Home > Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(10)

Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(10)
Pittacus Lore

The monster falls to the grass. Lifeless. Then it slowly starts to dissolve, until it’s nothing but a pile of ash.

Despite being in a shootout with invaders who’ve come to take my planet, I can’t help but feel exhilaration every time one of them turns to dust.

Maybe I’m not so useless after all.

“Dammit, I’m almost out of ammo,” Briggs says.

That’s when I realize all the blaster fire has stopped.

Gamera darts out of the trees, back in the form of a black panther, his gleaming coat covered in ash.

“Holy Jesus,” Briggs keeps repeating. “What’s happening?”

I don’t get to answer. Lujan’s groaning in front of me, clutching his stomach. There’s smoke rising from holes in his chest. He must have been hit a few times when we weren’t looking. There’s blood everywhere.

I kneel beside him, but it’s too late. He points in the direction of Union Station and then his breathing stops. All I can do is close his eyes and mutter an apology that he got dragged into this, telling myself that he’ll be the last casualty of this war, even though of course I know that’s not true.

“He’s . . . ,” Briggs says.

I nod my head.

“This thing . . . ,” He aims his rifle at Gamera, who stalks the trees around me, sniffing the air. “This . . . this animal . . . it’s an alien too?”

“That animal is on our side. He just saved our lives.”

Briggs steps across from me, not taking his eyes off Gamera until he’s standing over Lujan. There’s a flash of remorse on his face.

“We need to get to the station,” he says quietly. “That gunfire probably alerted every hostile within half a mile. They’ll be here in no time.”

“What do we do with his body?” I ask.

Briggs just shakes his head.

“He’d want to make sure the mission was completed.”

I understand where he’s coming from, but the colonel lost his life trying to get me to the president. I can’t just leave him here, out in the open. So I drag Lujan to a dense thicket of bushes nearby and try to hide him as best I can. It’s all I can think of. I tell myself that when we get to wherever we’re going I might be able to send someone to get his body, but in the back of my mind I know that there are much more important things to worry about.

I don’t realize how shaky my hands are until I put him down. Despite all the fighting I’ve been a part of, I am still not used to death. But then, no one should be.

Briggs crouches beside me, collecting Lujan’s gun and ammo. When he’s done, he nods to me and then we’re moving again. Briggs has to be in excruciating pain with every other step, but he doesn’t say a word or even slow his pace. I follow behind him, wondering how the hell things got this bad. And about my son.

Is Sam safe?

And I can’t help but think of the others as well. Adam, the rest of the Garde, Sarah—even Noto and the agents who we left behind at Ashwood.

What’s become of them? What’s going to become of all of us?

CHAPTER SEVEN

WE KEEP MOVING WITHOUT MUCH INCIDENT, though the journey is a bit of a blur to me. The shock of everything that’s going on coupled with my lack of sleep has me running on nothing but adrenaline. A squadron of Mogs races by us in Humvees at one point, but Briggs and I stick to the parks and trees and somehow manage to avoid detection. Questions fill my mind. Who’s supplying the Mogs with transportation? What are they doing now that they have seemingly free rein to move about the city?

I call Sam along the way but get no answer.

I try my best not to think about what that means, but worry for his safety continues to beat through my mind.

Eventually Briggs and I arrive at Union Station, a giant structure full of shops, restaurants and rail lines. We avoid the main entrance. Briggs ushers me through a side door and pulls an earpiece out of his pocket as we stand in an empty, narrow hallway.

“Major Briggs reporting in.” His voice is a whisper. “I’ve got the asset. Do you have a visual?”

He points to a camera mounted on the wall. Someone must respond.

“Negative,” he says. “It’s just the two of us.” He turns to me. “All rails and buses are suspended. The place should be evacuated, but I’m guessing there might still be hostiles patrolling inside. Our route won’t take us anywhere near the main lobbies, though.”

“Who are you—,” I start, but Briggs puts a finger to his lips and shakes his head twice. Somewhere down the corridor I can hear the faint echo of Mogadorian voices. They’re inside.

Briggs limps through a connecting hallway and eventually to a series of twisting staircases, hesitating only a few times to figure out where to go next, holding a finger to his earpiece and, I assume, listening to directions. I’m not sure if our path is chosen to avoid Mogadorians or if it’s just necessarily convoluted. He communicates only in hand signals, eyes constantly searching for signs of movement as we dart through the maze of behind-the-scenes hallways and rooms most people never see. Gamera follows, buzzing along as an insect, ready to shift at a moment’s notice.

Finally we come to a room that looks like some kind of suite—though based on the furniture and the avocado-colored carpet, it looks like it hasn’t been redecorated since I was a kid. Briggs finds a touch screen keypad on the wall behind a small painting of the White House. It’s the only thing that looks new in the room. He enters some code and lowers his head to stare into the pad, which must have some sort of retina sensor. The wall beside him shifts, and a series of thick steel slabs slide away, revealing a small room with a grated metal floor.

He waves me through, finally letting out a long breath as the wall slides back into place behind us. Then he flips a switch and the floor starts to move.

We’re on an elevator.

“Thank God,” he says, leaning against the wall, finally grimacing and acting like a man who’s been injured.

“This is insane,” I whisper. I can’t figure out how many flights of stairs we’ve gone down, but it seems like we’re definitely farther underground than any normal train station would be.

“There’ve been hidden tunnels and safe rooms in this building since the Truman administration. When the Cold War really started to escalate, all sorts of secret entrances and exits were added. And . . . well, let’s just say the architects got creative.”

We finally come to a stop at a small landing. There’s one door that has a sign that says “Employees Only” on it.

“That should be an unused janitor’s closet,” he says, pointing at the door. “Which means . . .”

He heads to a blank wall and starts pressing on bricks at random, muttering to himself. Finally, one of them pushes in, and a portion of the wall slides away.

He turns to me and grins.

“What’d I say? You’d be surprised what kinds of gonzo shit the government designed in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s like they were taking their cues from James Bond movies.”

The panel closes behind us as we step into what looks like a museum of old train cars—ten or so of them parked side by side in a tight row in front of us.

“What is this place?” I whisper to myself as I look around. There seems to be no other entrance or exit.

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