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:: #43 The Test
:: Book Overview

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Narrator: Tobias

Cover Morph: Tobias to Taxxon

Release Date: June 2000

Cover Quote: Tobias is about to face his biggest fear...

Plot Summary: Tobias, the other Animorphs, and Ax have seen things so bizarre that no sane person would believe their story. No one would believe that aliens have taken over the Earth, and are in the process of infesting as many humans as possible. No one could believe the battles and missions and losses these six kids have had to deal with. And it's not over yet.

Tobias has been captured by the same human-Controller that nearly tortured him to death once before. She claims that now she's a part of the Yeerk peace movement. That she just needs a favor. Tobias isn't sure what to believe, but he knows that if the Animorphs and Ax don't find him soon, what he believes won't matter anymore...



:: Sample Chapter

"Is she insane?" Marco cried. He'd ditched the ski cap and sunglasses but the headphones still hung around his neck.

"Yes. I believe we established that during our last encounter." Ax, of course. He'd gone from seagull to Andalite to eerily attractive human boy in a Dumpster conveniently located behind the bookstore.

"Taxxon! I'd rather morph E. coli. I'd rather morph an ant again."

"That's kind of what Taxxons are like, isn't it?" Jake said. "Brainless, driven, starved."

"Who knows?" Rachel shrugged impatiently. In the time between demorphing from cat and joining the rest of us, Rachel had slipped into The Gap and bought a couple of T-shirts. No moss grows on that girl. "But I can handle it. I'm in."

"Whoa." Cassie held up an arm. "Wait a minute. Who says we're even gonna do this?"

I'd demorphed in the Border's bathroom. Jake had left a bag of clothing behind a trash container. I remorphed as my human self, and crossed the street to the mall. Now I sat in the food court listening to my friends freak out. "When do we have to give her an answer?" Jake asked me.

"We don't. We just show up at the natural gas pumping facility tonight. Or we don't."

"Answer me this," Marco said, rolling a plastic straw between his palms. "If Taxxons are all Controllers, why doesn't She-Yeerk just ask a fellow Controller with a Taxxon host to do the digging?"

I explained. "She says Yeerks are only ever partly in control of their Taxxon hosts. It's impossible to master the Taxxon hunger, the murderous tendencies, the cannibalistic urges. Taxxon hosts are given only to low-ranking Yeerks and, big surprise, soon they're more Taxxon than Yeerk."

"But I've seen them take orders. I've watched Taxxons move on command," Marco persisted. "They fly Bug fighters for..."

"Right. But no one would ever trust a Taxxon to be part of a conspiracy. You can't count on a guy who'll sell out for a chunk of rotting meat. Most of her allies are human-Controllers, anyway," I added.

Ax broke in. "I was once told that controlling a Taxxon morph is like facing the ultimate temptation. Tay-shun. Shun-uh. The more you resist the temptation, the stronger it becomes, until it ends by carrying you so far beyond the realm of conscious, controllable thought you become lost in the Taxxon's most basic instincts."

"Well then, what am I waiting for?" Marco said sarcastically, "Sign me up! An army of cold, power-hungry Yeerks can't control the Taxxons. Not to worry. The short kid who got a B-minus in gym won't have any problems." Rachel smirked. "You got a B-minus in gym?"

Marco rolled his eyes and looked exasperated. "People, if the Yeerks can't control a Taxxon, how in the world can we?"

"Taylor says we'd only stay morphed for short periods," I said, feeling like her press secretary. Like part of her team. It was definitely weird. "And we'd morph one at a time, surrounded by enough force to control any out-of-control behavior."

Jake frowned. Marco looked skeptical. Cassie's eyes were darkening with some serious issues. We all needed to think. Ax wanted to eat. So, Marco and Jake volunteered to get food.

Cassie, Rachel and Ax sat silently. I looked around. It was Friday, so the food court was crowded. Packed with a bunch of normal people, leading normal lives. Ordinary, mundane, wonderful lives. All these normal people -- moms and dads, kids and grandparents -- represented the very thing we were fighting for. Humanity.

Marco returned and set nachos for me and Ax on the table. I wasn't very hungry. I wasn't used to eating with others around and there were people everywhere. Very different from my life as a hawk. When you're a hawk, you get nervous when you can't feed in peace. Someone could swoop in and steal your dinner. Or someone could swoop in and eat you.

Jake reappeared and placed a large plastic tray piled with two hamburgers, three fries, a veggie wrap, and three large plastic cups on the table.

"Cassie, veggie wrap and orange soda for you," he said, handing her one of the cups and the sandwich. "7-up, Rachel. Coke, me. So," he added, sitting, "where are we?"

"Seems clear enough to me," Rachel said with a mouth half-stuffed with hamburger. "Destroying the Yeerk Pool can only be a good thing. It's the chance we've been waiting for. It could be the beginning of the end." She paused and swallowed. "Let's fry some Yeerk butt."

"I agree with Rachel," Ax said, looking up from the plastic Radio Shack bag he was rummaging through and reaching for a tub of nachos. "Strategically speaking, this is a very interesting opportunity. Even in spite of the risk." Jake looked up at me with an encouraging nod.

"Just remember, she can't be trusted," I reminded everyone. "She..." I paused. The others were looking at me like they were being extra careful to be polite. Just like at the barn, they were waiting for me to finish. No interruptions. No snide remarks.

The Borders meeting should have proved to them that I was over the fear! I'd handled it fine. I wasn't the one who'd broken down.

I tried to sound extra calm and sure of myself so they would stop worrying, stop doubting. "Even if she doesn't have it in for us, our work is only going to make her more power hungry. You can count on it. It's not like she's suddenly had a change of heart. That democracy stuff has got to be BS."

"Absolutely," Marco said. "A free Yeerk society? Give me a break. Let's just imagine the scenario for a second. Everyone in favor of having his free will replaced by a slimy, stinking slug that will take over his brain, say, 'yea.' Those opposed say, 'nay.'"

"Okay," Jake interrupted. "We get it. We all admit that Taylor can't be trusted. Marco and Tobias saw her lose it at Borders. She's obviously got some problems. But even given the weirdness, I think we agree this could be one of the most important missions we've had."

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