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The Fugitive

Pittacus Lore


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Excerpt from The Revenge of Seven

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Back Ads

  About the Author

  Books by Pittacus Lore


  About the Publisher



  This is the thought that screams through my head every one hundred miles or so on the road when I have a moment of self-doubt. Or maybe it’s a moment of clarity? I don’t really know which. But when I face the facts—that I’ve stolen an FBI agent’s laptop, pissed off some evil aliens and am now driving across the country in order to try to find my missing ex-girlfriend, Sarah, who happens to be dating a good alien—I can’t help but think it’s true. I’m an idiot. Or I’m crazy. Or both.

  Whatever I am, it’s too late to go back to being who I was before aliens blew up my school and took over my town. Not too long ago I was hot shit at Paradise High, with a bright future ahead of me. Now I’m the dude who’s wanted by government agencies and bad ETs from the planet Shark-Face.

  I down an energy drink and crush the can in my fist, tossing it to the passenger seat floorboard, where it finds a home with a bunch of its empty brothers. I’ve been on the road for about nineteen hours, and I didn’t exactly start on a full night’s sleep. The only thing keeping me going is a mixture of adrenaline, worrying about Sarah and what are probably enough energy drinks to kill an elephant. One glance in the rearview mirror tells me I’m way overdue for sleep, my eyes all bloodshot and dark looking, but I don’t have time to take things easy. Sarah’s in Dulce—or at least, that’s what the email I read on the stolen FBI laptop said. Before I tried to access a file called “MogPro,” and the whole computer shut down. Now, the computer won’t even turn on. It’s just sitting on my back floorboard, wrapped in my letter jacket.

  I try not to think about what the FBI or the Mogs might be doing to Sarah. I can hardly even wrap my head around the fact that the FBI—or at least the agents in Paradise—are working with the aliens. Instead, I focus on the fact that I’m on my way to bust her out . . . somehow. After a few more hours of empty roads on my fifteen-hundred-miles-in-one-day journey from Ohio to New Mexico, I’ll be there to try to save her. Me. Alone. Against a bunch of pale-ass aliens and probably the FBI, NSA and the Illuminati or whatever.

  My phone dings—a burner, one I bought at a truck stop an hour outside of Paradise. The sound reminds me that I’m not technically alone on my mission to save Sarah. There’s someone helping me. He’s the only person who has this number.

  I look at the text.

  GUARD: Getting close to the NM border?

  I glance up to see a sign on the side of the road telling me that Colorado State Highway 17 will turn into New Mexico State Highway 17 in ten miles. GUARD has been weirdly good at guessing where I’m at since I’ve been on the road.

  I text him back, saying I’m about ten minutes out. Almost as soon as the message goes through, I get another ding.

  GUARD: Gas station on the NM side of the border. On the right. Pull off there: I’ve got some stuff for you.

  My brain basically explodes when I read this. I’m actually going to be face-to-face with GUARD: head conspiracy theorist at the They Walk Among Us website, hacker extraordinaire and kind of my only friend now that Sarah’s gone. Even though I’ve never met him. Even though I’ve never even talked to him on the phone because he’s as obsessed with his own privacy as he is with the Mogadorians and Loric.

  Okay, so maybe we aren’t friends, exactly. I guess we’re more like partners in all this alien shit. He’s the computer brains, and I’m the good-looking brawn who’s going to save the girl and then figure out a way to keep what happened in Paradise from going down anywhere else.

  The idea of being face-to-face with GUARD sends my thoughts into overdrive as I start imagining us pulling some badass action-movie moves while we storm the alien base in Dulce. Liberating anyone who’s been taken hostage by the Mogs in a montage of explosions. Then the pounding in my chest starts to drum faster, and I remember that this is real life, no matter how strange it all seems. I think of the huge Mog dude I saw while I was acting like a spy at the police station in Paradise. He was a black-eyed giant, built like a professional linebacker. He easily had two hundred pounds on me and was probably packing all kinds of alien weapons. Then I think back to all the gross-as-shit Mogs we faced at the school. I mean, I managed to fight my way out of that whole mess and protected Sarah in the process, but the idea of going up against those guys again makes me want to turn around and head back home.

  I crank up the radio and tell myself it’ll all work out.

  I’ll be okay. I’ll save Sarah. GUARD and I will do it together. He’ll know what to do.

  It’s two in the morning when I cross the border from Colorado into New Mexico. Sure enough, there’s an old-looking gas station at the first exit. This time of night, the place looks deserted.

  It’s only as I turn into the station that my head throbs and I wonder if I’m in danger for some reason. But that’s impossible. I’ve been supercareful, and God knows GUARD isn’t going to screw up on his end when it comes to flying under the radar. I still feel uneasy, though.

  I blame the sudden paranoia on my lack of sleep.

  I park at one of the pumps because it’s the only place that’s lit up, loud industrial lights buzzing overhead. Being under the light makes everything else seem that much darker, so I flash my headlights twice, half to get a better look at the area around me and half because I’ve seen enough movies about gangs and secret meetings to know this is sometimes a sign. No one appears, though, so I jump out and start to gas up since I’m already stopped, keeping my eyes on the lookout for any movement.

  I’m five gallons in when a tall figure emerges from the darkness of the side of the station.

  “GUARD?” I call out.

  The figure doesn’t answer, which isn’t exactly a good sign.

  I suddenly wish I had a weapon other than my throwing arm—a perfect pass isn’t going to protect me if this dude’s a Mog. My heart beats so loud I’m guessing the other person can hear it over the buzzing lights. I clutch my fingers around the gas pump. If things go bad for me, maybe I can hose the dude down and throw him off balance long enough to make a break for it.

  Fortunately, I luck out. It’s obvious from the moment the person steps into the light that she’s no Mog. First off, I don’t even know if there are Mog women. Secondly, she’s dark skinned, unlike any Mog I’ve seen. She doesn’t exactly scream FBI either. She’s got on a motorcycle helmet that leaves just her face exposed. Between that and the form-fitting leather jacket, I’m guessing she’s got a bike stashed on the other side of the gas station. I can’t get too relieved, though, because she looks like she’s pissed off as she approaches. That’s when I notice there’s a box under one of her arms. I keep my hand on the gas pump.

  I don’t realize she’s taller than me—by about a head—until she’s a few yards away. I don’t think I’ve ever met a girl who’s made me feel so short. Actually, she’s not really a girl. I’m guessing she’s in her midthirties, but with the crappy light and her helmet, it’s hard to tell exactly.

  “Uh . . . ,” I murmur. I don’t really know what to say. “I’m not sure . . .”

  “Jolly Roger?” she asks.

  It takes me a second to a
nswer because no one’s ever called me that in real life. Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever even said the words out loud. Technically I am JOLLYROGER182, at least when I’m blogging on They Walk Among Us.

  “Yeah?” I ask, as if it’s a question.

  I’m still trying to wrap my head around what’s happening when she pushes the box into my chest.

  “Sign here,” she says, holding a pen out to me with one hand and pointing to a sheet of paper on top of the box with another.

  I do as I’m told, only halfway registering the courier service listed at the top of the page. Sure enough, the package is intended for Jolly Roger. This must be GUARD’s way of keeping my real name out of the equation, which is smart, I guess. Still, I can’t help but be bummed that he sent a courier instead of coming to the station himself.

  I thought I was finally going to meet GUARD. I thought we were going to team up.

  The woman keeps her eyes focused on me. Not blinking. Her intensity creeps me out a little bit, keeping me from wallowing too much in the fact that GUARD’s not here.

  She takes the page back after I’ve signed for the package but keeps staring at me, like her dark-brown eyes are trying to read my mind. Finally she speaks.

  “You should get off the road and get some sleep.” Her voice is stern, more of a command than a suggestion. “You look like shit.”

  And then she walks back off into the darkness.

  I fling open my truck door and get in, tearing into the box. I pull out all kinds of stuff I don’t recognize: computer equipment, maps, little electronic gadgets. There’s a smartphone in the box, along with a stack of cash that’s got to be at least a grand. There’s even a black, padded messenger bag—I’m guessing to carry all this stuff around in.

  What is going on?

  Suddenly, the phone’s screen comes to life, powering on. After a few seconds, a text message pops up.

  GUARD: Thought you could use some supplies. Instructions are on the phone. Careful: they’ll self-delete after you’ve read them. Good luck. -G

  GUARD sent me a care package.

  There’s no return address on the box. I jump out of the truck cab, but it’s too late—I can already hear the whine of the courier’s bike fading away somewhere down the highway.

  The gas pump clicks. I’m about to pack everything back into the box when I notice one last item at the bottom of it. I pick it up: a metal cylinder about half an inch wide and four inches tall that’s covered in weird markings I’ve never seen before. Near the top is what appears to be a button. There’s a Post-it note attached that has “do not press me” written on it. I’m suddenly afraid I’m holding some sort of next-gen bomb.

  Looking back and forth between the possible weapon and the stack of cash, one big question is louder than all the others going through my head: Who the fuck is GUARD?


  I PACK EVERYTHING UP AND GET BACK ON THE highway—I’m only a few hours from Dulce, and now that I have a bunch of weird gadgets and cash, the last place I want to be is parked out in the open under the lights of a gas station. So I drive, fighting the urge to go over all the notes on the smartphone. Once I get close to where the secret Dulce base is supposed to be located, I give in and pull off to the side of the road to get my shit together. I can’t exactly charge into a secret government base and demand to talk to Sarah Hart. I start by taking a full inventory of the stuff GUARD sent me, carefully reading the notes on the new phone, which I’m supposed to use to communicate with my unseen partner now.

  Most of the stuff in the box seems to be computer related. There’s a little netbook that’s got a stealthy Wi-Fi hotspot installed inside that will bounce my location to satellites around the world, making anything I do impossible to track. That way I’ll be able to communicate with people and upload stuff to They Walk Among Us without worrying about a bunch of black helicopters swooping in on me. There’s also a USB drive that’s supposed to help get the FBI computer I swiped up and running again—GUARD thinks that the files I saw disappearing before the screen went black may still be hidden somewhere on the hard drive. The trigger-looking thing covered in weird symbols is some kind of cutting-edge grenade. GUARD says it should only be used in a life-or-death situation. All I have to do is press the button on top and throw. There’s no explanation as to what it actually does or what the symbols mean. They don’t look like any alphabet I’ve ever seen, and I can’t help but wonder if GUARD somehow managed to snag an alien weapon.

  I kind of wish he’d also sent along a laser pistol or something.

  The cash is self-explanatory. Well, not really. The fact that GUARD would just up and send fifteen hundred dollars—I counted—to someone he sorta knows makes me wonder if he’s actually some kind of hacker billionaire operating out of a secret lair that looks like something out of The Matrix.

  I shove everything into the messenger bag, including my old burner phone. As cool as all the gadgets are, the most helpful thing in the box for me right now is the stack of satellite images and blueprints of the Dulce base. All the maps I found online showed nothing but desert where it should have been, but the stuff GUARD sent is comprehensive, laying out the big-ass complex and giving me a good idea of the size of the thing and where I might be able to sneak in. There are even blueprints of what the underground levels of the place might look like.

  It’s intimidating as hell.

  Flipping through the maps, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to find Sarah in this mess. She could be anywhere. She might not even be there anymore. My body feels like it’s sinking in on itself as I consider how impossible this mission is. How stupid I am for thinking I can just waltz in and rescue her.

  I crack open another energy drink, guzzling it.

  Man up, Mark.

  I put my truck into gear and get back on the road. I’ll have a better idea of what my plan should be once I get there. Surely.

  After about fifteen minutes of driving, I take an unmarked side road that’s circled on the maps GUARD sent. The base shouldn’t be that far now. I turn off my lights and drive slowly. There’s just enough moonlight for me to sort of be able to see. For a few minutes, I see nothing but hilly desert in front of me, but then I finally spot a tall chain-link fence in the distance that’s topped in razor wire.

  That’s got to be it.

  There doesn’t appear to be any gate or path leading to the base perimeter, so I say a quick prayer, blow a kiss to the dashboard of my truck and off-road through the desert, trying my best to avoid any big shrubs or rocks and pretending not to worry about the fact that, for all I know, there could be mines and stuff all around out here.

  But there aren’t any. Or at least I don’t hit any of them. Instead, I get within a few yards of the fence and park. Just in case there are hidden cameras around, I fish a baseball cap out of the back of my truck and pull it down low, trying to hide my face as much as I can.

  The fence is at least three times as tall as I am, and I can’t see most of the base because of a mesa or hill or whatever that hides it. There aren’t any lights on—or at least not outside. I wish I’d thought to buy night-vision goggles or that GUARD had sent some along. I squint, trying to make out what all the dark shapes are in the moonlight. It looks like there are burned-out Humvees and other kinds of military vehicles littering the desert around the base. From what I can tell, something crazy definitely went down here recently. Something epic.

  It reminds me of Paradise and the way my school looked after John, Henri, Six—after we’d all fought and escaped from the Mogs. This is the kind of shit that happens when good aliens and bad aliens collide. Were the Garde here? Was John Smith here? Maybe Sarah doesn’t even need saving anymore.

  But she would have contacted me if she were free, right? And what if dumbass John and his other ET friends did try to save Sarah but got captured?

  What if I’m the only person left to bail them out?

  I have to get in there. Now.

Mark,” I say. “Time to save the day.”

  I walk beside the fence for a few minutes, trying to see more of the base while at the same time wondering if I’ve got anything in my truck that might be able to snip a hole in the chain length. But I luck out, because I get to a section of the fence that’s been knocked down—maybe even blown apart, judging by the mangled little pieces of metal littering the ground.

  That’s my entrance.

  I think about going back to the truck to grab the grenade thing GUARD sent with me, but I’m kind of scared that it’d go off in my pocket accidentally since its trigger is apparently just a button. Probably the lamest possible outcome of the night would be me trying to be a hero and blowing myself up instead, leaving Sarah all alone in a cell.

  So instead, I take a deep breath and step through the hole in the fence.

  Once I’m inside the perimeter of the base, I jog towards some of the wreckage dotting the desert hills and look for a way to access the main facility, which, according to GUARD’s maps, is mostly located underground. I try to stay low and out of sight, hiding behind half-crumbled walls and wishing I’d thought to buy darker clothes since my white T-shirt probably makes me stand out in the darkness. But I keep moving, eventually crouching behind what looks like a collapsed watchtower.

  What the hell happened here?

  Some of the buildings and vehicles around the main facility look like they’ve exploded—all scorched and burned-out—while others appear to have been blown apart by some other force. Maybe telekinesis? Maybe John or the other Garde really were here? The place looks completely vacant. Decommissioned. Half of my brain says I should just forget about trying to find a way inside and go back to my truck since it looks like there’s no way a major FBI or Mog operation could still be working out of this broken-down base. But I can’t do that. I’ve come too far. And if there’s any chance that Sarah is still inside . . .

  I think I see a shadow move out of the corner of my eye. I hold my breath and stand frozen for what feels like a long time, trying to figure out if there’s anyone around—squinting in the moonlight. But there’s nothing. The wind whistles, and I exhale.