‘Listen to me!’ he shouts in my face.

‘Go to hell,’ I reply.

With my working arm, I grab Five’s metal forearm and heat up my Lumen as hot as it can go. Whatever metal he’s turned into, it definitely has a boiling point. I wonder if I can get his metal shell to melt off before he can do whatever he’s got planned.

‘Stop it, John!’ Five yelps, shaking me.

‘You murdered Eight, you son of a bitch!’

Noxious-smelling steam curls up from between my fingers. Five’s eye widens a fraction, but he doesn’t let me loose and he doesn’t pull away. I’m hurting him and he’s just taking it.

‘You arrogant asshole,’ Five snaps, and he cocks back his fist like he’s going to strike me. I’m not sure I have the strength to stop him. His clenched fist trembles, and he seems to reconsider. ‘Listen to me, John! If you hurt Setrákus Ra, the damage will be done to Ella!’

I let the heat of my Lumen die down a fraction. My hand feels sticky with molten metal.

‘What? What are you talking about?’

‘It’s a charm, like the one the Elders used on us,’ Five says. ‘He’s twisted it somehow.’

I turn off my Lumen entirely. Is Five trying to help us now? Did he knock me off Setrákus Ra not to protect his Beloved Leader but to save Ella? I don’t know what to think.

‘How do we break it?’ I shout at him. ‘How do we kill him?’

‘I don’t know,’ Five replies, glancing over his shoulder. His expression suddenly goes dark again, that fury I’d seen when he was about to punch me reignited. ‘Damn him!’

Five rips away from me and takes flight. I climb back to my feet just in time to see Nine charging at Setrákus Ra. He holds a broken piece of the stage out in front of him like a spear.

‘Nine! Don’t!’

Nine doesn’t hear me, probably because he’s too busy getting sideswiped by Five. The two of them go crashing into the wreckage of the stage, broken pieces of wood flying everywhere. Once they hit, it looks like Five tries to take flight again, but Nine gets hold of his ankle.

‘Where you going, fat boy?’ I hear Nine yell.

Nine gets back to his feet, still holding Five’s ankle, and then swings him with all his might. Five flaps his arms in a futile attempt to get some momentum, but he’s overpowered. Nine slams Five face-first on to the pavement. Chunks of concrete fly up from the impact, and Five’s head makes the sound of a bell ringing when it hits. I notice his metallic shell momentarily switch back to normal skin – that must’ve hurt Five enough to make it hard to focus on his Externa.

‘Nine! Enough!’ I shout, pushing loose of my own pile of broken wood.

Nine glances in my direction, and that’s when Five uppercuts him. With a roar, Nine dives back at him, and they slam together. They hurl punches at each other, a tangled mess of limbs that I lose sight of when they go crashing through the front window of the United Nations building.

I can’t worry about them now. I have to get to Setrákus Ra.

I have to save Ella. I won’t let her be taken for a second time.

My left arm hangs limp at my side. I’d need to pop my shoulder back in before I could heal myself, but I don’t have time for that. I shake crusty flakes of metal off my hand and strap my dagger to the wrist of my working arm. I’ll have to do this one handed.

Surprisingly, Setrákus Ra doesn’t seem the least bit interested in staying to fight. He drags Ella through the rubble, heading for the pearl-shaped ship he arrived in. Ella looks a lot like she did in that vision we shared of Washington, D.C. – like she’s been drained of something essential. I wonder what they did to her on that warship.

No matter what happens! Do it! Ella had shouted in my mind. No matter what happens. Five must not be lying. Ella knew what the consequences of me stabbing Setrákus Ra would be, and she accepted them.

Whatever they did to her, the Mogs didn’t break her. She had enough fight left in her to help us. It was like Dulce Base all over again. She stuck Setrákus Ra with a glowing piece of debris, and my Legacies instantly came back.

She drained Setrákus Ra’s powers, I realize. And, judging by his cowardly retreat, they still haven’t returned to him.

I might not be able to kill Setrákus Ra, but that doesn’t mean I can’t subdue him. Let’s see the Mogadorians invade while I’m holding their Beloved Leader hostage.

I race across the lopsided and broken stage, trying to cut off Setrákus Ra before he can reach his ship. Ella sees me coming and digs her heels in. She struggles against Ra’s grip and this slows him up just enough. I’m going to catch him.

‘Setrákus Ra!’

Damn it. Not now.

The Mogadorian leader doesn’t even acknowledge Agent Walker as she comes at him from his other side. Does she expect him to freeze? It’s her and two other agents who have managed to extricate themselves from the riotous, panicking crowd. Sam is with them. They stop a few yards off, their guns leveled. Even Sam looks ready to fire – his eyes narrowed, his mouth pressed into a firm line. I remember those acid burns on Sam’s wrists. They came courtesy of Setrákus Ra. I’m sure he’s ready to settle that score.

‘Wait!’ I yell at Sam and Walker, but I’m too late.

Setrákus Ra jerks his head in the direction of the agents and Sam, like they’re an annoying bug that needs to be swatted. With the hand not holding Ella, Setrákus Ra produces that three-headed whip of his from where it’s hidden under his torn uniform. Before he can lash out at them, the agents and Sam open fire.