Authors: Pittacus Lore
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
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
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
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
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
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 about 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.”
Elders?” Ethan asks, slight concern on his face.
I correct myself. “I mean the
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.