The rise of nine, p.5
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       The Rise of Nine, p.5

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
 
Page 5

  I didn’t think I would ever miss the Sisters of Santa Teresa, but right now, I’d give anything to be back at the convent. For years, all I thought about was escaping their rules and punishments, but now that I have escaped, all I want is something familiar, even if it comes in the form of religious discipline. My Cêpan, Adelina, is dead, murdered by Mogadorians. My best and only friend, Héctor Ricardo, is also dead. The town and convent are both gone, obliterated by the Mogs. The deaths weigh heavily on me; I was the one Adelina and Héctor were fighting to protect. God, I hope I’m not a curse. I hate the idea that my in experience and lack of training might hurt anyone else. I don’t want to put this mission in India in jeopardy just by my presence.

  Finally Commander Sharma turns around to give us the lay of the land. ‘This trip will last a few hours. Please, get comfortable. Help yourself to water in the cooler behind you. Don’t draw attention to yourselves; don’t engage with anyone. Not even to smile and nod. We’re wanted. ’

  Crayton nods.

  ‘So what do you think about all this?’ Six asks Crayton.

  ‘You think he’s really up there?’

  ‘I do. It makes sense. ’

  ‘Why’s that?’ I ask.

  ‘The mountains are the ideal place for a Garde member to hide. For years, people have been scared to go near the glaciers north of China. Stories of alien sightings are enough to frighten the locals, and the Chinese military have been unable to investigate the reports because a mysterious lake appeared in the valley and blocked their access. Who knows what’s true, and what’s a rumor, but either way it’s an excellent place to hide. ’

  ‘Do you think there are other aliens up there beside Number Eight?’ says Ella. ‘You know, like, Mogadorians?’

  I was wondering the same thing.

  ‘I don’t know who else is up there, if anyone, but we’ll find out soon enough,’ says Crayton. He wipes sweat from his brow and touches my Chest with the tip of his finger. ‘In the meantime, we should start learning how to use what’s in here to help prepare us, if Marina is kind enough to share. ’

  ‘Sure,’ I say quietly, lowering my eyes to the Chest. I’m not opposed to sharing my Inheritance, but I’m embarrassed by how little I understand what I have. My Chest was supposed to be shared between me and Adelina. It was her job to explain how to use everything, how it could save my life. But that never happened. After a beat, I say, ‘I don’t know what any of it does, though. ’

  Crayton reaches forward and touches my hand. I meet his solemn, yet encouraging eyes. ‘It’s okay that you don’t know. I’ll show you whatever I can,’ Crayton says. ‘I’m not just Ella’s Cêpan now; I’m all of yours. As long as I’m alive, Marina, you can count on me. ’

  I nod, and place my palm against the lock. Now that Adelina is dead, I can open my Chest on my own and it’s a bittersweet power. Six watches me, and I know she understands exactly how I’m feeling, having also lost her Cêpan. The cold metal lock shakes against my skin. With a click, it falls to the floor of the truck. The dirt road we’re driving on is covered with potholes and debris, constantly jostling me and making it hard for me to steady my hand as I reach inside the Chest. I’m careful not to touch the glowing red crystal in the corner that caused me so much trouble in the orphanage’s belfry, the one I worried was a Loric grenade, or worse. I reach for a pair of dark glasses.

  ‘Do you know what these are for?’ I ask Crayton. He examines them for a second but hands them back to me, shaking his head.

  ‘I don’t know for sure, but they may give you the power to see through things, like X-ray vision. Or they could be thermal detectors, good for seeing at night. There’s only one way to find out, you know. ’

  I place the glasses on my face and look out the window. Aside from dulling the brightness of the sun, nothing else seems to happen. I check my hands but they’re just as solid as before, and when I look up at Crayton’s face, there aren’t any thermal hot spots.

  ‘So?’ asks Six. ‘What do they do?’

  ‘I don’t know,’ I say, checking the barren landscape out the window again. ‘Maybe they’re just ordinary sunglasses. ’

  ‘I doubt it,’ Crayton says. ‘They have a use that you will discover, just like everything else in there. ’

  ‘Can I see them?’ Ella asks. I hand them over.

  She slides the glasses up her nose, then twists around and looks out the back window.

  I turn back to my Chest.

  ‘Wait – everything looks a little different somehow but I can’t figure out why. It’s almost like seeing everything a little delayed . . . or maybe sped up . . . I can’t decide. ’ Suddenly Ella gasps, then shouts, ‘Rocket! Rocket!’

  We follow her line of vision, but I don’t see anything but crystal-blue sky.

  ‘Where?’ Crayton yells. Ella points up at the sky. ‘Get out of the truck! We have to get out right now!’

  ‘There’s nothing there. ’ Six squints into the horizon. ‘Ella, I think those glasses are messing with you, because I don’t see anything. ’

  Ella doesn’t listen. She scrambles over me with the glasses still on and opens the door. The shoulder of the road is lined with sharp rocks and dead shrubs. ‘Jump! Now!’

  Finally we hear it, a faint whistling in the air, and a black speck suddenly comes into view, right where Ella was pointing.

  ‘Get out!’ Crayton yells.

  I grab my open Chest, and jump. My feet hit the hard dirt road and sweep underneath me, and the world instantly becomes a swirl of browns and blues and sharp pains. The back tire of our truck grazes my arm, and I barely change direction in time to roll out of the way of the next speeding truck. My head hits a sharp stone and I flip over one last time, landing on my Chest. The impact knocks the wind out of me, and the contents of my Chest have scattered in the dirt. I hear Ella and Six coughing somewhere nearby but I can’t see them in the haze of dust that surrounds us. A second later the rocket smashes into the ground just behind the speeding truck we dove from. The explosion is deafening, and with Commander Sharma still inside, the truck flips forward onto its roof in a cloud of smoke. The careening jeep behind it is unable to swerve. It hits the edge of the chasm caused by the rocket, and dives right into the tremendous hole. Two more rockets hit the convoy. The air is so thick with dust that we cannot see the helicopters overhead, but we can hear them.

  I blindly grope the area around me, trying to gather everything that spilled out of my Chest. I know I’m probably collecting just as many stones and twigs as pieces of my Inheritance, but I can sort through it later.

  I’ve just grabbed the red crystal when I hear the sound of gunfire tear through the air. ‘Six! You okay?’ I shout. Then I hear Ella scream.

  6.

  I’m frantic, pulling open closet doors, looking under what little furniture there is, when I hear someone come noisily into the house. I assume it’s Nine because Bernie isn’t growling.

  ‘Nine,’ I yell. ‘Where’d you hide my Chest?’

  ‘Look under the kitchen sink,’ he calls back.

  I walk into the kitchen. The curling linoleum floor looks like a decrepit chessboard someone’s spilled coffee all over. The handles to the cupboard under the sink are loose, and when I pull on them I hear a click.

  ‘Wait, Four!’ Nine yells from the other room. ‘I made a –’ The cupboard doors blow open and I fly backwards. ‘Trap!’ Nine finishes.

  A dozen sharpened sticks are shooting straight at me.

  They’re inches away when my instincts kick in and I’m able to deflect them with my telekinesis. The sticks ricochet left and right, stabbing the walls.

  Nine stands in the doorway laughing. ‘So sorry, dude. I totally forgot to tell you I rigged that up. ’

  Furious, I jump to my feet. Bernie Kosar skids in and growls at Nine. While he berates Nine for his stupidity, I focus on pulling the sticks out of the walls. I will them to hover in the air, aimed at Nine. ‘You don’t sou
nd sorry. ’

  I’m seriously considering launching the little spears at him when he uses telekinesis to break the sticks into two, four and then eight pieces and they fall to the floor.

  ‘Hey, I really did forget,’ he says, shrugging. He turns around to head into the other room. ‘Anyway, grab your Chest and get in here. We have to jet, so start pulling your stuff together. ’

  My Lumen lights up the moldy cupboard and I carefully stick my head under the sink. At first I don’t see anything and think Nine is messing with me. I’m about to march into the living room to demand he return my Chest to me when I notice something. The left side of the cupboard goes deeper than the right. I feel my way around and pull away the false plywood wall. Jackpot. There it is. I grab the Chest and carry it out of the kitchen.

  In the living room Nine’s digging in his own Chest, the Chest we rescued from the Mog cave. ‘Good to see you, old friend,’ he says when he pulls out a short silver staff. Next he grabs a round yellow thing covered with small bumps. It looks like a strange fruit and I half expect him to squeeze it to produce juice. He sets it in his palm, and before I can ask what it is, he whips it down at the floor and quickly backs himself up against the wall. It bounces high after hitting the carpet and changes from yellow to black, expanding to the size of a grapefruit. When it reaches shoulder height the small bumps explode, turning into razor-sharp spikes. I duck and roll in BK ’s direction to avoid getting impaled.

  ‘What the hell?’ I shout. ‘You could have warned me! This is the second time in less than five minutes that you’ve almost killed me. ’

  Nine doesn’t flinch when the spikes retract violently back into the ball just before it returns to his palm.

  ‘Hey, hey, hey, would you please relax?’ Nine says. He holds the ball close to his eye, causing me to hold my breath. ‘I knew nothing would hit you. I can control it with my mind. Well, I can control it partly. Usually. ’

  ‘Partly? Are you kidding me? I didn’t see a lot of control just now. I had to jump out of the way. ’

  Nine takes the ball away from his eye, looking a little chagrined. Not enough, though. ‘Right now, I can only control the color. ’

  ‘That’s it?’ I’m incredulous. He shrugs.

  BK tells him to stop fooling around.

  ‘Hey, I’m just checking to make sure I remember how everything works. Everything I know how to use, at least,’ Nine says, dropping the ball back into the Chest. ‘Because you never know. ’ He pulls out the strand of green stones he used back at the Mog cave and flings it into the air. It hovers in a perfect circle and sucks debris off the ground like a black hole. It spins towards a back window and glows white, and when Nine snaps his fingers the debris explodes out of the circle, breaking whatever was left of the window.

  ‘Check that one off,’ he laughs.

  I open my own Chest. Nine thinks that there’s something in our Chests that can help us find the others. The first thing I see is the blue coffee can holding Henri’s ashes and I suck in my breath. I’m instantly transported back to the forest in Paradise, walking with Sarah through the melting snow to see Henri’s dead body. I promised Henri I would take him back to Lorien, and I still plan on it.