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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 5

THE JET DIDN'T HAVE normal rows of seats. It looked more like a living room inside, with couches and easy chairs and coffee tables. There were more Secret Service agents here, and to tell you the truth, they gave me the creeps–even though I knew they were the same people who sometimes protected the president. But there's something about plain black suits, sunglasses, and little headsets that just automatically makes me twitchy.

Combine that with the inevitable heart- pounding claustrophobia that came from being enclosed in a small space, and I was basically ready to shred anyone who talked to me.

On the other hand, if anything dicey happened to the plane, I knew six flying kids who would come out okay.

I did a quick 360 of the plane's interior. Angel and Total were curled up on a small couch, asleep. The Gasman and Fang were playing poker, using pennies as chips. Iggy was sprawled in a lounger, listening to the iPod my mom had given him.

"I'm Kevin Okun, your steward. Would you like a soda?" A very handsome man holding drinks stopped by my chair.

Don't mind if I do, Kevin Okun. "Uh, a Diet Coke? One that hasn't been opened yet." Can't be too careful.

He handed me a sealed can and a plastic cup of ice. Across from me, Nudge sat up eagerly. "Do you have Barq's? It's root beer. I had it in New Orleans, and it's fabulous."

"I'm sorry - no Barq's," said Kevin Okun, our steward.

"Okay," said Nudge, disappointed. "Do you have any Jolt?"

"Well, that has a lot of caffeine," he said.

I looked at Nudge. "Yeah, because after everything we've been through, we're worried about your caffeine intake."

She grinned, her smooth tan face lighting up.

The steward put the drink on the little table between me and Nudge.

"Thank you," Nudge said. The steward headed back to the galley, and Nudge reached for the can.

When her hand was still a couple of inches away, the can slid toward her fingers, and she grabbed it.

Instantly we looked at each other.

"The plane tilted," she said.

"Yeah, of course," I agreed. "But . . . just to see, just for our own amusement, let's . . ." I took the can away from her and put it back on the table. I reached for it. It stayed put.

Nudge reached for it.

It slid toward her.

Our eyes wide, we stared at each other.

"The plane tilted again," Nudge said.

"Hm," I said. I took the can away and had her come at it from a different angle. The can slid toward her.

"I'm magnetic," she whispered, half awed and half horrified.

"I hope you don't start sticking to fridges and stuff," I said in disbelief.

Fang dropped down next to me, and the Gasman joined us, squishing in next to Nudge.

"What's going on?" Fang asked.

"I'm Magnet Girl!" Nudge said, already coming to terms with her new skill.

Eyebrows raised, Fang picked up a metal pen and held it against Nudge's arm. He let go, and it dropped to the floor.

Nudge frowned. Then she reached down for the pen, and it flew into her hand from a few inches away.

Gazzy gave a low whistle. "You're kind of magnetic. Cool!"

"No, that's not it," said Fang quietly. "It's that you can attract metal–maybe only when you want to."

Well. The rest of the flight zipped by as we played with Nudge's bizarre newfound ability. When we got close to DC, Jeb came over to give us a ten- minute heads- up. One glance at our faces and his eyes narrowed.

"What's going on?" It was the same dad- like, no-nonsense tone that he had used years ago, when it was just us and him in our secret house in the Colorado mountains. He'd made that exact face the day he found the frogs in the toilet. I remembered it so clearly, but it seemed like three lifetimes ago.

Before I could say, "Nothing," Nudge blurted, "I can make metal come to me!"

Jeb sat down, and Nudge demonstrated.

"I don't know why you can do that," he said slowly. "As far as I know, it was never programmed in." He looked around at all of us. "It's possible . . . It's possible that maybe you guys are starting to mutate on your own."

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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