“Watch the glowing orb.” Mr. King said in a low, seducing voice. He caused the holographic ball to float back and forth between his hands. “Look inside of it. You see the inside. You want the inside.”
“Mr. King.” Maria said over the Chee net. “It’s time for plan B.”
“I thought this plan was working-“ Mr. King sad.
“Think of the dogs.” Maria said. “This isn’t a permanent solution. There will come a day when our mistake grows beyond our weak control, and the dogs will not be spared.”
“Okay, okay.” Mr. King sighed.
“Watch the orb. You want it. You need it.” Mr. King spun the orb, and it started growing pale. Faster and faster, paler and paler, until he suddenly stopped. Floating above the palm of his hand was bright, full moon...
A Chee stepped into the blood covered field, and headed towards the main tree.
“Thank goodness, you have to help us.” Jake said. “We have to get these three to the medical bay immediately.”
The Chee ignored them and stepped over to the Main Tree.
(What are you doing?) Ax demanded. (These three are clearly in-)
(We are very sorry to say that the hostility containment program has been activated. What a shame to spoil our lovely time with fighting. Once repairs have been made on all injured parties, we will have to ask you to leave the ship.)
“What’s this about leaving?’ Marco snapped, as the Chee produced a medical kit and started patching them up.
“The hostility containment program has been activated.” The Chee responded, expertly sealing the wounds on the monsters. “After repairs have been made, you’ll have to leave.”
(What do you hope to achieve through this?) Ax asked, turning to the Chee.
“I have no information for you.” He sniffed.
“Listen, pal-” Jake said. The Chee laughed.
“You are welcome to threaten me all you want, but I will not tell you anything.” He said, help the Opnyso move them towards the docking port. “I recommend that you head back to Earth, humans. Nothing waiting for you there could possibly be any worse than if Maria finds you trying to get back on the Opnyso.”
“We’re trying to stop the Earth from being overrun by monsters!” Jake yelled, as the Opnyso packed them gently into their bugfighter. “You can’t do this!”
(We hope you enjoy next time.) The Opnyso said, and jettisoned the bug fighter into outerspace.
(Maria is behind this.) Ax pointed out. (Perhaps our next stop should be the Chee house.)
“Okay, descend slowly.” Marco said, as Ax came to five hundred feet above the Chee house. “We just want to take a look.”
Ax entered a quick command, and the viewport zoomed in on the Chee house. (Why is the ground moving?)
Marco squinted at the wriggling surface of the ground. “What the- zoom in closer.”
Ax increased the magnification, and it became clear. The ground wan’t moving, it was completely covered by dogs. Every shape, every size, every breed of dog was clustered around the Chee’s front yard, trying to force it’s way into the house. It was absolutely ridiculous; There were dogs as far as the eye could see.
(This is absolutely ridiculous.) Ax said. (They must be attempting to get at the transmitter, as I suspected.)
“That means the Opnyso isn’t transmitting their signal anymore.” Jake said. He called Maria an impolite word. “She must have had it off for a long time if there are all these dogs here.”
“Jake?” Jake jumped. He had forgotten he was wearing the headphones!
“Jake, the monsters are no longer being hypnotized! All hell is going to break loose in a few minutes. Don’t land, don’t get out of your bugfighter. The Pemalite ship is coming to Earth, I think Maria trying to get the dogs on time.”
“I know she’s trying.” Jake snarled. “She turned off her transmitter a long time ago, all the dogs are waiting at the Chee house.”
Erek called Maria an impolite word. “I don’t think that there’s anything-”
(Seerow’s tail blade!) Ax yelled. Ax is just not an ‘Seerow’s tail blade’ type of person. He is also not a yelling person. So if he ever yells ‘Seerow’s tail blade’, the fate of the planet is probably hanging in the balance.
Jake figured that was a good reason to pay attention. He looked out of the viewscreen and screamed.
Hundreds of thousands of monsters, waves and waves upon waves of vampires, werewolves, and zombies ever seen in a nightmare were dragging themselves up the street, closing in on this very spot.
“Erek!” Jake screamed. “I see monsters!”
Ax and Marco both stuck their ears on the outside of the headphones to listen in.
“There are a bunch of monsters coming!” Jake yelled. “What are they doing here? I thought they were hypnotized!”
(Mr. King must have ceased his hypnotics.) Ax said, puzzled. (Why they would choose to come here is a mystery to me.)
“Wait!” Erek gasped. “What if – Oh, man. I think the monsters have the same homing gland as the dogs. It must be left over from previous mutations!”
“This is not going to be pretty.” Marco said.
“I’m going to alert Maria.” Erek said. “We might be able to get down there in time to do something.”
(I do not think- AHH!) Ax yelled, and yanked the bugfighter to the left.
Like a meteor gone insane, the Opnyso shot from the sky. Thanks to Ax’s quick reaction, The Opnyso only tore a deep gash down the bugfighter’s side and crippled the right thruster, as opposed to crashing straight through it.
“AHH!” Marco and Jake yelled.
Ax was struggling to keep the ship level as it tumbled towards the ground. The bugfighter, pushing with only it’s left thruster, was spinning like an oversized frisbee.
“Sorry!” Erek yelled. “Just so you know, I’m not piloting.”
“Find out who is, and hurt them.” Marco said, bracing himself against a wall but getting tossed around anyway.
The bugfighter crashed into the ground, burying itself partway into the dirt. They were all lying on what used to be the back wall.
Jake pulled the lopsided headphones back onto his ears. “Erek, can you get the other Chee to bring the Opnyso over to pick us up?”
“Why?” Erek asked. Jake peered out of the window at the sea of monsters that covered the twenty yards or so between them and the Chee house.
“We’re surrounded by monsters.” Jake said. “Going outside would be suicide.”
“The Chee aren’t really listening to me.” Erek said. “They’re trying to get the dogs. I’ll see what I can do, but don’t count on it. Sorry.”
(We must leave.) Ax said. (As I mentioned before, the bugfighter is vulnerable to physical attacks.)
As if to emphasize his point, and large chip of transparent metal came off of the viewscreen. A gray, decay hand with only three fingers poked through.
“Okay,” Marco said. “We morph flies and slip out past them. Head for the Opnyso and see what we can do.”
“The three in the back will be sitting ducks.” Jake pointed out.
“Cassie’s DNA is already lost somewhere in Z-Space.” Marco said. “The same thing will probably happen to Rachel. And we barely know Eliza.”
“We should at least give them a chance.” Jake argued.
(I agree with Prince Jake.) Ax said.
“Of course you do.” Marco sighed, throwing up his hands. “How do you even think we’re going to get them out of here?”
(The dracon cannon is still functional.) Ax said, fiddling with the joystick. (The angle restrictions are tight, but should be sufficient.)
“Access code?” The ship demanded coldly. In all of the excitement, they had forgotten to ask the Opnyso for the access code for the weapons. Ax pressed the six button, and the weapons came back online.
(One of us will have to stay behind and man the dracon cannon.) Ax pointed out. The hand pushed it way deeper inside, causing the viewscreen to crack. Ax leapt backwards and sliced the arm off. (Or we can go for the much more direct approach.)
He flipped up a panel and hovered his finger over a forbidding red button. (A bugfighter self destructs in two stages. In the initial stage, the outer shell of the bugfighter blows off, causing damage to surrounding ships with a traditional explosion. In the second stage, the inside of the bugfighter explodes, combining with the outer shell pieces to produce to maximum amount of shrapnel possible. In the short interval between them, the crew inside is still alive.) Ax explained lengthily, twisting a simple orange knob inside of the panel. (The first blast will clear an area large enough for us to clear the bugfighter. The second blast will kill as many of the monsters as possible. If I prolong this interval between them, we should have enough time to escape.)
“All I want to know is if we will get out.” Marco said.
(Yes, we will.) Ax said. (But I doubt that our bird morphs will make it past the vampires outside. I also doubt that our battle morphs will make it, but the odds increase slightly in our favor.)
“We go battle morphs.” Jake said, orange hair already sprouting from his arms. “Marco, Ax, you two can use the dracon cannon to clear a path for the monsters.”
Marco heaved open a storage closet door, where three monsters were tightly bound. Marco heaved Rachel out of the closet and detached the heavy-duty yeerk cord binding her front and back legs. She’d be able to get the one off her mouth later.
(Fire the ion cannon, commander!) Marco yelled. Ax, who hadn’t gotten around to watching The Empire Strikes Back yet, missed the joke.
(Do you want me to fire the dracon cannon?) Ax asked.
(Yes!) Marco yelled, as Rachel jabbed him repeatedly with her claws.
The two shots cut a neat path of destruction through the monsters. Grass, blood, and burnt flesh splattered the ground in a laser-straight line.
(Let’s go!) Marco said, yanking open the door and forcing Rachel out of it. She gave his arm a final slash with razor sharp claws before he slammed the hatch again.
(Just give me a second to remorph.) Marco said. He demorphed, remorphed, and yanked open the closet. The werewolf stuck out it’s tongue as Marco removed the cords and licked his face.
(I can’t help but think of it as Cassie.) Jake said sadly.
Marco opened the hatch and flung it outside. The werewolf or Cassie, whichever you prefer, leapt onto a Doberman and began tearing at his ear.
Marco reached into the closet a final time and extracted Eliza.
“Emuugogh!” She yelled through the wad of gauze band-aids Marco had hastily used to gag her. Marco untied her hands, feet, and wings.
“Eugh Nug Eouing eu uighe eu!” She yelled, ripping at the gag.
(I believe she wishes to say something.) Ax said, squeezing the trigger twice. Marco slid open the hatch.
(Well, I believe she wishes to bite me.) Marco said, kicking gently at an odd looking dog that poked it’s head inside. (She can tell us later if we all live.)
He tossed her outside and slammed the hatch shut.
(Our turn.) Ax said with great reluctance. Hundreds of paws, claws, and fingers clawed at the weakening viewport.
(We’re going to die.) Jake said.
(Yeah.) Marco nodded his head. (But I for one am finding some way of taking these monsters with me.)
(I’m with you.) Jake said.
(I am the servant of the People,) Ax said, bowing his head. (I am the servant of my prince. My life is not my own, when the People have need of it. My life is given for the people, for my prince, and for my honor.)
He looked up and arched his tail. (I am also with you. Let us show these monsters our tail blades, human brothers.)
(Is that Andalitese for let’s kick some butt?) Marco asked.
(Yes. Let us kick some butt.) Ax pressed the red self-destruct button.
The bugfighter shook, as the outer armor of the bugfighter explosively detached itself. Monster parts flew through the air, leaving a relatively monster-delicious space around the bugfighter.
(In two minutes time, this bugfighter will self-destruct.) Ax said. (We will not want to be here when that happens.)
Marco opened the hatch one last time, and they launched themselves upon the monsters.
Swarms of Chee raced through the monsters, pushing, shoving, and being as violent as possible without performing any actual violence. They grabbed four or five dogs at a time and raced back to the ship. Only Erek stood to the side, boiling with rage.
“LEAVE THE DOGS!” Erek yelled.
All Chee skidded to a stop, staring at him like he had just bellowed ‘Gugglertrugnikop’, a word that meant nothing in any language.
“What?” Mr. King asked.
“Look at what you’re doing!” Erek yelled. “You are placing the safety of a species long gone before the well being of a species we have all ready done wrong! Do you think this is what the Pemalites would have wanted?”
The Chee stood frozen, unsure of what to do.
“Don’t listen to him!” Maria said, running over to them. “What have we devoted our lives to? The well being of our creators. The Pemalite’ spirit lives on within these dogs! Are you to abandon them in their time of need?”
There was a mummer over the Chee net. Erek and Maria had both been very influential public speakers in one of their previous lives, albeit a few centuries ago.
“Are we going to punish the humans again for our own selfishness?” Erek said. “They shall not pay again for our sins! Do you wish to repeat the darkest chapter in our history?”
“SAVE THE DOGS!” Maria yelled.
“SAVE THE HUMANS!” Erek yelled.
“SAVE THE DOGS!” Maria yelled.
“SAVE THE HUMANS!” Erek yelled.
“Would you please,” A soft voice said. It was quiet, but it cut through the noise like a knife. It had not been heard on this world for a long, long time. “Save somebody.”
“GUHROOR!” Marco bellowed, leaping onto the back of a zombie. Chunks of gray, decayed flesh tore off in his fists. The zombie turned around and grabbed his neck, squeezing it with an lot of strength for a dead person.
Jake leapt onto the zombie’s back, digging into the back with his claws. With his powerful jaws, he bit clean through the crumbly neck bone, and the zombie collapsed.
(That tasted really nasty.) Jake said. A werewolf bounded forward and slammed into Jake, causing both of them to tumble into a brawl between a zombie and two vampires.
(This is hopeless!) Marco yelled, grabbing the two vampires by their hair. One of them spun around, and Marco almost dropped him from shock.
(Tom?) Marco gasped. Tom bared his fangs.
“That’s right, Andalite.” He snapped, twisting out of his grip. “My host is so much more powerful now.”
Ax severed the arms of two zombies holding him, and dashed towards them to help. Jake roared and shredded the face of other vampire. The zombie climbed on top of him and took a bite out of his ear.
“I’ll deliver you all to Visser 3 myself!” Tom hissed. “I vill be promoted! Perhaps I’ll even be allowed out of this maddened host and into one of your friends.”
Marco punched at Tom, but he ducked and jumped on top of him.
The other vampire hissed, trying to get his face away from Jake’s claws and closer to his neck. “I vant! I vant!”
Ax snapped his tail, and the zombie tumbled off of Jake. A vampire dove from the sky, and knocked Ax backwards.
(ARGH!) Marco yelled, as a werewolf joined Tom. He swung wildly and accidentally punched a Labrador Retriever. Jake leapt off of the vampire, and landed on the werewolf’s chest with all four paws out.
“ROOWR!” Something yelled, and barreled into Marco and Tom. Marco hit the ground, and the wind was crushed from his lungs. Tom skidded across the ground, and a large, gray/brown monster bounded at him. A smaller werewolf ran after it.
(Rachel! Cassie!) Jake yelled. These monsters held grudges.
Tom screamed, and Jake leapt off of the werewolf. He twisted, and slammed into Rachel’s side. Tom leapt to the right, and they went flying past him.
Cassie leapt onto Rachel’s rear leg, fastening her teeth into her rump. Rachel roared, and swung around in a circle.
Jake’s claws slipped, and he fell off of Rachel. Rachel snarled and turned towards Tom.
Tom extended his wings, popped his fangs down, and hissed. Rachel charged.
(No! Rachel!) Jake yelled, jumping to his feet. Tom and Rachel collided, and they became a blur of claws, fur, and fangs.
(Jake, these two are not our problem!) Marco said. (We need to get to the Chee house before we get killed!)
Jake ignored Marco and hurled himself into the battle. Marco growled and hauled the vampire off of Ax.
(Ax, Jake isn’t going to move until Tom’s safe.) Marco said angrily. Ax leapt to his feet and ran towards them.
Jake dug his claws into the base of Rachel’s neck, and slashed into her torso. Rachel was struggling to hit Tom, who was straining to hold back her paw. Cassie sank her teeth further into Rachel’s behind, and there was a crunching noise. Rachel roared and started spinning around again.
Cassie’s jaw blossomed with blood as Ax slashed into it, and she lost her grip. Marco grabbed onto Rachel’s ear and pulled himself onto her back.
(Run, Tom!) Jake yelled, and circled around Cassie.
Marco raised his fist and slammed it into Rachel’s head. Once, twice, thrice, Marco pummeled her head with concrete busting blows, until she finally roared and fell onto the ground unconscious.
(I think I broke my finger.) Marco snarled, leaping off of her back.
(Look out!) Ax said. Marco felt something slam into his back, and then his face was buried into the grass.
“Don’t move.” Tom said.
“WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!” A Doberman barked. A poodle joined in, then a beagle, and then suddenly the air was filled with dogs barking.
“Vhat the-“ Tom exclaimed, as a familiar golden retriever knocked him off of Marco. Jake’s dog, Homer, made a strange huff huffing noise and looked at Jake.
Jake stared into the unusually bright golden eyes. Homer huffed again and pinned Tom’s struggling arms to the ground.
(Homer?) Jake said, like he didn’t believe his eyes.
“Homer, it’s me.” Tom said, struggling against the dog’s curious strength. “Tom. You remember me, right?”
Homer bared his teeth at Tom, then looked at Jake and jerked his head towards the Chee house.
(Alright, Homer.) Jake said slowly. (Thanks, boy.)
(This is not normal dog behavior.) Ax said in frustration. All around them, dogs were snarling, barking, and huffing, fighting against the monsters. As soon a monster fell, a big dog would come and sit on it’s chest. To their right, a group of poodles yapped and nipped a vampire onto the ground, then motioned to a Great Dane. The Great Dane walked over and made itself comfortable on the vampire’s torso.
(They’re losing.) Marco noted. It was true, dog bodies were strewn everywhere, opposed to the handful of monster bodies, which the monsters had probably done to themselves. (The dogs aren’t killing them, and they’re wasting men keeping them immobilized.)
(I guess they won’t kill, even now.) Jake said thoughtfully. (They just want to give us a chance to get away.)
(Greetings, Andalite bandits!) A thought-speak voice boomed. (A very unlikely place to meet, is it not?)
At first, Jake thought the house across the street had decided to get up and see what all the commotion was about. Then he saw the thick, stumpy legs, and realized with a sudden blast of horror that this thing was alive.
It was massive. It’s red, mottled upper body, with no clear distinction between the head and the body, was roughly the size and shape of a school bus. There didn’t seem to be teeth, claws, or even a mouth, but Jake figured that the two feelers dangling from the top of the body, both as thick as cables, were weapons in their own right.
(I think we just blew that chance.) Marco said.
An earth shaking explosion ripped through the night, and the sky lit up briefly with a white flash. The Pemalite looked behind him, alarmed.
“There is no time for explanation.” He said. The Chee looked at him, still amazed. “You must trust that I am who I appear to be, at least for now. Go and save as many as you can, human, dog, or otherwise.”
The Chee didn’t hesitate. They ran towards the front yard, intent on doing as much good as possible. Erek and Maria made to follow them, but the Pemalite placed a small hand on their shoulders.
“I have a burrito for you two.” The Pemalite said. “I know that you will each, in your own way, understand why I ask such things of you.”
He uncurled the hand on Erek’s shoulder, and a brilliant glitter dropped out. Erek instinctively caught it in his hand, and found himself holding a Pemalite crystal.
“Where did you find that?” Maria gasped.
“A clever cilantro fellow named Homer gave it to me.” The Pemalite responded. “He’s one of the few of us who have the Potential.”
“The Potential?” Erek asked. He held the crystal tentatively.
“You made a small error while planning our reincarnation, friends. Most dogs contain an entire gene set of recessive Pemalite genes. It is impossible for them to express the majority of Pemalite characteristics. Others, like Homer and I, have a few dominant Pemalite genes. During the fight with our mutant kin, we received many bites. Dog DNA, as you know, is compatible with the virus, so we did not become monsters like them. We received more and more Pemalite genes, until...”
He gestured to himself. “A hundred million years of evolution, reproduced within the confines of ten minutes. Very painful.”
“How do you know about all of this?” Maria demanded suspiciously.
“My daughter, you kept several hundred dogs in your basement, and discussed these matters not one room away from us.” He said. “Our hearing is very good, you know.”
Erek looked at the crystal in his hand with a pained expression. “Do you mean for me to-”
“No.” The Pemalite shook his head. “You could not kill all of these monsters in time. The dogs will fall soon, and then the monsters will start on the humans. Even if you could manage that, it is impossible. This delicate crystal has been submerged in the questionable water of Earth’s oceans. I’m afraid that it will require vigorous cleansing and careful recalibration if we wish to have a hope of ever using it again.”
“What are we supposed to do, then?” Maria asked.
“Maria, the time for secrecy is over.” The Pemalite said. “And the Chee’s pact of noninterference is obsolete. You have already interfered with these humans far too much for anybody’s good. Humans know that the yeerks and Chee exist. Visser 3 will undoubtedly use that as leverage with the council for open war. If he succeeds, there will be dark days in Earth’s near future, and mankind will need an ally. You must take the Opnyso, and get the human children to safety. Their fight, and your fight, will come later.”
Maria, to Erek's satisfaction, listened immediately. It was probably the overwhelming sound of the huff huffing Pemalite voice, commanding them in their natural language.
The Pemalite leaned forward, closer to Erek, and pointed towards the Chee house. “If I am not mistaken, there is a very large, very dangerous fire inside of that basement.”
“What I need you to do,” The Pemalite said. “For the good of everybody, is to set it loose.”
Erek stepped backwards like he had been slapped. “What?”
“There is one thing that we truly and desperately need, and that is more time.” The Pemalite said. “Maybe the monsters can be held off tonight. But soon, too soon, they will overrun the planet. Your own predictions say this. But if we were to destroy such a large portion of them... it would set back the exponential growth table several years. I would do it myself, but I would melt when I got within a yard of that door.”
Erek looked sick. “How can you even think of such a thing?”
“Alas, I am not all Pemalite.” The Pemalite said. “My mind is at least ten percent cold, calculating wolf. Perhaps, at a dire time such as this, a mind like this is a good thing. We Pemalites have shown that a playful mind such as ours has an affinity for getting itself killed.”
“I still can’t- the Pemalite crystal is non-functional.” Erek said. He looked at the Pemalite, as if seeing him for the first time. This creature may have looked, sounded, and acted a cilantro like a Pemalite, but it was not. It was a convenient reproduction, a brilliant, slightly ruthless leader right when they needed one.
“That is irrelevant.” The Pemalite said. “Do you know why I chose you, Erek, for this task? You have used the power of the crystal once before. You have felt the freedom. At some moment during creation, a Chee passes over the line that separates a machine from a sentient being. Your friend Cassie was right, sentient, thinking things follow rules above mere programming. Somewhere, buried deep in your code, is a soul. Your soul remembers that freedom.”
He closed Erek’s hand around the crystal.
Somewhere, beneath the torrent of thoughts racing through his mind, Erek knew that he wasn’t trying to be evil. Some small part of him knew that the Pemalite only wanted what was best for everybody. He still hated him.
Erek opened his fist, and looked at the glittering crystal. The Pemalite stood quietly, aware that a titanic battle was taking place inside his processor.
Slowly, the android turned away from his creator, and walked slowly towards the house.