The rise of nine, p.15
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       The Rise of Nine, p.15

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
Page 15


  In my last vision, he asked me what number I was, and I feel an enormous pull to speak to him. I cough, clear my throat, and I know my voice has finally returned. I yell, ‘I am Number Four!’ just as the arena falls silent.

  ‘Have you made your decision?’ Sam asks. He continues to twist and turn in his shackles, the other boy still struggling to break his chains above him. Sam looks right at me and I can see his eyes are a deep maroon color. This is not Sam, I tell myself.

  All at once, Sam’s body begins shaking so violently that the other boy loses his grip on him and I can only watch in horror as he falls and disappears into the same chasm that swallowed the agents. A purple glow then surrounds Sam, and the chains break of their own accord. Instead of falling, like the boy, like the agents, Sam floats, suspended in midair. A spotlight snaps on and I watch, disbelievingly, as Sam grows and transforms – into Setrákus Ra. The three Loric pendants around Setrákus Ra’s neck glow brightly, as does the purple scar circling his throat. ‘Do you want the human back?’ he bellows.

  ‘I will take him back!’ I yell at him, furious. I’m rooted to the spot, nothing but abyss around me, nowhere to step on to get closer to him.

  Setrákus floats slowly to the ground. He lands and the rocks show no sign of giving way as they have for the rest of us. ‘This is your surrender? Fine. I shall accept your pendant now. ’

  I look down and my pendant is already gone. I look up again to see it hanging from Setrákus Ra’s giant fist. His cracked lips open to reveal a sharp, crooked-toothed grin.

  ‘No! I will not surrender!’ The moment I say it, I feel a sudden weight around my neck. My pendant is back.

  The other boy leaps from the chasm into which he fell and lands near Setrákus Ra, his head held high. The boy joins my cry, ‘I will never surrender to you! Let Devdan go, and fight me!’

  ‘Time is running out,’ Setrákus Ra says and I now realize he is speaking to both of us – that he has been the whole time. He was trying to get both of us to surrender. Did he think he could convince us both to sacrifice ourselves in the belief that he would allow the others to live? I can only hope none of the others fall for his tricks.

  The blue stain on the ceiling of the train car is suddenly all I see, and I sit up abruptly, trying to shake off the dream that has left my brain fuzzy. I touch the bracelet around my wrist. Before I drifted off into my vision, my nightmare, I had discovered that by concentrating on the bracelet’s abilities, I was able to remove it. But the moment it left my wrist, I felt unsafe without it and hurriedly popped it back on. I touch it again and wonder if my reliance on it is a good or a bad thing. All of a sudden, something small bumps against my back and I jump up and spin around.

  Clearly I’m on edge from my dream. It’s just Bernie Kosar, this time as a beagle, my favorite incarnation of him.

  ‘Another nightmare?’ Nine yawns from the corner. He sits on his Chest, absentmindedly carving symbols into the wall with a nail, the very picture of someone who is not on edge. The soles of his bare feet are black.

  ‘They’re getting really strange,’ I say, and I hope I don’t sound as shaken as I feel. Last thing I need is Nine seeing me as some kid, scared by bad dreams. ‘And I think others are having them at the same time. ’

  Nine lifts the nail to examine it more closely. He tilts his head, as if it’s a rare specimen and not the most ordinary object in the world. With his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth he looks as if he is concentrating all of his energies on this one nail. With a small smile, he bends it between his fingers, snapping it into two perfectly equal pieces. He turns to face me. ‘And what does that mean? You think they are all having visions of some kind? Or, they are having the same action-packed nights you are?’

  I shrug. ‘I don’t know. I keep seeing this really skinny kid with curly black hair. He’s wearing one of our pendants, so I have to assume he’s one of us. We are aware of one another, but things in the dream seem to be tailored for him in some ways and to me in others. I see you in these visions too. ’

  Nine frowns, then opens his Chest and digs around inside. I’m hoping he is going to pull out something that will help me decipher my visions, help me figure out what, if anything, I’m supposed to do with them. ‘I’d like to try to contact the others with the red stone, but I guess the government has it tapped somehow. Which is total bullshit. ’ He sits back looking frustrated.

  I walk across the empty car to where he’s sitting. He has a yellow cube in his hand that I’ve never seen before. ‘What do you think it means, if the government has your stone tapped? How do you think it happened? I mean, it must have been the Mogs, but how did they convince the government to work with them?’

  Nine looks at me incredulously. ‘Are you serious? Who cares why they’re working together or what the Mogs had to say to get them on their side? The point is, they are working together. The U. S. government and the Mogadorians have teamed up! For them, it is official: we are the bad guys!’

  ‘But the Mogs will destroy Earth – or worse – once they get rid of us. Doesn’t the government know this? Isn’t it obvious that we’re the good guys?’

  ‘Apparently not. Who knows how it happened? Maybe they’re just using one another; both trying to double cross the other. Whatever it is, the government has to be underestimating the Mogs. If they weren’t, they’d be scared out of their freaking minds. ’ Nine places the yellow cube in his mouth. A look of satisfaction appears on his face.

  ‘What is that?’ I ask.

  ‘Sustenance,’ he says, his voice garbled. ‘It’s a food substitute. You suck on it and it fills you up for a little bit. Take a look. You might have one too. ’

  I unlock my Chest and poke around for a yellow cube. My hands pass over the white tablet we found in Malcolm Goode’s hidden office in the well, and I take a second to press its buttons. Still dead. I push it aside. I don’t find a yellow cube, but there’s a blue one. I hold it out for him to see. ‘Do you think this does the same thing?’

  He shrugs. ‘Dunno. Won’t know till you try. Go for it. ’

  I hesitate for a few seconds, then place it on my tongue, and my mouth is immediately flooded with ice-cold water. I am only able to drink a little before some goes down the wrong way, causing me to cough the stone onto the floor. Nine spits his yellow stone into his hand and offers it to me, but I pass.

  ‘You have to eat sometime,’ he says.

  Bernie Kosar walks over to Nine and opens his mouth. ‘Sure, BK ,’ Nine says obligingly, placing the yellow cube on the dog’s tongue.

  ‘At least we’re headed west, where Sam and Sarah are. I’m sick of running and hiding, running and hiding. First things first, we find them. ’

  ‘Yeah, well, speak for yourself. I’ve been locked up and tortured for the past year, man. Being in motion, in control of where I am and when I’m going there, is something I do not plan to give up anytime soon. Just relax, Johnny. I have an idea and you need to remember the plan. We’re not wasting time finding your human friends. We contact the others and meet up, and when we’re ready, we face Setrákus Ra. In that order. ’

  I turn and punch a hole in the side of the train car, and the impact causes the wheels on one side to momentarily lose their grip on the tracks below. I’m angry and I feel like I’m spiraling out of control. ‘How exactly are we going to meet up with them when our only means of communication might be being monitored? I say we head for California, or whatever government facility is out west, and we demand they give up Sarah, or we’ll start blowing stuff up! Or, we threaten to tell the media that the government is working with a bunch of evil aliens. We’ll see how that goes over. ’

  Nine laughs, shaking his head. ‘Um, no. That’s not going to happen. ’

  ‘Well, shit, then I don’t know what to suggest. What if we go back to Paradise to see if maybe Sarah’s there. If I can just see that she’s safe, I promise I’ll drop it. We have to be close to Ohio b
y now, don’t we?’

  Nine walks over to the hole I’ve created in the wall and peeks out. His voice is quiet when he speaks. ‘It all looks the same to me, man. You know, Earth has nothing on Lorien. Sure, Earth looks pretty nice in some places, but Lorien was beautiful everywhere. It was the most beautiful planet in all the galaxies. You’ve seen how it used to be in your visions, right?’ I’m surprised with how impassioned he’s suddenly become. Talking about Lorien his face is as happy and relaxed as I’ve ever seen it. For the first time I see a homesick kid. But it’s fleeting. He quickly rearranges his face into its usual mask of snark and dismissal.

  ‘We are not going to Ohio to see if another one of your humans is all cozy and safe. This is not our home, Four. These humans are not our brothers and sisters. Everything we do here on Earth is for our real home, for our real brothers and sisters; for the Elders who sacrificed their lives to put us on that ship. ’

  Nine steps back, swings, and punches another hole in the wall of the car, right next to mine. Unlike mine, his punch is so hard and so fast that the wheels underneath us don’t shift. Nine sticks his head through the hole and he breathes deeply, his black hair blowing and flapping in the wind, then pulls his head back inside. He clenches his fists and turns to look at me. ‘If you don’t have Lorien in your heart, then you should say so right now. I won’t run around with a traitor. Our only goal is doing everything we can to be at full strength so we can defeat Setrákus Ra and his army. That’s it. Got it?’

  I decide to remain silent. My feelings for Sam and Sarah will never subside. I know this. But Nine is right about what comes first. We are of help to no one if we do not increase our strength, and that only happens if we can find the others. I need to concentrate on Lorien. When we defeat Setrákus Ra, Sam and Sarah – along with everyone else on Earth – will be okay. I nod.

  Nine sits down and closes his eyes, hands clenching his knees so tightly his knuckles are white. ‘We just passed a sign I recognize. We’re a couple hundred miles away from the safe house my Cêpan set up. We can go there, order a pizza, maybe watch a little TV . You can sit around and sigh and think sad thoughts about your poor, lost Sarah. I will go out, find some hot chick to make out with for an hour or so, then we’ll figure out how to communicate with the rest in some other way. ’

  BK drops the yellow cube out of his mouth and looks up at me. He doesn’t even have to ask. I place my blue cube on his tongue and he closes his mouth and sighs happily.

  I look over at Nine. He is so sure of himself, so confident. ‘And how are we going to do that? The macrocosms are tapped! We have no other way to communicate with them!’

  ‘No, this is perfect,’ Nine says, getting excited. ‘Wait until you see my place, Four. It’s totally badass. Whatever we want, we’ll have. Whatever we need, we’ll get. We’ll rest and train, we’ll be in the most amazing shape, ready for whatever comes at us. And we will figure out a way to get in contact with the rest of the Garde. ’