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:: #17 The Underground
:: Book Overview

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Narrator: Rachel

Cover Morph: Rachel to Bat

Release Date: March 1998

Cover Quote: There's nothing to fear but Yeerks themselves...

Plot Summary: What's tasty, good for you, and only takes about sixty seconds to make? Oatmeal. And it's making the Yeerks more than a little crazy. Now Rachel, the other Animorphs, and Ax have a new weapon against the Yeerks. Sounds good, right?

Wrong. Because it means another trip to the Yeerk pool. And the possibility of running into Visser Three. And of not being able to get back up to the surface. The Animorphs and Ax have taken chances before and been very lucky. But this time, their luck may be about to run out....

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:: Sample Chapter

I fell!

Down and down and down. Probably at least three inches.

I hit bottom, only bottom wasn't flat. It was curved and pitched. I grabbed with the tiny claws at the ends of my legs, but I slipped farther before I could latch on.

Jake and Marco dropped not far away.

I looked around as well as I could in the gloom. I was standing on something almost cylindrical, except that it was also curved. And pressed in right beside this curved cylinder was another, each maybe ten times my own body length. And wait! Others, all around. In addition to being cylindrical and curved, now I could see that they tapered down to a blunt tip.

Some of these curved things were gathered together at one end, like a bunch of...

<Bananas,> Marco said. <We're in a crate of bananas.>

<Oh. That must be what we were smelling. The sweet smell,> Jake said. <Good. This should be easy. They're moving us now. In a few seconds we'll be inside.>

<Gross. Roaches on bananas,> I said, making conversation while we waited. <Maybe that's why Cassie always washes her bananas before she peels them.>

<No,> Jake said. <It's because of pesticides. You know, poisons.>

<Poison?> Marco said nervously. <I don't feel sick. At least, I don't think I feel sick.>

<It would just be trace amounts,> Jake said. <But I suppose they spray poison on the bananas down in wherever. Ecuador or wherever.>

<Ecuador? That just popped into your head? Ecuador?> Marco demanded. <Besides, Cassie's probably wrong. What's going to eat a banana? This skin is like foot-thick leather.>

<I think it's for the spiders,> I said. <Haven't you ever heard how sometimes there are tarantulas crawling around bananas? Happens all the time. They come up in the holds of ships and...>

<Excuse me? Tarantulas?> Marco squeaked.

<Oh, come on. What are the odds that there's a tarantula in this particular crate of bananas?>

Unfortunately, right at that moment I got my answer. The crate was out of the truck and a bright beam of sunlight shone down through the opening in the box. A brilliant shaft illuminated the bananas. It was a bizarre landscape. Curves everywhere. Like someone with a protractor had drawn an endless jumble of arcs.

It was about eight inches away. Sitting comfortably atop a bunch of bananas. It was, no exaggeration, as big as an elephant to me.

<Um, guys? Don't anyone make any sudden movements, okay?>

<Oh, puh-leeze,> Marco said. <How lame do you think we are, Rachel? Now you're going to pretend there's a tarantula in here? So I'm supposed to go screaming around like a nitwit while you laugh yourself sick?>

<Marco. Jake. Just look behind you.>

I guess they looked.

<Aaaaahhhh!>

<Aaaaahhhh!>

They ran. The spider moved.

Roaches are fast. Tarantulas are faster.

I would have never believed something that big could move that fast. But I guess it had been a long, hungry boat ride up from Ecuador for the tarantula.

<Rachel! Where are you?> Jake yelled.

Eight hairy legs were a blur. All I could focus on was a huge, ripping beak like a hawk's beak, and eight eerie eyes all in a cluster in that huge hairy face.

It was after me!

I motored. I leapt as well as my roach legs could leap. In some tiny corner of my tiny roach brain I heard the cockroach instincts screaming, "Fly! Fly!"

I fluttered open the hard shell that covered my gossamer roach wings and I flew. I flew nowhere! Maybe two inches! Roaches can't fly worth a ...

It was on me! Looming over me! The sunlight streamed down and then a shadow. Not the shadow of the spider, something bigger, farther away.

I was looking up a nostril! A pair of huge, hairy, human nostrils. And beyond them, weirdly bright human eyes.

I tried to run, but the spider reared up, flailing its front legs like a frightened horse. It jammed one of those legs down so fast I didn't see it move. A claw grabbed my left middle leg. I fought and twisted, but there was no escape.

Huge fangs were descending on me.

Then, "Oh! Oh! Aaaarrrggghh! A spider!"

Everything went nuts. The bananas went flying. We were falling, me and the tarantula, which still refused to let me go. Monstrous bananas, each as big as a piece of concrete sewer pipe, fell toward us. But the spider and I were falling, too.

WHAM!

Bananas all over me. Brilliant sunlight everywhere!

In panic, the cook had knocked the pile of boxes off his dolly. The banana crate had smashed down onto the floor just inside the loading dock.

"What are you doing with my bananas?" the truck driver yelled. Then, "Oh, jeez! Kill it!"

I'd been battered and beaten by falling bananas, but that spider still had me. And now, in addition to the sheer, screaming panic I felt, the roach brain was adding the terror of sudden, bright light.

Run! the roach brain yammered.

Run! my brain agreed.

"Stomp it!' someone yelled in a voice that vibrated down through my body.

A huge, slow-moving shadow came down and down and down.

Squish! A banana exploded under the impact of the giant shoe. It gushed banana goo, sweet and sticky, all over us.

And still that tarantula held me. Eight huqe, expressionless black eyes glared down. The gnashing, hungry beak strained for the chance to rip me open.

<Is that one of you?> Tobias cried from far away.

Thanks be to a million years of evolution that has given the hawk its magnificent eyes. Oh, yes, oh, yes, love those eyes.

<It's me!> I yelled.

I didn't see Tobias come falling from the sky. All I saw was a blur of big, craggy talons snatch the spider up, up and away.

I kept my grip on a banana. My leg was ripped away by the spider, which flatly refused to let go. It hurt in a sort of vague, distant kind of way. But roaches are pretty tough.

<Let's move!> Jake said. <Head toward the shade. That should be the inside of the building.>

We moved out. I moved a little more slowly, and with a tendency to drift toward the side with the missing leg.

And from high above I heard Tobias say, <Hmmm. Not bad. Not bad at all.>

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