Mila sat on the ancient stone floor, absentmindedly dragging her finger along the grout lines. How could such a dank dungeon lack insects?
She thought the question, but the answer meant nothing to her. Since her excommunication from the Hive, nothing meant anything to her.
When the hulking Mongol with a handlebar mustache burst into Mila’s apartment, he’d found her lying on the couch, staring at the ceiling.
Though she was more than capable of putting up a ferocious defense, she hadn’t resisted him at all. Off they’d gone—and now, this dungeon.
Mila heard the clic-clack of her cell door being unlocked, heard the groan as it opened, but didn’t look up. “Come,” Byan Khan commanded.
He led her down a long, torch-lit hallway and up a twisting stairway, never looking back to be sure she was following: The woman was broken.
At the end of another hallway, Mila saw robed figures seated around a long rectangular table. She heard the murmur of their conversation.
She did not even try to decipher their words, for she was mesmerized by a series of candle-lit stained glass windows set into the wall.
Each window depicted an event from an epic battle. In one, men in red robes encircled a termite mound. In the next, the mound was ablaze.
Pyramids covered in ants. Men impaled on the stingers of giant wasps. More robed figures, with lightning flying from their fingers.
Mila’s mind reeled. The images seemed to show an Insekt army losing a war to humans: Impossible! The Hive had never attacked this world!
In the last panel, humans cheered as a giant preying mantis wearing a broken crown fled the Earth atop a battered pyramid.
There could be no doubt: The windows depicted Mantis and the Hive being driven away. They had been here—and had been defeated!
For the first time, Mila wondered who her captors were. Suddenly, she heard a deep voice commanding her to approach the group.
She did as she was told. Approaching the table, she saw a small wooden stool at one end. “Sit!” the voice commanded, and she did.
The stool’s low height put her chin just level with the tabletop. She looked up at the menacing figures seated before her.
The man at the head of the table spoke. “Little girl, do you know why you’re here?” A large cowl obscured his face, but not his stench.
Mila shook her head no. The numbness of the past weeks was receding, forced aside by abject terror. The cloaked figure seemed to laugh.
“Did you really think Putin’s wife could murder the Commander and no one would notice? Our servants do not go missing for long.
“There is no need for you to claim innocence or attempt to explain yourself. Our psychic will discover all we need to know.”
At that moment, Mila felt a hand rest upon her shoulder. Looking up, she saw a kindly face smiling down at her: It was Arianna Huffington.