The rise of nine, p.7
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       The Rise of Nine, p.7

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
Page 7


  I see a flash of green light and hear Nine shout out in pain. He falls down next to me. I’ve seen that green light before. That is the unmistakable green light of a Mogadorian cannon.


  Bullets whistle by, exploding in the dirt all around us. Ella and I take cover behind the wreckage of one of the trucks. The bullets seem to be coming from everywhere, from every direction, from every angle. Ella’s been hit. The air is so thick with dust from all the commotion, I can’t even see her wounds. I gently run my hands over her body until I feel the wet, sticky blood and find a bullet hole in her lower thigh. When I touch it, she cries out in pain.

  I use the most soothing voice I can muster, given the circumstances. ‘It’s going to be okay. Marina can help you. We just need to find her. ’ I pick Ella up and start carefully moving away from the truck, shielding her with my body. I almost trip over Marina and Crayton, who are huddled behind another piece of debris.

  ‘Come on! Ella’s hurt! We have to get out of here!’

  ‘There are too many of them. If we try to run now, they’ll kill us. Let’s treat Ella first, then fight back,’ Crayton says.

  I set Ella down next to Marina. She’s still wearing the dark glasses. I can see her wound clearly now; her blood is flowing steadily. Marina places her hands on Ella’s leg and closes her eyes. Ella inhales sharply, her chest beginning to rise and fall at a rapid pace. It really is amazing to see Marina’s Legacy in action. Another explosion sounds nearby and a blast of dust sweeps over us just as Ella’s wound contracts, pushing the bullet out of her flesh. The gash turns from black and red back to the color of her pearly-white skin. An outline of a small bone shifts just below the surface of her skin and Ella’s body slowly begins to relax. I rest my hand on Marina’s shoulder, relieved, and say, ‘That was incredible, Marina. ’

  ‘Thanks. It was pretty cool, wasn’t it?’ Marina removes her hands from Ella, who slowly props herself up onto her elbows. Crayton gives her a hug.

  A helicopter roars overhead and decimates two trucks with a spray of bullets. A chunk of metal lands close to me; it’s a piece of smoldering truck door, the red number eight just barely visible. The sight of it fills me with anger. Now that Ella is healed, I’m ready to fight back.

  ‘Now we move on them!’ I yell at Crayton.

  ‘Is it the Mogadorians?’ Marina asks, clicking the lock of her Chest shut.

  Crayton looks over the top of the debris heap we’ve been hiding behind, and ducks back down to report. ‘It’s not the Mogs. But there are a lot of them and they’re coming closer. We can fight here, but it would be better to take it to the mountains. Whoever they are, if they aren’t here to attack us but are battling Commander Sharma, I see no reason to reveal your powers. ’

  An explosion behind us pushes another cloud of dirt our way, and I watch the helicopter circle back around and head straight for us. Marina and I look at each other and we can tell we’re both thinking the same thing. There’s no way to honor Crayton’s request that we not use our Legacies and do what we need to do. She takes control of the helicopter and reverses its flight path. Its passengers will never understand what happened but we know it’s out of our way. And regardless of who’s inside, we don’t want anyone to be in danger’s path unnecessarily. Ella and I cheer with relief as we watch the spinning blades disappear into the distance while Crayton watches with a frown. Then Commander Sharma dives behind our cover.

  ‘Thank God, you’re alive,’ he says. I’m tempted to say the same thing to him. I thought he was killed when that first rocket struck. Blood trickles from a large cut on his temple, and his right arm hangs awkwardly at his side.

  ‘I’m holding you responsible for this,’ I say, glaring at him.

  He shakes his head. ‘Those are soldiers of the Lord’s Resistance Front. They are who we were trying to avoid. ’

  ‘What do they want?’ I ask.

  Commander Sharma scans the horizon before looking me in the eyes. ‘To kill Vishnu. And destroy all of his friends. Like you. More are on their way. ’

  I move to a crouching stance and carefully peer over the demolished truck. A large brigade of heavily armed vehicles is moving towards us, several helicopters hovering above them. Tiny flashes of light appear from the long line of the trucks and jeeps, and seconds later I hear the bullets zip past us.

  ‘Let’s go kick some ass,’ I say.

  ‘It’s not possible to defeat them here,’ Commander Sharma says, picking up a machine gun with his good hand. ‘No more than twenty of my men are still fighting. We must take it to higher ground if we want a chance to survive this. ’

  ‘Just let me handle it,’ I say.

  ‘Wait, Six,’ Crayton says, scooping up Marina’s Chest. ‘He’s right. The mountains will give us more cover. You can still take out every single one of them. It just won’t be as visible, which is good for us. We don’t need the Mogs picking up on this right now. ’

  Marina puts her hand on my arm. ‘Crayton’s right. We need to be smart. Let’s not draw more attention to ourselves than we have to. ’

  ‘The Mogs?’ Commander Sharma asks, confused. We’ll need to be more careful around him.

  Before anyone can answer, two low-flying helicopters zip in with their guns blazing. Several of the commander’s soldiers are mowed down, their weapons blown to useless shards of metal. If we’re going to run, it’s now or never. I use my telekinesis to pull on the tail of one of the helicopters, tipping the nose down. It looks like a rodeo horse trying to buck its rider as the pilot struggles furiously to level the copter out. We watch the pilot give a particularly hard yank to the joystick and two men bounce right out of the cabin. They weren’t very high in the air, so the fall shouldn’t injure them – much.

  I look over at our fleet of stalled SUV s and see smoke rising faintly from one of the tailpipes. An engine is still running! I shout, ‘Let’s go! Now!’

  Everyone rushes from behind the cover; Commander Sharma yells for his few remaining men to retreat. The brigade is less than a hundred yards away. As we run I feel a bullet zip through my hair. Another one rips through my forearm, but before I can scream, Marina is right next to me, her icy hands tending to my injury as we run. All but one of the commander’s soldiers follows his orders to retreat. That lone soldier follows the commander, running with us.

  We reach the SUV and get inside – the four of us, plus Commander Sharma and the one soldier. Crayton steps on the gas and whips us onto the road. Bullets tear through the tail end of our truck, shattering the back windshield, but we’re able to maneuver around a small rock formation and evade the relentless gunfire.

  This is not a road built for speed. It’s full of potholes, rocks and other debris, and Crayton struggles to keep us from careening off the shoulder. The SUV is overflowing with guns--I find a shotgun and crawl into the back, waiting for a target. Marina follows suit, leaving her Chest with Ella.

  Now that I have a moment to gather my thoughts, I’m angry. We thought if Number Eight remained in the mountains, we would be safe here, under the radar. Instead, we’re being attacked because of him. If we survive this, I am so going to tear Eight a new one.

  ‘Where are we going?’ Crayton yells over his shoulder.

  ‘Just stay on this road,’ the commander says. I look over my shoulder and see the Himalayan Mountains through the windshield. They are slowly getting closer, their jagged tops growing more menacing. Up ahead, the brown desert ends, and a curving band of green surrounds the base of the mountains.

  ‘Why do these guys want to kill Number Eight?’ I ask Commander Sharma, the barrel of my shotgun bouncing off the frame of the back window.

  ‘The Lord’s Resistance Front does not believe he is Vishnu. They believe we are blasphemous, accepting this mountain boy as the Supreme God. They want to kill us in his name. ’

  ‘Six!’ Ella yells. ‘Incoming!’ She’s still wearing the glasses.

I look out the back window in time to see something fire out of the helicopter. It’s a missile of some sort heading straight for us. I use my telekinesis and send it directly into the desert floor, where it explodes. The helicopter fires two more missiles.

  ‘Time to take these dudes out!’ I yell. ‘Let’s do this one together, Marina. ’ She nods and instead of directing the rockets into the ground this time, we loop them so they’re heading directly back at the copter. We watch grimly as the helicopter explodes in a giant fireball. We never try to kill; but, given a choice between killing versus being killed, I will pick us every time.

  ‘Awesome work, Six,’ says Ella.

  ‘Yippee-ki-yay, and all that,’ I reply with a grim smile.

  ‘Do you think they’ll leave us alone now?’ asks Marina.

  ‘I don’t think it’s going to be that easy,’ says Commander Sharma.

  ‘She has all the same type of powers as the boy you call Vishnu,’ says Crayton, motioning towards me. ‘Will that be enough to dissuade them? Do you think they’d still try to fight him?’

  ‘They would if they could find him,’ says the commander.

  ‘How many are there in the Lord’s Resistance Front?’ I ask Commander Sharma.

  ‘In total? Thousands. And they have wealthy donors who support them in any way they need. ’

  ‘Hence the helicopters,’ Crayton says.

  ‘They have worse than that,’ the commander adds.

  ‘The best plan for us is to outrun them,’ Crayton says to the commander. ‘I’ll drive as fast as I can. If we have to fight, we’ll fight; but I’d like to avoid it. ’

  Five minutes pass in tense silence. Marina and I monitor the brigade in the distance, and whenever we pass something large enough, we use our telekinesis to drop it in the path behind us. The tall trees that have begun to dot the sides of the road quickly form a thick line of defense. The car dips into an extremely narrow valley before beginning to ascend the mountain. We have just come to the base when Commander Sharma tells Crayton to stop. I lean forward in my seat and see dozens of small mounds in the dirt.

  ‘Land mines?’ I ask.

  ‘I’m not sure,’ the commander says. ‘But they weren’t there two days ago. ’

  ‘Is there another route to wherever we’re going?’ Crayton asks.

  ‘No, this is the only path,’ Commander Sharma says.

  Suddenly, we hear the sound of helicopter blades, but I don’t see them yet. They’re hidden behind the tall trees. Of course, that means they can’t see us, either, though it sounds like they aren’t very far off anymore.

  ‘We’re sitting ducks if we stay here,’ I say, my mind racing to figure out our next best move.

  Crayton opens his door and steps out with a machine gun under his arm. ‘Okay, this is it. ’ He points up and to our right. ‘We either go up there and get behind a line of trees and fight, or we keep running straight up the mountain. ’