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:: #37 The Weakness
:: Book Overview

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Narrator: Rachel

Cover Morph: Rachel to Cheetah

Release Date: December 1999

Cover Quote: Jake's not around. Who will take his place?

Plot Summary: When Jake has to leave town for a family thing, the other Animorphs and Ax figure life will pretty much be normal until he gets back. But when Tobias discovers Visser Three's newest feeding place, the kids decide they have to check it out.

But there's no assigned leader. Now Rachel, Tobias, Cassie, Marco, and Ax have another problem: Who will be the best one for the job? Because being in charge isn't just guts and glory. It's about making decisions that will mean the difference between life...and death.



:: Sample Chapter

<Councilor,> Ax said, his voice tight. <The inspector is a candidate member of the Council of Thirteen.>

"What's this guy doing here?" I said angrily. "He screwed up our plan."

Marco turned to look at Ax. "Did you know about these Garatrons?" he asked. "I mean, I know I'm not the only one who saw the similarities. Blue fur. Four legs. Arms."

Ax stiffened.

"Physical similarities don't necessarily mean there's a genetic relationship," Cassie pointed out. "Mammalian shrews and marsupial shrews. A lot alike, but not related. Could be the same thing with Andalites and Garatrons."

<The Yeerks have taken only one Andalite host body,> Ax said. <The inspector called the Garatrons the newest host species, implying the Yeerks have infested far more than one creature. Something the Andalites will never allow to happen.>

I paced before a cage full of chittering baby squirrels. Their mother had been killed.

"This is bad. The inspector outran one of the fastest, most agile animals on Earth. If we can't catch the Garatrons, we can't kill them."

<We're missing something here,> Tobias said. <I don't know about other Garatrons, but the inspector, the Yeerk, is very intelligent. That much was obvious. And he and the visser were antagonistic. That was clear, too. The inspector mentioned notes. I'm betting he's here to observe Visser Three. Make and submit a progress report on the invasion of Earth.>

I thought about what Tobias had said. It made sense. But what did it mean for us? And how could we exploit the visser's being under a microscope? Later on we could deal with the implications of yet another gifted Yeerk host species. Maybe when Jake came back.

And then I grinned. "This is so perfect. This is another opportunity."

Cassie looked up from the droppers of milk or something she was preparing for the squirrel babies. "To do...?"

"To discredit Visser Three. Embarrass him in front of the inspector. Show the inspector what an incredibly lousy job the visser's doing. Get him kicked off the job."

Marco raised his hand. "Wait up. And what happens when Visser Three is gone? Assuming, of course, we succeed. What if the council replaces him with someone far more dangerous?"

<Better the evil you know than the evil you don't know,> Tobias said quietly.

Cassie nodded. "Maybe. But I want to hear what Rachel has in mind."

"Simple," I said. "A kind of smear campaign. We strike hard and fast. Continuous pressure. Make it look like there's five hundred Andalite bandits fighting this war. We hit every known Controller in town. Every one in a position of power, anyway. And we hit in public places, wherever there's a Controller in charge. We want coverage. We want the inspector to know what's going on. And we do it now. We don't know how long the inspector is going to be here. We start today!"

"I say we wait," Marco said abruptly. "When's Jake getting back? Two, three days? We wait. I like the idea, Rachel, but this mission is potentially too dangerous to do without him."

"What's so dangerous?" I argued. "Boom boom boom. We hit, we get out. We hit again."

"Yeah, in totally open, public places." Marco shook his head. "You amaze me. How can you not see the risk in that? The chance that one of us will get left behind? That one of us will have to demorph in the middle of a supermarket bread aisle with a Yeerk-infested stock boy peeking around the hamburger roll display, waiting to drag us off to Visser Three?"

<Or not be able to demorph,> Tobias said, his voice forcedly arch and bright. <Or maybe be captured and tortured.>

I shot him a look. It pained me when he talked like that. He didn't do it often, but...

Tobias had been caught in morph, way back in the beginning. More recently, he'd been voluntarily captured, for the sake of the mission. Tortured, too. He'd sacrificed more than any of us for this stupid war. He had a right to deal with it all whatever way he could.

Still, it hurt me to see him reveal the damage that had been done to him. I have strong feelings for Tobias. The kind you can't help. The kind that seem inevitable. Like they were always there, even before you knew the person.

"I agree with Marco and Tobias," Cassie said, opening the door of the squirrels' cage. "It's a good idea. But for a fast series of relentless attacks we need someone calling the shots. And Jake does that better than anyone."

"Jake's not here," I grumbled.

"And look what's happening," Cassie went on, over her shoulder. "We're wasting time arguing. Without a leader, nothing gets done."

"My point exactly," I said. "So let's choose a temporary leader. Look, we're agreed we can't go into a mission arguing over who's in charge and when. So..."

<But are we agreed we should go ahead? If someone acts as leader?> Tobias said. <Ax?>

<I must decline to contribute my opinion. And I must decline to participate in the choosing of a leader to substitute for my prince. This is a matter for you humans to decide.>

<I'm not denying the danger,> Tobias said slowly. <But like Rachel said, we've got a solid opportunity. The risks are big. But I'm not sure we're free to say no.>

"And Rachel's also saying she wants to be in charge, right?" Marco. "I mean, thats what this is really all about, right?"

I bit back an angry response. If I wanted to lead I had to control myself, first. "No. That's not what I'm saying." I turned to Cassie. "I don't care who's in charge. Cassie can be in charge."

Cassie fitted a dropper into a little squirrel mouth. "No thanks. Brain surgery? Okay. Secret rescue missions to the Yeerk pool? When I have to. But this kind of thing? Not rapid-fire attacks."

"Tobias?" I said. "How about you?"

<No. I'm no one's leader.>

"Much as I hate to admit anyone is superior to me," Marco sighed, "I'd have to say that in terms of intelligence, Ax is our man."

Ax titled his head back almost as if he were posing for a photo shoot.

"But," Marco went on, "and no offense, Ax-man, this job is going to require pretty intimate contact with humans. With, uh, society. And let's face it, you still don't accept Earth hours as your own hours. And your favorite TV shows are 'These Messages.' Not good."

Ax looked offended. <I will abide by whatever decision the-->

"So who's left?" I challenged. "You?"


"Not likely. I'm the one who does hard and fast. And relentless."

"And reckless," Marco shot back.

"While you want to sit around and think every stupid little step to death," I spat. "You've got a Hamlet complex, Marco."

"Yeah and there's a method to my madness. Which is more than I can say about your finer moments."

<Who or what is this Hamlet complex?> Ax asked.

"I'll explain later," Cassie said quickly. "Look, if we're going to have a leader until Jake gets back, we're going to have to choose that leader in the democratic way. We are a team, right?"

<A vote,> Tobias said. <It's the only way.>

Marco snorted. "Beautiful. Let's see. We've got Rachel's best friend and her bird-friend and Ax isn't voting...forget it, man. I'm out."

Marco turned to me and bowed. "Congratulations, your highness. Your wish is my command."

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