Authors: Jeff Stone
The Five Ancestors
Book 1: Tiger
Book 2: Monkey
Book 3: Snake
Book 4: Crane
Book 5: Eagle
Book 6: Mouse
Book 7: Dragon
The Five Ancestors
OUT OF THE ASHES
Book 1: Phoenix
Book 2: Lion
Book 3: Jackal
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2014 by Jeffrey S. Stone
Jacket art copyright © 2014 by Richard Cowdrey
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Jackal / Jeff Stone. — First edition.
pages cm. — (The five ancestors: out of the ashes; book 3)
Summary: When Jake is offered a chance to race in China for a world-class BMX team, he is not sure that he wants to go—but when one of his friends asks him to smuggle a mysterious drug called dragon bone that can prolong life to her dying mother in China, he feels he has to take the trip, whatever the danger.
ISBN 978-0-375-87020-0 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-375-97020-7 (lib. bdg.)—
ISBN 978-0-375-98761-8 (ebook)
1. Bicycle motocross—Juvenile fiction. 2. Friendship—Juvenile fiction. 3. Drugs—Juvenile fiction. 4. Immortalism—Juvenile fiction. 5. Adventure stories. [1. Bicycle motocross—Fiction. 2. Friendship—Fiction. 3. Drugs—Fiction. 4. Immortality—Fiction. 5. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.S87783Jac 2014 813.6—dc23 2013033920
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For riders who read and readers who ride
I nosed my
front tire against the starting gate and stared out at the racecourse two and a half stories below me. It was eerily similar to the men’s 2012 Olympic BMX track, including an epic twenty-five-foot-high roll-in.
A man-track, with man-berms and man-jumps.
My stomach began to roil.
As a fourteen-year-old who hadn’t been on a BMX bike in more than two years, I had absolutely no business riding it.
Which, of course, was exactly why I’d wanted to come. We were scheduled to leave California tonight, and I’d probably never get an opportunity like this again.
“Tear it up, Jake!” Hú Dié shouted from the bleachers.
“Show them who’s boss!” Phoenix yelled from beside her.
“Get ’em, bro!” Ryan called out from beside Phoenix.
“Tighten your chinstrap, for heaven’s sake!” cried Ryan’s mom.
I smiled behind the rigid face mask of my rented racing helmet and adjusted my chinstrap. If I was going down in flames, at least my best friends would be there to see it, and Ryan’s mom could pick up the pieces. She was good at that sort of thing.
A recorded voice boomed,
“OKAY, RIDERS, RANDOM START!”
I glanced up the row at the seven other riders in this Sunday-morning fun race. Like me, one of them was using rented elbow and knee pads, plus a rented helmet and rented bike. Five others were wearing their own gear, including generic racing jerseys, and using bikes with mismatched parts. The last one, though—the kid in Gate 8—had a jersey plastered with sponsorship logos and a shiny new ride.
For some reason, the kid in Gate 8 nodded at me. He had smooth ebony skin and dreadlocks that crept out from the bottom of his helmet like fat snakes. I nodded back from my Gate 1 slot, just to be polite. It wasn’t like I knew him. I grew up racing BMX in Southern California, and we were way north today, outside of San Francisco. I’d never ridden up here. Still, if he didn’t have dreads, it could have been my old best friend Raffi. But Raffi was as bald as a beach ball when I left the state a couple years ago. People’s hair didn’t grow
“RIDERS READY …”
I positioned my pedals parallel to the ground and stood on them, grateful for the grippy waffle tread on the bottom of my skater shoes.
“WATCH THE GATE!”
I took a deep breath and straightened my wrists.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
The gate dropped.
And we rolled in.
I thrust my weight forward so hard, my hips slammed into the handlebars. The bike didn’t fit me perfectly, but I managed to maintain control and scorch the roll-in, my feet spinning well over a hundred revolutions per minute by the time I hit the bottom of the drop.
The seven other riders were eating my dust, including the kid from Gate 8. I grinned. The start was the most critical part of the race. I still had BMX mojo.
The first roller came faster than I expected, and I stopped pedaling, deciding what to do. It was eight feet tall, and there was a second roller after it that was positioned just the right distance to serve as a landing ramp if you wanted to jump the gap in between instead of simply rolling over them. I considered tapping the brakes because I’d promised Ryan’s mom that I wouldn’t catch any air, but it was too late. I hit the first roller going at least twenty miles per hour.
I shot skyward like a rocket, awakening muscle memory from years of kiddie-league BMX racing. My knees and elbows worked without me thinking about them, positioning the bike beneath me, and I leveled out.
I glanced down, marveling at how much sunshine was between the bottom of my tires and the ground.
From somewhere far off, Ryan’s mother was screaming, “Jake, you promised! No jumping!”
, I thought.
I nosed the bike down the backside of the second roller
and looked ahead. Coming up was another double roller, both at least twelve feet tall. I decided not to push my luck with Ryan’s mom and tapped my brakes. I’d roll over them both instead of jumping the gap.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the kid from Gate 8 touch down on the backside of the second roller. Once his wheels hit the dirt, he began to pedal like a maniac.
We reached the top of the next roller at the same time. I rolled over the dirt mound, coasting lamely down the backside of it while the other kid sprang into the air like a kangaroo, pulling his bike up with him and soaring at least fifteen feet high.
Hú Dié shouted one of her banshee wails for the kid, and I frowned.
I began to pedal—hard. I was halfway up the second twelve-foot roller when the other kid touched down on the backside of it. He landed so smoothly that I didn’t hear a sound.
He was good.
But I knew I was better.
I risked a glance over my shoulder and saw that this kid and I were smoking everyone else. I decided to ignore my promise to Ryan’s mom. I kept pedaling with every ounce of strength I had while the other kid stopped pedaling in preparation for the next set of rollers—three evenly spaced twelve-footers. I watched him compress his body like a spring, and as he hit the top of the first roller, he unleashed all of that stored energy, taking flight.
I did the same thing a millisecond later, except I had
been pedaling like a beast and was traveling faster than he was when I reached the top of the roller.
He went high, but I went higher.
I was close to twenty feet off the ground, nearly the height of the massive roll-in ramp. I leveled out, passing the other kid in midair.
We both cleared the entire triple-roller gap with one jump and nosed onto the backside of the third roller with me half a bike length ahead. I’d never jumped that high or that far before. I felt like a superhero.
We transitioned directly into a tight left turn with a steeply banked berm. I leaned hard to my left and stopped pedaling so that my left pedal wouldn’t dig into the dirt. I stayed low on the berm, choosing a line that was more or less a straight shot from my Gate 1 start. The other kid was way high on the berm, in line with his Gate 8 start position. However, halfway around the bend, he spun his wheel sharply in my direction and accelerated at a downward angle with incredible speed. He cut me off, stealing my line.
I tapped my brakes to avoid smashing into him and shook my head. That was a classic high/low move. I should have seen it coming. Now he was in the lead.
Next up was a series of ten equally spaced low rollers, or whoops. Most kids jumped them in pairs, but if you knew what you were doing, you could actually go faster by keeping your tires on the ground the whole time and pumping your way through them.
I knew what I was doing.
The other kid, not so much.
Or maybe he was just showing off.
The other kid took to the air, while I remained glued to the ground. I pressed down with my arms and chest, like I was doing a push-up, while also pressing down with my legs. When I began to feel myself rolling up the first whoop, I released the pressure on my legs and pulled up with my arms. Once I rolled over the top of the whoop and onto the backside, I began to press down again with all my might.