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The Rise of Nine, Page 23

Pittacus Lore

Page 23


  He grabs Ella’s hand and mine. Six hooks her arm through my other elbow. I look around at the pieces of the walls that spoke to us about our future and our past. I think about the many Loric who were here before us. I’m sad we’ll be the last ones to see it. But I also think about the responsibility that being the last Loric puts on all of us. I take one last look at Crayton, thanking him for everything he did.

  ‘Okay. Here we go,’ Eight says. Then, everything goes black.


  All of a sudden, Nine’s at the edge of his seat. ‘Holy shit! Four! Check it out. They’ve moved. ’

  ‘Who moved?’ I take the tablet out of his hand. The blue dots that identify us have changed position. At least, some of them have. There is still one blue dot in Jamaica and two in Chicago. But there are now three off the coast of Africa, and one in New Mexico. My chest relaxes when I see there are still seven dots, but I’m confused by how they moved to these other places so quickly. ‘How did they do that?’

  ‘I have no idea,’ Nine says. ‘It’s like they teleported or jumped through space. Maybe they found a stargate, or something?’

  ‘Henri said stargates don’t exist,’ I said, shaking my head.

  ‘Yeah, well, neither do aliens from another planet, according to some people. In fact, many people. ’

  He’s right. Maybe Henri was wrong. ‘One Garde is in New Mexico, Nine. Near what you think might be our ship. That can’t be a coincidence. Do you think they’re going after it?’

  ‘Man, I hope not. It is so not time for that yet. We have a lot of shit to take care of before we leave Earth. ’

  I stare at the blue dot pulsing in New Mexico, and press the green triangle, revealing where the Lorien ships are hidden again. There is no way this one has accidentally landed so close to it. Add that to the fact I’ve been told Sarah is out west, possibly with Sam, and I’m convinced.

  ‘I’m serious, Nine. That’s where we are going. New Mexico. Now. Everything we’ve seen and learned points to it, tells us we need to go there right now. ’ I rush out of the room, slam my Chest shut and put it next to the front door. ‘ BK ?’ I call out. Bernie Kosar trots over with the steak bone in his mouth.

  Nine follows me. ‘Dude. Slow. Down. We are not going to up and fly off to New Mexico! Especially after what we just saw! These guys are teleporting around. By the time we get in the elevator, they could be in Antarctica! Or, Australia! There’s too much we don’t know yet. We don’t even know for sure that’s our ship. What if it’s a trap?’ Nine moves in front of the door and crosses his arms. I know I must look like a crazed lunatic, punching at the elevator button, trying to pretend Nine is not there blocking my efforts.

  The words tumble out of my mouth. ‘We have to go there anyway. Even if the Garde member we see now disappears before we get there. New Mexico is still the obvious and only place for us to go. ’ I’m desperate for him to get on board with this. ‘We can take some of your guns. ’ My head is spinning. I sprint into the training room and head for the munitions cabinet. I’m leaping over the mats in the direction of the cabinet when I hear the metal rings clang overhead. Nine drops from above me, into my path, and puts his hand up.

  ‘Whoa. Hold on there, bud. Take a breath,’ he says with his hands up, palms out towards me. ‘ I think we should go to Paradise. ’

  ‘Are you freaking kidding me? Now you want to go to Paradise?’ I am going to kill this guy.

  ‘I got to thinking while you were asleep. We need to go back to where you found the tablet. You said before there were a bunch of papers down there, not to mention that skeleton and some maps. I think we’re missing something, something that is the key to beating Setrákus Ra. ’

  ‘You don’t get it,’ I say, pushing past him. ‘Things are happening out west this second. Do you have a car?’

  He shoves me hard in the back. I almost fall, but I catch myself. I stand there, back to him, fuming. ‘I do have a car, but we’re going to Paradise first. We need to find anything we can to help us fight. ’

  ‘Not a chance. ’ I turn and shove him back, and before I know it, our arms are locked over each other’s heads. Nine kicks my feet out from underneath me and I fall to the ground.

  Bernie Kosar barks, telling us to stop.

  ‘Relax, BK ,’ Nine says, waving at him. ‘Consider this a little light training before we head to Ohio. ’

  ‘Right. We’re training now,’ I spit, pulling myself to my feet. ‘With everything we just learned. ’

  Nine throws a jab and I deflect it. But I can’t do the same for his right hook. My ribs feel like they just got hit with a battering ram. I fall to my knees, clutching my middle, and he side-kicks my sternum, knocking me flat on my back.

  ‘Come on, man!’ he yells down at me. ‘Step it up, why don’t you? You think you can charge into the desert, take on whatever enemy comes your way, but you can’t take me?’

  I spring to my feet and surprise him with a clean punch to the gut. As he doubles over, I knee him in the mouth.

  ‘ That’s what I’m talking about, Four!’ Blood spills from his split lips, but he’s beaming at me. We circle each other. ‘Tell you what. Since you’re showing signs of giving me a decent run, I’ll make you a deal. You beat me, we go to New Mexico. Immediately. I’ll even let you drive. But if I win, we spend a couple more hours here, figure some shit out, and come up with a real plan. Then, we go back to Paradise and head down that well. ’

  ‘And you call me a coward,’ I say.

  We continue to circle each other and we each land some devastating blows. I hear one of Nine’s ribs snap when I connect with my right elbow. I swing around with my other elbow, but he delivers a hard kick to my left knee. Cartilage rips and pain sears through my leg. Limping, I’m able to throw a few more punches, but I can’t move, giving Nine a huge advantage. He leaps behind me and kicks my other leg out from under me. My head hits the floor and the world goes white. When I get my bearings, Nine has my arms pinned to with his knees. The fight is over. And with it goes our chances for finding the Garde out west.

  ‘I’ll get a healing stone,’ Nine says, slowly standing. With blurred vision, I watch him hold his side as he leaves the room. Bernie Kosar whimpers.

  ‘This is bullshit, you know that?’ I yell after him. ‘You can’t just decide things like this! That Garde in New Mexico could die on their own and you don’t even care!’

  Nine’s voice booms through the apartment. ‘We’re soldiers, Johnny! And soldiers die. We were sent here to train and fight and some of us aren’t going to make it. That’s the nature of war. ’

  I slowly hop into the living room on my one good leg. I can see through the windows the sun is setting. BK sits on the floor, in the last patch of light, looking at me. He begs us to sit down and talk and plan our next move with level heads.

  Nine walks in with a healing stone held to his ribs. He tosses it to me and I immediately place it to my left knee. Through the pain, I feel the cartilage slowly reconnecting. It doesn’t take long for it to do its thing and soon the pain has disappeared completely. I plant a hand on the window frame and say, ‘If we’re not going to New Mexico, then let’s deal with Setrákus Ra. Right now. You and me. Maybe if we take him out, the rest of the Mogs will die, and we’ll save two worlds. ’

  Nine sits down onto a leather couch and puts his feet up on the glass coffee table. He sighs and closes his eyes. ‘Sorry, Johnny, but even if Setrákus Ra dies, the Mogs will still fight. Just like Pittacus Lore died and we still fight. Stop looking for an easy out and face it. We’re all going to fight until the last one is killed. ’

  I look out the window and gather the strength to say what I’ve wanted to say for weeks, ever since I read Henri’s letter: ‘Pittacus isn’t dead. I’m Pittacus. ’

  ‘ What did you say?’

  I turn to face him. ‘I said, I’m Pittacus Lore. ’

  Nine leans back laughing so hard he nearly flips over t
he couch. ‘ You’re Pittacus? Why on Earth would you think you’re Pittacus Lore?’

  ‘I feel it,’ I say. ‘It’s why Lorien hibernates. Pittacus lives on through me. ’

  ‘Oh, yeah? You know what? I think I can I feel it, too,’ he mocks, feeling his torso. He stands and marches over to me. ‘But, hey, if you are Pittacus, the strongest, wisest Elder of Lorien, then I just kicked Pittacus’s ass. I wonder what that make me?’

  ‘Lucky,’ I say, regretting I said anything.

  ‘Really? Sounds like somebody wants a rematch. ’

  Enough, Bernie Kosar says. No more fighting. Save your strength.

  I ignore him. ‘Fine. A rematch it is, then. ’

  ‘If you want to take me on again, then there’s going to be a change of venue. And to make it even more interesting, Pittacus, I say we each get to use one item from our Chests. ’

  ‘Fine. ’

  I open my Chest, reaching immediately for the four-inch dagger. The handle vibrates the moment I touch it and quickly wraps itself around my fist. I see Mog ash still stuck in its grooves; the smell of it makes me hungry for another fight.

  Nine grabs the short silver staff with his right hand. Okay, that makes me nervous; I saw how he decimated all those pikens in West Virginia with that thing. He waves his finger at me when he sees my dagger. ‘Ah, ah, ah. I said only one item. ’

  ‘I have my dagger. That’s it. And that’s all I’ll need. ’

  ‘And what about your cute little bracelet?’

  ‘Uh, I forgot about it. It’s probably the better choice for me. Thank you. ’ I toss the dagger back into my Chest.

  ‘Follow me,’ Nine says. Ignoring Bernie Kosar and his pleas to stop, I follow Nine through the apartment and into the elevator, both of us silent. I assume the fight will be in the building’s dark basement among columns and cement walls, our powers hidden from the world. Instead, we ascend. The elevator doors open and Nine punches a keypad by the door in front of us, and it clicks open. We’re on the roof of the John Hancock Center.

  ‘No way, no freaking way. Too many people can see us up here!’ I say, shaking my head, turning back towards the door inside.

  Nine walks out onto the roof. ‘ Nobody can see us up here. That’s what’s so great about being at the top of one of the tallest buildings in the city. ’

  I don’t want to look like I’m chickening out, so I follow, showing a lot more confidence than I feel. But I’m not prepared for the fierce wind that hits me hard, almost pushing me back into the doorway. Nine keeps walking, his black hair whipping around his head, seemingly impervious to the force of the wind. His white T-shirt balloons around his torso until he strips it off and lets it fly over the ledge. When he gets to the center of the roof, he snaps his wrist, expanding the silver staff at both ends until it’s over six feet long and glowing red. He turns to me and curls his palm, beckoning me closer. Like a tightrope walker, I take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other to walk towards him. We’re in the giant shadow of the looming white spire at the far end of the roof and, just as I near him, Nine turns and runs towards it.