[Lorien Legacies 06.0] The Fate of TenPittacus Lore
THE EVENTS IN THIS BOOK ARE REAL.
NAMES AND PLACES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE LORIEN,
WHO REMAIN IN HIDING.
OTHER CIVILIZATIONS DO EXIST.
SOME OF THEM SEEK TO DESTROY YOU.
About the Author
Books by Pittacus Lore
About the Publisher
THE FRONT DOOR STARTS SHAKING. IT’S ALWAYS done that whenever the metal security gate two flights down bangs closed, ever since they moved into the Harlem apartment three years ago. Between the front entrance and the paper-thin walls, they are always aware of the comings and goings of the entire building. They mute the television to listen, a fifteen-year-old girl and a fifty-seven-year-old man, daughter and stepfather who rarely see eye to eye, but who have put their many differences aside to watch the aliens invade. The man has spent much of the afternoon muttering prayers in Spanish, while the girl has watched the news coverage in awed silence. It seems like a movie to her, so much so that the fear hasn’t truly sunk in. The girl wonders if the handsome blond-haired boy who tried to fight the monster is dead. The man wonders if the girl’s mother, a waitress at a small restaurant downtown, survived the initial attack.
The man mutes the TV so they can listen to what’s happening outside. One of their neighbors sprints up the stairs, past their floor, yelling the whole way. “They’re on the block! They’re on the block!”
The man sucks his teeth in disbelief. “Dude’s losing it. Those pale freaks ain’t gonna bother with Harlem. We’re safe here,” he reassures the girl.
He turns the volume back up. The girl isn’t so sure he’s right. She creeps toward the door and stares out the peephole. The hallway outside is dim and empty.
Like the Midtown block behind her, the reporter on TV looks trashed. She’s got dirt and ash smudged all over her face, streaks of it through her blond hair. There’s a spot of dried blood on her mouth where there should be lipstick. The reporter looks like she’s barely keeping it together.
“To reiterate, the initial bombing seems to have tapered off,” the reporter says shakily, the man listening raptly. “The—the—the Mogadorians, they have taken to the streets en masse and appear to be, ah, rounding up prisoners, although we have seen some further acts of violence at—at—the slightest provocation . . .”
The reporter chokes back a sob. Behind her, there are hundreds of pale aliens in dark uniforms marching through the streets. Some of them turn their heads and point their empty black eyes right at the camera.
“Jesus Christ,” says the man.
“Again, to reiterate, we are being—uh, we are being allowed to broadcast. They—they—the invaders, they seem to want us here . . .”
Downstairs, the gate rattles again. There’s a screech of metal tearing and a loud crash. Someone didn’t have a key. Someone needed to knock the gate down entirely.
“It’s them,” the girl says.
“Shut up,” the man replies. He turns down the TV again. “I mean, keep quiet. Damn.”
They hear heavy footfalls coming up the stairs. The girl backs away from the peephole when she hears another door get kicked in. Their downstairs neighbors start to scream.
“Go hide,” the man says to the girl. “Go on.”
The man’s grip tightens on the baseball bat that he retrieved from the hall closet when the alien mother ship first appeared in the sky. He inches closer to the shaking door, positions himself to one side of it, his back to the wall. They can hear noise from the hallway. A loud crash, their neighbor’s apartment door being knocked off its hinges, harsh words in guttural English, screaming, and finally a sound like compressed lightning being uncorked. They’ve seen the aliens’ guns on television, stared in awe at the sizzling bolts of blue energy they fire.
The footsteps resume, stopping outside their shaky door. The man’s eyes are wide, his hands tight on the bat. He realizes that the girl hasn’t moved. She’s frozen.
“Wake up, stupid,” he snaps. “Go.”
He nods toward the living room window. It’s open, the fire escape waiting outside.
The girl hates when the man calls her stupid. Even so, for the first time she can remember, the girl does what her stepfather tells her. She climbs through the window the same way she’s snuck out of this apartment so many times before. The girl knows she shouldn’t go alone. Her stepfather should flee, too. She turns around on the fire escape to call to him, and so she’s looking into the apartment when their front door is hammered down.
The aliens are much uglier in person than on television. Their otherness freezes the girl in her tracks. She stares at the deathly pale skin of the first one through the door, at his unblinking black eyes and bizarre tattoos. There are four aliens altogether, each of them armed. It’s the first one that spots the girl on the fire escape. He stops in the doorway, his strange gun leveled in her direction.
“Surrender or die,” the alien says.
A second later, the girl’s stepfather hits the alien in the face with his bat. It’s a powerful swing—the old man made his living as a mechanic, his forearms thick from twelve-hour days. It caves in the alien’s head, the creature immediately disintegrating into ash.
Before her stepfather can get his bat back over his shoulder, the nearest alien shoots him in the chest.
The man is thrown backwards into the apartment, muscles seizing, his shirt burning. He crashes through the glass coffee table and rolls, ends up facing the window, where he locks eyes with the girl.
“Run!” her stepfather somehow finds the strength to shout. “Run, damn it!”
The girl bounds down the fire escape. When she gets to the ladder, she hears gunfire from her apartment. She tries not to think about what that means. A pale face pokes his head out of her window and takes aim at her with his weapon.
She lets go of the ladder, dropping into the alley below, right as the air around her sizzles. The hair on her arms stands up and the girl can tell there’s electricity coursing through the metal of the fire escape. But she’s unharmed. The alien missed her.
The girl jumps over some trash bags and runs to the mouth of the alley, peeking around the corner to see the street she grew up on. There’s a fire hydrant gushing water into the air; it reminds the girl of summer block parties. She sees an overturned mail truck, its undercarriage smoking like it could explode at any minute. Farther down the block, parked in the middle of the street, the girl sees the aliens’ small spacecraft, one of many she and her stepfather saw unleashed from the hulking ship that still looms over Manhattan. They played that clip over and over on the news. Almost as much as they played the video about the blond-haired boy.
John Smith. That’s his name. The girl narrating the video said so.
is he now? the girl wonders. Probably not saving people in Harlem, that’s for sure.
The girl knows she has to save herself.
She’s about to run for it when she spots another group of aliens exiting an apartment building across the street. They have a dozen humans with them, some familiar faces from around the neighborhood, a couple of kids she recognizes from the grades below her. At gunpoint, they force the people onto their knees on the curb. A big alien freak walks down the line of people, clicking a small object in his hand, like a bouncer outside of a club. They’re keeping a count. The girl isn’t sure she wants to see what happens next.
Metal screeches behind her. The girl turns around to see one of the aliens from her apartment climbing down the fire escape.
She runs. The girl is fast and she knows these streets. The subway is only a few blocks from here. Once, on a dare, the girl climbed down from the platform and ventured into the tunnels. The darkness and rats didn’t scare her nearly as much as these aliens. That’s where she’ll go. She can hide there, maybe even make it downtown, try to find her mother. The girl doesn’t know how she’s going to break the news about her stepfather. She doesn’t even believe it herself. She keeps expecting to wake up.
The girl darts around a corner and three aliens stand in her path. Her instinct makes her try to turn back, but her ankle twists and her legs come out from under her. She falls, hitting the sidewalk hard. One of the aliens makes a short, harsh noise—the girl realizes he’s laughing at her.
“Surrender or die,” it says, and the girl knows this isn’t really a choice. The aliens already have their guns raised and aimed, fingers nearly depressing the triggers.
Surrender and die. They’re going to kill her no matter what she does next. The girl is certain of this.
The girl throws up her hands to defend herself. It’s a reflex. She knows it won’t do anything against their weapons.
Except it does.
The aliens’ guns jerk upwards, out of their hands. They fly twenty yards down the block.
They look at the girl, stunned and uncertain. She doesn’t understand what just happened either.
But she can feel something different inside her. Something new. It’s as if she’s a puppeteer, with strings connecting to every object on the block. All she needs to do is push and pull. The girl isn’t sure how she knows this. It feels natural.
One of the aliens charges and the girl swipes her hand from right to left. He flies across the street, limbs flailing, and slams through the windshield of a parked car. The other two exchange a look and start to back away.
“Who’s laughing now?” she asks them, standing up.
“Garde,” one of them hisses in reply.
The girl doesn’t know what this means. The way the alien says it makes the word sound like a curse. That makes the girl smile. She likes that these things ripping up her neighborhood are afraid of her now.
She can fight them.
She’s going to kill them.
The girl throws one of her hands into the air and the result is one of the aliens lifting up from the ground. The girl brings her hand down just as quickly, smashing the airborne alien on top of his companion. She repeats this until they turn to dust.
When it’s done, the girl looks down at her hands. She doesn’t know where this power came from. She doesn’t know what it means.
But she’s going to use it.
WE RUN PAST THE BROKEN WING OF AN EXPLODED jet fighter, the jagged metal lodged in the middle of a city street like a shark’s fin. How long ago was it that we watched the jets scream by overhead, a course set for uptown and the Anubis? It feels like days, but it must only be hours. Some of the people we’re with—the survivors—they whooped and cheered when they saw the jets, like the tide was going to turn.
I knew better. Kept quiet. Only a few minutes later, we could hear the explosions as the Anubis blew those jets out of the sky, scattering pieces of Earth’s most sophisticated military all over the island of Manhattan. They haven’t sent any more jets in.
How many deaths is that? Hundreds. Thousands. Maybe more. And it’s all my fault. Because I couldn’t kill Setrákus Ra when I had the chance.
“On the left!” a voice shouts from somewhere behind me. I whip my head around, charge up a fireball without thinking about it, and incinerate a Mog scout as he comes around a corner. Me, Sam, the couple dozen survivors we picked up along the way—we barely break stride. We’re in lower Manhattan now. Ran here. Fought our way down. Block by block. Trying to put some distance between us and Midtown, where the Mogs are strongest, where we last saw the Anubis.
I stumble. I can’t even feel my feet anymore, they’re so tired. I think I’m about to collapse. An arm goes around my shoulders and steadies me.
“John?” Sam asks, concerned. He’s holding me up. It sounds like his voice is coming through a tunnel. I try to reply to him, but the words don’t come. Sam turns his head and speaks to one of the other survivors. “We need to get off the streets for a while. He needs to rest.”
Next thing I know, I slump back against the wall of an apartment building lobby. I must have gone out for a minute. I try to brace myself, try to pull myself together. I have to keep fighting.
But I can’t do it—my body refuses to take any more punishment. I let myself slide down the wall so that I’m sitting on the floor. The carpet is covered in dust and broken glass that must’ve blown in from outside. There are about twenty-five of us huddled together here. These are all we could manage to save. Bloodstained and dirty, a few of them wounded, all of us tired.
How many injuries did I heal today? It was easy, at first. After so many, though, I could feel my healing Legacy draining my own energy. I must have hit my limit.
I remember the people not by name but by how I found them or what I healed. Broken-Arm and Pinned-Under-Car look concerned, scared.
A woman, Jumped-from-Window, puts her hand on my shoulder, checking on me. I nod to tell her I’m all right and she looks relieved.
Right in front of me, Sam talks with a uniformed cop in his fifties. The cop has dried blood all over one side of his face from a cut on top of his head that I healed. I forget his name or where we found him. Their voices sound far away, like they’re echoing down a mile-long tunnel. I have to focus my hearing to understand the words, and even that takes a colossal effort. My head feels wrapped in cotton.
“Word came in over the radio that we’ve got a foothold on the Brooklyn Bridge,” the cop says. “NYPD, National Guard, army . . . hell, everyone. They’re holding the bridge. Evacuating survivors from there. It’s only a few blocks away and they say the Mogs are concentrated uptown. We can make it.”
“Then you should go,” Sam answers. “Go now while the coast is clear, before another of their patrols comes through.”
“You should come with us, kid.”
“We can’t,” Sam replies. “One of our friends is still out there. We have to find him.”
Nine. That’s who we have to find. The last we saw him, he was battling Five in front of the United Nations. Through the United Nations. We have to find him before we can leave New York. We have to find him and save as many people as we can. I’m starting to come to my senses, but I’m still too exhausted to move. I open my mouth to speak, but all I manage to do is groan.
“He’s had it,” says the cop, and I know he’s talking about me. “You two have done enough. Get out with us now, while you can.”
“He’ll be fine,” Sam says. The doubt in his voice makes me grit my teeth and focus. I need to press on, to dig down and keep fighting.
“He passed out.”
“He just needs to rest for a minute.”
“I’m fine,” I mumble, but I don’t think they hear me.
“You’re gonna get killed if you stay, kid,” the cop tells Sam, sternly shaking his head. “You can’t keep this up. There’s too many for jus
t you two to fight. Leave it to the army, or . . .”
He trails off. We all know the army already made their attempt. Manhattan is lost.
“We’ll get out as soon as we can,” Sam replies.
“You hear me down there?” The cop is talking to me now. Lecturing me in the same way Henri used to. I wonder if he’s got kids somewhere. “There’s nothing left for you to do here. You got us this far, let us do the rest. We’ll carry you to the bridge if we have to.”
The survivors assembled around the cop nod, murmuring in agreement. Sam looks at me, his eyebrows raised in question. His face is smeared with dirt and ash. He looks hollowed out and weak, like he’s barely standing himself. A Mog blaster hangs from his hip, hooked there by a chopped piece of electric cord, and it’s like Sam’s entire body slumps in that direction, the extra weight threatening to pull him over.
I force myself to stand up. My muscles are limp and almost useless, though. I’m trying to show the police officer and the others that I’ve got some fight left in me but I can tell by the pitying way they’re staring at me that I don’t look very inspiring. I can barely keep my knees from shaking. For a moment, it feels like I’m going to crash down to the floor. But then something happens—I feel like a force is lifting and pulling me, supporting some of my weight, straightening my back and squaring my shoulders. I don’t know how I’m doing this, where I’m finding the strength. It’s almost supernatural.
No, actually, it’s not supernatural at all. It’s Sam. Telekinetic Sam, concentrating on me, making it look like I’ve still got some gas left in the tank.
“We’re staying,” I say firmly, my voice scratchy. “There are more people to save.”
The cop shakes his head in wonder. Behind him, a girl that I vaguely remember rescuing from a collapsing fire escape bursts into tears. I’m not sure if she’s inspired or if I just look terrible. Sam remains completely focused on me, stone-faced, a fresh bead of sweat forming on his temple.
“Get to safety,” I tell the survivors. “Then, help however you can. This is your planet. We’re all going to save it together.”