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The Search for Sam, Page 12

Pittacus Lore

Page 12

 

  I laugh, giving him the finger. Teasing me for being a Mogadorian has become a running joke between us. Joking about it is really just a testament to how accepting of me Malcolm has been.

  “Full tank?” I ask.

  He leans over, starts the engine, peering owlishly as the gas gauge whirs up.

  “Very nearly. ”

  He slides behind the wheel as I get into the passenger seat. We’re traveling light. Heading to New Mexico.

  “You ready for this?” he asks.

  “Not at all,” I reply.

  “Yeah,” he says. “Me neither. ”

  And we’re off.

  If we weren’t traveling incognito, trying to avoid detection by taking side roads, we could’ve made the trip to the base in three days. As it is, the trip takes almost a week.

  I don’t mind the extra time.

  Sitting beside Malcolm in the passenger seat, it occurs to me that we may be driving towards our own ends. That just as I had to say good-bye to One, I may have to say good-bye to Malcolm. Right when I thought I’d found a father figure, I now find myself embarking on what could be a suicide mission with him. I can’t be Malcolm’s son. He already has a son, and—for better or worse—I have a father. But I can help save Sam.

  I remember what One said to me, that she’d pegged me for a hero, wanted me to try for “great” things.

  Well, it turns out a hero’s lot is not glory or reward, but sacrifice. I’m still not sure I’m ready for that. I’d be happy if this car trip lasted forever. But soon enough we’ll cross the border into New Mexico and be only hours away from the base.

  A big part of me doesn’t want to go find Sam. If I can’t have a normal life, I want to stay with Malcolm, living on the edges of society and evading the Mogs.

  But I know that’s not possible.

  I know what we’re doing is what must be done.

  We’re at the fenced edge of the Dulce base. We parked out in the desert at dusk and crossed the still hot sands to the electrified perimeter fence, which is a quarter mile or so from the compound itself. Malcolm explained that he knew how to find the base from his alien-conspiracy days, long before he’d known anything about Mogadorians or Loric, when his awareness of extraterrestrials was limited to conspiracy newsletters and countless viewings of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The Dulce base was a lightning rod for crazed speculation about governmental cover-ups of alien life. The irony, he said, is that all that speculation must have predated any actual human contact with the real extraterrestrials by several years. Until recently, it probably was just a military base. “Guess me and my wacko friends were ahead of our time,” he joked.

  We crouch low to the ground, figuring there are surveillance cameras surrounding the fence. We’ve approached at the rear edge of the compound, far away from the base’s entrance. Malcolm thinks security might be a little more diffuse at this end of the base.

  For all of Malcolm’s knowledge from old newsletters, not to mention the tiny bit of preparatory research we did at an internet café en route, there’s only so much you can find out about a secret government base through public channels. We’re mostly going in blind.

  Malcolm pulls out a crappy pair of binoculars we bought at a truck stop and scans the facility.

  After a moment he taps me, pointing out a watchtower a few hundred yards down the fence. Squinting through the evening’s half-light, I can see a generator a few paces off from the watchtower. We can only hope that generator powers the fence. If I can hit it with my Legacy, it’s our one chance of getting inside.

  “Tower’s got to be three hundred yards … no, four hundred yards away. ”

  “Yeah,” I say. I start pounding my fist into my hand, a little pre-Legacy ritual I picked up. It doesn’t make any sense that warming up my hands would help with my accuracy—the power comes from deep inside me, from my core, not from my hands—but it’s become habit by now.

  “That’s like three regulation football fields, Adam. We never trained for that. ”

  “I got it,” I say, confidently.

  I don’t actually feel confident, but figure acting confident can only help my odds.

  I reach deep into myself, eyes focused tight on the area encompassing the watchtower and generator.

  The trick, I’ve discovered, is anger. And it has to be my own. The first few weeks I was able to channel One’s rage at losing Hilde to access my Legacy, but its efficacy quickly waned. I needed to find my own rage.

  So now I think of Kelly, too ashamed of me to even speak to me. I think of my mother, leaving me to rot in the Mog lab. I think of Ivanick, his hands at my back, pushing me down the ravine. Mostly, I think of my father: delivering the killing blow to Hannu. Sentencing me to death. And a million other, smaller injustices, perpetrated over my entire life.

  I hate them. I hate everything they stand for.

  And then I feel it, my power, my rage, coursing below the ground, in search of the watchtower. Like a giant stone hand, its fingers curl upward, fondling the earth, feeling.

  There it is.

  I let it rip.

  The ground beneath me and Malcolm remains still, but I can see the watchtower rumble, erupting with tremendous force. The generator, sundered from the ground, shoots sparks. Then the tower collapses.

  Malcolm turns to me, shocked, amazed. Proud.

  He smiles. “Touchdown,” he says.

  CHAPTER 14

  We creep over the fence, no longer electrified. We know that the generator’s explosion and the collapse of the watchtower must’ve attracted the attention of the base’s perimeter guards, and in fact we’re banking on that to be able to run aboveground without interference. If they’re too distracted by the explosion to maintain sufficient ground cover along our path, we’ve got a shot.

  Our optimism pays off. We make it close to the compound without anyone seeing us. Most of the guards have been drawn to the watchtower; if they’re even aware of a breach in their perimeter, they probably think it’s all the way over there.

  Then I stop. On the other side of the sprawling compound, over the horizon, there is chaos. Noise. Explosions. Smoke. Weaponry firing.

  I turn to Malcolm. “Weapons testing?” I ask.

  Malcolm shakes his head.

  Something is going down at the base. Something big.

  I have a strange hunch. Something inside of me says the Garde is here.

  “What do you think it is?” I ask Malcolm, wondering if he has the same feeling I do.

  “I don’t know. But I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth. The base is massive. If some kind of battle is going down on the other side of it, that means they might be spreading their resources a bit thin on this end to compensate. We might be able to catch ’em off their game, even once we’re inside. ”

  He resumes his march to the rear of the compound. I follow.

  We position ourselves behind a parked Humvee at a side entrance. We can still hear the distant sound of chaos, erupting half a mile away at the other side of the compound. We lie in wait as a young soldier flies out of the door, running towards the Humvee. I wonder if he’s been dispatched to the other end of the base, like Malcolm guessed.

  In a flash, Malcolm ambushes him.

  I’ve never seen Malcolm in combat before. Clearly he’s not trained for it, but he has two things going for him. First, the soldier was distracted, in a hurry. But even more important, Malcolm knows he’s getting closer to his son, and his determination to save Sam lights him up. Malcolm swings wildly, an uncoordinated assault that nevertheless catches the young soldier off guard.

  Malcolm manages to knock him out. We drag the unconscious soldier behind the Humvee. Malcolm rips an access card from his chest, then takes the soldier’s gun for good measure.

  “Just in case,” he says, awkwardly wielding the gun. I can read the hesitation on his face: he doesn’t want to kill anyone. I know he�
�s relying on me to use my Legacy skillfully enough that he won’t have to.

  We creep to the side door. Malcolm swipes the card through the access panel. After a second, a green light flashes and the lock disengages. We take a deep breath and open the door.

  It’s worse than I’d imagined. A long corridor opens up before us, leading to a small alcove with a desk clerk. There are at least five soldiers in the area and six or seven other military personnel. And they’ve all turned in unison, seeing us at once.

  One of the soldiers shouts. “They’re coming from both sides!” They think we’re part of the same invading force attacking from the front of the compound.

  I have no time to consider that, and send a blast out in front of me, shredding the concrete floor of the hallway. And another one. And another one.

  Soldiers and workers are knocked off balance or thrown against walls as we rush forward through the fresh rubble.

  I know I’m causing pain and injury; I can only reason that at least I’m saving them from gunfire. More important, I’m keeping Malcolm safe.

  We round the corner by the desk alcove, only to be confronted by three more soldiers. I let loose another seismic wave, sending them hard against the walls behind them, knocking the wind out of them, breaking bones.

  I cringe inwardly at what I’ve done, even as I feel a creeping exhilaration at my own power. I didn’t realize I was capable of such tremendous force.

  Malcolm dives forward to the overturned desk, scrabbling through its scattered contents, all while struggling to keep his gun-wielding arm raised. I circle Malcolm. He searches for a compound map, or something to give us a clue as to where Sam is being held, while I keep an eye on the fallen soldiers, ready to blast anyone who manages to get to their feet.

  “Got it,” he says, leafing through a large binder. “Compound directory. ”

  “Hurry,” I say, still scanning the fallen soldiers, my fists raised.

  A soldier clambers to his feet, hugging the wall, out of breath. We lock eyes as his hand drifts to his gun.

  I shake my head. No.

  He looks at me, confused, helpless.

  He’s seen what I can do. To my own shock and amazement, he puts one hand up and then tosses his weapon aside with the other.

  “There’s a cell cluster in Wing E, this way,” says Malcolm, pointing in one direction. “But there’s another cell cluster at the other end of the compound. ”

  Malcolm tosses back and forth through the pages. He’s torn, unsure of which way to go. I can see him beginning to melt down, to lose his cool. The closer we get to Sam, the higher the stakes, the more likely it is that one false move could mess everything up.

  “There are also interrogation rooms in Wing C. He could be there. ” Malcolm clutches his forehead. “He could be anywhere. ”

  Watching Malcolm on the verge of a breakdown, I know what I have to do.

  I leap at the soldier, grabbing him by the collar. He whimpers at my touch.

  “We’re looking for a captive. Sam Goode. Where is he?”

  The soldier bites his lip, closes his eyes. Surrender is one thing, but to give up information to an invading force is a step farther than he is willing to go.

  “Tell me,” I say, with menacing calm. He keeps silent.