The rise of nine, p.28
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       The Rise of Nine, p.28

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
Page 28


  ‘Are you serious?’ I ask, not even bothering to hide my disgust.

  Nine looks at me innocently, even though he clearly knew what I was expecting. ‘What? You were hoping for a Camaro?’

  ‘Not exactly. But I was hoping for something with less rust spots. Something that looks less determined to die,’ I say.

  ‘Shut up and get in, Johnny,’ he says, tossing his bags into the trunk. ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. ’


  I wake to the sensation of rocking back and forth. Everything hurts. My whole body feels fried by the sun: my throat, my skin, my feet and my head. My lips are so dry and burned, I can’t even put them together. My eyelids are the worst of all, and they refuse to open, no matter how desperately I want to see where I am. The rocking and swaying continues and it dawns on me I must be in a moving vehicle. A wave of nausea rolls over me. I try to lift my hands to my head, but that’s when I discover they’re tied down. So are my legs. Now I’m wide awake, and I force my eyes open and look madly around, but all I see is darkness. I close my eyes again. The desert sun must have left me blind.

  I try to call out for help, but all I can do is wheeze and cough. My ears pick up an echo, and I concentrate on the air around me. I cough again, just to hear the echo once more. It’s enough sound to understand I’m in a tight space, and that the space around me is made of metal. It feels like I’m in a coffin, and I almost wretch.

  That’s when I start to panic. What if I’m not blind? What if I’m really dead? I can’t be. I am in way too much pain to be dead. But I feel buried alive.

  My breath starts to come fast and furious when a man’s voice stops my panic attack cold. It’s loud and electronic, coming through a speaker. ‘Are you awake?’

  I try to answer him, but my throat is too dry. I tap my fingers on the bench and realize it’s metal, too. A few seconds later there is a noise to my right, and I can sense something has been placed near me.

  ‘There’s a glass of water and a straw beside you. Take a sip,’ the man says.

  I turn my head and find the straw with my mouth. The skin on my lips cracks as I try to close them around the straw. When I take a sip of water, I can taste the metallic tinge of blood and I hear a low humming in my ears. It’s the same hum I heard at the gate. The box I’m in must be flowing with electricity.

  ‘What were you doing at that gate?’ The man asks. Every time he speaks, I am struck by how neutral his voice is. It isn’t friendly, but neither is it threatening.

  ‘Lost,’ I whisper. ‘I was lost. ’

  ‘How did you get lost?’

  I take another sip before saying, ‘I don’t know. ’

  ‘ You don’t know. I see. Your number is six, is it not?’

  I cough and choke at the question, mentally chewing myself out for doing so. I’m usually cooler than this, but my mind is completely cooked by the sun. If he wasn’t sure of the answer before, he is now. I resolve to get a grip, to stop making stupid mistakes.

  The voice is back. ‘Well, number six. You’re pretty famous around here. The footage from the high school in Paradise and the way you took down those helicopters in Tennessee was impressive. And then there’s the incredible show you put on in D. C. last week, breaking John Smith and Sam Goode out of a federal facility. You are quite the little warrior princess, aren’t you?’

  I’m still stuck on how he could know who I am; now he’s talking like he had front-row seats to my life? My body sways hard to the left, and I realize I must be in a moving vehicle that just took a turn, taking me who knows where. I push against the strap over my forehead – nothing happens. I try using my telekinesis, but as soon as I even start to focus my thoughts pain rolls through my stomach so bad I almost throw up again.

  ‘What you need to do is relax. Trying to fight isn’t going to get you anywhere. You’re dehydrated and most likely have heat stroke. You’re going to feel pretty sick for a while. ’

  ‘Who are you?’ I manage to ask, painfully.

  ‘Agent David Purdy, FBI ,’ he says. I feel slightly better knowing I’m in the hands of the U. S. government, not captured by the Mogs. I couldn’t go through that again, knowing what was coming, especially now that the charm that protected me the first time has been broken. With the FBI , my chances of survival have just skyrocketed. No matter how aggressive they are, they aren’t monsters. All I need right now is a little patience; the opportunity to escape will come. Purdy doesn’t know that, probably assumes it can’t be true. Right now, I’ll just follow his advice. Relax. Rehydrate. Wait. I might as well see what else he’s willing to tell me about what he knows about me, what he knows about all of this.

  ‘Where am I?’ I ask.

  The speaker squeals before Agent Purdy answers. ‘You’re in a transport. It’s a short trip. ’

  Again I try to use my telekinesis to undo my leg straps, but I’m still too weak and the attempt makes me nauseous again. I take another couple of sips of water to give myself time to think. ‘Where are you taking me?’

  ‘We’ve got a reunion planned for you with a friend, or maybe I should say a friend of John Smith’s. Do you call him John? Or, do you call him Number Four?’

  ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ I say. I pause before answering. ‘I don’t know anyone named John Four. ’

  All of a sudden, I remember what happened back in the desert, just before I blacked out at the gate. I felt half out of my mind, so much so I wasn’t even sure the helicopters landing close by were even real. I remember hearing Ella’s voice. No. I didn’t just hear her voice; we spoke to one another. She asked, I answered. Given the fact that it’s the FBI who has me, it’s a pretty good bet there really were helicopters. If those were real, maybe I did communicate with Ella. Has a new Legacy kicked in? Just when I needed it most.

  Ella? Can you hear me? I try again, just in case. The FBI is holding me, some agent named Purdy has me locked up and we’re in some kind of vehicle. Purdy says it isn’t far, wherever it is we’re going.

  ‘How did you get to the desert, Number Six?’ Purdy’s voice interrupts. ‘Weren’t you just in India, with your friends? Remember that? Just like all the other kids, reading schoolbooks and being kidnapped at the airport. ’

  How does he know that?

  ‘How did you know where the base was?’ His voice is losing a bit of its neutrality. I think I hear just a hint of impatience.

  ‘What base?’ I ask. I’m having a hard time thinking straight.

  ‘The one we found you dying outside of in the desert. How did you know where to find it?’

  I try to turn invisible, but again, the moment I try testing my Legacy, my stomach erupts with a ferocious and immediate pain. I want so badly to curl up in a ball, but the straps hold me flat and the pain takes my breath away.

  ‘Drink your water,’ the agent advises again. His voice is back to its detached neutrality.

  Just as I did the first time, I obey, take a sip and wait. The pain finally starts to dull, but then a powerful wave of dizziness washes over me. My mind feels like it’s a car careening out of control, swerving this way and that. The thoughts, too many of them to be coherent, come fast and furious. The events from the last few days flash by me. I see myself taking hold of Marina’s arm right before we teleported. I see Crayton lying motionless. I watch myself saying goodbye to John and Sam. I almost forget where I am. That is, until the voice forces me back to my present circumstances.

  ‘Where is Number Four?’ He is nothing if not consistent, this guy.

  ‘Who?’ I ask, forcing myself to focus on what he’s saying. If I don’t, I’m going to make another mistake like I did before.

  All of a sudden, the calm voice is completely gone. He screams through the speaker, ‘Where is Number Four?’ I wince at the noise.

  ‘Go to hell,’ I spit. I’m not telling him anything.

  Ella? Marina? Anyone? If anyone can hear me, you need t
o say something. I need help. I’m in some desert. All I know is I’m near a U. S. government base, and the FBI has me. We’re going somewhere, but I don’t know where. And there’s something wrong with me. I can’t use my Legacies.

  ‘Who was with you in India, Number Six? Who were the man and the two girls?’

  I stay silent. I picture Ella’s face. The youngest Lorien left. I know how that must weigh on her. And now, she’s without Crayton. It was just a day ago I was jealous of what they had, and now he’s gone.

  ‘What numbers were they? Who were the girls?’ Agent Purdy sounds impatient, though his voice is calmer now.

  ‘That’s my band. I play the drums. They sing. I love Josie and the Pussycats , don’t you? I like to watch retro cartoons. All the kids are doing it. ’ My lips crack and bleed again when I smile. I don’t mind. I taste my blood on my tongue and smile wider.

  ‘Six?’ the man asks in a gentler voice. I guess he’s going to try the Good Cop tactic. ‘Was that Number Five and Seven you were with at the airport in India? Who is the older man? Who are the girls?’

  Suddenly it’s as if I can’t control what comes out of my mouth. My voice doesn’t even sound like mine when I say, ‘Marina and Ella. They’re sweet, sweet girls. I just wish they were a little stronger. ’ What am I saying? Why am I saying anything?

  ‘Are Marina and Ella members of your race? Why do they need to be stronger? And what number is Marina?’

  I catch myself this time before answering, shocked that I even opened my mouth to answer again. I concentrate all my energies to find my voice, to respond as I know I should. It’s like I’m battling a war within me. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why do you keep talking about numbers?’

  Agent Purdy’s voice blasts into the box. ‘I know who you are! You’re from another planet! I know you kids go by numbers! We have your ship, for Christ’s sake!’

  At the mention of our ship, my mind starts to spin. I flash back to the journey from Lorien. I see myself as just a kid, staring out the ship’s windows at the emptiness of space as we travel towards Earth. I eat at a long white table and look at the other eight kids, each with their Cêpans. There’s a boy with long black hair laughing and throwing food. A blonde girl sits next to him quietly eating a piece of fruit. The Cêpans at the end of the table watch the kids closely. I see a young Marina crying, her legs tucked up to her chest, sitting on the floor under a control panel. Her Cêpan is on her knees next to her, trying to coax her to stand up with her. I remember I got in trouble with a boy with short black hair.

  The next face I see is a young Number Four. His blond hair is long and wavy. He’s kicking the wall with his bare foot, angry about something. He turns around and grabs a pillow, slamming it to the floor. Four looks up, sees me watching, and his face turns bright red. I hand him a toy, something I’ve stolen from him. The guilt I felt back then rushes over me all over again, just as strong as it was when it first happened. The other faces in the room grow fuzzy.