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For the briefest moment everything felt perfect, the flock flying free in the ink black sky, then reality came back and I realised just how heavy Weird was.

“We. Have. Got. To. Land.” I panted between flaps. Gale nodded; I don’t think she had the breath to speak.

We landed clumsily in an isolated copse of trees as far from the town as we could manage. I staggered a few paces, gently put down Weird and then keeled over backwards. Next to my head I heard a rustle of feathers and then Gale landed clumsily next to me. She collapsed, breathing heavily, her wings spread out on the ground next to her.

“Never again,” she wheezed. I was inclined agree with her, and I was carrying the bird kid.

“That was amazing!” Mirage exclaimed and I rolled my eyes, I’d like to see him carry the forty pound girl. Cam and Tapper roughly deposited Rainbow and landed panting.

“Wow,” Rainbow whispered unperturbed by the rough treatment.

“Man you weigh a freakin’…” Cam began but was interrupted by Gale yelling.

“Cam!” He rolled his eyes. Gale ignored him.

“Everyone okay?” she asked.

“Tapper hit me in the wing,” Cam muttered turning slightly blue.

“We had a rhythm,” Tapper pointed out testily. “You were out.”

“I was never out. You were out.”

“Hey! Cool it guys,” Gale told them. “The Erasers will hear you.” Tapper and Cam looked round in panic.

“Oh relax, we weren’t followed,” I said sitting up. “The Erasers didn’t have wings anyway.” Mirage and Rainbow looked round at me in shock. “Yeah, Erasers have wings now,” I told them. Rainbow’s eyes flashed in the darkness. Just my opinion but she looked more angry than shocked.

I got up and checked on Weird. She seemed to be okay, or at least she was still breathing, which is about as far as my medical knowledge stretches. She wouldn’t wake up though and we weren’t going to be moving anyone very far, so in the end we decided to camp there and hope the Erasers wouldn’t find us. It wasn’t like we could fly Mir and Rainbow anywhere else anyway.

“So whose turn is it for watch?” I asked rolling up my coat and wishing that we could light a fire; it had stopped raining but we were all still damp from earlier.

“Yours,” Tapper said with the ghost of a smile playing round your lips. “You’ve still got another hour and a half.”

I groaned “Fine, you’ve got the night watch though.”

“Sure thing,” she said nonchalantly. “I’m nocturnal anyway.”

I sighed and found a comfortable tree to lean against, it wasn’t fair, hadn’t I just saved everyone’s lives for, like, the sixth time this week, I should get at least some time off for that? And also; Tapper is totally impossible to wind up. What is up with that? Anyway, one by one everyone dropped off, Gale was lying with her wings outstretched, apparently they ache if she holds them in to long. Tapper and Cam were lying at opposite sides of the campsite and the two new kids were curled up next to each other. Weird was right where I had left her, she hadn’t moved a muscle all night.

Rainbow wasn’t sleeping; I could tell she had her eyes open. I got up and checked on Weird, again. She had a pulse which was the important thing but still wouldn’t wake up; I hoped she would be okay. She murmured slightly and griped my hand where I was holding her wrist and I smiled, taking that as a good sign.

“What’s wrong with her?” Rainbow asked sitting down next to me and making me jump, I thought only Tapper could be that quiet, and I glared at her for a moment. Why did she want to know? If you hadn’t guessed just because Cam trusted her didn’t mean I did.

“I was just asking,” she said defensively.

“She’s just exhausted,” I said grudgingly, hoping it was true, I really had no idea. “She’ll sleep it off.” It was a pretty safe guess judging from last time though.

“You don’t like me do you,” she said simply, looking at me with deep blue eyes.

“Weren’t you eyes violet earlier,” I asked her, avoiding the question.

“They change according to my mood, blue’s sad. Now, why don’t you like me?”

“I don’t not like you,” I explained. “I just don’t trust you.” Now was blue really sad or was she trying to make me feel guilty?

“I don’t trust many people,” I added realising how bad this sounded. Yep, she made me feel guilty regardless of whether she was actually trying.

“Don’t worry you can trust her.”

‘Shut up voice you’re not allowed to make that call.’

“Please yourself.”

‘Very well I will.’

“Don’t be childish Hawk.” I rolled my eyes, doesn’t he know I am a child. Technically.

“What was that?” she asked and I looked at her in shock. She couldn’t have heard the voice.

“What was what?”

“You were just staring into space. Did you hear something?” I relaxed, not hearing the voice then. Though I didn’t realise I was that openly crazy.

“It was nothing,” I said shaking my head.

“Oh.” I could see she didn’t believe me but she didn’t quiz me further. We sat in silence for a few minutes before she spoke again.

“How did you see me?”

“What?”

“Back at the police station you grabbed my arm, how did you know I was there?”

“Err…,” I said groping for an answer that wasn’t ‘a voice in my head told me.’ “I heard a footstep.” I don’t think she believed me about that either.

“Actually,” I asked, trying to change the subject. “How come I couldn’t see you?”

“Gift from the White Coats,” she said sarcastically. “I’m not sure how it works.” She raised her arm and made it disappear, sleeve and all. “It just does.” Her arm flicked back into visibility.

“Cool,” I said blankly. I know it’s a pathetic thing to say. But what do you say when someone makes their arm disappear in front of you?

“Not really. They’d have killed us long ago and we’d be done with it long ago if we couldn’t.”

“Okay,” I said edging away from her slightly. “Remind me not to let you near scissors.” Actually I can’t really blame her. I’ve wished to die a few times, especially after some of the worse experiments. But you can’t do anything about that in a cage short of banging your head against a bar and that really hurts, and will probably get you sedated.

“Oh, relax. It’s not like I’m going to do that now. Mir and I are free and the Erasers aren’t chasing us just now.”

“Yeah,” I said nodding. “It’s a depressing when those are the two things that define whether you’re having a good day.”

“Tell me about it,” she said rolling her eyes which were now slightly yellow; which is a happy colour if she was anything like Cam. “So how did you guys escape the lab?”

“Another group of recombants broke in and freed us about a month ago,” I explained, “I have no idea where they came from but they freed just about everyone in the main lab.”

“And how many was that?” she asked hesitantly.

“About fifty,” I said sadly. “They’re all dead now.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault,” I told her. It was mine really. I should have warned them sooner. Just yelled out ‘the Erasers are coming’ the moment I got there. The Erasers would have been waiting outside for them but at least some of the kids might have gotten away. Maybe.

I sighed. “So how did you guys escape?” I asked trying to change the subject, again.

“Camouflage, and a really dumb White Coat,” she said with a smile. “See, there was this new guy watching over us, and while he was on a break I camouflaged so he came back and suddenly the room he was supposed to be monitoring was empty. Then he ran into my room like a headless chicken and I whacked him over the head, stole his keys, freed Mir and we snuck out of there before they could break out the infrared goggles. That must have been about three months ago now, and the Erasers still haven’t stopped chasing us.”

“You got your own room?” I asked incredulously, latching on to possibly the most irrelevant piece of information, but when your personal living space was measured in square inches that kind of thing’s important to you.

“Only because they couldn’t fit all the monitoring equipment in a cage,” she explained shaking her head. “It was more of a closet anyway.”

“If they had monitoring equipment how come he couldn’t tell you were still in the room?” I asked, my devious plot alarm going off. I still didn’t fully trust her. Or did you guess that?

“As I said really dumb White Coat,” she said shrugging. “Less dumb Erasers though. They’ve been getting closer ever since we left New York. I suppose they would have got us tonight if it weren’t for you guys.”

“Well, no need to thank me,” I said shamelessly. I don’t get enough praise around here anyhow.

“Oh, I won’t,” she said getting up. “For all I know you could be some Eraser spy. Goodnight.”

“Hey, that’s my line,” I exclaimed as she bedded down next to Mir. She didn’t respond so I just rolled my eyes at her. It was going to be a long night.

One long night later and I woke up at the crack of dawn, which is pretty normal for me; the stupid avian DNA never lets me sleep in. I got up and stretched and caught the tail end of an icy stare from Gale who was now on watch. Sheesh, you pull one prank and suddenly everyone hates you. All I did was yell “Tapper!” really loudly to wake up Taps, pity it woke everyone else up too. And I did pay for it seeing that Tapper threw a cup of water over me when she woke up Gale. Don’t ask me where she got the water from, it’s too early in the morning for me to worry about that kind of thing.

“Where’s Weird?” I asked Gale, looking around and only seeing a depression where I left her last night.

“Up there,” Gale said sighing, pointing at a dark silhouette in the trees above.

“So her eye sight’s back then?” I asked brightly. Good to know it was only temporary, whatever it was.

“Yeah, but,” Gale paused and then began again. “She’s not herself,” she continued sadly. “She’s been distant since the whole warehouse thing and… Well, I think it’s something to do with the telekinesis.”

“We never did figure out how she did that,” I interjected grimly. We did try once. I mean I spent an entire day trying to lift a pebble and Weird isn’t exactly the best teacher as apparently she just does it. All we do know is it doesn’t work due to frustration because trying in vain to lift a pebble with your mind when the eight year old next to you is levitating one of the pups, is probably the third most annoying thing I’ve ever come across.

“Right,” Gale continued. “But what if it’s doing something to her. She didn’t use it back in the lab and you saw what she was doing with the storm.”

“Yeah, that was scary,” I cut in again. Gale just rolled her eyes, new understatement of the month. “I should probably go talk to her,” I suggested.

“She said she didn’t want to talk.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s just code.” Gale rolled her eyes again. Yeah, I don’t believe it either but saying you don’t want to talk is not the same as not wanting to talk.

I leapt into Weird’s tree and climbed up to sit next to her. Climbing trees is easy when you can jump your own height but more on that later.

“You don’t think I’m scary do you?” Weird asked suddenly as I settled down next to her, not looking away from the sun peeping over the fields.

“Oh, you heard that,” I said guiltily, I’m sure we’d been talking softly.

“It’s all energy,” she said as an explanation. Okay there’s something I don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole. Weird’s scary sometimes… ah. And therein lies the problem

“Well, you have to admit what you did with the lightning was pretty incredible,” I opted out of giving a straight answer.

“Yeah,” she said sadly.

There was an awkward silence which I foolishly tried to fill. “Your eyesight came back at least,” I suggested brightly

“It almost didn’t,” she said after a moment. “And I almost didn’t care.”

“Didn’t care?” I asked incredulously. “About seeing?”

“You have no idea what its like do you?” she said darkly, finally turning to face me. Sickly green light played round her eyes and an emerald nimbus played around her every hair. “The Power. The Energy. The Freedom.”

I shied away from her, I’m brave not suicidal. But the green glow and her staring eyes made me want to hide under a rock, she didn’t even look properly human anymore, just some terrifying monster, and I face down Erasers for a living.

“You can’t take it away from me,” she intoned, her voice seemingly coming form everywhere at once. “You will never take this from me!”

Her eyes flared brilliantly, the air around me began to hum and gusts of wind lifted her hair completing the gorgon image. My back hit the trunk of the tree. Yes I was backing away from an eight year old girl, but Weird takes weird to a new level. There was an explosion next to my head and part of the tree burst outwards, showering me in sap and splinters.

“Weird!” I yelled desperately ducking and coving my head. “Stop!” There was a tremendous crack and the tree split down the middle and I almost fell.

Weird blinked once and everything stopped, her eyes fading back down to their usually emerald glow and the sweet little girl returning. I unwound my arms from the branch which I discovered I had been grasping for dear life.

“Hawk?” Weird asked hesitantly. “You okay?”

“Y-yeah,” I started and realised my voice was shaking. “Just about.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that,” she said in a rush her eyes filling with tears.

“It’s okay Weird,” I said quickly, holding my hands away as she buried her face in my shirt. I’m not good with this touchy feely stuff. Where’s Gale when you need her?

“While I hate to break up such a touching scene,” the voice interjected. I’m pretty sure he was being sarcastic there. Maybe I should get the voice a mobile then I would at least be able to hear if he was being patronising. “There is a group of Erasers sneaking up behind you.”

“What!” I exclaimed suddenly, whipping round, almost knocking Weird off and scanning the horizon. I spotted them almost immediately, five black shapes sweeping across a corn field and from ground level Gale probably couldn’t see them. Great.

“What? What is it?” Weird asked after regaining her balance.

“Erasers,” I said hurriedly grabbing her wrist, I’d apologise later. “Come on we’ve got to move.” We leapt out of the tree; it was only fifteen feet, you just had to remember to bend your knees.

“She didn’t want to talk,” Gale said the moment we landed, gesturing at the tree.

“Not now Gale,” I practically shouted. Hello panic, it must be at least six hours since last time, you’re slipping. “There are Erasers coming.”

That shut her up. “Which way?” she asked quickly and I pointed. “Right.”

“Okay guys,” I said rapidly, every second counted, and spread my wings. “Let take off and…” Rainbow looked daggers at me in exactly the same way Gale does.

“What, forget about us?” she asked sarcastically at exactly the same time as the voice said.

“You don’t think things through much, do you?”

“Shut up both of you!” I snapped, which got me confused looks all round. No time to think about that now though. “Just move!”

“Too late for that,” a voice growled and we all whirled round to see Glass Eye flanked by two Erasers melt out the trees.

“Only two? You really are slipping,” I commented, furling my wings and judging options. Actually the best option was too leg it but Erasers are good sprinters and about four times my weight, so it was distraction or into the air.

Glass Eye growled. “That’s all I need to take you…” I threw myself at him, putting all my weight into a flying kick aimed at his head.

There are two reasons why you never see people try and flying kick someone’s head in real life. They one, can’t reach and two, if the person you’re going for, ducks it really hurts. Glass Eye ducked, I flew straight over him and hit a tree; and it really hurt. I spent a stunned moment looking at the leaves, fortunately bird bones against impacts and rampaging stupidity. I scrambled to my feet and dodged a kick from Glass Eye who was trying not to laugh, you’d think with just the one eye he would stink at depth perception.

“Come on bird boy,” he growled at me as I backed away. “Eye for an eye and all that. Let’s see your best sho…” At this point Gale smacked him across the head with a branch. I’m still not sure whether to be annoyed or grateful, probably grateful as Glass Eye crumpled to the ground, a glazed look in both eyes. Gale tossed the broken branch over her shoulder, dodged a blow from one of the Erasers and delivered a right hook right on his jaw. Someone had been reading those self defence printouts.

The other Eraser drew back his fist and of course Gale had her back to him. I crashed into him and hit him as hard as I could in the kidneys. So, I may have taken a few pointers too, actually you pick up quite a few tips on where it really, really hurts when you’re a lab rat, but I don’t want to talk about that.

“I could have taken him,” I told Gale as I darted away from my Erasers and we clashed backs.

“Oh, come on,” she said, dodging another blow and punching her Eraser in the stomach making him double up in pain. “If you’d done another move like that kick we’d be scraping you off the floor.”

“Hey, that always works in movies!” I exclaimed, ducking under my Eraser’s guard and hit him on the jaw, which may well have hurt me more than him.

“Hawk, our lives are not a work of fiction!” she snapped back, knotting her fists and smashing her Eraser over the head and watching him crumple.

“Still should have worked,” I told her, sweeping my Eraser’s feet out from under him and kicking him when he was down. I looked up to see the clearing swarming with Erasers and swore. The kids were in the centre; Tapper, Cam, Rainbow and Mir forming a ring around Weird and just waiting for the Erasers to attack. They are far too brave for kids not even in their teens.

“Just needs two does he,” I muttered, we must have gone up on the hit list while we were away. “Let’s get to the others and get out of here,” I said to Gale.

“Right.”

We charged at the waiting Erasers. Gale spread her wings wide and knocked about three Erasers of their feet with one sweep. I darted around the first Eraser, cracking him in the ribs on my way past, dummied the second and swept the legs out from under a third. I had to get to the kids before the Erasers got them.

In the centre the Erasers had attacked, the kids were holding their own for now, Rainbow and Mir flickering in and out of visibility as they fought, but how long could that last? I slipped between two Erasers and suddenly was in a pocket of calm, Cam and Tapper held off the Erasers around me and at my feet Weird lay curled in a ball breathing raggedly.

“Weird,” I said, crouching down next to her, ignoring the battle raging all around me. “Weirdness, what’s wrong?”

She uncurled slightly and looked at me with luminescent eyes. “I can feel it,” she whimpered, her eyes flaring as an Eraser screamed in pain. “I can feel all their pain. It runs up the neck and explodes in the brain, and it hurts, it hurts them so much.”

“Weird, you’re not making any sense,” I said bewildered. How could you feel when someone else was in pain?

She looked at me coldly. “It’s all energy,” she declared, her eyes blazing.

“Look out!” the voice yelled at exactly the same time as Weird cried in a normal voice.

“Hawk!”

I tried to turn but it was far too late. An Eraser caught me on the back of the head, I saw stars and stumbled and trying to turn to ward off another blow. There was no chance though, I saw him raise his clawed fist for a death blow, there was no chance at all.

Something flashed over my shoulder and the world exploded in a blinding flash. I brought my hands up to shield my eyes and felt the skin on them burn, I tried to gasp but the air seemed to be made of fire. Then it was all over as suddenly as it had begun. There was a few seconds of stunned silence, I lowered my arms, before me there was a blackened corpse that was just recognisable as the Erasers. No one moved, just stared, behind me Weird started sobbing. If she was telling the truth about feeling pain and she just thrown a lightning bolt… now there was something I didn’t want to imagine.

I looked round at Weird, her eyes were solid green and she was staring at the sky tears flowing down her face.

“No more,” she announced. “No more.”

There was a green flash and the world vanished.

Everything came back in a rush and we all fell about five feet onto a ploughed field.

“Okay,” Gale said getting slowly to her feet and shaking mud out of her hair. “I have two questions. One, where are we? And two, what the hell just happened?”

I got up myself and helped Cam up then consulted my own directional senses, it didn’t help that they were reeling from the shock of moving somewhere without apparently crossing the intervening space. “About a mile from where we started,” I said stunned. “Good grief Weird, how did you manage tha…” I stopped and looked around.

“Where is she?” I asked after a moment, dumb question, it was a flat field and I couldn’t see her, how would anyone else know where she was.

“Shit!” I exclaimed, looking round franticly hoping that Weird would suddenly pop out of mid air. “She could be anywhere,” I said panicking and starting to pace. “The Erasers could have got her. She could be lying unconscious in a ditch or something.”

“Hawk, stop panicking!” Gale yelled at me. I looked at her angrily, though in all honesty I needed that. “I’m sure she’s just behind the nearest hedge or something.”

“But what she just did,” I countered, obviously doing anything but not panicking. “It’s mind boggling, totally impossible, I don’t even want to think about how complicated it would be. For all we know she could be on another continent.” I didn’t add, or dead.

“She’s Weird,” Cam put in. “How complicated could it be?”

“Give me a week, a computer and a broadband internet connection and I just might tell you how she did it,” I said darkly. “I’m going to try and find her. I’ll be back in five minutes, just keep an eye out for Erasers.” I flared my wings and began running along the field.

“Hawk, wait!” Gale cried after me as I pushed down with my wings and soared into the sky. I shouldn’t have been leaving them but I had to find Weird.

“You shouldn’t be abandoning them you know,” the voice put in.

“Who are you Jiminy Cricket? I already feel guilty enough about this.” I climbed higher and swept the ground with my bird vision.

“Is she really worth losing the others over?”

“Gale can look after the kids. I have to find Weird.”

“But why?” I didn’t answer that, just flew in a wider circle; she had to be down there somewhere.

“It’s my fault,” I thought at the voice after a few minutes of futile searching. “It’s my fault we’re in this mess; it’s my fault she has to keep burning herself out just to save us. I should be able to protect everyone better.”

“Self pity never got anyone anywhere,” the voice pointed out.

“Why do you care?” I thought angrily at it. “You know about stuff I have no idea about so it’s pretty obvious that you’re not just some voice that tells me to burn things. Who are you? Why should I trust you? And why did you start talking to me?”

“So many questions Hawk,” I heard the voice sigh. “Very well, as for who I am that’s not for you to know, just yet, and for why you should trust me, well I can tell you Weirdness is passed out in a hollow beneath the tree with the forked trunk.” I did a double take and saw her, just where the voice said she was. I folded my wings and dived towards her, I couldn’t see any Erasers and we were at least a mile and a half from the clutch of trees.

“And Hawk,” the voice added as an afterthought. “You contacted me.”

I landed hard next to Weird and immediately checked she had a pulse. Yes. Good. I felt some of the blind panic fade away, I would have never forgiven myself if she’d been hurt. Self pity may well get you nowhere but it has always been my job to protect them.

“Weird,” I said softly, shaking her shoulder, not that that worked last time but live in hope. “Weird, wake up.” She didn’t stir. I sighed, picked her up and threw her over my shoulder. It was a half mile back to the others and I was not going to try flying with Weird again, so I started walking.

I was getting really worried about Weird. You may have guessed, but every time I see her get hurt, or burn herself out saving us, I either want to hug her or hit someone. But it wasn’t just that. Weird’s seen death, its not like we ever really had a period of innocence, I think I saw my first dead body when I was about two. I don’t particularly feel guilty because there wasn’t anything I could do, the kids in the warehouse is another matter. But Weird has the power to save everyone, and I think it pains her that she couldn’t back then.

Worse I think just using that power is hurting her, so far it’s knocked her out, burnt out her eyes and made her go completely psycho. Somehow that doesn’t seem like much of a gift and its getting worse as she’s getting stronger; two days ago it knocked her out to stop an Eraser but now she’s happily chucking lightning bolts around and breaking the laws of physics. I shifted her into a more comfortable position on my shoulder and trudged on.

She never used her power back in the lab but now she’s out it seems to be increasing exponentially. It’s getting to the point of what can’t she do rather than what can she do, and that’s scary. Really scary. I thought she was actually going to hurt me earlier. I don’t know. It’s not like I could really see if she had a look in her eyes. But I’m more worried about her, what if she takes on more than she can chew, what would happen? Out of control lightning, randomly exploding trees or maybe she could just… die.

“Worry is unproductive,” the voice put in, much to my annoyance. “You should focus on more pressing matters.”

“This is a pressing matter,” I snapped back. “Now shut up and leave me alone.” The voice, for once, didn’t make a snap comeback.

I shifted Weird again, I was almost back to the others, and then I realised what the voice was talking about. “Hell,” I muttered. “Okay voice, what pressing issues?” There was no response. Typical, the one time I might actually need help he shuts up, but when I don’t. No! Jabber jabber jabber jabber jabber.

There was a low hedge separating the field I was in from the one I’d left the flock in, I gently put Weird down, and stormed over to look over the top. I froze as I saw the field was full of Erasers with the flock in the centre and then went to throw myself over the hedge and into the fray.

“No!” the voice yelled, its voice reverberating around my skull. All my muscles froze, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even breath.

“What have you done?” I cried desperately in my head, the only thing apparently still under my control.

“Just, look. Don’t rush in and don’t do anything rash.” I felt some control return but I still couldn’t move my legs, I glared at the Erasers gathered in the field. How fast must they have run to get here this quickly? That didn’t matter though; I picked out Gale standing in the centre of the Eraser mob, not fighting as I’d first thought, just standing there. Maybe she was negotiating, stalling, waiting for me to come back?

“No Hawk, be realistic,” the voice sighed. I looked more closely at the Erasers, they all had guns and I had Weird, so flying was out. Not much chance of them fighting their way out either but that just left…

“Oh no,” I said in shock and Gale put her hands in the air and the others followed suit.

“No!” It couldn’t be happening, we’d all promised ourselves we’d never go back to the lab, freedom or die trying and all that, but Gale was just surrendering. Why? Death would be better, or maybe she thought I could save them.

I sunk to the ground, regaining control of my legs. It was all my fault. I should have been there. Damn it, I was supposed to protect them! I had to do something, just distract the Erasers and second and give them a chance to escape, like fly really fast over them, or even just yell “Hey Erasers!” over the hedge.

“While I hate to disturb the brainstorming,” the voice said, shattering my concentration, or what there was of it. They were pathetic ideas anyway. “You may want to look at what’s going on in the field.”

I muttered a long string of profanities to myself, or maybe the voice, and looked over the hedge. The Erasers were tying the flock, Rainbow and Mir’s hands behind their backs; that alone made me angry enough to wish I could throw lightning bolts too. Suddenly Rainbow and Mir flickered out of visibility and an Eraser collapsed clutching his crotch. I winced in sympathy and then ducked as the Erasers started firing, seemingly at random. A bright flow of blood sprung from mid air and something kicked up a cloud of dust as it hit the ground.

“Got any problems with me helping this time?” I asked the voice snidely.

“No,” it said simply. “But how pray tell?”

“I could…” I started and then petered off as I realised I didn’t have a clue what. I couldn’t just rush into the fray, I’d get captured as well, so what did I know about Rainbow and Mir? They we given the same recombination as Cam so they should be able to see about half a mile, so all I really had to do to help was stand here and be visible. Damn, somehow I was expecting something a bit more heroic.

I saw footprints appear in the mud over the hedge and Rainbow flickered into visibility, landing next to me and breathing heavily.

“You could have helped you know,” she panted, looking daggers at me, her eyes now a bright scarlet.

“And do what?” I snapped back, I wonder if she knew I was yelling at myself for exactly that reason. Well not exactly myself, thank you voice. “There are over fifty of them, waiting is the best way to avoid getting everyone killed.” Hell, he was making me sound like freaking Spock

“You could have at least done something useful,” she said angry. “What happened to Mir?”

“He got shot,” I said simply, squinting at some of the Erasers fumbling with something at their belts. “Would saying a dozen or so Erasers are pulling out infrared goggles be useful?”

“Mir got shot!” she exclaimed and then realised what I’d just said. “Well, yeah.”

“Oh. A dozen or so Erasers are pulling out infrared goggles.”

“What!” she yelled, looking like she was going to pop a vein. “How can you be so calm?”

“I’m trying to stay calm,” I explained slowly. “So I don’t do something incredibly stupid.” The Erasers with goggles scanned the area; one spotted us and yelled to the others. Gale and other’s heads whipped round and I caught Gale’s eye.

“Run you idiot,” she mouthed.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered back, hopefully she saw and then whipped round and slung Weird back over my shoulder. “Okay now we run like hell,” I told Rainbow.

“But,” she protested. I grabbed her arm and began to drag her across the field.

“But nothing,” I snapped back, accelerating despite the mud with Rainbow in tow. “It’s run and save them later or get captured now.”

“I hate logic,” she muttered after a moment’s hesitation, running to catch up. I let go of her arm.

“So do I,” I agreed and almost turned my ankle on a lose rock. Remind me to fly next time rather than run across a ploughed field. I really hated running, a daring high-speed chase above the streets of New York, I can deal with; it even seemed like fun when it was over, but why does the countryside have to be so muddy? I skidded in a particularly vindictive patch of mud and only just kept my balance, well at least it couldn’t get any worse.

A shot whizzed over my shoulder, the one Weird wasn’t over, and I slid to a stop and whirled to see an Eraser aiming his pistol along the entire length of the field.

“Oh, come on,” I exclaimed angrily. “There’s no way he could come close with that thing.” Rainbow rugby tackled me in a ditch as a volley of bullets whistled over our heads.

“What part of mad scientists and evil corporation don’t you understand?” she yelled right in my ear.

“Alright I get it,” I snapped back. “Now get off me.” Rainbow clambered off me, keeping low and I checked on Weird. Still unconscious and now covered in mud but definitely alive. I peeped over the edge of the ditch; a lot of Erasers were running towards us, maybe enough that the others weren’t being guarded. Argh! It was all so complicated. I had a chance to save the others but I couldn’t abandon Weird and Rainbow.

“I’m going to cause a distraction,” I told Rainbow hurriedly. “Reckon you can carry Weird?”

“I can’t camouflage her but yeah.”

“Okay, just keep going…” I consulted my directional senses as to which way we’d already been running. “South; and I’ll catch up with you, okay?”

“Sure but what are you…” I cut her off by standing up and snapping open my wings. “Ah.”

I started running at the Erasers, pumping my wings

“This is very stupid you know,” the voice commented dryly as bullets whistled round me.

“No, this way everyone stands a chance of escaping,” I pointed out, bunching my legs and leaping into the sky and doing an immediate U-turn, that’s one good thing about fighting wolf hybrids, they have terrible vision, but still it was best not to get to close.

“Yes but you didn’t think of that before you started running.” I ignored him and spiralled higher, he was right by the way, but at least in the air I was in control. All the Erasers eyes were turned skywards, I saw Rainbow with Weird making a break for it but none of the Erasers had noticed. One or two were still obstinately firing but nothing was coming anywhere near me and I could see Gale and the others being led off far below. My insides burned, I was not going to let them be taken, not ever.

I past the thousand feet mark and folded my wings, dropping about a hundred feet and then reopened them, trimming myself to fall directly towards the others and flapped hard. I felt the familiar rush in my stomach. I love diving, I guess some were born to fly and others were born to fall. There’s probably something deeply symbolic in that somewhere but personally I blame the fact that I got my DNA from a peregrine falcon.

The Erasers on the ground were coming up fast, I counted fifteen, but how many could I take out before one got me, maybe if I concentrated on getting Gale and the others free, I might stand a chance. Then again there is the whole aerial combat thing where if you slow down you die.

The ground rushed up to meet me and I pulled up sharply, feeling the tug on my wing joints as the g-force threatened to pull them out of their sockets, and sped along the field doing about one hundred and fifty and six feet from the ground. It’s odd you never feel more alive than when you’re about half a second from death, but what can you do.

An Eraser loomed before me and I balled my fists, held my arms loose in front of me, hitting anything at this speed could break my arms if I wasn’t careful. One of the other Erasers spotted me and tried to yell a warning but it was far too late. I crashed into the Eraser and he went flying and I rocketed past so fast I didn’t even see if I’d managed to knock him out, my smarting fists said I probably had.

I rose fast flapping my wings and banked sharply. The Erasers were panicking, half a dozen unfurling their own wings and the others herding my flock and Mir, who was being carried, across the field, all of them pulling out guns by the way. I dived at an Eraser struggling to get into the air and wondered if I looked that stupid when getting a run up for flying, the other Erasers were running along behind him but he was the first and none of them were looking up.

I flapped harder and added another twenty miles an hour to my speed just as the Eraser laboured off the ground. I took careful aim, folded my wings, smashing into his wing and putting everything behind my shoulder then tore open my wings, pulling up inches above the ground and clipping my toe on the ground.

There was the sound of gunfire but it was muffled by the pounding of blood in my head as I flipped onto my side and banked far too sharply. The Erasers were in disarray, the ones in the air were desperately trying to gain enough speed to catch up with me and the ones on the ground were trying to keep the flock in line and take pot shots at the same time. I finished my turn and sped towards the ones on the ground, watching for the twitch in their hands that said they were firing and barrel rolling to avoid another volley of bullets as the guns crackled.

I yawed right and flew straight at them. The flock threw themselves to the ground as I spread my wings wide to catch as many Erasers as possible and I suddenly realised that one Eraser hadn’t fired with the others and was carefully aiming at me down the short barrel. Did I risk it? No. Hell. I pulled up at the last second, still managing to skater Erasers like ninepins and flinching as the gun roared and neatly sliced off the end of one of my rear feathers.

I spiralled upwards, discovering just how hard it is to fly when spinning and going straight up, and heard an Eraser yell far too close to be from the ground. I didn’t even pause, just folded my wings and dropped only just in time to avoid a pair of scything claws that almost scalped me and spun to see four more Erasers charging at me, fully morphed and showing their overlong fangs.

I think it was this point I realised I was over my head. “Any suggestions?” I asked the voice, opening my wings and ducking under the Erasers, not really expecting a response and not getting one. The one time I actually ask, he shuts up.

I threw my left wing forwards and spun round, flapping hard to chase after the Erasers, who were trying to come round to face me but I was much more manoeuvrable. I believe I’ve said this before but stubby wings rule. I caught one Eraser while he was still banking and planted my foot between his wings, he yelled in pain and plummeted towards the ground.

One of them grabbed my wings, then yanked them behind me and I yelled, okay screamed in pain, as my shoulder blades crunched and my back caught fire. I dropped like a stone, losing all control as I let my wings hang lose to try and stop them from screeching in agony and I was possibly yelling a string of expletives. I’m not too sure. I wasn’t paying any attention to anything but my wings and the rapidly approaching ground.

I tried to stretch my wings out and catch a friendly air pocket but every movement was agony, I swear if I ever find out who taught the Erasers that move I’ll… The ground was approaching fast, very fast and falling was seeming a lot less fun now than a minute ago. The others were disappearing through a gate at the far end of the field, I was outnumbered by about four to one and I was soon to find out just how hard something is when you hit it at an appreciable fraction of the speed of sound, so there wasn’t much chance of rescuing them.

I’d failed them. I’d failed Gale, Cam, Taps and just abandoned Weird in some fools errand to try and make up for a stupid mistake. The ground was very close now, my wings still throbbed with every heart beat but it was this or go splat. I closed my eyes, clenched my teeth and faired my wings, yelling in pain as the muscles across my back screamed and pulling up with inches to spare.

“Too close,” I snarled, flapping my wings harder to keep my speed up and fly high enough to make it over the hedge, while trying out the whole running through the pain thing, which works as well as punching an Eraser and hurts just as much.

I looked up to see the Erasers falling towards me but if I could just keep going as fast as possible they wouldn’t stand a chance of catching me. I set my wings south, I’d messed up, I’d messed up big time but Weird and Rainbow were still out there and maybe, if I found them I could still sort out this mess.

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