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Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports

There's one last chance to save the world in MAXIMUM RIDE: SAVING THE WORLD AND OTHER EXTREME SPORTS, the closing chapter of James Patterson's thrilling trilogy. The time has arrived for Max and her winged 'Flock' to face their ultimate enemy and discover their original purpose: to defeat the takeover of 'Re-evolution', a sinister experiment to re-engineer a select population into a scientifically superior master race...and to terminate the rest.

Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman, and Angel have always worked together to defeat the forces working against them-but can they save the world when they are torn apart, living in hiding and captivity, halfway across the globe from one another?

Chapter 3

Navigating roads and potholes felt like way more work than it was worth, so I convinced the flock to surrender our wheels and travel by wing.

Back to basics.

By midnight, we had crossed from Louisiana into Texas and were approaching the sprawling, fuzzy glow of lights that was Dallas. Focusing on the least-lit area we could see, we dropped altitude, coasting in slow, wide circles, lower and lower.

We landed in a state park, where it took about a minute to find some welcoming trees to sleep in.

And I mean in the trees, not under them. Let’s hear it for government funding, people! Take it from me: State parks are a valuable natural resource! Let’s protect them! If only for the sake of the mutant bird kids in your area.

“So, have you narrowed the plan down any?” Fang asked me, after we’d done our hand-stacking good-night ritual and the other kids were asleep. I was draped across a wide branch of a fir tree, swinging one leg, wishing I could take a hot shower.

“I keep putting two and two together and coming up with thirty-seven,” I said. “We have the School, the Institute, Itex...us, Erasers, Jeb, Anne Walker, the other experiments we saw in New York. But what’s the bigger picture? How does it all fit together? How am I supposed to save the world?”

I never would have admitted not knowing to the younger kids. Kids need leaders, need to know someone’s in charge. I mean, I don’t. But most kids do.

“I can’t help feeling like the School is the place to start,” I went on, ignoring the instinctive tightening of my stomach muscles at the thought of it. “Remember when Angel said she overheard people at the School thinking about the horrible disaster coming up, and afterward there would be hardly any people left?”

Yeah, you heard me right. Angel “overheard people thinking.” Another clue that we’re no ordinary cast of characters. Angel doesn’t just read minds; sometimes she can actually control them too.

Fang nodded. “And we’d survive ’cause we have wings. And I guess fly away from whatever disaster happens.”

I was quiet for a minute, thinking so hard my head hurt.

“Two questions,” Fang said. His eyes looked like part of the night sky. “One, where’s your Voice? And two, where are all the Erasers?”

“I’ve been asking myself the same things,” I said.

Those of you not in the know will be thinking, What Voice?

Why, the little Voice inside my head, of course. You mean you don’t have one? I did.

Well, Ihadn’t lately, butI figured that was just a technical hitch. It wasn’t like my Voice punched a time clock or anything. It was too much to hope that the Voice might be gone forever, but at the same time I was a little freaked out by how alone I felt without it.

“The only thing I can think of is maybe the Voice is transmitted inside my head somehow, and now we’re out of range?”

Fang shrugged.

“Yeah. Who knows? And then the Erasers, I don’t know that either. This is the longest we’ve ever not seen them,” I said, giving the sky around us a quick scan. I still had a microchip in my arm that I was sure was leading them to me, but we hadn’t seen a single Eraser in four days. Usually they popped up out of nowhere, no matter where we were or what we were doing. But it had been ominously quiet on the Eraser front. “It’s creepy, and it makes me feel like something worse is coming. Like there’s a one-ton iron safe hanging over our heads, waiting to drop.”

Nodding, Fang said slowly, “You know what it reminds me of? Like when there’s a storm coming, and all the animals somehow know to disappear. All of a sudden there’s no birds, no noises. And you look up, and there’s a twister headed right for you.”

I frowned. “You think the Erasers aren’t here because they’re fleeing before an impending disaster?”

“Um, yeah,” he said.

I leaned back against my tree, searching the sky again. Even ten miles outside of Dallas, the city lights dimmed the stars. I didn’t know the answers. Suddenly I felt like I didn’t know anything at all. The only certainty in my life was these five kids around me. They were the only things I was sure of, the only things I could trust.

“Go to sleep,” said Fang. “I’ll take the watch. I want to check on my blog anyway.”

My eyes drifted shut as he pulled the laptop out of his bag.

Copyright © 2007 by James Patterson

Read by Valentina de Angelis

Valentina de Angelis co-starred with Joan Allen and Sam Elliot in Off the Map, directed by Campbell Scott. She has appeared on television in Law & Order: SVU and Love Monkey. She has also appeared in over fifty commercials, narrated voice-overs, and did a guest stint on Saturday Night Live. She read Maximum Ride #2 by James Patterson for Hachette Audio.

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