Chapter 2

"Max!" her name was called by the rest of the flock, but Fang couldn't do anything but watch helplessly as they overwhelmed Max. If he left the grouping he was being occupied with, he risked letting Nudge and the Gasman getting overwhelmed. She screamed and he struggled to get over to her, his joints screaming in protest. The Flyboys had him by the torso and arms and he could barely move to hit them. He was distracted enough just watching them take her.

By the time he did get away, they had knocked Max out and were hauling her away.

"Put her down!" he hissed, voice menacing.

"You have nothing for us. We will take the girl," the Flyboy said robotically.

"Like hell you will," he growled back, adrenaline giving him renewed strength to knock out a couple Flyboys, but unfortunately, he was too late. Max was a small dot on the horizon. Pain shot through his body like electricity, his muscles contracting involuntarily, and then he was out like a light.

West. They had taken her west…

-x-

"Fang? Fang!" voices called to him from the darkness, but he chose to ignore them. Max. Max. She was gone. They'd taken her to God knows where. That's was the only thing he could remember. Seeing the limp, unconscious body grow smaller and small in the blackness of the sky.

"Fang!" another called, more sharply, and his body shook under the force of shaking hands.

He opened his eyes and sat up slowly, checking himself for any breaks and mentally cataloguing bruises. His fingers brushed over a knot on the left side of his head and I winced, jostling a few bruised ribs as well.

"Thank God," everyone sighed in relief. He sat back and looked around him, Angel being tended to by Gazzy near his feet, Iggy sitting on the edge of the couch popping a finger back into place, and Nudge rocking on her heels in a crouch to his right.

All was silent for minutes.

"What now?" Angel asked quietly.

He ran a hand through his hair. "We need to find Max," he said simply. It was the only thing he could do. He wouldn't be able to focus on anything else.

He began to plan it out in his head.

First thing they needed to do was find out where they had taken her. West…

"We know that much," Iggy grumbled. "Does anyone know where to start?"

"West," Angel murmured, echoing the mantra in my head.

He glanced around at the flock, cataloguing visible injuries. Angel and Nudge were crying, but looked unhurt. Gazzy had a small cut over his right temple and Iggy had a split lip. And then Iggy's dislocated fingers… Not too bad.

Fang stood up and nearly fell back down when he started coughing hard, his body warming. The world had a strange, slight tilt to it for a quick second, but he felt it quickly righting and he shook the feeling away.

"You okay?" Iggy asked, laying a light hand on his arm.

"Yeah, I think I just kicked some dust up in my face or something," he muttered, wiping his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt. "Let's go."

-x-

My head was pounding and I felt like there was an entire brick building sitting on my chest. I heard muffled voices around me and strained my ears to hear them, but couldn't bring my body to focus on much else. I was tired, so tired, and I tried to will the blackness to take me again.

"What good would putting her in a crate do? She's already broken out of one—she'll break out again," a voice argued over her head. "Learn from history."

"She's too injured to put in a tank right away. Let her heal up some before we put her away."

They seemed to come to an agreement, but my mind clicked with choice words. 'Tank' and 'crate' echoed in my head, alternating, and I wanted to scream. Maybe I did.

I couldn't hear anything and I assumed I was unconscious again, dreaming. I was floating at the edge of the darkness, teetering on the edge.

I woke up again when someone called my name. It sounded familiar. Like a good, happy familiar. I thought it was Fang at first, the voice deep and warm. It had turned deep over the years as we went through puberty. But slowly and torturously, it morphed and changed into a demon's voice.

"Max," Jeb called again softly, stroking my cheek.

I moaned and looked up at him. My head swam and the room shifted around the edges. "What?" I snapped weakly. "I was just having an amazing dream and you weren't in it." I slurred, laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world as I sat up on the gurney they'd had me chained to by the wrist. How lame…

He sighed, unlocking the wrist strap, and motioned for me to follow him out the door. I followed merely out of curiosity of this blatant act of trust he had just bestowed me with. We entered a large basement-like room with four white coats seated around a metal table.

"Oh, are we gonna play games?" I asked. What was wrong with me? I felt giddy, stupid. Was this what it was like to be high? I was obviously drugged, I thought sluggishly. Someone was gonna die…

"You'll have to excuse her," Jeb muttered. "The sedative drugs haven't worn off yet."

Great, so I was drugged. I tried to force myself out of it, to focus.

"Now, Maximum," one started saying. Oh, good. So I had a name now? I wasn't experiment-numbers-and-letters anymore? Aw, darn. "We have a few questions for you."

I dropped my head to the table, a headache already forming between my eyes. I picked it up and dropped it again and it felt like it eased the pain, so I did it a few more times.

"Max," Jeb said in a warning tone.

"What are these questions?" I asked, my voice muffled by the cold metal in front of my face. It felt goooooooood.

"Where are the rest of the experiments? The ones you freed?" another asked and I looked up, eyebrows pulling together.

"What are you talking about?" I asked honestly.

"Don't play dumb," a female whitecoat snapped. "The ones in Texas that you let go after killing the entire staff in the building. We know it was you, so don't lie."

"We haven't been anywhere near Texas," I argued, sobering a little. "You picked me up from somewhere in the north…"

"You blew up the building when you left." Ah, Iggy and Gazzy's trademark the last few years. But again, we hadn't been in Texas at all…

"We didn't do it," I replied honestly. We never did. No joke.

"Yes. You. Did," another argued.

"Where's your proof?" I challenged. "Where's your tapes or recordings or photos or anything?"

No one responded, the four whitecoats began muttering amongst themselves and I dropped my head to the table. I pounded my head a few more times. Oh, Metal Table, no one understands me like you do.

"I say throw her into the isolation tank now. She's healed."

There were small murmurs of agreement.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second. "Healed?"

"You've been sedated for two—almost three weeks now," Jeb clarified softly, trying to put a comforting hand on my shoulder, but I wiggled out of it. "The wounds you sustained from your capture were pretty severe."

"Yes," A male whitecoat to my right stressed. "This is why—since she's apparently refusing to admit anything and tell us where the others are—she should be placed in the sensory deprivation tank for a day or two." He shot me a demeaning look with his creeper mustache and outdated glasses…

"She'll talk then," another nodded.

"We can prep for the next step in the meantime."

"I feel like we're wasting time trying to get information about the Texas Institute," the fourth piped in for the first time, a pristine woman with round glasses and perfectly styled hair. "It changes nothing and it is a waste of resources. Let's just focus on capturing the others. We can't move on with the next step without the two older males, anyways."

"You have a point," the creepy man murmured, scratching his beard in thought.

"But the escaped experiments—"

"Will resurface eventually, or they'll die off as Darwinism takes course. It's the perfect end-game experiment."

"Last chance, Maximum," Jeb muttered to me while the four continued debating my future in front of me. "Where are the experiments that were released? You have got to tell us if you know anything or you could have just killed us all. Including the rest of the flock."

"I'll tell you what I know," I said, and the whitecoats perked up, shutting themselves up. "I know that my flock and I did not do anything that you're accusing me of."

"I'm done here," one of the men growled, pushing his chair back and standing up. Others followed suit.

"You blew it, Max," Jeb whispered, waving someone over. I felt a prick in my arm and things got real quiet and fuzzy, the fear-induced panic that had been running it's course through my veins the last minute or two intensifying. When had they pulled out a needle? And then the room disappeared all together.