The rise of nine, p.12
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       The Rise of Nine, p.12

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
Page 12


  ‘God, yes. Been ready forever. I really have to pee. ’

  Special Agent Walker glances from me to Nine and back again. She doesn’t know where to point the cannon, so she moves it back and forth between us. Agent Purdy stands again and does the same. The guard in the back of the truck points his rifle at us.

  ‘If they move, shoot anything but a vital organ!’ Agent Purdy says, moving to stand shoulder to shoulder with Special Agent Walker.

  Bernie Kosar jumps from my lap and crawls up the glass door. He flitters his tiny cockroach wings at me and he says to count to five.

  ‘Hey, Nine?’ I ask.

  ‘I’m already on three, my man,’ he says.

  Walker shouts at us to shut up. My bracelet vibrates and sends a thousand pinpricks up and down my wrist but I ignore it. Nine breaks all of his restraints as if they were nothing, and stands up. I do the same, though it takes more effort for me. Nine kicks the Plexiglas wall at the front of his cage and the whole thing pops easily out of its frame. As he steps out, the guard fires at him. With a smile he just raises his hand and stops bullets in midair. He lowers his hand, and the bullets fall to the floor one at a time.

  He looks over at me, ‘Need some help there, buddy?’ He kicks in a wall of my cage, and I step out. BK scrambles back into my pocket.

  Before the guard can do anything, I use my telekinesis to launch him to the ceiling and twist his weapon into a useless piece of metal. Agent Walker and Purdy both fire their Mog cannons at us, but Nine stops the streams that come out of them. He smiles, and shakes his finger at the two agents. ‘No, no, no. You should know better by now. ’ He looks over at me. ‘Get ready, Johnny, ’cause we are going for a spin!’

  The truck immediately flies off the road and starts rolling. Without warning, Nine grabs me and links arms, pulling me along until I gain my footing. We run up the left side of the truck, moving like a hamster in a wheel so we can stay horizontal as the truck flips over and over. Metal crunches around us, sparks rain from every corner and the guard and agents look like rag dolls as they’re tossed in all directions. The force of the crash causes the back doors to pop open and when the truck stops rolling, we jump out. There were a number of police vehicles trailing us and they’ve all come to a screeching halt with their sirens blaring.

  ‘Hey, John?’ Nine says, unfazed by any of it.

  ‘Yeah?’ I say, shaking my head as I try to lose the dizzy feeling from the spinning truck. Neither of us is taking our eyes off the blinking crowd of police cars.

  He starts to step back towards the truck and I do the same. ‘We gotta get our Chests back, dude, and do what BK said and get that woman agent. ’

  ‘Definitely. ’ I pat my pocket, making sure BK is still there.

  ‘So why don’t you take care of that, while I take care of this. ’ Nine telekinetically lifts two police cruisers off the ground, and the officers inside struggle to get out.

  I dash back to the truck, now smoldering in the ditch. I jump inside, avoiding the guard and Agent Purdy, moaning on the floor, and find our Chests. Special Agent Walker sits against what remains of the metal bench, staring at the blood on her hands in a daze. Her red hair falls loosely down her shoulders, and there’s a long scrape along the side of her face. The Mog cannon is now a shattered pile of parts under her legs. She watches me arrange the Chests under my arms, and I drop to a knee in front of her.

  ‘You’re coming with us. ’ I am not asking.

  She opens her mouth to speak, and a trail of blood trickles out. It’s then that I see the piece of metal sticking out of her shoulder. I put down one of the Chests and try picking her up, but she groans and coughs up more blood. I let go, afraid if I move her again she’ll bleed out and die before I can find out where Sarah and Sam are.

  ‘Where are they?’ I ask. ‘Tell me now! You are going to die any second, lady, and I’m trying to save Earth and my friends. Now, tell me! Where are Sam and Sarah?’

  Special Agent Walker’s head flops in my direction and her green eyes open wide, as if seeing me for the first time. The gunfire outside is getting closer. ‘You . . . you’re an alien,’ she finally whispers.

  I punch the side of the truck in frustration. ‘Yeah, I am! But I’m here to help, if you would just let me! Now, before you run out of time, out of breath, tell me where they are. In Washington?’

  Her breathing turns ragged and it’s as if she can’t see or hear me. I’m losing her. I’m losing her and I still don’t know where Sarah and Sam are. My voice sounds small all of a sudden. ‘Just tell me where they are. Please. ’ Our eyes meet and I can tell I’ve gotten through to her.

  Special Agent Walker’s mouth opens to speak and it takes a couple of tries to find her voice. ‘Out west. In . . . ,’ then her voice trails off and her eyes close. Her bloody hands clench and then relax; her whole body goes slack.

  ‘Wait! Hold on!’ I frantically grab at my Chest, trying to get it open so I can get my healing stone. All I can think is, if I heal her she’ll tell me where they are. I’ve just placed my hand on the lock of the Chest when a group of officers jump into the open end of the truck, guns drawn.

  ‘Get away from the agent! Move! Or we’ll shoot! Down on the ground! Hands behind your back! Now!’ They are barking orders at me, but I can’t obey. I don’t want to obey. I need to get the healing stone. I need hear what she was going to say. I reach to open the Chest and I hear the officers screaming, ‘Hands up. HANDS UP . HANDS UP !’ I reach into my Chest anyway.

  I hear the first gunshot, immediately followed by dozens more. As the hail of bullets fly around me, my wrist starts to tingle more strongly than ever. It doesn’t hurt anymore, and the bracelet starts to expand, covering my entire arm with a sheath of red material before spreading and popping open like an umbrella. I have no idea what is going on and I really don’t care. I can only think of my healing stone and the limp body of Walker so close and yet so useless. Suddenly, I’m behind a six-foot-high shield that curls up over my head and under my feet. The bullets bounce right off of it.

  An orchestra of gunfire erupts, and countless bullets ricochet off my shield. After a couple of minutes, they become less and less frequent, like microwave popcorn that’s almost done. When the gunshots finally stop, the red material compresses itself back into the arm sheath, and then shrinks into the tingling bracelet around my wrist, all of its own volition. I look down, amazed at how effective it is, how perfect its timing is.

  Walker is still lying unconscious by my feet. The officers with their guns trained on the back of the truck just a moment ago are gone, but I hear gunfire outside. I’m torn between looking for my healing stone to revive Walker and going outside to see if Nine needs help. I want to wake her up, force her to tell me where Sam and Sarah are, but I can’t leave Nine alone if he’s in trouble. I decide that Walker will keep – she’s clearly not going anywhere and I just have to hope she doesn’t die on me. I take the opportunity to stuff a Chest under each arm and run out. As soon as I emerge I see the officers running in the opposite direction. I don’t know what Nine did while I was in there getting to know my bracelet a little better, but they all look terrified.

  ‘Ah, Nine?’ I call over. ‘What exactly did you do to them?’

  He smiles. ‘Just used my telekinesis to lift them all about thirty feet in the air. Then I offered them a choice: go higher or run away. I applaud the wisdom of their decision, don’t you?’

  ‘Looks like they made the right choice,’ I say.

  ‘Hey, I thought we were bringing the agent woman with us,’ Nine says.

  ‘She’s still inside – she’s unconscious and I was going to use my healing stone on her, but I wanted to check on you first, make sure you were okay,’ I tell him.

  ‘Dude, you were worried about me? I got this. We need her to tell us where we’re going! You’re the one who refuses to go anywhere that isn’t towards your friends. Remember?’ Nine picks up an assault
rifle and shoots it into the air. ‘Get in there and get her! I’ll be out here, playing with the soldier toys. ’

  Officers continue to retreat on foot, some hiding behind trees on the side of the road. Nine aims the gun above their heads. The rifle rocks against his shoulder and the bullets zip through the high branches. I can hear him cackling, enjoying the spectacle, as I move back to the truck.

  I open my Chest to and pull out my healing stone and duck into the truck to see how badly Walker is injured.

  But she’s not there. I look around, as if she might have gotten up and moved to a different part of the truck. I’m completely confused by what I’m seeing. What I am not seeing. There is no one there. The bodies that were there minutes ago are all gone. Shit.

  I’m furious with myself. I can’t believe how badly I’ve screwed this up. Not only do we still not know where they have Sam and Sarah, but it is likely that Purdy and Walker are still out there.


  Number Eight is sitting in the grass. The lake is calm and still behind him. ‘I am known by many different names. Some call me Vishnu, while others call me Paramatma or Parameshwara. I am also known by my ten avatars, three of whom you have met and battled. Quite successfully, I might add. ’

  ‘If they are your avatars, they are a part of you. Which means, you felt it necessary to declare war on three girls who were trying to reach you. ’ Crayton spits out. ‘You’re supposed to be impersonating a peaceful god, aren’t you?’

  ’You have a lot of explaining to do,’ Marina adds. He is unmoved by our anger and remains seated. ‘I had to be sure you are who you claim to be. I had to be sure you were ready to meet me. My apologies if your feelings, or anything else, were hurt. You all proved yourselves, if that makes you feel any better. ’ I’m fed up. I’m tired and hungry. Not to mention I flew across the world and fought an army to get here. I want answers. I stand up, fists clenched at my sides. ‘I’m going to ask a question, and if you don’t answer me directly, we’re leaving. This isn’t a philosophical discussion; and you had no right to test us. Are you, or are you not, Number Eight?’

  He looks up at me and purses his lips. His skin color changes from blue to a deep copper tone. When he shakes his head, the crown falls off and his black hair grows into a shaggy mop of curls. Two of his arms vanish, and in a matter of seconds, a shirtless teenage guy sits on the grass in front of us. Commander Sharma gasps.

  He’s kind of thin, but toned. With his full lips and thick black eyebrows, I must say, he’s kind of hot. Around his neck hangs a blue Lorien pendant.

  He’s one of us.

  Ella looks over at Crayton, who exhales a long breath. He opens his mouth, about to say something, but the boy speaks first.

  ‘My Cêpan originally named me Joseph, but I have gone by many names. In this region, most people know me by the name Naveen. ’ He pauses and looks at me, then pulls up the ragged leg of his pants to reveal the scarred Loric symbols of One, Two and Three on his ankle. ‘If you want to get all Loric on me, then yes, you can call me Number Eight. ’