Subject Sins by tanyart

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Adventure, Angst
Published:2007-01-03 23:27:15
Updated:2007-01-27 22:07:24
Packaged:2021-04-21 22:48:23
Summary:There’s always a mission. We will always obey… this our purpose. The Whitecoats would be nothing without us and we would be nothing without them. Don’t you dare forget that. This is why we must capture the Flock. [Eraser Story]

Table of Contents

1. Shake Hands
2. Fetch
3. Stay

1. Shake Hands

Disclaimer: Maximum Ride belongs to James Patterson. I take no credit save for my original characters.

AN: Time setting for this story corresponds with The Angel Experiment. I hope you enjoy a new POV.

Chapter One: Shake Hands

It's ironic how most stories go. The authors always seem to put it in the perspective of the hero or heroine. That's the most annoying goddamn shit ever. For once, I'd like to see what goes on in the bad person's head. I can hardly find any stories like that. Then again, I can barely manage the time to read at all…unless you count mission briefings a pleasurable read. I don't. Well, on to business, shall we?

I sat upright in the speeding Humvee, willing my increasing heart rate to slow down. Guessing by the way no one looked in my direction with interest, I had my face pretty schooled down to a cool and calm façade. Kudos to me. I looked around to my teammates- my pack. Sitting in front of me in the driver's seat was Wrath, sullen as ever and trying his best to look bored. However, I could practically smell the anticipation lolling off him as he drove the Humvee, making smooth sharp turns up the curvy mountain side road without batting an eyelash. I glanced to my right and Avarice met my gaze, a wolfish smile on his boyish face. When I didn't bother returning the smile, he gave me a little pout and went back to typing furiously on his laptop. Avarice, or Ava for short, was my tactical man. His devious mind can scheme things so quick that most computers would shut down in shame against him. Sitting next to Ava was Lust. He was the oldest out of all of us. Eight full years. It gave me something to look forward to. I'm guaranteed to live that long, at least.

… Assuming nothing killed me before that.

Lust was trembling slightly, but not from fear. Never. He was excited, riled up for a fight. He was aptly named, I thought wryly. Lust's passion for battle was unmatched. Bloodlust, I think it was called. We all had it. Every single one of us. We weren't exactly designed to be that way, but I guess it had to do with all that wolf DNA.

"Pride, contact Envy and see that your pack knows what they're doing," barked a voice that seemed smothered with velvet, "If you guys screw this up, I'll have your sorry butts neutered."

The particularly irritating voice came from the shotgun seat (which by all rights, was my seat). I forced my eyes upon the scowling face of my superior officer. …Ari, little baby Ari. I didn't like him… and it didn't have to do anything with the fact that he was the real son of Jeb Batcheldor. Something special, alright. He was too pompous and bossy for my liking. Not to mention he wasn't officially trained like we were… or born like us for that matter. He was a mere human boy. Had been, actually.

"Yes sir," I said neutrally, only letting my anger show through my heated gaze. Ari smirked, enjoying taking over my usual command. He turned back around, snuggling in his seat like the smug seven-year-old that he was.

Well, I suppose now is a good enough time as any. Let me introduce myself. My name's Pride or experiment B-thirty-four, if you prefer. I'm an Eraser, fifty percent human and fifty percent wolf. I was bred for combat and raised to command my team. Think of me as the alpha wolf of the pack. If you take away that arrogant snob sitting shotgun, this is how we normally function and go about. The scientists that created us are called whitecoats. I don't know who started that, but for some reason it stuck. The whitecoats give us missions and this one was a big doozy.

… a big enough one to have daddy's little boy boss me around like some newbie cub. Please. I did enough missions to send Ari's neck snapping the other way when I breezed by the reports. However, him being Jeb's son and me being an expendable subject... I had to buck up and follow orders.

Putting on my radio headset, I paged Envy. Within a few seconds a charmingly raspy voice picked up. "Envy here, what's up?"

"Is it a couple of birds?" I asked, allowing myself some grim humor. There was a pause and then Envy came back in, sounding as if he'd just chuckled.

"Nah, boss. They're all in the house. All six of them, just eating breakfast."


"Just a little bit in front of the house… I've got the trees as cover. Boy, they sure are a bunch of birdbrains. I've been keeping tabs on them for a whole week and they haven't suspected a thing," Envy said. I could imagine the gloating grin of his face.

"You're just that good, Envy," I drawled sarcastically. Ava and Lust snickered, making Ari look back at them in annoyance. Of course, I wasn't cut any slack either.

"I am, aren't I?" Envy replied crisply.

"Yeah. Whatever," I said, ignoring Ari's glare for now. And Ava called me a killjoy?

Wrath pulled the Humvee to a stop. We were on an old trail, leading up a hill. Over the hill was the house where the avian experiments were. I could see the tiled rooftop peeking over the trees. We would have to walk the rest to avoid drawing attention. Ari, Lust, Wrath, and Ava all got out. All of them excect Ari looked at me for orders. I gave them a wait signal and opened two more channels on the radio. A faint buzzing sounded in my headphones and angelic tones greeted me. The other two of our seven sins were at another location with a chopper.

"Are you ready yet?" Acedia asked sourly.

"At the pace you're going, we'll have to refuel the chopper," Gluttony cheerfully added over helicopter noises.

"Listen up team," I barked, cutting off all friendly complaints. Everyone in the Humvee group visibly perked. "We'll be reaching our target point in thirty seconds. Envy, wait for our signal. Gluttony and Acedia, start bringing the chopper over. You have five minutes. Got it?"

"Sir!" replied the three via radio.

"The rest of you-" I began, in full command mode. However, Ari butted me off my soapbox. Figures.

"Wait in the woods and we'll slowly surround the house and ambush them," he said, enthusiastically, "Then we'll capture the youngest avian recombinant. All of you remember how she looks like, right?"

"Shortest one of the group, blond hair, blue eyes, white wings, and looks like an angel," we all chorused in bored tones. Ari sure loved to be thorough. This was his first mission from his daddy and he didn't want us screwing him over. Privately, I thought the same for him. At least he wouldn't be terminated if he failed.

"Then let's move out!" Ari snarled and started up the hill whether we followed him or not. As he walked, he morphed into his wolf form. We all heard his soft groan, almost with a whimper quality to it. Ari wasn't born an Eraser, he was made into one. That was one of the many differences between us. He knew he was the outcast of the group. We weren't exactly supportive of him… nor were the other Eraser packs. In our defense, I'd like to say that Ari had made no attempt to be friendly with us either. With a smirk, I motioned for the others to follow the Mr. Grouchy and Uptight.

While everyone else morphed, I stayed in my human form. I still had the radio headset on my head and my wolfy self wouldn't be too comfortable if I had changed right then. It was lucky that I had since Envy beeped me right then, sounding excited but controlled.

"They're coming out of the house now, Pride! All six," he murmured softly, emphasizing how close he was to the flock.

That surprised me and put a big hitched in our plans. Ava had specifically given every angle to ambush the flock within the house, not outside of it. Of course, he did mention a few alternative plans that I casually told him to shut up on. Ava was known to think too much, but every once in a while he got me apologizing to him. "Ah… stay put. What the hell are they doing? Do they suspect anything?"

"Doubt it. They're going strawberry picking," Envy deadpanned on me, voice a mere low growl. He'd morphed. I refrained from commenting on the strawberry statement. What the hell? I took in a deep breath through the nose and let it out in a sigh. The fresh country air relaxed me somewhat and got my mind focusing sharply… or maybe it was that tangy scent? I looked around, spotting bright patches of red up the hill. Fruity. I sped my pace, catching up with the rest of the group and stopped them with a hiss. Red bunches… Strawberry patches? So they were headed our way already. I didn't know if this would make us an advantage or disadvantage but I was going to try and make it the former.

"Envy, let them pass you and follow them from behind. When we attack, you attack," I ordered and got a pinging signal as an affirmative answer. Envy was now too close to the targets to be talking. I turned to my current group and delivered the new info with zest. "Abandon plan. They're not inside the house anymore and coming this way. We ambush them as soon as they're in sight. For now we'll use the woods as cover."

We hurried to the top of the small hill and settled within the foliage of trees. It wasn't the best hiding place, but dark clothes and fur tended to blend in well enough.

"How did they know that we're here?" Ari asked, looking frustrated.

"They don't," I said with a small vicious smile. My adrenaline was building up and I was twitching to morph like the others. "On my signal, we bust their berry-picking spree."

At my comment I was given odd looks from my pack. They didn't get it, but I'm sure Envy would've smirked at that. However, the radio was off and hopefully he was too busy tailing after the flock to appreciate it.

"Bust their berry picking spree…" Wrath mused out loud, "That's very badass, Pride."

"You know me," I muttered as we fell silent.

I took this chance to yank off the headphones and morph. Crouching low on all fours, I willed the animal part of me to take over. There was a quick moment of pain that made me twitch. After that, it was all pleasurable from there. My senses heightened and I felt my body gain new strength. I savored the feeling before straightening. Not to brag or anything, but I was a piece of art. My fur was midnight black with no hint of any other shade. Lean muscles lightly laced my arms and legs, a mockery of my real potential. Alien hunger leaked into my mind and I hastily shoved all carnivorous thoughts away. It was another reason why I was leader of a pack. I was the best at sustaining my human mind from my canine body. Back at the school I had seen unstable Erasers go berserk when they transformed. Newer versions weren't so prone to that. I was one of the oldies as was the rest of my pack and I was damn proud of it. Call it petty, but it was one of the few things we could actually be proud of.

Hunkering down on my haunches, I waited. My triangular ears flicked forward, picking up the slightest noises. Sniffing, I bared my teeth. I could smell them. Their avian blood and human odor… yummy.

Predators on prey. Hey, it was nothing personal on those avians. We were just doing our job, living the only life we had.

… and it wasn't their fault they tasted like chicken.


2. Fetch

Disclaimer: Maximum Ride belongs to James Patterson. I take no credit save for my original characters.

AN: Profanity warning. Enjoy, luvs.

Chapter Two: Fetch
I remember when I was little the whitecoats would put me and a randomly selected group of Erasers into this dungeon-like room at the School. God, it would always terrify me every time we went in there. Once a week they made us do survival exercises, force us to work as one, make necessary sacrifices, and accept its consequences without regret. Survival exercises included a certain objective, a time limit, and environment. I don't know how they did it, but each time we went in the Dungeon, it was different. One time it had snow and then a week later it was a humid jungle. Of course, I wasn't so amazed back then as I was now. Objectives were simple enough, but the obstacles they put us through made it almost impossible.

Retrieve a baby from an empty building? No problem. Under constant gunfire with mines everywhere you stepped? Not so much. The damn baby needed to be alive as well. The School loved being specific like that. They even made the baby real. It was bad enough that the bullets were too. You'll be happy to know that I aced that exercise with only one casualty from my team. Call it luck.

Deaths were all too common during practice drills. Seeing comrades die right in front of you is never easy. I couldn't count the number of times I had to see it happen. It hurt, especially if they were under your command. Each death was like a punch in the gut, reminding you that reality was there and laughing. As we grew older and more experienced, the exercises became games to us. We would have fun, crack jokes, and make it all friendly competition… then the School would catch us goofing off during drills and put us back in our place. They'd make crazy objectives that reminded us who we were and what we were made for.

Your team is on the 24th floor of the Itex building. The broken elevator can only hold 400 pounds. Your team of 6 has valuable information to deliver. The bomb is also on your floor with minimal success of disarming. You have seven minutes.

Determine who goes and who dies.

I hated that. Sure, it was just an exercise, right? Just pretending? The building wasn't really going to blow up…

Fuck no. The whitecoats wanted it to be real. They wanted us to learn, get through our heads that our lives weren't suppose to be played with. No duh, they didn't really blow up the building but I never did see the ones I left behind again. They were terminated. However, I couldn't discredit the leadership skills I had come to obtain because of that. Not wanting to end up like my fallen comrades, I didn't waste my time crying over it. My guilt trip was something I kept to myself. I didn't want the whitecoats to see a weakness in me.

.. but… it still hurt. A whole lot. I would be lying if I said that I slept like a baby every night.


The Flock came within sight and I heard a little pause in Ari's steady breathing. His breath was caught and when I looked at him. He was staring intently at one of the Flock members. Following his eyesight, I saw that his dark gaze was on the Flock leader, a pretty girl with a long braid. Maximum Ride was her name. Before I could do anything else, Ari just… jumped to his feet, roaring. Thinking that it was the signal, the rest of my Pack ran up with him, surrounding the Flock. Envy seemed to appear out of nowhere from behind them, claws out and already grappling with one of the Flock members. Unfortunately, the Flock leader aimed a stellar kick that made contact to his stomach. Envy fell but was saved when Lust punch the winged girl's head.

I saw all this happening and I could feel the bile rise up in my mouth as soon as Ari leaped forward from our hiding spot. That stupid, arrogant, self-centered little boy! If he had only waited a little while longer, we could've pounced directly on the avian breeds. He was jeopardizing the mission and us. The bird kids could fly up at any given moment and I couldn't have that. However, I was lucky enough that didn't happen. My Pack was swift and focused. The Flock was completely surprised.

I found myself within the fray, looking out for a little blond-haired angel. Instead I found that Acedia had joined the fight. He was freaking suppose to be in the chopper with Gluttony. How did he get all the way over here? However, I had no time to ponder about it when a small blond head caught my attention. I reached over and grabbed the avian roughly by the shoulder. To my disappointment, it wasn't our target but the target's older brother. With a snarl, I swatted my fist to his head before he could even blink at me. The little blond boy fell without a sound.

Lust was wrestling with one of the more formidable avian hybrids. His claws were fully extended and his teeth were bared like a madman's grin. His opponent was covered with blood. I didn't know whose it was, but I didn't want to take any chances. Worried, I ran over to him and Ava did as well.

"Lust, they want all of them alive!" Ava warned, moving in to deliver a kick to the bird mutant. Unlike Lust, Ava had a hold over his bloodlust, but I could see it in his red eyes that he was enjoying it anyway. The dark-winged boy was still moving and fighting fairly decently. I heard him utter a curse and suddenly I buckled down in pain, my right knee throbbing. Fang, they called him. One of the Flock's strongest fighters. I could've done without the reminder.

Without checking to see if my knee was busted, I tackled Fang down and let Ava and Lust take care of the rest. Once he was out cold, I got up and headed for the closest enemy. Over the rush of excitement, I didn't think at all about my knee. I grabbed a dark skinned girl by her arms and easily overpowered her struggling. Face it, wolves were way stronger than birds. Lust joined me and took the girl- (I believe the briefing said her name was Nudge)'s feet. It was a classic move called the Barkeeper's throw. Together, we swung and threw her away. Her body hit and crumpled against a tree. Nudge was down.

A shout drew my attention and the Maximum was running towards us. For a moment she looked part Eraser. She was ready to kill. Lust was too far gone within his bloodlust to notice the details.

"Lust!" I shouted in warning, but the girl cupped her hands around his delicate ears and with a clap, popped Lust's eardrums. My friend's yelp of pain was drowned out when a shriek filled my ears. Max and I both turned to see what it was.

Good old Ava had captured our target. He had experiment eleven by the arms. Against him, the little girl wasn't worth putting up a fight. I felt some relief since I had almost forgotten why we were fighting. It was lame, yeah, but sometimes I get so pumped up. Couldn't help it.

Maximum darted passed me and I instinctively reacted to bring her down. To my surprise, I wasn't the only one doing the same thing. Ari nearly crashed into me and I had to roll aside as he landed full on the Flock leader. Once he rolled of as well, I pressed my good knee to her chest. She was down, but apparently Ari didn't think so. He smacked her face with a good one, leaving his claw marks on her cheeks. I spared him an angry, questioning glace.

What the hell did he think he was doing? His blow didn't render her unconscious and by his expression, he only did to cause her pain. I mean, I like violence and all that, but once we had them down, well… there was really no need for excessive pain.

"Get off me, you stupid, freaking—"

I slammed Maximum Ride back before she could finish. One more and she would be unconscious. However, Ari leaned over her, obstructing my view and getting in the way. He was smiling and I couldn't figure out why. I just wanted to end this mission quick.

And holy hell, Ari started gloating. Gloating! How embarrassingly unprofessional! Anger came over me and I had to lean back and breathe deeply. Listening to them, I shook my head in disgust. What a time waster.

"Ari," the girl whispered in horror. Ari laughed gleefully at her recognition. Without further hesitation, he brought his booted foot down upon her head, finally knocking her out. He was still laughing as I got up from her. I was too furious to even be curious. Grabbing a fistful of his fur at the scruff of his neck, I pulled him close.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" I hissed, giving him a good shake to rattle the stupid grin off his face, "You bastard, if you're going to be working with my Pack, you focus your goddamn mind on the mission and not on some stupid irrelevant fit you have going on with that girly bird freak. Is that clear?"

Ari growled, pushing me away. His grin was gone and replaced with a sneer. "You don't know anything, Pride. Don't go around acting like you do."

I backed off, my rage just waiting to burst. Yet something about the way Ari looked when he said that… sounded sad. Well, he actually said it angrily, but my reaction was to feel pity for him… and to punch his living daylights out, but what else was new? Well, arguing here wasn't going to get the mission done, but I just had to have the last line.

"I don't really give a damn, Ari. You endangered the mission…and my Pack. That's all there is to it."

Before I could hear him reply, I stalked off to where the others waited. They had already put the little blond girl in a breathable sack and knocked her out. Five pairs of eyes looked up at me in full attention. There was no hint of a triumphant smile on their furry faces or friendly greeting from either of them. That was unusual, but then again I had never blown up and talked back to my superior officer before. Their sharp ears heard everything and they knew I grudgingly cared for them. At the School, caring was a weakness that put missions at stake. But I wasn't at the School now, so I tilted my head in a doglike fashion to show that everything was all right. My Pack's tense shoulders relaxed. I trusted that Ari wasn't that big of a tattletale to report my 'rebellious' behavior. If the whitecoats had known… they'd look for any other excuse to put me to sleep. I couldn't just leave my Pack like that. I didn't trust anyone else to lead them.

Ari might be the one who knew what was really going on, but he didn't know the thing that matter the most here- teamwork. His little stunts could've cost a life from my Pack. The School taught us that one little mistake could ruin everything. I had my reasons to get so uptight about it.

Looking around I saw that Envy had one hand over his injured ear, crimson eyes fixed to my face in order to be able to read my lips. Other than that, the rest of my pack wasn't hurt badly.

"I see everyone can still walk," I said bluntly, "Let's go."

We started to jog quickly to our parked Humvee. Some of the Flock was already stirring and we had to hurry. To take my mind away from my hurt knee, I thought about what Ari said. It was true. I didn't know anything at all. I just followed orders like a well placed pawn in a chess game. I really had no clue what the whitecoats were up to, nor did I really care. They were our caretakers and creators and in return, we obeyed them without question. Well, that was getting my mind set into some angsty mood. I went next to Lust and nudged his arm.

"How's it going?" I asked casually.

If it hadn't been for his dark fur, I could imagine him paling. When he answered, his voice was distant with no trace of his usual bravado.

"I can't hear anything," he replied shortly and sped up, leaving me slightly behind. He didn't want to talk about it yet.

I continued my steady pace with my eyes focused ahead on Lust's form. He was deaf and could potentially be a liability to the Pack now. If the whitecoats couldn't fix his hearing, then they would mostly likely have him decommissioned for other uses. Other 'uses' included suicidal missions, a training target in the Dungeon, or another subject to do experimental surgery on… just to name a few of his best options. Every Eraser would rather die on a mission than survive with fatal injuries to get decommissioned. I know I would.

We reached the Humvee and everyone crowded in. There were two extra passengers- Acedia and the little bird girl. It was a tight fit since we weren't in our human forms. Lucky for me, I was riding shotgun this time with no complaint from Ari. He didn't say anything about it and neither did I.

"Give us some speeding tickets, Wrath," I said with a grin.

Wrath nodded curtly, showing a little teeth with his wolfy smile. The Humvee's engine roared to life and he floored the gas pedal. Predictably, I jerked back and held on tightly to my armrest. Wrath was the best driver in our team. He also had the best road rage to match. He was a terror behind the wheel, but nothing made him happier.

It was only a few minutes of smooth driving when the Flock appeared from atop of a cliff. Envy had the best eyes and said there were five of them coming towards us. Lust, being the good man that he was, opened the Humvee's compartments and started handing out the guns.

"Shoot to scare, shoot to scare," I reminded them, more for Ari's sake than my Pack. We had strict orders not to kill the Flock. Injure to the point of unconsciousness and that was it. "Don't go all- holy shit!"

The avian experiment named Fang was suddenly looming over the front windshield, bringing down a heavy tree branch to the vehicle. Scared the crud out of me, it did. I sort of regretted riding shotgun now. Recovering quickly, I rolled down my window just as Wrath swerved the Humvee, giving me a better angle to shoot. I fired at the trees, trying to draw the Flock away from us. My Pack followed in suit.

The windshield took another whack from the tree branch and left a huge jagged crack. I shot at Fang, going trigger happy for a moment. When he flew off I leaned back in my seat and reloaded. The chopper was up ahead and ready to take off.

"They're going to try and take her when we make the switch to the chopper," Ava said, observing the Flock from his window, "That's what I would do…"

"We'll need something to distract them," I said, looking back to Lust.

"Grenade?" Lust asked, catching on despite his lack of hearing. He held one up hopefully. I gave him the thumbs up.

Wrath was heading straight for the chopper and I held back the urge to scream stop like a pansy. He knew what he was doing. "Get ready to get off on three," he intoned dully with one hand on the steering wheel much to my discomfort. "One… two…" he suddenly brake the car, "Three!"

The Humvee was still moving, but we used that momentum to launch ourselves out. Acedia was out first and the avian boy fell right on top of him. With a contemptuous snort, he raked his claws on the winged mutant's arm, leaving raw and bloody gashes. Fang yelped and withdrew. Not wasting anymore time, Acedia ran to the chopper and opened the hatch. Lust was out second in a flash, lobbing a grenade towards two other avian freaks. I prayed that they would live through it. Lust had a good arm and a wonderful aim.

The grenade exploded, sending wonderful debris in every direction. The rest of my Pack headed to the chopper. Once in, I made a head count. Everyone except Ari and…

"Where's the girl?" I asked, fighting to keep my tone even, but urgent. My Pact looked around and Wrath finally spoke up.

"Ari has her, he's still out there," he said, shrugging.

"That son of a bitch," I cursed hotly. My face must've look horrifyingly strained since no one said anything else. I got my pistol ready.

Clutching the little girl in the sack, Ari ran towards the chopper. I motioned for Gluttony to take off. Thankfully, Ari had enough sense to throw me the sack. Catching it with a small grunt, I shoved it back for the others to hold since Ari was the next thing in my arms. Hauling him up, I made sure he was in before giving him a push that nearly made him fall back out of the chopper. However, Ari was focused once again on the Flock's leader.

"Chill, Pride," Ava said, putting a hand on my shoulder, "You look like you're about to explode."

I would've made a snappy comment back, but Maximum Ride had attached herself to the chopper. It was a desperate fight she was going to lose.

"For the love of god, some one shut the doors," I ordered, "I don't want her bloody guts all in the chopper when the rotors hit her."

I got my Pack to laugh and even Ari joined in. See? I could chill down too when I tried hard enough. We shut the glass doors and watched with interest as the Flock leader tried in vain to… well... reach us? Ari brought out a rifle and aimed it at her.

"Let me tell you a secret, old pal, old chap," he howled smugly, "You've got it all wrong. We're the good guys!" He squeezed the trigger and for one cold moment, I thought he was really going to shoot her. I was preparing to snatch the rifle away from him, but Maximum Ride wisely chose to fly away.

"Max! Max!" wailed the girl, freeing herself loose from the sack. Tears welled up in her eyes and she struggled feebly against Lust's grip. Acedia whipped out a syringe and jabbed the little girl's neck. With a yelp of surprise, she fell limp.

The mission was over. We did it. I couldn't help but grin. As one, my Pack morphed back into our human forms. The chopper was getting way too cramped. Only Ari remained, hesitant to change back because of the pain it brought him. He was busy with the radio, talking to his father and briefing him in. That stuff was usually my job, but it was cool to have a break every now and then.

I looked around, my Pack joking around and exchanging high-fives. I received some slaps on the back and I grinned in return. We weren't out of the woods yet, but for now… I let them enjoy our small victory.

Briefly closing my eyes, I went over the mission while it was still fresh in my mind. The mistakes that we made, things we could improve on, and how we could fix them. Given the new circumstances of having Ari 'lead', I guess we did okay.

We're the good guys…

I gave a silent sigh. Ari was right. I didn't know a single thing.

Save the whales and review, please!

3. Stay

Disclaimer: Maximum Ride belongs to James Patterson. I take no credit save for my original characters.

AN: Thanks to those who reviewed. Sorry for the slow updates. I'm working on it, I swear!

Chapter Three: Stay

We stayed in a nearby hospital clinic where the winged girl named Angel was sent away to the School in California. Much to my bitter disappointment, Ari didn't go with her. The clinic was actually owned by the School, so it was the perfect rest stop. Some of the doctors there were aware of what we really were. Not just some hot, good-looking guys, oh no. They made sure we were treated fairly. However, the rest of the hospital staff had nothing to do with the School so we Erasers had to keep a low profile.

My pack and I were lounging in a private room, snacking of whatever the clinic's vending machines could offer. Obviously, none of us carried any spare cash on us so we just got rid of the thick plastic covering and presto, a feast for kings.

"Guys… we really shouldn't leave this place in a mess," said Gluttony, holding a broom to sweep the broken shards of vending machine parts. His fake metal eye spun in its socket, looking for any stray pieces. Ava held out the dustpan and the pair started tidying up. Bloodthirsty Erasers to heart, those two.

"And what's going to happen if we don't?" snorted Lust, tossing his empty bag of chips on the ground. He sunk further into the couch he and Wrath were sharing. He tilted his head as Wrath started pouring in the antibiotics to his damaged ear. While it was bloody disgusting to look at while he was in wolf form, it was ten times worse in his human form. After the helicopter ride, half of Lust's hearing came back. He was deaf in his left ear now, but I wasn't sure it would matter in the end. We all had to speak louder than usual to help him out. None of us said anything about it though. We pretended that he wasn't handicapped at all.

"The doc will start complaining," I replied, bending down to pick up his trash. I tossed it across the room, aiming for the garbage can. My aim was off but Envy swatted it gently as it flew and it landed in the can. A perfect assist.

"Then the doc should clean it up himself," Lust grumbled, wincing as Wrath touched a tender spot.

The Pack fell silent, a heavy feeling of uneasiness filled the small room. We could only pretend for so long. Soon, I would have to deliver a report on our mission, leaving no detail out. Our injuries were already accounted for by the doctors in the hospital, so there was no use lying to the doc. As the Alpha of the Pack, I had to make the decision to whether Lust stayed or not. Of course, it was a no brainer. Every well trained Alpha would have their half-deaf Eraser teammate decommissioned within a split second for a better replacement. Everyone, including Lust, knew that I was no different. It was either his life, or the mission. The answer would always be the mission, which ultimately meant the Pack's lives as well.

Lust had been a great asset to the team, a real motivator. Sure, I had great charisma, but it was Lust who really got us pumped up for anything. He was cocky, violent, and loved to fight. What more could I say about him? Well, he's the oldest out of all of us and really knew how to keep the team together. Besides Wrath, he was the only original member of Team Sin. My predecessor died more than a year ago and I took over as a permanent replacement. The current Avarice was the fourth to bear his name and Envy was on the same boat as me. Acedia had two other Erasers in line before him and Gluttony was technically the newest member of our Pack. The old Gluttony died a year ago when his body started to expire. I didn't get to know him very well, so his lost hadn't been a big deal.

That would make Lust the first teammate I would decommission outside of training.

If you didn't count Gluttony the First, my Pack was stable for a full year. We took no loses, became close, and functioned together as one. That sort of trust and teamwork could only be achieved with time… and losing Lust would put us back in square one.

Lust's taunts, bragging, violent tendencies… his sarcastic mouth and bravado… our explosives expert, Wrath's best friend…. Our friend and comrade.

Yeah, I was going to miss him. It was sad. We were starting to treat him as a dead man already. Hell, I was even thinking of him in past tense.

"Hey…" Lust suddenly said, sitting up. All eyes went to him, carefully crafted to look indifferent. "You know… um… I probably might not see you guys in a while. I'm going back to the School to get my ear fixed…" he trailed off awkwardly.

"Maybe they have some new gadgets like my eye," Gluttony said helpfully the added, "Well… for ears, not eyes, I mean."

"Maybe," Lust echoed, trying to sound cheerful and enthusiastic. God, it made me sick. This was a side of Lust I never wanted to see. Where was his usual confidence? I decided to give him a metaphoric slap.

"Wimp," I snarled, crossing my arms, "You're getting some free R and R while the rest of us are going to be circling the States on life-threatening missions. I bet you're gonna get some cushy-ass secretary job back at the School while we rush getting our butts busted."

There was a delicate pause like the whole room just froze in place. Lust blinked and I could see red burning his cheeks. He stood up and pointed directly at me in an imposing stance. I just stared right back at him from where I stood.

"Watch your mouth, Pride," he seethed, "'cause when I get my ear fixed, I'm coming right back to bust your butt to where the sun don't shine."

I smiled since I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Unfortunately, our little 'spat' was cut short when Acedia pulled away from the door he was leaning against with a hiss.

"The doc's coming," he announced, making everyone jump up. He walked away from the door and took a seat on a free chair. The Pack also moved to sit down, looking as if they were bored. I remained standing since I was going to have to get up anyway to report. I turned to face the door but as I did, Lust pressed something into my hand. When I looked down, I saw that it was his sweaty black headband he kept around his forehead. It was his good luck charm, and now a memento for us to remember him by.

"Bye everyone, it's been fun," he said, completely resigned to his fate. His tone was dead. Deep down inside we all knew the School wasn't going to do a thing to fix his ear. No one said anything and they couldn't have since the door opened and in came a Whitecoat. He held a clipboard with our most recent health statuses.

"Doctor Reilly, sir," I greeted formally, stuffing Lust's headband in my pocket. My back stiffened as it always did when he was present. Doctor Reilly was our commander. Each Pack was assigned a scientist that issued us different orders and made sure we were in shape. Of course, they never went on missions with us. They were more on the… 'behind-the-scenes' kind of thing.

My Pack nodded respectfully. We weren't hard-core marine soldiers or anything, so no saluting or yelling 'yes sirs' like a couple of robots. We were better than that. Meanwhile, Doctor Reilly (or just 'doc') consulted his clipboard. I tilted my head, curious. He smelled excited and eager. He was never one to show much emotion besides anger and sarcasm. Not being a very happy and cheerful kind of guy, I couldn't imagine him patting our back and congratulating our success.

"Team Sin," Reilly said suddenly, lips quirking, "I heard from Ari that you've captured Experiment Eleven without much of a hitch. Good work. My colleagues and I are very pleased."

I felt my whole Pack behind me hold a collective breath. Reilly never gave out compliments unless… well… I don't know. I could count the number of times he said a good word to us on one hand. This would be the third time. I couldn't help but swell with pride. This is what my Pack hoped to look forward to at the end of every mission. Reilly was the world to us. As cruel and abusing as he was, we were dead loyal to him. He was the one who trained us from our freakish birth and gave us a purpose to live. For him, I'd stay by his side and put his orders in front of the School's. I was sure the rest of the Pack felt the same.

I was fumbling around to say thanks or something, but Reilly snapped an order at me for a full oral report. I wasted no time and told him everything, including Ari's misbehavior and my own. Reilly's expression turned black at that point, diminishing the glow that I felt moments before. I stood my ground, waiting for any physical or verbal punishment I was about to receive.

"That sort of misconduct is below you, Thirty-four," he said coldly, "Ari is expected to have such complications, but not you. Don't bite into his bait."

"Understood, sir," I said, getting myself detached of any emotion. At any rate, I wished that he'd put a stun gun to my head and shot me instead. I let him down. Team Sin wasn't only under his command, but represented him up in the higher ranks. For every mistake we made, his bosses would blame him and in return he would take his anger out on us. Reilly made sure we were the best of the best.

"Good. Now, the School wants your team to make sure the rest of the Flock stays together in one spot. Camp near their hideout and report their movements. We'll send in a second team to double your numbers."

"Which team?" Ava asked, already planning to check up profiles to arrange any strategic moves.

"Prism Team," Reilly said with a faint sneer, "Jeb's boys. Play nice, all of you."

I grinned a feral type of grin. Ah… Team Prism aka Team Rainbow. They were our biggest rivals and we were closely matched. The Rainbows also had seven Erasers in their Pack and even though they were rank three on the charts while Team Sin came in fourth, we kicked their butts on regular drill exercises. The only reason why they were winning against us was because of Dr. Batcheldor, who was Reilly's superior. Or… that's what I told myself.

"We will, sir," I promised, crossing my fingers behind my back so my Pack could see. Little rivalries like that was another thing that kept us going. There was nothing like friendly competition. I was getting eager for this mission already. However, my elation was short lived when Reilly started tapping his clipboard. I saw the page he was reading was Lust's data sheet.

"Concerning A-Six," Reilly spoke briskly, having done this million times probably, "I can have a replacement sent to your team within twenty-four hours."

A-Six was Lust. Composed but pale, Lust stood up and went over to Reilly without a word of complaint. He didn't look back. Just seeing somebody walk willingly to their death made my stomach twist slightly… just slightly. Suddenly, I felt all twitchy inside. I scratched my head, feeling my spiky hair prick at my skin. Before I knew it, my mouth opened.

"Sir, twenty-four hours would be too long," I said, my tone unwavering and flat, "A-Six is still fully serviceable and well-experienced. His loss to our team would be a waste of a good Eraser. I believe decommissioning him will disrupt our maximum capabilities to function as a team." Oh shit. What did I just say?

Well, whatever I said must've been pretty damn good. Reilly raised his brows and my heart stopped with how cold his gaze looked. To his side, Lust's face twisted into a mixture of pure shock and anger.

"He's deaf in one ear," the doc reminded me.

"I'll make up for it then," I said stiffly, crossing my arms. Bad mistake. Not only was I being defiant, I was looking the part to. Reilly noticed.

"This is unheard of, Thirty-four," he said, walking close to me. The doc was a few inches shorter than me, but his presence made me want to get down on my knees and whimper. "I think your judgment might be a little clouded."

"I've never been so sure in my life, sir," I said boldly. Well, it came out as a grating whisper, but it was bold enough for me.

And suddenly, Reilly had me by my hair, dragging me down and forcing me to look up at him. I could've easily overpowered him but that was like… throwing a punch at your own wife-beating father. You didn't do it out of fear for the rest of your family.

"I can't have you being soft, Thirty-four," Reilly said, as if we were actually sitting at dinner having a casual conversation, "Too much is at stake for you to be keeping friends. I'll let you keep A-Six for now, but if he becomes any sort of problem… not only does he get decommissioned, but so do you."

I blinked fast, feeling tears come to my eyes. In the back of my mind, I knew that they weren't tears of pain. "Yes sir," I said, mustering those two words to sound as hard and cold as his eyes. Reilly released me and I sat down on the floor, rubbing my aching scalp.

"Now all of you get moving," the doc ordered sharply, not bothering to address us as a whole, "I want a camp set up within a hundred yard radius of Flock's hideout in four hours, got it?"

"Are you going back to the School?" I asked so that I could contact him later on. I also wanted to know where he was going to be…

"Yes," he said shortly, "I'm doing a check up on experiment eleven." With that, he left the room and closed the door behind him. We all flinched when the door clicked shut. He hadn't slammed it, but it was as if he did it anyway.

I was the first to recover from the stillness. Brushing off some imaginary dust off my designer jeans, I got up to my feet. Ooh yeah. I was the king at being nonchalant. Turning around, I dug into my pockets and pulled out Lust's dirty headband. I tossed towards him. Lust stared at me dumbly and caught it with his face.

"You can have it back," I said, wiping my hands on my shirt mockingly, "Stupid fashion accessory."

And I don't know what happened next but right after the word 'accessory' left my mouth, Lust tackled me. It wasn't a friendly tackle at all, but one born of pure vehemence. His strength was greater than mine and he easily had me up against the wall. He pushed his forearm up against my neck, forcing my head back painfully. My throat closed and all I can do was breathe minimally. Instinctively, I clawed my hands at his forearm but he used his free hand to grab one of my own and held it down.

"You stupid idiot," he whispered in my face. He ground out every word and milked every note of anger for what it was worth. "You're the worst Alpha ever. I was ready to go, dammit. What kind of leader are you? Anyone can see that I'm a liability now and you went on ahead and made a bet with Reilly to prove that I wasn't? You make me sick, Pride." He pushed against me harder and I felt my lungs scream in protest.

"Lust…" I heard Wrath say from behind him. I also saw the rest of the Pack watching… struck dumb or just waiting for what was coming next.

"Shut up!" Lust yelled, his charming voice rose into an unholy shriek. "Just a while ago you were screaming at Ari for endangering the Pack… and now you go begging to the doc to keep me in. I hate hypocrites. You're the worst! You're nothing but a fucking hypocrite!" He let go of my wrist and raised his clenched fist. I stared and said nothing. I didn't have to. I let him hit my shoulder weakly, tears running down his flushed cheeks. Lust repeated this over and over, dry sobs heaving from his chest as he pounded away.

"Bastard…" he mumbled when he couldn't do anymore. Lust hastily wiped his watery eyes and removed his arm from my neck. I sucked in air and let it out.

"You betcha," I said, straightening my shirt and flicking a smirk towards the Pack, "Now get moving, you lazy asses. Show's over and you heard Reilly. We have three hours."

The rest of my Pack stood up. Envy, Acedia, and Gluttony were grinning while Ava smirked in his own subtle way. Even Wrath allowed his face to shift from his usual scowl into a genuine smile. Out of all of us, Lust looked the happiest with one hand over his eyes. Weak but relieved laughter escaped his lips. We filed out… me barking orders, Ava making plans, Lust complaining already, everyone else checking to see if we had the right equipment, and Envy trying to get out of it… Yeah. That's my Pack. I couldn't imagine Team Sin being any other way.

'Course… reality just had to rain on our parade eventually.

End Chapter.