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Imagine a picture of Rachel turning into a bald eagle.
59: The Revival AUTHOR’S NOTE
This is it. The moment you've been waiting for. As the title and the previous fic suggest, Rachel lives. And, as an added bonus, sex is implied. This also serves as a warning to thous of you who might be offended by it.
Enjoy or go to hell.
p.s. I've added subtitles to my fics that I think will make more people read them. Feedback would be nice.
p.p.s. I'd like to dedicate this to Luna May, who seemed really happy when she learned I was bringing Rachel back.
If I owned the Animorphs, you wouldn’t be reading this for free.
And if I owned Streetlight Manifesto, I’d have better things to do than write fanfics.
My name is Rachel. Yeah, that Rachel. Rachel the Animorph. The one who died on our last mission. I was killed trying to stop the Blade ship from escaping into space. I failed.
I’m not some nut. This isn’t some delusion of mine. This is real. But there are some things you need to know. Like the fact that the mission that I died on wasn’t our last one. Because the Yeerks are back.
The ones who escaped met up with a creature calling itself The One. It gave them new hosts, creatures called Kelbrid. Kelbrid are dangerous warriors. They’re really strong and fast, and they’ve got a stinger with an anesthetic poison so you don’t realize how badly you’re hurt until it’s too late.
The One even freed Esplin 9466, formerly known as Visser Three/One. He’s their leader again. And he was given an Andalite host: Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill, our old friend and comrade.
The Yeerks are back. Esplin is back. But we’ve got a secret weapon now, because I’m back, too. The Crayak made a deal with my cousin Jake. If Jake willingly gave his life, I’d get mine back.
Jake blew up a Yeerk Pool ship; with him in it. So Crayak sent me back down to earth. But Crayak, as it turns out, is a jerk. He set me down in the middle of the ocean.
One moment, I was watching from above as Jake lit a trail of fuel leading to the tank of the Pool ship. The next moment, I was being hurled down into the sea. That didn’t stop me much. I started to morph. It was a morph I hadn’t used very often: sperm whale.
I felt my bones thicken, and then I began to grow. I seemed to stretch on for miles, but at least my buoyancy was adjusting, too, so I wasn’t in danger of drowning. Still, it was uncomfortable.
My head widened. It spread out and out. So far out that my eyes were forced around to the side of my head. I could see almost 360 degrees. I could see enough to watch my legs fuse into a tail.
My skin turned white and rubbery. My hair was sucked into my head like spaghetti. My arms melded into flippers. My teeth changed, too.
I could hear my organs shifting and twisting into those of the whale. I knew that if a whale stayed on land too long, the weight of its body would crush its organs. That wasn’t something I wanted to think about.
I knew the morph was complete when I felt the whale’s mind beneath my own. It was calm, in control. It was perfectly happy here in the ocean. I wasn’t. What I wanted was on land.
I powered up my tail and started to swim. I don’t know how fast a whale looks, but I was faster than I expected to be. For all my weight, I could move. I wasn’t tons of fat, I was tons of muscle. I was one of the most powerful creatures on this or any planet.
Still, for all my power, I almost jumped when I heard the thought-speak voice in my head. <Hello? Who is that?>
I looked around and saw a humpback whale swimming towards me. <Cassie?> I asked.
<No, I am Aftran.> Oh. Aftran was a Yeerk we had freed and then trapped in the body of a humpback whale. She was one of the few Yeerks who would push for peace. One of the few good ones.
<Who are you? No one comes out this far in the ocean, morph-capable or no. And you speak as one who knows Cassie.>
<Well…I’m Rachel,> I said to her.
<I may be a whale but I know Rachel is dead,> Aftran answered. <I hope this is some kind of a joke.>
<It’s not,> I insisted. <I was dead; now I’m back. Where are we? I need to find the others.>
<We are several dozen miles from the coast of your home town,> Aftran answered. <The others still lived there when last I checked. I will lead you there but not until you tell me how you’re here.>
<A powerful guy named Crayak made a deal with Jake. If Jake died, I got to come back to life. And, well…Jake isn’t around anymore.>
<That is a little hard to believe.>
<Said the Yeerk peace-activist turned humpback whale,> I answered. <Everything about this situation is hard to believe. But you’ve known us long enough to know you can’t keep an Animorph down forever.>
Aftran didn’t have anything to say to that. We swam on in silence for a long time. When I thought two hours were getting close, I demorphed. Aftran let me ride on her back. That was pretty nice of her, even though she didn’t believe who I was at first.
I managed to convince her, though. She had been in Cassie’s mind once and so she knew all of our little secrets. It only took a few to prove that I was indeed Rachel the Animorph.
When we were only a mile or so from home, I slid off her back and morphed to dolphin. I didn’t want to be seen yet. Coming back from the dead would cause a lot of problems, especially with the media.
I knew where I had to go. I had to go to Marco’s and see Tobias. Of everyone I knew, he was the one to whom I mattered most. I honestly don’t think my mother would be as happy to see me alive as he would be.
But I didn’t go to Marco’s house. I wasn’t ready. When I saw Tobias again, I wanted to be at my best. I needed to be rested and well dressed, and not tired and in spandex.
I knew the others wouldn’t be there anyway. They were still coming back from the Hork-Bajir world. They had just destroyed a Yeerk fleet that would have escaped and terrorized the galaxy anew. Jake had died to stop it.
I decided I was going home. My home. The home I shared with my mother and sisters. I’d have to lie to them, of course, but that wasn’t anything new. I had plenty of time to think of lies.
I set my foot down on the beach sand. It felt so good under my feet. I had been to the beach after I had died and it wasn’t the same. Maybe it was because Azmaveth, the guy in charge of the afterlife, always knew my death was only temporary.
It felt so good to be alive again. There isn’t a term for it, no word that can describe how it feels. For the first time in a long time, I smiled.
I ran home. I was barefoot, wearing my morphing outfit, wet, and I was supposed to be dead. I didn’t care. There was just nothing more I wanted right at that moment than to be home once again.
You know what? That guy who wrote the Wizard of Oz got it right all that time ago. There’s no place like home.
It was ten o’ clock at night and my front door was locked, which was to be expected. We never left it unlocked at night back when I was alive. But we still kept a key in the same place, so I had no trouble getting in.
“WOOT! WOOT! WOOT!” An alarm? That was new. Then something occurred to me: did my family still live here?
I had been keeping track of some things while I was dead but it had been too painful to watch my family. I felt like I didn’t have a choice but to watch the Animorphs, but my family was a different story.
Then someone stumbled down the stairs. She was only a few years younger than me, but she looked pretty different. Her hair was dark, and she wasn’t as tall as I was. Still, I would recognize her anywhere.
“Jordan,” I said to my sister.
She stood there, staring at me. I couldn’t blame her. She knew I was dead; she had watched them cremate me. For all intents and purposes, I was a ghost.
“Mom! Sara!” she shouted. She was calling for my mother and my other sister. They stumbled down the stairs too and stared just like Jordan was. I guess the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“Hey, guys,” I said, smiling. “I know this is a little hard to accept, but I’m real. I’m alive.”
My mom shook her head. “No. This has to be a dream. You’re dead, Rachel. The others saw you die. We cremated you! I was at your funeral.”
I couldn’t tell them the truth, so I went with the lie I had. “That wasn’t me, mom. The Yeerks didn’t kill me, the captured me. What you saw was a Yeerk they made morph me. The others lied to you because they didn’t want you to know that I was out there somewhere, working for the Yeerks.”
“Then how did you get here?” Jordan asked.
“A powerful alien named Crayak helped me,” I answered, more or less truthfully. “I’ve got my life back and the first thing I wanted to do was go home. I know it’s hard to accept—”
“It’s impossible,” my mom insisted. “We’ve spent years thinking you were dead. And for you to just show up in the middle of the night like this is just—”
“Mom!” Sara interrupted. “Rachel’s back. Can’t you see that? That’s what really matters. I don’t care how or why or what she had to do, I just care that I have my sister back.”
Sara came forward and hugged me. Jordan did it, too. Finally, almost reluctantly, my mother did, too. “I’m sorry, Rachel, it’s just…this is impossible.”
“I know,” I said to her. “You’ve been saying that for the last couple minutes.”
Jordan was getting us some food. I was grateful because, truth be told, I was starving. I hadn’t eaten in more than three years, after all.
My sister came into the room with a plate loaded high with junk food. She still knew me well. As I gorged, she asked me one of those awkward questions. “Do your friends know you’re back?”
My friends. No one in my family would use the term Animorphs. Of all our families, mine had the most difficulty coping with the war. When we had whisked them off to the Hork-Bajir valley, my mother had tried to escape several times. It was a little embarrassing, really, since I was always the most gung-ho for the fight.
I shrugged. “They might. I haven’t seen any of them yet, though. They’re not on Earth right now.”
“Why not?” Sara asked.
I shrugged. “Beats me.” It was a lie, but I was used to telling them. I had hoped, once the war was over, the lies would end. Too bad.
“Well, Sara can move out of your room now, I guess. She’ll have to share her room with Jordan again.” my mom said. Jordan almost looked like she was going to argue, but then she realized that her sister was back from the dead so she kept her mouth shut.
Sara shrugged. “As long as we have Rachel back.”
Then, the door opened. A man came in, acting like he belonged. He was tall, with dark hair and green eyes. “Ah, Naomi, you would not believe the day I have had.” Except it sounded like “Ahh, Nay-oh-mi, zhou vould not belieze ze day I ahave ahad.” He was French.
Who was this random French guy in my house at ten at night? I looked at my mom. She suddenly seemed very uncomfortable. “Uh…Jacques, this is Rachel. Rachel, this is Jacques…he’s…”
“Her husband,” Sara answered.
I couldn’t believe it. I think Jacques was as shocked to see me as I was to see him. I knew it was a possibility, of course, but I never expected it to happen. My parents had divorced a long time ago and they had both moved on.
Still, when I came back from the dead and just wanted to go home, I didn’t expect to be interrupted by some French guy.
Jacques and I stared at each other for the next few minutes, both of us unsure what to say. After all, I was supposed to be dead and I didn’t know he existed. Where had they even met?
Finally, I said the only thing I could say. “If its alright with everyone, I’m going to go to bed. I’ve had a long day.”
“Rachel, wait. Don’t you want to spend some more time with us?” Sara asked.
“Later. But right now, I’m tired. Very tired.” I went up the stairs to where my bedroom used to be. I was surprised at what I found.
The place was a little different but not completely. Sara hadn’t girled it all up, at least. Don’t get me wrong, I am a girl and I like some girly things. But I’m not in to frills and lace and pink and the other sorts of things Jordan used for decoration.
Sara had kept the place pretty much the same as I had. The furniture was rearranged and the colors were different but overall it wasn’t bad.
I was a little annoyed that my desk had been moved. I used to have it right by the window. Sara came in and stood next to me. “I hope you don’t hate it too much. I’ll help you change it tomorrow.”
I shook my head. “It’s fine for now. But why did you move my desk?”
“Because it was in a bad place by that window. I had a hard time reaching it to open it. How did you manage to open and close it all the time?”
“I pretty much always left it open,” I answered.
“Even in the winter?”
“Especially in the winter.”
“Why? Do you just like freezing to death?”
I thought about lying to her. But there was no reason to do it anymore. Not about this anyway. “Tobias used to come over a lot. He’d fly in the window and land on the desk.”
“I never knew that.”
“Not a lot of people did,” I told her.
Then, she got an odd smile on her face. She reminded me of Marco for a moment. “And when he came over late at night, what exactly did the two of you do?”
She shrugged. “Just wondering. I didn’t realize the two of you were so close. I mean, I kind of suspected he liked you because of how he disappeared when you did, but I didn’t know you felt the same way.”
“Of course I did, Sara.” Then, I said something to her that I had never said before. “I loved him.”
“Loved? Past tense?”
I thought about that. “No, I still do. I don’t know what he’s become without me, but I don’t care. If he’s gone totally hawk or if he’s become some other kind of monster, it doesn’t matter to me.”
“That’s sweet and all, but you don’t know what he is now. He might not even be alive. What if he’s dead, Rachel?”
I shook my head. “He can’t be. Tobias…he’s indestructible. I’ve seen it all. The things that have happened to him would have destroyed anyone else. Never him.”
Jacques came up and stood silently in the doorway. Sara looked from him to me. “I think I’ll go to bed now, too,” she said quickly, leaving us alone.
Jacques pulled out the chair from my desk and motioned to it. I was happy to stand, so he sat down. “Rachel…I am sure you have something to say to me. Do so, s’il vous plait.”
I shrugged. “I guess I just wasn’t expecting you. I know my mom wouldn’t have married you if you weren’t at least an okay guy but…”
“But I will never be your père, your father.”
“And you will never be my daughter.” I nodded again. “And I do not think we could ever be friends. I respect you too much.”
That surprised me. “Come again?”
“You are an Animorph, a savior of Earth. And you saved my life. France was one of the countries infiltrated by the Yeerks, you know. They even had the President for a time. And they had me.”
I raised an eyebrow, so he continued. “I was the first French Controller. I was visiting America on business and I decided to attend one of the meetings of the Sharing.”
I shuddered. I knew what had happened next. They captured Jacques, held his head in the sludge, and forced a slug into it. Then, they sent him to France, where he was forced to betray those close to him.
“They took everything from me. They killed my wife. But the worst thing they did…they took ma feminine.”
And suddenly, I knew. I understood why this man was in my life. Call it chance, call it fate, call it the Ellimist ‘not interfering’ if you want. I knew who this man was. And I knew his daughter.
“Every day of my life until I met Naomi, I cried myself to sleep for my lost Jeanne.”
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know whether I should tell him his daughter was alive or not. I needed to speak to Tobias, Cassie, or Marco.
I didn’t know what to do about Jeanne, either. I’d meet her soon, I knew. Should I tell her that her where her father was? Should I reveal that she was my step-sister? Maybe. Or maybe that would hopelessly complicate things.
The decision was taken away from me almost the instant I started agonizing over it. Sara came back into the room. “Uh, Rachel? There’s a really cute guy downstairs with a really cute Andalite. They’re looking for you.”
What? No one could know I was here. Not yet anyhow. But I knew Sara wasn’t making things up. She wouldn’t do that on my first day back.
I came down the stairs. When I was about halfway down, I could see our visitors. I almost fell down the rest of the way. In the doorway stood a human and an Andalite.
The Andalite looked almost exactly like Ax had when we first met him. The human was tall, dark, and, like Sara had said, really cute. His hair was a dark, dirty blonde color and pretty wild. I felt a very familiar urge to try to come it in place.
I felt that way every time I saw Tobias.
I practically jumped on him. I was dimly aware that I was wearing only a bathrobe and my morphing suit. My hair was a mess. I smelled like whale. But suddenly, none of that mattered.
After a few minutes, I heard a voice. It wasn’t Tobias, though. “Hey, Xena. Love the new look.”
Marco. He came in through the door and, to my surprise, joined in on our hug. I don’t know if he did it for comedy or if he really had missed me but at the moment, I didn’t care.
An instant later, I felt someone else join in. Cassie. She didn’t say anything; like Tobias, she didn’t need to. Both of them could communicate as much with words as without. Marco had to speak because if he didn’t make some comment, he just wouldn’t be Marco.
After several minutes, I finally had the presence of mind to ask them, “How did you get here so fast?”
Tobias answered. It was so good to hear his voice. And yet, at the same, time something seemed wrong about it. It wasn’t thought-speech. “We took the Reliquary at Maximum Burn through Z-space. We made the trip back here in less than a day. We were in a bit of a hurry to get back. We might have warped a little bit of reality somewhere, but I’d say it was worth it.”
“But how did you know I’d be here?”
“Because,” he said with a little smile, “we know you.” Then, he smiled for real and I felt the world get a little brighter. “But there are some people here we don’t know.”
He looked questioning at Jacques. I introduced them. “Mom, Jacques, Jordan, Sara, this is Tobias. He was a hawk the last time most of you probably saw him.” I looked at Sara. “Told you he wasn’t dead.”
“Dead? Me? I’m indestructible,” Tobias said. Then, he introduced the Andalite. “This is Aristh Alloran-Sirinial-Fangor. My half brother.”
“Your family’s so weird,” I said to him.
He shrugged. “I have nothing to compare it to.” Then, he looked over his shoulder. “Where’d Jeanne get to?”
She came in from outside. I was shocked at how much she looked like Jacques. I guess she didn’t want to join in on the group hug because she didn’t know me. That was fine with me; I wasn’t really a hugging kind of gal.
Tobias and Cassie looked from Jacques to Jeanne and then to me. I could see the question on their faces. I nodded slightly.
Tobias turned to Jacques. “Jacques? Did you used to have a daughter who was taken by the Yeerks early in the invasion?”
I was a little surprised he just came out and asked that. I’d have to talk to him later.
Jacques nodded. So did Jeanne. “My father was named Jacques,” she whispered.
Tobias spoke to them. “Then this is probably exactly what you think it is. Believe me, it may seem hard to believe but these things seem to happen when I’m around. I used to live only a few streets away from my mother, who I thought was dead. I used to pass her house all the time and I never even knew it And my father…well, my father was his father.” Tobias jerked his thumb at Alloran.
Cassie added, “I know this is all pretty hard to believe—”
“But that’s the best way to describe life with us,” Marco interjected. “If I had a nickel for every time someone called me unbelievable, I’d be a rich man.”
Tobias gave him a look. “You are a rich man.”
“Hey,” Jordan asked suddenly. “Where’s Jake? Why isn’t he with you?”
“There was something he needed to do,” Tobias answered calmly, not quite lying.
I halfway expected Tobias to tell the Andalite not to call him prince. Instead, he just said, “Go on.”
<From what I understand of human sleeping habits, it is rather late at night. Perhaps we should return tomorrow at a different time?>
He nodded. “You’re the clock. I guess we’ll see you all tomorrow.”
“Wait,” I said. “Mom, Jordan, Sara, Jacques, you can go to bed if you want. I’m going to stay up a bit with these guys.”
Mom, Jordan, and Sara got up and, after hugging me goodnight, left. Jacques didn’t move. “I believe I will spend some time with my daughter, if she will let me.”
He and Jeanne went into the kitchen. I turned to the others. “Hey, I know it’s night and all, but who’s up for a little flight?”
Tobias’s smile was maybe the biggest I’d ever seen it. “I thought you’d never ask.”
We flew, but not very far. Tobias had never condescended to acquire an owl like everyone else, and Alloran didn’t have any Earth birds, so he wasn’t so well suited for this world. That was fine, since I didn’t want to go very far.
We went to the Gardens. It was closed up for the night but we didn’t mind. We landed and demorphed on top of the Ferris wheel, on one of the cars. It was one of those old fashioned ones, with the cars that were the size of, well, cars. We had plenty of room.
That didn’t stop Alloran from keeping low and to the center, his weak Andalite arms wrapped around the pole that held the car to the rest of the wheel. Marco and Cassie hung back, too.
Tobias and I sat on the very edge of the car, our legs dangling out into space. Heights didn’t bother us. And I knew Tobias would like it better up here than he did in a lot of other places.
“Rachel?” Cassie said.
I lay back so I could look at her. “Yeah?”
“I’m really glad you’re back.”
It was a simple thing to say. I knew she was glad. And yet it meant a lot to me that she said it. “Glad to be back.” I answered. “I just wish the price hadn’t been so high.”
Marco nodded. “Jake…What do we do about him? People have noticed that he’s missing. He and Tobias took off like what, a month ago? Do we tell everyone that he’s dead?”
Tobias shook his head. “Not if we can help it. It’ll make the Yeerks stronger to know that Jake isn’t around anymore. Esplin will get bolder. If it’s possible…”
“What?” I asked.
“We may have to have a Chee impersonate Jake.”
“I don’t like the thought of some pseudo-Jake walking around,” Cassie said.
Marco nodded. “That was always our agreement with the Chee. If we die, they didn’t keep pretending to be us.”
“I know,” Tobias said, “but we don’t have a lot of options. We’ll have to tell his parents, of course, but the rest of the world can’t know. Not yet, at any rate.”
“I still don’t like it,” Cassie insisted.
Marco looked uncertain. “Me neither, but Tobias has a point. Then again…”
“What?” I asked.
“We’ll all have to leave here soon,” he said. “Jeanne and Santorelli used what we learned from Tri-I to find out where the invasion’s going on, and it’s completely on the other side of the country. We haven’t been able to move in on it because of the Time Matrix and then the trip to the Hork-Bajir world, but we need to start worrying about that now.”
“No,” I almost pouted. “Not tonight. I don’t want to worry about the war right now. I just want to relax.”
Marco got a mischievous look on his face. He glanced from me to Tobias. “Relax, huh? Alright then. But you two be safe now. I’ll go and see how Jeanne’s doing.”
He was halfway morphed by the time I got up to swat him. That didn’t stop me. The half-owl half-Marco tumbled off the side of the cart.
Marco rose up above us. <That was so not cool, Rachel. I could have died!>
“If only. It’s not that bad,” I replied. He left in a huff. I noticed Cassie and Tobias share a sleight smile.
“What?” I asked.
Cassie shrugged. “I just think’s sweet how his first thought is to find Jeanne.”
“We shouldn’t have left them alone for all that time,” Tobias sighed.
I thought about that. Was it possible? I hadn’t been watching them from the afterlife; I didn’t much care, to be honest. “Marco and Jeanne? Oh, please no. I’ll break both his arms. She’s my sister now!”
Tobias looked like he was about to speak, but then a thought-speak voice interrupted. <Prince Tobias? I respectfully request leave to return to headquarters. This…this is no place for an Andalite.>
Tobias smiled. “Go on, then. Get some sleep. We’ll be planning tomorrow.”
Cassie and I shared a look. Even after three years of my being away, she knew what that look meant. “I’ll take Alloran home,” she offered. That left me alone with Tobias. Finally.
I was never a very affectionate person and Tobias wasn’t use to human contact, so for a while, we just sat there together. Then, he spoke.
“For what I became without you. I gave up for a time and you wouldn’t have wanted that. All I thought about was revenge and battle. When I found out the Yeerks were coming back…I was glad. I wanted to fight them again. I needed to.”
I patted his hand. “Its okay. If they had killed you instead of me, I would have…I don’t know what I would have done. Maybe I would have gone off for revenge. Or maybe I would have just laid down and cried forever.”
He nodded. “I guess I kind of did both.”
“Maybe that was best. But I’m here now, Tobias.”
I laid my head on his shoulder. His human shoulder. For the first time, we were just a boy and a girl. We weren’t a pair of warriors, we weren’t a hawk-human-Andalite and a girl, we weren’t even scarred children trapped in a nightmare. We were just us. Just Rachel and Tobias.
I suddenly got an idea. “Hey, what do you think the Gardens security would do if they came here in the morning and found us asleep up here?”
He got a sleight smile. “It would be interesting to find out. But if we fell asleep, we might fall off.”
“Well,” I said, “I’m sure we can think of something to keep us awake all night.”
Despite all our efforts, we did fall asleep. I was jolted awake by the Ferris wheel starting up. Tobias, somehow, was still asleep. I elbowed him. “Uh…what?” he groaned.
“We have to get out of here,” I hissed.
He gave me an odd smile. It kind of reminded me of me. “Or maybe we should just let them find us here.”
I threw his shirt at him. “I’m supposed to be dead, remember? This is not the way I want the world to know that I’m back.”
He shrugged and began to morph. <It’s your life.> Soon, we were a red-tailed hawk and a bald eagle riding high in the sky.
<So, we’re going to Marco’s?> I asked.
<Yep. We need to figure some stuff out now. And I need to eat; I’m starving.>
We flew in through an open window on the top floor of Marco’s mansion. We ended up flying right past him as he was walking out of his bedroom. He was wearing a purple, silk robe. I guess he did stuff like that when no one was around.
“Hey! Watch it! Haven’t you two heard of a little thing called a door?”
We demorphed. Tobias was done first. “Sorry. We figured, with the people probably watching this place, it would be best not to demorph in plain sight.”
“Plus,” I started to say. I cut off because Marco had the strangest look on his face. His eyes darted from Tobias to me and back again. Then, he dropped to his knees and started bowing in front of Tobias in some kind of parody of worship.
“You are my god!” he chanted.
I glared at Tobias. “What did you tell him?”
He just stared back at me. “Nothing. I can’t thought speak as a human any more than you can.”
“Not thought speak, guy speak.”
“Say what now?”
It was hard to explain. I’ve noticed that guys have a way of communicating without saying or doing anything. Even the most clueless guy (like Marco) somehow understands it.
Rather than explain, I punched Tobias in the arm. This was exactly what I was trying to avoid when I asked him not to say anything about last night.
Tobias was spared from any further abuse when we heard the WOOSH of the dropshaft. Jeanne and Alloran walked out. “Ah,” Jeanne said, “I thought I saw two birds fly in. Marco, what are you doing? Never mind, I don’t want to know. Stop it. Now.”
Marco snapped to attention. Then, Jeanne added, “And close your robe.” She turned to Tobias and me. “Alloran and I have made breakfast, if you are hungry.”
<Should we not wait for Cassie?> Alloran asked.
I pushed past him on my way to the dropshaft. “She won’t mind. I’m starving. Let’s go.”
“Worked up quite an appetite last night, eh Xena?” Marco asked. Then, he slapped Tobias on the back, beaming like a father whose kid just hit his first home run. I’d never understand guys. Even the good ones, like Tobias, were as bad as the rest about some things.
Jeanne swatted his arm which, to my surprise, actually shut Marco up. I decided right then that I liked my new sister. Then, we all headed downstairs for breakfast. Alloran went outside to graze.
We ate in kind of awkward silence. Marco wanted to make jokes but Jeanne stopped him, so he didn’t have much to say. Jeanne and I weren’t very comfortable with each other. I mean, suddenly I had another sister and she…well, suddenly she was the sister of Rachel the Animorph. It’s a lot to take in. As for Tobias, he never said much.
Cassie arrived and that made things a little better. She and I had a lot to say to each other this morning, and she had a way of including Jeanne that didn’t make any of us feel awkward. Of course, since I couldn’t resist torturing Cassie a bit, I always steered the conversation back to the same thing. “Tell me more about Ronnie.”
I love Cassie, I really do. She’s more my sister than Jeanne; as much a part of my family as my own sisters and mother. She and I had been through hell together. But Cassie was still adorably shy about some things. That hadn’t changed. Some things never do.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised when, as Alloran walked in, Tobias stood up and said, “Alright, gang. Now that we’ve all eaten, it’s time for business.”
Marco, of course, couldn’t let that go. “Business? Can’t we eat a little more first? We haven’t even feed the Andalite.”
<The Andalite, as you call him, has already fed, Marco,> Alloran answered him.
Marco shook his head. “Not human food. We can’t start talking about suicidal plans until our resident Andalite goes nuts over cinnamon buns or chocolate or lighter fluid.”
Jeanne raised an eyebrow. “Lighter fluid?”
Tobias rolled his eyes. “I left the boy alone for five minutes and we almost had to call poison control. For a member of a hyper advanced alien race, Ax sure had some common sense issues.”
“It must come form being male,” I said. At the same time, Jeanne said roughly the same thing. We looked at each other and smiled. Oh yeah, I definitely liked my new sister.
“Yeah, if he was a girl, he would have gone off about boys,” Marco answered. Then, he launched into a parody of my voice. A bad parody. “Oh, Cassie tell me about Ronnie! Is he big and strong like Tobias? Or is he—”
“—Short and annoying like Marco,” I finished.
<I fear I am missing the point of this particular bit of conversation,> Alloran mumbled.
Tobias laughed, something that I think he hadn’t done in years. “The Andalite missed the point. Happy now, Marco?”
“Yes, now I’m happy. Now we can get to talking about suicide missions.”
Tobias straightened up. “Well, that’s the first order of business. No more suicide missions.”
“Does that mean we’re quitting the whole fight?” Marco, of course.
Tobias shook his head. “I mean no more missions like the one Santorelli and I went on. No more like the one Rachel went on. No more like the one I sent Jake on. That stops today. We can’t lose any more Animorphs if we can help it. That brings me to my second point. We need to elect a leader.”
<Prince Tobias? I believe you are our leader.>
He shook his head. “No. Not unless you all say it.”
“Jake chose you,” Cassie pointed out.
“I know. So that’s one vote from Jake. What about the rest of you? Jake may have been our leader, but he always asked for our advice on important matters. When things came down to the really tough decisions, we always voted when we had the time. So now we vote. What do the rest of you say?”
<You are my prince, Prince Tobias. No matter who leads the Animorphs, you are my prince,> Alloran answered. <I follow you and you alone.>
“So that’s two votes for Tobias,” Marco tallied. “Jake and Alloran are in favor of it. Ladies?” He looked form me to Jeanne to Cassie.
Jeanne shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t know Tobias as well as the rest of you. I can’t make this choice. I will follow whoever the rest of you choose. We could do far worse than Tobias.”
“Two for Tobias and one vote of abstinence from Jeanne,” Marco counted. “Cassie? Rachel?”
I shook my head. “I tried doing the leader thing. It didn’t go well for me. I didn’t have the balance a leader needs. I was too reckless just like Marco would be too careful.” Marco winced but knew I was right. I continued.
“Ax was too ruthless and Cassie was too compassionate. Only Jake and Tobias had the necessary balance, I think. Only the two of them could balance boldness with caution and morality with the ruthless reality of war. I’d follow either of them to hell and back. I already followed Jake. Now, I’ll follow Tobias anywhere.”
Marco turned to Cassie. “Well…” she hesitated. “Honestly, I don’t know. Tobias, you used to be a sweet, gentle person. But the war changed you in ways the rest of us can’t even imagine. I don’t know if that kindness and gentleness are still in you or not. I can’t say I know what you’ve been through and I can’t say that I know who you are anymore.
“But Jake trusted you. He said that you could lead us and I trust Jake. If he voted for you, then I will, too. Maybe he knew something I didn’t about you or maybe not. But if he chose you, then I will too.”
Marco nodded. “That’s how I feel. Tobias, you and I have never been close, not even after all of this. I don’t know you like I know the others. But Jake knew you, I think, and he said you could win this thing and in the end, that’s all that matters. If any of us has the…the ruthless hate it takes to pull this off, it’s got to be you.”
Tobias looked at Jeanne. “Jeanne, I won’t take this without a unanimous vote. I know you’re new and don’t feel like you have as much to offer, but you’re here for a reason. You aren’t like the rest of us, a haphazard collection of kids who took a shortcut home. You were chosen by the best to be one of us. Your thoughts are just as important as everyone else’s.”
Cassie shot him an approving look that I don’t think anyone else saw. Jeanne sat up straighter. “Well, then I will follow you, Tobias. I have seen what you are willing to do for this war, what you are willing to risk; what you are willing to sacrifice. I will follow you to the end.”
“Unanimous, then,” Tobias said. “Then it’s time to get down to our next order of business.”
“What’s that?” Marco asked. Then, he added, “Prince Tobias.”
“Your favorite part. Suicidal plans.”
“Well,” Tobias began, “thanks to Jeanne and Santorelli, we figured out where the Yeerks are invading now. We couldn’t move in on it earlier but now we have to jump on this. They already have too much of a head start.
“This new town is called…” Sorry, but I’m not going to tell you what it’s called. Or where it is. My reasons will make sense soon.
Tobias continued. “We have a few problems. The first is that we don’t have anywhere to live there.”
“I can take care of that,” Marco answered.
Tobias shrugged. “That might leave a trail. It is vital that no one know we’re there.”
“Why not?” Cassie asked.
“Because if all the Animorphs suddenly pack up and move into the same town and suspicious things start happening, people will figure it out. If this war gets out, then The One gets to use all of his power and things hit the fan. We need to keep our identities hidden.”
“How do we do that?” I asked.
“No one will recognize Jeanne, Alloran, or me,” Tobias answered. “Cassie, you can be hidden with some minor cosmetic changes. The same thing with Rachel, since no one who sees her will think it’s her. Maybe if we cut her hair…”
I glared at him. He replied with a small grin. He knew I loved having my hair long. “Marco will be the biggest problem, since he’s by far the most visible. I’m thinking haircut, contacts, and maybe some minor surgery.”
Marco shook his head. “If I get plastic surgery, everyone in the world will know. I’m a celebrity, dude. The tabloids will have a field day. And do you really think any of this will stop Ax from recognizing us?”
“It isn’t Ax or Esplin I’m trying to fool. He’ll know it’s us; we’ll be in his face all the time. But he won’t do anything openly; that would make the war public and I’m sure the One gave him orders against that. Minor changes will probably be enough to fool everyone who doesn’t know us too well; no one’s walking around looking for Animorphs, after all.”
“He has a point,” Jeanne agreed.
Marco had something to add. “What happens when Cassie and I disappear off the face of the earth? And how does Rachel explain suddenly leaving to her mom and sisters? Or what about Jeanne; why would she live right after meeting her father? It’ll be suspicious if we all just disappear at the same time and reappear together. People will know.”
Tobias nodded. “Alloran and I have been working on that. As much as I hate the thought, we might have to use the Chee.”
I shuddered. “I don’t like the thought of a Chee living my life for me.”
“Neither do I,” Tobias agreed. “I figure that Marco and Cassie can probably move away without too much trouble. Cassie can disappear on some government nature thing. As long as she resurfaces every month or so, no one will be too suspicious.”
“Except Ronnie,” Cassie interrupted. “We always do these things together. Maybe we can tell him?”
“I don’t know,” Tobias answered. “I don’t know how many people we have to tell for The One to consider this thing public.”
“He already knows,” Cassie insisted. “When you first told me the Yeerks were back, he heard my half of the conversation. I know he figured it out. He hasn’t asked me about it at all, which is how I know he knows. He’s like that.”
“If he already knows…” I prompted Tobias.
“Then we don’t exactly have to tell him,” he finished. “Cassie, just tell him that you have to go, maybe allude to the first war. I’m sure he’ll get the message and know to keep quiet. As for you, Marco…”
“I can’t just disappear,” he said to Tobias. “Even if I leave town, people will expect to hear about me. I can’t just pop up every month or so like Cassie.”
“I know. Alloran and I figure that you can go on an extended vacation, maybe out in space somewhere. Alloran can fake the necessary documentation. We’ll register you with a private ship and staff. No one will come looking for you.”
“Alloran can fake all that?” Marco asked. “Wouldn’t he have to hack Tri-I’s database to do that? I’m pretty sure they keep track of those things and they have Andalite security over the important stuff.”
“He can do it,” Tobias promised. “He’s something of a prodigy. Tell them, Alloran.”
The young Andalite scuffed a hoof almost as though he was embarrassed. <I have had much experience with computers, especially with Andalite systems. Andalite security measures will not be able to stop me.>
“Alloran, like I told you all, is my half-brother. Our father didn’t want anyone to know he had sons; the Yeerks, especially Esplin, would use that as leverage. I was ‘safe’ here on Earth, but Alloran wasn’t.”
<My father had a special place constructed for me. My needs and education were seen to by automatons, since it was too dangerous for real Andalites to know where I was. Automatons could not be infested by Yeerks.
<Often, there was not much for me to do, so I began to disassemble and reprogram my caretakers. Once they had taught me everything they could, I changed them from educators to friends. I learned to overcome any computer system known to the Andalites. My automaton friends became just like real Andalites, each with its own personality.>
“Oh my god! He built Chee!” Marco gasped. I did too when I realized he was right. Jeanne and Cassie just stared at the Andalite.
Tobias nodded. “I know. That was why I decided to find him when Jake and I set out to replace Santorelli. Alloran might even be a match for Erek. He’s a miracle, really. Esplin now has access to Andalite technology, which would have stopped us cold in the first war. We actually found a way to one up him.”
“Okay, so I’m taken care of,” Marco said. “What about Jeanne and Rachel?”
We sat in silence for several minutes. We knew it would be suspicious if Jeanne and I just packed up and left so soon. Our family wasn’t full of idiots; they’d figure it out.
But we couldn’t figure anything out. We couldn’t accept having Chee live our lives for us, and we couldn’t think of any good reasons why we would suddenly leave. I didn’t want to be the one to say it because it might have sounded selfish, so I kept quiet about what I knew we had to do. Finally, it was Cassie who said it. “We’ll have to tell the truth.”
Tobias nodded. “I can’t think of any other way. We’ll have to tell them what’s really going on and convince them to keep quiet about it.” He looked at me. “And about you.”
He was right. Word couldn’t get out that I was alive again. It would raise far too many questions and I didn’t want to answer people. And it would warn the Yeerks and I wanted to see the look on Esplin’s stolen face when he found himself face to face with my grizzly bear.
Jeanne shook her head. “How can I just leave?”
Tobias fixed her with a hard stare. “Jeanne, I know what it’s like, believe me. But the time you lost with your father is time you’ll never get back, no matter how much time you spend with him now. Staying won’t fill the hole inside of you. Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s too late for Jacques to be your father; the most he can ever be is a friend.”
“So say you.”
“From experience,” he answered. “I always thought my mother, Loren, was dead. Then, just before everything hit the fan, we found out she was still alive. I tried to be with her but it was far too late for us. It’ll hurt to leave Jacques but not as much as it will hurt if you stay.”
“How will it hurt if I stay?”
“One day, you’ll wake up and realize that, though you admire and respect him, as much as you enjoy his company, you don’t love him. Not as your father, at least. Realizing that, on top of realizing that you quit the war for him, will hurt more than leaving him now ever could.”
“How can I tell him that?” she asked.
“I think he’ll understand. If he doesn’t, then he isn’t worth crying over. If he does, then you’ll have plenty of time when this is all over.”
We sat in awkward silence for a few moments. Tobias prodded us onto business. “Another thing we need to take care of. Jake.”
“His family must be worried sick,” Cassie said. “He’s been gone for a month…”
“And we know he isn’t coming back,” I finished. I winced at the look on Cassie’s face. I wish there had been a way around it, but someone had to say it. “What we need to decide is what to tell his family.”
Marco nodded. “We could have a Chee disguised as Jake go to his family—”
“I just can’t agree to that,” Cassie interrupted.
“I wasn’t finished,” Marco almost snapped. Of course, no one can snap at Cassie. “We have a Chee disguised as Jake go to his family and tell them that he’s going off with me. Then, no one has to worry about why they don’t see him anywhere and no fake Jake is living his life. It’s the best compromise I can come up with.”
“I don’t like lying about this,” Cassie insisted. “To make them think their son is alive for who knows how long…”
Tobias nodded. “Its despicable, no doubt about it. But I don’t think we have a choice. We already agreed that the world can’t know he’s dead any more than it can know Rachel’s alive.”
“Uh, general?” I said. Tobias looked at me and raised an eyebrow. “I think this is the time you call for a vote.”
He shrugged. “Alright then. Votes. Marco, I assume you’re voting yes to this plan.”
“I see no alternative. Yes.”
“I…I just have to say no. Sorry, but I still vote for telling the truth.”
<I will do as you command, my Prince.>
“Of course. So it’s four yes and one no. Sorry, Cassie, but we do this. I think that takes care of everyone.”
“What about Ax?” I asked. “That has to cause some complications, with Esplin walking around in his body. If he shows up in the same town over and over again where suspicious things keep happening, people will figure it out as easily as they will with us there.”
Tobias shook his head. “He won’t show his face. The Andalites have kept it quiet, but he’s a hunted man now. Menderash told them what happened, so the Andalites are looking for him. He’ll stay hidden.
“I think we have it all covered. I want to be ready to go as soon as possible, so I suggest you all get to your assignments as soon as you can. Marco, you have to take a Chee to Jake’s home and pull off your plan. Cassie, you have to tell Ronnie what’s going on. Rachel and Jeanne have to do the same thing. Alloran and I will work on phase two.”
“Phase two?” I asked.
“We have to find a place to live. We need new identities. We need a way to get to our destination; it’s far too far to fly as birds.”
“If you say it, I’ll believe it,” Marco muttered.
“Well, lets get to it, people. Let’s show the Yeerks that no one can keep us down for long.”
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