There’s not much else to tell.
Reinforcements from the Yeerk Empire arrived shortly after we returned to the Ifhara village. Despite our resounding failure, I was hailed as a hero by the Nahara, and Visser Thirty-Five, who’d been sent to head the expedition, was incredibly impressed when he heard a (highly abridged) version of our tale.
My pool-brother, Elit, was killed in a tragic accident on the journey home. He fell in the ship’s waste incinerator. Headfirst. We may never know exactly what happened, because the security cameras malfunctioned a few minutes after he entered the room, but it appears that he made the mistake of getting too close to the maintenance chute.
A mystery for the ages.
I brought a few Nahara back to the Homeworld with me to show the Council. They promoted me to Visser Forty and put me in charge of overseeing the Nahara Homeworld, which consisted of a lot of burning of Roson cities. They put up a good fight, and I witnessed firsthand their talent for deception. But that’s another story.
I also managed to force through a sustainability initiative—instead of simply draining the planet of natural resources, I argued that the native Nahara would care for it and ensure a steady supply of water and other materials for years to come. In the end, not many Yeerks took Nahara hosts. They were a rarity as it was, and most were needed to care for the planet, a job which required no supervision. Those who volunteered for infestation were given to my most trusted soldiers and advisors.
The sustainability initiative was even more successful than I could have hoped, and I was promoted again to Visser Sixteen, and then to Visser Five. By that time, the Nahara homeworld was a peaceful place, and I turned my attention to repairing their DNA.
I never expected we would fail.
* * *
A year after my request for more resources to save the Nahara was denied by the Council of Thirteen, Osa Ren’s legs stopped working. We simply awoke one day to find ourselves paralyzed. It took half an hour for us to start moving again, but that didn’t detract from my horror in any way.
We’d watched Ela Ren and countless others go through this, and had an idea of what to expect. Osa Ren’s body was simply…finished. The Roson were gone, but their cruelty lived on. She had days, if that, to live.
The medics had told me that it would be best to take a new host. I had politely declined. They’d brought me an uninfested Nahara. I’d threatened to feed them all to Taxxons. I don’t think they believed me (especially since I didn’t have any Taxxons under my command), but it got the message across.
We spent those last few days in my rooms, gazing out the windows. We could see hatchlings playing in the trees. We had visitors, of course, mostly free Nahara. And Sia Ren (now fully grown) was with us more often than not.
I remember our last conversation. It's something I will never forget. We were alone, for once. Everything hurt. Death was reaching for Osa Ren, and she was reaching back. Welcoming. Eager.
“You don’t have to stay,” Osa Ren murmured to me. “Go. The medics are worrying.”
<I’m not going anywhere,> I said.
I felt the sorrow in her mind. It hurt far worse than the pain in our body.
“Emiki Two-Five-Five,” she whispered to me, “I am very glad I met you.”
“I am too,” I said. I did not care how pathetic I sounded.
<Perhaps we’ll meet again,> said Osa Ren, too tired for words now. <If we all wind up in the same place together.>
“I would like that,” I whispered. I did not believe in an afterlife but in that moment, I thought I might single-handedly bring it into existence through sheer willpower.
<And maybe when you get there, you’ll be able to fly on your own.> Osa Ren closed her eyes.
“I don’t want to fly on my own,” I said.
<Well then,> Osa Ren was drifting off into sleep now. <Perhaps they’ll make an exception for us.>
We lapsed into silence. Osa Ren was daydreaming about treetops now, flying…on the Nahara world, on the Homeworld, under the gigantic glass dome of an Andalite Dome ship that I had intercepted and captured specifically because I knew she’d love it…
Osa Ren smiled at the ceiling.
“I’m not,” she whispered.
* * *
I didn’t leave the pool for a few days. I might not have ever left, but eventually a pair of hands—familiar Nahara hands—fished me out.
I reluctantly made my way into the nearest ear canal, and was surprised to find myself in Sia Ren’s body.
<Sia Ren, I said no,> I said disapprovingly. <We wanted you to be free.>
<I am free,> said Sia Ren. <Now come on, we have a call from the council.>
<Am I in trouble?> I asked. It would be grossly unfair if I was. Esplin regularly did far worse than sulking in a pool for a few days.
<I don’t know,> said Sia Ren. <But you will be if you don’t take your call.>
There was no arguing with that, so I dragged myself back to my office.
I recognized the Hork-Bajir-Controller who was waiting on the viewscreen for me. It was one of the Councilmembers. Probably not the Emperor, but who knew?
“Emiki 255,” he said.
“I apologize for my slowness, Councilmember,” I said, doing my best impression of a normal person. “I was in the pool.”
“Hm,” he said. I wondered how much he knew. How much he suspected. “You have spent much time on the Nahara homeworld, have you not?”
“I suppose I have,” I said cautiously.
“The Council believes that you have become too close to the Nahara species,” said the Councilmember, “and it is clouding your judgment. You will be reassigned to another world. We have need of your skills elsewhere.”
<What?> cried Sia Ren.
“I do not understand,” I said. The world—my world—blurring. I thought I might start screaming.
“The Andalite Homeworld,” said the Councilmember. “You will secure it for us.”
<They cannot be serious,> said Sia Ren. She was already running different scenarios through her mind—a trick, a test, an ambush. All seemed equally likely. I was otherwise occupied by trying not to let the Councilmember see how his orders had affected me.
“Have I not done well on the Nahara world?” I asked at last.
“You have. That is why you are being given this assignment. Do you understand, Emiki 255?”
“I…understand…” I said, hating myself for the uncertainty in my voice.
“Good. You will report to your new post immediately.”
And he cut the call, leaving me staring at a blank screen.
<I was not expecting that,> said Sia Ren. <The Andalite Homeworld? Have they gone mad?>
Mad or not, there was no refusing the orders. I spent about an hour hyperventilating on the floor, and my preparations took up a few more days. I will admit that the distraction was actually quite nice. I appointed someone I trusted to watch over the Nahara world in my absence and triple-checked that everything would run smoothly in my absence.
I would miss it terribly, this tiny pale world. It was more familiar to me than my true home.
But the universe was bigger than my broken heart. And I had work to do. Love and hatred and insanity spiraled in my head and I knew, in a sudden moment of clarity, that conquering the Andalite homeworld was going to be just a side project.
I was going to end the war, or die trying.
I’ll come back, I told the planet, silently, as Sia Ren and I watched a few children chase each other from tree to tree. Soon. You’ll see. I’ll fix everything that was broken.
* * *
The day before I was set to leave for the Andalite world, an Ongachic-Controller came to my office. I didn’t recognize her at all, and I was certain that she was nobody of importance. I gave her a warning emerald glare, but she did not leave.
“Visser, a moment?” she asked.
“Make an appointment,” I snapped.
<Emiki,> scolded Sia Ren, appalled at my rudeness.
But the Ongachic was not deterred.
“My name is Lannit 882,” she said. “I am Sub-Visser Ninety-Three’s personal assistant. I work down in filing, and I oversee much of the—”
“Are you making a list of things I don’t care about?” I drawled. I moved away from my terminal and started to leave the office. Lannit stepped in front of me, blocking my way. I could not stop my eyes from turning a shocked grey-green. Sia Ren flared her wings instinctively.
“Visser,” said Lannit, doing an admittedly admirable job of maintaining her composure, “I’d like to talk to you about the Yeerk Peace Movement.”