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:: #2 The Visitor
:: Book Overview

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Narrator: Rachel

Cover Morph: Rachel to Cat

Release Date: June 1996

Cover Quote: No one knows who they are...

Plot Summary: If someone told you Earth was under a silent attack, there’s a good chance you’d think they were pretty strange. If that same person said Earth’s only means of defense depends on the actions and powers of five kids, you’d probably start to look for a quick exit. Guess what? It’s all true.

Rachel and her friends knew they were in for some pretty strange stuff from the very beginning. How often do you run into a dying alien who gives you the power to morph into any animal you touch? But that was before they knew what they would be up against. Now they know. And they know what they have to do. Before it’s too late...

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:: Sample Chapter

I was ready to fight. I was pumped. Kill or be killed.

It is so cool when you feel the razor-sharp claws sliding out of your delicate-looking pink pads.

"Rachel, take a pill, girl, it's just Tobias," Cassie said soothingly. "Tobias? I think maybe you'd better stay away, " she called up to the sky. "Cats are genetically programmed to be afraid of large birds."

She was right. The shadow of Tobias scared me pretty good. It was strange, because it was a fear I shared with the shrew.

But it was a different type of fear than the shrew's. This was more like I was angry, too. Only that wasn't quite it, either. I guess it wasn't a real emotion at all. Basically, when I'd hissed I was just trying to communicate. And the message I was trying to communicate was, "Don't mess with me. You may be bigger than me, you may scare me, you may make me run away, but if I have to I am ready to fight."

That was my whole cat message to the world: Don't mess with me. Don't get in my way, don't try to touch me if I don't want to be touched, don't try to keep me from getting what I want.

I was self-contained. I was complete. I didn't need anything but myself. It seemed lonely to my human self, but at the same time, it was all very calm somehow.

<I'm okay,> I said. <I think I'm pretty much in control.>

"What's it like?" Cassie asked.

<It's like...You know those old cowboy movies with Clint Eastwood? He's a gunslinger and he walks into the saloon and everyone kind of gets out of his way? And how he's not really looking for trouble, but you'd better not make him mad? That's what it's like. It's like I'm Clint Eastwood.>

"Can you do this, do you think?" Jake asked me.

<Oh, yeah. I can do anything.>

"Don't let the cat's arrogance get you in trouble, " Marco advised. "Keep a little of your good old human fear." He paused. "Oh, I forgot, mighty Rachel doesn't have any good old human fear. So here's what you do: Borrow some of my good old human fear. I have plenty to spare."

"He's right, Rachel," Cassie agreed. "Keep focused. Between your own natural attitude and the cat's 'tude, you could get cocky."

I cast a glance back toward the mouse. He had broken into the nut at last. I could kill him. I was sure of that. He was a plump little mouse, and I would catch him easily. But I wasn't hungry. So he'd get to live a while longer.

<No problem,> I said.

"We're here if you get into a mess," Cassie reassured me.

<I'll meow if I need help. Don't worry. I'm in control now. it'll be fine.>

But the truth is, I was lying, just a little. See, I wasn't completely in control of the cat. For some reason I didn't want to completely control the cat. I kind of liked his arrogance. It made me feel more sure of myself. And despite what the others thought about me, I needed all the confidence I could get.

"The morph clock is ticking," Cassie said. "It's quarter of eight. Remember that."

I headed at an easy trot down the sidewalk toward the Chapman home. As soon as I started moving I thought, Oh, man, if I could just keep some of this for my next gymnastics class.

It was like grace beyond any grace you can imagine as a human. I passed a wooden fence. There was a railing up high, maybe three feet up. I looked up at it and then, before I could even think about it, I leaped. My powerful hind legs coiled up and released.

I sailed through the air. Three feet straight up, and I was an animal that stood only about twelve or thirteen inches tall. It was the same as a human being just leaping to the top of a two-story building.

And it was totally nothing. It was just automatic. I wanted to jump, so I did. I wanted to stick the landing on a narrow two-inch-wide rail, and of course, no problem.

Compared to a cat, the best gymnast who ever lived is like a big staggering cow or something.

"Um, Rachel, what exactly are you doing?" Jake asked.

They were all standing there looking at me. I had totally forgotten they were still around.

<Just practicing,> I said. I jumped back down to the grass. Okay, get the job done first, I ordered myself sternly. You can worry about the Kitty Olympics later.

I started again toward the house, but this time something forced me to stop. It was a telephone pole. The smell that emanated from it was overpowering. I went over to it. I sniffed it again and again in short snorts of air. The air was trapped in a series of chambers above my palette. It would be held there even while I went on breathing. That way I could get every possible bit of information from that smell.

It was definitely a tom's scent. A tomcat had marked this pole by peeing on it. He was a dominant cat. Very dominant. His smell made me nervous. Not afraid, just a little less arrogant than I had been. If this cat appeared, I would have to submit. I would have to make myself smaller and less threatening and accept his dominance.

Or I could fight him and get my butt kicked.

It was just the way things were. It was all there in the smell of his urine, where any cat could read it.

I resumed trotting toward the Chapman home.

<Rachel, are you sure you're in control?> Tobias's voice was in my head. <Why did you stop to sniff that pole?>

<I figured I should look like a real cat,> I said. <I Was just playing the part.>

<If you say so,> he said doubtfully. <Just remember: It's fun being an animal for awhile. Not so fun when it's permanent. The two-hour clock is ticking. Tick tock.>

That got my attention. It was like a dash of cold water in my face. I focused my human mind and took greater control over the cat's mind. But it wasn't easy. The cat's mind did not even understand the notion of obeying.

So I used something the cat would respond to. I conjured up the memory of the big tom's smell. That triggered the cat's submissiveness. I felt my part of the collective mind grow larger.

<You're almost there,> Tobias said. <This is the right yard.>

<Yes, I know. My scent is everywhere. This whole area smells of me. This is home. This is all mine.>

<Rachel, this is all Chapman's. And Chapman belongs to Visser Three. Don't forget that.>

I trotted to the cat door. Chapman. Visser Three. Big deal. I was a combination of Rachel and Fluffer. What did I care about Chapman and Visser Three?

The light inside the house was bright. My eyes adjusted instantly. My nose picked up the smell of cat food, too dry and old to interest me. I also smelled the humans: Melissa, Mr. Chapman, and Ms. Chapman. Don't ask me how I knew that what I smelled were those three people. I just knew.

I spotted a cockroach in the dust balls in the dark beneath the refrigerator. No interest to me. Roaches made interesting scritchy noises sometimes, and they were fun to watch run. But they smelled wrong. They were not prey.

Swift movements!

Feet. Human feet. I didn't bother looking up. It was Ms. Chapman.

High-pitched sounds coming from the motor of the refrigerator. They were annoying. There were also the sounds of birds outside. They had a nest up under the eaves.

Then the sound of Melissa's voice.

Where was she? I didn't see her anywhere. The sound was muffled.

I tried to focus. My ears moved to point toward the sound. It came from above me. Above and far away.

She was in her bedroom, that's where. I couldn't hear the words clearly, but I knew that she was muttering to herself.

I trotted across the kitchen floor. I knew - as Rachel - I knew I should be afraid. But I couldn't be afraid. Everything here smelled like me. My scent glands had left their marks all over - on that door, on that cupboard, on that chair. It reassured me.

The big dominant tomcat's smell was not in here. No, there were no other cats in here at all. Only human smells, and those were not very important.

I left the kitchen and paused at the corner between the hallway and the family room. Chapman was there, in the living room. I could smell him. He was just sitting on the couch. I glanced at him and walked on.

But then I stopped. My human brain sensed something wrong with the picture. Chapman was just sitting on the couch. No TV. No music. He wasn't reading a book or a newspaper. Just sitting.

I turned back to the kitchen. I looked up at Ms. Chapman. She was doing something at the sink. Maybe washing dishes. No, she was cutting vegetables. But again, no TV. No music. She wasn't humming to herself. She wasn't talking to herself the way my mom does when she's working in the kitchen.

Not right. Something was not right with either of the Chapmans.

I went back to the hallway. There were stairs leading up to the bedrooms. From the hallway I could hear Melissa more clearly. I concentrated, trying to ignore the fascinating sounds of the birds under the eaves. I focused on the human sounds of Melissa's voice.

"...divided by the square root...no, wait. No, square root times...Is that right?"

She was doing her homework. Her math homework, obviously.

Like I should be doing, I thought. I had a pang of guilt. Instead of doing my homework, I was creeping around my friend's house spying on her and her parents.

I tried to find a clock. I had to watch the time. At nine forty-five my two hours would be up. I wanted to be out of morph and back in my normal body long before then. Hopefully, I could still get home and do my math homework and at least do some of the reading for social studies class.

I spotted a clock. It was over the mantel, between pictures of the Chapmans and Melissa. The clock said three minutes until eight. I had plenty of time.

Sudden movement!

Oh, just Chapman standing up.

The cat part of me wasn't interested in Chapman one way or the other. But I forced myself to pay attention. It was important to watch him. That was why I was here.

Is he prey? The cat brain seemed to be asking.

Yes. Yes, I told the cat brain.

Chapman is our prey.

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