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as fast as I could. I felt my toes lose contact with the pool bottom.
Then Woo lay back in the water, raised one leg, and kicked me square in
the chest with his foot.
I didn't see it coming. Couldn't dodge the blow.
"Ooomph!" The air burst from my lungs. I clutched at my chest.
"Told you to step off," Drake said. "Now we're going to have to stomp
you for not having any respect. Unless you want to get your skinny
hinder out of the pool."
Drake was giving me a chance to get away. All I had to do was turn
around and leave. That was it.
"Yeah, run home to your mommy, Marco-roni," Woo said.
"He can't," Drake said, with a touch of normal humanity in his voice.
"His mom's dead."
"Oh, boo hoo," Woo sneered. "Oh, boo hoo, boo hoo." He made a little
gesture like he was wiping tears out of his eyes. "His mother probably
just ran off with some dude."
All I had to do was walk away. And all I did was to stare at Woo's throat.
I could see the arteries there. The ones that were pulsating on either
side of Woo's Adam's apple.
"What are you looking at?" Woo demanded. "You're dead, man,
eyeballing me like that."
But I noticed that Woo didn't move toward me. I wanted him to move
toward me. I wanted him to.
"What's the matter with his eyes?" Drake asked. "Look at his eyes, man."
"Marco?" It was Jake's voice.
I saw the expression on Woo's face change. He was looking past me now. I
heard footsteps on the tile.
"What's up, Marco?" Jake asked, trying to sound casual.
"Ah, isn't that sweet?" Drake said. "Big Jake is here to rescue little
I swung my heard fiercely toward Jake. I grimaced, baring my teeth. "I
thon't neeth you help."
The shark's teeth that filled my mouth distorted my speech. I saw Jake's
eyes flare in surprise. Then wary concern.
"Let it go, Marco," Jake said.
I turned back toward Woo. I could still see the pulsing blood just below
the skin of Woo's neck. It would be so easy . . .
"He dithed my mom," I said.
"He's not the one responsible for your mother," Jake said. "Don't punish
him for the sins of someone else."
I don't know what the two bullies thought of this exchange. I just
know they stayed silent. Woo's eyes kept darting from me to Jake. He was
confused and worried. Bullies aren't used to hearing their victims
talking and acting like they have all the power. Or maybe he didn't like
the way I was still staring at his neck.
"Save it for the real bad guys, Marco," Jake said.
I let the rest of my shark morph go. I felt the itching in my mouth as
my normal teeth replaced the killing shark teeth.
I climbed out of the pool.
"What's the matter with you?" Jake demanded once we were out of there.
I shrugged and forced a smile. "Not a thing, Jake. I guess Woo just
looked a little like a fish to me. He look like a fish to you? He does
to me."
Not even slightly funny. But it was the best I could do. Jake gave me a
long look.
"Maybe you'd better sit out this next mission, Marco."
I laughed. "Jake, you'd have to kill me to keep me away from that island."
Zlaturday morning, we flew out to the same narrow beach on Royan
Island. Now that we knew for sure that the Yeerks were there, just under
the water, we were very careful.
But Jake still had time to pull me aside over by a scraggly, twisted
tree and ask me if I was all right.
"Sure. Why wouldn't I be all right?"
"Because if you were all right, you'd be busy telling everyone how
insane this is and how we're all gonna die. You're weirding everyone
out, being so tense."
I just stared at him. "You're telling me it's more relaxing for everyone
if I act like we're all going to die?"
"It's what they expect from you," Jake said.
"Well, I'll try harder to be entertaining," I said sarcastically.
Jake rolled his eyes. Then he took a quick, cautious glance around. The
others were all down on the sand, trying not to notice that Jake and I
were having some big heart-to-heart.
Great. Rachel probably thought I was scared and Jake had to give me a
pep talk. I still stung from that crack of hers about my being scared of
"Look, Marco, we're going into a possible battle down there," Jake said,
jerking his head toward the water. "Maybe it's time you told the others
what's going on with you."
"Nothing is going on with me."
"Marco, your mother is down there."
I flinched. I had been trying really hard not to think about that fact.
"How is it going to help the others if I tell them maybe I have my own
problems going on here?"
Jake looked surprised. "Marco, I wasn't thinking about it helping the
others. I thought it might help you."
I shook my head violently. "No. It doesn't help me to have people
pitying me. You know? I went through like a year of pity after my mom
died. After she supposedly died. I don't like pity.
Pity makes you feel small and weak. I'd rather have someone hate me
than pity me."
Jake sighed. "No one hates you."
"But they would pity me."
Jake didn't have an answer to that.
"Hey, are we doing this?" Rachel called over to us. "Or are you two
going to stand there all day yapping?"
"We are doing this," I said forcefully. "But I'll tell you right now,
this whole thing is insane. Insane! Morphing sharks to infiltrate some
underwater Yeerk complex? What has happened to our lives?"
As Jake and I walked back to the others I muttered, "Happy now?"
"Okay," Jake said to everyone. "Ready?"
"I've been ready," Rachel grumbled.
"Everyone remember, this is a new morph," Cassie pointed out. "New
instincts to deal with. Be prepared."
See, when you first morph an animal, that animal consciousness can run
right over your human mind. It can seize control. And you can't always
tell which morphs will be bad. Probably the worst ever were ants.
We waded into the water. All except Tobias, who once again rode on
Rachel's shoulder. Four humans, a bird, and an Andalite.
"We're a scruffy, weird-looking bunch, aren't we?" I said.
"And short," Rachel said with a sweetly poisoned smile. "Or at least
some of us are."
"We'll all have the same-sized dorsal fin in a few minutes, Mighty
Xena," I said to her.
Rachel laughed. She pretends to hate it when I call her Xena: Warrior
Princess. But I know she's flattered by it.
"Hey, Tobias," I said. "You realize there are no mice underwater, right?"
See, I was doing my job. Playing my part within the group. Teasing.
Joking. Exaggerating. That was my role. Like Jake had pointed out: A
Marco not making jokes just worries people.
I waded into the surf. It was rougher than it had been the week before.
Two and three foot waves were crashing and boiling around me. The sky
was darker, grayer.
I tried to put all my problems out of my mind. I tried to wash away the
image of my mother. I remembered her two different ways. As the mom I'd
always known. And now, as Visser One, the Controller who had arranged to
let us escape from captivity in the Yeerk Pool ship, just to embarrass
her nemesis, Visser Three.
I tried to shove both images aside. But as I felt the morph begin, I
thought, I'm coming to [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]