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The Rise of Nine, Page 4

Pittacus Lore

Page 4


  ‘I think I’ll figure something else out. ’

  He looks surprised at my squeamishness. ‘Scared of fresh kill? You have to eat if you want to get your strength up. I don’t know why, but our healing stones don’t do jack shit for your pain. And, you know, this sickness thing of yours is a real drag. Time’s a-wasting, dude. We need to get you better and we’ve got to get out of here. ’

  I know how weak my body is by how tired I feel as we walk. We’re only a couple hundred yards from our ramshackle house and I’m exhausted already. I want so badly to be back there, sleeping. But I know I won’t feel normal again if I don’t get off my butt and move.

  ‘Hey Nine, let me tell you about this dream I just had,’ I say.

  He snorts. ‘A dream? No thanks, man. Well, unless it was about girls. That you can tell me all about; in detail. ’

  ‘I saw Setrákus Ra. I talked to him. ’ Nine pauses, then keeps walking. ‘He offered me a deal. ’

  ‘Oh, yeah? What kind of deal?’

  ‘If I go back to him and face him, he said he’ll let everyone else live, including Sam. ’

  Nine snorts. ‘That’s a load of crap. Mogadorians don’t make deals. At least, they don’t make deals with any intention of keeping up their end of the bargain. And they don’t show mercy. ’

  ‘I figure, why not just pretend I’m taking him up on it? I have to go back to the cave anyway to get Sam out. ’

  Nine turns to me, his face a mask of disinterest. ‘Hate to break it to you, dude, but Sam’s probably dead. The Mogs don’t care about us, and they don’t care about humans. I think you had a bad dream, and I’m sorry you got all scared and felt the need to bore me with it. But even if you did channel Setrákus Ra, that kind of offer is obviously a trap and you’ll die walking into it. In fact, you’ll die going within ten miles of that place. I guarantee it. ’ He spins around and walks away from me.

  ‘Sam’s not dead!’ I say, anger welling up inside of me, giving me a strength I haven’t felt in days. ‘And the dream was real. Setrákus Ra was torturing him! I watched his skin sizzle from boiling liquid dropping onto it! I’m not going to just sit around here and let it continue to happen. ’

  He laughs again, but this time it isn’t with a sneer. Not exactly reassuring, but definitely more gentle. ‘Listen, Four. You’re too weak to even run in place, never mind fight the most powerful being in the galaxy. I know it sounds heartless, dude, but Sam is human. There’s no way you can save them all, so stop wasting your time and energy. It’s not like you have an unlimited supply of either. ’

  The Lumen in my palms starts to light up. I’m in control of it now, a definite improvement. I’m hoping the glow is a sign the effects of the blue force field are wearing off. ‘Look. Sam is my best friend, Nine. You need to get that and keep your opinions about my energy to yourself, okay?’

  ‘No, you look,’ says Nine. His voice sounds flat. ‘This isn’t playtime. We’re at war, dude: war. And you can’t make this about your feelings for Sam, if it makes everyone else less safe. I will not let you abandon the rest of us to face Setrákus Ra, just for Sam. We’re going to wait until you feel better, whenever the hell that is, and then we’re going to meet up with the others and train until we’re ready. If you don’t like it, then you’ll have to fight me to get out of here. And I’m so ready for a fight, so, really, bring it on. I could use the practice. ’

  He lifts his hand and aims it at something through the trees. A second later I hear a quick yelp.

  ‘Got it. ’ Nine smiles, clearly proud of his telekinetic hunting skills. I follow him, refusing to give up.

  ‘Isn’t there anyone you would die for? Anyone you’d risk your life to help?’

  ‘I’m risking my life to help Lorien,’ Nine says, fixing me with a stare that makes me listen. ‘I’ll die for Lorien and anyone who’s Loric. And if I die, and that’s a big “if,” I plan on doing it with two Mog heads smashed between my palms and another one under my foot. I’m not looking forward to feeling your symbol burned into my leg just yet, so grow up, stop being so naïve and think about more than yourself already. ’

  His words hit me hard. I know that Henri would agree with him, but I will not turn my back on Sam again. I don’t know if it’s Nine’s arrogance or the urgency of the vision I just had or the fresh air and the walking, but my mind seems to be clear and strong for the first time in days.

  ‘Sam saved my ass more than once, and his dad was there to meet our ship when we landed on Earth. His dad may have even died for us, for Lorien. You owe it to both of them to go back to the cave with me. Today. ’

  ‘Not a chance. ’

  I step towards him and Nine doesn’t hesitate. He grabs me and throws me against a tree. I pull myself to my feet and I’m about to swing at him when we hear twigs cracking behind us. Nine turns towards the noise. I flatten myself against the tree, dimly lighting my palms to be ready to blind whoever it is with my Lumen. I hope I haven’t overestimated how much of my strength is truly back.

  Nine looks over at me, and whispers, ‘Sorry about you and the tree. Let’s go find whoever’s tracking us and kill them before they kill us. ’

  I nod, and we step forward. The noise came from a patch of pines, thick with needles and offering excellent cover. If it were up to me we’d wait and see who or what we’re facing, but not Nine. He’s wearing a strange little smile as we move towards the pines, ready to destroy whatever emerges. The pines rustle again, and one of the lower branches moves. But what we see isn’t a Mogadorian cannon or gleaming sword. Instead, the small black nose of a brown and white beagle emerges.

  ‘Bernie Kosar,’ I say, relieved. ‘Good to see you, buddy. ’

  He trots over and I bend down to pet his head. He’s the one creature who has been with me since the beginning. Bernie Kosar tells me he’s happy to see me back on my feet.

  ‘He took long enough, right?’ Nine says. I’d forgotten Nine had also developed the Legacy to communicate with animals. I know it’s immature, but it bothers me to share that power with him. He’s already the biggest and strongest Garde I’ve ever seen, has the ability to transfer powers to humans, an antigravity Legacy, super speed and hearing, telekinesis, and whatever else he hasn’t told me yet. My Lumen sets me apart from the rest, but unless I find a source of fire to combine it with, it’s practically useless. My ability to talk to animals was something I was looking forward to developing further, but now I’m sure Nine will find a better use for it before me.

  Bernie Kosar must see the disappointment on my face because he asks if I want to go for a walk with him. Alone.

  Nine hears him and says, ‘Go for it. You’re all BK talks about anyway. Whenever he wasn’t patrolling the perimeter, he was in the bedroom looking after you. ’

  I keep petting his head. ‘That was you, huh?’

  Bernie Kosar licks my hand.

  ‘My other best friend,’ I say. ‘I’d die for you, too, BK . ’

  Nine groans at the display of emotion. I know we’re supposed to have each other’s back in this massive intergalactic war, but sometimes I wish it were just BK and me. And Sam. And Sarah. And Six. And Henri. Really, I’d take anyone but Nine.

  ‘I’m going to find whatever it was I killed out there, make sure we have some food for tonight,’ Nine says as he walks away. ‘You guys go have your special walk. When you get back, we need to talk about finding the rest of the Garde. Now that you’re functioning. ’

  ‘And how exactly are we going to find them? The address Six gave us for a meeting point was in Sam’s pocket. For all we know, the Mogs have it and are waiting for Six to show up. That sounds like even more reason to find Sam, if you ask me,’ I say pointedly.

  Bernie Kosar agrees. It sounds like he wants to look for Sam almost as much as I do.

  ‘We’ll talk about it over dinner. I’m thinking possum, maybe a muskrat,’ he says, already heading into the woods to find his prey.

; Bernie Kosar tells me to follow him and he leads me through the trees and down a tall grassy hill. The land levels out for a few feet before rising again. We move quickly and the exercise feels amazing now that my strength is returning. Two huge trees lean into each other up ahead. I focus and push them apart with my mind. As soon as there’s a space between them, BK jumps through and I chase after him, remembering our early-morning runs to school back in Paradise. Life was so much easier then, when my days were spent training with Henri and my free time was spent with Sarah. It was exciting, finding out what I was capable of, how my powers would help me do what needed to be done. Even when I was frustrated or scared, there was so much possibility and I could just focus on that. I had no idea how good I had it.

  My back is sticky with sweat by the time we reach a small peak. I’m better, but still not one hundred percent. The view is spectacular, a panoramic scene of the Appalachian Mountains wrapped in fir trees, bathed in the late afternoon light. I can see for miles.

  ‘I gotta say, buddy, this is pretty awesome. Is this what you wanted me to see?’ I ask.

  Off in the distance, down on the left, he says. Do you see it?

  I scan the landscape. ‘In that deep valley?’

  Beyond it, he says. Do you see that glow?

  Squinting, I look past the valley. There’s a cluster of thick trees and the faint outline of a rocky riverbed. Then I see it. Through the bottom of the trees on the far left is a glowing sliver of blue light. It’s the force field at the bottom of the Mog’s headquarters.

  It can’t be more than two miles away. Bernie Kosar says we can go back right now if I want. He’ll join me inside this time, now that Sam and I disabled the system that sent gas a deadly to animals through the mountain.

  A shiver runs down my body as I stare at the blue light. Sam is in there. And Setrákus Ra. ‘What about Nine?’

  Bernie Kosar circles my legs twice before sitting at my feet. It’s up to you, he says. Nine is strong and fast, but he’s also unpredictable.

  ‘Have you taken him up here?’ I ask. ‘Does he know how close we are?’

  Bernie Kosar cocks his head as if to say, yes. I can’t believe he knew and didn’t tell me. That’s enough. I’m done with Nine.

  ‘I’m going back to the house. I’ll give Nine the option of coming with us, but whatever he says, it’s time for me to face Setrákus. ’


  We bounce along a pothole-riddled road in a military transport truck. We’re on the outskirts of the city and I look around. I see a massive mountain range looming in the distance, but that doesn’t tell me much. Vehicles full of soldiers are in front of us and behind us. My Chest is at my feet and Six is sitting next to me. That makes me breathe a little easier. After the battle in Spain, the only time I feel even slightly safe is when Six is near.