Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Forgotten Ones

Pittacus Lore

Page 1


  MY EYES FLY OPEN, BUT I DON’T SEE ANYTHING. Just darkness. My lungs feel weak and heavy, like they’re coated in a thick layer of grime, and when I cough, a cloud of dust swirls around me, making me cough more until I’m about to hack up a lung. My head is throbbing, foggy and immobile. My arms are pinned to my sides.

  Where am I?

  As the dust settles, my coughing finally subsides and I begin to remember.

  New Mexico. Dulce. Wait—did all that really happen?

  I want to believe it was all just a dream. But by now I know enough to realize that there’s no such thing as just a dream anyway. And this was no dream. I was the one who brought this place down. Without even knowing how I did it, I took the power that One had given me and brought a whole government base crashing down to its foundations.

  Next time I pull a stunt like that, I’ll wait till I’m not in the place before I tear it apart. It made sense at the time. I guess I have some things to learn about having a Legacy.

  Now everything around me is silent. I’ll take that as a good sign. It means that nobody’s trying to kill me anymore. Which means that they’re either just as buried as I am, or they’re dead. For now, I’m alone. One is dead. Malcolm and Sam are gone—they probably think I’m dead too. As for my family, they’d prefer it if I was dead.

  No one would even know if I gave up here, right now, and there’s part of me that wants to. I’ve fought so hard. Isn’t it enough that I came this far?

  It would be so easy just to stop struggling here, to stay buried. To stay forgotten.

  If One were still here, she would toss her hair impatiently and tell me to snap out of it, to get over myself. She’d tell me that I’m not even halfway finished with the job she left me with and that there are bigger things to worry about than myself. She’d remind me that it’s not just my life that hangs in the balance.

  But One isn’t here anymore, and so it’s up to me to tell myself those things.

  I’m alive. That in itself is amazing. I’d triggered the explosives in the armory with the full knowledge that it might be the last thing I did. I’d done it so Malcolm Goode, the man who’d started to feel like some kind of dad to me, could escape with his real son, Sam. I figured that if they got away, at least I would have died doing one good thing.

  But I didn’t die. For now, at least. And I figure that if I’m still alive despite everything, there has to be a reason for it. There’s still something I need to do.

  So I try to slow my racing heart, breathe steadily, and assess the situation. I’m buried, yes. But there’s air here, and I can move my head, my shoulders, even my arms a little. Good. My breathing stirs up more dust and that shows me which way is up, and also that there’s a little light seeping in from somewhere. And if there’s any light at all, it means I can’t be too far from the surface.

  There’s no room for me to move my arms, but I struggle anyway, trying to push against the shattered stone and concrete I’m trapped under. It doesn’t do any good, of course. I’m not a vatborn with genetically enhanced strength or even a natural powerhouse like my adoptive brother, Ivan. I’m tall but slight and built like a regular human, with only moderately more physical ability. I’m not even sure if the most highly trained of the vatborn would be able to dig his way out of here; there’s no way I have any shot at all.

  But then One’s face enters my mind again—her wry, affectionate eye roll, the way she would look at me like, Really? That’s all you’ve got? And something occurs to me. It’s not all I’ve got. Not anymore. I may not have strength, but I do have power.

  I focus on the rocks around me, knowing that, with my Legacy—the Legacy that One gave me—I can shake all this debris clear. I close my eyes and focus on it, picturing the rubble shaking and splitting, moving away from me until I’m free.

  Nothing happens. It doesn’t budge. Move, dammit, I think, and then I realize that I’ve actually said the words aloud without meaning to. Either way, the rocks don’t pay any attention.

  Suddenly I’m angry. First I’m angry at myself: for being so stupid, for being so weak, for not having mastered the gift that One gave me. For getting myself to this place at all.

  But it isn’t my fault. I was only trying to do what was right. It’s not myself I should be angry at—it’s my people, the Mogadorians who got me here. The Mogadorians, who worship brute force and believe that war is a way of life.

  Soon I can feel my rage coursing through my body. Nothing in my life has ever been fair. I never had a shot at all. I think about Ivan, who was a best friend to me. We grew up together, and then he betrayed me. He tried to kill me—more than once.

  I think about my father, who didn’t think twice about letting the Mogadorian scientists experiment on me with machines that had been completely untested and came close to frying my brain. It was nothing to him to risk sacrificing me for the cause.

  And what cause was that? The cause of creating more destruction, of killing more people and gaining more power for himself. But power over what? When we’d conquered Lorien, we’d left it a lifeless, destroyed husk of a planet. There was nothing left on Lorien to rule. Was that what we were going to do to Earth too?

  For people like my father, that’s not the point. The point is war. The point is winning. To him, I was just another potential weapon to be used and discarded. That’s all anyone’s ever been worth to him.

  The more I think about it, the more I feel my mind racing with rage. I hate him. I hate Ivan. I hate Setrákus Ra and the Good Book for teaching them all that this is the right way to live. I hate them all.

  My fingers and toes start to tingle. I feel the rocks around me start to tremble. I’m doing it. My Legacy is working. You can let your anger destroy you, or you can use it for something. I close my eyes again, clench my fists and scream as loud as I can, letting all my fury out in one big burst. And with a massive whoosh, the dirt and stone and rubble begin to crumble. My body is shaking all over, and the ground is shaking too. Before long, it’s all slid away, and I’m free again. It’s as if a giant shovel has scooped me out.

  But someone else isn’t as lucky. Not ten feet away from me, a Mogadorian soldier is wedged beneath what looks like part of a shattered steel doorframe.

  He groans and stirs now that the weight’s been lifted.

  He’s as alive as I am. Awesome.


  I PULL MYSELF TO MY FEET, STAGGERING A bit. My whole body aches like I’ve just been squeezed in a giant vise, but I don’t think anything’s broken. I’m covered in dirt and dust and sweat and, yes, some blood, but not a lot of that either. Somehow, I’ve managed to avoid any serious injury. I don’t know how, and I don’t really care.

  The other Mogadorian isn’t so lucky. As I stand, he lets out a low groan, but he doesn’t look up at me or move. He’s so beaten up that he barely seems to realize he’s not buried anymore. I don’t even think he realizes I’m here.

  He must have gotten hit pretty hard, because this guy doesn’t look like the type who would be easy to take out. He’s as big as Ivan and built like a pro linebacker, with a thick neck and bulging muscles, but I can tell even from here that he’s not vatborn—his facial features are too clean lined and too even to be one of the genetically altered warriors who make up the majority of the Mogadorians’ army.

  This one is a trueborn, like me. Like my father. From the tattoo on his skull I can tell that he’s an officer, not a grunt. It figures. The vatborn are bred to be cannon fodder, while the trueborn give the orders. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember seeing him while I was holding back the troops. Unlike Ivan, who charged after me and got himself killed as a res
ult, this guy must’ve been leading from the rear.

  I actually feel a stab of disgust at the thought. A good commander leads by example, not by cowering behind his men. Not that it did him much good. Anyway, none of it matters much. I need to figure out what I’m going to do with him.

  First things first: I check him over for any weapons. He grunts a little as I pat him down, and his eyes flutter for a moment, but he doesn’t resist my search. Not that I find anything useful on him—if he had a blaster it’s long gone, and he doesn’t seem to have a knife on him either. I don’t find so much as a breath mint in his pockets. Which, from the foul stench of the air emitting from his mouth in wheezing bursts, would probably do him more good than a weapon right about now.

  The one thing that I can’t help but notice is the blood. This guy’s practically covered in it. It’s seeping out from under the dust and dirt that coat his pale skin, and staining through the torn-up clothes he still has on. I don’t see any one big injury, but he’s a mess for sure.

  When I’m satisfied that he’s not going to jump to his feet and take me down the moment I turn my back on him, I look around the area I’m standing in and try to get my bearings. The bulk of Dulce Base was built underground to keep it away from prying eyes, but I guess my little stunt changed all that. I’m standing in a giant crater at least a hundred feet across at the top, and there’s a clear blue sky above. The only problem is, I’m at least twenty feet down from where rock ends and sky begins.

  The wreckage is everywhere—rocks and cement and toppled columns, busted computers and equipment with their exposed electrical wires sparking dangerously. When I smell the familiar stench of gasoline, I realize that I’m basically standing in the middle of a huge powder keg. This place could go up in flames at any second. It’s sort of a miracle there haven’t been any more explosions yet.

  I have to get out of here quick. Luckily, despite the fact that we’re so far down, there’s so much debris piled high in every direction that I figure it won’t be too hard to climb my way to the surface.

  I figure out which direction will be the easiest to negotiate, and start to head that way—and then stop. I look behind me, at the guy lying there on the ground—the Mogadorian who still hasn’t stirred beyond a groan.

  I could leave him here to die alone. I have myself to worry about, and besides, one more dead Mogadorian is a good thing. But something stops me.

  It’s not that I’m just being nice. It’s way too late to start having moral qualms now. After all, I’ve killed more than my share of Mogs since all this started.

  For a moment I wonder if my dad ever would have guessed that I had it in me. I wonder if it would give him even a tiny bit of pride if he knew.

  Of course, my dad’s pride is the last thing I’m looking for now. That’s not why I decide to turn back, though. Instead, it’s because I know that a single, unarmed Mogadorian officer can do me more good alive than he can dead. For one thing, if he was stationed here he’ll know his way around the surrounding area and any nearby towns. Deep in the middle of the desert, without even a compass to guide me, that stuff matters if I want to get out alive.

  So I head back to the guy, grab him under the arms and start hauling him along.