[Lorien Legacies 04.95] The Lost Files: Five's BetrayalPittacus Lore
Excerpt from The Revenge of Seven
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THERE WAS ONCE A PLACE THAT WAS BEAUTIFUL and lush and full of life and natural resources. Some people lived there for a long time, but then others came along who wanted or needed the land and everything on it. So they took it.
There is nothing special about this story. Open any history book on Earth—and probably every other planet—and you’ll see a version of it play out continuously, on loop, over and over again. Sometimes the land is taken in the name of spreading a better way of life. Or for the sake of the native people. Occasionally the takers seize it based on some intangible reason—some divine right or destiny. But all of these reasons are lies. At the center of every conflict is power, and who will wield it. That’s what wars are fought over, and why cities, countries and planets are conquered. And though most people—especially humans—like to pretend that gaining power is just an added bonus on top of whatever a conflict is supposedly about, power is the only thing that anyone is really after.
That’s one great thing about the Mogadorians: they don’t really bother with pretense. They believe in power. Even worship it. They see its potential to grow and serve their cause. So when you’re someone like me who has extraordinary abilities, you become one of two things to the Mogs: a valuable asset, or an enemy who will eventually be destroyed.
Personally, I like being alive.
The Mogs don’t pretend that they took my home planet of Lorien—which I barely remember—for any reason other than because they needed its resources. It’s the same reason they’re on Earth now. A planet as big as Earth will serve the Mogs well for decades—maybe even centuries—before they have to go looking for another home. And the humans . . . well, it’s not like there’s anything really special about them. They’re pretty weak for the most part and are only barely managing to keep the planet alive as it is. One day soon there will be a full-scale invasion, and all their petty problems won’t mean anything, because suddenly there will be some incredibly powerful extraterrestrials lording over them. Showing them how to live. Giving their lives purpose.
And I’ll be one of their new rulers. Because the Mogs have seen the potential in me. They’ve promised me a spot as a commanding officer in the Mog ranks, with North America as my kingdom. My personal playground. And all I have to do is fight alongside them and help them capture the other Garde remaining on Earth. Then I can help the Garde see that there’s no way the Loric are ever going to defeat the Mogs. I’m assuming they were spoon-fed the same stories Rey, my Cêpan, told me when I was growing up: that the Mogs were our enemies.
But that’s not true. Or at least it doesn’t have to be true. Not if we join them.
After sitting around training and waiting for almost my entire life, it feels good to finally have an actual mission. To have a purpose. To not just be hiding and waiting for something to happen to me. It makes me actually want to train and study and get better, because what I’m working towards now isn’t some fairy tale Rey fed me over dinner on the island, but a future I can see.
I’ve learned a lot about the reasons why wars are fought and won in the last few weeks since I’ve been living in a Mog compound somewhere in the middle of West Virginia. In fact, most of my “research” hours are spent in an interrogation room that’s been converted into a study for me, where I learn about famous battles and conflicts or read the Great Book, which is the story of the Mogadorians and how their intellect and abilities outgrew their planet and forced them to seek other worlds to rule and guide. About how the Loric refused to share their resources or listen to reason when it came to adopting the Mogs as rulers. It’s a book written by Setrákus Ra, the unstoppable leader of the Mogs, and, well, let’s just say if I’d read it earlier, I would have had a much clearer viewpoint of the fight between the Mogs and the Loric than I did when I was hiding in a lean-to shack on a deserted island. I’ve begun to wonder if all my memories of being so young and happy on Lorien are just because I was too dumb and little to know what was really going on. I mean, any civilization that puts their last hope in a bunch of toddlers on spaceships has got to be a little bit out of whack, right?
Ethan’s helped me see these things. He’s helped me realize that I have a choice in this war, even though the Elders didn’t want me to have one. It was strange at first to find out that my best friend was working for the Mogs—and that I’d technically been under Mog care for the better part of a year without knowing it—but I can’t blame Ethan for keeping things a secret from me at first. I’d been so brainwashed by my Cêpan’s stories of the Garde triumphing over the armies of the Mogs and returning Lorien to its former glory that I probably wouldn’t have seen reason if he’d been up front with me at the beginning. Ethan is what some of the Mog commanders here have called a rare example of a human who has the intelligence to side with the winning team.
Still, it’s so strange to be here underground. I’m technically an honored guest of Setrákus Ra, but I haven’t proved myself yet. All they have is my word that I’m now loyal to them, but words don’t carry a lot of weight with the Mogs. They believe in action, and results. And so I study and train and wait for the day when I get the chance to show them I am capable and ready to lead in their name. I follow orders. Because even though someday in the future I’ll become invaluable to the Mogs, right now I’m just a former enemy living under their roof.
I’m buried in a book about the founding of America—particularly the expansion of European empires across the country—when Ethan comes into my study, flashing the toothy grin he always has plastered on his face.
“Good afternoon, Five,” he says.
“Hey,” I say, closing the book in front of me. Ethan’s arrival means study time must be over. As much as I’m looking forward to being in charge of Canada and the United States, reading about the endless cycles of wars they’ve been caught up in can be monotonous. At least once the Mogs take over, war will be a thing of the past. There’ll be no armies capable of standing up to them.
“How did you find today’s reading?”
“There was some pretty dirty biological warfare going on back when Columbus and other explorers were first coming over. Smallpox blankets? It’s kind of insane.”
Ethan’s grin doesn’t flinch.
“The beginning of every great empire is stained with a little blood,” he says. “Wouldn’t you say it was worth it?”
I don’t answer immediately. Ethan’s eyes shift almost imperceptibly, but I catch them. He’s glanced at the one-way mirror at the other end of my desk. It’s easy to see what he’s getting at. Others are watching. Here in the Mog compound, someone is always watching.
I tense up a little. I’m still not used to being under constant surveillance. But it’s necessary, as Ethan’s explained, so that the Mogs know they can trust me. It makes me only want to say things that will impress whoever’s watching, or show off how smart I am. I’m getting better at keeping my brain focused on that.
“Definitely,” I say.
Ethan nods, looking pleased. “Of course it’s worth it. Keep reading that book tomorrow, and write down a few positive things a
bout the conquerors’ tactics.”
“Whatever our Beloved Leader requires of me.” I say this almost as a reflex. The first few days I was here, I heard it so many times that I just kind of adopted it. I probably say it ten times a day now without even realizing it half the time.
“Did you read the assigned passages from the Great Book?” Ethan asks.
“Of course. Those are the best parts of the study sessions.” This is completely true. The other books are boring and make me suddenly understand why teenagers like me were always complaining about homework on TV shows I saw before coming to the Mog compound. But the Great Book is, well, great. Not only is it written much simpler than the other books, it also answers a lot of questions I’ve had throughout my life. Like why the Mogs went after Earth even though they had Lorien, and why they started hunting down the Loric once they got here, even though there were so few of us. The book explains that the Loric were weak but sneaky, and the Mogadorian belief that leaving even one enemy alive gives them the power to recruit others and multiply, gain power and one day rise against you.
Also, it’s really bloody and violent, which makes it much more fun to read. I can see it play out in my head like one of the action movies I used to love to go see when I was still in Miami.
“And what did you learn about today?” Ethan asks.
“About how Setrákus Ra bravely fought our Elders. How they tried to trick him and poison him, but our Beloved Leader was courageous and bested them, anyway.”
“Our Elders?” Ethan asks, slight concern on his face.
I correct myself. “I mean the Loric Elders. It makes me even more excited to meet our Beloved Leader.”
I have not had the pleasure of meeting Setrákus Ra in person yet. Apparently someone higher up thought it wasn’t a good idea to give a superpowered guy like me an audience with the future ruler of the solar system until I’ve proved myself.
Ethan grins and pulls something out of his pocket. He tosses it on the table, and it bounces heavily a few times and then rolls. I stop it with my telekinetic Legacy and lift it in the air: a steel ball bearing almost as big as a Ping-Pong ball.
“What’s this?” I ask.
“Consider it a gift. Use your power on it. See how it feels.”
I float the ball over to the palm of my hand. With a little focus, my body suddenly takes on a metallic sheen. I drum my fingers on the table in front of me, and the sound of metal meeting metal fills the air. Ethan calls this Externa, the ability to take on the properties of whatever I touch. It’s the newest of my abilities and the one that probably needs the most work.
I shrug as I crack a metallic knuckle.
“It feels like I’m made of steel. But I could have just touched the table and gotten the same kind of effect.”
“But the table’s not going to be with you all the time. From now on, this ball bearing should be. I don’t want you to find yourself in the middle of a fight with nothing but sand or paper to turn into.”
“Thanks.” I smile. It’s definitely not the flashiest or most expensive thing Ethan and the Mogs have given me, but I can see how it might end up being useful. I shove the ball bearing into my pocket, where it settles beside a red rubber ball I’ve carried with me for a long time—a trinket from a kid’s vending machine.
Ethan tosses me a rolled-up sheet of paper. I push some books out of the way and spread it out in front of me. It’s a map of the Western Hemisphere.
“What’s this for?” I ask.
“I just wanted to make sure we had all the information correct on it. For record keeping and stuff like that.”
The map includes a thick red line that zigzags across the United States and down into the Caribbean. There are dates printed along the markings.
“This is a map of all the places I lived growing up,” I say.
“Correct. Just give it a once-over when you have a chance. I guessed on a lot of the dates based on stories you’d told me.”
“But what good is any of this information?”
Ethan shrugs. “Just in case the Garde somehow caught your trail or tried to track you down, we’d know where they might be searching. We’ll want to put a few scouts in those locations, just in case.”
I nod, looking over the map. It’s weird to think of myself as being young and powerless with Rey in all these places. Ethan comes up behind me and looks over my shoulder.
“Where was it that you said your guardian started to get so ill?” he asks.
I point to a place where the line dips into Pennsylvania.
“Around here somewhere. I’m not sure where exactly. We were camping in the mountains.”
“There are some of the finest hospitals in the country in that area. You know, if your Cêpan hadn’t forced you to stay hidden on the island for as long as you did, he probably would have lived,” Ethan says. “It’s a shame he was so shortsighted that he couldn’t see the inevitable future of Mogadorian progress.”
“He thought the warmer air would help him.”
“What he probably needed was a shot of antibiotics.” Ethan shakes his head and crosses his arms. “I’m just glad you were able to get off the island before you ended up going crazy and talking to the pigs. I still can’t believe someone as powerful and smart as you was expected to raise those slop-covered animals.”
I laugh a little. Over the last few weeks I’ve told Ethan basically everything I can remember about my life. All about the tiny little shack and the pigs I raised and how I trained myself to use my telekinesis on my own. He and the other Mogs seemed really impressed by that part. Like I managed to become something great even when every card in the deck was stacked against me.
When I look at Miami on the map, my mind flashes with memories of the time I spent there before Ethan took me in. When I was just a punk-ass street rat wasting my powers on petty stuff like picking pockets, totally oblivious to how much authority I should have been wielding. There was a girl. Emma. My partner in crime who turned on me when she saw what I was capable of. Who was afraid of what I could do instead of respecting my abilities. I frown at the memory, and my stomach drops a little because it’s been a while since I’ve thought of her. There had been a time when she was my only friend in the world, but she was just using me too, wasn’t she? I was the one with the real talent. She was just riding on my coattails.
There’s a knock on the door, and then a Mog enters. One of the vatborn messengers and servants in the compound. I straighten up in my chair. This is a reflex. Even though I’ve been here a few weeks, I’m still getting used to seeing Mogs every day. More than that, I never know what they’re going to ask me to do when they show up in the interrogation room that’s been turned into my study or track me down in my bedroom. For all I know, they could be telling me that I’ve failed some test of theirs I didn’t even know I was taking.
“You weren’t responding to your radio,” the Mog says to Ethan, clearly a little ticked off.
Ethan points to the little earpiece that’s hanging out of his collar.
“Of course not,” he says. “All of your superiors know that I never wear my earpiece when I’m with our guest.” He motions to me. “It would be rude.”
“Commander Deltoch requests your presence in the detention wing,” the Mog says.
“I’ll be there at once.” Ethan nods.
“You and the Loric.”
I tense up. What do they want from me in the detention wing?
“Is that how you would address an honored guest in this base?” Ethan asks. “How about ‘sir’?”
The Mog seems a little apprehensive but nods his head to me.
“Sir,” he says.
“Dismiss him,” Ethan says to me.
“What?” I ask.
“You’re going to have to get used to giving orders at some point.”
I look at the Mog, who’s got a full-on grimace now. I suddenly feel awkward. I hate it when Ethan does this. He’s always tr
ying to make everyone on the base treat me like their king or something. And while I’ll be leading them one day in the future, I’m still unproven potential, and the last thing I want is anyone stirring up animosity against me.
“Five,” Ethan says.
“You’re dismissed,” I say.
The Mog hesitates a moment. I assume his orders were to escort us to the other side of the building. I can almost see him trying to figure out who outranks whom in his head before Ethan clears his throat and, in a flash, the servant is gone.
“Conflicting orders, I’d imagine,” Ethan says as if he could read my brain.
“Do you think I’ll get him in trouble?”
Ethan’s face goes serious.
“You can’t worry about that. Don’t forget who you are. When the Mogs take Earth, you’ll be one of their officers. A leader. You may be new here, but you are the powerful Number Five. Show them mercy now, and they won’t respect you when you’re in charge.”
“I need a chart to keep the ranks all straight in my head.”
“Just always act like you’re at the top of the food chain. Now come along,” Ethan says, motioning towards the door. “Let’s see what Commander Deltoch is up to with the prisoners this afternoon.”
He doesn’t give me time to react, only turns and heads out the door. I can’t help but glance to the wall across from my desk, where a photo is taped up. It’s a guy who looks like he’s a few years older than me, with long brown hair. He’s built like an athlete—way fitter than I’ve ever been in my life. He looks smug. He’s jogging in the photo and seems to be unaware that his picture is being taken. I haven’t met him yet, but I know he’s here on the base with me. Locked up. They’ve tried to torture him, but that doesn’t really work. He’s protected by magic, like I am. By a charm put on us when we were kids that keeps us from being hurt until our number is up.
He is Number Nine.
The Mogs want me to kill him. His is the blood that must be spilled for me to advance.
He is my proof of loyalty.