|Megamorphs 5: A New Foe
Author: capnnerefir PM
Everything is about to get completely out of hand. Mersa is dead. The Animorphs are all that stand in the Visser's path. He has new allies and a new plan. If he isn't stopped this time, this war might be over for everyone... Set directly after book 68.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Adventure - Chapters: 6 - Words: 43,857 - Reviews: 15 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 04-28-09 - Published: 04-10-09 - Status: Complete - id: 4983303
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Imagine some sort of cool mosaic with the six original Animorphs, with some Pythagi and Andalites fighting in the background. (If someone wants to hook me up with some art, that'd kick ass.)
Megamorphs #5: A new Foe
For all of you who want to see a real, full-scale war bust out, with armies and tactics and everything, roll this up and smoke it. (I mean that as a good thing.)
And, as always,
Enjoy or go to hell.
If I owned the Animorphs, you wouldn't be reading this for free.
And if I owned any of the bands mentioned in here, I'd have better things to do than write fan fiction.
My name is Jake. I can't tell you my last name or where I live. You probably already know; I can't imagine that anyone Earth wouldn't. But if I told you, if I came out and said it, then Azmaveth would count that against us. And if we push him too far, that's the end of all mankind.
You've heard it all before. Yeerks, Animorphs, Kelbrid, Crayak, Azmaveth, and all that. So I won't bore you with all of that. What you might have missed, though, is a very important fact. I used to be dead. Not anymore. I've been given a second chance at life to do what I was always supposed to do. I've come back to fight the Yeerks again.
That wasn't the thing on my mind at the moment, though. I was only thinking about being dead. And wondering why I couldn't remember anything about it. It was almost like it had happened to someone else. They didn't tell me the story, just that it happened. Jake was dead. That's all I knew.
It was on my mind a lot because this was Santorelli's last day alive. His death had been a complicated one. For a while, I though he died when he and Tobias flew a ship into the sun to hide the Time Matrix. Then, after we died, he told me the whole story.
Just before he and Tobias were about to kill themselves, a being known as Azmaveth transported him through time. There, he lived as Tobias's stepfather for about three years. And then, he did what he had to do. He and Loren got in his car, and he crashed it. She survived but lost her memory. He lost his life.
He didn't have a choice. If Tobias had had a family during the First War, we have no idea how things would have been different. But it wasn't a risk we could afford to take. So he had to give his life for all of ours. I joined him in the afterlife not too much later.
Then came the offer. Azmaveth was the master of life and death. He could give us a second chance at life. He had already done so for Rachel. We could live again, but on one condition. We had to do him a small favor and assassinate a Yeerk named Mersa 528. We thought it would be easy enough. But it was far more complicated.
Mersa was a Yeerk rebel and Tobias's ally against the Visser. We later learned that the Visser served Azmaveth, who we also knew by the name of The One. Killing Mersa meant aiding our enemies. We almost didn't do it. But Mersa made our job easy. He went back to the Visser, which eliminated all of our qualms.
And then he made it even easier. He betrayed the Visser again and ran off to his allies, the Pythagi, who were behind his rebellion all along. The Yeerks and us went to one of their worlds. That was where Mersa met his end.
The problem is that there were two of us and only one Yeerk. Only Santorelli or I could live; not both. Santorelli chose my life over his. At least now I know where Tobias gets that from. He remained behind while we went off to kill Mersa. I felt terrible about that because it meant that Tobias would get very little time with him. And Jeanne.
During the early days of this war, Santorelli and Jeanne felt kind of like outsiders. They were the new guys, and we didn't have a history of working well with new guys. The two of them had a special bond, almost a father-daughter thing. I think Jeanne felt deeper than he did, since she didn't remember her real father. Even now that she and her father had been reunited, she still looked to Santorelli when she could.
At least he had gotten to spend some time with Loren while we were away. He never told her everything he knew about her lost past, though. Tobias spilled that one when got back. Loren accepted it with shocking ease; with even more ease than she had accepted the whole Elfangor thing. She was a remarkable woman, Loren was.
There were only a few of us waiting with Santorelli. We didn't know what exactly would happen, or when. But we did want to be there for it. Loren was there, of course, as were Tobias and Jeanne. Marco had decided to come with Jeanne. He still didn't have his memory back, but she filled him in on everything. I have to admit, when Marco was cracking jokes about Jeanne back when they first met, I never expected anything to actually happen. Or for it to be anything more than a shallow relationship.
Rachel was supposed to be here, too. She didn't know Santorelli well, but in her opinion, anyone who actually treated Tobias well as a child was okay. Plus, she thought of him as family, although that was really indirect.
There was someone else in the room with us, too, someone who had just arrived a moment ago. Someone I never expected to come. Guraff 427. A Yeerk. The Visser's right-hand man. A Hork-bajir Controller with the biggest host I've ever seen. A walking killing machine and possibly our deadliest enemy. And one of Tobias's closest friends.
No one in the house but we Animorphs knew that Guraff was a Yeerk. Everyone else, Loren included, thought he was a Hork-bajir seer. His host was, but not Guraff. No one would know that he was here to see off the father of his greatest enemy, the man he called the Devil Prince.
I looked over at Tobias. What was this like for him? What could he possibly be thinking now?
Where the hell was Rachel? It wasn't like her to miss something that she knew was important to me. She and Santorelli weren't close, but still, I expected her to come. I mean, if Marco showed up for Jeanne... For God's sake, even Guraff was here.
Not for long, though. He didn't tell the Visser he was coming here and he had a lot of work to do. I'd have liked to keep him from it, but there was no way to dissuade him. He probably shouldn't have come at all, but he just couldn't help himself. He had to meet the only father I had ever known.
Guraff and Santorelli stood facing each other. Guraff towered over him, but Santorelli was apparently unperturbed. This was their first meeting, and I couldn't imagine it being anything but their last. Few are given a second chance; no one ever gets a third.
Guraff bowed his head slightly. "I am Guraff," he introduced himself. "I am...a friend to your son."
Santorelli cracked a rare smile. "A friend? He sure keeps strange company these days. I've heard of you. You don't spend any amount of time as a bodyguard for a Visser without hearing about Guraff Four-Two-Seven."
"And I have heard of you. I am told that your abilities with a Dracon beam exceeded even my own. I regret that we never had the chance to test that."
"Don't feel too bad. If we had tried it, I'd have started this trip a lot earlier."
Guraff chuckled. "You show no fear in the face of death. That is admirable, Santorelli."
"It's only scary the first time."
Guraff nodded. For a moment, neither said anything. No one did. Only Rachel and I seemed to be comfortable around Guraff. I started wondering whether Guraff feared death. I shook my head. Probably not. What he feared was what death might represent: failure. Dying and failing his Visser and his comrades, that was what he feared, not death itself. He and I have so much in common.
Guraff broke the silence. "I must be going now. Please, give my regards to Prince Elfangor. I cannot thank you two..." He paused and looked at Loren. "...You three[ enough. You have given me what no others ever have."
Santorelli raised an eyebrow. "And what's that?"
"A worthy foe." He turned to leave. As he passed me, he nodded. "Devil Prince. Give my regards to Rachel. Until next time."
I nodded back. "Will do. See you on the battlefield, Guraff." Everyone relaxed when he left. I guess they thought it was a weird, complicated relationship the two of us had. Not really. He's a friend, a very close one. We just happen to fight on different sides of the same war. It's not even that we have very different values or beliefs. We just had the bad luck to be born in different situations. That's probably for the best, though. I don't think there's anyone who can stand up to Guraff and me together. Just ask the Pythagi.
"Some friend you've got there," Santorelli said to me once Guraff was gone.
"Some enemy," Marco muttered.
I shrugged. "Why do those have to be different things?" I answered. "With enemies like him, who needs friends?"
"Speaking as one of his enemies, I do," Marco told me. Again, silence reigned. It's hard to make smalltalk when we all knew why we were there: waiting for one of us to drop dead.
Santorelli grunted. "Guess I should get my goodbyes out of the way, then. I can't have much longer left. Marco... I don't know you all that good, but I know enough. You're a smart man, and a loyal one, even without your memories. Keep that all around. But the most important part of you isn't your brain or your heart. We've got enough brains and heart in this little army. Above all, you've got to keep the jokes coming. At least if you're driving everyone nuts, it's not the war that's taking them."
"You've been spending too much time with Rachel," Marco joked. I raised an eyebrows at Santorelli. That didn't sound like him. He wasn't big on goodbyes.
He looked at Jeanne next. "Uh... Looks like you've been doing fine without me helping you out," he said at last. "You've got yourself a nice home, big family, allegedly cute boyfriend-"
"None of that replaces you," she interrupted.
"No one can ever replace anyone," Santorelli agreed. "But that's the great thing about life. Everyone you meet is someone new. And it seems to me that all the new people you're meeting are doing more for you than I ever could. You're going to be alright without me, kiddo. I made Jacques promise me that and if he doesn't, I'll haunt him. You know I'll do it."
Jeanne nodded. Then she said something in rapid French. Santorelli shook his head. "I don't know French or whatever that was, but back at you."
He turned to Jake next. "Jake... Hard to think of something to say to you. You more than anyone know where I'm going."
"And I'll make sure you're going for a good reason," Jake told him. "I won't make you regret your choice."
"Yeah. Good. Just make sure no one else from the team ends up joining me during this thing, you hear?"
Jake nodded. "Got it."
Santorelli turned to Loren next. "I'm really unsure what to say to you. I can't tell you all about the life we had, so I'll just focus on what we can both remember. These few days I've been here have been worth dying twice. It's been wroth dying a thousand times. I'm not going to tell you that I love you, because you don't even know who I am. But I did love you, and if I had the chance, I'd keep on doing it. I guess the best thing I could say is also the most terrible. Elfangor's death was the best thing that ever happened to me."
Loren, understandably, didn't know what to say. Although I had told her that Santorelli had been her husband, she didn't remember him. She didn't have any feelings for him, she couldn't. I had hoped that maybe, just maybe, she'd feel some trace of something for him. But life doesn't work that way. Not my life, at least.
Santorelli and I went outside and stood on the lawn. "Standing here, with you, wondering when I'll die... Seems kind of familiar, doesn't it?" he asked.
I nodded. "Yeah. You going to start singing again?"
He laughed. "Nah; trust me, they play a recording of my singing in Hell."
I suddenly realized that here was someone who had been dead and now wasn't. And unlike Rachel and Jake, he seemed to remember it. He could answer so many questions. My mind wandered back to a conversation we had long ago. "Santorelli... Is God real?" I blurted out. "You have to know."
"It's not about knowing, Tobias," he said softly. "I'm not going to tell you if he is or not. I'll say this. If he's real, he's gone out of his way not to let us be able to prove it. What would be the point in believing in him if it was easy? 'Blessed are those who believe and yet have not seen.' If he's real, he wouldn't let me tell you. You'll have to decide for yourself whether or not you believe it."
"It's that way with everything, though, isn't it?" I responded. "You always have to decide what it is you believe in. Your parents and friends can tell you what they believe and why, but in the end, it has to be you who decides."
He nodded. "Yep, that's about it. And that's not a question you can answer with your head. It's not something you can rationalize or use logic on. It's not something that you can even think about, really. It's a question of the heart. What do you really believe, down beneath all the stuff we throw in the way to protect ourselves? Does it feel real?"
"I... I don't know," I admitted. "I don't even know what real is anymore."
"That's an easy one," Santorelli laughed.
"Yeah? So tell me."
"Nah, I think I'll let you simmer on that one for a while. If I answered all of your questions, what would you have left to do? You've got to save something for after the war."
"I've got a kid for that," I answered him. Then I realized that he was gone. How long had he been gone? I had been looking at the sky while we talked. When had he gone? Was it just now? Or had he been gone the moment I looked away?
"I have been scarred so deep by life and cold despair
And brittle bones were broken far beyond repair
I have leveled lies so deep the truth may never find
And inside my faithless heart I stole things never mine
If mercy falls upon the broken and the poor
Dear father I will see you there on distant shores
I have toiled for countless years and ever felt the cost
I've been burned by this world's cold like leaves beneath the frost
On my knees I crawled to you bleeding myself dry
But the price of life is more than I could ever buy
If mercy falls upon the broken and the poor
Dear father I will see you there on distant shores
And off of the blocks I was headstrong and proud
At the front of the line for the card carrying highbrow
With both eyes fastened tight yet unscarred from the fight
Running at full tilt my sword pulled from its hilt
It's funny how these things can slip away
Our frail deeds at last will wave goodbye
It's funny how the hope will bleed away
The citadels we build and fortify
Night came and I broke my stride
I swallowed hard but never cried
When grace was easy to forget
I denounced the hypocrites
Casting first stones, killing my own
Then you would unscale my blind eyes
And I stood battered but more wise
Fighting to accelerate
Shaking free from crippling weight
With resilience unsurpassed
I clawed my way to you at last
And on my knees I wept at your feet
I finally believed that you still loved me
Healing hands of God have mercy on our unclean souls once again
Jesus Christ, Light of the World,
Burning bright within our hearts forever
Freedom means love without condition,
Without a beginning or an end
Here's my heart, let it be forever yours.
Only you can make every new day seem so new."
-Five Iron Frenzy, Distant Shores
Tobias and Santorelli went outside. Only Tobias came back. He didn't say a word to any of us. He just went out into the garage/hangar to do something or other with the Reliquary. I'm pretty sure that's what he does when he's upset, and presumably, he was attached to Santorelli in some way or another.
Jeanne and I just sort of hung around for the rest of the night. We weren't sure what to do, if anything. After all the missions I'm told we've been doing recently, I guess she just wanted to relax for once. I was fine with that. I'm a master relaxer. If there was a competition for relaxation, I wouldn't enter it because I'm too relaxed to care.
After an hour or so, we went to sleep. Santorelli had left us around midnight and after something like that, it was best to just sleep it off. Maybe in the morning Jeanne would be less depressed. Of course, I knew I wouldn't remember any of it at first, but still...
I was just drifting off to sleep when I heard someone open the door. "Marco? Is Jeanne here?" Loren asked.
I woke Jeanne up. Since she has to remind me who I am every morning, it just became more convenient if she slept over. It never went beyond sleeping, though. We weren't about to make the same mistake Tobias and Rachel had. "Quoi?"
"I was just wondering... Did Rachel say she and Tobias were going to be doing anything tonight?" Loren asked.
"Well, I thought that maybe Tobias would want to talk, so I went out to the Reliquary. He wasn't there, and neither was Rachel. I checked the house and there's no sign of them. Al doesn't know anything and neither does David. Everyone else was asleep. Should I be worried?"
"Tobias probably just needs some time to be alone," Jeanne assured her. "You know how he is."
"But what about Rachel?" Loren asked. "She wasn't here earlier and that's not like her. Do you think maybe something happened to them? Am I worrying too much?"
"Well..." I thought about it. The fact that both were missing wasn't all that alarming. They were always disappearing on us. But Rachel's earlier absence was a bit worrisome. And Tobias always told Al where he would be. He used Al almost like a secretary sometimes. And Guraff was here earlier. Could he have been up to something?
"Tell you what," I said. "I'll check around. Maybe someone else knows something."
I went to the room Jake slept in first. He was still up, reading something. "Hey," I said. "What's that?"
"A book Tobias left lying around. The Art of War. He's written a lot of stuff in it," he answered, snapping the book shut. "What's up?"
"Loren can't find Tobias and Rachel. She got a little worried and decided to wake us up. Any idea where the two of them are?"
"Knowing them, whatever they're doing, I don't want to walk in on it. I hear Al made that mistake once."
"I was thinking the same thing. But Rachel was missing earlier, and Guraff was lurking around here..."
"You think Yeerks got them?"
"I don't know," I admitted. "I can't imagine that working."
Jake nodded. "I'll go check with the Andalites, David, and James. You ask around up here. We'll see what turns up. If someone knows, great. If nobody does... We might have to start worrying."
I nodded and set out for the room Cassie and Ronnie shared. Since her engagement, they had lived with her parents. I guess they found it to be a lot more fun here. Jake also moved in. Come to think of it, I pretty much had, too. Weird, how we adopted this house when I had a mansion not too far away. I wonder how that happened.
I pressed my ear to the door before I knocked. No telling what you might walk in on. I didn't hear anything, so I knocked. Still nothing. The door was unlocked, so I went in. Both of them were awake, reading. Some people are just plain weird.
"Marco? What is it?" Cassie asked me. "Do you need to talk about something?" I knew she was wondering how I felt about the Santorelli thing. We hadn't been close, but he and I had spent some time together and I considered him a friend.
"Nah, just a quick question. Did Tobias or Rachel say they were going to be out tonight? No one can seem to find them and Loren is stating to get worried."
Cassie frowned. "No, they didn't say anything. Rachel was supposed to meet me earlier, but she never showed up. I thought she was busy with something else. She's not here?"
"No. And she didn't come to see Santorelli off, either," I answered her.
Now she frowned even harder. "When did Tobias disappear?"
"Uh...well, the last time I saw him was just after Santorelli...left. He went off into the garage."
"Is the Reliquary still there?" she asked.
Oh. Duh. "You know what? I didn't check. I guess I'll go do that."
"I'll come with you," she offered. Ronnie looked at her. She shook her head. "No, you don't have to come. Get some sleep. I'm sure this is nothing." She shrugged on a robe. I couldn't help but notice that she still slept in her morphing outfit. I guess it wasn't just me, then.
On our way to the garage, we ran into Jake and Ax. "Going to check on the Reliquary?" Jake asked.
I nodded. "You too?"
((We are,)) Ax answered. ((If it is missing, we may have a problem. Or it could be nothing at all. Still, the fact that neither of them told Alloran anything disturbs me.))
"Well, let's go check this out," Jake decided.
It was dark inside the garage. Jake snapped on the light, and sure enough, the Reliquary was in place. "Well, so much for that," Marco muttered. "Now what?"
((Perhaps they are inside of it?)) Ax suggested. ((They often prefer to stay there.))
I nodded. "I won't be surprised if that's where they raise their kid," I agreed. "I know Tobias could live there."
I found the lower entrance hatch without any trouble and we let ourselves in. There was no sign of Tobias or Rachel. "Do you have a plan B?" Marco asked no one in particular.
"Look," Jake pointed. There was a cup laying on the floor, near the command deck. Somewhere along the line, they had raised it up and put storage space beneath it. That was where Tobias and Rachel had started keeping clothes and other stuff.
"So Tobias is a slob. We knew that," Marco answered. Nevertheless, he followed us up to the command deck.
((Perhaps he would leave a drinking utensil lying around, but look around it, Marco.)) Some kind of liquid was laying on the floor in a puddle around the cup.
"Hey may be a slob, but he's not that bad," Jake agreed. "Looks like he dropped it and ran..."
"That's not a good sign," I muttered.
"Is anyone else starting to sense some really bad juju?" Marco asked us. "Because for me, my bad juju is probably like a pair of cement shoes right now. And just about as deadly."
((Juju?)) Ax asked.
"Yeah, juju. Uh... Do you have a really bad feeling about all this, Ax?"
((Yes, Marco. My current levels of bad juju are also far above their normal range.))
Jake and I ignored them. "So, what do we have?" I asked. "Tobias comes back from the thing with Santorelli. Then what? He's here and something happens. He drops his cup and is gone? What could be so sudden? He loves this ship, and Rachel would kill him if he stained the floor."
"Some sort of attack?" Jake suggested.
Marco shook his head. "If they were going to come after Tobias, they'd be serious about it. We'd have heard the sounds of it."
((Whatever happened to Tobias likely happened to Rachel as well,)) Ax reminded us. ((She is also missing.))
I felt a shiver run down my spine. "I don't like this one bit. I think this is getting serious. Jake... Remember what we started to suspect about Tobias?"
Jake looked at Ax pointedly. "Yeah, I remember." Then he started morphing to tiger. I went wolf. If we were right, we couldn't have enough firepower to back us up. You don't take an Andalite Controller lightly.
((What is going on?)) Ax asked.
"I'm as confused as you are," Marco assured him. "Why are we morphing?"
((Because Yeerks tend to try and kill us when we call them out,)) Jake answered. ((We think Tobias might be a Controller. Rachel and Alloran, too. And maybe Ax.))
"Oh. Right. Now I remember. Thanks for leaving me standing here in a human body next to the possible Andalite-Controller. So nice to know you care."
Ax turned his main eyes on Jake, his stalk eyes on me. ((I assure you, Prince Jake, that I am no such thing. Neither are the others, to be best of my knowledge.))
((Well, there's only one way you could prove that,)) Jake answered. ((But we don't have three days if something happened to Tobias and Rachel.))
((I know a way to prove he isn't one,)) I told Jake. ((But...well, either way he won't like it. Ax, I have a Yeerk morph...))
((Oh...)) Jake trailed off. ((I get it. If he's already a Controller, you wouldn't be able to infest him. As much as I hate to do it...))
((No,)) Ax insisted. ((Cassie, you must understand. I was the host to Esplin Nine-Four-Six-Six. The Visser. I cannot imagine a greater hell. Please do not ask me to endure such a thing again. I will not.))
"You know, if he's refusing..." Marco trailed off, stepping away from Ax. He was starting to turn into a gorilla.
((Prince Jake, I am certain that if you take the time you will be able to account for my every whereabout for the last three days. Most likely, since I was freed. Marco knows that I am not a Controller. He saw the Yeerk leave my head.))
Marco paused. "Well...he's right. I guess I did see the Visser crawl out. Could they have infested him later, though?))
((Unlikely,)) I admitted. ((From what I know of his activities, there really wouldn't have been an opportunity.))
We turned to Jake. He sighed in our heads. ((We'll have to trust him for now. But that doesn't exclude Tobias and Rachel from suspicion. Or any of the others.))
((With all due respect, Prince Jake, I am fairly certain that if we had been infiltrated by the Yeerks, we would have lost this war by now.))
I demorphed. I did it to show Ax that I trusted him, even if Jake didn't. A human was no match for an Andalite. I was putting my life in Ax's hands. Even if he didn't realize it on a conscious level, I knew that on some level, he would appreciate it.
After a few moments, Jake joined us. "Okay, we'll have to trust you. And if we're wrong, then I'm sorry Ax. You did the same thing for me once and I'm glad you did. I'd have been glad even if I hadn't been infested."
((I understand, Prince Jake. We must be careful, even with each other. But none of this tells us what has become of Tobias and Rachel.))
I was quickly becoming worried. The disappearance of my shorm was one thing, and there were plausible explanations for it. Rachel's absence, too, could be explained. But the circumstances were suspicious, and so were my friends. They even accused me of being a Controller.
((Perhaps there is some sort of recording in the Reliquary's database?)) I suggested. The ship recorded more than the others suspected, more than it was ever intended to. Perhaps there was some evidence of the reason for this dropped cup. And for the lack of an owner.
Jake nodded. "Alright. Go for it."
I placed my hands on the control node and immediately was bombarded with two things. Two messages left in the system. ((There are two messages here,)) I told them. I accessed the first one.
A hologram appeared in the air before us. There were three figures in it. All three were human. The first was a small human male, with a long nose. His features were almost childlike; perhaps they could be called elfin. His clothing was a simple grey suit, and his appearance was neatly him was a larger human, with yellow-ish skin, black hair, and slanted eyes. His hair was wild, a mess. He wore a black one-piece jumpsuit that bore something I knew all too well. The insignia of the old Yeerk Empire.
The third figure was Rachel. Her wrists were behind her back, presumably restrained. There was a gag in her mouth; I understand that it is an effective way of silencing a human. Andalties, of course, are much harder to stop. She was leaning on the yellow man's shoulder and appeared to be unconscious. I suddenly had no doubts as to what caused Tobias to disappear so suddenly.
The elfin one spoke quietly, in a nasal monotone. "Greetings, Devil Prince. You can see why we have contacted you. I am Salheer Six-Seven-One. With me is Kalroth Three-Three-Seven, of the New Yeerk Order. I am sure you recognize our guest.
"We have been bidden to give you a message from the one you call the Visser. If you report to the Yeerk pool in your town within three hours and submit to voluntary infestation, she will be released without harm. If you fail to do so, Kalroth will enjoy killing them both. If you attempt any sort of trickery, both will die. You have three hours, Devil Prince. It is suggested that you use them wisely." The hologram winked out.
Prince Jake opened his mouth, but I interrupted. ((There is a second message,)) I told him. I accessed that one, too. An image of Tobias appeared this time.
"Look... I know that you probably came looking for me. It may not be too late. I'm sure you saw that other message. I...I can't let them kill either of them. I just can't. But I can't throw this war away for them, either. So I'm going to save them or die trying. I know I can't stop you from trying to help, so I'll just ask that you try, try, to make sure that no harm comes to either of them." Again, the image disappeared.
We all stared at each other. "Ax..." Marco began, "when did that first message come through?"
I checked the time and almost fainted. "Almost two hours ago. Tobias left his message shortly thereafter.))
Jake cursed. "That means we have one hour to find Rachel, rescue her, and pull Tobias out of whatever he's going to try to do. Any suggestions?"
"Maybe Al could trace the communication or something," Marco suggested. "Find out where it came from."
Jake nodded. "Someone go get him. Right now." Cassie ran out of the ship. We stood around, trying to think of what our next move could possibly be. There was nothing we could plan without any sort of location, though.
Cassie returned with Alloran after only twenty-seven Earth seconds. Alloran seemed wide awake. And he was very clearly scared and nervous. Any Andalite could recognize the signs. Immediately, he set to work at the control node.
Several long minutes passed. ((Alloran, are you making any progress?))
There was a moment of silence. Then, ((No, I am afraid not. There is an encryption unlike anything I have seen before. I have no idea how to go about breaking it. It is entirely alien to me. Even the alphabet, so to speak, is foreign.))
"You can do Yeerk technology just fine," Marco commented.
((All Yeerk technology is based off of Andalite technology,)) Alloran answered. ((This...I must admit that I suspect the Pythagi Conglomerate. Some of these symbols resemble things I saw on their outpost, but that is only speculation. I have no idea how to do this. I... I am sorry, I...))
If Andalites could shed tears, Alloran would have been. I placed a hand between his stalk eyes. ((It is not your fault,)) I assured him. ((All is not lost yet.))
Jake nodded. "Yeah. You go to bed, Alloran. It'll all be fine in the morning. We happen to know some guys who have been at this a lot longer than you have. The Chee will have this hacked for us in no time."
Marco sighed. "So it's another after-hours visit to Tri-I, then? I always hate those."
"Better than the midnight run to the Yeerk Pool Tobias is probably pulling," Cassie reminded him. That made me wonder just where Tobias was. Knowing him as I did, he would very calmly assess the situation. And then go in, as humans say, with guns blazing. I only hoped we were not too late to help.
Have you ever woken up with a massive hangover? That's what I felt like when I came to. My mind was fuzzy and it didn't want to do much thinking. Too bad for it I was the one in charge. I tried to replay the events in my mind. I had been walking to Cassie's house. I was supposed to meet her at the barn and help her with some of the stuff she needed done. Just like old times.
I couldn't remember exactly what happened. I don't know where they came from or how many there were. All I remembered was the feeling of a needle in my neck and then nothing until I woke up.
I was tied to a chair. My wrists were handcuffed behind my back. My ankles were cuffed to the chair. I was in a large room. No doors that I saw, and no windows. The only light was one of those big interrogation-type things dangling above my head.
There could have been a hundred men in this room. Or Kelbrid. Or there could be only a few. I knew that there were two, at least. I could see them. One was a short, elfin-looking guy. He looked pretty harmless. The other was a big Asian man in a black jumpsuit. His hair was all over the place. It made Tobias's look neat.
The elfin man stepped forward. "Ah, you have woken up," he said in a nasal monotone. "Perhaps introductions are in order, yes? I am Salheer Six-Seven-One, currently in the service of our mutual acquaintance Esplin Nine-Four-Six-Six."
"You will address him by his title," the second man interrupted. "Show the Visser the respect that is demanded of us."
Salheer ignored him. "And this is my associate, Kalroth Three-Three-Seven.-"
"Subvisser Kalroth Three-Three-Seven," Kalroth corrected.
Salheer continued, "He is a...devout...servant of the one he calls Visser."
"What do you want from me?" I demanded. It couldn't be information. If it was something like that, they'd have infested me.
"From you, we ask nothing," Salheer answered. "As long as you continue to breath, you serve our purposes."
"What purpose?" I asked. "That doesn't tell me anything!."
"If there is one man who Esplin Nine-Four-Six-Six fears-"
"The Visser fears no one," the Subvisser interrupted. He turned to me. "The Devil Prince has been a thorn in the Visser's side. A small creature who the Visser could crush with one hoof if it was worth his time."
"And yet," Salheer took over, "he has not done so. The task has instead fallen to us."
"To you," Kalroth corrected. "I won't be here to see the end of it. I have to leave shortly if I am to be present at the coronation. The Visser's ascension is not something I will miss for any price."
Ascension? I thought. Coronation? What is he talking about?
"It is just as well," Salheer replied. "This task is not one that should be entrusted to one who obeys Esplin Nine-Four-Six-Six without thought."
"What need is there for thought?" Kalroth demanded. "The Visser is the greatest of leaders. To question his orders is idiocy."
Salheer turned to me. "You see, of course, why this task was given to me." I nodded. Yeah, I got it.
The Subvisser shook his head. "I do not have the time for this. Do not fail here, Salheer. If the Visser does not punish you for it, I will take your life myself."
Kalroth spun on his heel and disappeared from sight. A few moments later, I heard a door open, then close. Salheer shook his head. "I am so pleased I will not be working with him in the future. Zealots are so very unpleasant, do you not agree, Rachel?"
What was going on here? Salheer seemed a lot more candid than a lot of Yeerks. Salheer did not wait for me to respond. "A shame, what Mersa Five-Two-Eight did. Now Esplin Nine-Four-Six-Six trust no one outside of his sight. Only Guraff Four-Two-Seven and zealots like the Subvisser."
"What do you want from me?" I repeated. "What is this all about? If you're here to kill me-"
"Ideally, that will not be necessary. We have informed the Devil Prince of your status here. We agreed to release you upon the condition that he turns himself in to us. If he surrenders, you will be spared."
"He'll never do it," I insisted.
"I agree. As does Esplin Nine-Four-Six-Six and Guraff Four-Two-Seven. We are quite confident that he will somehow find you and attempt to rescue you. We are prepared for that. When he comes for you, he will meet his end."
"I've heard this one before," I told him. "I'm even more confident than you are that he'll show up. But if you think this is going to end with you walking away, you couldn't be more wrong. He'll come for me. And then, he'll come for you."