|This article is written from a Real World point of view.|
- "Look, the Yeerks believe we're a band of Andalites, right? They think only Andalites can morph. They've figured out that the forest is the only place a group of Andalites could be hiding. Let's face it – if we were Andalites, we wouldn't exactly be able to rent an apartment."
"So we'd be in the forest. Just like Ax is right now. They want to use the logging operation as a way to go Andalite-hunting."
- ―Marco and Jake
There's something pretty weird going on in the woods behind Cassie's house. The place where Ax and Tobias call home. It seems the Yeerks have figured out one very important thing: Andalites cannot survive without a feeding ground. Visser Three knows the "Andalite bandits" don't feed where he does, so there can only be one other place.
Now Cassie, Marco, Jake, Rachel, Tobias, and Ax have to figure out a way to stop a bogus logging camp. Because if Visser Three finds Ax in the woods, nothing will stop him from finding the Animorphs....
This section needs a rewrite
Rachel and Cassie are in the school science lab where Cassie is working on a project in which a rat (named Courtney) is trying to find her way to food in a maze and take notes on the progress, but nothing happens. Rachel suggests that Cassie morph the rat to see what the problem is. Cassie agrees, but insists that Rachel has to morph the rat as well since Cassie helped Rachel out when Rachel wanted to scare the guy with the elephants. They acquire and morph the rat, then climb up to the table and go into the maze. Cassie finds out that the problem is a ceiling fan blowing the scent away. Just then, two guys enter the lab and start making trouble. They lift the maze up and spill Courtney, Rachel, and Cassie onto the tabletop, but before they run away, the guys smack the table with the handle of a broom. They jump over it and run for toward the table's edge and jump, just avoiding the handle. Cassie and Rachel decide to crawl up the pant legs of the two guys. The two guys run away in sheer panic as Rachel and Cassie escape and demorph.
Later that evening, the Animorphs meet up at Cassie's barn, where Tobias tells them of what he and Ax have discovered; the Yeerks have begun a logging operation in the forest, so that way, they can look for Andalites, whom the Yeerks believe the Animorphs to be. Cassie and Marco head out in their wolf morphs to the logging site, while Tobias with Jake and Rachel, in their bird of prey morphs, keep an eye on them. When they arrive, big steel nets explode from the treetops, Cassie escapes by a hair, but Marco gets caught. Cassie tries to lift the net as Controllers are coming for them, firing automatic rifles and Dracon beams, but can't. Just then, Ax appears and slices the net open with his tail blade freeing Marco and they all run for it. Later, Cassie goes out with her dad, Walter, to the side of the highway to treat a skunk that was badly burned, and Cassie finds out that the burn was caused by a Dracon beam. The Animorphs meet up at the mall on a Saturday, to talk about how to get through the force field and into the logging site's cabin headquarters. The plan is to morph into termites, which they feel uncomfortable doing because of the last time they morphed into colony insects. Jake takes out a termite that is from the same colony and they acquire it.
Later that night, Cassie helps with the injured skunk, whom she learns is a mother with babies that won't survive on their own, so she quickly acquires the skunk's DNA. She meets up with the others and they set off as owls into the night. Without telling the others, Cassie uses the owl's keen senses to look and listen for the baby skunks, so that she will be able to return to that location later. They reach the compound, where Ax suggests one of them create a distraction, so that the others can get close enough to the building and sneak in as termites. They draw straws and Jake gets the short straw; he sets off in his wolf morph while the others get close enough to the compound and morph into termites. When they morph termites, they discover that do not have any control over their actions, and are compelled by a voice to follow orders. Cassie enters the lair of the termite queen, who is producing pheromones that gave out orders to the termites; Rachel tells Cassie that the only way to escape is to kill the queen.
Struggling to trick the termite mind into thinking the queen is an enemy ant, Cassie reaches the queen and uses her pincer jaws to kill the queen. She panics and demorphs while under a floorboard, but the others calm her because there are humans and Hork-Bajir in the next room. Ax accesses a computer and finds a document, which tells them three members of a commission will vote on whether the logging can continue and one guy named Farrand is the deciding vote. The Yeerks plan to make him a Controller to get the vote. Ax makes a slight change in the programming or the computer that will allow it to be accessed from Marco's home computer, and he also temporarily shuts down the outer defenses. Everyone except for Ax runs out in wolf morph without any Controllers setting off the alarm or shooting at them and they join up with Jake and head home.
Cassie and Rachel sneak into Cassie's house just before dawn; Cassie has a dream where she is a mother skunk taking care of her kits. She wakes up, goes outside to feel the sun, and then goes into the barn and gets a frozen grasshopper from the refrigerator and sticks it into her pocket, heading toward the edge of the forest. She meets up with Tobias and they talk about what happened with the termites, Cassie talks about how she sick she feels in having to kill an living creature (the termite queen) and invade their world in order to survive, but Tobias tells her they were just bugs and they aren't Yeerks. She drops the subject and tells him what she's doing; she's going to go find the babies of the injured mother skunk. Tobias tells Cassie they're still alive, admitting he ate one, and that he can lead her to them and help.
She flies off with Tobias in her osprey morph, carrying the grasshopper in her talons. Tobias flies away and Cassie morphs into the skunk. She enters the burrow and curls up to the kits and feeds them the grasshopper and she peacefully falls asleep. She later wakes up and hears Jake's voice saying that Cassie's been in morph for almost two hours. She immediately exits the burrow and demorphs in front of Jake, Marco, and Tobias. Jake is extremely furious with Cassie's actions and he explains about how he also had real bad experiences in a morph. Jake reminds her that the Yeerks are still out there, but Cassie feels that that as humans are the winners in the survival of the fittest, maybe its their time to lose, though Jake reminds her that's it not about the human race, but about people they care about. As he turns around and walks away, Cassie tells Jake that the mother skunk will be ready to return in a day or so, but she won't abandon the kits and that she wants to make sure that they're fed, protected from predators, and can imprint on their mother. Tobias then says he will watch them while they all work something out in the meantime. Later that evening, the Animorphs gather at the skunks' den where their plan is to morph into skunks and take turns caring for the babies until their mother returns, as well as keeping up a patrol of the Yeerk logging compound.
Over the next two days, they successfully protect and nurture the skunk kits one by one. After school three days later, Cassie heads to the burrow and finds Tobias flying cover from about. After he tells her about how he chased off a hungry badger, he explains that the skunks are getting restless and want to venture out into the world. Cassie morphs and sees that they are getting restless so she decides to take them on a walk. During the walk, Cassie realizes that they need to learn how to provide for themselves. Suddenly, they hear a crash, something was coming for them. Cassie starts leading them back to the burrow, but the creature runs more quickly. The creature turns out to be a dog, and Cassie raises her tail to warn the dog, but to no avail. Cassie then aims and fires at the dog, and suddenly realizes too late that she recognized the dog. It was Jake's dog, Homer, and Jake and the others run up to discover what happened. After Cassie leads the kits back to the den, the others explain that they came to tell Cassie and Tobias that they've discovered that Farrand is coming early to cast the final vote on the logging in the forest and he will arrive in one hour. Just as they try to plan on what to do, Tobias tells them he hears something. They all listen in, and hear the sound of diesel engines, meaning the Yeerks are moving their equipment around. Tobias flies off to check, and the others decide that the plan is to keep Farrand alive, and keep the Yeerks from making him a Controller.
Tobias then rockets back and explains that the Yeerks have already started cutting down the trees, regardless of Farrand's decision because he will be infested. They're headed for the skunk burrow, so Cassie goes with Tobias check for Farrand's arrival and prevent him from being infested. Meanwhile, Jake, Rachel, Marco, and Ax attempt to slow down the tree-cutting machines. As Cassie begins morphing an osprey, she apologizes to Tobias for being mad about the skunk kits. He explain that he doesn't have to hunt, and Cassie asks why he does it, to which Tobias says it's because he's not just a human, but a hawk. Tobias then spots a Jeep from the logging compound, with Farrand riding in back. They will arrive at the camp in a few minutes and when they see how he reacts, they'll know if Farrand is a Controller or not. Cassie asks what they'll do if he's a Controller, and Tobias says they'll probably attack the logging operation itself, but then she asks what they would do if he wasn't a Controller. Tobias says they would go after him and whatever happened would happened, just like a termite. Tobias then explains to her that she's human, how her job is to keep herself and her species alive and the whole point of evolution is to survive, which is the law of nature and humans are a part of it. But Cassie says the Yeerks are also a part of it and they're no better than them. Tobias says they'll worry about it later, as he points out that the Jeep has reached the Yeerk fortress. Farrand waves his arms to get the machines to stop, when a man steps out of the building, but Cassie and Tobias both knew who that man really is: Visser Three in human morph.
As they wonder where the others are, the Visser suddenly lashes out and smacks Farrand in the face, and two Controllers from the Jeep grab Farrand. Cassie and Tobias dive, with Cassie targeting Visser Three and Tobias targeting one of the men. They hit their targets and Farrand breaks free and runs for it, but easily gets caught. Two bullets whiz past her, but a third one hits and goes through her right wing and she falls and hits the ground hard and blacks out. She later wakes up in a large, dark box with Farrand lying unconscious next to her. She hears Visser Three ordering the perimeter defenses online and to make sure to destroy anything that gets out of the box.
One Controller reports that the "Andalite Bandits" have now turned the machinery against the Yeerks, so the Visser orders the force field be turn on. Cassie demorphs, morphs into a skunk, and thought-speaks to Visser Three, trying not to reveal that she is human through her tone. She threatens to kill Farrand, because she knows the Yeerks need him alive for their plan to succeed. Visser Three understands and has the Controllers surround the box, and Cassie takes position as the door opens. Visser Three laughs in amusement at a skunk that has its back to him and its tail raised to him. Cassie then fires several times and hits the Visser, and the Controllers run for the outside get away from the horrid skunk smell.
Ax speaks to Visser Three, stating that they've reached a standoff; if the force field comes down, the machines would destroy the building and would probably kill Farrand, which neither side wants. The Visser refuses to be bargained with, as he has forces on the way to help, but Ax questions how the Visser's Blade ship will smell once once the skunk stench is introduced. This doesn't worry Visser Three, it will go away, to which Ax says it would, but only in open air, which the interior of an airtight spacecraft does not have. However, if they let Farrand go free, they'll give them the secret on how to neutralize the stench. Knowing he has no other choice, Visser Three orders his men to get Farrand: once he's dropped off at the nearest hospital, they'll reveal the secret, and Tobias will be watching to make sure they don't try anything. After Farrand is dropped off at the hospital, the Animorphs tell Visser Three about a certain kind of juice that will eliminate the smell, and he screams in fury as they disappear into the woods.
The next day, Jake, Marco, Rachel, Cassie, and Ax bring the mother skunk back to her babies and Jake says it's now safe for them. He had spied on Farrand in fly morph, revealing that he's fine and he's voted against the logging of the forest, in fact, he doesn't want anything to do the Yeerk's logging company. As they head back home, Jake hangs back with a confused Cassie, asking her what was bothering her. She explains how the whole law of nature, or the circle of life, does not make sense to her and whether she should just live by it, or if she's different because she's human. Jake then says he does know that while all animals take care of themselves, only one animal has the intelligence and to save all the others. Just then, Tobias appears, coming back from checking in on the Yeerks. He divulges that the Yeerks have dug a big pit and filled it with juice, and that Visser Three has been in it for most of the night and for the whole morning, but he still stinks and is now purple. It turns out that the juice they told the Visser would get rid of the skunk smell was not tomato juice, but grape juice, and they all break out laughing.
- Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul (Mentioned Only)
- Naomi (Mentioned Only)
- Steve (Mentioned Only)
- Jean (Mentioned Only)
- Peter (Mentioned Only)
- Dracon beams
- Elfangor's fighter (Mentioned Only)
- Bug fighter (Mentioned Only)
- Blade ship (Mentioned Only)
- Cassie speaks to Visser Three for the first time.
- It is revealed that Jake, as leader, had issued his first edict – that the Animorphs shall not morph for personal reasons or for reasons other than fighting the Yeerks unless it is an emergency. The rule was most likely implemented after the three previous instances where morphing for personal reasons put one or all of them at risk: Tobias and Rachel's attack on the used car lot in The Encounter, Marco nearly getting killed while saving an old man in The Predator, and Rachel morphing into an elephant and thought-speaking to a circus trainer in The Stranger.
- Tobias and Rachel's relationship is brought up once more as it becomes disclosed that Tobias goes over to Rachel's room at night many times, to read or watch TV.
|Morpher||Morphs acquired||Morphs used|
|Jake||Great Horned Owl, Termite, Skunk||Peregrine Falcon, Great Horned Owl, Wolf, Skunk, Siberian Tiger, Housefly|
|Rachel||White Rat (Courtney), Termite, Skunk||White Rat (Courtney), Bald Eagle, Great Horned Owl, Termite, Wolf, Skunk, Grizzly Bear|
|Cassie||White Rat (Courtney), Termite, Skunk||White Rat (Courtney), Wolf, Great Horned Owl. Termite, Skunk, Osprey|
|Marco||Great Horned Owl, Termite, Skunk||Wolf, Great Horned Owl, Termite, Skunk, Silverback Gorilla (Big Jim)|
|Ax||Great Horned Owl, Termite, Skunk||Human (Main), Great Horned Owl, Termite, Skunk|
- The cover quote is, "No place to run. No place to hide...."
- The inside front cover quote is, "What big teeth you have...."
- This is the fourth book in which the cover art does not depict a morph acquired in the book.
- The preview ad in book 8 advertised book 9 to come with a tattoo - but it comes with a postcard, not a tattoo.
- Despite Jake acquiring the termite, he never uses it for the mission, and never ends up using it for the whole series. This makes him one of the few Animorphs who has acquired a morph they've never actually used.
- Cassie mentions the wolves being reintroduced to their national forest again. This is the third time this is mentioned in the series thus far, first in The Encounter and then again in The Stranger.
- Cassie also mentions her father's pickup truck being stolen and driven by Marco; this event transpired in Megamorphs #1: The Andalite's Gift.
- This is the first time one of human Animorphs directly communicates with Visser Three using thought-speak, in this instance being Cassie. This also marks Cassie's first time using thought-speak to speak to a Controller as well as her first time using thought-speak to communicate with someone outside of the Animorphs.
- Cassie notices three birds on p36, yet just mentions Jake and Tobias, omitting mentioning Rachel, who is with them in her bald eagle morph.
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