‘Marina, let him go,’ I say.

She complies, yanking Dale ahead of her so that he stumbles into the gravel, ending up on his knees right in front of me. I give her a look – I understand where the violent streak comes from, but I don’t like it. Marina ignores me.

‘Tell them what you told me,’ Marina orders Dale. ‘Your amazing story.’

Dale looks at the three of us, eager to please yet obviously terrified, probably thinking we’re going to kill him if he doesn’t listen.

‘There’s an old NASA base out in the swamp. Got decommissioned in the eighties when the swamp started rising,’ Dale begins haltingly, rubbing the side of his face to warm it up. ‘I go out there sometimes, looking for stuff I can sell. Normally, it’s deserted. But last night, man, I swear I saw UFOs floating around out there. Creepy guys who didn’t look right with guns like I ain’t never seen guarding the place. You ain’t with them, are you?’

‘No,’ I answer. ‘We most definitely are not.’

‘Dale’s volunteered to show us the way,’ Marina says, nudging Dale with the toe of her sneaker. He swallows hard and then nods enthusiastically.

‘It’s not far,’ he says. ‘Couple hours through the swamp.’

‘We just spent two days hiking out of that swamp,’ Nine says. ‘Now you want to go back in?’

‘They have him,’ Marina hisses, pointing into the dark. ‘You heard Malcolm’s story about what they did to Number One. They stole her Legacies.’

I give Marina a sharp look. Even if most of it doesn’t make any sense to him, Dale’s still listening intently to our conversation. ‘Should we really be talking about this?’

Marina snorts. ‘You’re worried about Dale, Six? They’re killing us and blowing up our friends. Keeping secrets from this drunk is the least of our worries.’

Dale raises his hand. ‘I swear I won’t say nothing about … about whatever you’re talking about.’

‘What about Chicago?’ Nine asks. ‘What about the others?’

Marina affords Nine only a quick glare. She keeps her eyes on me when she answers. ‘You know I’m worried about them. But we don’t know where John and the others are, Six. We know where Eight is. And I am not, under any circumstances, letting those sick bastards keep him.’

The way she says it, I know there’s no way to convince Marina otherwise. If we don’t go with her, she’ll go by herself. Not that I even consider not going. I’m spoiling for a fight almost as bad as she is. And if there’s a chance Eight’s body is still out there – in the clutches of Mogadorians still lingering in Florida, maybe with Five – then we have to at least try recovering it. Leave no Garde behind.

‘Dale,’ I say, ‘I hope you’ve got a boat we can borrow.’


The slab of meat in front of me looks like a soggy piece of uncooked fish, except it’s lacking any texture whatsoever. I poke it with my fork and the pale slab jiggles like gelatin. Or maybe it’s still alive and trying to escape, those unappetizing tremors its attempt to slowly wiggle off my plate. If I look away, I wonder if the thing will pick up the pace and try crawling into one of the air vents.

I want to vomit.

‘Eat,’ Setrákus Ra commands.

He called himself my grandfather. That thought makes me more nauseous than the food. I don’t want to believe him. This could be just like the visions, some sick game meant to get under my skin.

But why go through all the trouble? Why bring me here? Why not just kill me?

Setrákus Ra sits across from me, all the way down at the opposite end of a ridiculously large banquet table that looks as if it was carved from lava. His chair is thronelike, made of the same dark stone as the table, but definitely not large enough to accommodate the mammoth warlord we fought at Dulce Base. No, at some point when I wasn’t watching, Setrákus Ra shrunk down to a more reasonable eight feet tall so that he could comfortably hunch over his own plate of Mogadorian cuisine.

Could his size changing be a Legacy? It works really similarly to my ability to alter my age.

‘You have questions,’ Setrákus Ra rumbles, observing me.

‘What are you?’ I blurt out.

He cocks his head. ‘What do you mean, child?’

‘You’re a Mogadorian,’ I say, trying not to sound too frantic. ‘I’m Loric. We can’t be related.’

‘Ah, such a simplistic idea. Human, Loric, Mogadorian – these are just words, dear one. Labels. Centuries ago, my experiments proved that our genetics could be changed. They could be augmented. We needn’t wait for Lorien to gift us with Legacies. We could take them as we needed them, utilizing them like any other resource.’

‘Why do you keep saying we?’ I ask, my voice cracking. ‘You’re not one of us.’

Setrákus Ra smiles thinly. ‘I was Loric once. The tenth Elder. Until the time came when I was cast out. Then, I became what you see before you: the powers of a Garde combined with the strength of a Mogadorian. An evolutionary improvement.’

My legs start shaking under the table. I hardly listen after he mentions the tenth Elder. I remember that from Crayton’s letter. He said my father was obsessed with the fact that our family once had an Elder. Could that have been Setrákus Ra?

‘You’re crazy,’ I say. ‘And you’re a liar.’