‘You already know that,’ he replies. ‘I showed you what’s to come. Just as I once showed Pittacus Lore.’

Setrákus Ra hits a few buttons on the control panel in front of him and the ship begins to move. Gradually, the Earth, seeming both impossibly far and also like it’s so close I could reach out and grab it, drifts across my view. We aren’t moving towards it; we’re turning in place.

‘You are aboard the Anubis,’ Setrákus Ra intones, a note of pride in his gravelly voice. ‘The flagship of the Mogadorian fleet.’

When the ship completes its turn, I gasp. I reach out and press my hand against the glass for support, knees suddenly weak.

Outside, in orbit around the Earth, is the Mogadorian fleet. Hundreds of ships – most of them long and silver, about the size of small airplanes, just like the ones the Garde have described fighting before. But among them are at least twenty enormous warships that dwarf the rest – looming and menacing, mounted cannons jutting off their angular frames, aimed right at the unsuspecting planet below.

‘No,’ I whisper. ‘This can’t be happening.’

Setrákus Ra walks towards me, and I’m too shocked by the hopeless sight before me to even move. Gently, he drapes his hand on my shoulder. I can feel the coldness of his pale fingers through my gown.

‘The time has come,’ he says, gazing at the fleet with me. ‘The Great Expansion has come to Earth at last. We will celebrate Mogadorian Progress together, granddaughter.’


From the cracked second-floor window of an abandoned textile factory, I watch an old man in a ragged trench coat and filthy jeans crouch down in the doorway of the boarded-up building across the street. Once he’s settled, the man pulls a brown-bagged bottle from his coat and starts drinking. It’s the middle of the afternoon – I’m on watch – and he’s the only living soul I’ve seen in this abandoned part of Baltimore since we got here yesterday. It’s a quiet, deserted place, and yet it’s still preferable to the version of Washington, D.C. I saw in Ella’s vision. For now at least, it doesn’t look like the Mogadorians have pursued us from Chicago.

Although, technically, they wouldn’t have to. There’s already a Mogadorian among us.

Behind me, Sarah stomps her foot. We’re in what used to be the foreman’s office, dust everywhere, the floorboards swollen and mildewed. I turn around just in time to see her frowning at the remains of a cockroach on the bottom of her sneaker.

‘Careful. You might go crashing right through the floor,’ I tell her, only half joking.

‘I guess it was too much to ask for all your secret bases to be in penthouse apartments, huh?’ Sarah asks, fixing me with a teasing smile.

We slept in this old factory last night, our sleeping bags laid on the sunken floorboards. Both of us are filthy, it’s been a couple of days since our last real shower, and Sarah’s blond hair is caked with dirt. She’s still beautiful to me. Without her at my side, I might’ve totally lost it after the attack in Chicago, where the Mogs kidnapped Ella and destroyed the penthouse.

I grimace at the thought, and Sarah’s smile immediately fades. I leave the window and walk over to her.

‘This not knowing is killing me,’ I say, shaking my head. ‘I don’t know what to do.’

Sarah touches my face, trying to console me. ‘At least we know they won’t hurt Ella. Not if what you saw in that vision is true.’

‘Yeah,’ I snort. ‘They’ll just turn her into a brainwashed traitor, like …’

I trail off, thinking of the rest of our missing friends and the turncoat they traveled with. We still haven’t heard anything from Six and the others, not that there’s an easy way for them to get in touch with us. All their Chests are here and, assuming they could even try reaching us by more traditional methods, they wouldn’t have the first clue how to find us, seeing as we had to flee Chicago.

The only thing I know for sure is that I have a fresh scar on my leg, the fourth of its kind. It doesn’t hurt anymore, but it feels like a weight. If the Garde had stayed apart, if we’d kept the Loric charm intact, that fourth scar would’ve symbolized my death. Instead, one of my friends is dead in Florida, and I don’t know how, or who, or what’s happened to the rest of them.

I feel in my gut that Five is still alive. I saw him in Ella’s vision, standing alongside Setrákus Ra, a traitor. He must have led the others into a trap, and now one of them won’t be coming back. Six, Marina, Eight, Nine – one of them is gone.

Sarah wraps her hand around mine, massaging it, trying to ease some of the tension.

‘I can’t stop thinking about what I saw in that vision …’ I begin, trailing off. ‘We’d lost, Sarah. And now it feels like it’s happening for real. Like this is the beginning of the end.’

‘That doesn’t mean anything and you know it,’ Sarah replied. ‘Look at Eight. Wasn’t there some kind of death prophecy about him? And he survived.’

I frown, not stating the obvious, that Eight could be the one who was killed down in Florida.

‘I know it seems bleak,’ Sarah continues, ‘and, I mean, it is pretty bad, John. Obviously.’

‘Good pep talk.’

She squeezes my hand, hard, and widens her eyes at me like shut up.

‘But those guys down in Florida are Garde,’ she says. ‘They’re going to fight, they’re going to keep going and they’re going to win. You have to believe, John. When you were comatose back in Chicago, we never gave up on you. We kept fighting and it paid off. Just when it seemed like we’d lost, you saved us.’