332 500 произведений, 24 800 авторов.

Электронная библиотека книг » Katherine Alice Applegate » Animorphs - 05 - The Predator » Текст книги (страница 5)
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: 5 (всего у книги 5 страниц)

And just to his left was a human. A human woman with dark hair and very dark eyes.

That was when I stopped breathing. Because I knew. Even before I could see her face clearly.

I knew.

They marched up to the bottom of the ramp. A dozen soldiers leveled Dracon beams at us, just in case we wanted any trouble.

Then, in thought-speak that all could hear, Visser Three turned to the woman beside him.

"You see, Visser One. I have taken the Andalite bandits. The crisis is over. Your trip here is wasted, and you can return to the home world."

Visser One nodded. She looked up at us with those dark brown, human eyes.

Eyes I knew. Eyes I remembered.

The same eyes that watched me sleep every night from the framed picture beside my bed.

My mother.

Visser One.

70 Chapter 17

I sat down. Very suddenly. I'm sure it looked funny. A big, hairy gorilla simply falling down.

I would have laughed if I'd seen it.

My mother. Not dead.

Alive!

I wanted to yell. "Mom! Mom! It's me, Marco!"

But Jake was in my head, a loud, urgent whisper. "Marco? Don't say anything. Don't do any thing. Do you hear me?"

So I wasn't just imagining it. Jake had recognized her, too.

"Marco? Listen to me, man. You have to hold it together." My mother. . . alive.

My mom.

"Come on, Marco, stand up. Don't make them suspicious." He was speaking just to me.

I could hear Jake. I could. But it seemed to come from far off. He didn't understand. It was my mom. My mom!

"Marco? That is not your mother. Not anymore. That is not her."

"Jake? It's my mom. Look, it's her."

"No, it isn't, Marco. Not anymore. They have her. She's one of them. One of them!"

"Why, Visser One," Visser Three sneered, "you seem to have frightened the humanoid one."

"It is called a gorilla," Visser One said coldly. "If you are going to be in charge of Earth, Visser Three, you should at least learn something about the planet."

"And take a human host body, like you did? No, I think not. Human bodies are weak. I much prefer this Andalite host."

My mother looked at him and curled her lip. "I took a human host and learned about the planet and the humans. And because of that I was able to begin the invasion that you have now endangered with your criminal incompetence!"

Visser Three's deadly Andalite tail twitched, as if he was going to stab my mom . . . Visser One. The red troops tensed up. The gold troops let their hands edge toward their weapons.

"Ooookay," Rachel said. "l think we were right. These two definitely don't like each other." 71 She didn't know, I realized slowly. Rachel didn't know. But she had never met my mother.

Neither had Cassie or Tobias. And Jake had kept our talk private.

Visser Three slowly relaxed. "You would like to provoke me, Visser One," he said. "But the fact is that I destroyed the Andalite force. I shot down their dome ship. I killed Prince Elfangor myself and heard his dying screams. And now I have eliminated this last, pathetic rabble of Andalites."

My mom . . . Visser One . . . just smiled. "You want to be Visser One? You think you can take my title? We shall see. The Council of Thirteen does not like Vissers who make mistakes. And you have made mistakes. Be careful of your own ambition."

She snapped her fingers, and every one of the soldiers in gold turned. Then she walked away, followed by her gold-uniformed troops.

That was not my mother. At least not the creature who called herself Visser One.

Visser One was the Yeerk inside my mother's brain.

But the sickening thing is, you see, that the host mind is still alive. It is still aware.

Somewhere inside that head, behind those painfully familiar eyes, my mother still lived.

"Take it easy, Marco," Jake said. "I know how it is. I know how much you want to do some thing. But now is not the time. They'd cut us down before we got two steps."

"I know," I said dully. I hated myself for not trying, but I knew there was nothing I could do.

I had to hide inside my morph. Never let my mother know it was me. Never let her know . . .

Slowly, heavily, I stood up. I felt weak. A very strange feeling for a gorilla.

I think right then, if I had been in any other morph I would have just surrendered and let the animal mind take over. Let instinct rule, and wash away my human emotion.

But the gorilla was too much like a human. Its instincts were gentle. Like humans, it was a creature with emotions. It could not protect me from the pain.

"Don't tell the others, Jake," I said. "You're the only one who recognized her."

"Okay, Marco."

"You can't even tell Cassie, okay?"

"It's okay, man. You are my oldest and best friend. You know that. No one will ever know from me."

Visser Three still stared at us. I think he wasn't sure what to do next.

"Six Andalites," he said. "Six Andalite bodies that could be used by my most loyal lieu tenants."

72 Ax exploded. "And then there would be others like you, you filth! Other Andalite-Controllers. More unnatural abominations like your vile self!" Visser Three cocked his head thoughtfully. "Why are you the only one who speaks? You're right of course: Why would I allow anyone to acquire Andalite morphing powers? But you are a child. Why do the others remain silent? And why do you all still hide in your morphs?

Curious. Very curious."

He seemed to think it over for a minute. Would he realize the truth? Would he figure out that the reason we remained silent was so he wouldn't guess that we were human? Would he figure out that's why we stayed in morph?

He seemed to shrug.

"Take them back to a holding cell. Triple the guard. If there is the slightest trouble, kill them 73 Chapter 18

They marched us down a hallway. Rachel, still in her huge elephant body, filled the hallway like our ant bodies had filled the tunnels in the sand. Tobias rode on my shoulder, unable to fly in the cramped space.

The place we ended up was just like the bare, black-steel prison we'd been held in on the Blade ship. But this time no window appeared.

There was dim light that seemed to radiate from the ceiling. But nothing else at all.

I slumped down in a corner.

"What's our time look like, Ax?" Jake asked.

"You have only thirty percent of your time left."

"Thirty-six minutes," Jake translated.

"Thirty-six minutes and I'll spend the rest of my life as an elephant," Rachel said. "Not that the 'rest of my life' is likely to be much time."

For a while everyone talked about various plans for escape. It was all just talk. We knew we were trapped. We knew it was over. We were aboard the Yeerk mother ship. It was huge. If we had a week to learn our way around, we'd still have been lost in its maze.

There were hundreds, probably thousands of armed Yeerks – Hork-Bajir, Taxxons, and a few other shapes we'd never seen before, and of course, humans.

Like my mother.

My mother – Visser One. Most powerful of the Vissers.

When had it happened? Had the Yeerks taken her much earlier? Had she already been a Controller for those last years when she was with us?

When she had come to my bedroom to say good night, had that been a Yeerk slug, just playing a part, like an actor?

When I tried to fake sick to get out of school, had it been a Yeerk who saw through my story and kidded and joked me into admitting it?

Was it a Yeerk, handing out the presents on Christmas morning? A Yeerk, singing in the church choir? A Yeerk, pulling the puppet strings of my mother's body when she dragged me through J. C. Penney's and made me buy school clothes I didn't really like?

Was it a Yeerk I used to find making out with my dad like a teenager when they didn't think I saw them?

All of it an act? All of it fake? For how many years?

How much of what I'd thought was my mother, had been . . . one of them?

74 One thing was sure. Her death had been faked. The so-called drowning accident. No body recovered.

But the body had been recovered, hadn't it? The Yeerks' mission had been accomplished. The invasion of Earth had been started. Visser One was leaving Earth in the hands of Visser Three. And so she had to disappear and not leave any one asking questions.

"There has to be something we can do!" Rachel was saying.

Ax said, "My people have a saying – grace is the acceptance of the inevitable."

"Yeah?" I said suddenly. "Well, I don't accept. That's what they want. They want the entire human race to lie down and accept the inevitable."

Jake turned his big, yellow tiger eyes on me. I saw Tobias's eternally fierce glare.

I stood up.

"I have a saying for you. I got it from a fortune cookie. Fall down seven times, get up eight.' You know what that means? That means you don't ever just lie there. You always get up.

You always come back for more. You never surrender. Maybe you die, but you never surrender."

They were all looking at me now. Through the eyes of a wolf and a hawk and the big, sad eyes of an elephant.

"Ants," I said. "We can morph to ants again."

Cassie was shocked. "You're saying that? You? I thought you hated those ant morphs as much as I did."

"I did. But it may work. We morph to ants. Maybe there's a crack here somewhere. We escape into the walls and the machines. We can hide, then morph into something more dangerous, attack, and then disappear again. Maybe even find a way to destroy the Kandrona."

"That's nuts," Rachel said. "I like it."

"At least we can hurt them a little before they catch up with us," Jake agreed cautiously.

"Except for Tobias."

"You have to do what's right for the group," Tobias said. "I'll have to take my chances. I'd feel better knowing you guys were still out there somewhere, making trouble for the Yeerks."

"It may work," Ax said. "The Yeerks are not very familiar with morphing, except for Visser Three. They may not expect an insect morph."

"AII right, then," Jake said. " let's – "

The door opened. It simply appeared silently in the wall.

75 Standing there were three Hork-Bajir. They were wearing gold uniforms.

Lying on the floor were four other Hork-Bajir. They were each uniformed in red. They were either dead or unconscious.

"Don't move," Jake snapped as he saw Rachel and me tensing up for a charge.

The lead Hork-Bajir, a huge creature maybe eight feet tall with head blades that were more than a foot long, eyed us.

He spoke. It was surprising, because he did not speak the usual strange mishmash of languages the Hork-Bajir used. This one sounded like he'd been educated at Harvard.

"This hallway goes on in that direction for a hundred feet." He pointed to his left. "Then comes a guard station, where there will be two Hork-Bajir and a Taxxon. From there, four hallways. Take the one furthest to your left. Follow it to a dropshaft. Take the dropshaft down fifteen decks. Directly ahead you will see escape pods."

He looked at Rachel. "You are too large in that morph to fit in the escape pod. You will need to demorph when you get there. The pod is programmed to return you to the planet in the same area where you were seized. The pod will then self-destruct. Do you understand?"

We all just stared.

"It's a trap," Tobias said.

"No. We're already trapped. They could kill us any time," I said.

"Marco's right," Jake said. "Why let us escape if they want to kill us?"

"This is one of Visser One's soldiers," Ax pointed out. "It would be very embarrassing for Visser Three if his prisoners should escape, no?"

"Politics," Cassie said, with a laugh. "It's about politics! Visser One is making Visser Three look bad. If we escape, it will be blamed on Visser Three."

"You will have to deal with any of Visser Three's troops you encounter between here and the escape pod," the gold-clad Hork-Bajir said. "Leave. Now."

"Ax?" Jake asked.

"Only fifteen percent of your morph time is left"

"That's about eighteen minutes. Let's do it!"

Visser One's troops turned and marched away.

"I'll go in front," Rachel said.

"Okay. And let's move," Jake said.

76 Rachel squeezed her massive tonnage into the hallway. "All right. Now let's see who wants to try and stop me!"

Whomp ! Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!

Rachel made the steel floor vibrate with each massive step. Her leathery sides scraped the corridor walls so that I could only catch occasional glimpses past her.

The hallway was empty until we reached the guard station. Just as the Hork-Bajir had said.

Rachel didn't even slow down.

Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!

I saw a flash of a Taxxon, foolishly running as if to cut her off. A few seconds later I had to jump over the crushed remnants of the big centipede.

"Look out! Hork-Bajir!" Cassie yelled.

He exploded out of a side corridor, a red– uniformed Hork-Bajir.

Swooosh!

A razor-bladed arm sliced the air inches in front of my face.

"More coming!" Tobias warned. "Both directions! All of them in red!"

"I can't turn around!" Rachel moaned. She was too big, too tight a fit in the corridors to turn and help, as half a dozen Hork-Bajir in Visser Three's livery came screaming onto the scene.

"I knew it couldn't be that easy," I said.

"Battle!" Ax said, sounding like he was announcing a party.

I felt the same way. I was ready. I was mad and tired of feeling helpless.

The closest Hork-Bajir swung at me again and sliced a six-inch long cut in the matted fur of my huge shoulders.

That was all it took. Like I said, gorillas are peaceful, almost gentle creatures.

But don't go making one angry. Especially not when a boy who wants very badly to hurt some Yeerks is sharing space in the gorilla's head.

"Hoohoo hoo hhawwwrr!" I cried and swung a fist the size of a cinderblock into the stomach of the Hork-Bajir. I gave it all I had. I put every ounce of the gorilla's muscle into the blow.

The Hork-Bajir was lifted clear up off the deck. His head slammed the ceiling. He was down and out of the game.

77 Out of the corner of my eye I saw another Hork-Bajir leap at Ax. The Andalite's tail flashed forward so fast you didn't even see it move. The Hork-Bajir staggered back, minus an arm.

"Good one, Ax!"

"You as well! Hah hah!"

I decided right then – I kind of liked Ax.

"Rachel!" Jake yelled. "Keep moving. Left tunnel. Look for a dropshaft, whatever that is.

The longer we stay here, the more of these guys are going to show up." Just then, right on cue, two more Hork-Bajir came up from behind us. "You guys move! I'll deal with them," Jake said.

The Hork-Bajir rushed us.

"RRRRRRROOOOOWWWRRR!"

Jake let loose with a roar that must have been heard from one end of the mother ship to the other. It even scared me. And it sure made the Hork-Bajir hesitate.

He was on them, while they were still thinking about what to do next.

Hork-Bajir are very fast. But so are tigers.

One Hork-Bajir was down, with Jake sinking fangs into his snakelike neck. The other Hork-Bajir looked around to make sure no one could see him, then decided he'd like to live. He kept his distance.

Jake backed away but kept his face turned to the Hork-Bajir behind us. We trotted as fast as we could down the hallway, now a scene of devastation.

It was like the ant tunnels. We could only try to escape. The longer we tried to fight, the more the odds would turn against us.

Suddenly . . .

"Ahhhhhhh!"

"Rachel!" I heard Tobias cry.

"It's okay. I found the dropshaft. I am ... dropping."

"What is it?" I asked.

"An elevator without a floor," Rachel answered.

Then I was there, at the edge of a long shaft that went down and down, maybe forever.

Rachel already looked small. Which was not easy for her to do.

78 "He said to stop after fifteen levels!" I reminded her.

"Yeah? And how do I do that?"

"Think the number! It hears speech and understands simple thought-speak commands," Ax instructed. Then added, "At least that's how it works on our ships ."

"I'm slowing down. Cool!"

"More Hork-Bajir back here! And some of those other ones. The little wrinkled ones!" Cassie yelled. "They're coming fast!"

"Here goes nothing," I said. I took a look down the dropshaft and jumped off into empty space.

You know, if it hadn't been for the fact that I was just a few minutes from being trapped forever in a morph, and if there weren't a dozen or so walking Salad Shooters after me, it would have been fun.

I fell, but not too fast.

"Fifteen levels," I thought as floors zipped past me.

Twelve levels down, I plummeted past a human Controller who was getting ready to step into the dropshaft. He had a very human look of total amazement on his face. Possibly because while standing there, he'd seen a flying elephant, followed by a gorilla, a wolf, an Andalite, and a tiger.

"Hork-Bajir, coming fast!" Tobias warned.

I looked up the shaft. A big Hork-Bajir warrior was gaining on us. But there was nothing I could do until he reached us.

"He's mine," Tobias said. He flared his wings, flapped hard and was shooting back up the drop– shaft toward the falling Hork-Bajir.

"Tseeeeer!"

Tobias's talons came forward, outstretched, and slashed the alien's eyes.

"Ghaahharrr!"

The Hork-Bajir clutched at his face. I guess he was too distracted to think about what floor he was heading to. He shot past us as we slowed to step onto the fifteenth level.

Hard floor under my feet again! A very good feeling.

"Rachel! You have to demorph!" I reminded her.

"Already working on it," she said.

79 She was shrinking even as she lumbered along.

"The escape pods! Ahead there!" Ax cried.

They were only a dozen feet from us. A few seconds more and we would make it.

Rachel stumbled. She was half-human, half-elephant. A nightmare of pink and gray, with huge ears and human hair and fat arms and legs that had no feet.

I reached down and swept her up with my powerful arms. She was still large, maybe three hundred pounds. But not too much for me to carry.

We reached the door of the escape pod.

It closed behind us as we wedged our over sized bodies inside.

"Ax! Time!" Jake yelled.

"Five percent of the time remains!"

"Six minutes. Morph out!"

There was a surge as the escape pod ejected from the underside of the Yeerk ship.

My dense black fur was already starting to disappear by the time the pod rotated. I could see Earth below.

Earth.

And as the tiny ship turned, I could see the Yeerk mother ship.

It was kind of a joke now, I thought. The Yeerk mother ship. My mother on the Yeerk mother ship.

Hah hah.

Before I became fully human again, before I lost the ability to thought-speak and had to re turn to words spoken out loud, I said, "Jake?"

"Yeah, Marco."

"No one ever finds out. No one can ever know."

"Okay, Marco," he said.

"My mother died two years ago tomorrow."

"That's how it will be, my friend."

80 "Yeah. But someday . . ." Someday, somehow, in some way that I could not foresee, we would win this battle. Humans and Andalites together would defeat the Yeerks. And we would free all of their slaves.

All of them.

"Someday," I whispered again.

"Someday, Marco," Jake said.

81 Chapter 19

I guess there's no such thing as a nice graveyard. But the place where my mom is remembered is as nice as it can be.

The grass is green. There's a tree nearby. It's always very quiet. You can smell flowers.

I hate going there.

My dad stood for a long time, looking down at the white marble headstone. It has my mom's name. The day she was born, the day she died. And a message that says, "No wife, no mother, was ever more loved. Or more deeply missed."

My dad and I stood a few feet apart. We didn't say anything. We both just kind of cried.

You probably wouldn't think I was the kind of guy who would cry. Mostly I don't. Mostly I make jokes about things. It's better to laugh than to cry, don't you think?

I do.

Even when the world is scary and sad. Especially when the world is scary and sad. That's when you need to laugh.

"Two years," my dad said. It surprised me.

"Yeah," I said. "Two years."

He took a deep breath. Like it was hard for him to breathe. "I ... I ... look, Marco, I've been thinking."

"Yes?"

"I haven't been a very good father to you." It wasn't a question, so I didn't say anything.

"Your mom . . ." He had to stop for a moment to get his voice under control. "Your mom would not be happy about the way I've been these last two years."

What could I say? I decided to say nothing.

"Anyway. I talked to Jerry the other day."

Jerry was his old boss. Back when he had a regular job.

My dad shrugged. "I guess we have to live, huh? I mean, we can't. . . you know." Another heavy breath. "Your mom wouldn't want us to give up, would she? Anyway, I'm going in Monday to talk to Jerry about getting back to work. You know ... see if I still remember how to even turn on a computer."

It was a big thing. A big decision. I guess what I should have done was run over to give him a hug and tell him I was proud of him. I was proud of him. But that's not me.

"Oh, Dad, you never could figure computers out. Especially games."

82 He stared at me with the blank eyes I had seen for the last two years. Then, suddenly, he laughed.

"You punk kid, I've forgotten more about computers than you ever knew."

"Oh, right! So why did I always kick your butt whenever we played Doom?"

"I let you win."

I made an extremely rude noise. "Yeah? How about if we just go home and play a game so I can show you how totally wrong you are?"

I couldn't stop him from giving me a hug. I guess I didn't mind all that much.

We walked away from my mother's gravestone. The stone that marked the death of a woman who was not dead.

I raised my eyes up to the sky. The blue sky of Earth. My home.

She was probably gone from the mother ship, now. Off to some other corner of the galaxy.

But wherever she was, no matter how far, I would find her.

Someday . . .

83


    Ваша оценка произведения:

Популярные книги за неделю