Table of Contents
PRICE STERN SLOAN
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© 2009 Imagi Crystal Limited / Original Manga © Tezuka Productions Co., Ltd.
Used under license by Penguin Young Readers Group. All rights reserved.
Published by Price Stern Sloan, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group,
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2009015778
eISBN : 978-1-101-15232-4
The class full of high school kids yawned in boredom as the lights dimmed. A digital film projected onto a big screen in the front of their classroom.
“The Surface,” began the film’s narrator. “A desolate wasteland populated by warlike tribes of primitive scavengers. It’s survival of the fittest for its unlucky inhabitants.” The image of a gleaming metropolis appeared on the screen. “And there we are, Metro City!” The entire city hovered over the Surface of the planet, held up by some unseen force.
Someone in the class groaned. Not another cheesy film about Metro City!
“The jewel in the crown!” boasted the narrator. “Beautiful, isn’t it? And all thanks to our friends the robots.”
A silver robot wheeled into the scene and began cooking a meal for a family, even reminding the father to call his mom on her birthday.
“That’s right! Whether it’s serving our meals, raising our children, or building our buildings, no job is too big or too small,” the narrator went on. “Including a lot of the things that, frankly, we just don’t want to do anymore.”
A car whizzed by and dropped a cup on the street. A robot appeared and happily swept up the can. Then ...
A truck whizzed by, running right over the robot. A family appeared looking worried.
“Don’t worry! The street will still get cleaned,” the narrator promised, as the broken robot was swept into a garbage truck.
The scene cut to a robot factory. Robot workers were making new robots out of parts that sped by on an assembly line.
“You see, robots are not only expendable, they’re incredibly cheap to make,” the narrator explained. “One robot is created. Then that guy makes himself a new buddy.” Now the screen showed a long line of brand-new robots. They marched out of the factory, ready to begin their new jobs.
“Pretty soon all those robots making robots adds up to a whole bunch of robots, eager and willing to serve you and me,” the narrator went on. “Thousands are created every day.”
“And it’s all thanks to this man, Dr. Tenma of the Ministry of Science, also known as the Father of Modern Robotics.”
Now the screen showed a tall scientist with a long face, an unruly head of dark hair, and a tuft on his chin to match. He wore a rumpled, white lab coat.
There was a low murmur in the classroom.
“Hey, Toby, isn’t that your dad?” a boy asked.
He spoke to the boy sitting next to him. Toby Tenma’s black hair was sculpted into shark fin-like points on the top and sides of his head. He was dressed neatly in a blue and red collared shirt and black pants. Toby rolled his wide, brown eyes.
“It sure is,” he said, trying to sound like he didn’t care. But inside, he was really proud of his father.
Back on the screen, the camera was focused on some children and a robot at a lemonade stand.
“Our friends the robots serve us,” the narrator continued. “Thousands are created every day, and thousands are disposed of in the great unending cycle that sustains life in our city.”
A garbage truck pulled up filled with old and broken robots. Then the screen showed hundreds of robots being pushed off the side of Metro City. They landed on a great heap of junked robots on the Surface below.
“Thanks for everything, guys,” the narrator finished. He chuckled. “May you rust in peace!”
Nobody in the classroom laughed at the joke. The lights in the classroom went on. The teacher, Mr. Moustachio, pressed a button on a remote. The screen went blank. He turned to the room full of kids.
“Okay, students. Pop quiz!” he said cheerfully.
All of the students groaned except for Toby. He actually looked pleased.
Mr. Moustachio passed out the papers. “You have three hours to complete the quiz. Begin.”
“I’m so busted!” moaned a girl next to Toby. The rest of the students muttered complaints as they turned over their papers.
Toby didn’t hesitate. He entered the answers into his desktop computer at lightning speed. Then he raised his hand.
Mr. Moustachio peered over the book he was reading. “Yes, Toby? Is there a problem?”
“There’s no problem,” Toby replied. “I’m just finished and I’d like to leave.”
The other students gasped.
“Finished?” Mr. Moustachio asked. He looked astonished.
Toby shrugged. “For rocket science, it wasn’t exactly rocket science.”
“Well, I don’t suppose there’s much point in you staying—” Mr. Moustachio began, but Toby was already at the door.
He grinned. “Good luck, guys.”
He closed the door behind him as the other kids whispered to each other. How could Toby possibly take the quiz so fast?
“Okay, settle down!” Mr. Moustachio ordered.
He checked Toby’s answers on his computer. The grade popped up on the screen: 100 percent. The teacher shook his head.
“Just like his father!”
Outside the school, a cheerful house robot waited to greet Toby. Orrin was an early model robot with a fairly simple shape. His head was a round, metal ball with two expressive eyes and a blue laser light for a mouth. His barrel-shaped metal torso was attached to the lower half of his body at the waist by a ball joint, so he could pivot in all directions. Orrin had two arms, but no legs; he rolled around on a single wheel.
Orrin paced back and forth in front of the Tenma limousine. He nervously practiced greeting his master.
“Hello, Master Toby,” he began. But that didn’t sound right. “No, no, no, no.”
He tried again. He had to get it just right. Master Toby could be difficult to please.
“Hello, young sir ... not young sir, that’s ... Hello! Hello! Hello! Young—how was. How. Hmm ... ”
Toby emerged from the entrance of the school wearing a baseball cap and carrying his schoolbag. Orrin panicked.
“Oh. Oh gosh. Oh my goodness!”
He quickly held the door of the limo open for Toby. “Hello, Master Toby. Uh, good—uh, did you have a good—”
Toby tossed his bag into the air.
“Think fast, Orrin!”
Orrin dove to catch the bag. He grabbed it just before it hit the sidewalk.
“Thank you, Master Toby,” Orrin said obediently. “Very good throw, by the way.”
Orrin stashed Toby’s bag in the limo and took his place in the driver’s seat. Toby sat in the backseat. A hologram of his father appeared on the seat next to him.
Dr. Tenma wore his white lab coat, just like in the movie Toby had just seen. His hologram sat stiffly in the seat, and both he and Toby stared straight ahead as they talked.
“Hello, son,” Dr. Tenma said.
“Hello, sir,” Toby replied.
“How was school?” his father asked.
Toby rolled his eyes. “Oh, great. Moustachio sprung a pop quiz on us, but I’m pretty sure I got a hundred.”
“That’s good, son. Very good, but I don’t want you to become complacent,” Dr. Tenma advised. “It’s very important to keep studying. Onward and upward, Toby.”
“Sure, Dad,” Toby said.
Dr. Tenma and Toby cleared their throats at the same time, in exactly the same way. It was easy to see that they were father and son.
“I’m aware that I promised to take you to that symposium on Quantum Mechanics, but I’m afraid I have to take a rain check again,” he said.