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Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Nevermore
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HOW IT ALL ENDS….
Max Ride and her best friends have always had one another's backs. But now they're up against a mysterious and deadly force that's racing across the globe—and Fang is gone. He's creating his own gang that will replace everyone—including Max.
Max is heartbroken over losing Fang, but with Dylan ready and willing to fight by her side, she can no longer deny that his incredible intensity draws her in.
Max, Dylan, and the rest of their friends must soon join with Fang for an explosive showdown in Paris that's unlike anything they've ever seen… and the aftermath will lead them to a stunning and spectacular series conclusion in Nevermore.
To the reader
THE IDEA FOR the Maximum Ride series comes from earlier books of mine called When the Wind Blows and The Lake House, which also feature a character named Max who escapes from a quite despicable School. Most of the similarities end there. Max and the other kids in the Maximum Ride books are not the same Max and kids featured in those two books. Nor do Frannie and Kit play any part in the series. I hope you enjoy the ride anyway.
THE SKY IS FALLING
I KNOW HE'LL come for me. He has to come for me. Fang wouldn't let me die here.
I'd been in the cage for days. I couldn't remember eating. I couldn't remember sleeping. I was disoriented from all the tests and the needles and the acrid disinfectant smell that had permeated my entire childhood… growing up in a lab, as an experiment. And here I was again, disoriented but still capable of a blinding rage.
Fang hadn't come for me. I would have to save myself this time.
"You! Get back!" The lab assistant's wooden billy club smashed against the door of the Great Dane–sized dog crate I was being held in every time I peered out through the front. With each strike, the door's hinges sustained more damage. Right according to plan.
Steeling my nerves, I again carefully pushed my fingers out through the bars of the crate and pressed my face against it. Timing was key: if I didn't pull back fast enough, the gorilla-like lab tech could easily crush my fingers or break my nose.
"I said, get back!" he repeated. Smash! A split-second after the club hit the weakened hinges, I kicked the door with every ounce of strength I had left.
"Hey!" The lab tech's startled yell was cut short as I shot out of the crate, a rush of seriously ticked-off mutant freak, and launched a roundhouse kick to his head. I spun again, leaping onto a table to assess my adversary.
Already a piercing klaxon was splitting the air. Shouts and pounding footsteps from the hallway added to the chaos.
I grabbed on to a pipe on a low section of the ceiling, swung forward, and slammed my feet into a white-lab-coated chest. The bully sank to his knees, unable to draw breath. This was the perfect time for me to run to the end of the table, jump off, and spread my wings.
That's where the "mutant freak" part comes in.
As hands reached for my bare feet, I shot upward, flying toward a small window high in the wall, then veered off path when a familiar dark shadow suddenly loomed.
He was on the roof outside, watching through the window. My right-wing man! I knew he'd come. He had my back, like a thousand times before. He would always have my back, and I would always have his. With relief, I readied myself to crash through the glass.
The room below me was now filled with shouting people. So long, suckers, I thought, as I aimed and got a flying start. I'd burst through quite a few windows in my fifteen-year life, and I knew it would hurt, but I also knew pain didn't matter. Escaping mattered.
Wham! My right shoulder smashed against the glass, but it didn't break. I bounced off it and dropped hard, like a brick. Time slowed. I heard the pop of a tranquilizer gun and felt a dart pinch my leg as I crashed to the ground.
Above me, Fang watched, expressionless.
In disbelief, I realized that he wasn't here to help me after all; he wasn't going to break through the window to save me. I writhed on the shiny linoleum floor, losing consciousness.
Fang didn't have my back. Not this time.
I felt like I was I falling again. Instinct made me scramble to grab on to something, anything.
My fingers latched on to a small, hard branch. As I gasped for air, my eyes popped open, and I realized I was near the top of a tall pine tree—not in a dog crate, not back at the School. The late-morning sun bathed the Arizona mountains in rosy light. It had been a nightmare. Or, rather, a daymare.
I inhaled deeply, feeling the icy claws of adrenaline still in my veins. Cold sweat tickled my forehead and back as I tried to calm down.
It had just been a bad dream. I was free. I was safe.
Except for the worst part of the dream, the one thing that had made everything else a thousand times worse, the one thing that truly terrified and paralyzed me…
Fang really was gone. He didn't have my back. Not in the dream, not now, never again.
I HAD BEEN in Arizona a week. A week of being with my mom and my half sister, Ella. A week of having everyone in my flock of winged kids injury free, all at the same time. We had plenty of food, nice beds, and Gazzy had managed to win almost forty dollars from my mom in poker before she wised up. Even now, the tantalizing aroma of chocolate chip cookies (homemade, from scratch, not slice 'n' bake wannabes) wafted out an open window and drifted up to me, perched here atop a huge Apache pine, some ninety feet off the ground.
Everyone was happy and healthy—except me. I mean, I was healthy. No bullet wounds, black eyes, or cracked ribs, for once. But happy? Not in this lifetime, baby.
A mere eight days ago, I'd been about as happy as a fifteen-year-old girl with wings could be. And then Fang, my best friend, my soul mate, my first love—I mean, my only love—took off without a word. He left me a freaking note. Might as well have cut off my wings while he was at it.
I mean, he decided we'd be better apart, you know? It wasn't a joint decision. Like, if you're gonna make a decision about me and my life for my own good without consulting me, I'd better be dying and unconscious, and you'd better be following carefully written instructions.
Anyway. After I had been lying in a fetal position on my bed for twenty-four hours, Nudge called my mom. So embarrassing. I've been shot and needed less help than I did now. So the flock I've taken care of since forever—Iggy (also fifteen), Nudge (twelve), Gazzy (nine, also called the Gasman, for unfortunate reasons I won't go into here), and seven-year-old Angel—and I (my name is Maximum Ride, aka Max) had flown out here to Arizona. And now they were chillaxing—playing Cranium and baking cookies—and I was up a tree by myself, in too much pain to even cry.
Sorry to dump all this on you. You probably popped open this tome hoping to find some kick-butt battles, some pithy wisecracks, some unlikely but oh-so-possible end-of-the-world scenario, only to find me up a tree, wallowing in self-pity. I'm not good at self-pity. I have not done a lot of it. It's not pretty, I know.
You gotta believe I wouldn't be doing this if I could help it. The truth is, I'm hardly even myself anymore. Who is Max, if not part of "Max and Fang"? Every once in a while, I glanced down at the beautiful, old-fashioned promise ring that Fang had given me not long ago. I threw it away after Fang left, then pawed frantically through the trash until I found it again. Gazzy, watching me, had said, "Good thing you didn't flush it."
This week should have been one of the best weeks of my life. Instead, I would always remember it as a time of bleakne—
With no warning, a voice came from close behind me. "Boo!"
Oh, thank you, I thought, as I jumped and stifled a scream. Someone to hit.
I WHIRLED AROUND on my branch, muscles coiled to launch myself at my attacker. That's what I'm good at: Fighting. Evading capture. Outwitting bad guys 'n' gals. I am not good at being heartbroken. But then you already knew that.
And what saw I, upon whirling? The Bane of My Existence, Part Deux. (Fang is Part Un.) Part Deux's name is Dylan.
Instantly my eyes narrowed and my fists clenched. The hot, dry Arizona wind lifted my hair and rustled the pine needles all around us.
Dylan, on a branch not two feet from mine, gave me a mischievous grin. He'd sneaked up on me, and my hearing is exceptionally good. The only other person who could do that was Fa—
"What do you want?" I scowled at him.
"What's the matter?" he asked. "Don't know who you are without him?"
"I'm so sure!" My eyes glowered, and faster than he could say " Uh-oh," I shot out a hard side kick and knocked him off his branch. I wouldn't have done that a week ago, but a week ago he'd been sweet and lovesick and not a great flyer. When Fang had left and I still wanted nothing to do with Dylan, Dylan had taken a new tack: toughening up, sharpening his sarcastic edge, and honing his flying skills till they were kick-butt.
Dylan is not part of my flock, no matter what he thinks or what he might tell you. He's another recombinant-DNA life-form, a birdkid somewhat like us, except that he was cloned from some original Dylan person, who died somehow. We, the flock, were created in test tubes from mostly human genetic material. And each of us had a little festive dash of avian DNA stirred in, which explains the wings and other amusing physical attributes.
Dylan caught himself before he went splat, shooting out his fifteen-foot wings like sails, letting them fill with wind. With strong strokes, he rocketed upward, determination on his perfect, male-model face, his dark blond hair glistening, and before I could think "Oh no, he wouldn't," he came at me with everything he had, barreling right into me, knocking me off my branch.
My arms windmilled as I fell back, my wings extending. I was dropping fast, fury building, then suddenly Dylan was below me, grabbing me under my arms.
"Get your hands off m—" I started to say, but in the next second, he pulled me close and kissed me—hard.
I gasped and my brain just—froze. I couldn't think or feel a single thing.
He let go of me unexpectedly and swooped off. I forgot to flap my wings, and the ground rushed up to me at nauseating speed.
My obituary would read "Killed by love."
IF I ACTUALLY DIED, that is, and if I had such a smarmy obit. Which, please. Spare me. I beg you.
I caught myself, of course, my wings thrusting with power. My sneakered feet barely grazed the dusty, red clay ground before I surged upward, deciding that killing Dylan was an appropriate response.
He had flown quickly to about a thousand feet, and I shot up to him like an arrow. As soon as I was near, he said, "Admit it! Your heart is pounding!"
"That was the free fall," I yelled, circling him in the sky, trying to find the best angle to take him out.
"Look at you!" he taunted. "Moping in a tree! Feeling all sorry for yourself!" He faced me as we circled each other, our wings rising and falling in unison. "Oh, my boyfriend's gone," he said in a high, squeaky voice, which was, I promise you, nothing like my voice. "Oh, what should I do? Oh, I can't live without him! Ohhh!"
A red bloodlust blurred my vision as I darted in to punch him. He blocked my arm and pushed me back. No one ever talked to me like that. No one would ever dare throw such drivel at me.
"Shut up!" was the best my adrenaline-lit brain could come up with on such short notice. "You don't know what I'm thinking or feeling!"
"Yeah, you're sitting in a tree because you're fine," he said, his handsome face flushed, his turquoise eyes glittering. "That's easy to see. I can't believe this is Maximum Ride, destroyer of despots, warrior hottie, leader of the flock! All you need now to make yourself more pathetic is a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream!"
Okay, I've been called everything from arrogant to zippy, but no one's ever called me pathetic. Had I really sunk so low?
"Me, pathetic?" I snapped back. "Look in a mirror lately, loser? I can't stand you, but every time I look up, you're making cow eyes at me!" I swung my feet forward and smashed him in the chest—just as I had done to that whitecoat in my daymare. He let out an "Oof" and couldn't catch his breath for a moment, falling about twenty feet.
Then he rushed back at me, nothing like the thoughtful, eager-to-please guy he'd been when we'd first met. Where was he learning how to fight like this?
He whapped me on my side with a powerful wing, making me spin. I'd actually never been hit by a wing before. It's feathery but packs a surprising punch.
"Oh, you can stand me," Dylan said as I righted myself. "You're just afraid to!"
"You're a delusional freak!" I shrieked, trying to drop down to him so I could kick the side of his head. But he feinted and swung to the left, then he grabbed my ankle and yanked hard. My wings bent up painfully. I went horizontal so I could box his ears. He sucked in a breath and let go of me, then I managed a weak kick to his arm.
I got it now. That's where he was learning to fight: from me!
"Why can't you just get out of here and leave me alone?" I bellowed.
"I can't!" Dylan shouted back, his face twisted with an anger I'd never seen from him.
"You can," I said through gritted teeth. "Just point your wings that way and flap!"
"No, I mean, I really can't!" A look of confusion crossed his too-good-looking face. Suddenly, he lost all bitterness and just hovered in the air near me, his wings working smoothly and steadily. He rubbed one hand across his chin. "I actually can't," he said, calmer now, looking at the ground far below us. "And you know why, Max. Don't make me say it." He sounded vulnerable, frustrated.
I'd been told that he had been created—literally created—just for me, as my "perfect other half." Let me tell you—if Dylan was my perfect other half, then I needed to give my first half a serious look-see. It all just seemed like total sciencey bullcrap right now.
"I know why, Dylan. It's because I'm the only available teenage winged female you've ever met. You might want to wait until they start mass-producing them. Better selection. They've still gotta work all the bugs out." I frowned, thinking of Fang finding a bug-free Max.
"Never, Max," Dylan said. "I'm programmed to imprint on you. You know it. I can't fight the urge to be with you, no matter what."
"That's why you've been stuck to me like glue?" I said. "Because you have to?!"
Dylan frowned at me. "Yeah. I think."
Suddenly his gaze was piercing, haunted. "I think I'd want to be with you even if I were programmed to do the exact opposite."
There was nothing I could say to that. Instead, I folded back my wings and dropped fast to the ground.
AH, THE GOOD OLD DAYS, when we were running for our lives, eating out of Dumpsters, getting into life-and-death battles on a regular basis, unable to trust anyone…
That was before I'd found my mom, the woman who had supplied my second X chromosome. I don't usually live with her. I'll always be part of the flock first, and Valencia Martinez's daughter second. Amazingly, she understands that. I love the fact that she exists and cares about me. But as I stepped into her house, I felt a burst of nostalgia for the days when life was hard and dirty and dangerous.
"Taste," Nudge said, shoving a still-warm cookie at me.
My stomach was churning from my little aerial battle with the Cloned Heartthrob, and I wanted to say no.
But she stuck the cookie into my mouth, then peered at me anxiously as I tried not to gag. "Your mom's teaching me how to cook. Too dry? Too chocolaty?"
"Too chocolaty is an oxymoron," Iggy said from the couch, where he was sitting next to my half sister, Ella. "Okay, go on. You were just at the part where Tarzan kills the big ape."
Ella grinned at me, then found her place on the page and continued reading to Iggy. (He's blind. Lab accident.) As amazing as it was for me to have a real mom, it was equally amazing for me to have a real half sister. I'd been sharing her room at night for the past week, and the conversations we'd had in the dark, when everyone else was asleep, made me feel like a normal teenage girl. That is, until she started talking to me about her crush on Iggy. Then I felt like I was listening to her talking about my son. Who's the same age I am…
Normal's pretty fleeting around here. But right now, across the room, Gazzy and Angel were doing something totally unevil, working a jigsaw puzzle together, and they smiled at me with similar smiles. Of the five (formerly six) of us, they're the only real blood siblings. Which I suppose explains why I have brown hair and brown eyes, Fang has dark hair and darker eyes, Iggy is tall and fair and light-haired, Gazzy and Angel are both blond and deceptively angelic-looking, and Nudge is African American, with light brown skin, curly corkscrew hair almost the same color, and eyes like melted chocolate.
I sighed as I took in the cozy, tranquil domestic scene.
"Hi, honey," my mom said. She came over and pushed my hair behind my shoulders. I tried to remember the last time I'd untangled it, but after I thought back two days, I gave up.
"Hi," I said.
"Why don't you go take a nice shower?" she suggested.
"Yeah, I guess," I said.
Across the room, Angel suddenly cocked her head in a way that made me stiffen and brace myself.
"Someone's coming," she said.
"Who is it?" my mom asked.
Angel concentrated, her brows furrowed. "It's Jeb," she said. "Jeb and Dr. Hans. Hans Gunther-Hagen." And how would she know this, you might ask? Her scary mental powers. She can pick up on people's energy and emotions, from a distance. And close up? Let's just say don't have any private, personal, embarrassing thoughts around her. Yeah. Good luck with that.
"How did they—" I began, then looked at my mom. "You told them we were here?! You know I hate seeing Jeb! And the last time I saw Dr. Hans, he'd just accidentally almost sort of killed Fang!"
"I know, honey," my mom said, looking unruffled. "But Jeb called, and he said he just had to talk to you. Something urgent—he was very insistent."
I looked into her warm brown eyes that were similar to mine. Her hair was darker and curlier than mine. We didn't look much alike.
"I'm not talking to him," I said, starting down the hall to the bathroom.
"If Max doesn't want him here, he shouldn't be here," Dylan said. I looked back to see him swing in gracefully through a large open window. I hated that he was sticking up for me. I'd rather just dislike and mistrust him and be done with it.
"Don't worry, Max," Angel said. She came over to me and took my hand. "Whatever he says, we're in this together. We're the flock."
I stifled a heavy sigh. This from one who was alternately a superamazing, then a traitorous, duplicitous, backstabbing seven-year-old. I didn't exactly trust her fully either.
I looked around. As flock leader, everyone was expecting me to make a decision. Jeb's presence here would bring uncertainty, chaos, probably danger.
It would perk up my day.
I shrugged. "Let him in."
WE ALL HEARD IT: the drone of a small airplane. It landed in a dry flat field behind my mom's small house. Gazzy, always hoping for an explosion, seemed disappointed it didn't crash into the trees or go over the nearby cliff.
A minute later, Jeb was at the door with Dr. Hans, who, the last time I'd checked, was still on our official archenemy list. (Yes, we have to keep a list. It's kind of sad.)
My stomach clenched as soon as they walked in the door. Jeb and Dr. Hans together? It was wrong on so many levels. This was the same Jeb who had abandoned us as little kids, forcing us to fend for ourselves in the mountains of Colorado. Ever since then, my relationship with him had been tentative. Tentative like the relationship between a spider and a fly. I am the fly in that scenario.
I looked at Dr. Hans warily, and he looked back at me. He'd almost killed Fang—I'd had to jab a hypodermic needle full of adrenaline directly into Fang's heart to save him. Which, now that I thought about it, was so gross.
Both of these guys could be brilliant, generous, pretty useful, and committed to saving humanity. Or, they could embrace the dark side, try to take over the world, or worse: try to make me do something I didn't want to do.
"So much for my vacation," I said, crossing my arms over my chest. To my surprise, Angel copied me, and then so did the rest of the flock. And Dylan. Angel and I have butted heads on more than one occasion, but I have to admit, she'd been pretty sweet to me since Fang had left. This visible show of support nearly brought tears to my eyes.
Oh, my God. I was pathetic! Dylan was right.
"It was really more of a staycation," Gazzy mused.
"I'm sorry to interrupt," Jeb said, "but we really need to talk to you, all of you, but especially Max."
"This oughta be good," I said. "Let me guess. We're needed for a research mission at the coldest place on earth?"
"No," said Jeb. "This is bigger than you, bigger than all of us. I need you to open your mind and listen."
"Last time I opened my mind, you injected hallucinations into it," I pointed out. I hardly ever forgive, and I never forget. "Is it… a crazed megalomaniac who has a secret underwater lair where pollution is creating huge, mutant sea monsters?"
"No," said Jeb, looking irritated.
"Yeah, because how likely is that?" I scoffed. "That would never happen! It's crazy!"
"Just hear me out. An evolutionary revolution is happening all over the world."
"Which means what exactly?" I asked.
"Worldwide, a new generation of children with supernatural powers has appeared," Dr. Hans said.
"So far, you're not riveting my attention," I said.
"You know that there are labs and schools all over the world that are trying to speed up the human evolutionary process," Jeb said.
"I do now," I said.
"Dedicated men and women of science are trying to find a way to save the human race. And they've been successful. Overwhelmingly successful, for the first time."
I got a prickle on the back of my neck. The flock and I had been created in just such a lab, a nightmarish place called the School, where another way to say "dedicated men and women of science" was " power-hungry mad scientists with Frankenstein complexes."
"You know that, historically, you've been among the most successful of the recombinant-DNA life-forms," Jeb said. "You were the fifty-fourth generation of DNA experiments."
Some kids get called "bundles of joy" or "slices of heaven" or "dreams come true." We got "the fifty-fourth generation of DNA experiments." Doesn't have the same warm and fuzzy feel. But maybe I'm oversensitive.
"The Erasers were the seventeenth," Jeb said, and we all flinched involuntarily. (If you want to delve more deeply into the wild 'n' wacky world of human-wolf hybrids, check out the earlier Max chronicles.)
"Not that I'm not enjoying this little jaunt down memory lane," I said curtly, "but you're not making a lot of headway here. In fact, so far you're just annoying the heck out of me and making me remember all the reasons I never want to talk to you again."
Jeb glanced at Dr. Hans and then at my mom. She made a face that said, "Way to go, bucko," and he cleared his throat.
"My point is that you guys were successful," he said. "I'm sure you remember all the versions that weren't successful."
"I'll have their catastrophic images burned into my brain till I die," I said. "Are we done here?"
"No," said Dr. Hans. "These children, this new generation, are the ones you'll be leading, after you save the world. It's time you start leading them. Now."
OKAY, SLIGHT FLICKER of interest. I'd been doing the "save the world" dance for a while, and so far it had been mostly saving the world one small part at a time. It was exhausting. This sounded more like "big picture" stuff.
"What are you talking about?" My mom's question broke the silence.
"There's like a ton of new mutants?" Nudge asked, her eyes wide.
"We don't use the word 'mutant' anymore," Dr. Hans corrected.
"This new generation," Jeb said, "and it includes children who were genetically engineered as well as a large groundswell of spontaneous genetic evolutions—"
"Or mutations," I butted in.
Raves for the blockbuster MAXIMUM RIDE series:
#1 New York Times Bestseller
Publishers Weekly Bestseller
An ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults
An ALA/VOYA "Teens' Top Ten" Pick
A VOYA Review Editor's Choice
A New York Public Library "Books for the Teen Age" Selection
A Book Sense Summer 2007 Children's Pick
A KLIATT Editors' Choice
A Children's Choice Book Awards Author of the Year for MAX
Praise for Angel:A YALSA Teens' Top Ten Pick
"A strong installment in the series...full of...many fantastic flying descriptions that will make readers wish they had wings."
"The latest young adults' thriller from James Patterson continues the gripping Maximum Ride series." (5 stars)—Star Magazine
Praise for Fang:
"Patterson has created another thrilling adventure that is sure to capture readers' imaginations.... [His] quick-paced tale of adventure, betrayal, and redemption is full of vibrant and memorable characters. It truly has bit."—School Library Jouranl
"This will excite legions of fans waiting for this installment in the flock's story."—Booklist
"[B]reathtaking... Maximum Ride fans will not be disappointed in 'Fang.' The high-flying plot and new twists leave the reader begging for more of Max and the flock."—Burlington-Times News
- On Sale
- Feb 14, 2011
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- JIMMY Patterson Books