"We can't keep them anymore. They're too much trouble." Kline said sadly, placing the little blonde baby inside a kennel.
"They're our best experiment since the Erasers. We can't just kill them." Lopez pointed out. Another scientist called Red sighed.
"Batcheleder, I think we should relocate them. Keep them away from California and from remembering their pasts. They'll learn to handle having wings, and have to live normal lives. We'll wipe the memories of them all, use the new gas chamber. Can you find them homes?" Red asked Jeb, who nodded.
"I can handle it. Just- give me a second to talk with the eldest ones." Jeb requested, nodding toward the cages of Fang, Max and Iggy. The other scientists agreed.
The scientists cleared out of the room. All except Jeb. He sat in front of the semi-circle of dog crates on a plush spinny-chair. Maximum slunk her hand through a gap in the bars and unlocked herself. She crawled out, and stood to stretch. She was wearing a white shirt and stretchy, skin-tight black pants, no shoes. Her sandy hair was waist-length, her chocolate-brown eyes too big for her hungry face. She was much too thin for any eight year old to be- at the School, the "experiments" were only fed three times a week, just enough to keep them alive. Maximum got back down on her knees, and unlocked the cage next to her. She took Fang's hand and helped him stand- they'd made him run fifty-three miles that morning, and his leg muscles were still aching.
Max then uncaged Iggy, pale and strawberry-blonde, and led him to Jeb. The "Whitecoats", as the bird-kids had nicknamed them, had experimented on Iggy's eyes just the day before. Whilst trying to enhance his night vision, they'd taken all of his vision. Now he was blind.
Iggy bumped into a cage but Max steadied him, holding his hand and taking him to Jeb. Jeb took the boy in his arms. Iggy hated the School- so much more than any other bird-kid. He sat at Jeb's feet, finding the shoelaces of the man, and started fiddling with them, an old habit. Jeb smiled a little down at the young boy, who was being so strong- really, all of them were.
Meanwhile, Max helped Fang settled himself atop his cage. He perched there, legs dangling down. Max rubbed his arm and pecked his forehead in a motherly way- she was so much a leader. Fang gave her a little smile, and hugged her hard. She gripped him back, nuzzling the point where his neck turned to his shoulder, both sending each other messages- STAY STRONG.
Max made her way to the cage next to Iggy's- Nudge. She was tiny, just five years old. She had big, Bambi-like dark brown eyes, darker skin, and even darker hair. She clung to Max like a lifeline. Max hugged her back, hard, and planted a kiss in her hair. Then Nudge started babbling about everything the whitecoats told her. Max kind of droned her out, as always, but smiled at her adorable little voice. Nudge sat criss-cross-applesauce on top of her crate, rocking back and forth with the anticipation of words.
Then she opened up the Gasman's crate and found him curled up inside, fast asleep. She reached back, but he had woken up, and played with her by scooting back so she couldn't get to him. They kept on like this until Max had to climb inside to grab him and pull him out, giggling. He was six, and last week Max had found out his talent- he could mimic any sound. She cradled him in her arms, and he nuzzled against her. She smiled warmly at him, and kneeled down to be at his level. She swept a little bit of his overlong blond hair out of his eyes.
"Hi Gazzy." She said. He giggled, tugging at her hair. She pulled away. "No hair, Gazzy! Remember your manners." The little boy nodded grudgingly in understanding, and Nudge held out her arms, making 'Gimme! Gimme!' signals with her hands. Max laughed and handed Gazzy to the little girl- she adored him. Though a year her elder, he was smaller and easily curled up in her lap whilst she stroked his blonde curls. She made up fairytales, spinning them carefully with dark twists and happy endings. The little boy's eyes widened with pleasure as Nudge described the big dragon in the story.
Finally, Max made her way to the last, tiniest cage, and opened it. Inside, the newest bird-kid lie, bundled in a sterile white blanket. She was Gazzy's biological sister- the only two related bird-kids. The baby was newly born, and it gave Max a pain like a stab in the heart when she gazed at the delicate little girl. She was the most precious thing- it wasn't fair that she should have this awful a fate. To be tested on, and grow up in a cage- at that moment, Max was determined. She would NOT let this girl, or Gazzy, or Nudge, or Iggy or Fang, live their whole lives locked up. She didn't care if she got to fly free- literally- away from the school. She would stay behind, get five times the torture and tests, if only her family, her flock, could be set free. Max was ready to sacrifice herself. She could do it, get them all out, and then take the blows herself.
With her mind set, and a plan forming in the back of her head, she walked over to Jeb and Iggy, holding the little girl close. She told Iggy to hold his arms, "Like this," she said, positioning his arms. She then placed the little girl in his arms. His fingers lightly felt her face, her warm blackout, and he hugged the bird-baby gingerly.
"Angel." Max said, hopping atop her crate. Jeb looked at her with a quizzical face.
"Her name is going to be Angel. I've decided already." She said nonchalantly, but Jeb smiled. Then Gazzy let out an unfortunate stench, and Iggy fake-gagged. Fang wrinkled his nose, and Max made a face, and Nudge coughed. Gazzy just laughed, proud of himself.
Angel must've gotten a whiff, for she began bawling loudly. Gazzy looked worried and regretful as he leapt off the crate and went to comfort his little sister- he was really the only one who could do it. The six-year-old took the little bundle in his arms and rocked her back and forth, humming a song Max didn't recognize. The baby kept bawling, so Gazzy sat down not the floor and sang quietly to her until she quieted down. Angel gazed up at her brother, smiled, and began to suck on his thumb. He laughed lightly and kissed her forehead, smiling crazily. Max almost cried- this boy made her heart swell, he was just so… warm.
"Maxie…C'mere, please." Jeb called to her. She sat next to Iggy at his feet. Jeb beckoned to everyone else. Nudge came over and snuggled up to Iggy's other side, and Fang settled next to Max, crossing his legs over hers.
"Now… I need to tell you all something."
"A story?" Nudge guessed. Jeb sighed sadly, and shook his head.
"Tomorrow- the other Whitecoats- Well, they say they have no ore use for you all."
Nudge gasped. Max grabbed Iggy and Fang's hands. Fang squeezed back reassuringly, and Iggy turned to "look" at her in fear and anticipation. Max made circles on his hand to reassure him that it'd be alright.
"What is going to happen to use, Jeb?" Max asked in a steady voice. Jeb smiled at her, a small and sad one.
"Maximum- You've grown up so well. You're so strong- You all are."
"So, now you'll just kill us. Why did you create Angel, then? Gazzy? Nudge? Why didn't you just stop with me?" Max said in an increasingly annoyed tone. Jeb shushed her, and she fell into a moody silence.
"No, not kill."
"Then what?" Fang questioned. Max was amazed- Fang almost never talked, ever. Not to complain, not to do anything- except comfort her and the other kids. Once, he talked for three hours straight when Max had had a panic attack- she kept repeating "I'm dying, I'm dying, I'm dying" until he calmed her down and assured her, she was fine.
"We will take you one by one, into the lab. There, you're memories of the School and your previous life will be a blur- no clear details until you're much older. You'll have new families and normal lives."
After a long moment of silence, Gazzy spoke up.
"You're not splitting me from Angel." He aid with forcefulness rare in six-year-olds. Jeb nodded.
"Yes. The housing will go; Max, Gazzy, and Angel. You will live with a woman I know who lives in Arizona. Nudge, Iggy, and Fang- You'll live with me in Maine. Okay?"
With that, Nudge started crying into Max. Iggy tried to be strong but had hot tears streaming down his face. Gazzy was crying lightly over his sister. Fang was being . And Max? Max was screaming.
"No!" She was screaming over and over. "No! No! No! This can't happen! If you kill us at least we'll be together! You can't do this! Not after all we've been through together! We're a family- you can't split up a family." She protested, voice rising louder and louder. Jeb hushed her, but she kept yelling and screaming. Nudge clung to Fang like a life-line as Max sprang up in defiance. She couldn't let her family be tore apart!
"Maxie, I'm sorry, this is just how it has to be, I can't-"
"Don't call me that." She spat. "And, it has to be? HAS to? Have you even brain-stormed ANY OTHER POSSIBILITIES? OR DO YOU JUST GO WITH THE ONE THAT POPS INTO YOUR HEADS FIRST? Ever think that maybe, just maybe, you could keep us together? Send us to this woman, all six of us! We don't eat much!"
"Max, you don't understand-"
"No, YOU don't understand, White Coat! You wouldn't GET IT! BECAUSE WHITE-COATS HAVE NO SOULS!" Max screamed the last sentence, and stormed to her cage. She locked herself inside and punched the walls with every ounce of strength she could muster. Fang gingerly detactched Nudge from himself, who just latched onto Iggy. He crawled across the floor and unlocked Max's crate.
"I don't want to talk." She said venomously. He just sighed, climbing inside, and latching the door behind him. He hugged her shaking shoulders. She turned and gripped him hard. The Invincible Max shattered like glass.
She sobbed and wailed and punched. All on Fang. He took the blows, knowing she didn't mean to hurt him. It hurt him so much to see his best friend reduced to such a state, he didn't mind the physical pain so much. Finally, Max calmed down. She looked at her best friend with determination.
"I'll see you again." She whispered. He nodded, eyes hardening.
"No matter what happens in that chamber, hold onto these memories. We can find each other again when we're older. I swear it. Do you promise?" She added, gripping his hand.
"Max?" Fang asked quietly.
"You're…You're like a sister. My best friend. I love you. Of course I promise." He told her, giving her a cute half smile, and Max laughed. It was more like hysterically. He led her out of the crate.
"Gotta tell the littler ones, and Iggy." Max said, straightening up. But she turned to an empty lab.
"Iggy? Nudge? Gazzy? Jeb?" She called, jumping when Fang grabbed her hand. He pointed to the big glass window.
On the other side was a small room, like a gas chamber. On a stool sat Iggy, in all his blind bird-kid glory. His eyes were still milky blue, but there was something else there….Like, he didn't recognize anything. Max went and pounded on the glass, screaming for him to see her. He did, but it was like she was a distant memory. He wrinkled his brow.
"Ig! Ig! Ig!" She cried. He looked at her in confusion.
"I'm sorry, I don't-" He started, and Max cried out in agony.
"You can't forget! You can't- AGH! I'll get Jeb! I'll kill him." She added the last bit to Fang, who just nodded his consent.
"And I'll help."
The two friends had to watch painfully as Nudge, then the Gasman, got the same treatment. Max had tears racing down her cheeks, and even Fang was teary.
Suddenly, a large and strong arm enveloped Fang. He yelled and screamed, punched and kicked and bit the man, but he was still so small, and the man just hit and threw Fang into the chamber. He pounded at the glass window, eyes wild. Max pound back.
"Fang!" Max cried desperatley. "FANG!"
"Max! Don't forget…" He told her, and suddenly he crumpled to the ground as if he'd been punched. Out of his neck sprung a tranquilizer dart, feathery tip vibrating. Max looked in horror at the man standing at the controls, cocking a gun. I'll kill them all.
"Let him out! Let him out!" She demanded. The White-coat just laughed bitterly and shook his head, no. She cried in pain and despair as she watched the room fill with white smoke. When the smoke cleared, Fang was sitting upright on the stool, squinting at Max. He spoke to her, his throat think with smoke.
"It's fuzzy. But I know you. From somewhere." He said. Her heart fell. He really didn't know her. She was all alone, all alone, in this great big scary lab.
The same man hugged her from behind, but she didn't resist. Well, to being carried she did. She gnawed on his arm like a pit bull until he recoiled, dropping her on the ground. He was bleeding, real bad.
Max walked calmly, with dignity, into the chamber. She slipped a ballpoint pen from her elastic waistband. Jeb had given it to her to draw and write, her paper she left in the lab. She wrote one word on her hand.
She capped the pen and let it fall. Max clenched her fists, set her jaw, and sat calmly on the stool, awaiting the smoke.
As the dusty white, like clouds, entered the tiny room, Max repeated the word over and over in a whisper. No-one but Jeb knew the bird-kids' names. To Lopez, Kline and Martinez, it was just a word.
"Fang, fang, fang, fang, fang." She whispered, until the smoke cleared. Her head felt fuzzy. She didn't know who she was, where she was, or why. She felt the wings on her back, and recalled being tested on in a laboratory. She clenched her toes and remembered being tested on. But it was all like a dream. The only thing she remembered were dark eyes and a word like a chant.
Fang, Fang, Fang, Fang, Fang.
Chappie 2! I might have the whole story done this weekend! Might, no promises.
:) Hope you like. Review, please!