and a series of songfics- yes, Myrah writing songfics, imagine that. And the second I have the time and brain capacity, I will update ALPCG.

I would like to thank y'all for the 40 reviews I received for the 600 word prologue. Many thanks and many more apologies, especially if you bothered with reading this lousy excuse of an update.
Sincerely yours,


P.S.: Since these are so annoying, this Author Note will be deleted once I do manage to update. Sorry again for the inconvience.

3. Sweet Sixteen

A/N: Urgh… I'm so sorry this took so long. Life has been crappy and I'm really tired. But don't worry, you guys are not forgotten! This chapter is mostly filler, but at least it is important-bogged-down-with-foreshadowing-filler. Hope you guys like!

BTW: Pepper, the cat mentioned in here, is based off of my own cat K.D.. K.D. loves trying to trip people, especially my little brother.

NSRQ#2: "No, think about it. I could pretend to be a blind guy. Nobody suspects a blind guy." -from Myrah's original play Have You MetLife?

Disclaimer/Copyright: What do you think?

Chapter One: Sweet Sixteen




It was just past noon when Fang and I landed a short distance from Iggy's new home in Idaho. Why Idaho, you ask? Well, for one thing, it's kind of hard to fly unnoticed in a place as populated as the D.C. area. Plus, all those magazine that the Griffiths tried to line up interviews with a few years ago were still desperate to get their hands on the exclusive story of the "misfortunate, traumatized, handicapped child with wings". So when Iggy returned to live with his parents, they bought a house and some land in the rural area of Idaho to give Ig some more wing-space privacy and to avoid the nosy reporters.

Pretty nice of them, I have to admit. But I still didn't totally trust the Griffiths.

Fang and I slowly started towards the house, a cautious amount of space between us. For some reason, the idea of seeing the Flock again was making me feel… anxious. It'd been so long. And a lot had changed since then.

Like Fang and me.

I risked a glance in Fang's direction. Ever since Max II and The Kiss II, everything had been really awkward with Fang. There were way too many questions to consider: Did Fang love me? Did I love him? Did it even matter?

But the Voice had said that Iggy could help. Somehow.

Fang sensed my gaze and turned in my direction, eyebrows raised a fraction of an inch. I felt my face go red and looked away.

Surprisingly, I missed the Voice. Fang and I couldn't even have a real conversation anymore. At least the Voice was company. Things had been lonely lately.

Before I knew it, I was staring down the front door of Iggy's house. Fang knocked while I squirmed uncomfortably. There was a short pause and then the sound of footsteps. Suddenly, I heard a stumble and a hiss, and then Ig's voice saying, "Shit, Pepper, get out of the way!" I snickered quietly and Fang smiled at me briefly. Then, the door opened.

"Hi, Max. Hey, Fang," Iggy grinned.

The feeling of anxiety vanished. I hugged Ig hard. "Happy Birthday," I told him, leaning my head back to see him properly. He'd grown again. He was at least six feet and eight inches now. Darn these buys and their growth spurts. I was still under six feet.

Iggy laughed. "And Happy New Year," he added. His fingertips skimmed quickly over my face, re-memorizing it, before he pulled away from me.

Fang and Iggy did some sort of weird, manly, fist bumping thing before Ig forced Fang into a one-armed hug. Fang automatically stiffened and Ig sighed. "You are exactly the same," he muttered teasingly, fingers tracing.

For some reason, it was reassuring to hear that.

Iggy ushered us inside the house. It was two-story home in tasteful interior design- not that I know anything about that. I noticed immediently that all the furniture had been arranged systemically with a careful precision so that Ig could get around easily. A rather fat, gray cat glared out at us from under a coffee table and swatted at Fang's shoe, growling.

Iggy rolled his eyes. "Ignore Pepper. He's a bit mad that I stepped on him. Stupid cat is always trying to trip me."

Fang yanked his foot away from Pepper's claws.

I looked around, but the place seemed empty. "Where's your-" I started to ask, but Iggy interrupted.

"The parental units are out of town for three days. To 'give us space'," Ig answered. "And Nudge called from Angel and Gazzy's place half an hour ago, so they are on their way. Which reminds me…" He prodded Fang in the chest. "You've got some explaining to do."

Fang looked minutely bemused. "What for?"

Ig sighed heavily rolling his eyes in an act of long suffering. "A few weeks ago, Nudge called me, totally flipping out because your step-father told her that you were dead."

For the first time in a few days, my eyes met Fang's. Oops.

"I left the house because Erasers showed up," Fang clarified.

Iggy's strawberry-blonde eyebrows shot up. "Erasers? They're back?"

"And the Voice," I added. Iggy's head turned in my direction. "And Jeb. And Max II. Well… she's dead."

All was quiet for a moment. And then Ig commented, "You two have been busy. Care to elaborate?"

So we did.

We managed to condense what had happened in the last six weeks into a few minutes of talking, skipping over most of the stuff and keeping in just the highlights: the Martinez's, Fang's power, the return of my nightmares, why we had to leave Ella's house, Fang's crazy fire rescue,- Iggy mentioned that he'd heard about it on the news- the Voice's warning, Fang's latest premonition, why I left, how Fang followed me, how I got captured by Eraser and got away, how Fang found me, and finally, how we killed my clone.

Without even having discussed it, Fang and I edited out some of the details, like the fight we had at the hotel, the brain attacks, and The Second Kiss. Ig didn't need to know everything. Besides, what he didn't know, he couldn't tease us about.

When we were done, we all stood there awkwardly for a moment. Iggy's blind eyes shifted between us both- not quite looking at us, but in our general direction. He frowned inexplicably for a few seconds before sighing, "So basically, you've still got to save the world?"

"Pretty much..." I groaned.

He chuckled. "Good luck with that."

"How's it been going for you?"

Iggy made a face. "Dull. Martha's home schooling me and I guess that's better than having to deal with some huge school, but I get tired of being stuck around here sometimes. And then there's piano lessons..." he trailed off, and then grinned wickedly. "C'mon, I want to show you something." He turned and stepped carefully over Pepper., Fang and I trailing after him. Ig led us to another part of the living room, where a new baby grand piano stood proudly. Iggy slid his hand along the key cover, his pale skin burning against the black. "The 'rents bought it for me on my other birthday a few weeks ago. Guilt present, I'm sure, but I'm not complaining."

I tentatively pushed the cover back and examined the eighty-eight black and white keys. "You like playing?"

Ig brushed past me and sat down on the bench. "Sure. It's fun- not as fun as the bombs, but still. It's cool being good at something."

Fang rolled his eyes. "Like you're not all ready good at stuff."

Iggy smirked at that. "Let's put that brain of yours to a test, Fangie." Fang scrowled at the nickname as Ig played a few measures that I vaguely recognized from a car commercial. "Name the composer," the blind guy quipped, still playing.

Fang sighed softly. "Haydn."

Without pause, Iggy started a new song. "Composer?"


A different piece. Fang answered without prompting. "Bach."

Iggy lifted his face up towards Fang. "But which one?"

"J. S. Bach."

He stopped playing abruptly, turning around on the piano bench. "And that doesn't count as being good at something?"

Fang smiled faintly, and although Ig couldn't see it, I was pretty sure he knew.

"That reminds me…" I began slowly. Iggy leaned his head in my direction expectantly. "We got you a present."

Ig's face lit up. "Really? You guys didn't have to…" I ignored him and took my backpack off, digging around in it. I eventually pulled out a cardboard box and handed it to Iggy.

He felt it. "No wrapping paper? You guys are cheapskates." He smiled so we'd know he was just kidding.

"And you're blind, so what does it matter?" I teased.

Ig held the box to his ear and shook it lightly, concentrating. "Is it a puppy?"

Even Fang cracked a grin at that one. "Just open it," he instructed.

Iggy was only too happen to comply. He lifted the flap with his long fingers and slid the brick of styrofoam out. Cradled in the center was a video iPod. The blind boy's fingertips skimmed over it and he smiled so wide I thought for sure his face would break. "Wow! Thanks guys. But why in the world did you get me a video one?"

"It was the only one with enough memory," Fang explained.

Ig'a grin grew, if that was possible. "You already downloaded for me?"

"Yeah," I sighed tiredly, skipping over the slightly longer explanation that Fang and I had spent the last few days in libraries and internet cafes pirating music from Iggy's eighty-four favorites bands. (Illegal downloading is not cool! Just because we do it doesn't mean you should!)

"We got it upgraded with text-to-speech software too," Fang added quietly. "So you don't have to memorize the list orders." (A/N: Yes, you actually can get this, but it costs a pretty penny. Some sort of special order thing.)

Iggy chuckled and bumped fists with Fang. "Thanks you two," he repeated. Then he frowned. "Wait- what color is it?"

I shoved him lightly. "What does it matter to you?"

"Color matters a lot."

"It's black, if you must know. Fang's decision, not mine."

Iggy slid the cover back down the piano keys. "Good," he murmured intently, tapping his fingers on the cover. Then a tinny ding! resounded from the direction of the kitchen and Ig's head whipped around. "Oops."

"What?" I asked.

"Forgot about the tilapia," he said before getting off the piano bench and rushing towards the kitchen.

"What's tilapia?" I wondered aloud.

Behind me, Fang answered curtly, "Fish."


We followed Ig to the kitchen, where a magnificent sight met our eyes. Food was everywhere. The table was piled with it and dishes of yummy smelling things cluttered along the counters, taking up every available inch of space. Lasagna, pizza, lo mein noodles, fried chicken, a huge Caesar salad, baked potatoes, sausage…. The cat, Pepper, was weaving through Iggy's legs, purring, as he pulled a large pan with fish on it out of the oven.

Ig inhaled deeply, then sighed in relief. "Saved it just in time." He set the pan down on the only space available- on top of the refrigerator. The cat stared up at it anxiously, mewing. Iggy scooted the gray feline out of his way with his foot. "Forget it, Pepper. That's not for you."

"Have you been cooking all day?" I gasped.

Iggy smirked sheepishly. "Actually, I started last night." As if he felt my stare, he added, "I was bored. Not much else to do around here."

"Are you done yet?"

"Uh… no. I still need to make my cake." He reached up into one of the cabinets above the stove and pulled out what looked like a Braille cookbook. "I was thinking maybe a German chocolate one, only with butter icing instead of that usual gook they stick on it…"

"Can I do something?" Fang inquired. We both knew better than to use the word 'help' around Ig, especially when he was in a kitchen.

Iggy was skimming through the index with his fingers. "Yeah… clear a spot for me to mix stuff. And then figure out what I did with the big mixing bowl, I can't find it anywhere."

"What about me?"

"Oh no!" Ig chortled. "You are not going to go anywhere near any of it. I prefer my food edible."

Out of the corner of my eye, I could've swore I saw Fang snicker. I pouted playfully. "I'm not that bad."

"Better safe than sorry." Ig found the recipe he was looking for and started flipping pages towards it. "But if you insist, you can go grab some more eggs for me." Iggy dug in his jean pocket and tossed his wallet in my general direction. "There's a little family owned store a couple miles north of here."

"Okay," I sighed, zipping the wallet into my windbreaker pocket. I turned to leave, but as I past Fang, he touched my wrist. I faced him, eyebrows raised inquisitively. He mouthed to me, 'Be careful.'

I swallowed hard. 'I will.'




I watched Max go, a tight feeling in my stomach. Even though Iggy had told us he hadn't heard any Erasers around here, I still didn't like Max wandering off on her own. Something could happen.

Calm down. I thought fiercely to myself. Max can take care of herself.

But what if—

I stopped the line of thought. Man, did I have it bad.

I shifted the dishes lining the counters into a tight-fitting formation, making just enough room to set a bowl down in. The cat, Pepper, watched me testily, eyes glaring out from under a table, its tail twitching anxiously. It didn't like me. I imagined that the cat could probably smell my wings, probably knew what I was. Pepper was scared of me. After all, hawks did hunt small mammals. Cats were right there on that list.

I set off in search for this alleged mixing bowl that Iggy insisted was around here somewhere, while the blind boy muttered something to himself about different types of icing. After looking through all the cupboards, in the sink, and under the table, I gave up.

"Don't see it," I told Iggy. He glanced up at my from the book, blank, blue eyes staring at me in that creepy way of his.

"Did you check the fridge?"

I opened the refrigerator doubtfully and peered in. Even more food was crammed inside. Ig had been busy. I shoved some of the containers out of the way and spotted the mixing bowl, slouching on the second shelf next to four carton of eggs. I dragged it out and set it on the small space I created before I stopped. Eggs.

"Iggy, you've got four dozens of eggs in there," I reported. "Why did you—"

Ig chuckled darkly. "Oh, that. I had to get rid of Max somehow."

The expression on his face tightened the knot in my stomach even more with foreboding. "Why?" I asked cautiously, taking a quiet step backwards.

Iggy smiled hugely. "Relax, Fang. We just need to talk."

By the way he said 'talk', I knew I was not going to be happy with this. But the smile on his face cleared some of my inhibitions. "About…?"


I didn't know whether to sigh in relief or to back away. I did need to talk to Ig about Max, but that didn't mean I wanted to. "What about Max?"

Iggy rolled his eyes theatrically. "I swear, I'm never going to get you two."

I stood silently, waiting for him to continue. If he wanted to me cryptic, then that was his problem.

He closed the cookbook, muttering something I didn't quite catch as he stood up to his full height. "You kissed her, didn't you?"




A/N again: The Igster strikes! Once again, I'm so sorry about the wait. I've finally managed to get my life sort of back in order. Updates are still going to be slow though. Hope you enjoyed. And please review.

P.S.: It's my birthday on Monday. I'm finally turning fifteen. Go me. I've survived another year. I'm officially old enough to get my driving permit, which is not a good thing for mankind. You do not want a person like me on the road. I'm a horrendous driver.

P.P.S.: The Author's Note will be deleted soon. And that twoshot I promised will be up fairly soon, so keep an eye out for "A Springtime Memoir".

4. Colored

A/N: Once again, I'm sooo sorry about the wait. When I said that it'll take a while for updates, I meant it. I got this up as soon as I could. I hope you guys enjoy Iggy's antics, my awful humor, and my use of the word "Maxinator".

BTW: why in the world does everyone love Pepper so much? In almost every review, people commented on how funny the cat was. I don't get it—Pepper is just a minor footnote of a character. But whatever. You'll be seeing much more of the blind-guy-tripping feline this chapter.

And finally, the unveiling of Iggy's awesome-rad power!

NSRQ#3: "You don't have a Soul. You are a Soul. You have a Body. –C. S. Lewis"

Chapter Two: Colored




"You kissed her, didn't you?"

I felt hot blood rush into my face and the tips of my ears, and I fought it back, even though Iggy couldn't see it. God, how did Ig know these things?

Iggy smirked, probably well aware that I was blushing. "Jeez, Fang, just admit it. I'm not going to go all Nazi on you." I didn't reply, prompting an eye-rolling from the blind guy. "If it makes you feel better, I used to like Max too."

"What?" This was the first I'd heard of this. "When?"

Iggy chuckled knowingly. "For a few months when we were eleven. I got over it, though."

Slowly, I sat down on the chair across from Ig, ignoring Pepper when he started hissing at me. "Why?"

"I knew she'd never feel the same way. I'm like, her brother, practically." He shrugged, kicking Pepper underneath the table.

Any optimism I'd had was crushed immediently by the huge boulder that was Iggy's words. "You mean I should give up?" I inquired, trying not to sound too depressed.

Ig snorted, sitting down and opening the cookbook again. "Hell, no. You've got a shot." I didn't voice my confusion, but Iggy seemed to notice it anyway, because he sighed and continued, "Fang, you're not Max's pseudo-brother. Maybe in her head she thinks that—I wouldn't know—but deep down, you've always just been a friend to her."

In a way, I almost felt insulted by that, but I ignored it. "Why not?" I asked.

Iggy's fingers were skidding across the raised Braille dots. "When we were growing up, you didn't treated her like a sister," he replied matter-of-factly. "You never really teased her, or bugged her, or anything like that. You two definitely got the fighting bit down, but you guys fight more like a couple than siblings."

I thought about that for a moment, dropping my hand to stroke Pepper's small head. He purred loudly for a moment, rubbing back, and then he chomped down on my fingers. Cursing silently in my head, I shoved the gray feline away—this was why I hated cats. Iggy snickered.

"How do you know all this anyway?" I demanded, rather irked by my throbbing fingers.

Iggy sobered up immediately. He raised his head, staring at me with blind eyes. "That's kind of… hard to explain," he hesitated. He frowned, tapping the table with his long fingers. "See… I sort of… haven't told you guys something."

I stiffened and waited, a million speculations thrashing like a mob pit in my brain.

Ig paused, sucking in a long breath, breathing out hard. "Okay. I've got a power."

The speculations froze, only to restart again in a frantic frenzy. "Since when?" I asked carefully.

He lowered his face. "Since… about three weeks after that operation where they—" he cut himself off, gesturing to his useless eyes.

That long? "…And?" I fished.

"If I tell you, do you promise not to tell the Maxinator?"

"She'll find out eventually," I warned him.

"I know. But, I want to be the one to tell her."

I sighed. "Fine."

Iggy sped up the beat of his tapping, a nervous habit of his. "Uh., well, I can see souls," he informed me lamely.

"You can—" I started.


We sat for a moment, Pepper meowing loudly to fill in the silence.

I said, "Okay…" Finally, Ig's reserve broke and he started talking at a speed that could compete with Nudge.

"Well, at least I think they're souls. They're kind of diamond shaped and they got these tendrils that connect to the shoulders and head. Different ones are shaped differently though. And they change color with emotions, unless it's white, because that means you're dead—absence of color and all that." He took a quick breath, pale blue eyes flickering over me. "See, yours just went light purple. That means you're confused. But different people's souls are stained different colors if they feel that way a lot—yours is usually light blue."

Iggy paused, catching his breath. He didn't have as much experience as Nudge

did at rapid talking. I waited a second before prompting, "Which means?"

Ig stopped his finger tapping, only to replace it with tracing designs on the table's surface. "You're lonely."

That made me tense. Lonely? I wasn't lonely, I preferred being left alone.

But then I realized—I had always been so busy concealing things from the flock that I'd hidden them from myself as well. I was lonely. And it hurt.

Iggy suddenly made a face. "Better than mine, I'll have to admit. I'm all Christmas colors—red and dark green. Pain and envy." He sighed, running both his hands through his short strawberry-blonde hair. "See, this is why I didn't tell anyone. It's just… wrong. People says that your mind is the last safe place, but that's not right. The last safe place is your soul—that's the only place where you can really hide. And with me watching… it's like an invasion of privacy or something."

I plucked a cherry out of a bowl of fruit salad and ripped it's stem off. "You still should've told us," I decided. I bit into the cherry, digging the pit out. Juice spilled over my fingers like blood. "It's not like Angel hasn't always been creeping around in our brains anyway."

Iggy shook his head. "No. No, you can hide your thoughts by thinking of other things, but you can't hide how you feel, no matter how hard you try." He laughed, punching my shoulder. "So you might as well give it up, Fangie."

"Not everyone can see souls, Iggy…ie," I retorted, giving him a firm shove. He just chuckled.

Iggy ran his fingertips over what looked like an ingredients list in the cookbook before standing and opening a cabinet. He started shifting through it, muttering about cocoa.

I watched him for a moment, choosing not to tell him that the cocoa was behind a huge plate of salad wraps. Iggy took offers of help as an insult, unless he asked for it. Besides, this could be funny.

"So…" I started. "If white means you're dead, what's black?"

Iggy stopped his cocoa search party and grinned. "I was hoping you'd ask, because this is the ironical part," he snickered.


"Oh c'mon, you should be able to figure that out yourself! You're the artist, you should know all about colors." Iggy opened a new cabinet, feeling all of the containers inside. "Black is all the colors mixed together, right?"


"So, what would be all the emotions put together?"

I thought about, running through all the things I'd ever read, seen, or heard, but I was pulling up a blank. "I don't know, Iggy. Insanity?"

He laughed. "Close." He gave up, and started on a new cupboard. "Okay, how about this—what would the opposite of death be?"



"How? Life is the opposite of death."

Iggy wagged a finger at me. "You of all people should know that you can be quite miserable while you're alive. So miserable, that you might as well be dead." It was just a small reminder of that spring almost five years ago, but it still stung. Either Iggy realized what he said, or my soul went red because he immediately followed up with, "Whoops. Sorry."

I brushed it off. "Whatever. I give up."

Iggy sighed. "Fine. I'll make a deal with you; help me find the cocoa, and I'll tell you what black means."

"It's behind the salad wraps."

Iggy's near-white hand shot out at the plate holding the wraps and closed in on the box of cocoa. He held it up triumphantly. "I knew that. Just testing you."

"Right," I replied voice laden with sarcasm. But I still smiled.

"Okay then…" Iggy conceded. He set the box down by the mixing bowl, then sat back down across from me. "Black means love."

I waited for the punch line, but it wasn't forthcoming. "You're kidding, right? You do know what black looks like, don't you?"

"I wasn't born blind, you idiot, of course I remember what black looks like—same color as Jeb's shoes and your hair." Iggy rolled his eyes. "And if you think about it, it makes sense. Love is all emotions rolled together, and it is the opposite of life. So, love is black." Without warning, Iggy grinned wickedly. "Not to mention the fact that your soul goes straight black whenever you start making goo-goo eyes at Max."

I knew my ears were probably burning pink, but I didn't bother trying to hide it this time—Iggy would know anyway. "I do not make 'goo-goo eyes'." I defended.

Iggy started laughing hard. "No better word for it," he managed to get out. Then, he chortled louder. "Oh God, I can't believe I got you to say 'goo-goo'!"

"Oh, shut up." My ears were a raging furnace, as was my face.

Iggy wiped tears of laughter off with the heels of his hands. "God, I've missed you, man. You have no idea how bored I've been out here in the land of corn."

I felt my embarrassment ebb away. "I missed you too."

Ig winked in a way that could only be described as unholy. "Bet your glad to be alone with Max though."

I remembered the last several weeks and groaned. "That's what you'd think, but…"


I looked down to the faux wood of the table and muttered, "I don't know if she feels the same way."

I felt Iggy staring at me—or my soul, I guess—and finally he responded, "Wish I could help you, I really do."

"Why can't you?" I glanced up at him.

"Well, it's kinda hard to tell right now because she's all clogged up dark purple with worry."

I furrowed my brow. Worried about what? I voiced the question. Iggy just shrugged.

"I don't know, I'm not the mind reader; ask Angel when she gets here." He tapped the table anxiously with one hand, reached down to pick up Pepper with the other. "Max definitely used to like you."


Iggy snorted. "You're blind, you know that? Couple years ago. You totally missed your chance when she kissed you on the beach. I told you to go talk to her, but no you decided to ignore me." I stared at him blankly as he continued. "Dude, I've been trying to hook you two up for ages, but you guys are both so dense and stubborn." Pepper stared at me from under his arm, yellow eyes accusatory

I sighed and tugged at my hair. "So what should I do?"

Iggy considered it, slowly petting Pepper from head to tail like some sort of diabolic villain from a James Bond flick. "Well, you know her better than I do, but I say give her time to stew and then just ask. But don't wait too long, because then who'll have fumbled it again."

Ask her? Oh God. I really looking forward to that conversation—not. I drew a slow circle in the small space left on the table. "Thanks, Ig."

He chuckled, then cocked his head like a dog. "Speak of the devil," he muttered.

I started to ask what, but then I heard the door open and Max yell, "Iggy, that lady in the store said you just bought eggs this morning!"

Iggy grinned at me as Max huffed into the kitchen, arms folded. "Oops. I completely forgot. Thanks anyway, Max."

Max grumbled something and chucked Ig's wallet at his head—he caught it before it hit its mark. "Jerk," she growled.

Iggy laughed. "It's my birthday; cut me some slack."

Max gave him a death glare he couldn't see, then sat down next to me, exasperated and muttering "Boys."




About half an hour after my fruitless grocer trip, the door bell rang. Ig stopped what he was doing—making German chocolate cake, (I never knew cakes had nationalities)—and listened, before smiling widely.

"The kids."

I hopped up from my chair in excitement—I hadn't seen Nudge, Gazzy, or Angel in months. Fang stood beside me, grinning aloofly, while Ig set down a wooden spoon and headed for the front door, Fang and me trailing closely behind. Ig paused at the door, before finally reaching out and opening it.

Three things happened almost simultaneously: first. a loud, harmonic "Happy Birthday!", next. a high-pitched shriek, and then something brown launched with enough force to knock the unexpecting Fang backwards.


"Omigod, you're alive! Because, your step-dad said the Erasers got you. See, I tried to call and your step-brother answered and said you weren't there and then I tried again later and your step-dad—he sounds really mean, is he mean?—he said that you were gone and I asked where because maybe you'd flown somewhere and he said gone like as in gone. But then I called Iggy and he said that you probably weren't dead and you most likely weren't at the School, he said that you'd probably just ran off, but Iggy could've just been saying that because he doesn't know for like, sure, but you're alive! Where'd you go?"

"Nudge," I said calmly, trying to quell her ranting. "Let him breathe and he might answer you."

Nudge glanced up at me and then seemed to realize that she was sitting on poor Fang's chest. "Oh. Sorry, Fang." She got off him and he sat up, inhaling deep.

"My grandfather was friends with Tor Bortch. Erasers came. I left, and found Max," he answered shortly. Nudge opened her mouth to spew more question at him and I tuned her out as Angel tugged on my hand.

"Max, guess what?" she asked. I was amazed at how tall she'd grown. Her hair was as curly anymore, but it was still every bit as blonde.

"What, sweetie?" I replied, kneeling down to her level.

She squeezed my hand, eyes staring intently at me. "I can talk in people's heads now!"

I jumped at the sound of her in my mind. It wasn't like the Voice at all; I could feel anything, and she sounded like herself. Angel giggled, and added aloud, "But I have to be touching to do it."

I pulled her into a hug, seeing Iggy and Gasman talking animatedly over her thin shoulder.. "That's great, baby!" I exclaimed. But though I didn't think it where she could hear, I knew somewhere in the back of my brain that this was bad—very, very bad.

But I didn't dwell on the feeling, because, for now, we were a flock again.




A/N: Yeah, yeah, I gave the evil Angel another ability. Sorry! However, this is important later on, you'll see. (Angel Haters Unite!)

And please, tell me what you thought of my lame attempts at humor. I just don't have it in me to write funny unless it's satire. But doing Iggy's character kinda requires it… so yeah.

And don't fear! Fang will grow a backbone and ask Max—soon! (Of course, we all know when Myrah says soon, she actually means in a few chapter, but whatever.)

AND, due to a friend's request, I've decided to just leave the Author's Note there. It's kinda like a document of history… so it stays, I suppose.

AND, I'm trying to get that twoshot I promised up as soon as possible. It's taking longer than I thought it would. But keep an eye out for it. Title will be "A Springtime Memoir".

Reviews would be fabulous!

5. The Letter S

A/N: Next chapter is finally up++throws confetti++ Happy President's Day everyone! (Unless you leave in a different country. In that case… uh… Happy 2 Weeks After Myrah's Birthday++more confetti++ Now there's a reason to celebrate!) Nothing really big happens this chapter, though if you pay attention, you shall find out many important things. After this chapter, the plot will finally pick up. Ready?

BTW: There is no worse song to get caught dancing to than Bohemian Rhapsody. I have video footage of my sister dancing to it in… she didn't know I was still in the house. Hehe. Anyway, you'll see why I'm rambling about this later in this nice, new, looong chappie.

NSRQ: "Friends will keep you sane, Love could fill your heart, a Lover can warm your bed, but Lonely is the Soul without it's Mate. –David Pratt"

Chapter Three: The Letter S




After giving the kids a very edited and watered-down version of what had happened to Fang and me the last few weeks, they all wanted to see Fang do one of his indirect physical premonitions, which he vehemently refused to their disappointment.

Then we quickly did the unwrapping of Iggy's presents, (a stack of Ig's favorite books in Braille from Nudge, a chef hat from Angel and Total that clashed magnificently with his hair, and a roughly packaged parcel of what looked suspiciously like bomb-making supplies from Gazzy—after learning of his favorite hobby, Iggy's parents had cut him off from such things), and once that was done, we devoured some of the food that Iggy had made earlier.

Completely stuffed, we lazed about in the living room for a while and swapped stories. When that got old and we were able to stop Nudge from monopolizing the conversation, all six of us—seven if you count the mutt—went out for a long flight, the first time we'd all flown together in over a year. When we finally came back hours later, we were famished again, so we feasted some more before hitting the hay.

Iggy instructed us to just sleep where ever, except for his 'rent's room since "they get kinda prissy about people going in there". Nudge, Angel, and Total vouched for the living room, saying it would be like a sleepover. Gazzy called Ig's room, which left the guest room for me and Fang.

Brilliant. Something told me Iggy had planned this, just to torture me.

The six of us stacked and tapped fists; Iggy flashed an unholy grin my way and I blushed, clamping down on my thoughts before Angel could hear them. After the final good nights, I headed up to my room, dumped off my pack, and went in search for the bathroom so I could change in to some old clothes to sleep in.


I stopped dead in the hallway.

Oh no.

Angel, pale and cool, on a metal table and whitecoats sawing through her skull to get to her brain for studying…

Gazzy, released from his crate amidst a sea of screaming chimpanzees and snapping Erasers on the hunt…

Ari, leaning towards me across a counter, the name Isaac, my D.E.S.T.I.N.Y. spelled out in game cards…

Oh no.

I'd almost forgotten about the nightmares—the last week or so, I'd been on watch half the night and the other half Fang was up, so he could wake me up if a bad dream started. But since we were more or less safe at Iggy's house, there'd be no watch.


Realizing I hadn't moved for a full minute, I forced myself onward to the bathroom. I changed and brushed my teeth fiercely, avoiding my reflection in the mirror. I hadn't looked at my reflection since that night by the lake, when Eraser Max had threatened to come out and eat my "bird boy". I still wasn't sure if it was real or not, but she had seemed real. I wasn't taking any chances.

I spat out the toothpaste foam into sink and watched it slip down the drain, while I considered my options.

One: let the nightmares come.


Two: stay up all night.

Not fun, but way better than option number one.

Three: ask Fang to sleep near me.

Usually, I'd have no problem with that, but right now our relationship was as awkward as an elephant in a room and delicate as an egg shell. For now, we were managing to drift along, but I didn't want to rock the boat and risk the chance of us capsizing.

Looked like I'd be pulling an all-nighter.

I returned to the room to fetch one of my worn books from my backpack, so I'd have something to read. Fang was there, sitting on the edge of the bed and toes curled beneath his feet. He looked up when I came in, dark eyes cautious and guarded.

There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment. He turned his gaze to the ground.

"Want me to stay with you?"

I stared at him. My heart swelled unbearably. How did he read my mind like that? Truthfully, I should've known. Just because I was stupid enough to forget about my own nightmares, didn't mean Fang would.

I couldn't see his face, but I noted the pink tips of his ears, something rarely seen on Fang. Then, I realized that I still hadn't said anything.

"Yeah. Thanks," I managed to get out. He scooted over wordlessly and laid down, eyes already closed. I flicked the light switch, before laying down beside him. I tugged the covers up to my shoulders, glaring at the ceiling.

I hated this. We'd been best friends for over a decade. I grew up with this guy. So why couldn't we have a normal conversation anymore? Why was I scared to ask him for the smallest of favors? I needed Fang. I wanted to be able to depend or him, to know sometimes that I didn't have to worry because he'd take care of things. God, I just wanted to be able to talk to him.

It was the spring we were twelve all over again. Once again, the Fang I knew was dead.

My eyes burned, but I refused to cry. This was it. This was going to end now. We couldn't keep teetering like this—eventually we had to fall one way or the other and see how things worked out. There was no point in prolonging the pain.

I searched underneath the covers until I found his hand. I squeezed it gently. "Fang?" I whispered.

I felt him squeeze back briefly. He was still awake.

"I—" The words jammed in my throat. What if it didn't work out? I needed Fang. He was my other half; if I lost that part of me, I wouldn't function. It had already happened once.

What if we fell and hit the ground hard? Could we survive that?


I swallowed the words back down and released his hand. "Goodnight," I finished lamely. I rolled over, my back to his.

"Goodnight, Max." But he knew that wasn't what I'd meant to say.

I wasn't fighting the tears anymore, but they still didn't come. Could you run out of tears? Was there ever a time when you couldn't cry anymore?

I knew they'd arrive soon though. Because when it all started falling apart, I was revealed for what I really was.

A coward.




I was the first one up the next morning. There was no clock in the room, but judging from the lack of sun outside, it was probably around six.

I felt something twitch against my back and nearly jumped. Then I realized it was just Fang's wing and felt stupid. I crawled out of bed and stumbled in the dark, rubbing at sore eyes. I heard something in the kitchen and went to investigate. Probably Iggy.

I was about to say good morning, but I stopped in my tracks by the doorway. Iggy was listening to his iPod, on a really high volume seeing as to how he didn't hear me. But maybe 'listening' was the wrong word.

I snickered. There's nothing funnier than watching a blind guy dance about a kitchen in nothing but boxers, head-banging to "Bohemian Rhapsody" at six in the morning.

I should spare him the shame.


"Mama mia, let me go!"

I increased my volume. "Iggy!" He still didn't hear me.

"Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, FOR ME!"


This time, an instrumental solo on an air guitar answered me. As Iggy pranced past me, I yanked out his ear buds. "Iggy," I repeated calmly. The Queen song continued from me the tiny speakers dangling from my hand.

He stopped head-banging instantly and turned to face me, grinning. There wasn't a shred of embarrassment to be found on his face, "Yeah?"

"Good morning."

He laughed sheepishly. "Sorry. Didn't hear you." He turned off the iPod, deftly yanking the ear phones from my hand. "What kind of pancakes do you want? Blueberry or chocolate chip?"

I sighed and shook my head. "Did I tell you that I missed you?" Iggy smirked.

"I know," he said. "Blueberry or chocolate chip?"

I will never understand guys. "Chocolate chip," I decided.

Iggy started bustling through the kitchen, plucking flour, sugar, and other ingredients from the cabinets. I opened my mouth the ask if he wanted to me to do something, but he beat me to it. "Sit down, Max, and keep your hands at your sides," he instructed. "You are not going to touch breakfast until it is ready to be eaten. Health regulations."

I made a face at him. He couldn't see it, but he chuckled.

I watched Iggy make the pancake mix in a huge bowl, chin resting on the heels on my hands. I didn't get it; the Voice had said Iggy could help me and Fang. But Ig was the last person I'd go to for emotional advice. Not that I ever went to anyone for emotional advice. Except for the Voice. But it didn't count.

However, this was probably the last time I'd be alone with Iggy this weekend. So, if I was ever going to ask, it had better be now.


He was measuring out flour with a precision that was creepy for a person with no sight. "Yeah?"

I paused a moment to steady my nerves. "We need to talk."

"About what?"

I breathed in. "Fang."

Iggy didn't stop what he was doing, but he did tilt his head in my direction. "I figured," he chuckled. Under his breath, so quietly I wasn't sure if he meant for me to hear, he added, "You two are exactly the same." He poured the flour into the bowl. "What about Fang?"

I stopped, wondering where to begin. The most obvious thing to ask would be if he Fang liked me that way. But I'd also have to explain why I wasn't sure, have to explain about how Fang's head was… messed up.

I breathed out. Might as well start with the disorder. The Voice had told me not to tell Fang, but that didn't mean I couldn't tell Iggy. "You how I told you what happened at that diner with Jeb and the Erasers?"

Ig grinned. "The diner named after me? Yeah."

"Okay. Well, something else happened there. Something I didn't even tell Fang about."

"Well, don't I feel privileged." But he was frowning. "What happened?"

I traced designs on the table top. "Jeb told me something about Fang. Something about why I had to go back. At first, I didn't even know what he was talking about and thought he was just trying to trick me, but then the Voice explained it, and I figured that Jeb was telling the truth." I looked up at Iggy, preparing to spill the fact that Fang went through life borderline suicidal. But Iggy's expression yielded me.

He didn't look expectant or confused or anything like that. Instead, he looked scared. I was about to ask what was wrong, when Ig said, "Shit. Is this about all of Fang's 'I am not worthy to exist' crap?"

I swear, my mouth dropped. "How do you know about Reverse NPD?"

"It has a name?"

We sat there a moment, waiting for the other to talk. Finally, Ig picked up his spoon and started stirring in the big bowl. "You go first."

I sighed out and explained to Iggy what the Voice had told me: about Fang's life before the whitecoats put the three of us together, the experiments, Jeb's suggestion to stick Fang with me to save him, how Fang ended up imprinting on me, and what the heck Reverse NPD was.

Iggy just nodded through the entire recollection, until finally I demanded, "And how do you know anyway?" Then, he winced and drummed his fingers nervously.

"Uh, yeah. Well, I've been meaning to tell you anyway." He paused. "I can see souls."

Not what I was expecting, to say the least. "Seriously?"

"Uh huh." He twined his long, white fingers together, cracked his knuckles. "They turn different colors, depending on emotions. They can get stained certain colors too, if you feel that way a lot. And they kind of look like diamond shapes, with these tendrils that connect it to the body."

"Souls?" I clarified.


I rubbed my temple, a fierce headache slowly merging. "What does this have to do with Fang being crazy though?"

Iggy returned to making the pancakes. "Well, see that's how I knew. You know how cacti have thorns to protect them? Well, souls are like that too. They have thorns. But Fang's—"

"—Doesn't," I finished.

"Yeah." Iggy stuck a pinky into the mix and tasted it. "Well, most of the time," he revised.

I froze. "What do you mean?"

Iggy hesitated. "Well… see, sometimes—not often, mind you—but sometimes when I look at his soul, it has thorns, like a normal one."

I forced myself to stay calm, but I was having trouble with that. There could be a cure for Reverse NPD!

Iggy, however, did not look pleased. He sighed, running his free hand through his hair. "Now, I know what you're thinking, but forget about it. You do not want Fang cured."

"Why not?" I asked indignantly. "What if something happens to me? Do you want Fang to go and off himself?"

Iggy wasn't buying it though. "Trust me—Fang is just as bad off normal as he is insane."


Iggy bit his lip. "I've only seen him with thorns twice. The first time—" He stopped, looking up at me. "Remember when we were twelve? That spring?"

He didn't say it and he didn't have to. Remember when Fang was depressed? I nodded. Iggy sighed. "Well, that was the first time."

A dread started flooding through me. "The second?"

"When we were at Anne's place." Iggy frowned guiltily, knocking his knuckles against the table. "The whole time we were there, he was going through these extreme mood swings. One second he'd be normal, the next his soul would be dark red or dark blue—angry or depressed." He paused, then quietly added, "I used to hear him crying in his sleep, while we were there."

A chill slowly spread over my skin. "I didn't know," I muttered. I remembered the way he was acting, how he'd seem so not-Fang and then he'd be his regular self. "I noticed, but I didn't think much about it." God. Here I was supposed to take care of the Flock, but I didn't even notice when my best friend needed me.

Iggy grimaced. "Don't get into a big guilt trip, Max. He's good at hiding things. I don't even think Angel noticed. If he really wanted help, he would've asked for it."

But Fang never asks for help. You have to just give it to him. Just like Iggy in the kitchen. Stupid, stubborn idiots…

I shoved all that aside to deal with later, though. Right now, there were more important things. "Why?" I asked.

Iggy stood up, and turned on the stove. "I don't know for sure. But I do have a pretty good idea." He bent over, pulled a pan from a cabinet, and laid it on the burner. "I think… when Fang is really needed—like, really, really needed—and he knows it, then he'll protect himself a little, because other people are counting on him. That's why he got the thorns that spring—it was right after Jeb left. When he first became second-in-command. And why it happened at Anne's too—because that's when you started really talking to him about important stuff." Iggy must've caught a hint of my surprise because he rolled his eyes. "Don't think I didn't hear all of those touching conversations in your room. I'm not deaf." He raised a strawberry-blonde eyebrow. "I bet you looked kind of Pekingesey," he quoted.

I chucked a container of cinnamon at his head. "Eavesdropper," I fumed quietly. "You know, when people are trying to have a private conversation, maybe you should take the hint and give them some privacy." Iggy smirked, dripping pancake mix onto the hot pan. The anger dissipating fast when I remember the other half of my question. "But why did he get all… messed up, when he was supposed to be normal?"

The smirk converted to the frown. "Well, like I said, I don't really know for sure, but… since Fang isn't used to feeling needed or important, he doesn't know how to react. So, he reacts badly." He halted for a second, listening to the hiss of the pancakes cooking. "That's why he was with Lissa, you know, even though he didn't like her at all."


"He didn't feel any duty towards her, so he felt more normal around her. Plus, you and Lissa were pretty much exact opposites, so she didn't remind him of you. It was his mind's way of trying to cope with the sudden mood swings." Iggy chuckled. "Of course, he didn't know that. He just knew he felt more in control around her."

Lissa was good for Fang? I recalled how jealous of her I'd been, the way I wanted to rip her horrible, pretty, red hair out and felt a rush of shame. Even if she hadn't known it, Lissa had been helping Fang. And I'd wanted to kill her.

Iggy rolled his eyes, flipping a pancake. "Enough with the guilt trips, Max. You're so light green that it makes me want to puke. I said Lissa was his mind's way of coping, not that it was a good way to cope. He would've been a lot better off if he'd just talked to someone about it." Like before, though he didn't say, I knew what he meant. He would've been a lot better off if he'd just talked to someone about it, like when he was depressed.

I thought about what I'd just found out, while Iggy made our breakfast. Then, I realized that I still hadn't asked the question I'd meant to ask. I fiddled with hair, trying to think of a way to lead up to it. I came up blank, so I decided to just put it out there, sudden and blunt.

"Does Fang love me?"

Iggy stopped what he was doing and turned to face me slowly. He didn't ask what kind of love I meant. He just grinned. "Yeah. He loves you a lot. It's almost embarrassing how much. I don't think he knew it until recently though."

I felt a small burst of warmth, a sensation that went right down to my toes.

Fang loves me.

The tingling vanished as I recalled the harder part of the question.

"Do I love Fang?" I whispered it so quietly that I was amazed Iggy heard me.

Iggy smiled sadly, shook his head wistfully. "I can't tell yet. You're too clogged up with worrying about him. You're going to have to figure that out yourself."

The Voice didn't know, Iggy didn't know, I didn't know… "What should I do?"

"Give it time." Iggy returned to his pancake-cooking. After a quiet moment, he said, "I've been meaning to tell you…"


Iggy didn't turn for the pan, but I could feel the tension in his words. "It's about the Voice."
"What?" I repeated.

Very quickly, Ig informed me, "Whenever it's in your head, there's this new tendril connected to your soul. I can't tell where it's coming from, because it's coming from somewhere far away. But it can only mean that—"

"—The Voice is a person," I concluded.

Iggy nodded. "And judging from the angle it comes in at, I don't think that person is in the School."

"What about the Institute?"

Iggy shook his head. "No. It's not coming from there either. Not Florida either, so they can't be in the Itex headquarters."

I thought for a moment, realizations slowly dawning. one by one. "What about Missouri?"

"Why Missouri?"

"When Jeb caught me, that's where he was taking me," I explained.

Iggy considered it, then nodded slowly. "Yeah. It might be Missouri. At least somewhere in that area."

The plot thickens, I thought humorlessly. If I had a goatee, I would've stroked it.

Suddenly, Ig's ears pricked like a dog's. "Angel's up," he warned lowly.

I instantly thought about anything other than the conversation I'd just had, trying to rein in my musings. They were all safe behind my barrier by the time Angel bounded into the kitchen.

"G'morning, Max. G'morning, Iggy!" she chirped. Angel climbed into my lap.

"What's for breakfast?" she said into my head. I tried not to flinch. Having one person talking in your brain is creepy enough—I didn't need another.

"Chocolate chip pancakes," I answered aloud. Angel's face fell.

"But Iggy," she whined in the blind boy's direction. "Max and Fang are the only ones who like chocolate chip. No one else does. Everyone else likes blueberry."

Iggy snickered. "Clearly, they are destined for each other."




A/N++waves hands in a way that could be described as mystical++ Just who is the Voice? What the heck is in Missouri? Does Max love Fang or not?!? Only Myrah knows! (And, uh, a few other people that tortured me until I told them. Whoops.)

About the chapter title: remember that dream sequence I did where the Clue cards told Max her D.E.S.T.I.N.Y.? Go back and check out the letter "S". That may help you understand. That chapter title was Tattoos and Clues. Actually, it would be helpful to read the entire dream sequence again, because there was soooo much foreshadowing for A Little Person Called God in that one little section.

ALSO: Has anyone ever considered starting a MR fanfiction awards? Artemis Fowl has a really cool one, Harry Potter has a gazillion of them, Twilight just started one… but no matter how many times I dig through Google search results, I can't ever find one for Maximum Ride! Those things are so much fun! If you've ever participated in one, you know what I mean. I love nominating stories and reading all the nominees. I WOULD start one myself, but my web design skizzles are limited to four days about making web sites in my Journalism class two years ago…. sadness. But I'd be happy to help anyone interested in starting one.

ALSO: the twoshot I promised is coming, I swear! I had to put this chapter up first. I swear it'll be up as soon as I finish Max's POV on it.

ALSO: a full list of colors and their emotions can be found on my profile.

Reviews please! I luv them!

6. Self Control and Self Mutilation

A/N: Okay, so, some news. Bad news first: my sister's cat died. She was ten months old and carrying kittens. She got hit by a car on the road behind my house. Good news: I got second place in a flash fiction writing contest and won seventy-five dollars. "Meh" news: I've got some relatives coming down here for my brother's baptism.

Well, that's pretty much it. Enjoy the chapter. Sorry about the wait, but what can I say? And thanks for all the reviews!

Oh, and you guys are going to hate me after reading the end.

NSRQ#4: "'So,' said Alai, breaking the silence. 'What do we do now? The Bugger War's over, and so's the war down there on Earth, and even the war here. What do we do now?' 'We're kids,' said Petra. 'They'll probably make us go to school. It's a law. You have to go to school until you're seventeen.' - from Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card"

Disclaimer: I think I've been forgetting these… so…. I don't own Maximum Ride.

Chapter Four: Self-Control and Self-Mutilation




"Got all your clothes?"

Angel shuffled through her backpack, lips moving silently as she counts off outfits. "Yep!"

"Got Fred?"

Angel showed me the stuffed frog I'd rescued from the torched house. "Right here." She shoves him in next to Celeste, who seemed to have become a permanent resident in her bag.

"How about Total?" I inquired.

Angel furrowed her brow in an adorable eight-year-old way. "I think Fang has him."

I frowned. Total was getting a little… uh, fat to be crammed into Fang's bag, along with the first aid kit, Fang's clothes, half of our food supply, and all of Fang's worldly possessions: his sketchbook, his pencil set, and his outdated camera.

Angel bounced on the couch, blonde curls swinging. "Total is not fat!" she insisted, matching my frown with own of her own.

I rolled my eyes. If Total wasn't fat, then I wasn't part bird. "Okay, sweetie, but Total is kind of…husky to be in Fang's backpack."

Angel considered that, cocking her head to the side. "Yeah, I guess."

"Aren't huskies a type of dog?" Nudge asked from across the room. "Like, those big dogs that pull sleds in Alaska? I saw this documentary about this dog—well, he was part wolf, part dog—called Balto, and he pulled a sleigh to get some medicine because there was this epidemic—"

I rubbed my forehead. There was a headache on the horizon, I could tell. Angel looked at me with concern as Nudge babbled on. I waved her off and walked away to find Fang.

We were packing up to leave. Iggy's parents were coming home this afternoon, and we wanted to sidestep that mine field of awkwardness. Besides, the kids had school tomorrow and needed to be back home by then.

Which, of course, left me and Fang alone again.

Things were slightly better between us, but it was still rather uncomfortable to be left alone with him for more than a few minutes. Luckily, that hadn't been much of a problem this weekend, thanks to Iggy and the kids.

However, I had resolved that once we'd dropped off the kids, Fang and I were going to talk.

I found Fang with Iggy, watching Ig play piano. His sketchbook was spread across his knees, an almost-finished sketch of the blind boy and his instrument filling a blank page. I stared for a moment, making a mental note to invest in Fang's art in case he became famous one day. "Hey, you know where Total is?"

"I'm right here!" Total answered, popping out from the kitchen. There was a ring of tomato sauce around his furry mouth, a tell-tale sign that he had been getting into the lasagna again.

"Good, you're riding with me," I said, pointing a thumb over my shoulder to the living room, where my already packed bag was at.

Total swung his tail around in an arch, hopping. "Cool! Can we go fast?"

"Nope," I replied curtly. Total grumbled something obscene. I turned to Fang, still drawing. "We're leaving in ten," I informed him. "You packed?"

Fang just nodded, lost in a world where all that existed was all he could create. I glanced at the equally absorbed Iggy, fingers tripping down the keys, and rolled my eyes. Artists.

By nothing short of a miracle, somehow everyone was out on the lawn in ten minutes, backpacks in tow. I could feel Total squirming around in mine, and I had a bad feeling that he was assaulting the half of our food supply that I was carrying.

After some long goodbyes and a promise that Fang and I would remember to call this time so the flock knew we weren't dead, the five of us and one dog took off. I looked back at Iggy—blind wonder and soul seer—seeming so small left behind on the ground, and knew somewhere in my gut that the next time we reunited, it would not be for simple reasons; after all, according to my whack-job dream, he was part of my D.E.S.T.I.N.Y., whatever that meant. Not to mention the last thing the Voice told me.

"Have fun at Iggy's birthday party, Maximum. Because after that, you've got some work to do."

I couldn't see Ig's head of flaming red hair anymore. I turned back around, just in time to catch Fang watching me. I met his gaze and understood its message: we need to talk.

We most certainly did.




We dropped Nudge off first, telling her that we'd probably call in a few days and to watch out for Erasers. She was crying when we left; I tried not to dwell on that.

I was penciling in some rather rough plans in my head when Angel swooped over to me, small white wings the exact opposite of Fang's.

"Max?" she said, hesitant.

"What, sweetie?"

She blinked, all blue eyes and innocence. I knew those could turn into Bambi eyes at any moment for I prepared myself to look away if needed. Angel frowned, probably catching some of my stray thoughts, and then asked, "Who's Isaac?"

I clamped down on my thoughts with a bulldog grip and turned away, staring at Gazzy instead, who was picking a scab on his arm. "I don't know, Angel. Where did you hear that?"

"In you're head," she confessed.

I bit my lip to hold back the lecture I was dying to give about privacy. "It was just something from a dream I had, Angel. That's all."

"But I've heard it other places too," Angel protested.

I rubbed my temple, kneeding the skin. "Isaac is a pretty common name," I informed her.

Angel is getting into full pout mode, bottom lip jutted out. "But I heard it in Ari's head too! And that street corner in New York right before the Erasers snatched you."

If I wasn't flying, I would've froze. "Who did you hear it from in New York?" I demanded.

Angel was a little frightened by my urgency and I instantly regretted it. "I don't know," she stammered. "There were too many people. But I know I heard it!"

I sighed. Fang looked over, concerned. But then again, when is he not concerned about me these days? A vein pounded loudly in my head, in sync with my wing beats. "Look, Angel, I'm sorry. But I don't know." I took another heavy breath, preparing myself to give the speech that had been two years in the making. "I really wish you'd stop doing that though."

"Doing what?" Angel's eyes are wide and cute. But she knows what I'm talking about.

"Reading people's minds, Angel! It's okay in emergencies and things like that, but sweetie, people deserve their privacy!" I looked back at her. She's staring at the ground. I feel a twist of shame squeeze me, but she's eight now. She should know better.

I forced myself to continue, fully aware that this might be the last chance I get to tell her this. "And Angel, the mind controlling thing… you need to stop that too."

Angel turned her head back up to glare at me as I continued. "It's just not right, sweetie. If you need to fight and you can't do anything else, then it's okay. But otherwise, it's just…wrong. You can't control people. They have a right to make their own decisions."

I stopped, but only because Angel's eyes were a bitter red, her expression fierce. "Okay, Angel? Sweetie?"

If looks could kill…

"You're only saying that because you're scared!" Angel yelled. The Gasman whipped his head around to stare dumfounded, and I winced. "You only want me to stop because you're scared of me!"

Foreboding rippled through me. I forced to keep my voice and thoughts steady. "I am scared, Angel. I'm scared for you. You've got a great gift and I'm proud of you." I paused, moving forward cautiously. "But Angel, you're still a little kid. You need to learn to restrain yourself. "

Angel, my baby, was shaking, wings trembling with rage. "If it's such a great gift, then why can't I tell people about it? Why do I have to hide it, like I'm some sort of freak?"

I stopped myself from thinking the obvious thought. Unfortunately, Gazzy didn't have the same control.

"I AM NOT A FREAK!" Angel howled at her brother. He cringed, backed off.


He didn't say it loud, but we all heard Fang. The youngest flock member turned on him, ready to unleash her fury. Gazzy and I both stiffened, fully aware that at any moment Angel could order him to drop out of the sky. But Fang didn't flinch. "Angel," he repeated, lowly, threateningly. "Stop it right now."

The four of us were frozen in mid-air, waiting for someone to make the next move. I could feel Total shaking inside my backpack. Angel was quivering too, but for a completely different reason.

Slow and deliberate, Fang forged on, each quiet word hanging in the air. "Max is right. You need control." Angel shook her head, blonde hair swinging over her shoulders. However, I could see the slightest hints of tears.

Fang didn't say anything else. But then, that was practically a speech by his old standards.

And again, the four of us were waiting….

"I just…" Angel mumbled brokenly. "I just want to be normal."

And she started to cry.

Gazzy hesitated, but then moved forward to comfort his little sister as well as he could in-flight. Their wings weren't too long yet, so he managed an awkward hug. Angel clung to him, crying harder than I'd ever seen her cry since she was a baby.

I could feel some tears of my own, but I bit my lip to keep them in. Something brushed against my feather tips and I tensed, but it was just Fang hovering next to me. I stared at him, mouthed a silent "Thanks."

He nodded, looking away.

Angel was a little more composed now. She peeked up from Gazzy's shoulder, eyes puffy. "Sorry, Max," she said, voice cracking. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay, honey," I soothed. She sniffed, and that ashamed feeling creeped along me again. "It's alright. Just… try, okay?"

She closed her blue eyes. "Okay," she agreed.

Well… that went over well.




Dropping Angel, Gazzy, and Total off at their dad's place was awkward to say the least. However, there was no screaming or glares, so I guess it was a slight improvement. I knew Max was still a little upset and regretted mentioning it, but it was a lecture Angel needed to hear. Whether or not she listened was to be seen.

Which left just me and Max again.

With the little psychic gone, I allowed my thoughts to run loose again, unleashing them from the barrier I'd been keeping them behind. They pranced through my head, eager as a dog greeting its master.

I love Max.

It was such a relief to be able to think it, to say it in my head. I could only hope to have the guts to say it out loud.

I glanced over at Max. She was riding on a thermal, face lifted to catch the last bit of sun before twilight. Her hair had escaped from its ponytail holder and was whipping around behind her, a shade lighter than usual due to the sun. Her expression was calm, borderline serene. I smiled before looking away; at least one of us was semi-relaxed. I was sweating bricks at the very contemplation of later today.

But I wasn't going to let myself back out again. I was going to tell her tonight.

We'd flown through another state by the time Max deemed it too dark to fly. She whistled, dragging me from the grip of my daydreams, and gestured towards the ground at a small dip in the mountain face. I nodded and followed her down, landing just behind her in the mini quasi-cave. We quickly scoped it out and gave it the official stamp of approval, before setting up for dinner.

Supper was a quiet affair of Ig's leftovers and was over a little too quick for my taste because now I had nothing to distract myself from the fact that it was past nine and officially "tonight". I could easily imagine Iggy's look of disappointment and annoyance. God, I'm such a coward. It's just three frickin' words!

"Thanks." I looked up, startled, when Max suddenly spoke.

"For what?" I asked blankly.

Max was arranging small rocks into shapes on the ground and I watched her hands' progress, fascinated. She placed one last pebble at the point of a lopsided star before glancing up. "Earlier. With Angel."

I recalled the scared look on Max's face, the murderous one on Angel. I shrugged. "What was that about anyway?" I inquired curiously. Though it was rather hard not to hear when Angel started screaming, I hadn't managed to catch the beginning.

Max sighed. She demolished the star with one sweep of her hand. "She heard some stuff in my head and was asking a lot of questions."

"About what?"

Max piled the pebbles back up. "Isaac."

I swallowed as I watched her start to create a wide circle. "Who's Isaac?" Max looked up at me, hazel eyes piercing, like she could see straight through me. But Iggy was the Seer, not Max.

"I was actually hoping you'd know."

"No idea," I confessed. Max sighed, returned to her rock formation. "Where'd you hear the name? The Voice?"

Max scattered the circle moments after its completion. "No," she muttered. "A nightmare. I didn't think much of it, but Angel claimed she'd heard Isaac in Ari's head too and from someone in New York right before the Erasers tried to tow me down the street."

I closed my eyes, listened to the click of pebbles against the cave floor and Max's breathing. A soothing sound to comfort the sudden memory of that terrifying when Max was almost snatched from right beside me. If that Eraser hadn't dropped dead… there's proof right there that there is a God. But then her first comment caught up with me and I opened my eyes to stare at her. "Wait—what nightmare? When?"

Max bit her lip, hand pausing its work. "You weren't there," she said quietly. "It was in that van… the Erasers had tranquilized me and I had a bad dream."

"Oh." I cast my gaze down at the ground. My throat closed when I saw the half-finished pebble image: a heart.

Yeah, Fang, stop being a wimp!

"Max?" My voice cracked and I inwardly cursed my dry esophagus and teenage hormones.

Max looked up, eyes on me. I forced myself to forge on. "A-about that night…" I began. God, why did I have to pick now to develop a stutter?

Her hazel eyes were probing me, making me squirm. I restarted. "You know when—you remember…?" Say it! "M-max, I-I…" What if she didn't feel the same way? What if she broke her swear and left? What if…? "Max… I…" Shit. I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it.

Max held up one hand, cutting off my aimless stammering. "It's okay, Fang," she murmured softly. "I know."

I felt my face and ears burning at a temperature hot enough to melt ice cream. "Y-you know?"

Max lowered her hand and finished the heart, glancing up at me. I nodded an affirmative, voice gone. "I asked Iggy," she explained. "He told me." She swept her hand against the rocks, breaking the heart. The pebbles scattered into the far corners of the cave.

I felt my own heart slowly deteriorating. I tried to ask the question, but the voice had abandoned ship. I resorted to meeting her eyes, trying to translate what I couldn't say.

Max understood. She broke the contact and stared at ground. She sighed. I watched her visible breath slowly dissolve in the air out of the corner of my eye. But I kept focus on the girl on the girl sitting in front of me.

"Max?" I whispered, when I couldn't take the wait much longer. Max looked up again and saw my clear anguish. She reached out, brushed my bangs back from my forehead. Her hand lingered there, and I wanted it to stay and leave at the same time. She spread her lips.

"I'm sorry," she muttered. My heart shattered, but she kept talking. "I'm just… really confused and mixed up right now." She dropped her hand, folding it in her lap. Her eyes met mine. "I just… don't know, Fang."

I broke the contact this time to stare at my sneakers. I felt Max's hand brush against one of mine, resting her fingers on top.

"Can… can I think about it?"

My heart paused its self mutilation. I looked up at Max again, to see her tragically beautiful face, the face that was just inches away from destroying me. Somehow, I found my voice.





A/N: DON'T HURT ME!!! hides from angry fax fans I swear, the answer is coming next chapter! If you kill me, you'll never get to read it.

Man, Angel just keeps getting scarier and scarier.

BTW: "Sweating bricks" is an expression a friend of mine uses. Well, actually the term she uses is "shitting bricks", but I figured that wasn't appropriate for the context.

I'm telling you, if you're ever on a writer's block for fax, just listen to the "How to Save a Life" album by The Fray. It's like… the unofficial soundtrack for the series: for every single song, I can find some strong connection. I'm actually veeeerrry slowly working on a threeshot songfic using tracks one, (She Is), four, (All at Once) , and five, (Fall Away), from the CD. (I'm also working on another random oneshot that is slowly forming sentence by sentence in my comp book. It's taking place during their stay at Anne's and is fax-y, but has nothing to do with the Lissa/Sam aspect. It does have a lot to do with my hatred of geometry.)

IMPORTANT: If you haven't already, read my twoshot A Springtime Memoir.

Well, hope ya'll enjoyed. Reviews much appreciated.

7. D Like In Dog

A/N: Sorry about the wait. Hope this chapter contains what you have been waiting for, not to mention a little info. Don't have much to tell you, so enjoy. Disclaimer/Copyright: Blah, blah, you know what goes here.

NSRQ#6: "Something real, make it timeless. An act of God and nothing less will be accepted. So if you're calling me out, then count me out. – from "Divine Intervention" by Taking Back Sunday"

Chapter Five: D Like In Dog




Fang fell asleep not to soon after that, on his back with his arm covering his eyes, the way he slept only when he was upset. I watched him guiltily from across the cave, sending mental apologies to him in my head.

I just didn't know how to respond. I mean, what are you supposed to say when you're best friend tells, (or tries to in this case), you that he loves you? Because Fang was my best friend, so I did love him. Just… not like that.

Or did I?

I rubbed my throbbing temple with one hand, tied knots in my shoelaces with the other. I used to like Fang, a long-term crush, if you will, but I'd slowly gotten over it in the past couple of years. It was hard not to like Fang. He was handsome and smart and funny and thoughtful… almost fitting exactly into the formula of "The Perfect Guy". But no one was perfect; Fang was so stubborn and, well—insane, after all.

Which was a big problem. Think about it: I was Fang's best friend. If bad something happened to me, then Fang would most likely kill himself one way or another. But what if I was more than his friend? Would that make the Reverse NPD worse?

It's times like these that you really need a literal-know-it-all Voice in your brain. But I was alone on this one.

Rain started trickling. I looked out the pseudo-cave, my eyes following the clear droplets' path. I got lightly to my feet and walked to the cave's edge, sitting down and dangling my legs. The rain was cool as it rolled down my face and soaked through my hair. Remembering something we used to do when we were kids, I tilted my head back and opened my mouth, catching the small raindrops. They almost tasted like apples, but not quite.

I wiped water off my eyelids and smiled to myself, just a bit. Life was good when we were ten: no more School, no saving-the-world, no real parents…. Back when I didn't worry so much, back when Angel really was just a baby, back when Fang actually smiled without needing a good reason to.

Fang deserved that. Fang deserved to be happy. I doubted a single teenager had more troubles than him. Fang gave everything he had to me without complaint; the least I could do was try to make him happy. That much I had in my power.

But Fang would know. He'd know that I was just doing it for him. It wouldn't be fair to him.

I licked the rain off my lips, thinking about the way his mouth felt against mine. Warm, sweet, comforting, and just… right. The same way I felt when he held me as I cried, the way I felt when I fell asleep, feeling his wings pressed to mine and knowing the nightmares couldn't reach me, not with him there. Like it was something preordained by someone greater than the two of us.

Was that love? What did I, Maximum Ride, spent-half-her-life-in-hell, know about love?

I loved chocolate chip cookies. I loved the Martinez's. I used to love Jeb, and Ari. I still loved my Flock. But those were all different types of love—cookies were my favorite food, Ella and her mom were my friends, Angel, Gazzy, Nudge, Iggy, and even Total were my family.

Fang was my best friend. My confidant. My guardian angel.

The rain started coming down heavy, rap-tap-taping against the mountain. I shivered and ducked back into the cave, feeling the beads of water rolling past my feathers. I sidled against the wall, and slid down nearby the sleeping Fang. Feeling chilly, I drew my legs into me for warmth. The rain kept up its onslaught. I rested my forehead on my knees and listened to the storm and Fang's breathing. His respiration soothed me, made me feel safe. Fang always made me feel safe. Fang always listened to me. Fang always understood, even when I made no sense.

"Clearly, they are destined for each other."

Iggy had been joking, but he was right. Fang was my other half. We were almost complete opposites, and yet, we were the same. No one knew me like he did. I couldn't function properly without him.

We were soul mates. And maybe, just maybe, I loved him. That was close enough, wasn't it?

I sat still as the storm continued on for another hour or so. A shot of lightening shot up from the ground and through the clouds. A few moments later, thunder rumbled, resonating through the small enclosure.

The noise woke Fang. He sat up stiffly, swiping quickly at his eyes. He stood quietly, then crouched down next to me. Noticing my damp hair, or maybe my trembling, he took off his jacket and wordlessly handed it to me. I took it and wrapped myself in it, smiling gratefully. It smelled like him, wind and cinnamon.

We sat in silence for a while longer, watching the rain fade out. It wasn't awkward like it had been lately, when we were alone. It was the kind of soundless I usually associated with Fang: just nothing to say. Before, there had been something to say. But Fang has said it now, or came close enough at least.

It was my turn now.

"I'm sorry," I muttered. Fang turned to look at me. "About earlier."

Fang simply shrugged, as though he didn't care. But I knew him to well for that.

"You kind of caught me off guard," I elaborated. "I didn't know what to say. I didn't know."

Fang nodded, drawing abstract shapes on the ground with his fingertip. "Do you know now?"

I grinned sadly, replied, "No." Fang bowed his head, so I couldn't see his face. I grabbed his hand, laced my fingers through his. "But I am ready to guess."

Fang looked up, opening his mouth slightly to ask the question. In lieu of answering, I leaned forward and gently pressed my lips to his. I felt him smile, before shyly kissing me back. God, it felt so good, so right. Like destiny.

I pulled back so I could breathe properly, resting my forehead against his, my eyes just centimeters from Fang's. His cheeks were flushed with hectic pink spots.

"Are you sure?" he whispered. His breath tickled my nose.

"I don't feel this way about anyone else," I murmured, stroking his down feathers. "Pretty sure."

Fang chuckled. "Good enough for me." He traced my jaw-line with his knuckles, kissed me again lightly. I sighed and closed my eyes, huddling against his side when chilly wind swept through the cave, brushing against my damp skin. Fang rubbed my back between my folded wings.

Laying my head on his shoulder, I whispered, "This is going to sound really sappy, but you make me feel safe."

Fang tucked my wet hair behind my ear, out of my face. "This is going to sound really sappy, but you make me happy."

I couldn't help it; I blushed. Fang chuckled again.

"Go to sleep, Max," he muttered. "I got second watch." Before I could begin to ask, he answered. "And, of course I'm staying. Right here."

I smiled, letting the light shower's drips and the sound of Fang's heart lull me to unconsciousness.




Of course, the world hates me, so it couldn't just be left there, could it?

I hadn't been asleep long before my brain exploded.

Far away, I heard myself scream. My temple burned, the back of my skull ripped. And somewhere beyond all the mind numbing pain, I could feel something digging in my mind, hear someone else screaming.

Images. The roof of a building, crowded with pigeons. A sea of people in business suits. A room painted neon orange and pale green. Feral eyes peering in the dark. Blood leaking from a gunshot wound. A boy whispering psalms. Hot sun burning against dark skinned children. A man in a hospital bed.

The pain stopped racing. My mind caught up with reality: Fang holding me, murmuring in my ear. My throat was raw from shrieking and blood filled my mouth; I'd bitten my tongue. Perfect. I swallowed the blood, wincing at the metallic taste. Carefully, I tried to inch one eyelid open, only to chicken out and keep it closed. I remembered the other times all too well.

My brain felt as though it couldn't fit in my skull, like it was swollen. I could feel a hole in the back of my head, but when I reached back to try to touch it, there was noting there but hair. Fang's hand laid on top of mine and I curled my fingers through his, capturing it.

"Max?" he asked lowly, voice directed away from my ears. "Can you hear me?"

I tried to clear my throat. "Yeah." I flinched at a blot of sudden pain. "Hurts," I whimpered weakly.

"No! Really?" I grinned slightly at the lame joke. "Voice?" he prompted.

I concentrated as much as possible, but I couldn't hear anything. "Not yet."


I nodded slightly, burying my face in the crook of his neck. Fang tensed around me, then relaxed a bit. The floor spun underneath me, but Fang's skin was cool from the damp air and it anchored me a bit.

Not enough though.

"I got to throw up," I mumbled warily. Fang took my word for it and helped me up, tugging me away from our bags. I managed to make it a few feet before spewing dinner onto the ground. I cracked my lids open just a bit, to make sure I hadn't barfed on my sneakers—they were clean.

Fang swore quietly. I bravely opened my eyes all the way to see him bent over, examining the bile, muttering, "Shit," repeatedly under his breath. "What?" I asked, wondering what was so fascinating about my sick.

"Blood." Fang pointed, and through the haze of my headache I saw that there was indeed blood. "You must have internal bleeding. What hurts?" he asked tersely, eyes wild.

"Well, Maximum, internal bleeding is bad news. Remember what happens to Fang if there's bad news concerning your health and well-being?"

I started. Whoa. Hey. You're back.


The sarcasm was so clear, so real. Like before, I could feel it, but now I could hear it too. And if I concentrated, I could feel something else in my head, something pressed against my mind. I didn't dwell on that fact though because Fang was saying my name over and over, waving a hand in my face franticly.

"I just bit my tongue," I explained, a little late.

Fang paused. "What?"

"The blood. I bit my tongue. See?" I stuck my swollen tongue out at him. "I'm fine."

Fang sighed, and smoothed my hair, hand lingering on my neck, index finger tracing small circles. Whether he was trying to calm me or himself, I had no idea. "Okay," he said for no particular reason.

"The Voice is in now," I announced quietly. Fang looked at me, eyes gently probing.

"What does she—he… it say?"

I chuckled and shrugged, reaching down for his other hand. When my fingertips found his, he smiled, one of his blazing-sun grins that he so rarely treated me with. For a moment, I forgot the fact that I had a gorilla of a headache and that my throat was burning from screaming and stomach acid. Seeing Fang happy, like he deserved to be… that was worth the world.

"May I remind you that the world still needs saving?"

Has anyone ever told you that you had a talent for wrecking moments? I countered. The Voice chuckled, but not only did I feel it, I heard it. And what's with that?


I can… I don't know. It's… clearer than usual.

If the Voice wasn't sitting in the middle of my brain, I doubted it would've got what I was trying to explain. "Hmm… can you feel this?"

Suddenly, I felt my fingers sliding against cool cement. But I was still holding Fang's hand. Freaked, I jolted backwards. What was that?

"'That' was me touching the ground. Strange. I must be in too far. I'll have to try to fix that."

You mean I'm feeling what you're feeling?! This was getting way too weird, even for someone who wasn't completely human.

"Don't complain; I got to feel the stimuli over on your end 24/7. Which reminds me: do me a favor and go easy on the mushy stuff with Lover Boy."

"Max?" 'Lover Boy' asked. "What's the matter?"

I looked at Fang who was watching me closely, as though I go crazy any moment. The prospect of trying to tell him that whenever he touched me he was "touching" some random person in my brain as well made my head spin like it had earlier. Or maybe it was just the smell of my puke reaching my nostrils. I grabbed Fang's hand again and lead us away from the bile before sitting down and saying, "Nothing. Just chatting with you-know-you."

Fang grinned. "Oh, so the Voice has revealed itself to be Lord Voldemort, has it?" he teased. I punched his shoulder lightly, then laid my head down on it.

"God, spare me."

Hey, if you want me to do anything for you, you better shut up and answer some questions.

"How do you expect me to do both? I can't shut up and answer questions."

Whatever. You know what I mean. You promised you'd answer my questions if I trusted you.

"That, I did. How about I'll answer three to the best of my ability?

Okay… I trailed off, contemplating what was the most important.

"Hey, Fang?" I said softly. Fang glanced down at me, brushed my hair away from my eyes.


"Question and answer time with the Voice. What should I ask it?"

Fang was absent-mindedly playing with a strand of my hair, frowning slightly in a way that meant he was thinking. "Who is it?" he suggested. The same thing I'd been thinking. The same question the Voice had dodged last time I'd tried to ask.

Okay. Who are you? I head the Voice sigh.

"That one again? You are very original."

Just answer the question.

"…How about I tell you my name?"

Fine, I grumbled.

"My name is Deven."


"No. Deven. D like in dog."

That's a stupid name.

"Oh, this coming from Miss Maximum Ride? Sitting next to Fang? Just left Iggy's house? Dropped off Nudge? I'll admit that Angel is fitting, but the Gasman?"

Alright, I get your point. I paused. So… is Deven a guy name or a girl name?


And what are you?

Not both.


"Nope, that's three questions."

I huffed. Fang looked at me curiously. "What?"

"Deven is being a jerk."

Fang cocked an eyebrow. "Deven?"

"That's the Voice's name," I explained. Fang's eyes widened slightly. "What? Do you know a Deven?"

Fang shook his head. "No, but—Deven? D-E-V-E-N? You sure that's it?"

"Yeah…" I said slowly. "Why?"

Fang rubbed his forehead, staring at the ground. "Deven. Name with Indian origins." He sighed and looked up at me. "Deven means 'God'".

"Someone give the boy a prize."




A/N: I hope that the title is slowly making sense to you. The plot will be kicking in next chapter. I'm on spring break right now, so I'm hoping I'll have the chappie up sometime this weekend. Hope ya'll enjoyed the long awaited fax! Review!

8. The Dumping of Infomation

A/N: Don't have anything to say but enjoy!

Disclaimer/Copyright: Yeah, whatever.

NSRQ#7: "Some people are afraid of what they might find if they try to analyze themselves too much, but you have to crawl into your wounds to discover where your fears are. Once the bleeding starts, the cleansing can begin. –Tori Amos"

Chapter Six: The Dumping of Information




"'Deven' means God."

"Someone give the boy a prize."

I felt my eyes widened as I tried to wrap my brain around the concept that God was talking to me in my head. And that I'd told God to shut up a few minutes ago.

The Voice—or Deven, I guess I should say, scoffed. "Who do you think you are, Joan of Arc? It's just a name. A Hindu man gave it to me when I was five and it stuck."

I blinked. Who is Joan of Arc?

The Voice/Deven sighed and muttered something about 'obscene lack of education'. A moment later, my forehead twinged and an eruption of information suddenly poured into my mind.

Joan of Arc, also known as Jeanne d'Arc, was a national heroine of France and is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. She asserted that she had visions from God which told her to recover her homeland from English domination late in the Hundred Years' War. The uncrowned King Charles VII sent her to the siege at Orléans as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence when she overcame the light regard of veteran commanders and lifted the siege in only nine days. Several more swift victories led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims and settled the disputed succession to the throne.

The renewed French confidence outlasted her own brief career. She refused to leave the field when she was wounded during an attempt to recapture Paris that autumn. Hampered by court intrigues, she led only minor companies from then onward and fell prisoner at a skirmish near Compiègne the following spring. A politically motivated trial convicted her of heresy. The English regent John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford had her burnt at the stake in Rouen. She had been the heroine of her country at the age of seventeen and died at just nineteen. May have been schizophrenic.

"Ow!" I muttered, grabbing my head.

"What?" Fang asked, gently peeling my palm away from my scalp.

"Uh… news flash," I explained. "Deven isn't God-God, that just it's name. And I just got an info dump on Joan of Arc." I curled my fingers through Fang's and laid my head back down on his shoulder, still kind of tired from my lack of sleep. Fang read my mind and started slowly tracing wide circles on my back. Deven sighed heavily.

If it bothers you so much, then leave, I grumbled.

"I would if I could, believe me. But I doubt you'd appreciate another 'brain explosion' as you so fondly call them. And I can't perform another one any time soon."

Why not?

Deven snorted. "Think of it this way: would you rather have your brain suddenly stabbed or slowly ripped apart?"

I winced at the mental image. Uh… ripped apart sounds a lot worse.

"Then be a little more appreciative of what I'm doing."

Maybe if just told me who the heck you are…

"Trust please, Maximum. Now go to sleep. You're no use to the world when you're dead on you're feet and I need you to learn a few things. I'll have your assignment for you in the morning."

What is this, boot camp? Some cheesy James Bond movie?

"Just shut up and go to bed before I knock you out."

I yawned and rubbed my eyes. "You must be a guy, because no girl is this much of a jerk."


And how am I supposed to learn things when I'm sleeping?

"Your brain is in high activity when you're sleeping, Max. Remember what I said about dreams? Besides, it's easier to transfer information to you when you're unconscious."

I remembered the latest info-dump about Joan of Arc and saw Deven's point. At least it wouldn't hurt if I was asleep.

"Fang?" I mumbled. "What time is it?"

I felt his arm move a little to glance at his watch. "Quarter after two."

Already? How long was I out in the rain? How long had I slept? "Oh… wake me up at seven."

Fang shook his head. "Eight."



I sighed. "Seventy-thirty?"


I tried to scoot away, but Fang kept one arm wrapped firmly around my waist and tugged me back beside him. "Where do you think your going?"

I folded my arms and huffed, pretending to be agitated. Fang just laughed quietly and kissed the top of my head.

Hard to believe that a day ago we were barely talking.




A tinny voice crackled from the speaker above the one-way mirror.

"Recording: on. Testing….testing….on. Date: the fourteenth of June, in the year of 1997. Subject: number seven of the A.G.E. Project. Identification code: AGE0017102. Examination: continuation of psychoanalyzing began in 1994. Regular check-up on progression. Examination number: 89. Tester: B. Newsom. Identification code: PSY0058709. Observer: W. Runyon. Identification code: SUP0062904. Ready to begin."

The lights rose to their full brightness. The small boy in the chair blinked once, eyes adjusting quickly. The man sitting across from him had a little more trouble, but he kept his large hands folded on the table. You could never show weakness in front of the subjects. If they got the idea that they really were stronger than them, there wouldn't be enough Erasers to restrain them.

Not that many of them had the intelligence to begin an uprising. Or the motivation.

"So, Seven," the man drawled. "Let's talk."

The boy didn't respond.

"We have lots of things to discuss, don't we? It's been a while since I've seen you. A month or so, yes?" A pause. "Did you have fun with Dr. Groner?" A slight smirk.

The boy didn't move, not the tiniest bit. The man might have feared that he'd stopped breathing, but the screen in the table relayed a constant stream of the boy's vitals to him, so he could easily see that he was indeed breathing.

Besides, if the boy did stop breathing, it would mean much. It would simply mean that Batchelder's little experiment had failed. That the child's destiny had finally caught up with him.

"I'm sure you've met Subject Nine by now, yes?" the man continued. "I see she was moved in with you a couple weeks ago. What do you think of her?"

The boy shifted a bit in his chair, as much as the bonds would let him. The man took note of that.

Shows responds to mention of other, newer subjects. A good thing.

"And what about Eight, eh? Just a few days ago, wasn't it?" The man smiled, teeth stained from a cup of coffee. "Unfortunate, isn't it? Just a little slip up, just a tiny lapse of focus, and… accidents happen." The smile grew, but it wasn't much of a grin. More like a dog baring its canines. "You'll have to remember that, won't you, Seven? You wouldn't want more accidents to happen, would you?"

The man couldn't see the boys hands shaking since they were hidden beneath the table, but he could tell by the slight quiver in his shoulders and the sounds of the bonds clicking against the chair. The man took note of that too.

Stronger response to mention of injury to other, older subjects. A very good thing.

"Of course, some things are out of your control. You can't take account for everything that happens to other people." The man scratched his jaw. "Sometimes things just happen. Things you can't prevent. And that's okay, even if people do get hurt. You can't control everything. Isn't that right, Seven?"

The boy shook his head.

"It is right. We've told you that several times."

The boy shook his head again, harder.

"What's wrong about it then?"

But the boy had stopped moving, head hanging limp against his chest. His dark, uncut hair dangled in front of his face, almost hiding the large purple bruise obscuring most of his cheek.

"Seven?" the man prodded. "You have to talk, Seven. Talk to me."

No response. No reaction.
"Seven, I know you're listening." The man's finger hovered over a small white button and dial near the screen in the table. "Now, talk to me."


The man pressed the button and wattage sufficient to wake a fading heartbeat raced through the bonds, sinking into the boy's wrists, ankles, waist, and wings. The boy tensed and trembled, vitals stammering on the screen. The man raised his finger off the button.

"Ready to talk now, are we?"

The boy's hands clenched and unclenched. The man took that for a yes.

"So, what's wrong about not being able to control things? Why isn't that okay, Seven?"

The boy raised his head, eyes burning red, lips dry. "It's never okay when someone gets hurt." He licked his lip, breath shuddering. The man had to lean forward to hear him. "And someone is always in control."

The man sat back and laughed. "That's not true. If someone was in control, then why would this someone want to hurt you? Why would this someone allow bad things to happen?" he sneered. "Shouldn't this someone be stopping me? Eh, Seven?"

The boy glared, hard and cold. "Someone will get you. Eventually."

A chill trickled down the man's back, despite the long coat he wore. He hid the shiver. You could never show weakness. The man turned the dial to the far right and pressed the white button again. The electricity coursed through the boy stronger this time, making him cry out softly. The man removed his finger from the button, satisfied. "I wouldn't be saying things like that, Seven," he warned, as the boy caught his breath.. "Because right now, we're in control." The man smiled. "And you don't want us to bring Six in here do you?"

The boy froze, the brief anger in his eyes being replaced by emptiness. He looked away. The man took note of that.

Strongest response to mention of danger for Subject Six, primary safeguard. Maybe Batchelder's experiment would work after all.

A bell sounded, and the door opened. A short woman strode in, flanked by two Erasers. "Dr. Newsom?" she said, voice sharp. The man stood, his coat brushing against his knees, its fabric as white as the button.

"Yes, Ms. Ruyon?" the man answered. He stood several heads taller than her, yet the Erasers and the grim expression on her face made the woman seem more formidable.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"What I was hired to do, Ms. Ruyon."

The woman's eyes flashed. She thrust out her chin and pointed at the boy. "This is an expensive piece of priceless technology that took two decades and a few billion dollars to make. You're supposed to be fixing it, not making it worse."

"How am I making it worse, Ms Ruyon? It's simply adverse therapy." the man inquired, tone polite but curt.

"You can't just shock it because it said something you didn't like!" the woman snapped. "Do you want it to become a mute?"

The man explained coolly, "It needs to learn respect for superiors, Ms. Ruyon."

Ms. Ruyon folded her arms. "It has too much respect already! You're supposed to be installing self-respect into it!"

Behind them, the boy stared at the tabletop, motionless.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Ruyon, but this is my field, not yours. I know what I'm doing."

The woman glared at the man. The Erasers shuffled behind her, awkwardly. Finally, the woman growled, "Alright. But I'm reporting you to the Director."

The man chuckled. "Batchelder is on my side, Ms. Ruyon. It won't do you any good." The woman fumed silently, knowing it was true.

"Fine, Dr. Newsom. But this session is over. I'm taking it to sector two for the neuro-imaging exercises." She snapped her fingers and the Erasers unlatched the boy from the chair, unhooking him from the electric cables. Ignoring the man's glare, the woman marched out of the room, the Erasers behind her with the boy in tow. The boy's hands were shaking again. A slight tremble, hardly noticeable. But shaking.

A moment after the group left, the man cursed and grabbed his notes off the table before stomping out of the room.

A tinny voice crackled from the speaker above the one-way window.

"Recording: off."





I grumbled and turned over, covering my head with my arm. Someone chuckled.

I felt a warm hand on my back, rubbing me briskly between the wings. "Max, wake up."

I cracked one eye open and found myself looking up at the face of the small boy. But when I blinked, he disappeared, replaced with Fang, smiling slightly at my bemused expression.

"C'mon, Max. The world awaits."

I yawned and forced myself into a semi-upright position, trying to flush the cold remnants of the dream out of my mind. Did that really happen?

"Several times over. From when he was two till Jeb removed the six of you from the system. There's more, but I didn't want to show you."

I swallowed. What's neuro-imaging?

Deven didn't answer for a moment. "…Maybe another time, Max. I don't think you should see that right now."

I paused, struggling to remember the tiny details from the dream before they dribbled away. I thought Anne was the Director, not Jeb.

"Jeb used to be the Director. But he was demoted after he took you guys away from the School."


"Because he wasn't supposed to. He got into a lot of trouble for those two years, you know."

I hadn't known. After we'd found out that Jeb wasn't dead, we'd always figured that stealing us from the School had been part of The Plan, another part of our training. But I tried not to dwell on the dream or its implications, so it wouldn't show on my face. However, I couldn't quite erase the image of the psychologist's false grins and the hopelessness in the five-years-old-Fang's eyes. I hand-combed my hair distractedly. Where do you get that stuff anyway?


How do you know these kinds of things? And how can you… transfer it?

"Information is everywhere in all sorts of forms," Deven replied, getting cryptic. I sighed and stared at the too-bright sunshine outside. I whipped my head around at Fang. "Hey—what time is it?"

Fang glanced at his watch, though he probably already knew. "About… eight-fifteen."

I frowned. "I thought we agreed on seven-thirty," I commented disapprovingly.

Fang just shrugged, a small smirk in place. "You needed it."

Almost a decade. Nine years of being experimented on and getting "psychoanalyzed". I remembered that man, Dr. Newsom. He used to come every two weeks or so with some Erasers and leave with just Fang for several hours. When Fang was brought back, he'd be trembling and clammy, leaving me to deflect the Flock's questions and calm him down the best I could, stroking his sensitive down feathers through the crate's small holes.

Nine years of that, never telling anyone. How did he keep it together? How did Fang even get up in the morning?

"Because he has to watch out for you."

Oh, yeah.

I came back to reality, catching the worried stare Fang was giving me. "Anything new?" he asked.

I shook my head, hands twisting in my lap. I looked up at him, forcing myself to meet his eyes. "You… you know I'm here for you, right?"

Fang blinked, clearly wondering how this topic had come up. "Yeah, I know," he said slowly.

I pretended not to notice the questioning glance he was giving me. "And you know you can ask me for help, right?"

Fang sighed, raising his hand to cup my face. "What's wrong, Max?"

"Nothing's wrong."

He ignored my response. "What did the Vo—Deven tell you?"

I clasped my hands around his free one. "Nothing," I told him, unconvincingly. I rubbed between his fingers.

"Max…" Fang warned softly.

"Nothing is wrong, I promised." Or, at least nothing was immediently wrong. "I just wanted to tell you."


I nodded, brushing my cheek on his palm. "Cross my heart, hope to sing, take a chainsaw to my wing." Fang started to say something, but I cut him off by leaning in and kissing him, hard and deep. I'd caught him off guard, but he reacted quickly, lips moving against mine, fingers threading into my hair as he pulled me closer to him.

Thankfully, Deven didn't interrupt this time.

Finally, I sat back to try to catch my breath, Fang copying me. I smiled at the haphazard flush spread across his face.

Fang returned the smile, smoothing my hair. "So," he began, changing the subject. "Where are we headed anyway."

Before I even got the chance to contemplate it, Deven butted in smoothly. "Just go southeast. I'll tell you when to stop."

I relayed the information to Fang and after a few minutes of packing up camp, we took off to chase down my destiny and save the world, though from whom and how, we had no clue.




A/N: Let it be known that Dr. Newsom was based off the creepy guidance counselor at my elementary school. That guy was so scary. He always ended things with a question and we had this urgent need to always say your name as well. We were all terrified of him.

Anyway. More strange dream sequences to come. And the actual plot is FINALLY moving forward! Yea!

Reviews please!

9. Beyond the Grave

A/N: Agh… sorry this took so long. I've been way busy because of homework and crap. Plus, I'm running for a school office, so most of my freetime has been spent on making campaign posters.

To random fan (begins with an m…): You can see what happened the spring Fang was twelve by reading my twoshot "A Springtime Memoir". I'd originally had wanted to fit it into the actual story, but I couldn't find a good spot, so I ended up making it separate. Also, good MR fics: check out the authors and stories on my favorites list.

Anyway, I'm not really pleased with how this chapter came out, but I hope it is at least kind of worth the long wait. Sorry!

BTW: I FINALY got my laptop! Yea! I'm so happy. Windows Vista rules!

Disclaimer/Copyright: Yeah, whatever.

NSRQ#8: "Guns don't kill people! The government does! -Dale Gribble, from King of the Hill"

Chapter Seven: Life After Death (Part One)




We had flown nearly all day before the almighty Deven deemed it fit for us to stop. Not that I was complaining; weather was good today, nice conditions for a cross-country flight. But personally, I didn't much like taking orders from some disembodied spirit that I couldn't see or hear, and had decided to live in Max's head. I'd taken orders all my life, whether it be from whitecoats, Erasers, or Max, the former two because if I didn't listen, I was dead, and the latter because someone had to make the decisions, and I'd rather it wasn't me.

That didn't mean I was going to start obeying the every whim of some neurotic voice, though. Especially one I didn't even talk to me.

But Max seemed to have come to some sort of agreement or alliance with this Deven character. And since there was no way I was going to let her wander about alone, (certainly not now that the Erasers had made a comeback and Max had been kidnapped just under two weeks ago), my only option was to stick with her.

Even if it meant listening to Deven.

However, when Max announced it was time to stop, and we landed at the location Deven had given to her, I had my doubts.

"You're kidding, right?"

Max groaned and shoved me. "Hey, it's Deven's idea, not mine. And don't give me that look."

Exactly what look she was referring to, I had no idea. "Fine. It's kidding, right?"

"Actually, I think it might be a guy."

"He's kidding?"

"Look, if you don't want to come, just stay here!" Max huffed. She folded her arms angrily and nearly toppled out of the tree we'd taken roost in. I hurriedly pressed my hand to the small of her back so she wouldn't fall.

"I am coming," I assured her, rubbing just beneath her folded wings. Like I was going to let her stroll in a building that was probably a trap. "I just don't understand why we have to."

"Because Deven said so," Max quipped.

I frowned. "I think this 'God' guy has a bit of an agenda."

"Aw…" Max cooed. She pinched my cheek and shook my head a bit. "Is poor, defenseless Fangie scared of the big, mean Jesus freaks?" I felt my ears heat up, and swatted Max's hand away, which only made her snicker. "Oh, c'mon. What's so bad about it? Afraid they're going to bite?"

"No," I asserted. "But for one thing, neither of us are wearing exactly what I'd call church-going attire." I cast a glace over her: faded t-shirt, jeans with a hole in the knee from a tumble during a chase, and scuffed, dirt-encrusted sneakers.

Max jabbed me in the side and tugged on the hem of my shirt. "Yeah. You look like you can't decide between a rock concert or a funeral. But so what? Aren't Christians supposed to be all accepting and blah, blah, blah?"

I turned away from her prying eyes and glared at the church, grumbling, 'It doesn't even look like a church." Not that I know anything about religious architecture. But weren't churches supposed to be large and imposing with stained glass windows and a spire? This place was just a cluster of dingy buildings and a bumpy parking lot.

Max pointed westward. "Look—it says First Faith Baptist Church right there."

"Why, thank you, Max, I hadn't noticed," I muttered sarcastically.

Max's face became firm. "Seriously, Fang, what's the big deal?" I kept my eyes carefully adverted from her. She sighed and warned me lowly, "Fang…"

Well aware that she wasn't going to drop it anytime soon, I grounded out, "Look, I don't believe in God, okay? Or anything, for that matter."

"Why not?" Max asked bluntly.

I clenched my fingers uneasily and focused on my breathing, trying to keep bad memories from sliding into place. "Because if someone really was up there looking out for me, why would they let all this shit happen to me?" The smell of a sterile room, cool electrodes pressed into my skin, empty stare across the table…

"You didn't use to think that," Max said softly. I glanced back at her, a little surprised by the understanding I could see in her eyes.

"Things change."

White walls, micro-needles in the back of my skull, burning in fires, drowning, gun to the temple, finger on the trigger, falling hundreds of feet from the ground… "Not fast enough, not good enough, Fang, too late… "

Max slipped her fingers through mine. That was when I noticed my hands' trembling. Max didn't mention it, just reached behind my back and smoothed my down feathers reassuringly. She leaned forward till her nose brushed mine, till I could count the gold flecks ringing her pupils.

"Just stay here, okay?" Max murmured. She kissed me softly, then she was gone. By the time I'd blinked and processed what had just happened, panic attack dissolving, she was out of the tree and on the ground, trotting across the parking lot.

I swore under my breath and hopped down from the branch, tugging my jacket on over my wings. If she seriously thought I was letting her out of my sight…

I had caught up with her in seconds. She grinned at me and hooked my thumb through one of her belt loops. "I thought I told you to stay."

"Someone has to play chaperone."

"Oh, possessive and controlling, are we?" Max chuckled and tweaked my nose. "Those aren't very becoming traits in a boyfriend."

I shrugged, smirking to myself at the word, and allowed her to drag me across the parking lot, towards the largest building. If anything, she was the controlling one.

We opened the door, and were met with a blast of air conditioning. But with the exception of the hum of the A/C, the whole place was silent.

I shot Max a warning look, but she was busy discussing something with Deven. She proceeded slowly into the church. I moved my hands up to grip her shoulders, listening closely and wishing Iggy was here to tell us if the place was empty or not.

We were in the back of the church, behind all of the pews. All of the curtains were drawn across the windows, and the lighting was low. At the front, there was a stage sort of thing, with a podium, drum-set, various guitars, and lots of chairs. There was a huge projector screen at the very far back of the stage.

But no people. Then again, it was a Thursday. Did they have church on Thursdays?

Max tilted her head up to me. "We're looking for a guy named Houston. Early twenties, brown hair, five feet, four inches."

I pursed my lips. "There's no one here."


I tensed and clenched Max's shoulders before turning us around. A chubby, middle-aged man with a smile like a banana grinned at us and proffered a hand.

I felt Max relax beneath my fingers; this guy was too old and too fat to be a suspect Eraser. Max shook his hand and I reluctantly followed suit.

"Welcome to First Faith," the man greeted us. "I'm Steve, the music director."

"Hey," Max replied. "I'm Max, this is Nick." I nodded curtly.

"Welcome!" Steve repeated grandly. He stuck his hands deep in his pockets and leaned backwards a little. "Next service won't be until Sunday morning, but is there something I can help you with?"

Max hesitated. "Well… we're looking for Houston…"

Steve beamed. "Ah, yes, he's our youth group leader. He might still be here…" Steve glanced at his watch, sucked his teeth. "But he might've left. Could I show you to his office?"

"No need," I cut in before Max could accept. "Could you just tell us where it is?"

"Sure! It's on the south end of this building, down the hall, second door on the right." The music director pointed southward, though I already knew which direction it was. "You might be able to catch him before he leaves."

"Thank you," I said politely, then steered Max away from the older man. I could feel Steve's gaze on my back, making my spine turn cold.

"That guy was creepy," Max muttered. "Way too happy." I chuckled uneasily; she was right. Max was quiet for a moment, so I figured she was talking to Deven, but then she added, "And the death grip kind of hurts, Fang. I'm not going anywhere, I promise."

"Sorry," I murmured, loosening my grip and rubbing her shoulders apologetically.

Max just shrugged. "It's fine."

The hallway was as deserted as the rest of the church. A crucifix hung on the wall, a beaten Jesus hanging limply, staring out with static eyes that followed you everywhere. I turned away and came face to face with a door that read simply: Houston Brooks. Youth Director.

Max knocked on the door. I waited impatiently, trying to ignore the prickly feeling drumming at the back of brain. Max knocked again, with no response.

"Maybe he left already," I suggested wearily. Max opened her mouth to reply, but stopped, eyes going blank, before a look of sheer panic crossed her face. "What?"

Max shook her head and yanked the door open, dragging me inside. The office was plain and seemed unlived in, though the telephone's hold button was flashing erratically.

"He's not here," I told her.

"Something's wrong," Max said flatly. "He's still here."

I shrugged and started snooping around the office, shifting through the papers. The hold button continued flashing red.

"Hello?" Max called. "Mr. Brooks?"

There was nothing interesting on the desk or in the file cabinet. I moved on to the copy room, shuffling through the papers left on top of the Xerox machine. Max continued calling Houston's name, though I was positive he'd left already.

I finished going through all the documents, but there was nothing to even suggest that this Brooks guy had something to do with us, or Itex, or anything like that. The entire office was entirely drab and totally lacking of any short, brunette Christian guys.

But the prickly feeling wouldn't go away.

I scanned the copy room again, trying to pinpoint what was making me so paranoid, besides the white walls. But there was nothing. Not a single thing was out of place or conspicuous or—


That was it: it was too drab.

Which meant it had just been cleared and cleaned.

Which meant something had been covered up.

"Max?" When there was no response, I yelled again, louder. "Max!"

"…Here," Max said quietly, voice kind of tight. I hurried towards the sound, stopping dead in my tracks when I saw what Max was staring at.

She'd opened the supply closet. And while the supply closet was well stocked with office products and other various things, it also contained one short, brunette Christian guy. With his face blown apart by a close-range shot.

He'd been dragged into the closet and stuffed inside, a quick fix. The blood was still dripping onto his jeans.

Max clutched my hand. My stomach lurched and I looked away from the gory mess that used to be someone's head. My eyes landed on his right hand, clenched into a fist around a sheet of ripped paper. I kneeled down and tugged the paper scrap away, trying to ignore the fact that Houston's corpse was still a bit warm.

"We need to get out of here," Max said, voice quivering. I nodded and stood up, stuffing the paper into my pocket to look at later.

"Yeah, this is really fresh. The person who did this could still—"

"—Be right behind you," an Eraser's musical voice finished.

I heard a very distinct click right behind my head.

And the barrel of a gun was pressed coolly against my skull, a sensation that I'm, unfortunately, very familiar with. The furry arm of a morphed Eraser wrapped around my throat, restricting my air.

Max whirled around already sinking into a fighting stance, but she froze when she saw whoever was behind me.

"That's right. One move, little missy, and pretty boy gets his brains splattered. Which would really be a shame since I just finished cleaning up."

Then I placed the jovial tone underneath the coo of the Eraser's voice: Steve.

"Somebody up there must like me," Steve continued. "I was only sent here to take care of this schmuck." He gestured behind me towards the dead Houston. "But it seems I managed to catch two rogue birdies as well. Maybe I'll get to be Ari's replacement."


"Yeah? If you kill him, how happy do you think the whitecoats will be with you?" Max shot back. Her expression was fierce, but I could see the hidden desperation in her eyes.

The Eraser laughed. "Seven? You're kidding, right? They only person who gives a damn about him anymore is Jeb, and considering how much trouble he's in, Jeb has about the influence of a mouse fart."

What was Jeb in trouble for?

Max squeezed her fist, hard enough to crack her knuckles. She stared at the Eraser over my shoulder, and that's when I grasped something that'd been bothering me the last week or so.

Max knew something I didn't. And judging by the force behind the glare, it was something important.

But when the Eraser jabbed my head with the gun barrel, I forgot about that.

Because basically, I had three options:

One: let the Eraser take us to the School. I'd rather die.

Two: try to get away from him with an elbow jab. No good—I knew from experience that the force could make him pull the trigger, and then I'd get shot anyway.

Three: duck and knock him to the ground by kicking out his knees. What he was faster than me? What if he fired and shot Max?

I gritted my teeth, biting down on my tongue. So much for practice making perfect.

I glanced at Max to try to see what she was going to do, but Max appeared to be arguing with Deven. The silence stretched on, and apparently the Eraser was getting tired of waiting.

"Well, what's it going to be, birdie?" Steve sneered, tightening his grip on my neck. "Are you coming with me, or am I going to have to put lead in his head?" He shoved the barrel against my skull again.

Max looked up, face strangely composed. She stared coldly at Eraser-Steve behind me. "I'd like to see you try."

I could practically hear the wolf-man blink stupidly. "Try what?"

"To shoot him," Max answered simply.

What in the world was she talking about?

There was a short pause, then Steve laughed loudly. "You've got to be kidding me, missy. That's the nice thing about guns: all you do is point and pull. An infant could do it."

"Show me, then."

I swallowed hard—I could feel my Adam's apple bump against the Eraser's arm. "Max?"

Max wouldn't look at me. "Shut up, Fang."

Steve continued to chortle. "Tough luck, buddy," he told me, claws piercing the skin beneath my ear. "But what missy wants, missy gets."

I closed my eyes, not wanting to see the apathetic expression on Max's face, and waited for death to find me.

But the gunshot never came.

I opened my eyes in disbelief. Steve was squirming behind me, muscles in his arm flexing. But nothing was happening.

"I—I can't move my fingers!" the Eraser cried out in horror.

Max smirked smugly. "Didn't you know? Fang here is kind of like one of those poison dart frogs. His skin secretes a poison that paralyzes his victims when they come in contact with him. It should be working through your body pretty quickly…"

Steve leapt away from me, staring at me with dumbfounded terror. I had no idea what was going on, but instinct took over me and I tackled the Eraser, pummeling him. He didn't even try to fight back, just cowered and wrapped his arms around his head..

Max ruined my fun though, grabbing my hand and running, tugging me to the closest exit. We burst through the door and sprinted across the parking lot before jumping into the air, not really caring if someone saw our wings.

We flew high-speed away from the church. But after a few minutes, when it became clear that no one was following us, we slowed down.

I drifted over to where Max was. "Poison dart frog?" I asked skeptically. Max snickered, though it was more from hysteria than humor. "Seriously, Max, how did you do that?"

She snorted. "That wasn't me; that was Deven."

I raised an eyebrow. "The Voice paralyzed an Eraser?"

"Just his hands."

I rolled my eyes. Silence descended for a moment. Finally, I admitted quietly, "You scared me. I thought you really meant it."

Max frowned. "You know I'd never do that." She brushed her wingtips along mine. "I'd rather go back to the School than see you die." Max looked up at me, sincerity burning on her face. "Fang, I'd rather die myself than let you die."

"Better me than you," I said quietly. Max shot me a harsh glance, but I ignored it.

Max sighed, catching an updraft and floated away a little. "Well… next tine you don't want to go to church, we won't go. That was pointless. We didn't even find out who Houston was."

"I was only sent here to take care of this schmuck."

"Well, we do know that whoever he was, the whitecoats didn't want him around," I mused. "Which makes him a friend in my book."

Max smiled grimly. "I think he was a friend of Deven's. He was really upset when I found him in the closet."

Yeah, maybe Houston Brook's head was his vacation home.

But the mention of Houston's corpse reminded me of what I'd found.

"Hey," I called over to Max. She looked up and I dug the piece of crumbled paper from my pocket. "I found this in Houston's hand."

Max's eyes lit up. "Read it," she urged. I unfolded the paper. Blood was splattered on it, but I could still read the rushed script.

"Sorry, D. They found me. And don't go off on one of your guilt trips—I don't regret anything. I did what anyone would've done, you should know that. Maybe I'll see you. Houston."

I looked over the bloody paper at Max. "D for Deven?"

"Probably," she agreed. "But what does he mean 'maybe I'll see you'?"

I shrugged. "None of it makes sense."

Max bit her lip, hovering in air. "There's something on the other side," she told me, pointing.

I turned the paper over and read:

"Max: good luck. Revelation 15:1."




A/N: Ugh, I hated this chapter. Turned out awful. Anyway.

If you haven't already, check out the Maximum Ride Fanfiction Awards that Supergirrl and I got going. It's under my account, so you should be able to find it through there. Nominate your favorite stories in over twenty-five different categories! Nominations will be closing soon, so hurry please!

And don't forget to review!

10. Revelations

A/N: Sorry that the updates are so slow. This will probably be the last one before school lets out. But once I'm on break, I'll try to start updating every week again, like I used to.


NSQR#9: "Let's make the best of the situation / Before I finally go insane. / Please don't say we'll never find a way / And tell me all my love's in vain. –Eric Clapton"

Disclaimer/Copyright: I don't own Maximum Ride, the Holy Bible, or CSI: NY, which is where I got the idea for this chapter from.

Chapter Eight: Life After Death (Part Two)




So, where do you go when you're a bird kid in desperate need of a Bible?

A hotel.

Fang and I checked into the first semi-cheap-looking motel we found. After a search that took a lot longer than I thought it would, we uncovered a King James Version Holy Bible in the bottom drawer of the TV stand.

I had no idea how to work one of those things, so Fang flipped to the very back and started reading the tiny print while I shifted around impatiently behind him.

"Revelation," Fang explained. "Is the last book in the Bible. It's pretty much this John guy having a vision of the apocalypse."

Save the world, Max…

"There's all these theories about how the Second Coming is upon us because of all these things happening that supposedly match up with prophecies," Fang continued, leafing through the thin pages.

"And you know this how?" I asked.


I rolled my eyes. Fang stopped, and then held the book up to me. "Right there, beneath the big fifteen."

I took it and read the miniature script aloud. "'And then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.'" I raised my eyebrows at Fang over the book. "Angels?"

"Well, gee Max," Fang said slowly, lounging across a chair. "We do have wings."

"No dip," I replied sarcastically. I whacked him across the head with the Bible. "But there's only six of us. It says seven. And I don't think Total counts."

Fang shrugged his shoulders, reaching down into his bag and pulling out a bar of chocolate. "How do we even know it's us? How do we even know it means anything?" he questioned me, meticulously pulling back the wrapper.

"Do you know another flock of avian hybrids flying around, being told to save the world?"

Fang took a bite of chocolate and chewed unhurried, staring at me thoughtfully. I fidgeted uncomfortably, stretching my legs out in front of me, and Fang's lips twitched at the corners. "No," he answered finally. "But you're the one being told to save the world, not all of us." I opened my mouth to argue, but Fang interrupted me. "And this is, of course, assuming it was meant literally."

I held up the note, pointing at the dried blood on it. "Someone died getting this to us. I'm pretty sure it's serious," I informed him dryly. Fang nodded, eating another chunk of chocolate, still watching me. "And will you stop doing that?"

"Doing what?" Fang asked, widening his eyes innocently. I noticed absently that his irises were the exact same color as the Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate bar he was eating. Weird.

"Doing… whatever you doing. Ugh, I don't even know." I leaned against the bed, picking at the hotel's carpeting. "Just… stop."

Fang chuckled and slid off the chair onto the ground next to me. "Okay, I'm stopping." He laughed again softly, popping the last bit of chocolate into his mouth.

"How can you be in such a good mood?" I demanded.

"Because it's easier than being upset."

I gave him a shove. He pushed me back playfully before wrapping one arm around my waist and tugging me next to him. "Fine, I'm being serious now." I looked up at him suspiciously; his face was somber, but I could still detect a trace of humor in his eyes. "If the verse is for real," Fang continued. "The question is, does it mean literally God and seven angels? Or is it supposed to be symbolic, like the 'gold beneath the rainbow' bit when we were looking for the Institute?"

I tapped my fingers against Fang's arm, thinking. "I don't know," I admitted.

Fang sighed. His breath tickled my neck. "Has Deven said anything about it?"

I shook my head. "He hasn't been saying much. I told you, he's really upset about the Houston guy. Or maybe he left again."

"Don't write me off just yet. You're still stuck with me."

Oh. Hey. "Never mind; he's here," I told Fang. How're you doing?

"I've been better."

Fang was tracing small circles on my palm. "Ask him," he said quietly.

About the Bible verse thing: what the heck is that about?

"It's part of the test, Max. You have to figure it out."

Everything is part of the test, I huffed back. And what's the point of having a voice in your head if it doesn't help you out?

Deven laughed bitterly. "You have no idea how much I've done for you, what I'm still doing."

Enlighten me, then.

"I can't tell you that." The Voice paused and sighed. "I'll give you a hint: some of it is literal and some of is symbolic."

So… is the Flock the seven angels?

"Six out of seven. You must find the seventh angel."

And is this seventh angel a bird kid like us, or what? But Deven didn't respond.

I returned my focus back to Fang, who was now fiddling with my fingers. "Deven says some of it is literal and some isn't. And that we need to find a seventh angel."

Fang dropped my hand back into my lap. "Another avian hybrid?"

I shrugged. "He wouldn't say. Maybe." A thought struck me. "Oh—what about those kids we released from the Institute? There were two there, a girl and a boy."

"Or maybe a newer experiment?" Fang suggested. "Or an older one."

"What do you mean?"

Fang looked down at me. "Well, I was Subject Seven, you were Six. What about the five Subjects before us?"

I shook my head. "But they always said that we were the first successful avian crosses. The ones before us must've died or something."

Fang pursed his lips. "Or…" he started slowly. "Or, maybe you count as two people, since you have another person in your head."

"Yeah, but Deven said we had to find the seventh angel. So, wouldn't that mean we hadn't met them yet? Besides, the verse thingy said 'God', so wouldn't that mean Deven?"

"True." Fang pulled me into his lap and laid his head atop mine. After a minute, he added, "It could be an Eraser."

"What? No way," I replied, crossly.

"They have wings too," he reminded me.

I folded my arms. "Yeah, but they're certainly not angels." Fang chuckled, running a strand of my hair between his fingers.

"Definitely not." He tucked the hair back behind my ear. "But I'm not much of an angel either."

I whipped around. "You are!" I proclaimed indignantly. "You're like, like my guardian angel!" Then, I realized what I'd said and blushed deeply.

Fang noticed, of course. He raised an eyebrow. "Guardian angel?" he teased.

I felt my face burn brighter and nodded reluctantly.

Fang chuckled again, shaking his head, but smiling. Then, he leaned forward and kissed my forehead, my nose, and, finally, my mouth.

I grinned and kissed him back, linking my fingers together behind his neck. Fang's tongue ran along my bottom lip, asking for entrance. I waited a bit just to tease him, then when he became more insistent, I granted him access. His tongue swept through my mouth and oh God…

"Spare me, please."

I smirked and slipped my tongue between Fang's lips, massaging his with mine. I immediately tasted something sweet and pulled back.

"What?" Fang asked, concerned he'd crossed the line.

I shook my head and snickered. "I can taste the chocolate."

Fang's expression turned cocky. "Taste yummy, do I?"

"Mmmhmm," I answered. I kissed him again lightly before standing up. "I'm taking advantage of the hot shower," I informed him, digging through my backpack for my night clothes and toothbrush. I felt Fang's eyes on my back until I stepped into the small bathroom. I dropped my toothbrush and clothes onto the sink counter and was reaching to shut the door when my reflection caught my eye.

Eraser Max smiled at me, sharp teeth jutting above her lip. "Hello, Maxie."

Before I could stop myself, I screamed.




I was taking off my shoes when Max suddenly screamed with pure, uncontained terror. Max never screams like that. Getting scared already, I leapt to my feet and ran to the bathroom. "Max?!"

The door was halfway closed; I threw it open, banging it against the wall. Max was edging away from the sink, practically climbing up the wall as she stared at the mirror in terror.

But since there were no Erasers or blood, I calmed down just a tad. "Max?" I asked cautiously, stepping towards her.

Max suddenly noticed me and shrieked, jumping away from me. "No, go, go…" she moaned, covering her face with her hands. I reached out to her, but she back away, feet banging into the tub. "Stay away from me!"

"Max?" I tried again. Every instinct inside me was screaming at me to touch her, but when I moved closer, she only seemed to get more agitated. "What—what's the matter?"

Max wouldn't look at me, shoulders trembling. "S-she's going to kill you," she stammered.

"Who is?"

Max pointed at the mirror. I looked at it, but all I saw was Max and me standing in the cramped bathroom. Then it clicked. "Eraser Max?"

"She's going to kill you," Max repeated, shaking and heaving in sharp bursts of breath. Oh shit, she's hyperventilating.

"No one is going to kill me," I assured her. "Just breathe." She shook her head, starting to cry and face turning red from the lack of oxygen. "Breathe, Max, c'mon." I approached her slowly, hands spread wide in front of me. Max tried to scuttle away, but she couldn't go any farther. Kneeling down beside her, I turned her towards me, away from the mirror. "Shh, breathe Max, it's okay," I soothed.

Max was still covering her face with one hand; I gently tugged it away. I brushed her hair behind her ears and then cupped her face with both hands. She seemed to calm down, her eyes getting less frantic. "Deep breath." Max did as instructed, the flush starting to fade.

"Good," I murmured. Max breathed deep again, then sobbed softly, burying her face into the crook of my neck. I wrapped my arms around her, rubbing her back.

"She's going to kill you," Max mumbled again disjointedly, gripping fistfuls of my shirt. I felt a drop of something wet slick down to my collarbone.

"Shh." I kissed the top of her head, pulling her into my lap. "Is she still there?"

"Yes." She clenched my shirt tighter. I glanced over my shoulder at the mirror; there was definitely no Eraser there. "She's talking to me," Max continued, whimpering.

"Don't listen to her, listen to me," I told her. "Nothing's going to happen to me and nothing is going to happen to you, okay?" Max nodded, still crying quietly. "We're going to figure this out, alright? We're going to be fine."

I picked up Max, standing carefully. She kept her face turned into my chest, refusing to even glance away, and quivering slightly. I sighed; I hated seeing her like this. "Let's get you some sleep."

Max didn't protest as I carried her back into the room and laid her down on the bed, though I did have to pry her hands off of my t-shirt. She curled up into a ball as I pulled the covers over her. Combing my fingers through her hair, I pressed my lips to her forehead. "Goodnight, Max."

Max grabbed my arm, squeezing so hard her nails bit into my skin. "Fang… " she whispered. I leaned forward to hear her. "…Don't let her kill you."

"I didn't plan on it."

I was finally able to coax Max asleep after a half hour or so. When she was finally deep into a slumber, I slipped away and walked silently to the bathroom.

The mirror seemed innocent enough. Three by five feet, unadorned, speckled with a few stains, typical cheap glass you see in motels. I placed my palm on the cool surface, spreading my fingers wide. I hadn't seen anything weird in the mirror. But Max had. And it wasn't the first time either.

"A couple of times, when I've looked into a mirror, I've—seen myself morph. Into an Eraser."

That was at Anne's, after her date with that Sam guy. Max had also said something about seeing Eraser Max on New Years Eve. And now tonight. So, four times, maybe more.

What was the common denominator? Where was the link?

At first, I'd put it off as too much stress, but tonight… if she was talking to her, freaking Max out that much, it had to be serious.

But what was it? I hadn't seen anything in the mirror, and Max looked normal enough to me. So, if it was all in Max's head, what was causing it?

I opened the tiny linen closet's door and pulled out one of the spare bed sheets, covering the mirror with it. I tugged the corners taut around the edges of the mirror, glaring at the blank, white space.

If you can't cure it, treat it.




A/N: Sorry about the shortness, but I wanted to post soon. If you get bored, go vote for the nominees of the Maximum Ride Fanfiction Awards. And if you're bored after that, go study for your finals. I'm sure you have to take them too.

11. For A Reason

A/N: Okay, I told a lie last chapter. But this IS my last update before summer break. Got some action this chapter, along with some more info. Enjoy. I've got you guys a nice, long chapter this time, to make up for the short one last time.

Disclaimer/Copyright: I don't own MR. I do actually have a government issued copyright on this though. The perks of going to an arts school.

NSRQ#10: "Is that what you call a getaway? --from "Seventy Times 7" by Brand New"

Chapter Nine: Life After Death (Part Three)




I stared into my cup of orange juice glumly. A muggy, ever-shifting reflection shone back, but it was clear enough for me to tell that it was just plain old me. I poked my finger into the juice and broke the surface, shattering the make-shift mirror into ripples. Hearing Fang come back, I sat up, trying not to look guilty as I hurriedly bit into a piece of toast. He'd get mad if he caught me looking. But I couldn't help it.

Fang sat down across from me, dropping his backpack next to mine. His lips twitched up when he saw the yellow mustard packets I'd left by his plate.

"I found them in with the cups of jelly," I explained, swallowing my toast. Fang loves mustard. Frankly, I didn't see why, but whenever we had mustard he'd put it on all his food. "I figured you'd want them." (A/N: Fang really does love mustard. It says so in his blog.)

"Thanks," he replied simply. I watched, repulsed, as Fang ripped open one of the packets and squeezed its contents into his bowl of grits. He stirred it around, turning the hot cereal into a puke yellow, and then stuck a big spoonful into his mouth.

"That's really gross, you know?" I told him, buttering my last piece of toast. Fang smiled at me widely, showing off his gritty, mustard-stained teeth. "You're weird."

Fang ate another loaded spoon of his grits. "Says the girl who talks to God," he quipped. I threw my toast at him, but he just ducked, chuckling. "And it isn't gross, it's actually quite good. You should try it." He offered me a spoonful.

I stared at the bumpy, yellow substance. "Uh… no thanks." Fang shrugged and ate it. I sighed and looked away, scanning the hotel lobby. None of the guests looked particularly Eraser-y, but the last Eraser we'd seen hadn't set off my alarms either.

I gave them all another once over. A family of two parents, a preteen, and a toddler at the table next to us. No. A woman laughing at something she read in the newspaper. Probably not. A half-asleep old guy, slumped over his table. Nope. A newlywed looking couple talking to the desk clerk. Maybe, but most likely not.

But then the clerk nodded and pointed at our table. The couple turned to looked at us, something like recognition crossing their faces. They nodded to the clerk.

"Erasers," I breathed, so low Fang might not have heard me. He continued eating his mustard-grits. "Count of three." The Eraser started walking casually towards us. "Three!" I shouted. Fang shot up, lunging over his chair and almost running into the toddler. I grabbed our bags and dashed after him, tossing Fang his backpack. I caught up with him easily; I was always the faster sprinter, even though he was taller.

I heard the guests asking, "What's going on?" and the Erasers chasing us down, but I didn't look back. My breath came in steady, sharp breaths, my heart quickly adjusting to the rhythm.

"Well, you were built for this, Max. They built you all to survive," Deven butted in.

Shut up and help! I screamed at him. There was a short pause, and then a sharp twinge slammed into my head. I winced, about to curse at the Voice, but then 3-D blueprints of the hotel burst into my brain, blue dots marking where Fang and I were and red dots showing the Erasers, like some sort of map on a video game.

I gaped at the number of red dots, trying to count them all while still focusing on where I was running. At least eighty-five. Eighty-freakin'-five. Oh shit.

"The stairs," Fang gasped beside me. I snapped back to the present.

"No! Elevator!" I commanded.

"They're right behind us, Max!" Fang growled.

"They're all over the staircase!" I shot back. Fang frowned at me, but listened, skidding to a stop and slamming his hand against the elevator call button impatiently. The pair of Erasers were just moments away, already starting to morph.

"The elevator will come in about twenty-two seconds regardless of how hard he hits the button."

We don't have twenty-two seconds! I shouted at Deven.

"Then fight!"

I jumped at the nearest Eraser, the male one, kicking him hard in the chest. He stumbled back a half-step, then swung at me. I ducked under his fist, grabbing his wrist and wrenching it backwards.

"Fifteen seconds."

Fang joined the fray, knocking the girl Eraser's feet out from under her. She up quicker than I could ever managed and threw a punch at Fang, catching his shoulder.

"Ten seconds."

My Eraser grabbed my ponytail and yanked my head backwards. I hissed in pain, ripping myself away from him and backhanding him across the jaw.

"Five seconds."

I kicked the guy Eraser with all my force where it hurts and he fell to his knees, howling. I gave him another kick to the temple, and he was unconscious.


The elevator opened with a pleasant ding! behind us. "Fang!" I yelled. He glanced back at me and knocked his Eraser to the ground again. The second he cleared the elevator doors, I hit the button to close the doors and they slowly wheezed shut. I heard the female Eraser slam against the elevator doors, and then we were rising.

I checked for injuries; I was fine though I was going to have some wicked bruises in a few hours, Fang had a cut on his cheek but it was so small he probably didn't even feel it. He saw me looking and demanded, "So, why aren't we taking the stairs?"

"I told you. There's Erasers all over the stairs, they didn't think we'd take the elevator because they know we hate them," I snapped.

"How do you know?"

"I talk to God, remember?" I reverted my focus back to the map thing in my head. All the floors were smothered with red dots, though the floor our room was on was the worst. Good thing we'd already gotten our backpacks.

"Your best shot is the window in the middle of the hallway on the sixth floor. The squad leader's receiver is on the fritz, so they don't know that you've been found yet."

You ever going to tell me how you know this stuff? I asked grumpily.

"I was named 'Deven' for a reason."

I sighed, punching the button labeled '6'. "We're going through a window in the sixth floor hallway, so get ready," I informed Fang. He immediently shed his windbreaker, untucking his wings as much as he could in the cramped space. I copied him, prepping myself to run through a hallway teeming with Erasers. According to the blueprints Deven had given me, the window was forty yards from the elevator door. Forty yards and fifteen Erasers versus two bird-kids. If this was the best shot, I did not want to know what the worst one was.

"The worst plan would've been to return to your hotel room. Twenty-three Erasers and no way out that isn't being covered. Plus, they're expecting you to head that way."

I said I didn't want to know.

"It's always good to be informed."

I spared a glance at the screen above the doors. Fifth floor. I breathed deep. Forty yards. That wasn't so bad. It was the fifteen Erasers I was worried about. Fang and I were good, but we weren't that good. Maybe if we were up against fifteen of the older models, we'd have a good shot. But these new Erasers were stronger, faster, and a whole lot smarter.

Can't you just knock them out or paralyze them or something?

Deven snorted. I could practically hear him rolling his eyes. "Do you have any idea how hard that is? Besides, I can only do so many things at once, and I'm already talking to you, keeping tabs on head Erasers, sending you a live feed, and keeping up defenses on your mind. I'm not a machine."

What defenses? From what?

Deven didn't reply. I groaned inwardly, then found Fang's hand beside me and squeeze it. "Don't fight, just run," I instructed. "And don't wait for me," I added, even though I knew he wouldn't follow the last order. It was worth a shot.

Fang frowned, but squeezed my hand back. And then the screen changed to "6" and the doors slid open with a ding!.

Fifteen Erasers whipped around to face us, surprise evident in their eyes. That wouldn't last long.


I dropped Fang's hand and broke into a sprint, Fang just inches behind me. We cleared the first few Erasers before they even knew what was going on. Then one of them, the squad leader I suppose, shouted something and they surged forward, crowding the small hall. I twisted and dodged around of a pair of them, hearing them collide behind me. Digging my elbow into another Eraser's hairy gut, I got to a clearing and ran forward.

Risking a glance backward, I found Fang jumping over a downed Eraser. I turned just in time to see three Erasers coming towards me, wielding stun guns. Great. Dropping to the ground, I rolled past them before popping back onto my feet. Multiple bangs followed me and two tranqs hit the wall while the last one emptied itself into an Eraser. Nice aim, idiots.

A hand pressed against my back and I nearly whirled around to hit the mangy mutt, but then I recognized Fang's touch. Running faster, I saw the window coming up ahead. Four Erasers were there, covering it. The rest of them were thundering just behind us. Crap, crap, crap, crap…

Fang slammed into the first Eraser, knocking him to the ground and kicking in his ribs. I lunged onto the Eraser nearest me, clapping my hands around her ears and jabbing her in the eyes. I rammed the Eraser hard and she stumbled backwards, crashing into the window and breaking it. The Eraser fell through and disappeared.

An alarm started ringing.

"Fang!" I yelled, already dodging another Eraser's punches. "Go!"

""No!" he hollered back. The rest of the Eraser had caught up and surrounded us. One of them tried to grab me, but I broke away, kicking wildly.

"GO!" I screamed. Fang ignored me stubbornly, wrenching a stun gun from one of the wolf men and whacking him across the head with it. More Erasers burst onto the scene, clogging the already claustrophobic hallway.

"Just go, Max! He'll come once you're out!"

Deciding that I was going to kill Fang the second we were out of here, (even if he was insane), I punched the Eraser nearest me in the muzzle, drop-kicked another, ducked under the arms of two particularly big Erasers, and leapt out the window. The glass dug into my skin and ripped bloody streaks into it. I fell a few feet before I could fully spread my wings, but then I was hovering, self-conscious of the humans walking below me, utterly oblivious.

Several agonizing seconds later, Fang burst out of the window, sporting a nasty cut on his temple. He nodded to me and we both flapped hard, pushing off higher into the air. I looked back and saw the bulky Erasers trying to climb out the window without getting too cut up. I laughed to myself, then sped up and caught a thermal to keep up with Fang.

"I am going to kill you," I deadpanned. Fang smirked knowingly. "Don't give me that look; I'm serious. I thought I told you not to wait for me."

Fang rolled his eyes, rubbing the gory mess on his forehead with the back of his hand. "You had to get out first. They were only after you; they didn't care about me."

"And how do you know that, oh bloody one?" I asked snidely.

Fang snorted. "I told you: you're the important one. The rest of us are redundant." I opened my mouth to argue, but he cut me off. "Besides, did you see any of them trying to grab me? No. They were just trying to get rid of me."

"He's right, it's true." Deven inserted.

I muttered, "You guys are important to me." Fang laughed and drifted over to me, flapping his wings in tune with mine. I noticed how his feather gleamed with his blood and frowned. Jeez. Did this guy feel no pain? How could he fly like that?

"If you're wondering, the pain register in his brain was desensitized during an experimental surgery on September 26th, 1998."

My mind practically back-pedaled. Wait—so he seriously feels no pain? And here I'd thought he was just toughing it out.

"Of course he can still feel it. Just not nearly as well."

Well, at least that explained why he barely ever complained. So let me get this straight—the whitecoats accidentally "desensitized" Fang's pain register?

Deven chuckled darkly. "It wasn't an accident. The six of you cost more money to make than Bill Gates earns in three years—which is a lot. The whitecoats don't make mistakes on experiments as costly as you."

Oh yeah? I shot back. What about Iggy?

"Iggy's blindness wasn't an accident."

I blinked. Not an accident? What? Of course it was an accident. I could still remember the day: Iggy came out of surgery later than usual, curled on the floor of his cage as they wheeled him back to our room. He cried himself to sleep that night, and it wasn't until the next day that the rest of us found out: they were trying to improve his night vision and screwed up. Or at least, that's what the whitecoats had told us.

"And you trust the whitecoats since… when?"


I snapped my focus back to Fang. "What's it saying?" he asked, a bead of blood slowly making its way down his face; he wiped at it irritably.

I sighed, banking so that I was beside him. "Apparently, the whitecoats blinded Iggy on purpose." Sick, sadistic scientists…

"I know."

I nearly snapped my neck when I wrenched it up to stare at him. "What? How do you know?"

Fang pursed his lips, refusing to look at me. His face became a blank slate, but I could almost hear him deliberating something in his head. Finally, he settled on an answer. "One of the whitecoats that would… talk to me sometimes. He told me, trying to get me mad." Fang immediately clamped his mouth shut, still not looking anywhere near me.

Dr. Newsom. The "psychoanalyzing" sessions.

I didn't push the issue. At least not with Fang, anyway.

But why did they want Iggy blind? I asked Deven.

"Iggy's avian genes came from a homing pigeon. You know about homing pigeons, don't you?"

Uh, no. Deven sighed.

"Like most birds, homing pigeons have an internal compass. But their navigational abilities go a lot further than just that; homing pigeons can find their way home no matter where you dump them off, no matter the conditions. That's why they're called 'homing pigeons'." Deven paused, letting me absorb this.

"The whitecoats were interested to see how far the ability would stretch with Iggy, since he's mostly human. However, since he is human, he wouldn't really need the ability, since he could always know where he was by just looking around or reading a map. So they made an executive decision to blind him, so he'd have to unconsciously lean on it more."

I realized that my mouth was open and closed it. So, uh, how far did it develop?

Deven laughed quietly. "A lot further than any of them thought it ever could. His mind is like a constantly changing map, shifting continuously whenever he gets information from outside stimuli. He imprints on everything and everyone he's with. Right now, if you called him, he could tell you exactly where you are on a map. He's an amazing kid."

If he's so amazing, why don't you go live in his head? I suggested casually.

"I don't 'live' in your head, Maximum. And I have been in his mind before. It was very fascinating, but rather hard to keep up with."

When were you—oh never mind, you probably won't tell me, will you?


I withdrew myself from the conversation and turned back to Fang, who was still looking a bit distant. I sighed and let myself drop down beside him. "Let's land and get cleaned up," I told Fang. He nodded distractedly and we started the descent towards the earth.

After a few minutes, we landed in a pretty rocky area. We scouted out a good looking cave and set up camp for the night. Somehow, I managed to coax Fang into letting me take care of his wings. He'd cut them up really bad going through the window; in some places, his wings were torn so badly, I could see the muscle. Most of his feathers were clumped together with dried blood. And he swore he just barely noticed.

I cleaned him us as best as I could with what water we had and poured nearly all of our antiseptic on him. You can't really bandage up wings because the feathers get in the way, but I tried. I gently combed his now sort-of-damp feathers with my fingers to straighten them out. Fang fidgeted uncomfortably the whole time; he wasn't used to being taken care off. He was relieved when I was finally done, leaping off the ground and standing up in one fluid motion.

"Let's get something to eat," he suggested.

"I'm not done with you yet," I replied. "Your forehead is still hideous."

Fang rolled his eyes, spat into his hand and rubbed the dried blood off his head. The gash was half way done healing. He pulled one more big Band-Aid out of the first aid kit and stuck it on his forehead. "Happy now?"

"Maybe." I examined the pair of us. Between all the old scars and the new cuts, we looked like we'd just came from a war zone. All of the thin lacerations on my legs were nearly healed, but it still looked like I'd ran through a field of thorns. Or cacti. Oh well. There wasn't much I could do about it, and we needed to eat. "Let's go."

We found a small town about twenty minutes away and stocked up on lots of cheap, wonderful junk food, filling our backpacks with it. We returned to the cave and had a beef jerky and Hostess cupcakes binge.

Stuffed, I stretched out on the ground, hands on my pleased stomach, examining the ceiling of the cave. Fang sat just behind me and played with my hair, whispering, "I've got first watch." I almost argued went him, but it was too late: I drifted beneath the waves of sleep.




A/N: Crap ending, but oh well.

I've only got a week of school left, and then it's summer break for me. Once break starts, I'm gonna start updating a lot more. (Course, everyone does, that's why I love summer break so much! Lots of fanfic updates!) Wish me good luck on my finals… I've did Creative Writing and Biology finals today. Then Geometry and Advanced Grammar. Then Gym and English. Then Film/TV History and Health. Joy.


12. Curiosity Killed

A/N: School is out!!! Yea! You have no idea how relieved I am. Enjoy the update. It's kind of short, sorry! But it's educational! Sorry about the cliffy at the end though.

Disclaimer/Copyright: I don't own Maximum Ride. I do own some aspects of this story. I hope you're smart enough to figure out what those aspects are.

NSRQ#11: "Ownership is, like, you know, an illusion. Maybe we don't even own our own bodies. We could be, like, the daydreams of some greater spirit." –Juliet Butler, from Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Chapter Ten: The Greater Good (Part One)




Date: March 10th, 1994. 8:37 am. Subject: #7 of A.G.E. Project. ID code: AGE0017102. Examination: Field Testing. Tester: L. Pickley. ID code: ERH00465135. Observer: B. Smith. ID code: SUP00149107

Dr. Pickley looked up from his clip board and glanced back at Dr. Smith. Smith saw him looking and nodded—all clear. Pickley swallowed hard. If this test went well, he could get the promotion to Head Eraser Handler. And with twins on the way, he needed the extra money. Maybe he could even get a bigger house; Samantha would be so happy.

"Bring it out," he instructed the intern. The intern bobbed his head obediently, pushing the loaded cart out onto the field. The bumpy ground rattled the dog crate on the cart nosily. Pickley quickly double checked the subject's report. Yes, it had had its wings clipped three weeks ago, so no flying off. Pickley checked all of the gates—locked, and the fence was electrified. No escaping. Good. Everything was going perfectly so far. Even the weather was in prime condition.

The intern was far out on the field now. He looked to Pickley for further directions. Pickley licked his teeth nervously. The A.G.E. Project Subjects were all tricky experiments to deal with. He'd worked with Subject Six once before and ended up with a dislocated knee cap. He'd been hoping to get a different, easier experiment for this test, but AGE0017102 was the one Dr. Smith had chosen.

"Let it out," Pickley called to the intern.

The intern shoved the crate off of the cart. The resulting bang! traveled across the field. Out of the corner of his eye, Pickley could see Dr. Smith smirked. The intern bent over and fiddled with the lock, finally getting it open. He backed away and waited, but nothing came out.

Pickley pursed his lips. The intern was clearly getting frustrated; he picked up the back of the dog crate and tipped it over until the experiment inside finally tumbled out. Male. Two years old. Two feet, eleven inches. Twenty-nine pounds. All things that were carefully noted in the subject's file. But it was stranger seeing it in real life. And then there were the things not noted in the file: Black hair and brown eyes, the common Mediterranean. Dark wings, still with their silly looking fledgling feathers. Birds weren't Pickley's specialty, but he could tell the subject would probably have black feathers in its adult years.

Subject Seven stood slowly, exactly where it'd been dumped onto the ground. Otherwise, it didn't move.

The intern loaded the crate back onto the cart and hurriedly wheeled it away. Once the intern was back behind the safety wall and Dr. Smith gave the affirmative nod, Pickley blew his whistle.

Four Erasers, all young and eager, stepped up at attention. Four seemed a bit unnecessary—the subject was still a toddler—but you could never be too careful, Pickley thought.

Pickley blew the whistle again. The Erasers dashed out onto the field, morphing. Pickley watched them morph appreciatively. The transformation had gotten a lot smoother, and the Erasers looked much more human-like. The R&D guys had done a good job on this batch.

Pickley turned his attention to Subject Seven out on the field. He frowned. Seven still wasn't moving. Usually, the experiments tried to run, no matter how pointless it was. Maybe the subject had some sort of strategy; Pickley had heard the A.G.E. Subjects were pretty intelligent. Maybe the experiment had a plan.

Or not.

The first Eraser reached the experiment, knocking it off the ground. The Eraser leapt on top of Seven, punching into the toddler's ribcage. The other three Erasers came and joined the mobbing, kicking the subject's head and ripping into its legs.

Dr. Smith chuckled. "Just as I thought."

Pickley gaped in horror. If an experiment died on his watch—especially one from the A.G.E. Project—there was no way he'd get the promotion. Pickley raised the whistle to his lips, whistling loudly. The sound blasted through the air, but the Eraser ignored the instruction. He blew again, to no avail. If anything, it only seemed to make the Erasers more ferocious.

Dr. Pickley rushed out onto the field, pulling his modified Taser out from its holster. The Erasers ignored him as he approached—it was grounded into them to never attack employees. Pickley's aim was miserable, but by the time the intern had joined him, all four Erasers were down. The intern helped Pickley shoved the massive wolf bodies off of the small subject.

Seven was unconscious, broken ribs poking through his skin, the rest of its limbs and wings equally mauled. Pickley grappled with its wrist, trying to find a pulse. The intern was calling med team out onto the field, while carefully noting the damage in the subject's file.

Pickley found a faint pulse and relaxed; he wiped his bloody hands on his white coat. Seven would live. It'd probably be in the med ward for a few days, and Pickley would get a reprimand for the damage. There was no way he'd get the promotion now, but at least he wouldn't be fired.

"The Director won't be pleased with this."

Pickley glanced back to see that Dr. Smith had joined them. Smith kicked the body lightly. "Seven is one of his favorite projects. You know how paternal Batchelder gets."

Pickley nodded in agreement; the Director had a reputation for being somewhat… soft. Swallowing hard, he asked Smith, "Why didn't it do anything?"

Smith shrugged. "It just isn't a fighter, that's all. The psych guys think there might be something wrong with its function. Looks like they're right."

The med team arrived and lifted the experiment onto a stretcher. Pickley rose and grabbed Seven's file, cursing his rotten luck. He would've had the promotion for sure, if only he'd gotten a better subject…




"Max. Wake up."

I groaned and rolled over, being tugged out of my slumber by Fang's insistent shoulder-shaking. Fang chuckled, and I opened one eye to look at him, half expecting to see toddler Fang, with his pale face ripped apart by Eraser claws. But he was still sixteen, and the only wound on his face was the nearly-healed gash from yesterday.

"Your watch, Max," Fang said. "Unless you'd rather I take it…" I could almost hear the smile in his voice.

Glaring, I sat up, forcing myself not to yawn. "I'm up, I'm up." It was still way dark out, somewhere around three in the morning. A traitorous yawn crept its way up my throat as I stretched and rubbed my eyes.

Fang sighed and wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me closer to him. "I'm serious about that offer," he murmured against my neck.

"No. You never let me take watch anymore," I retorted. He kept waking me up late for my watch, or not waking me up at all. And while I appreciated the extra snooze time, I still felt really guilty about it.

"You need to sleep," Fang replied. He pressed his lips to my forehead, then kissed down my jawline to my chin. I forced myself to concentrate; Fang was such a cheater.

"You need to sleep too," I defended. I squirmed in his arms, turning around to look at him. Fang pulled away from me, giving me a long, level look. I stared right back at him. "Sleep," I ordered firmly, crossing my arms.

Fang rolled his eyes in submission. I smiled triumphantly, leaning in to kiss him lightly. "G'night."

"Good night," he mumbled back, releasing me from his embrace and stretching out on the cave floor next to me. I kept an eye on him for a few minutes, making sure he actually fell asleep, then brought my focus to the task at hand: watch.

I didn't really mind watch. Back when the Flock was still whole, it used to be the only time of quiet that I ever got. Now that it was just Fang and me, I got plenty of quiet. But I still liked the "me" time that watch provided.

"You know, you should really pay attention to your surroundings."

I moaned to myself. Then again, it was impossible to have "me" time with a Voice in my head. Yeah? Why don't I go to bed and you wake me up if anything comes our way? Why can't you do that?

"I could do that. But that'd be too easy."

You suck, you know that? I grumbled. Deven just laughed.

I drew my knees underneath my chin, letting my shoulder blades and wings relax. So, what was with the dream?

Deven scoffed. "That wasn't a dream. That was March 10th, 1994 as Leroy Pickley remembers it. Fiddled with a bit for the purpose of transcription and translation, but still essentially a memory. "

Once again: where do you get this stuff?

"Straight from the source. Now pay attention."

I huffed. Straight from the source? What was that supposed to mean? But nonetheless, I reverted back to doing watch the proper way: actually watching.

The night was still. I listened carefully, straining my audio range to reach its furthest. Nothing. I gently picked up Fang arm and twisted it around so I could see the time. Just barely three-thirty. Still a while to go. I dropped Fang's arm, shifting to brush his bangs out of his face. His fingers twitched in his sleep.

Sighing, I gazed out of the cave again. Why did I feel so antsy? Maybe I was just out of practice. It had been a while since I'd done a full watch.

Or maybe something was wrong.

Time dripped by seamlessly. There wasn't a sound: no raccoons rustling through the underbrush, no owls swooping down on prey, nothing. Even the trees seemed to be especially calm tonight.

I scanned the surrounding rocks and boulders suspiciously. They'd make a good place for someone to hide. Getting to my feet as lightly as possible, I crept out of the cave and investigated the rocks. No one.

But as I turned to return to cave, the back of my neck tingled.

I whipped back around. Something flashed out of sight, disappearing into the trees. The branches shivered violently, then stilled.

I gulped; whatever that something was, it was fast.

I ran back to the cave, shaking Fang awake. "Fang! C'mon, we've got to go!"

He was up in a moment, analyzing my face. Apparently, he found trouble. He snapped in escape mode. "Erasers?" Fang asked, throwing all of our things into his bag.

I shook my head, kicking dirt over the fire to put it out. "Not Erasers. Something else, I don't know. We need to leave." I waved smoke out of my face, snatching my backpack of the ground. I cast a haphazard cast over the campsite, making sure we hadn't left anything vital. Clear.

Fang was already out of the cave, looking up in the treetops. I ran out to meet him, already unfolding my wings from my body a bit.

But Fang held out a hand. "Wait," he hissed, still staring into the canopy.

I halted immediately. Fang slowly lowered his hand and snared mine in it, giving it a gentle squeeze. He looked at me, then back up at the branches.

"Come out!" he called. "I can see you!"

There was no answer.

"We know you're there. There's no point in hiding."

High above our heads, there was a faint rustle. Then suddenly, something small fell from the treetops and landed lithely in front of us.

A girl hardly older than nine crouched on the ground. I noted the ears, higher on the head than usual, though not quite at the top, and roughly triangular. Weird. My stomach lurched as I recognized the same "uniform" that we wore at the School: baggy gray t-shirt made even baggy by her sickly thin frame and old sweatpants that were too short.

But as she stood up, I saw the strangest thing of all: her eyes weren't… normal. There was something wrong with them, though I couldn't quite place it.

"Cat eyes," Fang breathed beside me, reading my mind.

The girl's high ears twitched and she smiled sheepishly. "Yeah." She looked at us, then at the dirt. "Uh… hi." She then burst into a coughing fit, skinny shoulders trembling. When she pulled her hands away, I saw blood. She wiped them nonchalantly on her pants. It was then that I noticed several such blood stains.

"What do you want?" I asked finally. The cat-girl's smile fell at the hostility in my voice; I immediately felt guilty. She was only nine at the most and clearly hurt—I mean, c'mon, no one coughs up blood otherwise.

"Uh…" She continued staring at the ground. "Well… I saw the—wings—" She glanced up at them, then back down again. "And I was kind of curious, 'cause I thought maybe you were like me. And I smelled food."

"You're hungry?"

The cat-girl nodded, relieved. Fang glanced at me; I sent him the okay signal. Not taking his eyes off the girl, he took off his backpack and pulled out a bag of Doritos. He tossed them to the girl. She sat down and carefully open the bag and started slowly eating the chips, appearing to savor each one. Now and then, she would cough.

When she finally finished the Doritos, she looked up at us, appearing to finally notice our tense expressions. "Thanks." She bit her lip. "Sorry if I… uh… scared you, or something. I was just curious."

"Curiosity killed the cat."

I ignored Deven's observation. "It's… fine, no biggie. But…um, what's your name?"

The little cat-girl stared at me blankly. "What's a name?"

Oh geez. She must've just escaped from… wherever she escaped from. "What other people call you," I explained.

"Oh." She coughed, then screwed up her face. "The doctors call me FGE00738019."

Fang glanced at me pointedly. It was the same type of code they used for the experiments at the School.

"Okay," I agreed. "That is a name. But do you have one that isn't all filled with numbers?" The girl shook her head, blinking at me with large, iris-filled eyes. "Why don't you give yourself a name then."

She thought for a moment. "Is Leigh a name?"

Well, if Fang is a name, then Leigh certainly is. "Sure."

The nine-year-old beamed. "Okay that's my name. Leigh."

I smiled a bit, but inside I was getting tenser by the moment. Fang seemed to notice; he placed one hand on the small of my back and rubbed me slightly.

"Alright, so, Leigh," I began. "Where did you come from? The School?" The cat-girl shook her head and coughed, hacking up more blood.

"The Institute? Itex?" Fang asked, finally speaking.

Leigh shook her head again, coughing fit subsiding. "No." Her voice was kind of scratchy, like she had a sore throat or something. She wiped her blood covered hands on her pants again. "I was made at the School; everything starts at the School. I was shipped to the Institute for a while, but I wasn't there long. I don't know what Itex is. I just came from the Administration."

The what?!




A/N: Told you there was a cliffy. Some more answers and a lot mre questions to come, next chapter! Until then, review!

13. The Greater Good

A/N: GUYS! ALPCH HAS EIGHT FRICKIN' HUNDRED REVIEWS!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And guess what? You are being given a rare treat this chapter: a once in a lifetime opportunity to find just exactly where Deven gets his information. You'll also, hopefully, start to understand a little bit more about how he works/functions. Very slowly, the Deven puzzle is being put together. Hope you enjoy.

You'll also be learning a tad bit about a little someone named "Isaac" this chapter…

NSRQ#12: "I swear, the happiest day of my life was the day that I died." "The Day That I Die" by Good Charlotte

Disclaimer: If I was JP, why would I be wasting my time doing this?

Copyright: I do own the plot, dialogue, and Leigh, though I had some help with the creation of Leigh from Sally. ALSO: I've seen a recent up-cropping of "SC/SC/SC" on the site. Not just in the MR category; in Twilight, A Great and Terrible Beauty, and a few other places. I've created a monster! Haha. Just want to say that it is mine. I started using it in the first few chapters of ALPCH because that bar-thingy wasn't working at the time. It stands for "Scene Change", unlike a few people who thought it meant something… ah… else. Just wanted to make sure that's clear.

Chapter Eleven: The Greater Good (Part Two)




This was not good.

Planting myself firmly in Max, I stretched, reaching out for the cat-girl. I tentatively poked around at the back of her subconscious, trying to find an easy way in. But she was so tense and on guard, that she was sure to feel me entering. Besides, cats were usually more in tune with the supernatural; best not risk it.

I backpedaled away from Max, leaving just enough of me behind to monitor her stress levels and keep the firewalls on her brain up, and dove into the records at the School. FGE00738019. F.G.E—Feline Genome Experiment. So, was that under Small Mammals or Predators?

The crimson eyes glared at me impatiently. I ignored them. It wasn't like I could transmit any faster.

Predators, probably, if the speed was anything to go by. I flickered through the failed and terminated experiments, flashing past several thousand in the Predator-Human category alone. FGE000738019. I finally hit the file, scanning it quickly. No potentially dangerous abilities, besides the agility and balance. That was good. Shipped to the Institute in 2006 because they wanted to experiment with strengthening her claws using metal alloys. Shipped to the Administration when break-down started.

I frowned. But there was nothing about an escape, or even a history of attempted break outs.

Definitely not good.

If this "Leigh" didn't escape, then she was released. And if she was released, then she was working for the "white coats". But what did they want—besides the obvious? I double-checked the file, but there was no mention of a recent mission.

Flipping forward to her experimentation archive, I ran through the identification codes of all of the cat-girl's testers over the years, and their supervisors. One supervisor in particular popped up the most often—SUP00421035. A Dr. Michael Richards.

Digging into his personnel file, I found his address, and then I was zooming across the nation, finally swooping down upon Dr. Richards. He was asleep, luckily, and didn't notice me slipping into his subconscious.

I plugged into his firing synapses, coasting on the neural message. Before long, I was exploring his hippocampus, reading the archives for the last few days.

Molly's ballet recital on Saturday. Sunday, Internet conference with the biologists in Madrid. Meeting with Stevenson Monday about remapping the DNA on the raccoon-mongoose cross. Dinner party for the Alzheimer Benefit on Tuesday.

I growled; this was taking too long. Crying out softly in pain at the exertion, I ran a search for FGE00738019. Several memories scrabbled for my attention, lighting up like distant stars. A bead of sweat slipped past my eye as I launched the most recent one, transcribing the natural data into a more viewable format. Picking out only the audio strip, I played it, fast forwarding through the mundane parts until I found what I wanted.

I smiled grimly. I was right. Of course I was right.

The question was did I tell Maximum that she was in danger?

The crimson eyes glared at me accusatorily. Of course I didn't tell her; this is was the perfect test, the perfect set-up for a lesson she needed to learn. Besides, this "Leigh" might be able to impart some valuable information to her. Why would I even consider warning her?

I knew the answer, deep down: I was going soft. I'd gotten too attached. The crimson eyes sneered in disgust. I continued ignoring them. If they didn't like the job I was doing, they could go find someone else.

Wiping at the sweat collecting on my forehead, I crept out of Dr. Richards' brain. He hadn't noticed I was there, though he may have some strange dreams or a headache tomorrow. Nothing alarming, nothing he'd notice and report; I was still safe.

I returned my whole self back to Max. I'd only been gone eleven seconds.




"The what?" Fang asked, voicing my question aloud.

Leigh cocked her head, one of her odd ears twitching. "Administration." Her stomach rumbled noisily; I tossed a packet of Twinkies her way. As she had with the Doritos, she ate it slowly and deliberately, chewing each bite a thousand times it seemed before finally swallowing.

"Where is this… uh… Administration?" I questioned Leigh.

Between mouthfuls she answered, "I don't know. Maybe just over fifty miles that way…ish." She gestured behind herself, westward. "I'm not really sure. I was kind of… out of it."

I kind of chilling sensation crept down my back. To Fang, I murmured, "Where are we?"

"Southern Kansas-Missouri border," he answered softly. I swear my heart froze for a second. That must've been where Jeb was taking me. To the Administration. Whatever that was. Fang understood my discomfort and slipped his arm across my shoulders.

"Leigh," I started cautiously. "What's the Administration for?"

She looked up at me, her bright eyes sad. "It's where they send you when something is wrong."

"Wrong like what?"

She shrugged, fiddling with the hem of her thin shirt self-consciously. The wind blew and she shivered. "Bad things. If you've got a big mistake to where they can't use you anymore, they'll send you there." I stiffened. What was wrong with me? Then, I remembered why Jeb had come for me in the first place: he wanted me to go back to Fang. So, had they been using me as bait, to try to draw Fang to this Administration? There was certainly was something not right with him…

The cat-girl scratched something into the dirt, fingers trembling with cold. In the silence, her teeth had started chattering.

I still didn't fully trust her, but pity shook me. Besides, I was getting kind of chilly too. "Here, let's get back into shelter." Fang shot me a look that I ignored. Leigh stood unsteadily, swaying a bit, and followed me tentatively into the cave. I frowned; maybe she was faint from hunger, or exhaustion. Or maybe it had something to do with the bloody coughing fits she seemed to frequent. Or both.

Fang started the fire going again. Leigh scooted so close to it, I was amazed she didn't get burned. Hoping to prevent more burn injuries, (Fang's had only just healed), I handed her my windbreaker. She just stared at it. I shook it a bit impatiently. "Here, this will keep you warm." Finally, she hesitatingly took the jacket and wrapped herself in it.

"Thank you," she mumbled. A tremor raked her small body and she hacked violently into her palms.

"Are you okay?" I finally asked. Still coughing, she shook her head no. I reached out and gently touched her forehead. I yanked my hand away. She was running a way-too-high fever, even considering the fact that she had some cat genes. "Fang, she's burning up!"

That was Fang's cue to snap into doctor mode. He checked her temperature, grimacing, then knelt down behind her. Turning his head and pressing one ear to her back, he instructed, "Breathe deep."

Leigh complied, heaving a ragged breath; she wheezed slightly as she exhaled. "Again," Fang muttered. The cat-girl repeated the action, though mid-respiration she started coughing again.

Fang sat back on his heels, jaw tightening. "It sounds like…" he trailed off, frowning deeply, or, as deep as Fang can frown. "Like there's a hole in one of your lungs."

Leigh finished coughing, smearing the blood onto her knees. "I know," she moaned, voice hoarse. "That's why I was there. Plus, my stomach is—". She broke off, gagging on more blood. "—Giving out," she concluded. She spat the blood into the fire, then clutched her belly and groaned. "I don't think food was such a good idea."

She looked up at me, slanted eyes glassy and lost. I recognized those eyes; the eyes of the failed experiments, their poor, tortured bodies finally giving up. Other subjects had died in cages just across from me an infinite amount of times. We'd all seen it happen, the entire Flock, I mean.

I didn't want to have to watch it again.

I sent Fang a quick, pleading glance. He shook his head; there wasn't anything he could do. Her time had already come.

I bit down on my lip. "Leigh…" I started, but I never finished. Because at that moment, another tremor raked her frame and her knees folded. I caught her before she collapsed, setting her on the ground and diving for her wrist. I fumbled with her hand, finally catching her pulse and breathing out quietly in relief.

Fang leaned over and turned the cat-girl on her side. "In case, she throws up," he explained, seeing the question in my expression. "So she doesn't choke on it. She said her stomach was bad."

I nodded, rubbing my temple. We needed to go. The Eraser from the hotel were tracking us right now. We were lucky they hadn't already found us. Staying much longer would really be pushing it.

But she looked so… fragile. She was only about nine. I couldn't live with myself if I left her out here, defenseless and dying alone.

Fang wrapped his arm around my shoulders. "I don't think she has long," he murmured, addressing my unspoken dilemma. "Half a day at best. We should be okay till then."

I smiled wearily. "I thought you were going to be difficult," I said, remembering how he hadn't wanted me to set the experiments at the Institute free.

"You've already made up your mind," he replied, beginning to hand-comb my hair. "Besides, I don't like arguing with you; either you win, or we both just end up mad and nothing happens."

I smirked slightly, leaning in to bury my face in the crook of his neck. "What you think of her?"

I could practically feel Fang frown. "She seems… okay. I'm not really picking up any weird vibes from her. But—if she's sick, how did she manage to escape from 'the Administration', let alone get this far away?"

"I don't know. It's fishy," I agreed.

He rubbed my back, kissing the top of my head. "Voice say anything about her?"

"Not really." I raised my head to face him. "He's been quiet. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing." Deven?

"What? I'm busy."

I nearly snorted. Doing what? Refurnishing your brain-view condo?

"I told you already; I don't 'live' in your head."

Where do you live then?

"Here and there," Deven answered mysteriously.

You're impossible, I huffed. I felt Deven chuckle. Anyway, I wanted to ask… is Leigh… good?

Deven didn't answer me, though I could still easily sense him there, a sort of chilly sensation leaning up against my mind. After a few more fruitless attempts at wheedling, I gave up and returned my attention to the present.

Fang noted the frustration in my face. "Not talking?" he guessed.

I shook my head. "Won't say a word." Disentangling myself from him, I said, "Go back to sleep. I'll keep an eye on Leigh." He could hardly protest to that; it was still my shift.

Rolling his eyes, Fang removed his backpack and used it as a pillow, flopping over on his back. In minutes, he was asleep. I swear, Fang is a machine. Tell him to fall asleep and he's out like a light; wake him up, and in seconds, he's as alert as though he just drank a pot of black coffee. Nudge could learn a lesson or two from him. So could I for that matter; God knows I needed help getting to sleep.

Watch went by slowly, each second enunciated by the cat-girl's ragged breathing. Just over an hour later, she groaned and turned her head, spitting out more blood. She forced her body into a sitting position, stretching stiffly.

"Feeling any better?" I asked, surprised to find that I was genuinely concerned.

Leigh turned to look at me, her eyes reflecting light from the fire. She looked just surprised as I was. "Not really."

"You need anything?"

She blinked. Her face twisted in some way I couldn't decipher and she clutched her hands to her lap. "No." Leigh frowned at ground. "I think I'm going to be sick," the cat-girl mumbled, staggering to her feet. I opened my mouth to reply, but before I could get anything out she'd flitted into the forest, disappearing between the trees. God, even on the brink of death, she was fast.

"Max… you do realize what you just did?"

What? I asked mentally.

"She could be sending out your coordinates right now," Deven answered impatiently.

I could feel my face pale. Shit.

I practically dove on Fang, shaking his shoulders fiercely. He snapped upright, so quickly I nearly fell backwards. "Leigh ran off!" I explained, answering the unspoken question on his face.

"Weren't you watching her?" Fang demanded, leaping to his feet.

"I was!" I defended. "You saw how fast she moves. She just left!"

He frowned, the tiniest of creases resting on his brow. "Where'd she go?" I pointed and he took off. Hunting. I dug my heels into the ground, quickly catching up with him. "She can't have gotten too far," Fang muttered, glancing at me beside him.

And she hadn't. Combing through the woods, we found her.

She laid on the ground in growing pool of blood, half-awake and panting weakly. The blood poured from a huge wound in her leg, leaking out steadily. I felt nauseous just looking at it. Instead, I quickly scanned the area for Erasers, or whatever could've done something like that to the cat-girl.

But there was no one to be found.

Fang swore quietly, sitting down next to her and examining the gashes. I crouched down gingerly, wondering how in the world she'd managed to get so injured. I spotted the blood covering her clawed hands and put two and two together; she'd done it herself.


"We better get her back," I commented. Fang scooped her up and she groaned in protest, her tiny frame straining away from him. Fang just ignored her and started walking briskly back to camp.

She was fully conscious when Fang set her down in the cave. He grabbed his bag and started pulling out the first aid stuff when she stopped him.

"Just forget about it," she moaned, trying to sit up. "Not like it matters anyway."

I softly pushed her back down. "What were you thinking?" I hissed. "Are you crazy?"

"I had to get it out," she explained wearily, coughing.

"Get what out?"

Leigh held up her fist, dropping its contents into my hand. Resting on my palm was a tiny, gore-covered, metallic something. A red light bleeped up at me.

"The tracer," she answered finally.

Fang and I tensed. Leigh looked everywhere besides us, shame sinking deep into her face. "I'm sorry," she muttered to the ground, looking as though she were about to cry. "They… they promised that they'd save me if I brought them to you. But I couldn't do it. You guys were nice to me, and besides—" She broke off in a massive coughing fit, hacking up bloody saliva. "I don't think I'm gonna last long enough to fix me, anyway," she finished.

I didn't know what to say.

Fang took the tracer from my hand, tentatively examining it. "Is this still working?" She nodded an affirmative and he stood, closing his fist around the minute transmitter.

"Where are you going?" I interrogated, as he started walking outside the cave.

He glanced back at me. "Going to get rid of it."

Oh. Duh.

Leigh groaned beside me, clutching her arms around her stomach and curling into a ball. She winced as her hurt leg scraped against the cave floor, hissing quietly.

"So…" I began, casting around for a subject to distract her. "Why are your lungs and stomach all messed up?"

"Break down," she gasped. "DNA is falling apart… and it made some enzymes to go all wrong."

Break down. Her expiration date. But she was so young… "How old are you?"

"Nine," she answered, confirming my guesstimate. "I'm the oldest from my batch… the others starting breaking down around eight." She looked up at me, grimacing. "The doctors said I was a 'success'." She chuckled with no humor, quickly dissolving into coughs.

"I'm sorry."

Leigh closed her eyes, shaking her head. "For what? It's not your fault. I'd rather not die, but getting to die outside of there is a good enough consolation prize."

I was casting around for a lighter topic, when Leigh—eyes still shut—inquired, "Where have you been?"

I swore I blinked like a turtle. "What do you mean?"

The cat-girl opened her mouth, but cut off into a coughing fit. She hacked for what felt like nearly five minutes before finally answering, "Like, what have you seen? You fly, right? Haven't you been to cool places?"

Oh. "Well…we used to live in this house on the mountains in Colorado. They weren't really high mountains, but it'd get pretty cold near the peaks. We learned to fly up there. And below there was this forest where we used to pick strawberries…"

I went on for sometime later, trying to describe what the ground looked like from above and the business of New York City. Fang reappeared eventually, and we paused long enough for him to explain that he'd stuck the tracer on some squirrel several miles from our location. Once that interruption was over, Leigh demanded descriptions from Fang and so, (looking slightly harassed), he slowly started detailing places like the Everglades and the bat cave near Anne's house. He was a lot better at it than I was; must have been the blog-writer in him shining through.

Leigh stayed perfectly still the whole time, listening raptly. Occasionally, she'd cough quietly, ears twitching. By the time Fang had finished talking about Arizona, (with some input from me), Leigh seemed as though she'd fallen asleep, her breathing incredibly shallow. He trailed off, finally becoming quiet, glancing at me from the side.

However, Leigh opened one eye a crack. "Hey—I'm still listening. Keep going," she moaned. Her skin was an unhealthy pale and clammy.

"You should probably sleep," I commented. I didn't think she had much time left; rest couldn't hurt.

But Leigh shook her head determinedly. "More," she ordered, her voice wheezing just like her breath.

Fang stared at me anxiously, obviously uncomfortable with monopolizing the conversation.

I sighed, trying to think of a place we hadn't already listed. "Well, we went to Disney World once."

"R-really?" Leigh tried to sit up, but couldn't, relenting to propping herself up on her elbows. Her face briefly contorted with pain and she gasped, coughing up blood on to her shirt.

"Yeah. The kids made us go."

Leigh's eyes widened. "T-there's more… of you? With wings?"

Oops. I shared a quick look with Fang, and we shrugged. I supposed it didn't really matter… she wasn't going to live long enough to tell anyone anyway. "Yeah. They are somewhere else right now though. There's four others. Six of us in all."

Leigh's sweaty brow furrowed, her eyes unfocused. "Six? Aren't… there sup-supposed to—be seven?"

I think right then and there, both Fang's and my heart stopped.

"What do you mean?" I prodded cautiously. A shiver raked down Leigh's taunt body and she started coughing, hard. "Are you okay?" I touched her forehead; she was burning up again, worse than before.

Leigh suddenly grasped my hand, squeezing painfully and gazing up at me with dull eyes. "He—he wanted me t-to tell you…" she gasped. She gagged on blood and coughed again weakly. Drops of blood leaked from her mouth, dribbling down her chin. "…I forgot—he asked me to tell yo-you…"

"Relax," I shushed her. Fang wiped the blood from her mouth. The desperation in her grip was scaring me. Leigh closed her eyes, though her fingers did not loosen. "Who told you to tell me what?" I asked, trying to calm her.

She inhaled roughly, breath coming in a groan. When she spoke, I had to lean forward to hear her. "Isaac." Fang and I froze. She didn't notice and continued, "He said—to tell you that he m-misses you and that your mom is… proud of you and that y-you have to… find t-the seventh angel."

Fang stared at me, clearly thinking the same thing I was: mom?!

And how the hell did this Isaac guy know about the seventh angel?

"How do you know Isaac? Who is he?" I demanded.

The small girl inhaled sharply, flinching in pain. "He's an… intern at the Ad-Administration. He was one of the—doctors who t-took care of me." She shuddered, clenching my hand tighter. She gasped for air. "When he heard—they were se-sending me to find you, he… wanted me to tell you…"

"Okay, you told me. I heard," I soothed, smoothing her hair back from her sweaty forehead. She started to say something and coughed, choking on more blood. I looked to Fang urgently, completely out of my league. I mean, she was dying. What was I supposed to do?

He moved to my side and gently pried her hand off of me. Leigh relaxed under his touch as he wove his fingers into hers. "It'll be okay," he murmured. "You're going somewhere good." His large hands completely enveloped her tiny child hands, hiding her stained-red palms. "No more cages… no more pain… no more bloody pants." Leigh smiled feebly, chest rising and falling with increasingly shallow breaths. "It'll be okay."

I softly scratched behind her odd ears. Leigh's eyes drifted shut. She coughed dimly. "It'll be okay," she repeated to herself, voice fading.

And just a few minutes later, the cat-girl named Leigh breathed one last time.




A/N: Just curious: does anyone have a thought yet as to what the "crimson eyes" are? (Remember, I mentioned them when I did the Voice's POV in ALPCH too.) Give it some thinking and send me any theories in your review. I'm interested to know what you guys are wondering. Any particularly brilliant/humorous theories will be posted next chapter.

Okay. So. MR3 came out, and totally trashed most of my storyline. Oh well. Doesn't matter. The story is going to continue as planned. Just pretend that none of that happened. Jeb and Dr. M are not Max's parents, Ari isn't dead, the Flock never spilt, etc.

And I'm soooo sorry that this is soooo late. I HAVE A GOOD EXCUSE(S), including the fact that I nearly died and was hospitalized. (If you want to read the play-by-play of how that happened, it's somwhere on the Bloodlust 2 thread at the MR forum. Including the part when I made my sister sign on to tell them that I was in surgery.) And not long after I got out, a family friend attempted suicide. So, as you can see, I've been spending much of my break in the hospital. There's a lot of other things too… just trust me, there was no way I could've gotten it up sooner.

I'm so sorry it's late. I made it extra long just for you!

I'll try to update a bit quicker this time… I'm really looking forward to writing it actually; at acavoo's request, I'm bringing back an old character: Christian the Coffee Addict! And he's coming back with a bang!...

Reviews are much appreciated.

Hugs and Fishes, Myrah

14. Dead, Dying, and Down

A/N: I just want to thank all you amazing people for be so patient. I know I'm doing a really sucky job about updating, but this summer has just been so hectic. I also want to thank everyone who supported me in the Maximum Ride Fanfiction Awards. ALPCH got six nominations and four wins in Best Action/Adventure, Best Fax, (don't know how that happened), Best New POV, and Best Story. Plus, I won Best Author; I emailed my fanfiction-hating creative writing teacher about that, just to pester him. Mwhahaha! (He knows he loves me. He just hates my fanfics, LOL.)

The more observant among you may have noticed the new summary. I did a little reworking: ALPCH and ALPCG both have new summaries, and I changed the chapter titles a little. I'm also taking ALPCH through a little editing, but nothing major.

Disclaimer/Copyright: Yeah, yeah.

NSRQ#13: "Down, down in an earlier round/ And Sugar, we're going down swinging/ I'll be your number one with a bullet/ A loaded God complex, cock it and pull it --Sugar, We're Going Down by Fall Out Boy"

Chapter Eleven: Dead, Dying, and Down




Max was really upset. She wasn't crying or anything, but I could practically feel the sadness spilling over from her, dripping onto the floor. I let Leigh's cooling hand fall to rest on her stomach, and wrapped my arm around Max. She turned her head into my shoulder.

"It's not fair," she mumbled. I kissed her hair and didn't reply. It wasn't the sort of statement that needed an answer; it wasn't fair. Nothing was.

Max stiffened in a way that I knew meant she was talking to the Voice, or Deven, or His Holiness, whatever it was called these days. I waited patiently, pulling Max up into my lap and drawing patterns on her palms. Finally, she relaxed and looked up at me.

"He still won't say who Isaac is. Or where the hell this stupid seventh angel is." She reached up and pushed my bangs away from my face, not looking at me.

"We ruled out one option: it's not one of the kids from the Institute," I provided. Max just sighed and drew her knees up to her chin.

"I don't know what to do," she admitted in a voice that could only be described as small. "Everyone expects something out of me, but I have no idea what to do."

I didn't know what to tell her. For a moment, I tried to imagine if Max was born normal. No wings, no frickin' lightspeed metabolism or air sacs… just going through high school, partying, being with some guy who wasn't as completely screwed up as I was. But I couldn't; I just couldn't see that—it felt like some sort of far off alternate universe, the sort of thing you only touched while reaching out from dreams and nightmares. I'd never put much stock in destiny or fate, but Max seemed to be drenched in the stuff.

"Well," I suggested cautiously. "Let's start with doing something with Leigh. Then we need to get out of here before those Erasers find us."

Max glanced up at me, as though she'd just remembered the Erasers from the hotel, and the fact that we were still uncaptured due to stolen time. "Oh." She raked her palms over her face, chin to forehead and back down. "What should we do with her? Can we bury her?" she asked, sounding incredibly tired.

"Not enough time. And no shovels."

"Well, what are we supposed to do with the body? We can't just leave her here. Someone could find her."

I thought about the Bible we'd nicked from the hotel room, tucked between my sketchbook and second pair of jeans in my backpack. "We could roll one of those boulders in front of the cave entrance. Like a tomb."

Max stared outside at the monstrous chunks of rocks, broken off from the cliff face ages ago. "You really think we could move one?"

I nodded. "We are genetically enhanced bird freaks."

And so, we moved all our stuff outside the cave, shifted Leigh into a more restful position, and started attempting to shove a miny mountain.

We pick the smoothest, most round boulder that was big enough to completely cover the cave hole, but small enough for us to have any hope of budging it. Bracing ourselves against it, we dug our feet into the ground, and pushed. Our combined efforts were futile for nearly half an hour, and in that time I'd used every single curse word in my repertoire to describe the stupid thing, both mentally and out loud. Finally, we managed get the boulder moving and we rolled it in front of the cave, leaving a bare, dark patch in the ground where it once laid, with bugs skirting away, terrified by the sudden departure of their home's roof.

Once we were sure that the boulder was snug against the cave's entrance, Max took out the knife I'd given her and carved a slight "L" in trunk of the nearest tree. She stared at it for a second, then turned to me and announced, "We need to go."

I looked at her drawn face. "Erasers?"

"On the way," she replied dryly.

The lack of emotion worried me, but the pain in her eyes reassured me—she was still hurting, she just didn't want me to know. I mentally sighed; Max had a heart large enough to care for everyone, even the people who didn't exactly deserve it. The cat-girl was included there. As am I, I reminded myself grimly.

"Where to?" I asked, slipping my backpack on and unfolding my wings a little.

"Anywhere," Max muttered. She shoved her arms through her bag's straps. "Just not here. We're practically in the enemy's backyard."

I thought about everything Leigh had revealed to us: that there was another School-esque facility named "Administration" was just barely fifty miles away and it was some sort of storage place for the dying and useless… that this Isaac guy apparently knew Max enough to miss her—though she had no idea who he was—that he knew her mom, (whoever she was), and of the seventh angel, and that he was, of all things, a whitecoat.

More pieces of the puzzle. And much as I tried to step back and see the Big Picture, I couldn't. I didn't make any sense. We needed more information.

Max puffed out a breath, drawing me from my musing. "Let's go." She turned and sprinted into the forest. I stayed fast on her heels, and we quickly found a clearing in the trees wide enough for us to take us. Max leapt into the air, her tan wings billowing to catch the wind. I followed suit and soon Leigh's makeshift tomb was just another speck on the ground.

I flew close to Max, searching the sky for any telltale sign of the Erasers that were allegedly on our tail, but dawn was only just breaking and visibility wasn't great. I grumbled to myself and kept my guard up.

Max was arguing with Deven again. As far as I could tell from the things she unconsciously muttered, she was trying—unsuccessfully—to pull more answers out of it. I felt the sudden urge to fight my fist into this Deven's face, hard, if it even had a body. I mean, here it was, taking up space in Max's head as though she didn't already have enough going on in there, nearly giving her a seizure whenever it decided to pop by, and it couldn't at least tell us more information. If it wanted Max to save the world so bad, why didn't it help more?

I swallowed the sudden rush of useless anger and forced myself to focus on my breathing rate, counting my respirations. I grimaced bitterly as I realized that I was following my "therapist's" advice.

You can hate me as much as you want, Seven, but it won't do you any good when I got you here, will it? The anger will just get you hurt, won't it, Seven? When I can just push this button? Deep breaths, count them now. If you don't learn to control yourself, you'll just keep getting hurt. Isn't that right, Seven?

I shut down my memory before a panic attack could start—my skin already had a slight sheen of cold sweat. I glanced cautiously at Max, but luckily she'd been too distracted to notice my brief meltdown. No need for her to know that I was a complete basket case.

It was then, in my moment of relief, that I noticed the storm clouds.

Or what looked like storm clouds anyway.

"Max!" I called out. Her head snapped up and looked at me questioningly. I nodded towards the dark formation. "Erasers."

She swiveled around midair to see their approach. Her eyes darted over them as she quickly drew an estimate of the size of their force. I watched her face fall as she came to same conclusion I'd reached: we were screwed.

A hundred Erasers. A hundred of the new, faster, stronger, smarter model of beasts, at least half of them armed with those tranquilizer guns. A hundred.

Against two.

Even with the whole Flock here, including Iggy and Gazzy's explosive regime and Angel's mind control, I didn't think we'd make it.

"Run?" I suggested.

Max shook her head, her face pale. "They'd just catch us."

"What about your speed thing?"

She deliberated with Deven for half a second. "No. Deven says you're too heavy for me to drag and manage to get to a high enough speed." I opened my mouth, but she read my mind. "And I'm not leaving without you," she snapped.

I decided not to argue and cast my gaze downwards, praying for a forest or mountain range we could lose the Erasers in, but no such luck. We were over a highway, and an empty one at that. "Can't lose them," I informed Max, knowing she was probably too busy arguing with the Voice to look for herself.

Max blinked, staring at the sun just starting to peep out. She stayed that way momentarily, her whole body clench except for her wings, which were working to keep her afloat. Finally, she decided. "We have to fight." She looked to me for support; I tried to smile reassuringly.

But as I turned back to face the army of werewolves swarming towards us, I couldn't help but wish that I'd been given a better power. Something more useful than drawing the bloody future… like laser vision or strong telekinesis.

Well, I did have one thing.

I called my anger back, letting it rally through me and spike my blood with adrenaline. Looked like it wouldn't be so useless after all.




"How did the operation go?"

The surgeon's back stiffened; obviously he hadn't noticed me behind him. He turned to face me slowly, his face smooth, but his eyes clearly frightened. "Oh! Dr. Batchelder, sir," he stammered. "I'm sorry, I di—"

"The operation?" I inquired again.

"Oh. Yes!" The doctor brandished a clipboard and flipped through some of the papers. "Yes. Well, it was mostly a success. We patched up the lungs, stomach, and heart. The liver was also showing some damage, so we cleaned that up as well. We checked the other vital organs; luckily, the brain seems to have survived thus far without dam—"

"What do you mean 'mostly a success'?" I interrupted.

The doctor shoved his slipping glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "Well, you see, sir, we were able to do some repairs to extend the subject's time, but we couldn't completely stop the—"

I cut off his babbling again. "How much longer?"

The surgeon ran his tongue over his top row of teeth. "A few months at best. Maybe half a year with regular treatments."

Half a year. I cupped my palm over my face, a deep sorrow sinking into me.

What have I done?

Without raising my hand from my face, I asked quietly, "How is the subject doing now?"

"Better. As well as could be, considering the condition it's in."

I lowered my hand from my eyes, and stared through the Recovery Room window. The experiment was awake, and glaring back at me with eyes I recognized all too well.

I unclenched my throat; I had to be in control. "Can I take him?"

"Er, yes," the doctor replied. He gestured to two nurses and they slipped into the room. I watched as they brought a wheelchair out from a closet and assisted the massive subject from the bed and into it. The subject trembled all over from the exertion of the movement. "It should regain some of its strength and be able to walk on its own in a week or so," the doctor continued, hastily filling out some forms in the experiment's file. "I suggest that it stay in this sector for the rest of its time though, in case of an emergency. Room A16 is open."

"Thank you," I muttered. "You've been such a help." I felt as though the world was spinning around me; everything seemed surreal, and I had to sudden urge to just sit down and stay there.

The surgeon mumbled half-hearted 'your welcome's'. He fiddled with his tie anxiously for a moment, before getting to the point. "Dr. Bathelder… if my head finds out that I'm helping you, I could get in serious trouble. The Director said you—"

I leaned closer to him, wary of the cameras and microphones that I knew were watching and listening. "You won't get in trouble; your superior is a friend of mine. Just, please don't let word spread around that this Eraser is here."

The surgeon nodded, much relieved.

The nurses emerged, one of them pushing the wheelchair, the other one carrying a bag with the subject's belongings. I took the wheelchair from the first nurse, trying to ignore the accusatory eyes of its occupant. I turned to the intern who was beside me. "Isaac, could you take his things?"

Isaac wordlessly took the bag from the second nurse. In equal silence, I began pushing the wheelchair down the hall.

Once we turned a corner, the subject broke the quiet. "So," he ground out, his voice rougher than usual with menace. "What's wrong with me?"

I hesitated; he was so young, just a little boy stuck in the body of a monster… but he had a right to know. "You… you're expiring," I muttered. The experiment's body stiffened. "…I'm sorry, Ari…"

"No!" Ari grabbed the wheels, forcing the chair to a stop. His hands shook. "You're not sorry!" he spat. "Don't stand there pretending to care about me—if it weren't for you, this wouldn't be happening! If it weren't for you and your little scientist friends, I'd be a kid! NORMAL!" He shouted the last room, causing many of the doctors and nurse in the corridor to turn.

"Ari…" I didn't know what to say, but I could tell that if I didn't try something, things would get violent very quickly. "I—"

"No! Fuck you, Dad!" He moved his glare to Isaac. "Fuck both of you!" He wrenched his bag from Isaac's hand and set it on his lap. With a grunt of pain, he managed to get the wheelchair moving again, and started struggling down the hall away from us. His laborious pants echoed off the walls.

Isaac looked at me uncertainly. "Should I follow him?" he asked quietly.

I stared at the back of my son's head, the son who so clearly hated me. The son I'd let this happen to. "No," I finally answered. "Leave him be." Isaac started to protest, but I held up a hand. "No," I repeated. "Thank you for coming, but you need to return to your duties."

The intern stared at me angrily, lips pursed. "Don't worry about Ari; he's a fighter," he said finally, turning to leave. "All three of us are."




We met the storm of Erasers head on.

Six Erasers crowded me almost immediately; I trashed in the air, knocking them further away from me so I had room to move. I kicked out, hitting one of them hard in the chest. I yanked on the wings of two others, and broke the nose of one more with a well-placed fist. The last two tried to grab me, but I burst away from them, soaring up higher. Another group of the wolf men jumped on me straight away. Three of them had those stun guns. I kicked two of them out of the Erasers' hands; the last I tore from her grasp for myself.

I didn't like the idea of using guns much, but this was an emergency. Besides, it was just tranquilizers… and a few thousand feet worth of a fall. I quickly oriented my fingers to the controls and trigger and started sinking shots into the Erasers. My aim wasn't very good, but at this close of a range it didn't really matter. The Eraser backed away a safer distance from me, but not before I sent five of them falling.

I hurriedly scanned the battle zone for Fang and soon spotted him amidst a squadron of Erasers. He was flying through them, clipping several of them with his powerful wings, and kicking the closest of his enemies in the skull and sending them into unconsciousness. A path of plunging Erasers traced his flight.

Out of habit, I searched the Erasers for Ari's familiar mug, but he was nowhere to be found. Where was he? That Steve guy at the church said something about being Ari's replacement. Was he dead or something, or fired?

"Pay attention, Max!" Deven yelled. I snapped back to reality just in time to duck out of the way of a fist that'd been headed for my face. I grabbed the wrist of the Eraser and snapped it back, making him yelp in pain. I whacked his head with the barrel of the gun, knocking him out.

I emptied the clip of tranqs, managing to hit three more lupine-avian hybrids, before finally chucking the stun gun away and heading back into the fray. An Eraser sank her claws into my leg; I hissed in pain and kicked her face with my free foot. She let go and I fell a few feet before I could extend my wings wide enough to stop. A few tranqs were shot at me, but I wove away from them, one of them whizzing straight by my ear.

A mass of Erasers converged upon me again. I punched and I kicked, trashing fiercely, and managed to break away once more. Another wave of Erasers crashed upon me, but I flew away, with the wolf men on my tail.

There's too many! I screamed in my head. There's no way we can win!

"You have to fight, Maximum!" Deven hollered back. "If they capture you, it's over!"

Then help! An Eraser caught up to me and I engaged in hand-to-hand combat, not really paying attention to what I was doing and relying on instinct. Do something!

"I can't, not while you're—" He broke off suddenly, then yelled, "Get Fang!"

Deven's urgency couldn't be ignored. I broke away from the Eraser and searched the sky frantically for Fang, but there was no black streak anywhere in the fray. Then, I saw him—plummeting towards the ground.


I dove after him, tucking in my wings to gain speed. My heart lodged somewhere in my throat. The wind burned at my eyes, tears clouding my vision. I was nearing him, close enough to see the tranquilizer that'd pierced his leg. And then, we collided. I wrapped my arms around his waist tight, crushing his body close to mine and trying not to damage his out-stretched wings.

But god, he was heavy. I couldn't handle the dead-weight and we continued the fall, together. I unfurled my wings and cried out as they caught the rushing wind hard. I tried to push them down, but the force of the wind was too strong. They billowed out like a parachute and resisted the air, slowing our descent.

Nonetheless, we were still falling. I closed my eyes and waited for the impact, hugging Fang's limp body, as the highway rushed towards us.

BAM! My knees buckled and I heard a painful pop! I opened my eyes just in time to see that I'd landed atop a car before the driver hit the brakes and we were thrown off. We slammed into the road, but being flung off a car was definitely preferable to falling from a few thousand feet.

I let go of Fang and sat up, wincing as pain shot through my leg. Fang was still out cold, but he seemed okay, considering he'd just fought Erasers and fell from the sky.

The Erasers! I looked upward and I could see the Erasers hovering above us, hesitating. I didn't understand why they weren't swooping down on us.

"Holy shit," someone whispered.

Oh, yeah. The driver. They didn't want to come down because of the human. I winced, realizing that Fang and I both had our wings on full display. Fang was going to kill me when he woke up. We had to get out of here, fast. But there was no way I could fly carrying Fang and judging by my now-swelling knee, I wouldn't be walking very far either. The pain was clogging up my brain, making everything seem completely unreal.

Then, the driver called out, confusion lacing their voice, "…M-Max?"

I blinked and turned to look at the driver, nearly fainting when I saw him. Standing by his car and looking more awake than I'd ever seen him, was Christian.




A/N: Yea! Christian's back! And Ari too, sort of. And finally, we meet the mysterious Isaac. He didn't say much, but don't take what he said lightly. All shall make sense soon.

As for the challenge I issued last chapter, regarding your theories on the "red eyes" that watch Deven, I received guesses of everything from pet cats to Voldemort. One I especially liked was suggested by a friend of mine—she thought that maybe the red eyes were the little lights on security cameras. A good idea, but alas, she is wrong.

Please review!

15. Christ Like

A/N: Sorry for the excessive wait. School has been absolutely BONKERS. I don't even know how to make y'all comprehend my homework load. Just let it be known that I've only had enough spare time for four hours of sleep. That's it. And I'm not sacrificing sleep for fanfiction.

Question: Has anyone else been able to get onto the MR Boards? It won't work for me.

Well, sorry about the platoon of errors that are probably in this craptastic chapter. I don't have time to check for them.

Hahaha, I managed to use a HP7 quote this chapter! Whoop whoop!

NSRQ#14: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real? --Dumbledore, from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling"

Disclaimer/Copyright: Duh.

Chapter Twelve: Christ Like




Then, the driver called out, confusion lacing their voice, "…M-Max?"

I blinked and turned to look at the driver, nearly fainting when I saw him. Standing by his car and looking more awake than I'd ever seen him, was Christian.

I realized my mouth was hanging open and forced it shut. Licking my suddenly dry lips, I asked, "…Christian?" Who knows, maybe I was going insane and he was just a mirage or something. But he nodded, totally speechless. "Uh… hey," I greeted awkwardly.

"H-hey," he returned hesitantly, voice cracking. He was staring, eyes flitting between my wings and Fang's. My enhanced hearing picked up him muttering to himself, "God, I must be tripping." Suddenly feeling kind of shy, I tucked my wings into my back, folding them as tightly as I could.

That seemed to snap Christian out of his trance. "Max— what… what the hell?"

What the hell indeed. What was up with my life? I mean, what were the chances of running into Christian way out here? It couldn't be a coincidence, could it? Was anything a coincidence?

A bad thought occurred to me: what if Christian was some sort of spy, or an Eraser? They were looking more human every day, it was possible. What if he had been tracking me this whole time? What if he was—for lack of a better word—a bad guy?

But looking into his scared, confused eyes, I knew it couldn't be. No one was that good of an actor. And I could smell a lie a mile away. Usually.

"Um…" I hedged, wondering what to do. God, how was I suppose to explain away wings?

"Max, you need to do something! The Erasers are still there you know!"

I practically had a heart attack. Glancing up at the Erasers, I saw that they had finally made a decision: attack. The platoon of wolf-men was converging downward, preparing for attempted kill/capture number two.

A few choice curse words caught my attention. I turned to face Christian, who'd titled his head to the sky to see what I'd been staring. He stood, rooted to the spot and trembling slightly, as he tried to comprehend what, to his mind, was impossible—flying werewolves. Oh, and two old acquaintances who also happened to be in the wing club.

"Max…" Christian asked warily, voice cracking. "What the hell are those?"

I clicked back into fight mode. Clutching Fang's shoulders, I tried to stand up. However, my dislocated knee had other plans; pain shot up my leg, forcing me back to the pavement. After one more failed effort, I screamed, "A little help here!"

Christian's eyes widened and he skittered over to help me up. I managed to get on both feet, swaying slightly and still clinging to Fang. God, there was no way I could fight another Eraser. Or carry Fang anywhere for that matter.

Then, I felt some of his dead weight disappear. I looked and saw Christian holding up Fang's legs. "Backseat," he gasped, panicked. We quickly carried him over to the still running car, me wincing with every step and Christian mumbling obscenities the whole way. I forced Fang's massive wings shut and we unceremoniously dumped him in the backseat. I climbed in after him and Christian literally jumped into the front seat and hit the gas before I'd even shut the door. We peeled off, accelerating quickly down the deserted highway.

The first wave of Erasers caught up with us, and began pounding on the car, kicking the windows, and landing heavily on the roof. Christian swerved the car violently on the road, knocking off a couple of the wolfy mutants. One of the Erasers smashed his fist through the window near by head, latching onto my hair. I yanked the knife Fang gave me out of my pocket and stabbed the hairy hand. The Eraser yelped and hastily withdrew his hand.

The other Erasers had caught on to the idea though, and soon all of the Erasers that has landed on the roof were slamming their fists through the windows and windshield. Christian mumbled "fuck" over and over, voice rising until he was practically yelling. Somehow over the din of the engine, the Eraser's banging, and Christian voice, I heard Deven.

"I'm going to try something," he panted. (Panted?) "I couldn't do it in the air because it's going to sap your energy and I didn't want you falling. But there's not much of a choice now." He chuckled without humor. "Once it's over, I won't be able to talk to you for a while. Actually, if you don't hear from me within a week, you won't be hearing from me ever again."

Wha— I started to ask, but Deven cut me off.

"You'll be safe with Christian; the whitecoats won't be able to trace you as long as you stay inside his place. Remain there until I contact you. And if I don't talk to you in over a week you must find Issac."

Where— Once again, Deven cut me off.

"If it comes to that, just let yourself get captured within a few states of Kansas. He'll come to you."

But— I began. However, a horrible throbbing, swelling feeling unfolded at the back of my head. I clutched my skull with one hand and Fang's wrist with the other, trying not to scream. Just as suddenly as it started, it stopped. However, my pain was replaced by other's; I heard the Erasers outside start howling in agony, dropping away from the car like flies. A wave of fatigue suddenly crashed into me, making me sleepy in seconds. I peeked at the sky through my cracked window and saw that the rest of the Erasers were in similar pain; I spotted several falling through the air.

Eventually, the assault on the car halted and Christian slowed down, breathing heavily. His knuckles were white, fingers choking the steering wheel. He glanced at me in the rear-view mirror, eyes wide. He seemed too freaked out to speak. His silence continued until he exited from the highway, wove through some streets, and then pulled up to a large iron gate. Christian rolled down his window and started punching in numbers on a keypad. The gate opened, revealing an excessively long driveway leading up to an excessively large house.

I swear my jaw dropped. What was motel clerk doing living here? Come to think of it, why was Christian even here? Shouldn't he be in Colorado? Maybe I was going bonkers… I did feel incredibly dizzy and… drowsy.

"This is your place?" The disbelief was evident in my voice.

"My aunt's. I'm house-sitting for her while she's on vacation in Europe for a few weeks. She's a bitch, but she's paying about double what I was making at the motel for almost zero work. She even flew me out here." He kept his attention focused on the driveway, looking as though he was trying to convince his brain that what just happened didn't happen. From his expression, he didn't seem to be having much luck with that.

"Wow. What does your aunt do? I mean, is she like a movie star or something?"

Caught off guard, Christian laughed. "Definitely not. I don't know what she does, none of the family knows. All I know for sure is that she works for the 'government'."

Christian parked in some sort of massive garage thing and cut the gas. Leaning his head on the steering wheel for a moment, he mumbled to himself, "Okay. I do not have two angel-thingies in the backseat. Werewolves on steroids did not just trash my car. Time to wake up and go to Starbucks for breakfast."

"I can hear you; you're not dreaming," I commented sleepily. "And I hate to break it to you, but we're not angels. We're avian-hybrids. And those wolf things were lupine-hybrids. Though Starbucks doesn't sound like that bad of an idea."

"I have no idea what a hybrid is, unless you're talking about electric cars. But I'm not listening to you, because I've definitely gone crazy and I don't want to go crazier."

"There's only one crazy person in this car, and I assure you that it isn't you," I informed him dryly. I yawned tiredly, fighting to stay awake. This must've been what Deven meant about energy-sapping. Christian ignored me, banging his forehead against the steering wheel several times. Finally, he sat up and opened his car door, stepping out.

He leaned against the car for a moment, attempting to gather his wits, and then opened my car door.

"What? Finally decided you're not insane?" I joked, hiding my tension. Another human had found out about my wings. Fang was going to be pissed when he finally woke up.

"No," Christian replied flatly. "I've decided that if I'm hallucinating, I might as well be polite and hospitable to my hallucinations. Maybe then they'll go easy on me." He helped me crawl out from underneath Fang's frame. When I stood up, I cringed. Ow. Stupid knee.

"What'd you do to your leg?" Christian asked, staring at the bulge where my kneecap was floating around.

"Dislocated my knee, I think. Oh, and it got all clawed up."

Christian frowned and rubbed his temple. "Want me to pop it back in?"

I bit my lip. "Have you ever relocated joints before?"

He snorted. "Plenty." I must looked unconvinced because he continued, "You'd be surprised at the masses of injuries people obtain when they are high."

High? I raised an eyebrow, but hopped up on the trunk of the car and carefully rolled up my pant leg. Christian's eyes bugged out when he saw the huge slashes raked down my calf, but didn't ask. He touched the knee-cap gingerly and I looked away. A loud pop! traveled through the garage and I hissed at the pain. However, the agony had nothing on my brain attacks and disappeared quickly.

I got off the trunk and tested my leg. Still kind of ached from the cuts, but I'd really rather Fang dealt with those. Other than that, a-okay. My outlook was approving drastically.

"So… what happened to… oh, what's his name… Nick?" Christian inquired, peering at the unconscious Fang spawled out in the backseat.

"His name is Fang, actually. He's okay, I think. Just got shot." Christian looked horrified, and I hastily added, "With a tranquilizer! That's why we landed on your car. He started falling and I caught him, but I carry him, so I fell too. He's fine, but he won't be awake for a few hours."

Christian lips silently formed the words shot with a tranquilizer.

In the silence, I apologized, "Sorry about your car. I'll pay for it, promise." Time to test out just how much money was on that Max Ride account, I supposed.

That seemed to snap Christian out of his astonished daze. "N-no, that's okay," he stammered. "…Let's just N-Fang onto a real bed."

N-Fang. Oh god, if only Iggy were here right now. I dragged Fang's dead weight out of the car and Christian grabbed him by the ankles. "Okay, I'm definitely dreaming or something," Christian groaned. "There is no way anyone can be this weight and not dead." He started to walk in the direction of the garage door, with me bringing up the end.

"Our bones are really fine, and hollow," I explained. "And we have practically no body fat. So, we're pretty much all muscle. That's why he's light." On the ground. Fang was no featherweight when you were already up in the air, trying to lift your own weight.

Christian grunted and shoved a door open with his back. "Next you'll be telling me that he has magical powers," he said sarcastically.

"Actually—" I began, but he cut me off.

"No! I don't want to hear it. I've had more than enough heart attacks today, thank you."

I obliged and kept my mouth shut as we entered the house and climbed a staircase. Finally, Christian led us into an empty bedroom and we set Fang down on the bed. I removed Fang's backpack and rechecked him for injuries, finding nothing worse than a few bruises and scratches. Those would probably heal up before he awoke. I carefully smoothed Fang's haphazard feathers back into proper position. When I was satisfied that Fang was fine, I headed back downstairs and found Christian sipping from a colossal mug of black coffee with shaking hands.

Hesitantly, I collapse into a chair across from him, feeling even more tired, if that was even possible. All was quiet until Christian swallowed a particularly large gulp of coffee and drawled out, "So…" I waited for him to continue. "So. You… have—wings."


"And that Nick guy, 'Fang' has… wings."

"You've got it."

"And you can both… fly and stuff."


"And I'm not dreaming or hallucinating or on a really bad trip."


Christian stared at me for a few seconds, then drank another mouthful of coffee. "Well. Okay, then." I smiled to myself at this so-typically-Christian reaction. I really had missed this guy. We sat in a companionable sort of silence for a while, Christian drinking his coffee and me fighting off sleep. Finally, he asked The Question: "And how exactly did you two go about acquiring wings?"

I flinched. "We're were, uh, born with them."

Christian raised an eyebrow, examining me over his coffee cup. "And how precisely did that happen?"

I stared at the wood grains of the expensive looking table. "…Well, long-story-short, we're both part of this genetic experiment thing. We're raised in this lab/prison place. One of the scientists broke us out about six years ago. End of story."

Christian watched me carefully for a second, then prompted, "And the wolf thingies?"

"They're called 'Eraser'. They look human, but they can morph into what you saw. They're after us so that they can take us back to the lab/prison." Christian nodded and then returned to his coffee drinking. Blinking sleep away, I realized that this was the most I'd ever told a human—I hadn't even told the Martinez's this much. (A/N: Remember, MR3 never happened.) So, why didn't I feel paranoid or threatened or something? I could only guess it was because Christian seemed like such a simple guy; he'd listen and accept and never tell.

"So… pretty much, you're a mutant. Like the X-Men."

I chuckled darkly. "Yeah. Pretty much."

Christian reached down and pulled out a newspaper. Opening it across the table, he began to mull upon the sports section. Still reading an article about some basketball player's injury, he said, "Well, if it makes you feel better, I'm a crack addict."

I gaped at him. He felt my stare and looked up. "Recovering crack addict. Spent a couple of years in rehab. Just got out eight months ago."

"You got clean?" I inquired in disbelief. Even I knew that crack was almost impossible to quit.

"Er… no. I… slip sometimes." His face turned red with shame and he avoided my gaze. "But don't tell my family. My dad's a lawyer and so is my older brother. My mom is a congresswoman. And then me, the druggie." He shook his head. "They've practically disowned me as it is… if they found out I'm not really clean, they'll make it legal." He cradled his head in his hands, staring determinedly at the newspaper.

"Why don't you stop then?" I asked quietly.

"I just… can't," he whispered. "I try so hard not to, but something always happens and…" he trailed off. After a few minutes, he looked back up and raised his coffee mug. "Say hello to my replacement crack."


Christian smiled weakly and drank deeply. He sighed, then turned the page in his newspaper. I wanted to ask him more, but I could tell he wasn't going to talk anymore. We sank back into silence and it wasn't long before the worldvstarted to go hazy and I felt myself finally drift off to sleep.




DATE 10/23/98. 11:37 pm.

SUBJECT: #7 of A.G.E. Project.

ID CODE: AGE0017102.

EXAMINATION: Neuro-Imaging Exercise.

TESTER: W. Runyon.

ID CODE: SUP0062904.


ID CODE: TEC0091201.

The technician finished the data input at a near inhuman speed and looked up at Dr. Runyon expectantly. Dr. Runyon was occupied with loading a strong anesthetic in a syringe, but when she heard the typing stop, she instructed in clipped words, "Batchelder wants to run it through the new scenario program the pysch department recommended. Personally, I don't think the subject will respond to it, but what do I know? I only have four doctrines in neurology and psychiatrics."

She slammed the empty relaxant bottle onto the counter, the glass making a defiant clink against the metal. "And Director knows best," she sneered.

She crossed the wide room to the room to the chair where the experiment was reclined and bound. As she emptied the tranquilizer into its veins, the technician prepped the program, loading it onto the server. Once the subject was sufficiently limp and out cold, the techie rose up and assisted the doctor in hooking up the subject. Runyon parted and raised up its long hair, revealing the drive implant installed into the back of its skull. With a surgical precision, the technician plugged the correct drives in, connecting the experiment's brain to the server. He checked that the jacks were in completely, then returned to his seat at the monitor. Dr. Runyon checked that its vitals were still stable before calling out, "Run the scenario."

The technie hit Enter. A loading bar appeared on screen, quickly disappearing and being replaced by a window. Strings of number began filling the window, in a seemingly random order, but the technician squinted at the data, interpreting it at a practiced ease. After a moment, he sat back with raised eyebrows. "A flight scenario? Does it even know how to fly?"

Dr. Runyon was still examining the code. "No—all of the A.G.E. Projects have their wings clipped regularly."

A new window popped up, response data coming in from subject. The techie scanned the stream, then commented, "Pity—it seems like a natural."

Dr. Runyon grunted and stepped back. "Well, if it ever does get to fly, it'll already have had plenty of practice; Batchelder wants us to add this program to the regular neuro-imaging exercises." She stared at the unconscious mutant hauntingly. "If it's a success." She sat down before the vitals monitor. "There's a small increase in the stress levels."

The techie nodded, reading the corresponding data strings simultaneously. "Yes—Subject Six has been added to the scenario." He turned his full attention to the response stream. "Usual reaction to its presence."

Dr. Runyon snorted. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear Seven is a love-sick puppy." The technician chuckled, and then the room fell into silence as the scenario continued monotonously. Minutes dripped by like molasses.

Suddenly, a high pitched beeping began. With unprofessional alarm, Dr. Runyon cried out, "Its heart rate and adrenaline levels are spiking! What the hell is going on?!"

The techie was typing furiously, fingers tearing down the keyboard. "I don't know! The data stream is moving too fast!" He slammed a button down, then muttered, "Oh. Oh. Of course."

"What?!" Dr. Runyon demanded over the now erratic drone of the vitals monitor.

"Six is plummeting!"


"Seven is diving after it."

Dr. Runyon slammed a fist against the counter, cursing loudly. Her knuckles bleed onto the sterile top. "Damnit!" she swore. "Batchelder was right!" A new alarm took the place of the original, wailing loudly. A red light flashed from the ceiling, over and over. Face terror-stricken, Dr. Runyon screamed, "ABORT!"

The technician cut the computer's power off and lunged across the room to rip the drives from the subject's skull. The experiment awoke immediately, screaming and thrashing against its restraints. The techie struggled to keep the subject down, while Dr. Runyon ran from the room into the corridor for Erasers. She returned seconds later, and the Erasers wasted no time in clubbing the subject's head, knocking it out once again.

The experiment's struggling ceased. The techie stepped back, panting. Dr. Runyon looked relieved. "Take it back to its sector," she instructed the Erasers tiredly. The wolfmen busied themselves with unsnapping the restraints and dumping it in a transport cage. The two scientists turned to the computer, switching it back on and staring at the screen. Dr. Runyon broke the silence first. "The subject's heart started fibrillating. Adrenaline and stress levels peaked; I've never seen vitals that high, not since Subject Five's testing. And it flat-lined in the middle of the exercise," she admitted.

The techie pursed his lips cautiously. "I couldn't read the response stream well—it was coming in too fast. But the data I caught was…." he trailed off.

Dr. Runyon muttered something that sounded like, "Woke up screaming bloody murder."

"A success, then?" the technician asked warily.

Dr. Runyon scowled. "I suppose," she hedged grudgingly. She paused for a moment. "I'd better report to the Director." With that, she swept out of the room, white coat brushing her knees, leaving the techie to pour over the data and wonder if Seven would even survive the next exercise.




When I woke up, it took me a few moments to figure out where I was. I looked around the room blearily, then remembered that we were at Christian's aunt's place. Christian must've carried be up here after I conked out on the table. I closed my eyes, letting my weariness wash over me.

I was still stuck within the dream, brief images seeming to be branded against my eyelids: the doctor's blood spilling onto the counter top… Fang struggling in the chair like a wounded animal… that horrible chunk of metal in the back of his skull…

Half asleep, I crawled out from the bed I was lying on and started stumbling down the hallway to where Fang was. Tripping in my drowsiness, (why was I still so sleepy?), I managed to make it to his room and clumsily knelt by his bed.

Slowly, carefully, so I wouldn't wake him, I turned his head to the side. Parting his overly long hair, I lifted it up, revealing the jack implant, gleaming just as new as it looked in the dream.

For no real reason at all, hot tears flooded my eyes. This was why he kept his hair long, ignoring my jibes that he looked like a girl. This was why he always insisted upon cutting his own hair, claiming he didn't trust Iggy or I with scissors that close to his head. This was why he was always particular about anyone touching his hair; I always just thought he didn't want us messing it up…

Withdrawing my fingers, I wiped my eyes, only succeeding in smearing my tears across my cheeks. Why did it seem that no matter how much I knew about Fang, the more it seemed I didn't know him at all? I continued crying silently, staring at Fang through my tears. How could one person have so many secrets?

The crying sapped me of what energy I had gained. I got into bed with Fang and laid alongside him, burying my salt-streaked face into his chest. As sleep claimed me once again, I realized that despite my soulmate's presence beside me, I'd never felt so alone in my entire life.




A/N: Please review. It's so encouraging for my poor homework-ravaged soul.

16. Weeds and Wrenches

A/N: First off, about the dead thing. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, skip this author's note. If you're still pissed at me and feel like flaming me, go ahead. If you want an explanation, go ahead and ask. I'm not typing it out here because I don't want to Author's Note to be hugely long, since I haven't updated in a long time.

But I am hugely sorry to everyone who took it seriously and believed it. It was only meant for one person, which I know sounds confusing, but it's explained in the explanation if you want me to send it to you.

NSRQ#15: "Life, Hope, Truth, Trust, Faith, Pride, Love, Lust, Pain, Hate, Lies, Guilt, Laugh, Cry, Live, Die. Some friends become enemies. Some friends become your family Make the best with what you're given. This ain't dying, This is living! ---"Movin' On" by Good Charlotte"

Disclaimer/Copyright: Insert here.

Chapter Thirteen: Weeds and Wrenches




I've gotten used to the pain of my awkward wings, the pain of transformation, the pain of a life of fighting. Pain has even been a friend of mine—a distraction when everything else just gets to be too much. But this… this is something new.

I hurt all over. Everything, everywhere. I feel as though someone is ripping apart every cell in my body. And in a sense, that is the problem. Though "falling apart" would be a better phrase.

I've seen it before. The other experiments, the freaks, slowly losing control of their bodies and finally dying. The projections and programs the whitecoats made, displaying the strands of DNA unzipping. I know all the experiments had expiration dates, even the "successful" Flock.

It had just never sunk in that I had one too. After all, I've never felt like one of the experiments, the freaks. I'm quite human, but I remembered being human. That alone set me apart from the rest of the Erasers, nonetheless my grotesque appearance. I'm not one of the usual subjects either, not one of the Flock, much as I've longed for it. And I'm even part of my family

Hated, that's what I was.

I sit on my bed, bending my fingers carefully. These are not my hands—my hands were bigger, fingers thicker. These were the hands of an old man, frail and dry. My knuckles are aching now too, but I know I shouldn't take more pain meds. Not yet.

"Requested medicine not available for another three hours."

Stupid Voice. I had to get the dumb thing installed when I was promoted to a lead Eraser. Now I wish nothing more than to rip the implant out. Unfortunately, it is beneath the skin on the side of my neck, dangerously close to my jugular. No way I could cut it out myself, and no way any of the whitecoats would do it for me.

So, I'm stuck with Mr. Automatic Agenda. Not very good company, but better than no company, I guess.

I lean back against the headboard and wonder what to do with myself. I could walk around, but there is no where to go. I could read something, but my reading skills are very good; I can only read children's books, which are hard to come by here. There are no movies to watch, nothing to draw with, (not that I like drawing much anyway). There are a few old board games, but I have no one to play with.

I feel so bored, I might as well be dead. What was the point of Dad keeping me alive if I was just going to spend whatever time I have left here with nothing to do but go to appointments and check-ups?

Luckily, I am saved from a slow, painful death by a knock on the door. Probably another nurse. Or maybe they actually found a Gameboy around here and brought it to me like I asked.

I press the button on the wall by the bed and the door whooshes open. However, I am not pleased with who has decided to visit.

"Go away," I growl. Isaac ignores me, walking swiftly into the room before I can close the door. He sits down in the only chair and reaches over me to push the button himself. Not until the door is shut does he murmur quietly, "I need to talk to you."

I glare at him, wondering if I still have it in me to force him out of the room. Much as I hate to admit it, I doubt it. Just walking down the halls a few times worn me out lately.

"Action not advisable. Chances low. Enemy too strong."

I grit my teeth angrily, digging my nails into my palms. Yeah, like I hadn't already figured that out myself.

"Fine," I snap, staring at the ceiling determinedly. I've already counted all the tiles—118 and a half. "What does Jeb want?"

Isaac frowns. "Jeb didn't send me." He shifts in the chair, trying to get his awkwardly tall frame comfortable.

I scoff loudly at this. Isaac is Jeb's lap dog. Always had been, always would. If Jeb asked Isaac to go to Arabian, fetch him wine, and return in time for lunch, Isaac would be back before ten o' clock rolled around.

As if he can hear what I'm thinking, Isaac leans forward, getting in my face. "You think I want to be here? You think I want this? You have no idea."

"Why don't you leave then?" I sneer. I can feel the adrenaline pumping, the classic Eraser temper. I have to restrain the urge to morph and rip him apart; he's not worth it.

"You know I'm every bit a prisoner as you are," he shoots back. "More so even—at least you've been outside."

"Please," I laugh, though there is no humor involved. "We both know you could get out if you really wanted to." It's true—he has B level security clearance, (enough to make it out of the building), he's tough enough to fight his way out if he had to, and he's smart enough to sabotage his ankle monitor without anyone noticing. "The real question is why are you still here?"

Isaac sits back in his seat, considering me. After a few tense moments, he observes dryly, "You're not as dumb as you look." I scowl, but I calm down when I realize it's a tease not an insult. After a few more beats, Isaac continues, "Actually, that is what I want to talk to you about: why I'm here."

I don't reply, just wait. A few drops of blood dribble down my hand; I must've pushed my nails in too hard.

Finally, Isaac begins. "You know why they are trying to make evolved humans, right?"

I roll my eyes. "Duh. They think it's going to somehow save the world."

Isaac sighs, running his hand over his face. "Exactly. A kind of Noah's Ark project, except instead of finding pairs of animals they're making enhanced people who will survive the disaster."

"I already know this. What's your point?"

But Isaac isn't listening; instead he is up and out of the chair, circling the room meticulously and tapping the walls. Looking for hidden cameras and microphones. "There aren't any. I already checked," I inform him. The Administration is really big on security, at least not in this sector. Almost everyone around here is too sick to escape.

"No harm in a double check." He examines the ceiling carefully for a moment, then sits back down, satisfied. "The point is," he continues as though he'd never stopped. "That someone else has other plans."

It takes a few moments for the gravity of this to sink in. "You're talking about a rebellion."

Isaac grimaces. "Well, technically speaking, I don't think there is enough of us to count as a rebellion."

"How many?" I ask bluntly.

"Three. And one is dead and the other is… indisposed."

"And you?" Isaac nods. "So, a lowly intern, a dead guy, and a guy who can't do anything? What a rebellion. I am quaking in my boots. Seriously."

Isaac scowls. "It only takes one monkey wrench to bring the whole system down," he points out.

"Yeah, but even the most incompetent gardener can prune a single rogue weed."

"Not if they can't find the weed."

"And how do you know I won't tell? How do you know I'll even do this?"

Isaac stares at me. "I trust you."

I stare back at him. He isn't lying. Though I don't let it show, it feels really good to hear that. Someone believes in me. No one has ever done that before.

"Plus," he adds. "I have leverage."

I lean back against the headboard, trying to look uninterested so he won't know I'm already in his pocket. "Yeah?"

"It involves Max."

Damn. That is leverage. "Max is in on it?" I ask, hardly believing it. God, if Max is in on it, and I am too, that means we'd be on the same team for once. That maybe she'd eventually… like me. My brain starts whirling at the possibilities.

Isaac smiles. "Not quite yet, but she will be."

I'm beginning to get excited. I could actually get Max to like me. Maybe even love me, like how she loved the Flock. "So, what is this grand master plan?"

Isaac frowns, and scratches the scar besides his left eye. Rumor has it he got it from one of the failure human-cheetah mixes. It panicked when he tried to stitch up one its wounds. Nearly lost his eye. "I don't know all the details yet. I won't know until it actually comes down. Too dangerous."

I growl. "I could be dead before it happens then."

"Life expectancy: four to six months. Two weeks if treatment stops."

Isaac gets up to leave, tugging at the sleeves of his white coat. "Oh, it won't take that long. If we're lucky, this whole organization will be no more within weeks. Maybe even days."




Somewhere, I could hear rain battering against a roof. Since rain was unlikely to kill me, I attempted to go back to sleep. For some reason, I felt kind of… hung over. Not that I'd ever been hung over before, but this was what I'd assume it felt like.

Something clicked in my head; I knew this feeling. The hindered thought process, the headache, the sleepiness. What was it though?

Oh. Yeah. Tranquilizer. I'd been tranquilized. That solved it… man, I was sleepy…


I snapped awake, quickly sitting up in bed. (Bed?) Max groaned softly next to me, curling closer to my side. I stopped moving, so she wouldn't wake up. Max mumbled my name, fingers clenching the hem of my shirt. After a moment, her breath rate settled back into a slow lolling pattern. Asleep.

Okay. Now, where the hell was I?

I examined the room carefully, as I'd always been trained. A bedroom. Probably a guest bedroom, since there was a distinct lack of personalization. A glance out the window told me I was on the second story, maybe third.

Okay, so I was in a large house, one I'd never been in before, not that I'd been in many houses. The real question was, how did I end up here, in a bed with Max next to me? The last thing I remembered was the Eraser fight, then getting stunned, and then falling…

Well, obviously I hadn't fallen. I'd be dead if I had.

Or, maybe I was dead and this was heaven? But that would mean that Max died too… and that I'd failed.

Failed. I was a failure.

My breath hitched and my heart thumped heavily. I blinked several times, trying to dispel the panic attack, but the word was already swirling through my head, creating a chain. Failure… pathetic… useless… worthless.

My breathing escalated, climbing up with my heart rate. I curled my fingers into fists. It's wrong, it's wrong, it's wrong… not a failure, not pathetic, not useless, not worthless…

Yes. You are, and you know it. Yes.



No! My brain started scrabbling. What was it Newsom had said? He'd told me, he'd said…


I inhaled sharply, forcing my breath to come in slowly. I held it a moment, then exhaled.


In. Out. In. Out. I sank into the rhythm. My heart slowed down and my head cleared.

Newsom said… that Max wasn't my responsibility. Was not. That what happened, happened. That I couldn't control everything. That… if something happened to Max… I had to let it go. He told me that many times, nearly every single time that I visited him.

And how many times had Max told me she could take care of herself? Millions.

The panic attack was over, but I still feel the cold sweat all over me. The pain of my headache crashed over me again, and I remembered something else.

In heaven, wasn't there supposed to be no pain? The Bible said so, as did loads of other religions. Besides, if I died, what were the chances of me making it into heaven? Max, maybe, but certainly not me.

So, I wasn't in heaven. And since there was a distinct lack of fire and brimstone, this probably wasn't hell either.

So, I wasn't dead. That was a relief. But it still didn't answer my first question: where the hell was I?

Cautiously climbing off the bed, I quickly checked for injuries and found nothing major. The cuts on my wings from the hotel window still throbbed a bit, but I felt okay to fly, if needed. Besides that and the headache, I was good.

Creeping soundlessly across the room, I pressed my ear against the closed door, listening for sounds, or vibrations. I could feel the buzz of a TV against my ear drum and the sound of a beeping machine—microwave maybe. And then… loud footsteps.

Years of paranoia cranked through me and I swiftly opened the door and sidled along the wall to the corner. Keeping perfectly still, I listened to the approaching feet. When they were seconds away, I launched around the corner, tackled the person, pinning them against the wall.

"Whoa," the person protested—a college age looking guy. "Jesus. Relax."

I narrowed my eyes. Why did he look familiar? There was something odd about his face, something I couldn't place.

"Hey, it's okay," he continued. "Christian. Colorado. Remember?"

I gripped the lapels of his shirt tighter. Of course I remembered, but there was still something wrong. It tugged at the back of my brain, refusing to float to the surface.

Something occurred to me then: how could we be in Colorado? When I'd lost consciousness, we were nowhere near that far west. How could this be the real Christian?

"Seriously, man, put me down. This hurts," Christian complained, though I could detect a slight note of fear.

I glared at him for a moment, more mad at myself than him. I knew there was something important about his face, but I couldn't remember. And that really bothered.

I let him go. He dropped to the hardwood, muttering curses to himself as he fixed his shirt. "Where am I?" I asked flatly, looking down upon the living room from the stairwell. I could practically smell the money leaking from the crevices in the walls.

"My aunt's place."

"State-wise," I amended.

"Oh. Uh, Kansas. As in Dorothy and Toto." He scratched the back of head absently, glancing down the hall. "You wouldn't happened to have seen Max?"

I pointed to the room I'd just left. "Asleep in there." Christian frowned, seeming confused. "What happened?"

Christian grimaced. "I'm not entirely sure. You guys fell on my car. There were these winged werewolf thingies all over the place, attacking. Then they left and we got here. Max and I were talking and she just conked out on me all of a sudden. I really have no clue what is going on." He sighed in an all-suffering sort of way. "I was just trying to go to Starbucks and now I'm got a dent in my car and two angel things hanging around the house, both of which require more food than a gang of warthogs."

"Woe is you," I replied sarcastically.

"Finally, someone understands!" he cried dramatically. I rolled my eyes, but smiled to myself. Christian was weird for a human, but okay. He reminded me of Iggy in some ways. But there was still something about his face that tugged on something somewhere in my memory. However, as the adrenaline faded from my system, it became harder and harder to call up.

Somehow, I knew this was going to come back and bite our collective ass.

But for now… Max was alive and we had temporary use of real beds, real showers, and real food. That was about as close to heaven as I would ever get.




A/N: Due to some recent interest as to what Christian looks like, I have made an avatar of him. Because I was bored, I also made an avatar of Isaac. I have placed links to both on my profile. Check it out if you're interested.

Reviews, flames, whatever you've got for me, send it this way.

17. Tally Marked

A/N: Bleh. Once again, I am super sorry about the long wait. It's been forever, I know. I'm gonna try to get better about updating, but it's hard because I literally have NO free time, thanks to my super crazy school and my sister and my novel and life in general.

Hope everyone is enjoying their winter break, if you got one. New Years is coming up, which means the one year anniversity of ALPCH completion is coming up. So, I'm posting in honor of that.

I know I said I'd get to Iggy this chapter, but someone new popped up. I literally did not see this character coming, but here she is. I hope ya'll enjoy her as much as I do.

I'm currently addicted to Fullmetal Alchemist. God, have mercy on my soul.

Disclaimer/Copyright: I don't own any rights to Maximum Ride. I do own rights to the plot and characters of this work of fiction.

NSRQ#16: "Cages or wings? Which do you prefer? Ask the birds. –from "tick, tick…BOOM!" by Jonathan Larson and submitted by my dear Stephanie"

Chapter Fourteen: Tally Marked




I was drifting, like a leaf on a still pond. I wasn't particularly sure where I was, but that wasn't a matter of great importance; all that matter was getting myself back together so I could return home…

I was spread thin, like a tiny dab of butter on a large piece of toast. My essence seemed stretch all out over this plane and while it felt nice, it was also a bit disorientating. There was nothing I could do about it though, except for wait…

I was soaring. Not like an eagle through the sky or a shark through the sea, but like light through space. Memories came up to meet me, and I embraced them eagerly. Some were good, like my stay with Houston. Some were bad, like my stay with Batchelder. And some were just in-between, like my stay at home. Nonetheless, it felt good to simply be living again, kind of, at least…

Though it was nice to rest and relive, I was eager to return home, if I could manage it. I'd spent all of my life going from place to place, and I didn't like leaving my roost. Nor Max, for that matter. She was reckless and not the most thoughtful of people. It was reassuring that Lover Boy was with her—his logic and concern meant that I didn't have to keep constant watch. However, Fang couldn't shield her mind from the forces that sought to tear it apart. Only I could do that.

Lucky me.

I couldn't leave Max alone. If I disappeared, who'd be left? Isaac, that's all, and the Wolf Pup. And without my expertise, all hope of victory was, frankly, nonexistent.

Of course, it wasn't exactly up to me whether my existence continued or not. That was for the plane to decide. For time to tell.

I settled back into drifting. Settled back to wait…




After making the devastating discovery that he was out of coffee grounds, Christian disappeared from the house, apparently in search of the closet Starbucks. I was hesitant to let him leave—what if he'd gone off to inform Erasers or whitecoats about us? But I couldn't very well go with him and leave Max here alone. I had to allow for this miniscule drop of trust.

I checked on Max upstairs; she was still deeply asleep, and I didn't have the heart to wake her. I wondered fleetingly if I should stay with her incase she had a nightmare, but then I realized that she was in the wrong stage of sleep for dreams. So, I tucked the comforter around her better, then set out to investigate the house.

The place was huge, far too big for only one person to live in. But I'd already asked Christian about it, and he'd claimed that his aunt lived alone. That alone was enough to make me suspicious.

I examined the entire first floor, (kitchen, dining room, living room, a guest room), and found nothing—no cameras, no alarms besides the mundane, no hidden chambers. The second floor was nothing but four guest rooms and two bathrooms, none of which contained anything out of the ordinary, (with the exception of the avian hybrid fast asleep on one of the beds).

The third floor had five rooms. All of them were locked.

Naturally, that arose a little suspicion from me.

None of the locks seemed too difficult. But then again, I wasn't exactly an expert on the subject—that would be Master Iggy and his Apprentice Gasman. I'd watched them pick locks plenty of times though; how hard could it be? The main problem was that I didn't have any picks.

Luckily, a little rummaging in the garage turned up a set of miniature screwdrivers. Soon, I was back on the third floor and assaulting the first door. A slew of curses and jiggling finally resulted in the click of a tumbler falling into place. Cautiously,

I opened the door.

The master bedroom.

It was large, but modest, like the rest of the house. The bed was made to perfection and the entire place was impeccably clean, including the connected bathroom and wardrobe. I shifted through the dresser and drawers carefully, and finding nothing important. I then turned my attention to the nightstand.

There was a lamp and a stack of books on top. I read the titles with vague interest, but didn't recognize any of them: "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close", "Choke", "Oxymoronica", and "Possessing Genius: The Bizarre Odyssey of Einstein's Brain". None of them seemed incriminating.

I opened the single drawer of the nightstand and found a gun.

A Jericho 941, better known in America as "Baby Eagle". Semi-automatic pistol. Fully loaded.

I stood frozen, brain zooming at the speed of lightening. Lots of people kept handguns by their bed for safety, but usually they weren't loaded. And usually the only people who kept guns by their bedside lived in bad neighborhoods, which this aunt most certainly did not.

I didn't know what to think. So I unloaded it, and hid it in my backpack downstairs. Max had a thing about guns and didn't like using them, but I felt quite a bit more guarded knowing one was around—just in case. Besides, I wasn't a complete buffoon; I was proficient with most handguns and a pretty good shot. It was something Jeb had taught me.


A picture snapped into focus: two days after Christmas, just weeks before Jeb left us. There were strange noises outside and Jeb told us quietly to hide in the attic before drawing a gun from a hidden ankle holster and stepping out to investigate. A Jericho 941.

More pictures scrambled up for attention: a whitecoat sinking shots into a rogue Eraser, a whitecoat threatening a colleague with a gun, a bullet burrowing into my arm when I tried to escape on short toddler legs.

All of the high security clearance whitecoats were given handguns. Jericho 941's.
Just a coincidence, the logical side of me reassured. Plenty of non-evil-scientist people own Jericho 941's. It's not exactly against the law.

There's no such thing as coincidences anymore, the paranoid part muttered.

I made sure the gun was properly hidden beneath my camera and sketchbook and renewed my efforts on the next door upstairs. The lock clicked after just barely half a minute and I pushed the door open hurriedly.

A library. Seven bookshelves and some chairs with large windows in the back. I prowled along the shelves, scanning each title. The first two shelves were all fiction, the third biography, the next three various subjects, and the last was reference. They weren't ordered alphabetically, nor by the Dewey Decimal System as far as I could tell. In fact, I couldn't find any real pattern to their placement. A blind chimpanzee could've sleeved them. I began reading the titles more closely, when a white volume caught my eye.

ESP: A Scientific Evaluation

I reached out to pull it off the case when a voice yelled behind me, "Do not touch!"

I whirled around to attack, but found no one there. I glanced around the room swiftly, blood burning in my veins, prepping me to fight with the apparently invisible enemy. "Who's there?"

The voice came from above me. "Tally."

I looked up and there, clinging precariously to the light fixture, was a parrot. "I am Tally," it repeated. "I am twelve. I am a female Congo African Grey Parrot." She lifted a foot off the chandelier, nearly falling off, and wagged one of her talons at me. "Do not touch books!" Tally scolded. "Only Wendy can touch!"

I drew my hand away. "Okay. Sorry."

The bird seemed satisfied. She nodded, then fell off the light. The parrot beat her wings frantically, almost uselessly, but managed to coast to the top of one of the bookshelves. A silent fury aroused in me; her wings were clipped, like most pet birds, but it reminded me of when the whitecoats would trim my flight feathers.

Tally cocked her head till her neck turned at least a hundred and twenty degrees. "You have wings," she observed. "Wings like me. Different color. Black?"

"That's right." I grinned to myself: imagine, an avian hybrid having an actual conversation with a parrot.

Tally bobbed her head. "No flying in house. Big trouble," she warned. "No apples for three days. No flying away. Big, big trouble. No apples for a week!" The parrot clucked loudly.

"Sounds like a lot of rules."

"Lots of rules," Tally agreed, shifting sideways. "What is your name?"

I answered, "Fang." Tally opened her mouth wide. "Exactly." The bird made a sound that I interpreted as laughter. "So… what are you doing up there?"

If it was possible for a parrot to look guilty, then that was Tally's expression. "Bad bird!"

"What'd you do?" I asked curiously. Oh God, was I actually having a conversation with a bird?

Tally ruffled her feathers. "Stupid nephew opened cage to feed. Escaped. Don't want to go back in."

Neither do I. "Well, I won't put you back in then."

Tally chattered excitedly. "Friend?"

Why the hell not? "Sure."

Tally crowed, then spread her wings and coasted clumsily down towards me, finally landing awkwardly on my shoulder. She tugged my hair sharply. "Hungry. Got food?"

"What do you like?"

"Apples!" Tally squawked loudly. I winced at the noise, and she lowered her volume. "Wendy say regular feed first though."

I began to walk slowly back downstairs, the large bird swaying on my shoulder and making pleased, chirping sounds. When I finally reached the kitchen, Tally rocketed off my shoulder and landed heavily on the table. "Feed. Third cupboard. Apples…" The bird paused and seemed to concentrate. "Ray…frid…er…a…ter?"

"Right," I muttered. I opened the indicated cupboard and found a huge container of bird feed. After scooping some out into a bowl and pouring another bowl of water, I set both on the table and Tally began digging in greedily.

I left the parrot in the kitchen and headed back up to the library. With no bird to squawk at me about rules, I found the book on ESP and cracked it open to the table of contents.

I honestly didn't know what to expect. Deven had called them "indirect physical premonitions", but I kind of doubted I'd find anything about them in any scientific book.

Imagine my surprise in I flipped back to the index on a lark and saw:

Premonition (indirect physical) pg. 72

I churned to the seventy-second page and scanned it rapidly. It took only a few seconds to find what I was looking for.

There have been several reports of what have been christened "indirect psychical premonitions" in the past centuries. Unlike direct premonitions, (which occur completely in the "Seer's" mind), these instances of clairvoyance are channeled through the "Seer" and manifest themselves in some physical form, which is unique to the "Seer". Though there is some anecdotal evidence and a few rare observed cases, there have been no true scientific studies.

Nothing I didn't already know. I almost put the book back onto its self, but decided to keep it anyway; I shoved the small thing into my pocket. I glanced around the library a bit more, trying to locate the sense of unease the room gave me. However, my tingling spider senses were revealing nothing, so I headed back downstairs to see if Tally was done with her feed yet.

I had just passed Max's room when I felt someone behind me. I stiffened; slender arms wrapped around my waist and I felt somebody press against my back. I relaxed when I recognized Max's scent and dropped my hands down to lay on hers.

Max rested her head between my wings, in my softer down feathers. "You're so paranoid," she chided, voice barely rising over a whisper.

I didn't reply, just listened to her breathing. Her body was warm against mine and the feeling of her so close sent me back to better days, back home, when we'd stay up late watching movies till we both fell asleep, leaning against each other on the couch.

I stood perfectly still, eyes closed, enjoying the sensation of her breath stirring my feathers. Time passed, but we stayed the same. Always.

Max sighed, and nuzzled her cheek against my back. "I thought you were going to die."

I stroked her hand with my thumb. "Falling? That's not the way I go. Definitely not."

Max squeezed me gently. "What makes you think so?" she murmured.

"Because it is too ironic. For something that ironic to happen, there would have to be a god. And I've decided there is no god."

Max chuckled quietly, but I could hear the disbelief in her voice, in the way she held me. I turned in her embrace and leaned down to level my eyes with hers. "Listen," I murmured. "You never need to worry about me, okay?" Her eyes flared up and she opened her mouth to argue, but I brought my hand to her lips, silencing her.

"You never need to worry about me because I swear, cross my heart, hope to sing, take a chainsaw to my wing, that I will not die before you. I don't care what the whitecoats have planned for me or what God's freaking will is because I'm in control of my fate and I have decided that I will never leave you. If you ever believe anything, believe that. Do you understand?"

Max nodded and I removed my hand before kissing her, alight with the fervor of my oath. Max kissed me back hungrily and it was then that I remembered how long it'd been since I'd visited this little corner of heaven. The closet to heaven I'd ever get: the taste of sky and fire beneath the lips of the only thing that could ever hurt me. Max.

Love is a very dangerous warfare, but its glory is exalted above all others. I didn't deserve it, I didn't need it, but God, I wanted it so bad.

"Apples!" a scratchy voice demanded.

I pull away from Max, and looked down at my feet, where Tally was yanking at my shoelaces. "No more kiss, you forgot apples! Bad Fang!" she squawked.

Max snickered. "And who's this, Fang? Your mom?"

I was glad my hair covered my ears, so she couldn't see the back of them heat bright red. "Tell her, Tally."

Tally ruffled her wings and jabbed Max's leg with her beak. "I am Tally. I am twelve. I am a female Congo African Grey Parrot," she recited. "Now give me apples! I finished feed."

"Okay, okay," I sighed. I bent down and let Tally climb up my arm to my shoulder, where she immediately began pulling my hair. I headed back for the kitchen, Max following alongside me. "So, Max, care to explain what the hell is going on?"

Max looked up at me. "Didn't Christian tell you?"

I snorted. "Sort of. But I don't think he really knew either."

Max rolled her eyes. "Well… Erasers attacked us and you went and got yourself tranquilized and started falling. I caught you, but you are too heavy for me to carry so we were still falling, just slower. And by some freaky coincidence, we landed on Christian's car. The Erasers hesitated long enough for us to get into the car, but they started attacking again once we tried to drive off. But then…" she trailed off, brow furrowing.

"What?" I asked, then cringed when Tally bit my ear.

"It was weird," Max explained. "Deven did something… he told me to stay at Christian's until he talked to me again. And then my head hurt for a moment, but once it stopped, all the Erasers started screaming in pain and they stopped following us."

I blinked. Who was this "God" person? In the School, I'd heard rumors of the abilities some of the other experiments possessed, but being able to inflict pain on so many people without even being there? Paralyzing limbs, entering and knowing someone's mind… it made being able to draw the future seem almost normal.

I sighed. "So, he thinks we'll be safe here?" Max nodded and I snorted in disbelief. "I did some looking around… the place seems pretty normal, but I there are a whole bunch of locked rooms up stairs. And I found a gun."

Max's face paled a little, but she lost no confidence. "Well, Christian's aunt does work for the government."

I was about to shoot something back, but Tally soared off my shoulder and landed awkwardly on the kitchen table. "Apples! Now!" she commanded, strutting across the piece of furniture. I groaned and moved to the refrigerator to find some fruit.

Max snickered at me. "So, is the bird your new boss?"

I grunted. Tally, however, answered for me. "Fang my new friend! He give me apples and I tell him things. Just like Wendy."

"Oh, yeah? What are you going to tell him?" Max asked. I located the apples and a knife and started cutting them into parrot-sized bites.

"Whatever he want. But apples first," Tally replied enigmatically.

"Well, here they are," I said, placing the plate of fruit in front of the bird. Tally crowed and ducked down, gobbling up a few slices. Then she looked back up and stared at me expectantly. "Question?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

Tally cocked her head at me, twisting it around in confusion. "Wendy give me apples and I tell her things. Fang give me apples, so I tell him things. What does Fang want to know?"

Max blinked. "What… what kind of things can he ask?"

Tally leaned down and ate another apple. "Anything in database."

I furrowed my brow. No way… "How did I get the big scar on my side?"

Tally clicked her beak. "September 26th, 2005. LGE0587654, Ari Batchelder. Massive laceration with claws."

Max looked ready to faint. I was starting to feel a little dizzy myself, but I posed a new question. "Who are my parents?"

Tally snapped another apple slice into her mouth. "Mother is Angela King, housewife. Father is Anthony Lorenzo, inmate."

I stared at the parrot, a familiar chill settling down my spine. This wasn't a normal bird.

Max licked her lips. "Who is Deven?"

Tally turned her head and ruffled her wings in agitation. "Fang give question. Max not give apples and—"

"Who is Deven?" I interrupted.

Tally bent over to gobbled up some more of the red fruit, then flicked her gray tail feathers. "Deven. Known alias of AGE001410A, number of four A.G.E. Project, deceased."

"Deceased?" Max echoed hollowly. "But… no. That can't be right."

"When did he die? How?" I inquired quietly.

"March 10, 2003. Reached pre-set expiration date. Corpse confirmed."

Max clutched my hand. Her fingers her clammy. "But… Deven first talked to me in 2005. He was talking to me just hours ago."

My brain was clicking along calmly, trying to reach a logical destination. "Deven might not be his real name. Maybe he's borrowing this dead person's identity. Or…" I didn't say it out loud, but my mind was echoing my original thought when she first said a voice was talking to her: insanity.

But, no. That didn't make sense either. Someone paralyzed Steve's hands back at the church and someone stopped the Erasers from attacking earlier…

Or maybe Max is doing those things and doesn't realize it.

I didn't speak this theory though. Max would get very upset if I suggested that she was going crazy, and she was already upset enough.

Tally's talons clacked lightly on the wooden table. "More apples? Still hungry."

Max went to the fridge and started cutting up a new apple. I stroked the top of Tally's head. Where had this strange bird come from? More importantly, what was it doing in Christian's aunt's house?

Just who was this aunt? Who was Wendy? The answer laid behind those locked doors, but the locks on the last few doors were harder than the first two, which meant one thing:

We were going to have to call Iggy.




A/N: FYI: By the way things are looking, this story is going to be shorter than ALPCH and ALTCP is probably going to be even shorter. If I don't make it that way, I probably won't finish until I'm thirty. And I really need to start working on some of my other projects. I'll probably be retiring from fanfiction once this trilogy is over. Not for sure yet, but I'm just so worn thin and stressed out. I've already gotta write for school, (I major in Creative Writing), and if I'm ever going to finish any of these novels, I got to free up some time. Sorry, but that's how it's going to be.


Reviews would be marvelous, they are ever so motivating. Happy Holidays and thanks for reading.

18. Don't Get Excited Again


To the Readers,

It really hurts to say this, but this where A Little Person Called God stops. I know I said I'd try to finish the trilogy, but... I am so burnt out. This has been a very straining year on me, and the next school year is only going to be worse. I simply don't have the drive to finish such a long project anymore, especially with so many other projects that need doing.

Also, the Maximum Ride category has changed. When I first arrived, there were about three pages sixty stories. My first fanfic, Dentistry, was around the sixty-fifth story posted. Everybody knew everyone back then and the general quality of the stories was fairly good. Now, the category has gone through a huge growth and the general quality has, sadly, declined. Even the series itself has been circling the drain; while MR1 and MR2 were very good, MR3 was only okay and MR4 was simply awful. I really just don't enjoy the atmosphere of the category anymore.

While I most likely won't be returning to the MR field, you may see me around in other categories. But I highly doubt I'll ever dare to do another story as long as this.

But even still, I'm going to miss it here. I met a lot of really awesome people, (see acavoo, EdwardAddict, Stephanie Pascal, Supergirrl, Nightwingstar, and various others), and I had a lot of fun. But this is the end of the line for me. Best wishes to you all,



A Little Person Called Home

85922 words, 906 reviews, 67553 hits, 205 favs, 79 alerts

Winner of Best Story, Best Fax, Best Action/Adventure, and Best New POV in 2007 Maximum Ride Fanfiction Awards

A Little Person Called God

49628 words, 751 reviews, 35541 hits, 164 favs, 180 alerts

A Springtime Memoir

6495 words, 46 reviews, 1516 hits, 26 favs, 4 alerts

Even after the general success of Dentistry, I never dreamed that my next fanfic would be so popular. So thank you everybody for encouraging me and inspiring me and making me incredibly happy every time a review came in. I'm sorry I couldn't finish this for you guys. But always, thank you for reading!