A/N: This is set while the flock is in New York, but before the incident at the Garden Tavern. Oh; and in the moment it takes to review, you will have made my day.
Disclaimer: I should think it would be obvious that I don't own Maximum Ride. Slave trade illegal. But either way, here it is: I do not own Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment.
The funny thing about facing imminent death is that it really snaps everything else into perspective. Take right now for instance.
I was running as fast as I could, my feet pounded on the warm cement of some unknown New York sidewalk. I wasn't running from Erasers this time. I wasn't even running from the good ol' boys in blue.
I was running from newspaper reporters.
I know what your thinking. Who on Earth would run away from getting to have their picture in a paper? Well, I'll tell you who. I would. Fang would, Nudge would, the Gasman, Iggy, and Angel all would. The six of us would die before having our pictures in a newspaper. And I almost did.
I had left the rest of the flock in the subway tunnel while I went out to buy groceries. I don't like abandoning them, but it seemed like the safest possible place, and I figured it would be easier if I went shopping by myself. Gazzy and Nudge always end up asking for a lot of food if we shop while their hungry, and Iggy wouldn't be able to hear where people are. I was just trying to avoid chaos. I figured that if I slipped out quietly, and picked up some staples at the nearest possible convenient store, there might not be a disaster. If I was lucky.
Note to self: Never assume you're lucky.
The shopping part of my plan worked out fine, I payed for the food with some money left over from that jerk we'd stolen from. But the second I stepped through the sliding glass doors and into the sunlight, my wings tensed. They always do that, right at the base where the feathers hit my back, whenever there's trouble. Usually, trouble is in the form of Erasers. I immediatly did a 360 to try to find the source of my discomfort, and I found it in a man standing just outside the store, by the vending machines that spurt out stupid little toys. He looked like a model, and I knew that if he spoke to me, his voice would sound smooth, like a well oiled automatic. But I didn't give him the chance.
The bags of cheese crackers and gummy worms (yeah, I know we have a weird idea of staple foods) slipped from my hands and spilled open over the ground as I dove towards the Eraser. I shot a well-placed roundhouse kick to his jaw, and then bolted when I heard something snap. I ran through the parking lot, diving between cars to throw him off, and I came out of it on a sidewalk two blocks away from the store. I knew I had to find a way to get back to the subway. I hurried between two buildings, hoping that the Eraser would pass me by. With all the smells in the city, he wouldn't be able to pick out one lousy girl...
I waited, quietly, pressed up against a wall. I was suddenly thankfull that my clothes were all dark. I was wearing black jeans, and a matching tanktop with a razorback strap so that my wings could thread through. I don't know why, but it always bugged me when I mutilated a peice of clothing. Just one more tangible reminder of how weird I am. Then, to hide my wings from everyone, I'd thrown on a jacket. It had been blue once, but it was pretty grimy now, and I doubt any humans would have been able to pick it out againt the dirty ally wall.
Unfortunately for me, the Eraser's eyesight is considerably better then that of your average human. I heard a low growl coming from the exit to my ally, and I stiffened up. I started running towards the way I'd come in, while looking back over my shoulder at the Eraser behind me. He was smirking. I figured out why when I snapped my head back around and skidded to a halt. There was another Eraser, three feet in front of me, blocking the other exit. I was trapped. I dove backwards to an equal distance between the two dog men. My eyes shot all around me, trying to figure out what to do, while my predators walked slowly closer to me. They seemed to be savoring the fact that I couldn't run anywhere.
But you see, the lucky thing about having wings is that you don't have to run. You can fly. I was just about to do so, when I heard sounds other then the Eraser's low, predatorial growl. People's voices. I glanced around again, to see people at either end of the ally. They were standing a ways behind the Erasers, and they seemed to be chattering amongst themselves. They were pointing. And taking pictures. I realized suddenly, that the Erasers had slipped into their canine visages. My head jerked again as I hear someone in the crowd say, "But where's the cameramen?"
Of course. If you can't rationalize what you see, it's gotta have something to do with Hollywood. I shook my head. My thoughts were cut off as the Eraser who I'd almost ran into spoke to. "Can't go anywhere, can you? Or else they'll all know about you." He gestured to the spectators behind him. "And they might take you away, to some place with doctors, and labs." He emphasized the words. I shuddered. "It'd be better if you just came back with us. We'll take care of you, Max." I shuddered again at the way my name rolled off his tongue. "We've got some nice new tests for you to take. That tall one of yours. Fang. He's been flying better, hasn't he? Wouldn't you like to see how long he can fly for? And what about the little one, wouldn't it be nice if we could make her see better? We've got a way to make her see better if you come with us, Max."
I thought of Iggy's blindness, and felt my breath catch. They weren't going to do that to her. Not my Angel. I had to find a way to get out of this stupid ally, get to the flock, so I could warn them. Screw the institute. We'll leave New York, go somewhere safe. Maybe in Europe. we can fly to Europe. But first I had to get out of this STUPID, FREAKING ALLY.
Unfortunately for me, the Eraser was right. I couldn't just take off with all those humans standing there. Right? They already had pictures of me, they could track me down, and stick me in an institute somehwere. For freaky bird people. But I don't think there's an institure like that. They'd have to build a new one. Get a grip, Max. Now is not the time to lose it. I took a couple of deep breaths, and weighed the descision as quickly as I could. The Erasers looked about ready to strike, and I didn't have much time. If I took off now, I'd survive, but the humans would know I existed. They could hurt the flock. No. They won't know about the flock, just me. If I seperated from everyone...I didn't want to do it, but I'd been thinking I had to for a while, now. Erasers kept finding us, and I was positive that it was because of the chip in my arm. If I seperated from the guys, they'd probably have a better chance of surviving.
And I can't think of any kind of lab the humans could stick me in that would be worse then the School. Nothing is worse then the School. Besides, if I the pain in my head really did mean I was about to croak, I wouldn't have to put up with a lab for very long anyways.
Descision made, I stripped off my gritty windbreaker. I heard gasps from the congregation, and I heard the Erasers groln in frustration, but mostly I heard the city wind whistling through my ears as I took off sharply. I flew automatically, and landed about a block away from the underground. Without even stopping to look behind me, I dashed off, dodging around every obstacle I could find. I hurriedly pulled my coat back over my wings as I ran. I made it to the entrance to the subway, and lost myself in the crowd. It's hard to keep a low profile while running for your life.
Somehow, I got the part of the subway where's I'd left the flock. I saw their faces change quickly within a few seconds. Pleased to see me, dissappointed to see that I wasn't bearing food, and then apprehensive of the fact that I was running, and sucking air into my lungs in short bursts. I silenced their questions with a quick look, and then started explaining. "Not much time." I gasped, leaning over and bracing my hands against my knees. "Erasers trapped me. Had to fly. People saw me, f-following. Some had cameras. They know what I look like, and they can - can track me now. We have to seperate. Wait down here until the commotions over. Then go somewhere quiet, like our old home, but find somewhere new." I turned to Fang, "You're in charge now, take care." I stopped talking, still trying to regulate my breathing from the super-short bursts of movement. I waited for a response.
There was silence for a moment, and then Nudge said, "Max? What are you t-talking about?"
I glared, "Don't make me explain it again, I don't have much time. They're following me, and someone might have seen me go down here. I have to get back up to the surface. I'm going to let them see my wings."
I heard a string of protests rising up, but I stemmed it by cutting back in. "No buts. They might take me away somewhere, but I'll be able to tell them about the School. The police, or the army or something will be able to stop the Erasers. You guys aren't gonna have anything to worry about anymore. They don't know that you exist, and I'll tell the reporters that I'm the only bird-person they made, okay? Like I said, wait until it's calmer, and then get the hel-heck out of New York." I amended, glancing at Angel.
"Max." Fan started, seriously. "You're being stupid. We'll all wait until the commotion dies down. You don't have to-"
I knew that Fang could convince me to do just about anything if he put his mind to it, so I inturrupted again, "Yes, I do. The Erasers are...smarter then they were before. And stronger." I was lying through my teeth, but I didn't want to tell them about the expiriments that the Eraser had mentioned. I just didn't want to talk about it. "They've been chasing us for too long, and it is going to stop."
Fang tried to stare me in the eye. "You aren't telling us something, Max. What is it?" I hated the way that he could do that.
"I'm telling you everything. Now I have to go." Then I started moving towards the exit, I'll admit it, I was sort of storming off, but I knew what I had to do, and I didn't want to be convinced otherwise. I made my way quickly through the subway. I kept slipping my feet forward, one step at a time. I was trying not to think about what I was doing, and instead I concentrated firmly on not getting to close to the third rail. That's a relatively safe subject in my mind. I was concentrating on it so hard, that I didn't notice the flock following me, until we we're pretty close to the exit.
"Max?" I heard the Gasman call. "Why do you have to go? Fang says you don't have to go." He sounded as young as he was, and that happened so rarely that I stopped and turned around.
"Yes," I said, "But Fang is wrong. Now Gazzy, this way you'll all be safe. You can have a home with a bed to sleep on again. Isn't that what you want? The Erasers won't be able to kidnap Angel anymore, either. They won't be able to come after you at all." I saw him glance at Angel. "I'm counting on you to take care of your sister, Gazzy."
I turned to Angel, "And Angel, honey, you make sure you do exactly what the Gasman and Fang tell you to, okay? Be a good girl, and eat enough. And Nudge, and Iggy, you help Fang out okay? You two make sure you find a good house, okay? See that it's in a quiet place, so that Iggy can hear if people are coming, okay?" I realized I was saying 'okay' a lot. I think I wanted someone to tell me that no, it wasn't okay. But I wouldn't have listened to them anyways. I was leaving my family, no matter what. It was my own choice, but that didn't stop it from hurting. I had to try hard not to cry. Once, I overheard Angel tell Iggy that she had never seen me cry. And after that, I always tried really hard not to. I'm not sure why. Maybe I was trying to convince them all that I was tough. That I knew what I was doing.
"Max, stop it right now." Fang said sternly. "Your part of the flock too. If you think that we're just going to let y- Mmmph!"
I cut him off by kissing him firmly on the lips. Don't ask me why. Call it temporary insanity caused by the pains in my head. But even if it was spurred by temporary insanity, it felt really nice. I blushed hard as I pulled back. Fang looked pretty shocked.
"I only did that to shut you up." I said, glaring. I have to work on my glares. My eyes darted up towards the exit. I'd probably need them a lot in the near future. I looked back at Fang. "Take care of them." I gave my last order.
As I moved swiftly towards the exit, sounds overflowed my hightened sense of hearing. At first, all there was, was the murmer of an exceited crowd, hunting for something. Who says Erasers are the only predators? Why do I have to be the only prey? But then, I could hear Angel saying softly, "She's very scared." From somewhere behind me. And then finally I heard Fang call out to me. He sounded kind of desperate. I almost turned around, but I didn't. Because I'm the leader.