Seven years before The Angel Experiment

Dr. Robert Drake brushed the sweat from his eyes, gave a frustrated sigh, and started again.

None of it seemed to help really. Itex had paid top dollar for climate control, the best microscopes in the business, the finest contraptions for holding the sample plate and fine needle steady, but it didn't change the stress involved in trying to hit a target the size of a slightly largish cell.

His target, in fact, was a slightly largish cell.

Robert took a moment to calm down, held his breath and started again, staring through the eyepiece of the microscope, resting his hands on the needle adjustment knobs.

A millimeter up, a micrometer right, there, there, almost there...

Something bumped into the table and the cell drifted off screen.

"Son of a..." Robert slammed both of his fists down onto the table. The Administrator had no idea whatsoever of just how complicated his job was. Day after day, perched over a microscope trying to get one simple set of DNA into one simple human egg cell. At best he would actually manage to accomplish ten a day on insertion days like this one. What with it being a seven-hour work day, this was not good odds.

Glancing up to the end of the table to see who had been responsible, Robert found himself even more frustrated to be looking into the eyes of the Administrator, Dr. Harris.
"I want a raise," Robert stated angrily.

Despite his skill, Robert Drake was known around the office for being a bit of a hothead, one day firm and direct, the next dry and sarcastic, never particularly in a good mood in relation to the people he worked with.

"You're already being paid top dollar for your work," Dr. Harris pointed out firmly, "You are after all one of our foremost geneticists—"

"Don't give me that!" Robert shouted, "I've been sitting here year after year slaving over these stupid machines. You ask me to construct enhanced lungs for humans, I did it. You asked me to construct wings as a third set of limbs, it was a pain in the rear, but I did that to. Now you're asking me if I can pull off human psionics. I don't even have a clue if any of this is even coming out correctly, and here you expect me to come up with these genetic wonders as if I keep them tucked in my wallet for special occasions! Would it really be that difficult to show me just one result of my work!"

It was a rant that Robert gave on a regular basis. He waited for the inevitable, "Sorry Dr. Drake, not today."

"I wanted to talk with you about that actually," Dr. Harris replied, "The Director has concerns over a product of one of your projects. Do you recall working with the Human-Avian branch?"

"Yeah, I designed them after all," Robert suppressed an evil grin, knowing clearly what the Administrator was about to ask.

"One of the experiments has made it though and has been causing our psychology department a great deal of worry."

Robert laughed at that one, "So that Batchelder guy and his circus of shrinks finally got what was coming to them?"

"It's the way she looks at the psychologists. A six-year-old shouldn't be looking at people that way."

"What do you want me to do, smack her for you?"

"Look at her, tell us what you know, give us some way to sleep at night."

"So this is one that I actually put together?"

"That's right."

"Which one?"

Dr. Harris rattled off an ID code.

Robert grinned, he remembered that one, "Show her to me."

"This is Jeb Batchelder, head of our Subject Observations and Psychology department," Dr. Harris explained, indicating him to Robert.

Jeb didn't seem like much to Robert, especially after hearing so much about him. Just another shrink with a tweed jacket and wire-rimmed glasses—if it weren't for his Itexicon identification badge, Robert would have wondered what the heck this guy was doing here in the first place.

Still though, Robert recognized that he did indeed have to work with this guy on whatever the Administrator was fussing about. He and Jeb shook hands. "Happy to meet the person that makes it possible for us to have anything to study," said Jeb with an amused smile.

"I'm just happy to meet someone who's seen my work. Did everything come out OK?"

Jeb gave a quiet chuckle and led Robert and Dr. Harris to a door, and guided them into a conference room.

The room was dominated by a massive table, on which sat one of the few things Robert thought he'd ever see in his life.

It was a dog crate, containing a little girl, not any older than seven, wearing a hospital gown. She had messy brownish-blonde hair and eyes that seemed to sit bizarrely between brown and hazel, and had an odd depth to them. Is that what they're whining about? Robert wondered to himself, They asked me to write her eyes that way, for the sake of supporting those…

As the girl shifted about, Robert noticed the pair of wings, probably eight feet in span, flutter briefly behind her back.

She stared out at them with utmost hate.

The administrator walked directly up to her cage and looked at her, an amused smile on his face. "One of the few successes. Isn't it amazing Dr. Drake, that the final result functions so well?"

The girl lashed at him from inside her cage, making the administrator jump back.
Robert suppressed a grin.

"Calm down," Jeb stated to the thing in the cage, his voice soothing yet assertive, "That wasn't very nice of you. Dr. Harris takes a lot of time to see that you are kept happy."

"I don't like the way he looks at me," the girl replied, her eyes fixed on Jeb, not as much with hate now, but pleading. Again Robert had to hold his face firm against the girl's high reedy voice. Robert had a hand in that too, and wondered if her voice would sound the way he predicted once the girl reached maturity.

"He's here for you. This man here is also here for you. He helped make you and is here to help us know you better. Isn't that right?" Jeb shot Robert a glance.

"Yeah, that's right," Robert stated, trying to keep his voice as calm and even as possible. His experience with kids was limited, to say nothing of his experience with experimental subjects. "My name is Dr. Drake, but you can call me Robert. What's your name?"

"The girl looked steadily at him a moment, trying to discern the intent behind his face, then, matching his tone replied, "Maximum Ride, but you can call me Max."

For those of you already familiar with my work from MDW, I assure you, this is the only chapter that will mimic that original work. The rest will all be quite different.

Your critiques would be greatly appreciated.