The rise of nine, p.26
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       The Rise of Nine, p.26

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
 
Page 26

 

  ‘Where are we?’ I ask.

  ‘That much I know. ’ Eight sounds relieved to have a definitive answer to something. ‘We’re in the Gulf of Aden. And that . . . ’ he points at the coastline in the distance that I didn’t see before. ‘That’s Somalia. ’

  ‘How do you know?’ asks Ella.

  ‘I ended up here once before,’ he says flatly. He doesn’t elaborate, so there must be more to his story.

  I don’t know much about Somalia, other than it’s in Africa and is in a perpetual state of brutal tribal and civil war, not to mention the poverty that keeps tempers high. I don’t know if I have the strength to use my telekinesis or even to swim underwater to get to that coastline; I’m even less sure if I want to. I need to think.

  ‘You know what? I’m going to go under for a bit. I can save some energy down there while we figure out what to do,’ I say. As I go down, I hear Ella call out.

  ‘Look for Six!’

  Her words give me a surge of strength. Just the possibility of finding Six puts new energy in my dive. I go deep and open my eyes. The water is relatively blue, even this far away from land. There’s movement below me and I dive further to find a small school of tuna. I slowly twist around in circles, looking for even a glimpse of Six’s dyed blond hair, and more than twice I’m fooled by waving strands of seaweed. I look up and see the faint shadow of Eight’s body on the surface. Feeling confident my strength will stay with me, I descend until I touch the bottom. Navigating my way along the sea floor and scanning the water ahead of me, I accidentally brush up against a mass of coral and cut my knee. The sharp pain stuns me for a second and I reach down and touch it, to heal it, and it takes longer than I expect for my Legacy to work. Whatever happens during teleporting must have some effect on our Legacies and our strength. Grateful that my breathing seems to be okay, I can only hope this doesn’t last long – I don’t want us to be vulnerable.

  I keep moving and eventually find my Chest next to Eight’s, and spot the large, blue Loralite stone a few feet away from them both. I try to pick up the Chests, but am too weak to budge them. I look up and see Eight’s shadow still in the same spot and decide to ask for his help.

  As I ascend I cut through a school of beautiful orange fish. I break the surface. ‘No sign of Six, but the Loralite stone is down there, right next to our Chests,’ I report. ‘Let’s get them and go. We’ll teleport somewhere else, see if we can catch up to wherever Six has landed. ’

  ‘Don’t we need to be at the Loralite to teleport? How will I get down there?’ Ella asks. ‘I can’t hold my breath for that long. ’

  ‘You don’t have to,’ Eight says with a grin.

  ‘Do you have a Legacy that turns you into a torpedo people can catch a ride on, too?’ I ask.

  ‘Better,’ Eight says. He reaches into his pocket and grabs the green crystal he put there when his Chest was first returned to him. The crystal begins to glow, and then a crazy amount of wind starts to shoot out from it. Eight aims it at the ocean. A shallow crater forms in the water below him and he falls into it. ‘Come on! Quick!’

  Ella and I swim into the crater. Eight holds out his free hand and I take it; Ella grabs my other hand.

  ‘Get ready. We’re about to drop. Fast!’ he says. ‘You have to stay with me because the water will collapse behind us. When we get to the bottom, Ella, be prepared to hold your breath long enough for me to grab the Chests. ’

  ‘Everyone keep your eyes open for Six,’ I say.

  Ella squeezes my hand. ‘If she’s down there, we’ll find her. ’

  Eight positions the crystal so it’s aimed at the ocean floor. ‘Here we go!’ he yells. We fall fast, the wind from the crystal blasting a small circle of water out of our way until it unites again a few feet behind Ella. We’re inside a bubble, shooting through the water. Eight howls in amusement; I can’t help but join in.

  Ella grabs my arm. ‘Six is in trouble!’ She says. ‘She says she’s in the desert!’

  ‘What are you talking about?’ I reply, as fish and sharks and squid pass us in a blur. ‘How do you know that?’

  Ella hesitates for a second before yelling, ‘I don’t really know! I just talked to her somehow in my head! She says she’s dying!’

  ‘If she’s in the desert, then she’s in New Mexico already!’ Eight shouts.

  ‘Eight, we’ve got to get there right away,’ I cry.

  We arrive on the ocean floor and try to run on the muddy bottom, but it’s impossible to move quickly. Water rushes in behind our pocket of air and the crystal swiftly becomes useless, creating a small whirlpool in front of us. I look back to make sure Ella is okay and holding her breath. When I turn around, Eight has transformed into a black octopus. He swings two tentacles out and snatches up our Chests, and with two of his other tentacles he grabs our hands. Eight pulls us towards the glowing blue Loralite stone sticking out of the mud floor. Before I can look at Ella again, I’m engulfed in darkness.

  21.

  Nine and I ride the elevator down in silence. I’m furious and utterly humiliated, and it’s got nothing to do with the feelings welling up inside of me. When we enter the apartment, Bernie Kosar jumps off the couch to ask if we are finished with all the nonsense.

  ‘I don’t think it’s up to me. What do you say, Johnny?’ Nine mutters. He opens the fridge and pulls out a slice of cold pizza. He flips the tip of it into his mouth, takes a huge bite and chews noisily.

  I lean down and scratch BK ’s chin. ‘I hope so, buddy. ’ With a mouth full of pizza, Nine says, ‘Pack up your doggie bags, BK , because we’re hitting the road. We’re heading back to Paradise city, where the girls are pretty. And, damn, Four, take a shower already. You smell like smoke. ’

  ‘Shut up,’ I say, falling onto the couch. Bernie Kosar climbs into my lap and looks up at me with sad eyes.

  Nine walks away, down the hallway. He calls back to me, ‘A deal’s a deal, man! We leave for Paradise in a couple hours, so you may want to grab a quick nap after your shower. And, hey! It’s a road trip! You can’t be bummed about a road trip!’

  I’m exhausted, but I slump towards my room. A deal is a deal. The bed moans when I fall onto it, but after a few minutes, I can’t bear my own smell. I drag myself into the shower. The water can’t get hot enough on my skin, a side effect of my Legacy. As I stand under the spray, so tired I’m swaying on my feet, I replay the fight on the roof in my mind. I try to figure out how I lost against Nine, but I can’t. I’m so tired. I think I’m mumbling to myself. I turn off the water and listen to the drops fall onto the shower floor. I grab a towel as I stumble back to bed. I need to rest.

  I climb in between the sheets and using telekinesis, turn off the light. I hear Nine’s thudding steps as he moves towards the surveillance room and I close my eyes. Sleep blankets my mind for a second before I hear a noise. Nine is lightly tapping on my open door. I have my back to him and I don’t move, even when he clears his throat and starts to speak. ‘Hey. Johnny? I’m sorry that I can be such a dick. I could blame it on being locked up for so long, that does something to you. But, honestly, I’m pushing here because I really do think I’m right. We need to go to Paradise. Now. So I hope we can be friends. I want to be friends. And I’m glad you’re here. ’

  I haven’t moved a muscle the whole time he’s speaking and I’m stunned by this moment of sensitivity. I’m not sure what to say, even as I flip over. He’s a slouched shadow leaning in the doorframe. ‘I’m glad I’m here, too. Thanks. ’

  ‘Sure. ’

  Nine slaps the wall twice, looks down at the ground, then turns and walks away. As his footsteps move down the hall, my eyes drift closed. After a few minutes, I hear faint whispers. I know a vision or nightmare is coming. I’m aware I’m in bed, yet I’m frozen in place. I feel myself floating, and when a dark doorway forms above me, I start to spin in the air incredibly fast. I rocket through the doorway and I’m moving through a black tunnel with
my arms stuck to my sides. As the black turns to blue, the whispers grow louder, repeating the same thing, over and over, ‘There is more to know. ’

  The blue tunnel turns to green, and green turns back to black. Then, bam, I fall out of the tunnel and my bare feet land on a familiar rocky floor. I swing my arms and find I have control of my body once again. I’m back in the arena at the top of the mountain. I whip my head around, looking for Sam, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Neither is the other Garde member. The space is completely empty, even the bleachers.

  But then, in the center of the arena floor, a black stone flips over, and on the other side crouches a large Mog soldier, wearing a ragged black cloak and black boots. His waxy pale skin shines and the sword he holds above his head shimmers, as if lit from within. When he sees me, he stands and points the sword at me menacingly. It’s pulsing, as if somehow alive, an extension of the evil that wields it.

  I don’t hesitate. I rush right at him, my palms lighting up and emitting a powerful beam. When I’m ten yards away, I aim the Lumen at my feet and light them on fire. The flames climb up my body as I leap. The soldier jumps at me and when we meet, and I burrow a smoldering hole right through his chest. He turns to ash before hitting the ground.

  To my right, another black stone flips over; it’s another sword-wielding Mog. Two more flip to my left, and I hear others appear behind me. The stone under my feet starts to vibrate, and I dive away just as it rotates to produce a Mogadorian holding a cannon. After punching a hole through the closest soldier on my left, I start launching fireballs, battling with a newfound strength. My red bracelet comes to life, blasting open to sever the head of the giant soldier. In a minute, I wipe them all out. My adrenaline is pumping, and I’m listening for more stones to reveal my next round of suitors.

  A dozen stones flip in front of me, and then fifty on both sides. The largest, best-equipped Mog soldiers I’ve ever seen surround me. I create a small ring of fire around myself and move backwards, the fire maintaining its perimeter until I’m against the wall of the arena. The fire burns between the Mogs and me. Somehow, though, I don’t think my position is particularly secure.

  I widen the ring of fire around me until it hits a row of soldiers. They catch fire, but don’t turn to ash. In fact, they walk right through the fire with their weapons up. I throw dozens of fireballs, but this time they have no effect. Something red zips in the air over my head, and I watch it puncture the chest of a Mog soldier who continues to march forward. I recognize the item. It’s Nine’s staff. Nine drops out of the empty bleachers to the spot right next to me. Even in the middle of an attack, I feel relieved to see him. I immediately feel safer, more confident that even these fire-resistant Mogs will be defeated now that it is the two of us.

  ‘Nice of you to join me!’ I yell.

  He stands right next to me but doesn’t seem to hear my voice. ‘Hey, Nine!’ I try again, but he doesn’t still react. He just keeps staring at the advancing Mogs.