A/N: Somewhere in the middle of watching Fritz Lang's "Metropolis", the book "Let Us Prey", some X-games, and a movie in passing called "The Counterfeiters", this idea suddenly came to mind. A warning to the readers, however - though for most I try to refrain from getting too graphic, but the content may be disturbing and violent, and so may up the rating for safety. Reader discretion(?) advised.

But violent and hopeless moments don't come without their humor, fun, and unfading glimmer of hope. :) Hope you like this.

Disclaimer: I don't own Maximum Ride. All characters except for the Clan and a few bystanders (and some stand-in baddies) go to James Patterson, including Rail (of whom I'd only given the name to, as it wasn't supplied in the series).

Prologue: The "Ave Maria"

Seattle, WA. 0500 hours.

Someone was playing the Bonney's version of "Ave Maria" on a loudspeaker, all around the city. Though there was no audible static, it was the only explanation that the surviving residents could logically reach. After all, that song had, without a doubt, been playing just before the break of dawn, when most of the city was still and traffic had just begun. It was the only explanation for those survivors that had just woke up, or looked up in the middle of setting up shop, or started their cars to go home after a long shift, to come up with.

Everyone had heard the singer's beautiful, haunting, enchanting tones, echoing around in the quieter hours from the office buildings and dusty hotels. Pedestrians paused to listen; road workers turned off their machines.

"Ave Maria! Jungfrau Mild;

Erhöre einer Jungfrau Flehen,

Aus diesem Felsen starr und wild

Soll mein Gebet zu dir hinwehen..."

But not everyone on that peaceful morning could witness the song's end.

Within the first few seconds into the melody came a horrific crumbling sound, of stone and twisting metal, followed by scores of alarmed and horrified screams - and the fall of the first building, without a warning. It had simply collapsed in a cloud of dust and debris.

"Wir schlafen sicher bis zum Morgen,

Ob Menschen noch so grausam sind.

O Jungfrau, sieh der Jungfrau Sorgen...!"

The first minute came, and then there were two, sinking to their shaking knees. The song floated on strongly above the panic and confusion, as bricks and scaffolding boomed amongst the fleeing townsfolk, undeterred, unwavering.

"O Mutter, hör ein bittend Kind!"

A middle-aged woman awoke to the lilting notes of the Angel and followed it, mesmerized, to the ledge of her apartment - and, along with many others that morning, followed it right over the balcony itself. Scores of hypnotized citizens, entranced to their deaths.

By the time the song was over, an entire section of the bustling town, now very much wide awake, was total chaos.

By 0600 hours, as the sun rose over the dirty, ashen clouds in the paleness of dawn, the death toll reeled, and the damage was astronomical. And no one ever found where the song had come from.

"...Ave Maria."

Sacramento, CA. 1300 hours.

A gaping hole had appeared in the middle of a city street, steaming. Sirens and car alarms wailed over the din of yelling and desperate cries for help. Only an hour ago, it had been a sunny afternoon, a normal, busy day. Tourists and sunshine, residents walking their dogs, shoppers and couples walking around downtown, enjoying the noon.

Only an hour ago, that same street had blasted itself apart.

The crater had collapsed the buildings down the main street into themselves, and cracked the remaining asphalt all the way to the Capitol, of whose sturdy structure had also been badly shaken. Chips of mortar still showered from its blackened front, and a facet had appeared in its steadfast dome from the shock. Fires burned in the telephone wires and shriveled trees, scorched cars piled atop one another, and the bodies piled atop the bodies.

"Sacramento, California: Freak Earthquake or Faulty Gas-lines?

At 1 PM today, downtown Sacramento literally exploded. No one is for sure how it happened, but there is suspect of a gas leak beneath the city. Taking it to the workers -"

" - The explosion looks to have taken place right next to a dried up water reservoir beneath the city," a worker told the camera, wiping ash from his face and hands. "As we know, when groundwater dries up, its nothing but an air pocket, and creates a sinkhole when it collapses. The one under the street has gone undetected for quite some time, and it might have taken another ten, maybe twenty years to collapse; but the force of the explosion is what set it off for sure. It could'a been leaking gas into the air pocket, we don't know. Behind me you can see it stretches maybe, at its maximum, almost a good mile. Structures on the edge of the street have had no chance, just no chance at all."

"Firefighters and rescue teams are working feverishly to retrieve the trapped citizens," the reporter went on, panning to a view of the Capitol. "Meanwhile, our Capitol building, for the first time in a long time, has taken actual damage. Luckily, thanks to its structure, no one inside it was seriously injured. The Capitol was built in -"

Fang snapped the computer shut.

It figured. Max wouldn't want to hear about this, when they were on their first real, official vacation in ages. They'd just gotten off the clock for once, four years into this whole mess, and trying to finish settling into a way of life that was good for them - their relationship needed work. And now this.

But it wasn't only his aggravation at having to go back and finish saving the world; it was also the gruesome, and unusual way of the stories on the news website. Fang may not have been an architect, but he knew buildings did not just "collapse" for no reason. And he was also certain that there was no way a natural disaster could have hit so spot on at the Capitol.

Well, like it or not, the military and the government and all that would probably brief them soon enough, whether he was the one to tell Max or not. Fang temporarily ignored the problem. Their vacation had just started. His date with Max was tonight, and he wanted to enjoy the rest of the day they had, at least, before they were yanked out of their beds and put back to work.

The resort was little more than a large, comfortable Tiki-shack, sitting on a very tiny island off of Florida. Fang grabbed some towels and a pair of goggles, then stepped outside onto the sand and into the sunny, perfect weather. The news disturbed him.

The laptop, left up, froze, and then suddenly warped after he left, broadcasting its intruding, silent message on the rum-barrel table to no one.

It was a picture of a painting, of the Virgin Mary, but where her loving eyes would be, were only hollow holes, painted in by computer. In her open hands scrolled the ominous words:

Humans of the Earth. Das Menschen von die Welt. Los Humanos del Mundo.

This world is no longer yours.

This world is no longer yours.

This world is no longer yours.