The rise of nine, p.33
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       The Rise of Nine, p.33

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
 
Page 33

 

  Agent Purdy looks over my head to speak to him. ‘Did you get the information you were looking for? Do you know where they are?’

  Setrákus Ra growls and I’m whipped against the wall as an answer, my knees striking the cement first. When I hit the ground, I’m immediately pulled back to my feet by the pendant chain. I can feel my ribs have taken some of the impact; I think a couple of them are cracked. I’m having difficulty breathing. I try again to use my mind to lift the cannon on the floor, but it doesn’t budge.

  ‘So nice of you to join us here, Six,’ Purdy says. ‘I see you’ve met Setrákus Ra. ’

  ‘You’re a coward,’ I whisper. Legacies or no, I am going to take him down or die trying.

  ‘Coward? You are the one who runs from me,’ Setrákus Ra objects dismissively.

  I stare hard into his maroon eyes. ‘ This is cowardly. You must think you won’t be able to kill me if I am at my full power. And that is what I call a coward. ’

  Setrákus Ra’s scar glows again, the brightest yet. To my surprise, the chain around my neck loosens. ‘Put her with the girl,’ he says, pulling the pendant over my head. My stomach drops when I see it hanging from his hand. He looks at me, and smiles. ‘I will fight you, Six. Alone. And you will die. Very soon. ’

  I’m dragged out of the cell and the top of my feet sweep across the cement. Then something hard hits the back of my head. I close my eyes – better for them to think I’m out cold so it’s easier to focus on where they’re dragging me. One right and two left turns. I hear a door open and I’m pushed forward. I stumble until I hit something soft. Or until something soft hits me. I haven’t opened my eyes yet when I feel arms wrap around me. When I open my eyes I’m surprised, for the second time in an hour, to see Sarah Hart.

  25.

  Our beige Ford Contour barrels down the highway with Nine behind the wheel. I stare at the long rows of corn in the fields and I try to picture what they’d look like from space. I can’t stop thinking about our ship sitting somewhere in the New Mexico desert. After all these years, after all the running and hiding and training, everything is nearly in place. Members of the Garde have developed their Legacies and are coming together, Setrákus Ra came to Earth to fight, and when it’s all over we will have a ship to fly us back to Lorien.

  ‘I’m bored,’ Nine says. ‘Tell me a story. Tell me about Sarah.

  How hot is she, anyway?’

  ‘Forget it. She’s out of your league,’ I say.

  ‘Four, if you could get anywhere near her, I’m pretty sure I’d have a shot. Especially in this car. ’

  This car. Nine let me wallow pitifully when I first saw it sitting there. I mean, given everything else that I’d seen about how Sandor and Nine had lived, it was understandable that I pictured our ride as something with a whole lot more bling to it. Turns out, looks can be deceiving. The Ford was just hiding its assets.

  From the outside, the car does look like something most likely found on cinderblocks. But inside it has to be the most technologically advanced thing I’ve ever seen. I feel like James Bond. There’s a radar detector, a laser jammer, and bulletproof tinted windows. When Nine wants a break from driving, the car does the driving for him. With the push of a button, a gun turret with large barrels pops out of the hood. This, of course, is controlled with the steering wheel. Nine demonstrated all of it on a lonely stretch of highway in southern Illinois, squeezing off a few rounds at an abandoned barn. My firsthand experience of cars was limited to the beat-up pickups and other throwaways Henri found for us – the kinds of cars we would have no problem ditching at the last minute. He never would have gone for something like this. There would be too much evidence if it got left behind. It just goes to show again how different each Cêpan was.

  Nine takes his hands off the wheel and puts them together like he’s praying. ‘Please, I’m begging you. Just tell me again what she looks like. After this many hours of corn, I would do anything for something pretty to think about. ’

  I look back at the fields, lips pressed together. ‘No way. ’

  ‘Dude, you’d think she hadn’t, you know, turned your ass in to the police. Come on! Why are you so protective?’

  ‘I don’t even know if she did turn me in. I don’t know who to believe anymore. But if she did, I have to think she had her reasons. Maybe she was lied to or pressured into it. ’ So many questions about Sarah have been running through my mind. If only I could see her, talk to her.

  ‘Yeah, yeah. Forget that stuff for a minute. Just tell me what she looks like. I really want to know. And I promise not to say a word. ’ I can tell he’s not going to give this up. ‘I swear on the Loric code, if there is such a thing. ’

  ‘Of course there’s such a thing! You and Sandor were just too busy living this cushy life, playing with your toys, to bother with anything as basic as Loric code,’ I retort. We ride in silence for a few minutes. ‘Okay, I’ll tell you this about Sarah. You know when you’re talking to a beautiful girl and she’s focused only on you and everything is going great?’

  ‘Yeah. ’

  ‘And you think you’re with the hottest girl in the state, maybe in the country, maybe even on Earth. Just by walking in a room, she lights it up. Everyone wants to be her best friend, wants to marry her, or both. Can you picture her?’

  Nine’s smile widens. ‘Yeah. Okay. I can picture her. ’

  ‘Well, that’s Sarah. She’s the hot girl who lights up the room. She treats you like you’re the most important person she’s ever met. When she smiles at you, oh man, it’s the best, and nothing else matters. On top of all that, she’s the sweetest, smartest, most creative person I’ve ever met. And she loves animals and once –’

  ‘Dude. I don’t care if she’s nice to puppies. Just give me her deets, her look, her style. ’

  I’ve never known anyone so relentless. I sigh. ‘Blond hair, blue eyes. Tall and thin – and you should see her in this one red sweater she has. It’s not even fair how gorgeous she looks in it. ’

  Nine howls at the ceiling, waking Bernie Kosar up in the back seat. I point at him. ‘Hey! You’re not supposed to say anything, remember? On the Loric code?’

  ‘Okay, okay, okay,’ Nine says. ‘Thank you for that tidbit. She sounds like a total babe. Now, tell me about Six. ’ He rubs his hands together, grinning in anticipation.

  ‘No way!’

  ‘Aw, come on, Johnny. ’

  I laugh. It’s impossible not to want to talk about her. ‘Okay. Six. Let’s see. Well, first of all, she’s the strongest person I’ve ever met. ’

  He snorts. ‘Give me a break. I’m sure I could kick her ass. ’

  ‘I don’t know, man. Wait until you meet her. ’

  He fixes his hair in the mirror. ‘Huh, I can’t wait. ’

  ‘And she’s got long black hair, and she always looks like she’s pissed off –’

  ‘Have you ever noticed, there’s something kind of exciting when a girl is mad at you? ’ Nine muses, tapping his chin as if he were really giving it deep thought.

  I suddenly feel guilty. I shouldn’t be talking like this, with Nine of all people. And I definitely shouldn’t be comparing Six and Sarah this way, as if it’s a competition – especially since they hate each other. Sarah hates Six because of everything I said about Six the night she turned me in, and Six hates Sarah because I risked our lives going to see her when Six needed my help. And because she thinks Sarah betrayed us. ‘I don’t feel right talking about Six. I think I’ll just let you meet her, come to your own conclusions. ’

  Nine shakes his head. ‘You are such a wuss, dude. ’

  For a while, we ride along in silence. Road signs announce where we are. I check the tablet again, grateful for Nine and Sandor’s love of electronics. If I couldn’t plug it into the car’s computer, I would have no way to see if the three Garde members have reappeared. I see the blips representing me and Nine in eastern Oklahoma; there’s still one in New Mexi
co, and a fourth is moving quickly north over the Atlantic Ocean. The other three showed up in England, and I still don’t know how they could have gotten there so quickly from India. I decide to give myself permission to check again in five or ten minutes.

  I look out the window, examining the signs as they go by. We’re more than halfway to New Mexico when I notice the gas gauge is perilously close to EMPTY . I point to it and Nine pulls in to a truck stop. He asks me to open the glove compartment. Two rolls of hundred-dollar bills roll out and into my lap.

  ‘Damn,’ I say, catching them.

  ‘Let me have one of those, will ya?’ Nine asks.

  I peel off a bill and hand it to him. He pops the gas tank and climbs out of the car. I put a few of the bills in my pocket and tuck the rest of it back in the glove compartment. Exhausted, I pull the lever to recline the seat, put my head back and close my eyes. Bernie Kosar leans forward and licks my cheek, making me chuckle. I am bone-weary tired, but I fight the sleep that tries to wash over me. I can’t deal with what comes with sleep. I’m sick of taking on Setrákus Ra in my dreams.

  I let my mind wander to Sarah and Six; I hope they’re both okay. Then I think of Sam. I still can’t believe I abandoned my best friend. I tell myself I had no choice. The blue force field had incapacitated me to the point where going back in would have been suicide. No matter how true all of this is, it still feels bad.

  I’m startled from my thoughts by the loud click of the gas pump finishing its fill. I breathe deeply, eyes still closed, to appreciate every last second of silence before Nine gets back into the car. Except, the silence continues. Nine doesn’t hop in and start to chatter away. I open my eyes and look back at the pump, but no one is there. Where is he? I look around the gas station. Nothing. I’m immediately worried. I get out, Bernie Kosar hopping out behind me, and lock the doors.

  First I head inside the station – he’s not there. Next, I go out to the parking lot which is full of semi-trailers. With my advanced hearing, I pick up Nine’s voice, and I can tell he’s good and pissed off. Bernie Kosar and I run towards his voice, weave around several trailers, and find him standing between two young guys with blood on their T-shirts. In front of Nine are three big truckers, all of them shouting in his face.

  ‘ What did you just say to me?’ the trucker in the middle asks Nine. Under his yellow cap, a bushy red beard covers the man’s face.

  ‘Are you deaf?’ Nine says, over-enunciating as if speaking to an idiot. ‘I said, You have girl arms. I mean, look at your wrists. ’ Why does he insist on looking for trouble?

  ‘Uh, what’s up?’ I interrupt, walking over.

  The trucker on the right, a tall guy wearing aviator sunglasses, looks at me. He points his finger in my face and yells, ‘Mind your own business, asshole!’ As I join the group, the trucker on the left spits a long stream of brown juice at my feet.

 
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