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:: #3 The Encounter
:: Book Overview

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Narrator: Tobias

Cover Morph: Tobias to Red Tail Hawk

Release Date: August 1996

Cover Quote: Now you see them. Now you don't...

Plot Summary: When Tobias, Jake, Rachel, Marco and Cassie were given the ability to morph, they were also given one very important warning: Never stay in a morph for more than two hours.

But Tobias stayed in his morph for too long. Now he's a hawk -- with a boy's mind -- forever. And he's starting to forget what he looked like. He's losing control, and wants to give in to the hawk brain inside him. Tobias knows he can't give up, but he's spotted a rat down below. He turns in midair and plummets down to the earth. He's focused. He's determined. He strikes...

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:: Sample Chapter

<Hork-Bajir!>

The first time I'd seen them was at the construction site. I was still fully human then. It was while Visser Three was taunting the fallen Andalite. The five of us had been cowering behind a low wall. A Hork-Bajir had been within a few feet of us.

The Andalite told us they had once been a good people, the Hork-Bajir. That despite their fearsome appearance, they were a gentle race.

But the Hork-Bajir were all Controllers now. They all carried the Yeerk slug in their brains. And they were no longer gentle.

I made a sharp turn back. I had to warn the others. I passed over a group of the Park Rangers, and swooped low enough to read one man's watch. My friends had been in morph for more than an hour.

Great. Low on time, and the Hork-Bajir are here.

I soon spotted the wolf pack, still trotting along resolutely, never tiring. Pausing only for Jake to pee.

I dived toward them. Just over their heads I pulled up suddenly.

"YOW!! Yip! Rrawr!"

They yelped and scampered around. Jake bared his fangs at me.

I came to rest on a decayed log.

Instantly, as if on command, the others started fanning out around me, encircling me. The five of them were acting like a wolf pack surrounding prey. In their own way they kind of reminded me of Hork-Bajir.

<Hey, it's just me, relax,> I said.

No answer. Jake snarled a brief command at one of the others.

Wait a minute. Five? Five wolves?

Jake, who wasn't really Jake, leaped at me.

Whoa!

Wolves don't usually hurt humans, but they will definitely eat a bird when they're hungry enough. And one thing YOU don't ever want to see is a hungry wolf, yellowed fangs bared, gold-brown eyes glaring, fur bristling, coming at you.

I flapped my wings hard.

The big male wolf went shooting past. Barely. But the rest were all around me!

I flapped again and got airborne, but just a few inches. I was skimming wildly over the pine-needle carpet, flapping for all I was worth, with five determined wolves hot on my tail.

SWOOOOM! I caught the tiniest headwind, but it was all I needed.

I was up! Up and out of there, while the wolves yowled and snapped their powerful jaws in frustration below me.

Ten minutes later I found a second wolf pack. This time I counted. Four wolves.

Still, I was cautious. <Is that you guys?>

<Who else would it be?> Marco asked.

<Don't ask,> I said. <Look, We have trouble.> I flapped down to a low branch and rested my wings. I was still a little shaken up from my close call with the wrong wolves.

<There's a lake just a little way ahead. It's crawling with Park Rangers who aren't really Park Rangers.>

<Yeah, I thought I smelled water. And humans,> Cassie said.

<How do you know they aren't real Park Rangers?> Jake asked.

<Because real Park Rangers don't carry machine guns,> I said. <Plus, they don't hang around with Hork-Bajir.>

<Hork-Bajir?> Cassie asked shakily. <You're sure?>

<Oh yeah,> I said. <It(long-s)s kind of hard to confuse them with anything else. The Park Rangers are clearing out the area around the lake. They hustled some campers out of there real fast. At gunpoint.>

<Hork-Bajir,> Marco said with distaste. <I really don't like those guys.>

Rachel asked, <This lake, it's in the same direction your big invisible ship was moving?>

<It(long-s)s in a perfectly straight line,> I said. <Whatever that ship was, I'd bet anything it was heading for that lake.>

<And judging by the way you say these Park-Ranger Controllers and Hork-Bajir are acting, it's on its way again,> Marco said thoughtfully.

< I'll tell you one thing,> I said. <These guys all looked like they'd done this many times before - you know what I mean? Like this was a real common routine. They had it down.>

<We don't have a lot of time left in morph,> Jake said. <But it would be a shame to miss the chance to find out what this is all about.>

<1 say go for it,> Rachel said.

<You always say go for it,> Marco muttered.

<If just once you would say, 'Hey, let's not do this,' it would make me so happy.>

<You have-about forty minutes left,> I told them. <The lake is about five minutes away.>

<Okay. Let's go. But in and out fast,> Jake warned. <Just enough to see what's going on.>

They took off, with Jake in the lead. <Remember, just act like wolves.>

<Yeah, so if anyone sees the Three Little Pigs, don't forget to huff and puff,> Marco said.

I went airborne again, but this time I stayed close by.

<Park Rangers just ahead,> I said.

<Yeah, I can definitely smell them now,> Rachel replied. <And hear them, too.>

<Okay, look, wolves would try to steer clear of humans,> Cassie advised. <So a little slinking would be perfectly normal.>

They moved in a cautious circle around the phony park Rangers. But I could see that the Rangers had spotted them. They tensed up, then relaxed when they saw it was just a wolf pack minding its own business.

I decided to get some altitude. Unfortunately, since there was no convenient thermals, I had to flap my way up. I was a few thousand yards high, able to see my friends and the lake, when I felt its presence again.

I looked up.

The invisible wave. The slight ripple in the fabric of the sky. It was there. It was moving slowly overhead. Even more slowly than before.

And then, as I watched, it was invisible no more.

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