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“Wait,” I say, stepping forward. They can’t separate us. I don’t want to be alone in here. Panic starts to rise up in me. I can feel my skin start to change, taking on the properties of my duffel bag handles, all leathery and smooth. “Why can’t we—”
“It’s fine,” Ethan says in the most soothing voice he can. It works, because I start to calm down. “They just want to talk to you. It’s probably classified info or something like that. It’s okay. You’re their VIP. Don’t worry.”
I nod reluctantly. Ethan disappears into his appointed room. I stand in the hallway for a few seconds before one of the men clears his throat. I shoot him an annoyed look and then go inside.
It’s the kind of room I recognize from watching too many crime shows on cable over the last year. It’s empty except for a swinging light, a few chairs, and a big metal desk in the center of the room that looks like it could double as an operating table. An interrogation room. I swallow hard.
“Please, have a seat,” someone says.
I turn to see the Mogadorian Ethan was videoconferencing with last night standing in the corner. His gleaming black hair reflects the swinging light, black eyes twinkling. His lips spread across his gray teeth. He has to be seven feet tall, at least.
“We’ve been expecting you, Five,” he continues, his voice rich and low as he waves towards one of the chairs. I hesitate, and then take a seat. The Mog sits across from me.
I’m sitting across from a Mogadorian.
Suddenly, all I can remember are stories Rey told me growing up. About how the Mogs invaded, and about all the terrors they brought with them to our planet. You’d think that they were monsters—and though this guy is definitely creepy and intimidating, he doesn’t look all that different from me, all things considered.
Still, it’s hard for me to keep my fingers from drumming on the table. I pull my hands back, crossing my arms. That’s when I feel the Loric glove and its hidden blade.
Rey always told me that if I was caught I’d be tortured. If that’s what this is really about—all one setup to try to torture me—will I be fast enough to use the blade to escape? Either by destroying the Mogs or myself?
“We’re very pleased with your decision to join us, young Lorien,” the Mog says.
“I don’t have much of a choice if I want to live,” I say.
“An intelligent boy. I always knew we were correct in placing our bets on you. If only more of your kind were able to see the true extent of our might and the inevitability of the Mogadorian rule, we might have saved many casualties.”
“You’ve been in contact with the others?” I ask.
“In some ways.”
“What’s your plan? Are you going after Four next?”
“Based on the charm that protects all of you, that would make sense,” the Mog says, grinning widely, exposing those hideous teeth once again. “Of course, it’s possible that charm has its limits. How many times do you think it will work before it finally fails? We have so many soldiers and scouts willing to test out the spell’s longevity, happy to die in the name of securing our future.”
He’s going to try to kill me, I think. In an instant, I’ve got one glove off and a hand on the table. It’s as if by instinct. I haven’t trained with my newest power, but I take a chance. Sure enough, my skin goes silver as I absorb the properties of the metal. If nothing else it should buy me some time if he attacks me.
The Mog laughs a little.
“Oh, don’t worry. We have others we could test that out on. Isn’t it obvious by now that we have a much brighter future prepared for you?”
“You have other Garde here?” I remember Ethan mentioning Nine being held captive. The idea of meeting another of my kind makes my pulse pound.
I don’t want to do it. Not now, at least. I couldn’t face one of them as someone who turned on them. Not until I’m stronger, until I’ve got my head on right and can really talk some sense into them.
“In due time, you’ll learn about all the ways that we’ve ensured our success in the extermination of the Garde. But we can’t just go around telling you all our secrets, now, can we? Not if you were planning on double-crossing us or were to report back to the Garde. You must prove your loyalty to us before we can continue.”
I hesitate, and focus on my breathing. On calming down. My body changes back to normal, and I place my palms on the table before me.
“A useful power,” the Mog says. “Ethan had not mentioned it in his reports.”
“It’s new,” I say. “Very new.”
He just nods.
“We can help you with that. With all your skills. By the time we’re through training you, you’ll be one of the most powerful players in our ranks. There is not a place on this planet that will be worthy of your rule.”
Something sparks in me. The memory of a place. A destination I never made it to.
“Canada,” I say.
“Canada. I would want to rule over Canada.”
The Mog looks confused for a moment, and then smirks.
“How about all of North America. To start with.”
I nod. I don’t know how else to respond to being offered a continent.