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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.

Part One | FREAKS AND M-GEEKS

Chapter 4

SHARON AND STEVE and the other two agents went silent, looking at us in surprise.

Steve recovered quickly. "Models?" he suggested, his eyes noting that we were all tall and skinny for our age.

I almost snorted Sprite through my nose. "Yeah. 'Wings are being worn wide this year,' " I pretended to quote. " 'With the primary feathers tinted fun shades of pink and green for a party look.' I don't think so." I tried not to notice Nudge's momentary disappointment.

"Actors?" Sharon said.

Total perked up, chewing busily on calamari, which, if you're interested, is Italian for rubber bands.

"Nope." I could see this interview was going south, so I started inhaling food while I could.

"Max, I mean–Max," Steve said, with no idea what else to call me. "You're selling yourself short. You guys could do anything, be anything. You want your own movie? You want flock action figures? You want to be on T-shirts? You name it, kid–I can make it happen."

"I want to be an action figure!" Gazzy said, wolfing down some mini-enchilada thingies.

"Oh, yeah!" Iggy said, holding up his hand for a high five. The Gasman slapped it.

Steve smiled and seemed to relax. "Hey, I didn't catch everyone's names. You, sweetheart," he said to Angel. "What's your name?"

"Isabella von Frankenstein Rothschild," said Angel, absently picking something out of her teeth. She'd lost one of her front ones recently, so her grin had a black hole in it. "You got your shoes on eBay," she told Sharon, whose eyes widened about as far as they could. "But you're right–it doesn't make sense to go retail, not on what Skinflint Steve pays you."

Yep, that's my little mind-readin' darlin'!

There was dead silence for a few moments. Sharon blushed hotly and looked anywhere but at Steve. One of the other agents coughed.

"Ah, huh," Steve said, then turned to Gazzy. "How about you, son? You want to be an action figure, right? What's your name?"

Gazzy nodded eagerly, and I promised myself I'd kick his butt later. "They call me the Sharkalator."

"The Sharkalator," Steve repeated, his enthusiasm waning. What can I say? We have that effect on grown-ups. Even on other kids. Well, okay, on pretty much everyone. We were created to survive, not to be the life of the party.

"I'm Cinnamon," said Nudge, licking her fingers. "Cinnamon Allspice La Fever. This shrimp is awesome."

Steve started to look depressed.

"They call me the White Knight," said Iggy, expertly finding the remaining food on the trays with his sensitive fingers.

"Oh?" Sharon said, trying to salvage the situation. "Why is that?"

Iggy looked in her general direction. He gestured to his pale blond hair, pale skin, unseeing blue eyes. "They're not gonna call me the Black Knight."

Fang had sat silently this whole time, so still that he was practically blending into the modern tufted sofa. He had drunk four Cokes in about four minutes and steadily worked his way through a plate of fried something-orothers. Now he felt all eyes turn to him, and he looked up, the expression on his face making me shiver.

No one looks like Fang–dark and still and dangerous, like he's daring you to set him off. But I'd seen him rocking Angel when she'd hurt herself; I'd seen him smile in his sleep; I'd seen the deep, dark light in his eyes as he leaned over me...

I blinked several times and chugged the rest of my Sprite.

Fang sighed and wiped his fingers on his black jeans. He looked around the whole room, at the four agents, at the younger kids having a ball with this, at Total slurping Fanta out of a bowl, at me, sitting tensely on the edge of my chair.

"My name is Fang," he said, standing up. "And I'm outta here." He walked to the sliding glass doors that led to a landscaped balcony, twenty-two stories above the ground.

I nodded at the flock and reached over to tap the back of Iggy's hand twice. He stood up and followed Fang's almost silent footsteps, weaving unerringly around tables and large potted plants.

Fang slid the door open. It was windy on the balcony, and he raised his face to the sun. I hustled the rest of the flock outside, then turned and waved lamely at the four open-mouthed, big-shot Hollywood agents.

"Thanks," I said, balancing on the balcony edge as my family took off one by one, leaping and unfurling their wings like soft, rough-edged sails, "but no thanks."

Then I threw myself out into the open air, feeling it rush through my hair, my feathers; feeling my wings buoy me up, every stroke lifting me twelve feet higher.

We're just not cut out for all this media circus crap.

But then, you already knew that.

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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