Sally J. K. Davies
Space Station Ratby Michael J. Daley
A lavender rat, which has escaped from harsh scientists in a laboratory, accidentally stows away on a
This charming debut novel-which The Bulletin called "light-years ahead of the competition"- about the adventures of a boy and a genetically engineered rat on a space station is now available in paperback, coinciding with the release of its sequel, Rat Trap.
A lavender rat, which has escaped from harsh scientists in a laboratory, accidentally stows away on a space station. Besides the scientists, technicians, and astronauts on board, a lonely young boy attracts the rat's attention. When Jeff and Rat encounter each other, the boy discovers, much to his amazement, that the rat can communicate in sign language and by typing. The two misfits begin a friendship based on need, learning to trust each other as they fight off frightening efforts to discover and stamp out the stowaway.
Sally J. K. Davies
- Holiday House, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.56(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.58(d)
- Age Range:
- 9 - 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
Space Station Rat
By Michael J. Daley
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2005 Michael J. Daley
All rights reserved.
Rat did not know which was worse: being hungry most of the time, or being lonely all of the time.
She huddled in the shadows just inside the air vent. Through the grate she could see into the cafeteria. Alone in the large room, the boy sat at a table, eating an apple. He got it from one of the machines on the wall.
Wicked machines. They gave food to everyone, except Rat. Rat hated them.
The boy ate the apple. Rat heard every bite: the pop of skin, the crush of sweet, white flesh, the wet slurp of juice. The air was heavy with apple smell.
Rat's belly ached with wanting the apple. She bit into a nearby wire to stay calm. One ... two ... three tiny nips with her long, very sharp front teeth. She did not allow herself any more. She did not bite deep. She only grazed the toothsome outer cover.
On a space station, every wire mattered.
A space station was a serious place. It was a clean place. It was no place for Rat.
Rat wondered again at her bad luck. When she escaped from the cage, with the scientists and machines hunting her, there was no time to read labels. She'd hidden in the first crate she found. And so she got blasted into space. A dodge right instead of left, and she might still be on Earth. She might be living outdoors with her wild-rat cousins. She might have interesting-smelling dirt between her toes. She might be nibbling corn in a giant field.
Closer and closer the boy came to the part of the apple he would not eat. Rat did not understand. People never ate that part. A mystery, but lucky for Rat. Sometimes they left that part on the table and went away, the boy more often than anyone else. He was untidy, and left crumbs and toys where they should not be. The boy was often in trouble for these bad habits. Lucky for Rat—sometimes.
Closer and closer. The wire was getting too thin to bite. Rat danced an impatient dance—left paw, right paw, swish of tail.
The boy put the apple on the table.
Rat stopped dancing.
The boy just sat.
Go! Rat could see the white on the apple turning brown. Go! Go!
Nanny came into the cafeteria. Rat cringed into the shadow. Silent. Still.
Nanny was nearly as tall as the boy and shaped like a barrel in the middle. Stuck on top of the barrel section like the lid of a pot was the black disc-shaped head with its one green eye. Pink foam padding—held in place with duct tape—covered the two gripper arms. This robot was not perfect like the others on the space station. It looked unfinished, like one of the scientists' experiments. The gray tape made it seem that way. They used a lot of that tape in the lab.
The robot's glowing green eye swiveled to stare at the boy.
"Tsk tsk tsk tsk," Nanny chirped. "You are five minutes late for family time."
"So?" The boy shrugged.
"You will make your parents unhappy."
"No I won't. I could be an hour late, and they wouldn't care. They'd be glad. More time to talk sunspots!"
"Tut tut. That is no way for a little boy to speak of his parents."
"It's true!" the boy shouted. He stood up so fast the chair tipped over. "Spots spots spots!!"
He ran out of the cafeteria.
The apple lay forgotten on the table.
Though every muscle tensed for action, Rat dared not move while Nanny remained. The robot might look dumpy, but its senses were much more like Rat's. They were better than Rat's.
The glowing green eye surveyed the mess.
"Tsk tsk tsk," Nanny chirped, then whizzed off after the boy.
Hurry! Or she might not beat the gobbler.
But Rat forced herself to stay still a bit longer. Listen. She heard the scritch-rip of the boy's Velcro boots fading as he ran. She heard the whir of Nanny's motor grow faint as it followed the boy. That was all. Rat loved those boots! Everyone on the space station wore them. Everyone made noise when they moved. Rat could never be caught by surprise. Not, at least, by a human.
The vent was hinged on top. Two plastic clips held the bottom shut. Even though Rat used this vent often, she always put the clips back on. She did not want the fix-it robots to get suspicious. She grasped the first clip with both front paws, and braced her back legs against the sidewall. She pushed. The first clip slid off, then the second. Lucky for Rat: no screws.
Rat lowered herself onto a pipe on the wall below the vent. The grate slid heavy against her back. She held it open with her hind foot. She flicked her tail out so that it would not get pinched. Just as the grate clacked shut, a door opened in the ceiling above the table and a thick hose dropped down. Chompers and slurpers were on the end of it.
Rat made a wild slide to the floor and dashed across. She jumped to the tabletop.
Snap! The gobbler's steely jaw got the other end of the apple core. Rat looked into the black hole of its dark mouth. She pulled and twisted and gulped for air.
The apple core broke. With a mushy slurp, part of it was vacuumed up by the gobbler. But Rat got the biggest piece. She ran. The gobbler snuffled and sponged at the sticky places, then set the chair back on its legs. Safe in the air vent, Rat devoured her prize. But it wasn't enough. It was never enough.
Rat put the clips back on the bottom of the vent. She stared at the empty, spotlessly clean cafeteria. Not even a bread crumb in a corner.
Rat licked the scab on her right shoulder. She tasted more new skin, less crusty scab. Almost healed. Just before escaping her cage, Rat did that to herself. She chewed through her own skin. She bit out the rice-sized SeekChip tracker the scientists put into every lab animal.
They taught Rat about skyscrapers and security alarms and ventilation systems; how to find computer rooms and vaults and executive boardrooms. But nothing about space stations. Nothing about food machines. She was supposed to carry food in a body pack when on missions, along with spy tools and weapons. The pea-sized food pellets tasted terrible, but each one was crammed with a whole day's nutritional needs.
Rat had planned carefully. She had made sure she could steal a body pack when she escaped. She had torn the communications gear from the body pack. Even without the SeekChip in her shoulder, without the radio, one of the terrible wheeled jaws had found her.
Lucky for Rat, the sniffer's teeth had sunk into the body pack instead of her. She'd popped the catches, slipped out of the pack, and gotten away. Fleeing the bewildered robot, she had turned the wrong way....
Rat looked through the grate at the sealed metal faces of the food machines. She needed her tools in this place, but all she'd escaped with was her life and her wits.CHAPTER 2
Running drove the bad thoughts from Jeff's head.
Running almost pushed the bad feelings from his heart.
Run, and the trying-to-be-good got left behind.
Running on a space station was not easy. To run without getting dizzy, or staggering, required all his attention. That's why Jeff did it so much.
Just walking around on a space station was hard enough for most people. It felt like walking on a moving train—an odd sense, as you lifted your foot, that your body was not going to go where you wanted it to. It made some people sick. But not Jeff. He loved the feeling. He spent hours mastering it.
Too-big boots made it even harder. Mom hadn't forgotten a single thing for the project, but she'd left Jeff's special boots sitting side by side in the front hall.
He zigzagged a little as that bitter, disappointed thought spiked into his head. With that loss of concentration came a loss of balance. The tangled maze of rainbow-colored piping on the curved walls blurred. Dizziness threatened. Jeff pushed through it, seeking the sweet spot of no thought and perfect balance.
His vision cleared. There was the captain, dead ahead, his fat body nearly blocking the corridor. He bellowed, "Stop that running at once!"
Jeff braced his legs. The Velcro boots seized the carpet and his feet slid in their looseness. He stumbled onto his hands and knees. The quick change felt like going over the top on a roller coaster. A sick feeling churned his stomach. He stared at the carpet, sure his face was as red as the red stripe showing the way to the toilets. Usually it was okay to run around Ring 9. The captain did not like being in high-gravity parts of the space station. It made him feel his weight. It made him grumpy.
"Where's the fire, huh?"
"Boots're too big." Jeff shifted into a squat and yanked the straps as tight as they would go.
"That's no excuse for running, is it? What if I was carrying acid and you ran into me? It's dangerous, running."
What could he say?
"Where's your emergency mask?"
Jeff patted his hip. The space station was under meteor alert. He was supposed to carry the emergency oxygen mask in case a meteor punctured the station. "I had it a minute ago. It must have fallen off."
"While you were running. Another reason not to."
Jeff had to agree. Meteors made him nervous. They reminded him that black space, empty and deadly, waited just on the other side of the walls.
Meteors traveled so fast that one the size of a marble could punch a hole in the space station's outer wall. Smaller ones just bounced off, but they jiggled things. That really upset Jeff's parents. They needed everything steady for their experiments.
Meteors bigger than a softball never hit the station. They were targeted and destroyed by the trackers before they could. The trackers couldn't detect meteors between marble- and softball-sized soon enough. These were the most dangerous. Nanny told him there was nothing to fear. Nanny could fix any damage. But Jeff hadn't stopped worrying. Who would believe a robot tinkered together with pink foam and duct tape?
The captain crossed his arms. He looked at Jeff. "Got too much fizz for a place like this, that's what I think."
He didn't sound mad. Almost like he understood what Jeff might be feeling. Jeff acted on this possibility quickly, bravely.
"If only I had something to do! Nanny just hauls me from lessons to exercises; and I only see Mom and Dad for a bit, and they hardly pay attention. Nanny doesn't even know how to play any games!"
Jeff heard Nanny's motor.
The captain glanced over Jeff's shoulder. He lowered his voice, as if he didn't want Nanny to hear. "Well, yes, Nanny is a bit short on programming for that. We've never had a boy here before, you realize. Most jobs are, well, delicate. But I'll think about it. Meantime, carry on—at a walk!"
Jeff flinched. The captain barked that last bit in his usual grump. Then he grabbed the rung of a ladder. Like a blimp, he rose in through the ceiling tunnel to the next ring. In was closer to the center. Less gravity.
He'll be happier, Jeff thought. He'll forget all about me.
Nanny glided to a stop next to him. Jeff's emergency mask dangled from a gripper. He clipped it to his belt.
"Messy boy! Always dropping your things. Always angering the captain. They will reprogram me if you do not behave." Nanny snatched his right arm in a gripper and tugged him along. "We are late! Walk walk walk."
Jeff tried to resist, but Nanny's grip on his arm was very strong. It worried Jeff, that strength. It didn't seem necessary in a machine thrown together just to keep one unwanted twelve-year-old boy out of trouble.
In the recreation room, Mom and Dad stood with their heads bent together, studying a poster-sized photograph. Jeff glimpsed bright sunshine surrounding a feathery blackness on the image.
"I told you—spots!" Jeff stuck his tongue out at Nanny, then ran to his parents. He pushed between them. "I'm here!"
With a little sigh, they stepped apart. Mom frowned down at him, her mouth as tight as Nanny's gripper. Dad did not seem to see him at first; then he said, "Hey! Hug!"
Jeff held back. "How far have you read?"
"No chapters, no hugs, huh?" Dad laughed, but he looked guilty. Dad was supposed to be reading the EVA Training Manual. They were supposed to be preparing for a space walk together. That's why Jeff had come along. The big adventure ... bigger than blastoff, bigger than living on a space station, big enough to make all his friends envious when he returned to Earth.
"Can't we do some simulator training, at least?" Jeff asked.
Dad glanced at Mom. Jeff hated that glance.
Mom said, "Really, Jeff, your father simply doesn't have time."
"You said that yesterday. And the day before! And the —"
"Watch that temper," Mom snapped. She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry to be harsh, Jeff. This meteor warning has really put me on edge. You know we didn't plan it this way."
Jeff did know. That's why he tried so hard. But it had been weeks and weeks since they had come here.
Dad usually had lots of spare time. He only helped Mom with the computer work. But Professor Krosta had gotten sick and couldn't come, so now Mom needed Dad to do Professor Krosta's work, too, or the project would fail. That could mean disaster for Earth.
"Mom and I are up against it, Jeff, no doubt. This calculation still won't come out right"—Dad smacked the sunspot photo, and Jeff noticed the long lines of equations his parents had written all over it—"and the heliospectrometer keeps slipping out of calibration."
That was serious. Mom studied sun-spots to find out about the sun's energy cycle. "Light is the sun's messenger," Mom liked to say, "and my job is to translate the language." The heliospectrometer let her read the message by analyzing the sun's light. It was the first step.
"The captain promised me it was a world-class instrument," Mom said.
With a glance at Nanny, Dad said, "I'm not sure much is world-class on this space station."
Mom deserved better. The project was important enough. Back on Earth, scientists were about to begin the Global Cooling Initiative, but Mom was afraid they were using the wrong theory—that instead of reversing global warming, they might trigger an ice age. But Mom's theory was ignored by the institutes, universities, and journals. Money didn't come her way as it did for other scientists. That's why they hadn't been able to hire a replacement for Professor Krosta.
Mom said, "I need you to be independent a bit longer, Jeff. There's less than a week to solar maximum. Once we've got the data, Dad will have more time. Maybe we can even stretch the visit a little, to make up for cheating you."
Here. Now. With Mom actually thinking about him even though she was worried about all that might go wrong, Jeff felt he could do what she asked. But he hesitated to promise.
"I must report," Nanny said into the silence. "The boy has irritated the captain."
Jeff wanted to kick Nanny.
"Oh Jeff!" Dad sank to his knees. He held both of Jeff's arms. Worry ridges went up under his whisker-short hair. "You mustn't annoy the captain. He'll make trouble for our work!"
"But I didn't. I wasn't. I mean, we talked!"
"No one can talk to that man," Mom said. "Nanny, full behavior report."
A paper slid out of Nanny's middle, listing all the details of his life since the last family time.
"No!" Jeff grabbed it and crumpled it into a tight ball. Nanny made a little stuttery "tsk." "It was Nanny's fault! Nanny came late. I had to run."
"Naughty naughty boy." Nanny moved between Jeff and Mom. Startled, Mom took a step back. She bumped up against the table. "For the record, ma'am."
Another sheet of paper slid out. Before Jeff could get it, a gripper snapped, catching his wrist. Jeff pulled. It hurt. He clenched his teeth and pulled again. Nanny rocked on her rollers. Sheet after sheet of paper slid out.
"Jeff! Stop!" Mom said.
Jeff stopped. Nanny let go. Mom picked up the report from the floor.
"You should believe me," Jeff said. He rubbed at the square-edged dents the gripper had left in his skin.
"Robots don't tell fibs," Mom said.
"Thank you, ma'am," Nanny chirped.
More chirps. But these came from Mom's beeper. She dropped the report, snatching the beeper from her belt to read the message.
Excerpted from Space Station Rat by Michael J. Daley. Copyright © 2005 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.
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-by-five-foot-square tower room. This keeps him well acquainted with the cramped conditions in spaceships and space-stations! When not traveling the stars, Michael lives with his wife, children’s author Jessie Haas.
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The book SPACE STAITION RAT is very ENTERTAINING!! The book Space Staition Rat is about Rat who escaped from the Scientist and so Rat sleeps and hides in an airvent because she does not want to be found. Next, she went into the cafeteria and found liverwurst and Jeff, the boy got blamed for it but, he does not like liverwurst. And that just the begining of SPACE STAITION RAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you like a good science fiction book I recommend this book to you. Space Station Rat is about a rat that secretly lives in a space station. The problem is that she barely gets enough to eat. All she gets to eat are crumbs from food left behind by humans. So she has to steal from vending machines. One day the captain called for a meeting. Everybody thinks it¿s the local trouble maker Jeff who¿s been stealing the food from the vending machines. Rat gets nervous because she is watching from an air vent. When ever she gets nervous she starts to chew on wires. She starts chewing on the wire next to her. It snaps and causes a block out. Later they find out that it was the rats fault and they go on a hunt. Will they find her? What will they do with her if they do? The two main characters of the story are Rat and the local trouble maker Jeff. Rat is color lavender, white cuffs and is really adventurous. Jeff as you know is a trouble maker and is really messy. He isn¿t really responsible he keeps forgetting his emergency mask. I think this a good book while reading it I felt as if I was in the story .The author really has a good style he is really descriptive. So check it out if you like it then buy it.