Home > Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(3)

Last Defense (Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #14)(3)
Pittacus Lore

I spin around, almost falling out of my chair as I try to get to my feet.

The man behind me is an FBI agent wearing a black suit. He’s younger than me, maybe thirty, with olive skin, short dark hair, and several days’ worth of stubble. On the stool beside me, Gamera has taken the form of a cat, eyes locked on the agent, ready to pounce and morph. The animal must have realized his usual turtle form might draw unwanted attention from the agents.

The man holds out a hand.

“Agent Noto. Walker”—he hesitates slightly—“insisted that I might be a valuable resource to you.”

I wave my hand towards the feline at my side.

“I’ve already got a bodyguard.” He doesn’t find this funny. I continue. “I’m sure your Bureau skills will be more useful up there instead of watching me sift through alien data files.”

He smirks a little, but it’s hard to tell if it’s out of annoyance or amusement.

“I assure you I’m more than just a gun, Dr. Goode.”

It’s been so long since someone called me “doctor” that the word sounds strange attached to my name. I almost can’t believe there was a time when students and colleagues called me that on a daily basis.

Noto continues.

“In the past I served as a liaison to the Mogadorians. Before we realized what their true intentions were.”

“Ah. So you have a good idea of who we’re dealing with.”

“I can even understand some of their language. Though I admit that I’m probably on the equivalent of a kindergarten level when it comes to reading it.”

Finally, a windfall.

“Please,” I say, shaking his hand. “Call me Malcolm.”

He takes a seat on the other side of the desk and I get him caught up, pointing him towards a set of files to examine. I try to explain that we’re looking for anything useful, even if that’s a vague description. He seems to understand. We work in relative silence for hours, talking only about our findings, comparing notes. It’s fruitless work. I don’t uncover anything particularly helpful, and Noto’s progress is slow. He often spends fifteen minutes on a file before realizing it’s an order for more food supplies or inconsequential reports on traffic around Ashwood.

Eventually I open up a file that causes me to freeze, my heart pounding in my chest. I recognize the face of the human on camera. I can even give him a name, though it takes me a moment to pin it down in my head.

Ethan.

The problem is, I don’t know why I know his face and name.

The file appears to be a video conference between Ethan and a Mogadorian. Based on the tattoos, I’m guessing it’s a high-ranking official. Ethan is reciting a list of names, giving facts about them and their locations. The words trigger something in my memory, illuminating one of the dark places I’d thought long lost. Faces flash through my head of men and women who helped the Loric refugees when they first arrived on Earth. People I recruited.

Greeters.

That’s when I realize who Ethan is. He had been one of them. A Greeter. No, that’s not right. He was going to be one, but I cut him loose before he fulfilled his duty for some reason. He wasn’t there when the Loric landed. There’s something else, just out of reach. I didn’t trust him—but why not?

As I continue watching, I start to understand a little more. He worked with the Mogs. A traitor detailing everything he knew about the Greeters and the Loric, which wasn’t much. Still, it was probably enough to give the Mogs a few leads.

In fact, it sounds like the Mogs already had at least one of the Greeters captured at the time this video was taken thanks to Ethan’s information. I wonder, was it me?

New images shoot through my mind. Some of the same faces as before, only this time they’re pale, broken, bloodied. They’re here, at Ashwood, being shown to me as a threat or a warning that if I don’t tell Dr. Anu—the head scientist at Ashwood—everything he wants to know, I will end up like them.

Dead. Murdered.

I swallow down the waffles and coffee that are rising in my throat as Ethan continues to talk. Based on what he says, it sounds like the message is old—from before everything happened in Paradise. Even so, Ethan lets a bombshell slip: he’s been put in charge of training and recruiting Garde Number Five. He’s already had contact with the boy.

The video ends, and everything comes crashing down on me. Despite all the confusion and gaps in my memories, I know some things to be true. I was in charge of recruiting the Greeters. I must have brought Ethan on board at some point, even if I did kick him out of the group before the Loric arrived. Ethan turned on us and likely molded Five into the traitor he is now.

And because of that, Eight is dead.

It’s an easy line to follow, the dots almost connecting themselves and creating a direct link from me to Eight’s corpse. I take my glasses off and squeeze the bridge of my nose, trying to shake the pounding that suddenly fills my head as these memories and realizations flood in. Not only did I give the Mogs knowledge of the Sanctuary, I helped them turn one of the Loric into a Mog sympathizer. Who knows what other terrible things I did while under their control—or that I accidentally set into motion just trying to help the Garde. Will I wake up tomorrow and suddenly discover that I helped plan this invasion too? How do I begin to atone for all this?

I realize Noto is staring at me. His face is steely, but there’s a hint of concern behind his eyes. Or maybe suspicion.

“I’m fine,” I say. “Just a headache.”

“Maybe you should take a break,” he suggests. “Get some air.”

I nod, but make no effort to move.

“I’m sure none of this can be easy, coming back here,” Noto says. “Walker gave me a quick overview of what happened to you. It’s kind of funny, actually. I investigated your disappearance from Paradise.” He pauses. “Well, I guess ‘funny’ isn’t really the right word.”

This is something I didn’t expect. He looks far too young to have been involved in the case.

“You did?” I ask.

“Not originally, but after the Mog incident at the high school—you know about that, right?”

“I do.”

“That’s when our team went to Ohio. I spent some time looking into your old missing person’s case. It was a hell of a puzzle. Like you just vanished off the face of the earth.” He squints a little, staring at me. “You still don’t remember what happened?”

“Nothing about my abduction,” I say with a sigh. “I’m not sure I’ll ever know what happened. I’ve tried putting everything back together. Strange things will trigger a memory. Mostly just flashes of images and feelings. But even those are difficult to hold on to or understand. There are even missing spots from years before I was taken. Whatever they did broke me. They took so much of my life away.”

“I can’t imagine.”

I think of the Greeters again, and of the video I discovered earlier where I’m drugged or brainwashed, being controlled in some way.

“That’s probably a good thing,” I say. “The Mogadorians did terrible things here—to me and to others. Still, I’d gladly remember every excruciating detail if it meant having all my good memories back as well.”

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