I started cooking this little tidbit up in late 2005. Yeah, it's been on the burner for a while, but it's quite tender. I have written chapter two as well, but it's pretty raw still (I like my crossovers well cooked). I'll listen to any requests as to the direction of the story (a.k.a. give me ideas). I'll thank anyone whose ideas I use in the author's notes if I use it.
I own both The Lord of the Rings and Maximum Ride...
In hardback. I don't own the rights, though; those belong to the Tolkien estate and James Patterson, respectively.
Okay, the weather around here is seriously weird. We—the flock—set out for DC and it's perfectly clear. Then it gets cloudy and starts to rain very, very suddenly. Of course, we landed in what happened to be a forested area; you just don't fly in the rain.
At this point, I was seriously jealous of Fang. A leather jacket is waterproof. Denim is not. Guess which one of us was warmer and drier? At least the rest of the flock was relatively dry; Gazzy's camo outfit was waterproof, Angel's fleece kept out most of the water, and Nudge- well, we were in the same soaking wet denim. Note to self: next time when shopping buy waterproof jackets for Nudge and self. Although the next time we had spare time (or money) to go shopping would be a long, long time from now.
Angel snuggled up to me. "I'm cold," she mumbled.
"Well, pull your hood up," I said as I did it for her. Angel just gave me a big hug that might have cracked my bones if she hadn't been at the School those few days. I still hadn't gotten over the fact that she had lost so much weight there; it made me want to strangle each and every whitecoat in the place. Heck, I would want to do that even if they hadn't taken my baby.
Nudge yelped when she heard a lightning strike—it was way too close to our current position for comfort.
"Iggy? How far was that one?" I asked carefully.
Iggy pursed his lips for a second. "Two thousand feet, give or take a few yards." Yup, way too close.
We had two options: both really bad. Staying put was a bad idea because we were under trees. Trying to fly was even worse because then we'd be even higher and the wind was picking up. There were too many cons to moving.
I looked at Fang, but he only shrugged as if to say, Hey, it's your decision. We'll get fried either way. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Fang.
So we just had to wait.
Did I ever say that I hated waiting? Waiting means that you don't really know what's coming and you have plenty of time to think about what bad stuff could happen. Waiting is a state of helplessness. Waiting is what I did for twelve years at the School. And the fact that I was waiting to turn into "humanoid popcorn" was not helpful in the least.
And then it happened. A bright light flashed, and then everything went black. Oh, God, I'm dead.
I think it should go without saying that I was surprised when I actually woke up, albeit with a sickening headache.
I was even more surprised to see the flock was still together, albeit that they were unconscious.
First thing to do was a 360. We weren't in the woods we were last night; these trees were much taller. And that in itself scared me, because that meant we had been moved. That meant we had been seen. That meant people knew where we were. However, I didn't see anyone, which was good.
Second order of business was to check on everyone. I could see that everyone was still breathing, and Nudge and Fang looked like they was on the verge of waking up. I had learned, from experience, not to be within a wingspan of Fang right when he woke up. Those ten seconds were when he was most volatile, most berserker-likely, and all-around not fun to be with. So I went to check on Gazzy, whose eyelids were spazzing.
By the time Gazzy had really opened his eyes, Fang had started the ordinary routine: the 360, listen around, and check on the others. It never hurts to do it more than once, unless you're sure the Erasers are there—which you can never be. Nudge had sat up and was rubbing her eyes. She said blearily, "Max, what's happened? We aren't-"
"I know," I said, hushing her quietly. "We're trying to figure out where we are. Now can you be quiet for a while? Fang's listening around." Nudge nodded and shut up. Before it had been so hard for her to shut up; now she knew how. It kinda rankles knowing that she's no longer that little kid who talked all the time due to the fact she was chased around the country by evil creatures that want to eat her. But she had to grow up; we all had to.
I shook my head to rid it of depressing thoughts. Note to self: give pep talk to subconscious re: depressing thoughts. I then looked over to Iggy; he hadn't moved yet. Fang was still listening around, being extra careful not to miss anything.
Angel had woken up and was shaking her head. "What happened? Max, where are we?"
I looked at her and smiled. "I don't know, sweetie." I couldn't say where we were; I couldn't say we were safe. Heck, I couldn't even say that we'd get food anytime soon. We didn't seem to have our backpacks with us, even though all they had in them were a few granola bars and chocolate chip cookies. First order of business was to find out what we could eat. However, I knew absolutely nothing about edible plants outside of the desert southwest. And it wasn't the season for nesting birds. However, I'd thought a bit ahead. I had carried granola bars or snack packs of crackers in case we ever had to leave our packs behind to escape quickly. I checked my pockets: total of three granola bars, one half bar per person. Angel, Gazzy and Nudge ate theirs right away, but I pocketed mine after I broke off a bite. I'd last longer than those three on no food anyways. They'd get hungrier sooner and I had to have something. Call me a mother hen if you want; I just can't help it. Iggy still wasn't awake and Fang didn't want to open the last bar until he was conscious. So we were back to waiting. Waiting for Iggy to wake up. Waiting for one of us to figure out where we were. Waiting for me to figure out when we would move.
Voice? Are you there? Do you know where we are?
The Voice didn't respond, so I turned back to thinking.
Why don't you focus on saving the world again?
Drat. Voice is back, and it didn't answer my question.
Because I'm trying to figure out what we're gonna do. Iggy can't move, goshdarnit!
Don't worry so much; it doesn't help you think.
Great advice, Voice. Don't worry that we're all going to starve, don't worry that Iggy hasn't had anything to eat for at least twenty-four hours, which with his obscenely high metabolism could mean he's could die very soon? Uh huh. Nope, not gonna stop. Until I fall asleep, that is.
The night passed uneventfully; Iggy still hadn't woken up. We had taken turns watching him during the night; first me, then Gazzy, then Angel, then Nudge, then Fang. I woke early out of habit and checked over the flock. Nudge was blinking awake, while Gazzy and Angel were still sleeping. Fang was doing his final sweep: stop, look, and listen. However, he seemed to be still on the looking step. Then I heard a pattern of quiet tongue clicks- one of the patterns we had created once we figured out that our old code was simple enough for anyone to figure out if they could see us in action once. This particular pattern meant: there are people in the trees. I clicked back: Erasers? There was no response, except one click. One click meant: Be ready to fight and fly. Gazzy had heard that last click and had turned white. He sat up quickly and went to check on his little sister, who was being helped up by Nudge as I went to Iggy.
Iggy hadn't woken yet, or even stirred other than the rhythmic moving of his chest up and down, up and down. I did a quick calculation. In a pinch, I could probably carry him away as I flew; Fang definitely could if I could convince him to leave the scene of a potential fight, which was about as easy as convincing Dagwood Bumstead to leave an All-You-Can-Eat buffet before he'd had a single lettuce leaf. However, I didn't have to think about that anymore because They came out of the trees.
They didn't look like Erasers. Erasers are stocky, with thick eyebrows and too much hair. These things didn't have the profuse hair or the build of the Erasers, but they moved like them and had the same dark hair. Their movement was sign enough; it isn't the hairiness that makes an Eraser dangerous, but the fluid and poised way they move. The way that says, Run, run, run, as fast as you can. This seemed like Eraser version 7: bigger and better. Although bigger could be disputed, as they had more of a swimmer's build. One thing was for sure: I really didn't need to add this to my headache.
I waited for Fang to move, to give some indication of what was going on. But the only movement I could sense was Angel whimpering in fear. That made my blood boil. Anything that made Angel scared was an automatic enemy. But I wouldn't move until Fang did. It wouldn't only be silly if we ended up colliding, it would be dangerous, 'cause no one could look after Iggy and take him away if we were attacked.
Finally Fang moved; interestingly, it was sideways, towards myself and Iggy. "You're the leader, you do the talking," he whispered once we got within hearing distance.
"Promise you'll take off with Iggy if they attack?" I whispered back.
He looked slightly annoyed, but he nodded. I moved slowly away from Iggy as Fang took his place by Iggy, pulling him into a sort-of sitting position, I realized, in the only way Fang thought he could be able to pick him up and take off at the same time. Out of my peripheral, I could see that Angel and Gazzy were crouched together, ready to spring if necessary. I couldn't see Nudge, but I assumed she'd done the same thing.
I looked up to the new Erasers. One of them, slightly taller than the rest, had stepped forward.
"Who are you?" he asked. His voice was fluid—another Eraser sign. However, I seriously don't think that an Eraser would ask us who we were; they'd attack first and then ask questions.
How to answer, how to answer? "I am Max," I said. I still haven't had time to think up an alias. Note to self: find time to think up an alias.
"What are you doing in this land?"
There was only one answer to that. "I don't know. I don't even know where we are."
The leader's eyebrows shot up at that. He gestured to one of the others behind him and held a whispered conversation that I couldn't understand. Apparently, they used a code too. The leader turned back to me. "None may enter the valley without my Lord's leave."
At that moment, another one of Them came forward to speak to the leader. This one was different. He (at least, I assume so, even though he had long hair) was blonde, and had an aura of calm around him. It made me think of homemade chocolate chip cookies and pancakes, which made me think of how hungry I was and how hungry the flock would be once we got out of this mess. Except Fang. I don't think I've ever heard him admit to anything that wasn't a near-death situation. Hunger? No biggie. Erasers? Slight distraction. Death? Rather not do that.
From the side, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet on wet grass. Angel ran up and grabbed me by the arm pulling me down to her height. She whispered in my ear (quite loudly) "They aren't Erasers, and they aren't people. They're friends, and they want to help. At least, that's what he said." She pointed to the blond one who now had a slight smile on his face—a Fang-smile, because a second later it was gone.
Angel could talk to him in her mind. But that wasn't important at the moment. Did I have a choice as to whether I could trust these people? Probably not, because we still had no idea where we were and they had mentioned a Lord guy. Either we had switched dimensions or we had landed in Wales (they had Welsh-sounding accents). Crazy as it sounded, I preferred the first theory. I remembered something on the Internet while we were back at the house. Someone had written a site that theorized on alternate dimensions. One of the ways to cross the borders? Get struck by lightning. And we actually seemed to have done that. And Iggy hadn't moved yet (Fang would have made some noise if he had) so he really needed help. I took a deep breath. "Can you help us? We've got someone here who won't wake up."
I could have sworn I heard Fang hiss at my stupidity. Oh well, his loss for making me talk. And we really did need help; Iggy was the only one of us who really knew first aid, and that wouldn't help us a bit. And he hadn't woken up, and it had been a long time.
The blond man answered me; for some reason, he seemed less scary than the rest. "We must take him up to the House before we can treat your friend; you must come as well." I looked over at Fang, who had looked to me. I was thinking: there's a capital letter to this House. Like the School and the Institute. It has a capital letter. Long experience made me associate capital letters with pain and suffering and tests. But Iggy hadn't woken up yet. Iggy was almost always the first person up before. It was my duty to make sure he got better, personal fear or no. And Angel and Gazzy had to be starved by now. Pros and cons, pros and cons…
"All right," I said, going over to help Fang pick up Iggy. He didn't need the help, but I felt better being able to do something. Fang knew that well enough too, so he tolerated me. But the leading person took Iggy's shoulders, saying, "We can carry him." Fang and I looked at each other, but there was little we could do. I prayed silently, Don't touch his back, don't feel his wings, don't touch his back until Iggy had been placed on a horse. A horse! I hadn't heard one, I hadn't smelled one. Heck, I'd never seen a horse like this one! I'd only seen police horses in Central Park, and they were completely different than this thing. It felt like it should have been a cross-breed, like a cross between a horse and something else. I know I really don't know much about horses, but I knew enough about cross-breeds to know one when I saw one. The blond man got up behind Iggy and rode off down some path that had mysteriously cleared.
"Yeah. It's weird, and I don't trust them."
"Well, they have Iggy, and Angel says they're friends. We have to trust them."
Fang gave me a look that said, Well, now we do, since you turned him over. But I couldn't worry about that right now. They said they'd help Iggy get better, and the kids needed food. Angel trusted them. There was no reason for me to worry.
Remember the two things:
First: Constructive criticism. I need it. Give it if you have any time.
Second: Ideas. I need them. I'd love to hear what you guys would like, but I'm not a mind reader (well, not a particularly good one. I'm technically psychic if you go on the card test). Send ideas in a PM or a review.