The rise of nine, p.11
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       The Rise of Nine, p.11

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
 
Page 11

 

  The figure walks to the third waterfall and dives. This time he makes a massive splash when he hits the pool. We can see the ripple on the surface of the water as he moves towards Six under water. Then the tip of his axe comes out of the lake, followed by his giant head. Six doesn’t flinch, doesn’t change expression at all, even when he’s fully emerged and stands at least four feet taller than her in the shallow water at the edge of the lake.

  With a grunt and a howl, the giant swings the axe. Six leaps out of the way but before he can pull back, she kicks at the wooden handle, breaking it in half.

  ‘Way to go, Six!’ Ella yells.

  The giant swings a fist at her, which she easily avoids with a bob and a weave. With the next beat, she lands a quick kick to his kneecap. As the giant bends over and howls in pain, Six grabs the end of the broken ax handle as it floats by and swings it at his head. The being disappears before it hits him.

  ‘What the hell was that?’ Six asks, whipping her head around wildly, on the alert for any kind of reappearance.

  Commander Sharma smiles placidly. This guy is really starting to make me angry. ‘That was another test, which you passed. There is one more. ’

  Before anyone can speak, we hear a roar. I reel back with horror at the creature I see emerging from the water. It’s over ten feet tall and has the head of a lion and the body of a man. It has five muscular arms flexed at each of its sides. The creature shakes the water from its mane as it steps onto the shore and marches towards Ella, unleashing a second roar.

  ‘Oh. My. God,’ Ella says, mouth open and eyes wide.

  ‘No,’ Crayton says, stepping in front of Ella. ‘You’re not ready for this – it’s too much. ’

  Ella rests a hand on Crayton’s arm. A small smile breaks across Ella’s face and she seems to transform from a scared kid into a Garde prepared to fight. ‘It’s okay. I can do this. ’

  Six comes to my side. We’re both ready to fight if Ella needs us. The creature moves towards her; she slides my glasses back onto her face. Then, it attacks.

  The creature swings all ten arms at Ella, but she ducks and avoids each one. It’s as if Ella sees every punch before it happens. The tree behind her ends up taking the beating. Large chunks of wood fly around her, hitting the creature’s face, bouncing off its chest. Not running away but not fighting back either, Ella circles the tree trunk, continuing to dodge the ten fists. The tree is getting pummeled.

  Suddenly, Ella screams. ‘Oh no! What have I done?’

  Before I can figure out what Ella means, there’s a loud crack and the heavy tree trunk tips forward. It’s about to crush the creature when the figure disappears just like all the others. As the tree continues its fall to the ground, a branch swipes the dark glasses off Ella’s face and they are crushed by a huge tree branch. ‘Marina, I’m so sorry! I knew the glasses were going to be broken, but I couldn’t do anything to stop it. ’

  Crayton, Six, and I run over to Ella, who’s staring in horror at the fragments of the glasses by her feet. ‘Ella! Don’t worry about the glasses. You held your own and that thing disappeared. What’s important is that you’re okay. I’m so proud of you,’ I tell her.

  ‘Ella, that was amazing!’ says Six.

  ‘Congratulations,’ the commander says, still sitting calmly, Buddha-like. ‘You have just defeated three of Vishnu’s avatars. You’ve passed his test. The first was Kurma, a half man, half tortoise who churned the ancient ocean so that other peaceful gods could regain immortality. The man with the axe was Parashurama, the first warrior saint. The last was one of the most powerful incarnations of Vishnu, the man-lion, Narismha. Now, we await Vishnu’s arrival. ’

  ‘We’re done waiting,’ says Crayton, turning to the commander, jaw set and fists clenched by his side. ‘He better show himself and fast. ’

  ‘Chill, chill, chill,’ a boy’s voice says, emerging from the high grass behind me. ‘The commander was just following my orders. I was being cautious. ’

  From the grass we now see the statue of Vishnu step towards us, alive and smiling.

  ‘I’ve been waiting a long time to meet you. ’

  10.

  Sitting on a metal chair, I’m in a Plexiglas cage in the back of a small truck. My hands are cuffed to the chair and my ankles are secured with heavy shackles. A strap of leather pulls my forehead back against the Plexiglas wall behind me. I’m facing the side of the truck, but can turn my head just enough to see Nine, also in a Plexiglas cage, a few feet away from mine. In front of me a guard is watching us. I know I could free myself in an instant, but BK , who’s still hiding in my pocket, is right. We need to see what they know and how it could help us. Nine must agree because he is even more capable of breaking the binds that hold him, but he, too, does nothing. There are a bunch of locks on our cages and the only way we can talk through the thick Plexiglas is through the eight tiny holes in the cage doors. The truck’s engine is running, but we haven’t moved an inch.

  Special Agent Walker is sitting on a long metal bench near the front of the truck. She has one foot on my Chest, and the other on Nine’s. A Mogadorian cannon lies across her lap. The man with the crooked nose is sitting next to her with the other cannon. Walker is whispering into a cell phone. Every so often she glances over at us. I can almost hear what she’s saying, catching words like boyfriend and powerless. I remember Nine saying back in the mountain that he can hear for miles. I hope he’s picking up more than I am.

  ‘Hey, John!’ Nine yells.

  The guard turns towards Nine’s cage and aims a rifle at Nine’s head. ‘You! Shut up!’

  Nine ignores him. ‘Johnny! When do you want to roll on out of here? I don’t know about you, but I’m bored, I could use a change of scenery. ’ He does enjoy pissing people off. I’m beginning to understand the appeal.

  Special Agent Walker closes her phone and pinches the bridge of her nose with her fingers. She looks like an aggravated parent or teacher, her exhaustion wiping away a lot of her authority. Then she takes a deep breath and sits up straight, as if she’s made a decision. She knocks on the window, indicating the driver should start moving.

  She stands and marches towards us, balancing herself with the cannon over her head. She comes to a stop in front of me. There’s something in her eyes that wasn’t there before. It’s almost as if she’s sorry she caught us. Or she’s sorry about what she has to do next. Or both.

  ‘How did you find us?’ I ask.

  ‘You know how,’ she says.

  I still have the bracelet around my wrist. It’s been quiet for the last few minutes, but as soon as the agent speaks, it begins to buzz again.

  Nine shouts, ‘Hey, I wasn’t kidding about being bored here. I don’t feel like playing nice anymore. It’s up to you, but you should know that you don’t have long before I decide to amuse myself. You can tell us everything you know right now, or I’ll kick my way out of here and make you tell me. Guess which one will make my day a little more fun?’

  The man with the crooked nose rises slowly from the bench and aims his cannon directly at Nine. ‘Who do you think you are, kid? You’re in no position to threaten us. ’

  ‘Whatever you’re planning, I promise, I’ve been through worse,’ Nine says.

  ‘I know exactly where you were before. Don’t you get that? We know. ’ The man sounds annoyed by Nine’s bravado.

  ‘Agent Purdy,’ Walker says to him. ‘Lower your weapon. Now. ’

  The agent starts to lower it and I decide to have some fun. I guess Nine is rubbing off on me. Using my telekinesis, I rip the cannon out of his hands and toss it to the back of the truck. It hits the back door before landing on the floor with a clang. Just at that moment we take a sharp corner and Agent Purdy stumbles towards me, his right shoulder slamming against my cage. I use my telekinesis to keep him pinned in place.

  ‘Son of a . . . ’

  ‘Don’t you know you should always wear a seat belt, Agent
Pretty?’ Nine laughs. ‘Safety first! Here, take one of mine. You just need to come on in here to get it. ’

  Agent Purdy says, ‘However you’re doing this, you better stop it. ’ He tries to sound scary, but it’s hard to sound threatening in his position.

  I lean forward, easily breaking the strap across my forehead. Play time is over. ‘Agent Purdy, do you know where Sam Goode is?’

  ‘We have Sam,’ Special Agent Walker says, turning towards me. Her voice is casual but her cannon is pointing right at me.

  For a second, I’m so blown away by this new piece of information, my mind goes blank, and I accidentally release Agent Purdy. He crashes into the aisle.

  They have Sam? Setrákus Ra isn’t torturing him in the cave like I saw in my vision? He’s okay? I’m about to ask where Sam is when I notice the lights swirling in the tube of Special Agent Walker’s cannon. Instead of green, these lights are black and red.

  She grins at the alarmed look on my face. ‘If you’re lucky, John Smith, or whatever your name is, we’ll show you a video of how we use our interrogation techniques on Sam. But if you’re really lucky, we’ll show you some footage of that little blonde girlfriend of yours. What’s her name again?’

  ‘Oooooohhhh, shit,’ Nine says. I can hear the grin in his voice as he knows what is about to go down. ‘Now you’ve gone and done it. ’

  It takes me a second to find my voice. ‘Sarah,’ I whisper. ‘I know she’s working with you. What did you have to tell her to turn her against me?’

  Agent Purdy grabs his cannon and settles back into his seat. ‘Are you kidding me? That girl wouldn’t tell us a thing, and, believe me, we asked many things in many different ways. She had nothing to say to us. She’s in love. ’

  Once again, I’m stunned. I was so sure Sarah was working with the government to bring me in. When I saw her last week in Paradise, she acted so strange. She met me in the park, but then started getting mysterious text messages – at two in the morning. Seconds later we were surrounded by agents and being slammed to the ground. I can’t think of anything else that explains it. It had to have been those text messages; they must have been from the police. How else could they have known that Sam and I were there? Damn. Now I don’t know what to think. And she’s still in love with me?

  ‘Where is she?’ I demand.

  ‘Far, far away,’ Special Agent Walker says. Is she taunting me?

  ‘Who cares, dude?’ Nine yells, interrupting. ‘Big picture, Johnny, big picture! She’s not in it! Neither is Sam!’

  I ignore him. Now that I know the U. S. government has Sam and Sarah, I’m determined to find them both. I’m thinking of my next move, my next question, when I feel Bernie Kosar crawling out of my jeans pocket.

  It’s almost time to go, he says. We’ll take the woman to lead us to Sam and Sarah.

  ‘Nine,’ I say. ‘You ready to get out of here?’

 
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