Glad ya'll liked it so far. Here's some more for you.Chapter 6
She was beautiful. No, no, that word does not describe it accurately. I think, if given the choice between gazing at her face and cutting out the Visser's throat with a rusty chainsaw, I would not have been able to decide. I had wondered for many, many years how my father could have fallen for a female who was not of his race. Now, I understood.
She was a few years older than I was; maybe as old as Rachel's sister, Jordan. Her red-blond hair was braided and reached nearly to her waist. There was concern in her green eyes. I could not look away from those eyes. It was not even an option.
“Are you alright?” she repeated.
I continued to stare.
“I think you might have a concussion... Can you blink? Maybe I should go fin-”
The thought of her going anywhere shook me out of my daze. “No, I am fine,” I said quickly, remembering to blink. I could not look away from her, though... “I am just...rather shaken up.”
“Yeah, I guess I'd be, too. It's not very often you get into a fight, is it?”
“You might be surprised,” I said, attempting to give her a small smile. It ended up being a very large smile instead.
“Do you want to sit down somewhere? You look a little unsteady...” she prompted.
“I am fine,” I assured her. “Just a bit disoriented. I do not understand why they did that.”
The girl shrugged. “You probably told them something they didn't want to hear. That sort of behavior confuses them, and when big guys get confused, they get violent.”
“I have noticed that,” I admitted. Perhaps that was why the Visser was such a violent individual...
“Are you sure you'll be alright? I don't like the look of that lump on your head.”
“It will heal,” I promised. Faster than she thought. I would need to demorph in about a bit and when I remorphed, my injuries would be gone.
“Sure, eventually. You should probably tell a teacher what happened,” she suggested. “You're sure
you don't need any help?”
“I am positive.”
“If you're sure...” Then she started to walk away. I had to stop her! I could not just let her get away!
“Wait!” I called.
“What is your name?” I asked quickly.
“Kristina.” And then she was gone, vanished around a corner. I could have gone after her, but I decided it was probably more important to find David. It was easier to ignore her spell when I was not looking right at her.
I spent the next ten minutes and forty seven seconds searching for David without result. I demorphed and remorphed in the bathroom, and then I went to my next class. I was relieved to see David calmly seated in a desk there. I sat down next to him. “Where have you been?”
David shrugged. “I've gone through this sort of thing before, Al. We're new here. And I've got the feeling that we won't be here too long. Sooner or later, something big's going to happen and the Bossman isn't going to care very much about school anymore. No need to put down any roots. So I ate lunch outside.”
“Where did you get food?” I asked, curious.
“I'm a rat,” he whispered. “I'll eat just about anything, given half the chance.”
I was paying even less attention than usual in that class. There were a lot of things on my mind. Whether or not I would have to endure additional abuses from Troy and his allies. What did David eat? How would Rachel decide to kill Sergio? Mostly, though, I was thinking about Kristina. Thankfully, this particular instructor decided it was nicer not to demand answers from new students, so I was free to allow my mind to wander.
The rest of the day passed in a blur similar to that class. Although I would think about a few other things, my mind would always meander back to thoughts of Kristina. Had it not been for David's helpful reminder, I may have gotten myself stuck in human morph. That is how distracted I was.
Ronnie picked us up after school. I was not entirely certain why it was he who did the task instead of Cassie. I was not wondering about that, of course; my mind was still on the girl I had met earlier. I was distracted enough that I did not realize that we were in an area of town that I did not recognize until several minutes into the car ride. <Ronnie, where are we going?> I asked. Since I was no longer in public, I deemed it safe to switch to thought-speech.
“I just explained it,” he said, a trace of exasperation in his voice. “Weren't you listening?”
<I was thinking about something.>
He gave a little sigh. “Well, James is at work. And Cassie and I were talking and we figured it would be nice of us to give Tobias and Rachel some alone time, so we're going back to my place for a bit. Cassie wanted to talk to the two of you anyway.”
“What about?” David asked.
Ronnie shrugged. “Nothing in particular, I guess. She just felt like seeing you.”
<I look forward to it.>Chapter 7
David, Cassie, and I have a peculiar attachment to one another. Some months ago, the three of us were involved in an incident involving the Anati, Helmacrons, and Garatrons. Cassie, David, and I had gone to speak with the Anati and in the process ended up morphing one.
Anati are symbiotic beings made up of three different parts. Each of us morphed one part of the Anati and what we felt when we were combined is something that I know I can never hope to describe. I am a scientist, not a poet or clergyman, and one would need to be both to adequately convey what we felt.
It was so powerful that I believe the experience, more than anything, is what brought David back to us. It seems odd to me to think that he was once an enemy. In that brief period of time when we were connected, David and I became closer than I have ever been to anyone. Perhaps the only one to whom I feel more connected is Prince Tobias.
Cassie was also a part of that experience, so David and I both care for her in a unique way. We love her, and I do not think anything could change that. Even when she abandoned the Animorphs for a life with Ronnie, we loved her.
She and Ronnie had purchased a small, ranch-style house a mile or so outside of town. Much like Cassie's old house, this one was at the edge of the woods, though it lacked a barn. It was only a single story high, though it had a subterranean level that was as large as the rest of the structure. There was a large field out front, and behind it were the woods in which we had lived during our first stay here at Alpha Front. All things considered, I rather liked the place.
Cassie was waiting in the driveway for us. That should not have surprised me. She, David, and I had not seen much of each other lately. Outside of the few meetings we have had, she and Ronnie had been too busy to simply stop by the apartment. There was apparently a great deal to do when obtaining a new habitation. Unlike most Andalites, I do not automatically assume that every aspect of Human culture is inferior to Andalite, but when it comes to living arrangements, I believe my own race's are much more practical.
“You three have fun,” Ronnie said as we got out of the vehicle. “I need to go back into town and grab some of that furniture we bought. I'll see you in a few hours, Cass.”
Cassie nodded. “Have fun.” Then she turned to the two of us. “Well, come on in. You're both probably dying to demorph anyway. Although don't get too comfortable in your normal bodies because I've taken up baking when I can.”
Cassie is not an especially talented baker, but compared to Rachel she is a master, or mistress, of the art. I must admit that David and I shamelessly gorged ourselves on anything she was brave enough to set in front of us. We had reverted to our normal human morphs and I must admit that I was very comfortable at the moment.
The three of us sat at the table in her kitchen. Unpacked boxes were stacked neatly in one corner. The three of us were enjoying some seemingly-delicious edibles when Cassie decided it was time for me to choke. “So, Al, what's her name?”
That was when the aforementioned choking commenced. David smacked me on the back a few times, which was of no aid whatsoever. I eventually dislodged the food myself. Cassie simply sat there with an amused expression on her face, though there was a tinge of worry to it as well. When I had finally composed myself, I responded, “Who?”
Cassie smiled at me. “Oh, come on, Al. I know you better than that. You've got 'the look.'”
“I do not know about what you are talking.”
David looked from me to Cassie. “Now that you mention it, he kinda does
have a look... I'm not sure what look it is, though.”
“Oh, I know,” she answered, still smiling. I was beginning to become somewhat concerned. “I'm usually very good at spotting it.”
“What look is it of which you speak?”
“It's that look boys get when they meet pretty girls,” Cassie answered. “It works both ways, but I'm more used to seeing it on boys your age. Spending a lot of time with Rachel guaranteed that I saw some new guy with that look at least five times a day.”
“You met a hot chick?” David asked. <And didn't tell me!? Al, that goes against the code!> he added privately.
“You must be guessing,” I said to her. <What code?> I demanded of David, also privately.
<The Guy Code,> David answered, as though it should have been obvious.
“Call it an educated guess, then,” Cassie responded. “I think it's cute. So what's her name, Al?”
“Kristina.” <There is no such code.>
“Pretty name. What does she look like?”
<I have never heard of it,> I answered David. Then I began describing Kristina to Cassie. I decided not to go into every detail that I remembered. I have a very good memory and I did not want Cassie to think I had been observing Kristina more closely than propriety allowed.
<It's genetic, Al. You should just know it,> David began while I was describing Kristina. <There are certain rules that guys must follow when interacting with other guys. It's also known as Manlaw or 'the Brode', Brode being short for 'Bro Code'. It's sacred to us and is necessary for the continuing function of society.>
“And how did you meet her? Is she in one of your classes?” Cassie asked me.
<You must be exaggerating,> I admonished David. And then I decided to do something I rarely do of my own volition. I lied. I did not want Cassie to know I had been assaulted at school and came out the worse for it. It was humiliating and shaming. So I told her, “She is in one of my classes, yes.”
<I'm serious, Al. Men are aggressive, that's just a nearly universal fact. We compete with each other. And if there aren't rules for this sort of thing, every interaction between two men would end in a fight. And while that may sound like fun, One: I'm not very good in a fight unless I'm in my lion suit. And Two: we wouldn't get very much done if we were constantly fighting each other. So we have to follow the Brode. Society as we know it hinges upon it!>
Cassie gave me a teasing smile. “So, when do we get to meet her?”
<Why would you want to?> “Did you recently sustain a severe blow to the head?”
Cassie looked a little hurt. That was when I realized I had switched up the conversations. David started laughing in my head. <I knew that would work. David: one. Alloran: zero.>Chapter 8
<You are making this up,> I insisted. Cassie, David, and I were walking up the stairs to the apartment. I was in human morph, and David was in his own body, perched on my shoulder. As you may have surmised,we were still arguing about this ridiculous notion of a 'Brode'.
<Am not. I need to talk to Tobias about this. He should have taught you about the Brode a long time ago. It's, like, his sacred duty or something.> David and I were keeping our conversation a secret from Cassie, since David assured me that she would never understand it. There are some things, I am told, that are the domain solely of males.
The door to the apartment was locked in multiple places. Thankfully, Prince Tobias had seen fit to entrust me with the keys. We entered and found him and Rachel seated on the couch. Sitting on the table in front of them was a small holographic communicator. Oddly, it displayed an image of Former-War-Prince Alloran-Semitur-Corass, my namesake.
(Wow...that's a lot of hyphens...)
Due to the limited capabilities of this particular device, his voice came out of a speaker rather than being broadcasted into our heads. “-extremely troubling. On the one hand, I am pleased that we do not have to fight them. But the fact that they seem to have disappeared completely is far more disturbing.”
“That worries me too, Alloran,” Prince Tobias nodded. “You're sure
no one knows where the Visser, Guraff, and Salheer are, then?”
“I fear not, Commander. We had several sightings and received various reports that they were leading attacks, but we recently captured a high-ranking officer, the Sub-Visser in charge of resuming what Salheer started on Leera. We starved the slug out, and his host told us that the commanders we have been seeing are decoys. They get instructions from the real Visser on a regular basis, but no one seems to know where they actually are. An enemy you cannot see is far more fearsome than one in front of you.”
“I'll always take an enemy in front of me,” Rachel agreed. “What does the Electorate plan to do about this?”
“They have not seen fit to tell me,” Alloran admitted. “I was instructed to contact you with this information, but that was all. Although I cannot help but wonder why they did not do it themselves...”
Prince Tobias shrugged. “Probably because I had Al block their communication's channel. I was getting tired of Lirem's calls. It's like he has no idea what time it is over here...”
“Should I relay that to him?” Alloran asked. He almost smiled with his eyes. But War-Prince Alloran forgot how to do that a long time ago.
“No, no. I think I'll just unblock them and let them deal with Rachel the next time they wake her up at three in the morning to demand I start leading armies for them.”
“They will find a way to circumvent that block eventually, you know,” Alloran reminded him.
Prince Tobias looked thoughtful for a moment. Then he nodded. “Tell the Electorate I have a deal for them. If they find the Visser, I'll go off to fight him as soon as they can give me his location. He and I have a score to settle anyway.”
“As you say, Commander. I think I might just join you in that little escapade.”
“I thought you were retired, Alloran,” my Prince responded, a hint of a smile in his voice.
“It would not be a business venture,” Alloran replied, his 'voice' at once cold and slightly humorous. “You both have my best wishes. Alloran, out.”
Prince Tobias severed the communication and then turned to us. “Looks like they finally found out that our old friends aren't exactly where they're supposed to be.”
<They had to figure it out sooner or later,> David mused, making his way towards the kitchen. <I wondered what the Yeerks were up to. I mean, we knew the Visser and his friends were still here on Earth. I couldn't figure out who'd be leading their army.>
“With modern communications, it would be entirely possible to lead a fairly effective campaign from a remote location,” I answered as I began to demorph.
Rachel shook her head. “Calling the shots from the war room is one thing, but everything changes in the field. Esplin and Guraff lose about half their power when they aren't in the thick of it all.”
Prince Tobias nodded. “That's definitely a good thing. The Visser has never really struck me as a master strategist, so his effectiveness is pretty limited right now. Guraff's, too, though he's still dangerous. Salheer's got me worried, though. I just hope Jake and the Omegamorphs can keep him distracted enough here that he isn't focused on the other war.”
“All this talk of war...” Cassie trailed off. “Remember the days when we used to talk about stuff like clothes and super heroes before the meeting started? What happened to all that?”
“You know what happened,” Prince Tobias answered calmly. “We grew up.”
of us,” Rachel added. Then she turned to me. “Did you have fun at school, Al?”
<It was...eventful,> I answered.
“Oh? What happened.”
I then realized that I could not tell Rachel and Prince Tobias that I had been assaulted. And for some reason, I did not want them to know about Kristina. <Nothing,> I replied.
“Hmm...Al seems to be turning into a normal teenager,” Cassie mused. “How did that happen?”Chapter 9
James emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later, his hair dripping wet. Apparently, he had just gotten off of work. He leaned against the kitchen sink. “So, what do we have on our plates for tonight?”
<I do not think Rachel has started cooking yet,> I answered.
“Expression, Al. I mean what are we doing?”
<We are speaking.>
“I meant later tonight.”
<How would I know the answer to that?>
“Because your brother's about to tell us.”
“Exactly,” Prince Tobias nodded. “It's time for us to get down to business here in Alpha Front.”
<What have we been
doing?> David posed.
“That was all fun and games,” Rachel answered.
“And most of it was undone during the whole incident with Mersa,” Prince Tobias added. “If Guraff keeps records of every Controller and host here, our spyware isn't turning it up, so I can't say exactly how heavily this place is infiltrated, but we do know that it was in very bad shape before Mersa. And I can't imagine it hasn't gone even more downhill while we were gone. This place is probably tightly in their grip, and I'm worried that pretty soon, Guraff will be able to make a big move and seize this place completely.”
“How could he do that without attracting attention?” Cassie asked. “Kelbrid in the streets would be more than a little noticeable.”
“I don't know how he'd go about doing it,” Tobias admitted. “But we need to be ready for it. It'd be nice to have a few people to call in if things get too hairy.”
<What sort of allies could we call on in this area?> David asked. <Tri-I, maybe?>
Rachel shook her head. “The closest Tri-I office is a few towns over, where my dad lives. And I'm sure telling them what's going on is breaking the rules...”
“There's something,” Cassie mused. “I wonder why we can't have an army.”
“Because that'd break the rules,” James answered. “It has to stay a secret.”
“Esplin didn't keep it a secret from the Yeerks here,” Cassie reminded him. “If he's allowed to tell all of them, why can't we call up Tri-I?”
We all chewed on that for a while. <She might be right,> David admitted. <Man...if we could get an army of our own...>
Prince Tobias shook his head, though. “Many of Esplin's soldiers knew about the invasion before Crayak and Azmaveth made that secrecy agreement. Not very many humans did. We've been very careful about that.”
“What about the Kelbrid he's importing?” Cassie returned.
We all looked at each other, then. Slowly, our eyes fell on our Prince. We knew this would be his call. Rachel had a greedy look on her face. I was not surprised that the idea of an army appealed to her.
“Not yet,” Prince Tobias decided after several minutes of silent debate. “You make a very good argument, Cassie, and I think you just might be right. If we could call up an army and still managed keep this war a secret... But I think we should keep that in our sleeve until we're out of other options. If it looks like we're going to be out of the running very soon, we'll go for it. But it might break those rules, so I can't condone it until we've got no other choice. Which brings me back to David's question: who can we trust?”
<No one,> David said flatly. <In a place this heavily infested, we can't know who is and who is not a Controller.>
“Sergio isn't,” James answered confidently. “He tried to kill Kalroth. Nicolai, too. I know Yeerks don't hesitate to kill their commanders, but it seems to me that Guraff wouldn't let that go on under his reign.”
<It could have been a ploy,> David countered. <If Sergio's a Yeerk, I think it's safe to say he knows who Tobias is, and probably you, too.>
Prince Tobias shook his head. “He's had way too many chances to kill me. No Yeerk would pass that up, even if he'd been given a direct order not to pull the trigger.”
<Some of his men might be Controllers,> I reminded him as I realized a new danger. <Any one of them could begin shooting at you at any time.>
“It's possible. However, they might not know who I am.”
“You work with these people every day,” Cassie answered. “How could they not know who you are?”
Rachel sighed. “He and I have had this discussion on a daily basis, Cassie. He refuses to listen to reason.”
“I'm actually fairly disguised,” Prince Tobias explained. “Between the glasses and the coat, it's not all that easy to tell who I am, especially if you don't spend a lot of time with me. I try to avoid talking at work, and Sergio doesn't particularly like us socializing with each other anyway. None of us are exactly the 'making friends' type. The less everyone knows, the better. If there are any Yeerks working with us, they probably don't know who I am.”
“You should still be careful,” Rachel muttered. It sounded like something she had said many times before and was tired of repeating.
“This is coming from you, Rach?” Prince Tobias responded. Again, it felt like an automatic response, something he was accustomed to saying.
<Where does this leave us?> I asked.
My Prince shrugged. “We can probably trust Sergio in an emergency.” Rachel snorted at that. “At the very least, he's got guns and ammo, and that never hurts. Some of his people might be Yeerks, but I doubt that the majority are. They're not the sort of people Yeerks would go out of their way to infest. I'm doing everything I can to get close to Sergio so that, if and when the time comes, I can talk him into using his 'friends' as an army for us. Oh; and I'm trying to get him to tell me how he and Dan know each other.”
<This is all contingent, though,> David reminded us all. <That doesn't solve the problem of what we're going to do now. Anyone got a master plan? This is your area, Tobias.>
“Rachel had a suggestion earlier. Rach?”
Rachel nodded. “Okay, we know where Kalroth's living. Maybe Sergio, Tobias, and Nicolai couldn't get in there, but we're Animorphs. I think we can manage it. So we attack the place, kill Sergio, and get out of there. That'll get the Yeerks more than a little bit afraid.”
“And now for the part where we take Rachel's idea and change it until it sounds less like suicide,” James whispered. I was fairly certain only I could hear him, and possibly David. Andalite ears are somewhat better than human ones, after all.
<Attacking would probably just get us killed,> David objected. <But maybe...>
“Go on,” Prince Tobias promoted.
<Maybe we can sneak in there. And...well, Kalroth has to sleep some time. But there's no rule saying he has to wake up as well...> He left that hanging there.
<I must protest this,> I said quickly. <I understand that we must win, but this is highly dishonorable. I will, of course, obey my orders, but I feel that I must make my objections known.> I was surprised with the heat with which I said that. I knew that Kalroth was a Yeerk, and that assassinating him would aid us. But there is a line where ruthlessness becomes dishonor. While I was not entirely convinced that this lay on the unacceptable side of that line, it was dangerously close.
Cassie put a hand on my shoulder. “I'm with Al. I'm not convinced Kalroth is even all that dangerous. It's Guraff who calls the shots anyway. I know we can't win by being the good guys, Tobias, so don't start in on me with that yet again. But I won't condone assassinating a man who we don't really need to kill.”
<I'm sure you all know where I stand on this,> David said. <But I think I should just say one thing to you, Cassie. Kalroth might not be the one making the decisions, but he's a symbol. The Yeerks look to him. That's why he was given this job in the first place. If we can cut him down in the middle of his sanctuary, we'll hurt them more than you realize.>
James nodded. “I'm not a big fan of assassinations either, but I'll go where the rest of you go. If you want him killed, I'll help you do it. If you decide not to go for it, I'm just as glad not to.”
<What about your idea last night?> I promised Prince Tobias. <About having Sergio or some other criminal kill him instead of it being us?>
“I'm sort of conflicted over that,” he admitted. “I think that, in the end, it's better if we do it. One of a guerrilla force's strongest weapons is fear. And I think that showing them that we can just walk in and kill one of their top men whenever we want to will definitely help us. But I think Sergio could still be of some use here...”
<How so?> David asked.
“I've seen the security outside of Kalroth's compound. It's tight, but it's also limited to stuff that wouldn't seem too outrageous. Armed guards, a Dracon turret, and a very thick wall. A little suspicious, but nothing that would scream Yeerk. I'm betting that the inside is a different matter, though. I'm sure there are going to be at least a few Kelbrid in there, and probably a bunch of morph-capable humans and Hork-bajir. It'd be nice if there was something important that called those guards away from their posts.”
<Something like Sergio and his 'friends' trying to blow in the front door,> David finished.
Rachel nodded. “A drunk Russian with a fistful of grenades would probably be a little more than a distraction.”
<It makes sense,> I agreed. <While there are undoubtedly some very sophisticated defenses within the compound, I am certain there is nothing I cannot handle. With the guards distracted, it should not be too difficult to infiltrate the compound and locate the Subvisser.>
“What if it's Pythagi tech?” James asked me. “I seem to recall that it gives you a little bit of trouble.”
<It can be tricky,> I admitted. <The Pythagi do not think as Andalites do, which is a problem. It makes it difficult to navigate their programs with any degree of certainty. I suspect that, had the Yeerks actually developed their own technologies, we Andalites would have found them far more difficult to manipulate. I have devoted what time I am able to the study of Pythagi technology, so I believe that I will be able to overcome at least rudimentary security measures.>
“And if you can't?” Cassie asked.
I shrugged. <Then I believe we shall rely on the fact that very little stands in the way of our small army.>Chapter 10
School the next day was almost entirely uneventful. I halfway dozed through my first few classes. Lunchtime made me just a bit wary. As I had halfway expected, Troy and his associates accosted me en route to the cafeteria.
“Hey, Al,” Troy greeted me as though we were friends. Like the previous time, he put his arm around my shoulders. “Glad I managed to get a hold of you. See, were' in a bit of a jam. Brad forgot his money again and we were really hoping you could help us out.”
I realized by now what he had in mind. “I am sorry, Brad, but I am unable to aid you in this. I myself require my money in order to eat.”
Troy sighed. “We going to have to go through this again? Usually, kids like you learn quicker. Then again, you usually heal up slower, too. That must have something to do with it.”
“There is no need to go through this deception again,” I answered. “I cannot aid you. And should you attempt to force me to do so, you will find my retribution most unpleasant.”
“What're you gunna do, gnome?” Troy asked, shoving me over. Brad and his other companion whose name I still did not know amused themselves by kicking at my ribs a few times. Considering some of the pain that I have endured, it was not very bad. Certainly preferable to having my tail burned off by Kelbrid blood.
They were satisfied and left after a few minutes; and after they searched my body and took my money anyway. Briefly, I wondered why no one saw them and stopped them, but then I decided to focus my thoughts on revenge. A simple solution came to mind. Since battle was out of the question, I would have to rely on my other skills. To that end, I went to the library.
It did not take long to carry out my plan. In approximately ten minutes and twenty-nine seconds, every electronic screen within one hundred yards of the school displayed the same image. Cellular phones, personal holographic emitters, televisions, et cetera, all bore an image I had just created on the computer using somewhat-manipulated images the school had stored on their computers. It was, quite naturally, an image of Troy and Brad sharing a rather...special...moment.
I was more or less content for the rest of the day. The only part that marred my happiness was the fact that I had not come across Kristina that day. Like the previous day, Ronnie drove David and myself to Cassie's house, where we ate food and helped her move in. After that, David and I spent a few hours hiding in various forms near Kalroth's compound, attempting to get an idea of the defenses.
It sat in the shadow of the mountains and reminded me of an ancient castle. The rear end of the estate was walled off by a mountain. Undoubtedly, Kalroth had direct access to the Yeerk pool. The other sides of the compound were defended by a thick, concrete wall that rose about ten feet high. The front of the compound was denoted by a sturdy gate between two fifteen-foot tall towers. The only way for a conventional vehicle to approach the compound was by a narrow, winding road that was interspersed with small guard booths.
Within the walls were several buildings, including a large mansion that was undoubtedly where Kalroth personally resided. Everything was routinely patrolled by armed guards. Most of them were humans, but a few were Hork-bajir.
<Surely anyone who sees this knows that something untoward is going on here,> I called to David, who was somewhere above me in a morph. I was hiding in some trees outside of the compound in squirrel morph.
<I doubt anyone ever has the chance to report back, Al,> my shorm
replied grimly. <Besides, I'm starting to think Alpha Front isn't as normal as it appears on the surface. Tobias said Kalroth was taking money from the mafia, and he probably meant more than just Sergio. It occurs to me that we actually don't know much about this town. Maybe we should do some research when we get home and see what turns up.>
<That sounds advisable,> I agreed.
That trip was uneventful. We were not seen, but we learned nothing new. The true defenses would be inside of the compound, and we could not see those. The next day was almost as uneventful as the previous one. Troy and Brad did not bother me at school. Perhaps they learned their lesson.
I did, however, run into Kristina. She was walking to a class, I believe. “Hello!” I called to her, waving.
She looked at me with those beautiful eyes. Then, she said something that still echoes in my head. “Do I know you?”
I froze in mid wave. “It is I, Al,” I reminded her. Had I used the wrong morph!? No, I was sure I did not. Why did she not recognize me?
“I'm sorry, I don't think we've met.”
“We...we met two days ago, after lunch,” I reminded her. Why did she not remember me?
“Sorry, kid, but I just don't remember you. What did you say your name was?”
“Al. Right. See you around, Al.” Then she left.
I am ashamed to admit that I wanted to weep. I managed to avoid doing so, even when I returned to Cassie's home. It was becoming a routine, now. Go to school. Go to Cassie's. Survey Kalorth's compound. Return home.
When I got to the return home part, I was pleased to find that no one was there. James, as I knew, was working. Prince Tobias left a note saying that he and Rachel were 'out' and would be back in a few hours. David was using the computer in James' room to research Alpha front. That left me alone in the living room.
I sat there in my human morph, staring at the television for a while, unsure what show was on. I sighed, resting my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands. “Why does she not remember me?” I asked myself.
And then I heard a chillingly familiar voice from the television. “Aaaaand we're back. Our next guest is little aristh
Allie, who seems to be having a little trouble with the ladies. How can I help, Allie?” I looked at the television. Whatever show was supposed to be on had been replaced by something else.
The set looked like that of the Late Late Show. However, everything was painted in sickening shades of green and yellow. And behind the desk was not Craig Ferguson. It was the Drode.
I suddenly found myself in the guest chair, next to the Drode's desk. Out in the studio, where there should have been an audience, there were just copies of the Drode wearing different clothing. I turned to the Drode at the desk. “Why have you brought me here?”
“Do I really need a reason, Allie?”
“I find it unlikely that you would act without one. Your reasoning is usually warped and twisted, but present.”
“Fair enough.” The Drode sighed. “I'm here to help you with this little bit of lady trouble you're having all of a sudden. Gotta say, I didn't think it would happen to you.”
I shook my head. “You would not care about something like that. Why am I really here?”
“You don't understand, Allie,” the Drode insisted. “It's a question of morale. Happier soldiers fight better, and that increases my odds of winning this thing. So I plan to do everything in my power to keep you Animorphs happy.”
“I do not need your help,” I insisted.
“Allie, if that was true, I wouldn't be here. It's not like I'm a big fan of yours. You're too...what's the word...good...for me. With your skills you could set out on your own and make a killing. Imagine what the Pythagi would do if they could get your help! But I bet that never even crossed your mind.”
“Not until this moment, and I disregarded it just as quickly,” I admitted.
“Exactly. So you see, you're really not my favorite. And in case you were wondering, they are, in order of most favored to least: Rach, Toby, Dav-o, Marco, and Ax...then you, James, Melissa, and Jeanne are tied for apathy...then there's Cassie and Jakey, who I just can't stand. If I didn't think you needed help, I wouldn't even bother talking to you.”
The entire situation was just wrong. I was sure of it. I knew that the Drode did not want to help, even for the reasons he said he did.
“Oh, come on Allie. I'm the good guy now,” the Drode smiled.
remember that I am precisely the opposite of stupid, do you not?”
“Fine, fine. But I am
on your side in this one, kid. I keep my end of a deal. And if you don't believe that, ask yourself why Prince Toby isn't still all feathery. The last thing I can afford is you Animorphs turning against me. We're in too deep for that. I need your help, Allie, and you need mine. So just accept it so we can both go back to sleep.”
“Me? Don't be ridiculous. I just like to watch other people do it. So whadda ya say?”
Deep in my soul, I knew it was stupid. But my mind could not find any real reason against it, other than the voice in my head that kept shouting DO NOT TRUST THE DRODE. I believe it is called common sense. But I am a scientist; common sense has little place in my thinking when it contradicts logic. As hard as I tried, I could not find a reason not to trust him other than the obvious.
So I made perhaps the biggest mistake of my life. I said, “Deal.”