Nines Legacy, Page 8Pittacus Lore
I ignore the feeling.
“Ready?” I ask her.
“Ready,” she answers.
I don’t take my eyes off her as I pull away from the curb with a flourish.
Immediately, I rear-end a conversion van that’s double-parked a few feet away. That definitely wasn’t there a few minutes ago.
“Oof,” groans Maddy as we’re both jerked forward.
“Are you all right?” I ask, my hands shaking uncontrollably on the wheel. I’m simultaneously terrified that I’ve hurt her and mortified that I’ve made such an unbelievable asshole of myself.
“I—I think so,” she stammers.
In front of us, the doors of the conversion van swing open and three men jump out. They’re all dressed in dark clothes, matching fedoras pulled low over pale faces.
I realize that in my back pocket, my iMog is vibrating like crazy.
I don’t need the incessant vibrating from my pocket to tell me that the three men standing in front of my car are Mogs. I know my enemy.
“They probably want your insurance info,” says Maddy as she begins rifling through the glove box.
For a second I try to convince myself that this could just be a coincidence, that they don’t know exactly who—or what—I am. But they’re not looking at the damage to their van. I’ve crumpled their back bumper pretty good and shattered one of their taillights, but they don’t seem to care.
All three of them stare at me. Slowly, one of them begins to reach under his coat.
There’s no way this is random. Wishful thinking. My date is ruined before it’s even started.
“Hell with it,” I growl, and throw the car into reverse.
The Mogs immediately fan out, trying to cut off my escape. As if I won’t run them over. I rev the engine and peel out, forcing one of the Mogs to dive out of the way. As I shoot by, I see the others already scrambling into the van.
“What are you doing?!” screams Maddy.
“I think one of them had a gun,” I shout back, weaving around a slow-moving sedan.
“Are you nuts? Stanley, slow down!”
I do the opposite. Flooring it, I blow through a red light. The convertible’s tires screech as I jerk the wheel hard left, nearly fishtailing us through a turn. Maddy is thrown against her seat belt and I wince as she cries out in pain.
In the rearview, I see the Mog van cut off by traffic. I realize that I’ve been holding my breath and let an exhale hiss through my teeth.
“Let me out,” says Maddy. “Let me out of this car right now. ”
I start to slow down, trying to blend into the rest of the traffic. That’s not going to be easy considering my flashy car. I hope Sandor’s out there somewhere watching this all go down on his network of hacked cameras, that he’s sending a drone to bail me out as we speak.
The iMog in my pocket vibrates with renewed vigor.
“Hold on,” I say, punching the gas just as the Mog’s van comes barreling out of a side street, nearly clipping the convertible’s bumper.
The van is riding hard on our tail, trying to grind us off the road. Other cars let loose whining honks as we speed down the middle of the road. Maddy looks over her shoulder, staring in horror at the van bearing down on us and its stone-faced driver.
“They’re right behind us. ” Her voice is almost a whisper. Her hand is clutching my arm, nails digging right through my shirt. “Why is this happening?”
I don’t respond; there’s no lie I can think of that could possibly explain it.
With sweaty fingers, I flick open a hidden panel on the steering wheel. Sandor planned for this sort of thing.
“Sit back,” I warn. Maddy looks at me, her frightened expression apparently not reserved just for the Mogs.
I hit the button for nitrous oxide.
The convertible’s engine roars and then bucks and for a moment I’m worried the car can’t handle Sandor’s modification. Then, with a gut punch of pressure, it screams forward.
We’re going way over the speed limit. I’m too afraid to check the speedometer, keeping my eyes pinned to the road as I weave through traffic. Maddy is glued to her seat, terrified. Seeing us coming, other cars try to move out of the way. Red traffic lights fly by. I hear a siren and, briefly, blue lights flash across my rearview, but any cops are outdistanced before they can even make out my license plate. We’re a blur.
I keep driving until my iMog stops vibrating, and then I swing the car into a secluded alley and kill the lights.
My body hums with adrenaline. I can’t believe what I just did, evading a pack of Mogs in a high-speed chase like something out of a movie. I’m an action hero. A mixture of euphoria and relief hits me.
And I don’t really know where the next part comes from. Maybe it’s pure adrenaline or maybe I’m just going totally crazy. But before I even realize I’m doing it, I lean into Maddy and start to kiss her.
I guess it wasn’t the right thing to do.
“You bastard!” Maddy cries, pushing me away. She throws open her door, knocking over some nearby trash cans. In the dim light of the alley I can see that her beautiful face is streaked with tears.
Stunned from her reaction, I don’t say anything as she runs out of the alley.
Alone in Sandor’s banged-up convertible, I’m left to ponder the adventure-filled life of a Loric hero.
I abandon the convertible in the alley and head back to the John Hancock building on foot. I stick to side streets and back alleys as much as possible. My iMog never vibrates. Wherever those Mogs came from, they’re gone now.
I call Sandor and tell him what happened. I catch him as he was on his way to try and find me—just as I suspected, he was monitoring me the whole time and freaking out.
It’s past midnight when I make it back home. Sandor is waiting for me outside the building.
“What the hell?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I say. “They just appeared. ”
“A high-speed chase through the middle of Chicago? What were you thinking?”
“It was the only way. ”
Sandor groans, dismissing that with a wave of his hand.
“You’re acting like a child. ”
“You said there weren’t any Mogs in the city,” I protest.
“So stupid,” he says. “I was so stupid to let you take that car. To even let you out of my sight. All because of some girl. ”
“She’s fine, by the way,” I snap.
“Who cares?” Sandor hisses, getting right in my face. “She doesn’t matter. You matter. Do you understand what you’ve put at stake? The years of progress you’ve undone in one night, all for some stupid crush?”
I take a step away from him. “Don’t talk about her that way. ” He’s being such a hypocrite. He was the one who wanted me to go after Maddy in the first place.
Sandor rubs his hands over his face, exasperated.
“Where did you leave the car?”
I give him the rough address of the alley.
“It needs to be destroyed,” he says, “our presence here minimized. I’ll handle that. You—you go upstairs and pack a bag. ”
“We’re leaving in the morning. ”
I was close. So close to having a life that was more than just Sandor, more than just training.
I pace around the penthouse, letting my gaze drift aimlessly across all the luxuries we’ve amassed over the last five years. Five years living here in peace and comfort—all ruined because I was bored. When I killed that Mog in the elevator, I thought things would change. I thought that I would assume my destiny and begin the war against the Mogadorians. I thought that would make me happy.
Instead, it’s only made things worse.
What felt best about killing that Mog wasn’t that some small justice was done. It was that I had chosen h
ow and when to do it. It was my choice.
And yet now my options are fewer than ever. Sandor wants us back on the road, just when I was starting to figure things out. It doesn’t seem right that he should get to call all the shots.
Shouldn’t I get some say in our next move?
I can’t bring myself to pack a bag. I’m still clinging to some hope that Sandor will change his mind.
I try to call Maddy, but her phone goes right to voice mail. Not that I would know what to say if she did answer. What kind of lie could I tell her? I spend the better part of an hour trying to compose an apology for nearly getting her killed, for scaring her, and for not even realizing that I was doing it.
In the end, I settle on texting a simple “I’m sorry. ”
There’s going to be no sleep for me tonight.
I pass through Sandor’s workshop and into the Lecture Hall. There are automated training modules programmed into the room’s interface. I select one at random and stride into the center of the room, holding my pipe-staff.
When the first ball bearing fires out of the Lectern’s turret I don’t deflect it with my telekinesis or bat it away with my pipe-staff. I let it hit me right in the chest. I suck in my breath as dull pain courses through my sternum.
Gritting my teeth, I clasp my hands behind my back and lean forward. The next ball bearing strikes me a few inches to the left of the first, bruising my ribs.
When the third ball bearing is fired, my instincts take over. I push it aside with my telekinesis and pivot to the side, anticipating the next shot. I spin my pipe-staff over my head as the program really gears up, heavy bags swinging at me from behind, a mechanical tentacle grasping at me from the floor.
My mind turns off. I fight.
I’m not sure how long I keep going like that, dodging and swinging, acting instead of thinking. Eventually I’m dripping with sweat, my shirt completely soaked through. It’s then that the Lecture Hall’s patterns change; the attacks become less predictable, more coordinated than the auto-program could pull off.
I realize that Sandor has returned and climbed into the Lectern’s seat, his fingers dancing across the control panel.
Our eyes meet as I leap over a metal-plated battering ram. His look is one of sadness and disappointment.
“You didn’t pack,” he says.
I square my shoulders and glare at him in defiance. Go ahead, I want to tell him, throw everything you can at me. I can take it.
I’m going to prove to Sandor that I’m not his young ward anymore.
“I suppose one last training session before we leave won’t hurt,” Sandor says.
A glimmering tennis ball–sized object floats up from the floor, emitting a disorienting strobe light. It makes the next round of projectiles harder to see, but I manage to catch them in the air, using my mind to hold them inches from my bruised chest.
“That hasn’t been decided yet,” I say evenly as I launch one of the projectiles at the flashing ball, exploding it. It clatters to the floor, blinking out.
“What hasn’t been decided?” he asks.
“That we’re leaving. ”
A pair of heavy bags careen toward me, quickly followed by another volley of ball bearings. I swing the pipe-staff as hard as I can at one of them, my muscles screaming in protest. The pipe-staff shreds through the bag, sending sand spilling onto the floor.