Six Days the Animorphs Were Idiots
The Day Ax Was Awesome: Part Three
Visser Three glared at the communication screen with all four of his eyes.
<You are lying,> he said flatly.
"I'm hurt, Esplin," said Visser Five, almost keeping a straight face. "You doubt my loyalty to the Empire?"
<YOU'RE LOYAL TO NO ONE EXCEPT THAT BODY YOU'RE IN!>
"We know you are the one responsible for that ridiculous transmission from the Andalites," said Visser One, pushing past Visser Three to lean her palms on the desk. "I don't know what you think you're doing, but I can tell you this: It won't bring her back."
Visser Five's eyes flashed red for just a moment before snapping back to their usual cheerful blue.
"I invite you to the Andalite homeworld to terminate the bandits yourself, Esplin," she said. "As you seem so very infatuated with them. And you come too, Edriss."
"I have better things to do with my time," said Visser One, bristling. "Unlike some of us, I serve the Empire alone."
"Maybe," said Visser Five. "Still, the invitation stands. And besides…don't hold me to this, but I think I might have something of yours."
* * *
<Aximili, where are your friends?> asked Forlay, turning her eyestalks all the way around to look at Ax as he entered her lab. <I looked everywhere. They haven't gone back to Earth already, have they?>
Like many Andalite females, Forlay was a scientist. Her ‘lab' was nothing like the labs of earth. For one thing, it was outdoors. But Forlay was a botanist, working on a new medical variety of grass, and so it was practical.
Ax glanced around anxiously. <Ah. No. They went to…sample the grass in the east valley.>
<Oh, alright,> said Forlay, not familiar enough with humans to spot the problem with this. She turned all four eyes back to her work.
Ax had often listened to the others complain about having to lie to their parents about various things to preserve their cover as ordinary humans, but he had never truly understood them until just now.
<Mother—> he began.
<It's so good to have you home again,> said Forlay, putting down her notes, and turning around to look at him with sad eyes. <It's been so quiet, too quiet, without you and…>
The unspoken name hung in the air.
<I'm sorry,> said Ax. <I will avenge him. I will.>
Forlay shifted on her hooves doubtfully. <Aximili, if the war is truly ending, that may become impossible.>
<I'll do it before a formal peace is declared!> said Ax. <I swear, I—>
<Aximili. It is good to want to avenge your brother. Our hearts cry out for it.> Forlay took his hands in hers. <But for the sake of this fragile peace…>
<No!> Ax yanked away.
<Listen to me, Aximili!> And there was a fierceness in Forlay's eyes that Ax had never seen before from his mother. <If you succeed in killing him, any hope of a treaty will be lost! You men think war is so glorious, but I'm the one who has to sit in my lab, wondering and worrying if I'll ever see the ones I love again. Having you here, safe, is more important to me than our honor.>
<Father would not agree!>
<And if you fail, I've lost two sons to that monster,> continued Forlay, as if she had not heard him. <I do not know if I want to live in a world like that. Aximili, could you really do that to me?>
<I will not fail.>
Forlay lowered her head.
<You're so much like your father,> she said at last, and now she sounded regretful. <Did you know Lirraf is home?>
Ax gave a little start. <What?>
Lirraf was the eldest son of the family in the next valley. Elfangor would have been about his age. Ax hadn't seen him since he was a child—Lirraf had joined the military immediately after school, as all Andalite males did. He had been away, fighting the Yeerks, ever since. Ax hadn't really expected to see him ever again.
<I said, Lirraf is home,> said Forlay. <He arrived a few hours ago. His mother called me to tell me the news.>
<Is he wounded?> asked Ax.
<No, he is well. His unit has been disbanded.> Forlay's eyes smiled. <They sent him home.>
Ax was confused. And a little annoyed. <We cannot afford to send soldiers home. The war—>
<The war is over, Aximili,> said Forlay. <That is what I have been trying to tell you. Why can't you understand that?>
<BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT WON!> yelled Ax. Under ordinary circumstances, he would not have dreamed of yelling at his mother, but today it appeared that every other person in the galaxy had gone completely insane.
<Men,> sighed Forlay, turning back to her work.
* * *
Ax wandered across his family's valley, aimlessly, unthinking. With no one else around, it was easy to pretend that the last year had not happened, that he had never left home, that the gold and crimson skies of the Andalite homeworld had not become unfamiliar.
It wasn't long before he realized that a figure was walking towards him. Bipedal, human—it was Cassie!
When she saw him looking at her, she waved. Ax broke into a gallop, and soon reached her.
<What happened? Where are the others?> he asked.
"Everyone's fine!" Cassie said happily. "Everything's fine. They're still at the pool."
<Oh,> said Ax. He relaxed a little, and began to walk alongside her. <We…have not been betrayed yet?>
Cassie laughed. "No, Aximili, not yet. Thanks for that display of optimism, though. I came back to get you. We thought you might have changed your mind about coming along."
Ax stopped walking.
<What did you say?>
"I said, I wanted see if you wanted to come to the pool and finally meet everyone."
<Yes,> said Ax cautiously. <To the pool. That would be interesting.>
Like most Andalites his age, Ax was very, very good at spotting Yeerks. Identifying a potential Controller, whether they were a stranger or a close friend, had been part of his school curriculum.
However, he was fairly certain that Cassie—the Cassie that stood beside him—was not a Controller. Cassie wouldn't have called him Aximili. In all the time he'd known them, none of his human friends had called him by his full name, not even once. A Yeerk would have known that, too.
"Well? What do you say?" asked Cassie. "You want to come with, or sit here watching the grass grow?"
<I will accompany you,> said Ax, his mind racing even as he displayed no outward signs of suspicion. <But I wonder, don't you wish to return to earth soon?>
"Yeah, eventually," said Cassie, resuming their walk. "Of course."
<Your parents will be worrying, after all,> continued Ax. <And…your brothers.>
"Oh, they'll be fine," said Cassie cheerfully, waving a hand. "Come on, there's a shuttle waiting." And she ran on ahead. Aximili trotted after her, but he wasn't focusing on where she was leading him. He was trying to put his thoughts in order.
Cassie wasn't a Controller: a Yeerk would not, could not, have made such an easy mistake.
Cassie wasn't Cassie at all.
Someone had morphed her.
* * *
There was an Andalite-Controller flying the shuttle that would take them to the pool. Not-Cassie introduced him as a sort of gestalt entity that Ax politely refrained from referring to as an abomination. The idea that there would be voluntary Andalite-Controllers was sickening to Ax.
Ax was aware that something had gone terribly wrong, but he did not know where the Yeerk Pool was on his planet. He knew that he had no choice but to go with the fake Cassie if he wanted to rescue his too-trusting friends. If they weren't already dead.
Ax hoped they weren't dead.
He wanted to be able to tell them all that he'd told them so.
It occurred to Ax that he had made a human-style joke without even trying.
He really had been away from home for too long.
Not-Cassie was talking to the abomina—to the Andalite-Controller, asking him about how the shuttle worked and the native vegetation. Ax realized that this was by design. Not only did it make her look innocent, it kept Ax from asking her any more potentially cover-blowing questions.
Ax moved to the back of the ship and kept his tail ready for an ambush, but no attack ever came.
He stopped himself from making an outraged sound when he saw the way the entrance to the Yeerk Pool had been hidden in plain sight.
As they entered the tunnel, not-Cassie turned to say something to him, and that was when he struck her on the back of her head with the flat of his blade.
The pilot heard her hit the ground, and turned his stalk eyes around in time for Ax to do the same to him. The shuttle wobbled and veered towards the wall of the tunnel. Ax shoved the traitor's body out of the way and grabbed the controls (luckily, the shuttle was a standard Andalite transport) and forced it to land. He could see nothing but darkness ahead, but that was better than, say, an army of Hork-Bajir.
Ax punched in the command to open the shuttle doors. Then he began to morph into a bat, a creature that he knew could easily navigate the tunnel. He wasn't sure what he would be able to do against security drones, should he encounter any, but at least he'd be able to slip past the Controllers that he knew must be everywhere.
Once he was fully morphed, he took off down the tunnel. He sent out a few sonar waves to get his bearings—apparently the tunnel went deep, deep into the planet—and set off in search of his stupid, gullible, wobbly-legged friends.
* * *
After a while, Ax found himself in what looked a lot like a hangar. There were a few Bug fighters, but most of the ships were Andalite. But there was one rather unusual ship that caught his attention. He sent out another burst of echolocation to get a closer ‘look'.
It was larger than a bug fighter, but smaller than a true warship. It was Yeerkish in design, but Ax had never seen anything like it before. Curiosity got the better of him, and he decided to investigate. Not because he thought it was cool or anything. Just for. You know. Espionage.
Once inside, Ax demorphed so that he could have the security blanket that was his tail-blade. Looking around, he could see that this really was a nice ship—nothing compared to Andalite ships, of course, but still…Ax could appreciate craftsmanship. It was small and sleek, but armed heavily, almost suspiciously so.
A strange sound pulled Ax's attention to another room. It almost sounded like…human laughter.
Relieved, and a little giddy, Ax immediately entered the commands to open the door. But it was not his friends who stood before him.
Instead, a little boy and a little girl, both with dark hair and dark eyes, lay on the floor, playing some kind of card game.
"That's forty damage," said the boy.
"Nuh-uh, he's resistant to fighting-type, dummy," said the girl. "It's only ten."
<Uh,> said Ax. Both children turned their heads to look at him.
"Another pony!" said the girl happily.
"It's not a pony," said the boy. "It's a…it's a…thing. Mom said."
<How did you get in here?> asked Ax.
"Mommy brought us! We flew through outer space! There were stars and things!" The little girl beamed. "What's your name?"
<I am Aximili,> said Ax, so disarmed by the children that he didn't even think to lie.
"That's a funny name." But the girl did not look too bothered. "I'm Madra. I'm eight. And he's Darwin. We're twins. How old are you?"
Ax did a quick calculation. <I am thirteen of your years old.>
"My years!" Madra giggled. "They're not my years! Do you want to play? We have extra cards." She moved to grab a backpack, much like the ones his human friends carried, and began rooting around in it. But the comment had reminded Ax of his mission.
<I am looking for some friends of mine,> he said. <They're humans like you. Have you seen them?>
"The only humans here are us," said Darwin. "Madra, it's your turn."
"And Mommy," said Madra, setting aside her search to put down a card with a circle in the middle. "Maybe she knows."
<Who is your mother?> asked Ax, who was really having difficulty with that fact that the twins found their game more interesting than him.
"She changes names every time she has a new body," said Madra absently, not looking up from the cards. "She told us why, but I don't remember."
Ax wondered if he'd somehow wandered into an elaborate plot to make his brain explode.
<Do you find it unusual that your mother changes hosts…I mean, bodies?> he asked.
"No, she's always done it," said Madra, completely missing the point. "Anyway, she's not here. She went somewhere. You can look for her if you want, but we're not allowed to leave the ship."
"She said, ‘because I said so.' Anyway, we tried. We can't get the door open," contributed Darwin. "It's all written in Chinese or something."
<Hm,> said Ax. <I wonder…does your mother wear a red uniform?>
"That's right! Do you know her?" said Madra.
<Oh yes, I know her,> said Ax. <And I know how to open the door. Why don't you come with me, and we'll find her together?>
The twins looked at each other, and for the first time they seemed genuinely interested in the Andalite who had stumbled upon their game.
"I don't know…" said Madra slowly. "Mommy says…"
"…we're not allowed to go around by ourselves," finished Darwin.
<Well,> said Ax, feeling guilty that he did not feel guilty at all about what he was about to do. <I will be accompanying you. So you won't be by yourselves. That's logic. Right?>
The twins' faces lit up, and that was answer enough.
to be concluded
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