Chapter 3

Disclaimer: I don't own Animorphs or Stargate SG-1

We walked most of the way home together, feeling worn out. The flying was a little tiring. And morphing always takes a lot out of you.

Tobias flew high overhead. He didn't really participate in the conversation. It's hard for him. See he can think-speak to us and we can understand him, but when we're in human shape we can only talk in the normal way. He can't hear us unless he's close by, and he can't be close and still fly.

"This morphing thing would be so excellent if it weren't for the whole thing with the Yeerks," Marco was saying. "I mean, if it were just normal, we could really use these powers.

"To do what? Fight crime?" Jake asked.

Marco looked at him with a mixture of pity and amusement. "Fight crime? Who are you, Spider-man? I'm talking show business. Movies! TV shows! I could go on Letterman. I could be an entire episode of Stupid Pet Tricks all by myself."

"You're right," I said, batting my eyes so he would know I was kidding, "you already have the stupid part down."

"I don't know Marco," Derek started to say.

"No think about how hot we'd be in horror movies," He continued.

"Or how about as stunt men?" Jake suggested. "One of us could jump off the tallest building and it would be totally realistic. Then we just morph into a bird on the way down and fly away."

Derek bit his lip and said nothing else. I guess he still wasn't comfortable in social situations. Even though he was one of us, he didn't know how to act around us.

"Now I'm really I'm mad at the Yeerks," Marco said. "They're getting in the way of my showbiz career. I could be a millionaire. I could be trading funny lines with Dave. I could have beautiful Hollywood supermodels all over me."

"Uh-huh," I said with a wink at Cassie. "Lots of women love animals. But sooner of later you'd have to change back into your actual self, Marco and then, boom, they'd be outta there."

We walked along the boulevard that goes by the construction site. It's this huge area of half-finished building with rusted earthmovers and cranes and backhoes scattered around. I guess it was originally going to be a shopping center, but for some reason they never finished it.

We didn't take the shortcut through the construction site, like we would have in the old days though. See it was at the construction site that we saw the Andalite prince's damaged fighter land. It was here that the Andalite warned us of the Yeerk conspiracy and gave us our special powers.

It was also here that we saw the Yeerk commander Visser Three, murder the Andalite prince. Visser Three is the only one of the Yeerks who has our same power to morph. Visser Three is an Andalite-Controller, meaning he has an Andalite body. A human-Controller is a Yeerk with a human body. A Taxxon-Controller is a Yeerk with a Taxxon body. You get the idea.

Visser Three is the only Yeerk ever to capture an Andalite body. So he's the only Yeerk who can morph.

That night at the construction site, he morphed into some creature from a far-off planet, a huge, horrible monster. And then he took the Andalite and…

You know what? I really don't want to talk about that…You'll have to ask Derek.

We all fell silent as we passed by the site. Then I noticed that Cassie and Derek had both stopped walking and were just standing there. I went back to them and I realize that Cassie was crying. Derek had his head bowed and his eyes closed. I think he must have been praying.

"Are you okay?" I asked Cassie.

She shook her head. "No. Are you?"

I sighed. Flying around in the sky had been a wonderful distraction. But my head was still full of awful memories. "I guess not," I admitted. "Last night I had a terrible nightmare about the Yeerk pool. I was back down there. Down in that vast open cave. And I was hearing the screams and cries of the people being dragged down to the pool."

"You too?" Derek asked. "That place isn't hell, but it's the closest place I've ever been. I haven't stopped having nightmares about it since we went down there. My sister thinks I'm losing my mind."

Cassie nodded. "I know, and you what's worse than the screams? The way that they stop screaming once the Yeerk is in their heads. Once they've become Controllers. Then you know they are slaves again. Lost."

"Like Tom."

The three of us turned. It was Jake. He and Marco had seen us stop and come back. Tom is Jake's brother. Tom is a human-Controller. We'd found the Yeerk pool and had gone down into that hell to get Tom. We'd failed. We'd barely escaped with our lives. That's where Tobias was trapped.

Cassie put her arm around Jake's waist.

"Someday we'll save Tom," she said.

Jake kind of stroked Cassie's head. I guess he got embarrassed, because he instantly pulled away. Cassie didn't mind. She knows how guys are about showing their true feelings.

I looked across the construction site and saw Tobias come fluttering down out of the sky. I couldn't see where he landed, because that part of the site is hidden from the road, but I knew right where he was—on the spot where the Andalite had been with us, Tobias had formed some kind of special bond with him.

We started walking again.

"We need to find another way to get at them," I said angrily. It bothered me, imagining Tobias back in that maze of never-finished buildings mourning for the Andalite.

"Get at who?" Marco asked suspiciously.

"The French, Marco," I said sarcastically. "Who do you think? The Yeerks, duh."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Marco said. "We tried that remember? We went down into the Yeerk pool after them and got out butts kicked. Yeerks ten, Animorphs zero."

"So you figure that we should just give up?" I demanded.

"We lost one game," Jake said. "You don't quit the sport just because you lose one game."

"Some game," Marco said bitterly. "Some sport."

"We didn't lose anyway," I said. The others looked at me like I was crazy. "Look," I explained, "I know we didn't save Tom, and we sure didn't stop the Yeerks. But we gave them a reason to be afraid at least."

"Yeah, they're terrified of us. Visser Three probably can't sleep at night, he's so worried about six kids," Marco said sarcastically. "Look Visser Three doesn't think we're a threat. He thinks we're lunch."

"He doesn't know who—or what—we are," I pointed out. "The Yeerks are convinced that we're Andalite warriors because they know we can morph. And they know that we found the Yeerk pool, and infiltrated it, and took out a few of their Taxxons and Hork-Bajir while we were at it. I think they're probably a little nervous, at least."

Derek nodded. "Rachel's right. This battle is going to be based on the Status Quo. See as long as they think we're human, we have an advantage. They're going to be looking for Andalites, in places Andalites would hide. They're not going to find us there. The battle changes as soon as the Status Quo changes. As long as we're a guerrilla group, anonymity is our ally. If they figure out we're human, our tactics have to change instantly."

"You're both right," Jake said nodding. "Just the same though, I don't think that we want to try and go back to the Yeerk pool. At least not yet. Besides…the door is gone."

We all stopped and stared at him.

He shrugged. "Look, I just wanted to see if the door still worked, okay? Just in case. But it's not there anymore."

The door down to the Yeerk pool had been hidden in the janitor's closet of our school. There were dozens spread all over the city, but this was one of the only two that we knew about.

"We could try the one in the parking garage elevator," Derek said. "The entrance I went in through."

"No," Marco said instantly, "To easy to turn the elevator into a trap."

"So we find another way to get at them," I said. "We could follow Tom again, when it's time for his Yeerk to return to the Yeerk pool." Yeerks have to go to the pool every three days. They drain out of their host's heads and soak up Kandrona rays.

"No we leave Tom out of it," Jake said firmly. "If we call attention to him in any way, they Yeerks may decide to kill him."

Marco gave me a sour look. "This is what you want to keep doing? Risking our lives and the lives of everyone we know? For what?"

"For freedom," Cassie said.

"Some things are worth fighting for Marco," Derek said. "Be glad George Washington didn't have your attitude when he fought the British."

Marco didn't have a smart answer for that.

"There's still Chapman," Jake said.

Chapman is our assistant principal. He's also one of the most important human-Controllers that we know about. He runs The Sharing; the club that helps recruit unsuspecting kids into being hosts for the Yeerks.

"If there were some way for us to get close to Chapman…" Jake let the words hang in the air. Jake carefully didn't look at me. But I knew what he meant. He'd obviously been thinking about this for a while.

"Melissa?" I asked. I saw Derek stiffen.

He nodded. "It's a possibility."

See, Melissa Chapman, Assistant Principal Chapman's daughter, is one of my closest friends, after Cassie. Or at least she used to be. The last few months, she'd been acting very strange toward me. Like she didn't care anymore. We take gymnastics together. Actually, we got into it at the same time. You know—something to do together.

"I don't like using a friend that way," I said.

"Oh, suddenly the high and mighty Rachel is weaseling," Marco crowed. "You don't like using your friends? You're pretty willing to risk my life."

"Sure Marco but who said you were my friend?"

"Very funny," Marco said. But at the same time he looked a little hurt.

"Kidding, Marco," I said. "Just kidding. Of course you're my friend. But you're an Animorph. Melissa is just an innocent bystander."

"A civilian," Derek added.

"I wish I had never come up with that word," Marco said. "Animorph. Gimme a break."

"Rachel, Melissa's father is one of the main Controllers," Jake said gently, ignoring Marco. "She's in this whether she likes it or not."

"Or whether she knows it or not," Derek said bitterly.

Jake's words left a bitter taste in my mouth. Jake was right of course. Chapman was the logical lead to follow. And Melissa was our way to get close. It made sense. It made sense for me to betray an old friend.

It also made me feel like dirt.