So this chapter ended up a little longer than expected, due to a combination of editing/merging old chapters together. Only just realised that despite adding new content, I'm probably going to have less chapters than the original, lol.
Anyway, enjoy! CHAPTER 7: Flying Free and Beach Sirens(MIKE’S POV)
The meeting broke up soon after, with Jake, Rachel and Marco heading home and Tobias, Cassie and I staying behind to check out the animals in Cassie’s barn. Everyone had basically agreed not to make any rash decisions about what to do about the Yeerks just yet. Marco probably thought that meant he had won, at least for now. Tobias certainly didn’t see it that way, as he excitedly browsed the various animal cages looking for a new morph to try out.
“So which one are you going to morph?” Cassie asked Tobias. She hadn’t shown any interest in testing a new morph herself. Personally if I was in her place, I’d be acquiring every animal brought into the clinic.
Tobias was gazing at two injured birds of prey. An Osprey with a broken beak, and a Red-tailed hawk with a broken wing.
“I think I’ll choose…the Red-tail!” Tobias decided.
“Good choice,” I told him with a smile. “You’re going to love flying.”
Tobias walked up to the hawk’s cage, stuck his hand inside, and stroked the injured bird’s healthy wing. The hawk glared at him furiously (although it was kind of hard to tell with raptors) and started to flare up, but it suddenly became passive as Tobias started to acquire its DNA.
“The same thing happened with Dude,” Tobias said once he had finished acquiring the hawk’s DNA. Dude is Tobias’ cat. “I think that all animals are put into some kind of trance while they’re being acquired.”
I nodded thoughtfully.
“Yeah I guess that would make sense,” I said. “I mean, how else would these Andalites be able to morph really dangerous animals like Vis…” I stopped in mid-sentence. I’d been about to mention the beast Visser Three morphed the previous night, but talking about what happened to Elfangor… it hurt more than I would’ve expected.
Cassie broke the awkward silence.
“So…are you morphing or what?” she asked. Tobias nodded, and began to morph.
I always used to think that the Animorphs were exaggerating when they said that they would never in a million years get used to the morphing process. This was only the second time I had actually seen someone morphing, so you wouldn’t think that I’d had time to form a real opinion yet. But as I watched Tobias’ body begin to reform; feathers exploding out of his skin and his facial features melting together to form a beak, I made up my mind. I would never, ever get used to watching something like that. Trust me on this one.
“Aren’t you morphing too Mike?” Cassie stared at me curiously, as if I were a puzzle she was trying to figure out. I almost laughed at that. Cassie may have had a reputation as a being incredibly intuitive, but even a freaking mind reader wouldn’t have believed I was an inter-dimensional traveller brought here my a god-like being to save a fictional universe. Hell, even I thought it sounded ridiculous.
In any case I didn’t want to increase her suspicions, so I started to morph Harris hawk once again. Although the way Cassie had looked at me reminded me of the fact that I was going to have to tell the other Animorphs my little secret eventually. Or at least some variation of the truth. Eventually yes,
I told myself as I finished the morph. But not today.
I stretched out my raptor’s wings, flapping them hard until I found a small updraft, and then floated off towards the afternoon sun with my brand new Red-tailed friend by my side.
<YEEEEEHAAAA!!!> I yelled out loud at the exhilaration and joy of flying. It was wonderful. We had been flying over the city for over half an hour, searching for the Yeerk Pool the Andalite had told me about, but I was still ecstatic! It all felt so open, peaceful, and free. It was almost as if I had spent twenty years in prison and then been released into the world. Freedom. Absolute, total freedom! If there was one moment of my life I would never forget, it would be the first time I morphed a bird, flying free through the blue afternoon sky. It was by far the greatest moment of my life.
<WAAAHOOO!!!> My new friend Mike went shooting past less than five metres to my right. He seemed to be enjoying it almost as much as I was. But then again; how could you not enjoy flying?
<This is incredible Mike,> I told him. <The eyes, the ears, the wings…Everything!>
<I know! It’s so amazing!> Mike replied. <We are nearly a mile up, but I can still see all the people down there so clearly it’s like we’re right next to them. I can even hear the cars!>
<It’s like a dream come true,> I said. There was silence for a while before Mike started talking again.
<By the way Tobias, what made you choose the Red-tail instead of the Osprey?>
It was a perfectly reasonable question, but it took me by surprise.
<I don’t know really,> I admitted. <The Red-tail looked cooler I guess.> It was only then that I realised something that should have been quite obvious. <Where did you get your Harris hawk from Mike?>
<You wouldn’t believe me if I told you!> Mike laughed. <Let’s just say there’s an ignorant car dealer out there who is now missing a mascot.>
<Okayyy…> I was very confused but decided to drop it. <So what do you think about this Yeerk Pool thing I mentioned?>
I had told Mike all about this weird telepathic info-burst Elfangor had given me the night before. It was all a confusing jumble of words and images, but it was clearly information about the Yeerks. Apparently they had to leave their host body every three days to feed by swimming around in a Yeerk Pool and absorbing something called Kandrona radiation. Like a plant using photosynthesis to feed on sunlight.
<Sounds like something we definitely need to check out,> Mike replied. He’d been strangely unfazed by the bizarre information I’d given him. Reality check Tobias, if you think anything is strange compared to what happened last night then there must be something seriously wrong with you.
I reminded myself.
<But I don’t think we’re going about this search the right way though.> Mike added.
<Well the Yeerk invasion is obviously a secret, they wouldn’t leave their feeding ground out in the open for anyone to find.> He pointed out. <Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take any excuse to fly around like this, but I’m guessing this Yeerk Pool will be inside a building somewhere, or maybe even underground.>
<Good point,> I acknowledged, feeling a little foolish for not thinking of it myself. <We’re near Jake’s house now anyway, let’s swing by and see what he thinks about all this.>
I stared down at the patchwork quilt of suburban buildings below and eventually spotted one I recognised, despite the birds-eye view still being new to me. We had arrived at Jake’s house. However, as Mike and I began to descend towards Jake’s window, I heard a bunch of loud noises coming from inside. It sounded like somebody having a fight. What was going on? Fortunately my incredible hawk ears could hear what was being said now that we were close enough, even with the window closed.
“Jake, quit acting like a stupid jerk!”
“Take that back!”
“Not likely, you think it’s just a coincidence he’s suddenly all interested in what happened at the construction site?”
<What the hell is going on in there?> I asked Mike.
<Not a clue. I can’t see into the room very well with the sun at this angle.>
<Me neither,> I said. <But from what I can hear it sounds like Jake and Marco are fighting about something.>
<Yeah and I don’t think it’s about pizza toppings.> Mike agreed.
<Should we still go in?>
<Definitely. Red-tails first.> Mike said with a laugh.
<With pleasure, let me show you how it’s done.> I called back before heading right into a dive towards Jake’s bedroom window. I folded back my wings in the bird of prey equivalent of a free fall and let gravity bring me in for a landing. I opened my wings wide again as I got close to slow my descent, then started flapping against the window with my left wing to try and get their attention. Mike appeared next to and did the same.
<Let us in, alright? We can’t hover here forever!> I insisted.
<Yeah what do you think we are, Geese?> Mike added.
Thankfully Jake walked over to the window and opened it up as wide as it would go to let us in. I landed on Jake’s dresser and Mike fluttered over to the bed.
<What on Earth are you two fighting about?> I demanded. <Oh, and what do you think of my new Red-tailed hawk morph?>
* (MIKE’S POV)
Tobias and I told Marco and Jake about the Yeerk Pool information, and it wasn’t too long before Marco pointed out that both Tom and the Cop had invited us to the Sharing. As we suspected (and I knew) them both to be Controllers, we decided to go along to the meeting that night down at the beach to see if the Sharing really was just one big happy family. We got in touch with Rachel and Cassie who also agreed to come along.
Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel, and I walked there, but Tobias flew most of the way. I almost wish I’d been up there with him; flying is just so incredibly awesome! I used to think it hard to believe that Tobias would purposely trap himself as a hawk, but after experiencing it for myself; I found it hard to argue with considering Tobias’ appalling home life.
After spending over an hour at the meeting, I started thinking that if I didn’t know it was run by brain-stealing slugs, I’d probably be having a really fun time. I talked with some of the newer members, played volleyball with Jake and Tom, and ate some delicious barbeque chicken. Not surprisingly, I suck at volleyball, but the food was fantastic and everyone was so friendly. No wonder the Sharing is so popular,
I thought worriedly. I looked around at all the people hanging out on the beach. There must have been at three or four dozen people, and over half of them must have been Controllers. The worst part was that I knew that this was only a tiny fraction of the Yeerk forces on this planet. Even this early in the series, there were already hundreds of Human Controllers in this town alone, possibly more. It was a frightening and humbling thought.
After a while I kind of wandered off a bit from everyone else and just stared out across the ocean, the cool sea breeze wafting the scent of burned wood along the shore. Watching the gentle waves wash up the beach made me think of Ax. I wondered how he was doing right now. He must have been really lonely. Trapped beneath the surface of an alien ocean with nothing but the sharks for company? It must be horrible for him.Hang in there Ax,
I thought. We’ll be coming for you soon…
“You’re new here right?” the voice snapped me out of my thoughts. I turned to see who was talking and found myself face to face with a tall girl who looked to be about twenty one or so, the age I was before the Ellimist ‘youthed’ me. She had long blonde hair and sapphire blue eyes. With the swimsuit she was wearing showing off some impressive curves, she could have passed for Rachel’s older, hotter cousin.
Now I admit that I don’t have the most experience with dating and I was a little nervous, but I wasn’t the sixteen year old wuss she saw when she looked at me. So when I replied, I did so with all the confidence of a mature, well-spoken adult.
“Er, uh hi?” I stammered. Cue mental face palm. I’d like to blame my hormonal teenage body for my lack of vocal skills, but honestly my mature adult self is still a nervous wreck at talking to girls.
“Are you always this coherent?” She teased, letting out a small laugh. “Don’t worry I don’t bite!”
The whole exchange would have been embarrassing enough even without the added knowledge that she could easily be a Controller. Sure she appeared to be just a normal, harmless, attractive girl enjoying a fun night at the beach, but in a world inhabited by Controllers you can never judge people by face value. Having said that, her joking and flirty tone did put me a little more at ease.
“Yeah this is my first meeting,” I replied with a nervous smile. Controller or not, she was sexy as hell. “And believe it or not, this is one of my more coherent days.” She laughed again, and suddenly the beach felt a whole lot hotter.
“Well it’s nice to meet you…”
“Mike,” I replied, trying to act casual and also not stare at her swimsuit too much. “And you are?”
“Erika. I’ve been coming to the Sharing for a while now; some of my friends recommended it. How about you?”
Was she actually interested in me? Or was she just simply another tool for the Yeerks trying to entice teenage boys into joining the Sharing.
“A friend of mine invited me, his brother, Tom, is a full member here,” I informed her calmly, looking for some kind of reaction which would prove she was a free girl. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to spot a controller that way.
“Oh, so you know Tom as well!”
My blood turned cold; if she knew Tom then that increased the chance that she was a Yeerk after all.
“You know him?” I asked, faking mild interest. I hoped she didn’t notice my panic.
“Sure! He followed me and my friends to a meeting last month. To tell you the truth,” she said, lowering her voice. “I think he has a crush on me!”
Okay, so she didn’t really sound like a controller. As I looked at her dazzling smile and sparkling blue eyes, I couldn’t help but pray that she was just a normal girl.
“So you like him?” I questioned. My heart skipped a beat as she flashed me a mischievous grin.
“No way! He’s not my type, I prefer younger guys.” She looked me in the eye and raised an eyebrow suggestively. My heart then skipped about a dozen beats!
“Good to know.” I finally managed to speak after a few seconds of trying to get my lungs to start working again. Maybe she wasn’t a Yeerk after all. I mean, what kind of controller would waste time flirting with a teenager? Sure girls literally never came onto me like this, but maybe American girls were just more forward than the girls back home. Or more likely, you’re being a bloody idiot and she’s using her looks to trick you into agreeing to a slug in the brain.
The more cynical part of my brain pointed out.
My thoughts were interrupted again, this time by a meaningful glance from Jake. He and the others were standing over by a quiet corner of the beach waiting for me to join the conversation.
“Anyway, it was great to meet you Erika! Maybe I’ll see you at the next meeting?” I suggested. Why did I say that? Even a face that pretty wasn’t worth a return trip to The Sharing. Curse my testosterone-filled brain…
Erika smiled again, turning my legs to jelly. “Sure!” she agreed happily. She went off to join some friends on the other side of the beach. Shockingly, I found myself hoping she was going to talk to them about me. I walked over to the others. They seemed to have overheard some of my conversation with Erika, as they each had an amused expression on their face.
“Maybe I was wrong about the Sharing after all,” Marco conceded. “No way can a girl that hot be an alien!” He obviously meant Erika. “Although if she isn’t being brainwashed by an alien slug, how come she’s turning her charm on you Mike?” I knew he was just teasing me, but his comment did sting a little. Fortunately, I am not easily offended.
“Give it up Marco, you’re just jealous that you could never get a girl like that,” Rachel told him. “Most girls actually like guys who use there brains for things other than making up bad jokes.”
“Yeah well luckily for me, you aren’t like most girls Rachel.” Marco replied grinning.
“Be quiet you two, I think it’s sweet,” Cassie said, playing the peacemaker. “She seemed to really like you Mike.” A comment like that from Cassie was usually a good sign, as she was supposed to be the master at reading people.
“Thanks Cassie,” I replied gratefully.
“Moving on,” said Jake. He was trying to sound serious, but I could see the amused grin on his face when he looked at me. Was it really that obvious that I liked her? It must be if even Jake could tell. “I don’t think all of these people are here for a friendly get together. Something’s definitely wrong about this place, and I need to find out what that is.”
“And how do you propose we do that? Walk up and ask them if they’re part of an alien conspiracy?” Marco asked sarcastically, although he was sure to keep his voice down.
“Do you really think they’re going to notice a stray dog wandering along the beach?” Jake replied.
“A stray dog? Oh.” Marco realised what he was getting at.
“Good thinking,” Cassie agreed. “I’d go too, but they would definitely suspect a horse.” As she said that, I remembered that she was going to try going after Jake anyway, but would be stopped and marked for infestation by the cop. That was something I would have to intervene in; it would solve a few problems later on.
I waited while Jake morphed Homer and Tobias demorphed back to Human. I could almost see the sense of loss as Tobias became Human again. It made me wonder if I should try to prevent him becoming trapped as a hawk later on. After all, he seemed much happier as a hawk, and his bird eyes and wings were vital at several points in the series. But he wouldn’t have Rachel… I thought. And Rachel is what, or who he wants. I can’t take that from him, not for anything.
With that decided, I realised I had an opportunity to set things right, here and now. If I could stop Cassie being spotted by the Cop Controller here at the beach (while Jake was spying on the full member’s meeting) then he wouldn’t have any reason to grab Cassie and take her to the Yeerk Pool in a few days’ time. That would mean I could stop Tobias morphing hawk early the night of the Yeerk Pool mission, and stop him getting trapped in the first place. Small plays leading to bigger changes, the Ellimist would certainly approve.
I spotted Cassie in the distance, following the path Jake had taken in Dog morph. I didn’t have time to morph Hawk, and the spot Jake and Tobias had used was no longer secluded enough in any case. The bird’s eye view was out, so I would just have to follow Cassie on foot and pray I got to her before any Controllers caught her snooping.
I lost track of Cassie for a few minutes, but after fighting my way past a bunch of new Sharing members, I managed to find where she had sneaked off to. It wasn’t hard to find her honestly. Cassie has many admirable qualities, but being a super spy is not one of them.
“Mike? What are you doing here?” Her eyes widened in surprise, but she at least had the sense to keep her voice down this close to the full member’s meeting.
“Looking for you before you get yourself caught.” I told her. “I know you’re worried about Jake, but he’s fine and you’re a sitting duck out here. Now let’s get back to the other before somebody–”
“Hey you there! What are you kids doing here?” Cop Controller appeared out of nowhere and looked very suspicious. Clearly the universe has a sense of humour.
“Just looking for shells.” Cassie and I said simultaneously. She gave me a weird look. “Oh look here’s a good one Cindy.” I grabbed the first shell I could reach from the sandy ground, then started pulling Cassie back towards the main beach area. “We better get going, sorry for the confusion Officer…”
Cop Controller didn’t follow us, but I could almost feel his laser-focused sight on the back of my neck as we walked away. Clearly he hadn’t been fooled anymore than he had been in the original timeline. Damn it, I was going to have to keep an eye on Cassie if I had any hope of saving Tobias from a permanent diet of rats and roadkill.
“Why did you call me Cindy?” Cassie questioned me once we were out of sight of the cop.
“Would you rather I used your real name in front of Sergeant Suspicious back there? Come on let’s get out of here before we attracted anymore attention. Something tells me Jake’s spying might have been a bit more productive than yours.”