Way Back When

Chapter One: Release

A/N: Ok, hi, guys, so this fic takes place whenever you want, really, I mean, most of it's in the past anyways. I'm sure that confuses you now, but just wait and it'll make sense, I promise! And now, since you really don't want to be reading this (I mean, who LIKES Author's Notes? Not me!), on with the show! Or story. I'm sorry this is kinda long! Swimmingly, Rayven (And God I wish that really was my name.)

Have you ever had one of those days where the wind is the lightest of breezes as you're walking down the street? It runs tiny fingers through your hair, and with the sun warming your face you just stop in the middle of the sidewalk and smile up at the sky? You stand up straight and take a huge breath of amazingly clean air, like, totally unpolluted air, and you could just swear if you got a running start and leapt off a cliff with your arms outstretched you could fly?

Well, sucks for you because that'll never happen. The flying bit, I mean. But me? Heck, I do that all the time. Every day. Not to rub it in, of course. Hooh, no, not me, I'm not the gloating sort.

It was another one of those beautiful days where the sky was so blue it's white, and if you reached out your hand the clouds were actually cotton balls. The wind was the gentle sort, the kind that lifts the tips of your wings, allowing you to glide, wheel, and soar. Below, the ground was a kid's finger painting of browns, greens, and grays, and the little itty bitty cars in bright primary colors were the most unobtrusive piece of machinery down there.

Now that's very nice, you say, a lovely picture, it's really got me going-wait. What was that about the wings?!

Oh, yeah, I kinda glossed over that part, sorry. Well, let's see, how do I say this without scaring you? Oh, I know! Hi! I'm Maximum Ride, and I can FLY. Whoop-de-freakin-do.

Don't get cocky, Maximum, your wings are a gift, and not something to be taken lightly.

Ugh. There, right on cue, is It. The Voice. Uh-huh, not only do I have amazing, 14-foot wings (brown fading into white with brown speckles, for anyone interested), but I have a Voice in my head talking like a fortune cookie. Not that I don't like fortune cookies. They're delicious. But those messages inside with the bad grammar? Not so much.

Shut up, Voice. I said silently. You're killing my 'glorious-day-and-the-flock-is-safe buzz'.

Sorry, Maximum, you know that if the world was truly saved, I'd leave you alone forever. However, seeing as it's not…

I sighed, rolling my eyes.

"You ok?"

I turned to my right, fighting the blush I could feel creeping happily up my cheeks. I gazed into the startlingly dark and expressive eyes of my right-hand man, Fang. The wind blew his black hair in little gusts across his perfect olive skin, and one piece was stuck on his soft mouth…


No! Bad Max! Snap out of it! Bad! No checking out Fang, that's bad!

"Max!" I glanced around. Fang wasn't next to me. Where'd he go? "MAX!" I looked down. Oh. He was flying under me, gleaming black wings pumping slowly. He was staring up at me, and the creases around his eyes had tightened just a bit. That was the Fang version of concerned.

Rolling my eyes, I called down, "Yeah, sorry, I wasn't paying attention. What are you doing down there?"

"Thought you were having a brain attack," he said briefly, dipping one wing down slightly and soaring back up to my side. As he passed, the tip of his black feathers brushed one of my browns. The sensation sent electric shocks through my wing and across my chest, nearly stopping my heart. I practically dropped out of the air right there.

"No, um, I'm fine." I answered hastily, realizing he was still waiting. "Thanks, though." He nodded once, then turned back to stare ahead. I watched him out of the corner of my eye.

"Maaaax! Heeeeelp!" I whirled, instantly in battle stance. What happened while I was talking to Fang? Oh my god, had we been attacked?

"Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaax!" Finding the source of the noise, I laughed in relief, relaxing. It was Gazzy. From what I could tell, the Gasman had let off one of his signature presents near Iggy, our resident blind guy, and Iggy wasn't taking it well. Not well at all. Gazzy was struggling, upside-down, in a head lock, wings pinned to his back by Iggy's wiry arms.

I slowly counted to ten before saying, in a surprisingly calm voice, "Well, this is all lovely and good but I really think you should let Gazzy down now, Ig."

He turned to me, his face pointed directly to me. It was scary how he did that. His was looking at my forehead, but close enough. "Aw, mom," he complained, "but I'm having fun!"

I reeled in the air. Mom? Mom? Whaaat?! "Iggy-"

"Max," a small voice interrupted me, "Max, you really don't want to say that." I turned to my baby, my Angel, her golden curls swaying in the wind.

"Why not? Gazzy's gonna suffocate!"

"You just may want to reword it, that's all." Angel smiled at me, well, angelically, but there was mischief in her baby blues.

I thought about it for a sec, but not long really, since Gazzy was turning purple and Iggy was just laughing his head off. Since I couldn't figure it out, shrugging, I turned back to the winged mutant in question, and said, simply, "Ig, drop him-oh. On second thought-IGGY! NO!"

I'm sure you saw what I didn't. Of course. Who wouldn't? Because as soon as I told Iggy to drop Gazzy-he did. Promising, I'd kick his skinny white ass into next week, I lunged down after Gazzy, whose wings had cramped while Iggy held them in, so he couldn't open them. Of all the idiotic things to say!

A dark form streaked past me, easily nabbing Gazzy and yanking him back up to proper flying altitude. I pulled up, noted Angel giving me her best I-told-you-so look, and watching as Fang deposited Gazzy conveniently far away from Ig, and soared back down to me, smirking. "Need a hand?" He asked, holding out his hand helpfully.

"No," I answered sniffily. "I'm fine." And with a twitch of my wings, I was back up with my flock. Smooth, Max, real smooth.

"Oh my GOSH, Gazzy, are you ok? I mean, all you did was, well, it was pretty bad but when Max said 'drop him' I had no IDEA…wow, Max, that wasn't the best thing to say, but who knew Iggy'd do that?! I had no idea and then when you were going to catch him and Fang passed you it was so far I was like, speechless-"

"Like that ever happens," Iggy muttered.

That effectively shut Nudge up-did she really need any other intro here? Who wouldn't know that was the Nudge Channel?-and she looked hurt.

Shooting Iggy a spectacular glare that he obviously missed, I glided easily over to Nudge, and tapped her on the shoulder. Mutely, she turned to look at me. Ooh, I was going to kill Iggy. Usually she was able to brush off the comments everyone made about her incessant chatter, but something was off today. "Nudge?"

She looked away, thinking. I reached out and ran a hand through her tightly curled, rough, black hair, and sighed. She needed a haircut. We all needed haircuts. We also needed clothes, food, a decent night's sleep-but who's complaining? "Nudge? Honey? What's up?" Now it was her turn to sigh.

"I don't know. I mean, the day just, just feels off." She turned her face anxiously to mine. "Is it just me? Maybe I'm being too paranoid."

I grinned. Now there was something I could answer. "In our life, there's no such thing as too paranoid. You know that."

Nudge smiled back, her entire face taking on a glow brighter than the sun. "I know. I just woke up and it felt weird. I mean, we haven't been attacked by Erasers in forever-" (as in like, three days) "And I think, I don't know, it's all been leading up to today."

I hope not. Uneasily I looked up at the perfect sky, with scudding white clouds, the gleaming sun, there wasn't a furry face in sight. Well, other than Total, happily lounging in Fang's backpack. I smirked looking over at the black mass on his back. Fitting that the dog was so dark, he looked like the perfect accessory for Fang.

"Max?" Oh. Right. I turned back to Nudge.

"Yeah, sweetie?"

"Is everything ok?"

"Yup, thanks for the heads up. And anytime you need to talk, I'm here, ok?"

"Yeah, thanks, Max." With a final grin, she spun off to talk to Angel, and I wheeled back to Fang.

"Alright, guys, tighten up! We're expecting trouble!" Fang gave me a what? look, but when I didn't elaborate, just turned, flying close to the rest of us. Total popped his head out of Fang's backpack.

"I'll keep watch because, I'm a dog, I'm good at that!" He said excitedly.

"Sure." Fang said skeptically. I bit back a laugh, but couldn't keep from smiling.

Good for you, Maximum. The Voice chimed in. You took someone else's advice. That a good quality for leadership. And just because of that, I'll give you a parting present.

A present? Oh, goody, is it my birthday? I shot back.

You wish. Turn around, Maximum. I wheeled sharply, and what I saw made me sick.

"Guys! Erasers! Twelve o'clock!" So much for Total being an excellent watchdog. God, how many did they send this time? There must have been at least seventy. Could we take out that many on our own? I steeled myself. We were going to have to try.

I watched my flock take fighting positions, and Total burrowed into Fang's backpack with all possible speed. Coward.

The Erasers shot towards us, fangs dripping saliva, red eyes glowing maniacally. They were out for blood. But then again, so were we. The first one came up, growling, and I shot a roundhouse kick to his chest. It came back with a punch to my jaw. I snarled and retaliated with several swift blows to the face, then, cupping my hands, slammed them against his pointed ears, popping his eardrums. With a shriek he plummeted out of the sky. Satisfied, I turned to check out the rest of my flock.

Angel was totally untouched, a look of fierce concentration on her face as she made Erasers drop out of the air one by one. I shuddered, glad I was on her side. Gazzy and Iggy, past transgressions forgotten, were hurling bombs at every furry being they could reach. Over the din I could just make out Gazzy's devilish cackle as several Erasers exploded into bloody, flaming chunks. Ew. Now for Nudge-where was Nudge?! I spun, and caught her taking down three at once out of the corner of my eye. When had she gotten so strong? And Fang? Yeah, he was fine. I turned to take on my next enemy when I heard Fang yell, "Max! Behind you!"

Huh? Glancing back, I felt my blood run cold. There were at least twenty Erasers massed and streaking towards me. I couldn't take out that many on my own, and everyone else was too far away to help. Crap. I faced them fully, watching as they neared, waiting for an opening. They paused, seemingly sizing me up.

"What?" I taunted, "Are the puppies scared?" With a roar one of the mongrels snapped and came at me, but fury made him clumsy. I took him out with ease. The next two advanced. Bang, boom. They were done. Then, ten or so shot forward. I felt my eyes widen. Uh. Oh. I roundhouse kicked one, then punched another. I was a flurry of fists and feet, and but they were double the flurry. In a matter of seconds, my arms were yanked behind my back and my wings were held tight. Well crap.

"Max!" Fang was staring at me, a wild look in his eyes as he desperately fought to get to me.

"Oh no," an Eraser hissed in my ear, his hot breathe rancid, "no, we can't have that, can we?"

"Can't have me kicking your butt? Oh, I think we can!" I snarled, yanking at my arms. And how dare he touch my wings!

"Good night, Max." I felt his hands at my throat. I had one last, brief glimpse of Fang flying at the Erasers with murder in his eyes. Good, maybe he'll catch me, I thought hazily. Then everything went black.