Freddie Ramos Tracks Down a Drone

Home > Other > Freddie Ramos Tracks Down a Drone > Page 1
Freddie Ramos Tracks Down a Drone Page 1

by Miguel Benítez


  Freddie Ramos has shoes that give him super speed, super bounce, and super hearing. His friend Mr. Vaslov invented the shoes. Now Freddie is helping him work on a drone. Freddie’s excited until he learns the drone’s job is to assist Mr. Vaslov. Is Freddie being replaced by a flying robot?

  At home, Freddie’s mom has a new boyfriend, David. Freddie doesn’t know how to feel about David and worries his mom won’t have time for him now. How can Zapato Power help with all this change?

  The ninth book in the award-winning Zapato Power series is full of new technology and new mysteries!

  Albert Whitman & Co.

  More than 100 Years of Good Books

  Printed in the United States of America

  Jacket art copyright © 2020 by Albert Whitman & Company

  Don’t miss the first eight Zapato Power books!

  Freddie Ramos Takes Off

  Freddie Ramos Springs into Action

  Freddie Ramos Zooms to the Rescue

  Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash

  Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow

  Freddie Ramos Rules New York

  Freddie Ramos Hears It All

  Freddie Ramos Adds It All Up

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data is on file with the publisher.

  Text copyright © 2020 by Jacqueline Jules

  Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Albert Whitman & Company

  Illustrations by Miguel Benítez

  First published in the United States of America in 2020 by Albert Whitman & Company

  ISBN 978-0-8075-9544-2 (hardcover)

  ISBN 978-0-8075-9561-9 (ebook)

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Printed in the United States of America

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 LB 24 23 22 21 20

  For more information about Albert Whitman & Company, visit our website at

  For my editor, Andrea Hall.

  Thank you for being Freddie’s good friend.



  1. A Giant Orange Bug

  2. Picking Up the Pieces

  3. The Man in the Blue Car

  4. Ladybug

  5. David

  6. Learning to Fly

  7. Looking for Clues

  8. The New Project

  1. A Giant Orange Bug

  “What are you making?” my neighbor Maria asked us on Friday afternoon.

  She was standing outside the toolshed. Mr. Vaslov and I were inside, working.

  “A drone,” Mr. Vaslov said. “Come and see.”

  Mr. Vaslov was an inventor. Most of the stuff he made was top secret, like my super-powered purple sneakers, which go ninety miles an hour and give me super bounce and super hearing.

  For a change, we were building something we could talk about.

  “Our drone is a flying robot,” I told Maria.

  “What will it do?” she asked.

  That was a good question. Mr. Vaslov had said the drone could help him do his job. He’s in charge of taking care of Starwood Park Apartments, where we live. Except I helped Mr. Vaslov when I wasn’t in school or playing with my friends. Why did Mr. Vaslov need a drone?

  “Let’s see!” Mr. Vaslov picked up his project and headed outside.

  We watched him set it on the grass and step back with the remote control.

  Six spinning blades made the drone rise into the air.

  “Wow!” Maria whistled.

  It looked like a giant orange bug and sounded like a race car on a track.


  The drone flew toward Building C.

  “No!” Mr. Vaslov called after it. “Stay here.”

  Inventions are like kids and puppies. They don’t always do what grown-ups tell them.

  I touched a button on my wristband to turn on my super speed.

  “Freddie!” Maria called. “Where are you? Wait for me!”

  I’m so fast, Maria blinks and I’m gone in a puff of smoke. She and Mr. Vaslov were left way behind.

  I ran through Starwood Park Apartments, keeping an eye on the big orange bug.


  Mr. Vaslov’s drone got lots of attention—just not the good kind. Mrs. Ramirez opened her window to complain.


  The drone hovered near Building G. Mrs. Ramirez ran out of her apartment. Her neighbor, Mrs. Tran, was right behind her, waving a broom.

  “Shoo!” Mrs. Ramirez hollered. “Go away!”

  “This is my home!” Mrs. Tran swung her broom like a baseball bat.

  Uh-oh! How was I going to stop the neighbors from attacking Mr. Vaslov’s drone?

  Maria joined me, breathless.

  The big orange bug buzzed above us.

  “Don’t hit it!” she said. “It belongs to Mr. Vaslov!”

  Mrs. Tran lowered her broom.

  “Hold on! I’m coming!” Mr. Vaslov waved from across the courtyard.

  We waited for him to catch up.

  “It’s just a robot,” Mr. Vaslov said, rubbing his right knee. “It won’t hurt you.”

  “Not true,” Mrs. Tran said. “My ears hurt.”

  “I’m sorry,” Mr. Vaslov said. “I need to fix that.”

  Mr. Vaslov pushed a lever on the remote.


  The giant orange bug zipped away, over the top of Building G.

  “Where’s it going?” Maria asked.

  “I don’t know.” Mr. Vaslov used both thumbs to press buttons. “It’s out of control.”

  I raced around the corner with my super-powered zapatos. Luckily, not everything Mr. Vaslov makes is so noisy. My shoes hum like one bee in flight, not a whole swarm. And when I zoom by, you only see smoke.


  The big orange bug bumped against a bush and then shot back into the sky. It bounced off a wall and up to the roof of Building H.

  The thing did crazy loop the loops everywhere. I got dizzy just watching it.

  And there was no stopping what happened next.


  2. Picking Up the Pieces

  Maria and Mr. Vaslov hurried over.

  “It looks like a plastic pumpkin blew up!” Maria said.

  We were lucky she was with us. It took three people to carry the pieces of the dead drone back to the toolshed. And it felt like a funeral.

  Mr. Vaslov stood over his worktable, shaking his bushy gray head.

  “This is what happens when you hurry,” he said. “I should have taken my time and double-checked all the components.”

  “Components?” Maria asked. “What are they?”

  “I’m glad you asked that, Maria.”

  Mr. Vaslov’s face brightened. He loved talking about frames, sensors, connectors, and all the other things that went into building his inventions. When he picked up a black rectangle with wires hanging out of it, I knew Maria was going to get a lesson on the drone’s battery pack.

  “This powers the motors,” Mr. Vaslov explained.

  I didn’t need to stay. Mr. Vaslov had already taught me about robots and why they needed a power source. Mom would be getting home from work soon. She expected me to be at the kitchen table, doing my homework.

  I touched my wristband and said goodbye.

  Mr. Vaslov and Maria were so busy talking, they didn’t even wave.

  In half a blink, I reached the sidewalk outside 29G. That’s when I saw a dark blue car with a smiley face bumper sticker. I’d never seen that car before. But I had seen one of the people inside it: my mom!

  What was she doing in a car? Mom took the train home. And who was that man?

  I could only see him from the chest up. He wore square black glasses that matched his hair.

  And he was smiling with all of his teeth, like his bumper sticker.

  Something wasn’t right. My mom didn’t have a man in her life. My dad was a soldier we lost in the war. We missed him, but we were doing okay, just the two of us.

  The man in the blue car was turned sideways, staring into Mom’s eyes with a silly look on his face. She was staring back and talking. What was she saying?

  I knew I could find out if I turned on my super hearing. Would that be snooping? I tried not to listen to private conversations without a good reason. This sure seemed like one. Mom only had me to protect her.

  Just as I was deciding what to do, the car door opened. Mom got out and waved.

  “Thanks for the ride home.”

  “I can’t wait for tomorrow,” the man said.

  Mom giggled. “Me neither.”

  “Six o’clock?” he asked.

  “Six o’clock,” Mom repeated.

  “I’ll be there!” He sounded like someone singing.

  They were so loud, I didn’t need super hearing to listen. Worse than that, Mom was so busy looking at the man, she didn’t even see me standing there, a few feet away on the sidewalk, watching.

  “¡Adiós!” She waved again and skipped up the walk to our front door.

  Little kids skip, not mothers. This wasn’t normal.

  The dark blue car drove away.

  My stomach felt like a drone had crashed inside.

  3. The Man in the Blue Car

  “Freddie,” Mom said when I walked through the door. “Mañana va a ser especial.”

  “Why?” I asked.

  “Tomorrow, a friend is coming for dinner. That makes it special,” Mom said.

  “The man in the blue car?”

  Mom put her hands on her hips. “¿Cómo lo sabías?”

  “I saw you outside,” I explained.

  “David is a nice man,” Mom said. “I met him at work.”

  “Is he sick?”

  Mom worked in a doctor’s office. The people who went there had backaches, sore throats, and other problems.

  “No,” Mom answered. “He’s a drug salesman.”

  “Drugs!” I shook my head. “How can you like him?”

  Mom explained. “David sells medicine. The kind of drugs that make people well.”

  “Oh,” I said. “Está bien.”

  But it didn’t feel okay.

  Mom took the sugar out of the cabinet. “We will have homemade dessert tomorrow.”

  Yummy! When Mom had time, she made arroz con leche.

  “Brownies,” Mom added.

  “Brownies?” I repeated. “You’ve never made those before.”

  “They’re David’s favorite,” Mom said.

  What about MY favorite? I liked creamy rice pudding.

  Mom got busy with bowls and spoons. She was smiling like the yellow face on the bumper of David’s car.

  I felt like talking to someone else.


  My guinea pig, Claude the Second, was happy to see me. And he loved the carrot I had in my hand.


  Claude the Second only needed a treat twice a day to be happy. He didn’t have to worry about a man named David who drove a blue car and sold medicine. Why did Mom like him?

  Ding! Dong!

  Maria was at the door. She wanted to talk about the drone.

  “Mr. Vaslov is going shopping for parts.”

  “What does he need?” I asked.

  “Propellers,” Maria said, moving her finger in a circle. “The blades that spin around.”

  “The new drone will be even better than the old one,” I said.

  “Yep!” Maria said. “And I’m going to help build it.”

  “You?” I asked.

  Since when did Mr. Vaslov need two helpers?

  “Mr. Vaslov says I have a scientific mind,” Maria said.

  Really? Mr. Vaslov never told me I had a scientific mind.

  Maria lived in the apartment next door. We were in the same class at Starwood Elementary. We had a lot of the same friends. Except Mr. Vaslov was my friend, not hers.

  “Mr. Vaslov says that drones can be big or small. They can do different jobs. Some have crab-like hands and can carry things. Some have cameras and can take pictures,” Maria said.

  I didn’t know that. What else was Mr. Vaslov telling Maria and not me?

  Maria left, and Mom called me into the kitchen. We had microwave macaroni and cheese while the brownies baked.

  “Tomorrow night,” Mom said, “I’m making lasagna.”

  “Does David like that too?” I asked.

  Mom nodded. “That’s what he ordered on our last lunch date.”

  So Mom had been seeing David while I was at school. Why didn’t she tell me about him before? Was she keeping other secrets from me?

  After we ate, I cleared the table so we could play cards. We started off with Go Fish and then moved on to some games my teacher taught me for extra math practice. Playing cards is a lot more fun than doing math problems on a worksheet.

  “¡Tú ganas!” Mom threw up her hands. “Four times in a row!”

  “Let’s make it five,” I said, dealing the cards.

  Mom winked. “Don’t be so sure you can beat me again.”

  We played two more games. I had fun, like I always do with Mom.

  But my mind wandered. What if Mom started spending more time with David? Would she still play cards with me on Friday nights?

  And what about Maria? Was her mind scientific? Would Mr. Vaslov start liking her help more than mine?

  4. Ladybug

  The next day, when I knocked on Mr. Vaslov’s toolshed, Maria was right beside me.

  “Let’s get started!” she told Mr. Vaslov.

  He was way ahead of us. The broken drone wasn’t quite as broken as we’d thought.

  “I used carbon fiber,” Mr. Vaslov explained. “It’s lightweight and durable.”

  That meant the drone was made out of a really tough material. Most of the pieces just needed to be put back together again.

  “Are you making it quieter?” I reminded Mr. Vaslov about Mrs. Tran’s broom.

  “Yes,” Mr. Vaslov said. “The new propellers are bigger, and they spin slower.”

  Pretty soon, the drone was back in one piece. We hooked it up to Mr. Vaslov’s laptop with a cable that looked like my mom’s phone charger.

  Mr. Vaslov started typing. “Now we program our drone to tell it what to do.”

  “Be sure to tell it not to crash,” I said.

  Mr. Vaslov laughed. “I will.”

  Maria patted the orange drone. “We should give her a name.”

  “Okay,” Mr. Vaslov said. “What?”

  “How about Ladybug?” Maria said. “She has the same colors—orange and black.”

  “Good name,” I agreed.

  Mr. Vaslov checked Ladybug over from top to bottom.

  “Let’s do a test.” He handed Maria a walkie-talkie like security guards use on TV.

  “Cool!” she said.

  “Can you go to the dumpster and report when the drone lands?”

  “Sure thing!” Maria walked away.

  It was my turn now. Would I get a walkie-talkie too?

  Mr. Vaslov had one left that he kept for himself.

  “Your job needs speed,” Mr. Vaslov said. “Can you follow the drone and see if it flies straight?”

  I stopped feeling jealous. Running was the right job for a kid with super-powered sneakers.

  Our big orange bug flew across Starwood Park, just like it was supposed to.
br />   BUZZZZZZZ!

  It didn’t sound like a race car anymore, just a very big bumblebee.


  Ladybug landed on the dumpster outside Building G.

  “YAY!” Maria yelled into the walkie-talkie.

  “Keep watching!” Mr. Vaslov’s voice crackled through the speaker. “I’m sending her back now.”

  I ran ahead of Maria and followed the drone back to the toolshed. Ladybug flew in a perfectly straight line. Not one loop the loop or crazy bounce.

  “What now?” I asked.

  “See those crab-like arms?” Mr. Vaslov pointed to the middle of the drone. “Tomorrow, Ladybug will practice carrying things.”

  “Like what?” Maria asked.

  “Pails, tools, boxes,” Mr. Vaslov said.

  “That’s the kind of stuff I carry for you,” I said.

  Was Mr. Vaslov going to replace me with a robot?

  “True,” Mr. Vaslov agreed. “But you’re in school during the day, Freddie.”

  I was still bothered. Why did Mr. Vaslov need more help all of a sudden?

  Mr. Vaslov locked the toolshed, and we turned to walk home just as Maria’s younger brother, Gio, came rushing over with Puppy, his little dog.

  “Guess what I saw!”

  Gio thinks it’s his job to tell everybody what he sees.

  “What?” I asked.

  “A man just walked into Freddie’s house,” Gio said.

  Dinner! I’d been so busy with the drone, I’d forgotten that David was coming at six.

  “He’s my mom’s friend,” I said.

  “Is he nice?” Maria asked.

  “I don’t know,” I answered. “I haven’t met him.”

  “He’d better be,” Mr. Vaslov said. “Freddie’s mom deserves the best.”

  The crashed drone feeling came back to my stomach. What if David wasn’t good for my mom? Or me?

  “Freddie’s mom could get married,” Maria said. “He could get a new dad.”


‹ Prev