“Protectors,” Wells spat as he recalled the smoke from the explosions. The bodies on the ground. “You tried to kill us. Who the hell are you and what do you want?”

“We raided your camp,” the boy said calmly. “We took what was useful and discarded what wasn’t. You’ll learn.”

Panic rose in Wells’s chest, but he wrestled it down. “If you just needed supplies, why did you take us with you?”

The boy’s icy blue eyes fixed Wells with an appraising glare. “You may be useful. Or you may not. We’ll know soon. It doesn’t take long to weed out the weak.”

Wells refused to look away, the feat of holding in his rage made that much easier by whatever drug they’d injected him with, still wending its way out of his system.

The older man who’d seized Wells nodded. “You’re young. Strong,” he said. “If Earth wills it, you’ll do just fine.”

The other two repeated dully, “If Earth wills it.”

Wells heard a gasp down the line. He swiveled his head to see Eric starting to wake up. Eric blinked a few times; then his eyes widened. His jaw twitched like he was about to start yelling, but Wells shook his head a tiny bit, praying Eric was lucid enough to pick up the signal.

He was. Eric swallowed, blinking once in reply, and lowered his eyes to the floor. Good, Wells thought. I need time to get more answers.

“Where are you taking us?” Wells asked, trying to stay calm.


“You’ll like it there,” the third man, reedy and tall, said. Wells hadn’t heard him speak before. His voice was strangely sweet, lyrical, almost like he was reciting a nursery rhyme. “It’s the safest place.”

“The safest place where?” Wells asked, unable to hold back a note of frustration.

“The safest place on Earth,” the man said, smiling. “One day it will all be safe, if Earth wills it.”

“If Earth wills it,” they all said again, sending shivers down Wells’s back.

“And if you’re chosen, you will help us spread peace,” the pale soldier said.

“So you’re peacekeepers?” Wells said.

“We’re raiders,” said the older man. “And so will you be if you learn to keep your mouth shut.”

“I thought you called yourselves Protectors,” Wells said carefully. They all turned to stare at him for a long moment.

The sweet-voiced man smiled. “You’ll learn.”

He tried another tack. “How did you find our camp?”

“It’s not your camp anymore,” the older man said sharply. “It’s not your village either. Can’t have a village without Earth’s blessing.”

“So you destroyed it, and killed everyone in your way,” Eric said, his voice raw with pain. He was fully awake now and quivering with rage.

“We didn’t kill everyone,” the pale boy said, his eyes wide as if shocked. “We’re not monsters. We do Earth’s work, that’s all. We spared the strongest of you and kept the best of your women, didn’t we?”

Wells and Eric exchanged terrified glances. Who else had they taken? He prayed with every fiber in his body that they weren’t talking about Clarke, Octavia, or Glass. Or, his stomach churned, one of the younger girls like Molly.

“And we left the young and the weak.” The pale boy leaned forward, still protesting. “We didn’t kill them. Earth will do with them as She sees fit.”

The young. The weak. Wells’s heart raced as he thought about the infirmary, praying Clarke had been in there—one of the discarded they’d left behind when they’d raided the camp. But what about Bellamy? And Max?

“Why are you doing this?” came a husky, lilting voice at the end of the row. The Earthborn villager had woken up. He was staring at the soldiers, his eyes glittering with tears. “Why did you destroy what we worked so hard to build?”

The boy blinked, apparently confused by the question. “Because it was the right thing to do. It’s what we do everywhere.”

“Everywhere?” Wells repeated.

“Everywhere that’s left,” he said, gazing away out the dark, barred window. “Until all of Earth is safe.”

“Safe from what?” Wells snapped, unable to stop himself.

“You’ll learn,” said the older man, the one who’d taken him, as the others droned together, “You’ll learn.”

Wells clenched his fists behind him, settling in for the long ride. One way or another, these “raiders,” “Protectors,” whatever they were, were right—Wells was going to learn. He would learn as much as he possibly could.

And then he would fight back.





The red Hunter’s Moon had come and gone, the sun had risen on a new day, and the camp was still burning. A slow billow of smoke streamed up from the scorched earth, covering the sky in a sickly gray fog. But it did nothing to obscure what was left of the camp.

As Clarke stepped out of the infirmary cabin for a breath of air, she tried to brace herself for the devastation, but the scene before her was still like a punch to the gut. In addition to the guard tower, more than half of the newly built cabins had been destroyed. The clearing was strewn with pieces of charred wood, mangled bits of metal, and scraps of clothing. And until a few hours ago… bodies.

Whoever had attacked them had vanished as quickly and mysteriously as they’d appeared, but there was no pretending that yesterday’s events had been a terrible dream. At sunset, twenty-two bodies would be lowered into freshly dug graves. Now Clarke, her father, and Dr. Lahiri were doing everything in their power to make sure that number didn’t rise, that all of the injured stayed with them… including her mother.

As she turned toward the section of camp where the residential cabins used to stand, the horizon rippled with waves of heat. They’d tried to douse the fires at first, but the Council had called an end to it. Clarke understood. They had only a few things left: water and a tiny bit of reserve energy. There was no sense in wasting both of them on a losing battle, especially since the wind was faint and the flames were no longer spreading. One of the smoldering cabins had become a makeshift bonfire. The beds in the infirmary were strictly for the injured, so Clarke wasn’t surprised to see people huddled around the cabin, warming themselves.

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