last01standing: (Default)
[personal profile] last01standing
Title: How the Sky Looks Different from the Ground
Rating: PG
Characters: Tobias mainly but also Rachel, Chapman and the “one human freed — the woman who rode Cassie's back” from the yeerk pool raid at the end of book #1.
Summary: The AU where Tobias isn’t an animorph.
Disclaimer: I am not KA Applegate and plan to make no profit for this endeavor
Author's Note: I recently reread this entire series. This fic was inevitable.
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How the Sky Looks Different from the Ground

My name is Tobias and I am human. I never used to feel the need to make that distinction—not the name or the species, really—I mean there aren’t many people out there who actually care about what I’m called. Mostly they call me, ‘Hey, you!’ There’s also a liberal smattering of ‘Hey, loser’ in the mix, but my name is Tobias. You’d think the human part would be a little less necessary but I’m not so sure anymore.

Something seriously strange is going on. I think it started a few months when there was some kids set off fireworks in the abandoned construction site down by the mall. That same night there was a huge rash of UFO sightings.

I am not one of those kids. Sure I spend most of my life with my head in the clouds but that’s because my life down on the ground isn’t something I particularly want to live.

So when I say I’m pretty sure aliens have landed I can only hope you’ll take me seriously.

I’m getting paranoid. I never used to be paranoid. I used to be miserable, but never paranoid. It was a function of getting shuffled from aunt to uncle, neither of whom could be bothered to look after some teenage kid. I wonder what would have happened sometimes if things would have gone differently. I wonder what would have happened if my dad hadn’t died and my mom hadn’t walked out.

But most of all I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t met her.

This all started about a year ago. A lot of things can change in a year. Especially if you spend it in moderately paranoid isolation.

A hand settled on my shoulder. I was only a few weeks into high school and after spending middle school with my head shoved down a toilet, I wasn’t keen on keeping with that trend so I clenched my fist, turned and swung.

It wasn’t a good hit. I’d taken enough good clean hits to know the difference, but it was so unexpected, the guy hit the floor.

I was as surprised as everyone else. The entire school went silent. No one used to notice when I took a beating, but now, during passing time everyone stopped. My ears were getting warm. This wasn’t what I wanted. I couldn’t start drawing attention to myself. That would turn into nothing good.

“Tobias,” a voice said over the hush and then the clamor started.

I reverted back to old habits--I ran, weaving through the crowd with skill borne of years of torment. No one followed me and I went to the one place I knew people didn’t look: the library.

Skipping class probably made things worse in the long run but I didn’t care. I was still on the verge of panic so I sat down in the fantasy section of the stacks and clenched my hands to my knees, waiting for my vision to clear. It wasn’t a panic attack but it was close. It had been happening far more then I liked. It started a few months ago. Started when I started having dreams of the ocean. Ended with dreams of dolphins and sharks. Since then things have been less distinct. The odd sound of voices in my head.

I’m not crazy. I promise. A lot of this sounds crazy but I’m not crazy.

I couldn’t get myself under control. I couldn’t be here today. I couldn’t deal with stares and whispers. I forced myself to stand up. I could skip out of the rest of the day. My uncle wasn’t going to be home and the school was well aware of my messed up home life and were more then willing to cut me a break.

That used to bother me. I never wanted that label. I was nobody. I was ‘hey you’ or ‘loser’ or just ‘whatshisface.’ Nowadays I didn’t mind so much. I knew what was at stake.

I debated waiting until the next passing time before making my break for it but decided against it. I shoved my hands in the pocket of my sweatshirt, lowered my head and made my way to the door.

“Tobias!” a voice called behind me.

I froze. I could have made a break for it. I could have just darted at the door, but that would have just called more attention to myself. I turned around at stared at Vice Principal Chapman.

“May I talk to you?”

I stared at my feet as I followed him to the office not saying a word.

According to Grace, Vice principal Chapman is one of them. He is one of the controllers walking around with a yeerk wrapped his brain. My vice principal was an evil alien slug. I’ll be there are millions of kids out there who think they could say the same thing.

The difference was when I say it, it’s true.

Grace used to be one of them. She had a yeerk slug controlling her every movement but she got away and now she’s trying to fight back. Me, I help out when I can but there’s not a lot a kids can do in the face of an alien invasion.

“I heard about your altercation this afternoon, Tobias.”

I wanted to say he started it but for once that wasn’t true so I didn’t say anything.

Chapman shifted behind his desk, arranging his face into one of worry. “Son, you know fighting is a serious offense in this school.”

“So suspend me,” I said before I could stop myself.

Chapman raised an eyebrow. The act was flawless. I almost believed he was completely human. But no, I hadn’t merely antagonized a vice principal. I’d antagonized a yeerk bent on world domination. “How is your home life nowadays, Tobias?” he asked.

“Same as it has been for years,” I told him. Secondhand shoes, secondhand clothes, irregular dinners, little to no supervision. “At least I’m still in the same place.”

“Any measure of continuity can only help your situation, Tobias. I know you’ve had problems with bullying and I know it’s always tempting to fight back but...”

“Violence is not the answer,” I said. “I get it. I shouldn’t have taken a swing at him and I’ll probably it back soon enough. So if I’m in trouble, that’s fine, but if not, I’m missing class.”

“You weren’t going to class,” Chapman said with a knowing smile.

“Fine,” I said. “You caught me.”

“Tobias,” Chapman said, leaning forward in his seat. “There’s an organization you might be interested in. I think it’s a huge help for kids like you.”

My blood went cold. “Who says I need any help?”

“I’m not implying anything, I just thing The Sharing exists for people like you. It’s a great opportunity to interact with your classmates and make some new friends. Our next meeting is on Friday. We would love to see you there.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said. I was unconsciously pressing myself back into the chair, trying to maximize the distance between myself and Chapman. I did not want to go to The Sharing. The Sharing was where controllers were born. That was how it had started for Grace before she’d been lucky enough to escape. She told me she’d ridden to freedom on a horse’s back. Only the horse wasn’t really a horse. Couldn’t have been. There were aliens out there fighting the yeerks. Aliens who could turn into any animal they wanted. They’d gotten Grace out but as far as I can tell, that’s the only progress they’ve made in the past year.

Chapman gave me a big smile, stood up and shook my hand. “I’m going to let you off with a warning this time. I don’t want to see you fighting again, but I understand the need to defend yourself.”

I forced a smile onto my lips. “Thank you, Mr. Chapman.”

The bell for passing time tolled outside and I slipped into the masses of students, breathing hard. I heard someone call my name. I didn’t like this trend. Time was most people didn’t know my name. I kept walking until I felt a hand on my shoulder.

It was Rachel. Rachel had been my lab partner in science in middle school. She was tall blond and beautiful but not what you would expect from someone who looks like that. Rachel defied classifications. She wasn’t really in any groups. Yeah, she was a little intense but she seemed to be a genuinely nice person. She hangs out with her friend Cassie who could actually be her polar opposite, this short, sarcastic guy named Marco. But more and more she’s also been hanging out with her cousin, Jake.

Now I didn’t have any problems with Jack. I guess you could say Jake used to be my friend. He’d stopped a couple of thugs from giving me a swirlie a few years ago. That was Jake. Or at least that was who Jake used to be. Jake was the kind of kid everyone would gravitated toward. A leader. He’d let me hang out with him at the mall some times. He was one of the few kids who could do something like that without making it fell like pity.

Jake’s changed sometime in the past year. He’s quiet and secretive and just different.

I think he might be one of them.


“Rachel,” I said willing myself to keep the blush out of my cheeks. I’d been nursing a crush on her for years. “Long time no see. How’s the gymnastics going?”

“Gymnastics?” Rachel said faintly, almost like she’d forgotten all about it. “It’s going great. They’re still saying I’m too tall but what can you do?”

“Shrink ray,” I joked.

“If only.” She smiled shyly. “So is it true? Marco said you threw a punch. Knocked some guy out.”

The blush I’d been fighting swept over me before I could stop it. Smooth, Tobias. Smooth. “I really didn’t mean to start—“

“About damn time someone took that jerk out,” Rachel cut me off. “ You get in much trouble?”

“Actually, no,” I said, rubbing at my neck. “Chapman let me off easy. Tried to get me into that feel good club The Sharing but he gave me more or less a free pass.”

There was something guarded in Rachel’s eyes when she asked, “Are you going to go?”

“The Sharing?” I asked. “No, I don’t think so. I’m not really a group activity kind of guy.”

“Good,” Rachel said and then bell rang. “Look, Tobias, it was great seeing you but—“

“Class,” I replied. “I got it.”

“We should hang sometime!” she called as she backed down the hall.

I faltered. We should hang sometime? That actually sounded promising. Like she might actually like me. But that was wrong. This was Rachel. Tall, beautiful Rachel with the supermodel body asking the class punching bag to hang out. This kind of thing never happened.

A second later, I realized the hall was empty, all the students off at their various classes. I contemplated heading to class but opted instead to sneak out the doors by the gym and catch a bus across town.


Grace was a difficult person to find even if you knew where to look. When she’d rode a horse out of the yeerk pool she couldn’t exactly go back to her normal life. She tended to sleep in the woods these days. There were smatterings of cabins all over where she might sleep on any given day.

I didn’t really know why I needed to talk to her this badly. Something about the fight and Chapman and Rachel had finally sent me over the edge and in a strange sort of way, she’d become my family. I’d needed that more then I thought. A year ago I’d been some passive, dreamy kid without anyone I could call a friend.

And then I’d put a face on a missing poster together with the face of an actual person. Grace O’Neil had been the subject of a enormous manhunt. I remembered being a little baffled by it, wondering why this person out of all the missing people out there got so much attention. The news reported that she’d disappeared following a meeting of the Sharing and the higher members of the club had spend thousands of dollars on finding her.

But they hadn’t found her.

I had.

I’d spotted her on one of my walks through the woods and had barely formed the words, I know you, before she’d tried to take me down. It only took a few seconds for her to realize I was far from a trained soldier looking for her and for me to realize she didn’t really want to be found.

To this day I still don’t know why she told me the whole story. I mean I didn’t know her and I wasn’t exactly in her peer group. Grace had been a grad student at the university nearby, heavily involved in biomedical research and undergraduate mentoring while I had been a perpetually bullied middle schooler. I guess it was just being in the right place at the right time. Or the wrong place at the wrong time. Really depended on your point of view.

Today, Grace found me before I found her. I heard the faintest rustling of leaves before she just appeared behind me. “Tobias?” she said, surprised. “What are you doing here?”

I held out a bag I’d brought from McDonald’s. “Figured you could use some grease in your diet.”

She took the bag, opened the top and took a deep whiff of French fries and burgers. “Tobias,” she said, collapsing against a tree and helping herself. “You’re a god.”

I went to sit over by her. She noticed my discomfort between bites of burger. “Come on, kid what’s going on. I’m thrilled to see you of course but I’m not so far out of it that I don’t realize you’re cutting class.”

“It’s Saturday,” I lied.

“You’re full of it,” Grace retorted. “Why don’t you just tell me what’s wrong?”

I kicked at a bit of dirt on the ground. “Chapman’s on me to join the Sharing.”

“Really?” Grace asked mildly. “What put you on his radar?”

“I might have punched someone,” I mumbled.

Grace stopped chewing and started at me for a long moment before she smiled and clapped me on the back. “Good for you, kiddo. About time you started fighting back.”

“Put Chapman on my radar though.”

“Come off it, Chapman wants everyone to join the sharing.” She threw a fry that hid me in the cheek and bounced off to the ground. “What’s really bugging you?”


“You do realize you’re the only human contact I get on any regular basis, right?”

I sighed and refused to give her anything. Grace had been hiding out for more then a year now. If it were me, I think I would have skipped town, but she’d stayed. She’d stayed and kept watch on the city, quietly gathering information about a war she had no means to win. I would have bolted to enjoy my freedom I think. I would have gotten as far away from here as I could, dyed my hair, changed my name and never came back. But not Grace.

“It’s a girl then, huh?” she teased.

“It’s a yeerk,” I said. “The girl I mean. She said we should hang some time but it wasn’t her. It was a yeerk.”

“You can’t know that, Tobias.”

But I did because why would Rachel start talking to me after all this time. We’d barely been friends before. I mean I’d liked her. The kind of like her that was more then just like her but she’d barely spoken to me out of class. Nowadays she hung out with Jake. Jake who had changed more then anyone this past year. Jake who was almost undoubtedly slave to a yeerk slug in his brain. The evidence was there laid out in front of me and I could read it even if I didn’t want to. “Yeah, but it’s sure a damn good guess.” I shrugged and forced a smile. “On the bright side, I think I may have figured out a way into the yeerk pool.”

“In what universe is that good news?”

“Intelligence you know. It’s at the McDonalds. The password is happy meal with extra happy.”

“That sounds like a bad joke, not a yeerk pool red flag.”

“The past three trips I’ve made I heard three different grown adults without any sign of a kid make the same bad joke. Sounds yeerk to me.”

“So what can we do with this,” Grace wondered aloud. D

“Blow the place up?” I offered. “Do some surveillance and mail what we find to the government?”

“I don’t know, kid,” Grace said, “but we’ll think of something.”


2 |

I’m thinking weekly Wednesday updates. What say you?

(no subject)

19/2/09 05:55 (UTC)
ext_47: a wolf looking at reflection in a lake (Default)
Posted by [identity profile]
YAY Tobias Animorphs fic!

I like how even though he is not an animorph, he is still getting pulled into the conflict as a human. And it makes sense that he would think that Rachel and the others are now taken over by aliens.

(no subject)

20/2/09 03:13 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
YAY! Someone who will actually read Tobias!fic!


(no subject)

19/2/09 22:18 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
An amazing start!

I really like the AU you've constructed here. Grace is a fascinating character (and how thrilled am I to see somebody doing something with that particular lose end?). Tobias's low self-esteem comes across really well without being too heavy-handed -- that his reaction to Rachel suggesting hanging out (to prevent him from joining the Sharing) is to assume that she's a Yeerk reads as very true.

And I kind of cheered when he threw the punch.

Like I said, a really great start, and I look forward to seeing where you go with this! ♥

(no subject)

20/2/09 03:21 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
(Honestly, I asked for this AU in yuletide but no one wrote it, so I'm doing it on my own)

I always wondered what happened to the random passersby in the animorphs series. Karen. The random campers who helped out in that battle. The lady who escaped in book one was just the one who stood out the most. Plus she's a convenient exposition tool =).

I'm glad you're enjoying this. It's been quite fun to plan the logistics of this.

(no subject)

20/2/09 21:41 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I really like where you're taking this, especially having him notice how Jake and Rachel have changed over time. Definitely keep writing it!

(no subject)

21/2/09 02:26 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Glad you're enjoying it. Thanks for reading.