Animorphs #9: The Secret, Chapters 16-18
Tobias leads Cassie to the baby skunks and then flies off without staying to chat, given that things are noticeably frosty between them right now. Once he’s gone Cassie does her skunk morph and finds it to be a more pleasant experience than most of her other recent morphs. The skunk is basically just a gentle, chill ball of fluff.
She crawls on in to the skunk burrow, finds four kits, curls up with them to share her warmth, and feeds them her grasshopper. (One frozen grasshopper? For four baby skunks who’ve been starved for a couple of days? That does not seem like enough food to me, but admittedly I know absolutely nothing about the care and feeding of skunks.)
Taking care of the kits is probably the best Cassie’s felt in a little while, so instead of leaving right away, she stays.
Cassie: I probably shouldn’t fall asleep, given morph time limits and all.
Cassie: *immediately falls asleep*
She wakes up to the sound of Jake making loud thumping noises outside the burrow and yelling for her to hurry up and get back into human form because she’s going to hit her two-hour limit any minute now. She races out of the burrow and demorphs to find that Tobias has returned and brought Jake and Marco with him.
Jake promptly starts flipping out and yelling at Cassie about using her powers to save baby skunks and risking getting trapped in morph, when they need her to fight the Yeerks, etc., etc. I know he’s scared because he cares about Cassie and all so I get it, but my dude, I’m pretty sure she is not in any place for a lecture about her responsibilities right now. And yelling is a shitty way to do anything anyway. In short, shut the entire fuck up, child.
When they calm down a little bit, I manage to gain a tiny bit more sympathy for Jake when he points out that Cassie’s current “welp, maybe it’s just humanity’s turn to be low man on the food chain” defeatism is very personal for him because his brother is one of the people currently enslaved. But only a tiny bit. I still want Jake to shut the entire fuck up.
Cassie’s not going to even try to defend herself here but she is going to defend the baby skunks, come hell or high water. Jake, Tobias, and Cassie grudgingly agree that between them they can keep an eye on the skunks for the next day or two until their parent is healed up and returned to them.
They manage to establish a tiny bit of reconciliation over this plan, but it’s still pretty awkward. Awkwardness abounds. Is the “Secret” of this book title actually “these children all really need some therapy and aren’t getting it”?
Later that day, everyone regroups at the skunk burrow to form a Skunk Babysitting Plan. (Also to clarify for Ax that skunks as species aren’t sacred to humans, Cassie’s just being - you know. Cassie.) They’re near enough to the Evil Logging Camp of Evil that it’s not a simple thing to plan out safely.
While the kids are in school, Tobias and Ax will patrol the area. Ax will morph the mother skunk occasionally and feed the kits from a stash of Cassie’s Gourmet Frozen Bugs. Everyone else will take shifts after school and during the night.
Everyone’s pretty clearly humoring Cassie, and Marco makes a bunch of jokes about her environmentalist tendencies. I’m sure that he doesn’t mean any harm joking about how Cassie, the last sane one of them, has finally snapped. Because as noted earlier, Marco thrives on black humor, and I get that. But Cassie can’t help wondering if she really is losing her shit, given that she’s over-fixated on saving these skunks to mitigate the nervous breakdown she’s having about killing a termite. So the jokes aren’t really helping anything.
A few days pass and the Animorphs manage to keep the skunks alive. Marco names them after the Ramones, because of course he does. The problem is that the kits are growing and thriving so well that they want to start exploring outside the burrow.
Cassie decides to take the kits for a walk. Because of course she does. Cassie, this is a terrible idea. Why, Cassie.
Off they go through the woods, Cassie in skunk morph, the kits fairly well-behaved. They walk and sniff at things and are having a good time, when Cassie realizes that if she were actually their mother she’d be starting to teach them how to find their own food. Before she can decide how that might work, though, there’s the woofing and crashing sound of a dog coming toward them.
Good thing Cassie has loads of skunk instinct and knows exactly what to do, so she turns and aims and gives the kits their first lesson in spraying predators. And doesn’t realize until too late that it’s Jake’s dog, Homer, who’s apparently decided to come with the Animorphs on their walk to meet up with Cassie. Everyone is super grossed out and embarrassed. Except for Ax, who is grossed out and fascinated instead, because Ax.
Excitement over, Cassie gets the kits resettled in their burrow and resumes human form to find out what all her friends are doing there.
Big news: Ax’s tapping into the Yeerk computer has alerted them that the logging camp inspection schedule has been moved up and Farrand is coming today to check things out and decide on his vote. Time to jump into action!
I’m really enjoying that the two primary sources of tension in this book are “the care and feeding of baby skunks” and “the bureaucratic process of getting logging permits.”