IN THE BEGINNING WE WERE A GROUP OF NINE.
Nine aliens who left our home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack from the deadly
We scattered on earth and went into hiding.
We look like ordinary teenagers.
We are not.
Until I met John Smith, Number Four, I'd been on the run alone, hiding and fighting to stay
alive. Together we are much more powerful. But it could only last so long before we had to
They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They caught me in New York - but I escaped.
I am Number Six. The Mogodorians want to finish what they started.
But they'll have to fight us first.
6A. Seriously? I look at the boarding pass in my
hand, its large type announcing my seat assignment,
and wonder if Crayton chose this seat on
purpose. It could be a coincidence, but the way
things have gone recently, I am not a big believer
in coincidences. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marina
sat down behind me in row seven, and Ella made
her way back to row ten. But, no, the two girls drop
down beside me without saying a word, and join me
in studying each person boarding the plane. Being
hunted, you are constantly on guard. Who knows
when the Mogadorians might appear.
Crayton will board last, after he’s watched to see
who else gets on the plane, and only once he feels
the flight is absolutely secure.
I raise the window shade and watch the ground
crew hustle back and forth under the plane. The
city of Barcelona is a faint outline in the distance.
Marina’s knee bounces furiously up and down
next to mine. The battle against an army of Mogadorians
yesterday at the lake, the death of her Cêpan,
finding her Chest – and now, it’s the first time in
almost ten years that she’s left the town where she
spent her childhood. She’s nervous.
‘Everything okay?’ I ask. My newly blond hair
falls into my face and startles me. I forgot I dyed it
this morning. It’s just one of many changes in the
last forty-eight hours.
‘Everyone looks normal,’ Marina whispers, keeping
her eyes on the crowded aisle. ‘We’re safe, as
far as I can tell.’
‘Good, but that’s not what I meant.’ I gently set
my foot on hers and she stops bouncing her knee.
She offers me a quick apologetic smile before returning
to her close watch of each boarding passenger.
A few seconds later, her knee starts bouncing again.
I just shake my head.
I feel sorry for Marina. She was locked up in an
isolated orphanage with a Cêpan who refused to
train her. Her Cêpan had lost sight of why we are
here on Earth in the first place. I’m doing my best to
help her, to fill in the gaps. I can train her to learn
how to control her strength and when to use her
developing Legacies. But first I’m trying to show her
that it’s okay to trust me.
The Mogadorians will pay for what they’ve done.
For taking so many whom we’ve loved, here on
Earth and on Lorien. It’s my personal mission to
destroy every last one of them, and I’ll be sure
Marina gets her revenge too. Not only did she just
lose her best friend, Héctor, back at the lake, but,
like me, her Cêpan was killed right in front of her. We
will both carry that with us forever.
‘How is it down there, Six?’ Ella asks, leaning
I turn back towards the window. The men below the plane begin to clear away their equipment, conducting
a few last-minute checks. ‘So far, so good.’
My seat is directly over the wing, which is comforting
to me. On more than one occasion I’ve had
to use my Legacies to help a pilot out of a jam. Once,
over southern Mexico, I used my telekinesis to push
the plane a dozen degrees to the right, only seconds
before crashing into the side of a mountain. Last
year I got 124 passengers safely through a vicious
thunderstorm over Kansas by surrounding the
plane with an impervious cloud of cool air. We shot
through the storm like a bullet through a balloon.
When the ground crew moves on to the next plane,
I follow Ella’s gaze towards the front of the aisle.
We’re both impatient for Crayton to board. That will
mean everything is okay, at least for now. Every
seat is full but the one behind Ella. Where is he? I
glance out at the wing again, scanning the area for
anything out of the ordinary.
I lean down and shove my backpack under my seat.
It’s practically empty, so it folds down easily. Crayton
bought it for me at the airport. The three of us need
to look like normal teenagers, he says, like high
school students on a field trip. That’s why there’s a
biology textbook on Ella’s lap.
‘Six?’ Marina asks. I hear her buckle and unbuckle
her seat belt nervously.
‘Yeah?’ I respond.
‘You’ve flown before, right?’
Marina is only a year older than I am. But with her
solemn, thoughtful eyes and her new, sophisticated
haircut that falls just below her shoulders, she can
easily pass for an adult. Right now, however, she
bites her nails and pulls her knees up to her chest
like a scared child.
‘Yes,’ I say. ‘It’s not so bad. In fact, once you relax,
it’s kind of awesome.’
Sitting there on the plane, my thoughts turn in
the direction of my own Cêpan, Katarina. Not that I
ever flew with her. But when I was nine years old,
we had a close call in a Cleveland alley with a Mogadorian
that left us both shaken and covered in a
thick layer of ash. Katarina moved us to Southern
California after that. Our crumbling, two-story bungalow
was near the beach, practically in the shadow
of Los Angeles International Airport. A hundred
planes roared overhead every hour, always interrupting
Katarina’s teaching, as well as the little free
time I had to spend with my only friend, a skinny
girl next door named Ashley.
I lived under those airplanes for seven months.
They were my alarm clock in the morning, screaming
directly over my bed as the sun rose. At night
they were ominous ghosts telling me to stay awake,
to be prepared to rip off my sheets and jump in the
car in a matter of seconds. Since Katarina didn’t let
me stray far from the house, the airplanes were
also the sound track of my afternoons.
On one of those afternoons, as the vibrations from
an enormous plane overhead shook the lemonade in
our plastic cups, Ashley said, ‘Me and my mom are
going to visit my grandparents next month. I can’t
wait! Have you ever been on a plane?’ Ashley was
always talking about all the places she went and
things she did with her family. She knew Katarina
and I stayed close to home and she liked to brag.
‘Not really,’ I said.
‘What do you mean, “Not really”? You’ve either
been on a plane, or you haven’t. Just admit it. You
I remember feeling my face burn with embarrassment.
Her challenge hit its mark. I finally said, ‘No,
I’ve never been on an airplane.’ I wanted to tell her
I’ve been on something much bigger, something
much more impressive than a little airplane. I
wanted her to know I came to Earth on a ship from
another planet called Lorien and the trip had
covered more than 100 million miles. I didn’t,
though, because I knew I had to keep Lorien secret.
Ashley laughed at me. Without saying good-bye,
she left to wait for her dad to come home from
‘Why haven’t we ever been on a plane?’ I asked
Katarina that night as she peered out the blinds of
my bedroom window.
‘Six,’ she said, turning to me before correcting
herself. ‘I mean, Veronica. It’s too dangerous for us
to travel by plane. We’d be trapped up there. You
know what could happen if we were thousands of
miles in the air and then found out Mogs had
us on board?’
I knew exactly what could happen. I could picture
the chaos, the other passengers screaming and
ducking under their seats as a couple of huge alien
soldiers barreled down the aisle with swords. But
that didn’t stop me from wanting to do something so
normal, so human, as to fly on a plane from one city
to the next. I’d spent all my time on Earth unable to
do the things other kids my age took for granted. We
rarely even stayed in one place long enough for me
to meet other kids, let alone make friends – Ashley
was the first girl Katarina even allowed over to our
house. Sometimes, like in California, I didn’t even
attend school, if Katarina thought it was safer.
I knew why all this was necessary, of course. Usually,
I didn’t let it bother me. But Katarina could tell
that Ashley’s superior attitude had gotten under my
skin. My silence the following days must have cut
through her, because to my surprise she bought us
two round-trip airline tickets to Denver. The destination
didn’t matter – she knew I just wanted the
I couldn’t wait to tell Ashley.
But on the day of the trip, standing outside the
airport, Katarina hesitated. She seemed nervous.
She ran her hand through her short black hair. She
had dyed and cut it the night before, just before
making herself a new ID. A family of five walked
around us on the curb, dragging heavy luggage, and
to my left a tearful mother said good-bye to her two
young daughters. I wanted nothing more than to
join in, to be a part of this everyday scene. Katarina
watched everyone around us while I fidgeted impatiently
by her side.
‘No,’ Katarina finally said. ‘We’re not going. I’m
sorry, Veronica, but it’s not worth it.’
We drove home in silence, letting the screaming
engines of the planes passing overhead speak for
us. When we got out of the car on our street, I saw
Ashley sitting on her front steps. She looked at me
walking towards our house and mouthed the word
liar. The humiliation was almost too much to bear.
But, really, I was a liar. It’s ironic. Lying was all
I had done since I’d arrived on Earth. My name,
where I was from, where my father was, why I
couldn’t stay the night at another girl’s house –
lying was all I knew and it was what kept me alive.
But when Ashley called me a liar the one time I was
telling someone the truth, I was unspeakably angry.
I stormed up to my room, slammed the door, and
punched the wall.
To my surprise, my fist went straight through.
Katarina slammed my door open, wielding a kitchen
knife and ready to strike. She thought the noise
she’d heard must be Mogs. When she saw what I
had done to the wall, she realized that something
had changed with me. She lowered the blade and
smiled. ‘Today’s not the day you get on a plane, but
it is the day you’re going to start your training.’
Seven years later, sitting on this plane with Marina
and Ella, I hear Katarina’s voice in my head.
‘We’d be trapped up there.’ But I’m ready for that
possibility now, in ways that Katarina and I weren’t.
I’ve since flown dozens of times, and everything
has gone fine. However, this is the first time I’ve
done it without using my invisibility Legacy to sneak
on board. I know I’m much stronger now. And I’m
getting stronger by the day. If a couple of Mog soldiers
charged at me from the front of the plane,
they wouldn’t be dealing with a meek young girl. I
know what I’m capable of; I am a soldier now, a
warrior. I am someone to fear, not hunt.
Marina lets go of her knees and sits up straight,
releasing a long breath. In a barely audible voice,
she says, ‘I’m scared. I just want to get in the air.’
‘You’ll be fine,’ I say in a low voice.
She smiles, and I smile back at her. Marina proved
herself to be a strong ally with amazing Legacies on
the battlefield yesterday. She can breathe under
water, see in the dark, and heal the sick and wounded.
Like all Garde, she also has telekinesis. And because
we’re so close in order – I’m Number Six and she’s
Number Seven – our bond is special. When the charm
still held and we had to be killed in order, the Mogadorians
would have had to get through me before
they could get to her. And they never would have
gotten through me.
Ella sits silently on the other side of Marina. As
we continue to wait for Crayton, she opens the biology
book on her lap and stares at the pages. Our
charade does not demand this level of concentration
and I’m about to lean over and tell her, but then I
see she isn’t reading at all. She is trying to turn the
page with her mind, trying to use telekinesis, but
Ella is what Crayton calls an Aeternus, someone
born with the ability to move back and forth between
ages. But she’s still young and her Legacies have
not yet developed. They will come in their own time,
no matter how impatiently she wills them to develop
Ella came to Earth on another ship, one I didn’t
know existed until John Smith, Number Four, told
me he saw it in his visions. She was just a baby,
which means she’s almost twelve now. Crayton says
he is her unofficial Cêpan, since there wasn’t time
for him to be officially appointed to her. He, like all
of our Cêpans, has a duty to help Ella develop her
Legacies. He told us that there was also a small
herd of Chimæra on their ship, Loric animals capable
of shifting forms and battling alongside us.
I’m happy she’s here. After Numbers One, Two, and
Three died, only six of us remained. With Ella, we are
number seven. Lucky number seven, if you believe
in luck. I don’t, though. I believe in strength.
Finally, Crayton squeezes down the aisle, carrying
a black briefcase. He’s wearing eyeglasses and a
brown suit that looks too big for him. Under his
strong chin is a blue bow tie. He’s supposed to be
‘Hello, girls,’ he says, stopping next to us.
‘Hi, Mr Collins,’ Ella responds.
‘It’s a full flight,’ Marina says. That’s code for
everyone on board looks okay. To tell him everything
on the ground appears normal, I say, ‘I’m
going to try to sleep.’
He nods and takes his seat directly behind Ella.
Leaning forward between Marina and Ella, he says,
‘Use your time on the plane wisely, please. Study
That means, don’t let your guard down.
I didn’t know what to think of Crayton when we
first met. He’s stern and quick tempered, but his
heart seems to be in the right place and his knowledge
of the world and current events is incredible.
Official or not, he has taken his Cêpan role seriously.
He says he would die for any one of us. He will do
anything to defeat the Mogadorians; anything to
exact our revenge. I believe him on all counts.
However, it’s with reluctance that I’m on this
plane headed to India at all. I wanted to get back
to the United States as soon as possible, to get back
to John and Sam. But yesterday, standing on top of
the dam overlooking the carnage at the lake, Crayton
told us that Setrákus Ra, the powerful Mogadorian
leader, would be on Earth soon, if he wasn’t here
already. That Setrákus’s arrival was a sign that
the Mogadorians understood we were a threat, and
we should expect them to step up their campaign to
kill us. Setrákus is more or less invincible. Only
Lore, the most powerful of all the Lorien
Elders, would have been able to defeat him. We
were horrified. What did that mean for the rest of
us then, if he was invincible? When Marina asked
this, asked how any of us could possibly stand a
chance of defeating him, Crayton told us even more
shocking news, knowledge that all the Cêpans had
been entrusted with. One of the Garde – one of us –
was supposed to hold the same powers as Pittacus.
One of us was supposed to grow as strong as he had
been, and would be able to beat Setrákus Ra. We just
had to hope that that Garde wasn’t One, Two, or
Three, that it was one of the ones still alive. If so,
we had a chance. We just had to wait and see who
it was, and hope that these powers showed themselves
Crayton thinks he’s found him – the Garde who
holds Pittacus’ powers.
‘I’ve read about a boy who seems to have extraordinary
powers in India,’ he told us then. ‘He lives
high up in the Himalayas. Some believe him to be
the Hindu god Vishnu reincarnated, others believe
the boy is an alien imposter with the power to physically
alter his form.’
‘Like me, Papa?’ Ella had asked. Their fatherdaughter
relationship took me by surprise. I couldn’t
help but feel a touch of jealousy – jealousy that
she still had her Cêpan, someone to turn to for
‘He’s not changing ages, Ella. He’s changing into
beasts and other beings. The more I read about him,
the more I believe he is a member of the Garde,
and the more I believe he may be the one to possess
all of the Legacies, the one who can fight and kill
Setrákus. We need to find him as soon as possible.’
I don’t want to be on a wild goose chase for
another member of the Garde right now. I know
where John is, or where he is supposed to be. I
can hear Katarina’s voice, urging me to follow my
which are telling me we should connect
with John first before anything else. It’s the least
risky move. Certainly less risky than flying around
the world based on Crayton’s hunch and rumors on
‘It could be a trap,’ I said. ‘What if those stories
were planted for us to find so we would do exactly
‘I understand your concern, Six, but, trust me, I’m
the master of planting stories on the Internet. This
is no plant. There are far too many sources pointing
to this boy in India. He hasn’t been running. He
hasn’t been hiding. He’s just being, and he appears
to be very powerful. If he is one of you, then we
must get to him before the Mogadorians do. We’ll go
to America to meet up with Number Four as soon as
this trip is over,’ Crayton said.
Marina looked at me. She wanted to find John
almost as much as I did – she’d been following the
news of his exploits online and she’d had a similar
feeling in her gut that he was one of us, a feeling I
had confirmed for her. ‘Promise?’ she asked Crayton.
The captain’s voice breaks through my reverie.
We’re about to take off. I want so badly to redirect the
plane to point it towards West Virginia. Towards John
and Sam. I hope they’re okay. Images of John being
held in a prison cell keep entering my mind. I never
should have told him about the Mog base in the mountain,
but John wanted to get his Chest back and there
was no way I could convince him to leave it behind.
The plane taxis down the runway and Marina
grabs my wrist. ‘I really wish Héctor was here. He’d
have something smart to say right now to make me
‘It’s okay,’ Ella says, holding Marina’s other hand.
‘You have us.’
‘And I’ll work on something smart to say,’ I offer.
‘Thanks,’ Marina says, though it sounds like something
between a hiccup and a gulp. I let her nails dig
into my wrist. I give her a supportive smile, and a
minute later we’re airborne.