Home > Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)

Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)
Pittacus Lore

CHAPTER ONE

THE MOG SKIMMER RISES ABOVE ASHWOOD ESTATES and shoots off towards the horizon. Six, Marina and Adam are on board. A handful of kids—teenagers, technically, but still children to me—ready to cross the continent in search of a place called the Sanctuary. Somewhere they only know about because years ago, during one of the many gaps in my memory, I told the Mogs it existed and that it was important to the future of the Loric.

I hope for our sakes that this is true. Earth is facing invasion, and we need all the help we can get.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember anything else about this place that’s apparently so important to the Loric. Any details at all. But I come up with nothing, and there’s not really time to dwell on recovering these memories. I have so much else to worry about. The most important thing is my son, Sam. He’s putting himself in danger. Again. He’s about to head to New York with John and Nine and a few of the FBI agents who’ve joined our side in order to stop a corrupt politician and expose the Mogadorian threat.

As I watch the skimmer disappear against the morning sun, I wonder what kind of father lets his only child get wrapped up in so much violence and death. I lose myself in this question, unable to find a suitable answer, until John Smith’s voice breaks my daze.

“Damn, this place looks like a war zone. I thought we’d gotten most the fires out last night.”

I turn and find him stomping on a blackened spot on the grass, a wisp of smoke drifting up around his shoe. Behind him stands Adam’s childhood home, the front windows knocked out from yesterday’s fighting. Now it’s our makeshift base of operations.

“I think the remodeling you guys did is actually an improvement,” I say, and then motion to a house towards the end of the block that’s been completely demolished. “I always hated these kinds of cookie-cutter houses.”

I’m attempting to keep things light to hide my worry about everything that’s to come. To put on a brave face.

“If I were you I wouldn’t mind seeing this place go up in flames either.”

He locks eyes with me and smiles, but I can tell he’s sizing me up. As the unofficial leader of the Loric, John must think it’s his job to worry about everybody. And it makes some sense that he’d have his sights on me. It wasn’t long ago that I was in captivity in the facilities located far below our feet—the tunnels, research labs and operating tables found underneath Ashwood, where the Mogs’ brutality was allowed to incubate and flourish. If not for Adam I would have died here. Or worse. I can’t fathom what “worse” might have been in my case, but I have no doubt that the Mogs are capable of something more terrifying than death. If anyone here is going to freak out, I’m the likely candidate.

Still, it makes me feel terrible somewhere deep in my gut, like I need to prove my worth to the cause. Maybe I wouldn’t feel that way if it hadn’t been me who spilled so many Loric secrets to the Mogs, even if it was against my will. That’s one of the worst parts about not remembering so much of the last decade: all I have to show for those missing years is betrayal, pain and the knowledge that my family was out there without any idea of what happened to me the whole time.

I shake my head, trying to refocus my thoughts. One of the side effects of having my mind tampered with by the Mogs is that I’m easily distracted, prone to chasing long-forgotten memories like rabbits through Wonderland.

“I guess you’re right,” I say.

“You should try to get some rest,” John says, a slight crease forming between his eyebrows. “Try not to overwork yourself. When was the last time you slept?”

“Who needs sleep when I’ve got coffee and Mogadorian home movies to watch?” I ask with a limp smile. I’ve been going over videos found in the archives below Ashwood since we took the suburb yesterday.

“Thanks for helping out with that. Who knows what we could learn from those files? You’re the only one here we can completely trust with important stuff like that. Even if Walker’s men are on our side now.”

He means this as a compliment, I’m sure, but there’s a subtext to his words. He may not even realize it, but he’s reminding me that there’s no room for me on this upcoming mission. Someone needs to stay behind and sift through the data, and I’m just an old man who’s pretty good with a rifle, not a fighter like they are. My place is here. He’s a remarkably charismatic leader for his age. I have to keep reminding myself that he’s really just a teenager, at the point in his life where he should be learning precalculus or chemistry. All these kids act like they’re ten years older than they actually are (except, perhaps, for Nine, whose personality seems to have stalled at the age of thirteen).

John nods to a large hawk perched on a tree limb above us.

“The Chimærae are patrolling the area in case the Mogs realize that no one’s checking in with them from Ashwood and decide to investigate.”

“If the Mogs really are gearing up for an invasion, they’ll likely have more important things to worry about than Ashwood,” I say.

“Still, they’ve got your back. Plus . . .” He takes a look around, making sure there’s no one in earshot. “Walker and her crew are helping us out for now, but I feel better knowing the Chimærae will protect you just in case anything happens. They’ll look after you until we get back. Do you know how to whistle?”

“Sure.”

“Good. Gamera up there is your new personal bodyguard. You whistle and he’ll come running. Or flying, or whatever.” He shrugs a little. “That was Sam’s idea. He thinks you’ve got a soft spot for Gamera since you named him. Anyway, I told all of them to stay out of sight for the most part. Walker’s agents know what they are, but if anyone else shows up they’ve got instructions not to morph in front of them. The fewer people who know about the Chimærae, the better.”

The front door springs open, and Sam starts down the porch holding a plate piled high with yellow disks. One of them hangs out of his mouth, flapping as he jumps down onto the lawn.

“Dude, they’ve got frozen waffles in there,” he says to John as he chews. “I don’t know if they were Adam’s dad’s or if the Feds brought them or what, but there are like ten boxes in the freezer.” He shakes his head. “All these waffles and no syrup. The monsters.”

“Sweet,” John says, reaching for one.

Sam shirks away, twisting around so the plate’s out of reach.

“These are mine. Go get your own. I’d hurry too. Nine keeps challenging the FBI dudes to arm-wrestling matches, and I’m pretty sure Walker is about to sedate him or something.”

John shakes his head and looks at me again.

“Remember: just whistle.” Then he heads inside.

“Did you like that?” Sam asks, his face lighting up. “The whistling, I mean. It was totally my idea.”

“That’s what John said. Brilliant.”

He grins and holds out the plate.

I raise my eyebrows. “I thought those were for you.”

“Just eat some waffles, Dad. I doubt you were raiding the fridge during your all-night cram session in the archives.”

As if on cue, my stomach grumbles.

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