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I found Rainbow skulking in yet another ditch with Weird, and landed clumsily next to them. I’d given my Erasers the slip and apparently so had Rainbow, or at least I couldn’t see any nearby and I did check this time. Thoroughly.

“What happened?” Rainbow demanded the moment I landed. “Did you manage to save them, and how’s Mir?”

“Oh, you saw that then,” I said sheepishly. I was hoping that I could get away with losing to the Erasers without anyone knowing. Then again we’d all lost today, big time.

“I saw you fighting those winged Erasers and getting your ass kicked. Great distraction by the way,” she said snidely, rolling her eyes. It had seemed like such a good plan at the time as well. Okay maybe it hadn’t. Ever. “Now how’s Mir?”

“Alive,” I told her, I knew that at least. “I think it was only a leg wound anyway.” Rainbow sighed in relief. “I couldn’t save them though,” I added sadly.

“I saw that too. Whatever happened to save them later?”

“Logic sucks,” I said simply as an explanation shrugging. Rainbow smiled slightly. “Anyway, how’s Weirdness?”

“Apart from heavy? Still unconscious. What’s wrong with her anyway?”

“I told you, she’s exhausted.” I checked on Weird, she looked like she’d been dragged through a hedge backwards, which was probably true, but still had a pulse and was breathing, and she murmured slightly when I put my hand against her forehead to check her temperature. Maybe she’d wake up soon.

“But what does that mean?” Rainbow persisted. “How did she do that? How on earth can anyone do that?”

I sighed. “Look can we get moving first, there are still Erasers out there and being found is not on my top ten things I want to do today list?”

“You’re going to have to tell me some time,” she said practically. She was right, but I needed a run up before I started telling anyone about Weird.

“Fine,” I said shouldering Weird again, every time I forget just how heavy she is. “Let’s just go.”

“Where to?” she asked. “We could spot where they went if you flew up and took a look around and then we’d know where to go.”

I shook my head dejectedly. “We need to get out of here first. If I fly we get caught and I have no idea which way they took them.”

“We can’t just abandon them,” she exclaimed, realising what I was suggesting in shock. Heck so was I, but it was the sensible choice. Well everyone always said I take to many crazy risks. Gale would approve if I ever saw her again.

“We’ve lost,” I said bitterly. “We don’t know where they are and there are enough Erasers around that if we even raise our voices we’ll be caught. What else can we do?”

“Very sensible Hawk,” the voice commended, breaking its long silence, much to my annoyance. I ignored it, the last thing I needed was that suck up jerk patting me on the head when I made a decision that I knew deep down was totally and utterly wrong.

“We save them,” she countered. “We can’t let the Erasers take them back to the lab they’ll do more ‘experiments’ on them.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” I roared in anguish as I pictured my flock in chains, in cages, surrounded by White Coats with surgical masks. Rainbow flinched back but I didn’t care. I wasn’t just yelling at her but the voice in my head and my own pig headed sensibility.

“We can’t save them now!” I growled, reining in my anger somewhat. “But I promise you I will, save them.”

There was a stunned silence and then Rainbow asked in a small voice. “What did you say about raised voices?”

I thought about that for a moment.

“Shit!” I exclaimed. There has not been word invented for just how stupid that was. “Let’s get out of here before…” I was cut off as and Eraser burst through a gap in the hedge about a hundred yards away. He looked round wildly, yelled when he saw us and charged.

Rainbow turned to flee and I almost followed her but then I stopped and lowered Weird gently to the ground. I’d been running far too much today and where had it got me? I’d lost my flock, I’d lost to the Erasers and I’d abandoned my friends. I wasn’t going to run this time.

“This is incredibly stupid Hawk,” the voice pointed out as I shifted my weight and balled my fist, readying to receive the Eraser.

“Shut up,” I snarled back, watching the Eraser, trying to gauge speed and distance; neither of which were looking very good for me. Erasers can really sprint. “I tried listening to you and look where it got me.”

“Where it got you was free and alive,” the voice countered as if stating the obvious. That was too much. Didn’t the blasted thing realise none of that mattered to me if I wasn’t free with the others?

“Just, shut, up!” I snarled and suddenly the Eraser was on top of me with a malicious glint in his eye. I swung my fist and caught him square in the jaw and dived out the way as he fell, his head trying to go the opposite direction to the rest of his body and he hit the ground with a crash, skidding several feet in the mud. He groaned and tried to get to his feet, then I hit him with a rock and he slumped to the ground unconscious. The crunch was incredibly satisfying for some reason.

“You’re insane aren’t you?” Rainbow said, shaking her head and walking back towards me.

“Probably,” I agreed. I have been talking to myself after all. “Now should we get out of here?” There were more yells at the far end of the field and I spotted a group of Erasers mounting a stile. A very large group.

“Run,” I suggested simply; Rainbow nodded. I went to pick up Weird and then paused as the radio attached to Erasers belt crackled into life. Well that could be useful. I grabbed it, snatched up Weird and started running after Rainbow who was already fifty yards ahead of me. She’s got some survival instincts, I can say that. Better than mine.

“They’re heading south east,” an Eraser voice barked through the radio. Told you it would be useful.

“Roger that,” another answered and I rolled my eyes; I didn’t know people actually said that in real life. “The girl is just coming up on our position.”

Damn it!

“Rainbow, look out!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. Rainbow skidded to a halt and looked at me questioningly just as a group of Erasers burst out of the bushes next to her. In retrospect it probably wasn’t a good idea to distract the person just about to be ambushed. Oh well, live and learn.

One Eraser dived at Rainbow who flickered out of visibility and I assume sidestepped as the Eraser ploughed into the ground; I wished I was close enough to see his face. I hung a right into the field hoping that Rainbow would follow and immediately skidded on a patch of mud. I swear that the ground has it in for me. Seriously, when was the last time you saw me get in trouble in the air?

Don’t answer that.

I glanced over my shoulder; the Erasers were haring after me, gaining ground far too fast for comfort. I missed a step to readjust Weird on my shoulder and then put my head down and sprinted as fast as I could. If I could just reach the next field I’d be safe. I kept telling myself that, I didn’t really believe it though. Weird was getting heavier by the second and I could hear the taunts being thrown at me by the rapidly closing Erasers but if I got to the next field I’d… Well I’d think of something.

I skidded to a stop and groaned as I saw another detachment of Erasers charging at me from the other end of the field. I was trapped.

“So what now?” Rainbow asked right next to my ear making me jump. Okay correction, we were trapped.

I gently put down Weird and did a three-sixty. Short answer, Erasers everywhere. If we ran in any direction we’d be caught, I could fly but I wasn’t going to abandon anyone ever again.

“You should save yourself Hawk,” the voice commented dispassionately. “Getting yourself caught is the worst thing you can do.” I ignored it. If running was its best solution I’d figure something out on my own, though I had no idea what.

I could hear the Erasers announcing they’d ‘got us’ over the radio, and I snarled in frustration.

“You should run,” I said darkly to Rainbow. “At least save yourself.” She didn’t respond, probably weighing up her options. I raised the radio to my mouth and tried to yell something rude at the Erasers and then winced as I got a feed back loop. Hmm, that gave me an idea.

“Second thought,” I said to Rainbow. “Cover your ears.” I didn’t look round to see if she complied, just focused on the radio in my hand. Radios aren’t smart enough to talk to, at best they’ve got three chips and a circuit board but it was enough to control.

I cranked the transmission volume up way beyond what the manufactures ever thought possible and then put the frequency to about forty thousand hertz. Now we’d just see how dog-like Erasers really are.

“Test,” I whispered into the microphone, then yelled in surprise as the radio glowed red hot in my hand and I dropped it just before the case started melting. The sound wave hit a moment later. I didn’t hear it. It was more sort of felt it as an all over pins and needles and a stabbing pain in my ears which caused me to double over in agony. The Erasers head it though. You have to pity the ones wearing headsets.

Weird woke with a yell and I was immediately at her side, ignoring the pained whimpers from the few Erasers still conscious and my own throbbing eardrums.

“Weird are you okay?” I asked hurriedly probably far too loud, but my ears were ringing and I could feel a headache setting in. That’s the last time I try that trick.

“I think so,” she said weakly. “What was that?”

“That’s what I want to know?” Rainbow half shouted. Definitely not trying that again.

I struggled to think of a way to describe that, it wasn’t easy my head was killing me and I still have no explanation as to how I talk to computers. “Well, have you ever scrapped your nails down a blackboard?”

“No,” Rainbow said bluntly.

I sighed and tried to think of another metaphor, it wasn’t actually that surprising, I’ve never scraped my nails down a blackboard, I just heard that was a good example.

“Okay,” I began again. “You know how Erasers wince when you make a really loud noise.” Rainbow nodded. “I just sent a really loud noise through all their radios that was far too high pitched for us too hear.” Rainbow thought about it for a moment and grimaced. I turned my attention back to Weird.

“Where is everyone?” Weird asked as I lifted her to her feet. That was not a question I wanted to answer.

“I messed up,” I told her after a moment’s hesitation. “The Erasers took them.” I saw the shock set into Weird’s eyes which flared a brilliant green.

“But I saved us,” she objected. “Cam had just been hit and the Erasers were closing in but I got us out of there.”

“Yeah,” I said sadly. “They got us after that.”

“No!” she protested eyes flashing. “I just saved us; I can’t have been unconscious that long.”

“Twenty minutes,” I explained softly. “Maybe half an hour, they’re long gone.”

“We’ve got to save them,” she exclaimed, engulfing herself in a green glow, spreading her wings and raising slightly off the ground. That was a new trick. I saw Rainbow take a step backwards and couldn’t blame her; Weird’s getting weirder.

“They can’t be far, we have to find them.”

“They’re gone Weird,” I told her bluntly grabbing her shoulders to try and stop her panicking like I did when she went missing. The green light flared as I put my hands through it. “But we’ll fi…”

I was cut off as the light blazed and was blasted backwards by a wall of energy, hitting the ground hard and a couple of feet from an Eraser.

“No!” Weird yelled desperately rising even further off the ground. “They can’t be gone. I won’t let it happen.”

“Weird, calm down,” I shouted at her as the ground began to shake. Hmm, Déjà Vu. Rainbow was skittering away on her hands and knees, I presumed she’d been thrown to the floor to and couldn’t blame her for wanting to get away from Weird.

“I have to find them,” Weird boomed, doing the trick where her voice came from everywhere at once. “I have to save them.” I wondered if she even knew she was speaking; I don’t know anyone else who monologues their thoughts.

Weird rose higher and her green nimbus changed from its brilliant emerald to a sickly green. I winced; this was not going to end well. Lightning arced between Weird and the ground. I don’t think she noticed that either. The Eraser next to me cracked open an eye, took one look at Weird and quite smartly shut it again. Couldn’t say I blame him.

I had no idea what to do, though it pains me to admit it the most sensible move was waiting for her to calm down. Trying to get close enough to talk was out of the question as I’d probably get fried but I wanted to help her somehow. Green light totally blotted out Weird’s eyes and shockwaves began rippling through the earth with her at the centre.

I scrambled to my feet and almost immediately stumbled as the ground beneath me shifted. I needed to do something before someone got hurt, I tripped over another wave of earth and caught a glimpse of the sky boiling above, and had to do a double take. Lightning rumbled in the swollen clouds which I could have sworn weren’t there five minutes ago and the entire sky seemed to be revolving around us.

Another wave of earth brought me back to my senses and I scrambled towards Weird, trying to ignore just how much power you would need to control the weather. Remind me not to annoy her. Weird was totally surrounded by a corona of green lightning, which looked more than a little lethal. Well, I was just going to have to trust her.

I readied myself to leap at Weird when suddenly I heard a bang and whirled to see an Eraser looking in shock at the bullet stopped in mid air a couple inches from his gun. The gun roared again, stubborn guys Erasers, and a lightning bolt shot over my shoulder, blasting me sideways and hitting the gun which glowed white hot for a moment and exploded.

So did the Eraser.

I hit the ground hard for the second time in as many minutes and felt the world hold its breath. The Erasers lay on the ground looking stunned at the remains of their fallen comrade; Rainbow was a sensible distance away looking a cross between amazed and horrified. Even the ground was frozen in its rippled pattern. Just wait till the conspiracy nuts found this.

I heard Weird collapse behind me sobbing and I ran to her. Her eyes had gone completely green again but that wasn’t much of a surprise.

“Weird,” I asked hesitantly, knowing what had happened last time if I’d asked her if she needed help. “You okay?” What a stupid thing to ask.

“I didn’t mean to do that,” she said desperate rush, looking right at me with sightless eyes. “I just wanted to stop it like last time but there was so much power and I was so busy looking for the others and I just lost control.”

I didn’t know what to say so I just picked her up and held her close.

“I killed him,” she continued still sobbing. “I killed both of them. I tried to help and only made it worse.”

I started to contradict her but then spotted the Erasers getting to their feet and regarding us warily. Not good. I picked up Weird and caught Rainbow’s eye and began to walk towards her, trying to keep all the Erasers in view at the same time. None of the Erasers wanted to attack first; they’d all seen what had happened. Weird was still murmuring to herself but I blotted her out; safety first, sanity second.

We reached the edge of the circle of Erasers and I started walking backwards, losing eye contact could be deadly. I heard an Eraser growl and judged that my window of opportunity was closing.

“She’ll do it again,” I warned then.

“No I won’t!” Weird cried shrilly. I started running then, not even waiting to see their reaction. Whatever it was it wouldn’t be good.

I accelerated to catch up with Rainbow who was also running flat out and glanced over my shoulder to see the Erasers scrambling after us and just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it began to hail.

“Weird,” I said anxiously, looking over my shoulder to see the Erasers gaining fast. “We could really do with that teleporting thing again.”

“I’m never doing anything like that again,” she responded grimly. “Every time I do someone gets hurt.”

“Weird, we’re going to get mauled if you don’t get us out of here right now!” I shouted at her desperately as I spotted some of the Erasers pulling out guns. Obviously they had forgotten the lightning.

“You really want me to do it?” she asked softly. I saw the pleading in her eyes but I didn’t register it. I was too high on adrenaline.

“Yes!”

“Okay,” she said simply. The noise began almost immediately, a rising note that overwhelmed out all other noise, the ground beneath me became rock hard as it iced over and the puddles froze into miniature icy lakes. I had a brief moment to think, “What the hell?” before there was a blinding flash, and everything vanished.

Everything came back in a rush and I felt my stomach lurch as we began to fall and not just a few feet this time, we were at least a thousand feet up. I spread my wings and swore. Great aim, Weird. Next to me Weird had spread her own wings and below me… Rainbow was still falling.

I swore again, louder this time and folded my wings, opening them again a few seconds later and flapping hard. We were about a thousand feet up and while that sounds like a lot, it’s actually its about eight seconds, if you’re lucky. I pumped my wings harder. Rainbow was about a hundred feet below me and screaming blue murder but at least it wasn’t snowing here.

I plummeted through the sky towards her, folding my wings back and making a conscious effort not to aim to hit her. The wind rushed past my ears blotting out all other noise leaving only the pounding in my ears and the steady whump of my wings. It was almost serene; I guess I’m just born to fall.

I caught Rainbow a hundred feet from the ground and slammed my wings forward, flapping them to break the airfoil and trying to pull up as fast as possible. It was at this point I actually looked at the ground and realised that we were falling straight towards a town, definitely not good. I banked sharply to avoid crashing into a low building as we levelled out dangerously close to the ground and almost had Rainbow ripped out of my arms by the G-force. She was lighter than I expected, but still far heavier than I’d like.

We dropped below roof level and I had to flip onto my side to avoid having my wings ripped off as we shot through an alley. Rainbow was shouting something but I didn’t listen, I was too busy concentrating on not crashing. The gap between the buildings widened suddenly and I shot straight up, holding my wings rigid and letting our speed evaporate.

I breathed a sigh of relief and shifted my gip on Rainbow so I had my elbows hooked under her arms.

“Cool,” she said reverently after a moment. I rolled my eyes and began to spiral lower, straining with my wings to keep us airborne.

“You enjoyed that didn’t you?” I asked raggedly. “I didn’t have you pegged as a speed freak.”

“I did have you pegged as a speed freak,” she shot back. I just rolled my eyes, I didn’t have enough breath left to argue.

We landed in a small park just off the main road and I sat down heavily, gasping for breath. Weird landed sheepishly next to us a few seconds.

“See,” she cried despondently. “Someone always gets hurt.”

“No one got hurt,” I said breathlessly, getting to my feet. I wasn’t going to mention the fact that my wings were burning after carrying me and Rainbow.

“I know your wings hurt Hawk,” she said severely, looking right at me. “Don’t lie to me.” She fixed me with a cold stare, it was strange but her eyes weren’t glazed over at all, and for some reason that worried me.

“Don’t tell me she’s reading minds now?” I thought to myself but she didn’t seem to react to it. Maybe it was the sensing pain thing again. Weird sat down heavily looking sadly at the ground and I didn’t have a clue what to do. Gale always handless the touchy-feely stuff and I kind of stand back. Half an hour away from the others and we’re already falling apart; just shows how good my leadership skills are.

“Weird you saved us,” I said, taking the plunge and kneeling down next to her. She didn’t respond. “They’d of got us to if you hadn’t gotten us out of there.”

“I didn’t save us all though,” she said grimly, still staring at the ground and not meeting my eyes.

“No one expects you to be able to save them all,” I told her kindly.

“I should be able to!” she cried, looking right at me a green storm in her eyes.

Rainbow coughed quite deliberately and I whirled to see a passer by looking at us suspiciously. We were making a scene and that was not on my list of top ten things to do today.

“I don’t deserve this power,” Weird said sadly, looking back down at the ground and jolting me back into the conversation.

“What?” I looked back round at her shocked. I’ve said it before, one crisis at a time please.

“You know that never happens,” the voice pointed out but I ignored it. I hate it when he’s right.

“I don’t deserve power,” Weird repeated grimly. “I’m never using it again.”

“What?” I exclaimed, tuning back into the conversation. “That’s stupid. It’s your gift Weird. It’s your right to use it.”

“It’s a curse,” she told me darkly. I had the sudden impression that the person talking to me was much older than she appeared. “If it was a gift I would be able to save them. If it was a gift I’d know how to use it.”

“But Weird…” I began and was cut off by her glowering at me.

“If you…” Her scowl darkened and I petered out again.

“Why don’t we…”

“No!” she said definitely and turned her back on me, crossing her arms in front of her.

“Alright then, fine,” I said angrily getting to my feet. “I’ll just go and find the others on my own.”

“What?” she asked in a small voice, surprised.

“Well, you’re obviously too high and mighty to want to help -”

“I still want to help,” she cut in.

“No. No. Don’t worry yourself. Obviously I don’t have near omnipotent powers but I’m sure I’ll muddle along.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” she said pathetically, visibly slumping. “It just gets people hurt.”

“You’ve saved us too many times for that to be true,” I told her darkly, beginning to walk away. Weird didn’t respond.

“Don’t you think…” Rainbow started to say as I walked by but I silenced her with a glare.

“Look,” I said quietly, pausing and shoving fifty dollars into her hands. “Take care of her. Get yourselves breakfast. I’ll be back in half an hour. I promise.” Then I stormed off round the corner, barely noticing the sound of someone starting to sob and angry enough not to care.

“That was unnecessary Hawk,” the Voice said a few minutes later after I had stopped fuming to myself.

“Really?” I thought back, looking round for a map and spotting one of the large public information ones on the other side of the road. “We would, we were willing to risk anything save her, why shouldn’t she do the same?”

“You have no idea what she’s going through do you?”

“Do you?” I shot back, crossing the road and walking to the map.

There was a pause and then the Voice said, “No. But at least I have some sympathy for her.”

“Oh, I have sympathy,” I thought back testily, looking for the nearest big shop. “That’s when you feel pity for someone being tortured by the White Coats, like Gale, Cam, Taps and Mir.”

“Mental pain can hurt just as much as physical pain.” I rolled my eyes. I knew that from all the headaches the voice had given me.

Five minutes later I stormed into the nearest Wal-Mart and found the cheapest phone I could find with an internet connection and then found I still didn’t have enough money. Fortunately these places have a cash machine on site just in case you haven’t spent enough already.

“Hi, could I have some cash please?” I thought at the machine, I didn’t want to risk speaking out loud I was already getting enough funny looks. Strange, no one even looks twice at a thirteen year old kid wearing clothes that look like they have been slept in, trying to get cash in New York.

“Why, who are you?” I heard a voice in my head say and somehow knew it was the machine. I wasn’t really surprised that the machines were now talking into my head but groaned a little when I realised that it didn’t know me. That would make getting money out of it ten times as difficult.

“I’m Hawk,” I thought simply. Maybe word of mouth or processor had gotten my name around. “Look, I’m in some trouble and I need some money.”

“Do you have an account?” See, bureaucracy penetrates even the information superhighway.

“No, I do not have an account,” I thought back despairingly, knowing exactly what the answer would be.

“Well then, I can’t give you any money.” I was right. “If you opened an account then I could help you.”

“I know you can just give me the money,” I thought testily. “And I really need it. It’s an emergency.”

“What kind of emergency?” the machine asked. Another question I didn’t really want to answer.

“I need to buy a phone,” I thought as quietly as possible, not that that makes much difference when you are communicating by… okay I have no idea how we were communicating but it apparently doesn’t make that much of a difference if you whisper.

“That’s not an emergency!” the machine said accusingly and I groaned again. It had been too long a day for me to deal with this and it was only half seven so I did something simple; dumping a good chunk of today’s memories, some of the less repressed ones from the lab and my plan to trawl the net to find where the others had been taken. It worked when we were trying to find Weird so why not now?

The computer was silent for a moment, then ‘transaction complete’ flashed on the screen and it spat out a handful of bills. I got the feeling that it didn’t want to talk anymore, then again I hadn’t been entirely fair. I’ll add it to the list of people I have to apologise to today. I bought the phone without a word and apparently scared the girl at the counter half to death. I have no idea how. Maybe the dark cloud above my head had become tangible.

I dived into the first alleyway I saw when I left the shop and leapt onto the fire escape, scrambling up it and finding a reasonably dry spot to sit beneath a heating duct before  turning the phone on and sending my mind inquisitively out towards it. It wasn’t that bright. Think ‘stunned puppy’. Actually, thinking about it I was rather surprised that I got such an intelligent response from the cash machine. Maybe I had been talking to the central computer. You usually don’t get an intelligent response from anything short of a network.

I opened up the internet connection, hardly broadband, but it would do and suddenly realised that I didn’t have a clue where to start looking. Maybe I could hack the lab’s records but I had no idea their address or even if they were on line. And even then I’d have to negotiate my way round every electronic defence known to man and trawl through gigs of data. I clasped my head in my hands. Understanding the scope of the problem is the first step on the path to true panic.

Okay, thinking about it logically my problem was I wasn’t able to search in enough places quickly enough and wasn’t able to process all the facts fast enough, so really my problem was being too human and only being able to concentrate on one thing at once. Wow, I never though my problem would be being too human. So my solution was to either a) let my mobile do the search itself and risk it being distracted by a butterfly or b) become more like a computer.

I chose option b); it was more likely to succeed.

I threw myself into the internet, logging part of my mind in a handful of servers still with their factory default settings and was immediately struck by the vastness of the world around me. There’s no proper way to describe the internet; it’s just data, how you see it is entirely based on how you look at it. One moment I was standing in the centre of a vast city, each building large or small depending on how much memory the real computer had, then everything flickered and suddenly I could see millions of glowing nodes all seemingly miles away but connected by shimmering strands fine as gossamer.

The view kept flickering, each computer represented by a tree, a bird and once disturbingly, cages. After a thousand or so different forms it settled into the one with the million nodes probably because it was the easiest one for me to comprehend. I tentatively reached out for a node that I recognised as Google, marvelling at the thousands of pulses flowing down the strands and each being shot back out towards another node. I didn’t even want to think about how complicated that was but in a strange way I understood it, I sent my own search query, ‘the institute’ and got over a million hits. Well nothing for it, I split my mind and went to all of them.

***

It felt like a physical blow when I rushed back into myself and I had this overwhelming feeling that I’d lost something but I put it down to no longer being connected to a thousand other computers. It didn’t really matter anyway, I thought as I slipped the phone into my pocket, surprised to see that only ten minutes had passed.

I’d found them.

I found Weird and Rainbow in a McDonalds a few minutes later after picking up some printouts from a rather surprised looking clerk at the local print store; apparently they aren’t used to their printer coming to life and printing off several dozen maps, and ordered half the menu for me and an ice cream and a milkshake for Weird.

“Here,” I said slipping into a booth opposite her, placing the ice cream and milkshake in front of her and forcing Rainbow to budge up. I wasn’t sure if Rainbow was shooting me a look of despair or just shooting daggers, her expression said one thing but her eyes, now a blood red said otherwise.

“I owe you a milkshake from New York,” I told Weird when I didn’t get a response. She hadn’t even looked up.

“Why?” she said sadly after a moment, picking at a packet of fries.

“Well everyone else got one after our first winged Eraser chase,” I said shrugging. “I thought it was time you got yours.”

“I’m not using it,” she said sadder still. Damn, I hadn’t thought about connotations to that shake, it really was just something I owed her, not something to make her guilty about us saving her from the lab.

“I’m not going to make you use it,” I said kindly, tearing a burger into quarters and swallowing one whole. Maybe I have some swallow in my DNA. “He’s right, I really have no idea what you’re going through, it’s your choice whether you use it or not.”

“Who’s right?” Rainbow asked suspiciously and I’d realised in horror that I’d made yet another slip. Fortunately Weird changed the subject before anyone discovered just how crazy I am.

“I can’t find them anyway,” she said shaking her head. “I’m useless.”

“Weird,” I said with a sigh. “You can’t be expected to succeed every time. There’s always going to be some times when it all goes wrong.”

“When did you get so positive?” Rainbow asked suspiciously, okay maybe I hadn’t been operating at my best today but I’d been thinking and you can do a lot of thinking when you’re plugged into terahertz of processors.

“Read a self help site,” I explained brightly, I doubted Rainbow knew what a terahertz was anyway. “Besides, I also found the others.” I slammed the wad of papers onto the table and they both looked at me in shock.

“Where?” Rainbow asked hesitantly after a moment’s stunned silence.

“Here,” I answered pulling out a satellite photo of a squat looking building surrounded by woods and a razor wire fence; I also pulled out a sheet of facts. “Cray-On Industries. A subsidiary of Mavers Inc. which is itself owned by a corporation called Itex.” Note to self: watch for them, too many companies had links to them in some way; a lot of those companies were involved with us too.

“An unmarked truck arrived at their R and D department at seven twenty today,” I pulled out another satellite photo which showed a canvas covered truck pulling into the building’s parking lot. “Their official cargo was paperclips but this photo says otherwise.” I pulled out another photo, practically the same angle so the same satellite, which clearly showed Gale, Cam, Taps and Mir being ushered into the building. Tapper was looking right at the camera. I have got to find out how she did that.

“The internal chatter suggests that they won’t be moved for at least twenty four hours so we can get in there and…”  I petered off suddenly realising that there was something ‘off’ about Weird, after a moment I realised what.

“Weird,” I said incredulously. “Your eyes are brown.”

“Are they?” she asked in surprise. I looked more closely at her eyes and there wasn’t even a glimmer of green in them, they didn’t even have that telltale glow. If I hadn’t known she had wings I would have sworn she was just a regular eight year old.

Weird.

“Yeah they are,” I said slowly, still astonished. Then inspiration hit me. “You’re not using your powers are you?”

“No,” she said simply. “And it’s really weird not being able to sense where things are.”

“Welcome to the world of us mortals,” I said with mock theatrics, taking as much of a bow as you can while sitting down. Weird, smiled slightly. Maybe I could still get my role of nice guy back, being serious all the time is hard, I really have no how Gale manages.

“Anyway,” I continued, launching back into my briefing. “This place is located about forty miles away so we could reach them by nightfall if we walk.” I caught a tiny flicker of a smile on Rainbow’s face, I hadn’t forgotten about her this time. “I’ve also got a floor plan.” I pulled it out. “They’re in a sub sub basement so we just get in there are get them out as quickly as possible. Simple.”

I looked around, Weird was nodding in agreement and Rainbow looked like she was running through the plan in her head. “Any questions?” I asked after a moment.

“Just one,” Rainbow said looking at me coldly and I prepared myself for the worse. “Did you say this place was called crayon?”

There was a moment’s pause and we all burst out laughing.

Right I’m now going to hand you over to Gale to tell the next part of the story as I wasn’t there. She’ll be in italics to make things clear.

Why do I have to be in italics?

My story my rules now get going.

Fine.

It had been hours, I wasn’t sure exactly how long as I’d lost count, well hours ago. They’d fed us a meal which I assumed was lunch but that was a long time ago and when you’re in a cage there isn’t really anyway to keep track of time, which makes it drag like nothing on Earth. I need to get a watch.

Actually calling it a cage was probably an overstatement, it was more a large dog crate but still small enough that my wings were going numb. Of course, the chances of them letting us out to stretch were slim to none. Really those were our chances of getting out full stop.

Tapper was in the cage opposite looking distant and calm like always but that’s what she does in this situation. Goes somewhere else. Just like Hawk. Cam was in the next cage along and playing rock, paper, scissors with Mir who I assumed was next to me, the cages only had an opening at the front so I couldn’t see for sure. Cam was probably losing as he’d picked paper for the last fifteen times and I was resisting the urge to yell at him to choose something else.

I couldn’t escape the feeling that I’d failed them; like I always do. We should have stuck together, then at least we might have had a chance to escape. At least then I’d know where everyone was. I didn’t even know whether Hawk had found Weird or if they were alive, let alone what had happened to Rainbow and that was probably tearing Mir up inside.

I kicked out at the grill of my cage. It rattled noisily but didn’t budge. If Weird were here she could open these doors or maybe Hawk would have some ingenious way of picking the lock, but I couldn’t do either, so I resorted to kicking.

“Stop that!” a White Coat barked at me, his face looming in front of my cage. I glowered at him and lashed out again making him flinch but then stopped. It was all useless anyway.

“Good girl,” he said patronisingly before wandering off.

“Bastard,” Cam said grimly once he was out of earshot and we’d heard the door slam, for once I didn’t correct him on his language. We were all thinking it.

I stated kicking at the grill again. I didn’t have a master plan. My last one of surrendering had kept us alive but gotten us captured, but no one else was trying to escape and waiting for rescue would be useless  unless Hawk has absolutely no brains in his head and tries to break in anyway.

“Stupid. Door,” I grunted, kicking out on each word. “Why. Won’t. You! OPEN!” I landed one last blow to the door, there was a loud crack and it flew open smashing into the side of the crate and bouncing back.

The was a stunned moment and I flipped onto my stomach, grabbing the door and pulling it closed before someone saw what I’d done. That just goes to show you shouldn’t keep a size thirteen bird kid in a size ten cage. Tapper was sitting up in her own cage looking curiously at me and I tapped out the message to her.

“Wait.”

The door banged open at the end of the room, I heard someone come running and the White Coat loomed back into view, looking around frantically.

“What was that?” he demanded angrily, I pulled harder on the door even thought it was fully closed. I had the semblance of a plan and I did not want it rumbled. “Who made that noise?”

“What noise?” Mir asked sweetly in the cage over. Smart kid.

Cam,” I tapped out and caught his eye. “Go grey.” He nodded and suddenly the colour drained out of him.

“Hey mister,” I said to the White Coat in my best cutesy voice, which wasn’t very good. “He doesn’t look very well.” At my words Cam lay back in his cage, rolled his eyes back in his head and groaned pitifully, just managing to smother his grin.

“Yeah like I’m going to fall for that old trick,” the White Coat said with a sneer. “Where did you get that a B-movie?” At this point he actually looked at Cam and his eyes widened in horror.

“Oh my God!” he exclaimed and scrambled for a ring of keys on his belt. I silently opened my cage and leapt out, walking stealthily behind the White Coat and just as he’d fitted the key in to Cam‘s lock, I smashed my fist as hard as I couldn’t into his head. He dropped like a rock and lay on the floor groaning where I knocked him out with a quick punch.

“Ever noticed they always send the dumb ones to guard us,” I said after a moment when I was sure he wasn’t going to get up.

“Probably a superiority complex,” Tapper said with a shrug. I bent down to pick up the keys and tried to find the one that unlocked Cam‘s cage.

“Hey Gale,” he asked as I finally fitted the right key into the lock. “What’s a B-movie?”

Cam,” I told him frankly, opening the door. “For that performance you deserve an Oscar.”

“Who’s Oscar?”

“Never mind,” I told him and started unlocking the other cages. After a minute everyone was out and I looked around the room properly for the first time. It was small, white and according to my directional senses underground. Something about it told me it wasn’t usually used as a prison; the total lack of cameras and the boxes labelled toilet rolls might have been a hint too.

“Okay, let’s get out of this place,” I said briskly looking back at the kids and suddenly realised Tapper had vanished. I looked around wildly and spotted her fiddling with a lock on a file cabinet. How does she do that?

“Come on Tapper it’s time to go,” I half yelled, testily. She frowned slightly and spun the combination lock, stopping it seemingly at random and opened the cabinet pulling out my jacket which they’d taken from me, together with those pages of code. I rolled my eyes and caught my jacket as she through it to me, only Taps would do something like that.

“Why bother?” I asked her as we sized up the door, gesturing at the pages of code. “It’s all meaningless anyway.”

“I’ve almost figured it out,” she stated softly and began leafing through the pages, obviously looking for something. What, I’d worry about later.

The door wasn’t as heavy duty as some I’ve seen, but it was one solid sheet of metal and the electronic keypad on the wall next to it said we weren’t going to be able to pick it. After about half a minute sizing it up I slammed my fist into the door in frustration, if Hawk or Weird were here we’d have the door open in five seconds flat but they were gone and we’d have to find some non-super powered way of opening it.

I started walking backwards unfurling my wings slightly which were still numb after holding them closed so long. I may not have super powers but I am a large, genetically modified bird kid that’s had a very long day, and that has to count for something. Besides it was only one door.

“Gale what are you…?” Cam began but stopped as I started running towards the door, screaming in defiance, high kicking out like all those self defence sheets had told me to and slamming my foot into the door as hard as I could.

The R and D department of Cray-On Industries didn’t look like it wanted visitors. In fact they even had a sign that said ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted’. Though as it was mounted on a fifteen foot high chain link fence topped with razor wire complete with a watchtower in each corner, armed guards, searchlights and some of the most sophisticated security systems known to man it probably should have read: ‘trespassers will be prosecuted, if they find the body’.

Not surprisingly we waited until nightfall to break in and I spent the entire time reviewing my photos and the plans of the building. The watchtowers had been a surprise, carefully hidden so they were obscured by the encroaching forest from any satellite photos, though that meant there was tree cover right up to the fence, but just how we were supposed to go over that without flying I had no idea.

The sun had just dropped below the horizon as I put down the papers and sighed. I had a floor plan and knew exactly where the others were being kept but how we were going to get round the guards was beyond me. There probably wasn’t much point planning beyond ‘getting in’ anyway; I’ve learned from long experience that no plan survives more than five minutes, complex ones less. At least I hadn’t heard any chatter about Erasers from the company’s e-mail but you never know.

Rainbow and Weird were talking in hushed voices a short distance away. Probably wise since we were a stone’s throw from the fence. I would have joined them but I’ve never been good at breaking into conversations. I was too wound up about what we were about to do anyway.

“Okay guys,” I said getting up. “Time to go.” If I was a great leader, and I guess with Gale gone I was the leader, I’d come up a brilliant inspirational speech or say something equally groundbreaking. But I’m not, so I didn’t

“Weird if you could just…” I began but she cut me off with a steely.

“No.”

“We just need to get over the fence,” I tried to reason with her. “No chance of just a simple bit of levitation?”

“No,” she said again simply and I could see in her eyes that she wasn’t going to cave. I’m never going to get used to the fact that her eyes are actually brown.

I clasped my hand over my eyes, fallen at the first hurdle, that should teach me for planning at all. I wasn’t giving up on it though. “We just need to get Rainbow over,” I pointed out. “It can’t be that dangerous.”

“Excuse me,” Rainbow interjected annoyed. “I can jump that.”

“You can?” I said incredulously. I know we bird kids can jump high but, fifteen feet, that’s a lot. More than I could manage anyway.

“Watch me.” She got to her feet and turned to face the fence.

“Rainbow you don’t…” I began, not wanting her to hurt herself or give us away but she started running. I clasped my hand over my eyes again. It was just like having Cam back.

I watched her accelerate with interest and not a little bit of annoyance. It was too late to stop her anyway, I’d just have to see if she could really jump that high. Just before the fence she crouched down while running and sprang, and for a moment I didn’t think she was going to make it but she caught the top bar in one hand, somehow slipping her arm through the razor wire and used her momentum to flip over the fence, practically doing a handstand at the top and landing lightly on the tarmac below.

“Wow,” Weird said after a moment. “Could you do that Hawk?”

“Not a chance,” I said bluntly, remind me to ask Rainbow if she missed out on all the bird kid abilities or just the wings, then mouthed to Rainbow. “Get to the building.” After a few tense moments she reached the shadows at the side of the building and crouched down. Waiting.

“Okay Weird,” I said after making sure no one had spotted that trick and sneaking up to the fence. “Same thing, jump it and get to the shadows.” I crouched down and knotted my fingers. Weird nodded, began running and I sent her flying over the fence. I could have sworn that she stayed in the air too long but maybe it was just me.

I watcher her dash to the shadows next to Rainbow and wait, I still couldn’t see any sign that we’d been spotted so that just left me the problem of getting over. I walked along the fence for about ten yards and began to run back, leaping at a tree feet first and landed hard, folding my legs beneath me and practically kneeling on the vertical trunk roughly half way up.

I hung there for a second before gravity caught on and sprang from the tree soaring over the fence spinning slightly. Of course I could have just climbed the tree but that wouldn’t have been anywhere near as impressive. It was just about as I was thinking that that I realised that I was moving far more along the fence than across it and that I was almost certainly going to crash into the razor wire.

I tried to throw my weight to one side but it was too late. The wire tore through my sleeve leaving lines of blood and I hit the ground hard. I lay there stunned for a moment, chalk another one up for stupid things Hawk’s done, cradling my arm which miraculously I’d managed not to fall on. I’d fallen on my back instead.

The torch beam swinging across me brought me back to my senses with a jolt and I scrambled to my feet, ducking as another beam that lanced over my head and started sprinting towards Weird and Rainbow. My phone couldn’t pick up radio signals but I could bet that an alert was already going up so I didn’t have long. I spread my wings and began flapping, keeping as low to the ground as possible, half running and half flying, a trick I’d picked up from Cam.

I skidded to a stop next to Rainbow and Weird. Weird looked concernedly at my arm but I ignored her and it; I was too high on adrenaline to notice anyway.

“Okay guys,” I said in a rush. “We’ve got about two minutes, let’s move, move, move!” I led the dash to the nearest door and slammed my hand against the key pad which was blessedly connected to the rest of the buildings security system. I froze it, it and just about anything else connected to it, cameras, looks, alarms, everything. I’d planned on something more subtle but subtle had gone out the window.

“We’re in,” I half shouted pushing open the door and slamming it against the wall in my haste. Almost there now.

The door buckled and burst open as I crashed into it, much to my surprise, and I stumbled out into the corridor which was mercifully empty. I looked round at the others who were all looking at me in shock, except Tapper who was ferociously leafing through the pages of code.

“They don’t build them like they used to,” I said shrugging which got a weak smile. I knew what they were thinking, I had no idea I could do that either.

“Can anyone remember the way out?” I asked hurriedly, anybody could have heard that so we had to hurry.

“Yes,” Tapper said after a moments thought, obviously not picking up on my panic, though according to Hawk I’m good at hiding it. “It’s left, straight on thirty feet, right, and another twenty then…”

“Okay, okay, yes was enough,” I said a might testily, cutting her off and glancing down the corridor to make sure the way was still clear. “Just lead the way and let’s get out of here.”

Tapper brushed past me and looked down the corridor herself, swivelling her neck to get a good look. “Gale?” she asked just as I thought we were finally about to get moving.

“Yes, Taps,” I said just keeping a lid on my impatience.

“Did anything feel weird when you opened that door?”

“Yeah, it hurt my foot. Now can we get a move on please?”

Tapper shrugged and began to lead the way at a slow jog. We’d gone through about three doors when we ran into the first guard, which was about three more than I thought we’d manage. Our eyes met along the length of a corridor. He didn’t look like an Eraser, he didn’t have that bestial look in his eyes, actually he looked more shocked. Maybe we’d gotten lucky and got a normal guy that didn’t know about us.

Cam and Mir charged past me, Cam doing his standard trick of rushing bravely into the fray and I bit back a swearword. He was going to get himself killed if he kept doing that. And started running after them, catching Tapper rolling her eyes as I speed past.

“The poor guard will never knew what hit him,” I realised as I accelerated past Cam and Mir, sometimes it pays to be big, and delivered a punishing blow to the guard’s stomach. He collapsed gasping, and his radio clattered to the floor. I hoped he hadn’t managed to alert anyone. An alarm started wailing. Thank you optimism.

“Shit!” I exclaimed, and I wonder where Cam picks up that language. “Which way next Taps?”

“This way,” she said finally picking up on the urgency and dived through the first door on the right. The alarm petered out a moment later but no time to worry about why, we were running down another long corridor and I was seriously begging to wonder if this place had been built with so many just for dramatic escapes when the lights flickered off and we were plunged into blackness.

We’d met one guard on our way down but he didn’t give us any trouble, it’s remarkably hard to defend yourself against someone you can’t see.

“This way,” I half shouted ushering Weird and Rainbow out of the stair well, according to the floor plan the others should’ve been being held in a store room about a hundred yards away. Evil villains really like underground lairs, have you noticed that?

I was still trying to keep my mind linked to the security system while we sprinted down the corridor which was proving difficult as I’d never tried linking my mind to a computer I wasn’t touching before. Actually it was damn near impossible, I could just about tell it was there and that someone was desperately trying to unfreeze it but that was it. I put my head down and ran faster, even with their system down the alarm was up and I guessed we had about a minute to find them and get out before someone found…

The blow caught me completely by surprise and sent me sprawling, literally tripping over my own feet and smashing my head into the floor. The lights went out, literally, plunging us into blackness and I was suddenly aware that the computer had, gone. I put a hand to the back of my head but it didn’t hurt. I moved it to the front of my head. That certainly did hurt. Okay that was weird, maybe the computer had shut down and I’d been caught it a feedback loop, that made sense right? I’d think about it further when my head wasn’t pounding.

“What happened?” Rainbow demanded right above my head

“They cut the power,” I explained weekly, trying to shut out the pain from my headache and getting clumsily to my feet. The corridor was suddenly filled with an eerie green phosphorescence and I whipped round to see Weird’s eyes glowing.

“I figure if we’re about to get shot I might as well use it,” she said bitterly.

“We’re not going to get shot,” I began to say and cut myself off as Weird suddenly focused on the doors right next to us. The ones we were supposed to go though if I remembered correctly.

“There’s someone behind those doors,” she announced.

We skidded to a stop and I bit back another swear, what a time for a power cut.

“Taps can you see anything?” I demanded irritably.

“No,” she said simply from right next to me, making me jump. How does she do that? “No light.”

I started groping about for a wall, we’d been a couple yards from a door and I didn’t want to just stand here like rats in a trap, we needed to escape soon before someone found us. It was at that point I walked into Cam.

“Gale!” he exclaimed annoyed, and I muttered an apology, finally finding a wall and feeling like hitting it. On top of everything else, now we had a black out and would probably get caught because of it.

“Why can we never catch a break?” I fumed to myself, probably netting myself a few odd looks which were lost in the darkness. “We need. Some. Light!”

A light flared in front of me and I slammed my hand over my eyes as pain lanced into my retinas. I hadn’t meant it that literally. I opened my eyes and saw spots but the light had gone.

“How did you do that?” Mir asked somewhere to my left, awestruck.

“Not a clue,” I said honestly not entirely sure I had done it, maybe Weird was near. Well one way to find out.

“Light,” I said again and this time I was ready for it. A single blue spark appeared in front of me, casting an unnatural light into the corridor and making everything look like it was covered in ice. I was just about to experiment with it a bit more when Tapper’s head whipped round and she looked straight at the door.

“There’s someone on the other side of the door,” she said softly.

“Friendly?” I asked.

“Can’t tell,” Weird said concentrating hard. “And I don’t want to open up my senses any more so don’t ask.” She looked at me darkly after making this statement and I held my hands up in surrender, the thought had barely crossed my mind.

I put my ear up against the door, I could hear movement and hushed voices and stepped smartly back, dropping into a defensive stance. When whoever it was came through that door I’d be ready for them.

“Friendly?” I asked. Taps shrugged, I’ll assume not. I never assume someone I haven’t met is friendly.

The door moved a near imperceptible amount, almost like someone had placed their ear on it to listen. So they didn’t know if we were friendly or not either, advantage us.

“Okay guys,” I murmured, moving my little pilot light just above my shoulder. “On three.” I held up a finger, then two, then three and charged.

The door burst open and someone came charging through it, I threw myself at them and realised about half a second later that it was Gale. She realised at roughly the same time as me but there was no way either of us could stop in time. We knocked heads with a hollow thunk and bounced off each other, landing hard on our butts clasping our heads.

“Gale?” I asked through a haze of pain. It wasn’t fair I’d already hit my head once today.

“Hawk?” she said groggily and I looked up to see that Mir, Cam and Taps were there as well.

“You’re all right,” I said joyously flinging my arms around Gale’s neck, jut happy that they all weren’t dead. Sometimes that’s enough.

“You’re bleeding!” Gale exclaimed, gesturing at my arm and pushing me away. “What happened?”

I looked at the lines of blood on my arm; it wasn’t too bad; the stains hadn’t met up yet. “Razor wire and lots of enthusiasm,” I said nonchalantly. It was a shame; I liked that shirt as well.

Gale got to her feet and pulled me up, careful to grab my uninjured arm, there was something odd about her. Actually make that something odd about the light, it was more blue than green, I was just about to ask when the main lights came on and an alarm began wailing.

“Run?” I suggested as a door down the corridor burst open and a group of guards rushed out.

“Run!” Gale yelled, turning to run off in the wrong direction but I grabbed her arm and dragged her around. We speed back down the corridor, in the back of my mind I was aware that our two minutes were long over but there wasn’t anything we could do about that. Now, if only I had an escape plan.

A gun roared somewhere behind us and I felt something wiz past my ear. I swore and yelled “Weird!”

“Only if they are going to hit,” she shouted back and I rolled my eyes. That had almost hit.

We piled through the door to the stairway as the elevator pinged and the plaster exploded around us, one or two bullets buzzing to a stop mere inches away. It quite a sobering thought that if Weird hadn’t been there those bullets would have definitely hit us, or it would be sobering if I wasn’t so high on adrenaline that I was practically bouncing off the walls.

I took the first half flight of stairs in about four bounds and ricocheted off the wall, using my momentum to propel me up the next flight and pushing Cam ahead of me. Scratch that, I was bouncing off the walls.  There was a bellow of rage somewhere below me which I recognised as Glass Eye’s. I’ve been hearing that yell a lot lately, I wonder why?

We reached the first landing and I paused briefly to look down at the guards intermixed with Erasers rushing up. I saw a guard look up and threw myself away from the banister as a shot boomed in the confined space. See, I do have some common sense.

“Moron!” I heard Glass Eye yell followed by a rather meaty thud. Apparently the ‘don’t kill us’ order was still in place, that would have been better if the ‘capture’ order wasn’t, but you can’t have everything in life.

There was a brief pause on the first floor landing and I almost crashed into Gale who was standing there looking torn.

“Which…” she began but I glanced through the little window in the door and saw a full complement of guards who also didn’t look like they’d heard the ‘don’t kill’ order.

“Up!” I yelled, pausing for about half a second and leading the charge up the stairs. I was fiercely crunching the numbers in my head; the building had five stories but was designed on each floor to withstand a siege. Not exactly the best odds if you wanted to escape. My question is who in their right minds gave them permission to build this monstrosity.

“Hawk, we’re leaving,” Rainbow said right next to my shoulder, shattering my concentration.

“What?” I snapped in disbelief. “Of course we are, we’re escaping.”

“Exactly,” she agreed. “You escape your way, we escape ours.”

I started to protest but she was right, our best option right now was jumping off the roof but they couldn’t do that. “Right. Good luck,” I shot back.

“You too,” she said, grabbing Mir’s arm and stopping him on the landing. “And thanks,” she called after us as we sprinted up the stairs. I kept watching just in time to see them disappear and then put my mind back onto getting us out of there. It was a shame. I like Rainbow. She reminded me of Gale just after we escaped.

We reached the fifth floor with a lead of about two stories and I headed the way up the final staircase to the roof. I smashed into the door, sending an instruction to the security system to unlock it and bounced off, falling backwards down the stair and crashing into Gale who thankfully caught me.

“I can’t open it,” I realised in shock as Gale deposited me onto my feet. The system hadn’t responded at all and I couldn’t for the life of me think why.

“Right,” Gale said grimly. She stepped down a few stairs and charged towards the door. There was a blinding flash as her shoulder collided with the metal and the door literally flew off its hinges. There was a moment of stunned silence and I looked round at Weird who was frowning at Gale with barely a flicker of green in her eyes.

An Eraser yell from the bottom of the stair well brought me back to my senses and I started running, bursting out onto the roof and grabbing a very shocked Gale by her shoulder and pulling her along. Spot lights sprang into life around us, two on the roof, one on each guard tower and three on the ground. The moment we took off we’d be spotted and probably shot at but flying was our last option.

I led my flock in a desperate dash to the nearest edge. Erasers were swarming out onto the roof and beginning to close the distance. I couldn’t even tell if the security system was still working, so no help there and knowing a complete floor plan of the building would be great if we weren’t on the roof. We were out of time, out of options and out of luck. This would a great time for some deus ex machina in the form of the voice.

Nothing. Why am I not surprised?

We were a few yards from the edge of the roof, no one was asking my plan, they just assumed I had one but I’d run out of tricks. My phone banged against my leg and I through myself into the internet without a second thought, almost stumbling as I did so. There was no time to hack the buildings system, no time to call for help, no time to look up anything of any use, so I did something about as subtle as a brick.

I reached the edge of the roof and leapt off, spreading my wings wide and knocked out power to the entire state.

The building’s backup generator came on thirty seconds later but by then we were long gone, speeding over the darkened treetops.

Free.

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