Note that this is not the final version and may change when the book comes out
Slube Scientist Nearly Wrecks Power Station
In a rather shocking display yesterday, an unknown slube nearly wrecked the power station for all of Gelago City.
The Gelago City power station, which had been offline for several hours, had been jammed by a large, black gem yesterday afternoon. A slube, name unknown, claimed to have a solution but for unknown reasons first blew a hole in the street and then set a tree on fire.
The slube proceeded to charge the generator with enough electricity to spin the turbines fast enough and force the gem out. Witnesses say this succeeded but that the dislodged gem was shot out of the generator and struck bystanders. No injuries were reported, and later inspection confirmed the generator was undamaged.
The gem in question was taken by a slube reported as an accomplice of the first slube. Some reports labeled her as the daughter of Mayor Caleco of west Hackney, named Cherry. Witnesses also identified a third slube who put out the tree fire with a nearby fire hydrant. The three disappeared soon after, with no reports on where they went or what they did with the gem.
The next day, Numer (whose black eyes had healed), Professor Zeth, and Cherry prepared to head out to Gelago City again.
“Absolutely not! Wasn’t just one day enough?”
Mayor Caleco stood in front of the Transpide, blocking… Well, he wasn’t really blocking them at all, but they still stopped.
“Of course it wasn’t!” Cherry said. She jabbed her thumb at the puny crystal in town. “Does that look like we found all the pieces?”
“Oh. Well…” Caleco paused. “I’m sure Professor Zeth and Numer can handle it now, right? They’ve proven themselves capable, I’m sure.”
“Dad, we talked about this yesterday,” Cherry said. “You can’t keep me from going!”
Caleco jumped onto the front of the Transpide and clung to it. “I’m sorry, Cherry, but I’m still going to try! I have to know you’re safe!”
Cherry and Caleco stared at each other. Cherry’s eyes were like a samurai’s staring down an assailant; Caleco’s were like a mother hen’s whose children were playing on a hungry cat.
“Zeth, drive,” Cherry said.
Zeth mumbled and looked between Cherry, Caleco, and the Transpide’s controls. Then Caleco yelped and slipped off the round Transpide to the ground.
The Transpide drove past him out of Nottle. “Sorry, dad!” Cherry called back, “but I have to do this! I’ll be back tonight!”
Caleco lay on the ground for a few minutes, moaning occasionally, until another slube came up to him and helped him up.
Numer, Zeth and Cherry returned to Gelago City and, like yesterday, went around asking residents about the shards. The following is another abridged list of the responses they received:
“Didn’t you ask that yesterday? Stop bothering me!”
With no help from them, the three slubes sat in the Transpide pondering their next move. Zeth read the day’s newspaper as they thought.
“Now what do we do?” Cherry asked. “We need a clue or something. We could just go looking all over the island, but blindly searching would take far too long. Am I talking to myself or something?”
“Oh, uh, sorry,” Numer said. He still found it hard to talk to Cherry directly. “I… uh… can’t really think of anything.”
However, like a magical, stupid coincidence, at that moment Zeth said, “Hey, look at this!” He showed them one of the front articles of the newspaper. “‘Slube Scientist Nearly Wrecks Power Station.’ We’re in the newspaper! And look, there’s a photo of us!” The photo showed Zeth slumping in the Transpide, Cherry with her face in her hands, and Numer just barely waving his arm at the camera.
Okay, that wasn’t magical or a coincidence. It was stupid, though. However, a few pages later…
“Listen to this. ‘Building Scheduled for Demolition Haunted? An old storage building on the east side of Hackney was scheduled to be taken down after years of neglect yesterday. As the demolition was underway, workers were reported as seeing a twinkling object fall from the sky.’”
“A twinkling object! The crystal?” Cherry asked.
“It says investigation led to the finding of a crystal, yes,” Zeth said. “However, it continues. ‘That night the work was interrupted when the workers’ tools seemed to take on a life of their own. Reports include shovels, buzzsaws, and jackhammers attacking the workers, apparently after the crystal that had been found. While the workers interviewed have had differing opinions on the origin of this event, they all shared the conviction that they would not be returning to the site anytime soon.’”
Upon hearing of the tools, Numer began to shrink downward against the back seat. He stammered out, “Uh… so… it’s probably not what we’re looking for, let’s try, uh-”
“They said it came from the sky,” Cherry interrupted. “What else could it be?”
“But, but they were attacked! By their own tools!” Numer protested, nearly hyperventilating. “Saws and nails and buckets and a wooden plank with a rusty nail in it and a Garden Weasel and-”
“That makes it even more likely,” Cherry again interrupted. “That sealed demon may be starting to break free. Maybe it’s taking control of those tools to stop anyone trying to rebuild the crystal.”
“Whatever it is sounds like something we should investigate,” Zeth said, starting up the Transpide. “You have the Mallet Blaster. If there really are demon tools or whatever, you’ll know what to do.”
On the east side of East Hackney was a rotting, wooden building several stories high. It had once been used for storage but over time was abandoned and left to decay. Dead grass surrounded it, and by now the building was almost ready to fall apart under its own weight. The air smelled of dust and rot, and it felt difficult to breathe when near it. The building seemed to just push people away.
Construction equipment was scattered around the building. They had begun to tear it down but, as the newspaper article said, had then left.
“This whole place looks like it could just collapse in on itself at any time…” Numer muttered. Every second the thought that going in was a bad idea increased. “Are you sure it’s safe to go in there?”
“If there’s a shard of the crystal in there, we have to go get it,” Cherry said. “It’s not that rickety-looking.”
“But in case it is rickety,” Zeth said, “perhaps the Transpide shouldn’t be brought inside. I’ll have to sit this one out.”
“You just don’t want to go in, do you?” Numer yelled, not wanting to go in himself.
“Of course that’s not the reason,” Zeth said. “I’ll be looking around for any shards outside, of course.”
“Come on already,” Cherry said to Numer. She got out of the Transpide and walked up to the building.
Numer took a sharp breath; she sounded irritated! He couldn’t have that! He hurried out of the Transpide and followed her to the building.
The door creaked open, one hinge broken and another almost as such. Inside the building was dark, the windows too dirty to let in much sunlight. Everything smelled musty and dusty. The wide room was all but empty, just a few crates by the walls. Several holes punctured the floor, the planks displaced, broken, and rotting.
No wonder they wanted to demolish it; it must have been bringing the real estate value of the whole island down by half!
Numer coughed from the dust. “The place looks pretty empty. Dark, too. And I’ll mention again that it looks like it’s going to fall apar-”
“LOOK OUT!” Cherry shouted, yanking Numer aside. Something whizzed by his head. Numer turned around and saw a circular saw blade wider than his head stuck in the wall.
“What… was… that?” Numer gasped out. The buzzsaw pulled itself out of the wall, floating in the air. It turned to the slubes, glaring at them with two red, glowing eyes that covered half of one of its sides. The light coming in through the shattered windows reflected on it, showing ten long, pointy spikes on its edges; it looked like a big shuriken, half a slube’s height.
“I think it’s a buzzsaw…” Cherry said, watching it.
“That I am! Once I was just a buzzsaw but now I am alive!” the buzzsaw proclaimed.
“It can talk? But… it doesn’t even have a mouth!” Numer said.
“Bah, so what? You don’t have hair!” yelled the buzzsaw.
“Well, neither do you!” Cherry yelled back.
The buzzsaw stammered for a bit before shouting, “I DON’T NEED HAIR! I HAVE SPIKES!” It again flew at them in a spin, quicker than anything they’d ever seen. Numer and Cherry dove to the side, and the buzzsaw whizzed past them.
“You know, maybe you were right about not coming here,” Cherry said.
“Then… let’s go!” Numer said.
“Leaving already? But the party’s just beginning!” Other construction tools—hammers, shovels, drills—now surrounded the slubes.
“We’re trapped…” Numer lamented. He was there to protect Cherry, but how would he do that when in pieces?
“Prepare to become sliced slube at the spikes of Slicer!” proclaimed the buzzsaw.
Cherry raised an eyelid. “Slicer? That’s your name? What kind of a name is that?”
The outer edges of the buzzsaw’s eyes fell in a sad expression. “You don’t like my name?” It floated closer to them. “Well then, how about… Cutter?”
“That’s even worse.”
“Spinning Cutty Guy?”
“That’s a joke, right?”
“Spinny Dasher Thing?”
“Are you even trying?”
“You aren’t trying, are you?”
Numer couldn’t believe it. “Is this any time to be helping it pick out a name?”
“I’ve got it!” The buzzsaw floated up and proclaimed, “I shall be called Sawn, and it is I who shall rebuild the shattered crystal!”
“It is after the crystal,” Cherry said.
“Oh? And are you going after it too?” Sawn asked.
“Uh, no, no!” Numer claimed, waving his arms. “Of course not; in fact, we were just leaving, weren’t we?”
“Good, then go away,” Sawn said, looking away from them. Numer began inching to the door, waving his arm for Cherry to hurry out. “I have more important matters to deal with. I’ve only found one shard of the crystal, and who knows how many are left.”
Cherry turned back to Sawn. “You have a crystal? Hand it over, then!” Numer pulled down at his face; it knew they were after the crystal now!
“So you are looking for them,” Sawn said, turning back. “Well, I don’t have any hands, and when I’m done you’ll be lucky to still have yours!” Sawn flew at Cherry again, its spikes front and center.
Numer jumped in the way and held the Mallet Blaster up, a great chink sounding through the room as he blocked Sawn. He struggled to keep it at bay with the mallet. “Get away!” he yelled at Cherry.
“What are you-?”
“This thing is a buzzsaw! It’ll slice you right open if you-” Numer screamed as he fell back from Sawn’s force. It flew down at him, but he blocked it with the mallet again.
“Why can’t I saw through this stupid mallet?” Sawn shouted.
“Well, I guess because it’s made of metal,” Numer said, scrambling up.
Sawn screamed and slammed into the wooden floor, sawing a circle around Numer. Numer followed Sawn, ready to guard with the mallet. The world jerked; Cherry yanked him to the side just before the floor under him dropped into a hole.
“Pay attention!” Cherry told Numer. She spun around and punched an animated shovel that had lunged at her.
“GET THEM!” Sawn shouted, popping out from the floor. All the construction tools charged at the slubes.
“Come on, Numer, we can handle them,” Cherry said and she dashed at a group of tools. She knocked them aside with punches.
The floor shook. Numer turned and saw a jackhammer pounding towards him. With a scream he fled as it chased him around the room.
Cherry had more luck at fighting. One of the shovels lunged at her, but she grabbed it and whacked other tools with it.
Sawn spun down onto Cherry, but she blocked it with the shovel blade. “How were you brought to life? The demon sealed underground?” she asked, the blade wedged between two of Sawn’s spikes.
“I work for one person only, and that’s The Conqueror!” Sawn shouted. It flipped the shovel up into the air out of Cherry’s grasp. Sawn then flew straight at her. She spun to the side, and Sawn whizzed by into the floor.
Cherry grabbed the shovel as it fell back down and slammed Sawn down through the floor. It crashed into a furnace in the basement, and a huge flame roared up. The chimney became a cannon and blasted soot and a shard of the crystal out over the roof.
“Say, it’s another crystal!” Zeth was fiddling with the Transpide’s dashboard outside. He watched the shard slide off the slanted roof and fall into a nearby well.
Zeth took a look inside. The well was wider than the Transpide and so deep that neither the bottom of it nor the shard could be seen through the murky water.
Back inside the building, a rivet gun began to shoot at Cherry. She dashed away, trying to find a way to get close enough to hit it.
Numer was still running from the jackhammer. He and Cherry crossed paths, and the jackhammer smashed into the rivet gun, pounding it to pieces. The jackhammer stopped and looked at the pieces. While it was distracted Cherry slammed it into a pile of crates. An anvil fell out of a broken crate and crushed the jackhammer.
“I’VE HAD IT WITH YOU TWO!” Sawn shouted, smashing up through the floor. The flying blade of angry death flew straight at Numer.
Numer panicked and fumbled with the mallet. Sawn was nearly upon him! Do something! Swing! Shoot! Numer did both; he swung the mallet and hit the fire button.
The resulting swing, backed with power from the energy shot, walloped Sawn. The smash sent Sawn flying back through the other tools and chopping them all to pieces. It slammed face-first into the wall; the crystal it held dropped to the floor.
Wait, where did it keep the… Oh, never mind.
“Now that’s a smash hit!” Cherry said once the dust had settled. “You even knocked his shard away from him!”
Sawn pulled its face from the wall. “What?” It saw Numer and Cherry take the crystal. Sawn shouted and flew at them once more. Numer charged up the mallet again and smashed Sawn with another swing; it crashed through a window, and its scream faded away.
Silence flooded back into the building. “So… what was that?” Numer asked. He found it hard to believe that he had just fought for his life against a bunch of living construction tools.
“It said something about ‘The Conqueror’…” Cherry recalled. “Maybe that’s the name of the demon. Whatever it is, this probably isn’t the end of it.”
“Great. Living tools. What’s next, a tree? Will we be attacked by a living building? Will we have to slay Mount Dynamo?” Numer wanted to back out. Actually, he had wanted to back out from the beginning.
But then he looked at Cherry. She gave him strength. She faced these challenges head-on. He couldn’t back out. “Well, at least we cleared out this place of those maniacal tools. I guess we should search the place for anything else.”
Cherry and Numer climbed the stairs to the second floor. Like the first, there was nothing of note to be found: just a few bags, a couple crates, some barrels… and then the wall exploded. The slubes screamed; a wrecking ball had smashed through the side wall. (Well, I guess a wrecking ball is something of note!)
“I don’t think we cleared out all the tools!” Cherry shouted. The massive steel ball was pulled out of the huge hole it created.
Cherry and Numer ran across the floor as the wrecking ball tore through the building. The wall was splintered. Sawdust and debris flew everywhere. Numer and Cherry squinted and held their mouths closed. Numer faltered and almost fell; Cherry grabbed his arm and pulled him along.
The two slubes hurried up another set of stairs on the opposite side of the room. When they reached the third floor it exploded from underneath them. A sandstorm of sawdust blinded them as they were thrown across the room. They collapsed to the floor, covered in cuts and splinters. The building shook as if a monster attacked it. Numer was unconscious.
“Numer! Wake up!” Cherry yelled, shaking him. He wouldn’t move. Through a gaping hole in the floor she looked down to the first floor. The crane had driven into the building to get closer. It was ready to pulverize them.
Cherry looked around at the walls and realized Numer was right. It took a wrecking ball for him to be right, but he was still right.
The wood was about to buckle. The building was going to collapse.
Cherry lifted Numer up onto her back and grabbed the mallet. She lunged for the nearest window.
The crane swung its wrecking ball; the floor under it collapsed, and it crashed into the basement.
Everything came down.
Outside, Zeth… uh… his head was inside the well. I think he drowned himself…
A roar sounded, and a storm of dust enveloped the area. The roar finally came to a great crash, and Zeth jerked his head out of the water. What was that? he wondered.
When the dust had settled, he saw nothing but a giant pile of dust and splintered wood. The entire building had collapsed. “Oh my word!” Zeth shouted. Were Numer and Cherry okay? He rushed around the building, looking for any sign. There was nothing. It would take hours to search through the debris, and that’s without all the cuts and splinters he’d surely get from—
The sound of coughing turned him around. Numer and Cherry were in a bush several meters from the ruins. “Are you two all right?”
“I think so,” Cherry coughed out.
“Am I dead?” Numer asked, lying on his back with his eyes closed.
“No, I think you’re alive,” Zeth answered.
“No, I’m pretty sure I’m dead. You should just leave me here.” Cherry pushed him over so he was lying face-down. “Okay, okay, I’m up, I’m alive,” Numer said, pushing himself up.
Zeth looked at the collapsed building. “You know, in retrospect, this isn’t a very safe place to go rummaging through…”
Zeth turned back to Cherry. She just stared at him, eyelids lowered.
“Okay, I’ll, uh, go get some disinfectant,” Zeth said, pointing to the Transpide.
As they rubbed disinfectant on and bandaged their cuts, Zeth asked, “What happened in there? Was Numer correct about the building collapsing?”
“Only after the wrecking ball,” Cherry answered.
“Wrecking ball?” asked Zeth.
“And a buzzsaw and a jackhammer and all sorts of tools!” Numer shouted. “… There wasn’t a Garden Weasel, though.”
“When we went inside we were attacked by a bunch of tools brought to life,” Cherry said. “I think the wrecking ball was crushed when the building collapsed, though.”
“So the newspaper was right!” Zeth exclaimed. “How could that have happened, though? I have heard of mechanical, sentient machines being developed on Derantu and Zhop, but nothing like construction tools suddenly springing to life.”
“I don’t know, but I think it has to do with the sealed demon,” Cherry said. “We’ll have to be on our guard.”
Once their cuts were bandaged, Numer said, “Hey, look!” He picked up a shard. “I guess this fell out when the building collapsed.”
“Then that’s two,” Cherry said.
“And another out here,” Zeth said. He led them to the well. “I saw another slide down the roof into here.”
Numer looked into the well. “Uh… I can’t see the bottom.”
“Indeed, it looks too deep for us to try and swim down there. Luckily, I finished some modifications to the Transpide while you were in the building. It now works as a watercraft!”
Zeth hopped into the Transpide and started it up. With a smile he said, “If I don’t make it, try to fish my body out. I always wanted my body cast in iron when I die.”
“Uh… okay?” Numer responded.
“Have you tested this yet?” Cherry asked.
“Nope! Now’s the time to test it!” Zeth proclaimed. Springs underneath the Transpide shot out, thrusting it into the air. The wheels shifted down and flipped onto their sides, moving inside the Transpide. It landed in the well and began floating on the water; fins and a propeller popped out, making it look like a mini-submarine.
“Now for the airtight test! I hope I don’t drown!” He pressed a button to close the Transpide’s casing, and the Transpide began its descent into the well. Numer and Cherry looked down into it as the Transpide disappeared into the murky water.
After a couple of minutes, Numer asked, “How long do you think he can stay down there?”
“I don’t know…” Cherry said.
Soon the Transpide resurfaced, a claw on the back holding another crystal. “I got it!” Zeth said. (Well, that wait was pointless.)
“Great! We’ll rebuild this crystal yet!” Cherry said.
“And also while you were inside the building, I finished work on an energy scanner. It scans the surrounding islands for a match on the crystal’s energy pattern. Matches then show up on this radar.” Zeth pointed to a radar screen on the Transpide. “See? Radar! With this, we should be able to find the rest of the crystal easier.”
“How long were we in there?” Numer asked, looking at the radar.
“Well, it was easy,” Zeth said. “I just needed to increase the range of the scanner I already had for readings on the crystal and I had been working on designs for Transpide water capabilities for months now.”
“Okay, where to next, professor?” Cherry asked.
“Interp?” Numer and Cherry asked. Interp: the other large island in the area. It was up north and home to the largest city in the area, Interpolis. “All the way up there?”
“Yes, of course. More shards fell beyond that of Hackney, and I thought it would be a good plan to start far-off and then make our way back.”
“Then it’s a good thing you made the Transpide water-ready, because it looks like we’re island-hopping,” Cherry said.
“I’ve never even been to Interp,” Numer said, shaking slightly but with a smile on his face.
“Neither have I,” Cherry said. “So what are we waiting for? Come on, boys!”
As the three of them began their watery journey north, The Conqueror received some very distressing news…
The Conqueror held Executive Spleech with his tentacle at eye level. “Er… unfortunately, sir. The transmission we received from the animator tells us the, um, new agent, er, lost the shards to the inhabitants of the planet.”
The Conqueror tossed Executive Spleech to the ground. “Very well. I will try a different approach.” He returned to the technological weaponry room.
“Sir,” said Executive Spleech, hurrying after The Conqueror, “I think you should know, our scans show that the inhabitants are leaving the island and-”
“I don’t care.” Wait, he thought. He could have them attacked at their destination. “No, actually, figure out their probable route. It’s time to fight them with their own creatures. Prepare to send down a portable Gene Splicer. Soon they will face one of their own inhabitants as a new agent of The Conqueror!”
 The other two planets in the solar system with life on them.