Home > Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(5)

Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(5)
Pittacus Lore

I don’t know how many times I watch the footage repeat. Reports start to come in from across the world. Humanity doesn’t know how to react. Chinese forces attack the warship over Beijing, sending planes to drop bombs on it from above. At the same time, trucks shoot missiles from below, the sky erupting in flames. But the warship remains unharmed, protected, apparently, by some sort of invisible shielding. The missiles explode against the force field and then fire and debris rain down on the city. A few of the missiles appear to bounce off the ship completely, obliterating towering buildings, destroying the skyline.

When the smoke clears, the warship looks untouched, but Beijing is on fire.

There’s riots and looting in cities across the world. It seems to be happening in places where there aren’t even any warships. I guess when there’s a giant alien craft hovering over your city, you’re less likely to rampage through the streets. People are scared, frightened, some ready to fight, others claiming it’s the end of days. There’s even footage of a group holding welcome banners and signs that say “Beam me up!”

I try to remember how I reacted when I found irrefutable proof that there was life outside of Earth. When I first met Pittacus Lore. Bursts of images and feelings flash through my mind. Awe. Fear. Validation. Pittacus holds out a white tablet. His eyes burning like fire as he asks for my help.

A new video starts to play on one of the monitors, taking me out of my thoughts. I recognize Sarah Hart’s voice immediately as she explains who the Garde and Mogadorians are—after spending so much of my life trying to keep the Garde a secret, it’s astounding to hear them spoken of on national television. At first it’s just on one news station, but then all of them are playing it, talking about how it was found on YouTube. They actually interrupt their coverage of the warships to show it, until Sarah’s voice is echoing all around me, coming from every speaker and telling the world about John Smith and the Loric.

The talking heads try to dissect the footage, bringing up screen caps and stories from They Walk Among Us. I feel like I can’t catch my breath as I look on.

Everything is happening, all the dominoes falling. I can barely keep up.

Eventually Agent Noto stands beside me. He doesn’t take his eyes off the screens as he speaks.

“We can stream the news footage on a laptop downstairs if you want to get back to work.”

“I’m aware of that,” I say quietly. “But what’s the point? What are we going to find that can fight this?”

Outside, the sun is beginning to set. My eyes feel like sandpaper. They’re no doubt bloodshot, and the combination of caffeine and the events unfolding on the screen has me practically shaking.

“Just a suggestion. I can’t seem to look away either.” He lets out a single, breathy laugh. “The world is shitting its pants right now.”

“And we’re playing house in a goddamned alien suburb,” another agent says, pushing himself between the two of us. “What the hell are we doing here, Noto?”

“Following Walker’s orders.” Noto’s voice is calm and measured. Only a hint of annoyance shines through.

“Walker went to New York. She could be dead for all we know.”

I see Noto glance at me before turning his attention to the other man.

“This is a highly valuable enemy base. We can’t just—”

“For fuck’s sake, this isn’t capture the flag.”

The man is attempting to whisper now but failing. “I can’t get anyone on the line. The Mog loyalists must have shut down communications at the branch offices. Either that or every agent we have is trying to figure out what the hell to do. We’re not far from DC. There are half a dozen assets within a twenty-mile radius more important than protecting a bunch of half-trashed Mogadorian shit. Weapons. Civilians. People who know launch codes. And that’s just off the top of my head. We can’t let all that fall into enemy hands.”

Despite everything that’s happening—or, maybe, because of the rush of adrenaline and heightened awareness surging through my body—a memory pings in one of the dark spots of my mind.

The last thing we need is for that to fall into the enemy’s hands.

I hear the words again and again. I know it’s important, but I can’t remember why. Slowly a scene starts to come to light. I’m on the porch of my home. Sam is with me, but so young and fragile. A woman I don’t know is there, warning me about something. What is it?

I close my eyes, trying to grab hold of the memory before it’s gone. Maybe this is something that can help us.

Then I remember. She’s telling me that if she found me then the Mogs will too. That my family isn’t safe. And I’m scared because I know I can’t leave, because the Loric are planning to come back to Paradise one day.

And so I stayed.

I swallow down another wave of nausea. For the last few months I’d assumed that the Mogs had taken me by surprise. But they didn’t, not entirely. I knew they could find me. I was warned. But I didn’t listen. What if they’d taken my family? What if they’d taken Sam too? How could I have been so stupid?

But then, who is the woman I was talking to? She wasn’t a Greeter or one of the Cêpan . . . but I have the feeling she was Loric. Someone I was equally impressed by and afraid of.

Where is she now?

“What do you think, Malcolm?” Noto asks, and it takes me a moment to realize he’s talking to me.

“I’m sorry,” I say. My voice is a coarse whisper. “What?”

That’s when the Chimærae outside start to go nuts.

Birdlike screeches sound from all around, breaking through the cacophony of news reports and arguments inside. Gamera hisses, jumping into my arms. Noto and I look at each other, and then he follows me as I dart for the front door, shouting something about being careful. A few more agents are already on the lawn, one holding a pair of binoculars up to her eyes. In the distance, some kind of aircraft is approaching.

“What’ve we got?” Noto asks.

“Looks like a transport chopper.” The agent hands her binoculars to Noto. “Army markings.”

“Do we know who they are?” I ask. Despite the agents helping us out in Ashwood, the government isn’t exactly to be trusted right now. I try to remember what I’ve read on They Walk Among Us and everything else we’ve uncovered, hoping to recall exactly who in the army we can trust, if anyone.

“We’re on walkie-talkies here, and most of the cell networks are down,” Noto mutters. “Unless you saw some kind of broadcasting equipment underground, we can’t exactly call them up. Stay in the house until we’ve identified them.” He unholsters his sidearm. “And tell the other in there to prep the big guns.”

Gamera lets out a growl. Overhead, the remaining Chimærae continue to dart around in avian forms, squawking.

“I’ll be right inside,” I say. “If anything goes wrong . . .”

But I’m not sure how to finish that sentence. Noto just jerks his head towards the door, and without knowing what else to do, I go. When I get inside, I pull open two slats of wooden blinds and watch as the chopper lands on the street in front of the house.

Two men dressed in black body armor hop off the helicopter when it lands. The one in front keeps his sidearm holstered, but the FBI agents have their weapons on him, their posture rigid. The other man’s got some kind of assault rifle slung across his back and a crew cut. He looks like he’s made of nothing but muscle, like a pro wrestler.

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