Six's Legacy

Six's Legacy

Page 7

“No!” I scream. He grins with satisfaction at my anguish, like he’s been waiting for it. He presses the blade to Katarina’s arm and slides it down her flesh. Her arm opens up, pouring blood. She buckles against her chains, tears flooding her face. I try to scream but my voice gives out: all that comes out is a high, pained gasp.

He makes another cut beside the first, this one even deeper. Katarina succumbs to the pain and goes limp.

With my teeth, I think.

“I can do this all day,” he says. “Do you understand me? You’re going to tell me everything I want to know, starting with what number you are.”

I close my eyes. My heart burns. I feel like a volcano, only there’s no opening, no outlet for the rage filling up inside of me.

When I open my eyes he’s back at the desk, tossing a large blade from his left hand to his right hand and back. Playfully, waiting for my gaze. Now that he’s got it, he holds the blade up so I can see its size.

It begins to glow in his hands, changing colors: violet one second, green the next.

“Now . . . your number. Four? Seven? Are you lucky enough to be Number Nine?”

Katarina, barely conscious, shakes her head. I know she’s signalling me to keep silent. She has kept her silence this long.

I struggle to keep quiet. But I can’t handle it, can’t watch him hurt my Katarina. My Cêpan.

He walks over to Katarina, still wielding the blade. Katarina murmurs something beneath her gag. Curious, he lowers it from her mouth.

She spits a thick wad of blood onto the floor by his feet. “Torturing me to get to her?”

He eyes her hatefully, impatient. “Yes, that’s about right.”

Katarina manages a scornful, slow-building laugh. “It took you two whole days to come up with that plan?”

I can see his cheeks turn red at the well-aimed jab. Even Mogadorians have their pride.

“You must be some kind of idiot,” she howls. I thrill at Katarina’s impudence, proud of her defiance but afraid of what the consequence will be.

“I have all the time in the galaxies for this,” he says flatly. “While you are in here with me, we are out there with the rest of you. Don’t think anything has stopped us from moving forward just because we have you. We know more than you think. But we want to know everything.”

He cruelly strikes Katarina with the butt of the knife before she can speak again.

He turns to me.

“If you don’t want to see her sliced into little pieces, then you better start talking, and fast. And every single word that comes out better be true. I will know if you’re lying.”

I know he isn’t playing games, and I can’t bear to see him hurt Katarina again. If I talk, maybe he’ll be merciful. Maybe he’ll leave her alone.

It comes out so fast I barely have time to order my thoughts, so fast I barely know what I’m saying when I say it. I have one intention, but it’s a murky one: to tell him everything I know that he can’t use against me or the other Loriens. I tell him pointless details about my previous journeys with Katarina, our previous identities. I tell him about my Chest, but I don’t give its burial location, claiming it was lost in our journey. Once I start talking I’m afraid to stop. I know that if I pause to measure my words he will smell my deceit.

Then he asks me what number I am.

I know what he wants to hear: that I am number Four. I can’t be Three, or else they would have been able to kill me. But if I’m Four then all he’ll need is to find and kill Three before he can begin his bloody work on me.

“I am Number Eight,” I say finally. I am so scared I say it, with a desperate, cringing sigh, that I know that he’s fooled. His face falls.

“Sorry to disappoint you,” I croak out.

His disappointment is short-lived. He begins to beam, victorious. I may not be the number he wanted, but he got my number out of me. Or what he thinks is my number.

I search out Katarina’s eyes, and though she is barely conscious, I can see the faintest hint of gratitude in her eyes. She is proud of me for giving him the wrong number.

“You really are weak, aren’t you?” He stares at me with contempt. Let him, I think. I feel a surge of superiority over him: he was dumb enough to believe my lie.

“Your relatives on Lorien, as easy as they fell, at least they were fighters. At least they had some bravery and dignity. But you . . .” He shakes his head at me, then spits on the floor. “You have nothing, Number Eight.”

At that, he raises his arm with the blade and thrusts it, deep into Katarina. I hear the sound of bone cracking, of the knife pushing through her sternum, right into her heart.

I scream. My eyes search out Katarina’s. She meets my gaze for one last instant. I will myself past my chains towards her, struggling to be there for her in her last moment.

But her last moment goes fast.

My Katarina is dead.


Weeks turn into months.

Some days they don’t feed me, but my pendant keeps me from dying of thirst or starvation. What’s harder is the absence of sunlight, the endless immersion in darkness. Sometimes I lose track of where my body ends and the darkness begins. I lose sense of my own existence, my own borders. I am a cloud of ink in the night. Black on black.

I feel forgotten. Incarcerated, with no hope of escape, and with no information that can lead them to the others, I am useless to them for now. Until they’ve killed the ones before me, until my extinction date.

The urge to survive has gone dormant in me. I live not because I want to but because I can’t die. Sometimes, I wish I could.

Even so, I force myself to do the work of staying as fit and limber and as ready for combat as I can. Push-ups, situps, games of Shadow.

In these games of Shadow I have learned to play Katarina’s part as well as my own, giving myself instructions, describing my imagined attackers, before I respond with my commands.

I loved this game before, but now I hate it. Still, in Katarina’s honor, I continue to play.

As I was lying to the Mog, I thought I was doing it so he would spare Katarina, let her live. But as soon as I saw his knife pierce her heart I realized what I was really doing: hastening her end. I was giving him everything I knew so he would finish her off, so she wouldn’t have to suffer anymore, so I wouldn’t have to watch her suffer anymore.

I tell myself that was the right thing to do. That it’s what Katarina would’ve wanted. She was in such pain.

But I’ve been without her so long at this point that I would give anything for another moment with her, even if she had to suffer unimaginable torments for it. I want her back.

The Mogadorians continue to test the boundaries of my conditional immortality. These trials take time to plan and construct. But every week or so I am dragged out of my cell and brought to another, jury-rigged for my destruction.

The first week after Katarina’s death I was brought to a small chamber and made to stand on a sharp steel grill several feet off the floor. The door was sealed behind me. I waited for a few minutes as the room filled with noxious-looking gas, curling up from beneath the grill in green tendrils. I covered my mouth, trying not to breathe it, but I could only hold my breath for so long. I gave up, gulping in their poison, only to discover it smelled like the coolest and freshest of mountain breezes to me. Furious Mogs dragged me out of the room minutes later, pushing me quickly back to my cell, but I could see the pile of dust beside the door on the way out. The Mog who had pushed the button releasing the gas had died in my place.

The next week they tried to drown me; the week after, they tried burning me alive. None of these affected me, of course. Last week, they served me food laced so heavily with arsenic I swear I could taste each poison grain. They had brought a cake to my cell. They had no reason to treat me with dessert, and I knew at once that it was their hope to trick me with the cake—and in turn trick the charm. They hoped that if I didn’t know my life was in danger, the charm wouldn’t work.

Of course I suspected them at once.

But I ate the cake anyway. It was delicious.

By eavesdropping against the slot of my cell door, I later learned that not one but three Mogadorians perished from the attempted poisoning.

How many Mogadorians does it take to bake a cake? I asked myself later. Then, with malevolent satisfaction, I answered: Three.

I allow myself to imagine a happy outcome in which the Mogadorians, who seem to place little value even on their own lives, keep trying to kill me and end up dying in the attempt, until there are no Mogadorians left. I know it is just a fantasy, but it’s a happy one.

I have no idea how long I’ve been here. But I have grown so hardened to their execution attempts that I am fearless as they drag me through the halls to yet another. This time I am thrown into a large, drafty space with dim lights, larger than any room I’ve been in so far. I know I am being watched through one-way glass or a video monitor, so I wear my face in a sneer. A sneer that reads: Bring it on.

Then I hear it. A low, guttural moan. It’s so deep I can feel it, rattling through the floor. I whirl around to see, deep in the shadows of the room, a large steel cage. It looks familiar.

I hear jaws snapping hungrily, followed by the sounds of massive lips smacking.

The piken. The beast from our trip out here.

Now I am scared.

There’s a bright flash. Suddenly I’m bathed in strobing red lights, and the steel bars of the cage retract.

Weaponless, I fall back against the opposite corner of the room.

Clever, I think. The Mogs have never pitted me against a living creature before.

The piken steps out. A four-legged monster, it stands like a bulldog the size of a rhino: forelegs bowed, mouth all dripping, sagging jowls. Massive teeth jut from its mouth like tusks. Its skin is a putrid, knobby green. It smells of death.

It roars at me, drenching me in a spittle so thick I fear I will slip on it. Then it charges.

I can’t believe my own body. I’m stiff from solitary confinement, I haven’t practiced combat in months, but instinct and adrenaline kick in, and soon enough I am dodging the beast like a pro, careening off corners, ducking between its legs.

The piken roars, frustrated, getting more and more worked up, battering the walls with its head.

I haven’t had this much fun in years, I think, as I manage to give it a roundhouse kick across the face.

I land on the ground, beaming from my well-placed kick, but I land in one of its spit puddles and my arms and legs give out in the slime. It’s a momentary lapse, but it’s enough: The beast has me in its jaws.

My whole body floods with warmth, and I am sure that this is the end.

But no pain comes. The creature lets out a long whimper and then releases me from its jaws. It’s a five-foot drop from its mouth to the floor and I land on my knee, which hurts worse than the bite.

I turn to see the piken sprawled out, mouth open, chest heaving powerfully. A massive crescent of puncture wounds stud its chest. It took the brunt of its own bite.

It lets out another low, pitiful moan.

Of course, I think. A Mogadorian beast is as much a Mogadorian as any of the rest. It’s susceptible to the charm too.

I whirl around, trying to get the attention of whoever is watching. It is clear to me that the creature, though wounded, will live. Left to their own devices, the Mogs will nurse their beast back to health so it can live to spoil another day.

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