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:: #48 The Return
:: Book Four of Story Arc
:: Book Overview

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Narrator: Rachel

Cover Morph: Rachel to Super Rachel

Release Date: November 2000

Cover Quote: The sixth Animorph is back, and he's not happy...

Plot Summary: David, who was one of the worst threats the Animorphs ever had to face, is only a memory now. He tried to kill Tobias, and almost killed Jake, but the Animorphs trapped him in rat morph and placed him on a deserted island. Never to be heard from again.

Or so they thought. David, driven insane by his experiences, is back. He managed to escape the island and is after Rachel. Sure, a rat isn't much of a trouble -- but Crayak, the Ellimist's big red eye of an enemy, is back as well. The Animorphs outsmarted David before, but Rachel, by herself, may not be able to win this battle....



:: Sample Chapter

<Would you by any chance want to know how I got here?> David asked abruptly.

He scurried along the outside wall of the cube. Nose quivering. Malevolent, beady rat eyes shining.

Satisfying himself that I was really, truly trapped.

<Would you by any chance want to know what it was like after you abandoned me on that rock island? What it was like all those months alone? Barely surviving? Trying not to go mad?>

Suddenly, and certainly, I knew this was not a dream.

Suddenly, I felt dread -- heavy, leaden and cold -- draining down my limbs.

It has to work or we . . . all of us . . . we will have to become killers.

I didn't want to know David's story. Didn't want to hear anything he had to say.

I could imagine it all well enough. I had imagined it. Over and over. Even when I didn't want to.

And when I did imagine David's situation, when the grim images of isolation invaded my brain, I invariably broke out in a cold sweat.

David sat up on his hind legs, his little pink nose twitching in the air. Searching for food?

<You didn't have the guts to kill me, Rachel. So you left me on a rock and hoped that nature would do your dirty work for you.>

David hadn't asked who the mastermind of the plan was.

I felt a hot flush cover my neck and face. He was right. We had. David had zeroed in on the discomfiting truth.

<It was horrible, Rachel,> he went on.

His voice was controlled, but barely. In it I heard incipiant mania. Madness.

<It was horrible being a rat with human intelligence. Do you know what that means? It means that every time I was forced to eat a piece of putrifying flesh, my human brain was revolted. Every single day, the rat's need to survive made me do things my human brain found humiliating. Degrading. Gross.>

"I feel that way every time I eat in the school cafeteria," I said. Determined not to let him see he was getting to me.

<Leave the one liners to Marco,> David snapped. <He's good at comedy. You're good at dirty work.>

I recoiled.

Maybe David was perceptive. Maybe he just had a good memory.

<Yes, I'm smart,> he said.

As if he had read my mind!

<That's what got me into trouble with you Animorphs in the first place. But it's also what saved my life on that island. And it's what's going to bring me back and put me on top.>

"What are you talking about?"

Even to my own ears my voice was thin. Uneasy.

<I'm talking about defeating the Animorphs, the Yeerks, the entire human race,> David said, gleeful now. <Life, like being the smartest rat on an island of rock and rodents, is what you make it, Rachel. You Animorphs thought you were condemning me to a fate worse than death. But I turned the experience into an opportunity. An opportunity to develop my intelligence to an almost supernatural level.>

Suddenly, David the rat scampered in a circle. Then another, tighter. Faster. Then another. Like a rodent whirling dervish. Or like he was trying to throw off some bad feeling. Or a bad itch.

After about ten revolutions, he came to a rest. Once again facing me.

Briefly I thought of making a snide remark about his getting himself some Prozac or Lithium or whatever. But I kept my mouth shut.

David spoke. His voice breathless from the manic exertion.

<At first, the monotony, the loneliness, the despair was unimaginable. Enduring day after endless day on that rock, exposed to the elements, alone except for thousands of other rats, marooned, somehow, like me. But I survived, Rachel. Oh yes. And eventually I befriended a few of my more intelligent brothers and sisters. I promised to lead them off the island if they would bring me food and obey me. Long story short, they did. How could they not? They were compelled to obey. They knew a natural-born leader when they saw one. And now my forces are here.>

"Forces?" I laughed. He really was insane! "What forces?"

David laughed back, mimicking me.

<The Forces of David. You see, I escaped the island with a few select lieutenants.>

"I thought rats couldn't swim."

They just drown, get stuck in your shirt, weigh you down.

Terrify you.

<Some can. Some can't,> David said. <But it never came to that because not long ago a group of naturalists came out to the island to count the bird population. They came, of course, in a boat. You hadn't foreseen that possibility, had you?>

I hadn't.

<I was smarter than any of you.>

It hadn't occurred to any of us that anybody would find a reason to visit that godforsaken pile of rock.

<There was some miserable little species of bird on the island. Stupid birds but their eggs were delicious. Anyway, while the naturalists were clopping around counting nests, I boarded the boat with my lieutenants and hid. A few hours later, we were back on dry land.>

David paused. If he was waiting for applause, he'd have a very long wait.

<I sent my lieutenants out to recruit,> he went on, voice growing more excited with each syllable. <They did an excellent job. I now have a force over two hundred strong. But I'm not finished yet. Oh no. Not by far. Do you have any idea how many rats there are in the world, Rachel? Billions. Maybe trillions. And I, David, will lead them all.>


"So now what?"

<You saw what my forces can do, back at the barn. With armies of rats, and a few more like these two,> David said, gesturing toward the punks with his twitching nose, <no one can stop me.>

I looked at the two witless thugs. David's willing hands and feet. Maybe I could stir up a little dissension.

"You guys realize you're working for a rat, don't you?" I said.

Tattoo shrugged.

"He pays good."

"He pays good?" I snorted. "What are you talking about? He's a rat. You're working for cheese?"

David laughed wildly.

<A rat can go many places a human cannot, Rachel. You should know that. Into banks. Into businesses. Places where money is kept. Lots of money. I steal it. A few bills at a time. It's hard work but it's paid off. Over the last few months, I've accumulated two hundred and twelve thousand dollars.>

I saw Tattoo and Grease exchange a glance. Tattoo swallowed hard. So did Grease. Just thinking about money was making them salivate.

<The money is safe in a place no human could possibly find,> David said. To them as well as to me. <And there's more where that came from.>

"So what am I doing here?" I asked. "If you're poised to rule the world, what do want with me?"

David laughed.

<Can't you guess? I want justice. I want poetic justice. I'm going to do to you what you did to me. Trap you. Take away your freedom of choice.>


David stopped his nervous twitching and pacing. Came to sit perfectly still, tiny black eyes on mine.

<I'm going to force you to become a rat. Permanently.>

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