[Lorien Legacies 06.3] The Lost Files: Hunt for the GardePittacus Lore
Part One: Phiri Dun-Ra Chapter One
Part Two: Vintaro Üshaba Chapter Six
Part Three: Rexicus Saturnus Chapter Eleven
Excerpt from I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: Legacies Reborn Chapter One
Excerpt from I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: Last Defense Chapter One
About the Author
Books by Pittacus Lore
About the Publisher
THE LORIC MAY CALL IT THEIR “SANCTUARY,” but today it’s a war zone.
Their people will die here.
Killing the last of the Garde has always been on the forefront of Mogadorian minds. I know I’ve thought much about it, at least. Not for my own vanity or sense of accomplishment, but because I know that it is the greatest way I can serve Beloved Leader. To please him.
That’s all I want, all I need out of life.
There was a time when I thought I was close to receiving Setrákus Ra’s favor. I’d worked my way through the ranks, showing my superiors how mercilessly I could deal with any who opposed us. How swiftly I could turn the vatborn into well-trained killing squads. Eventually I was given command of an entire platoon in our West Virginia base, where I could show Beloved Leader once and for all that I was his most faithful, most capable commander.
But then I failed him. A few of the Garde scum under my watch escaped. I was disgraced, and given the choice to be put to death for my failures or restationed in Mexico, tasked with finding a way into an impenetrable Loric site. The decision seemed like an easy one. I chose the latter, hoping that I would be able to make up for my mistakes. Instead, I failed him again.
But that’s all going to change. Beloved Leader is here now, and I will show him that I am worthy of being his disciple. He will witness me on the battlefield and see that I am the embodiment of what he preaches in the Great Book. I will show no mercy, spare no enemy.
“Protect Beloved Leader!” I shout as I run from my cover in the jungle, leading a small group of vatborn and trueborn soldiers I’ve rescued from Garde imprisonment. As we cross the battlefield, I see Number Six. One of my eyes is swollen shut thanks to the Loric bitch punching me while I was tied up earlier. She should have taken my trigger fingers—killed me if she was smart. I fire at her back. She goes down. I bare my teeth. I will make sure her death is slow and agonizing.
I will make Beloved Leader proud.
We charge forward. Ahead of us, our savior stands in a crater, holding the Garde called Marina in the air with his extraordinary powers. He bashes her into the ground below over and over again until her body goes limp. The Loric and their allies may have destroyed the pipeline Setrákus Ra created to harvest the Loralite, but they’re being beaten down, reminded of our superiority.
This is war. This is glory. This is Mogadorian Progress.
We continue our surge forward amid blaster fire from every direction. I reach Beloved Leader too late. One of the Loric allies—a human male with the audacity to use our own weapons against us—manages a lucky shot that scorches our infallible commander’s ear. Had I been just a little faster on my feet, I could have thrown myself in front of the blast, happily dying to protect Beloved Leader from even the slightest pain. By the time I get to his side, he’s already thrown Marina’s broken body at the boy, sending them both rolling out of sight.
Up close, I can see blood dripping from a few wounds on our commander’s body. He leans on a sword.
“Beloved Leader,” one of my fellow Mogadorians says, stepping forward and placing a hand on the commander’s arm as if to help him stand.
Setrákus Ra responds by placing a palm on his underling’s head. There’s a half second when the soldier looks like he’s in ecstasy, like he’s been blessed. Then the hand on his head clenches into a fist, the trooper’s skull caving in like a piece of rotten fruit before turning to dust.
Our Beloved Leader needs no help. These injuries are nothing to him.
“Back to the ship,” he growls. “We’ll make them feel our power.”
“You heard our glorious leader,” I shout. “Hold nothing back!”
Weapon fire continues to fill the air, coming from all sides, even from the Anubis itself. There are painful wounds on my hands from getting too close to the force field around the Sanctuary, but I don’t let this slow me down. I shoot constantly. I know Beloved Leader doesn’t need my help, but I show him my loyalty by being front and center as we march out of the crater, taking any harm meant for him. The other troops fall in line too, forming a ring around him as we move.
We will serve him until we are nothing but dust.
“I will destroy every speck of life for miles,” Beloved Leader growls as we start up the ship’s ramp. “Everything beneath us will burn, and once we’ve wiped out the Loric and their allies, I’ll dig the remnants of the Sanctuary from the ground myself.”
“Not even their bones will remain,” I say.
We’re near the top of the ramp when something in the air changes.
Wind hits us, a hurricane gale that must be the work of the Garde. Debris—rocks, metal, biting sand—slams into us, causing me to cover my face with my arms as I take a few steps backwards, trying to brace myself.
Beloved Leader stands strong, though. He turns to face the wind and holds a hand out, palm open. The wind fighting against us dies down, but I can feel some other force in the air as he grins. He is so powerful, his might driving our enemies back. The battlefield of the Sanctuary explodes with shrapnel and chunks of stones.
This is what our victory looks like.
Beside me, Beloved Leader laughs.
I see the projectile too late—I am always too late. It’s hardly a glint of metal in the air before it hits him; a piece of the broken pipeline is buried in Beloved Leader’s chest.
The sound of his laughter turns into a gasp as he doubles over, stumbling back.
“No!” I scream, rushing back to his side.
In that moment, despite the blasters continuing to sound around us, there is only me and Setrákus Ra, huddled together in the entryway of the Anubis, my body blocking him from further attacks. The rest of the world—the universe—ceases to exist.
He looks down at the shrapnel in his chest and then up at me.
“Inside,” he grunts, dark blood dripping over his lips.
I move as quickly as I can, shouting to the others to help me. We pull him into his ship. We’re barely clear when I slam a hand down on the controls that close the loading door, shielding us.
Chaos breaks out in the loading area as all the troops start shouting at once. One of the low-ranking trueborn steps forward.
“We should pull the pipe out, right?” he asks, a little uncertain.
“You won’t touch him,” I say.
“If I were him, I’d want—”
“But you are not him.” I fire one shot directly into the soldier’s head. His augmentations begin to disintegrate before he hits the ground. The others back away. I am a trueborn commander, and even if my military record has been tarnished as of late, I
’m likely the highest-ranking person in the docking bay.
Other than Beloved Leader, long may he reign.
The front of his armor is slick with inky blood leaking from the wound. There’s something strange in his eyes, so unexpected from him that it takes me a moment to recognize the emotion as shock.
He struggles to get up, batting away the troops who try to offer him assistance. His eyes meet mine, and he whispers two words.
Then he collapses onto the floor.
WE SOMEHOW MANAGE TO GET OUR HIGH COMMANDER into the nearby elevator. His body is heavy, almost too much for us to carry. His ragged, gurgling breaths fill my ears. If it were anybody else, I would assume that he was near death, but I know this is no normal Mogadorian in front of me. He is forever, immortal. This is a momentary setback. Not even that—it must be part of his plan, something he has foreseen.
As we rise through the Anubis, the other troops in the elevator with me are silent except for occasional outbursts.
“Hail our Beloved Leader!”
“Long may he reign!”
“Praise his name!”
When the doors open, a few medical staff are waiting for us. It’s fortunate we’re on the Anubis, as doctors are hard to come by on Mogadorian vessels, even on the warships. It’s usually not worth the trouble of trying to heal or treat the vatborn when more can so easily be created. As for the trueborn, it’s sometimes better—or more honorable—to die on the battlefield than return a disappointment.
At first the doctors are afraid to even touch Beloved Leader, but I bark at them, and he’s hoisted onto a gurney. He grunts, and then he’s rushed to the medical bay.
I start to follow, but then something occurs to me: we’re still parked at the Sanctuary. Our enemies are somewhere just outside, and our commander is currently unconscious.
Who will lead us?
What would Beloved Leader have us do?
His last words fill my mind.
Then it becomes clear. He has given me a command. Purpose. A divine order. He’s leaving it up to me to take control and see that his will is done.
If I can do this, I will have proven myself many times over to him, surely.
So instead of following the doctors, I make for the bridge. My long, black braids have come loose in the battle, and they whip the air as I sprint through the hallways, the sounds of my footsteps echoing behind me.
I burst onto the bridge. The officers are running around, shouting at each other. The medical teams have apparently already reported in to them. It seems that several crew members left to be by Beloved Leader’s side, while others nervously hover around their terminals, waiting for commands.
“Where are the Loric bastards?” I shout as I make my way to the viewing window at the front of the bridge.
“They’ve just taken off,” one of the officers says. Based on his terminal’s readouts, I’m guessing he’s our navigator. “They have a Loric ship somehow. We’re waiting for—”
“Follow them,” I say.
“But Beloved Leader is the only person who—”
I raise my blaster to the officer’s head.
“I am Phiri Dun-Ra, trueborn daughter of the honorable Magoth Dun-Ra,” I say, slowly and clearly. “And at this moment I am the voice of Beloved Leader. He has given me orders to crush the Garde. If you don’t put us in the air in the next five seconds, I’ll do it myself.”
He hesitates only a beat before the Anubis takes off.
“Fire as soon as you get them in sight,” I say.
I open a comm line to the medical bay, but there’s nothing to report. Setrákus Ra is still unconscious. The doctors are trying to figure out how best to proceed with the extraction of the pipe. They’ve contacted some kind of specialist, whatever that means.
Which leaves me to command the ship. To execute Beloved Leader’s order.
To ensure Mogadorian Progress.
I pace around the bridge, watching the Loric ship on our radar screen. We’re gaining on it, but not quickly enough.
“Call for reinforcements,” I shout. The officers follow my orders. They know who I am—some of them even recognize me from when I was leading troops at the main base. “Map their trajectory and alert the other warships on this continent that a Loric vessel is in the air. We don’t let this ship escape. And someone send more troops to the Sanctuary. Many of the Loric were wounded. Perhaps mortally. Capture anyone left behind.”
“Incoming transmission from the West Virginia base,” an officer says.
“Pull it up.” I gesture to one of the many electronic panels around the bridge.
“I’m sorry,” he says, his voice a bit shaky, like he’s unsure of how to proceed. “But I’ve been instructed that this is a private message for whoever is in command of the ship.” His brow knits together. “Is Beloved Leader able to—”
“I am his voice and his ears right now,” I say. “Take me to a place where I can receive this call.”
The officer leads me out of the bridge. I’m taken to a meeting room. The officer leaves me there alone as I tap on a control panel. A trueborn appears on the screen on the opposite wall. There’s a jagged but thin scar running across the dome of his tattooed head—one I know he got from the traitor Adamus’s attack on Ashwood Estates.
“Ah, Phiri Dun-Ra,” he says with a slight smirk. “When the chief doctor contacted me, he mentioned the Anubis was in the air. I should have known it was you who’d taken control.”
“Dr. Zakos,” I mutter. “I have a ship to destroy. If you have a message for me, speak now.”
Zakos and I have not always seen eye to eye. He was often a guest of Beloved Leader at the base in West Virginia when I was still stationed there. He oversaw all sorts of experiments and augmentation programs dreamed up by our leader. Once a superpowered piken of his design got loose in the tunnels surrounding the facility and ate half my men when we were sent to retrieve it. The doctor shrugged off these casualties as necessary losses. Meanwhile, I had to train a new squad.
When the Loric Garde escaped a few days later, it was that team of new soldiers who lost them in the tunnels.
“It’s admirable that you’ve so quickly stepped into Beloved Leader’s boots,” Zakos says, “but chasing this ship is out of the question unless it’s headed to the West Virginia base.”
“Of course it’s not,” I say.
“Then I’m afraid you’re going to have to abandon your pursuit.” His face gets serious. The self-satisfied smirk disappears. “Beloved Leader needs my attention. Now. His wound is serious, and every second that passes, it grows worse. The Anubis is not equipped to handle his injuries.”
“Beloved Leader will not be killed by a pathetic Garde,” I say, my voice getting louder. “He will rise again to conquer this world.”
“Of course he will,” Zakos says. “But he’ll rise much faster if I can get him into the healing vats. The longer you chase the Loric ship, the longer Setrákus Ra will be out of commission. He’ll have to spend more hours in the vats while you are free to . . . do what, exactly? Command the Anubis? That sounds an awful lot like treason, Phiri. However, a disgraced trueborn such as yourself would likely find favor with Beloved Leader if he awoke and heard that you had sped up his recovery by rushing him into my hands.”
I grit my teeth, unable to respond at first.
“He told me to crush them,” I say.
“If he holds that against you, I’ll take responsibility for it myself,” Zakos says. “Time is of the essence, Phiri Dun-Ra. I’ve alerted General Krah that Beloved Leader is . . . unable to be reached right now. He agrees that this is a matter that no one outside of the Anubis needs to know about. Understood?”
“Good. I’ll be awaiting your arrival personally.”
The feed cuts out.
I don’t move for a few moments, trying to figure out what to do. If we let
these Loric slip through our fingers, who knows when we’ll have the chance to kill them again? This will be yet another failure on my part. And dammit if I don’t want to watch each and every one of those bastards beg for mercy as I torture them.
But Zakos is right. Beloved Leader comes first, always. Though he told me to crush the Loric, I can’t be responsible for prolonging his recovery. And besides, the best way to ensure their demise is to have Setrákus Ra giving orders. He saved our people. He crushed Lorien. Earth is his whenever he decides that he wants it.
If I should be put to death for letting the Loric escape, so be it. So long as Beloved Leader walks among his subjects at full power once more.
I go back to the bridge.
“Update me,” I say.
“We’ll be crossing the United States border in ten minutes,” the navigator says. “We’ve gained on them slightly, but they’ve got a hell of a pilot. We’re having trouble closing the gap, and they’re outside of our weapons’ range.”
“Send as many Skimmers as we can spare after that ship, but the Anubis is disengaging,” I say. “Plot us a course for the West Virginia base.”
“Would Beloved Leader . . . ,” the navigator says, unsure of how to finish the sentence.
“Now,” I shout.
And then I’m forced to watch as the Loric ship disappears from our radar screen.
I GO BACK TO THE MEDICAL BAY AS WE SHOOT towards West Virginia. The doctors there have removed most of the pipe in Beloved Leader’s chest using some sort of laser. Now it sticks out just an inch above his body.
“He’s alive, but barely,” the trueborn in charge whispers to me when I pull him aside.
“He is fine,” I say, narrowing my eyes. “To say otherwise would be heresy. Remember that.”
“Of course,” he says quickly. “I’ll make sure my staff remembers that as well.”
It’s early morning when we land, still dark. Before we move his gurney out, I instruct the doctors to put a sheet over him, just in case there are stray troops roaming around somewhere. They shouldn’t see him like this. No one should.