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That night I dreamed.

It didn’t make any sense. Fragmented images blazed into my brain leaving confusion and disorder in their wake. Double helixes spun round my head, unwinding, breaking apart and reforming in strange shapes. Embryos spun in gleaming chrome machines, and I saw snaps of a growing foetus and the tiny wings on its shoulders. After that my dreams became more normal; cages, Erasers, frowning White Coats and screaming experiments. What can I say, I have issues. I’d like to see you go through it though.

I woke with a yell as a bundle of feathers hit me in the face. I opened my eyes and looked blearily around trying to see who was attacking. Next to me Weird thrashed her wings, kicking up a miniature hurricane in the small room and moaning gently in her sleep. ‘Looks like I’m not the only one having nightmares,’ I observed. Then Weird cracked me over the head with her wing and I saw stars.

Gale leapt up from the sofa where she had been watching TV and grabbed at Weird’s wing before Weird managed to hurt herself. Weirdness sent her flying with one flick of her wing and pushed down hard launching herself from the bed. I caught her before she hit the floor and hooked my arm around her wing to stop her braining me. Her eyes flicked open, unseeing and glazed green. A high pitched wail filled the room and I ducked instinctively as the bedside lamp burst as if hit by a hammer.

Tapper slammed her hands over her ears, dropping the sheaf of papers she had been reading. Cam attempted to leap up but got tangled in the sheets and fell over with a yell. Weird thrashed with her free wing and broke my grip. She fell to the floor with a thud and a little cry. The room flared for a moment, every object seeming to have its own dazzling corona. Then the TV exploded with a bang and we all jumped.

Weird started crying, the green glaze fading from eyes. I knelt down next to her.

“It’s okay Weird,” I whispered comfortingly. “It was only a dream. Dreams can’t hurt you.” ‘Apparently they can hurt us though.’

This touching scene was broken from someone hammering on the door.

“Hey! What are you kids doing in there?” a brash male voice hollered through the wood.

“Time to go,” I said simply, no one argued. We untangled Cam from the sheets and gathered up the pages of code that Tapper had taken from me as I slept, (I really have no idea how she is that quiet) then we were out of the window and in the sky before the man could get the spare keys.

“Well that could have been worse,” I said when we reached three thousand feet and were sure no one was following us. Not that a bunch of normal people could follow us.

“Please don’t say that,” Gale said exasperated. “It’s too early in the morning to deal with Erasers.” I shrugged and glanced around for the thousandth time for pursuit. Nothing like paranoia to keep you out of trouble.

“So where are we going?” asked Cam swooping over.

“East,” I replied. “I thought you would have known that.” He gave me a withering look and I fought to keep a straight face.

“No seriously, where are we going to go?”

“Right now, as far away from the lab as possible,” I explained. “I’ve heard good things about California. You can’t get much further from New York without crossing the Atlantic.”

“Cool,” he said enthusiastically. “We could go hide out in San Francisco.”

“Actually I was thinking more in the mountains.”

“I thought we didn’t know anything about living on top of mountains,” Gale commented innocently.

“Well we can always try,” I said angling myself towards the rising sun and pushed down hard with my wings accelerating towards the horizon, the others following close behind.

Okay, I’m going to romanticise flying here so you might want to skip the next few paragraphs if you have a short attention span.

You know, flying is absolutely amazing. Actually you probably don’t know. You’ve never flown. Oh sure, you’ve probably all been in a jet at some point but that’s like comparing a coach trip to driving a rally car.

Flying. Real flying is almost beyond words; you feel the gentle caress of the wind in your feathers, the bliss of coasting in a thermal and the electric thrill of dive-bombing at over a hundred miles an hour. It’s simply awesome, in the true sense of the word. I wonder if the White Coats and the Erasers hate us so much because we have so much they don’t. Except for, you know, the basics; food, safety, security, a warm place to sleep and not being hunted for being a genetic freak.

In my opinion flying makes up for it though. My personal favourite part of flying has to be diving as I think I’ve mentioned, possibly because I’m so good at it. It’s not a special skill, it’s just the way I am, I have a slight backwards kink in my wings at, for lack of a better word, the elbow joint which makes me super streamlined and super quick. Especially compared to Gale whose wings flare big time at the ends, making her slower. She could beat me long distance though.

If you’re wondering just what my wings look like, well, they’re kind of a cream with dozens of dark brown highlights that run in rough lines the length of my wings. Tapper’s are the same creamy brown but she has thousands of tiny brown dots that make her look like she’s been dusted with chocolate powder. Weird’s are just as black as night. Gale’s are a deep brown that fade to black near the end and Cam’s are similar but are a lighter shade of brown than Gales and his rear feathers are a bright green, just like his hair. Someday we think all his feathers will all go green and he’ll look just like a parrot. I can’t wait.

Joking aside, my wings and flying are a big part of who I am; just as important as arms and legs for most people. I’m not just a kid with wings. I’m a winged kid. You know?

Nah you probably don’t. But Hawk is not just a name, it’s also a description.

Anyway back to the action.

We were cruising at around twenty thousand feet which, for those of you without feathers, is about as high as you can go without freezing your wings off. My thermometer watch had frozen about two hours ago and we were all starting to feel the effects of the cold and the thin atmosphere, and flying for the last four hours. We would have called a break earlier but we had the slight problem of the thunderstorm that stretched from horizon to horizon. Word to the wise, if you see a thunderstorm heading towards you do not go over it.

“Gale I’m cold,” whined Weirdness in her best cute voice, she always acts that way when she’s trying to get something. Fortunately it doesn’t work on me. I hope.

“I know Weird, we’ll find a place to land soon,” Gale assured her and then looked at me questioningly. I drifted close to her, wondering why I should be the one to make the decision.

“I…” a roll of thunder cut me off. I paused and then began again, “I think we should find a place to land.” Gale and I both glanced down at the forbidding clouds seething beneath us. Another flash lit up the sky; I looked over my shoulder at the setting sun and chewed my lip. It was my own damn fault, we had caught a whiff of Eraser where we stopped for lunch the second time and then I’d decided that we should fly as high as possible, reasoning that flying Erasers wouldn’t be able to breathe at this altitude.

Actually now I come to tell you it seams like a terrible idea. And now we had been trapped by the storm. I sighed in agitation. “We may have to risk it,” I said finally.

“What?” she exclaimed. “We’ll get fried if we try and fly through that!” The others looked round in shock; I saw the fear and confusion on their faces.

Well done Gale.

I flew as close as I dared to Gale and hissed. “We’re going to have to. In fifteen minutes we’re going to be frozen solid.” I gestured at Cam who shivered and shook a rain of ice crystals from his wings. “And when that happens we’ll be coming down whether we like it or not.”

“Fine,” Gale said bitterly looking down at yet another lightning bolt tearing through the clouds. “It was your idea though.”

“Ladies first,” I said smugly, she elbowed me in the wing and I dropped ten feet.

“Okay guys,” she announced raising her voice. “We’re going to make a break for it.”

“What!” Cam cried over his own chattering teeth. “You’re crazy, we can’t fly through that.”

“No, she’s Gale!” I yelled at him. “And you’re Cam, now let’s get out of here before we have to start swigging de-icer!” He rolled his eyes but folded his wings and started plummeting towards the ground; the others hesitated for a moment but then followed.

I waited for Gale to begin her slow dive before loosening my wings, letting the air slip out of the grasp of my feathers. I started falling, slowly at first but gathering speed rapidly. I pumped my wings, throwing myself towards the ominous black clouds. I sliced past Cam and then throttled back, using my wings as breaks even though I’d much prefer speed.

The storm rushed towards us, seeming to swirl upwards to grasp us in its deadly embrace. A lightning bolt ripped through the air just below us and I swerved to avoid the superheated air, Cam following closely in my wake and the others in his. I broke into the cloud and was immediately soaked to the skin. I fought to keep my wings airfoil as the seals broke between my sodden feathers. The wind howled and tried to blow me out of the sky. Visibility was virtually nil and I could barely see Cam flying two yards behind me.

I was flung left by a miniature cyclone then was forced to level out as a lightning bolt flashed beneath me. I wiped the rain from my eyes which did almost nothing as it was coming straight at me and looked back to make sure Cam was still there. I caught sight of Gale swooping into line before a gust of wind blew me to the left. I entered a relatively calm zone and actually risked flapping my wings. Something felt wrong however, I wasn’t sure what though. Cam flew along side me for a moment, a puzzled look on his face. A shock ran up my spine and spread itself across my wings.

“What the…” I started to say but then Weird screamed over the storm.

“Lightning!”

I didn’t bother wondering how she knew just wrenched in my wings and dived. A bolt of lightning exploded into existence around me, corkscrewing impossibly around me. I yelled in pain as a tiny spark slammed into my arm. When the after image faded, I looked around, the flock were falling around me, far to fast to be safe. Another lightning bolt burst into life behind us, singeing our tail feathers.

It’s just a figure of speech, we don’t have tail feathers.

I held my arms and legs ridged behind me, trying in vain to steer slightly without opening my wings. It didn’t work; actually maybe tail feathers would be a good idea. Gale was struggling, the wind kept plucking her wings open, in the end she just started flapping. It was just as fast, though she was thrown around a lot.

Ahead of me I saw a cluster of lights. ‘Finally the end.’ The tendrils of rain parted to reveal the lights of a small town, not fifty yards from us. I flung open my wings and yelled, feeling the G-force pulling at my insides. I made it, barely. I levelled out at street level, caught my foot on the tarmac and flipped onto my side to avoid crashing into a car.

I looked around wildly for the others and panicked when I couldn’t see them behind me. I spotted them above me, speeding along just above the roofs. Smaller wings aren’t always best I guess, I rose to join them. Cam was looking singed but excited.

“Let’s do that again,” he said smiling broadly.

“No!” we all yelled in unison. I’m not sure I can cope with a daredevil Cam.

We flew away from the town, mostly because we were still doing about one eighty and you can’t stop on a dime when you’re going that fast. We found a small farmstead that looked like it had shut for the night and holed up in the barn. It wasn’t the Ritz but it was dry and the cows didn’t mind sharing.

Once inside we shook ourselves dry and settled in for the night, Weird did some trick to dry our clothes but I have no idea how, if only it worked on our wings. After that we tried to get some sleep, well most of us did, I was pulling watch. I settled against one of the wooden pillars and held my wings open slightly to let them dry.

I really hate being on watch. Two hours where if you’re lucky nothing will happen, and you can’t just let your mind wander because then you’re not watching. Back in the warehouse, me and the flock had pretty much done every watch as Toad Boy couldn’t organise his way out of a paper bag.

I sighed and surveyed the flock. One, two, three sleeping forms. Gale was lying spread-eagled on the floor, Weird and Cam using her wings as slightly damp pillows. Tapper was sitting up still trying to figure out those pages from the lab, I don’t know why she was bothering. I’d taken a look earlier it was all in some nonsense code, what a letdown.

I wondered just what it was I was watching for, no one would be mad enough to come looking for us in this weather. Besides how was I supposed to hear anything over the din the storm was making? I tried not to fall asleep and counted the flock again to stay awake. One, two, three sleeping forms. Tapper sighed and slipped the pages back into her jacket then settled down to get some shut eye. Lucky devil.

One, two, three sleeping forms.

Wait.

I looked around hurriedly. I could see Gale lying on her back with her mouth open, Cam next to her, Tapper a few feet from them.

I couldn’t see Weird.

I leapt to my feet, Weird couldn’t be gone, I couldn’t lose her again. “Hey guys,” I said anxiously, Tapper sat up looking at me questioningly, Gale and Cam didn’t stir. “Guys!” Gale woke with a start and sent Cam flying.

She looked around wildly for an attacker. “What, what is it?” she said sleepily.

“Weird’s gone,” I told her. That woke her up.

“Gone? Where? How?” she asked getting up and dusting straw from her jacket.

“No idea,” I said testily. “Now help me look for her.”

Needless to say she wasn’t in the barn, and I still have no idea how she managed to slip out unseen. We went outside to look for her. Into the storm.

Weird closed the door behind her with an almost imperceptible click. She couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t see why anyone would want to. Not with the storm swirling around them. She could feel the energy in the sky, it was amazing, exhilarating. She felt like singing it was that much fun, if only she could remember the words to that song, you know the one, with the man singing in the rain?

She practically danced into a nearby field. The storm was stronger there, out of the shelter of the farm buildings. She relished in the energy from the rain for a moment then realised she was getting wet. She stopped that. The rain stopping dead in a dome around her. Weird didn’t think anything of it. A bolt of lightning lit up the sky a half mile away and Weird gasped as the power washed over her. Too far away though. She wanted it closer.

She formed the image of a lightning bolt in her mind. Nothing happened. She poured a little bit of power into the sky. Still nothing. Another bolt flashed through the sky, further away this time. Weird chewed her lip, something she had seen Hawk do when he was thinking. She could feel the lightning going from high to low, well that couldn’t be to hard to do.

She pulled some energy from the ground and pushed it into the sky. There was a massive boom and a lightning bolt earthed itself a few feet away, she should have been sent flying but the force deadened itself on her rain shield. She stole the energy from the lightning bolt and pushed it back into the sky.

Another bolt crackled into life above her head, she stole that one as well and forced the energy back into the sky. Lightning boomed around her, tearing chunks of earth from the field. Her eyes started to mist over but she didn’t care this was way too much fun. She started tracing lines in the sky and the lightning followed them, she spelt out her own name, then traced a feather and finally a pair of wings two miles across.

The storm got heavier; she could feel it flailing against her shield, large chunks of ice shuddering to a stop when they came near. She shivered and then realised just how cold it had gotten, she wrapped a lightning bolt around her to keep warm and was suddenly surrounded in a veil of steam. She giggled in joy though could hardly see the steam surrounding her. Her world had been entirely subverted by the green light.

Weird tried to draw more power from the earth and then realised that there wasn’t any. That was strange; she had never felt anything with no energy before. She sent another six bolts of lightning hammering into the field to warm it up but it didn’t do much. She crashed a dozen more into the earth but they weren’t nearly as strong as the others. She flashed another three small ones across the sky before giving up. She waited a moment for the green light to clear from her eyes. Slowly it dissolved like morning mist fading back to that faint suggestion around the corners of her vision.

She still couldn’t see though.

The storm seemed to have gotten heavier in the last ten minutes which I wouldn’t have believed was possible. Rain hammered into us, seeping through our supposedly waterproof jackets.

“Split up and look for her,” I yelled over the roar of the wind. “She can’t have gone far.” I think the others answered but they were drowned out by a crash of lightning that hit barely a hundred meters away. We all went in different directions; I stalked off in the direction of the lightning strike under the reasoning that she was probably in the last place I wanted her to be.

It didn’t take long to find her. She was standing in the middle of a field with her arms raised above her head, her eyes turning the air around her an eerie green. I called out to her but suddenly lightning cracked around us and I was flung to the ground. I covered my head with my arms, the burn on my arm smarting where I brushed it against the ground. After a moment I looked up to see Weird standing there oblivious to the electric death roaring around her.

Lightning streaked across the sky, it may have been my imagination but I think it spelled out Weirdness, but it vanished to quickly for me too be sure. The second one I was sure of, a giant feather traced against the sky. My jaw dropped, that was impossible; there was no way on earth that anyone could control lightning. The sky lit up again this time a giant pair of wings, night black, outlined with a flash of lightning.

I tentatively got to my feet and brushed some snow from my shoulder. ‘Snow? What the hell is going on, it’s September?’ The storm intensified again and I raised an arm to ward off a shower of stinging hale. A lightning bolt streaked from the heavens and wrapped itself around Weird.

“Weird, no!” I yelled against the boom of thunder. The light cleared and instead of the blackened corpse I was dreading Weird was standing there a broad grin on her face. I don’t think she saw me, even though she should have; I was only about six yards from her. I ran towards her and struggled to keep my feet as a half dozen bolts of lightning slammed into the field around us. A full dozen followed and I ducked instinctively as three more streaked over our heads.

I got to Weird who obviously wasn’t sharing my blind panic; in fact she looked a little put out. “Weird! Weird!” I cried grabbing her by the shoulders. “Are you okay? How many fingers am I holding up?” I held up three just in front of her eyes.

She looked up at me unseeingly, completely ignoring my outstretched fingers, focusing on a point slightly out of sync with my eyes. “Hawk I can’t see your fingers, it’s too dark,” she said confused.

I looked down at my hand which I could see clearly even in the half light of the storm. A flash lit up the sky. “Tell me you saw that?” I said with growing apprehension.

“Saw what?” asked, still confused. Her eyes widened and I saw them properly for the first time, they didn’t even look like eyes anymore, just rounded balls of jade.

“I’m blind,” she said in shock. Then she put back her head, and screamed.

Trust me on this, no one can scream like a mutant bird kid. Something to do with the lungs I think, if you took an X-ray you would probably only recognise about a third of it. I clapped my hands over my ears, Weird screams at roughly the same pitch that shatters glass. She paused for breath and I slammed my hand over her mouth.

“Weird, calm down!” I yelled, as the storm gave another ominous rumble. She turned her sightless eyes on me and I got as far as thinking ‘Oh shi…’ before her eyes flared and I was blasted backwards, landing hard ten feet away. I lay still for a moment trying to figure out what had happened. It felt like I had been hit by a truck.

The green light faded from Weird’s eyes, completely faded, there wasn’t even that telltale glow. She looked around wildly straining to see something, anything I suppose.

“Hawk?” she asked weakly, I remained silent, I wish I hadn’t but I could still remember that impossible force against my chest.

“Hawk where are you?” she asked again, pathetically groping at the air around her.

My indecision ended. It was that, or have my heart break. I got up slowly and deliberately noisily. Weird’s head whipped round, I flinched involuntarily as her eyes fixed on me but nothing happened.

“It’s okay Weird,” I said softly, walking slowly towards her and taking her outstretched hand in mine. “I’m here. I’ll always be here.”

She smiled slightly, almost apologetically. “I can’t see,” she explained. An emerald tear formed beneath her eye and I wiped it gently away.

“I know Weird,” I said comfortingly. “We’ll fix it.” I’ve no idea how I was going to fix it though. The others came running, Gale almost flying to our side.

“What were you thinking,” she half yelled at Weird, gasping for breath. “You scared us half to death.” She caught the look I was shooting her and then glanced down into Weird’s eye and blanched. “What on earth happened?” she asked after a stunned pause.

Tapper and Cam arrived with an almost simultaneous. “What’s going on?” Weird turned her sightless gaze on them and they fell silent.

“I think I burnt myself out,” she explained sheepishly, looking at her shoes, or close to them.

I heard hurried footsteps and spun round, a man wearing a dressing gown and a mackintosh was hurrying towards us. He also had a shotgun. That was kinda’ important. My usual strategy will gun toting maniacs is to take wing and be a tiny speck on the horizon before they’ve picked up their dropped jaws but, you can’t fly if you can’t see. God that’s an awful thought. Weird could never fly again.

“Trespassers,” he wheezed, at least thirty years over the limit for running through a storm. “Load of scheming kids too.” He pointed the shotgun at us. I really, really hoped that he had the safety on. I gripped Weird’s shoulder and pushed her behind me, there was no way she could stop bullets blind. It’s remarkable how much we rely on her for that. Scratch that, it’s depressing how much we have to rely on her.

“There’s no point trying anything,” he said waving the shotgun in our faces. “Old Betsy has never let me down before.” ‘Old Betsy? This guy’s crackers.’ “And I’ve called the police.” I was one step away from legging it and just carrying Weird but I reckoned this guy was crazy enough to shoot if we tried running.

“Okay sir,” I said raising my free hand, the others following suit. “We’re not going to do anything.” Inwardly I rolled my eyes, it would be so easy to grab the gun, whack him over the head and be across the fields before he recovered. Of course the gun could go off and one of us get hit. Or he could be hurt. Maybe killed.

“You’d better not, or you’ll be in a whole lot of trouble.” ‘Not as much as you would be’ I thought viciously but remained silent. He led us off to his house which was a beacon of warmth and friendliness. I wondered why he lived there.

“Molly!” he hollered as we filed inside. “I’ve found a load of trespassers.” He managed to put a lot of scorn into that one word. His wife, a slightly plump woman, bustled into the room, took one look at us standing in our sopping clothes and dripping on the carpet.

“Oh the poor dears,” she exclaimed. “I’ll go get you some hot chocolate.” I smiled despite myself.

“Don’t coddle them Molly!” he yelled angrily but she ignored him and bustled out, she seemed the kind of person that always bustles. A few minutes later she came back with five steaming mugs which we took gratefully.

“Don’t worry yourselves,” she said kindly after I had thanked her. “My husband’s just a little excitable, Mrs Wilson will sort it all out.” She passed a mug to Weird who grabbed at it and missed, the mug didn’t fall though, she got it second time. Molly caught my disbelieving stare and glanced round to see what was wrong, she didn’t see anything usual though, just Weird sipping at her hot chocolate.

The man was brooding in the corner when the cop arrived. Probably because we were slowly soaking his couch. He leapt up and I winced as he jostled the shotgun.

“Trespassers!” he cried flinging the door wide. “Trespassers, on my land too.”

“Mr Jones please put down the shotgun,” said the exasperated cop who I assumed was Mrs Wilson. “Let’s deal with this like civilised people.” Mr Jones looked a little put out but finally lowered the shotgun.

She came in took one look at us sitting bedraggled on the sofa and rolled her eyes. “Hardly a gang of vicious trespassers, Mr Jones. You kids okay?” she asked us.

“Haven’t been shot yet,” Gale said trying to sound nonchalant. The cop smiled.

“Don’t worry about that, Mr Jones is just a little excitable.” Behind her Mr Jones grunted irritably.

“I want them punished; they were trespassing on my land,” he said raising the gun again. She waved him off.

“What are you kids doing out here so late?” she continued. “You runaways?” We remained silent. “Well, don’t worry you can come along to the station and we’ll call your parents.” Err… officer, little problem with that.’

“I want them punished,” Mr Jones demanded again.

“Of course,” she said. “I’ll deal with them in the same way I deal with all the trespassers.” He missed the conspiratorial smile that flashed across her face.

“Good,” he grunted. “Now I never want to see you kids again,” he told us matter-of-factly.

“Don’t worry you won’t,” the cop assured him. She led us out. I took Weird by the hand but she still managed to upset a lamp.

Running was still in the back of my mind but I wasn’t sure Weird would be able to keep up, not to mention the fact if we ran we would look very suspicious. She shepherded us into the car and probably out of habit pushed down slightly on my shoulder as I got in. I tensed as her hand brushed against my folded wing but she didn’t seem to notice.

“You kids okay back there,” she asked brightly, looking in the mirror at us squashed into the back, Weirdness was sitting on my lap and Cam on Gale’s, neither of them looked very happy about it.

“It’s a little tight,” Cam complained. “Can’t I sit in the front?”

“Sorry, Rich is very particular about those kinds of things. It’s only a little way anyway.” She started the car and I jumped. I’d never realised that car were so noisy.

“So where you kids from?” she asked after about a minute of silence. I eyed her suspiciously, why did she want to know?

“She could just be being friendly.” I gritted my teeth as a shard of pain dug into my brain.

‘Hello insanity, long time no hear,’ I growled at it.

‘No need to be unfriendly. I’ve just been a little busy lately.’

‘Sure I bet you’ve got lots of winged kids you annoy.’

The cop broke me out of my inner dialog; I didn’t real want to listen to him anyway. Humans being friendly. Ridiculous.

“You shouldn’t be worried,” she said gently. “Mr Jones is a little… temperamental.” We still didn’t say anything, she sighed and changed tack.

“My little boy’s about your age,” she said looking at Weird who kept her eyes downcast. “It’s his tenth birthday in a few days. He’s so excited.” We stayed silent, partly because we didn’t have a clue what a birthday was.

She shook her head resignedly. “You’re really not in trouble,” she explained gently. “We’ll call you parents and sort this whole thing out.” Yeah there’s the problem right there.’

She stayed silent for the rest of the journey and after several awkward minutes we arrived at the station. She led us gently inside and we followed unresistingly. I was still waiting for the grand escape plan to form in my mind. My constant worry for Weird wasn’t helping, especially since most of my plans involved opening my wings wide, feeling the air flow gently beneath them and fly. But then Weird may never be able to do that again.

Inside the station there was an argument going on, a man had cornered one of the cops behind his desk. It looked like it had been going on for some time.

“I know what I saw,” said the man to the desperate looking cop who had his head in his hands. “And what I saw was a bloody harpy.” I froze, around me the flock stopped too; probably wondering if this was the start of my grand plan.

“I know, I know I heard you the first four times,” the exasperated cop said. “But for the love of Pete what do want me to do about it?”

“Hey George,” our cop said coming in after us. “Still at it then?”

George shot her a look that said clearly ‘Save me!’ She smiled slightly.

“What do I want you to do about it? I want you to go out and catch it. Call the pound. Call the vet.”

We were hurriedly ushered out. Our cop rolled her eyes conspiratorially at us and led us through another door into a room with two cells. “We’ve only got the two,” she explained, unlocking a set of keys from a ring in the wall. “So you’ll have to share with the other two kids while I go rescue George.” She did her best to sound friendly but it fell on deaf ears, we were all thinking of much smaller cages, and how we would never, ever go back in one.

She opened the door to one and looked in in confusion. “Hmm, George must have let them out.” She saw us eyeing the cell cautiously. Actually we probably looked more petrified than cautious. “I won’t lock it if that’s what you’re worried about. But we only have four rooms, this is the biggest.”

The flock looked at me, even Weird. It was my call, do we trust her or do we run.

Why do they always ask me?

‘Maybe because you’re good in situations like this.’

‘Shut up voice, if I were any good in situations like this we wouldn’t be in this mess.’

The cop was waiting for us to make our move and the flock was waiting for me. I think I started to hyperventilate; it was way too much. Why couldn’t it be something simple like dealing with Erasers? At least then I would know I couldn’t trust them.

“You okay?” the cop asked looking genuinely concerned.

“Claustrophobia,” I blurted out. “All of us.” The others nodded enthusiastically.

“All of you?” she asked sceptically. Well so much for that story. There was a loud crash from the other room.

“I’d better go check that out,” she said frowning. “George has probably knocked his coffee mug off the desk again. Stay here.” She left loosening her gun in her holster. Wish I’d noticed that at the time.

I sank against the wall and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“So,” said Gale trying to sound nonchalant. “You’re a harpy now.”

“Shut up Gale,” I said exhaustedly.

“What is a harpy anyway?” asked Cam.

“It doesn’t matter,” I told him. Tapper whispered something to him and he started sniggering.

‘On your left.’

My left arm shot out before I had time to consider this suggestion and I grabbed something that felt like an arm. I caught the briefest flash of a scared face with deep violet eyes but then it was gone. I was still holding on to something though.

“Get off her you big bully!” a voice from nowhere yelled at me. Something crashed into me and I struggled to keep my feet. A fist shimmered into existence in front of my face; I’ll let you guess what happened next.

I reeled back trying to staunch the flow of blood from my nose. I let go of whatever it was I was holding and raised my arms to protect myself.

“That’ll teach you to touch my sister!” the disembodied voice yelled at me again. I flailed at the rough location of the voice and hit something open handed. A kid with grass green hair appeared out of thin air and went flying, hitting the ground with a cry.

A girl with violet eyes materialised next to him. “Mir,” she asked him anxiously. “You okay?” The kid groaned slightly

“Mir, Mir, Mir,” Cam muttered to himself. “Mirage!” he yelled, the girl looked round in shock.

“Cam?” she asked tentatively.

“Rainbow!” Cam shouted in joy. I repressed the urge to point at myself and yell Hawk.

Cam ran towards her and took her in a big hug which she returned, both of them turning slightly yellow. “I thought you guys were dead,” Cam continued joyfully. “What happened? They took you away years ago; I thought I was the only one left.”

“They took us for special observation,” Rainbow explained with a shudder. “But we escaped a few months ago.”

“Cam could you please explain what’s going on?” I said exasperated, feeling like I’d been suddenly been thrown into a badly written soap.

“This is Rainbow and Mirage, I grew up with them,” Cam explained pointing at the girl and boy in turn.

“Great, more winged kids,” I muttered.

“No, no wings,” Rainbow said sadly, helping Mirage to his feet. “Avian and reptile don’t mix well; we just got the reptile part.”

“But this is amazing,” Cam said excitedly. “I mean what are the odds of us meeting like this.”

‘Yeah what are the odds?’ I smelt a setup. “I thought the kids you grew up with were dead,” I said to Cam with my usual tact.

“To the White Coats we might as well be,” Rainbow said bitterly. “No wings, no success. If we couldn’t camouflage, we would have been put to sleep years ago.”

“Camouflage?” I started to ask but was interrupted by a huge bang from the main room.

“What the hell was that!” exclaimed Gale.

“One of the guns the Erasers use,” Tapper said simply. I didn’t question how she knew. Tapper can hear which way up a coin lands.

“Right,” I said hurriedly to the gathered mutants. “I’m Hawk, this is Gale, that’s Tapper, and the kid with the green eyes is Weirdness. Stick with me and we’ll stay alive. Do you two know a back way out?”

They shook their heads. “They just put us in that big cage,” Mirage said quietly. “We were just sneaking out. Sorry about hitting you.”

“That’s okay, look it’s stopped bleeding already” I said waving it off and looking round the room for escape routes. No luck there, only one door and a few barred windows.

“We’ve got to move,” I explained quickly. “They’ll find us in no time if we just sit here.” I walked silently to the door, everyone following cautiously behind me.

I opened the door slowly, glancing around the short corridor. The female cop was pressed up against one wall; gun in hand, one arm hanging uselessly at her side and blood slowly soaking her sleeve. She desperately motioned us back but then froze as she heard footsteps. She shifted her gip on the gun and turned slightly so if anyone came through the doorway she could get the first shot in.

The floor beneath her creaked slightly. Fatally. The footsteps paused. Suddenly there was the roar of a gun and a ragged red hole appeared in her chest. She looked down in shock for a moment. Then the gun dropped from her limp hand and she slid slowly to the floor, leaving a gall raising red streak on the wall behind her.

I fought the urge to retch and looked away from her sightless brown eyes. I looked back then had to look away again.

“You reckon I hit her?” asked a rough Eraser voice.

‘Oh yes you hit her all right’ I thought angrily. Gale passed something into my hand. My fingers tightened around the gip and automatically found the trigger. The gun from the Erasers, and she’d brought it into a police station. Oh well, at least it would be useful.

An Eraser stuck his hairy head round the door, I squeezed the trigger, the gun barked and a chunk of plaster exploded next to his head. I pulled again and bright blood blossomed from a hole in his sleeve. He ducked back into the main room as I pulled the trigger the third time and the gun clicked empty.

“Oh real useful Gale!” I exclaimed shoving the gun into my belt loop. Great, now they knew we were there and they thought we were armed. How do I get myself into situations like this?

The cop’s gun was lying on the ground next to her lifeless form, in plain view of the doorway though. I chewed my lip for a moment, ‘Hell! I’m going to have to make a break for it.’

“Okay,” I whispered to the assembled mutants. “Count to five and then run for the exit.” They all nodded. ‘One,’ I counted in my head. ‘Two. Three!’ I rushed forward and threw myself to the ground next to the cop picked up the gun and crouched low to the ground, aiming into the room.

I immediately saw three things. One, there were five Erasers looking at me in shock. Two, there were two garrotted bodies lying on the floor. And three, four of the Erasers were carrying machineguns.

“Aw, crap!” I yelled and started firing. The Erasers dived for cover as bullets whizzed by their heads for once. The others came running, one Eraser raised his gun to aim at the wall but I hit him in the shoulder before he could pull the trigger.

I clicked empty. The Erasers levelled their guns at me grinning viciously. There was an explosion of noise and suddenly Weird was in front of me, her eyes blazing like the sun. The bullets screamed to a stop just in front of her outstretched hands. I saw a bead of sweat trickle down her forehead, turned green by the light of her eyes.

The firing stopped, the Erasers gazing in disbelief at the swarm of stationary bullets. There was a moment of stunned silence and I saw Weird droop in exhaustion, her head resting on her chest but still holding her arm rigid in front of her. She looked up. The fatigue gone from her stance. Looked directly at each Eraser with her unearthly eyes. She drew back her hands, the bullets wobbled slightly in mid air. She slammed her arms forward and the bullets exploded into life, flying backwards into the room. The walls spit as bullets slammed into them, lamps and windows shattered, chunks of desk went flying and the Erasers ducked for cover, a few bellowed in pain.

I caught Weird as she fainted, throwing her over my shoulder in a fireman’s lift.

“Come on lets go!” I yelled at the others who were standing in shocked silence.

“How the…?” Rainbow stated but stopped and joined the others in running. We raced through the main room dodging round recovering Erasers, I hustled the others through the door. One Eraser raised his gun to his shoulder and tried to fire but hadn’t reloaded, he growled in annoyance.

We hit the street running, a black van in the parking lot burst open and a group of Erasers rushed out slamming clips into their guns.

“Fly!” I yelled opening my wings wide. Gale gathered Mirage in her arms and flapped her wings once, twice, then struggled into the sky. Tapper and Cam took off then swooped down, each grabbing one of Rainbows arms, carrying her into the sky. I pumped my wings with little effect. I could feel the wind rushing through my feathers, beckoning me to the sky. But Weird and I were just too heavy.

I sprinted forwards as a bullet zipped past the edge of my wing. I gulped in air and put more spring into my step, trying to run my way into the air. I raised my wings as far as they would go, leapt up and hammered down with them and amazingly stayed airborne.

Just.

Bullets screamed around me as the Erasers finally got their act together but it was too late. We were speeding away through the sky.

Long gone.

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