Rat Trap

Rat Trap

by Michael J. Daley
     
 

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In this charming, stand-alone sequel to Space Station Rat, which The Bulletin called "light-years ahead of the competition," Jeff and Rat, still living on the space station, must forge a friendship that will survive old and new enemies.

Jeff and Rat return in this stand-alone sequel to Space Station Rat. Having defeated Nanny, Jeff's wicked robot caretaker,…  See more details below

Overview

In this charming, stand-alone sequel to Space Station Rat, which The Bulletin called "light-years ahead of the competition," Jeff and Rat, still living on the space station, must forge a friendship that will survive old and new enemies.

Jeff and Rat return in this stand-alone sequel to Space Station Rat. Having defeated Nanny, Jeff's wicked robot caretaker, Jeff and Rat begin to learn more about each other. Jeff thinks Rat studies too much. Rat is sick of how Jeff always wants to play games-after a life spent with harsh scientists, it's hard for Rat to let loose. Still, her friendship with Jeff grows stronger-the boy does bring her delicious fruit, after all-but then Rat learns that Dr. Vivexian from the lab she escaped from has figured out she is on the space station. And he's coming to get her.
Rat comes up with a plan to get rid of Dr. Vivexian for good that shocks Jeff. Can their friendship survive the disagreement? Will Rat escape from the scientist? And is Nanny really so out of commission as everyone thinks? In this adventure of genetically engineered rats, evil
scientists, and some scientists who may just save the
day, young readers will be thrilled to welcome back this
spunky boy and the lavender rat who belongs only to
herself.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Carlee Hallman
A bioengineered violet rat with white paws and a 12-year-old boy, Jeff, become friends on a space station where Jeff's parents are scientists. At first Rat and Jeff are not at all sure that they can trust each other, but Rat needs Jeff in order to get back to Earth, and Jeff needs a friend since there are no other kids on the station. Jeff can't get anyone to believe that his robot "Nanny" really wants to harm him. Rat is an escapee from the laboratory, sometimes chews through wires and is being hunted by the other occupants of the space station. She communicates with Jeff by signing and typing on a computer. Since scientists sometimes kill rats, Rat sees no problem with killing scientists. The action escalates when Dr. Vivexian, who created Rat, arrives from Earth to claim her. The chapters alternate points of view between Jeff and Rat. Velcro boots, jetpaks, a room with rebound panels of varying strengths, spaces with half gravity and rogue robots make this a great read for techie boys. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman
Children's Literature - Melissa Stickles
Jeff, a 12-year-old boy, lives on a space station with the biogenetic-engineered Rat. Rat wants to get back to Earth—and she needs Jeff to help her. What Jeff needs is a friend—he is lonely being the only child on the space station, and since his parents are scientists, they are too busy to play. He wants Rat to play games with him, but Rat gets tired of playing games. Jeff already has a hard time getting his parents to believe that his robot "Nanny" is out to get him, but right now she seems to be broken. Or is she? He can't be quite sure. For Rat, things couldn't be worse since she is constantly hunted by scientists since her escape from the lab, especially after finding the cables and wires that she chewed through. In their need for support and companionship, Rat and Jeff have learned to break barriers and to communicate to each other through the use of computers as well as through rat-to-human signing. However, just as they begin to trust each other, things get worse for Rat when the evil scientist that made her purple with white paws travels all the way from Earth to get her back! Rat's plan to save herself from the evil scientist is to kill him; after all, the scientist set out to kill Rat! Jeff and Rat learn a lot about trust and friendship in their adventure at the space station. A sequel to Space Station Rat, the two unlikely friends continue to learn about themselves as well as about each other through their out-of-this-world adventures! Reviewer: Melissa Stickles
Kirkus Reviews
Everyone on the space station believes Rat was killed in the battle with Nanny, a terrifying robot run amok. That's fine with Jeff and Rat. They are relieved that Nanny was destroyed. But was she? As suspicions mount that Jeff is sheltering Rat, Dr. Vivexian, the scientist from whose lab she escaped, heads to the station to find her. Meanwhile, despite Jeff's warnings, Nanny is being repaired. Rat is determined to remain free, but a resurgent Nanny threatens everyone on the station. With the help of LB, Dr. Wagg's experiment in AI, Jeff and Rat search for a way to destroy the insane Nanny while keeping Rat out of Dr. Vivexian's clutches. In this sequel to Space Station Rat (2005), Daley presents another entertaining outer-space romp in which the most vivid characters happen to be artificial. While the story is a mite thin on setting and characterization, the fast-paced plot is sure to please fans of computer games and sentient machines and serves to expand the rather skimpy field of middle-grade science-fiction books. (Science fiction. 8-12)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780823420933
Publisher:
Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
06/15/2008
Pages:
212
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
550L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Rat Trap


By Michael J. Daley

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2008 Michael J. Daley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-3728-3



CHAPTER 1

A Good Routine


"Still dead?"

Rat turned from the computer screen just as the boy sat up in bed. His eyes were half closed with sleep. His hair spiked in all directions.

"Checking," Rat signed. The boy would not go for food if he did not know. Rat did not blame him. She was afraid of Nanny, too.

Thump, thump went two bare feet. The boy crossed the room to stand beside her. His bare arm brushed against her. She sidled a step away from that touch. Even though the boy's touch was different from the scientists'—nicer—she was still not used to it. Rat was used to living alone, not in a room on a space station with a human boy!

Rat pressed RUN, and the spy program started up, tapping into the security camera in the workshop. The screen showed a low, wide workbench covered with bits of Nanny, some of them still crusted with dried liverwurst. To the right of the pile of parts, the shiny black body of the robot stood on tiny wheels. The body was about the size of an industrial vacuum cleaner, but sleek, like a jet-scooter helmet. From a socket in the side, a thin, steely arm stuck out, knobby at the joints and ending in a pincer-like gripper. At the far left of the bench rested Nanny's frisbee-shaped head with its one round eye. Once that eye had glowed green with Nanny's electronic intelligence. Not anymore.

Cables of twisted wire snaked from the head to a row of computers on the wall, all working to try to bring Nanny back. Rat and the boy did not want them to succeed. Sometimes Rat wished she could sneak into the workshop and bite through those cables to make sure Nanny never came back.

But chewing wires had started all the trouble before and doing it again would let them know Rat was still alive. She was supposed to be dead. Killed by Nanny. That's what the boy had told them.

But Nanny was the dead one.

Rat liked it that way.

"That gripper arm wasn't on yesterday," the boy said, yawning.

Rat's nose twitched as his morning breath washed over her. It carried a whiff of fear. Nanny's gripper arms had hurt the boy, but not as badly as the sniffer's vicious bear-trap jaws had hurt Rat's leg.

Rat typed and her words wrote over the image: THE EYE IS STILL DARK. THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS.

The boy reached for the joystick. He zoomed in on the head. "You're right, Rat."

Satisfied, the boy went to the bathroom. Rat used the toilet now, too. It was necessary. The space station's waste reclaimers counted poop. Every bit of food Rat ate had to be accounted for.

Water gushed, splattering with a harsh sound against the shower stall. Strange way to bathe, getting wet all over. But Rat guessed humans had to. The boy couldn't even scratch the back of his head with his own foot! He'd never be able to wash between his toes.

After his shower, the boy would get breakfast. Her mouth began to water. Would he bring bacon, all wrinkly brown and crisp?

Rat groomed her whiskers. Bacon would be nice.

Next came playtime in the Zero-G room. Rat would rather study, but the boy could not sit still so early in the day. So they played tag or z-ball. Of course, the exercise was good for Rat, too. It kept her fit, except for the broken leg. But studying was very important—more important!—because the space shuttle would be coming a whole week earlier than scheduled. It docked with the space station in three days, four hours, and twenty-six minutes. The shuttle would take the boy home. Back to Earth. Rat would go with him—smuggled. That's why they needed to study. They had to figure out the best way to do that.

The boy did not like to study. He'd rather play games. It did not take Rat long to figure out how to make the boy study. In the lab, the scientists had shaped Rat's behavior with reward and punishment. Now Rat used rewards like z-ball and chess—after study time—to train the boy.

She had never had to use punishment.

The boy came back into the room dressed in his shiny silver jump suit. He put on his Velcro booties, then opened the laundry drawer under his bed about six inches. This was part of their routine, readying Rat's hideaway in case someone came to the room while the boy was gone.

"See you in a minute," he said and—scritch-rip, scritch-rip—went out the door.

Rat waited for the sound from the Velcro booties to fade, then she opened her "Space Shuttle Escape Pods Operation Manual" study file on the computer. Rat needed this private study time. The boy must not find out about the escape pods. He talked of taking her home with him to live with the mother and the father. In New York City. In an apartment. She had looked these things up. She had seen pictures. A city full of millions of people! A towering building full of thousands! That's where the boy wanted her to live.

It made him happy, this plan.

Rat let him think she agreed, because a happy boy was a controllable boy.

CHAPTER 2

STUFF


Rrrriiiiipppp.

The Velcro boots peeled off the carpet as Jeff walked slowly toward the science section and his parents' lab. It was part of the routine. By showing up every day, he hoped to keep them from coming to his room—to keep Rat a secret. A silly precaution, because they weren't very likely to visit him. It was crunch time for the Project. All the data Mom collected during solar maximum needed to be analyzed before the shuttle arrived.

Mom believed the sun was about to enter a phase of reduced energy output. No other solar model predicted that. If the data proved Mom's theory right, then the Global Cooling Initiative being planned to reverse global warming on Earth would be a disaster. The human-made cooling plus the cooler sun would bring on the deepest ice age ever, one people might not survive.

Scritch-rip, scritch-rip, scritch-rip.

Jeff trailed a finger along one of the color-coded pipes that lined the wall. A purple one, like Rat. Though he would never say that to Rat. She was very particular about her coat. It was really a certain shade of lavender, with white cuffs covering the paws. So Jeff kept purple thoughts to himself.

Rip, rip, rip.

Bump, bump, bump.

His forefinger rode over the brackets holding the pipe to the wall. What was this pipe for? Jeff didn't know. He didn't care. Rat would know. Now that she had free access to his computer, Rat had learned tons of stuff about the space station. But what did it matter? In three days, four hours, and some minutes—Rat knew exactly—a space shuttle was arriving to take them home!

Home. That's all Jeff used to think about from the first day he and his parents had arrived here: getting home. He was the only kid on the space station. He was bored, and Nanny was horrible, and his parents were totally lost in the Project, just like all the other researchers. Then he found Rat, and everything changed. Now he had someone to talk to and play games with, and he was even learning sign language!

Sometimes he wished he could tell someone about Rat, to share the wonder of this amazing new friend. Then other times, most times, he wanted to keep Rat all to himself. Secret.

That's what Rat wanted, anyway, and that's what he had promised to do.

Bumpripbumpripbumprip.

The pulse of his finger over the brackets reminded him of rattling the iron railings in front of fancy apartments in the city, and before he knew it, Jeff was running—his favorite thing! He hardly noticed. It was easy for him to run on the space station. Everyone else thought walking was hard enough, because of the spin that created the artificial gravity. The spin played tricks on the inner ear. Ruined your balance ...

"Jeffrey!" Mom's voice burst like a thunderclap.

He staggered. Came up hard against the wall like a hockey player slammed against the boards. The color-coded piping swirled. He grabbed a handhold.

Mom stood in the door of her lab in bright yellow pj's. She was short, thin, and looked as delicate as a canary. But Mom was sharp as a hawk.

"You—you—scared me."

"Better me than the captain." Mom grabbed him into a strong hug. "Oh, Jeff, isn't it wonderful? A shuttle! Home!"

Jeff nodded, his cheek slipping against the soft flannel. The crush of her hug felt wonderful.

"Look at you." Mom held him at arms length. "You're puffing like an air compressor. Come get a drink and cool off."

"Look at you!" Jeff countered. The dark circles under her eyes were black as smudges of soot. "Hurry up and save the world. You need a vacation."

"Don't I know it." Mom made a tiny space between thumb and forefinger. "I'm this close."

Stepping into the lab was like walking into the heart of the sun. The walls and ceiling were covered with poster-sized sunspot images. The dark sunspots covered the sun's fiery surface with feathered patterns like frost ferns on a window. And each sunspot was unique, like a snowflake.

They were beautiful.

Jeff could see that now, thanks to Rat.

Before, Jeff saw only black holes sucking up his parents' attention. Now he had three posters in his own room. Rat loved to look at them. She had told him about how sunshine touched her once, by accident, in a scientist's office. Its glow and warmth set her on the path to freedom, a daring escape from the lab that landed her on the space station.

With a clatter, Mom moved a stack of dirty dishes out of the sink. She was messy, like Jeff. There were papers on the floor. Every flat surface was piled with printouts and reference books. You never cleaned up after Mom. She had a geographic memory and stored everything in her "drop file."

A little like Rat, actually.

Mom handed him the water. "I happened to glance at your study log. Impressive. I was sure you'd goof off with Nanny on the blink."

Jeff shrugged. What could he say? You can thank Rat for that?

"I really appreciate how independent you've been lately. I know it's hard for you. I hoped we'd have more time, but with the shuttle coming early ..."

"I know, there's twice the work and half the time," Jeff said, repeating Dad's favorite phrase. "Where is Dad, anyway?"

"Asleep."

"You should be sleeping, too."

"Can't," Mom said. "The computer is making the final calculations now."

Jeff looked at the supercomputer, a cube no bigger than he was. A few lights blinked on its brushed metal case. Dozens of cables trailed from the cubes to power sockets on the wall.

"You're just ... watching it?"

"Someone's got to. They never found that rat's body. What if it's still out there? When I think how it nearly ruined my project before ..."

"Mom!" She never did get the story straight. "The meteor damaged the thruster, not Rat."

A slip! Lucky for Jeff, Mom was in project-protection mode and didn't notice.

"Whatever. It chewed that wire. It could still chew wires. And what has that man done?" Mom meant the captain. "I'll tell you. Nothing. He must be convinced that Nanny killed it. Better safe than sorry, I say. He should set some traps."

Poor Mom. Worrying for nothing. She thought Jeff had saved the Project. But Rat was the real hero. Jeff wished he could tell Mom the truth. Then she'd be able to sleep. But he couldn't. He'd promised. Rat didn't trust anyone. Especially scientists.

"I gotta go get breakfast, Mom. Want some?"

Mom shook her head. Even before he turned to go, her eyes went back to watching the computer.

CHAPTER 3

PLAYTIME


Tap-tap-tap.

The first part of the special door knock.

Rat froze in mid-keystroke. Muscles tensed for a leap into the laundry drawer.

A skipped beat, then: tap-a-tap-a-tap-tap.

It was the boy.

Food!

Rat pivoted away from the keyboard. Her front toes curled over the edge of the desk. Behind her, screened by her body, her tail flicked over a few command keys. The escape pod studies disappeared. They were replaced by the dietary habits of Rattus norvegicus, the common brown rat.

The boy held out two strips of bacon. Rat had barely taken two bites when the boy asked, "All done?" and hurried to get the spyvest and jetpak. He pushed the keyboard aside and spread the vest flat on the desk next to Rat. It had many useful pockets, just like the one the scientists had made for her. She'd lost that one escaping from the lab. Its pockets had been filled with tools perfectly shaped for Rat: lasers and drills and concentrated food pellets and code breakers and scramblers.

Rat hated to remember all that she had lost. The new pockets were mostly empty. The boy could find very few tools here that were rat-sized, so far just a flashlight and a screwdriver.

Rat straddled the spyvest, then rolled, wrapping the sleeve of cloth around her. She snugged its Velcro ties against her middle. Standing, Rat shook herself to settle the hairs beneath the vest.

The boy held the silvery metal bottle of compressed gas lightly on her back. Straps dangled from it like a saddle girth. Clever boy. He'd made the rocket part. Rat had made the spyvest and harness because he didn't like sewing. Rat's nimble toes did.

Rat loved her jetpak. She loved the snug feel of the harness that held it to her back. She loved the control valve that fit perfectly in her paw. She never went to the Zero-G room without her jetpak. It was too dangerous to be stuck floating in the center of the room in case someone showed up unexpectedly.

"Ready to go?" The boy held his hand toward her, palm out, inviting her to climb into it. What a good boy! He never just grabbed her, like a scientist would. From the very first, he had always asked before picking her up.

Rat climbed from his hand down into his jump suit and stretched across his stomach. He zipped up and headed for the elevator. Even though her broken hind leg was carefully positioned, the flexing cloth pinched it as he walked. And the boy was too clean. The lingering soap smell on his skin scrubbed at the delicate inside of Rat's sensitive nose. It made her a little grumpy.

Toughen up! Rat told herself. This is practice. Practice for sneaking onto the space shuttle.

As the elevator moved in from the outer ring toward the very center of the space station, the fake gravity weakened. The jump suit gradually ballooned. More room for Rat. Safer. Less chance anyone would notice a rat-shaped bulge across the boy's stomach. But not as safe as Rat alone in an air vent. Going where she wanted. When she wanted.

Rat missed scurrying in the air vents. She longed to hear the click of her toes on metal again!

Soon.

The torn skin had already healed. Inside the cast, the bone was healing, too, thanks to the boy. So much was better because of the boy. She was still trapped here, though. She still had not felt dirt between her toes. Or eaten corn in a field. Soon the time for games would be over.

Her toes flexed with excitement.

The boy flinched. Rat had hurt him with those toes. And tickled him.

"Stop that!" The boy giggled.

Rat heard the door to the Zero-G room open. She flexed her toes again.

"Hey!" The boy quickly unzipped the suit. "You're bad!"

Rat gave a powerful shove with her good hind leg.

"You're it," she signed as she shot through mid-air into the vast, empty room. The walls were lined with hundreds of rebound panels of different sizes, shapes, and colors. You had to remember which one did what, or you could get a big surprise. Tag was quite a challenge in the Zero-G room, and not just for the one who was IT!

"No fair!" the boy called after her.

Rat tried to play fair to keep the boy happy, but fair was hard for her to understand. It belonged to the world of games. Maybe with her nestmates, a long time ago, she had played games for fun.

Air drag slowed Rat to a standstill near the center of the room. A mistake. She hadn't pushed off with enough force. Dumb. This might be play, but mistakes were always bad.

Rat gripped the control valve. A brief squeeze, and gas hissed from the metal bottle, puffing her toward a blue triangle. Rat bumped into it and stuck. Her emergency escape route was behind this panel: an air vent big enough for a rat with a clunky cast. Rat glanced at the boy. He was busy setting the alarm that would warn them if anyone came.

Good boy. Serious before play. Rat, too.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Rat Trap by Michael J. Daley. Copyright © 2008 Michael J. Daley. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Michael J. Daley has enjoyed a lifelong love of science, spaceships, and science fiction. He writes his stories on a solar-powered laptop in a five-foot by five-foot square tower room. This keeps him well acquainted with the cramped conditions in spaceships and space stations! There's a warm place in his heart for rodents of all kinds-unless they are chewing acorns in the tower walls. When not traveling the stars, Michael lives in Westminster, Vermont with his wife, children's author Jessie Haas. Visit his website www.michaeljdaley.com or www.spacestationrat.com for more information.

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