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We crashed in a hotel about thirty miles away, it had been a long day, we were all tired and had hardly got any proper rest last night, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that sleep was the first thing on our minds. What did surprise everyone was that we had a reservation. The rather stuck up guy on the front desk was surprised too, the hotel was hardly five star but I guess five kids who look like they’re on the run, one of whose sleeve is soaked in blood, is rather unusual.

I didn’t care though; I had had just enough energy to get a room from the hotel computer before my brain shut down taking the connection with it. I’d been running on adrenaline for the last two days, maybe longer, and it was finally taking its toll. I was practically asleep on Gale’s shoulder when we reached the room, a twin room that I’d requested three camp beds to be put into and by far the fanciest place we’d ever been to. Not surprisingly I collapsed onto one of the camp beds the moment I set eyes on it.

One by one I heard the others go to bed; Cam was next to me, Tapper between the two proper beds and Weird in the one beyond that. I hadn’t heard Gale but she was probably keeping watch. I tried to relax, we were safe here, no one knew where we were and I’d used a false name to reserve the room, besides when you’re looking for escaped bird kids you look in trees, not high-rise hotels. By the time anyone even thought of looking for us here we’d be long gone. Nothing to worry about at all.

About half an hour of staring at the ceiling I gave up on getting any sleep and raided the mini-bar for a coke and packet of chips, then sat down heavily next to Gale who was sitting at the end of one of the beds.

“I thought you were asleep,” Gale said after a minute or so, after I’d effectively drained half the can.

“I’m too tired to sleep,” I said splitting open the chips. “So I thought I’d have some caffeine to wake me up.”

Gale smiled slightly. “And that works?”

“No,” I said after a moment’s consideration. “But at least I’m not lying there doing nothing.” Gale chuckled and I drained the last of the coke.

“Thanks by the way,” Gale said after a moment. “For coming to rescue us. An incredibly stupid thing to do, still-” She petered off.

“I’ll remember that for next time,” I said, starting on the chips.

“Hey I didn’t say it was the wrong thing to do,” Gale said defensively. “But did you even have an escape plan?”

I pulled out the stack of papers from my jacket and wordlessly handed them to Gale. That’d show her. Sometimes it is possible for me to think things though. Oh don’t look so surprised.

“Wow,” she said after a moment and then. “How on earth is Taps looking at the camera in a satellite photo?”

I shrugged. “She’s Taps. Between her and Weird ‘just because’ is a good enough answer.” I took a handful of chips and started munching.

“So you found these with your power?” she asked after looking over the floor plans and transcripts of emails detailing exactly where they were being kept.

“Yep,” I said with a tired sigh. “Online. In their system. That floor plan actually came from the contractor that built the building. It’s all there if you know where to look.”

“Hawk, all these are all dated within half an hour of us being captured,” she said leafing though the pages again. I winced. I had hoped no one would notice that. “How did you find them that fast?”

“I kind of, uploaded my brain onto the internet,” I explained sheepishly. “And by using other computers to, you know, think, I was able to find you guys in a few minutes.” I stopped talking at this point under Gale’s incredulous stare.

“How long have you been able to do that?” she asked after a couple of seconds.

I looked at the clock on my phone. “About fifteen hours,” I said nonchalantly. “I’ve probably been able to do it for longer but that was the first time I tried.”

Gale put her head in her hands. “Great, that’s another super-powered kid I have to worry about.” Then she realised what I’d just done. “And when did you get that phone?”

“About fifteen hours ago,” I said on the defensive. “And I’m not some kid you have to worry, about. I’m what, four days younger than you? Besides you were hardly obeying the laws of physics in there either.”

“Oh, come on,” she said rolling her eyes. “I didn’t do anything weird, just broke down a few doors down.” As she this said a single point of blue light appeared above her shoulder, no brighter than the desk lamp we’d left on but undeniably there.

“And that?” I asked, as Gale looked at the light in surprise and then at Weird who was sleeping fitfully. Apparently she hadn’t noticed it.

“It’s a light,” she said with obvious confusion. “Just a light.”

I flicked a chip at her and it juddered to a stop next to her, the light choosing that moment to wink out of existence. “Telekinesis,” I said knowingly.

“Make that three super powered kids,” Gale said bitterly. “Shouldn’t I have noticed if I was suddenly levitating objects?”

“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “Weird was about four when she started manipulating objects consciously but she was using her power before then.”

“So you’re saying I’ve been doing this for a while?” Gale asked hesitantly.

“Only a couple of days really,” Tapper cut in, appearing in the gap between us and making me jump, the flood of adrenaline completely waking me up after all my hard work to get to sleep. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. How does she do that?

“But we been under more stress recently than back then,” Taps continued.

Gale sighed again. “Well at least I won’t have to worry about being shot anymore,” she said dejectedly.

This time I threw a whole fistful of chips at her, about four stopped but the rest hit her in the side of the head.

“Hey, what was that for?” she said angrily then realised the point I was making.

“Oh.”

“Get Weird to give you some lessons,” I said casually then thought about Weird’s current reaction to her power. “On the other hand you might not want to tell her, she’s not exactly comfortable with using her power right now.”

“She’s not?” Gale and Tapper asked in chorus.

“Why?” Gale asked.

“She killed two Erasers today,” I said after a pause. “The first was a reflex and the second one was an accident. She didn’t even have to break a sweat doing it and, well. She eight. She doesn’t want to hurt people anymore.”

“They’re Erasers,” Gale said as if that excused everything.

“And Weird’s eight,” I said again. “She hasn’t figured out its kill or be killed yet.” I didn’t add that I didn’t particularly want her to. What if she starts seeing us as the threat? “Besides she’s been talking about sensing pain and I think that would tip any of us over the edge.”

Gale nodded in agreement and chewed her lip. “So no chance of lessons,” she said after another brief silence in which I finished the chips. “Any idea why it’s happening now though?”

“It’s always been in your genes,” Tapper said almost immediately, cutting off my ‘not a clue’. “Maybe it’s just been dormant until now, or you’ve reached a certain amount of neural maturity.”

We both looked at her in surprise. “Taps,” I asked, sighing, it was far too late at night to deal with things like this. “That was very definite. Care to explain why you’re so sure?”

“I cracked the code,” she announced, her eyes flashing and a smug smile playing around her mouth as she pulled the pages out of her jacket.

“You did?” Gale asked surprised. “What does it say?”

“Ah,” Taps said with a knowing look which really bugged me. “That’s the key to it. It actually doesn’t say anything at all; it’s the code for reading another code.”

“Well that’s useful,” I said sarcastically, slumping back against the foot of the bed. “If we had a copy of what it decoded we might actually be getting somewhere.”

“We have a copy,” Tapper said simply, which got an incredulous look from me. “This thing codes our DNA.”

I shook my head resignedly. “Taps, our genetic code couldn’t be recorded on a thousand pages, though I have no doubt that they have that somewhere.”

“Okay, so it’s a simplified version,” she countered. “Each segment referring to a specific gene. Look at this one.” She shoved a sheet of paper into my hands. “A0472, I think it’s code for wing size.”

I looked over the row of figures, there wasn’t a single clue that I could see that would suggest that that segment of code controlled wing size. On the other hand the code was in the row headed by my serial and in the same column… I looked at the pages more closely; all the serials in the column were A0470 save mine and Gale’s which was A0471. Coincidence? Probably not, it could have been some other trait we shared but wing size was the only one so radically different from everyone else we met.

“Hmm, you may be onto something there,” I conceded after a moment. “Any idea what A0470 means?”

Tapper shrugged. “Probably code for a certain base sequence,” she suggested. “It would save them writing it out each time. Though I think the ones starting with U stand for an unaltered sequence, none of the codes after them seem to match.”

I scanned another column, all U’s and about three repetitions, though from my shaky knowledge of biology that could be expected. Tapper may well have been onto something.

“I think the columns are sorted into chromosomes and genes,” Tapper continued shuffling through yet more pages. “There are some pretty consistently appearing codes, so they probably are traits common to all bird kids. For example we all have A0103.” She paused. “‘Cept this kid, G984574785f.” I winced, what a name. Then again my serial was hardly pronounceable.

“Taps,” I cut in, suddenly realising something. “When did you learn this much about genetics?”

“We grew up in a lab,” Tapper and Gale said in unison. Different tones though.

“Besides,” Tapper continued, with a luminous grin. “You’re not the only one who can do research.”

I sighed again; it was far too late for me to deal with this, maybe I’d could ask Taps to repeat her lesson in the morning, it didn’t look like she’d be taking a break anytime soon.

“Anyway,” she continued and I felt my eyes droop. “There is one column that’s particularly interesting. I think it lists our powers.”

I jolted back to full wakefulness. “What?” Gale demanded, snatching the page from Tapper. “Let me see that.” Tapper rolled her eyes but pointed out the relevant column.

“Ha!” Gale said triumphantly, jabbing at the paper. “See here, I don’t have the same code as Weird.”

“No you have the one next to it,” Tapper observed and Gale visibly wilted.

“What do I have?” I cut in. “Any one else with my power?” It would be nice to meet someone else who could talk to computers, I had a feeling that everyone would react just like Gale if I’d tried to describe what it was like.

“One,” Gale said after a moment scanning the pages. “No idea who they are though.”

“Shame that,” I commented sadly, filling away that piece of information encase we ever tried to break into another lab. “We could have done with that kind of data.”

“I thought you might try and break into their system a find it,” Tapper suggested softly.

“No, my powers are off for the evening.” I wasn’t sure I was up to high speed hacking this late at night. I ignored the fact that a tiny part of my mind was monitoring the hotels surveillance systems for threats. I was only still doing it because I couldn’t figure out how to stop, it didn’t count.

“Wait a second,” Gale said suddenly. “It says here that Cam has the same code as Rainbow and Mir, shouldn’t that mean he can camouflage too?”

“Maybe he can,” Tapper said shrugging. “Or maybe that gene’s just dormant. Rainbow and Mir didn’t have any missing code but didn’t have wings.”

“Okay,” Gale said resignedly. “So I have four super powered kids to deal with. Any other surprises you want to spring on me?”

“Not really,” Tapper said shrugging again. “My code for that column is a U but I guess I make up for it in other ways and no one else has Weird’s so we’re safe there. It’s annoying though,” she continued. “If we just knew what these codes actually meant we could learn so much more.”

That was a fairly obvious hint. “Maybe in the morning,” I mumbled, finally feeling sleep taking me. “We’ll see then.”

I closed my eyes and Gale informs me that I started snoring.

I don’t believe her.

I don’t snore.

The next morning I woke up at around nine, something that has happened about three times in my life. I so rarely sleep though dawn it usually means something terrible has happened the day before. I cracked open my eyes and listened for a moment. Taps was apparently playing hangman with Weird and Cam, I could see Gale sitting on the end of a bed, light was streaming into the room and best of all I wasn’t in a cage.

Not to bad a start to the day.

I’ll give you a brief précis of what happened next as in all honesty nothing did. Taps won at hangman with ‘gryphon’, which I had to look up; we ordered enough room services to make the man who delivered it look around for the rest of the party and I spent twenty minutes while everyone was getting clean explaining why I couldn’t hack a closed sever. Apparently at least someone is awake at the lab as none of the computers that had our records on were connected to the internet. A smart move but an annoying one, maybe someone was wising up to me.

Oh, and I got a new shirt, I seem to go though a lot of them.

Anyway, we left about half an hour later, the stuck up receptionist was still there and I seriously think he thought we could never pay. At that point I paid with a hundred and left without another word, wiping all record of us ever being there as soon as I’d walked out the door, even editing the videos to make it seem like we’d never arrived. Sometimes it is so cool being me.

“So where now?” Gale asked after half an hour and at about ten thousand feet.

“Keep flying,” I suggested shrugging, something remarkably difficult when flying. “How annoying would it be if we just kept flying from coast to coast?”

“For us or them?” Gale asked sarcastically.

“Touché,” I said, hitting a rough patch of turbulence and almost biting my tongue. The sky is really not as peaceful as people make it out to be, though maybe the thunderstorm two days ago is colouring my opinions.

“Let’s just keep heading west for now,” I continued grimly. “Staying in one place is just too dangerous right now.” Gale shrugged in agreement and we kept flying, for about five hours, only broken by lunch in which we learnt that playing eye-spy with Tapper is a decidedly bad idea if you value your sanity.

It was about mid afternoon when Gale flew directly above me, literally as close as you can get in the air and not exactly the smartest place to be considering our wings, and there broached the ultimate question.

“Hawk,” she asked in barely more than a whisper. “Why are they trying to catch us?”

I craned my neck backwards to make sure she was serious. She was. “We escaped,” I said in disbelief, taken aback by the question. “Isn’t that enough?”

“No, no it isn’t” she shot back. “The others escaped but they were all shot. What makes us so special?”

Now that I didn’t know the answer to. “Maybe they want us back for some reason,” I offered weakly. “Maybe we know something that they don’t want getting out. Other than, you know, us existing.”

“You know, we could go to the authorities,” Gale suggested.

I rolled my eyes, though she probably couldn’t see me doing it. “Itex Corporation,” I recited. “That’s the guys who own us by the way, made over a two billion dollar donation to the presidential election fund last election, employs millions across the country, has some control over nearly a quarter of global resources and is directly responsible for about ten percent of this countries G.D.P, not to mention others,” I looked up at Gale who was looking dumfounded.

“They own the government,” I said simply. “Or at least enough to get us taken back to the lab the moment we go public. We’re better off on our own.”

“We can’t run forever,” Gale said sadly after a moments pause.

“I know,” I agreed. “But unless we know what they’re after we don’t have any other option, and even then it might be the only thing keeping us alive…” I petered off as realisation struck me, just as mine and Gale’s wings finally collided. I plummeted a good fifty feet before catching myself and rocketing back up.

“It’s Weird,” I hissed, gliding inches beneath Gale. “That’s who they’re after. You’ve seen what she can do. What mad scientist wouldn’t want that power?” I looked over my shoulder at Weird who was looking right at me, eyes shining faintly, both from her power and tears. Damn, she’d just heard every word, hadn’t she?

“Weird I didn’t mean that…” I began but Tapper cut me off.

“Do you hear that?” she asked, looking right behind her and totally grossing me out, I am never going to get used to seeing her do that. I looked over my own shoulder to see a helicopter powering towards us and swore, they so could have picked a better time but when was the last time you saw an Eraser make an appointment.

“Can we outrun them?” Gale snapped also looking over her shoulder.

“No,” I said slowly, doing a quick scan for the choppers specs. “They can go about twenty miles an hour faster than us.” I looked forwards to see another group of Erasers rising quickly to our altitude. “Though judging from them that won’t matter much.”

It was Gale’s turn to swear this time. “Reckon we could take them?” she said after a moment. I did a quick count of the Erasers, ten v five, not the best odds, and the helicopter had a capacity of about twelve. We were truly between a rock and a hard place, fighting was practically out but landing would just lose us any advantage we had in experience and running away was out of the question.

“Maybe,” I yelled throwing myself into a reverse loop and flapping my wings as hard as I could. “I’ll catch up.”

I flipped over and pushed myself harder. We didn’t stand a chance against the Erasers and a helicopter, but maybe the others could take down the Erasers if I took care of the chopper.

I paused a moment for the Voice to make a smart Alec comment but he didn’t say a word, maybe he’d decided to leave. The doors to the chopper opened and four Erasers leapt out. Of course with my luck there was no way that was even going happen. I watched the Erasers drop in the downdraft; that was definitely going to be an issue. Actually I didn’t fancy my odds against four Erasers but concentrating on the flying conditions was easier on the ego.

I opened up my mind to the internet; my reaction times wouldn’t be anywhere near enough but with the World Wide Web on my side maybe I’d stand a chance. I felt myself speed up as my wing beats streamlined themselves and I entered a slightly lower pressure stream of air, the data flowing into my mind telling me exactly what to do to get the best performance, and yet it was a bare trickle compared to what I knew I could do with this kind of power. You know what, forget odds, this was going to be easy.

Two Erasers were hovering either side of the helicopter and the other two were steaming towards me but I wasn’t particularly worried, in fact I was practically beaming as hundreds of possible movements for the Erasers flashed in front of my eyes, complete with the odds of them actually doing that particular move based on prior observation. I picked the most likely and twenty feet away from the leading one, folded my wings, using the vortex created to flip me round so my outstretched feet were heading straight for his wing.

He never stood a chance. We collided with a combined speed of well over two hundred miles an hour and only I ready for it. Even so I had a four percent chance of breaking my legs, but you have to live a little don’t you? The Eraser’s wing folded backwards in a way nature never intended and I kicked off him, keeping nearly all my speed and tearing toward the second Eraser who had barely realised his buddy had already been eliminated.

The computers gave up on processing at that point and just let me roll with it as I caught his wing in the crook of my arm and almost had my shoulder dislocated. Bones cracked beneath me and I used him and a lever to shoot me straight up, spreading my wings and attempting to dive back down as soon as possible. Being caught above the rotors would not be a good survival tactic.

The grenade went off a few seconds later, I was upside down and it went off a few yards away. I never had a chance. Time crawled as the computers took over most of my thinking, thousand of metal fragments were screaming towards me, some shiny, some dull, all slowly spinning, glinting in the sun and looking just like they were, a thousand airborne razorblades. I had no chance of dodging all of them, even comprehending them all was a struggle and there was a physical limit to the amount of data I could send and receive thanks to my phone.

A slight flick of my wings sent me spinning into an area with slightly fewer flying shards of death, and my breath caught as a particularly large chunk flew lazily past, just a few millimetres from my eyes. A smaller sliver passed straight through my wing, I knew it was going to happen. It was a sacrifice I had to make to stop that other piece taking out my eyes but that didn’t stop it hurting like nothing on earth.

I hissed in pain as I felt feathers shred and tiny red lines blossomed across my chest, then it was over. I relaxed my death grip on the computers and then realised far too late that there was still one last shard, lagging an eighth of a second behind the others. I had just enough time to tell where it was going to hit before it cleaved clean through my phone.

My mind went reeling as the connection severed and the whole world seemed to be going too fast, though that might have had something to do with not being connected to thousands of computers any more. My wings were hanging limply at my sides but I couldn’t quite remember how to move them and I’d need to remember fast as I was still going at a hundred plus. I gritted my teeth, screamed at my wings to open and felt them flare beside me, the wind tearing at my joints as my muscles burning. I pulled up sharply, rising fast straight up towards the Eraser I’d guessed had thrown the grenade. It was payback time.

The downdraft from the helicopter was snatching at my wings and buffering me off course so I folded them as shot towards the Eraser, spreading my arms wide to gain some semblance of control and probably just looking ridiculous. Just before I crashed into him I flipped over and drove my feet straight into his chest sending him spiralling upwards and catching his wing on the rotor. I winced as shredded feathers blew past me, shortly followed by the Eraser, blood from his broken wing tracing a line through the air. That must have hurt.

I spread my wings as the downdraft began to push me back down and flapped as hard as I could to keep up with the helicopter. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a double row of Erasers waiting in the open cabin, all of them glaring at me, I wondered what was stopping them jumping at me but then spotted the other airborne Eraser throw something through the open doors. Straight at me. I lashed out wildly at the grenade and felt it bounce off my arm, the ricochet sending it back into the cabin where it exploded.

I realised what was going to happen about half a second before the grenade went off and wrapped my wings around me protectively, just beginning a trademark dive to get me as far away as possible. I wasn’t fast enough. The grenade sent red hot shards of metal into the chopper’s superstructure, one hit a fuel pipe and I was still practically hovering next to it.

The blast wave picked me up and threw me like a doll and the heat hit only a few moments later, I felt feathers and skin burn as I spiralled wildly. A warped girder smashed into my chest breaking my wing and several ribs for good measure and I screamed in pain as thousands of razor sharp shards of metal and glass lashed against me.

Then it was all over and I cracked open my eyes. Everywhere hurt and I was falling in veritable storm of broken metal, I could even spot a piece of rotor a couple of feet away. I smiled slightly but that turned quickly into a wince, even smiling hurt. I’d at least taken out the chopper though.

I tried to spread my wings but discovered that my right wing wouldn’t move at all and my left was agony. Not good. Let’s see at ten thousand feet that would give me a minute to pull up and an impact speed of about one hundred and twenty.

It was at that point I realised that I was going to die. I looked round to try and spot the others, blinking to try and clear the grey mist gathering around my eyes. No hope there either, they were about a mile away and deep in combat with the Erasers, Gale had spotted me but she didn’t stand a chance of reaching me in time.

I looked back down at the ground and vainly tried to spread my wings again, no luck. I couldn’t even more my right wing enough to use it as a parachute; it just hung limply behind me, jarring every time I entered a slightly different air pocket.

“Well Voice,” I asked, retreating to my inside space to get away from the pain. “Any last sage words of wisdom?”

“Can you do anything to save yourself?” the Voice asked.

“No” I chuckled, even that hurt. “Though I’d welcome any suggestions.”

“Sorry Hawk I’m not omnipotent.” There was a brief pause where the ground drew ever closer. “Any regrets?”

I passed the two thousand feet mark. “Not really,” I thought back as my senses began to dull through blood loss, maybe I’d get lucky as pass out before I hit. “Kind of wish I hadn’t taken on the helicopter though.”

“Well that goes as said.”

“Actually,” I thought, as the earth rushed towards me and my consciousness slipped away. “I wish I’d said good bye.”

There was a road beneath me and it looked like I was going to hit it. I’d play merry hell with their cover-up at least. Turquoise lights flickered in front of my eyes as my brain shut down and I had the faintest suspicion that the Voice was behind it.

I didn’t really mind though.

Time crawled, I really hoped my life wouldn’t flash before my eyes, it wouldn’t be good viewing. Besides I didn’t have any popcorn.

It was on this thought I crashed through the roof of a white van and finally closed my eyes; I was far too far gone for it to hurt.

Beep… Beep… Beep…

The first thing I was aware of was just how much everything hurt.

That wasn’t fair.

That wasn’t fair at all.

After you die it isn’t supposed to hurt any more.

That’s the point.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Of course, there was the possibility that I hadn’t died at all, but that didn’t make sense.

You don’t survive a ten thousand foot drop without breaking some major laws of physics.

Beep, beep, beep.

Then again, how much of my life actually involves breaking at least a few laws of physics? Me walking and talking breaks most laws of nature.

Also, whoever’s alarm that was, would they please turn it off, it was getting annoying.

At that point I realised that I didn’t know anyone with an alarm and that all the places where I could be hearing one were almost all, universally bad.

Beep bep beep!

I sat bolt upright in my bed and gasped in pain. Wait, bed? I looked wildly around and jarred my wing which was in some kind of cradle. That hurt even more, if that were possible. I bit back a yell and had to pause to let the spots clear from my eyes. I put my head in my hands and took several ragged breaths; there was a reason I was still alive, I just had to be calm, figure out a way to escape and everything would be fine.

I looked round slowly to see where I was and tried to take in a many details as possible. To my right there was a large floor to ceiling window; that would be good for an escape route, the walls were a clinical white with almost no decoration and a heart monitor was beeping frantically next to my bed.

Something clicked in my head at that point and I took a trepid breath. Antiseptic.

Damn.

I was back in the lab.

The monitor by my bed began screaming as my heart rate raced, and I leapt out of the bed, my knees immediately giving way and I crumpled, slamming my head into the window. I grasped blindly behind me, grabbing my sheet and knocking over the cradle with my wing before landing in a heap on the floor, just raising my head in time for it to be covered by my bed sheet.

Well, that probably ranks as the least graceful thing I’ve ever done. Good job no one was there to see it. The door banged open and I spun to see a woman dressed in casual clothes rush in. An unusual sight for the lab, but her name tag said Dr Martinez so I assumed she worked there, funny I thought they had a dress code.

“Are you okay?” she asked hurriedly, moving closer to get a better look at me.

“Stop!” I said forcefully, trying to curtail whatever she was trying to do and fixed her with the hawk like stare everyone finds so off putting. What? Didn’t you ever wonder where I got my name? A hawk like stare is my trademark. She hesitated and stopped on the other side of the bed. Now that was a surprise.

“I’m Dr Martinez,” she said placating. That set alarm bells ringing. No one in the lab has even come close to treating me like a human being, let alone introduce themselves. Just what was she after?

“I’m here to help,” she continued, smiling sincerely.

Yeah right.

I was silent for a long time then, at length spoke.

“Where’s your white coat, doctor?” I asked, putting as much venom into the word doctor as I could muster.

“I… I didn’t want to upset you,” she said, taken by surprise.

“And how did you know it would upset me,” I growled as my vision started to grey around the edges. Perhaps I had hit my head a mite too hard.

“I-”

“Unless you already knew all about me,” I continued, half yelling. “And that makes you one of them. Get out!” I flared my wings in anger and had to bite my tongue to some myself from yelling as my broken wing screamed in protest. Good grief, I must be losing it, I was four the last time I did that without thinking and as I’d stubbed my wing tip on the wall I was definitely not thinking.

Dr Martinez looked like she was about to say something then apparently though better of it and left. I waited a moment to make sure she wasn’t coming back, then put my head between my knees to fight off a rising faint and after the blood stopped pounding in my skull I sat back against the window and sighed. I really hate being messed with.

“You can trust her you know,” the voice cut in, only making my headache worse.

“Shut up voice,” I growled back. “You’re not allowed to make that call.” Besides if I was back in the lab I couldn’t trust anyone, anything could be another one of their mind games. I even had a sneaking that that was true out of the lab too.

“Ah, but Hawk. You’re not in the lab.”

That was a revelation, though apparently the Voice was now reading my mind, then again I had been ‘thinking’ at him for days now so maybe it wasn’t that much of a shock.

“Not, in the lab?” I though woozily, spotting a drip in my arm and yanking it out. Who knows what they could be giving me.

“No you’re…” the Voice paused. “You’re about to black out.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I thought over the pounding in my ears. “I’m fine.” Then promptly collapsed.

I woke more slowly the second time, or to be precise, more sanely. Dr Martinez was sitting at the end at the end of my bed this time in a white coat but she wasn’t looking threatening, if fact she was reading a book; a book about birds as it happened. I didn’t move and closed my eyes to a crack, I wasn’t going to panic this time. I tried panicking before and it didn’t get me anywhere.

I looked round slowly, the room wasn’t as near as spartan as I’d first thought it to be, a painting of a sailing boat was mounted on the opposite wall next to a small TV and there was even a vase for flowers on a nearby bedside table though it was unsurprisingly empty. Who do I know that would bring me flowers anyway? Though what the hell a vase was doing in the lab I have no idea, then again the voice could be right and I wasn’t in the lab, but in that case…

Where on Earth was I?

I felt around for any electronics and found nothing save for the bed controls, a remote and the heart monitor I was wired up to and that only told me it was connected to something called ‘nurse station three’, not exactly a name I’d associate with the lab, or anywhere else for that matter.

I shifted slightly to stop my wing being pinned beneath me and Dr Martinez looked round suddenly.

“Oh good, you’re awake,” she said putting her book down and reaching into her coat for something. I flinched back instinctively but it was just a pen light which she shined in my eyes. My eyes hurt but I didn’t remove my gaze from the Doctor, I was watching for some slip that would give me an advantage. Though what advantage would overcome several major injuries I have no idea.

“Can you tell me your name?” she asked, unperturbed by my stare.

“Yes,” I said blankly.

“And what is it?” she asked resignedly, I have that effect on people.

“You should know,” I shot back.

“Why should I know?” she said with obvious confusion, I would of almost said genuine confusion. That didn’t make sense at all though, if we in the lab then she would know everything about me. But then voice said I wasn’t in the lab and I haven’t caught him lying to me yet, still that didn’t explain how she knew about white coats.

“It’s Hawk,” I said begrudgingly, taking the plunge. “Seriously,” I added seeing her expression. “Where am I?”

“You’re in a hospital,” she told me, smiling slightly, probably pleased that she was making headway with me. “You were brought here after you, err, landed on one of our ambulances.”

I looked at her, incredulously, that was just too unlikely. Just what are the odds that I would happen to land on an ambulance? Infinitesimal. Even hitting a road was unlikely. I didn’t believe a word of it.

“That’s a load of garbage,” I said darkly.

“It’s the truth,” she protested and I snorted in disbelief.

“And was that the truth?” I asked cuttingly. “How am I supposed to trust anything you tell me?”

“Okay,” she said levelly. “What would it take for you to trust me?”

“Let me leave,” I told her simply. Roughly equivalent to when hell freezes over in the lab

“You’re not well enough to leave,” she said after a moment, apparently considering it. I had no idea why she was persisting with this charade.

“And that’s were the problem lies.” I rolled over, or put my back to her, it was all I could manage with my wing in a cradle.

“I could take you round the hospital,” she offered. I unfurled my other wing and held it between us, creating a wall of feathers and a very clear message that the negotiations were over. I heard her sigh and then go to leave.

“Max trusts me,” she told me and closed the door and that one sentence sent my thoughts into turmoil.

Max trusts her. What the hell did that mean? Well for a start that meant she’d met Max, probably the Max or how else would she know the significance and that she may well not be ‘one of them’. I guess if she truly was ‘in’ that did explain why she hadn’t been particular shocked about me having wings but couldn’t that be possible. You were either in the conspiracy, didn’t know about it or dead. How else would it stay a secret?

I rolled back onto my back and re-furled my wing. Of course the simple explanation was that she was lying though her teeth to me but so far her demeanour had been so alien to anything I’d met at the lab that it was entirely plausible she’d met Max and so knew a little of what to expect. I snarled in frustration, I was being outvoted by both my brain and the voice. My gut was screaming don’t trust her on the other hand, but it always screams that.

I sighed and lay back on my pillows which were surprisingly comfy for somewhere that might well be the lab. It was all academic anyway; it wasn’t like I could escape from wherever the hell I was with my wing broken, though I should always be ready for an escape route. With that in mind I decided to check out just how badly injured I was.

My right wing was splinted and hurt like hell, several bald spots telling where they had to sew me up. It was still attached to me though, which was something, but I wouldn’t be flying on it anytime soon. The solid mass of bruises on my chest implied that too, it would be a miracle if I hadn’t torn at least a few flight muscles and broken ribs were pretty much certain, though that’s not so bad for my breathing as it would be for most people. My arms weren’t in much better shape and I had a lump like an ostrich egg on my forehead twinned on the back by the one I gotten from the window, not to mention the dozens of tiny half healed cuts from the shrapnel and the disturbing number of large ones wrapped in thick bandages.

All in all I wasn’t in too bad a shape, especially since after a fall like that I should be dead at least. In fact I didn’t appear to have any injuries that couldn’t be explained by being next to an exploding helicopter, except for the lump on my head but I’ve had worse from banging my head against the bars. It was all just too weird. No make that Weird. Though I’m not sure if I should be worried or encouraged that she could reach out and grab me from over a mile away, while fighting.

I scratched my wrist pulled out the IV I found in there, I didn’t trust that they weren’t giving some kind of poison or mind altering drug.

“Like morphine,” the voice suggested in its usual monotone. I guessed it was intended to be scathing.

“And here was I thinking you’d abandoned me,” I thought back. “How long has it been?”

“Six hours since you brained yourself on the window.” Ooo, there was some contempt behind that, and possibly some: ‘I’d of expected better off you’. “And three days since you crashed.”

Ouch, everyone else had probably left me for dead by now, or if they were smart they would have. I didn’t really want anyone leading a death defying raid into the lab to save me. That was suicidal. Not to mention, my job.

“So where were you during my conversation with the good doctor?” I asked after a moment. “Usually you’d be telling me to trust complete strangers or believe what doctors tell me at face value.”

“You can not mistrust everyone Hawk, become too jaded to the world and you risk becoming like those you hate.” Now there was a disturbing revelation, and not one I particularly liked to think about besides not trusting anyone is one of my main skills. “Furthermore I can’t give you my undivided attention.”

“Great,” I said sarcastically, seizing on the familiar ground. “My subconscious is two timing on me. Well, I suppose it was fun while it lasted but I really think we should see other people.”

“Can you be serious for once,” the voice snapped.

“Can you be less preachy,” I shot back. “If you want to be helpful you can tell me where the hell I am.”

“You’re…” the voice started and then paused. “You’re perfectly capable of figuring that out for yourself,” it snapped and then was gone, or as gone as the voice ever is.

Great now I’d made my little omniscient voice mad at me; annoying the hell out of people is a gift of mine as you may have noticed.

So, apparently I could find out where I was, well I wouldn’t find anything out lying in bed. I sat up sharply feeling my head swim and wing throb as I jarred it slightly, and collapsed back onto the pillows. Okay then, maybe I would just be staying here.

I reached out with my mind for anything electronic and found squat except for the heart meter beeping happily away. I briefly had it play a bit of music, then reached down the connection to the nurses station. I guess that was my first piece of evidence that this was actually a hospital though that was just what the computer was named, not what it was.

I ghosted through the rest of the system, well I say ghosted, the heart monitor was never built to send and receive data like that so it was rather like trying to juggle wearing welding gloves, still I managed it. It was definitely a hospital, patient details, records of treatments, reams of information on illnesses and security systems roughly comparable to that of a mosquito net. It wasn’t the lab. That was for sure, now I just had to figure out why there was no Dr Martinez listed as working at the hospital.

I reached out for the internet and crashed into something, the shock sending me falling back into myself dazed.  Okay that was weird, I put my head in my hands as my vision spun and my head throbbed, painful too. It felt like I’d just lost a fight with an Eraser and there was this annoying ringing noise in my ears, I looked round and saw the heart monitor screaming as it read over two hundred. I winced and fooled it into thinking my heart was still resting, the last thing I need was some nice doctors visiting thinking I was having a heart attack.

I lay back on the pillows and tried to think about what had just happened. I’d certainly never been blocked from the internet before, it had definitely been there but something had stopped me from reaching it. That was suspicious in itself never mind the fact that I didn’t see what it was. I reached out again, more hesitantly this time and found nothing, at all, there was no block but no net at the same time and that made no sense at all.

I put my wing over my head and tried to stop it throbbing. It was probably just because I was so tired that I couldn’t reach the net. There was no way it could be a deliberate attempt by the White Coats to take away my greatest asset just when I needed it most, that would just be silly.

I tried to get some sleep and as you can probably tell, didn’t do very well.

I woke long after dawn, which as you know is an event in itself, and cautiously tried to get out of bed. This time my knees didn’t give out though my head spun and I hesitantly folded my wing against my back; it hurt like hell but at least I could move it. I walked over to the window and rapped my knuckles against it, yep, double glazing and there were no obvious catches. I wouldn’t be getting out that way, besides I didn’t know if my wing would even hold my weight.

I opened the little bedside cabinet out of curiosity and found to my surprise my clothes neatly folded and laundered, I got dressed quickly; hospital robes are really not designed for kids with wings, and checked out the door. To my continuing surprise it wasn’t locked, actually I didn’t think it even could lock. That was a dilemma; conceivably I could slip out and be gone long before they even noticed that I was missing, though where could I go with my wing splinted that they wouldn’t find in half an hour was beyond me.

I cracked open the door and spotted a man sitting on a bench down the corridor looking right at me over the top of his newspaper. Well so much for that plan. It was a shame because I really was thinking about running for it. Odd though, he didn’t look like an Eraser. I closed the door quietly and lay back on the bed, I may not have been in the lab but I was trapped all the same, so I did the one think I could think of, flicked on the TV and tried to see if there was anything good on.

It was about an hour later when Dr Martinez came in with a file and I turned off the TV with a gestured then fixed her with a cold stare.

“Ah, you’re awake,” she said smiling amiably and I deepened my glare. “How are you feeling today?”

I was silent for a while.

“How are your other patients, doctor?” I asked at length.

She looked surprised by that. “They’re fine,” she said after a moment.

“Won’t they be missing their doctor,” I said with a ghost of a grin. “What with you not working here.”

“They’ll been fine,” she said nonchalantly. “It’s just across town.”

“…Sorry. What?” Well there went my attempt at a dramatic reveal; I’d been working on it for a while too.

“My practice is just on the other side of town,” she explained. “A friend and I run the local veterinarians.”

“You’re a Vet?” I asked surprised. “So what are you doing in hospital?”

“The O.R. people called me when they realised that your biology was more avian than human,” she explained, sitting in the chair at the end of my bed. “They wanted a specialist so they didn’t accidentally hurt you.”

“And you believed them when they said they had a non-human kid with wings because…?”

“I’ve met Max,” she completed.

“Of course.” I sighed and rolled my eyes. I hate it when the bad guys have rational excuses.

“You’ve met her too I take it,” she said smiling fondly.

“Once,” I said after a moment’s consideration. “She and her friends freed fifty or so of us from a lab but we went our separate ways.”

“There were that many of you,” she said shocked.

“Were being the operative word,” I said darkly. “All but four others are dead.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said sincerely. Far too sincerely, everything about her screamed that she wasn’t from the lab but I hadn’t lasted this long trusting people.

“Everyone keeps saying that,” I said with a nonchalant shrug which hid a little shudder. It hadn’t been nearly long enough for me to get over their deaths, even though so much had happened. “You know I still don’t have a good reason to trust you.”

“Ah,” she said triumphantly, pulling a couple of X-rays out of her file and passing them to me. “That’s why I brought these.” I flipped one over a few times before I realised you needed to hold it up to the light, it looked like an arm bone but with several jagged bright spots superimposed over it.

“What am I supposed to be looking at?” I asked after a moment.

“That’s your arm,” she explained. I bit back the snide ‘I guessed’; the struts in the bone were a hint. “We had to X-ray it to find all the shrapnel and… well I circled it.”

She pointed at a particular white spot and I peered a little more closely at it. It wasn’t like the other pieces, for a start it was perfectly square and didn’t have the disruption around it like the others. I wished I knew more about X-rays but it looked like it had been there a while, or at least that’s how I read it.

“So what is it?”

“I think it’s a tracking chip. We use them on valuable pets.”

My eyes widened in shock, a tracker, inside me. How had I never noticed before? My hand shot to my arm and I clutched it without thinking. It made sense, the stupid thing made sense. They’d found us far too often and quickly for it just to be fluke; I wanted to rip the bloody thing out of my arm.

“Now Hawk don’t do anything rash,” the voice cautioned.

“Are you sure?” I asked hastily. “I mean what makes you think that it’s a tracker chip?”

“Max had one in the same place,” she explained. I didn’t think to ask why Max had had an X-ray; I was more worried about how soon the Erasers would find me with a chip in my arm. Knowing my luck they’d come through the door any second.

“Can you get rid of it?”

“Sorry,” she said collecting her X-rays. “If I could I would, but I couldn’t be sure of not hitting a nerve or vein. It’s been in there for a while you see, and your arm has grown around it.”

I looked at my forearm in frustration. This was very bad, and if I had a chip then it was highly likely that everyone else had one too. I tried to feel for the chip and felt a tiny blip at the edge of my senses, there it was, small, hard to detect, in fact it had probably been there so long that I’d just stopped noticing the near imperceptible signal. I gritted my teeth and fried it, wincing as a little jolt of pain shot up my arm. The signal stopped and I sighed, lying back against the pillows.

Dr Martinez obviously took this a gesture of resignation and got up to leave. “So do you trust me now?” she asked hopefully.

“If you get me breakfast, I’ll trust you,” I told her frankly.

She smiled at that. “Will do,” she said and left.

After about a quarter of an hour I was working through my fourth plate of breakfast and wondering if Dr Martinez had noticed I hadn’t been using the remote to switch the TV on and off when the sun started shining in my eyes. It only took me a moment to realise that the sun was on the other side of the building; I leapt out of bed and pressed my nose up against the glass and spotted Gale after a minute frantically searching the skyline of the small town I could see from my window.

I waved and Gale flashed a mirror in my eye. I glowered at her and she flashed it again, after the third time I actually got what she was trying to tell me. One long flash; in Taps language that’s, “Okay?”

I nodded and smacked my head against the window; I’ll leave out the swearing for now. Note to self: don’t nod with head against window.

Two flashes came from Gale, translation, “No?” Of course I got the question mark from the smug grin she was wearing. I glowered at her again.

Gale adopted a more serious expression, only spoiled by the fact she couldn’t keep her grin under control. “Okay?” she flashed again.

I looked around for something shiny but then realised just how stupid that would be as I couldn’t see the sun and wheeled the heart monitor up to the window, ignoring Gale’s incredulous look. I made the word “yes,” appear on the screen and looked smug.

“Fly?” she signalled.

“Broken wing,” I told her. “So no, ask Taps how long they take to heal.” Don’t ask me how Taps knows how long it takes for wings too heal, I still haven’t figured a way to pay them back for it yet.

“Out?” Gale signalled. It was tempting, it wouldn’t take much to break into a hospital, but in is the easy part and it would probably be simpler if I could fly. Besides I was being watched by someone and whoever they were they would complicate things.

“No, there doesn’t seam to be any immediate danger. Besides I don’t think my doctor is with the White Coats, I may be allowed to just leave.”

Gale looked at me incuriously. “A nice doctor? Be careful.” Then she took off, rising rapidly and heading across town.

“You too,” I said out loud, simultaneously making it appear on the screen then sighed and wheeled the monitor back into place. It was strange, I was already missing them and I’d been only conscious for a few hours. I waited a moment for the voice the comment but he was silent. I should probably be worried that I was getting used to schizophrenia but if I worried about everything I wouldn’t skydive for fun. I lay back on the bed and turned the TV back on with a thought.

After another hour I was getting twitchy, not that I particularly thought that something was going to happen but I am not used to sitting still for any length of time, especially in a strange place which I couldn’t fly away from. Besides there wasn’t anything good on TV. Someone knocked on the door and I almost jumped out of my skin, it took me some time to work out whoever it was, was asking for permission to enter.

“Err, come in?” I said hesitantly. Dr Martinez opened the door armed with her usual smile.

“How are you feeling?” she asked sincerely.

“Fine. A little stiff maybe.”

“There are some people here too see you,” she told me. My first though was of Gale and the others but she wouldn’t be that foolish, or at least I hoped she wouldn’t.

“Who?”

“They say they’re from the FBI.” My eyes widened at that, Itex had far too much sway over the government to trust anyone who even might have some affiliation with it, let alone a bureau.

“Are they the X-files style FBI, or Men in Black?” I asked in a resigned tone.

Dr Martinez looked surprised by that.

“You’ll be amazed what you get when you type conspiracy into Google,” I explained.

“X-files,” she said after a moments thought.

“So, any chance to pass me off as a rumour?” I asked hopefully.

“Sorry the whole hospital knows about you.”

Shit.

“They have been asking to see you for two days,” she continued. “Now that you’re awake I’m running out of excuses.”

“Okay send them in,” I sighed.

“Are you sure?” she asked kindly. “I can tell them you aren’t feeling well enough yet.”

I considered that for a moment, but it’s never been my way to hide behind others, if it was I wouldn’t have gotten into nearly as any messes (like this one) but that’s not the point. Besides if they really were here to take me back too the lab a polite ‘could you come back later’ wasn’t going to cut it.

“I’ll just get it over with,” I told her.

“Okay then,” she said and left.

A moment later a man and woman in semi casual suits came in.

“Hi we’re…” the man began but I interrupted.

“Agents Mulder and Scully,” I said theatrically. “Investigating reports of strange people with wings.” I got glowered at, it was worth it though, I’d been planning that joke for some time. “Just thought I’d put this in context,” I explained with a grin.

“Actually we were on another case,” he said with a slight sigh. “Then we got a message that the hospital had a non-human kid with wings in their emergency room, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m agent Mathews and this is agent Keifer.”

He held out his hand to shake and I regarded him a moment before taking it.

“Hawk,” I supplied and nodded at agent Keifer. I got a slightly incredulous look from agent Mathews.

“I know it’s silly what with me having falcon like patterns on my wings,” I said with just a hint of sarcasm. “But it’s my name.”

“Sorry,” agent Mathews said apologetically, taking a set at the end of my bed, agent Keifer joined him. “Kids tend to give us their nicknames to seem cool.”

“You can call me HJ9314 if you like. But that’s a bit of a mouthful.”

“You have a serial?” agent Keifer said surprised. “You’re an experiment?”

I lifted my wing out of its cradle and folded it behind my back. “Yeah. What of it?”

“The bureau’s been hearing rumours of a lab making viable human recombants for some time now,” she explained. “We’ve got a department investigating it but so far they haven’t turned up anything, if you give evidence though we could blow the whole thing wide open.”

I sighed. “Unfortunately I think there might be some resistance to that.”

“We can offer you protection if you want,” agent Mathews said honestly.

“I don’t think you can protect me from what’s after me,” I said sadly

Agent Mathews was about to say something when the door banged open and Glass Eye walked in with a big grin on his face.

I was out of bed and had my back against the window before anyone moved and was clenching and unclenching my fist as fast as possible, which is the equivalent of screaming ‘HELP!’ in Tap’s language. Hey, I was being attacked by a wolf monster with dramatic timing. I swear he must have been listening at the door to actually enter just then.

“Who the hell are you!” agent Mathews demanded, rising suddenly and blocking Glass Eye’s entry into the room. This wasn’t going to end well, I could tell.

“Relax I’m with the FBI,” Glass Eye said off-handedly, still grinning. Behind me I heard the ‘pak!’ of something exploding but didn’t look round, Erasers are fast and sharp so it’s best not to take your eyes off them.

“Yeah so am I,” agent Mathews shot back, not being intimidated. “So show me your badge.”

“Its right here,” Glass Eye said reaching into his jacket, then backhanding him right across the jaw. Agent Mathews went flying and smashed into a wall and I winced as he crumpled to the floor and lay still, eyes unfocused. Agent Keifer went for her gun but a second Eraser barged his way into the room gun already in hand and got his shot off first. The bullet slammed into agent Keifer’s shoulder and she slumped in her seat, Glass Eye moving in as quick as a flash and knocking her out with a quick rabbit punch.

“So,” Glass Eye said viciously, turning to face me, not even breathing heavily. “I’ve finally got you right where I want you. Hawk.” It’s hard to describe how much hate was in the word ‘Hawk’, it was worse than me with ‘doctor’.

“So you learnt my name,” I said brightly. “Congratulations.”

Glass Eye snarled at me, a muzzle beginning to push out of his face. “You’re just lucky I have to take you in,” he barked. “Otherwise I’d…”

His eyes widened at something over my shoulder and I dropped into a ball, if there is one thing I’ve learned since I escaped sometimes it really is better to act rather than think. The window exploded and razor sharp shards of glass went flying into the room, I heard Glass Eye swear and something roared over my head. I uncurled slightly, shaking glass from my hair and watched Gale, wreathed in blue light; kick the bed against the door and land heavily amidst the sound of shattering glass.

The second Eraser darted out of the way of the flying bed as I leapt to my feet and Gale caught him with an uppercut. There was a roar of inrushing air and a flash and the Eraser slammed into the ceiling, bouncing slightly when he hit the ground, out like a light. Glass Eye howled in frustration and swung at Gale and for a moment I thought she was actually going to try and catch his fist but it slowed to a crawl just in front of Gale’s hand and the blue light shone like a beacon.

Glass Eye strained against the invisible force, growling like a rabid dog then suddenly the resistance was gone and he ran straight into Gale’s fist which was suddenly at his stomach. I did a double take; I hadn’t even seen her move. There was another flash and Glass Eye went flying, hitting a wall and going straight through it as the plasterboard disintegrated.

“You okay Hawk?” Gale asked, turning round and letting out a pent up breath as the light faded.

“Yeah,” I said, still getting over the shock of her entrance. “Wait, why aren’t shredded from flying through a window?”

“I’ve learned some PK tricks,” she said shrugging. “Oh yeah, and Tapper said it took her a week.”

“Damn.”

Glass Eye groaned as he stirred, and I could see other Erasers putting their heads round the hole to see what was going on. They didn’t look best pleased by what they saw.

“Leg it?” Gale suggested.

“Leg it,” I agreed.

Gale jumped out of the window, unfurling her wings and rising fast into the sky. I half opened mine, it hurt, but it would be worse if the Erasers caught me. Probably. There was a low moan behind me and I whirled to see agent Mathews clasping his head. I hesitated, if I left him here who knew what the Erasers would do but flying with a passenger is not a pleasant experience, especially as he certainly weighed far more than me. Well If I couldn’t take him from the Erasers I’d just have to take the Erasers from him.

“Hey Glass Eye!” I jeered. “You getting slower or is it just my imagination?”

There was a moment’s stunned silence. I don’t think the Erasers really believed I’d just said that. Heck, I didn’t believe I’d said it.

“Get him!” Glass Eye roared and I took a step backwards over the lip of the window, dropping out of sight and kicking off the sill slightly so I wouldn’t crash into the building. In retrospect I probably should have jumped as I needed all the height I could and it was only five stories, not to mention the fact I still had no idea if my wing would support my weight. The wind whistled around me as I spread my wings and felt the muscles across my chest burn, then I actually caught the air and my wing flared like a supernova.

I gasped in pain and surprise and let my wings go slack without a second thought to the ground rushing up to meet me. I landed hard on the curb outside the main entrance, which is just my luck and sank to one knee letting my wings fall limp either side of me, ignoring the stares of shocked bystanders. Hopefully the Erasers would be too busy chasing me to silence them too, though that did assume that I could run.

I shook my wing experimentally, it hurt like hell but I could move it. I really should have tested it properly before I jumped out the building but when have you known me think things though? Glass Eye was giving me the evil eye through the remains of the window and I decided it was time to get the hell out of there before he, or the other Erasers, tried jumping or just took the stairs. I took off at a dead sprint just as a few people overcame their surprise to go to see if I was alright and blew through them, dashing out onto the road and running up the roof of a parked car.

I spread my wings again and felt my wing flare in protest. I ignored it, retreating slightly to my quite place to blot out the pain. My wings caught the air properly this time and I shot forwards, heading out over a short expanse of grass and then gaining height just in time to soar over the roof tops. I looked over my shoulder to try and spot Gale but instead saw Glass Eye jump out of the window, for a moment I thought he’d finally gone insane but then he unfurled his own oily black wings and roared after me, closing fast.

Too fast.

I hammered my right wing down as hard as I could and saw stars but completed the manoeuvre, flipping onto my side and throwing myself up and left just in time to avoid Glass Eye who missed me by a whisker. Screaming beneath me and already beginning the bank that would bring him round for a second pass. I began too lose height as I stalled, I really wasn’t going fast enough for any proper dog fighting, and folded my wings, dropping back beneath roof level and getting as much speed as possible.

I caught myself just before I became a road pizza and shot along the road, flying just above the traffic, there wasn’t room to dodge it as the road was only as wide as my wings anyway. I looked over my shoulder to see Glass Eye screaming over the rooftops to my right and immediately banked left, almost losing a wing on a stoplight, several of the cars waiting at it and a van crossing the intersection.

I levelled out and flapped as hard as I could, Glass Eye hot on my heels, gaining ground fast and I quickly flitted through my options. They weren’t great, I had a higher top speed but he probably better acceleration. I was going a lot slower than him which essentially gave him most of the cards, though I was smarter and better looking.

Glass Eye charged at me and I started a loop, feeling my wings strain as I fought to keep them ridged. The pain was rapidly spilling into my quiet place and I retread deeper but it would only be a matter of time before I either passed out or was completely cut off from reality. I reached the top of the loop and levelled out suddenly, barrel rolling back to upright and pumping my wings as hard as I could. It couldn’t last; I was going to collapse from exhaustion if it kept up. Where the hell had Gale gotten too?

I saw a flicker of movement in the corner of my eye and the voice yelled, “Look out!” But I was already falling out of the way of the two Erasers who screamed over me, one taking a slash at me with his claws and missing me by scant inches. I spread my wings again before I fell back below the roofline but at least four more Erasers were speeding towards me and the first two were coming around for a second pass. I was being overwhelmed and couldn’t even see Glass Eye, though that would normally be something to celebrate.

Gale plummeted into my line of sight and drove her shoulder into the small of one Eraser’s back. I heard the crack from a good dozen yards away and he tumbled out of the sky, hitting a roof hard and lying very still. Gale almost joined him but recovered just in time and roared back into the sky picking out her next target.

“Gale!” I yelled. “I need a speed boost!” She looked confused for a moment, dodged a reaching Eraser then realisation struck.

“Right!” she called back. The first two Erasers were coming round for a second pass and I banked to face them, at least Gale had distracted the others. I’d managed to get a little speed going but I was really wishing I could delegate some of my thoughts to the internet, I guess I’d just have to wing it.

The Erasers raced towards me, one playing wingman to the other, and I waited until the very last second before barrel rolling, bunching up my legs for a kick of opportunity. The Erasers flashed by, swinging wildly but my spin had gotten me out of the way just in time, my wings slotting neatly through the gap between them and I stuck out. Hitting a wing and sending one spinning out of control.

I levelled out as Gale shot over me and I caught her slipstream, accelerating up to a more comfortable speed.

“It would be easier if you didn’t move,” Gale snapped over her shoulder.

“You slow down you die,” I yelled back and I looked over my own shoulder to see the six remaining Erasers lead by Glass Eye hot on our heels.

“We’re going to have to lose them,” I shouted at Gale. “I can’t keep this up.”

Gale nodded gravely, that fact that I was admitting to that meant I was on the ropes. “Split up,” she said. “Then head for the woods.”

“Right!” Gale banked right and I shot past her banking left. I briefly thought how cool it would be to kick off each other but that would be best practiced when we weren’t running for our lives. I looked back over my shoulder and saw all but one Eraser following me, terrific, and dropped as low to the rooftops as I dared. There was a wood ahead of me but I judged that they’d catch me long before I reached it and that was assuming my wing didn’t give out, it was getting harder and harder to concentrate on anything other than the pain.

“You’re dead bird boy!” Glass Eye hollered at me leading the charge of Erasers. I rolled my eyes. He really had to start watching his blood pressure, of course that would all be academic if he actually caught me. I dropped back down to street level and flew as close to the traffic as possible which would have been far more effective if there had actually been much traffic. Damn small town America!

I heard a bellow of triumph and threw myself right as Glass Eye took a swing at my wings and sliced my way between a building and a stop sign, flipping to over to take the next left and gained a few precious yards as Glass Eye struggled along in my wake. My vision started to grey out at the edges as I flapped harder; I had to lose them now before it was too late.

A warehouse complex loomed ahead of me and I took a risk; rising fast over the closest and spotted one with its doors wide open. I dived towards it, dodging yet another wild Eraser lunge and sailed through the doors already pulling up as hard as I could. Finally maybe I’d have a chance to make use of being more manoeuvrable. The grey around my vision started spreading as the g-force took its toll on my wings but I couldn’t stop I’d slam into the roof, speaking of which it was getting awfully close awfully quickly.

I passed the support beams at near vertical and began flapping desperately to break the airfoil and help gravity drag me back down. It was going to be close; I really should have thought this one through. It was just as the Erasers swooped into the warehouse that I realised that I wasn’t going to make it. I folded my wings, ignoring the shards of pain, flipped upside down and crashed into the ceiling. I took the impact on my legs and folded up against a ceiling, of course I was still doing about eighty but along, not up. I kicked off before my momentum ripped my feet away and suddenly was rocketing back towards the ground behind the Erasers who hadn’t thought to look up yet.

I flared my wings and fought back a yell. I was so close to escaping I couldn’t ruin it now. I pulled up just short of the floor and felt my shoes bounce off the concrete, it really should have hurt but my wing was taking up all my attention. the Erasers were flapping frantically to avoid crashing into the back wall and I shot back towards the ceiling, this time aiming for a skylight. I heard Glass Eye howl with rage beneath me and really wished that there was an open window but beggars can’t be choosers.

I broke through into the open air and unfurled my wings, I knew I was on my last legs, especially as the beads of sweat on my forehead were campaigning to be renamed as an ocean but at least I bought myself some get away time. I laboured towards the woods and there was the crash of breaking glass behind me. You know I really thought that I’d get more time that, and glanced over my shoulder to see four Erasers and Glass Eye come tearing after me.

I smiled faintly over the fact I’d at least taken one of them down, it was all I could manage so deep into my quiet place. I was once again keenly aware that I was about to die, which has been happening far too much lately, and was torn between watching the Erasers close or just closing my eyes when Cam struck. Smashing into one of the Erasers and sending him spinning then diving after him delivering blows to about any part of the Eraser he could reach. Cam may not be strong but he makes up for it in sheer determination.

Tapper took advantage of Cam’s distraction to sneak up beneath another Eraser on silent wings and then, quick as a flash grabbed his wing on the down stroke and twisted. I winced as I heard the crack and he fell howling, though I really wished that Glass Eye had at least looked round, I had no idea how he was getting even his fake eye to look murderous. The other Eraser was looking scared though and desperately searching for the next attack, funny thing about flying, there are always a few dimensions you miss. Weird fell from the sky and slammed a rock into the Eraser’s back, which must have so hurt. She smiled viciously and her eyes flared green for a moment before fading back to brown.

“You’ll pay bird boy!” Glass Eye screamed, mere feet away, sweeping his wings powerfully and lunging at me claws outstretched. I pumped my own wings but knew immediately that it was just delaying the inevitable. I was exhausted, in agony and frankly tired enough just to fall asleep where I flew.

It was at this point Gale landed on Glass Eye’s back with all the power of a thousand foot fall and he crumpled; well I say landed, it was more a flying kick. Glass Eye hit the trees with a leafy thud and disappeared beneath the canopy. I smiled properly this time, all be it woozily.

“You okay?” Gale asked, flying along side me.

“Nothing a few band-aids won’t fix,” I said blearily.

“Hawk you have to land now!” Weird cried, also flying along side me, quickly joined by Cam and Taps.

“I’m fine,” I murmured as the world began to truly go dark.

“Hawk?” Gale asked anxiously as my wing beats faltered.

“Just need a little nap,” I muttered, or at least I think I muttered it. “I’m kind of tired.” The world went dark and I fell into blissful unconsciousness.

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