A Number's Game

Set the World on Fire

When Eight sets me down against the crystalline wall I feel it necessary to ask him. It's probably the most cliché thing I've ever said in my life, but at the moment I didn't know how else to put it. "Am I dead?"

He gives me a look of near-bewilderment before a wide grin spreads across his face. "Why would you ask that?"

"Because…" I point at him with a shaky hand, not entirely sure how to make the words make sense. This Eight was supposed to be dead, or at least long gone from here and me. Shock is starting to set in me, and I'm not sure what to do. How was he here? How was this possible? How many times was all this craziness going to happen and what forces are at work here?

He holds up a finger to interrupt me. "You know what; we can talk about this later. You rest up, I'll be back." And just like that, he's gone. Turns and disappears into what I'm just noticing is a very nasty looking fight.

Mogadorians are everywhere, completely flooding the room. I see Nine jumping up from the crowd, high enough to bring his staff down with some malice. A zig-zag of white light from Setrakus Ra's sceptre shoots over his head just too late as he once again disappears into the horde. Clouds of Mog dust are coming up left and right.

Where Eight had disappeared, a rhinoceros is trampling every guard that comes even close, bucking at them with his horn and grinding them into powder against the walls. It takes me a second to rationalize a rhino in the battle: it was Eight, of course. But I just couldn't wrap my head around it, not yet.

I'm almost blinded as a small inferno lights up half the room as John battles Setrakus Ra. The Mogadorian overlord continues to shoot his Legacy-draining beams of light, but John seems to only absorb them as he lobs fires the size of bowling balls.

A sword comes clattering to my side. The handle slides into my thigh, and I follow its path towards me from the ensuing battle. I can see the back of Adam, the Mogadorian I'd sent on an accidentally-on-purpose wild goose chase. He's got his hands raised, and with one swipe of his arms a pair of advancing Mogs are blown into the air and out of sight.

I can't really understand what I'm seeing. How could he have Legacies like us? I don't really get the chance to consider it, not when an explosion the size of a small bus lights up the room. John soars through the air, his clothes partially ablaze as he collides with the opposite wall. I cringe for a moment, wondering if he was okay, but then I see that part of the room light up with fire. Mogadorians scramble away like gazelle from a lion.

Storm clouds roil overhead, zapping Mogadorians to ashes as Six levitates among the clouds. I feel invigorated by the show we were putting on—we were finally winning this thing. Adrenaline heals whatever was left injured of me, and I grab the sword as I push myself to my feet. A green bolt from a blaster comes flying at me first thing, and I conjure a snowball to counteract it. The light dissipates midair, and before the Mog can react I loosen the blaster from his hands with the flat of my sword on his fingers, and then impale him in his newly revealed torso. Instant ashes.

I hear Nine screaming, and from where John once battled Ra, Nine has taken his place. The two go at it, old-fashioned with swords and pure stamina. Metal scrapes against metal, almost louder than anything else as it echoes around the hall.

Then, I hear Nine shriek. Not in a battle cry, either, but in something more animal than I'd ever heard him make. It's almost as if I can feel my ankle tinging with anticipation, and I frantically dispatch my latest opponent as I search for Nine's head amongst the crowd. But I can't see him anymore, only Ra, who's got that shit-eating grin that could only mean one thing. His arm seems to rise in slow motion, blade pointed downward.

Like he materialized from nowhere, Adam is suddenly behind me, talking quietly but somehow over the noise of the fight. "Get to Nine, I'll distract him."

I'm not even sure if he saw my nod before he shoves off, ducking through tangled Mogs, some of which were on fire, without a problem. I make to follow him, but my journey is not as smooth, and I'm caught up in fighting my way over to where Ra was.

I'm slashing away with my sword when, like some kind of guardian angel from above, an elephant literally falls out of the sky. Another few steps forward and it would have killed me, but in any case my path was cleared, and I smiled up at Eight thankfully even though I still had no idea what to make of him. Again.

Before me, Adam is squaring off with Setrakus Ra, using his apparent telekinesis to try and shift the other giant alien. It's not working all that well, Ra barely moving, but the overlord seems more engaged by the thought of Adam than the threat of Adam. Who wouldn't be; not only the first traitorous Mog ever, but also the first to have Garde-like abilities.

I slide over to Nine, who looks a lot worse than I would have ever imagined seeing him. He's loosely pressing his hands over his stomach, as if to hold his organs in while blood seeps from between his fingers. His eyes are rolled back in his head, almost as much as was coming from his middle was leaking from his mouth; all the while he made a horrible choking noise.

He curls up, coughing up blood in a fit like he can't control himself. He probably couldn't.

I don't think I've ever dealt with such a severe injury, and when I peel away his hands I do see unknown puffy flesh sticking out from the gaping hole that was slowly soaking the front of his shirt and pooling on the floor. He was going to be dead very soon, and for a second I wasn't sure if I should push his insides back in, just put my hands on it or just not touch it at all with the hopes it'll recede on its own.

Gurgling coughs urge me to make a quick decision, and so I opt for the first choice, forcing the parts sticking out back in and ignoring the amount of blood as I put my hands directly over the wound. His flesh starts to recede inside and Nine somehow manages to scream foaming blood. I cringe for a moment—scared. Scared of quite a few things at the same time.

Five Mogadorians—large and ugly as hell—approach me from behind. I twist, poising one hand to fling them away with my telekinesis while keeping one hand firmly placed on Nine's midsection. Three tumble off into the distance, flying over the heads of their comrades with one sweep of my arm. Turning back to Nine, I create a field of sharp icicles around us. The barrier doesn't seem to daunt them, and as one tries to climb over (and quickly slips and is impaled) the other begins to hack through the wall (ineffectively) with his blaster.

Nine stirs, the wound now completely closed but still an angry shade of red surrounded by deep purple bruising. I suppose he might also have internal bleeding. The Mogadorian using his blaster as a sword finally seems to realize what the blaster is actually for and begins to shoot it at the spikes. He's quickly burning a hole towards us.

I look over my shoulder, raising my hand once again and snapping it shut in a squeezing motion. Like a paper doll, the Mogadorian crumples in on himself under the sheer force of my telekinesis. He makes a morbid squishing noise and a desperate scream right before exploding into ashes, his blaster clattering to the ground not feet from me.

For a moment, I'm frozen. Where did that come from? It was like a sudden craving for blood—that morose thirst I'd seen flash time and again in Nine and Six's eyes during a fight. I'm stunned, shocked for a moment in my own actions. Torn in myself over what I'd just done—even if it was a Mogadorian.

Nine starts spluttering, returning to consciousness, and I'm brought back. He looks dazed for a moment, but then I see his eyes light up with recognition and he struggles to get back to his feet.

"Nine!" I yell at him. "Stop, you're not ready to fight again!" I try to pull him back down to my level, but he won't have it.

Nine pushes my hands away. "No," he groans, looking at me with determination. He says something else, but it's not coherent, he's just speaking gibberish as he tries to stagger upright.

Can he get brain damage? My legacy can heal that, can't it? I don't know, I never thought about it and I never tried it on anyone else. Before I can even decide what to do, Nine flickers, as if he was some kind of hologram, and then completely vanishes.

"Nine!" I stand up quickly, rotating around but he's no longer within the compounds of my ice fortress, and he's nowhere else to be seen.

I'm panicked, confused, and then everything just shifts. My world is thrown to the side, my ice walls burst into a million tiny crystals as everything just seems to fall over. I skid, painfully, across the floor until I finally come to a halt, my side burning.

"Enough of these games!" A shadow appears over me, and it's Setrakus Ra. He's yelling at… the ceiling? "ENOUGH!"

I suddenly realize… everything is moving in slow motion, and not in a dramatic way. The Mogs, Six, Adam, Eight, John move at a turtles pace, hurtling through the air and swinging weapons at a quarter of their normal speed. Everything is happening around me with perfect circle separating Ra and myself from the rest of the fight. My ice walls are still bursting into shrapnel, slowly, only feet away from me. I feel like I'm in that movie Nine made me watch… The Matrix. I'm in the freaking Matrix.

"You!" Ra's head snaps down, and he points his sceptre right at me. "This is all your fault. You're ruining my plans."

I'm stuck, still stunned from my tumble. But those words, they energize me. That's… that's exactly what the witch of Dulce said to me before we fought. You're ruining my plans. Why can't I just chalk that up to a coincidence?

And then I remembered what I could do. And what I had to do.

"This ends now!" Ra growls, and just as I suspected, he lowers his sceptre and shoots a beam of white light straight into my face. But I'm faster. A wall of ice rips itself from the crystal floor, milky white, gritty with a slick layer of snow. The light refracts slightly, but is ultimately bounces off like a mirror. The handicapping white light turns around and hits Setrakus Ra's chest.

At first, the massive Mogadorian looks stunned. This, obviously, had never happened before to him. He's in shock, frozen, trying to form words as if his debilitating beam also stole one's ability to speak. I don't give him the chance as a spike of ice—three times my height—shoots from the ground and impales his stomach, resurfacing behind his neck.

Time speeds up. Reality catches up with our bubble. My head is starting to spin.

Then I see Ra. Mouth agape, eyes already going cloudy. Now with no regeneration, there was nothing to stop his death. The thousands of tiny scars that decorated his body are starting to glow. They're lighting up, connecting like cracks as an intense glow from his core begins to show through the breaks in his skin. Small pieces of skin detach and float away like crisped embers.

He was going to explode.

"Marina!" John, running towards me. Six, Adam and Eight are behind him. The Mogadorian army seems to have noticed the fall of their leader as well, but instead they're running away. They crowd at the doors, pushing and shoving to get out of the blast zone. They know what's going to happen.

The fissures in Ra's skin get bigger. The ice around us melts instantly as a spurt of heat is released from his body.

I scramble to my feet, to where my friends are running towards me. As soon as I reach them, John pushes me back, standing between Ra and the rest of us.

The giant, ugly scar is the first to explode. It's like the catalyst, sending the rest of Setrakus Ra's body into convulsions as it's ripped apart by pure energy. He explodes like a nuclear missile head, and just as the power reaches us, John raises his arms and creates a wall of fire. His feet, well planted, slide on the floor as the explosion pushes him back, but his fire wall protects us and absorbs the blast.

The Mogadorians around us are instantly dissolved in the flare. The heat, from all sides, is intense on my face and I feel my cheeks beginning to blister. We're trapped in an inferno, and I do a silent prayer that John will be able to hold.

The blast ends.

Everything, finally, settles. John lowers his arms, the fire wall dissipating as his knees buckle and he falls back. Six runs over to help him, but he seems okay. The room is silent… it's finished.

I can't believe it's over.

I'm suddenly trapped in a bone-crushing hug, and it takes me a second to remember. Eight. I raise my hands hesitantly to hold his back, still slightly in shock. His hair smells like ashes.

He pulls back, still holding me at a half-arm's length. His smile is blinding. "Marina, you did it."

And then Nine's there. Back, hugging John in the most brotherly way I'd ever seen them. And from over Eight's shoulder I see Sarah, and Sam. And more people are appearing, entering the room. A tall, blonde girl who runs up to Adam and grabs him in a hug. Crayton, clapping Six on the shoulder. And I don't understand anymore.

But I'm kind of past that, at this point.

I try to push past Eight to all my friends, but he holds me firm. "Eight," I try and protest, but he holds my shoulders tightly and realigns himself in my line of vision. My restlessness is settled by his intense gaze.

"Marina…" He says slowly. "I—I haven't told you the entire truth, either. I pushed you into the Beyond. I knew… I knew who you were the entire time. I'm sorry."



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