The rise of nine, p.21
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       The Rise of Nine, p.21

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
 
Page 21

 

  Crayton picks up Marina’s Chest, walks towards Eight and puts his arm around him. He starts speaking quietly.

  ‘What do you think he’s telling him? What can he tell him that would make him feel better?’ Marina whispers, turning to me.

  Just as I’m about to go join Crayton in comforting Eight, an explosion rocks the cave, and a wave of fire enters the door. Marina grabs my arm as I hear Ella scream across the room. The jagged columns holding the ceiling up crack up and begin to sway and break. A large section falls towards Ella, and I use my mind to shield her, propelling the crumbling stone away from her. I look over at Crayton and Eight just as Eight disappears.

  ‘What’s happening?’ Marina screams, using her telekinesis to shield the two of us from the falling debris while I protect Ella.

  ‘I don’t know,’ I say frantically, trying to see through the smoke and dust. Suddenly, Eight reappears in the middle of the room. Blood flows from a wound in his side, his face ashen. ‘The Mogadorians!’ he shouts. ‘They’re here. ’

  16.

  I’m lying in bed, enjoying my choice of room and the amazingly comfortable pillows I found there. I’m just drifting off when I hear the front door open and then Nine speaking to someone in a low tone. I sit up in alarm, my heart pounding in my ears. Then I realize – it must be the doorman bringing the boxes up. I lie back down. Bernie Kosar licks the bottoms of my feet and says he’s going to get something to eat.

  ‘I’ll be there in a minute,’ I tell him. I stare at the ceiling, hands folded behind my head.

  The ceiling has a faint texture to it. My eyelids grow heavy again. The next thing I’m aware of I’m no longer looking at the ceiling. I’m outside and it’s snowing.

  ‘Concentrate, John!’ I hear someone say from behind me. I turn to see Henri holding an armful of kitchen knives. He has one cocked above his shoulder.

  ‘Henri! Where are we?’ I call out to him.

  ‘Did you hit your head?’ Henri asks. He’s wearing jeans and a white sweater, and both are torn and tinged with blood. There’s a blue light somewhere behind him, but when I try to see what it is, craning my neck to peer around him, Henri gets angry. ‘Come on, John! It’s like you’re not even here with me. I need you to start concentrating! Now!’

  Before I can argue, Henri whips a knife at me and I’m able to slap it away from my face at the last second. He throws a second one at me, then a third, and a fourth. I block each one, but Henri seems to have an endless supply. I am keeping up, but it’s getting harder. The knives are coming faster and faster; too fast.

  ‘We didn’t have to keep running!’ I yell at him, dodging two knives at once.

  Henri throws the next knife with such velocity that, when I slap it away, my hand starts to bleed. He yells, ‘We can’t all live in Chicago in the clouds, John!’

  When the next knife comes, I snatch it by its handle and whip it into the snowy ground. The snow around it turns black. I catch another knife and slam it down, too. ‘If we had found the right place, we could have had a real home! We never even tried! And you picked Paradise? Of all places?’

  ‘I did my best! And that’s where Malcolm Goode was! You found the tablet, John! You haven’t even used it yet!’ Henri shouts. The blue light behind him disappears, and the darkness in the snow starts to seep outward and spreads, until it’s like we’re wading in a black sea. Henri pulls a large knife over his head and wings it at me. When I try to defend myself, my hands feel stuck to my sides. I’m watching the knife fly through the air, flipping, end over end, and I know it’s about to hit me right between the eyes. Once it’s a couple feet away, a huge hand reaches out and snatches it out of the air. It’s Setrákus Ra. In one fluid motion he has the knife firmly in his grip and whips it over his shoulder and back down again, swinging it at me.

  As the tip of the knife plunges into my skull, Setrákus Ra yells, ‘Your pizza’s getting cold!’

  I sit up and I’m back in bed, in the Hancock tower. I’m drenched in sweat and gasping for air. Nine stands in the doorway with a whole pizza on a platter. His mouth is full and he continues to chew while he says, ‘Seriously, man, you got to eat it while it’s still hot. And I still want to get some training in before our double date. ’

  ‘I saw Setrákus Ra again,’ I say. I know my voice sounds flat. My tongue feels sticky. ‘And Henri. ’

  Nine swallows and waves his hand in the air, still holding half a slice. ‘Oh, yeah? Forget about it, they’re just dreams. That’s what I tell myself, and it usually works out just fine. ’

  ‘And how, exactly, do you make that work?’ I ask, but he’s already gone. I slide off the bed and stumble down the hallway. I see Bernie Kosar attacking a defrosted steak on the kitchen floor. My pizza sits steaming on the table. I haven’t dreamed about Henri in so long, I’m having a hard time shaking the vision off. While I eat my pizza, I think about the flying knives, the snow, how we were yelling at each other – when it hits me. Henri mentioned the tablet. I haven’t done anything much but look at it. What little time I’ve spent with it, I’ve been annoyed by the fact that it doesn’t seem to work. I grab my Chest off the chair and open it, taking the tablet out.

  It looks as frustratingly blank as every other time I’ve looked at it. It’s nothing but a white metal square with a screen; blank, dead, useless. Nothing I do brings it to life. I turn it over and examine its few ports. They’re triangular, unlike any I’ve seen before.

  ‘Nine?’ I yell.

  From the direction of the surveillance room, he shouts, ‘In here!’

  I stuff a slice of pizza in my mouth and chew as I walk, bringing the tablet with me. Nine sits on a rolling chair with his feet up on the long table between monitors. Most of the screens are divided into quarters. Nine hits the keyboard in his lap and the screens rotate. None of them show us anything interesting.

  Nine grins. ‘Anything you want me to check on first?’

  ‘Yeah. Enter a name, “Sarah Hart. ” ’

  Nine grabs his long black hair in his fists. ‘Aaargh! Seriously, dude? You have the most incredibly one-track mind. With all this crazy shit going on, that’s the first thing that comes to you?’

  ‘It’s the only thing that comes to me,’ I say. ‘Just do it. ’

  Nine types in her name, and to my disappointment, nothing comes up other than a list of school activities. I make him search for ‘Paradise, Ohio,’ ‘Sam Goode,’ ‘John Smith,’ and ‘Henri Smith. ’ Everything that pops up are things I’ve seen before: the destroyed high school; the domestic terrorism charge; the reward offered for information leading to our arrest or capture. I slide the white tablet onto the desk in front of me and push it in his direction. ‘Listen, Nine. I need your help with this. ’ I tell him about my vision, and about Henri talking to me about the tablet.

  ‘Dude, you’ve got to chill,’ Nine says. ‘I forgot how personally you take these dreams. I’m going to try something with this tablet thing. ’

  ‘Be my guest,’ I say with a sigh.

  He turns it over a few times in his hands, touching every inch of the screen. Then he examines the ports on the back and clicks his tongue. ‘I think . . . ’ he says, trailing off to spin in his chair. He walks over to the corner of the room where there’s a stack of opened brown boxes. Nine digs through the top two, saying, ‘I asked them to bring these up from storage when they delivered the stuff that arrived for Sandor. I wanted to see if there was something in one of them that could give me an idea for a new way to communicate with the others . . . ’ He puts aside the first two boxes and then yanks the third off the stack. He opens the top of it, pulls out the two new laptops inside and shouts, ‘Bingo!’ Nine stands, looking victorious, and holds up a thick black cord. One end of the cable is, amazingly, shaped like a triangle – the same as the triangle-shaped port on my tablet.

  ‘Where did that come from?’

  ‘I don’t know. Sandor had all this stuff with him on the
ship that brought us here. I never even had a chance to see most of it, never mind learn how to use it. I tried to figure out what this stuff does a couple times, but Sandor was always protective of it, and I never got anywhere. I mean, most of the time, I can’t tell the difference between the Earth stuff and ours, which really doesn’t help. ’

  He takes the cord he’s found and brings its triangle-shaped end to the triangle-shaped port on my tablet. We hold our breaths as Nine slides the end into the port. It fits and we both sigh in relief. Slowly, he puts the other end into the closest computer’s USB slot. A black horizontal line appears on the tablet’s screen, and seconds later we’re looking at a map of Earth. One by one, seven pulsing blue dots appear: two in Chicago, four in India or China, and one in what looks like Jamaica.

  ‘Um, bro,’ Nine says, his voice hushed. ‘I think that’s us. As in, all of us. ’

  ‘Damn, you’re right. There we are, there we all are,’ I whisper. ‘We don’t even need the macrocosm with this thing. ’

  ‘Wait a sec, there are seven dots, but only six of us left,’ Nine says, furrowing his brow.

  I lean back. ‘I told you there was another ship, right? ’

  ‘Right, right,’ he says, suddenly the eager pupil paying close attention to me.

  ‘Well, we know there was an infant inside. This might mean it made it to Earth, after all! And that means –’

  ‘Setrákus Ra has seven of us to deal with, not six,’ Nine interrupts. ‘The more the merrier. ’

  While we’re both taking this new information in, a small box appears in the upper-right corner of the tablet screen with a green triangle inside. I press the triangle and two small green dots show up on the map. One is in the American Southwest, and the other is in northern Africa, possibly Egypt.

  ‘What do you think these are?’ I ask. ‘Do you think they’re nuclear bombs? Mog bombs? Shit, you don’t think they’re going to blow up Earth, do you?’

  Nine slaps my back. ‘No. Think about it. A map that shows us is clearly geared for, well, us. Mog bombs are, like, a different category. I think these are our ships, dude!’

  I’m speechless. It does kind of make sense. If that’s true then something almost too wonderful to let myself think about might also be true. After Setrákus Ra has been killed and Earth has been saved, we could actually fly back to Lorien. We could help bring it out of hibernation. We can go home. All of a sudden, I’m desperate to know the exact location of the dot in the Southwest, the one closest to us. ‘Where is this?’ I ask, pointing to it.

  Nine pulls up a map on a screen and says, ‘The one out west is in New Mexico, the other one is in Egypt. ’

  Hearing him say ‘out west’ reminds me of Special Agent Walker’s last words to me. My decision is instantaneous and final. ‘That’s where we need to go. New Mexico. ’

 
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