Welcome back, guys. Here's the first chapter in the next book, my take on Tobias discovering his heritage. I hope you enjoy it, and like the direction I take the series in after the David trilogy. Here we go.

Chapter One

My name is Tobias. It's a nice name, strong but unique. It sounds independent, or even important. I guess I was independent before all this happened, if you take no one caring where I was as independence. But I was never important. If you had walked past me in the mall, you'd just keep going. Unless you wanted my lunch money. I guess I was something of a bully magnet. But see, back then it didn't really matter. No one seemed to care what I was doing or who I was doing it with. So, if no one cared what happened to me, why should I? I guess that's why I never really stuck up for myself. It wasn't worth it.

I never really paid much attention to my name before everything changed. It was just a name. Now, it's pretty much the only thing that defines me as a human being. I like to think, someday, that it's a name that will be remembered. Maybe it's looking too far ahead, or childish or whatever. But I hope that, when this is all over, I won't be forgotten.

There are defining moments in our lives. There are moments when, through one choice our lives proceed along one path and through another, they proceed in a very different direction. Three of my life's defining moments happened in one week. The first occurred when I chose to go with the others through the construction site next to the mall. It was there that the Andalite ship crashed, and I met the being who asked us to save the world.

That's right, Andalite. Don't try to look it up, because it's not in any encyclopedia you could find. Andalites are aliens, as in, from another solar system. You couldn't mistake an Andalite for a human with big ears or a ridged forehead like you can on shows like Star Trek. When you see an Andalite, you know you're not looking at prosthetics. Picture a deer with blue fur and a sort of human upper body like a centaur. They don't have a mouth, but they have extra eyes to make up for it. They have the normal sort of eyes in the normal place, but they also have a whole other pair that are on stalks atop their heads that they can move around to see in every direction. To complete the alien effect, they have a long, scorpion-like tail that rears up above their shoulder. Andalites are definitely dangerous with those things. But they're not the bad guys. They came to help us, to stop the real bad guys from invading our planet. Those would be the Yeerks.

If you want to know what a yeerk really looks like, imagine a pale gray slug. They don't look dangerous at all. Actually in their natural form, the yeerk has no real defenses at all. But they are a plague. You see, a yeerk has the ability to squirm into the brain of another creature, through the ear canal. They flatten and spread themselves out, and take over. The person they crawl into is completely helpless. They have no control over their own body. So if you really want to know what a yeerk looks like, take a look around. The kid you walk to school with, the teacher that lets you off early, the policeman that comes to your school to talk about drugs, any of them could be a slave of the yeerks, a Controller.

The Andalite, whose name was Elfangor who crashed told us all this. We wanted to get him help, but he was too badly injured in his crash. And he knew the Yeerks would come for him, to destroy any evidence of his existence. They didn't want people to know about aliens, it would ruin their plan of a silent invasion, where they could gradually take over the world before anyone knew what was going on. But before they arrived, Elfangor said that we were the only ones who knew what was going on. We had to save the Earth.

I know what you're thinking. A group of kids are going to stop an alien invasion? Well, we weren't exactly bursting with confidence either. But Elfangor gave us one small weapon, one advantage. He gave us the ability to become, to transform into, any animal that we could touch. We could fight them with this morphing ability, taking on the form of animals to attack the yeerks any way that we could. It was a pathetic power when put against the might of the Yeerk forces, but it's all we have. It's all the Earth has.

The kids I was with, they weren't exactly friends at the time. I knew Jake, because he stopped some guys from picking on me in the bathroom at school once. So I figured he was cool and maybe I could hang out with him a little bit. I didn't expect him to suddenly be best pals, but I thought he wouldn't mind if I sort of stayed in his vicinity. That was the type of person Jake was, even back then. He had a charisma that drew people to him. I recognized it then, and thought that if I was around Jake, I wouldn't get picked on so much. Jake has a very personal stake in this war. His older brother, Tom, is one of them. Jake wants to set him free.

Jake's best friend was Marco. Everyone knows a Marco. He's the guy that's cute, funny, and thinks he's about ten times cuter and funnier than he actually is. Not that I noticed his cuteness or anything. It's just that girls tended to talk around me like I wasn't there. Most people were like that. If you weren't pushing me into a locker, I was invisible. Like Jake, Marco has a reason for fighting against the yeerks. His mother, who he spent two years thinking of as dead, is Visser One. A Visser is like a General. They lead the Yeerk Military forces. It was Visser One who prepared the Earth for the invasion before passing it off to another.

Then there was Rachel. On one hand, Rachel is beautiful. She's tall, with long blonde hair that seems to shimmer in the right light. So you could easily mistake her for a helpless model. On the other hand, that would be the fist she decks you with because you called her helpless. She's a great girl, but woe to the person who underestimates her.

The other human person we began this war with is no longer with us. Her name is Cassie, and she was Rachel's best friend. She was gentle, kind, and a champion for nature. Her parents are both vets, so she sort of grew up with that saving things mentality. She was a remarkable girl, but she's moved beyond us. I mean that literally. A nearly all-powerful being named the Ellimisttook her as his sort-of assistant and now she's off saving entire species. Which, I guess is what she always wanted to do. Actually, it's more complicated than that, but it's not my story to tell.

Where we lost Cassie, we gained someone else. Melissa Chapman, the daughter of the school's vice-principal, who happens to be one of the most important Controllers on the planet, found the blue box that Elfangor used to give us our powers. After she saw the morphing in action, we had to tell her what was going on. She chose to join us in our fight. I know she believes that she will someday be able to free both of her parents from the yeerks control. The same way Jake wants to save his brother, or Marco with his mother. She's smaller than Rachel, actually even smaller than Marco, who is pretty short. She's also got blonde hair like Rachel, but Melissa's is much paler, almost white.

Then there's Ax. His real name is Aximili Esgarrouth Isthill. He's an Andalite, like Elfangor. Actually, he's Elfangor's little brother. Ax was left here when the Andalite ship was destroyed, stranded as the only survivor. Now he fights with us, cut off from his people, fighting for a planet that isn't even his. His stake runs personal as well though. When Elfangor was killed by Visser Three, the only yeerk to ever take over an Andalite body, it became Ax's responsibility to slay his brother's killer. His honor depended on it, and honor is a very important thing to the Andalites.

As for me, I never thought I had a real personal reason to be in this war. I mean, other than saving the planet, there wasn't anything special that drove me to fight the yeerks. At least, I didn't think there was, until I found out what the second defining thing to happen to me in that week was. But at the time, I didn't even know it had happened. I wouldn't find out until much later, just how important that construction site meeting had really been.

At the moment, I was looking for lunch. But I wasn't going to a Taco Bell or digging through the fridge. No, instead I was sitting in a tree, watching the grass twitch ever so slightly as the nice plump mouse ever so cautiously poked his way out of his hole. In a moment, he'd be far enough out and I would spread my wings and swoop down. It would be a quick kill, because my talons are sharp and I have no desire to make it suffer. Then I'd eat.

I know you're probably grossed out right now, but I don't have a lot of choice in the matter. You see, I'm still Tobias the boy who was picked on, but I'm also Tobias the red-tailed hawk. That morphing power that I told you about? It comes with a price. If you stay longer than two hours, that's your body, period. When I became stuck in this form, that was the third defining moment of my life in the same week. For the longest time, I thought that I'd be always be a hawk, with no choice in the matter. Then the Ellimist gave me my power to morph back. However, hawk is still my 'original' form. I can even morph into my old human body. But after two hours I have take my wings back, or I'll never be able to morph, which means I won't be able to fight. I have to fight this war. Now more than ever.

The mouse was out of the hole. It was lunchtime. I shifted on my branch and prepared to dive, about to launch myself from the tree when a voice called out my name. I froze, or at least my brain did. Unfortunately, I was already in mid-lunge so I didn't so much soar off the branch or freeze in place as try to do both at the same time, resulting in a really goofy looking dive straight from tree branch ten feet down into the dirt. (Aaaaaaahhh!!) Oh well, at least I had the presence of mind to scream like a little girl. I wouldn't want to leave the humiliation incomplete or anything.

I heard rushing footsteps, and then gentle hands pulled me out of the dirt. They set me down again and I shook myself off. (I'm fine. I'm fine. What is it?) Looking up, and well, up since hawks are short, I found Rachel and Melissa both looking down at me with concern.

Rachel, who had set me up, asked. "Are you okay? Tell me you meant to do that."

(Of course I did.) I responded huffily while testing my wings. Luckily, nothing seemed broken. (It's a new sport I'm inventing. I'm not sure what I should call it. How about Dirt Divers, what do you think?) I flapped up to land in a lower branch and turned to glare at them. Not that I was angry. It's just that a hawk only has the one expression.

"What about Concussion Seekers?" Melissa suggested while putting both hands on the ground, turning over into a handstand. Melissa and Rachel are both gymnasts. I guess Melissa's more into it than Rachel has been lately.

(That's a good one.) I peered down at the girl, who was now fully upside down and holding it. (Do you have any idea how distracting that is?)

Melissa smiled just a little and nodded. "Sure. But so is your habit of flying off to kill a rodent whenever everyone's talking."

(I only did that the one time. And that was to get ammo in case Marco pissed me off again.) I ruffled my feathers a little and eyed that mouse one more time.

"Guys, we came here for a reason." Rachel cut in. "And also, ewwww." She shot me a look before glancing to other girl. "Melissa found out something, Tobias. You should hear it." She sounded a little hesitant, excited but nervous. I wasn't sure why.

Melissa pushed off her hands and fell over into the dirt, rolling back to her feet with a cough. "Yeah, Tobias... I ummm, I've been listening to my parents. You know, in case anything happens." Both her parents were important controllers, so it made sense that she might over hear something that could help us. "My dad, he's been really... absent lately. Even more than usual. He's spent the last week muttering to himself and telling my mom, that is, the yeerk in my mom, that nothing's wrong. But he keeps going through all these old year books, and the phonebook. Like he's looking for someone."

She trailed off, and I was confused. "Okay, so Chapman... I mean, Mr. Chapman is looking for someone. So? Is it someone I can help find?"

Melissa frowned and looked down with a thoughtful look, so Rachel answered. "Melissa says that her dad got really excited last night. He said 'There's a boy', but then he got mad again when he looked through his records to find out who it was. He stormed out, so she snuck down and got a look at his records. He was looking at our class from last year. Tobias, he was looking at you."

That threw me. (At me? Why would he look at me? You think he's noticed I'm not living anywhere I'm supposed to be?) When I was trapped, we set it up so my aunt would think I was living with my uncle, and vice versa. Not that either of them showed that much interest anyway, but it was best to avoid attention. We didn't want the yeerks having any reason to think I was a part of this and going from me to the others.

This time Melissa answered. "That thing my dad kept muttering, like it was a ummm... a memory. It was like a memory he couldn't quite fully get. The only thing I ever understood about his mumbling was the name Loren."

I froze. Loren had been my mother's name.

Rachel's next words echoed around inside my mind for a long time. "Tobias, we think Chapman knows your mother somehow. We think she's important to the yeerk that's controlling him. And he's looking for her."

There was just one problem with that theory. My mother was dead. Wasn't she?