My name is Rachel. And I was back!!! After nine months of sitting on the sidelines, I was back. Gideon was at home with Kristina, so Tobias and I went out for a night on the town. That would be a night on the town Animorph style. So naturally, we took David, James, Al, and Ronnie out for a little raid on a factory we knew the Yeerks were using to produce parts for Bug fighters.
Getting in was simple enough. There were some crates outside, stacked up nice and high. David, James, and Tobias could climb up them in their morphs. Ronnie, Al, and I morphed when we got to the top of the stack - or demorphed in Al’s case. Tobias went first. He just climbed up, smashed in the window and got inside. David and James followed. Ronnie, Al, and I followed as reinforcements. Our goal was wonderfully simple: smash stuff.
Things were already in full swing when I got inside. The human guards had run off and were replaced by Hork-bajir and Kelbrid. Perfect. David and Al were fighting two Hork-bajir each. James was struggling with a Kelbrid. I could tell the difference between him and David just by how they fought. They might as well have been wearing name tags. Ronnie was smashing up a Hork-bajir and a Kelbrid. Tobias was dealing with a pair Kelbrid and one Hork-bajir. They would all be fine.
I focused on a new arrival. I had never actually seen one of these before, but the others had described them to me. Strong, powerful legs, and arms like thick whips. Suction-cup feet and clawed hands, with one hook-like, barbed finger. A neck as long as its body was tall, ending in an arrow-shaped head with two soulless, black eyes. Ssri’Kai. An Apostate.
I leaned my head back and roared. The Apostate looked up at me. He was on the ground floor. I was on a catwalk, ten or fifteen feet above him - it was hard to tell with the bear eyes. But I knew where he was, and I knew the fall wouldn’t hurt me. It wouldn’t even slow me down.
My entire weight landed on a Kelbrid. It popped open like a Taxxon. It’s acidic blood never reached my skin, though it did singe my fur in a few places. Nothing worth mentioning. The Apostate tried to attack me before I was ready, but he made a huge mistake. I had been ready for nine months.
The last time I was on the battlefield, I had to watch as Al went off to give himself up to the Yeerks in order to save Ax and to keep Tobias from doing the same thing. Al managed to come back to us okay, but that image of him standing there, alone…. Yeah, I had been ready for a fight ever since. Al was my baby brother now, and you do not mess with my family.
I hit the Apostate with a backhanded blow in the side of his face. He wasn’t ready for that. The side of his head cut my paw, but it wasn’t anything to get upset over. I barely noticed. I was much more focused on the Apostate, who had veered badly off course.
He turned to face me, but I was already in position. I was on my hind legs, upwards of seven feet tall. Even an Apostate has to be a little intimidated by that. <I’ve heard a lot about you,> I growled. <Let’s see how good you really are.>
The Apostate sank his hook into the back of my hind leg and pulled. He was trying to pull me onto the ground, but I was far too strong for that. Instead, he ended up pulling himself closer to me. I smashed my paw down on top of his head, and followed it up with a second blow to his neck. <Pathetic. You’re still just a slug after all.>
The Yeerk jumped back, sticking to the wall. It ran up a few feet and then leaped at me from above. Almost casually, I swung both paws into its chest and it slammed back against the wall. <Guraff should be ashamed of you.> I loomed over the Apostate. Tobias had warned me that they had this gel-type thing around them that protected their organs from damage. A stab or a cut would just push the organs aside. But there had to be a limit to how much they could stand.
I did something that probably no predator had ever done. I leaned all my weight forward and flopped down on the Ssri’Kai. I heard his bones shatter as my entire grizzly-bear weight flattened him. I heard organs pop and squish. That gel could only absorb so much, and there just isn’t really anything that can survive being smashed by the full force of a grizzly bear.
I got back up. The Ssri’Kai’s poisonous quills hurt - some of them. Most of them didn’t make it into my skin and I just brushed those off. The ones that did hurt just made the bear mad. It just made me want to kill more.
That was when I heard it, a voice that was both far too familiar and far too friendly. “Rachel. I am glad to see your skills have not decreased. Let me officially welcome you back to the battlefield.”
I turned to the source of the voice. On the catwalk stood more Kelbrid. And at their head was a Hork-bajir even taller than I was. <Hey, Guraff. I missed you.>
Guraff jumped down and landed in front of me. In one hand, he held the sword he made from a Kelbrid stinger. “I have wanted to test my skills against you for a long time, Rachel. I hope you will oblige me.”
I don’t know if grizzly bears can smile, but it sure felt like I did. Here was someone who understood what I was all about. A true warrior, to his very soul. Even among the Animorphs, there weren’t very many of those. Guraff loved this fight as much as I did - needed it in the same way I did. We weren‘t fighting for our own amusement; nothing like that. We were fighting for ideals, for our people and our families. We were fighting for things that were far greater than we were. And that was what gave us our joy.
I raised my claws. <I thought you’d never ask.>
<You sure you can handle it, Rachel?> James asked.
<Might be taking it a little fast,> David agreed.
<I believe that perhaps you are being a bit too hasty to engage in this battle,> Al nodded.
<Guraff’s mine anyway,> Ronnie chimed in.
I turned towards Tobias. The Kelbrid and Hork-bajir had stopped when Guraff arrived. They all wanted to see this. I knew that the Yeerks were afraid of me - terrified, even. I’ve killed far too many of them not to have at least a little bit of a reputation. The others thought I was jumping into this too quickly after so long out of the fight. They didn’t understand. I was ready for this; I was always ready.
Tobias nodded. Of course he did. He understood. <You two have fun. If you need help, just give a holler. While you keep our old friend busy, I think I’ll take Ronnie and Al off to smash some things. David and James will keep an eye on you here, just in case some Kelbrid loses control or a Hork-bajir gets a bright idea.>
I think I probably smiled again. Tobias, Al, and Ronnie took off deeper into the factory. Hork-bajir tried to get in their way, but the Kelbrid were fixated on Guraff and myself. They formed a ring around us, blocking any escape I might have had. That was fine by me. David and James made their way up the stairs and waited on the catwalk, ready to pounce on Guraff if I gave the signal. I knew I’d never give that order.
Guraff and I shared a look - that was all. No more words were necessary. He slashed his sword at my head - I parried it with one claw and struck back with the other. He strafed to the side and sliced at me with a knee blade. I twisted to avoid it and charged him with my shoulder. He leaped in the air, landing on the other side of me. That host of his sure can jump.
He whirled, lashing a kick out at me. It grazed my chest, shaving off a line of fur. I struck him a glancing blow across the chest with one frying-pan sized paw. He stumbled back and I charged. Guraff regained his balance and jumped again. This time, he held onto the catwalk and kicked at me with both feet. Not many things can stop a charging grizzly bear, but that double-footed kick from one of the strongest aliens I’ve ever met broke my momentum.
Guraff moved too, though. He had to let go of the catwalk and my own momentum knocked him over the Kelbrid ring. He climbed to his feet and smiled at me. <Round one goes to me,> I said.
“The next shall be mine.” He jumped back into the circle, slashing at me with a leg and his sword as he came in. I dodged the leg, got cut by the sword. Then it was a whirlwind of slashing blades, tearing claws, sharp swords, and ripping teeth. Every attack was met with two counterattacks. I was operating on instinct and experience now. My brain couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t keep track of what arm was moving where, or even whose it was. My eyes couldn’t follow it. And yet somehow, I knew where the attacks would come from, and which of my own to follow them with. It was…magical.
A low blow knocked his leg out from under him and I charged at him, meaning to flatten him with my bear bulk. He raised both legs and kicked them against my chest. He shoved with all of his might and I actually stumbled back, landing on a Kelbrid and rolling out of the circle. I got to my feet again, growling, panting, snarling. In my head, I was laughing. This was how things were meant to be!
“Round two to me,” Guraff said with a huge Hork-bajir grin. “Shall we make it best of three>“
<I’d prefer best of five,> I answered. <I’ve waited far too long for this.>
<Geez Rach…I’m starting to remember why you always scared me,> David muttered.
<You do know this is a battle, right?> James added. <You’re not supposed to be enjoying it.>
I ignored them. They didn’t matter. The weren’t in any danger and weren’t a danger to anyone. No, it was just me and Guraff. Tobias was handling the rest of the mission while Guarff was distracted. How long before Guraff realized that life was going on without him? That his soldiers had abandoned their posts to watch this? I didn’t know. But I did know that this battle wasn’t just for fun - it served a purpose.
The Kelbrid watched us, transfixed. I understood why. They were a race that demanded strength. Only the greatest of the greatest survived, and here they saw two of the greatest in battle together. They could appreciate everything that they saw here and their racial mentality would not allow them to look away. I didn’t even know if the Yeerks in their heads could compel them to do so. I think the Kelbrid need for bloodshed and violence is about as strong as the Taxxon need for food or the Yeerk need for control. They were enraptured.
And Guraff, I knew, was just as enthralled as they were - as I was. I was something of a legend amongst the Yeerks, especially after my death. And here I was, a living legend. But not just that. I was a person who he knew well. A friend. A wife. A mother. A soldier. A warrior. I was all these things and more.
I was Rachel.
Guraff and I engaged again. This time, though, we were moving slower. I realized, vaguely, that we were both wounded in several areas. Nothing fatal, nothing debilitating, but enough to keep us a little more cautious this time. We took less risks, fought less elaborately. We kept our distance more this round, striking quickly and then pulling back. Probing, testing, waiting.
A sudden explosion rocked the factory. Tobias and the others at work. Guraff turned towards the sound of the blast and the flash of fire. I could have clawed out his throat while he wasn’t looking. Maybe. Or maybe his reflexes would take over and he would have cut off my arm halfway there. Best not to risk that.
When he turned back to me, his eyes were a bit different. “You Animorphs never cease to amaze me. To think that the Devil Prince would use you to distract me while he continued his sabotage… Ordinarily, I would think that one who would endanger the mother of his child in such a way a terrible villain, but considering your skill, I cannot but marvel at it. You truly were destined for each other.”
It was an oddly sweet thing for a Yeerk to say. What he said next wasn’t so sweet. “So it is with great regret that we must end this game. I have been absent from the battle for far too long, Rachel, and there are other matters here to which I must attend. I hope the Kelbrid can capture you rather than kill you, though I know you would prefer death over infestation. Rest assured that I will allow only a Yeerk worthy of you infest you.”
<Oh good - so I don’t have to worry about infestation.>
“Death is the far more likely alternative. Goodbye, Rachel.”
Guraff turned to leave me to be mauled by the Kelbrid. I wasn’t going to let that happen. He jumped into the air. I grabbed his long, spiked Hork-bajir tail. Now, bear paws aren’t that great for gripping, but a spiked tail leaves a lot of room for error. Guraff fell back to the floor, gracefully landing on his feet.
He whirled to face me, slashing as he did so. I dodged his elbow blade, but the sword blade sliced across my chest, drawing more blood than I was comfortable with. It made the bear very, very angry. Guraff nodded silently at me, then gave his orders. “Kelbrid, subdue the Devil Prince and his cohorts. Leave this one to me.”
<Rachel…> James trailed off.
<Go help Tobias and the others,> I ordered them. <I’ll be fine.>
James took off towards the explosions and the fighting. David ran back out the window through which we entered. Normally, I would have thought he was a coward, running away. But by now, I knew David well enough to know that he had some kind of plan, even if he didn’t have the time to inform us.
I couldn’t think about it; Guraff wouldn’t let me. His attacks were fiercer now, faster and more powerful. We fought, and slowly I was pushed back. We were no longer limited by the ring of Kelbrid and Guraff made full use of his host’s superior mobility. He could move faster than the bear could easily follow, jumping up onto the catwalk, hopping down, moving across, confusing my senses, then striking hard and moving away again.
The sword cut through my side. A wrist blade sliced across my back. A knee punctured one of my kidneys. I clawed and scratched and battered and bit back at him, but it wasn’t doing enough. He was wounded, hurt. But not as badly as I was. Slowly, I realized something that created a whole lot of feelings for me.
Guraff was better than I was.
If we kept on like this, he would win and as much as he was a friend, he would kill me.
Like he killed Cassie.
That thought brought my rage up to a level that I don't think I've ever felt before. I redoubled my attack with more ferocity. Up until now, I had been keeping the bear in check, reigning its fury in. Not anymore. Now I let is loose. He killed Cassie. And I would make him pay.
Except that I couldn’t catch him. I couldn’t land a solid hit on him anymore. He was faster and just as strong, and with my eyes blinded by rage I couldn’t keep track of him. I was losing a lot of blood and slowing down even more. Not good. Not good at all.
In the old days, maybe I would have been willing to die right there, on the battlefield like a true warrior. Struck down by our most powerful adversary. It was a noble death, I guess. If any death is noble. But I really wasn’t in the mood to die again. And I had a son to come home to. So I did something I might not have done before. <Tobias….Help…> I called.
He was there almost in an instant. I think maybe he was waiting nearby for when I’d call him. I sank to all fours and tried to regain my composure. Yes, I had lost a lot of blood, but I could keep going, at least for a bit. At least long enough to help Tobias. Then I could demorph and be fine.
I heard Guraff’s sword meet Tobias’s claws. I heard thuds as they kicked and punched each other. I heard the sound of bones breaking and being healed again. Guraff was better than Tobias; considerably better, really. But his morph was so powerful it put them nearly on equal ground. There were other noises, too. Roars from animals, cries form Hork-bajir, snarls from Kelbrid. But what I could concentrate on most was Guraff’s laughter. “Come, Devil Prince. Come, Rachel. Let us three warriors fight as we were meant to.”
I surged to my feet, my head much clearer. Tobias was fighting Guraff only a few feet away. I lumbered forward and joined in. Tobias and I fought in perfect unison. One of us would feint and the other would strike. One would dodge to one side, the other would circle around behind Guraff for a damaging blow. We moved in perfect harmony, no need for communication or even thought. Guraff was right: it was meant to be this way.
Guraff is the greatest warrior I have ever seen. But not even he could stand up to both of us at once. He was losing a lot more blood now, and using his tail to help him balance a wounded leg. One eye was gouged out. We weren’t in much better shape, but we were still standing strong. He was slumped a bit, but still smiling.
<Finish him?> I asked Tobias.
<Finish him,> Tobias agreed, almost sadly. We struck. Our claws were inches from Guraff when we were both knocked off course by a charge of Kelbrid. Of course they wouldn’t let us kill their leader. Even if the Kelbrid would, the Yeerks would not. Guraff backed off, morphing to human to heal his wounds. The Kelbrid formed a line between us and Guraff.
Ronnie was missing an ear and an arm. He was standing on three legs, his eyes barely focusing. James looked like he had his mane shaved off and was missing most of his teeth. Acid burns from Kelbird blood were fresh on his face. Al’s tail blade was worn down to a sharp nub, and there were burns on his chest as well. David was just returning through the window, this time in owl morph.
In the distance, I could hear sirens. Police. Tobias glanced up at David, then turned back to Guraff. <While we were busy, David alerted the police about some disturbance here. You don’t want to be found here - neither do we. That means we can’t afford to keep fighting now. We’ll have to finish it next time.>
“I look forward to it, Devil Prince. Rachel. I think I shall have to give you a new name as well.” And with that, we all decided it was best to get out of there. But I would never forget that fight. Tobias and I had beat him. We beat the God General. It confirmed something that I had really always known: together, we were unstoppable.
We were feeling pretty good about ourselves when we got home. It isn't every day we win a victory so clearly. Still, it was a hard fight and we were all tired. I was glad to be home; glad to be back with our son. Kristina handed Gideon to me as soon as we walked in.
“Was he bad?” I asked. She was pretty quick to give him back.
“No more than other kids his age. He cried a bit a few hours ago but was fine when I gave him a bottle,” Kristina answered. “I think he knew you were almost home, though.”
I nodded. “Thanks, Kristina. I don't know what we'd do without you.”
“Pay a real baby sitter?” she suggested.
Everyone else was trickling back to their own rooms. Well, as close as that came. Kristina went back to what used to be James's room; we had nowhere else to put her for the moment and she needed her privacy. James was stuck sleeping on the couch, and Ronnie was over against the wall in a cot we bought at an army surplus store.
We didn't trust Ronnie alone just yet. I knew he tended to drink when there was nothing else to do, and the last thing we needed was a loose cannon with a drinking problem. So we were keeping an eye on him for a little bit. Once we were sure he could handle himself, we'd let him do what he wanted to do.
Al slept in the living room as well. He made himself a nice little spot between the couch and the wall. And of course, David slept there, too. He wasn't allowed in Kristina's room alone – after all, he was a teenage boy and there are limits to what's allowable – and we didn't want him sneaking into our room, either.
Tobias and I, naturally, shared our room with Gideon. Tobias was already in there, but he wasn't asleep. He had a small, burnt-orange cube in one hand and a communicator in the other. The heads of several Andalites hovered in the air over it. At least, I assume it was several. They all looked alike to me. The cube was projecting some sort of star chart – I never learned how to read those things. I guess it was a battle map of some kind. Tobias was talking.
“-Taxxon world used to be important as an industrial center, but with the Yeerks' new, heavier reliance on the Pythagi, it isn't critical anymore.”
<Even if it is not needed as a manufacturing center, it is still a source of countless hosts,> one of the Andalites responded. I had no idea which.
“Taxxon hosts,” I snorted. The heads turned to glare at me. Maybe for interrupting them, I didn't care. We always spoke our minds when we were making plans. Even playing by their rules, I had every right to speak. I was a Prince now, officially. And Tobias was, technically, my commander. As long as he didn't silence me, I was free to speak. And of course, he wouldn't try something stupid like that. I continued. “Just give one a scratch and the fifty around him will eat him up in a matter of seconds. Not a danger. Especially when the Yeerks seem to have access to limitless Kelbrid anyway.”
Tobias nodded. “Those hosts are virtually useless now. If they want Taxxons, let them have them. Much better to have those soldiers reinforcing important locations than guarding things we don't need. What's the situation on Hork-bajir?”
One of the Andalites shook his head. I believe his name was Glorfindel, Tobias's old commander, at least in name. <A stalemate, for the moment. My forces and the Kelbrid still fight over the surface, and the Hork-bajir hosts fight with the free ones in the trees. No side has any advantage. If we had some reinforcements...>
<We have none to spare,> another Andalite answered. I recognized that one easily. Alloran, newly promoted to the head of the Andalite War Council. I think that made him the overall commander of this war. <You will have to break the stalemate on your own, War-Prince Glorfindel.>
“My intelligence indicates that the new Yeerk Emperor is leery of using Kelbrid more than is necessary,” Tobias told Alloran. That intelligence came from observations Jeanne and Melissa made when they encountered the Yeerk Emperor on a recent mission. The charming twin brother of our own Visser. I was sure there was some way to use that to our advantage, but political stuff isn't really my thing. “If we force him to withdraw troops from Hork-bajir, he'll take the Hork-bajir Controllers. That will give the natives uncontested control over the trees. I'd suggest entrenching your soldiers in the canyon, in the old Arn city. Control the sky and the deeps and hit the Kelbrid from both sides. Even Kelbrid will break under that.”
Glordinfel's image shuddered. <I hate the deeps. That's no place for an Andalite.>
“Neither's a Kelbrid stomach,” I answered. They wanted reinforcements? There was one source these idiots seemed to forget about. I looked at Alloran's hologram. “How's the female recruitment program coming?”
Alloran was silent for a few moments. Then, he sighed, almost disappointed. <Better than expected, especially among the younger females. The projections say that by the end of the year, we will have increased the size of the fleet by one fourth. It will possibly be doubled by next year.>
Tobias and I nodded. These idiots seemed to forget that their women could fight just as well as the men. Especially with the morphing technology, long-range weapons, and all the other fun sciency stuff. The size of your tailblade really didn't mean anything anymore. I think we were slowly succeeding in drilling that through Alloran's head. The others were considerably more resistant, but Alloran had learned a thing or two in his time, and Caysath, the newly-elected leader of the Andalites and a friend of ours, was very open to new things. I liked that about him.
A new face appeared among the currently present ones. This one was recognizable by the fact that he was missing a stalk-eye. Asculan-Semitur-Langor, a well-respected Captain-Prince, member of the War Council, and Alloran's son. Pound for pound, probably the guy with the biggest stick to swing here. <My apologies for the lateness of my arrival,> he answered. <The Anati troops we were supposed to meet with sent warning that they had been ambushed by enemy forces and were breaking off their attack on the Mekrao colony. My forces, it seems, are currently available to be sent elsewhere.>
We passed the next couple of hours in council with the Andalites, helping them plan where to attack, when, and who should go. It was a big change from the old days when it was just us against the world. Caysath and Alloran respected what we could do and they were forcing the other Andalite military leaders to respect it, too. They were warming up to us, slowly. We were, after all, very good at what we did.
There was a secret Tobias and I were keeping, though; something we weren't planning on sharing with anyone, even the other Animorphs. There was a reason why Tobias was so good at planning large-scale campaigns like this. Once, when he nearly died in a Yeerk torture chamber, he somehow gained some of his father's memories. War-Prince Elfangor had been very good at what he did as well, and that experience helped Tobias a great deal. There was a second reason, one considerably darker.
Tobias had a Howler morph he used frequently. And Howlers have a collective memory. Stored inside their DNA are the memories of every battle they ever fought and won. Hundreds of campaigns of slaughter against all parts of the galaxy, against all kinds of opponents. From primitive societies to highly-advanced military powers, the Howlers remembered it all. And so did Tobias, when he chose to dip into that pool of experience. Lately, he had been doing that far more often than I was comfortable with. If it was up to him, he'd be morphed right now. I wanted him to stop, but he felt like it was something he had to do. He can be stubborn, sometimes. That'll have to stop before something bad happens, but for now, there isn't much I can do...
Eventually, I got frustrated with their stupidity, called Asculan some things I'd regret if I didn't mean them, tucked Gideon into his crib, and went to sleep. I only had to shush the bunch of them twice before they finally quieted down and let me sleep.
I don't know what time it was when James knocked on our door. It must have been very late because Tobias had finally hung up and gone to sleep. He didn't wake up when James knocked. He was actually a light sleeper, but lately he was exhausted.
“What is it?” I growled. If this wasn't important, I was going to strangle him.
“There's someone at the door...um...we should wake Tobias.”
“Who's there, James?” I demanded. “Unless it's Guraff himself, I'm going back to sleep.”
“Close,” he answered. “It's one of the Apostates.”
I didn’t open the door. That would have been stupid. I might be reckless sometimes, but I’m not an idiot. I walked over to where Al was sleeping and nudged him with my foot. “Wake everyone,” I whispered. “There’s a Yeerk at the door.” I handed Gideon to him and started to morph. I had already handled one Apostate tonight. I could handle a second. And something else I didn’t mention: this Apostate was in human morph. I recognized him, though - this particular human morph had helped us ‘rescue’ Kristina’s father from Tri-I not too long ago. Eleven was his name. I wasn’t there at the time, but Cassie had taken a picture with her cell phone so we could recognize him later.
Tobias, James, Ronnie, and David entered the room a few moments later. Tobias was halfway to Howler morph. James and David were going lion and Ronnie was quickly becoming a polar bear. Al passed Gideon to Kristina and was getting a Shredder from under the couch. Kristina went back into our room for safety. I don’t know how the Yeerks found us, but they were going to wish they hadn’t. Not that they’d be around to do the actual wishing.
Tobias put his eye to the peep hole. <It’s Eleven. He’s in human morph. What’s he up to?>
<No good,> David supplied. <Ready when you are, bossman.> Ronnie and I flanked Tobias. James, David, and Al took up positions behind him. We were ready for anything this Apostate could throw at us. When we were all in position, Tobias unlocked the door.
<Enter slowly, with your hands where we can see them,> Tobias ordered, opening the door a crack. Eleven came inside with his hands raised above his head.
“I mean you no harm,” he began. She, technically speaking. All of the Ssri'Kai we've seen are female. But that was a little hard to remember, since Eleven's human morph was male.
<If you believe that, raise your hand,> James muttered. <And note that none of us have hands.>
If it had been Marco or maybe David, I would have interrupted to remind him that Al and Tobias did. But since this was just James, I figured we could wait until later to bust him down.
“You must understand. I am not what you think I am.”
<Is he implying what I think he is?> David asked.
<If she is, that’s got to be a lie,> James answered.
<What do you think she’s implying?> Ronnie demanded. <I say we just rip her open and go back to bed. Maybe hanging her head on the door will get Guraff to come out and play. This time, Rachel, he’s mine.>
<From his tone of voice, I believe David suspects that she is implying that she is not an Apostate,> Al explained. Tobias and I remained silent. At least, as far as the others knew we did. But we were carrying on a private conversation.
<Do you think it’s possible?> I asked him. <A free Ssri’Kai in our sector of the galaxy? A free Apostate?>
<Jara and Ket,> Tobias responded simply. <If it happened before…>
<But the Apostates aren’t normal Yeerks,> I argued. <Jara and Ket were two random Hork-bajir.>
<Not so random. Remember who Jara’s ancestors were. Remember who their daughter became,> Tobias replied.
<Still, the Ssri’Kai hosts must be under better guard than the normal hosts. They can’t just wander off.>
<Yeah…but let’s see where this goes,> Tobias agreed. Out loud, he said, <If you aren’t what we think you are, what are you?>
“I am Ssri’Kai. A free Ssri’Kai. The Yeerk who controlled me is no longer in my head.”
<How is that possible?> Al asked.
“It was…unusual. Eleven was feeding in the Apostates’ private pool. Suddenly, I noticed that my cell was unlocked, and the force field was not active. None of the guards seemed to notice. I ran for the exit, and no one seemed to see me..”
Ronnie actually laughed. <You think we’re going to buy that, Yeerk? I figured you could do better than that. I get to gut this one, everyone agreed?>
David turned towards Tobias and me. <You two have been pretty quiet. Thoughts?>
<It’s possible,> Tobias said slowly. <Back during the First War, the Ellimist helped Jara Hamee and Ket Halpak escape from the Yeerks. Someone may have helped this Ssri’Kai.>
<Who could do that?> James asked. <The Ellimist can’t get involved here, and Azmaveth wouldn’t do it. And Crayak couldn’t. Not within the rules they fight by. Right?>
<AH!> Al yelped. <I think I understand. I….I would rather not explain to everyone…>
<Here’s what we’re going to do,> Tobias began. <The only way to know for sure whether or not this Ssri’Kai is a Controller is to hold her for three days. That means we’re going to need to make sure she’s got lots of guns pointed at her for seventy-two hours. So I want James to run down to Sergio’s warehouse and tell him that I need some party favors for a little get-together. Tell him I’ll pay him in cash tomorrow morning. Once you get back, no one gets in or out for three days.>
“You do not need to hold me for three days,” the Apostate argued. “There is a better day to detect a Controller. It will only take a matter of hours, not days.”