Battle of the Bots (Robots Rule)

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9780544935242: Battle of the Bots (Robots Rule)

Thanks to the eleven-year-old robotics whiz kid George Gearing and his best buddy, Jackbot, the evil Dr. Micron is finally behind bars. But life is hardly back to normal in Terabyte Heights. With TinkerTech closed down, townspeople are abandoning their beloved robots. Even George himself is in trouble. Despite finally knowing the truth about Project Mercury, he's no closer to being reunited with his parents. Only one person can save them. But if George enlists his help, who will save everyone else when the battle of the bots begins?

 

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About the Author:

C. J. Richards has loved tinkering with gadgets since he was a little boy. He remembers fondly the time he accidentally blew up his father’s radio after some experimental rewiring. Mr. Richards lives with his wife, his cat, and his eight televisions.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
 
It was a beautiful Saturday morning in Terabyte Heights. Birds sang in the trees, and sunlight beamed through the kitchen window on George Gearing and Jackbot, who sat together at the breakfast table, playing a lively game of User-Virus-Firewall.
 
George whipped his hand out from behind his back, curled into a claw to represent Virus. Jackbot’s metal pincer whirled around at the same instant, holding up a cardboard cutout of a hand with all five fingers straight up.
 
“Firewall blocks Virus!” Jackbot crowed. “I win!”
 
“All right, all right,” George said. “One more time!”
 
I bet he’ll do Firewall again, George thought. He probably thinks I won’t expect it because he’s just done it. I’ll get him with User!
 
He thrust his hand out, two fingers pointing down like little legs—only to see Jackbot turn around holding the cardboard cutout of the claw hand.
 
“Ha!” Jackbot cried. “Virus annoys User! I am the champion!” Jackbot did a victory dance around the kitchen and bowed to his imaginary fans. “Want to go again? Best out of thirty?”
 
“No, thanks,” George said, sagging into his chair. “I think I’ve had enough humiliating defeats for one day.”
 
“Hey, it’s not my fault you made me a genius,” Jackbot said.
 
From the other side of the table, Uncle Otto looked up at them with a scowl. “Could you two please stop bickering and give me a little peace and quiet?” he asked. “I’m trying to concentrate here!”
 
Otto was hunched over, holding a small electric motor in one hand while carefully loosening the tiny casing screws with the screwdriver attachment of his robotic arm. It had been several weeks since Otto had been released from the hospital, and he was finally getting used to his new prosthetic.
 
“Couldn’t you fix that later, when we get to the junkyard?” George asked.
 
“I could,” Otto replied, not taking his eyes off his work. “But this is the motor for the air conditioning unit in the truck, and it’s supposed to be hot today.”
 
George smirked. That wasn’t the only reason his uncle couldn’t resist tinkering. Otto had always distrusted modern technology, but once he’d been fitted with his new arm, things had changed. Otto loved it and all of its various attachments. He used them every chance he got.
 
George rose from the table to grab a glass of orange juice and a couple slices of bread. He turned to Jackbot and held out the bread in front of him. “Will you do the honors?” George asked.
 
But before Jackbot could answer, Otto reached over and grabbed the bread from George. “Allow me!” he said. Otto squeezed his eyes shut, concentrating hard. A moment later, the screwdriver attachment in his arm retracted, and was instantly replaced by a blowtorch. Grinning with pride, Otto then proceeded to wave the blowtorch over the slices of bread in a complex design. Finally, he handed the toasted bread back to George with a flourish. “There you go, kid! Eat up!”
 
George studied the design on the toast, puzzled. “Is it supposed to be a dinosaur?”
 
“Or perhaps an ancient Viking rune of some sort?” Jackbot guessed.
 
Otto glowered at them. “It’s a smiley face, you boneheads! Gee, talk about giving a guy a hard time . . .”
 
George grinned and took a huge bite of toast. “It’s perfect, Otto,” he said through a mouthful. “Thanks.”
 
“Say it, don’t spray it,” Jackbot said, holding up his Firewall hand to block the crumbs.
 
Just then the doorbell rang. George zigzagged around Mr. Egg and the dishwasher-bot, who were bustling around in the kitchen, ran down the hallway, and opened the door. He found his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Glitch, standing there. Her gray curly hair sprung out from her head in an even wilder fashion than usual, like a star going supernova. Her eyes looked puffy and red, as if she had been crying. A robot with a TV screen for a head stood by her side. George knew the robot well—it was Hector Protector, Mrs. Glitch’s glitchy security-bot.
 
“Good morning,” George said. “Is everything all right? Does HP need fixing again?” The old robot was always breaking down in weird ways—a couple of months ago he had started hanging upside down from trees, and another time he had kept saying everything backwards. Each time, Mrs. Glitch had come to George for help.
 
“No, no, it’s—it’s not that,” Mrs. Glitch said, shaking her head. “He’s fine—just peachy. Aren’t you, Hector?”
 
“I am fine,” HP said expressionlessly. He’d been made before the voice intonation programs were improved. “How are you?”
 
“I’m, uh, great,” George said, confused. “So . . . if nothing’s wrong with HP, what can I do for you?”
 
Mrs. Glitch took a deep, steadying breath and said, “You have to take him, George. I can’t keep him anymore.”
 
George was shocked. “You’re giving him up?” he exclaimed. “But you’ve had HP for years!”
 
“Seven years, two months, and twenty-one days,” HP confirmed flatly.
 
“I don’t want to get rid of him,” Mrs. Glitch said, her voice quavering. “But I’m the only person on the block who still has a robot—besides you, George. People are starting to give me dirty looks! Everyone else has deactivated their bots. I mean, I can’t really blame them. After what happened, how do we know that TinkerTech products are safe?”
 
“Of course they’re safe!” George said. “Except when Dr. Micron made all the robots into crazed killers . . . and then when he turned the MOD devices into deadly mind-control machines . . .”
 
Mrs. Glitch raised an eyebrow. “Does that sound safe to you?”
 
“Well, no,” George said. “But Micron’s locked away in prison. With Professor Droid reinstated at TinkerTech, I bet everything will be back to normal in no time.”
 
George sounded more confident than he felt. He’d been watching the news with everyone else during the last couple of weeks. Since the MOD debacle, TinkerTech had been shut down, and Professor Droid was under investigation by the police. It was all bad news for George—no TinkerTech meant no apprenticeship. Until everything blew over, George was stuck back in school.
 
Mrs. Glitch sighed. “I hope you’re right, George, but until then, I have to get rid of Hector. And I can’t bear to deactivate him. Could you look after him at the junkyard for me? I know he’ll be safe there.” She patted HP’s metal shoulder, her eyes watering once more. “Goodbye, Hector, my dear. Remember to install all of your updates, all right?”
 
“Glitch . . . Mrs. . . . goodbye,” HP stammered. George looked at him in surprise. The stress of their separation must have been causing the robot to talk backwards again!
 
Mrs. Glitch choked back a sob and hurried away.
 
“You’d better come in,” George said. He pulled HP inside, where all of George’s house-bots—who had taken to hiding in the house since the anti-robot movement began—studied him curiously. “My uncle will take you to the junkyard in his truck.”
 
“You . . . thank,” said HP. He stepped into the hall and carefully wiped his big flat metal feet on the mat.
 
***
 
Within no time, George was rattling down the road in Otto’s truck, with Jackbot and HP in the back seat. George had been going to the junkyard every day since finding out the truth about his parents and Project Mercury. He had spent nearly every waking minute down in their secret laboratory—or what was left of it—under the junkyard.
 
“So what are we supposed to do with this joker?” Otto asked, jerking his thumb at HP.
 
“Just keep him there until Mrs. Glitch is ready to take him back,” said George. “He won’t be any trouble.”
 
“Hear that?” Otto said over his shoulder to the robot. “You’re not gonna be any trouble, right?”
 
“Trouble any be not will I,” said HP.
 
Jackbot looked at him curiously. “Why are you talking backwards?”
 
“Wrong gone has program speech my,” said HP.
 
“Want me to fix it for you?” Jackbot asked.
 
“Point the what’s,” said HP.
 
As they drove along, George saw what had become of Terabyte Heights, and shook his head. The previously pristine sidewalks were piled high with stinking garbage, and all of the parks had become overgrown jungles. When TinkerTech closed, the municipal authority had deactivated all of the town robots, and now there was nobody to do their jobs. Robot-driven cars had been deactivated as well, and so the roads were clogged with human drivers who were seriously out of practice. As Otto’s truck neared the center of town, traffic continued to worsen until the sound of blaring horns was deafening. Just as Otto’s truck was about to cross an intersection, a car shot out in front of him, forcing him to slam on the brakes.
 
“Idiot!” shouted Otto, laying on the horn. “I never thought I’d say this,” he grumbled, “but I’d be glad to see robots back on the road again!”
 
“Everything will be back to normal soon,” George said. He realized he’d been saying that a lot lately. He hoped it was true.
 
“Hmm,” said Otto, gazing at something through the driver’s-side window. “I’m not so sure about that.” George craned to see what his uncle was looking at, but as the truck passed through the stoplight, he could see the frightening sight all too clearly himself. The tall, gleaming structure of TinkerTech Headquarters came into view; its once packed parking lot was empty, except for a few patrol cars. Black and yellow police tape crisscrossed the entrance, and two tall men in dark suits and sunglasses guarded it. But that wasn’t what Otto was looking at—TinkerTech had been a ghost town for a while now. The alarming thing was happening right in front of it.
 
At least a dozen people were marching outside the entrance, chanting, “Robots all must be destroyed! Jail for that Professor Droid!” and carrying signs that said things like TINKERTECH IS A TINKERWRECK!
 
George swallowed hard. “They look pretty upset, don’t they?” he murmured.
 
“I’ll say!” Otto agreed. The traffic ground to a halt at TinkerTech’s front door.
 
A woman with flyaway red hair and big round glasses marched by Otto’s truck, brandishing a sign that read ROBOTS? NO BOTS! She caught sight of Jackbot and HP in the back seat and shouted, “Hey—they’ve got robots in that truck!”
 
Within seconds, the demonstrators had surrounded them, banging on the sides of Otto’s truck.
 
“Give us those robots!” the woman demanded. “Don’t you realize they’re dangerous? They must be deactivated immediately!”
 
Otto rolled down the window. “Don’t worry,” he said, trying to sound calm. “I’m taking them to be scrapped at my junkyard.”
 
“That me told nobody,” said Hector.
 
“Shhh!” George said, putting a finger to his lips. “Worry don’t. I mean, don’t worry!”
 
“We’ll scrap them for you!” the woman said. “Won’t we, guys?”
 
The other marchers cheered, waving wrenches and hammers in the air. George peeked into the back of the truck. “How dare these people threaten us!” Jackbot said, indignant. “We are local celebrities! Heroes! Paragons of virtue!” HP, on the other hand, looked terrified. He had wrapped his skinny metal arms around Jackbot’s head, and was chanting, “Home like place no there’s! Home like place no there’s!” George looked back at the road. The vehicles had started to inch forward, but a line of protestors had planted themselves in front of the truck, barring the way.
 
“Okay,” George said, thinking fast. “We need another way out of here, Jackbot—now!”
 
“Right,” Jackbot said, extricating himself from HP’s grip. “Activating GPS system. Alternate route found. Otto, reverse seventy-three yards, take your first right, and then a left after two hundred and eleven yards.”
 
“Did you get that?” George asked, turning to his uncle.
 
“Got it!” Otto said, grinding the gears into reverse. The truck shot backwards, then left into a hidden driveway and out through a back alley.
 
George sighed with relief as the crowd of angry faces disappeared behind them. They sped out of the alleyway and found themselves on a small road that ran alongside the TinkerTech building.
 
“We did it!” George said. “We got away from those—”
 
The words died in his throat as a small army of soldiers ran onto the road from all sides. Once again the truck was surrounded. George’s stomach lurched. Guns pointed at them from every direction.
 
A huge man in a green flak jacket shouted at them from the driver’s side. “Stop! And put your hands up where I can see them!”
 

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