|This article is written from a Real World point of view.|
There's something pretty weird going on in the woods behind Cassie's house. The place where Ax and Tobias call home. It seems the Yeerks have figured out one very important thing: Andalites cannot survive without a feeding ground. Visser Three knows the "Andalite bandits" don't feed where he does, so there can only be one other place.
Now Cassie, Marco, Jake, Rachel, Tobias, and Ax have to figure out a way to stop a bogus logging camp. Because if Visser Three finds Ax in the woods, nothing will stop him from finding the Animorphs....
Rachel and Cassie are in the school science lab where Cassie is working on a project in which a rat is trying to find its way to food in a maze and take notes on the progress, but nothing happens. Rachel suggests that Cassie morph the rat to see what the problem is. Cassie agrees, but insists that Rachel has morph the rat as well since Cassie helped Rachel out when Rachel wanted to scare the guy with the elephants. They acquire and morph the rat, then climb up to the table and go into the maze. Cassie finds out the problem is a ceiling fan blowing the scent away. Just then, two guys enter the lab and start making trouble. They lift the maze up and spill the rat, Rachel, and Cassie onto the tabletop, but before they run away, the guys smack the table with the handle of a broom. They jump over it and run for toward the table's edge and jump, just avoiding the handle, they decide know to do something, which is crawling up the pant legs of the two guys. The two guys run away in sheer panic as Rachel and Cassie escape and demorph.
Later that evening, the Animorphs meet up at Cassie's barn, where Tobias tells them of what he and Ax have discovered; the Yeerks have begun a logging operation in the forest, so that way, they can look for Andalites, whom the Yeerks believe the Animorphs to be. Cassie and Marco head out in their wolf morphs to the logging site, while Tobias with Jake and Rachel, in their bird of prey morphs, keep an eye on them. When they arrive, big steel nets explode from the treetops, Cassie escapes by a hair, but Marco gets caught. Cassie tries to lift the net as Controllers are coming for them, firing automatic rifles and Dracon beams, but can't. Just then, Ax appears and slices the net open with his tail blade freeing Marco and they all run for it. Later, Cassie goes out with her dad, Walter, to the side of the highway to treat a skunk that was badly burned, and Cassie finds out that the burn was casued by a Dracon beam, the skunk was at the logging site and got hurt, which really saddens Cassie. The Animorphs meet up at the mall on a Saturday, to talk about how to get through the force field and into the logging site's cabin headquarters, the plan is to morph into termites, which they feel uncomfortable doing because of the last time they morphed into colony insects. Jake takes out a termite that's from the same colony and they acquire it.
Later that night, before going, Cassie helps with the injured skunk, whom she learns is a mother with babies that won't survive on they're own, so she quickly acquires the skunk's DNA. She meets up with the others and they set off as owls into the night, they reach the compound, where Ax suggests one of them creates a distraction, so that the others can get close enough to the building and sneak in as termites. They draw straws and Jake gets the short straw, he sets off in his wolf morph while the others reach close enough to the compound and morph into termites. When they've become termites, they discover that its mind and instincts don't really have any control over them, but Cassie says there's something calling her and that they should follow it. They reach the force field where they try to dig under it, but can't. That's when Cassie senses a pine needle, which casts a shadow in the force field, and they use it to get through. Inside, the voice that Cassie heard calls out and follows, with no control over the termite body, and enters the source of the voice: the lair of the termite queen, who was producing smells that gave out orders to the termites. The others also can't control themselves, that's when Rachel tells Cassie that the only way to escape is to kill the queen. Struggling to trick the termite mind into thinking the queen is an enemy ant, Cassie reaches the queen and uses her pincer jaws to kill the queen. This causes the colony to go into panic mode, which even Cassie does. She hears from the others, they had escaped and demorphed, so Cassie tries demorphing, while still in the wood, but Ax uses his tail blade to free Cassie. She panics, but the others calm her because there were humans and Hork-Bajir in the next room. Ax accesses a computer and finds a document, where three members of a comission vote on whether the logging can continue and one guy named Farrand is the deciding vote, and the Yeerks will make him a Controller to get the vote. Ax makes a slight change in the programming that will allow access the computer from Marco's home computer and he also temporarily shuts down the outer defenses, and everyone except for Ax runs out in wolf morph without any Controllers setting off the alarm or shooting at them and they join up with Jake and head home.
Cassie and Rachel sneak into Cassie's house just before dawn and Rachel go straight to sleep, but Cassie couldn't because she kept thinking about what happened in the termite chamber and how violent nature really is, and feeling scared and alone, which makes her think about the baby skunks. She eventually falls asleep and has a dream where she is a mother who was lost her babies and was searching for them everywhere, even though she was in pain, but she finds them and they snuggle up to her. She wakes up at 10:15 AM and talks to Rachel about the breakdown she happened from the termite episode. Rachel tells Cassie that they're just bugs, and they get killed all the time. She leaves and as Cassie eats some food, she starts feeling restless and weird. She goes outside to feel the sun and then goes into the barn a gets a frozen grasshopper from the refrigerator and sticks it into her pocket and heads toward the edge of the forest. She meets with Tobias and they talk about what happened with the termites, Cassie talks about how she sick she in having to kill an living creature in order to survive and invading their world, but Tobias tells her they were just bugs and they aren't Yeerks. She drops the subject and tells him what she's doing; she's going to go find the babies of the injured mother skunk. Tobias tells Cassie they're still alive and that he can lead her to them and help.
She flies off with Tobias in her osprey morph, carrying the grasshopper in her talons. Tobias flies away and Cassie morphs into the skunk, she enters the burrow and curls up to them and feeds them the grasshopper and she peacefully falls asleep. She later wakes up from a loud WHUMP and hears Jake's voice saying that Cassie's been in morph for almost two hours. She immediately exits the burrow and demorphs in front of Jake, Marco, and Tobias. Jake is extremely furious with Cassie because she almost became a skunk for good and that it was just for saving some skunks, but Marco pulls him back a little. Marco and Tobias leave, Jake talks to Cassie about how he also had real bad experiences an a morph, and they need Cassie, but she feels she's done enough. Jake reminds her that the Yeerks are still out there, but Cassie feel that that as humans are the winners in the survival of the fittest, maybe its their time to lose, though Jake reminds her that's it not about "some race called humans, its about people they care about." As he turns around and walks away, Cassie tells Jake that the mother skunk will be ready to return in a day or so, but she won't abandon the kits. Jake reluctantly agrees but tells Cassie that she can't stay in morph for long, but she only needs to stay in morph some of the time, to make sure that they're feed, protected from predators, and imprint on their mother. Tobias then says he'll will watch them while they all work something out in the meantime. Later that evening, the Animorphs gather at the skunks' den where their plan is to morph into skunks and take turns caring for the babies until their mother returns, as well as keeping up a patrol of the Yeerk logging compound.
Over the next two days, they successfully protect and nurture the skunk kits one by one. After school three days later, Cassie heads to the burrow and finds Tobias flying cover from about. After he tells her about how he chased off a hungry badger, he explains that the skunks are getting restless and want to venture out into the world. Cassie morphs and sees that they are getting restless so she decides to take them on a walk. During the walk, Cassie realizes that they need to learn how to provide for themselves. Suddenly, they hear a crash, something was coming for them. Cassie starts leading them back to the burrow, but the creature came more quickly. The creature reveals itself to be a dog, Cassie then turn a raises her tail to warn the dog, but to no avail. Cassie then aims and fires at the dog, and suddenly realizes too late that she recognized the dog. It was Jake's dog, Homer, and Jake and the others run up to discover what happened. After Cassie leads the kits back to the den, the others explain that they came to tell Cassie and Tobias that they've discovered that Farrand is coming early to cast the final vote on the logging in the forest and he will arrive in one hour. Just as they try to plan on what to do, Tobias tells them he hears something, they all listen in, and hear the sound of diesel engines, meaning the Yeerks are moving their equipment around. Tobias flies off to check and the others decide that the plan is to keep Farrand alive, and keep the Yeerks from making him a Controller. Tobias then rockets back and explains that the Yeerks have already started cutting down the trees, regardless of Farrand's decision because he will be infested, and they're heading for the skunk burrow, so Cassie goes with Tobias check for Farrand's arrival and prevent him from being Yeerk-infested, while Jake, Rachel, Marco, and Ax attempt to slow down the tree-cutting machines. As Cassie begins morphing into osprey form, she apologizes to Tobias for being mad about the skunk kits. He explain that he doesn't have to hunt, and Cassie asks why he does it, to which Tobias says its because he's not just a human, but a hawk. Tobias then asks her if it would be better if she killed his food and eat it, and Cassie answers that she knows how nature works, but its all so confusing, and where does right and wrong come into play. Tobias didn't know the answer, but he knew that if he went around killing animals he didn't intend to eat, that would be wrong, but hawks have just as much a right to live as a mouse or skunk. They soon set off and as Cassie is following Tobias, she sensed the osprey brain beneath hers, how it adjusted and reacted to the wind, how her eyes could see every small detail, and making calculations on catching fish in a river. She saw that what Tobias had said was right. Tobias then spots a jeep from the logging compound, with Farrand riding in back. They will arrive at the camp in a few minutes and when they see how he'll react, they'll know if Farrand is a Controller or not. Cassie asks what they'll do if he's a Controller, and Tobias says they'll probably attack the logging operation itself, but then she asks what they would he wasn't a Controller, they would go after him and whatever happened would happened, just like a termite. Tobias then explains to her that she's human, how her job is to keep herself and her species alive and the whole point of evolution is to survive, which is the law of nature and humans are a part of it. But Cassie says the Yeerks are also a part of it and they're no better than them. Tobias says they'll worry about it later, as he points out that the jeep has reached the Yeerk fortress. Farrand waves his arms to get the machines to stop, when a man steps out of the building, but Cassie and Tobias both they knew that man really was: Visser Three in human morph.
As they wonder where the others are, the Visser suddenly lashes out and smacks Farrand in the face, and the two Controllers from the jeep grab Farrand. Cassie and Tobias then see Jake in his tiger morph racing towards Farrand, but he was too far away and the others weren't there, it was now up to them. They dive, with Cassie targeting Visser Three and Tobias targeting one of the men. They hit their targets and Farrand breaks free and runs for it, but easily gets caught. Cassie sees Jake closing in fast, with Rachel and Marco in their wolf morphs taking on the Controllers that were operating the machines. Perimeter guards, with automatic weapons come running, but Ax appears and saves Rachel from one of the guards. Meanwhile, Cassie sees Farrand struggling to escape, so she heads backs for a second run. But then six armed humans and four big Hork-Bajir come out of the building, it was too late for Cassie to back off now, as she was already diving. Two bullets whiz past her, but a third one hits and goes through her right wing and she falls and hits the ground hard and blacks out. She later wakes up in a large, dark box with Farrand lying unconscious next to her. She hears the Visser Three ordering the perimeter defenses online and to make sure to destroy anything that gets out of the box. One Controller reports that the Animorphs have now turn the machines against the Yeerks, so the Visser orders the force field be turn on. Cassie thinks over what to do next, the others were still fighting and had turned the machines on the Yeerks, but the force field would render them useless and Visser Three would then call for reinforcements, and they would be done for, but she doesn't give in, this was a game of predator and prey, what could she use against them? Just then, Farrand moans and Cassie knew exactly what to do, she quickly demorphs and morphs into a skunk, she hears that the force field had stopped the machines and Bug fighters with reinforcements will be arriving very soon, he had them this time. Concentrating hard, Cassie thought-speaks to Visser Three, trying not to reveal that she was human. She warns him that she'll kill Farrand, because she knew they needed him alive for their plan to succeed. Visser Three understood and has the Controllers surround the box, Cassie takes position as the door opens. Visser Three laughs in amusement at the chubby, cat-sized black and white in the box that had its back to him and it tail raised to him. Cassie then fires several times and hitting the Visser and the Controllers run for the outside get away from the horrid skunk smell. Outside, the force field is still on, but the tree-cutting machines were now strained up against the force field and the Animorphs, in their battle moprhs, had defeated the Controllers. Ax speaks to Visser Three, stating that they've reached a standoff, if the force field came down, the machines would destroy the building and would probably kill Farrand, which neither side wants, but the Visser wouldn't be bargained with, as he has forces in the way to help, but Ax questions how the Visser's Blade ship will smell once once the skunk stench is introduced. This doesn't worry Visser Three, it will go away, to which Ax say it will... in the open air, but not in a spacecraft. However, if they let Farrand go free, they'll give them the secret on how to neutralize the stench. Knowing he has no other choice, Visser Three orders his men to get Farrand, once he's dropped off at the nearest hospital, they'll reveal the secret, and Tobias will be watching to make sure they don't try anything. After Farrand is dropped off at the hospital, the Animorphs tell Visser Three about a certain kind of juice that will eliminate the smell, and he screams in fury as they disappear into the woods.
The next day, Jake, Marco, Rachel, Cassie, and Ax bring the mother skunk back to her babies and Jake says it's now safe for them. He had spied on Farrand in fly morph, revealing that he's fine and he's voted against the logging of the forest, in fact, he doesn't want anything to do the Yeerk's logging company. As they head back home, Jake hangs back with a confused Cassie, asking her what was bothering her. She explains how does the whole law of nature thing make sense and whether to just live by it, or if she's different because she's human. Jake didn't know at first, but he answers that she's both, but Cassie didn't feel like that was much help, which means that human are still partly wild animals, doing whatever it takes to survive, and partly something more than the other animals. Jake then says he does know all animals take care of themselves, only one animal has the intelligence and to save all the others. Just then, Tobias appears. He came back from checking in on the Yeerks. They've dug a big pit and filled it with juice. Visser Three has been in it for most of the night and for the whole morning, but he still stinks and is now purple. It turns out that the juice they told the Visser would get rid of the skunk smell was not tomato juice, but grape juice, and they all break out laughing.
|Morpher||Morphs acquired||Morphs used|
|Jake||Termite (never used), Skunk||Peregrine Falcon, Wolf, Great Horned Owl, Skunk, Siberian Tiger, Fly|
|Rachel||White Rat (Courtney), Termite, Skunk||White Rat, Bald Eagle, Great Horned Owl, Termite, Wolf, Skunk, Grizzly Bear|
|Cassie||White Rat (Courtney), Termite, Skunk||White Rat, Wolf, Great Horned Owl. Termite, Skunk, Osprey|
|Marco||Termite, Skunk||Wolf, Great Horned Owl, Termite, Skunk, Silverback Gorilla|
|Ax||Termite, Skunk||Human, Great Horned Owl, Termite, Skunk|
- The cover quote is, "No place to run. No place to hide...."
- The inside front cover quote is, "What big teeth you have...." which is a reference to Little Red Riding Hood's famous encounter with the Big Bad Wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.
- This is the fourth book in which the cover art does not depict a morph acquired in the book.
- The preview ad in book 8 advertised book 9 to come with a tattoo - but it comes with a postcard, not a tattoo. Unless contradictory evidence arises, it seems that this was a mistake/something that changed after printing.
- Despite Jake acquiring the termite, he never uses it for the mission, and never ends up using it for the whole series. This makes him one of, if not the only, Animorph who has acquired a species that they've never actually morphed.
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