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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 5

"ALL I'M SAYING IS, would going on Oprah just once be the end of the entire world?" Nudge crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at me. Since Nudge is about the sweetest, easiest-going recombinant-DNA life-form I've ever known, this was serious.

"No," I said carefully. "But the end of the entire world would be the end of the entire world, and that's what we're still trying to stop." For those of you who are still catching up, I've been told that my mission in life is to save the world. No pressure or anything.

"I want to be an action figure," said Gazzy.

"Guys," I said, rubbing my temples, "remember four days ago? The bullets whizzing past, the sniper, the exploding building?"

"I certainly haven't forgotten." Total huffed, looking at his tail.

My pool of patience, never deep on the best of days, became yet shallower. "My point is," I went on tightly, "that clearly, someone is still after us, still wants us dead. Yes, our air shows for the CSM are big hits; there are people who are sort of accepting us as being...different, but we're still in danger. We'll always be in danger."

"I'm tired of being in danger!" Nudge cried. "I hate this! I just want to–"

She stopped, because there was no point in going on. Trying not to cry, she flopped down on the hotel bed. I sat down next to her and rubbed her back, between her wings.

"We all hate this," I said quietly. "But until someone can prove to me beyond a doubt that we're safe, I have to make decisions that will keep us more or less in one piece. I know it sucks."

"Speaking of things sucking," said Fang, "I say we ditch the air shows completely."

"I like the air shows," said Gazzy. He was lying on the floor, half beneath our coffee table. My mom had gotten him some little Transformer cars, and he was rolling them around, making engine noises. Yes, he could best most grown men in hand-to-hand combat and make an explosive device out of virtually anything, but he was still eight years old. Or so.

I always seemed to forget that.

"I like the air shows too," said Nudge, her tangly hair fanned out around her head. "They make me feel like a famous movie star."

"They're not safe," Fang said flatly.

I was torn. The sniper who had shot at me had turned out to be a new form of cyborg/human–or at least that's what we'd figured after we found part of one arm. Instead of a hand, he'd had an automatic pistol connected directly to his muscles and nerves. It hadn't actually been the building that exploded when we were close–it had been the sniper himself. He'd blown himself up rather than let us catch him or really see him.

That's dedication for ya.

That thing hadn't grafted that gun to his arm by himself. Someone had made him. That someone was still out there and possibly had made more things like him.

On the other hand...the CSM was really counting on us to continue the air shows. These shows were taking place in some of the most polluted cities in the world: Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, Moscow, Beijing. So far they'd been big successes, and the CSM had been able to hand out tons of cards and leaflets educating people about pollution and greenhouse gases.

My mom was a member of the CSM. She'd never want to put us in danger, but...I hated to let her down. She'd saved my life a bunch of times. She was helping the flock any way she could. This was the only thing she'd ever asked me to do. How could I tell her that I wanted to bail?

"Maybe if we just do the air shows but have them way step up security," I said slowly.

"No," said Fang.

Okay. I may be fabulous in a lot of ways, but I know I have a couple tiny flaws. One of them is a really bad knee-jerk reaction whenever anyone tells me no about anything.

You'd think Fang would have picked up on that by now.

I raised my chin and looked him in the eye. The flock, being smarter than the average gang of winged bears, went still.

Slowly, I stood up and walked closer to Fang. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Total slither beneath a bed, saw Gazzy quickly pull Iggy into the boys' room next door.

Until last year, I'd been taller than both Fang and Iggy. They'd not only caught up but had shot several inches past me, which I hated. Now Fang looked down at me, his eyes so dark I couldn't see where his pupils were.

"What?" I asked, deceptively mildly. I saw a flash of pink tutu as Angel and Nudge crawled with quick, silent efficiency into the boys' room.

"The air shows are too dangerous," Fang said equally mildly. I heard the connecting door between the two rooms ease shut with the caution of prey trying hard not to attract its predator.

"I can't let my mom down." This close, I could see his thick eyelashes, the weird glints of gold in his eyes.

He let out a breath slowly and clenched his hands.

"One more show," I offered.

His hands unclenched as he weighed his options. "All right," he said, surprising me. "You're right–we don't want to let the CSM down."

I looked at him in narrow-eyed suspicion, and then it hit me: Dr. Brigid Dwyer, the eighth wonder of the world, was part of the CSM. She'd planned on meeting us in Mexico City, our next show.

That was why Fang had agreed to just one more–so he could get all caught up with his favorite brilliant, underage scientist.

I walked stiffly to the bathroom, locked the door, and turned on the shower as hard as it could go. Then I buried my face in a fluffy towel and shrieked like a banshee.

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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