|This article is written from a Real World point of view.|
There's a new rumor in town. Someone has discovered an item that proves life on other planets exists. And they've been hiding it on a base called Zone 91. The Most Secret Place On Earth. Cassie, the other Animorphs, and Ax already know about life on other planets. Too well. They also realize the Yeerks will try to access Zone 91. To find out if what's there will threaten their mission. So the Animorphs decide to pay Zone 91 and the Yeerks a little visit. But what they discover is not at all what they expect...
Cassie and Rachel drive with Cassie's father, Walter, to the Dry Lands outside of town. 'Crazy Helen', a client of Walter's, has informed him of a sick horse stumbling about the plains. Helen rants on about Martians while Walter and the girls search for the horse in the dark. Rachel spots it trying to make a call at a pay phone. The horse then tries to escape, but is too weak to walk, and falls over. Cassie and Rachel notice a Yeerk falling out of the dying horse's ear. Cassie, getting a bad feeling, tells Rachel to run. A second later, they're knocked over by an explosion. Cassie wakes up in Crazy Helen's caravan, who insists 'it was the Martians!'. Cassie and Rachel decide she is half right - and assume that the Yeerks were trying to keep them away from the horse.
The other Animorphs are skeptical, though. Rachel and Cassie are frustrated, but Jake allows the group to go back to the site and investigate. Cassie, Rachel, Marco, and Tobias travel in bird morph, and land in a rocky outcrop. They're promptly arrested by soldiers, and taken to the Air Force base - Zone 91. There, they meet Captain Torelli, the chief of base security, who is incredulous by the kid's lack of shoes. Cassie, Rachel and Marco, fearing being grounded, or charged with trespassing, give the captain fake names; Marco calls himself Fox Mulder, Rachel calls herself Dana Scully, and Cassie calls herself Cindy Crawford. Marco and Rachel stare at her. Marco gives them the number for the sports scores recording, Rachel gives them the number for Pizza Hut, and Cassie just gives them the numbers one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight. Cassie earns more stares from Marco and Rachel. The captain leaves, and the kids escape via cockroach morph. They escape outside, but Cassie is nearly crushed by a tank. Tobias picks her up, and airlifts the trio to safety.
Cassie decides on a new plan. They need horse morphs from the racetrack. They're nearly caught by the staff, and Cassie morphs Minneapolis Max - a champion stallion. The animal's jockey, assuming Cassie is the real horse, takes her to the starting gate, and she is caught up in a race, which she wins. The Animorphs are now ready to infiltrate Zone 91. Back in the Dry Lands, the teens morph their respective horse morphs. They join the alleged Yeerk herd, and trot directly into the base. They hear the horse-Controllers speak Galard - the interstellar language. Ax translates for them, telling them that the Yeerks are planning to complete their mission tonight. The Yeerks promptly break into a run, and rush into a hangar. There, the Animorphs see what the government's been hiding. They know it's not human, but they don't know what it is. Neither do the Yeerks. The Yeerks are depressed and afraid, aware of the consequences for failure. They rendezvous with Visser Three, who decapitates the Yeerk 'responsible' for the failure. The Visser then orders his Hork-Bajir to eliminate the suspicious-looking horses standing close by. Cassie knocks over a Hork-Bajir, and the rest make a break for it. It is then that an embarrassed Ax tells them what Zone 91 have been guarding: a disposable waste module from an Andalite Dome ship - in other words, an alien toilet. The disgusted Animorphs decide they've been wasting their time, and head home.
At home, Cassie berates herself for wasting her team's time, but then realizes the significance of the Andalite toilet; it's proof that sentient life exists beyond Earth, and that Visser Three needed humanity to know as little as possible in order for the invasion to continue to run smoothly. Cassie then remembers a pin-up board for 'Gondor Industries'; a dummy corporation employee's day out. She and the Animorphs fly out to The Gardens, where she figures that Visser Three is planning to kidnap Captain Torelli and other Air Force staff at Zone 91, in a dark and secret place. They split up; Jake, Marco, and Cassie head for the log ride while Rachel, Tobias, and Ax head for the House of Horrors. Jake, Marco, and Cassie demorph and climb down the mountain and get onto the log ride, where they encounter Captain Torelli again. The log they're all in enters a dark tunnel, Cassie steps off the log, hoping for ground, but there was no such luck and she falls into the water, where the current carries her away, and right up to the big huge drop. She falls and hits the lagoon, where Captain Torelli catches her, but he slips, which gives Cassie the chance to escape and regroup with Jake and Marco.
They soon get chased by Captain Torelli, and end up in the horror house, where Hork-Bajir and Visser Three wait. The Animorphs morph, and a battle ensues. They wound the Hork-Bajir and rescue the captain from Visser Three. The Yeerks escape in their vessels, in front of totally oblivious humans at a night parade. In the end, the Animorphs decide not to reveal the truth about what Zone 91 is really guarding and let them feel like they have a purpose.
- Captain Torelli (First Appearance) (Only Appearance)
- Zone 91 Soldiers (First Appearance) (Only Appearance)
- Minneapolis Max (First Appearance) (Only Appearance)
- Crazy Helen - Crazy Helen is an old woman with stringy gray hair who runs a souvenir shop in the Dry Lands. She's totally obsessed with aliens, and is the first to tell you all about Martians sending her messages through her teeth.
Contributions to the Series' Story Arc
|Morpher||Morphs acquired||Morphs used|
|Jake||Racehorse||Seagull, Racehorse, Peregrine Falcon, Great Horned Owl, Siberian Tiger|
|Rachel||Racehorse||Bald Eagle, Cockroach, Seagull, Racehorse, Great Horned Owl, Grizzly Bear|
|Cassie||Racehorse||Osprey, Cockroach, Seagull, Racehorse, Great Horned Owl, Wolf|
|Marco||Racehorse||Osprey, Cockroach, Seagull, Racehorse, Great Horned Owl, Silverback Gorilla|
|Ax||Racehorse||Human, Northern Harrier, Racehorse, Great Horned Owl, Rattlesnake|
- The front cover quote is, "Never underestimate the power of a morph...."
- The inside front cover is, "Born to run...."
- This is the first book in which all six of the Animorphs acquire the same new morph.
- All books after The Unknown were dedicated to Applegate's son, Jake, as well as her husband and co-writer, Michael. Her son was born premature in 1997, and she worked on the Animorphs series at night, in the lobby of the hospital where he was in Neonatal Intensive Care.
- It is assumed that the horse featured on this cover is Minneapolis Max, and not the horse that Cassie acquired as her first morph (which would make this the fifth book to feature a cover morph that was not acquired in the book), despite not fitting Max's description.
- Zone 91 is obviously a reference to Area 51.
- "Gondor Industries" is likely a reference to the third age kingdom of Gondor from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. K.A. Applegate frequently used similar names from the LOTR series in Animorphs (book series).