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Daniel X: Game Over

When Daniel X discovers that a duo of evil extraterrestrials is plotting to control kids around the world through videogames, he's determined to take them both out of commission. This pair of wicked game masters wants to destroy the human race by turning brainwashed videogamers into an unstoppable army of doom! They're also running an endangered species hunting club on the side, and their next target is none other than Daniel. He'll have no choice but to turn to the aliens' rebellious son who needs help to stand up to his malicious parents. But can Daniel trust the progeny of this treacherous twosome? Or will it be "Game Over" for the alien hunter?

Book One | ENDANGERED SPECIES

Chapter 4

I HADN'T YET downloaded all the Japanese language characters to my brain, but at least I'd been studying radio frequency security-lock protocols. By adjusting my eyes down to the RF spectrum and intercepting the ID reader's brief interaction with the clerk's pass, I was able to figure out and memorize his security code.

The next step in my plan would require help, which meant it was time to morph back to human form and summon my best friends Willy, Dana, Joe, and Emma.

Brief interjection here: when I say "summon," I don't mean the way a rich guy might summon his servants. I mean that my best friends are now 100 percent pure products of my imagination. It's not like I spend time talking to empty space or cracking up at things that only I can hear. When Joe, Emma, Willy, and Dana are around, everyone can see them, hear them, even shake hands with them if they want to. They're absolutely real. And they're manufactured by the power of my mind.

You might have difficulty understanding what I'm talking about—the power to create and manipulate the atomic structure of things around me is completely "alien" to you earthlings, but it's just part of who I am. It's one of the gifts an alien hunter gets early on and uses pretty frequently. In fact, it's the same power I used to turn myself into that light fixture when the clerk wasn't looking. I also use it to re-create my family, specifically my mom, dad, and sister. Because otherwise I'd be totally alone.

And being alone wasn't an option, at least not then.

"Is this a recon op?" asked Willy, the natural born leader of my gang.

"Yes," I replied, passing them Bluetooth earpieces and phones so we could communicate. "You and Dana, come with me. Joe, you watch this door and give the signal if anybody comes through. Emma, you go up to the main floor and keep an eye on things. If you spot anything that looks like a trap, we want to know about it."

"Aye, aye, Cap'n!" Joe saluted.

I released the lock with a micro-RF broadcast from the palm of my hand. "Let's go."

Willy, Dana, and I hustled down a hall where we found three doors, a small, narrow window in each. We spread out and each peered through one. Mine was dark.

"Over here," Willy whispered, a dim, bluish glow visible through the glass. "One...two...three!"

Defenses ready, we swept into a space that appeared to be a projection booth of some kind.

We were looking down into a theater. Rows and rows of teenagers wearing headphones and holding video-game controllers sat transfixed, eyes glued to monitors built into the backs of the seats in front of them. A stage at the front was filled with riot police and soldiers, and—

Wait a minute! The figures onstage weren't moving. They were just mannequins. But from here, they looked as lifelike as any you'd find at Madame Tussauds wax museum.

Even weirder: intermingled with the police was an assortment of what I'd technically define as thugs, monsters, and all-around bad guys. It looked like the GC might've hired the best special-effects team in Hollywood to put this production together. It was an eerie scene, and it was about to get even eerier.

I looked closer and now could see that a black bag rested near each player's feet. I zoomed in my alien-enhanced vision on one of the screens. They were all playing what appeared to be Crown of Thorns IV, doing battle with video game–sized versions of the thugs onstage.

"Maybe they're beta testing Crown of Thorns V," I speculated. I was pretty certain I'd never seen the levels they were playing, and the graphics were even better than what I'd seen out on the showroom floor.

"Maybe," said Dana, "but what's the deal with the creepy mannequins onstage?"

"Haven't figured out that part yet," I confessed.

It all became clear in a moment when every game display in the theater flickered. Now the players were fighting an on-screen police officer or soldier. Then, after a few minutes, a bright red icon flashed:

change weapons change weapons change weapons

In almost perfect synchrony, the kids took weapons from the black bags at their feet. Then, we all held our breath as we watched the armed teenagers charge boldly down the aisles to the stage.

"What the—?" Willy began, as Dana let out a startled cry. But the sounds of gunfire below drowned out any possibility that she'd blown our cover.

In seconds, the good guys had been reduced to smoking, stinking puddles of melted plastic and wire. But if that weren't disturbing enough, I noticed something else: the monsters onstage had been left completely untouched.

The players looked around, almost as if they were in a daze, and a few even slumped to the floor. But some of the more alert ones started circling one another, and I could tell we were seconds away from an all-out brawl.

"I don't think those were regular guns," Willy commented.

"Whatever," said Dana, shaking her head. "That is just sick."

"It's even sicker than you think," I agreed, as I ran some quick math. There were hundreds of millions of GC games and consoles in the world. If the company was able to just flick a switch and turn every player into an armed killer...

"Let's get out of here," I said, just as the screens flashed another message:

gaMe oVeR gaMe oVeR gaMe oVeR

The brainwashed players collapsed to the floor.

Copyright © 2011 by James Patterson

Read by Milo Ventimiglia

Milo Ventimiglia stars in the hit NBC show Heroes and previously starred in Gilmore Girls. His films include Gamer alongside Gerard Butler (300), and Armored with Laurence Fishburne.

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