Aug 12, 2020 7:37 PM
imrainai, miles, aaron, stevenchainsaw, andalite!lynne, and nothlit duane vs The Entire Yeerk Empire
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Maybe there are not any lurking piles of bricks, then. There are probably rusty nails or something, but maybe Merry can survive tetanus. 

On the other hand, it's not too late to give up and try sleeping in the French classroom! 

Except then she'd have to tell everyone where she was going, and they'd look at her funny, and she'd have to explain her reasoning, and worst-case they'd think she was right and they'd all end up sleeping in the French classroom, and then they don't have an alarm so people would just find them like that in the morning, and then she'd never get the stains out of her honor.

Maybe if she mentally recites psalm twenty-three or something. Maybe they'll find a payphone before she runs out of psalm.

"As long as we don't touch anything," she mutters, and then ducks through the hole in the fence.

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Merry and his brother follow, slipping easily through the gap.

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Nick has a little more trouble, on account of he's so unreasonably tall, but he manages.

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The construction site seems minimally hazardous, actually. There's big piles of dirt and small piles of dirt and some stacks of pipes all bound securely together, and it's pretty easy to find a clear flat path with good enough visibility to avoid the small rocks and drifts of windblown leaves.

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Cool, cool, cool. This is strictly better than having to be tried for murder. Now if they can just make it out of the construction site, they can look around, and someone else will figure out which building is most likely to have a phone in it, and she will not have to make any more decisions and can get on with being lectured by her parents about her general irresponsibility.

She follows the path.

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Merry traipses cheerfully along beside her, hands in his pockets, and encounters absolutely zero rusty nails.

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Lucky takes a little more care with his footing, and lags a little behind, but also seems pretty chill about their twilit abandoned construction site adventure.

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Nick trails quietly along at the rear of the group. It's hard to tell what if anything he is thinking, and surprisingly easy to forget he's even there.

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The last faint glow of sunset fades from the horizon, and a handful of stars struggle to make their presence known in the light-polluted sky.

And then—

That blue-white streak in the sky is too quick and bright, and moving too erratically, to be a commercial aircraft. And meteors aren't generally known to take evasive maneuvers.

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She stops walking and stares.

Probably someone's misbehaving model aircraft, or - ?

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Merry stops too, and follows her gaze, squinting into the sky.

"...thaaaat's not an airplane," he says, concerned yet intrigued.

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"What do you mean, what's not a—oh. Ohhh. Wow."

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Nick doesn't say anything at all, but he stops with the rest of them.

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"It could be, like, one of those secret military things?"

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"That's... probably a more sensible theory than what I'm thinking..."

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"Pretty sure it's aliens," says Lucky.

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The light in the sky comes nearer by the second.

It is indeed not an airplane, model or otherwise.

It's an egg-shaped craft with two stubby wings that trail blue-white fire from their tips, and a curving tail that projects from the back end to arc forward over the rounded body and aim its ominous pointiness at whatever lies ahead.

The moment when it notices them is clear, because it banks, veers shakily toward them, and descends to make a landing on the hard-packed dirt not much more than thirty feet away.

A panel on the side pops open in a puff of unspecified vapours, and someone—or something—stumbles out. Parts of the silhouette seem humanoid; parts seem... deerlike? Whatever it is, it moves like it's badly wounded.

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Well.

It's not going to be an alien, aliens aren't real, it's going to be - some kind of injured soldier of indeterminate nationality, probably, which - she's not sure if that means she should stay back or - 

 

" - do you need help?" she calls out, like a dumbass, while she's deciding whether to head over to him.

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<Yes, and then again no.>

The smoke clears.

Well, it's very possible that that's an injured soldier, and his nationality is indeed pretty hard to determine, but her assumption that he's not an alien may need revisiting in light of the fact that he is staggering away from his ship on four unsteady hooves, scanning his surroundings with four bright glittering eyes of which two are in roughly the position you would expect to see eyes on his roughly human-shaped head and two are set on the ends of short flexible tendrils that twist and curl to point them in every direction. He has arms, located about where you would expect to see arms on his roughly human-shaped torso, but that torso is connected to a body like a deer's, and the whole assemblage is covered in short blue fur.

A deep gouge marks his side, running all the way from the shoulder of his right foreleg back to the base of his long muscular tail. The fur around it looks charred, and it's bleeding in several places, some more heavily than others. He turns his head toward the group, stumbles, and sinks to the ground in a graceless heap.

<I am going to die,> the alien says matter-of-factly, in a soundless voice that speaks directly into their minds.

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" - someone should - run for the payphone and call 911 or something - " she murmurs, not entirely sure whether she actually believes this is the right course of action. She always kind of figured that if aliens landed she would be way more prepared for this than for most of her normal problems, on account of she's probably spent an excessive amount of time thinking about it, but she doesn't feel particularly prepared at all right now. And she feels like someone should apply pressure to the wound, but she doesn't know how, it's too big.

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<Do not do that,> says the alien, in the sort of tone that leaves no room for argument. <The Yeerks will have infiltrated your emergency services.>

His stalk eyes scan the sky continually while he sweeps his main eyes' glittering gaze across the group.

<There isn't much time. I will have to be brief.>

And then—a whole story flashes into their heads, almost all at once, images and concepts streaming past so quickly that it feels more like remembering a movie you've already seen and know the plot of by heart than listening to someone tell a story.

It begins on a faraway planet, where strange creatures roam over barren muddy ground under a crackling green sky. A lopsided blue ape—Gedd—crouches next to a pool of murky grey water. A slug—Yeerk—emerges from the water and crawls into the Gedd's ear. The Gedd waits patiently for the Yeerk to wrap around its brain, then the combined entity of host and symbiote strides away from the pool, moving more purposefully, squinting at its surroundings with a new alertness in its dull eyes. Together they have the intelligence of the Yeerk, and the senses and mobility and tool-manipulation capacity of the Gedd. They separate every few days so the Yeerk can swim in waters irradiated by the rays of Kandrona, their sun, absorbing nutrients the Gedd's brain can't provide. This is a Yeerk in its ancestral environment. This is how they lived, before—

A spaceship lands.

Blue centaur aliens—Andalites—emerge from the ship and look around curiously. One—Seerow—is particularly fascinated by the Gedds and their Yeerk passengers. He spends hours, days, weeks, talking with them, teaching them, learning from them. He wants to show them the stars.

The other Andalites are more hesitant, worried about the consequences of handing out spaceflight to a society of brain-infesting slug people. They caution Seerow to slow down. There are arguments.

Then the Yeerks attack. They kill several Andalites and steal a spaceship. They have a portable Kandrona, built with Seerow's help; they're not tied to their home planet anymore. They can go where they want, take what they want.

The Andalites are furious. A law is passed. Seerow's Kindness. No Andalite may ever, ever share advanced technology with a non-Andalite again. They must never repeat their mistake.

Meanwhile, the Yeerk Empire grows. The Andalites fight them, but interstellar war is not common and neither side has much practice. Mistakes are made. The Yeerks establish a foothold in the galaxy. They find other inhabited planets and enslave entire species. Taxxons—soft worms with lightning reflexes and eternal ravenous hunger, whose leaders signed away their entire species to the Yeerks in exchange for a promise that Taxxon hosts would be fed in more abundance than their home planet could offer. Hork-Bajir—a simple, peaceful people, whose strong bodies and blade-studded limbs are built for climbing the magnificent trees of their homeworld and cutting bark to eat; the Yeerks took them by force, and now use them as shock troops.

And now, humans.

The Yeerks are trying a different approach, here on this planet with its billions of potential hosts not united by any central authority. Slow infiltration, taking hosts by stealth, avoiding widespread attention so that by the time anyone not under their control realizes they're here it will be too late to fight back. Coaxing some people to be voluntary hosts, taking others by force for their strategic value or as an information security measure or just because it's convenient.

The Andalites fought a battle for Earth, just now. This one—Alvandar—was part of it. They lost. (An image of a great ship, flickering in and out of visibility and trailing smoke as it plunges through the atmosphere toward the ocean.) More Andalites might be coming, or they might not. They might abandon Earth to the Yeerks.

Alvandar does not want to abandon Earth to the Yeerks.

There is a technology. Created originally for scientific and entertainment purposes, to allow Andalites to experience the concrete perspective of other beings, fly through the sky as birds or even transform themselves into members of alien species. A shining blue cube, each side palm-sized—Escafil Device—grants the power to morph.

<I have an Escafil Device in my ship,> he sends. <They'll have trouble putting me on trial for my Kindness after I bleed to death. If you want to help me—take it. Bring it out here. I'll give you morph. It's not much, but on a planet with this level of biodiversity, I think it'll be more powerful than the Yeerks expect. Find them. Spy on them. Disrupt their operations. I'm sorry to lay this responsibility on a handful of children, but there's no time.>

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This entire situation is really completely ridiculous, but she doesn't have a better explanation than the one she's been given - she's not dreaming, dreams don't feel like this, everything's too solid - so -

She nods and runs past him into the ship.

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It's small and built for centaur people and has viewscreens wrapping around the whole front half of the interior space that make it feel much bigger. There's a holographic picture of some blue centaur aliens, maybe his friends or family, standing together on a field of alien grass under an alien sky.

The shiny blue cube is on a sort of pedestal thing near the back, and comes away easily when she lifts it. It's a little heavier than glass, maybe. Very pretty.

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"What the fuck," says one of the twins, very quietly.

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"...How do we know you're the good aliens?"

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