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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 5

YOU KNOW HOW when you go to an amusement park in the middle of the summer and you want to ride the really cool rides, but you have to wait like two hours in a line that keeps switching back on itself, so all you can do is keep staring at the hundreds of people ahead of you?

Well, this was absolutely nothing like that.

When we came to the end of any ride, we didn’t have to unload and run around to the entrance to ride it again. I just imagined the thing starting up and — ZAP! — it did.

We defied gravity, flew through loop‑the‑loops, felt g‑forces similar to those encountered during the reentry phase of interplanetary space travel, and, basically, got to retaste what we had for lunch that day when it flew back up into our mouths.

“C’mon, you guys,” said Willy. “Time to take the ultimate plunge: the Dare Devil Dive coaster.”

Yes, nausea fans, we’d been saving Six Flags’ most incredible thrill ride for last.

We hurried over to the base of the bright yellow‑andred roller coaster. The logo emblazoned on its glowing two‑story marquee sort of reminded me of Number 2 and his minions: a helmeted, goggled head with wings sprouting out on both sides and flames blazing up in the background.

“You okay, Daniel?” Emma asked when she caught me staring up at the wicked imagery.

“Yeah. Come on. Let’s give this devil his due.”

Our six‑seater roller‑coaster car was shaped like a fighter jet.

“Buckle up,” said Emma. “Keep your feet and hands inside the car at all times.”

“Your funnel cakes, too,” Dana added, elbowing Joe.

“Blast us off, Daniel!” said Willy.

Of course roller coasters don’t actually blast off. They kind of creep to a start and haul you up a hill. Coaster cars don’t have engines, so the ride is totally powered by the energy stored up when the car climbs the track’s first hill. After that, gravity and some other principles of physics are all you need.

A hidden chain hauled us straight up toward the starlit sky. When we were perched at the peak of the ten‑story tower with our fighter plane’s nose hanging over the edge, the ride seemed to stall.

“Is it busted?” asked Willy.

“Nope,” said Joe, our technical wizard. “Teetering on the edge like this is just part of the coaster engineer’s grand desiii...”

Joe didn’t get to finish that thought.

We plummeted downward into a ninety‑five‑degree drop, which, check your protractors, is beyond straight down. We were actually angling inward as we dove straight for the ground.

With all sorts of kinetic energy rocketing us along, we careened up through three inversions, caught air on a zero‑gravity hill, and swooped through an Immelmann U‑turn —a half loop, half twist with a curving exit in the opposite direction from which we entered. (Quick fact: the whole move is based on a maneuver first employed by a German fighter pilot named Immelmann in World War I.) We raced into another nose‑down dive, then shot up into a heartline roll (a total 360 where the pivot point is your heart, not your feet) before the car was slowed by magnetic brakes.

“Whahoobi!” shouted Willy.

“Un‑be‑lievable,” added Joe, with a burp.

“I’m glad it’s over,” said Emma.

“Me, too,” said Dana.

“I need liquid refreshment,” said Joe.

Which gave me a wild idea. “Coming right up!”

Hey, if this ride was powered by my imagination, there were no limits, no magnetic brakes to slow me down. Defying gravity and tapping into my personal reserves of energy, I made the fighter jet car fly off the rails and soar across the amusement park.

“Daniel?” said Emma. “This wasn’t in the brochure.”

“It should be!” Willy shouted as we zipped underneath the Sky Bucket gondola ride and landed on the tracks of the giant steel coaster called Goliath, a ride so humongous it wouldn’t completely fit on the park grounds, so Six Flags had to run the track outside and back again. We rode up its two‑hundred‑foot ascent, zoomed through a couple of zero‑gravity drops, slid into a giant spiral, and, since this was Daniel X’s version of Goliath, flew off the tracks again so we could soar up into the sky.

“Hey, I can see Atlanta!” Joe said as I made the car climb higher than Goliath’s highest hill. Much higher.

“I can see Miami,” said Dana.

We did a couple of barrel rolls over the Mind Bender, buzzed the Dodge City Bumper Cars, and, for my big finish, made a smooth water landing in a turquoise blue river at Splash Water Falls just as the rapids sluiced around a bend to slide us down a five‑story waterfall.

“You want liquid refreshment?” I joked to Joe. “Here it comes!”

“Woo‑hoo!” shouted Willy. “Hang on!”

Our roller‑coaster car plunged over the falls, hit the waiting water below, and sent up a ten‑foot wall of foam and spray that drenched us all.

Totally soaked and laughing hysterically, we drifted along until our fighter plane bumped into some rubber dock guards and sloshed to a full stop.

“Let’s do it again,” said Willy. “Let’s do it again.” He sounded exactly like everybody’s annoying little brother and/or sister.

Only we couldn’t ride any more rides.

We weren’t the only ones in the park anymore.

A squad of goons in bright white space suits leaped out of the surrounding pines and came charging up the exit ramp at us.

They were all carrying weapons.

Alien weapons.

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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