Home > I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: Nine's Legacy (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #2)

I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: Nine's Legacy (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #2)
Pittacus Lore

Chapter One

There are rules for hiding in plain sight. The first rule, or at least the one that Sandor repeats most often, is “Don’t be stupid.”

I’m about to break that rule by taking off my pants.

Spring in Chicago is my favorite season. The winters are cold and windy, the summers hot and loud, the springs perfect. This morning is sunny, but there’s still a forbidding chill in the air, a reminder of winter. Ice-cold spray blows in off Lake Michigan, stinging my cheeks and dampening the pavement under my sneakers.

I jog all eighteen miles of the lakefront path every morning, taking breaks whenever I can, not because I need them, but to admire the choppy gray-blue water of Lake Michigan. Even when it’s cold, I always think about diving in, of swimming to the other side.

I fight the urge just like I fight the urge to keep pace with the neon spandex cyclists that zip past. I have to go slow. There are more than two million people in this city and I’m faster than all of them.

Still, I have to jog.

Sometimes, I make the run twice to really work up a sweat. That’s another one of Sandor’s rules for hiding in plain sight: always appear to be weaker than I actually am. Never push it.

It’s dumb to complain. We’ve been in Chicago for five years thanks to Sandor’s rules. Five years of peace and quiet. Five years since the Mogadorians last had a real bead on us.

Five years of steadily increasing boredom.

So when a sudden vibration stirs the iPod strapped to my upper arm, my stomach drops. The device isn’t supposed to react unless trouble is near.

I take just a moment to decide on what I do next. I know it’s a risk. I know it flies against everything I’ve been told to do. But I also know that risks are worth it; I know that sometimes you have to ignore your training. So I jog to the side of the runner’s path, pretending that I need to work out a cramp. When I’m finished stretching, I unsnap the tear-away track pants I’ve been rocking every jog since we moved to Chicago and stuff them into my pack. Underneath I’m wearing a pair of mesh shorts, red and white like the St. Louis Cardinals, enemy colors here in Chicago.

But Cards colors in Cubs territory are nothing to worry about compared to the three scars ringing my ankle. Baseball rivalries and bloody interplanetary vendettas just don’t compare.

My low socks and running shoes do little to hide the scars. Anyone nearby could see them, although I doubt my fellow runners are in the habit of checking out each other’s ankles. Only the particular runner I’m trying to attract today will really notice.

When I start jogging again, my heart is beating way harder than normal. Excitement. It’s been a while since I felt anything like this. I’m breaking Sandor’s rule and it’s exhilarating. I just hope he isn’t watching me through the city’s police cameras that he’s hacked into. That would be bad.

My iPod rumbles again. It’s not actually an iPod. It doesn’t play any music and the earbuds are just for show. It’s a gadget that Sandor put together in his lab.

It’s my Mogadorian detector. I call it my iMog.

The iMog has its limitations. It picks out Mogadorian genetic patterns in the immediate area, but only has a radius of a few blocks and is prone to interference. It’s fueled by Mogadorian genetic material, which has a habit of rapidly decaying; so it’s no surprise that the iMog can get a little hinky. As Sandor explains it, the device is something we received when we first arrived from Lorien, from a human Loric friend. Sandor has spent considerable time trying to modify it. It was his idea to encase it in an iPod shell as a way to avoid attention. There’s no track list or album art on my iMog’s screen—just a solitary white dot against a field of black. That’s me. I’m the white dot. The last time we tuned it up was after the most recent time we were attacked, scraping Mogadorian ash off our clothes so Sandor could synthesize it or stabilize it or some scientific stuff I only half paid attention to. Our rule is that if the iMog sounds off, we get moving. It’s been so long since it’s activated itself that I’d started to worry that the thing had gone dead.

And then, during my run a couple days ago, it went off. One solitary red dot trolling the lakefront. I hustled home that day, but I didn’t tell Sandor what had happened. At best, there’d be no more runs on the lakefront. At worst, we’d be packing up boxes. And I didn’t want either of those things to happen.

Maybe that’s when I first broke the “don’t be stupid” rule. When I started keeping things from my Cêpan.

The device is now vibrating and beeping because of the red dot that’s fallen into step a few yards behind me. Vibrating and beeping in tune with my accelerated heartbeat.

A Mogadorian.

I hazard a glance over my shoulder and have no trouble picking out which jogger is the Mog. He’s tall, with black hair shaved close to the scalp, and is wearing a thrift-store Bears sweatshirt and a pair of wraparound sunglasses. He could pass for human if he wasn’t so pale, his face not showing any color even in this brisk air.

I pick up my pace but don’t bother trying to get away. Why make it easy on him? I want to see whether this Mog can keep up.

By the time I exit the lakefront and head for home, I realize I might have been a little cocky. He’s good—better than I expect him to be. But I’m better. Still, as I pick up speed, I feel my heart racing from exertion for the first time in as long as I can remember.

He’s gaining on me, and my breaths are getting shorter. I’m okay for now, but I won’t be able to keep this up forever. I double-check the iMog. Luckily my stalker hasn’t called in backup. It’s still just the one red dot. Just us.

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