Home > Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(6)

Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(6)
Pittacus Lore

I can see mouths moving but can’t hear anything over the noise of the helicopter’s blades beating. Noto steps forward, holding out what I assume is his badge. He talks to the two men for a bit and then raises a hand to the agents behind him. They relax slightly.

Then Noto turns his face to the window I’m looking out of. The others follow suit, until they’re all staring in my direction.

“Oh, no . . . ,” I murmur.

The men in body armor follow Noto across the lawn. Gamera hisses, jumping to the ground in front of me.

“Easy there,” I say softly, watching the men approach. “I think we’re okay.”

Once inside the house, Noto introduces the man who seems to be in charge as Colonel Lujan. His handshake is firm, and his eyes dark and piercing beneath bushy black eyebrows. The other man goes unnamed, but “Briggs” is written on a patch over the chest pocket of his uniform.

“I’m Malcolm Goode,” I say. Lujan and his other man just nod, as if I’m giving them information they already had. Neither of them moves to sit or enter past the foyer.

“Dr. Goode,” Lujan says. “I’ll cut to the chase: our country is under siege and facing an alien invasion. The president and several other key members of the administration have been transported to a bunker, where they’re formulating America’s response to this crisis. Your assistance has been requested.”

“My assistance?” I ask.

“It seems that Walker’s been in touch with the brass,” Noto says. “They want answers as to what’s going on, and she gave them your name. Said you could provide a clear picture of the conflict. Apparently she’s tied up in New York with . . . well, you saw what’s going on there.”

“My son. Did she mention Sam?”

“I haven’t spoken to Agent Walker directly,” Lujan says. “I’m just here to make sure your collection goes smoothly. As you can imagine, time is a factor here, Dr. Goode.”

My mind races, wondering if I even have the option of saying no to these men. And there’s still the possibility that something from the archives could help—however unlikely that might seem considering the news.

On the other hand, I can almost certainly do more good if I have the president’s ear and can lay out exactly what’s happening. Doing that will help Sam and the others.

“If you’ll give me a few minutes, I’d like to pack up some of my things from underground. My rifle is down there, along with a lot of intel I’d—”

“We can arm you,” Lujan says.

“I can keep things going here,” Noto says. “If your son or any of the others return . . .” He pauses. “Well, it seems like Walker knows how to get in contact with the bunker.”

“But—”

“With all due respect, sir,” the colonel says, “we need to move.”

I look back and forth between them before nodding. Gamera shifts on the ground between my feet.

“My bag and jacket are in the dining room,” I say, darting into the adjoining room before anyone can protest.

Gamera follows. I look over my shoulder to make sure the military men aren’t watching before unzipping my duffel bag and motioning for him to climb inside.

“It’s not ideal,” I whisper as he shrinks down into a beetle and hops in. “But it’s the best I can do right now.”

I pull out an old satellite phone—I keep the new one in my pocket at all times in case Sam calls—before putting on my jacket and slinging the bag over my shoulder, trying to be careful about not knocking Gamera around too much inside. Back in the foyer, I toss the older phone to Noto.

“It’s secure,” I say. “I’ll contact you when I can. Keep looking for anything that might help us.”

He’s interrupted by more screeching outside, followed by shouting. Lujan’s walkie-talkie crackles.

“Five unknown aircraft, coming in fast!”

“Hold your position!” Lujan shouts into a handset. He turns to me. “We need to get out of here, now. If the chopper gets hit, it’s a long way back to DC, and we’re sure as hell not getting there on the highway. It’s jammed for miles.”

“Go!” Noto says. “Good luck.”

I nod. And then I’m running.

We’re only a few feet out the doorway before I spot the Mogadorian skimmers headed straight for Ashwood.

CHAPTER FOUR

WE’RE HALFWAY ACROSS THE LAWN WHEN A HUMVEE crashes through the iron gates leading into the estates. It speeds towards us, eventually turning on a dime and screeching to a halt on the opposite side of a short brick fence separating two lots. Doors open. I see the pale faces of Mogadorians. And then suddenly Briggs is pulling me to the ground, shoving me behind one of the FBI vehicles parked on the grass between the house and the helicopter. My breath is knocked out. Glass rains down around me as the car’s windows shatter.

“Stay down!” Briggs shouts. He joins the Feds at the back of the SUV and starts shooting in the direction of the Mogs.

Behind me, agents break out the second-floor windows of Adam’s old house and start firing. From my position, I can’t tell where Lujan’s at.

Five birds land on the ground around me. Their claws tremble, hinting at transformation. I look back at the porch and see Noto. Blood’s dripping from a burn mark on the shoulder of his suit. I point to him.

“Protect the others!” I whisper loud enough for them to hear me.

They cock their heads and stare back blankly.

“Go!” I shout.

They scatter. Briggs looks back at me, reloading his rifle. He barks something into his walkie-talkie and then turns to me, shouting.

“When I start shooting, you move. Get to the chopper.”

I nod while gasping, trying to catch my breath. My bag is undulating on the ground beside me. I pat it, trying to tell Gamera that I’m all right. He could break out if he wanted to, I’m sure, but if we’re about to take to the sky, I don’t want to risk losing him.

Above us the skimmers have circled and are coming in for a pass. There’s a loud banging sound from across the lawn as one of the craft goes up in flames. I follow the trail of smoke from the explosion down to the helicopter. That’s when I realize it’s a gunship, likely full of all sorts of weaponry.

“Go!” Briggs shouts, opening fire again.

I sprint, focusing in on the chopper and ignoring everything else around me. For someone who’s spent the majority of the last decade in an induced coma, muscles atrophying and disintegrating, I make a hell of a good run for it. Ashwood is a blur, but I’m aware of gunfire all around me and can hear the sizzle and electric pulse of the Mogadorian blasters firing. There’s another bang from the chopper. In my peripheral vision, I see the Mog Humvee go up in flames.

It turns out Lujan is already in the helicopter, firing from what I think is a grenade launcher. He pulls me inside when I get there, half pushing me towards a seat in the back. I buckle in, wedging my bag between my feet, trying to weigh the pros and cons of unleashing Gamera now. The problem is that I don’t know these men, or where I’m even going. With all the pain and suffering that’s happened because of my actions in the past, I couldn’t stand the thought of Gamera or any of the Chimærae ending up dissected on a lab table in some government research facility in the name of science.

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