Chapter 1

My name is Marco.

I'm rich. I'm famous, even. My face covered every newspaper and every television screen from California to Colombo. It probably still does, but for a different reason nowadays.

I had my own TV show. It was nothing special, really. It was your typical glitzy affair with big jingles and bigger prizes. We usually had a Chrysler as the top prize. Not my favourite cars, but I was fast brought into a world of Lamborghinis and stretch limousines.

The game was all about gambling. The contestants would perform several challenges in order to gain money. Then at the end, they could double-or-nothing. Most of them failed, but a lucky few went home with their prize secure.

The worst part about it? Having to smile so much that my cheeks would ache. And I always had to be so talkative and loud. I guess I was kind of good at that bit.

Some called me a sell-out.

But why should I have cared what they thought? The public would forgive a hero anything. And they had.

Then I went missing. Ax was Andalite-napped and I agreed to go find him. He was taken by something that we recently discovered to be some kind of super-computer. And it was no Microsoft. It was capable of manipulating the systems of our ship, The Rachel.

Now, we were back on Earth. Nobody really knows how or why, so I guess that's just something we'll have to find out. I hadn't really had the chance to find out what the world had been saying over the last fourteen months since we disappeared, and that's what I was about to try to do.

Jives had just left the East Wing of the mansion - Yeah, I had a mansion… Did I forget to mention that? – and was headed for the main entrance hall, probably to do some dusting of the old antiques I kept there but never appreciated. That gave me my chance.

When he disappeared around the hallway corner, I snuck up to the room he had emerged from and pulled open the door, slipping through. I closed it quietly behind me and took in the sights of the untidy room that I now occupied.

It was basically a mail room. Jives would bring deliveries in and pull aside any that he deemed unimportant and irrelevant; leaving a pile that he would eventually deliver to me. A filtering room, essentially. I was too busy to read copious amounts of fan mail and holiday brochures.

I would get maybe two or three useful letters or deliveries a day. The room would usually be pretty spacious and tidy. But I had been missing for fourteen months.

The pile of envelopes formed a mountain in the corner behind Jives' desk, a mountain that looked so unstable that I grew nervous when a stray fly landed on the peak letter. I swear I could hear the creaks and strains of the great landmark about to tumble and crush the unfortunate desk below. Thankfully, it stayed upright.

I shook my head, realising just how long I had been away. I always wondered whether the world would simply forget about me after a couple months. I was just another celebrity. Probably gone to rehab for some drug issue. The pile of letters seemed to prove otherwise.

That was not all, though. There was a pile of larger deliveries. It was admittedly smaller, but enough to spend an hour or so sorting through. I dodged around the desk to investigate both piles further.

My first stop was Mount Letterest. Even though I wasn't the tallest person alive, I could reach up and grab the top few, which I assumed to be the most recent. I flicked through them.

One from a sponsor; another from my agent, probably offering me another car commercial; and then there was one that had a strange logo on top that I didn't recognise at first, but on closer inspection found that it came from a law firm. Interested and a little worried, I ripped open the top and removed the letter within.

I skimmed over it, and when I had deduced what it was about, I sighed and placed the paper back into the envelope. Christine was trying to sue me.

Christine was my girlfriend. Or she had been before I disappeared. Now she was trying to squeeze compensation out of me because my disappearance meant that she was losing relevance. Relevance was money.

She was no real girlfriend. I told people she was. It was all about mutual benefits.

My attention turned to the other pile after I replaced the letters. That pile looked far more colorful and appealing. On top of it…

A PlayStation 3!

I quietly spoke my amazement as I lifted up the big new box. Having agreed to be in some of the adverts for the upcoming console just before I left Earth, I had been promised a PlayStation 3 months before the official release date. I had never gotten around to filming in those ads… but maybe the company was hoping I would still get back before the filming was due to start.

Whatever. I had a PS3! I turned and placed it on the desk. Hopefully Jives wouldn't notice it missing when he returned later. It was worth the risk.

And what games console would be complete without games to go with it? When I turned back around, there were a number of them staring back at me. I picked them up.

Ridge Racer. Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Tony Hawks. Call of Duty.

Animorphs. The newest one.

I put them all on the desk beside the PS3, with the exception of the new Animorphs game.

There I was. My face on the casing of a video game.

I gazed at it for a while, then raised my eyes to the room once more. Just beneath the desk in front of me was a trash can. I threw it in.

I stretched my arms out and exhaled, forcing the chirpiness back into my stance. Back to the pile. At a glance there was nothing else of immediate interest. That is, until I noticed something unusual near the bottom, a box whose branding I couldn't instantly recognise. I reached down and started to pull out the long, narrow box as if it were a Jenga piece.

I was successful. The pile didn't implode, and I pulled out the strange casing. I turned it in my hands, and almost laughed out loud when I saw what was inside. No… I did laugh out loud.

I stared at myself. A smaller, more plastic myself. The bland, soulless smile of the Marco action figure was but a mirror image of mine.

It even had my favourite shirt. It was clean-shaven though, with short hair. My hair was longer now, and I sported a Van Dyke facial hair combo. It was all a part of the disguise.

But that disguise would only work on so many people.

"Marco, sir?"

I jumped in place, almost dropping Mini-Marco to the floor. The paper mountain wobbled with concern. Jives had come back, and he stood in the doorway with disbelieving eyes. The spectacles hugging the end of his old nose shook.

"Hi Jives!" I greeted innocently, removing myself from behind the desk.

He blinked rapidly at me, almost like he expected me to vanish into thin air. "Marco, s-sir, I didn't expect to see you back. I was… I was just about to dust the main staircase."

I gifted him a smile, and continued to play it casual. "Sorry I left you alone for so long, Jives. I've been dealing with some pretty important business."

"I never doubted it," He replied, still with a stunned stutter. "I'm glad to see you back, sir."

I stopped walking directly before him, realising then that I still held Mini Marco. We both looked at it, and I handed it to his waiting hands. "Just checking the mail. It's really piled up."

"Do you intend to read it all, sir?" He asked me, steadying his glasses and holding the box in his other hand.

"No," I responded. "I won't be here for long, Jives. I'm leaving soon, and I may not come back. Definitely not for a while."

He bowed his head sorrowfully. "Would it be beyond my bounds to inquire why you are leaving, sir?"

"Yeah. Afraid so. Just don't think that you have to keep the place spotless, you know. Have a party or two with all your butler friends."

He shook his head, perplexed. "I-I can't do that, sir!"

"Yes you can," I assured, grinning assuredly. "Because you, Jives, are rich."

He frowned, now completely lost.

"You know that safe in my room, Jives?" I asked. "That one hidden in the cupboard?"

He nodded slowly, curious.

"It's yours, so long as you can do me one big favour."

I couldn't tell from his ambiguous facial expression how he felt on the matter, but I had enough trust in him to know that he could keep a secret.

"Nobody is to know about this," I said slowly. "You didn't see Marco here, and he is still missing. As is anybody else you might find in this building."

He nodded. "Of course, sir."

I winked and smiled wide. "I've always liked you, Jives. Hey, have you ever played on a PlayStation? I've got something great to show you!"