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:: #51 The Absolute
:: Book Seven of Story Arc
:: Book Overview

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Narrator: Marco

Cover Morph: Marco to Duck

Release Date: February 2001

Cover Quote: The countdown has begun...

Plot Summary: The Yeerks have taken over units of the National Guard with plans to infest all of its officers and soldiers. The plan seems to be to step things upóuse the Guard to prepare for an all-out war on Earth. The Animorphs couldn't be less prepared. They're living with the free Hork-Bajir colony, Jake is depressed, and worst of all, the morphing cube is in the hands of the enemy.

Marco and the others know they need to take serious action to stop the Yeerk infiltration of the Guard. They decide to approach the governoróbut they don't know if she's a controller or not. If she is, they're walking right into enemy hands. If she's not, the Animorphs are finally going public with their secret. And no one knows which situation is worse...



:: Sample Chapter

Jake frowned. "So, where did you leave the tank?"

Tobias and I looked at each other.

We were back in the Hork-Bajir valley, seated around the campfire outside my parents' cabin. Crickets hummed. The setting sun bathed the valley in amber rays. Champ, Tobias's mom's dog, drowsed at our feet. It was peaceful. It was lovely.

It was a council of war.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff were all present. Me, Tobias, Rachel, Cassie, Jake and Ax. And, since we'd moved to the valley, we'd added two more members.

Toby, the Hork-Bajir seer. Seer, meaning smarter than the average Hork-Bajir. Meaning two-plus-two actually held some meaning for her. So did quantum physics.

The second new member was my mother.

"The tank." I took a breath. "Well, you know Chapman's house? Nice two-story?"

Jake sighed. "How many stories is it now?"

"Uh . . ." I glanced at Tobias. "Zero? But the back deck will give Chapman a nice supply of firewood this winter. It's already piled up for him."

Tobias smiled. "Too bad he doesn't have a fireplace anymore."

"Excuse me?" said Rachel. "You flattened Melissa's house?"

She stared at me. She and Melissa Chapman used to be friends. Back before Melissa's dad became a Controller and Rachel became an Animorph.

She turned on Tobias. "And you went along with it?"

"Whoa. Down, girl," I said. "You're just mad because you didn't get to drive a tank. Nobody got hurt. Nobody was home. Not even Fluffer McNutter or whatever that stupid cat's name is."

"Fluffer McKitty," she said.

"Oh. Excuse me. Fluffer McKitty. That's so much better. Anyway, they're all fine. Melissa, her parents, her cat."

Tobias nodded. "They're just, well, homeless."

Rachel shook her head. Looked to Jake to back her up.

Jake said . . . nothing.

We waited for his reprimand. For his poorly concealed amusement. For his: "That's not exactly what I meant by low profile, Marco." All the normal Jake stuff.

The fire popped. Somebody's nylon jacket squeaked. Ax nailed a mosquito with his wicked Andalite tail.

Jake sighed again and poked the campfire with a stick.

I frowned. Looked at Ax. He shrugged, one of the human gestures he'd picked up.

Since we'd evacuated to the valley, Jake had been like a robot on autopilot. I didn't know how to talk to him anymore. This was Jake. My best friend since second grade, and I couldn't even have a superficial, meaningless conversation with him.

Let alone try to get into his head.

Part of it was me. My guilt. Yeah, big news flash, call the Associated Press, Marco feels guilty. Well, wouldn't you? My family was safe, recovered, together, while Jake's had been torn away from him. There was only a very slim chance he'd ever get them back.

But that wasn't exactly why I felt guilty.

I felt guilty because I was so happy. Happy my mom was back. Happy that she and my dad were still nauseatingly in love. My best friend had lost everything that had ever meant anything to him. Meanwhile, I practically had to tie myself to a tree to keep from running up and down the valley, arms spread wide, belting out tunes from The Sound of Music.

I glanced at Cassie. She sat on top of the old picnic table Ax and I had found and dragged to the camp. Back from the fire. Back from the whole group.

I figured if anybody could get through to Jake, Cassie could. I mean, she's Cassie, for pete's sake. But since our last mission, since the Yeerks had stolen the morphing cube, Jake was more distant from her than from anybody. Distant? Where Cassie was concerned, Jake had completely closed down. Like an iron door had slammed shut.

"But did you get any information?" Toby looked at Tobias, then me. She was crouched in the grass, the light from the smoldering logs intensifying the fire in her Hork-Bajir eyes. "Did you discover anything useful?"

Tobias scratched Champ's ears. "You mean before we stole government property, endangered innocent motorists, and leveled a moderately-priced suburban home?"

"Yes." She nodded. "Before all of that."

"Well, we did manage to get a good look at the train," I said. "The National Guard wasn't moving those tanks. Not the regular, uninfested National Guard anyway."

"The uninfested National Guard." Jake nodded. Stirred the fire. "We've been assuming there still is such a thing." He turned to my mom. "Eva, is there any chance we're wrong?"

"No." Mom shook her head. "If Visser Three had taken over the National Guard while I was Visser One's host body, I'd have known about it. What am I saying? Everybody would've known about it. Visser Three would've made sure."

"What about since then?" said Jake. "Since he was promoted to Visser One?"

"No." Mom shook her head again. "Not enough time. We're talking thousands of soldiers, spread out over the entire state. And they're not on active duty. They're weekend warriors, so most of the time they're not even with their units. This is a huge operation. It'd take months to plan, months more to execute."

"Okay." Jake paced. Poked his stick at the fire. "With all the troop movement of the last few days, we can assume the planning stage is over. The execution stage is beginning. We can also assume at least some of the highest ranking officers are Controllers. Otherwise, the Visser wouldn't be able to get all those soldiers into the city. They'll all be infested. Soon. We can't let that happen."

<But can we stop it?> said Ax. His blue fur gleamed in the firelight. <Even with James and the other new Animorphs, are we big enough? Strong enough?>

"No. We're not. We need help." Pace. Pace. Poke. "So, we split up. One group is the in-your-face group." Jake glanced at Rachel. "That group creates chaos with the National Guard troops. Keeps them away from the Yeerk pool as long as possible. They're stationed all over the city, so we'll have to keep moving to hit all the bases. But it'll also split Visser One's resources, trying stop us. It'll keep him busy. Buy us some time."

"We have been planning to liberate the group of Hork-Bajir that guard The Sharing headquarters," said Toby. "We can be ready to go in the morning."

"Good." Jake nodded. Paced. Poked. "That'll be one more fire Visser One has to put out. Group Two will be smaller, quieter. They'll need to show a little more finesse."

"Finesse?" Rachel shot me a sideways look. "Oh, yeah. Some of us are so good at that." "We'll have to be," said Jake. "Because only one person has enough authority to stop the movement of National Guard troops. The governor. Group Two has to travel to the capital. Get to the governor somehow. Convince him to help us."

"I'll go," Cassie said.

"No," Jake replied, practically before the words were out of her mouth.

Cassie froze. Stared at him.

Jake didn't even look at her.

Instead, he gave me a sarcastic half-smile. A glimpse of the old Jake. "If anybody can handle a politician, it's Marco. And Tobias can get to the capital without getting lost. We also need to make sure the governor isn't a Controller, and Ax is the most qualified to judge. So that's the second group. Marco, Ax, and Tobias."

That's when he finally looked at Cassie. Locked his gaze on her. "I can trust them," he said.

Silence. Like he couldn't trust Cassie? Okay, so Cassie would probably want to rescue an old-growth forest or two on the way to the governor's mansion. That didn't mean Jake couldn't trust her. Cassie was the most trustworthy person I knew.

But Jake just turned his back on her. "I'll be with Group One. Rachel. Toby and some of her people. James's group, too. We'll try to stir up some major chaos before midnight. Marco, you need to reach the governor some time tomorrow. Doesn't matter exactly when, just get there."

He stopped pacing. Stopped poking the fire. Looked at me. At Ax and Tobias. "I know this sounds melodramatic, but we can't fight this war alone anymore. We need the authorities on our side. If the governor is free, you have to convince him. If he's a Controller, well, you have to find a way to replace him with the lieutenant governor. The entire outcome of the war depends on your succeeding."

"Oh. Well," I said. "As long as there's no pressure."

"And try to keep it quiet. We don't need Visser One figuring out what we're up to." The half-smile again. "And the capitol city doesn't need more firewood. I'm counting on you for a little self-control."

"Self-control? Marco?" Rachel shook her head. "We are in serious trouble."

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