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One last chance...
for Max, Fang, and Dylan...
before it all ends.

Are you ready for the final chapter? Are you ready for the ultimate flight? Because THIS IS IT. One last incredible, explosive adventure with an astonishing ending that no one could have seen coming.

BOOK ONE | Before

Chapter 1

“IN WORLDVIEW THIS morning, whole villages in the Philippines have been demolished, and hundreds are missing as typhoons triggering massive mudslides continue to wreak havoc.”

I sat at the kitchen counter, staring at the small TV. The news anchor peered out at me with grave accusation. Yep, felt like a Monday.

“On the home front, officials rush to quell pockets of unrest as a subversive new movement takes hold in the cities.” The camera zoomed in on a glassy-eyed fanatic raving about an advanced society and how we must act now to preserve the purity of the planet. He carried a sign that read 99% IS THE FUTURE. I shivered involuntarily. The newscaster raised one perfectly groomed eyebrow and leaned forward. “Just who—or what—is ninety-nine percent?”

The newscaster’s face, frozen in practiced concern, dissolved into static as fuzzy black lines hiccupped across the screen. I frowned and smashed a fist down on top of the set, which only resulted in setting off a series of loud, plaintive beeps. Not that it was a quiet morning to start with.

Behind me in the kitchen, the usual chaos was unraveling. Iggy was slinging waffles at Gazzy and Total, who were trying to catch them in their wide-open mouths, like baby birds. How perfect.

“I can’t find the socks that match this skirt!” Nudge said, holding up some floaty, layer-y clothing situation. A waffle whapped her in the head, and with turbo-charged reflexes, she snatched it out of midair and hurled it back at Iggy as hard as she could. It exploded against his forehead. “Don’t throw waffles at me!” she screeched. “I’m trying to get dressed!”

Gazzy shot a fist into the air, his face twisted into that maniacally guilty grin that only nine-year-old angelic-looking boys seem to be able to master. “Food fi—” he began happily, only to stop at the look in my eyes.

“Try it,” I said with deadly calm. He sat down. “Quit throwing waffles!” I yelled, snatching the syrup bottle away from Iggy, who was aiming it at his open mouth. “Use plates! Use forks!”

“But I don’t have thumbs!” Total said indignantly. “Just because I can talk doesn’t mean I’m human,” he complained. For a small, Scotty-like dog, he had a lot of presence.

“Neither are we. At least not completely.” I unfolded my wings partway. Yes, folks—wings. In case this is your first dip into the deep end of the ol’ freak-of-nature pool, I’ll just put it out there: We fly.

Total rolled his eyes. “Yes, Max, I am aware.” He fluttered his own miniature pair of flappers. Unfortunately, his mate for life, Akila, didn’t have wings, so the non-mutant Samoyed spent most of the year with her one-hundred-percent-human owner. She had a hard time keeping up with us.

I shrugged. “So use a dog bowl, then.” His nose twitched in distaste.

“I can’t find—” Nudge started again, but I held up my hand. She knew I couldn’t answer complicated fashion questions. She whirled and stalked off to the bathroom to begin her twelve-step daily beauty regimen—involving many potions, lotions, and certain buffing techniques. The whole thing made my head hurt, and since Nudge was a naturally gorgeous twelve-year-old, I had no idea why she bothered.

Iggy, who can’t even see the TV anyway due to that tiny hitch of being blind and all, expertly manipulated the complicated wire system inside the set with one hand while the other continued to stir waffle batter. When the image was crystal clear and the monotonous beeping had ceased, he cocked his head, listening to the talking head deliver the morning doom with unbeatable pep.

“A new report has stated that steadily increasing levels of pollution in China have caused the extinction of a record number of plants this year. And could the growing number of meteor showers we’re experiencing require the implementation of asteroid deflection strategies? Dr. Emily Elert has some answers.”

“Lemme guess. The end of the world?” Iggy asked.

I smiled. “Yeah, same old, same old.”

“Next on In the Know, Sharon Shattuck uncovers the truth behind the growing number of enhanced humans among us. Created for the greater good, are these genetic anomalies an advanced race or an unpredictable risk? Heroes of science or botched experiments? And what do we have to fear? Stay tuned to find out!”

My mouth twisted in annoyance. I leaned over and snapped off the TV. It was time to get going, anyway. Why had I agreed to this again?

A lot had changed for us in the past year, but one thing had remained constant, and that was my unyielding loathing for a certain activity that all “normal” kids—those with homes, parents, and a distinct lack of genetic mutations—seemed to engage in.

“Okay, guys, are we ready for school?” I rubbed my hands together, trying to at least give the impression of being mildly enthusiastic.

I studied the faces before me. Nudge’s: excited. Iggy’s: bored. Gazzy’s: mischievous. Total’s: furry.

Someone was missing. Someone whose stupid idea this whole thing was in the first place.


“Present,” a voice said from behind me.

I whirled around and found myself face-to-face with Dylan. Actually, I had to look up slightly, since he was almost six-one to my five-nine. He gave me a slow smile and I wondered, not for the first time, how anyone could manage to look so flawless in general, let alone at buttcrack-of-dawn o’clock in the morning.

“Oh, good, you’re up,” I said, inappropriate thoughts running around my head like squirrels on speed. “About time.” I coughed. “Everyone else is ready. We were about to leave without you.”

“Um, Max?” Dylan said, dipping a waffle into a bowl of syrup. I looked into his Caribbean Sea–colored eyes, trying to ignore the little thrill that went through my body when I thought of the time I woke up next to those bright blues.

“What?” I asked, a little too defensively.

“You’re in your pajamas.”

Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson

Read by Rebecca Soler

Rebecca Soler is a New York-based actress who voices numerous principal characters for the CW's Saturday morning cartoon lineup including: Viva Piñata, Huntik, The Winx Club, and Chaotic. Other audiobooks include Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen, After by Amy Efaw, for which she was awarded a 2009 AudioFile Earphones Award, and Monster High by Lisi Harrison.

Audio Excerpts (MP3)
Clip #1
Chapter 1 to Chapter 4
Clip #2
Chapters 5 to 8
Clip #3
Chapters 9 to 12
Clip #4
Chapters 13 to 16
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