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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #15 on: May 21st, 2008, 6:47pm »

She didn’t respond, except to cry harder and I felt the fight utterly leave my body. Without another word to Tom or Alicia I turned and walked slowly back down the stairs. I ignored Alicia’s parents as they called out, questioning why I was so quick to leave. I ignored the rain which had finally begun to fall as I left the house. As I walked home Steve’s words were rolling around my brain like a CD on repeat.

‘Don’t be stupid, Chris. Your life is a mess.’ It certainly was. I must have set some sort of record for going from the happiest to the most miserable person in the least amount of time.

‘So what happens when she’s gone? What happens when she spends all her time with Tommy-boy and your only real friend is gone for good?’

‘She would never do that to me. We’ve been friends since we were babies.’

‘Of course she would. You know why? Because people are selfish. Even you’re precious Alicia. I guarantee you she’ll drop you in a heartbeat.’

This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be. I had gone from having everything I had ever wanted to nothing, in a matter of hours. I walked dejectedly into my house and looked around. It was still empty. My mother hadn’t returned.

“I know more than you think.” Steve responded quietly, his blue eyes boring into me. “You’ll see. When your world crashes down around your ears, you’ll see what I mean.”

Steve had been right. Everything was going wrong. My mother couldn’t be a good parent, no matter how hard she tried. Alicia didn’t want me…she had only tolerated me until someone better came along. What was left for me? I thought briefly of The Sharing, one of the few places where I had been happy around people other than Alicia.

‘People treat you like a person there. People like you. They want to be your friend. Don’t you want that kind of treatment everywhere you go? We can make that happen. Once you’re a full member all of your problems with feeling awkward and fitting in will disappear.’

I picked up the phone receiver and slowly dialed. The receiver felt heavy in my hand. Everything was heavy. It was as if the weight of the world had shifted itself onto my shoulders.

Brrrrring. ‘The offer still stands. Think it over.’

Brrrri – “Hello?” Steve picked up on the second ring. I started to say hello but realized that my throat had gone dry.

“Hello?” Steve asked again. I cleared my throat.

“He-hey Steve.” I croaked out, “It’s Chris.”

“Oh hey man, what’s up?” It was weird how normal Steve sounded after yesterday’s conversation. I wondered if maybe I had imagined that, like I had apparently imagined asking Alicia out.

“Um…remember that thing we talked about yesterday?” I asked tentatively. My pulse was racing. Despite all of my misery I couldn’t help but feel strangely as if I were making the most important decision of my life.

“Yeah, sure.” Steve responded casually, “Have you given what I said more thought?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I have.” I said. I took a deep breath. “I want to do it. I want to become a full member.”

“Excellent!” Steve cried, “That’s awesome Chris. You won’t regret it, I promise.”

“Yeah…yeah, okay.” I said tentatively. “When should we….I mean…”

“There’s a member only meeting tomorrow.” Steve said, suddenly sounding serious again, “It’s at the usual place around four o’clock. If you can get there at three thirty, we can do the initiation then.”

“It only takes half an hour?” I asked, feeling a little relieved. Whatever it was couldn’t be that bad. “Okay, yeah. Yeah, I’ll see you then.”

“Excellent. Later!” There was a click as he hung up on his end. I replaced the phone on the receiver and trudged up to my room, feeling only slightly less miserable.

Alicia had left me. Tom was as big of a jerk as Steve had predicted. My mom was interested in anything but parenting. I had nothing at all to look forward to. It’s the right decision, I told myself. Steve said that The Sharing could help. That after I was a full member my problems would no longer seem so huge. It was worth a shot.

For better or worse, I would become a full member of The Sharing tomorrow.
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #16 on: May 26th, 2008, 8:28pm »

Chapter Nine

The Briefing

When my alarm clock went off the next morning the last thing I wanted to do was go to school. I got up and checked to see if my mom had returned yet. She hadn’t. Wandering downstairs in my boxers I picked up the phone and called off sick. Luckily I sound a lot like my dad, so no one asked me any questions. As soon as I hung up with the school I trudged back upstairs, each step like a thousand pound weight. My bed welcomed me with open arms as I collapsed back into it.

“Christopher!” My mothers piercing voice cut through the dreamless comfort. I grunted and pulled my comforter over my head. A moment later it was torn off of me.

“Christopher Scott, it is eleven o’clock! Why are you not at school?” My mother raged.

“’Cause” I mumbled, rolling over so that my back was to her.

“That is unacceptable, young man! Get up now! I want you downstairs in five minutes.” A moment later I heard my door click shut. After a moment or two of trying to get back to sleep I gave up with a heavy sigh. I took my time finding the most rumpled, dirty clothes left in my newly cleaned room and even more time trudging downstairs. My mom was in the living room, watching a soap opera with a sour look on her face.

“So.” She said severely as I entered.

“What?” I responded glumly.

“Why aren’t you at school?”

“Why do you care?” I countered, “You didn’t care about dinner last night. You didn’t seem to mind skipping out on me. What do you care about me skipping out on school?”

“Don’t you dare talk to me that way, you little brat.” She spat, glowering at me, “You know that I wouldn’t have canceled our plans unless I had a good reason.”

“Yeah? Like what? Sleeping over at dads place while his new wife is out of town?” I knew that I had crossed the line the moment the words were out of my mouth. Yet even as I waited for the verbal lashing that was bound to come I was able to appreciate the wide array of expressions crossing my mother’s face. First shock, then anger, then guilt followed by more anger.

“How dare you speak to your mother like that.” She hissed in a low whisper.

“Some mother.” I cried, realizing that I was already in way too deep to back out now, “Why are you so eager for me to be at school, mom? You never cared before! Are you expecting someone? Don’t want to be bothered by your pest of a son? Who is it? Who’s coming over?”

I could tell by the expression on my mom’s face that I had guessed her intentions correctly. Unfortunately instead of making me feel justified I just felt more miserable. The only time my mother cared about me was when her best interests were at stake.

“Get out.” My mom growled in a dangerous tone. “Get out of this house right now and don’t you dare come back until you’re ready to apologize.”

“I’ll see you in a few years then, mom.” I said scathingly. Without another look back I stomped out of the house, hot with anger.

I toyed with the idea of showing up at school for about three seconds before discounting it. Alicia was at school. Tom was at school. Right now they were the last people I wanted to see, especially acting all disgusting and mushy together. Instead I turned and headed towards the mall.

The rest of the day passed slowly. I walked in circles around the mall, which was mostly empty except for some elderly couples and a few mom’s wheeling strollers. No one gave me a second glance. I spent all of my spare change at the arcade, which meant that I didn’t get lunch. By the time three thirty rolled around my stomach was growling loudly.

I felt a bit calmer now. I had had a long time to think, in the relative peace of the half-empty shopping center. What had previously been uncapped rage at my mom, Alicia, Tom, and my life in general had finally reached a gentle simmer. Yes, I was still ferociously angry. Now, however, instead of wanting to lash out rashly, run away, or scream at the top of my lungs there was a colder calculation in my desires.

I didn’t want to punch Tom out – such an act would be foolish. In all likelihood I would end up losing that fight, and whatever injury I caused Tom would be temporary. I didn’t just want to stop speaking to Alicia. I wanted her to feel the misery that I felt, every day of her life. And treating my mother with the same disregard as she did me hardly seemed a satisfactory punishment. No. Something more needed to come from this.

As I began to walk to the building where The Sharing meeting was held I pondered this. Steve had promised that becoming a full member would erase all of my problems. If this was true, would I also be able to exact my revenge? Whatever it was that they did, would it allow me to watch those around me suffer in as they had made me? Even Alicia, a full member herself? I certainly hoped so.

I arrived at the meeting with only a minute or two to spare and traipsed up to the front door. Giving it a hearty tug I was a bit surprised when I felt it resist beneath my fingers. The door was locked. I checked my watch again. Had Steve lied to me? Was there no meeting? Was this just some new way to make me suffer? Cautiously I knocked on the door. To my great relief it opened almost instantly, and Steve’s smiling face beckoned me inside, where a second surprise met me.

The large conference hall was almost completely empty. There were only two other people there besides Steve and I. I stopped at the door and stared. It was Alicia….and my mom.

“What…why are they here!?” I cried angrily, feeling the rage from earlier boil back up inside.

“It’s alright, man.” Steve said calmly, putting a hand on my shoulder. I shrugged him off roughly.

“No it’s not. Why did you invite them here? Why is my mother of all people here!?” I retorted angrily. Neither Alicia nor my mother responded. They were sitting at one of the round tables, watching Steve and I. Their expressions were strangely blank, as if they didn’t recognize me as a person they had known their entire lives, but rather as a stranger who occasionally appeared.

“Chris lets sit down and talk.” Steve continued his voice low and still.

“No! I’m not going to sit down with…with them!” I spat.

“Chris, it isn’t them.” Steve said. Huh? I looked at him like maybe he was crazy.

“What do you mean it isn’t them? They’re right in front of me!” I said. Steve gave me a small sympathetic smile, and put his hand on my shoulder again, guiding me towards the table.

“Sit down, Chris. We’ll explain everything.” I was so intrigued by this that I allowed myself to be led to the table, although I still refused to look my mother or former best friend in the face. Once I was seated Steve took an open chair next to Alicia. A moment of uncomfortable silence passed, where I looked down at the plastic tabletop, uncertain of where this was leading.

“As I said,” Steve said, still smiling warmly. His grin was beginning to unsettle me slightly. There was something creepy about this entire situation. My mom and Alicia, completely silent, staring at me with disinterest. Steve, looking as if we were just hanging out to play video games. ‘Weird’ was the only word I could think of to describe it.

“As said, these people sitting here,” he gestured to Alicia and my mom, “Are not who you think they are.”

“What, are you talking about?” I asked, raising my eyes to his disturbingly calm face.

“I need you to promise that you won’t interrupt me while I tell you. It is complicated and you need to give me your complete attention.” Steve said seriously. I hesitated, but nodded in agreement. There were a million things racing through my head. Things I wanted to say, things I wanted to do. But first, I wanted answers.

“Okay. First of all, your mother and Alicia are here, in front of you. They are simply not in control of their bodies.” Steve began, not breaking his gaze with me. “They are being controlled by an alien race, called Yeerks.”

I couldn’t help it, I snorted loudly. “What is this invasion of the body snatchers?” I asked sarcastically. Steve didn’t answer, he just gave me a hard look and I fell silent.

“We Yeerks…because, you see, I am one too, are parasites. This means that without you we are completely helpless. No more than slugs. So we came to earth to ask for the humans help.”

“Help?” I asked, unable to resist, “You came to ask us to give up our bodies? And I can’t believe I’m actually having this conversation as if it’s true, by the way….”

“Yes, we want you to give up your freedom to move.” Steve went on, ignoring my last comment, “In return, we will help you. We can make you stronger, smarter, and more confident. Everything you ever wanted to say and didn’t have the courage to do, we can do for you. We’ll help your cause, if you help ours.”

“And…what is your cause?” I asked. I shot Alicia a sideways look, to see if she thought that this was as crazy as I did. She just stared back, stone-faced.

“To completely assimilate ourselves with the humans.” Steve said lightly, “We want one Yeerk for every human. You see, it’s a joint thing. You’ve seen what the world is like. Death and disease runs rampant. Your politics are laughable. As individuals, you humans are completely and totally lost in your own emotions. We can help you clear your heads.”

As unbelievable as Steve’s story sounded, I still found myself somewhat bothered. I looked at Alicia and my mother, sitting there so silently and uncaring.

“So…Alicia and my mom…the way they were acting…” I started.

“Alicia never wanted you, Chris. She merely didn’t know how to tell you that she wanted Tom. The Yeerk inside her head was doing exactly what she wanted to do, but couldn’t. Your mom was free the other night, when she made dinner for you. Since then, she became one of us. Once that happened she was able to tell you how she truly felt.”
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #17 on: May 26th, 2008, 8:29pm »

“What…but…” I stammered. I waited for either Alicia or my mom to suddenly laugh and tell me it was all a big joke, but neither of them seemed to. When my mother did open her mouth to speak, her voice was somehow…different from what I was used to.

“Christopher, your mother never loved you. She never wanted you. She was merely trying to make herself look good.” My mom said. I wasn’t sure if I was more disturbed by what she was saying or the fact that she was referring to herself in third person, “She told me to say those things to you today. As part of our agreement, I couldn’t refuse.”

“Your mom doesn’t get off unpunished, though.” Steve cut in, “You see, in addition to having a Yeerk who helps you get what you want every three days the Yeerk will leave your head and you will be given an hour or so of freedom.”

“How is that punishment?” I asked, not taking my eyes off of my mother as a new wave of repulsion welled up inside me. She had never wanted me? If anyone deserved enslavement it was her…

“In your mother and Alicia’s case, they must spend their freedom in cages. They think that we are cruel creatures. They think that they deserve to be free to spread lies and pretend to love people that they cannot stand. We hate liars. Even if you hate someone – especially if you hate someone – you should be honest. Liars don’t deserve freedom. Don’t you agree?” I broke my gaze from my mom, and looked back at Steve. His blue eyes were searching mine intently.

“Yes.” I found myself saying, “Yes, I agree.” I turned my gaze to Alicia. My best friend, the only person I trusted, the love of my life. “These people don’t deserve anything.”

“I agree completely.” Steve said earnestly. “So, will you agree to give a humble Yeerk his freedom? To sacrifice your mobility for a greater cause?”

“I…I still don’t know if I believe this…” I said hesitantly, “Besides…giving up my freedom for three days at a time? That’s asking a lot.”

“What do you do with your freedom now?” Steve asked. “Think of all the people in this world who don’t deserve anything. You can help us give those people what they deserve. And everyone else…well, they will enter into a partnership of only benefits. The Yeerk gets freedom, and you get the ability to have your life lived exactly how you want it to be.”

“But this is…completely impossible.” I faltered. Steve merely smiled. “I don’t know. I mean…this is heavy stuff. Can’t I think about it?”

“Sorry, man.” Steve said, “This decision needs to be made today. No more time. Listen, you said it yourself, these people deserve what they got. If you agree to do this, you can get revenge on everyone who has ever hurt you. What about Tom, don’t you want to get revenge on him? What about your dad who left you with a mother who doesn’t care?”

Another rush of anger ran through me. I felt my face redden with embarrassment at the turn my life had taken and anger at my inability to change things. Except…now I was being given that exact opportunity. I could change things. I could change my life, and I could make every person who had ever laughed at me or cut me short pay. I found myself standing up,

“Yes. I’ll do it.” I said to Steve, even though my eyes were on Alicia and my mom. If Steve was right then the Yeerks were in control now. What was the real Alicia thinking? What was my real mom thinking? Were they afraid? Angry? It didn’t matter. They deserved it.

“Excellent.” Steve said, also standing. His eyes were twinkling with…was it victory? “We’ll begin at once. I must warn you, where we are going there are a lot of people like Alicia here. People who don’t deserve their freedom. They are kept in cages, where they get exactly what they deserve. Don’t be afraid, that won’t ever happen to you.”

I nodded nervously, wondering what I had just gotten myself into, still not sure if I believed it at all. Steve nodded to Alicia and my mother and they got up as well. Without another look at me, both of them walked out of the building.

The door slammed behind them, leaving Steve and I alone. I felt a sudden chill run through me as Steve locked the door. I couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps I had gotten in over my head, but it was too late now. I was in, and I had to see this through.

I followed Steve into the meeting room where just two days before I had seen the blue monster. Steve crossed the room and opened another door, which led into a long hallway. I expected him to start walking down the hall, but instead he turned and seemed to be doing something to the doorframe. A moment later I jumped back as part of the floor in front of him slid back.

“What the…” I looked at the opening where a floor had been moments before. It was dark, but not completely black. I could see a dim light coming from within. That was all I could see, save stairs that went down and down and twisted out of view. I could hear, though. And what I heard was a choir of screams so horrific I felt the hair on my neck stand on end.

“Don’t worry,” Steve said, seeing my discomfort, “Remember, those are the people who deserve it. They’ve all done horrible things to people who did nothing wrong. Like Alicia did to you.”

I nodded, trying to ignore the vague nausea in my stomach. No turning back now, I told myself. Steve beckoned me forward and entered the tunnel. I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and began descending the stairs.
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #18 on: May 26th, 2008, 8:29pm »

Chapter Ten

Final Justification

The stairs led down even further than I imagined. Initially I had thought that perhaps we would go into a basement or sub-basement of sorts. But as the dry wall gave way to stone I realized that we were going much, much deeper. A chill settled over me as we descended. The constant, distant cries and screams didn’t make me feel much better. I couldn’t help but imagine myself walking into the very bowels of hell.

I had to move quickly to keep up with Steve, who was taking the steps two at a time. I suppose he was hurrying lest I change my mind. I did wonder if perhaps I had made a mistake. Clearly this was bigger than my revenge against Alicia. But at the same time…perhaps there were just this many people who deserved to be screaming deep in the bowels of the earth. Were there so many cruel people on this planet?

“Steve…?” I asked, as we rounded yet another bend, “What exactly is going to…to happen?”

“You’re going to wait in line with me at the infestation pier.” Steve said, keeping his eyes straight ahead, “When it is your turn you will lower your head into the Yeerk Pool. From there a Yeerk will enter your brain through the ear and take control of your motor functions.”

I didn’t really understand what he had said, until the last part. So these Yeerks would have to actually squeeze in through my ear? The thought made me feel vaguely sick to my stomach. I felt a weird pressure upon me, which seemed to be pulling me along despite my worries. It took me a moment to realize that Steve had grabbed me firmly by the arm and was pulling me along.

“Don’t chicken out now, Chris.” Steve said, pulling me along. “Remember, we’re here to help. You’ll see.”

“Yeah…I’m not afraid.” I lied. But there was no turning back now. No matter how dry my mouth got, or how fast my pulse pounded I would not turn back. I couldn’t let Steve down, now that I had promised. Not after I had been let down so many times.

We rounded a final bend and the stairway suddenly opened up around me. I couldn’t help but gasp. We had come upon a massive cavern, large enough to fit under half the town. All around the edges of the cavern were large construction machines, at work expanding the already massive cave.

What drew my eye was not the sheer size of this cavern, however. What drew my amazed and horrified gaze was what filled the cavern. People. Dozens of people in cages screaming and crying. Dozens more were walking free, as calm as if they were in the park on a sunny day. Everything seemed to center on a thick, vomit-colored lake which resided in the center of the cavern. At first I thought that the lake was being tossed by in invisible wind, but then I realized.

It was teeming with slugs.

“Oh…” I stopped dead at this sight, and was pulled forward unsteadily by Steve, who walked me straight to one side of the lake, which I assumed was what Steve had called “the Pool”. There was a sort of line here, which led out onto a pier. An identical pier was on the other side of the Yeerk Pool. At the end of each pier was…

“What are those!?” I asked, my mouth gaping. Two giant monsters stood at the end of each pier. They stood over seven feet tall, with more blades than any creature should be allowed to have on their body. It looked like some sick melding of a blender and a dinosaur.

“Those are Hork-Bajir. Do not be afraid of them. They are normally very stupid creatures, but they each have a Yeerk inside their heads which will not harm you.” Steve said conversationally. I noticed that he had not let go of my arm.

There were three people in front of me at the pier. The first two were standing quietly, waiting for their turn. The third one, a pretty woman in her twenties, was crying silently to herself. I caught a glimpse of her face, and I don’t think I had ever seen a more defeated looking person. She was being held tightly by a tall balding man who looked very familiar…

“Vice Principal Chapman!” I cried, suddenly recognizing the man. He turned and fixed me with a penetrating stare I had seen every day in middle school.

“Ah, yes. Chapman here is one of our voluntary Controller’s.” Steve said, smiling, “He and his Yeerk get along quite well, isn’t that right?”

“Oh yes,” Chapman gave me a thin smile, “My host and I are on quite good terms. Imren, what is his status?”

“Oh, he’s a new Voluntary,” Steve answered casually, as I was trying to figure out who ‘Imren’ was, “In for his first infestation.”

“Wonderful!” Chapman gave me a reassuring nod, “Welcome, young man. You’ve made a very important decision.”

“No…” The woman in front of me whimpered suddenly. Tears were flowing freely down her face, but she seemed unable to talk, “No….”

“Excuse me.” Chapman gave me another smile and turned his attention back to the woman who he shook roughly.

“What’s wrong with her?” I asked.

“Oh, she’s one from the cages. A resister.” Steve said, “Don’t mind her.”

Through the conversation the line had moved up. Now there was just the lady in front of me, and then it was my turn. I watched, fascinated, as Chapman handed the woman off to one of the…what had Steve called them? Hork-Bajir? The monstrous creatures took her by the arms and pushed her to her knees roughly. They twisted her head to the side and dunked it under the water.

“They’re going to drown her!” I cried, watching her brown hair float in the sludge. But a moment later they pulled her up, infinitely gentler than when they had first received her. She pulled her damp hair back and turned to go. I gasped.

The transformation on her face was amazing. The tears were gone, as was the incredible sadness which her eyes had held. She carried herself taller, with more confidence. She even smiled at me as she walked past.

Then it was my turn. My stomach was swirling uncomfortably, and last minute excuses kept bubbling up. Steve urged me forward and I allowed myself to move forward, even though I was positively shaking with uncertainty. Steve handed me off to the Hork-Bajir, who took hold of me with an equally firm grasp.

“Remember,” Steve hissed in my ear before backing away, “This is your revenge.”

If he had been hoping to give me strength it worked. At his words the faces of Alicia and my mother boiled up in my consciousness. I allowed myself to be pushed gently to my knees, set my jaw firmly and plunged my head into the Pool.

For a moment I felt truly ridiculous, sitting there with my head half underwater (or under…whatever it was…), being held by two things which very well could have come from a nightmare. I wondered if this wasn’t some very realistic dream. Then I felt it.

Something touched my ear! What first felt like an accidental tickle soon became a very pronounced presence. Something, probably one of the slug-like ‘Yeerks’, was groping around my ear. I squinted my eyes shut tighter, willing myself not to move. There was a sudden pressure and I realized that the Yeerk was entering my head. I vaguely thought that perhaps this should hurt, but it didn’t.

Quite suddenly I was being pulled from the Pool. It was relieving to be away from the suffocating liquid of the Pool. I reached up to brush the damp hair from my eyes. Only…my hand didn’t move.

I tried again. Nothing. Slowly I became aware of another presence in my head. I waited, nervous and uncertain as to what I was waiting for. Suddenly I got my answer. I began to walk. Only, I hadn’t wanted to walk.

(Hello?) I thought, feeling a bit silly. As if I was talking to myself. I was shocked when I heard an answer.

(Hello Christopher.) The voice was strange. Unfamiliar. It certainly did not belong to me.

(Are you…my Yeerk?) I asked, still trying to move various body parts to no avail. (I can’t move.)

(My, aren’t you observant.) The voice mused, (Yes, I am your Yeerk. My name is Edred 625. You cannot move because I am now in control of your body. I believe Imren explained as much to you.)

(I…who is Imren?) I asked, but even as I wondered the answer bubbled up in my head. Imren was Steve’s Yeerk. I had never spoken to the real Steve. All of my conversations had been with Imren, only pretending to be Steve. Just as now no one would truly be talking to me, but Edred.

This sudden wealth of information struck me as dumbfounding. Somehow I hadn’t completely understood the enormity of what Steve…Imren…had been describing to me. But now, with the familiar ability to control my own body so completely beyond my grasp, it hit me with a chilling magnitude.

(So you’re…) I was still trying to grasp what was happening, (You’re going to make everything better for me?)

(Yes, well. Your problems won’t seem nearly so problematic now that I am in control of them,) Edred said.

(Oh.) I didn’t really feel as if I had gotten the response I wanted, but I let it slide. Instead I focused on the strange feeling of being unable to control oneself. After a few moments I realized that the Yeerk even had access to my thoughts and memories. I could sort of feel it as Edred shifted through them, flashes of my life flashing before my eyes like a mini-movie.

(You have led a very boring life.) Edred said, finally breaking the silence.

(I know,) I responded, (That’s where you come in, isn’t it? We’re going to make all of the people who are mean and unfair pay, right?)

(Yes, yes.) Edred said impatiently, and I felt a little stupid. Even the words sounded stupid as I thought them. Edred must think I’m a complete idiot.

(I merely think that you are a human and susceptible to the same delusions as any other human) Edred commented.
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xx Re: The Voluntary
« Reply #19 on: May 26th, 2008, 8:31pm »

(You…you can read all of my thoughts!?) I cried. Edred didn’t answer, but I didn’t need his confirmation. I felt suddenly uncomfortable. Every single one of my secrets, bared to this alien that I didn’t even know? It seemed invasive on an entirely new level. And yet…I thought of Alicia and my mom, subject to the same, but against their will. That made me feel better. It must be horrible for them, trying to control their bodies and keep their thoughts hidden and failing time after time.

(You are a very bitter creature.) Edred observed. I didn’t answer. It was true, of course. I was bitter. I had my reasons, though. Alicia deserved to suffer. My mom deserved to suffer. Tom…well, as far as I knew Tom hadn’t begun to suffer yet, but he would.

“Is everything alright?” Steve’s voice shook me out of my reverie. Without my realizing it we had left the Yeerk Pool and were back in the meeting room. It seemed entirely strange that my body could go somewhere without my paying attention to it doing so.

“Yes, everything is fine.” I heard my voice say, “How long until he gets here?”

“Just a couple of minutes.” Steve…Imren…replied, looking at his watch.

“Do you know why he’s even coming?” A new voice said. With jolt of shock I realized that Alicia was standing just behind me. In fact the room was full of people – all full members of The Sharing.

“No, I don’t know.” Steve said, looking sour, “I expect he’s got someone he wants to make an example out of.”

“That’s not very encouraging, Imren.” Alicia responded. She looked worried, but shot me a small smile, “How are you Edred?”

“I’m well.” I felt myself smile back at her, “This host certainly has quite a gamut of feelings for yours.”

(Wha-don’t say that!) I cried, mortified.

“Yes, I know. My own host is making quite a racket right now.” Alicia grinned, making it hard to believe that there was any sort of internal struggle going on. Well Alicia deserved to struggle. The real Alicia was a liar and a cheat. I felt fresh anger bubbling up inside me. I was about to tell Edred to say something particularly cruel when I realized that the room had gone very silent.

I immediately recognized the monster that I had seen a few days ago. He came from the Yeerk Pool entrance I had been through moments before. A blue centaur with no mouth, stalk eyes, and a wickedly bladed tail. It wasn’t the first look at the creature Edred told me was called Visser Three that was so impressive and terrifying, though. It was the power radiating from him. Cruel, evil power. It terrified me. I could even feel Edred’s fear, which was only slightly comforting.

“Visser Three.” Steve began, smiling tightly, “May the Kandrona shine and strengthen you.”

(Be quiet, fool.) Visser Three said. Obviously this particular Yeerk was not one for small talk. I found myself wondering, not for the first time, what I had gotten myself into. (Report?)

“Uh…yes…” Steve started in on a long, boring talk about security. I paid attention for a moment or two, but once I realized that I didn’t have to – that was Edred’s job – I let my mind wander. I couldn’t move my eyes, which were fixed on the Visser, so instead I thought about my vengeance. Tom still needed to pay. He knew what Alicia meant to me. He knew we were dating, and he still decided to sneak off with her. Obviously friendship did not extend as far as getting Alicia was concerned.

Suddenly I saw a flash of brown, at the high window on the door behind Visser Three.

(What was that?) I asked, but Edred was busy paying attention to the Visser. He didn’t have the time to worry about me.

“You know, maybe we could go spy on her or something.” Tom’s voice from the last meeting suddenly came to mind. Tom! Tom was spying on the meeting! Which means that he, like I had a few days before, had seen Visser Three! And he was going to get away!

(Edred! Edred, pay attention to me!)

(Shut up human, can’t you see I’m busy?) The Yeerk snapped. I ignored his dangerous tone.

(Tom’s spying on the meeting. He’s seen Visser Three. He’s outside the door!) I cried quickly.

(What are you babbling on about?) I felt Edred’s attention shift from the meeting to my thoughts and memories. Suddenly he was paying attention.

“Visser!” I heard my voice cry. Visser Three stopped, cut off in the middle of a particularly venomous rant. He looked furious.

(What is it?) He asked, looking about a moment away from deciding to sever my head from my body.

“There is a boy spying on the meeting.” Edred said. My voice came out shaky. Edred had never spoken up in front of Visser Three before, and I’m sure that he too was envisioning my head rolling across the floor. Or perhaps his body being pulled unceremoniously from my ear and stomped upon.

His words had the reaction I had hoped for, though. A couple of full members hurried outside of the meeting room. A moment later they burst back in, carrying a struggling Tom between them.

“Let me go!” He cried, trying to wrench his arms free. “Alicia, help me! Chris!”

(Hello human,) Visser Three said, smirking. A moment later his tail was at Tom’s throat. He stopped struggling, looking petrified, (Tsk tsk. One would do well not to be so curious. Take him to the Pool.)

As soon as the Visser pulled his tail away Tom began struggling once more. I expected myself to feel at least a little sorry for him, but I only felt a growing justification and satisfaction as he struggled.

“Alicia, stop them! What’s going on!?” He cried, swinging a fist madly and hitting Principal Chapman in the nose. A moment later he had two more men on him, pinning his arms behind his back. His wild gaze fell on me. “Chris, please, help me! They’re going to kill me! What is wrong with all of you!?”

Tom was still screaming as he was manhandled down to the Yeerk Pool. Even after he disappeared from view his screams rang in my ears.

(Thank you.) I said to Edred. He ignored me, but that was alright. I felt an indescribable justification welling up within me. My freedom had been taken from me, but I hardly cared. Thanks to the Yeerks Alicia and my mom were in their rightful place. And now, with my help, Tom too was paying for his offenses. It didn’t matter what the Yeerks wanted my body for. In the end, like Tom, the entire world would get what they deserved. And I would help.

A/N: Well, there you have it. The story of a voluntary controller and, as a bonus, the story of Tom Berenson. Twisted little kid, isn't he? I apologize if the last chapter seemed a bit rushed. I toyed with splitting it up into two chapters (one for infestation, one for the meeting), but thought that might drag things out a bit too much.

I hope you enjoyed this fic. Thanks again to my readers and reviewers!

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