|Animorphs 65: The Pact
Author: capnnerefir PM
The Animorphs know better than anyone that in war, terrible decisions are made. In order to defeat one group of Yeerks, they'll have to aid another. The time has come to cut a devil's deal with two beings that they know they cannot trust...Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Adventure - Ax - Chapters: 4 - Words: 22,001 - Reviews: 18 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 02-21-09 - Published: 02-11-09 - Status: Complete - id: 4855333
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
For once, I don't have anythign special to say above this neet little grey line, so um...yeah...
Imagine a picture of Ax turning into a human.
Yeah, I know that one was done once already, but before you get all up in my grill about it, think back to books 3 and 13; not much difference, no? Anyhow, cue the title:
65: The Pact
This one goes out to all you Ax fans out there (including but not limited to my brother). Although I must admit that I hate to miss an opportunity for a Tobias fic. Oh well, I have to give them all their moment. I mean, if I wrote a Cassie fic, I have to do at least one Ax.
Enjoy or go to hell.
If I owned the Animorphs, you wouldn't be reading this for free.
And if I owned Streetlight Manifesto, I'd have better things to do than write fan fiction.
My name is Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill. Prince Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill. I am sure you know my story. I am, after all, the most famous Andalite alive. You know all about my time on Earth, fighting the Yeerks and aiding the Animorphs. What you may not know is my recent history.
About one Earth year ago, I was hunting the Blade ship, which escaped during our final battle with the Yeerks. I was lured into a trap and captured by a being called The One.
I am told that The One possessed me and controlled my body. In truth, I do not recall any of this. My next memory was perhaps the worst memory of my life. The only one that even comes close is the time when I learned that Elfangor was dead.
I remember feeling a Yeerk against my ear. The One, commanding my body, raised a slug to my head. I screamed in helpless terror as the Yeerk squirmed its way into my brain. I could feel it picking through my mind, reading my memories, learning all of my secrets.
And then…the voice. His voice. Esplin 9466. The Abomination; Visser Three; the Yeerk who killed my brother. When I realized who was in my head, when I understood whose slave I had become, I wanted nothing more than to take my life. But, of course, I could not.
I watched, helpless, as my brother's murderer used my body, my morphs, and even my own mind against my friends. For months, I was trapped, fighting those I loved. But then, one day, there came one of the greatest and yet most bitter days of my life. I was rescued.
My friends snuck aboard the Blade ship, knocked me out, and kidnapped me. Their ship, the Reliquary, was damaged badly by the Blade ship and was forced to make a landing in the middle of nowhere. They were at a standoff.
In the end, to buy some time, they released the Visser; I was free, but we were still trapped. The Yeerks had agreed to let us go for a small price: me. If I would return to be the host of the Visser once more, my friends would get to live.
We had tricked the Yeerks, though. My nephew, Alloran-Sirinial-Fangor, morphed me and went in my stead. We do not yet know what his fate was. They may have killed him when they learned that he wasn't me. Or they may have infested him. I pray it was the first.
I knew that we would stop at nothing to free him if he had been captured. It was my fault and my responsibility. But right now, we had another battle to face. My shorm, Tobias, was trapped in what I understand to be a very awkward situation no matter what race you are. He and Rachel were attempting to explain to their families that Rachel was pregnant.
I was there for 'moral support', though I must confess that I do not quite understand what that means. Morals are intangible, and so it is impossible for one to support them. Nevertheless, I was there, feeling very uncomfortable.
Rachel's mother, Naomi, and her father, Dan, the latter of which was present through a hologram, glared at Tobias, obviously greatly angered. Tobias's mother, Loren, who was also joining us via hologram, just looked a bit disappointed. Jacques, Rachel's step-father, had decided to leave the room. Jacques is, in many ways, a very wise man.
"I mean," Rachel said to her parents, "it's not a big deal. Tobias and I were probably going to get married after the war anyway. Now, we just know it's a sure thing. Right?"
Tobias nodded. "Yeah. Eventually. I mean, once this is all over and everything. And there's probably going to be a lot to do afterwards, with the media and all…eventually."
((I do not think that was reassuring,)) I said to him privately. He just shrugged.
It was Loren who broke the silence. "Well, there isn't really anything to be done about it, so we might as well just look at the good side of things."
"What good side?" Naomi demanded.
"Well, for starters, the timing."
"How is anything about the timing good?" Dan asked.
"To begin with," Loren answered, "this could have happened during the first war." That was met with silence. I flexed my tail. Loren added, "And now, Rachel's safe. She can't fight anymore, so you don't have to worry about her."
Naomi and Dan seemed to relax. "That's one good thing," Dan agreed. "It's just… She's my little girl!"
"Not anymore," Rachel said.
"So I've noticed," Naomi muttered.
"The real problem," Loren continued, "is that they're short one Animorph now."
Dan and Naomi stared at her. So did I. I did not think she would be the one to realize that that was, indeed, our current problem. But she did not know the full extent of our troubles.
"What can we do?" Loren asked. "I can still morph. If you need me to fight with you, I'll do it. Can't say I want to, but I will if you ask me."
I was surprised. But I got over my surprise quickly. Loren had once been Elfangor's wife, after all. Surprise was unnecessary. Of course she would fight.
Tobias shook his head. "No. I was thinking of someone younger. Someone closer to our age."
"Who?" Naomi asked. I believe she sounded suspicious, but I am no longer as in touch with human emotions as I once was. I have been gone far too long.
Tobias inhaled deeply. "Is Jordan around?"
"No," Naomi said. "You are not getting another of my little girls. I already lost one daughter to this war and I will not let you cost me another."
"It should be Jordan's choice, mom," Rachel told her. "We were all given a choice to make. Jordan at least deserves the option to fight."
"Would you have ever said no?" Dan responded. "What do you think the chances are that Jordan will?"
"Jordan isn't me, dad. And she knows what she's getting into, unlike we did. Jordan understands what's going on. The rest of us, we were thrown into this war by accident, by chance." Tobias snorted at that, but he didn't say anything. He, apparently, believed that chance had very little to do with things. "She can choose not to fight. We can find someone else. But she deserves the same chance we had. She deserves to be allowed to fight for her planet."
Naomi glared at me. "What do you think, Andalite?"
I don't know why she asked my opinion. I did notice, though, that she said 'Andalite' with almost the same hatred that a Yeerk says it.
((I am not here to think. I am here for moral support,)) I answered. Honestly, I didn't have much of an opinion. I did not know Jordan. During the brief time she knew of my existence, during our stay in the Hork-bajir valley, we did not interact at all. Her mother kept her children away from me as much as possible.
"I'm not surprised," she sneered. "I never figured thinking was your strong suite. You're just a hired killer, aren't you?"
"Naomi, that's enough," Loren said. "I know you're upset but that's no reason to take out on Aximili. He's had a hard enough time lately as it is."
((Thank you, Loren. And if you truly want an answer, Naomi, I have no opinion on this matter. I do not know Jordan. I have to trust Rachel's judgment.))
"I do not want my daughter to be one of you," Naomi insisted. "I've seen what this does to you. Rachel, I barely recognize you anymore."
We heard a new voice then. And yet, at the same time, it was an old one. One we knew all too well. "Well, Naomi, there is another option."
Rachel groaned. Tobias nodded a quick hello to the creature that appeared in the living room. "Drode," Tobias said. "What brings you here?"
"What is that thing?" Naomi demanded. Dan took a step back in his hologram. Loren just shrugged.
"We aren't entirely sure anymore," Tobias answered.
"Call me the Drode," Drode answered her. "Now, we seem to be at an impasse. The Animorphs need a new member. They want Jordan. You, Naomi, do not want them to have her. How, oh how, I ask, do we resolve this?"
"Get to the point," Rachel snapped.
The Drode grinned. "Pregnancy's making you grumpy, Rach. You need to chill." Suddenly, the temperature in the room got very cold. I could see my breath, as could everyone else.
"Oh, great, he's started with the puns," Tobias sighed. "Are you happy now, Rachel? It's like we're dealing with Marco." Rachel decided it was safest to remain silent. "You were saying?" Tobias prompted.
"Well, I happen to know someone who would make a perfect addition to your team, Tobias. And it's not someone who anyone would worry about."
"No deal," Tobias answered. "If we're getting a new teammate, we're choosing them ourselves. I am not going to deal with another fiasco like what happened with David. It's going to be someone we choose, not you."
"Oh, but you already chose him," the Drode laughed. "Of course, neither you or Rachel was there at the time. In fact, I suppose the people who chose him are gone now. What, with Jake…incapacitated, and Cassie too busy to deal with saving the world anymore. Of course, Marco is still around."
"What are you rambling about?" Rachel demanded. "We never chose another Animorph."
"Sure you did. You chose more than a dozen. I saw the whole thing. Are you going to tell me you don't remember?"
"The auxiliaries," Tobias concluded.
I nodded. ((That seems to be the case. But the Drode cannot raise the dead. Nor can Crayak. At least,)) I added, looking at Rachel, ((not by himself.))
"Who said anything about raising the dead?" Drode asked.
((One of them survived?)) I asked.
"More than you'd think. Some of them trapped themselves in morphs rather than morph back to injured human bodies. Ah, such a lovely move by you, recruiting the disabled. It makes me proud. I didn't even have to influence your decisions at all.
"But yes, Prince Aximili, some of them survived. One of them happens to be a normally functioning, healthy man now. He went off to live with the Andalites and learned quite a few things you might find useful."
"Who?" Tobias asked.
"His name is…but you know what? I'd rather show you. It's so much more fun that way."
Suddenly, there was a new person in the room. He was about the same age as Tobias and Rachel. Tall and athletic, with golden-brown hair. He darted his head around, nervous, confused, and afraid. Then, his eyes fell on Rachel. "You? You're supposed to be dead."
"Back at you, James."
James was, understandably, freaked out, as my human friends might say. "What's going on, Rachel? You were dead. I saw your funeral on TV. Who are these people? And how did I get here?"
"Calm down," Tobias said as soothingly as possible. "We can explain everything. But you have to go first. How did you survive? We thought all the auxiliaries died."
"Who's he?" James asked Rachel and myself. "Why is he asking the questions? Where's Jake?"
((Prince Jake is no longer among the living,)) I told James in private thought speech. ((No one but we Animorphs know.))
He nodded. "Okay. So who is this guy?"
"Oh, right. I forgot. You probably wouldn't recognize me without the feathers. I'm Tobias."
"Okay. Who's the purple guy?"
"That's too long to answer," Tobias replied. "Just call him the Drode. He's on our side, more or less. Tell us your story, James. I want to know."
"Okay, well I—"
"Wait, wait, wait," the Drode interrupted. My tail twitched. This creature was getting on my nerves. "Why have the poor man tell the same story repeatedly? Let's gather the rest of the Animorphs, shall we?"
Suddenly, we were in a large dining room. Marco, Jeanne, and a rat I recognized as David, were seated at it, eating. Marco barely looked up from his meal. "Oh, the Drode. What now? Can't you see I'm eating? I don't interrupt you during your meals."
Then, Marco looked up and saw James. "Hey, you look familiar. Have we met?"
((This is James,)) I answered. ((He did not die during the attack on the Pool ship.))
"That makes one of us," Rachel muttered.
((He was about to tell us his story.))
"Well, go on," the Drode urged. Then he sat down at Marco's table and started eating off of Marco's plate.
James sat down. "Well, we attacked the ship like Jake told us to. But I hung back, in hawk morph. I wanted to try to keep my people organized. I thought that maybe some of us could get inside and help you. I had to dodge a lot of Dracon beams, especially once they caught a good look at me. I was in red-tail morph," James smiled. Then, he looked at the ground.
"When I saw that there was nothing we could do…when I saw that we were all going to die…I…I ran away." His head snapped up, looking for the accusation he expected. He was met with silence.
I wanted to call him a coward. He had fled to save his own life and left his men to die. I wanted to insult him. But I held my tongue, to use a human expression. We were in desperate need of help and James was our best option at the moment. We could not alienate him. I believe my fiends kept silent for this reason. I know that Rachel probably wanted to attack him.
"Go on," Tobias said after a moment of silence.
James nodded, relieved. "After it was all over…there wasn't anything left for me here. But I had a second chance. I had my legs back. I could morph. What I didn't have was a home and a family. I didn't have a reason to stay on Earth. So when I got the chance, I went with the Andalites to their homeworld.
"They liked to keep me as a kind of cultural advisor. I ended up working on rights for the handicapped Andalites. The way they're treated… I never thought of humans as tolerant before."
James shook his head. "But what I think you're really wondering is how I can help you aside from the morphing. I lived with a family of scientists while I was on the Andalite world. One of them was a xenobiologist studying humans. The other worked in the medical field; one of the few doctors on the Andalite world, now that everything can pretty much be cured by morphing. What I want to know is why I'm here. And how. And what happened to Jake? And what's with that rat? I've got a lot of questions."
Tobias nodded. "Okay. Marco, fill him in. Ax and David? I want to have a little talk with the two of you. Rachel and Jeanne, go and do whatever it is you do when you don't have orders."
"Rachel can't," Marco said. "You're going to be busy." Rachel stole Marco's food from the Drode and dumped it in Marco's lap. "That was completely uncalled for."
"Blame the pregnancy hormones."
James raised an eyebrow. "Okay, Marco, let's start with that."
As usual, I did not quite understand the interaction between Marco and Rachel. I dismissed it as irrelevant. Tobias and I walked out of Marco's house, David riding on my back. When we were alone Tobias turned to David. "What do you think, David?"
"About James. We betrayed him, in a way. We recruited him as an ace up our sleeves. And when we were done with him, we discarded him and left him to die. He didn't say he blames us, but I don't know if I can believe him."
((So why are you asking me?))
"I figured you'd be the one to ask. Do you think we can trust James? Or will he turn out to be…well, like you?"
((Honestly, I don't know. I just met him. But let me ask you, Tobias. What did your gut say about me?))
"Truth be told, David? I think I was the only one who actually said that we could trust you. The others…they already knew each other going into this. I was the only stranger. I guess I thought we had something in common. If it worked out with me, I thought it would work out with you. My gut told me we could trust you, David."
((What does it say about James?))
"It says that he feels guilty because he ran and lived while all of his friends died. It says he'll stick with us."
((In that case, I say we don't let him out of our sights.))
David left to begin the spy work. He would tell Marco and Jeanne what was going on. For the first time in…has it really been years?...Tobias and I were alone.
We walked around Marco's yard. It was delicious. Wordlessly, Tobias began to morph. At first, I didn't realize what he was doing. When I saw the stalk eyes, the hands, the tail, then I knew. He was morphing me.
It was odd to look at a younger version of myself. My second self, as I thought of me. In my mind, at least, I have lived three lives so far. The first was my time before Earth, when I was nothing more than Elfangor's little brother. That time was nothing worth remembering.
My second life began when Elfangor's came to an end. It was almost like I had to wait for his shadow to disappear because I could never walk out of it. I was looking at my second self now, since Tobias's morph had not aged. My second self, I think, is my favorite.
My third life is the one I live now. When I was captured, something died inside of me. I will never be the same person I was when I set out to find the Blade ship. I suppose it's funny because, in the end, the Blade ship found me.
Those who knew me well wondered why I hunted the Blade ship so mercilessly. The ones who did not know me assumed it was because I hated Yeerks. Those who knew me better were confused. I think only Prince Jake, Marco, Cassie, and I knew. It was revenge.
A Yeerk on the Blade ship had killed Rachel. She was my friend, my comrade. But Rachel was not the only friend who died that day. When she died, I lost my shorm, too. I wanted that Yeerk dead. The sad part is that I still do not know which one did it.
We fed in silence for a few minutes. Then, Tobias spoke to me. ((Ax, we need to talk about our next priority. We'll have to stick with James, at least for now. We need to concentrate on hitting the Yeerks back. So far, we've done almost nothing.))
I wanted to argue, but I knew better than anyone that what he said was true. With the exception of a few successful attacks against minor targets, nothing had happened to hurt the Yeerks; nothing done by the Animorphs, at least.
((These rebel Yeerks here in town,)) Tobias continued. ((I think we can use them. They want to take down the Visser. If they get him, their leader…what was his name?))
((Mersa Five-Two-Eight,)) I supplied. The Visser had memorized that name.
((Mersa. If we can get the Visser, Mersa will be in charge of everything. I think there has to be some way to use them. We need to keep the Yeerks fighting each other. That's our only chance. We can't take them both. The old tiger-wolf plot, as they say.))
I nodded but didn't say anything. Something in his voice told me that he didn't bring me out here to discuss this. ((Tobias, what is bothering you?))
He was silent for a long while. Then, ((Everything's falling apart, Ax. Santorelli's dead. Jake's dead. Cassie ran away. Rachel's pregnant and has to quit the fight. Al…God, who even knows what happened to him? He might be dead, too. Worse, he could be infested. Do you realize what the Visser could do with his knowledge?))
I nodded. ((It is...a problem.)) An understatement, but I did not know what else to say.
((We hit them as hard as we can and we're getting nowhere. I'm condoning terrible things, I'm doing terrible things, and all for nothing. The things I've done…if we survive this, I should be put on trial. I should be locked away, Ax-man. I'm no better than the Yeerks.
((I've always said that I'm willing to become them if it'll keep the rest of the Human race from doing the same. But I'm killing myself; I'm not killing them. I tell myself that, in the end, I'm doing the right thing because I'm doing the necessary thing. But it's hard to believe that when what I do has no effect at all.
((Do you know how tired I am of all of this, Ax? I play the hero, or at least the anti-hero, with all of them. Marco, Jeanne, David, Cassie, Al, and even Jake; they all thought it didn't hurt me. They thought I was invincible. Only you and Rachel know better. Only the two of you know how much it hurts.
((But I don't even tell Rachel how hard it is. Sometimes, Ax, I'm not even here anymore. I wish I was back to the days when I was a hawk, living a simple life. For a time, not long before we found you, I lived as a pure, true hawk. I lived off of instinct alone. No soul-mutilating choices and no steel masks. I wish I had those two weeks back, now.
((Sometimes…sometimes, I still hunt. The hawk never left me, Ax, even though I'm human now. I still feel the hunger every day. I still want to kill and eat live rodents. I still want to feel the warm blood in my mouth. And sometimes…sometimes, I still do it. I'll fly back to my meadow and sit in my tree. I'll wait. I'll hunt. And when I see a mouse or a rat or a rabbit, then I strike.
((I still live like a hawk, Ax. I'm no human. I'm no animal. And I'm certainly no Andalite. I'm just…I'm a man going through the motions of three lives. I hunt like the hawk. I fight like the Andalite. And when that's all over, I go home and pretend to be a human. I've always said I was willing to live this kind of life if it would save the world. But I'm not saving anyone, Ax. So what's the point of losing myself?))
I was silent for a long time before I could answer. ((There is something that the Yeerks have yet to take away completely. At least, from humans. They have not yet stolen human hope. As long as you fight, you give them that much.))
Tobias snorted. ((What good is hope when you've already lost?))
I shook my head. ((I have seen the ones without hope. The Visser showed me what the Hork-bajir were like a long time ago. They did not fight. They didn't cry out or scream or beg to be free. They sat quietly and accepted it all. The humans never did. They always had hope.
((I think you can understand how much that hope means, Tobias. You lived without hope for a time. After Rachel died, you had no hope. When she returned, do you realize how much you changed? Even the Visser noticed it.
((When you had no hope, nothing to live for, you were reckless. Yeerks feared you. But when you regained your hope, you were unstoppable. Even Guraff is wary of you now. As long as you fight, there will be hope.
((Some day, if we lose, all humans will have left are the memories and the stories of the Animorphs. But even those stories can give them hope. Even if you lose, you will never be defeated. That is why we fight on.))
Tobias gave me an Andalite smile. ((Thanks, Ax-man. I'm glad you're back. Times are tough right now. I'm glad to have my best friend by my side.))
((Unplanned pregnancies can be difficult,)) I agreed. I still remembered when Elfangor had to explain to my parents that they would have a grandson named Alloran.
My shorm laughed in my head, ((Who said it was unplanned, Ax?)) Then, he grew serious. ((I wanted her out of this fight. I couldn't lose her again. I can't go through that one more time. This was the only way I was sure she'd leave the fight behind. I've been trying for this since the first night she was back.))
I wasn't sure how to respond to that. It took me a few minutes to realize what he was saying. Then, I thought of the proper response. ((Marco would be proud.))
((Ax, did you must make a joke?))
((Was it funny?))
We went back into the mansion an hour later, since we assumed that would have given Marco enough time to fill James in on the main points of this new war. When Tobias demorphed, his face showed no sign of his earlier feelings.
I could not blame the others for not realizing how he felt. His face gave nothing away, nor did his voice. Only those of us who knew him best, only Rachel and I, could tell, and only because we already knew.
Tobias sat down in a chair at Marco's table and casually put his feet up. The Drode was gone. "Okay," he said. "Time to plan our next move."
"Jumping right into it, aren't we?" James said grimly.
"No choice," Tobias answered. "We've got Yeerks on two different fronts and not enough Animorphs to go around. I think there has to be some way to use these rebel Yeerks to our advantage. Marco? David? Any suggestions?"
"We have to get them to waste their resources fighting each other," Marco answered. "We need to start a fight."
((They're already ready to fight,)) David answered. ((You think the Visser's going to let them live for more than a few days? I can't see that happening. What do we know about their forces, Ax?))
((Most of the morph-capable hosts were retained by the Visser,)) I told her. ((That means many of the Hork-bajir and all of the human Controllers from the end of the first war. In terms of sheer firepower, the Visser's group is far more dangerous.))
Tobias nodded. "Okay. What do we know about the ones here?"
"They're led by that Yeerk Mersa Five-Two-Eight," Jeanne answered. "He is in the body of Hedrick Chapman. He seems to be supported by an Andalite traitor named Prince Imrahil."
((Imrahil,)) I snorted. ((To think that he would betray us to save his own life. It disgusts me.))
"What is it between the two of you?" Jeanne asked me. "When we first heard him talking to Mersa, Imrahil seemed to have something against you."
((He would. We went to the Academy together. He considered himself my rival. I didn't use to take any notice of him, really. He would compete with me in everything, though.))
"And you didn't notice?" Marco questioned.
((I never thought of it as competition,)) I answered. ((I just did as I was told. He tried to do it better and usually failed. He often said that the only reason for my success was because of Elfangor. He is right, in some ways. I would never have been on Earth were it not for being Elfangor's brother. Imrahil claims he could have won the war here twice as fast.))
They all laughed. "Sounds like a real jerk," James said after a while. "So how did he end up with the Yeerks?"
((Prince Imrahil was with me when we boarded the vessel on the edge of Kelbrid space. When we were captured, he surrendered. I did not know what happened to him after that; not for a long time. I do not remember anything until the Visser infested me.))
((What do we know about the Yeerks' feelings towards one another? I mean, obviously Mersa and the Visser don't like each other. And I'm sure Imrahil hates all Yeerks. I'm willing to bet that Guraff hates Mersa and Imrahil because they're traitors; same with the Visser. Does any of this help us?))
"Let's see," Marco began. "Everyone hates everyone. That's pretty much what I expected. But I don't think it's especially helpful."
"Who would be more willing to work with us, though?" Jeanne asked. "That is the question."
Tobias shook his head. "No. They're both willing to use us to get at the other. Then, they'll both betray us. The question is, who can we get away from when they do turn on us?"
"We've slipped past the Visser a lot in the past," Rachel reasoned. "I think we can get past him."
((The Visser has almost unlimited Kelbrid at his disposal, Rachel. And now he is not in a good mood. If he has the chance, he will use everything he has to crush you. In the past, he has overestimated the Kelbrid. He will not make the same mistake many more times. He is listening to Guraff more and more. He will not be foolish much longer.))
"If we got them to fight each other, who would win?" James asked. "Who has more power?"
((The Visser, definitely,)) I answered. ((As leaders, generals, and tacticians Mersa and Imrahil are no match for Guraff. And the Visser controls morph-capable Controllers as well as legions of Kelbrid; not to mention what exists of the Yeerk fleet. Mersa has a handful of human, Hork-bajir, and Taxxon Controllers, as well as some Bug fighters he was allowed to use, and some transport craft. Mersa's rebellion is soon going to be nothing more than a footnote in Yeerk history; what remains of it.))
Rachel nodded. "Mersa can't win this. He didn't think it through. The Visser's mad now. When he's mad, he breaks things. He's going to do what he was about to do when we rescued Ax. He's going to land his Blade ship and storm the place, killing anyone who gets in his way. Mersa doesn't have a chance."
Tobias forced a rare smile. "Then I think I know our next destination. We need to keep the Yeerks fighting each other. That won't happen if the Visser succeeds. We have to save these Yeerks."