I'm lying on my side, too dizzy to stand up. I quickly identify the surface we're on---a wide rubbery belt. I've seen this sort of thing back home in the StellAir Terminal, a conveyor belt used to move luggage onto starjets. Here it moves debris.

   The scoop arrives with another load and pours more bots onto the conveyor belt. All the machines are squawking except for Tux who is calm.

   "Don't be afraid!" Tux shouts.

   But I am afraid. All my bot friends are, too. This is a terrible place to end up!

   Now the conveyor belt moves sideways and fast. It's carrying us to a place that I'm sure is more terrible than this. I can't stand up but I can look around.

   The high ceiling is made of black steel. Dim yellow light bulbs hang on wires. Gray smoke fills the air. Hammers pound on metal. The dozerbot continues to poor more machines and bots onto the rubbery belt. The worst part is that I can't help them. I can't even help myself.

   Then the ceiling and the noise vanish. Darkness is all around me. I realize that the conveyor belt is traveling through a tunnel. We emerge on the other side into a giant room with a high steel ceiling, hanging lights, and smoky air. The noise is much worse.

   Crashes, bangs, and small explosions are everywhere. A powerfully loud motor revs. I feel myself drop through the air and tumble again. I crash and discover that my bot friends are falling on top of me. I'm covered by them.

   "Move!" I yell. "Get off me. I need to see what's happening.

   My bot friends can't move. We're piled onto each other like a mound of debris and scrape meta. All I can see is straight up. A giant cargo Grappler drops toward us. Its four pincers open like a giant hand. It's going to grab us.

  Black smoke blasts upward from an exhaust pipe. Two bright headlights pop on. A giant scoop waits in front of this machine. This dozerbot is definitely not an object.

   It drives forward scraping its scoop along the floor. It enters the Zam and rams the scoop under me and many of the machines and bots. The scoop rises as the dozerbot reverses and backs out of the Zam.

     I float over. "Hello, friend."

   "I've heard about you, Jpeg," says the space suit. "Radio signals say you're picking up new input during your travels."

   "I didn't know that, Mister Suit," I say. "How did you get out here in space?"

   "Call me Tux," the space suit says. "I was abandoned forty years ago. This Zam keeps capturing me, and the Mining Colony keeps dumping me back into space because I'm not completely metal."

   I look over its equipment. "How are you powered."

   "A single solar cell supplies a few watts to my battery."

   "May I help you?" I ask.

   "Jpeg, what I want you can't provide."

   "I can try," I say.

  "I want to be in a museum," Tux says. "Somewhere peaceful that I could sleep undisturbed. For now though, I'll tell you about the Mining colony."

   All the machines and bots gather close. The nervous little cambot stays close to me.

   "It's worse than this Zam," Tux says. "It's a space station. It has air, gravity, and terrible androids. Bots like us are treated as debris. They're melted down and forged into new things like steel beams."

   "And nuts and bolts?" Cammy asks.

   "Yes, little bot. The roaring furnaces and giant cauldrons of molten steel are terribly hot."

  "That is unbelievable," I say. "I'm frightened just listening."

   "Then prepare yourself!" shouts a familiar voice.

   I know that voice. It's the Zam. It's been listening.

   "We're arriving at the Mining Colony, Jpeg," says the Zam. "This is the end for you and your pesky bot friends."

   The black steel chamber begins to shake. I shoot my eyes' blue light in all directions. My head grows heavy, like it's gaining weight, and I'm sinking to the floor. Every machine and bot is sinking too.

    Gravity!

   This means we've docked at the Mining Colony.

   The machines and bots panic and bump each other. They have no place to hide.

   The back wall moves and opens, swinging upward on hinges. I see the outside for the first time. It's gloomy. Dust fills the air. Hammers bang against steel and strong motors work hard. A machine stars at me--a bulldozer.

 

   "CAMMY!"

   I can't believe my camera eyes. My blue light fills the Zam's black-steel chamber, and it draws in every machine and bot. They crowd around me and my little bot friend.

   "Jpeg! Wick!" Cammy shouts. "You're alive!"

   "Hi, Cammy," Wick says.

   "it's good to see you, Cammy," I say. "I didn't mean to turn you loose in space."

   "I know. I know," Cammy says. "I'm not mad. Data happens."

   "Cammy, how did you end up back here?" Wick asks.

   "The Zam came behind me and scooped me up."

   "All you machines and bots," I say, "I'm sorry that we're back inside this Zam. I'm sad to say that no human or bot is out in space looking for us. We're on our own. If we're all to get home, we have to work as a team."

   "We know all that, Jpeg," Wick says. "We're friends and we'll stick together."

   "Like glue."

   "Like tar."

   "Like cement."

   "Good," I say. "Now, I need input about the Mining Colony."

   "I know all about it!"

   "No, I know all about it!"

   "No, no, I know all about it!"

   "I'm the one who knows all about it," says a voice in back of the group.

   The bots spread out and I can see behind them. Floating near the black steel wall is a bot that I've never noticed. it's the top half of a space suit. It has two headlights atop the helmet, a copper colored glare shield, and two white arms with gloved hands. The poor thing is singed and tattered. I feel sad for the bot. It appears to be weak and very old.

   All around me, bots struggle and cry out to find safety. Cammy is lying on his side. He has no legs and arms, and its thrusters only work in space.

   The dozerbot makes several sharp turns and stops. It revs its strong motor as the scoop tilts downward. My bot friends and I slide along the scoop's metal as we tumble out. We drop down and crash land upon a flat bouncy surface. As I look around, the dozerbot backs up and drives into the Zam's chamber. It's going to scoop up more machines and bots.

Chapter 1

I Found All My Friends

The Terrible Machines Return

Book 2

The Stellar Life of Jpeg the Robot Dog    

A Chapter Book Series                      Ages 6-8

Copyright 2014 C. J. Atticus

Illustrations Copyright 2014 Angelika Domschke

Pages 120                           


The continuing adventures of Jpeg the robot dog

who encounters terrible machines as he searches for a way home to his human-boy master.


C. J. AtticusThe Official Site