My name is Marco.
You probably wouldn't look twice if I walked by you. I'm just your average Latino kid, with nothing obviously different about me. Maybe you wouldn't notice me at all – you'd be missing out on a lot, but hey, it's your loss. I doubt you'd even take the time to realize how cute I am. Seriously, everyone turns a blind eye to the short guy who happens to be able to turn into a five hundred pound gorilla at will.
Yeah, I can change into an animal. That's a neat trick I picked up from a furry blue alien named Elfangor, who crash-landed on Earth and was then eaten by an evil monster named Visser Three. It's kind of a long story.
I was just walking home from the mall with some friends, and we decided to take a shortcut through the abandoned construction site. Big mistake. Big, big, big mistake. A UFO came out of nowhere, and boom, hit the ground right in front of us. Then an alien came out and started talking to us inside our heads. That was Elfangor. He was an Andalite – basically a blue centaur that eats with its feet and has four eyes and a wicked blade on the end of its tail. He gave us the power to morph. All I have to do is touch an animal and concentrate a bit, and then I can change into it whenever I want. So long as I don't stay in morph for longer than two hours, it's pretty nifty. Except it isn't, because I have to use it in an insane war to kill Yeerks.
See, his people were – are – at war with the Yeerks, parasitic slugs that crawl into your ear and wrap their disgusting, slimy bodies around your brain. Then they have you. They control you. You become another pawn in their sick quest for galactic domination. They've enslaved entire species – the Gedds, the Taxxons, the Hork-Bajir – and now they're trying to do the same to humans. The only thing standing in their way is our group, the Animorphs. Five desperate thirteen-year-olds who can turn into puppies and butterflies are holding back a full-scale invasion of Earth.
Isn't it great?
Rachel sure seems to think so. She's the most gung-ho of all of us. Her catchphrases are 'Let's do it' and 'Let's kick some Yeerk butt'. On the outside, she's a perfect girl. Slim, blonde, tall, beautiful – she looks like a supermodel. Inside, she's an angry killer. I'm dealing with the inside right now.
(Marco! You coming or what?) She sounded mad. Sounded might not be the best word for it, seeing as she's sending her thoughts into my brain, not my ears, but I could tell she was annoyed.
(Yes, Xena.) I would have rolled my eyes, but facial expression is tricky when you're an osprey. (It's just a meeting. It can wait a few minutes while I –)
(Stare at that girl over there? No, you're coming now. Move it, Marco.)
Silently, I glided ahead. She wasn't as cute as me anyway.
It wasn't long before we reached Cassie's barn. It's our meeting place, as well as a wildlife rehabilitation clinic. Cassie comes from a long line of treehuggers; her dad runs the clinic, and her mom works for the Gardens, a sort of zoo-slash-amusement park. In the old days, I'd have teased her about having a barn – seriously, who has a barn anymore? – but we needed somewhere safe to talk, and this was the best place we had.
Rachel and I soared through the barn door and perched in the rafters. We were the last to arrive; Cassie and Jake were sitting on bales of hay, and Tobias was next to us – in red-tailed hawk morph, as always.
(What took you two so long?) He asked.
(Marco saw a pretty girl,) Rachel said scornfully. (Kept going around in circles staring at her.)
Jake shook his head. "Marco, you do realize that sometimes talking works better than stalking?"
(What was I supposed to say? 'Hey, baby, I'm the bird of your dreams. Yes, I am a bird right now. Yes, I'm in your head. But don't worry about any of that, because I'm actually a human fighting a war against mind-controlling aliens that want to take over the planet. Wait, don't go!'?)
(Well, no. It would be dishonest not to tell her that you're a midget,) Rachel taunted.
"Guys," Cassie said, before I could think of something to call her that was wittier than Jolly Green Giant. "We're here to talk about Animorph stuff, remember? Did you two notice anything unusual?"
On our last mission, we'd infiltrated the Chapmans' home. Melissa Chapman used to be Rachel's friend, but her parents are Controllers now – they have Yeerks in their heads – and she's been pulling away from everyone. It was a stupid mission. Rachel could have been killed pretending to be Melissa's cat – complete waste of time. And we drew attention to the Chapmans, maybe putting them in danger. So Jake told Rachel and I to fly over and look at the house, to make sure everything was fine.
(No,) Rachel reported. (Both the parents were ignoring her like they always do. She seems to be herself. And we didn't see any Hork-Bajir break into the house or anything.)
"Good," Jake said, nodding. He's sort of the unofficial leader of us all, so we waited for him to say something, but he didn't seem to have anything else.
(What are we doing next?) Rachel wondered. (I think we should steal one of their spaceships and blow up the Yeerk pool.)
(Brilliant idea, Rachel,) I said. (Too bad that A: we don't know where they keep their ships, B: none of us know how to drive a car, let alone fly a spaceship, and C: the police just might notice a UFO blowing stuff up.)
(What do you think we should do, then?) Tobias asked. He was usually pretty laid-back, but now there was a bit of an edge to his voice. I think he likes Rachel – not that he'd ever admit it. She'd probably just laugh in his face. He used to be a dork, but now he's a bird. The odds aren't really in his favor.
(Get out of this stupid war while we still can.)
(Elfangor gave us this power for a reason,) Tobias snapped. (So we could fight the Yeerks. He trusted us with –)
"Guys, guys," Cassie soothed. It was amazing how she could say something completely meaningless and calm down an entire room.
"We need to plan," Jake said. "What's our next move?"
(Why have a next move? We've done enough. We're just kids. This isn't our job, Jake. We haven't played video games together in, like, a week. And we won't play them together ever again if one or both of us gets killed fighting something that is not our problem. The Andalites will come back. They'll take care of it.)
"It is our problem." Jake said quietly. I winced internally. I'd almost forgotten about Tom, Jake's older brother. He's a Controller. Jake's pretty messed up about it – I don't know who wouldn't be a bit shaken by the fact that their sibling's every move was dictated by an evil parasitic slug. Unfortunately, he was determined to free Tom. And that meant war on the Yeerks.
"Rachel's idea about the ship was interesting," Cassie suggested. "Maybe we could try finding out where they keep them. We'd be doing something useful, and we wouldn't run the risk of being killed."
Jake shrugged. He knew the idea was junk. "Anyone else have a better idea?" Silence.
(I'll keep an eye on some of the Yeerk pool entrances,) Tobias said. (See if anyone says anything about a secret hangar or something.) Right. The Yeerks got this far by being that stupid.
"Great," Jake said. "My parents are expecting me home soon," he continued after a few moments. "See you guys at school tomorrow."
Everyone started to disperse. Tobias and Rachel flew off without a word. Jake said goodbye to Cassie and walked off.
(Bye, Cassie,) I said. I rustled my wings, getting ready for takeoff.
"Wait, Marco," she called. "That girl – do you really like her? I could help, maybe–" Typical Cassie, concerned with anything and everything.
(I've never seen her before, and I doubt I'll see her again.) I made a gesture as close to shrugging as an osprey could.
"Oh. Well... how long have you been morphed?" She wondered. "After Tobias–"
(Like an hour and a half. Ish. I should probably demorph now." I shivered. What if I'd forgotten? This morphing stuff was new, and we didn't totally have the hang of it yet. Another reason we shouldn't be involved with all this. I flapped my wings, taking off, and soared into an empty stall. I'd just do it in the open, but sometimes your clothes don't come with the morph. Plus it looks really gross when your wings melt into your back and arms start shooting out.
I focused on myself, and the change began. I started growing. My tail receded, and my beak began to grow soft and flatten. The amazing raptor eyesight that came with the morph degraded into the dull, blurred world humans saw. My toes shifted, and the killer talons turned into harmless nails. I still had wings and feathers, but my arms had emerged from my chest with a nasty shploot sound; they were the one part of my body lacking feathers. My wings shrank into nothingness, and I was a normal human, save the feathers. They didn't go away. For a few seconds I panicked – what if I was stuck as some sort of half-morphed freak for the rest of my life? – but then they faded away. Just call me Bird Boy.
Or Hawkman. He was a lot cooler.
Anyway, I got up, pushed open the door, and walked over to Cassie. "Guess it wasn't two hours."
"Yeah," she agreed. "But it could have been. We need to find some way to time this. We don't want... we don't want Tobias happening again."
"Right. I should probably walk home," I said. "Be kind of weird for the neighbors, seeing a bird fly through the window." She nodded, and turned to some sort of ugly giant rat in one of the cages, talking to it lovingly. As I said, a long line of treehuggers.
My house isn't the biggest. It's not in the nicest area, either. And it's a bit of a fixer-upper. Plus there are some minor infestations of rats and cockroaches. And bats.
Any of those sentences could have won me an "Understatement of the Year" award. I live in a falling down hole-in-the-wall in a dangerous slum.
But if my mother hadn't disappeared, I could probably have a mansion. See, my dad was a scientist. He's a brilliant guy; he could have discovered something revolutionary and made millions. But then my mom vanished while she was out sailing, and he fell apart. He quit his job and sat around the house feeling miserable. Eventually, he realized that not paying the bills turned off the lights, and he got a job as a janitor. Even though he's working, he's not the same as he was. Some days, it's like he isn't even there.
Anyway, just thought I should explain why a one-armed homeless girl was in my neighborhood and in my face.
"Hand it over," she growled. There were some bloodstains on her jeans; I guess she'd accidentally stabbed herself with the knife in her pocket when she leaned over or something Oh my God, she had a knife in her pocket. What sort of idiot carried around a knife in their pocket? Well, she was blonde.
"I don't have any money." I told her. "Swear. I'm broke." But, hey, I'm still cute.
"I meant the food. In the brown bag. Unless you're a total moron and you're carrying around an empty brown bag."
My cheeks flushed a bit. "I can't afford to go through a bunch of these. I was going to put my lunch in it tomorrow. Here, look, empty." I opened the bag to show her.
She sighed, and waved me on with her hand. Swallowing hard, I walked past her. My house wasn't too far now. Maybe I could avoid Louis. Drug dealers weren't the most fun people ever.
Apparently, today was my lucky day. Louis was nowhere to be seen, and I got into my house without any difficulty. "Dad, I'm home!" I called. I didn't expect a response, and I didn't get one. I went to my room and flopped down on the bed, frightening a rat underneath it. It scurried across the floor, looking for its hole in the wall. But I'd scared it to the wrong side of the bed; I was standing between it and its hole. I could kill it, if I really wanted to. Or maybe... Couldn't a rat be useful for spying on the Yeerks? I already had a flea morph, but a rat could see and hear a lot more. I could find out...
Too bad fighting the Yeerks was not my job.
I let the rat run into its hole, and started on my history essay. Because I was going to be a normal kid, with a normal life. And, as much as it might stink, history was part of a normal life.
AN: Eww. I hated that conclusion, but I couldn't think of anything better. This is going to be a Maximum Ride crossover, but I won't go into detail about that until the story calls for it. =)
Please tell me if I'm ooc. I haven't read the books in a while, and I'm not sure I've got this 100% right. All reviews are appreciated. ^^