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Authors: K. A. Applegate

The Predator

BOOK: The Predator
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ANIMORPHS

THE
PREDATOR
K. A. APPLEGATE

For Michael

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Preview


About the Author

Copyright

CHAPTER
1

M
y name is Marco.

I can’t tell you my last name or where I live. Believe me, I wish I could. I would like nothing more than to be able to tell you my name is Marco Jones or Williams or Vasquez or Brown or Anderson or McCain.

Marco McCain. Has kind of a nice sound, doesn’t it?

But McCain’s not my last name. I’m not even going to swear to you that
Marco
is my first name. See, I’m hoping to live a while longer. I’m not going to make it any easier for the Yeerks to find me.

I live in a paranoid world. But just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean I don’t have enemies.

I have
real
enemies. Enemies that would freeze your blood if you only knew.

So, see, I’d like to tell you my name, and address, and phone number, too, because if I could do that, it would mean I no longer had any enemies. It would mean my life was normal again. It would mean I could go back to minding my own business.

I believe in minding my own business.

Which is why what happened on my way home from the 7-Eleven was so dumb.

I was walking down the street with some low-fat milk, a loaf of bread, and a bag of peanut M&M’s. Since my mom died, I’ve gotten stuck with a lot of the shopping and stuff for my dad and me.

This 7-Eleven isn’t in the greatest neighborhood, so I was walking kind of fast, minding my own business, trying not to think about the fact that it was after ten at night.

Then I heard it.

“Just don’t hurt me, just don’t hurt me.”

It was a man’s voice. An old man, from the sound of it. It was coming from a dark alley.

I hesitated. I stopped. I pressed myself back against the cold brick wall of the building and listened.

“Just gimme the money, old man, don’t make me hurt you,” a second voice said. A younger voice. A tough voice.

“I gave you all of it!” the old man cried.

Then the younger guy said something I can’t repeat. Basically, he was getting ready to pound the old man. I heard other voices. Three total. It didn’t look good for the old man.

“This is totally
not
your problem, Marco,” I told myself. “Stay out of it. Don’t be an idiot.”

Three guys. Each of them probably twice as big as I am. I’m not exactly a bodybuilder. I’m not even average height for my age, although I make up for it by being incredibly cute.

And charming. And witty. And modest.

But I was pretty sure the three big gang members in that alley were not going to be very impressed by my cuteness.

Fortunately, I have other abilities.

It had been a while since I had done this particular morph, but as I concentrated, I could feel it coming back. I slipped into the opening of the alley and hid in the shadow of a very smelly Dumpster.

The first thing that happened was the fur. It sprouted quickly from my arms and legs and all down my body. Thick, rough, ragged, black fur. It grew long on my arms and back and head. It was shorter everywhere else.

My jaw bulged forward. I could hear the bones
in my jaw grind as they stretched and the nonhuman DNA changed my body.

Morphing doesn’t hurt. It creeps you out sometimes, but it doesn’t hurt. And as morphs go, this one wasn’t bad. I mean, I still got to keep all my usual arms and legs and stuff. Not like when I morphed into an osprey. Or a dolphin. I mean, when I was a dolphin, I was breathing through a hole in the back of my neck.

With this morph I had arms, as usual. Only they were a lot bigger. A
lot
bigger. My legs bent forward. My shoulders grew so massive it was like having a couple of pigs sitting on my back. I also had an enormous round belly and a leathery chest.

My face was a black, bulging, rubbery mask, and my eyes were practically invisible beneath my heavy brow.

I had become a gorilla.

Now, here’s the thing about gorillas. They are the sweetest animals around. If you leave them alone they will mostly just sit and eat leaves all day.

And that’s all the gorilla mind really wanted to do right then—eat some leaves, maybe a nice piece of fruit.

But I was in that head, too, along with the gorilla’s instincts. And I had decided to teach those guys a
little lesson. See, now that I was in that gorilla body, I weighed four hundred pounds. And I was mighty strong.

How strong? Let me put it this way. Compared to a gorilla, a human being is made out of toothpicks. I wasn’t just twice as strong as a man, I was maybe four, five, six times stronger.

Farther down the alley, the muggers had lost patience with the old man.

“Let’s just kick his butt,” one of the geniuses said.

That’s when I decided to say hello. To get their attention, I picked up the Dumpster and threw it against the far wall of the alley.

Yes, a full-sized Dumpster.

CRASH! BOOM!

“What was that?”

“Look! What
is
that thing?”

“Whoa! That’s some kind of a … of a monkey!”

Monkey! I
thought.
Excuse me? Monkey? I’ll show you monkey.

Before they could decide what to do, I charged. Knuckles scraping the dirty ground, small hind legs propelling me forward, I charged.

If the muggers had had any sense, they would have run.

They didn’t.

“Get it!” one yelled.

I grabbed him around his arm with one massive fist. I lifted him straight off the ground and threw him over my shoulder.

“Aaaaaaahhhhh!”

BOOMPH!

He landed on the ground behind me. The other two rushed at me, one on the left, one on the right. I saw a knife glittering. The knife slashed my arm. It almost hurt.

“Hoo hoo hrrraaawwwrr!”
I yelled, in pure gorilla.

With my injured arm, I landed a backhand blow to the knife guy’s chest. He flew back. I mean,
flew.
He hit the wall and dropped.

I just grabbed the third guy by the shirt collar and threw him into the Dumpster.

“Don’t kill meeeee!” he cried as he sailed through the air.

I had no intention of killing anyone. I hoisted the knife guy into the Dumpster with his friend. He wasn’t breathing real well, but I figured he’d survive.

Hah
, I thought.
Who needs Spider-Man, when Marco is on the case?

While I was telling myself just how cool I was, I heard the sound.

It was a click. Two clicks, actually. The sound of an automatic pistol being cocked.

I spun around. BLAM! BLAM!

It was the first guy. The one I’d thrown over my shoulder. He was up on his feet, gun pointed.

I was big. I was powerful. But a gun was a whole different story. And loud! Man, are those things loud.

“Hah! Come and get some, monkey man!”

I barreled behind the Dumpster. I leaned my massive shoulders into it and sent it rolling and spinning and sliding at the guy with the gun.

“Ahhhhh!”

BLAMPH!

So much for the guy with the gun.

I checked. He was alive. He wasn’t happy, but he was alive. The gun was nowhere to be seen.

Well, Marco
, I thought,
that went okay. Now, find someplace private, demorph, call 911 to come arrest these guys, and you can still get home in time to watch
Letterman.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten one thing.

“G-g-get out of here, you … you
monster!”

The old man. The one I had risked my life to save. He was standing, facing me. He was shaking with fear and red in the face.

Oh
, I thought.
So
that’s
where the gun went.

The old man was pointing the gun at me.

“Back, you demon! Don’t come any closer.”

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

I tore out of the alley with bullets whizzing through the air.

Which just goes to show you why you should never get involved in other people’s problems.

CHAPTER
2

Y
eah, so then I do the gorilla thing, right? I save the old man. I’m the hero. I
am
Spider-Man. I
am
Wolverine. I
am
Batman—“

“Or at least Gorilla Boy,” Rachel interrupted.

She did a front handspring as we walked across the springy grass. Rachel’s into gymnastics. It’s very distracting when someone flips while they’re talking to you.

It was the day after my big hero act. We were all out in a far meadow of Cassie’s farm — me, Jake, Cassie, and Rachel, strolling through little bunches of wildflowers. Tobias was flying overhead, about a
hundred feet up, in a sky dotted with bright, white clouds.

“And what happens as I am playing Captain America?” I ask. “The old man unloads the gun at me. I totally lost the milk and my bag of M&M’s.”

Jake gave me a disgruntled look. “Marco? It was good of you to rescue the old man. But you really shouldn’t be turning into a gorilla.”

Now, as you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking,
Um, Marco? Time out. You’ve left out a few things. Like, how can you turn into a gorilla?

Good question.

It happened on a dark night when we were all heading home from the mall. There were five of us. Me, you already know.

Jake is my best friend, even though, unfortunately, he is kind of a pain sometimes. He’s one of those serious-type guys. You say the word “responsibility” and he snaps to attention. He’s the kind of guy who always seems like he’s bigger than he actually is. That’s because he has that whole “I’m in charge, and you can trust me” thing going on. He has sensible brown hair, and trustworthy brown eyes, and one of those confident chins.

He also has a great sense of humor and is very smart, and I would trust him with my life any day, any time. Not that I would ever tell
him
that.

Then there’s Cassie. I didn’t really know her very well back then. But I think she’s kind of Jake’s girlfriend now. Of course, no one is supposed to know this.
Ssshhh!
Big secret!

Cassie is the one who is least like me. If I’m comedy, she’s poetry. She’s a natural peacemaker. She’s the one who knows when you’re feeling bad and will find something nice to say that makes you feel better. And it’s not like she’s manipulating. She really cares about things. She’s, like, sincere or something.

Cassie is our animal expert. Her parents are both vets and she spends most of her free time helping her dad run the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic. It’s in the barn at their farm. They save injured wood-chucks and deer and eagles and so on. Cassie actually knows how to get an injured, angry wolf to take its pills. (Not an easy thing. Believe me. I
was
a wolf once.)

You go out to her barn and you’ll see this little, short black girl in overalls and boots with her arm halfway down the throat of a wolf that could just bite it right off. And she’ll be smiling and acting like it’s no big deal. And the wolf will be just standing there, looking like he’s trying to earn a gold star for being the best little boy in school.

Then there’s Rachel. Very beautiful. Very leggy-blond-supermodel type. Ms. Fashion. Ms.
Properly-Applied-Makeup. Ms. Has-It-All — Looks-
and
-Brains.

BOOK: The Predator
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