This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2018 by Peter Brown

Cover art copyright © 2018 by Peter Brown. Cover design by David Caplan.

Cover copyright © 2018 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Brown, Peter, 1979– author, illustrator.

Title: The wild robot escapes / words and pictures by Peter Brown. Description: First edition. | Boston : Little, Brown and Company, 2018. | Sequel to: The wild robot. | Summary: After being captured by the RECOs and returned to civilization for reprogramming, Roz is sent to Hilltop Farm, where she befriends her owner’s family and animals, but pines for her son, Brightbill.

Identifiers: LCCN 2017044074| ISBN 9780316382045 (hardcover) | ISBN 9780316475181 (ebook) | ISBN 9780316510288 (library edition ebook)

Subjects: | CYAC: Robots—Fiction. | Farm life—Fiction. | Domestic animals—Fiction. | Science fiction. | BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION / Robots. | JUVENILE FICTION / Science Fiction. | JUVENILE FICTION / Animals / General. | JUVENILE FICTION / Action & Adventure / General. | JUVENILE FICTION / Action & Adventure / Survival Stories.

Classification: LCC PZ7.B81668 Wk 2018 | DDC [Fic]—dc23 LC record available at

ISBNs: 978-0-316-38204-5 (hardcover), 978-0-316-47518-1 (ebook) E3-20180205-JV-PC
















































































To the wild places of the future



Our story begins in a city, with buildings and streets and bridges and parks. Humans were strolling, automobiles were driving, airships were flying, robots were hard at work.

Weaving through the city streets was a delivery truck. The truck knew where to go, and how to get there, all by itself. It pulled up to a construction site and automatically unloaded some crates. A few more turns and it unloaded more crates down at the docks. The truck




across the city, delivering crates as it went, and then it merged onto a highway.

Cars and buses and trucks were cruising along the highway together. But as the delivery truck continued, the traffic became lighter, the buildings became smaller, and the landscape became greener.

With nothing but open road ahead, the truck accelerated to its top speed. The landscape outside was now just a green blur, occasionally broken by a flicker of gray as a town flew past. On and on the delivery truck went, racing over long bridges, shooting through mountain tunnels, gliding down straight stretches of highway, until it started to slow. It drifted from the fast lane to the exit lane, and then it rolled down a ramp and into farm country.

Clouds of dust billowed up behind the truck as it drove past fields and fences. In the hazy distance, enormous barns loomed above the plains. The air was thick with the smells of soil and livestock. Robot crews methodically worked the crops and fed the animals and operated the massive farm machines.

A hill gradually climbed into view. The hill was crowned with trees

and white buildings. Another farm. But this one was smaller and shabbier than the rest. Out front was a crooked sign that read Hilltop Farm.

Wheels crunched on gravel as the delivery truck rolled onto the driveway and up to the top of the hill. It stopped beside the front porch of the farmhouse and dropped its last crate to the ground. Then the truck drove away.

Reader, can you guess what was tightly packed inside that crate? If you guessed a robot, you’re correct. But this was no ordinary robot. It was ROZZUM unit 7134. You might remember her old life on a remote, wild island. Well, Roz’s new life was just about to begin.



Woof! Woof! Woof!

Inside the farmhouse, a dog was barking and scraping at the front door. When the door finally opened, the dog scurried out and bounced down the porch steps. And then a man appeared.

The man walked with a limp, and slowly made his way down to the crate, where his dog was sniffing around. He unlatched the top of the crate and it swung open on its hinges. Packing foam was tossed aside, restraining cords were unfastened, and there was ROZZUM unit 7134. Her lifeless body sparkled in the late-day sun.

The man reached down and pressed an important little button on the back of the robot’s head.




The robot’s computer brain booted up and her programs began coming online. Then she automatically stood, stepped out of her crate, and started to speak.

“Hello, I am ROZZUM unit 7134, but you may call me Roz. While my robotic systems are activating, I will tell you about myself. “Once fully activated, I will be able to move and communicate and learn. Simply give me a task and I will complete it. Over time, I will find better ways of completing my tasks. I will become a better robot. When I am not needed, I will stay out of the way and keep myself in good working order.

“Thank you for your time.

“I am now fully activated.”



“Welcome to Hilltop Farm, Roz. My name is Mr. Shareef. You belong to me now.”

Roz studied the man with her softly glowing eyes and in a robotic voice she said, “Hello, Mr. Shareef.”

“This old fella here is Oscar.” Mr. Shareef scratched his dog’s head. “You won’t see much of him. Oscar spends most of his time sleeping in the house.”

“Hello, Oscar,” said the robot.

A goofy grin stretched across the dog’s face and he let out a happy yelp.

Mr. Shareef pulled a small computer from his pocket. He tapped the screen and brought up a map of Hilltop Farm. “There you are, Roz,” he said as the robot’s electronic signal appeared on the map. “You’ll be working all over this farm. And now that you’re in the system I can always see right where you are.”

“What would you like me to do?” said Roz.

“You can start by putting your crate in the garage over there. I’ll hold on to it, in case I ever have to send you back to the factory.” Clearly, Roz was designed to take orders, because her body automatically did as it was told. She stuffed the packing materials into her crate and carried it into the garage.

When Roz returned, Mr. Shareef was watching a school bus winding along the country road. Oscar barked and dashed off as the bus came to a stop at the bottom of the driveway. A girl and a boy jumped out, and the bus drove on. In their matching school uniforms, the children looked almost identical. But the boy was a little taller, and the girl’s hair was a little longer. They meandered up the driveway and romped around with their dog until they noticed Roz.

“A robot!” said the girl, running up.

“It’s about time we got one,” said the boy.

“She’s refurbished,” said the man. “She’s the cheapest one I could find, but she’ll make a decent farmer.”

“What’s her name?” said the girl.

“She said her name’s Roz.”

“That’s just her starter name,” said the boy. “We can give her any name we want. Let’s call her… Farmbot!”

“I kind of like the name Roz,” said the girl.

“Me too,” said Mr. Shareef. “Let’s leave her name as it is. Roz, I’d like you to meet my daughter, Jaya, and my son, Jad.”

“Hello, Jaya and Jad,” said the robot.

The children looked at each other and smiled.

“Will Roz take orders from me?” asked Jad.

“What about me?” asked Jaya.

“She’ll take orders from both of you.”

“Roz, I order you to do my homework!” said Jaya.

“Don’t waste her time with nonsense!” Mr. Shareef grumbled. “Roz is here to do farmwork, not homework, understand?”

The children nodded.

“Now, I order you kids to bring the dog inside and do your own homework,” said Mr. Shareef. “I need to show Roz the farm.”



Mr. Shareef turned and shouted, “Come here, Rambler!” A moment later, a pickup truck automatically rolled out from the garage. The truck pulled up to the man and the robot, its doors opened wide, and they both climbed in.

Rambler had a steering wheel, but Mr. Shareef sat back and let the truck drive itself. They followed the driveway behind the house, across the backyard, past trees and hedges, and suddenly they were surrounded by farm buildings. The buildings were different sizes and shapes, all white walls with gray roofs, and they were so tightly packed together that you could hardly tell where one building ended and the next one began. Some were spattered with mud. Others had holes and loose boards. The entire place smelled like grass and manure.

Mr. Shareef pointed out each building to Roz. There was the enormous dairy barn, the milking parlor, the workshop, the machine shed. Smaller sheds were scattered all around.

Rambler drove out from the buildings and down the back side of the hill into a wide sweep of farmland. A fence lined this part of the driveway, and behind the fence was a sprawling, rolling pasture, lush with tall grass and a few leafy trees, where a herd of cows was grazing. The cows swished their tails and chewed their cud and followed the truck with their eyes. One of them let out a long “Moooooo.”

“This is a dairy farm,” said Mr. Shareef, “so these cows are the queens around here. Your whole world now revolves around them. Understand?”

“I understand,” said Roz as she stared at a young calf who was staring right back at her.

They rolled past the herd of cows, past clumps of wildflowers, past a quiet pond, past birds and field mice and bumblebees. The driveway cut through a row of trees on its way out to the crop fields, which were flat

and square and covered with bright green sprouts.

Hilltop Farm was bursting with life, but it had seen better days. Patches of weeds and bare dirt were spreading across the fields. Broken down farm machines and piles of junk were strewn across the grounds. Thick tangles of brush were creeping in from the edges of the property.

They drove all the way out to the farthest fields, to a little roundabout at the very end of the driveway. Rambler shut off its engine, and the man and the robot sat and looked at the countryside.

Far off, where the land met the sky, a train quietly slid along its tracks and disappeared to the north. Then all was still.

“This farm needs help,” said Mr. Shareef at last. “It’s been in my family for generations and I don’t want to lose it. But I can’t do farmwork anymore, not with this bad leg. That’s why you’re here. They say ROZZUM robots can learn to do almost every kind of job. And you’ll have to do almost every kind of job on this farm.”

“I understand,” said Roz.

“We’ve had automachines for ages,” Mr. Shareef went on, “but we didn’t need a robot until my wife died.”

Those last words hung in the air for a while.

The silence was finally broken by a low rumble of thunder. A storm was approaching. Tornado season was still months away—but in farm country any storm could become dangerous.

“Let’s go home,” said Mr. Shareef.

Rambler started its engine and drove back up the long driveway. By the time they reached the farm buildings, a steady rain was falling, and the cows were in the barn.

“This is for you,” said Mr. Shareef, and he handed Roz her own computer. “That controls the farm’s equipment, and it’s got all the information you’ll need to work here. Do you know how to use a computer?”

“Yes, I know how to use a computer.” Roz had never used a computer before, but she instinctively knew what to do. Clearly, the robot was designed to work with technology.

“Study up tonight, and start farming tomorrow,” said Mr. Shareef. “You can stay in the machine shed with the other machines.” “Perhaps I should stay in the barn with the cows,” said Roz. “My whole world now revolves around them.”

The man smirked, and he said, “I like the way you think, Roz.”



The cows were munching hay in their stalls when the big barn door slid open and a mechanical monster stomped in from the rain. The creature marched down the center aisle, her footsteps echoing through the cavernous space, until she found an empty corner. And there she stood, in the shadows, as a storm began to rage outside.

Everybody listened as the rain poured and the wind howled and the thunder cracked. By midnight, the storm had blown over, and there was only a gentle sprinkling on the roof. But the herd couldn’t rest with that monster lurking in the corner. Cows began quietly mooing to each other.

“What is the monster doing?”

“She hasn’t moved in hours.”

“I bet she’s waiting to eat us in our sleep!”

The cows gasped at this horrible thought. And then an old cow named Annabelle tried to calm down the herd. “Relax, everyone,” she said. “There were monsters like this at my last farm, and they never ate any cows. Come to think of it, they never ate anything at all.”

“If this monster has never eaten anything at all, she must be awfully hungry by now!” said a cow named Tess.

“I saw the farmer driving the monster around in his truck,” said a calf named Lily. “I don’t think he would have done that if she were dangerous.”

Nobody knew quite what to think of the strange creature in their midst.

“I think the monster is harmless.”

“I think the monster is unnatural!”

“I think the monster is moving!”

The herd fell silent as the monster marched out from the shadows and into the middle of the barn. And then the monster did the impossible. She did the unthinkable. She spoke to the cows in the language of the


“I am not a monster, I am a robot. My name is Roz.”



None of the cows could believe that this monster, this robot, this machine, had just spoken to them in the animal language. They stared at her, nervously shifting in their stalls, wondering what she would do next.

What Roz did next was simple. She told the truth. She stood in the middle of the barn and shared her story with the herd.

“I spent my first year of life on a remote, wild island,” Roz began. “I did not know how I got there, I only knew that I wanted to survive. So I studied the island animals, to see how they survived, and a surprising thing happened. Their sounds and movements started making sense to me. I was learning the language of the animals.

“Even when I could speak to them, the animals wanted nothing to do with me. But that changed when I discovered an orphaned gosling. The poor little thing would have died on his own, so I cared for him, and adopted him as my son. His name is Brightbill.”

A murmur spread through the herd.

“When the animals saw me caring for Brightbill, they finally accepted me. I was no longer alone. I had friends and a family and a home. Life was good.

“Until the RECO robots arrived. They came in their sleek white airship to take me away, and when I resisted, they became violent. The animals defended me—they fought bravely and destroyed the RECOs. But I was badly damaged in the fighting. I needed repairs, and I could not get them on the island. So the animals loaded my broken body into the airship, and it took me far away from my home.”

Lily the calf poked her head through the railing and said, “What about Brightbill?”

“My son is smart and tough, and he has a good flock,” said Roz. “I think he will be okay without me.”

“Where were you taken?” said Tess.

“I was taken back to the factory where I was made. The factory is run by a crew of robot workers called the Makers. When I arrived, they put me in a room filled with other broken robots. Some robots were

completely ruined, and the Makers immediately sent them away. But those of us with working computer brains were given a test.”

“What kind of test?” said Lily.

“The Makers simply asked us questions. They asked us how we had become damaged. They asked us how we would respond to different emergencies. They asked us to identify certain sounds and smells and objects. Robots who answered every question correctly were repaired. All others were destroyed.

“In the wilderness, I camouflaged my body to survive. In the robot factory I camouflaged my personality to survive. I pretended to be a perfectly normal robot. I did not say that I had adopted a goose, or that I could speak with animals, or that I had resisted the RECOs. I said what I had to say to pass the test. And it worked.”

“Good for you, Roz!” shouted Tess, and the other cows smiled. “The Makers shut me off, and when I awoke, my body was fixed and I was on this farm. Now, like all of you, I belong to Mr. Shareef.” The cows stopped smiling.

Everyone was quiet.

And then old Annabelle spoke up.

“I was taken from my friends and family too,” she said. “They’re back on the farm where I was born. I still think about them every day.” “It is difficult to be apart from our loved ones,” said the robot. “You know, Roz, things could be worse,” said Tess. “At least on this farm you’re still surrounded by nature.”

“Yes, things could be worse.” The robot’s eyes brightened a little. “But I am not safe here. If any human ever learns who I really am, they

will have me destroyed. And that is why, when the time is right, I will try to escape.”



Inside the barn, the lights were low, the sounds were hushed, the night slowly wore on. A few cows were chewing hay, but most were resting peacefully. Our robot had returned to her corner. The soft glow of the computer screen lit up her face as she studied farming. She learned about the herd, about the pasture and the fields, about the native plants and wildlife, about the seasons and the climate and the weather, about the machines and the buildings and the fences and the tools and all the dairy equipment. Every detail was perfectly remembered in the robot’s computer brain. And in a single night, Roz became a farmer.



At dawn, the cows began to stir. One by one, they walked out the side door, across the muddy barnyard, and into the parlor for a quick milking before heading down to the pasture. They followed the same routine, every morning, like clockwork. However, on this morning, the cows were joined by a robot.

With her computer brain full of farming knowledge, Roz was ready for her first day on the job. She stomped through the tall, wet grass, and her head slowly turned as she scanned the scenery.

The sun was rising.

The fog was lifting.

The cows were grazing.

And then the whole world seemed to flip upside down. Before Roz knew what was happening, she was on her back looking up at the sky. A strong stench filled the air. Our robot had slipped on cow dung.

The herd erupted into laughter. Tess called out, “Welcome to Hilltop Farm, Roz!” which brought another round of snorts and moos. “You’ll have to get used to cow patties, and to laughter,” said old Annabelle, strolling over. “Not much happens around here, so we’re always eager to laugh.”

“I understand,” said Roz. “I like laughing too.” And she forced out an awkward “Ha-ha-haaa!” Then the robot stood up, wiped her feet, and continued exploring the farm. But she was more careful to watch where she stepped.

The fields and buildings and fences were all in need of Roz’s attention. But her most urgent task was to fix the broken farm machines. The Herding Machine was designed to roll through the pasture and look after the cows while they grazed. But it had gotten stuck in the mud and was becoming a popular hangout for birds. The Field Machine was gigantic, like a house on wheels. It was designed to roam the fields,

planting and fertilizing and harvesting the feed crops. But it had ground to a halt weeks ago and was now just collecting dust in a far corner of the property. The Drone was a small flying machine with a special camera attached to its underside. It was designed to fly above the farm and keep an eye on the whole place, but it came crashing down when a mob of crows attacked it in flight. Other broken machines were hidden within clumps of weeds. And still more were waiting for repairs in the shed.

The peaceful morning was suddenly jolted by the sounds of power tools as Roz began fixing the machines. Thanks to her robotic strength and smarts, she made excellent progress. The hours flew by, the machines rumbled back to life, and the farm began buzzing with activity.

At sunset, Rambler came bouncing down the driveway with the Shareefs in the front and Oscar in the back.

“How’s it going, Roz?” said Mr. Shareef, leaning out his window. The children giggled and waved from their seats. The dog sniffed the breeze.

“It is going well,” said Roz in a robotic voice. “Many of the machines are working again.”

“I see that.” Mr. Shareef gazed up at the Drone, circling high overhead. “We thought we’d come out and check on you, but it looks like you’re doing fine, so we’ll stay out of your way. Keep up the good work, Roz.”

As the truck started rolling up the driveway, Oscar looked back at Roz and barked, “You smell like cow patties!” He was right. The robot was filthy. And she finished her first day as a farmer by scrubbing herself with soap and water.



Reader, I don’t want to bore you with every detail of our robot’s farm routine. Many of her tasks were incredibly dull; others were quite unpleasant. I’ll just say that on any given day, Roz might have to be a mechanic or a veterinarian or a gardener or a plumber or a cleaner or a landscaper or a carpenter or an electrician, or all of the above. Farm life kept Roz very busy indeed.

Of course, she did have help. You already know about some of the machines, but the entire farm was equipped with technology that made life easier for everyone. Doors and gates opened automatically. The cows wore electronic collars that kept track of their health automatically. When a cow’s udders were full, she simply had to stroll into the parlor, where she’d be milked by gentle machines automatically. All that milk was piped into storage tanks, and cooled, and bottled, automatically. Once the milk truck was loaded up, it drove away and made its deliveries automatically.

Mr. Shareef managed the business side of the farm. He dealt with customers and handled money and ordered supplies. And he did it all from the comfort of his home office. Now that he had a robot to do all the farmwork, he hardly ever left the house.

Roz was more content than she had ever expected to be. Most of her time was spent outdoors, with animals, under the wide-open sky. Even while laboring in the fields she could always stop to smell the flowers, look up at the clouds, feel the cool air drifting out from the trees.

And yet Roz was living two lives. When she had the farm to herself she could play with the calves, or run through the grass, or chat with the wildlife. But whenever the Shareefs were near, Roz had to pretend to be a normal robot. She could never let them know who she really was.



Wild geese are known for migrating in the autumn and the spring. But exactly when a flock migrates is up to its members. Some flocks choose to fly early in the season, others straggle far behind. And it was one of those straggling flocks that caught the attention of our robot.

Honk! Honk! Honk!

The geese were heard before they were seen. Their honking voices echoed across the farm, and then the flock appeared above the fields, flying in a wobbly V formation. They glided over the pasture and plunked down into the pond.

None of them were very concerned as Roz approached. The geese had seen similar creatures on other farms, and they knew there was nothing to fear. But they were about to learn that our robot was very different from the others.

“Hello, geese,” said Roz. “Welcome to Hilltop Farm!”

The geese froze. They stared at Roz with suspicious eyes. And then the biggest goose slowly swam over.

“I’ve come across plenty of monsters like you,” he said, “but I’ve never met one who could talk!”

“I am not a monster, I am a robot. My name is Roz.”

The goose scratched his head.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Roz the robot,” he said at last. “My name is Wingtip, and this is my flock.”

Roz gave a friendly wave, and soon the flock was gathering around, curious to meet this odd character. As you can imagine, the geese were shocked to learn that Roz had a goose for a son. They asked her all kinds of questions about Brightbill, and about her old life on the island, and about her new life on the farm. Then Roz asked them a question of her own.

“Do you think Brightbill’s flock would ever come this way on their migration?”

“Doubtful,” said Wingtip. “It sounds like his flock takes the eastern flyways. They’d never come this far west.”

The robot slumped with disappointment.

“However, we geese are full of surprises,” added Wingtip. “I’ll promise you this, Roz: if we ever meet Brightbill, we’ll point him in your direction.”

The talk was interrupted by giggling and barking. The children were taking their dog for a walk. Roz couldn’t be seen chatting with geese, so she whispered a quick good-bye to her new friends and went back to work. And when she looked down at the pond later that day, she saw that the flock was gone.



We all feel homesick at one time or another. Even the robot felt something like homesickness. Roz belonged with her son and her friends on her island. She was determined to find her way back there, but how? If the robot was seen doing anything unusual, Mr. Shareef might have her destroyed. Roz had to be careful. So she calmly went about her farmwork, day in and day out. But all the while, the homesick robot was secretly planning her escape.



Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!

A message was flashing on Roz’s computer. The Drone was reporting that gusty winds had sent it spiraling into the neighbor’s bean field. So the robot grabbed the big, heavy toolbox and marched out to clean up the mess.

Roz found the flying machine upside down, with its landing gear poking above the rows of leafy plants. It had some scrapes and scratches, but no major damage. She flipped it over, brushed it off, and tightened a few screws. Then she said, “Return to Hilltop Farm.” The engines started buzzing and the machine lifted off the ground and flew home.

As Roz marched back, she cut through a strip of forest that separated the two farms. There were trees and ferns and rocks and shrubs and small forest animals. It was a little piece of wilderness. And suddenly, the robot was thinking of that wild island she missed so much. Someday, she would try to run away and return to her true home. Was this the moment for her escape? Could it be as easy as sneaking off through these trees?

No, it couldn’t be that easy. Ahead, on the other side of the trees, Mr. Shareef was sitting in his pickup truck, watching Roz. Because of the robot’s electronic signal, he knew she had stepped off the property, and he had raced out there to see what she was up to.

Roz marched over to the truck and Mr. Shareef leaned out his window. He had a serious expression on his face. “Don’t ever leave the property without my permission, understand?”

“I understand,” said Roz.

She understood, all right. She understood that she was always being watched. She understood that she was trapped on Hilltop Farm.



That night, while everyone else was sleeping, Roz stayed up with her computer and researched sneaky subjects. She looked for diagrams of her own body, and for maps of the area, and for any news that might help her escape. But the robot found nothing. The computer only let her access information about farming. She was cut off from the outside world.

It was clear that if Roz wanted to escape from her new life, she would need help. But the cows didn’t know how to escape, and Mr. Shareef would never let his robot leave. Who would possibly help Roz run away from the farm?



As time rolled by, Roz saw less and less of Mr. Shareef, but she saw more and more of the children. They were shy at first. The robot might look up from the pasture and see Jad peeking around the corner of the barn, or see Jaya spying from the branches of a tree. But the children were growing bolder.

And then one day, Roz marched into the workshop and heard giggling. She walked to the closet in the back, opened the door, and there was Jaya, smiling and trying not to laugh.

“I’m hiding from my brother,” whispered the girl. “Close the door!” The robot closed the door.

A minute later, Jad ran in, flushed and out of breath. “Hey, Roz… have you… seen… Jaya?”

The robot just stared.

“I know she’s in here,” said Jad, and he began prowling around the room. He searched under the worktable and behind the tool chest and between all the bulky workshop machines. Finally, he marched up to Roz and said, “I order you to show me where my sister is hiding.”

The robot pointed to the closet.

Jad smiled mischievously and tiptoed over. Then he flung open the door and screamed, “Found you!”

“No fair!” Jaya whined. “Roz showed you where I was hiding!” The girl scowled at the robot. “That wasn’t very nice, Roz. But you can make it up to me by playing hide-and-seek. Count to one hundred and then try to find my brother and me. Okay?”

There was a brief pause.

Then the robot said, “Okay.”

Jaya and Jad squealed with delight and scampered out the door as Roz started counting. The robot’s sensitive ears listened carefully to the children outside. She heard quick footsteps crunching across the

driveway. She heard a giggle, and the sounds of tree branches shaking. She heard a grunt, and the sounds of hay bales being shoved aside. When the robot finished counting, it took her exactly five seconds to find Jaya up in a tree. It took her another eight seconds to find Jad in the hayloft.

“Wow, Roz is really good at seeking,” said Jad as he picked hay from his hair.

Jaya snorted. “Yeah, well, let’s just see how good she is at hiding.” Roz was even better at hiding. While the children counted, the robot silently slipped away. And an hour later, they still hadn’t found her. The siblings stood in the driveway, defeated.

“We give up, Roz!” shouted Jad.

“You win!” shouted Jaya.

The junk pile beside the barn started moving, and Roz appeared. The robot had been sitting there all along, perfectly camouflaged among the scrap metal and old farm machines.

“The next time we play, you have to let one of us win,” said Jaya to Roz.

And the next time they played, Roz did.

The robot enjoyed having the children around. They brought a little lightness into her world, and she hoped to bring a little lightness into theirs. Life must have been dark since their mother passed away. However, Roz had another reason for wanting the children around. She needed them. Her only chance of ever returning home was if Jaya and Jad could find it in their hearts to help her escape. But this was a delicate situation. If Roz tried too hard, the children might say something to their father. If she didn’t try hard enough, she might be stuck on that farm forever.



Cows grazed in the pasture.

Wind rustled through the tall grass.

Clouds drifted over the fields.

Farm machines rumbled and buzzed.

Milk flowed into bottles.

Bottles were packed into boxes.

Boxes were loaded onto the milk truck.

The truck drove away full and returned empty.

Children romped around with their dog.

A man sat at his desk.

A robot dreamed of escape.



Hilltop Farm was home to many birds. Swallows were always swooping low over the grass and picking off insects. Crows cawed from the fields like a gang of hecklers. At night, owls glided above the countryside, silently searching for furry little meals. The robot was stuck on that farm, but the birds were free to go wherever they pleased. Lucky birds.

One day, Roz was standing in the pasture, admiring a hawk as he soared through the sky, when the cows began grazing around her. Their slow footsteps crunched in the grass, their teeth chewed and chewed, their tails flicked at flies. All the while, Roz stood there, staring up at the hawk.

And then came Lily’s soft voice. “What are you thinking about, Roz?”

The robot turned to the calf. “I am thinking about Brightbill,” she said. “It was not so long ago that I was watching my son soar through the sky. That seems like another lifetime.”

“You must hate your new life,” said Annabelle. “I can’t say that I

blame you. Farming looks like such grueling work.”

“Actually, I like farming,” said Roz. “Somehow, it feels right to spend long hours working with machines and tools and crops and animals. But I miss my old life on the island.”

Tess had a mouthful of dandelions, but that didn’t stop her from speaking. “Maybe you should start thinking of this farm as your home. That island is awfully far away. There’s a good chance you’ll never make it back there.”

“Don’t say that!” cried Lily. “Roz just has to make it home! She needs to be with Brightbill and her friends!”

“Tess is right,” said Roz. “I may never make it home. If I were a bird, like my son, I could fly home all on my own, anytime I wanted. But I am only a robot.”

Nobody spoke after that. The cows went back to grazing and Roz went back to admiring the hawk. Her eyes followed the bird as he soared through the sky, free to go wherever he pleased.



The children wandered out behind the farm buildings, through a clearing, and over to an old oak tree. It was the same tree their father had climbed when he was a boy. Mr. Shareef’s initials were carved into the bark, at the bottom of a long list of initials. For generations, all the Shareefs had carved their initials into that tree, going back to the ancestors who first built the farm. Someday, the children would add their initials to the list.

Beneath the leafy branches was a scattering of acorns. Jad cleared a spot for himself, sat down, and pulled a small computer from his pocket while Jaya climbed above. The siblings spent the afternoon there, lazing around the tree, until the robot marched past carrying the big, heavy toolbox.

“Whatcha doing, Roz?” called Jad.

The robot stopped. “The Drone has crash-landed again,” she said. “I am going to fix it again.”

“Do you need any help?”

“I do not need any help.”

“I’m bored,” said Jaya, her legs dangling above her brother’s head. “Can you do something fun, Roz?”

The robot put down her toolbox and said, “What would you like me to do?”

“I don’t know,” said Jaya, thinking hard. “Can you do a backflip?” “Yes, I can do a backflip.”

A grin spread across the girl’s face. “Roz, I order you to do a backflip!”

At that, Roz crouched, and then she leaped into the air, flipped backward, and gently landed on her feet. A perfect backflip. Jad put his computer away. Jaya jumped down from her branch. The children were impressed.

“What else can you do?” said Jad. “Can you juggle?”

“Yes, I can juggle.”

“I order you to juggle, um, some of these acorns!”

Roz walked up to the tree, picked three large acorns from the ground, and began juggling them in perfect rhythm. Jaya studied the robot’s movements and then began tossing acorns into the air as well. The first one went a little too high, the next one went a little too far, and soon they all went tumbling back into the grass.

“Do you know any jokes?” said Jad.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

“Never mind.” Jad scratched his head. “Can you tell us a story?” “What kind of story would you like to hear?”

“A robot story!” said Jad.

“An animal story!” said Jaya.

“How about a robot and animal story?” said Roz.

The children smiled at each other. Then they sat against the tree and looked up at their robotic storyteller.

“Once upon a time, there was a robot who lived alone on an island,” Roz began. “She spent her time wandering across mountains and forests and meadows. And then something terrible happened. Rocks fell and the robot tumbled off a cliff! She survived the fall, but sadly, the rocks killed

two geese and smashed four of their eggs. The robot stood there, staring at the poor goose family, until she heard a tiny voice peeping from somewhere nearby. She followed the peeping voice and discovered a perfect goose egg, sunk in the dirt. The robot carefully picked up the egg and carried it away, and when the gosling hatched from his shell the first thing he saw was the robot looking back. ‘Mama! Mama!’ he peeped. The gosling thought the robot was his mother, and from that day on, she was. The robot adopted the gosling as her son, and together they made a funny little happy family. The end.”

The children sat there and thought about Roz’s strange story. Then they looked up at her and said, “What happened next?”



Roz and the children had a new routine. Several times a week, they’d gather beneath the oak tree and Roz would tell stories about the robot on the island. The children loved hearing how the robot survived mudslides and bear attacks and harsh winter weather. They loved hearing how she befriended the island animals. But the stories they loved most were about the robot and her son, the goose. He sounded like such a nice goose.

Roz told the children story after story after story. What she didn’t tell them, what she couldn’t tell them, was that the stories were true, and they were about her.

The children wanted to get in on the storytelling fun. Jaya told adventure stories about dragons and monsters. Jad told silly stories about aliens in outer space. But as the children grew more comfortable with Roz, they began talking about their own lives.

They talked about growing up way out in the country. They talked about their schoolmates and their friends and their family. They talked about how their parents used to work together around the farm, and how perfect everything was before the accident.

In an instant, their lives were upended. Their mother was gone and their father was injured. Mr. Shareef tried to keep the farm going by himself, but there was so much to do, and he was so weak now. The farm machines powered along, doing their jobs as usual, but they needed to be maintained and monitored. Eventually, the machines started breaking down, and the farm started falling to pieces. The children wondered if life would ever feel normal again.

“That’s why we got you, Roz,” said the girl. “We needed you to save this place.”

“And that’s exactly what you’re doing,” said the boy, with a smile.



Wildlife can be very good for farmland. Insects pollinate the plants. Snakes eat the pests. The droppings of rodents and birds and every other animal act as a natural fertilizer. Roz wanted more of those helpful creatures on the farm, so she let the unused sections of land go wild. Up from the ground emerged native weeds, flowers, woody brambles. And with the wild plants came wild animals.

But then some creatures came skulking around who were not helpful at all. It started when Roz noticed a heavy scent floating on the breeze. She followed the scent out to a narrow strip of forest on the edge of the property. There were clumps of fur in the undergrowth and claw marks in the dirt. There was blood too. Lots of it. And then she found the carcass. A deer had recently been killed and eaten.

The robot’s head slowly spun around as she scanned the area. Not far from the carcass was a pile of droppings. It looked like it might have come from a dog. But Oscar wasn’t large enough or ferocious enough to kill a deer. What kind of animal could have done this?

Roz had been standing there at the edge of the property for a while. She imagined Mr. Shareef in his office, sitting at his computer, eyeing her location on the map. Any minute now, he would hobble out to his truck and come racing down the driveway to check on her. Roz didn’t want to upset the man, so she left the carcass where it was and returned to her work. But from then on, she kept a careful watch for any more signs of trouble.



It wasn’t long before Roz found more signs of trouble. Furry faces poking out from the bushes. Musky smells lingering in the fields. Silhouettes trotting through the moonlight.

And then one night she heard it.

The long, menacing howl of a wolf.



The attack happened at dusk. Seven beastly shapes bounded over the fence and into the pasture. Old Annabelle had wandered off from the herd, and now she made an easy target. The Herding Machine saw the wolves coming and rolled in their direction. But the hunters were clever. They split up, darted past the clunky machine, and surrounded their target.

The wolf pack was led by a large male. His name was Shadow, and it was easy to see why. He was quick and quiet and covered in dark fur, except for a long, pale scar that streaked across his body like a comet.

Shadow locked eyes with the cow, distracting her with his fierce gaze. And when his pack was in position, he said, “Attack!” The wolves lunged, snapping their jaws at the cow’s skinny legs. Annabelle kicked and hollered, “Stay away from me, you brutes!” She was a big animal, but the wolves knew what to do. They kept biting her, kept taunting her, kept wearing her down.

The herd watched from afar. They cried out to their friend—they wanted to help, but they were too frightened to move. Well, reader, you can guess who came to the rescue. Footsteps thundered across the pasture and Roz leaped into the fight. Had she swung her fists or kicked her feet, the wolf pack might have fled. But the robot wasn’t programmed to be violent. All she could do was awkwardly defend the cow.

Roz felt teeth chomping her arm, she felt claws slashing her chest. Her pain sensors flared and she howled, “Leave us alone!” The robot’s booming voice startled the wolves, and in that instant she pried one of them away. Then Annabelle landed a hard kick, and another wolf tumbled backward into the grass.

More help was coming. The other cows had finally found their courage, and the angry herd was on the march. The wolves had missed

their chance. Shadow gave a frustrated grunt, and the pack retreated. They dashed through the pasture, leaped over the fence, and disappeared into the trees.

The robot activated her headlights, and shafts of light beamed out from her eyes. While the herd crowded around, Roz carefully examined Annabelle’s injuries.

“I need to clean and dress these bite wounds,” said the robot. “But you will be okay.”

“Of course I’ll be okay,” the cow panted. “I’m old, but I’m feisty. Those wolves don’t scare me.”

Anabelle talked tough, but there was no mistaking the fear in her eyes. All the cows were afraid. They knew that if the wolves attacked again, their next victim might not be so fortunate.



The wolves returned the very next morning. Shortly after dawn, they leaped from the trees and started chasing a poor calf through the pasture. Roz managed to drive them off, but that night, they returned again. The herd came stampeding into the barn as the wolves laughed and trotted back to the fields.

The cows were in shock. They refused to leave the barn. If this continued, the herd would produce less milk, the farm would lose money, and Mr. Shareef would send Roz back to the factory. Something had to be done.

Knock, knock, knock.

The dog barked and the children opened the door.

“How’d you get all those scrapes?” said Jaya.

“Is everything okay?” said Jad.

“I must speak with your father,” said Roz.

Mr. Shareef came to the door and Roz explained the problem. At the first mention of wolves, he sent his children to their rooms. But the dog stayed. Oscar had no idea what the man and the robot were discussing, and his tail happily wagged as he stood beside them. However, his tail stopped wagging when Mr. Shareef handed Roz a rifle. The dog had seen the rifle in action, and it frightened him to his core. He scurried into the bushes and hid there, whimpering, while the conversation went on.

“What do you mean you can’t fire a rifle?” the man yelled. “Roz, you’re a farmer now, and sometimes farmers have to kill animals!” It was the first time Mr. Shareef had ever yelled at Roz. She waited patiently as words and spittle flew from his mouth. “My farm and my family are in danger! Roz, I order you to kill those wolves!”

“I cannot follow that order because I am not programmed to be violent.”

Mr. Shareef let out a heavy sigh. He knew Roz was right. But when

he reached for the weapon, she wouldn’t let go.

The man stared at the robot.

The robot stared at the dog.

The dog stared at the rifle.

Oscar was still whimpering and hiding in the bushes. Just the sight of the rifle had sent him into a panic. It was hard to believe that such a fearful animal was related to wolves. But dogs are related to wolves, thought the robot, and her computer brain began buzzing with activity. She thought of dogs and wolves and rifles. She thought of Shadow, the wolf leader, and the long, straight scar on his side. And then she had an idea.

“Although I cannot fire the rifle,” said Roz, “I believe it can help me solve the wolf problem.”

Mr. Shareef frowned. He didn’t know what the robot was getting at, but he was happy to let her handle the wolves by herself. “Fine, try it your way,” he said. “Just don’t lose any cows or else we might have to lose a robot too.”



The cows peered out from the barn at Roz. The robot was holding the rifle. She carried it to the far side of the pasture and placed it by her feet. Then she began coating herself with mud and grass, and probably a little cow dung. When every inch of her body was concealed, she nestled down into the ground and became part of the landscape. An ordinary clump of grass.

The cows were stunned.

“What’s Roz doing?”

“Is she all right?”

“Where did she go?”

Roz had learned to camouflage herself back on the island, and now she was using that trick once again. She sat motionless for hours, waiting for the wolves to appear. Daylight faded, the stars came out, the moon climbed into the sky. But the wolves didn’t show. So Roz tried something new.

The robot was an excellent mimic, and she began crying out in the sad voice of a wounded calf. “Please help me!” she cried. “I have hurt

my leg and I cannot move!”

Crickets chirped.

“Please help me!”

An owl hooted.

“I cannot move!”

The calf’s voice continued crying out. Finally, as the moon dipped behind the trees, seven wolves slunk into the pasture. Shadow led the way, silently stalking through the night. Covered in dark fur, he was practically invisible. Only his long, pale scar gave him away. Noses sniffed, eyes searched, ears listened. Then a clump of grass began rustling.

“There,” whispered Shadow. “The calf is hiding in that tall grass.” “Something feels wrong to me, Shadow,” said a female wolf. “This is too easy.”

“I make the decisions, Barb,” snapped the wolf leader. “Slash, Lurk, Fang, circle around and wait for my signal.”

Three wolves dashed off. When they were in position, Shadow gave the signal, and his pack closed in on the wounded calf. With each step, the grass rustled more and more, until the ground seemed to be moving. And then the ground really was moving! Grass and dirt crumbled aside and there was the robot, standing tall, pointing the rifle at the wolf leader. The pack froze.

“Hello, Shadow,” growled the robot. “My name is Roz. I see from your scar that you are familiar with rifles. You have been shot at before. You know what will happen if I pull this trigger.”

Reader, you and I are well aware that our robot was not programmed to be violent. Roz couldn’t have pulled that trigger if she wanted to. But she didn’t want to. She was bluffing. Of course, Shadow didn’t know any of this. As far as the wolf knew, he was defeated. And so he did what wolves do when they’re defeated. He lay down and he cowered before the robot. For the first time anyone could recall, the wolf leader looked weak.

“I do not want to hurt any wolves,” Roz continued. “But if you return to this farm, I will have no choice. Now please leave and never come back.”

Shadow scrambled away with his tail between his legs. Barb was close behind him, followed by the other wolves, and soon the entire pack had disappeared into the night.



Spring melted into summer, and the wolves were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps Roz had scared off the pack for good. Or perhaps the heat was keeping them away. You see, it was the hottest time of year on the farm. The sun was scorching, the fields were baking, the pond was drying up, and foul odors were floating all throughout the dairy.

During dry spells, the farm’s powerful sprayers were activated. Water shot out in long, misty arcs, and the land turned deeper shades of green. When the hayfields were lush and ready to be harvested, Roz fired up the Mower and the Baler. The giant machines rolled out of the shed and down the long driveway. Shortly afterward, they rolled back in, leaving bales of hay strewn across the stubbly fields.

The cows and the humans spent hot days indoors. Only when the sun set and the air began to cool would they venture outside. The herd strolled out to graze under the stars, the children ran out to chase fireflies, and sometimes even Mr. Shareef stepped out to stretch his stiff legs.

Trees swished in the evening breeze.

Heat lightning flickered on the horizon.

Cicadas sang their summer songs.

When Roz wasn’t farming, she was searching for a way to escape. Everything hinged on the children. The robot needed their help, but she just couldn’t bring herself to tell them the truth. It was still too risky.

Mr. Shareef asked the children not to distract Roz from her work, but they did it anyway. They’d sneak out of the house and order the robot to play with them. Together, they told stories, rode bicycles, lay in the grass watching fluffy clouds drift by.

Summer was tornado season. On occasion, thick clouds would start funneling downward, reaching for the ground. So far, the funnel clouds had all receded back into the sky before doing any damage. But it was

only a matter of time before a tornado touched down.



The weather forecasts warned of possible tornadoes that day. But despite their scientific equipment, experts still couldn’t predict exactly when or where a tornado would strike. So most farmers carried on with their usual tasks, while keeping a watchful eye on the skies.

Roz was out in the fields, loading hay bales onto the flatbed truck, as towering, puffy clouds rose up from the south. Raindrops lightly tapped against her body and she thought nothing of it. The wind began to blow, and still the robot continued with her work. It wasn’t until the first flash of lightning that Roz finally called it quits. She climbed onto the back of the truck and it automatically rolled across the hayfield toward the driveway.

The storm developed quickly. Dark clouds started swirling and bulging downward, lower and lower, like a giant, twisting finger pointing at the countryside. A tornado was beginning to form.

When the truck reached the driveway, Roz hollered, “Drive faster!” The engine revved, the tires kicked up gravel, and the robot held on tight. The funnel cloud continued stretching downward. It brushed the tree line, and leaves exploded into the air. Dust whirled around and around,

rising higher with each spin. Then the tornado touched the ground. A siren sounded in the distance. But the tornado was growing noisier and angrier as it blew in from the fields, and the siren was quickly lost to the howling winds.

The truck charged up the driveway and into the cluster of farm buildings. Roz looked ahead, at the house, and saw frightened faces in the windows. “Go to the storm shelter!” she hollered in her loudest voice. Then she leaped off the truck and ran to help the Shareefs.

Leaves and sticks flew sideways, whipping against the robot’s body, knocking her off balance. Behind her, the farm buildings rattled and groaned. The milking parlor was shaking violently. With a long, terrible

screech, its entire roof peeled off and sailed away on the wind. Four blurry shapes appeared in the backyard. Mr. Shareef shielded his face and hobbled alongside the house toward the storm shelter. He threw open the door and waved everyone down the stairs. Oscar went first, then Jaya, but Jad wasn’t moving.

“Come on, Jad!” yelled his father.

The boy stood still, shaggy hair flying everywhere, and stared up at the towering, twisting tornado. He used to have nightmares about tornadoes. But this was no nightmare; it was real, and it was getting closer.

The clouds swirled faster.

The wind roared louder.

The trees bent down to the ground.

Jad suddenly felt strong arms around him, and Roz whisked him to safety. Mr. Shareef reached up from inside the shelter, desperately grasping for his son. And just when Roz thrust the boy into his father’s arms, a blast of wind slammed the shelter door closed and swept our robot away.

At first, Roz didn’t realize she was in the tornado. She kept expecting to fall back to the ground. But the wind only lifted her higher and higher. She saw the treetops, the rooftops, the faraway fields! More of the countryside came into view with each spin around the funnel cloud.

Our robot’s Survival Instincts were blaring in her head, urging her to protect herself, but what could she do? The tornado was in control. The winds whirled her up and around, up and around. Roz could almost imagine what it was like to fly, and she thought of Brightbill. It seemed her final moments would be spent in her son’s airborne world.

Roz wasn’t the only thing swept away in the storm. Dust, gravel, leaves, branches, fence posts, and farm equipment were all swirling around with her. The robot was pelted by flying objects, big and small. She never even saw the shovel coming. The heavy tool wheeled around the tornado and—CLANG—it hit the back of her head. Everything suddenly went dark, while Roz was still up in the sky.



The Shareefs found their robot powered off, lying in a ditch by the road. Her left leg was crumpled beneath her torso, her right arm was twisted around a tree trunk, and her whole body was covered in new scrapes and dents.

Together, the family heaved Roz into the bed of the pickup truck, where Oscar was waiting. The dog sniffed her broken body while the Shareefs climbed in beside him. Then Rambler turned around.

The road was littered with debris from the storm, and the truck had to drive slowly. As they bounced along, Jad pressed the button on the back of Roz’s head. She powered up and her garbled voice automatically said, “Helloooo, I am ROZZZZZZUM unit 7134, but youuu may call me Rozzz.”

Oscar licked the poor robot’s face and Jad leaned in close. “Roz, can you hear me? Are you okay?”

“Hellooo, Jad. I have brrroken limbs and mmminor damage to mmmy computer brrrain. My sssystems are nnnow repairing themmmselves. Pleeease stand byyy.”

The robot’s glowing eyes pulsed as her recovery program did its job. And before long, Roz sounded like her old self. “My computer brain is now fully functional.”

Jad wrapped his arms around the robot and sobbed. “I’m so sorry, Roz! It’s my fault the tornado got you! Please don’t be mad!” Now Jaya was crying too. She pulled her brother and her dog and her robot into a big hug. Mr. Shareef wasn’t much of a hugger, but he reached over and laid his hand on Roz’s shoulder. They stayed like that for some time, quietly holding one another. The shock of the tornado was fresh, and it felt good to be together.

“Mr. Shareef, I apologize for leaving the farm without your permission,” said the robot.

The man smiled. “No need to apologize, Roz. I’m just glad you’re alive.”

“How are the cows?” said Roz.

“The farm is a mess, but the cows are fine,” said Mr. Shareef. “We’ll take you to the repair shop right now and you’ll be with the herd again soon.”



It was a small, sleepy farm town. A few trucks glided down the streets, a few humans sat on porches, a few stores lined the main square. Rambler parked in front of a bright white building. Then Mr. Shareef left the children with Roz and he limped inside.

“Welcome to the TechLab Shop!” said a woman in a white suit. “My name’s Nadine, how can I help you?”

Mr. Shareef was distracted by all the robots on display in the shop. They came in a dazzling variety of designs and sizes and colors. Standing still, eyes glowing, they calmly waited for someone to put them to work. When the man spotted a ROZZUM unit, he suddenly remembered why he was there.

“I’m the owner of Hilltop Farm,” he said, “and we were just hit by a tornado.”

“I heard the siren!” said Nadine. “Is everyone okay?”

“My family’s okay. But I’ve got a ROZZUM unit outside who’s in bad shape.”

The woman called over her shoulder, “Patch! Bring the ROZZUM repair kit!”

A robot marched into the room carrying a large case. He looked similar to a ROZZUM robot, but he was shorter and wider. The word PATCH was lightly etched on his torso. Mr. Shareef led Nadine and Patch out to the truck, where the children were chatting with their robotic friend.

Patch quickly scanned Roz’s broken body and announced the cost of the repairs. The man stroked his chin, mulling over his options, until the children blurted out, “Just fix her!”

Mr. Shareef nodded, and Patch sprang into action. With smooth, precise movements, the robot gently placed Roz on the ground. Then he grasped her broken arm and her broken leg and twisted. There was a

thwip sound as each limb popped loose. Then he took new limbs from the case and—thwip—popped them into place. In a matter of seconds Roz was whole and back on her feet.

“Robots never cease to amaze me,” said Mr. Shareef, admiring Roz’s shiny new limbs.

“The Makers really outdid themselves with these ROZZUM units,” said Nadine. “However, you have our most basic unit. Would you like us to upgrade her software, or adjust her settings, or polish out these scratches?”

“Will that cost extra?”

Nadine smiled. “I’m afraid so.”

“This basic unit is fine,” said Mr. Shareef. “But I need to order a work crew. Could you send one over to fix up my farm?” “Not a problem,” said Nadine. “I’ll send a crew over immediately.”



Hilltop Farm was hardly recognizable. Buildings were flattened, equipment was missing, debris was everywhere. The farm had no electricity and the computer system was down. As Roz picked her way through the rubble, she realized she was off the grid. It would be hours before Mr. Shareef could track her electronic signal again.

Was this the moment for her escape?

No. Roz couldn’t leave the Shareefs. Not like this. Instead, she did what she could to help.

The tornado had left behind a winding trail of destruction. Thankfully, it hadn’t destroyed everything. The barn was leaning to one side, but it was still standing. Roz forced open the door and found the cows nervously bunched together in a corner.

“You are all safe now,” said Roz in her calmest voice. “How is everyone feeling?”

The robot was answered by a chorus of moos.

“How do you think we feel?”

“I’m a nervous wreck!”

“My whole life flashed before my eyes!”

The robot raised her hands to quiet the crowd. “I am afraid the tornado destroyed much of the farm, including the milking parlor.” The cows gasped.

“But my udders are about to burst!” cried Tess.

“Would you like me to milk you the old-fashioned way?” said Roz. One look at the robot’s clampy, mechanical hands and Tess shook her head. “No thanks,” she said. “I can wait.”

“An emergency crew is on its way,” Roz explained, “but we cannot be in here while they work. Please follow me.”

Roz carefully led the herd outside, through the wreckage, and down to the pasture. Some of the fences were missing, and the Herding

Machine was broken, but the cows promised not to wander off, and they began grazing on the windblown grass.

Three massive trucks rumbled up the driveway. Doors swung open, and a crew of robot workers climbed out. The lead robot checked in with Roz as the others began unloading supplies from the trucks. Then the crew got down to business.

Power tools buzzed, debris was cleared, fences were mended, holes were dug, machines were repaired or replaced, beams and walls and roofs went up, equipment and pipes and wires were installed. Clearly, these robots were designed to work as a team.

The Shareefs wandered out back and stood with Roz. They watched as their farm was rebuilt before their very eyes. Several crew members marched over to the house, fixed a hole in the roof, and replaced the shattered windows. Finally, rubble and tools were loaded into the trucks, and the robots fell in line.

“Are you satisfied with our work?” said the crew leader. “I am satisfied,” said Roz.

At those words, the robots climbed back into their trucks and drove away. Hours after it had been devastated by a tornado, Hilltop Farm was better than ever.



The children walked into the machine shed, past rows of parked farm machines, and found Roz tuning up the milk truck.

“We got you a gift,” said Jad, smiling.

The robot felt something like surprise when the boy handed her a box wrapped in silver paper with a big red bow on top.

“Can you guess what it is?” said Jaya.

Roz started guessing. “A bucket? A rock? A hammer? A turtle? A can of—”

“Okay, okay, you can stop guessing,” said Jaya.

“Don’t forget to read the card,” said Jad.

Nestled under the bow was a little card. Roz opened it and read the following words. They were written in Jad’s messy handwriting.

Dear Roz,

Thank you for taking such good care of our farm and our family. We spent ALL our savings on this gift, so you’d better like it.

Love, Jaya and Jad

PS Please tell us more stories about the robot on the island as soon as possible.

“Thank you for that nice card,” said Roz. “Although the handwriting could use some improvement.”

Jad rolled his eyes and said, “Open your gift!”

The robot untied the bow and tore off the paper and lifted the lid from the box. Inside was a tool belt. It was made of dark leather and had a wide strap and different-sized pockets for holding different kinds of tools.

“We thought this might make your work a little easier,” said Jaya.

“It’s designed specifically for ROZZUM robots,” said Jad. “So it should fit perfectly.”

The children helped Roz put on her new tool belt. Rather than going around the robot’s waist, like a normal belt, it went diagonally around her torso. Jad looped it over Roz’s left shoulder and down around her right hip. Jaya laced the strap through the buckle and tightened it until the tool belt was snug and secure across her chest.

“Do you like it?” said Jaya.

“I like it very much,” said Roz. “Thank you for this lovely gift.” The children smiled and hugged the robot. They really seemed to care about her. Roz wondered if they cared enough to help her escape from the farm. One of these days, she would have to risk everything and tell them the truth. For now, however, she did the next-best thing. She led Jaya and Jad out to the oak tree and told them another story about the robot on the island.



Woodsmoke billowed up from the backyard and drifted across the farm. Roz was building a campfire for the Shareefs. In her old life, the robot made fire by cracking special stones together until she got a spark. In her new life, she used a lighter.

The family sat around the rippling flames and gazed up at the stars. The dog stretched out on the warm ground. The robot was standing nearby but her thoughts were far away. Her computer brain was scrolling back through memories of campfires and of stargazing with Brightbill.

Fluffy white marshmallows were skewered onto the ends of sticks and then roasted above the flames. The children laughed as their marshmallows caught fire. They liked them charred on the outside and gooey on the inside. Their father preferred his evenly browned. When the Shareefs weren’t stuffing their mouths, they were chattering happily.

“That’s the Space Station,” said Jaya, pointing to a tiny dot that was slowly moving through the sky. “I can’t believe people live there.” “Animals live there too,” said Jad. “The station has a farm. We should bring our cows up and show those space farmers how it’s done!” “I think our cows are perfectly content right here on Earth,” said Mr. Shareef. “And so am I.”

Once the marshmallows were gone, Jaya and Jad snuggled up with Oscar, stared into the flames, and asked their father about the old days. But the children were just too cozy to stay awake for long. So Mr. Shareef spoke to Roz instead.

“We made campfires all the time when I was a boy.” The man poked the coals with his marshmallow stick, and glowing embers floated into the air. “The whole family would sit around like this, telling stories. We had a nice life here. But then my brother and sister moved to the city, my parents got old, and everyone expected me to take over the farm.

“I couldn’t run this place by myself,” he went on, “so I hired Jamilla.

I did the farmwork and she managed the business. We made a good team. And then we fell in love.

“When Jamilla was pregnant with Jad we bought a few automachines to help out. Then Jaya showed up and we bought a few more. If I’d known one of those machines would be the death of her…” The farmer’s voice trailed off.

Roz wanted to know more about Jamilla, and about Mr. Shareef, and about the rest of his family. But a normal robot wouldn’t ask personal questions. So she kept her questions to herself and dropped another log on the fire.



Long ago, Hilltop Farm was a very different place. The original farmers grew vegetable gardens and fruit orchards, and they raised chickens and sheep and goats. The farm had changed a lot since then, but there were still signs of its past. Low stone walls lined some of the fields. A rusty tractor sat in the weeds. And hidden within a densely wooded grove was the old barn.

The barn hadn’t been used in generations. Over the years, trees had quietly grown up around it and moss had spread across its roof. But the barn was still strong and solid, and Roz wanted to take a look inside.

The big barn door screeched along its rails. “Hello?” said the robot, peering into the darkness. “Is anyone here?”

A mouse squeaked and scurried out of sight, and then Roz had the barn to herself. She stepped through the doorway and switched on her headlights. The vast interior was crisscrossed with thick wooden beams. Stairways and ramps led up to lofts and platforms. Lanterns hung from hooks on the walls. Old-fashioned farm equipment lay here and there. The barn still had the faint smell of farm animals, even though none had lived there in ages.

A large trunk sat on a worktable, covered in dust. Roz carefully opened the lid and examined its contents: a collection of farming magazines, a pair of leather gloves, a pencil nub. And then she noticed a small journal. The name Cyrus Shareef was elegantly scrawled across its cover. The pages were filled with his handwritten notes and hand-drawn diagrams about raising livestock and growing crops and building barns, about working the land with the help of strong animals and simple machines.

Cyrus Shareef had also jotted down his thoughts about the long history of farming. He believed that the modern world owed its entire existence to ancient farms, when early humans first started growing their food. Those farms were small and primitive, but they supported villages, which became towns, which became cities.

The writings were so wise and insightful that Roz read the journal from cover to cover. By the end, she almost felt as if she knew Cyrus Shareef, whoever he was. The journal was a treasure. And she tucked it into a pocket of her tool belt for safekeeping.



Autumn colors were sweeping across farm country. The lush greens of summer faded to reds and browns. Crops were harvested, leaves fell away, and the landscape turned stark and gray.

On Hilltop Farm, the cows were grazing on what remained of the pasture grass, while the Herding Machine hovered nearby. The Field Machine was preparing the fields for winter. The Drone circled the farm several times a day, but there was less to report in autumn.

Although Jaya and Jad were busy with school, they always made time for Roz. The children never grew tired of listening to the robot’s stories. And they never grew tired of sharing their own.

The bees and the mice and the deer and the frogs and the raccoons and the squirrels and the snakes were all getting ready for cold weather. So too were the birds. The owls spruced up their nests. The crows stockpiled acorns. The swallows were still swooping over the farmland, but they would soon be leaving for winter. And any day now, other migratory birds would begin passing through on their long journeys to the south.



A flock of geese had just landed at Hilltop Farm. It was the first flock of the autumn migration. The geese floated on the pond, cleaning their feathers and nibbling on weeds. But they all stopped what they were doing when Roz waved and said hello.

The robot never forgot a face, and she was certain she didn’t know any of these geese. But they seemed to know her. Before she even introduced herself, the lead goose squawked, “Is your name Roz?” The robot stared at the goose. “Yes, it is.”

“And you can speak the animal language?”

The answer was obvious, but Roz politely said, “Yes, I can speak the animal language.”

“Do you, by any chance, have a goose for a son?”

“Yes, I do!” said Roz. “His name is Brightbill.”

At that, a voice blurted out, “The stories are true!” and suddenly the flock was smiling and fluttering over to the robot. When the commotion settled down, the leader explained, “All along our migration we’ve heard rumors of a robot who can speak with animals, who has a goose for a son, and who is trapped on a farm. That sounded ridiculous to us, but here you are!”

The flock was absolutely delighted to meet our robot. They lounged around the pond for a couple of days, chatting with Roz whenever she came by, and then they continued flying south to their wintering grounds.

Another flock of geese arrived, and the same thing happened all over again. Roz welcomed them, they were delighted to meet the legendary robot, and then the flock continued south. Then it happened again. And again. Before long, the coming and going of delighted geese was just another part of the robot’s autumn routine.

Straggling behind the others as usual was Wingtip’s flock. When Roz saw them splashing onto the pond she felt something like hope that they

might have news of her son. Sadly, the geese had no news to report. And as the flock took off, and left Roz behind, she began to question whether she’d ever see Brightbill again.



Roz still dreamed of escaping, of going home, of reuniting with her son. But her dreams were starting to feel impossible. She was losing hope. Was it time for the robot to accept her new life and forget her old one? Forget.

Roz was troubled by that word. You see, her computer brain remembered every detail of her life on the island, and it hurt to think she might never make it back there. However, the robot could always forget. She could erase her old memories. It would be like they never happened. The heaviness she now felt would vanish. But without her memories, who would she be? No, Roz wanted to remember her old life, which was good, because someone from her old life was about to appear.



Another flock of geese was approaching the farm. But this flock was unusual. It wasn’t flying south, like the others. It was flying north, in a perfect V formation, and it was led by a young, graceful goose.

The flock flew once around the farm buildings and then delicately touched down in the barnyard. The leader whispered some words to the others, and then he fluttered in through the barn door.

The cows looked up from their stalls as the goose perched himself on a railing near the middle of the barn. Then the goose cleared his throat, shook his tail feathers, and announced to the herd, “I am looking for a robot named Roz. My name is Brightbill. I am her son.”



Something was wrong with the cows. Their excited moos echoed out from the barn and across the farm. Roz sent the milk truck away for its evening deliveries and hurried off to see what the ruckus was about. When she stepped into the barn she found the entire herd crowded together. As the robot started pushing her way through, the cows turned to her and smiled.

And then Roz saw him.

Her beloved son.


As you know, reader, robots don’t feel emotions. Not the way animals do. But in that moment, in that barn, nobody had any doubt how Roz felt. She rushed forward and scooped her son into her arms.

“Brightbill!” she cried. “Is it really you?”