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Daniel X: Armageddon

In the fifth installment of James Patterson's action-packed Daniel X series, Daniel must now face an alien whose origins appear nearer to the depths of Hell than the outer reaches of the galaxy. Number Two is an unstoppable criminal that's slowly been amassing an underground army of disgusting, disgruntled, and dangerous aliens to help him enslave Earth's population. And it's all in preparation for the arrival of Number One, the most powerful alien in the universe and Daniel's arch-nemesis.

To Daniel's horror, thousands of humans defect to the alien's side, making the odds of success that much more impossible. But for the first time in his life, Daniel isn't alone in his fight. He's connected with several military and intelligence groups—including the daughter of a prominent FBI agent--and is prepared to lead the ultimate showdown against the evil that has plagued planet Earth for so long. Readers, beware—and be prepared for a truly epic battle that evokes the ancient prophecies of Armageddon!

Part One | The Gathering Swarm

Chapter 4

SO WHAT WOULD you say is humankind’s greatest creation?

Language? Music? Maybe art?

All excellent choices. But if you ask me, the greatest thing any creature anywhere ever created is a concept called “friendship.”

I guess my four friends are my greatest creation, too. Without your friends, well, what are you?

“You guys,” said Joe, “this funnel cake is awesome.”

“It’s cold,” said Dana.

“And your point is?” Joe took another chomp out of the web of chewy fried dough dusted with powdered sugar and drenched with squiggles of chocolate sauce.

“You’re basically eating knotted flour and lard, Joe,” Emma said. “It’s not very good for your heart.”

Having just examined the insides of the late Number 33’s cardiovascular plumbing up close and personal, I realized Emma, my earth‑mother health‑nut friend, had a point.

“Well, it may not be good for my heart, but it is excellent for my mouth,” said Joe, who had an iron stomach to rival Attila’s. My friend has been known to order “one of everything” at Pizza Hut. But no matter how much chow he wolfs down on a regular basis, he stays super skinny. Talk about an excellent metabolism.

This was what I needed; nothing renews my creative juices like hanging out and goofing around with my buds. And we weren’t just in the middle of a pig‑out session at the local county fair. No, my four best friends and I were in the middle of Six Flags Over Georgia.

After my Thrilla with Attila, I decided to call up Joe, Emma, Willy, and Dana and head south to do a little recon on Marietta, Georgia —one of the smaller towns on Number 2’s Places to Destroy/Humans to Enslave list. Aliens are much easier to smell outside your major metropolitan areas —fewer competing odors.

Okay, I could’ve gone to Ames, Iowa. But the nearest amusement park to Ames is Adventureland, home to lots of incredible waterslides, and after slipping and sliding through Number 33’s wet and wild circulatory system I was more in the mood for roller coasters. Six Flags Over Georgia has eleven of ’em.

Oh, something else you should probably know, in case you haven’t already figured it out: When I say I “called up” my friends, I don’t mean I hit speed dial on my iPhone. I mean my four best friends since forever are 100‑percent pure products of my imagination. It’s not like I walk around talking to invisible, make‑believe buddies. When Joe, Emma, Willy, and Dana are around, everybody can see them, hear them, and, in Joe’s case, smell them. But not one of my friends would exist if I didn’t imagine him or her first.

I realize my special talent may seem alien to you but, then again, you weren’t born on my home planet, Alpar Nok. For me, the power to create (the most awesome superpower of them all, btw) is just part of my genetic code.

Without this amazing gift, I’d be totally alone in your world. And alone is never a good place to be when dealing with the likes of Number 2.

“Hey, you guys,” said Willy, coming around the base of the Dare Devil Dive coaster to join us. “I scouted it out. We’re the only ones here! The place is totally ours!”

“Well, duh,” said Dana. “It’s after three AM. The park’s closed.”

“Hmm,” said Joe, licking sugar and chocolate sauce off his fingers, “must be why the funnel cakes are stone cold. Hey, you guys ever eat cold pizza for breakfast?”

“Yeah, right,” said Dana with an eye roll. “Whenever possible, Joe.”

“You should try it, Dana,” said Willy. “When pizza’s cold, the cheese stays locked in place.”

“No sauce drippage, either,” added Joe.

“By the way,” said Willy, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder, “the new coaster looks absolutely amazing.”

“I believe the Dare Devil Dive coaster is the Southeast’s tallest beyond‑vertical roller coaster,” said Emma, who had picked up a bunch of brochures and maps when we first entered the amusement park.

“Hey, Daniel,” teased Dana, who, full disclosure, I have a mad crush on. “Part of the park is called ‘Gotham City.’ You wanna head over there and check out this cool coaster called Batman: The Ride?”

“More bats?” I said. “No thanks.”

“Let’s do the Dare Devil Dive!” said Willy. “Get this: you climb ten stories up a vertical lift, then plummet down a ninety‑five‑degree first drop!”

“Um,” said Dana, “not to barf all over your idea, Willy, but I detect one slight problem.”

“What?”

Dana gestured at the dark rides towering all around us. “Like I said, it’s after three AM.”

“So?” said Willy, who can be as stubborn as he is brave.

“The park is closed, Willy,” said Emma, who was Willy’s little sister and knew him better than anybody. “You can’t ride the rides, because, well, Six Flags very wisely shuts off all its electricity after hours in an attempt to conserve energy.”

I smiled. “Well, you know what they say: it’s a whole ’nother park after dark. Start ’em up!”

And, by the power of sheer imagination, I made every single ride in Six Flags whir back to life!

Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson

Read by Milo Ventimiglia

Milo Ventimiglia starred in the hit NBC show Heroes and previously starred in Gilmore Girls. His films include Garner alongside Gerard Butler, and Armored with Laurence Fishburne.

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