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:: #10 The Android
:: Book Overview

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Narrator: Marco

Cover Morph: Marco to Wolf Spider

Release Date: August 1997

Cover Quote: Fear has a new name...Yeerk...

Plot Summary: When Marco runs into his old friend Erek he doesn't think too much of it. He's got a couple of more important things to do. Like helping to save the world. But then Marco finds out Erek's been hanging with some of the kids at The Sharing. And he starts to think that something just a little weird is going on.

So Marco, Jake, and Ax decide to morph and check old Erek out. Just to see if he's been infested with a Yeerk. The good news is that Erek's not a human-Controller. The bad news is that Erek's not even human...

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:: Sample Chapter

There may be something in this world cooler than flying on your own wings, but I can't imagine what it is.

Rollerblading? Hah! Surfing? Big deal. Skydiving? Closer, but not halfway to actual flying.

Nothing is as cool as flying.

It was after school that same day. I'd finished the English paper exactly nine seconds before the teacher came around to collect it. Then I'd gone to history and been assigned another paper. That's the nature of school: It never really ends.

But finally the bell rang and blessed freedom! I was outta there and looking for a private place to morph. I wanted to check up on Erek. Remembering the funeral and all had made it seem even more important, although I wasn't sure I knew why.

I climbed up onto the roof of the gym. Of course, no one is supposed to go up there, but hey, it was for a good reason. I morphed into an osprey. It's a bird, a kind of hawk that usually lives right near the water.

I spread my broad wings and I flew away from school.

Tell me you haven't sat there in some boring class, while some teacher went on and on (and on and on) about how "x" equaled "y" but only if you multiplied it by pi, and wished you could just fly right out the window. Zoom! Good-bye!

Well, I can't fly right out of class because if I morphed in class there would be a lot of screaming and hysteria. But I can come close to doing it.

Kids were still piling onto the buses as I caught a nice little headwind and used it to go airborne. I zoomed high above all the kids heading for their buses, and all the teachers heading for their cars. People were just ovals of black, brown, blond, and red hair to me. That's mostly what a person looks like from a hundred feet up. A hair oval.

I have never felt as totally alive as when I'm in a hawk morph. Tobias doesn't have it all that bad, in some ways. There are so many worse animals to be.

I felt a thermal, a pillar of warm air, billow up beneath my wings and I went for it. Zoom! Like riding an elevator to the top floor! Up and up. The warm air currents swept me higher and higher.

<Yah-HAH!>

Now the hair ovals were just dots, and the buses were bright yellow toys pulling slowly away from the school.

But even from five hundred feet up in the air, as high as a fifty-story building, I could still see faces behind the school bus windows. With the osprey's eyes, it's like wearing binoculars.

I floated up there, wings spread wide, my tail fanned out to catch every bit of lift, my talons tucked back against the underside of my body. Air rushed over the leading edge of my wings, making a slight fluttering sound. Wind flowed over my streamlined head, and I kept my hooked beak pointed forward to maintain every ounce of momentum.

I rode that thermal as high as it would carry me. I'd learned that from Tobias. See, the thermal will give you altitude for almost no effort, and you can turn that altitude into distance. It's like soaring to the top of a mountain, then skiing down the slopes in whatever direction you want to go.

Still, it did eventually require some hard wing-flapping to get to Erek's neighborhood.

I spotted Tobias from far off, when he would have been invisible to any human eye. He was riding the wind, just like me. Maybe with a little more style, since he'd had so much more experience.

When I got close to enough to try thought-speak, I called to him.

<Tobias? Can you hear me?>

<I can hear you and see you, Marco. I've been watching you for twenty minutes.>

<No way. I just spotted you.>

<You have to know what to look for, Marco. By the way ... when I count to three, you need to bank a very sharp, very fast left turn.>

<Turn? Why?>

<Just do it! One. Two. THREE!>

I raised one wing, lowered the other, skewed my tail, and cut a sudden, sharp left.

FWOOOOM!

<Aaaahhhhh!>

A missile blew past me, doing what seemed like a thousand miles an hour! Only it wasn't coming from the ground upward, it had fallen from the sky down! And this missile had gray feathers.

The wind from its passing nearly knocked me off balance. It was half a mile away, down and south, by the time I could even think about focusing.

I saw swept-back, slate-gray wings and a tight tail. It was diving away from me so fast it made me look like I was standing still.

<What the ... What was that?!> I yelled.

<Heh, heh, heh. Welcome to my world,> Tobias said. <That's a peregrine falcon. You know, like Jake's morph. They usually prefer to knock off a tasty pigeon or the occasional duck. It must have been the way you were flying. He probably thought you were a big old clumsy duck.>

<Jeez. What did I ever do to make him mad?>

<Shake it off,> Tobias advised. <He missed, right? I know that bird. He's not as good as he thinks he is. He's taken a shot at me before. He must be hungry.>

Suddenly flying didn't seem nearly as fun. <Yeah. I'll shake it off. That should be easy, since I'll be shaking for at least another hour.>

<It's not all just about riding thermals,> Tobias said dryly. <Come on, you want to see our boy Erek?>

I moved closer to Tobias. Much closer. This was his world up here in the air. He knew what he was doing. <By the way, thanks,> I said.

<Always remember to look up,> Tobias advised. <The danger is usually above you. But on a lighter note ... that's Erek right there. He walks home from his school. See him? Coming to the corner?>

I spotted the oval of hair below me. <Yeah, I see him.>

<I watched him this morning on his way in. I watched him play soccer during gym ->

<They play soccer? They play soccer during gym? Man, we never get to play soccer.>

<Now he's heading home. I'm going to let you take over because I am hungry. And I am also bored with looking at the top of his head.>

<Did he do anything weird or different?>

<He scored a goal in soccer. Does that count?>

<Hey. Look.> I had noticed three guys closing in behind Erek. Something in the way they moved caught my attention. From high up, it looked almost as if they were hunting Erek.

<Hmmm. That's not good,> Tobias said.

We both spilled air from our wings and dived, wanting a closer look. I could see the face of one of the guys behind Erek. It was an expression I had seen before: the idiot, giggling sneer of a bully.

Suddenly, the guys raced forward. Erek spotted them and started to run.

It was a street on the edge of a development. There was a lot of traffic to Erek's left and a stone wall to his right. The stone wall ended about fifty yards away, where it opened for the entrance to the subdivision.

<If this guy is a Controller, these punks are making a serious mistake,> I said. <They may get him today, but they might regret it later.>

<Maybe I'll just give that one jerk a little talon haircut,> Tobias said.

Tobias hates bullies. Back when he was human, he was the kid most likely to be pounded on. Jake met Tobias when Tobias's head was just about to be flushed in the toilet. Naturally, Jake helped him.

<Tobias, I don't think - > I started to say, but it was too late. Tobias was in a stoop and aiming for the biggest guy's head.

It all happened in a flash.

Erek ran. He tripped. He sprawled forward, out into the street. He slammed into the broad side of a passing bus.

WHAM! I could hear the impact from up in the air.

And then...

And then... for just a second, Erek wasn't there anymore. Something else was where he had been.

Something that seemed to be made of patches of steel and milk-white plastic.

Then, in the next split second, Erek was back. A normal boy, lying winded on the sidewalk.

The bullies ran off. The bus driver never even noticed and drove on.

Tobias opened his wings and nearly stopped in midair.

<Did you see that?> Tobias asked.

<Yeah. I sure did.>

<What was that?>

<I don't know,> I said. <But I know what it wasn't. It wasn't human.>

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