The Secret started from something very small, a simple question: How did KAA find out about the Animorphs, assuming they're real? This is the product of that question. But it has evolved far from that. Mel is my creation, with her own distinct personality. The Secret is the story of her adventures, and the original question is but a small part of the whole. As a fair warning, this contains, lots of violence, a fair bit of language, and a great deal of ethical, moral, and religious descussion and debate. I do not own Animorphs or any of the other character used. Speculations about KAA are just that -speculations. Many thanks to Kyla for listening to my endless babbling, Selina for her proofreading -girl, you are a lifesaver!-, and the gang at the Sanct for just being there.
My name is Melissa. Melissa Chapman. At least, it was Melissa Chapman. I go by a different name now. And the Yeerks, well, they won't find me. And even if they do, it'll be too late. I have already done what I set out to do.
The Yeerks will not take Earth. Not now, not ever. I made sure of that.
And how did my life get so screwed up? It might have something to do with the fact that my parents were taken over by evil space slugs. That and my best friend Rachel was turning into animals to save the planet. Yep, that definitely could have helped.
I'm being sarcastic. I know that. Sometimes it helps to dull the pain. That's what Marco did. Spit at the pain. And after awhile, I learned to do that too.
But at first, I knew nothing. Nothing of the invasion. Nothing of who my parents really were. Nothing of the evil behind the mask. Nothing.
I was clueless. And sometimes, I wish I had remained clueless. But on one fateful night, my dad had little surprise for me. A surprise that was not very nice. Something that changed my life. Something called a Yeerk.
"Hi, Dad." I forced a smile.
"Hi, sweetheart." He said the words, but his voice was empty. "I've got a surprise for you."
"Surprise?" I asked warily.
"Yeah. You'll love it."
"Well, where is it?"
"We have to go for a little drive to get it."
"Well, I'm supposed to work on a homework project with Rachel."
"Oh, too bad" He sounded disappointed. "Maybe you could call up Rachel and ask her if you could reschedule."
"Okay." I said quickly. My parents had been acting distant lately. Like they didn't love me. Maybe things were getting better.
I went into the kitchen and picked up the phone.
"Rachel? Hi, it's Melissa."
"Hi, are you coming now?"
"No. Sorry, but something came up."
"My dad's got some surprise for me. We're leaving soon."
I thought I heard her gasp. "Where?"
"I don't know. It's some big secret. I'll call you later and we can pick another time to do the project."
"Yeah, sure. Melissa, be care–" She stopped in mid-word. "Never mind. Bye."
"Bye." I hung up. "Let's go Dad."
Wordlessly, he got up and we got into the car. I stared out the window during the silent ride. Finally, the car came to a stop beside the abandoned construction site.
"Dad, what are we doing here?"
"You'll see. Trust me."
There was something in his voice that sent a chill down my spine. I shivered. We walked to the center of the construction site.
"What's going on dad?" My voice trembled.
"Just wait. Don't be scared."
But I was scared.
All of a sudden, the air above us shimmered and opened up. A black ship came at us like the hand of death.
I screamed. "Dad, what is that?"
He grabbed my arms and pinned them to my side. "Shut up, human."
This was nuts. My dad was acting like he was from another planet, a spaceship was landing, and I still hadn't done my homework.
A door opened on the space ship and he stepped out. An alien that looked like a blue centaur with no mouth and a couple of extra eyes. Evil practically radiated from him.
Great, I thought to myself. The real life version of "Independence Day".
You brought the girl, I see. The infestation will be conducted aboard the Mothership. There was this voice in my head. Like telepathy or something.
My dad started pulling me towards the ship. "Let go of me!" I yelled.
Just when I thought things couldn't get any weirder, a bear jumped out from behind a half-built wall and punched my dad. Meanwhile, a tiger, a wolf, a bird, a gorilla, and a smaller version of the blue alien started fighting with a bunch of aliens covered with blades. Where did they come from?
The bear turned to me. Run, there's not much time.
I ran. Problem was, I had no idea where I was. I was lost. I stumbled into an alcove and hid there.
That's when I found the disk.
Elfangor's disk. His Hirac Delest. His Final Statement.
Through it, I learn of the Yeerks, the Andalites, and the war on Earth.
You see, a Hirac Delest is not just words, it's memories. Images, sounds. Like you're a part in a movie, seeing the world through that character's eyes. You know what they feel, yet you don't feel it yourself. It's like reliving the past. You can't pick and choose memories, just like you can't pick and choose your life. That's how I found out all of Elfangor's secrets. All of them.
It was almost as if I relived Elfangor's life. The horror of the battles. The love of a lifetime. The pain of a loss.
What carved into the depth of my soul was what my father did. The truth hurt me. It's hard to accept that the person you love more than anything was a traitor of the worst kind. My father had destroyed us all.
A gorilla poked his head into the alcove. There you are! Come on. We have to get out of here.
Holding tightly to the disk, I followed him.
We ran. Deep into the woods.
He was running from his enemies. I was running from myself.
We finally stopped, far from the construction site.
I looked at the gorilla. "You better demorph. You don't want to be stuck."
He looked at me with what looked like a shocked expression. It's hard to tell with gorillas.
How did you know about morphing?
I held up the disk. "Prince Elfangor's Hirac Delest. It's very informative. By the way, who are you?"
He blinked. You don't know?
I shrugged. "One in five I'm right if I guess. Um, Jake?"
How did you know about Jake?
"I told you! The disk." I knew I was being rude and obnoxious, but I didn't care. My dad was a power-hungry jerk. The guy who told Yeerks about humans. I was wallowing in self-pity and trying to hide it.
You've got a lot of explaining to do.
"Yeah, and I've got a few questions for you too. Like how is your 'Save the world' crusade going?" I asked sarcastically.
He looked at me edgily. Let's wait.
So we waited. About ten minutes later, the others showed up.
A bear, a tiger, a wolf, a bird, and an Andalite.
Now, the animals I could understand. They were in morph. The Andalite, on the other hand... I mean, where did he come from? I thought the Dome ship had been destroyed.
The gorilla waved a huge hand towards me. Guys, we have a problem.
Of course we have a problem. The Yeerks will be looking for her. She needs a place to hide.
That's not all. She kn—
I interrupted him before he could finish. "Could you guys demorph? It's sort of distracting talking to animals, and you guys don't want to get stuck like Arbron."
How do you know about morphing?
"I'll tell you later. But I have some questions too. Like, where did the Andalite come from?"
How did you know he was an Andalite?
"Hmmmm. Blue fur, scorpion tail, stalk eyes, no mouth, need I go on?"
Just how much do you know?
"All right! Jeez! I mean, I know you guys can't trust anyone, but you are beyond paranoid at this point." I tossed the disk to the gorilla. "Go ahead and read Prince Elfangor's Hirac Delest for yourself. Then, maybe you'll figure out how and what I know and I won't have to explain it all to you."
His what?! The Andalite yelled.
Now, it's my understanding that Andalites don't yell very much. What I just said would be a surprise, but still.
What's wrong, Ax? Ax? What kind of an Andalite name was that?
The disk contains Prince Elfangor's Hirac Delest. His final statement. Well, duh.
For maybe fifteen minutes, they crowded together and read what was on the disk.
They separated and began to demorph. Finally.
Rachel looked at me. "I'm sorry, Melissa, about your father."
"I'm sorry I was rude. I get like that when I'm mad. Let's get out of here." That was only a simple explanation. I hurt inside. A lot. And I was trying to cover it up by distracting myself.
We went to a small shack in the woods.
"You'll have to stay here for now. Maybe tomorrow we can take you somewhere safe." Jake told me.
Jake, Marco, Cassie, and Rachel left.
I was left to talk to Tobias and Ax. All through the night, they told me stories of the battles they had fought, the adventures they had encountered.
About how they found Ax. About Marco's mother, the former Visser One. About Jake becoming a Controller. About the Ellimist, and all the things he did. About their trips through time. About the free Hork-Bajir. About Visser Three's cannablistic twin. About their trip to Leera. About David, the traitor in their midst. About Tobias being Elfangor's son, which I already knew. And Crayak, the ultimate evil.
It was interesting, to say the least.
I don't really know why they told me everything. Why they just spilled everything out. It was like I had made a crack in the dam, and the dam burst open and the flood gushed out.
Maybe it was because I was the first person they had told all their secrets too. After all, they had always kept everything bottled up inside them. And sometimes, you just have to let it all out.
Tobias and Ax fell asleep soon after they finished their stories, but I couldn't sleep. My mind was taking in too much.
I did a lot of thinking that night, sitting in the shack and staring at the stars, unable to sleep. My world had basically collapsed. My parents had been taken over by aliens, my father was the reason aliens were on Earth, and I was a fugitive running from deadly, mind-controlling slugs.
I was scared. Scared about my situation. Scared about my future. And perhaps most of all, scared by the fact that my father would so ruthlessly sacrifice another human being for his own gain.
Sometime, surrounded by blackness, I fell into a restless sleep.
"Melissa! Wake up!" Someone was shaking me.
I opened my eyes groggily. "What?"
It was Rachel. "We have to get you out of here!" She said frantically.
"Taxxons are tracking you."
I jumped up, now fully awake. "What do we do?"
"We're going to make them think you died."
"How will you do that?"
"How does falling into a river sound?"
"At this time of the year? The water's freezing!"
"And that's why they'll think you died."
"I probably will die of hypothermia or something."
"No you won't. Once you're out of sight, all you have to do is morph into a fish."
"Morph? As in turn into a fish?"
"I can't morph."
"Well, not yet. But Ax is going to give you the morphing power."
I stared at her, shocked. "Even after David?"
"You're one of my best friends. If I can't trust you, who can I trust?"
"Thank-you." I whispered.
"What are friends for?"
That's when Ax arrived, holding the Escafil Device. Press your hand to the surface.
I did. A tingle went through my body, and I knew I could morph.
Rachel grabbed my arm. "Come on. We don't have much time."
We ran through the woods and arrived at the river.
There was already a trout ready and waiting for me.
I touched it with my finger. "Hear goes nothing."
The fish stopped flopping and went into a trance as I acquired it.
I heard a voice from above. They'll be there in five minutes!
"You better get out of here, Rachel." I told her.
"You sure you'll be okay?"
Rachel and the others quickly morphed.
"I'll need it." I muttered to myself.
I could hear the Controllers crashing through the trees. "There she is!"
I turned and ran. I needed to put on a good show.
I could hear the pounding footsteps chasing me. My gymnastics experience came in handy. I was fast and agile.
Five minutes into the chase, I faked slipping and jumped into the lake. The water was icy cold. It covered my nose and mouth as I sank below.
Morph!I screamed at myself. Morph!
The image of the flopping fish floated before me. Come on, come on!
Small scales appeared on my skin. I began to shrink rapidly. My legs merged to become a tail. My arms turned into fins. I noticed my clothes had fallen of.
And then, I could breath!
I swam downstream, completely trout.
I'm not sure how long I swam, but eventually I heard a voice in my head. Melissa! Where are you?
Down here! I called back.
Are you okay?
Fine. Did we lose them?
We pulled it off without a hitch.
Good. Is there a place to demorph?
Swim to your right until you run into the bank.
I followed the directions and soon found my self on dry land. The fish mind was screaming. It couldn't breath. But I was relieved that the plan worked.
I demorphed as fast as I could. I never did like fish. Especially being a fish who's gills were gasping for air.
Tobias landed beside me. The others are coming.
"Did it work?"
They're confused and have stopped looking for you, for now. I think we lost them. But you're still on the run. You can't go back. Ever.
I nodded. "I know. I know."
Five birds of prey landed and mutated back to their human forms.
Marco cocked his eyebrow. "We forgot to teach her how to morph clothes."
I looked down at myself. I was decent, barely. My bra and underwear had morphed with me, but nothing else. I ducked behind a bush. "You could have warned me about this!"
"Sorry." Rachel mumbled. "Jake, give me your shirt."
Jake stared at her. "Whaaaaat?"
"She has to wear something."
"Fine." Jake said, grumpily. He stripped of his T-shirt and tossed it to me.
I yanked it on. It was too big, but better than nothing.
I stepped back out into the open, glad that the shirt was long enough to cover my butt.
"What are you going to do with me?" I asked.
Rachel shrugged. "How does living with the free Hork-Bajir sound?"
"Better than being a Controller."
Rachel laughed. "That's my girl."
Jake, however, was serious. "As far as everyone is concerned, Melissa Chapman is dead. But the Taxxons are still in the forest. They can smell. They don't know where the smell is coming from, and every morph makes them temporarily lose their track. But you can't keep running forever, so Melissa Chapman has to disappear."
"What do you mean?"
"I talked about this with Ax. The only way to get rid of your smell is get rid of Melissa."
"The only way to keep you safe is if you move into another body. Permanently."
"You want her to trap herself?" Rachel screeched.
"Rachel. Melissa is not like the Hork-Bajir. People will look for her. People, not Controllers. They'd search the woods, bloodhounds or something. Maybe drag up the river for a body. I bet the Yeerks would get them to do that. And when they don't find one, the Yeerks are going to get suspicious. They'll start looking again."
Rachel started to protest.
"Listen. With the Hork-Bajir, we faked bodies. We can't do that here. So we have to make it so that they can't find her even if they think she's still alive."
"What does that have to do with Melissa becoming a nothlit?"
"They'll use Taxxons, and Taxxons use smell. Melissa's smell would no longer exist, and they would believe that she's dead. Even if they didn't, they wouldn't be able to find her."
"And what animal do you suggest Melissa lives as for the rest of life?"
"Huh?" I had been silent all this time, but that one word intrigued me. "How can I morph something that I am?"
"You acquire us. Like Ax did. Except you can make your morph female. And you'll be a whole new person."
"Jake!" Rachel said angrily. "I can't believe you're asking her to..."
I held my hand up. "Rachel..."
"It's my decision. And I say yes."
The air crackled with tension. I placed my hand on each of my friends and absorbed their DNA. With Ax coaching me in though-speak in my mind, I mixed them to create a new human body.
Rachel was crying. She never cries.
But I understood. She had lost one friend to the two-hour limit. She didn't want to lose another.
Jake rubbed his temples. A habit of his I noticed. "We morph birds and fly up to the Hork-Bajir valley. Melissa will do a quick demorph, then morph her new...morph."
Nobody said anything.
Jake looked stressed, like he had a really bad headache. He probably did. "Since Melissa doesn't have a bird morph, she'll have to morph Tobias."
I reached over and stroked Tobias's feathers. "Sorry."
I sighed. "I guess I'll have to go first, seeing how we can't leave Jake's shirt behind."
"Good thinking." Jake nodded.
I ducked behind the bush again, pulled off the shirt, and tossed it back to Jake.
I squeezed my eyes shut tightly and focused. That hooked beak. Those ripping talons. The soft, light feathers. The amazing wings that would enable me to fly.
I felt an itchiness all over my body. Gross sounding pops told me my bones were stretching and changing. My eyes flew open just in time for me to experience my sudden change in vision. I could see everything. Normally, I have 20/20 vision, but this was more like 20/1. Every little detail from a hundred yards away was as clear as if I was only an inch away. Then the instincts arose. The bird mind was relatively calm. But it wanted to fly. And so did I. I flapped my wings.
Then I remember who I was, and what I had to do. I settled down on a branch.
Jake glanced over, then seeing I was done, nodded to everyone.
The unspoken order given, they all began to morph.
The delicate feather patterns emerged, as did the horrible mutations.
I looked around at our little group, my sharp eyes noticing every detail.
Rachel, mostly human with a crown of distinctive white feathers instead of her blond hair.
Cassie, wings spread like an angel.
Marco, one talon and one wing morphed, and a beak replacing his still-talking mouth. More comical than sickening.
Jake, covered with feathers, but still very human.
Ax, his arms, wings, his tail, feathers, and his eye stalks sucked into his head. A weird mix of Andalite and bird that depicted a legend. Pegasus.
And Tobias, glaring at us all with his fierce hawk eyes. Perhaps an illusion, or his true body.
That was how I remembered them. That was how I would always remember them.
It took nearly two hours of solid flying to get to the Hork-Bajir valley.
When we arrived, we were welcomed by the Hork-Bajir.
Tobias landed on a branch, while the rest of us landed on the ground.
A Hork-Bajir stepped forward. There was much intelligence in this creature's eyes, unlike the other Hork-Bajir who were quite dim.
"Hello, Tobias." She said me.
Huh? I asked. Wait a minute. I'm not Tobias. I just morphed him. Tobias is up there. I cocked my head in the direction of the branch Tobias was on.
"Friend Tobias. It is good to see you again."
I half-hopped, half-flew behind a large tree and demorphed.
Jake tossed me his shirt. "Keep it!"
I stepped back out, looking much more decent.
"Who are you?" Toby asked.
"My name is Melissa Chapman."
"The Yeerks are looking for her." Jake explained. "Can she stay with you?"
Toby nodded. "Of course. But we don't have any human food here."
Jake sighed. "Yeah. I haven't really thought that far ahead. We just need to keep the Yeerks away from her. They have Taxxons tracking her. She not safe anywhere near civilization."
Perhaps you should morph now. Ax suggested.
Jake nodded in agreement.
Rachel stared at him stonily.
I took a deep breath. This was the last time I would ever be Melissa Chapman.
The changes were small, subtle. I grew a few inches so that I was almost as tall as Rachel. My hair turned a medium brown with a few blond highlights. My skin was a shade darker, like a deep tan. I could feel the bones in my face stretch and shrink, but since I didn't have a mirror, I had no idea what I looked like. Jake's shirt was not quite as large. I used to be short and thin. Now I was taller, and still thin, but not as stick-thin as I used to be.
No one said anything for a moment.
Toby placed her hand on my shoulder. "Welcome home."
I stayed there for, I'm not sure how long, maybe six months before it happened. Before it all ended, and our world lay shattered at our feet.
I suppose it was inevitable. Five kids and an Andalite youth, even with the morphing power, could never have hoped to defeat the entire Yeerk Empire.
It was a lost cause, but I suppose we're suckers for lost causes.
I guess I didn't see it coming. I knew very little of the world outside the valley.
For the first few weeks, the others came bringing food, clothes and other things I would need, and news.
The police, as well as the Yeerks through the Sharing, searched for my body. All they found were my clothes. They eventually gave up.
And Melissa Chapman officially died.
She died in the valley too, in a way. My name was changed by the Hork-Bajir. They found Melissa to be too long and too difficult to pronounce. So they called me by one syllable: Mel.
Even the Animorphs began calling me Mel. Toby was the only one who didn't. She insisted on calling me Melissa. She said it was my true name, that no matter what happened, it would always be my name.
Life in the valley was not bad. I missed the modern conveniences, but Ax came around and hooked up a TV for me. I had every channel, even overseas.
I planted a garden, and became a vegetarian. There was no way to hunt animals.
During the day, I mostly watched younger Hork-Bajir, making sure they didn't get into trouble. Baby-sitting, I suppose.
I was so stupidly naïve back then. I thought my friends would defeat the Yeerks, and I would go back to my normal life.
I never imagined that we could lose. But we did.
It was, well, I'm not sure of the date, but Rachel said it was a Monday when it all started. I've always hated Mondays.
I was...washing my clothes, if I remember correctly, when a bird dove out of the sky at me.
I recognized the distinctive red tail feathers immediately.
"Tobias. What's going on?"
He landed on a branch above me. The Yeerks know.
That was the beginning of the end.
Tobias had been flying in the woods behind Cassie's barn. He was the one who saw the black SUV driving towards Cassie's house. And he was the one who saw through its tinted windows to see Visser Three in human morph.
He recoiled in horror and almost threw up the mouse he had for breakfast. Oh, shit.
Cassie! Tobias screamed, shooting towards the house in the distance, hoping against hope to reach it before the Visser. Visser Three is heading for your house! GET OUT OF THERE!
Tobias was now closer and could see Cassie standing in the kitchen. The cup in her hand fell from her grasp and shattered on the tile floor. Her lips moved and formed a single word. No.
Morph Cassie! Tobias screamed as he streamed over her rooftop. NOW!
Tobias could see the feathers sprouting as Cassie morphed as fast as she could.
Cassie was always faster than the rest of them, but this time, the panic and adrenaline pushed her to limit.
She managed to morph osprey and escape through the back door just as the Controllers disguised as police rammed down the door.
Cassie flapped hard to gain altitude. Oh my God. How did they know?
I don't know, Tobias said grimly, but if they know about you, they go after the others too.
We have to split up to warn them. You go get Jake. I'll get Rachel. With that, Cassie turned and flapped away.
Tobias used every trick he knew to get to Jake's as fast as possible. When he arrived at Jake's house, he was thankful to see Jake in his room.
Then he spotted Tom leading a group of men with barely concealed guns under their jackets.
Tobias felt like he had swallowed broken glass. Jake!
He saw the boy's head jerk up.
Morph and get the fuck out of there!
Jake shot the bird outside his window a questioning look. Nevertheless, he began to shrink.
The Yeerks know.
Jake jumped as he heard the front door slam open. "Oh, crEEOF!" Jake's words were cut off as a beak pushed out of his mouth.
He flapped with his half-formed wings to the window. It was closed.
Tobias saw the situation. He dove. The window shattered as the bird slammed into it.
Tobias shook his head, trying to clear the shock he had from the impact.
Jake, fully morphed, half-dragged, half-carried the still-dazed Tobias as Tom burst into the room.
"Damn it! They got away again!" Jake heard Tom scream and they flapped out of reach.
They already went after Cassie. Tobias explained. But I warned her in time. She went to get Rachel.
I'll get Marco. You get Ax, then go up to the Hork-Bajir valley and tell them what happened. I'll meet you there. Jake turned in the direction of Marco's house.
Good luck, man.
Oh, damn. Tobias thought to himself. What are we going to do?
On his way to Ax's scoop, Tobias spotted Rachel and Cassie. Guys!
Tobias! Is Jake okay? Cassie asked.
He's fine. He's gone to get Marco.
We were going to get Ax.
Tobias thought about that. He might as well get up to the valley and let them get Ax. Okay. I'll meet you guys up at the Hork-Bajir valley. It's the only place that's safe.
Jake power-flew to Marco and saw his friend talking on the phone.
Marco! Get out of there!
Marco waved and pointed to the phone. It's Erek. He mouthed.
Jake thought fast. Tell him the Yeerk know. We're going to the Hork-Bajir valley.
Marco swore. "Erek, the Yeerks know about us."
"That's why I called you." Erek snapped. "You're not safe. Get over to my place."
Marco slammed down the phone and came outside. While he morphed, he explained the situation to Jake.
Fine. Jake muttered. You get Erek and bring him up to the valley. I'll go there and tell them what happened.
Marco nodded in agreement and the two separated.
Erek was waiting when Marco arrived. "What happened?" He demanded.
The Yeerks found out about us and we're busting our feathered butts out of here.
"Where are you going to go? You can stay in the underground park if you want."
Marco shook his head. We're going up to the Hork-Bajir valley.
"Okay." Erek nodded. "But I've got some information. I think I know how they found you."
Marco paused. He didn't want to stay in town any longer than absolutely necessary with the Yeerks hunting them. Can you come up with me and explain everything up there?
It's pretty far. How fast can you run?
"I never really timed myself, but I can do the hundred-meter dash in a tenth of a second."
That's pretty fast.
Erek had to keep his speed to a fast jog in order not to attract unwanted attention until they got to the woods. Then he broke out in an all out run. Soon, Marco was complaining he was going too fast.
Erek sighed and slowed his speed down a notch. "I thought you wanted me to go fast."
Yeah, but I have to be able to keep up with you!
Still, they reached valley in about half an hour.
Since Jake had arrived earlier and told us where Marco was, we weren't really worried about him. What worried us were the attacks on Cassie and Jake.
But we were still relieved when Marco showed up unharmed and with Erek in tow.
Erek raised his eyebrow when he saw me. "Who are you?"
"This is Melissa Chapman."
I winked. "She's dead, but you can call me Mel."
Erek raised his holographic eyebrow. "You guys could have told me you were hiding a dead fugitive the Yeerks were after."
Marco shrugged. "Yeah, well, we were kind of busy."
Erek looked back at me. "Is there a reason you look like a female version of Ax's human morph?"
"This is a morph." I bit my lip. "I'm a nothlit."
"So the Yeerks wouldn't find me." I shook my head. "It's a long story." I really didn't want to talk about it.
Cassie saw this and changed the subject. "So, Erek, what's the big news you have for us?"
"We heard that the Yeerks had found out the 'Andalite bandits' were humans. And knew one of their identities. A former host was recaptured. The Yeerk got all the information from her mind."
"Former host?" Rachel frowned. "Who?"
"A little girl named Karen."
"Karen?" Cassie screeched. "Karen?"
"Yeah, Karen." Erek nodded slowly, not understanding what the big deal was.
"Aftran's former host." Cassie explained. "Aftran let her go."
"Wait a minute." Erek interrupted. "Aftran? The Aftran? As in the Yeerk traitor that Visser Three was going to interrogate but was rescued by an osprey?"
Marco rolled his eyes. "Of course that Aftran. How many Yeerks do you think Cassie makes deals with anyways?"
"Of course." Rachel whispered. "Aftran followed Cassie home. Karen knew where she lived. And she saw our faces. That's how the Yeerks found out."
"Can someone please explain to me what the heck you're all talking about?" I asked.
"I could use an explanation too." Erek added.
Jake sighed. "We thought we had won this one battle. That Cassie had won one. But in the end, it all blew up in our faces."
"I'm sorry, Jake." Cassie whispered.
"It's not your fault. It's not anyone's fault. I guess it was just fate."
"If I had let that cougar..."
"No." Jake stopped her. "You did the right thing. But sometimes, the right thing just isn't enough.
Cassie looked at Erek and me. "I guess this is my story to tell."
A while ago, Cassie made a deal with a Yeerk. A small peace between her and a Yeerk called Aftran.
Aftran gave up taking unwilling hosts and returned to the Yeerk pool. Cassie agreed to trap herself in a caterpillar morph. Cassie was able to escape after the morph clock was reset by the caterpillar's natural metamorphosis. Aftran kept up her part of the deal, but had been captured by Visser Three, and was awaiting interrogation. Cassie rescued Aftran, and Aftran was given the power to morph and she became a whale nothlit.
Cassie had succeeded in doing the impossible: Making peace with a Yeerk.
The Animorphs thought that was the end of that. That the chapter of history was written, and that there was nothing more to add.
They were wrong, so wrong. And that was their undoing.
Aftran's old host was a young girl named Karen. Aftran had freed Karen, but that week, Karen had been reinfested.
Karen had been Aftran's host, and knew many of the things Aftran did. And because Aftran had been inside Cassie's head, Aftran knew every last one of our secrets.
Now, granted, Karen didn't know everything. She knew we were humans except for Ax. She knew Cassie was an Animorphs, and she had seen the other's faces. And most dangerous of all, she knew where Cassie lived. But that was the limit of her knowledge. Aftran didn't tell her host everything.
But Karen knew enough to destroy us. And now the Yeerks knew everything she knew.
Which of course, put all of us in incredible danger. Cassie's cover was completely blown. She could never show her face in civilization again without every Controller in sight jumping on her. And since they knew we were human, the Yeerks could link together the rest of the group. They had already sniffed out Jake.
We could not afford to let them catch us, or everything would be lost. So on that day, four more teenagers died.
Everything changed after that. My friends made daily raids on the Yeerks in hope of slowing them. I helped the Hork-Bajir free others of their kind.
Because even after all that happened, there was still a chance. A small one, maybe one in a million, but still a chance. We held on to that chance like our lives depended on it. And they did. It was the only thing we had.
Every morning we would wake up to a bleak world, and every night we would look back on our failures with despair. But despite all that, we held on. Perhaps we were living a delusion. A dream world in which good always defeats evil.
But it was not to be. One day, that dream shattered, and we finally realized it was over.
It had been over long ago.
I had just come back from an attack on one of the nearby Yeerks compounds. We –myself and four Hork-Bajirs– had gone in hopes of freeing a few more Hork-Bajirs from Yeerk control. When we saw that security had been increased at the compound, we turned back. Something big was going down.
The others had left early that morning in an attempt to contact the Andalites. And hopefully convince them to come and save Earth.
Only moments after we reentered the valley did the call from Erek come.
Ax had installed a phone so we could keep up communications with Erek and the rest of the Chee without having to travel back and forth between the city and the valley. It was much less suspicious that way.
I pressed the receiver to my ear and tried to slow down my pounding heart –difficult to do after running four miles. "What is it, Erek?"
"The Yeerks have begun an all-out attack. It's over, Mel. It's all over."
It's over. Those two words drummed around in my head. It's over it's over it's over. Overoveroveroveroveroverover.
I cursed, or screamed. I'm not sure which, maybe both.
Because it really was over. We had fought, and we had lost.
Life had dealt us a hand to play with. Possibly the worst hand any player could get. But we didn't fold. No, we played on. We tried to win the deadly game against insurmountable odds, and we lost. And we would pay dearly for that loss.
We would pay with our lives, and our world.
I think I started crying. I simply collapsed, sobbing.
Toby rushed over. "Melissa! Are you all right?"
"It's over, Toby. It's over." I buried my face in my arms.
Toby spotted the phone in my clenched hand. "Erek?"
I nodded, not trusting my voice.
She picked it up and listened. I saw her face crumple as she too received the bad news.
"No." Toby shook her head in denial. A human habit she had picked up from me. "How could they—" She sighed and handed the phone back to me.
"Damn it, Erek, how the hell could this happen?" I demanded, snapping out of my sudden emotional burst.
"The Council of Thirteen has come to visit Earth and check on its progress. Visser Three wanted to impress them, and suddenly launched an unplanned all-out attack. Most of the major cites around the world have been taken. They're spreading to the suburbs now. This city was 90% under Yeerk control, so there hasn't been any major activity here. Most of the Controllers are out of town helping with the invasion."
"Erek, when did this all start?"
"Five hours ago."
"Five hours? FIVE FREAKING HOURS!" I screamed.
"You don't have to yell." He said, sounding distinctively defensive.
"Damn it, the invasion starts and you don't even bother to tell us?"
"I tried. That's how long it took me to find a satellite that isn't under Yeerk control yet."
"Yes, satellite. How else do you think I can call you?"
I massaged my temples. A migraine was building up. "Damn it, Erek, you get your metallic ass over here right now!"
"What do you mean you can't? You're the all-powerful super-dog robot."
"I'm in Singapore."
"What?! Singapore? As in the Singapore. The one half-way around the world?"
"Yep, the Yeerks are in the process of taking it over."
"Why? Isn't that place a really, really tiny country?"
"Yeah, with a big population."
"So what are you doing there?"
"Supposedly 'helping' with the invasion. And I am helping...to mess it up."
I sighed. "No jokes. Look, Erek, the others went out this morning to try to contact the Andalites."
"And they're not back."
"Well, we didn't expect them to be back yet, but if the Yeerks—"
"Oh, man. Look, I can't help you from over here. There aren't many Yeerks left in the city, so they should be okay."
"Yeah, and I should be sitting on the couch at home watching MTV, but I'm not."
"Okay, okay, point taken. I'll get one of the others to check on them. Where did they go?"
"That radio telescope observatory outside of town. About three hours fly from the valley. I don't know what it's called."
"I know the place. I'll talk to you later."
"Okay. Erek..." There was the longest pause as I tried to find a sentence to tell him what I felt inside. "May the Force be with you." I didn't know what else to say.
I wanted to tell him what a good friend he was, and how much I wanted him to be okay. I wanted to say be careful, and good luck. That I hoped we would survive this. That fate would be on his side, as well as ours. But I didn't know how to express those feelings, so I said nothing more.
"Yeah." He whispered. He understood my meaning. "May you live long and prosper."
The hollow ringing echoed in my head, indicating the line had been severed.
I put the phone down and looked at Toby. "God, I hope they're okay."
She pulled me into a hug. "Me too, me too."
Three hours later, I received another call. It was Chee-Lian.
"Are they okay?"
"Yes. I am at the observatory right now. They are still attempting to establish a link between here and the Andalite homeworld. It is safe."
"Oh, thank God. Tell Jake that we're all fine here, and...good luck."
"Do not worry, Mel. They will be back soon."
I hung up and let out a sigh of relief. "They're okay." I told Toby and the other Hork-Bajir.
Everyone notably relaxed. That had been a big scare.
The other Hork-Bajir dispersed and went back to what they were doing before.
Toby put her hand on my arm. "Melissa."
I turned and looked at her straight in those red eyes.
"The Yeerks' attack." She paused. "I think we both know what this means."
I nodded. They were the last free Hork-Bajirs in the universe. We were the last free humans in existence. The Yeerks had destroyed yet another race.
There was more to that in her words, but neither one of us wanted to say it. We didn't need to. We already knew. The end was near.
"How long do you think we will last?" Toby whispered.
"I don't know. Here, in the valley, it almost seems as if we have the Ellimist's protection."
"Yes, but will he protect us forever?"
"Heaven help us if he doesn't."
"You still believe in your human god?"
I stared into the sky. "At times like this, you have to believe in something."
Toby nodded. "Luck has gotten us this far, but it is not enough anymore."
"Fate has to be on our side."
"Or something higher than fate."
"The question is, can he help us? And will he?"
Toby looked up into the sky. "That is what we'd all like to know."
I wanted to cheer up the dreary moment. "Toby, have you ever wondered what it's like to have a sister?"
She frowned. "I have, Melissa. But we have grown very close these past few months. I believe having a sister would be like having you."
I nodded. "I always wanted a sister when I was growing up. I wish you really were my sister."
"I wish that too."
I had a sudden idea. "Toby. Hold out your wrist."
She did. I made a small nick in my index finger on the edge of her blade. "Now make a cut on you finger."
Toby frowned in confusion but did so.
I pressed my finger to hers. "Now we're blood sisters. Just like the real thing."
Toby smiled. A smile anyone else would find frightening, but one that I had gotten used to. "My sister, Melissa."
"My sister, Toby."
She pulled me into a hug, and even though she towered a foot over me, and was covered with blades, I could not have asked for a truer sister.
There was a warmth in my heart. A warmth I had not felt for years. I tried to remember the feeling.
Christmas morning. My parents, my grandparents, and all my aunts and uncles.
Toby didn't just feel like a true friend. She felt like family.
A rustling in the bushes startled us out of our deep thoughts. We turned just in time to see a Chee come through the bushes.
"Hello Mel." She greeted me.
"Lian." I jogged over. I had met her once before when we went to Erek's place to get some vegetable seeds.
"Who is this?" Toby, who had followed me, asked.
I realized those two had never met. "Toby, this is Chee-Lian, a friend of Erek's. Lian, this is Toby, the Hork-Bajir seer."
The two shook hands.
"Where are the others?" I asked.
"Don't worry." Lian reassured. "They're coming. They should be flying in any moment. I came ahead."
"Okay." I whispered, trying to get the knot in my stomach to loosen. I would not relax until they were standing right in front of me, safe and sound.
Lian handed me a small gray case she had been carrying. I had paid no notice to it until that moment.
"What is this?" I asked as I took it.
"A computer. Laptop, actually. Ax took it. Said it would be useful."
"Ax stole a computer?"
"You don't approve?"
"Well, can I really feel bad about taking a computer from creatures that steal bodies?"
"Yes." Lian said simply. "Two wrongs don't make a right."
"I'm still trying to figure out what's right and wrong." I snorted. "Things have gotten so you can't tell the difference anymore."
"Listen to your heart. It knows the truth."
"Yeah, well my heart says murder is wrong, but I do it anyways."
Lian said nothing.
"If you do a wrong to stop and even greater wrong, does that make your wrong right?" I continued.
"No." She whispered.
"No wrong can ever be right."
"Then how can we do wrong in the name of right? How can we fight the Yeerks in the name of Freedom?"
"You are sacrificing your morals, your ethics, your beliefs, so others will not have to do the same. You are fighting a war so others will not suffer. You are killing, so others will not kill or be killed. It does not make what you do right, but it does makes it understandable."
"I don't need understanding. I need peace."
"You will get both when you die."
"Would Heaven accept a murderer?"
"I don't know. I've never been there."
Toby interrupted at this moment. "Melissa, if your god is as forgiving and benevolent as you say, then you will have peace one day. What we do may not be right, but if it is understandable, it is forgivable."
I looked at Toby and smiled. Something I rarely did nowadays. "Then I guess I'll see you in Heaven, or wherever it is we go when we die."
"Don't die yet, Melissa. I'm expecting you to stick around for a long, long time."
"You too, Toby, you too."
Honey! I'm home! Marco's thought-speech voice filled the valley.
"Marco!" I shouted, knowing he could hear me with his exceptional osprey ears. I spotted him at the head of a little group of birds just coming over the cliff at the edge of the valley and waved. I couldn't believe how happy I was to see him.
He swooped down and landed right in front of me and began to demorph. Even before he was completely human, I could see the comical smirk on his face. As soon as his vocal cords grew out, he began talking.
"Did you miss me?" He teased.
I swatted at him. "Of course I did! Do you know how worried we were about you guys?"
This sobered him up a bit. "Sorry. But we're okay." But the grin was still on his face. I think he liked to see me worried about him.
I smiled back. Then I turned to Jake, who by this time had also demorphed. "So, how did it go?"
"Well, there's good and bad news. The bad news is, we couldn't get through to the Andalite homeworld. Ax gave some long, winded explanation. All I caught was something about a Z-space rift."
"And that would be bad?"
Yes. Ax joined our conversation. The rift, unfortunately, is big enough to interrupt standard Z-space communications. I could, of course, fix the problem and establish the link on a Z-space hyper-frequency carrier wave, but it was take a few hours, and we did not have enough time. I did, however, 'borrow' one of the more portable computers that were linked into the network. That way, I could access the network and program the link from here.
I blinked. I didn't quite get everything he just said. "Um...Okay." I said to Ax. Then to Jake, I said. "So what's the good news?"
"That was the good news. That we stole a computer and now we can hack into the observatory system and call the Andalites."
"ET call home." Marco popped in with a grin. Everything was a joke to him, even now in this desperate situation.
Jake's face was notably more grim.
"You've heard?" I asked him.
He nodded. "Yeah. Lian told us."
I nodded and looked at the ground, not sure what to say. "So."
"So." He agreed.
It was a very awkward moment. Jake was probably thinking that since he was the leader, her should say something positive to keep the moral of the group up. I could practically see the wheels turning as he racked his head for some optimistic words to say. And I was trying to find a way to tell him it was okay and that he wasn't alone. But neither one of us could find the right words, and the moment passed.
Cassie came over and handed Jake a bucket we had acquired from Erek. "Come on. Let's go water the cucumbers."
I watched them go off, hand in hand, and a twang of jealously pierced my heart.
Marco came over and slipped an arm around my waist. "What are you thinking?"
I gestured to the dwindling figures of Jake and Cassie. "Them. How happy they are."
He smiled. "The lovebirds."
I nodded. "I always wished I could have that kind of love. That kind of happiness, but now...Well, I guess it's never going to happen."
"Maybe it will."
I turned and looked at him. Really looked at him. And for the first time, I saw how much he cared about me. Maybe not the love Jake and Cassie shared, but at least a life-long friendship. And it might even turn out to be more. At that moment, I wasn't sure, but I was willing to give it a chance.
And that chance, that might have been what changed it all. I don't know. I really don't, because anything, any little thing, even an ant on the side of the road, could change the world. For better or for worse, no one knew, but it would change us all.
That night, I lay in my cave, unable to sleep. Finally, I got up and slipped outside to look at the stars. I used to love looking at the stars. They were so mysterious and powerful. And then the Yeerks came, and that changed my perspective on everything. Even the stars. I stopped going out at night to look at them.
But this night, when I looked up at those glowing balls of light, I realized they had not lost their power over me. I knew much more than I did before, but the stars still held their secrets, and I still wanted to know them.
I lay down beneath an oak tree and stared up at them.
My mind wandered. I thought about my past, and my future. And I wondered when this would all end.
Or had it already ended. After all, the Yeerks had taken over the planet. The invasion was no longer a secret. The Yeerks could attack in the open.
The ace we thought we had up our sleeve wasn't there. We had lost.
Before, the odds against us were one in a million, then one in a billion. Now there were no odds.
Because the game was over.
The war was over. And we had lost.
All that remained was to pick up the pieces. The pieces of our lives. The fragments of a childhood left unfinished in exchange for an adulthood sculptured too quickly.
We had lost.
I didn't want to admit it, but I had to. We had lost long ago. We just never realized it.
We were like children unwilling to let a game end because we were afraid of losing. And then the truth crashed down on us like a ton of bricks.
But when had we lost, if not now? A year ago? Five years ago? Ten years ago? If not now, when?
Was it the moment when the Council of Thirteen arrived on Earth? Or when that Yeerk crawled into the head of a little girl named Karen? Or when Melissa Chapman disappeared from existence? Or were we doomed long before that? Were we fated to this horror when Elfangor landed his ship in that construction site, and five kids received the ultimate power; the ultimate curse? Or was it earlier than that? Who's fault was it? Seerow's? Alloron's? Or maybe that boy named Hendrick who told the Yeerks about humans? The one who betrayed his own people to the universe's greatest evil: Slavery. Was this all my father's fault? Was he the most evil man to ever live? Was he worse than Hitler who sent millions to their deaths? This man, my father, who loved me and my mother; who gave his freedom for mine, could he have traded the freedom of six billion human beings for his own? Could he have been that evil? What is worse? The invading army who kills all in their way, or the neighbor next door who secretly betrays you to the enemy to protect their own selfish hide?
I know, during the war, people hated traitors more than the Germans, but was that the same here? Was my father worse than the Yeerks?
I had never really thought about it until then. I didn't like to think about my father. Not after I found out what he had done.
But at that moment, when I began contemplating who was to blame, I thought of him. My father. Of all that had happened because of what he did. Or was it? Was it all his fault? Or was the blame to be shared by many?
The average person blames Hitler for the horrors of WWII, but all those who helped him carry out his evil had a part too. And even if they escaped justice on Earth, they would not escape justice in their hearts, or in Heaven.
Even after all that revelation, I was still not sure how much blame my father deserved. But I knew one thing. Without him, none of this would have ever happened.
When I woke up the next morning, I was still leaning against the tree.
Marco jogged up to me. "Morning, sleepyhead." He extended his hand
I smiled and took it. He pulled me up. "Morning."
"What are you doing out here?" He gave me a kind of sideways glance as we started walking back to the fire pit in front of the caves, where we had breakfast each morning.
"I was thinking last night, and I guess I just fell asleep out here."
"What were you doing? Sleepwalking?"
"No, I couldn't sleep, so I came out here to think, and to look at the stars."
There was a moment of silence. The stars meant a lot to us, for they had changed us all.
"The stars..." He whispered. "I used to believe, if you saw a shooting star, and made a wish, it would come true." He stopped walking and looked at the ground. "I don't believe that anymore."
"And I used to believe that good things happened to good people. I don't believe that anymore either."
"You're a good person, Melissa."
"Yeah, and what good has come out of my life?"
"Maybe nothing good has happened to you, but you have made others happy."
"Really? What makes you say that?"
"You make me happy."
I blinked. Did Marco just say that? Did he just say that I made him happy? "I do?"
"You make me happy too." I whispered.
He cracked a smile. "See. Life isn't that bad after all."
That made me smile too. "Yeah, I guess you're right."
We walked hand in hand down the sloping hill to the fire pit, where the others had already started boiling to water and washing the fruits. For that one moment, I felt light and happy. One last time in my life. I was happy.
Now, as I look back on that moment, I'm not sure what to think. I don't know if I really did love Marco. I was desperate then. We all were. Desperate to hold onto something, anything.
I think the human mind reaches out for something to cling to. To keep itself from sinking. I reached out and I found Marco, and he found me.
We clung to each other and we stayed afloat. Marco kept me sane.
If it had all stayed that way, I would be satisfied. But Fate chooses its own path. All this horror, all this pain. Was it worth it? Earth is safe, but I lost my identity, and my life. I lost one life, and gained another. But I will always have the memories. The smell of death, the rivers of blood, the screams...They will stay with me always. Always.
Perhaps it was not worth it to me, but I supposed, to many others, my sacrifice was not in vain.
I had always kept my moral standard high. Even as I killed, I prayed. There were many times in which I stopped believing there was a Heaven, but the belief always came back. I told myself it was because I didn't do anything morally wrong unless it was absolutely necessary. Kill or be killed. I never got the 'Turn the other cheek' concept.
I supposed the Ten Commandments were my standard. The first five, I think I obeyed them, or at least I tried. There were killings on Sundays, not very holy. Not that we kept track which day was Monday or Sunday. There were killings everyday.
Murder? Well, I can't even keep count. At least I was still a virgin, not that there were that many guys around. As for my neighbor, well, I didn't exactly count the Yeerks as my neighbor. Stealing? Stealing from thieves? I really didn't steal much from the thieves, though. But my parents. I still loved my parents. Even my father, whom I hated. Makes no sense, I know, but I wanted to stay human. And that was how I did it, by respecting my parents. Even though I had not seen them since that fateful day when I learned the truth, even though they were Controllers, the Enemy, I respected them, and I loved them. And I felt human. That is, until I broke that Commandment too.
Chapter Twenty One
I suppose you could say it started that night. I would say it started many, many years ago, when Fate first choose this path. Not that any of that matters now.
Marco and I...we had, well, I guess you could call it 'fallen in love with each other' without actually meaning to. It was one of those unplanned little things that just happened to work out.
Now that I think about it, I had always been good friends with Marco. I laughed at his jokes –he was the only one who could make me smile. I worried about him when he went on dangerous missions. A cared about him. That's love, right? Maybe not the 'I wanna rip your pants off' kind of love —that's lust— but love all the same.
I suppose it was inevitable that we would pair up. After all, Jake had Cassie, Rachel had Tobias, and why not Marco and Melissa? The Ms. The leftovers. I guess it's natural for people to start pairing up, especially when isolated and alone like we were. Humanity has always yearned for friendship, and we found it with each other.
That morning was when we finally realized we had feelings for each other. I had never noticed it before, but I was growing attracted to him. I had been for a long time. When I really thought about it, I noticed how I worried more about him than the others. How I fiddled with my hair when he was around, even though I couldn't care less about my appearance. How I always went to him when I wanted to talk. For some reason I still do not know, I liked Marco. And for that same strange reason, he liked me back.
Of course, everyone immediately noticed when we walked back hand in hand. Cassie was the first.
She glanced at me, then Marco, and finally our clasped hands. "Mel. Marco." Then, stifling a smile, she turned back to the fire she was tending.
Rachel was more vocal. "Marco! Don't tell me you've finally found a girl who doesn't run away screaming when you try to kiss her?"
Marco blushed. I blushed. The others chuckled at us and said no more. They all knew the feeling. I remember when Marco and I were doing the teasing. Then again, Rachel didn't take it too well.
But that's another story.
Chapter Twenty Two
Our first fight was that night. It was not our last. Yeah, soon, but with stubbornness like Marco's and a temper like mine, it wasn't exactly a surprise.
At least, that's what I thought. I don't know about Marco, I never got to ask him.
It started with an argument. Stupid really, now that I think about it. But back then, it was a big enough deal to escalate into a full-blown screaming match. Not even Jake was senseless enough to try to stop us.
It started right after dinner. The others had left us sitting side by side on a log by the fire.
Marco had his arm around me. "What are you thinking?" He asked as I stared into the fire.
"I want to burn, Marco. I want to burn." I guess the image of the fire had sunk into my mind.
"Burn everything. The Yeerks. Our stupid messed up lives. This hopeless world. Everything."
"It's not worth it. It's not worth living a life like this. We've given up everything, and gotten nothing in return."
"We have our freedom."
"What freedom? We're trapped in the stupid valley, always with the fear of an attack hanging over us. We can't step one foot outside this valley without every Yeerk in the galaxy jumping on us. We're trapped. We're trapped and we don't even know it."
"That's more freedom than what others have."
"What use is freedom in a world like this?"
"What are you saying, Mel? That you don't want to fight anymore? That we should just give into the Yeerks?"
"That's not what I said, Marco."
"Oh, yeah? Then what were you saying? 'Cause that's certainly what it sounded like."
"All I'm saying is that this is not the life I wanted."
"Why are you being so damn selfish?"
"Me? Selfish? I gave up everything."
"Then why are you complaining?"
"Is this the life you wanted, Marco?" I yelled angrily. "Is this what you wanted? Living on the run? Hiding? Cowering in fear? Praying the next day won't be your last? Is this what you wanted? Because it certainly was not what I wanted."
"What? You think I like being hunted down by those damn slugs? You think I like this? I want a normal life as much as you do. We all do. But we don't go around whining about it!"
"How dare you accuse me of whining? Coming from you? The King of whining? Mr. I'm So Special." I snapped back sarcastically.
Jake and Cassie rushed over. They must have heard us yelling.
"What's going on?" Jake demanded.
I was still fired up. "Stay out of this, Jake."
"Mel! Calm down!"
"I said, stay out of this!"
"And I said calm down!" Jake stepped up to me and we glared at each other, our noses an inch apart.
Cassie gripped Jake's arm. "Come on, Jake. Let's go. Let those two work it out by themselves."
Jake shot me one last silent glare before he turned and stormed off with Cassie chasing after him.
I took a deep breath. I had cooled down somewhat.
Marco plopped down on a log opposite of me, still mad.
I folded my arms and sat down on the opposite log so we were directly facing each other.
And that was how Tobias and Rachel found us, silently glaring at each other through the circle of flames between us.
Chapter Twenty Three
The sun was just setting as Rachel and Tobias flew over the ridge and landed. Marco and I continued our staring contest as they returned to human form.
Rachel took one look at us and knew exactly what was happening. She turned to Tobias with a smirk. "I'll take care of these two. You go ahead and I'll met you by the lake to watch the sun set, 'kay?"
Tobias nodded and ran off in the direction of the lake with a smile playing on his lips. He was laughing at us. And with good reason. We were acting like a couple of two-year olds.
Rachel was still smirking. "You two are complete idiots."
Neither one of us replied.
Rachel sighed and slapped us both on the head. "Get over it, you two. So you had a difference of opinion. Big whoop. Everyone gets into disagreements sometimes. What really matters is that you guys love each other."
This caused a raised eyebrow from both of us.
"See." Rachel folded her arms as if she had just made a point. "You two even think the same."
For this, she received two stony glares.
"Come on!" Rachel rolled her eyes. "Good grief. Get over it! Make up! Hug! Kiss! Do what ever you guys do when the rest of us aren't around."
More pointy glares.
Rachel sighed and threw up her hands. "I give up. You two are too stubborn for your own good."
She twirled around and headed down to the lake, but not before calling back to us, "I've got a date with my boyfriend."
And thus the area lapsed back into stony silence.
"Emhorey." Suddenly, I heard Marco mumble something indecipherable.
My head jerked up. "What did you say?"
More mumbling, slightly louder this time.
I stood up and moved closer. "I can't hear you."
"I said I was sorry." Marco snapped, not sounding very sorry. Then his voice lost some of its edge. "I shouldn't have said what I did."
"I'm sorry too." I mumbled, perched on the other end of the log.
Marco turned to me and stuck out his hand. "Friends?"
I stared at his outstretched hand for a moment. Rachel was right. I was too stubborn for my own good.
I took Marco's hand and shook it. "Friends."
Chapter Twenty Four
That was how Ax found us: In the middle of a handshake. He looked at us quizzically, then shrugged, a habit he had picked up from humans.
Have either of you seen Tobias? He sounded a little agitated.
I blinked. "Yeah. He's down at the lake with Rachel. Why?"
I have just talked with my people.
This caught both our attentions.
"What did they say?" I asked.
I informed them of our situation, and they say they have sent help.
"What kind of help?" Marco asked the same question that was on my mind.
I don't know. They did not tell me. But what they did tell me is that there is a new technology on the homeworld. An experimental cure for nothlits.
"A cure?" I whispered.
I do not know the specifics of it, only that the discovery was made a month ago and that it is only in it's experimental stages.
I nodded, my mind whirling. A cure for nothlits. Nothlits like me.
I could morph, maybe. Help the others fight in a way I never could before. I might even be Melissa Chapman again. No. I pushed the thought away. She's dead Mel, and she's going to stay dead.
Ax interrupted my thoughts. That is why I'm looking for Tobias. I think he would be very interested in this information. If you will excuse me, I must go. With that, Ax trotted off.
"Wow, cure for nothlits." Marco muttered.
I nodded. "A cure."
Marco suddenly looked at me. "Your not thinking what I think your think, are you?"
"What are you thinking?"
"That you're thinking of how much more you could fight if there was cure."
I nodded. "Yep, that's what I'm thinking."
Marco shook his head. "Don't get your hopes up yet. It never helps to get your hopes up."
I stared at him for a few moments. "I'm going for a walk."
"I'm going for a walk. I need to think. Don't follow me." With that, I turned and ran.
Chapter Twenty Five
Deep into the woods, I ran. I ran and ran, not really noticing where I was headed. I'm not sure how far I ran. Pretty far, since I ran for almost an hour. And during that time, I thought.
I thought about what I'd do if got the cure from the Andalites. What I'd do if I could morph.
I guess I've always felt kinda guilty for not being able to help more. Like I'm just dead weight to the Animorphs, not being able to fight. I know they don't think of me that way. I mean, I can fight, sort of. A weird combination of kung fu and street fighting with stamina and an ability to run cross-country. Not really fighting, more like spying and then running. I don't like to run. I'm like Rachel. I face my enemies head on.
If I could morph...what would I do? Would I be able to handle fighting in the Yeerk pools, against Visser Three?
It's weird, 'cause I always wanted to morph, to be able to fight, to take revenge on the empire that tore apart my life. And yet, at the same time, I was glad I was safe in the valley, or as safe as I could be on a planet overrun by Yeerks.
At the same time, if I had the chance to regain my morphing power, I would do it gladly. Joining the others on their missions was the point I was not completely sure about, but the morphing power...it was a useful weapon. Never turn down something useful, or even something not useful, but may be later on.
Still, in a way, the choice to fight was not my own. After all, I was human. I would fight for my race. I wasn't exactly patriotic, far from it, but there's a big difference between Earth and the US of A. What was the biggest thing that threatened the US? Communism? Hah! That didn't get anywhere close to the US, and they were still paranoid about it. I mean, compared to the Yeerks, Communism is no big deal at all. It's just a different way of governing. Not saying that most communist leaders weren't dictators and mass murderers, but that's another point entirely.
No, the point was that Earth was threatened with complete and total destruction, and it's inhabitants with slavery. Nobody can say 'no' to a cause like that. Especially someone who valued duty like me.
That was the decision I made as I entered a meadow. I would fight, no matter what, no matter the cost.
I slowed to a jog, then a fast paced walk, and finally, a complete stop. Something had urged me to stop.
I looked up. The twinkling stars lighted up the night sky. A shooting star flew past—
Wait, that wasn't a shooting star!
That was...that was Dracon beams. A space battle!
But there were no more flashes. For a moment, I thought I was mistaken.
Then I saw the clouds. They were fluctuating.
There was something there. Something that distorted the night air. Something hidden beyond human sight. That something descended.
Chapter Twenty Six
It was a ship. A spaceship. An egg-shaped pod with two small wings. It was bigger than a Bug fighter, but not much.
There was only one thing I was sure of. It was not a Yeerk ship.
An opening appeared on the hull. A pair of eyes peered out at me.
Then the creature took a step out. Stalk eyes.
I could see the blue fur. The mouthless head. The tail held high, arched over his head.
Both his stalk eyes and his main eyes focused on me. I saw them widen in surprise. Yeerk!
"No." I stepped forward. "I'm am a human."
But all humans are Controllers. All except—
He smiled with his eyes. You know them. It was not a question.
"I am an Animorph."
How do I know you are not a Yeerk?
"If I was, I wouldn't be standing here."
You're logic is manipulative, human.
"I have a name. Mel."
I asked the question I was afraid to ask. "Do the Andalites have a cure for nothlits?"
He looked confused at my sudden question.
"Nothlits. Can you return them to their original form?"
For your friend, the bird?
"Tobias." The question was for me, but it was for him too.
There is a new technology from the homeworld. We can give nothlits the ability to morphs again.
"Can you give it to me?"
He ran back into the ship and came back with a small cylinder in his hand. I don't know why I trust you, but I do. The cylinder was slipped into my hand.
I looked at the small cylinder in my hand. "Thank you."
Hypospray. Inject your friend with the contents. It will erase any residue from previous morphs. Then that person can be given the ability to morph again using the Escafil Device.
"I need another."
Why? Are you a nothlit too?
Oh. My regards. Do not worry. There is more back on the homeworld.
Yes. Quickly, get your friends. We must go.
"Go? You mean leave Earth?"
Earth is lost. I was sent to take the humans with the ability to morph and Aristh Aximili back to the homeworld.
"You know all about us."
All Andalites know the story of the human children who kept the Yeerks at bay for so long. Leera was proof you could be trusted. You helped us win that war. We are the returning the favor. I am here to rescue you.
"That's it? You want us to just leave Earth and give up? We're still fighting the Yeerks."
Earth is lost, is it not? You are the only free humans in the galaxy.
There is nothing left here for you. Come, and you can fight alongside us against the Yeerks.
"I guess I should get the others."
That would be wise.
I jogged a few steps, then turned back. "I'll be back soon."
I smiled. "Thank—"
And at that moment, my world exploded.
Chapter Twenty Seven
I coughed, lifting my head from the dirt and dust I lay in. I was surprised I had not suffocated, lying facedown in the earth.
The burned remains of the ship lay around. I knew what had struck us. A Dracon cannon.
Rabin was dead. The ship was gone. Our only way off the planet had just been vaporized. Not that the others would have left. They might have, but it would have taken a lot of persuasion to make the Animorphs leave Earth.
Amazingly, I had survived the explosion. Perhaps fate, perhaps luck. Or a meddling Ellimist who would not just let me simply die.
I opened my hand.
Inside was the one miracle Rabin had given me. The hypospray. The cure. It was intact. Undamaged.
I dragged my self up, knowing that the trek back to the cave would be a long one.
As soon as I stood, I realized what had happened to my right leg. It was gone. Burned up. All that was left was a stump that ended right above where my knee should have been.
I wrapped the shredded remains of my jacket around it to stop the bleeding.
Wincing, I started hopping through the ashes. It was going to be a very long trip.
Chapter Twenty Eight
I arrived at the valley three hours later.
Toby, the Hork-Bajir seer hopped out of a tree and rushed over. She stared at my knee. The look in her eyes said everything.
I tried not to wince. "Can you help me over to the caves?"
She leaned over and scooped me up. Hork-Bajirs are very strong.
"Where were you?" Jake demanded. You were gone for four hours! We thought maybe—" Jake stopped in mid-sentence.
Rachel dropped the pot of water she had been carrying when she saw me. "Oh my God."
Toby put me down on the grass.
The still-burning fire illuminated us with a ghostly glow.
Cassie bent over and peeled back the jacket.
The first time, I had only glanced at my leg to realize what had happened. Now I looked at it closely.
It was a bloody mess. The flesh and muscles hanging in strips and chunks, with a bit of yellowish bone showing through. The blood had begun to colt and my entire leg was engulfed in red, but the burns still showed on my skin.
I glanced at my blood-soaked jacket. I was surprised I hadn't bleed to death.
Cassie winced at the mess. "I don't know what to do."
"What do you mean you don't know what to do?" Rachel screamed, in near hysterics.
I, amazingly, was calm through all this.
Cassie shook her head. "I never dealt with amputations. My dad did that kind of injury. Besides, even if I knew what to do, I don't have any instruments."
Rachel looked like she was about to strangle someone.
I slowly released my tightly gripped fist and revealed the small cylinder.
One by one, they noticed it.
"What is that?" Jake asked.
"A cure. A cure for nothlits."
The silence echoed of the walls of the valley. Even the Hork-Bajirs noticed that something was happening and stopped what they were doing.
Ax picked it up and studied it closely. He gave me a questioning look. Andalite technology?
Jake's eyes widened and his jaw dropped lower than I though possible. "Andalite technology? But that would have to mean you got it from Andalites and that would mean Andalites are—"
"—here." I finished. "Well, they were here."
Were? Tobias caught onto the word I had picked. You mean they left?
I shook my head. "One ship. One Andalite. And a very good shot from a Dracon cannon."
Toby nodded. "I was wondering how you managed to get your leg burned off."
I gave her a dirty look. "No, I just did this for fun."
Marco raised an eyebrow. "She can't be hurt too bad. She's still being sarcastic."
I ignored him. "It's for Tobias." I told everyone, gesturing to the hypospray. "All he has to do is trap himself as a human, inject that, and then you guys can give him the power to morph with the morphing cube."
"Can we use it on you?" Cassie asked.
"If you morph, then demorph, you're leg should be fine."
A lump rose in my throat. "He said it was for Tobias."
Forget what he said. Tobias argued. You're going to die if you don't morph.
Cassie nodded in agreement. "Infection, maybe. Or lost of blood."
"Then it's settled." Jake nodded.
"But Tobias, you're never get the chance to be human again." I pointed out.
I'd rather you still be alive and kicking.
Ax leaned over and pressed the hypospray to my neck. I felt a small prickling sensation as the liquid drained into my jugular.
Rachel brought out the blue box and handed it to Ax.
He held it out to me and I pressed my fingers to the side.
I had a sudden memory of younger me, receiving the power to morph from a younger Ax. Years ago, while I was being hunted by Taxxons.
Back when a time I knew nothing of the horrors of the galaxy except the small portion I had witnessed. I had been scared, naïve, and I trusted Rachel with my life.
I still trusted her with my life. But now, I knew everything the rest of the Animorphs knew. The element of fear was still there, but I learned to control it. And I was no longer a fool.
Chapter Twenty Nine
"I need something to morph." I whispered, teeth clenched. The shock was wearing off, and the pain was about to make me pass out.
Toby offered her hand. "We are sisters. My blood is your blood. My DNA is your DNA."
I took her hand. "Thank you."
The acquisition process put both of us into a trance-like mood.
As soon as I knew the DNA was in me, I began to morph. The changes were slow at first. My skin darkened and my hair sucked into my head. Then my bones began to grow. And with them, my leg.
It was a disgusting sight. The bone went first, stretching out to its full length while the burn marks faded away. Then layers of muscle and tissue covered it, and finally, a layer of Hork-Bajir skin. My spine stretched and my tail popped out, pushing me to a crouching position. And finally, the most dangerous part of the morph: The blades. They sprang out suddenly all at once, completing the morph.
"That's not a sight I want to see again anytime soon." Marco grabbed my hand and pulled me up to a standing position.
I immediately began demorphing again. This time, it was a much smoother process and not half as gross.
I sighed and slumped. I was dead tired. My eyelids began to droop.
Jake saw this. "It's late. Let's all go to sleep."
Marco accompanied me to my cave. He looked like he was about to say something, but then stopped.
"Good night." He whispered instead.
I leaned against the side of the cave, and in the dark, began to cry. I had not cried for many years.
I had almost died that night. I did not want to die.
And the look in Marco's eyes...I could read them. He was glad I was alive. He was glad I could morph. But he did not want me to fight. He...he was afraid...afraid of what I would do.
I didn't know it then, but I was afraid too.
The next morning was a clear sunny day. There was no indication of the carnage that the sun would set on.
I decided to talk to Marco before I talked to Jake. The reason was simple: I did not believe Jake would let me go on missions.
Toby was the only one who understood me. I wanted revenge. And I didn't care what it took to get it. This side of me only came out during battle, or when rage engulfed me. But it was there, nevertheless.
I was not like Rachel, who was reckless and lived for the moment. I took cold, calculated risks. I was a cold and calculating person.
And Jake knew that. I had reason to believe Toby had told, or at least hinted, this to him.
I wanted revenge very much. And that outweighed my fear.
My plan was to first talk to Marco and get his support. With him, I could sway Jake to my side. Jake was the leader, so the rest would agree.
I know. Cold. Calculating. I used my friends. Don't we all?
Unfortunately, my plan didn't work the way I wanted. Unfortunately for us all.
"Don't. I'm not going to let you come with us."
"Why not?" I demanded, getting angry again.
"It's way to dangerous."
"You're beginning to sound like Jake." I snapped.
"It's the truth, Mel. I care about you, I don't want you to get hurt."
"I don't need your protection. I can take care of myself."
"I'm not a little kid. I've been in plenty of fights with the Yeerks."
"But not direct battles. Not with Visser Three."
"Don't baby me, Marco."
"I'm trying to protect you."
"You don't control me Marco, no one does."
"That's why I say you can't come with us on our missions. And Jake would say the same thing. No one can control you. You're too much of a loose cannon. You're even worse than Rachel, at least Tobias can keep her in line. When you get mad, you're not even human anymore."
Now that really pissed me off, because what I valued most, even though I didn't act like it, was my humanity. I wanted to believe, and at the time I did, that I was human. That I still had human feelings of guilt and remorse and pity. That I was still a moral person. Maybe not ethical, but at least still moral. Marco had just told me I wasn't.
"Shut up, Marco. You don't know anything about me!"
"So is that it? You've been hiding under a shell from what's been happening to all of us? I though you, of all people, could face reality. I guess not. You hide from it like everyone else. Can't you see? We've been fighting so much we don't think twice about murder. It's not wrong anymore, because we stopped caring."
"Shut up!" I screamed. I didn't want to hear the truth about myself.
"You're going to have to face it someday, or it will destroy you."
"Get away from me!"
"I'm doing this for your own good. You're the only one who won't face the truth. We're not human anymore, we're killing machines. Even Cassie realizes that, even though she's more human than the rest of us. She still cares."
"No! Damn it, Marco, you're wrong. I'm human! I am not a machine. I care. I care!"
"Believe what you want, Mel. I tried." He sighed. "You could never see the line. A to B. I knew this would happen to us. I knew it long ago. I didn't say anything. After all, if the fighting stopped, our souls would stop disintegrating. But it didn't stop. And now, it's too late."
I stared at him for a long time. "Go away."
I took a step back. "Just go away."
"I'm not leaving you like this."
"Fine. Then I'll go."
"Mel, wait—" But it was too late. I was already gone.
Chapter Thirty One
I ran out of the valley. It's ironic in a way. I hated running from anything, yet when I had to confront myself, I ran.
I had not run far when I heard the screams. When I heard the sizzle of Dracon beams being fired, and the explosions as they hit their target.
I skidded to a stop, and for a moment, simply stood there, listening, as the realization sunk into my brain that the Yeerks had found us. That soon, very soon, we would all be dead.
But not worse. We would never be Controllers. We made an oath. No matter what. No matter what they threatened, we would never give in. Free or dead.
With a heavy heart I ran in the direction I came, ready to meet Death.
I could see the smoke pouring out of the valley. It was in flames. Our beautiful valley went up in smoke, and with it, any hope left of freedom.
I had not yet reached the entrance when I met up with a contingent of Hork-Bajir. They were not armed. I had a small knife that I always carried around.
Still, there were ten of them, deadly walking blades.
The battle was brief. I took down two of them before I ended up on the ground, a deep cut in my side and a half a dozen blades at my throat.
And then he came.
Of course he would be there. This was his greatest day. He would finally defeat the band that had defied him for so long. That had escaped his clutches each time. This was a greater glory than the death of Elfangor. For this was battle, not cowardly assassination of an injured foe. On the other hand, I was an injured foe.
But then again, how can I compare myself with Elfangor? He would be remembered as a hero. I would never be mentioned in the history books.
The Visser towered over me. Well, well, well. What do we have here? A renegade human? He seemed to study me. But why are you not in morph? He picked up the knife that had fallen from my grasp. Perhaps, He laughed, you can't morph.
My eyes narrowed.
Can't even morph, can you think you can fight us? You fool. He's tail flashed, and faster than the blink of an eye, sliced open my cheek, right under my left eye. The blood dripped down like hot tears. I had jerked my head back as an instinctive response, but otherwise did nothing.
Foolish, but brave. The Visser mocked. A worthy adversary, had you had the technology to put up a decent fight. Even with no lips, he seemed to smile. A pity the game did not last longer. I enjoy a good chase. But, I suppose, now it is time to hunt your friends.
He was not done taunting me. Do you want to know how we captured your little band?
I said nothing.
Most of the time you were quite good at covering you tracks. But once, once you left a clear trail. It was after we destroyed that Andalite ship that was in this sector. We brought in the Taxxons to make sure he hadn't escaped. But what we found was much more interesting than an injured Andalite. A trail. A trail of human blood. Very distinct. The smell was overpowering to the Taxxons. And we followed it...straight to your little hideout.
"No..." I whispered. It couldn't be. I was the one who led the Yeerks to the valley. I was the one who killed my friends.
Chapter Thirty Two
"Melissa!" The cry came from quite near.
Reflexively, I turned in the direction of the call. Toby.
You're friends are looking for you.
I said nothing. He needed no confirmation.
Scream. Scream so that they will come running
I kept my mouth firmly shut. I could not betray my location.
The Visser glared, then sank his tailblade into my leg, shattering the bone. Then he yanked it out again, taking a chunk of my flesh with him.
The sudden assault of my nerves system overwhelmed me. I lost all control.
I screamed. The wild cry of a wounded animal.
The sound echoed through the dead forest. I knew Toby heard.
The Visser nodded, satisfied.
I could hear her crashing through the trees, abandoning all caution in her search for me.
"Toby, NO!" I managed to scream before the Hork-Bajir placed his clawed foot over my mouth to keep me from warning her.
"Melissa?" The cry had a note of hysteria to it. Toby never panicked.
The Visser indicated to his troops to hid. They scattered, but stayed close by.
I gasped for air. The guard's foot had almost suffocated me.
"Toby!" I croaked. "Don't!"
Her figured came through the trees. He eyes widened as she spotted me. "Melissa!" She started to run over. "What did they do to you?"
"Don't!" I screamed. "Stay away! The Visser—" My warning came too late.
The contingent of Hork-Bajir surrounded Toby. Her eyes darkened with fury as she realized the trap.
The Visser daintily stepped from the shadows. Toby Hamee, I presume. The seer.
"Visser Three." She replied coolly. "The ambitious fool."
I knew it angered the Visser, but he did not show it. Brave words, but as you can see, I have the upper hand.
"What good would it do you to kill us?" Toby spat.
I'm not going to kill you. Waste such a prized resource? Unthinkable.
"If you think you can make a Controller out of me, you have another thing coming." Toby raised her wristblade to her own neck. "I'd die first."
The Visser nodded. An easy way out for you, perhaps, but your friend?
Toby's eyes flew to my body. "Let her go."
You are in no position to give orders, seer. The last word was said as if it were a insult.
"What do you want, Visser?"
You. I'll trade. I'll let her go once you surrender.
Toby's eyes filled with indecision.
"Toby! I'm not worth—Arrrrggggghhhhh!" I screamed. Blood poured from my side. The Hork-Bajir had kicked me right at my wound. The pain paralyzed me momentarily.
"Melissa!" Toby tried to reach me, but was stopped by the layer of blades.
I can torture your friend with pain even greater than this. It would take her months to die. Is that what you want?
Toby stared at me and looked straight into my eyes. I knew what her choice would be.
I shook my head, No.
But you'll... Her eyes betrayed her thoughts.
Don't, I mouthed, still unable to gather the strength to speak.
Toby looked at the Visser, then me, then back to the Visser. "You win, Visser. I surrender."
Chapter Thirty Three
"Toby, no! Please, Toby, don't do this!"
Deal. The Visser smiled, satisfied.
"Let her go." Toby demanded.
You surrender first.
"I'm no fool, Visser. Let Melissa go first."
Visser Three waved his hand at the Hork-Bajir guarding me. I knew he though he could still capture me. After all, I had broken leg and was badly wounded. But he didn't know I could morph.
I got onto my one good leg and began to hobble away, my eyes never leaving Toby's.
As soon as I reached the cover of the trees, I began to morph. My wounds healed quickly.
No tricks, seer. Visser Three warned. Surrender.
Toby turned her head, and even through the trees, I knew she saw me. Her eyes bore into mine. And for one brief moment, I could feel her in my mind. And I was in hers.
I love you, Melissa.
I love you too, Toby.
Goodbye...and good luck.
In a movement too fast for my eyes to follow, Toby's wrist blade came up and slashed across her own throat. "Free or dead." She gasped with her last breath.
Find the girl! The Visser screamed, infuriated.
I turned and ran. I'm sorry, Toby. I'm sorry it ended this way.
I leapt into the trees and rocketed myself through the upper levels of the forest. The Visser would not look for me up there. I managed to elude the Hork-Bajir he sent to track me.
I made my way to a small cave and hid inside to demorph. Fortunately, I had not passed the two-hour limit.
I curled into a ball and leaned against the wall cave. They were dead. They were all dead. I felt so very alone.
I suppose I could have just killed myself then. I certainly wanted to. Perhaps it would have been better that way. So simple an ending. But the lines of time don't work that way. There are no endings, only beginnings. And I carried the strand of a new beginning.
I don't know how I managed to live. There was no food. No clean water. I lived anyway. A miracle, luck, fate –call it what you will. I call it divine intervention. Or maybe just intervention.
I morphed Toby and ate bark. I lived on a diet of bugs –one of the few species that had flourished in the environmental changes that resulted from the Yeerks– and what little vegetation that survived the acid rain.
I lived to destroy the Yeerks. As far as I knew, I was the last resistance on Earth. I don't know what happened to Erek and the other Chee. Maybe they survived and fought in their own non-violent ways. Maybe they didn't. I don't know. I never saw any of them again.
I would harass the Yeerks, doing little real damage. Maybe it was my guilt that drove me. I had failed my friends when they needed me the most.
Perhaps that was also what drove me to go back. The guilt.
Two months later, I went back to the valley. To the place I used to call home.
Chapter Thirty Four
It was dark and barren. Everything was dead and the scorched earth blackened by Dracon burns.
The bodies were still there.
I still recognized them, even after months of decay. Rachel, in bear morph, lay on her side, dead from numerous wounds. Jake, in his epithelial tiger morph, dead from a Dracon blast. Cassie, also killed by Dracon beams, her wolf jaws still clamped to a dead Hork-Bajir's neck. Ax's head had been decapitated from his body, most likely by Visser Three. One corpse, though burned beyond recognition, was clearly the shape of a bird. It had to be Tobias. All the other birds were extinct. Marco's body was a ways off. He was human. Most likely he had demorph to heal and was about to remorph. There was a hole in his forehead. His eyes were gone, ripped away and eaten by animals most likely.
I turned and walked away.
Seeing the bodies had made it so much more real.
I walked through that battlefield. The iron scent of blood still weighed heavily in the air. Most bodies were Hork-Bajir. I couldn't tell which ones were ours and which were theirs. But then again, the Hork-Bajir belonged to no one. They were their own species, fighting for freedom. And they had been used by both sides. Toby knew that. She also knew I did not use her, or the others. At least, I hope she did.
I had no goal that could be accomplished. I had no reason to use anyone. But the others, Jake especially, for Jake knew how to plan and how to convince people to see it his way and how to have them do what he wanted, they used the Hork-Bajir. They didn't mean to—at least, not in a bad way. They did it in the same way Aldrea used the Hork-Bajir back on their homeworld.
And I suppose, in the same way, Toby used the Animorphs. She was more worldly than her great-grandfather Dak. And she had her own plan. She wanted to drive the Yeerks off her, but she also wanted to guarantee the safety of her people.
They both knew what the other was doing, and they both allowed it. I don't know how to describe it. There was one big plan that they worked together on. And then each had their own smaller plan that depended on the accomplishment of the greater plan. Jake wanted to protect humans. Toby wanted to protect Hork-Bajirs. They both wanted to destroy the Yeerks. It was an unusual alliance, but one that worked. At least, until I screwed it up for them all.
And how did I fit into the web of loyalty? Even I do not know. As I think back now, I believe my loyalty lay with the Hork-Bajir. But I was human, and human nature dictated that I wanted many of the same things Jake and the others wanted. And yet, at the same time, my greatest desire, that my life would return to normal, could never be fulfilled. And I knew that. Perhaps I had no loyalties. Except to myself. I watched. But did I participate? Or did I use them both? Even I do not know the answer to that question.
Chapter Thirty Five
I headed out of the valley and into the woods. It was an unconscious decision. I didn't even notice where I was heading until I arrived.
The body had been left there. Yeerks cared nothing about the dead of their enemies.
I stood there, and my heart squeezed in my chest. Toby had died for me.
She deserved a grave. Some tribute to her life. Hell, everyone of that battlefield deserved a grave. Rachel. Marco. Jake. Cassie. Tobias. Ax. All the Hork-Bajir I could no longer identify. Even the Controllers. They were no longer Controllers. The Yeerks had long died. Perhaps even the Yeerks deserved a grave. But I could not give them all one.
I picked up a rock and placed it on Toby's chest. And then another. And another.
Rocks, soil, sticks, anything. There weren't much building materials around.
It took a long time, but in the end I had a grave. There was nothing with which to make a headstone. No flowers. No marker.
I bit down on my finger. The blood filled my mouth. I held it out and the ruby drops dripped down, one by one, onto the mound. This was my tribute.
Three red drops. Then one greenish black. Human and Hork-Bajir.
I realized I was crying. My face was wet. I had not even noticed.
"I'm sorry, Toby. I'm so sorry." I closed my eyes and bowed my head. I felt like I should say a prayer, but I could think of none. Besides, Toby was not religious, and I, well, I'm not sure what I was.
But there was one phrase that described what we both felt in our hearts. He father had invented it.
I knelt down. As I wrote the words in the dust, I whispered them.
"Free or dead."
Touching. The voice mocked.
I jumped and spun around.
"Visser Three." There was fear and dread in my voice, but also anger and hate. He heard it all.
The one that got away. He laughed. You know, you could have evaded me forever, had you not come back. That is your weakness. That is why you lost. You care. You care too much. His main eyes narrowed and his thought-speech lowered. I care for no one.
"I wonder what the Council will have to say about that."
He laughed again. Who's to tell? He gestured to the Hork-Bajir guard beside him. Burn the body.
I turned just in time to see the Dracon beam incinerated Toby's grave. In a fraction of a second, it was all gone.
"Noooooooooo!" I turned, and in rage, lunged at the Visser.
His tailblade came up, aimed at my head.
Chapter Thirty Six
When I awoke, it was dark. Very dark. I would say pitch black but there was a slight tinge of light that my eyes eventually picked up.
My first thought was that I was dead. And that I was in Hell.
Don't be surprised. After all that I had done, I pretty much deserved to be in Hell.
It was Hell in a way, as I would soon find out. Hell on Earth.
My eyes could barely make out four walls. And what looked like a door.
I tried to move and discovered I was in chains. My arms were locked over my head, and shackles were clamped to my ankles.
I was Visser Three's prisoner. Not a good thing to be.
I knew I would be tortured. I knew I would die. As long as I did not become a Controller, none of that mattered.
I hung there for perhaps a day. It seemed like a year. I had no food. No water.
Then he came.
I could hear the clop-clop of his hooves long before he arrived. The walls had been made to echo the noise, so that everyone in the prison could hear every sound. The advance of their torturers. The screams of other victims. All to strike terror in their hearts. It worked very well.
The Visser did not come alone. With him were two Hork-Bajir guards. And one human.
Once the door to my cell was opened, light streamed in. I could see them all clearly.
The human walked up to me.
My lip curled in contempt. "Tom."
"Why, hello, Melissa. So good to see you." He laughed. "I thought it was you. After all, you are the only human we haven't accounted for." He examined me. "You look different."
She morphed! The Visser laughed, delighted in figuring it out. She's a nothlit!
Tom laughed as well. "She picked a nice morph. Much better then the puppy that used to follow its master everywhere."
Back when I was still a naïve child, I had a crush on Tom. I would follow him around. Go to all the ball games. Hang out at his house. He never noticed me. Or perhaps, he did, and he did not care.
The Visser laughed with Tom. I finally have you. The last of the human resistance.
"There will be others." I vowed.
That is what Elfangor said. He was wrong. Just like you are wrong. Humans are here to serve us, nothing more.
"Go to hell, you Yeerk bastard."
He slapped me. So says the bitch. You should be begging for your life.
"Don't hold your breath."
He laughed. You have spunk. A pity I'll have to kill you. If you could morph, I may have even taken you as my own host. This Andalite body is getting old. Alas, an example must be made to those humans who still try to escape. And you will make a prime example indeed.
The group turned to leave.
"Sir, a request." Tom bowed respectfully.
"I would like to test a new torture method on her."
Oh? And this is?
"A surprise, if you allow it my liege."
A surprise? You intrigue me. Very well. Just make sure she's still alive so I can kill her.
The Visser and his guards walked to the doorway, then he turned his head back. One last question. I've been trying to decide an appropriate way to kill you. So, do you believe in God?
The question caught me off guard.
"I...I don't know." It was the truth. I didn't know. Sometimes I felt there had to be hope. Sometimes I could not comprehend how someone so vastly powerful would let the world suffer. I did not know.
The Visser laughed. Good choice. He turned and left.
Tom smiled. "Personally, I wanted to burn you at the stake, but the Visser will have his way."
Fear gripped my senses. "What's he going to do to me?"
Chapter Thirty Seven
Tom's eyes light up. "Now the fun begins."
He stood in front of me and ran his eyes over my body. "Nice."
He reached over and ripped my shirt off, revealing my bare chest. He stared at it with lust.
"No..." I whispered, finally realize his plan.
He ripped of my shorts as well, leaving me completely naked.
"I'm going to enjoy this." He said as he traced the contours of my body. "I've heard stories. They say human mating gives that most fantastic pleasure in all the universe. I want to know that. And you are the perfect one to give me that pleasure." He smirked. "Even Tom agrees with me on that one."
The chains suddenly came off. I stumbled, surprised at my sudden freedom.
I regained my composure and balance.
My fist came up and punched Tom in the face.
He rocked back, then clutched at his nose, which was bleeding.
"You're pay for that, you damn whore!" He roared.
His foot lashed out and swept me to the floor. A moment later he was on top of me.
I tried to push him off but I was weak from hunger and exhaustion.
Within seconds his clothes were also of.
He looked at me with the eyes of a hungry tiger ready to consume its prey.
My eyes widened as fear replaced the anger inside of me.
I screamed. The whole compound heard it. No one cared.
He was inside me. He was ripping away the only innocence I had left. And I was so weak. So weak I could not stop him.
He pinned me down with his arms. His mouth moving over my body. His clammy skin pressed to mine.
It lasted for hours. He would not stop. Over and over and over.
After a while, I stopped struggling.
When he finally let me go, I was too weak to even move.
"Even better than I expected." Tom mocked. "If only I could have you forever." And he was gone.
It's ironic, I suppose. My first 'love' would ultimately be the one to steal the love I had to give.
I was such a weak fool. Why hadn't I stopped him. I could have hit him. Kicked him. Hurt him somehow.
But I had surrendered.
Chapter Thirty Eight
I must have passed out after he left for the next thing I remember is the Hork-Bajirs coming into my cell. Before I was fully awake, they grabbed me and dragged me out.
Several minutes later, we were out of the compound. I shivered. It was autumn, and the air was bitter cold, especially against my naked body.
The Visser advanced. Tom was to his right and slightly behind. You should be proud. He mocked. Your death will mark the end of an era, and the beginning of a glorious new regime.
"You have not won yet."
Brave words, but you're wrong. I have won. Do you think, after all this time, your precious little Andalite will come save you? They have forgotten you. And humans are too weak to stop. So you see, the last warrior has fallen, and I am victorious. He waved his arms to indicate the world was his. But enough of that. We came here to kill you.
A Hork-Bajir grabbed the edge of a tarp and pulled the whole thing off, revealing what was underneath.
A metal cross.
Visser Three laughed, delighting in his new toy. You see, I've been doing a little research on human torture methods. I especially like the Roman. Such a barbaric people. And oh! the things these human minds can think of. Brilliant! And this seems to be the most painful way of killing people. Don't you just love it?
I finally understood what he was going to do with me.
I would be crucified.
Tom saw the look on my face. "Brilliant idea, wasn't it? Have you ever seen Xena? That is what we're going to do. Well, not exactly. Our technology is a bit more sophisticated...and more painful."
The Visser chuckled. Enough talk.
From either side of me, large Hork-Bajirs grabbed my arms and dragged me to the cross. They threw me down and my head made a loud crack as it hit the metal.
They pushed my arms in alignment with the bar, stretched out, palms outward.
A sudden, piercing pain shot through the back of my right hand. As I watched, a spike the size of my finger erupted from my palm. Blood and specks of crushed bone splatter on my face.
I did not scream. I bit down on my lip so hard my mouth filled with blood. I would not give him the pleasure of hearing me scream.
The tip of the spike began to melt, as if it were alive. It molded to the contours of my hand, forming an elaborate shackle.
The same thing happened to my other hand.
Tom came over and knelt down. He reached over and wiped the blood from my lips. "A pity." He waved the Hork-Bajirs away.
His mouth leaned close to my ear. One hand rested casually on my left breast, slowly rubbing it. The other took the chance to slip between my legs.
"I know you like this." His eyes filled with lust. "There could be a better way, you know. You don't have to die. Just agree. No more pain, only pleasure." He cocked his head and thought to himself. "Of course, the Visser will want a piece of the action. We may have to share. But I don't mind, do you?"
"Go to hell." I gasped.
"I'll see you there." He leaned over and kissed me, his tongue invading the depths of my mouth.
He reached down and grabbed my ankles, pushing my feet one on top of the other. Another, longer spike stabbed through them.
Tom smiled, enjoying my misery. "Think about my offer, when it gets cold in the night and you shiver on that cross. And the bugs smell that blood and sweat and come to feast. There are wolves in this forest, you know. They'll smell the blood, and come hunting for meat. Think about my offer, when they eat you alive."
I conjured up what little moisture I had and spat at him. He wiped it away and gave the order for the cross to be raised.
The metal seemed to move on it's own. The pressured increased gradually. Each second more painful than the last.
The pain...I was being torn apart...so much pain. Unbearable. I screamed.
Glad to see you're not invincible. The Visser mocked. Any last words?
I regained control over my brain. Ignore the pain...
"You'll pay for this, Visser!" I screamed.
He turned and walked away, his followers a few steps behind.
"You'll pay!" I screamed at their backs. "You will pay." I vowed, whispering to myself.
Chapter Thirty Nine
It was early dawn. The sky was cloudy, and the air thick with humidity.
Then it began to rain.
I stuck my tongue out, suffocating with thirst and grateful for any liquid. The water tasted sour as it rolled down my throat. The rain was acidic. I knew that. The Yeerks had polluted the atmosphere heavily. Four on the pH scale, my mind said, recounting facts from days when school still existed.
The acid burned slowly at my skin. Eating away the layers with each drop. My wounds screamed from the exposure.
I passed out from the pain.
When I woke, the clouds were gone. The sun shinned brightly from above. It was noon. The ozone layer had been almost completely destroyed. It didn't take long for my flesh to cook.
I don't know how I survived that. I numbed out the pain. Pushed the messages from my body away. But my body should not have been able to take that kind of assault. I should have died. I didn't. More divine, or not so divine, intervention, I suppose.
The thirst at the back of my throat was overpowering. I bit my lip and drank my own blood. It didn't do any good. I knew that. But my mind was working on instinct alone, and instincts don't listen to reason.
I wanted to die, right there and then. My body refused to give in.
There was one good thing about the hot sun: It kept the bugs away. But as dusk approached, the swarms of mosquitoes and other insects, who thrived with the Yeerks' destruction of the natural balance, came. They smelled my blood and sweat, and wanted to taste the feast.
Night came. The bugs swarmed over my body, and I could do nothing to swat them away.
Wolves howled in the distance. They were hungry.
I felt something warm and furry brush my feet. Rats.
I fought back the urge to scream. No need to show weakness, even when I've lost.
More and more rats swarmed below me. It was pitch black. I couldn't see them, but I could feel them.
The howls grew louder, closer. They would be here soon. Soon they would devour. Soon I would die. Soon...
One rat braver and bolder than the other jumped up and scrambled onto my legs, digging into my flesh with his tiny, needle-like claws.
The nose brushed my skin. He was sniffing around, looking for a good place to bite down.
And then, something occurred to me. It did not come from conscious, or my subconscious. The idea was not from within my mind. It was as if someone whispered it into my mind. Someone...
And suddenly, the whole focus of my mind changed. I no longer wanted to die. I wanted to live. I wanted revenge.
I searched inside me for that long abandoned power I had never mastered.
The rat bit down.
I focused my mind.
The little body went limp.
I smiled for the first time in years.
And I began to change.
My bones creaked with the shrinking. The sudden changed in size torn at my hand. One was ripped neatly in half. I heard the other piece land with a soft thud in the grass. The other hung on by a few loose pieces of skin.
It did not matter. Morphing healed the flesh.
I wondered why I had not thought to morph before. Perhaps my only morph, Toby, would have remained trapped. Only the small could escape. Or maybe I simply wanted to die.
Whatever the reason, it no longer mattered. I would destroy the Yeerks for what they did to me, my family, and my friends. I would kill them all. And I would relish in the pleasure that would bring.
The shrinking had been almost the only change up to that point. I was a miniature Mel. Then the fur sprouted, suddenly and quickly. A moment later the tail snapped out.
My feet had grown so small they simply shrunk off of the spike. I was a rat, and I was free.
I sniffed at the air, get a picture of the world through my nose.
The other rats had converged on the piece of my hand that had ripped off. The wolves were close. They would be there within a minute. They would be disappointed at my disappearance, but then they would just devour the rats instead.
I turned and ran. It didn't matter where I went, as long as I was far away.
The Yeerks...perhaps they would be fooled, thinking my corpse had been eaten. Or perhaps not. It did not matter. If they did not know, they would be cocky and off-guard. If they found out, they would fear me. Either would suit my purpose.
I would destroy them.
I demorphed after a while and morphed Toby. It would be easier to run that way.
Oh, yes. I would run, but not for long. Soon, I would come back. And then the Visser would pay.
I found a cave. It was small, damp, and not very well hidden, but it was enough. I would stay there the night, and then at daybreak, I would go again. I would find a better cave, food, water, and gather my strength.
I had one purpose, one goal. The Yeerks would pay.
I curled up against the wall of the cave, my eyes half-closed.
They will pay. They will all pay. Visser Three, Tom, and oh, yes, you too, Daddy. You will all pay. Humanity will rise, and the Yeerks will fall. I will have my revenge, and nothing will stop me.
Chapter Forty One
Tom grabbed my neck and squeezed, making it difficult to breathe. "Did you ever think you could get away. You are powerless, and you always will be."
In his hand was a syringe, filled with amber-colored liquid.
He injected the contents into my neck. The numbness hit me with the force of a hammer. My neck displaced... The drug spread. My arms, my hands and fingers. I lost all feeling. My legs gave out and I fell into Tom's waiting arms. My brain...so fuzzy...couldn't think...nothing...no feeling...no senses...
Then the pain. Sharp and excruciating, but still detached. Deep inside me brain. Like some was drilling from the inside out. Then...no more pain. My senses returned. I could feel, but something...something was wrong.
My voice did not work. My body did not obey my commands. I could not scream, could not fight. I could not move. I was paralyzed…paralyzed.
And Tom...There was no resistance.
I was naked. So was Tom. I knew what he would do.
But first he would play with me. Tom liked to play.
He had a knife. A knife? My brain could not comprehend what my eyes saw.
He traced it across my body, carving delicate patterns on my skin. The broken capillaries sprung tiny droplets of blood. He licked them away.
More and more nicks. Tiny, insignificant, but oh so deadly. The blood covered my skin with a thin layer of red film.
But there was so much of it. So much...
A pool grew beneath me. No body could contain so much blood.
I should have died...with the others...
Tom's hands found me breasts. His mouth nuzzled my neck...
His passion arose.
I screamed silently in my head.
He was in me. I could feel the throbbing between my legs. My body was on fire. The rush of sensations...no control...
The knife...it was in his hand...positioned about my heart...
The pain...Oh, God...so much blood...can't breathe...no air...
Chapter Forty Two
My coiled muscles unleashed and I sprang up, bumping my head on the low ceiling of the cave.
I gasped for air. Dream...only a dream...so real...blood...Tom...real...
The cry of pain came again, this time louder. I realized it was not mine. Someone else...someone else was in these woods.
I darted out of the cave. The cry had been from the south.
The blades sprung from my skin. No time to think. Had to morph. Had to get out of there. Couldn't be caught.
The sensitive Hork-Bajir hearing picked up the sounds of the distance.
I heard the thumps of footsteps, lungs gasping for air...someone limping...the footsteps...someone was being chased.
Could it be...? Someone else had too escaped the Yeerks. If they did... I had to help. I had to.
I leapt up into the tree branch above me. Safer in trees. Humans couldn't get to me. Neither could Taxxons.
I swung through the tree, catching up to what sounded like human Controllers and the being they were chasing.
I saw the humans first. Four of them. They were armed with Dracon beams, but nothing else.
And ahead of them...a Hork-Bajir. A female. There was a nasty gash on her side.
"Freeze!" The leader snarled, he fired his Dracon beam at her.
I jumped of the branch I was on and pounced on the Controller in the back. My blade slit his throat before he even realized he was being attacked. No sound had been made. The other still did not know I was there.
I took out another with a quick stab at the heart. This one let out a gurgled cry.
The other two whirled around. A brief battle ensued, but I had surprise and speed on my side. They were no match for me.
The Hork-Bajir was unconscious.
"Find her!" The cry came from not far away.
"Shit!" I muttered.
I stared at the body. I had to get her out of here. But if she was a trap... No time for that now. I told myself. I had to trust my instincts. And my instincts told me to take her.
I scooped her up and ran. She was remarkably light, but then again, Hork-Bajirs are quite strong.
We got back safely to the cave. I laid her down and examined her wound. It was deeper than I thought, and she had lost a lot of blood.
He eyes fluttered and she awoke. She stared at me. "Toby? But they said you were dead..."
I shook my head. "No," I whispered, remembering my dead friend. "She's gone. I'm a friend of hers."
She seemed to accept this.
"Why were they chasing you?" I asked.
"I escaped. I am sick. I will die soon. So I said, 'I will die free.'"
"You—" I noticed her fluent English. "The way you talk..."
She nodded. "A seer. I am Toby's daughter."
I stared at her. Was this a trap? But how could it be? How could the Yeerks know what Toby meant to me?
But she did have a daughter. Only a toddler the last time I saw her...
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Jeyka Seli." Not Hamee, I remembered. The child received the father's name...
"Aunt Mel?" Jeyka asked.
My heart felt like it would explode. Aunt Mel. That's what all the Hork-Bajir children called me.
"It's me." I whispered.
"You morphed Mother."
"I'm sorry." I stuttered
"It's all right. Mother let you."
I looked away. "She's gone... I loved her so much... She was my sister."
"The past is gone. The future waiting."
"Yeah." I sighed. "Some future."
"I am free. You are free. Nothing matters more." She smiled. "Free or dead, remember?"
I nodded. "Free or dead."
Chapter Forty Three
I trusted her. Perhaps it was the 'Aunt Mel?' that did it. The memories flooded my brain. Memories of a happier time, when a child's voice was innocent.
Jeyka was dying from a strange genetic disease. It could only strike seers, due to their unique genetic makeup. He father was a carrier. I recognized the symptoms, which Toby had told me before. She was weak, thin, and in constant pain. All signs of advanced rowebux. The disease strikes suddenly, killing within a week.
Jeyka had escaped so she could die free. I could grant her that last wish. I would protect her from the Yeerks, so she could die in peace, with freedom.
Jeyka watched me as I feed her the bark I had collected.
"Why do you have those scars, Aunt Mel?"
"I've been in a lot of battles, that's all."
"But you morph. Shouldn't that take it away?"
I looked down at myself. The gash from Visser Three on my side, the round, scarred tissue on the back of my hands and feet. And my leg, another wound from the Visser. They had always been there. Morphing did not make them leave.
Jeyka traced her finger along my cheek. "How did you get that?"
"A gift from the Visser."
She nodded. "You have not healed."
I shrugged away her concern. "I'm fine."
"No, the scars prove that."
"In order for them to still be there, you must still hurt, on the inside, where it counts most. The scars on your body will be gone when the scars in your heart are gone." Jeyka whispered. I have never heard a Hork-Bajir other than Toby say such a long sentence. Especially one with so much meaning behind it. But then again, Jeyka was a seer as well.
"What do you mean?" I asked, not quite expecting an answer.
"When you demorph, you picture your body the way you see yourself. You see yourself with the scars. When your own perception has changed, your body will obey that perception." She had a faint smile on her lips. "Morphing is controlled by the mind, so you must learn to control your mind."
"My mind..." I whispered, taking in this new information.
"See yourself without the scars."
"I can't..." The memories welled up in my mind. Tears threatened to spill. "I can't..."
"Let it out." Jekay took my hand in hers. "Cry. It's alright. You can cry."
"Crying does not mean you are weak. It means you are human."
So I cried. I cried for a long time.
Chapter Forty Four
By the next morning, Jeyka had grown weaker.
"Morph." She told me.
"Why?" I asked.
"Heal the scars of your soul."
I morphed. I morphed Toby.
When I was done, Jeyka simply smiled and told me to demorph.
I did so.
"Now, take away the scars." She paused. "Now morph."
I morphed. I closed my eyes and imagined myself back in the valley. When I opened them, the scars were still there.
Jeyka shook her head. "Your mind has not changed. Believe."
"How?" I sank to the ground.
"You have to understand that it was not your fault. You didn't do this. You didn't cause this to happen."
"Yes I did." I cried. "It's my fault they died. I killed them."
"No you didn't!"
"I did! They followed the track I left. That's how they found the valley."
Understanding came into Jeyka's eyes. "You, you don't think that...that what happened to you was punishment, do you? That you deserved that?"
The look in my eyes told everything.
"Oh, Melissa." Jeyka pulled me into a hug. "You're wrong. Do you hear me? You're wrong."
"I lived." I sobbed. "Everyone else died and I lived. I should have died with them."
Jeyka took my head between her hands and made me face her. "Melissa, listen to me. I know what happened to you, I know what Tom did to you, and I'm sorry. This is my fault, okay?"
"How do you know what Tom did? I never told you that."
"Don't ask me that, for I cannot answer. It is not time yet. Just believe me."
"I believe." I whispered.
We were silent after that. I knew Jeyka was no normal Hork-Bajir. I had known that all along. But this was beyond anything even a seer could envision. Far beyond what I could conceive. Jeyka was far more than a seer.
She soon fell asleep, and I fell asleep as well. This time, there were no dreams.
When I awoke, it was dusk. Jeyka was even worse.
"I'm dying." She whispered simply.
I bowed my head. "I know."
"I wish you'd understand."
"Yes, you can. You must. The future needs you, Melissa. Your people need you."
"For what?" I asked bitterly.
"To believe in yourself. To believe in what you can do. You are a catalyst. You will turn the tide of this war. You will bend the twisting timelines so that history will be repaired."
"Repaired? Were they broken?"
"They were changed. By him." Jeyka whispered bitterly.
I did not dare ask who he was. I don't think Jeyka would have told me even if I did.
Jeyka sighed. "One day, Melissa, you will understand."
Chapter Forty Five
She died a few hours later. I carried her body back to the valley and buried her beneath the setting sun. I gave her the burial her mother never had. After all, she was family.
She reminded me so much of her mother. Her mind held a certain brilliance. And the value she placed on freedom.
And the way she called me Melissa...that same tone Toby used to...
I snapped out of my thoughts. That wasn't right! Jeyka first called me 'Aunt Mel'. Then...then she grew so much more serious, so much more profound. And she called me Melissa. Only Toby called me that.
I stared at the grave. Whoever Jeyka was, she had touched me, changed me, in a way no one ever had. She had read my soul, seen me inside and out. She knew me better than I knew myself... She was no Hork-Bajir, but she cared about me. That much, I knew.
I looked over the valley. The bodies were still there, but the grass seemed to be growing again, and the trees... Who knew? This valley had the protection of the omnipotent Ellimist, did it not?
I moved back into the valley. I suppose that sounds stupid, after all, they Yeerks knew about the place. But I wanted to be closer to who I used to be. Jeyka...she changed me that way.
The caves were still there, at least, most were. Caves are rather difficult to destroy. After all, they've lasted millenniums in nature's elements. Dracon beams are nothing.
Mine was no doubt still there, but the opening had been covered with rubble. But Toby's...it was still intact. I moved in.
It was late autumn, and I knew the temperatures would drop below freezing in the winter. I needed supplies: Blankets, matches, everything I did not have. I could survive a summer on bark and water, but not a winter.
The only place where I could get supplies was in town. The town where I used to live. I would have to go back. Go back and face the ghosts of my past.
I morphed rat again. It was the only creature that could sneak into town without notice.
I headed to Rachel's, which was the closest. The neighborhood was mostly intact, with some Controllers living in the houses at the end of the street.
Half of Rachel's house had been demolished when the bombs fell. At least her room was still intact.
I demorphed on the kitchen floor, where the island used to stand. The house was eerily quiet. One half looked like it did five years ago, when laughter still echoed through the halls. The other half was burned and blackened, an eternal reminder of war.
The matches were in the kitchen drawer. Only one packet. I took it and headed upstairs.
The hallway was covered with a fine layer of dust, evidence it had not been disturbed since the war began.
I skipped Sarah and Jordan's rooms and headed straight for Rachel's at the end of the hall. But when I reached it, I had to stop.
The room was just as I remembered it. The Yeerks had not bothered to search it. They knew that anything of importance would have been taken when the resident fled.
There was a floor length mirror next to her bed. I stared at my reflection. I looked like a stranger. I was not the innocent and naïve Melissa, nor the hunted by happy Mel, for I had evolved from her as well. My face was that of a young woman at the prime of her life. My eyes told a different story. They were as old as time, as dark as blackness itself. They were not always that way. They changed. They changed the day Toby died.
And the scars. The scars Jeyka told me to forget. But memories etched in the soul are difficult to erase. It would take more than mere words to make me forget.
No matter where or how far I ran, I was always reminded of who I was and what I had done. It was reflected in me.
My fist came up and smashed through the mirror. It shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.
I wiped the shards of glass from my bloody knuckles. I did not want to see myself.
I left and went back to the valley. The only thing I brought back was the packet of matches. I knew I would have to go back.
I threw the matches into the cave and walked down to the river. That infernal reflection followed.
I knelt down on the bank and stared. Then something changed. I'm not sure what or how exactly, but suddenly my perception was different. I was looking through the eyes of someone else.
Looking into the water, I saw myself the way Jeyka saw me. I traced the thin white line under my eye.
I began to morph. It was an unconscious decision, really. I just stared into the water and watch my reflection in its glass-like surface. I watched her change, and when the mutation was finished, I did not see myself in the waters. I saw Toby. The water was like a gateway between worlds. Toby was still dead, but I could see her.
I came back, Melissa. I came back for you.
Now I saw Jeyka's face.
It's time to heal, Melissa. It's time.
You are my sister, and I will love you forever. We will meet again someday, but for now, you must do what you must do.
I reached out to her. My finger brushed the surface. The ripple spread. Toby began to fade.
"Toby! No! Don't leave me, don't leave again!" I cried out. The tears dripped down. "Oh, Toby, don't leave. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Please forgive me! Just don't leave..."
There's nothing to forgive, Melissa.
"Toby... I failed."
Forgive yourself. Only you can do that. It is time to heal, Melissa.
I stared at my hand. Morph. The change came smoothly, easily. My flesh paled and softened. I traced the lines of my palm. There was no scar.
My finger throbbed. I had cut it the day I buried Toby. That scar was still there. It would always be there. I did not want it to disappear. It was part of who I was.
I love you, sister.
The water cleared. All I saw in the reflection was myself. Me. Melissa.
"Thank you, Toby." I whispered. "Thank you."
Chapter Forty Six
I went back to Rachel's. Got some blankets, clothes, and a radio. The Yeerks were using the airways for communication. It was a cheap and easy way to send data. They thought no one was listening. I was.
Through it, I learned a lot. Enough to attack several bases. I also learn the location of my father, and his new rank. He had been promoted, to Visser 21. He was at a base 30 miles north, the site for a new project.
The project was a new Dracon cannon. Much larger, much more powerful. Enough to destroy any ship in orbit.
Destroying it would be of no help to Earth, but at least it would benefit the Andalites. They had failed us, but they fought the Yeerks. That was good enough.
Construction was halted for the winter season, so I waited. I waited until its completion.
I had a plan. I would take control of the cannon, and blow every Yeerk ship out of orbit, and then destroy the base itself. Oh, yes, I would die. But I would die the way I wanted to die, with a million Yeerks burning with me. I would take them with me to the grave.
There was only one more thing to do. I wanted nothing else from this life. But there was one more part of my past that I had to face: My father.
He was the man I loved the most. And the traitor I would always hate.
I would kill him for his crimes. Justice demanded punishment. But I would also free him from his chains. I owned him that much.
As soon as I heard of the completion of the base, I morphed Toby and headed out to it. Once there, I killed a random human-Controller on patrol and took his Dracon beam.
I walked easily into the base. Security didn't need to be tight. There was no one who would attack—or so they thought.
I saw him. My father. I was standing just ahead of me, his back to me. He had less hair, and what was left of it was grayer, almost white.
I slowly made my way up to him.
He turned. His face was just as I remembered it.
Someone suddenly grabbed my arm. "Hey! You're that girl that escaped from—" He never finished. I fired the Dracon beam and disintegrated him.
A roar of surprise and panic went up around the base.
I reached out and grabbed the Visser. I held him in front of me as a shield and jammed the stolen Dracon to his temple. "Don't move! If any of you even twitch, your Visser dies. And your heads will end up on a platter."
The Controllers froze, not knowing what to do.
"Do you remember me?" I whispered into the ear of my hostage.
"I've never met you before in my life."
"Oh, we've met alright. Long ago. You're host had a daughter." I felt him stiffen. "Don't you remember, Daddy dearest? Her name was—"
"So you do remember."
"You're Melissa Chapman."
"Melissa Chapman died years ago. She drowned in a river. Me...I have no name. No identity. But I used to have a life. I used to be a person. You took all that away from me."
"Now, it's payback time, Yeerk."
I pulled him into the control tower and shoved him against the counsel.
"Activate the cannon."
I fingered the Dracon beam. "You saw what I did to that other Controller. Now do it!"
He quickly typed in the commands.
"Now, turn it so it will fire at the Mothership."
He stared at me. "Millions will die."
I smiled. "I know." My voice turned cold. "Do it!"
I heard the creaking of the gears as the cannon turned.
"Set it to fire at every other Yeerks ship in orbit after that."
"I know you can." I hissed.
He sighed and turned back to the computer.
I smiled. "Fire."
He slammed down on the controls.
"Firing sequence commenced."
I could feel the ground shaking as the cannon powered up.
"Target acquired. Base 496438-Cannon One."
I stared at him. He stared back, defiant.
"That's this base." I whispered. He had tricked me.
"You bastard!" I aimed the Dracon at him and fired. At that exact moment, the compound exploded into a ball of raging fire.
Chapter Forty Seven
The hatch of the Jahar appeared. It opened, and out stepped a creature no Yeerk had ever see before,
It walked on only two legs.
It held up it's hands, and said, "Hey, hey. Relax. You can put down the weapons. I'm not here to fight. I'm here to trade."
He realized that the Yeerks did not understand him. So with his hands he pretended to be handing them something, and then receiving something from them.
Sub-Visser Seven strutted up to meet the alien. He laughed cynically. "It wants to trade," he said. "This strange creature wants to trade. So. What do you have to trade, alien?"
Neither Sub-Visser Seven nor Chapman had understood a word the other had said. And yet, they understood each other perfectly.
Chapman kept his hands raised and made a human smile. Then, very slowly, he stepped back into the shadowed interior of the ship. And when he reappeared, he was shoving someone before him.
It was Loren. She was bound with wire. Chapman pushed her viciously. She fell to the ground before Sub-Visser Seven.
"That's what I have to trade," Chapman said. "A whole planet full of . . . that."
My eyelids jerked open.
What had that been? A dream? A vision? Or a memory?
I...I was flying. Flying high above the scene. I was alone. Alone on an alien and dangerous planet. No...not me, not exactly.
A spaceport. The ship was landing. Alloran's ship. The Jahar.
A planet. A planet over-run by the Yeerks. The Taxxon homeworld.
Sub-Visser Seven. Visser Three.
The girl...the girl was Loren. Tobias's mother. And the boy...he was my father.
A memory...from long ago, buried deep inside my conscience. Something had made it surface again. But it was not my memory. No, it was the memory of a young aristh who died before I could meet him. But I knew him better than anyone, for I had entered his mind. Elfangor...
Chapter Forty Eight
I was in the woods. But not the woods I remembered. Not the world I remembered. The sky...it was blue. I had not seen a blue sky in many years. The trees were green and healthy. The birds were singing. I had forgotten what the song of a bird was like.
There was no sign of the Yeerk compound. There was no hole in the ground. No dead carcasses of Hork-Bajir and Taxxons. No human corpses either. No sign of the pollution, or the damage from the torrents of acid rain. It almost seemed as if the Yeerks had never touched this world.
Never touched this world.
I sat up suddenly. My mind was whirling. Going from one point to another so fast I could barely keep up with it.
Could it be...?
No. No way.
But the trees...the sky.
The explosion. I shouldn't have survived the explosion…unless...unless...some-thing pulled me out. Something.
What was it Ax called it? A...a...Sario rip. Sario rip.
My heart caught in my throat. Oh, God. I had just been transported into the past.
But how far...? A year? Five years? Ten years?
I looked down at myself. I looked fairly decent. At least, for me.
I was wearing a ripped army tank top. Rachel's. Rachel was dead. I had no qualms about wearing her clothes. Nothing seemed morbid to me.
Below that was a pair of jean shorts. But that doesn't describe them very well. They used to be jeans, but they got so torn up after a while I ripped of the ends and converted them to shorts. Very battered shorts. No bra, no underwear. Those fabrics didn't seem to last very long, even if they did morph with you.
I wondered if I would just be considered a punk and a slut or would someone have me arrested. Or would I be considered normal? I was not very up to date on history's fashion fads.
Well, the first thing to do was get into town. I decided not to morph. The top and jeans were tight and morphed well enough, but I did not want to be spotted morphing. Besides, I was feeling a bit worn-out. A brisk run should clear my head.
Chapter Forty Nine
It took maybe an hour at medium running speed, 20 km/h, that I reached the edge of the woods.
After that, I slowed down and wandered into town. It seemed like a pretty normal town. Not like where I used to live, so not the same time period, though my memory of my old town was a little hazy. I had not thought about it for a long time. It wasn't good to think of things you don't have but want.
I walked down Main Street and stared at the shops that lined it. A few were staring at me and my attire. However, most acted like I was a perfectly normal teenager. I didn't care.
It had been so long since I had been around people. I had forgotten how to smile at strangers. How to wave and shout 'hello' to strangers driving down the street while you walk your dog. How to laugh with friends over a pizza and coke. How...
I steeled myself against the deepest desires of my heart: To be normal, to be safe, and to be free. Free of the Yeerks. Free of the war. Free to live a normal life.
I spotted a group of girls, or rather, they spotted me. They were wearing weird clothes. One had a flower in her hand. Another was wearing a peace sign. They walked over to me.
I glared at them, hoping to get rid of them. It didn't work.
Flower Girl cocked her head and asked. "Who are you? I've never seen you around here."
I said nothing.
The girl wearing the peace sign looked at me strangely. "Look at her eyes. They look so haunted. I've never seen eyes like that, except with the soldiers who came back from the war."
"She couldn't have been in the war, Lise, she's a girl."
"I'm just saying that's what her eyes look like."
"What war?" I whispered.
"What war? What war? How can you not know?"
"I'm new here."
"Still..." Lise raised her eyebrow.
"The war in Vietnam." Flower Girl gave me a half smile. "I'm Theresa."
"Mel." I muttered. In my mind, I was screaming. Vietnam? The Vietnam? That was decades ago!
"Are you a pacifist?" Lise demanded.
I snorted. "I don't think you can be a pacifist if you've done what I've done."
"It's not about what you've done." Theresa whispered softly. "It's about what you believe. We believe war is wrong."
"War is hell." I stated simply.
She nodded. "You do believe."
My jaw tightened. "Yeah, whatever."
Lise glanced at her watch. "We've gotta go, Theresa. The sit-in starts in a half an hour."
Theresa looked at me, and then her friend. "You go ahead, Lise. I'll catch up."
Lise sent me one last smothering glare before she and the others left.
Theresa smiled bitterly. "Don't mind Lise. Her mom got the letter last week."
"Her brother was drafted. KIA. Killed In Action."
"Oh. I wonder what it would be like to get a letter like that. I wonder what it would be like to send a letter like that."
"I wouldn't like to send that letter, telling them their kid is dead."
"I don't think anyone would."
"I'm glad I didn't have to." I muttered to myself. Then I realized my mistake, but it was too late to take it back.
Theresa frowned. "What do you mean?"
"You don't want to know."
"I've done a lot of things. A lot of things that I shouldn't have, but I did. And even if I could take them back, I wouldn't, because there's no other way. I didn't know which choice was better, I still don't. My friends are dead. Maybe because of me, maybe not. See, I don't know, and that kills me."
"Do you have to have someone to blame?"
I pondered her question. "I guess. I mean, everything happens for a reason. Someone's always responsible. If the result is bad, we blame that person. If the result is good, we praise that person."
"How do you know if the result is good or bad?"
I stared at her. "When you lose your family, your home, your friends, your freedom, and your identity, the result is bad."
"Bad for you, but for others?"
"My friends lost that and more."
She sighed. "I understand."
"How can you understand?" I asked.
"I know more about you than you could imagine, Melissa Chapman."
"That's not my name."
"No matter how much you have changed, you will always be Melissa Chapman. You will always be human."
Her words touched me in a strange way. "Who are you?"
"My name is of no matter. What matters is what you want."
"What I want? I want—" I wasn't sure how to finish.
"You want your old life back. You want to be normal."
"Not exactly happening, is it?"
Theresa looked away. "It wasn't supposed to happen this way."
"What do you mean?"
"He broke our deal. Chapman was his pawn, but not you. You were supposed to be kept safe, until it was time."
"He wanted you to be infested, but I wasn't about to let that happen. I tried. I tried to make you who you would become before it was time. You weren't ready. It didn't work." She sighed and gritted her teeth. "Fine." She whispered with determination. "If he won't play fair, neither will I." She paused. "But I can't...not directly..." she suddenly turned to me. "But you can." A satisfied smile spread across her face. "It's the only way."
"What are you talking about?"
"I will try to explain, Melissa, though it is hard." Her eyes got a far away look. "We are all part of a cosmic play. And each has his own part. Your father plays an important role, and so do you. But someone has changed the script, and I must do the same. I cannot reverse it, but I can soften the damage to the future. But like him, I cannot directly affect the course of time. We must have others to do it for us, if they are willing. Are you willing, Melissa?"
"What are you asking me to do?"
"Save this world. Save Earth. No Yeerks will come. Your friends will not die. And you will be happy, living a normal life."
"At what price?"
"You will find out."
"It is your choice, Melissa. Your choice." She pointed to a General Store on the corner. "Go, or not. Come with me to the protest, or go meet destiny. Your choice."
"My duty. Save the world."
Theresa smiled sadly at me. "I'm sorry, Melissa. I'm sorry for all that's happened to you, and all that will happen. Good luck."
I looked in the direction of the store. "Thank you."
There was a soft breeze, and when I turned back, Theresa was gone.
I walked to the store and stopped, right before the door. I lifted my hand to push it open, then paused and pulled it back.. To be or not to be. And then, I suddenly realized that it was not only my life that hung in the balance. The freedom of six billion souls. The lives of my friends. They had a right to live as much as I did. I was not about to deny them that right.
I stepped into the store.
Chapter Fifty One
It was quiet, calm, inside the store. It looked like the convenience stores you find on street corners, but there was a much more relaxed atmosphere to this place. No one worried about the possibility of two punks in masks coming in with a gun to rob the place. It simply didn't happen.
I looked around. At my feet was a bundle of papers. Newspapers.
I picked one up and scanned the headlines. Nixon begins pullout of U.S. troops. Protests continue.
Then I looked at the date.
June 25, 1971.
I had gone thirty years back in time. That was a blow to me. I had never imagined I had gone back so far.
I stared at the calendar until the numbers and letters began to swirl. Then I snapped out of it and dropping the paper, ran out of the store.
And straight into the guy in the doorway.
"Oof!" I fell back.
"Hey! Watch it!"
"Sorry!" I looked at the guy I had just run into. He looked slightly familiar.
"You're in a hurry."
He held his hand out and pulled me up. "I've got to run into pretty girls more often."
He grinned at me. "By the way, my name Hendrick, but most people call me by my last name, Chapman."
I froze in fear and shock. Hendrick Chapman. My father. Before the Yeerks. Before the war. Before everything.
"I'm, uh," I couldn't exactly say 'I'm Melissa Chapman'. So I said the first name that came to mind. A very common name, actually. One that would become mine forever. "Katherine. My name is Katherine."
"Well, Katherine. I haven't seen you around here before."
"I...I just moved here."
"Well then, you need someone to show you around town. How about me?"
I blushed again. My father was flirting with me.
"Um, uh. I, uh. I...okay."
He flashed me a smile and offered me his arm. "Well, then. Let's go."
I took the arm gingerly, not knowing what to do or say.
"I know this little park that's really beautiful. What do you say we go there?"
I followed him to the park. I don't know why. Part of me was curious. Curious to see who my father was before the Yeerks touched our lives. The other part of me was remembering something long ago. Without him, none of this would have ever happened. Without my father, the Yeerks would not have known about Earth. If he died before the Skirt Na came, the horrible fate of our planet could be averted. If he died. If I killed him.
Chapter Fifty Two
That was my choice, I realized. My father's life for Earth's freedom. He had once traded Earth to save himself. Now, it was my turn to trade him for Earth. Logically speaking, it was a simple choice. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. But I was not thinking with a logical mind. I was thinking with the mind of a daughter who still loved her father after all that he had done. No one should have to make that choice.
And there was one other little problem: I would have to pull the trigger.
A choice was one thing. Doing the actual killing was another.
I suddenly remembered my Dracon beam. The one I had stolen from the Yeerks. I had unconsciously stuck it in my jeans, held tight to my skin and hidden from view by my shirt.
It was still there. And there was enough power left in the battery to deliver a killing blast.
I had the means and the motive. Now I just had to get the guts.
I realized suddenly that we had arrived at the park. It was quiet, with no people around. Isolated. Perfect for— I stopped my thoughts.
No, can't think that way.
Why not? You're a cold, calculated killer. This is what you do.
Not my father...
You killed him once. Second time's always easier.
But he's not a Controller...
He's still who he is.
Do it. Change history, and everyone will get what they want.
Not my father.
He didn't want a life as a Controller.
Do it, Mel.
I turned to my father. He was staring at the sunset. "Beautiful, isn't it?"
"Yeah." I whispered, a lump in my throat. "Most beautiful thing in the world."
"I wonder what's out there."
"In space. Beyond our solar system."
"You don't want to know."
"It's not all that great."
"How would you know?"
"A feeling." I lied
We grew quiet.
He back was turned to me. It would be so easy...Just— No. Not yet.
If not now, when?
How much later?
I...I don't know...
When? Logic demanded.
Now.My mind whispered back, retreating.
"I'm sorry." I whispered to my father.
"For what?" He asked, not really paying attention.
"For this." I took the Dracon beam out and pointed it at him. I set it to kill. I ordered myself to shoot.
My finger did not obey my command. I couldn't. I wouldn't. My arm shook. As much as I hated him, no matter what he had done, he was still my father. And I loved him.
He turned around.
He stared at the Dracon beam. "What is that?"
I pushed my emotions away. "Dracon beam. Standard Yeerk Issue."
"Is that a weapon?"
"Yes. It causes a very painful death."
"What are you going to do with it?" Fear was creeping into his voice.
"I'm going to kill you." I said so calmly. That's it. I told myself. Keep control.
"Because you betrayed all of us! Because you sentenced humanity to her death!" I yelled. No! I screamed to myself. No emotion.
"I haven't done anything! I swear!"
"Not yet, but you will." I knew what I had to do.
"What do you mean?"
"You are a traitor of the worst kind. What you will do in the future will lead to an invasion of Earth. We will fight, but we will lose. Now, that will change. With you dead, there will be no invasion. We will survive."
"How do you know all this?"
Tears dripped down my cheeks despite my resistance. I really didn't want to do this, but I had to. "I am from the future."
"Who are you, really?"
I paused. A lump rose in my throat. I swallowed, hard. "I'm your daughter."
He believed me. "Would you really kill your own father?"
"I killed him once. I can kill him again."
"How can you be so heartless?"
"I watched as my friends were slaughtered. I watched an entire planet slowly die. And now I have the chance to change that. And all it takes is one man. What would you do if you were me?"
"I certainly wouldn't kill myself."
"But you're not me. It is my choice. The blood will be on my hands. But think. I can save the lives of billions of people, by killing one man. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
"That doesn't make murder right."
"No, it doesn't. But I shall pay the price Justice serves. If my father dies, his daughter ceases to exist. An eye for an eye."
"You're just going to kill me?"
"Close your eyes. It's easier that way."
I closed mine. "Goodbye, father."
I pressed the trigger.
Before the curtain of darkness fell, my mind whispered one last line.
I love you.
This is the story of the seven lives she touched the most, in the moments that would defined them forever...
She put a hand on my shoulder. "The cosmic game is not over. Act I has ended. Act II has yet to begin. Besides," she said as she pushed my bangs out of my eyes like my mother used to, "I think you'll like this part."
Part One: Katherine
There are a lot of confusing aspects to The Secret. Hopefully, many of them will be explained in Legacy. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a review (with your e-mail if you want a response).