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The Unforeseen

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Things You Can't See". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: There were six kids there the night Elfangor died, the sixth one just wasn't foreseen because she didn't exist until a year ago.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Childrens/Teen > AnimorphsnamegoeshereFR18659,4352203,4808 Dec 097 Jun 10No

The Android (Part Two)

AN- Sorry this took so long but... This a mega long chapter for you guys. No joke. As always, I am open to corrections because I do not have a beta for this story. And if anyone wants the job tell me and these chapters would be out much faster. I hope you like it. :)

I do not own any thing used in this story. Sorry.


The Android (Part Two)-


I turned very slowly. Spike stood there with his arms crossed over his chest a small smirk taunting me, no, the Yeerk in his head stood taunting me.

“So you’re human, all of you. And this host is dead.” The Yeerk said.

“Vampire, you bloke!” The words came out of Spike’s mouth, in his accent.

Just as I blinked, the controller got a look of confusion. “I seem to have allowed the dead one a bit too much leeway.”

“Allowed nothing you garden slug. I got a bit of salt for ya. Watch you shrivel like a pair of old man’s bollocks.” ,

“Shut up!”

“Oh, I’m quaking, bloody terrifying that.”

I watched the exchange between the two, and I knew that Spike had some kind of control over his own body. I was making small movements, crawling backwards on the carpeted floor away from him and towards the fireplace, which has a number of nice weapon-like items I could use on… Them?

“Don’t even think about it, human.” Didn’t have to guess who said that.

Still reached behind me and grabbed the first head thing my hand came in contact with. I looked up to see I grabbed maybe the most useless thing in the stupid kit. The broom. “Oh, come on!”

I looked past the weapon best used for chasing a mouse to see controller Spike lunging towards me, however the Yeerk was not used to a vampire’s superior speed and over shot, falling against the bricks of the fire place.

I crab walked around him before standing, and striking him in the back of the head with the not so deadly broom.

“Oi! Ouch.”

“I’m sorry!” I said, but hit him again. Really, I felt bad about it, but Spike would be alright as long I avoided wooden objects and his heart.

“Stop it! Stupid human!” He’s hand came so fast I didn’t even see it. I heard the loud crack before I felt the strike, followed by a loud scream from either Spike or the controller, but most likely both.

Spike’s head turned to the side, “Bit…?” I could see the thought going through his head, and I knew this was going to hurt him just as much as it was me. The next blow was not as hard as it was when the Yeerk was in control but, even though I braced, it hurt! A lot.

The next one came before the sting of the last had faded so the shock was much less.

“Stop it! You are going to kill yourself!”

Slap, “I’m already dead!” Slap.

After the last one Spike’s eyes rolled in the back of his head and what looked like drool came out of the side of his mouth. With a thump he fell to the floor.

“Spike?” I said my hand on my inflamed cheek. “Spike!” I ran to him afraid he was dead. Well, again. But after a moment of shaking I realized he wasn’t dust, thus he was still in his semi living state. It was the living state of the Yeerk that worried me.

Taking a deep breath I went to the backyard and grabbed the towing chains off my uncle’s truck, hoping they were strong enough to hold on angry, possibly possessed, vampire.

Looping the rough chains around his wrists and ankles, but leaving enough length to help me drag the dead weight down the stairs. The chains cut into my palms as I struggled to get the tall vampire into the basement. I took a moment to try to make him comfortable noticing that one of his arms was now in a weird angle. Darn!

The door bell had me jumping out of my skin. “Who the hell?” I muttered. Then a about half way up the stairs I remembered my uncle, also known as the dead body in the living room.

I was at the top of the stairs when a bit of thought speech came through, {Dawn?} It was Tobias.

{Dawn? You missed our trip to the human place of commerce.} And Ax.

The mall. They were going to the mall, to pick up some Cinnabons, Ax’s favorite food. I missed it with the whole episode… I ran to the door and opened it to let to birds of prey enter. “Come in guys, it’s… There’s no one here… Kind of. It’s bad, really bad.”

Ax was the first one to the door, his large body coming in carefully.

{You are bleeding.} He said his raptor eyes staring at my still bleeding hands.

“And Craig is dead.” Waving a hand at the living room, sadly flinging blood on the grayish white walls.

{You killed our uncle?!} Tobias exclaimed as he came in and I shut the door behind him.

“No, Spike did, because he was a controller and attempting to drag me off to get an ear full of alien slug.” I walked around the room where my uncle laid, going to the staircase that leads down to the basement. “Now the Yeerk is in Spike, but it doesn’t have complete control and we were able to knock Spike out. I don’t know if the Yeerk is alive or fried and crispy in him and I don’t know how to check.” I wasn’t really thinking clearly. Maybe it was blood loss.

{Dawn? You’re hurt.} Tobias said.

“I know. Ax told me that already.”

{No, I mean your face is swollen really badly. I think you might have a concussion.} He said.

“I have him chained in the basement. I don’t think he can get out.” I sat on the dirty hallway carpet, my head pounding.

{Dawn? Can you morph?} Tobias worried voice came through but it was like fighting a fog. {I am going to get Cassie. Can you stay here with her Ax?}

{I will.}

Why do I need Cassie? Was the last thought of mine before darkness set in.



~Scene Break~



When I awoke I saw a pair of bright green eyes. And then another pair of bright green eyes. “Axis?”

{Cassie is here.} He warned me, {And she has already treated you and inspected the two bodies. I do not think she believes Tobias about the one in the lower level being alive. Until it woke up. It is very disturbing listening to the host fight the Yeerk for control.}

I sat up but couldn’t stay up as my head swam. I raised my hand to my cheek; it was beyond swollen and felt completely frozen. I looked back at Ax and he held up a bag of ice in his thin hands.

{You have seven breaks in you facial bones. Cassie said this may reduce the swelling and that if we didn’t you may have been prevented from breathing.} He looked kind of embarrassed while he was talking.

“Thank you.” I said and he gave me one of his eye smiles.

He nodded and stood on his four legs, {You should morph to heal now that you are conscious. I will tell Cassie and Tobias that you are on your way.}

I quickly morphed and demorphed, unfortunately that took a toll on my already tired worn out self.

But I knew that I would not get any sleep, not for a long time. I walked down to where I had dragged Spike, dreading having to not only deal with what had happened but the embarrassing fact that I passed out in front of Tobias and Ax.

I pulled on a clean pair of sweats and a tee and headed down the stairs to meet up with the others. I could see the spots of blood I had flung onto the dirty walls from my hands; they had already started to turn brown from oxidation. I also had another thought, how did I get down the hall into my room?

As if I didn’t have enough to be embarrassed about.

I didn’t get far before I heard the cursing and the arguments back and forth between Spike and the Yeerk. I stopped at the bottom of the stairs, taking in the sight.

It looked like Cassie fixed Spike’s shoulder and re-chained, in a much more pleasant manner than my attempt was, him. I looked at Cassie who was standing in the corner looking at me like I was Lucy. I had some ‘splainin’ to do…

“Creature of the night, witches, all that, real.” I said simply.

“I didn’t notice…” If Rachel had said that it would have come off with an attitude, with Cassie it may have been sincere. “I just, well, I get Tobias. But why does Ax know, why did you tell Ax and not the rest of us?”

“I have told everyone.” I said holding up my hands. “No one believed me.”

Cassie’s dark eyes widened and she opened then closed her mouth like a fish. I practically hear the DAMN that was going though her mind.

I walked over to Spike and placed a hand on his arm, “Are you okay?”

The answer I got was his game face.

{He’s been doing that, trying to frighten us. It lost its scare value about 40 minutes ago.} Toby said from his perch on the rotting railing.

“Bloody making me hungry though!” Spike said.

“Then I will help you by eating each and every one of them once I get out.” The Yeerk struggled against the chains.

“Oh and how are you planning on doing that, huh? By playing shock the wee slug again? I’m all for that actually.”

“If primitive humans can put the simple chip in your head, do you not think we can get it out? I can…”

“I’ve already said no! Bloody slave is worse than any damn chip.”

{That is very disturbing.} Ax mentioned again.

“Yeah…” I agreed. “But he didn’t take the offer at least.”

I smiled at him.

“Ohhh.”

I looked over at Cassie, “Huh?”

“I got it now.” She said looking at Ax.

Tobias’ laugh sounded in my head and I blushed.

{You are turning red again, Dawn. Are you still hurt?} Ax asked and for once I was glad he didn’t understand human facial expressions.

“No, no. I’m good.” I waved my hand at him. “Vampires are really hard to kill. Like uber hard. What about cutting it out?”

“What?!” I couldn’t be sure if that was Spike or the Yeerk.

Ax’s eyes narrowed, {That is very possible.} I swear that if he could do the evil laugh at this point, he would.

I looked at Cassie because I wasn’t going to try it.

“What if the Yeerk hooks themselves onto the brain? I could remove his brain trying that.” I hadn’t thought about that. It was really a horrifying thought. Spike’s brain sitting there in Cassie’s hand for a moment before it turns to dust.

{A Yeerk is simply wrapped around the brain. They have no way to hold onto the organ as too much muscle mass would prevent them from stretching to appropriate size. Any hooks would harm the host upon entry.}

At this point Spike was desperately trying to break his bond. Yet he was also laughing like a loon. “Go for it, bit. You have the bastard freaking.”

I looked at Cassie, “If we wait too long he will break the chains. Vampire strength will wear them down before three days are up.”

Cassie looked at the three of us, “I will have to tell Jake. And Rachel, then Marco because it wouldn’t be fair.”

{And what do you think they are going to say? They will either think you are joking or gone crazy. Look at how they treat Dawn, what help will it be? I think keeping this between us, for now is best.} Tobias said.

“How can you say that? We are a team! They have a right to know!” She said outraged.

“And I will tell them. When they are ready, when they are more open to the idea of… All this.” I said waving my hand at Spike.

“And I am?”

“You have been, Cassie. You are different, you feel things, things others don’t. You feel it when an animal is in pain, when they need your help. Cassie… Do you want to tell them about that?” I knew it was a low blow, but I was worried that I was about to become the side show, that the others would treat me like an outsider. I was worried that Cassie and the others would find out about the Key.

Tobias couldn’t be a controller, being a Hawk, and Ax would kill himself before being taken. But the others, they are in the middle of the Yeerk war and everyday there would be that fear of the unknown, of what would the Yeerks do with me as the Key.

Cassie looked at me as if trying to judge what I am hiding, but finally caved. “We need to get him to my barn. And after my parents go to sleep because I cannot even think would my parents would think if they came in while I was doing that.”

I reached down and pulled Spike’s keys out of his duster. “We have a car.” I said and held up the keys.

{Now that is dangerous.} Tobias said, earning a glare from me and a giggle from a stressed looking Cassie.



~Scene Break~



It was late at night, and storming, when Cassie, Ax in human morph and I moved a drugged Spike out of his own, now even more dinged up car, into the barn. And I swear those mailboxes moved.

Then Cassie went back for the opossum in the trunk, which really did jump out at me.

It was strange, watching Cassie cut the head open of someone that I had known for years. It was even stranger seeing the Yeerk come out of the brain. The strangest thing was that I had no idea what the hell she was doing.

It was like watching House. On mute. It was just a bunch of medical stuff I didn’t understand. But I helped; I did everything she asked me to do.

I used the sucker-upper thing for the blood. And handed her different things she needed, but I had no clue why I was doing these things. I did them because she asked and I love Spike. In an I love you, man, kind of way.

Within an hour Ax was holding a jar of Yeerk and Spike’s hairline was already starting to scab.

Cassie sat down and sighed as Spike started to move again. “See there was no reason to worry. Over drugging a vampire is a no harm thing. Unless you are using holy water.”

“I knew that in my mind, but I still gave him enough to bring down seven elephants. “ She was only sitting down for a moment before she stood up and started cleaning. I understood why she did, her parents would come in the next morning and think, why is there blood everywhere?

I took Cassie’s hands, “Thank you.”

“I don’t like it, Dawn, I don’t like lying to Rachel, to Jake…And Marco.” I knew Marco was an afterthought. “But I will. Only because the idea of a mental institution doesn’t sound pleasant.”

“Well, it’s nice to know that at least one of your little group has a head on her shoulders, bit.” Spike said jumping off the metal table Cassie had used to give him brain surgery. “’Cus other than her I see a birdy and something that looks like a centaur shagged a Smurf.”

Cassie, Toby and I all shot a look at Ax. Creepy.

“But you’re right. There is nothing I can do here, I will only cause more harm and I aint one to stay out of the way. The things the buggy said will haunt me and I was William the Fu-reaking Bloody.” It was hard for Spike to say this, it was hard for him to step aside when his nibblet was in danger, but both of us knew it had to be done.

I handed him his car keys and gave him a very teary eyed hug.

“Ah, bit, you know I can’t stay here. I will help, kay? I will keep all the other big bads on the other coast. As far away from your war as I can, with the help of our new slayer-” Spike stopped. “I forgot to tell you. The slayer? The new one? It aint your sister’s replacement, its Faith’s. They murdered her in prison, said they needed an active slayer, stupid prats.”

I looked at Spike. I shouldn’t be sad about Faith, after all she tried to kill Buffy, but something was nagging at me, like she had more to give, like she was meant to do more in her life.

“I’m sorry.”

“Anyways, this new slayer, a little redhead that doesn’t know her hands from her feet, is going to need a lot of help and just don’t think that the watcher is up to it alone.” He stuck his hands in his pockets as he looked at me, “And I have eyes and ears, even with a bug in my head, he’s a weird one, bit. But not really unexpected.” He gave a grin and little wave before he walked off leaving me a flaming red color. Also knowing that he wasn’t wrong; demons, robots, vampires, former demons, human/goddess body sharing, lesbians and juiced soldiers leaves aliens for me. I guess I don’t mind.



~Scene Break~


“So why are we here?” Marco complained.

“To see who morphs our new morph,” Rachel said. “Ax is in, regardless. We need his expertise in aliens. One of us has to go in with him.”

“What's the morph?” I asked suspiciously.

“Spider,"” Cassie said. We were at Cassie's barn. It was Saturday morning. This was the kind of insanity they cooked up when I wasn't there.

“Excuse me? I must have something wrong with my ears.” Marco tapped the side of his head with his palm. “Because, see, I thought I heard you say the word ‘spider.’ And I remember saying ‘no insects.’”

Cassie held her hand out to Marco. And in that hand was a spider. “It's not an insect. Arachnids have eight legs and two body segments. Insects have six legs and three segments.”


“Since I knew we were doing this today, I decided to do some reading. This is a wolf spider. It has pretty good eyesight. In fact, it has eight eyes.” Cassie said this like having eight eyes was a good thing. Like eight eyes was something everyone should want.

“Go away, Cassie. Go away. Go away; go away, I am going to morph a spider! You can morph a spider. I don't like spiders.”

Jake gave Marco a look. “Marco, Cassie always gets stuck doing the new morphs. Besides, this is more your mission than anyone else's.”

“What? Why?” He demanded angrily. “Why is this my mission more than yours or Rachel's?”

Jake shrugged. “Erek is your friend.”

“My friend? When did I ever say he was my friend? He's not my friend. I barely know the guy!”

“Marco, you're such a wuss,” Rachel said.

“Hey, you want to be a spider?”

Rachel shuddered slightly. “Sure.” She was lying. I just knew it. “If I draw a short straw, I'd love to go spider.”

Then she grinned. She couldn't keep a straight face.

“I’ll do it!” I blurted suddenly. “I don’t mind. You know? Spiderman was cool.”

Jake gave me a nod “Okay, Dawn is in.” Then he turned to Marco, “Look, you don't have to do this. It's just that we're going to be infiltrating a meeting of The Sharing. The Yeerks are totally on alert for animal morphs. We have to fit into the environment of the lake. Whatever morphs we use have to belong there. We can't be showing up there as lions and tigers and bears."

“Oh, my,” Cassie interjected.

“We need good vision, but not standard mammal-type eyes. And we can't all go in the same way. I want two people to hang back as a rescue squad in case we get into a mess. Ax has to go because we need him to see if he can figure out what Erek is. Ax is going in as a spider, Dawn, as always, is going with him but it wouldn’t be right to leave them out there alone.”

Oh, my god! He didn’t! He was calling me useless. I crossed my arms and glared.

“Has anyone told Ax about this?” Marco asked.

“He was here earlier. While you were sleeping in late. He said he thought a spider's body was much more sensible than a human's body,” Cassie said. “His exact words were, ‘Ah, good. With eight legs it won't fall over like a human.’”

“Be glad we waited for you at all,” Rachel growled. “Just draw a straw.”

Jake had six pieces of hay in his fist. He opened his hand and handed me a short straw since I asked to be in. There was no way to tell which of the others was the shortest one.

“Hah. I know how to beat this,” Marco said. “It's mathematical. If I choose first, my odds are just one in five. The next person to choose has odds of one in four, then one in three, and so on. So the safest thing to do is choose first.”

He took a deep breath, reached out, and yanked up a straw. “Really, it made perfect sense mathematically,”

He looked like he was going to cry.

Rachel rolled her eyes. “You know, if you're going to be a big baby, I'll do it.”

“Don't condescend to me, oh mighty Xena. Just because I'm not a reckless idiot doesn't mean I'm a wuss. I've never chickened out on a morph yet. And if Ax is in, so am I. You can hang around and be the backup, Rachel. I'm going where the action is.” Marco snapped.

To which Rachel replied with a very calm, “Okay.”

Cassie held out the spider. “It's not bad,” she said. “I morphed the spider yesterday, just to see what it was like. Charlotte's Web was one of my favorite books.”

“It would be,” Marco muttered.

“I like Harry Potter. I could be a spider animagus… only a ton of other animals too.” I reached out a finger to touch the spider.

The spider became very still as I acquired it. Thanks to the Andalite technology that had transformed me, the spider DNA entered my system.



~Scene Break~



The lake is in the mountains. It's a long way from where any of us live. And if we'd had to walk it would have taken several days. Fortunately, we didn't have to walk.

We have our own little airline. TWA: Travel With Animorphs.

It was a beautiful day. Just a few puffy clouds in a blue sky. Bright sun. A canopy of trees spread out beneath us as we flew toward the mountains. With my condor wings spread wide and the sun toasting the ground so it sent up elevators of warm air, it was as perfect as life can get. If you overlooked the fact that we were heading toward utter, unspeakable grossness and certain destruction.

{Time to split up} Toby said. {The lake is just over that next ridge.}

We had not been flying close together because that would have looked massively suspicious. Two ospreys, a harrier, a bald eagle, a peregrine, a condor, and a red-tailed hawk, all flying together? Not in the natural world. But we were all within a mile of each other, and all heading in the same direction.

Toby went into a lazy upward spiral, hanging back. Rachel and Cassie split off, too. The Yeerks would have heavy security around the meeting of The Sharing. The Yeerks know all about morphing. They would be on alert.

Ax, in a harrier morph, Jake, in his peregrine falcon morph, Marco, in osprey and I flew on toward the lake, though still far apart.

{You know, one of your kind tried to kill me the other day} Marco said to Jake.

{Tobias told me} Jake said. {Gotta watch out. Falcons rule.}

{Yeah, well I noticed he didn't try it a second time.}

{Don't diss falcons} Jake said.

{One-on-one in a fair fight, an osprey would kick your butt.}

{As if.} Jake sneered.

{Excuse me} Ax interrupted. {Is there some special meaning to this conversation that I don't understand?}

{They are both mad because they both a tiny compared to my endangered bird butt.} I put in.

{NOT!} Marco said. {The meaning is that Jake and I are scared, so we're babbling in a desperate effort not to think about it. Bald-headed, ugly, rotten meat eating, please. }

{Ah. I am frightened, too. I don't really like morphing tiny animals. I keep thinking about all the rest of my mass.}

{Your what?} I asked he’s phrase catching my complete attention. Because it was interesting. Really!

{My mass. When you morph something smaller than yourself, your body mass must go somewhere. So it goes into Zero-space. Zero-space is the space that ships travel through when they are going faster than light. It's not very likely to happen, but sometimes a ship traveling in Z-space will intersect with a temporarily parked mass.}

It looked like Marco may have drop by a few feet as his bird body just stopped moving, before he started flapping again.

{Wait a minute. Are you telling me that when we get small, all the leftover . . . stuff ... all the extra flesh and guts and bones go bulging into Zero-space like some big balloon of human tissue?}

{Of course. Where did you think all the mass went?}

{Oz?} I answered.

{I really didn't think about it.} Marco said {So right now there's a big bag of Jake floating in Zero space? And it's possible some spaceship will zoom along and hit it and splatter it all over?}

{No, no, of course not} Ax said. {Of course no ship would actually hit a floating mass} Ax said, talking to the boys like they were nitwits. {The ship's shielding systems would disintegrate the mass. That's what troubles me about doing small morphs. It very seldom happens. The odds are millions to one. But it could happen.}

{Hey, Ax?} Jake said. {You know how we wanted you to be honest with us? To tell us everything you know?}

{Yes, Prince Jake.}

{Small change. In the future, don't tell us things that will scare us silly just as we're going into possible battle.}

{You can still tell me.} I told him.

{I know, Dawn. You are a warrior, more than the others.} He told me, in private thought-speech.

{A big wad of Marco in Zero-space} Marco muttered. {Like hanging your butt out of a car window, waiting for a truck to come along and sideswipe it off.}

Just at that moment, I topped the crest of the ridge. Tall pines nearly scraped my belly. And there, spread out before me, sparkling in the sun, was a large lake nestled between the surrounding hills and mountains.

{Okay, boys and er, Dawn} Jake said. {This is where I peel off. Just one final word. I know spiders eat bugs, so do not, I repeat, do not, eat any flies. I'll have enough to worry about in fly morph.}

{Remind me} Marco said. {Why are we doing this instead of staying home and sleeping in late?}

{We're saving the world} Jake said.

{Oh, yeah. Great. My mass is hanging out in the Zero-space highway and I'm about to become Spiderman. I knew there had to be a pretty good reason.} Marco went on to say. He really doesn’t ever shut up.

There were probably two hundred people around the lake below us -- boys, girls, older people. Some were swimming. Some were water-skiing. Some were grilling burgers and hot dogs over charcoal fires. A lot were just milling around and talking and laughing.

You'd swear it was some kind of big community picnic. From the air they all looked so normal. And probably most of the people below us were normal. But a lot of them were Controllers.

And one of them was Erek, who was certainly not normal.

We stayed well back from the lakeshore and dropped down into the trees. We came to rest on the ground, inside a cluster of tall bushes

{Shall we demorph?} Ax asked.

{Not yet. Tobias said he would swing back over, once we were on the ground.} Marco said.

So we waited there, looking a bit weird, three birds of prey just hanging out inside a bunch of bushes at the edge of the forest. I could hear the whine of power boats out on the water, and closer, little snatches of human laughter.

{Okay, guys.} Toby's thought-speak voice suddenly spoke in my head. {Looks clear to me. You've got a guy and a girl maybe a hundred yards off. But I think they're making out, so they should be busy for a while.}

I quickly began to demorph. One of the limitations on morphing is that you can't just morph straight from one form to another. You always have to return to your own body in between. In Ax's case this meant returning to his Andalite form. That had to make him nervous. There were dozens of Controllers just a few hundred feet away. Yeerks might overlook a couple of kids sneaking around. They wouldn't overlook an Andalite. {What is making out?} Ax asked me about half way human.

{Uh, kissing.} I said.

{Ah, touching mouths. I understand.} Then to Marco, since we were back in our normal bodies, {Are you ready to morph?}

“I'll never be ready to morph a spider,” Marco said. He’s teeth were chattering, and it wasn't cold.

{I have to morph} Ax said. {I can't stay here in Andalite form.}

I rolled my eyes at Marco like, duh.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I know. Okay. Okay, I'm going to do this. But I'm going to keep my eyes closed.”

"It can't be any worse than morphing a fly, right? Or an ant?" Marco asked already behind Ax and I with the morph.

I felt myself starting to shrink. I could feel myself getting smaller. I could feel very strange things happening inside me: sudden feelings of emptiness where organs were simply disappearing. And there was a distracting squishy sound that came up my spine and through my skull. The sound of bones turning to marrow, and of marrow sort of oozing away.

I wouldn't be needing any bones, I guess.

POP! POP! POP!

Eyes were popping open in my forehead. Eyes were erupting out of my head like zits. I was staring at Ax as he underwent a change very similar to my own.

I was watching him with vision that was half human and half the shattered, brokenmirror vision of the spider's compound eyes. Something horrifying was growing from the place on Ax's face where a mouth should have been. Something huge and bulging and foul. Two monstrous, swollen things like . . . like nothing I'd ever seen before. They were jaws, but huge and outsized. From the end of each one, a wicked, curved fang grew. Sometimes you really, really need eyelids. There are definitely some things you don't want to have to see.

I knew the same thing was happening to me. My bulging jaw parts grew till they entered my own distorted field of vision.

Fortunately, I didn't have to worry too long about the jaws. See, I became distracted when legs suddenly exploded from my chest.

SPROOOT!

Four new legs, two on each side, just shot out of me, like I was a tube of toothpaste someone had stomped. They sprouted all Gumby-unformed, and then began to form joints. Way too many joints. My human legs and arms were changing to match these first spider legs. I fell forward, no longer able to stand erect. It wasn't much of a fall. I was already pretty small. The pine needles beneath me already seemed to be as big around as a human finger.

Not that I had any fingers left to compare with.

All the while, new eyes kept opening suddenly where eyes absolutely did not belong. Some were compound eyes. Some weren't.

Then, as if the extra legs, and the mix "n" match eyes, and the huge jaw-and-fang combo weren't enough, some new leglike things came sprouting out of my ... well, out of where my neck used to be. They were like extra legs, only they weren't. I had no idea what they were. But they moved. Much later, I found out they're called pedipalps. A sort of cross between a mouth part and a leg.

My head was swelling, compared to the rest of my body. It was gigantic ... in a small way.

My entire body was now divided into two big chunks: a sort of bulging head and an even bulgier body. I was almost entirely spider now. The pine needles that had seemed as big as fingers were now as big as two-by-fours.

As the last touch, strangely soft hairs began to grow from everywhere on my body. It was the hair that seemed to trigger the awakening of the spider brain.

The wolf spider has good eyes for a spider. But it's all the thousands of tiny hairs that really get the spider brain's attention. They sense every subtle clue in the wind. Every minor movement in every direction.

And all of a sudden it felt like the whole world was moving: leaves, pine needles, the dirt beneath my claw-tipped eight legs, bugs in the dirt, moles under the ground, birds in the air. All of it seemed to be hardwired into the hairs that covered my spider body.

With that entire sensory overload, the spider brain woke up. I had been afraid it would be like the brain of an ant: a mindless machine. Or that it would be the terrified, fearful, panicstricken mind of a prey animal.

But oh, no. Definitely no.

They didn't call it a wolf spider for nothing.

This guy was tiny, no more than two inches from the end of one outstretched leg to the end of the farthest back leg. A toddler could easily crush him underfoot.

But I guess it isn't size alone that makes a predator, because as soon as I felt the edge of that spider brain I knew this boy was trouble.

The wolf spider was a killer.

Motion! Something moved, left to right across my field of vision, and Marco was after it like a dog after a rabbit. The world was weird to my eight spider eyes. I saw colors no human ever saw. It was like when you mess with the color and tint knobs on the TV. Things that should have been brown were blue, and green was red, or whatever. From some angles the pictures were almost clear, but a second later everything would shatter into bits and I'd be watching a million tiny monitors at once. I never could make logical sense out of it. But mostly what I saw was movement. I was very, very interested in movement.

{Marco. What are you doing?} I asked

{Nothing. I was just letting the spider be a spider.} He crawled off a beetle he just attacked, {I guess its instincts kind of carried me away.}

{Marco, I morphed the identical spider} Ax said.

{Ax, it was just a cockroach .Who cares? Come on, we have a job to do.}

{Sometimes humans worry me} Ax said.

{You have no idea.} I said.

{I think it's this way} Ax said. He took the lead and I saw him moving in front of me, a spider scurrying effortlessly on his eight legs.

I fell in behind him.

Suddenly, from the sky . . . something fell toward me! It landed right between Ax and me. A grasshopper, three, four times our size. It looked like an elephant.

Then . . . thwap! It fired its huge hind legs and shot into the air. It disappeared as quickly as it had arrived.

We raced on through the forest, covering the two hundred feet between us and the edge of the party. I sensed the nearness of humans. I "heard" vibrations that might have been speech, but the voices were too garbled to make any sense out of.

{Hey, Marco, Ax, you guys around? Dawn?} It was Jake's thought-speak voice.

{Yes, Prince Jake,} Ax answered. {We are here.}

{We're not pretty, but we're here.} Marco added.
{Cool. I'm not exactly handsome myself. I'm in fly morph. Haven't found our boy Erek yet, though.}

Something massive and slow appeared in the air above me. I scampered sideways. It landed slowly with a loud WHOOOMPHHH!

A human foot. A shoe. Nike.

{You know, I'd been worrying someone might step on me} I said. {But humans are so slow.}

{Be careful anyway} Jake said. {Let me know if you find Erek.}

{I don't know how I'm supposed to recognize him} Marco complained. {These spider eyes aren't good at seeing distances. And human heads seem to be way up in the clouds, from where I'm crawling down here.}

But Ax and I went on, skittering swiftly through a forest of huge, slow-moving legs and feet. And Marco caught up easy enough.

Then, right in front of me, I saw it. It looked like a bare human foot. Except that I could see through the skin. Through the toenails. With my eight strange, distorted spider eyes I could see right through the electronic haze of the hologram.

I could see what was beneath the hologram. I saw what looked like interlocking plates of steel and ivory. The "foot" had no toes.

In fact, it wasn't shaped like a human foot. More like a paw.

It was not human. And everything in my tingling, buzzing, hyper, spider's senses told me it was not alive.

{Axis?} I asked.

{Yes, I see it.}

{What is it?} Marco said

{I do not know.}

{It looks like a machine, almost. Like it's made out of metal.} Marco pointed out.

{Yes} Ax said. {I think your friend Erek may be an android.}

{Android?}

{Yes. A robot. A machine made to seem like a life-form} Ax said, as though it was just the most common idea in the world. I realized that I had told him about the Buffy-Bot. Thus he must have been projecting a common thought to Marco.

{This is like something you know about, Ax?} Marco asked, looking up at the thing called Erek.

{This is not a type of android I know.} Ax said. {It is not Andalite. I don't think it is Yeerk. I don't know who ... or what ... it is.}

My spider eyes could see the foot and most of the way up the leg. It was like looking at a double-exposure photograph. There was the outward appearance of a human leg and, way up high, shorts. But beneath all that there was this machine made of what seemed like steel and ivory.

It was thousands of interlocked plates, almost like the chain mail armor knights used to wear. Each of the individual links was roughly triangular in shape. The "ivory" segments were a little larger than the segments that looked like steel.

The robot . . . android . . . whatever it was, was smaller than the human Erek. The leg I was looking at was oddly constructed. More like a stretched-out dog leg than a human leg. The robot leg, along with its holographic projection of a human foot, lifted off, as Erek went on his way.

{Jake?} I called.

{Yeah? Hey, I think I see our guy. There's this person . . . it's hard with fly senses, but I see this person who is kind of shimmering all over, and it's like there's something hiding underneath all the shimmering light.}

{Yep. That's him} Marco confirmed.

{Wait a minute! There's another one!}

{What?}

{Another one of them,} Jake answered. {I just buzzed right past him. There are two of these things.}

{Okay, nothings have gotten com-} I started to say. FWAP! FWAP! FWAP! FWAP!

A hurricane of wind! The ground in front of me exploded as two big taloned feet landed in the dirt.

A shadow over my head! I ran.

Two big black triangles came down from the sky above me. They dug in, just in front of me! Just behind me!

Like a power shovel, the two triangles closed together. I was inside. I was in darkness. Total darkness. Some big, muscular thing was crushing me, squeezing me. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't see. I was being squeezed and pummeled.

And then I realized . . . I was being swallowed.

{AAAAAHHHHH!} I yelled.

There are two kinds of thought-speak. Private, which is like whispering right in one person's ear, and public, which is like yelling.

I was yelling.

Every person near that lake heard me. Normal humans, who probably wondered, "What was that?" And Controllers, who knew it was thought-speak.

But I didn't care. I was being swallowed.

{Dawn!} Jake yelled. {What's happening?}

{Dawn! Everyone can hear you!} Ax warned, but he also sounded worried. Now was not a time to think about that. I tried to control my panic. I was being swallowed, but I wasn't dead yet.

{Something . . . something just grabbed me!} I said, aiming my thought-speak at Jake, Marco and Ax only.

{I think it was a bird} Ax said. {I saw it. Very big and black. It flew off.}

My spider legs were crushed against my side. Two of them were broken. The hairs all over my body were blind. My eyes were blind. There wasn't enough air even for my spider body to live on. I was being forced down the gullet of a bird, flying through the air, and seconds away from suffocating.

{Toby?} I cried desperately. {Can you hear me?}

{Dawnie? What's happening?} Tobias answered. His reply came from far off, but very quickly.

{A bird ate me. Black bird. We're flying. Can you see . . . Help!}

{Dawnie, there are a dozen big crows flying. I can't tell which one.}

I felt my mind beginning to fade. The spider was dying. What would happen if the spider died? I wondered, as my attention drifted away.

That thought did it. I was outta there. Morph out!

I tried to form a mental picture of my own real self. A mental picture of a human named
Dawn. But it was all confused. My mind was dying, and as it sank it called up a thousand images. Images of wolves and giant ants and green balls of energy. Images of all the animals I had been, all the minds I had lived in. Things I once was.

I couldn't grab that human image and hold onto it. But then, floating up in my disintegrating consciousness, came the image of my mother.

I guess that's not a surprise. They say dying soldiers on the battlefield often call out for their mothers with their dying breaths. And I guess that's what I was doing, too.

She was smiling at me. She was much taller than me, but she bent down to pick me up. I flew, up in the air, up to her face. She kissed me.

"You are going to grow up to be so cute," she said. "My little pumpkin-belly."

Dawn. The human girl. I saw myself clearly then, like I was looking through her eyes at the little toddler I never was. Not the Animorph Dawn, not a green ball of energy but the little kid Dawn.

Suddenly . . . The pressure was growing. Growing. I was squeezed from all sides. I felt muscle tensing to restrain me, but then, the muscle weakened and quivered.

A ripping, tearing sound!

Light! Light!

I was demorphing. Demorphing and growing. I had burst through the throat of the crow! And now, I was falling!

{Dawn!} Tobias yelled.

Muddy, distorted vision showed me the crow falling alongside me.

I was falling. Falling through the air, a vile mix of crippled spider and emerging human. I was the size of a baseball, I guess, and getting bigger. I hate to even think of what I looked like. I know I wasn't pretty.

WHAMMMMM!

I hit the ground. I bounced. I hit the ground again. I lay there, not knowing where I was, or what I was. But I knew one thing for sure. I was going to demorph. I was getting OUT OF THAT MORPH!

If I'd had a mouth, I would have started screaming and never stopped. But my mouth reappeared late. Four of my spider legs withered and disappeared. My remaining legs became human arms and legs. My tiny claws became toes. My fangs and jaws became teeth and lips. My eight spider eyes shut down one after another, leaving only two. And slowly, those two eyes became fully human.

I looked up through human eyes at a blue sky. At the high branches of trees looming above me. And then, I looked up into the face of Marco’s former schoolmate, Erek.

Erek the android.

“The Key?” Erek said. “You’re human?”

“My name is Dawn!” The Key thing again. Anyway, to my human eyes Erek looked completely, one hundred percent human. I knew it wasn't true, but even so, it was almost impossible not to believe the holographic projection that surrounded the android.

Could I remorph into something powerful enough to ... to make sure he wouldn't be a problem? Probably not. There were Controllers all around the area. All he had to do was yell for help.

Just then, a girl came running up. She looked down at me, then at Erek.

“Who is this?” The girl asked.

“Her name is Marco,” Erek said calmly. “You know the ‘Andalite bandits’ Chapman is always talking about? The ones who use Andalite morphing technology to carry on a guerrilla war?”

“Of course,” She said.

Erek pointed down at me. "I think the Key is one of them."

There it was: the end. The end of our existence as Animorphs. We'd always known that if the Yeerks ever discovered our true identities, or even that we were humans, they would wipe us out within a matter of days.

I felt sick. Sick with fear for myself, and for the others. I'd blown it. I'd given away our great secret. That the Key was theirs, that I was.

Erek jerked his head toward the girl. “This is my friend Jenny.”

I was not pleased to meet her. I heard the sound of people rushing through bushes.

‘”Nothing over here,” Erek said loudly. “Jenny hurt her ankle. I'll help her. Keep searching. I think I heard something over there.”

Erek must have noticed the extremely shocked and puzzled expression on my face.

He grinned. “’There are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.’”

“Shakespeare?” I said, amazed.

“Yes. Hamlet. I saw the very first performance.”

"Anya did too."

Erek nodded. “Do you know where I live?”

I nodded, with my head still down in the dirt.

“Morph into something small enough to escape from here,” Erek suggested. “Come to see me at my house, you and your friends. We have a lot to talk about.”

For some stupid reason I said, “You're not human. We know you're an android.”

“And you're not an Andalite bandit,” Erek said then, “And you’re not human either.”

“I am now.” I said back, “How do I know I can trust you?”

Erek shrugged. “I could turn you in, right now. I'd be Visser Three's new best friend. Even the Visser knows how to reward those who carry out his orders well.”

“Maybe you want to catch all of us at once,” I said. Don't ask me why I was arguing with him. Maybe it was the humiliating position I was in. Maybe I felt like I had to act tough since I was on my back in the dirt, wearing severely unattractive clothing.

Erek squatted down. "Dawn, if I gave you to Visser Three, he would get the names of all your friends from you. I know you're a brave person. You'd have to be, to do all you and your friends have done. But you are not brave enough to survive the Visser's torture. You would tell. And then you would be forced back into your original form. Do you know what that is? Do your friends?”

I took a couple of seconds to think about that. He was right, of course.

“We'll be there,” I said. “I guess we don't have a choice. You have us by the ... you have us cold.”

Erek shook his head. “It's not like that. It will be a meeting of allies, Dawn. You see, we, too, fight the Yeerks.”


~Scene Break~



We had decided to meet with Erek at his house. We had not decided to trust him completely.

Jake, Cassie, Ax, Marco, and I were going to the meeting.

Rachel and Tobias stayed outside as backup. Rachel was all primed to use her grizzly bear morph if we called for help.

‘”I'll be within range of Ax's thought-speak,” She said for the tenth time. “I can morph my bear in a minute and go through that door about ten seconds later.”

“If you do that, try not to stomp over me in the process, okay?” I said. I glanced up and saw Toby swooping down to settle in the tree in Erek's yard.

I could joke about it, but the truth was, it did feel reassuring to know Rachel and Toby were ready to be the cavalry.

We went up to the front door of the very ordinary-looking house. Marco sent Jake a look that said, ‘Man, I hope we're right about this.’ But Jake was busy exchanging solemn glances with Cassie. And I was looking pass Marco at Ax.

“So? Someone knock on the door,” Marco said.

I kept looking at Ax. He was in his human morph. His human morph is made up of DNA gathered at the same time from all of us except Tobias and me. There's some of Jake and Rachel and Cassie and Marci in Ax's human shape. In the end result he's male, but almost as pretty as a girl. Yeah, really, really pretty. Which I notice, a lot.

“Knock? Knock on the door? Why? Knockon. Knock-kuh.” Andalites don't have mouths, and Ax can't get over how fun it is to make actual sounds. Plus, you don't even want the boy in the same room with certain foods.

Jake knocked. The door opened. I was surprised. It wasn't Erek. It was his father, Mr. King. He nodded. “Come in.”

We stepped inside. I felt completely dorky. It was like we were coming over to ask if Erek could come out and play. I mean, the house looked so normal inside. Normal furniture and normal lights and normal dishes displayed in a hutch. A normal TV on "mute," showing pictures from CNN.

There were two dogs, a Labrador mix and a fat little terrier. The Lab just lolled over on its back.

The terrier came running over to sniff our shoes.

“Is Erek here?” I asked.

Mr. King nodded. “Yes. Would you like a soda or anything?”

“No thanks, Mr. King,” Cassie said. She bent over to scratch behind the terrier's ears. While I rubbed the lab’s belly.

“You like dogs?” Mr. King asked.

“Cassie likes any animal,” Marco answered. “She even likes skunks.”

“But dogs do you like dogs?”

Cassie smiled. “If reincarnation were real, I'd want to come back as a dog.”

“I love them.” Of course there was the fact they could see me as I really was, the Key.

Mr. King smiled, nodding as if we had just said something profound. “Would you all come with me?”

He turned and led the way toward the kitchen. Once again, the total normalcy of it seemed jarring. There were little Post-It notes on the refrigerator saying things like "dozen eggs, bell peppers." Someone had left a box of Wheaties out on the counter.

Mr. King opened a door. It led down to the basement. We followed him down the narrow wooden steps.

At this point I started to wonder. I noticed that Ax was morphing slowly out of his human shape, returning to Andalite form a little at a time.

Good Ax. He sensed danger and he wanted his tail available.

I wanted his tail available, too.

Mr. King paused when we all got down to the basement. He watched with absolutely no surprise as Ax finished transforming. He waited politely for Ax to be done.

Then, to my utter amazement, I felt a slight dropping sensation. It took a few seconds to realize what was happening. The basement was dropping like an elevator. When I looked up I couldn't see a roof overhead, just darkness.

“Whoa,” Cassie commented.

“Don't be afraid,” Mr. King said.

It didn't last long. We may have dropped four or five floors. At least that's what it felt like to me. Then, with a slight lurch, the basement elevator stopped.

“Is this the floor for men's clothing?” I asked.

I was almost not surprised when one entire wall of the basement, hung with tools and garden hose and a rake and hoe, simply disappeared. Where the wall had been was now a hallway lit with a golden light. “My basement won't do this,” I muttered to Ax.

{I know.} He said.

“This way,” Mr. King said.

We followed him. It was way too late to start worrying now. The hallway wasn't long, just fifty feet or so. It reached a dead end, a blank wall. But then that wall, too, disappeared.

“Yah!”

“No way!”

{Strange.}

“This is just a hologram, right?” I said. But somehow, I knew it wasn't. It was real. Unbelievable, yet real.

What was beyond the hallway was a vast, vast chamber, lit in glowing gold light, soft and buttery warm.

I stepped out of the hallway onto springy grass. And over my head, maybe a hundred feet up, there was a glowing orb, like a sun. That's where the yellow light came from. Stretched out before us, for more than the length of a football field, was a sort of park. Trees, grass, streams, flowers, butterflies flying around jerkily, bees buzzing from flower to flower, squirrels racing up and down the trees. Walking here and there were androids.

Androids in their natural form, machines made of steel and something white. The androids had mouths that were almost like muzzles, clumsy-looking legs, and stubby fingers.

But it wasn't the presence of half-dozen or so androids that was really shocking. What was really shocking was that there were hundreds, maybe even a thousand dogs. Normal, everyday Earth dogs, every breed and half-breed you could imagine, running in packs, yipping, yapping, bowwowing, howling, growling, ruff-ruffing dogs. They were chasing squirrels, smelling each other, and generally having a great ole dog time.

Jake, Cassie, Marco, and I stood there with our jaws hanging open like complete idiots. If Ax had possessed a mouth, his would have been hanging open, too.

It was doggie heaven. Dogs and robots in a huge, underground park. One of the robots came trotting toward us. As it got near, a hologram shimmered around it.

A second later, it was Erek.

“Welcome,” he said. “I guess you're probably a little surprised.”

“We are the Chee,” Erek said.

Mr. King had left, and Erek had brought us to a place beneath a large tree. A little stream trickled by, just a few feet away. A wall of silence had come down, as if someone had turned down the sound of all the barking dogs. I could still hear them, but it was as if the sound were far away now.

{You are androids} Ax commented.

"Yes."

{You show a very high level of technological sophistication} Ax said.

Erek smiled with what looked exactly like human lips. “We are just the creation. It is our creators who were the great builders.”

“Why did you bring us down here?” Jake asked. “Why show us all this?”

“We want you to trust us,” Erek said then he looked at me. “We know that you're suspicious. You have to be. I'm sure you've left some of your people outside, just in case we betray you. I wanted us to be equal. I wanted you to know our secrets, since we know yours.”

“We saw you at the concert,” Marco started to say.

He looked surprised, then nodded. “Ah, yes. You were the two dogs, weren't you? I sensed something odd about you. Tell me: What's it like to actually be a dog?”

“It's truly cool,” Jake said. “You knew we were the two dogs?”

Erek shook his head. “We didn't know, but I felt something strange. We've known there were morph-capable forces on Earth. There is very little that the Yeerks know that we don't also know.”

“You were handing out flyers for The Sharing. You were at a meeting of The Sharing,” Marco accused.

“True. But maybe I should tell you our story. Then you'll understand who we are. And why we are your allies. And also why we ... or at least some of us ... would like your help.”

“That would be nice,” Cassie said.

You have to say one thing for Erek: The boy knew how to tell a story. Suddenly, everything around us dissolved. In its place there grew a vast, three-dimensional picture. It looked as real as Erek. We were no longer on Earth. There were two suns in the sky, one small and almost red, and the other four times as big as Earth's sun and a deeper gold. The trees and flowers and grasses around us were definitely not anything that had ever grown on Earth. The trunks of the trees were green and smooth. But instead of leaves, the branches just kept splitting into ever smaller branches and twigs that grew gradually from green to silver to a brilliant shade of pink. These pink twigs were all intertwined, so that from a distance the trees looked like huge balls of pink steel wool. The trees were no larger than Earth trees, it seemed to me, but what was huge were the mushrooms. At least, they looked kind of like mushrooms. They were half as large as the trees themselves. Messy nests of some leathery, leaping, three-legged animal seemed to be perched on each of the mushrooms. There were other animals around, each stranger than the last. But the main animal we saw was a two-legged creature that stood maybe four feet tall. It had long, floppy ears and a muzzle. It looked weirdly like a dog that could walk on its hind legs.

It looked, in fact, a little like Erek when he dropped the hologram and showed his true self.

“Our creators,” Erek said. “They were known as Pemalites. A hundred thousand years before the Andalites learned to make fire, the Pemalites were capable of faster-than-light travel.”

I noticed Ax's tail twitch a little at that.

“And of course, humans were just hairy apes when the Pemalites first visited Earth. The Pemalites were not interested in conquest, or in interfering in the lives of other planets. They enjoyed life.” Erek smiled. “They loved to play. They loved games and jokes and laughter. And they had been a fully evolved race for so long that all the harsher instincts were gone from them. They had no evil in their hearts. They had no evil in their souls.”

I found this hard to believe. But as I watched the hologram around me, it was possible to believe that on this weird planet the Pemalites had found some deep inner peace. There was just a sense of deep calm about the place. Like one of those Zen gardens or something. It just felt peaceful. Peaceful, but not dead or tired or boring. In fact, everywhere I looked, I saw Pemalites jumping around, chasing, playing, and making an odd CHUK CHUK CHUK that must have been laughter.

The scene around me changed, like a movie doing a flash-forward. Now, mingled in with the Pemalites, were androids like Erek. The androids looked vaguely like their canine creators.

“We were toys, originally,” Erek said. “The Pemalites made us to play with. They called us the Chee. It's a word that means "friend." They also had work for us to do, but they created us mostly to be their companions. An artificial race, yes, but not a race of mechanical slaves.”

They weren’t like the Buffy-bot.

Erek looked at us and I swear there were tears in his holographic eyes. “We were their friends and equals and companions. They taught us to laugh and play. They loved it when they were able to create androids who could tell a joke. There was a celebration that lasted a year."

Then . . . ZZZZZZZAAAAAAAARRRRPPPP! I jerked back. A monstrous beam of light sliced the ground open right in front of us, like some insane plow tearing up the earth. It incinerated the pink Brillo pad trees and the huge mushrooms.

“Then the Howlers came,” Erek explained. “They suddenly popped out of Zerospace, thousands of powerful ships. They had come from clear outside this galaxy. The Pemalites had no idea who they were. And they never found out what the Howlers wanted. The Howlers made no demands. They just attacked. Maybe that's all they wanted: to destroy.”

What Erek showed us next was like one of those horrifying films from World War II. Pemalites hunted from the air. Pemalite space stations blown apart. Pemalite ships sliced open, and helpless Pemalites left to drift through cold, dead space. The scenes of massacre just went on and on.

I noticed Cassie was crying. I think I was crying, too. It was too horrible.

“Almost the entire race of Pemalites was wiped out,” Erek said. “A few hundred Chee and a few hundred Pemalites left the planet, escaping in a single ship just seconds ahead of a new wave of Howler attacks.We escaped into Zero-space. We had no plan, no idea what to do.”

“Why didn't you fight back?” Marco demanded. “I mean, you talk about how advanced the Pemalites were. If they could create androids, they could create weapons.”

Erek looked at him and nodded, like he agreed. “The Pemalites had forgotten the ways of conflict and war. They were creatures of peace. They'd forgotten that there could be such a thing as pure evil.” That answer just frustrated me. It made no sense. But I let Erek tell the rest of his grim story.

“As we ran for our lives through Zero-space, we discovered that the Howlers had achieved a special revenge. The Pemalites began to become sick. They began to die. The Howlers had unleashed germ weapons. The Pemalites were doomed. But we Chee, we androids, were unaffected.”

The scene around us became the inside of a space ship. A scene of Chee, looking on helplessly while one of their creators writhed in pain. There was also a shot if a room with two objects, one a golden orb that I have never seen, but something told me it was something important. The other I have never actually seen but I knew all about it. It was a glowing green ball of light. It was the Key. Me. “Over the year the Pemalites had found a number of ‘fun’ objects, they brought these with them.”

“Then we remembered a planet. A planet similar to our own, but very far from our home and the Howlers. It had only one sun and the light was pale, but there were trees and grass and wonderful oceans.”

“Earth,” Cassie said.

“Earth,” Erek said. “The Pemalites had not visited Earth in fifty thousand years, and in that time, everything had changed. The wandering tribes of primates had created cities. They had domesticated animals. They were planting crops. We landed on Earth with just six Pemalites still clinging to life.”

The hologram disappeared, and the underground cavern was back to its normal self – a wide park of Earth trees and Earth plants, with dogs everywhere. “We could not save the Pemalites. They would die. But we could try and rescue some part of them. We hoped we could keep their hearts, their souls alive somehow. We looked for an Earth species we could use to harbor the essence of the Pemalites. Their decency. Their kindness. Their playfulness and love.”

“Wolves,” Cassie said, once again way ahead of me.

Erek looked surprised, but he nodded his holographically projected human head. “Yes. They looked most like the Pemalites themselves. We grafted the essence of the Pemalites into the wolf species. And from that union, dogs were created. To this day, most dogs carry within them the essence of the Pemalites. Not all, but most. Wherever you see a dog playing, chasing a stick, running around barking for the sheer joy of life, you see the remnants of the race of Pemalites."

“That's why all these dogs are here,” Jake said. “They're your. . . what, friends? Creators?”

“They are our joy,” Erek said, “Because they remind us of a world without evil. The world we lost. We Chee are all that is left of Pemalite technological genius. The dogs of Earth are all that is left of Pemalite souls.”

“So you all pass as humans?” I asked Erek.

He nodded. “Yes. We live as humans. We play the role of children and then grow older, and eventually our hologram is allowed to ‘die’ and we start again as children.”

“How long has this been going on?” Cassie asked.

Erek smiled warmly. “I helped to build the great pyramid.”

“You designed the pyramids?”

“No, no, of course not. We have never interfered in human affairs. I was a slave. I helped to quarry the stone. It was a challenge, because I was new at pretending to be human. I had to hide my real strength, of course. The Pemalite home world had a gravity four times stronger than Earth's. Naturally, we were designed for that gravity, which means we are quite powerful by human standards.”

“And you stayed as a slave?” Jake asked. “You could have taken over Egypt. You could have taken over the world.”

“No. We are not the Yeerks,” He said coldly. “You see, when our creators made us, they hardwired us for nonviolence. We are not capable of hurting another living being. No Chee has ever taken a life.”

Just then, I noticed a group of four Chee walking quickly toward us.

Erek saw them, too. Even though I know his ‘face’ was just a hologram, it seemed to me he was annoyed.

“What have you done?” One of the Chee demanded. “What have you done, you fool?”

The four Chee came up and glared at us with robot eyes. “Humans? An Andalite? Here?
What have you told them?” But they were staring at me. Great.

“Everything,” Erek said defiantly. “These are the ones, these humans and this Andalite, who have been resisting the Yeerks. They're the ones who can morph.” His voice rose. “They are the ones who are fighting the battle we should fight.”

“We are Chee. We do not fight,” One of the androids said. It turned on its holographic projector. A human body appeared. The body of an old woman, maybe eighty years old. "I am Chee-lonos. My human name for now is Maria," she said. "I did not mean to seem angry toward you humans, or you, my Andalite friend, and most certainly not you.” She said looking at me, “My dispute is with this Chee called Erek and some of his friends.”

“We stood by helplessly as the Howlers annihilated our creators,” Erek said to Maria. “We can't stand by helplessly and watch this world be destroyed, too. Dogs and humans are intertwined. They have evolved a dependency. Dogs cannot survive without humans. If the humans fall to the Yeerks, we, the last great masterpieces of the Pemalites, and the dogs, their spirit-homes, will all die, too.”

I gave Rachel a look. That's why the Chee wanted to help humans? To save dogs? Jake shook his head slightly in amusement.

“We do not fight,” Maria said heatedly. “We do not kill. You know that, Erek. Yet you bring these outsiders here. You blurt the secrets we have kept for thousands of years. Why? What good can come from it? We cannot fight to save the humans.”

“That's where you're wrong,” Erek said softly. “We can fight. While you and the others merely hope everything will work out, my friends and I have been infiltrating the Yeerk organizations here on Earth. The Yeerks even think that I am one of them."

Maria and the three unhologrammed Chee just stared.

“The Yeerks have been busy. They control a computer company called Matcom.”

It took me a couple of seconds to remember that name.

Erek went on. “The Yeerks are working on a master computer to infiltrate and rewrite all the software in all the computers on Earth. When they have achieved sufficient force among humans, they will launch this computer bomb, and in a flash, control all computers.”

“What does this have to do with us?” Maria asked.

“The heart of this system is a crystal the Yeerks obtained from a Dayang trader. The Dayang didn't know what he had. But the Yeerks did. The crystal is a processor more sophisticated than anything even the Andalites could create. And it is more than fiftythousand Earth years old.”
“A Pemalite crystal!” Maria gasped.

“Yes. A Pemalite crystal. If we had it, we could rewrite our own internal systems. Do you understand now? We could erase the prohibition against violence. We could be free! Free to fight!”

“A Pemalite crystal,” Maria whispered. “You can't do this, Erek. You can't!”

But Erek just turned away. “If we can get the crystal, there is very little we can't do. Our strength, joined with these Animorphs? The Yeerks would have to double their forces just to contain us.”

{How did you convince the Yeerks that you are one of them?} Ax asked him.

Erek turned off his hologram and became a machine once again. And then the front of his head split open. Inside his steel and ivory head was a chamber, just a few inches in diameter. And inside that chamber was a gray slug, helpless, unable to escape. Tiny wires, no thicker than hairs, wrapped around it.

{Yeerk!} Ax hissed.

“Yes,” Erek said. “The Yeerks believe I am human. I accepted infestation. But of course the Yeerk cannot make a Controller of me. I made a place for him instead. He sees nothing. Knows nothing. I tapped his memory, not the other way around. And now I can pass among the Yeerks like one of them.”

I had two reactions. One, I was sick at the thought of that Yeerk, trapped inside a steel cage. As much as I hated Yeerks, it seemed harsh just the same.

But another reaction was much stronger. We had an ally! A powerful ally. An android who could pass as a Controller, who could enter Yeerk society. And an android with many powers of his own.

“How do you keep the Yeerk alive without Kandrona rays?” Cassie asked.

See, every three days a Yeerk has to return to the Yeerk pool to absorb Kandrona rays. Without that, they die.

“I am able to use my own internal power to generate Kandrona rays to keep this Yeerk alive,” Erek explained. “When I go to the Yeerk pool I am able to trick the Yeerks into believing that my Yeerk is swimming in the pool. I generate a hologram of a Yeerk leaving my ear and dropping into the pool. Later, I create a hologram of it returning. The Yeerks never notice that they don't encounter this Yeerk actually in the pool. Yeerks communicate very little in their natural states.”

“How do we fit into all this?” Jake asked. “I mean, what do you want with us, Erek?”

Erek resumed his human appearance. He stepped toward us, eager, excited. "We could fight together against the Yeerks. We could be allies. If only ... we need that Pemalite crystal. But the Yeerks have created a maze of defenses like nothing you can imagine. That crystal is in a room at the heart of the Matcom building. There are Hork-Bajir everywhere. Elite Hork-Bajir warriors, the best.”

“And the crystal itself is guarded by an ingenious system. It is concealed in a room of absolute darkness. Absolute darkness. The slightest, faintest light, ultraviolet, infrared, any light, will set off alarms. Within the darkness are wires that are set off by the slightest touch.”

“So to get to the crystal you'd have to be able to find it without seeing it, and avoid the wires that are also invisible in the darkness," I said.

“It's like finding a needle in a haystack when you're blindfolded and can't touch a single piece of hay. The walls, ceiling, and floor are all pressure-sensitive, so you can't touch them. It may be impossible,” Erek said.

“How are we supposed to do that?” I demanded. “How can you find something you can't see? It's not like it'll smell or call out to us.”

“Urn . . .” Cassie said.

“Excuse me?” Jake asked in surprise.

“It can be done,” Cassie said. “I mean ... if we want to.”

“Of course we want to,” I said. “With these guys on our side, we actually have a chance of winning. Of course we want to. Animorphs and Chee together? Our morphing ability, their strength and holographic tricks? We'd kick Yeerk butt.”

“No,” Maria cried. “You don't understand. Chee do not hurt. Chee do not kill. No Chee has ever taken a life. While humans and Yeerks and Andalites and Hork-Bajir and a million other species on a million worlds warred and slaughtered and conquered, we remained at peace. Would you end all that? Would you make us killers, too?”

“Yes, ma'am, I guess I would,” Marco said, a little coldly. “We're in a fight for our lives here. Our parents, our brothers and sisters, our friends -- they are all going to be slaves of the Yeerks, if we don't win. So I'll do whatever it takes. If you'd fought all those thousands of years ago, the Pemalites would still be alive. And you wouldn't be living with dogs in a big underground kennel.”

“A big underground kennel,” Erek said bitterly. “Exactly.”

“We'll get your crystal for you,” Jake said. “Tell us all you know about this Matcom, and we'll get your crystal.” He looked at the Chee called Maria. “Sorry, but Marco is right. The Yeerks have my brother. There's nothing I won't do to get him back.”

We rode the fake basement back up, leaving the eerie golden world of dogs behind.

“So do we have a deal?” Erek asked. “You'll help us get the Pemalite crystal? And then we'll fight alongside you to defeat the Yeerks.”

“Sounds good to me,” Marco said quickly.

“Unless anyone has any objection –“ Jake started to say.

That's when Cassie interrupted. “Erek, let us talk it over. It's a big decision.”

Marco was surprised, but not as surprised as Jake was. I, on the other hand, kind of agreed with what Cassie said. Then we heard a noise coming from directly above us.

“HhhhrrrAAAAWWWWRRRR!”

“Oh, man,” I said. I knew that sound. We all knew that sound.

“Rachel,” Cassie said under her breath.

“We were down there a long time,” Jake said. “Erek, I think a friend of ours may have come in to rescue us.”

Erek shrugged. “I don't think it's going to be a problem.”

“You don't know our friend,” I said.

The basement had settled back into its normal place. I tore up the stairway. “Rachel! Chill!”

I burst back into the utterly normal kitchen and raced into the utterly normal living room. The front door of the house had been ripped off its hinges. The couch was thrown against one wall.

And there, in the middle of the room, standing so tall its head scraped the ceiling, was a full grown grizzly bear.

“HhhhRRAAAAWWRRR!” Rachel roared in rage and frustration.

Frustration, see, because the Chee who passed as Erek's father had her in a full nelson. His human-holograph arms were wrapped around the unbelievably massive shoulders of the grizzly, and he was actually holding the great bear still. He had pinned a grizzly so powerful it could literally turn a Toyota into an aluminum can.

“Okay, now I've seen everything,” Marco said.

“Not even close.” I told him.

{You Chee are very strong} Ax commented. This was the understatement of all time.

{Where have you been!} Rachel demanded. {I waited as long as I could. I figured you were dead or something. And if you don't have a good explanation, you will be dead!}

“Oh, we have a story, all right,” Cassie said.

Rachel had calmed down and stopped roaring when she saw us. Now the Chee slowly released her, and she began to change back out of morph.

Jake looked embarrassed and started to pull the couch back down. “Urn, Erek, this is our friend Rachel.”

“It was smart of you to keep a reserve,” Erek commented. To Rachel he said, “I hope you weren't hurt.”

“How come you can wrestle a grizzly if you have to be nonviolent?” I asked Erek.

“Of course, my ‘father’ here knew she was not a true bear. And he only held onto her. He did not destroy her. If Rachel had been strong enough to win, my ‘father’ would have had no choice but to allow himself to be destroyed.”

Marco laughed. “I see why you want to change that.”

I expected Erek to agree. Instead, he looked a little sad. “Yes,” he said. Just that one word.

On the way home, we filled Rachel and Tobias in on what had happened. It took a while.



~Scene Break~



We were back at Cassie's barn before we were done.

“I say do it,” Rachel said. “That Chee guy held onto me like I was a baby. They're strong. They have technology we don't. They've already penetrated The Sharing. They would double our chances. End of story.”

“No, not end of story,” Cassie said, contradicting her friend. “What right do we have to interfere and destroy the thousands of years of peace this species has had? Didn't you hear Maria? No Chee has ever taken another life. You want them to be saying a thousand years from now that no Chee ever took a life till we made them killers?”

Marco rounded on her, angry. “What I don't want a thousand years from now is for people to be saying, ‘Too bad about the humans. They ended up as dead as the Pemalites.’”

"Ax? Dawn?" Jake asked. "You guys haven't said much."

Ax was in human morph, of course, since we were in the barn. “As you know, we Andalites are not supposed to interfere in the lives of other species. I am already breaking that law with you. And I am proud to be breaking that law in this case. But the Chee . . . Chee! It makes a funny sound, doesn't it? Chee.” He smiled with his human mouth, and then grew serious again. “The Chee are a different species. Older than Andalites. I feel . . . badly . . . helping another species to become violent.”

I looked around the room. “I understand why. I really do. But I hate it. There is no one in here that doesn’t wis- want the world to be peaceful. The universe.” I said glancing at Ax, “I can’t say no. But Goddess knows I want to.”

Rachel said, “Look, no one likes violence. All right? But we didn't ask for this war with the Yeerks. When the bad guys come after you, when they start the violence, they leave you no choice: fight or die.”

“Fight or die,” Marco agreed. “And you want proof? Look at the Pemalites. They didn't fight, they died. All gone. No more. Scratch a whole species. Now their ‘essence,’ whatever that means, is stuck inside dogs, and their robots feed them extra kibble. Yippee. That worked out real well for them. And even that's better off than we'll be if we lose to the Yeerks.”

“Law of the jungle,” Rachel said. “You eat or you get eaten.”

{Maybe so} Toby said, speaking up for the first time. {But still, wouldn't it be nice if that wasn't the law?}

“How can you take that attitude?” Marco demanded. “You're a predator. You know how it is.”

I hissed at him, and yes, it was kind of weird and everyone gave me ‘huh?’ look. But that was my cousin!

{Yes. I know exactly how it is. That doesn't mean I like it. Look, the Pemalites were wiped out, maybe because they didn't fight. Maybe they'd have lost even if they had fought. We'll never know. But the Chee have lived for thousands of years. I know they're androids, but they're a species, too. They've survived without killing. Doesn't something about that make you jealous? Don't you wish we could say the same? Don't you wish Homo sapiens could face the universe and honestly say, ‘We do not kill? We don't enslave. We don't make war’?}

“I don't make the rules,” Marco said. “I didn't start this war. Humans didn't start this war. Look, I don't want to make this personal, but I know the name Matcom. My dad is involved in some work with them. And the other day Tom ...” He shot a glance at Jake. “His brother was on me to come to The Sharing and bring my father. The Sharing is targeting my dad, and now we know why. So for me, it's simple: If we take this Pemalite crystal, maybe my dad isn't involved with Matcom anymore. And maybe the Yeerks find someone else to infest.” No one had an answer to that.

Cassie walked down to the far end of the barn and came back carrying a small cage. “Total darkness, can't touch walls, floor, or ceiling, and you have to travel through a room strung with sensitive wires you can't even see.” She held up the cage. “Meet the animal that can do all that.”

It was no larger than a small rat with its leathery wings folded back.

“Cool,” I said. “First I'm Spiderman, now I get to be Batman.”



~Scene Break~



I was signing some school forms when I got the call that the plans had changed, doing this a week sooner than expected. Great. Good thing Toby loves me, otherwise I don’t think anyone would have even told me. Well, maybe Ax would have gotten me. I think.

Four hours later, with all of our parents asleep in their beds, we met at Cassie's barn. All of us. Erek arrived last.

He didn't waste time with small talk. “There's a problem. The Yeerks are putting in a brand new security system on top of the existing systems. I don't think it's active yet, but I can't find out what it is.”

{Fine. We can wait a few weeks till you can get the details.} Tobias said.

“The crystal is already so well protected that any new system may put it beyond our grasp for good,” Erek said. “And don't forget -- the Yeerks are racing to use this crystal to create a computer system so powerful it can take over every computer on Earth. They're not there yet. But the longer we wait. . .”

“Oh, man, this sucks,” I said. “No planning? No preparation? Just go in and hope for the best?”

“I'll tell you everything I know,” Erek said. “Listen carefully. It's not too complicated.”

For a few seconds we sort of teetered on the edge. We weren't sure what to do. Erek wanted us to go in, obviously. But he had his own interests, which might not be the same as ours. It was the worst possible situation. Anyone of our parents could wake up and discover we were not at home. That would mean frantic phone calls back and forth from our folks to our friends' parents, calls to the cops, probably search teams out beating the woods.

“Go or don't go?” Jake asked.

“Go,” Rachel said, but with less enthusiasm than usual. A lot less.

“Go,” Marco said. “But personally, I can't blame anyone who wants to sit this one out.”
Cassie gave him a dirty look. I guess she took it personally. “I say go,” She said. “I don't sit anything out, Marco.”

{I'm not in this.} Tobias said. {I'm useless on this mission, so I don't vote.}

“I care what you think, Toby. I give my vote to him.” I said crossing my arms.

{No.} He said.

{I go where Prince Jake goes.} Ax said.

“Don't call me ‘prince,’” Jake said wearily for the thousandth time. “Okay, we go. Sorry, Tobias. So are you out, Dawn?”

{Its okay, Dawnie. It’s better if you go. They need you.} Toby told me.

Erek immediately began telling us all he knew about Matcom and the security for the Pemalite crystal. Really? This was impossible.

Erek was not going with us. But he would be waiting outside Matcom when we came out. Assuming we came out.

We flew from Cassie's barn to the Matcom building. It was one of those boringlooking, three-story glass and cement buildings you see in industrial parks everywhere. Just a bunch of blue glass rectangles with a big parking lot in back. In fact, it looked so much like every other boring square building in the industrial park, we had trouble finding it. We flew around, a lost gang of owls, for a good fifteen minutes before Rachel spotted the Matcom sign. We landed on the roof of the building. Erek had assured us there were no cameras or guards up there.

“Let's find that pipe,” Jake whispered as soon as we were all human again. Or, in Ax's case,
Andalite.

“Erek said southwest corner, right?” I said.

“At northwest,” Cassie said. She sounded sure, so I decided to agree.

“Yeah, that was it. Which way is northwest?”

Ax laughed in thought-speak, till he realized I was serious. {You can't find directions?} He sounded shocked. Like he'd just discovered we had hidden tail blades. {It's that corner over there.}

The pipe was about three inches in diameter.

“I hope this works,” Marco said. “I don't even know if my Spiderman can make silk.”

“Spiderwoman,” Cassie said. “Your spider morph is female. Wolf spiders don't make webs, but they do make silk. It should work.”
"Easy for you say. I don't even know how to turn on the silk thing."

But Ax was already morphing into the wolf spider, so he hurried to catch up. By the time Ax and Marco were in spider morph, the rest of had all become cockroaches.

{Man, you two are ugly at this scale} Rachel said. {Jeez, I don't ever need to see another spider my own size again.}

{We're ugly? You want to know what you look like right now? You look like dinner} Marco said, laughing evilly. {Juicy cockroach. This spider morph is hungry, and you look tasty.}

{Are you losing it again? Because I have a birdy cousin, trust me being eaten sucks, and one complant and guess who is really dinner?} I shot back.

{Marco, get a grip. Dawn calm down.} Jake said patiently. {Let's do this.}

{I'll demorph and step on your ugly butt.} Rachel growled.

I could still hear Marco’s and Ax’s conversation which was not comforting.

{Oooookay} Marco said. {Now comes the fun part.}

{Well, this is certainly disgusting} Marco again. {Ready, Ax?}

{Yes.}

{Then . . . Yeeeeee-Haaaaahhh!}

It was awhile before I heard Marco again. {Ax! I'm running out of web.}

{Yes, me, too.} Not good Ax, I thought.

{How far do you think we've dropped?}

{I don't know.}

{You know which way is northwest but you don't know how far we've dropped? We could still have two stories to go} Marco said.

{I think our plan has a minor flaw} Ax said with his usual understatement. {But we are very light, small creatures. We should survive a fall. So should the others in cockroach morph.}

{Maybe. See, the problem is, there's only one way to find out if we'll survive. By dropping.}

Ax didn't say anything.

{Oh, man.} Marco groaned.

{Aaaaahhhhhhh!}

{Aaaaahhhhhhh!}

{You okay?} Jake called down.

{Oh, yeah, I'm great.} Marco said. {I fell about a billion feet and landed on a steel trampoline. Couldn't be better.}

{Sarcasm} Rachel commented coolly. {He must be okay.}

{Laugh now, Rachel. We'll see how much you laugh when it's your turn.} The plan was for Ax and Marco to create a silk cable the others in cockroach morph would be able to climb down. That way, we wouldn't all have to go spider. Not that it would have helped, anyway.

{We're coming down} Jake said. {When we reach the end of the silk we'll jump. If you two survived, we will. Nothing kills a cockroach.}

{Why don't you stand right beneath me, Marco?} Rachel suggested. {You can break my fall.}

WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! Four cockroaches landed nearby were Ax and Marco waited.

{Where are we?} Jake asked.

{It's pretty dark. Who knows?} Marco answered. {It's a heating stair-conditioning vent, I guess. Erek said it would be part of the furnace system. Supposedly we go west a hundred feet or so, then drop down, then go across the furnace, then down again, then right. Then we're at the edge of the High Security Room, where the real trouble starts.}

{Excuse me? Did someone say furnace?} I asked.

{Yeah. I said furnace.}

{Does it occur to any of you that the furnace might actually come on?} Cassie said.

{Not till right this minute. It seems only Cassie and I have the sense to know crispy bugs are a bad idea.} I said.

{It's not very cold out.} Rachel pointed out.

{Okay, I've seriously changed my mind.} I said. {Let's go home.}

Of course, no one listened to me. We scrabbled along the steel floor, two spiders and four cockroaches. Our rough claws seemed to make a horrible din on the metal, scuffing and scratching. But it probably wouldn't have sounded like anything to a human.

Eventually the dust became as thick as a carpet; although in reality it was probably no more than a few millimeters thick.

Every ten feet or so there would be a grilled opening. Through the massive upright bars I could see offices. The light in the offices was very dim, just the glow of computer screen savers and red or green function lights. But it helped us to find our way through the darkness of the vent.

Then . . .

{What's that?} Rachel yelled. She was the farthest back. {Uh-oh. Something coming! I feel
the vibrations! Something big!}

She took off. I took off. We all took off. Now I could feel the vibrations, too. Quick, confused-sounding footsteps. And a dragging sound, like something was being hauled. I ran.To my left, a spider. Ax. Ahead of me, two roaches, almost as big as I was. Rachel and Marco were just back to my right. I couldn't exactly turn and glance over my shoulder. I had no shoulder.
And I had no actual head to turn. So I paused, spun around, and in the dim light from a vent, I saw it. Huge. Twenty times my size! A vast, horrible menace.

{A rat!} I yelled. {It's a RAT!} The thing I'd heard dragging was its naked tail and furred abdomen.

It was hungry, and it was after us. And, unfortunately, it was faster than me.

{Go! Go! Go! It's gaining!} I yelled. We blew at top spider and cockroach speed. Which seems really fast when you're an inch long, but isn't really that many miles per hour. A rat can do maybe five or six miles per hour. A spider is lucky to break one mph.

{We'll have to morph back!} Jake said.

{Not in here!} Cassie cried. {Not enough room.}

{Next vent} Jake said. {We go out through the next vent.}

The next vent was about ten feet away.

Yet there was something else making me tingle, too. Something about the breeze . . .

{YAAHHH!} I heard Jake yell.

A split second later, my roach were clawing air. It was like a Roadrunner cartoon. I zoomed out into space, seemed to hang there with my little feet motoring away, and then I fell.

{Oh, yes} Ax said calmly. {Erek mentioned we had to go down again.}
WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!

We hit steel again, and each impact sent dust clouds swirling.

{Keep running!} Cassie cried, and fortunately, for once, I didn't argue.

Buh-Booooom!

The rat dropped behind us! It was still after us! Fortunately, it was a little stunned by the impact, whereas we were outta there!

Suddenly, ahead of us, the steel floor opened up again. But instead of a drop into darkness, there was a weird, vast plain of jagged spires. Each of the spires was steel, three times as tall as my little roach body. Each metal spire opened at the top. There were hundreds of them, all arranged in perfect rows. A foul smell, something my roach mind knew nothing about, came from this field of spires.

A weird, flickering glow lit the landscape. In the eerie light, it looked like some awful graveyard, with the spires like industrial-strength gravestones or something. I mean, it was creepy.

{What is that?} Marco asked.

{Let's just get going, all right?} Rachel suggested. {We can sightsee some other time.}

I would never have walked into that "field" if the rat hadn't been just two feet back and gaining again. I didn't need spider senses to know there was danger here. It screamed danger.

{What is that?} I asked this time.

{You don't want to know} Jake said grimly. {Let's just get out of here, okay?} Right then it hit me. From the tone of Jake's thought-speak voice.

{This is the furnace, isn't it? These spires . . . the holes in the tops of them . . . it's where the gas comes out!}

{Not if no one turns on the heat} Rachel said grimly. Over my head now, I saw the source of the eerie glow. It was the pilot light. It was a jet of blue flame as long as my body. I could feel the heat from it, even though it seemed to be as far above my head as the ceiling of a cathedral. The rat, smarter than we were, decided to stop at the edge of the furnace. But there was no going back. We had to cross the furnace. We had to hope the Matcom Corporation was into energy conservation and didn't waste heat. We had to pray that no one had messed with the thermostat. Because if the heat came on...

HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

{Gas!} The gas blew with hurricane force up through the tops of the spires. In seconds the gas would rise to the pilot light. In seconds the entire landscape would erupt in flame! I thought I'd been moving as fast as I could move. I was wrong. I had a whole extra speed. Ahead of me I saw Jake, Rachel, and Ax all reach safety. Only Cassie, Marco, and I were still deadly inches away from safety.

{RUN! RUN! RUNRUNRUNRUN!}

HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Then . . . WHOOOOOOSH! Fuh-Wwwuuuummmp! The whole world seemed to explode around me. A wall of flame ... a hurricane of hot air.

I was blown head over heels, somersaulting through air as hot as an oven. I somersaulted backward, hit steel floor again, and screeched like a skidding car. I plowed straight into Ax, and a split second later, Marco plowed straight into me.

{Cassie! Cassie! Are you okay?} Jake asked.

{Dawn?} Ax asked me at the same time.
{Yes, yes. I think so. Who can tell with this roach body?} Cassie said.

{Five by Five.}

{I'm okay, too} Marco said. {You know, just in case anyone cares.}

{I guess they like to keep this building nice and warm, eh?} Rachel said.

{That was very close to being a disaster} Ax said. {We should thank the rat. If he had not chased us, we would have been crossing those gas jets several seconds later.} That was not a nice picture to think of. We would have fried, sizzled, and popped open faster than we could even try to think about de-morphing.

{That would have left a big wad of Marco mass floating in Z-space} Marco muttered.

The rest of the trip through the heating and air-conditioning system was calm. But that just gave me time to think about the close call. One second slower, and I'd have gone out as a roasted roach.

{There are walls up here} Jake warned from the head of our little pack of singed bugs. {No, wait, not walls. Like a maze. Like Erek said.}

We traveled through a series of switchbacks, around a steel panel, then back around another. It was a light-blocking system. It would block out every last photon of light that might come through the vent.

Then we came to the edge of a drop. Beyond it, I knew, was the High Security Room itself -- the location of the Pemalite crystal.

We were six feet up. We had to drop, and then stay within two feet of the wall. Any movement farther toward the center of the huge room, and we would set off pressure sensors in the floor.
By this time, we were used to falling.

{Next I want to try jumping out of a plane. Without a parachute} I said as I stepped into the black void. It is an eerie experience falling in total darkness. You have no idea where the floor is. It's almost like you're not falling at all. Until you hit the bottom, that is.

{Stay close to the wall} Jake reminded everyone. {Hug the wall and demorph.}

I was relieved to be human again. But my human eyes were no better than roach eyes at penetrating the darkness. It was darker than any night. Darker than hiding in a closet at midnight. This was the darkness of being buried alive.

“There could be six Hork-Bajir standing three inches away, and we wouldn't know it,” I said, in a whisper that seemed to be deadened by the darkness itself.

“That's a nice thought,” Rachel said dryly.

{Even a single photon of light would set off the light sensors} Ax said. {This is complete darkness.}

{And according to Erek, if we stepped two feet away from the wall, we'd run into a maze of ultrasensitive wires. Any contact and the alarm goes off. We have to travel forty feet without touching a wire. Without touching the floor or ceiling or walls,” Jake reminded us.

"Let's morph. We'll be able to see then,” Cassie said. “Or maybe not see, exactly, but you know what I mean.”

What she meant was that we would be able to echolocate. Kinda like the dolphin morph. We would be able to make very fast, ultrahigh sounds that the human ear would not even hear. Those sounds would vibrate off any solid object and send back a sort of sound picture.

At least, that's what we hoped. We had been planning to practice and find out if it was true.

Instead, we were morphing without any knowledge of what we were getting into. “Someday we'll think all this is funny,” I said. “You know, if we happen to live long enough.”

I focused my mind on the bat morph we had each acquired. They aren't as creepy as people think. Certainly not as creepy as morphing a spider. This particular bat was very small, just a few inches long. It looked like a mouse, with huge ears and the face of a Pekinese dog. If you forgot about the leathery wings, it was just another basic mammal.

But this was one case where the weirdness wasn't something you saw. I couldn't see anything. Nothing. I couldn't see myself shrinking, the ground rushing up at me. I couldn't see the way my legs shrank to almost nothing and brown fur sprouted from my body. I couldn't see the way my fingers grew so long and a paper-thin leather web filled the spaces between them.

I saw none of it. I didn't even know I was a bat, until my bat brain sent an order for me to open my mouth and chirp out a pulse of sound.

I fired a string of superfast sound pulses. Like making a loud machine-gun sound, only a lot higher, and way, way faster.

And then . . .

{Whoa, ho!} I said.

The entire black, pitch-black, invisible room, had just lit up.

It wasn't like seeing, exactly. It was like . . . like feeling, almost. Except it was like you were feeling from a distance. I felt a vast room. I felt thousands of wires strung taut, up and down, left to right, at angles. And, at the center of the room, beyond the maze of wires, I felt a raised, flat surface, and a sort of pedestal. There were curling wires coming from the top of the pedestal.

All that came in a flash. Then it was gone. The others each fired off their own echolocating blasts, but I couldn't feel their sounds as clearly.

{Okay, that is cool.} Rachel said. {That is way cool.}

{The wires seem awfully close together.} Cassie worried. {I wish we'd had time to try out these wings. I guess all we can do is hope for the best. Trust the bat to do the flying.}

{Abandon yourself to the Force, Cassie Skywalker} I said.

{Thanks, Darth. You first.}

{Me first? Oh.} Suddenly, I didn't feel at all like laughing. I licked my lips with my little bat tongue. Assuming I had lips. I wasn't sure.

I opened my wings. I spread them wide and thought, well, this should be interesting.

I tested the wings cautiously. They moved differently than bird wings. More like I was reaching out with each stroke to grab the air and push it behind me.

{Okay. Here goes.}

I fired an echolocating burst and took off.

Fired again! There were tight strings all around me!

Left!

Left again!

Down!

No, up!

Right, left, right, right, straight up!

Again and again the high-pitched sound machine gun fired. Again and again I dodged, millimeters from a wire.

It was insane! It was so fast my human brain was three steps behind. It was instantaneous. It was impossible! The speed, the agility, the instant translation of the echolocating blasts.

And suddenly, I was through! I was through the wires.

I landed on the table in the center of the room. It was all over in ten seconds of lunatic flight.

{Okay, now that is a roller-coaster ride! Yes!} I said, incredibly jazzed from having made it. {Yes!}
The others came, one by one. I could watch them fly, seeing them in my echolocating flashes.

Everyone made it. And we were feeling pretty good about it, too. It was a rush.

{We did it!} Marco said.

{These bats can fly!} Rachel added.

{Is that the crystal?} Cassie asked.

Ax fired a burst and said, {That must be it.}

It was no bigger than a grape. It rested on a small pedestal. Wires -- not the sensor wires, but curling electrical-type wires, edged in all around it. But the crystal itself was not attached to anything. It just lay there, where anyone could grab it. It made a low sort of humming noise. I know it makes no sense, but it was almost like that crystal was alive.

{Um ... I have a stupid question} I said. {How do we grab this thing?} For about ten seconds, no one said a word.

{We don't have hands} Cassie said, pointing out the obvious.

{We can grab it in our mouths} Rachel said. {Right? Bats eat moths and stuff. They must have pretty strong jaws. Strong enough to get that crystal back to the air vent.}

{Oh, duh. Of course} Jake said, sounding relieved. {I'll do it.}

{I believe that may not work} Ax said.

{Jake?} Cassie said. {Jake? If you have a crystal in your mouth, how do you fire the echolocating burst?}

At which point we were suddenly no longer feeling so good.

{I believe our plan now has somewhat of a flaw.} Ax said quietly.

{They always do, Axis.}

{See? We should never get cocky} Cassie said. {It's tempting the irony gods.}

{Irony gods?} Ax asked.

{Yeah,} Cassie said. {The bitter spirits who wait around till you get cocky, then hammer you.}

{These are real?}

{Yes.} I answered.

{No, of course not} Cassie said impatiently. {How do we get out of here with that crystal?}

{We power our way out.} Rachel said.

Ax said, {Erek's opinion was that there were many guards here in this building.}

{We didn't see any on our way through the shafts,} Jake remarked. {But Erek's been pretty accurate so far. I have a feeling if he says there are guards here, there are guards here.}

{No choice} Rachel said. {We morph whatever we have that's big, mean, and nasty, then slam our way out of this place.}

{Speaking of irony gods} I muttered.

{What do you mean?} Rachel asked.

{I mean, we came here to get this Pemalite crystal so the Chee could be free to be violent. And now, despite all our clever planning, all our sneakiness and subtlety, we're stuck in the end going for total Schwarzenegger.}

{Rachel's right} Jake said. He sighed. {We're looking at a fighting retreat.}

Cassie said, {I think there's a door over there. Try echolocating. You'll see a raised rectangular outline. I think it's a door.}

{Yep.} Jake agreed. {Morph out, keep that direction in mind. Remorph, and be ready to haul butt for that door. Head for any way out of this building. Don't stand and fight, just try to force your way past anyone who comes after us.}

It was times like this I was glad Jake was our so-called leader. We all knew what we had to do, but someone had to actually say it. And, boy, was I glad it wasn't me.

{I have such a bad feeling about that} I muttered.

I went human again, then moved to me Croc morph. With jaws strong enough to bring down a bison win moments.

{Everyone ready?} Jake asked.

There in the darkness, near enough to touch, but invisible, was enough power to shred a small army. Jake was in his tiger morph. Cassie had gone wolf. Rachel was one of the few animals mightier than my Croc: She was a full-grown, massively powerful grizzly bear. And Ax ... well, Ax was Ax. And trust me, when you've seen an Andalite in battle, you know that tail is all he needs.

{Ready? Why, I'm looking forward to it.} I said, trying to sound like I wasn't scared silly.

{I'll go first.} Rachel said. And before anyone had time to object . . .

HHHRRRRRAAAAWWWWRRR! Rachel barreled above me, stepping on me and practically smashing me around like potatoes. A microsecond later. . . ScreeEEEEET! ScreeEEEEET! ScreeEEEEET! The alarm was deafening.

The others barreled after her. Rachel tore a path through the alarm wires, and I could feel where she had gone. I move under Ax, then slithered around Jake, then suddenly - WHAM! – hit the wall.

ScreeEEEEET! ScreeEEEET! ScreeEEEET! Ka-Rrrrunch!

A loud, screeching, tearing noise. Sudden light! I could see. Man, it was a relief to be able to see something at least. Dim light came through the door. Or what was left of the door, after Rachel had given the door a thousand pounds or so of mad, ready-to-fight grizzly. The door was splinters. It was steel, and it was still splinters.

A large back form was in front of me, Marco in Gorilla morph. I saw a flash of orange and black, moving fast but almost delicately -- Jake, in tiger morph. Cassie the wolf followed him. Right behind her was the one animal that wasn't from anywhere on Earth.

There was a hallway outside. Jake said {Left!} and we went left.

Past doorways, past offices, past normal things like copiers and computers and fax machines and desks and cubicles, we ran. Rachel was in the lead, a huge, lumbering truck on four legs. Her roars mixed with the endless scream of the alarms.

ScreeEEEEET! ScreeEEEEET! ScreeEEEEET!

Suddenly, another door, a dead end. Rachel hit it with her shoulder, and the door was gone.

There was a big room beyond. High ceilings, open space, a lobby sort of room. Windows! I could see faint stars through the tinted glass.

Escape was just a hundred feet away.

Freedom! Life!

And all that stood in our way was twenty men: human-Controllers, armed with automatic rifles.

And behind them, two dozen or more Hork-Bajir warriors. Rachel's bear had very poor vision, especially in this dim light.

{Hork-Bajir?} she asked.

{Yep} Marco said.

{How many?}

{Too many. Way too many.} He answered.

ScreeEEEET! ScreeEEEEET! ScreeEEEET!

The alarm was howling. And then, a far worse sound: Cha-Klick!

The human-Controllers had cocked their rifles, chambering a round. If they fired, we'd be blown apart before we could twitch.

A human-Controller stepped out in front. She was a nice-looking, middle-aged woman wearing normal street clothes. She had bleached blond hair. She could have been someone's grandmother.

“So the Andalite bandits,” She said. Her face was twitching with tension, but she tried to sound calm. “You've done me a big favor. When I turn you over to Visser Three he'll promote me two grades. Maybe three!”

{Or he may decide to destroy you for letting us get this far.} Ax said coolly.

“Surrender. You can't escape,” The woman snapped. “I'd rather take you alive, but the Visser would still be happy to have your corpses.”

We stared at her. And we stared at the muzzles of the twenty automatic rifles that were leveled at us.
Marco held up his hand. Between his thick, brute fingers he held the Pemalite crystal.

The woman turned as pale as her hair. “Give me that.”

He shook his big gorilla head.

“Lower those guns,” The woman snapped.

“What?” Some guy behind her yelled. “We have them! We have them cold!”

The woman's jaw twitched again, but she stayed in control. “What do you think a bullet would do to that crystal?”

“But the odds that a bullet would hit the crystal ... It's not going to happen.”

The woman smiled grimly. “That crystal is worth more than the mothership and everything in it,” She said. Then she started yelling. “You want to shoot? Go ahead, fool! If you hit the crystal, you can explain it to Visser Three.”

She got a grip on herself while the guy who had spoken out decided he was not interested in explaining anything to Visser Three.

“All human-Controllers, back. Weapons on safety,” The woman snapped.

The rifles faltered, and then lowered toward the ground. But I knew better than to breathe a sigh of relief. See, I knew what was coming next.

The woman looked right at me and smiled. “Hork-Bajir, forward.”

The Andalite who'd given us our powers had told us that the Hork-Bajir had once been a gentle, decent race before they were all enslaved by the Yeerks. All Hork-Bajir were Controllers now. But it was hard to believe the Hork-Bajir had ever been the sweethearts of the galaxy. They were death on two legs: seven feet tall, eight, if you counted the forward-raked blades that protruded from the top of their snake-heads. They had blades at their elbows, blades at their wrists, blades at their knees. They had huge claw-feet like tyrannosaurs, and a short, thick tail that ended in cruel-looking spikes.

They were walking razor blades. All sharp edges and lightning speed.

I've fought Hork-Bajir before. And I can count. Two dozen Hork-Bajir was at least a dozen more than we had any hope of defeating.

Then, behind the Hork-Bajir, beyond the retreating human-Controllers, outside the building, staring horror-stricken through the glass, I saw Erek.

Erek, who could do nothing at all to help us. Who was helpless to do anything but witness our slaughter. I felt like throwing up. The fear was all over me. The fear was surging through me, washing over me, drowning me from inside and out.

We were going to lose.

We were going to die.

And life, any kind of life almost, is so much better than being dead.

“Attack,” The woman said. Her voice was nearly a whisper.

The Hork-Bajir leaped forward, a wall of slashing, whirling blades.

Right in front of me!

SEEEEWWW!

They advanced and I grabbed the leg of the closest one and rolled using him to take down as many of the others like a pair of bladed num-chucks.

One of the others got my tail and sunk and blade into it.

I screamed in thought-speak, as the Croc lashed out with his powerful tail throwing the Hork-Bajir across the room into some of the Human gun tooters.

The battle raged all around me.

Screams. Cries. Bellows of animal rage. The garbled roars of the Hork-Bajir. Even the guttural roar of the human-Controllers, who watched and cheered the Hork-Bajir on.

I saw Jake leap through the air and close his jaws around a Hork-Bajir's face.

I saw Rachel swing her paw and open up a Hork-Bajir like someone cleaning a fish.

I saw Cassie dodging swiftly, biting, backing away, lunging to bite again, red foam flying from her muzzle.

I saw Marco use his power grip to choke the life out of a Hork-Bajir, with his own hands.

And Ax, striking again . . . again . . . again with the deadly speed and perfect accuracy of his Andalite tail.

But we were losing. It would be over in a few seconds. We were losing.

{Oh, God!} Someone screamed. Maybe it was me, I don't know. {Help! Help! Get him off
me!}

{Look out!}

It was all one combined thought-speech scream.

And still the alarm howled its screeEEEEET!

I felt my grip weaken on the now dead Hork-Bajir weaken.

My vision was red. Red and fading.

I felt a sharp stab as another Hork-Bajir into my jaw. None of it mattered, though. It was all coming to an end ... all coming to an end. . . .

Through a red mist I saw a face on the other side of the glass. Erek. Somehow, in the battle, I had ended up not far from the wall of windows.

Erek was just a few feet away. Just on the other side of the glass.

Marco was crawling over to him. Why? Then I remembered, the Crystal!

I moved quickly grabing the another Hork-Bajir waving him around taking down anyone who dares step in front of me. Making a path for Marco.

Then someone got a lucky kick in the side of my head.

{Oh . . . no} I said. I could feel the damage the kick had done. I was dead. I could feel my
brain shutting down.

Human-Controllers were closing in around me, hammering me with the butts of their rifles.

And then . . . later, much later, someone was shaking my snot. "Morph back, Dawn. Morph back! Marco. Do it! Both of you damn it!”

I woke up on the ground. Not a floor, the ground. Dirt and leaves.

I sat up very fast. I looked at my body.

“Human!” I heard Marco say and I saw he was lying next to me.

I wanted to cry from the sheer relief of being myself again. Myself and alive.

I looked around. Jake. Cassie. Rachel. Ax. All there! All human! Except for Ax, of course.

Toby was perched in the tree above us. Someone else was there, too. I heard a voice sobbing.

“You okay, Marco?” I asked.

“Yeah. Yeah. Oh, man. Man, I was so close to being dead!”

“You were,” Jake said solemnly to Marco. “He gave you an electric shock to start your heart again.”

“Who did?”

Jake jerked his head toward the source of the crying. It was Erek, sitting in the dirt with his head down.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Little bunch of trees, just down from Matcom. Or what's left of Matcom.”

“How did we get here? How did we get out of that place? We were toast!”

Cassie came over and sat beside Marco. “Marco saved us by getting the crystal to Erek. He used it. He rewrote his programming. He's the one who . . .” She looked away. “He . . .”

“He took care of the Hork-Bajir,” Rachel said. “I saw some of it. I was still conscious.”

I was confused. “How did Erek take care of the Hork-Bajir?”

{He destroyed them all.} Ax said.

Marco laughed. “Erek took out two dozen Hork-Bajir?”
No one laughed with him. Erek had stopped sobbing. I thought, why would a robot cry?

{All the Hork-Bajir} Ax said. {All the human-Controllers. All of them.}

“Goddess,” I stood up. I could see the Matcom building. It was only a few hundred yards away. There was a big hole in the front glass. I had a very bad feeling about what was on the other side of that glass. All I could think of to say was, “All of them?”

“It lasted about ten seconds,” Rachel said. She closed her eyes, trying not to remember what she had seen. But I guess the images weren't easily shut out. She opened her eyes again, and to my utter amazement, I saw tears.

{It was extremely brutal} Ax said told Marco. {Very brutal, and very swift. He carried us here. He revived you. He even reattached my arm.} Then he looked at me. {You had a blade stuck in your spinal cord, you couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe.}

I saw a scar on Ax's left arm.

“He hasn't said anything since then,” Cassie said sadly. “He won't talk to any of us.”

“He saved us, though, right?” Marco said.

“Yeah,” Cassie agreed, smiling a deeply sad smile. “He saved our lives. And lost his own soul.”

I went to Erek. He stood up as I came over. “I’m sorry.” I told him.

He looked at me with holographic human eyes. Maybe he had to choose to make them cry. Maybe he had to choose to give them that empty, hollow look. I don't know what the connection is between the android Chee and his projected human body.

“You saved our lives, Erek,” I said.

“How do you . . . how do you live with the memory?” He asked me.

I knew what he meant. See, win or lose, right or wrong, the memory of violence sits inside your head. It sits there, like some lump you can't quite swallow. It sits there, a black hole that darkens hope, and eats away at everyday happiness like a cancer. It's the shadow you take into your own heart and try to live with.

I looked at him. “There was this goddess, and she was not going to stop trying to destroy the world and the only way to stop her was to kill an innocent man, Ben. Giles… He killed Ben to save the world. Because it was what he had to do. We just fight and try to forget so that way we can sleep until we wake ready to fight again.”

Erek put a finger to his head. “Android,” He said. He made a bitter, ruined smile. “I can't
forget. See? I can never forget . . . anything.”

I looked at him. Already in my own human mind, the memories of that night's horror were fading. Would the Key remember?

What if I could never forget?

What if all those memories were fresh forever? I realized then why the Pemalites had forbidden their creatures to kill. The Chee lived forever. Forever was a long time to remember what Erek had done.

“I'm sorry,” I said.

Erek nodded. “Yes.” He held out his clenched fist, palm down. I knew what he was doing. I didn't want it. But I held out my own hand, and took the Pemalite crystal from him.

“I've changed my programming back,” Erek said. “We ... I ... maybe at times I can tell you things. Information. But I'll never fight again. I can't join this war, my friend.”

He walked away. We went to our homes and crawled into beds their parents never knew they left. It would be months, if not years before anyone comes looking for my uncle. I guess it could be worse; I could have to worry about someone finding his body. But since Spike had taken care of it… It was never going to be found. I hope.

I was beyond exhausted. But I couldn't sleep. Too many images. Too many memories. And I was afraid of the nightmares.

There are evil things in life, and I guess there are times when a human being has to fight those evils.

I closed my eyes and wandered lost and afraid through my nightmares.

And already, my mind was forgetting.


AN- I am sorry for any mistakes in grammer. Okay. I don't think it ever said that the Chee brought The Time Matrix to but it was found under the pyramids in the Andalite Chronicles so I have always had my theory about. And, as I said, they found the Key and the Time Matrix. Thank you for reading!

The End?

You have reached the end of "The Unforeseen" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 7 Jun 10.

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