‘Assuming they don’t know I betrayed our people and that my father essentially sentenced me to die? Yeah, that might work.’

‘You only need to distract them for a little bit,’ I say. ‘Long enough for Marina and me to figure a way into the Sanctuary.’

‘There it is,’ Marina says, watching through the window as the Skimmers begin to descend towards Calakmul.

There are a bunch of ancient little buildings below, all of them constructed from limestone that’s been eroding for centuries, the jungle creeping in to reclaim them. My eyes are drawn to the huge pyramid-shaped temple that towers over them all; built on a low hill, the temple is blocky, covered in steep and crumbling staircases that are chiseled right into the stone. I can’t quite make it out from this distance, but there appears to be some kind of door at the top of the pyramid.

‘How much you want to bet we need to climb up to that thing?’ I say.

‘It’s the Sanctuary,’ Marina replies. ‘I’m certain of it.’

‘So are my people, obviously,’ Adam says.

The Mogadorians have cleared the jungle around the Sanctuary in a perfect ring, the trees all chopped down, an entire fleet of Mogadorian scout ships parked on the naked soil. Besides the dozens of Skimmers, I can make out an array of tents where the Mogs must be camping. There’s also what looks to be a couple of heavy-duty missile launchers and blaster turrets, all of these weapons aimed at the temple, and yet the structure looks completely untouched. Oddly, at the base of the temple and creeping up the sides, there are still overgrown trees and vines, untended for years. It’s a stark contrast to the severe neatness of the Mogadorian perimeter, where everything natural has been cleared away.

‘It’s like something kept them from getting too close,’ Marina says, noticing the same thing as me.

‘Malcolm did say that only the Garde could enter,’ I reply.

Our escort of Mog ships float down to the makeshift airfield and Adam lands a few yards away from them. The Sanctuary looms in the distance. The only thing standing between us and the Loric temple is a strip of wide-open land and a small army of Mogadorians, many of whom have begun gathering in the airfield, all of them armed with blasters.

‘Some welcoming committee,’ I say, glancing at Adam. He watches his people mass on the monitor, swallows hard and unbuckles himself from the pilot’s seat.

‘All right, I’ll go first. Lead them away somehow. You guys get into the Sanctuary.’

‘I don’t like this,’ Marina says. ‘There’s a lot of them.’

‘It’ll be fine,’ Adam says. ‘Just get inside and do what you have to do.’

With that, Adam opens the cockpit and hops on to the Skimmer’s hull. There are about thirty Mogadorians down below, waiting on him, with more walking over from the tents. Marina and I hunker down inside the Skimmer, my hand close to hers in case we need to go invisible.

‘Who’s in charge here?’ Adam yells, standing tall and rigid, again putting on his trueborn airs.

A tall female warrior dressed in a sleeveless black overcoat steps forward. She has two thick braids that start on the sides of her head and wrap around it, encircling the traditional Mogadorian tattoos on her scalp. Her hands are wrapped in dusty white bandages, like they’ve recently been injured or burned.

‘I am Phiri Dun-Ra, trueborn daughter of the honorable Magoth Dun-Ra,’ the warrior shouts to Adam. Her posture is nearly as imposing and rigid as his. ‘Why have you come here, Sutekh?’

Adam hops down from our ship, tossing his head to flip his hair out of his eyes.

‘Orders from Beloved Leader himself. I am to inspect this site to prepare for his arrival.’

A tremor passes through the crowd when Adam mentions Setrákus Ra. Many of the Mogs exchange nervous glances. Phiri Dun-Ra, however, appears nonplussed. She strides forward, letting her blaster dangle idly next to her hip. Something tightens up in my stomach at the sight of her. The predatory way she moves, the glint in her eye like trouble could spark at any moment. She’s way sharper than the other Mog warriors I’ve encountered.

‘Ah, Beloved Leader. Of course,’ Phiri says. She waves to the temple in the distance. ‘What would you like to see first, sir?’

Adam takes a step towards the Mog camp and opens his mouth to speak. Smoothly, without warning, Phiri lifts her blaster and cracks Adam across the mouth with the handle. As he falls to the ground, the rest of the Mogadorians level their blasters at him in unison.

‘How about the inside of a cell, traitor?’ Phiri snarls, standing over Adam, her blaster pointed at his face.


I extend my hand to Marina and she grasps it immediately. Invisible, we carefully climb out of the ship, synchronizing our movements. Behind us, I hear a sudden flapping of wings. Dust takes flight in the shape of a tropical bird, his wings flecked with gray. None of the Mogs notice him soar out of the cockpit, and they don’t hear Marina and me leap down to the ground.

They’re too distracted by the show Phiri Dun-Ra is putting on with Adam.

‘I know your father, Sutekh,’ Phiri is saying, projecting her voice so that the Mogs gathered in a semicircle around her and Adam can all hear. ‘He’s a bastard, but at least he’s noble. He believes in Mogadorian Progress.’

If Adam manages a reply, I can’t hear it over the murmur of agreement that comes from the other Mogs. I catch a glimpse of him through the crowd – he’s crumpled at Phiri’s feet, scrabbling in the dirt, trying to regain his feet but probably still seeing stars.