I consider the possibility that this could be some kind of test orchestrated by Setrákus Ra. But remembering the way Five acted earlier, I decide to take my chances that he’s for real. I hop out of bed and pull on my thin-soled Mogadorian slippers.
‘Okay, what’s your plan?’
Five stands up and his skin reverts to normal. As the automatic lights come on in my room, I can finally see his face. He’s changed the bandage over his eye so that it isn’t crusty with blood anymore, but he still hasn’t gotten it healed. His remaining eye twinkles like he’s excited to get into some trouble. Seeing him makes me second-guess my decision to join forces.
‘I’m going to open up one of the airlocks and jump out,’ Five says, illustrating his brilliant plan.
‘That’s nice for you. You can fly. What am I supposed to do?’
Five reaches into his back pocket and casually tosses me a round object. I catch the stone in my hands and cradle it. I recognize it as one of the objects from John’s Chest.
‘Xitharis stone,’ Five explains. ‘I, uh, borrowed it from our friends.’
‘You stole it.’
He shrugs. ‘I charged it with my flight Legacy. Use it to fly off and save the planet.’
I hide the stone inside my dress, then look up at Five. ‘So that’s it? You think we’re just going to walk off this ship?’
Five raises an eyebrow at me. I notice that he’s not wearing any shoes or socks, probably so his bare feet are in constant contact with the metal paneling of the Anubis. Also, attached to his forearm is some kind of contraption that looks like it might be a weapon.
‘They won’t be able to stop me,’ Five says, a dark confidence in his voice. It isn’t exactly inspiring, but it’s the best hope I’ve got.
‘Okay, lead the way.’
The door to my room slides open for Five. He pokes his head out, checking to see that the coast is clear. When he’s satisfied, Five hustles into the hallway, motioning for me to follow. We navigate the labyrinthine halls of the Anubis at a brisk walk.
‘Just act normal,’ Five tells me, keeping his voice low. ‘He’s got scouts watching us, always. But they’re also afraid of us. You, in particular, are supposed to be treated like royalty. They won’t interfere if we don’t look suspicious. And, even if they do think something’s wrong, by the time one of them actually works up the guts to tell Beloved Leader, we’ll be gone …’
He’s talking a lot. That tells me that he’s nervous. Without thinking about it – because if I actually thought about it, I might get too repulsed – I reach out and take Five’s hand.
‘We’re just a newly betrothed couple, getting to know each other,’ I say. ‘Enjoying a nice walk through the cozy halls of a massive warship.’
Five’s hand is sweaty and cold. He tries to jerk away from me, his initial instinct not to be touched, but after a moment he calms down and lets his dead-fish hand be held.
‘Betrothed?’ he grunts. ‘He wants us to get married?’
‘That’s what Setrákus Ra said.’
‘He says a lot of things.’ Five’s face is red, the blush traveling all the way up into his scalp. I’m not sure if he’s embarrassed or angry or some combination of the two. ‘I didn’t agree to that. You’re a child.’
‘Um, obviously I didn’t agree either. You’re a gross, murdering, weirdo –’
‘Shut up,’ Five hisses, and for a second I think that I’ve actually offended him. But then I realize we’re passing by the open entranceway of the observation deck.
I can’t help but slow my steps as we sneak by. The empty darkness of space I’d gotten used to has been replaced by the familiar, bright-blue atmosphere of Earth. The Anubis is still making its descent, but already the outline of civilization is visible, roads boxing up green fields, tiny houses arranged into perfect suburbs. Dozens of Mogadorians have gathered to watch Earth approach, an excited energy in the air as they whisper to one another, probably talking about which swath of land they’ll pillage first.
Five leads me around the next corner and crashes right into two Mog warriors who were jogging towards the observation deck. The nearest one lifts a corner of his mouth in a disdainful sneer, eyeing us.
‘What are you two doing?’ the Mog asks.
In response, I draw myself up, trying to look as regal as possible. I fix the overcurious Mog with a cold stare. The Mog’s sneer quickly fades as he remembers himself – or, more likely, remembers that I’m not just some Lorien but the blood of his Beloved Leader – and he looks down at the floor. He begins to mutter something apologetic when a metallic shink cuts him off.
A needlelike blade extends from the leather contraption on Five’s forearm. In a blur, Five drives the blade right through the first Mog’s forehead, instantly turning him to ash. The other Mog’s eyes widen in panic and he tries to run. A delighted grin spreads across Five’s face. Before the Mog can get even a few steps down the hall, Five’s non-blade arm takes on a rubbery consistency and stretches after him. Five’s arm snakes around the Mog’s neck and then yanks him backwards so Five can finish him off with his blade.
The whole thing is over in about ten seconds.
‘We were supposed to be acting normal,’ I say to Five in a loud whisper, mindful that we’re not all that far from the crowded observation room.