United as One (Lorien Legacies #7)(9) by Pittacus Lore

“Oh, you did.”

Adam looks away, clearly uncomfortable under Ella’s stare. If he’s relieved that Ella let him off the hook for what happened at the Sanctuary, it doesn’t show.

“And Six.” She turns to me now. “As she left this world, Sarah thought about many things. Mostly about John and her family. But also she thought about you, and how she was glad you would be here to take care of John and the rest of us.”

“You were in her head when she died?” I ask Ella, still trying to get a grip on her new and expanded Legacies.

She pinches the bridge of her nose and shuts her eyes, which causes the room to get a little darker. “I’m still getting used to what I can do. It is hard sometimes to . . . tune out.”

“Is that all she was thinking about?”

The question comes from Mark. I’m not sure how long he’s been awake and listening to our conversation. He looks at Ella with desperate hope, and I notice that his lower lip shakes. Ella looks back at him coolly, and I wonder if some emotional wiring got fried during her encounter with Legacy.

“What do you really want to ask me, Mark?” Ella says calmly.

“I . . . nothing. It’s not important,” Mark replies, looking back down at the floor.

“You crossed her mind, too, Mark,” Ella says.

Mark swallows hard when he hears this and nods, trying not to show any emotion. Studying Ella, I’m not sure if she’s telling the truth or just trying to make Mark feel better. Her electric eyes are unreadable.

“We’re here,” Lexa announces over the intercom. “I’m bringing us down.”

Lexa lands the ship in a wide-open field next to a small log cabin. Looking out the window at the place, it’s hard to believe that this is where the government is planning its counterattack against the Mogadorians. I guess that’s sort of the point. With the sun just beginning to rise over Lake Erie, pink flares of light bend across the surface of the water. It’s a tranquil scene and would look totally like some hippie yoga retreat if not for the presence of the armed soldiers and their Humvees camouflaged in the tree line.

There are two groups waiting for us outside the cabin and, even in my rattled state, it’s easy to read the situation based on the distance between the factions. The first group is our people—John, Sam, Nine, Malcolm, and a girl who I recognize from Ella’s telepathic summit but whose name I don’t know. Behind them, separated by about thirty yards, is a contingent of military personnel who watch our ship with keen interest. It seems to me that even though the military is working together with the Garde, they’re still very much keeping an eye on us. Together, but apart.

In that group of soldiers, I recognize Agent Walker. As I watch, she nervously stubs out a cigarette and turns to answer a question posed by the older man standing next to her. He’s clearly in charge. The guy sports a silver buzz cut and a leathery tan, like they just pulled him away from the golf course. He looks like one of those senior citizens who’s still out there running marathons, all rigid posture and stringy muscles. He wears formal military attire covered with a stupid amount of medals. He’s surrounded by a half dozen soldiers with assault rifles—for our protection, I’m sure. Two guys in his retinue stand out; they’re twins if I’m not mistaken, and look to be about my age, too young to really be enlisted soldiers, although they wear the starched light-blue uniforms of cadets.

I observe all this during the few seconds it takes Lexa to extend the exit ramp and power down the ship. Surveying our surroundings is a good distraction, a way to avoid looking at John. His face is a mask, his gaze icy, and I still haven’t figured out what the hell I’m going to say to him.

Our battle-ravaged group slowly walks down the ramp. I hear mutterings from our military observers and can’t help noticing the cringing looks on our friends’ faces. We’re covered in blood and dirt, beat up, exhausted. Plus, Ella is giving off that faint glow of Loric energy. We look like hell.

Malcolm’s got a gurney, and he pushes it across the grass to meet Adam, who is carrying Marina in his arms. It takes me a second to notice that Mark hasn’t gotten off the ship; he’s staying with Sarah’s body.

Before I can stop him, Sam has me wrapped in a hug. Only when his arms are around me do I realize how badly I’m shaking.

“You’re all right now,” he whispers into my tangled mop of hair.

I steel myself, trying not to break down even though I very badly want to, and wiggle out of Sam’s arms. I look towards John, but he’s already standing over Marina, his hands glowing softly as he holds her head. There’s a look of deep concentration on his face as he heals her, and it takes so long that I start to hold my breath, worried that the damage Setrákus Ra inflicted is too great. After a long moment where everyone watches in total silence, John steps back with a drained sigh. Marina shifts a bit on her gurney but doesn’t wake up.