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:: #50 The Ultimate
:: Book Six of Story Arc
:: Book Overview

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Narrator: Cassie

Cover Morph: Cassie to Owl

Release Date: January 2001

Cover Quote: Now there are no more secrets..

Plot Summary: Really big trouble is an understatement these days. The war between the Yeerks and the Animorphs is full on - and it's definitely going to get worse. But Cassie, the other Animoprhs, and Ax have a lot more going on than just trying to stay alive. Now they've got to actively protect their families and the free Hork Bajir. And they no longer believe they can do it alone. The Yeerks are just too powerful.

So Cassie and the others have to ask themselves a very important question: Is it time to increase their numbers? They all remember too well what happened with David - the Animorph gone bad. But this time do they really have a choice?



:: Sample Chapter

Rachel's sisters gathered protectively around their mother. Jordan took her hand. "I don't think you're useless, Mommy," she whispered.

A tear rolled down Sara's cheek.

Naomi swallowed hard and lifted her chin. Her eyes hardened and she looked at the two Hork-Bajir guards. "Don't touch me again," she said coldly. "Don't touch anyone in my family. If you do, I'll..." She broke off. Swallowed, gulped and tried again. "If you do I'll..."

Finally, the reality was dawning on her. It was a slow seep, but the truth was finally penetrating.

Rachel's tough-as-nails lawyer mother was realizing how incredibly vulnerable we all were.

I heard Marco swallow a laugh and turn away. His were the only set of parents that had accepted their position as guerilla warriors -- and as refuges.

Tears trickled down Naomi's face. It felt wrong to be watching her and doing nothing to help ease her pain. But would Naomi take comfort from her daughter's accomplice?

From a kid?

Then Eva joined the awkward group. Put her arm around Naomi's shoulders. "It takes a while to accept," she said softly. "Come on. Let's talk."

Slowly, the two women walked toward Eva's cabin. Jordan and Sara followed closely.

"Can you talk to Rachel?" I said quietly to Jake. "She explodes at her mom and it just makes Naomi more determined not to deal with this."

Jake's voice was impatient. "I've tried to talk to Rachel and she won't listen. So, no, I won't talk to her again. And no, I don't want to talk to you about my feelings."

I stood perfectly still, not trusting myself to move. I felt as if I'd been slapped.

Jake lowered his eyes, turned and walked away.

I stalked after him. "Jake! Things are falling apart."

He whirled on me. His eyes were wild and dark. For the first time since I'd known and loved Jake, I felt afraid of him. Afraid of what he might become.

"You think I don't know that? I know we're slipping up. Making mistakes. I know we're at each other's throats. And I know that if it weren't for Toby, this whole camp would probably be just a scar on the ground by now. What I don't know, Cassie, and this is the hard part . . . What I don't know is what I'm supposed to do about it."

I'd heard the expression, 'my heart almost broke'. Now, I knew what it meant.

I put my anger aside and fell into step beside Jake.

"It's going take time," I said calmly. "These people, our parents, have been dragged into this -- into a refuge camp -- against their wills. Their world has been torn apart. We have to respect their reluctance to fight alongside us. But, Jake, somebody's got to take charge."

"Fine. You take charge."

"No," I said firmly. "I'm not a leader, Jake. You are. You're going to have to talk to my parents. And to Rachel's mother and sisters. Even Tobias's mom."

"Why should they listen to me?" Jake countered. "Look at the situation. We're hiding in the forest, living on the charity of the Hork-Bajir. If you were a adult -- or even another kid, not Cassie -- would you listen to me? No, you wouldn't. So why don't you just leave me alone?"

He looked at me. Then turned his head.

"Please, Cassie."

Jake quickened his step and left me behind.

"Stop feeling sorry for yourself," I called after him. Desparate.

He didn't stop.

"You're a coward!"

The moment the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them.

Jake stopped. Turned. His face was a stranger's. "What did you call me?"

He'd heard me. Too late to take back the words. "A coward," I repeated, flinching. "Now that it's the final crisis, you're turning chicken on us."

I didn't expect his weary laugh. "I'm not chicken," he said. "I'm just trying to give everybody a fighting chance. I'm not going to insist people do what I say when I don't have the slightest idea what's right or wrong. What's smart or stupid. Cassie, it's my fault we're on the run. You can't deny that."

I took a deep breath and tried to sound reasonable. Reached for his hand and held it tight.

"Maybe you're right, Jake. And maybe you're wrong. Maybe you are a great leader, afterall."

He tried to pull away but I wouldn't let him go.

"No, Jake. Listen to me. If that's the truth, you have to take charge. And if you really are a failure and it really is all your fault, then it's your responsibility to get us out of here. We need a leader, Jake. Either way, it has to be you."

It was a cheap shot. Jake's Achilles' heel has always been his sense of responsibility. I could see him weakening.

"Marco can be in charge," he said helplessly. Again he pulled his hand away. This time I let him go. "He's smarter than I am. Or Tobias. Or Ax. Or you. Rachel. Anyone. Anyone but me. You know why I was even in charge in the fist place, Cassie? Because once upon a time, a long time ago, Marco said I was."

"Jake, that's not the whole truth..."

"Well, now my term of office is over," he continued bitterly. "So how about for once you guys figure things out and tell me what to do."

Then he turned and walked away.

And just kept walking.

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