HELLOOO FAITHFUL READERS! I'm terribly sorry that I haven't updated in AGES! I've been super busy. Wait, that's not the right word. I've just been super lazy, that's it. I'm so sorry! Please accept my sincere apology! Anyway, yes this story is still going ahead despite the fact that Nevermore has come out. I've decided I'm not going to read Nevermore until I finish, well, my Nevermore. Hopefully this will give me to motivation to finish this fanfic because I REALLY WANT TO READ IT! And also, if I do read it, I think it may influence the way this fanfic turns out and I really don't want that to happen.

Anyway, on with the story!

With great difficulty, I finally managed to spit the cloth that was gagging me out of my mouth. My tongue got a great workout in the process I can assure you...

"Ari? How can you be here?" I asked in shock. My eyes were beginning to adjust to the dark just enough so that I could make out the hulking outline of Ari looming in front of me.

"I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific." Ari drawled.

"You died!" I said emphatically. "I saw it! You had an expiration date and everything!"

Ari simply chuckled, his laugh cold and menacing. "Why so surprised? It's not the first time I've come back from the dead. Remember?" Ari asked. He bent down to pick up the cloth that landed on the floor and tsked disapprovingly before throwing it onto my lap.

The image of Ari's lifeless body lying in the sodden subway tunnels of New York flooded back to me, his neck twisted at an unnatural and grisly angle. I shook my head to get rid of the resurfacing memory and focused on the situation at hand. "This is different!" I argued. "We even buried you! If your suggesting that you somehow climbed out of your grave-" I began.

Ari held his hand up to silence me. He returned to my side and bent down so that he was at my level. "Would you believe it if I told you that wasn't me?" he said in a scratchy whisper. His hot breath fanned across my cheek and I wrinkled my nose as the faint metallic smell of blood filled my nostrils. Holy crap, Ari's a vampire.

"Sadly, no. I am not a vampire." Ari said in an amused tone. Oops, must have said my thoughts out loud.

I ignored him and returned to our previous conversation. "What do you mean that wasn't you?" I asked.

"Consider me a... replica of the old Ari." he replied nonchalantly.

"What do you mean by 'replica'? Like Maya?" I asked him.

"If by 'Maya' you mean Max 2 then yes, like Maya." Ari answered. I sat in silence for a moment digesting all of this information. A million thoughts were buzzing around in my head, a few briefly coming to the surface of my mind before plunging back into the chaotic jumble of thoughts.

"What do you want with us?" Ratchet snapped. I jumped slightly having completely forgotten that he was there. It was a fair question. As far as I knew Ari wasn't affiliated with the Doomsday Group at all.

"Well nothing with you. I don't even know who you are." Ari spat at Ratchet. "It's her I want."

I wanted to speak but I seemed to be momentarily stunned into silence. It was a lot to process.

"What do you want with her then?" Ratchet asked having picked up on my inability to speak. Ari leaned in closer to me and I frantically tried to free my hands from the ropes binding me to the chair. I knew it was no use but I stupidly kept trying and soon I could feel warm blood trickling down my hands from where the rope had cut into the skin.

"I thought it was about time for a family reunion." Ari said grinning evilly. Think, Max, think. How am I going to get out of this one? From the looks of it, Ari had only brought along two 'pals' to help gag us and tie us up. They should be easy enough to take down. Ari may be a bit more difficult but I reckon I could do it.

Great, so that's sorted. Now all I have to do is get out of this flipping chair. Three burly guys? No problem. One chair? Not so easy. After all the battles I've survived and and the deadly situations I've managed get out of, wouldn't it be embarrassing if the great Maximum Ride was defeated by a chair and some rope.

I had given up on trying to wriggle my wrists out of the rope and I didn't even bother to try with my ankles. So, hands and feet are a no. My head? That might work.

I slammed my head forward, smashing my skull against Ari's. A blinding pain seared across my forehead. I am never doing that again. Although it appears that Ari got the worst of it. After a yelp of pain he crumpled onto the floor, completely unconscious.

The two men standing in the corners started moving towards me so I had to act fast. I hobbled over to the wall and attempted to throw myself at it. The chair snapped in the collision along with something in my shoulder. I gritted my teeth in pain and hurriedly untangled my body from the splintered wood.

I elbowed the first guy that was upon me in the jaw and got the satisfaction of seeing it dislocate right before my eyes. He then threw his fist at my jaw in revenge but I ducked down just in time and swept my leg beneath his, knocking his legs out from under him.

I didn't have time to take pleasure in seeing the guy moaning in pain on the floor as I had the second guy to contend with. I grabbed one of the chair legs from the floor and whacked him upside the head with it and just for that extra touch I then kneed him in the groin.

My shoulder and wrists still throbbed painfully as I hurried over to Ratchet and helped untie him from his chair. Without a word, we quickly and swiftly exited the room and made our way back to where the convention was being held. The hooded figure was still blabbering on about the One Light and it appeared that no one had noticed the little struggle that had gone on at the back.

We almost made it all the way out without being noticed until we got to the door. "Leaving already?" the creepy woman with the pamphlets asked. "The convention is not yet over." she said, smiling that overly large smile again.

I didn't even bother giving a response and just shoved her out of our way. What can I say? We were in a hurry. Who knows how long Ari and the others will stay down for.

I was about to whip my wings out and take off when I remembered that Ratchet was still with me. "Max, the car's this way!" Ratchet yelled over to me. I sighed. It would be so much easier if Ratchet could fly.

I heard a shriek and whirled around just in time to see the pamphlet lady fall to the floor. Ari and the two men were standing in the doorway. The man that had shoved the woman suddenly spotted me and immediately pointed me out to the other two. Well, crap.

"Ratchet, go!" I yelled back to Ratchet who was already seated in the car. I was still a good distance away from the vehicle and the men were approaching fast. I knew I wouldn't make it. Ratchet looked confused at first but then spotted Ari and his team and seemed to understand. The car roared into life and Ratchet sped away.

Unfurling my wings, I launched myself into the air when suddenly Ari grabbed hold of my ankle and pulled me back down.

I pumped my wings as hard as I could and viciously kicked out in attempt to break free of Ari's grip. His claw like nails dug deep into my skin, refusing to let go. I winced in pain but continued struggling anyway. At least the pain in my leg distracted me from the pain in my shoulder.

With one final well aimed kick to Ari's nose, he released my ankle to stem the gushing stream of blood now coming from his nose. I smirked in triumph and flew further up into the sky until I was well out of their reach.