War in the Air

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 "You guys have got to come! We'll pay for your tickets and everything!"

Max's voice piped up as cheery as always from Kenny's laptop, remarkably unchanged for the most part. His hair was the same bushy blond, and his freckles hadn't been moved. The only thing that they could see had resulted from Max's time missing among the ocean waves were the dull, reptilian like scales peeking out from his hairline to curve around the corner ridges of his eye sockets. Kai kept looking for wings Tyson and Kenny had already told him weren't there. Kai was interested in Max's story, but didn't really want to hear it from Kenny, who was sure to draw it out, and Tyson had been caught up with Max's call when he had gotten home with the beyblade genius.

"Course, Mom knows you have school and all, so if you could just let us know—"

"Are you kidding me?" cried Tyson. "Once I become an awesome dragon-scaley thing like you, who cares about school!"

Kai's ire snapped to attention. "Does your irresponsibility know no bounds?"

"Turn down the glare, dude. I've already heard it all from Hillary."

"Is that why she's been avoiding you?" asked Kenny from the other side of his laptop. "Tyson, how do you even know the same thing will happen to you as it did to Kai and Max?"

"That's what my Mom will be testing!" chirped Max. "We've gotten a hold of Ray too. He says the White Tigers are annoyed that he's leaving so soon after they got home, but he's really interested too. Just think of the possibilities! I can't even get started!"

Kai snorted. "Yeah. A whole group of homeless, teenage freaks. People will be trampling each other for tickets."

Max deflated. Kenny fidgeted. Tyson, however, whirled on Kai.

"Oy, Mr. Cool, you do realize Ayah can probably hear you, right?"

Kai inwardly flinched as he remembered Ayah, who was showering in the hallway behind them.

"She would know best of all," Kai said, undaunted. "Her whole family is dead just because of what they are. Have you even asked her what she thinks of you throwing yourself into that same lot?"

"He has a point," said Kenny shyly. "Those hunters that killed her family could still be out there."

"Ooo, people trying to kill us, like that hasn't happened before. Sign me up for the next flight, Maxie. I'm game!"

Max, who had four years of experience with Tyson's gung-ho, throw himself head first personality took it in stride. "It isn't all that bad, Kai. I can go out just fine."

Kai didn't grace that with an answer. He didn't know what other weirdness had happened to Max, but he knew whatever it was, it wasn't like hiding enormous and still growing wings under a trench coat, or having mile long tail-feathers stuffed down your pant-leg like an unseemly erection.

Children. Idiots. When would the day come that he didn't feel like he had to babysit them?

"You coming, Kai?" Max asked tentatively.

Did he have much of a choice? "Sure." And before Tyson could make some other stupid remark to irritate him further, Kai stood and made his way back to the dryer, which Tyson's arrival had stopped him from unloading. He'd get his clothes, get dressed, make sure Max would send the plane ticket information to his email, and go home. He, after all, had actual adulating to do.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when he turned the corner and Ayah was there, standing next to the dryer with his basket of clothes at her feet. She looked as though she had been waiting for him. Talk about quick showering. At least she had taken the time to dress—he shoved that thought out of his head, baffled as to why it was even there. Sometimes it didn't pay to be seventeen and male. Wait, it never did.

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