the thought-speak thing with Tobias, and corrected some references to the
English measurement system, which Russian fighter pilots don't use: they fly
Indian Ocean, 200 miles southwest of Diego Garcia
Russian Carrier Kuznetzov
In the cockpit, Andrei Kyshkin smiled to himself as he smoothly ad-
vanced the throttles of his MiG-31 into afterburner. He felt the vibration
through his ejection seat as the enormous twin Tumansky engines spun up to
thier full bone-crushing thrust. The Foxhound's tailpipes burned with un-
quenchable fury, blowtorching the jet-blast deflectors and lighting up the
sad gray morning with their blue-white glow.
The catapult officer standing off to starboard waved his arm in a
sweeping motion toward the waist catapult bubble, then bent and touched the
flight deck, and Andrei Filipovich Kyshkin became the very first Russian
pilot to experience the thrill of a full carrier launch.
The shock of the cat stroke momentarily threw him into the seat and
flattened his eyeballs as his body and aircraft underwent a force of fourteen
Gs for approximatley two seconds.
Kyshkin started to breathe again, and suddenly remembered to rotate
the MiG away from the ground. Now I know that God exists, he thought as he
slapped the gear handle up. Nothing else could possibly create such force.
I have been in low-altitude dogfights, bombing missions over Afgani-
stan, and at least two ejections, he thought, but never have I had this much
adrenaline in my body!
He rotated the nose through twenty degrees, the maximum climb angle
the MiG-31 Foxhound could take under full burner without losing airspeed. He
looked behind him just as Goronyev, his wingman, was flung from the catapult
into the air. "How did you like that, Sergei?" Kyshkin asked his wingman after
giving him a few seconds to recover.
"Great Mother, now I know what an errant cockroach feels like."
Leave it to Sergei to come up with the most colorful description of
anything, from sex to flying to computer programming. They broke the clouds
at 4,500 meters and leveled off at 5,000. Kyshkin shut down the burners with
the airspeed tape showing 870 kilometers per hour. Under different circum-
stances it would have been just another boring, routine air patrol, just
chasing away the occasional errant imperialist spy aircraft or civvy that
happened to come too close to the group, as they often did. Surely the cap-
italists were aching for a look at Russia's brand new aircraft carrier and
its super-secret electronic systems.
But this was no ordinary patrol. The newly formed Soviet Republic of
Russia had officially been at war with China for three days now, and several
Soviet ships had been lost to the lightning-fast Chinese Fantan bombers.
Kyshkin's job was to make certain the three Sovremeny-class destroyers on the
bottom of the South China Sea remained the only ones there.
"Two, are you up?"
"Affirmative, Andrei. Let's get hold of the Busters and send them
home", Goronyev replied.
Kyshkin checked the blips on his radar that he knew were the three
MiG-29 Fulcrums of Dam-Buster Flight. He keyed his radio mike: "Dam-Buster
Flight, this is Wolfhound Lead with a pair of '31s. You are relieved."
"Affirmative, Wolfhound Lead. Don't get any birds up your pipes."
Andrei shuddered. He hated the MiG-29 pilots. They were so preppy,
and they all thought they were so damned good. A Foxhound's AA-9 missiles
could rip apart those pathetic Fulcrum geeks from over a hundred kilometers
away. Even the Su-27 pilots didn't like them. Ahh, now there was a real
plane! It was a match for anything the Americans could throw at it, including
the vaunted F-14 Tomcat, if it could get past those damnable Phoenix missiles
Kyshkin had the MiG-29s in visual range now, watching them peel off
and head for the tanker before turning for Beira Airbase in Mozambique. He
concentrated on the task at hand, trying to supress the fantasies creeping
into his mind of giving one of those insolent eighteen-year-olds a nylon
letdown. Treason was not his forte, and he did not relish the thought of
kneeling down in a cell in Lefortovo while they put a bullet in his head...
"Contact! Andrei, I have a radar contact, five-two hundred meters at
two o'clock high. They are-bozh moi!"
"What is it? What's wrong, Sergei?"
"Their closure rate...they are closing at about Mach 6..."
"What?! Say again, closing speed?"
"It is no mistake comrade," Sergei's voice shook as he reported. "It's
moving at Mach-" Sergei was cut off as something whipped over their heads,
very nearly colliding with Andrei's Foxhound.
"Gospodi!" He keyed his radio. "Kuznetsov, this is Wolfhound flight.
We have just had an encounter with aircraft of unknown type, moving at hyper-
sonic velocity. Say again, unknown craft traveling at high speed just buzzed
us! Request advisement." He heard a muttered curse on the other end as the
air boss replied.
"Wolfhound flight, abort patrol, repeat, abort and return to base
Kyshkin was in no mood to argue. He banked and bent on afterbuner,
just glad to get the hell out of there.
I barged in the door of my house, making it unmistakable that I was
pissed. T'Shondra had laid yet another of her evil traps for me, and I was
quite lucky to have escaped from her new boyfriend alive. Dammit, why did
women just have to do this to me? What did I ever do to them anyway?
Oh, hi. My name is Marco. What? No last name? Damn straight. How do
I know you are not one of them? Actually, I know you aren't, because I trust
you enough to tell you that I am human. But you could get captured, and then
they would learn everything. So I'm still not telling you my last name. Ha Ha.
I was just throwing my bookbag down in my room and muttering to myself
about how all females were evil, when my dad hollered at me.
"Hey, Marco! Come here, and check out this news report! You know,
about the mess in Asia?"
"Yeah, dad, I'm coming." I've really gotten into international poli-
tics lately. You get that from reading lots of Tom Clancy and Larry Bond
stuff. I knew that a war had broken out between Russia and China, something
about oil exports...
"Marco, check it out," my dad said as I plopped down on the living
room couch. "This is really weird. Listen..."
Man, that was one hot anchorlady. I listened to what she was saying.
"The Russo-Chinese War continues to escalate as the Russians seek to
rebuild and redeploy their navy, which was crippled during the initial phase
of the war by Chinese jets. The Chinese, meanwhile, are focusing on keeping
air superiority, mastery of the skies.
"Early this morning, both Russian and Chinese pilots claimed to have
encountered strange aircraft in thier patrol areas. One Russian pilot de-
scribed the craft as oblong and oval shaped, with serrated structures on the
front. He said they detected the object traveling at over six times the speed
of sound. The Russian news agency TASS says they believe this is some kind of
new Chinese jet capable of hypersonic flight."
I had already stopped listening. I was staring at the TV in amazement.
And it wasn't over the anchorwoman. I grabbed the phone and dialed. Ring.
Ring. Ring. Come on, somebody answer me.
"Jake, it's me."
My name is Tobias. No last name, no school, no state, yaddah yaddah
yaddah. You know the drill. The Yeerks are here, the Andalites aren't. The
Yeerks take over your brain and make you a controller, et cetera. No need to
go into that.
It was a nice day. You probably already know about the wonderful
"favor" the Ellimist(s?) did for me, so I'll go ahead and tell you I was in
human morph. I was lying on Rachel's bed, and so was Rachel. I know what
you're thinking, so get your mind out of the gutter. We were both fully
dressed, and we weren't really doing anything, just being together.
I put my hand in Rachel's long blonde hair, and brushed a strand from
her face. She was so beautiful.
"I love you, Rachel, you know that?"
"Yeah, I heard you the first time. I think makes this ten thousand and
two," she laughed, running a finger lightly down my chest. "I wonder how much
in control you are..."
"Move that finger any lower and I won't last ten minutes."
"Oh, that sounds interesting. Hmmm, I wonder..." The finger moved to
The phone rang.
Rachel jumped up off the bed, saying several words I have heard her
say before. I felt like saying a few of those words myself, but I am calmer
"Hello? Oh, hi Jake. Um, look, I'm kind of busy...the new Korn CD? Uh
huh, oooohhh, okay, be right over." She hung up the phone.
"Tobias, we have to go to Cassie's. Now."
"What's the problem?"
"Jake said he couldn't talk about it over the phone, but it's big."
"Ooookay. Let's do it!"
"Hey, that's my line! besides, this isn't exactly the time to say
it." She snickered.
I looked down. Oh, yeah.
"Sorry," I said. She morphed, I demorphed, and we both flew to
the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, which is the politically correct term for
Cassie's barn. Animorph Headquarters.
I was trying to give an asprin to an angry goose. Jake and Marco were
already there, and Tobias, Rachel, and Ax were on thier way. "Hey Cass, what's
up?" Rachel walked in the door looking a little bleary-eyed. I noticed that
two or three of her normally perfect blond hairs were a little out of place.
Oh, man. Only one thing could mess up Rachel's hair...
Hey, guys! Tobias fluttered in and landed on a rafter. I saw Ax on
my way over here; he should be here right about...
"Hello. Lo. Hel. Lo." A very strange looking boy walked in. Ax in his
human morph, of course. A blue, four-eyed horse with a butcher knife on it's
tail would have looked very strange walking into my barn.
"Hello, Prince Jake." Ax said.
"Ax, for the last time, don't call me prince."
"Yes, Prince Jake."
"Ax, didn't you hear me? I said DON'T call me prince!"
"Yes, pr-yes, Jake."
Marco leaped off the bail of hay he was lounging on. "I don't believe
it! It happened! It finally happened!"
"Lay off, Marco, it's none of your business," Rachel snapped.
"No, not that, it's Ax! He said Jake. Just Jake! No prince anywhere in
that sentence!" Marco stuck out his hand to Jake. "Jake, congradulations dude,
you're a free man." Jake did not shake Marco's hand.
"Okay, people, down to business," Jake said in his most authoritative
voice. "Guys, we found the Yeerks' new base."
"And?" Marco said. "What? You think I'm going down there again? We
barely got of that place alive! And they're going to have everything they own
defending it. Gleet Biofilters and guys with machine guns and..."
That was the first time in my life I have ever heard Jake yell. It was
not pretty. Marco was instantly quiet.
"The base is above ground."
That got everyone quiet.
"What the hell? Why?" Rachel asked.
I have to admit I was pretty confused myself. Why would the Yeerks be
building a Yeerk pool above ground? Unless it one of those temporary pools
they installed during Kandrona shoratges, like the one we had caused once.
But they fixed that problem months ago...
"I believe I can answer that."
"Hi, Erek," Jake said, grinning.
Erek sat on a bale of hay next to Marco.
"For one thing," he began, "this is not a Yeerk pool. It's a stag-
ing base for Bug fighters. Second, they've built in an old abandoned warehouse
on the other side of town. The Yeerks wanted an ordinary building so as not
to draw attention to themselves. It's sort of a repair and refueling depot for
the odd Bug fighter with computer malfunctions or engine trouble. The fighters
can go there, get repaired, refueled, or whatever, then be on their way. That
way they don't have to go all the way to orbit just to get a few bolts tight-
"How's their security?" Jake asked.
"Pretty light, but tough enough for you guys. They've got about four
or five guys with automatic rifles, and the door has a keypad installed next
to it, so you need the access code to open it."
"Keypad, huh?" Marco smirked. "I could take care of that."
"How?" I asked.
"Heh heh, you'll see."
"Okay, Marco, what exactly are you up to?" I eyed him suspiciously. I
had noticed that my grades in school had been improving just a little, and al-
though I do my homework and I'm usually a good student, I wasn't putting in
anymore effort than I usually do.
Yeah, Marco, what's the deal? Tobias asked, speaking for the first
time. Rachel gets a fifty-eight on a math test, and tells me she still man-
aged to jump a letter grade since her last report card? I sense a Marconian
"Hey, how would I know? Rachel's a smart girl, sometimes, and you
know how grades are, you never really know how they're gonna turn out."
"Alright, back to the subject, please." Jake sighed, looking very
frustrated. "Ax? What do you think?" Ax is our resident tactician. He is very
very good at analyzing the tactical situation and odds before we decide to go
"It would be difficult. And, supposing we win, the damage would not
be very severe. Sev. Vere. Ere."
Well, hey, every little bit helps. Tobias commented.
"Ax is right, Tobias," Rachel said, shaking her head.
Marco threw up his hands. "Well, that's it! I've seen it all. Ax call-
ing Jake by his first name and Rachel turning down a mission. Man, boys and
girls, this is turning out to be one hell of a day!"
"I'm not saying it wouldn't be worth it, and I'm not turning down the
mission, Marco." She gave him a look that would have chilled Visser Three.
"Think about it. If you kick a grizzly bear in the shin, you just make
him mad and he rips you to bits. On the other hand, shoot the same grizzly
with a thirty-eight revolver, and he's not much of a threat anymore."
Jake stared at Rachel with an exasperated look. "Rachel, what in the
world are you talking about?"
"I'm saying that if we're going to hit the Yeerks, we have to hit hard
enough to keep them from counterattacking, not just piss them off."
"Yoohoo, Rachel, Xena, oh ye of the recently uplifted math grade, what
do you think we've been doing all this time?" Marco shouted. "Visser Three
thinks we're meals, not warriors. All we've done since the construction site
is make the Yeerks mad. We haven't done any damage."
At that point, I jumped in. "Marco, that is bull and you know it!
We freed several human Controllers in our first raid, we destroyed a Bug
Fighter, a supply ship, we even saved an entire planet! You think all that is
Marco didn't say anything.
I was winded. I didn't even know I could get that upset.
"Okay, vote time." Jake said. "Ax?"
"I follow you, Prince Jake."
"Okay, then you're in. Rachel?"
"Alright, I'm in, but we had better be ready when they hit back."
Jake turned to me. "Cassie?"
"I can't," I said, turning to a mucky raccoon cage. "I have school
work to do, and I spend too much time away from home as it is. My parents are
starting to get suspicious."
"Okay, Cassie's out. Marco?"
"I'll go, but only under protest. You guys are gonna need my maaaa-
velous computer skills if you want to get into that building."
"That is not entirely true, Marco." Ax said. "I could handle the key
pad. After all, it is only human technology."
"Alright, Ax, that's it. Me and you, hacker war, starting tomorrow.
The bet is ten dollars. First one to wipe the other guy's hard drive wins."
"That is very tempting, Marco. Emting. Tem. Em. Ting. But I must de-
cline, as I do not own a computer."
"Ax, Marco, that's enough. Okay, everybody's in except Cassie, we
meet in my back yard tonight at eleven. Everbody cool with that?"
Everyone nodded, except me.
"Alrighty then, see you guys tonight." Everyone turned to go.
"Rachel?" I asked. "Could you stick around for a minute? A little girl
"Sure. What's up?"
When everyone was gone, I looked Rachel right in the eyes. "Rachel,
your hair was a little messed up when you got here."
"Yeah, so? We all have bad hair days."
"All of us except for you, Rachel. I have a pretty good idea what
happened, especially when Tobias came in only a few seconds after you."
"Oh, come on, Cassie, lay off. Look, we didn't do anything serious,
okay? We were just spending time together."
Uh huh. I bet.
"I know, Rachel, and I don't mean to be such a mother, but please be
careful. The last thing we need is a pregnant Animorph." Boy, that would make
"Cassie, girl, listen to me. I am not sleeping with Tobias, and I am
not going to. I know you're worried, but just relax. I know better than that,
and so does he."
"I believe you," I said, turning around so she could not see my face.
It was only a little white lie. I was used to those by now.
My parents had gone to bed, and we had been very carefull getting
into my back yard to avoid the motion lights on the house. Me, Tobias, Marco,
and Rachel stood there in the dark. Ax was there in his Andalite body. I
wished Cassie was there.
Marco and I had decided not to tell the others about the Russians'
encounter with Yeerk ships we had heard about on the news. They didn't need
to know just yet.
"Okay, guys, let's morph," I said.
As the others began to change, I focused on the perigrine falcon DNA
Morphing is never logical, unless you're Cassie. The first thing to
change was skin. Feather patterns began drawing themselves all over my arms,
legs, and face like bizzar tatoos. Then they puffed up and became three di-
mentional. My fingernails streched out and out and grew skinnier as they be-
came deadly talons. My thumbs disappeared. My lips streched out and hardened
to become a beak.
All that stuff was pretty weird. But by far the weirdest, freakiest
part of morphing something small is shrinking. It's like your falling, with
the ground rushing up toward your face. But you know you will never feel an
impact with the ground, because you're already on it. At the same time, every-
thing is getting bigger, growing to enoromous, rediculous sizes. I was feeling
all of these things as I matched sizes with the falcon. The falcon's vision
came on. Talk about seeing the light! It's like you are completely blind as a
human. You know those old thermal pictures from the Gulf War you see on the
news sometimes? Where everything is in different shades of green? That's what
it looks like with raptor eyes at night, only not nearly as grainy.
Another interesting thing is the raptor's mind. When you morph a prey
animal, you find that they are incredibly paranoid. All that fear and hunger
and energy, and all you can think about is to run like hell from everything.
Not so with a predator. The falcon didn't want to run from anything. It wanted
to fly, to hunt.
When everyone finished their morphs, we took to the air and headed
accross town to where Erek said the building was. We landed and demorphed in
the bushes. There we found the bag of clothes and other equipment Erek had
left for us.
Tobias was overhead doing recon. I gave him a questioning look.
Yep, Erek was right. You got four guys with M-16s at the main
entrance. This ain't going to be a cakewalk.
Prince Jake, Ax broke in, If I may say so, I do not beleive small
morphs such as insects will be able to gain entry. The entire building will
be sealed against possible Andalite intrusion.
"You're right about that, Ax. Okay, guys, here's the plan. I go rhino
and distract them. Rachel, morph grizzly and cover Marco while he works his
magic on the keypad. Ax, back me up."
Marco chimed in, "And Rachel says..."
Rachel said nothing. We all looked at her.
"What, you guys think I'm going to yell a battle cry with a bunch of
armed men we don't want to see us standing around?" Rachel smiled. She looked
right at Marco and whispered, "Let's do it." I had to bite my hand to keep
from cracking up.
Jake finished his rhino morph, and we watched him and Ax bust out of
the brush and charge headlong at the guards. They saw him and blasted away at
him, but that thick rhino hide didn't much care about bullets. While the gun
men were trying to perforate Jake, I grabbed Marco's arm and we headed for
the entrance. I started morphing as we moved. It was risky, but it would have
been hard to hide a ten-foot bear in a two-foot-tall stand of shruberry. I
was done by the time we got to the door. Marco, in his gorilla body, was
carrying his sensitive cargo: it looked like some kind of calculator with
wires coming out of the top.
What is that? I asked him, pointing at the thing.
Don't worry about it he snapped. I do not have this thing, you do
not know I can do this, and you never saw me do it. Got it?
Fine. Just get this over with so we can get inside.
With his awkward gorilla fingers, Marco managed to somehow attach the
wires to the screws holding the front of the keypad on. He pressed a button
on his calculator-thing, and after a few seconds the red light over the keypad
turned green. I turned the doorknob, and it opened easily.
Damn, Marco, that was nice work. Hey, you know what? I need a decent
grade on this history test coming up-
Forget it, Rachel. I barely missed getting caught last time. If
Chapman hadn't sneezed before he came into his office, I'd be sitting in DJJ
right now. Jake, we're in!