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Nines Legacy, Page 12

Pittacus Lore

Page 12

 

  I never answer. I haven’t spoken since my first day here. I grunt and growl, and show them my teeth. Let them think that I’ve gone crazy, that captivity has turned me into some kind of animal. Maybe it has.

  When I sleep, the nightmares come. They feel as real as the vision I had of Lorien, but offer none of the comfort. In them, an enormous Mogadorian covered in heinous tattoos and scars points a golden weapon shaped like a giant hammer in my direction. On the flat part is painted a black eye that pulses when aimed at me, creating a sensation like having my guts scooped out.

  Somehow, I know who this giant monster is. Setrakus Ra. My enemy.

  Sleeping is bad, but sometimes being awake is even worse. These are days where I feel like I can’t breathe. It feels as if the entire cavernous prison is sitting on top of me. The need to escape becomes primal then, and I throw myself against the glowing blue force field that keeps me in my cell, letting it buffet me across the tiny space until I’m too exhausted to do it again.

  The nausea sets in then. I learn to fight through it. Each time I hit the force field, it hurts a little less.

  I try not to think about Maddy.

  One day the Mogs take me out of my cell. If I had to guess, I’d say that it has been months since I came here.

  They lead me to a different cell, where they place me behind another blue force field. The large Mog from the van is in the room, seated on what I immediately recognize as a Loric Chest.

  My Loric Chest.

  “We found him in Ohio,” says the Mog matter-of-factly. “Snooping around the office of a little newsletter we’ve been keeping under surveillance. Looking for you. ” He presses a button and a panel in the back of the cell raises.

  My heart stops when I see what’s behind it.

  It’s Sandor. My Cêpan hangs upside down from the ceiling. He’s been badly beaten—both of his eyes are blackened, his lips swollen, his torso marred by grisly slashes. Perhaps worst of all, they have torn out chunks of his usually perfectly maintained hair and left his finely tailored suit in tatters.

  He is not at all the man I remember. They’ve destroyed him. My eyes fill with tears, but I fight them back.

  Sandor sucks in a breath when he sees me. I wonder how different I must look to him after these months of captivity. It’s hard to say with his face so swollen and covered in bruises, but Sandor looks almost happy.

  I’m ashamed of myself—both because it’s my fault we’ve been captured, and because I’m so powerless.

  “My young ward,” he whispers.

  The Mog turns to me. He’s holding a wicked-looking dagger.

  “Your little vow of silence routine has been fun,” the Mog says to me. “But it ends today. ”

  He walks over to Sandor and lightly drags the dagger down his sternum.

  “I don’t think you know anything,” muses my captor. “Nothing that we don’t know already, at least. ” He shrugs. “But I’m going to torture your Cêpan anyway. Until you ask me to stop. ”

  He wants to break me. I say nothing. I remember Sandor’s lectures on what to do if the unthinkable should happen and I’m captured. Don’t give them anything, he told me. Even the slightest bit of information could hurt the other Garde who are still in hiding. Don’t let them make you weak.

  I hope it’s not too late to make Sandor proud.

  I stare into Sandor’s eyes. He stares back until the Mog begins making his cuts; precise, surgical slices that must hurt like hell but aren’t deep enough to kill. My Cêpan clenches his eyes shut, screaming into his gag.

  When the Mog is finished, Sandor has passed out from the pain and a pool of blood has collected on the cell floor beneath him.

  I keep my silence.

  The next day, it starts over.

  I keep my body rigid and my mouth shut. When Sandor can manage to focus on me, I think that I see pride in his eyes.

  This continues for days. After every session, the Mogs return me to my cell, where I shake uncontrollably until the routine starts over again.

  When they take Sandor’s fingers off, I have to turn away.

  At the next session, the Mog hums tunelessly while he cuts away at Sandor. My Cêpan flits in and out of consciousness. I wait for him to make eye contact with me before I finally speak.

  “I’m sorry for everything,” I croak, my voice like gravel after months of disuse.

  The Mog spins to face me, stunned. “What did you say?”

  Barely able to move, Sandor can manage only a subtle shake of his head, as if to absolve me of all the mistakes that led us here. I don’t find any peace in forgiveness, but maybe Sandor does in the forgiving.

  Sandor closes his eyes.

  And something in me snaps. Mustering every bit of strength I have, I hurl myself against the force field, ignoring the pain. There’s a buzz and a crackle and then the sound of a small explosion and I find myself sprawled on the floor of the room, looking up at the Mogadorians, whose monstrous faces betray their shock at what I’ve managed to do. I’ve disabled the force field. I’m through.

  I know I only have a second to act before the element of surprise wears off. I push through overwhelming dizziness and nausea and try to use my telekinesis to wrest the dagger from the Mog’s hand, but nothing happens. The field must have somehow zapped my Legacies. For now, I’ll have to rely on the part of me that’s human. Normal.

  The Mogs lunge for me, but I’m ready for them. I kick the first one in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him and sending him flying, and yank the other one’s ankles, pulling his legs out from under him. His head makes a loud crack against the floor and I jump to my feet. They’re both knocked out, but not for long.

  I grab the dagger from the floor where the Mogadorian from the van dropped it, and I’m contemplating which one to kill first when I hear a grunt from behind me. It’s Sandor.

  “No,” he mutters. I spin around to face him. His eyes are open again, and it seems like he’s using every bit of energy he has to speak.

  “Not them,” he says. “It won’t do any good. There will just be more. ”

  “Then what?” I ask. My voice catches in my throat. This isn’t fair. It wasn’t how it was supposed to be. “What should I do?”

  “You know what you have to do,” he says.

  “I can’t. I won’t. ”

  “You’ve always known I would die for you. That I would die for Lorien. ”

  I almost argue with him, but there’s not time. The Mogs behind me are beginning to come to. I know he’s right. And I know what I must do.

  I take the dagger and plunge it deep into Sandor’s heart.

  My Cêpan is dead.

  I barely know what’s happening as they pull me off him and drag me back to my cell. They’re yelling at me—screaming really, madder than I’ve ever seen them—but it’s like they’re speaking another language. I have no idea what they’re saying, and I don’t care.

  It was mercy, what I did. The last bit of mercy left in me. There will be none left when I get my chance again.

  Chapter Twenty-three

  The Mogs leave me to rot in my cell; the only contact comes in the form of the occasional tray of slop under my door. I try to bust through the force field again and again, but it doesn’t work this time. They must have increased its strength. They’re afraid of me.

  I don’t blame them. Sometimes I’m a little afraid of me too.

  I cling to the memories of Sandor and Maddy, reliving their last moments. I feel the rage bubble up inside me and my mind shuts off. When I return to myself, I’m sweating, my knuckles bloodied, chips of stone hacked out of the walls of my cell. I’ve forgiven Maddy but I haven’t forgiven myself.

  There is nothing else to do but wait, remember, and get stronger.

  And then one day it happens.

  I can tell something is going wrong. There’s a rumbling from below that causes dust to fall from the ceiling
. I can hear large groups of Mogs running by my door, voices raised in panic. Wrong for the Mogs could mean right for me.

  I feel a rush of energy like I haven’t felt since the first time Sandor let me loose in the Lecture Hall. I can’t keep my fists from clenching and unclenching.

  I walk as close to the door as I can without triggering the bubbling force field. I feel like those bulls at the rodeos right before they’re let free from their pens.

  When the force field flickers and disappears, I almost can’t believe it. The sickly blue light has been a fixture of my world for so long that it takes my mind a moment to adjust to its absence.

  There is a voice on the other side of my door. It’s not a Mogadorian voice; it’s a teenage one. I don’t know what he’s asking and I don’t care.

  “Shut up and stand back, kid. ”

  I tear the door loose and throw it into the hall. I’m stronger than I remember being. Part of the ceiling collapses with its impact and I can see the larger of the two boys in the hall focus, using his own telekinesis to shield himself and his friend from the rubble.

  A Garde. It’s about time.

  A dorky-looking runt is pointing a gun at me. His hands are shaking badly. The Garde gets a good look at me and drops the two Chests that he’s carrying. One of them is mine.

  “What number are you?” he asks. “I’m Four. ”

  I study him. For some reason, I expected the other Garde to be bigger. Four has to be about my age, yet he seems so much younger. Younger and softer.

  I shake his hand. “I’m Nine. Good job staying alive, Number Four. ”

  Four and the other boy, a human named Sam, explain to me what they’re doing here while I rummage through my Chest. I’m not really listening until they get to Sam’s story—his father missing, possibly taken by Mogs. I wish I could save him. I wish I could save everyone. But I can’t. And who was there to save Maddy? Who was there to save Sandor?

  I fish a stone out of my Chest that I remember Sandor using when he was deconstructing a particularly complicated machine. It let him see through parts, into their inner workings. It should allow Sam to see through walls, maybe find his father. All he needs is a little juice.

  I press my thumb to Sam’s forehead, sharing my power with him. “You’ve got about ten minutes. Get to it. ” He takes off down the hall.

  And that’s when the Mogs finally come.

  They stream down the corridor. I pluck my pipe-staff out of the Chest and rush to meet them. I spring up the wall, along the ceiling, moving faster than I can remember moving before. They don’t even see me coming until I’ve dropped among them, impaling two of them on the end of the staff.

  I’ve waited so long for this.

  I feel giddy as I tear my way through the Mogs—caving in a skull here, crushing a sternum there. I whirl through their ranks, spinning my pipe-staff as I go. Was the Mog that captured me and tortured Sandor in that first group? It doesn’t matter; they all die the same. I’ll get him now or I’ll get him later.

  I don’t realize that I’m laughing until the bitter taste of Mogadorian ash fills my mouth.

  I savor it.

  The skirmish is over too soon. I’m sprinting along the wall back to Four and Sam in seconds, trailing a cloud of ash. I want more.