The rise of nine, p.25
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       The Rise of Nine, p.25

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
Page 25


  Eventually, just as my energy and spirits are almost at their end, mountains appear on the horizon, giving me at least the prospect of some salvation. They look like they’re at least another day’s walk away, though it’s hard to know for sure. They’re definitely too far to reach today and that is enough to send my hopes plummeting. I know I need to find shelter.

  I turn visible and hope someone will see me. I look up at the sky and see the first group of clouds of the day. My heart leaps and I feel a small surge of energy I did not know I even had. I concentrate on creating a storm, just a tiny one, above me. The rain is brief, but awesome nonetheless. It’s the only reason I don’t collapse and just give up.

  I keep moving until I at last come across a low barbed-wire fence. Just beyond it I can make out a faint dirt road. It’s the first sign of civilization I’ve seen, and I’m so overjoyed I can even pick up my pace to reach it. I follow the road for a mile or so before I reach a small hill, which I manage to get up and over. On the other side, miraculously, I see outlines of several small buildings. I can’t believe it. Should I believe it? It has to be a mirage.

  But, no. The closer I get, the more convinced I am these structures, these signs of life, are real . Unfortunately, the closer I get, I can also see the buildings are full of holes; crumbling, wooden skeletons abandoned to the relentless attack of the desert. These buildings represent what happens when you’re stuck in a place like this. I’ve stumbled into a ghost town.

  Before I let my disappointment bring me to my knees, I focus on what might have been left behind. Before the ghosts took over. Plumbing? A well? I stumble around, searching inside and outside the structures, trying to find some source of water. I have been reduced to that one, essential ingredient. I need to find water. Everyone needs water, so there must be some, somewhere, right?

  No. Or, at least, there is none that I can find. I guess there must have been a well at some point, but there isn’t one now. Buried by sand, ripped out by space aliens, who knows? The despair that comes over me is like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Alone, no water, no food, no proper shelter. I yell, as loud as I can, ‘Is there anyone here? Please! Someone! Anyone!’

  A wood beam creaks from somewhere on my right. It’s not exactly the answer I’m looking for.

  I look inside each building; as expected, each is emptier than the last. After I’ve confirmed just how alone I am, I pick the corner of what I believe was once a grocery store to rest for a bit. I try to imagine the building stocked with food and water, just to entertain myself. I pretend I’m going to cook a huge meal for the remaining members of the Garde. At the long table in my mind, Marina sits between Eight and Ella. I put John at the head, with me at the other end. I imagine Nine and Number Five are with us. They kid around with each other, and share stories about all the places they’ve been. Everyone is laughing, congratulating me on the feast I’ve prepared, and I tell them all I’m just happy they could make it out here.

  ‘What’s your favorite memory of Earth so far?’ I imagine Marina asking the table.

  ‘Right now,’ John says. ‘This one, right here. Safe, with all of you. ’

  We all agree, raising our glasses to successfully finding each other. Number Five gets up, leaves the room and reenters with an enormous chocolate cake. Everyone cheers and plates are passed around. When I take a bite, it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted.

  Of course, none of this has happened. I’m just a lone, crazy person, sitting in an abandoned, brokendown grocery store in the middle of the desert. I must be crazy, because as I come out of my dream of feasting with the Garde, I realize I am chewing. Chewing air with a satisfied smile on my face. I shake my head and will away my tears. I have not battled Mogs, survived a Mogadorian cell and watched Katarina die to have it all end in the middle of the desert, alone. I pull my knees up to my chest and rest my forehead on them. I have to figure out a plan.

  It’s still sweltering hot when I leave the ghost town. I’ve rested from the sun for a while, but I know I have to keep moving before I lose all of my strength. I’ve walked about a mile towards the mountains through the burning sand when I feel the most intense cramping in my legs and stomach. I focus what little mental energy I have left on uprooting a few nearby cacti and manage to get a mouthful of water from them.

  I concentrate on my Legacy and try to summon another thunderstorm from the few scraggly clouds overhead, but all I manage to create is a plume of sand that washes over me, burying me up to my knees.

  For the first time, I’m not just nervous about what’s to come; I’m scared I’m going to die out here. I have nothing left. The Elders chose me as a warrior to save our race, and I’m going to die in the middle of a desert.

  I feel myself starting to panic, to truly lose it. I have just enough of a grip to know I can’t lose it – I’m so vulnerable out here that it will be all over if I do. I’m so desperate I think back to last night, and my imaginary meal with the rest of the Garde. To keep myself focused I think about what I wish I could say to them right now.

  Hey,Marina,how are things? Me? I’m in a desert heading to some mountain. I’m guessing I must be in New Mexico, based on what Eight said about where he was able to teleport to before. I’m growing weak, Marina. I don’t know how much longer I can hold on. And I don’t know where you are,but please, please find a way to get from wherever it is you landed and come and find me.

  Ella? Do you know how sorry I am about Crayton? I know how much it hurt, watching him die, leaving him behind. I promise you, we will avenge his death, and I will be the one out front. If I make it out of this desert, I will avenge all of Lorien.

  Eight, I couldn’t find the Loralite. I see no sign of food,water,shelter,civilization,and I am alone. Can you tell me where the Loralite is? I want to get out of here; I want to find you guys.

  I don’t even feel stupid, chatting in my head to people who are almost certainly on the other side of the world. I close my eyes and desperately wait for someone to answer me. No one does, of course. So, I trudge on. It gets harder to place one foot in front of the other. I start to waver, listing to the right, then the left, almost falling but catching myself at the last moment. Eventually, though, I can’t steady myself and I fall forwards. I resign myself to crawling and continue like this for a while with my eyes closed against the blinding sun. After a while I look up to check where the sun is in the sky and again think I’m imagining a mirage when I see a gate made of solid metal a few hundred feet away. It’s over twenty feet tall, topped with spiraling barbed wire. Even from this distance, I can hear the hum of electricity. The fence is charged. This goes a long way towards convincing me it isn’t a mirage.

  Although I have no idea what’s behind this gate, I need help, and I’m at the point where I don’t care where that help comes from. I crawl over to the gate and manage to sit up. I wave my hands over my head, hoping it’s monitored.

  ‘Please help me,’ I manage to whisper, my throat as dry as sandpaper.

  The gates don’t open and no one emerges. I let myself slide back down into the sand. I try to gather the last bit of strength I have to make one more go of it. I roll over onto my stomach and pull myself slowly up to my feet. I decide to test the fence. What’s a little electricity after near starvation and life-endangering thirst? I look around and spot a small cactus. I float it up into the air, and drop it onto the fence, where it sizzles and pops. The charred remains fall to the ground, smoking.

  I let myself fall first to my knees, then onto my side, then, finally, roll onto my back. I close my eyes. I feel blisters forming on my dry lips. I hear a faint mechanical noise behind me, but I can’t lift my head to see what it is. I know I’m losing consciousness. There’s a swirling echo in my ears and then a low drumming. A few seconds later, I swear I hear Ella.

  Wherever you are, Six, I hope you’re okay, she says.

  A short laugh comes out of my mouth, followed by a sob.
I’m sure there would be tears, if I had any moisture left in my body. I’m dying in a desert, Ella, I respond. The one with the mountains. I’ll see you on Lorien one day, Ella.

  I hear her voice again, but I this time I can’t make out what she’s saying. She is drowned out by a new noise in my head, choppy and loud. And then I feel it. It’s a high wind that whips my hair over my face. I slowly open my eyes to see three black helicopters hovering over me. Men yell for me to put my hands over my head, but all I can do is close my eyes.


  Ella is floating above me. She is in a panic, eyes wide, bubbles shooting out of her mouth. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on, how she got here, why there is so much water. I try to reach for her hand, but my arms won’t do as I ask them. What happened to me when we teleported? I can tell my face is numb, and there’s a pain behind my eyes that’s unbearable. My legs won’t kick no matter how hard I try. All I can do is watch Ella float higher and higher above me, away from me. Where did all this water come from? My left shoulder begins to rock violently, and it takes a second to realize someone is shaking my arm. Then I see Eight, his black curls hovering over his head like a halo. He hooks his arm under my armpit and I try not to let his look of concern scare me more than I already am. He tries to swim us towards the surface, but the Chest under my arm weighs us down.

  I let the freezing water enter my lungs. It’s the only thing I can do. Eight kicks the Chest out of my paralyzed arms and yanks me upwards. We start to rise. I look around wildly for a glimpse of Six, but I don’t see her.

  When my head breaks the surface of the water, the first thing I’m aware of is a glaring, hot sun. Everywhere I look is water. I see Ella treading water nearby. A few minutes in the fresh air gets my limbs to start working, so I tread water as well. Eight appears fully occupied with cursing our luck.

  ‘Where’s Six?’ I cry, coughing. I keep whipping my head around to see if I can spot her blonde head bobbing around on the surface.

  ‘I couldn’t find her down there!’ Eight yells. ‘I have no idea if she made it or not!’

  ‘Why wouldn’t she have made it?’ Ella asks, a new panic rising in her voice.

  Eight slowly rises out of the water until he’s standing on the surface. It doesn’t look as easy for him this time. He kicks the tip of a slow passing wave, pissed. ‘Damn it! I knew I shouldn’t have tried to teleport with so many people!’

  ‘But where could she be? How do we find her?’ Ella cries.

  ‘I don’t know. For all I know, she’s still back at what’s left of the cave. ’

  My limbs are still coming around slowly, and I’m struggling to just keep my head above water. ‘What! She’ll be killed if she’s still there!’

  Ella is also struggling to stay afloat. Eight pulls her over to him so she can get on his back, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck. ‘Six could have ended up somewhere else, too,’ Eight says, trying to sound more hopeful. ‘I just don’t know where, exactly. ’