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She pointed to the various monitors. “This is sort of like the central nervous system of our local operations. I am the one who combines the intelligence from various sources and helps predict when a villain will attack next.”
“I feel like you lied to me,” I said. “You made it sound like you were just a detective.”
“I didn’t lie. I just . . . I had to keep my identity a secret,” she said.
“This whole time?” I asked.
“I’m telling you everything now, though. Doesn’t that count?” she pleaded.
“I can’t believe you lied to me,” I told her.
“Listen, I didn’t mean to lie. I had to keep my identity a secret. But the truth is that I scope out villains and get surveillance. I run the operations that allow the heroes to do their jobs. I’m the one behind the scenes. And I’m telling you, I think you’re a real hero. I think you can take down this giant fridge.”
“And you just happened to run into me today?” I asked.
“Well, it’s complicated,” she answered.
“I need to go,” I said. I slammed the door and stood in the hallway. I didn’t even know how to get back home. I had no idea how to get out of this Iris’s hideout.
I took a deep breath and turned the corner. That’s when I saw it. It was a tiny closet with a single lightbulb and corkboard with a picture of me.
“Don’t go in there!” Iris yelled.
But it was too late.
There were pictures of me taken from hidden cameras. There were lines with string and sticky notes and old scraps of newspaper clippings.
“You were spying on me?” I asked.
“Not on you. I was spying on Dr. Repugno,” she said.
“But you knew about me? You knew who I was the moment I stepped into town?”
“It wasn’t an accident,” she admitted. “I was there on purpose. I was hoping you would share some information that would allow me to find your father.”
“So that was all fake? This whole thing was some kind of a setup?”
I stared at the wall.
“I was so stupid,” I mumbled.
“None of this matters,” Iris said. “I can help you take down the robot. I have supplies and I have an algorithm that will predict the next location. We can’t lose sight on what matters,” she said calmly.
I noticed a sticky note with the words weapon in all caps right next to a picture of me in my front yard.
“Wait a minute, you think I’m a villain? You think I’m some kind of monster that my dad is unleashing on the city?”
“No, that was just one theory. One of many theories, actually. But I promise that I don’t actually believe that now.”
“But you did, right? You saw me as some kind of weird, freakish monster?”
“I wasn’t sure who you were,” she said calmly.
“What happened to ‘What makes you weird is what makes you a hero?’ Were you just trying to get information on my dad? Was that it?”
She froze up.
“Was that it?” I demanded.
“I meant what I said. I think you’re a hero,” she pointed out. “I just . . . this was months ago. I had to explore all theories.”
“What about my dad?”
“Well . . .”
“You still think he’s a villain, don’t you?” I demanded.
“Actually, I still have reason to believe your dad is the primary suspect,” she responded.
“That crazy refrigerator kidnapped my dad and you’re trying to tell me you still consider him a suspect?”
“You have to look at the evidence. That was his refrigerator. That was his shrink ray. He clearly isn’t kidnapped . . . or adult-napped? I’m not sure what you call it. But he left the house on his own. Look at it logically, Tony. Your dad is a supervillain and you are the only one who can stop him.”
“No, he’s not like that. You’ve got it all wrong.”
“He’s a supervillain.”
“No, he was a supervillain but he’s not one anymore. He changed years ago.”
“No way. Once someone is a villain they stay that way forever,” she said. “Trust me, that’s what happens. You think they’ve changed. They seem nice. Then, out of nowhere, they go rogue and you’re stuck all alone as a kid in an underground lair while your villain parents are in jail. And at that point, your only hope is to use your scientific genius to solve hard puzzles and help out the heroes.”
Tears were streaming down her face.
“I thought your dad was a dork who wore golf shirts . . .”
She wiped her eyes with her black hoodie. “Trust me, Tony. I know how this works. Villains don’t change. They go rogue without telling you.”
“No, Iris. That’s not how it is. My dad isn’t going rogue. He’s not like that.”
“Are you sure? Why did he leave this morning if he’s not behind the attacks?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted.
“And why wasn’t there any sign of forced entry? Don’t you find that just a little bit odd?”
“No way. You’re wrong. You don’t know him like I do,” I said.
“You have the opportunity to save our town, Tony. Think about the motive. Why would he be attacking the city?”
“He’s not,” I answered.
“Are you sure?”
“The robot kidnapped him. He’s hidden somewhere in the city and I still need to find him.”
“Just consider the possibility,” she answered. “Consider the theory that maybe he’s behind these attacks.”
I shook my head. “Show me how to find my way home,” I growled.
“Fine,” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes. I followed her for fifteen painfully long, absolutely silent minutes. She slammed a door behind me as I walked to the edge of town and up the hill. But as I reached the gates of my lair, I saw her.
“It’s not too late,” she said. “I’ll be waiting outside.”
But I couldn’t even look at her. Instead, I gazed at the crooked building. I could see how it would look like a villain’s lair. I could even see how it might have once been a villain’s lair. But Iris was wrong. People change.
I stepped into our lair and cuddled up next to our pet python Fluffy. You might be wondering why we named him Fluffy. He’s not furry at all. But he loves to eat fluffy creatures like mice and rats, so the name just seemed to fit. Snakes are some of the most misunderstood creatures. Apparently mutant pizzas and former villains are as well.
I pulled out a notebook and listed any information I could think of about where my dad might be hidden.
This was going nowhere. I grabbed the remote. It hit me. With my dad away, this was my chance to watch whatever show I wanted to watch.
“No more Bob Ross,” I muttered.
I flipped the station to a cartoon superhero. “In a city that never sleeps . . .” Apparently, all the residents suffer from insomnia? I would hate to try and save that city.
I switched to the next station. The show was House Hunters, which turned out to be a total disappointment. When the realtor said, “This is a killer home,” I expected the house to start hunting the people with knives or spears. But instead, it was just a couple complaining about how much they hated carpet and could simply not live in a home without granite countertops. Boring. Why call it House Hunters if the house doesn’t even try to hunt the humans?
Another show, Cupcake Wars, didn’t have any actual warfare. If you’re going to call it Cupcake Wars, you need to at least have a few frosting guns and cake cannons. I’m not saying it needs to end in death but there needs to be a true battle. Think Call of Duty meets Candy Land (two games that I’m not allowed to play).
There was a cartoon show with an enormous mutant red dog. Nobody in that town seemed to think he was weird. “I bet he could take on the giant refrigerator,” I mumbled, flipping the channel. Then I imagined the sheer amount of excrement that pup would create and I felt really bad for Emily Elizabeth.
Finally, I landed on a local channel where a judge was yelling at a man for not paying his rent. “Welcome to News Channel 5. When news breaks, we blame our younger siblings. We interrupt your program for late breaking news about a mutant robot.” Choppers were zooming in on the bionic refrigerator.
They cut to a scene with a reporter. “He has crushed three police cars, Mike. We’re hoping we can find a solution soon.”
“Any fatalities, Sally?” Mike the anchorman asked.
“None so far. But as I can you can tell, the scene is pretty intense.”
“Um, I’m struggling to see the tents you speak of, but I imagine it might be pretty inside of a tent,” Mike the anchorman said.
“No, it’s intense,” Sally the reporter said.
“Again, not seeing any of the tents you refer to,” Mike the Anchorman added.
I’m sure they’ll figure it out.
The refrigerator lifted its giant leg and kicked a car out of the way. Flurries of ice floated around. The town was mostly empty, aside from a few construction workers making snow cones from the frosty flurries.
A group of police in riot gear circled the bionic refrigerator. They took turns shooting at the creature, but the bullets popped off, bouncing around and shattering windows nearby.
“And what about Pizza Boy? Is there a chance he will take on this robot?” the newscaster asked.
“It’s hard to say. You have to remember he’s just a kid but if you’ll look at this amateur footage, he has some kind of elastic superpower that really is impressive – if a little bit weird.”
I stared at the shaky video of my elastic cheesy arms.
“That is an amazing costume,” the newscaster said.
“It’s not a costume!” I yelled at the screen.
I wanted to stay inside my house but I had to admit, the fridge was destroying everything. Entire blocks were obliterated. Nothing seemed to be working.
“Let’s take a look at the traffic jam getting out of town. It is packed, people. Our advice is hide in your basement and hope for a hero to show up,” the news anchor said.
“So far there are several injuries but no deaths. However, this robot – he looks almost like a refrigerator – is getting progressively violent. We’re hoping the police can get a handle on this situation soon.”
I flipped off the TV. Okay, that came out wrong. I didn’t flip off the tv. I turned it off, because this book is G-rated and as your protagonist I would never flip off anyone, especially the television.
This is not my business. I’ve never even been in our town until today. They can handle it. Besides, they don’t even like me.
But as I thought about these things, all I could picture was the devastation of our town.
“Just ignore it,” I whispered to myself.
“Don’t ignore it,” a voice said. I looked up and opened the curtains. Iris was standing in the yard.
“Don’t ignore it,” she repeated.
I slammed the window shut and closed the blackout curtains. Next, I grabbed the remote and flipped on the TV, but I couldn’t get the images out of my mind. That mutant refrigerator wouldn’t stop until the entire town was destroyed.
“I have to do this,” I muttered.
I was terrified. I was sweating grease like crazy. But I knew this was it. I would have to stop that bionic fridge. I would have to be Pizza Boy or The Incredible Pizza or Pizza Supreme or whatever. This was my moment.
- What key detail did we learn about Iris? How does this change your view of her?
- What is ultimately driving Tony to view himself as a hero?
- Do you think that people can change? Why or why not