355 500 произведений, 25 200 авторов.

Электронная библиотека книг » Katherine Alice Applegate » Animorphs - 05 - The Predator » Текст книги (страница 4)
Animorphs - 05 - The Predator
  • Текст добавлен: 4 октября 2016, 23:30

Текст книги "Animorphs - 05 - The Predator"

Автор книги: Katherine Alice Applegate

сообщить о нарушении

Текущая страница: 4 (всего у книги 5 страниц)

I saw Jake across the room. Too far away to intervene. Cassie was with him. It was up to me.

I jumped up and raced to Rachel. I took a deep breath and shoved both my arms between them.

"Back off, Marco," Rachel said.

"Get her off me! She's crazy!" Jessica cried.

I pushed against Rachel, trying to force her off Jessica. Suddenly, Jessica started lashing out.

I assume she was trying to hit Rachel.

She missed.

"Ow!" I grabbed my left eye. "What are you hitting me for?"

And that's when the first teacher showed up.

Five minutes later, Jessica, Rachel and I were sitting in the assistant principal's office.

Chapman's office.

Jessica was acting outraged in a very loud voice. Rachel was staring stonily ahead. I was wondering whether my eye would just keep swelling up.

Chapman glared at us. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded. "Fighting in the lunch room? And you, Rachel, of all people!"

"What, like you think she's better than me?" Jessica demanded.

Chapman ignored her. He focused on Rachel. "Is something the matter? Mr. Halloram says you started the fight. Are you okay, Rachel? Is there some kind of stress in your life?"

53 For a split second, I was afraid. The look in Rachel's eyes was dangerous. I had this terrible flash of her saying, "Yeah, Mr. Chapman, I am a little stressed. I nearly got killed turning into an ant to sneak into your basement to fight you and the rest of your evil Yeerk friends."

I knew Rachel was too cool for anything like that. But then, I would have said she was too cool to start a fight in the lunchroom.

"It's my fault, Mr. Chapman," I said.

"Your fault?" His eyes narrowed.

"Yes, sir. Urn, they were fighting over me. See, they both want me. They're both madly in love with me, and I can certainly understand why. Can't you?"

"Are you crazy, you little toad?!" Jessica shrieked.

But when I glanced over at Rachel I saw just the slightest little tugging at the corner of her mouth. The beginnings of a smile.

Chapman yelled at us for a few minutes and told us all to make appointments with the school counselor. Then he let us go.

In the hallway outside his office, Rachel walked with me.

"I wish I could do that," she said.


"Always think things are funny. It's why you're so ... you know, cool and in control."

"Me? Cool and in control?" The idea surprised me. Rachel thought I was in control?

"Yesterday . . . last night ... it got to me," she said. She shrugged. Then she smiled her supermodel smile at me. "You grind my nerves sometimes, Marco, always joking the way you do. But keep it up, okay? We need a sense of humor."

"Humor? You thought I was kidding? You mean, you and Jessica aren't both insanely in love with me?"

"Dream on, Marco," she said.

54 Chapter 13

Ax finished building his distress beacon. He had it ready the next day, now that he had the Z-Space transponder.

Now we just had to figure out where to lay our trap. It couldn't be any place that would ever be connected with us. Not Cassie's farm, or the nearby woods. Not even anywhere in town, if we could help it.

A couple days after the ant episode, we hooked up again in the fields of Cassie's farm, up against the trees of the forest. This was one area we definitely had to keep safe. It was the only place we had to keep Ax if this mission to help him escape failed.

It was Tobias who came up with the answer.

"There's a gravel quarry. It's further inland. There's never anyone there. And it is just about an hour's flying time away."

"If we're flying somewhere we'll have to get Ax a bird morph of some type," Jake said. He looked at Cassie.

"We have a few choices in the barn," she said. She bit her lip, thinking. "We have a northern harrier that was poisoned. About your size, Tobias."

"Ax? Do you mind picking up a bird morph?" Jake asked.

"l have admired Tobias's shape. It is truly wonderful in every way. The sharp talons. The beak. Much better than the human body. Not that I mean to offend. It is just that humans have no natural weapons. I miss my tail when I am in human morph."

"No offense taken," I said. "But you're wrong about humans having no natural weapons. You marinate human feet in a pair of old tennis shoes for a few hours on a hot day and you'll see a deadly weapon. The dreaded stink-foot."

"Okay. That's settled," Jake said. "Now, let's get down to details. If we're going to call down a Bug fighter we need to have a plan ready. Saturday should be the day, I think."

"As long as it doesn't involve ants," I said. I meant it as a joke. But no one laughed.

"No ants," Jake agreed quietly.

I shook my head in amusement. "You know, we're talking about taking on Hork-Bajir and Taxxons. I used to think they were the scariest things in the world. But it's the little ant that scares me worst now."

When the meeting broke up I hung around till Jake was done saying good-bye to Cassie.

Jake and I walked home together. For a while we talked about the normal kinds of things we used to talk about before. Before our lives changed.

55 We talked about basketball and disagreed over which was the best NBA team. We talked about music. Neither of us had bought a new CD recently. We even talked about whether Spiderman could kick Batman's butt or vice versa.

You know, stupid, normal, everyday stuff.

I was stalling because I didn't want to have to tell him what I had decided.

But Jake's been my friend forever. He knows me.

"Marco? What's the problem?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, you haven't said a single mean-yet-funny thing the whole way. That's not you."

I laughed. Then, I just blurted it out. "This is my last time," I said.

"What do you mean?"

He knew exactly what I meant, of course. "I'm in for this time, but that's it. No more after that. And I'm serious. No one is going to 'guilt' me into it. I've done enough."

He thought about that for a while as we walked. "You're right. You have done enough.

You've done a million times more than 'enough.'"

"It's just been too many close calls."


"One of these days we aren't going to pull it off, you know? Ten more seconds and those ants would have had us. And before that it was a pot of boiling water. And before that I was practically killed by sharks. I mean, come on. Enough is enough."

"You're right," Jake said.


I was surprised that he took it so well. I guess I shouldn't have been. We all kind of treat Jake like he's the leader, but he's never been pushy about it.

"What are you going to do Sunday?" he asked.

That took me by surprise again. "I don't know. Some Sundays we go to my mom's grave.

Leave flowers and all. But this is the two-year thing." I shrugged. "I don't know, man."

He just nodded.

"But I'll tell you one thing, Jake. A year from now I don't want my dad going to leave flowers at two graves."

56 Chapter 14

"This is wonderful! Wonderful! Flying!"

The six of us were all together. Flying. It was the first time for Ax. He just kept saying how wonderful it was. He wouldn't shut up. It was the most excited he'd been since he'd discovered coffee.

Which was cool, because flying really is wonderful.

"These are excellent eyes!" Ax said. "Far better than your human eyes. Even better than my Andalite eyes."

"Yes, birds of prey usually have great daytime vision," Tobias said. "I think mine may actually be a little better than yours, though."

"I doubt that," Ax said. "lt is hard to imagine better vision than this."

"Remember the good old days?" I asked. "When we used to argue over who had the best jump shot? Now it's who has the best bird eyes."

We were sailing above a patch of woods. It was almost solid green below us. We had risen high on a beautiful thermal. A thermal is a warm bubble of air that acts like an elevator, letting you soar high with almost no effort.

We hoped there were no bird-watchers down in the woods. We made a very unlikely flock – a red-tailed hawk, a falcon, a harrier, a bald eagle, and two ospreys. We kept some distance between us so it wouldn't be too obvious that we were together.

Also, the eagle, who was Rachel, was carrying something that looked like a small TV remote control. She was the biggest bird. She got stuck lifting the weight.

"I have an idea," I said. "Let's just blow off this suicide mission and spend the day flying around."

"Sounds good to me," Cassie said. She meant it to be lighthearted. It sounded just a little too serious.

"There's the quarry," Tobias announced. "Dead ahead."

"Dead ahead. Excellent choice of words," I said.

We made a large circle over the area, looking for anyone who might be in the woods. But there was no one.

We spiraled down from the sky. Down into the deep, open gash in the earth that was the gravel quarry. It was a desolate place. Just a big hole in the ground with some water in the lowest spots.

A few minutes later we were back in our usual forms. Minus shoes, of course. And wearing our motley collection of morphing clothes.

57 "We look like a trapeze act from a cheap circus," I said. "Way too much Spandex."

"Don't start with the uniforms again," Rachel said.

It was an old debate. I would say how we needed some decent superhero uniforms. You know, like the X-Men or whatever.

But now, I realized, I shouldn't be talking that way. As if we were all going to be together in the future.

I couldn't tell if Jake had told any of the others that I was quitting. Probably he had told Cassie. I doubted Rachel knew, or she would have said something. The same with Tobias.

And Ax? Who knew with Ax? He was still a mystery to us. It was one of the things I would miss after I quit. I mean, how often do you get to hang out with a real alien?

That and the flying. I would miss the flying. But if I was out, I had to be out all the way.

I guess I must have looked morose, sitting there on a pile of rocks, thinking. Jake came over and kind of gave me a shove. You know, in a friendly way.

"Come on. We need to go back under that overhang. Out of sight."

"Great," I said. "The rocks will fall and crush us and we won't have to worry about the Yeerks."

There was a sort of shallow cave in the quarry wall. Not deep at all, but it would hide us from anyone flying over.

"Well," Jake said. "Let's try this out. Ax? You ready to trigger that thing?"

"Yes. I am very ready, Prince Jake."

Jake looked around at everyone. "You all ready to go into your various morphs?"

We nodded. All except Ax. See, we were all going to go into morph – our strongest, deadliest morphs – in order to take care of the Yeerk crew when they came. But Ax didn't have any thing but a shark, a lobster, an ant, and a harrier. We figured he was better off in his own Andalite body, which was plenty dangerous.

"Okay, Ax? Do it. Everyone? Morph!"

"And let's keep our fingers crossed," I added. "Or talons, claws, or hooves, as the case may be."

Ax pressed a button on the distress beacon. As far as we could tell, nothing happened.

"It is working," he reassured us.

So, Rachel, Cassie, Jake, and I began to morph. These were all morphs we had done before.

There would be no battle to maintain control over the animal mind.

58 Rachel went into her elephant morph. We figured we might need that brute strength and size.

Jake slowly became a tiger. Cassie used her wolf morph. And I focused on my gorilla.

"What a freak scene this is." I laughed as the changes began. "Anyone who stumbled onto this would think he'd lost his mind."

It was definitely odd. You haven't seen weird till you've seen pretty, blond supermodel Rachel grow a trunk as thick as a small tree and ears the size of umbrellas.

Or Cassie, growing gray fur over every inch of her body, falling to all fours and baring long yellow teeth.

And then there was Jake. Huge, curved claws grew from his fingers. A snakelike tail whipped out behind him. Orange and black fur covered him. And when he was done he was a full grown tiger. Almost ten feet from his nose to his tail. Easily four hundred pounds.

If something deadly can ever be beautiful, it's a tiger.

"Bet I could kick your butt," I said to Jake.

"Yeah, monkey boy? I don't think so."

"Hey, I could stomp both of you," Rachel said. She walked closer, swinging her trunk and flaring her ears out. A moving mountain.

"This is so mature," Cassie said. "Arguing over who could beat who."

"Hah. You're only saying that because we can all kick your butt, wolfie," I pointed out.

"As if!" Cassie protested. "You'd have to catch me first. And I could still be running long after the three of you were worn out and fast asleep."

"You have an amazing variety of animals on your planet," Ax said. "Some day, when the Yeerks are defeated, Andalites will come here simply to try out the many animal forms. It would be like a vacation."

"Joe Andalite, you've won the Superbowl! Now where are you going?" I said, mimicking the Disney World commercials. "I'm going to Earth to turn into a lobster!"

"I don't understand^ Ax said.

I started to explain, but just then a red light began to flash on Ax's homemade distress beacon. "The response signal! They are coming!"

"Quick! Everyone to your places!" Jake said.

He slunk away, liquid power, to hide in the shadow of a boulder. Rachel pressed back under the shallow overhang. Cassie trotted to a spot to the right of Jake, and I tried not to look like 59 a four-hundred-pound gorilla behind a pile of gravel. Tobias flapped hard, struggling to gain altitude.


It came in low, just above tree level, then disappeared before turning to come back.

A Bug fighter. Just as we'd planned.

"Here's your ride home, Ax," I said.

60 Chapter 15


The Bug fighter flew over once again, seemed to pause, then settled down toward the floor of the quarry.

Bug fighters are the smallest of the Yeerk ships. They aren't much bigger than a school bus.

They have a cowled, insectlike look, except that on either side there are very long, serrated spears pointing forward. So they look a little like a cockroach holding two spears.

The Bug fighter landed as gently as a feather.

I held my breath.

"Wait for it," Jake said. "Wait for it."

The hatch opened. Out stepped a Hork-Bajir Controller.

The Andalite prince, Ax's brother, had told us that the Hork-Bajir were a good, decent people who had been enslaved against their will by the Yeerks.

Uh-huh. Maybe so. But what they looked like was a whole different thing. Hork-Bajir are big, walking razor blades. They're about seven feet tall, two arms, two legs, and a nasty spiked tail similar to Andalite tails.

There are sword-like blades raked forward from their snake heads. There are blades at their elbows and wrists and knees.

I mean, let me put it this way: If Klingons were real, they would be scared of Hork-Bajir.

"Get ready." Jake again.

The Hork-Bajir stepped clear of the Bug fighter. Then, he just stood there.

"There will be a Taxxon inside," Ax reminded us.

"Yeah. We know," I said.

Why was the Hork-Bajir just standing there? He should be looking around. After all, he was answering a distress beacon. Why was he just standing there like he was waiting for something?

"On the count of three," Jake said in our heads. "One . . . Two . . . Three!"


Tobias swooped, falling from the sky at close to a hundred miles an hour. He raked his talons forward and hit the Hork-Bajir's face.

"RROOWWWRR!" Jake leaped from cover. He sailed through the air and hit the Hork-Bajir with paws outstretched, claws bared.

61 The Hork-Bajir went down hard.

Jake rolled away as the Hork-Bajir slashed the air like an out-of-control Cuisinart.

But just then Rachel rumbled up, as big as a tank.

"Okay, back off, Jake," Rachel said. "I have him." She pressed one big, tree-stump leg on the Hork-Bajir's chest and pressed him down against the ground. She did not crush him, just held him like a bug who could easily be squashed.

The Hork-Bajir decided it was time to stop struggling and lie very still.

Too easy, a part of my mind warned me. Too easy. No Hork-Bajir Controller had ever just given up like that.

But I had other problems. My job was to get inside the Bug fighter. Get the Taxxon pilot.

" Let's go!" I yelled.

I ran forward, loping clumsily on my squat go rilla legs, swinging my massive, mighty gorilla arms. Cassie and Ax were right there with me. Taxxons are disgusting, oversized centipedes, but I wasn't worried. We were more than enough to handle a Taxxon.

But then – Zzzzzzzzaaapppp!

A brilliant red beam of light sliced the air just inches in front of me. It blocked my way.


Another beam of blinding red light. This crossed behind me. It exploded gravel into steam as it traced a path!

"Dracon beams!" Ax cried.

I spun around, looking for cover.


"Look!" Cassie screamed in our heads. "Up on the edge of the quarry!" I looked, as the dracon beams formed a cage of deadly light around us. The edge of the quarry above was lined with Hork-Bajir. I looked left. More! To the right. . . more!

The entire quarry was lined with Hork-Bajir warriors, each armed with a Dracon beam. There must have been a hundred of them. We were surrounded.

Completely surrounded.

62 "Stay in morph," Jake snapped. "Don't let them know we're human."

"Let's charge them!" Rachel yelled.

"No! You can't even climb up that rock face. Don't be stupid!" Cassie called Tobias. "Tobias! You can get away!"

"I don't think so," he said. "No headwind. It would take me a couple of minutes to flap my way up out of here. They'd fry me before I got clear."

The reality settled over us. The despair.

"What are we going to do?" Cassie wailed.

"There has to be a way out! There has to be!" Rachel yelled.

"Not this time," I said grimly.

We were trapped. Outnumbered. Outsmarted.


And that was when he came.

He looked so much like Ax. So much like Prince Elfangor. And yet, so totally different. The difference wasn't something you saw. It was something you felt.

A shadow on your soul. A darkness that blotted out the light of the sun. Evil. Destruction.

Not the impersonal, programmed destructiveness of the ants. This was warm-blooded, deliberate evil.

His body was an Andalite. He was the only Andalite-Controller in existence. The only Yeerk ever to infest an Andalite body. The only Yeerk with the Andalite power to morph.

Visser Three.

Visser Three, who had murdered the Andalite Prince Elfangor while we cowered in terror.

Visser Three, who even the Hork-Bajir and Taxxons feared.

"Well, well," he said, thought-speaking to us. "I have you at last, my brave Andalite bandits.

Fools. Do you think we never change our frequencies?"

"Yeerk!" Ax said in a silent voice loaded with hatred.

Visser Three's main eyes focused on Ax. "A little one," he said, surprised. "Are the Andalites now reduced to using their children to fight?"

63 Ax started to say something, but Jake snapped, "Shut up, Ax! None of us communicates with him. Give him nothing."

Ax fell silent, but he was practically vibrating with rage and hatred for the Yeerk Visser. It wasn't surprising. Visser Three had killed his brother.

But Jake was right. We couldn't get into a conversation with Visser Three. The rest of us still wanted to hide the fact that we were humans, not Andalites. We could too easily slip and reveal the truth.

Visser Three seemed to be enjoying his big moment. "What a colorful assortment of morphs," he said. "Earth has such wonderful animals, don't you agree? When we have enslaved the humans and made this planet over in our image, we will have to be sure and keep some of these forms alive. It would be entertaining to try some of these morphs myself."

None of us said anything. At least not any thing that was human. Jake did snarl, drawing his tiger lip back over his teeth.

"Especially you," Visser Three said to Jake. "That is a beautiful, deadly animal. I approve.

In fact, I was going to demand you demorph. But I have a better idea. You see, we have a guest aboard the mother ship. It will be entertaining to show you to Visser One as you are." I was sick with dread and fear. But not so afraid that I didn't notice a sneer in Visser Three's tone when he said "Visser One."

"Did you catch that?" Jake asked me in the thought-speak version of a whisper.

"Yeah. Visser Three doesn't like Visser One."

Visser Three must have given some signal, be cause at that moment his Blade ship appeared overhead, shimmering into view as it decloaked.

The Blade ship is far larger than the Bug fighters, and very different. It is jet-black. It's built like some kind of battle-ax from the middle ages, with two curved ax-head wings, and a long, diamond-pointed "handle" aimed forward.

"We're better off making a run for it!" Rachel said.

"lt would be suicide," I said. "As long as we're alive, there's hope."

"Yeah. Visser Three is taking us to the Yeerk mother ship to show off for his boss. Some hope."

But Rachel did nothing. And I did nothing. And we all just stood there, under the watchful eyes of a hundred Hork-Bajir.

They must have landed out of sight while we were busy watching the one Bug fighter.

Ax had used the wrong frequency. The Yeerks had figured out we were laying a trap. And our trap had become Visser Three's trap.

64 65 Chapter 16

A couple of dozen of the Hork-Bajir leaped down from the high wall of the quarry and sur rounded us. They kept their Dracon beams leveled at us as the Blade ship landed on the quarry floor.

"Go, obey farghurrash there horlitl" one of the Hork-Bajir said, in the strange mix of English and their own language that they use.

He pointed to the Blade ship. A door had opened in the side.

"I can't fit in there," Rachel said.

But as she approached the door, the door widened to her size. It stretched and grew as if the metal skin of the Blade ship were alive.

What a pathetic little crew we were, trooping inside the Blade ship. Weak and pathetic and stupid to imagine that we could ever have resisted the Yeerks.

Visser Three was right. We were fools.

This wasn't even my fight, I thought. Not really. This wasn't my time to die.

I guess I wanted to feel angry. But what I felt was numb, as I trooped into the Blade ship with the others. You know, like I wasn't really there, almost. I was past feeling anything, I guess. I just kept thinking, It's happening. It's finally really happening.

The next day was Sunday. My dad would go to my mom's grave. Alone.

It would be a while before he would admit that I, too, was gone.

Just like when my mom died – there would never be a body.

Just like my mom.

"This is not looking good," I said. I couldn't take the silence anymore.

"No. It isn't. But we're not dead yet," Jake answered.

"Yet. Why doesn't that make me happy?" I asked. I looked around at the others, all crammed into a windowless steel cube. Black, dimly lit steel walls on all six sides. No door. It was like a coffin."

"We look like some kind of circus," I said. "An elephant, a tiger, a gorilla, a wolf, and a freak of nature."

That got some halfhearted laughs from the others. I don't know why I was making jokes. I guess that's the way I am. When bad things happen, I tell jokes. But inside I felt sick. Like I had swallowed broken glass.

66 "Maybe we should just demorph," Cassie said. "Maybe if they realize we aren't Andalites, they'll let us go ."

She knew that was dumb, of course. But when you're scared, you start grabbing at anything.

You want to believe there's a way out.

The truth was, there were exactly two possibilities. Visser Three would kill us. Or Visser Three would turn us into Controllers. He would infest us with a Yeerk.

"We should stay in animal morph," Jake said. "I mean, the thing is, if Visser Three learns we are human, he may go after our families next. He may figure we told them something."

"Prince Jake is right," Ax said. "The Yeerks will not want to take any chances that other humans know of them."

It was true. I knew it was true. I guess I'd known it all along. But hearing it said, it made me want to crawl into a corner.

My dad. Cassie's parents. Rachel's mom and her sisters. Jake's parents. Maybe even Jake's brother, Tom, although he was one of them. Their lives were at risk, too.

Suddenly, a window opened in one of the walls. It just grew, the same way the door had before. Like the steel was alive. It formed a round porthole, large enough for all of us to see – even Rachel, who could only turn her massive head enough to look with one eye.

I gasped.

Below us, blue and white and so beautiful it brought tears to your eyes, was Earth.

Sun sparkled off the ocean. Clouds swirled over the Gulf of Mexico, a big spiral, maybe a hurricane.

"Look," Cassie said simply.

We looked. Through the eyes of the animals of Earth, but with the minds of human beings, we looked down at our planet.

Our planet.

For now, at least. For a little while longer.

Then something different came into view, as the Blade ship rotated away from Earth.

"This is why the Yeerks opened a window," Ax said. "This is what they wanted us to see. So that we would despair."

The mother ship.

It was a gigantic, three-legged insect. The center was a single, bloated sphere. The sphere was flatter on the bottom, and from the bottom hung a weird, mismatched series of tendrils.

Like the tendrils of a jellyfish. Each one must have been a quarter-mile long.

67 Around the sphere were three legs, bent up, then back down, exactly like a spider's legs.

"The legs are the engines," Ax explained. "The tendrils hanging down below the belly are weapons and sensors and energy collectors. That is also where the shipboard Kandrona is.

The Yeerks must bathe in the Yeerk pool every three days and absorb Kandrona rays. There must be one on the planet below, too."

"Yeah. We know," I said. "Your brother told us. For all the good it did us." It just hung in orbit, like a predator gazing down hungrily at blue Earth below.

"I can't believe people on Earth don't see this on radar," Rachel said. "I mean, it's huge. It's a city!"

"It is shielded," Ax said simply. "It cannot be seen by radar. And it would normally be invisible to us. Visser Three is showing it to us. To terrify us."

"He's doing a good job," I said.

"I've never been in space before," Cassie said. "I always wished I could. I always wanted to see Earth, all in one piece like that."

"It is a lovely planet," Ax said gently. "Not so different from mine. Except that we have less ocean and more grassland. I ... I am sorry I brought you all to this. This is my fault." I wanted to yell, "Yes! Yes, it is your fault!"

But Cassie said what we all knew in our hearts. "Ax, you're only here because your people wanted to protect us. Your brother and a lot of Andalites died trying to save us. Nothing is your fault."

It was true. But sometimes, when everything hits the fan, you don't want the truth. You just want someone to blame. "One too many missions" I muttered. "This was going to be my last one. Now . . . well, it will still be my last one."

I could see an opening in the side of the Yeerk mother ship – a docking port. As I watched, a pair of quick Bug fighters flew in, dwarfed by the size of the opening.

A minute later, we entered the docking port and were suddenly bathed in deep red light.

Through the window, we could see Yeerk crewmen – Hork-Bajir, Taxxons, and two or three other alien species, in simple red or dark brown uni forms. And there were humans, too. My first reaction was hope. Humans!

But then I realized the truth. No. Human-Controllers. Yeerks. No different than the Hork-Bajir.

There was a slight shudder as the Blade ship came to a halt.

"Ax?" Jake asked. "What's our morph time?"

68 "We have been in morph for forty percent of allowable time." I did the math. "So we've used up forty-eight minutes. Leaving what, seventy-two minutes?"

"Yeah," Tobias confirmed. "Not a lot of time for you guys. Maybe Rachel is right. Maybe we should just go out in a blaze of glory. Attack as soon as they open the door. At least we can let them know we were here."

I saw Jake extend his claws, as if he were thinking about using them. He glanced at where the door had once been, like he was measuring the distance. I knew that he was listening to the tiger in his head.

Then he seemed to relax. "No," he said. "We have to have hope." Cassie sidled up next to him and nuzzled him with her wolf's muzzle.

I guess it should have been funny. The wolf and the tiger, sharing a tender moment. But all it did was make me a little jealous. They had each other.

"We gave them a pretty good fight, didn't we?" I said. "Our little circus? We did some damage to them."

"Yes, we did," Rachel agreed.

"Do . . ." Ax hesitated. Then, "Do humans fear death?"

"Yes. We're not crazy about death," I answered. "How about Andalites?"

"We're also not crazy about it"

Through the window we could see a lot of Hork-Bajir and Taxxons and humans running around, racing to get somewhere. They were lining up. And now, I noticed, there were distinct kinds of uniforms, one red-and-black, the other gold-and-black. The brown uniforms were all around the edges, like they were less important.

Suddenly, without warning, the window stretched open into a large, arched doorway. Fetid air rushed in, smelling of oil and chemicals and something else.

A ramp rose up from the steel floor outside to meet us. We were standing like a display at the top of the ramp. All around, filling this side of the docking bay, were uniformed Hork-Bajir, Taxxons, and humans. Most were in red-and– black. Perhaps two hundred creatures, standing in stiff rows, arranged by species.

About a quarter of the total were in gold-and– black. There were more humans in this group, but also some unusually massive Hork-Bajir.

"Jake? I have a feeling. I don't think the reds like the golds."

"I think they are troops of two different Vissers," Ax said. "I...I think I overheard my brother talk about that. Each Visser has his own private army in their own uniforms." 69 "Swell. I wonder which group gets to have us?" I said.

Far at the back of the rows of alien troops, there was a movement. A party of creatures walk ing to the front.

Visser Three was at the center, followed by two big Hork-Bajir in red.

    Ваша оценка произведения:

Популярные книги за неделю