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Morphcatcher

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Chapter 1 – Minji

My laptop had just crashed and I was waiting for it to reboot, which was taking quite a while. I leaned towards Gahyeon's screen and let my face fall flat on her shoulder at an appropiate speed to cause just the amount of pain needed for comedy.

'Ouch', I mumbled exactly three mississipi after my face hit, without Gahyeon making any sign that she had received even the smallest stimuli. I rotated my head on its axis (that's the neck, babes) in order to have a gaze at Gahyeon's report. Even though she was a bunch of years younger than me, her report looked much more organized than mine. I tried reading a single line and I felt so instructed that I had to look away inmediately. I grazed her arm affectionately as I pulled away. She glanced at me and returned the gesture with her right hand, as the left continued to type. What a superb little cowboy, I love her.

My computer wasn't quite back in her final form yet, as Windows had decided to update. That good ol' Windows, he always knew when I didn't feel like getting any work done. So I leaned the other way and scratched the back of Siyeon's almost shaven head. She leaned into the scratch while squinting her eyes placidly, then looked at me inquiringly. I shrugged and signaled my computer's screen, which was encouragingly locked at a 33% update progress.

She frowned while compressing the right corner of her mouth, in that characteristic way she sometimes does. She then looked at me, eyebrows raised, pointing outward with her thumb. “Wanna leave for a breather?”, that sort of gesture. I nodded and started to get up, as did Siyeon. I eyed Handong, Yoobin and Yoohyeon to see if they wanted to come, not even bothering with Gahyeon. Handong smiled while waving her hand no, and went back to her paper. Yoobin nodded and got up, closing her minion-riddled laptop and pulling back her chair as silently as possible.

Yoohyeon, without bothering to remove her heavy duty, glowing, gamer-issue headphones, screamed 'Where are you guys going?! I wanna come with!' at the top of her lungs, and then she kicked her chair back and the four of us exited the library.


We were still laughing about it and trying to convince Yoohyeon that she hadn't, in fact, whispered her question, when we arrived at the vending machines.

'Does anyone actually want to drink anything?', Yoobin asked. We all turned to look at her with empty eyes, our minds void for a second. I took out my water bottle from my tote bag and had a sip without taking my eyes off her. 'Okay', sighed Yoobin, and bought a can of coffee, almost certainly just for the sake of not going to the vending machines in vain.

The vending machines were a short walk away from the library. They were placed below a tin roof sustaining itself on some thin metal pillars, and just past them we had a nice view of the wilds that extended from the west end of the campus, as they were near a slope that went down into the first trees and bushes of the forest. Every now and then you got to see a distracted boar or bunny wandering around, and WE got to scream compliments at them like proud grandmas at a school play.
We walked a few steps closer to the slope to look at the sunset over the canopy, and the mountains and buildings that stood far away behind it.

'This is a dang good place to take a rest, I'll say', I did indeed say, and I then added, waving at all the clean air: 'Look at all that clean air.'

'Clean air has no secrets for me. I can see right though it', Siyeon said just before taking a sip from my water. 'Mud, though... that is a worthy enemy. You can't see through muddy water.'

We all pondered this for a while, while admiring the beautiful twilight. Soon, my thoughts wandered, and as the cold air ruffled my hair and made me eat some of it, I unfazedly meditated on a feeling I'd been having as of late.

You see, I had a kind of luck that not everyone gets during their lives: all of my friends were in one place. Through a careful mix of hard effort and dumb luck, we had all entered the same college, and were spending more time than ever together. Gahyeon, Siyeon, Handong, Yoobin and Yoohyeon: I could laugh with the five people I loved most, every single day.

And then, as I stole Yoobin's coffee can with my lightning reflexes and had a very small but very meaningful sip from it, I had the feeling again. I needed to record this happiness and love and laughter deep in my heart. These times were what I would want to come back to and remember in all detail when, somehow, someday, inevitably, everything changed.

That turned out to be fucking prophetic of me, because right at that moment was when the fucking UFO fell from the fucking sky. Goddamnit.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2 – Yoobin

At first it just looked like the slowest possible shooting star. By the time it got to be the size of a schoolbus, we were all pretty sure that was a spaceship we were seeing. It touched ground at an amazing speed, yet in total silence, and no fire started in the area where it hit. My friends' screaming didn't cease for a moment. Yoohyeon specifically was losing it. She ripped my sleeve a little from pulling my arm, but I was too amazed to complain.

Slowly, the “conversation” shifted from cries of what-the-fuck-ness to half-whispers about what we should do now.

'I mean, we're going to check it out, right?', Siyeon said. She was trying to look calm, but the small tremors going on in specific parts of her body gave out her excitement.

Yoohyeon switched to Siyeon's sleeve. 'Are we?? I mean, I want to, of course, but I mean...' She stopped for a moment, her look wandering as she searched her mind for the words. 'I mean...!', she added as her gaze snapped back to Siyeon with determination, but she trailed off again. 'I! Mean!' she exclaimed one last time, frowning and gesticulating expansively with her hands.

It struck me that Minji had remained silent during this exchange. When I looked at her, she was turned around, looking this way and that with a worried expression.
'Everything okay, unnie?', I asked.

'No one else is outside. The campus looks absolutely empty.', she answered as she turned to me. But her frown was still on and her eyes were still looking somewhere else. Searching.

'It's getting late', Siyeon offered. 'Besides, it's lucky that only we have seen it. We get the scoop.'

'You're probably right.' Minji shook her head and added, 'I'm not against prudently going down there to see if we can't befriend an alien, but we should go for Gahyeon and Handong. They won't want to miss it.'

'But, but! What if we get got by the Secret Service or something!! Time is of the essence!!', Yoohyeon fussed. Then, taking her reflex camera's case out of her bag: 'I'll take the good pics!!'

Minji didn't seem satisfied with this explanation. She turned her frown at me and asked, 'How about you, Yoobin? What do you think?'

'I don't really--'

'Before you answer, Yoobin!', Yoohyeon interceded. 'Please consider: there is SCIENTIFICALLY a slim but very real chance that the aliens will be small, yellow and capsular in shape.'

'With an irregular number of eyes!', added Siyeon, nodding and pointing at Yoohyeon, with her eyes wide open and her eyebrows arched in admiration, 'and a propensity for kind of lousy engineering work.'

I grumbled in defeat and chugged the rest of my coffee in one angry go.


We walked down the slope carefully, but after that we were practically trotting, trying to keep up with Siyeon's excited pace. The idea of not being able to find the spacecraft didn't even cross our minds. It's not that easy to find your way in a forest almost in the dark, but amazingly we didn't have to half-run in a straight line for long before a strange glow manifested itself through the foliage. Admittedly, it was quite to our right, but we hadn't done that badly.

As we slowly came near the glowing wreckage of broken trees, Minji held my hand. She then wrapped her other hand around Yoohyeon's, who was a few steps forward. Yoohyeon reacted quickly and took Siyeon's hand.

We were tip-toeing in a line, seeming to almost not advance at all, when we kind of heard something. I mean... we kind of heard it. We all started. Yoohyeon screamed the most high-pitched scream I'd heard her scream since that one time we tried juggling together. Siyeon kicked a tree to intimidate herself into regaining her composture. Minji squeezed my hand tighter and edged ever so slightly more between me and the glow.

We're more than used to thought-speak by now, but that first time almost killed us dead.

(Hello? Who's there?), the voice said for the second time in our heads. It was... I was able to put the voice into words, but it felt like something... deeper than that. It was almost as if meanings were arising inside my mind and then my brain was assigning words to them.

(If you haven't attacked me yet, you aren't Yeerks. Please come nearer. I won't hurt you.) Nope, “Yeerks” was definitely just a word. But had the voice said “attacked me” or “finished me off”? The two meanings kind of bubbled together in my mind. Moreover, now that I was starting to be able to focus on the voice itself...

'You sound like shit', Yoohyeon shouted, sending the rest of us jumping again. She let go of Minji and Siyeon and tried to climb past a tree that had fallen onto another tree, blocking us the view of the spaceship. 'You okay, uh... buddy?'

(I am not. I will die a few Earth minutes from now. It is important that I share information with you before that happens.)

'Oh my god, I'm so sorry. Oh my god. Let me just... I'll be right there, buddy. Maybe we can still bandage you or... Oomph. Just a sec.' Yoohyeon's strength, surprising at times and traitorous at high-fives, wasn't helping her get past this tree, so she decided to sacrifice the integrity of her pullover and crawl under it, inevitably getting caught in some of the branches, but still managing to make it to the other side.
Siyeon signaled at us and we all went through a perfectly accessible and visible opening between two intact trees a couple metres to the left.

The alien was lying on the floor beside the spaceship, which was in perfect shape. The alien was... not in perfect shape. Minji hurled the moment she saw him. I squeezed her hand, and she squeezed back. Again, she tried to make a chain, this time by taking Siyeon's hand. Siyeon then tried to take Yoohyeon's, but she got ignored. Yoohyeon looked stunned, but she got down on her knees and took the alien's face affectively between her hands. She then took his blue, six-fingered hand between hers. I observed that her face was contorted in an effort not to cry; and then realized that I, who hadn't had such presence of mind, was already crying. I couldn't see Minji or Siyeon's faces, but they were shaking. Was I as well?

(Thanks for coming to my aid, though I, specifically, am beyond help.) The voice in my head still felt weak and hurt, but it had a slightly warmer undertone to it now, at least for a second. (I am Prince Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul, of the Andalite species. I wish we could have met in better circumstances, and I wish I could have known you better before I'd had to put such a heavy weight on your shoulders. But my sister's life, and the whole of humanity, are in your hands.)

Chapter Text

Chapter 3 – Siyeon

 

After dropping that bomb on us, Elfangor the alien remained silent for a second. Despite how bad I felt about his whole deal, I was starting to get a bit annoyed that he was taking his time for dramatic pauses when he supposedly had so little time left.

'Can you tell us about your sister first?', I blurted without thinking. Two of his four eyes, the ones that were mounted on blue stalks on top of his blue head, turned to me.

(Do you not want to know about the danger your species is in?), he asked. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Minji and Yoobin looking at me as well. Yoohyeon kept her back to me, but I thought I saw her make the faintest nod.

I opened my mouth to answer, but I didn't really have an explanation. Without missing a beat, Minji interceded: 'W-we figure if she's old enough maybe she can explain just as well as you, mister... Mister.'

'Maybe even help you, if we can bring her back in time!', Yoobin contributed, but even she knew that was a reach. A+ for effort, though.

All of Elfangor's eyes squinted in a sort of mouthless smile. He then turned his stalk eyes back toward Yoohyeon. For a moment, there was silence again, and then Yoohyeon nodded firmly, let go of his hand and stood up.

'I'm going into the ship to look for a thing', she said with a surprising serenity, while swatting softly at her pants to try and clean some of the goo that had stuck to them. 'If it's a trick, please have the kindness of bashing his head in. No offense.'

A soft, strained laugh popped up within my head as Yoohyeon walked into the ship. Minji immediately let go of Yoobin and me and jumped over Elfangor's scattered body in order to get in the UFO with Yoohyeon. I started to step forward as well, but then Yoobin grabbed my arm.

'Okay', I whispered. I stayed put and she drew closer.

(I thank you for your concern for my sister), Elfangor started. (She is indeed an adult, and can tell you about the Yeerk invasion as well as I ever could. She...)

'Did you say a cube or a sphere?!', Yoohyeon cried from inside the ship. 'And if it's a cube, does it have to be exactly a cube or can it be, like, a little long on the sides?'

(It's a blue cube. It's the one that pulsates with a fateful energy), Elfangor responded so that all of us could hear.

'Yep, that's the one, got it. Thanks!' Yoohyeon exited the ship cube in hand.

'I-I want to congratulate the spaceship exploration team on being self-aware enough to ignore the big red mystery button of death in the middle of the dashboard. R-real responsible and world savior-esque of us', Minji sniffled as she came out of the ship carrying not one but several different alien implements in her arms. 'Hey mister, how many of these are laser guns?'

The alien laughed again, this time a bit more heartily. (All of them), he answered, still with a laugh in our brains and a smile in his eyes. I let a small cackle out as well. Yoobin, too, as she wiped her eyes.

'Okay, come on, your sister, man', I prompted him again with more confidence. 'Focus.'

(Yes. My sister, Kimarrim-Boraldria-Thishel, is the only other Andalite warrior I am aware of that managed to escape the ambush we received by Yeerk forces in the orbit of planet Earth. As I was shot down and falling down to Earth, I was able to track where her craft had landed.)

Yoohyeon sat on her knees next to him again, holding the blue cube in her two hands. She offered him the cube, but Elfangor signaled the rest of us to get closer. He kept explaining as we relaxedly did so.

(Unfortunately, I'm reasonably sure that she crash-landed into a nearby lake. And I know for a fact that her life support was damaged in the fight. She can't have more than half of your Earth hours of Andalite oxygen left.)

'The ship's glow is dimming...', Yoobin thought aloud.

'What's special about Andalite oxygen?', Yoohyeon asked with sadness, taking Elfangor's hand again.

(It's blue), he answered, his stalk eyes curling slowly toward the ground.

We remained in silence. Now that Yoobin had mentioned it, the ship wasn't glowing even half as much as before.

(What's wrong? Have I lost my touch with human humour?) The words formed sluggishly in my mind. The voice didn't have enough energy to carry any emotion, and that somehow made me mad, in a way.

'No, it was good', Yoohyeon reassured him softly, in a tender whisper. 'It's just that that sort of jokes are usually reserved for fathers.'

(Ah. That's appropiate, then...) The last word dissolved into the sound of a sigh in my mind. The stalk eyes lay still on the grass. The ship's glow went out like a blown candle. We were in total dark.


After a while, and punctuated by loud sobs, Yoohyeon commented: 'He really chose to go telling a dad joke instead of explaining what the fuck we were supposed to do with the blue box, huh.'

'Yeah, and what was all that talk about Jerks?', I asked, suddenly annoyed again. 'I mean, those have invaded Earth already.'

'I-it's been a huge success, that one', Minji concurred. She then blew her nose.

'I'm pretty sure he said Yeerks', Yoobin pointed.

'Well I'm pretty sure he said Jerks, so, there. And what about his sister, anyway? She fell in a lake? That's all we get?', I went on.

'I actually caught that one', Yoohyeon mumbled, raising her hand a little bit. 'There's only one lake out here and it's Lake Mulgeon. I've gone... a couple times at night.

Plus, the moon is almost full, so... I think I can take us there.'

We all looked at her in the dark. Her face was kinda visible, but her traits were not. It was moderately creepy.

'Y-you can say Lake Makeouts, you know', Minji said in a mock motherly manner while holding like five stolen alien blasters simultaneously. 'It's okay to be interested in those things at your age.' Yoohyeon laughed and squealed a little in mock embarrassment. It only came out a little bit forced, considering the circumstances.

I got up and started to say “Okay, Yoohyeon, take us to Lake Makeouts to meet our new new alien friend”, but halfway through “Okay”, a male voice scared the shit out of me. I crouched back down as fast as gravity would let me.

'Hey! Hey! Hey, you!', the man had said. When I was already down again, he went on: 'Stop right there! Guys, I've seen someone!'

He got some grisly noise as a reply. Some kind of roar? All I could see were the glints of pure fear in the faces of my friends.

'Is that a Yeerk??', Yoobin asked in a desperate whisper.

'I don't know him, Yoobin!', I answered in exasperation. Flashlights were starting to point in our direction, just over our heads. One of them settled on Elfangor's ride.

'Guys! That's it! The Andalite fighter!', the same man screamed.

'Look for the pilot. Ready your dracon beams and shoot on sight', another voice said. It had the same quality as that awkward roar we had heard. The pronunciation was a bit disjointed. I turned my head slightly to see if I could see who was doing the talking between the leaves and branches of the wrecked trees; I caught only a silhouette, but it was enough to tell me this was no human. It was too big, its neck and head were too long, and it had too many spikes.

'Oh, that's got to be a Yeerk', Yoobin whispered again, choking with terror.

'Okay, Yoobin, wow. No need to be racist', Yoohyeon scolded her.

'What are we gonna do?!' Our horseshit wasn't helping calm Yoobin at all. She was more upset by the second, and to be honest, so was I.

'Alright.' Finally, Minji spoke. There was no trace of shakiness in her words anymore. 'Everyone get a gun. We all crawl our way out of these guys' sight, then run for the lake. Yoohyeon goes first, I go last. We rescue the alien this time and are home safe at the dorm before breakfast.'

Chapter Text

Chapter 4 - Yoohyeon

Minji gave me one of the guns, but I immediately stashed it in my bag, together with the mystery cube (listen, it's a big bag). No way was I gonna go around shooting people.

Siyeon, however, seemed like she was feeling for the trigger. Well, it's not like she had a bag, I guess. She's a pockets kind of person, which I admire and enjoy. She must have found the trigger, because the part of the implement that looked like it went “Pew!” flashed a faint blue for a second. Siyeon looked rapidly at the rest of us, with a deep glint of “I just peed my pants” in her eyes.

'They're coming closer. We need to go', Minji hissed. 'Now.'

In order to avoid saying something stupid, I said nothing at all. I nodded and turned my back. If the ship was here, then the campus was to our right, and the lake was to our left. Away from the guys who were possibly Jerks, judging by their tones and not the spikiness of their skin.

I started crawling as fast as I could. Siyeon was right behind me, so after her must have been Yoobin, and then Minji. I hadn't seen, were they all holding their guns? Wait, was I the only loser who wasn't holding a space gun from outer space like a badass? More importantly, how could they crawl like that? It was taking me all of my abundant dexterity to make any progress on all fours, not threes, across the forest floor. Even more so because I had to go through all the bushes and stop whenever a flashlight's flashing light zoomed over my head. Which, by the way, whenever I had to brake, Siyeon bumped her head on my butt and made me eat a bunch of dirt. Half fun and half not.

Anygay, thankfully we were far enough away when we heard the alleged Jerks finally get to poor Elfangor and his ship. There was... laughter and cheering and roaring, which kinda did make me wanna go around shooting some specific people for a second. Before I could realize, I had stopped and Siyeon bumped into my butt again.

'Hey! What are you doing?! Go on, they're distracted!!', she urged me under her breath. I sat up a little, trying to get a good look at them.

'I'm learning those assholes' faces', I replied.

'Yoohyeonnie... this is really not the time', Minji whispered compassionately.

I lingered on my meerkat-like position for a second, taking a better look at the big, dinosaur-looking dude with the long neck, snake head and multiple protruding blades all across their body.

'Very well. Let's “remove all traces”, as Visser Three calls it', the dinosaur person ordered. It just then hit me that they were speaking perfect Korean. 'Then we can go on and look around for whatever Aklan 4543 thinks he saw.'

That was enough to get me out of my trance. I went back to full crouch and scooted forward in a rage-powered crawl. I started to hear cartoonish laser beam sounds at my back, but they weren't pointed at us. More likely, they were shooting at poor Elfangor and his ship. Wait... his ship!!

'Oh, shit!', I exclaimed suddenly, although it came out more as “oh, shifhhgfhg”, since I had halted again and Siyeon had head-butted (heh heh) me into the dust once more. This time I also felt the replicas of the impact as Yoobin and Minji crashed as well. Nice.

'What now?!', Siyeon almost cried.

'I didn't take any pictures!! Of the ship!! I mean, I wouldn't have snapped poor Elfangor, because of his whole “rest in pieces” situation, butffgnngfgnfg', I explained. As you can probably guess, Siyeon pushed me again before I could finish.

'Sorry', she mumbled, surprised at herself.

'I-inside voices, Yoohyeon', Minji scolded, trying not to giggle, in a sing-song hiss of amused terror.

'I was whispering!', I complained, a laugh forming in my throat.

'I can't believe we're not dead yet', Yoobin sighed shakily, covering her face with her hands. After a moment, she looked up with a flash of inspiration and added, 'Hey, how much of thirty minutes must have passed already?'

'Oh fuck, the sister!! Right. Okay. Right. Right!!', I'm pretty sure I murmured in the softest of voices. Then I turned to the front as my friends shushed me exasperatedly, and started to scoot again.

You know, after a while there I felt like I was getting good at crawling on all fours and everything. I thought I was getting some serious speed, for a biped, and was pretty dang proud of myself. It feels like a tender but embarrassing memory from my teenage years, or something: I hadn't even been a cockroach yet.


 

When we felt far away enough from the crash site, we got up and started to run. I distractedly swatted at my ruined pants mid-sprint, then held on tight to my bag, which was bloated with alien technology and as such bounced like a motherfucker.
We were in the lake's shore a couple minutes after that, panting but glad to be safe for the moment. The moonlight, unbothered now that we weren't under the canopy, illuminated the scene for a perfect makeout mood. And Yoobin said we had arrived with like 4 minutes of leeway, so I don't know what all the fuss was about, but we had a new problem now.

'Okay... so...', Minji gasped. 'Where... the hey... is the... the thingy... with the friend innit.'

'Are we gonna... have to swim?', asked Siyeon, just about ready to take off her pants, I knew.

Yoobin stepped somewhat closer to the water, squinting. 'I don't... think so. Look, over... there. It glows.'

We all looked where she was pointing. I hadn't seen it at first, but when you knew where it was, it was obvious. Something shiny was laying in a shallower part of the lake, near the opposite shore. We went full sprint again, this time with less breathing and more “Oof”.

When we were in front of the ship, which looked a lot like poor Elfangor's, we didn't stop to think about how we had no idea how to open it. Minji dropped her bag and tied her dress up without breaking her run and went straight into the water, and the rest of us followed. Yoobin dropped her small backpack. Siyeon managed to pull her own pants off mid-step in an impressively acrobatic motion, and dropped them and her coat on the shore; they fell with a heavy thud and a lot of jingling. She looked at me waving her gun as if asking if she should drop it and I shrugged, so she kept it.

We waded all we could, but the zone the ship was in wasn't as shallow as we thought. Finally, after swimming a little, we were next to it. Minji just swam right into it, then crawled on the small surface of it that was above water, and finally let her face hit it with a clonk. After an exact three mississipi, she wheezed: 'Ouch.'
Siyeon, Yoobin and I all reached for the top of the ship and crawled on top like Minji, resting the upper halves of our bodies in it. We were too exhausted to be startled by the voice that then proceeded to pop up in our heads.

(Hey! Is that anyone? Are you sentient?) She sounded only slightly desperate, considering she had only a few minutes to live. Her voice distilled confidence and energy. After a moment, she asked, a little louder, (Elfangor?)

Oof. That one went straight for the guts. I tried to ignore my friends as they looked at each other with pity for the alien, and cupped my hands around my mouth to shout into the ship's roof. Even without any breath left, I was confident in my ability to rack up some decibels.

'We're here to rescue you!!', I cried, and paused to breathe. 'Your brother sent us!!', another pause. 'How do we open this shit... and let you out?!!'

(You are locals), she muttered, obviously disappointed. Then she went on, back to her previous energetic vibe. (Okay, listen: I cannot understand you. My translator needs a longer sample to start working, and I will probably run out of oxygen before that happens, so. I need you to blow up the upper side of my fighter whichever way you can, or I will asphyxiate and die. Do you guys asphyxiate around here? No, wait, you can tell me later. Come on, blow it up!!)

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 5 – Siyeon

'Well, what are we waiting for?', I asked, and made a motion to start climbing onto the top of the ship, waving my gun with glee.

'Wait!', Yoobin cried, raising her hand in alarm. 'Let me make sure she's not right under us first.' She let go of the ship and sank into the freezing water without hesitation.

'She's the future of this country', Minji commented wistfully.

'The only one present with a whole brain cell all to herself', Yoohyeon chided with a sort of sisterly pride.

'I will neither confirm nor d-d-deny', Minji replied. The cold was settling in.

Then, Yoobin emerged with that sort of reverse splashing sound people do when coming out of the water. You know the one. She was a few meters away and gasping, but her whole arm was outstretched to show us a glistening thumbs up.

'Right! Push me up!', I shouted excitedly. Minji was on her way to hold Yoobin and take her to where they could stand, but Yoohyeon gave my butt a huge push; I heard her sink herself in the process, though. As I took advantage of the impulse, I held on to whatever shallow irregularities I could find in the glowing surface with my free hand, sticking my gun hand out for balance. I lowered the opposing knee for better stability.

Yes. Finally.

I had completed the super-hero pose in a real-life action scenario.

'You're wobbling a little there, M-Mr. Stark!', Minji cried in rampant aegyo while swimming toward the ship, presumably to see if she could help Yoohyeon. Yoobin snickered; Yoohyeon cackled like a witch (while still spitting water) until she choked with a fish or something.

'I'm not wobbling!! I'm cool and in control!!', I refuted lamely.

(I have heard the sound of several small collisions. Are you trying to break a hole into an Andalite fighter with rocks? Small rocks? Is this your tech level?), Elfangor's sister asked, louder and slower than how she had thought-spoken last time. She was silent for a short moment, then added: (I know it is unlikely, but I do not like to hold to preconceptions: has your culture, by any chance, figured what is it that happens when one dies?)

I took in a deep breath, trying my damnedest to not be deathly annoyed at the person whose life I was trying to save. I stood up and pointed the blaster downwards.

Like last time, it only took a caress of the tip of my finger on the trigger, which was more of a general area than an actual button, to make the shooty end of the gun flicker.

I muttered something to the effect of “I'll show you preconceptions, dunkass”, and I pressed as hard as my finger biceps could manage. The flicker quickly got faster, brighter and louder, until it stabilized into a beam that exited the gun and collided with the surface right in front of my feet; the floor exploded in a big blue flash, and that did absolutely send me flying backwards and into the water.

As I made contact with the freezing lake and held to the laser gun for dear life, all I could think was that it would be fun to count how many seconds would it take Minji to come to me screaming and drag me up to the surface. I didn't make it to two. The two Yoos quickly arrived as well to help Minji support me and drag me to firm ground, but then the cries stopped short.

I wiped and opened my eyes, and then I saw her. I had missed the exact moment she had come out of the hole, but I could see her now, soaring in a straight line from the place I had stood on less than a minute ago. She then stopped gaining altitude and began gliding in circles. She glistened majestically against the moonlight, beautiful beyond measure. Her feathers spilled white and green flashes of reflected light; her six pairs of wings let her navigate through the air with elegant ease.

'S-she looks nothing like Elfangor...', Yoobin murmured in awe.

Elfangor's sister finished her glide by landing on the shore, near our bags and clothes. She glanced at us for a moment, and then...

'H-Hey?? Hey K-Ki... Kimi... Hey sister?! What the fuck??!', Yoohyeon cried. We were shivering and clacking our teeth, up to our waists in the lake and huddling like a bunch of Everest climbers, but still we found ourselves unable to take one single step towards the shore. What we were seeing had us paralyzed.

The alien's eagle-like form had started shifting. It was getting larger, but that wasn't the problem. Her contours blurred and curved as all of her feathers stood on end, then decomposed into fibers that got sucked into her body. Her wings then started rolling together in small groups, then fusing, then articulating into extremities: two arms, four deer-like legs, one long tail with something shiny on its end. The bird's beak had retracted, leaving only three orifices to breathe, with no mouth; and two extra eyes had grown on top of two stalks on her head. Her whole deal had turned blue. It was hard to picture how an Andalite usually looked just from what we had seen of Elfangor, but this was clearly more like it than what had come out of the ship.

When she was done, she looked... like a centaur that was half-deer instead of horse, and whose tail was one big long noodle with a fucking shortsword on its tip. And of course, let's not forget the snail eyes turning in all directions and the pointy ears. The beautiful, beautiful pointy ears. Have I mentioned her mad abs?

'How the fuck can I possibly be finding her hot?', Yoohyeon muttered. To my unending surprise, so did I, word for word, simultaneously. Minji, keeping to her more elegant ways, limited herself to a gaping mouth and a sluggish nod.

Yoobin turned her head to face us at mach speed. Just as watching Elfangor's sister transform from bird into Andalite had been a wondrous experience, so was watching Yoobin's expression of amazement at the almost-first contact of humans with hot aliens be replaced by the fascinated disgust of having your friends be horny at a blue deer.

'P-point taken, Yoobin', Minji acknowledged. Looking at her, I was thankful that it was hard to tell if she was blushing in the moonlight. That meant it'd be hard to tell that I absolutely was, too. She straightened herself up and assumed a more serious posture, then patted Yoohyeon and me quickly to encourage us to do the same. We walked towards the shore with our formal faces on. The situation felt really solemn all of a sudden.

As if responding to our change of posture, our new friend stiffened her torso and re-balanced her weight between her four hoofed legs. Her curvaceous but deadly-looking tail drew a kind of eight-shape that hid the blade from us.

(Okay, so... I am infinitely thankful to you all for saving my life and also for not being Yeerks and shooting me dead right about now?), she started, tentatively. After nothing happened, she let some air go through the three slits she had for a nose and her tail did a subtle change of shape; the tail was still not visible, but it looked a little less coiled, a little less... ready. She went on. (Cool. My name is Kimarrim-Boraldria-Thishel. I am an Andalite Warrior, almost a Princess, really, if you take into account my many achievements and extensive prowess in both one-on-one and space-based combat.) Yoohyeon seemed to have something to say about Kimarrim's space-based combat prowess, until Minji hugged her tightly enough with just one arm to make her expel all of her air in a creaky door sound effect.


(We Andalites were coming to your planet intending no harm to your species, but a lot of harm to the Yeerks who are invading it. Do you know about the Yeerks? Nevermind, I cannot understand you yet, we will get to that. Anygay, what I was getting at is that when we were arriving to this homeworld of yours's orbit, we were ambushed by a force of Yeerks much larger than we could possibly have anticipated. We were... We were nearly wiped out. Before I was hit by a glancing blow from the Yeerk general Visser 3's Blade-Ship and my fighter was disabled, I saw... I... I must not sugar-coat it, not even to myself. I saw most of my friends die. And I harbor little doubt that the rest quickly followed suit. But I do have one final sliver of hope. I saw my brother and Prince, Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul's fighter get hit and sunk into this planet's atmosphere. You have done much for me already, but I have yet to ask one favor of you. I am begging you, please, help me find him.)

By this point, my and my friends' solemn stances had slowly melted into yet another mountain climber huddle to fight the ever increasing sadness as well as the cold. It didn't prevent a quadruple, pained moan from forming from beneath the shivering and chattering until it was loud enough to silence them.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6 – Minji

I opened my eyes. The first bits of sunshine were coming through the window. They were alright, I guess. I hadn't slept jack shit, so my appreciative qualities were working on sub-optimal hardware; I was also severely disturbed by our findings of last night, which did contribute to making the world seem to be one or two shades grayer.

I closed my eyes again to listen to Yoohyeon's soft snoring right next to my shoulder. I noticed that the absolute madlass was drooling on my hair; a feat of true bravery. I felt appalled enough by recent events to try and pretend like I didn't care, but my motivations weren't strong enough, so I quickly got grossed out and turned her around. She made a sound like some sort of 90s toy that had almost run out of batteries until I gave her like eight of my teddy bears to cuddle and she quieted down again. I even put ol' Handstand right where she could drool on her crotch and everything, caring as I am. She then babbled something dirty as a response.

'Yyyyup, I'm out', I murmured and climbed out of my top bunk with care not to disturb Siyeon, who slept under me, nor Yoobin, who slept on her own bed right in front. I threw a jacket on my pink pajamas, flagrantly stole Siyeon's trekking boots, and got out of the room silently, not without taking my round glasses and blowing the three of my sleeping friends a collective kiss goodbye.


I only had time to do my “only person on sight” strut (it's cool, you'll see it if you're ever there when I'm alone in a corridor) for a few meters down the hallway before I spotted Gahyeon exiting her, Handong's and Yoohyeon's room. I froze mid-step. Should I run? I should run, right? No way was I gonna appear to be normal with her. She hadn't seen me yet, and I was pretty sure her sight was based on movement maybe, so if I just turned slowly...

'Unnie, you're alive!', she exclaimed with a smile so bright that my heart melted right away.

Fuck.

'O-oh, hi, Gahyeon! Gahyeonnie! How the heck are ya!', I stuttered and patted her stiffly on the back, the way that I had done a sum total of zero times in the span of my entire life. You probably can't tell, but I was trying to appear calm and collected.

'I... I'm fine, unnie? But, um, hey, Minji unnie? Are you crying?'

Oh, big fuck.

'I'm... yeah!! I guess I am, huh!', I babbled between hiccups, tears rolling down my cheeks. When she grabbed my arm affectionately, I only cried harder at how warm and loving her touch felt. How real. How... hers. 'My... my uncle is dead now!', I rushed; I was probably as surprised by my own words as she looked. 'He's just... so dead, G-Gahyeonnie. He's... all dead, my dear uncle that I have.'

'Oh my god, unnie, are you... Well, I take it you're not okay, but... Do you want me to cancel my tutoring session and we can...?'

Oh no. She was moving in for the hug.

'NOPE', I blurted. I realized I had instantly pulled two whole meters apart from her and was flattened warily against the wall. I stared at her face, panicking that she might be feeling hurt: I'd never, ever said no to a hug from hers. Andddd yep, sure enough, she definitely looked slightly hurt on top of deathly worried. In other news, my nose was 100% running now, so that was an extra layer of fun right there. 'I'm... I'm not in it for physical affection in these trying times, I find. I just need to go out for a... a good ol' stroll! A morning saunter, if I may, eh, mate? Some of that good, sweet fresh air!'

I started to walk away towards the stairs. I wasn't about to let her get another word or loving gesture in. 'Oh, and please don't mention my real uncle's untimely demise to our beloved friends, huh? I... want to tell them separately! Because of reasons.'

She just stood there as I walked awkwardly and half-backwards away from her. She looked so sad and confused, but was she? Was this my Gahyeon? Did she care if I lived or died?

Right before I turned the corner for the stairs, she said just loud enough so that she wouldn't wake anyone in the dorms:

'We... we got your stuff from the library! And is Yoohyeon sleeping with you guys?'

Oh crap. Our shit. And Yoohyeon hadn't gone back to her room on account of her inexplicable sogginess.

I needed to somehow hand-wave these two problems in one go, but of course all I could do was bumble the following string of just barely coherent words:

'Oh my, wasn't that nifty of you two cherry pies! Thank you wholeheartedly, my bud; and yes, Yoohyeon is for sure sleeping in my bunk after our wild, impromptu night in town!' Then, I scurried out of her view, jumping down the stairs two and three steps at a time.


I exited the dorm and started walking towards the forest; more specifically, the place where we had left our new friend “Kim Bora” last night. That's how we had agreed on calling Elfangor's sister, of course; in Yoohyeon's words, “we are infinitely sorry for your loss, and we'll do everything within our power to help you get through this, but also, in all honesty, what the fuck is a Kimarrim”. I might have scolded her for screwing up a perfectly good show of moral support, but I was too shaken to utter a word.

You see, by that point, Bora had already told us what Yeerks are, exactly.

I suppose I should relay this information to you as well. I kinda sorta really wish she hadn't told me, and I wish I didn't have to repeat it, and I definitely wish it wasn't true, but what are you gonna do, am I right.

Turns out the Earth isn't really being invaded by spiky dinosaur people, but rather by a bunch of slugs approximately the size of a Roomba. They don't sound that scary until you find out how they live: they're parasites that can infest other species by entering their heads and wrapping themselves around the brains, as long as they're suitable hosts. This category... includes the spiky dinos, which apparently used to be a peaceful alien species known as the Hork-Bajir, but it also includes us humans, for example.

When they get hold of a brain, they take absolute control. And not only are they impossible to resist, they're also impossible to detect! So that's nice. You see, they can open your memories like a wiki page and read through all of them, and resort to all aspects of both your personality and your habits to act exactly like you would in front of your family and friends.

After explaining this, Bora only added one thing. Considering the strength of the Yeerk forces that had so kindly received the Andalite fleet, they had to have more than a stable grasp on at least the region over which they were hidden in wait. That's us. That's South Korea. At least one quarter of the population, she said; with many Yeerk-controlled humans in positions of political power, she said. Therefore, no one must know what happened to us that night, not even our closest of friends.

Anyone might be the enemy. So she said.

Now, suppose you had five people that mattered to you more than anyone in the entire world. I'm sure you have a best friend, or a significant other, maybe even a mom?? I don't know your life! But make it five. Now, three of them are safe, because if either Siyeon, Yoohyeon or Yoobin had been a Yeerk host, they wouldn't have hesitated for a moment to kill the rest of us and Bora the moment they'd had a chance, of which they'd have gotten plenty. Which is a really nice image to have on one's mind. Just glorious.

So. You're left with two, the two that stayed in the library. They still are amongst the people dearest to your heart, and there hasn't really been any sort of big change in their behavior lately. Their touch feels intimate, their words know you, their emotions are contagious. Come on, it's gotta be them! Just let them know what the problem is so they can help you decide what to do.

And yet.

And yet, has Gahyeon always had these many tutoring sessions and extra classes and seminars? Haven't Handong's already numerous dates dramatically increased in quantity lately? Have they always liked this or that style or music, always had the slightest tic on one eye, always pulled their loose strands of hair behind their ears or adjusted their bangs in that exact way?

Which is to say, if one of them had come with us to follow the UFO, would we still be breathing? Or would we be a bunch of ash, my friends' families never to hear of them again, no one left to miss me?

It'd make you wanna cry, too, if you saw your friend Gahyeon after learning about this damn crappy little shit fucking alien business and she was still the same as always and filled you with the same happiness as always, except now maybe she wasn't her at all, and that happiness wasn't now anything more than a stratagem to get another alien slug into your head.

So... yeah.

Good talk.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7 – Minji

I made my walk through the forest a bit longer than it needed to be, not because I didn't recall where we had hidden Bora, but because I needed to get some air first, and think for a little bit.

When I was ready, I shifted direction towards a landmark near her hideout: one of the taller hills that surrounded the lake. I got there soon enough.
Her hiding spot was inside a deep ditch that had a small cave in it. The cave was almost invisible from above, but you could access the ditch rather easily if you knew it was there.

'Password!', I shout-whispered from atop the ledge.

A moment of silence.

(We really should have agreed on a password), Bora grumbled into my brain without coming out of her cave. (How do I know the slugs have not gotten to you over the night?)

'Are you dead?', I asked rather bluntly. It wasn't characteristic of me, even while suffering from severe sleep deprivation. But it was the right question, and the only reason that I would never need to fear that maybe the Yeerks had gotten to Yoohyeon, Siyeon or Yoobin and were supplanting them in secret: if they ever got one of us, the rest would probably all be dead or captured within an hour.

(Bold of you to assume I would not have shredded every single one of those fools if they'd dared come for me), she bragged. My instinct told me that her bravado should sound fake, but... did it? She said it with such confidence, but it felt like something was off. Or no, rather... it felt like something should be off, but wasn't. (Come down, please.)

I circled around the ditch to get to an accesible point, then walked back towards the cave. Bora was resting on her belly with her deer legs folded under her. Her torso was sagging a little, and she was holding the blue box in her two blue, six-fingered, feeble-looking hands. Her facial eyes were looking at the box, while her stalk eyes were looking around her in all directions until I got closer and they fixed on me. She had asked to keep both the box and the five guns, which she had referred to as “shredders”, and we hadn't complained.

She looked surprisingly composed, considering she had lost everything she'd ever had just some hours ago. She just looked tired, the normal amount of tired at this time in the morning.

'Hello, Bora', I said softly, standing with my hands inside the coat's pockets. She turned her head to look at me with her facial eyes, and her stalk eyes started to circle around again. 'How are you doing?'

(Hey. I am glad to see you, Minji. I have been thinking about something.) Somehow I could tell from the tone and cadence of her telepathic voice that I hadn't been the only one to spend the night awake, thinking and cavilating and plotting.

Good. We could go strat meeting on this one, then.

(Sit down, please), she suggested gently, and she scooted a bit to her left, revealing some of the blanket she had made with leaves and pine needles. I sat down next to her blue figure, supporting myself on her back for a second. Shit, she was so soft. Wait, was that fur?

'I've been thinking, too. I'm kinda loaded with questions, actually', I said to shoo out the uncomfortable perspective that I might be attracted to a furry. Aliens were one thing, but... Oof, Yoobin. You were so right about us, sweetheart.

(Okay, I will go first), she almost interrupted me with enthusiasm. A movement in the corner of my eye made me glance at her tail, which was doing a little dance. (Did Elfangor tell you what this was?) She held the blue box up.

'Urrm, no. That... was actually one of my questions.'

(Good! We can both go at once then. This is a Morphing Cube. It produces and stores the nanites than can infuse any given being with the ability to morph into other lifeforms.)

I squinted at the box as I struggled to process this for a second. Morphing... Oh shit! The bird!

'Oh snap! The bird!', I exclaimed. 'You morphed that big bird to get out of the ship!'

(That is right, yes. That was a Kafit bird, a species from my native Andalite homeworld. I acquired that morph back when I was but a cadet, for an afternoon of simple fun with my brother.) As she said this, her facial eyes seemed to... smile. (Heh. There were many more afternoons like that. Simple fun was our thing.) I squinted again as I focused with all my might on the voice that was making itself known in my mind, and I swear to fuck I couldn't find the slightest trace of sadness there. She had seemed devastated last night; how was this possible?

(Anygay, the morphing cube. Once the morphing power is inside you, you just need to touch another lifeform and concentrate on it, and you will absorb its DNA; usually, the nanites will act as a tranquilizer for the creature so that the acquisition will be safer for you. Then you can morph them whenever you want just by focusing on their form), she continued. She seemed to scan my face for a moment. (Are you having problems with your vision?), she asked.

I realized I was still squinting at her, now with an added frown, so I opened my eyes wide and arched my eyebrows.

'No! No, I'm alright, thanks. I was just... well, you were saying?'

(You were what?), Bora asked, sounding amused. Only then did I really notice that the voice in my mind had absolutely said “anygay”. Another movement in the corner of my eye: her tail had adopted a playful pose, drawing slow circles on the floor with the tip of its blade.

'Okay, no, just... Well, how can you sound so happy?', I finally let out. 'I would rather die than tell you how you're supposed to feel, but also?? I'm very confused?? Here you are making plans and reminiscing fondly about your good times with your bro when I can't look at my friends without having half a panic attack because of stuff that might happen and might not be even real??'

Bora nodded knowingly.

(Yes, Elfangor told me about this. He often said the single hardest thing about being a human for as long as he was, was how wonky your brains are. Apparently, according to his then wife, you do not have naturally ocurring mechanisms in place to quickly overcome stress and trauma and accept that all time is simultaneous, and happiness is the only rational answer, correct?)

Before I realized, I was squinting again. My eyebrows were still arched, and my lips were pursed hard.

'Okay. There's a lot to unpack here', I said, and then proceeded to mentally throw away the whole suitcase. 'Go on with the subject of the transmorphy thingy.'

(Nice. So, morphing is an amazing ability, but it has one big drawback. The nanites that make it work need to open microscopic portals to a pocket dimension in order to store your excess mass or collect the mass needed for morphs bigger than yourself. This process is continuous and highly battery-consuming, which gives morphing a rather short time limit.)

'How short?'

(Can you show me your measure of time?)

I tapped a rythm on my leg to a one second beat, then told herd the time measures from there up to a year.

(Yes. The time limit translates to roughly two of your hours, three of your minutes and fifteen of your seconds, and when it finishes, the nanites all shut down at once and the user is trapped in morph indefinitely), she said, waving one of her hands in a “more or less” motion. I smirked at her perceived imprecission. (This makes it an imperfect espionage tool, but it is still the best infiltration technology in the galaxy. It would also be highly convenient to us in the field of combat, since you girls have no natural weapons.)

'I think you've gotten ahead of yourself there, babe', I deadpanned. I lifted my glasses with one hand in order to be able to massage my sinuses with the other. Couldn't say I was surprised by what she obviously was suggesting, but I sure as all hell didn't like it.

(Oh! Yes, that is right, thank you. Do you want to form a morphing guerrilla corps to fight the Yeerk invasion of Earth alongside my sexy self?)

Well, what could I say? Her self was sexy.

I had some conditions, though.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8 – Yoobin

I'd been awake since Minji had left at around 5 o'clock, but that didn't make me any less shocked when she barrelled into the room less than an hour later. There was something strange in her movement as she rolled into the room laughing. Something seemed off about her laugh, too, but I couldn't seem to spot it.

I saw that Siyeon was also awake in her bed, and we looked at each other for a moment, trying our best to engage in some sort of telepathic conversation. Failing that, she suggested via gestures that we pretended to sleep but kept ready, and so we did.

Meanwhile, Minji had stood up clumsily and had walked up to the door to close it, still giggling. I observed she was wearing one of her coats, zipped up, and her pink pajama trousers. She then started talking, seemingly to herself.

'You're such an idiot', she giggled on, combing some of her messy, red-dyed hair back with her hand. 'Oh my god, you're such an idiot.'

She kept quiet for a moment, looking at a point in the floor that I couldn't see from my bed. She had closed her mouth now, trying to catch her breath back.

But somehow, I was still hearing her bubbly, bright, airy laugh.

When she talked again, she was more serious, although a shade of a grin still lingered on her mouth and eyes.

'Yes, it was funny. But if you do anything like that ever again, I'll give you to the Yeerks wrapped like a Christmas gift.' Her residual smile faded completely as she took a step forward and extended a hand towards the floor in front of her. 'You don't get to endanger me and my friends just to show off.'

Then, my heart skipped a beat as another hand emerged from beyond the rim of my bed to grab Minji's extended one. Minji grabbed the hand back and pulled, helping the person who was in front of her up to her feet.

As it turned out, that person was also Minji.

Frowning, I snapped my eyes at Siyeon, without moving an inch. Her eyes were open so wide that they must have hurt, her brows furrowed like a folded fan. Then I slowly turned my gaze back at the one-way dialogue unfolding in front of us.

The new Minji was only wearing her pink pajamas's long-sleeved t-shirt, which was just long enough to cover the upper half of her thigh, and her hair was a natural black. Pantsless Minji's expression wasn't as serious as Coated Minji's, but she seemed to have understood the warning.

'I'm glad you get it', Coated Minji murmured.

They stayed a little while like that, standing and holding their hands in a strong grip. They were staring intensely into each others' eyes. Then Coated Minji closed hers, exhaled deeply and pulled away.

'This is getting weird. Why don't you de-morph back to Andalite and we can wake up the girls', she said while moving to one of her drawers; she started looking for something inside.

Then, something that I hadn't yet become familiar with started to happen. Pantless Minji's edges started to blur, almost like her skin was turning into skin-colored fur, and her hair started to fuse into a sort of pitch black play-dough. She then started turning blue, and from then on the transformation accelerated; her rear extended and grew two more legs that bent the wrong way, her hands sprouted an extra finger, and her play-dough hair stood up to form two stalks holding one eye each.
Soon enough, she had turned completely into a blue centaur-like being with no mouth and with three slits for a nose, but with a really cute pajama top.

'Here, put this on if you wanna try that new morph of yours', Minji said, offering some informal, comfy clothes she had taken from the drawer. Bora took them and probably said something back to Minji, who just chuckled and changed the subject, raising her voice a little. 'Okay, I think we're ready. Girls–'

Before she could even finish the word, the three of us were sitting up in our beds and looking at her with interest. Yoohyeon particularly was grinning mischievously at Minji, who didn't look pleased at the realization that we had probably been awake for the whole scene.

'Sorry, unnie. Siyeon unnie and I thought something weird was up, so we wanted to be cautious', I offered.

'I was awoken by unbridled gay sexual tension and regret nothing', Yoohyeon cooed while cupping her chin with her hands. I couldn't help but snicker, and Bora seemed to find it funny too; but Minji looked mortified, like she'd been caught stealing candy from a kid.

'Bora, what was Minji unnie scolding you for?', asked Siyeon, who wasn't laughing.

(Well...), Bora started, then turned her main eyes to Minji. (Should I just show them?)

'Yeah, sure. Can you morph in the bathroom, though? It's behind that door', Minji pointed. Bora walked obediently towards the door, carrying the clothes Minji had given her in one hand. She seemed a bit confused at the workings of the door itself for a second, but she figured it out quickly enough.

When the Andalite was out of the room, Yoohyeon commented, grinning from ear to ear: 'So she was wearing your pajamas, huh!'

'She, uh, caught my DNA and “morphed” me in order to sneak into the dorm, but, yeah, she, uh, needed to wear something', Minji explained, seemingly very interested in her own feet. 'That's what the blue box was for, by the way. It gives you the ability to... do that.'

'Do what, exactly? Copy people?', I asked.

'Well, yes, but not only people. Animals, too, and aliens. You catch their DNA once and then you can morph them as many times as you want, with a short-ish time limit every time. And, as I learned a few minutes ago, you can even mix several DNA samples of the same species to make your own morph.'

(And that is how you get this!), an unknown girl gloated into our minds as she came out of our bathroom, her mouth closed in a cocky smile and her lips unmoving as we heard her words. The girl walked up to Minji, took a moment to soak in the way we were all looking at her, and then pushed Minji's shoulder mildly while letting out a boastful cackle. (See? I said it would be worth it!)

I can't hope to properly describe the way Minji was looking at Bora at that moment. All I can say is that she was red as a tomato and that for some reason she brought to my mind a chihuahua meme I had seen a few days before on Twitter.

'Ooh, she looks familiar, but I can't quite place which part of her is ringing a bell!', Yoohyeon exclaimed excitedly. 'Whose bods did she steal?'

'H-half the dorm's', Minji answered crossing her arms and taking one step towards us in order to keep Bora out of her field of vision. 'When she learned there were “a load of human females” sleeping in the building, she just had to start bragging about her “extended lockpicking training” and stealing a bunch of sleeping girls' “choice DNA”, squealing in my head the whole time. Stuff like, “oh, this facial respiratory implement is LIT”, or “now this rear... this rear I can wear”. She didn't stop until one of the girls she was catching woke up and we had to run like crazy before she actually saw us.'

'Huh. Yeah, that does sound pretty stupid and dangerous. The nose really is lit, though', Yoohyeon mused.

(Thanks!) Bora was beaming.

'Yeah, and nice ass choice, too. Nice everything, really. I think this bod was worth risking a life or two, Minji unnie', Siyeon contributed, but she sounded strangely disinterested, especially considering how interested she looked. Nevertheless, Bora seemed absolutely delighted. She tugged at Minji's sleeve while trying to make eye contact with her and pointing enthusiastically and repeatedly at Siyeon. Minji, however, refused to engage and just looked melancholically at the infinity past our room's closed window.

Suddenly, life came back to her eyes and she turned to Bora.

'Shouldn't we talk about your project already?'

Bora stopped in her tracks, looking at Minji without understanding for a second. Then her face brightened with realization. (OoooohhHH! That is right, yes, the guerrilla!)

'The what?', Yoohyeon asked incredulously and without amusement.

(I shall explain), Bora said as the last traces of her smile were substituted by a serious business expression.


We all stayed silent as Bora finished explaining what she wanted us to become. Yoohyeon, who had climbed down from Minji's bed to get into mine, was now holding my hand tensely. Her other hand was holding ol' Handstand, who looked a bit soggy for some reason. Minji was resting her back on the door, looking elsewhere as a hot girl tried to recruit us for a war.

'You've brought her here for this, unnie. I want to know what you make of it', Siyeon asked, nodding at Minji.

'I think transforming into animals sounds kinda cool, doesn't it?', she sighed. When none of us laughed, she gave her serious answer. 'Listen... I can't tell you what you must think about this. That's one of my two conditions to Bora– we'll only do this if all of us agree, by each's own initiative. If even one of us doesn't want to do it, we'll use the morphing power to keep ourselves and your families safe from the invasion for as long as we can.'

'“For as long as we can”? What does that even mean?', Siyeon scoffed. She sounded slightly offended.

(It means that, if left undisturbed, the Yeerks will eventually take full control of Earth and extinguish every aspect of the planet that isn't useful to them), Bora contributed. (Hiding will be much harder from that point on. No free human will be safe.)

We took another moment to let that sink in. Then Yoohyeon, who still had a death grip on my hand, asked in a slightly choked voice:

'What was your second condition, unnie?'

'Handong and Gahyeon have to be in it, no matter what, whatever we choose. This is not negotiable', she answered sternly, eyeing Bora meaningfully during that last sentence. Yoohyeon nodded thoughtfully, like she expected something of the sort. She then let her whole weight fall on me, presumably “cutting power from the rest of her body to let her brain think harder”, as she usually did when we tried to make her decide on an ice cream flavor. I hugged her as she sank her face on the blankets covering my lap and curled into a ball.

'I mean, I don't wanna be a cliché, but if it's a choice between running away until they kill or enslave us and fighting to give humanity even a small chance, then... I don't think I even need to finish that sentence', Siyeon reasoned.

Minji nodded without revealing any sort of emotion, then looked at me. 'What about you, Yoobin? What do you say?'

I took a moment to choose my words carefully.

'It sounds scary and I have a hard time believing the seven of us could do anything to diminish the progress an interplanetary army', I said slowly as I rubbed Yoohyeon's back in circles. Minji nodded understandingly, and seemed about to say something conciliatory, but was surprised that I hadn't finished talking. 'Still, we can run after we fail. No one else is gonna do it for us.'

I felt my blood rush to my face a little after these words. I felt like a dork, speaking like an anime protagonist,even if it was really what I felt. Minji seemed to be trying not to smile at the way I blushed, and that made me a bit more embarrassed still, but I also felt relieved that her serious mask seemed to have retreated a little.

Then, it was time for Yoohyeon to answer. Instead, she made a new question, her calm voice muffled by the blankets.

'What will you do if the Jerks have gotten to Handong or Gahyeon?'

Minji winced, but she obviously had an answer. However, when she opened her mouth to answer, her voice cracked and trailed off immediately. Her breathing was suddenly a little shallower. Bora looked at her, and she looked back at Bora. After a moment, Minji chuckled weakly and nodded, and Bora turned back to us.

(Yeerks are not invincible), she announced with a hint of satisfaction. (Like any living species, they need to feed, but, unlike other parasites, they are unable to do so off their hosts. Yeerks only get their nutrition by swimming in pools imbued with their homeworld's sun's energy: the Kandrona rays.)

At this point, she made a dramatic pause.

(And... they have to do so at least once every three days, like clockwork.)

'Or else?', Siyeon asked rushedly.

(They starve to death, and the host is free!), Bora replied with a beaming grin.

We let this sink in for a moment, and I felt a wave of relief wash over me when I realized that, even in the case that my friends really were under Yeerk control, rescuing them wouldn't be such an impossibility.

My relief was only interrupted when, after another while, Yoohyeon gave her muffled, choked answer to Bora's initial question.

'I don't want to hurt anyone.'

'Then we won't. No war for us', Minji replied quickly with one more step forward, her breath already back to normal. 'Maybe we could even steal one of their spaceships or something and make it out of – '

'But I'll do it. I'll fight them.' Her voice was barely an audible sob at this point. 'And if one of them has gotten to Handong... or Gahyeon, I'll definitely hurt them.'

In the ensuing heavy silence, I hugged Yoohyeon tighter and kissed the crown of her head.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9 – Gahyeon

'Okay, what the huck was that', Handong asked after Yoohyeon and her were done shouting obscenities at the security guards who had just expelled us from the zoo and were currently staring disapprovingly at the five of us from across the entry fence.
No one answered. Siyeon was too preoccupied examining her denim jacket for rips and tears, and Yoobin was talking to someone on the phone a few meters away.
Yoohyeon had run off to pet a dog, her 19th of the day (a personal record, as far as I know). As for me, I was as stumped as Dong, and couldn't really offer anything in the way of explanation.

'I'm serious, Siyeon unnie. What did you jump into the wolf exhibit for?!', Handong demanded, in a remarkably genuine display of anger and concern.

Siyeon didn't even look up from the bitten off fabric of her jacket.

'I didn't jump. I fell. Luckily the wolf closest to me wasn't too aggressive at first and I was rescued in time', she explained in a monotone voice. When she was done, she put her ragged jacket back on and looked at us without much of an expression, as if waiting to see if we had any more doubts. And I did.

'That was... a weird way of falling, Siyeon unnie. When I saw you, you had your foot on the railing. I just...' I got closer to her and squeezed her hand. I thought I felt hint of a flinch on her body when I did so, which shook me to my core.

For a second, I was at a loss for words, and instinctively I just hugged her to ease my own fear. It was painful to notice that she took a long moment before hugging me back. I still made an effort to speak my mind. 'I just need to know if you're okay. If anything's wrong... We... We're your friends, unnie', I whispered, suppressing a sob.

'Gahyeonnie...', she said, pushing me back slightly to look at my eyes, her voice's hard shell dissolving for an instant. However, after she glanced past me for a split second, she reverted to her monotone speech, albeit with a slightly comforting aftertaste this time. 'I just fell, I swear. I must have reclined too much.'

I let out a deep breath and let her waist go, turning slightly to quickly scan Handong's face. Her expression of anger had given way to one of deep worry. Of deep, genuine worry. I felt a slow shiver crawling up my spine at the thought of it.

'This one's name was George!! Have you seen how big she was???', Yoohyeon exclaimed musically, as she came back with a beaming smile. 'And so gentle and fluffy', she added dreamily as she nonchalantly took Handong's arm. She leaned forward for a second to have a better look at Dong's expression, but the older quickly reset her face to a politely inquisitive smile. Yoohyeon squinted slightly at this, yet said nothing as she recovered her verticality. The gentle shadow of a frown had stuck to her forehead, despite her efforts to remain bright.

'Okay, well, we'll be waiting right outside, then. Heh, love you too', Yoobin said to her phone before hanging up and saving it in her pocket.
It struck me then that she was the only one present that looked perfectly and completely relaxed, and suddenly, my gut feeling that something was wrong with my friends solidified into a terrifying certainty. Yoobin was the only one of my friends who could act worth a damn; why would she be pretending not to be shaken by Siyeon basically jumping off a cliff and onto a whole pack of murder wolves?

'Ohhh, “love you too”? Prince Yoobin's back to gathering wives and she hadn't even told us?', Yoohyeon snickered mischievously and with interest, grabbing Yoobin's arm with her free hand and pulling her friend to herself.

'It was literally just Minji unnie', Yoobin guffawed. 'She said she'd get Bora and herself kicked out as soon as possible to meet with us. You know she can't hang up without saying she loves us.'

'Aww, so nourishing for the heart, yet such a disappointment', Yoohyeon smiled lovingly.

'Do they know people can just exit places in order to get out of them, instead of getting kicked out all the time?', Siyeon mused and amused.

'Look who's talking', Yoobin quipped, laughing fully and without a trace of worry. It took me the whole of my willpower to not squint suspiciously at her. I still couldn't resist scrutinizing her whole body for any sort of clue. Nothing, aside from the small tear on her leather jacket's sleeve that she had gotten during the birds of prey show back at the zoo. I guessed that was something; she'd been uncharacteristically enthusiastic to be picked as one of the volunteers for the show. Yoobin, who always made an effort to stay on the sidelines, had gone out of her way to be picked for a public spectacle that took place in front of more than a hundred people... I took mental note of this, even though I didn't know what it meant.

'Actually', Handong started, interrupting the joke and pulling her arm apart from Yoohyeon's to grab her own phone and look at its clock, 'if we're gonna be taking much longer, I'm going to be off. I have some plans in a while and don't want to be late.'

'Ah, what plans?', Yoohyeon asked with forced disinterest.

'I'm having tea and dinner with Yewon, you know, Gahyeon's friend?', Handong replied using her polite voice. She then put her phone back in her pocket and waved us goodbye. We waved back, some more awkwardly than others. Before leaving at a brisk pace, she added: 'Say goodbye to Minji unnie and her new friend for me, okay?'
Yoohyeon nodded as she watched Dong go. As I sent a quick thought of good luck to Yewon, I noticed that, probably unconsciously, Yoohyeon had taken her now free hand to her stomach, and was ever so slightly bent over. Her fingers were clenched and twisting the fabric of her sundress.

Noticing the same thing that I had, Yoobin held on tighter to Yoohyeon's arm and Siyeon moved to grab the other one. Then she gestured for me to come as well and take her elbow, and so I did, taking the chance to lean my head on her shoulder.

When we finished becoming a row of four, Yoohyeon quickly shook her head and proclaimed loudly: 'Okay, now this is a proper ice-cream formation. Let's take the streets, lesbians.'


'We're leaving because we want to!!', Minji cried as the guards escorted her and her strange new friend out of the zoo. The girl called Bora was just emitting amorphous yet vaguely threatening sounds with her voice, and it was plain to see she was causing Minji to have trouble staying angry. Her imprecations and threats were being impaired by an ever growing giggle that finally burst out as a full-on laugh as they turned their backs on the guards to start talking towards us.

When they were halfway to the bench we were sitting on, Minji seemed to freeze for a moment. However, she was reanimated when Bora rested her arm on her waist. I saw her shoot Minji a funny look and, judging from the movement of her lips, say “mango” once, and Minji was laughing again in no time. I smiled to myself in confusion; what could possibly be so funny about mangoes?

'My only problem is how she's so hot', Siyeon muttered as Minji and Bora just stood there, laughing at nothing in particular. 'I'm glad for Minji, I really am, but there's something I just hate about seeing them together.'

'Is it how she's so hot?', I asked in a similarly low tone of voice.

'Yeah, that's exactly what it is, my dear friend', she replied, patting my leg nervously.

'I would really like it if Handong didn't date so many girls all the time', Yoohyeon contributed, with a tone as conversational as if what she was saying had something to do with what we were saying. She was clutching her gut again. 'That would be just swell if she stopped doing that for like a second.'

'...I've installed Tinder again', Yoobin confessed as well, after a long moment of silence, looking completely mortified.

'I feel like you all are scared of me, suddenly, and I can't understand what I could have possibly done to deserve that', I added to the pile with a strained sigh. We all kind of just rested our weights on each other until we reached an equilibrium.

Right then, it really seemed like at any moment one of us would say something really meaningful and uplifting that would tie our troublings together and leave the rest of us feeling like it wasn't so bad, but before that could happen, Minji and Bora started walking towards us again, Bora's hand on Minji's waist and residual giggles coming from both of them.

'Right, so we're all in the pits, then', Siyeon murmured as if to make up for the lack of a timely pep talk before asking aloud: 'First things first: what did you do to get kicked out?'

'Elephant!', Bora cried in excitement, taking her hand away from Minji's hip to hug herself as a means of explanation. We all chuckled, then i followed the others' gaze as they turned to Minji, expecting a lengthier version of the story.

'Elephant', she simply echoed with a defeated shrug.

After another good laugh died down, I silently offered Minji some of my strawberry ice-cream. I couldn't avoid noticing how her left hand seemed to search for Bora's as she pondered what to answer.

When their hands found each other and weaved their fingers, she smiled faintly and ate the spoonful I was offering her.

It was a start, I guessed.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10 – Siyeon's Phone

The Loud One has invited you to a group chat.

Competing Butch joined the chat.

Must Protecc joined the chat.

The Loud One changed the chat name to “morphin' buddiez”

You: that name sucks yoohyeon

TLO: what if you suck tho

TLO: have you considered that

TLO: jk i love you feel free to change it

CB: I like it because it's true, we're buddies who morph and the “z” gives it a cool vibe. Nothing wrong there.

You: oof

CB: So we have a secret gc now?

MP: yoohyeon and I were talking about our next step after acquiring some morphs at the zoo!! and since it's not that easy to meet up in secret lately...

You: because gahyeon wont get off my back you mean

TLO: aw, don't be harsh with her, she's just worried for you

You: i know and god bless her soul but ill be damned if its not annoying asf

You: for secret society purposes i mean gahyeon has never been annoying once in her entire life

TLO: i KNOW, RIGHT

TLO: i wonder how she pulls that off, i never seem to get it right

MP: you're not annoying Yoohyeon!! just spazzy, we've been over this!!

TLO: aww, unnie <3

TLO: anygay next step what

You: what

MP: what!!!

CB: What!

CB: Running gags aside, we do need something, right? I mean, there needs to be a next step, or else the... um. “They” will just completely take over, and we will be done.

You: what does bora think shes the expert

TLO: that's right minji unnie what does your gf think

MP: ...

MP: so, that's a good question, siyeon!! last time we talked, bora thought we needed to start some sort of patrolling or vigilance system to discover any of, um, “their” feeding spots. she wants us to be more active and start biting the enemy's ankles.

MP: i'm not sure i agree though!! i want to make sure gahyeonnie and dongdong are safe, free and with us before we start doing anything dangerous...

MP: also

TLO: so we've got our next step right there

TLO: shit sorry cut you off

MP: no problem!! I was just gonna say that there's also strategic benefits to getting our friends back!! if any of them has been, mmm, infested, i mean--

MP: they'd already have insane amounts of intel, like not only about pools, but also who else has been infested, where weapon stashes are, etc!! it'd save us so much work!

You: wtf

CB: Woah.

TLO: what the actual flying fuck unnie?!

MP: what???

TLO: where's all this scheming coming from?!

TLO: last week you had half a panic attack whenever you even THOUGHT of gahyeon and handong not being themselves and now you're sAYING IT'S A GOOD THING

MP: fdgjksdDSIFJDKSFJ I'D NEVER SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT BUT I JUST-- I CAN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT THIS, OKAY??

MP: I can't stop thinking about them and the possibility that they might be trapped inside their own minds, and I can't stop thinking about how to fight these dudes without having any of you get hurt and I'm just-- the link is right there!

You: if theyre possessed and we free them theyll be free and well all be a lot safer bc we wont be going blindly into dangerous situations

You: that means that if any of them is possessed then were all ironically more likely to live through our first mission

You: its cold and it doesnt sound like minji unnie at all

You: but in a way its entirely like her to have all of our safeties as her first priority

TLO: ...

MP: siyeon...

TLO: ...i guess i'll bite for now, sorry for overreacting

TLO: it's not like checking if they're free and letting them on it wasn't gonna be your first choice either way, right?

MP: right!!!! I swear, yoohyeon!!!! I promise ;;

CB: So, it's decided, right? Having Gahyeon and Handong join us is the next step?

You: yep

TLO: yes

MP: yes!!!

CB: Cool, because I'm back from googling up a few rural houses for rent and...

CB: ...How's the Going Merry doing these days, Siyeon unnie?

TLO: that bitch ass pickup truck's anything but merry and it's a miracle that it's still going anywhere

You: the merrys ready to take us all anywhere in this goddamned planet

You: why

CB: ...Because I got us a reconnaissance and rescue plan. B)


You've got new messages from Small Treasure.

ST: Hey siyeon unnie!! good morning <3

ST: Friendly and daily reminder that you are loved and valuable and great!!!

ST: And that there's nothing wrong with asking for help if you need it! and that in time all troubles seem smaller!

ST: And also this!

Small Treasure sent the file:
“fluffy_doggo_wishing_you_a_good_day_and_there's_a_lot_of_sparkly_hearts_too.jpg”

You: gahyeon how are you such a national treasure

You: also i swear to you i promise on my life that i fell to the wolf cage on accident

ST: Sure you did! can you go for coffee and macarons later today? i've told jungwoo-needs-to-be-tutored-in-calculus to fuck off for the day :D

You: yeah

You: yeah id love that actually


The group chat “DREAM TEAM <3” has new messages.

CB: Hey, gays! Who here wants to have a rural weekend?

The Handong: Um? What is this about?

MP: I'm listening!!!!

CB: I've been wanting to make some sort of trip to nature lately, so I googled a few rural houses.

CB: I found one with a pool and everything, super pretty and-- between the six of us it wouldn't be expensive at all to rent it for two days!!

You: shit that sounds choice honestly count me in

ST: Two days?

TLO: ...that'd be saturday and sunday, gahyeonnie! you wouldn't miss any classes!

ST: I mean... it does sound good... i have all this studying, tutoring, hanging out and drama watching to do though?

You: man its weird but im starting to feel kind of sad all of a sudden could this be that human feeling called disthymia

ST: Okay i'm in.

MP: aw, I'm in too!!! this is gonna be so much fun!!! <3 <3 <3

TLO: yasssss i'm gonna make a mess of that fuckin pool

The Handong: This sounds amazing, but I do have a date with Yewon on Saturday.

The Handong: Oh-- Nevermind, she just cancelled?

ST: Great!! we're all going then <3

MP: yes!!!! awwww this is gonna be great ;; thanks for suggesting the plan yoobin!!

CB: No problem! We'll need transportation though. Siyeon unnie?

You: yall have just signed up for a quality ride in the merry

The Handong: Um,

MP: SHOTGUN

The Handong: Shot-- Fuck.

TLO: dongdong called shotfuck

ST: Lmao

You: handong said shotfuck rights

The Handong: I'm activating plane mode now :) ILY all.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 11 – Yoohyeon

Okay, so it was a Saturday morning and we were all riding Siyeon's pickup truck through the forest and then it stopped. All of us except Siyeon and Minji were bunched up in the back of the truck, so I at least was happy to hop out of that bouncing, groaning machine of doom. Just to demonstrate my opinion of her truck to Siyeon, I stumbled towards some bushes and pretended to puke in them. When I turned to see her reaction, though, she wasn't even looking. Instead, she was getting off the driver's seat and gazing at the cottage we had rented. Disgraceful.

Also, when I say “all of us”, I mean the six of us, sans Bora. Her spoken Korean still wasn't good enough to withstand a whole weekend of examination (although her progress was great! All those “study” “sessions” with Minji seemed to be paying off, despite all my gay expectations to the contrary), and she would be watching the area in sneak mode; she had followed us on some bird of prey morph she had acquired at the forest by the college campus, I think. Look at her, living the
life, befriending hawks and shit. A legend.

'I'm gonna be the first to say it, Yoobin, and I'll say it because I love you and you deserve nothing but the truth: this house looks like shit', Siyeon declared with her hands on her hips, contemplating the slightly run-down cottage that we were gonna spend a few days in. She knew as well as the rest of us that the house's quality was irrelevant as long as it was isolated enough, which judging by the hellishly long truck ride we'd just had, it was, so I guessed she was just complaining a bit for believability's sake.

'Aw, well, she did say it was affordable', I pitched in.

'Well, but still, it's a bit... the front façade's wood panelling's falling off, isn't it?', Gahyeon observed as she hopped down off the back of the truck, with just a tiny bit of worry in her voice. 'And is that... a cracked window?'

'That's a cracked window', Handong chimed in, in between sips from her juicebox.

'This is not how it looked on the website, I swear', Yoobin excused herself while shuffling awkwardly. Minji, coming up behind her, patted her shoulder sympathetically and started walking towards the house.

'Come on, let's check it out! Maybe the inside won't be so bad!', she said, and we all followed her.


'Predictably enough, the inside is much worse', Siyeon muttered with a certain kind of satisfied despair, looking around the barren living room and its degraded furniture. I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye, but when I looked there was nothing there. Bugs? ...Bunny?? Probably just bugs, the bitter voice of past disappointments told me.

'Well, Yoobin did very well to find such a cheap place with so little time to search!', Minji said cheerfully, pushing Siyeon lightly and giving her a mild Look. Siyeon rolled her eyes, but Minji just went on: 'And it's a very luminous space!'

'Yes, the broken window really lets the sunlight right in', Dong said before taking a noisy sip that denoted she was just sucking in the last droplets of juice that remained in the straw. Knowing her, and judging by the exaggerated lengthiness of the sip, she was definitely making a point by it, and I couldn't help but chuckle and pat her arm, which I was holding.

'OKAY', Minji said in what my friends might describe as YDL (“Yoohyeon Decibel Levels”), and while clapping her hands, the moment she realized Handong wasn't really gonna say anything else. 'Let's split up and get this house party-ready.'

“Party ready”, in this context, meant “barely habitable”, and so Siyeon, Handong and Gahyeon went up the stairs towards the dormitory, to get the beds ready, while Minji, Yoobin and I put some order in the living room before getting out of the cottage's back door and starting to clean the pool and set up a table and chairs near it.

While Yoobin made use of that stick with a net at the end that pools tend to have, Minji and I were taking care of the chairs' arrangement. After putting one of them down, Minji appeared to become more thoughtful all of a sudden. I wondered if it could be a message from Bora, and instinctively looked up. As if to confirm my suspicion, a black kite was flying circles above us. The bird of prey, not the toy. I'm not sure if “toy” kites even count as toys, like, calling a kite a toy just feels kinda weird to say, but flying them is supposed to be something you do for fun, right? Never done it, personally, though.

'Someone should go to the kitchen and hide anything pointy', Minji said quietly, so that only I could hear, causing my very important thoughts to be interrupted and me to look back down at her. 'Specifically, we should probably throw away all the knives except the butter ones, now that Dong and Gahyeonnie haven't seen them yet.'

I wrinkled my nose. 'Seems a little much, doesn't it?', I asked just before she shushed me profusely.

'What's a little much?', Yoobin asked from the poolside. Minji made an “I'll explain later” kind of gesture at her, and she shrugged and went back to swiping dead leaves and bugs out of the water.

Minji looked back at me, and almost whispered: 'What's too much about it? There's nothing wrong with being cautious, is it? Look, I don't like to have to think about this stuff, but...' Her voice trailed off as her expression became more remorseful. After that, she just tapped the top of the chair she was leaning her arms on and straightened up, her face having reset to an artificial cheerfulness. 'Okay, since we're almost done here, I'm gonna see if there's anything edible in the kitchen', she announced in a more normal voice.

'Well don't hold your hopes up, girly!', I said with a fake-ass smirk and a “Taewoo From Accounting Making a Sexist Joke” intonation, which actually made Minji chuckle a little. She squeezed my shoulder gently before leaving for the kitchen, and I smiled at her, this time in a slightly more truthful manner.

After that, I sat on one of the chairs and sighed heavily while I watched Yoobin carry her pool duty and bit my thumb nervously. It really was unnerving to see sweet old Kim “Pink Princess” Minji thinking like that. To realize that she felt the need to protect us all from the chance that Handong or Gahyeon (or both, of course) might be controlled and feel pushed to try and stab one of us to death when things got ugly... it wasn't right.

But, I thought, things would get ugly, unless both of them were already Jerk-free. That was the worst part: she was entirely right to think like that. And what scared me so much, I realized, was that I would also have to start thinking like that, if I wanted to live through not only this, but also future encounters with the Jerks.

'Holy cow does all of this suck smelly ass', I muttered as I stood up from the plastic chair and walked towards Yoobin to help out with the pool.

As I did so, I looked up, searching for probably-Bora's avian silhouette in the sky, but she was nowhere to be found.

'Probably just gone to de-morph and avoid the time limit', Yoobin said, following my gaze and guessing my thoughts.

'Yeah', I simply said.


The rest of the first day went all acording to plan, and since the plan was just to have a lot of light-hearted fun and eat sandwiches, that made me the happiest I'd felt in a while. During that time that we spent fucking around in the pool, listening to one of those cheesy-ass summer playlists and laughing together, I almost forgot about the invasion, the slugs and, for absolutely the first time since I saw him, poor Elfangor's last moments.

It was nice... not being slightly wary of Handong's every gesture for once.

Then the night came, and we had more sandwiches as dinner, and showered as well as we could (because, thank all the angels in dog heaven, what that sorry excuse for a cottage did have was running water and an electric installation. Somehow.), and finally turned the lights off and got into the communal bed Siyeon, Dong and Gahyeon had made by pushing all the beds in the house together.

After a good bunch of gossipping, dumb jokes and snickering, we started to fall asleep, or pretend to fall asleep, one by one. I was definitely in the second category, and so I could feel and half-see Siyeon get out of bed and head out as per our established plan, and Minji struggle to get out from under someone else and tip-toe out of the room in the dark. I smiled to myself, 100% certain that she was off to see Bora, and I wondered whether or not she'd have shown the human art of smooching to the alien yet. I mean, you have to assume she'd have, right? After all, Bora's cave was right next to Lake Makeouts, and the energy in that place under the moonlight is just...

My train of thought was interrupted when i felt something brush against my right hand's little finger. Quickly, the brushing turned into a sensation of something crawling up my arm, and I squealed at the top of my lungs as I sat up and instinctively slapped the affected area with my other hand. A squishing sound was heard.

Oh, no.

Having been my roommates for about a year now, Handong and Gahyeon barely made a small grunt as a response to my screaming, even though I was right between them, and I shook my head at Yoobin when she sat up silently to see if I was okay.

I got out of bed and exited the room, making my way to the bathroom in the dark by feeling the wall with my left hand, my right still on the spot I had slapped. When I finally entered the bathroom and turned its lights on, I lifted my right hand to see what was under it.

As I suspected, a half-squashed cockroach was still moving three of its legs, pathetically clinging to life. It was disgusting to have its guts on my arm, and even to have touched it at all, of course, but more than that my heart was sinking with guilt. I really didn't want to kill anything, and I was already mortified that I might have to in self-defense in the future, if we went ahead with that bonker plan of joining a fucking war.

But this poor, revolting little animal had done nothing to me.

Hesitantly, I put my right hand back on the bug. It's hard to explain why I did what I did next; I guess I just wanted to... sort of... preserve the soon-to-be dead animal in some way, in order to compensate for the harm I had inflicted on it.

So I started to absorb its DNA, the way I had already done with every single dog I had petted since I'd received the morphing power some days before our group visit to the zoo.

After I felt that it was done, I just... kind of... scraped it into the rubbish bin with a tissue and cleaned my arm with a TON of water and soap while incessantly muttering 'Gross. Gross gross gross. Gross! Gross.'

When I finally felt clean enough (Lies. I would never feel clean again after that. Its DNA was inside me now, and I knew. ), I turned the bathroom's lights off and made it through the dark corridor back to the dormitory. What I saw when I arrived stopped me in my tracks, and I could feel my blood freeze in my veins all the way from my arms up to the crown of my head. Oddly specific, I know, but it's what I felt, okay?

My eyes darted from one side of the room to the other, looking for anything else out of the ordinary, but, having found nothing, returned to the bed, where only Yoobin's shape was lying quietly, illuminated faintly by the moonlight coming from the window that was right beside her. No trace of Handong nor Gahyeon. As cautiously and silently as I could, I got closer to her, and breathed a sigh of relief when I confirmed that she was breathing quietly and regularly. She was safely asleep.

As was to become the norm, my relief was short-lived. Standing next to the window, my blood re-froze instantly when I heard Siyeon's voice coming from outside. She was loud and sounded foor of poorly-veiled alarm, and was asking something which I didn't quite get. I looked out the window, but couldn't see her.

She repeated her question, with an even more generous scoop of alarm this time around.

'What are you doing there, Gahyeon?!', she was asking.