Foil - Arbron

We flew on towards the second space port, which was located about three-hundred kilometers east of the one we had just laid waste to, presently on the planet's night-side. It was the quieter of the two space ports, and was mainly used as a storage and freight area. Hence we had planned to destroy it after the larger and busier of the two - cargo barges tend to be not as heavily defended as a major transit station.

The twelve remaining Bug Fighters, mine included, could have easily been eliminated by the ground-based Dracon cannons that ringed the perimeter of the first space port. Fortunately for us, Yeerk engineers had programed their Dracon cannons to be incapable of opening fire on anything that was beaming out 'friendly' signals. That one cannon that had taken a wild shot at us, however... That made me worried.

If a panicked technician over at the destroyed space port was capable of rerouting the weapon emplacement's targeting systems within a moment's notice... All I could do was hope that the Yeerks over at the second space port wouldn't be as smart as their allies had been.

"Sreeeeeeyaaaaa!" announced the Taxxon piloting the leading fighter, "Aaaaahhhhhkeeessss!"

((Attack formations, people.))

The fighters flew into a passable imitation of a classic Marg Sabl battle flight formation. Passable because it was lifted from my mind by the Living Hive, and imitated because it was an Andalite battle formation. We rocketed forward, Dracon beams armed...

There it was! Up ahead, in the darkness, glowed numerous little lights, illuminating our target destination. The lights shined out of buildings and also spotlight structures, casting long, gangling shadows out over the cracked desert ground that surrounded the isolated cargo repository.

((Fire at my mark, people,)) I commanded, as we drew within four hundred meters of the space port, ((Watch for enemy fighters.))



BOOOMMM!!! A cargo warehouse exploded, tongues of fire shooting out of the ruined building as it collapsed in on itself. Within seconds, three large warehouse buildings had been totally slagged, and the outer edges of the spaceport was visibly lit-up by the fires we had set to it.

((The control center, quickly! That one there with the antennae!)) it was imperative that we destroy the control center - otherwise, a distress signal could have been beamed to the orbiting Yeerk forces. And that was something we most definitely did NOT want.

"Siiisssss? Kuuutttt!"

((What is it?)) I snapped, somewhat frustrated; the control center was still standing, and by the looks of it, a force field had been hastily erected about its vicinity, ((The control center is our priority!))


That one drew my attention - apparently, several strange, unidentified Yeerk ships were approaching us from behind.

((Deal with the control center. I'll handle the new ships,)) I ordered, ((Two of you come with me!))

Suddenly, everything stopped. All my fighters froze in mid-air, their weapons ceasing fire. My own fighter had been halted too - and for the first time since we had left the smoking ruins of the first space port behind us, I felt fear well up within me. Had the Yeerks at the second space port somehow used an override code on us? But there wasn't even a major battleship in sight!

The communications station crackled to life with some traces of static, and an ice-cold voice spoke up in Galard, "We have you now, you Taxxon fools. Our override code has locked down all your systems, and very soon, you will be landing in our little space port."

For some reason, I felt genuinely terrified when I heard that voice over the airwaves. It was merciless, confident, and somehow... just plain intimidating.

You are an aristh, Arbron! I chided myself, Focus!

I realized what I had to do - they must never find out about the Living Hive, and about my status as a Taxxon nothlit. The solution was obvious.

((Living Hive-))

((IT IS DONE, ARBRON,)) the powerful entity said, its thunderous voice lower and seemingly saddened, ((IT IS DONE.))

Even as the fighters were being landed by their autopilot mechanisms, their Taxxon hijackers began to devour each other, forced to be even hungrier than normal by the Living Hive's psychic command.

As I drew a hand-held Dracon beam, I felt a pang of regret - we had come so close to success on this half-cocked mission, and now we were being pushed up into a corner.

((I'm sorry,)) I whispered, even as I fired at my fellow Taxxons with the Dracon beam at full power. The pungent stench of death and burning flesh filled the air, as did their screams of agony.

Taxxons couldn't cry; they were not equipped with tear ducts. So I cried in my hearts, for what my failure had cost in terms of Taxxon lives.

Before I could finish my wallowing in emotion, the fighter rocked ever-so-slightly, and landed.

It felt like hours, waiting for the ship's hatch to open up.

Outside, through the fighter's transparisteel viewport, I could see groups of Hork Bajir, Taxxons, Gedds, and Sstram moving about frantically. Now and then, I would catch sight of three unusually-clad Sstram; one in green, one in black, and one in an outfit that looked almost like a robe of some sort. Every time those three controllers passed by, they would gesture towards a particular Bug Fighter, and the other controllers would open up the ship and board it. It looked like they were the highest-ranking controllers here, or at least the ones in charge.

It was probably one of them that had contacted us earlier - Hork Bajir, Taxxons, and Gedds aren't exactly the great orators of the galaxy.

With a Taxxon version of a sigh, I looked down at the bodies of my late fellow Taxxon freedom fighters, lying on the metal floor in fetid pools of their own fluids and organs. I had killed them, and hopefully, the Yeerks would buy my story.

THUMP! The Bug Fighter's hatch was opened, and two Hork Bajir controllers stepped into the cramped cabin.

"SREEEYYYYAAA!!!" I screeched, somewhat shocked by their sudden appearance.

"Taxxon scum!" spat one of them, stepping closer to me with a menacing gleam in his eyes, "You will die, and Vissers will give praise!"

"Hah!" shouted the other Hork Bajir, as he grabbed hold of his fellow's arm and yanked him back forcefully, "Idiot! Vissers want Taxxon live!"

"Vissers don't know what Vissers don't know!"

"We know what you were planning to do, and you will pay for it," came a voice from the hatch, the very same one that had spoken to us Taxxons earlier.

The two Hork Bajir whipped around in horror, and I saw the three strangely-clothed Sstram standing there in the open hatchway.

"Go to the detention pool and vacate your host bodies," snapped the Sstram in the green outfit, "We shall deal with the prisoner."

"Your lives are to be spared, but be assured that your punishment for disobeying orders will be severe," added the robed Sstram crisply.

Detention pool? Never before had I heard of such a thing... I stepped back cautiously, even as the two terrified-looking controllers exited the cabin, leaving me alone with the three Sstram controllers. They had been talking about Vissers before this... Were these three controllers all full-ranked Vissers?

All three of them drew Dracon beams and walked closer to me. I backpedaled slightly, and felt my back hit the computer console.

"So, we have a Taxxon terrorist," mused the black-clothed Sstram, "Infestation?"

"Obviously," snorted the robed one, "The best way to get the truth out of a Taxxon, that is."

Desperately, I turned around and faced the computer console, my eyes searching for the multi-purpose command pad.

"Hey!" shouted one of the three, "Why you-"

"Relax, Orvak," said another one of them, "The ship has been overriden fully. Only the most rudimentary functions can be accessed from the console now."

I found the pad, and pressed a pincer onto it. Praying once again that this plan would work, I spoke to the computer in the twisted Taxxon tongue.

"Suuuuhhhh!!! Kreeeyyaaa..."

The computer picked up on my words, and translated them into Galard, the deciphered message coming out in a mechanical voice over the console's communications apparatus.

"Don't. Shoot. I. Was. Forced."

"Really now? Looks like we have a smart Taxxon on our hands here."

"Give me your name, brother Yeerk."

"None. Voluntary. Collaborator."

"Assigned supervisor?"

I took a wild guess on this one, "Sub. Visser. Seven."

A scornful snort came from one of the three Sstram, "Esplin? No wonder."

"Taxxon, are you saying that these rebels forced you to fly this fighter?"

"Yes. Threatened. To. Eat. My. Hatchlings."

"You have hatchlings?"

"Yes. But. I. Don't. Know. Where. They. Are."

"That is too bad," said a Sstram brusquely, "Well, looks like we wont have to infest you, and that's a relief."

"Yes," chipped in his companion, "But you will be detained until we can verify the authenticity of your claims."

Minutes later, as they led me out of the fighter, I said a silent prayer that the Living Hive would stay with me to keep me safe.