The rise of nine, p.8
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       The Rise of Nine, p.8

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
 
Page 8

 

  I follow him out. ‘I’m not running. ’

  ‘Neither am I,’ says Marina, standing next to me.

  ‘Then we fight,’ says Commander Sharma. He points into the hills. ‘Half of us set up on the left while the other half takes position on the right. I will take these two with me. ’ He indicates Ella and me.

  Crayton and I look at each other and nod.

  Ella turns to Crayton. ‘You okay without me, Papa?’

  Crayton smiles. ‘Marina’s legacy will make sure whatever they do to me won’t last long. I think I’ll be okay. ’

  ‘I’ll keep an eye on him, Ella,’ Marina adds.

  ‘Are you sure we should do this, Commander?’ the soldier asks. ‘I can go to fetch Vishnu, bring him back to help. ’

  ‘No, Lord Vishnu should stay where he’s safe. ’

  Crayton turns to Ella. ‘Keep those glasses on. Maybe you can be our eyes up there in the trees. I’m still not sure how they work, but let’s hope they’ll help now. ’

  I hug Marina and whisper into her ear. ‘Be confident in your abilities. ’

  ‘I should heal Commander Sharma before you go,’ she says.

  ‘No,’ I whisper. ‘I don’t trust him yet and he’s less dangerous to us if he’s injured. ’

  ‘You sure?’

  ‘For now. ’

  Marina nods. Crayton taps her arm and beckons her to join him and the young soldier. The three of them scramble up the left wall of the valley, disappearing behind a boulder.

  Commander Sharma, Ella, and I move up the right side of the hills, carefully avoiding the bumps on the ground as we move. We find a position behind some massive boulders, and settle in to wait for the brigade to arrive.

  I turn to Commander Sharma. I feel slightly guilty about not letting Marina heal him, but for all I know, he’s set this up as an elaborate trap. ‘How’s your arm?’ I whisper to him.

  With a grunt, Commander Sharma lies down and sets the barrel of his gun on a flat rock. He looks up and winks. ‘I only need the one. ’

  Out of the corner of my eye I can see a helicopter buzz overhead but it leaves almost immediately. Either Marina took care of it, or the pilot couldn’t penetrate the thick canopy of the valley. I look through the trees, hoping to manipulate the clouds surrounding the peaks of the mountains, but the afternoon sun has burned them off. With no wind, and no clouds, there aren’t any elements to control. I can turn invisible if I need to, but I prefer to keep that hidden from the commander for now.

  ‘What do you see?’ Ella asks.

  ‘A whole lot of nothing,’ I whisper. ‘Commander, how far away is Number Eight?’

  ‘You mean Vishnu? Not far. A half day’s walk, maybe. ’

  I’m about to ask him to tell me where, exactly. We should know in case something happens to the commander and we need to move forward without him. But I’m distracted when a rusty pickup truck swings into the narrow valley at full speed with a man standing in the open bed. Even from a distance, I can see he’s nervous as well as armed. He jerks his gun from side to side, frantically trying to be everywhere at once. As soon as our SUV comes into view, the pickup skids to a stop and the soldier in the back hops out. More vehicles appear and pull up behind the pickup. A soldier drops out of a red van and sets a rocket launcher onto his shoulder. I see an opportunity.

  I nudge the commander with my foot. ‘I’ll be right back. ’

  I don’t give him a chance to argue as I run quickly into the woods. When he can’t see me any longer, I use my invisibility Legacy to disappear and sprint down into the valley. The soldier has our truck in his crosshairs, but before he can pull the trigger I rip the rocket launcher off his shoulder and slam one end into his belly. He doubles over and goes down with a scream. Hearing the commotion, the driver of the truck rushes over with a pistol in his hand. I point the rocket launcher at his face. The soldier takes a split second to decide if the freefloating launcher is about to do its thing, then turns and runs away with his arms above his head.

  I aim at the now empty, rusty pickup and pull the trigger. The rocket flies out of my launcher and a wave of fire explodes under the pickup, blowing it thirty feet into the air. The burning truck lands hard, and bounces and rolls quickly forward, the momentum sending it into the back of our SUV with a crash. I watch it lurch forward, rolling slowly over the small mounds in the road that had stopped us from advancing. The next thirty seconds are filled with ear-splitting, rapid detonations, as soldiers fire blindly around them and the mounds in the road explode. Thousands of birds burst out from the trees all around us, their sounds quickly drowned out by the snap, crackle and pop of munitions doing their thing. I was right; they were land mines. And now our SUV is nothing more than a smoldering pile of metal.

  Evidently, this was just the opening act. The main attraction – armored vehicles, small tanks, mobile missile units – is closing in on the mountain. There have to be a couple thousand soldiers on foot. Five or six attack helicopters hover overhead. I hear a whirring and turn to see a missile launcher rising and rotating, going into operational mode. The tips of five white missiles turn up and towards the area where Marina and Crayton have taken cover. There’s movement in the tree line, and the commander’s young soldier runs down into the valley. He’s unarmed and headed right for the missile launcher. At first I think he’s going to sacrifice himself somehow to save my friends, but no one fires at him. He stops when he reaches the launcher and starts pointing higher up the side of the mountain, to where Crayton and Marina are hiding. The launcher rises another few feet and adjusts its aim.

  He’s a traitor, part of the group trying to kill us! The next thing I know, he is flying into the air, yanked upward by telekinesis. Marina must have realized the same thing. But it might be too late. He’s already revealed her location.

  I look towards the missile launcher and gather my strength so I can alter the flight of the missiles once they’re fired. As I start to focus on it, another launcher whirs to life and aims its missiles directly at me. Though I’m invisible, the army knows a shoulder rocket was fired from where I’m standing. I only have the power to deal with one of them, and there’s no time to run. I have a choice. Save Crayton and Marina or save myself.

  The launcher pointed toward the mountain starts firing. The missiles come screaming out, heading straight for the hills. I get control of them and redirect them into the ground, where they explode, just as the second launcher fires. I turn and see their white tips moving towards me. I don’t have time to do anything, but suddenly the missiles loop up and turn back towards the launcher that fired them and the brigade. They barrel into five different vehicles, all of which explode.

  Marina. She saved my life. We are working together, just as we were meant to do, and the thought makes me feel more determined than before to get this pit stop over with and find Eight. I want to send a message to the remaining soldiers of the brigade so I stop using my invisibility Legacy and show myself. I focus and start to control the flames rising from where the missiles exploded with my telekinesis. I spread the fire down the road to engulf the rest of the brigade. One by one, the flames move down the row of vehicles and it’s like exploding dominos. Message received. The remaining soldiers of the Lord’s Resistance Front begin to retreat. For a second, I’m tempted to indulge in a little retribution. But that’s cruel and unnecessary and exactly the kind of thing the Mogadorians would do. I know my fantasies of going medieval on their retreating asses are not going to help us now.

  ‘That’s right! Run! Because if you don’t, that fire is just waiting to finish the job off!’ When the last one disappears from view, I turn and start walking back towards the hills. I need to find my friends.

  8.

  The smoke is thick but beginning to dissipate. From where I am on the floor, I can see dozens of legs and black boots. I raise my eyes and see almost as many rifles, all of them aimed at my head.

  My eyes move f
rom the heavy boots up to the gas masks, relieved to see they belong to humans and not Mogadorians. But what kind of humans have Mogadorian weapons? A gun barrel is pushed into the back of my skull. Normally, I’d use my telekinesis to rip it away and toss it a mile into the mountains, but the pain from the bracelet is too intense for me to be able to focus my energy on that. One of the men says something to me, but I can’t concentrate enough to make out what he’s saying.

  I search for a focal point to help get me through the pain, and see Nine groaning on the carpet. From where I am, it looks as if he’s having trouble breathing; it also looks like he can’t move his arms and legs. I want to help him, and struggle to get up, but I’m kicked back down as soon as I start to move. I roll onto my back and immediately a long cylindrical tube is pressed into my left eye. There are hundreds of lights inside the tube, and I watch them swirl together to become one solid green beam. It’s definitely a Mogadorian cannon, the same kind that paralyzed me outside our burning house in Florida. I focus my other eye past the side of the weapon and see a man in a khaki trench coat. He pulls back his gas mask to reveal a ring of white hair and a fat, crooked nose that looks like it’s been broken more than once. I find myself looking forward to breaking it again.

  ‘Don’t move,’ he growls at me, ‘or I’ll pull the trigger. ’

  I glance over at Nine, who seems to be recovering. He’s sitting up, looking around, struggling to shake off his dazed expression. The man with the cannon pressed to my face looks over at him. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ he says.

  Nine smiles up at him, clear eyed and calm. ‘Trying to decide which one of you I’m going to kill first. ’

  ‘Shut him up!’ a woman yells as she enters the house, also carrying a Mog cannon. Two men press their boots against Nine’s shoulders and force him back to the floor. The woman motions at me, and someone takes me by the shoulders and pulls me onto my feet. Another man grabs my wrists to put me in handcuffs.

  ‘Son of a bitch!’ he cries as he touches my red bracelet. I may not know what all the bracelet does, but I like this part of it.

  Once upright, I get my bearings. There are ten or twelve men in masks, all holding rifles. The man and woman who were speaking seem like they’re in charge. I look for Bernie, but don’t see him. Even so, I can hear him inside my head.

  Just wait. Let’s see what they want and what they know.

  ‘What do you want with us?’ I ask the man with the broken nose.

  He laughs and looks over at the woman. ‘What do we want, Special Agent Walker?’

  ‘For starters, I want to know who your friend is over there,’ she says, pointing the tube back at Nine.

  ‘I don’t know this kid,’ Nine says. He blows his hair out of his face and offers a smile. ‘I just stopped by to sell him a vacuum cleaner. The place looked like a dump and I thought he could use it. ’

  The man circles over to Nine. ‘Is that what you have in these fancy chests here? Vacuum cleaners?’ He nods to one of the other officers and says, ‘Let’s have a look at these vacuum cleaners, shall we? I may be interested in one myself. ’