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All the planets, stars, and galaxies are open to me, almost as if I could touch them. Where once I saw the black void of space, a kaleidoscope of color has replaced it. I am absorbed in the wonders of the universe, and know I can soon reach them. The scene changes. I now see myself at a chalkboard, frantically scribbling down equations for a theorem of light-speed travel. I feel a sense of victory as I know I’m reaching the end, where everything fits together. I finish the theorem… I’m acclaimed as a hero… That’s when I wake up. My name is Josiah Smith, but everyone calls me Joe. Yeah, it’s not all that exciting of a name, but I was born with it and it’s the one I’m gonna keep. I’m an outcast from society, and I dream of somehow proving myself to the world. Fact of the matter is, I’m a genius. I have an IQ of about one and a half times my town’s average, but unfortunately, that isn’t really saying a lot. My parents were hoping for an ordinary kid. I guess I let them down. At least my school has a chance of going to the Observatory instead of doing Algebra Negative Four. Math class is way below my level, which is why I teach myself at home with my textbooks, pad and paper, and personal telescope. After a really stressful day, I just go up here to my room and hold my stuffed rabbit. I’m a wimp, and I know it. Strangely, Mom and Dad aren’t at breakfast when I climb down the ladder to the house Commons area. Our house has a central Commons, which holds the dining table, couch, and other necessities, and several ladders leading to the other rooms. In my opinion it looks like a stable with a notably high roof, but I’ve grown up with it this way and I like it. I guess Dad’s probably at an early business meeting, and Mom’s taken my little sister Brianna to school. I sit down at the table, gulp down my porridge, and meander over to the couch. I lie there for a few minutes and then sluggishly put on my winter coats. Bracing myself, I step out the front door. Zamboni Cliffs, Northern Minnesota, so named because of the old snowplow driver who accidentally iced the streets over; he later became leader of the force. It snows twelve months a year up here, and on a warm day it can get up to a full degree. The ‘garden’ is white, the roofs are white, the grass is white, and the homes are mostly green. With the lack of green anything else, the Homeowners’ Misassociation decided green paint would have to suffice. Zamboni Cliffs is a small village, with only four streets: Polar Place, Sleet Street, Blizzard Boulevard, and Walrus Way. I live midway down Walrus Way, which is kind of weird because of all the semi-aquatic wildlife it was named for. Our town is like a giant ‘plus’ sign, with the four streets branching off at right angles from a central Town Square. All the big decisions for the entire town happen there. The Observatory is also stationed at the center of town. That’s where the astronomer, Steve Falconing, works. The street slopes downward towards the Town Square, so I decided to pack my sled to shake things up a bit. To my surprise, across the street, it looks like Robert and Bobert have had the same idea. Robert and Bobert are identical twins, each with yellow hair, freckles, glasses, and enough jackets on that they probably don’t even need their sleds to go down- they
just need to trip. the Bank. but I have to turn my attention back to the front because we’re only a few more meters away from the Town Square. Bobert is about three meters ahead of us. and there’s a ramp in front to counteract the sleet. the Clock Tower. Robert always thinks of something. Robert and I are neck-to-neck at the front. Our heads pop out from the snowbank and we all start laughing like a trio of maniacs. and Robert and I easily catch up to him. I realize we’ve landed in the Zamboni Cliffs Town Square. guys!” I shout across the snow-filled street. “Wanna go sledding?” “You betcha. As I watch. I had almost forgotten. “One… Go!” Bobert finishes. Turning back to my front. and every Monday the Zamboni Force is sent out to make ice conditions more favorable for sled traffic. so we can sled back down to where we need to go on the streets. puzzled. Joe!” Robert calls back. He gets swept into the zamboni’s path. This is where all the important stuff happens.it looks like Robert had the good sense to ice down the bottom of his sled. “We’ve been waiting to try this!” With much effort. But wait. I have no idea what’s going to happen to him next. It’s a very lightweight thing. and I brought my speed sled. It looks like the force made a mistake that could work out in Robert’s favor. When my eyes adjust. For a moment I’m afraid he will be lost. Wham! Robert crashes into both our sleds. we could wind up as ice on the pavement. we meet in the middle of the street. but then I gain confidence again. I knew I should have brought a Bobert Boat instead! Just as I wonder what’s going to happen next. and if we’re not careful. Bobert calls the start. which isn’t really . Our school is a building that rivals the Town Hall in size. when suddenly… “Watch out! There’s a zamboni!” I call out in alarm. it’s a formidable combination.its Monday. Just for a challenge. very quickly. so we get going very fast. the Observatory *sigh*. I reckon that the street has a slope of about thirty degrees. we decide to race each other. And we’re off. but it’s served me well and I’m not getting rid of it. “One!” Robert and I shout together. there are four handy ski lifts at Ski Lift Junction leading to the tops of the four streets. I hear a high-pitched sound and see a shadow growing over Bobert and myself. By this time we’re reaching the City Square. Some important buildings include the Town Hall. Bobert and I steer clear to the other side. “Hey. sending all three of us flying into a snowbank. I wish I had one of those. Suddenly I lose control of my sled. “Robert! No!” I shout. The twins brought their boat sleds.this is a Sleet Street vehicle. But if I know Bobert. They’re both very fun-loving and zany. Bobert isn’t a very good driver. and the school. Combined with the natural slipperiness of the road itself. Man. and I kinda like them. Also. and I try to pull him out in vain. Boing! I look behind me and Bobert isn’t there. but Robert isn’t so lucky. however. and both the handles broke long ago. he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve. Robert climbs up the ramp to the top of the zamboni. “Three… two… um… what comes next?” Bobert asks us. the Library. packing up his compact trampoline jump system. leaving poor Bobert behind. These things are huge.
This happens every single day. or something like it. You will be required to show your work. thinks it boosts productivity. maggots. As we’re finishing up. the name is quite fitting.” he says. Frostbite got to nag you about today?” he jokes. “Excuse me sir. This will be due TOMORROW. Each of these steps will be a page long. and even I don’t know . Frostbite continues. Looking up and down the door. These five minutes are timed by a broken watch. “Okay. and since it snows here virtually 24/7. Gray is present everywhere in the room because the teacher. Only one of these locks is the real one. with gray paint on the walls and black ashes in the fireplace. Steve Falconing himself. “Why are there so many keyholes? “A little mechanical trick of mine. if we go to the bathroom at all (which Mrs. Your principal has handed the seventh grade class over to me for the day. what’s Mrs. He is a genius. snowpants. with the exception of Mrs.saying much. He also has the coolest gadgetry in the whole world. because there is a man standing in the doorway. followed by the twins. Mrs. “There’s some priceless stuff in here.” I ask. and then a long corridor with twelve rooms branching off.” She never likes to hand over control to anyone else. Mrs. Trudging over to the observatory. and I don’t want anyone getting in without permission. To make matters worse. which means that school started fifteen minutes ago and we’re all late. Frostbite counts as ‘lazy’) we have to stay five minutes after school. She bangs her gavel three times. and boots again. We walk outside to find a snowstorm rolling in from Blizzard Boulevard. And as your instructor. I think I hear an echo of a gavel banging back down the hall.I’ve only imagined how it looks. I’m so excited! Leaving Mrs. Frostbite. also happens every day. The street can be a pain to live on. One gavel bang translates to one gavel bang. Frostbite bangs her ever-present gavel five times. grinning. “Today we will be going in depth into the equation 1+1. we all go back to the front of the school and put on our coats. You will also--“ She breaks off. I realize that there are fifteen locks in all. Then he takes out yet another ring and opens the lock below that. I pronounce that we’re going on a field trip to the Observatory. It is a dull and square classroom. I’ve never actually been to the observatory. He is the person in the whole town I admire the most. Then he takes out another ring and opens the lock directly below it. Now. which is code for “Blah. and your solution must have a minimum of five thousand steps. Mr. Frostbite. which is a measure of frustration. Frostbite behind. I walk into the seventh grade classroom. and he is also very nice and friendly. She is a jerk. “If you fail to do your work. master of the observatory. I’m finally going to get the chance to see it for myself. and no student knows what happens there. but it can also make sledding much more fun than normal if you have a tailwind. you’ll have to scrub my dishes for a whole week. GET TO YOUR DESKS!” she hollers in that shrill voice of hers.” This. “So. “No matter.” A cheer erupts from the class. Blizzard Boulevard is known for its wind tunnels. especially not someone who actually does something worthwhile. Falconing takes out a ring of keys and opens the top lock. but it changes every time the door opens. There’s a jacket and entrance area. has come to visit us today. Mrs. one for each grade. At the end of the hallway is the staff area.
windows covering every square inch of the walls. as far as I know. And anyway. write on the chalkboard. and then stand on the right wall waiting for the rest to finish up. The door opens with a pneumatic hiss. Mr. The Observatory. I admire the architecture and design of a building. blizzard. and I would bet anything that it leads to the Observatory’s main room. Falconing was counting on many visitors when he built this thing. just use common sense. but the main lens is almost four meters in diameter. Even though it isn’t nighttime. Falconing turns the ship’s wheel to the left. This thing looks like it could withstand an earthquake. such as a computer the size of a locker bay. I can see the Crab Nebula in almost perfect detail through the primary telescope. a few random cannons that it looks like you could fit a person into. “I just hope that the main room is as interesting. While I’m doing that. “So. Falconing chuckles. then to the right. flood (do we even have floods here?). As is to be expected in any Zamboni Cliffs building larger than one room. a giant Newton’s Cradle. and tornado. and if not for the lens in each one. and I don’t think Mr. opening the door. After we all finish putting away our coats and start up the golden staircase. the bin is drawn back into the machine and another person’s bin pops out. and a portal labeled “Experiment Room” on the floor. “Just don’t move the primary telescope. such as when one of the spheres is made heavier than the others. all happening at once.which one it is right now. It’s a small area. a projector and screen. and then back to the left again. such as you might find in an airport. In the very center of the room is a telescope even bigger than the one in my dream. There are several warning labels on the door as well. “Okay kids. whaddya think?” “I think this is phenomenal already!” I reply. The eyepiece is about four centimeters across.” The next few hours pass in a blur as I experiment with virtually everything in the room. it would look like it was retractable.you all are capable of that. Falconing says cheerfully. popping out bins with the names of people in our class on them. Looking at the . Basically. right? Good. or fool around with the projector. and the cap is the main observation room. The main jacket claim is actually a steel conveyor belt on the left side. I’m awestruck by the massive hemispherical room we step into. When that person’s gear is put in. there is a black door with what looks like a ship’s wheel on it. and I can’t help but wonder if it was reused from something else. is shaped somewhat like a plant I’ve heard about once called a ‘mushroom.’ The stem is the jacket claim and golden staircase. There are about seven sections to the telescope. have at it. the first thing we see as we walk in is a jacket claim. I also figure out several properties of the Newton’s Cradle.” he says.” Mr.” “You ain’t seen nothing yet. I take off my gear and put it in the Joe bin when it pops out of the machine. Ah. here we go. There is also a chalkboard very near with several algebraic and calculus expressions on it that not even I can understand. At the top of the winding staircase.” “Why not keep all the rings on one keychain?” “Added security. Directly across from the door is a winding staircase that looks like it’s made out of gold. Near the telescope is a star chart listing all the constellations in the sky.” Mr. the manufacturer of these things made them fuse shut after a time. Other objects of interest are scattered throughout the room. Robert asks me.
Robert and Bobert appear out of nowhere with a pop! Mr. then starts laughing.P. The right wall is mainly composed of metal doors. then.’ Robert tries to go in. you seem like a bright young spark. We move quickly to the crimson metal door labeled ‘I. propping the portal open. thinking ‘pop over’ meant that we should make a pop noise as we went over. I wanted to go in first as well!” “Get out of the way!” “You get out of the way!” I turn to the astronomer. filled with the secrets of chemistry. “Okay now! I think you kids should pop on over to the third room on the right. Falconing pulls me aside.V. Suddenly I can’t see myself or the twins anymore. who just shrugs. Ah.” “But this is an observatory!” “For the most part. And anyway. really. but appears to get randomly thrown back against the wall. thanks!” Bobert says appreciatively. It’s also a laboratory. Just as I’m about to ask what’s going on. I just kept my arm brushing the carpet for fun until I hit upon a box neither of us could see. Falconing is still in plain sight.Cradle and other experiments around the room.P. this stuff down here isn’t just priceless. and I’m thinking about installing an improved snow deflector. I’ve no real use for it. It sounds like two people are fighting over something. I discover an equation that could change science forever: F=ma. presses the button. How did you do it?” “Simple. Falconing says.” Bobert says modestly. “We thought it would be fun to surprise you two. .” he says. and crimson and tan are everywhere in the room.pointed virtually flat. such as a pendulum attached to a pendulum. I’ve got something to show you there!” Bobert. we agreed I was going in first!” “You agreed. “Now. if only I can remember the combination…” “There’s another one for the Experiment Room? Why. “Say. but Mr.” “Wow. Down the hatch!” he replies. Just as I walk out onto the tan floor. if the only people who can get in have already been let into the Observatory itself?” “Extra backup.and fired me off. Bookshelves are on the left wall spaced between the experiment tables. mind you. “You can keep that thing if you want. here we go. “Okay. “You found my experimental Invisible Invisibility Device! I was wondering where that had gotten to. Strangely shaped beakers are located on tables throughout the room. Not all this stuff has to do with the stars. filled with multicolored chemicals of virtually every hue. I’m about to head over to the secondary telescope when Mr. boys!” Mr. so here we are!” “Jolly well done. “Robert loaded me into a cannon. Robert pressed the button—“ “—and we became invisible!” Robert finishes. I hear a scuffling noise behind me. “Stop shoving. it’s dangerous. Falconing shakes his head. You wanna come down to the Experiment Room and check it out?” “Would I ever!” I say excitedly. I can hardly believe my eyes as I step out into the rectangular corridor.
and this time it lets us through. it won’t. Strange crimson vats are scattered randomly throughout the whole room. Bobert will eat anything. There’s only one problem. The four of us make a dash for the door. Behold!” he says.” “No. gang. Do you have to be visible to go through this door. I’m a little anxious. Thirty-five seconds later. “Now. with a myriad of popcorn seeds in it. this one labeled S. Falconing forgot to put the lid on. you have to be visible to go in here. Trust me.crashing into one of the bookcases and causing several books to fall off the shelves. I can work on slowing that thing down. let’s try the next room. Due to the huge amount of energy put into them. I can channel the stellar energy I’ve collected into this stove. I’ve had him over. . Robert. and by pressing this big red button. too?” I ask Mr. and I pop back into the visible spectrum. Falconing. “If I know Bobert. drawing the curtain back with the rope. As we walk through the door. Mr. picking up the books. I collect stellar energy to power the machine that is located behind this red curtain. and we all start laughing. he tunnels his way to the cat flap. “Silly kids. Dials that look like pressure gauges line the walls. Let’s try this again when the invisibility field wears off. such as you might find in a circus or on stage. Falconing dejectedly. “Have I gained weight?” he asks. “Actually. “What exactly is this place?” I ask curiously. he starts eating like crazy. pressing the button. Mr. as soon as all that popcorn can be cleaned up by either the janitor or Bobert. and I can’t help but wonder how long it took to prepare all of this. but that’s probably not a problem considering his appetite. opens the hatch. I ask. and at night. “Okay. Anyone hungry?” he asks. followed immediately by the rising wall of popcorn. We have to close the door before it gets to us too. marked in tape with labels like ‘Heat Reception’ and ‘Watts per Hour. “This room is the Increased Velocity Popcorn Popper.T. “RUN!” I shout. That’s why I haven’t made many adjustments as of late. the popcorn seeds pop extraordinarily quickly. The machine he was referring to is a pot.A. It seems that he’s doomed until.” We walk over to the next steel door down. you need to be invisible. We try the door again. Robert. and forces his way through.’ At the back of the room is a red curtain with a yellowish rope next to it. but Bobert isn’t so lucky. and I make it out. on a stove. He gets swallowed up entirely by the popcorn. Another thing I find of interest in the square room is a big red button on a metal square. It’s probably going to take a while. Falconing calls cheerfully. making popcorn for all of us instantly. I’m about to open it when I accidentally press the invisibility button. Exercising his jaw muscle to the max. though. It’s a phenomenal sight to behold.” Mr. “I measure the weather here. but Bobert gets trapped inside. Bobert. filling up the pot at virtually the speed of light. “Dang. Even so.” I say. as I watch. Falconing says. Would you mind pressing the button again?” I do as he asks and we all turn invisible. he’ll suck up food like a vaccum when it’s offered to him.” Mr.
” he says. which has a door that’s already open a crack. Falconing presses the button. and then lands on a single domino on a ledge.T. bumping into the invisibility lock. which starts rolling down its own ramp. and I get a striking sense of déjà vu. This room is significantly less cluttered than the other two we visited. we pass through the door without much difficulty. On the other end of the scale is another red ball. Sure enough. as evidenced when Bobert says.” Mr. used only by him. standing up and snapping his fingers. “It’s a thing of beauty.” A few months ago. until the end when a pulley is activated and a weight drops onto the toaster’s handle. I press the button and make the four of us invisible again. Bobert.” Robert. Mrs. but the woodpecker wouldn’t cooperate. Unseen. Joe. “I’m getting a striking sense of déjà vu.” Robert asks tentatively. The machine converges onto a wooden platform in the center of the room. “He gave me this after he developed a Deflector v2. she’s evil. After we finish our toast. “To the Deflector Room! – Ouch. A complicated machine is spread out across all four walls.“How does the door know whether the person walking through is invisible or not?” “That would be your teacher.5. and I’m sure everyone will want one. The last domino falls over another ledge and tips a scale ever so slightly.a crystal display at the back. Falconing explains. I got it from another inventor who lives on Polar Place. gesturing to the five snowflake-shaped dents in the crystal. we walk down the corridor to the crimson door at the end of the hallway. She never finished placing the lock in. The domino falls over the ledge and starts a whole chain moving and falling over. “The Simplified Toaster Activator. The only downside is that it can be somewhat hard to set up again. This kookiness happens throughout the machine. What did you expect?” he says as we go in the S. Somehow she gained access to the Experiment Room and installed a blocker.” “Wow. On top of the platform is a random toaster. I’d almost forgot. we all get toast. Don’t ask me how. “Is it safe to go in? I don’t want to get thrown back against the wall again.0 myself. Thing is. Thirty seconds later. Falconing remarks. but whenever more than one person goes in at a time.” Mr. with only one object in it. It looks like a giant marble ramp. Mr. falls down several ramps. I ask. “but .” he continues. room. Falconing says. and on the side is another big red button. Frostbite. “No worries! I caught your teacher in here just as she was preparing to do this door.A. and it also gives the appearance of being one-use. this deflector is activated by five Crystal Snowflakes. “What about that improved snow deflector thingy? That was the reason you brought me down here in the first place. A red ball comes out of what looks like an elevated mousehole in the wall. and the machine starts to do its thing. Robert had tried something like this to sharpen his pencils more quickly. I don’t know. but no matter.” “Thank you. apart from Bobert’s hair randomly standing up. something very random always happens to one person.” Mr. Apparently some Rube guy came up with this thing.” “She’s my mother-in-law. “I didn’t actually create the Deflector v2.
School’s over for the day. I roll my eyes. 2:48.they’ve been scattered about the town. Fortunately. excitedly zipping in circles around me. At the front of the room is a desk. “Mom heard that you need a new sled and said that I could ask if I could go with you.” “Will do! Come on. and back out to the coat claim.” Bobert finishes. The others are hidden on the streets. As it turns out. The four of us hike up the sidewalk to a store named ‘Noggin’s Toboggans’ and go inside. As we’re walking over to Sleet Street to find a sled shop. more completely destroyed than it was in the morning. I hear a voice behind me saying excitedly. Just… stay out of trouble. The rest of the class seems to have already left for home. “Well… okay. “Me too. The store is a square. through the black door. Let’s check it out. DIT-DIT-DIT.I don’t want to risk your teacher breaking in here and messing everything up. Sleet Street is the least fun street for sledding. DEE. feeling a tad sheepish. so it’s a bit better today. down the golden staircase.’ He might be able to lead the three of you to the first snowflake. We go down the hallway.his shop is known as ‘Old Inventor’s Old Inventions. “Hi. but not exactly in perfect condition. but it was confiscated by the Town Bank and is in a vault somewhere. the town clock sounds the time. back into the Observatory’s main room. DAP. “Actually. Robert’s and Bobert’s boats are okay. “I forgot.” Mr. one snowflake per. “Good luck to the three of you. each snowflake has a clue to the whereabouts of the next one printed on it. Several have been modified to be steerable. “Alright then! In a way that somewhat reminds me of a cliché old movie. alright?” “Yay! I will. with pictures of toboggans everywhere on the walls. where did we put our sleds?” I ask. let’s go.” Robert suggests. and behind the desk is the shopkeeper. guys. Brianna.” “I can’t leave the Observatory. the Zamboni Force gave it a runthrough this morning. DONG.” I say to Robert and Bobert. I did have one.” Robert puts in. “Maybe they’re still in that snowbank we landed in when we came down.” Bobert notes. Joe!” she says. Joe!” I turn around to see my little sister Brianna looking happily up at me.I’ve not been able to find them. Mr. Falconing salutes. “Hi. What are you doing here?” I ask. “Would you three be willing to go out and find them for me?” “I’m in. “Bring the five snowflakes back to the Observatory as soon as you can. but my speed sled is now completely destroyedthat is. put it on. “You need a new sled.” I say without hesitation. and step out the door. Can I come? Pleeeease?” Brianna begs. Go seek out the old inventor on Polar Place. I take my gear from the Joe bin. “Me three. green room. because most of the snow has turned to sleet on it. As we’re getting ready to leave. DONG. the sleds are still there. and they all look extremely fast. . Noggin.
We step back outside onto Sleet Street and decide to sled down to the Town Square. Falconing has a hunch that the first one is on Polar Place.” I reply as we walk over to the very center of town. “So. It has a rope in front to steer and is labeled as a ‘v2. two goes to No Brrrglars Aloud.” I point out. but this is one thing where every time is like the first time. It turns out that to find the building. three goes to Snowflakes Unlimited. what can I get you kids today?” Mr. and consider making a map when our quest is all said and done. Brianna gets in the back of my toboggan and we set off.” “Why is it called that. Due to the little yellow bell on the top of the door.0 sled’. “These things can be kinda dangerous. We’re all grateful for that. The Observatory. “Steering or speed? Oneperson or two-person? Wooden or metal? You name the toboggan. viewing this from the sky. until he gets to Old Inventor’s Old Inventions. because Polar Place is very cold and we don’t want to stay out here any longer than we have to. When we finally reach the street’s summit. “Brianna. “Sounds good.“So. Ski Lift Junction. What strikes me first is this building’s similarity to Noggin’s Toboggans. kid.” I say. four goes to…” Bobert insists on reading all the building names and their corresponding numbers aloud. then immediately take the ski lift to Polar Place. and hand it to the cashier. take out a twenty-five Snowbuck note. Fortunately for the four of us. “One goes to Frozen Frisbees. now seems infinitesimal in comparison. Mr. the ground quickly zooms away. we hear a ringing sound when we go into the building. I step off the ride and duck to avoid being hit by the next chair in line. kid. Robert had the good sense to grab a map of Polar Place back at the Junction. That’ll be twenty-five Snowbucks. ask the SI guys. One of them catches my eye. until Robert points it out to him. The chair jostles me back and forth as I move along its course. Noggin asks. Their factory is far out of town. I have it. supported by four poles.” I look carefully at the toboggan pictures on the wall. about a day’s hike.0 will last you a lifetime. I make sure that I’m going on the ski lift marked with a polar bear. Have a nice day!” he calls. massively enlarged round table. which once appeared monumental in size. “I’ll take the SI-590 v2. then hop on. That one he accidentally skips. and the fact that there are . The others do the same.0.” I search around in my pocket for my wallet.” “Deal. “You’ve made a wise decision. a metal one with enough space in it for Brianna and myself. “We’re trying to find five Crystal Snowflakes to activate a snow deflector. with the same green walls and wooden desk at the front. Four systems of chairs run day in and day out. reading the label. The only two differences I can see are the storekeeper behind the desk. Ski Lift Junction is like an indigo. the SI-590 v2.” Before my eyes. I can see the entirety of Polar Place below me. Bobert tries to figure it out. much to my interest. I’ve been on the ski lifts before. all we needed to do was look to our left. anyway?” Brianna asks. anyway?” “Don’t ask me. never stopping. I feel like I’m more than a thousand feet up in the air. what are we doing.colored. you should buckle in.
but at least we don’t stay too long in the cold temperatures. Look for the Puzzler’s Puzzling Tower.” As the inventor hands the Snowflake over.’ It’s near the top of the street. and I reckon it’s about five stories high. just pop on over to my store and I’ll see what I can do for you.” Directly to the left of the entrance is a similar entrance. Bobert cranks open the drawbridge and we all step inside.” I explain.” “You want proof? Watch this!” Robert says. Later. Like Mr.blueprints of inventions on the wall instead of toboggan pictures. we have nowhere near as much trouble finding the Puzzling Tower as we had with Old Inventor’s Old Inventions. ho. and it looks like someone transported it here from the Middle Ages. In a squareish space at the back of the room. Suddenly it appears none of us are there anymore. On both sides of the lounging space are what look like tunnel entrances. boys. Steve Falconing sent us. and immediately notices a building marked ‘Puzzling Tower. “Ho.” The main tunnel entrance we’re interested in is the one to the right of the doorway. It is labeled “Return.” the Old Inventor says as we pop back into sight one minute later. pressing the invisibility button. “Yes. To answer this next mystery. I can see that you do indeed deserve the first Crystal Snowflake. there is an inscription carved into the snowflake: The Puzzlemaster holds the key. The main lobby is a comfy-looking room. we decide to take the ski lift back to the Town Square. one labeled “Easy level” and the other labeled “Medium Level. spinning around in circles.0. To help the machine gain all its power. Brianna grabs a map of Sleet Street to look at for fun. with vintage sofas and everything. I’d love to give it to you kids. at the top of the street. “Whee. not even the inventor. so we decide to take the ski lift again. this is fun!” Brianna giggles. The tower looms above all the other buildings on the street. “What can I do for you kids?” the Old Inventor asks in a creaky voice.” There is a small stand by the entrance that has a . I can’t help but marvel at its architecture. but I need some proof that the astronomer actually sent you first. “If you need anything else at any time. I think. Because this is Polar Place and not Blizzard Boulevard or Walrus Way. “We’re looking for a Crystal Snowflake to activate the Deflector v2. kids. this one with a closed wooden door. labeled “Snowflake Level. we’re all back in Ski Lift Junction. and several medieval chairs and sofas. Here you go. “A Crystal Snowflake. Happy collecting!” he waves as we walk out the door. and were it shrunken down a bit. How puzzling. here it is! I had almost forgotten about it. a coffee table. eh? Let me think… Oh. The tower is made out of stone. Falconing said. It seems to be made out of pure quartz. I could easily mistake it for a real snowflake. Before we know it. there is a fireplace. It doesn’t really save time. ho! Very well done.
ominous voice comes out of the blackness. “He put a glass of water on his head instead of submerging it?” “COR-RECT!” Proceed to the next elevator!” the voice booms. We step into the tunnel entrance. “Um… a tadpole covered with fur?” “COR-RECT! You may proceed to the next elevator!” the voice booms triumphantly. and the same voice out of nowhere. We go across to the elevator and go up to the third floor. “He poofed out his cheeks real big!” “WRONG! Final contestant!” Robert guesses. This chamber is also exactly the same as the other two. “Final question! What is thirty-five to the r power times sixty-seven to the n power divided by ninety-nine minus eighty-seven to the c power time five hundred and sixty-four to the ninth power?” Brianna guesses. “He collected the money in the afterlife?” “WRONG!” Next contestant!” Brianna guesses. four brave contestants! You have entered the Puzzling Tower. the same darkness. There are the same torches. He succeeded and won the money. “Five z plus . which turns out to be an elevator. well knowing that this all depends on me. which is identical to the second one. torch-lit room. How?” Bobert ‘guesses. “A frog with big ears and long teeth and a tail and fur?” “WRONG! Next contestant!” Robert guesses. much smaller than the lobby and with hardly any light. and we all go in. is it forty-two?” “WRONG! Next contestant!” Bobert guesses. The elevator takes us up to the third floor. you will gain the Crystal Snowflake. “Your first question: What do you get when you cross a frog and a mouse?” I guess first. “Fly flavored cheese?” “WRONG! Next contestant!” Brianna guesses. the same stone walls. This is a square.picture of a Crystal Snowflake on it. and the wooden doors close. If you should succeed. “Just to be safe here. bewildered. and we hear the same voice yet again. “Question number two: A boy bet a thousand Snowbucks that he could hold his head underwater for half an hour without scuba gear or a snorkel. “Going up!” Brianna says excitedly. A booming. A wooden door identical to that on the previous elevator opens on the other side of the room. bouncing up and down. I can’t really see why we had to go up.’ “Um… um… um?” “WRONG! Next contestant!” I guess. “A headache?” “WRONG! Next contestant!” Robert guesses. “A weird number?” “Not the answer I’m looking for! Final contestant!” I blurt something out. The elevator dings at the second floor. “Welcome. “Brianna’s guess with whiskers?” “WRONG! Final contestant!” Bobert guesses.
I whisper in my little sister’s ear. except for Brianna. “Well. the Puzzlemaster turns to us in surprise. This time. “Don’t worry. He wears a black bowler cap with a yellow bow on it. “Oh.” I say unreassuringly as the elevator dings. “We came all this way just to go out in defeat?” “You’ll have to! I deny you your prize!” the Puzzlemaster proclaims madly.” Brianna sniffs. crossing his arms. who looks at her with surprise. you won’t have it! I’ve grown very attached to the thing. and is as spacious as the lobby. who has her head down moping. handing us all Certificates of Merit. Puzzle!” she says. and looks somewhat like a circus clown. all right. blue suspenders. my. Congratulations!” he says proudly. “What’s the problem?” I ask gently.” “What?!” I stammer. He then comes up to us as well. you’ll get your chance! I don’t think the Puzzlemaster will let us off that easy. His nose is very large. “Well… I don’t know…” “Pleeeease?” Brianna begs again. Congratulations!” he grumbles.” “Will do!” she beams. In the middle of the room is the Puzzlemaster himself. Just… be careful with it. If the castle were actually in the middle ages. After a moment of silent struggling. which is strange for her.see if you can persuade the Puzzlemaster to give you the Snowflake. Mr. handing each of them a certificate. unhooks the Crystal Snowflake. “Please. staring up at him with her big blue eyes. as the Puzzlemaster climbs up a ladder. There is an ornatelooking throne on the right. can I have the Crystal Snowflake? Pleeeease?” she begs. Mr. okay?” “Yay! I will. mud-stained boots. He is a man of great height. Puzzle. Apparently he was paying so much attention to myself and the twins that he never even noticed her standing there before. He wears an orange shirt. . the Puzzlemaster says. you’ve beaten the Snowflake level! I’ve not had that happen in years! So. You are hereby promoted to fully fledged puzzlers. Brianna toddles up to the Puzzlemaster. and suspended on the left wall is the Crystal Snowflake. I feel really dejected for a moment. It’s made completely out of white marble. and gives it to Brianna. you did beat my tower. “Brianna. you have to go up there. “Well. so now I have to give you all certificates now. As they head into the return elevator.two!” “COR-RECT!” Proceed to the final elevator!” All of us are really happy that we passed every puzzle. “My. now. the room we step out into is completely different from the other three. I guess I have to give you that Crystal Snowflake you kids are always after. but then I regain confidence again and come up with a plan. and he has yellow whiskers and hair. bewildered. “I never got one right! I’m sad. Especially not a trio of tough-looking boys. At the moment he is talking to a family of four who just came out of the Easy elevator. this would be the throne room. and I’m not giving it over to anyone. and brown. “You are hereby promoted to fully fledged puzzlers. Use all your five-year-old charms.
I think we should take the ski lift down.” Bobert suggests when we’ve made it to the start of the street. I hear a rattling noise behind me. “Definitely. what does the second Snowflake say. “Lemme check. trying to keep an eye out for anything interesting. and you’ll be in need of a bag to carry all those snowflakes. Suddenly I hear a squeal of excitement from Brianna. putting both Crystal Snowflakes into the bag. here it is. “Oh. “Maybe the snowflake is in the hands of someone who’s not hungry. We all step in the elevator. It blinks at us. Bushes? I think quizzically.” I say. “So.” “That was weird. “Ah. I knew there were lots of semiaquatic mammals here. “What about that cake thing? I like cake!” Brianna pipes up. stepping off the elevator. as you’ve already seen. thanks!” I say appreciatively. and this is Walrus Way. there you are. handing me the bag. Perfect for sledding. but this is ridiculous. “Déjà vu.“Oh. Still.” Bobert notes. take the Return elevator back down to the Lobby.” I say. “An animal’s street now holds this next flake. but at least we know that it’s on Walrus Way and not in a building. “I guess we’ll have to figure it out when we get there.” I say when the boy has gone back inside. not even a cake.” We continue hiking up the street. Because Walrus way is known for its semiaquatic wildlife. “Indeed.” We all agree. What I find strange is that we haven’t seen any walruses yet. and picks up the platypus. take my red one. Out! Out!” he shouts. Suddenly a boy runs out of his home. then waddling off. Barry. runs across the street. let’s go home.” the boy says to the platypus. and we’re back in Ski Lift Junction before we know it. we decide to walk up Walrus Way instead of taking the lift. I turn around to see a platypus looking up at me blankly.the zamboni’s effect should have worn off by now. . and sure enough. As I’m about to reply. “Meanwhile. They should be running amok. I’ve no use for it. Nothing’s grown here for ages. I think his head reminds me somewhat of a triangle for some reason. I think. “Wow.” Brianna notes.” I reply. we’re liable to encounter some as we go up the street. Just don’t try to look near anything green. No food can claim it. taking it out of the bag.” he says. there’s a baby walrus on the side of the road. “Look! A baby walrus!” I look where she’s pointing. then scampers off in between some bushes. Might as well take a look at it. because all the Walrus Way buildings are green. anyway?” Robert asks me. it isn’t green. For the sake of searching carefully. “Come on boy. Here.” “That’s just a little more vague than the last one. “Go.
Race starts at 4:07that’s eight minutes from now! Winner will receive fifty Snowbucks and a keepsake . followed closely by the mother walrus. As I watch. I’ll be back. We all get in our sleds and decide to race each other as a warm-up for the Blizzard Sled Race the snowflake mentioned. then when Brianna appears unfazed and smiles. she mouths. I notice for the first time a dashboard on the front of the sled. he can never stay ahead for long. The mother growls at her as she bursts into the grove. I read the inscription aloud. and you do need a break. Going down the street. including a jump. My eyes widen. “Blizzard Boulevard Sled Race.0 toboggan. nowhere near as cryptic. “What’s it say?” Bobert asks.” I remind him. This should be a bit easier with my new SI590 v2.” I say.” “That seems pretty transparent. is followed by her babies. but I decide not to mess with it. “It says. “Go!” Bobert shouts unexpectedly. Our three sleds end up in a tie. Mostly Robert’s sled and mine and Brianna’s toboggan are nice and even the whole way. As we head back to Ski Lift Junction yet again. Before I can stop her. Thinking back. The walrus. Several baby walruses are gathered around their mother. “Race your sleds at the top of Blizzard Boulevard to win fantastic prizes! Every type of sled will be allowed.” Robert notes. Because the mother walrus isn’t sitting on it anymore. Brianna reaches out her arm and pats the walrus on the head. Brianna comes back out of the grove. and I can’t help but wonder whether Brianna feels like the Pied Piper. Bobert decides to call the start. If you are to claim the fourth Snowflake you need. Head back to the ski lift. Both of them look very pleased. but first she says goodbye to the mother walrus and her babies. however. “You’ve made it this far. considering Bobert’s steering skill. in turn. She nods her head in agreement. Very clever. “Yeah. she sticks her head out. Whatever he does. but we still aren’t going very far. arms to pull us back.” he reads. but Bobert keeps fallng behind. and even a propeller. and I show her the newly acquired Crystal Snowflake. and we look into the grove the baby walrus went into. Brianna stands up and walks around. Robert notices a flyer with a snowflake symbol on it. She squeals in excitement and claps her hands together. I grab the snowflake and place it into the Puzzlemaster’s bag. there’s a chance you should take! The call to the Blizzard Sled Race you should heed.I motion for the rest of the team to come with me. motioning with my arm. and motion for Brianna to get out of there. the last number is one. Bobert tries everything imaginable to gain distance again. let’s sled down to the ski lift. it was probably a good idea to get a head start that way. Brianna climbs inside. Come on. “Three… two… one… zero… negative one…” “Bobert. I can clearly see what she was sitting on. who seems to be sitting on something. It’s a Crystal Snowflake.
and the sled jumps off into the air. “Come on. snow. guys. let’s catch up to him. I’m in the middle of a cloud bank up here. “Uh oh.” I tell Brianna. Blizzard Boulevard was picked for this race because it is the longest street by far. The official judge calls the start when the time comes. In true Bobert fashion. Our velocity from the fall is only slightly diminished. Wham! Not used to seeing a sled fall from the sky.0! I’m the only one who has one!” he cackles. and I prepare for impact as we go back on the street. I can tell this is gonna be sweet.er. and there’s also a tailwind today. and then immediately dive the sled down towards them. then speeds off. and I can see the entire town. Brianna squeals in terror. “This is an SI-590 v3. Bobert falls into every one of a three-pitfall series. and you should really try it sometime. however. where people have long since started gathering. We take the ski lift marked with a snowflake up to the top of the final street.” As we spiral towards the side of the road. And the fifteen sleds are off. as well as a pair of joysticks. I use every jump available to navigate Brianna and myself up to the front of the pack. “We’re taking this race to the skies!” I seek out the other contestants. All good things have to end. and a propeller starts in the back. He makes up for this loss of time by popping a propeller out of the back of his sled to gain speed. I press another random button. Fwapp! Metallic wings pop out from the sides. Think! I told myself. “He might have a better sled. I can feel the wind rushing past my cheeks as the sled begins its descent.” I press another random button. Why do they call this a v2. I press a fourth button. two or three sled drivers spin out of control onto the sidewalks. It’s a truly amazing experience. the other contestants outdistance us. but we’re a better team.” Robert whispers to Bobert. leaving us far behind. I press another button. It grabs the first thing it sees. this one extending a robotic arm out of the sled. There are only three minutes left before the race begins. and there’s an aura of excitement in the air. the rope I use for steering breaks.0 sled? I decide to figure out that for myself as I push a random button on the console. “Hang on tight. The admittance booth has been set up at the back of the street. I count twelve sleds besides ours already at the starting line.and I suddenly feel confident that we can win this race. and we speed past all the contestants but one. We pay the organizer five Snowbucks apiece and take our places at the starting line. The street has been fitted with several jumps and pitfalls for the purposes of the race. Colored flags fly everywhere. He just grins maliciously at me. which happens to be the v3. She’s having the time of her life back there. We’ve left all the other contestants in the dust. Brianna!” I shout over the roar of the propeller. It then tries to fling the sled .” I say urgently. and all I can say is. under all the pressure. “Three… two… one… GO!” “Nice to see someone can do it right.0. I can tell. and it was iced over by the Zamboni Force.Crystal Snowflake.” “We’d better get to Blizzard Boulevard! Come on. It promptly breaks. Flying a sled is the most phenomenal experience I’ve ever had. and some cupholders pop out. Suddenly.
Bobert!” the announcer calls. and I can tell it’s gonna be a close one.0. and the floor is black marble. The floor in here is also black marble. I put all my effort into the final push as we pop back into visibility. but this thing also requires ten seconds of recharge. Lacking anything else. If we’re going to infiltrate the Bank. We’re also going to have to be able . it latches onto the v3. Robert finishes about fifteen seconds later. There are several Roman-looking columns at the front. bewildered. we’ve got to do it very carefully. looking like some sort of monument. Come on.0 and the v3. The last Snowflake is among the Bank’s money green. There are several ATMs scattered about the sides. As we’re nearing the finish line. Suddenly a shadow grows over both of our sleds. As we swing open the doors. Brianna. and the lobby is a giant square room.0 stays upright and continues on our trail. walking over to the Zamboni Cliffs Bank.” Robert whispers in my ear. we get one minute of invisibility. As I can’t help but look up. and it looks like the Parthenon from the outside. but the SI guys thought of that. Behind the front desk is a big black door. and the claw doesn’t see anything to grab. A cheer erupts from the crowd. assuming ‘teen’ means that you add ten to the number. then the vault is number twenty-one and the Old Inventor modified it to make it rhyme. This new accessory slows the driver down a bit.” “Eleventeen?!” Brianna asks. Bobert completes his jump and crashes into both the v2. and in each corner is a Roman-styled pillar. “Slip the Ring on. Frodo.the v3. The Bank is an imposing enough structure by itself. we get our first look at the bank’s lobby. We have to be very careful about how we time our button presses so that we don’t get caught by the guards. “Well done. The building design is Ancient Grecian. “Great job! So. so I use our only remaining defense. “Not just yet. and the v2.” I say. guys. Tucked away deep in vault eleventeen.0 itself. which I assume leads to the main vault. sled masters! You’ve actually won! But one final task still remains to be done. where does this one lead us?” he asks. myself. Now that’s what I call an upset! “And the winner is Mr. I can see the driver about to use the same tool on us.the invisibility button. “Is there even such a number?” “Well. The announcer congratulates Bobert and hands him fifty Snowbucks. His sled goes in front of both of ours and breaks the finish line ribbon. The first thing we have to do is find a way into the main vault room.0 vanish into thin are. the doors are made out of steel. The only thing that subtracts from the immensity is the giant piggy bank on the roof. and we tell him the good news. which are the sleekest ones in town.backwards. With every press of the Invisibility Button. I read the inscription aloud. At the front of the room is a desk with several tellers working furiously at their computers. let’s go.0 gaining leverage again. I see the v3. The driver is now almost tied with us. guys. as well as the fourth Crystal Snowflake.
see that?” I point it out to the rest of the gang. you have one minute to find the number for vault twenty-one. one of us will have to break into the place where all the earpieces are being held. I make my way to the door in the back right corner. “Brianna. The only thing we need now is for someone to open the vault door. Even if you didn’t know him. guys. that looks like it to me. Hurry!” I whisper urgently to the team. you could tell that he makes an awful lot of money. with square black vaults lining every square inch of the side walls.” “Oh yeah.” the other three say all at once. There’s four of us.to communicate to each other without speaking.” “Now’s our chance.” he says in an important voice. I recognize him instantly: Mayor Richblood. You have to claim the combination number for vault twenty-one.” I say.” they say in unison again. You must not be seen. so I take four earpieces and climb back into the main lobby area. then immediately duck into the shadows. The earpiece box is open. when I push the invisibility button. At the back of the room is a door that looks like the Observatory’s entrance door. and there’s one room for each. I’m the only one of us who turns invisible. Got it. and I quietly sneak over behind the desk. so things work out that way. Who’s going to do the job of borrowing the earpieces?” “Not me. We all stick them in our ears and get ready for main infiltration. Meet back here in one minute. Jones. “Oof. I’ll do it. The main vault has a triangular and remarkably high ceiling. After a chorus of ‘Okay’s. everyone?” “Got it. These things are guarded super-closely. if you don’t mind. “Yeah. Remember. I quickly climb up over the wooden desk and into the small corridor. “We could gesture to each other!” Brianna suggests. Thankfully.” “Anyway. sorry. When the mayor has sapped all he wants from the taxpayers for his own personal gain. and he looks like an oversized leprechaun holding a bamboo cane. I gather everyone together in the center of the room. “Okay then. each of you go to one of the doors. A very important-looking man in a top hat enters and leisurely strides over to the front desk. pressing the button. he leaves and the Vault is once again abandoned. There is one metal door at each corner. Status .” Bobert says. Mayor Richblood opens the main vault door and we go in after him. Mrs. and the four of us quickly duck into the shadows. “Right.” I tell them. Everything he wears is green. pressing the invisibility button. Fine. I pop back into visibility and give everyone one earpiece. but I can swear my ears are warming up. “I would like to do this in person. “Hello. I think that’s it over on the right behind the desk. I forgot. we’re going to be invisible.it has at least twenty keyholes on it. I wish to make a withdrawal from the town tax fund to use for my own purposes. “After we do that. we’ll need to find out the four numbers of the vault combination. my shoes don’t make a sound on the marble floor. I press the button and the timer starts counting down. I make the door swing open and can tell right away that it needs some oil. After fiddling with the lock a bit. the person in charge of the whole town.
and climb to the other side of the desk. Mr. “4. but it seems to have fallen off.2. The secret doorway leads directly to the Deflector Room. let’s go back to the Deflector Room!” he says cheerfully. and it turns purple.” says Brianna. and a static buzz can be heard as the Deflector v2. this one is pure diamond. and where the others were pure quartz.3 here. “I have a 7. I key in the code 9547 in the vault. which is at eye level.” Bobert says in my ear. “Joe. and the crystal display is still there. There are several metallic cases on the walls. Three seconds later. Bobert puts the fourth one in. I’m getting a 5. The five Crystal Snowflakes are now in place. there are no snowflakes after this. where it starts to glow blue. . Then. I take the crystals from my bag and give one to everyone. After experiencing the squeakiness of the Bank’s doors. at which point it starts glowing green. “Well done. Spotting it on the floor.0 springs to life. and the heavens can now be clearly seen from the main room. we all jump up in the air and shout “Woohoo!” High-fives and celebrations are going on all around. We’ve done it! We’ve acquired all five Crystal Snowflakes and can now activate the Deflector! When the four of us are in the open again.4. I can see why the Bank confiscated it. Report back to the center of the room. kids! I knew you could do it. I slip it into the bag and press the invisibility button again. After marveling at its architecture some more. “See what I mean? Old movie. I crack it open to reveal a tag with a 9.reports from the rest of the team in my earpiece tell me that everyone has done the same.1 written on it. I can imagine that they are equally precious. Robert. “Is there anything on the fifth snowflake?” Brianna asks. It was designed even more beautifully than the other four. There are only two things in here: a can of oil and the Crystal Snowflake. each of which are small enough to hold a keychain. which the mayor accidentally left open. where it begins to glow with all the colors of the rainbow. guys. I insert the diamond snowflake we just recovered. where Mr. Finally. Falconing puts the first one in.’ I’m kinda glad that this escapade strayed from an old movie in that one aspect. Suddenly the snow stops falling over the Observatory. I try to find the one labeled with a twenty-one on the wall.” Robert finishes. and congratulates us all. Come on.” I tell them.” “Only one word: ‘Congratulations. and we all start laughing.” I remark to Bobert. Brianna inserts the third snowflake. As we walk out the Bank’s door. We go back out the main vault door. The rest of the day passes in celebration. We walk over to the gates of the Observatory. “I mean. He appears overjoyed to see the five snowflakes. Falconing is still standing. a sense of triumph comes over me. and I are at the top of Walrus Way with our sleds at the ready. opening a secret doorway to said room. we all faze back in with a pop! I collect the tags from everyone and locate vault twenty-one. A sense of triumph comes over us all as we realize that our task is complete.” I say. which turns red. Robert inserts the second one. Bobert. until the end of the day when it starts getting dark. return our earpieces. Judging that the number after the decimal point is the order in which it goes in. and the door slides open. “Good work. but it’s the snowflake that I’m concerned with.
like he always does. “One… Go!” We race down the street for the last time today. after all.” Robert agrees sleepily. guys? One last race?” I suggest.” I laugh. Bobert calls the start. “Three… two… um…” “Oh. . just one.“Whaddya think. just say it. This is. “Yeah. but I know there will be more adventures tomorrow. Zamboni Cliffs.
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