Marco takes driving lessons. It all goes about as well as you'd expect. Set post #45, but not technically canon.
Chapter 1: The Plan
For the record, I'd like to say that none of this was my idea. Therefore, no one should blame me. I was totally fine with just having Jake or Dad drive me around. They were fine with it, too. Better to drive me to games and parties and the beach, than to have me killed in some horrible accident. After surviving the Yeerks for so long, it'd be kind of embarrassing to die in an ordinary car crash.
No, this was all Mom's idea. "I learned to drive without causing accidents," she said, "and so will you. It really isn't that hard." If we were a normal family, I might have been satisfied with that. But my mother spent nearly six years as the slave of a power-hungry, bloodthirsty, totally insane slug alien... thing. And she spent about half that time believing I'd suffered a similar fate. She does [u]not[/u] have a normal perception of difficulty. After surviving that, everything's easy to her.
I used to think I was an okay driver, before my friends and I had to distract some alien dust tornado from our other, temporarily amnesiac friend who was inhabiting the form of an elephant (but that's another story). I had to drive to get there, and my friends spent most of the time screaming at me to avoid trash cans. But I'll have you know I'm still unbeatable at driving games, especially Wipeout. In fact, in the days before my first driving lesson, I spent most of my time kicking Jake's, Tobias's and Ax's butts at Wipeout. They all had their excuses ("You've had more practice", "I'm not used to video games anymore", "I cannot understand this primitive human system"), but hey, the leaderboard spoke for itself.
Before I knew it, it was Tuesday. I was going to have driving lessons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for "as long as it takes", according to Mom. Jake made a few cracks about having to schedule my wedding around the lessons, if I ever had one. Ha, ha. Hilarious. Ignoring him, I got into the car. Of course, I wasn't the one driving. Mom had [u][i]generously[/i][/u] volunteered to take me to and from lessons. Her driving was actually pretty awesome, to be honest. A careful combination of risk and caution. Exhilarating, but not terrifying.
And she knew it. When we arrived, the first thing she did was smirk at me. A triumphant, confident smirk. But nothing like the smirk of Visser One, the Yeerk who had crawled into her brain and taken total control. Yeerks are good at passing for human. So good that for the year Visser One had lived in our house, we never knew. Never even suspected that my mother was no longer in control.
But the Yeerk was dead now. I'd killed it. Mom was free.
I rolled my eyes. "Okay, okay, that was really cool. But I could totally beat you at Wipeout."
She smiled. But not the cold, mocking smile I had seen many times before, when Visser One had been controlling her like a puppeteer controls a puppet. "We'll see about that at home." I wasn't completely used to having Mom back, as herself again. But I was happy. "Time to go meet your instructor," she continued. "I made sure to get one who doesn't scare easily." She was still smiling, warm light sparkling in her eyes. I had missed that smile.
"Yeah, well... I bet you were worse than I am. A completely insane driver." It was a pathetic comeback, I know. To tell the truth, I always felt a bit out of my depth whenever I tried to banter with Mom. This was someone who'd been wisecracking for a good twenty-five years longer than me. Someone with total self-confidence, untouched by insecurity. Someone who'd been through hell and back, and could still make a joke out of life.
Thankfully, the instructor showed up before Mom could start laughing at me. He was a tall, thin man with a balding head and a suit. "Is this the eleven-thirty appointment?" he asked in a nasal voice. I had to struggle to keep myself from laughing, and a quick glance in Mom's direction told me she had the same problem.
"Yes, this is Marco," she managed to get out.
"Very good." Oh man, more of that voice... I was practically shaking with suppressed laughter. "Let's get ready for your first lesson. Follow me to the car, please." He started walking, but Mom and I hung back for a moment.
"Is this the eleven-thirty appointment?" We both adopted a nasal voice. Mom laughed, giving me an affectionate shove. "Go learn to drive, kid." I nodded and walked to the car.
You can probably guess how the lesson went. And I'd just like to mention: Not my fault. None of it. Zero per cent.
The very first task was to start the car, which I managed to do without disaster. (Didn't expect that, did you?) No, it was when I had to practice navigation that the problem started. There they were, a zigzag pattern of orange traffic cones. I would have to drive slower than walking speed to have a prayer of getting through without knocking anything over. So that's exactly what I did.
After about five minutes, I'd successfully navigated my way around three cones. Out of twenty-five. The instructor looked at his watch. "Any chance of speeding this up a bit?" he suggested. "You're only booked for another hour and twenty minutes." Oh, he was rushing a student driver? The jerk. Well, if he wanted speed, I would have to give him speed.
Within seconds, I was at the other end of the car park. The cones were scattered across the ground, some still rolling. I turned to the instructor and gave him a winning smile. "Fast enough for you?"
He didn't snap. I wasn't expecting him to, not yet. He would smile back, pretend to find it funny, then move on. But I would keep going. I didn't want to drive him completely insane, just frustrate him enough to make him decide that teaching me to drive wasn't such a good idea. If I had to take these lessons, I was going to try and have fun with them.
And so, Operation Handbrake was born. I was considering naming it Operation Insane or Operation Looney Tunes, but I'd already done too many things that were more deserving of those titles.
[i]Hey[/i], I realized. [i]Maybe if I scare my instructor off, Mom'll call off lessons... Or find a new instructor, a tougher one.[/i] I smiled evilly to myself. [i]We'll just have to see.[/i]
Then, I had to do all these tests. Speed (I ruled at that), stopping, turning, changing gears, indicating, braking, stuff like that. Well, I say I did those. It was actually more like: "Speeding around the car park, making insane screeching turns, totally ignoring the indicator and occasionally risking a crash when I thought to change gears".
By the end, the instructor was gripping the edge of the seat, his face white. Hey, I thought this one didn't scare easily! Then again... I looked out at the car park. At this point, it was harder to find unmarked ground on the car park than to find tire tracks.
I smiled again, acting perfectly innocent. "So, how was I? Think I'm ready for the real test?"
He sighed, obviously fighting the impulse to strangle me. "Well, son, we have a lot of work to do yet. Hey, look!" He held up his watch. "Lesson's over. See you on Thursday." Technically, the lesson wasn't meant to end for another fifteen minutes, but I wasn't exactly going to complain.
"Whatever you say, sir! I can't wait!" Still playing the part of cheerful and sweet, I got out of the car and headed back to Mom.
"That wasn't so hard, was it?" was her first question. [i]Um, excuse me, were you [b]WATCHING[/b] that?!? I couldn't have driven worse if I'd tried![/i] But then, I saw the smile tugging at the corners of her lips. She found this whole thing hilarious, I knew it.
"Okay, just say it. I sucked big-time." I laughed to let her know it was okay. What fun is life if you can't laugh at yourself sometimes? That's something Mom taught me, and I'm pretty sure it saved my sanity more than once. Sometimes, after a mission, I just took time out to laugh at how insane my life had ended up. Mom and I must have looked crazy, two random people just standing there and laughing. But who cared?
When we were done laughing, we got back in Mom's car and went home. On the way home, we were quiet. Mom looked lost in thought, but I had no idea what she was thinking about. It could have been anything. Before I knew it, we were home, and Mom was picking up one of my game handhelds (I just can't bring myself to call them controllers anymore) and smiling.
Oh, that was right. I'd been challenged.
"How about you call your friends?" Mom suggested. "Show them all how an old pro does it."
"An old pro? Excuse me?" I shook my head, laughing. "Sure."
Mom laughed with me, but there was determination in her eyes. "Go call your friends. I'll set up the game."
I hope you like it!
Last edited by NinaRayquaza on Mon Dec 02, 2013 6:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
About half an hour later, the five of us were in the living room, ready to play. Ever since the... [i]incident[/i], I only had two handhelds, so we split off into teams: Me and Jake versus Ax and Tobias. The problem: Which team could Mom join? We argued for about ten minutes before Jake came up with an idea. "Why don't we call Rachel?" he asked. "Then we'll each have three people."
I groaned. "Really? That's your solution? Even if Xena solves this problem, she'll create about five more." That's what I call Rachel: Xena, Warrior Princess. The resemblance is remarkable. Now, if only I could get her to wear a leather skirt...
Unfortunately, the odds were against me. Ax always agreed with Jake, Tobias was all for having his girlfriend around, and Mom just wanted to start playing already. Before I knew it, Rachel had arrived and insisted on being part of Tobias's team, leaving Mom to join up with me and Jake.
As much as I complained about it, having Rachel there did help me in one way: It made me more determined to win. Oh yeah, I was going to kick some warrior-princess butt. When I told her as much, she just laughed. "Yeah, we'll see about that... shrimp."
"Uh, Rachel?" I asked. "You seem to have forgotten something. This is a [u]driving[/u] game, not some insane warriors-fighting-to-the-death game. I think that puts the odds a bit more in my favour."
Rachel stared at me, her big blue eyes turning cold as ice. "We'll just have to see about that, won't we?"
I shook my head and looked at the screen, trying to hide the chill that went through me. Man, girls are impossible to understand even when they're [b]not[/b] completely insane! "Okay, who's playing first?" I called out, hoping to calm Rachel down.
No such luck. Five voices cried out "I am!" at the same time. Well, four. Ax was more like "I am. Am. Ammmmm. Interesting sound. It makes my mouth buzz. Much like the "zuh" sound." When he's not in human morph, Ax has no mouth. So when he is human, he kind of plays with words and sounds. And let's just not talk about how he gets around food.
Jake stood up and told the group that he was my best friend, and therefore should get to play first. Suddenly, everyone was my best friend. In fact, they were arguing over who was a better friend. I have to admit, Mom's "I raised him for ten years and spent every day trying to force the Yeerk to bring me back to him" argument was pretty convincing. But we wouldn't have time to play if we didn't get organized soon.
I stood up. "Stop!" Five voices fell silent. "Let's just go by alphabetical order. Jake, sit down. Mom and Ax play first, then Jake and Rachel, then me and Tobias. Okay?" I heard a collection of "okay"s and "fine"s. Satisfied, I sat down as Mom and Ax prepared to start.
"Wait," Rachel interrupted. "We need team names."
Really? Another delay? "Can't we think about that later?"
"No, we need them now!"
I rolled my eyes. "Ignore her. Just play." The players took my advice, finally starting the game. Wipeout's a pretty cool game, even if you don't actually do much. Basically, you're in a car, racing the other player on this never-ending track, and you have to try and run each other off the road. The first player to get run off (or "wiped out") loses.
I'm good at running people off the road. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have thought that equaled good driving skills. Oh well.
Mom's and Ax's game was over within minutes. A very small amount of minutes. The whole thing was actually pretty brutal. Ax had only just got the hang of using the handheld, and Mom didn't hesitate to take advantage of that. It didn't take long for her to force him off the road three times. Ax was embarrassed to have been beaten at something by a human. He tried not to show it, but he couldn't quite hide his feelings when they were on a human face. He headed to the bathroom, muttering about needing to demorph.
Next, it was Jake and Rachel's turn. They were a bit more evenly matched, leading to a longer game. As they played, Mom moved a little closer to me. "Now do you believe me?"
I smirked. "Please. Ax's easy to beat."
"Oh, really?" There was an identical smirk on her face. I don't think I have a relative who hasn't told me how much I take after my mother. "Then we'll have to settle this the right way. We'll have our own game after you and Tobias finish. Then we'll see who's really better."
I should have just agreed. I should have kept my mouth shut. But no, I just had to say something.
"If I win, no more driving lessons." I thought it was a good idea at the time, okay? Mom smiled widely, her eyes glittering. I started to get the feeling she'd been waiting for me to say that.
"If you lose, you go to lessons every day."
Well, now I really had to win. But first, I had to beat Tobias. Not exactly a challenge, considering he's used to having talons. Maybe my alphabetical order system wasn't exactly fair. The game was pretty uneventful. I won, of course. Tobias couldn't beat me, even if he was plenty aggressive. I'm not sure why, but I don't think he likes me.
Still, he took the loss pretty well. He nodded, said "Good game" and moved over to sit with Rachel. But I was already thinking about something else: How I was going to beat Mom. I was pretty sure it would be easy, but it never hurts to be prepared.
We picked up our handhelds and started the game.
For all I knew, the others could have been anywhere. I only had eyes for the game screen. Our cars were on a never-ending track, all ready to push each other onto the grass.
[i]Three... Two... One... Go![/i]
Time for a special Marco technique.
I pushed on the accelerator, letting my car speed ahead. I kept the car safely ahead, lulling Mom into a false sense of security. She would think I was trying to escape from her. But just when she would least expect it, I reversed the car right into her. In the second before she could start driving again, I pushed her car off the road. As the game restarted itself (with one less life on Mom's side of the screen), I laughed quietly. But not too quietly for her to hear.
"Has the old pro gotten a bit too old?"
"I'll get you yet, you smarmy little..."
The insult trailed off as she concentrated on the game. I like how Mom treats me more like an adult than a kid, even if it means insulting me. I guess it's hard for her to see me as a kid anymore.
"God damn it!"
While I was distracted for a few seconds, Mom had been quietly edging my car off the road, making sure I wouldn't notice until it was too late. The game restarted a second time, this time displaying each of us with two lives.
How could I have made such a stupid mistake? That was it. No more distractions. There was no way I was taking driving lessons every day. The next few minutes of the game were relatively boring. We drove, bumped each other's cars, said a few unrepeatable words. Before I knew it, we were down to one life each. The next winner would take the game.
This time, neither of us were playing around. This was serious. I'll spare you a long, boring recap of every single move we made. I'll just say one thing: It was a fluke. A total, complete fluke.
Let's just hope the Yeerks don't do anything major until I learn how to drive. Although I really don't think they'll care that I'm busy.
Once the game was over, I went and hung out at Jake's house. I figured it was best to wait a while before going back home, until I was sure I wouldn't be laughed at too much.
I ended up having dinner at Jake's. "So, Marco, how's your cousin?" Jake's dad asked as we sat down.
"Which one?" Mom comes from a big family. I have maybe fifteen or sixteen cousins, some of which have kids of their own.
"Phillip, the one who likes his food." There was a trace of a smile on his face, as if he was remembering something funny.
Ah. Ax must have been to Jake's house. We usually passed him off as Jake and Rachel's cousin, but that obviously wouldn't work on Jake's parents.
I just hoped Ax wouldn't make a habit of it. See, Jake's brother Tom is a fairly high-ranking Controller. I always worry that something Ax says or does might accidentally give him away as an Andalite. If a Yeerk finds out about us, we're toast. And that's putting it [b]very[/b] nicely.
If we're lucky, they'll kill us. If we're not (and we more than likely won't be)... they'll make us into Controllers. Give our morph-capable bodies to important Yeerks. Use our memories, powers and secrets to go after our families and friends. Enslave the world, leaving every living human being a trapped, powerless, screaming prisoner in their own minds.
I have a lot of nightmares. Now you now why.
"Are you okay, Marco? You look like you've got a lot on your mind."
I looked up at Jake's mom, trying to smile. "Nah, I'm fine." She nodded, but still looked concerned. Jake's parents are like a second family to me. I've been best friends with Jake since we were babies, so they've pretty much always been around. They really helped me pull through when I didn't have much left of my first family. Sure, I had plenty of aunts and uncles and cousins that most likely would have taken me in, but they all live in Puerto Rico. I didn't want to live in Puerto Rico, and I still don't. I barely even know Spanish!
Okay. Deep breaths, Marco. Calm down. You're okay.
I'll be lucky if I can hang onto a few shreds of sanity by the time this is all over. And that's without the driving lessons. Sometimes I wish it had been someone else who'd walked through that construction site with Jake and the others. Someone else who got the morphing power. Someone else who had to deal with the nightmares and stress and danger and fear and constant second-guessing.
But then, I look at Mom and Dad, free and happy together, and I know I made the right decision.
It was late by the time I got home. Jake and I had played video games, eaten a big bag of chips each, and been roped into a family game of Scrabble. It was pretty good, but Jake kept spacing out. "Why are you staring at my head?" Tom asked, frowning. No. Not Tom. The Yeerk that had infiltrated Tom's brain and now spoke for him.
I knew why Jake had been staring. He was imagining tearing the Yeerk from Tom's head and destroying it. There would be one less Yeerk on Earth, and Jake would have his brother back. I knew that fantasy. I'd lived it.
At being questioned, Jake shook himself back into reality. "What? Nothing. Just... trying to think of a word."
Tom nodded, but still looked suspicious. I could onyl hope he wouldn't slip a Yeerk in Jake's ear while he was sleeping. If that happened, none of us would be able to tell the difference, unless the Yeerk made a mistake. It would have full access to Jake's memories and morphing power. We'd all be hunted down before we knew it.
That's the kind of world we live in. One where you can't trust the police or the principal or the newscaster or even your own brother. You see why we sometimes just want to stop and pretend it isn't happening. But that wouldn't save our lives. The only thing we can do is fight. Fight and hope we can stall the invasion until the Andalite fighters come to take care of the situation.
If they come.
That was when I started to warm up to driving lessons. After all that, how bad could they really be?
This story has 5 chapters in total. It's actually already finished, I'm just lazy when it comes to posting it.
Wednesday. My second driving lesson. I wondered if that same instructor would be there. I hoped so. It would take longer to scare multiple instructors off, especially if some were tougher than others.
Once I had walked over to the car, I saw that it was the same one. Poor guy. His face went pale when he saw me. Pretneding not to notice, I opened the car door and sat down in the driver's seat.
Time for some small talk to unnerve him a bit. "Hello, sir!" I smiled, keeping up the false cheerfulness. Not that I wasn't in a good mood. "I'm really looking forward to learning more! Who knows, I could be on the roads in a few months..."
The instructor gulped. "Well, today we're keeping it simple. I'd like you to start the car and [i]carefully[/i] drive across the park, keeping within the path of cones." He pointed at one of the cones, still looking terrified. Good.
To pull this off, I was going to have to work carefully. I started the car, making my way through the park. Nice and easy... don't crash... there's a corner, turn slowly and gently... I kept an eye on the instructor, waiting for him to relax.
There! We were almost at the end of the path, and apparently he had decided I wasn't going to screw up. It was time for a bit more careful work.
Now, I would like to say: I did NOT intend to do what I did next. It was an accident. A complete accident. I lost control of the car, by [i][b]accident.[/b][/i]
I just wanted to pretend to spin out of control, knock over some cones, maybe leave some decent tire tracks. But I forgot the main danger of pretending to spin out of control: [i]actually[/i] spinning out of control.
It all happened in seconds. The car spun around, getting faster with each turn. Before I could react, we had covered most of the park, and the car was speeding towards a high concrete wall.
No! I had to stop it! I grabbed the steering wheel and tried to turn it. But, in a panic, I couldn't get a grip on the wheel. I started my calm-down routine, but it was too late. The car hit the wall, the hood crumpling in on itself like an aluminium can.
The sound of the crash was hard to describe. It wasn't a [i]smash[/i] or a [i]crunch[/i], more of a sickening combination of the two. Shards of hot metal were falling from the twisted wreck of the roof, burning my skin at every touch. I could hear screaming. Was it Mom? The instructor? Me? I couldn't tell. Was I going to die here?
No. I couldn't die. I had to morph my way out. I closed my eyes, trying to shut out the pain. It was hard to focus, but I found the picture in my mind that I needed to get out of there.
I saw the gorilla. And I became the gorilla.
I would just have to hope the instructor wasn't a Controller. And that I could convince him the whole thing was a hallucination or something. Otherwise, a wrecked car would be the least of my worries.
I braced myself as I started to change. The morphing process was always strange and uneven. I couldn't see myself, but I could [i]feel[/i] the growing and shifting of my own body. Compared to some things I'd morphed, the gorilla wasn't all that different to my own form (not that I'd admit that to Rachel), but it was still incredibly weird.
A few minutes later, I was a full-grown silverback gorilla from head to toe, complete with gorilla instincts in my brain. At that moment, the gorilla was upset. It didn't like the hot metal cage. It wanted out. [i]Happy to oblige[/i], I thought as I tore the roof open.
Daylight! I had to shield my eyes with one of my massive hands, but I was still happy to see the sun. I kept tearing at the ruined car, tossing chunks of metal aside. Slowly but surely, I gained more space for myself, and cleared more of the wreckage that was blocking me from the instructor. Within minutes, the entire car was scattered across the car park in almost-unrecognizable pieces. The instructor was lying on the ground, unconscious but unharmed. Lucky for both of us.
I looked over to see Mom watching, amazed. She knew I could morph, but hadn't had many chances to see it up close. I guess it was weird to look at an animal, any animal, and know it had the mind of her son. Especially since this particular animal was about four times her size.
<...Does this mean no more driving lessons?> I asked in thought-speak. Thought-speak is this kind of telepathy we can use in morph. It's very convenient, since being in an animal's body doesn't grant us the ability to understand animal sounds.
Mom's lips were pressed together in a thin line. "We'll see." I couldn't tell if she was genuinely angry or secretly amused. "Get in... Become human again and get in the car." I watched her closely as I demorphed, trying to pick up on her mood. But she's too much like me: good at closing herself off when she wants to. She was even better at concealment than me, more careful and practiced.
"Why are you wearing spandex?" Though it was a question, Mom's emotionless tone made it sound more like a comment.
Well, if that's how she was going to be, I would give it right back. "Morphs only work on DNA. We can only do skintight clothes." I told her in my own flat, aloof voice. I got into the car once I was fully human, carefully avoiding her eyes.
We left the instructor there. He wasn't in any danger. Although, if I did have to take more driving lessons, I doubted he'd be the first to volunteer.
The drive home was quiet, just like the day before. Was I in trouble? Was this silence part of the punishment, intended to keep me confused and guessing? Mom knew me. She knew that if I didn't know something, I'd drive myself crazy guessing and theorizing and wondering and overthinking. It's a blessing and a curse, depending on the situation. At that moment? A definite curse.
After what felt like forever, we were home. And just as she stopped the car, Mom slumped forward, her head resting on the dashboard. She burst into uncontrollable tears.
...No. Wait. That was laughter.
She was laughing like crazy, her fist beating the steering wheel. "That was insane! Insane! I mean... a teenager crashing a car, that happens all the time. But a teenager crashing a car, then turning into a gorilla and ripping the car to pieces from the inside? [i]Dios mio[/i], your life must be beyond crazy!"
I nodded. Finally, someone who understood. "You know what's really bizarre? The normal parts. It's weird enough to turn into animals and fight aliens, but later I'll be eating dinner or watching TV and still knowing there's a war raging. That things are anything but normal, but they look totally average."
After Mom was over her laughing fit, she looked up at me from the dashboard. Her makeup was a little smeared.
"I'm proud of you, Marco," she said, suddenly serious. "All you've had to do, you've coped so well. And you've probably had to do things I haven't heard about."
I almost asked what she meant, but I caught myself. I knew. I'd done, or seen things I couldn't talk about to anyone. Not even Mom, as much as I loved and trusted her. Not yet, anyway.
Mom's expression brightened suddenly. "We should go inside. I just remembered, I wanted to make enchiladas for dinner. Want to help?"
I wanted to get my mind off the war, and Yeerks, and driving lessons. Especially driving lessons. "You bet I do."