Of Ravens and Wolves by Yessian

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Adventure, Sci-Fi
Published:2009-02-16 09:16:34
Updated:2009-06-09 09:56:25
Packaged:2021-05-07 02:42:07
Summary:How far are you willing to go for freedom, even if such a thing does not exist? Six birds, four wolves, secrets, and the worst enemies of all: themselves.

Table of Contents

1. Prologue
2. Chapter One
3. Chapter Two
4. What If?
5. Eden
6. Too Easy?
7. Duck Season
8. Cauterization
9. Dr Angel, Love Specialist
10. Dr Nudge, Fashion Expert
11. First Appearance: E4
12. Nightmare
13. Capture the Sun
14. Fnick Is Superman
15. Good Medicine
16. Freedoms

1. Prologue

A/N: My first Maximum Ride fic. I have NO idea where this idea is going, but the more I thought about it and tried to resist the urge to be a nerd, the more I failed -___-; So, I hope you enjoy it, as I'll try to stay as true to the characters and general plot as possible, and all that good stuff. There's a book or two that I've missed out on, too, so don't be surprised if it doesn't follow along as closely as it should, I'll warn you now. But I ask you to bear with me here...this isn't easy, lol.

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride(c) nor any of its characters, plots, text, merchandise, or even a book. (Memory and library only I'm afraid, heheh.) All orginal characters that are NOT in the book are mine, and if you steal them, well...I wouldn't want to be you when I or my team finds you. All credit for the actual stories goes to James Patterson, blah blah blah, 'kay we're good.



Lab #5, Pueblo, New Mexico

"We've lost contact with the subjects approximately 63 hours ago," a whitecoat reported. "The last that we had of them was when they passed over our base in Idaho. From there, the signal faded out." She looked up at the man in charge. "That is not a good thing, Director."

"I don't need you to tell me that," he said, with the faintest warning in his voice. "They'll show up eventually. They cannot hide forever."

"But they CAN cause a lot of trouble," she protested. "Sir, I implore you - at least FIND them."

"Please be quiet, Dr. Keyes." The Director massaged his brow. "I will admit that they have carved quite a path over the past few months, but, they are still useful. We'll leave them be for a bit, and that will be that." He turned his cold stare upon her. "Now. What of the latest mutations?"

Dr. Keyes clenched her teeth angrily, but replied, "The Erasers have reached a limit. Fifteen came out of the latest by-birth and injection program, but I'm afraid only four survived it, with varying...results."

The Director raised an eyebrow at the way she said it. "How do you mean?"

Dr. Keyes folded her arms and paced. "I mean that normally for this batch, they are much stronger than they were - better flight, better transformations, enhanced abilities, not so bulky. These four each have a great ability with a great flaw. One of them, the weakest, almost didn't make it, but his brain-power is astounding. We tried a few new techniques this time around."

Both waited in the silence. Then, the Director smiled. "All right. We'll go look for the birds. I want to see an assessment of these four, and if they make it, set them in charge of the Eraser teams. They will hunt them down for us."

Dr. Keyes blinked, hesitated, then nodded. "As you wish, sir."


Back at her office, Dr. Keyes flopped down beind her desk and fumed, raking her hands through her blonde, tight hair-do. Who did he think he was? SHE was the scientist, not him! Thought he was so damned smart just because he made more money just to sit around on his bum all day! Keyes cleaned her glasses furiously with the corner of her white labcoat and massaged the bridge of her nose, vying for patience. No, she was little more than an intern here, looking for a better spot...

On the desktop was her computer, with a file pulled up on the bird-human recombinant experiments that they'd been chasing for close to a year now. She hadn't been around at the time, to see their development, to have a hand in it, and it was something that she wanted very badly. Especially...this one. The computer pulled up the third of the six mutants, the second largest. Her eyes darted over the profile and description, swallowing the information hungrily, then began to dissect the more-recent photo of him flying with the flock on the right side of the female leader.

The freak resembled a long shadow in the sky of which he soared, everything about him powerful and imposing, from the massive wingspan to the dark eyes that burned from his handsome face. Dr. Keyes leaned forward, propping her elbow on the desk and her chin on her knuckles. Yes...that one. She wanted that one.

And she would have him.

Dr. Keyes hit a 'Call' switch on the other end of the desk. "E4. The Director is requesting an assessment. Be ready to begin in two hours." And do well, so you can bring my new pet to me.

2. Chapter One

Chapter One

-Part One: Home, Sweet Home, eh-

Twenty miles outside of Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)

The Canadian Wilderness is a BIG place, and when I say BIG, I mean jaw-droppingly huge, heart-wrenchingly gorgeous. I myself had to stop on a rocky bluff to just gape at it with wonder.

Miles and miles and miles of nothing but trees. No civilization, just the mountains and the greenery. I inhaled a lungful of truly clean air and almost cried.

"Max? Gonna move sometime in the near future?" murmured Fang, but I knew he was just as stunned.

But I held up a hand. "No, not yet. I'm going to enjoy this, every bit of it."

"It's like, so, wow, you know?" said Nudge expressively, gesturing to everything around her. "The trees and the rocks and the mountains and - oh look, is that a moose? Or is that an elk? What's an elk, anyway, and how do you tell? Oh, it's gone now. But I mean, the clouds practically touch the earth, and it's just, just, so AMAZING, you know?"

"Yeah," said the Gasman, crouching to give his legs a rest, whilst Angel and Total sat on the lip of the rock, staring with silent amazement at the scenery. Iggy said, "It's so quiet."

I looked at him. "Do you approve?"

He thought about it, then nodded, a rare smirk pulling at the corner of his lip. "Yes. Absolutely."

"Approve for what? A nuclear testing site?" muttered Fang, and I nudged him in the ribs. "C'mon, mister hard-to-please. Let's find a place to setup camp."

I remember, what seems to have been so long ago, Fang saying something about living in a place just for us, where we didn't have to fight and didn't have to sleep with one eye and one wing open all the time. A sanctuary, of sorts. At the time, I hadn't had time to think about what he'd meant, what he'd been saying, about forgetting all of our troubles for that one place, but then, as I stood staring beyond the pines at this haven, a world surrounded by lakes and trees and land formations, I began to understand.

"Hey, I found a cave!" shouted Gazzy excitedly. He pointed up the rockface of another bluff, where a well-concealed jagged scar ran across it. "Can we go check it out?"

"Mmm, probably," I said, noting that it would probably start raining within the hour. "How are we doing on food?"

"Four packages of Ramen, two cans of fruit, and a bit of old fries from McDonald's last time we went," was Iggy's report.


"I know. But after so long without food...I think anything might look edible."

"As long as we don't kill anything," said Nudge, cringing. "Those poor animals..."

"Well," said Fang, "we're a few miles out from the nearest city. It would take a few hours to transport what we find here and back."

I folded my arms in thought, Gazzy and Angel playing with Total in the corner of my eye. Truthfully, I didn't want to have to kill anything either, but we might have to. The price of freedom, and all. "I vote a night on the town. Iggy, can you stay here with Gasman and Angel? Total, you too? If anything's creeping up on us in here, I'd place my bets on you guys to warn us first."

Iggy shrugged. Total said, "But I want to try my flying skills!"

Angel picked him up and snuggled him to her chest. "Don't worry, we'll fly together while they're away. You'll be the best in no time!"

Fang and I exchanged glances. "Then it's settled. Let's go check out the cave, and then the three of us can go dumpster-diving."

The cave turned out to be somewhat perfect. It had a narrow, unnoticeable entrance, but a large space inside that we could just stand up in. The floor was sandy. To make more room, we each took turns scraping out dirt over the ledge and packing the best around the entrance in case it got cold.

"Eeew, bat poop!" Nudge squealed in the dark.

The Gasman cackled.

"I know," I said, making a note to find the nearest stream when this was over. "But they're not coming back, at least. Only a little more now, though. We don't want to sleep in it."

Within the hour, we'd brought back some really springy clumps of grass and moss and soft pine boughs (which was a blessing, because the strong pine smell drowned out that of the guano stench) and piled them together to make a comfortable nest, of sorts, and Total dug a hole in the center of the packed-down dirt for a fire. "My nose," he cried pitifully.

Iggy lit it (don't ask me how), and soon me, Fang, and Nudge had our back-packs ready and were poised on the cave lip. "If anything happens, you know what to do, right?"

My troops nodded. They sure did. I ruffled Gazzy's hair and kissed my Angel on the forehead, and then we were off, soaring above the trees, headed in for Vancouver.

3. Chapter Two

Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)

Storm clouds were gathering on the horizon by the time we reached the city. They weren't the summer thunderheads that we used to see when we were running around all over the U.S. (and roughly all this year), but slatish and gray, with a chilly wind pushing them our way. We arrived at near sunset in an enormous setting of civilization, and I couldn't put my finger on what was off about it.

Nudge inhaled deeply next to me as we circled in to look for a place to land. "Ah, it smells so different, somehow. So...so..."

"Clean?" Fang put in helpfully. I raised an eyebrow. "You're right, it does. That's a first."

"And there's so many people...you know Max, I read on that computer that the first McDonald's was established in Canada. Isn't that cool? I wonder if it tastes any better."

"Or if they use worms in their meat."

Nudge looked at Fang with a horrified expression. "...You're making that up."


"McDonald's doesn't sound too bad at all," I said, trying not to roll my eyes. "There's one now."

It felt weird, setting foot here, and even weirder still because apparently, Canadians actually do something with their trash. (What am I trying to say, exactly? I wonder.) The dumpster was almost entirely clean, and I didn't want to use the last of our money right away, but it was looking like I had no choice.

"I'd like five triple-cheeseburgers, five chicken sandwiches, ten boxes of tall fries; two double-cheesburgers, no meat; three chocolate and banana shakes and four strawberry ones, six slices of that Hershey's pie, eight yogurts, and..." I glanced over my shoulder. "Is that it?"

"Don't forget the nuggets."

"Oh, right, five boxes of chicken nuggets. All to go."

"Erm, will that be all?" stammered the astounded woman behind the counter.

"Yes please," said Nudge, smiling sweetly. "Your voice is really cool. I love your accent."

"Why thank you...?"

"Yeah, we're not from around here, but I'd love to talk the way you do! I hear people here also speak French, so I'll have to learn that too, eh? Ah, wait, did I say that right? I - MUMPH!"

Thankfully, Nudge's attempts at turning Canadian were abruptly halted by me placing a hand across her mouth. I love Nudge to death. But I swear that I have dreams of ducktaping her mouth shut like a kidnapper and having a moment of peace. It rolled off her, though; she waved cheerily to the lady and we went to wait at the tables.

"Can we carry all of this back?" Fang wondered.

"I hope so." We'd have to, whether we wanted to or not; this stuff had to last, and we needed to eat. Our escape over the border was no picnic. We ended up in Canada when we passed through Texas, to throw people off our trail. Iggy had a marvelous idea: use an electro-magnetic transmitter to shut down any type of field we might be carrying around us. Granted, it would probably only work for two hours tops before it needed to be recharged (which is why he made two, my genius - and made it back into California by hitchiking.

From there, we planned to stay at Dr. Martinez's house, but it didn't seem right to stop there at the time. Probably because of all the crap going on and we just needed a break from everything that we knew and had yet to know; either way, it ended up as a route following the coast upward into British Columbia. (The guess was that all of this stuff only really happened in America and places people knew a lot about; whereas Canada is just Canada. I love it already.)

In almost thirty minutes, our orders were all there, and the lady had been extra thoughtful by giving us plastic bags to hold everything. Ignoring the strange looks from the other customers, we folded the bags down into the back-packs, paid the correct amount of money, and got out of there.

Unfortunately, it was beginning to thunder.

"I wonder what it's like to fly through a thundercloud," mused Nudge, and I suppressed a groan as the Nudge Channel began. The temperature had dropped a few degrees as we exited the city, and little, chily bits of water were sprinkling our wings. In the distance, a section of cloud flashed with soft lightning. Nudge went on. "I read online that if you're in the wrong spot, you can get hit by lightning, especially if you're wet! And it's going to rain, so I wonder if we'll get hit if we fly too close? Do you think we can outrun a lightning strike? How do birds do it? It's so rare to fly out in one..."

I gave a glance at Fang. He was staring straight ahead, a muscle twitching in his jaw. "Yeah, I wonder too," I said a utomatically.

"And the food smells so good back there, I can't believe we have to wait to get back. But I bet their hungry. I'm hungry. I could eat a cow, if I liked meat."

Nudge's chatter actually gave us something to half-focus on as we soared from the storm. I was edgy; I don't like flying in them, especially a new one like this. It brought back memories of that ridiculous hurricane that we barely made it through. But what if she was right? We could be struck by lightning...

"Agh," I said, because it had just started to really rain. "Wish they'd given us automatic windshield-wipers when they decided to give us bird genes."

"Like what's-his-name, from that one cartoon?"


"Inspector Gadget?"

I stared at him. "I didn't know you watched it."

He shrugged and held his wings steady to go into a glide. "Maybe it'll work for us, since we're getting new surprises every week. What were the words? Go-go-gadget?"

"Go-go-gadget...helicopter!" cried Nudge. She blinked. "I guess I don't come equipped."

I snerked and got ready for a dive. "How about, go-go-gadget out-of-the-rain before the food gets wet, huh? There's home."

A/N: McDonald's will be celebrating it's 42nd or 43rd birthday, I think. Now drop a review. Go, hurry, now, box at the bottom. Go-go-gadget. (And thanks for reading, lol.)

4. What If?


The rain was coming down in sheets by the time we arrived. We'd barely had time to land and shake off the water before the others practically tackled us to get to the food.

"Yeah, jackpot!" cried Gazzy, opening the bag and passing the food around. We sat in a circle around our fire to keep warm and let our clothes dry. I handed the nuggets to Angel and Total, and settled down myself for a great big triple-cheese-worm-burger. (Hey, we're supposed to be birds, right? It tastes pretty darn good after being so hungry, I'll let you know that now.)

The cave was filled with the sounds of smacking and gnawing and munching and slurping as the rain poured outside, and thunder shook our home. Iggy raised his face from a box of fries and mused, "Do you think we'll be safe from lightning in here?"

"What is it with the sudden lightning fascination lately?" I commented. Geeze, first Nudge, now him too...

Nudge gulped down her meat-lacking burgers. "You gotta admit, Max, it's possible."

Gazzy nodded. "Yeah, we could be fried or something."

"Like chicken," came Fang's extremely flat two cents.

"I don't know, and couldn't care, as long as I'm full. Now eat your worm-packed food."

Hours had gone by now, and the rain was showing no signs of stopping. I wondered if it might flood, but remembered that we were too far up off the ground to worry. The thunder rumbled and seemed to take up the world around us, reverberating in the rocks, in our chests.

I stood on the ledge as I had once done an eon ago and outstretched my arms and wings, tilting my face back to look up into nothing. The rain was cold and refreshing, and once again, it washed away the dirt, the physical and the emotional, the mental and the spiritual. My flock stood on either side of me and followed my lead, letting the elements refresh us.

This was our baptism, in a way; our rebirth into this world. Maybe like a New Year's resolution, each of us were vowing for something in this new life as the old one died and ran away with the water on our skin, planning to accomplish something else.

I made the same ones as last time: to be a better leader, and to keep us all alive. I vowed to never leave them behind, and never stop fighting to protect them.

And I vowed to live. We would always win.

Later, when everyone had packed full and settled down for the night, curled up close from the chill and space with me on sentry duty at the entrance, Fang joined me. We sat in silence for a while, staring out into the endless darkness, listening to the sounds of something new. This place was such a huge change than from what we'd known - quiet, peaceful, even. Perfect.

But I could tell that something was on his mind, so I waited. "Max?"


"...I'd been thinking it over, and...you remember what those reports said, about my mom being no older than us about now?"

I nodded my head, even if he couldn't see it. I'd been wondering off and on if this ever bothered him; of course, it had to, but Fang mentions these things about as often as the government tells you the full truth. (That's right: hardly ever.)

"What if...what if it wasn't her fault at all?"

I shook my head, feeling unusually sorry for him. This had to be an extremely sore subject. "I told you before, maybe she was just a really nice girl that just...just made a mistake. We'll probably never know." That life is behind us now.

He said nothing for a while, and all there was was the cool spray on the rocks and howling of the wind. Fang?

"What if..." he began hesitantly, and I could hear the inaudible strain that came from saying this, "what if it really wasn't her fault?"

"...What do you mean?"

"I...I've been dreaming of her lately," he confessed quietly, and I heard him shift in the darkness. "I see a girl about your age, a wonderful girl, and I just know when I look at her, when I see her - she's my mom."

My thoughts began to race. I wanted to ask all kinds of questions, but forced myself to be patient. "If you see her, what makes you think...?"

I felt chills when he spoke again. Fang's voice sounded hollow, haunted, as if this had been going on for a long time. "Because in the dream, she's running from someone. She's desperate. I can't hear her screaming, but she's terrified. And she's...she's running away from someone that I can't see." He drew in a shaky breath, and I started in alarm. "And whoever it is...catches her."

A/N: Some minor things to clear up: When I said "Texas", I meant "Idaho". My fingers got ahead of me, lol. It's impossible to get from Texas to Canada in just nder 63 hours, especially if you're the flock. Ha, my bad. I ask you to bear with me for a while, because the beginning of this story is intentionally slow - believe me, when I pick it up, you may consider nailing me to a cross for my cruelty or wishing me such ill that I sneeze at random at my console. (Either way's cool, hehe.) Reprise of The Angel Experiment. Cliff-hanger!

(And I'm not kidding; they've tested synthesized and non-beef burgers to find that we really are eating soy and worms. And dang if they ain't delicious sometimes, lmao.)

Yessi out!

5. Eden

A/N: Due to some technical difficulties, ffnet couldn't allow me to update. But, as a silver lining, I got to think a little longer about where I wanted this to go. Sorry for the wait, everybody, and thank you so much for the reviews! As to your questions...I like to draw out the suspense, so I'll say that maybe there will be some faxness and maybe Keyes is Fang's mom...but you're just gonna have to see for yourself, lol.



The rain went on for a week.

On the morning of our first day alive and free, we slept in.

I awoke with my face pressed into Fang's shoulder, bleary-eyed and sluggish. What is it about the rain that makes you want to sleep forever? And it was warm, too; Fang was warm.

I really didn't want to get up just yet.

The sky was cloudy and a lighter gray than the previous evening, with a steady drizzle pouring down around us. I could see that sky and the evergreens it topped through the slit of the entrance, and closed my eyes again. If this was my first day reborn, then I was going to enjoy it by doing something I'd always wanted to do - take, for more than five minutes, a proper morning to get up. Lord knows I hadn't had one of those in a long, long time.

And to enjoy it, with my flock, my family: Angel, curled up against my stomach with Total asleep in her arms, wedged between me and Fang; Nudge, sleeping on my legs; Iggy, with his back to mine, and Gazzy using his side for a pillow. I let my eye rove over them, and felt a sense of relief, of happiness, that I hadn't felt in a while. They were at peace, finally, or at least getting there. I hadn't seen them sleep so well since Jeb was raising us.

But no thoughts of him this morning. No thoughts of anyone but us, anything but where we were. I snuggled a little more into the rather comfortable shoulder.

No, not yet...

Sometime around mid-morning, we had to get up anyway, because Total needed to go out and was afraid to jump by himself.

"I could die," he cried mournfully, so we at the mention of bladder-relief, we all had to go and get up and find a tree. Heh, good thing, that - there were plenty.

"While you were away, we had a scout-around of our new home," Iggy was mentioning as he fed the fire. The day was chilly from all that rain, and we huddled close around it, wings open at a curve to capture and repel the heat to others in our circle.

"Yeah," said Angel, leaning forward. "We found a place full of blackberries and raspberries, growing along a stream due west!"

"And this huge pile of rocks in the east!" said Gazzy. "They had funky, thick plants growing all around 'em!"

"I sniffed out a rabbit warren out north," said Total, wiggling happily in Angel's arms. "Maybe I'll finally get some exercise around here and get to chasing a few."

"Fat chance, Total, and I do mean 'fat'."


"Ooooh, burned," giggled Nudge.

"Maybe we could all go foraging; we want to show you what and where everything we found is."

I looked sideways at Iggy. "You're really enjoying this, aren't you?" How rare for him to keep that contented look on his face.

He scoffed. "Well, yeah. This is the best place we've ever come to. There's absolutely nothing out here but us, the trees, and the animals. No one to bother us."

Nudge hugged him, and he patted her hair. Iggy, only a month older than Fang and still nearly the oldest of us all, has had to learn a whole lot of patience in a very short time (if you'd follow a normal human's lifespan; come on, he was practically ancient). He knew things that we could never know, and for all of his pain and suffering, I was glad that he was more than willing to try to settle here and get used to it with something kinda like enthusiasm.

"I vote for berry-picking and scouting," I agreed, in which everyone nodded. "We can't stay in here forever."

Gazzy jumped up and threw himself off the ledge. "Last one down is a smelly eeeeeeeeggggggg.....!"

Or the first, in his case.

In the afternoon, the rain let up for a bit, and we walked carefully around the area on the muddy grass and tangled underbrush, following our guides. I plucked a blackberry from its stem and popped it in my mouth. Not quite ripe yet, but definitely a sweet kick to it.

"Not too many, Gazzy," I said automatically, but he only looked up and grinned at me, his hands and mouth already stained purple with berry juice as he stuffed as many as he could carry into his pockets. "But they're so good!"

"Gross," said Nudge, edging away from him. I moved back too. The Gasman hooted. "Berry-power!"

Thank God, a "normal" one that time. Gazzy's...gas attacks...were lately known to double as nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Word to the wise: get the fudge out of range.

"Amazing, Gasser," commented Iggy dryly a little farther down, examining a tree with his long fingers. "It's like a combination of you, and maybe Fruit Loops this time."

Fang stopped whatever he was doing and just gave him this look from behind that for some reason made me turn and bite my lip to stop from laughing. Of course, Iggy couldn't see it, so he went on, "And let me tell you, that's actually pretty bad."

"Berry-licious," Total interjected.

Gazzy started cackling, and unfortunately, his little ability there had little to no control because of it. "I'm sorry guys," he said, laughing so hard he could barely speak, "but I think it gets worse everytime I eat one!"

"And HOW MANY have you had today?" I said, almost running in the other direction to escape before the Big One hit. "No more for this week, dang it!"

"Hey, where's Angel?" said Total. The little scottie looked this way and that. "She was here just a moment ago..."

The way our home was set was that it was a series of big gray cliffs and hills, ours being a lucky cave located too high off the ground for people to come across by accident. At the foot of this is a tangle of brambles and tall weeds, and smaller holes where the flatter, disk-like rocks jut out and make a sort of foundation.

This is where we found Angel, crawling out of one of the holes, the knees of her jeans dirty. "Guys, you won't believe what I found! Iggy, remember that we found this tunnel yesterday? I found what was on the other side! You guys have to see this!"

"Okay, sweetie," I said, glad that she was safe, the hair on my neck settling down again. Sorry if I'm a little skittish when it comes to my clan. They're all I have, after all, and it's not like they haven't been taken away from me before. I glanced at Iggy. "You found a tunnel yesterday?"

"It wasn't a tunnel at first," he said, thinking about it. "More like, just a very long space in the rocks that we dug and picked at. I guess Total and Angel's been working on it."

"Let's go see," said Nudge.

Why not?

Angel and Iggy went first, followed by Nudge, Total, me, and then Fang and Gazzy bringing up the rear. (Yeah, Gazzy was dead last this time. Whew.) The opening was so narrow at the foot of the rocks that we had to slide in on our bellies first and go a ways before we could sort of sit up and crawl properly. There was a definite air of claustrophobia, and I made a note that if ever there really was something so worth having on the other end of this tunnel, we should dig it out a bit to allow some more room to breathe. Our wings could barely make it inside.

But what the heck; I was in an adventure mood. I hung back so my face wouldn't be in Total's butt and called up in the darkness, "How far are we now?"

"Not much farther," Angel called back, and soon, I could see a pinprick of light ahead; it had already been ten minutes. Nudge complained, "What if we're not able to get out? We'll be buried alive here forever!"

"No we won't, we're almost there," Fang reassured her. There wasn't even enough space for me to turn my head to look over my shoulder to see how they were doing. "Yeah, wouldn't want to be stuck here forever with Gazzy, would you?"

Everyone broke out in a series of protests at the very thought of it. Gazzy giggled behind us.

Brilliant light blazed in, and I pulled myself the last bit of the way forward and into the open air. Rolling out of the way for our last two, I closed my eyes to let them adjust and then opened them, and I thought I might have to hold them in my hands before long if I kept staring so hard in awe.

We were standing in a grove of evenly spaced trees so tall that their tops had tangled into something very much like a shield. Light streamed through hundreds of holes between the leaves, but I imagined that from the air, no one would be able to see this. The layout was a kind of slope or depression in the side of the cliff and hill beneath it, making a large valley; and in this valley were nothing but fruit trees and berry bushes, and best of all, sunflowers.

They were towering and drooping from the rains, some of their heads more than a foot wide, but they were practically everywhere. And the place was so still. We walked into it cautiously, attempting to not break the silence, taking it all in. There were wild pear trees, apple trees...had they all just grown like this? There was even a patch to one side that smelled like sweet onions. In between the trees, we saw a herd of deer come down to bite at some of this...this garden's goodness.

"Whoa, is this like, that one place?" said Nudge specifically.

"Where?" said Total, eyes big.

"From the Bible. Eden?" she elaborated.

I looked at it differently. The way it was...people would have a hard time finding us. And it was full of food.

Angel latched onto my arm. "Oh please, Max! Say we can keep it!"

I looked to the others for approval. Nudge and Gazzy were nodding, and Total was busy sniffing and learning where all the great smells were coming from, his little tail wagging fiercely. Fang was watching Iggy with his arms crossed, and I looked too. He was just standing there, eyes closed, breathing deeply.

"Sunflowers?" he said quietly.

"Yeah, Ig."

"Then...yeah, maybe we should keep it. I like gardening."

"Angels in Eden," Fang quipped, a smile pulling at the corner of his lip. That was that, then.

"Yes," I conceded at last. "We'll keep it."

6. Too Easy?

Too Easy?

Cabela's - World's Foremost Outfitter

It had taken close to a month to get fully settled. We'd decided that the city was safe enough, and that no one would find our home while we were gone due to its ideal location, so it wouldn't be a problem to take everyone into town and start stocking up.

The first thing we'd done in the planning of where to go and how to get there was do a little research on where we were going. There was one backpack full of nothing but Survival Books, and we'd had several sessions to just sit down and read. Of course, there's only so much you can get from the different books, each saying something different sometimes on an important thing or other, so we needed to use our deductive reasoning skills and come up with our own way, and do what we could.

That's why we were in the superstore around the sporting goods, looking for suitable camping gear.

"It's Hunting Season," said the woman behind the desk. "Are you thinking of doing some of it?"

"Huh? Ah, no way," I said hastily, making usre that she saw I was closer to the archery sets and not the guns. I pointed to the equipment on the shelf. "I'm just an archer, want to get some good stuff to practice for competitions."

"I see," she said with interest. "Then what can I help you with?"

I put a hand on two different bows, one longer than the other. "Which one would be my best bet for say...more than fifty yards?"

"We need napalm."

"No, we don't."

"C'mon, please?" the Gasman pleaded, but Fang was firm. "We don't. You'll use it and probably destroy the place. Besides, I don't think they sell any here."

He and Gazzy were supposed to be looking at gardening supplies in another department. Personally, Fang had no idea where the napalm suggestion had come from, but he took it that the eight-year-old was just bored from looking at seed packages for the past twenty minutes. "Here. A book on sunflowers."

"I found fertilizer. I wonder if -"

Fang gave him a look.

Gazzy pouted. "Cow manure works wonders in both the ground and bombing, you know..."

That I do, was the wry thought, and Fang put them both in the cart.

"What a wonderful doggie!" squealed a woman behind the countertop.

"Yeah, he's useful," said Iggy, holding a patterned leash. Total was quietly seething. "I'm here to look up some information on the wildlife. Me and my family are going camping this year."

"Oh, I see," said the woman in her amazing accent. "Well I have several books here, but..." She gave him an apologetic look. "...I don't think we have any in Braille..."

"That's fine," said Iggy, who couldn't read Braille yet, anyway. "I have others to read it to me."

"Erm, can I help you?"

Nudge and Angel looked up. "Uh, yeah. Do you have anything on how to raise geese?"

So we didn't get everything we needed all on the first day. Hey, we tried. It was a gradual process, and we confirmed a lot of things that we'd heard or read about. So within the month, we had grabbed fertilizer and seeds and books and tools and set about to tending the garden, and drawing up maps of our surroundings. Sometimes we would go out in the dead of night and drag back various small trees or bushes that we found and place them here, and once, as a surprise, Fang had hauled back an entire giant rosebush from someone's backyard.

Under our constant care, the garden began to fluourish. Granted, there were tons of mistakes - we once used the wrong fertilizer, mixed up our seeds, and even killed off an entire bit of flowers that we'd worked hard to carry back - but we were learning. It was great. We'd lie around for hours sometimes, eating berries and shaking down brown, sweet pears, and sleep it off in the sage patches.

Are you getting that feeling, too? That these things don't last, that these things aren't entirely perfect? Well, go you. My paranoia-radar was going off every ten minutes. A part of me didn't believe that it was this easy, this laid-back, and maybe I was hoping for that battle-tension. Maybe I was bored and wanted things to go back to the way they were - chases, combat, life-or-death situations...

And maybe I jinxed us. Maybe that was what brought in the rest of our problems, one on top of the other.

A/N: I'm missing the action about as much as you are, Max. So, we'll give a little bit, lol. Special Thanks to Cabela's - one heck of an awesome store. Their buffalo sandwiches are a little weird, though.

7. Duck Season

Duck Season

Eighteen miles outside of Vancouver

Home was more than just our rock, more than just our garden. We decided to expand a bit, see our horizons.

As it were, this bit of exploration got us caught up in a huge migration of Canadian Geese.

"Wow, there's so many!" cried Nudge, as we passed them by on our way to Vancouver.

"Yeah," said Gazzy. "And they're all talking at once, it's like being at an airport!"

A week before, we'd met some nice people who frequented Cabela's, Laura Sunning Bird and her husband, Richard. They were a trapping family of five, two sons and a daughter, who lived a few miles away from us, next to one of the many lakes that dotted the wilderness. We'd met on accident, when I'd wanted information on the archery equipment:

"An archer, huh? Humble newcomer?"

"You could say that," I said, a little wary.

"Yeah, you look it. New archers always begin down on that end," she'd pointed out, and I saw the smaller sets immediately. I wondered if it would be a good idea to bolt and go somewhere else.

"Your arms look strong, though. My kids specialize in archery, y'know. I'd reccommend maybe a sixty-pound puller for you."

She smiled disarmingly, and I thought, Oh, she's good. She knows I'm not an archer, and that I'll probably be using this to kill things after all. But she didn't look like one of Them. She had salt and pepper hair, pulled back in a loose ponytail that probably went to her butt, and a cheerful, tan face with fine contures of bone. Her brown eyes practically sparkled out of her head. A nametag said, "Hello, My Name Is Laura".

I conceded. As I picked up the sixty-pounder, I said casually, "Your kids hunt?"

"Yep. We work the southern area for beaver and such. We're a hunting and trapping family, you see."

I was interested. "Really? Do you live in the city?"

"Goodness, no. We live on our own." She rested her chin on her work-work knuckles. "We built our house, and our kids are home-schooled."

Ah. A veritable tap for information. The bow was harder to pull back than I thought. She said, "Stand with your legs farther apart, and with the string not so close to your face, dear."

"Ah, right." My stance was, of course, horrible. After watching me for a few moments, Laura said, "Would you like some lessons? I can tell just by looking at you that you probably don't live in the city, either."

Another good guess. She doesn't LOOK like a bad guy, but still... I figured that if she did indeed live on her own, then she wouldn't have an army waiting to kill us. Not to mention, those woods were pretty thick; we could disappear in moments. And another part of me liked the idea of a risk, especially an educational one.

But that was a whole lot of pride to swallow. Especially since when I released the string, it slapped against my arm so hard that I felt as though my skin were about to peel off.

"Lessons would be... great."

"Aaah..." said Angel, doing a loop-dee-loop. I myself tilted my body slightly so I could ride a thermal a little better. Fang rode next to me, arms crossed, staring straight ahead.

It had been a while since he'd last mentioned his mother. At the time, I'd had nothing to say that could console him, but lately, he seemed to be more immersed in his own thinking. I was worried, of course, but hoping that he'd come out of it soon.

"Feels home-y," he said suddenly, and I blinked. He looked at me with that piercing gaze of his, and I shook myself into realizing that he'd just cracked a joke. "Oh, yeah. The geese. Wait a minute. You feel like a goose?"

He shrugged. "Why not? We're flying with them."

"Geese are cool!" Gazzy shouted from above us, and he dove to come up on my other side. "Just really loud!"

"Fang kinda looks like a goose," said Nudge conversationally. Total and Iggy snickered in Angel's arms. "Yeah, with his hair all blown about like that..."

Fang scowled. "I'm not even gonna go there."

(What? All of us are hygienically-challenged, folks! It happens.)

"In the meantime, does anyone else remember what it was we were supposed to pick up at the store?"


"Not on your life, kid."

"Yeah....hey! V-formation!" I cried, unable to help myself. I heard Fang groan. Nudge and Gazzy banked and rose up behind him, and Angel by me, Total wobbling unsteadily as he got used to flight. He'd come a long way in a very short time.

Now we looked like a flock of Canadian geese, heading south. Or a group of fighter jets. Either way, just like all the other birds up here with us, we didn't look so out of place. Our wings rose on the thermals, and it was like a skater riding a pipe, up, up into the open air.

Nudge and Gazzy started making honking noises. Angel took the form of half-a-goose. Total barked at a couple that came close to us. This was pretty fun.

"They say that there's a lake coming up," said Angel, looking so bizarre with a duck bill for lips and eye markings. "That way they can rest a bit and then -"

A wall hit me from below. The impact sent me tumbling through the air crazily, and I righted myself. "Iggy?" What did he do that for? It couldn't be because he was blind; the move had been too deliberate. Our formation had naturally scattered, but then, so had our neighboring geese. They were honking rapidly and moving away.

"Iggy!" Angel screamed, and our flock member in question trembled, dipped, and closed his eyes, falling at a frightening speed to earth.

8. Cauterization

A/N: Wow, three chapters in as many hours. I need a break. Whew!



"Flock, scatter!"

"But what about -?!" Gazzy protested.

"Leave him!" I said, feeling my heart tear. "Get out of range!"

"We can't - "

"I'll get him, just GO!"

Someone was shooting at us. Geese were falling out of the sky around us in a shower of disturbed feathers and cut-short cries, and we would be next if we didn't move. Bottom line was, Iggy was down, and we must look like targets, BIG targets, with all these geese.

"Fang, watch the others!"

I dove.

He was falling fast, and I tucked my wings in as far as possible to go faster. My arms reached out and scooped him from the air, but he was heavier than me, maybe by another twenty or so pounds, and my muscles strained to open my wings and catch the air. "You weigh a ton," I complained.

Iggy did not respond. His face was ghostly pale, and to my horror, there was blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. I swallowed my anger and fear and made a note to check for injuries later. I needed altitude, quick. Those trees were getting awfully close...pull up...

"GRAGH," I hissed, and we cleared the pine tops by mere feet, my wings beating as hard as they could. Hang on, Iggy, don't you die on me!


A shot grazed my face, so close that I could hear it whistling past my ear. As it were, I was angry now. I swooped low enough to place Iggy in the top of an evergreen, then used my momentum to bank back around. The bullets were the main threat. It might have been an honest mistake, I dunno, but it needed to stop, now. My flock was in danger!

My wings took me up, up, and then down. I might be killed for this.

They were outstretched to their max, and I was diving as low as I could, about to clear the trees and find my enemies by that lake...there!

"RAAAAAWRRR!" I screamed, breaking from the trees and about two feet above their heads.

"HOLY -"



Take that, you jerks!

I sailed off over the lakeshore of where they milled and cowered in confusion and chaos, and I wheeled back to the tree. That oughtta teach 'em to shoot at us again.

My flock met me there, and helped me carry him home. It was good that we were only two miles out on this rare, blue day, so it didn't take long.

"Hang in there, Ig," Fang murmured, and I felt a pang of guilt. I should have been paying more attention to where we were. Everyone had been saying it - "Hunting Season, Canadian Geese" - but did I listen? Nooooo. Did I stop to think? Noooooo. Iggy had been the only one giving it any thought, and he'd taken the bullet that was meant for me.

Sometimes, I think I don't deserve to live, with the mistakes I make. Especially ones like these, that get people killed.


"Crap" hardly says it, but that's good enough. "In here..."

We lay him down inside the cave on the springiest bits of bedding that we could find. "I need light!" I snapped, and everyone moved towards the back. Angel was staring at Iggy with wide, tearful eyes; Nudge had held on to him for most of the way over and clutched at her chest now, her powers of empathy making her feel what he felt. Total was bouncing around anxiously. "Is he gonna be okay? Is he gonna die? Is he, is he -"

"Shhh," said Fang, putting a gentle hand on Gazzy's shoulder. He was tight-lipped and shaking. That was his best friend bleeding on the floor, there.

Sometimes, I wondered if I asked too much of my family.

"Okay, Ig...wake up."

"I'm...still awake..." was the slurred response. In the bright light of day, I could see the irregular patch of red spreading across his shirt, the bullethole -

I swallowed, hard. "Umm...okay. Nudge, sweetie?"

"Y-yeah?" Nudge was recovering, but her shoulders were shaking.

"I'm going to need your help," I said briskly, leaving no room for her fears. There was no time for it.

Nudge hurried over and knelt beside me. "What is it?"

"The bullet's still jammed in there," I said, angry all over again. "It entered just below the middle of his chest...I don't know if it nicked his heart, or what." I pressed lightly with my fingers, and Iggy groaned softly. I'm so sorry. "The bone is cracked about here. Can you use your powers and...draw the bullet out?"

The worst that I presumed was that it might have ricocheted inside his rib-cage, and that it might not be as easy as just pulling it back through the hole. I ran my sleeve over the side of my face and found blood there, too, where the bullet had nearly got me. It was big enough, I was guessing. Not as large as a shotgun shell, but large enough...

"I can try." Nudge's face was set. She looked at him thoughtfully a moment, then placed on hand on Iggy's heaving chest, one hand a few inches above, then closed her eyes.

We held our breath.

Nudge's face contorted in the agony that he must be feeling, and they both bared their teeth as she began to maneuver the bullet. She was going by feel alone to tell where it was as she moved it along, and it was going very slowly. I bit my lip at the agony they must both be going through, and how terrifying it must be for Iggy, who was going on trust alone, and then Nudge, who had never done this before and was possibly killing him faster.

His breaths were coming hard now as he swallowed entire screams whole. We held him down so he didn't buck out of Nudge's hands and hurt himself. "Almost," she whispered, grinding her teeth. We watched the messy area of entry avidly as it began to move - gross, ABSOLUTELY - and then, miraculously, after nearly thirty minutes of torture, a disfigured lump heaved itself out of the hole and into the palm of Nudge's outstretched hand. Ping!

"Oh, God," Total moaned, as sickened as the rest of us.

"Yes!" she said, and Angel handed me the First Aid Kit we'd picked up a few weeks ago. That wound might need stitching, but I didn't have the tools. I had to make due with just binding the bandages on, but they leaked through in gushes. Fang had a solution.

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

I urged him to go on with it; anything was better than having Iggy bleed to death!

Fang rummaged in one of the backpacks until he found one of the hunting knives that we'd purchased a while back and asked Gazzy for his lighter. (Yes, I know: he has no business with one, but like it's ever stopped him before...) Gazzy had to try several times to start it, his fingers trembling with anxiety, until he had a broad flame. Fang held the blade' flat side over it and waited, then approached Iggy with it.

Angel and Nudge looked away. I flinched.

Iggy screamed. I pushed down on him to stop him from moving, the scent and sound of burning flesh making my eyes water. Fang moved the blade around carefully to seal the hole, despite Iggy's desperate screams, until he fell back in a dead faint, the wound neatly cauterized and steaming.

"Geeze," I choked under my breath, feeling ready to throw up. Nudge did - she got up the minute Iggy stopped moving with Total and barfed over the side of the cliff. Fang and Gazzy helped me re-do the bandages until they were good and tight, then packed up the kit and put it away. Angel dabbed at the blood from his mouth with a small towel. "He bit his lip," she explained shakily, and I nodded, not steady myself.

The worst was over, for now. The flock gathered around in a semi-circle, Gazzy the only one outside of it, holding his best friend's wrist determinedly. I had no idea the extent of his injuries. Don't you just hate that game, 'Wait and See?'

"Fang, Angel?" I said at last. "We still have to go into town today to get supplies. Nudge and I will get everyone some new clothes."

I had to make up for this somehow. The girls nodded, their eyes still wide from the experience, and Fang only blinked at me. "Gasman, Total? Can you watch Iggy?"

"Of course!"

"Wouldn't let you down."

"Great." I stood up and dusted myself off. "We'll be off, then. And everyone, watch out. This is a time for hunters, and I should have been watching for them. I'm sorry."

Like sorry's gonna help us, now. The Gasman didn't look at me, and I couldn't blame him. I grabbed an empty backpack and stepped toward the ledge. There was no such thing as moving backwards.

"Then, let's fly."

A/N: My first intense scene. Do I crap out as a write or what?

Also, introducing my Beta, DynazOwnzYou, and my other Beta, Mikey2x4, both of whom are lazy slackers that forget more than I do.

Dynaz: Hey! At least I can spell!

Mikey: And at least I can impersonate you almost as good as the Gasman can!

Me: Psh... Anywho, I apologize for any psychological pain that I might have incited in the readers...geese are so cool, and I wish I didn't have to kill a few of them off like that. (Oh, yeah.) But don't worry: there will be more later. (Psych torture, I mean. And maybe some geese, too. ALSO, questions will be answered with MORE QUESTIONS! Dum-dum-dum!


Flock 4,450,886 of c. geese, in Heaven

"Hey! The clouds up here are so much poofier!"

9. Dr Angel, Love Specialist

A/N: A round of applause to Mk2x4 (2nd Beta) for being around to post things when I'm not! w00t!

ChetCheerio: It was no problem, dear :3 You are an awesome writer; what else could I do? Lol.

Mk2x4: A rubber haddock, eh?! Take that! *beats you with a rubber slipper* That's for not signing out first! Argh!

Dogwithnonose: I promise I'll make it up to you. Really!

CloudedHorizon: Your question is about to be answered with YET ANOTHER QUESTION! (You have permission to start using the voodoo doll now, if you wish.)

Goldykat: I UPDATED! Can you believe it?! Neither can I!!

Darkmoon: No! Don't die! I'll update again with results, I will! Lol!

Belial54: Oh wow. You didn't die too, did you?!

Thank you all for reading and reviewing my story, and for your patience with me; like I said before, this is going slow on purpose, and I will definitely pick up the pace for all you rabid mutant adventure and fax fans. Also, a stroke of luck (good or bad??) that I came down with the flu, and have been spending a whole bunch of time on the chapters. Wow!

Thank you all, very much!

Vancouver, late noon

Angel and Fang had not spoken to each other since they'd landed and browsed for groceries at the supermarket.

She looked up at him. Fang's hair had grown out again ever since their adventure in New York City, falling to his shoulders, thick and black. He might have grown another inch, too. Angel had no real way of knowing, since she had to take almost two steps for every one he made. Like Max had thought before - the boy was all legs, anyway.

It made her think of Iggy, and she subconciously put her hand in Fang's.

Fang blinked - lost in thought again - and looked at her, and Angel said, "If you knew your mom, would you live with her instead of us?"

But of course. She's probably been reading my mind since my dreams began.

"...It depends. Probably not."

But? Thought Angel.

"But...I might want to live somewhere nearby, where I know I can reach her if she's in danger."

"You want to bring her with us." It wasn't a question. Fang inwardly marveled at how Angel hadn't even used her powers to come up with that one. He himself hadn't even been sure of that conclusion, and yet it fit perfectly.

He said, "Maybe."

Angel nodded, mulling this over, and he gave her hand a gentle squeeze.

"What about Max?"


"You and Max. You like her, don't you?" She said, suddenly brightening. Fang looked away quickly so she couldn't see his face burning. There was no point in lying to Angel. "Yeah. I do."

"Hehehe. Why?"

Fang allowed himself a small smile. "Why what?"

"Why do you like Max? What do you think is the best thing about her?" She giggled.


He grabbed a cart from the doorway of the supermarket and the automatic doors hissed to let them in. Why did he like her? Max's hair was an uneven, chopped up brown mess that went almost past her shoulders about now. She was constantly dirty and bloody and sweaty from all the fights they usually got into. Heck, she probably even had lice.

She was stubborn, and maybe even had brain damage. Getting through to her was like trying to perform brain surgery with a toothbrush. Possible, maybe; extremely difficult? One had no idea.

Also...she might not even like him, back.

"She's...beautiful," was all he could say to sum that up. Responsible, carrying the flock's burdens on her shoulders alone, protecting them, and never giving in to anything (not even him)...it made her into someone larger than life. That was her true beauty.

Angel grinned, and Fang, realizing that she'd probably heard every bit of that in his head, grinned back sheepishly. "Yeah, that was pretty lame, huh?"

"Only a little. And you're wrong - Max likes you, too," she said matter-of-factly, placing canned-goods in the cart. Fang raised an eyebrow. "She has a funny way of showing it."

She gave him a knowing look. "You know she does. And you know why she keeps pushing you away."

It suddenly occurred to him that he was getting relationship advice from a six-year-old. But then, on top of everything else, he supposed that wasn't too weird. And what was worse - she was right. He did know why. And he did know that Max loved him as much as he loved her.

He looked at her. "Angel. What do you think?"

"Hmmmm." Angel reached for a package of bread that was too high up. To look a little more inconspicuous, Fang helped her take it down. "Yes."


"Yes." She nodded. "She knows how you feel. She just has to come to terms with it. And besides, who better than you? And now that we're free..." Angel gazed off thoughtfully. "Yeah, it would be perfect. She'll have fewer excuses."

"Hmm." A very smart six-year-old. Fang smirked and picked her up, setting her firmly on his shoulders. "Heh. We'll see."

We'll definitely see.

10. Dr Nudge, Fashion Expert

Dr. Nudge, Fashion Expert

(Also entitled, "Fang in Furs")

Pacific Centre, Vancouver

"Wow, Max," said Nudge weakly as we browsed the downtown streets. "This place is huge."

"Yeah," I said, surprised myself. I rubbed her shoulders. The poor kid still looked a little queasy from the ordeal, and I couldn't be more proud of her. "Wanna go try on some clothes?"

The old Nudge grinned, eyes bright. "Yeah, can we?"

I took her hand. "Absolutely."

If I kept spending money at this rate, we were going to be out fast. But it was worth it. I had to make it up somehow, and what better way than this?

Nudge and I, for the rest of the day, acted like girls for once. We browsed through PC's guadiest selection of clothes, just for fun, and tried on everything that we could (without having to take major baths first, of course). She found this red jacket with these great big black and white feathers around the collar and hood and on the cuffs. It was quite positively the ugliest thing I'd ever seen, but at the time, it looked pretty dang cool. And:

"Those boots are retarded."

"Like you'd know."

"I WOULD know!"


"They've got stripes, Max!"

"I know!"


Pacific Centre houses over a hundred and forty stores, including The Gap and Banana Republic. The main one here was a place called Holt Renfrew.

Their furs. Were. Amazing.

"Are they real?" Nudge said nervously, petting one.

"I'm not sure, sweetie," I said, mesmerized by the pictures in the catalog. "They'd sure keep us warm in the winter, though."

"D'you think Fang would like them?" She said suddenly.

I frowned. "What, think he'd like women's fur coats to sport in the street?"

We both cracked up over that one. Fang, with his long, girly hair in a shapely fur coat...maybe some matching heeled boots...oh lord, the image...

"Wahahahaha! Oh my God, get him a matching purse!"

I was holding my ribs. "N-No, anything but...fwahahahaha!"

"Or a boa!"


"Can I help you ladies?" said an employee, bemused at what was up with the two of us practically rolling in the aisles. "No, we're good," I wheezed, and Nudge supported herself on a low shelf. We looked at each other, and a moment later, we were floored again.

"So?" she prodded again, later, as we began to check out some things from the Canada Goose and Theory brands.

"So what?" My ribs still hurt.

"Do you think Fang would like to see you in one of those furs?" She said slyly, checking her nails. I felt myself flush and said, "Why, you think he goes for yetis?"

"Oh come on, Max, you'd be gorgeous! Remember New York?"

Yeah, I remembered. But that was then, not now. I'd never seen myself as particularly model-material, anyway. "So what's your point?"

She groaned in exasperation, and before I could protest, she pushed me by the shoulders into the nearest mirror. "Look at you for once! Are you blind?! He's liked you for like, forever!"

"Nudge -!"

"Well he has! And you like him too! I saw you kissing!"

Okay, we needed to change the subject here -

"I don't know what you're -"

"Be quiet and stare at yourself a little longer, huh? Consider. Fang equals 'extremely hot guy'. You equal 'extremely hot girl'. And now that we've got some free time..." She looked at me expectantly, as though wanting me to finish the thought. "You can..."

I played dumb, terrified of where she was going with this. "Play dress up?"

"I'm going to smack you."

"Look, we can't be together!"

"Why not?" she demanded, grinning. "You're perfect together! Like siblings, almost!"

"That's the problem! We're siblings! It would...it would just be really weird!"

Why didn't I do this? I did love Fang. What was I thinking?

"The foreign air has got to your head," I grumbled, but she wasn't letting me off that easy. She held up a suicidally-cool shirt threateningly and said, "Max, I swear to whatever merciful deity there is that if you don't do something about this, start living for you for once, then I'm going to make you."

"But -"

"No buts!" She stomped her foot and shoved me into the dressing room amid the stares of other shoppers. "Get in there! We're gonna stay until we make you sexy!"

"But that's impossible!"

"Hah, I know!"

But this was kind of fun. And she had a point, we did have a lot of free time now...I turned my back to the curtain and actually glanced in the mirror. My hair would need chopping again. I might need a good scrubbing, too. I'd need a lot of things to start looking how I'd always wanted to look, if for ten minutes. We were still kids; what was wrong with playing a little pretend? And yet, I was older now, too, I could see it in my eyes. They looked to hold more age than a normal teenager's.

I sighed, and allowed myself a playful smirk. Fine. I'd try living for myself for a bit. The opportunity was too good to pass up. And Fang...maybe. That was a ton of work in itself. We'd have to see.

We'll certainly have to see.

A/N: As you can see, the girls know best; maybe it's because they're younger that they can see through both Fang and Max's pig-headedness, lol. Will Fang find a way to gain Max's affections? Will Max ever get to be somewhat like a normal girl and accept her love for Fang? Will this turn into an extremely mushy story?

I'll only answer that last question there: absolutely not. I don't know how to write mush, and am not even gonna try - and I don't think Max and Fang would approve, anyway, what with their fast-paced, dangerous lives, lol. In the future...who knows. Maybe. We'll just have to see.

*bows before Dogwithnonose* Thank goodness; whew! Writing scenes like these make me so nervous...lol.

Stay tuned everyone, and thank you all for reading and reviewing!

--Yessi and Beta Crew

11. First Appearance: E4

A/N: Okay - the setting is set, our main characters are recognized, and the plot is slowly moving. Here is our introduction (sort of) of the flock's new enemies, the Elite Four.

And I might add that this story may go up in rating because of the intensity of the violence, and some natural/real things that just cannot be ignored (like what true camping's all about! Bring on the ticks! :D ).

Belial54: You make my day. Really. You do.

AlabasterThreads: I'm sorry about that, but it's really only the beginning...like I said, the battles will get messier, and our heroes will get stronger with each to make up. I'll try not to write anything that'll make people barf on their keyboard, though, lol. And hooray, I'm better now!

Also, NOTICE: I KNOW that people have a thing about oc, which is why I only put in a handful at a time; I ask you to give them a chance, because this is not about them, it's about Max and the gang (as usual). I had to think long and hard about good antagonists that were well to character and well to motive, and I think I've finally done it. So I hope you come to enjoy them and the way they push the story along!

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride (although it would be nice to own at least a book for more accurate writin'), only E4, Dr. Keyes, this Director, and a few others that did not appear in the book. Itex, the flock, and the Erasers belong to James Patterson, and their awesome art design to Narae Lee (I encourage you to read the graphic novel if you have not already). The geese are Canadian, I believe, as is the Pacific Centre.

First Appearance: The Elite Four (E4)

Lab #5, Pueblo, New Mexico: SIMS Room, midnight

Dr. Keyes had her arms crossed again, severe expression in place, but she could not deny that her new search dogs were...fascinating.

The three of them sat in the SIMS room, awaiting orders, and as she watched behind the glass with the Director, she noticed how odd that was. Just sitting, staring off into space, but with a way that was...dignified, disciplined.

But not soldier-like. Each one sat in a circle facing out, each as human and normal looking as anyone save for their issued uniforms - two males, one female. There was a way about them that made them more than just soldiers, an intelligence that dully burned behind their half-mast, human eyes. They were a type of perfection.


The Director was smirking. "They passed each of their assessments flawlessly. Their self-control would be something almost human."

No shit, thought Keyes, still reeling from their performance, but then the Director frowned. "Speaking of humans, where is the fourth? Shouldn't he be out here?"

Keyes took a breath. "His assessment had to be a little different, but I can tell you that he too passed as flawlessly."

"How different?" He demanded.

"Well...Number Four's body is physically incapable of handling the stress and damage as the other three. He's even weaker than the average human when it comes to that."

"Then why is he on this force?" was the low hiss. Keyes did her level best not to glare at him. "Because his mental ability is astounding. Number Four actually manages most of the Itex Data Network, and has consulted with us countless times on battle formations, complex mathematical problems, locations - even designed some of our best equipment. He even designed this Simulations' Room," she said, peering through the glass.

The three did not move. They remained, patient.

The Director was quiet for a time, realizing at last of whom she was talking about. "But I thought that was a computer."

"No, it's all him. Should I set them out on the trail?" said Keyes, skillfully changing the subject. The Director's expression remained uncertain, but he said, "Yes. We'll go in person, and deliver the assignment."

It was a somehow frightening thing to be doing, standing in front of these three Erasers (she'd almost called them humans). Dr. Keyes had seen first-hand their abilities, and as she stood before them, she knew that she really had no idea of the true extent of their powers. They gave off an aura of...of a computer on standby. Perfectly harmless, perfectly not. She shivered when they each turned as one to look at them.

The door slid open, and a bulky, if sleekly-designed, hover-chair hummed out and floated by. Keyes's heart skipped a beat when they all stood up at the same time, such a simple move, and made a space. The hover-chair's occupant was covered by a light gray sheet; only part of his face and the tips of a few fingers, and part of his legs, were visible.

The Director addressed them. "You're having data uploaded to your sets on the latest target. You four are special. We are going to try something new: find the targets and observe how they live. Instead of bringing them back here or killing them, I want you to simply harrass them to their limits."

The four said nothing. If the Director was expecting and answer, he was going to have to wait for a very long time. Twitching, he continued, "The objective is to force their evolution. We want to see how far they can take this rugged battery, and if, in the end, they prove successful and worthy as true fighters, you may bring them back here. But if they do not..."

He looked each one (except for Number Four) squarely in the eye. "...Erase them."

Dr. Keyes, with shaking hands, passed out four keycards. She was sorely tempted to bow and leave them at their feet, but held herself in check. It was almost disturbing at the gentle way they took each one, slowly, fluidly, in no hurry. She made sure that she hurried and backed away quickly.

"You will find your supplies in the Locker 34A-A," she said, not meeting their eyes. "Study the information in your sets well. The data is a compilation of all fourteen years of these targets that we could find. Then, you have your choice of the supplies you will take and the best way that you think you can complete this mission."

She almost missed their response. It was a slow blink of confirmation.

The E4 stared at her, then shifted their gaze to the Director, and left. No, stalked out. Keyes breathed again. She hoped that they would not damage her favorite bird when they returned.

A/N: Still there? Great! For suspenseful plot-developing purposes only, we'll leave them there and get back to the flock (for now). Thank you, all of those that read and reviewed and waited so patiently for my next update; and for all of you who are new, please R&R. Those others of you who are new that read and don't leave one - you know who you are - please drop one anyway! Reviews are my fuel, my donuts.

Stay tuned!


12. Nightmare

A/N: Finally, an update!

ChetCheerio: I'll take your word for it then, love ^^. I'll try to keep it at T for now, then.

Dogwithnonose: I've got plenty to go around :3

Belial54: oc's are a lot harder to write than I thought; as far as Sues go, I'm certainly doing my best, hehe.

Thank you everyone, for reading and reviewing!


He knew this room.

This was the room where he had peeked in and seen another experiment with wings, a friend, waiting on the table. At first he had thought that he was asleep; in still looking mostly-human, his eyes were closed, and countless wires attached to his skin. The lights had been off then. There were only the spots and flickering coming from the machines that hummed and whirred, surrounding them in the shadows of the walls.

Iggy remembered looking at him sideways, asking why he was up there in the first place. His friend had not responded.

There was a nice doctor that he'd known since he was old enough to walk. Said his name was Jeb. In the play room, months after his encounter with his friend, Iggy had been playing with a cute kid that Jeb said was his son. He wasn't one for toys, but Ari was fun to play with. Three years old, strangely cute, and following him and the other winged-hybrids around with something close to idol-worship in his eyes...Iggy couldn't say no.

They had been playing with letter blocks, the ones with a different color or number on each face. Iggy had been spelling Ari's name, and then Jeb's. He remembered each color: J was purple. E was yellow. B was blue.

So blue. He'd stared at it for a long time.

And then he'd felt their hands on his shoulders, on his arms, lifting him up and ushering him out of the room. He'd glanced back and seen Ari's confused face from behind the glass as the doors slid shut.

That was the last time he'd ever seen him.

The corridors were pale green and gray, empty, long, eternal. What did they want? Iggy had become used to being randomly taken away, so had nothing in his mind to fight against them - it was just the way of things here. It was the way things were. Only when Jeb spoke of greater things in his stories did he ever feel the stirring in his chest to try that life, to imagine it.

But this was all there was.

This familiar room was all there was.

But the lights were blinding.

He could see everything now, and when he did...he immediately wished he couldn't.

He saw his fate, clear as day; saw the certainty in every shining steel object, every intention in the diagrams and pictures on the wall. He knew. He knew as they were forcing him on the table - only now did he begin to resist - and strapping him down.

And there was nothing he could do about it.

Iggy awoke with a jolt, gasping. He was on fire, every inch of him beneath his skin burning, smouldering with fever. The intake of air was sharp, painful, and there was a terrible weight on his chest. It was the same nightmare as always, always the collection of memories that came to haunt him with their vivid colors and outlines.

But always when he awoke, drenched in sweat, it was as if he never had. There were always the lingering seconds where he believed that he was still trapped in the sightless, airless hell of the dream, somewhere unknown, vulnerable to everything, afraid of the darkness.

After Jeb had ran away with them, he was the one that was always there to help him through it. He was the one that was always there to shake him back to his senses, tell him that everyone was still there, that everything was going to be all right.

Iggy, against himself, missed him. Especially now.

And when Jeb left, it was really only Fang had known and made any attempt to help him. The friend on the table. They didn't have names then.

Fang...where was Fang? Where was everyone? He couldn't hear their breathing, couldn't smell them. A little wary, Iggy tried to sit up, and clenched his teeth as a spasm of pain racked him. Bad move...There was nothing for it, then. He forced himself to relax, his sightless eyes staring up at the rock ceiling.

They were wiring him up, just like his friend. Wiring and approaching him with a mask, were forcing the mask onto his face, no matter how he struggled and fought. It was on, and the more he resisted, the more tired he seemed to become. The electrocardiogram beeped as his pulse slowed.

Why were his eyelids so heavy? He'd been just fine a moment ago. Why was he so sleepy now? If he went to sleep...

If he went to sleep...

The lights above him began to fade, as did the doctors that looked down upon him with only their eyes visible between their caps and masks. The last thing he saw was that light, that sparkle in their eyes, the gleaming tools that they were lowering towards his face...

They were smiling as they worked, behind their masks.

They were smiling.

Iggy closed his eyes, but it had no effect in blocking out the memories. It was like a film waiting to start, every time, all the time. There was no escaping it.

He had to get over this by himself, somehow. He just had to. Jeb wasn't here anymore, and Fang could be there all the time. He couldn't tell Max - she'd probably just think he were even more of a liability. Like I am now...

The geese were en masse as they flew alongside them, honking at each other for fun and imitating their wing movements to ride the thermals like waves. Iggy was in the middle of memorizing a particularly pleasant current of air when he beheld a thought, just a random thought that poked at his brain. Beware, it might have said. Pay attention. But beware of what?

And then he'd heard them. Poachers, gathered at the lake-side. He knew very well the sound of a preparing gun, and knew what they would go for - the largest target.

Since he was higher and further to the side than Max, it might be her; but also, if he stopped her progress, then the rest should follow their leader. There was no time to give a verbal warning - maybe he could knock her out of the way. Iggy braked and dipped, then shot upwards so fast that he nearly met the bullet. His body was then frighteningly numb and weightless in the next instant, and he felt so hazy...

...So cold...

"Iggy?" someone said quietly.

Gasman. Iggy managed to twitch his fingers feebly in reply. I'm still here.

Like after he'd woken up from surgery, alone and in the dark, as his friend had been.

He was still there.

13. Capture the Sun

A/N: Thanks for the plot help and the magnificent ideas, Beta-team!

Capture the Sun

The Gasman was impatient, but he knew that he had to be, for Iggy's sake. Reluctant to leave his best friend's side for longer than he had to, he forced himself to sit down and do something to help him wait.

There were plenty of books. The flock had collected their own personal library to look for references of what could and could not be eaten, wildlife, and the like. Plants. That gave him an idea.

There wasn't enough light back there to read, so he carefully fished for Iggy's penlight from his pocket and pulled a few over to him. Medicinal Plants and Herbs. Surviving in the Green. This might actually help. At the start of the month, Max had treated a bad scrape out of these books.

Iggy was breathing, but he wasn't stirring. Gazzy would stare hard, determined to make sure that his chest kept rising and falling, but unsure of what to do if it suddenly did not. He still looked very pale, and was feverish.

That would be the first thing to take care of. Iggy needed surgery, something that Gazzy couldn't give; but he could at least try. He scanned the pages carefully, then put the book down and dashed outside to find his materials.

Max would be so proud of him, too. Max...he knew it wasn't really her fault - those hunters were just a bunch of jerks - but when he'd helped to carry Iggy, still had, in fact, dried flakes of his blood on his jeans and hands, and had sat through with him when they were removing the bullet...he could not help but look for someone to blame. He hadn't looked at Max when she'd left because he'd been sickened by his reasoning and couldn't bring himself to.

Now, let's see...according to the book, yarrow was good for nearly everything - flu, nosebleeds, blood-clotting. Gazzy thought back to when Max had showed up with an armful of them from the Sunning Bird family at the Supplies Store. It looked like a long, thin stalk with a fan of white flowers at the top. Iggy had planted it himself in the garden when Max had told them that it would be good to have around, to keep away the pests and help the other things grow.

He aimed for a spot in the trees and dropped through it. Yes, he would have rather gone through the tunnel instead (much expanded now), but it was no fun by himself. And besides, this way relieved stress. Flying always did.

Gazzy tumbled into the garden amidst a shower of prickly acorns and leaves and was immediately up, looking around. "Yarrow," he murmured, frowning in concentration, his white hair sticking up from the rough landing. The Gasman's wings twitched irritably. "Where'd we put it...?"

A-ha. There was a whole small hummock of them, all brownish-looking now because of the seasonal change. How many would he need? Gazzy chewed his lip anxiously. Both Iggy and Max were strict about taking huge clumps out of here that they didn't need. Making up his mind, he plucked only three full stalks out of many more, and, satisfied, wound them together and stuck them in his belt-loop.

What else might he need? Motherwort, comfrey, rosehips...Darn it. He'd have to go and check the book again. The thought of why he hadn't brought it with him didn't cross his mind as he dashed back with his collection, but not before swiping a fallen sunflower on the way.

He landed as quietly as he could. To his sensitive avian ears, Iggy's breathing was faster than it should be. Was he awake? Was he getting worse?

"Iggy?" he said, leaning forward anxiously on his knees.

There, he was awake - he saw his fingers move! Heart leaping into his throat, he scooted closer and said, "I-I brought back a bunch of stuff for you. I don't really know how to use it, but...but I got you this, too."

Carefully, he slid the large, soft sunflower under Iggy's hand and put the yarrow down out of the way, for later. Iggy petted the smooth petals and bristling center, and his eyes drifted open to slits. "...Gasser..." he mumbled.

"H-how do you feel? How bad does it hurt? The others went to get some stuff, but they'll be back, don't worry," Gazzy blurted out, both relieved and frightened to hear him speak. His voice sounded so hoarse. Maybe he should get him water. But was he damaged too much inside to be able to take it?

Iggy tried to turn his head and grimaced. Did it hurt? What a dumb question! "...Only...a lot."

The sunflower felt nice. It was warm from the sunlight it had gotten, firm in flesh around the unedible husk; the whole thing was nearly a foot across. The center was surprisingly softer than he'd thought it might be, but still a lot like petting a rough-furred dog of some sort; the petals were yellow, no, gold - he felt gold - and he imagined that there could be nothing better. Iggy drew it closer, feeling the textures, the colors.

The Gasman pulled himself into a sitting position, but his wings drooped. Wordlessly, he began adjusting the moss, grass, and pine boughs that made up their beds under his best friend, to make sure that he'd at least be a little more comfortable. He glanced at his face, and though Iggy's brow was still furrowed only slightly in pain, the rest of him looked serene, resigned to waiting to heal. His eyelids were drooping, too.

"Thank you," was the scratchy whisper.

Gazzy nodded furiously, despite the fact that he couldn't see it. "You...you should get some more sleep, okay?"

The faintest note of fear. "...I don't want to..."


He couldn't keep his eyes open for much longer, anyway. It was as though all of the energy had been sapped from his body, even the strength to lift his eyelids. Stroking the sunflower for reassurance, he obliged him by closing his eyes and falling into sleep once more, even though he knew what awaited him when he did. Gazzy, who only knew so much about it, lay down beside him, determined to watch him some more, to protect him.

But he'd been doing that all day...soon, both of them were asleep.

Iggy awoke to see sunlight.

He was seeing sunlight.

In fact, he was staring up at a cloudless, gorgeous blue sky that stretched across a vast desert wasteland, the sun dazzling directly above him. Blinking, he threw an arm across his eyes and sat up, shaking his head to clear the spots.

It was a desert. He'd seen this in Colorado, in California. Everything was in shades of brown and red and gold and pale mixtures. Iggy knew he was dreaming, but all of this...he swept his fingers in the grainy dirt and sand around him and stared at everything, even the stunted plantlife, in wonder. It seemed so real.

A prickling on the back of his neck compelled him to turn around, and on a rock at exactly head-height, perched a golden eagle.

No, a huge golden eagle. Iggy felt his jaw drop at its size. The plumage was dark brown with a stunning golden wash over the head and neck, and some in the massive, folded wings; and its eyes were large, yellow, and piercing. They held the very sun, glowing with an earthly light around a pupil so dark that he felt he might fall into it.

The eagly stared hard at him, didn't move. Its enormous black talons looked beyond lethal. Iggy froze in place, somehow getting the feeling that it was waiting for something, that it had come down just to see him, study him, learn him; know him.

"What..." His voice was quieter than he knew how to explain. Did he think the bird would kill him if he spoke louder? But it seemed right this way. "Why are you...who are you...?"

The eagle said nothing.

Instead, it studied him a moment longer, drawing him in to its fierce, burning eyes. Iggy couldn't look away. There was a peace there, a knowing, a power surging behind those eyes that he wanted to understand, to touch. The eagle had captured him, was luring him in to feelings he did not understand, images and memories that were not his own.

"Do you wish to fly with me?"

Eagle was using his mouth. His mouth to speak. The gaze never wavered.

Iggy did. He didn't know why, but he wanted to, badly.

"Where are your wings?"

Now that he thought about it, his back did feel a lot lighter. Afraid to look away or even move, Iggy tried to move his feathers, but found that it had been locked off. Those nerves were no longer there. His wings were gone! He looked upon Eagle now in a pleading way, silently asking for help.

"If you want to fly..."

Eagle stooped and expanded his wings. Iggy stared in awe - the wingspan was easily longer than he was tall. The giant raptor beat its wings and rose up, up into the endless sky, towards the sun, where it wheeled and soared on the rising thermals. He knew it was crazy, but it kind of reminded him of Fang.

Iggy found himself running after it. He felt fine, felt energized, even, but weighted down and slow. "Wait!" he called, breath coming hard, the breathing that came from using only a pair of weaker lungs. "I want to go with you!"

"If you want to fly..."

The sun, the sky, the plants, the desert - all of it - vanished into sudden nothingness. Iggy was caught in the darkness between sleep and awake, confused and alone. But he felt Eagle move his mouth to say, "...You must first become lighter."

When he awoke, Iggy did not remember the dream, but the words lingered. "You must become lighter."

And he had no idea how he knew, did not know what it was, but he did: he had a new ability.

A/N: ooooh....foreshadowing...and new skizillz...

*Is beaned in the head by exasperated readers*

...Or something like that. This will actually be something like a theme (hopefully), so keep reading, and thank you for doing that and leaving reviews!

14. Fnick Is Superman

A/N: One day I'll treat you all to a real fight scene, I promise. I'm just a very tired person right now -__-;

Fnick Is Superman

Vancouver, evening

Fang and Angel exited the grocery store to pick up Total (since he had to stay outside, which he did, fuming silently the entire time) and find Max and Nudge.

The sun was setting faster, and the climate was much chillier than back in the States; Angel, sitting on Fang's shoulders, pulled her jacket around herself a little tighter. "It's cold," she said.

"Hn." Fang gave no sign that he was feeling it, although she knew that he probably could, too. "We'll go find the girls and head on home, where we can warm up."

They passed people and magnificently crafted buildings, and several structures that looked like churches, and vaguely, he wondered why the chill didn't seem to be affection them.

"Guess it's cause they lived here longer," he heard her murmur from the jacket's padding.

"I'd hate to see a real winter, then," grumbled Total, keeping his wings flat to his body to prevent the cold from coming in and to not stick out too much - his wings were getting bigger by the day, and thankfully they were the same color as his body, so they blended well to his fur and passerby sort of skipped over them when they were in a hurry.

"It's getting dark quick, too."

Fang gave him a look that said, "You think?"

"Let GO of me!"


Fang slowed down, tensed for trouble. Angel whispered, "Look over there!"

In passing down some of the back streets, where there would be scarcer crowds of people (because years of experience had taught them to be paranoid about these things) and hopefully a place with none to take off and fly, they'd run into a section that seemed to be nothing but bars and pubs and stops.

There was a woman there surrounded by men at least two heads taller than she was, having it out and screeching like a furious demon. The men were angry - one because she was making all that noise, and two because they were getting their butts handed to them, and began to get brutal. One of them had pushed her into a stack of trashcans, and another landed a punch to her gut.

The woman hauled herself up and decked the first, viciously head-butted the other. But she was still hopelessly outnumbered.

"We've got to help," said Angel firmly, her mind made up, but Fang hesitated. They didn't want to get into trouble just yet, not just after they'd arrived. But watching such an unfair fight, as they held her down and proceeded to beat the ever-loving crap out of her...

He started thinking that maybe in recieving some of Max's blood and side-effects, maybe he'd gotten her innate, annoying sense of chivalry as well.

Grinding his teeth, he lifted Angel from his back and onto the ground, where she picked up Total and hugged him fondly, then darted over to the fray.

There were people surrounding the fight, and not a one seemed to be on this girl's side. They threw obscenities and insults almost as heavily as they were throwing their cigarette butts and cans. "Beat her ass! Show her what happens when she pulls stupid crap like this!"

They'd managed to pin her down onto her knees. One of the men held her head in place by her hair and aimed to land a solid kick to it.

Drawing back his leg was as far as he got. Fang attempted the paceful approach first by laying a hand on his arm. (How out of character, he thought.) "That's not very nice," he said quietly.

The man snarled at him. "Go to hell, boy."

"Eight guys on one little girl? Where's the honor in that?" Credit to Fang for at least trying.

Another man spat. "That ain't no girl. That's a high-skirted, drunken, pot-smokin' prostitute that ain't got the sense to keep her pants on in the daytime and take 'em off when we tell 'er too!"

Fang narrowed his eyes dangerously.

"An' who are you, anyway?" He said, rounding on him suddenly with a heavy fist. "Another one of her 'customers'?"

Eight of them against one Fang. You had to feel sorry for them.

The avian only had time enough for an irritated eye-twitch before he'd dodged the swing and caught it gingerly between his thumb and two fingers on its way by.


"AAaaaarrgghhh! My arm! You broke my ****in' arm!" was the scream. The man collapsed, cradling it.

Fang tossed a few strands of hair from his eyes in the way that made his countless fan-girls swoon, and aimed his cold gaze at the rest of them. "Anyone else?"

But of course they did. They'd already been beaten one-on-one each by a supposed prostitute; they weren't going to lose to a kid...!

"That was so cool," Total was saying later, curled up in Angel's arms.

Angel looked pleased.

Fang did a mental eyeroll and focused on helping the girl to her feet. Around them lay the scattered and still-twitching opponents, hardly recognizable under the bruises and scrapes. And what was funny - they'd done most of that themselves. Fang was just there to help. And boy, had he enjoyed it.

The crowd was either dragging them away or dispersing, and Fang knelt down to the woman and said, "Are you all right, ma'am?"

They shold have been gone by now, too, but he had to see if she was all right. No idea why.

The young woman looked up.

Her skin was darker, tanned perhaps, and her body itself was skinny and malnourished. Her hands and arms were criss-crossed with cuts and callouses from hard work and fighting, and her skin was splotched in dark colors from bruises. One eye was black and already closing, and the other was brown. Her cheekbones were but ridges under the taught skin. Her hair had been in a ponytail, but now it was hanging free in her face and over her shoulders, black and possessing a natural sheen that he'd never seen before. He figured that she might have Native American origin.

She had been pretty in another life, very much so. Spitting blood from a busted lip, she mumbled, "I'm fine." She did not meet his eyes.

"You can't go back inside," said Angel, standing next to her. "They'd kill you or throw you out again."

The girl blinked and looked at her. Her gaze became puzzled. Curiously, she looked between the three. "Who are you?"

Fang turned abruptly. Time to go.

"Please, wait."

Angel looked up at him hopefully. Total panted in what he might have thought was an endearing way, although Fang could tell he was dying to place a complaint about the booze smell all over her, and her state of dress. The woman was at least half-drunk.

But he waited.

Staggering to her feet and clutching a twisted arm, she said, "Thank you."

Okay...could he leave now?

"And also...why would you do this for me? Are you new here or something?"

Fang only just noticed that she didn't have much of an accent (unless you counted the drunk slurring). He shrugged. "Would you rather I'd have just walked by?"

"...In some ways, yes."

He looked at her over his shoulder. Did she even have a place to stay?

Angel said, "Don't you have a home?"

"Yeah, right. Guess I'll go check in at the shelter...if they'll have me back," was the tired grumble, and she stumbled off past them and into the night.

A shelter for the homeless and underage?

"Always makes us feel lucky when someone has it worse than us, huh?" Total commented, and Fang had half a mind to say "'We?'"

They couldn't take her back with them - that wasn't even within the question. But she looked so familiar, or rather, felt so familiar, that he didn't want to take the chance of her getting jumped again, this time without him to help.

We can't leave her here, Angel thought to him, and he didn't know how to answer her.

We can't escort her either. Iggy and Gazzy are waiting for us, he reasoned. And Nudge and Max will be expecting us soon.

It was tough.

"How far is the shelter?" he asked.

She twirled a strand of stringy, blood-flecked hair around her finger. "Not sure of the street, but go down this way, take a left, a right, a left, and go straight until you see it. Not even a half mile."


"I wish we could escort you, but we're expected elsewhere," he said graciously. She tilted her head to the side. "You got a name?"

He had one ready. "Jack."

A snort.

He raised an eyebrow.

"Nothing. Just...for the past few guys, all of their names were either 'Jack' or 'Jason' or 'Bill'."

Huh, he thought with mild surprise. She knew that was a fake name.

But she tossed her hair out of her face with whatever dignity she had left. "Everyone knows me as Enya."

"Like the singer?" Angel piped.

Enya laughed, startled. "Yeah, I guess so. Ironic, huh?"

Total whoofed.


"Well, catch ya later," she said, and melted into the darkness. Fang jerked his head in the other direction, motioning for her and Total to come along. They'd watch for her, and maybe pass by to see how she was later.

But why did he care so much lately? Had this been a few months ago, he would have just walked on by without sparing a glance. Their lives were more important than a drunk's.

"She seems really familiar, doesn't she?" said Angel, hearing his thoughts. "It's not just you. It's like I've seen her somewhere before. And she was thinking the same thing about you."

"She smells like the bottom of a trash pail," Total complained. "Hope she gets a bath soon. And I would'a joined in to your brawl, but someone had to look after Angel."

Fang suppressed a snerk. "Let's just find Max," he said.

Still...the problem of Enya disturbed him...

15. Good Medicine

A/N: Four chapters at once, that's a record so far. Wow. Things have been hectic lately, but I've finally found time to post another chapter. Guess I've made everyone wait long enough, so here you go!

Good Medicine

"Gwah, I'm pooped," Nudge said happily in the middle of a yawn, stretching her arms above her head.

"I know," I agreed, rolling my shoulders. "Shopping takes a lot out of a girl."

We made our way out of the more populated areas, looking for a quick place to get something to snack on for fuel on the way home, our bags of clothes in tow. Nudge had absolutely refused to take anything that looked any less girly in the winter-wear section, and after much arguing, hair-pulling, and Max-fashion-bashing, we agreed on only three outfits each for "attractive wear".

The rest was heavy-duty, USEFUL clothing from Cabella's.

"I wonder if Fang and Angel and Total are done yet. Should we get them something to eat, too?"

"We're a little low on money," I said, thumbing through the collection in my wallet as we approached McDonald's. "It won't be a lot..."

Someone bumped into us. "S'cuse me!"

I might have yelled, "Hey, watch it!" But because I've matured quite a bit since this whole running-away mess began, I just shook my head. The kid was gone, anyway.

And so was my wallet.

And there he went, pumping his legs as fast as he could down the sidewalk. My left eye twitched.

"Nudge? Please hold these." I crouched down in classic sprinting position, no sympathy in my brain.

Nudge took the bags and shook her head, feeling a little. For the kid, I mean.

He didn't stand a cookie's chance on a plate.

"Ow-ow-ow, I'm sorry I'm sorry!"

"What's this? Money other than my own?"

Two more wallets fell to the ground beside mine. I dropped the kid from the hold on his ankles and kept my foot on the back of his neck to make sure he didn't go anywhere, then checked my own wallet. All the money still there, good. I checked the other two, both full.

Here's where we have a good-citizen clash:

I, Maximum Ride, am supposed to be saving the world. (Mainly America.) I am supposed to be a superhero in the world's eyes, supposed to be a clean and cooperative minor in the government's eyes, and something like your role model, to you dear readers' eyes.

Unfortunately, I am still an "underage", homeless, paranoid, constantly-hunted mutant bird-kid trying to feed several people and keep them alive at the same time, so in a choice between people I didn't know who were probably not missing this ton of cash and my ever-hungry favorite six-year-old (for example), I took the latter.

I stuffed the cash into my wallet and pelted the kid with the other two. "You should learn how to do it properly sometime, moron."

"Please, I'm sorry!"

"Shut up and go home!" I aimed a kick to his backside, and he started up, howling piteously as he ran away. Dipstick, what was he thinking?

I know, I know. Mean Max and all. But hey, survival of the fittest. (Even if that really wasn't even a fair match-up.)

I met up with Nudge and we came out of McDonald's with food, having eaten (inhaled) some of it inside.

Lo and behold if I didn't find the same kid waiting outside for me, close to twenty minutes later.

I raised an eyebrow, hoping he had a good excuse for coming back.

The kid, freckle-faced and short, lowered his eyes and mumbled, "...Sorry."

"No biggie." Now get lost.

"What'd you do that for, anyway?" Nudge wondered.

He shook his head. "It's my job."

A-ha. "So what do you want?" I said warily, muscles tensing in case any of his buddies were hanging around.

"N-nothing. Just to say sorry." He ran off.

"Okay..." said Nudge.

"Hey, you two!"

I spun around, then relaxed as Laura Sunning Bird jogged over. "How've you been?"

"Pretty good," I lied, although talking to her was a lot less awkward. Laura was one of those people that was really young (thirties), but really old at the same time. She'd seen it all (even mutants, but she didn't know it yet and hopefully never would), and didn't judge people that she didn't know.

I looked behind her and saw her kids and husband climbing into their truck across the street. "And you?"

"Psh. Trying to get poachers off our property," she said, with the tone of a losing battle. "We're in town for groceries right now, and I haven't seen you for a bit. Still interested in taking lessons, I hope?"

We'd been going a week after she'd offered, on the weekends. I don't wanna brag or nothin', but soon I might be as good as the Goddess Diana. If I could stand killing things. Because we couldn't bring everyone over at once, for security purposes, just me, Nudge, and Fang would go, and then bring back what we learned to the kids. Gazzy's getting pretty dangerous with a bow and arrow, already, and don't ask me how Iggy always knows - he's had yet to miss a target.

And I'd forgotten that we'd missed the previous weekend. I grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, of course, we just got caught up in a bunch of stuff."

It was great. Laura never asked why we lived alone without parents, or why we were there. She just accepted us. Not only that, she seemed genuinely worried. "Well, if you need any help with anything...?"

"Getting rid of poachers would be nice," Nudge said before I could stop her. Laura nodded knowingly. "They're bothering you, too? Just today at Cabella's, all the guys were talking about shooting down a giant bird, and then having a winged-woman swoop down on them."

Nudge and I laughed, trying not to sound nervous. "Maybe they had too much to drink."

"Maybe...maybe not. It's not unheard of to see a forest spirit...or an angel...but people just don't talk about them much, for obvious reasons," she said, winking.

How weird. She had such a way of putting things, and I wondered how much she really knew.

"I've got a present for you too, Max," she said, reaching into her pocket. She handed me a soft, woven pouch with a thin cord. "That's something I made a while ago, a healing mixture. It does all sorts of great stuff for almost anything, and I thought it might help, being out there by yourself. It's Good Medicine."

I accepted it, eyes wide. I knew enough from her by now that she didn't just mean medicine as in the nasty stuff you take to get better, but something like luck or magic. It's hard to explain, but believe me, it's some powerful stuff. "Wow, thanks," I said, thinking of the irony. Did she know Iggy was hurt, or was this just spur of the moment?

"I gotta get back now," she said, and get this - she gave us both a hug. Just like my mom might. It made my heart hurt in both a good and bad way, and I realized that I was actually sad to see her go. "Take care!"

"Later, Laura!"


"Oh, hey!" I called. "Look out for a kid about yay high, lots of freckles. He'll try to run off with your wallet."

Laura blinked. "Oh, him? Did he take yours?"

We nodded.

"Well whatever you do, don't try to go after it," she warned, and I wondered, deciding not to tell her that I'd already had. "Why not?"

"He's part of a real nasty gang in the outer town, a bunch of annoying troublemakers that have connections with people with a lot of money. They won't do anything in public where they'll be caught, but they'll sneak up on you and probably kill you."

"A lot of money and picking pockets anyway?" Nudge puzzled.

Laura nodded. "Makes no sense, right? Keep an eye out!"

Hm. Maybe we should pick a different place to frequent, then. The city was definitely big enough. And in being stronger than the average man, I wasn't too worried.

But still. Something told me that this wasn't quite concluded yet.

We watched Laura's truck rumble away, and I put the pouch string around my neck and said, "On a much happier note, let's go meet with everyone, huh?"

We met Fang, Angel, and Total on another corner, carrying groceries. Nudge and I held up our bags of food and waved them enticingly, and we were off behind another building and flying back to our home.

They ate in the air, since we figured that they were carrying the heavier stuff (and avians need a ton of calories, plus more if we got any heavier to keep us airborne), and started exchanging our times out.

"Max, sexy?" Total wondered aloud after we'd told them about the Pacific Centre.

Fang tapped his chin thoughtfully. "It is rather hard to imagine."

Nudge gave me a look, and I flew a little higher, grateful that it was dark out and no one could see me blushing. "Shut up and eat your burger. I was thinking we could use new wardrobes this year, since it gets so cold in the winter. Furs are really stylish." We'd left out the part and reasoning for me becoming sexy, but I could tell that if Angel didn't already know then Fang wasn't buying it. "So where's our winter wear?"

(Nudge choked on her fries.)

"I'm a little low on money, if you haven't noticed be now," I gritted, and it was partially the truth; we were down to only a few hundred to spend, and that had to be for food. The minute that ran out, we'd be living on bunnies and squirrels, and though Laura was teaching us archery I really didn't look forward to having their deaths on my conscience any time soon. Even if it was to keep from starving.

Fang stopped talking, but I knew he'd seen the flaw in that plan: if I was low on money and out to buy last-minute gear, why hadn't I bought any for the others first? The Leader always comes last. Nudge backed me up and killed me by saying, "Not only that, but Max has elected to be the first to go into town and get a job."


All of them stared at me. I blocked my thoughts and glared back, namely at him, as I frantically wondered what Nudge was trying to say. "Let's face it guys..." And here she did a steady swoop around us with fluid ease, "we need money. Badly. And the best person to go in and get it would be someone who looks of age, looks sexy (or at least hygienic), and capable of hard work!"

"No," Fang said flatly. Our venture was at stake here. What should I do, what should I say?

Inwardly preparing myself for excruciating embarrassment, I said, "I AM the best qualified to get one, at least temporarily."

"No," he said again.

"Don't argue with me, Fang," I warned, giving him the Look. "Someone has to, and it's not going to be any of the kids. Iggy can't...well, it would be harder for him, and I wouldn't ask it of him. And I'm not about to put you down there with poor, innocent bystanders..."

"The heck is that supposed to mean?" He demanded. I floated above him next to Nudge and Angel, grinning so he'd know I was only messing with him.

But this was just great. I'd never had a job before in my life, and the real reason I was up here was so that I could give her a look that not only said how I was going to strangle her, but that we'd most definitely talk later. She only gave me this mischievous smile and I had to hand it to her, that was quick thinking, if slightly...sacrificial (involving me). And I couldn't lie to the flock like this. It was bad enough letting Angel have a short search of my head and letting her see that I was thinking my lie.

So I had to go through with it.

The woven bag hung around my neck as we coasted over the city in the rapidly falling night, and I found myself instinctively touching it for reassurance. I'll need this luck more than ever.

16. Freedoms

A/N: The E4 again, browsing bishounen anime. And, Iggy discovers his newest power. I disclaim Kill Bill, Final Fantasy 7, Inuyasha, Hellsing, Berserk, and eventually Wolf's Rain for my references. But I really couldn't see this happening without referring to them anyway.



The three erasers swept their keycards through the pads on the locker wall, and the doors popped open. E4 hovered in his chair off to the side, watching.

E1 was the first to break the silence. Not counting E4, he was the shortest, about eye-level to Dr. Keyes.

"What's with the hand-me-down equipment?" he puzzled.

"Perhaps they are not taking us as seriously," came the deeper drawl of the tallest, E3, who was turning a year-old tranceiver over in his hand.

"Take only things of use," murmured E2, finding a pile of adapter wires and tossing them lightly to the side. "WE are the real weapons."

E1 snickered in E4's direction. "You're out of date, man."

E4, in his chair, said flatly, "I did not have time for it...what with all the economic problems lately. You want better, then ask the Director for his pocket money."

E2 and E3 suppressed slight smirks and soft chuckles as E1 scowled and rounded on him. "You're a monotonous little sucker, huh? A bit of a smartass."

"I try," was the dry response. "The sets are updated, at least. We will need older material for this mission, as well."

"Antiques, you mean," E3 ribbed.

"Moldy-oldies," seconded E1.

E4 was expressionless in appearance and voice. "If you have a complaint..."

E1 snickered again. "Keep your sheet on, number four. We're only tellin' it like it is. Huh, look at this thing. It's like a lawnmower..."

"I'll be in another room." E4 hummed away without further comment.

"Do you have to be so mean?" E3 scolded in mock-severity. "You've gone and hurt his feelings."

"What feelings? He's like a robot."

E2 pulled out a Link from the locker that might have resembled a simple Bluetooth. Due to the artist's request, the Elite Four had not been given the mind-links, had in fact, been implanted with nothing more than a locator chip in their skin. It had been a suggestion from the makers as 'back-tracking'; perhaps natural killers might stand more of a chance. Studies had shown that wolves on tight leashes did not have as much motivation nor did they do so well in following orders or being logical.

She hooked it to her ear under her long, yellow hair and interfaced. The others did the same.

"We can take anything we think we need out of here," E3 read aloud quietly, "and the Director insists we choose...our own names?"

"Pick names, huh?" E1 was saying some time later. "That's our toughest order yet." They were headed for the Check Out to pick up their supplies and men.

"Hm," said E3, eyes narrowed in thought.

E1 said, "Hey, E2. You can be Elle."

"L?" she repeated, nonplussed. "I thought we were to have names, not letters."

"No, ELLE. Like Elle Driver from that one movie we saw during American Ed Class. Give yourself an eye-patch and you'll look just like her!"

(E3 snerked quietly.)

E2 considered. "Just Elle. It has a ring to it."

"Great. E4 can be Rufus Shinra."

"I've already chosen, thank you," was the blunt reply. "Although I'm sure you'll make that a running joke before long..."

"...What, you all look like anime cosplayers. Not my fault."

"Who do I look like?" E3 said curiously.

E1 thought. "Sesshoumaru. Minus the face-paint and pointy ears. Or whatsisface, Sephiroth. But your hair is too long in the front. Cousin It, maybe?"

"And YOU?" said Elle, although she knew better than to join in.

E1 scoffed. "I got lucky - I don't look like anybody..."

"Psh," said E3, disbelieving. "What's your name, Four?"


"Whoa. Nice. Mouthful. Sev-AHS-chee-in." E1 frowned. "Almost too much of a mouthful. I'll call you Sev."

"Sev" turned his face in another direction, indicating that he didn't care what he thought one way or the other.

E3 and Elle were nodding. "That's two down."

E1 flipped through the combat manuals, searching for something of use. "Oh, hey, look at THIS word." He frowned at it. "Elle, help, please?"

Elle fought back an eyeroll and looked over his shoulder. "Sound it out."

E1 tried. "Harb...harbing...er?'

"The g is long, like the j."


"Yes. Why didn't you ask E4...er, Sev?"

E1 pulled a face. "Too creepy. That's me new name. Harbinger." He smirked a little. "Has a nice ring to it."

"Forshadowing or an impending omen," Sevastyien translated helpfully.

"Sounds like you're constipated," drawled E3, amused. "Might as well just call you Blue."

Harbinger scowled. "You're the last to pick. What's a name that suits you? Alucard? Nope. Je-nope. Nope. Hmm. Gatsu?"

"WHY are you only picking names from various famous Japanese bishounen animations?" said Elle conversationally.

Harbinger sighed and flung the manual at them. "I'm out of good ideas. You pick something, Sev."

Sevastyien was quiet for a moment. "...Furious."

Everyone blinked. He explained: "It cannot be a stationary word, but an adjective to describe your personality, your combat skills, your bloodthirsty nature. You are Furious in a fight and rarely ever lose."

They all looked at E3, who made a slow blink as he mulled it over. "I like it. Furious.

Iggy felt...different. Different in a way he couldn't understand. He'd never felt so light, nor relaxed. And it was then that he also noticed that the pain had reduced to a dull ache.

When one of them was badly injured, they'd fall into a very deep sleep that helped heal the more intensive damage. Their bodies, already altered, healed disturbingly quickly, and with this knowledge the others had left him to heal (because they knew he'd be all right). Jeb had taught them that there were some things that had to be left to nature - a rather oxymoronic statement coming from him, these days.

By the sound of Gazzy's breathing, his best friend was sound asleep, probably exhausted from watching over him all this time. Iggy tried to move again and found that he could sit up - could, in fact, stand, if with very wobbly legs and a sickish feeling in his stomach. He needed to rest more, but something was compelling him to move. It was like an instinct, an internal call, to stagger to the cave edge and maybe even fly. But he didn't feel heavy at all.

You must become lighter.

He felt...happy, but about what, he wasn't sure. Seeing the eagle fly in his dreams gave him a sense of euphoria, and memories of his first flight, how good freedom felt when he flew and left the world behind.

Iggy stopped and listened. The trees were creaking, though there was no wind. Strange. With an ease born or long practice and patience, he stepped off the ledge and dropped to the ground far, far below. His numb wings unfolded creakily and the air was caught, and he floated down like a dandelion seed, silently, with snowy owl wings. His landing was softer than he had expected under the cover of the trees amongst the pine-needle carpet, and he paused, listening.

There was nothing but the chill, and the animals.

Guess it was nothing, then. He resumed his thoughts. Yes, the first time out of those cages, in secret. He had never used his wings before. He remembered running, faster and faster, as fast as he could, and then letting them extend; he didn't think it would work, and he was scared with the thought of it working at all. But the wind lifted him up, his wings pushed him higher, and he was chasing the sky, higher and higher...

The memory was his most vivid, his most enjoyable before the eye surgery. Iggy embraced it.

The trees creaked again. That, and there was a low, thudding noise coming from the ground around him. Iggy snapped back into focuse and froze in place again. What am I doing down here anyway? If he were surrounded, he would be in no condition to fight. And what manner of machine or animal could make all that noise, anyway?

But it's coming from all sides, his logic told him, and that made the situation even more disturbing. But there was something else, too. Something more.

In an idea completel crazy and really out there, Iggy outstretched his hand and focused on the memory again, the light feeling. And instantly, the noises began again. Not only that, but a rock jumped into his hand and startled him so badly that he almost lost his balance and had to catch himself on the trunk of a tree.

"So that's it," he whispered to himself, turning the rock over and over into his hand. THAT was his new power, finally, one that was truly useful.


Or maybe it's gravitation, he thought, referring to how everything around him had pulled towards him all at once. This changed everything.

He could really help and fight now. No more liability, or at least, not as much as he'd had before.

No more. This was a new-found freedom. Iggy's heart skipped with joy over it, and the creaking began again, but he didn't mind. Let the trees dance all they wanted; wait until he told the others!

A/N: I know, I am shameless -___-; I'm sorry! It's funny though, that as I was drawing them and listing their descriptions, they began to sound a lot like these characters, and I realized how much of a brainache I really am, lol. Oh well, they don't look anything alike, thankfully, except for Elle's blond hair.


David Carradine (December 8, 1936 – June 3, 2009) R.I.P, and thank you for all the butt-kicking action. You died on my birthday, but to be sure, you're free to visit my other birthdays whenever you like now; I'll save some cake for you.

Bill: "I'm the man."