Animorphs 1 : The Invasion

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astrael
Civilian
Posts: 33
Joined: Tue Apr 30, 2013 12:08 am
Gender: [Female][/Female]
Favourite Animorph: Jake

Re: Animorphs 1 : The Invasion

Post by astrael » Tue Mar 04, 2014 11:00 pm

Author's note: I think I'll regret this post but I'm sick of hanging onto this and
getting nowhere... so here goes nothing.
CHAPTER 16
I did it Monday morning in my locker at school. I turned into a lizard.
A green anole, to be exact. It's a member of the iguana family. Like you care.
I waited till the bell rang for first period, which was English class. When everyone else was
out of the hallway, I just climbed into my locker. I tried to act cool about it, just in case
anyone was watching.
The locker was only about half an inch taller than me, and it was so tight I couldn't move.
The only light was from the small ventilation hole. I could hear my heart
pounding in the cramped, dark space. I was afraid.
It was one thing to turn into a dog. I mean, it's weird, it's strange, but it's also kind of cool.
Dogs are cool animals. But lizards?
"I should have practiced," I muttered under my breath. "I really should have practiced like Ida said."
I started to focus for the morphing. I remembered the way we had caught the lizard the night
before last. We'd spotted it with a flashlight, and Ida had put a bucket over it so it couldn't get away.
It had been fairly creepy, just touching it to acquire its DNA pattern. Now I was going to become it.
The first thing I noticed was that I suddenly had more room inside the locker. I didn't have to
crouch down. And my shoulders weren't scrunched up anymore.
I touched my face with one hand. My skin was looser than it should have been. And pebbly
to the touch.
I ran my hand over my head. My hair was almost all gone.
Things began to happen very fast. The locker grew and grew around me. It was big as a barn.
Big as a stadium!
It was like falling. Like falling off a skyscraper and taking forever to hit the ground.
Gigantic drapes as big as the sails of a ship were falling all around me. They were my
clothes. In the dim light I could see two monstrous, misshapen things on either side of me. I
could just make out the Nike swoosh, and realized they were my shoes. They were the size of houses.
And then the lizard brain kicked in.
Fear! Trapped! Run! Run! Rruunrunrun!
I shot left. A wall! I scampered up, feeling my feet stick to it. Trapped! I jumped back.
Another hard surface. Trapped! Runrunrunrun!
I fought to get control, but the lizard brain was panicked. It didn't know where it was. It
wanted out. OUT!
Go toward the light! I ordered my new body. The ventilation slits. That was the way out.
But the body was afraid of the light. It was terrified.
I was still bouncing off the walls. I could not overcome the panic instincts of the lizard body.
Go to the light! I screamed inside my head. And suddenly I was there. I poked my head out,
and my body slithered after me. My tongue flicked out and I got a weird kind of input from it.
Like smell, only not quite. It kept flicking. I could see it shoot out of my mouth and lick the air.
In the bright light I realized how bad the lizard eyes were. I couldn't make sense of what I
was seeing. Everything was shattered and twisted around. Down was up and up was down.
Colors weren't even close to right.
I tried to think. Come on, Edin. You have eyes on the side of your head now. They don't
focus together. They see different things. Deal with it.
I tried to make sense of the pictures, using this knowledge, but they were still a mess. It
seemed to take me forever to figure it out. One eye was looking down the hall to the left. The
other was looking down the halt to the right. I was upside down, gripping the side of the
locker, which was like a long, gray field that wouldn't end.
And all the time the green anole brain was fighting me. Now that it was out of the dark
locker, it desperately wanted to go back in.
Chapman's office, I reminded myself. But where was it?
Left. That way.
Suddenly I was off and running. Straight down the wall. Zoom! Then on level floor. Zoom!
Around a scrap of paper twice as big as I was. The ground flew past. It was like being
strapped onto a crazy, out-of-control missile.
Then my lizard brain sensed the spider. It was a strange thing, like I wasn't sure if I saw the
spider, or heard it, or smelled it, or tasted it on my flicking lizard tongue, or just suddenly
knew it was there.
I took off after it, racing at a million miles an hour before I could even think about stopping.
My legs were a blur, they moved so fast.
It probably wasn't a huge spider. Not if you were a great big human being. But to my lizard
eyes it looked as big as a small child. It was huge. I could see the compound eyes. I could see
the individual joints in its eight legs. I could see the clicking, awful mandibles.
The spider ran. I ran after it. I was faster.
Noooooooooooo! I screamed inside my head. But too late. My head jerked forward, fast as a
striking snake. My jaws snapped. And suddenly the spider was in my mouth.
I could feel it fighting. I could feel the spider's legs squirming and fighting to get out of my mouth.
I tried to spit it out, but I couldn't. The lizard's hunger for that spider was too great.
I swallowed the spider. It was like swallowing a whole canned ham. A canned ham that was
fighting all the way down.
No, no, no! my brain cried in horror and disgust. But at the same time, the lizard brain was
pleased. I could feel it become slightly calmer.
That does it! I told myself. I am out of this morph!
I wanted out of that horrible little body. I didn't care who saw me, I was going to morph back
to human shape. Troy was right. It was insane to get involved in this. Insane!
I heard the ground shake. It was a noise like a giant stomping across the land.
It was a giant.
There was a huge shadow in the sky. It was like someone was trying to crush me by dropping
an entire building on my head.
The shoe came down!
I scampered left.
Another shoe.
My tail! The shoe was on my tail! I was trapped!

CHAPTER 17
In panic, I tried to run. But my tail was caught.
Suddenly I was free! How had that . . .
I realized what had happened. My tail had snapped off. Looking back, I saw it, still trapped
by the giant shoe. It squirmed as if it were still alive. It wiggled like a worm on a hook.
The shoe lifted and flew through the air again.
I shot up the side of the wall and froze in place.
The giant had not seen me. It had not tried to stomp me. It had been an accident. And now my
tail . . . no, the lizard's tail . . .
The giant walked on, shaking the ground as it went.
I focused one lizard eye on the figure. It was like trying to make sense out of one of those
carnival fun mirrors. But even so, I was pretty sure it was Chapman.
I watched him head down the hall. And with all my power, I ordered my lizard body to
follow him.
I tried not to think about the spider in my stomach, or the fact that it was still not completely
dead. I tried not to think about the fact that part of my body was back on the floor, jerking
like it was still alive. I just raced along after Chapman.
Because Chapman might reveal something that would help Rick.
I planned to follow Chapman to his office. I'd hide under his desk and listen to him make
phone calls. I figured sooner or later he might let something slip about the location of the
Kirin pool.
Ida and I had talked about it. She'd said it could take days of hiding in Chapman's office
before we learned anything. Besides, we could only stay in a morph for two hours. And
meanwhile, I would be skipping class. Sooner or later, I'd get in trouble over that.
And the really funny thing is, when they catch you skipping class, you get sent to the
assistant principal.
Mr. Chapman.
I could just imagine that scene. . . . Sorry I skipped class, Mr. Chapman, but I've been in this
lizard body, watching you because I know you're a Controller and part of a giant alien
conspiracy to take over the earth.
I would have laughed, only lizards can't laugh. So I just followed Chapman as he marched down the hall.
Suddenly he stopped. Were we at his office?
I looked around as well as I could, ft didn't look like the office. The spider gave a kick in my stomach.
He opened a door. It swung right over me with a big rush of air. It went just above my head
as I hugged the floor.
I concentrated on making sense of the sights. Wait a minute! This was the janitor's closet, a
mess of mops and buckets and cleaning solutions. What was Chapman doing . . . ?
He went inside. I followed, careful to stay away from the high leather walls that were his
shoes.
I heard a loud click. He had locked the door behind him.
It was a long way up from the floor, but I could more or less see him doing things to the sink
faucet. I thought he grabbed one of the hooks they used to hang up the dirty mop heads. I was
pretty sure he twisted it because I could hear a squeaking sound.
And to my total and complete amazement, the wall opened.
There was a doorway where the wall had been. Strange smells and stranger sounds wafted up
from inside the doorway.
Chapman stepped through. There were stairs just inside, heading down into a purple-lit pit.
From far away, as if it came from a hundred miles down, I heard a faint sound.
It was a scream. A scream of fear and despair. A human voice, crying out in the darkness of
that horrible place.
"Noooo!" the voice moaned. "Noooo!"
I knew what the scream meant. I knew what was happening. Somewhere down there, a
human being was feeling the Kirin slug slither inside its brain. Somewhere down there, a
human being was being turned into a mindless slave of the Kirins.
Chapman headed down the stairs.
The door closed behind him.
I had found the Kirin pool.
It was right under my school.

CHAPTER 18
"Screams," I said. "Human screams. They sounded far off, but that's what they were."
My friends looked at me. All but Troy, who looked away.
We were in the cafteria. Troy had balked at the idea of discussing Kirins during lunch,
but no one else had wanted to wait until after school.
"You were a lizard at the time," Troy pointed out. "Who knows what you heard?"
"I know," I said.
"I can't stand the thought of what's happening to people down there," Ida said. She shuddered. "It's sickening."
"We have to do something," Rachel said.
"Yeah, let's rush right down there," Troy said. "Then it can be us screaming."
I realized I had lost my appetite.
"Troy, you can't just ignore what's going on," Rachel said.
"Sure I can," he said. "All I have to do is remind myself that hey, guess what? I don't want to die."
"That's it, then?" Rachel demanded, outraged. "Just whatever is best for Troy?"
"I don't think Troy is being selfish," Ida said. "Just the opposite. He's thinking about his
father. About what would happen to his dad if Troy . . . "
"He's not the only one who's got people to worry about," Rachel said. "I have a family. We all do."
"Not me," Andrew said softly. He smiled his sad, crooked smile. "It's true. No one gives a rat's rear about me."
"I do," Rachel said.
I was surprised to hear her say that. Rachel isn't exactly sentimental.
"Look," I said. "I'm not asking anyone else to go with me. But I don't have a choice. I heard
that scream today. And I know Rick is going down there tonight. He's my brother. I have to
try and save him." I held out my hands, helpless. "I have to do it. For Rick."
"Seren is so going to be touched by that," Troy said.
I looked straight back at him. "Yeah," I said. "She will be." She was like that. I knew she'd do the same thing, and more.
"I'll go with you," Andrew said, "For the Andalite."
"There's no one else who can do anything to stop the Yeerks," Rachel said. "I'm scared to
death, just thinking about it. But I'm there."
Ida was looking dreamily off over the heads of the lunch crowd.
"You know, back in the old days — I mean, the real, real old days — the Africans, the
early Europeans, the Native Americans . . . they all believed animals had spirits. And they
would call on those spirits to protect them from evil. They would ask the spirit of the fox for
his cunning. They'd ask the spirit of the eagle for his sight. They would ask the lion for his strength."
"I guess what we're doing is sort of basic. Even though it was Andalite technology that made
it possible. We're still just scared little humans, trying to borrow the mind-of the fox, and the
eyes of the eagle . . . or the hawk," she added, smiling at Andrew. "And the strength of the
lion. Just like thousands of years ago, we're calling on the animals to help protect us from evil."
"Will their strength be enough?" I wondered.
"I don't know," Ida admitted solemnly. "It's like all the basic forces of planet Earth are
being brought into the battle."
Troy rolled his eyes. "Nice story, Ida. But we're five normal kids. Up against the Kirins.
If it was a football game, who would you bet on? We're toast."
"Don't be so sure," Ida said. "We're fighting for Mother Earth. She has some tricks up her
sleeves."
"Good grief," Troy said. "Let's all buy Birkenstocks and go hug some trees,"
We all laughed, including Ida. At least Troy wasn't opposing outright.
"Ida is right about one thing," Rachel said seriously. "The only thing we have going for us
is this animal morphing thing. And so far the only morphs we've acquired are a cat, a bird, a
dog, a horse, and a lizard. I think we need a little more firepower. We should head for The
Gardens. We need to acquire more DNA — from some animals that are not going to be easy
to acquire."
I nodded. "Yeah. I don't think the hawk, horse, and lizard team is going to impress the
Kirins. Rachel's right. I think we have to head to The Gardens. We need to get some help
from Mother Earth's toughest children." I looked to Ida. "Can you get us in?"
"I can get in free," she said. "You guys will have to pay, but I can use my mom's employee
discount, so it'll be cheaper."
"Oh, I'm sure we could talk them into letting us in for nothing," Troy said. "Just tell them
we're Animorphs."
"Tell them we're what?" Rachel asked.
"Idiot teenagers with a death wish," Troy said.
"Animorphs." I tried the word out. It sounded okay.

CHAPTER 19
We left for the Gardens pretty soon after that. School had ended early, due to some
teachers' meeting. Troy suggested that they were all controllers and were meeting
on Kirin business. Nobody else thought he was being funny.
On the bus, I tried to catch up on my notes. I had missed a lot of classes that day,
so I borrowed class notes from my friends. Rachel kept perfect notes. Andrew had terrible
notes with all kinds of little drawings in the margins. It took a while before I could figure out
what they were. They were buildings and people and cars, the way they looked from high up
in the sky.
"I don't really need to go in," Andrew said "I'm happy with just my hawk morph.
I don't want to be anything else."
"I think that's a mistake," Rachel said. "Our one real weapon is the power to morph. We
should acquire as many useful morphs as we can."
"What kind of animal morphs are going to be able to deal with Visser Three when he turns
into that big monster that ate the Andalite?" I asked. There was nothing in this zoo or any
other that was going to kick that big monster's butt.
Troy winked. "Fleas? No one can kill fleas. We'll itch him to death."
I had to smile. "So now you're suddenly Mr. Hopeful?"
"No, I'm just so scared I'm getting weird," he said. "I haven't done this morphing stuff. You
guys all have. I'm not even a full-fledged Animorph yet I'm still normal."
"I still feel normal," Ida said. She looked troubled.
"Ida, you can turn into a horse," Troy said. "Very few normal kids can do that. It's
different for Edin, turning into a lizard. He's always been a reptile."
I let it pass. It was cool having Troy with us —even if he was giddy.
It took about a half an hour to reach the main gate of The Gardens. I climbed down off the
bus feeling nervous — not at all like I usually felt going there. I mean, The Gardens is just
about my favorite place to go, normally. But normally I'm not going there to get personal
with dangerous animals.
The main part of The Gardens is rides. They have all the usual stuff, like roller coasters,
Ferris wheels and water slides. But they also have an animal part, which is like a zoo, only cooler. They do dolphin shows, and there's this whole section where you can get close to some of the safer animals. And this monkey habitat they have is like a whole monkey city, practically. Anyway, if I were an animal, and I had to be in a zoo, I'd want to be there.
Ida led us to the main building, which holds all kinds of exhibits. It has everything but the
really big animals that need lots of space. Those animals are farther out, mostly, in big grassy
habitats that look like parks. Parks with walls and moats and fences around them.
The main building is supposed to be like a rain forest, I guess. It's where they keep animals
that need to be warm all the time. There's a pathway that winds around with tall tropical trees
overhead, with bushes here and there between the exhibits.
Some of the exhibits are tiny, and some are really big, like the area they have for otters. It has
a waterfall and a water slide for the otters to play in.
We were near the otter habitat when Ida stopped. "Okay, now everyone stay together, and
try not to be too suspicious-looking," she said. I'm taking you inside."
"Inside where?" Troy asked.
"Well, the way it works is, there are walkways behind all these exhibits. That's how they feed
the animals and give them meds or whatever. " She pointed to an inconspicuous doorway. "Anyway, we can go in through there."
It was an odd change from outside to inside. One minute, we were in this fake rain forest. The
next minute, we were in a long, sterile looking hallway. Chrome and white plastic
"Okay, look, if any staff people stop us, the story is we're here to see my mom," Ida said.
"Of course, most of the work is done by the bots, so we won't run into anyone, I hope. Because
if my mom finds out I've been dragging four of my friends around back here. . . . Well, I can't be saving the world from alien invaders if I'm grounded. "
We shuffled along the hallway, feeling like we definitely did not belong. Which we didn't.
On either side of the main hall, there were side paths that led to the different exhibits.
Unfortunately, the doorways to the exhibits just had numbers on them. I knew we'd have to
rely on Ida's knowledge to find our way around. Behind some of those doors were animals
you didn't want to just walk in on.
"How do you guys feel about gorillas?" Ida said. She had stopped by one of the numbered
doors. "This is Big Jim's cage. He just came over from another zoo, so he's in his own private
environment for now. He's very gentle."
Rachel batted her eyes at Troy. "How about you, Troy? Haven't you always wanted to be a big, hairy guy?"
Troy didn't look like he was crazy about the idea. But I knew how to handle Troy.
"Maybe he should try something easier for his first morph," I said. "You know, like a
cuddly little koala or something."
That did it.
"Koala?" Troy said, giving me a dirty look. "Open that door, Ida." He hesitated. "You
said gentle, right?"
"Gorillas are extremely gentle," Ida said. Then, in a quieter voice, she added, "Unless you
make them mad."
Ida opened her backpack. She took out an apple and handed it to Troy. "Here. You just
open the door. The way it's set up, none of the visitors will be able to see you unless you
walk clear out into the cage. Besides, there's an extra security gate, so he can't just jump out
and you can't just walk in. So we just open the door, and hope Big Jim feels like eating."
Behind the door was a second door of steel bars, with a little cutaway section for the handlers
to shove the food through. The entire door opening was concealed behind a fake rock ledge
so it wasn't visible to the people looking into the cage. But Big Jim noticed us right away. He
climbed heavily down from his perch on a rock ledge and took a good look at us through the
bars.
Big Jim was definitely big. He had fingers the size of my wrist. But Jim didn't seem to mind
us being there. Mostly he seemed interested in Troy's apple. He looked Troy over, snorted
like he wasn't impressed, and then held out his hand.
"Hand him the apple," Ida directed. "He wants the apple."
"I loved your work in King Kong Versus Godzilla" Troy told the ape. He stuck his hand
through the bars and held out the apple. With surprising daintiness, the gorilla lifted the apple
and began inspecting it closely.
"Hold his hand," I said. "
"Yeah, right," Troy laughed.
"When you acquire DNA, the animal goes-into a kind of trance," I said. "Go ahead, grab his
hand and concentrate."
Troy tentatively touched the gorilla's arm. "Nice monkey." The gorilla ignored him. Big
Jim was much more interested in the apple than in any of us.
"Try to get to his skin, don't just touch his fur," Andrew advised. "You have
to get close to the living cells."
Troy closed his eyes, concentrating. Jim also closed his eyes.
"This is so cool," Rachel commented. "You realize that gorilla could pull Troy apart like he was a paper doll. Look at those arms!"
Troy opened one eye. "Rachel? Being terrified gets in the way of concentrating. So how
about if you shut up about his arms?"
"Where next?" I said. We were at a four-way corner. There were blank,
white-painted hallways in all directions. What looked like an electric golf cart was parked in one of the halls.
"What are we near?" I asked Ida
Ida thought for a moment. "Okay, that walkway leads to the outer exhibits. That one leads
to the offices and storage facilities. These two go around the main building exhibits. We're
close to . . . let me see . . . um, bats and snakes that way. The jaguar and the dolphin tank that
way."
Rachel started down the hallway to our right. "Dolphins. I love dolphins."
"Wait," Ida said, trotting after her. "What are we going to do with dolphin morphs?"
"I think we should go out to the big exhibits," Troy said, closing the gorilla's
door. "Let's get serious about this. We
need firepower. Come on."
"Let's stick together," I said as Troy started down the hall. I reached out to grab him before
he got too far away.
And that's when the voice yelled, "Hey! Hey, you! What are you kids doing back here?"
I saw a guy in a brown uniform.
"Security!" Ida yelped. "Oh, man, they'll take us all in to the office. They'll call my mom.
I do not want to explain this to her."
"Split up!" I said. "Just like at the construction site: One guy can't get us all!"
"This guy looks like my grandfather," Rachel said. "Not like that Hork-Bajir that was after
us."
"You kids hold on!"
"Oh, man. Oh, man," Ida said. With that, she took off down one hallway. Rachel and
Andrew went after her.
Troy was already twenty yards down the other hall, the one that led out to the large
exhibits. I ran to catch up.
The guard reached the corner. I saw him glance toward Andrew and the girls. Then he looked
at me and Troy. I guess Troy and I looked more suspicious, because he chose us.
"Stop! You kids better stop!"
"Let's grab the golf cart!" Troy said.
"Steal a golf cart?"
"If we don't take it, that guard will."
"Good point."
We jumped in the cart. Troy slid behind the wheel. He pressed the "on" button. He looked at
me.
"Just like Tornado, right?"
"I don't think this hall comes with rails."
He put his foot down on the pedal. The electric motor made a whirring sound, and we took
off.
Straight toward the wall.
Bam!
"Definitely no rails," I muttered.
I thought we might have lost the guard, but when I looked back, he was still jogging after us.
"He's going to have a heart attack," I said.
"Which way?"
"What?"
"Which way?"
I turned around to face forward. We had reached a "T" corner. "Right!" I yelled.
Naturally, Troy turned left. I nearly fell out.
Almost immediately, we reached another corner. This time Troy did choose right. And I did
fall out of the cart.
I hit the floor and rolled. Then I was up and racing to catch the cart.
"What are you doing?" Troy demanded when he saw me. "Quit playing around."
I just gave him a dirty look and climbed back in.
"I think we lost the guard," Troy said.
"I'm fine, thanks for asking," I said. "Just a few bruises. Maybe a cracked skull. Nothing
serious."
"Where do you think we are?"
"I think we are in the longest tunnel I've ever seen," I said. It was more and more like a tunnel
now. Still the same white and chrome, but the lights were getting more spread out, so
you definitely had the feeling you were underground.
"I wonder if they caught the others," Troy said. "Now do you see why it's crazy to think we
can beat the Kirins? I mean, come on: We can barely beat zoo security."
"We haven't beat anyone yet," I said grimly. "Look!"
Way up ahead, there were two guys in brown uniforms.
"Maybe they don't know who we are," Troy suggested. "They might think we're regular
employees."
"Maybe. But not if they get a good look at us." I pointed. "There's a turnoff. Take it."
We turned. At the same time, the guards started yelling. The side corridor grew narrow. Too
narrow for the golf cart.
"Ditch it!"
I jumped out. Troy jumped after me. We could hear the guards' footsteps as they ran down
the main tunnel. These guys were in better shape than the old man. These guys could run.
The corridor ended abruptly. There were two doors, one a little to the left, one a little farther
to the right. They were labeled P-201 and P-203. No help at all.
"Pick a door," Troy said.
I took a deep breath, "Door number one." I opened P-201. A blast of fresh air hit me. Sunlight
blinded me. I blinked, trying to get my eyes to adjust.
The rhinoceros blinked, too.
"Ahhhh!" I yelled.
"Ahhhh!" Troy yelled.
We jumped back and slammed the door.
"Wrong door!" Troy said.
"Definitely wrong!" I agreed.
"Hey, you kids! Stop right there!"
The guards were just at the end of the corridor.
"Gotta try door number two!" I said.
"Do it!"
We opened the door and ran through.
There were trees all around us. Trees and grass. We were in the shade. Sunlight filtered down
through the leaves. Just ahead the bushes gave way to open grass.
"Where are we?" Troy asked.
"Like I know?"
We worked our way through some bushes, keeping a careful eye out in all directions. We
didn't see any animals. Just some birds up in the trees.
"Hey, there are people!" Troy said. He dropped down behind a bush and pointed.
There were people lined up behind a railing. They were high up. Or else we were low down. I
parted the bushes to get a better look. The people were leaning against a railing at the top of a
high concrete wall. They couldn't see us because of the bushes. But they were definitely all
staring at something.
"We're definitely in one of the habitats," I said. "Those are people looking at . . . at whatever
is in here with us. I'm just hoping it isn't that rhino. That thing was way too big."
"How do we get out of here?"
"I don't know, let's just get away from the door. Those guards will be coming after us any
second." But, you know, in the back of my mind I was thinking, Hmm, why haven't those
guards come after us yet?
Troy and I crawled through the bushes and around the bases of the big trees. We reached a
corner of the wall, hidden from all the people above.
"That is an awfully high wall," Troy observed. "That's got to be thirty feet high. This is not
good. That wall is high for a reason. There's something in here that they don't want to escape."
I scanned the wall. No ladders, nothing. "How do we get out?"
"Let me ask you something else," Troy said. "Why haven't the guards come after us? I mean, if
this was, like, the deer and antelope exhibit, they'd come right in, wouldn't they?"
"We have to think, not panic," I said. "I am trying not to think about why the guards didn't
come in here." I moved back into the shadows of the bushes and squatted down on my haunches.
My butt touched something warm.
I had a terrible feeling right at that moment. I looked up and saw Troy. Normally, Troy is
light brown. But now his face was grey. And his eyes were very large.
"Troy," I said, very slowly and very quietly, "is there something behind me?"
He nodded.
"What is it, Troy?"
"Um . . . Edin? It's a tiger."
CHAPTER 20

Author's note: I always had a problem with this tiger being Siberian. It doesn't
fit with the books #11 and #25. As well as California climate.
And the size and weight are weird.

A male Bengal tiger, to be exact. Seven feet long. Five hundred pounds of deadly speed and
unbelievable power.
You know those Tarzan movies, where Tarzan is wrestling a
tiger? And actually winning? Let me tell you something. You want to know what your
chances are of wrestling a tiger and coming out alive? They're about the same as your
chances of jumping off the Empire State Building and surviving.
"I have an idea," Troy said shakily. "Let's leave."
"Don't run," I said. "It might just get his attention."
"I think he's noticed us," Troy said. "I think he knows we're here, Edin. I think he's looking
right at us! Look at his teeth!"
"Don't freak! I have an idea. The morphing. If I acquire him, it'll put him in a trance."
"Acquire? Acquire what? You can't acquire anything about him. He's the acquirer, and you're
the acquiree. He's going to acquire your butt for dinner! He's going to acquire you and spit
out the bones."
I swallowed hard. I tried to touch the tiger, but my hand was shaking too much. I took a
couple of deep breaths. It's supposed to calm you down, and I guess it
works. Unless you're practically sitting on a tiger. Then absolutely nothing calms you down.
"Nice tiger," I whispered.
He just watched me. He had this lazy "who cares?" look. This look of total, complete,
absolute confidence. Almost like he thought I was funny. Like maybe he enjoyed watching
me shiver and shake.
"Please don't kill me," I said.
"Don't kill me, either," Troy added.
I reached my shaking hand toward the tiger. His eyes followed my hand, I touched his flank.
It rose and fell with his breathing.
"Concentrate," Troy whispered.
I was already concentrating real hard on the tiger. I was concentrating on his teeth, I was
concentrating on the rippling muscles under his pale orange and black pelt. I was totally
concentrating on the fact that he could swing that big, massive paw of his and send my head
flying across the grass like a soccer ball.
Then the tiger's breathing slowed. His eyes fluttered a little and slowly closed.
"How long does the trance last?" Troy whispered.
"Well, about ten seconds after you break contact. That's what it was with Homer."
"Ten seconds? Ten seconds?!!"
"Yeah. So be ready to run."
"I've been ready to run! And run where? Up the wall?"
"The door. Just plow through, okay?"
I started to pull away, but then I hesitated. It was a strange moment, because right then I
realized what I was doing. It hit me. This tiger was becoming part of me. All that power and
confidence was becoming part of me.
"He's beautiful, isn't he?" I said.
I expected Troy to say something sarcastic. But he said, "Yes. He's magnificent." Then he
added, "But let's get out of here before he shows us why he's king of the jungle."
"You ready?" I said.
He nodded.
"Now!" I yelled.
I jumped up and we tore for the door. In my head I was counting off the seconds: one-one
thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand . . .
Something moved. Fast! An orange and black blur!
Right then I realized it. Duh. There was more than one tiger in the habitat.
Troy leaped through the doorway, straight into the guards beyond. They
all crashed to the ground. I leaped too, and spun around to shut the door.
Just in time to see the tiger leaping.
The gigantic paws, larger than my head, claws extended, stretched toward me. The claws were
actually scraping the door as I slammed it shut. I punched the safety lock
button. I could hear the bar sliding just before the tiger crashed against the other side.
Troy grabbed me. "Come on!" The guards were recovering.
The tiger roared from behind the door.
Ggggggrrrrraaaawwwrrrr!
What a noise! It echoed and reverberated and made my insides turn to liquid.
We ran down the hall. Up ahead, another corner.
"Hey, you!" More guards were coming from the opposite way.
"Keep running," I said to Troy.
We reached the corner, took the right-hand hallway. We ran until we
reached another corner, where guards were coming up from two sides.
We ran into a clear hall, reached a third corner, swerved left. My watch
started bleeping.
I saw a small door, grabbed Troy and dragged him through.
The lights lit up as I closed the door, showing piles of white plastic boxes.
I turned on my ear clip.
"Guys? Where are you?" Ida's voice said.
"Some storage," Troy answered. "You guys having fun over there?"
"Fun?"
"Ida, where are you?"I asked. "This place is crawling with guards. We need to get out now."
"We're out."Ida said. "Rachel's looking at the dolphins."
"Dolphins?! Troy demanded. "We're being chased around by
tigers and zoo security and you're up there playing with
dolphins?!!"
"Tigers?"
"Ida," I said."If I tell you where we are exactly, do you think you can tell us a way out?"
"I think so."
"We turned right after passing the tiger exhibit, the left twice. This room's
midway in a hall." I said.
"Hmm. Oh, hey! You're not too far from where we started. Okay, now listen
carefully."
With Ida's directions, we made it out. It turned out the other three had not been chased at all. They'd lost the guards easily, and had just gone on acquiring morphs while Troy and I were risking our lives in the tiger habitat.
We were both a little resentful over that.
We climbed on board the bus and practically collapsed into the seats.
"We could have been killed," Troy said, pouting. "Really. I'm telling you. It was down to a
few inches."
"Yeah, whatever," Rachel said. "Don't obsess over it. After all, we still have tonight to deal
with. Whatever danger you think you had today, it will probably be nothing, next to what's
going to happen tonight."
"Tonight." Ida shook her head. "And I haven't even thought about studying for that math
test tomorrow."
Rachel laughed. "We may not have to worry about tomorrow."
"Thank you, Little Miss Cheerful," Troy muttered under his breath.

CHAPTER 21
When we got home, there was still some time before dinner, so I spent it
with trying to fix my guitar. That guitar was ancient-it had been my father's for
years before it came to me. One large tabby cat jumping onto it had been
enough to break it for good.
Then dinner. My family is very old-fashioned about dinner. We all have to sit
at the table. No TV. My mom's a writer, so she hates TV unless it's one of her
favorite programs.
Rick left pretty soon after dinner. I went to my room, where my parents couldn't overhear me. I mass-called my friends.
"He's on his way," I said.
Troy stayed on after the others hung up.
"I might be a little late," he said. "We still have dessert to deal with."
"I thought your family ate dinner early."
"Yeah...well, it took some time preparing the food. I wanted to fix something
nice for the old man. I mean, this might actually be the last meal I eat with
him."
"Look, Troy, you don't have to — " I started to say.
"Oh, shut up!" he snapped. "You're my best friend, you jerk. Like I'm going to let you go face
all this alone? I'm in. I'm in, to rescue Rick. That's it. Then I'm done."

I rode my bike to the school. I hid the bike across the street, the
way we had planned. Then I hooked up with Rachel and Ida.
"Troy'll be a little late," I said. "But where's Andrew?"
Rachel pointed up at the sky. The sun was setting fast, but I could see Andrew circling high
overhead.
"What is the matter with him?" I exploded. "He's got a two-hour time limit and we don't
know how long this is going to take!"
Andrew swooped down and perched on Rachel's shoulder. It surprised me a little. Why would
Andrew perch on Rachel's shoulder? And she didn't seem at all annoyed. She rubbed her head
against him a little.
<Are we doing this, or not?> Andrew asked, just as Troy ran up to us.
Everyone was looking at me, waiting for me to decide. My mouth felt dry; my heart was pounding. And we hadn't even done anything yet.
"Yeah, we're doing it," I said.
The school was locked up for the night. But Troy had taken care of that little problem. He
knew of a window in the science lab that didn't lock.
We crawled into the science lab through the window. It was dark, except for the dying light
of the sun that glinted off the glass beakers and test tubes. Andrew drifted through and landed
neatly on the teacher's desk.
"Let me take a look," I said. I opened the door as slowly as I could and peeked out through
the crack. I could see down the nearly dark hallway to the janitor's closet. Instantly I pulled
back in.
"There are people out there!" I said. "Three people heading into the closet."
"Controllers," Rachel said. "I guess it's dinnertime for Kirins."
None of us thought that was very funny.
"How are we going to get in there?" Troy asked.
"Wait a minute," Rachel said. "Do all the Controllers know each other by sight? I mean,
maybe we're Controllers, right?"
"So we just walk right on in like we belong there?" Troy asked. "Wonderful plan, Rachel. I
have a better idea — let's just kill ourselves now and get it over with."
"Maybe Rachel's right," Ida said.
"Big maybe," Troy pointed out. "Big, huge maybe. How about Rick? He would know
whether you were a Controller."
I cracked the door again and looked out. "I think Rick's already down there," I said. "Besides,
the hallway's empty now. I guess they're all in."
"What do we do?" Andrew wondered.
I looked at the others. They looked back at me.
"Okay," I said grimly. "We go ahead, like Rachel said. We figure there are too many
Controllers for all of them to know each other. I mean, they add new bodies all the time,
right? So maybe we're new Controllers, right?"
"Oh, man," Troy moaned.
"You have a better idea?" I asked.
"No," he said. "I think we go ahead. We take our chances. Let's rock and roll."

CHAPTER 22
"Okay, then, everyone act cool." I looked at Andrew. "Too late for you to morph back now.
But try not to let them see you."
We stepped out into the dark hallway. My legs were stiff. My knees were
rickety. I was walking like Frankenstein's monster trying to look casual.
We headed for the janitor's closet. Fortunately, no one else was in the hallway.
We entered the tiny room and stepped inside. I tried to recall the sequence for opening the
door. Faucet to the left, then twist the second hook around right.
The door swung open.
There was more noise than there had been the other day. Or maybe it was just that my human
ears heard it better than my lizard ears had.
There was a deep sloshing, swooshing sound, almost like gentle surf breaking on the shore.
But that was the nice sound. The other sounds were horrifying — despairing cries, terrified
screams, shouts, shrieking triumphant laughter.
"You sure this is just the Kirin pool?" Troy said in a nervous, shaky voice. "I see a guy
with horns and a pitchfork and I am outta here."
I stepped into the opening. The stairs were steep and there was no rail, so you felt like you
were about to pitch forward with every step.
We descended together. The door closed automatically behind us.

At first I guess I expected there to be maybe a couple dozen steps. But the steps never ended.
We just kept walking, and there were always more steps. The walls were dirt, then quickly
became rock as we went down, down, down. It felt like those stairs would never end.
"Some superior aliens," Troy whispered. "You'd think they could have put in an elevator."
We all giggled a little. Very little.
Suddenly, the rock walls widened out. We had emerged into a huge cavern.
And when I say huge, I mean huge. They could have played the Superbowl in there and had
room left over for a couple of malls. It was like a giant bowl turned upside down, all carved
out of solid rock. At the very top of the bowl was the faint outline of a hole. I thought I could
see stars through it.
All around the outer edges of the cavern I could see other stairways, like ours. They seemed
to come from every direction, appearing out of the rock walls, and leading down to the floor
of the cavern.
We clustered closer to the center of the stairway. It was a sheer drop off the side of the stairs.
"This is gigantic," Troy said. "This isn't just under the school. This is under half the town.
Those stairways must lead up to a dozen secret entrances." He shook his head. "
Edin, they
have this entire area set up with secret passageways. Oh, man. This is worse . . . this is so
much worse . . . So much bigger . . . "
I felt the same despair. We were fools. This wasn't some little group of alien bad guys we
were dealing with. To build this underground city, these guys had power we couldn't even
imagine.
That's almost what it was. A city.
There were buildings and sheds all around the rim of the cavern. And we could see yellow
Caterpillar earthmovers and cranes at work on the far side of the cavern. They seemed
weirdly normal in this incredible place.
And there were creatures everywhere. Taxxons, Hork-Bajir, and other things I couldn't even
begin to guess at.
But mostly, there were humans. A lot of them.
At the very center of the cavern was a pool, like a small lake, maybe a hundred feet across,
and perfectly round. Only the water wasn't exactly water. It moved more like melted lead,
and was about the same color. The sloshing sound we could hear was the liquid of the pool
being rippled and splashed by hundreds of fast-moving things below the surface.
I knew what they were. Kirins. Yeerks in their natural, sluglike state. They were swimming
and cavorting in the pool like kids on a hot day.
Near the edge of the pool were cages. In the cages were Hork-Bajir and human beings.
Some of the humans screamed for help. Some cried silently. Some just sat and waited, all
hope lost. There were adults there. And kids. Women and men. More than a hundred, packed
ten to a cage.
The captive Hork-Bajir were kept in separate, stronger cages. They paced and howled and
slashed at the air with their bladed arms.
I almost lost hope. I felt like my heart had stopped. This was a place of unimaginable horror.
And we were so few, and so weak.
There were two low steel piers built out over the pool. On one, Hork-Bajir-Controllers
politely guarded a line of humans and Hork-Bajir and Taxxons.
This was the unloading station.
One by one the people knelt down, bent over, and dipped their heads toward the slimy
surface of the pool. The Hork-Bajir helped them.
As we watched, a woman calmly bent over, her head just inches above the lead-gray pool. A
Hork-Bajir held her elbow gently, to help her keep her balance.
Then we saw the thing dribbling, sliding, squirming, crawling out of her ear.
A Yeerk.
"Oh, no . . . " Rachel moaned. She sounded like she might be sick. "Oh, no. No."
When the Yeerk was all the way out of the poor woman's head, it dropped into the pool and
disappeared beneath the turbulent surface.
Instantly the woman cried out. "You filth, let me go! Let me go! I am a free woman! You
can't keep doing this! I am not a slave! Let me go!"
Two Hork-Bajir grabbed her. They dragged the woman to the nearest cage and threw her in.
"Help!" the woman screamed. "Oh, please, someone help. Help us all!"

CHAPTER 23
"Help! Please, someone help us!"
We had been hearing cries like that all the way down those steps. But now we were close
enough to give the cries a human face. It cut straight to my soul.
There was a second steel pier. That was the loading station. There the host bodies were
dragged from their holding cages to have the Yeerks reenter their heads. It was a pretty basic
process. They grabbed the hosts, whether human or Hork-Bajir, and forced their heads down
into the pool.
The people sometimes fought and screamed, and sometimes just cried. But they always lost.
When their heads were yanked back up out of the pool, we could see the slugs still slithering
into their ears.
After a few minutes they would become calm again, as the Kirins regained control. Then off
they went, once more slaves of the Yeerks.
It was a horrible assembly line, from the unloading pier, to the holding cages, to the
infestation pier. They moved the poor victims through at a pretty speedy rate.
But there was another area we could only now see, cut off from the rest of the pool area
by a transparent wall. There humans and Hork-Bajir waited on
comfortable chairs, sipping drinks and actually watching TV. Taxxons squirmed around like
gigantic spiny maggots.
They were watching the show and having a good laugh.
<Those are the voluntary hosts,> Andrew said. <Collaborators.>
"What are you talking about?" Rachel demanded.
<You remember, what the Andalite told us. Many humans and Hork-Bajir are voluntary
hosts,> Andrew replied. <The Kirins persuade them to let them take over.>
"I can't believe that," Ida said. "No person would ever let this happen to them. No one
would ever give up control of himself."
"Some people are scum, Ida," Troy said. "Sorry to burst your balloon."
<The Kirins convince them that taking on a Yeerk will solve all their problems. I think that's
what The Sharing is all about. People believe that by becoming something different, they can
leave behind all their pain.>
"Like spending all their time as a hawk," Troy pointed out.
Andrew had nothing to say to that. He spread his wings and flew up and away.
"Andrew! Come back," Rachel called to him.

"We have to get moving,"I said. "We've been standing here staring for too long."
I looked at Troy. "Don't be a jerk to Andrew, okay? We need everyone."
Andrew came swooping back toward us. <I saw Rick in one of the cages. He's yelling
his brains out at the guards.>
I sighed inwardly, relived. Of course Rick would never agree to be voluntary, but still...
But now, it was time. We were at the bottom of the steps.
We ran over to hide behind a storage shed of some kind. Troy pulled me around the corner,
drawing me close so that I could hear him whisper. "Look, before we do this, there's one
thing, Edin. You have to promise me."
I knew what he was going to say.
"If I have to die, okay. But don't let them take me. Don't let them put one of those things in
my head."
I nodded. "Come on, Let's do this."
We started morphing.
I felt the changes begin. The hair grew from my face. The tail squirted out behind me. My arms
bulged and rippled. They were massive! My shirt ripped. I fell forward onto my hands, now
my front legs.
The power!
It was electric. It was like a slow-motion explosion. I could feel the power of the tiger
growing inside me.
I watched claws, long, wickedly curved, tearing, ripping, shredding claws, grow from my
puny human hands. I could feel the teeth sprouting in my mouth.
My eyes looked through the darkness like it was broad daylight.
But most of all, the power! The sheer, incredible power.
I was afraid of NOTHING!
Next to me, Big Jim's massive body was ripping its way out of Marco's slight
frame.
<Just call me King,> Troy said. <King Kong.>
"Hey!" a voice yelled. A human voice. "What the-"
I spun around. A man. Just one man. But beside him, flanking him, was a big Hork-Bajir. And on the other side, a Taxxon.
Somehow the man hadn't seen Rachel. She was just around the corner of the building.
My cousin Rachel now stood almost thirteen feet high and weighed about fourteen thousand
pounds.
The weird thing was, I was happy about all this.

CHAPTER 24
<Ha HA!> I heard Rachel's triumphant laugh. <I did it.>
The Hork-Bajir and the Taxxon came closer, tense, ready to strike. The human was standing back, goggling.
Rachel began twitching her little ropy tail. Her front legs pawed the dirt floor of the cavern.
She raised her massive head and stuck out her three-foot-long tusks.
The Taxxon was the first to notice her with his all-around red-jelly eyes, but I guess he didn't
know how to react.
Rachel charged. One minute she was standing there, and the next minute she was barreling
forward like an out-of-control eighteen-wheeler.
The Hork-Bajir was fast. He spun around and slashed at her trunk with his elbow blade.
Too little. Too late.
Rachel was moving, and no little flesh wound was going to stop her.
<Puny little nothing!> Rachel cried, outraged. <You attack ME?!>
The Hork-Bajir went down, crushed under her monstrous feet. He bellowed, but Rachel's
trumpeting was louder.
The Taxxon tried to run. It turns out Taxxons can move out when they want to.
It also turns out elephants are faster than you think. They can be very fast.
Rachel's foot caught the Taxxon's back end. The needle legs collapsed, cracking like broken
twigs. Yellow goo oozed from the popped flesh of the big worm.
She just kept rolling over him, leaving behind a big, extremely disgusting pile of goo. The
foul smell of the squashed Taxxon nearly knocked me out.
The human was still just standing there. He said, "An elephant?" Like he couldn't even think
about it being real.
Rachel wrapped her trunk around his middle.
<Yeah,> we heard Rachel say. <An elephant>

The man screamed. I guess he figured out it was real.
Rachel threw him through the air. I never saw where he landed.
<Nice work, Rachel,> Troy said. <Remind me not to ever make you mad.>
<More Hork-Bajir coming!> Rachel said.
Rachel turned to face them, tusks ready.
Hork-Bajir were running at me, their arm blades slashing at the air.
I opened my mouth and I roared. The Hork-Bajir stopped dead in their tracks.
That's right, my little Hork-Bajir friends, the human part of my brain thought. Time to meet
the tiger.
The muscles in my back legs coiled up. I bared my teeth and gave them another roar loud
enough to make the ground quiver.
I leaped through the air, claws outstretched.

I sailed through the air and struck the closest Hork-Bajir in the chest.
Down he went with me on top of him. He rolled over and tried to get up. He was fast. I was
faster.
He struck at me with his razored arm. I ducked under the blow. My left paw swung, so fast
even I couldn't see it. It left four oozing tracks across the Hork-Bajir's shoulder.
Another Hork-Bajir! Wrist blades, elbow blades and talons whizzed. They were like a pair of
lawn mowers on full throttle.
And still I was faster. I can't even remember what happened next. All I have is this image of
the tiger — of me — with claws slashing and jaws snapping. I was a whirlwind of orange fur
and black stripes.
The Hork-Bajir fell back. I roared. They turned and ran.
On one side I saw Rachel. She lifted a Hork-Bajir up on her tusks and tossed him back over
her shoulder like he was a doll.
And then I saw Troy.
The truth is, like Ida said, gorillas are very gentle, peaceful, quiet creatures. The truth also
is that they are strong. Real strong.
Basically, compared to a gorilla, a man is something made out of toothpicks.
Now, Hork-Bajir are pretty large creatures. They stand about seven feet high and are built for
trouble. But Troy swung one big gorilla fist and hit the nearest Hork-Bajir in the stomach.
The Hork-Bajir went down. Hard.
I roared. Rachel trumpeted. Marco lifted the Hork-Bajir up and tossed him aside like a rag
doll.
The rest of the Hork-Bajir turned and ran.
<Now!> I shouted. <Before they get organized again!>
We charged. Rachel just plowed right through some of the small sheds and buildings like
Godzilla heading for Tokyo.
Troy came loping along, swinging his massive forearms, punching anything that got in his
way. Whatever he punched stayed down:
And I ran right down the middle, looking for any Controller dumb enough to mess with me.
We reached the cages. The people and Hork-Bajir inside shrank back from us. They were
almost as afraid of us as they were of the Controllers. Let's face it — a rescue party made up
of an elephant, a, gorilla, and a tiger is not what they'd been hoping for.
Troy began ripping at a lock on one of the cages. The lock gave way. The door flew open.
Troy did something very human to reassure them. He made a little bow, then crooked his
finger at them as if to say come on out
Rick was the first out. He looked scared and mad and determined. I was going to send him a
thought message, telling him who I was, but suddenly the loud shriek, the hunting cry of a bird of prey.
I saw him high, high up in the cavern. Down he came.
Like a bullet.
The talons came forward. Andrew hit the one of the Hork-Bajir on the pier, at about fifty miles an hour. He
swooped away, leaving the alien clutching at the slimy mess where his eyes used to be.
Ida, now a leopard, took care of the other Hork-bajir, clamping her jaws into its ankle and pulling him into the pool.

She looked at the humans and Hork-Bajir on the pier. <Run! All of you, run!>
They didn't move, but stood rooted.
I remembered what the Andalite did.
I concentrating, putting all my strength into a single word, willing them to move. <<RUN!!!>>
They did. Ida left the pool and plowed into the panicky crowd.
I started after her, racing around the pool followed by Troy, Rachel, Rick, and the crowd of
hosts they'd freed from the cages.
The Controllers were starting to get organized. A group of Taxxons were slithering out to
stop Ida and me. Both the Hork-Bajir and the Taxxons were carrying weapons now.
<Up and over!> I said to Ida as we neared the line of Taxxons.
<Up and over!> she yelled back.
I leaped. IDa jumped. Side by side, we sailed over the startled Taxxons. They fired their
hand-held Dracon beams, but too late. The beams sizzled the air behind us and we blew past.
I could see Rachel's towering gray bulk just a-head. The stairs were near. I saw Troy with
Tom.
We were going to make it!
And then he stepped out daintily from a group of Hork-Bajir.
He seemed almost harmless in his Andalite body. A gentle half-deer, half-human-looking
creature with bluish fur and an extra set of eyes on comical stalks.
Visser Three didn't look all that scary. Not compared to the Hork-Bajir, the Taxxons, or even
our own Earth-animals.
But Visser Three had an Andalite body. He had an Andalite's power to morph. And he had
been all over the universe acquiring the genetic patterns of monsters like nothing ever seen
on Earth.
A Taxxon slithered up beside Visser Three and spoke. It was a weird, half-whistling sound.
"Ssssweer trrreeesswew eeeesstrew."
Visser Three said nothing. He just looked at me with his eyes.
<This Taxxon fool says you are wild animals,> Visser Three said. <He wants to know if he
and his brothers can eat you.> He laughed silently. <But I know you are not animals. I know
who and what you are. So. Not all of you Andalites died when I burned your ship.>
It took me a couple of seconds to realize what he meant. Then it hit me. Of course! He
thought we were Andalites. He'd guessed that we were morphs, not real animals. And he
knew that the Andalites were the only species with morphing technology.
<I compliment you on getting this far. But it will accomplish nothing. Because now, my
brave Andalite warriors, it is time. Time to die.>
He began to morph.
<I acquired this body on the fourth moon of the second planet of a dying star. Like it?>
I realized I'd been wrong to be hopeful.
We were not going to make it.

CHAPTER 26
From Visser Three's Andalite body, the creature grew at a shocking speed. Much, much more faster than us.
Tall as a tree, towering over even Rachel. Eight massive legs. Eight long, spindly arms, each ending
in a three-fingered claw.
And from the place where the top set of arms grew came the heads.
Heads. Plural. Eight of them. This creature had a thing for the number eight.
Even the Hork-Bajir-Controllers backed away. Even they didn't want to be near Visser Three
when he morphed this way.
But the Taxxons edged in closer, crowding around their leader like a pack of hungry dogs
looking for table scraps.
I was frozen in terror. Stunned. Even the tiger that was a part of me was confused and
worried.
I had started to think that with our morphed bodies we could take on anything. But we
couldn't take on this monster. Not and survive.
<Run!> I yelled to the others. <Up the stairs!>
<Yes, run,> Visser Three crowed. <It makes a more challenging target.>
Then, Visser Three struck.
From one of the heads a round, spinning ball of flame erupted. A ball of flame that flew like a
missile.
It skimmed through the air and splatted against the back of a woman.
"Ahhhh!" She fell, screaming and rolling around to put out the flames.
<Target practice!> Visser Three laughed. He fired fireball after fireball, one head after
another.
One singed my shoulder and flew past. One hit Rachel in the ear and made her scream in my
head and trumpet in terror.
The air was full of fire.
<We have to get out of here!> Troy yelled.
<Yes, run! Run for the stairs!> I repeated. <Rachel! Get moving! Clear a path!>
A big swarm of us was heading for the stairs, but the Taxxons had closed in around us.
Anyone that got away from Visser Three was swarmed over by the Taxxons.
I saw Rickout of the corner of my eye. He was swinging his fists at a pair of Taxxons that
were circling around him. Rick couldn't hurt them, but he was trying just the same.
Rachel ran over and plowed into one of them, crushing him beneath her tree-trunk legs.
Troy threw his arms around the second Taxxon and twisted till it split open, spilling its
putrid guts all over the floor.
Rachel had hit the bottom few stairs and stopped. Elephant bodies are great for some things.
But they are useless for climbing stairs.
<Morph back!> I told Rachel.
She began to shrink almost immediately, but there wasn't time to wait until the morphing was
complete. Rachel started up the stairs as a shifting mass of gray and pink, part human, part
elephant, staggering on weird, half-finished legs and dragging a shriveled trunk that made her
pretty face into something awful to see.
We ran. But it was impossible.
By the time we had climbed a few dozen stairs, there were only a few free humans and two
free Hork-Bajir with us. The rest had all been recaptured or burned.
A fireball exploded at my feet and I snarled. But still we retreated.
We were a hundred feet up the stairs when the last two freed Hork-Bajir were brought down
by the Visser's fireballs. They fell in flames.
The Visser was climbing the stairs now, all alone. He was so big he barely fit on the stairs. I
knew when we reached the point where the walls closed in around the stairs that we would be
safe from Visser Three. Glancing up, I saw that Ida was almost to safety above us.
The rest of us, along with Rick and a pitiful handful of freed humans, were bunched together.
Visser Three began pelting the staircase ahead of us with fire. We were trapped. Fire ahead.
Visser Three himself behind.
"No," I heard a familiar voice say. "No, you filthy creep. You aren't going to win this time."
It was Rick
All alone, he charged at Visser Three, armed with nothing but his fists.
One of the Visser's arms came down and swung at him.
I saw Tom stagger from the Visser's blow.
I saw him fall from the edge of the stairs.
I went a little crazy.

I was on the Visser before I knew what was happening. On him, digging my claws into his
flesh. I twisted up and behind one of his eight heads.
The tiger in me knew what to do. I sank my teeth into his neck and clamped my powerful
jaws and held on.
Another head turned back and aimed a fireball at me. I dodged the first fireball. The second
burned my flank. I jumped clear.
The Visser roared in pain. I roared in hatred.
And we ran, ran, ran up those stairs with a hundred nightmares on our heels.

CHAPTER 27
We ran. Exhausted and burned and terrified, we ran.
Visser Three had made one mistake. He was too large in his morph to follow us much farther
up the stairs.
I heard Visser Three yell something as we finally got away. He said, <I'll kill you all,
Andalites. Run away, it doesn't matter! I'll kill you.>
Actually, I think it did matter. We hadn't exactly destroyed Visser Three, but we had come
out of it alive, we Animorphs.
The final count was three humans freed. They went on their own way. I suppose they could find places to hide.
As for Rick... my brother.
Rick was not freed.
I was lying in my own bed, shaking and shivering and crying from the aftereffects of terror,
when I heard him come home later that night.
He never knew that I was the tiger. He never knew how close I had come to freeing him. He
was a Controller again. The Kirin was in his head once more.
Cassie and Troy and Rachel and I had all made it up those stairs. We had emerged into the
hallway of a school that would never seem the same to us again.
And Andrew? He survived, too.
It was almost morning when I was awakened from dead sleep by feathery beating on my
window.
I opened it and Andrew flew in.
"You made it," I said. "Oh, man, you had me scared. I figured you were still trapped down
there. I mean, I thought you could probably find somewhere to hide in that cavern, but I knew
you'd been morphed for a long time. I was worried you wouldn't be able to morph back
without getting caught. It's good to see you."
<Good to see you, too, Edin,> he said. <How are the others?>
"Alive," I said. "Alive. I guess that's all that counts."

<Yes. That is all that matters.>
"Come on, Andrew," I said. "Morph back. You can stay here. I'll even let you have the bed. I
could sleep on nails, I'm so tired."
He didn't say anything. And I guess in my heart I'd known it all along. I just didn't want to
admit it.
"Come on, Andrew," I said again. "Morph back."
<Edin . . . >
"Just come on, back to human now, dude. No more flying tonight."
<I hid in the cavern for a while,> he said. <They didn't see me. But I had to stay out of sight
till I could get out. Edin . . . it took too long. Too long. More than two hours.>
I just stared at him. At his laser-focus eyes, at his wicked beak and sharp talons. And at his
wings. At the broad, powerful wings that let him fly.
<I guess this is me from now on,> Andrew said.
I knew there were tears falling down my cheeks, but I didn't care anymore.
<It's okay, Edin. Like you said, we're alive.>
I went to the window and looked up at the stars. Somewhere up there, around one of those
cold, twinkling stars, was the Andalite home world. Somewhere up there was . . . hope.
<They'll come,> Andrew said. <The Andalites will come. And until then . . . >
I nodded and wiped away my tears. "Yeah," I said. "Until then, we fight."