Another short chapter. I'm trying to get back into the swing of writing Animorphs, but it's slow going. Voting time: should I update a little more often with shorter chapters, or really infrequently with longer chapters?

Mob: FREQUENT LONG CHAPTERS!

Sorry, that's not one of the options available at this time.

Also, if anyone wants to offer ideas, I can't guarantee that I'll use them, but they might make it in as chapter padding.

Disclaimer: Due to anti-slavery laws, I technically cannot own people. Therefore, I am merely the self-appointed guardian of all original characters used in this story. Kidnap them at your peril.


Rachel's POV

I just about had a heart attack when Tobias collapsed after demorphing. Cassie picked him up and checked his vital signs, being the only person there who knew how to do that for a hawk.

"He's okay," she confirmed, "just asleep as far as I can tell. I'm going to put him in a cage anyway. Maybe Dad knows something that can help."

"Doubtful," Tom/Esp announced. He'd opened up his laptop and started pulling up everything he could find about berserkers the second the word had come up. "So far the only way I've found for a berserker to recover is just to sleep it off."

"But once he's had some sleep he'll be fine?" I asked.

"Near as I can tell. But bear in mind, these records are sketchy at best. Nothing I've read so far actually suggests berserkers are real; just that they're myths, or exaggerations, that the Norse used to intimidate their enemies. Or mentally deranged to begin with." He frowned and added, to the Hork-Bajir Controller called Estril, "We should worry about Aftran."

[Why?] asked Elfangor suspiciously.

"A Yeerk often ends up absorbing and reflecting some measure of their host's mental-emotional state. If the host is crazy, the Yeerk will go crazy. And possibly pass it on to subsequent hosts. That's why we don't like infesting Taxxons. And with all the mental diseases humans have, I'm not so sure this species is a smart conquest either," he concluded in a mutter.

"Has anyone raised that point with the Council?" Estril asked him.

"Not that I know of. Really, it's the Vissers you'd have to convince, so I don't think anybody's tried."

[What are you two rambling about?]

"It's not rambling, it's a discussion of Empire politics. Just because you can't follow it doesn't make it nonsense. Don't you think we should be focusing on – I am fully capable of multitasking! See?" He typed something decisively. "Multitasking."

"To report anything to the Council of Thirteen, the message must first be cleared by the Visser in charge of the sector – unless the report indicts the Visser of criminal activity, in which case a subvisser is allowed to clear the message," Estril explained. "Whether humans are Class Four or Class Five would have to be inquired by a Visser, unless we decide to use it to accuse Visser One of dangerous irresponsibility in starting the invasion. Visser Three may be the actual leader of the Empire's forces on Earth, but Visser One is still technically in charge. Although if we do accuse Visser One, Visser Three might be willing to contact the Council."

"He lost me." Marco turned to Tom/Esp as though one of them had the answer.

"We can't talk to the Council of Thirteen unless we go through the Vissers. They won't let us do that unless we play politics." He shook his head a little and typed again. "The Class Four-Class Five thing is something Yeerks have been debating about humans for years." He shook his head again, this time with an expression of disgust, and started shutting down the computer with a sigh.

"We have a system that categorizes species by their appeal as host bodies. Class One is physically unfit for infestation, like the Hawjabran – they're a species whose brain is spread out in little nodes throughout their bodies. No centralized brain, nowhere for the Yeerk to latch onto. The Skrit Na are Class One as well, but only because of their need to phase. Personally I think they're more like a Class Two, which can be infested but have some big physical drawback, like a Taxxon's hunger or a Gedd's natural clumsiness. The next step up is Class Three. Good bodies that we can infest, but not many of them and slow breeding." He nodded to Estril – more specifically, to Estril's Hork-Bajir host.

"And then we have Class Four – excellent potential hosts, but the species as a whole is too dangerous to go up against." This nod was wry and directed at Elfangor. "Before we discovered humans, there was a lot of skepticism over whether Class Five aliens – good hosts in large numbers without the power to resist invasion – even existed. And like I said, there are Yeerks who think humans ought to be Class Four – usually the ones with troublesome human hosts, or the ones who pay close attention to your species' history."

"Our history?" Jake echoed.

"Do you realize how many wars humans have fought? The sheer bizarreness of some of your strategies? The self-contradictory nature your species displays? You run into the bullets, leaving your comrades to die where they drop to get close enough to kill your enemies, then risk your lives to save complete strangers. It's mind-boggling." His tone changed to an almost apologetic one. "We were discussing World War Two in history class last week and it's been stuck in Esp's mind. I think my teacher convinced him all humans are insane."

"You should probably all go," Cassie warned us. It was starting to get dark in the barn. "I told my dad I'd handle evening meds this week, but he might come out to check on the animals anyway."

"Estril?" The Hork-Bajir Controller twitched in response to his name. "I don't think anyone saw us bring you here, but, um … you may have been listed in the dead count. I mean, Taxxons don't leave much to be identified. Where are we going to put you?"

"We could try the free Hork-Bajir colony," Jake suggested.

"Yeah, they'd be thrilled to have a Yeerk hiding out there," Marco agreed.