A/N: Apparently offering bacon in exchange for reviews worked. Thank you so much, those of you who reviewed the last chapter!
"Alright," Joey said, "Lissa, you take the food court, Sam you take Victoria's Secret, and I'll go make sure no one escapes. Meet me out at the ski lodge place as soon as you can, and then we'll detonate the bombs."
"Okay," Lissa said, and ran off. Sam followed more slowly.
Joey pulled his walkie-talkie closer to his freakishly pink, girly lips. "They're off, Max."
There was a crackle of static as Max checked back in with, "Alright. Get out of there."
He was happy to oblige, and in about an hour he was at the ski lodge they were using as headquarters. It was freezing cold, and there was a thick layer of snow on the ground. A couple of people were out skiing and snowboarding, but there weren't very many of them. Joey felt free to walk around, waiting for something to happen. He stopped atop the crest of a snowy hill and pulled out his cell phone. After touching a few things and opening an app, the phone beeped and he flipped it sideways; a video opened up to reveal a very grumpy Maximum Ride. She was sitting with a Rubik's cube in a very dark place, her eyes narrow and her lips pursed.
When she saw the video camera on her end come alive and move, she scowled at it. She'd already tried to destroy it, but it had proved very resilient. Angry and unable to break free or destroy anything, she flipped Joey off and asked what the hell had happened to her kids.
Joey just smiled to himself and put his phone away again.
Looking up, he suddenly found that he was not alone. At the edge of a nearby cliff stood a young man, with a snowboard of sorts planted beside him, and his goggles pulled down firmly over his eyes as he stared out across the horizon. He was wearing a couple of layers, but Joey could see that he was thin and probably about two to four years younger than him.
He began walking towards the teenager; his combat boots crunched loudly through the snow.
K-runch. K-runch. K-runch.
The young man's shoulders tensed as Joey approached. "What do you want?"
"To talk. It's been a long while… Spencer."
"Tch! Not long enough." Spencer gave a small smirk, his expression otherwise invisible behind his goggles. "Alright, Ho Ho. Whassup?"
"Don't call me that." Joey glowered. "In short, I want you to join me. Together we can be great—we can bring down both ITEX and the Illuminati, and we can bring you back to your own time…"
"You still think I'm your son from the future?" Spencer shook his head. "I see you're still on crack."
Joey simply smiled. "So…" His weirdly pink, bow-lips formed the syllable with creepy slowness. "What do you say?"
There was silence for a few minutes. Spencer looked down at the ground, his board shifting at his side. Then he looked up, the muscles in his jaw tense and flexing. "Screw you. Did you really think I'd go along with that?"
Spencer immediately took a step back at the tone Joey had adopted. The crazy gleam in Joey's eyes, the way his pupils had shrunk and the way his smile had spread across his face, combined with the creepy edge to his voice, had made Spencer suddenly very nervous.
"That's why I brought this!"
When Joey pulled out a vicious looking knife, Spencer had had enough. He spun around, tossed his board in front of him, and jumped onto it.
"A hoverboard!" Joey exclaimed furiously, and swore.
Spencer grinned as he took off over the edge of the cliff, the wind in his hair. "Yup!" he said to himself with a laugh. "A hoverboard!"
He was shooting away down the slopes at a good speed by the time Joey had caught up. It seemed that Joey had gotten some money in his hands since Spencer had last seen him; upon Joey's back was a JetPak 3000, and Spencer knew that that thing wasn't cheap. They swerved around sharp corners and soared off of the edges of cliffs and outcroppings, testing the speed and maneuverability of Spencer's hoverboard and causing Joey's JetPak to splutter worryingly. Spencer pulled his body closer to his board and urged it to go faster, losing his hat along the way.
And then suddenly Joey was catching up with Spencer, nearly a foot out of arm's reach of the back of the hoverboard. Spencer glanced behind him and gritted his teeth.
"You can't escape!" Joey shouted.
Instead of rounding a sharp turn, Spencer revved his board and went flying through empty air. He grabbed the front edge of his board and threw his weight back as hard as he could, bringing the bottom of the board completely parallel with the vertical cliff face that was coming toward him at terrible speeds. He didn't know if his board's propulsion system would be able to stop him, but he sure as heck new Joey wouldn't be able to follow him in the aftermath.
Exhilarated, Spencer shouted, "Oh, really?" over his shoulder.
A cloud of snow filled the air, blinding anyone who might have been watching or involved. For a few moments, nothing could be seen nor heard.
And then Spencer shot out of the smoke and snow, streaking across the land about twenty feet up. He was grinning insanely, adrenaline pumping through his veins and the air in his lungs white hot with excitement. "Dang, that was epic!" he said to himself. "I love this thing!"
His hoverboard suddenly sparked and the soft hum it had made grew into a terrible bzz bzzt! "Warning," a mechanical voice intoned. "Malfunction. Disengaging braces. Prepare for crash."
Spencer was flung off the swiftly plummeting board and found himself rolling at an alarming speed down the steep slope below. He had no control over his movements and he had no idea what direction he was facing except face-to-the-snow and face-not-to-the-snow. To say that he was disoriented as he was flung down the hill was an understatement.
He hardly knew what hit him.
His head stopped moving seemingly a whole thirty seconds before the rest of his body did; there was a distant but very loud crack, and then pain flooded his senses and he opened his mouth in a gasp. Almost as soon as he parted his lips his eyes slipped shut, and he struggled to keep blackness from engulfing him. It was a futile effort.
Crunch. Crunch. K-runch.
The sound of his boots masked the sound of wings and of their owner's landing on a rocky outcropping above the unconscious Spencer and his pursuer. Keen eyes watched as Joey took out a length of rope and began to tie Spencer up. Spencer came-to as Joey tightened the last knot, just in time to hear a voice call, "Hey, Joey…"
Joey nearly jumped fourteen feet in the air at the sound of that voice, and he spun around, his face contorting with anger at the sight of the Avian-American standing upon the cliff, barefoot, his scarf flying behind him just as epically as if it were Superman's cape.
"You do know that I'm the only one who's allowed to tie Spencer up?"
"You!" Joey snarled.
The doppelgänger grinned cockily, his resemblance to the semi-conscious teenager below quite uncanny except for his huge, beautiful wings. He spread them and dove down to their level, his wings kicking up quite a bit of snow in the process. Spencer grinned at him. "Good old Pseudo. You can always count on a doppelgänger!" Fwoosh went Pseudo's wings as he landed, and Joey threw up his arms to cover his face. Pseudo brushed some snow off his shoulders, and Spencer said, "'Bout time you showed up."
Joey rounded angrily on Spencer.
"You mean you expected this?" he screamed.
"Pseudo and I do this pretty regularly. You of all people should know that, Joey."
"Shut up you jack—"
While Joey continued to scream at Spencer, and Spencer continued to add snarky comments to make the process continue again, Pseudo snuck up to Joey and stuck his hands up the bottom of the JetPak. He bit his tongue as he worked, thinking, "What a moron this guy is," to himself. He grinned when he heard the tell-tale clunk, and he coughed as black smoke poured out of the JetPak. He managed to get away just before Joey turned around, and he said, "Hey!" in conversational tones, grinning at Joey's outrage.
"What did you do?" Joey demanded furiously.
"Sabotaged your jetpack. Self-destruct in 10—oh wait. 5 seconds!"
Joey was horrified as he realized what the continuous clanking behind his back signaled. "You couldn't!" he spluttered.
Spencer smiled thinly. "Looks like he just did."
"Jetpak DETACH!" Joey shrieked, and the machine let go of the straps on his back and fell to the ground. Pseudo snickered.
"Just kidding," he said lightly, and then his expression changed. His eyes were suddenly quite evil, and his spread wings were threatening. "Let's go for a fly, shall we?"
"Unhand me! Let go!"
Pseudo blinked. "Alright!"
He let go obligingly, and wheeled slowly above as Joey screamed, "Noooooooooooooooooo!"
Pseudo made sure to wait until he knew that Joey wouldn't be getting back up, and then he flew back to where Spencer was waiting, his hands tied before him and his arms tied to his sides. He was quiet as Pseudo landed and slowly made his way through the snow toward him.
"So…" Pseudo looked at the ground with a dark look on his face. It seemed as if he were almost worried about what he'd just done…but Spencer knew better. Pseudo looked up and his eyes were untroubled and clear of everything but boredom. "Now what?"
"Well," Spencer said, "you could untie me."
"Joey?" Lissa called. "Joey?"
"Hey, Goldstein!" Sam shouted, and listened as the mountains replied, "—ein—ein—ein…"
After the echo faded away, there was ominous silence. Lissa hugged herself and grimaced. "Do you think something could have happened?" she asked hesitantly. "Like, an attack?"
Before Sam could reply (he was going to say that he didn't think so), the sound of boots crunching their way up the snowy hill reached their ears. Sam pushed Lissa behind him and put his hand in his pocket. Two people were coming toward the two humans; Sam could see that they were the same height, and that one was dressed warmly, with goggles, and the other was dressed for the city and had wings.
They were grinning as they came up. "You guys Sam and Lissa?" the one with the goggles asked.
"Maybe not," Sam said testily. "You are?"
The one who had spoken held out his hand. "I'm Spencer, Joey's son from the future."
Lissa gasped, and Sam's eyes widened. "He was telling the truth?" Lissa exclaimed disbelievingly. "No way!"
"I know what you mean," Spencer said. "He is a bit off his rocker. Anyway, he said he wanted me to tell you that there was a problem with the detonator and he's gone to try and fix it, and that for now he wants you guys to head back to the hotel Max and Fang's kids are. ITEX caught word of our attack and are coming for you guys, and it'd be best if you were out of the area when that happened."
Sam nodded. "That makes sense," he said slowly. "But who's this guy?"
Pseudo smiled icily, not parting his lips, and his eyes seemed red and scary. "This is my avian-vampire," Spencer said. "He's my body guard."
"Ahh, I see," Lissa said. "So, think we should get out of here before ITEX shows up?"
"Yeah," Spencer said. "Joey said he's going to stay here and if he can fix the detonator, he'll blow up the base and come back. If it doesn't work, though, he'll go and detonate them by hand and meet us back at the hotel."
Sam and Lissa nodded. "Alright," Sam said. "Who's driving?"
Spencer shrugged. "Whichever one of you two drove here can drive back, and we'll ride with you. Our ride kind of blew up."
Sam sighed. "Alright. Let's go."
Nudge was paler by at least three shades as she gripped her seat and squeezed her eyes shut. "PLEASE, somebody else drive!"
"Gladly!" Luce growled, but Alex's chortles drowned him out.
"What, you guys scared? It's open road! No one'll pull us over, there's nothing to crash into!"
"You'll find something to crash into," Dom growled. "Pull over."
Alex groaned but obeyed, and he got into the back seat beside Nudge. She crossed her arms and glowered at him as Luce got into the driver's seat and Dom went to the passenger's. "You seduced the driver's ed teacher, didn't you?"
"Nudge!" Alex looked crestfallen. "How can you think such a thing? Do I seem like the kind of person that would do that?"
She blushed, grinned, and looked away. He couldn't help but smile as well, and he pulled her free of her seatbelt and onto his lap, sling his arms around her waist, and press a very seductive whisper of, "Is that a yes, then, Nudgie?" into her hair.
She elbowed him, and Luce grumbled that he was going to be sick. Alex paused to shoot a glare at Luce and that was enough for Nudge to wriggle herself free. At his sad look she shook her head. "Not now, later but not now."
"Ugh," Luce said. "Don't discuss those things around me, please!"
"Fine." Nudge ignored Alex's glaring at Luce. "Let's discuss food, then. I'm starving."
"We can stop in the next town, but then we'll have to drive all night," Dom said warningly. "We have to reach the boys before noon tomorrow, and then they'll move again and we'll have lost them."
"Then we need to stock up on food then unless you want my rumbling stomach to give us away." Nudge sighed dramatically. "We'll get the boys there's no doubt about that, but it doesn't help anybody if we starve."
Dom grumbled, and Nudge glowered at him. "What the heck happened to you, Dom? You've been nothing but a thorn in our sides since we rescued you!"
Dom shot her a look. "Jeez Nudge, I don't know. Think on that for a minute would you?"
She blushed, but didn't relax her glare.
Dom bristled. "Holly died. I got kidnapped. I got a life-threatening, life-changing surgery I didn't want, again. The world is going to hell, and we might or might not be able to rescue a couple of little kids. Why the hell would you think anything's wrong?"
"Not to mention you were in a bombed building."
"Shut up, Alex." Nudge swallowed hard. "I know, Dom," she said icily, turning back to him, "but I'll be damned if I let you inflict it on the rest of us."
Alex glanced at her sharply. "Nudge—"
"It's the truth! We won't be able to get anything done if you keep inflicting your pain on us. Holly wouldn't have wanted it, Sable doesn't want it, none of us do either!"
Dom cursed and muttered something unintelligible. Luce shook his head. "I'm not pulling over for you to take off. You said it yourself we don't have enough time. Deal."
Dom put his face in his hands and sank down into his chair. Alex hugged Nudge tightly and rested his head against her shoulder; Luce sighed. Just what he needed. He turned on the radio.
"And we have an update on the ongoing revolts in Houston, Chicago, and Little Rock. The mutants have been conducting peaceful protests against ITEX and other such organizations. However, small groups of hybrids are leading violent attacks against ITEX, seemingly not caring that many times innocent men, women and even children are caught in the middle. Many prominent mutants have come out in the open with many strong statements against the violence and for the peaceful marches—but no organized leaders and groups actually seem to exist. Political commentators both for and against the Resistance have remarked on the need for one centralized leader and hierarchy within the mutant rebellion, and a way of communicating between groups, like a radio station, newspaper, or television news channel. Unfortunately, with the current government control over such things, the likelihood of such a method of communication is not very high…"
"Think that's part of Max's plan?" Alex wondered.
"I don't know," Luce said.
"Max always has a plan." Nudge smiled. "No telling what that plan is, but it's usually a good one."
"Yes," Alex said. "Indeed."
Ten picked at his corndog.
"I'm not really hungry."
Eleven scowled. "Eat anyway," he said shortly.
"Boys, nicely," Max sighed. Spencer chuckled and she scowled at him. "You're not on their side, are you?"
"Of course not," Spencer said defensively. "But I have two little brothers. It's in their nature."
"Then I'll make it not a part of their nature." Max rolled her eyes. "Somebody's gotta have some sort of manners around here."
"They're just kids, Max," Spencer said. "Can't you remember when you were that age? You fought with Fang all the time."
"No, I don't think we fought." Max sniffed. "I'm pretty sure he started it, and I finished it."
"That still counts as fighting." Spencer grinned. "But whatever."
"It so does not." Max rolled her eyes at him and checked her phone. "Shouldn't your dad or whatever Joey is have called by now?"
"When has he ever been on time?" Spencer rolled his eyes. "He's insane. He doesn't run on normal, human time."
"That's right." She snorted. "If you and him are telling the truth, and not that I care, but if you are then you know all about him screwing up time don't you?"
"Hell yeah," he said.
Ten's mouth popped open. "You need soap!"
"Oh hush up," Eleven said. "You're not his mother!"
"Eleven, be nice," Max snapped and brushed her hair out of her face. "Spencer, don't swear around them. Please. They're enough of a handful without that being brought up."
"Sorry, sorry," Spencer said, holding his hands up. "Anyway, come on guys. I'll make up for it by giving you some lessons in ninja-ness. Let's go, guys."
"Alright!" The boys pushed out from the table and ran after Spencer.
Max sighed and put her head in her hands. "They're such a handful," she groaned to Lissa, who had just walked in. "I don't know how their mother deals with them."
Spencer crouched behind the partially closed door to make sure that Lissa was fully distracting Max II; she was. Thus assured, Spencer turned from the door and gestured for the boys to run to the window. They obeyed silently, almost as quietly as their father might have. Eleven wore a backpack with all their earthly belongings in it.
Outside the window was Pseudo, perched on the roof.
Ten looked between Pseudo and Spencer with wide eyes. He didn't speak a word but his mouth formed a small 'o'. Eleven rolled his eyes and ignored the similarities; he walked right up to Pseudo and stared both him and Spencer down. "If she catches us then I'm blaming you."
"Then don't let her catch you," he snapped, and gave Eleven a shove out the window. Ten followed.
"Come on," Pseudo said. "We need to get you to safety."
"Sure, Mr. Clone." Ten fluttered his wings out of his jacket. "Where we headed?"
"Safety and your Aunt Nudge," Pseudo said. "We need to fly quickly. Now fly!"
He spread his own wings, and they were off. Spencer hung out for a while before heading back to Max with a grin on his face. "Those kids are awesome. I wore them out for you, they're in there asleep. Hey." He waved at Lissa and called over his shoulder at Max, already heading to the door, "I better go see what the heck Joey's got himself into now, I just got an 'urgent' message. I'll check in in an hour."
"Alright," they said without any sign of suspicion. Spencer vacated the premises immediately, getting into a taxi. He smiled to himself as he told the driver where to go—and he pulled out his cell phone.
Spencer: Boys are with my twin for dinner. Meet me for a Double-Double?
Alex: Be there in fifteen. Starving.
The driver finally pulled over to a little side street, and Spencer was able to get out his phone and call Pseudo. "Hey. The others are on their way."
"'Kay. You won't believe who I just got a call from."
"Xingu. Y'know, that bird kid Sable was friends with but argued a lot with, and who was a bit of a jerk and probably a fake, and then disappeared? He apparently has a lead for us on Max."
"Do you think it's legit or that he's as messed up as Joey?" Spencer waved at a couple walking by.
"I think it's legit, but I'm having him call Sabes to verify. Anyway, I have to go now and get the boys to the rendezvous. Be there in a few."
Spencer hung up and leaned against a tree, watching the road. Eventually a green car stopped and honked at him, the driver gesturing for him to hurry up. Spencer rolled his eyes as he got in the back. "Hold your horses, it's not like you're my getaway driver or anything."
"I don't know about that," Alex said with a grin. "I think I see your little fanclub raising dust in the distance. What's that? 'Spencerrrr…Spencerrrr… Sign my soccer jersey…'"
"Make me." Alex made a face when Nudge knocked him over the back of the head. "Nudgie! What was that for?"
"Don't call me Nudgie! And you know what, you shouldn't be jealous just 'cause he's getting some attention. I'm here now, so shut up."
"Come on," Spencer said, laughing. "Let's get to the place before I grow a beard." Alex sighed and floored it (well, as much as he could within the speed limit). Spencer leaned over and shook hands with Luce, and knocked fists with Dom. "Long time no see, guys," he said warmly.
Dom didn't respond, but Luce smiled. "It's good to see you, Spence."
"Yeah," Spence said with a smile, "and you too, Sourpuss." He settled back in his seat and ignored the change of expressions on Dom's face; the darker hybrid winced and looked somberly out the window.
Nudge pointedly ignored Dom. "So Spencer, the boys are okay? Did you get what exactly Max II and them are up to? What the heck are they trying to prove, and why did they need the boys? Was Max II trying to keep up appearances or something?"
"The boys are fine, just a bit scared and cautious. I did, actually, but not all from themselves. What ITEX's plan is, and it is ITEX's plan, because Lissa's not smart enough to make it up and Sam isn't much of a leader and Max II is just a worker bee, ITEX wants to make people think the Resistance is messed up. All hybrids are murderers. All hybrids are mad at regular humans, rightly so, and are exacting bloody revenge. Blah blah blah."
Spencer took a breath. "They didn't need the boys. They just needed the real Max out of the way. Max II was trying and failing miserably to keep up the act as Max around the boys, and they saw it."
"Does she have some heart then? Why not just kill the boys?" Nudge frowned. "I mean, I'm glad she didn't obviously, but why didn't she even try? Maybe we could get her on our side eventually."
"She couldn't kill them because Lissa had already found out, and Lissa would have raised hell if she knew Max II killed Fang's kids. Max II just hadn't had an opportunity to make her move, but I'm sure she would have eventually. She didn't like them, I don't think. Maybe we could, maybe we couldn't—I don't know."
Nudge scowled. "I see. We need to beat up Max II after the boys are safe and figure out where Max is, even though she's probably busted out already, knowing her."
"I hope not," said Alex. "That'll just make finding her even harder—oh, here we are."
They parked the car and slowly got out, yawning and stretching. Dom volunteered to go inside and get food with Spencer, while the others decided to wait behind the car, inconspicuous and out of sight, for Pseudo and the boys to arrive. It wasn't long before they heard the thwump thwump of wings, and the doppelgänger and the two boys landed beside them.
Ten launched himself into the car. "Hi. Is there food yet? I'm hungry." Eleven and Pseudo rolled their eyes.
Nudge laughed. "I know what you mean," she said. "We're getting to it. Dom and Spence are inside getting dinner."
Ten poked his head back out of the car and looked up at her curiously. "You're Auntie Nudge, right?"
"Squee! He remembered!"
"That's a yes." He smiled at her, but when he looked at Alex and Luce he frowned and turned back to Eleven. "Uncle Luce is blonde with red eyes, so the other one is Uncle Alex, right?"
"Pleased to meet you, kid," Alex said in his smoothest voice, and shook hands with both of the kids.
"Pleasure, yeah," Luce repeated, and shook their hands as well.
Eleven studied Luce for a while before shrugging. "I'm not sure if you're as epic as Dad, but you might be an okay ninja." He smirked a Ten.
Ten immediately lunged at Luce and grabbed his hand. "He'll be a great ninja!" he exclaimed. "No one can be as good as Dad, but he'll be a great one!"
"You know he's only saying it because I said you'd only be an okay ninja," Eleven retorted, but to Luce, who was grinning with amusement.
"Nuh-uh! I'm saying it 'cause it's true!" Ten grinned up at Luce. "We just gotta teach ya how to be a ninja first, you gotta learn to make awesome forts and everything!"
"First," Luce said, still grinning, "let's eat, and then find your mom. Then you can show me how to make forts."
Ten frowned instantly. "How are we gonna find Mom? Did that other Max spill something and we didn't catch it?"
"No," said Spencer as he came toward them laden with bags and bags of junk food. "She didn't slip up at all in that regards. I stole the info off of Joey's phone and got a call from someone who might know. Auntie Sable's helping, too."
"Sweet! Where is she? Did you get cookies? Mom'll like those."
"She's just on the other side of the Great Lakes," Pseudo said. "In Canadia."
"It's Canada," Eleven said, frowning. "Isn't it?"
"Oh, you have much to learn, young grasshopper," Nudge said with a grin.
Eleven shrugged and smiled. "Alright, let's go to this Canadia. We've got an army of ninjas, what do we got to lose?"
No one dared tell him that they might lose everything.