Duty and Devotion by Lyndotia

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Drama, Romance
Published:2008-12-13 01:15:22
Updated:2009-05-04 15:51:35
Packaged:2021-04-04 14:51:53
Summary:Post-Final Warning. Itex was not the only one experimenting with hybrids, and now that another group has come under fire due to the flock's actions, it has been decided that Max and the others must be eliminated. But who would have a chance? Fax, IggyxOC

Table of Contents

1. The Board of Directors
2. Trouble in the Skies
3. Off Balance
4. Curiouser and Curiouser
5. No Good Explanations
6. Origins
7. Choices and Lack Thereof
8. The Question Game
9. The Assassin and the Telepath
10. The Truth, But Not the Whole Truth
11. Mind Games
12. Jeb Intervenes
13. Methods of Interrogation

1. The Board of Directors

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: This idea stems mostly from a MR RPG board that Reneey and I started (you can find the link on my profile if you're interested), only it evolved and took on a life and plot of its own in my head. I would seriously find myself driving down the road with ideas for new scenes playing themselves in my head; that's how strong the inspiration for this particular fic has been. Hopefully it's interesting for you all, at least. This is really more of a prologue than an actual chapter, because it's only setting up the story.


Chapter One – The Board of Directors

The Chairman of the Agency sighed heavily as he eyed the long table around which sat other assorted important-looking people in suits and occasional lab coats. Most of them were already looking at him even though the meeting hadn't been called to order yet. Wondering why they were here, most likely. It wasn't as if any of them read newspapers, after all; they were too busy trying to reform the world.

By clearing his throat, the Chairman efficiently gained the attention of everyone who wasn't already focused on him, which wasn't many. There were a couple of grim faces who probably already knew what was going on already, including his right-hand man, Jaxon, who was vice chair of security and intelligence. It was Jaxon who should be heading this particular meeting, because he was the one who had brought the information to the Chairman's attention in the first place. But the duties of his position put that task on his shoulders, the Chairman thought as he suppressed a sigh.

"My good people," he began, forcing an attempt at a smile that failed miserably. "I am sure you all remember the Itex Corporation and its worldwide network of Schools."

There was a general murmur of assent, as well as a hiss from Claudia, the vice chair of research and development. She was one of those few in lab coats, mostly because "development" in this case had a lot to do with "genetic engineering." But who wanted to play around with grammar at a time like this?

"I understand better than many of you the reasons for the bitter feelings between the Agency and Itex," the Chairman went on as soon as all was silent again. "And now that Itex has fallen, the Agency should be in a state of celebration."

Several pairs of eyebrows shot up as they caught the "should be" in that sentence.

"Unfortunately, this is not the case."

Those who had been too slow to pick up on the first hints that this wasn't going to be an upbeat sort of meeting now looked around at each other shiftily. Sometimes the Chairman wondered what kept these idiots on the Board.

"In recent weeks, the Agency itself has fallen under scrutiny from the same groups who brought Itex to its knees."

There were several gasps of horror and shock around the table, but still the Chairman went on. He had spent too long preparing this speech to let a few morons interrupt him now.

"As a result, all experimentation has been halted for an indefinite period of time. The Agency has other sources of income, and they will be sufficient to sustain us for the time being. However, it has been decided by the department of security and intelligence that the School's escaped avian hybrid experiments, led by the one that calls itself Maximum Ride, are responsible for the alerting of the public, and as such, the elimination of these threats will result in the timely return of the Agency to its normal practices."

Whew. Well, now that that spiel was over, he could go on to explain –

"Excuse me, Chairman?" Claudia's slanted eyes narrowed slightly and the Chairman was reminded unerringly of a viper. Sometimes he wondered if the woman had ever conducted genetic experimentation on herself.

"Yes?" he reluctantly responded, wary of whatever question she was about to bring forward.

"How do you propose to go about the elimination of these hybrids?" she asked in a silken voice that, again, forcibly reminded one of a snake. "If they are anything at all like our own experiments, they will have been built for two things, namely defense and offense. I'm sure I needn't remind you –"

"No, Dr. Angeal, you need not," Jaxon interrupted, his deep voice overriding hers instantly. "The department of security and intelligence is very aware of the past history of your avian hybrids, in particular, and has already informed the Chairman sufficiently on this topic. However, we found it necessary to at least attempt the normal method of assassination, with one of our prime human trackers. Suffice it to say that Devin has failed."

There was another gasp this time, but now it was one of awe and something akin to fear. A few eyes flicked back and forth across the table, clearly asking their neighbors, "Who is there left with a skill level beyond Devin's?"

However, Claudia's eyes were narrowing again, and this time there was a sly smile spreading across her face. The Chairman didn't like that look, but it meant she was getting the point. She knew what this mission was going to require.

And so Jaxon and Claudia were the only ones without looks of astonishment on their faces as the Chairman announced, "And so it is the plan of the department of security and intelligence, to which I lend my full support, to dispatch for the first time a trained hybrid assassin."

2. Trouble in the Skies

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: Okay, now on to the real story. AKA the awesomeness of the flock in all their winged glory. Holy crap, that rhymed. XD

… I apologize for the insane author's note. It's after five in the morning and I'm extremely sugarhigh. This is why seventeen-year-olds who just finished (and hopefully aced! -crosses fingers-) the finals for their first semester of college should not be allowed to write at five in the morning.


Chapter Two – Trouble in the Skies

"Why are we going back?" Nudge asked in an uncharacteristically quiet voice as she frowned down at the snowy landscape of Colorado which was speeding past beneath her. "There's nothing left. Ari said so."

Max thought that she was probably the only one who felt a twinge of pain at Ari's name, but as usual she put up her strong leader bravado and refused to show it. Taking on the crisp tone she usually reserved for diplomacy when Iggy and the Gasman were arguing over who had really set off that explosion in the kitchen, she answered, "Ari also said that certain members of this flock were dead. Do I look dead to you?"

"No," Nudge admitted.

"Maybe," interjected Iggy. "Kind of hard for me to tell, though. You're still talking, but do you have any sudden urge to eat brains?"

Typical blind guy humor. And usually a sign that he was way out of his comfort zone.

"Oh no!" the Gasman added in a mock yell, playing along. "Max has been taken over by Night of the Flying Dead! Save the women and winged mutant dogs first!"

"Knock it off," Max reprimanded, but she was grinning. Trust Iggy and Gazzy to lighten everyone else's moods even if they were nervous themselves.

"And I don't need saving, thank you very much," Total added with an offended sort of huff.

"Right, you just need an undertaker because you got a boo-boo on your tail," Gazzy went on, grinning.

"I was shot!" Total said indignantly. "I'll have you know it was a very frightening experience!"

Fang had been very quiet up until then, which frankly had been so much like him that no one had thought anything of it. However, Max realized that he had in fact been keeping an ear out for trouble when he hissed, "Shh!"

It was a mark of the flock's training that all fell silent at once. Then, as one, they all looked to Fang as they made out the unmistakable drone of robotic hydraulics. Even Total, whose eyesight was less acute because the scientists who had altered him hadn't seen fit to give him raptor vision, started gazing around in an attempt to figure out where it was coming from.

"This was a mistake," Fang muttered under his breath, so low that only Max could catch it, and her eyes narrowed. Yes, of course it was a mistake, just because he hadn't wanted to do it. Well, there was also the possibility of Flyboys or whatever their newest incarnation was. But mostly it was because Fang hadn't wanted to come back.

"There," Iggy said suddenly, his sightless eyes staring unfailingly in the direction he was pointing: nearly due north and approximately a quarter mile distance from the ground directly beneath them. There were a lot of trees, but the keen vision of the rest of the flock could make out a scrambled movement beneath the uppermost branches.

"We have to go," Fang said softly, a little louder than before so that the others could hear him. Nudge, Iggy, and the Gasman started to edge slowly to the side, beginning an arc that would take them back the way they had come, but then Angel looked straight at Max and her voice sounded in the older girl's head.

There's someone down there.

"Wait," Max ordered at once, and if it were possible to hear the sound of squealing brakes in midair like you did on Saturday morning cartoons, it would have been heard as the others adjusted their wings again to stop their retreat and draw closer together, closer to Max.

"What is it?" Iggy was the first to ask, his clear blue eyes meeting hers as they had an uncanny way of doing. Sometimes it was easy to forget that he was blind.

"There's someone down there with them," Angel answered before Max could, still gazing down at the trees. "I can't tell how many of them there are. Too many, she thinks."

"She?" Max asked with a raised eyebrow. "You can tell?"

"She's a she," Angel said, nodding. "She doesn't know why they're after her because she's never seen anything li –"

Angel stopped dead in mid-sentence, and there was a general sense of uncertainty as she was silent. Again, it was Iggy who first asked impatiently, "What is it?"

Angel's big blue eyes were wide as they locked on Max's brown ones. "She's like us."

3. Off Balance

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: And now the fabled OC actually shows up! Yes, the third chapter into the fic. This just goes to show that I write far too much for my own good. XD


Chapter Three – Off Balance

There was a heartbeat's silence before Max asked quickly, "What do you mean, like us?"

"I mean she has wings and she came from a lab and Max, we've got to help her!"

Max bit her lip, looking from Angel's pleading face to the commotion in the trees and trying to avoid Fang's gaze because she could already tell the look on his face would read something like, 'You remember what happened the last time you did something like this…'

Actually, as it turned out, she did remember what had happened. She had gotten shot trying to protect someone, but it just so happened that that someone had turned out to be her half sister. So too bad for you, Fang.

Mind made up, Max looked back to her flock and was about to instruct all of them but Fang to start flying and wait for them to catch up when Nudge shook her head and objected, "No way. You got shot the last time you went to the rescue by yourself."

Max had to fight off a grin at that, so how could she help but agree? Anyway, if one bird girl was holding them off, there couldn't be too many of whatever these robotic numbskulls were. Hopefully.

"All right," she agreed with a nod. "Let's go."


Lyndotia landed nimbly on a branch, clutching her left wing painfully to her side. She had no choice, though; she couldn't fold it in properly but had to keep it out of the way or she would tear it off on a branch while trying to avoid these flying mechanical Frankenstein monsters. Where the heck had they come from? And just what were they, to start with?

"Just get off my case!" she growled very ineffectually as she planted a jump snap kick much more effectually in what would have been the solar plexus of one of the creatures if, you know, it hadn't been a machine. It shot backward thirty feet and slammed into a tree from where it sagged toward the ground, smoking. Her wing objected violently to the movement, but she ignored it; she was used to the pain and she had no choice but to stay on her feet right now.

At least, no other choice unless I want to die.

The rustling behind her alerted Lyndotia to the fact that another one was trying to sneak up on her. What did this make, a dozen of the flying rustbuckets? Not that they would ordinarily have posed a problem, if the first one hadn't broken her wing when it had fallen out of the sky on top of her…

Dodging the oncoming attack of the latest incarnation of the spawn of Frankenstein's monster and the Tin Man, Lyndotia caught it behind the ear with a shuto that sent it off balance and falling toward the ground for a good twenty feet before it caught itself with its oversize wings. Jeez, these things just kept coming!

BOOM! The force of the explosion knocked Lyndotia a step backward, which happened to be a very bad thing at the time because she was standing on a tree branch and a step back was a step into thin air. She sucked in her breath in surprise, years of training stifling the instinct to scream, saw the ground coming at her from sixty feet below, and ground her teeth before doing the only thing she had left to do: unfurling her wings.

A ragged cry was torn from her lips before she could stop it as her broken left wing caught the air. It was too unstable to support its own weight, much less hers, and so barely had time to slow her down at all before it gave way and pinned itself to her side. With only one wing to guide her descent, Lyndotia wound up falling in a circle with ever-increasing speed, somehow narrowly avoiding tree trunks.

Then the smoking mechanical android-gone-wrong she had slammed into the tree earlier was back, its red eyes glowing menacingly as it leveled the gun grafted onto the end of its arm at her and prepared to fire. She tucked in her other wing, instantly falling into a nose dive but avoiding the bullets that went whizzing by her right ear.

Unfortunately, the part of this maneuver she hadn't planned on was pulling out of the nose dive. She was about seven feet from fracturing her skull against the nearest cedar when something hit her hard in the right side and she realized one of the strangest things that had ever happened in her life: someone was carrying her.

Scratch that, someone was trying and failing to carry her, because judging by the fact that she was still careening toward the ground, she was too heavy for whoever had just grabbed her in midair to hold. Great; not only was she still falling to her death, but now she was taking someone else with her. Oh the joys of being a hybrid genetic experiment being chased down by randomly appearing buckets of bolts.

Lyndotia thought she heard a scream as something else impacted the top of her head and right shoulder, but now everything was spinning and she wasn't sure of anything anymore. Then something touched her broken wing and the pain lanced down her back for only a split second before it gave way to the black nothingness of unconsciousness.

Or death. She really couldn't tell which.

4. Curiouser and Curiouser

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: Less funny in this chap, more plot. And more of Fang not talking. XD Anybody ever notice how he does that a lot except when he's alone with Max? –coughsototallynotahintaboutthenextchaptercough-


Chapter Four – Curiouser and Curiouser

"Nudge, are you crazy!?" Max yelled as she angled downward and helped the younger girl support the stranger's weight right after Nudge had tried to catch the girl and consequentially crashed into a tree.

"She would've died if I hadn't caught her!" Nudge argued, and Max fell silent. She couldn't argue with that, or at least, not right now.

BOOM! Another explosion rocked the clearing and Iggy's laugh rang out as the noise of its blast subsided. "Man, I never realized how much I missed blowing up good ol' Flyboys!" he said with a grin as the Gasman slapped him a high five.

"That was the last of them, too," the Gasman realized, sounding a little disappointed. "Only twenty or so. I guess she wasn't important enough to get two hundred of 'em after her like we had, huh?"

"It makes me wonder why they were after her at all," Max said thoughtfully as Fang came to relieve Nudge of her half of the girl's weight. "I mean, have any of you seen a Flyboy since the By-Half Plan went up in smoke?"

"Come to think of it, no," the Gasman said, blinking his confusion. "I guess because Itex kind of got trampled by kids who read Fang's blog?"

"Guess we won't know, now that they're all scrap metal," Iggy said, trying to sound properly disappointed but only managing not to sound openly gleeful. It was just too much fun to blow up these guys.

"Hey, maybe not," Nudge said, looking at the Flyboys thoughtfully. "Let's see… Are any of them not in too many small pieces…?"

Gazzy stared. "What are you trying to do, put one back together and ask him?"

"Sort of," Nudge said brightly as she finally located one Flyboy who was only missing an arm and a chunk of plating its head. "I mean, I can see things about the people who use computers, can't I? So shouldn't I be able to see something about the people who made these things, since they're machines?"

Max looked impressed and a little abashed. Mostly because she hadn't thought of that earlier. "Try it out and see," she suggested, though she wasn't overly hopeful. There as quite a bit of difference between computers and Flyboys, wasn't there?

Not necessarily. They both have motherboards and internal circuitry. Nudge could be onto something.

Thank you, o all-knowing voice, and how may I annoy you into going away today?

The Voice didn't answer, though that might have been because Nudge said slowly, "I think it's working… It's not as clear as when I see things from computers, though…"

"What do you see?" Max asked, trying not to sound pushy. Still, she wanted to know. They hadn't seen a Flyboy since Itex had gone down.

"Some whitecoat," Nudge muttered, eyes closed as she focused. "A man. He doesn't understand why he's doing… something… Oh, why he's programming them! He's programming them to operate on their own, in groups of two dozen, but he doesn't understand how they could do that because they need to recharge… but he won't argue because he'll get in trouble if he does… because they're supposed to find the rest of the experiments… I guess the ones that we let out of the Institute? Does that mean that's where she's from?"

"Good a guess as any," the Gasman said, shrugging. "Either that or she escaped from one of the other Schools after the kids came after Itex. Jeez, that's kind of scary, thinking that Itex could still be sending these freaky tin cans after us!"

"Uh, Max?" Iggy said slowly. "I don't think there's just one group of Flyboys left. And I think they can signal each other somehow."

In response, dead silence fell, and all genetically enhanced ears could hear the low hum in the distance that Iggy, as usual, had heard first. Max's mouth set in a grim line and she tightened her grip on the girl they had saved, casting a sideways look at Fang, who was still helping her bear the girl's weight, and saying quickly, "Let's beat it before reinforcements show up."


"What happened?" Dr. Martinez asked worriedly as the flock landed in the yard of the ski cabin she had rented to be nearby while the flock went back to check on their old home. Well, to attempt to check on it, anyway, because it was obvious now that that hadn't happened.

"We were almost there when Iggy heard Flyboys," Max explained as Fang and Iggy, who had insisted on taking a turn with helping to carry the girl, put her down onto the couch inside the cabin. "We were going to come back, but Angel heard her down there."

"Oh, dear," Dr. Martinez said, frowning, as she shifted the girl to her side. "I think her wing is broken. I'd like to run scans to check if she has a concussion, but I don't have the equipment here…"

"She's gonna be okay, right?" Gazzy asked a little uncertainly, seeming to realize for the first time the amount of blood the girl had already lost.

"Of course she will," Ella said confidently, though she looked a little pale; she had never liked the sight of blood. "Mom's a great doctor. She fixed Max up just fine."

Max chose not to point out that she had only been grazed by a bullet while this girl had nearly had her wing torn off and then slammed headfirst into a tree. It was just as she was turning back to the rest of the flock to try to come up with an "everything will be fine" speech when Jeb, too, walked in. He looked shocked and almost worried when he saw the blood on the three oldest members of the flock (particularly Max), but that quickly turned to confusion when he saw the bird girl bleeding on the cabin's sofa.

"Who is that?" he asked with the air of someone walking into his kid's closet to find out that there was in fact a monster in there.

"We don't know," Max answered, shaking her head. "We found her on the way, with Flyboys after her. We think she must be from the Institute."

"That's impossible," Jeb said, looking appalled as he stared at the girl Dr. Martinez was looking over. "I helped compile the DNA charts for every hybrid Itex created until I left. She's not from Itex; I don't know who she is."

5. No Good Explanations

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: Sorry for not getting a chap up yesterday, but I've been working on my "Why -insert character- Was Not in Shakespeare" series. I did Iggy and then got requests for Fang and Max, both of which I'm working on if any readers of this fic are looking for those. They should be up soon!


Chapter Five – No Good Explanations

"How is she?" Max asked softly as she paused by the sofa in the living room of the cabin. It was nearly midnight and she was holding a glass of chocolate milk, her excuse for coming downstairs. After all, it wasn't like she was going to admit that the fact no one had any idea who this girl was bothered her and so she wanted to know as soon as she woke up.

"Stable," Dr. Martinez answered in a matching low voice so as not to awaken anyone upstairs. "I patched up her wing and splinted it; I don't think I should leave her alone in case she comes to, because it will probably frighten her at first. Actually, I'm a little surprised she isn't awake yet. You and your friends usually heal so quickly."

Me and my friends, Max thought, turning this phrase over in her mind. I guess she's my friend if you consider being another bird kid a qualification for being a friend. But we don't even know where she came from or who she is. That makes her less than an enemy, as far as we know, but definitely not a friend.

"Maybe it's worse than it looks?" she finally suggested, uncertain of how to respond. She couldn't ever remember being unconscious – unless it was chloroform-induced unconsciousness, anyway – for more than an hour. And though she personally thought it was more likely that the whitecoats were actually sugar plum fairies than it was that Dr. Martinez had missed something, she had no better explanation.

"It's possible," the veterinarian admitted, shaking her head. "I'm not equipped to diagnose internal trauma out here, much less treat it. I just hope that's not what it is."

Max then took another moment to digest this thought. Of course, if the girl died, there would be no more need to worry about who she might be. But on the other wing, they would never find out where she had come from, either.

"Me, either," Max said at last, though she wasn't honestly certain if this was the truth or not. There were too many factors to be weighed; though she wanted to know about this girl, she would trade that for her flock's safety any day.

Draining the rest of the glass with one gulp, Max asked Dr. Martinez to let her know if the girl woke up, said good night, and returned to the kitchen to rinse out the glass. Then she headed upstairs, debating whether she would actually try to sleep or not, but at the landing on the second floor a familiar dark shadow was waiting for her.

"Any change?" Fang's voice asked quietly from where he stood by the wall in the darkness, nearly sending Max crashing back down the stairs from shock.

"Fang!" she hissed, hoping that she didn't look as embarrassed as she felt. "Haven't we had this talk about you standing in dark hallways where you blend into the wall?"

Fang's teeth flashed into view as he smiled slightly, though that only lasted for a moment. But after that, he moved away from the wall half a pace and the motion made him visible again. Well, visible to Max's raptor eyes; his dark silhouette would still have been all but invisible in the unlighted hallway to a human who hadn't been genetically modified.

"You're jumpy," Fang observed in his usual blunt fashion, and there was still a hint of amusement to his dark eyes.

"Am I really?" Max countered, raising her eyebrows and feigning surprise. "I thought I would have been perfectly calm with a strange bird girl we've never seen before unconscious in the living room with my very genetically unmodified mother."

"Assuming she is unconscious," Fang mused, and Max's eyes narrowed at the comment.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, when was the last time you hit your head and were out for five hours?"

It was obviously a rhetorical question, because he knew the answer: Never. They had been drugged into staying under for hours, had no problem sleeping half the day if they really wanted to, but never had any member of the flock ever been knocked out for that long.

"You were coming down to check if she's really unconscious," Max accused.

"No, that would be quite pointless."


"Because…" Fang trailed off, then smirked as a voice spoke downstairs:

"Wh -- where am I?"

6. Origins

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: Okay, so I now have three requests for new Shakespeare fics. XD And one of them is by my friend who will throttle me if I don't write hers, so I have to be sure to finish them all or else I shall die. -shifty eyes- But no worries; I'll still be writing this fic in the meantime or else I shall die anyway because my muse shall kill me. XD


Chapter Six -- Origins

Max promptly decided to put off until later asking Fang how the heck he knew the girl was about to wake up and made for the stairs. She could sense more than hear him following close behind her and wondered if he was half as tense as she. This could either prove to be good news, that they had saved another girl like them; or bad news, that she was dangerous and putting the lives of the flock and everyone else at risk by being here.

Call her a pessimist, but Max wasn't quite ready to trust that it was the first option until she knew for sure.

Max nearly had a heart attack when she came into the living room and saw neither the girl nor Dr. Martinez by the couch. Then a split second later she realized that the girl had retreated to a corner of the room, eyes locked uncertainly on the veterinarian, who was standing a few feet away and holding her hands out to show that she meant no harm.

"Who are you?" the girl was asking in a low, suspicious sort of voice. "Why did you bring me here?"

"She didn't," Max said answered from the edge of the room. "We did."

The girl's attention shifted at once, eyes narrowing and muscles tensing until she looked ready to spring. Max had to admit that she really couldn't blame her, what with being quite literally in a corner and outnumbered three to one. Never mind that one of those three wasn't genetically modified, but the girl couldn't really know that for certain by this point.

"You can't take me back," the girl hissed, eyes darting from Max to Fang and finally settling on Dr. Martinez, who was closest and therefore seen as the greatest potential threat. "I won't let you."

"No one's taking you back anywhere," Dr. Martinez said in a would-be soothing voice, but for some reason it only seemed to agitate the girl further.

"Not taking me back? Then why did you immobilize my wing? Why did you have them bring me here? You smell like chemicals; you come from a lab. You can't deny it."

"I don't," Dr. Martinez went on. "I did come from a lab, but not from the kind where they perform genetic experiments. I'm a veterinarian."

"Yeah, and I'm the freaking queen mother!"

"Who are you?" Max asked, taking a couple of steps closer. Fang caught her arm and shook his head almost unnoticeably, warning her not to push the girl too much just yet.

Something twitched in the side of the girl's face, and Max could almost see the feeling of being cornered sending the order for a response that the girl gave too reflexively for it not to have been brainwashed into her: "Hybrid category five-nine-six, series three-six, serial eight-four-two."

A short silence followed her words, which Dr. Martinez finally answered by asking gently, "Don't you have a name?"

Max was just about to explain that none of them had names until they escaped the School when the girl shifted uncomfortably and half whispered, "Lyndotia."

"Lyndotia," Dr. Martinez said, smiling. "That's an interesting name. It's very pretty."

"It's very interesting," Max said, raising her eyebrows. "Who gave it to you?"

Lyndotia shifted back into defensive mode immediately. "What does it matter? None of you care about my name!"

"I want to know where you got it," Max said honestly, but there was a ring of steel to her voice. "Where did you come from? Who made you?"

A crease appeared between Lyndotia's dark brown eyebrows. "The whitecoats at the Agency. Didn't they make you?"

7. Choices and Lack Thereof

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: Having nothing to say in this author's note other than the usual randomness (and being slightly less random than usual since I'm having another freaking allergy attack and resenting the fact that I'm allergic to just about everything), I've decided to answer reviews here. Yes, I know it would be simpler to just hit the little reply button next to the reviews, but frankly, I don't care.

nathan-p: Wow, thanks! This was actually my first attempt at writing the MR characters, so it really makes me happy to hear that. Heh, awesome analogy, too. I have three cats and I've just about literally tried that before. XD And part of the reason for lack of reviews was that my friend Reneey's internet was being evil and not letting her review anything, and she usually reviews everything I write. But nonetheless, lack of reviews from people I don't coerce into it can sometimes be discouraging. XD

Reneey Umbra: I'm honestly not sure what to say to six reviews full of randomness and insanity. Other than a response full of randomness and insanity. But I feel neither random nor insane at the moment, so I guess we're out of luck on that front. Whenever you get online later I'll be sure to have had my daily dose of caffeine and sugar so that I'm more of my usual self again, though.

maxride333: I shall. And have! :D

Revriley: I must agree. He has only two actual powers and neither of them has exactly come in handy. For which I resent JP a little just because he's undervaluing an awesome character. XD Something may be done about that in later chapters, but I'm not entirely sure yet.

And if you haven't figured it out by the fact that I'm responding in the actual chapter to all four people who were awesome enough to review, reviews equal a holiday gift of virtual shortbread cookies. And if they're good reviews, they won't even be poisoned virtual cookies! -innocent smile-


Chapter Seven – Choices and Lack Thereof

There was a long moment of dead silence before Max managed to ask in a rather dumbfounded tone, "The Agency?"

The crease between Lyndotia's eyebrows deepened into a furrow and her eyes, which Max could now see were a soft green and as suspicious as she was, narrowed slightly. "You expect me to believe you don't know what the Agency is?"

"We didn't come from an Agency," Max said slowly.

"Not an Agency, the Agency," Lyndotia repeated, sounding almost impatient now. "Tell me, then: if the whitecoats didn't make you, who did?"

"Whitecoats did make us," Fang surprised Max by speaking up. Apparently he surprised Lyndotia, too, who seemed to have forgotten that he was there. "Just not whitecoats from anywhere called the Agency. We came from a place called the School."

Lyndotia's eyes widened suddenly so that the look of shock was unmistakable. "The School?" she repeated, sounding confused. "You're saying the School is real?"

Max frowned, her own suspicions reasserting themselves. "So you say you're not from the School, but you know what it is?"

"You're lying," Lyndotia said suddenly, eyes narrowing again. "The whitecoats only tell that story to the ones they choose to train. And if they trained you, you wouldn't be denying it unless they sent you after me!"

Any patience Max might have had was definitely at its end by this point. Her voice laden with annoyance, she said, "Look, girl, listen up and mark –"

She didn't have a chance to finish her sentence, because just then Lyndotia switched from defensive to offensive as quickly as if someone had pressed a button labeled "engage bipolarity." Taking on an expression one usually associated with an angry lioness, she actually left the corner to take a step toward Max and Fang as she growled, "You hurt him and I swear I'll kill you."

Despite herself, Max looked taken aback as Fang bristled beside her, tensing himself to move in defense. It was he who spoke first, his quiet voice sharp and deadly: "Excuse me?"

Lyndotia answered his question with a simple but almost infuriated hiss of, "Leave. Marcus. Out of it."

"I don't know who Marcus is," Max said now that she had recovered her voice, "but nobody's threatening to hurt him. Nobody's threatening anything, and nobody's lying, either. We're from the School, the doctor over there is a vet, and we just want to know who you are."

"I've already told you that," Lyndotia said, still sounding suspicious. "So if you're not from the Agency, let me go."

"You can't go," Dr. Martinez said quickly, her dark eyes urgent. "I don't know exactly how fast you heal, but unless it's faster than Max, you won't be able to fly for at least a couple of days."

"Then I'll run."

"Just stay here and heal," Dr. Martinez said in her most convincing voice. "No one will hurt you. No one will make you go anywhere or do anything you don't want to. You'll have food, shelter, you won't have to be on the lookout every second. At least for a couple of days."

Max shot a look at her mother a little protectively and a little exasperatedly. What if this Lyndotia wasn't on their side? What if she was dangerous or unstable like so many of the hybrids were? But Dr. Martinez looked typically worried about the girl's safety and nothing else. Not who she might really be, not what she might be capable of or what might happen if she somehow managed to deceive them all.

But then again, she couldn't deceive them all, Max realized. In a few hours, Angel would wake up. Angel, with her ability to hear thoughts and know the true motivations of individuals. Once Angel had a peek inside this girl's mind, things would become much clearer. If Angel trusted her, then Max would too. But not until then.

Meanwhile, Lyndotia had been inspecting her wing. Not by diverting her gaze from the others and examining it with her fingers or anything similar, but just getting a feel of its tenderness and flexibility. Loathe though she was to admit it, she would be unable to fly for at least a while longer. It made her very uncomfortable and put her on edge, but she didn't really have much of a choice.

"Fine," she said at last, her voice resigned. "Until I can fly. But you're out of your mind if you think I won't be on the lookout every second anyway."

Of course she would be. Though she didn't seem to be being recalled yet, she could never be at ease until her mission was complete. Seemingly by accident, by some wondrous chance, she was alive. And she had fallen right into the hands of the ones she had been sent to kill.

8. The Question Game

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: I should really be making cookies that I shall be taking to my boyfriend's house tomorrow, but instead I'm writing a chapter. How lucky are you guys!? … Yeah, I've had three cups of coffee and a venti mocha frap today, so I'm a little crazy and wired… XD


Chapter Eight – The Question Game

Though she lay down and closed her eyes around two AM, Lyndotia didn't sleep after that, and Dr. Martinez knew it. She wished the girl would calm down a little and at least trust them enough to rest, but she supposed that might be asking too much upon just meeting them.

Valencia finally fell asleep herself around three-thirty, feet on a stool and head resting against the back of an old but comfortable armchair by the fire. Naturally, she was still in the living room in case something happened.

And, also quite naturally, Max didn't sleep a wink, either.

It was nearly seven when the flock started to stir. Max waited until she heard Iggy leave his room to drag herself out of bed, where she had been lying deep in thought for hours, and follow him downstairs. She tried to look as refreshed as if she had had a good night's sleep but figured that Iggy was probably the only one she could fool.

Halfway down the stairs, Iggy froze so quickly that Max almost bumped into him. For a moment she had no idea what he was doing; then he half whispered, "She's awake."

"I know, Ig," Max replied, nodding even though he couldn't see it. "She woke up last night."

Iggy frowned before continuing on his way down the stairs. "And you couldn't wake us up?" he grumbled.

Max chose not to answer, considering that they were now already in the living room and it probably wouldn't amuse the girl to be talked about as if she weren't there while they were in the same room. She had been half expecting Lyndotia to be pretending to be asleep again, but instead she was sitting up on the couch and tracing the feathers of her good wing with a pensive expression. They reminded Max of a snowy owl's – pristine white flecked with gray. They were longer and lighter than Gazzy's wings, though, so that she couldn't quite decide what sort of bird they had come from.

Lyndotia didn't look up, so that at first Max wondered if she had somehow not heard them. Then the other girl's voice asked slowly, "Just how many of you are there here?"

"Uh – six, if by 'us' you mean 'bird kids,'" Max answered uncertainly. "And Jeb and my mom. They're, uh, doctors." Probably not a good plan to mention that Jeb was a whitecoat…

"… Your mom?" Lyndotia asked softly, a crease between her eyebrows.

"Yeah. You know, the vet you met last night."

Lyndotia nodded. "I see."

"I don't," Iggy joked reflexively. Lyndotia finally turned to look at the two of them and then her right eyebrow shot up.

"You're blind?"

"You're deaf?" Iggy countered, putting on a look of surprise that nearly mimicked hers. Max shot him a look of disapproval before remembering that he couldn't see it and nudging him in the arm.

A crease appeared between Lyndotia's eyebrows, and at first Max wondered if she didn't get his attempt at humor. Then the other girl said slowly, "No, just confused. Are many of the hybrids from the School blind?"

"Only the ones who got eye operations that were supposed to improve their night vision," Iggy said, sounding a little bitter. "So in other words, me."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Lyndotia said, and she actually sounded like she meant it. She averted her gaze to a nearby wall as she went on quietly, "But you're lucky the whitecoats at the School are more tolerant than the ones from the Agency. Their aim is perfection; they have no place for experiments they see as damaged."

"Is that why you were afraid to go back?" Max asked slowly, hoping the girl's bout of openness would last. She really wanted to learn about this other place that made genetic hybrids and about Lyndotia herself.

"I'm not afraid of them," Lyndotia said, and her eyes narrowed to slits. "They won't try to destroy me until they have no other option, and if they tried, they wouldn't succeed. They trained me too well for their own good."

"Trained you?" Iggy asked, sounding curious. "What for? Besides obvious disregard for humor, I mean?"

The very corners of Lyndotia's mouth turned up slightly at that. "That's just a side effect. One tends to go a little cynical after so long under someone else's control."

"How old are you?" Iggy questioned next. "How did you get away? How long have you been free?"

"You ask a lot of questions," Lyndotia stated simply, her expression turning to stone again.

"You don't meet a lot of other escapee mutant kids," Iggy said, shrugging. "You don't have to answer."

"Of course I don't. But if I don't even attempt to convince you that I'm not going to go flying off to snitch on you all as soon as my wing heals, I'll never get off the ground."

Silence was the only reply, because everyone in the room knew that this was entirely true.

"I'm sixteen," Lyndotia said at last, and Max noticed that her hands were now clenched so tightly that her knuckles were turning white. Stress from what she was saying, or just at having to answer questions from people she didn't trust? "And I didn't really escape; they let me go. I told you they trained me. Well, I was supposed to complete a mission and return to them. I took off and haven't seen the place since." Her jaw clenched, too, as she added, "But I'm far from free."

"But why would they expect you to come back?" Iggy asked, sounding confused. Max wanted to tell him to stop it with the questions because Lyndotia currently looked tense enough to snap but could think of no way to do that with any degree of subtlety.

"Morning," said Nudge's voice from the stairs. Max looked up to see the two girls coming down, Nudge already dressed but Angel still wearing her blue pajamas.

Angel. Now they would find out what was really going on in this girl's head.

9. The Assassin and the Telepath

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: I haven't been neglecting this story or , I swear. I've just had a really, really bad run of horrible luck. See, first I got strep and didn't feel like doing much of anything except sleeping. And watching Avatar episodes when I actually was conscious. XD But yeah, you get my point. You don't want me to write when I'm sick or it will be random and unintelligible.

And then after that I didn't update because I was busy what with leaving for another town and then Virginia for Christmas/New Years. I was gone for almost two weeks right there, which also wasn't very good for you.

And now, lastly, my lack of internet. Apparently AT&T decided to be a freaking moron and only allow 5GB of transfer rate on internet a month for the chip I had… which I had nearly gotten to in 4 days… and so my aunt canceled it and yeah. I now have no home internet because I live in the boondocks in a wooded hollow in Tennessee and I can't get wireless here. Plus my laptop has no dial-up modem. So it's a very lovely little conundrum for me now because all of my college classes require internet access and I have none. -sigh-

But anyway, you aren't here to read my sob stories, you're here for another chapter, right? Right! I'll try my best to write and post these from school or Books-A-Million, but… yeah… we'll see.


Chapter Nine – The Assassin and the Telepath

"Morning, Nudge; morning, Angel," Max greeted the two younger girls as they descended the staircase. This was mostly for Iggy's benefit, so that he could know who was coming downstairs.

If it was possible for Lyndotia to become tenser, she did then. Her eyes darted from Max to Iggy to Nudge to Angel, as if unsure who posed the greater threat. Finally she settled on gazing distrustfully at the newcomers, as she had at least spoken to the other two already and they hadn't tried anything.

"Oh!" Nudge gasped as she caught sight of the now conscious Lyndotia. "You're up! Max, why didn't you tell me she's up!? Are you okay? Does your head hurt too bad? I'm really sorry we hit the tree, I was trying to keep you from getting hurt more but I guess I wasn't strong enough…"

Lyndotia was somewhat taken aback by the sudden outpouring of words. Was it normal for people to talk so much? Was it only her who was used to solitude and silence?

"My head is fine," she said slowly, trying not to frown in confusion of how one girl could talk so quickly. "I… don't exactly remember you. Sorry."

"Oh, that's okay," Nudge said, grinning anyway for some reason Lyndotia couldn't fathom. "You hit your head pretty hard. I tried to stop you but, well, it didn't work out so well." She pointed to a rather deep but already healing gash on her cheek and Lyndotia winced.

"I apologize. It was my fault for being caught off guard by those flying garbage heaps. I thought they were all destroyed by now."

Angel tilted her head to one side and blinked. The look on her face seemed almost… confused. However, Iggy was blind and Nudge wasn't paying attention; Max was the only one who noticed.

"So did we," Iggy said, a crease between his eyebrows. "I mean, we short-circuited most of 'em in California and the ones that were left got zapped at the Itex headquarters. But I guess the old rustbuckets are more resilient than we thought."

"No, these were designed to be out looking for us," Nudge corrected him. "I don't know when or how, but it was before Itex got torn down, I know it."

Lyndotia's right eyebrow rose. "So you're all saying that all this talk about the School and Itex is real?"

Nudge blinked. "Well, of course. Where else would we have come from?"

"I always thought it was just a lie," Lyndotia said quietly, seemingly talking to herself now. "Something the whitecoats told us as a kind of justification. 'The School started it; we just have to beat them.' I thought you must have been sent after me because you knew about it, because only those of us who were kept around for a purpose were told the stories. The rest weren't worth the effort of keeping alive."

"You keep talking about a purpose," Iggy said slowly. "What do you mean by that? What purpose?"

Lyndotia shook her head then, something akin to pain in her eyes. "I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to talk anymore."

There was a short silence, during which Nudge looked confused, Iggy looked abashed, and Angel continued to look confused. Finally, Max nodded. "You don't have to. But you understand we're going to have to make sure what you're saying is true before we can let you leave."

"You won't be able to," Lyndotia said quietly, her gaze for once leaving the others and switching almost longingly to the window and its view of the Colorado sky. "No one but a whitecoat could tell you, and I don't imagine you're in contact with too many of those."

Max's mouth set into a grim line. No one but a whitecoat, huh?

"C'mon, Angel, let's go see what Mom made for breakfast," she said, eyeing Angel pointedly. "You wanna go wake up the others, Nudge?"

"Sure," Nudge agreed, turning and nearly jumping up the stairs again. Where that girl got all her energy Max would never know.

But the important thing was that Jeb would be downstairs soon, and in the meantime, she could have a little talk with Angel in the privacy of the kitchen.

10. The Truth, But Not the Whole Truth

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: So I wrote this while I should've been writing a paper… but whatever, like I ever do those until the night before they're due. XD Lucky for you guys I have wireless access at school! … Unluckily, it's snowing badly and I must go home before that becomes impossible. But still, it's the point of the thing.


Chapter Ten – The Truth, But Not the Whole Truth

"Gee, thanks for talking to everyone but me," Iggy muttered sarcastically as Max and Angel made for the kitchen. He guessed what Max really wanted, though, so he didn't press the matter.

He was just about to follow them when Lyndotia said quietly, "I would be glad not to be told what to do. You take it for granted."

"Maybe so," Iggy agreed slowly, somewhat taken aback that she had spoken to him without anyone trying to get her to talk. "But you don't have to listen to anyone even if they tell you something, either."

"I do if I want to be free," Lyndotia disagreed, sighing softly and closing her eyes. "Not that I ever will be. None of you trust me, and I can't blame you. I'll probably never trust any of you, either. It doesn't help chances of survival much to trust everyone you meet."

"No one's saying you should trust everyone," Iggy corrected, walking over to the couch she was sitting on and leaning against it. "I can't even see if you're about to hit me or something, but I don't think you are. That's all there is to it. Even if we're genetic freaks, we still have human intuition. Do you think we're going to hurt you?"

Lyndotia was silent for a moment before saying slowly, "I think you would if you thought you had to. Or if I can't prove I'm not lying."

"I don't think you're lying. I don't think you're telling us everything, but I don't think you're lying."

Lyndotia smiled faintly, looking up at him and seeming almost intrigued. "You're right," she confessed, her voice unchanging. "I haven't told you everything and odds are I never will. And you can probably say the same thing about your own friends."

Iggy looked taken aback by her words, but he couldn't deny the truth in them. "You're right, too. There are some things I wouldn't tell anyone, not even if my life depended on it. I think I see what you mean – so to speak."

A crease appeared between Lyndotia's eyebrows. "Why do you do that?"

Iggy blinked. "Do what?"

"Make jokes about being blind. I don't understand it. How can you find amusement in what happened to you?"

"I don't," Iggy admitted, shrugging as if to lighten his words. "There's nothing funny about a bunch of psychos with scalpels dicing you up until they can't even fix you. But… what can you do about it? If I didn't make jokes, people would feel sorry for me."

Lyndotia seemed to consider that for a moment. Finally she said in a much softer voice, "That… makes much more sense to me now. Thank you. I shouldn't have asked."

"You can ask whatever you want to," Iggy countered with a smile. "I mean, come on. You had to sit through Nudge the motor mouth and Max the interrogator. Not that I was much butter, but it's hard not to ask questions. We're all curious – we've never met anyone else like us who stuck around long enough to talk to."

"I've… never met another recombinant outside the Agency. It wasn't surprising to me, since they have a perfect 'safety record,' as they call it. We're given five years to grow into our wings, skills, and temperaments. Then we're either inducted into a Program and trained or declared useless and eliminated."

"Five?" Iggy repeated, sounding dumbfounded. "They decide when you're five if they're going to kill you or not!?"

"Mm. I suppose the School didn't go about things quite the same way, then."

"No. It didn't matter if they thought we were unique or useful or not. Everyone gets experimented on or taken apart at some point. They wanted to know what we were capable of, so they did everything they could think of. How long you lived depended on how well you could take it… and whether you still wanted to live enough to care."

Lyndotia shook her head as if to ward off some memory and then returned her gaze to him, though she knew he couldn't see it. She might as well have been examining her wing as she spoke; that would have been more beneficial and he wouldn't have known the difference. "I still… find it hard to believe. They used to tell us that we only existed as a precaution against the School. That the School started it all by creating hybrids, and they were only keeping up with the competition. We all thought they were just lies – excuses for being soulless sadists. We never dreamed there could really be anywhere else where whitecoats were doing this to people in the name of science."

"We?" Iggy asked slowly. "How many others like you are there from the Agency?"

"I was a Scarlet," Lyndotia said quietly, her expression turning pained. "Just being recognized as not being a failed experiment wasn't enough. You had to be trained properly, and you had to survive it. The Scarlets are the best – the ones who excelled against all odds. There were five of us."

"Five," Iggy repeated, and then he phrased a question slowly, sounding almost afraid to know the answer. "Did the Agency… not make many like you, then?"

There was a much longer pause this time, and for a moment Iggy thought she might not answer. Then, in a voice barely more than a whisper, she replied, "There were five times that number in my original group. That was cut down to thirteen at the five-year mark. By the time a year had passed, there were four of us left. One killed himself a few months later; the other two became Elitists, the second rank. There are fifty of them; I do not know how many still growing or in training."

Iggy didn't know what to say, and Lyndotia was beyond the point of caring. Chablis, Riordan, Naeva, and Zax – there were only four Scarlets at the Agency right now and the Elitists would have noticed this. They would be clamoring for Lyndotia's spot, and if she didn't return, one of them would have it. Of course, that would be after the remaining Scarlets were sent to destroy her and complete her mission. She couldn't allow herself to question her orders now.


I bet the title tricked you into thinking it was about Angel and Max, didn't it? Heheh… Sorry, I'm just evil that way. :P

11. Mind Games

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: You guys actually get an update the next day like I used to do all the time! :O Thank your lucky stars, and my college for being closed for snow and ice. And also my awesome manipulation skills for convincing my grandfather that it's perfectly fine for me to drive and that I need my car to get to wireless access at Books-A-Million… because he was wanting to borrow it to get a part for his car and instead I talked him into taking my aunt's. But anyway, I'm rambling again. Chapter eleven!


Chapter Eleven – Mind Games

"Good morning, Max," Dr. Martinez said with a smile as she looked over her shoulder at the pair entering the kitchen. "Good morning, Angel."

"Morning, Mom," Max responded, sounding a little distracted, but Angel beamed in typical angelic fashion and replied sweetly, "Good morning, Dr. Martinez."

"Iggy won't mind that I'm making breakfast, will he?" the veterinarian asked, looking over her shoulder and through the door to the living room. Huh, she had thought she had seen Iggy there a minute ago. Maybe he had gone back upstairs.

"If he does, he should've gotten to the kitchen first," Max said with a shrug. "It doesn't look like he's even coming, so I'd guess not."

"He's talking to her," Angel reported, her gaze turned toward the kitchen door.

Max's eyebrows shot up at once. "About what?"

"Trust," Angel said simply, then shook her head. "But it's weird, Max. Her thoughts are so… strange."

The suspicion in Max's voice was unmistakable as she asked quietly, "Strange how?"

"Like nothing I've ever heard before," Angel said, frowning. "Or at least, from a human. Her thoughts were perfectly normal when she was in the clearing, just like yours or Fang's or Iggy's. You know, words and strategy and things that made sense. I can't understand what she's thinking now."

"Like it's another language or something?" Max asked, not understanding.

"No," Angel replied, shaking her head and causing her tousled blond curls to go into even more disarray. "There aren't any words. It's like trying to listen to Akila."

"You're sure you heard her thoughts before, Ange?" Max asked, looking confused. "And they weren't anything like this?"

"Her mind doesn't feel human anymore. Or not like any human mind I've ever seen."

"It could be because she's a bird kid," Max said slowly. "Maybe they messed something up in her head when they were grafting her DNA?"

"No," Angel disagreed again, looking up at Dr. Martinez and then back to Max as if answering an unspoken question. "I heard her thinking in those woods when she was being attacked, I know it. She can think like we can, she just isn't."

"So she's hiding something," Max said instantly, her jaw tightening.

"I didn't say that," Angel objected quickly. "How could she? She doesn't know I can read minds."

Max frowned, trying to find a way around that. Of course, if Itex had sent her, she would know… but Itex had been dismantled. But then again, who could have sent that exploding assassin earlier? Maybe the same people had sent this girl? Some faction of Itex, somehow hidden or protected from scrutiny?

"I don't think so, Max," Angel answered her thoughts aloud. "She really is surprised whenever we talk about the School. She really didn't think it existed."

"I thought you said you couldn't understand her," Max said, now getting even more confused. What, did she keep shifting from human thoughts to more animalistic ones just to throw them off or something?

"It's not like that," Angel said with a sigh, rubbing her temple. "I can tell what's going on in her head, I just don't always know what it means. There are a lot of pictures and emotions but no real thoughts. It's like her mind has been hotwired and everything's running together. I don't know how she can make sense of it. Most of them don't even seem to be connected."

"She seems perfectly normal," Max murmured, gazing toward the living room as if her eyes could pierce though the wall and into the girl's mind.

"I think it is normal, for her. Just a part of who she is. But I can't understand it. I can get general impressions, like figuring out what she's feeling in a way. But even that's confusing. She doesn't even seem to understand some of what she feels."

"Is it possible hitting her head could have done it? When Nudge tried to catch her and they ran into the tree?"

"You've hit your head loads of times, Max," Angel said, looking doubtful. "Has it even changed the way you think?"

Max grudgingly shrugged. Okay, so maybe this was just how this girl's head worked. How the heck was she supposed to be able to tell whether to believe her or not, then?

"If you care for my opinion," Dr. Martinez spoke up as she took a frying pan of bacon off the stove, "I believe you're both thinking too much. If you didn't have your abilities, you would have to rely on interpreting actions just like the rest of us. Maybe you should try that instead of condemning her for something she isn't even aware she's doing."

Angel looked to Max for guidance, as usual. The older girl sighed heavily and finally nodded. All right, she would try the 'normal human way'… but she was still going to talk to Jeb and see if any of this girl's story was to be believed.

12. Jeb Intervenes

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: Holy crap, two chapters in one day!? Has that happened since the days of yore when I had internet at my house!? :O

… No, I'm not being very imaginative with the chapter names, but I just want to get them posted. I can work on chapter title creativity when I have proper time to do so.


Chapter Twelve – Jeb Intervenes

"Breakfast's ready whenever you are," Dr. Martinez said as she poked her head through the door to the living room with a smile. Iggy jumped up at once, but Lyndotia looked uncomfortable.

Failing to hear her footsteps following behind him, Iggy blinked and stopped walking. "Aren't you coming? You have to be hungry."

Lyndotia looked from Iggy to Dr. Martinez warily. "You're including me in that?"

"Of course, dear," Valencia said, looking surprised. "You don't think I'm going to go to all the trouble of patching up your wing and then let you starve?"

Still Lyndotia hesitated and Iggy, sensing the reason, chuckled lightly. "No one's dosing anything, either. All the food's cooked together – drugging you would drug all of us too."

Lyndotia battled with indecision as something in her mind screamed at her not to be stupid. But what choice did she have? Not eating would slow down her healing rate, not to mention weaken her even beyond that. And yeah, there was the chance they might slip something in her food… but she could only go without eating for so long, and it did smell really good…

Finally she stood very slowly, still eyeing Dr. Martinez warily. And she kept that up as she entered the kitchen, eyes flicking from the food to the others as if expecting one of them to suddenly confess that it was poisoned or yell that she couldn't have anything anyway. It wasn't until Angel sat primly at the table with her food and Iggy actually shoved a plate into Lyndotia's hands and pushed her forward that she actually moved forward again.

That being said, she was very careful not to actually eat anything until Iggy, who had fallen into line right behind her, had tasted his. Caution was the mark of someone who had been forced to learn things the hard way, Max noted from across the table. Maybe she could do this whole learning-by-observing thing after all.

The others showed up within a few minutes, probably more due to Dr. Martinez's call than to Nudge going to wake them up. There was a huge difference between the motivations of it being morning and there being hot food on the table, after all.

If Jeb noticed that Max was watching him when he came in, he didn't give it away. She wanted to ask him now, but that wouldn't be a good plan with the girl in the room. Even if the story turned out to be true, it wouldn't be a good plan to let Lyndotia know that Jeb had been a whitecoat.

… Or was there a way to bring it up without making that obvious?

"You have to have the same kind of appetite we do, don't you?" Max asked, raising an eyebrow at Lyndotia.

The other girl swallowed what she was eating and laid her fork down, making Max think that she was trying to stall, before answering slowly, "If you mean that you need several times the normal human amount of calories in a day to function properly, then yes. Not that I often get that."

"You aren't eating very much," Gazzy observed through a mouthful of pancake, blinking curiously.

"If I were smarter, I wouldn't be eating at all."

"No, if you were more paranoid, you wouldn't be eating at all," Nudge corrected her, grinning. "That just proves you are too smart to be too paranoid."

"Paranoia keeps you alive, sometimes," Lyndotia said quietly.

Seizing on the chance, Max asked quickly, "You mean at the Agency? What, did they test to see if you were smart enough to check your food before eating it or something?"

Max's brown eyes flicked to Jeb for one split second. It was long enough to see him tense then carefully hide his surprise beneath a world-class poker face. So maybe she wasn't lying. Maybe this Agency actually existed. Did that mean the rest of her story was true, too?

"Not exactly," Lyndotia replied, her eyes locked on her plate. She didn't seem to be staring at it in a ravenous way, but mostly to avoid looking at anyone else. "The whitecoats wanted me alive. It was the others who wanted to advance that I had to watch out for."

Iggy paused with his fork halfway to his mouth, remembering what she had said about Scarlets and Elitists. That was why she was so careful – because of the others who had wanted her position. He tried not to wonder if the other two she had talked about growing up with had ever tried to kill her for it.

Much to the general surprise of the table and especially to Max, it was Jeb who spoke up next. "Now, why are we interrogating the poor girl when she probably hasn't had a decent meal in who knows how long?" he asked with a fatherly sort of smile. "Everyone eat. Questions can wait until we all have full stomachs."

Gazzy grinned. "That might be a while."

Max wondered if she was the only one who could tell that the smile on Jeb's face conflicted with the tense expression in his eyes.

13. Methods of Interrogation

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own original ideas and names (including the Agency and Lyndotia) used in this fanfic.

A/N: Really sorry for disappearing… I love writing this fic but unfortunately between lack of internet and 17 credit hours plus 6 work study hours a week, I haven't had much time to do that. And finals are May 4-7! D: I'm seriously paranoid I'm going to get a C in chemistry… even though my grades aren't that much worse than they were last semester but whatever… the final is over Gen Chem I and II! That means I have to remember stuff I learned 8 months ago!

Okay, sorry; none of you care about me ranting about school. Actually, I'm not sure how many of you still care about this fic now that MAX is out… -sigh- But whatever. On with the story!


Chapter Thirteen – Methods of Interrogation

Max was sick of waiting. For three hours since breakfast, Jeb had been helping Valencia clean up, talking to the Gasman about some football team on TV – everything but going somewhere she could talk to him without Lyndotia overhearing. Finally when he volunteered to take out the trash for Dr. Martinez, Max took the chance and offered to help.

"You know," Jeb said with a short laugh as soon as they were a short distance away from the cabin, "I'm happy that you're willing to be within ten feet of me again, but I really am capable of carrying two bags of trash outside by myself."

"This Agency she keeps talking about," Max said, cutting straight to the chase. "Is it real?"

Jeb sighed. "No beating around the bush, as usual. But then again, you've always been like that." He smiled faintly for a moment, but under Max's 'get-to-the-point-already' stare, his expression turned serious again as he said quietly, "The Agency is quite real, yes."

"It… is?" Max asked with a rather shell-shocked expression. "You mean there's another lab out there making bird kids and you're just now telling us about it!?"

"Why would I tell you about a rumor?" Jeb asked with a long-suffering air of patience. "I was a scientist for Itex, Max. I know the Agency exists because one of the School's head researchers left years ago and went to them. After that, every scientist at Itex had to sign agreements that they would never share the knowledge they gained at the Institute with anyone outside of it, and the Agency was mentioned in the contract. Of course, it wasn't the legal system we had to worry about if we did, and everyone knew that, so not many chose to disregard it."

"Then you don't know anything about it either," Max said slowly.

"I know it exists. I know that Francisco Dubois went there and did something Itex considered heinous enough to send Erasers after him for it. But I didn't know they succeeded in creating recombinants. Not until that girl showed up with you."

"So why didn't you say anything then!?"

"Haven't you been listening to me, Max?" Jeb asked, sounding tired all of a sudden. "Yes, I had my suspicions that she might have come from the Agency, but there was no way of knowing that. It was entirely possible that Shelley Hughes or Brandon Ledford had started a program somewhere – they both disappeared and were hunted down by Erasers."

Max was dumbfounded. "You mean there could be other labs like the Agency and the School we don't even know about!? Why the heck haven't you asked her!? Why aren't you trying to get answers like I have been!?"

Jeb sighed. "Max, you're too direct. If you confront her and start interrogating her, she's not going to say anything. Haven't you noticed by now what's the best way to learn what she knows?"

This time she paused for a moment to think. What was he talking about? Max hadn't learned much from this girl at all except that she was extremely paranoid. When she did talk, she was extremely tense and guarded, so it was very unlikely that she would say anything she didn't mean to. Even when Angel had been listening to Lyndotia talking to Iggy…

And that was when it hit her.

"Iggy?" Max asked, and if it was possible, she looked even more confused when Jeb nodded. What did he mean? How did they learn anything more when Iggy talked to her than when the others did?

"She's less guarded with him than with the rest of you," Jeb answered, the edge of a scientist's curiosity to his voice again. "Probably thinks he's less of a threat since he's blind. Why do you think I've been hanging around the living room all day? Surely you heard what she was saying about the way the scientists at the Agency viewed the experiments, right? They actually created them for purposes, and used them for something besides test subjects –"

He stopped dead when he caught the look on Max's face and then shook his head. "You know I don't agree with creating life and keeping them in cages, Max. But don't you think we can learn from what she has to say?"

Max set her jaw and glared at the cabin. Maybe Jeb had a point, but that didn't mean she was about to admit it, or that she was going to give up trying to figure out everything this girl knew.