United as One (Lorien Legacies #7)(6) by Pittacus Lore

Sam and Daniela’s conversation has trailed off, and I quickly realize that it’s because of me. I’m silent, eyes straight ahead, and I’m pretty sure my expression is stuck in neutral. They don’t know how to talk to me anymore.

“John, I—” Sam puts a hand on my shoulder, and I can tell he’s going to say something about Sarah. I know what happened to her hurt him bad, too. They grew up together. But I don’t want to have that conversation right now. I don’t want to give in to grieving until this is over.

I force a halfhearted smile. “Did they give you any tapes for that VCR?” I ask Daniela, clumsily changing the subject.

“WrestleMania III,” she says, and makes a face.

“Hell yeah, I’ll be by to pick that up later, Danny,” Nine says, emerging from one of the many hallways with a grin.

Out of all of us, Nine looks the most rested. It’s only been about a day since he and Five brawled all over New York City. I healed the big goon back in New York, and his own superhuman stamina has apparently done the rest. He pats Sam and me hard on the back and joins our procession down the hallway. Of course, Nine acts like there’s nothing wrong at all, and, honestly, I prefer it that way.

As we pass by, I glance down the hallway Nine came from. There are four heavily armed soldiers there, standing guard.

“Everything squared away?” I ask Nine.

“Yeah, Johnny,” Nine replies. “They got some pretty whacked-out prison cells in this place, including one that’s straight up padded walls. With Chubby tethered to some cushions and strapped into a straitjacket, he ain’t going anywhere.”

“Good,” Sam says.

I nod in agreement. Five is a complete psychopath and deserves to be locked up. But if I’m being brutally practical about winning this war, I’m not sure how long we can afford to keep him in a cage.

We round a corner, and the elevator bank comes into view. Overhead, the halogen lights buzz loudly, and I notice Sam pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Man, do I miss your penthouse, Nine,” Sam says. “Was the only hideout we ever had with mellow lighting.”

“Yeah, I miss it too,” Nine replies, a note of nostalgia creeping into his voice.

“This place is already giving me a serious migraine. Should’ve gotten some dimmer switches to go with those VCRs.”

There’s a crackle of electricity over our heads, and one of the bulbs flickers out. The hallway lighting is suddenly a whole lot more tolerable. Everyone except for me pauses to look up.

“Well, that was weirdly timed,” says Daniela.

“Better, though, isn’t it?” Sam says with a sigh.

I hit the button to call the elevator. The others gather around behind me.

“So, they’re, uh . . . they’re bringing her back here?” Nine asks, his voice lowered, being about as tactful as he can manage.

“Yeah,” I say, thinking about the Loric ship right now descending towards Patience Creek, filled with our friends and allies, and the lost love of my life.

“That’s good,” Nine says, then coughs into his hand. “I mean, not good. But we can, you know, say good-bye.”

“We get it, Nine,” Sam says gently. “He knows what you mean.”

I nod, not prepared to say anything else. The elevator doors open in front of us, and when they do, the words come spilling out.

“This is the last time,” I say, not turning around to face the others. The words feel like ice in my mouth. “I’m done saying good-bye to people we love. I’m done with sentiment. Done with grieving. Starting today, we kill until we win.”

CHAPTER TWO

TWISTED METAL SHRIEKS BY OVERHEAD. CLUMPS of dirt and ash batter my face, the wind whips at what feels like one hundred miles per hour, and I throw everything I have into it. Blaster fire sears across my legs. I ignore it. A jagged strut from an exploded Mogadorian Skimmer crashes into the dirt next to me. Only a few feet closer and I would have been impaled.

I ignore that too. I’ll die here, if that’s what it takes.

Across an empty pit where the Sanctuary used to stand, Setrákus Ra staggers up the ramp of his warship. I can’t let him make it back on board the Anubis. I shove out with my telekinesis, and I don’t care about the consequences. I hurl every goddamn thing at him, and he pushes back. I feel his power strain against mine like two invisible tidal waves crashing together, sending up a spray of metal parts and dirt and stone.

“Die, die, die . . .”

Sarah Hart is next to me. She screams something into my ear that I can’t hear over the roar of the battle. She grabs my shoulder and starts to shake me.