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Authors: Pittacus Lore

The Fugitive

BOOK: The Fugitive
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CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

YOU’RE AN IDIOT, MARK JAMES.

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 answer 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?

BOOK: The Fugitive
5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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