Animorphs #8: The Alien, Chapters 9-11
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To my sorrow, we’ve skipped over the actual awkwardness of Marco taking Ax to the bookstore and teaching him to read, in favor of picking up again a day later when Ax is out in the woods reading the World Almanac. He’s cheerfully picking up all sorts of utterly useless trivia about things like the life span of the average sheep, but also observing with some concern how fast humans evolve technology, going from flight to space flight in a relatively short period of time.
(He’s also standing with one hoof in the water to drink, so I guess he was telling the truth before about absorbing his nutrients through his feet? Not to be species-ist, Ax, but I’m kinda weirded out by that.)
Anyway, here’s Tobias, sent out to find Ax because everyone else needs to talk to him Right The Fuck Now, because I was right in the last chapter - Ax should not have screwed around with Marco’s dad’s work equations. Apparently Ax accidentally invented several new ways to do astronomy, and a new branch of computer science, and Marco’s dad is flipping out about it.
Marco did some damage control by convincing his dad that Ax definitely just hit some keys by accident and is not some kind of astronomical genius, but that leaves the greater question that Rachel is keyed up about - what if the Yeerks get wind of a human just happening to suddenly invent a metric fuckton of advanced mathematics? It’s gonna be a wee bit suspicious and paint a target on everyone’s back.
Ax is thrown for a loop by the realization that he just accidentally handed several major scientific advancements over to the humans, in violation of his Andalite code. But he also is extremely interested in the mention of a “radio telescope” that Marco’s dad uses. If Ax could get his hands on a radio telescope, he could do some Handwavy Andalite Scientific Bullshit and rig up a way to send messages to his own world.
Rachel tries to call Ax on getting very weird all of a sudden, but he lies and says that he’s definitely not freaked out by or hiding anything! No ma’am, not at all! Meanwhile he’s busily pondering the fact that his duty to his people requires him to find a way to destroy the technological advances ASAP, but that perhaps “ASAP” could stand to wait a little while so that he can contact his family first.
(Um, Ax, even in the late nineties there were backups. I’m pretty sure you can’t just march in there and delete one file and walk back what you did. Your scientific advance is out there, buddy, that horse is not going back in that barn. You might as well go ahead and send your parents an alien Snapchat, since the damage is already done.)
After everyone else leaves and it’s dark enough to run around in the woods safely, Ax goes out for a bit of running around, dinner, and thinking about the situation he’s accidentally created. He’s so tied up in his own thoughts that he doesn’t even notice he’s getting dangerously close to Cassie’s house until he runs into her, in her horse morph. Apparently Ax isn’t the only one who likes to go running around at night, although Cassie would like her use of horse morph for personal fun kept secret from Jake, who might disapprove.
Cassie asks how Ax’s research into humanity is going, and he tells her what he was thinking about earlier - that humans are sort of terrifying in their ability to advance technology quickly. He thinks Yeerks aren’t after humans just to enslave them, but to stop them before they can amass enough technology to be a serious threat.
They run into a conversational wall, though, when Cassie wants to know how fast Andalites developed technology compared to humans, and Ax goes all avoidant again. Ax tries to explain that he doesn’t want to lie or hide information but that his oaths as an Andalite require him to avoid giving information about Andalites or their technology. Cassie points out that Ax’s brother broke that law when he gave them morphing power, and Ax doesn’t have a great answer for that. But “he was a prince and I’m basically still just a nerdy little kid who doesn’t have the authority to do things like that” ends the conversation for now.
Cassie, because she is too good for this world, too pure, a cinnamon roll of the highest order, pushes past her frustration and disappointment to see that Ax is lonely, and invites him to come in and meet her family. Morphed into Jake form, to explain why he’s there.
Oh, Cassie, honey. I was right there with you until that last bit, but I just don’t see this ending well.
Ax’s Earth Diary, excerpt, summarized: “Earth music is terrible, but Earth food is great, A+ job cultivating the hot pepper, humanity.”
Back in the story:
Ax shows up for dinner in his Jake morph, which is zero surprise to Cassie’s family,, because Cassie and Jake and their adorable teen love are apparently a secret to absolutely no one. Ax is very interested in observing human family dynamics and meeting Cassie’s parents, who have the expected number of arms and legs, so that all seems fine to him.
Ax ends up discovering spicy food (which he LOVES) and small talk (which he enjoys but is not particularly good at, spouting random factoids from the World Almanac), and he gets to watch some Earth TV. It actually doesn’t go nearly as badly as I was expecting. When Cassie walks “Jake” out after dinner, she offers him a new book to peruse. It’s a collection of famous quotes, which surely will not in any way turn out to be a bad idea. They debrief a bit on the subject of Cassie’s dad’s male pattern baldness and the Andalite equivalent, hooves getting dull with age.
Cassie tries to ask about Ax’s parents but he gets all choked up and sad about missing his family. Cassie tells him that it’s okay to miss his home, and that all of the Animorphs care about him, even if Rachel and Marco are on the suspicious side.
Ax is not so good with Having Emotions right now, so he responds to this attempt at a heart-to-heart by morphing back into his Andalite form, awkwardly thanking Cassie for introducing him to chili, and then running away.
That’s…not unlike how social interactions tend to end for my awkward self, actually, so it’s pretty relatable. “Excess of emotions - must escape!” is extremely sympathetic to me. Poor Ax. I mean, he should really just come clean about some stuff and also stop fucking around randomly with Earth stuff if he’s so worried about influencing humans, but still, I feel badly for the guy.
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