If you need a robot to help you around the house,
I’m your man.
Call 1700-ROBOTS today.
The advert Mum posted for me in the post office says man, but – well, I’m really just an eleven-year-old kid. But a pretty smart one. A ‘whiz-kid’, says my mum. But that’s mums for you, right?
That advert worked a treat, though. Before I knew it, I was making all kinds of robots — robots to take out the rubbish, to iron clothes, to weed the garden.
It brought in extra money for sure. Mum and me and Pip definitely needed it, after Dad went.
Before he disappeared, Dad was always inventing things too, so his workshop has everything a robot builder like me could need: welding equipment, a 3-D printer, a computer and … a soda fountain.
I’m on the short side, so I sometimes have to stand on wooden boxes to reach things. But Mum reckons I’ll grow into it all eventually.
The one thing missing though is … my dad. We used to spend hours doing stuff together.
I miss him most of all when I’m working on my inventions. Like LULU. She’s my newest robot. She’s going to sort and stack books at the city library. Mum got me that gig. It’s where she works, when she’s not cooking at Asmee’s Pizza Parlour at night to make ends meet.
Today, I’m super keen to try out my new green welding goggles. Mum bought them for me to work on LULU. She says they match my eyes, haha!
With my welding torch spouting tongues of fire and my orange hair sticking up all over the place, I reckon I look like Krek, the monster from that sci-fi movie Alien Creep. Krek had big brown blotches all over him; I’ve just got Dad’s freckles.
So anyway, I’m applying a weld to one of LULU’s arms and who strolls in but Fitzy and his twin sister Mindy.
I haven’t seen Fitzy for the longest time. Mindy I don’t know so well, though we all went to the same school, till they moved away to the other side of Corkford.
But I can’t stop and talk till I finish this weld. I’m wondering, Why are they here? as I extinguish my torch and pull up my goggles.
“Yo, bro,” says Fitzy, coming over to high-five me. “Look at you in your cool khaki overalls!”
“Hello, Wally,” says Mindy, extending her hand. I only give hers a light slap.
“Hey, guys,” I grunt, as I start clearing up. “What brings you here?”
“The old geezer down the road from us wants to meet with you. Dr Criplash. He wants you to make him a robot,” says Fitzy.
“What? Criplash? As in Criplash Spires, those new skyscrapers?”
“Could be … I don’t know,” says Fitzy, pushing his curly blond hair away from his eyes.
“What kind of robot does he want?”
“Didn’t say. But he said he’d make it worth your while,” says Fitzy, rubbing his fingers and thumb together and pulling a silly face.
“But how did he find out about me?”
“I went past his house. He was doing something in the garden. He said I looked like a smart young fellow. Which, as we all know, I am,” smirked Fitzy. “He asked me if I could code or knew someone who could. I mentioned you — my amazing robot-making buddy.”
“I still don’t know why you didn’t give him my name,” complained Mindy. “Although he’s pretty creepy. Like a stick insect.”
“And when does he want this robot?” I ask, wondering what Mindy meant by that.
“Not sure exactly,” says Fitzy. “But he asked me to talk to you ASAP. So … are you good to go round and see him this afternoon?”
“Hmmm, I don’t know,” I say. “I’ve got some more welds to do on LULU. Then I’m back to coding. I’m trying to program her to answer questions.”
“What do you mean?” asks Mindy.
“Well, she’s good with instructions, like this … LULU, say hello to Fitzy and Mindy.”
“Good day, Fitzy and Mindy,” says LULU, in her best computer voice.
“But listen to this … LULU, does the library sell ice cream cones?”
LULU shudders, then backfires, loudly.
“Entertaining, but not so helpful. Though it’s better than some around here,” I say, glancing down at Trubs napping under the bench.
Trubs, short for ‘trouble’, is our ancient British bulldog. He ‘boof-boofs’ from both ends at the same time. We all have our superpowers; that’s his, unfortunately.
“Did you key in all your negative conditions?” asks Mindy, with a funny look on her face.
“Whaa–? How do you know about that stuff?” I say.
“Mindy’s a coding whiz, just like you,” says Fitzy. “I thought you knew.”
I remember her being impressed that I coded when I was explaining my robots to their mum and dad the other week. But that’s all.
“Can I have a look at LULU’s program?” says Mindy.
“Sure thing,” I say, giving Fitzy a ‘what the?’ look.
Mindy jumps on the computer, scans through what I’ve written, and enters some code. And then hits ‘Save to device’. I’ve got backups so it’s all cool; Mindy will probably just show herself up, that’s all.
“Okay, can I ask LULU that same question?” Mindy asks.
“Be my guest.”
“LULU, does the library sell ice cream cones?” says Mindy.
“No, it does not sell ice cream cones,” LULU replies.
“Whaa–?” I exclaim. “How did you …?”
“It’s all in the digits. I’ll show you sometime,” says Mindy, dancing her fingers across an imaginary keyboard.
Fitzy cracks a big grin — enjoying the joke, and seeing me caught out.
“Can I do something else?” Mindy asks, tugging on her blonde ponytail. It’ll take a few minutes, though.”
“Hmmm, okaaay,” I mumble. “But don’t break anything …”
* * *
Fitzy and I head off to the soda fountain at the other end of the workshop.
“Good to see you’re still doing the GI Joe thing,” I say, waving at Fitzy’s old camouflage trousers and khaki t-shirt. He’s not playing along, though.
“Okay. So what do you want to talk to me about?” I continue, offering Fitzy a drink from the soda machine. “You’ve got something on your mind, I can tell.”
“Weeell … I was wondering whether you could, maybe, help me out again with … you know, school,” he says, looking like Trubs when he’s about to have a bath.
“Whaa–? After what happened last time!? I was grounded for a month when Mum found out,” I say, whacking his arm. “Anyway, you’ve got your clever geeky sister. Ask her.”
“You know I can’t. She’d tell Mum and Dad.”
“Is this why you’re talking me up to this Dr Criplash?” I ask. “To get me on side?”
“Ummm. I might have talked up your skills a little bit …” he trailed off. “But I just wanted to help you out, to say thanks and … sorry. And then I had the thought …”
“Okay. No harm done,” I say. “In that case, I’m good to go find out what this Dr Criplash is looking for. But I’m not, repeat NOT, helping you cheat at maths again.”
Fitzy looks really downcast now. I pat him on the back.
“Let’s get back and see what your savvy sister has done,” I say, downing the rest of my Big Red Monster in one gulp.
* * *
“Okay, listen to this,” says Mindy, when we get back to the workbench.
“LULU, how many ice cream scoops in a five-litre tub?”
“Presuming an average scoop size of seventy grams, with ten per cent waste, a whole tub should yield thirty-six scoops,” says LULU, waggling her bottom.
“Wow! How did you do that?” I cry out. “That’s dynamic query-response stuff,” I splutter. “The butt action is … kind of cool, too!” I add, with a chuckle.
Mindy is just sitting there with her hands in her lap, looking all innocent.
“She’s pretty good, hey!” says Fitzy, slapping me on the back.
My head is reeling. I’m thinking of all the incredible things Mindy and I could do if we joined forces.
Mindy’s now beaming at me. She knows what I’m thinking. For the first time, I notice the words on her pink t-shirt — KEYBOARD WARRIOR. She sure is!
“Alright, you two geeks. What say we go meet with Dr Criplash now?” suggests Fitzy.
Okay. It can’t hurt, I think.
But little do I realise what I’m about to get into, and how wrong I am about the hurt bit.