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Maximum Ride: The Final Warning

In this breathtaking new story from the astonishing imagination of James Patterson, a girl has to save herself from an army assembled just to capture her–and maybe save the planet while she's at it.

Maximum Ride is a perfectly normal teenager who just happens to be able to fly, the result of an out-of-control government experiment. Max and the other members of the Flock–six kids who share her remarkable ability–have been asked to aid a group of environmental scientists studying the causes of global warming. Their ability to fly could help the scientists conquer this epic problem. The expedition seems like a perfect combination of adventure, activism–and escaping government forces who watch the Flock like a hawk.

But even in Antarctica, trapped in the harshest weather on our planet, Maximum Ride is an irresistible target in constant danger. For whoever controls her powers could also control the world....

Maximum Ride is James Patterson's greatest character, a heroine who manages to be human and fearless at once. THE FINAL WARNING is an unrelenting new adventure from the writer Time magazine has called "The Man Who Can't Miss."

Part One | ANOTHER PART OF THE BIG PICTURE

Chapter 4

THERE'S NO REST for the wicked. But you knew that.

As soon as the sob- fest was over and Ari was buried, Jeb said, "We need to go." His face was pale and unhappy. "Dr. Martinez and I talked to you about this trip to Washington. We think it's crucial that you guys attend this meeting." He sighed, not looking at Ari's grave.

"Why is this important, again?" I asked, trying to turn my back on feeling sad. Not so easy. "You said something about government, blah blah blah?"

Jeb began to head out of the woods. With me in the lead and Fang taking up the rear, we followed him cautiously.

"After everything that happened in Germany," Jeb said, "we were contacted by some very important higher- ups in the government. People who understand, who are on our side."

I felt like saying, "What's this 'our side,' kemosabe?" but didn't.

"They're eager to meet with you," he went on. "Frankly, these would be important and valuable allies–people who could actually offer you protection and resources. But they're very hands-on–they need to see the miracle kids with their own eyes." He turned back and gave us a rueful smile.

"If by 'miracle kids' you mean innocent test- tube babies whose DNA was forcibly unraveled and merged with two percent avian genes, yeah, I guess that would be us," I said. "Because it's a miracle that we're not complete nut jobs and mutant disasters."

Jeb winced and gave a brief nod, accepting his role in our short, hard lives. "Well, as I said, they're eager to see you. And your mom–Dr. Martinez–and I really recommend you go." We came to the edge of the woods, and there was a small landing strip, scraped into the forest like a wound. A sleek private jet waited there, two armed Secret Service agents standing at the entry stairs.

I halted about ten yards away, doing a quick recon. Force of habit. No one started shooting at us. No hordes of Erasers or Flyboys swarmed out of the woods.

"I don't know," I said, looking at the jet. "It feels weird that no one's throwing a black hood over my head."

Fang smirked next to me.

Jeb had walked on ahead, and now he turned. "Max, we talked about this. This jet will actually get you to Washington faster than you can fly yourselves."

Are we junior pilots? you ask. Why, no. If there are a couple of new readers out there, welcome! That mutant thing I mentioned? We're 98 percent human, 2 percent bird. We have wings; we fly. Keep reading. You'll get it all soon.

"Yeah," I said, still feeling doubtful. Mostly I just wanted to turn, run, and throw myself into the air. That sweet rush of freedom, feeling my powerful wings lift me off the ground . . .

Instead, Jeb wanted to pack me into a little jet, like a sardine. A sullen, feathery sardine.

"Max," Jeb said more softly, and I automatically went on guard. "Don't you trust me?"

Six pairs of flock eyes turned toward him. Seven, if you counted Total.

I mentally reviewed possible responses:

1) Sardonic laughter (always good) 2) Rolled eyes and snort of disbelief 3) Sarcastic "You have got to be kidding me."

Any of those responses would have been fine. But lately I had grown up a bit. A little heartbreak, a little fighting to the death, finding out who my real parents were–it all aged a girl.

So instead I looked at Jeb and said evenly, "No. But I trust my mother, and she apparently trusts you. So, little tin-can jet it is."

I walked steadily toward the plane, seeing the glimpse of pain and regret in Jeb's eyes. Would I ever be able to forgive him for all the heinous things he had done to me, to the flock? He'd had his reasons; he'd thought he was helping, thought it was for the greater good, thought it would help me in my mission.

Well, la-di-dah for him. I don't forgive that easy.

And I never, ever forget.

Copyright © 2008 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. She lives in New York City with her husband, Maury, and her Boston terrier, Otis.

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