Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Animorphs series of books, nor am I in any way associated with those – namely, K.A. Applegate and Scholastic Books, Inc. – who do have that honor.

That said, if anyone attempts to pass this story off as his or her own, he or she is in a lot of trouble.

A/N: This story is not what you would call "hard ff". It does not deal, except tangentially, with the Animorphs as we know them, although such concepts as Yeerks, morphing power, and a small cadre of underage Saviors of Earth are essential to it. If you have an aversion to original characters, or experimental ff generally, find another story.

My name is Elly.

I can't tell you my last name. I have one, of course – in fact, I'm very fond of it. It's just that if I do tell you my last name, you might be able to locate my friends and me – and if you did, the Yeerks might not be far behind. Which would not be a good thing.

The Yeerks. Big gray slugs, with the ability to crawl into a person's brain and completely control the person's body. A human who is captured by a Yeerk becomes the world's most complete slave. The only time she even has her own mind to herself is when the Yeerk leaves her body to feed on Kandrona rays, and that only happens for about an hour every three days.

That's not the worst part. The worst part is that the human remains fully aware of her surroundings, and especially of the Yeerk, even while infested. The human watches her Controller lie to her family and friends… watches them be swayed… watches them be taken over by Yeerks themselves, and she can do absolutely nothing about it.

I'm not using "she" randomly. I have a friend named Andrea who's been infested since she was four, when the first wave of Yeerks hit Earth. If it weren't for her, I probably would have quit fighting the Yeerks a long time ago.

I had an opportunity, not long ago, to free her from the Yeerks permanently. If I had only been a little quicker… or if I could have brought myself to drive my canines into her neck… I think about that a lot.

If you were reading the last paragraph very carefully, you might be thinking, "Hold it. Why is this sweet little girl talking about sinking her canines into people's necks? Does she think she's going to be a vampire when she grows up?"

No, of course not. That's just how I fight the Yeerks.

See, about a year ago (it must have been only a year, although it seems more like ten), my brother Josh, his girlfriend Abby, and I were out on a deserted stretch of road - along with a boy named Richard, whom none of us knew - when an alien spacecraft landed in front of us. Its pilot was a dying warrior named Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul: a member of the alien race called Andalites, who are terrific enemies of the Yeerks. He told us about the invasion of Earth, and offered us a weapon to fight them with: the ability to morph. Suddenly, the four of us had the ability to turn into any animal we could imagine, from an ant to a blue whale. All we had to do was touch the animal and focus, and we acquired that animal's DNA pattern, which we could use whenever we wanted.

With our new power, though, came a warning. Never, Elfangor said, stay in a morph for more than two hours. If any of us did, he or she would be trapped in that morph forever, and could never return to human form.

So far, we haven't had any accidents like that. So far.

Shortly after all this, we added a fifth member to our crew – an Andalite cadet named Anifal-Mekelial-Worrann, who had fought under Prince Elfangor. Without him, I think it's safe to say that we would have died several times over by now.

Together, we make up Earth's only real hope – the Morph Force. The name started out as a bad joke of Abby's, but I don't think any of us laugh at it any more.

So there you go. Five kids – four humans, one Andalite – who can turn into frogs. That's what's keeping the world safe from a race of some eight billion ruthless slugs. Depressing, isn't it?

I know. Sometimes the whole thing feels so hopeless I just want to fall down on my bed, grab my teddy bear (yes, I still have a teddy bear at the age of twelve), and cry myself into oblivion.

Then I look around my room, at the Irish Rover music littering the floor, the Calvin and Hobbes books on the shelf, and the glass unicorns on my desk, and I think, what the heck. I can give this civilization one more day.

Just the same, even I need a day off sometimes.

Which is why, on the day this story starts, I was at the county fair, trying to convince Anifal to go on the Pendulum. (He was in his human morph, of course – the fair didn't give admittance to blue centaur-like aliens with scorpion tails.) I'm not sure why I was doing this – partly, I think, to get back at him for all the patronizing comments he had made about human technology.

"André," I said, using his human pseudonym, "it's a perfectly harmless ride. You just get in, it swings you back and forth, and then you get off. If you close your eyes, you won't even know you're on a ride."

This was the same lie Josh had used to get me to go on. He said Daddy had used it on him, and Grandpa had used it on Daddy, and so on, I guess, back to the Middle Ages.

Anifal looked hesitant. He stepped back and squinted at the ride. "Then why," he asked, "are all those people screaming?"

"Most of them insisted on keeping their eyes open," I said.

Anifal still seemed dubious. "The human body," he commented, "would not seem to be built to go upside-down. Down. Dow-ow-own. That is an excellent word. D-d-d-downnnnn."

"But that's the whole point," I said. (You have to ignore it when Anifal does this kind of thing. He doesn't have a mouth in his Andalite form, so he thinks the ability to make your own sounds is this great novelty.) "It's all about facing your natural limitations and overcoming them. It's about being something more than human."

"I am something more than human," Anifal said fatuously. "I am And…"

I shushed him, then glanced around nervously. If any Yeerk overheard him saying the word "Andalite", we were done for.

"André," I said, emphasizing the human name, "I've done this before, okay? Will you trust me?"

"No," said Anifal.

Which was probably smart of him, but it irritated me.

I pouted in silence for a few minutes. Then something truly evil occurred to me.

"You know, Andrew," I said, "I noticed a great concession stand a way back. They had everything…elephant ears, cotton candy, cinnamon buns…" I paused. "Klondike bars…"

Anifal's head swiveled around. "Klondike bars?" he said. "Bar-zuh?"

Now I should probably explain something. Since Anifal doesn't have a mouth in his Andalite form, he absorbs his food through his hooves and doesn't experience taste. Therefore, when he morphs to human, he gets a little goofy about all the different kinds of human food. And, for some weird reason, he goes particularly nuts over Klondike bars.

"Yep," I said. "Klondike bars. In fact, I probably have enough money on me to afford a couple."

Anifal blinked. "This is blackmail," he said.

"Darn right it's blackmail."

"Black-kuh. Bla-a-a-ack-mmmm…"

"Andrew," I said. "Are you going to ride it or not?"

"Er… I suppose," said Anifal reluctantly.

"Good," I said. "Now go get in line. It's almost stopped."

The next time I saw the brave Andalite soldier, he was staggering from the Pendulum, wearing on his face the expression of an alien who has just learned that even if humans can't build Z-space starships or morphing cubes, we reign supreme in the area of nausea-inducing motion devices.

"Had fun?" I inquired sweetly.

"Humans are mad," Anifal muttered.

"They certainly are," came a voice from behind me. I turned around and saw Chester standing by the ticket booth.

That's when I knew we were in trouble.

See, Chester is a Chee. A highly advanced, almost immortal android created by a now-extinct alien race called the Pemalites. He looks just like a human, but that's because the Chee have holographic equipment that makes Andalite cloaking technology look like clay animation.

The Pemalites programmed the Chee to be intensely non-violent, so they can't fight. They can, however, deliver compromising information about the Yeerks – which they do, on a regular basis. This makes them ideal spies – and, generally, bearers of very bad news.

"Hi, Chester," I said.

"Hi, Elly," he said. "Listen, the two of you might want to go get Josh and Abby – and Richard, if he's here. There's a little situation developing."

I sighed. "Oh, boy."