Megamorphs #4: Back to Before, published in April 2000 and written by K.A. Applegate, is the fourth and final book in the Megamorphs series, a set of companion books to the Animorphs series. With respect to continuity, it takes place between The Other and The Familiar. It is narrated by all six members of the Animorphs.
What would you do if you had the opportunity to change your life? Not just where you live or who you hang out with, but your past, present, and future? Sounds like it might be pretty cool, right? Well, that's what Jake thought. He thought it might be easier if the Animorphs had never existed. If they'd never met Elfangor. If they all had the chance to be "normal" kids.
Jake gets his wish.
But things aren't quite as simple as they seem. Just because the Animorphs no longer exist doesn't mean the Yeerks no longer exist. Except now Jake, Rachel, Tobias, Cassie, and Marco can't morph. They don't even know the Yeerks are out there. And it's not such a wonderful life...
After a particularly vicious battle, Crayak sends the Drode to tempt Jake into accepting an alternate reality in which the Animorphs did not walk home through the abandoned construction site, did not meet Elfangor, and did not gain their powers.
The results are drastic: a friendless Tobias joins The Sharing, and is infested by a Yeerk named Odret 177, who is later revealed as a spy for Visser One, and is subsequently killed. Marco runs into his mother, but she escapes before he can confront her, and he ends up dating Rachel. Jake discovers that his brother Tom is involved with dangerous dealings after a Yeerk security leak. And all the while, Cassie has a strong feeling that all is not right. Ax manages to escape from his Dome Ship, and begins to warn the people of Earth about the Yeerk presence.
The Yeerk response is immediate: they abandon their silent invasion and launch all-out warfare. In the ensuing chaos, Marco, Rachel and Cassie are all killed, although Cassie mysteriously returns to life and kills Visser Three. Ax commandeers the Blade ship and aims all of its weapon at the Pool ship in order to end the invasion of Earth, at which point the Drode and the Ellimist temporarily stop time, returning the deceased characters to life and returning everyone's memories. The Drode complains that the events in this timeline are doomed to cause failure, and the Ellimist reveals that Cassie is an anomaly, a rare individual who is grounded in the true timeline and will disrupt any other timelines that try to take its place, thereby explaining Cassie's feeling that something was not right. It is also revealed that the Ellimist manipulated events (or as the Drode exclaims in disgust "stacked the deck") to ensure that Cassie, Marco, Tobias, and Ax (the anomaly, the son of Visser One's host, Elfangor's time-shifted son and Elfangor's brother) were predestined to become Animorphs.
The Ellimist restores everything to as it was, with only Cassie retaining the memories of this altered timeline, deciding not to share the adventure with the other Animorphs. Back in Jake's room, the Drode decides not to try to tempt Jake into accepting the alternate reality.
- Visser Three
- Tom / Temrash 114
- Hedrick Chapman / Iniss 226
- Bill (Only Appearance)
- Odret 177 (Only Appearance) (Death)
- Eva / Edriss 562
- Council of Thirteen (Mentioned Only)
- Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul (Mentioned Only)
- Steve (Mentioned Only)
- Loren (Mentioned Only)
- Peter (Mentioned Only)
- Walter (Mentioned Only)
- Michelle (Mentioned Only)
- Naomi (Mentioned Only)
- Bill Clinton (Mentioned Only)
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic
- Dome ship
- Yeerk pool
- Blade ship
- Abandoned Construction Site (Mentioned Only)
- The Gardens (Mentioned Only)
- Andalite homeworld (Mentioned Only)
- Pool ship (Mentioned Only)
- Dome ship
- Bug fighter
- Blade ship
- Dracon beams
- Elfangor's fighter (Mentioned Only)
- Pool ship (Mentioned Only)
- After another deadly and gruesome battle, Jake is paid a visit by the Drode, who offers to alter time so that the Animorphs never walked through the Abandoned Construction Site, thereby preventing them from meeting Elfangor, learning about the Yeerk invasion or gaining their powers. In a moment of weakness, despite wishing to refuse, Jake accepts.
- Time is reset back to the beginning of The Invasion, where the five kids take the long route home. Over time, Tobias stops latching on to Jake and, after being assaulted by bullies, joins The Sharing, where he becomes a Controller. His Yeerk, Odret 177, is loyal to Visser One and pretends to be a representative of the Council of Thirteen, preventing Visser Three from launching open warfare and stating that it is the Council's order. When Visser Three discovers the lie, he has both Tobias and Odret executed.
- Cassie hears a voice calling for help from the ocean and has memories of Marco in her barn, despite the fact that he has never been there, as well as flashes of a red-tailed hawk she believes should be in the rafters of the barn and an alien named Ax.
- During a school field trip to the museum, Marco flirts with Rachel and asks her to go out with him. However, Marco's mother is suddenly transported from the Pool ship to the museum, much to the shock of both her and Marco, who spots her. Marco and Rachel give chase, but are forced to flee when they are shot at with guns and Dracon beams. The pair then begin to date.
- Ax acquires and morphs a shark and evacuates his Dome ship, swimming to the surface, where he hijacks multiple television stations and reveals his existence as well as the existence of the Yeerks.
- Jake notices Tom stealing their mother's minivan to head to the TV station and sneaks along in the van, scared for his brother after having noticed Tom's 'gun'. After nearly being killed, Jake hides and remarks that Tom is working with the police, Chapman, Tobias and "Mr. Visser", all of whom are affiliated with The Sharing. While hiding, Jake notices his hands slightly transforming into that of a tiger's, although they quickly revert back.
- Jake has Cassie, Marco and Rachel meet with him at Cassie's barn and explains that Tom and the Sharing are part of a conspiracy. The four decide to team up to discover the truth behind Tom and the sudden reappearance of Marco's mother, while Cassie remarks that the four of them becoming a team feels like a step in the right direction in ways she cannot understand.
- Jake and Marco go through Tom's room, and after seeing Ax on TV, Jake places a phone call to Cassie. Their plans are overheard by Tom, whose Yeerk overhears and orders Jake and Marco to comply or be killed. Rachel shows up with a baseball and bludgeons Tom, crippling him, while she and Jake both steal a Dracon beam. A Bug fighter begins to fire in the open, and while the two cousins manage to escape, Marco is killed.
- Jake, Rachel and Cassie become fugitives and hide for a few days. While resting at the mall, they notice Hork-Bajir entering the mall and forcefully rounding up human hosts, as Visser Three has opted for a full-scale invasion. They encounter Ax, and the four head to the roof, where they plan to steal Visser Three's Blade ship. During the ascent, Rachel and Cassie are both killed.
- Jake and Ax enter the Blade ship, where they find Visser Three. Cassie, who has mysteriously been resurrected, uses a Dracon beam to vaporize the Visser, killing him. Ax then commandeers the Blade ship, flying into orbit and preparing to fire all of the Blade ship's weapons at the Pool ship, thereby crippling the Yeerk invasion of Earth. Additionally, Marco is resurrected and reappears in the body of a gorilla.
- The Drode appears and halts time, complaining that Cassie's resurrection is illogical. The Ellimist then shows up and the Drode realizes that Cassie is an anomaly, who has a latent superpower to ground herself in a true timeline, thereby breaking down any alternate timeline she is transported to, explaining why this timeline experienced 'glitches', such as Cassie's memory flashes, Jake's hands morphing, Marco's mother ending up on Earth and Marco's resurrection and subsequent gorilla morph.
- It is also revealed that the Ellimist 'stacked the deck' and that four of the six Animorphs did not become so by chance: Marco, Tobias, Cassie and Ax were chosen in advance to become Animorphs by the Ellimist, with Marco being the son of Visser One's host, Tobias being Elfangor's time-shifted son, Cassie as the sub-temporally grounded anomaly and Ax as the brother of Elfangor. While the Ellimist did reveal in The Andalite Chronicles that Tobias and Ax were meant to be join up with four humans and fight the Yeerks, this is the first instance in where it is revealed that Cassie and Marco were predestined as well.
- The Ellimist resurrects Rachel and restores the memories of the present day Animorphs; Jake is aghast when he realizes he accepted the Drode's offer while Tobias is unable to bring himself to believe that he became a Controller. Considering the exercise a failure, the Drode terminates the alternate timeline, restoring the true timeline, which wipes everyone's memories of it with the exception of Cassie, who decides not to inform the Animorphs of these events due to Jake and Tobias' earlier reactions to their actions.
- Back in the present, Jake considers the Drode's offer, but the Drode calls it off and disappears in an irritated fashion.
|Morpher||Morphs acquired||Morphs used|
|Jake||--||Siberian Tiger, Peregrine Falcon|
|Marco||--||Silverback Gorilla (Big Jim), Osprey|
|Ax||Tiger Shark, Human||Tiger Shark, Human|
|Visser Three||--||Human (Main; "Mr. Visser")|
- Ax's particular unknown human morph is rendered unusable due to the timeline being rectified. However, he is still able to use a tiger shark morph since he acquired that in the original timeline as well.
Back to Before was seemingly adapted between the fall of 1998 and the spring of 2000. It is covered by the seventeenth episode "Not My Problem". The TV episode does not follow the book faithfully, altering many aspects of the characters' roles within the Animorphs, and changing plot lines. However, this was because the episode in question was written independently of the book, and the book was written without knowledge of the episode.
- It is the Ellimist who grants Jake's wish to be normal in the TV series, not the Drode (Crayak having never been introduced in the TV series), apparently to make a point to Jake that his actions as an Animorph have been for the best when he is feeling particularly frustrated at the seemingly pointless war.
- In the TV series, all of the Animorphs except for Tobias (and the apparently absent Ax) are Controllers, while in the book only Tobias is made a Controller.
- In the TV series, none of the Animorphs realize that the timeline is wrong, although Tobias at one point notes that he and Jake should have been on the same side, suggesting some awareness of what should have happened; in the book, Cassie is an anomaly, a rare individual who is grounded in the true timeline and will disrupt any other timelines that try to take its place, and realizes that the timeline is wrong.
- In the book, only Cassie remembers the alternate timeline because she is an anomaly, while in the TV series, Jake remembers it very clearly.
- Since the present day Animorphs are transported to the altered past at the end, this marks the fifth and final time in the series that the Animorphs travel through time and the fourth time they travel to the past. This is also the sixth and final time Tobias has time traveled, and the fifth time he has time traveled to the past, as Tobias briefly visited the past in The Change.
- This also marks the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth time that an Animorph is killed, with Tobias, Marco, Rachel and Cassie being killed via Dracon beam. This is the second time thus far where Marco and Rachel have died, with Marco having been killed previously in The Android and Rachel in Elfangor's Secret.
- This marks the fourth instance where an Animorph is infested by a Yeerk and becomes a Controller, following Jake, Cassie and Ax in The Capture, The Departure and The Sickness. While a version of Rachel was shown to be a Controller in The Stranger, she was not the same Rachel as the one featured in the book, but rather a future version of her from a possible reality.
- ANIBASE: One revelation in this book is that Cassie is an "anomaly", and, as such, is capable of holding the real timeline in place so that a false timeline will degrade over time. But Katherine didn't come up with this concept until the book was almost finished. She said: "Sometimes I know what I'm doing all the way through a book, and sometimes I don't figure it out till it's almost over. I was about ten pages from the end [of Megamorphs #4] before I thought, oh, that's how we'll do it! Then I had to 'back-write' to get it all to make sense. Yet another lesson in why you shouldn't mess with time travel."
- ANIBASE: This book marks a change in who portrays the characters on the covers. The models for Jake, Rachel, Tobias, and Marco all went off to college and new, younger models were hired to portray them. Only Biko, the Cassie model, went to a school close enough to continue on as a cover model, and, as a result, she is the only Animorphs model to have been on every cover since the beginning! However, Jake and Rachel's original models "return" for the next two books (The Familiar and The Journey) as those covers were completed earlier.
- Jake has a nightmare about his past morphing experiences, citing the time he morphed a termite and was trapped between a piece of wood. While Jake did acquire a termite in The Secret, he never morphed it. Jake is one of the two Animorphs to have acquired a morph they never used, along with Tobias and his mountain goat morph he acquired in The Reunion.
- Tobias states that his "father" disappeared before he was born and that his mother most likely ran away. While this matches up with what Tobias said in The Pretender, earlier on in The Encounter, Tobias remarks that they both died while in The Change, he muses that they both left him. However, this is lampshaded by Tobias in this book, who admits that he makes up stories about what truly happened to them sometimes and cites that the truth was lost a long time ago.
- Ax is able to transmit his thought-speak through television. While it might have been possible that Ax constructed a device that allowed thought-speak to be translated through radio waves, no such implication was ever made.
- Cassie is revealed to be a sub-temporally grounded anomaly who breaks down any alternate timeline she ends up in. However, her presence and powers did not break down the alternate timeline created by Visser Four in Elfangor's Secret, which caused the Animorphs to have differing personalities, despite the fact that the reason she was chosen to join the Animorphs in advance was to prevent alternate timelines from successfully overwriting the original. The Cassie in that alternate timeline was unable to discern that her timeline was an altered one and did not realize the difference until the Drode had restored their true memories and personalities.