Chapter Six

Chapter Six

A Chapter by Seth Armstrong

Looking for Ella, Marina winds up at the New Lorien cemetery John made to honor the heroes of the war against the Mogadorians that had died or will die in the future and reminisces on their sacrifices


     Looking for Ella, Marina found herself once again at the Loric and Invasion Memorial Cemetery.

     After John had fixed up the cave where Eight had found the prophecies years ago, he did help with building the village within the forcefield, but he first focused mostly on this cemetery: a monument to those that had been lost during the war against the Mogadorians--and to the Loric and other heroes of the war that would be lost in the future. It was one of two graveyards in New Lorien: the other was in the village and was for human Garde and New Lorien residents who died after the war, in the new world. So far, that one was much smaller than this one.

     The Loric and Invasion Memorial Cemetery was higher on the mountain than anything else within New Lorien, constructed on a shelf overlooking miles of the vibrant mountainside and the distant level ground. Marina liked the view from so far up. From there, she could nearly see the pool where her, Six, Ella, and Crayton found Eight--it was obscured by a veil of foliage, but she had learned where it was. She had wanted that to be part of New Lorien, but the forcefield generators couldn’t reach that far.

     When it was first being put together, this cemetery constantly had people coming up to honor the fallen and add new graves, but, by now, it was usually empty. After the pride and elation of defeating the Mogadorians began to wear down, it seemed that the sight of so many graves for everyone who was murdered by the Mogs began to engender feelings of loss much more than pride, and most didn’t want to hike up all that way just to feel more depressed.

     Marina had that issue, too, but the graveyard was the quietest place in all of New Lorien, making it the best place for her to try to clear her head, and the graves of those they had lost connected her to the past so easily, making it the most effective place to try to wrestle with the trauma and regrets that still gnawed away at her even after all this time.

     The graveyard was divided into three sections: Loric, humans, and Mogadorians, each section separated by a low stone wall. The section for Mogs was tiny, little more than a small patch of grass with one bench off to the side. It contained three graves. Two were honorary future graves for Adamus Sutekh and Rexicus Saturnus, both of whom were still in Alaska, hopefully successful in their attempts to rehabilitate the remnant of their race.

     Most of the graves for Chimærae were in the Loric section, but the one for Dust was beside Adam’s. That grave was filled: John had made sure that the people excavating the mountain that they had defeated Setrákus Ra in surrendered Dust’s body.

     The human section was the biggest part of the cemetery. A winding dirt path led around rows of graves that had been erected for humans lost in the invasion. In the center of this section was a monument that several of the human Garde designed of a group of people standing tall and proud in the ruins of a fallen building to collectively honor all the humans who had been killed during the war.

     All around the monument were individual graves made by or commissioned of people who could make them by New Lorien residents who lost people in the conflict. Though they had dug graves and filled them in for all these people, they were all empty; all the bodies of those lost in the war had been either buried elsewhere or completely obliterated. Most of the graves were for friends and family of the human Garde or the native Indians who lived in the village, and Marina didn’t even recognize their names. But there were several names she was connected to plastered onto graves she was drawn to visit whenever she made her way up there.

     Many of the graves were decorated in some way to honor the people they stood for, and the grave of Mark James was no exception. He didn’t have any close friends left among the Loric and their allies who had survived the war, but, on a trip back to Ohio, Sam managed to track down one of Mark’s old football jerseys, which they placed over his tombstone, turning the hem at the bottom to stone to keep it heavy enough that it wouldn’t be blown away in the wind. And there it remained--fluttering like a flag in the breeze to honor a guy who threw everything away to help stop Setrákus Ra.

     Marina didn’t develop any strong opinion of the high-school-jock-turned-fugitive-rebel from their brief time together in Calakmul, but, from what she had seen of him and what John had told her about him, she doubted that she would’ve grown to like him much as a person--though Lexa did seem rather fond of him, and, according to Six, he did save Marina’s life by shooting Setrákus Ra in the face with a Mog blaster. She felt indebted to him, but he just didn’t seem like the type to make a good friend. But maybe that was an unfair assessment. Still, conflicted opinion of him aside, what happened to him was tragic and unfair, and Marina’s heart always sank at the sight of his jersey rippling like the surface of a lake at the behest of the mountain breeze. 

     Beside Mark’s grave was a future grave for Sam, and it was on the other side of that one where Sarah Hart’s honorary resting place had been placed. Marina actually did know--and like--Sarah. She was targeted, detained, and tortured by the American government for simply being involved with John, and she came out the other side of that ordeal in fighting form, ready and willing to give everything she had to stop the Mogadorians--and, of course, she eventually paid that price.

     As far as Marina knew, John had yet to speak to Sarah’s family like he intended to, and so they hadn’t even been able to attempt to collect anything that directly belonged to her to decorate her grave. However, a few months after the invasion, John found a website that the Harts had made to honor Sarah, posting stories about her and pictures the aspiring photographer had taken. John printed off all those photos and pinned them all around her tombstone, a collage of artistic prowess and expression to illustrate the mind of a girl who was taken from the world far too soon. The pictures were incredible--most of them gorgeous shots of the rustic, smalltown charm of Paradise, Ohio or stunning and unkempt wilderness that surrounded it. There were also some of friends and family--laughing and playing and spending blissful time together. There were even two pictures of Bernie Kosar: one of him sitting on a porch, framed by a golden border outlining him as the sun shone down on him from behind and one of him poised in what looked like a position to strike, probably about to fetch something.

     When he found the photos, John had said that, if there were pictures of BK in what her family found, there probably would’ve been pictures that Sarah took of him and of them together, but they were noticeably absent from the ones her parents published. He ostensibly shrugged it off, but Marina could tell that it hurt him. She had never asked him to be sure, but she didn’t recall them ever doing any photoshoots in Nine’s penthouse. The photos that the Harts had found likely contained the only photos of John and Sarah together in existence, and he had no way of getting them without directly asking for them.  

     It seemed to always fall on Marina to be the emotional rock and unlicensed therapist of the survivors of the invasion, a role she sometimes felt proud to assume and sometimes hated every second of. Over time, she had gotten better at getting others to deal with survivor’s guilt and the nagging feeling that they could’ve done more to save someone else’s life even if there’s was no logical way they could’ve prevented the tragedy.

     But she found it difficult to practice what she preached. As her eyes flitted over the photos taken by a girl who hadn’t even lived to adulthood, she couldn’t help but wonder how different things would be if she had been strong enough to endure Setrákus Ra’s assault. He practically broke her body on the rocks at the Sanctuary, but maybe--just maybe--she could’ve done something to alleviate the pain, to keep herself conscious. If she had done that--if she had still been awake when Sarah was injured--then maybe…

     Marina turned from the grave, the dull thuds of her aching heart wrenching tears from her eyes that she quickly wiped away.

     She walked away from the graves for the Paradise teens and toward one that was more familiar. She often came to this section of the Memorial Cemetery, but it usually wasn’t for Mark or Sarah.

     One of the centermost graves in the front row of the human section was for Héctor Ricardo.

     It was there that Marina spent much of her time in this graveyard. Héctor had been the only person to truly look after her in Santa Teresa--the only real friend she had there until Ella found her--and he had died to help her escape the Mogs. Marina remembered pulling his body from the water, feeling the minefield of shattered bones and torn muscles as she ran her hands over him, trying to find something to heal. She remembered that feeling distinctly--both the physical sensation and the rage, fear, and disappointment that accompanied it. She had recurring nightmares of those few minutes stretched out into hours that felt like an eternity as she kneeled beside his body on the bank of a lake, trying to bring her friend back to life, and she always woke up with the sensation imprinted on her nerves of racing her hands over his shredded tendons and shards of bone trying to pierce through his skin.

     Héctor died because he couldn’t dodge a piken quickly enough while also carrying her chest. When she had gone to Spain with John, Six, and Nine to save Maiken, Marina made sure to stop in Santa Teresa to see Héctor’s mother, Carlotta. All that Carlotta had known was that her son’s battered body had been found near the lake. She had no idea what had truly happened to him. It had been one of the hardest things she had ever done, but Marina went back to visit Carlotta and explained to her what Héctor had done and how important he had been. Carlotta had been rather quiet during her visit. Marina couldn’t be sure what that meant, but she imagined that the only reason Carlotta continued being cordial with the girl who cost her son his life was because Marina cured her Parkinson’s disease.  

     After that experience, she certainly couldn’t blame John for taking so long to go see the Harts.

     Marina often wondered where Héctor would be today if she had never gone to Santa Teresa. She wanted to believe that he had willingly sacrificed himself for her, but she didn’t believe that he truly knew the weight of his decision to help her--and, even if he did, she knew that he deserved better.

     She often found herself drawing strength from his nuggets of wisdom, even when it was difficult to follow their advice. “The key to change is letting go of fear.” That was one that always come racing back to her as she reminisced at the cemetery.

     Marina reached down and caressed the hand-carved wooden cross necklace of Héctor’s that Carlotta had reluctantly let her bring back to New Lorien. She put a cover over the wood to protect it from the weather and pinned it to his grave. It didn’t feel like enough, though. She wanted to create some sort of mural on the tombstone to honor him, but she wasn’t sure what to paint. All the ideas she came up with didn’t seem good enough. But she’d keep trying to think of something. Eventually, she would land on the perfect idea.

     For now, she just hoped that Héctor was proud of her and that, wherever he was, there was plenty of alcohol and plenty of others to appreciate his wisdom, bravery, and sincerity.

     Near Héctor’s grave, there were also plots for Bertrand Dietrich and Fleur Auclair--the human Garde who died at Patience Creek; Marina managed to track down their families to tell them of their fate and learn their last names. She found herself often wondering about them, too. She knew that they weighed heavily on John’s mind--after all, he was the one who had called the human Garde to action during the invasion even though they weren’t prepared. Marina had spent several long nights trying to convince John that, even if it was a mistake to call them to action, it was the Mogs who killed them, not him. 

     There were nine graves for the Greeters--the humans who met the Loric when they landed on Earth. Only four of them had names: Caitlyn Paine, Esme Reilly, Jake Allison, and, of course, Malcolm Goode, the last of whom was thankfully still alive. Though Malcolm had been the one to bring them together, the experiments that the Mogadorians had conducted on him fried his memory so thoroughly that, so far, he hadn’t been able to remember the names of the other five who came to meet the Loric refugees. Marina occasionally tried to remember who it was that had been there to greet her and Adelina. She had a vague memory of a man, but she couldn’t recall any specific details about him, and it made her feel horrible. Whoever he was, he was the first person on this planet to show any sort of kindness to her; he helped her and her Cêpan take their first steps on Earth, and he died for it. And she couldn’t even remember what he looked like.

     John and Nine made an honorary future grave for Karen Walker, the FBI agent who at first hindered but ultimately wound up helping them during the war against the Mogs. Walker had yet to ever visit New Lorien--probably on account of not being able to actually use the pendant John gave her, a fact that Marina often teased him for overlooking--but she was often out in the public eye, trying to convince other humans that the Loric were good and deserved their respect. The last thing they had specifically heard of her, she was still out there helping them by trying to track down and stop the trade of now-illegal Mogadorian substances and weapons.

     Nine had dug three rugged graves in this section of the cemetery for the girl that he had told them about the night in Chicago when the Garde shared their stories--Maddy--and her parents. At the time, he clearly had some sympathy for her because her parents were being used to force her into working with the Mogs, but he still seemed furious about her deceiving him given that it led to Sandor’s death. Marina assumed that him making room for her in the cemetery was a sign that he now forgave her completely, though that was impossible to know for sure given how reluctant Nine was to talk about anything that happened in his past. 

     John also added five graves for the Paradise High faculty members that were murdered by the Mogs during the battle there--the ones that John and Henri had initially been accused of killing--their names engraved on the stones: Mason Barrera, Jared Case, Milly Rocha, Isaiah Gentry, and Abigail Pena.

     The last graves to be added to this part of the graveyard were three unmarked tombstones that John said were for the publishers of the original They Walk Among Us newsletter. He said that it took a while, but his pity for them being manipulated and used by the Mogs finally overcame his wrath over what they did to Henri. However, he apparently still wasn’t too torn up about them given that he never bothered to try to track down their names.

     And, though she died after the invasion, they had added a grave for Ran Takeda here, without whom there would be no New Lorien today.

     Marina had never got to properly meet Ran. She remembered seeing her at Patience Creek, but she never really got to speak with her then, and she never saw the Japanese girl after the invasion. After reading and hearing what she could about the girl, Marina heavily regretted not making more of the opportunity she had to meet her. Ran was an incredible girl who sacrificed everything so that the Garde could continue to exist.

     It was Nigel who decorated Ran’s grave. He spent several months learning how to paint from Marina until finally he got to a point where he was satisfied with his ability, and he painted a portrait of Ran on her grave. He specifically painted a moment from the YouTube video he had uploaded at Niagara Falls--when she looked into the camera and threw up a peace sign. They put a plastic cover over the grave to protect the painting from the elements, and it had preserved Ran’s awkward greeting to the day.

     Then there was the Loric section of the graveyard, the stone arch over the entrance cryptically labeled with Loric symbols that Lexa told them translated to “The Last of the Loric”.

     Immediately beyond the entrance was a large monument to honor all the Loric who had died during the genocide. Lexa helped Marina and Ella design it, and all the Loric Garde contributed in some way: it was a scale model of the Spires of Elkin, around which a mass of Loric people were gathered in a Quartermoon celebration. Marina handled most of the bigger swaths of the project while Ella focused on the minute pieces--creating vibrant, detailed, diverse people and celebrations, a wide mass of people engaged in timeless revelry. There was no allusion to the invasion, the destruction, the Mogadorians. There didn’t need to be. They wanted to celebrate the people--the life--that had once existed on their planet, and they poured their heart and soul into creating a snapshot of the golden era that had once been.

     Beyond the monument, the Loric made more specific graves for those that they had lost--and those they will lose.

     The Loric Garde had little knowledge of the second ship that came after theirs or even the pilot of their own ship before meeting Lexa. At first, Marina hadn’t thought about the second ship too much and assumed that Ella, Crayton, and the Chimærae were the only ones on it. Even Ella didn’t remember anyone else on account of being so young at the time. But, while she wasn’t incredibly forthcoming about her past, Lexa had been more than willing to get John to honor Janus--the pilot of the ship who had brought the original nine Garde to Earth--and Zophie--Lexa’s friend who called her to be the pilot of the second ship. Janus had been captured by the Mogadorians and tortured to death. Zophie was murdered by Mogs after being tricked into revealing where she was. Zophie’s grave was placed in the center between Janus’s and Lexa’s future grave. On the other side of Lexa’s, she had placed another tombstone for her little brother, Zane, who died on Lorien well before the Mogadorians attacked.

     Lexa, Zophie, Crayton, and Ella had traveled to Earth with a menagerie of Chimærae, all of which were captured when Zophie was ambushed and murdered--though some of them were saved by Adam and Rex from Plum Island. Lexa remembered there being “a dozen or so” Chimærae that travelled to Earth with them, and John had made tombstones for each of them--though only one of them had a name: Olivia--the Chimærae that helped protect Marina, Ella, Six, Crayton, and Héctor at the lake in Santa Teresa. When Crayton and Ella split from the group, they took Olivia, and Lexa and Zophie apparently never felt compelled to name the rest of the Chimærae. Marina had tried to recover Oliva’s body when she went to Santa Teresa, but it had been removed, and, so far, she hadn’t been able to figure out who took it or where to. She still endeavored to find out--and she knew that Ella wanted to know, too.  

     There was no future grave for Bernie Kosar among the other Chimærae. According to John, BK had told him that he wanted them to be buried together whenever the time came, so John had simply carved BK’s name alongside the Loric symbol for four on the grave they would eventually share.

     Beyond the Chimærae, there were ten graves for the Mentor Cêpans that had watched over the Garde: Adelina, Henri, Albert, Katarina, Reynolds, Sandor, and Crayton. There were unnamed graves for the Cêpans of One, Two, and Three. Marina remembered John wondering if Adam knew who One’s Cêpan was given the nature of the experiment that connected him to her, but, as far as Marina knew, John had never taken the chance to ask him. Everything moved far too fast; it had been a good while since they had heard from Adam at all.

     Marina often found it difficult to come to the graveyard because of Adelina. Adelina had spent most of her time on Earth burying herself in strict Christianity, neglecting her duty to Lorien--to Marina. Marina didn’t think she held anything against her Cêpan--not anymore--but she still often wondered how different things could have turned out if Adelina had been a better guardian. Maybe she would still be with them today if she hadn’t fallen so far.

     Marina would give almost anything to be able to see her Cêpan again. She imagined that the other Garde felt the same about their Cêpans, too.

     She often wondered what Adelina’s life had been like before the invasion of Lorien. John had made a second grave behind Henri’s for his wife, Julianne, and Six had made a second one behind Katarina’s for her husband whose name Six never learned. Before she became cold and distant, Adelina would regularly tell Marina stories about Lorien, but they were all about Lorien’s beauty and its people as a whole; even then, she had shied away from telling Marina about her personal past. Seeing that some of her peers knew intimate details about their Cêpans drove home how little Marina knew about hers, and she often lay awake wondering what type of person Adelina had been before she had been Odette or Emmalina or Fatima or Zali or Signy--back on Lorien, when she had been Adel.

     Adelina had rarely ever looked after Marina after they got to Santa Teresa. She hardly even seemed to care about her charge. This coupled with how reluctant she was to talk about her past made Marina often wonder if that was trauma crashing down on her--if Adelina was simply so overwhelmed by the loss of everything she had built up and known in her past life that it was became too difficult to imagine a future going forward and to work toward it.

     Marina wasn’t sure if that could excuse her for shirking her responsibility, but it was enough to feel sympathy for her. None of the Loric were truly prepared for what had hit their home planet, and they never could’ve been. There was no way to brace oneself for something so horrific.

     Marina didn’t think she held anything against Adelina, yet she still often came to her Cêpan’s grave to wrestle with her feelings.

     Her eyes turned to the last Cêpan grave--the one for Crayton, Ella’s unofficial Cêpan. He saved Marina multiple times at Santa Teresa. He was one of the main reasons she was still alive today. He had been the last living Mentor Cêpan, and it was a role he had taken on himself--and not just for Ella. He had been more than willing to try to assume that role for Marina, Six, and Eight, too--and probably for the others as well, if he had lived to meet them. Marina distinctly remembered running her hands over his broken chest in the cave that was now the center of New Lorien, trying to bring him back to life as Ella screamed and cried and begged. He did whatever it took to help them, and he, like so many others, had died trying to protect them from the Mogs. It was a debt she had been too late to try to repay then, and now she never could.  

     On the other side of the Loric section of the cemetery were the graves of the Garde’s parents and grandparents.

     Marina remembered surprisingly little about her grandparents. She could recall what they looked like and remembered their house on the bank of a river that she had lived in while her parents were off honing their legacies. Marina had no shortage of memories of wading in that river or sitting by it, playing games or having picnics with her grandparents. It was when she tried to remember more specific details--conversations with them or details about their personal lives--that she often drew blanks, a fact which made her feel guilty. She had spent so much time with them as a kid, but she remembered so little. Still, she had commissioned graves for them with their names--Junia and Laol--to honor the people who had began the process of raising her into the woman that she was today.

     Six seemed to have similar problems about remembering her grandparents, but John and Nine knew some things about theirs. Most of John’s memories about his were from stories that Henri had told him, but Nine seemed to have many distinct memories of his grandparents and the rural upbringing he had with them. He often talked about helping his grandfather, Huul, with taking care of the animals on their small farm or of playing with his Chimæra, Byscoe, who had an honorary grave placed directly across from Nine’s future grave elsewhere in the Loric section of the cemetery.

     Most of the Garde had very little memory of their parents; the surviving Garde knew nothing about One, Two, and Three’s past; and Five and Eight had never told them anything that they may have remembered about their parents or grandparents. The Garde fled Lorien when they were so young that it was difficult to remember anything about their past lives, and, because kids were mostly raised by their grandparents for the first part of their lives on Lorien, most kids as young as they had been didn’t see their parents all that often. Six remembered the names of her parents: Arun and Lyn. John knew the names of his parents--Liren and Lara--but that was only because Henri told him. Nine couldn’t remember his.

     Marina had the same problem they all did with trying to remember the past, but it was less pronounced for her. She was the oldest living Garde. She had been six when they fled their home. Her memory had been better-developed than the others’. There were still many places that were fuzzy--like with the nuanced details about her grandparents--but she remembered several highlights. She had distinct memories of her house, her neighborhood, some of her childhood friends. She remembered Adelina’s Loric name. She remembered her parents’ names, her grandparents’ names, the names of an aunt and uncle. She remembered what they looked like. She could vaguely recall some conversations with them. She even remembered her own original name.

     She often wondered if she should switch back to her original name now that there would be no danger associated with it. She wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. Marina was the name that she had survived the war with. It had been her name for years now. It felt like a much bigger part of her than the name she had been given at birth.

     She still considered switching back, but, for now, she remained Marina.

     She wondered what her parents--Pirita and Maet--thought of her new name. From what she had seen through the Entity, she had total faith that they--that all the Loric--were still out there in some form, watching over them. She wondered what they thought of what the Garde had accomplished.

     Marina let her eyes linger on the graves of her parents for a few moments, conjuring their faces in her mind. Her appearance definitely came from Maet, her father. They had the same olive skin, dark brown hair, warm brown eyes, and rounded face. Her mother, Pirita, on the other hand, didn’t even look related to her at first glance--her skin and hair were much lighter, her eyes were green and sharp, and her face was all sharp angles. Marina remembered hearing her mom joke sometimes about how her body must’ve gone haywire to spit out a kid that looked nothing like her.

     Her memories of her parents were few--especially distinct ones--and she endeavored to hold onto them for as long as she could.

     “I love you,” she whispered to the graves of her parents. There was a soft rustling in the trees just outside the wall of the Loric section of the cemetery from a sudden uptick of the wind. Marina’s eyes drifted to the tree, and she tried to imagine that it was a response from her parents. She smiled.

     At the back of the Loric section of the cemetery, John had constructed a massive stone pillar twenty feet in diameter and rising fifteen feet into the sky that was encircled by ten graves. Each of the graves were dug at the base of the pillar, and each of them had a Loric symbol carved on the pillar above them: the numbers one through ten. All the graves were empty, but the ones for One, Two, Three, Five, and Eight had been filled in. The graves for John, Six, Marina, Nine, and Ella remained ominous, empty holes on the mountain.  

     Marina didn’t like to come to her own grave. She knew--well, hoped--that she was likely far off from needing it, but there was still something incredibly off-putting about having her final resting place already prepared. She knew she was just imagining this, but the empty hole seemed to have some sort of magnetic pull on her when she came near it; she always found herself closer to it than she wanted to be, like it was talking to her subconscious, trying to convince her to go ahead and jump in.

     Marina didn’t know One, Two, or Three. She had many memories of their journey to Earth, but they often blended together, and it was difficult to tell for sure who was who or if she was really remembering the others as they actually looked like. She remembered spending a lot of time with a redheaded girl with glasses and a boy with dark skin and black hair. She thought that the boy was likely just Eight or maybe Nine, but the girl would’ve had to have been one of the first three numbers. But she couldn’t remember much more about the girl except a vague outline of what she looked like. And even if she could remember what kind of kid the girl was, she was probably much different when she grew up.

     Marina had always been curious about how much Adam knew about One, but she was also instinctively wary of any Mogadorian, and she had unfortunately spent much of her time around Adam anxious that he’d pull some trick and hadn’t gotten to know him as well as she should. She hoped she could make up for that some time.

     As it was, the graves of the first three Garde meant relatively little to her--well, that wasn’t the way to say it. They meant the absolute world to her. They were one of the main reasons she was still alive. But she knew basically nothing about them, so it was difficult to truly honor or respect them in any proper way now that they were gone.

     But she did know Eight. She hadn’t known him for very long, but he had been an immeasurably comforting presence--an incredible, beautiful person who did his best to help and cheer up those around him. And he had been into her--like, hard. Maybe that was less important, but Marina had been absolutely taken aback to find someone as confident and attractive as he was pay attention to her at all.

     She liked to think back on their date in Chicago--of the walk on the lakefront and the ridiculous hotdog that he had offered to buy her. That happened during the most stressful time of her life so far, but that moment--really, any moment with him--felt so far removed from her reality and the gravity of everything that had happened. Eight had been a wonderful, precious escape from the war and the impending doom it foretold--but he was far more than that, of course. He was a person, too--a person that met a fate entirely unfair: he spent much of the last years of his life alone, waiting for someone who could finally understand him to come and rescue him, only to die shortly after that wish came true.

     Eight was an incredible testament to the tenacity of the Loric. He spent so much of his last days making those around him happier.

     Eight had been the only one of them--that they knew of--to be particularly drawn to any human religion. Marina wondered if it was a coincidence that he had settled on Hinduism. From what she had learned of it from the villagers, she thought that the concept of Brahman and the idea that every person or object in the universe was part of one connected whole and not actually separate entities was incredibly similar to the interconnectedness that she had witnessed through the Entity when she kissed Eight goodbye.

     Eight was one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable. Even now, Marina wasn’t sure how much he had meant to her. She had begun to settle into New Lorien with John and Ella when the news of Five coming back into the fray had immediately evaporated her desire to stay there and inspired her to go back out into the field to hunt him down. Whenever she began to think that the turmoil inside her that had been simmering since Eight’s death had died down, there had always been something--generally, Five--to pull it back out of her.

     Eight had been one of the last of their kind and was arguably the least deserving of his fate. There was still a future to fight for, but the world had felt noticeably darker since his fall.

     And he fell because of Five.

     Marina never knew exactly what it was she felt when she thought about Five anymore. As she stared at the symbol above his grave, she pinballed between being both incredibly enraged and vaguely pitying so quickly that she appeared apathetic and limp. He was a traitor who forsook his own people for the ones who committed genocide against them. He got Nine’s penthouse destroyed. He murdered Eight and got Marina, Six, and Nine stranded in the Everglades. He had done incredible damage in his attempts to help his Mogadorian masters. He murdered many people from the Foundation with Einar. And she was certain there were many other tragedies caused by him during his time with the Mogs that they had yet to learn of.

     But, then again, he couldn’t be entirely bad, right? He tried to get Ella off Setrákus Ra’s ship. When he was the only one who knew about the charm Setrákus Ra had placed on Ella, he stopped John from accidentally killing her in New York. He went psycho in Patience Creek, but he was the reason that anybody survived the massacre. He helped them destroy Setrákus Ra and nearly died for it. Then he really did die to save New Lorien by flying Ran out of range. Maybe he had just been lost, and the Mogs got to him first. They brainwashed him, warped him into some horrific version of himself that the remnants of what he had once been could occasionally rebel against but never overthrow completely.

     Maybe he had just been lost.

     But, in the end, did that really make a difference? It’s an explanation, not an excuse. It didn’t make up for any of the hurt he caused. And it certainly didn’t bring back Eight.

     Marina wasn’t sure what to think about him anymore.

     Marina lost herself in thought for a moment and was snapped back to reality by the crunching of approaching footfalls. She looked over and saw Nine coming toward her, a Cheshire grin plastered on his face. “Yo, Marina!” he shouted. “You give the new chick your autograph?”

     Marina raised an eyebrow. “What?”

     “That girl we went and rescued--well, the one that John rescued. Our boy Pittacus went ahead and kicked everyone’s a*s before he called for backup. Can you believe that s**t?”

     Marina rolled her eyes. “You’re getting off-track. Are you talking about Yura?”

     “Probably,” Nine said. “Honestly, I forgot her name. Anyway, chick was, like, starstruck when she met us. I told her she could get your autograph when she got here. You didn’t make me a liar, did you?”

     “Well, she didn’t ask for an autograph, so I guess I did.”

     Nine groaned. “Come on, Marina. We don’t have as many fans anymore. You gotta give the ones we do have what they want.” Nine stopped at her side and glanced over the graves of the Garde. “This your new hangout? You thinking of jumping in?”

     Stupidly, Marina wondered for a second if Nine had somehow read her mind about the subconscious pull her future grave seemed to have on her, but she perished the thought quickly. If Nine could read minds, he’d be pulling out things far more embarrassing than that. “I came up here looking for Ella, mostly,” she answered. “I know that she comes up here sometimes. I’ve been worried about her. Her teachers have been saying she’s acting weird, and I haven’t really seen her in days--it’s like she’s avoiding me. But then I got out here, and…sometimes it’s nice to come over here--to honor them.”

     Nine glanced over at Eight’s grave and frowned. “Yeah, I…I guess,” he said. “But, uh, I hope you’re done cuz they’re calling an inner circle meeting.”

     “All right,” Marina said, breathing deeply. “I’m coming.”

     She turned to walk back down to the meeting with Nine, but she stopped suddenly, her eyes lingering on Five’s grave.

     “Why do you think he did it?” she blurted out.

     “What?” Nine asked, turning back to her.


     “Did what?” Nine growled, glaring at the symbol over the dead Loric’s grave. “What, the one useful thing he did in his entire life? Hell if I know. Caleb said him and Ran had some sort of weird buddy-buddy thing going on that broken-a*s Mog ship. He probably did it for her sake, not any of us.”

     “I don’t know,” Marina said softly.

     Nine pointed to Eight’s grave. “He already murdered one of us--one of his own. You think he’d turn around and start saving our asses out of the goodness of his heart?”

     Marina’s gaze followed his finger, rested on Eight’s symbol. “You think I don’t know that, Nine?” she snapped. “I haven’t forgiven him for that. But from what I saw of him after and what I heard about him from when John and Ella were with him during the invasion…I do think he came to regret that and be remorseful. He didn’t want to kill Eight.”

     “Yeah, he wanted to kill me.”

     “Yes, that isn’t any better. But how long had he been working for the Mogs by then? He’d probably been fed so many lies about us that he didn’t know what he was doing. Don’t get me wrong--he wasn’t a good person. But I think--maybe--he was capable of change. And maybe he did change. Maybe he sacrificed himself for the right reason.”

     “I highly f****n’ doubt it. Anyway, who gives a s**t? We’re still here, and he’s dead. Let’s just leave it at that and be thankful.”

     Marina frowned. She understood that Nine had a habit of burying his problems, but that didn’t work for her--everything horrible always came back up, hacking through her insides as it slashed away at her soul.

     “You know,” Marina said, “when I first got the scar for him, before I checked what number it was, I did hope that he was the one who died. But I thought it was you.”

     What?” Nine exclaimed. “You thought I died? Me?”

     “Oh, calm down. I wasn’t there. I didn’t know what was happening. I was in Morocco trying to follow Five’s trail. All I knew was that you and the Academy were in hot water, and people were trying to take you down. I thought that--maybe--you had finally managed to pull a stunt so incredibly stupid that even you couldn’t dig yourself back out of it.”


     “Hey, it was partially a compliment. You’re pretty good at saving yourself from your dumb decisions. I was happy to learn that I was wrong.”

     “I got my a*s thrown in Mog prison for a year for being horny, and I made it through that. I’m not gonna die to some suits trying to boss me around.” Nine glanced over at the empty grave with the Loric symbol for four carved above it. “I thought it was John,” he said, his voice now oddly soft. “He--well, the psycho controlling him--just tossed my a*s aside and teleported away with Taylor and the bomb. Got the scar a minute later. I couldn’t get back up quick enough to chase after him. I didn’t know what happened. I thought we lost. I thought John and all the students were dead.”

     “Good thing we were both wrong.”

     “Yeah.” Nine glared at Five’s grave again. “For once, it was the one that deserved it.”

     Marina didn’t respond to that. Instead, she turned away from their graves, back toward the rest of New Lorien--toward that future that all these people had died for. Another one of Héctor’s adages came to her: “The only limits of tomorrow are the doubts we have today.”

     “All right,” she said, a small, optimistic smile forming. “Let’s go.”

© 2021 Seth Armstrong

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Added on August 6, 2021
Last Updated on August 6, 2021
Tags: lorien, legaices, war, of, the, yura, kallik, capac, john, smith, sam, goode, number, six, nine, marina, seven, five, eight, malcolm, daniela, nigel, fugitive, isabela, taylor, ran, caleb, kopano


Seth Armstrong
Seth Armstrong


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A Chapter by Seth Armstrong