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Chapter 5

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Iris pulled me up by my cheesy arms and led me down a hallway, up a ramp and over to an enormous metal platform elevator.

“We’re not quite there yet,” she said.

“What is this place?” I asked, staring at the dark, abandoned factory as we moved higher and higher up.

“It used to be a mill,” she said. “But I can’t wait to show you what it has become.”

I stared out at the dark and drab concrete building.

“This way,” Iris signaled as she hobbled across the catwalk and through the rows of rusted machinery.

“Where are we going?” I asked nervously.

She didn’t respond but instead marched forward. I gripped the rickety rails with each step. We were at least six stories up in the air.

“Um, you do know where we’re going, right?”

She said nothing.

The ground shook, rattling the rusted machines.

“Can the robot get us in here?”

“It’s possible but improbable. I’m guessing a 16.72% likelihood,” she muttered.

The walls shook again. “Make that an 18.39% likelihood,” she corrected herself.

We continued on the catwalk. The factory grew darker and darker. A part of me wondered if I had taken a wrong turn. After a while, I couldn’t see anything, much less Iris. Finally, she stopped at the end of the catwalk and stood under the single stream of light from the hole in the ceiling.

She stepped up to a door and stood still as a robotic arm popped out and a green laser scanned her face. An enormous steel door slid open.

“Come on,” she said. “The robot can’t get us in here. I promise.”

I followed her into a room filled with hologram devices and flatscreen televisions streaming videos from all over the city.

“Like it?” she asked with a sly grin.

“What is this?” I asked.

“It’s my office,” she said.

“But how did you get all this stuff? I mean, did you actually build all of this?”

“We can talk about that later. Right now, we need to figure out how to find Dr. Rep – I mean, we need to find your dad.”

“How’d you know my dad was Dr. Repugno?”

“I, um, you told me that, right?” she asked.

“I only told you that he wore a lab coat,” I explained.

“Oh, well, I’m a detective,” she shot back. “My job is to connect the dots. And right now we need to figure out where your dad is. Tell me again what you know so far.”

“I told you. I heard a humming machine and . . . wait . . . you don’t think it was the robot, do you?”

“Maybe,” she said. “That would explain why the robot was targeting you. I mean, don’t you think it’s odd that you barely got into the town and the robot singled you out in particular? You don’t find that strange at all?”

“I guess that’s true, but there’s no reason to go after me. I’m just a giant slice of pizza,” I pointed out.

“Perhaps the robot is trying to get you to get to your dad,” she said.

“That doesn’t make any sense. If my dad is near the robot, what good would it be force the robot to attack me? None of this is adding up. Besides, I still can’t figure out why my dad left our lair,” I pointed out.

“Do you still think he was kidnapped?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Nothing was broken. Besides, I would have heard it if someone had broken in. And you saw the robot. There’s no way it broke into our lair and kidnapped my dad. I would have definitely heard it.”

Right then my phone rang. I jumped up and stared at the screen.

“It’s my dad!” I yelled.

“Answer it,” she said.

“Hey Dad, where are you? Are you safe?” I asked.

“I need you to stay in the lair,” he whispered.

“Are you okay? Have they hurt you?” I asked.

“I’m fine,” he whispered. “What makes you think anyone hurt me? Has someone said anything to you?”

“No, it’s just . . . you’re gone right now and you always let me know where you’re going to be. Plus, you’re whispering,” I pointed out.

“Just don’t go outside, okay? Whatever you do, stay inside.”

“Send me the bottle!” a voice called out over a loudspeaker.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“I’ll tell you later. Now’s not the time to explain. Just stay in the lair.”

“Send me the bottle!” the voice repeated in the background.

“Hey dad, I think I could handle the outside world. I was testing my crust out and it’s actually pretty durable.”

“You were testing your crust?” he said.

“I mean, I tripped and fell and . . .”

“You’re lucky it didn’t crack,” he interrupted.

“But that’s the thing. It didn’t crack. It actually seems . . .”

That’s when I heard a blood-curdling scream on the other end.

“Are you okay, dad?”

“Listen, Tony, I want you to stay in the lair. No matter what happens don’t answer the door. Just stay there. Be safe.”

The call ended. I sat there listening to the signal on the other line.

“Is he okay?” she asked.

“He’s alive. I know that much. But I’m scared, Iris.”

“We’ll find him,” she said. “I promise we’ll find your dad.”


“We need to make sense out of all the clues. What all did you hear? Any kind of clues? Just tell me.”

“He was whispering, but I could hear a scream in the background. It was echoing, kind of. And there was an intercom. Yeah, someone on the intercom mentioned a bowl. Or, no, it was a bottle. They were asking about a bottle.”

“What kind of bottle?”

“I don’t know,” I answered.

“Was it a male or female voice?”

“It was like a robot voice, actually.”

“Asking for a bottle?”


She jotted down some notes in her tiny notebook. I looked around at all the monitors. Suddenly, one of them displayed a newsflash.

“Is that the robot?” I asked.

Iris clicked a button on her control panel.

A news anchor began talking, “Here is the only footage we have. We don’t have a clear picture of the ice monster, but we do have this. Here is Pizza Boy. Watch as he steps in front of a child and deflects an ice bolt.” I had missed it in the moment, but it seemed my crust had deflected the ice.

Iris paused the screen. “Unreal,” she muttered.


“I think your crust isn’t fragile at all. I think it’s super strong.” She grabbed a vase and chucked it at my back. It shattered to pieces – the vase and not my back.

“Unreal,” she repeated.

“Ouch!” I screamed. “That hurt.”

“But your crust is unscratched,” she said, patting me on the back. Iris turned back to the screen and pressed play. The video continued.

“He saved my son’s life,” a woman said. Tears were streaming down her cheeks.

“Who is this new hero?” the newscaster asked.

“We don’t know much about him. But we do know he wears a pizza costume.”

“It’s not a costume!” I yelled. “I’m a real pizza.”

“No, this is perfect. Let them think it’s a costume,” she said. “It’ll make it easier to be a superhero.”

I stared at the television running the cell phone footage on repeat with the words “Pizza Boy to the Rescue.”

She tapped me on my crust. “Do you realize what this means?”

“That people can’t tell the difference from a real pizza and a pizza costume?”

“No, this means you are a superhero.”

“But I’m not. I’m just a slice of pizza.”

“The best part is you don’t have to get a costume. You can hide in plain sight. Pizza Boy. Hmm . . . Come to think of it, that’s a terrible name. You don’t want to be Pizza Boy when you’re thirty-one years old with a receding hairline . . . or crust line. You don’t want to go by the word ‘boy.’ You should be The Incredible Pizza or something like that.”

“Look, I’m not a superhero,” I said.

“That’s what superheroes always say. Look, that’s number 5 on the list.” She pulled out a pamphlet and handed it to me. I read the brochure.

Are you a superhero?

  1. Tragic backstory
  2. Created in a lab by mutant ooze
  3. You have some kind of unusual power.
  4. You were bullied at school.
  5. You refuse to call yourself a hero.
  6. You have saved people from a brutal villain

“Be honest, how many items describe you?” she asked.

“All but one. I don’t have a tragic backstory. Then again, my dad only lets me watch Bob Ross, so . . .”

Iris shook her head. “That’s not tragic. Bob Ross is the coolest.”

“So, five out of six?”

“Exactly. And the town loves you. Can’t you see it? You’re a hero.”

“They don’t love me,” I said. “You saw them. They pointed at me. They laughed. They thought I was weird.”

“You are weird. But that’s the cool part that nobody tells you. The very thing that makes you a strange is the very thing that will save the world. You aren’t super despite being weird. You are super because you are weird and weird people change the world.”

“Are you saying all superheroes are weird?”


“What about Hulk?”

“His skin is green and he has anger issues.”

“What about Spiderman?”

“He kisses people upside down. That’s weird. That’s really weird.”


“He’s a total goth. He lives in a cave with no windows. Probably listens to The Cure.”

“So you really think I’m a superhero?”

“Absolutely! That weird thing about you is the very thing that will save the city. That’s how it works. So, just own it. Be odd. Because it’s the outcastes and the weirdos and the odd ducks that change the world. Nobody ever says, ‘Look at that superhero. She’s so amazingly normal.’ Your freakish cheesy arms saved the day, Tony.”

I smiled at the thought of little kids holding plastic action figures of Pizza Boy. Maybe I could have my own comic book and they would turn it into a movie and then everyone would say, “The comic book was way better than the movie” when they wanted to sound smarter than their classmates.

“I could be a hero,” I let out a laugh. It was more of a cackle.

“You have to work on that laugh, though,” Iris pointed out. “You sound like a villain with that laugh.”

Maybe she was right. Maybe I could be a hero.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is Tony beginning to learn about himself?
  2. Why does Tony need Iris? What strengths does she bring to their partnership?
  3. Do you agree with the idea that it is the “weird ones” who change the world?