Zeorzia: (Sobbing hysterically) Nooo! It's ending! It's all gone!
Crystal: (Unsympathetic expression – I've been at this all day, can you blame her?) (Hands over yet another tissue) Are you gonna tell your lovely readers what's happening?
Zeorzia: Well… (Sniffles) I… I… The story… (Breaks down)
Crystal: What she means is, this is the last chapter for this story. After this, it's complete! But I'll be back eventually right? For a sequel or something?
Zeorzia: (Cheers up) Yippee! And before I get depressed again… dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dunnnnnn…

Disclaimer: (Gotcha there!) James Patterson owns! I wonder if he'll sell it to me for… a button, assorted coins from random countries and some fluff stuff that you always get in the bottom of your pocket?

And now… dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dunnnnn (for real this time)…

Saying goodbye

Max POV

I ran down yet another hallway (repetitive much?) feeling freedom singing in my veins. I was practically dancing with delight, except I'm Maximum Ride and I don't dance. If I do, it means the apocalypse is coming. Run for your lives! Then Angel rudely interrupted my thoughts on the pros and cons of ballet (not something you hear every day!).

"Max, look!" she said, pointing at a signpost.

I followed her gaze and saw it was labelled 'Tea room'.

"How can you think of food at a time like this, Angel?"

"Not that! Under tea room it says 'CR'. They said they were taking her to the Control Room. Control Room, CR? It's the initials!"

I felt my cheeks grow hot with embarrassment. She was right. The little arrow thing was pointing to the right so I breezed over my embarrassment and did what I do best:

"To the right guys!" I called, all leaderly-like.

"No duh, Sherlock. And I thought we were going to ignore the sign! Silly me!" Iggy muttered sarcastically.

I sent him a death glare and threatened, "I'd cut your lip if I were you, mister, before it's too late. If you keep this up your sight won't be the only sense miss -"

I cut off by a bang. A loud bang. A loud, sharp bang, that made everyone that heard it freeze, knowing what that sound meant. Death. Funny how, with all the advances the School has made, they still favour one of the most crude weapons of all. That bang was a gunshot.

Coal POV

I raised the handgun so it was positioned correctly in front of the target. My instructions ran through my head again. 'The hybrid is a liability. It will compromise the mission' and later 'You must terminate it for the Anti By-Half plan to work'. I knew it was dangerous to let it live, even for only this long. And why had I given the answers to her – I mean, it – earlier? I felt there had been a reason at the time, but now that was slipping… away… like waking from a dream… it was trickling… away… and… gone. Lost. I was lost again.

I ignored the target's pleas and cries for help. I drew back the trigger, carefully checking over the trajectory and aim. I heard the click that would release the bullet and suddenly my 'lost dream' had been found. I'd done it because I loved her. Those words cut through the fog in my mind I hadn't even known was there until that second. Her face stood out amongst the background the world had become for me and time stood still. I had remembered too late. The bullet shot out of the barrel of the gun, heading straight for her heart. I felt my own heart speed up as if it was trying to beat for both of us. The bullet hit and it all went dark…

…because I had hit the circuitry for the lighting in the wall. The bullet had missed by several inches. I could never have really brought myself to shoot and had jogged the gun just before firing. I ran forward and scooped my big sister up in a hug.

"I missed you." I whimpered.

"Shhh, shhh. It's okay now, I'm here. I'll never let you go again!" she reassured me.

Those last words startled me into pulling away. "You can't! Don't say that!"

"Say what?"

"Say you'll never let me go. You have to leave here right now without me!"

"But I've only just got you back! I can't leave!"

"Yes, you can. Don't get me wrong, I don't want you to go. It's just that I'm still not safe to be around. They programmed me to do whatever they say. I've managed to overcome it so far but soon the shock of nearly killing you is going to wear off. Then they'll be back in control again!"

"But – "

The door burst open and in rushed seven figures. The flock took a quick assessment of the room, spotted me with the gun and launched into attack mode. Just before I was squashed into a Coal pancake Crystal shouted and jumped in front of me.

"Don't hurt my brother!"

As one, the flock skidded to a halt and asked, "The Voice is your brother?!?" (A/N: He, he, who saw that one coming? Actually, probably everyone. :( ) Well, all except Gazzy, who cried, "Coal, you're the Voice?"

"Sorry, Gazzy," I mumbled, knowing my world of secrets and lies was about to come crashing down around my ears. "I didn't get a choice."

Max's eyes widened and she stepped forward. "Will someone here please explain what is going on? You're Crystal's brother, you're the Voice and you somehow know Gazzy? Anything else you want to tell us? Like, you just became the President of the United States, 'cause that's about as believable as this!"

Gazzy sobbed, "Max, I'm sorry, please don't throw me out! Please understand! When I was about three or four, I went to another branch of Itex for a while. You remember that? Well, when I was there I met Coal. We became really close, even closer than me and Iggy! They brought him back from death in exchange for me telling them the flock's every move. I'm a traitor and I don't deserve to be in this flock. I can't blame you if you want to kick me ou- "

"What are you talking about?!?" cried Max, "I love you, you chump! If trying to save your best friend is a crime now, then I should probably just hand myself over to Itex."

She reached forward and hugged him tight. Until then I had only seen the warrior but now the motherly side that was ever-present in her thoughts began to emerge. Gazzy looked up at her, innocent hope shining through his eyes. Some great weight had been lifted from him and he was only just beginning to come to terms with it. His relief made him look… normal. As if all the bad things that he'd been through were falling away before our eyes. In short, he became an eight-year-old boy, not a mutant.

"Of course, you can't get away with all you did that easily!"

His face tightened up again with guilt and fear.

"TICKLE WAR!"

Max lunged at him, fingers outstretched. Gazzy fell to the floor gasping. Iggy defended him by attacking Max, then Nudge attacked Iggy and then before I could blink the mood had switched from sob-fest to party. I observed them with distant amusement.

"You are the most spontaneous group I have ever seen!"

Angel turned to Max with a confused expression, "What's sponternous mean?"

"It means someone needs to learn to laugh," she answered, preparing to jump.

Before I realised what she meant, she leapt on top of me and tickled me to the floor. I rolled to the side trying to evade her – and failed. Without my consent, the edges of my mouth pulled up and my ribs started shaking. I looked on in alarm. What was happening? A chuckle, rusty from disuse, found its way up my throat and I burst out laughing. Oh, right, I was laughing! It had been so long, I had almost forgotten how it felt.

"Help! Let me up! I can't breathe!"

"Yeah, stop! He's my brother!"

"Thanks Crystal! See you can't-"

"…Which means I get to tickle him! Move over Max."

"Gladly," Max replied, giggling like she'd die if she stopped. Personally, I thought she'd die choking on her laughter.

"STOP! I mean it, stop!"

She just giggled harder.

"No, I mean I hear something!"

Everyone fell silent, our breaths sounding far too loud. Of course, I thought bitterly, it would be me who'd destroy everyone's fun. Once again I had to ruin everything. We all listened carefully and heard the steady thuds of hard, leather shoes hitting the hallway floor. They were coming.

"Look, to your right," I breathed, barely even moving my lips, "there's a balcony you can take off from there. I'll hold back the whitecoats."

Silently, only moving when a gust of wind blew or the door creaked to mask their sounds, they slid to the balcony. Well, all except one.

"'You can take off from'. I'm guessing you think I'm actually going to let my only little brother leave. If so you've got the wrong Crystal."

"You're wrong, I'm not your only brother, not anymore. You've got Gazzy and Iggy and Fang. You've got a new family now. There's a whole life ahead of you, sis. So go and live."

The Flock stood frozen by the window, unwilling to leave without Crystal. Crystal's head swung between me and her Flock, her old life and her new. Anyone could see her heart was breaking anew as she made a choice no-one should forced to make. I hated doing this but it was the only way to keep her safe. And so, heart-breaking and single tear bursting free, she turned away. She didn't say a word and she didn't have to. I knew that inside she was telling me she still loved me. She was just so strong she could put the Flock's needs above all. One by one, the avian-americans flew off with the solemn air associated with funerals. After all, this was a funeral. The death of our hearts.

I smiled, looking at the beautiful sight of flight. Then, for what could be the last time, I projected my thoughts into Max's head.

One person can't change the world, but you can change the world for one person. (A/N: A quote from a very wise person… a.k.a the Pudsey Bear) You did that for my sister. You saved her, the way you are destined to save everyone. But… just take a little bit more care of her than the rest of the world. Because she is my world.

Then I couldn't hold it in anymore. For the first time since I came here, I cried. Through the blur of my tears, I saw the black silhouettes of her Flock flying into the setting sun.

I turned away from the Flock and faced the whitecoats, prepared to defend them until my last breath. On my own.


Suddenly a shimmering angel dropped in front of me. "Oh c'mon, did you seriously believe we'd let you go that easily!?! Angel Ride, at your service!"

And I grinned.

In the sequel… a jealous bombmaker, an love-seeking sister and an evil, world-destroying company? Sounds like MAXIMUM RIDE!

And now I have a prize to hand out: – MissStud –, for being my first reviewer for reviewing a total of EIGHT times. Thank you, I think you have really kept me going. Thank you to all my other reviewers as well. Thanks Silentflier for R&Ring last chapter. So sorry to everyone that got bored of the long waits between chapters!

Fly on
Zeorzia