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Pen Your Pride

The Moon Coin: Mr. Phixit

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Chapter Three

Mr. Phixit

Uncle Ebb's workshop, which occupied the entire third floor, was a giant windowless room filled with aisles of parts, cannibalized and half-finished inventions, and junk-lots and lots of junk. The staircase emptied right into the middle of it. The walls gave off a dark blue light, as though these reefs were deep under the sea. The electrimals that lived here were also different: large-mouthed, bulbous-eyed, with long dangling spines. They moved slowly, gliding along the walls like miniature deep-sea dirigibles.

Mr. Phixit sat directly in front of the landing. He consisted of two arms mounted to the sides of what looked like a tall dresser with exactly ninety-nine drawers. A sizable worktable was attached to the front of the dresser, and Mr. Phixit could raise and lower it to reach all his drawers. The worktable was ringed by all manner of tools that Mr. Phixit could easily grasp and use. At one time or another, Lily had looked through most of the drawers, which held nuts and bolts, wire, solder, batteries, screwdrivers, wrenches, and many other items for which she had no name.

On the corner of the worktable was an old, beaten-up keyboard with a tiny black-and-white video screen. By default, Mr. Phixit kept his table in a lowered position, so that a person standing in front of him could easily use the keyboard and read the tiny screen.

Jasper tapped the keyboard's space bar, and it fell off, clattering to the floor.

Lines of text rapidly scrolled across the video screen, stopping to display Job 247ab6 in progress and Parts Needed, followed by a long list of odd parts. The message Parts Missing blinked at them.

In the center of the worktable sat Job 247ab6.

"What do you suppose it is?" asked Lily.

Jasper reattached the space bar to Mr. Phixit's keyboard and began rummaging through several low-rimmed boxes labeled Fixable, Unfixable, and Finished.

"I can assure you I have no idea."

Jasper fished something shiny out of the Finished box.

"Yes! Dad's pocket watch!" he yelled, pumping a fist high into the air.

Lily laughed. "You're lucky he hasn't noticed it missing."

"It was an accident!" said Jasper, his face turning a deep shade of red.

Lily emptied the contents of her pockets onto the edge of the worktable. Cupping her hands, she pushed the little pile next to Job 247ab6 and typed Parts arrival for Job 247ab6. The space bar fell off again, along with the letters R and J.

Little spotlights on Mr. Phixit's two arms winked to life. His arms swung down noisily, and four tiny video cameras, mounted in pairs on each arm, scanned the worktable and the items from Lily's pockets. He poked and prodded the pile with his thin metal fingers. One by one, the items under the heading Parts Needed vanished from the tiny video screen. A second after the last item winked off the screen, Mr. Phixit began opening and closing drawers, pulling out various objects, and laying them on the worktable. He rearranged the items Lily had brought and set to work on the strange object that was Job 247ab6.

"Poor Mr. Phixit. It would be so much easier if we could just talk to him."

Jasper raised his eyebrows. "I wouldn't hold your breath on that one, Lil."

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