Max and her flock—Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman, and Angel—were the results of a genetic experiment inflicted upon them from birth that made them recombinant DNA life-forms. Grafted with avian DNA, gifted with wings, and enhanced with the ability to fly, they are on the run from the scientists who made them…

As of now, I was soaring above the trees looking out for anything that didn't look junglely. Yeah-you heard me right-me and my merry band of winged mutants were in the middle of a jungle and let me tell you it's no safari. Plainly speaking, the forecast in this place is...always hot during the day and humid at night. Now pay attention because I'm not going to wait around all day, not while the world's counting on me. The flock and I recently escaped from a secret lab hidden underneath a castle in Germany. Based on some files we've been able to snatch during our brief captivity-courtesy of the supposedly genius scientists who could mix-and-match genes and stuff them in a kid's body but can't keep a safe lock *safe*-there's another secret lab hidden in the jungles of Southern Asia that's conducting experiments on the local wild life. If there's anybody I know who can't stand it when evil white coats pick on little helpless forest creature, it's my tree hugging, furry smothering kids. And our pet dog, and my stoic friend Fang, and me.

Well we needed to find that lab first, but how can you find anything in a vast stretch of green that seem to go on and on for square miles. I landed on the nearest tree branch to check the map Angel had copied from the other notes we snatched from Germany. Needless to say, I was very proud of her. Where would I be without my baby?

"I don't know why secret labs are always so freaking hard to find." I complained to myself, as I surveyed the map. I checked my watch and sighed. It was getting late and…I had no exact idea where the hell I was. Awhile back I told the kids to break camp while I took a look around. I had no idea I was going to be gone for that long, but you know what they say: "Victory lies in not making stupid mistakes" or something like that. Without thinking, I shrieked as I threw down the map and slumped against the tree trunk.

"Stupid evil labs and their stupid top secret locations."

Just shut up Max, and get your butt back in gear. That was only my conscience talking and not the Voice, thankfully. You know, the Voice who talks inside my head to lend me advice or to berate me. It seems to know what I'm doing wherever I am, whenever. I don't know how its does that, but frankly I don't want to think about that. I sighed again, but my conscience was right. I had first better retrieve that map before the Voice shows up again. I was feeling a little edgy right now, and that voice was the last thing I needed to bug me. I opened my wings and glided down to a long branch a few feet off the ground. There was a bush where the map fall in, so I knelt on the branch and stuck my hand in feeling around for it. I got only leaves and little buds, but what I felt next made me freeze like an icicle. It wasn't the map.

"Sssaaay now, WHAT do we have here?" A hissy voice said behind me. "Hmmmn...hee...he he ha ho hee-it'sss a girl-cub! With birdie wingsss!

"Oh shi-"I nearly blurted out before I cuffed my mouth. I know that foul language was strictly taboo, but hey, wouldn't you rather curse than crap in your pants? I looked up at the approaching reptile, just slowly descending like a spider, and I arched my whole upper body back. I wanted to get away, but my legs wouldn't move a muscle. My eyes widened at the sheer size of the serpent.

"Gee mister." I struggled to what to call it, while my whole body shivered. "I thought I'd only see huge and pretty…and charming…and huge snakes in nine inch pet pens at PetSmart."

"Why thank you for sssuch charming complimentsss from a ssstranger, little one." Fortunately the snake stopped me before I could embarrass myself in front of him, but why would he call me little one…or a girl-cub? Suddenly, I forgot about all of my fears of things that were scaly and go screech in the night just like. What came over me in the next few seconds was instinct; I never liked it when guys or even snakes in that matter get chauvinistic and pushy around me.

I stood up and crossed my arms nonchalantly. "That's Avian American to you. Now I know that God made snakes to crawl on their bellies, but he never gave them a smart mouth to be perverts. You had to have been made in a lab somewhere nearby, right? Now where is it?" The snake leaned a little closer, but I didn't stir. Despite my new found bravery, to be honest I hoped he was only getting close to get a good look at me. Like he suggested, he's never seen a winged human before, right?

"My, my, my, what an impresssive ssspecimen you are, and a ssspunky one too. If you permit me to sssay ssso, however."

I looked at him with an arching eyebrow. "I didn't, but go ahead."

The snake retracted a little, to my relief. "You are not a very sssmart one, Maximum Ride."

"Oh really?" I made a balled fist behind my back. "How did you know exactly what to call me?"

"I know such sssecretsss which you don't." The sassy snake curled up like a cat. "There have been ssstrange humansss passsing through my jungle. They came here not three daysss ago, and started taking animalsss and forcing them into metal boxesss which they called cagesss."

"Did I alssso hear you mention a lab, by the way? If thisss interessstsss you dear, I've have followed thessse ssstrange humansss to where they took the animalsss."

I nodded in precision. "So what made you decide to follow these *strange humans* to where they took the animals?"

The snake rolled his eyes into his head. "The animalsss were my dinner, I have to eat don't I?"

"Oh, good point." I snorted to hide my ignorance. "And these strange humans were-wearing brown coats, right?"

"Yesss, and I can alssso take you to them, and anyone elssse with you, asss a show of good faith amongssst usss fellow mutantsss."

I grinned. "They wear white coats you liar!" I dropped my expectant guise and grabbed the little worm by the mouth, closing them shut. I have to say that I was feeling empowered and brave tackling a gigantic snake all by myself without the flock's help. Even I can surprise me sometimes.

"Unless you tell me where your little forest friends were being taken," I growled like a mad bear, "I'll tape up that forked tongue of yours together, and then you can stay here and rot as a show of good faith!"

"Mwi bill pwaf two repemper pat shince twin him cwoter pwine," was all I got as a response from the snake.

"You said something?" I said, letting his mouth in a bit of breathing room.

"I sssaid," he answered with a gleam in his eyes which I didn't see, "Thank you for that note on my employersss, and their uniformsss. I will have to remember that, sssince I AM COLOR BLIND!"

"HEY!" I suddenly felt something scaly quickly wrapping my legs together. I flapped my wings as hard as I could; lifting myself a few inches of the branch, but the serpent's massive bulk weighed me down.

"Hee, hee, no need to fret girl-cub... or should I rephrassse that asss *Avian American.*" The snake was just hanging there taunting me, while I was weaving up and down like I was his yo-yo. Well this wasn't to go on any longer, no way baby. I finally whirled around and stared menacingly at the snake like I was a snake myself. The venomous type that bites.

"If you as so much call me girl-cub ONE MORE TIME, I am going to skin you alive and then give you to Nudge as a cute bag, boot and belt COMBO!" Somehow I made this seem threatening. "Now let me go!"

"Oh my," the snake grinned stupidly. "Are you sssure you want to get that clossse to my face? You really are a brave one." As the snake tightened his grip on my legs, a distinct swirl of color was gleaming in his unblinking eyes.

"I said let me...what the hell is with the lightshow?"