Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Rise of Nine - Chapter 30

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Nine charging Setrákus Ra. I turn back to Eight, to see if I can heal
him. I keep my hands on Eight’s chest wound, waiting for my Legacy to start working again. Nothing. I beg
Eight to hold on, to fight through the pain, but his brown eyes roll back, and his breath becomes more and
more shallow. Panicked, I flash back on the drawing from the Loric cave, the one where Eight is killed by
Setrákus Ra’s sword. Is the prediction coming true? I desperately keep pressing my hands all over his
‘Marina!’ John shouts. ‘We have to get you and Eight out of this room, now! I have a feeling if we can
get away from Setrákus Ra, our Legacies will start working again. If I’m right, you can still save Eight.’
‘He’s almost gone,’ I manage to choke out. ‘It might be too late no matter what we do.’ I can’t bring
myself to tell him about the cave drawing. I wonder if Eight is able to think about any of this, to remember
the drawing, to know what this moment might be. I hope not.
‘Then we should hurry,’ he says, handing me a Mog cannon and picking up Eight. ‘Shoot anything and
everything that’s not one of our friends.’
We try to cover the hundred or so yards to the door as quickly as we can, while keeping an eye on the
others who are locked in battle. With every Mog I turn to ash on the way, I feel stronger and stronger. I try
not to think about where Six – the real Six – is, or what’s happened to her. I knew that wasn’t Six. I wish I
had killed that thing, even before it revealed itself. I scan the room. Nine is fighting Setrákus Ra, clearly
treading water, his staff clashing with Ra’s sword. As strong as Nine is, it almost looks like Setrákus Ra
is toying with him, just waiting for the right moment to strike and kill.
Every ounce of confidence and strength I felt a moment ago drains out of me. There are simply too many
of them and too few of us. And we are without our Legacies, which means we’re just kids. Kids fighting
an organized, alien army. I hate to leave the others, but I know John is right. I know I need to get out of
here if I’m going to have any hope of healing Eight. And saving Eight is the only choice.
We’re almost at the door when two dozen Mogs come right at us. Some of them have cannons, some of
them have swords, and they all appear terrifyingly unstoppable. I try to shoot them, but the cannon blasts I
send their way don’t even make a dent in the advancing mob. There are just too many of them. John
manages to set Eight down just outside the door, then he joins me, charging them and wielding his sword.
I fight alongside him. I will not let John down no matter how bad the odds appear. We protect one another
and we draw strength from each other when we feel weak. It’s why we’ve survived this long, and why we
will win. We are stronger when we unite.
John mows the Mogs down, one at a time, methodically and fast. I shoot steadily as I maneuver to block
the doorway and protect Eight. I duck outside the door to check on Eight’s condition. I feel his pulse,
which is faint, and I can tell my Legacy has not returned. I lay my hands on him and whisper fiercely,
‘You can’t die, Eight. Do you hear me? I am going to heal you. My Legacy will return and I will heal
I realize the Mogs that had charged us are all gone – destroyed – and the abrupt silence startles me.
‘We have to hurry. More will come,’ John says urgently.
We hear a deafening scream – through the door we can see Bernie Kosar has transformed into a beast
and is surrounded by Mogs who are trying to slash at him, but he jumps in and out of their reach. The
Mogs can’t get him, but he isn’t able to do much damage to them, either. We step back into the room in
time to see Setrákus pull out a whip. Its tips begin to flame and he strikes Nine in the arm. The wound
immediately begins to turn black. John turns to say something to me when I hear a shot. Before I can even
tell what happened John’s body convulses and he falls to the ground.
I’m stuck to the ceiling, entombed in black stone. I watch as the rest of the
Garde fight for their lives and I can’t even feel my own body, never mind let them
know I’m up here. I’m helpless and it’s killing me. I’ve trained every moment of my
life learning how not to be helpless. Setrákus Ra is no great fighter. He’s only
taking us down because he is able to render us powerless. I want to be standing
down there with his head in my hands for all of the Mogs to see. I would make sure
they witnessed the destruction of their leader, and then I’d leave them in the same
pile of ash.
Am I watching the dream of Lorien die? We thought we were so strong and so smart
and so prepared. We thought we were going to end the war and fly back home to
Lorien. We were fools, arrogant fools. We knew of Setrákus Ra, the great and
terrible Mogadorian leader, but we didn’t know anything about how he fought, the
powers he would bring to the battle. In retrospect it seems obvious that he would
have the power to take our Legacies.
I wish I could communicate with my fellow Garde – I’d be able to direct them well
from this vantage point. For one thing, I can see that while the Mogs are
stupendously strong physically, they bring little if anything in the way of mental
technique. These guys are almost as dumb as the rock I’ve become. They reveal their
movements before they act. Their plan of attack is easy to read because they don’t
have one. This is a game of numbers and brute force, and that is an enemy that can
be beat if you know what you’re dealing with. But when you’re in the thick of it,
it’s impossible to see. I wish I could tell the Garde to focus all of their
energies and strength on Setrákus Ra. Otherwise I fear the battle will be short,
the Mogs almost sure to win.
I watch Bernie Kosar get slashed. He’s transformed himself into an enormous
beast, the same kind he became back in Paradise. His body is thick and muscular,
his teeth and claws are sharp and jagged, and two curled horns have sprouted from
his head. I see Setrákus Ra hit Nine with his whip and Nine’s arm turn black, which
I can only assume means he’ll be in the same position as me soon. John has been
shot, and he goes down writhing in pain. Marina picks up a cannon and starts firing
on the advancing Mogs.
Ella’s sneaking out of the room. Does she have a plan?
I’m distracted from watching Ella by the sound of BK roaring in pain. I see he’s
fallen to his knees. Though he’s still fighting, still killing Mogs, he’s bleeding
heavily from his wounds. It’s agonizing watching him slowly destroyed, in so much
I’m bleeding out; I can feel my blood and my strength running out of me and there’s nothing I can do
about it.
Wave after wave of Mogs just keep coming. I have no idea how many we’ve killed so far today, but it
doesn’t seem to make any difference. Without our Legacies, it’s like trying to stop a tsunami with a pile of
Swiss cheese.
Marina is behind me, firing on the Mogs. I look over at Bernie Kosar and see the Mogs have ropes
around his horns and are dragging him out of the corner.
‘Coward, you’re nothing but a coward! You have to paralyze us just to beat us!’ I hear Nine scream. I
see him in the center of the room, one of his arms black and hanging heavy and useless, as Setrákus rears
his whip back.
Setrákus Ra smiles. ‘You can call me whatever names you want. It’s not going to change the fact that
you’re about to die.’ He snaps the whip forward. Nine tries to block the flaming tips with his staff, but
with only one arm, it’s impossible. One of the tips hits Nine’s hand, sending the staff flying, and the other
tail of the whip hits Nine’s face. He screams out in pain as his hand and face both start turning black.
Setrákus advances on him. I have to do what I can before I’m totally useless, or dead, so I start firing my
cannon at Setrákus Ra from my position on the ground. At best, I’m a distraction, but I will do whatever I
can. He stops each one of the projectiles I fire in midair, and tosses them aside like they’re nothing.
I hear a new source of cannon fire. I turn towards the door and see Sarah moving into the room, firing
on Mogs, Ella behind her. Sarah. She hasn’t been trained. There’s no way she can survive a battle with
the Mogs and Setrákus Ra! ‘Sarah!’ I scream. ‘You’ve got to get out of here! This is not your fight!’
Sarah ignores me and keeps moving deeper into the room. Nine is trying to move away from Setrákus
Ra, but his arms, both of which are now completely black, weigh him down. His face is quickly turning as
black as his arms. Setrákus strikes Nine again, this time getting him with both tips of the whip right in the
middle of his chest. Nine cries out and Setrákus shouts, ‘I had heard you might be my greatest challenge,
but look at you, you are nothing!’
As Setrákus Ra brings his whip back once more to deliver a fatal blow to Nine, Ella darts out from
behind Sarah and throws something at him, something that looks like a small red blur. It hits Setrákus in
the arm and he looks down, shocked, before letting out a deafening roar.
I feel something change inside of me. It’s immediate and enormously powerful, like someone plugged
me into an energy source. I focus on my hands and try, just once more, to light my Lumen. To my
amazement, it works. Our Legacies have returned.
From behind me I hear Marina cry out and she races over to Eight, who’s still just outside the doorway.
I see her run her hands over his chest, working on his wounds. She looks at me through the doorway.
‘What just happened?’
I shake my head. ‘I have no idea, but now we’ve got ourselves a real fight.’
My palms glowing, I turn towards the center of the room where Setrákus Ra is clawing at his arm,
trying to pull out the small red object Ella threw at him. He finally succeeds and turns to snap the whip at
Ella and Sarah, who is still firing the cannon. They don’t move out of the way fast enough and the whip
makes contact. They both go down.
As soon as the dart hits Setrákus, I feel the change. My Legacies are back. My
strength is starting to return. I have a chance to get out of here and help the
I start struggling within the black casing and can now feel myself move slightly
within it, but not enough to break out.
As I continue to struggle, I look below me. John is with Sarah and Ella, both
down. He’s left a trail of blood behind him as well as piles of ash. Marina has run
back outside to Eight. Bernie Kosar is still in the corner, but now he is tearing
apart the Mogs that were dragging him a second ago. In the middle of the room, Nine
is still facing off with Setrákus Ra and he’s been able to break his hands and face
free from the black rock that was taking over his body.
Seeing that gives me hope that I can break out of my own stone prison and I
continue my struggle until I feel the casing start to give way. I’ll be out soon. I
am frantic to free myself. The only thing I want right now is to show Setrákus Ra
what it feels like to have a real fight on his hands.
Just when I was giving up hope that I would ever be able to help Eight,
my Legacy returned. I put my hands on the wound in the center of his chest
and feel it start to work. With every second that passes, his heart beats
stronger and stronger. I’ve never felt anything so good in my life, that
steady bump bump bump. If I weren’t in the middle of the fight of our lives,
for our future, I think I would start crying right now, but I stay strong, and
keep my emotions in check.
I look down and see Eight’s eyes flutter open, then look up at me. ‘You
need to know . . . Six tried to –’ he starts to say.
I cut him off. ‘That wasn’t Six. It was Setrákus Ra. I don’t know how,
but it was him.’
‘But . . . ?’ The confusion in Eight’s eyes makes my heart break.
‘Eight, I can’t explain everything right now. How do you feel? Can you
stand? We have to get in there, join the others and fight. Are you ready? I
need to heal John and I need you to run interference. Got it?’
He nods and I start to get up, but there’s just one thing I need to do
before it’s too late. I look into his eyes, his beautiful brown eyes, take a
deep breath, and kiss him. He looks shocked as I pull back. I shrug at him
and smile. ‘Hey, there’s no time like the present, right?’ Before he can say
or do anything, I turn to find John. I need to heal him, fast. He took three
cannon blasts protecting me. if I don’t get to him now, he’ll die.
There’s a trail of blood where John dragged himself across the floor,
and Eight and I follow it. A heavy cloud of smoke is hanging in the air
from all the cannon blasts. When we get to John he’s on his knees,
shooting balls of fire from his hands at a massive gang of Mogs trying to
get to Ella and Sarah. As we move towards him, the Mogs fire at us. But
now that I’m able to use my telekinesis I can deflect their shots, and Eight
begins fighting back too. I run to John’s side and begin to heal his wounds.
He’s breathing heavily and is very pale. He’s lost so much blood.
‘John! You need to stop for a minute so I can heal you!’ I have to shout
to be heard over the chaos and commotion. I grab his chin and force him to
look at me.
He shakes his head, trying to release my grip, ‘If I stop, the Mogs will
kill Sarah and Ella.’
‘If you don’t stop, you’ll die. Eight is healed now, he can do defense
while I work on you. Please! John! We need you.’ I feel him stop
I look more closely at the wounds on his legs. They’re similar. Both
legs are bleeding steadily from gaping holes. I work on the right one first,
and can immediately tell Four’s thigh bone is also broken. He can’t help
but scream while it kneads itself, but the sound is absorbed by everything
else going on. His hands ball into fists as I continue.
The second leg isn’t as bad and I’m able to heal it more quickly. John
is already breathing easier. I reach for his arm and yell into his ear, ‘You
are looking a whole lot better!’
I place my hand on the wound on John’s upper arm and can feel the
muscles, the bicep and tricep, have been shredded. It’s going to take a
minute or two for them to heal. Eight is still firing away at the constant
stream of Mogs, but they are coming almost faster than he can keep
up with.
I feel John’s muscles finally knit together and he’s healed. He looks at
me and I nod. He leaps to his feet and races over to help Eight protect Ella
and Sarah, who are still down.
I feel strong. Good. Sarah and Ella did something miraculous that got us our Legacies back, made it
possible for us to fight, but now they’re both hurt. I will turn every last one of these Mogs into ash for
hurting my friends.
I rush towards them, whipping balls of fire from my hands at the Mogs. I know it should never feel
good to kill a living creature, but right now, it feels great. Now that I’m up Eight is teleporting all over
the room, appearing in front of Mogs and slicing them to pieces with a sword. Nine is still fighting
Setrákus Ra, but the two of them are moving so fast they’re just a blur. I need to get in there and fight, but I
also need to stay here and help Sarah and Ella.
Suddenly, one of the Mogs advancing on me turns in a different direction. He’s not aiming his cannon at
me. It’s pointed directly at Sarah and Ella, who are still lying motionless. He fires and their bodies start
to convulse, and I begin to scream.
I watch in horror as Ella and Sarah’s prone bodies are hit with Mog
cannon fire. John reaches them and I rush to his side. He’s kneeling next to
them and holding their hands as their bodies shake. We’re too late.
After all of this, after we made it this far and we all found each other at
last, it looks like we’re about to lose another member of the Garde. And
Sarah. John just found her again, and he’s going to lose her. I close my
eyes as well, bracing myself for another scar to burn itself into my leg, a
scar for Ella. I know this one is going to hurt the most.
But nothing happens. Is there something different about Ella that her
death won’t cause a scar? That can’t be. I open my eyes and look at John,
who’s still hunched over Sarah and Ella, still intently squeezing their
I look closer at the girls and can’t quite believe what I’m seeing. Their
wounds – cannon blasts to their bodies and hideous burns on their faces –
are healing. ‘What’s happening? How are you doing this?’ I ask John,
looking at him in wonder.
‘I have no idea,’ he says, shaking his head. ‘I didn’t know I could do
this. I saw Sarah on the ground and I wasn’t going to let her die, or Ella.
Not another one of the Garde. I won’t let that happen, especially now that
we’re together. I took their hands and thought about how much I wanted
their injuries to heal, how much I wished I could heal them . . . and it
suddenly just started to happen.’
‘You’ve developed a new Legacy!’ I cry, squeezing his shoulders.
‘Or, I just wanted it so badly, a miracle happened. Whatever it is,
they’re both healing.’ He lets out a laugh, filled with exhaustion and relief.
John looks to the center of the room, where Nine continues to fight.
‘Marina, this is not the time we’re going to bring Setrákus Ra down. Even
though our Legacies have come back, I don’t think we can defeat him just
yet, and I don’t want to take the chance of losing another Garde member.
We have to find Six. Then we need to figure out a way to get the hell out of
here, regroup, and come up with a plan. We’ll kill him together or die
together. But we do it on our terms, when we know we’re ready to do it.’
We hear a moan, and look down at Sarah and Ella. Their eyes are open
and color is coming back into their cheeks. John leans over and kisses
The casing is finally breaking off. I flex my arms and kick my legs and start to
fall as the last of it crumbles. I use my telekinesis to lower myself to the
I lie there for a second, trying to catch my breath. The smoke is so thick my
eyes are watering. All of a sudden, a huge explosion rocks the room. An alarm goes
off, red lights flash, and a piercingly loud siren fills the air. I can see John’s
Lumen burning and I make my way through the haze towards it. Ella, Marina and Sarah
are standing next to him, and as I get closer Eight appears, teleporting to
Marina’s side. Bernie Kosar has turned back into a beagle and he limps over to
Ella cries out when she sees me and throws her arms around me. I return her hug
and then look at John. Seeing his face again is like a dream come true. He touches
my arm. ‘You okay?’
I nod. ‘What about you?’ I ask, and I know I sound as exhausted and beaten down
as I feel.
‘We’re all alive so far – but where’s Nine?’ he replies, looking around as we all
realize simultaneously that the battle sounds have disappeared. We run towards the
center of the room, towards the area where Nine had been battling Setrákus Ra,
keeping him at bay. Nine is lying on the ground, motionless, and Setrákus Ra is
nowhere in sight. Marina falls to her knees next to him and frantically starts
running her hands over his body while I spin in circles, trying desperately to see
through the haze to make sure Setrákus Ra isn’t hiding, waiting to capture and kill
us when our backs are turned. Aside from the shrill sound of the alarms, the room
is eerily quiet and I realize there are no Mogadorians anywhere.
‘He’s alive!’ Marina cries. ‘He’s just stunned.’ Nine sits up, shaking his head
‘What happened?’ he asks.
‘I was going to ask you that,’ Eight says. ‘There was an explosion and everyone
but the seven of us have disappeared.’
‘I don’t know – I didn’t see where he went. One second I was trying to hold my
own, fighting him off, the next thing I knew I was here on the ground.’
‘What do we do now?’ Sarah asks.
‘We have to get of here,’ says John. ‘Setrákus Ra could reappear at any second,
and this could be a trap. Even though this is a government base, it clearly isn’t
‘Anyone know a way out of here?’ I ask. They all look at each other grimly.
‘We have to go back the way we came in,’ says Eight. ‘My teleporting Legacy won’t
work with so many of us.’
‘Okay,’ John says. ‘We don’t know what we’ll face on the way out and we may have
to fight out way through more Mogadorians, or human soldiers, but we need to stay
together now. We’re never splitting up again.’
Nine steps over and stands next to me, then looks me up and down. ‘I don’t
believe anyone introduced us, proper like. It’s nice to officially meet you,
sweetheart. I’m Nine,’ he says, winking at me. I roll my eyes and John snickers.
I look around for a second. It’s a miracle we’re all together, all still alive.
Every living Loric on Earth but one is standing within a few feet of each other.
We’re alive and we’re fighting and that means we still have a chance. And we will
meet Setrákus again, and soon. Next time, he will not get away from us.

The Rise of Nine - Chapter 29

Once again I take the lead. Marina trails me and a growling Bernie Kosar runs alongside her. Ella still
has my Chest, with Eight and Nine following close behind. My fire has made me invincible, and my
flames instantly consume every Mogadorian soldier that comes charging around a corner or through a
door. The fire has not only taken over my body, but also my mind. I have never felt so confident, so
determined, so ready to defeat our enemies before.
‘She still hasn’t responded to me!’ Ella yells as we enter another hallway filled with sirens and
flashing lights. ‘I don’t know if she can hear anything I’m saying.’
‘Well, she isn’t dead yet because we don’t have any new scars,’ Nine says, sticking out his leg as if to
admire it.
My fire is getting higher and wider, licking the walls and ceiling of the corridor as I pass through. It’s
hard to describe my energy, how I am barely able to contain it, like I might explode with it. I’m ready to
fight Setrákus Ra and I know the others feel the same way. Nine and Eight are like wrecking balls
swinging down the hall, pounding soldiers into oblivion, bouncing from one Mog to the other, and Marina
is fighting fearlessly, using all means available to toss soldiers into the air. Ella, with fewer powers
revealed, looks on a bit enviously as we swat away the soldiers. I wish I had the time to stop and tell her
how vital she is, how important her ability to communicate telepathically was to our all coming together.
How she, as the youngest Loric, represents our long life and the power of our Garde. We’re ready to take
back Lorien and that’s only possible because of everything we bring to the fight, each one of us. The
hallway splits off and we need to quickly decide which way to go. Separating is never going to be an
option again.
‘Okay, Fire Boy, which way?’ Nine asks.
Marina steps up and says, ‘This way.’ Her ability to see in the dark is better than the limited view my
Lumen offers, so I extinguish my fire and we all follow her to the left.
Marina doesn’t even hesitate at the entryway of a long wide room filled with tall brown columns.
Neither do the rest of us. We have our weapons ready when we first hear the noise of people marching in
on the far end of the room. I nudge Marina’s arm. ‘Hey, can you see who that is?’
‘Yeah. I’m guessing they’re government soldiers. They’re definitely not Mogs. There are a lot of them.
I don’t know, twenty, thirty? There could be more than that.’ She turns and moves towards them. We all
do the same. We can toss them aside easily, twisting their guns with our telekinesis. We blow through the
big room, pass another corridor door, and turn left, where we find a dozen government soldiers dressed in
black, protecting a heavy metal door. As soon as they see us, they step into formation to fully block the
passageway and start firing. As if prearranged, Marina and Eight both raise their hands, stopping the
bullets as they are fired, inches away from their barrels. Immediately, Nine joins the action and uses his
mind to rip the guns out of the soldiers’ hands and lifts the soldiers up, dangling from the domed ceiling.
We each grab a gun.
Nine wedges the tip of his staff into the doorframe they were guarding and rips it off its hinges.
Behind the doorway is another hallway, this one lined with doors on both sides. Nine runs ahead to
each of the doors and briefly presses his ear to each one.
He reports one unmanned control room after another. Further down the hall we find what look like
empty prison cells. I wonder if we’re getting closer to finding Six. She could be behind any one of these
I spot a trail of blood in front of one of the doors. From ten feet away I rip the door out of its frame.
The cell is pitch black inside. Before I have a chance to use my Lumen, Marina pushes by me. ‘There’s a
person in here!’ she cries.
We hear a whimper from the back corner and I flash my lights into the darkness. There, scared and
dirty, is someone I thought I would never see again. Sarah. I fall to my knees, my lights glowing dimly. I
open my mouth to speak, but only a squeak comes out. I try again: ‘Sarah.’ I can’t believe she’s sitting in
front of me. I can’t believe we found her.
After a quick glance up at me Sarah hugs her knees to her chest and looks afraid. Afraid of me. She
drops her head into her knees and sobs. ‘Please don’t do this to me, please don’t trick me anymore. Not
like this. I can’t take it, I can’t take anymore.’ She’s shaking her head over and over. I don’t think she’s
even registered I’m not alone. I can feel everyone standing behind me, cloaked in darkness.
‘Sarah,’ I whisper. ‘It’s me, John. We’re here to take you home.’
Nine hangs back, but I can hear him say to someone, ‘So this is the famous Sarah; girl looks good, even
Sarah pulls her legs to her chest even more tightly and peeks over her knees. She looks so vulnerable
and scared; I just want to scoop her up. But I move slowly, ready for anything. This could be a trap. I
haven’t come this far only to act without thinking. When I touch her shoulder, she screams in panic. I can
feel everyone behind me flinch with the sudden noise, the sheer terror in her voice.
She presses her back against the wall, her hair sticking to the rough concrete. Then she lifts her face to
the ceiling and cries, ‘Don’t trick me anymore! I’ve told you everything. Please don’t trick me anymore!’
Marina steps forward so she is standing next to me. She grabs my arm and gives me a shake, then pulls
me to my feet. ‘John, we can’t stay here; we have to get moving. We need to take Sarah with us!’
Sarah finally looks beyond me and sees the others. I watch her take in Marina standing there, looking
down at her. Her eyes widen and she looks back at me, then she looks around at the others who have
stepped closer. Tears streak the thick layer of dirt on her cheeks. ‘What’s happening? Are you really
here? Are all of you really here?’
I kneel down next to her again. ‘It’s me. It’s us. I promise. Look, even Bernie Kosar wants to say hi.’
He trots over and licks her hand, his tail wagging.
I lay my hands on hers, and when I see the bruises running up and down her wrists, my eyes fill with
tears. I press her fingers to my lips. ‘Sarah, listen to me. I know I left you once. I promise you, I will
never do that again. Do you hear me? I will never leave you.’ She is still looking at me as if I might
disappear or turn into a fire-breathing monster.
A thousand other things I’ve been thinking about for so long race through my mind and I struggle to say
more. I flash back to our last conversation at the playground, moments before the police took me away.
‘Hey, Sarah. Do you remember when I said that I think about you every day. Do you remember that?’ She
looks at me and nods. ‘Well, I did and I do. Every day.’ She allows herself a tentative smile. ‘Now do
you believe it’s really me?’ She nods again. ‘Sarah Hart, I love you. I love only you. Do you hear me?’
She looks so relieved, it makes me want to pick her up and tell her it’s over and I will keep her safe.
Always. She kisses me, her hands on each side of my face.
‘Four, come on! We have to move,’ Eight shouts. He and the others have moved to the door, anxiously
looking both directions of the hallway.
There’s an explosion in the hallway and Eight runs out to see what it is, followed by Ella and Marina.
‘What the hell is taking so long, man?’ Nine shouts to me, gesturing madly towards the door. ‘Stand the
girl up and let’s get going! Sarah Hart, it is awfully nice to meet you, but we really need you to move!
Nine rushes over and helps me get Sarah to her feet. Once she’s fully upright, he gives her a quick hug.
She looks surprised by the warm welcome, and I have to wonder about the wink he gives me over her
head. ‘Sarah freaking Hart! Do you have any idea how much this jerk talks about you?’ I smile at Sarah,
then Nine.
‘No,’ Sarah laughs quietly, leaning into me and winding her fingers through mine.
‘Okay, okay. Come on, you two,’ Nine says, turning to head back to the door.
I stare into Sarah’s blue eyes. ‘Before we go, I have to ask you something. And you need to understand
that I have to ask it. You’re not working for them, are you? The government and the Mogs?’
Sarah shakes her head. ‘Why does everyone keep asking me that? I would never betray any of you.’
‘Wait. Who’s everyone? Who else asked you that?’ I ask.
‘Six,’ Sarah says, looking surprised I would even need to ask. Her blue eyes widen. ‘You didn’t find
‘You’ve seen Six?’ Marina speaks up, excited. ‘When? Where?’
‘She’s fighting Setrákus Ra,’ Sarah says, starting to panic again. ‘They took her away awhile ago.’
‘What? No way! That’s my fight!’ Nine yells.
‘Don’t worry, man, if we move fast, maybe you can get a piece of him,’ I say. Then I look down the hall
to find Eight, Marina, and Ella running back towards us.
‘That way,’ Marina shouts.
I grab Sarah’s hand and pull her behind me. Everyone races down the hall where we find Bernie Kosar
standing in front of a metal doorway that’s the size of a loading-dock entrance, barking uncontrollably.
This time Nine does use his rock to look through the door. Like before, a white cone of light appears,
then we can see right into a huge room. ‘Looks like there’s something going on in there. I see movement in
the shadows,’ Eight says. ‘I’ll teleport through and scout it out.’
‘Wait a sec, Eight.’ I hold up my hand to stop him. ‘No scout. We should just do this, all of us.’
Eight looks at me for a second, then nods. ‘You’re right. This is for all of us.’
When we’re all gathered at the door, I look down the line of determined faces. Even Sarah. She’s gone
from weepy rescue-girl to warrior in a heartbeat. Pretty impressive. Of course, she hasn’t got a clue what
we are pretty sure is about to happen. It’s likely this is going to be an epic battle, if not the battle. I have a
feeling in my gut that everything has led up to this moment. This could be what we’ve been working
‘Whatever’s inside, whatever happens,’ I say, lighting the Lumen in my palms, ‘we will kill Setrákus
Ra, no matter what.’ I’m saying this for me, not them.
‘We’re all on this, dude,’ Nine says.
I hold a glowing palm over the door, and just as I’m about to blow it inwards, a woman with red hair
and an arm in a sling comes hobbling through a door at the far end of the hall. She and I gasp at exactly the
same time; then she turns and darts back through the door.
‘Wait! Agent Walker!’ I shout after her.
‘Walker? Are you kidding me?’ Nine asks, incredulously. ‘The chick soldier who tried to capture us?’
The others just look on, confused for a beat, before Eight speaks up.
‘I’ll get her for you,’ he says, and then disappears. When he materializes a moment later he’s got her,
arms twisted behind her back. The first thing I do is rip off the gold badge on the front of her shirt.
Nine plucks the badge out of my hand and makes a great show of examining it carefully. ‘Well, well,
well. Who do we have here? Special Agent Walker?’ Nine laughs. ‘Lady, you look awful!’ He hands the
badge back to me as if it suddenly has cooties.
‘Do you know how pathetic you are?’ I yell. ‘Cutting deals with the Mogs, doing their dirty work, for
what? They are going to destroy you!’
‘I’m doing my job,’ she says stiffly. Eight has a tight grip on her. ‘We are doing what’s best for this
country.’ She stares back at me defiantly, but I know we will make it clear how much she has to fear from
us soon enough.
Sarah points at her. ‘I’ve seen you before. John, she was there when Six was taken away.’
Nine grabs Agent Walker by her shirt’s lapels like some gangster from a movie. Eight never loosens his
grip on her arms. Nine shoves his face right into her face. ‘I want this one, I get to kill her.’
Walker is now frantically struggling to back away from Nine and free herself of Eight. ‘Wait! I know
where your ship is!’ Special Agent Walker pleads. ‘I know you want it and you’ll never find it without
‘Our ship is here?’ Marina asks, clearly uncertain if she can trust what Agent Walker says.
The agent narrows her eyes. ‘I’ll show you if you let me go.’
‘What do you think, Four?’ Nine asks.
‘John? What happens when you find your ship?’ asks Sarah, grabbing my arm.
‘We don’t have time for this!’ Marina says. ‘I know Six is inside this room. The fact that this woman
will say anything to keep us from going in tells me I’m right! Forget about her! Who cares if or where our
ship is, until we have Six!’
Nine says, ‘I’ll handle her.’ Walker floats up into the air and hangs by her belt hook on the light fixture
high above us, red-faced with fury. Nine looks at us, winks and flicks the fingers of one hand behind his
back, blowing the door open. ‘Marina’s right. Six and Setrákus Ra come first. Shall we?’
He smiles at Sarah. ‘You’re pretty badass from what I’ve heard from Johnny here,’ he says, handing her
Walker’s Mog cannon. ‘Think you can handle her?’
Sarah takes the cannon. ‘If she moves from that light, I’ll blast her. Gladly.’
I look at the rest of the Garde. ‘It’s time.’
We rush inside. We don’t have to figure out who’s doing what. We just know. It’s quiet and dark and an
awful stench permeates the air. All I can think of is the arena that kept appearing in my visions. Is this it? I
look around, trying to see if I can tell. The center of the large room is dimly illuminated. Nine runs into the
circle of light and yells, ‘Time to come and play, Setrákus, you piece of shit!’
‘Where’s Six?’ Marina says. She joins Nine in the center of the room, along with Eight. They quickly
drop their Chests and start to look around.
‘You guys! There’s something up on the ceiling,’ Ella says, her voice echoing around the room. I look
up to see a small formation of rocks hanging from the ceiling.
I shine my Lumen on the object, and bathed in its glow, it almost looks like a statue. ‘This isn’t right. I
don’t know why, but there’s something wrong here,’ I say in a low voice.
While we watch the shadows for any sign of movement, Nine uses his anti-gravity Legacy to run up
onto the ceiling and look at the rock formation. When he starts to get close I hear a familiar voice yell,
I whip around to see Six standing alone in the doorway. A loop of thick rope hangs from her hip, and in
her hand is a jagged blue sword. She looks unharmed. Now that is the Six I remember; confident and
strong. Did she do it? Is it possible that Six has already killed Setrákus Ra?
‘Six! Oh, my God, it’s you!’ Marina cries. ‘You’re okay!’
‘It’s over,’ Six says. ‘Setrákus Ra is dead. That formation on the ceiling is Mogadorian poison. Stay
away from it.’
The relief in the air palpable. Eight teleports to Six’s side and wraps his arms around her in a huge hug.
Six was always the strongest of us, stronger than even me or Nine. She just saved Lorien, Earth, and
possibly the universe. I want to pick her up, put her on my shoulder, and parade her back to Lorien.
I start towards her too, but Ella grabs my wrist and pulls me back. I hear her in my mind. John.
Something’s wrong.
The next few moments happen in what feels like slow motion. Six pulls the jagged blue sword back and
thrusts it forward. Horrified, I watch Eight become rigid, then the tip of the sword breaks through the
middle of his shoulders. He slumps forward. Six pushes Eight’s body off her sword and he falls to the
floor, motionless.
‘No!’ Marina screams from behind me and rushes towards Eight.
I’m paralyzed with shock until my instinct to fight kicks in. I look down and a massive fireball has
formed in the palm of my right hand. Whatever confusion I was just feeling has cleared and I know what I
need to do. This can’t be Six. And whoever this really is, I need to kill them.
‘Six,’ I say, rolling the fireball on the tips of my fingers. ‘What did they do to you?’
She laughs and raises her other hand into a fist. Blue lightning shoots out between her knuckles and
spreads along the ceiling of the room. My fireball disappears. What’s going on?
‘Four!’ I look up to see Nine flying through the air from above me. His anti-gravity Legacy must have
failed him too. I manage to catch enough of him to stop him from slamming down on the ground and help
him get to his feet.
Marina stands protectively over Eight, guns aimed and ready to fire. Eight is still on the ground and I
can’t tell how badly he’s injured. At least I know he’s alive, since I don’t have a new scar. Marina lets
loose a burst of bullets, but they stop inches from Six’s face and drop uselessly to the concrete. I try to
light myself with my Lumen again, but nothing happens.
With her sword held high, Six’s body starts to convulse and blur with a quick flash of white. She grows
taller and her long blond hair shrinks into a small patch on top of a large skull. Her face elongates and
morphs, and somehow I know she’s changing into Setrákus Ra even before the glowing purple scar
appears on his neck. Two battalions of Mog soldiers silently emerge from doors on the sides of the room
and flank him. Without a word, Nine, Marina, Ella, and I move closer to one another, standing over Eight,
to make it clear we will face him together.
‘All of you in one place. How convenient for me. I hope you’re ready to die,’ he snarls.
‘I think you have that wrong,’ I reply.
‘That’s what Number Six thought, too. But she was wrong. Very wrong.’ He smiles, his revolting and
stained teeth glinting in the dim light.
Nine looks over at me and rubs his hands together, all eager anticipation. ‘Johnny boy, have we
discussed how important oral hygiene is to me?’ He looks back at Setrákus Ra, ‘Dude, brush your teeth
before you even think about threatening me!’ He extends his glowing red staff, turns to Setrákus Ra and
charges. Thankfully we still have the power of our Inheritance.

The Rise of Nine - Chapter 28

An enormous Mog charges at me, gleaming sword swinging. I duck under the blade and connect my fist
with his throat. He drops his weapon, gasping for air. No sooner has the metal clanged to the ground than I
pick it up and behead him. A cloud of his ash engulfs me as three more charge. The ash hides me. I crouch
low, slicing Mog legs off at the knees as soon as they approach. When I stand, another massive Mog tries
to get me from behind. I backflip over him, driving my sword through his midsection as I land. I step
through his cloud of ash to find myself surrounded by a dozen more. I don’t see Setrákus Ra.
I turn invisible. After ripping through another round of Mogs, I look again for Setrákus Ra. I see him at
the far end of the room and don’t hesitate. I run straight at him. More Mogs appear; I lose count of how
many. I leave them all a pile of dust. When I’m within thirty feet of Setrákus Ra, he raises a fist and points
it at me, almost as if he can see me. Blue electricity shoots from his hand and crackles along the ceiling of
the room and I feel myself turn visible. Once again, he’s taken away my Legacies. I knew this could
happen, but I feel a pang of loss anyway. Still, I’m ready for whatever he has for me.
Soldier Mogs come at me from all sides, but I just keep moving towards Setrákus Ra. When a Mog
steps into my path, I rip my sword through his neck. Another grabs me from behind and I cut off his arm.
Another comes screaming towards me and I shove my sword through his midsection. At this point, I’m so
focused on where I will ram my blade through Setrákus Ra’s neck that I barely notice killing off the Mogs.
The next thing I know, he’s right next to me and he grabs my neck. He raises me up with one hand until
my feet are dangling off the ground and once again our faces are only inches apart.
‘You fight well, little girl,’ he breathes into my face. I wince from the stench.
‘Give me my Legacies back and you’ll see how well.’ My voice is strangled.
‘If you were as strong as you think you are, I wouldn’t be able to take them away in the first place.’
‘Don’t give me that, you coward! If you’re so sure you can take me, why don’t you do it? Show me how
big and tough you are. Give me back my Legacies and fight like a man!’ I shout.
His voice echoes as he bellows, ‘You use your powers, and I’ll use mine!’
He tosses me back into the middle of the room, but I barely notice the pain of the impact when I hit the
floor. My sword clangs to the ground and skitters away. A soldier sends his sword spinning at me at high
speed. My first instinct is to try to stop it with my mind, but my Legacies are still gone. Even so, my
strength and reflexes are with me, full force. I am going to kill Setrákus Ra, with or without my powers. I
reach out with both hands and slap them over the oncoming blade, trapping it inches from my chin. The
next second I’m tackled around the waist and, as I fall onto my back, I rotate the sword between my palms
and sink it into the attacking Mog. I’m covered in a blanket of ash as I hit the ground. More Mogs come.
I’m destroying them with their weapons, and the justice of that is awesome. I feel stronger with every one
I reduce to nothing. I’m also more pissed off. If I have to go through every Mog on Earth to get to Setrákus
Ra, I’ll do it.
Setrákus Ra is just standing there, watching the show. He roars so loud I can feel the vibrations in my
chest. My years of training were all leading up to this moment. The only way I could feel stronger is if the
rest of the Garde were here; we should be fighting him together. I shake off the thought. I will take him out
for all of us.
After I finish off the last soldier, Setrákus Ra moves into the middle of the room to where I stand. He
reaches behind his back and produces a massive double-headed whip that he snaps against the ground. It
lights up with orange flames.
I don’t even flinch. There is nothing he can do to scare or stop me now. I race forward, yelling, ‘For
He flicks the whip over my head, sending a thick blanket of flames over me. I dive under its edge and
roll in the direction of his feet. As I dodge his stomping boot, I see several scars branded around his
ankles. I register them but don’t have time to think if there’s a connection between his scars and mine. My
sword slashes his calf just above the highest scar on his left leg and then I spring to my feet. The mark I
made immediately hardens and fades to another scar. He is completely unaffected by the wound, he
doesn’t even limp a single step.
He snaps the whip at me again and I try to cut off one of its two tails but when the flames touch my
sword, the blade melts. I throw the remains of the sword at him. He raises his hand and halts the weapon
in midair. It twirls and glows and as he stretches open his fingers, the melted blade climbs back above the
handle, reforming into a gleaming sword again. He smiles and lets it fall to the ground.
I dive for the sword, but when I reach down to grab it, his whip snaps across the top of my right hand.
My skin boils and opens and, instead of blood, a hard black substance appears in the gash. I look at it and
know I should feel unbelievable pain, but I’m numb. I stagger forward and finally get hold of the sword.
Weapon in hand, I circle back around to face the Mog leader. But something is terribly wrong with my
right hand now. It won’t move.
Setrákus Ra cracks his whip again and I jump out of the way as it flies past me, leaving a trail of flames
in its wake. When he raises his arm to pull the whip back over his shoulder again, I see an opening and
take it. Gripping the sword in my left hand, I rush at him and plunge it deep into his ribcage. I yank it
downwards, ripping his waxy skin apart until the sword is lodged at the bottom of his torso. I fall
backwards, looking up at him and desperately hoping I’ve delivered the final blow, that I’ve ended the
No such luck. Though Setrákus Ra grimaces for the first time, instead of turning into a pile of ash he just
reaches down and pulls the sword out of his body. He examines the blade, watching his thick black blood
dripping off of it. Then he puts the blade in his mouth and bites down on it, breaking it in half, and lets it
drop to the ground. It’s like he’s playing with me. What’s going on? I rise to my feet, calculating quickly
what my next move should be. Step one is avoiding Setrákus Ra long enough to figure it out. I wish, more
than ever, that my Garde was standing with me.
Ella? Can you hear me?
I continue to back away from Setrákus Ra, trying to put more distance between us to give myself a
fighting chance. That’s when I notice my right hand is starting to tingle. I look down and see the skin
around the whip’s wound has turned black. As I watch, the discoloration spreads to my knuckles and
fingernails; in a matter of seconds my entire right hand is black up to my wrist. The tingling sensation
vanishes. My hand feels incredibly heavy. Like it’s turned to lead.
I look up at Setrákus Ra. The purple scar on his neck begins to pulse with a bright light. ‘Are you ready
to die?’ he asks me.
Ella? If you’re coming, now is the time. In fact, it’s now or never.
I want so much to hear her voice in my head, telling me that she and the others are just outside the door.
We should be together, fighting Setrákus Ra with our Legacies, the gifts the Elders bestowed upon us,
until there is nothing left to him but the worthless, powerless, pile of ashes all of the other Mogs have
become. Instead, I’m here alone, my hand injured and useless, playing cat and mouse with Setrákus Ra.
And he’s just standing here in front of me, fire whip in hand, having rendered my Legacies useless, toying
with me. What is going on?
I take one more look around at the desert, then reach for the wheel on the brown door and give it a spin.
After one rotation, I decide to speed things up and just yank it off its hinges. A steel ladder goes down into
a black hole.
‘I can see in the dark,’ Marina volunteers. ‘I’ll go first.’ I stand aside to let her get by.
Marina climbs down the ladder into the darkness and drops out of sight. Eight tosses her Chest down
after her.
‘It’s about twenty feet down. Looks like there’s a long tunnel,’ Marina calls up. ‘All clear so far. I
don’t see anyone.’
Nine looks at Ella and me and says, ‘Ladies first.’ Ella starts down the ladder, and when she
disappears, Nine smirks at me and says, ‘Well, okay, but I was referring to you, Four.’
I shake my head at him. He’s nothing if not consistent. He gestures for me to go down next. ‘You know I
love you, man. Get in there.’
Using telekinesis, I let Bernie Kosar down first, back in his beagle form, then tuck my Chest under one
arm and awkwardly climb down using just the other hand. It’s musty and cold inside the tunnel. Ahead of
me, I can hear Ella and Marina walking and BK ’s toenails clicking on the cement. I turn the Lumen on in
my free hand and sweep the concrete tunnel for a few seconds, getting my bearings.
I use my Lumen to illuminate the distance between our location and a sharp turn far up ahead, then I turn
it off. ‘Marina, you can see to keep us moving, right?’ Eight and Nine have now caught up to us. She nods
and we all start to follow her down the dark passageway. We haven’t gone very far when I almost slam
into Ella, who has stopped dead in her tracks.
‘Oh no! I finally got through to Six. She needs us! She says it’s now or never!’
‘Let’s pick up the pace, people!’ Nine calls out from the rear.
We run as fast as we can through the dark. I flash my Lumen every few seconds to keep us from running
over each over. We make a sharp turn and I wave my hands again to light up the tunnel and reveal what’s
ahead. The next hundred yards slope downward, and my Lumen lights up a concrete door at the end. I
slide my chest down ahead of me until it slams against the door. Still sprinting, I turn on both of my palms
to give us all a better view.
Nine quickly rips open his Chest and pulls out the yellow ball covered in small bumps. Like a
magician, he holds it in his fingers and then whips it at the door. It bounces just a few inches off the metal
before expanding while turning black. Long, razor-sharp spikes explode out of it and the door is blown
inward on impact. The spikes instantly retreat until it’s just a yellow ball again, lying innocently on the
floor. Nine leans down, grabs it, and tosses it back into his Chest, which he closes with a loud snap.
‘I was hoping that would happen,’ Nine says admiringly. If I were him I’d have taken advantage of my
Chest of wonders to see through the door first, to know what we were about to get to. But this is no time
to critique anyone’s decisions.
We all bolt through the doorway. As soon as we enter, motion-sensor lights come on above us. Red
lights flash and sirens blare, attacking our senses. At the end of this shorter passageway, we come to
another large concrete door. This one rises as we approach it, revealing dozens of enormous Mogadorian
soldiers with cannons and swords up and ready to use.
‘Mogs? What are they doing here?’ asks Eight in disbelief.
‘Yeah. Bad news; the government and the Mogadorians have teamed up,’ I say.
‘Easy pickings,’ Eight says. Nine nudges me and makes an exaggerated gesture of approval at our newfound
Garde member.
I feel a surge of adrenaline pump through my body that I’ve only felt in my visions. All of a sudden I
know what to do. I look over at the others.
‘Follow my lead!’ I yell. They nod back at me. I drop my Chest, light the Lumen in both palms, and rush
straight ahead. The last thing I see out of the corner of my eye is Ella scooping up my Chest.
Just like in my vision, I aim the Lumen at my feet as I run and they catch on fire. The flames climb up
my legs and engulf my body just as I reach the first soldier. When I jump, I’m a fireball that burns right
through him. He turns to ash and I keep running.
The Mogs I pass swing around 180 degrees to shoot at me, but my flames offer the perfect protection. I
lower my head and run with my arms stretched out, effectively keeping any other soldiers away. Marina,
Eight, and Ella are on the heels of the soldiers, picking them off from behind as I race ahead. Nine has run
up onto the ceiling and is battling the Mogs from above. I toss fireballs at the closest ones to me and in a
matter of seconds, they’re all torched, leaving a thick cloud of ash and smoke hanging above. I slow my
pace when I see the last one go down. When we reach the back of the room, I launch a large ball of fire at
the door, blowing it to pieces. I take a second to admire how well that worked, BK even getting his share
of Mogs, though this is clearly neither the time nor the place for self-congratulation. Maybe Nine’s rubbed
off on me. We all turn to see what’s next.
Setrákus Ra has done something to me. I can’t move at all and stand rooted in
place. At first, I wonder if it’s just all the punishing battle or the bizarre
wound on my hand, or both. Then I realize there is something seriously wrong,
something stopping me from being able to move. I force my chin up to look at
Setrákus Ra looming before me. Setrákus Ra has produced a golden cane with a black
eye on the handle. He holds it out and the eye opens, blinks, rolls left and then
right before it finds me. Then the eye slowly closes, and snaps back open to emit a
crazybright, blinding, red light. As the beam crawls over my helpless body, it
leaves behind a weird, buzzing sensation on my skin. I really need to move. I need
to get away from that creepy light, away from whatever it’s doing to me, but I’m
immobilized. My hand weighs a ton. I am vulnerable and I need to get control – of
the situation, of myself. But I can’t.
The light from the eye is now purple and it rolls over my face. I lick my lips
and taste something burned. Setrákus Ra moves towards me until he’s a few feet
away. I close my eyes and tighten my jaw, thinking of John and Katarina and Sam and
Marina and Ella. I see Eight and Henri and Crayton, and even Bernie Kosar. I will
not give Setrákus Ra the honor, the pleasure, of looking at him while he kills me.
Something hot and soft touches my forehead, like a blast of air. I steel myself for
whatever is about to happen; brace myself for the certain agony it will bring. When
nothing happens, I open my eyes to see Setrákus Ra just standing there. Well, not
exactly. There are bands of red and purple light shining out of the head of his
cane and crawling up and down his massive body.
Setrákus Ra starts to shake and a white light outlines his shoulders and arms. He
falls to his knees, convulsing, his huge head jerking up and down. Then his dull,
waxy skin pulls away from the muscle and bone. When the skin snaps back down onto
his shrinking body, it has a new, olive tone. Long blond hair grows out of his
scalp until he has a full head of hair. When he looks up at me, I am more desperate
than ever to attack but I still can’t move. He’s me – gray eyes and high cheekbones
and dyed blond hair.
‘For me to be you, you must stay alive,’ he says in my voice, ‘but only for now.’
He lifts a palm into the air and, as if there was one magnet in the ceiling and
another in my now-black hand, I shoot off the ground, slam against the ceiling, and
dangle there, fifty feet off the floor. I feel a painful buzzing in my brain. I try
again to call for Ella in my head, but I can’t even hear myself think. When I touch
my free hand to the one stuck to the ceiling, it, too, turns black. The heavy
stiffness that weighed down my hand is now spreading. The thing I can move at this
point are my eyes. My entire body is now black. Black rock.

The Rise of Nine - Chapter 27

Wind, hot sand and punishing heat, along with a pounding headache, welcome me to our next
teleporting destination. I try to shield my eyes from the blinding sun as I lie on my back, recovering.
Welcome to New Mexico.
‘Oh, yeah,’ Eight groans, but he sounds satisfied. ‘We made it.’
I smile but stay where I am to give the pain in my head time to lessen before I try to move.
‘Ella?’ I call out.
‘I’m right here, Marina,’ she calls over. ‘Look where we are! New Mexico!’
‘Finally. Can you try communicating with Six again?’
‘I already have. No luck yet.’
I slowly stand up. Eight is on his hands and knees at the bottom of the sand dune, dry heaving. The
teleporting seems to have affected him more severely than it did the last couple of times. Ella has her hand
on the back of his neck. The two Chests sit nearby. I rotate 360 degrees and all I see in every direction is
sand, sand and more sand. And the occasional cactus. ‘Which way should we go?’
Ella and Eight climb up the dune and stand next to me. After a minute, Ella points north and says,
‘Look! Six said something earlier about dying in a desert with mountains.’
Squinting, I see where she’s pointing. The faint outlines of mountains ripple in the afternoon haze.
‘That’s where we’re going, then,’ Eight says. ‘We can cover the distance in short hops once my
teleporting comes back. For now, we walk.’
We pick up the Chests and head north. ‘Ella,’ I say, ‘you need to keep trying Six. If you can’t reach her,
maybe you can try Four, or even try one of the others, Five or Nine.’ We’ve lost so much time just getting
here. Maybe Ella can find something out that will save us some time now.
Nine examines the map he’s brought up on the screen in the middle of the steering wheel. He looks
around at the endless desert surrounding us. The car’s GPS has picked up an underground tunnel nearby;
now we just need to find the entrance. When I press the green triangle on the tablet, it shows we’re only a
mile or two from the ship. I push the blue circle and shout, ‘Nine! They’re here!’
‘Who’s here?’ Nine asks, scanning the horizon. ‘The other three blue dots. They’re here in New
Mexico!’ Nine rips the tablet out of my hands and lets out a loud hoot. ‘Holy shit, bro. This is really all
about to go down.’ He looks at me, his eyes shining.
‘I think this is it. The beginning of the end.’ As much as I’m looking forward to finally getting a chance
to do what we need to do, it’s dawning on me that this is going to be the fight of our lives.
‘This right here, this is when we rise to the occasion,’ Nine says. ‘You will fight harder than you ever
have, Four. You’re going to be a beast. And me? I’m going to rip Setrákus Ra’s head off, wrap it up and
send it back to Mogadore with a giant red bow on it. And then Lorien is going to rise from the ashes.’ His
voice is shaking with emotion, with all the pent-up anger and fight he has been carrying around with him.
Bernie Kosar barks from the backseat and Nine turns around to look at him with a smile. ‘You, too, BK
. You, my friend, are going to kick some major ass.’
I imagine what it will feel like to meet up with all the Garde members, something I haven’t let myself
do for so long. I look out over the horizon. My mind is clear and open to all possibilities. It feels good.
And that’s when I hear a girl’s faint voice echo in my head. It’s soft and broken like a bad radio signal at
first, but it becomes clearer.
Four? Number Four? Can you hear me?
‘Yes, yes! I can hear you!’ I yell out loud, whipping my head back and forth. ‘Who is that? Where are
Nine looks at me, confused. ‘Um, dude. I hope you can hear me. I’m right here.’
‘Not you. I heard a girl. Did you hear her? A girl was just talking to me.’
Number Four? It’s Number Ten. Can you hear me? This may be hopeless, I don’t know if I’m talking
to anyone. Maybe I’ll never figure this out without Crayton.
‘There it is again,’ I say excitedly. Nine is looking at me like I’ve completely lost my mind. ‘Nine! She
just said something else! Did you hear her? She said she’s Number Ten! I think she’s in my head
‘Number Ten! The baby from the second ship! Well, don’t just sit there staring at me! Talk back to her,
That’s easy for him to say. She didn’t know if it was working. I’m guessing it’s a new Legacy kicking
in – for both of us! – it takes training to know how to make a Legacy work when, and how, you want it to.
I know I don’t have much time to waste figuring it out. I take a deep breath and block out the noise in my
head and around me, and focus. I try to re-create the feeling I had right before I heard the voice a few
minutes before. I feel calm, open, and somehow . . . connected.
I can hear you, I try saying in my head. Nothing. I wait a moment and try again. Number Ten?
Number Four! You can hear me?
‘She heard me!’ I laugh out loud and look at Nine, victorious.
‘Tell her we’re about to ride into town and save the day,’ Nine says. ‘Tell her we’ll swing by and pick
her up on our way to Lorien, wherever she is.’
Where are you? I hear her ask. I’m with Seven and Eight in the desert, in New Mexico. We’re trying
to find and rescue Number Six.
‘What’s she saying?’ Nine yells. I know it’s making him crazy not being able to hear our conversation,
but I can’t talk to him now. I need to concentrate on hearing Ten’s voice, on responding to her.
What do you mean? Where is Six? We’re in New Mexico too. I’m with Nine and we’re in the desert
looking for an underground base.
I look out at the mountains. ‘We have to find that tunnel, fast,’ I say to Nine.
‘Did she say where they are?’
‘She just said she’s here, in the desert, with Seven and Eight and they’re trying to rescue Six. That must
be who we saw show up on the map earlier. I know I shouldn’t worry – if anyone can take care of herself,
it’s Six. But still – I’m worried.’
‘She’s got to be inside Dulce. Let’s go find her.’ Nine’s fingers speed over the screen. The map
changes color and looks to be scanning the area, finally zooming in on the trunk of a five-pronged cactus
about a quarter mile away from where we are. Below it, I can see the outline of an underground tunnel.
‘Ha! Nice try, you sneaky government bastards. Tell Number Ten to get her butt over here!’
Can you tell me where you are, Ten? We found a tunnel to get inside the base where we think Six is
being held. We’re in a brown car, pulling off on a side road.
After a pause, she says, We can teleport to you. How do I find you?
‘They don’t know how to find us,’ I report to Nine.
‘Maybe we can send up a signal somehow? Damn it! We should have brought that rocket launcher!’ He
hits the steering wheel with the palm of his hand and stares out the window, shaking his head.
‘We don’t need a rocket launcher,’ I realize, jumping out of the car. I aim my palms into the blue sky
and light my Lumen, swaying the beams back and forth.
Look for the beams of light in the sky, I instruct Ten. I don’t hear anything for a minute. I hope we
haven’t lost our connection.
We see them! Ten finally says.
‘They’re on their way,’ I yell into the car, keeping my Lumen in the air. I want to give them as much
time as possible to see exactly where we are. ‘We just need to sit tight.’
‘I’ll try,’ Nine says, studying the screen on the steering wheel again, but already starting to twitch.
‘Man, I can’t believe we found them!’
I finally turn off my Lumen and climb back in the car. I almost can’t believe this moment has come, that
we’re about to fulfill the destiny the Elders laid out for us. We’re coming together to defeat the
Mogadorians and resurrect Lorien from its hibernation.
Suddenly, we hear the unmistakable noise of a helicopter.
‘Um, Johnny?’ Nine says. ‘They’re not getting here by helicopter by any chance, are they?’
‘Shit,’ I say. Bernie Kosar jumps into my lap, putting his front paws on the door to look out the
window. The three of us watch several helicopters climb into the sky from the hazy horizon. The cluster
of choppers moves together and stops to hover directly above us. I use my mind to focus on the one out
front and send it spiraling off back where it came from. Then I bring it down, hard enough that it won’t go
up again anytime soon.
‘It must be the Feds. They’re getting on my nerves almost as much as the Mogadorians. They must have
been looking for us and saw your lights!’ Nine yells. The gun turret in the hood of the car pops up. Nine
aims, then shoots warning shots to the right of the remaining choppers, then the left. As soon as he stops
shooting they lower down, hovering just above us. I’m about to get rid of another one with my telekinesis
when Nine lets out a yelp.
‘Check out the road,’ he says. I look to my left and see an enormous dust cloud rising from a long line
of black vehicles. Bernie Kosar barks and scratches at the door. I open it and he changes into an enormous
hawk and ascends into the sky. I run around to the trunk of our car and open it with a pound of my fist. I
unzip one of the duffels and pull out four automatic rifles, dropping two next to Nine’s door. Gunshots are
already firing from the faraway vehicles, and I scramble on top of the car and take aim while Nine
continues to unleash a barrage at the incoming helicopters. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Bernie Kosar
swoop into the side of a helicopter. He’s got one of the pilots with his talons. He yanks and pulls at him,
using his powerful beak to rip out the safety belt holding him in the seat. When the pilot is free BK drops
him onto the sand below. His helicopter falls and bursts into flames on impact. The caravan of black cars
swerves around the wreckage and I hold down the triggers of my two guns, taking out the front tires of the
first two cars. It doesn’t stop the convoy, but at least it slows them down.
The remaining helicopters spread apart in the sky and come at us from different angles. Pockets of sand
explode all around us. One helicopter flies directly overhead, and I roll out of the way of its line of fire.
I struggle to clear my mind. It isn’t easy, but I’m getting the hang of what it takes for me to go inside my
head to communicate. I take a few deep breaths and quiet my mind. Number Ten? Where are you? We’re
under attack.
We can hear it, she says. We’re coming . Her thoughts are calm, with an edge of worry. It feels good
just to hear it, though, to know others are on their way.
I shift around and see two black helicopters bank left and head in the opposite direction, firing missile
after missile at a new target. That has to be them! I can only redirect three of the rockets, but someone else
deflects the rest.
‘Ten and the rest are almost here!’ I yell down to Nine through the driver’s window. Next thing I know
the gun turret on the front hood has exploded, sending hot metal flying over my head. I roll off the roof of
the car just as it’s split in half by a new hail of bullets.
Nine jumps out of the car and grabs the two rifles I set in the sand by his door. ‘Looks like we’ve got a
real fight on our hands. I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.’
The helicopters circle back and line up over the faraway vehicles, forming a united front. Nine lifts his
palm and the lead black truck is suddenly ripped straight up in the air like a shuttle rocketing into outer
space. Nine flips his hand and the car falls back down again. We can hear the men screaming from where
we are. The car comes to a stop right before it hits the ground, then smashes down hard. We watch the
men scramble out on shaky legs and look for somewhere to run. At the sound of the impact, Bernie Kosar,
still in the form of a hawk, dives and lands behind the twisted car on the road, and transforms into a beast.
The trailing vehicles swerve into the desert to avoid him, some spinning completely around. Bernie Kosar
Nine ducks into the backseat of the car and throws our Chests into the sand. Opening his, he pulls out
the string of green stones and the silver staff, and as he jogs backwards towards the chaos, he yells, ‘You
wait for the others. BK and I will be right back!’
I shout back, ‘Don’t look like you’re having too much fun! And make sure you don’t blow up the
entrance to the military base!’ A helicopter swings in from my right, and just as I yank on its nose with my
mind, something rips into my left leg. I fall headfirst into the sand, blinded by pain. It feels all too familiar
and I roll on the ground screaming at the top of my lungs. I know what this means. A scar is searing itself
into my leg. Another member of the Garde is dead.
Everything stops. The thought of another one of us dying sweeps through my body and I’m paralyzed by
grief so deep it feels like I’m sinking into the sand. There is one less soldier to reclaim Lorien, one less
soldier to fight to save Earth and every living thing on it. Two missiles slam into our car, blowing it to
bits. Gunfire rains down on me and just in time my bracelet expands into a shield. I take some solace in the
fact that my Inheritance is in tune with the dangers that face me – although I don’t know why it didn’t
protect me from the first onslaught of gunfire. The bullets are hitting close and constant. When I finally
manage to examine the new scar wrapped around my ankle, I’m shocked to see two gaping bullet wounds
instead. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so happy to be wounded and bleeding. I’m so relieved that it’s
not another scar that I don’t even care that my hands are covered in blood. As I apply pressure to stop the
bleeding, the desert goes strangely silent. My bracelet retracts.
I manage to flip myself over and look up. Standing over me are three teenagers. The boy is tall and tan
with curly black hair, and the two girls hold Loric Chests. I recognize the boy immediately from my
visions. He nods and smiles, saying, ‘Nice to see you again, Number Four. I’m Eight.’ Before I can
respond, he disappears.
One of the girls is short with auburn hair and tiny features. She looks no older than twelve, and I know
this must be Number Ten, the Garde from the second ship. She drops the Chest and kneels by my side. The
other Garde, a tall girl with shoulder-length brown hair, sets her Chest down and, without saying a word,
kneels beside me as well and lays both her hands on my wounds. An iciness rushes over me and my body
convulses on the desert floor. Just when I think I am about to pass out from the pain, it’s gone. I look at my
ankle and see my wounds are completely healed. It’s amazing. The girl stands, offers me her hand, and
pulls me to my feet.
‘That’s one hell of a Legacy you’ve got there,’ I manage to say.
‘John Smith.’ She’s staring at me and looks kind of starstruck. ‘After all this time, I can’t believe
you’re standing here in front of me.’
I’m about to respond, but over her shoulder I catch sight of a missile screaming towards us. I shove the
girls to the ground, falling on top of them, and a dune behind us erupts like a volcano, sending a sand
cloud high over our heads. When it dissipates Eight reappears next to us.
‘Everything good here? Everyone ready to fight?’ he says.
‘Yeah, we’re good,’ the taller girl says, nodding towards my leg. Ten had said she was with Seven and
Eight, so this must be Number Seven. Before I can introduce myself properly, Eight disappears for the
second time.
‘He can teleport,’ says Number Ten, smiling at my look of wonder. I can hardly believe that so many of
us are finally together. I smile back at her.
In the distance, I can see Eight again, fighting alongside Nine and Bernie Kosar. They wreak havoc on
each approaching vehicle; flipping and disabling heavy military equipment like cheap plastic toys. Nine’s
glowing red staff slices open the underside of a low-flying helicopter. Eight teleports next to a black
Humvee and flips it over with his hands. Two helicopters swing low and collide into a fireball.
A new sense of urgency comes over me to get to Six as fast as I can. ‘So I’m guessing you’re Seven and
Ten; what can you do?’ I say as I find our rifles in the sand and hand them each a gun.
‘You can call me Marina,’ the girl with the brown hair says. ‘And I can breathe under water and see in
the dark and heal the wounded. And I have telekinesis.’
Call me Ella, I hear Ten’s voice say in my head. Aside from my telepathy, I can change ages.
‘Awesome. I’m Four, that nut job with the long black hair is Nine, and the beast is my Chimæra, Bernie
‘You have a Chimæra?’ Ella asks.
‘I don’t know what I’d do without him,’ I say. What’s left of the brigade finally separates, and a dozen
vehicles bounce off the road and race towards the three of us. A small plume of smoke escapes from the
top of one of the vehicles, and I turn the rocket it just fired around with my mind, slamming it into a sand
dune. The other trucks and SUV s keep speeding ahead.
I start picking up pieces from Nine’s destroyed car and whipping them towards the oncoming brigade. I
launch tires, doors, even a mangled seat at them. Marina does the same, and we’re able to stop three or
four vehicles from advancing. Still, there are a half dozen or more to deal with.
Suddenly Eight, Nine and BK pop up in front of us. Eight lets go of Nine’s hand and reaches forward to
shake mine. ‘Number Four.’
‘You have no idea how happy we are that you guys are here,’ I say.
Nine shakes Ten’s and Seven’s hands, and says, ‘Hello, ladies. I’m Number Nine.’
‘Hi,’ Ten says. ‘You can call me Ella.’
‘I’m Number Seven, but I go by Marina,’ she offers.
I wish there was time to talk to these people I’ve waited so long to find, to hear their stories, to know
where they’ve been hiding, to know their Legacies, and what’s in their Chests. But there are more
helicopters on the way.
‘We can’t stay here and defend this same piece of desert forever,’ I say. ‘We have to get to Six!’
‘Let’s take out these bad boys,’ Nine says, pointing to the oncoming cloud. ‘And then we can find Six
and get on with it.’
We all turn to watch the approach. Several new helicopters now dot the sky. I look over at my fellow
Garde, and each one looks ready to fight. We’ve never had so many of us together. Never before have
things looked so possible. After all this, we’re never splitting up again.
‘They’ll just keep coming,’ I say. ‘We should just go get Six.’
‘Okay, Johnny. The tunnel is that way,’ Nine says, pointing behind us. ‘I’ll take up the rear and deal
with anything that needs handling. You know, snap a few necks, shake things up a bit.’
Those of us with Chests pick them up. I take the lead, heading in the direction Nine pointed. I scan for
traps and move everyone towards the five-pronged cactus. Seven and Eight are on my heels, with Ten
close behind them. There is a steady stream of gunfire behind us as Nine does his thing. He sounds like
he’s having a party with himself back there, hooting and hollering. Only he would consider this fun.
We pick up the pace and don’t stop running until we get to the cactus. Nine gleefully fires shot after
shot while Eight and I try to deal with the prickly plant, the only thing that stands between us and where
Six is being held. The map showed that the tunnel is right where the cactus stands. Finally, we manage to
blow it to pieces using our telekinesis. Beneath it is a thick brown door with a metal handle in the middle
of it. As I stand there looking at the entrance to the tunnel, the other Garde by my side, I remember what
Nine said earlier: ‘I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.’ We’ve all been waiting for this – waiting for
the moment when we’d find each other, when the nine of us would rise up and defend the legacy of Lorien
against the Mogadorians. As it turned out, all nine of us didn’t make it, but I know that the six of us who
are left, as well as the addition of Number Ten, will do whatever it takes to survive what’s to come.

The Rise of Nine - Chapter 26

My head is in Sarah Hart’s lap, the real Sarah Hart, and she strokes my hair with her fingers. I stare
blankly at the ceiling. I reach up and touch my neck. The cut that runs all the way around it is deep. I want
to sit up, but my bruised ribs and knees won’t allow it.
I’m humiliated by how easily I was overtaken by Setrákus Ra. How weak I was in the face of his
tremendous strength. I’ve killed so many Mogadorian soldiers. I’ve cut off their heads while mowing them
down with weapons I controlled with my mind. Since I received my Legacies, I have always been ready
to fight, no fear, no matter who or what I faced. Until now. Setrákus Ra tossed me around by my pendant
like I was a rag doll. I was helpless against him. He even made my Legacies disappear. I had the
opportunity to kill Setrákus Ra, to save Lorien and end the war, and I was swatted down like an annoying
‘Six? Can you tell me if John is still alive?’ Sarah asks cautiously. ‘I know you’re in pain, but can you
tell me that?’
‘Yes. He’s alive,’ I whisper. I can feel her sigh with relief against me.
After a pause, she asks, ‘Are you okay?’
‘I don’t really know,’ I say. I turn my head so I can look up into Sarah’s tired eyes. I try to smile. I’m
exhausted. My eyelids are already fluttering when I open my mouth to speak, ‘He was you, he tricked me
into thinking he was you, the monster.’
Sarah takes this in without any sign of confusion. She shakes her head and looks away. ‘I know. He
showed me. A couple days ago he came into my cell. I thought he was there to take me back to the room
where . . .’ She trails off for a minute, then clears her throat and straightens up. ‘This room with all these
machines and strobe lights. I feel like I’m crazy in there and everything hurts. It’s hard to explain. But he
wasn’t here to take me anywhere. He just stood there, not saying anything. Then he started jerking around,
like he was having a seizure. Then he started to shrink, and, bam! – it was like I was looking into a
mirror. When he finally did speak, it wasn’t his voice. It was mine. I tried to hit him and rip out his eyes,
but he beat me so badly that . . . Well, the first time I could stand was when I caught you when you were
thrown in here.’
‘I’m flattered.’ I try to laugh, but it gets caught in my throat. ‘No, seriously, thank you.’
‘Well, you’re welcome.’ She’s smiling down on me, and I think she must have been terrified . I was
more scared than I’ve ever been just now, and I was born and raised to do this. This is my life. It isn’t
Sarah’s, not by a long shot.
‘I don’t get something. How did he know so much about you? How could he trick me for so long?’
‘They know everything, Six,’ she says, her voice deadly serious.
I slowly begin to roll out of her lap, to push myself off the ground. I try to ignore my ribs begging me to
stay down. ‘What do you mean, everything ? About who? And what do you know? About any of this?’
Sarah looks away. ‘What little I know, I told them all of it,’ she says after a minute. ‘I couldn’t help it.
They kept taking me to that room, strapping me down, and they injected me with drugs. They asked me the
same questions, over and over; after a while my mouth moved even though I told it to stop. I just couldn’t
stop talking.’ Sarah puts her face in her hands and sobs. ‘I told them everything, repeating whole
conversations word for word.’
I sit against the wall and let the pain wash over my body. ‘If John sees Setrákus Ra and believes it’s
you, I don’t know what will happen.’
Sarah suddenly sounds frantic. ‘We have to get out of here! We have to stop him! Is there any way we
can warn John?’
‘I don’t know if I’m ready to break out of here.’
‘What? Why?’ she asks, shocked.
I stagger to my feet, clutching at my ribs. ‘Now that I’ve met Setrákus Ra, I want another chance at him.
He let me live, and now, I’m going to kill him.’ This would sound more lethal if I weren’t swaying
slightly, but I mean it from my very core.
Sarah stands, and I get a good look at her for the first time. Her face is covered in dirt and bruises, her
blond hair limp on her shoulders, but she’s still beautiful. The bottom of her red sweater is torn and she’s
not wearing any shoes. She’s swaying a bit herself. She stares at me, incredulous. ‘Look at yourself, Six.
You’re hurt. You’re r eally hurt. Do you know what you’re even saying? It would be nuts for you to fight
him alone. John will come; just wait for him. Please. He’ll come, and he’ll rescue us, and Sam. I know he
‘Sam’s here? Are you sure? Have you actually seen him?’
Sarah clenches her jaw. ‘They tossed him in here with me once. He was unconscious, all cut up and
bruised. Like me.’ Then the energy drains out of her and her voice drops. ‘But I know I can’t believe
anything I see or hear anymore.’
Picturing a bloody Sam in this very cell makes my stomach twist with anger. What happened in that
Mog cave? I punch the cement wall, surprised to see it chip away. My strength is returning. No pain. My
Legacies are coming back. I look directly into Sarah’s eyes. ‘Sarah, did you turn John in that night at the
playground? You need to tell me.’
Without hesitation she answers. ‘Absolutely not. I love him. Yes, I was confused about, well, about
everything and it was a lot to take in. But I would never betray any of you, especially John.’
I see her tear-filled eyes, and know she’s telling the truth. ‘Even though he’s an alien, you still love
him? You don’t care?’
Sarah smiles. ‘I can’t explain it. I can’t explain how love feels to me, how it fills me up inside and
keeps me going, but I know that it’s strong and beautiful and I know it’s how I feel about John. I love him,
and I will always love him.’ Just saying the words aloud has her standing up straighter; she looks stronger
and more determined.
Her conviction moves me. I think about what happened between me and John, the kiss and everything. I
don’t love John like Sarah does. She clearly believes John is the only one for her, in the entire universe.
‘I’ve been having these flashbacks, you know, about our trip to Earth. He and I were always fighting,’ I
say, my voice soft.
‘You were?’ she asks, hungry for anything I can tell her.
‘Well, not really fighting so much as me pushing him around and taking his toys.’
We laugh and she takes my hand. I’m sorry she’s here because of us. I’m not going to let her down. She
has so much faith in what we do, who we are, I can see it on her face. ‘I’m going to get you out of here,
okay? I’m going to get you back to John,’ I say.
‘I hope so,’ she says softly.
‘And we’ll find Sam and get him out here too; then we’ll meet up with Seven, Eight and Ten, find Five,
and we’ll figure everything out as a team.’ Her hand in mine gives me even more strength, more certainty
than ever.
‘Hang on. Number Ten? I thought there were just nine of you guys.’
‘There are a lot of things you don’t know, things we’ve learned recently,’ I say, touching the cut around
my neck. It still hurts, but feels like it’s already starting to heal. I wonder vaguely if I’m gaining a new
Sarah hugs me, but our moment is brief. The door whips open, and a dozen Mog soldiers march into the
room, cannons aimed at my chest.
‘Turn invisible,’ Sarah whispers under her breath. ‘Go.’
I test my ribs and roll my neck. I feel better than I did five minutes ago. It has to be good enough. ‘No.
I’m done running.’
The red-haired woman I saw in the garden room limps into the cell. I look at her arm in the sling and
the bandages over her cheek, and can’t help but wish I was the one who did all that to her. Anyone who
would join up with the Mogs and torture kids in a secret bunker, deserves everything she got, and more.
Does she know who the Mogs really are? What they intend to do? The woman purses her pale lips and
stares at me. ‘So. You’re the one who will fight Setrákus Ra?’
I step forward. ‘Yes. Who are you?’
‘Who am I?’ she asks, shocked that I would dare to ask such a thing. I guess she isn’t used to people
questioning her right to be anywhere, asking her to explain who she is.
‘Yeah, you, asshole.’ Does she have me confused with someone who has any respect for her position?
‘I asked you a question. Who are you and why the hell would you be working with them? Do you know
what the Mogadorians are going to do? What their plan is? They will destroy Earth, but only after they get
what they want. And you are not only helping them, you are putting out the damn welcome mat! Did they
tell you why they’re here? Did you even ask?’ I am furious and desperate; this woman has got to listen to
me. She needs to understand what is at stake here.
Her face remains unchanged. ‘I know all I need to know. They are here because they’re looking for you
and your friends. In exchange for our help, they will help us with matters that are vital to our security.
And I’ll let you in on a little secret. I look forward to finding that Number Four again, and his freak alien
friend. I have first shot at them, and I will take it, with pleasure.’
Sarah and I exchange a glance. Alien friend? Who is she talking about? Has John met up with another
‘What things are the Mogadorians going to help you with?’ I ask.
‘Well, for starters,’ she says, motioning to the Mog’s cannon, ‘we get these. Thousands and thousands
of alien weapons with capabilities impossible to create here on Earth, that none of our enemies have
access to. With their technology, the Pentagon will be light years ahead of any other army on Earth. We
will be invincible.’ I’m disgusted and I make sure it shows. ‘Setrákus Ra has also been supplying us with
iridium, a chemical that’s incredibly rare on Earth, and we’ve made scientific breakthroughs with it that
will make this country billions of dollars. Also, the United States government is very interested in finding
other life-sustaining planets, and the Mogadorians have already shared information about that.’ When she
stops talking, she rocks back on her feet, and crosses her arms over her chest defiantly.
‘Did they tell you what they do when they find other life-sustaining planets? I’ll tell you what they do.
They destroy them,’ I shout in her face. ‘You picked the wrong side, this time. My friends and I are trying
to stop them.’
‘That’s enough. Your presence is requested by Setrákus Ra. This way. Now.’ The woman moves aside
to let me to pass.
I know I could take this woman and every one of these soldiers. But that would just delay getting to
what I really want – to defeat Setrákus Ra. ‘As tempting as it is to kill you all right now, I think I’ll save
you for Number Four and his freak alien friend,’ I sneer. ‘If Ra wants to do this now, let’s go.’ I push past
her and walk out of the cell.
‘Six!’ Sarah calls after me. ‘Please! Be careful!’
I walk down the hall, my enemy flanking me. We walk down hallways, through several doors, and after
a few minutes, I’m standing inside a huge room. It’s big enough for an army of tanks. It’s also big enough
for an epic fight.
The door slams and I hear it lock behind me. It’s so dark now that I can barely see two feet in front of
me, never mind the other end of the room. I walk towards what I think is the center of the room, testing my
telekinesis as I go by levitating off the ground. The pain I felt earlier is gone. When I think I’m in the
middle of the room, I close my eyes and turn around, feeling the air with my mind. I sense there are about
two dozen or so beings silently entering the room. I’m disappointed. I wanted this to be one on one.
When I open my eyes, they’ve almost adjusted to the dark. I wish I had Marina’s Legacy to be able to
see in the dark, but I can make out enough for now. There are Mog soldiers lined up against the back wall.
They’re wearing ragged black cloaks and black boots, and whip their swords across their bodies. They’re
bigger than most of the Mogadorians I’ve fought before, but I know I can kill them just the same. A door
opens behind me, and another dozen soldiers enter.
‘Hey! What is this? Setrákus Ra!’ I yell to the ceiling, turning around to make sure the Mogs can all see
me and know they do not have some cowering human here. ‘I thought you wanted to fight me!’ A section
of the wall explodes in the back of the room, and the Mogadorian leader appears. The three Loric
pendants swing from his grotesque neck. I plan on taking all of them back. Setrákus Ra opens his arms and
yells, ‘You must first earn the right!’ I guess this is the command to charge, because all at once, the
soldiers let out a battle cry, and rush at me. I start at my right and begin to pick them off, one at a time.

The Rise of Nine - Chapter 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
‘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?’
‘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
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 Mexico, 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 semitrailers.
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
‘ 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.
‘As far as I’ve figured out,’ Nine turns to explain to me, ‘these fat guys are angry at these little guys.
The little guys were hitchhiking and caught a ride with one of them, promising money they didn’t have. So
now, the fat guys are trying to beat up the little guys with their puny girl arms.’
I turn to the truckers, the fat guys, and try to make nice. ‘Okay, well, none of this has anything to do with
us, and we need to get on the road. So, guys, let me apologize for my friend, who clearly doesn’t know
when to mind his own business.’
‘Yeah,’ the bearded trucker growls at Nine. ‘Just get the hell out of here, punk, and let us deal with
these lowlifes.’
I take my first real look at the hitchhikers. They smell like they’ve been on the road for a while. They
couldn’t be more than eighteen, probably younger. As the truckers move towards them menacingly, they
glance at each other with real panic in their eyes. Next thing I know, Nine is stepping in front of the little
guys and saying, ‘I don’t care who promised what to who. You touch these kids again and I’ll break all
your goddamn arms.’
I squeeze in between Nine and the three now truly pissedoff truckers, holding both sides back. Bernie
Kosar barks threateningly. ‘Okay, okay, just stop.’ I turn to Nine, willing him to listen to me. ‘We can’t do
this right now. We have somewhere very important we have to get to. Now,’ I say. I dig into my pocket
and turn to the truckers. ‘Listen, how much did these guys say they would give you?’
‘A hundred bucks,’ the one wearing the aviators says.
‘Fine,’ I say, pulling one of the bills out of my pocket. The truckers’ eyes widen at the sight of such a
big bill and I instantly know things just got worse.
‘Why would you give anything to these guys, Johnny?’ Nine asks.
I feel the meaty hand of a trucker on my shoulder. He squeezes my shoulder as he says, ‘Did I say a
hundred bucks? I meant a thousand. Johnny.’
‘That’s crazy!’ one of the hitchhikers shouts. ‘We never said we’d give you any money!’
I spin back to the truckers, waving the bill like it was flag. ‘A hundred bucks, guys, just take it.
Consider it a tip for good service, or payment in lieu of a beating, I don’t really care what you call it. Just
take it!’
‘I said a thousand,’ the man on the left says, spitting again, this time directly on the top of my shoe. ‘Are
you deaf?’ A low growl starts deep in Bernie Kosar’s throat.
Nine moves forward, but I push him back and turn to face him. ‘No! It’s not worth it, man!’ I put my
face right up in his. He has to understand how serious I am. I will not let him do this. ‘Please. Think of
what Sandor would want you to do. He’d want you to walk away. need you to walk away.’ I whisper.
‘You guys aren’t getting shit!’ Nine yells over my shoulder at the truckers.
I use my body to shove him backwards, towards the car. I spin around just in time to see the bearded
trucker pull a knife out of his pocket. ‘All of your money. Now.’ The other two men step up to flank me.
‘Listen,’ I say, lowering my voice, trying to get control of the situation. ‘You will take the hundred
bucks and you will walk away. If you don’t, I’m not going to hold my friend back anymore. Believe me,
you don’t want that. You have no idea what he can do and you don’t want to know.’
I’m not entirely surprised when the answer comes in the form of a fist. It comes from my right and I
easily dodge it. I grab the trucker’s wrist, and throw him down. BK looms over him, still growling, and
the man shrinks back.
‘My turn!’ Nine says gleefully, pushing me out of the way.
The bearded trucker swings his knife wildly at Nine, who steps lightly out of range. On his next swing,
Nine ducks under the blade and hooks his arm beneath the man’s armpit, slamming him to the ground. He
kicks the knife out of the trucker’s hand and it goes skidding under a truck. ‘Dude, you should listen to my
wise pal over there. You seriously do not want to mess with us.’
‘All right, all right. We’re done here,’ I say, placing my hand on Nine’s shoulder. ‘And now, we’re all
going to walk away. Let’s go.’
I hear the hammer of a gun click. We freeze. The trucker with the aviator glasses waves a . 50 -caliber
Desert Eagle at us. I don’t know everything about guns, but I know this one packs a very big punch. He
sounds pretty serious when he asks, ‘Which of you wants to die first?’
Of course Nine steps forward, crossing his arms over his chest. ‘Me.’
He raises the gun towards Nine’s face and laughs at what he thinks is just bravado. ‘Don’t tempt me,
punk. Killing you would be the highlight of my day.’
‘Well, then, shoot. No reason to put off the highlight of your day. You don’t look like you get a lot of
them.’ Nine says. I sigh, knowing this is all going to end badly. And after, there will be attention we don’t
At this point things begin to move really fast. First, a sudden and very loud blast from a nearby truck
startles the gun-touting trucker, who fires off a shot. Nine stops the bullet with his mind, just inches from
his nose. With a grin and a tilt of his head, he spins the bullet midair and sends it racing back at the
shooter. He sees the bullet coming his way and turns tail and runs as fast as his legs will take him.
I turn to look at Nine. This guy is having way too much fun. I know what he’s going to do and I know it
is a bad, bad idea. ‘No. Nine. Don’t do it,’ I say, shaking my head, knowing he is going to do it anyway.
Nine laughs and feigns innocence. ‘Do what? This?’
He and I both turn to look at the bullet that is still hovering where Nine stopped it near the trucker. He
gives a little chortle and sends the bullet racing after the fleeing trucker, right into his ass. He goes down,
screaming his head off. Nine turns to the other truckers, including the one BK has decided to let off the
ground. They look like they are about to pee in their pants they’re so scared. Nine smiles at them and I
know he’s still not done messing with their heads. He says to the two truckers, ‘You know what? I think
you two should make up for your rude friend. Here is what you are going to do. You are going to reach
into your pockets, very slowly, and take out your wallets. Then, you are going to give every dollar you
have to these nice guys here. You know, for their trouble,’ he says, motioning to the hitchhikers. ‘I don’t
think you want to hear what I’ll do if you do not cooperate. Quickly.’ Both truckers nod and reach into
their pockets.
The hitchhikers look totally stunned by all they’ve just seen. ‘Uh, thanks, man,’ one of them says.
‘No problem,’ Nine says as the money is exchanged. Everyone’s hands but ours are visibly shaking.
‘Just so you know, we never promised that guy any money. They were trying to shake us down. We’re
absolutely broke,’ the other says.
‘I believe you. And, you’re not broke anymore,’ Nine says, smiling. ‘Let’s just say, I know what it’s
like, on the road and on the run. It can be hard for a kid to figure out a way to get some cash.’ He turns to
me for confirmation. I smile at the kids but look back at Nine and make it clear I am more pissed off than
I’ve ever been. He shrugs. ‘Hope the next ride you catch goes better!’ He turns and walks away, and BK
and I follow.
We get to our car, climb in, and pull away in silence. After a minute or two, Nine reaches over and
flicks on the radio. He drums his fingers on the wheel in time to the song.
‘What the hell were you doing back there?’ I yell, punching his shoulder. ‘And don’t give me any crap
about the poor little boys and the mean, mean trucker men, either! You’re just entertaining yourself and
showing off! And you know what? That’s putting us both in danger, not to mention keeping us from getting
where we need to go. C’mon, Nine! Get it together!’
Nine is gripping the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles are white and I can see his jaw is clenched
so hard his muscles are twitching. ‘I was not showing off and I was not entertaining myself.’ I wait for
him to continue, to explain, but it’s clear he is not going to say anything else. What does he have to be mad
‘What, you were just standing up for two humans who were getting pushed around? Even though you
said humans aren’t worth the time or energy?’ He flinches when I throw his words back at him.
‘I don’t like bullies. No one has a right to take or to hurt, just because they can. I wasn’t going to let
them do that. And I made damn sure they wouldn’t do it again.’ His voice is flat. He looks over at me, at
the surprised look on my face, and turns back to the road. ‘Don’t know why you look so shocked. I’m a
humanitarian, man.’
I shake my head. Every time I think I have Nine figured out, he does something to turn it around and I
end up liking him even more. I shrug, lean my head back, and turn to watch the landscape whip by the
window. I drum along with the music on my armrest. ‘I didn’t know, that’s all,’ I say.
He relaxes into his seat and smiles in a satisfied way that is more like the Nine I’m used to. ‘Yeah,
well, now you do, man. Now you do.’