Author's Note: I just couldn't resist writing more Eva and Edriss. This is sort of a sequel to "Home for Dinner and Weekends", but you can probably read it without that. It'll be ten parts long and is already halfway written, so I'll probably be updating it fairly regularly, as quickly as I can successfully edit. Reviews and criticisms are always welcome and desired.


The Husk


I: Swordplay



{It's only fitting that they turn over Earth to Esplin Nine-Four-Six-Six. I left such solid and detailed plans only a fool could misinterpret them. They probably couldn't spare any strategists and decided to assign him to a guaranteed success.}

Edriss was conflicted and concerned, not that she wanted me to know that. In hours was going to meet with the future Visser Three, the inheritor of her little pet project, Earth. And Edriss, being the proud, ambitious creature that she was, wanted him to be competent yet not too competent, not enough to upstage her, not little enough to ruin all her progress. As always, she was trying to browbeat me into admitting how fantastically powerful the Yeerk race was and how she was completely secure in her promotion, but it's very difficult to hide your weaknesses from someone who spends every second with you.

{Oh, for God's sake, Yeerk,} I grumbled, {you're just as bad as humans are. You're worried he'll steal your spotlight and get to the Council before you. You being a blowhard about it is just what we humans call "overcompensation".}

{There's no reason for me to intimidated by Esplin Nine-Four-Double-Six. When I was stationed with him on the Taxxon Home World he was a mediocre leader at best,} Edriss told me, sounding less confident than her words. {The Council promoted Yangill Four-Four-Two and I ahead of Esplin for a very good reason.}

{Except that he has an Andalite host body and you're stuck in this weak little human body. You're not even in a fully capable Hork-Bajir body. Maybe you should have thought of that before you abducted me.}

{This body is suitable. I see no reason for me to leave such a pleasant host.} Lately Edriss was developing a sense of sarcasm, which was about a step beneath her usual outright derision.

{Don't let the Council hear you using vocal inflections, Edriss. They'll torture you for sympathy,} I jeered back. For the sake of my husband and son, I'd promised I wouldn't fight her for control, but that didn't mean I was going to stay silent when I had so many opportunities to taunt her.

Edriss ignored me and continued reviewing her files on Leera. Her current assignment would keep her in space, operating from a distance overlooking the Leeran home-world. She wouldn't be in media res, which was a change for her.

Instead, the actual direction of the Yeerk military forces on Leera was being delegated to Visser Eighteen. Edriss was being put in charge of weapons development, which was an insulting task for the future Visser One. It signaled to her that the Council, while recognizing that her capabilities and wiles made her well-qualified to be Visser One, didn't trust her yet. Edriss took this all to heart, of course, and for the last several weeks I'd been subject to her complaints about how underappreciated she was, and how she'd been the first to discover a Class Five species, and how no Yeerk was more dedicated than her, and so on.

"The future Visser Three would like to alert you that he has docked his Blade Ship and is prepared to meet with you to discuss the future of Earth." A Hork-Bajir with a red uniform approached – Esplin 9466's red honor guard coming to announce the Visser's arrival. Edriss stood, as is customary, and nonchalantly looked the guard up and down, then to her own gold-clad honor guards. She'd chosen the color because it signified human royalty, even though Yeerks had no such associations. I was sure Esplin had probably chosen red for its connotations of violence; red, I figured, was probably a universal symbol. Why wouldn't red blood be universal?

"Send him in," she said dismissively to the red guard. He left, though not with the usual deference of the other Controllers on this Empire Ship. An attempt at a snub? Maybe. Or maybe Esplin didn't think Edriss would be above him for very long, so it didn't matter if his guards were less than respectful.

I'd never seen an Andalite before. Edriss had, in her more bored moments, given me descriptions, but I had expected a smaller, nimbler creature. And Esplin's Andalite host body looked like it could be swift when the time called for it, but there was also a natural swagger in Esplin's step, the sort of confidence that came from not really needing the guards that surrounded him. And of course, Yeerk cruelty blazed from his eyes, the same that probably showed through mine.

I felt Edriss' disdain vibrating through my head.

{Visser Five.}

"Visser Seven." She enunciated every letter in the number.

{I've come to officially take your position as leader of the human infestation. I will be delivering the host species that you've been spending so much time with.} His voice dripped as much disdain as hers. {So much time.}

"Don't project your mistakes onto me, Visser Seven. If you'd only pressured the Council to follow up on your initial report on humans, perhaps Earth could have been your little conquest," Edriss said smugly. "But I suppose going out to shoot at Andalites was so much more prestigious."

Visser Seven tensed up at that. His deadly tail twitched a bit. In the blink of an eye it could decapitate me. {Prestigious enough that I'm recognized as a military leader, Edriss Five-Six-Two. Instead of only a tactician in weapons development.}

Edriss fought to keep from scowling. I laughed. {No smart retort to that, Edriss?}

She picked her haughtiness back up. "I suppose I should tell you I've reviewed your proposal for an open infestation. Apparently the Council has a lower opinion of your military tactics than you care to admit."

{And yet he's still a military leader and you're part of a think tank,} I taunted.

{Eva, you idiot,} Edriss snapped at me, {knowing him, if his plans are approved he'll burn your planet to a cinder. And your precious family, too.}

I stopped my jeering for a moment, internally pouting like a petulant child. It wasn't as if she'd given me much choice; the alternative was to graciously accept my fate and make life easy for her. It was an option I wasn't too inclined to take.

{That plan was a rough suggestion,} Visser Seven said dismissively.

"It showed a remarkable amount of disrespect for the seeds of subterfuge I've sown. Which have, thus far, been incredibly effective. We've taken hundreds of Human Controllers with a death toll that can be calculated by a Hork-Bajir."

{At an unacceptably laborious pace. The Council hoped I would be able to accelerate the invasion.}

"It's only an unacceptable pace to you because there's isn't an enemy body count for you to gloat over. I've seen the cost of your victories, Esplin."

{And how many good Yeerks have completed their final cycle without ever knowing a host? When we could have hosts for them all with this species? Your caution might have cost us years of progress,} he said, angrily. I could tell Edriss was pushing his buttons. I suspected it had been a long time since anyone off the Council had reacted to him with anything less than fear.

Edriss smiled, lacing my fingers together. The body language might have been foreign to Esplin, but the message couldn't have been: she wasn't intimidated, at least not outwardly.

"Esplin, you could at least be honest. You know I'll be credited if you continue with my plan and succeed. And I hope you're smart enough to know that your plan would leave us with a fraction of the hosts we could take. Really, the Council rejecting your proposal was the best thing that could have happened to you, so enough of this blustering. I hear honesty's a valued trait among Andalites," she said slyly, then added, "and their sympathizers."

The guards, gold and red, all bristled, as if expecting Visser Seven to lop my head off and start a brawl. But Visser Seven remained still, only allowing himself to glare with his two main eyes.

{An interesting accusation from someone who spent so many undocumented years on Earth,} he eventually said, slowly, and I felt Edriss run over with anger inside my head. {I can only hope that the information you gathered during your stay will be enough to deliver the species, now that I've taken on your role.}

Edriss kept that snake smile plastered on my face for the rest of their meeting, which mostly consisted of her explaining the reason The Sharing worked so well, despite some mishaps at the beginning. Infuriatingly enough for her, Esplin didn't really care. She used his disinterest as an excuse to take more than a few shots at his supposed love of Andalites, and he, of course, played right into it with indignant offense at each comment.

It was pathetic. It was like dogs posturing to each other over who would be the leader.

I stayed quiet, taking in every detail. I hoped someday to be free again and use everything I'd observed to take her down, but if I couldn't have that, I could at least have fodder to upset her. I didn't mind that it was spiteful and petty. Mocking her was the only satisfying thing I could still do, locked inside my body as I was.

After she dismissed him, I started back in on her. {Well, that was exciting. Here I was thinking human politics were dirty.}

She continued reviewing the files she'd earmarked for Leera. Details on new Yeerk technologies, mind-control technologies for non-sentient beings. Perhaps she could find some way to use them, some inventive plot that would deliver the Empire a powerful weapon. Or perhaps that wasn't such a good idea, since she risked being ghettoized as a weapons and stealth specialist, with none of the glory of a military leader.

I could feel a familiar melancholy in her. She'd officially turned over Earth to Visser Seven. Her brainchild, her conquest, the project she'd invested half a decade in, was being handed over to an inept braggadocio. I could still feel a trill of pride in her for her promotion, but being Visser One was less glorious than she'd imagined, and she had no soft feelings for the Leerans.

{You know, you and Esplin are a lot alike. You're both Yeerk traitors who care more about your host species than the Empire. He touched a nerve, didn't he?}

{Human, I'm completely capable of ignoring you.}

{But you don't. Sympathizer. Glory-hound. Dirty, self-servicing politician. Is this the best of the Empire? In-fighting and rivalries? Tell me, Edriss, do you hate him so much because he's stealing your show, or because he represents everything you hate about yourself? Sympathizer, sympathizer…}

{Was it sympathy when I stole your body from your family?} she asked cruelly, hoping to cow me, but I was enjoying myself too much.

{Esplin gets to go win the war on Earth and poor little Edriss goes to Leera with the frogs, doing weapons management like some schmuck. The Empire doesn't trust you, Yeerk. The Empire doesn't care about your subtlety and sophistication. No, they want strong, brutish, trustworthy Esplin to take your job. I guess brains only gets you so far, Edriss. You poor, poor evil thing.}

{My opportunities at Leera are a chance to prove my versatility. The Empire wishes to see breadth in their candidates for Council,} she said, but didn't believe it.

{You know what the best part is? He's not as smart as you, but he's stronger, Edriss. If his host got control back for even a second, he'd lop his own head off. Every time you lose control of me I can only attack myself with my weak human body, but an Andalite? He's got his host iron-clad. And you have to broker deals with me to not be a nuisance. Poor Edriss. Poor, poor Edriss.}

Edriss didn't answer, but her anger poured on me like rain.