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 up—use 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 governor—but 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...
The books opens with Marco and Tobias in their regular bird morphs (Marco as an osprey, Tobias as his regular red-tailed hawk), surveying a freight train transporting tanks into the city. They are spotted and attacked by Controllers in bird of prey morph, revealing that the Yeerks now have the ability to morph after obtaining the Escafil Device (the Blue Box) in the previous book. Marco and Tobias escape by stealing a tank, which they use to demolish Chapman's house before abandoning.Back in the Hork-Bajir valley, the Animorphs speculate that the Yeerks are planning to infest the state's National Guard en masse. A personal issue is also presented in the form of Jake's depression, which affects the morale of the group.
Jake decides to send Marco, Tobias and Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill to the state capitol to warn the governor of the Yeerk invasion, while he, Cassie, Rachel and the Auxiliary Animorphs attempt to slow the Yeerks down with the usual assault tactics. Marco's team infiltrates The Gardens to acquire mallard ducks for the long distance flight to the capitol. Here they are again attacked by Controllers with the morphing ability, but manage to escape.
They arrive at the capitol and locate the governor while in cockroach morph, eventually demorphing and revealing themselves to her when she is alone (except for her husband and bodyguards). Unfortunately, her husband is a Controller, and alerts the Yeerks. Marco, Tobias, and Ax grab the governor and race through the streets of the capitol while being pursued by the Yeerks. After destroying a helicopter and a yacht, they lose their pursuers and return to the Governor's mansion to explain the situation to her.
The governor is accepting of the danger, and calls in a group of National Guardsmen who have been doing training missions in the desert for the last few weeks, and can therefore be assumed to be uninfested. Unfortunately an infested company arrives first with the intention of kidnapping the governor. Marco deceives them by morphing the governor, letting himself be captured by the Yeerks, and being rescued by Tobias and Ax (meanwhile, the real governor escapes).
Marco, Tobias and Ax return to the Hork-Bajir valley in time to see the Governor issue a televised warning about the Yeerk invasion.
Contributions to the Series' Story ArcEdit
- The series' final story arc begins.
- The Controllers now have the ability to morph.
- The Yeerk invasion is revealed to the public.
|Morpher||Morphs acquired||Morphs used|
|Marco||Mallard Duck, Human (State Governor)||Osprey, Silverback Gorilla, Mallard Duck, Cockroach, Bottlenose Dolphin, Human (State Governor)|
|Tobias||Mallard Duck||Human (Main), Mallard Duck, Cockroach, Hork-Bajir (Ket Helpak)|
|Ax||Mallard Duck||Mallard Duck, Cockroach, Hork-Bajir|
|Human Controllers||Red-Tailed Hawk, Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Leopard|
- Short Guy
- General Sherman
- Major MacDonald
- Lieutenant Colonel Jacob P. Larsen
- One Stripe
- The cover quote is, "The countdown has begun...."
- The inside cover quote is, "They keep going, and going, and going...." This is a reference to the famous Energizer Bunny commercial.
- This book is the second to feature a cross-gender human morph. In the book, Marco morphs the female governor in order to protect her from being killed.
- This book is the first of the countdown books, so the front cover has the text "It's countdown time. Only 3 more books until the end..." (text which appears on books 51, 52 and 53 only) and the back summary changed as well.
- Starting with this book, the back summary of "We can't tell you who we are, or where we live.." etc was changed to:
- "Here's the deal these days: They know exactly who we are. They know exactly where we live. We've got a few secrets left, and we're gonna use them. But just know that the end is coming. And we don't know how much longer we can do this. How much longer we can fight.
- What about you? Where will you be where it ends? Think about it. Think hard. Because the countdown has already begun...."
- Marco uses a Dracon beam to shoot down a Controller's helicopter, which is possibly the first instance of any Animorph deliberately taking a human life (even a Yeerk host body).
- This book title was going to be changed to The Consequence by a fan intern's request, but it wouldn't fit on the spine.
- ANIBASE: The author of this book was having quite a bit of trouble doing research on tanks. Phone calls to the army turned up a lot of suspicion, but not a lot of information. Help finally came in the form of a man named Art Alphin, a retired Army tank commander and husband of author Elaine Marie Alphin, who won the Edgar award for her book Counterfeit Son. Art provided the author with all the tank info that she needed and even read over the chapters to make sure that the details were spot on. She was so grateful that Art was given a "special thanks" dedication in the front of the book!
- A marketing campaign had been begun by Scholastic at this point, featuring a "behind the scenes" look at the war as it went on in the books. Radio commercials were made, the website was taken over, and, oh yeah, K.A. turned out to be a controller.