Disclaimer: While I do not subscribe to the theory, common on this site, that it is ludicrous to suspect an author of writing fanfiction around his or her own works (I can, for instance, imagine Daniel Handler taking advantage of the freedom of ff to write stories about the Baudelaire orphans that wouldn't fit in the rigidly structured Series of Unfortunate Events), the fact remains that I am not K.A. Applegate, and do not own the Animorphs books.

In a cage in the Yeerk pool, a girl was on her knees.

The girl's name was Teresa Sickles, and she was kneeling not so much for religious reasons – though that entered into it – as because it was a pleasure to be able to do so. She spent most of her life imprisoned in her own mind, unable to perform the smallest bodily task of her own free will; when her Controller unwillingly granted her a brief span of liberty, therefore, she made a point of using every moment as well as she could.

Big, grand gestures were impossible, of course – her cage was only about six meters square, and she had seen too many hosts struck down for "tedious displays" to try anything so flamboyant as Tarzan yells or jumping jacks – but she could still do the little things: kneeling, humming hymns, making shadow animals on the cage bars, tugging her ear and whispering a Carol Burnett routine.

"When I'm released," she muttered – either to herself or to God, neither of whom reminded her that this was a fairly remote possibility – "I'll have to talk Mom into visiting the waterworks again. It's got to be three months since we've been there at all, let alone…"

Her voice trailed off as the sound of a disturbance caught her ears. A virile young Hork-Bajir was protesting mightily against the guards who were dragging him to his cage.

"No! No!" he shouted. "Fhleut mi'kai! Hafrush fyc-ram tisowm! Free, you understand?"

He was putting up a good fight, Teresa had to admit it. Each of his captors bore several blade marks, from which purplish-blue blood was oozing profusely.

A supportive murmur arose from a pair of Hork-Bajir about six cages down from Teresa. "Gelathiir," they chanted, "gelathiir, gelathiir..." Judging from her limited knowledge of Galard, Teresa guessed that this meant something like "the one who stands for freedom".

The human hosts, having no better term in English, followed their lead. "Gelathiir, gelathiir," they chanted, until a subdued but distinct rumble could be heard throughout the pool: "Gelathiir, gelathiir!"

Teresa herself remained silent. What was it supposed to prove? That the Hork-Bajir was going to overpower the guards, escape from the pool, and become a beacon of freedom shining forth in the night? She knew better than that. Soon enough, it would all be over.

Yes, there it was. One of the guards had managed to reach his Dracon beam. Swiftly, he set it to one of the medium settings – seven, probably – and fired directly at the Hork-Bajir's forehead.

The gelathiir fell, unconscious. He was clearly stronger than your run-of-the-mill Hork-Bajir, but one has to be very strong indeed to withstand a setting-seven Dracon beam.

"Gelshla ku!" the guard shouted.

A nearby Taxxon-Controller scuttled up to the cage on Teresa's right and flung it open. The guards dragged the Hork-Bajir over to the cage and dumped him in, as one might dump a tattered beanbag chair into a moving van.

"Tika," one of them said to the Taxxon, tossing him a scrap of meat.

As the Taxxon scrambled for its tip, the guard who had knocked out the Hork-Bajir took out his Dracon beam again. He lowered the setting with a flick of his thumb, strode over to the two Hork-Bajir who had started the chant, and coolly shot both of them in the chest.

The Hork-Bajir screamed in pain. The setting hadn't been high enough to damage them permanently, but the message was clear: Freedom is not an option for you. Do not behave as if it were.

Teresa sighed. She had been a host for about three years, and had seen many such incidents. Always, they ended the same way.

She had never entirely given up hope, though. Yes, she was a realist, but a realist with just enough leaven of optimism to keep her from despair – and it was this, combined with certain other characteristics, that would soon cause the Yeerk Empire to tremble at the sound of her name.