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Barnes and the Brains Book 3: A Crazy Case of Robots

Tina Quark has invented the ultimate robot! The Tinatron 1000 is programmed to perform any task flawlessly -- from cleaning to homework, and everything in between. When Tina asks Giles Barnes to robot-sit, the robot's perfect ways drive him perfectly crazy. And when Tinatron's circuits start to overload, sparks fly! Can Barnes and the Brains outsmart a renegade robot?

Read an excerpt...


A Crazy Case of Robots: Chapter One

"Kevin and Tina Quark! Local geniuses!"

Giles Barnes smiled to himself as he weaved through the crowds at the school science fair. He recognized Kevin's voice instantly, even though he couldn't see him yet.

The gymnasium was packed. It was difficult for Giles to even get close to some of the displays. So far he'd seen five entries on dinosaurs, three on volcanoes, one on optical illusions, and another on venus fly traps. He'd also seen an enterprising girl dressed up as an electron, whirling around the gymnasium and crashing into people. It was causing quite a stir.

"Local geniuses!" came Kevin's voice again, rising above the general din. "Capable of just about anything! Reasonable rates!"

Giles steered around a knot of people and finally caught a glimpse of a boy with curly red hair and a face splotched with freckles. He was standing in the middle of the aisle, trying to hand out business cards to passers-by.

"Hi, Kevin!" Giles called out, drawing closer. "Drumming up some customers?"

"Public relations," said Kevin wisely. "That's the key, Giles. Good public relations. And this is the perfect place for it. Look at all these people! Oh, hang on a second!"

Kevin swivelled round to face an elderly sidling past. "Excuse me, sir," he said, offering him one of the business cards. "My name's Kevin Quark and I'm a local genius and -- "

The man hurried by without taking a card. "His loss," said Kevin with a shrug. "Let me tell you, Giles, it's not easy being a genius."

Giles nodded, hoping he looked sympathetic. He'd never forget the first time he met Tina and Kevin Quark. They'd appeared on his doorstep, introduced themselves as geniuses, and told him there was a good chance his house was haunted. Since then his life simply hadn't been the same.

It might be difficult being a genius, Giles thought. But what about being the friend of geniuses? He couldn't remember the last time Tina had made a mistake in class. She could memorize whole pages from the encyclopedia. She could divide huge numbers faster than a pocket calculator. She even knew how to program her parent's video machine! And Tina and Kevin always seemed to be cooking up some new invention for their genius business -- fantastic contraptions which shot out sparks and steam and made shrill beeping noises.

"Wait until you see our science fair entry," Kevin told Giles proudly.

"Where is it?"

"Well, the thing is," said Kevin, lowering his voice, "it's not quite ready yet. Tina's still working on it. Some last minute touches. I'm a little worried it won't be finished in time. But come on, I'll show you."

Kevin lead the way through the throng to Tina's stall. Giles frowned. "What's going on?" he said in bewilderment. The stall was completely barricaded with large sheets of cardboard. Written across the outside in fierce black letters was DO NOT DISTURB, and TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED, as well as DANGER! HIGH VOLTAGE!

"Tina's taking this awfully seriously, isn't she?" Giles asked.

Orange light flashed through the gaps in the cardboard hoarding, accompanied by sharp crackling noises. Then came a high-pitched drilling sound.

"It seems she has some fairly big equipment in there," said Giles.

Kevin nodded in admiration.

"So, what is it?" Giles asked.

"Well I, um, don't know, to tell you the truth," Kevin replied, his face colouring. "She wouldn't even let me help out on this one. I've been banned from the workshop altogether for the last two weeks!"

"It must be something pretty special," said Giles.

"It makes sense, I suppose," said Kevin matter-of-factly. "After all, I'm only a little bit of a genius, so I can't expect her to let me in on all the inventions."

But Giles couldn't help noticing that Kevin looked a little hurt.

Quite a crowd had gathered round by this time, and whenever a puff of smoke drifted up into the air, or an electric snap sounded, there were oohs and ahhhs from the audience, as if it were all some marvellous fireworks show.

Kevin tapped respectfully on the cardboard.

"Tina?" he said.

"Who's there?" came a muffled voice.

"It's Kevin."

"Kevin who?"

"Kevin Quark, your brother!"

After a moment, Tina squeezed out between two panels of cardboard. She was very tiny, with precise blond braids hanging on either side of her head. There was a smudge of grease across her cheek.

"Good day, Giles," she said with a perfunctory nod.

"Hello, Oh Great One," said Giles with a grin.

"How's it going in there?" Kevin asked.

"I'm finished," Tina replied. A small smile shifted across her lips as she looked around. "I see we have quite an audience. Well, I hardly think anyone will be disappointed."

People were jockeying for position around the stall, standing on tiptoe, rocking their heads from side to side, hoping for a good glimpse of what was behind the barricade.

"What's going on in there?" someone asked.

"Is it alive?" another wanted to know.

"Is it dangerous?"

"Is it fit for children to see?"

"Stand back everyone, please!" said Tina.

With a flourish, she pulled a long piece of twine, and with an airy sigh the walls of the cardboard barricade fell gracefully outwards to the floor.

Everyone gasped.

A robot.


A Crazy Case of Robots, copyright Kenneth Oppel


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