A/N:Sort of Heroes-inspired from the episode Five Years Gone and the Millefiore Arc from Hitman Reborn. Brilliant series, both of them.
The story technically starts during the "fourth" book or possibly at the end of it. I'm just taking advantage of the Antarctica setting.
Rating: T, for language.
Chapter One: Sky Light
"Did you know? The entire world is connected through the same sky."
-Ringo, Air Gear
The Voice couldn't project any emotion. It wasn't like a radio or a recorder that could send personal messages. The Voice was only a mechanical drone in Max's ears, a voice that nagged her of destiny and saving the world and most of all, reminded her of that dipshit of a father. Hell, it wasn't even Jeb's own warm voice that echoed in her mind, only a fake personification.
It might've been a strange comfort in an indirect way. Max wasn't ready to admit that yet. Really. She wasn't.
Not even if she found herself stuck in the middle of the Antarctica, so lost that she must have passed the South pole at least a dozen times in a circle; so cold that her feet could have fallen off hours ago and she wouldn't have noticed; so damn frustrated that she would have loved to abandoned the dying world just to curl up in a bed and sleep.
… so scared her flock was suffering in the same way.
But they were her family, they'd insisted.
Max peered over her shoulder, only to be greeted with sullen and dead eyes. The flock was reaching their limit. Unable to take in the pitiful sight, she averted her eyes and focused ahead. It wasn't snowing and the air was so sharp and dry that it was painful to breathe regularly. Lucky for Angel, the little girl had the ability to draw in oxygen particles. Max was relieved, since she would have never allowed her baby to trek through the Antarctica terrain.
Never, never, never.
What a lie.
The South Pole base came unexpectedly. They didn't see it come ahead or to the side, but rather below them. When their booted feet started stomping over steel instead of snow, the startled flock nearly fell to their knees out of sheer relief.
Max looked around her, sitting on the cold slab of steel as if were a heated cushion. Fang was now carrying Nudge on his back, though he looked as if he needed someone else to carry him as well. Iggy's lips were past blue. Gazzy could barely stand. Angel… her little girl was strong. Max had been thankful for that, but now… now she was getting a little bit jealous.
Max started to think that all this wasn't worth her family.
You could have gone by yourself.
They promised that they would never leave each other again.
At the expense of theirs lives for your mission.
Max decided that she didn't want to save their world anymore. Her world was right here, huddled in the middle of a blank plain of snow. It was her world that she wanted to save, not theirs.
They're holding you back.
The door to the base was sealed with rods and bars. It stood slanted and lead downwards like a cellar door in the middle of a pile of snow. At the Voice's instructions, Max leaned her face over the control pad. Her misty warm breath fogged the tablet before she planted her thumb firmly on the pad. There was a faint beep of acknowledgement and the door hissed opened. Max stepped inside and insisted that she went alone. She had to lie and tell them the Voice said so.
The flock could tell something was up, but they trusted her. They trusted her to come back. She made the promise anyway.
Max was going to prove the Voice wrong.
Inside, the base was falling apart. There were large jagged cracks on the walls and icicles on every inch of the ceiling. Max grew even more concerned when she had stepped into puddles of clear water. She was underground now and water meant leaks. Unfrozen water inside the base meant it was saltwater; even more dangerous.
The Voice urged her on and she readily complied. She found an icy screen with different controls. Gingerly, she placed her hand on it and it exploded with images. Max wanted to scream because the images were going into her mind. She wanted to pull back, but the screen was warm against her frozen hand, so she kept it there as her head throbbed. The images kept on flashing like a story. Events of the past and events to come; they were all inside her now. She saw things she would have to do, the sacrifices that she would have to make.
Slowly, she realized that it was never going to end. Their world needed to be saved over and over again. Max was going to have to take care of all of it. She didn't want to. This was what she was created for.
The heat on her hand started to become hot to the touch. The Voice told her that the mission was finished for now, but she didn't move from her spot. Max was part of the base and through some unknown eye, she saw her flock at the entrance. She heard them talking, talking about the future they would never have if they stayed with her.
Family, school, life, no more adventures…
Max laughed. She could save them. Without another thought, she did. She watched as the base's door eased shut at her command. The flock looked up with expressions of panic.
The Voice was no longer using words to reach her. It was shrieking horrible high notes in her head and Max finally broke away from the base's interface. Her glassy eyes cleared and she saw that the walls were melting. Melting.She couldn't think of any other way to describe it. Max got up to her feet, not realizing that she had fallen moments before since the base was shaking so bad.
The new information in her head disoriented her, but none of it mattered anymore. She had saved the world for good.
Max, how could you…?
She told her father to shut the hell up.
Sunlight came like a false beacon of hope. The water level had risen up to her hips and Max wondered why she was still able to move around. She legs still felt like lead blocks, but if she concentrated hard enough she could take steps. The progress was slow, but she made her way over to the shaft of light that came from the shuddering ceiling. Max's body was shivering so badly that the rocking base seemed to move with her rhythm.
She stared into the light and she saw the sky.
The water was up to her shoulders now.
Even though her body was numb, her mind stilled worked, though admittedly slower than usual. Max shrugged off her thick jacket, crying out in frustration as she couldn't get unbuttoned. She stuck her fingers in her mouth, willing them to move again, even for a moment. When that moment was granted, her jacket came off sluggishly.
Water washed over her face and Max squeezed her eyes shut.
The only word the Voice had said after she had screamed at it. It was a simple command, one that she heard a million times before. Max willed her wings to beat faster. Goddammit, her super speed powers couldn't save her now.
But she chose this path, so she might as well stick to it. Max laughed and watched the air bubbles waver upwards out of her sight.
Max told the Voice good-bye.
She turned agitated. Heated. A headache. Was she dying? Or was it just the Voice again? Stupid. Can't fly underwater.
Max! Don't leave us….please.
It was a new voice this time. Angel. Max's sluggish heart beat faster. Was her baby nearby? Or was she just in her mind?
Max told her to go away. Get out of here.
No. You're going to save yourself. You're not going to give up.
Mind influence. Max felt herself struggling for more air. She let her survival instincts take over and she started to move desperately. Max began to feel unnaturally hot and her headache made stars dance in her vision. Her wings did powerful strokes in the water. She shouldn't have been able to do it. Hot. It was getting too hot.
Water. Air. Sky. Fiery hot flashes of bursting light.
She turned away from it all and was relieved when the darkness came and swallowed her up.