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Maximum Ride: MAX

When the planet faced destruction, they saved it.
Max and the flock have traded in Antarctica's subzero temperatures for sunny Los Angeles, where they're taking over the skies with their hair-raising air show. But far below, a deadly assassin watches their every move, waiting for the perfect moment to send them plummeting to earth.

Now the battle for survival rages on.
Suddenly, the flock learns that millions of fish are dying off Hawaii's coast and that someone–or something–is destroying hundreds of ships. When they are confronted with the most frightening ecological catastrophe yet, they have no choice but to go deep into the murky waters. Now, nowhere is safe.

This time, the flock is in too deep.
While Max and her team comb the depths of the ocean, a powerful enemy tracks them. He has his own plans for the flock and will stop at nothing until they're under his control. Can the flock protect themselves from the approaching army–and save the world from utter destruction?

A James Patterson Pageturner
In the spirit of the most enduring hit movies and books, James Patterson has written this story for readers from ten to a hundred and ten. Special care has been taken with the language and content of MAX.

Prologue | THE MADNESS NEVER STOPS

Near Los Angeles Basin, California

THERE.

Devin raised his right arm and focused directly over his wrist. It took less than a millisecond to calculate the trajectory–he didn't have a built-in computer, but his 220 IQ served him well.

He slowly breathed in and out, getting ready to squeeze the trigger between breaths, between heartbeats. His sensitive nose wrinkled as the ever-present smog that hovered over the Los Angeles Basin filled his lungs. He hated to think what the pollutants were doing to his brain cells but accepted that some things were necessary evils.

There.

His light eyes expertly tracked the objects flying overhead: one, two, three, four, five, six. Seven? There was a small seventh object, unexpected but quickly determined to be unimportant. Actually, all of them were unimportant. All but one. The one in front.

He knew they had raptor vision. He merely had extraordinary eyesight. It was good enough. All the same, the crosshairs in the gun sight attached to his wrist made missing an impossibility. He never missed.

That's why they saved him for extraspecial missions like this one.

Many, many others had already failed at this task. Devin felt utter disdain for them. To kill one bird kid–how hard could it be? They were flesh and blood, ridiculously fragile. It wasn't like bullets bounced off them.

Once more Devin raised his arm and observed his prey, catching her neatly in the crosshairs, as if they could pin her to the sky. The flock flew, perfectly spaced, in a large arc overhead, the one called Maximum in front, flanked by the two large males. Then a smaller female. Then a smaller male, and the smallest female after him.

A little black object, not bird kid shaped, struggled to keep up. Devin couldn't identify it–it hadn't been in his dossier. The closest thing he could imagine was if someone grafted wings onto a small dog or something, as unlikely as that was.

But Max was the only one he was concerned with. It was Max he was supposed to kill, Max whom he kept catching in his sights.

Devin sighed and lowered his arm. This was almost too easy. It wasn't sporting. He loved the chase, the hunt, the split-second intersection of luck and skill that allowed him to exercise his perfection, his inability to miss.

He looked down at what used to be his right hand. One could get used to having no right hand. It was surprisingly easy. And it was so superior to have this lovely weapon instead.

It wasn't as crude as simply having a Glock 18 grafted to the stump of an amputated limb. It was so much more elegant than that, so much more a miracle of design and ingenuity. This weapon was a part of him physically, responsive to his slightest thought, triggered by almost imperceptible nerve firings in the interface between his arm and the weapon.

He was a living work of art. Unlike the bird kids flying in traceable patterns overhead.

Devin had seen the posters, the advertisements. Those naive, do-gooder idiots at the Coalition to Stop the Madness had organized this whole thing, this air show, this demonstration of supposedly "evolved" humans.

Wrong. The bird kids were ill-conceived accidents. He, Devin, was truly an evolved human.

The CSM zealots were wasting their time–and everyone else's. Using the bird kids to promote their own agenda was a typically selfish, shortsighted thing to do. Manipulating and taking advantage of lesser creatures in order to "save" even lesser creatures? It was a joke.

A joke that could not be perpetrated without this flock of examples. And the flock could not survive without its leader.

Once again Devin raised his arm and closed his left eye to focus through the gun sight on his wrist. He angled the Glock a millimeter to the left and smoothly tracked his target as she arced across the sky.

One breath in, one breath out. One heartbeat, two heartbeats, and here we go...

Copyright © 2009 by James Patterson

Read by Jill Apple

Jill Apple is a voice-over artist, having lent her voice to hundreds of television and radio commercials, animation projects, and audiobooks. This marks Jill's second audiobook in the Maximum Ride series and she looks forward to the next flock adventure. Jill lives in New York City with her husband, Maury, her son, Maxwell, and her Boston terrier, Otis.

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