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I sat down in a desk in the computer lab and smacked my head against the screen when the librarian wasn't looking. It had been a week since we'd been back to Ye Olde Academy for Mutantfreaks and as per usual, most of the girls in my classes were dripping all over Fang. Not to mention that he wasn't brushing them off. Instead of telling him my feelings like all the teen magazines would suggest and being the openly emotional mutant freak I am, I kept it all inside while giving him the cold shoulder and trying my best to avoid him. Why was my life so freaking confusing? I mean, come on, it was easier when I was holding onto Total and trying not to be ripped apart by the hurricane. I felt the familiar dark presence sit down beside me and rolled my eyes to the right to see, nothing—he was doing his inviso-freak thing again—till Fang sighed and slumped in his seat, becoming visible. "Max, why do you do this?" He was giving me that you're a pain look that I was becoming so familiar with. "If you don't like me, then tell me and I'll buzz off, but if you do," For a second his face was earnest. "Don't do this and stop pushing me away." His face settled back into the impassive, unrevealing dark marble I knew. He got up and started to leave. And I let him. Almost. I felt like I owed him for all the times he'd forgiven me and I thought it was my turn to cut him some slack. I stood up and briskly walked after him, catching his wrist before he made it out from between the tall walls of computers. He turned around and I pressed my lips to his, kissing him. He took both of my hands in his and kissed me more deeply like back on that night on the dock. Okay, are you happy, romance fanatic readers? Now you have your happy action ending, your happy environment/logical ending and your happy romantic ending. Or, not really an ending, we're still here. Yeah, that's right remainders of Itex; we're still out there and we’re coming for you. So, don't you dare throw that aluminum Diet Coke can away. Where does it go? Yeah, that's right, you recycle it. Now pretend I gave you a pat on the head and sent you on your merry evil scientist way. So, just remember, we're still here and making sure everyone contributes to stopping global warming. Well, except for Gazzy here, who lets off more methane gas per minute than a home heating system in a month. You get what I mean though. We want the planet to be around for later generations of mutant freaks. That was a joke.
I fell out of bed, still not used to the back-to-civilization thing. I stumbled upright and found myself heading downstairs to where Iggy was making breakfast. Blueberry pancakes sizzled on a griddle in front of him as I sat down next to Nudge who was using her magnetism to summon silverware for all of us. Gazzy ducked, avoiding being stabbed by a fork before attempting to steal some blueberries. Iggy smacked him over the head with a spatula and Fang came
down the stairs, taking a seat beside me and immediately turning invisible with a guilty grin. That always made me think of the Cheshire Cat. Iggy filled a plate of pancakes and set them on the counter by Angel who was getting milk. Total took his breakfast by Akila, as per usual, though this time he fluttered a few inches off the ground before settling in front of his bowl of pancakes. He was really getting into the whole flying thing and he was showing off. I stood up to get my breakfast, and I took a fork from Nudge before having my seat stolen by Iggy. I flicked him in the back of the head to his protests, while Angel stood up for me. "Here you go, Max. I'm done anyways." "Thanks, Sweetie." I stroked her hair and pulled in my chair, blocking Fang's attempt at stealing a pancake. Nudge took a big gulp of milk before turning a shade of green. Raising my eyebrows, I watched as she shouted, "Take cover!" before leaping beneath the counter. We all sort of stared at her, except for Gazzy who was looking mischievous. Then I realized our mistake. Blueberry pancakes. I raced to the other side of the room, fork still in hand as the rest of the flock heard what had caused our horror. There was a loud fhuut! of air as Gazzy flaunted his name and a nasty green-colored methane mushroom cloud fanned out behind his chair. As the Gasman started to cackle maniacally, Angel wrinkled her nose and made for the stairs as Fang backed up beside me. "I'm not hungry anymore," Fang stated as we watched the gas cloud settle out. I cautiously and bravely made my way over to the table, picking up my dish to toss out my uneaten breakfast. Iggy and Gazzy were doing this strange victory dance and I pitied them, wondering if our lack of bad guys for us to get the better of had anything to do with their obvious boredom. It was awesome to finally have a safe home, yes, I did use the word "home." My hand poised over the trash can, I stared at the electrical socket on the wall behind the counter, and almost moaned at the monotony. I had spoken too soon. "Iggy? Tell me that is not what I think it is." Iggy came over and saw what I was talking about since the green wire was set against a white wall. His eyes widened and he immediately dove under the table while I grabbed Fang's hand and jumped beneath the counter where Nudge had been, shouting out, "Duck!" The kitchen erupted behind us as Fang's body protected my face and shoulders. His arms were covering his head and he gazed at me upside-down with dark eyes. His lips mouthed the word, "Again?" I rolled my eyes at him as my backside was pelted with plaster and wood. The lights went out over head since the bomb was in the electrical socket and the flock moaned in unison, not that you could hear us over the thundering and shaking of the room. Would this kind of stuff ever end? Maybe Box Boy was behind this and they had managed to salvage his hamster cages spewed across the pavement. Paint wafted from the ceiling and Fang stood, helping me to my feet. "Report." My voice sounded extremely bored. "Here," Total answered haughtily, "And still not happy about it." He wandered out from beneath his over turned food bowl, looking very similar to Akila.
"Here," Nudged moaned, pulling herself away from the shelves she had been slammed against in the pantry during the explosion. "I have shelving units forever imprinted on my ribs, but I'll be fine." "I can see!" Iggy shouted from underneath the remains of the table. I fought against a smile as he pushed aside some broken wood and came out, his eyes looking around him at the completely white kitchen. He took one glance at me before cracking up. He pointed at my upper lip and laughed again, "You have a white mustache," he stutter-giggled. I covered my mouth and picked up a piece of plaster, chucking it at him. "Ow," was the response as Gazzy ducked out from beneath the stairs with Angel. "We're fine," he reported, helping to brush some paint chips out of Angel's hair. "I'm here," Fang answered my call by slipping his arms around my waist. Iggy immediately shut up and averted his eyes. I smiled before telling everyone to get dressed and grab their things. It was summer vacation anyways and I didn’t feel like cleaning up the kitchen just this moment. I ran upstairs and stuffed some jeans, underwear and shirts in a backpack before stepping into some sweats and slipping on a tee, shuffling into my well worn, but new sneakers. I zipped the cell phone Mom had bought me into the front pocket and dropped in the laptop we used for education and recreational purposes. I walked past Nudge and Angel's room where they were packing a few stuffed animals and spare clothes. Angel tried to pack a tutu she had found for Akila, but she met my eyes and I waved her off. She sighed and put the tutu away before helping Nudge. Gazzy and Iggy were grabbing the iPod and clumps of wires and metal scraps, which immediately made me wary. Back in the kitchen, Fang was scrounging around on the floor for food to pack, his camera and computer memory stick swinging from his neck. I joined him on the ground, checking under the counter for anything that might suffice as food. As the rest of the flock came down, we made sure we had all the necessary supplies before making our way out the door, Iggy holding an unhappy Total, he couldn't fly as high as us yet. Fang and I wrestled with Akila and gave a messy running start before leaping into the air after the others.
We finally made it to Dr. Martinez's house. Akila gave me one last stubborn kick of disapproval as we landed. Why couldn't she grow wings like Total had? It would make everything so much easier. I smiled as I watched Max rush into the open arms of her mother. I slowly walked over and shook her hand. She looked like she was using every ounce of self control she had to keep herself from hugging me. Then, I saw something I never thought I'd see again: Max actually leaped into Jeb's arms! I guess she'd finally forgiven him. I looked at the rest of the flock. They each hugged Max's mom in succession. All except Iggy who was standing still as stone. I walked over. "Wassup, Ig?" I asked. He held up one finger. Then he slowly turned to face me. His face was deathly pale. "Something's coming." He said. "I can hear them." I nodded slowly so that it looked like a normal conversation. "How bad?" I asked. He looked at me grimly.
"Flyboys. Thousands of them. They should be here in about ten minutes." I stared in shock at Iggy. "And you can actually hear them from that far away?" I asked. He nodded. "I think it's a new skill." He muttered. I walked over to the others. "Max." I said. She walked over to me. "Few thousand flyboys coming this way." I muttered so that only she could hear. "Should be here in about ten minutes." She nodded, but I could see the question in her eyes. "I'll explain later." I muttered. "Alright everyone, let's go!" She yelled. "Mom, do you have any type of transportation that can get us far away in less than ten minutes?" Dr. Martinez looked like she was going to ask a question but decided against it. "There's a plane over on the runway." she told us. "Good. Pack your things and get Ella." I told her. "Hurry!" screamed Max. If anyone had any questions, they didn't show it. Five minutes later, we were flying out of Arizona at top speed. "Now how did you know what was coming?" Max asked me as soon as we were alone. "Iggy developed a new skill. Superhearing." I replied. She shrugged. "So, where are we going this time?" I asked. "Hawaii." She replied. I grinned inwardly. I should have known that if Max was going to choose where we went, it would be Hawaii. Luckily it had recovered from the hurricane it just went through. "Hawaii it is." I said.
Mom had everything ready for everyone in under a minute. I think she was getting used to the split second flight thing, but I could see that none of my flock was very happy to be getting on a jet again. I couldn't get over Iggy's new power. It was just so sudden. How is that for speed mutation? Jeb called up a pilot for the jet and we all piled into Mom's van to ride to the runway. I guess I kind of did forgive Jeb, though things were still going to be a little stiff with us ' cause I wasn't exactly ready to go to a Father/Daughter relationship. I sighed as I led the flock into the awaiting cabin of the jet. It was another fancy one, with recliners for all of us. Gazzy was the first to find the soda, and Nudge got her can of Jolt while I grabbed a Diet coke and we all put on our seat belts as the plane took off. Angel was on one side, and Nudge on the other, more hyper from the caffeine in the soda than usual. I guessed that this was going to be a long plane ride. Iggy brought out a deck of playing cards, still a little tense after telling Fang about the Flyboys. We played some Texas Hold'em, and Nudge helped out Iggy, or more like talked his ear off. Fang slid his arm around me, trying to get a peek at my hand. I gave him an elbow in the ribs which did nothing more than make him laugh. I sighed and leaned into him as the cramped cabin began to get to me. Angel won all five rounds, pocketing the money, she fell asleep against Iggy. I
followed suit and reclined my chair, closing my eyes and letting my thoughts drift away. "Max. MAX. MAX!" I shot up and out of sleep as Gazzy yelled in my ear. Iggy was rolling up his iPod, and his whole body was stiff. As usual, Fang and I were on the same page as a thud was heard against the body of the plane. The pilot was frantic immediately slowing down the plane—drastically which I thought was stupid but ay--but I gave Fang a silent nod as we shooed Mom, Ella and Jeb into the cock pit. "Can't explain now, Mom. We gotta open the door." We ran back into the cabin and I twisted the red lever on the emergency exit (what an appropriate name), watching the slide inflate against the clouds. Napkins and empty cups that had been on trays thrashed in the cabin behind us before being sucked out into the sky. The wind whipped my hair around my head as the rest of the flock came to stand beside me and I thought once again of getting a hair cut. Flyboys swarmed overhead, their mechanical eyes fixing small lasers all over our bodies, burning holes in our clothes. One Flyboy dropped in front of me and I stared at him for a moment before swinging a roundhouse kick that exposed mechanical flesh and wire guts behind the fake skin stretched across his snout. I snapped open my wings and let the harsh wind fill them, taking me a few feet up before I slammed both feet down on the robot's shoulders, using a fist to knock off its head and spit on its insides. It short circuited and I flung it off the raft before diving onto the wing of the jet where Gazzy was fiddling with the wires hanging out the back of a Flyboy's head. Several robots came down to see what was happening, and Gazzy grabbed my hand and we shot away from the wing as the Eraser bomb went off and took out three Flyboys. I slapped Gazzy high five before other Flyboys fell upon us. I kicked out hard with the heel of my right foot, but the robot caught it and twisted it around, bringing tears to my eyes. "Crap!" I shouted, and a whole lot worse as I hobbled around before knocking the robot's feet out from under him. He skidded around on the plane wing, sparks flying from the metal against metal contact. I snatched one of its mechanical wings and slammed my foot into the joint, taking off the feathered limb before watching him plummet down to the ocean. Up on the body of the plane, Fang was having a lot of fun with his new power, antagonizing the three Flyboys he was fighting. Nudge was kicking butt to my left, using attraction to send Flyboys into each other, Angel was holding her own beside her, and Gazzy was playing with more wires. I thought of the previous Flyboys, wondering why they were sending these on us when they knew they wouldn't work. Anyways, I thought that they had shut these all down. I thought of what Fang had told me about the fight in the hangar where he had filled them all with bullet holes. I smiled to myself before screaming as machine gun shots rang out. My scream was taken away by the wind and I glanced around, seeing Fang firing a machine gun. Then I glanced back at where I had just seen him. He was still there, but staring at the other him. My head started to spin as several of the Flyboys headed toward the machine gun sounds. Bullets passed through them, leaving no holes. I took out a robot that was staring transfixed at the other Fang,
sending him off the plane. Suddenly, the image disappeared and I thought that maybe it was another power, could Fang clone himself? But then where the heck had the machine gun come from? Most of the fighting had stopped and the flock was staring at the disappearance site. The Flyboys that were still intact started to fly off while they could. Suddenly, I thought of Gozen, and there he was standing on the wing of the plane and staring at me with mismatched eyes. I gasped and the image disappeared again. I thought of Ella, crammed in the cock pit and there she was, sitting on the wing of the plane, fear in her eyes as her hair was whipped around. Fang came over and made to touch her arm, but his fingers passed right through her image. "It's a hologram," he informed me. Everyone flew over and gawked at my new ability. I ushered them all toward the door, and we swung down into the body of the plane where I counted my flock. "Where's Iggy?" Everyone looked around before jumping back out of the cabin. On the right wing, Iggy was still fighting a Flyboy, and he was winning. He kicked it hard in the chest, and the Flyboy caved in, but on Iggy. The metal hands struck Iggy in the temples and he collapsed, unconscious before slipping off the wing and plunging through the clouds.
I didn't even have time to think. I just pulled my wings in and curled into a powerdive. "IGGY!!! WAKE UP!" I heard Max yell. I turned and saw Max going into "warp drive". She started gaining on Iggy. She was going to make it! I stopped and looked around. There. A flyboy was placing itself in between Max and Iggy! "MAX!!!" I screamed. I had no time to debate the risks with myself. I curled into a powerdive again, this time aiming at where Max would be in a few seconds. Three, two, one, "Ugh!" The pain was immediate and merciless. Max stared at me like I was a moron. I felt myself slipping into unconsciousness... I woke up in intense pain. I opened my eyes. I was on the jet, leaning on Max's shoulder. "Where's Iggy?" I managed to ask. My arm was driving me insane. "He's playing Texas Hold’em with Angel." She said. "Some people never learn." She sighed. I looked around. Nudge and Gazzy were getting hyper on caffeine again, Total was trying to romance Akila, and Dr. Martinez was discussing something with Jeb. I heard an angry sigh and, sure enough, there was Iggy after losing at Texas Hold’em to a mindreading six-year-old with wings. No matter how many times I tried, my life always seemed completely insane every time I thought about it. "How bad do I look?" I asked Max. "Well, you have a broken arm from that idiotic tackle you made," she began. I gave a light chuckle. "Your lip looks like crap." She continued. "And your hand is broken on your 'good arm'. Other than that, you look great!" I groaned. "How fast should I heal?" I asked bitterly. Then again, I didn't really want to know all that much.
"Should take about a week for you to fully heal." Max said. "Now would you like to tell me why you pulled that idiotic stunt back there?" She asked. "Tell me Max, how well can you see when you're going warp speed?" I asked bitterly. "Not as well as I usually can, but still decently." "So you didn't see the flyboy that flew in between you and Iggy?" I went on. "No, I was to busy admiring my beautiful reflection in the ocean below." I whirled on Gazzy, who was cracking up like an idiot. He and Iggy slapped high fives. I rolled my eyes. "No, I didn't." Max muttered when I turned to face her again. "Well, that's your problem, then, isn't it? I didn't try to practically kill myself: I tried to save your butt." I gave Max the discussion over look. The rest of the flight went pretty smoothly. We checked into a nice hotel in Hawaii with Max's parents. Max made sure our hotel was next to the beach. I walked into our room, memorizing possible escape routes. I went to check all of our bedrooms to make sure they each had a window big enough to crawl through if necessary. I walked out to our balcony. It had a beautiful view of the beach. I looked around at the restaurants connected to our hotel. There were actually quite a few, including one called the "Lobster Gardens". I relaxed and told myself not to tense up. I'd installed something in my laptop that made sure that nothing within the radius of 20 miles could be tracked, and I always brought my laptop with me. This ensured that none of us could be tracked if Total or any of us had anything trackable. Everything was going to be okay. It was going to be a normal two-week or longer vacation in Hawaii. I was sure of it. I was off by half the vacation.
I stared out across the sun-strewn beach with sugar white sand, sitting in a hammock beside Ella in a bikini Mom had bought me, with a strip of fabric down the middle of my back to hide my wings. I still couldn't get used to that word, Mom. "Good thing Mom was there, otherwise Fang would have been totally screwed with that broken arm." Ella nodded. "You are so lucky. He is totally cute. I can't believe you guys weren't together before." "We still aren't really together. We're just... I don't know. It's confusing. Wanna go see if we can catch some waves?" "Sure, before my dad left, he used to take me to Huntington Dog Beach with Magnolia and he would teach me how to surf. I think that you'll get the hang of it right away." We started down the beach to Iggy's Surf Shack. Funny, until now, I hadn't known that Iggy was a common name. "Welcome to Iggy's Surf Shack, how can I help you two Sheilas today?" He had a cute Australian accent with chin length red hair and some scruff starting at his lower lip. "We were looking for some surf boards, Iggy." Oh, no. Ella already had a crush on our Iggy, now she was falling for this one too? "Two boards coming right up for the pretty Sheilas." He brought them around the back. One was lime green with an aqua stripe down the middle and the other
was orange with pink hibiscus flowers. They were well waxed, and I took one under my arm while Ella struggled with the other one for a bit till Iggy helped her. Oh, boy. We headed off toward the surf, Ella explaining the concept of surfing on our way. I saw Gazzy and Angel playing in the shallows, Angel no doubt chatting with the fish. I hoped that she wouldn't bring up any sharks. Our Iggy was sitting in a hammock next to Fang who look extremely uncomfortable as he looked around, also keeping track of the flock. Nudge had a party of little kids trailing behind her as she walked down the beach, picking up shells along the way and talking nonstop. I kept my eye on my family as we waded out. Soon we were a good twenty yards from the beach, and the swells were a whole lot higher. I lifted up onto my board as Ella did the same on hers. We watched behind us, till I saw a wave building in the distance. I tensed and Ella gave me a weird look, before she saw it too. "Okay, you ready?" I nodded. "Get set. Go!" I started paddling as hard as I could until the wave scooped up my board and I jumped to a standing position while Ella did the same. I stuck my arms out as the wave enveloped us and I rode my first barrel. I whooped with sheer pleasure as the wave carried us to the beach and slid back out, leaving us behind. I felt watchful eyes on me, and saw Fang looking my way with that lopsided smile that made it feel like my innards had been taking hits off a helium machine. There was such exhilaration in that first wave, I was hooked. We surfed for the rest of the afternoon before Ella got tired and our Mom took us to the Lobster Gardens. Funky, huh? It kept making me think of that Beetles song. Octopus's Garden. It was nice, though we were all still in our bathing suits. The booths were so small; my butt was squashed between Ella's and Fang's. "Why hello!" Fang whispered in my ear. His breath tickled my neck and rolled delightfully down my spine. I know, I know, I'm quite the romantic. For dinner I had a shrimp Alfredo with peach tea, which I guzzled down both noisily before asking for seconds like the rest of my flock. Unlike in that restaurant in New York, this waiter obliged happily. After dinner, we all went to our rooms at the hotel, girls in one, guys in another. I was to share a twin bed with Ella while Nudge and Angel took the other one and Mom took the pull out couch. We were to rotate every night. I slipped into the shower after Angel, and managed to semi dry my hair before Nudge kicked me out. It was a new feeling, being clean. Totally strange. Akila immediately fell asleep next to Mom, with Total in the other room to his dismay. We did not want puppies to take care of. I fell into unconsciousness beside Ella, and I had a dream where I was fighting a Flyboy that just wouldn't die and its face kept changing from Jeb's to Gozen's to Fang's to Hamster cage dude's. Someone was shaking my shoulder, and I threw a punch to my left, hearing a sharp intake of breath as Fang winced in pain. My eyes fluttered open and I gasped. "I am so, sorry." I whispered into the darkness. I didn't see anything, but then Fang reached out and took my arm, becoming visible again. "If you’re always going to hurt me when I try to get close to you, I'm going to stop trying." He knew that I knew what he was talking about. He brushed my hair
out of my face before leaping from the window and out into the night. I slipped into some jeans, realizing that I had been in my underwear beneath the covers. I sighed before slipping into a tank top and zipping up my oh-so-flattering windbreaker. Fang was circling over the hotel, and I followed him. Our wing tips brushed as our circles became smaller and smaller till we settled on the beach, the sand coming up between the toes of our bare feet. We walked along the shoreline, waves reaching up to grace our feet as it was high tide. I let my wings soak up the moonlight, all too aware that our wings were still brushing. Fang groaned out loud and I glanced his way, hoping that it was physical pain that caused the moan and not mental. "My shoulder is sore, and it hurts to stretch my wings." Unconsciously, I reached out and massaged just around his neck. "That's because of the broken arm you received when dive bombing a Flyboy." "Remind me to never take a hit for you again, you're way too ungrateful." I smiled slightly, helping him rotate his shoulder blades to ease back in his wings. "What happened? I didn't see much after the impact." "The pilot brought the plane around as the rest of the flock helped get you back in the plane and snap Iggy out of it because we couldn't carry both of you, and you were out cold." He nodded and sighed. His split lip was still slightly swollen, and without thinking, I leaned over and kissed him. I curled in my wings as his wrapped around us and he kissed me back as we were basked in the moonlight. Meanwhile, in the guys’ room, the laptop was beeping, telling us that someone was after us.
Max and I looked at each other and smiled. Without a word we jumped into the air, unfolding our wings. We flew around the island, marveling at how beautiful it was. "Good choice for a vacation spot." I commented. "I knew there was a reason I've always wanted to come here." she smiled. We circled back and flew to our hotel. I approached my window. I tried to open it but quickly realized that these windows could only be opened from the inside. I flew down to the entrance and quickly found Max. I got into the elevator and pressed the 7. We waited as that creepy elevator music cheered us on. When we finally got to our floor, I was greeted by an unpleasant surprise. Dr. Martinez was standing in the doorway of the elevator. "Hi Max." She said. "Where were you? I thought your bedtime was an hour ago." She smiled sweetly at us. "Uh..." Max stammered. "I was just out for a quick fly around the island to stretch my wings out." "I went with her to make sure nothing happened to her while she was out." I said, coolly. "Well, thank you, Fang. What a nice thing for you to do." Dr. Martinez said in a very "Mom-like manner." "I'll just be getting to bed now." Max offered.
"Ok, sweetie." Her mom smiled. As soon as Max was out of earshot, Dr. Martinez turned to me. "How was your flight?" she asked. "It was a bit chilly out." I said truthfully. "Listen, Fang, I'd like to talk to you about you and my daughter." Great, I knew this sort of thing was coming. "You see, Fang." She continued. "Max is at a point in her life when little things can make a big impact." Just what I needed. A lecture. "Look, Dr. Martinez, while I admit Max and I are together, I don't see where you're going with this." "Let me just cut to the chase, then. I don't want Max to be hurt, okay? Don't do anything at all that will cause her pain, please. You've been having a confusing relationship, I can see that. But don't let it get in the way of your feelings for each other." She smiled at me and went back to her room. I smiled, loving that she cared for Max so much. But I have to admit, that was a very confusing discussion. And I had a feeling that it wasn't over just yet. I walked back to my room. The first thing I noticed was the beeping. It was fast, constant, and annoying. I opened my laptop to see what it was. It was probably just a pop-up telling me I'd won a free Xbox or something. An Xbox would actually be kind of nice, until Iggy and the Gasman turned it into a nuclear weapon. What I saw froze my blood. There was a pop-up, all right. But instead of offering me a prize, it told me that my new anti-tracking system (Courtesy of my blog readers) had been overrun, and that Itex was tracking us right now. "Crap." I muttered.
I opened my eyes to see Ella staring at me. I raised an eyebrow at her questioningly. "You talk in your sleep." All sorts of things went through my mind. "What did I say?" "Something about surfing, mixed in with Fang," she grinned at that, "A little bit about new skills, and something about Jeb." I rolled over away from her and slipped out of bed, throwing back the covers that had tried to follow me. "Well you snore worse than Magnolia." She snickered at that before getting up and dressed like I was. Nudge and Angel were already up and in the other room with Mom, who was braiding their hair. I sighed; she was the coolest mom in the world. "While you're waiting for these two, why don't you run downstairs and meet up with the boys for breakfast?" Ella and I stepped into some flip-flops, took a key for the room and walked out the door and down the hallway. Ella called the elevator and we stood there looking around since we hadn't much time to yesterday what for our rush to the beach. The elevator came and that music that always weirds me out started to play as we headed down to the third floor for the
concierges. We used our key card to get in, and we saw the guys with Total and Akila sitting at a huge table beside the TV. A waitress was filling their drinks, and we sat down just before the waitress walked away, both of us ordering oranges juice. We sidled over to the breakfast buffet where we pigged out on waffles, pancakes, cereal, fruit, eggs, and bacon. Let me tell you, this was one of the best things I've ever eaten next to Iggy's cooking and Mom's cookies. Total kept jumping on the table to steal people's muffins, but every time he got up, Gazzy would pull him off the chair and set him back down next to Akila. We all watched in amazement when a muffin floated down off the table to land on Total's tray. Fang and I shared a look. After breakfast, we all changed into our bathing suits and headed back down to the beach. Iggy and I jogged around the water line for a little bit. Iggy sighed and I glanced over at him. "What's the matter, Ig?" "Don't get me wrong, I love it here; the feeling of the sun, the warm water and the being able to relax, but I can't see a thing. Not even the hotel walls are white. It's like becoming blind all over again. I'm starting to miss Antarctica." He plopped his butt down on the sand and laid back, hands behind his head with his sightless eyes gazing right into the sun. "I'm sorry, Ig. This must be pretty bad for you, like your vision was just teasing you before sneaking away again. This might not help much, but you can still touch things and feel colors." With that, Iggy reached out toward me as if groping for something. I jumped away from him. "Inanimate objects, Ig." He spared me a smile. "I really wish I could see those beach bunnies, though." I dropped my head on my knees as I knelt down beside him and sighed. I was so not cut out for this job. "You've been doing that a lot recently." "What?" "Sighing." I lay down on the soft sand beside him and he took my hand in his. "A lot's been going on lately, the Flyboys, the new school, the speech I made to Congress, the new speed mutations we're all going through, Jeb, Fang, this last-second flight to Hawaii and wondering if Itex is going to show up again." He gave my hand a squeeze, his blind, cloudy eyes boring right into me. We laid there for a while till finishing our jog and heading back down the beach to join Ella who was giving Iggy a longing look. If only he could see, he would have been all over her; his bed would have collapsed under the weight of his big head. I gave another one of my infamous sighs, and Iggy gave me a look, whereupon I cracked up. Ella taught him how to surf after we rented out some boards again, and Iggy was really good because he could hear the wave, decipher how big it was and start paddling at exactly the right moment. Let's just say, that between the three of us, he was the best, with no wipeouts, and he always rode the wave back to the beach. Fang looked to be suffering, not able to do anything with his injuries. He also looked as if he were hiding something and mulling it over, but trying not to think about it. I was totally going to ask him about it later.
That night we attended a luau. There were tiki torches everywhere and a huge feast. A few of the people who were born here passed out some hula skirts and taught us how to do the dance. The guys pretended to not be interested, but I saw Fang admiring the natives and Gazzy, every time he walked over to the food table, could be caught swaying his hips in time to the music. Iggy had quite a few other natives on him, trying to teach him the hula by holding his hips since he was blind. Iggy was totally into this, and Ella was totally jealous. The sunset was just as perfect as all those movies and post cards, the sky a deep purple, littered with stars while the firmament behind the blood red sun was a tropical orange followed by a soft gold. Everyone stopped the dancing and music to watch the miracle on the horizon. My flock and Ella and I all sat a little ways down the beach on a rocky cliff where we had an unobstructed view. Let me just tell you that this was why I came to Hawaii. That night, it didn't take much time for us to fall asleep; windows open onto the moon-illuminated sand. I felt hands shaking my shoulders and I awoke to see the Gasman breathing on me, inches from my face. When was the last time he brushed his teeth? "Max? Wanna come see the dolphins; Iggy can hear them on the horizon. I nodded and sat up, staring at Ella. She would so not want to miss this. "Ella?" I gently shook her shoulder as her hand came up and smacked me in the face before she itched her nose. "Not now, Magnolia." I raised an eyebrow. "Ella, it's me, Iggy." At that, she shot right out of unconsciousness. Her glare was cold. "Thanks, Max. You're so nice." "Wanna come see the dolphins? Iggy can hear them out in the sound." Her face lit up before she sighed, looking disappointed. "How will I get there? I can't fly." "Iggy can carry you." She warmed to this and we all slipped into our bathing suits. We met the rest of the flock in the hallway. "Iggy, can you carry Ella?" He shrugged before scooping her up in his arms and jumping out the hall window. I followed along with everyone else as Iggy led us to the spot. Ella had her face buried into Iggy's shirt against the wind and Iggy smiled as he held her closer. I sighed, listening as it was swept away by the wind. The night was peaceful, the soft breeze filling our wings as we sailed over to another one of Hawaii's islands, a little cutout in the land showed where the dolphins were. Iggy eased Ella into the water, doing the same with himself though keeping a hand out to keep Ella from slipping down deeper. We followed suit and formed a ring of Avian-human hybrids, sinking into the water. That was when I heard it, the high pitched chatter of dolphins. Three ducked into our circle and Angel beamed, immediately joining in their conversation. I stuck a hand beneath my chin to keep my jaw from dropping open. These were not the sounds a normal six year old would make, though we were everything but normal. We were all amazed by what was coming out of Angel's mouth. She grabbed a dolphin's dorsal fin and pulled herself to a standing position about two feet in front of its tail. Another dolphin nuzzled her, and soon she was
swimming rings around us, a look of sheer joy on her face with one foot on each dolphin. Gazzy looked up in admiration and the dolphins stopped as Angel pulled him on behind her. Nudge found another dolphin along with Ella, and they were both pulled around, hanging onto the dorsal fin. A dolphin nudged my shoulder and I stroked its smooth snout. It had a sleek, streamlined body, moonlight reflecting off its back. It had a forever smiling face and I took hold of its dorsal fin. It pulled me along while two other dolphins swung up on their tail and started to chatter while waving their fins to entertain Fang and Iggy. Iggy had a huge smile on since he could see in the dark. I saw the huge white orb of the moon reflected on the swells of the water. My dolphin took me over there and hesitated beside the ball of light before swimming inside and letting me slip off in there and swimming back out. He tilted his head to the side and gave me a curious look. I lay on my back and gazed at the moon, easing out my wings. I gently fluttered the outer most feathers of my wings to move me around. Soon the rest of the flock joined me along with the dolphins and we formed a wheel with our wings over the moon, feather tips brushing in the center along like spokes with Ella's fingers and we floated in a gentle circle, the dolphins splashing around beside us.
I lay back onto the water, relaxing. Which is pretty hard to do when you know you're being tracked by a homicidal scientist corporation that wants you dead. And of course, the others were perfectly capable of relaxing and having fun with the dolphins. But not me, noooo. I get the paranoid-always-worried mind. Thanks a lot, evil scientists. Max stopped when she circled by me and hopped off of her dolphin. "What's wrong?" She asked, giving me her no nonsense look. I shrugged, looking anywhere but at her. "I know something's wrong, Fang. You might be able to fool the others, but I know that you're hiding something from the rest of the flock." Her expression grew softer. "Don't you trust me?" she asked, slipping her hand under my wing. I sighed. I knew that she would guilt me into telling her. I had to tell her sooner or later. I turned to her, pain in my face. This would break her heart. "We're being tracked." I said simply. I saw a flash of pain run across her face, followed by an angry scowl. Then she went back to her fearless leader look. "Do you know who's tracking us?" She asked. "Yes. Itex has rebuilt itself and is now trying to kill us again. The only thing I can't understand is how are they tracking us? You got your chip removed, and I doubt any of us has one. So how do they keep finding us?" Then, I realized the answer. It was so obvious, and yet so mysterious. It wasn't any of them. After Max got her chip removed, the only flyboys appearing at all had gone after... "It's me." I said quietly. "What?" Max asked, wonderingly.
"They're tracking me. I don't know how, but somehow the flyboys are being driven towards me. I'm putting the whole flock in danger. I -" Suddenly, Max's lips were against mine in a warm embrace. I decided to let the issue go for a minute, so I could enjoy this moment. When we separated, Max smiled at me. "We're not splitting up again. You promised." She said. "But I'm a danger to the entire flock! You're all in danger because of me!" I argued. "We've been in danger before, and we handled it. This situation is no different." She finished. There really was no point in arguing with this girl. She was just plain unreasonable. I looked around us. Nudge, Iggy, Ella, and Gazzy were still playing with the dolphins. Apparently, they hadn't seen us. But Angel was staring at the two of us warmly, a smile on her face. She had been watching us the entire time. I groaned. We'd never hear the end of this. Max followed my gaze and started giggling. Obviously, she thought being bugged about every detail of our last kiss was going to be funny. I stretched out my wings and started flapping. I was exhausted. When my wings finally had dried off, I took off, heading toward the hotel. I landed at the lobby. I got in the elevator. What was I going to do? I couldn't stay and endanger the rest of the flock, but I couldn't leave and break Max's heart. I lay in bed for hours thinking about it. I heard a knock on my door. I got up approached the peephole. It was Max. I opened the door. "Hey Max." I began. "I thought about our conversation, and I realized that you were right. I'm staying." "Good." Max replied, sounding relieved. "I just came to say good night." She gave me a warm hug and walked off to her room. I hate lying to Max, and even worse, I hate breaking her heart. But if I was going to protect the flock, this was something I had to do. I printed out a note from my laptop and put it on my pillow. I would leave at around 2:30, to make sure it was to dark for anyone to see me leave. I set my watch and packed everything into my backpack. When I was done, I sat down and waited. When my watch beeped, I got up and opened my window. I put on my backpack and jumped out. "Fang?" I spun around to see Angel flying a few feet away from me. "Angel! I was just going out for a little flight around the island. No you're not. I heard her voice in my head. It was really annoying trying to lie to a mind-reader. "Angel, could you do me a favor?" I asked. She smiled sadly. "You want me to tell the others that you said goodbye, and to tell Max that you love her." "Yes." I sighed. "C'mere." I hugged her as affectionately as you can while flying. "Goodbye, Angel. I'll miss you." "I'll miss you too." I saw tears starting in her eyes. It took a lot to make that girl cry. I flew into the night, holding back tears myself. Because I never, ever cry.
I rolled over to see Angel sitting on the edge of my mattress. Everyone else was there too, of my flock. I guessed that the others might have gone down to breakfast. I glanced at the calendar. July third. The day Fang had chosen as his birthday. That was the reason he wasn't sitting here with the rest of the flock. But, everyone was looking at Angel. I sighed, wondering if she had gotten a new talent. Her delicate features turned toward me and her eyes looked straight into mine. "Fang left." The two words made my blood run cold, but my brain still registered the looks of pain and confusion skittering across my family's faces. "Itex was tracking us through a chip in him so he left to keep us out of danger." Gazzy started to whimper while Iggy's knuckles turned white. Nudge fought to hold back tears while Angel sat there expressionless, she had already cried herself out, I could tell. I took Gazzy up in a hug while Nudge leaned on my shoulder and I stroked Iggy's arm. "He told me to tell you that he loves you, Max." I comforted my dwindling flock best I could, before sending them down to breakfast and out to the beach. I locked the bedroom door and closed the blinds. I made the bed and unpacked all my clothes, setting the dirty ones in a bag. I brushed my teeth and took a shower to get dressed, finally sinking down into the no-longer-comfortable bed as it all caught up to me. I found my tears fleeing the dams, leaving small streams down my cheeks. My nose turned red along with my swollen eyes, and finally I could hear the sobs as they racked my spine, violently echoing my grief. My hunched shoulders trembled as I had no idea where he would go. He had broken his promise and I didn't know if he was safe or not. He said I was bad with my running away every time he got close to me, but here he was the time I was coming to terms with staying put and allowing things to happen and he runs away. This was worse than last time, and worse that when he went off in search of his parents and worse than leaving with Nudge to check out D.C. First of all, he couldn't fly all the way to the coast unless he snuck aboard oil rigs or something, not to mention he would be dealing with Flyboys that we normally took on together. Whenever I was worried, he always told me we could get through it, that we always did. He didn't even give me a chance to do that for him. I highly doubted that he would meet up with the gang he had been with before with Gazzy and Iggy. I didn't know what I would do without him. There were somethings in this flock that I was sad to say only a guy could do. But this wasn't about me. This was about Fang's safety. I tried not to be mad at him, I really did. I decided we wouldn't follow him. If and when he was ready, he would find us. And though I hated myself for doing so, I unlocked my door and walked into the guys room where I found his empty bed, curled up and cried some more.
I opened my eyes and sat up. I would probably be deaf by the time the trip was over. Thank God for earplugs. I looked around. I was sitting on the back of a
passenger plane for the rest of the trip. I couldn't exactly fly across the ocean nonstop for six hours, so I'd hopped onto a plane as it flew by. I couldn't believe that I was actually going through with this. I know it was for their own protection, but I felt like I had really hurt the flock. I stood up. After that nap I'd taken, I was ready to fly the rest of the way. With great difficulty, I jumped and spread my wings out. It felt good to be flying again. I was stiff after that nap. One thing really worried me, though. I didn't know where I was going. I had no plan, no course of action, nothing. That kind of thing was usually what Max did. I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw land. Finally, I could land and make a plan. I swooped down and landed softly against the sand of Huntington Beach. I gotta say, that beach really is amazing. I headed over to the road to town. I could never stay in one place without the flyboys finding me. So I had to always be moving. When I finally reached the town, I found a restaurant and ordered up some food. Turns out that the store manager reads my blogs and offered me some free food. I happily accepted. If you're ever looking for a good place to eat, go to Chili's. The food was amazing. I thanked them warmly as I left. I sighed when I got outside. Max would have loved it here. Mexican food is her favorite. I stopped myself there. If I started feeling pain now, I wouldn't stop anytime soon. I sat down on a bench and took out my laptop. I needed to find somewhere that I could be temporarily safe. I also had to find any branches of Itex so I could avoid them. My heart stopped. I knew that hum. I looked up, already packing up my laptop. What I saw froze my blood. I had expected a few hundred to be on my tail, but no. That would have been too easy for me to dispatch. Instead, the sky in front of me was pitch black with flyboys. I could literally see the borderline of the sky and the hurricane of flyboys. They wouldn't take long to get to where I was. At the maximum, they would've taken about three minutes. I put on my backpack and unfolded my wings, taking off. I couldn't let them catch up to me. I really wished I had Max's ability to fly at over 200 mph. Suddenly, I realized what I had failed to do. I forgot to look around for any other flyboy hurricanes. As I turned around, I saw another cloud of flyboys. These were so close, I could see the individual flyboys, and could feel their endless mechanical gaze piercing me. They would be here in seconds. I had two choices: let them take me back to the School, or go down fighting millions of demonic mechanical werewolves. I just asked myself: what would Max do? I looked around for any weapons, and found a piece of pipe sticking out of the ground. I picked it up and flew into the cloud with a bloodcurdling war cry. I took down less than fifty before they caught me. It was a stupid idea from the start, but it's what Max would've done, and that's good enough for me. They flew me over to a dog crate that two of them were carrying. I started struggling against them, trying to stay away from that prison. But no matter how I tried, I couldn't get away. I was going to be taken back to the School.
With the help of the flock, I got over my worry, and with the help of the band Fall Out Boy (Fang always listened to them) and the homework our school was so kind to supply, I got over the pain and dejection, or rather, they distracted me from it. You know the song, "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race?" Well, that was what I felt like. Mom had a fit when she found out that Fang was gone, and let's just say that I'm pretty sure that Jeb upchucked on his fancy work shoes after turning as white as the snowy planes of Antarctica. I got back into the swing of things, and I headed down to the beach to hang out, or ten, with Ella. The waves were good since it was the start of a new moon, and we whooped and hollered as we wiped out, watching Iggy roll his wave to the sand at the edge of the shallows. Even some of the natives were jealous of his skills. It was totally cool feeling the power of the water sliding beneath your board and feeling it grab onto the fin, pulling you back into the beach. We rented some scuba gear from Iggy's Surf Shack, and the flock was boated out. The guy watching us gave us all the A-okay sign, pinching together his index and thumb. I wrapped my mouth around my respirator and fell back into the water after my family. We kicked down beside the hull of the boat and skimmed across some of the most colorful coral I've ever seen. There were pinks and greens and blues. Angel was especially delighted to see some seahorses flapping their small back fins with their tails wrapped around seaweed to keep from floating away. There was some Gumboot Chiton, I'm proud to report. Our guide picked it up to show us the bottom which was outlined with one foot, the mouth placed in the very center of its orange underbelly. The top was a wonderful maroon, and don't you just love the name? We saw some orange starfish with blue dollops for spots, and the spots had a white dollop in the center. There were spindly-spider-like starfish, and everything just amazed me. A small leopard shark slunk along the bottom, waving its tail and a stab of pain shot up my spine and settled in my chest as I though of how Fang would have loved this. I couldn't believe that he had left on his birthday. I practically slammed those thoughts against the inside of my skull to get them to shut up as we passed some jellyfish resting on the rocky bottom, tentacles up like a woman with one of those big, layered, hoop dresses that had just fallen over, exposing their bloomers. That one made me giggle, and I watched as a trail of bubbles raced to the surface of the soft green water. Sunlight streamed through the water and reflected off of Iggy's hair, causing it to look little mermaid red in the water as it fanned out in multiple spikes around his head. He had gotten it cut in the lobby of the hotel by a woman who was raising money for something or other. Iggy had persuaded her to dye the tips black, so we were back to the just-stuck-my-finger-in-the-electrical-socket look. Angel was having so much fun, whizzing back and forth between the different species, so many new acquaintances. I had made her put on the respirator, just to help her look normal in front of our guide. Nudge was right behind her, back kicking away from a gigantic Manta ray that had swooped in behind her, its jaws gaping open to catch microscopic organisms. You could see the slits of its gills
through its mouth and its ribbed abdomen. An eel ducked out of a small rock cave the size of my fist, its eyes rolling around while its mouth fell open and closed, sharp teeth catching my eye. Out of the corner of my peripheral vision, I saw a deep red octopus roll and billow over itself and its many legs as it swam about to another rock formation. I once again thought of Fang, and I doubled over in pain in the middle of the ocean, I felt like I was taking beatings from all sides. I slowly sank to the rocks by the jellyfish and coughed a few more gas spheres to the water's surface. Then, just as easily as it had come, the pain was gone and I felt a strange feeling of defeat. The chance that this was a new power flashed through my head. I thought of Angel, and I was immediately filled with the excitement of my surroundings. I could feel people's emotions, at least my flocks. What the heck was Fang doing that was causing him so much pain besides leaving us? That was a stupid question, but I knew Fang was in trouble, when and where were the questions I should have been asking. I thought back to Fang, and a sense of dread crawled into the pit of my stomach to get some exercise from being curled up so long in my brain, unnoticed. The dread hadn't been mine at first, but now it was.
I grunted as the flyboys carrying me finally landed. Back in a dog crate again. Who would've thought? I really couldn't believe that Itex had actually raised an army this big. We're not talking a couple hundred flyboys; I'm talking a huge army with at least three million flyboys in it. It was incredible. I looked out of the crate as they approached the School. I hated that place. They opened the doors and walked down a long hallway. I closed my eyes, willing myself not to look at the grotesque mutations in the other labs. I shuddered as I remembered some of the mutants we had seen while we had lived here. Most of them ended in catastrophic meltdowns. I heard doors opening and opened my eyes. We were in another lab, not unlike the one that the entire flock had spent most of our life in. The flyboys dropped my crate with a thud. They turned around and left the way they had come. I was alone. I expected white coats to burst in any second, yammering about how interesting a specimen I was, what they could do to me when they dissected me. But they never came. I looked around for any security cameras, microphones, anything at all. Nothing. I was in a plain, windowless lab. I took out my laptop. Might as well tell the others what had happened. I stopped. If I told them, they might get captured too. I packed my laptop up and waited. I started to relax and feel drowsy. I nodded off... I woke up to a violent shaking of the cage. I was being carried again. I looked around and noticed that I was in that long series of hallways again. The flyboys that carried me stopped at what looked like a maze. This didn't look good. They put me down in front of the maze's entrance and opened the door. Across the maze, I saw that they were doing the same with another cage. I couldn't see the creature inside, but I could see that it needed an iron cage to restrain it.
I put on my backpack and entered the maze. I turned the corner where they couldn't see me and held still. Seconds later, I was completely invisible. Just in time, too. I heard a violent panting noise, and turning the corner was a genuine fully morphed eraser. I thought that they had killed all the erasers, but apparently they kept a few for testing mutants. It crawled around the hallway, looking past me. It crawled past me, and I realized I had been holding my breath. I let it out smoothly and evenly. I walked around the corner of the maze, sighing with relief. Suddenly, the panting came back, faster and getting closer. I turned around just in time to see the eraser bounding at me. It got up onto its hind legs and grinned. I raised my hands, ready to fight. But no doubt this one eraser was more powerful than normal ones. I couldn't see any way out of this. It was hopeless. I had to try to fight it, whether it was superpowerful or not. I jumped at it, fists flying. I punched it in the stomach and heard the wind get knocked out of it. I instantly got back into attack. I punched it in the jaw and saw it spit a tooth out. But it wasn't done with me yet. It extended its claws and jumped on me. It slashed my left arm and bit into my shoulder. I screamed in pain. I kicked it off of me, quickly regaining my feet. I tried to make a plan to kill this thing. It was relying mostly on its arms, I realized. If I hit its pressure points and gave it dead-arm, it would be defenseless. I extended my index and middle fingers, getting ready to hit the pressure points. Suddenly, I stopped. Something was wrong with those two fingers. I tightened them and saw lightning bouncing off of them. Interesting, I thought. I made an elaborate spin, waving those fingers like a baton to build strength, and shot a burst of lightning, making a small ragged hole in the erasers shoulder. I grinned. I shot five more quick lightning bursts at its chest, legs and arms. It collapsed on the floor in front of me. It looked up at me and tried to snap at my legs. I directed a burst at its head and watched as it sunk back down to the ground. The walls of the maze sunk into the ground, and three flyboys walked toward me. Sorry, boys. Not this time. I thought. I shot a scythe of lightning at them and watched as their chests slid away from their legs. I kicked open the door and ran through the hallway. I had memorized the way to the exit on the way in. I shot some lightning bursts at some of the lab windows, freeing the mutants inside. I blew up the exit doors with a final lightning blast and took a leap into the outside air, extending my wings. I was going to Hawaii.
We surfaced from the water and paddled over to the boat where the skipper and our guide helped us back over the railing as if we were normal people. I had to restrain a laugh. We sat on the wet floor in our soggy gear and smiled, talking about what we saw as the skipper drove the boat back to the beach. We sloshed up on the dock and pulled off the oxygen tanks and the dry suits and wetsuits, the goggles and the flippers. We thanked the skipper and
guide and ran past them on the dock, splashing into the water slopping against the supports of the wooden dock. Gazzy's upburst of water was ten feet high, and when he came back up, the deck hands were all staring at him like he was a mutant, which in fact he was. Ella, Iggy and I managed to snag some boards and we bobbed swells and waves till the beach was about fifty yards away. A good sized twenty foot wave came, and we started to paddle back before popping up to plant our feet on the boards. Ella and I wiped out thirty feet from the beach while Iggy rode it all the way in. We rode for several hours, Ella having to drop out after nearly drowning from lack of focus and exhaustion. A storm started to boil in the east; clouds of a deep indigo color were collecting on the horizon just above the now reckless waters, throwing a tantrum a couple miles away. Lightning ripped through the sky while the thunder sounded like a bunch of little kids jumping on bubble wrap. Due to the conductivity of water (Thanks for teaching that to me Mrs. Leland) the life guards called us in and we huddled on the beach, all slightly cold from lack of clothing. I snatched a beach towel from the lobby stairs and headed back out onto the sand to watch and maybe fly in the storm. Iggy followed me out and we walked just in the line of trees. I loved the tinge of electricity in the air and the soft humidity that frizzed my hair. Well, maybe the latter one not so much. The sky was a deep navy, turning with the turmoil of the billowing of clouds alive with static. It was a dry storm. There was no rain, so slowly my hair began to dry and kink. The sand was soft and seemed like it would prove the best building material for sand castles. I glanced at the sky and noticed an arrow against the darkness that didn't seem to quite belong even though it was sparking with electricity. I stared at it awhile before I made out the black Taylor Twins concert T-shirt along with the black jeans and red shoelaces. Dark eyes were focused on me as Fang swung his hair out of his eyes to smile. I didn't know what to think. Why he was back so soon, why his black hair had tiny bands of electricity coursing through it and his fingers creating static between his palms and the snaps on his pockets. I just stared, my face staying expressionless as he circled us, breaking sooner and sooner till his feet pressed into the sand three feet in front of me. I stared at him till he took a hesitant step forward and all my emotions balled into one. I closed the distance between us and brought my hand back, bringing it across his olive-skinned face with shattering strength and a satisfying smacking sound. Yes, listeners you heard me right, I slapped the love of my life upon his return to Hawaii. He wobbled back a step and I saw the urge to rub his face flash across his eyes as my fingers smarted in pain. He had practically electrocuted me. "Holy-" let's just say that he said 'crap.' I stood there shaking my fingers around to alleviate the sting while he looked at me like I was a goddess. He stepped back in again and placed a hand behind my neck, sending static electricity through my body while his other hand found my waist and he was kissing me really fast while Iggy stood there looking confused at the sudden change of mood. Fang pulled back with the biggest grin he has ever given me on his face and soon the electricity was not the only thing making me tingly. I
stepped back, slipping a little on the sand, brushing my hair out of my face and behind my ears, but it wasn't working. Fang started to laugh as I tugged my hair in front of my face to find it sticking out in all directions. "What the-" Fang walked over and sent a spark between his hands, the bolt of lightning jumping around his wrist and back to his other palm. "What happened to you?" I asked. "New power," he answered, wrapping his arms around my waist to send volts of electricity hopping around my abdomen. "I'll leave you guys here and tell the others that you're back," Iggy informed us as he started back up the beach. I noticed that both of Fang's arms and hands were okay, the sling and bandages gone. "They work fine now," Fang said, reading my mind, "I'm thinking that it might have something to do with the electricity." I slumped out of his arms and onto my butt on the sand. "Why are you back?" "I thought you'd be happy." He answered. "Wrong answer. What about the chip?" "I think that this electricity could cause it to short circuit, and anyways, with all these new powers I think we can fight them off." A hologram of Fang appeared beside him, repeating what he had just said. He glanced down at me with a look of skepticism. "I got a new power," I told him, sitting up to wrap my arms around my knees. He sat down beside me and filtered sand between his fingers. "I can sense people's emotions, similar to Nudge, but I could sense yours even when you were miles away." He glanced at me with that last comment. "What did you sense?" "Pain and then disappointment." He looked to be deep in thought before lying back on the sand and clasping his fingers behind his dark-haired head. Electricity seemed to orbit him like a god. "Will you always do that?" I asked him, it would be hard not to draw attention to ourselves with Electro boy keeping pace with us. "No, it's just the storm that gives me more electrical charges." "So I take it that you’re now a conductor?" He grinned before disappearing into the sand, bolts of light and static circling empty air. We stood up and walked back toward the hotel, electricity jumping around our clasped hands.
I got up from the sand and was instantly visible again. Max sat up. "What's wrong?" she asked. "You should have seen them." I muttered "The army of flyboys that Itex created in only a month was unbelievable." "It couldn't be that bad." Max stood up and put her hand beneath my wing, rubbing it. "You weren't there. You didn't see the sheer numbers they were able to conjure." I closed my eyes, remembering the way they were able to sneak up on me like that. "There were over three million."
I heard Max gasp, something that doesn't happen very often. "You're just exaggerating, right? There's no way there could've been that many!" She looked like she was about to hurl. "But there were. That's how they caught me: they overwhelmed me with their sheer numbers." I sighed. "Itex is reforming, and we're on vacation in Hawaii." Max looked like she was about to say something, when I was tackled by a divebombing Gazzy. "Fang! You're back! We missed you so much!" The little guy really knew how to greet someone. "Yes, I'm back. Now can you please stop crushing my lungs?" I gasped out. "Sorry." He got up off of me and waved in the others. Nudge looked like she was about to start crying with joy, Iggy looked very pleased with himself, Total was practically jumping out of Iggy's arms, and Angel was giving me an I told you so kind of look. I hugged each of them in turn, letting their joy wash away my worries. "Fang!" I heard Jeb shouting as he ran towards us, grinning. Right behind him was Max's mom, looking absolutely relieved. I hugged Dr. Martinez and shook hands with Jeb. After we all went back to the hotel, I relaxed into my bed again. I still had a bruise from where Gazzy had tackled me. I heard a knock at the door. I got up and checked the peephole. Max. I opened the door. "Hey, Max. What's up?" I asked. "Can we talk?" She asked. "Privately?" "Sure thing." I replied. "Let me just get my jacket and shoes." I walked over to my closet and got ready to go. When I was ready, I jumped out my window to meet Max outside. "Where do you want to go?" I asked. "Let's go down to the beach." "What an original choice." I muttered. We flew down to the beach near a few palm trees. Max and I sat down in between the trees. "Why did you go?" Max asked. "I couldn't risk you getting hurt because of me." I sighed. "If I'd have stayed, we all would've been captured and brought back to the School. I couldn't let them hurt you like that." "I told you not to go! We were all really worried. And worst of all, I felt like you betrayed me." Max looked down at the grass beneath us. "Max, I would never, ever betray you." Max looked up, and suddenly we were kissing, letting all of our past fights and bickers go. I put my arms under her wings, and she wrapped her arms around me. This is the scene I wanted to remember forever. Not what happened a few moments afterward.
The soft buzz of machines vibrated the skin of my forearms and I pulled back from Fang. I glanced up at the sky, but everything was still dark from the storm.
Then I heard the swarm. The sky was no longer consumed by clouds of condensation; there were angry hordes of mechanical monsters. I panicked, and didn't even think to use my super speed. I started crashing through the trees at fifty miles an hour on foot. I couldn't see Fang, but I could see the Flyboys hovering over the treetops and others swarming in behind me. I couldn't hear myself think for all the grinding of gears and flapping of wings. I stopped and turned to face the oncoming torrent; I was going down, but not without a fight. I threw out several kicks and knocked my knuckles with metal. A Flyboy ripped my arm out of my socket and another wrenched around my wing. My ankle shattered against the chest of a robot and my fist snapped against another's jaw. Fang had been right; these were upgrades. A blow to the head gave me a split lip and my eye started to swell as blood gushed from my nose. I flailed around some more, but one hoisted me into a cage, size large. I cried out in anguish, my voice echoing out over the trees as they flew above the forest and away from the island. I wrapped my fingers painfully around the bars of my cage and shouted out bitterly in defeat. The Flyboy holding the cage shook it around, smacking my head against the metal wiring. The last blow knocked me out and I got tunnel vision as the last thing I saw of the island was Fang running out of the trees and leaping into the air, shaking out his bloody wings painfully to fly after my little gang. I woke up in my cage, ice cold air conditioning sliding a finger down my spine as I came to my senses with a sharp pain in my head and the grotesque smell of disinfectant clouded my sinuses. I sat up and almost slipped right back down again in pain. My arm throbbed viciously while a migraine wrecked havoc on my brain, pain raged violently through my entire sore body. I felt my arm and held my breath before popping it back into its socket. Tears flooded my eyes and left clean streams through the dried blood on my cheeks. The shoulder had shattered and the ligaments had snapped against the strain. I curled up in a small ball on the floor of my dog crate and tried to pull myself together. My pain tolerance must have gone down after a couple months of not being able to fight any bad guys. I breathed in deeply and massaged my shoulder while my head throbbed and my ankle screamed. Not to mention me not being able to open or close my broken fingers. I heard footsteps approaching the cage and I fought the urge to sit up and look defiant. I wiped my face dry with my tattered sleeve and pretended to be asleep. A robot opened the cage and hoisted my out, tossing me potato-sack style over his shoulder. I winced in pain as I noticed several cracked ribs and tried to keep my head from banging against his metal butt as he trotted down the familiar corridors. He practically threw me onto an examination table I had been on a zillion times before, and suddenly I was surrounded by six or seven machines that immediately started setting all my broken bones. It disgusted me and made me feel even more alone with a bunch of robots touching me. The metal of their limbs was cold and stung against my warm skin. They placed my hand and slathered some chemical on my shoulder that immediately started to burn. I restrained the urge to gasp, wince, cry out or show some other sign of consciousness or weakness, though with the mechanical technology, they
probably already knew I was awake from my pulse and breathing. They slit open around my ribs to wrap wire around them to make sure they healed correctly, stitching together the wound and swathing my abdomen in cloth. I also hated the thought and feeling of chilly metal fingers caressing my insides. They set my ankle and rubbed more of that ointment on everything, including my nose which made me gag, but I expect that I also would have done that in my sleep so I was okay. They finished and the robot from before flipped me back over his shoulder where I was in too much pain to even think about preventing my forehead from knocking against his hard back. I felt the bitter tears come, sliding up into my hairline till he tossed me back in my cage and locked the door as I whimpered after my back knocked against the metal wiring, knocking the wind out of me. I gasped for air like a stupid bass on land and closed my eyes against the stupid and pitiful story that was my life. Maybe I'd just die in here. That was what we had all hoped for the last time.
I ran after Max as she barreled into the trees at top speed. I would've caught up to her were it not for a swarm of flyboys blocking my way. "You really don't want to do that. I said, grinning. I shot them all full of holes with lightning bursts, watching as they fell to pieces in front of me. "FANG!" I heard Max scream. I looked up to see Max in a large cage. The Flyboy holding her cage shook it around, banging her into the walls. I angrily took off from my position, scraping my wings on some trees as I took off. I saw Max fade into unconsciousness. I flew towards her as fast as I could, and finally caught up. I went to the center of the swarm, hoping my plan would work. I formed a bubble of lightning around myself and expanded it to hit every single flyboy that was near Max's cage. I watched with grim satisfaction as hundreds of flyboys simply shut down instantly. Then, I figured out the flaw of my plan. I spun around just in time to see the flyboy carrying Max's cage shut down. I couldn't do anything to save her. Suddenly, another flyboy grabbed her cage seconds before she hit the ocean. I breathed a sigh of relief as it flew away from the water. I readied another few bursts of lightning with no effect. I was completely wiped out. I didn't have enough energy to kill these things since the electric storm had ended. Twenty or more flyboys surrounded me. One approached me. "You have two choices: surrender and be taken without being damaged or fight back and become captured with several severe wounds. It is your choice." I couldn't believe they were actually going through this routine again. Didn't they ever learn? "If you come with us now, the girl will be given our most advanced form of healing, and the rest of your 'flock' will be left alone. Itex only wants to study the two most successful experiments." That stopped me. This time, I didn't ask myself "What would Max do." I searched inside myself to find the best solution for Max, me, and the rest of the flock.
With a sincere hesitancy, I nodded and said the fatal words: "I... surrender." That's right, readers. Even big bad Fang has to give up sometimes. I couldn't let the people I cared about be put in danger. So I surrendered. Three flyboys left the circle, and one came in with a large cage. I sighed and flew through the open doorway. This was not going as I had hoped. "One more thing." I said, as I was about to enter. "Could you put me in the room Max is in?" The flyboy nodded. I suddenly realized that as soon as I got my lightning back, I could blow the whole cage up! Well, there was one thing that wasn't a total loss. Just give me a few hours and"By the way," Their leader interrupted my thoughts as they closed the door on me. "That cage has a thin coating of rubber on it. Your lightning powers will have no effect on it." Good feeling gone.
I woke up and my hand instantly fell to my side. The ribs had mostly healed and my ankle wasn't screaming. I realized that my migraine had settled to a low throb as I sat up slowly and glanced around. Fang. Fang was in the cage across from me. "Oh, crap." And worse things were said by me. "How?--Did?--Huh?" And more sentence starters tumbled out of my mouth head over heels and over each other. "The question is why. To protect the flock." I moaned and my stomach crumbled around my bruised ribs and I sank to the floor before leaping back up in pain. We both shut up just in case anyone was listening in and sat in silence. If I could sense emotions, then why couldn't I send them? I sent flickers of hope to Fang and I saw the emotions reflected in his eyes. He smiled slightly as he looked up at me, knowing what I was doing. I had to get a message to him. I wanted to know if he could control metal like in the Fantastic Four movie. I sent him a feeling of power, and then I sent him a chill mixed with defiance or toughness, what ever you want to call that emotion. His olive face framed by the bars, he gave me a quizzical look. I sighed and sat back at the effort. I noticed that the wire of his cage was rubber-coated, but I wondered if he could send electrical currents through the wall and short-circuit everything since robots seemed to be running the place. Maybe he could get rid of the cameras and move the lock on my cage so I could strip some of the wire on his own and we could ditch this place. But first, the scientists had to have their fun. A robot came in the room and opened my cage with a remote control, something I was too stupid to notice last time. He grabbed me roughly and hoisted me out of the cage. I was carried down the hall potato sack once again and I was taken to the examination room. They took an x-ray of all my previously broken bones, and they found all to be healed, just slightly bruised. They placed me prostrate in a cubicle very similar to an incubator, closing the wire-reinforced glass door. And then they gassed me.
When they took me out, I was still semiconscious, so I could still feel when they set me on the examination table and when they made another small incision to the left of my heart. I sucked in my breath as the numbing set in and I felt rubbergloved, but still cold metal fingers messing with my insides. I woke up back in my cage to find Fang gone. They came for me again and this time they took me to the flight arena. The second I got to the starting point, the timers started and I leaped into the air willingly. At least with flight, no matter how painful it was at the moment, I could still forget about the things that were going on. Almost. There were no updrafts or breezes to catch onto, the arena being indoors. I lapped several times before going into warp drive. I poured on the speed and just kept going on cruise control, letting my mind wander. I wondered what the flock was thinking and whether or not they had planned a 'Save the Leaders' mission. I hoped they weren't doing anything stupid. A giant net closed over me as if I were a stupid laced-wing butterfly, pulling me back to the ground where robots grabbed me. I was taken back to my cage where Fang was still gone. Not even his dark presence to reassure me. Life was not good.
I watched as they took Max out of her cage. I tried sparking the cage, but unfortunately it was quality rubber. A flyboy walked into the room. I grinned as it approached my cage. Sparks lanced from my fingertips as it opened the door. But amazingly, it seemed to actually be absorbing my lightning. I sighed as it took me out and hauled me onto its shoulder. I looked around, memorizing possible escape routes. We finally got to a room filled to the brim with flyboys. These weren't as sleek as the newer models I'd seen, so I guessed that they were the older ones. They also didn't have guns. A voice boomed in from a speaker as I was shoved into the room. "These are the oldest version of flyboys that we have. You will be disposing of them in battle. This will show us your combat skills. You may begin at the sound of the whistle." I waited a minute, then heard a high pitched shriek. Time to begin. Thousands of robotic heads turned towards me. Why did life hate me so much? I flew to the middle of the swarm and unleashed one of my devastating lightning bubbles. Hundreds of flyboys simply shut down, then fell apart. I flew down and snapped the head off of one and used its headless body to shatter another. Then, I got an idea. I flew over to the corner and, sure enough, all of the flyboys followed me. They created a dome around me, allowing me to shut each and every one of them down with a lightning bubble. Pieces of flyboy fell all around me. "You have passed this test." That voice on the loudspeaker was really annoying. "You will now be moved to a room where your friend Max is waiting for you." If that didn't sound suspicious, nothing did. This time, I was allowed to walk, as long as I had the "Special flyboy" holding my arm the whole time.
We passed a surgical room where I saw some flyboys giving Max a small incision on the left of her heart. They started reaching around inside her, doing God knows what. For some reason, the flyboy I was following kept walking. "Hey, Max is right there. We were supposed to go that way." The flyboy shook its head. "That is Max's clone. Your friend is in the room ahead." Odd. That was even the exact same outfit that she had been wearing earlier. We entered a large, spacious room where I saw Max waiting for me, looking scared. "Hi Max." I said as I approached her. The flyboy let go of my arm and walked out of the room, shutting the door behind it. I looked around. There was only one window which no one was looking through, no microphones, no cameras, nothing. "What tests are they doing on us in here?" I asked. "They said something about intelligence testing, or something like that." She smiled. "Oh, Fang! I'm so glad you're with me again." She pressed herself against me lovingly. Something was wrong. Max was never this emotional. Maybe that's what they did to her. Maybe they did something to tamper with her emotions or something. I stroked her hair gently. "It's okay, Max." She looked up at me and smiled, and suddenly her lips were against mine. While we kissed, she wrapped her wings around me like a hug. Once again, she was never this emotional. As we kissed, I dimly noticed that she was wearing a different outfit than when we came in.
I closed my eyes and leaned back against the wire of my cage. Fang's gaze was hard on my concentration as he stared at me from across the room. There was no way we could communicate, both aware of the probability that there might be hidden cameras or microchips and voice receivers. I listened into each of my flock member's emotions in turn. Most of it was worry, suspicion or fear. I tried my best to send them reassuring thoughts, but it wasn't easy while sitting in a dog crate, nose filled with the nasty smell of disinfectant. I sighed and closed my eyes, trying once again to create two holograms at once. I believed that maybe it could help us escape. I also believed that maybe Fang could control metal, but there was no way I could tell him this if we were being watched, people listening into our conversations. I managed to create the image of a scientist beside my cage and Angel in the doorway, holding a finger to her lips as if she had a plan to get us out of there. I sighed, letting the pictures disintegrate before my eyes. I pictured the bars of my cage and squinted my eyes shut before opening them again and looking down. By picturing my surroundings, I had turned myself invisible. I applauded myself on the inside as my hands and knees came back into view. Sunlight slowly began to shine through the window. Mornings and evenings were blurring together and I
couldn't remember how long we had been here. It seemed like so long ago that Fang had dropped out of the clouds of the thunderstorm. The robots came for me at the usual time and I obediently stepped out of my cage, allowing myself to be robot-handled even though I had tried over and over again to assure them that this was not necessary. He, I assumed it was a he since girls were more sensitive, carried me down familiar hallways until we were at the now boring maze system. They had already tested me here many times so it was monotonous. My Voice had been MIA every since our little trip to Hawaii, so I used my emotion sensing powers. I started down the blank white hallways until I came to the first fork. I had begun to recognize the guy watching over me, so I picked his emotions out from everyone else's, thank god there were humans running this thing. I took a step to the right fork and disappointment clouded his brain, so I started down the other way. He became excited and I knew I had taken the right path. They tests were always like this, so easy it was boring. The robots led me back to my cage area, but then we turned right. Where were we going? To a test Max. My voice answered. Well there you are! I spit back bitterly. He dropped me off in a room, austere and empty except for two metal bunks and Fang. I spent about a week in this cell before I realized that this Fang was even less emotional than the previous one. And then came the epiphany, I think. Fang had the Omega Flaw. He went cross-eyed whenever I moved too fast or too much. I stood up from my bunk and started rambling on and on about how unfair our life was. I moved my hands in big sweeping gestures like the ones may teachers made that I despised I and paced the room, and there it went, Fang's pupils instantly focused on the bridge of his nose. I quickened my hand motions and got in his face, I began to speak louder and to slur my words. Then the stupid robot developed a tick, its head snapping to the side every several seconds. I swung a round house kick, knocking the metal head clear off the robotic shoulders. The dismantlement set off a signal and I turned myself invisible, setting up a holographic me sitting on the bed, starring at the decapitated Fang with fear and astonishment. Scientists fumbled with the lock on the door and bustled in while I pushed past them and made my way down the hall. I focused on Fang's emotions and tried to follow them while staying invisible. I jimmied a lock and forced open the door before dropping invisibility and staring up in true horror. The walls were lined with, and I nearly wet myself upon seeing this, a million Fangs and Maxes, red eyes focused on me with the glare of death that I had no doubt had appeared on our faces the countless times we were about to deliver the final blow to our doomed enemy.
I heard a crash and looked up. Not long after, I heard a scream that could only belong to one person.
"Max." I had been waiting for the right time to destroy this Max clone, and now seemed like the best time to do it. I stopped walking. The flyboy behind me grunted. "Move, you scum!" It yelled at me in its prerecorded message voice. I turned around and faced it. I glared at it as it pushed me forward. "I said move!" I decided to try something different this time. These things could absorb lightning directed at them, but could they absorb lightning combined with something else? I focused my lightning, but instead of shooting it, I kept it inside my body. I kept doing this until I was literally a living lightning bolt. I was glowing and sparking with lightning from head to foot. I jumped up in the air... and just floated there. I didn't even have to use my wings to fly when I was like this. I flew at top speed (Which, for the record, was over the speed of sound while I was like this.) at the flyboy and literally phased through it. I went right through it without making contact with anything. I turned around to see the flyboy falling apart. Too cool. I turned towards the fake Max and shot a lightning burst at her. A smoking hole appeared in her chest. She fell over with a robotic whine. Then it hit me: I had been kissed by a robot! Ugh! I flew at the wall and found out that I could phase through that, too. I was starting to like my new phasing power. I flew through rooms until I finally came to the right one. Max was fighting millions of robotic clones of her and me. Weird. I flew through a line of robo-clones that were about to reach Max. She stared at me for a moment before springing back into action. "What took you so long?" She asked as she kicked a robo-me's head off. Ouch. I flew around a few thousand robo-clones at top speed, creating an electro tornado that wiped those ones out. "I was... held up. But I came as soon as I could!" I phased through a couple hundred robo-clones as I talked. They all went down in a neat row. Max ran over to the wall and tore out a machine gun. That looked really weird with her holding that. She blew off quite a few robo-clone heads with that thing. When it ran out of amo, she tossed it aside and picked up another one. I created another electro tornado, finishing the rest of them off. I landed next to Max and finally released all the lightning I had been holding in. Immediately after I had returned to normal, I collapsed onto the ground. I felt like I had been drained of all my energy. I got tunnel vision as Max got onto the ground to help me. "Fang?" Her voice was far off. I felt her finger on my neck, taking my pulse. She looked panicked. "Fang! Wake up! Come on Fang! Don't leave me now! FANG!" I closed my eyes, and all was darkness.
"Moron," I whispered to myself. I knew that lightning would get him in trouble. I tried shaking him by the shoulders, but his head just lolled to the side as his breathing slowed down. I tried kissing him, but those fairy tales were just a load of crack. Finally I picked up the machine gun and popped him one good, right
upside the head before slamming a fist into his chest, restarting his heart. "Idiot!" I screamed in his face as his eyes fluttered open. I hit him again with the hilt of the gun before yanking him off the ground and stationing various holograms of us running away in different parts of the building. Fang was half asleep on his feet, and even with all my powers pretty much occupied at the moment, I managed to surge him with a burst of adrenaline and energy by fueling him with anger. We shot down a corner, wings slightly out so we could glide and stay soundless. And then the alarm bells clanged overhead and a gigantic cage dropped from the ceiling. I switched around my holograms, Maxes and Fangs in cages began to appear around us and I started to feel drained. "Control the metal," I practically breathed, sweat slipping down my back and energy flooding from me like there was a hole in the Hoover dam. Fang stared at me quizzically as I dropped down to my knees and started to pant. Sure enough the metal started to shrink in on itself and we slipped out as the scientists came in. I made us invisible while the holograms started to kick and scream and shout in their cages before finding a way out and running around the room, momentarily distracting not only the humans but also the robots. My pace slowed as I started to follow Fang, and pretty soon I had to take frequent pauses to remember to breathe and to check and make sure I was still among the living. Upon seeing this, Fang finally grabbed me by the arm and slung me across the top of his shoulders, jogging down the hall. I closed my eyes and concentrated on distractions and staying invisible. I had Flyboys burst forth in a room full of sleeping scientists, causing noises and buzzing and creating general havoc. There were holographic explosions of chemicals and warning alarms buzzing over head about poisonous substances contaminating lab eighteen, courtesy of me and my new powers. There were genetic mistakes loose in the hall ways thanks to Fang's newly discovered power that I had told him about, and pretty much the scientists were trying to make voodoo dolls among the chaos, stabbing mini Maxes and Fangs while cursing us even though almost everything besides the experiments being free were holograms and it was their fault that we and the other mutations existed anyways. I buried my face in Fang's shoulder while trying to keep every image running as Fang skidded around a corner and swore. Yet another dead end. Even though I was completely occupied power wise, I sensed the elation of flying hawks six hallways over and a floor up. Then I realized that the windows had been fake and that we were underground. "Find an elevator," my voice was barely above a whisper, but using his newfound mechanical skills, Fang started searching for some way to a higher floor in his mind.
"Find an elevator." Max whispered. I looked around. It was an empty room with no elevators, stairs, nothing. "There isn't one." I said. Then, I got an idea.
I leaped up and phased through the ceiling. Max looked like she was going to throw up. I kept on phasing through the ceilings of different floors until one actually made contact with me. I fell to the floor, astonished. I looked down at Max, who was glaring at me. "Sorry." I muttered. I reached down and picked her up again, humiliated that I had dropped her. Now why wouldn't I be able to phase through the ceiling? I put Max down again and jumped up to the ceiling to feel it. It was made of lead. So I couldn't phase through lead. Big whoop. I looked around then realized something with great dismay: We were in a huge room made entirely of lead. I flew down to Max. "It's a trap." I told her. "I can't phase through lead, and this entire room is made of lead. It's a trap." She looked at me like I was an idiot. "What?" I asked. "Just phase through the floor and find another way out! Jeez!" She sighed. "Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one in the flock who has any brains.” I looked down at the ground. Sure enough, it didn't have lead on it. I walked toward Max to pick her up. Suddenly, an alarm started going off inside the room! I looked back at where I had stepped to see a thin red laser appearing. I had triggered something. And no doubt it would be bad. I looked at the wall just in time to see a lead coating sliding across the ground. I flew over to where Max was and picked her up before she was crushed. "Somehow, crap just doesn't seem to cover it." I muttered. I looked around for any way out. None. "All right, I'm going to try and blast that wall apart with my lightning." I told Max. "NO!" She yelled at me. She looked like she was struggling to speak. "No more lightning, Fang. Not now, not ever."
I know that sounds like a big promise for him to make, but I was seriously freaking out. I dropped a few holograms downstairs and made some effort to concentrate on the situation at hand. I took into consideration all our powers and came up with nada. I felt like curling up on the floor and passing out against the cool lead. I was just about to zonk when I remembered all those science classes. Lead was a conductor. "Can you keep a steady stream of electricity without killing yourself?" I pleaded. He nodded immediately which worried me. I thought that maybe we could melt the led with all those free electrons bouncing around. Fang didn't hesitate and shot a steady burst of lightning into the dark solid walls. It seemed to take a very long time for the metal to soften, especially will the alarms going off, but all the scientists were pretty preoccupied downstairs. I sat criss-cross beside Fang, feeling slightly useless even with all of my distractions going on down stairs. Finally the metal started to vibrate away from the electricity point, forming small ripples along the wall which proved to be just plain plaster. The second the hole was wide enough, Fang stopped with the lightning thing and immediately sagged. I slammed a palm between his shoulder blades to keep him awake and
smeared away the liquidified metal, shouldered the wall, plaster splintering and collecting along the sleeve of my shirt. I squeezed through the gap before spreading my wings and helping free Fang's big head. With a rush of relief I dropped the rest of my holograms and we caught a few updrafts, lilting outside a McDonalds. We rummaged through the trash bins and found six burgers for each of us, two unfinished sodas, a dropped ice cream cone and a discarded McFlurry. With our finds we took back off into the air and followed the familiar air currents to the cave above the Badwater Basin we had previously stayed at what seemed like a life time ago. I finished off my patties and buns, squirted some mustard into my mouth to help it along before guzzling a soda and slurping half of the McFlurry. With that I closed my eyes and fell back against the cave wall and into the escape of sleep. Little did I know that every second my veins and muscles were tightening around the microchip beside my heart, making it ever more impossible to remove or shutdown.
I sat down at the cave entrance and sighed. We had made it. Just barely, but we had made it. And I had actually died in the process. I couldn't believe that I was still alive. I looked at the valley beneath us. Unless they sent some flyboys after us, we'd be fine. For now. A sudden movement caught my eye. I quickly looked down to see a Max clone flying up towards our cave. I readied my lightning, but amazingly she still approached. I shot a burst three feet away from her head. "The next shot won't miss." I called down to her. "Leave now." "I can't do that." She called back up to me. "Because I, like you, am being hunted by Itex." "Who are you?" I called down. But in my heart, I already knew. "You really don't recognize me?" She sighed. "I'm the original Max clone. The one who you tried to kill." "Why should I let you up here?" I asked, menacingly. "The last time we met, you tried to kill all of us." "Ask Max if she trusts me. She would help me out." I walked over to where Max was curled up sleeping. "Max. Max!" I shook her violently. Suddenly, she threw a punch to my stomach. I would've cried if it weren't for my reputation I had to keep up. She slowly opened her eyes. "Wha- what time is it?" She asked. "What's going on? "Well, it's about eleven o' clock at night, you just punched me in the gut, and Max II is outside, asking to see you." She jumped at that last part. "What did you say?" she asked, fully awake. "I said you punched me in the-" "No! Not that!" She interrupted sternly. "After that!" "Max II is asking to see you." She looked pale, but walked outside anyway. "What do you want?" She demanded.
"What do I want? I want shelter, food, a freaking family, I could make a list." Max II sounded pleased with herself. "Why are you here?" Max demanded again. "Itex is after you, and it's after me as well. That makes us allies, and allies are all we have now." Max looked like she was about to say something smart, but then looked like she was listening to someone. She nodded slowly. She turned to me. "Fang, I really don't trust her, and I know you don't either." She paused as if regretting saying what she was about to say. "But connections are important. She's right, we need allies." "What?!!" I practically screamed at her. "How can you say that? She tried to kill you and the rest of the flock, and you're telling me that you want to keep her around? What's wrong with you? Did all those experiments they did on you do something to your mind? Cause' that's not the kind of thing the Max I know would say!" Max sighed. "I know it's hard to understand, but just think about it. If she's my clone, she has all of my powers. And she'd be like a twin sister. Just try and look on the bright side of things for once." I tried taking her advice. And you know what? There was no bright side in this situation.
The other me sauntered in and made herself comfortable. She was definitely eyeing Fang even though she knew that she was unwelcome to him. I headed back to my corner and curled up, Fang's back pressed against mine, but I couldn't sleep. She was back. Why had Itex turned on her? Had the authorities started hunting their experiments to rat them out for major contribution to Global warming? I fell into a fitful sleep to the feeling of the different emotions of my flock. Iggy was ticked, Angel and Nudge were worried while Gazzy was confused and Fang was just dry. But even he had found a way to fall asleep behind me. Max II was sleeping soundly in the corner, snoring softly and I wondered what would happen if I kicked her over the edge and into the basin. When I had convinced Fang to let her stay, I had been reluctantly following the orders of the Voice. I assure you that this is a good choice, don't deny that you need allies, Max. I closed my eyes against the words and tried to block out the voice resounding against my skull. In my mind, I felt my mom panicking at our disappearance. And then I fell asleep. The next morning I awoke to duck out from underneath Fang's arm to the ledge, about to take off in search of breakfast. It was as easy as falling back into a routine. And I realized that despite my complaints, I had sort of missed it. I walked out on the ledge to see the other me staring paralyzed at the hawks who were all looking at her suspiciously. I noticed that they recognized me, but not her and I almost laughed out loud.
"Extend your wings slowly," I informed her before taking off and wheeling around the mouth of the cave. A few of the hawks followed me while others kept a wary eye on Max II. I grinned before swirling to McDonalds where I hopped to find some omelets or breakfast burgers. I coasted back to the cave where Max II was still sitting on the ledge, wings stretched out and looking very pained. Fang was awake and snickering at the scene inside. We dug into our burgers as ravenously as the hawks and Max II looked at us with dismay. She'd have to wait for breakfast. I crumpled the wrapper of a pancake box and tossed it to the back of the cave where the trash from the last time we had stayed here still sat looking as if it knew we would come back for it. Yep, yet another uneventful day for those of us in fugitiveville. I took a running jump and leaped over the edge of the cliff, going out for a relaxing fly.
I watched as Max took off from the cliff. I refocused my attention to Max II. She stared right back at me. She tried smiling, but seeing that that didn't work, she stopped. She sighed. "Look, Fang, why won't you trust me?" She asked. "Give me one good reason why I should." I shot back. "Max trusts me." I shook my head in disbelief. "No, Max thinks you could be a valuable ally. She doesn't trust you." Max II looked like she was about to cry. One major difference between her and Max. She sprinted towards the entrance and leaped out, spreading her wings on her way down. "Oh, no. You're not getting off that easily." I muttered. I leaped into the air, let myself fall until I was level with Max II, and spread my huge wings. There was no way I was letting her out of my sight. "Go away!" She yelled at me. "I don't think so." I yelled back. "You may be part of this team now, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to let you out of my sight for even a second!" Max II took a turn and we flew deeper into the valley. Where is she going? I wondered. Then I saw why she was headed this way. Max was flying with some hawks about a five minutes flight from where we were. What was she going to do? Cry to her and pretend she was on Oprah? Nevertheless, I plowed forward at full speed. But unfortunately, thanks to her warp drive ability, she left me in the dust as she flew towards Max. Great. Max looked toward her, and amazingly, it looked like she was trying to comfort her! I thought that she didn't trust her clone? I finally reached where Max and Max II were flying, and Max II was literally crying into Max's shoulder. Max gave me a sharp I need to talk to you look combined with a you're dead look. So Max II managed to get on Max's good side and get Max angry at me. Great. Did life ever have a bright side?
You know, I sort of liked the new Max II. We found out that she didn't have all the same powers as me because she was mutating at a different speed. She was also not my clone, she just looked like me. She was just like a very sensitive twin. I got ticked at her like she was a real sister. There were also times when I was so tempted to laugh in her face. Fang still didn't trust her, and I understood that and was sort of glad, but he didn't have to be too open about it. Now I had to scavenge for three hungry avian-human hybrid mutants. It turned out that Max II was also a vegetarian, like Nudge after seeing the hawks rip apart rattle snakes. One night, once again listening in on my flock's emotions, I realized that we needed to head to Hawaii soon. I also wondered what the flock would think about Max II. She had tried to kill me, and I was afraid that that would go down the wrong way. The next night I awoke to see Fang sitting on the ledge and gazing out at the stars. I realized that we had missed the fourth of July. But somewhere out along the outskirts of Death Valley, someone was setting off fireworks. I went out and sat on the ledge too, staring out at the small spark of purple and green, flowering a couple miles off. A gold and blue one formed a star and I knew that if they had had the chance, Gazzy and Iggy would have made their own fireworks, definitely better than any of the ones sold at like Costco. I thought about the sparklers they had made one year when Jeb lived with us. There were purple, green, gold, red pink, blue, almost every color under the rainbow. Gazzy said that they reminded him of Skittles, and I had laughed at him. I sighed and leaned back. I missed them. Had it been a month since Hawaii? If so, school would start in only a couple of weeks and Mom and Jeb insisted on us going back. A thought struck me. I wondered how far I could send a hologram. I concentrated on the girls' hotel room, transmitting an image of myself. I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes at the sound of someone clearing their throat. I knew that voice. Sure enough, I jumped right out of bed and ran towards Max, but it was a hologram. That meant she was somewhere near by. She cleared her throat again. "Go get the guys, okay?" she told no one in particular since the hologram couldn't see anyone in the room. I ran to the other room and shook Gazzy. "Come on, Max is transmitting a hologram in our room!" He leaped out of bed and elbowed Iggy in the head who reluctantly got off the mattress after bopping Gazzy back. I giggled, running back and waking up Nudge and Dr. Martinez with Ella. We all crowded around the image Max. "Guys, we are okay, Fang and I escaped from the school after being kidnapped by Flyboys, not to worry you are anything," she spit out sarcastically. Fang appeared beside her and waved. "Yo, we're fine. Igster, can you update my blog?" Max elbowed him before he disappeared and then another Max showed up in different clothes, jumping up and down saying, "I'm here too!" I was confused for a moment until I remembered Max II.
"Yes, Max II is also here. Sorry guys, Itex is after the three of us and we do need allies." "Oh yea," Iggy whispered. "Listen to the Voice and not us." I gave him the worst glare I could manage, Total coming to join in. Akila brushed against my leg and was looking none too happy at seeing a Nudge-like person who looked like Max. "We're going to crash, okay? We miss you guys and hope to see you soon." She held out a fist and Fang reappeared beside her, stacking his fist on hers, Max II doing the same. I joined in, keeping my hand steady so as not to go through Max's. Everyone else put out a fist also, Total floating up to rest a paw and me helping Akila. Max smiled in my direction before they all disappeared. I sighed and climbed back into the bed Nudge and I shared, realizing that the hologram opened up a port between where we were and where Max was through which I could read anyone's on the other end's minds. I smiled slightly before curling up next to Nudge and going to sleep.
I woke up with a start. Something was wrong. I don't know how, but I could tell. I looked around the cave for anything that was out of place. Nothing. And yet I had the unignorable feeling that something was wrong. I stood up and walked to the ledge. I looked down. And nearly fainted. The ground was littered with flyboys, all seeming to be searching for something. I could see absolutely nothing but those bulky eraser-like bodies. I sprinted over to where Max and Max II were sleeping and started shaking Max. Her hand reflexively punched me in the stomach. I doubled over in pain, trying not to moan. Was this going to happen every time I tried to wake her up? "Oh my god!" She whispered. "I'm so sorry, Fang!" I quickly put my hand over her mouth. "Shh." I could barely hear my own voice. "Wake up Max II and be ready for a fast and silent escape." She looked at me in horror. "It's that bad." I confirmed. Max shook Max II into consciousness and quickly shushed her. She quietly explained what was going on. I still wasn't comfortable with the whole Max II thing, but Max had made me promise not to be that harsh again. We took off quickly and spread our wings. I looked down. "Crap." I muttered. The flyboys had seen us and were now taking to the air. I couldn't even estimate how many flyboys there were! I was pretty sure that there were over a hundred million. These were faster models, too. They were more maneuverable in the air than the others had been. I flew up next to Max. "Max, look behind you." I muttered. She looked back and almost passed out right there and then. "Max." She looked at me, panicked. A first time for everything. "Listen to me. These things are faster than us. Max II has warp drive. I want you two to leave, now." "And leave you behind? No way! What would you do?"
I didn't answer. Instead, I sighed and said, "Max, I want you to know that I always loved you." I kissed her cheek. "And that I'm sorry that it had to end like this." I saw panic enter her eyes as I began to glow with lightning. "With any luck, I'll meet you guys back at Hawaii." With that I turned around to face the oncoming horde of flyboys. I folded in my wings and divebombed the flyboys at supersonic speed. "FANG!" I heard Max shout. "NO!!!" I ignored her as I plowed into the first wave of flyboys.
I took one look at the horde of speedsters and took off in the vacuum left behind my wings as I coasted into warp drive. I pressed my wings down beside my hips, watching as Max drew level with me. You know, I really don't care to be called Max II all the time. I think I'm going to have them start calling me Kelly. Anyways, we zipped along until the ocean was rippling beneath us before I whipped around when Max wasn't looking and headed back the way we had come, more than twenty miles. This was my chance to earn Fang's trust and prove once and for all that I was good. I was in the middle of the horde of Flyboys, but they were moving really too slow, like those action movies where they slow it down so you can see the really good scissor kick. Then I looked down at my hands and twiddled my fingers, they moved with lightning swiftness, I'm like in the way where I would have been a prodigy among prodigies of master pianists. I had warp-speed, even when I wasn't flying. I could see Fang, buzzing and jumping with electricity above me, taking blows from all sides from Flyboys who crumpled in sparks to plummet to the basin where their mechanics peetered out. Don't they make these things water proof? I swung a kick up by my ear and brought it down on a Flyboy's shoulder, using the still kinetic energy to swivel in midair, barrel-rolling with wings tucked down by my thighs, kicking out my legs and spinning parallel to the ground with combat boots knocking into sturdy steel but almost hollow chests of Flyboys. With a flick of my wrist, I spun out my shoelaces and pulled a couple Catwoman moves, snapping the lace around a Flyboy's wrist before ripping his arm off. No one could see me in warp speed, so the only time I was touched was when a robot bumped into me. My eyes lasered in on the sensor beneath the Eraser's nose and I jammed the heel of my hand up, making it spurt wires which I used to stun three others. An elbow jab to my right freed the neck joint of a robot and the mechanical head spun like a three pointer before dunking into the rippling basin below. I slammed my thigh into the lower back of a Flyboy, splitting him in half over my legs and using its still joined arms like nunchucks, cracking knees and splitting joints. I grabbed the fingers of two robots on either side of me, spinning them in like a swing dance before watching them break apart as they smacked into each other. I plugged the "ears" of two other robots with bits of my shirt, watching them over heat since they vented through their ears. Every dropped a very hot Coke can into cold water? Well, I knocked them both off balance and sent them tumbling
into the liquid where they imploded, cold water trying to rush in while the air contracted, causing their bodies to snap inward, crumpling immediately. You should try it sometime. It was cool, watching everything in slow mo and plucking the robots out of time to meet their doom. Then I looked up and saw Fang letting go of the electricity. Still in warp-drive, I streamed his way, but even my super speed couldn't save him. The cloud of electric currents hit me so hard, I spun backwards through the air, flipping end over end, bent so that my feet were pressing into my shoulder blades. My bare skin was smarting and my mouth felt staticy like I had licked an electric fence. (Never try that, not a pleasant feeling.) I snapped to and I spun below Fang to catch him, still feeling tingly. He landed, heavy and lifeless against my forearms, only my speed kept him from ripping off my arms. I caught two sparking Flyboys and took some wires from their sparking heads, placing them together with one hand to create a steady current. Then, the only thing I knew to do was to stick them up his nostrils and in his throat. He gagged back to life, choking and grabbing his chest as the electricity went through him. "Moron!" I shouted into his ear. He lay back again and continued to gasp while I flew around, sticking the staticy wires in my pocket just in case they were needed later. I spun out over the ocean and Fang seemed to gain strength by being so close to a fellow conductor. I shook out my wings slightly, slowing down since Fang's face and skin was being tugged backwards from the vacuum I was making. Plus, no sound waves could travel through the vacuum and I wanted to hear the ocean. I had been in a virtual reality with the ocean, but had never seen or heard it for real. I loved the sound. It sounded like the constant patter of sand in an hour glass. I closed my eyes and flew slightly faster, wanting to make it to Hawaii soon. I breathed in the air and tasted salt against my tongue. Some people didn't care for the taste, but I reveled in it. I sighed and continued to fly as the sun settled in the highest point of the sky.
"Moron!" I heard Max yell. I opened my eyes. However, instead of Max, this was Max II. Now, I could officially say that everything I knew was wrong. I decided to let it go until we got back to Hawaii. I closed my eyes and felt myself drifting off... I poured lightning into the chest of a flyboy and stopped to examine my work. Thousands of flyboys were on the ground around me, all damaged beyond hope of repair. I took off to fly but was instantly knocked back down by a burst of lightning. I struggled to get back up, but was forced back down by another burst. I slowly opened my eyes and looked up. I saw... me. The other me grinned and blasted me with a huge burst of lightning... I woke up with a jolt. My arm was killing me. I looked around at the people surrounding me. The entire flock was here. My gaze stopped on Max II. She was sitting apart from the group. I got up and was immediately tackled by Gazzy. That boy really needed to learn how to greet someone without bruising them. "Hey, Gaz." I muttered. "How's it going?"
"Fang! We missed you guys so much!" Gazzy gave me another hug, and in spite of myself, I hugged him back. There went my reputation as big tough guy of the flock. Max looked at me solemnly. We needed to talk, and it wasn't going to be in my favor. For now, I answered questions and greeted everyone. No need to spoil my day just yet. When everyone else except for Max had left, I walked over to Max II. "Hey." I muttered as I sat down. "Hi." She responded. I decided to get right down to the point. "You saved me when you could've run off and saved yourself." I looked at her curiously. "Why?" "Because I knew that if I didn't help you, you'd die." She said simply. She smiled at me. And, against all odds, I smiled back. I moaned as my arm gave another jolt of intense pain. I pulled up my sleeve and saw a massive cut extending from my elbow to my shoulder. Max gasped, and Max II's eyes widened. I felt like crap. My arm was cut open, I was weakened from going into my lightning form, and I had smaller cuts and bruises all over me. Have I mentioned how terrible my life is?
My mom practically went ballistic over Fang. Every little cut and scrape. If I hadn't stopped her, he might be in a full body cast by now. We started off down the beach in swimsuits, Fang wearing a tee-shirt above his swim trunks so as not to draw attention to the kid that looked as if he had run through a thorned rose bush naked. In the water, maybe twenty yards out we played a couple rounds of chicken, Fang and I versus Ella and Iggy. We would have beat them over and over again had it not been for Iggy's dogging every time he felt the water stir around his abdomen. Everything was pretty much back to normal, except for the fact that I started to get chest cramps. Every once in a while, the left side of my chest would seize up and my heart would constrict until the blood rushed from my head and I could here it in my ears. Every time, Fang would check me for a pulse, but my heart beat would stop before starting up again. This happened several times in our first week back. When I came out of it, I would be gasping for air and my heart would be pumping blood a mile a minute. Mom was totally worried, and wanted to check each and everyone of us for a microchip just in case. I began to wonder if this was like before I got the Voice and I got those major head aches. Same result any time we took off for an evening flight at night. Any sudden take offs and I would double over in pain, wings hanging limply around my shoulders and against the sand. Several times I would get sick right there, like those Cocker Spaniels that drink too much sea water and then their owners just cover the mess with the sugar white sand.
Sometimes during flight, my flock would look over at me with these fearing faces and I'd wave off there worry. It started to really get annoying, being the weakest link in the flock, the one that everyone was concerned about. Max II, or Kelly as she wanted to be called became a semi-member of the flock even though a few of us were still wary around her. Everyone could tell her apart from me, though some of the people from the neighboring hotel rooms were afraid I had cloned myself. Despite our efforts, we were still an area of suspicion in Hawaii.
Fergie and “Weird” Al Yankovic. Between the two of them, they had almost my entire flock brainwashed. Angel, Nudge, Gazzy, Total. Yes, I caught the dog singing Fergilicious in my backpack. And then there was Fang and his hard rock, or soft rock as he liked to call it. Basically it was Fall Out Boy and some other bands. Next comes Ig and his emo music. Yes, I said it, emo music. Who the heck came up with that. Well, whoever it is, they aren’t a friend of mine.
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