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Apr 10, 2010

College Slice

Radio Free Kobold posted:

Mid to late teens, I thought. Like, 14-16. Old enough to run around town and fight aliens hang out without anybody really asking questions, but still young enough to need the whole family support structure (as opposed to getting one's own place and not living with a controller)

More early. Jake's brother Tom is in high school, and, if you remember, Jake was upset that he didn't make it on Tom's old (junior high/middle school) basketball team.

Their ages are actually stated later in the series, and I'm sticking it in spoiler tags.

In the next to last book, Jake tells us he's 16 and that he was 13 when the first book started


Jul 25, 2007


Epicurius posted:

"So, you guys playing video games? Cool, cool. Hey, you know what would be crazy? If alien parasites infected people's brains. You guys.don't know anybody who thinks that, right? No? Ok. Hey, if anybody says anything like that, tell me, so we can laugh at them together. Well, I got stuff to do. Mom says make sure you set the table before she comes home. Later!"

Tom is the absolute pinnacle of unsubtle for a while and it's actually pretty funny. It's be totally fine if Jake wasn't one of the people it was looking for is the best part.

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice

The Invasion-Chapter 12


I swung my fist and caught Marco in the side of the head.

He jumped back and I swung again. But Marco was quick. He dodged my second swing, and I slipped and went down.

Marco snatched the bedspread off my bed, threw it over me to tangle up my arms, and sat on me.

"Jake, quit acting like a stupid jerk," he said.

I was trying to grab him, but he had me pretty good. "Take that back!" I yelled.

"Not likely," Marco said. "You think it's just a coincidence he's suddenly all interested in what happened at the construction site?"

I knew it looked bad. Even while I was struggling to get free and kick Marco's butt. I had this sudden flash about the smell I'd noticed on Tom when I was morphed into a dog. And there
was that laugh I'd heard at the site.

But no. No! This was Tom, my big brother. Tom would never, ever have let those slimy creeps into his head. Never.

"I'll let you up if you'll calm down," Marco said. "Look, maybe I'm wrong, okay?"

I stopped struggling, and Marco let me up.

"You have to admit, Jake, it doesn't look good."

"Tom is not one of them, okay? That's final," I said.

"Whatever," Marco said. "Just don't punch me again, 'cause I might have to hit you back."

So, see, there's Jake's dilemna, and he's in denial because the more he thinks its true, the less he wants it to be true, so the more defensive he gets.


Just then I heard this fluttering noise at my window. Like someone beating on it very softly. I went to the window, followed by Marco.

There was a bird there. Some kind of huge bird like an eagle or a hawk, beating its wings against the window.

<Let me in, all right? I can't hover here forever!>

Marco's eyes went wide. He'd heard it, too.

I opened the window and the bird flew straight in. It landed on my dresser. It was almost two feet long, mostly brown, with gnarled talons and a sharp, hooked beak.

"It's some kind of eagle or something," Marco said.

<A red-tailed hawk, actually,> Tobias said.

"Is that you, Tobias?" Marco demanded. "I thought we weren't going to do any more of this morphing."

<I never agreed to that.>

"Well, morph back, Tobias," I said. "You know what the Andalite said never stay in any form for more than two hours."

Tobias hesitated. He tilted his hawk's head and peered at me with an incredibly concentrated gaze. At last, he hopped over onto my bed.

Let me tell you something, it is beyond weird, watching feathers turn into skin. The brown feathers ran together and merged and turned pink. It was like the feathers were melting. Like they had turned into wax and were being heated up.

The beak disappeared quickly, and lips grew out of it. The talons split into five and became toes.

Halfway through the process of changing, Tobias was a lump, half pink, half brown, with featherlike patterns still visible on his back and chest. His face was small and mostly human, except that he still had those sharp, alert hawk's eyes. Two tiny, shriveled arms protruded from the front of his chest with fingers like a baby's.

All in all, it was a pretty disgusting sight.

But the human DNA asserted itself over the hawk's and he became more normal. About three minutes sifter he'd started the change, there was a completely normal Tobias, sitting naked on the end of my bed.

"I haven't figured out how to morph clothes yet, like Cassie," he said sheepishly. "Can I borrow some?"

I loaned him a pair of pants and a shirt, but my shoes were all the wrong size.

"That was the coolest thing I've ever done in my life," Tobias said. His whole face was glowing. "I was riding the thermals."

"What's a thermal?" I asked.

"That's when there's warm air rising up from the ground. It forms this cushion under your wings. You can just float up there. Like a mile up! You just surf the thermals. You guys have got to do it! It is the best thing ever."

"Tobias, how on Earth did you do a hawk morph?" I demanded.

"There's an injured hawk right there in Cassie's barn," he said. "There's this cool osprey, too, but I decided on the hawk."

"How did you fly if the hawk you morphed from was injured?" I wondered.

Marco shook his head pityingly. "Jake, do you pay any attention in biology class? DNA has nothing to do with some injury. The DNA wasn't broken. Just a wing."

I ignored Marco. "You're lucky Cassie's dad didn't catch you," I said to Tobias.

"He's so depressed," Tobias commented.

"Who's depressed? Cassie's dad?"

"No, the hawk. I mean, I think he knows they aren't trying to hurt him or anything, but he can't stand being cooped up there while his wing heals." Tobias's eyes darkened. "It's terrible when birds have to be locked up in cages. They should be free."

"Yeah, free the birds," Marco commented sarcastically. "I'll get the bumper stickers printed up."

"You wouldn't have that attitude if you'd been up there with me," Tobias said angrily. "It was cool being a cat and all. But a hawk! It's just total, absolute freedom."

I hadn't ever seen Tobias so happy. I mean, Tobias has a pretty lousy home life. Thinking about it, I suddenly had this feeling . . .

I repeated the warning. "No more than two hours in any morph, right? You keep track of the time, right?"

Tobias smiled. "Yeah. I don't have a watch or anything, but with hawk eyes you can actually see the hands of someone's watch when they're half a mile below you. It's like being Superman. You can fly, plus you have super vision."

"Now he's Superman," Marco muttered.

And Tobias has now gotten his second morph. This one a red tailed hawk. This also confirms that even if the animal you absorb from is injured, it doesn't matter. You're strictly pulling its DNA.


"I was looking around. I guess I thought I might be able to see something from the air," Tobias said. "I was looking for something that might be a Yeerk pool."

The phrase sounded vaguely familiar. I remembered Visser Three saying something about "Yeerk pools." "What's a Yeerk pool?" I asked Tobias.

"It's where the Yeerks live in their natural state. Every three days a Yeerk has to leave his host body and go into the Yeerk pool to soak up nutrients. Especially Kandrona rays."

Marco and I exchanged a suspicious look. Neither of us knew any of this,

"At the end," Tobias explained, "when the Andalite told us all to run for it, I stayed behind for a few seconds, I guess maybe I was too scared even to run."

I shook my head. I knew better. Tobias just hadn't wanted to leave the Andalite alone, I think maybe the Andalite meant even more to Tobias than to the rest of us.

"Anyway, he gave me . . . visions, I guess you'd call them. Pictures. Information. A lot of it, all at once. All jumbled. I haven't even started to sort it all out. But I do know about the Yeerk pools and the Kandrona."

Marco held up his hand, silencing Tobias. "Let me check the door," he said. He went to my door and peeked out into the hallway. "All clear," he announced.

Tobias gave Marco a questioning took.

"Tom," Marco said. "He's one of them."

"Don't make me hurt you," I warned him angrily. ""Tom is not a Controller."

"Either way, we should be careful," Tobias said. He lowered his voice. "The Kandrona is a device that produces Kandrona particles. See, it's like this little portable version of the Yeerk's own home sun. The Yeerks need Kandrona particles to live, like a human needs vitamins or whatever. The Kandrona particles are beamed from wherever the Kandrona is and concentrated in the Yeerk pool. Once every three days, every Yeerk has to leave his host and go into the pool. They soak up the particles and then they reenter the host body."

So this is basically the first weakness we see that the Yeerks have. No matter who they become, every Yeerk has to go back to a Yeerk pool every three days and get Kandrona particles, or they'll die. This section also explains what Tobias was doing at the construction site when he stayed by Prince Elfangor while the rest of the kids ran away.


"What does this have to do with you flying around playing Superman?" I asked.

"Well, it seems dumb now, but I was thinking maybe I could see the Yeerk pool." He made a rueful smile. "Saw a lot of swimming pools and some ponds. You get up there and you realize there are ponds and lakes and streams everywhere. But I didn't see anything special."

"And what if you found some Yeerk pool? Then what?" Marco demanded.

"Then we'd blow it up," Tobias said.

"Wrong," Marco said. "We decided not to get into this."

"No, we decided not to decide yet," I said.

"Well, I've decided," Tobias said.

"Suddenly the wimp is a hero," Marco sneered.

This time Tobias didn't blush. "Maybe I just found something worth fighting for, Marco."

"You don't even fight for yourself," Marco said.

"That was before," Tobias said softly. "Before the Andalite. Before he died trying to save us. I can't let that go. I can't let him die for nothing. So whatever you guys decide, I'm going to fight."

Radio Free Kobold
Aug 11, 2012

"Federal regulations mandate that at least 30% of our content must promote Reptilian or Draconic culture. This is DJ Scratch N' Sniff with the latest mermaid screeching on KBLD..."

Epicurius posted:

Their ages are actually stated later in the series, and I'm sticking it in spoiler tags.

In the next to last book, Jake tells us he's 16 and that he was 13 when the first book started

Jesus christ, that young to be thrown in the midst of all this?

God, Tobias, you absolute lad. What a good human being.

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice

Tobias is a good person.

nine-gear crow
Aug 10, 2013

low vis

One of the things Michael Grant said in interviews lately was that in his view Marco was bisexual. Though I think he caveated that with "I probably should have wrote him that way then" so as not to stray into JK Rowling territory, but still it does colour a lot of his interactions with Jake in a much more interesting light if you keep in the back of your mind that Marco probably has a very confused and very repressed teenage crush on Jake through the whole series.

Apr 23, 2014

One interesting thing about the dynamic here is that in a lot of other books, Tobias would be the viewpoint character and ultimate protagonist of the series. He's the kid with the tragic background who's really latched onto the alien thing and is embracing all of his powers and the mission much faster. While Jake has been given the leadership role, he's much more of a skeptic and still undecided on what to do. Tobias is sticking around to hear extra info and already trying to hunt down Yeerks from the first minute.

Jan 1, 2020

by Cyrano4747

I like that they used up all the impressive morphs by the end of the series so when poo poo starts heating up towards the finale the covers are like duck, beaver

nine-gear crow
Aug 10, 2013

low vis

Daikloktos posted:

I like that they used up all the impressive morphs by the end of the series so when poo poo starts heating up towards the finale the covers are like duck, beaver

You forgot the most impressive of animals: Navy Pilot

Comrade Blyatlov
Aug 4, 2007

should have picked four fingers

It comes along a little further on, I forget if it's in Marco's first or second book, but there's an amazing depiction of impotent rage. Seriously, this series gets deep.

Feb 26, 2016


Daikloktos posted:

I like that they used up all the impressive morphs by the end of the series so when poo poo starts heating up towards the finale the covers are like duck, beaver
The cover of the last book is amazing and I wish more of the book covers were just homages to rock albums.

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice

The Invasion- Chapter 13


We find the Yeerk pool," Tobias said. "And when we do, we blow it up and kill every one of those evil slugs."

I expected Marco to start yelling. But Marco is pretty smart. He could tell that Tobias had reached me with his talk about the Andalite. So he just smiled, a little sneakily.

"Remember that cop today, the one who is so interested in finding whoever was at the construction site? The cop who is probably a Controller?"

"What about him?" I said.

"Well, let's see. He invites you to join The Sharing. And now along comes Tom. And suddenly he is very interested in whatever happened at the construction site. And guess what? Tom also invites you to join The Sharing."

Tobias nodded in agreement. "Maybe this Sharing is an organization for Controllers."

Marco smiled. He's my best friend and all, but sometimes Marco really makes me mad.

"We're pretty sure the cop is a Controller. And I don't care what you say, Jake, I think Tom is, too. So, here's the deal. You want to get into this fight against the Yeerks?" Marco asked me.

"Fine. Let's see how much you want to do it when it turns out it's your own brother you have to destroy."

That stopped me cold.



"It's not exactly some video game, is it?" Marco said. "This is reality. You don't know anything about reality, Jake. Nothing bad has ever really happened to you. You have this perfect family. Like I used to have."

His voice cracked a little. He never talked about his mom's death.

I realized he was right. I didn't know about reality. Not the way reality had happened to Marco and to Tobias.

It's probably good Jake realizes this.


"So maybe we just walk away from this," Marco said. "Let someone else fight this fight. Sorry about the Andalite, but I've got enough death in my family."

"No," I said, surprising myself. "The Andalite gave us the morphing power for a reason. It wasn't just for the fun of being a dog or a horse or a bird. He hoped we would fight."

"Then maybe Tom is the enemy," Marco said. "Maybe it's your own brother you'll end up destroying."

"Yes," I said. My throat felt all tight. "Maybe that's what will happen. Maybe not. But the first step is to find out more. And I think maybe the way to do that is to check out this meeting of The Sharing. Tonight. I'll call the others. Anyone wants to come, cool. You want to stay out of it, Marco, that's cool, too."

Probably good Jake realizes that too.


He hesitated. He sent Tobias an angry look. But he said, "Okay, it's just a meeting, right? We go and see. I'm in for that,"

I called the others. Rachel agreed quickly. Cassie had to think about it for a little while, but she agreed, too.

I told Tom we were interested in attending the meeting. Me and Marco and Rachel and Cassie. We'd already decided Tobias would be there, too. Only in a different way.

"Tonight's a great meeting to come to," Tom said enthusiastically. "We're having a bonfire on the beach. You know, hanging out, playing games, and stuff. We play night volleyball, which is so funny because half the time guys can't even see the ball. It's great. It's the best organization. You'll love it."

Listening to him, it sure didn't sound like The Sharing was connected with the Yeerks. You couldn't really picture Visser Three or a bunch of Taxxons playing volleyball.

I want to see a bunch of Taxxons playing volleyball. I also see Visser Three waving the members of his team away from the volleyball and then getting pissed at them when he misses it.


I was thinking maybe we were all just nuts. The Sharing was probably just like some new kind of coed Boy Scouts or something.

It wasn't that far to the beach, so we decided not to drive there with Tom. We walked. Tobias walked part way with us, then he stepped behind a dark dune as we got close to the shore. A few minutes later we saw a hawk take flight. There aren't many thermals at night, so he had to work to get altitude. But then I guess he found a decent enough updraft, because he soared up and away till he disappeared.

"I have got to try that," Cassie said. "It looks wonderful."

"Yeah," I agreed. Ahead, the bonfire burned bright on the dark beach. People were all around it, playing, talking, eating. Kids from school. Adults. People I didn't know. Others I did. Were they all Controllers? I wondered. How could I ever know? And was my own brother one of them?

After about an hour of hanging out there on the beach, I was sure I was nuts. There was no way these guys were aliens. We played some volleyball, me and Tom together on one team. We ate the barbecue ribs they had. I mean, it was just like this normal, good time. The sand was still warm. The night air was chilly, but near the fire it was nice.

"Now you see why I enjoy this?" Tom asked me.

"It's cool," I said. I looked around at all the people having fun. "I didn't realize it was so much fun,"

"Well, that's not all it is," Tom said. "I mean, it's more than just fun. The Sharing can do all kinds of things for you. Once you're a full member."

"How do you get to be a full member?" I asked.

He smiled mysteriously. "Oh, that will come later. First you become an associate member. Later the leaders will decide whether to ask you to become a full member. Once you become a full member . . . the whole world changes."

At that moment, something weird happened. I was looking at Tom, and he was smiling at me.

But then his face kind of twitched. His head started to pull to one side, like he was trying to shake his head only he couldn't quite do it. For just a split second there was a look in his eyes scared or . . . or something. He was looking right at me, and it was like some different person, some scared person, was looking out of those same eyes.

Then he was back to normal. Or what looked like normal.

"I have to go for a while now," he said. "The full members have a separate meeting. You guys stay here and have fun. Have some more of that barbecue. It's great, isn't it?"

With that, he was gone into the night.

I felt like I had swallowed barbed wire.

The real Tom's still in there, then. That must be pretty horrid if you think about it.


Marco and Cassie came over. They had just finished playing Frisbee in the surf with some other kids. Marco was laughing.

"Okay," he said, "I admit it. I was wrong. These are just normal people having a good time. And Tom is not a Controller."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Marco was wrong.

I knew what I had seen in Tom's eyes he was trying to warn me. Somehow he had
managed to gain control of his face for just a second before the Yeerk in his head had crushed him.

Tom the real Tom, not the Yeerk slug in his brain had tried to warn me.

biracial bear for uncut
Jun 9, 2009

ask me about being the most obnoxious person of all time

Oh yeah, Marco's mom being Visser Two was an oh poo poo moment.

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice


"They're all going off to a separate meeting," I said. "All the full members. I'd sure like to know what goes on in that meeting." I struggled to sound normal, but my insides were churning.

"I saw people heading that way." Rachel pointed.

"Let's see if we can get close," I said.

"What's going on?" Marco asked. "I thought we just decided everything was normal here."

It was Cassie who answered him. "Nothing is normal here," she said. "Can't you feel it?" She shivered. "All these so-called full members, they're all being so perfectly nice. So perfectly
helpful. They're so perfectly normal it's abnormal. And all the time their eyes are following you, watching you. Watching you like . . . like a hungry dog watching a bone."

"Creepy," Rachel agreed. "Like if you took cheerleaders, combined them with gym teachers,and made them all drink ten cups of coffee."

"They are all just a little too happy, aren't they?" Marco admitted. "People keep telling me how all their problems disappeared once they became a full member of The Sharing. It's like some cult or something."

"I'm getting into that secret meeting," I said. I had to know. I had to be dead sure. "Let's get away from the fire. Over behind that lifeguard stand."

"How are you going to get into the meeting?" Marco asked.

"They won't worry about some stray dog that's walking along the beach," I said.

"Some stray . . . oh," Marco said.

"Good idea," Cassie said. "I'd do it, too, but the only morph I can do is a horse. They would notice a horse."

I checked to see that no one could see us. I waved over my head. A few seconds later, Tobias came swooping silently out of the starlit sky. He landed on the lifeguard stand, <What's up?>

"The full members are off in some private get-together," I told him. "Do you know where they are?"

<Of course. With these eyes I can see the mice scampering through the dune grass. Nice, plump, tasty-looking things.>

"Tobias! Get a grip. Don't start eating mice just because you're in a hawk's body. What's next? Road kill?"

He didn't say anything. Maybe he was offended at my suggestion that he would ever eat road kill. Or, worse, maybe he wasn't offended.

"Where are the full members?" I asked.

<About a hundred yards down the beach. There's a little bowl-like area formed by the dunes.

There are people posted all around, though, like guards.>

So Jake's using his morph to become a dog for infiltration, as did Tobias which is the first time we see them using morphs for what they're intended to be used for. Also, Tobias is really into eating mice here.


I nodded. "Good job. Tobias, you've been in that body for more than an hour. You need to morph back."

<No, I'll keep watch from above for a while longer,> he said.

"No, Tobias," I said sharply. "You need to morph back. You've done what we needed you to do."

<Um, there is that little problem . . . I don't exactly have any clothes on.>

"Marco has your clothes in a bag. Rachel and Cassie will turn away while you morph."

Cassie grinned. "I am going to have to teach you boys how to morph clothing."

Still Tobias hesitated. <I hate changing back. It's like going back into a prison or something. I hate it when I don't have wings.>

"Tobias, you can always return to your hawk morph later," Rachel reassured him. "Now, come on, both of you. I'll look the other way so your delicate boy modesty isn't offended."

Tobias is more comfortable being a hawk than he is a person. Maybe not all that surprising, given that his life experience so far as a person hasn't been that great. He says that returning to human form is like a "prison", and I guess for him that's true. He certainly doesn't have much freedom, stuck with family that hates him, shipped back and forth on a whim.


I took a deep breath. It was only my second morph. It still seemed totally ridiculous that I was even thinking about becoming a dog. But as I concentrated, I could begin to feel the itchiness and the squirmy feeling as Homer's DMA combined with the Andalite's technology and began to change me.

At the same time, I could see fingers growing from the ends of Tobias's wings.

"Keep a grip on your human side," Cassie warned me. "We can't have you off chasing cats or whatever. You need to focus hard on staying in control."

I started to say, "Yes, I know," but it came out "Rowr, rowwr, ruff!" I was already too changed to make normal human speech.

I thought my answer instead. <Yes, I know, Cassie. Don't worry.>

"But I do worry," she said softly.

I nuzzled her hand with my cold nose and she patted my head. I set off across the sand.

Cassie had been right to warn me. The dunes, the surf, the low chirping of sea birds in their hidden nests all of it was so perfect for distracting my dog mind.

I heard something breathing in the sea grass, and then it broke and ran! I was off after it before I could even think. It ran and I chased. I think it may have been a chipmunk or something. I never could be sure, because it found a hole and went diving in.

I dug frantically in the sand for a while before my human brain realized, whoa, Jake this is not what you're supposed to be doing. Stop it!

I made myself walk toward the meeting. I could hear the murmur of voices. I started to creep closer, then I realized that was dumb. Dogs don't creep around. They just walk or run. If I went around acting like "spy dog," that would make people pay attention.

So I wandered along, like any dog out for an evening stroll along the beach. My tongue lolled out of my mouth. My tail wagged occasionally. The only thing I had to be careful of was not to let Tom see me too clearly. After all, I looked exactly like Homer.

Basically, I was Homer.

There. If you wanted to see more of the good boy, there he is.


I approached the edge of the area. There were high dunes all around. About twenty or thirty people were standing together. Unfortunately, with my weak dog eyes I couldn't see them very well in the darkness.

But I could hear them. I could hear them amazingly well. Sounds that I would barely have noticed with my human hearing were as loud as a boom box set on nine.

And I could smell. It's funny about smell. As a human you don't really get into it. But when I laid back and let my dog abilities come up, smell became as good as sight. Different, but just as good for some things.

I heard Tom's voice. And I smelled a subtle combination of things that meant he was not too far away.

There was a man on guard, but all he did was look down at me, then look away. No one cares about a stray dog.

I was beginning to realize why the Andalite had given us the power to morph. There are things you can do as an animal that you could never do as a human.

The members all seemed to be waiting for someone to arrive. I heard Tom say, "He should be here soon. Wait, here he comes."

There was a stirring, muttering sound. I heard footsteps approach. I moved closer but stayed out of the light.

"Everyone, quiet. We have problems," the voice said.

The voice! I knew that voice. It was the same voice that had been at that construction site. It was the voice that had said, "Just save the head. Bring that to me, and we can identify it."

I crept a little closer. I had to look hard to see him with my dog sight But then, when he turned just the right way, I saw him, I recognized him. It was someone I knew. Someone I saw every day at school.

None other than Assistant Principal Chapman.

My assistant principal was a Controller.

"Item one. We still have not found the brats who were at the construction site," Chapman said. His voice was hard. "I want them found. Visser Three wants them found. Does anyone have any clues?"

For a moment no one spoke. Then I heard a second familiar voice.

"It could have been anyone," Tom said. "But it might be the one who's my brother, Jake. I know he goes through the construction site sometimes. That's why I brought him here tonight. So we could either make him ours . . . or kill him."

And that's how you end a chapter! And Jake gets confirmation that two people he knows have been taken over by Yeerks....Tom, and assistant principal Chapman.

von Metternich
May 7, 2007
Why the hell not?

It's very 90s YA to have the assistant principal be a controller, but it gets ridiculous later on when Chapman is doing EVERYTHING...he's running over people with his car! He's trying to take over an aircraft carrier! You end up with the impression that there aren't really that many Yeerks after all.

nine-gear crow
Aug 10, 2013

low vis

von Metternich posted:

It's very 90s YA to have the assistant principal be a controller, but it gets ridiculous later on when Chapman is doing EVERYTHING...he's running over people with his car! He's trying to take over an aircraft carrier! You end up with the impression that there aren't really that many Yeerks after all.

<Innis, I need you to go to Bangkok for me. Don't ask questions. Your flight leaves in an hour. You'll be briefed when you arrive.>

"I... uh... Yes, Visser."

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice


Either make him ours . . . or kill him.

I felt like someone had punched me.

I told myself that Tom was a Human-Controller. Some slimy, snotty slug from another planet was in his brain controlling him. When he talked to me it wasn't even Tom, not really. It was a Yeerk,

My brother . . . one of them. Chapman . . . one of them.

They were everywhere. Everywhere! How were we going to stop them? How could we even try? If they could take my own brother from me, if they could take Tom, then how was I going to be able to stop them? It was insane. Marco was right.

I think if I had been fully human right then, despair would have just overpowered me. But dogs don't know about despair. It was Homer's simple, happy, hopeful mind that saved me. For a while I just sort of let go and drifted into dog consciousness. I didn't want to think. I didn't want to be a human being. For a while I just wandered around the dunes and smelled things.

But I knew I had a job to do. After a while I let go of the simple happiness of the dog and forced myself back into painful reality.

I waited and listened some more to the meeting. But I was still so upset I didn't really track on a lot of what was being said. I just kept hearing it over and over in my head "Make him ours . . . or kill him."

The one other thing that did stick in my mind was Tom discussing with some other guy some other Controller the schedule for going to the Yeerk pool. He'd just been and was feeling good, he said. He'd be heading back on Monday night.

That was the slug in his head talking. The Yeerk that controlled Tom needed to return to the Yeerk pool.

Then I heard another voice. Cassie!

I slunk quickly around the back of a dune to get closer. But I could hear clearly. Cassie's voice, and another voice it took me a minute to recognize.

It was the policeman. The same policeman.

"Hey, what are you doing back here?" the policeman demanded.

"I was just looking for shells," Cassie said.

"This is just for full members," the policeman said gruffly. "Private business. You understand?"

"Yes, sir," Cassie said in her most humble voice.

I got to where I could see them, although I have to tell you, dog sight is not exactly great. Everything is like an old TV with bad color and all blurry.

The policeman was staring hard at Cassie. Cassie was trying to be brave, but I could smell the fact that she was afraid.

"Okay, take off," the policeman said at last. "But I have my eye on you. Get back with the others."

Cassie turned and headed away as fast as she could walk. I caught up with her. I guess seeing a dog come bounding out of nowhere startled her, because she jumped.

"Oh, it's you," she said.

<Yeah. That was close. What were you doing there?>

She shrugged. "Just wanted to make sure you were okay."

<I was safer than you were,> I pointed out.

Conservation of characters hits again. The cop is the same cop as the one who confronted them before.


We got back to the spot where Rachel, Marco, and Tobias were waiting. I didn't even want to morph back into my human body. I knew that I could just let myself go again, and in a few minutes my dog brain would forget why my human brain was sad. If someone would just throw a stick out into the surf I could go after it. The water would make me happy. The chasing would make me happy.

Now I knew why Tobias was so reluctant to leave his hawk's body. Being an animal could be a nice way to escape from all your troubles.

I sort of find this interesting, transformation as escape....not having to worry about human concerns, just being the animal.


I began to morph back into my own body. Cassie and Rachel turned and looked out toward the water.

When I was completely myself again, I said, "Marco, you were right. Tom is a Controller,"

Marco did not look pleased about being right.

I told them what Tom had said to Chapman about bringing me to the meeting to either use me or kill me.

"Wait a minute. Chapman is one of them, too?" Rachel asked. "Our Chapman? Mr. Chapman the assistant principal?"

"I think he's some kind of a leader," I said. "It was him the other night at the construction site. He was the one who told the Hork-Bajir just to keep the head."

"That is so Chapman," Marco said.

"I suggest we get the heck out of here," Tobias said.

"No, it's okay," I said. "Chapman told Tom there was not to be any killing at a Sharing meeting. They don't want any suspicious activities. He also said they couldn't just go around killing every kid who might have been at the construction site. They needed to be sure."

"That's decent of them," Rachel said dryly.

"Not really. Chapman just said that for a while longer they still have to avoid attracting too much attention. A bunch of kids start turning up dead and people will definitely notice. Hw said they should just wait kids can't keep quiet for long about seeing aliens. When the kids talk, the Controllers will find them and get rid of them."

"Except that we aren't going to talk about what we saw," Rachel said.

"You got that right," Marco agreed. "We aren't saying anything. We are forgetting everything we saw. We are getting on with our normal lives."

"And leave Tom the way he is?" I demanded. "No way. Never. He's my brother. I'm going to save him."

"Just how do you figure you'll do that?" Marco asked sarcastically. "Let's see, it's you versus Chapman, the cops, a bunch of Hork-Bajir and Taxxons, and, worst of all, that creep, Visser Three. All you can do to fight them is turn into a dog and bite their ankles. It's like being stuck in the most impossible video game ever invented."

I grinned. Or at least I showed my teeth. "Yeah, it is, kind of. But I'm pretty good at video games."

"And he won't be alone," Rachel said. "I'm in this, too."

"And me," Tobias said.

"Me, too," Cassie agreed.

"Swell," Marco said. "So suddenly you're the Fantastic Four. This isn't a comic book. This is real."

We heard the sound of people coming through the dunes. The meeting of the full members had broken up.

"Everyone, quiet," I said. "We'll let this ride . . . for now."

I said that to calm Marco down. I had no intention of letting it ride.

So Marco still isn't on board with this. And really, in a lot of ways, he's right. The odds do seem really stacked


I pulled Cassie aside. "Listen, Cassie, I need an animal morph that will let me watch Chapman without him seeing me. What do you have at the farm?"

Cassie got quiet for a moment. "Let me think. We have a lot of injured birds, of course. We have the wolf with the broken leg. We have the wildcat with one eye."

I waited while she went down a list of all the animals in the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic.

Suddenly Cassie snapped her fingers. "I wonder. . . . How small an animal do you think we can morph?"

I shrugged. I had no idea.

"I may have something in mind," she said. "It's not really in the clinic as a patient. It just sort of lives there. It's small. It can crawl up walls. It's fast, if you need to get away. And I guess it can hear and see okay."

Which is how I ended up in Cassie's barn later that night, crawling beneath cages full of sick buzzards and between a pair of jumpy deer, looking for lizards.

That's a hero for you, crawling beneath cages of sick buzzards looking for lizards.

Apr 23, 2014

I like how quickly Applegate gets psychological, with the drive to repress your humanity and give in to the simpler but more pleasurable animal instincts.

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice


I did it Monday morning in my locker at school. I turned into a lizard.

A green anole, to be exact. It's a member of the iguana family. Like you care.

In case you do care, here's a picture of a green anole showing off his dewlap. They do it when they're trying to be threatening or as courtship behavior. He's the one showing off on the cover. And they are related to the iguana.


I waited till the bell rang for first period, which was English class. When everyone else was out of the hallway, I just climbed into my locker. I tried to act cool about it, just in case anyone was watching.

Jake not realizing that it's impossible to act cool climbing into your locker.


The locker was about two inches shorter than me, so I had to crouch. And it was so tight I couldn't move. The only light was from the three small ventilation slits. I could hear my heart pounding in the cramped, dark space. I was afraid.

It was one thing to turn into a dog. I mean, it's weird, it's strange, but it's also kind of cool. Dogs are cool animals. But lizards?

"I should have practiced," I muttered under my breath. "I really should have practiced like Cassie said."

I started to focus for the morphing. I remembered the way we had caught the lizard the night before last. We'd spotted it with a flashlight, and Cassie had put a bucket over it so it couldn't get away.

He should have practiced


It had been fairly creepy, just touching it to acquire its DNA pattern. Now I was going to become it.

The first thing I noticed was that I suddenly had more room inside the locker. I didn't have to crouch down. And my shoulders weren't scrunched up anymore.

I touched my face with one hand. My skin was looser than it should have been. And pebbly to the touch.

I ran my hand over my head. My hair was almost all gone.

Things began to happen very fast. The locker grew and grew around me. It was big as a barn. Big as a stadium!

It was like falling. Like falling off a skyscraper and taking forever to hit the ground.

I was standing on something sticky, as large as a boulder. How had a boulder gotten into my locker? But then I realized - it was a wad of gum! An old, chewed wad of gum stuck to the bottom of my locker.

Gigantic drapes as big as the sails of a ship were falling all around me. They were my clothes. In the dim light I could see two monstrous, misshapen things on either side of me. I could just make out the Nike swoosh, and realized they were my shoes. They were the size of houses.

And then the lizard brain kicked in.

Fear! Trapped! Run! Run! Rruunrunrun!

I shot left. A wall! I scampered up, feeling my feet stick to it. Trapped! I jumped back. Another hard surface. Trapped! Runrunrunrun!

I fought to get control, but the lizard brain was panicked. It didn't know where it was. It wanted out. OUT!

Go toward the light! I ordered my new body. The ventilation slits. That was the way out.

But the body was afraid of the light. It was terrified.

I was still bouncing off the walls. I could not overcome the panic instincts of the lizard body.

Go to the light! I screamed inside my head. And suddenly I was there. I poked my head out, and my body slithered after me. My tongue flicked out and I got a weird kind of input from it. Like smell, only not quite. It kept flicking. I could see it shoot out of my mouth and lick the air.

In the bright light I realized how bad the lizard eyes were. I couldn't make sense of what I was seeing. Everything was shattered and twisted around. Down was up and up was down. Colors weren't even close to right.

I tried to think. Come on, Jake. You have eyes on the side of your head now. They don't focus together. They see different things. Deal with it.

I tried to make sense of the pictures, using this knowledge, but they were still a mess. It seemed to take me forever to figure it out. One eye was looking down the hall to the left. The other was looking down the halt to the right. I was upside down, gripping the side of the locker, which was like a long, gray field that wouldn't end.

And all the time the green anole brain was fighting me. Now that it was out of the dark locker, it desperately wanted to go back in.

Chapman's office, I reminded myself. But where was it?

Left. That way.

Suddenly I was off and running. Straight down the wall. Zoom! Then on level floor. Zoom! Around a scrap of paper twice as big as I was. The ground flew past. It was like being strapped onto a crazy, out-of-control missile.

Definitely should have practiced.


Then my lizard brain sensed the spider. It was a strange thing, like I wasn't sure if I saw the spider, or heard it, or smelled it, or tasted it on my flicking lizard tongue, or just suddenly knew it was there.

I took off after it, racing at a million miles an hour before I could even think about stopping. My legs were a blur, they moved so fast.

It probably wasn't a huge spider. Not if you were a great big human being. But to my lizard eyes it looked as big as a small child. It was huge. I could see the compound eyes. I could see the individual joints in its eight legs. I could see the clicking, awful mandibles.

The spider ran. I ran after it. I was faster.

Noooooooooooo! I screamed inside my head. But too late. My head jerked forward, fast as a striking snake. My jaws snapped. And suddenly the spider was in my mouth.

I could feel it fighting. I could feel the spider's legs squirming and fighting to get out of my mouth.

I tried to spit it out, but I couldn't. The lizard's hunger for that spider was too great.

I swallowed the spider. It was like swallowing a whole canned ham. A canned ham that was fighting all the way down.

No, no, no! my brain cried in horror and disgust. But at the same time, the lizard brain was pleased. I could feel it become slightly calmer.

That does it! I told myself. I am out of this morph!

I wanted out of that horrible little body. I didn't care who saw me, I was going to morph back to human shape. Marco was right. It was insane to get involved in this. Insane!

I don't know that I can say anything but yum? But here's another good example of the morph and its instincts taking over and Jake struggling to control it.


I heard the ground shake. It was a noise like a giant stomping across the land.

It was a giant.

There was a huge shadow in the sky. It was like someone was trying to crush me by dropping an entire building on my head.

The shoe came down!

I scampered left.

Another shoe.

My tail! The shoe was on my tail! I was trapped!

Oct 19, 2012

Can he turn into that spider, now?

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice

Avalerion posted:

Can he turn into that spider, now?

Probably not. It would prove the point of the old adage, "You are what you eat", though.

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice

The Invasion-Chapter 17


In panic, I tried to run. But my tail was caught.

Suddenly I was free! How had that . . .

I realized what had happened. My tail had snapped off. Looking back, I saw it, still trapped by the giant shoe. It squirmed as if it were still alive. It wiggled like a worm on a hook.

The shoe lifted and flew through the air again.

I shot up the side of the wall and froze in place.

The giant had not seen me. It had not tried to stomp me. It had been an accident. And now my tail . . . no, the lizard's tail . . .

Anoles can lose their tails in times of stress or to fool predators.


The giant walked on, shaking the ground as it went.

I focused one lizard eye on the figure. It was like trying to make sense out of one of those carnival fun mirrors. But even so, I was pretty sure it was Chapman.

I watched him head down the hall. And with all my power, I ordered my lizard body to follow him.

I tried not to think about the spider in my stomach, or the fact that it was still not completely dead. I tried not to think about the fact that part of my body was back on the floor, jerking like it was still alive. I just raced along after Chapman.

Because Chapman might reveal something that would help Tom.

I planned to follow Chapman to his office. I'd hide under his desk and listen to him make phone calls. I figured sooner or later he might let something slip about the location of the Yeerk pool.

Cassie and I had talked about it. She'd said it could take days of hiding in Chapman's office before we learned anything. Besides, we could only stay in a morph for two hours. And meanwhile, I would be skipping class. Sooner or later, I'd get in trouble over that.

And the really funny thing is, when they catch you skipping class, you get sent to the assistant principal.

Mr. Chapman.

I could just imagine that scene . . . Sorry I skipped class, Mr. Chapman, but I've been in this lizard body, watching you because I know you're a Controller and part of a giant alien conspiracy to take over the earth.

I would have laughed, only lizards can't laugh. So I just followed Chapman as he marched down the hall.

Yes, it is convenient that the first person he runs into is Chapman. Is it realistic? Not really, but, you know, it is what it is.


Suddenly he stopped. Were we at his office?

I looked around as well as I could, it didn't look like the office. The spider gave a kick in my stomach.

He opened a door. It swung right over me with a big rush of air. It went just above my head as I hugged the floor.

I concentrated on making sense of the sights. Wait a minute! This was the janitor's closet, a mess of mops and buckets and cleaning solutions. What was Chapman doing . . . ?

He went inside. I followed, careful to stay away from the high leather walls that were his shoes.

I heard a loud click. He had locked the door behind him.

It was a long way up from the floor, but I could more or less see him doing things to the sink faucet. I thought he grabbed one of the hooks they used to hang up the dirty mop heads. I was pretty sure he twisted it because I could hear a squeaking sound.

And to my total and complete amazement, the wall opened.

There was a doorway where the wall had been. Strange smells and stranger sounds wafted up from inside the doorway.

Chapman stepped through. There were stairs just inside, heading down into a purple-lit pit. From far away, as if it came from a hundred miles down, I heard a faint sound.

It was a scream. A scream of fear and despair. A human voice, crying out in the darkness of that horrible place.

"Noooo!" the voice moaned. "Noooo!"

I knew what the scream meant. I knew what was happening. Somewhere down there, a human being was feeling the Yeerk slug slither inside its brain. Somewhere down there, a human being was being turned into a mindless slave of the Yeerks.

Chapman headed down the stairs.

The door closed behind him.

I had found the Yeerk pool.

It was right under my school.

Well, that's kind of creepy.

Apr 23, 2014

Not as creepy as the feeling of swallowing a live spider whole and having it still writhing in your stomach.

Jan 1, 2020

by Cyrano4747

Oh man, I forgot there was a pool entrance in the school.

"One Happy Meal with extra happy!"

Oct 19, 2012

Many kids would be thrilled to have a legit excuse to burn their school down.

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice

The Invasion-Chapter 18


"Screams," I said. "Human screams. They sounded far off, but that's what they were."

My friends looked at me. All but Marco, who looked away. It was that same afternoon, right after school. We'd gone to the mall. We figured it was the best way not to look suspicious. No one thinks there's anything weird about kids hanging together at the mall.

We were at a table in the food court, sharing some nachos. Ever since eating the spider, I'd had a desire to consume lots of junk food to help me forget.

"You were a lizard at the time," Marco pointed out. "Who knows what you heard?"

"I know," I said.

"I can't stand the thought of what's happening to people down there," Cassie said. She shuddered. "It's sickening."

"We have to do something," Rachel said.

"Yeah, let's rush right down there," Marco said. "Then it can be us screaming."

I realized I had lost my appetite for nachos.

"Marco, you can't just ignore what's going on," Rachel said.

"Sure I can," he said. "All I have to do is remind myself that hey, guess what? I don't want to die."

"That's it, then?" Rachel demanded, outraged. "Just whatever is best for Marco?"

"I don't think Marco is being selfish," Cassie said. "Just the opposite. He's thinking about his father. About what would happen to his dad if Marco . . ."

It is sort of a good point, and one brought up before. Marco's loyalty to his father is what's preventing him from being more enthusiastic about this.


"He's not the only one who's got people to worry about," Rachel said. "I have a family. We all do."

"Not me," Tobias said softly. He smiled his sad, crooked smile. "It's true. No one gives a rat's rear about me."

"I do," Rachel said.

I was surprised to hear her say that. Rachel isn't exactly sentimental.

Now I'm sad, and a little touched.


"Look," I said. "I'm not asking anyone else to go with me. But I don't have a choice. I heard that scream today. And I know Tom is going down there tonight. He's my brother. I have to try and save him." I held out my hands, helpless. "I have to do it. For Tom."

"I'll go with you," Tobias said, "For the Andalite."

"There's no one else who can do anything to stop the Yeerks," Rachel said. "I'm scared to death, just thinking about it. But I'm there."

Marco looked sick. He gave me a dirty took. He shook his head. "This is bad," he said. "This is so bad. If it wasn't for Tom I'd walk away."

"Look, Marco, you don't have to - " I started to say.

"Oh, shut up!" he snapped. "You're my best friend, you jerk. Like I'm going to let you go face all this alone? I'm in. I'm in, to rescue Tom. That's it. Then I'm done."

It's sort of interesting looking at their motivations here. Jake is doing it for his brother, Tobias for the Elfangor, who really touched him, Rachel, because nobody else will, and Marco out of loyalty to Jake.


Only Cassie had remained silent. She was looking dreamily off over the heads of the mall crowd. "You know, back in the old days - I mean, the real, real old days - the Africans, the early Europeans, the Native Americans . . . they all believed animals had spirits. And they would call on those spirits to protect them from evil. They would ask the spirit of the fox for his cunning. They'd ask the spirit of the eagle for his sight. They would ask the lion for his strength."

"I guess what we're doing is sort of basic. Even though it was Andalite technology that made it possible. We're still just scared little humans, trying to borrow the mind of the fox, and the eyes of the eagle . . . or the hawk," she added, smiling at Tobias. "And the strength of the lion. Just like thousands of years ago, we're calling on the animals to help protect us from evil."

"Will their strength be enough?" I wondered.

"I don't know," Cassie admitted solemnly. "It's like all the basic forces of planet Earth are being brought into the battle."

Marco rolled his eyes. "Nice story, Cassie. But we're five normal kids. Up against the Yeerks. If it was a football game, who would you bet on? We're toast."

"Don't be so sure," Cassie said. "We're fighting for Mother Earth. She has some tricks up her sleeves."

"Good grief," Marco said. "Let's all buy Birkenstocks and go hug some trees,"

We all laughed, including Cassie.

Cassie, as having been mentioned before, has the whole "nature girl" thing going on. Marco, as having been mentioned before, is a smartass.


"Cassie is right about one thing," Rachel said seriously. "The only thing we have going for us is this animal morphing thing. And so far the only morphs we've acquired are a cat, a bird, a dog, a horse, and a lizard. I think we need a little more firepower. We should head for The Gardens. We need to acquire more DNA - from some animals that are not going to be easy to acquire."

I nodded. "Yeah. I don't think the hawk, horse, and lizard team is going to impress the Yeerks. Rachel's right. I think we have to head to The Gardens. We need to get some help from Mother Earth's toughest children." I looked to Cassie. "Can you get us in?"

"I can get in free," she said. "You guys will have to pay, but I can use my mom's employee discount, so it'll be cheaper."

"Oh, I'm sure we could talk them into letting us in for nothing," Marco said. "Just tell them we're Animorphs."

"Tell them we're what?" Rachel asked.

"Idiot teenagers with a death wish," Marco said.

"Animorphs." I tried the word out. It sounded okay

They said the title of the series! That's probably worth some points.

Apr 23, 2014

Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."

This scene would have really ticked me off as a kid. You can turn into a lizard! Why are you paying admission?

Nov 13, 2005

0.000% of Communism has been built. Evil child-murdering billionaires still rule the world with a shit-eating grin.

I'd forgotten how creepy the Sharing stuff is. The Sharing is a good name for a creepy cult thing where alien slugs are implanted into your brain.


"Flying saucers," he said. He laughed again. "Only complete dips believe that kind of stuff."

I forgot about the use of "dip" as an insult in the 90s. I remember one time some teenager was babysitting me as a kid and I mistakenly broke his Exo Squad action figure and he called me a dip.

Feb 26, 2016


Ytlaya posted:

I forgot about the use of "dip" as an insult in the 90s. I remember one time some teenager was babysitting me as a kid and I mistakenly broke his Exo Squad action figure and he called me a dip.
Of course he did, it's Exo Squad.

Radio Free Kobold
Aug 11, 2012

"Federal regulations mandate that at least 30% of our content must promote Reptilian or Draconic culture. This is DJ Scratch N' Sniff with the latest mermaid screeching on KBLD..."

Psh, only complete dips play Exo Squad. You wouldn't touch that lame crap, right?

Feb 26, 2016


^^^ Controller account spotted

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice

The Invasion-Chapter 19


We left straight from the mall, hopping a bus out to The Gardens, which is clear across the city. On the way, I tried to catch up on my homework. I had missed a lot of classes that day, so I borrowed class notes from my friends. Rachel kept perfect notes. Tobias had terrible notes with all kinds of little drawings in the margins. It took a while before I could figure out what they were. They were buildings and people and cars, the way they looked from high up in the sky.

"I don't really need to go in," Tobias said as we pooled our limited cash to buy tickets. "I'm happy with just my hawk morph. I don't want to be anything else."

Tobias is hawk crazy here.

"I think that's a mistake," Rachel said. "Our one real weapon is the power to morph. We should acquire as many useful morphs as we can."

Tobias is hawk crazy here, but Rachel is right. Morphing is really the only thing they've got, so refusing to acquire morphs is just not useful.


"What kind of animal morphs are going to be able to deal with Visser Three when he turns into that big monster that ate the Andalite?" I asked. There was nothing in this zoo or any other that was going to kick that big monster's butt.

Marco winked. "Fleas? No one can kill fleas. We'll itch him to death."

I had to smile. "So now you're suddenly Mr. Hopeful?"

"No, I'm just so scared I'm getting weird," he said. "I haven't done this morphing stuff. You guys all have. I'm not even a full-fledged Animorph yet. I'm still normal."

"I still feel normal," Cassie said. She looked troubled.

"Cassie, you can turn into a horse," Marco said. "Very few normal kids can do that. It's different for Jake, turning into a lizard. He's always been a reptile."

I took a good-natured swing at Marco, but he dodged it. It was cool having Marco with us - even if he was giddy.

It took about a half an hour to reach the main gate of The Gardens. I climbed down off the bus feeling nervous - not at all like I usually felt going there. I mean, The Gardens is just about my favorite place to go, normally. But normally I'm not going there to get personal with dangerous animals.

The main part of The Gardens is rides. They have all the usual stuff, like roller coasters, which are my personal favorite, and Ferris wheels and water slides.

But they also have an animal part, which is like a zoo, only cooler. They do dolphin shows, and there's this whole section where you can get close to some of the safer animals. And this monkey habitat they have is like a whole monkey city, practically. Anyway, if I were an animal, and I had to be in a zoo, I'd want to be there.

I'm thinking the Gardens is based off of Busch Gardens. If you've never heard of it, Busch Gardens, which was originally owned by the Anheiser-Busch company, has parks in both Williamsburg, Virginia and Tampa, Florida, and like the fictional Gardens in the books, is amusement park, water park, and animal park.


Cassie led us to the main building, which holds all kinds of exhibits. It has everything but the really big animals that need lots of space.

Those animals are farther out, mostly, in big grassy habitats that look like parks. Parks with walls and moats and fences around them. The main building is supposed to be like a rain forest, I guess. It's where they keep animals that need to be warm all the time. There's a pathway that winds around with tall tropical trees overhead, with bushes here and there between the exhibits.

Some of the exhibits are tiny, and some are really big, like the area they have for otters. It has a waterfall and a water slide for the otters to play in.

We were near the otter habitat when Cassie stopped. "Okay, now everyone stay together, and try not to be too suspicious-looking," she said. I'm taking you inside."

"Inside where?" Marco asked.

"Well, the way it works is, there are walkways behind all these exhibits. That's how they feed the animals and give them meds or whatever. Meds are medicines. Sorry." She pointed to an inconspicuous doorway. "Anyway, we can go in through there."

It was an odd change from outside to inside. One minute, we were in this fake rain forest. The next minute, we were in what looked like a hallway at school. Only the smell was worse - kind of damp and moldy and musty. More like the boys' locker room.

"Okay, look, if any staff people stop us, the story is we're here to see my mom," Cassie said. "Of course, it's so late in the afternoon she won't be here. I hope. Because if she finds out I've been dragging four of my friends around back here . . . Well, I can't be saving the world from alien invaders if I'm grounded. Hopefully, there won't be many staff people here at all."

You have to admit, it's a problem for teenage alien fighters. "Young lady, you can't go out and save the world tonight from alien invaders, you're grounded!"


We shuffled along the hallway, feeling like we definitely did not belong. Which we didn't. On either side of the main hall, there were side paths that led to the different exhibits. Unfortunately, the doorways to the exhibits just had numbers on them. I knew we'd have to rely on Cassie's knowledge to find our way around. Behind some of those doors were animals you didn't want to just walk in on.

"How do you guys feel about gorillas?" Cassie said. She had stopped by one of the numbered doors. "This is Big Jim's cage. He just came over from another zoo, so he's in his own private environment for now. He's very gentle."

Slowly it dawned on me what Cassie was saying. "Oh. You mean, does one of us want to acquire his DNA?"

"That is why we're here, Jake," Rachel pointed out. She batted her eyes at Marco. "How about you, Marco? Haven't you always wanted to be a big, hairy guy?"

Marco didn't look like he was crazy about the idea. But I knew how to handle Marco.

"Maybe Marco should try something easier for his first morph," I said. "You know, like a cuddly little koala or something."

That did it.

"Koala?" Marco said, giving me a dirty look. "Open that door, Cassie." He hesitated. "You said gentle, right?"

"Gorillas are extremely gentle," Cassie said. Then, in a quieter voice, she added, "Unless you make them mad."

Cassie opened her backpack. She took out an apple and handed it to Marco. "Here. You just open the door. The way it's set up, none of the visitors will be able to see you unless you walk clear out into the cage. Besides, there's an extra security gate, so he can't just jump out and you can't just walk in. So we just open the door, and hope Big Jim feels like eating."

Behind the door was a second door of steel bars, with a little cutaway section for the handlers to shove the food through. The entire door opening was concealed behind a fake rock ledge so it wasn't visible to the people looking into the cage. But Big Jim noticed us right away. He climbed heavily down from his perch on a rock ledge and took a good look at us through the bars.

Big Jim was definitely big. He had fingers the size of my wrist. But Jim didn't seem to mind us being there. Mostly he seemed interested in Marco's apple. He looked Marco over, snorted like he wasn't impressed, and then held out his hand.

"Hand him the apple," Cassie directed. "He wants the apple."

"I loved your work in King Kong Versus Godzilla" Marco told the ape. He stuck his hand through the bars and held out the apple. With surprising daintiness, the gorilla lifted the apple and began inspecting it closely.

"Hold his hand," I said."

"Yeah, right," Marco laughed.

"When you acquire DNA, the animal goes-into a kind of trance," I said. "Go ahead, grab his hand and concentrate."

Marco tentatively touched the gorilla's wrist. "Nice monkey." The gorilla ignored him. Big Jim was much more interested in the apple than in any of us.

"Concentrate," Rachel urged.

Marco closed his eyes. The ape closed his eyes.

"This is so cool," Tobias commented. "You realize that gorilla could pull Marco apart like he was a paper doll. Look at those arms!"

Marco opened one eye. "Tobias? Being terrified gets in the way of concentrating. So how about if you shut up about his arms?"

Tobias is not helping.


Suddenly I heard a whirring sound. I looked down the hall, then back. It was one of those electric carts, like a golf cart. It was coming toward us.

"Just act natural," Cassie hissed.

Marco slipped out and she slammed the door on Big Jim. "As long as it isn't a security guy, we're probably okay."

The cart came up to us. Its driver was a man wearing a stained, tan lab coat over his jeans. In the back of the cart were two large white plastic buckets full of something brown and horrible-smelling. "Hey, you're Cassie, right? The doc's kid? How's it going?"

"Fine," Cassie said. She waved casually, and the man drove right on past.

"That was easy," Rachel said. "He didn't even seem to care that we're back here."

"Well, where next?" Cassie wondered.

We were at a four-way corner. There were blank, whitepainted hallways in all directions. An electric golf cart was parked there, too.

"What are we near?" I asked.

Cassie thought for a moment. "Okay, that walkway leads to the outer exhibits. That one leads to the offices and storage facilities. These two go around the main building exhibits. We're close to . . . let me see . . . um, bats and snakes that way. The jaguar and the dolphin tank that way."

Rachel started down the hallway to our right. "Dolphins. I love dolphins."

"Wait," Cassie said, trotting after her. "What are we going to do with dolphin morphs?"

"I think we should go out to the big exhibits," Marco said. "Let's get serious about this. We need firepower. Come on."

"Let's stick together," I said as Marco started down the hall. I reached out to grab him before he got too far away.

And that's when the voice yelled, "Hey! Hey, you! What are you kids doing back here?"

I saw a guy in a brown uniform.

"Security!" Cassie yelped. "Oh, man, they'll take us all in to the office. They'll call my mom. I do not want to explain this to her."

"Split up!" I said, trying to sound like a leader. "Just like at the construction site: One guy can't get us all!"

"This guy looks like my grandfather," Rachel said. "Not like that Hork-Bajir that was after us."

"You kids hold on!"

"Oh, man. Oh, man," Cassie said. With that, she took off down one hallway. Rachel and Tobias went after her.

Marco was already twenty yards down the other hall, the one that led out to the large exhibits. I ran to catch up.

The guard reached the corner. I saw him glance toward Tobias and the girls. Then he looked at me and Marco. I guess Marco and I looked more suspicious, because he chose us.

These kids are really into splitting up when they get chased.


"Stop! You kids better stop!"

"Let's grab the golf cart!" Marco said.

"Steal a golf cart?"

"If we don't take it, that guard will."

"Good point."

We jumped in the cart. Marco slid behind the wheel. He turned the key to "on." He looked at me. "Just like driving bumper cars, right?"

"Only you try not to hit anything."

He put his foot down on the pedal. The electric motor made a whirring sound, and we took off.

Straight toward the wall.


"Hey, try steering," I yelled.

We backed up and took off again. We picked up speed. Enough to pull away from the guard, but when I looked back, he was still jogging after us.

"He's going to have a heart attack," I said.

"Which way?"


"Which way?"

I turned around to face forward. We had reached a "T" corner.

"Right!" I yelled.

Naturally, Marco turned left. I nearly fell out.

Almost immediately, we reached another corner. This time Marco did choose right. And I did fall out of the cart.

I hit the linoleum and rolled. Then I was up and racing to catch the cart.

"What are you doing?" Marco demanded when he saw me. "Quit playing around."

I just gave him a dirty look and climbed back in. "I think we lost the guard," Marco said.

"I'm fine, thanks for asking," I said. "Just a few bruises. Maybe a cracked skull. Nothing serious."

"Where do you think we are?"

"I think we are in the longest tunnel I've ever seen," I said.

It was more and more like a tunnel now. The floor was still linoleum and the walls were still whitewashed, but the lights were getting more spread out, so you definitely had the feeling you were underground.

"I wonder if they caught the others," Marco said. "Now do you see why it's crazy to think we can beat the Yeerks? I mean, come on: We can barely beat zoo security."



"We haven't beat anyone yet," I said grimly.

"Look!" Way up ahead, there were two guys in brown uniforms.

"Maybe they don't know who we are," Marco suggested. "They might think we're regular employees."

"Maybe. But not if they get a good look at us." I pointed. "There's a turnoff. Take it."

We turned. At the same time, the guards started yelling. The side corridor grew narrow. Too narrow for the golf cart.

"Ditch it!"

I jumped out. Marco jumped after me. We could hear the guards' footsteps as they ran down the main tunnel. These guys were in better shape than the old man. These guys could run.

The corridor ended abruptly. There were two doors, one a little to the left, one a little farther to the right. They were labeled P-201 and P-203. No help at all.

"Pick a door," Marco said.

I took a deep breath, "Door number one." I opened P-201. A blast of fresh air hit me. Sunlight blinded me. I blinked, trying to get my eyes to adjust.

The rhinoceros blinked, too.

"Ahhhh!" I yelled.

"Ahhhh!" Marco yelled.

We jumped back and slammed the door.

"Wrong door!" Marco said.

"Definitely wrong!" I agreed.

"Hey, you kids! Stop right there!" The guards were just at the end of the corridor.

"Gotta try door number two!" I said.

"Do it!" We opened the door and ran through.

There were trees all around us. Trees and grass. We were in the shade. Sunlight filtered down through the leaves. Just ahead the bushes gave way to open grass.

"Where are we?" Marco asked.

"Like I know?"

We worked our way through some bushes, keeping a careful eye out in all directions. We didn't see any animals. Just some birds up in the trees.

"Hey, there are people!" Marco said. He dropped down behind a bush and pointed. There were people lined up behind a railing. They were high up. Or else we were low down. I parted the bushes to get a better look. The people were leaning against a railing at the top of a high concrete wall. They couldn't see us because of the bushes. But they were definitely all staring at something.

"We're definitely in one of the habitats," I said. "Those are people looking at . . . at whatever is in here with us. I'm just hoping it isn't that rhino. That thing was way too big."

"How do we get out of here?"

"I don't know, let's just get away from the door. Those guards will be coming after us any second." But, you know, in the back of my mind I was thinking, Hmm, why haven't those guards come after us yet?

Marco and I crawled through the bushes and around the bases of the big trees. We reached a corner of the wall, hidden from all the people above.

"That is an awfully high wall," Marco observed. "That's got to be thirty feet high. This is not good. That wall is high for a reason. There's something in here that they don't want to escape."

I scanned the wall. There was a steel ladder set into the concrete about fifty yards away. "I guess that's the only way out."

"Let me ask you something," Marco said. "Why haven't the guards come after us? I mean, if this was, like, the deer and antelope exhibit, they'd come right in, wouldn't they?"

"We have to think, not panic," I said. "I am trying not to think about why the guards didn't come in here." I moved back into the shadows of the bushes. "Besides, maybe there's nothing in here at all."

I squatted down on my haunches.

My butt touched something warm.
I had a terrible feeling right at that moment. I looked up and saw Marco. Normally, Marco has kind of a dark, tanned face. But his face was white. And his eyes were very large.

"Marco," I said, very slowly and very quietly, "is there something behind me?"

He nodded.

"What is it, Marco?"

"Um . . . Jake? It's a tiger.

Well, at least it ends on a cliffhanger. I have to be honest, I don't like this chapter. It's one of the longest of the book, but not much actually happens. They go to the Gardens, get into the employee area, Marco acquires a gorilla, and they get chased by security. It's long, but not substantial, and a lot of it is broken up by dialogue. Almost half of it is Marco and Jake having a wacky golf cart chase, and the humor there is that Marco isn't very good at driving a golf cart.

Part of it too, are just that the chapter is trying to build up tension....will they get caught by security? But the stakes are so low. If they're caught, their parents will be mad at them and they'll probably be punished somehow, maybe grounded or whatever, and that's not pleasant. But this is also a book where they met an alien, only to watch him be eaten alive, were chased by seven foot tall dinosaurs covered with blades, found out that the Yeerks are hunting for them, that both Jake's older brother and their assistant principal are being controlled by Yeerks, and they're getting ready to go down to attack the Yeerk headquarters. Compared to that, the threat of being grounded seems kind of insignificant.

Something else I noticed that maybe bothered me more than it should....when Tobias says that he's good just being a hawk, Rachael argues with him, pointing out that they need to get as many morphs as they can, because it's the only weapon they have, and she's right. So why, then, after they meet Big Jim the gorilla, is Marco the only one to acquire him? Admittedly, they're interrupted by the staff person just after he does, but he doesn't care that they're there, and the gorilla seems peaceful and friendly, so why don't they all acquire him?

Anyway, that's just my opinion of the chapter. What do you think?

Apr 4, 2012

Epicurius posted:

Well, at least it ends on a cliffhanger. I have to be honest, I don't like this chapter. It's one of the longest of the book, but not much actually happens. They go to the Gardens, get into the employee area, Marco acquires a gorilla, and they get chased by security. It's long, but not substantial, and a lot of it is broken up by dialogue. Almost half of it is Marco and Jake having a wacky golf cart chase, and the humor there is that Marco isn't very good at driving a golf cart.

Part of it too, are just that the chapter is trying to build up tension....will they get caught by security? But the stakes are so low. If they're caught, their parents will be mad at them and they'll probably be punished somehow, maybe grounded or whatever, and that's not pleasant. But this is also a book where they met an alien, only to watch him be eaten alive, were chased by seven foot tall dinosaurs covered with blades, found out that the Yeerks are hunting for them, that both Jake's older brother and their assistant principal are being controlled by Yeerks, and they're getting ready to go down to attack the Yeerk headquarters. Compared to that, the threat of being grounded seems kind of insignificant.

Something else I noticed that maybe bothered me more than it should....when Tobias says that he's good just being a hawk, Rachael argues with him, pointing out that they need to get as many morphs as they can, because it's the only weapon they have, and she's right. So why, then, after they meet Big Jim the gorilla, is Marco the only one to acquire him? Admittedly, they're interrupted by the staff person just after he does, but he doesn't care that they're there, and the gorilla seems peaceful and friendly, so why don't they all acquire him?

Anyway, that's just my opinion of the chapter. What do you think?

I think Applegate wanted to add some challenge to the process of acquiring powerful morphs, so it wouldn't feel like she was making things too easy for the protagonists. But yeah, the tension is a bit artificial and doesn't really work.

Arguably if Jake got caught sneaking around a zoo, and one of the "Andalite bandits" morphs an animal Jake was sneaking around near, Tom might put two and two together. Though IIRC the Yeerks tend to be pretty bad at putting two and two together like that.

Nov 8, 2009

I'm willing to let the 'only Marco gets the gorilla' thing slide because it's a YA book and IIRC they gave a different primary combat morph to each of the kids, with the gorilla being Marco's.

Now making the black kid turn into a gorilla to fight, that I find harder to defend.

Apr 10, 2010

College Slice

Cythereal posted:

I'm willing to let the 'only Marco gets the gorilla' thing slide because it's a YA book and IIRC they gave a different primary combat morph to each of the kids, with the gorilla being Marco's.

Now making the black kid turn into a gorilla to fight, that I find harder to defend.

Cassie is the black kid. Marco's Hispanic.

Jul 25, 2007


Epicurius posted:

Cassie is the black kid. Marco's Hispanic.

Yep. Even as a kid I would have been like "Wait..." if Marco had been black. But nope, he's not. He's described pretty consistently as being olive-skinned and Hispanic.

I think later they mostly just go with each of the kids favoring specific combat morphs as indicators of their personality.

nine-gear crow
Aug 10, 2013

low vis

Kchama posted:

Yep. Even as a kid I would have been like "Wait..." if Marco had been black. But nope, he's not. He's described pretty consistently as being olive-skinned and Hispanic.

I think later they mostly just go with each of the kids favoring specific combat morphs as indicators of their personality.

Pretty much:

  • Jake - Tiger - A cunning predator that you don't see coming until it's too late.
  • Marco - Gorilla - One of a very select number of animals with lateral thinking and problem-solving abilities.
  • Cassie - Wolf - Focused on constantly maintaining the cohesion of the "pack".
  • Rachel - Grizzly - A giant ball of rage that will rip your nuts off if provoked.
  • Tobias - Hawk -

Nov 8, 2009

Ah, I somehow missed that as a kid or forgot it. I thought Marco and Cassie were both black.


Jan 1, 2020

by Cyrano4747

Marco not wanting to get in the fight is one thing, but what kid wouldn't immediately try out morphing?

Wolf. Real help there, Cassie

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