Darkness was swirling around her.
She tried to find something in the pitch black dark. Maybe a hint of light. Maybe someone's smiling face. Maybe something to hold on to. Something to live with.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
She heard someone calling her name. But even her sharp eyes couldn't pick up anything.
And then she occurred to her.
Her eyes were closed.
She tried to open them and was blinded by the white bright light. When the light was acceptable, she tried to look around and was shocked by the sight.
It was a white room filled with dog crates.
She was in a dog crate.
She rushed to the iron bars, gripped them and shook them violently. Nothing happened, except her dizziness was gone. Another hand touched hers, she looked up and saw Nudge staring at her with horrified eyes. And by looking at her eyes, Max had to accept the truth she was trying to deny.
They had been taken by the school, again.
None of them remembered what happened. All they knew was that they were flying north and when they woke up, they were in dog crates.
The crates were small, very small. They couldn't even open their wings properly. Each of them was in a crate and the crates were kept in a half circle. It started with Fang. Max was next. After her were Nudge, Iggy, Gazzy and Angel.
"You okay?" Fang asked quietly and Max nodded.
"Is anyone hurt?" Max asked, she was the last one to wake up.
"No. Everyone's fine." Fang paused to take a breath. "Who do you think it is?"
"Director Marian Janssen. Who else?" She scowled. That psychopath. She should've at least broken her nose. "It's the only option. She and her superman Omega. If she tell us to fight and finish each other again, than help me God…"
"Well, let's hope he hasn't recovered from his last attempt yet.' Fang suggested. "Or may be at last he did understand that he can make decisions of his own."
Max scoffed. "In your dreams."
The only metal door of the room slid open as six erasers and the Director came in. They marched to them, each of their faces sat in stern scowls, and stood in position as the Director stood in front of the half circle.
"Weren't all the erasers expired?" Nudge whispered with surprise. But before Max could answer, the Director gave out her orders.
"Take her out!" She barked out without glancing at any of them. "We need to make sure that she actually has the qualifications to run the test."
One eraser unlocked Max's crate door and another one dragged her out and locked her hands and her wings in two separate metallic bands. He dragged her and forced her to stand in front of the Director.
"Hello Maximum." She smirked. "Remember me?"
"Oh no! Oh my god! How horrible of me to forget world's stupidest bitch!" Max snapped and the eraser who was holding her, elbowed on her back and forced her to kneel. But instead of keeping her head down, she looked up at the Director with rage and fury.
"Let me make this really clear to you Max." The director hissed. "You are here and you don't remember how. So you have to admit that my boys defeated you, and if you think that they can't, than you must know that I can kill you Maximum. All of you. And you are still alive because I want you to be alive. You are needed alive, it is not because of you want to live."
"Uh-huh." Max faked her shock. "Looks like the pathetic, cold, pointless, wastoid at last thinks that I do matter and I am important." Marian's eyes flashed with anger.
"And you should know when I'll do it, it won't be easy. You will feel the pain and the fear. You will regret that I kept you alive Maximum." She gestured the eraser to let Max stand. "And lastly, I'm warning you. Co-operate with us, you will be fine. You try any of your schemes, they will die. Each time you try, each of them will be killed in front of you. And I will start with her." She pointed at Nudge. "So be very careful about what you say Max."
"Wait." Nudge shouted as they shoved her to move. "Where are you taking her?"
"You'll know." The Director smirked. "And don't worry, once you know about it, you'll love it."
They took her to a huge room surrounded by glasses. In the middle, there was a long metal rod sticking out from the ground. They took her to the rod, unlocked her wrists and locked them in front of her with the rod in the middle of her hands so that she was facing the rod. She observed the metal band, it wasn't as large as the one around her wings, but surely it was strong enough to be unbreakable for a bird kid. And it was gripping her wrists tightly with the rod.
"I know you're a bit upset about that," Marian gestured at her locked hands. "But believe me, you'll like the test, well, it's just a warm up, but you'll like it." She waved her hand at someone, and a door at the other end of the room started to slid up.
When the door was fully opened, and Max was able to see what was on the other side of the door, Max knew that there was no way she was going back perfectly.
"Oh, and I forgot to tell you one thing." The Director kept talking. "Our new generation of erasers is a bit more...well, you could say renovated, than the previous generation." She smiled. "Hope you enjoy your ride Maximum."
And on the other side of the door were at least a hundred erasers berserk with bloodlust.
"You've got to kidding me." Max whispered.
'It's just a warm up.'
Marian Janssen's words kept playing on her mind as she saw the erasers running towards her.
If this is a warm up, she thought bitterly as she started to struggle with the metal bands, then what the hell is the real test?
'Max don't waste your time with the locks.' The Voice made his presence known inside her head.
'Yeah? Then what do you want me to do? Be their breakfast?' She snapped.
'Break the rod.' He commanded.
Max thought about it. The locks were actually unbreakable, but the rod wasn't. With dismay, she listened to him and started to put pressure on the rod. She saw the erasers coming closer, and the first one lunged at her. She turned her back to it and threw a round house kick which hit its jaw, fair and square. The first one fell. And as the next two came, the rod broke and she started to circle it in her hands.
Well, bring it on…...
"Impressive." The Director commented as the three of them stood in front of the glass window watching Max fight the erasers.
"It's unbelievable!" The researcher beside her chirped. "She is incredibly strong!"
"Hmm." The Director felt annoyed. The researcher was young, and chirpy. But she was very talented, the only reason Marian had kept her in this experiment.
"Together" She continued, seemingly oblivious to Marian's growing irritation. "They're going to be amazing!"
"Don't rise up your hopes." She said coldly.
"Are you sure about this?" Omega asked, confusion poured out from his voice.
"Omega." Director soothed. "Obviously I'm sure about this." She put her hands on his shoulder and turned him towards her. "Think about it. If we can do this right, if she can do this right, an amazing thing is going to happen. An amazing chance is going to be born. And we won't get another one like this." She stopped for a moment, her eyes piercing his. "Don't you understand this?"
Omega stared at her and nodded. "I understand. I'm sorry I was confused before."
The Director smiled. "Now, let's stop them before she's hurt too bad."
After a few minutes, when all the erasers and all the bloody bodies were almost cleaned out, and two erasers were shoving Max to walk, she looked at the place where Omega was now standing alone. Their eyes met through the glass wall. Her eyes would've shown hatred, but she was surprised when she saw that there wasn't any hatred in Omega's eyes. Instead, there was something else. Something that was not meant to be there.
Unfortunately, Max never found out what it was.
They brought her back to the Flock and locked her in. It was dark in the room, all the kids were asleep. Except Fang. His eyes widened.
"What happened?" He asked.
"Well, the Director decided to put me with a bunch of erasers and sat back with popcorn to watch the international match of 'Max VS Dogs'."
"Okay." He sat there silently for a few moments, watching her. "How bad is it?"
"Hm." She closed her eyes and tried to sleep. "Nothing serious, just a few scratches and bruises."
"What about the blood?"
"It's my shoulder and it's not bleeding anymore." She smirked. "Don't worry, they're worse then I am."
There was silence for a few moments. Max tried to sleep. She was tired, her whole body was stiff and her shoulder hurt like hell. But sleep never came.
"Hey, are you awake?" She asked softly.
"Yeah." He breathed heavily and answered her unspoken question. "Total isn't back yet."
They took Total before any of them were conscious. And they weren't sure if he was taken or if he had flown away. They didn't dare to speak out about it and only communicated through Angel.
Max looked at her surroundings. Gazzy, Angel and Nudge were asleep. The only exception was Iggy. His eyes were fixed on the tiled floor like he could actually see it and Max couldn't help but wonder how he could live with this.
Somehow, Iggy knew she was staring at him; he looked up and their eyes met.
"Hey." He whispered.
"Hey." Max responded. His eyes went back to the patch of floor.
Sometimes it amazed her. How he lived through that. Not ever knowing, not ever seeing one single thing, one single ray of light; the only thing he could ever see was the darkness. And no difference between day and night; not knowing your way, not seeing the colors, not seeing the sky, not seeing the first flake of snow, not seeing to rain, not ever seeing the beauties of life. And knowing that you won't ever see them again.
Max woke up by the sound of door and saw the two erasers from last night coming in. One of them unlocked her crate door while the other stood with its gun pointing at her. It gestured her to come out as she groaned.
"What now?" She muttered, but she knew that it was of no use. For some reason, those erasers never talked.
Did they sew up the new ones mouths? She thought bitterly.
Like before, they locked her hands and wings and shoved her to walk. Before she walked out from the room, she glanced at the others. They were fine, as fine as you could be without any food or water, and were asleep. Angel stirred silently, and just when they were about to close the door, she opened her eyes and shot up. Her eyes full with shock and terror. And Max managed to give her a wary smile before the door closed behind her.
Max didn't see the Director the whole day, not that she wished to, but it was creepy. She ran through some tests. Well, more like so many tests. But unfortunately none of them were about fighting with a bunch of erasers or running in a maze or that kind of stuff. It was like they were done testing her strength, her skills. This time they ran blood tests, urine tests.
hours later, they put her in a white room, strapped her on a bed, stripped her clothes off, put a white sheet over her body which covered her from her chest to thighs, and left the room. She stared at the ceiling and wondered about what the hell. Then the door opened.
It was Omega.
And for some reason she had a stupid feeling in her stomach, but she managed to put it aside and smirk.
"Hey Omega. Still hanging around huh?"
Omega frowned at her smirk and stared at her with his silvery blue eyes.
"Hello Max." Mechanical voices filled the room, Max searched for the speakers which were carrying the Director's words and found nothing. "So" The voice continued. "Here's the news. Did I tell you about the new experiment? Well, as far as I remember, I've mentioned it but didn't give you any specifics. So, here's the deal…." She stopped for a moment for Max's response, and now Max was feeling bad in her pit, but she didn't respond. Marian continued. "The thing is, we are interested about your second generations Maximum. Not the lab created one, but the biologically enhanced one."
This time, Max did respond. "What?"
"Yes. And so, we're setting an experiment. To see if you can bear a fetus naturally. Well, obviously you can with your own kind, but we want to see if you can do it with some different kind.
And the words rang in her ears. She didn't get what the director was saying. It confused her…
"No." She whispered as she saw Omega coming towards her slowly.
One, two, three….
The Director was still babbling about the experiment, how it was going to be incredible if Max could do this one thing in her life correctly. She was happy. She didn't care if Max could actually conceive, but she was happy to see the fear in Max's eyes through the cameras. She was happy to see the Maximum Ride scared shitless.
…..Omega counted his steps, one two three, and he muttered to himself. He chanted the words until his head was blanked out from the thoughts.
It's just a test, and it would be great if we can do this right this time.
We have to do this right this time.