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“If you’re going to take out the ice robot, you need to know what you’re up against,” Iris said. “And by take out, I mean destroy. I didn’t mean to imply that you’d be dating a robot.”
“Got it,” I answered.
“Anyway, we need to go out and look for some clues.”
“Isn’t the robot out there waiting for us?” I asked.
“I doubt it. But just in case, we’ll sneak out of here. But first, you’ll need to disguise yourself. The town already sees you as Pizza Boy.”
She handed a fake mustache and said ,“Perfect! No one will ever know it’s you.”
“It’s nothing more than a fake mustache,” I pointed out.
“But it looks real.”
“I’m too young to have a mustache. Have you ever seen an eleven-year-old with a mustache?”
“No, but I’ve never seen a walking, talking, living pizza until today.”
I slapped on the mustache. Iris held up her phone and flipped the camera to front-facing.
“See, you look totally different,” she said with a grin.
I stared at the screen. It wasn’t convincing.
“This isn’t going to work,” I shook my head. “I need a better disguise.”
But it was too late. Iris tossed her phone in her pocket and yanked my hand before dragging me down a hallway and up to the elevator shaft.
“We have limited time,” she said, pulling a lever. The elevator dropped down for what felt like an eternity before stopping all at once.
We stepped out into an underground tunnel, walked for ages, climbed up steep stairs and finally made our way to a ladder.
Iris pushed up on the manhole cover.
“I can’t get it . . .” I struggled to get my crust through the manhole, twisting and turning until somehow, almost miraculously, I slipped through.
The city was in shambles. Buildings were crushed and covered in frost. Icicles hung from the shells of empty buildings.
We walked over to the diner where the robot had first attacked. Iris approached the owner.
“Hello sir,” she began.
He didn’t answer.
I cleared my throat. “Excuse me, sir. Um, could you tell me . . .”
“Hey, you’re Pizza Boy! I saw you on TV earlier.”
“Actually, I’m a different slice of pizza. I’m Larry, Pizza Boy’s older brother.”
“Are you sure?”
I pointed to the mustache.
“Well then, I’m sorry.”
“It happens all the time,” I lied.
“What can you tell me about the ice robot?” Iris asked.
“Well, it crashed through the walls and it was giant and metal. I didn’t really look at it but it kept shooting ice out of a gun. Well, it wasn’t a gun. It was like a gun hand almost. I’m not even sure how to describe it.”
“Any other witnesses?”
“All the customers have left. You know what, though, our server Marie was there. She saw it up close.”
“Is she working right now?” I asked.
“Does it look like we’re open for business? She went to the hospital. I guess the robot’s tail whipped her leg and it shocked her.”
“The robot had a tail?”
“Yeah, some kind of electric tail,” he said. “That’s what got her.”
“Thanks for your time,” I said as we climbed over the rubble and headed across the street. We pushed through the crowds, ducking under the police tape and zig-zagging around the rubble.
“Hey, I saw you earlier,” a man said. “You’re Pizza Boy.”
“I’m not. I’m Larry Pizza, his older brother,” I said, pointing to the mustache.
That’s when it clicked. I recognized him. “Wait, you’re the florist, right?”
“How did you know?”
“I saw you before I . . .” I stopped mid-sentence.
“You are Pizza Boy! Hey everyone, it’s Pizza Boy!”
“Quiet, please. I’m undercover,” I whispered.
“My secret is yours,” he said with a wink.
Iris stepped toward him. “Did you by any chance see the robot?”
“Yeah, he had a giant box head. It was like his head was also his torso or stomach.”
“Did he have wheels or legs?” Iris asked.
“Big metal legs and metal arms. They were ginormous,” he said.
His wife walked over and handed him a coffee. “I think someone was controlling his voice remotely.”
“So he was speaking?” Iris asked.
“Yeah, it was like a loud-speaker you hear when you are in elementary school, but the voice was more robotic. And it kept saying something over and over again. What was he saying?” the man asked.
“He kept asking for a bottom. Yeah, he said, ‘I need a bottom.’ Which is true. I don’t think he had a butt,” the man said.
“You sure he wasn’t asking about a bottle?” I asked.
“You know, it could have been. But I’m pretty sure it was a butt,” the woman said.
“That makes no sense,” her husband shot back. “Why would robots need a butt? They can’t even poop.”
“Oh, yes, they can. They poop metal. It’s true.”
“I’ve never seen any robot pooping metal.”
“Well, maybe you haven’t paid close enough attention.”
The two of them began arguing for what felt like an eternity.
Finally, Iris interrupted. “Hey, hey, hey. Do you know anyone else who saw the robot?”
“No, but there was something else. It was carrying a poster with a giant grocery list.”
“A grocery list?”
“I’m absolutely serious. It was bizarre. A giant grocery list. World Record size. I gave it to the police for evidence,” the woman said.
“Was it hand-written or typed?” Iris asked.
“Hmm . . . hand-written. But huge letters. I mean, this thing was giant,” the woman answered.
“Odd,” Iris said, tapping her pencil.
“I know, right? What kind of a robot carries around a grocery list?” the man asked.
“A hungry one,” his wife answered. “Maybe that’s why he’s attacking. Maybe he just wants food. Maybe he’s just hangry.”
“Robots can’t eat,” the man said.
“Of course they can,” the woman replied. “How are they going to poop if they don’t eat?”
This reignited the previous argument. Iris again pulled them back, “What else can you tell me about it?”
“Well, it was definitely boxy but the arms were more like cylinders,” the woman answered.
“And did it have an ice gun of some sort?” I asked.
“It had a shrink ray, I think, but not an ice gun,” she answered.
“So, it’s shooting ice from its hands?” Iris asked.
“Yes and no,” the man answered. “The ice rays came from its hands but the ice bombs came from its heart.”
“It has a heart?” I asked.
“Well, yeah. Or maybe its chest. I don’t really know much about robotic anatomy. I’m a florist, for crying out loud.”
“But it did have a tail,” the man said.
“Yes, I’m sure of that. I definitely saw a tail,” he answered.
“Yes, and it shot off sparks. The tail sent sparks everywhere. I’m surprised you didn’t see it, Pizza Boy,” the woman said.
“I wasn’t really looking at it,” I admitted.
“Did you see any type of antenna?” Iris asked.
“If it had an antenna, I didn’t see it. But, I don’t know. It’s possible it did,” the man said. “Look, I’d like to help you kiddos but we need to get back to the store. We have flowers to arrange, okay?”
“Yes, sir,” I answered. “Thank you for your time.”
I followed Iris down the sidewalk and tried to make sense out of the facts. It was a robot with a boxy body and a tail. Some kind of robotic animal? But why would it be carrying a grocery list? None of this made any sense. After gathering clues, we were further away from the truth than we had been the entire time. Meanwhile, this robot was on a rampage and we couldn’t do anything to stop it.
- Why would it be important for Iris and Tony to gather clues? What did they learn from their short expedition?
- What is your overall impression of this book so far?
- Make a prediction about what the robot is and who is behind it?