Authors: Robert West
Attack of the Spider Bots
Copyright Â© 2008 by Robert West
Illustrations Â© 2008 by C.B. Canga
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ePub Edition June 2009 ISBN: 0-310-86104-7
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Editor: Barbara Scott
Cover design: Merit Alderink
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For Bill Myers, gifted writer and filmmaker, unselfish mentor and, best of all, friend.
Table of Contents
Becoming a teenager is like living in a sci-fi movie. You keep morphing into somebody else while emergencies are popping up all around you.
Case in point: Beamer tripped on the rock steps leading into their secret cave network. As Ghoulie figured out later, it was because Beamer's leg had morphed one-eighth inch longer than it had been the last time he climbed those steps. Then while Beamer was rubbing his scraped knee, Scilla picked up a faint noise. They listened until they heard a distant rumble and a repeating clank.
They called themselves Star-Fighters â Beamer, the exile from California; Ghoulie, the African-American brain trust; and Scilla, the girl who could do anything a boy could, only better. They got the name because of the spaceship they found high up in Beamer's tree. It didn't seem like much at first. After all, it was only a ramshackle wooden tree house shaped like a s paceship â no graphics card, no 3-D accelerator, nothing you could shove into an Xbox. But, hey!
You know what they say about looks being deceiving. That broken-down plywood box had already taken them to places no kid has gone before. And, in the process, they were finding a lot of strange worlds right where they lived â that being an ancient, pothole-ridden lane, only one block long, named Murphy Street. This cave labyrinth was one of those weird worlds.
Up till now, though, they'd used the caves mostly as just a shortcut home from school. But an unexplained clank, Beamer thought, was a good reason to start some big-time exploring. After all, a rumble could be lots of things â an earthquake, rushing water, whatever. A clank, though, was something else. Nothing in nature clanked.
So they were off. Beamer and Ghoulie were following Scilla, who was holding a lamp to light the way. She tracked the clanking and rumbling sounds up, around, and through the winding, cobweb-infested network of caves beneath Murphy Street. Luckily there weren't that many bugs, rats, and mice in winter. As usual, Scilla led them to a dead end.
“Scillaaaaa!” Beamer complained, remembering the time Scilla had led them into a brick wall when they were being chased by Jared and his bully goons. Now they were facing an unmovable rock wall. Actually, it was a pretty interesting wall. Symbols and pictures had been scratched or painted all over it â Native American, he guessed.
“Hey, it's not my fault!” Scilla protested. Putting her ear to the wall, she listened. “Don't you hear it? The clanking sounds are coming from the other side of the wall!”
After putting their ears to the wall, Beamer and Ghoulie had to agree that Scilla was right. “Okay, Plan B,” Ghoulie said. “The Indiana Jones maneuver.” As if the wall was one big pinball machine, they started punching and pulling every symbol and protruding rock they saw, looking for a trigger that would open a hidden door.
Finally, when their fingers were seriously throbbing, they stopped. “There's got to be another way in there,” Beamer said, blowing on his finger. “Let's backtrack.”
That's what they did until they found a side tunnel. Careful to scratch little rocket symbols into the wall so that they could find their way back, they again struck off into the unknown. Making one turn after another, trying to head in the direction of the clanking sound, they fought through major spider colonies and piles of rubble. Suddenly they heard another sound, this one loud and shrill. Scilla stopped abruptly and shouted, “Go back!” But it was too late. The next thing they knew there was a one-eyed creature with bad breath wailing like a banshee hot on their behinds. That's
as in “burn-your-buns hot” and getting hotter by the second. The Star-Fighters ran down a dark tunnel as fast as their middle-school legs could go, which wasn't all that fast since they had to run bending over like orangutans. The trouble was that the tunnel was so small they couldn't stand up â not even Scilla. Frankly their prospects didn't look good. In fact, you might want to see if anything is written on the rest of the pages. This could turn out to be a very short story.
Just an hour before, on their way home from school, the threesome had decided to take their subterranean shortcut. It wasn't all that short when you considered that they had to take a long ladder beneath the park, wind through a maze of caves, and then come back up and cut through a bizarre garden behind Parker's Castle. That “Castle” was Murphy Street's own little corner of Transylvania â dark towers, moat, and all. It belonged to Ms. Parker, who just happened to be the scariest person on the street.
Shortcut or not, that passage beneath Murphy Street had saved their hides more than once. It was their emergency escape route and their hideaway from bullying gangs. This summer, the caves had been lit up like Christmas from the clouds of fireflies and the moss glowing on the walls. With the coming of winter, though, the fireflies were burrowing into their tiny winter caves, leaving only the dim, creepy glow of the moss for illumination. That might be enough if you're a bat, but not if you're human.
Luckily the lanterns still worked, if you could really call them lanterns. After all, lanterns were supposed to have a flame, right? These didn't; instead, when you turned one on, it had a large round bulb filled with glowing liquid. The eerie part, though, was that the light was the same color as a firefly's light. Of course, the really eerie part was that no one knew who made them or how they worked. But somebody had made enough of them to place all over the caves so that you could find one when you needed it.
That was a good thing, since you couldn't always count on having a flashlight when an emergency turned up â like the one they were having now.
The bad news was that a lantern had guided them into the tunnel they were now wishing they could find a way out of. The good news? . . . They were still young, and their parents could probably get discounts on their tombstones.
The beast was almost on them, with its hot, steamy breath making them feel like shrimp on a barbie. Suddenly the tunnel floor slipped out from beneath them.
“Aiiiiiiiiii!” they cried as they flailed momentarily in midair. Then they fell. The next thing they knew, they were plunging through a chute â as in a water ride â and splashing into a fast-moving stream. The sound echoed all around them. They had the sense of being in a large space.