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The Dangerous Days of Daniel X

HE WAS BORN WITH GREAT POWER
The greatest superpower of all isn't to be part spider, part man, or to cast magic spells–the greatest power is the power to create.

Daniel X has that power.

AND A DEADLY SECRET
Daniel's secret abilities–like being able to manipulate objects and animals with his mind or to re-create himself in any shape he chooses–have helped him survive. But Daniel doesn't have a normal life. He is the protector of Earth, the Alien Hunter, with a mission beyond anyone's imagining.

NOW THE FATE OF THE WORLD RESTS ON DANIEL X
From the day that his parents were brutally murdered before his very eyes, Daniel has used his unique gifts to hunt down their assassin. Finally, with the help of The List, bequeathed to him in his parents' dying breath, he is closing in on the killer.

Now, on his own, he vows to carry out his father's mission–and to take vengeance in the process.

Prologue | THAT WRETCHED LIST

Four

THE REPUGNANT FREAK GASPED with surprise and outrage. "What?" it screeched at the top of its voice range. "Not possible! I smelled you there a second ago!"

Well, technically I was still right there. I looked crosseyed at my new beaklike hypostome as I scurried away on my eight new clawed legs. The answer to my immediate problem had been straightforward: all I needed to do was make myself less conspicuous to the murderous beast.

Do you follow what had just happened? The full significance of it? It's important.

You see, my abilities didn't stop at being able to make ticks talk and do tricks.

Now I was the tick. I had transformed myself.

Towering above me like a skyscraper, The Prayer opened its razor-sharp jaws and there was a bubbling-wet, sickening sound. Then a jet of jellylike blue flame shot from his mouth. The basement walls, carpet, and ceiling caught fire in the blink of my eyes.

"Take that, you little nothing! I flame-broil my meat. Like Burger King! And Beelzebub!"

Still in tiny tick form, I raced away from the smoke and scorching heat until I was crushed against the basement's concrete foundation wall, which now seemed as big as a cliff to me.

I reached up tentatively with one of my claws. Some good news at last. My claw stuck to the concrete like superglue.

Next I was scampering up the wall behind The Prayer's head. Then I jumped and landed smack-dab in the center of the alien's greasy, dreadlocked hair.

I locked my hypostome down tight like a seat belt on a strand of his hair just as the homicidal Prayer jumped effortlessly to the top of the burning basement stairs again.

There I got a horrific, never-to-be-forgotten look at my mom and dad lying facedown on the kitchen floor. I knew they were dead and there was nothing I could do for them. I knew it in my heart and soul. I just couldn't believe it yet, couldn't accept it.

Then The Prayer smashed through the kitchen window and burst into the night.

"FAILURE! FAILURE! FAILURE!" it bellowed. "I hate failure! WHERE IS THE LIST?"

Something struck my head then, the end of a tree branch maybe, and I found myself flying through the cold air. The breath was knocked out of me, and I landed hard on the packed dirt floor of the woods behind our farmhouse.

I was a three-year-old boy again. Transformed. No longer a tick. I stood and turned back, and stared in disbelief and terror that could find no voice at that awful moment.

Already our house was a blazing shell of its former self. My mom and dad were dead and being incinerated inside. There was the sound of glass shattering as the upstairs window to my bedroom blew out with the heat.

Then, for a long time, there was the roar of the flames, and my soft, little-boy cries as I stood alone in the world for the first time, orphaned and homeless.

I recalled a song my mom used to sing to me: Star light, star bright. First star I see tonight. She and my dad loved the skies and the stars.

And I remember thinking, very clearly, as if I had suddenly grown up on that horrifying, unforgettable night: I know where The List is–my father has taken me to see it many times. Maybe for just this reason.

And I know what it is: The List of Alien Outlaws on Terra Firma.

And I know who I am: Daniel, son of Graff, son of Terfdron–the Alien Hunter.

No last name, just Daniel X.

I have to tell you one more thing about that night. I must get it out.

Even though I was only three years old, I am ashamed that I didn't fight The Prayer to the death.

Copyright © 2008 by James Patterson

Read by Milo Ventimiglia

Milo Ventimiglia stars in the hit NBC show Heroes and previously starred in Gilmore Girls. Upcoming films include Lionsgate's Game, alongside Gerard Butler (300) and with Laurence Fishburne in Armored.

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