Hey all! Okay, this is mt first Max Ride fanfic, and the first few chapters are going to be a little dark. Not as much Max humor, but I'm trying to incorporate that in. I really have nothing to say, except that there will be Fax, but not at the start. And that's all, I think.

Disclaimer: JP owns it, not me. I'm not middle-aged.

As always,

{--Inky--}

Oh, and the stuff in italics are Max's thoughts. Just to clarify things.


Kryptonite

Chapter One: Being a Good Citizen

Max POV

Does karma really exist?

Has anyone ever actually tested it?

Because I don't think karma is real. I don't believe in Fate either. I believe that there is a certain amount of bad crap to be distributed every day, to everyone around this world. And it doesn't matter if it's given fairly, so long as it's gone by the end of the day.

My theory works. It explains why some people get all the breaks, all the glamour, all the good, while some people have to live on the streets in disgusting rags and dig food out of dumpsters, hoping that maybe one of those people walking past will feel bad for them and toss out a bill or two. Those unlucky people get their share of crap and have to deal with someone else's too, while that someone else gets off scot-free.

I've tried millions of times to reason with myself, convince my inner voice that something amazing is going to happen after all the depressing shit, and I always come to the same conclusion:

Life sucks, so take what you can get while it's still there.

This reality check brought to you by me, Maximum Ride. And before you ask if my parents were high when they named me, I named myself, on my eighth birthday. It was my gift to myself, the only one I received that year.

I'm sixteen now. Still not much better off now as I was when I was eight, but I hold my own. It's what I was taught to do.

"Happy Sweet Sixteen, Max," I muttered darkly to myself, blowing out the tiny flame spouting from my lighter. I tucked it carefully into the inside pocket of my jacket and cut across the dimly lit street to Chloe's.

Somehow I had landed a part-time gig as a waitress at Chloe's, a grungy little bar on the rougher side of the city. Most places that were the least bit respectable and safe wouldn't employ a dirty street kid like me, because we're all thieves and prostitutes and murderers. Yeah, sure whatever. I was lucky the pothead that owned this place had taken my word that I was nineteen and hadn't asked for any ID. I don't have any, never have. I could be the long-lost princes of Belgium and I wouldn't know it.

Pshh, I wish.

My first few nights on the job were rough, and I almost got into a couple bar fights over something some drunk said to me, but I learned that things run smoother if you just keep you head down and your temper buried deep. Really deep. A couple of the other girls were nice enough, and managed to wheedle me up onto the stage to sing a couple songs. They all said I was really good and now, every night, they push me up and I sing, just because they want me too. Plus, I get paid extra for it, so what the heck? Any extra money is welcomed with open arms.

I reached the front door to the bar, pushing it open and slipping inside. Heat splashed across my cheeks, probably turning them pink. Immediately, the subtle scent of stale alcohol and cigar smoke hit my nose, and I wrinkled it.

Nasty.

My footsteps sounded loud to me ears against the grey cement floor as I hurried down the hall to the soundproof door at the end. I ducked through the beaded curtain hanging from the ceiling and twisted the handle. The heavy door swung open easily.

A heavy beat pounded into my eardrums. I moved through the crowds, trying desperately to settle the ugly snare of nerves in the pit of my stomach. I don't do well in crowds. My paranoia has me constantly checking my shoulder and my claustrophobia makes me cringe at any type of containment. I was grateful to see that my ratty old jeans and blue button down didn't stand out too much.

One of the other waitresses, Vanessa, met me as I ducked behind the bar. She looked me up and down, lips pursed in disapproval.

"What?" I fingered the worn cuffs of my shirt. I didn't look that bad. I mean, I've definitely looked worse.

"You look so... boarding school," she decided. I raised an eyebrow at her and held my arms out.

"Fix me then." She smirked and moved forward to roll my sleeves up to my elbows, exposing my lightly tanned forearms, which she declared were sexy. I rolled my eyes at her. How are arms sexy? She moved on to my buttons but paused.

"You have a shirt underneath, right?" When I nodded, she unbuttoned all the way down to my bellybutton so that my camisole showed, along with a bit of cleavage. I willed myself not to blush. It's not like I had none; I just wasn't exactly the type of girl who used her assets to get places. Mine were always tucked away, covered in a baggy t-shirt or under a jacket. I didn't want people flocking to me; I would rather they all just stayed away.

Vanessa untucked my shirt tails and adjusted them so that they hung a certain way over my jeans.

"There." She handed me a notebook and tucked a pencil behind my ear. I smiled my thanks at her and waved as I moved over to my section of tables, flipping my thick blond braid over my shoulder in a sad attempt to hide my collarbones. It didn't work too well.

Having an actual girl friend might be good for me...I shook that absurd thought out of my head. Vanessa likes quiet Max, who is not me. A person would have to be pretty damn patient to deal with the real Max in all her snarky, paranoid glory.

*******************************

Six hours later, my feet were killing me in my Converse, Real Max was begging to come out and put these sexist pigs in their places, and I knew I could probably use a drink.

No! I screamed at myself. No drinks, no matter what. Alcohol slows down the senses and makes you the perfect target out there, in the alleys where no one can see you. Being vulnerable, in any way, is the worst mistake a person could make.

That's what happened to Scottie, the alcoholic ten year old that used to live across from where I crash every night.

I grabbed some random guy's wrist and checked his watch, ignoring his advances when he saw me. My shift was over, and I wanted to go before anyone else realized I had yet to perform tonight. I pushed towards the bar. Some drunken guy grabbed my ass, so I spun around and glared at him. He was grinning and I so wanted to hit him, but that would lose me my job, so I settled for a ground-out threat.

"Touch me again, and I'll castrate you with a rubber band." I'm sure his eyes got huge, but I didn't stick around to see it. I was already at the bar when his beer bottle hit the ground after slipping out of his hand.

Becky, one of the higher-ups, was sitting on a bar stool, sipping vodka from a wine glass. I threw my notebook into the drawer and grabbed my coat from its hook. She got up and swayed over to the cash box. She was tipsy, but it didn't affect her when she counted me my cash. I took it, slipping it into my pocket along with the tips from the night. I got paid by the day, on a request from me. Just in case I couldn't make it one night; I wouldn't lose any pay for calling in sick or not showing up.

"I'm heading out, Becky," I told her as I zipped up my jacket.

"See ya tomorrow, Max," she replied, lighting up a cigarette. I shook my head. Smoking? And drinking? The girl was just asking for cancer.

I left through the back door so no one would see me go, clutching the lapels of my jacket closer to my face as the cold October wind hit me. I tugged out the elastic holding in the ends of my hair and ran my fingers through the plaits, enjoying the feeling of the wind in my hair when it was completely loose. My breath was hot in the air, making little clouds as I jogged towards the end of the back alley.

"Hey!" A voice shouted behind me, and I froze. Instinctively, I ducked behind a nearby bank of trash cans and watched as indistinct figures moved out into the light.

There were three of them. It was obvious that the two bigger guys were pushing the smaller guy around.

Well, not exactly smaller. He was just as tall as the other two, but where they were beefy, he was lean, wiry. He looked like he could take a hit or two, and throw some, but it was two on one and things weren't looking good for him.

One of the guys slammed him up against the wall, and I winced. Brick isn't exactly soft.

"What'cha doin' out here all alone, buddy?" The other guy slurred. He was drunk.

Shocker.

Was everyone except me drunk tonight?

The smaller guy bit out a reply, but I was too far away and couldn't hear it right.

"You got an attitude, don'cha there pretty boy? You know any chicks? Me n' Jon here are bored tonight." Jon, the guy pinning the kid to the wall, laughed a little and shook him hard, so that his head smacked against the wall. He leaned into the kid's ear, trying to whisper, but even I could still hear it.

"Real bored." His voice was so sick, like he enjoyed the thought. It was enough to make me pissed enough to do something stupid. Not that it takes much.

In a split-second decision, I stood out from behind the trash cans and sauntered over to the three guys. Confidence leaked from every step. I was sure that I could take these two idiots, and, if worse came to worse, the kid too. But I was on his side, so he shouldn't turn on me. I hoped.

"Hey." Three heads whipped in my direction at the sound of my voice. Two sadistic smirks appeared that made my blood boil, and one shocked stare. The kid was obviously wondering if I was absolutely crazy or just suicidal.

Crazy? Maybe. Suicidal? Nope.

Jon let the kid go, stepping back to appraise me next to his vile friend.

Now that I was closer, I could tell that the kid wasn't really a kid. He was around my age, maybe older. Olive skin, black, black hair, dark eyes. Basically, the opposite of me and my tanned complexion, blond hair and light brown eyes. He was in all black, practically blending into the shadows he stood on the edge of.

I came to a fluid stop next to Shadow Boy, defiantly putting my hands on my hips.

"Too weak to pick on anyone but innocent kids, you douche bags?" Real Max was definitely back, and she was bitchier than usual.

Jon nudged the other guy. "Looks like pretty boy does know some chicks, Vince." Vince didn't answer because his eyes were stuck on my chest. I scowled, and my glare intensified, boring holes onto the two of them. Jon flinched back infinitesimally.

Score: Max, 1. Douche Bags, 0.

"I don't know him." I jerked my thumb back at Shadow Boy. "I'm just being a good citizen and telling you to go pass out somewhere and die."

"Feisty," Vince commented, and I sneered at him. It's a good thing no one had ever told me I would ruin my pretty face that way.

"Awe, don't be like that baby," Vince cooed and stepped forwards to grab my arm. I reacted instantly. Really, it's not my fault; it was instincts. Plus, I was protecting myself.

I punched him in the face and broke his nose. Again, self-defence! Blood gushed out and he dropped my arm to try and stop it.

"Head wounds always bleed a lot," I told him sweetly, but it was a malicious sweetness that I had perfected over the years. Beside me, Shadow Boy chuckled lowly.

"You bitch!" Jon advanced on me, but I saw him first and raised my fists defensively.

"I dare you," I mocked, and he stopped, reconsidering. He glanced back at Vince, then he backed away and pulled him up to half drag him back down the alley.

"Bitch," he spat over his shoulder. I rolled my eyes.

"I heard you the first time!" I called after him and he just scowled. My eyes followed them until they turned the corner and were out of sight. It fell silent. I didn't turn; I just waited for a 'Thank you', or a 'That was awesome!' from behind me. It never came. Irritated, I spun around and, not once looking at him, continued back the way I had been heading before this little spat.

"You're welcome!" I snapped over my shoulder at him as I turned the corner onto the street. My fists were clenched at my sides and I almost wished that Jon had gone after me, so I could just let out all my frustrations. Shadow Boy ran to catch up with me, and I heard him coming so I hid in the shadows cast by a dumpster and let him run past. The cold air was helping to slow down my racing heart and lessen the adrenaline rush, so I took a longer way home to prolong the clarity. It felt insanely good. I barely payed any attention to where I was headed. I knew this city in and out, in the light and the dark. It's sketched into my brain.

I just don't know the people in it very well.

********************************

I guess Jon and Vince weren't too happy with me, which is why they recruited a couple of buddies and followed me on my way home, waiting until the streets were entirely deserted before starting round two.

One of them came at me from the left, and I managed a kidney shot before another one had me pinned. His stale beer breath was hitting me in the face, tugging on my gag reflex. I struggled, of course, but he had at least a hundred pounds on me and was stronger. Finally, I managed to knee him in the junk. His eyes popped open to the size of, um, dinner plates, and he groaned, letting my wrists go. I flipped him off me and was on my feet in seconds, peeling off down the street. I had no idea where I was headed, but my inner voice told me anywhere was better than back there.

Some one was yelling at someone else to get up, and then they were both running after me. I spotted another one up ahead to my left, so I veered off into the nearest alley on the right. I burst out of the end of that alley, sweating profusely. It had been a long time since I had to run this hard. I tried weaving through the stopped traffic, avoiding the three men who were constantly on three different sides of me. That slowed them down for a moment, but not a long enough moment. Inwardly, I prayed that someone had the brains to see that I was in trouble.

I was tired and hungry and sore, and I knew I couldn't defend myself well enough against a group of them. I could almost see what they wanted from me, given that brief look into their thought processes back at Chloe's and it made me shudder.

I skidded into a dark alley, pressing against the cool brick wall, trying to slow my breathing so they wouldn't hear me. I waited until they had all passed before I pushed off, setting my hands on my knees and wiping the sweat off my forehead. I was out of shape!

Note to self: Work on that of you plan on being a 'good citizen' again.

Something crunched behind me and my eyes flew open. Then I saw it.

How easily the first guy let me go, how the three men were all on three different sides in the streets around me, how they all just ran past me oblivious, even though I was panting like a race horse.

They weren't chasing me; they were herding me.

Too late, I spun and another guy slammed me into the wall. I could see the blood run down my forehead and over my eye, and then he hit me in the back of my head and took out my knees with a bat, most likely. The hands that had been holding me up disappeared, letting me fall forwards. I landed with one cheek resting in a puddle. It had rained last night, I guess.

I started losing consciousness. The walls around me, the bags of garbage, everything went all blurry, and I could distantly hear sirens and people screaming. Police talking into their walkie-talkies, someone crying and talking at the same time. Blue and red lights were flashing, melding together. Someone leaned down and asked me if I was okay.

Do I look like I'm okay? I thought, and I struggled to make my lips say it, but I couldn't. They wouldn't form the words.

More sirens. More lights. Several set of hands checked my scrapes, from hitting the concrete so many times, prodding at the back of my skull and making me hiss in pain. They drew back, but not for long. The edges of my vision went black.

Tunnel vision.

I started panicking. Those were paramedics, and they were going to take me to a hospital! I had to stay awake, see where I was going, memorize the turns so I could run if I had to. I fought tooth and nail against the blackness, but it won. And the only thing I could think before I lost consciousness?

Aw, crap.


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