Game Over
Author:James Patterson

Chapter 7

“CHECK THE DRIVER, Em,” I said, assuming my regular form. Emma’s got the best medical training of any of us. A few days ago I’d downloaded the entire medical school curricula from Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt Universities into her consciousness.

Meantime, the rest of us checked on the family. I helped the weary-looking father to his feet and instantly recognized something about him, something about his touch, his energy.

“Wait a second,” I said. “You’re—”

“Alpar Nokian,” he said back to me. “All four of us are. Just like you.” In an interesting twist of fate, Alpar Nokians like me are physically identical to you human folks.

“What on earth?”

“Precisely. We were abducted by Number 7 and Number 8’s minions two months ago and brought here.”

“But why?”

“Best I can figure is we were supposed to be target practice. A training exercise before they went after you.”

“You know who I am?”

“Didn’t you just tell us? You’re the Alien Hunter,” he said, bowing respectfully.

I had just announced that to the entire bus, hadn’t I? My friends had been nagging me to get more rest—it felt like it had been a month since I’d had a full night’s sleep—and maybe it was time I started listening to them. I was losing track of what I’d said only minutes ago.

“But if you were captured by Number 7 and Number 8, then why are you on this bus, and why did those fake Yakuza just refind you?”

“We were held in isolation for weeks, but then one day our cell door was just, well, it was open. Somebody must have let us out for some reason.”

He shrugged and helped his wife and then his kids to their feet. “As to how they found us again just now, I have no idea. Maybe bad luck?”

I nodded. I was getting pretty familiar with what bad luck looked like.

“Thank you for saving us, but we should get going,” he said.

“Where will you go?” asked Dana.

“We don’t know, but we’ll rely on alien ingenuity, yes? We just need to keep moving.”

“That’s fine, except for one thing,” I said, and turned and yelled to Emma. “How’s the driver?”

“He’ll be fine. Going to have a nice goose egg on the back of his head, but he’ll be okay.”

“Good. Come here and take a look at this man’s shoulder. Those thugs were talking about ‘acquiring targets,’ right? And something about a hunt? Something makes me think they may have put a transponder in this man, and that we should take it out so they can be on their way without getting tracked down in, like, the next ten minutes.”

Emma came back to us, asked the man to remove his button-down shirt, and examined his shoulder.

“I see where it must have gone in, but it’s a tiny wound. Maybe a microfiber transmitter?”

“Can we get it out of him?”

“Sure. Why don’t you just dematerialize it, Daniel?”

“Well, because I need to know what it is in order to do that. It’s not like wishing it away, you know.” That was true. I have to know exactly what it is I’m dealing with—and where it is—or it could be, um, a little dangerous. I mean, I didn’t want to put an unnecessary hole in the man, or sever an artery.

“I trust you,” said the man.

“I’m an alien hunter, not a surgeon, sir.”

“You’re the Alien Hunter—you can do anything.”

“Don’t believe the hype,” I replied. “My so-called powers only work when I have enough time to think something through, and when I truly understand what it is I’m trying to do.”

Seriously—it’s not as easy as you might think.

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