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Nines Legacy, Page 3

Pittacus Lore

Page 3


  Sandor slaps me on the shoulder, pleased with himself. Then he hits a button on the underside of his desk.

  A bookshelf littered with dusty electronics manuals makes a sudden hydraulic hiss and slides into the ceiling. A secret room, one even I was unaware of.

  “Step into the Lecture Hall, my young ward,” intones my Cêpan.

  Chapter Five

  What Sandor calls the Lecture Hall isn’t like the classrooms that I’ve seen on TV. There are no desks, no places to sit at all, really, with the exception of a cockpit-looking chair built into one wall. Sandor calls it the Lectern, and he climbs into the seat behind a control panel of blinking buttons and gauges. The room is about the size of our expansive living room, all white, every surface tiled with what looks to be retractable panels.

  My footsteps echo as I walk to the center of the room. “How long have you been working on this?”

  “Since we moved in,” he replies, flicking a series of levers on the Lectern. I can feel the room hum to life beneath my feet.

  “Why didn’t you tell me?”

  “You weren’t ready before,” says Sandor. “But you proved to me today that you’re ready now. It’s time to begin the last phase of your training. ”

  I’d lured the Mog to our penthouse because I wanted to show Sandor that I was ready for more action. I’d wanted to show him that I could act independently, that I could be his partner. No more of his “young ward” crap.

  But this is just more of the same. I thought I was ready to graduate. Instead, Sandor has decided to stick me in summer school.

  Just a few minutes ago I was worried I’d made a bad decision of life-altering magnitude. Now, listening to Sandor patronize me, I’m reminded why I stayed up all night planning that Mog’s demise. For all his big serious pep talk, Sandor just doesn’t get me. I regretted the possibility that I’d put this place in danger to prove my readiness, but the more I watch Sandor play around with his gadgets and levers, the less sorry I feel about what I did.

  “Shall we begin?” he asks.

  I nod, not really paying attention. I’m tired of play-fighting. I got a taste of the real thing this morning and it might not have gone exactly as I expected, but it was still better than this. Hell, real school with soft human kids would be more exciting.

  I’m part of the Garde. I have a destiny, a life to start leading. How many stupid training sessions will I have to endure before Sandor lets me start living it?

  A panel on the front of the Lectern opens, discharging a trio of steel ball bearings at fastball speed. I easily deflect them with my telekinesis. This trick is played out. Sandor’s been shooting objects at me pretty much nonstop since my telekinesis developed.

  Before the first trio can hit the ground, though, two more panels open in the walls on either side of me, both firing more projectiles. Caught in a crossfire, I use my telekinesis to ground the ones to my left, instinctively swinging my pipe-staff in a tight arc to bat away the others.

  “Good!” shouts Sandor. “Use all your weapons. ”

  I shrug. “Is that it?”

  Sandor sends another volley of projectiles my way. This time I don’t even bother with my telekinesis. I use the pipe-staff to deflect two of them, quickly spinning away from the others.

  “How does the staff feel?”

  I twirl my new weapon effortlessly from hand to hand. It feels natural, like a part of myself I didn’t know was missing before today.

  “I like it. ”

  “On Lorien, they held competitions with those things. They called them Jousts. In his younger days, your father was a champion. ”

  It’s rare for Sandor to mention life before the Mogadorian invasion, but before I can grill him further, a section of the wall juts out at me like a battering ram. It’s too heavy to stop with my telekinesis, so I throw my weight into it and roll across it.

  I land on my feet, supporting myself with my staff, and am greeted by a floating drone that looks like something Sandor made by attaching a helicopter propeller to a blender. Before I can properly size up the drone, it bobs in close and zaps me with an electrical shock that sends me tumbling back over the battering ram.

  The shock isn’t enough to really hurt me, but it sends pins and needles through my limbs. Sandor laughs, delighted that one of his creations scored a hit.

  His laughter just makes me angry.

  I hop back to my feet, only to immediately duck another volley of projectiles. Meanwhile, the drone has bobbed out of staff range. I focus on it with my telekinesis.

  From behind, a heavy punching bag on a chain detaches from the ceiling, slamming into me with the weight of a grown man. The wind is knocked out of me and I crash to the ground.

  My face hits the floor in the fall. Instead of seeing stars, I see droplets of blood from my split lip pooling on the polished white floor. I wipe my face and scramble to one knee.

  Sandor looks at me from behind his control panel, an eyebrow raised mockingly.

  “Had enough?”

  Still seeing red, I snarl and make a lunge for the drone. It’s not fast enough. I impale it with my staff in a shower of sparks.

  I shake the broken drone off the end of my staff and stare at Sandor.

  “Is that all you’ve got?”

  Chapter Six

  The workout in the Lecture Hall lasts two hours. Two hours of flying ball bearings, electrified drones made of scrap heap parts and whatever else Sandor thinks to throw at me. At some point, my mind shuts off and I just react. I’m pouring sweat, my muscles ache, but it’s a welcome relief not to think for a while.

  When it’s over, Sandor pats me on the back. I hit the showers and stand under the hot water until my fingertips are wrinkled.

  It’s dark when I emerge from my bathroom. I can smell Chinese takeout in the kitchen, but I’m not ready to join Sandor yet. He’ll want to talk about the training session, about what I could be doing differently and better. He won’t mention this morning’s Mog killing. Just like anytime we argue, it’ll get ignored until we cool down and forget about it. I don’t want to start the routine yet, so I stay hidden in my room.

  The lights in my bedroom turn on automatically, motion sensors detecting my presence.

  If I had any friends, I’m sure they’d be sick with envy of my room. I have a king-sized bed that faces a 52-inch flat-screen television, and the TV is hooked up to all three of the major video game systems. There’s an awesome stereo, with speakers mounted into the walls. My laptop sits on my desk next to the Beretta that Sandor lets me keep in here for emergencies.

  I catch sight of myself in the mirror. I’m wrapped in a towel, and can see the bruises and scrapes on my torso and arms, all courtesy of today’s training. It’s not a pretty sight.

  I turn off the lights and walk over to the floor-to-ceiling windows. I press my forehead to the cool glass and look down at the city of Chicago. From this height, you can actually see the wind as it whips by the blinking lights on building rooftops. There’s nonstop movement below—cars plodding along, blobs of ant-sized humans darting between them.

  I did something reckless today because I thought it would prove something. Instead, it’s just sucked me in deeper to the same routine. Sandor thought he was rewarding me with that Lecture Hall session, but really it was just more monotony.

  I turn my gaze away from the masses of people below, out toward the dark sheet of Lake Michigan. If one of my Legacies turns out to be flying, I’m just going to take off, go someplace where there are no Mogadorians, no Cêpans telling me what to do, no anything except me and sky.

  But I can’t fly, at least not yet. I get dressed and join Sandor for dinner.

  Chapter Seven

  A few nights later, I dream of Lorien.

  I feel energy course through me, almost like working out in the Lecture Hall, but different. It’s a giddy feeling, like a never-ending sugar rush. In the dream I’m a kid. Younger
than I can even remember being.

  And man, am I running.

  I’m booking it through the woods, my legs pumping for all they’re worth. Two creatures that look like wolves but which have massive falcon wings jutting out of their backs are nipping at my heels. Chimæra. My Chimæra

  It has rained recently and the ground squishes under my bare feet. I break into a recessed clearing that’s slick with bright white mud. The closest chimera clips my heel and I go tumbling onto my stomach, rolling through the mud, covering my clothes and face.

  The chimera stands over me, pinning me as I pant and catch my breath. He leans down and sloppily licks my cheek.

  I laugh harder than I can remember laughing in a long time. The other chimera cocks his head back and howls.

  I roll between the chimera’s legs and hop to my feet. I lunge at him with a guttural war cry that strains my lungs. I wrap my arms around his neck, burying my face in his fur, and try to swing my leg over his back.

  The other chimera gently bites the seat of my pants and pulls me back into the mud.

  I dig my fingers into the wet dirt, then lob two misshapen balls of slime at the chimera, the stuff splattering across their snouts. They howl.

  Springing to my feet, I run back the way we came. The chimera race behind me as I weave through the trees. I might not remember Lorien, but the young body I’m in knows it well. I’m just along for the ride as my young self tromps through stalks of knee-high grass, bare feet knowing just when to hop over errant tree roots to avoid tripping.

  A campfire appears in front of me. Sitting by it, a burly man with a bushy black beard cooks our dinner over the fire, his sleeves rolled up past his thick forearms. Somehow, I know his face. My grandfather.

  Next to him is a fresh-faced man I don’t immediately recognize. He’s dressed way too nicely for the outdoors.

  It’s Sandor. I guess I never realized how young he was when we were on Lorien.

  My grandfather sees me coming, grinning, and has the good sense to get out of the way. Sandor isn’t paying attention; he’s got his eyes glued to some kind of mobile communicator. Probably messaging a girl back in the capital about watching the fireworks later. Some things don’t change.

  I tackle him around the knees, dragging him down into the dirt, my mud becoming his mud. He cries out, the comm flying from his grip. I sit on his chest, my arms folded.

  “Conquered,” I declare.

  “Not yet, pal,” Sandor replies, his eyes lighting up. He grabs me under the armpits and lifts me up, spinning.

  In the distance, from the direction of the city, there comes a low rumbling.

  With that, my grandfather accidentally drops our dinner into the fire.

  I wake up feeling happy and sad at the same time.

  Chapter Eight

  It’s been a week since my last visit to the Lakefront and there hasn’t been so much as a peep from the iMog.

  I get up at dawn to find Sandor already sitting at the kitchen counter, holding a cup of coffee. That’s unusual. My Cêpan normally prefers to sleep until mid-morning, sometimes not even waking up until I’ve returned from my run. He’s always been a night owl, and it’s only gotten worse since we moved to Chicago. I know that sometimes he slips out at night and comes home smelling like perfume and booze. I don’t ask him about these trips just like he doesn’t ask about my runs. I guess we just both need some private time—although he apparently has been keeping an eye on my private time, if the video footage he had on screen the other day is any indication.