The Spies Part 11
My name is Rachel.
The smell of burning fur was all I could smell as I charged at another Hork-Bajir, growling furiously as it tried to shoot me down again. moving to the right, my growl only grew louder as a fiery pain shot up through my back leg, causing me to stumble, but continuing on regardless. By the time the controller could redirect his Dracon beam, he was already up close and personal with a very aggravated bear's face. Snarly fiercely, I swung my paw and struck him hard under the beak.
"AAAHHHH!" The crack of her broken beak was drowned out completely as she screamed throughout her whole trip before crashing hard into a tree and slumping to the ground. Whimpering, she struggled to pull herself back up, but another Hork-Bajir dropped right down from the tree and clocked her, knocking her lights out as she crashed into the dirt.
A flash of black and orange zipped right through my vision before I could even turn around as Jake crashed into another Controller that had been sneaking up on my right, batting away at it as they fell back.
"Roargh!" He kept it quiet, but even I still flinched as the pained roar left his raised mouth due to a clawed hand ploughing into his front right shoulder, followed by another as his back paw was slashed by a t-rex shaped toe. Big mistake.
The pain must had weakened Jake's focus, because what happened next was not an action my cousin, the boy with the Superman complex, would do in our current situation. Snarling viciously, he opened his jaws to their full extent and thrust down, burying his fangs all the way to the gums into the Controller's throat. And just as quickly, as if he'd just realised what he'd done, he ripped them right back out, stumbling back and away on three shaky feet.
/Oh man! Sorry, I lost it./ He cried, turning wide eyes to each of our allies in turn. The guy was going to be feeling this one for a while.
"It ok. Sad, but ok." One of the male Hork-Bajir nodded, staring down sadly at his already dead brethren. "He still free. Yeerk no bother him now."
/These things happen Jake./ I added as I looked around the area, making sure there were no more conscious Controllers around before starting to demorph. /We all lose it once in a while. It's war and these forms are not sweet little bunnies./
/Yeah, you're right, I know./ He muttered as his fur was sucked back into his skin, making me laugh at the sight of an overly large, shaved cat. /Still, we're here to free Hork-Bajir, not kill them./
I couldn't argue with that, though that was only because my thought speak was gone and my vocal cords had yet to change. I mean, technically, he did still free it, just like the Hork said.
Finishing my morph, I offered Jake a sympathetic look before turning it into a raised eyebrow and nodding my head towards the Hork-Bajir. We'd already met up with both of our route's scouts and all five of our allies were already gathering our four latest targets, putting them over two of their shoulders while the other three went to get the other five we'd already knocked out.
"We've already almost doubled our target number. Killing one out of ten and saving the rest isn't too bad considering the alternatives. There's nothing wrong with what you did."
"Cassie and Warren would probably disagree." Jake responded half-heartedly, taking a few deep breaths in preparation for his next morph.
"Well if you're going to play it that way, Marco, Ax and even David would agree with me, probably Tobias too." I retorted before concentrating on the grizzly bear again. We were after all still in a Yeerk dominated area, morphing back into a fully healthy bear was a wise move. "Come on Jake, I feel back for my victims too, but if you let it dominate your mind, well, Warren is a prime example of what hap-arr." Of course my mouth would choose while I'm talking to grow out.
"You're right of course. Best to move on." He nodded with a sigh as his skin turned grey and his fingers fused together. As I watched his nose turn into a horn while two knew nostrils opened up underneath it, I couldn't help but wonder if I looked that much like a corpse every time I morphed the elephant.
/Of course I'm right. And when we see Marco again, I'll be sure to throw it in his face./ I responded happily as my hairy body grew and my organs squelched and stretched. I really wished that he was here to hear Jake say that. I love teasing that sarcastic pain in the butt.
/And I'm sure we'll all hear about how hell froze over two seconds later./ He said with a slight air of amusement. Good, that meant no more mopey Jake. That was a relief, I wasn't the best at comforting thing. /Let's load up the prisoners and get out of here./ He added as he finished his morph, lowering himself a little as the Hork-Bajir loaded four of our captives on his back. as a rhinoceros, their combined weight was nothing to him, though he couldn't run without sending them flying so he would be useless if we found another patrol, not that that would be much of a problem. We still had one Hork-Bajir with one hand free to use one of the four Dracon beams that were spread between the patrols we'd taken out, another two completely free of any burden and carrying at least one more of the lasers and me, a huge mass of pure power. Plus, any of the others could drop their burdens if they had to and since Jake and I'd been doing most of the actual fighting, the Hork-Bajir rebels were pretty much completely unharmed, so we should be fine.
I don't mind saying that the trek back was considerably dull from that point on and it was making me jealous of the spying groups. At least they got the adrenaline rush of going to check out one of our future target. All I currently had the pleasure of checking out was my cousin's big, grey butt. We were on the most heavily guarded route, I was hoping that we'd get at least one more group of four to take home with us.
Not that we could carry many more. I had to admit, looking around our happy group. Between our captives and the obtained weapons, we were running low on free hands.
/So how do you think the other groups fared?/ I asked, more to make conversation than anything else. I was growing boreder by the minute. I really wished Cassie was here so I could fall into our usual clothing banter. Or Marco, so we could have our fun ribbing each other. Jake and I just don't have the same casual communication patterns with each other that we have with the others. /Do you think David stuck to our mission?/
/Warren was being obedient and Toby has a way with words only comparable to Cassie and David himself. I don't think we have to worry too much about explosions and rampaging lions tonight./ Jake responded calmly. It was strange how confident that he was in David. It wasn't all that long ago that he didn't want anything to do with him. Even after David left with his parents, Jake was still only about as keen to see David again as Marco and I were, yet here he was, perfectly accepting and a little too trustful for my taste. I didn't understand how he could have so much faith in a boy who almost destroyed us, even after all Warren discovered and fixed.
/Ok, then how do you think the other three raids have gone?/ I asked again, dropping it for now. Jake had to have his reasons and while I still didn't trust David as far as I could thrown him, I trusted my cousin with my life.
/Ax and Toby's groups should be going without a hitch. It's only Marco and Cassie's group that I have any worry about. This area was a little more active than I expected./ He said, a slight edge of worry creeping into his voice. /We shouldn't have ran into so many Controllers so soon./
"Maybe we come too many times." A Hork-Bajir said thoughtfully beside me, somehow managing to look pouty with a beak. "Yeerks make bigger guard. More Yeerks make easier to catch free Hork-Bajir."
/A very real possibility./ Jake mused, clearly not liking whatever else was going through his head. /Or this base has had a breakthrough. If the value of whatever they're doing in there went up then the Yeerks would be even more determined to keep it./
/Could be both./ I shrugged, not really caring either way. Whatever the case the result's the same, we'll have to deal with it later. /So how far are we from the meeting point? If we're not taking down any more groups, then I have a date with my bed. These great looks don't come without the beauty sleep you know./ I added jokingly, a little annoyed with how much like Marco I just sounded.
"Not far. We no get far down trail." The Hork-Bajir beside me answered, sounding a little relieved. I guess he was really hoping to avoid any more action and get our captives back home. I could see why too, for their small community, saving a group as small as nine was a nice increase for their population. Of course, they'd be happy even if they only saved one tonight. It's still one more of their friends that's safe and happy.
The further we went, the more antsy I grew. Jake and the Hork-Bajir seemed completely fine, even happy as we trotted on undisturbed, but something was gnawing at me. From what I knew of the patrols guarding the area, though that is very little, we should have been hit again by now, especially since they seemed to have increased the guard. We may not have gotten as far down the route as expected, but we did still walk a decent way into their territory. At least one more group should have crossed paths with us.
"We safe." One of the Hork-Bajir behind me exclaimed joyfully as we turned around a large tree, the other four cheering not a moment later. Sure enough, a large boulder with two smaller ones placed securely on top of it was right in front of us. It was a marker that Toby had made back when they first started raiding this area. It was nothing worth paying attention to for anyone else, but it assured the colonials that they were well beyond the hearing and visual range of the enemy perimeter.
/Good. Now it's just about two hundred metres in until we find the meeting point and wait for the others. So Rachel, do you want to go home or see how the others went?/ Jake asked teasingly, just as happy as our friends. He must be confident of safety and success to joke like that. Normally he was the last to lighten up, excluding Ax of course.
Which only made it weirder that I wasn't pumping my fist in the air victoriously. Maybe I was hanging around Marco too much lately, but something still didn't feel right.
The feeling only increased as we pushed through a few branches to find that we were the first group back. we may not have gotten too far in, but we were held up a couple of times during our fights. Assuming that they were only going after four or five Hork-Bajir in their own fairly busy route, one that was closer to the meeting point than ours, Cassie and Marco should have beaten us here.
/Jake, I know this sounds weird coming from my mouth, but have a bad feeling something's wrong./ I wasn't going to let this go. As Marco always says, if I think something's bad then we really are doomed. /I think we should check on the others./
/Are you sure you're not just bored and looking for some more action?/ He asked, though he failed miserably at keeping his voice flippant. That's the thing about me. If I say that, no matter how I was acting beforehand, it makes everyone worried.
Growling a little at the jab, I went to retort, only for Cassie to answer for me. Only the wolf could howl like that and be heard for a mile. And the howl was expressing pure pain.
/They're in trouble!/ Jake cried, his joy at our success quickly disappearing and revealing his previous worries tenfold. I had to resist the urge to smack his head. Has anyone ever exclaimed a more obvious statement? /Rachel, take Dakker and give them a hand. I'll follow you as soon as I have better eyes. Hurry!/
I was already going, Dakker, one of the Hork-Bajir only carrying Dracon beams, keeping pace easily beside me. Another howl filled my ears a few moments later, causing me to double my efforts. If I didn't hurry, we were going to lose Cassie and probably Marco too.
It looked like we were fortunate where distance was concerned. Cassie's group must have been on their way back too. It wasn't long after Dakker found the beginning of their route that the sounds of Dracon fire and the roaring cries of Hork-Bajir joined Cassie's howls and red flashes appeared before us not much later.
Bursting through some shrubbery, I let loose a furious roar, causing most people in the area to jumped before slamming my shoulder into the nearest Controller. Not wasting any time to admire the damage, I moved straight onto another, backhanding it with a giant paw. I could feel the skull shattering under my claws even as it was tossed away like a ragdoll.
Dakker had already run past me and had fired on two other Controllers, both of which were standing over a wolf that had gashes running all over its body and its two back legs severed. Even as her head moved, assuring me that she was still alive, and Dakker stepped in front of her protectively, my vision turned red. I couldn't even see Marco and Cassie was in incredible pain. The Hork-Bajir that I recognised as their partners were among the many laying haphazardly along the ground. These Yeerks were going to PAY!
"RRAAAAARRGGHHH!" Roaring again and startling my approaching enemies so bad that they actually managed to mess up their footing, I swiped at one as hard as I could, leaving him with deep gashes and what had to be a punctured lung as he fell, screaming and crashing hard into his ally. I didn't even have to touch that one, my victim's tail and wrist blades dug so deep into his knee and shoulder blade that he was not getting up any time soon. He'd live, but he wasn't fighting. I could get back to him later.
Laser fire from Dakker took out another two, however, as I sank my teeth into another one's shoulder, a flash of light shot from the far side of the battle field and crashed right into his chest.
"ARRGGHH!" I froze, Controller still in my mouth and squirming horribly, as the blast hit and Dakker's body was ripped apart in what had to be the most painful way possible. Every one of his cells burning away. Time seemed to be running in slow motion as the last of his blew apart, his scorched Dracon beams dropping uselessly to the ground.
/No. NNOO!/ Flinging my head as hard as I could, I opened my jaw and tossed the Controller with a permanently ruined shoulder into the air before moving on to my next target, only to have this one counter my claws with its crossed wrist blades, causing pained roars to leave both of our mouths as my paws and its wrists were ripped open.
Snarling maliciously, I ignored the pain and pressed on, eliciting a scream from the Hork as I ripped his muscles to shreds and sent him flying back, spending just enough time to ensure that the moaning mass wasn't going to get up before charging at the next group.
However, that's when I finally realised just what I was up against. I have no clue just how many there were to begin with, but there were still around twelve Hork-Bajir Controllers in an area crowded with trees. I had little running space and they were at their best in these conditions. Even if you put the terrain aside this was a no win situation. Even in my rage clouded head I knew even a grizzly can take down that many on its own and some of them had Dracon beams.
Not that I was going to stop. A Hork-Bajir appeared out of nowhere and buried its leg blades right into my knee, sending excruciating pain right through my leg. I never stopped roaring as I brought my palm down flat on its head only for it to kick me on the way down, its clawed toes ripping open my ankle. Off balance and stumbling, I wasn't nearly ready as another two dropped from the branches above me, each one slashing at my sides.
/Rachel!/ Cassie's voice was weak and even in my head, it was almost completely drowned out by the wail of pure agony that left my mouth as I crumbled to the ground. I didn't stay that way long, forcing myself to roll away from my attackers and pull myself onto three legs, but they still managed a few more good slashes to my back and arms in the process. I was already growing a little dizzy from the blood loss. /Get out of here Rach. Save yourself. You can win this./
/Don't worry...Jake will be here soon./ I responded, barrelling as hard as I could into another Hork just as another one kicked my gut. /AAARRRRGGGHHHH!/ That was it. The pain I'd felt before was nothing to what I felt now. The clawed toes had ripped open my stomach and stomach acid was burning away at everything, leaving me dropping like a sack of potatoes.
/NO! RACHEL!/ Wow, Cassie found some of her strength. Her scream was all I could hear, even over my own anguished cries. But even so, though she tried, she still couldn't stand on two front feet and her own blood loss was even greater than mine. We were both absolutely helpless, unable to morph without exposing our secret to the Yeerks. Morphing would only have them infesting us and taking down the others. It looked like we were going to die.
/I'm sorry Cassie. See you on the other side./ I mumbled, closing my eyes as the Hork-Bajir drew in close, resigned to my fate. I could only hope that Cassie and I had done enough and that Marco and the others would get out of here safely as I felt two blades pushing through the rough fur on my neck.
Tseew! Tseew! Tseewtseewtseew!
Before either Controller around me even made it to my flesh, the well defined sound of Dracon fire filled the air and the flashes broke through my eyelids, followed immediately by both of my would-be killers crumpling on top of me, their horns and blades doing no more to me than a pinprick would do to my human skin.
"I save wolf! You save bear!" Forcing my eyes open again, I looked up just as three Hork-Bajir, all armed with Dracon beams, stood in a triangle around me, each one firing away like a pro and taking out the enemy laser wielders.
Turning back to Cassie, I found another Hork standing guard over her, slugging a Controller in the gut as a very familiar hawk raked its left eye. He then planted his foot into his enslaved brethren where his shoulder met his neck as he dropped and left him gasping for breath as he grappled with another opponent.
What sounded like a crack of a whip heralded the arrival of Ax, his tail blade pierced straight through the last Dracon beam bearing Controller's collar bone, causing the weapon to fall and roll away in the dirt. Ripping his blade out, he struck it again, three times in quick succession, in the sides of the head with the flat side of his blade, knocking it right out before galloping at his next target.
/Girls, demorph! You'll be dead in minutes!/ Tobias screeched as he weaved through the trees in search of more Controllers.
/We've got this Cassie! Just demorph. You're not allowed to die./ Choosing not to argue, I hoped Tobias was right and concentrated on my own human flesh. Saying that it was a struggle to focus on my image with sleepy, drunk on pain mind was as a big of an understatement as saying Mount Rushmore is kinda large, but I...eventually felt myself start to shrink and the pain in my front paws disappear as they turned into unharmed, human hands. Cassie, as per usual was already well ahead of me.
/Tobias, look out!/ Ax shouted as he downed another Controller. He must have caught it with a stalk eye seeing as his back was turned to Tobias as a Hork-Bajir dropped from a thick cluster of leaves, right over Tobias.
Fortunately, he was low to the ground and Jake had made it to the party. No one had even noticed him until a black and orange blur pounced off a low branch and intercepted the Controller.
"Wha-BAH!" Caught off guard, the Hork was ploughed mercilessly into a tree trunk with the crushing weight of a fully grown, male Siberian tiger crushing him against it all the way to the ground. Getting up with grace only a cat could after a fall like that, Jake walked off, kicking the Hork-Bajir with his back leg on his way as it groaned.
Looking around as my weak bear eyes turned into human ones, I let the tension wracking my mutated body go as I found the fighting had ended. Already finished, Cassie was right up beside me, helping me sit up while Ax, Jake and Tobias watched the area and the Hork-Bajir moved through their fallen brethren, sorting out who was an injured rebel and who was a still living Controller. I noticed one of Ax and Tobias' partners wasn't there, but then again, neither were their prisoners. Just a guess, but thought he was standing guard.
/Where's Marco?/ Jake asked calmly. However, it wasn't his usual calm tone. It was his 'I'm about to go crazy panicking if you don't give me an answer right now' calm tone. /I can't see or smell him./
/I can't see him either!/ Tobias cried, circling higher. /Granted my night vision is crap, but I can't find a trace of him./
"They took him." Cassie said with a sob. I hadn't even realised she was crying. However, her emotional situation was instantly shoved to the back of my mind as what she said registered in my head.
"WHAT?" I screamed, the others tensing around me. "What happened? How long ago? How could they carry away a gorilla!"
"By having a group carry him after he passed out. We thought there was only three Controllers. I still don't know where the others came from. Two free Hork-Bajir were killed on the first strike." Her sobs growing harder, she wrapped her arms around her chest as she spoke, her eyes clenching shut tightly as if she was trying to block out a very painful memory. "And then...something else attacked us. We went to run, but it blocked and stunned Marco. I tried to go back for him but there were too many Controllers between us."
/What attacked you? How long has it been?/ Jake demanded, his panic barely contained now. If it had been a while, then Marco could be dead. Or infested. Or, considering the kind of base we're near, used as a guinea pig for who knows what!
"It looked a little like a mutated bull and not all that long ago. The last glimpse I saw of him, he was been dragged toward the base."
His feline face hid it well, but I knew that Jake was as horrified as I was. A mutated bull working for them meant that we were right when we guessed that they'd had a breakthrough and with Marco, an Animorph for a test subject...
/Tobias, find Toby's group and get them to us NOW!/ Jake demanded, his voice booming inside our heads and almost making me flinch. /Cassie, help the Hork-Bajir get the wounded and prisoners back to the meeting point and find us when you're done. Rachel, morph! You, me and Ax are going after him now!/
"Jake, seven of us were taken down! How do you expect to do it with three?" Cassie cried, though she was already growing. Judging from the way her body was bloating up, I'd say she was going elephant, one of my favourites. A good choice too, it could carry plenty of immobile, walking lawn mowers as Marco calls them. following her example, I forced my own morph to move fast, dropping my mouth as my teeth lengthened.
/There's less of them now and the others shouldn't be too far behind./ Jake stated firmly, his voice making no room for arguments. /Just hurry./
Tobias had taken off the moment he got his orders and the Hork-Bajir had already gathered those they and Cassie would be carrying away. Ax' group only seemed to have caught three Controllers of their own, so between them and an elephant, they could carry the two injured, but still living rebels and the thirteen non-fatally wounded Controllers easily enough. So we only had to wait long enough for me to finish morphing before we were off again, Jake taking the lead.
/Prince Jake! It is not wise for you to get so far ahead of us. We do not know how many Controllers are in the area or where this beast is./
/I know, but we don't have time! Catch up as soon as you can./ I knew he wouldn't slow down. I wouldn't have either if I was that fast. But since I wasn't the first one rushing into danger for once, I finally realised just how worried Jake must get for me. The tiger was probably the best morph any of us had. Not as powerful as my morphs, but still incredibly strong and the fastest land morph we had. The incredible combination of power, speed and liquid grace made it a form only David's lion could compare with and in the forest, the tiger had the advantage of the two, being a creature of the jungle.
But even so, it was still only a mortal creature. Jake was rushing into a situation he had no way of handling or even surviving on his own. I could stop myself from fearing for his life.
This is why I focus on being a fighter, not the leader. It's easier rushing ahead. You don't have to worry about thinking about the consequences. Like the fact that if this went wrong, we could lose two Animorphs.
Yeah, Jake and Marco were going to get a bat to the head for making me worry this much about them when this was over.