| INCOMPLETE FANFICTION
This fanfiction has not yet been finished.
This book takes place around the same time as the events of Ava, Number Twelve.
Joey Verity is an avian-human hybrid with special abilities. Not only he has wings, but he can shape-shift into Fang, Iggy, or Gazzy. He was the second oldest of the Male Subjects, and he led his own Flock of Subjects with his friend, the oldest Male Subject Klaus. His life wasn't that bad. That was until the previously unknown Male Subject Eight escaped. Then the whitecoats changed.
Tests were more frequent, the Subjects were separated, and they were forced to sleep in dog crates again. Whitecoats were more brisk, rude, and some times down right cruel. Suddenly, life was miserable. It wasn't even Joey's fault Ian had escaped.
Strangely, Joey dreamed of his own escape every time he slept in his dog crate. When he woke up from one of these dreams, the whitecoat Calvin offered him a strange challenge: be the first one out of the testing and leave the School forever. Except leaving was not what he expected.
Part One: What Dreams are Made of
"Ah," came the muffled scream of Joey Verity. He ran harder. He was not going to be captured again after leaving the despicable School.
Joey looked behind him and saw a large net descend on him. He panicked, turning into a small rat. Wow, crazy escape, he thought. Joey crawled out from under, and he turned back into avian-human hybrid form.
"Come back, Subject Eleven!" Calvin called. Joey turned around as he reached a cliff. The ground stretched far below him. He couldn't see the bottom.
It's okay, he thought. Just jump. If Ian can fly, then so can I. Joey tensed and jumped off.
Falling felt good. Joey liked how the winds whipped through his hair. Still, dying was not an option, so Joey opened his wings. Even though he couldn't fly, he hoped he could slow his fall enough to save himself.
"He jumped!" Joey heard a whitecoat shout. "Get the copter!"
Joey knew the helicopter was a very fast piece of technology used to fly and hover in the air. His fall would be much slower than a helicopter. Joey was going to have to learn to fly.
There were days in the gym when eraser Ari flew, showing off to the Subjects. It had been a long time since Joey saw Ari fly, but he still remembered. He tried some awkward flapping, but nothing really worked. He was still falling.
Flap harder, Joey thought. Faster, faster, faster! The ground was finally visible, but it was zooming towards Joey alarmingly fast. It probably had been a bad idea to jump. Come on, why can't flying be easier?
Joey flapped his wings listlessly. He heard the ear-splitting "whap" of helicopter blades cutting the air. It was getting closer.
"I see him. He's Fang," one whitecoat shouted from the cliff. Somehow, Joey could hear him over the helicopter. "Get him, he's falling. He looks like a big dark chicken." Joey flapped harder.
Almost as if there was a diving being helping him, a gust of wind blew Joey from under him. His wings caught the blast and Joey glided for a moment. He flapped, getting the rhythm of it, and ascended. He angled the tips of his wings and turned right. I'm flying!
Sadly, during Joey's flight, the helicopter caught up, the blades close. Joey flew, zipping above the treetops. He knew once he passed the forest, he could land and run invisibly. That was one of his powers. But trees stretched in all directions.
Joey turned at the sound of a net being shot from the helicopter. In the air, Joey could move in all three dimensions. He quickly dodged the net, swooping down into the trees. It was dark below the canopy, but Joey realized the copter couldn't fly in the dense trees. Joey could fly between the branches, but he knew he would have to get to society soon.
Flying was hard work. Joey landed on the ground. He ran through the forest, hearing the helicopter above him. Suddenly, he tripped, falling into a white net.
Darn it, Joey thought as the sweet feeling of freedom disintegrated. He was caught, the woven PBA net stopping him. He saw the face of Calvin peering down on him.
"Too bad," Calvin smiled. "Wake up," he added. Joey woke up in a dark dog crate, with Calvin unlocking his door. Once again, it was a dream. The horrors of the new day crashed on him and Joey wanted to go back to bed. The bliss of imagined escaped was all he wanted.
"You will be put through a testing. You will go against the other Subjects. May the best subject win," Calvin said.
Joey looked at him strangely. Test never had the subjects go against each other before, but after Female Subject Twelve and Ian escaped, the whitecoats weren't the same. They stopped showing Ari's flights, and the Subjects had to sleep in dog crates again. They kept the subjects apart, so Joey hadn't seen his best friend Klaus, or Male Subject Ten, since Ian disappeared.
Calvin let Joey out and led him to another room. It was pretty big, with white PBA walls and a door.
Calvin picked up a clipboard. "Subject Eleven, you will be put in a maze with all the other Subjects," he read. "You will be given a belt, dagger, and water bottle. You will be going against all the other Subjects. The first Male and Female Subject to finish will leave this facility. All the others will stay." Calvin Finished reading. He put a bracelet on Joey's left arm, wrote a few things down, and nodded.
Joey went to the door. Calvin unlocked it with Calvin's bracelet and Joey stepped in. The Testing had begun.(A/N: Any good?)
The maze wasn't actually that bad. Joey could see the walls. They were made of wood, and Joey immediately found the quickest route, all the obstacles, and all the other Subjects. He longed to find Klaus, but he knew that was a bad idea. It was obvious the whitecoats wanted a fight.
Joey started walking. If he made the fastest route, he would finish in two hours. If he avoided all the other subjects, he would add another half an hour to his route. He hoped avoiding would be worth it.
The maze was relatively easy. Joey could tell instinctively when to turn, when to jump, and when to stop so the other subject could pass without a confrontation, as the dagger promised any confrontation would be bloody.
Joey leaped over a big gap in the floor. As he got closer, he found the traps were more and more frequent. He knew Female Subject Fourteen, also known as Tangerine,
As he got closer, he found the traps were more and more frequent. He knew Female Subject Fourteen, known as Tangerine, was ahead of him and Klaus was behind him by 20 minutes. Joey expected Klaus would have been ahead of him, since Klaus was nine months older. Maybe all the sitting still that Klaus did made him less fit. Or, Klaus is letting me win. But why?
Joey ducked, water from the walls spraying above him. He still got a bit wet, but ducking stopped most of the water from soaking his shirt. He ran through and gained on Tangerine.
As Joey turned, he found Tangerine was standing still just beyond the next corner, as if she was waiting for him. Does she even know I'm here? Joey wondered.
Joey paused just before the turn. Tangerine must be able to hear me by now, he reasoned. He waited for her to keep going. She didn't. It was almost like she was daring him to confront her. Joey unstrapped the dagger from his belt. She heard Tangerine do the same. Looks like the Whitecoats found their fight.
Joey jumped forward, hoping to use the element of surprise. Tangerine already knew he was there. She howled as she kicked Joey's legs from under him. He jumped back up and blocked Tangerine's next punch with his dagger. Blood welled on her hand, but it healed within ten seconds. Darn it, she's got starfish regeneration, he thought.
"You want to play dirty? Let's play dirty," Tangerine sneered. Tangerine switched her dagger from her left to her right hand and lunged at Joey. He smartly jumped back just as the blade swiped the air where Joey's head was. She snarled and jabbed at Joey again. This time, there was just a wall behind Joey, so he blocked with his dagger. The ring of metal on metal echoed through the maze.
He unhooked his dagger and sliced the top of Tangerine's right hand. Her dagger unceremoniously dropped from her hand and she hissed. Two Joey, zero Tangerine, he thought.
"I was going to be nice to you," Tangerine spat. "But you really asked for it." Her features changed to look like a wolf. Her teeth became wickedly pointed, and her fingernails grew to a point. Even though her features were wolf-like, she didn't look like an Eraser. She was breathtakingly pretty, yet crueler than Hades. "Now you'll see what the Whitecoats gave me."
There was no way Joey could win a fight with that creature. With Tangerine, maybe, but this thing was so much more. Joey sprinted past her, fully afraid of the consequences of her teeth/nails meeting his fragile body. Of course, he had his own powers. Just like Klaus could read and Isabella could anger you just by looking at you, Joey could run, and he could float. When he ran, he could become invisible. He also liked floating, but there wasn't enough space to do that in the maze.
He heard Tangerine let loose a string of cuss words as Joey sped past her. He turned and reached a door. Remembering how the whitecoats opened locked doors, Joey placed his bracelet on the door. The sensor scanned his bracelet and the door opened. He stepped out of the testing maze.
"Congratulations," the Whitecoat Jeb announced. "You are the first Male Subject to finish the testing phase one. You and the next Male and Female Subjects will move on phase two of Memorial Project. The Male and Female Subject winner of phase two will be moved from this facility for life in society. Then phase three of the Memorial Project will begin."
Joey stared at Jeb in shock. He felt betrayed, lost, and hopeless. "You mean I'm not leaving?"
"Yes, you are not leaving yet," Jeb answered coldly. "If you finish phase two, you will leave this facility. If you fail… well, you'll be, retired."
The last word was extra icy as if Jeb meant for that last word to freeze Joey.
"Doesn't retired mean... death?" Joey whimpered."I'm afraid it does."
Joey was put back into his dog crate for the rest of the day. Sometimes, he dreamed of how he would be retired, or who the other winners were. Of course, Tangerine was right behind him, but Joey wondered if Klaus made it. He was twenty minutes behind Joey, but if Tangerine attacked Klaus, he might not have survived.
Sometimes, Joey had the same old escape dream that ended with a Whitecoat waking him up for meals or letting him use the bathroom. They never let him just roam around, but he really missed his friend Klaus. He also hoped Female Subject Sixteen, or Brianna Cannon, was okay and not retired.
Joey counted four days locked in the dog crate before they came to get him. The people who got him were not Whitecoats, though. Agents from the Re-Established America came to get him.
After the world ended, known as the Sky-Rain, the United States of America fell. After fifty years of leadership from a dictator, the REA came in and saved the world. All the wars were stopped, and the first president was the amazing Maximum Ride.
The REA officers were masked figures. They put a mask on Joey's face and he followed them out of the School.
The REA officers led him to an outside courtyard and took off Joey's mask. There was an obstacle course and Tangerine, Klaus, Belle were waiting beside it. Joey hoped the Subjects he didn't see weren't retired yet. They couldn't just kill them all, he thought. Could they?
They gave Joey another bracelet and explained to him he had to complete the obstacle course. It was complete with platforms about five feet in diameter, leading to a tunnel, which ended at an area where you weave between cones, and the course ended with a 25-foot tall rock climbing wall.
"You will be timed. Female Subject Fourteen, you are going first," announced Jacob. He smiled as if this was the best day ever. "Ready, go!"
Tangerine was mean and lean. She hopped from platform to platform, using her ashy gray wings for balance. She crawled through the log and weaved between cones super quickly. She was surprisingly good at climbing the rock wall, despite the scanty hand-and-foot holds. Tangerine finished with a time of 3:41. Her eyes gleamed. "I know they won't care, but I'd dare you to beat my time," she snarled at Joey. "Three minutes."
"Technically," Joey reminded her, "your time was closer to four minutes." Joey bared his teeth.
Next up was poor Belle, who could anger people but couldn't climb. She barely made it up the wall alive and got a time of 6:24. She looked terrible, like she knew she was dead. Her horrible time made Joey nervous.
Klaus was up. He did pretty well, considering he only ever read in the big gym. He jumped nimbly, crawled quickly, agilely ran around the cones, and climbed relatively fast. His climbing was slower than Tangerine's leaps, but better than Belle's crazed grasp for life. He got a time of 3:57. Joey wondered if he could make it.
When he stepped on the first platform, it swayed under his weight. He leapt to the second, then the third, and made it to the other side. His sleeve caught in the log and Joey became dizzy weaving around the cones. Finally, he could float. He used the hand-and-foot holds to tether his mind, and he floated up the wall. When he made it, the whitecoat Jacob was smiling.
"Male Subject Eleven, you made it in three minutes and thirty-nine seconds," he announced.
Wow, beat her by two seconds, Joey thought. Joey three, Tangerine zero!
"Congratulations, Female Subject Fourteen and Male Subject Eleven. You will be leaving the facility for society," Jacob announced.Joey smiled. Finally, escape is happening!
The REA officers brought Tangerine and Joey to a house. A freaking house! It was real and wasn't on TV. Joey was finally free, but part of him remembered what Jeb said, "Then phase three of the Memorial Project will begin," but Joey ignored himself. Freedom was too sweet to be ruined by whitecoats.
A very sweet woman named Taylor Ferreira told him and Tangerine she was going to be their "mom." Joey never had a mom before. He figured his real mom was out there somewhere, wondering what happened to her lovely son....
Of course, she wouldn't care to meet Joey now. He was tall and skinny for his age, and he could read minds. He could shift-shape and float, and run stealthily fast. Joey knew he was different, which was why a whitecoat was the only person who wanted to be his "mom."
Joey's new house was big and sweet. He would have his own room and have every type of toy possibly imaginable, plus more. The coolest one was the game console, with the Zombie Apocalypse Simulation. It was a game where he was an REA officer and he was hunting zombies that escaped from a lab. "HEADSHOT," the screen would say when he shot a zombie square in the face. He loved that video game.
Tangerine seemed to enjoy it less. Joey rarely saw her leave her room, and when she did, it was to go to the bathroom, or to grab a snack.
She was just returning from another snack trip when Joey saw her again.
"Aren't you excited to live here?" Joey asked. He was just finished Level 6 and was ready to kick more zombie butt.
Tangerine looked back at him coldly. "Unlike you newb, I remember living in a home. Where I had a father. You don't understand what it feels like to be loved." She practically spat those last few words.
Whoa, what's up with her? Joey wondered. Tangerine literally spun and walked back into her room. He heard the raw "snap" of wood splintering which sent chills down his spine. Their "mom" stormed into the room, demanding to know what havoc Tangerine could be wrecking on the first day. Tangerine's bloodcurdling scream was the only reply.
"Level 7," Joey muttered as he resumed his game. On top of escaping the school, he really loved that video game.(A/N: Story working well?)
8 years ago...
Tangerine was three. She was living with her father, James, who gave her special gifts nobody else possessed. It was early morning and Tangerine was sitting on her bed listening to her father's sleeping breathing in the bed next to hers.
The rhythm of the breathing changed and James woke up. "Hey my little girl," he said, seeing Tangerine awake. He got out of bed and walked over to Tangerine's bed. "You're already awake. Time for breakfast, I guess."
No long after, there was the sound of pancakes flipping from the kitchen. Tangerine got up and smoothed her wings. They were soft and fluffy, quite different from her father's smooth stiff feathers. Her father said her feathers wouldn't lose their fuzz until she was five or six. AT that point, she could learn to fly.
"Breakfast is ready!" James bellowed. "Saturday special!" Tangerine walked to the kitchen and ate the warm fluffy pancakes with syrup. Loads and loads of syrup, so much that the pancakes were swimming in sweet, thick, warm syrup. But the syrup was the best part, and James wasn't complaining.
After breakfast was finished and the dishes were cleared away, Tangerine sat down to watch TV. While James caught up on work things, Tangerine entertained herself with the glowing box. When he wasn't looking, Tangerine sneaked a look at the cabinet in the corner.
The cabinet was a beautifully decorated piece of furniture. It was adorned with sparkling jewels and stained wood. Tangerine carefully pulled the lowest drawer out and gingerly took out a picture. The smelling woman in the picture had red hair and blue eyes that twinkled. She was holding a bundle with a baby girl who had hair as orange as tangerine flesh and vibrant violet eyes.
Tangerine didn't really remember her mother. Other than her reoccurring dream, she didn't really know what her mother was like. All she remembered was the crash, the car spinning out of control, the Volvo ramming into the passenger's side of their car, the soft skin of the Honda crumbling, the terrified scream of the woman sitting there, then silence. Even that memory was hazy, probably built up of all the photos of the crash she had seen laying on her father's desk. But for a three year old, it seemed so real.
James didn't show Tangerine pictures of her mother. It always made him too sad, and then angry at something Tangerine didn't understand. So she sneaked peeks at her mother's pictures. Looking at the red haired woman woman smiling pleasantly, holding Tangerine in a bundle, she stroked the woman's face, imagining her touch her love.
Unlike other three year olds, Tangerine understood love, have, envy, and loss. She remembered more than others, and she knew she was different. And she loved James for this.
At lunch, James brought her to a pizza place. She loved pizza; the amazing tastes of bread, cheese, tomato sauce, and pepperoni all mixing like a well-tuned orchestra.
Lunch was a short event. Tangerine sat in the back of her dad's Ford SUV, fiddling with the car seat. She never liked sitting in the car seat, but James always told her that was why she survived and Ruby didn't...
Ruby. That was her mother's name. The woman with the red hair. Crunch the little Honda went as the Volvo rammed into it. Her scream filling the car, an octave lower than Tangerine's scream. Then it was Tangerine's childish scream as Ruby slunk back. Red hair lay around her hanging as if it didn't know owner was dead.
Tangerine shivered. She had fallen asleep in the car and the same nightmare plagued her every time. She wanted to know her mom. She knew that wasn't possible.
That night she had dreams of a bright light and lots of duct tape. She heard the anguished cry of James.
"First I lose my wife, and now you take my daughter?" James yelled.
"You stole it from the lab. It was an experiment the moment you altered it. It belongs to us!" Another person was there.
"I hate you, Jeb!" James yelled.
"You're fired, James. Stealing a Subject is an HR. violation," The man Jeb yelled back.
When she woke up, Tangerine's dream was real. She was locked in a dog crate. She wasn't at home anymore. This was the School.(A/N: The italics depict a dream.)
Real school was scary. At least Joey was convinced of that.
There were more minds than Joey could count, buzzing thoughts like they didn't care who heard them. Well, they probably didn't.
Joey waited in the cold next to a stone faced Tangerine. She wasn't fairing that well either.
"So, have you gone to school before?" Joey asked her. He was getting really bored.
"No," was her only reply. She was being very personable.
"Okay," Joey let out a long sigh, and hoped the bell would ring. His "mom" told him that he should stay put until then.To be continued...