My name is Jake. I can't tell you my last name, or where I live. I wish I could, because maybe, then you could help. Or send help. But, if the wrong people read this, the ones with alien slugs living inside their heads...we're doomed. If we're not already doomed.
Yeah, alien slugs. You heard that right. Basically, this planet is being invaded by an alien race called Yeerks. If you saw a picture of one, you wouldn't see much in the way of danger. They just look like large slugs in their natural form. Big, grey green slugs. The problem is, they're parasites. Like ticks. Leeches. Unlike those parasites, though, they don't just attach themselves to your body and make you sick for awhile.
They enter your brain. Wrap themselves around the crevices, and take control. Worse, they have access to your memory, so they know everything about you. Once they take over, you're a slave in your mind. You're helpless. You're a Controller.
An Andalite named Elfangor warned us about them. He was dying, but he was able to give us the power to morph-to become any animal we touched-before a Yeerk called Visser Three ended his life. Literally, he morphed into this terrifying creature and ate him. The Yeerks mean business with their enemies.
So, until the other Andalites return to this planet, me and my four other friends are the only ones with the power to fight the Yeerks.
One of the useful things that Elfangor was able to tell us before he died was that Yeerks can't just stay wrapped around the brains of their hosts forever. Every three days, they have to leave their hosts, to swim around in this thing called a Yeerk Pool, which is where they soak up Kandrona rays and other nutrients, in their natural form. So, for a couple of hours every three days, their hosts are free to move around on their own. The involuntary hosts, the ones who don't want them there, are locked in cages. They can scream, rage, curse, and cry all they want. The voluntary hosts get to hang out in a nicer area, with TV and food. They actually want their Yeerks in their heads.
Right after we met Elfangor, Marco figured out that my older brother, Tom, was a Controller. He'd been kind of distant ever since he started getting involved in this group called The Sharing. It stunk, because we'd always been really close until then. We found out for sure that he was a Controller, that The Sharing was a front to gain voluntary hosts for the Yeerks, when we all attended this Sharing barbecue and the "full members" disappeared to have their own meeting. I morphed my dog, Homer, and followed them. I heard Tom, well, his Yeerk, tell the other Yeerks that if they didn't manage to infest me, they'd just kill me.
Earlier in the evening, I had hoped that The Sharing was just a group like Boy Scouts or something. It wasn't hard to imagine, then. Everyone seemed happy, normal, hanging around, playing games, and eating good food. Then, when Tom was telling me about becoming more involved in the ranks of the group, his face just changed. It was only for a few seconds, if that, but it was like another scared person was looking at me.
I knew, then, that Tom had been taken by the Yeerks.
One good thing had come from listening to Tom's Yeerk telling the others that he planned to kill me. He let it slip that he'd fed recently, and was planning to feed again on Monday night. After the barbecue ended, we decided to attack the Yeerk Pool on Monday.
Our first mission: attack the Yeerk Pool, and free Tom.
Looking back, I wouldn't exactly say that everything went according to plan. First of all, we were completely new at fighting alien slugs. Obviously, we had no idea what we were in for. Oh, sure, we knew that we needed fire power to do some massive damage, which meant acquiring animals that could do more than bite someone's leg or scratch them. That is, we needed battle morphs. That was the easy part, really. Cassie's mom worked at this place called The Gardens, which not only had these really cool amusement park rides, but also tons of scary animals. We just needed to get close enough to them to touch them, to acquire them. Then, we could do some serious damage with these morphs.
If the animals didn't go into a trance when you acquire them, we would have been dead meat before we even entered the Yeerk Pool. Fortunately, the Andalite technology had that perk, so were were ready with some serious firepower for our first battle.
When we entered the Yeerk Pool, the slugs were totally unaware for what we were capable of. We totally slaughtered a bunch of Hork-Bajir Controller guards who were in charge of dragging people to the Yeerk Pool before they even knew what had hit them. We broke open some of the cages. Including Tom's.
We could have freed more people, but then, Visser Three arrived, and we knew that things were heading south. If our morphs were dangerous, I knew they were nothing like Visser Three's. He'd morphed this crazy creature from another planet to eat Elfangor, and he was in the process of morphing this other alien when I knew we had to grab Tom and cut our losses.
Tom couldn't morph, but he still wanted to fight. At my command, Marco, full gorilla, grabbed him and placed him on Cassie's back. We were gone before he could do much about it except scream and curse at us.
I wasn't sure how many others escaped. I hoped there were some. I hoped that we would be back, to free more people.
At the moment, though, all that mattered was that we had Tom.
He was free.
We ran-except for Tobias, who flew ahead of us. Tom had finally stopped screaming at us for tearing him away from the battle.
I wasn't sure what to do next. Head home seemed like the best option, but what if the Yeerks were waiting?
We only had two hours in a morph, so this was just a risk we needed to take.
(Demorph!) I shouted at them, once we were far away from the Yeerk Pool, and it was clear that no one was following us.
Everyone obeyed me. They'd made me their leader before the battle began, so they listened to me, now.
Poor Tom started throwing up when he saw us start to change. I wasn't sure if it was because the process was really that gross, or he was reacting to everything that had happened to him.
When we emerged in our human forms, clothed in only our morphing outfits, Tom just stared at us. Then, he hurled himself at me, and I wasn't sure if he was going to slug me for running head first into a battle, or pull me into a hug.
It ended up being a massive hug. I was relieved, more than relieved, but I would have taken being beaten up by my older brother (not that he'd ever really done that before) in exchange for seeing him free from those alien slugs.
I squeezed him back, and we just stayed like that for at least five minutes. Finally, Tom let go, and gave us all the once over.
"You're gonna have to tell me everything," he told us, shaking his head in complete disbelief.
"We can't just stay out here all night!" Rachel protested, hands on her hips. "Anyway, besides you, we don't know who we can trust. Anyone could be a Controller."
Tom nodded his head, slowly. "Yeah. I know a lot who are, but not everyone." Then, brightening, he added, "But, I know some who aren't. Like our parents. Midget, they're safe."
"You're sure?" I asked, and I could feel my voice cracking.
Tom laughed, giving me a light punch on the arm. "Am I sure that our parents aren't Controllers? When I was one? When my Yeerk would have liked nothing better than to infest our family and make his life a hell of a lot easier?"
I had to laugh. "Stupid question. I get it."
But Tom just shook his head, and then gave my shoulder a squeeze. "No. Paranoid, maybe. Which is good. You're all gonna need to be. But yeah, for now, they're not Controllers." Then, Tom turned to Rachel. "Rach, your mom isn't one, either. Marco, neither's your dad. But...you probably guessed that."
Marco had lost his mom in a boating accident almost two years ago. His dad kind of lost it since then. He had a great job, before. Now, he worked part time as a janitor. Not that there was anything wrong with being a janitor, but Marco told me it was because he couldn't be around people anymore. They'd moved to this small apartment, and were barely making ends meet.
So, yeah. Marco's dad wouldn't have joined The Sharing.
"Well. That's something," Marco sighed. "At least."
"What do we do now?" I asked Tom.
Okay, yeah. I was the leader, but Tom was still my big brother. Besides, however long he'd been infested by the Yeerks, he had to have more information than the rest of us. Which we would need. Also, he was free, now, but I was starting to see that keeping him free would be a challenge. I mean, the Yeerks knew who he was. What would keep them from grabbing him and infesting him again?
Also, I realized, Tom knew who we were. If they infested him again, we were done for.
Tom must have been thinking something similar. He put his arms on my shoulders, staring me in the eyes.
"We have to tell our parents-just our parents. Then, we have to fake my death," he explained. "If they get me again...Midget, then, it's all over. We'd be worse than dead."
I nodded, believing him, then turned to the others. "Okay. Everyone else can head home. Get some sleep." Before they could protest, I raised my hand. "Look, it would be one thing if people saw Rachel or Marco come into my house, but a whole group of people? This late? That could be weird. And, if something happens before we can figure out what to do with Tom, and the wrong people find out...the ones with slugs in their heads..." I trailed off.
"He's right," Marco spoke up. "Jake's parents are free, and, at least right now, they're the only ones who can know the truth."
"That's right." I swallowed. "It will just be for tonight. But, everyone else has to stay out of this before we do damage control with Tom. We can't be seen together as a group."
Rachel, Cassie, and Tobias kind of nodded. We said quick goodbyes, and Rachel gave Tom a quick half hug.
"Tom. Stay safe, okay?" she told him. Turning to me, she added, "Both of you. Don't do anything stupid."
"Don't worry, Rachel. We'll watch out for each other," Tom promised. Pulling an arm around me, he added, almost teasingly, "Come on, Midget. Let's prepare to get grounded for life."
It wasn't past our curfew by the time we arrived, or, at least, not past Tom's. There was an unwritten rule in our house that if I was with Tom and past my curfew, it was okay. Not that this had happened all that much in the last year. So, when our parents saw us, they just nodded, said hello, and went back to the TV show they were watching in the living room.
Once we were inside and away from our parents, Tom pulled me into my room.
"First things first. You better get dressed," he ordered, nodding at my morphing outfit. "Seriously, Midget, what gives? You look like you just came out of the ballet stage or something."
"Yeah, I know." I pulled out a t-shirt and pair of jeans from my closet, then put them on. "So far, we've only figured out to morph skin tight clothes. Andalites don't wear clothes, and the morphing technology..."
Tom raised his hands in mock surrender. "Fair enough. At least, you're not naked. You just look...weird. We're going to need to figure out how to morph normal clothes soon. Especially when it's fifty degrees outside."
I nodded. "It hasn't exactly been the biggest priority. Saving you..."
I trailed off.
Tom nodded, pulled me into another hug, and then stood back, studying me. "You're barefoot."
I sighed. "Yeah. We haven't figured out how to morph shoes, either."
Or, rather, if we could morph shoes.
Another nod from Tom. I took a seat on my bed, and Tom sat next to me. For a minute, we were quiet, probably digesting everything that had happened.
"I gotta ask. How long have you been able to do this?" Tom asked, his voice gentle.
"Um...less than a week," I answered, shaking my head a little. "You know when Elfangor got eaten up by Visser Three? He gave us the morphing technology minutes before."
I swallowed hard, the memory still vivid in my mind. Tom pulled me into another hug.
"I gotta say, Jake. I've never thought of you as weak, but you're a lot tougher than I would have given you credit for." I managed a grin. Then, he gestured to himself, and his voice changed. Almost cold. "I'd still be a slave in my head if it weren't for you."
"Wasn't just me, Tom. It was all of us," I pointed out. Then, staring at him and swallowing a lump in my throat, I added, "We have to keep you free."
He nodded, and wrapped an arm around me. Must have known I needed the support.
"Okay. I'm free, for now, and you guys are all safe. But, we need a game plan to keep it that way. Any ideas?" he asked me, his voice not much louder than a whisper.
"I guess, since Mom and Dad are free, I figure we need to tell them everything. They won't believe us, so I'll morph in front of them." I forced a laugh. "They'll have to believe us, then. After that?" I shrugged. "Tom, you're sixteen. If you ran away..."
"No. Being underage aside, they'd find me in a second," Tom sighed. "Even if I went to live with Grandpa G., Temrash 252-that slug who was in my head-he knows everything about me. He'll tell them everything. The Yeerks won't let me, or anyone, stay free. It's possible that they'd out and kill me, but I'm a good and young host body, and I have a family who would notice if I suddenly died or disappeared. No. Most likely, they'd infest me again. With him, or someone else just as awful."
"You're not gonna go back to that, Tom." I grabbed his arm, held it tight. "I won't let that happen."
"Hey." Tom took my other hand in his, and squeezed it. "You've done great. We made it this far. Anyway, between us and Mom and Dad, we can figure out a way to keep me alive and free."
I nodded, feeling more hopeful. "Okay. Then, let's go tell them."
They were still watching TV in the living room when we found them. A part of me wanted to hang onto that moment of seeing them together, happy and normal.
You know. Before we were about to ruin their life.
Tom and I stayed close to each other the whole time. I told them the whole story, starting with the construction site. Then, before they could really react, and announce that I was grounded for life, I began to morph Homer.
Looking back, maybe I could have asked Tom if I could acquire him. He probably would have said it was okay. Morphing my older brother would have been weird for everyone, but a lot less freaky than me turning into my dog.
On the other hand, turning into the tiger or iguana would have seriously freaked everyone out, so maybe Homer was my best option.
I was starting to get used to morphing. I was ready for the fur, the happiness, the desire to run and play.
This time, though, I think the real Homer probably reacted to my changing into his mirror image before my parents did.
"It's okay, Homer," I heard Tom tell him, giving him a few pats on the back.
The instincts were strong. Before I could stop myself, I began to bark at Homer, then moved next to Tom. I wanted him to pet me instead. I was sure that, had I been human, I would have seen him roll his eyes at me, but my older brother turned his attention to me, and began to pet me.
After basking in the dog happiness for a few minutes, I forced myself to concentrate on the human me. Not enough to demorph, just to remember that I was Jake and my parents were probably beside themselves.
(Mom, Dad, it's okay. It's me, Jake,) I assured them, moving away from Tom, and trotting up to them.
"J-Jake?" my mom asked, and I could hear her disbelief.
(Yep, still me. I'm talking to you with my thoughts, directly into your head. That's how it works when you're in a morph,) I explained. (Dad, you can hear me, too, right?)
"Yes, Jake, I can hear you," my dad answered, but his tone was no less flabbergasted than my mom's.
"I can hear you, too, Jake," Tom added, patting me on the top of my head, and I swore, I could hear some amusement in his voice.
"Can you turn back?" Dad asked. "You're-you're not going to be stuck like that, permanently?"
(Don't worry, Dad. I can stay in any morph for up to two hours before I get stuck,) I explained, even though I was sure I'd told them this before. (I can change into other animals, too!)
"Well, maybe you should change back, now, anyway," Dad suggested. "Just in case."
(Okay,) I agreed.
I focused on my human body, and a few minutes later, I was fully human. My shirt and jeans were on the ground, though. I picked them up and put them back on.
"We can only morph skin tight clothing," I explained. "Other stuff just falls off. Or, gets shredded, in some cases."
"You see, Andalites don't wear clothes," Tom added. "And they designed the technology for themselves, not humans."
I got the sense that Tom knew a little more about this than I did. Given that he'd been a Controller for-months, maybe?-he had to know more about the Andalites than I did.
With a kind of queasy feeling, I realized that he definitely knew more about the Yeerks than any of us did.
We all just kind sat down on the couch at the same time. Tom and me in the middle, between our parents. They still looked like they could barely believe what was going on.
Tom noticed this, too.
"Mom, Dad, we don't have much time. Yeah, I escaped from the Yeerk Pool, thanks to Jake and his friends, but they're going to be after me before long. I probably don't even have three days. I-I need to be out of the picture," he told them. "They need to think I'm dead."
Dad was the first to understand what Tom meant. "Tom, did you take my car to the Yeerk Pool?"
Tom nodded. "Yeah. It's still at the school. I can't-"
"No, from what you told me, it's not safe for you to go back for it." Dad stood up. "It's not too far of a walk. I'll handle it. Make it look like you had an accident." He turned to Mom. "Jean, honey, we're going to be a one car household for the time being."
Mom managed a little laugh. "That's the least of our problems."
"Tomorrow, I'll tell the police that you didn't come home. They'll find the car, or the remains, on the highway, right above the river," Dad determined. "There won't be a body."
"I should do it," I spoke up. "I can morph, Dad. If something happens to you..."
Dad looked like he was about to protest, but Tom spoke up. "Jake's right. You're going to have injuries after that kind of stunt. At least. The Yeerks will figure it out."
"Neither of us are letting our thirteen year old son in front of the wheel!" Mom yelled. "Much less attempt a stunt that could result in him killing himself!"
"But, you'll let Dad?" Tom shot back. "No way! Mom, think about it. Midget can morph out, but Dad can't. Look, I don't want either of you to die, but..."
"Tom's right," I added, swallowing hard. "Anyway, I risked my life once today. I can do it again."
Before my parents could stop me, I ran out of the living room, and then, out of the house.
Looking back, I was kind of surprised I managed it. For one thing, I only had three morphs, and neither were all that great for surviving a car crash. It wasn't like I could change into a fly or something. There wasn't time to acquire anything else. Of my available morphs, I ended up using the lizard. I kept the window open as I drove, and focusing on the changes just before aiming the car at the edge of the road.
It helped that it was late at night. There was a lot less traffic than during the day.
I was pretty sure I was going to die before I completed the morph, much less before my body hit the pavement. Lizards are pretty tough creatures, though. Or, maybe, I was just that determined to survive, and to keep my family safe.
I demorphed to human, and then walked home. I could have morphed Homer and gotten back quicker, but I was already exhausted from morphing so much in one day. Would it get easier over time? I sure hoped so.
Everyone was waiting for me in the kitchen.
Dad pulled me into the biggest bear hug ever, then gave me a punch on the shoulder.
"Jake, don't ever do that again, okay?" he practically yelled.
Tom nodded at Dad, then pulled me into another massive hug, almost breaking all of my ribs.
Not that I was complaining.
Mom also hugged me, but not before telling me that I was grounded for life. We all knew that this would be impossible to implement, for various reasons, but I just nodded and pretended to look ashamed of myself.
The next day, Dad called the police in a panic. I heard him tell the story we'd agreed on the night before. After I got back. Tom had gone out that night and hadn't returned home. No, there hadn't been any arguments or fights. No, he'd never done anything like this before. All Dad knew was that he'd left after dinner, saying that he had plans. Dad had assumed that he had a Sharing meeting. After all, he'd been involved with the group for several months, and that's where he spent most of his time. Yes, he'd taken his car with him. Yes, Dad could provide the license number for the car.
The following day, the police stopped by to explain what had happened. At least, their assessment. Tom had been driving back from the Sharing meeting, and his car fell off the side of the road. Given the good reputation of The Sharing, it was highly unlikely that Tom had been drinking. It was simply a tragic accident. Dad's car had crashed into the river, totaled beyond repair. There was no body to be recovered, but given the speed of the crash and the impact of the hit, there was no way that Tom would have survived.
They were truly sorry for our loss.
We had a funeral for Tom a few days later. Most of the kids in his grade were there, as well as a large number of people from The Sharing. Plus, of course, Rachel and her family. Everyone said what a tragic loss it was, for someone so young and with such a promising future. Everyone was mourning with us during this horrible time of our grief.
A few weeks later, Tom became a distant memory. Just another teenage death. Tragic, horrible for his family, but life went on. The Sharing sent people to invite us to meetings, to help us grieve, but I don't think anyone was really surprised when my family responded with a polite but tense "thanks but no thanks".
After all, Tom had died on his way back from a Sharing meeting. It was hardly their fault, but it was also not a ringing endorsement for the group.
Right after Tom "died", we decided that he'd need to move to the basement. After all, we couldn't risk a dead teenager being seen by neighbors. At least, we had a finished basement. It wasn't a bad place to spend time. There was a TV, a huge couch with those portable cushioned that made it a comfortable bed. A fridge and freezer for snacks. Shelves filled with books and movies. Really, it was a cool hangout place for any teenager.
Being completely underground, there were no windows. Which meant, as long as Tom stayed quiet when people were over, and they didn't go down to the basement, he wouldn't be caught.
"You can come upstairs if you need to, but try to keep it to at night," Mom promised. "Take a shower, and get food. Just..."
"I know," Tom assured us. "Be careful. Because it's not like my life and freedom doesn't depend on it."
He said this with a sardonic smile, much like the one Marco would use.
Dad pulled him into a long hug. "I wish there was a better solution, Tom."
Tom just shrugged. "Hey, this is way better than being a slave in my own mind. Besides, it's kind of like I'm the male version of Anne Frank. In hiding until the Nazi Yeerks are defeated." Tom nudged me in the ribs. "That's your job, Midget."
"The Andalites', Tom," I corrected, rolling my eyes at him. "We're just there to annoy Visser Three until they get back and do the real damage."
"Well, they better get a move on," Dad sighed.
"We're not the only race they're fighting to save," Tom pointed out. "The ones with the most people, sure, but not the only ones."
Like I said. He knew a lot more about the Yeerks than any of us.
"Tom, I'll be down every night to hang out and keep you from going crazy," I promised. "And you know I'll tell you about every mission we're doing."
"You better, Midget," Tom laughed. "I want to hear tons of stories of you guys kicking Yeerk butt."
Mom pulled Tom into a hug. "Your dad and I will be over all the time, too."
"All the time," Dad promised, also hugging Tom.
"Not just us, either. I'll bring Rachel and Marco," I added. "Plus, Tobias and Cassie."
Tom grinned. "Thanks, Midget."
During the weeks, then months, that followed, Tom and I became close once more. As guilty as we all felt that he was stuck in the basement while the rest of us were living relatively normal lives, Tom was the first to point out that this was more freedom than he'd experienced in months. He was grateful to me, for having saved him. He was free, no longer a slave in his head.
Everything else? That would come once the Yeerks were defeated.
I hadn't expected him to come face to face with his old Yeerk again.
That happened when Temrash 114 infested me a few months later.
A/N: In this version, a few obvious points from the series have changed. Obviously, Tom is freed in the first book. Since we don't have the Chee or the Peace Movement, he has to remain in hiding for the near future. Likewise, he can't become an Animorph (yet) because they don't have the blue box. Also, Tobias doesn't become a nothlit. In fact, I have plans for him that will be revealed in the next chapter that will result in his home life being a LOT happier. Any guesses?