Home > Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(4)

Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(4)
Pittacus Lore

“When you put it that way”—he flounders for the right words—“it’s a lot of lost time.”

I cock my head to one side a bit. Something he said earlier isn’t adding up.

“Why were you looking into my disappearance? That was so long ago, and with everything that must have been happening after the attack on the school, surely you had more important things to worry about.”

“Your son was a prime suspect and was missing. We couldn’t rule out the idea that you were working off the grid somewhere with John Smith or the Mogadorians even. If they had only told us they had you. . . .”

He stops, realizing that he’s digging himself into a hole, reminding me that while I was in a coma a few rooms down, he and the rest of Walker’s agents were working with my captors.

“We didn’t know.” His eyes meet mine. He sounds earnest, though I can’t tell if he’s trying to convince himself or me. “All the civilian casualties and detainments, the plans for invasion . . . Jesus, we just thought we were getting high-tech weapons and medical enhancements out of helping them find some alien fugitives.”

Anger bubbles in my stomach as he speaks, not at him but at all of it: the FBI, the Mogs, my imprisonment. I try to push it down and focus on what’s important.

“Well, we’d better make up for both of our sins. Taking down the Mogs might not absolve us of the things we’ve done under their influence, but it sounds like a pretty good start to me.”

Noto nods a little. We sit in silence for a few moments before a new question comes to my mind.

“You were investigating Sam. What did you find?”

He takes a deep breath, looking a little relieved. “Solid grades. Exceptional aptitude in sciences. An understandable obsession with conspiracy theories and space. I wouldn’t want to poke around the internet history of most teenagers, but Sam spent the majority of his free time researching faraway planets and talking about potential extraterrestrial sightings on message boards. I mean, he also pirated a lot of movies and music, but all in all he seems like a pretty good kid.”

“I can’t take credit for any of that,” I say, a pang of guilt in my gut.

Noto shakes his head. “You’re telling me it’s just a coincidence that your son grew up to become an ally to the Loric? Something you did must have rubbed off on him.”

“Now, if only I can remember what that was,” I say, trying to make a joke of it but failing. “I swear, if Anu and Zakos weren’t dead already, I’d kill them myself.”

Noto’s face suddenly twists, his brow furrowing. “Who?”

“Dr. Anu. He was the first Mogadorian doctor who—”

“No, the other one,” Noto says. He’s not looking at me now but tapping on the keyboard.

“Zakos,” I mutter. “He . . . After Dr. Anu died he was the one who oversaw my captivity. He was evil. I mean, they both were, but Zakos seemed to take pleasure in his experimentation. A Mogadorian Mengele. He almost killed Adam, from what I understand. But Adam got to him first, when we escaped.”

Noto shakes his head.

“That was in the fall, right? When you escaped?”

“Yes.” Once I’d carried Adam out of the destroyed tunnels, sneaking away in the chaos and confusion, we crisscrossed the country trying to avoid being recaptured. Weeks flew by in a haze. We spent a lot of time sleeping in fields and living off scraps we found. “By the time I figured enough time had passed and I dared go back to Paradise to reunite with my family, Sam was gone.”

“Right . . .” Noto’s voice is quiet, distant, like he’s not really listening anymore. His eyes are locked on his screen.

“What is it?”

“I’ve got a recording here of Dr. Zakos.” He raises his head and meets my eyes. “It’s from earlier this year. Whatever happened to him here, he survived.”

“No,” I mutter, coming around to his screen. “That’s not possible. Adam knocked him out, and then the ceiling came down around him when—”

But he’s there on the screen. In the background his lab is in shambles, the walls cracked and floor covered in rubble. It’s obviously after Adam partially destroyed the sublevel. He looks pleased with himself, black eyes shining in the paused image.

It takes me a few seconds to comprehend what I’m seeing, but then it hits me in my chest. Dr. Zakos—the butcher, the mad scientist, the monster—is still alive. He’s still fighting against us.

Somewhere in the darkest parts of my mind, there’s a strange flash. Not joy, exactly, but something like it as I realize I might have the chance to face one of my former captors.

“It sounds like he’s been called in for some top secret project that Setrákus Ra is overseeing. Something they think will ensure Mogadorian victory.”

Before I can say anything, though, Noto’s walkie-talkie crackles.

“Noto, get up here! Something’s happening in New York.”

CHAPTER THREE

THE WARSHIPS HAVE COME. THEY’RE REPORTED first over New York and then cities across the world.

“This is it,” I murmur to myself. Everything I’ve tried to prevent is happening. The Mogs are here, in full force.

It’s an invasion.

Is Sam safe?

Noto and I gather around several televisions in the house’s media room with at least a dozen Feds to watch shocked newscasters and talking heads try to make sense of what’s happening. Pretty soon the only thing playing is a live feed of the UN press conference. Ella is there. So is Setrákus Ra, in the form of a middle-aged man. He’s saying something about wanting peace. I grind my teeth together.

Then there’s some sort of commotion, and the camera pans to John, his face a portrait of rage. That’s when everything goes straight to hell.

Where is Sam?

I search for a glimpse of my son. But he’s not in the crowds fleeing when John’s hands start to glow with fire, and by the time Ra transforms into a horrifying monster, the camera is pointed only at the people on the stage. When the live feeds cut out, the news stations keep playing the footage, over and over again. Still, I don’t see Sam.

I try Sam’s phone, but there’s no answer. Of course not. He’s probably there, in the thick of it all, just off camera. My hands start to shake as a feeling of helplessness falls over me. I’m so far away from him. I should have stopped him, demanded that he not go. But it’s too late. What can I do now? Suddenly the idea of going back down into the archives seems foolish, like trying to use a water bottle to put out a forest fire. And so I keep watching the footage on loop.

At first it’s just the videos on repeat with no commentary, as if the news anchors themselves can’t figure out how to respond. Then it’s a bombardment of theories, warnings and assurances that either the government will handle this or that it’s directly responsible for it.

Gamera, still in the form of a small black cat, winds between my legs, brushing up against me. His green eyes dart about, ears perked. I wonder briefly how much he understands about what’s going on. Can he feel that our enemy has invaded? That everything is changing?

Around me, the FBI agents try to deal with what’s happening in their own ways. Most are either dumbfounded, standing slack jawed beside me, or they’re manic, yelling at every busy signal or call that won’t go through on their phones, or shouting into crackling radios, trying to get a handle on the situation. No one’s heard from Walker, and I can tell that several of these agents want to be out in the field.

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