The wind whipped past us.

The engines screamed, the props howling like banshees. Barnaby's coiffed, curly black hair was spastically flinging itself arond the top of his reddened face. He tried to level the pistol at me, but the wind kept ripping his arm upwards. He hung onto the top wing of the biplane with white knuckles. "Give me the parachute, Merlin!" he shouted.

"It was you all along, Barnaby!" I shouted back. "You were the one behind the Monumental Pictures payroll caper! And you would have gotten away clean too except for one thing...the dame. The dame wanted a slice of the cake! And when Mackleroy found out, you had to kill him!"

"Give me the parachute now, or I'll shoot!" he shrieked. I held the parachute in front of me. He wouldn't dare shoot so long as it was there, for fear of tearing a hole in it.

The engine burst into flames, smoke pouring upwards. I couldn't even hear Barnaby anymore. The diving planes of the militia shot downwards towards us through the clouds, too high, too late. Far below the sea looked blue and clean. I felt the wing tearing apart under my feet and I went somersaulting away into the air. The last I saw of Barnaby was through the oily smoke as I struggled into the parachute, his mouth open wide and dark like a scar, bullets arcing up towards me as he fired and fired and fired...

It was a decent start.

The Great Depression splintered America like it was made of glass, a dozen nations springing from the wreckage. Crimson are the Skies over the Nation of Hollywood as air pirates, militias, and transport zeppelins clash in a golden age of aviation!

A mysterious scientific organization created and manipulated human life - some of their highest triumphs? Children raised with wings, the ability to fly and other powers! Some have escaped from their torturous imprisonment under the tutelage of their self-named leader. Although she's only a teenaged girl, Maximum Ride flees with them from mysterious and bizarre pursuers...

SHADOWS IN THE SKY
A Maximum Ride and Crimson Skies Story

I. A Decent Start

The Monumental job was the one that put me on the map. My little office was flooded with calls after that. My secretary Angelica was not impressed. "If you can get me three paychecks in a row that won't bounce," she said, dropping the newspaper on my desk, "THAT would be worth a headline."

Jerzey Cafferty was one of the nine hundred vice presidents of Monumental Pictures and he had suspected someone of skimming off the payroll. The LAPD had their hands full with breaking up an Arixo spy ring so it fell to private dicks like myself to handle little things like a half a million dollars going missing. It turned out that David Barnaby, a stuntman and fugitive from the Industrial States had rigged the game. One thing about movie companies, they knew how to get your picture out there. The picture of Jerzey and me in front of a big canvas sack stuffed with Nation of Hollywood greenbacks was on the front page of every rag from here to the Colorado Free State.

I picked up a nice chunk of those greenbacks and Cafferty got promoted, even though he was still a vice president.

All that changed about two weeks afterwards. I unlocked the outer door and came in to collect the mail and put the coffee on. Angelica wouldn't be there for another hour. I opened the inner door and found a man lying on my office floor.

He'd been shot, and not too long ago either, the blood was staining the rug but had not spread to the wooden floor. I turned him over.

I hadn't seen Renoit since the war, the last time I had laid eyes on him he was walking back into the French cafe we had both just walked out of, his goggles pushed back on his head, a bottle of red wine in his hand, and a beautiful blonde woman under his arm. He was singing. The Armistice had been signed that day.

"Renoit." I said, trying to stay calm. I fumbled for the telephone, jiggled the cradle, the operator said "Hold the line." It was busy in my building. Businessmen were making money."

"Merlin." he moaned. "It shot me."

"Who shot you?" I asked.

"Samedi Dimanche." he said.

"Who?"

"Non. Not who. Samedi Dimanche. Samedi Dimanche." he insisted, his voice coming in a croak now, his hands formed into claws at my lapels, held on hard. "Samedi Dimanche."

There was blood on my hands when the police arrived, so they arrested me. Renoit never saw the inside of a hospital. The ambulance just took him straight to the morgue.