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Nines Legacy, Page 2

Pittacus Lore

Page 2


  “No,” Sandor says. “I expect you to die. ”

  Sandor raises the gun before looking at me again.

  “You brought him here,” he says. “Your kill. ”

  I swallow hard. I planned this whole thing out. It’s been all I could think about since that red dot appeared on my iMog a couple days ago. Still, I’ve never killed one before. I don’t feel sympathy for the bastard. It’s not that at all. But this feels like a big deal. Taking a life, even if it is only a Mogadorian. Will it change me?

  Whatever. I grab for Sandor’s gun, but he yanks it away.

  “Not like that,” he says, and drops the gun.

  I don’t let it hit the ground. My telekinesis developed last month and we’ve been practicing with it ever since.

  I take a deep breath, focusing my mind, steeling myself. I levitate the gun until it is level with the Mog’s head. He sneers at me.

  “You don’t have the ba—”

  With my mind, I squeeze the trigger.

  The gun releases a muffled thwip. The bullet strikes the Mog right between the eyes. Seconds later, he’s a pile of ash on the elevator floor.

  Sandor plucks the gun out of the air. I can tell he’s studying me, but I can’t take my eyes off the remains of the Mogadorian.

  “Clean that mess up,” says Sandor. “Then, we need to talk. ”

  Chapter Three

  I clean up what remains of the Mog as quickly as I can, not wanting to deal with building security wondering what’s keeping the elevator. I scoop some of the ash into a plastic sandwich bag for Sandor. He might want it for one of his experiments.

  For some reason, my hands won’t stop shaking.

  I figure it’s because I’m rushing, that the shaking will stop once I’m done cleaning the elevator, but it doesn’t. It only gets worse. I stagger out of the elevator into the living room of our penthouse, and collapse onto a white suede couch.

  Yes, I killed the Mog. Yes, it was even easier than I thought it would be. But it didn’t feel how I thought it would. Something could have gone wrong.

  I can’t shake the feeling of that Mog’s fingers on my throat. Even though he couldn’t hurt me, the sensation lingers. As the adrenaline drains away, all I can think about is what a stupid idea it was to engage the Mog. I’d wanted some action. I tried to be suave like the spies in those Bond movies. I think I put up a good front, not that the Mog will ever be able to tell anyone how badass I acted.

  My head swims as I gaze up at the gold chandelier that presides over the living room. I put this whole place at risk. Everything we’ve amassed in our years of safety, our home. Most importantly, Sandor himself. I don’t feel like celebrating; I feel like puking.

  Even now, Sandor could be packing our bags. We could be headed back on the road.

  Before Chicago, all we did was travel. It was always hotels and motels. Sandor never wanted to put down roots. He’s not much of a housekeeper—doesn’t cook or clean—our needs were fulfilled by grouchy maids and room service. We spent a couple months at the Ritz-Carlton in Aspen. I learned to ski. Sandor spent his time charming snow bunnies next to the fire. We spent some time in South America, eating the best steaks in the world. Our cover story was always the same as it is here in Chicago: Sandor is a day trader who hit a hot streak and now lives comfortably, and I’m his latchkey nephew.

  I liked Aspen. It was good to be outdoors without having to worry about a crush of people and which ones might be hostile aliens.

  After Aspen it was a roach motel on the outskirts of Denver. I learned to judge how safe Sandor thought we were by the luxuriousness of our accommodations. Although we could afford to live anywhere, thanks to the precious gems the nine Cêpans had left Lorien with, nice hotels meant Sandor thought we were safe enough to live it up a little; flea-bitten rattraps meant it was more important to lie low. If I’m being honest, I liked that place too. That was where Sandor tinkered with the vibrating bed, making it powerful enough to almost toss me to the ceiling.

  We moved whenever the hotel staff got to know us too well. As soon as we became a fixture, it was time to move on.

  That never helped. The Mogs always caught up with us.

  The last stop before Chicago was at a trucker motel in Vancouver. I still don’t know how we got away that time. It was bad. Five Mogs took us by surprise there. Sandor had built weapons to keep us safe—flash bombs to blind the Mogs, a remote-control helicopter with a very real gun attached—and still we were almost overwhelmed. Sandor got slashed by one of their daggers during the fight and barely had the strength to drive us south to White Rock. There, I sat by his bedside for a week while he slipped in and out of consciousness, his fever bad enough that I thought he might have set the sheets on fire if they weren’t so soaked with his sweat.

  When he came to, Sandor decided there’d be no more running.

  “We’re going to try something different,” he told me. “We’ve got the money. Might as well use it. ”

  I didn’t know what he meant.

  “We’re going to hide in plain sight. ”

  And we used the money. The two-floor penthouse Sandor purchased in the John Hancock Center is like something out of that reality TV show where the celebrities show off their glamorous houses.

  As if installing a fish tank over their king-sized bed is going to help them when the Mogadorian invasion comes. Nothing wrong with fish tanks and hot tubs, but none of that stuff’s any good without weapons.

  I know Sandor loves it in Chicago—and so do I. But sometimes I miss those days on the road. Sometimes it seems like we should be doing more than just training. The half-dozen flat- screen televisions, the personal chef, the fully equipped gym; all this has only made me feel soft.

  Now, though, watching the sun glint off the angles of the chandelier, I realize how badly I don’t want to leave this place. I rushed things. Yes, I want to take my place with the other Garde. I want to kill every Mog I can find. But for as restless as I’ve felt lately, I should probably try to enjoy my home for as long as I still have one. Eventually, my life will be nothing but fighting. Am I ready for that?

  I take a deep breath and pick myself up. The panic I felt before is gone, replaced by a sense of dread.

  I head down the hall to Sandor’s workshop to face the music.

  Chapter Four

  When I walk into his workshop, Sandor is glued to an array of flat-screen monitors behind his desk. Various camera feeds from around the city are on display, archived footage from this morning frozen in time. I’m not surprised to see that I’m on every screen, the Mog from the lakefront visible behind me. With a few quick keystrokes, Sandor deletes the video files, erasing my exploits from Chicago’s memory banks. When he’s finished with his hacking, there will be no evidence left of what I did this morning.

  Sandor swivels around to face me. “I get why you did it, dude. I really do. ”

  My Cêpan peers at me, an array of frayed circuit boards and dismembered computer parts spread out on the desk between us. Stacks of unfinished or abandoned projects leave only a narrow path of floor between door and desk; half-finished automatons, tricked-out weapons plucked from our arsenal, gutted car engines, and dozens of things I can’t even identify. Sandor loves his toys, which is probably why he’s developed such an affinity for Batman. Sometimes he even calls me his “young ward,” quoting Bruce Wayne. I could never get into comics—too unrealistic—but I get that when he says it it’s some kind of joke.

  There’s no joking now. This is Sandor trying to be serious. I can tell by the way he drags his hand over his beard, searching for words. He hates that beard, but it hides the scar that the Mogs gave him in Vancouver.

  “Just because I understand doesn’t mean what you did wasn’t stupid and reckless,” he continues.

  “Does this mean we have to move?” I ask, wanting to cut to the chase.

  By the look on his face, I can tell Sandor didn’
t even consider this. He’s spooked, but moving never crossed his mind.

  “And leave all this?” he gestures to the piles of in-progress gadgets. “No. We’ve worked too hard to set this place up to abandon it at the first sign of trouble. And the Mog was alone. I don’t think our cover’s blown quite yet. But you need to promise me you won’t bring home any more guests. ”

  “I promise,” I say, flashing a Boy Scout sign I picked up from some television show. Sandor smirks.

  “It did get me to thinking,” he says, standing up. “Maybe you’re ready to take your training to the next level. ”

  I stifle a groan. Sometimes it feels like all I do is train, probably because all I do is train. Before my telekinesis developed, it was endless days of strength training and cardio, broken up by what Sandor calls “practical academics. ” No history or literature, just more skills that I could potentially use in the field. How many kids know how to set a broken bone or which household chemicals will create an improvised explosion?

  Whatever complaint I might have made goes unvoiced when Sandor brushes aside a pile of junk to reveal my Loric Chest. He rarely opens it and I’ve only seen him use a few of its items. I’ve been waiting for the day to learn everything that it contains and how to use them. Maybe I should’ve lured a Mog to our hideout sooner.

  “Are you serious?” I ask, still half expecting to be punished.

  He nods. “Your Legacies are developing. It’s time. ”

  Together, we open the lock on the Chest. I jostle in next to Sandor, trying to reach my hands inside. So many new toys to play with—I see some kind of spiky green ball and an oblong crystal that gives off a faint glow—but Sandor elbows me aside.

  “When you’re ready,” he cautions, indicating the shiny mysteries waiting inside my Chest.

  Sandor hands me a plain-looking silver pipe, probably the most boring item in the whole Chest, then snaps the Chest closed before I can see anything else.

  “Pretty soon your other Legacies will have developed. That means the rest of the Garde—the surviving ones, anyway—will be developing theirs too. ”

  I push aside the memory of the panic attack I had after killing the Mog. But Sandor is looking at me with a steely glint in his eyes. He’s not playing around.

  “This might be fun now, but it won’t be a game forever. It will be war. It is war. If you want me to treat you like an adult, you need to understand that. ”

  “I understand,” I say. And I do. I think.

  I turn the pipe over in my hands. “What does this do?”

  Before I can answer, the pipe extends into a full-length staff. Sandor takes a step back as I accidentally knock a hollowed-out computer onto the floor.

  “You hit things with it,” says Sandor, glancing worriedly at his fragile gadgets. “Preferably Mogs. ”

  I twirl the staff over my head. Somehow it feels natural, like an extension of myself.

  “Awesome. ”

  “Also, I think it’s time you started going to school. ”

  My jaw drops. In all those years traveling, Sandor never bothered to enroll me in school. Once we were settled in Chicago, I broached the subject, but Sandor didn’t want to distract me from my training. There was a time when I would have killed to go to school, to be normal. Now, the idea of mixing with human kids my own age, of trying to pass as one of them, is nearly as daunting as taking down a Mog.