❯ The Daughter – Earth ( Chapter 3 )
Twelve hours later, we came out of Z-space, two hours from Earth. By that time, I was having problems sitting still. I don�t handle inactivity well. I�d already done ninety-percent of the work my instructors had given me, read two books, played three games of chess with my Uncle (losing all three times), and was now trying concentrate on Math. It wasn’t working. My mind kept wandering back to when I said good bye to my friends, Aniesha, Belaran-Caran-Selena and Halva Kestral. Aniesha and Belaran had, over all my objections, convinced me that I needed to create an Andalite morph mixing their DNA. Then they made me try it out, and let me tell you, having four eyes is distracting! I gave up on Math.
�Uncle,� I said. He looked up from what ever it was he was reading. �I remember, vaguely, Jake and Cassie. But have I even met Marco?� I knew who he was, of course. Everyone knew who he was, except maybe someone who�d been living under a rock for fifteen years. A badly informed rock, at that.
<You have, but you were very young, perhaps three. Marco Beringei is an Intelligence officer, a general. He is exceedingly good at seeing the straight line from A to B. To say that he is sarcastic would be like saying that Yeerk/Andalite War is a minor disagreement. He has a son, but as I have not seen Daren for twelve years, I cannot tell you much about him. Marco�s wife, a fellow Intelligence agent by the name of Nancy, was killed around the same time as your parents, and by the same weapon. As for the rest, it is well known history.>
I nodded. Marco�s father had been killed in the attack on Earth. And his mother was Visser One�s host. Wonderful, right?
I was about to say something else, when I was interrupted by the hail from Earth, asking us to identify ourselves. After Uncle had transmitted the information, a voice I hadn’t heard before came over the comm.
�Hey, Ax, come to join the reunion?� who-ever-it-was said.
Uncle smiled. <No, I am here on a top-secret mission for the Electorate, to gather up all the cinnamon buns on the planet and send them back for testing,> he said, his voice ever-so-slightly dry.
Who-ever-it-was laughed. �Right. The entire Electorate would make themselves sick. It�s good to talk to you again, Ax�
<Ditto, Marco,> Uncle said.
�How long will it take you to get here?� Marco asked.
<Sixteen�> Uncle began, and then paused. His smile turned ever-so-slightly mischievous. It�sa strange look on an Andalite adult. <Sixteen,> he repeated, <of your minutes.>
There was silence for a few seconds, with the sound of someone laughing in the back ground.
�THEY ARE EVERYBODY�S MINUTES!� Marco almost shouted, and the background laughter got louder.
Uncle signed off, and we landed with no further ado.
I stepped out on to the landing pad and blinked. The sun was much brighter than shipboard lighting.
�There they are, there they are, theretheyare, I see them!� came a little girl�s shout from over to the left. I turned to look, and saw a kid of about five dragging two adults across the pad. When she got to about three feet from us, she stopped and stared.
�Oh,� she said, looking at Uncle Aximili with wide eyes, �you�re tall!�
The adults she was dragging laughed. The man, who I guessed was Jake Tigris, was tallish, with light brown hair that was cut short. He had a sort of aura, one that says, trust me, I know what I’m doing. The other was a woman. Cassie, I guessed. She came up to Jake� chin, and had her hair short as well. Chocolate brown eyes smiled at you out of her face. Behind them came Marco. He was a bit shorter than Jake, and had this permanent sardonic look on his face. His hair was long, as compared to everyone else’s. But he was the person behind him who grabbed my attention. A little taller than Marco, with short black hair and slightly tilted brown
eyes and an unconscious grace, he was fairly incredible. I suddenly found breathing difficult.
Uncle used one of his stalk eyes to look at me. <Interesting expression,> he said. <Better get rid of it before he notices.>
One of the advantages of thoughtpeech is that you can direct it to certain people. Uncle had managed to throw the figurative cold water in my face, without anyone else knowing.
I shook off whatever it was that was affecting me just in time to respond to introductions. I was introduced around the circle.
�And this,� said Jake, pointing to the boy behind Marco, �is Daren.�
�Hi,� I said, smiling and extending my hand.
�Hi,� he said, shaking it and grinning back.
�Tom wanted to be here, but he had a game, and he couldn�t let his coach down,� Jake said.
�He told me to see if you had a sense of humor. He doesn�t think it�s possible for someone who�s spent as much time around Andalites as you have,� Daren said, with a snort at his friend�s attitude.
I laughed. �I have a sense of humor. It�s just a little warped,� I shot back. �I�m not completely cut off from humanity, thank you very much.�
Daren and I kept up our banter. It had only been three minutes, and I felt like I�d known him forever.
We spent three weeks at Jake�s. Uncle and the others spent a lot of time together, remembering old times. Me, Daren and Tom usually made ourselves scarce. We hadn’t been there when all these things had happened, so they weren’t really conversations we could be part of.
We wandered the town, the boys showing me all the interesting stuff. The Gardens, (�To which we owe the salvation of Earth. I mean, where would we all be if this place hadn�t been here to provide tigers and grizzly bears and gorillas?�), the woods where my dad and uncle had lived, and the construction site where it had all started. I had a blast.
I also got to know Daren, and Tom, pretty well. Tom is a very open person. Whatever he’s feeling, you know about it right away. He lives on the extreme outside of his skin. Daren, however, isn�t even close to being that open. He�d rather make a creepy, smart-aleck remark than let anyone know he�s upset. Occasionally he�ll get solemn and serious, and give you a sort of opening, but before you could say anything, he�ll grin and say something funny or stupid, and the moment would be gone.
That annoyed me. I wanted to know more about him, and he wouldn’t let me see inside him.
On the first day of the fourth week, Tom had another game, so me and Daren went wandering alone. Earlier, I had discovered shopping. So within the first fifteen minutes, both of us were carrying bags.
�Hey,� Daren said as we were walking along the beach, �there�s something I wanted to ask you. Can you morph?�
I nodded. �I learned how the day before we left. I�ve got two, kitten and Andalite. Can you?�
�Yep. As of two weeks ago. So far, three morphs; dog, because it was what I morphed first, cougar, for the heck of it, and chameleon.�
�The stupid lizard was tangled in a whole bunch of string, and the only way I could get the dumb thing to calm down was to acquire it.� He rolled his eyes upwards, and I laughed.
We turned down a street that was entirely deserted. I slowed down, getting that feeling I do sometimes. The feeling something is seriously wrong.
�Something wrong?� asked Daren, frowning slightly. I shook my head.
�I don�t know,� I replied. �Just a feeling, like we�re in trouble.�
�Why would we be in trouble?� He said. He turned to look behind us. His eyes widened, and he started to shout something � then everything went black.