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The Fall of Five (I Am Number Four), Page 2

Pittacus Lore

  We hug through the bars, the metal pressed uncomfortably into my ribs, but I don’t care. He’s here. He’s really here. I’d fantasized about the Garde coming to rescue me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my father would be the one saving me from this place. I guess I always thought that I’d be the one rescuing him.

  “I—I’ve been looking for you,” I tell him. I wipe my forearm across my eyes; that strange Mogadorian is still hovering nearby and I don’t want him to see me cry.

  My dad squeezes me through the bars. “You’ve grown up so much,” he says, a note of sadness in his voice.

  “Guys,” the Mog interrupts, “we have company.”

  I can hear them coming. Soldiers pouring into the cell block from below, their boots rattling the gangway as they run up the metal stairs towards us. Finally, I’ve found my dad, he’s right here in front of me, and it’s all about to be ripped away.

  The Mogadorian pulls my dad away from my cell door. He turns to me, his voice commanding.

  “Stand in the center of your cell and cover your head.”

  My instinct is not to trust him. He’s one of them. Except why would one of the Mogadorians bring my father here? Why would he try to help us? There’s no time to think about that now, not with other Mogadorians—ones I can guarantee aren’t here to help—closing in.

  I do as he ordered.

  The Mogadorian reaches his hands through the bars of my cell, focusing on the wall behind me. Maybe it’s because I was just thinking about them, but for some reason, I’m reminded of those early days when we tested John’s Legacies in the backyard. It’s something about the way this Mogadorian focuses—the determination in his eyes undermined by shaking hands, like he doesn’t quite know what he’s doing.

  I feel something pass through the floor beneath me, like a ripple of energy. Then, with a piercing crack, the wall behind me crumbles. A piece of the ceiling shakes loose, smashing my toilet. The floor shifts and moves beneath my feet, and I’m thrown to the ground. It’s like the entire block of cells has been hit by a tiny earthquake. Everything is tilted. My stomach turns over, and it’s not entirely due to the shaky floor. It’s fear. Somehow, that Mogadorian just knocked down a wall with his mind. It was almost as if he was using a Legacy.

  But that’s impossible, right?

  Outside my cell, my dad and the Mogadorian have been knocked backwards against the gangway’s railing. The door of my cell is cockeyed now, the metal warped and bent. There’s enough space for them to squeeze through.

  As the Mogadorian pushes my dad towards the door of my cell, he points to the opening in the wall behind me.

  “Go!” he shouts. “Run!”

  I hesitate for a moment, glancing at my dad. He’s already squeezing through the bars. I reassure myself that he’ll be right behind me.

  I cough as some of the dust from the destroyed wall enters my lungs. Through the opening in the wall I can see the inner workings of the base; pipes and ventilation shafts, clumps of wiring and insulation.

  Wrapping my legs around one of the larger pipes, I start shimmying down. Pins and needles shoot through my weakened legs and for a moment I’m worried that I’ll lose my grip and slip. But then the adrenaline kicks in and my grip tightens. Escape is so close, I have to push myself.

  I see my dad’s shadow in the opening above me. He’s hesitating.

  “What’re you doing?!” my dad shouts at the Mog. “Adam?”

  I hear the Mogadorian—Adam—reply, his voice resolute. “Go with your son. Now.”

  My dad starts climbing down after me, but I’ve stopped. I’m thinking about what it was like to be left behind in one of these places. Mogadorian or not, this Adam guy just broke me out of jail and reunited me with my father. He shouldn’t have to face down those soldiers alone.

  I call up to my dad. “We’re just going to leave him?”

  “Adam knows what he’s doing,” my dad answers, but his voice sounds unsure. “Keep moving, Sam!”

  Another vibration strikes, nearly shaking me loose from the pipe. I look up to check on my dad, just as another shock wave jostles loose the gun he’s been carrying in the back of his pants. I’m clinging too tightly to the pipe to catch it and the weapon goes plummeting into the darkness below.

  “Damn it,” he grunts.

  The Mogs must have closed in on Adam and he’s fighting back. Shortly after the shock wave comes a metallic rending sound, a sound that can only be the gangway coming apart—I can picture it tearing loose from outside the cells, the whole structure crumbling with it. A couple loose bricks tumble down from above, and Dad and I both duck until it’s safe again.

  At least Adam’s giving them a fight back there. But we need to move fast before he brings the place down on top of us.

  I keep shimmying down. The space inside the walls is tight, a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare, with screws and loose wires ripping at my clothes.

  “Sam, up here. Help me with this.”

  My dad stopped in front of a ventilation shaft that I hadn’t noticed. I slip a little when I climb back up, but he reaches down to steady me. Together, we hook our fingers through the metal grate and yank it loose.

  “This should lead us outside.”

  No sooner are we army-crawling through the shaft than a massive explosion rocks us. We stop moving as the metal duct creaks and whines, both of us braced for the whole thing to collapse, but it holds.

  We can hear screaming and sirens through the walls of the base. The fighting that I heard before has only intensified.

  “Sounds like a war out there,” my dad says, crawling forward again.

  “Did you bring the Garde?” I ask him, hopefully.

  “No, Sam, it was just Adam and me.”

  “Pretty amazing timing, Dad. You and the Garde all manage to show up at the exact same time?”

  “I think this family was due for some good luck,” my dad replies. “Let’s just be thankful for the distraction and get the hell out of here.”

  “It’s them fighting out there. I know it. They’re the only ones bold enough to attack a Mogadorian base.” I pause, forgetting about the danger for a moment, a giddy smile exploding onto my face as I realize my father just broke into a Mog base. “Dad,” I say, “I’m so glad to see you and everything, but you have so much explaining to do.”


  AN ACRID CLOUD OF BLACK SMOKE BILLOWS OUT from the base. Sirens blare above the crackling of fire. I can hear footsteps beating across the pavement nearby, humans and Mogadorians shouting emergency orders. It’s chaos. And from the sound of explosions off in the distance, I could tell it wasn’t just confined to our section of the base either. Something big was going down around here—and that could only mean one thing.

  That’s perfect. They’re too distracted to search for us right now.

  “Where the hell are we?” I whisper.

  “Dulce Base,” my dad answers. “Top-secret government base in New Mexico, co-opted by the Mogadorians.”

  “How did you find me?”

  “It’s a long story, Sam. I’ll tell you when we’re clear of this place.”

  Slowly we inch our way along a back wall, trying to stay away from the commotion. We stick to the shadows, just in case any guards should peel away from the madness inside. My dad leads the way, clutching the bent steel grate from the ventilation shaft we climbed out of. It’s not much as far as weapons go, but it could do some damage. Still, it’s better if we avoid a fight. I’m not sure how much energy I have left after what we just went through.

  My dad points into the darkness, beyond the collapsed wreckage of what used to be a watchtower, into the desert.

  “Our ride is parked out there,” he says.

  “Who knocked down that watchtower?”

  “We did,” my dad answers. “Well, Adam did.”

  “How—how is that possible? They aren’t supposed to have powers like that.”

  “I don’t know how it’s possible
, Sam. But I do know he’s different from the others.” My dad reaches out, squeezing my arm. “He helped me find you. And, well . . . I’ll tell you the rest once we’re out of here.”

  I rub my face; my eyes hurt from the smoke. Also, I still can’t believe this is happening. My father and I skulking around a government base, escaping from hostile aliens. Weirdly, it’s sort of like a dream come true. We keep inching along, angling our way to a patch of shadows where it’ll be a straight sprint towards the fence and into the desert.

  “I can’t figure out how you and the Garde both managed to get here at the same time.”

  “We don’t know for sure it’s the Garde.”

  “Come on, Dad,” I say, jerking my thumb at the flames rising from the base. “You said this is a Mog place and that the government’s in cahoots with the Mogs, so we know it’s not the army. What the hell else could cause all this?”

  My dad stares at me, seeming a little amazed. “You know them. I can’t believe you know them,” he whispers, shaking his head guiltily. “I never meant to get you into this mess.”

  “You didn’t, Dad. It’s not your fault my best friend turned out to be an alien. Anyway, I’m in it now and we have to help them.”

  It’s hard to tell in the darkness and smoke, but it’s almost as if my dad is seeing me for the first time. During our hurried reunion inside the base, he was probably seeing that little kid I was when he first disappeared. But I’m not a child anymore. From the look on his face—a mixture of sadness and pride—I think he realizes that.

  “You’ve turned into a brave young man,” he says, “but you know we can’t go back in there, right? Even if the Garde are here, I won’t risk it—won’t risk you.”

  He starts moving again and I follow, our backs to the wall as we approach a corner of the base’s exterior wall. My feet move sluggishly, but it’s not from my exhaustion. My heart knows we shouldn’t be running and my body is joining in the protest. The chaos around the base reminds me of the cave in West Virginia and of what happened afterwards—the chains, the torture—that could happen to Adam if we leave him behind, or the Garde if they’re in there fighting. I want to do something besides running away.

  “We can help them,” I blurt out. “We have to!”

  My dad nods. “And we will. But we won’t help anyone by getting killed while blindly racing back into a heavily fortified military base that also happens to be on fire.”

  That speech sounds familiar. It takes me a second to realize it’s exactly the kind of advice I used to give to John, right before he’d rush off to do something brave and stupid.

  As I’m struggling to come up with a sound argument for reentering the base, my dad peeks around the corner and rapidly jerks back. A second later, I can hear two sets of running footsteps approaching.

  “Mogs,” he hisses, hunkering down. “Two of them. They’re probably setting up a perimeter.”

  As the first Mogadorian guard comes sprinting around the corner, my dad swings the steel grate low, crunching right into the Mog’s shins. He tumbles to the ground, landing hard on his ugly face.

  The second guard tries to get his weapon up, but my dad is on him. They start wrestling over the blaster; my dad has the advantage of surprise and adrenaline. The Mogadorian is stronger, though, and slams my dad against the wall, the weapon still pinned between them. I hear a rush of breath escape my father.

  I dash to the first guard before he can collect himself. I kick him hard in the side of the head, so hard that I can feel my toes immediately swelling up inside my worn-out sneakers. I grab his blaster, spin around, and fire.

  The shot sizzles into the wall next to my dad’s head. I correct my aim and shoot again.

  My dad spits out black ash as the Mogadorian disintegrates in front of him. Not wanting to take any chances, I shoot the Mogadorian lying at my feet. I watch his body explode in a puff of soot that spreads across the pavement. It’s a pretty satisfying sight.

  When I look up, my dad is staring at me with a mix of wonderment and pride.

  “Nice shooting,” he says. He picks up the second Mog blaster and peers around the corner again. “Coast is clear, but more will be coming. We need to get moving.”

  I look back at the base, wondering if my friends are still fighting for their lives inside. Sensing my hesitation, my dad gently grabs on to my shoulder.

  “Sam, I know it might not count for much right now, but you have my word that we’re going to do everything we can for the Garde. Saving them, protecting Earth . . . it’s my life’s work.”

  “Mine too,” I reply, realizing as I say them that the words are true.

  He pokes his head around the corner again and then motions for me. We sprint into the open, heading towards the fallen watchtower where my dad says there will be a way through Dulce’s fence. I half expect blaster fire to erupt behind us at anytime, but it never comes. I glance over my shoulder at the smoke curling upwards from the base. I hope the Garde and Adam made it out alive.

  My dad’s old Chevy Rambler is parked right where he said it’d be. We drive east through the desert until we cross into Texas. We don’t hit any roadblocks and we aren’t chased by any dark government patrol cars; the roads are dark and empty until we get closer to Odessa.

  “So,” Dad begins casually, like he’s asking me how my day was at school. “How’d you end up being best friends with one of the Garde?”

  “His name’s John,” I reply. “His Cêpan actually came to Paradise looking for you. We just met at school and had, uh, some mutual friends.”

  I look out the window, watching Texas fly by. It’s been awhile since I thought of high school, of Mark James, of the manure in my locker and that psychotic hayride. It’s hard to believe I once considered Mark and his crew the most dangerous people in my world. I laugh softly and dad glances over at me.

  “Tell me everything, Sam. I feel like I’ve missed so much.”

  So I do. I begin with meeting John at school, jump to the battle on the football field, and finish with our time on the run and my capture. I have tons of questions for my dad, but it actually feels really good to talk. It’s not just that I spent weeks alone in that cell; I’ve missed confiding to my father.

  It’s late when we pull up to a motel on the outskirts of town. Even though Dad and I are both filthy—we look like we just tunneled out of prison, which we pretty much did—the tired old man renting rooms doesn’t ask us any questions.

  Our room is on the second floor with a view of the neglected motel pool, filled with equal parts murky brown water, dead leaves and fast food wrappers. Before heading up, we stop back at the car to grab some gear. My dad pulls a backpack out of the trunk and hands it to me.

  “This was Adam’s stuff,” he begins awkwardly. “There should be some clean clothes in there.”

  “Thanks,” I reply, studying my father. There’s a worried look on his face. “I’ll keep it safe for him.”

  My dad nods, but I can tell that he’s thinking the worst. He’s worried about this Mogadorian guy and, suddenly, I’m wondering if he worried this much about me when he was away all those years.

  With a grunt, I shoulder Adam’s pack and head towards the motel room. Apparently, there was a bond between my father and Adam that I can’t really understand, and part of me starts to feel a little jealous. But then my dad puts his hand on my shoulder as we walk and I’m reminded just how long I’ve been searching for him, how he saved me and how he left Adam behind to do it. He abandoned the Mogadorian who has somehow developed a Legacy to save me. I put aside my petty thoughts and try to think rationally about what it all means.

  “How did you meet Adam?” I ask as he unlocks our door.

  “He rescued me. The Mogadorians were holding me prisoner. Experimenting on me.”

  The motel room is small and about as grungy as I expected. A cockroach skitters out of sight beneath the bed when we turn on the light. The place smells like mildew. There’s a small bathroom and, even
though the tub is dotted by islands of mold, I’m looking forward to taking a shower. Compared to washing myself with ice-cold water from a metal bucket, this place is paradise.

  “What kind of experiments?”

  My dad sits down on the foot of the bed. I sit next to him and together we stare at our reflections in the smudged hotel mirror. We make quite the pair—both of us filthy and gaunt from our recent imprisonments. Father and son.

  “They were trying to get into my mind. To tear out anything useful I might know about the Garde.”

  “Because you were one of the ones who met the Garde when they came to Earth, right? We found your bunker in the backyard. I pieced some stuff together.”

  “Greeters,” my dad says sadly. “We met the Loric when they landed, helped them to get on their feet and on the run. Those nine children, all of them so frightened. And yet, that ship landing, it was one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen.”

  I smile, thinking back to the first time I saw John use his Legacies. It was like a curtain being pulled back revealing a universe of possibility. All the nerdy alien books I’d read, that I’d so badly wanted to be true—suddenly, they were.

  “We proved easier to hunt than the Garde, I suppose. We had families. Lives that couldn’t just be uprooted. The Mogadorians found us.”

  “What happened to the others?”

  My dad’s hands shake a bit. He sighs. “They were all killed, Sam. I’m the last one.”

  I stare in the mirror at the haunted look on his face. Imprisoned by the Mogs for all these years; I feel bad asking him to go back to what must be horrible memories.

  “I’m sorry,” I say. “We don’t have to talk about it.”

  “No,” he replies, resolute, “you deserve to know why I wasn’t—why I wasn’t in your life as much as I should’ve been.”

  My dad’s face is scrunched up like he’s trying to remember something. I let him take his time, leaning down to unlace my shoes. My toes are swollen from where I kicked that Mog in the face. I start rubbing them gently, making sure there aren’t any bones broken.