Armageddon - By James Patterson


I HAVE NEVER felt so alone in a crowd.

I was penned in, crushed by a horde of seriously evil thugs who, fortunately, didn’t realize I had infiltrated their ranks. I surged with the teeming mob down a stifling corridor carved through a solid mass of black anthracite. Coal dust filled the air. And my lungs.

I did not belong here. Not in a million years.

Which might explain why I was so petrified.

Like the sea of murky shadows bobbing all around me, I was cloaked in a black robe with a pointed black hoodie—a cape I had quickly materialized so I could tag along with this legion of alien outlaw freaks.

Trust me: I needed to blend in.

If just one of these fiendish outlanders discovered I was Daniel X, it’d be time to open the orange marmalade.

I’d be toast.

Burnt, black toast.

After all, I am the Alien Hunter, legendary destroyer of the universe’s most evil extraterrestrials—including some of these goons’ first and second cousins.

Disguised, and with my face hidden under my cloak, I moved with the murmuring rabble from the mineshaft into a foul and fiery chamber. The cavernous room looked like a dark cathedral. Jagged stalactites jutted out of the ceiling fifty feet up and oozed droplets of molten lava. Slick cave walls glistened with the light of a million flickering torch flames. A suffocating scent of sulfur tinged the acrid air.

Now I wasn’t just petrified. I was also feeling kind of queasy. Sulfur, with its rotten-egg odor, has never been my favorite non-metal on the Periodic Table of Elements.

“Where are you from?” I heard a nearby alien grunt, luckily not to me.

“San Francisco. You?”

“Phnom Penh.”

“Nairobi,” snarled another.

These guys were definitely out-of-towners—from way out of town. Alien creatures from far-off galaxies. Extraterrestrial terrorists who lived, disguised as humans, all over the globe. And each and every one of these mutant monsters had come to this secret subterranean conclave to learn the same thing I had snuck down here to find out: Where on Earth were they preparing to strike next?

Suddenly a wall of fire shot up from an elevated stone platform at the center of the underground arena. A wave of cheers roared through the gathering as a gaseous fireball exploded and Number 2 himself stepped through the swirling whirlpool of smoke and flame.

That’s right. Number 2. Numero Dos. The second-most-heinous villain on The List of Alien Outlaws currently residing on Earth.

I could tell instantly that this fiend had earned his second-seed ranking the hard way. All seven of my senses informed me that I was in the presence of pure, undiluted, high-octane evil. He looked the part, too. The demon astride the elevated stage towered over all the other beastly creatures. Enormous wings jutted out of his bony back. Red-hot rage seared his sunken eye sockets.

After momentarily savoring the adulation of his fawning fans, Number 2 raised both of his muscle-rippled arms to silence the crowd.

“My disciples! My cohorts! I have waited many centuries for this moment, this ultimate battle. Now, at last, my time has come! The final reckoning is at hand!”

The mob roared, stomped its feet, and shot up various tentacles and slimy appendages. Number 2 had his minions mesmerized.

All except this one stooge—Number 30-something on The List. I couldn’t remember the gutbucket with the googly eyes’ precise rank because, well, I tend to concentrate on the seriously twisted alpha dogs in the Top Ten, not the one-hit wonders down below.

Unfortunately, Mr. 30-whatever was concentrating his googly eyes on me.

In fact, he was staring straight at me, licking his slick amphibian lips and drooling.

“You!” he growled as he puffed out his enormous blow-frog chin and chest. I could tell: the toady bootlicker not only recognized me, he was all set to score some serious brownie points by ratting me out to his fearsome leader.

Too bad I never gave him that chance.

Señor 30-something had given me a pretty terrific idea by proudly puffing himself up like that. Since I was born with the awesome ability to rearrange matter at will—yeah, you copy that?—I quickly morphed the bulging blowhard into a hot-air balloon. Buffeted by thermals roiling up from the steamy horde below, the slick black blimp shot up toward the ceiling and all those pointy-tipped stalactites. He was definitely on his way to bursting his own bubble.

But he never made it that high.

The conventioneer from California whipped out his Bolide Blaster and, in a masterful display of indoor skeet shooting, torched the zeppelin in midair, initiating an awesome indoor fireworks display. The