This is probably the worst bit of fanfiction I ever wrote. I post this here mainly because I think that my fans will find it interesting. Do not read this expecting it to be up to my usual standard. There's a reason I scrapped this. I post this purely as an academic curiosity piece.
This was the first full-length fanfiction book I ever wrote. I did all of it in one sitting after 14 consecutive hours of writing. This is a re-write of book 54. Basically, this is how it could have ended with one minor change. I won't give my usual admonition to enjoy it or go to hell, as I myself am not a great fan of it. Anyhow, those of you who are a fan of my series might find this interesting. And later, we can all celebrate that I'm just a slightly better writer now.
My name is Rachel.
Rachel Berenson. I’m sixteen now and to be honest, I didn’t think I’d live this long. I started fighting in this war when I was thirteen and it’s a miracle I’m still alive. I live in a town near Santa Barbara; it isn’t a place you’d have heard of.
It was our final battle. We had infiltrated the Yeerk Pool ship and taken it over. But someone needed to take out the Blade ship or we could still end up dead. That someone was me, of course.
I heard Jake give the order. <Rachel…Go.>
Visser One looked on into the holographic viewer, gazing with all four eyes upon Tom and his selected group of loyalists. They were engaged in the banter of betrayer versus betrayed.
Jake, too watched the screen. He expected to see me grow from the floor, morph into a bear and…do what had to be done to Tom.
Behind Jake stood an Andalite, Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill. Ax began to shrink. Soon, Jake stood before not an Andalite but a human girl. Me.
<Rachel? What’s going on? Where’s Ax?>
I looked to the screen, where the Andalite had just grown from a flea.
Ax leapt forward, past startled Yeerks. They gaped at him for a moment. By that time, he had scythed his tailblade down and taken out the Blade ship’s weapons’ controls. Now they couldn’t fire on us. Of course, thanks to Erek, we couldn’t fire on them, either.
The flat of the Andalite’s tail hit Tom in the side of the head. Jake’s brother fell to the ground. Ax stepped away from him, toward a rapidly morphing Yeerk. He took out something that could have been half-cheetah. He also killed a half-morphed wolf.
By that time, though, he was faced with a polar bear, two lionesses, and a buffalo. Ax knew better than most the power of these animals. But he took his stance, raised his tail above his head, and met them without fear.
The polar bear came first. It lunged forward and raised a huge arm. Only to see the arm severed at the shoulder. Its wounded bulk came on, but Ax sidestepped it in time to avoid being crushed. A quick backwards dart of his tail stabbed the bear in the spine, probably paralyzing it.
The bear fell to the floor and began to shrink. I didn’t need to tell Ax that, of course. He saw it happening but he had bigger problems on his hands at the moment.
The two lionesses lunged at him. Ax dodged the first one and took the other with a snap of his tailblade. The wounded animal gave a cry like…well, like a wounded animal. Then, the buffalo charged.
Ax was fast, but not fast enough. The buffalo clipped his leg and sent him to the ground, spinning. His tail was pinned under him. The lionesses closed in around him along with the buffalo, and the other Controller was rapidly morphing back into a polar bear.
Ax could have tried to morph to something else, but he would have been killed before he was done. He wanted to die on his own body. And that is what he did. I watched as the buffalo plowed into him, bashing him up against the wall, breaking all of his ribs and probably puncturing a heart.
The lionesses closed in next. One stood on his tail so that Ax couldn’t raise it in his own defense. The other lioness tore at his slender chest with sharp claws. I don’t know when Ax died except that it was some time during that attack.
I turned away from the hologram then. There was nothing more to watch, nothing more for me to do. I was helpless as the Blade Ship turned and flew away into space with us unable to give chase.
Visser One turned to me with all four eyes. <I suppose it is done now,> he sighed. <Congratulations, Animorphs. It seems that you have done what three generations of Andalite warriors could not: you stooped the Yeerks.>
“Shut up,” Jake, now human, snapped. “Get out of Alloran’s head right now or I’ll blow you out. Got it?” Realizing that Jake meant it and that he would carry out on his threat without any hesitation, Visser One shut up and complied real fast. Soon, our greatest foe was only a slug in a suitcase. Alloran was just an unconscious Andalite on the floor.
Jake turned to me. “What happened, Rachel? Why did you run from your duty like that?
I could feel the tears in my eyes. “I didn’t run, Jake. I didn’t have a choice. After you told me what I had to do, I went to Ax. There were some things I needed to tell Tobias, but if I told him, he’d know that I wouldn’t be coming back and he’d have stopped me. So I told Ax instead because I figured that if anyone could tell Tobias what I wanted him to hear, it was Ax.”
I looked at Tobias. He had morphed to his human form. He was crying silently. Understandable. Ax was his best friend, his brother. I held on to Tobias, as much for his sake as my own.
“I didn’t tell Ax what I had to do. He realized that, whatever it was, I probably wouldn’t be coming back. He said he couldn’t let me do it. He threatened to knock me unconscious and leave me in the woods so I’d miss the mission. He wouldn’t let me go.”
“Why?” Tobias asked. It surprised me that he was speaking. “To do something like that… It’s severely damaging to his honor. It’s hard to believe…”
“He did it for you,” I almost shouted at him. “He said he didn’t care about his honor. He’d rather die than be dishonored, and he’d rather be dishonored than see you hurt.”
Jake spoke. “But I need him to make sure the Andalites don’t fry Earth. He knew that. Why—”
“I asked him that, too. His words were, ‘I would rather destroy both our worlds than my shorm.’” I turned to Tobias. “He knew what my death would do to you. He couldn’t go through with it. He sacrificed himself for us.”
Tobias nodded. “Why the deception, though?”
I shook my head. “My idea. I didn’t know what you all would do if you knew. We didn’t want to risk the mission.”
“The two of you might have damned all of Earth,” Jake said. He shook his head. “I can’t be angry you’re alive, Rachel, but this…why didn’t you just tell me?”
“I didn’t know what you’d do,” I answered. “I thought you might try to stop us. You’ve been cold with this last strike. I understand that and respect it. You did what you had to do to save the world. So did I.”
“This is all very touching,” Marco said, “But we’ve got a problem, here. The Andalites will fry us.”
Tobias shook his head. “No. I’m an Andalite.” We all just looked at him. He shrugged. “I mean, I acquired Ax. I can pass for him. At least long enough to get the Andalites on the ship. When they get here, the jig’ll be up.”
Jake nodded. I could see the plan forming in his eyes. “Okay. Yeah, morph Ax. There’s still a way out of this. It’ll all be over soon, guys. Just one last thing to do.”
<This is Captain-Prince Asculan-Semitur-Langor, of the Dome Ship Elfangor,> came a sudden thought-speak voice. It was a broadcast from the Andalite fleet. We could see them in the viewscreens; we hadn’t been looking very hard, though. <Surrender now.>
I wanted to ask “Or what?” but didn’t. They thought we were the Yeerks, of course. Tobias disengaged form me and morphed. A time ago, he had acquired Ax.
Tobias stepped before the viewscreen. <This is Tobias-Sirinial-Fangor, son of Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul. I am very pleased you have come, Captain-Prince, though I wish you had been here several minutes earlier. You would have been able to watch the end of the Yeerk threat to the planet Earth.>
<What are you talking about? Do you think us foolish enough to fall for this trick? You are obviously Yeerks. Elfangor had no son.>
<You are wrong there, Captain-Prince.>
<This is a Yeerk trick. You are a Controller.>
<There are no longer any Andalite Controllers in the galaxy,> Tobias answered. <But this is more of a discussion we should have in person. Would you like to come aboard or would you rather we come to you?>
<What is this? Do you think me a fool?>
<Not at the moment, but I soon will if you don’t decide. We are not Yeerks, Captain. The Yeerks have been defeated. We have captured their pool ship and destroyed their only ground-based Yeerk Pool. All the Yeerks will be dead within three days. If you would only come here, we would be more than happy to turn this ship over to you.>
We could see the captain weakening. Tobias added, <When you come near, all the Bug Fighters will self destruct. We have no power to our shields, weapons, or engines. We will be totally helpless. Even if this was a trap, we could never defeat the Andalites.>
That did it. Not only did it make sense, it played to their sense of arrogance. We had them. Jake turned to Tobias. “Tobias, I’ll need you to pretend to be the leader. They’ll never agree to commands from a human. They just might listen to an Andalite. Erek?”
The Chee appeared. “More blackmail, Jake?”
“No. I just want you to open a channel to whatever passes on the Andalite world for T.V. I want the civilians to see this. Then disappear. I don’t think we’ll be needing you again.”
Erek turned to go. Jake spoke again. “Erek? I’m sorry about what I had to do.”
“I hope so,” Erek answered as he left.
The Andalites arrived shortly after that. They were surprised that the free Hork-Bajir led them to us. They were shocked to find four humans with Tobias. They were appalled to find my hand in his.
<What is the meaning of this!?> Asculan demanded.
Tobias shrugged. Not an Andalite gesture. <What it looks like. We are not Yeerks, Captain-Prince Asculan. You know that Yeerks do not have hearts. You have no doubt received information about the situation on Earth. You know about the humans who have fought with us against the invaders.>
<I have. I was also told there was only one Andalite on Earth. An Andalite by the name of Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill.>
Tobias nodded. <He was among us. He…> his stalk eye drooped. I wondered just how much of his reactions were subconscious. <He has passed on.>
<And yet here is another Andalite. A suspicious occurrence.>
<Allow me to explain,> Tobias began. None of us had a lie ready. I hoped it would be a good one. <We feared that our communication would be monitored by the Yeerks. Aximili feared to tell them that I was on this planet. All know of the great hatred between my father and the Abomination. If the Abomination knew I lived, he would stop at nothing to kill me. So we lied.>
Asculan bobbed his tailblade. I think it was an Andalite nod. The lie made sense. I noticed that Asculan’s only stalk eye kept glancing at our hands. <I see you have become quite attached to these humans. I understand that the holding of hands is a sign of affection amongst humans.>
Tobias lifted our entwined hands. <This is hardly a military concern, Captain-Prince.>
Asculan sighed. <No, I suppose not. Why do you speak, Tobias? I was told the leader of your band was a human named Jake.>
Tobias nodded. <That is what we said. Again, we feared the Yeerks would overhear our communication, so we lied once more,> he answered, lying once more. Things were going well.
<I imagine there is much we need to discuss,> Asculan said. It was the perfect cue.
Tobias nodded once again. <Several things. Firstly, I will need access to the morphing technology.>
<For what purpose?> Asculan demanded. <You know the law of Seerow’s Kindness.>
<Things end at the beginning, Captain-Prince. Seerow’s Kindness began this war and it is only his kindness that can end it. We promised to make the morphing technology available to the Yeerks and Taxxons.>
<YOU WHAT!?> Asculan roared. His tailblade quivered.
<It is the only way to peace, Captain-Prince. The Yeerks we have imprisoned have agreed to become nothlits in their natural forms. They will be Yeerks no longer. The Taxxons, as well, wish to be free of themselves.>
<Out of the question.>
<You would throw away peace?> Tobias asked. His tone was coy. Sly. He was baiting the captain.
<Peace? If we give them the morphing power, what then, aristh? What happens next?>
<They cease to be Yeerks. The Taxxons cease to be Taxxons. Our enemies cease to be themselves.>
<Mark my words, Tobias. The Yeerks will change from slavers to conquerors.>
<Some would try, true. But many want peace as much as we do. Those in this ship, at least.>
<How can you be so sure?>
<Because those who did not were in the Blade Ship. These Yeerks surrendered, trusting to the honor of the Andalite people. Would you throw away the honor of the entire race?>
<The Andalite people will not know what you have promised, aristh. These Yeerks will be killed. And we shall never speak of this again. Is that clear?>
<All too clear, Captain-Prince Asculan-Semitur-Langor, of the Dome Ship Elfangor. You have made your feelings clear to the Andalite people, too.>
<What are you babbling about?>
<Did I forget to tell you? All Andalites on the homeworld are watching our meeting right now. Watching you throw away the honor of their race. Perhaps you would wish to reconsider your answer?>
Asculan looked around, afraid. <I will convene in my Dome Ship. You will be given your answer soon.>
The answer was that we would be given a morphing cube to use as we willed. It would cost us the ship, which we had already agreed to give them. Sooner or later, we’d tell the Andalites they’d been duped. Tobias was no Andalite and wasn’t our leader. We’d tell them soon. Right after we got the cube.
Once we go the cube, we called the President and told him that the war was over. We called the governor and told her the same thing. Since our homes had been destroyed by the Yeerks, she offered us the use of her mansion. She’s a cool lady, the governor.
We landed outside of the governor’s mansion. The Andalites would take the ship. Our families met us there. We positioned ourselves carefully when we went to leave the ship. Marco pointed out that there would be a lot of pictures, and one of us would probably be the symbol of the end of the war.
Jake stood a little in front of us. Tobias and I stood behind him. Next to Tobias was Marco. Cassie was next to me. The five Animorphs, the ones who had walked through the construction site that night. I couldn’t believe we were all together at the end, just like we were at the beginning.
I still held Tobias’s hand. After what had happened, I was almost afraid that he’d disappear if I let go of him. Cameras flashed as we walked down the ramp. It felt like slow motion. Finally, the war was over.
But what was I going to do now?
I didn’t care at the moment. I saw our families there. Jake broke rank and ran into his parents’ arms. They were despondent that Tom was gone, but overjoyed that Jake was safe. Jake felt the same way. Taking their cue form Jake, Marco and Cassie ran to their parents.
I scanned the crowd. My mother and sisters were in the front. And with them was my father. I couldn’t help myself. I threw myself into his arms and hugged him close. I had assumed he was dead. We hadn’t been able to save him when we went into hiding.
I lost myself for a moment in the happiness. I turned and looked for Tobias. I saw his back, walking away form us. Walking alone. I turned to my mother. “Where’s Loren?” I asked her. Loren was Tobias’ mother.
“Loren…she said you needed a diversion. The Yeerks wouldn’t buy the attack unless they saw some things. Like a red tailed hawk in the sky.”
“What are you saying, mom?” I demanded. I new what she was saying. I didn’t want to believe it.
“She morphed Tobias and kept air cover. The ship saw her. They thought she was her son. They….”
No. I couldn’t believe it. Loren was dead. Ax was dead. They were all the family Tobias had. Both taken away from him by the Yeerks in less than an hour.
I looked around frantically. I couldn’t see him anywhere. I was torn. Should I go and look for him or stay with my family? Both needed me.
I saw Tobias come down the ramp with the Hork-Bajir. They carried several of their dead. One I recognized. Jara Hamee, the first free Hork-Bajir. Tobias’ friend. Another person close to him who was now dead at Yeerk hands.
The Hork-Bajir formed a circle around their dead. Tobias and Toby were reciting something. I couldn’t hear the words but I guessed it was some sort of funeral rite.
Once the rite was done, he turned towards the mansion. I his hand was a briefcase. The briefcase we had put Visser One in. I didn’t know what he’d do with the visser. None of us did. I’m pretty sure we all hoped two things. First, that he wouldn’t kill the Yeerk. It would be murder, a revenge killing. Our second hope was that he would do it. I know that even Cassie wished that, even if it was just a whisper in her heart.
I couldn’t stop looking at Tobias as the Hork-Bajir left to go to their valley and bury their dead. He stood there, alone against a night-black alien ship. I realized then that, in some ways, he was no different form the kid he was when this all started.
He was still lost, alone, looking for a place to belong. I wanted to run to him. I was going to. But he turned and walked for the governor’s mansion. Maybe he just needed to be alone. He was used to it; needed it, sometimes.
I turned back to my family. My dad had a weird smile on his face. “What?” I asked him.
“What’s his name?” he answered, looking at Tobias.
“Now Dan, it’s nothing like that,” my mom said. “He’s a red tailed hawk. She’s got more sense than that.”
My mom was overestimating my lack of sense. Again. It was almost like the war never happened.
I was alone in my room of the governor’s mansion. No, not completely. At my feet was the case with Visser One. Should I do it? I wondered. No, probably not. It was a terrible idea. But it was something I had to do.
I unlatched the case. I picked the Yeerk up in my hands. Such a small thing to have caused so much death. It would be so easy to end his life here. I could just twist my hands and break him in two.
Instead, I raised the Yeerk to my ear. I don’t know what was going through his mind as he felt my ear, but I knew he wouldn’t let the opportunity pass. Within moments, Visser One was inside of me. I had enslaved myself to the monster who had killed my family.
He was silent in my head for a long time. No doubt he was shocked at what I had done. He was already reading the reasons behind it in my memory.
<I want you to understand,> I said to him. I knew he knew that. Just like he knew it wouldn’t stop me from telling him with my own words.
<I want you to understand me. I am the end result of your destruction, Yeerk. I am where all the fear and pain and death have led you. I am your creation. But I want to understand you, too.>
<Tobias…what are you? I…I cannot access your memories. Something is blocking me.>
<Elfangor,> I answered. <Utzum.>
<Ah. That might have something to do with it. Alloran often spoke of such things.>
<Interesting, that you cannot access my memories,> I said to him. So I showed him my life, from my earliest memories. I don’t know how long it took. I didn’t try to move; neither did he. We sat on the edge of the bed until he knew my whole life.
He was speechless. <You have led a very hard life, son of Elfangor,> he finally answered me. <But why show me such things? Do you expect my sympathy?>
<In a way, yes. I was reading your mind, too, Esplin. I know all about you, now. I understand. You and I were so much alike, before this all began.>
<Once, yes, that was true. And now, we are more alike than you would care to admit.>
<We are predators, you and I. And I was the superior.>
<Why do you show me these things, hawk?>
He had learned enough not to call me human. <Because the burden falls to me. By Andalite honor, I must avenge my father. You will die in my head, Yeerk. But I need to know once and for all whether I am like you or not.>
<And do you know?>
I nodded. Of my own free will. So he wasn’t controlling my body. He wasn’t even trying. He had learned better. <Yes, I know.>
<And are you?>
< In many ways, yes. But in other ways, I am different.>
<In what ways, Tobias?>
I began to morph to human. I had demorphed while I showed Esplin my memories so as not to be stuck in morph. “In the ways that count.”
<Will you let me die?> he asked. <If you asked it, you could get a Kandrona for me. I could survive. You could have mercy. I have seen how much you value mercy. It is a human concept and you hold on to those whenever you can. What would Elfangor do?>
I laughed. “I have no idea, Esplin. You knew him better than I. And I knew you better than I know him. When did you last feed, Esplin?”
<Shortly before the Pool Ship took off. I have a little over two days to live.>
I nodded. “Then I have two days to decide.”
I walked out into the hallway. On my way out, I almost ran straight into some guy. He looked vaguely familiar. Blonde hair, tall, athletic build…Rachel’s father, I realized.
<Ah, Rachel. You care deeply for her, I sense,> Esplin said. <Which one was she?>
<The grizzly,> I answered.
He was floored. <A female? But she was so fierce!>
<Hell hath no fury…> I began. I stopped because Dan was speaking to me.
“Tobias, right?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yeah. You’re Rachel’s father?”
It was his turn to nod. “Hey,” he said, “could you do me a small favor?”
“You know my daughter Sara? Could you tell her a bedtime story for me?”
“Why me?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I just want to see how you handle children.”
Okay, that’s odd, I thought.
Esplin laughed in my head. <Don’t you see it? He knows how you feel for his daughter and wishes to see if you could raise your own young. Tell this story well and you’ll certainly have his aid in any future plans.>
Love advice from a Yeerk? I’d have to be crazy to take it. <You’re crazy by putting me in your head, son of Elfangor. But I don’t think of this as love. It is a struggle, a battle. And I want to help you win.>
“Sure, I’ll do it,” I said to Dan. I must have been nuts. He pointed to Sara’s room. I opened the door to find Sara, Jordan, and Rachel all sitting there together.
Rachel raised an eyebrow. “Came to hear a bedtime story?” she asked.
I shook my head. “Came to tell one. Your father had something to do, I guess.”
Rachel snuggled herself beneath the covers. “Go on, then.”
For a moment, I just starred at them. I didn’t know any bedtime stories. No one had ever told me any.
<There was once a young prince,> Esplin began in my head.
If he wasn’t inside of me, I would have given him the strangest look he ever got. <Yeerks have bedtime stories?>
<Just this one. I have changed the ending; you will understand why when you get to it.>
I sighed in my head and said what Esplin told me to say. Of course, I adapted it for humans. “There was once a young prince. His kingdom was large and rich. He had everything he could ever want. More, even. He never ran out of food or friendship. His people were healthy and strong.
“The prince and his people traveled across great distances and visited many lands. They met many different people in distant villages. One day, the prince came across a group of villagers.
“They lived in mud huts. They had no books, no music, no art. They were all sickly. Very few could walk or speak or even see. They had very little food, so even those who could leave the village couldn’t get far. They would starve and die very quickly.
“The prince’s people passed this village by. They ignored the villagers because the villagers were different form themselves. They thought they were better than the villagers because they were healthy and strong.
“The prince knew better. He saw that the villagers were intelligent. They were eager to learn. They wanted to travel the world and see the distant lands. They wanted to have food. Above all, they wanted to be able to see and walk and play.
“The prince helped the villagers, even though his people raged against him for doing it. The prince was a kind hearted man. He helped to raise them out of their mud huts. He made them strong and proud.
“The villagers soon spread to other villages. They captured the peoples of these lands and forced them to work for the villagers or they would be killed.
“The prince’s people were greatly angered at the villagers. They began a great and terrible war that spread all across the land. The villagers and the prince’s people fought one another and many innocent people died.
“The villagers hated the prince’s people for wanting them to be crippled, starving, and ignorant forever. The prince’s people hated the villagers for using their gifts to enslave others.
“In the end, their war reached a small, unimportant land of primitive people almost as ignorant as the villagers had been when they began their war.
“For a long time, the villagers fought these primitives. In the end, the primitives triumphed over the villagers. The villagers were forced back into their mud huts and left to starve if they ever left. Their slaves were freed and sent home. By the end, both sides had forgotten the generosity that had caused this to begin in the first place. They had forgotten that they were once friends.”
I was silent. Sara looked like she was almost asleep. Still, she asked, “What happened to the prince?”
I gave Esplin’s answer. “He was killed by the villagers. They did not realize it was him when they killed him or they would never have done it. They considered him a friend; the only good man in his whole kingdom.”
“What was the prince’s name?” she asked.
I didn’t need Esplin to tell me the answer. “Seerow.”
Rachel slid out of bed and followed me into the hall. “Was that the story of the Yeerk war?” she asked quietly.
“Do you know another Prince Seerow?” I answered.
She shook her head. “It almost sounded like you felt sorry for the Yeerks.”
“In a way, I do. I feel sorry for everyone. Long ago, all the Yeerks wanted, some of them at least, was to be just like everyone else. They wanted to walk, to see, to be whole. All the Andalites wanted was a friend. I guess I can sympathize with both sides.”
She nodded. “Are you going to be okay?” she asked quietly. “With Loren and Ax and all, I mean.” An odd change of topic.
I shook my head. “Are any of us going to be okay? Maybe Marco. He got his family back. And maybe Cassie, since she didn’t do too much. But you, Jake, and me? I doubt we’ll ever be fixed.”
She was quiet for a few moments. Then, “Tobias, do you want me to stay with you tonight?”
I raised an eyebrow. “I’m still a hawk, Rachel. Unless you intend to sleep on a perch, it won’t work that well.”
“Why be a hawk?” she answered. “The war’s over, Tobias. You don’t have to fight anymore. You can be human and we can be…”
I nodded. “Soon,” I promised.
She seemed suddenly angry. “Don’t tell me soon, Tobias. Tell me a day. I’ve put up with the excuses because of the war, but there’s no excuse now. You’re either hawk or human. Either you’re with me or you’re alone. I can’t keep living like this. Not any more. Not now that we don’t have to. You’re a hawk or a human, and I can’t have a life with a hawk.”
She turned to go. “Tomorrow,” I promised. “You’re right. You deserve a human. I’ll take my final flight tomorrow and then I’ll be human forever.”
She smiled at me. “I knew that would get you.” Then she was off to bed. It was hard for me not to follow her.
Esplin sighed in my head. <Ah… I remember when I fell in love.>
<With the Andalite race, of course,> he added. I calmed down a bit. That made a lot more sense. <They were so strong, so powerful, so healthy. I swore that one day, they would be mine. I got what I loved, Tobias. I hope you do the same.>
It was weird to go to sleep with Esplin in my head. I sank my talons into the wood at the foot of the bed. It was old, soft, and good for my talons. The last bed I’d have as a bird. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
I was dreaming. I could feel the night air on my face. It was like I stood in space. There were sounds…car horns. What? I opened my eyes.
I was standing on the roof of the governor’s mansion. I was about forty feet up. In my human form. My arms were spread wide, my feet halfway over the edge. I almost sleepwalked right off the building! I could have been killed.
I stepped back. I tried to. My body didn’t obey me. What? It couldn’t be, could it?
Esplin laughed in my head. <So easy. So very, very easy. You are your father’s son, Tobias, the son of all Andalites. You wanted a friend, someone who understood you. Your family is dead and you had no one. You thought I could be that person, at least for a day or two. Fool!
<You truly believed that your father’s memories shielded your own. You thought I could not control you. In your idiocy, you believed I was your friend.>
<What are you doing, Esplin?> I demanded.
<My name is Visser One. I lied about when I last fed, Tobias. It was two days ago. I will die very soon, of Kandrona starvation. We both know the Andalites would never give you a Kandrona; they’d probably kill you just for asking.>
<But why are we up here?>
<Because I have unfinished business. I killed Elfangor. I killed his wife and brother. And now I’ll kill his son. I will die but not without the blood of Elfangor on my tailblade.>
<You’re making a mistake, Esplin.> A lame thing to say. He knew I had nothing planned. How could I have been so stupid!?
<Because in the end, Tobias, you are nothing more than a lost, stupid, scared child. I know that because this is the end, and it is such because you are a lost, stupid child. But you are your father’s son. You won’t break your promise. Time for your final flight, Tobias.>
He stepped out into the air.
Jake pulled me out of bed. I glanced at the clock. 3:28 a.m. What was going on? “What?” I demanded. I get grumpy when my jerk cousin drags me out of bed in the middle of the night.
And I do mean drag. He pulled me out by my arms and started pulling me down the hall. “What?” I demanded again.
“It’s Tobias.” That woke me up.
We raced down the stairs. Out into the front lawn. Then, “Oh God! NO!” Tobias lay in the grass, blood everywhere, his face to the sky.
I held his head in my arms. He was still breathing, still alive. “Morph,” I pleaded. “Please, morph out. You’ll be okay if you morph. Please morph. Please…” I babbled.
I was dimly aware of the others. Jake saying, “It almost looks like he jumped.”
Marco saying, “I found the case. No Visser One. Do you think he’s in Tobias?”
“Maybe. But how?”
Cassie’s voice. “I called an ambulance. They’re coming, but the Andalites want to help if they can. They don’t know much about human physiology.”
All the while, I held him and pleaded. I prayed to anyone who would listen. Ellimist, Crayak, God, Satan, Buddha, Allah, Sheba, Jesus, Vishnu, Yoda, Gandalf…anyone who I thought might listen. Anyone who I thought might save him.
Eventually, the paramedics came. They loaded him into the back of an ambulance. It took Marco in gorilla morph to pry me away.
I morphed to eagle and followed the ambulance. I flapped and flapped and flapped. That wasn’t how I was supposed to fly, it was the slower, stupid way. I didn’t care. Anything to make me not think that Tobias might… I couldn’t even think about it.
I landed on the steps and ran inside, demorphing as I went. Most people screamed and got out of the way. I didn’t care. I had to find him. There! I saw the doctors wheeling him down a hallway on a stretcher.
They shoved him into the emergency room. I followed. A guy got in my way. “I’m sorry man, but you can’t to in there.”
“You can’t stop me,” I growled, already half grizzly bear.
“It isn’t safe for him,” the guy said again. He was standing his ground. “Miss, I don’t know who we have in that room except that he’s an Animorph. He was one of the ones who saved Earth. I would rather you kill me here than risk his life.”
I had to give the guy some credit. I backed down. “I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just…”
He nodded. “You’ve been through a lot together. It isn’t right that one of you should die after it’s all over. We’ll do all we can. I swear it.”
I sat against the wall outside of the operating room for what felt like days. Years. It was probably only a few hours. The others were in the waiting room, I knew.
The door opened. I leapt to my feet. The doctor handed me a glass jar with a Yeerk in it. “This came out of his head,” he explained. “I…it’s out of my league.”
I knew. I KNEW which Yeerk this was. I rushed out into the waiting room. I saw a nurse lighting a scented candle with a lighter. I took the lighter and walked into the parking lot. The others followed.
My hand turned into a grizzly bear paw. I slashed at the gas tank of a car. Gasoline started spilling out of it. I broke open the jar and threw Visser One into the gas. He started twitching. “Does it burn, Yeerk?” I hissed. “Consider it a preview for what you’ll get in hell.” I put the flame to the puddle of gas.
We stood there and watched as Visser One burned to death. I was shaking. From rage, from fear, from exhaustion. I think I passed out, because the next thing I remember, I was sitting next to Tobias.
He was in a hospital bed in a room on the ground floor. My dad was standing next to me. “The doctors say he’ll live,” he said to me when I snapped out of my funk.
I nodded. “Good.” There was something he wasn’t telling me. “What is it?”
“He’s…he’s paralyzed, Rachel. His spine’s broken. He’ll probably never walk again. Of course, he could just demorph when he regains consciousness.”
I shook my head. It had to have been more than two hours by now. He was human forever. That was what I had wanted, but not like this. “Can’t anyone do something? The Andalites?”
He shook his head slowly. “They gave up medicine once they started spreading the morphing technology. They only work to cure genetic diseases now. Anyone else just morphs out of their injuries.”
I closed my eyes. Paralyzed. I didn’t care, but I knew he would. For him to lose his wings and his legs…
“Rachel?” a voice said from behind me. I turned. Erek.
“What is it?” I asked.
“We might be able to help.”
I looked at my dad. “Could you give us a minute?” He nodded and left. “How can you help, Erek?”
“We could replace his spine with one of our own design. We’d have to build in some systems, of course, to make sure he never hurt anyone. We couldn’t give him back his mobility if he used it to harm others. He wouldn’t be able to do much more than walk or run.”
“He’d be like the Chee.”
“And would these programs force him to do things like we blackmailed you?”
“Yes. They would have to.”
“Are you sure about this Rachel?”
I nodded. “I’m sure.”
“I’m sorry, but only family members may—” The doctor’s voice cut out. I turned to see what was happening. A Hork-Bajir was holding him by the throat, holding him at eye level.
“He is family,” Toby hissed, dropping the doctor. She stood next to me. “I am told he will not be able to walk.”
I nodded. “No one can do anything about it,” I said to her.
Toby glanced at the X-rays on the wall. “It does not look so different from a gralfarch.”
Toby explained. “It is our word for when a tree breaks. It takes a very long time to grow a new tree, so we usually just salvage the old one. If done right, the part of the tree that broke will grow back together with what was broken. Perhaps…perhaps the same would work here.”
I didn’t dare to believe it. “Toby, are you sure?”
She shrugged. An oddly human gesture. “It has always worked with the trees.”
I nodded. It was worth a shot. “I’ll tell the doctors.”
“They will insist on approval from a family member,” Toby warned me.
“He doesn’t have any. They’ll listen to me.”
Turns out, I underestimated the stupidity of the human race. I went to see the head doctor, who refused to even listen to me. “You aren’t his family,” he had the nerve to tell me.
“I’m all the family he has.”
“There are his grandparents.”
That stopped me. “What?”
“The Andalites told me his grandparents were alive. He also has a human uncle and aunt. Now, I am willing to make some allowances for his special case, but I can’t even listen to suggestions from a non relative.”
“His ant and uncle don’t give a damn what happens to him!” I exploded. Shaggy grizzly bear fur was starting to sprout form my head.
“Then perhaps you should try his grandparents.” He pushed a communicator across the table at me.
I demorphed and took the communicator. And realized I had no idea how to work it. Neither did the doctor. I had to fight down the urge to ask Ax, since he was dead. I’d have to go to the other Andalites.
It took more than an hour for me to get onto the Dome Ship. Most of the Andalites were less than wiling to help me or Tobias. They were still angry that we had tricked them. Still, there were some who would forgive Elfangor’s son. Finally, I got through to the captain.
Asculan wasn’t happy with us either, but he was one of those who would help Elfangor’s son. He put me through to the Andalite homeworld.
“This is Noorlin-Sirinial-Cooraf. You…you are a human.”
I nodded. I could see a hologram of Noorlin. Most Andalites looked alike to me, but I guess that is what Ax would have looked like if he had survived. The same with Elfangor.
“My name is Rachel. I’m one of the humans who fought the Yeerks.”
He bobbed his tail. “I have been told. What is this about?”
He was silent for a moment. “Go on.”
“Something happened; we’re not sure what. He’s been badly injured. Paralyzed, actually.”
“There is nothing I can do.”
“There is, actually. The Hork-Bajir think they can save him, but the doctors won’t even listen to me. They need to be told by a relative.”
“Do you know how we Andalites treat the crippled?” he asked me.
I nodded. “Ax made it pretty clear. Aximili, I mean.”
Noorlin was quiet. “Elfangor is dead. Aximili is dead. This human, Tobias, is all we have left. Do what must be done.”
“I was going to. But you need to tell the doctors that.”
“I will do that. I wish you luck, but I find it hard to believe that the Hork-Bajir would succeed where we Andalites failed.”
I bit back my remark about the frequent failures of Andalites and instead said, “Thank you.”
I woke up in the hospital. This was the third time. The first, they told me I might die. The second, they said I was paralyzed. This third…
“The operation was a success,” the doctor announced. “I for one am astounded. I used to be a Controller, and we thought he Hork-Bajir were fools.”
“I will choose not to be offended,” Toby answered him.
They were all there. Rachel, Toby, Jake, Marco, Cassie, their families, some Andalites, and Erek.
“Esplin?” I asked.
“Dead,” Rachel told me. “I burnt him alive. Tobias, how did he get in your head?”
I sighed. It hurt to do that. “I put him there.”
There was a stunned silence. Until Marco burst out, “Are you INSANE!?”
“Apparently. I wanted to know him before he died. We’ve known him as evil incarnate for so long. I wanted to know if there was any good in him at all.”
“Was there?” Cassie, of course. No one else would even bother to ask.
“Once, yes,” I answered. “But not any more. I offered him friendship. He answered by throwing me off the roof. He meant to kill us both. He’s…a bit vindictive.”
I realized then that I couldn’t feel my legs. “Hey, I still can’t feel my lower half.”
Toby sighed. “It takes time to grow a tree, Tobias.”
I nodded. I could still do that, at least. “I know, I know. Still, I’d like to have my legs back soon. How much time, do you think?”
She shrugged. “It takes many years to repair a tree. For a human spine…I cannot say. Less than a year, I am sure, unless you damage it.”
“I don’t plan to.”
“You didn’t plan to break it in the first place,” she pointed out. It was good to have her here. As weird as it seemed, Toby was like family to me, almost like a younger sister. I had watched her grow up. It had been fast, since Hork-Bajir had short lives.
“I’m sorry about your father,” I blurted.
She nodded. “I know you are. He…he would have wanted to die like that, fighting for freedom, for the Hork-Bajir, for you. He’d do it again if he could. We all would. Nothing we do can ever repay you for what you’ve given us.”
I glanced around. “Because of the Hork-Bajir, I’ll be able to walk out of here. That’s gift enough.”
Marco butted in. “Maybe for him, but the rest of us helped. Got anything for me, Toby?”
She turned to him. “What do you want, a kiss?” We just starred at them.
Marco faked a smile. “You wouldn’t be that nice, now would you?”
“I can be very nice.” Her face neared his. We all watched, too horrified to look away. Neither of them wanted this. We watched to see who would back off first.
Marco turned his head away at the last second. “I’ll settle for a thank you,” he said while we laughed. And yet, there was something about Toby’s face when Marco turned away…impossible, wasn’t it? She was a Hork-Bajir and he was a human.
And my father was an Andalite, I reminded myself. I also took a moment to remind myself about Aldrea and Dak Hamee. I reminded myself that just yesterday, I was a hawk dating a human.
Marco’s parents worked very closely with the Hork-Bajir. Marco had lived with them longer than we had. Maybe something was going on there. Maybe I’d ask Toby later. And maybe it was none of my business.
A smirk on Cassie’s face caught my eye. She was amused by the two of them. That confirmed it. As if on cue, she said, “You know, Toby, Marco was pointing out some trees outside that he said looked pretty tasty. Maybe he could show you.”
“Uh…yeah, they looked real tasty,” Marco sputtered. “I’ll show you.” The two of them left.
The parents left shortly after that. Jake and Cassie disappeared quickly, too. They wanted to be sure I was alive, but they had their own lives to attend to.
Soon, it was just me, Rachel, and Rachel’s dad. Dan, if I recalled his name. I could tell he wanted to talk to me about something. “Rachel, could you give me a minute with your father? It looks like he’s got something on his mind.”
Rachel left. It was just Dan and I. “Go on,” I said.
“My daughter nearly died because of you.” That was an odd opening. “I’m not talking about the war. I’m talking about the last week. She hasn’t eaten anything that wasn’t force-fed to her. She hasn’t slept at all, only passed out beside you. She’s barely alive right now.”
“I’m sorry,” I apologized.
“Don’t be. I wasn’t blaming you. It’s a compliment, actually,” he smiled. “Naomi said there was nothing going on between the two of you, but not even she can ignore what she’s seen this past week. If you’re someone Rach cares about, then I’m betting you’re someone I’d like, so I want you to know that if you need anything, you can always come to me.”
No one had said that to me before. “Thanks.”
I could walk out of the hospital about a week later. I still didn’t have a full range of movement, of course. Just enough to get me out of the hospital. That was enough for me.
Help from all over the world had arrived to rebuild our home. It had been destroyed by the Yeerks after we had destroyed their Yeerk Pool. Now, in only a few weeks, it had been completely rebuilt.
I wasn’t sure where I was going to go. I was used to living in a tree in a meadow; I couldn’t really go and live there anymore. And I refused to go back to live with my uncle. Maybe I could go live where my mother used to. Rachel took the decision away form me.
“You’re staying with us,” she insisted as she led me out of the hospital. “I won’t take no for an answer.”
“Your mother isn’t exactly my biggest fan,” I reminded her. It took a bit of effort to walk and talk at the same time. I felt like Ax in human morph.
“She’ll get over it,” Rachel insisted. “You have to go somewhere, Tobias. What choice do you have?”
“Well, there’s always Jake and Marco,” I pointed out. “And the Hork-Bajir. The Andalites, too, for that matter. And I’m willing to bet there are a lot of people willing to let me crash on their couch. We did save the world, after all.”
She knew I was joking. Still, she punched me in the arm. I almost fell over. Her dad caught me. “Go easy on him, Rach,” he said. He turned to me. “You’ll really want to take her up, though. Otherwise, you’ll end up back in that hospital by the end of the day.”
I smiled. But inside, I was suspicious. Dan was too nice to me. I didn’t know what was going on, but I didn’t trust it. Maybe that was just the way I was. Trust hadn’t worked out well for me.
We got into a minivan. It was weird for me because a minivan was a family car and I never had much of a family. Dan drove; Naomi was in the front seat. Jordan and Sara sat in the middle, with Rachel and me in the back. I felt as out of place as a Hork-Bajir in a bookstore.
We drove back to her house and she helped me walk in through the front door. Weird; I had never used the door before. I was much more accustomed to her bedroom window. That wasn’t something I thought I should say to her parents or sisters. Still, form the look Rachel gave me, she was thinking the same thing.
I was told to make myself at home. For the first day, I just lay there on the couch. It was kind of hard for me to walk, though I was getting stronger. Dan and Rachel did a good job of keeping her mother and sisters away from me. Rachel knew how I felt about people, and I guess Dan figured it out.
It was odd for me, living with Rachel’s family. Seeing a normally family functioning made me uncomfortable. I felt so out of place and awkward.
After a typical family dinner, perhaps the most uncomfortable experience of my life, Rachel took me aside. “Tobias, we need to talk about what we’re going to do now that the war’s over.”
“By we, you mean…?”
“You and me.”
“Ah, that we.”
“Yeah, them. Remember those two?”
“Well,” I began, “I’m one of the most famous men in the galaxy. I could have any woman I wanted. But there is only one I want. And only one who can handle me.”
“I’ll kill her,” Rachel vowed with a laugh. Then, she hugged me close. “And there’s only one guy for me.”
“It’s Marco, isn’t it?” I joked.
“Yeah. You know how much I love annoying, whimpy shrimps.”
“So what do we do now?”
“That was sort of my question.”
“Well, we could…”
I had been about to suggest marriage, but that might have sounded like a proposal and, as much as I loved Rachel, I didn’t feel like that was the best idea right now.
I guess she read my mind, though, including the reasons for my not saying the word. “We should wait before taking that step.”
I smiled and agreed wholeheartedly.
Then, she made another suggestion. “You could move in with me. For more than just until you find your own place, I mean. You could stay here.”
That took me a little by surprise, but not too much. I had suspected that was her intent. “Sure, why not? I don’t have anywhere else to go. And I’m not sure where I’d rather be.”
Later, at about ten o’clock, since we had had a very tiring past three years, we went to bed. It was so weird. Rachel led me up the stairs to the room that we now shared. That made Naomi’s face go white. She was about to protest it, but Dan stopped her.
“Do you really think,” he told her, “that there is anything you can say or do to stop them? Besides, they’re older than we are.” I finally decided that I liked that guy.
We crawled into our bed. That feels so strange to write. I lay there with her next to me, each of us trying to find a comfortable position. It was a really strange for me. I was used to being a hawk and before that, I had always been alone.
For the first time in my life, I fell asleep with another human being and didn’t fear whether or not I would wake up the next morning. For the first time ever, I was finally being a human.