Home > Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(2)

Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(2)
Pittacus Lore

“See?” He pushes the plate into my hands, taking two more waffles for himself. “They’re making coffee inside, but these agents are just as addicted to it as you. I tried to get a cup, and one of them actually growled at me.”

“Sam,” I say. I don’t want to spoil his mood, but our time together is getting short. “I know this isn’t news to you, but this trip to New York might get pretty dangerous. If Setrákus Ra is planning on making a public appearance and it goes wrong—”

“I know,” he cuts me off. “I’ll be careful. If we get into a fight, I’ll leave the heroics to the actual alien superheroes as much as I can. Don’t worry about me. Just see if you can find something here that’ll help us take down these Mog shit heads.”

I give him an exaggerated sigh.

“What would your mother say if she heard you talking like that?” As if cursing even registers as a problem at this point in our lives. I’m honestly not sure where this reaction comes from. I guess part of me is still trying to mask my concern, as if letting these kids know how scared I am about them—about Sam—going to the front lines might somehow destroy their seemingly limitless capacities for bravery.

“I’m kind of more afraid that when I get home after all this is over, Mom’s going to chain me up in my room and never let me see the outside world again. Oh, speaking of, maybe I should call her on the drive and let her know I’m still alive.”

I think of my wife. The last time I saw her—when I showed up after years of being gone only to discover that Sam was missing too—she wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear that I blamed my disappearance on aliens. Since then she hasn’t been too keen on talking to me.

“Do that,” I say. “Just remember that her phone is probably tapped, so no details. I’ll . . . I’ll wait until I have something good to tell her. Then I’ll call.”

“That reminds me—here,” he says, holding a black satellite phone out to me. I pat my pockets, realizing I haven’t been carrying mine around. Sam continues, “Yes, this is yours. Adam was messing with it. Apparently Earth’s understanding of communications systems is really basic. This is supposed to get a signal, like, anywhere. Or so he says.”

“Excellent,” I say. “We should all start carrying these.”

Sam shrugs. “I guess. But you know how much fighting we get into. Electronics don’t really last that long around us. That’s why I’m giving it to you. I’ll talk him into making me one whenever he gets back.”

The door opens behind him and John comes out, followed by Nine, Agent Walker, and a few other Feds I haven’t been introduced to yet.

“All right,” Nine says with a smirk. “Let’s go knock some evil politician heads in the Big Apple.”

Sam rolls his eyes. “Keep that phone with you, Dad. I’ll call you when I have news.”

He tries to give me a quick side hug, but I pull him in closer.

“Good-bye, son. Be careful.”

“I will. I’ll see you soon.”

And just like that, he’s gone.

These kids all think they’re invincible, but they’re not. Even some of the Garde, with all their abilities, have been killed. For a second I wonder if I can talk Sam out of going. Call him and tell him to get dropped off at a gas station or something where I can pick him up. He could help me sift through the years of Mogadorian data stored in the underground facilities. But I know he’d never agree to that, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have the authority to flat-out forbid him from going. He’s already made so many tough choices on his own without me. Why would he listen to me now?

CHAPTER TWO

GOD KNOWS I’D PROBABLY BE MORE ALERT IF I had a few hours of sleep, but I can’t imagine closing my eyes and drifting off while Sam is en route to New York. Not when there’s work to be done. So instead I manage to snag a cup of coffee from the pot in the kitchen and head back into the bowels of Ashwood. With any luck, I’ll find some kind of secret weapon that’ll take down the Mogs. Or at least some information we can use against them.

Anything to make me feel like I’m actually contributing.

A long stairwell leads into the tunnels from a back room in Adam’s home, plaster and brick giving way to concrete and eventually smooth metal walls as I descend. Everything is hard, gray and clinical. The hairs on the back of my neck start to prickle the farther down the steps I go, though I’m not sure if it’s because the air is getting cooler or because terrible things happened to me here, even if I barely remember any of them. Gamera follows close behind me in the form of a dragonfly hovering over my shoulder. I nod to the Chimæra. It’s good to know my son is watching out for me, of course, but at the same time it makes me feel like a failure. I should be the one protecting him.

The underground portion of Ashwood Estates is a labyrinth. A sublevel snaking through the entire community with tunnels that stretch on in twists and turns for what seem like miles. As if that weren’t confusing enough, several of the passageways and rooms are completely caved in—something we have Adam to thank for, that eternity ago when he freed me from captivity here and let loose his newfound earthquake Legacy. Who knows what hides behind the collapsed hallways, what knowledge we lost when equipment was smashed? If we weren’t on the brink of losing the Earth, maybe we’d have time to find out.

There are plenty of rooms still standing, though. Laboratories and detainment cells, for example. I pass them, eyeing strange devices and surgical tools that send shivers down my spine. This place is still dangerous to me. Not just because of the questionable structural integrity, but because of the feeling I get when I walk through its hallways: the faintest wave of recognition followed by a stabbing pain in my head. There is something in the smell of the place—musty, charged with electrical equipment—that is familiar, like all the memories I’ve forgotten are just out of reach, waiting to be reclaimed. These tunnels fill every cell of my body with dread.

Fortunately, most of that subsides when I reach the facility’s archives. I don’t think I ever entered it during my imprisonment, because I can breathe a sigh of relief when I step through the doorway. That’s not to say the room is exactly cozy, nothing like the dusty libraries full of books and overstuffed chairs from my days at the university. This archive is just as uninviting as the rest of the underground level. Monitors and computer terminals line steel tables, their keyboards an unfamiliar shape and covered in markings I don’t understand. Cabinets full of servers and hard drive storage banks line the walls, humming in tune with the fluorescent lights overhead. There’s even a shelf holding a row of blasters on the far side of the room—the Mogs can apparently never be too far away from their weapons.

I stretch, my back cracking, and take a seat at one of the metal chairs in front of a computer terminal. This is the little space I’ve made my own over the last day: a computer, a handheld electronic tablet, a notebook, a small duffel bag full of tools and documents that might prove useful and a graveyard of dirty mugs. I put on a pair of headphones and flit through the list of Mog recordings on the screen until I find where I left off. Then I start watching.

Apart from being ruthless warriors, the Mogadorians also seem to be absurdly thorough when it comes to recording themselves, though I’m not sure whether this is strictly for some kind of historical record or is the by-product of a fascist regime wanting to keep track of its many moving parts. I fast-forward through dozens of videos, almost all of which are in the Mogadorian language and useless to me now that Adam is gone. Occasionally I find one in English, but those are mostly communiqués between human MogPro associates that contain either nothing useful or information we already know. I log anything of the slightest interest in my notebook. The whole process is mind-numbing, and at some point my eyes must start to glaze over, because I don’t realize someone else is in the room with me until there’s a hand on my shoulder.

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