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We sat down on a bench to review the clues. Iris pulled out her notepad. “So we know the robot shoots ice lasers from – what – from its hands?”
“And it’s stomach?” I asked.
“Or chest, I guess. Ice bombs from the chest,” she said.
“Plus, it had an electric tail of some kind,” I pointed out.
“And it was holding a grocery list. But how? If it has a shrink ray in one hand, how is it holding . . .”
“Magnets? It could be a magnet.”
Her eyes lit up. “I think I might know what it is. But let’s keep going. What other details do we have?”
“We know that it has a robotic sounding voice,” I pointed out.
“You think it was the same voice you heard in the background of your dad’s phone call?”
“Maybe,” I said. “None of this is adding up. Why would the robot be asking people for a bottle?”
“And why is it after you?” Iris asked.
“Are we even sure the robot was specifically going after me?” I asked.
“It chased you for several blocks. Trust me, it was after you,” she said.
“Well, it could have been after you. You saw it at the restaurant, right?”
“It’s possible,” she said, jotting down a few more notes in her notepad. She shook her head. “But there’s something else. The robot couldn’t have kidnapped your dad and attacked us at the same time.”
“Well, maybe it did. The robot was already gone when I talked to my dad on the phone. I’m thinking it attacked the city and then went back to the place where it is hiding my dad. If we can find the robot, we can find where he’s hidden my dad.”
I shook my head. None of this made any sense.
“Why would it carry around a giant grocery list?” I continued, “I mean, who sends out a robot to go hunting for groceries?”
“I have a theory but I can’t share it out in the open. I’ll tell you later when we’re somewhere more private,” she said.
I stood up from the bench, pulled out my phone, and searched to see if any new attacks had been reported. Sure enough, the robot had busted through a wall of glass and ransacked a grocery store. I guess it was looking for groceries after all.
We walked over to an empty Laundromat (because, let’s be honest, nobody does laundry when your city is being attacked by a giant robot) and stared at the news.
“Every time someone tries to snap a picture, the robot steams it up,” a reporter complained.
I studied the photo on the tv screen.
“I don’t see an antenae. Maybe your original theory was right. It’s some kind of bizarre artificial intelligence,” I pointed out.
Iris shook her head. She pulled out her phone and enlarged the edge of a photo. “Look at this. There’s a handle on the side.”
“Are you sure that’s a handle?”
“Positive,” she answered.
“So you think someone is controlling the robot from the inside?” I asked.
“That would make sense. It would be acting like a vehicle,” she pointed out. “A villain could hide right in the middle of that robot.”
“But there’s no window,” I pointed out.
“It doesn’t need a window. Just a tiny camera. I mean someone has to control it.”
“Maybe,” I said.
“I think you need to be open to the idea that your dad created this robot and is controlling it from the inside.”
“No,” I shook my head. “He’s not like that.”
“But what if he is? That would explain why you couldn’t see him. That would explain the machine sound. It’s his robot. Someone has to be controlling the robot. And Dr. Repugno was the only one who had that shrink ray,” she pointed out.
“Nope. No way. I don’t think he would do it,” I answered. “He’s a good man. He’s not a villain.”
“Look, someone has to be controlling it. Unless . . . it’s controlling itself.”
“So it is artificial intelligence?”
“Giant metal object with a handle on the side that can shoot out ice from a dispenser,” she let out a laugh. “I know what it is. It’s not a robot. It’s alive. I think it’s a refrigerator. A living, breathing refrigerator. That’s why it’s so cold when it gets near us.”
“Really?” I shook my head. “You think a giant refrigerator is attacking the city?”
“You know that ooze that brought you to life?”
“I think someone applied it to a refrigerator. And I think that someone is your dad.” She furrowed her eyebrows. “But why now? Why wait over a decade? And how did he expand to be so huge? Did he . . . I know. He must have used a reverse the shrink ray? That’s genius.”
Then it hit me.
“It’s not just any refrigerator. It dad’s old fridge. Look, when he spilled the ooze on a slice of pizza, he cleaned it up. He put me in the fridge, cleaned up the mess, threw the towel away and when he went to get his slice of pizza, it was alive. It was me. Weird, I know. But that’s how it happened.”
“So you’re telling me the fridge came to life?”
“Exactly. I know for a fact that the refrigerator was gone later that day. My dad thought someone stole it, but what if that’s not what happened? What if nobody took it? What if it ran away on its own?”
Iris snapped her finger. “That would explain its size. It’s had eleven years to grow.”
“Wait a second, how’d you know I was eleven?” I asked.
“Um, I thought maybe we were the same age,” she said. “It was a good guess, right? I mean, I am a detective.”
Something about her answer left me feeling uneasy. I couldn’t figure it out. It was the same way I felt when she knew my dad was Dr. Repugno or when she called my house a lair.
“So the steam is actually fog from the freezer,” she said. “And the fog comes out of its mouth? I still don’t get the grocery list, though,” she said.
“Don’t you get it? That list was part of the original refrigerator and it’s now become the refrigerator’s mission. I think it’s trying to recover all the things missing inside of it.”
“And one of those things is some kind of a jar. Maybe a jar of hot sauce? A jar of mayonnaise?”
“Do you think one those things is me?” I asked.
“I think so,” she answered.
I pulled out my phone and called 9-1-1
“What’s your emergency?”
“It’s my refrigerator.”
“Yeah, well, it’s running.”
“Then you better go catch it. I’ve heard that before,” the woman answered. “Listen, prank calling the emergency line is Class 1 Misdemeanor.”
“But I’m serious. My refrigerator is running .”
“You’re calling to tell me that your refrigerator is running?”
“Is your toaster running?”
“I don’t think so. Just my refrigerator. Well, not mine. It’s actually my dad’s refrigerator. Or I guess it was his until we had to get a new one.”
“That’s not an emergency,” she said.
“But this is different. It’s spitting out ice and, and, and, it has cold air.”
“That’s normal for a refrigerator,” she said sarcastically. “I bet you’re going to tell me that it has a door.”
“A huge one,” I answered. “But we’ve seen this fridge is all over town and . . .”
“Sir, you are not the only one to own that same brand of refrigerator. Of course you’re going to see it in other homes.”
“But this fridge is attacking our town.”
“We have a real emergency in our city. I don’t have time to deal with a prank call from a little boy.”
“Oh, I’m not a boy. I’m a pizza.”
“Yes, I’m a pizza and my former refrigerator came to life and it’s attacking the city.”
“Okay, I’m going to have to let you go.”
She hung up. I sat there holding the phone, shocked that the police wouldn’t listen to me.
“No luck?” Iris asked.
“She didn’t believe me.”
“I think this is a job for the Just Us League,” she said.
“Really? The Justice League?”
“No, the Just Us League. It’s called that because it’s just us. We’ll have to handle this on our own,” she said.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” I told her. But it was too late. Iris darted down a sidewalk, over the broken glass of a beat-up building and over to a trap door. I followed her underground, through a series of tunnels, and finally back into her office.
“What’s the plan?” I asked.
She looked me in the eyes. “You’re going to have to stop the bionic fridge yourself as The Incredible Pizza. Or, not Pizza Supreme. I like that. We’ll make a mask and maybe – oh, a cape that looks like a napkin.”
“I told you, I’m not a superhero.”
“Of course you’re not. Superhero is trademarked by Marvel and DC. You can’t use it unless you are referencing the trademark itself. Trust me, I know a thing or two about trademark law.”
“Got it. But I’m not a hero,” I said.
“You are now,” she shot back.
“Aren’t there other heroes out there who can stop him?”
“Yeah, there are. But you are the hero our town needs.”
“Okay, that’s not entirely true. You are actually the only hero currently available. I’d say you are the second choice but you’re probably the ninth or tenth choice.”
She pulled out an electronic device, thinner than a paper, and tapped on the screen. A hologram popped up with a list of available heroes. Sure enough, there was a ninth slot with my picture on it. It wasn’t a great picture. Honestly, it made my crust look a bit fat.
“Where’d you get that?”
“I don’t actually work as a detective. Well, I do but I don’t. I’m a detected for the Federation of Super Sciences. It used to be the Association of Super Sciences, but you can imagine what happened when they put that acronym up on a giant building.”
“And you look for heroes?” I asked.
“Not exactly. I gather intelligence about villains. I hide in the shadows. Nobody suspects anything from an eleven-year-old girl.”
“So, you were tracking the robot?”
“Exactly. And if we can find the robot, I think we can find your dad.”
- What do you think is the connection between Tony’s dad and the robot? Do you think Dr. Repugno is still a villain?
- Why would Tony still continue to trust Iris even if she hasn’t been telling the whole truth?
- What can you tell me about Iris’s character based on her actions? What can you tell me about Tony based on his actions? In what ways might either of these characters be changing through this story?