The rise of nine, p.19
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       The Rise of Nine, p.19

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
Page 19


  ‘Give us an hour to settle in first, okay?’ Nine asks.

  ‘Absolutely, boss. ’ The guard salutes as we step into the elevator.

  Once the doors are closed, I feel Bernie Kosar crawl from one of my shoulders to the other, and back again. He tells me he’s tired of hiding. ‘Just a few more minutes,’ I say.

  ‘Yeah, BK ,’ Nine says. ‘We are just about home. Finally. ’

  ‘How could you be so confident this place would be yours to come back to? I mean, you’ve been gone a really long time. ’ There seems to be no situation, no idea that makes Nine second-guess what he believes. I wish I could be like that. Even if he isn’t always right, it makes for a great team member and an even better warrior.

  ‘Sandor set everything up. Payments for this place are made automatically from his account. We always kept things pretty vague about what he did. And we referred to his “teaching gigs” the other times when we went away for months. Clearly, people bought it. ’

  Nine presses a series of numbers into a small keypad below the floor numbers and the elevator rockets upwards. The numbers increase so fast I barely have time to think about how high we’re going. We pass the eightieth floor and then start to slow down. We come to a stop and the doors open silently, and we step directly into an apartment. I look up at the huge crystal chandelier hanging above two couches in the living room. Everything seems to be bright white with gold trim.

  ‘This is your apartment? You can’t be serious,’ I say.

  ‘Yup, we’ve got our own private entrance,’ he says in response to my amazed look.

  I thought only people on TV lived like this. It’s completely boggling my mind that this place belongs to a Garde member.

  I see a camera in the upper right-hand corner of the room, pointed our way, and instantly shield my face. But Nine explains it’s a closed-circuit camera that can be monitored only from inside the apartment.

  ‘After you,’ he says, bowing low and sweeping his arm in welcome with an exaggerated flourish.

  ‘I can’t believe you guys have the whole floor,’ I say, looking around with my mouth agape.

  I hear Nine’s hand slide along the wall as he says, ‘ Two whole floors, as a matter of fact. ’ Nine hits another switch and dozens of dark shades rise to reveal floor-to-ceiling windows. The room is bathed in sunlight. Bernie Kosar leaps out of my jacket and turns into a beagle. I walk over to the window and look out at the view. It’s incredible. The whole city of Chicago is spread out below. Lake Michigan is a sheet of bright blue on the left. I set my Chest on a plush recliner and place my forehead against the window. As I look down on the roofs of other buildings, I hear something start to whir in the apartment behind me, then feel a whoosh of fresh air from the vents near my feet.

  ‘Hey, you hungry?’ Nine asks.

  ‘Sure,’ I say. It’s weird, but from this height, everything looks fake: the cars, the boats on the water, the trains snaking around on the elevated tracks. To my surprise, I do feel safe; I mean, really safe. I actually feel as if nothing can touch me, get me, up here. It’s been a long time since I felt this way. It’s almost strange.

  I hear the door to a refrigerator open. ‘I am so psyched to finally relax,’ Nine calls from the kitchen. ‘Hey, make yourself at home; take a shower, eat some frozen pizza. We even have time to chill, sleep, before it’s time to call those girls. When was the last time you could say any of that? Man, it is good to be home. ’

  It’s hard to turn away from the view; it’s kind of mesmerizing. I want to just stand here, right here in this spot, and enjoy feeling safe. The only thing better would be if Henri and Sarah and Sam and Six were here with me.

  Something soft and crinkly hits the back of my head. An energy bar.

  ‘Let me show you around. ’ Nine’s giddy, like he’s psyched to show off his toys.

  I munch on the bar as we walk through a living room filled with plush couches and leather recliners. A giant flat-screen television hangs above a marble fireplace, and on the glass coffee table stands a vase of fake orchids. There is a layer of dust on every surface. Nine says he’ll get a cleaning service up to deal with it as he runs a finger over one particularly well-coated table. In the hallway, he opens the first door on the right.

  My jaw drops. Standing there are two huge Mogadorian soldiers with alabaster skin and long black hair, wearing black trench coats. They stand just inside, guns poised and ready to shoot. The weeks of training with Six and Sam surge through my brain and I rush the closest one and duck under his cannon, then I deliver an uppercut to his chin and follow that with a thrust kick to his abdomen. The Mog is stunned and falls straight backwards. I look around for something to stab him with, but all I see are free weights and punching gloves. That’s when Nine runs in and playfully kicks the other Mogadorian in the groin before flicking its nose. His Mog wobbles on its heels before tipping sideways. It takes one more second before I realize these are just dummies. Nine doubles over and when he finally catches his breath, he slaps my back.

  ‘My, my, those are some fine reflexes!’ he howls.

  My cheeks are blazing hot. ‘You could have warned me. ’

  ‘Are you kidding? I’ve been thinking about doing that to you since we got on the el. Man, that was great!’

  Bernie Kosar enters the room and sniffs at the rubber feet of the Mogadorian I leveled. He looks up at me.

  ‘They’re for training, BK ,’ Nine says, chest puffed proudly, sweeping an arm out wide. ‘We call it the Lecture Hall. ’

  I take my first real look around. It’s a huge, empty room. On the far end, there’s a control panel, like a cockpit. Nine walks over and sits at the console and starts flicking switches and typing in commands. From the walls, the ceiling and the floor, combat situations and weapons. He spins the chair around to face me, eager to see how impressed I am. I’m immediately jealous of the time he must have spent here. And it shows.

  ‘This is . . . ’ I raise my eyes to the ceiling. I can’t even find the words. It makes me embarrassed about what I’ve been doing all this time. My so-called training space was the snow in my backyard, or with Six and Sam at the pool. Suddenly, I’m resentful about Henri moving us around so often, not giving me the kind of training I clearly needed to do my part. If we had made a place like this, then maybe I would be as confident and strong as Nine. Maybe Sandor really was the better Cêpan.

  ‘You haven’t seen the best part yet,’ Nine says.

  We move through the training room and he spins opens a vaultlike door in the back. There are shelves and shelves of weapons: guns, swords, knives, explosives and more. There’s a whole wall just for ammunition.

  Nine pulls a large automatic rifle topped with a scope off a shelf and aims it at me. ‘You’d be surprised how easy it was to buy all this stuff. Gotta love the Internet. ’

  He walks towards me with the gun and pushes a button over my shoulder. The far end of the room separates to uncover a firing range longer than a bowling alley. Nine grabs a box of bullets and loads the rifle. Then I watch as he blows to bits a paper target ninety feet away. ‘Don’t worry. These rooms are pretty well sound-proofed, but we’re so high up that no one could hear us anyway. ’

  A door down the hall leads to a surveillance room. He walks up to a light switch near the front door and flicks the switch while leaning down and placing his face close to it. A faint blue light scrolls over his eyes and the computers come to life. Retinal scan. Cool, very cool. Clearly, Sandor was able to set up a high-tech security system. There are a dozen computers and even more monitors. We’re tapped into every camera in the John Hancock Center, all one hundred floors of it, plus what seems to be every camera around the city that’s controlled by the Chicago Police Department. Nine touches something on a keyboard and the largest screen in the room comes to life, showing a photo of a muscular man in a black Italian suit, its beautiful cloth and perfect cut apparent even in the grainy picture. He has
black hair and a thick beard, and he’s holding two laptops. I look at Nine, wondering why he’s showing me this.

  ‘That’s Sandor,’ Nine says after a minute. His voice is different. I hear less bravado. He turns to me. I hear vulnerability. ‘Come on. You have a decision to make, an important one. ’ He pauses for dramatic effect. ‘Which room will you choose to stay in? There are a few of them to check out. Take your time. The pizzas won’t take long. ’


  Crayton steps between Marina and Ella to get a closer view of the lines carved into the mountainside. He presses his palm in the center of the outlined door, then pulls his hand away. ‘That’s interesting. It’s warm. And what, exactly, do you mean when you say it’s a door to the far corners of the Earth?’

  ‘Here’s the deal,’ Eight explains. ‘At best, I can teleport two hundred feet. Maybe two-fifty. And the farther I go, the worse my accuracy is. One time I was aiming for a treetop a couple hundred feet away and I landed in between a mountain lion and her cubs. That got ugly, fast. This teleporting Legacy is truly brilliant and has been incredibly useful so many times, but it’s not as easy as it looks. From inside this cave , though, I can teleport around the world. ’

  I place my hands on the mountainside and I can feel the warmth move through me. ‘How?’

  Eight moves out of the way so Ella and Marina can touch the door. ‘My best guess is that this is an ancient Loric cave, or maybe one of the Loric headquarters, and I was just lucky enough to find it, and I was even luckier to figure out what I could do here. Whatever it was, I am definitely not the first Loric to visit this place. ’

  His words are barely out of his mouth when I feel a surge of adrenaline and fear shoot through me. I know Crayton has the same thoughts when he whips his head back to look in the direction we came from, and then over at me. I do what he’s about to ask, and move quickly down the passage, listening for movement. If this is an ancient Loric cave it would’ve been under surveillance by the Mogadorians. There could be soldiers waiting for us, or devices set to alert them about our arrival.

  I turn to Eight. ‘Are you out of your mind? Have you completely lost it? Actually, maybe we’re the ones who’ve lost our minds. We’re the idiots who blindly followed you to a known Loric hideout! This place could be crawling with traps!’ As what I’ve just said sinks in, Marina and Ella move closer to us.

  ‘Hey, hey! Look, I’m sorry,’ Eight says, dropping his Chest. ‘I’ve been here so many times without anything happening that I didn’t think there was any risk. ’

  ‘Let’s not waste time apologizing or criticizing,’ Marina says, stepping forward. ‘Just show us how to open it up, so we can get to the rest of the world. Or, at least, someplace else!’

  Crayton nods, still glancing around suspiciously. ‘Yes. Let’s get in there, where we’re less vulnerable. ’

  Eight pulls his pendant over his head. He reaches up to the blue triangle. ‘Wait till you see what’s next,’ he says, smiling. Then he holds his pendant to the blue triangle.