Just a notice: The reason I'm writing this instead of updating for my raving fans is that I'm going to Peru next week


Another day of school over with. I stuffed papers into my binder, swung it over my shoulder, and depart from the school building.

The sky was clear and the same color as the morning glories we had once planted in our lawn. Fluffy cottonballs drifted back and forth across it, hardly blocking the hot blaze of the sun, which soaked everything with light. The grass was emerald green, the shade was so deep that your pupils expanded when you looked into it, and the air was warm but not heavy.

A beautiful day.

As I departed from the school asphalt and started walking towards the road, my mind wandered. It was a wonderful day for flying.

If only I wasn't burdened by clothes and school things, if only I were wearing my morphing leotard, if only there was no one to see me.

Then I would sail off into the gorgeous day, my sleek feathers gleaming with oil. I would race my rippling shadow across the ground, ducking between trees and telephone posts.

And maybe Tobias could join me, and we would both fly, soaring on thermals.

I tore my mind back to the ground. There was no way we could fly alongside each other. A bald eagle and a red-tailed hawk rarely are seen accompanying each other on flights. And anyway, I had lots of homework to do.

I began composing a schedule in my mind- first the math worksheet, then highlighting the packet for social studies, followed by a rough draft of the persuasive essay. The science research wasn't due for a few more days, so I could afford to procrastinate on that.

But the sky was so blue, so warm…

No. Morphing was just for fighting the Yeerks, not pleasure. It would be irresponsible to fly now.

I passed a dead cat on the road, its paws sticking straight up in the air and its stomach flattened. The glassy eyes stared accusingly at me.

Shuddering, I walked away quickly. Strange how squeamish I felt, staring at that dead animal. I had crushed, sliced, and disemboweled hundreds of Hork-Bajir without batting an eyelid. So why did this piece of roadkill affect me so?

Maybe it was just the furry familiarity of the cat. A Hork-Bajir looked like a complete alien, with blades and scaly skin. But a cat was an old friend from earth. A cat was an animal that was ordinary to me.

I was halfway down the block before I realized that I had lost one of my earrings. I knew that I'd had it on my way out of school, so where could it be?

With a groan, I turned around and stalked back, grumbling under my breath. My eyes scanned the concrete sidewalk for a glint of sterling silver.

Aha! There it was, wedged inside a sidewalk crack. I checked for dents or scratches, running my hands along the smooth surface.

As I straightened up again, a flutter of movement around the corner caught my eye.

I crept around the corner, curious as to what might be there, but my senses were honed for battle. If it was a Hork-Bajir…

It wasn't. It was a red-tailed hawk, crouched protectively over the body of the cat.

Thoughts began flashing across my mind like fireflies.

A red-tailed hawk.

A bird of prey.

Something that should be roaming the sky for food, not eating roadkill.

A desperate bird.

A red-tailed hawk.

Tobias's form.


Tobias in trouble.

What could make Tobias desperate enough to eat stinking, rotting roadkill imbibed with the harsh, nostril-burning scent of humans? Tobias, who had once balked even at eating a mouse?

"Tobias?" I called unsteadily.

The bird jerked its head up, glaring at me furiously over a cat paw. A un-Tobias-like stare. The look of a predator disturbed from its meal, surveying the possible threat with a combination of alarm and irritation.

But it was Tobias, I could tell. I looked back at the hawk, whose eyes now seemed full of shame and remorse. He doesn't want me here, I realized.

I lowered my eyes and walked away, my binder suddenly seeming ten times heavier than before.

Tobias didn't want me there- that much was obvious from his protective predator's stance and clacking beak. I was getting in his way, making him feel uncomfortable.

I arrived at my front door in a daze, hardly remembering walking home. I unlocked the door, kicked off my shoes, and ran up to my room.

"Rachel?" asked the muffled sound of Sara's worried voice. I ignored her.

I collapsed on my bed. The binder lay where I had left it, in the middle of the floor. The math homework was untouched.

I didn't even try to hide it- I felt betrayed. I hadn't even admitted it to myself before now, but I had always though Tobias and I shared something… Understood each other better, maybe. At least we had been close friends, always ready to help each other.

Well. That was no more, anyhow. A red-tailed hawk was, after all, not human, whether or not it could morph one. A read-tailed hawk was a lonely wild animal with a short lifespan.

Slowly, I sat up and looked out the window. The sky was still the same bright, hot blue; yet now I could not muster the energy to fly into it. Tobias always flew with me, and my pride would not let me fly alone.

Not that great, I know. If any of you are betareaders, and want to look this over for me, I'd be grateful. But anyone can give me suggestions.