United as One (Lorien Legacies #7)(10) by Pittacus Lore

“Is she . . . ?” Adam starts to ask.

“It was bad, but she’ll be okay,” John replies, his voice completely neutral. “She just needs some rest.”

With that, John steps away from the group and walks up the ramp of the ship.

“John, hold on,” I hear myself say, even though I’ve got no idea what my follow-up is going to be.

He pauses and looks over his shoulder at me, although he doesn’t meet my eyes.

“I’m sorry that we couldn’t—that I couldn’t protect her,” I tell him, my voice getting shaky and, even though I’m mortified to hear it, a little desperate. “I swear I killed him, John. I put one right in his goddamn heart.”

John nods, and I can see a vein in his neck twitching, like he’s trying to control himself.

“We aren’t to blame for the actions of our enemies,” John replies to me, and the line sounds canned, practiced, like he knew this conversation was coming. Without another word, he climbs the ramp and disappears into Lexa’s ship.

A somber silence follows. The military personnel return to the cabin, which must have some pretty major underground levels to accommodate them all, and Nine starts to lead our group inside after them. I gaze after John, Sam lingering at my side.

“I’m sorry, Six, but you didn’t.”

It’s Ella. She stands next to me, looking up at me with those eyes empty of everything but swirling Loric energy. I must look shaky again, because Sam puts his arm around me, holding me up.

“Didn’t what?”

“Kill him,” Ella replies. “You hurt him bad, but . . . I can still feel him out there. Setrákus Ra is alive.”

CHAPTER THREE

AS SOON AS I’M ON BOARD THE SHIP, BERNIE Kosar steps in front of me. His tail droops between his legs, and he stretches his front paws out, arching his spine low, his head down. It’s like he’s bowing to me, or expecting me to swat him with a rolled-up newspaper. From deep in his belly, he lets out a low, mournful howl.

It takes me a second to realize why he’s doing this. Back in Chicago, the last time I saw Sarah, I’d sent BK with her. I’d told BK to keep her safe.

Oh God, BK, it’s not your fault, I say to him telepathically. I kneel down, put my arm around his furry neck and hug him close. BK slobbers wetly against my cheek and whines. Tears string the corners of my eyes, the first ones that have come since I heard Sarah’s fading voice piped over my satellite phone.

The tears aren’t for me. First Six, now BK—the guilt they’re feeling, it wrecks me. Sarah was their friend, too. They’re feeling this loss just like I am, and it’s compounded by the fact that they both think they let me down, that I’m going to blame them. I should’ve spoken to Six, should’ve said something more, but I just couldn’t find the right words. I should’ve told her that there are only two people I hold responsible for what happened to Sarah.

Setrákus Ra.

And myself.

I’ve never been good at expressing those kinds of feelings, talking about myself, my fears and weaknesses. Really, there’s only one person I’ve ever felt truly comfortable opening up to about that stuff.

Sarah.

I stand up, walk farther into the ship and see her. In the ship’s dim lighting, stretched out on a cot, a sheet pulled up to her chin—she could be sleeping. Her blond hair is fanned out on the pillow beneath her. Her skin is pale, so pale, the color drained from her lips. I walk forward feeling like I’m in a dream.

Mark James is here, too, sitting next to Sarah’s bed. He stands up when I walk forward, and I’m vaguely aware of a murderous look on his face. For a second, I think he might get in my way. Looking at me he must think better of it, because he steps aside in a hurry. The anger in his eyes is replaced by curiosity, like I’m some strange animal.

Or like I’m an alien, capable of things he can’t possibly understand.

He doesn’t say anything when I kneel down next to Sarah. I pull the sheet back from her body, and it sticks to her side where the blood from her wounds has dried. She’s all torn up.

I feel like I should cry. Or scream. But all I feel is empty.

And then my hands reach forward, unthinking, acting on some combination of instinct and desperation. I press down on her wounds, her skin cold beneath my fingertips, and let my healing energy flow into her.

When Sarah and Ella were riddled with blaster fire at Dulce Base, I managed to heal them. They were close to death, and I pulled them back. Maybe . . . maybe there is still hope now.