It was after school the next day and we were in Cassie's barn. Where only hours earlier a mutated Hork-Bajir lay dying.
"We have to go after the Sea Blade, period," Rachel said angrily. "We can't let the Yeerks get hold of the Pemalite ship. Or Pemalite technology."
"A plan would be nice," Marco said.
< We don't know enough to make any plans, > Tobias argued from his usual perch and lookout in the rafters.
Tobias is a nothlit. Someone who stayed in morph for longer than the two hour limit. Now he's a red-tailed hawk first, all other creatures second.
Rachel gives him a hard time about staying hawk and not going back to being a regular human boy twenty-four seven. But the explanation is there if you want to see it. If Tobias gives up his ability to morph by trapping himself in human form, he's out of the fight. And he can't walk away from this war. He can't - or won't - abandon us.
Tobias is Elfangor's son. Long story. Weird story.
< Yes, though we can make use of the additional information we received from Toby's spies this morning, > Ax pointed out.
Right after dawn I'd sent Ax and Tobias to the secret community the free Hork-Bajir had established. Their information was sketchy. Hork-Bajir, with the exception of Toby, are not the brightest species around. It's a little like asking a four-year-old to describe a movie.
But we'd also tapped into the Chee network. The Chee are a whole different story. Androids are very good at description. The Chee didn't know much, but what they knew was different. They had seen different pieces of the puzzle.
"What do we know? That's the question," Marco said.
I nodded at Ax. "Ax-Man? Give us a rundown."
< We know very little. We can extrapolate and guess a bit more, > Ax said.
I smiled. "So include the guesses and the extrapolation."
< The Sea Blade is a new type of vessel. It can travel in the air and in the water. Most spacecraft can travel under water for a short distance, and with limited effect. But in order for the Yeerks to travel to Earth's deepest oceans they would need something radically different, > Ax said. < It seems likely that both in the air, and in the water, this vessel will be able to cloak itself from normal human sensors. >
"It would have to," Marco interjected. "Too many subs out there in the deep, blue sea. There are still sensors all over the ocean floor from the cold war."
< Exactly, > Ax agreed.
"Echolocation?" Cassie suggested.
"Echolocation is a lot like what they call 'active sonar,'" Marco said. "You bounce sound waves off an object and listen to the echoes. But subs don't use active sonar, usually, because if you're 'pinging' someone with active sonar, they can hear you. Subs usually stick with passive listening."
"Marco, are you just pulling all this out of the air? How do you know all this?" Rachel demanded.
I nodded. "Tom Clancy. The Hunt for Red October."
"You should read something besides Glamour, Rachel."
"So would echolocation work, or not?" Cassie demanded.
We all looked at Ax. < Maybe. Maybe not. But it is all we have to work with. >
Cassie chewed her lip. "I'm thinking giant squid, if we're going real deep. Or dolphins or whales," Cassie said.
< The Chee have revealed the location of the Pemalite ship to us. It is deep, but not terribly deep. However, it is in an area designated as a Navy firing range. There are large numbers of exploded...and unexploded...weapons. Humans would be unlikely to frequent the area. >
Tobias said, < Why don't the Chee just get to the Pemalite ship and move it before the Yeerks show up? >
"The Yeerks will just keep looking," I said. "The Chee can't get into a game of hide-and- seek. Sooner or later they'd lose. And if the Pemalite ship is moving it's easier to detect."
"We have to sink the Sea Blade," Cassie said quietly. "We have to sink it, destroy it. Make them regret ever thinking about invading the ocean."
I shot her a look. It wasn't like Cassie to be bloodthirsty.
She met my gaze, unflinching. "What they did to the Hork-Bajir was evil," she said. "Over the line. Way over the line. We need to teach them a lesson."
I nodded. I understood her feelings. But this mission couldn't be about feelings.
Marco said what I was thinking. "Hey, we don't teach lessons. And we don't do revenge. Besides, everything the Yeerks do is over the line. We stop them. That's what we do."
Cassie looked unconvinced. Rachel was smirking in cocky agreement with Cassie. Rachel liked the idea of delivering a harsh lesson. I expected that from Rachel. But from Cassie it worried me.
There were problems here for me, as the leader of this bunch of tired, stressed-out misfits. Tobias hated going into the water. Marco wasn't convinced it was necessary. Cassie was taking it all personally.
Rachel and Ax were their usual selves. I sighed. Fairly typical: At any given point, on any given mission, maybe half the team was going to be difficult in one way or another. Including me, of course. Maybe especially me.
"Echolocation," Cassie mused. "We've all got dolphin morphs."
< Rachel and I have sperm whale morphs, > Tobias reminded us.
"And we all do giant squid," Rachel said.
"Not sure we want to deal with those guys again," Marco mumbled. "Creepy."
"Whales are good. We need a morph we can control. Something intelligent. That can dive deep and do some serious damage to the Sea Blade," I said. "But let's face it. The chances of another sperm whale beaching itself just for the rest of us to acquire are pretty slim."
"Of course!" Cassie snapped her fingers. "There's an orca -- a killer whale -- at The Gardens' SeaTown. They're calling him Swoosh."
"Swoosh?" Marco repeated incredulously. "Who names these animals?"
Cassie looked embarrassed. "Nike. They sponsored the exhibit. So they got to name the whale."
"Okay," I said. "We need to get going. A) I contact the Chee and alert them to be ready to take our places. B) we carry out round-the-clock surveillance on the vicinity of the Yeerk pool. Try and spot any sign of this Sea Blade launching. C) we acquire the killer whale."
"Easy" Marco mocked. "ABC. Just don't mention, D) we chase a super sub into the ocean, and E) try to destroy it before, F) they reach an alien spacecraft in the middle of, G) a bunch of unexploded bombs and shells that may get set off when the Yeerks try to, H) fry us with their Dracon beams."
Rachel laughed and gave Marco a playful shove. "You're always so negative. Look on the bright side: Maybe the unexploded shells will, I) blow up the Yeerks, not us."
Cassie wasn't joining in the graveyard humor. "Fifty Hork-Bajir subjected to horrible medical experiments," she said. "That's what this is about."
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