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Nevermore

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 5

“WE NEED TO hit the road,” Fang said to his small gang. “San Francisco’s next up.”

Maya squeezed his leg and flashed a smile that instantly eased his anxiety. “Ready when you are,” she said, her eyes meeting his.

“Go, go, go,” Star complained with characteristic attitude. “We just got here. At least let me finish breakfast.” She tied back her silky blond hair and proceeded to house her entire omelet in one enormous bite. It reminded Fang of Gazzy gnawing every bit of meat off the hind leg of a roasted rabbit, and contrasted so sharply with Star’s spotless Catholic-schoolgirl image that he had to smirk.

“What?” Star challenged Holden Squibb, who was also openly staring from behind his huge glasses. “You know my heart’s beating like five times as fast as yours. Speed needs fuel.”

Holden was the youngest, most awkward member of the gang, and his main skill seemed to be annoying Star. Well, that and being an incredibly fast healer. Came in handy, since he’d been horribly bullied in school.

“What’s in San Fran that’s got your panties in a bunch, anyway?” Ratchet was eyeing Fang cautiously. Regardless of his extraordinarily perceptive senses, after living on the streets, he could always smell trouble.

“Yeah, what’s up?” Kate brushed her glossy black hair back from her face and followed Ratchet’s gaze, looking worried. For someone with the kind of superhuman strength Kate had, she tended to look worried way more often than Fang was comfortable with.

“I’ll show you.” Fang flipped open his laptop and the others crowded around. “I’ve been tracking world news reports. A new threat is developing faster than anything I’ve seen so far. Three days ago there were five mentions of it. Two days ago there were five thousand. Yesterday, a hundred thousand different sources were talking about this movement. And today my Web counter shows more than a million mentions.”

“You going to tell us what it is, or what?” Holden asked, showering the keyboard with toast crumbs.

“They call themselves the Apocalypticas,” Fang said, flipping through tabs until he found their home page. “More commonly known as the 99 Percenters. I’ve done some hunting, and I think one of their bases is around San Francisco.”

“99 Percenters?” Star leaned closer to read. “Please. That sounds so lame. At least the Apocalypticas sounds kind of like a rock band.”

“I wouldn’t dismiss them so lightly.” Fang leveled his gaze at Star, and then at the rest of the gang. “You all remember the Doomsday Group.”

Solemn nods all around.

“This is, like, the next level,” Fang said. “The Apocalypticas make the Doomsday Group look like a glee club. They call themselves that because they want to start where the Doomsday Group left off—they want to reduce the world’s population by ninety-nine percent, to obliterate all non-enhanced people.”

Enhanced people. Fang and the flock had always called them mutant freaks, like themselves. Now it was enhanced people.

“Man, that is so messed up.” Ratchet shook his head, the aviator glasses he wore even in darkness reflecting the screen.

“I mean, we’re safe, though, right?” Kate said uneasily. “We’re enhanced. It’s not us they’re after. Maybe we should… I don’t know… stay out of the line of fire this time. We don’t have to seek them out. Let’s not forget what happened in Paris.”

Once again Fang felt a stab of pain so sharp that it almost took his breath away. As if he could forget. He bristled, frowning at Kate.

“Aren’t you the vegan?” he asked. “The one who’s always talking about the plight of other creatures and how we have to work together to make a difference? So now that things are getting a bit heavy, you just want to walk away?”

“It’s not that, it’s just…” Kate trailed off, looking sheepish.

“It’s just that it’s none of our business and we have ourselves to worry about,” Star continued for her. Kate and Star stuck together because they’d been the only two freaks in their private school, but it was Star who had the mouth on her.

“What exactly are you saying?” Fang’s words were low, measured. “We’re talking about the human apocalypse.”

“Come on, Fang,” Star said harshly. “Don’t tell me you’ve never thought that the world might be better if everyone was a bit more evolved.” Fang gaped at her, but Star took it a step further. “Just look at Maya. She’s like the next generation of your old girlfriend, isn’t she?”

“Ouch.” Holden gave a low whistle.

Maya’s eyes narrowed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Star shrugged. “I’m just saying, looks like Fang went for the upgrade. Shouldn’t the rest of the world? Anyway, like Kate said, it’s not us they’re after.”

“Look, you’re welcome to leave at any time,” Fang said, his eyes dark and furious. “You wanted the protection of the group, and I gave you that. I totally understand if, now that you’re safe, you just want to slink away like a coward and let everyone else take the fall. I couldn’t live with myself, but that’s just me.”

“Can you all just stop for a sec?” Rachet said, pushing his oversized hoodie back and tilting his head to the side.

“I can take care of myself,” Star snapped at Fang, ignoring Ratchet. “I didn’t realize being a part of ‘Fang’s gang’ meant following you like lemmings over a cliff.”

“Fang, Star doesn’t mean that,” Kate said, trying to defuse the situation. “You know we believe in stopping these maniacs as much as you do. We’re just… we’re nervous after Paris. We’re still not used to being targets and all.”

“Yeah, it must be really tough, being away from the cushy comforts of your private-school McMansions,” Maya said icily, and Kate’s face fell.

“Don’t even—” Star started.

“You guys, shut up!” Ratchet yelled. He took in a deep, slow breath, his hypersensitive ears listening intently. “Something’s coming this way.”

Immediately Fang went on alert, jumping to his feet, putting the argument—as screwed up as it was—behind him for now. “Stow the gear in the van,” he directed. “Maya and I will scout it out from above.”

He glanced at the sky, cursing. It was maybe seven AM. They should have been on the road an hour ago.

“You guys, we’re in the middle of the desert,” Kate said. “Maybe we shouldn’t freak out yet. There are tons of wild animals around here—coyotes and big lizards and turkey buzzards—and that might be what Ratchet’s hearing. I really think we should keep talking this out, try to find some middle ground, and—”

Ratchet shook his head. “Yo. I can tell the difference between a fox or a lizard and… this thing. This mofo is big—bigger than a wolf, or even a bear. And I smell blood. Lots of it.”

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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