Chapter One

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Malakai LeCrue peddled his battered BMX Mongoose faster, flying along the road's shoulder like a hawk after a mouse.

Rrrrrrooouuuuuugggghhhhh...

A faded blue van whizzed past, the rush of air wobbled Kai's handle bars. The wind, filled with the scent of pines and damp earth, cooled his sweat-drenched face. He slowed his speed. Nervous tingles crept up his chest to his armpits. That was too close. Kai stopped to reposition his helmet. Why couldn't they make decent roads here in Hicksville?

He glanced at his watch and gasped. Somehow he had to beat Mom home before the phone call came and completely ruined his birthday weekend. Maybe he should go back to the bridge and take the trail through the woods. Checking the narrow two-lane road for any more cars, he'd just placed his foot on the pedal, when he saw it.

"Hey, what's that?" He stood on his tippy toes to get a better look at the patch of red-brown earth across the road. Formerly occupied by a Christmas tree farm, the land was now covered in yellow bulldozers, diggers, and dump trucks clearing a patch next to a pile of massacred trees.

Kai squinted at the blue sign planted in the raw earth. Harksdale City Builders shown in white across the top. He leaned forward, looking at the sketch.

"Hummm...."

A couple of the tractors off to the side were at a stand-still. It would be so cool to sit in one of those bulldozers, just for a few minutes.

Then mom's voice bellowed inside his head, Malakai Ian LeCrue, why can't you simply do what you're told? That would not include checking out the awesome big trucks.

Besides, if Mr. Griggs went through on his threat to call Mom about that unfinished science report, Kai would be grounded at least until Christmas, if not until next summer. For sure, he could kiss goodbye the new Mongoose bike Mom promised to buy him for his thirteenth birthday. All he wanted was the bike. With his friends left back in Colorado, it wouldn't be much of a celebration, anyway.

He sighed. Maybe they'd build a strip mall across the street. That'd be awesome. Kai looked around at the surrounding ranches and woods. Hope dissolved like melted ice-cream. As if a real shopping center would fit here in the Piney woods of Texas, where the biggest selling items were, lumber, livestock feed and tractors.

A horn blared. Kai's head snapped up. In the oncoming lane, a small, yellow sports car swerved back and forth, brakes squealing, before blowing past.

Brrrrrrrrrrooooooouuuuuuuuggggggghhhhhhh.

He pulled his bike closer to the road's edge. That's when Kai saw why the car had nearly lost control. A group of about six rabbits sat in the road looking down one side. Then they turned and looked up his side as if checking to see if it was safe to cross.

Kai squeezed his eyes shut. No, rabbits don't check before crossing the road!

Slowly, he peered through his lashes. They were still there, as if waiting for a chance to cross.

"Not my problem." Kai started to turn his bike in the opposite direction. If he hurried home and found the missing project, maybe he'd have time to get it done before Mom blew her top.

As he set his foot on the pedal, Dad's voice broke into his head; We're their caregivers, Malakai. It's our responsibility to help those in need when we can, to take care of this earth, to... disappear and leave your family hanging? Kai shook away the voice.

A large brown rabbit with a white circle around one eye hopped toward the blacktop, stopped, then lifted its front paw and waved.

Waved?

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