The road grew narrower and narrower, with patches of incredibly tall grass creeping in from either side. The sun was right in the middle of the sky, and the air was hot and very humid. It was pretty quiet, apart from the sound of our feet on the dirt road and some weird insect noises coming from deep in the grass. I felt as if
I were on a field trip or something back at the Middleton Nature Park, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually thousands of miles from Earth, walking along a little dirt road somewhere on the planet Smoo.
Spuckler Boach was out in front, leading the way, with his robot Gax rolling along behind him on his squeaky little wheels. Mr. Beeba and I followed, and Poog was floating in the air just above our heads.
"So tell us, Akiko," Mr. Beeba said, "what were you doing on the night Bip and Bop came to bring you here to the planet Smoo?"
"I was in my bedroom studying for a geography test," I replied, recalling all the weird stuff that had happened that night. The letter I'd received. The tapping sound on my window. The strange little spaceship floating outside, with the strange little men seated in it. It all seemed so long ago and far away. Well, it certainly was far away. Light-years away! But it really wasn't so long ago. Just a few days, as a matter of fact. With all the crazy stuff that had happened, though, it felt as if I'd been on the planet Smoo for months.
"Studying, eh?" Mr. Beeba said, sounding very pleased with me. "I had a feeling you were the academic sort, Akiko. Every spare moment with your nose in a book, eh? Keep it up and one day you could be an emissary of King Froptoppit, like me! You are planning to pursue a master's degree, I trust."
"Master's degree?" I repeated. "I'm only ten years old, Mr. Beeba. I'm still trying to figure out long division."
"You tell 'im, 'Kiko," Spuckler said enthusiastically, strutting along the road with his usual boundless energy. "You ain't no bookworm. I had ya pegged as an adventurer the minute I saw ya. I'll bet you were chompin' at the bit to get goin' just as soon as King Froptoppit told you about the Prince bein' kidnapped."
Ha! If Spuckler had seen how I had really reacted when I was asked to lead the Prince's rescue mission, he'd have had a very different first impression of me. Looking back, though, I felt glad that I'd been forced to stay on Smoo. For one thing, becoming friends with Spuckler and Mr. Beeba was fun, even if it meant spending a lot of time trying to keep them from driving each other crazy. Gax was really cool too. I mean, how many fourth-graders get to make friends with a robot? Then there was Poog. I turned and looked at him, his round purple body floating effortlessly in the air above me, his big black eyes sparkling in the midday sun. I knew that becoming friends with Poog was going to change my life forever.
"I don't know if I'd call myself an adventurer, Spuckler," I said at last. "But I've definitely had fun on this rescue mission so far. There's been some pretty scary stuff too. But plenty of fun in between."
"Now, don't rule out the idea of becoming an academic, Akiko," Mr. Beeba said, refusing to give up the idea. "Spending the day in a reference library can be every bit as adventurous as rescuing a kidnapped prince!"
Spuckler rolled his eyes and kept walking.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Akiko and the Great Wall of Trudd by Mark Crilley. Copyright © 2002 by Mark Crilley. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.