Read The 8th Continent Online

Authors: Matt London

The 8th Continent (15 page)

RICK FOUGHT AGAINST HIS BONDS, BUT THE CHAINS OF THE ROBOT BIRDS KEPT HIM PINNED TIGHT.
Their plastic wings dug into his skin, leaving red scrapes along his arms and legs.

The concrete sucker roared menacingly as it rumbled toward the helpless children. The nozzle vacuumed up the concrete like dust, crumbling it into nothing as it moved.

2-Tor flailed madly. “This is terrible! Horrible! My date of manufacture is much too recent for me to die.”

“2-Tor!” Evie shouted. The birds were chirping so loudly Rick could barely hear her over the noise.

“My circuits cannot take it! I think I leaked some oil. Oh dear oh dear.”

“2-Tor!” Evie shouted again. “Will you shut up and listen to me? It's urgent.”

The robot hooted. “What could be more urgent than our imminent demise? My only solace is that I will be destroyed along with you both. I could not face your father having failed you so.”

“I need you to do something.”

2-Tor stopped struggling and gave her a stern look. “Now is certainly not the time.”

“Now, I think, is certainly the time!” Rick squirmed frantically. “That machine is gonna get us!”

The concrete sucker inched closer. It was only a few feet away. Rick tried to pull his legs back, but the bird chains had him stuck tight. He shivered at the thought of the concrete sucker overtaking them.

“What can I do?” 2-Tor wailed. “I'm stuck.”

“2-Tor! 2-Tor!” Evie said. “I want you to give me a quiz.”

“A what?” 2-Tor asked, confused.

“A WHAT?!” Rick screamed. “How is that going to help?”

“A quiz,” Evie repeated. “Give us a quiz. Algebra, European history, anything. Please, just please, give us a quiz.”

2-Tor grew solemn. “Evelyn, I want you to know that I always thought you failed to value my service as your education augmenter. Now I see that you really do care about your studies, and I am humbled that you would choose to spend your last moments in this life gaining a sliver of knowledge from me.”

She glanced at the approaching concrete sucker. “Forget about all that, 2-Tor. Just ask a question.”

Rick could feel the hot air of the garbage sucker's nozzle on his toes. “Yeah, she's right. 2-Tor. Quiz us. Hurry!”

2-Tor's body went rigid, and his voice sounded cold and automated. “Quiz administration initiated. Begin comprehension evaluation now. Geography. Children, what is the capital of the United States?”

“New York City!” Evie shouted.

“Incorrect. Complete system shutdown in thirty seconds.”

The concrete sucker got closer, and louder.

Evie winced. “Can you make it fifteen seconds?”

2-Tor plowed on. “What is the capital of the United States?”

“Paris!” Rick answered, giving Evie a wink to let her know that he had figured out what she was up to. In spite of their crazy situation, she smiled.

“Incorrect,” 2-Tor said. “System shutdown in fifteen seconds.”

“Boston! Rome! Montreal!” Evie's voice rose with every word.

“Incorrect. Incorrect. Incorrect. Your performance is shameful, Evelyn. System shutdown in five. Four. Three . . .”

The concrete just beyond Rick's legs broke off and was snorted into the machine. His shoes came off with it. He knew his feet were next so it really didn't matter that he had six changes of sneakers back on the
Roost
.

“Two. One. Engage system shutdown.”

2-Tor's crow eyes turned bright red. Electricity surged over his metal exterior, just like it had when the EMP fried his systems back home. The blast cooked the internal computers of the little robot birds pinning them down. The birds fell away like dead insects. An even bigger surge of electricity rushed over the outside of the concrete sucker. The machine smoked and sizzled.

“Come on, run!” Rick brushed away the disabled robot birds and pulled 2-Tor to his feet with Evie's help. They ran away from the concrete sucker as fast as they could. As they reached the edge of the parking lot, they dove to the ground just before the concrete sucker exploded in a flash of light and rubble.

When the dust settled, Rick and Evie rolled onto their backs and held their bellies, trying to catch their breath. Rick couldn't believe they'd survived.

“Oh my sparks!” 2-Tor said, pressing his wings against the video screen in his belly. A big crack cut diagonally across the glass. “What happened?”

“2-Tor, you are on the fritz!” Evie explained. “When that EMP zapped you, it fried some of your circuits. We brought it out of you when you gave us a quiz back on the
Roost
. You shut the whole tree down, and we almost crashed. I thought that maybe it would work on Vesuvia's birds if I could get you to repeat what happened before.”

“A brilliant solution,” Rick said, amazed. “Truly, Evie. You saved us. I wish I'd thought of it.”

She smiled at him. “Thanks, Rick.”

“We need to contact Dad,” he added, rising to his feet and dusting himself off. “He'll know what to do.”

“But Dad can't use technology,” Evie said. “How are we supposed to reach him?”

“Maybe 2-Tor can help. 2-Tor, can you broadcast over the mansion's communication system?”

“I suppose I could,” the robot said. “But I am not feeling very top form.”

“We just need you to do one more thing, and then back on the
Roost
we will give you the best oil bath of your life.”

“Very well,” said 2-Tor, who was not a robot to pass up an oil bath. “Initiating communications relay in three, two, one . . .”

Evie called into 2-Tor's speaker box. “Dad! Dad, if you're there, please respond. It's Evie. We've made a lot of progress, but we're in trouble. This girl from our school, Vesuvia Piffle, has stolen the last piece of the Eden Compound. She's going to get the rest from Doctor Grant and take the eighth continent for herself. Dad! Please answer! We need your help to stop her, or we'll lose the continent. Please respond. Please!”

There was no reply.

“Communications relay deactivated,” 2-Tor said.

Throwing her hands in the air, Evie groaned, “Now what do we do?”

“Evie, I hate to say it, because you are not going to like it, but I think we need to call Mom.”

Evie's voice got dark. “Rick, these words are dread words. They are the second-worst words I have ever heard, a little worse than ‘We are all out of ice cream'
and not quite as bad as ‘You have to go to school on Saturday'. Do we have to?”

Rick nodded. “Yes, we do. Going off again to make the eighth continent. Finding Doctor Grant. Almost dying twice. We have to tell her everything.”

“This sounds like a terrible idea,” Evie said.

“If Vesuvia is going to take the eighth continent, we'll need Mom's help getting it back.”

Evie shrugged. “Okay. 2-Tor, call Mom.”

2-Tor's eyes sparked. “Internal database returned zero results for query: Mom. Would you like to search again?”

Evie looked to Rick, puzzled.

Rick slumped down on the curb. “Ugh. That last shock must have corrupted some of his memory. Try her full name. 2-Tor, call Melinda Lane.”

“Initiating Internet search for Melinda Lane, CEO of Cleanaspot.”

“No, no! Call her. Don't search her.”

“Returning 246,108 results. Displaying news stories from the past six hours.” The cracked video screen in 2-Tor's stomach brightened, showing a flurry of inexplicable images that made Rick's heart wither.

Rick's mother, in a trim pantsuit, stood on a dais in front of dozens of photographers. The caption read,
Cleanaspot CEO Seals Deal with Winterpole
. She was shaking hands with Diana's mother. They both grinned stupidly, looking like they were thrilled to be there.

“What?!” Evie stammered. “No! This can't be real. Mom is working with Winterpole?”

Rick sounded angry. “2-Tor, give me a veracity check. Where did you acquire this footage?”

“It is available on all business news networks. Such a merger between a corporation and an oversight organization is unprecedented. Usually, Winterpole would veto attempts to form such a merger, but in this case—”

“Winterpole
is
the group merging,” Rick finished sourly.

“We can't trust her,” Evie said. “Not until we know more about what's going on. She might be helping Vesuvia and Diana as well as Winterpole.”

“I hate to say it, but you're right.” Rick was so angry he almost didn't notice the tear rolling down Evie's cheek. There had to be a reason for this. He couldn't believe that his mom would sell them out and team up with Winterpole—not after all the work he had done to save the family. How could she do that?

But there was no time to think about this now. Vesuvia was on her way to steal the Eden Compound. They had to race back to the
Cichlid
and warn Doctor Grant before it was too late.

EACH HEAVY FOOTFALL ECHOED OFF THE METAL FLOOR AS EVIE AND RICK RACED THROUGH THE
submarine to Doctor Grant's lab, calling out his name.

They burst into his lab. The vats of Eden Compound churned noisily.

“I'm right here, children. It's all right.”

“Where's the Eden Compound?”

“What do you mean?” Doctor Grant asked. “I gave you a huge vat over an hour ago, when you brought me the fecundite mushrooms.”

“Us? That wasn't us. That was our nemesis, Vesuvia Piffle.” Evie kicked one of the vats and slumped to the ground in defeat. “Oh, Doctor Grant, she was pretending to be me. If only you weren't blind. If only we had been faster.” They were so close, and Vesuvia had snatched the Eden Compound from under their noses.

“BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

Evie looked up, searching for the source of this strange sound.

Doctor Grant leaned back in his chair, slapping his knee, highly amused. “BWAHAHAHA! Oh, Evie, I wish I could see your face. Listen to her, Rick. ‘Oh, if only you weren't blind! Boohoohoo.'”

Rick put little effort into hiding his grin.

“What's so funny?” Evie asked, hurt and baffled.

“You think I can't tell the difference between you and some punk pretending to be you? I knew someone was impersonating you the moment she opened her mouth. What a goofus!”

Evie wiped away a tear and smiled. “You mean—”

“You should thank those girls,” Doctor Grant said. “They brought us all the fecundite mushrooms we'll need. I distilled them into the compound and loaded the whole thing into this rain machine for dispersal. It's all ready to go.”

He wheeled out the rain machine and presented it to her.

“Wow!”

Rick had one last question. “Doctor Grant, if this is the Eden Compound, how did you get Vesuvia and Diana to leave? I can't imagine them just heading out empty-handed.”

“I gave them a dispersal device of their own. Oh, I wish I could be there when they use it. And that's not all. I had just enough compound left over to create a little demonstration. Watch this!”

He threw the switch, and the pipes thrummed. In the testing area, the sprinkler opened up over the bag of trash still resting on the bull's-eye. The liquefied compound splattered over the black bag, and suddenly the plastic shimmered into water. The garbage inside crumbled into moist dirt, and little blades of grass sprouted out of it.

“It works! Woohoo! The Eden Compound works!” All of Evie's wishes were coming true. The eighth continent would soon be hers, and she could share it with her family—that is, if they could ever free Dad from his squid-cuff, and if they could figure out what was going on with Mom and Winterpole, and if Rick . . .

Thinking of him, she looked to where he was standing next to her, watching the demonstration of the Eden Compound. His cheeks were red. Tears streamed down his face.

“Rick! What is it? What's wrong?”

“Nothing . . .” he said. “It's beautiful. I can't believe it. You were right. I see it now. Evie, you were right. We can build the eighth continent. There are so many possibilities. It's almost real. It's going to happen.”

“It is,” Evie said. She couldn't stop smiling. “Oh, Rick. Doctor Grant. We're going to make a continent!”

“We certainly are,” agreed Doctor Grant.

Evie felt a wave of relief wash over her. After all the danger they had faced in Japan, all the heartbreak with her mother. Finally, the Eden Compound was in her hands. Finally, things were starting to go right.

And then something slammed into the side of the sub.

The old metal hull groaned in agony, rolling onto its port side. Evie tumbled into the wall. Rick crashed against the hard surface beside her. Doctor Grant slipped out of his chair and hit the floor with a yelp.

The rain machine slid down the steep slope of the floor, careening toward Rick.

Evie grasped him by both arms and rolled him on top of her, just before the machine slammed into the wall beside them, hitting the spot where Rick had been sprawled out a second before.

“Whoa! That was close. I owe you.” Rick looked like he was dreaming with his eyes open.

“Don't get mushy about it,” Evie replied, pushing him off her.

They scrambled to their feet. “What
was
that?” Evie asked.

“I have no idea,” Doctor Grant said. “But I think we should get out of here as fast as possible. Come on, Niels Bohr. Let's go.”

Something slammed into the sub again, this time with a bang that made Evie's ears feel like they were going to pop off.

Then the impossible happened. An enormous pink robo-shark burst through the wall of the lab. Chainsaw teeth whirred violently as the shark flew across the room.

The shark tore through the far wall and out into the sea, cutting a path clear through the sub. Evie had no time to process this before a column of salt water surged into the lab, flooding the room.

Evie clutched the Eden Compound. Rick clutched Evie. Doctor Grant clutched Niels Bohr. And then wet darkness swallowed them all.

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