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Oct 20, 2020 1:28 AM
Meanwhile, back at the ranch,
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Leareth dozes, drifts through vague confused nightmares again, half-panics and possibly almost triggers his compulsion when someone's footsteps toward the door wake him. He doesn't know how close that was, but since Emril is gone for good reasons, he forces himself to stay miserably awake from then on. 

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A couple of hours before the scheduled pickup, Visser 3 is back. <Leareth> 

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"Mmm? ...Is something wrong?" 

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<No. I came because we are organizing transport for returning prisoners and you are one of the people we are returning> 

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"Right." He glances around. Tries to ignore the undercurrent of scaredscaredscared, it's not helping right now. "I - think I need no one to touch me, right now, who I know could have a Yeerk in their head. I can walk to a car or something." 

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<Of course> 

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Leareth lifts his head. Takes a deep breath. "I...wanted to ask you about something. Which I think could help a great deal, for - improving the starting point of these talks." 

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Visser 3 goes very still. He can't at all tell what Leareth is thinking, now, of course, but - does he need to, he can guess, he saw enough. <Go on> 

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"They did not ask that all prisoners be returned, only those taken during operations on Earth. Which I assume was deliberate, not pressing too far. However. I think - that if you were to voluntarily return Alloran with the others, this - would be a much better starting point for me to build a case that you and your people can be cooperated with." 

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He freezes. 

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He can't. Alloran has seen every monstrous thing he's ever done - well, for the last twenty years - and Alloran wants him dead - he knows how intensely Alloran wants him dead - he knows how far Alloran would be motivated to pursue him, to destroy him -

- and obviously when they do make him give up this host - if they manage, if he doesn't manage to flee, Alloran will 'commit suicide' as the Yeerk leaves his ear and no one will have any way to know -

(He does not wholly believe this but he tries not to hope for things, he tries so hard not to hope for things...)

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He can't talk to Mhalir privately, without Alloran there, and he desperately wishes he could. 

"If you pull this off," he says, quietly, "you will have in expectation saved five billion lives. I owe you that. I am not going to let them execute you - and you know that they owe me a great deal as well. I will do everything I can, here - I would offer you sanctuary in Velgarth... That being said, it - would make it easier, the more indications I have that - us meeting will result in the future being different from the past." 

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...He's not quite sure he follows. It's a lot harder when it's just words he's hearing from the man's mouth, not the entire stack of his thoughts, there are many different stacks of thoughts that could produce that utterance and some of them are hostile...

But are any of those compatible with the shape-of-mind he saw, yesterday, in all its beautiful detail and depth? 

<I will consider it> he says. <Thank you for raising this matter to my attention> 

And he paces and tries to think. 

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Alloran hates him, mostly wordlessly.

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On the one hand, it's such a valuable host body and brain. It's a huge thing to give up. 

...On the other hand, he's just given away far more than that. From here, having Alloran or not isn't going to be a deciding factor in anything. 

There's the part where probably he would have to give Alloran back within thirty days anyway, if 'voluntary hosts only' is the proposal they reached, or sooner, part of some other agreement. 

Alloran hates him and will try to sabotage everything. 

...Alloran is an Andalite, and a competent one, but he's not Leareth. He's nowhere near Leareth. And - the gamble he's already made, here, is that Leareth is on his side. 

Eventually he goes back in. <I will do it. I - would like you to be present, so that the Andalites will know the conditions of it. We will need to sedate him briefly for it because otherwise he will definitely kill me, but he will be unharmed> 

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Nod. "Then I suppose we can prepare to go over." He starts the process of getting his legs over the side of the bed. Walking is unappealing, still, but he's not going to literally collapse at this point. 

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And Visser 3 passes on this decision and its considerations to his staff. 

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...they're taken a bit aback but they guess that makes sense? What does he want next, a human? They don't have that many cooperative human hosts going spare, he'll be evicting someone, but they can figure it out - decision criteria?

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Intelligent, someone with good numeracy skills so he can piggyback on that, he hates not being able to do math in his head. He'll understand if he can't be very fussy, though. 

(He already misses Leareth's brain a lot.) 

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Frantic phone calls are made. Eventually they can find someone and stuff her on a shuttle, FBI agent, formerly belonging to a Yeerk who figures it's safest to be anonymous in a pool right now. She'll be here in twenty minutes. - he didn't mention a gender preference and hopefully doesn't have one, it was hard to meet his criteria even stretching them. 

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That's fine (he absolutely doesn't have a preference, it barely registers.) He thanks them. Apologizes for the inconvenience. 

He and Leareth, walking a distance apart that doesn't make Leareth tense up too badly, can head out to the staging area where they're knocking out and de-Yeerking Andalites to join the other prisoners for their pickup. 

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Somehow it's almost more stressful, when they're this close but so many things could still go wrong. Also he still doesn't have magic and it's terrible. Leareth is kind of shaking, although it could be mostly that he's getting out of bed for the first time since nearly dying. 

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Alloran is slowly coming around to the realization that he means to do this. He - doesn't know what to do with it. At all. He doesn't think he has, anymore, the capacities that people use to react to things like that. He settles for wordlessly hating him some more. 

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It hurts. He - hopes someone can help put it right, somehow. Mostly. Can't give him back twenty years. Cost he accepted... Worth it, maybe, hard to ever know. 

(Alloran might have made a difference in how things went here on Earth, and if that had gone differently he would never have met Leareth, but that's a post-facto justification, it'd have been a stupid thing to predict.) 

He lays Alloran's body down for him, and after only a moment's hesitation, asks the medics to sedate him. Waits for the fog to close in so he can slip out of his ear. 

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Emril's there, she was helping supervise the humans before and she's sort of been hanging around waiting for Leareth. She wants to offer him a hug, he looks really miserable right now, but maybe that's weird with your military commander. 

She can, at least, read Mhalir and Alloran's thoughts, as a later source of verification that everything here happened as Mhalir said it would. 

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