Chapter 41

The Erasers had come back to escort me to one of The Institute's living quarters used by the staff there, and then left. But I wasn't fooled. The Erasers would be on guard at the door and there would be people watching me from a hidden camera somewhere in this room. In places like this, there were always cameras hidden somewhere. I placed my bag down on the bed and approached the computer they had in the room. If they had a computer in here, then that meant the camera was set to look at the screen, to monitor what was being done on the computer.

I glanced around the room and saw two things that could hide the camera while it watched the screen. A potted plant, the most obvious place to hide one, but it didn't, after checking it twice. The only other place was a picture on the wall, the camera hidden amongst the colors and images visible. I approached the picture and took it off the wall. Hidden behind it was the camera, hanging innocently from the wall. I tore it from the wall, ripping the wires and making sure it was dead. There might have been others, but I didn't have time. They gave me twenty-four hours to crack the file and get the vial of blood. The file I could crack, but in twenty-four hours? That would be pushing, especially if I needed to get the vial of Blood for both Max and Skye. They need both for the cure.

I started up the computer and loaded the file in. I took one look at the file's protection and began to doubt myself. It was more complicated than anything I had come across. I didn't even want to try and crack this file open. The only good news was, there were no traps set on the file and no password limit; meaning if I needed to, I could go through every combination of letters and numbers that exist until I found the right code, but that could take forever, well at least the rest of my mortal life. I needed a miracle, and wondered if God listened to our kind.

It was many hours later and a darn miracle that I actually found the code. I had run out of things that were possibly used by whitecoats and had gone onto anything to do with the experiments. Nothing I had tried at first had worked, and then I had typed in the word Maximum. I guess that was the code because the file opened and numbers and letters began to scroll across the monitor. Names and addresses appeared and disappeared, only to be replaced by more names and addresses. They were the names of every experiment and their families' addresses. I looked closer and realized that it also had the last known location of every experiment listed and whether they are alive or not. One caught my eye, Maximum Ride Mk II. There was a second Maximum Ride born? Her current location and state of health was unknown. They didn't know if she was alive or not.

There was a crack and I didn't need to look up to know it was Falcon who had teleported to me, although I was surprised he was able to teleport into a room that was beneath the ground.

"Why?" He asked me, pain and hurt in his voice. "Why did you leave? Skye and Max are sick and you leave us?"

"You don't even know where I am, Falcon," I replied, "And you don't even know why I am here. So spare me a lecture. I am here because I care about them, more than my own safety. If they died, I'd go with them."

"Blaze," Falcon replied, "Blaze, where are we? What aren't you telling me?"

"Go home, Falcon," I replied, "Go home now. Take care of Terra. I know you care for her. Take care of your brother and my sister. You don't need to know the answers to those questions."

"Blaze…" Falcon replied, "Just answer. Where are we? What aren't you telling me?"

"I'm saving their lives, Falcon." I replied, "Any way I can. As for where am I? Welcome to The Institute, Falcon…"

Chapter 42

"The Institute?" Falcon repeated, the shock obvious in his voice. "Blaze, Why did you come here? What have you done?"

"I had to find a cure, Falcon," I replied, but letting him know how much I regretted the choice, "I had to save them. The only people who knew enough about the Altered were the whitecoats. I need a sample of Skye's and Max's blood. Can you take me back? Can you take me home?"

"That may not be the best Idea right now," Falcon replied. "We don't have a home to return to any more. Drake found out about it, got everyone out of the house. He managed to save Max and Skye as well. But the others in the area weren't so lucky."

"What are you talking about, Falcon?" I asked, puzzled. "It's been less than a day since I arrived here, what is going on above the surface?"

"You haven't seen the news have you?" Falcon replied. "People are afraid of the Virus, which is spreading beyond our country's borders. They declared war on America, every country beyond these borders declared war on us. They want to destroy the virus before it spreads. Russia was the first to launch, followed by China, then the rest. About two hours ago, the first missiles struck. One destroyed our home. Drake managed to warn as many people as he could as soon as he found out. It's the Armageddon out there, Blaze. Fire is almost literally falling from the skies. This has gone way beyond control now."

"Falcon," I replied upon hearing the news, "Get everyone here, now. This place is sheltered for such emergencies. Get everyone and bring them here. I don't care what it takes, just do it."

I saw this coming, I thought, I knew this would happen, so why didn't I stop it? Why didn't I stop it while I had the chance? To those questions I had no answer, but I sure hoped like heck things wouldn't get worse; but knowing things, they most likely will. Falcon grabbed me and we disappeared from the room. Next thing I knew we were in a cave a few miles outside out town. I looked out the opening and watched as the landscape burnt. These were only the conventional missiles. The nukes hadn't been launched yet, but sooner or later they will be, and God help anyone who would be caught outside of a fallout shelter when they hit home.

All this was happening, because some old pompous Secretary of Defense was afraid of change, all because he felt a need to stop our population rivaling humanity. If he ever survives any of this, he better hope I never see him again. Otherwise I will kill him, with my own two hands. I would gladly break his neck for what he did to our world. Inside my heart, I knew I would do it without a second thought. I would make sure he paid for every single death as if it was his fault for each one. In truth, it didn't matter if they died from the disease, the missiles, or the radiation from the nukes, he would pay for every death, because he started this entire mess. And he'll pay for it.

A hand collided with my face and sent me reeling backwards. Flame stood in front of me with her hand raised to slap me again, but this time I got there first and stopped her.

"Glad you're still alive," I replied to the slap, "And I'm glad to see you all haven't lost your touch. Now if you don't mind, we have work to do. Get everything prepared. When the nukes fall, nowhere above ground will be safe for years afterwards…"

Chapter 43

"Did you just say Nukes?" Dark asked, "As in Nuclear Warheads? We need to find an underground shelter… now. They had the shelters built about five years ago, after the scare of 2016, when the world nearly broke out into a nuclear war. It's sheltered from Radiation and can sustain a population of people for years underground. They have farms, sleeping quarters, medical facilities, pretty much an underground city."

"And how do you know about them?" Flame asked. "It's not like we have access to them twenty-four-seven. I doubt they will let any Altered into the Shelters."

"The Altered managed to liberate a shelter not far from here when the missiles were first launched," Dark replied. "It's fully supplied and can shelter pretty much what is left of our kind. We need to get survivors in there now!"

"Enough!" I shouted, "Dark, Drake, get everyone you can find and start getting them into that shelter. Make sure you have people guarding it against anyone trying to take it over again. The Humans won't share their shelters with us, we won't let them get the only hope of survival that we have. The survivors will be those that are immune to the Disease. Flame, Terra, Get Skye and Max to the shelter and stick them in the medical facilities. Falcon, you are coming with me."

"What are we going to do?" Falcon asked.

"I have some unfinished business to attend to," I replied. "First stop, back to the Institute. We're going to get the whitecoats out of there and into the shelter, they can continue doing their research there."

"But Blaze," Falcon replied, "They are whitecoats. Are you sure?"

"If they want to survive," I replied, "They better behave themselves; same with their Eraser mutts. I want them because they can save Skye and Max. They will also prove to be useful for our health because they are the ones who know the most about us. I'm afraid to say it, but if we want to survive, we need them."

Falcon was silent for a moment, absorbing what I had just said, then nodded. He understood exactly what I was talking about. Like it or not, we were stuck with the whitecoats. And besides, they couldn't go to the human shelters, they are wanted felons, they might as well be one of us. Falcon grabbed my hand and then we were off in a blur of light, passing through the burning landscape at a speed around that of light. When we arrived at The Institute, the Whitecoats and Erasers were waiting for us.

"Do you have the blood vials?" Samantha Reilly asked me.

"Yes," I replied, "But your work won't be completed here."

"We guessed as much," Samantha Reilly replied. "After the building above us was leveled and both our exits were blocked, we decided we would have to get out of here somehow and noted that your friend can teleport… I trust you have somewhere to take us?"

"Yes," I replied, "We have a shelter to take you to. Considering no Human shelter will accept you for your crimes, you have nowhere else to go. So let me make this clear, the only reason why we are keeping you alive is because you can be useful to us. But if you try to do anything to any one of us without our permission we will not hesitate to kill you, understood?"

"I think we understand each other a lot better than you know," Samantha replied. "We expected as much, therefore we have already prepared ourselves for the transfer. All data is saved on hard-drives and the notes and research that isn't Data, we have stored in containers to be transferred. Is that alright?"

"That's fine," I replied, "So long as you can continue your research as soon as you can get to the shelter."

Samantha nodded and got everything they were taking ready to be teleported. It would take us about two trips to get the equipment and people transferred over, but it could be done. I was going to get Falcon to drop me off at the Shelter and I would help evacuate into the Shelter any Altered that had survived. Falcon grabbed hold of everyone that was coming on this trip and then connected a foot with the containers and soon all of us and the containers were traveling back to the shelter.

"My brother was right about you," Samantha said as we arrived, "You are more kind and caring than you know. Thank you for this."

"I may hate whitecoats," I replied," But I'm not heartless. You were Reilly's sister and I owe him for saving my life. So I'm keeping yours safe, even if it's because you can save my life partner. I don't like seeing people suffer."

I walked out of the facility and didn't pay much attention to the shelter as people flooded in through the entrance and exited the shelter into the outside world. I looked out over the burning landscape and the file of Altered that were trudging across the land towards the shelter. Then I felt it, flashes of images. I could see the Nukes being launched, racing through the skies. They were going to be here in twenty minutes. There was no way we could get the people inside in that time, no way…

Chapter 44

"Drake, Dark," I shouted from the Entrance, "You better hurry up and get them inside. You have ten minutes!"

"What?" Drake exclaimed, "Ten minutes? Twenty would be enough for us to get most of them inside the others would be a few minutes later."

You have ten minutes to get them all inside and prepare the base for a full lockdown, I thought to Drake, because nuclear warheads from Russia , China, Japan and a couple from England are heading this way. Do you understand?

Drake mutter curses inside his head and talked to Dark, quickly explaining the situation. They both muttered curses and began to hurry the people into the shelter. I moved off from the shelter, Dark and Drake understanding what I was going to try and do. They were lucky they didn't try and stop me. As I walked away from the shelter I heard the voices of Max and her flock from the other side, felt their strength flow into me and then I felt Max lend me her speed of light flight, something she had told me about, and I heard her whisper good luck to me before they were gone.

Time to do this, I thought to myself, I have to stop those Nukes from reaching their targets. I opened my wings and launched myself into the air, rushing forward until I was high up into the sky, far above the burning land below. An image flashed into my mind and I saw the first nukes target, Washington DC. I headed towards Washington, activating the speed Max had lent to me, and arrived as I saw the nuke falling from the sky. I threw out a telekinetic Net and caught the nuke before it had reached the target altitude to detonate. I used my power and flung it back into the sky, then followed it with a telekinetic blast, sending it into orbit above the earth. It would detonate, no lies about that, but I had stalled it to give us more time.

I saw the second target and began to head that way when I felt, more than saw something going on at an apparently abandoned Military installation. What is it with people and seemingly abandoned buildings? I didn't have time to check out the activity, I had to stop that nuke from landing, but I couldn't. I couldn't move. There was a pressure in the air that kept me from moving, a force that didn't want me to stop that nuke, no matter how hard I pushed against it, I couldn't get there.

Even from here I saw the blast in Los Angeles, saw the mushroom cloud extending into the air as the explosion ripped through the air. It was a few minutes before the shockwave ripped across where I was located and I was hurled through the air. Once it passed I focused on finding the other nukes, but nothing was coming, something was messing with my power. The dead weren't whispering anymore, they were watching silently… waiting for something. Then I saw…

A massive structure rises out of a bunker in the middle of the Nevada desert, A spire of cool dark metal, black in color with the look of oil spread over the surface. I rises out of the ground, followed buy smaller versions of the same spire, although smaller in size. All of these are connected around a central dish the rises out of the ground, covered in a reflective substance. There is a dull rumbling and the smaller spires lift from the ground blasted skywards on tails of smoke and flame. The central spire now stands in the centre of the dish, pointing skywards. It is a few moments before anything happens, then felt, more than seen or heard, a pulse of power was fired from the spire into orbit, hitting one of the spires and spreading out around the world. Altered everywhere felt the blanket of energy that covered the world. It was a few seconds before the effects set in. The nukes faltered, losing their power and fell from the sky to land harmlessly into the landscape below them. Nuclear power plants shut down for no apparent reason, plunging the world into darkness. Radio communications stop functioning properly as the blanket interferes with the signals.

A name runs through my head as this takes place, Project N-Jammer, a device designed to interfere with nuclear fission and fusion reactions all across the globe, effectively making all nuclear devices, such as nukes and nuclear power stations unusable. Communications would be capable, but only to certain ranges due to the interference caused by the N-Jammer. Another images flashed through my mind as I saw what was still going to happen. The other countries missile center's backup generators come online and the leader see Nuclear is out of the question. They find Conventional missiles can still be launched and launch them all, determined to wipe out every trace of the disease before it spreads, but they don't realize, it's already too late; the virus was airborne. Although only in America at the moment, it would eventually spread across the globe, and the destruction of a country would be for nothing. Whoever was left would destroy what remained of the world as they tried to destroy something that couldn't be destroyed…

Epilogue

The nuke that had landed in Los Angeles made the surface hazardous. The Radioactive fallout had spread over America, killing hundreds of people. Thousands weren't possible. The Virus had killed almost all of America's population and had left under a thousand humans still alive, under five hundred Altered had survived and the virus had spread beyond its borders. Many more were lost to the radiation, reducing the populations further, less that six hundred humans survived the radiation, less than three hundred Altered survived. The surface was barren; the conventional missiles destroyed anything within their blast radius. America was gone; the countries around the world were gone, fallen to the chaos. Humanity had reduced itself to an endangered species. The atmosphere was ridden with radiation from the nukes America had launched back at Russia, China and England, before the N-Jammer was activated. The N-Jammer base on the ground got destroyed by a missile, but the satellites in orbit remained functioning.

Everyone who had survived the virus had gone into hiding in the shelters when the first strikes began. Communications were lost with other shelters and everyone became isolated from each other. The shelters became self-sufficient, taking care of themselves and those in the shelter with them. Food was grown and stored from the fields; science was taken care of by scientists, helping improve our lives. Technology still worked down here, sheltered from the N-Jammer satellites. It was able to support our communities and create artificial environments for the crops and the animals, but since the communications dishes were above surface all communications were knocked out. Animals had been born and raised in these shelters for years. That was the first thing the survivors had noticed, the Animals. It looked like the shelters had been built because someone was afraid something like this might happen.

Journal Entry: September 10 2035: I found this old journal of mine at last. I've been searching for it for about five years now. Wondered what had happened to it. It's been fourteen years since my last entry. Fourteen years since that tragic day. People have grown accustomed to living in the shelters, and we now call shelter seventeen home, although we changed the name. We call it Savior city. Anyway to recap the past fourteen years… question is where to begin?

After the N-Jammer's launch, we managed to gain the time we needed to get everyone here. We sealed the doors and came down here to start our new lives. A new Council was formed from the remaining five survivors from the previous council. I was elected to be the head of the council as I knew what was going on more than other people did, but I refused. The survivors wouldn't hear it. The Whitecoats I had helped became invaluable to us and, because of a lab accident, they became Altered themselves. After the N-Jammers had gone up, all communications had been disrupted, but eventually we had found ways around that. Our previous estimations as to the humans were close. There were less than a thousand left in America alone.

"You found that old thing at last?" I heard Skye say from the door and stopped writing to look at her.

"Yeah," I replied, "Found it in the old bag of mine. Just finishing an update in it, then I'll be out."

"Max has been causing trouble at school again," Skye replied, "I've got to go sort it out."

"What has she done now?" I asked. Skye shrugged and left me to write again. I turned back to the journal and finished up.

Guess I forgot to mention that. Samantha pulled through and got the vaccine for Skye. Max beat it before the vaccine was injected into her. I came close to losing Skye. Max has grown up quite well, if a little bit disruptive. Turns out her ability was shape shifting. Who would have thought it? Skye and I had a proper wedding and have been married thirteen years now. Flame and Drake also got married a year later. They had a son who is twelve now. Falcon and Terra are twenty-five and are happily engaged. Drake and Rei are going out now. I now think I know what Falcon was talking about in Dark's apartment fourteen years ago.

Things have worked out well for us, if you could call this well. We survived, we got the partial happy ending. I got to live my life with Skye, the one I will love for life, but I have a feeling Max's adventure will be starting soon…