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:: #27 The Exposed
:: Book Overview

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Narrator: Rachel

Cover Morph: Rachel to Squid

Release Date: February 1999

Cover Quote: They thought they’d seen it all. They were wrong...

Plot Summary: The Animorphs and Ax have one true ally in their battle against the Yeerks: the Chee. So, when they discover that the Chee -- including their friend, Erek -- are in trouble, they have no choice but to help.

But the Chee's problem is much deeper than anything the kids could have imagined. It's hidden in the ocean. So far down that no human has ever travelled there -- and survived. And the Animorphs realize what will happen if Visser Three discovers the valuable secrets of the Chee. One of which is the Animorphs....

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:: Sample Chapter

Mr. King, Erek's "father," was sitting on the couch. He had a TV remote in one hand and a pretzel rod in the other.

He looked like any other father on any other lazy day.

Except that his human hologram was gone, so he was sitting there like some weird android parody of normalcy. And, of course, he was no more Erek's father than I was. He was just another nearly eternal android playing a role.

"So it's not just Erek," I said.

"No," Mr. King said, without moving. "All the Chee have been immobilized. Holographic emitters down. Motor centers down. Logic centers, speech synthesizers, and Chee-net all functioning normally."

<Chee-net?> Marco asked.

"Inter-Chee communication," Erek said, "We've had our own Internet since the days when your ancestors were still drawing pictograms on pyramid walls."

<Yeah? Cool. AOL. Androids On-Line.>

"But why is this happening?" Jake said. "How?"

"We don't know," Mr. King said.

Marco placed Erek on the sofa and started to demorph. Within minutes, the gorilla had shrunk and its coarse, black hair had been sucked back into Marco's human skin.

"You must have some idea what could do this. I thought you guys were indestructible," Jake said. He sounded a little annoyed. Which was okay. I was annoyed, too. We were used to the Chee being so in control, so capable.

Plus, it just had not been a good morning so far.

"The ship," Erek said.

"The ship?"

"The Pemalite ship."

"The Pemalite ship?" Marco echoed. "What Pemalite ship?"

"The one we hid in a deep, ocean canyon thousands of years ago when we arrived on Earth," Erek explained. "It should have been safe from intruders. "The atmospheric pressure down there will crush a human to the size of a guinea pig."

"Uh, how deep is that," I said.

"Fifteen thousand feet," Mr. King said.

Marco whistled, "Almost three miles down."

We all looked at him, surprised.

"Hey," he said, "I told you before, I don't sleep through all my classes."

"Our Chee-net connects through the ship's onboard computer," Mr. King said. "That would be the only way to disable our systems."

<So, what? Somebody found the ship and activated the controls?>Tobias mused, perched on top of the TV and preening his right-wing feathers. <That still doesn't tell us who or why.>

"Or what they hope to get out of it," I added.

"Or how to reverse it," Jake said. "Is it even reversible?"

"Yes, that part would be simple. But reaching the computer would be a very dangerous undertaking," Mr. King said.

"Being a paralyzed android isn't exactly safe," I pointed out. "Especially since someone obviously knows you're here and vulnerable."

"What about other Chee?" Cassie asked.

"All the same," Erek said. "All have lost holograms and lost the capacity to move. Most are safe, out of sight. But two are presently at high risk. The first works as a janitor in a nuclear research facility. When his hologram failed, he locked himself in the safe the facility uses to store radioactive material."

"At least that sounds secure," Jake suggested.

"Only until the shift changes," Mr. King said. "At ten o'clock each night, all areas of the facility are inspected before the night crew takes over. Whoever opens that safe is going to expose a highly advanced . . . and nonhuman . . . technology."

"If the Yeerks get hold of our technology..." Erek began.

"Don't even think it," Marco muttered.

"Are we supposed to get into the nuclear plant?" I asked.

"No," Mr. King said. "It's maximum security. You wouldn't be able to get the Chee out undetected."

"What about the other Chee you said was in a bad situation?" Jake asked calmly. Jake always sounds calmest when he's most worried.

"She's in more immediate danger," Mr. King said. "Her human name is Lourdes."

"She's been living the low-life," Erek said. "She's a homeless street person."

"A what? Why?" Cassie demanded.

"We need access to all levels of society to track Yeerk activity," Erek said. "And don't feel too bad. You have to remember that we Chee live many lives. In her previous human guise, Lourdes was a movie actress. Very successful."

"She's been sleeping in an abandoned building. Abandoned except that half the building is being used to store stolen goods. It's sort of run by a fence named Strake," Mr. King continued. "We suspect he's a Controller."

"A Controller who fences stolen goods?" I asked, half-laughing.

"Yes," Erek said. "It puts him in touch with a broad range of the criminal element."

"Wow," I said, "Not all glamour being an android, is it?"

"Tell me about it," Erek said. "I'm passing as a junior high school kid."

"Point taken. Where is this Lourdes person now?" I asked.

"She made it to a closet under the front stairs," Mr. King said. "There's a complication: We have information that the police are going to raid the place. The raid will occur in about twenty minutes and we're certain there's at least one human-controller assigned to the SWAT team."

"Twenty minutes!" I nearly shrieked.

"Time is short," Mr. King said apologetically. "But you understand that we cannot ask you to help rescue this Chee. There is a high likelihood of your being hurt."

"There's a high likelihood of us getting hurt every minute of the day," Marco said, exasperated.

"Where?" Jake demanded.

Erek gave us the address.

"Landmarks," I said impatiently. "We'll be flying in."

"Tobias, get Ax and follow us," Jake rapped. "Now!"

I snatched open the door and Tobias bolted.

"The abandoned house backs the railroad tracks. It's brick, surrounded by condemned buildings and close to a junkyard," Mr. King said. "Be careful. It's a bad neighborhood."

"Yeah, we're real worried about being mugged," I said with a laugh.

"So let me get this straight," Marco said. "We have to rescue a paralyzed Chee from a stolen goods warehouse before the Controllers get her. Then we have to dive down to the bottom of the ocean, find the Pemalite ship, somehow get inside it and turn off the signal before ten o'clock tonight so the Yeerks don't get the Chee in the safe at the nuclear waste facility. Is that pretty much it? Or do we have to discover the Fountain of Youth and come up with a low-fat cookie that tastes as good as Mrs. Fields's, too?"

"Ticktock," I said with a grin. "Ticktock."

"You are mentally ill," Marco said.

"There's one more thing," Erek said. "The Pemalite ship's signal will have been picked up by orbiting Yeerk spacecraft. They may already be down there waiting for you."

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