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Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE.
Do not put this book down. I'm dead serious - your life could depend on it. I'm risking everything by telling you - but you need to know.

STRAP YOURSELF IN for the thrill ride you'll want to take again and again! From Death Valley, California, to the bowels of the New York City subway system, you're about to take off on a heart-stopping adventure that will blow you away...

YOUR FAITHFUL COMPANIONS: Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel. Six kids who are pretty normal in most ways - except that they're 98 percent human, 2 percent bird. They grew up in a lab, living like rats in cages, but now they're free. Aside, of course, from the fact that they're prime prey for Erasers - wicked wolflike creatures with a taste for flying humans.

THE MISSIONS: Rescue Angel from malicious mutants. Infiltrate a secret facility to track down the flock's missing parents. Scavenge for sustenance. Get revenge on an evil traitor. And save the world. If there's time.

Thriller-writing sensation James Patterson, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller When the Wind Blows, invites you on a quest full of nonstop action, adrenaline, mystery, and suspense. Want to come along for the ride?

There was no time to think. Jeb had trained us not to think-just to act. I launched myself at an Eraser, spinning and planting a hard, roundhouse kick in his barrel chest. His breath went oof, and the odor was just awful, like raw sewage left out in the hot sun.

After that, it was like a movie, a bunch of superimposed images that hardly seemed real. I landed another blow, then an Eraser punched me so hard that my head snapped around and I felt a burst of blood in my mouth. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Fang holding his own against an Eraser-until two more ganged up on him, and he went down under flailing clawed hands.

Iggy was still upright, but one eye was already swelling shut.

Beyond shock, I scrambled to my feet, then saw the Gasman out cold, lying facedown on the ground.

I leaped toward him, only to be grabbed again. Two Erasers pinned my arms behind my back. Another leaned in, his reddish eyes glinting with excitement, his jaw fully morphed out and snoutlike. He pulled back his hand and curled it into a fist. Then he brought it in hard, punching me in the stomach. An unbelievable pain exploded inside me, and I doubled over, dropping like a stone.

Dimly, I heard Angel screaming and Nudge crying.

Get up! I told myself, trying to suck in air. Get up!

As weird mutant kids, we're much, much stronger than regular grown-up humans. But Erasers aren't regular grown-up humans, and they outnumbered us as well. We were dog meat. I struggled to my hands and knees, trying not to retch.

I staggered to my feet, bloodlust in my eyes, ready to kill. Two Erasers held Nudge's hands and feet. They swung her hard, and she went sailing, hitting her head against a tree. I heard a small pained cry, and then she lay crumpled among the pine needles.

With a hoarse, blood-muffled shout, I ran up and clapped my cupped palms around an Eraser's furry ears. He shrieked as his eardrums popped, and he fell to his knees.

"Max!" Angel screamed, high-pitched and terrified, and I spun around. An Eraser had her by the arms, and I raced forward, jumping over Iggy, who now lay unconscious. Two Erasers fell on me, knocking me down, one pressing a heavy knee into my chest. I wheezed and struggled, and one of them cuffed my face hard, his ragged claws digging deep welts in my cheek.

Dizzily, I fell back, the two Erasers pinning me, and with uncomprehending horror I saw three other Erasers stuffing Angel, my baby, into a rough sack. She was crying and screaming, and one of them hit her.

Frantically struggling, I tried to scream but could make only a hoarse, choked cry. "Get off me, you stupid, freaking-" I choked, but I was slammed back again.

An Eraser leaned over me, smiling horribly.

"Max," he said, and my stomach clenched-did I know him? "Good to see you again," he went on conversationally. "You look like crap. You always acted so much better than everyone else, so this cheers me up."

"Who are you?" I gasped, feeling cold at the center of my being.

The Eraser grinned, his long, sharp teeth barely fitting in his jaw. "You don't recognize me? I guess I've grown some."

My eyes went wide with sudden, horrified recognition.

"Ari," I whispered, and he laughed like a mad person. Then he stood up. I saw his huge, black boot come at my head, felt my head jerk to one side, and everything went black.

My last thought was disbelief: Ari was Jeb's son. They'd made him into an Eraser. He was seven years old.

Copyright © 2005 by James Patterson

Read by Evan Rachel Wood

Evan Rachel Wood was nominated for a 2003 Golden Globe Award for her powerful performance in THIRTEEN, co-starring Holly Hunter. She also stars in THE UPSIDE OF ANGER with Joan Allen and Kevin Costner and in PRETTY PERSUASION with James Woods. Her additional film credits include roles in THE MISSING, SIMONE and PRACTICAL MAGIC. Evan is well known for her role on ABC's critically acclaimed drama, ONCE AND AGAIN.

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