Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 12 Excerpt

The Suncraft arrived in Honololu just before noon.  It took just over an hour to refuel and some of the passengers, Toby, Austin, Denise, and Penelope among them, went for a walk through the airport terminal to stretch their legs.  Christopher had fallen asleep just before they had landed, and nobody wanted to wake him up.  Astrid spent the time talking to the flight crew and going over the safety check with them.

“Look who I found,” said Penelope upon her return, pulling along a wiry young woman of medium height, with a strong nose, bright eyes, and massive waves of curly brown hair.

“Hello, Paige!” called Astrid, hurrying to give the newcomer a big hug.

“Hey, Boss.”

Paige Liebowitz looked much younger than her twenty-eight years.  She had been in charge of Maxxim world-wide construction projects for the past two years, but now, pending board approval, was the Senior Vice President of Construction, upon Astrid’s recommendation.

“Tell me you’re coming to Beijing with us.”

“I had to agree to come to stop Penny from whining about it,” said Paige, elbowing Penelope, whose sour face indicated that she was no fonder of Paige calling her by her childhood nickname than anyone else.

“Come on, boys!” called Paige, waving forward Austin and Toby, both weighed down with metal cargo chests.  “Here comes lunch, dinner, and snacks for the rest of this epic voyage.”

The five of them loaded the food into the plane’s kitchen area and were ready by the time the aircraft was prepared to return to the skies.

“Wait!  Denise came running across the tarmac, waving her hands.  “Don’t leave without me!”

“Where have you been?” asked Astrid, as the door was pulled closed and the two of them maneuvered toward their seats.  

Denise pointed to her face.  The tiny gold ring that normally hung from the center of her nose, just above her full upper lip, had been replaced by a ring, that while no larger, featured a tiny round coral bead in the middle.  It definitely made the jewelry more noticeable.

Astrid pulled out her phone and began typing.

“What are you doing?” asked Denise.

“I’m texting your brother that this wasn’t my fault.”

“No, you would never do anything as dangerous as help me pick out jewelry,” said Denise.  “You’re all about throwing me into shark infested waters or killing me in a…”

She stopped and looked like she was biting her tongue.

“What?” said Astrid.

“I was going to say killing me in a plane crash, but I don’t want to anger the aircraft gods.”“Good thinking,” said Astrid.

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 9 Excerpt

“You’re going steady?” said Denise with a frown, while looking around the Brown-Richards back yard.  “Is this the 1940s?  Have we gone back in time?  I distinctly remember telling you that I didn’t want to be part of your time travel experiments.”

She was seated, facing Astrid, as both relaxed in the family’s bubbling hot tub. “There’s no such thing as time travel,” said Astrid, “and quit making fun of us.  I think it’s sweet that he wanted to go steady.”

“Yeah, sweet like that artificial sugar substitute that makes you break out in hives.  We’re young, beautiful women and we should be out playing the field.  We should be serial dating, and not granola either but some cereal with lots of real sugar, that rots your teeth and makes you bounce off the walls like a hyperactive puppy.”

“Sometimes I wonder if even you know what you’re talking about,” said Astrid.

“I’m talking about dating.”

“But you’re dating Christopher.”

“That’s right; I am,” said Denise, “right up until I see somebody I want to date more.  And then I date that guy, unless I find out he’s not as good as Christopher and then I go back to dating him.”

“But you always go back to Christopher.”

“That’s because they never turn out to be better,” Denise grumbled.

“Doesn’t it bother you if he goes out with someone else too?” asked Astrid.

“No.  He can date Alicia all he wants… if he likes big butts and stupid faces.”

“Well, as long as you don’t mind,” said the girl inventor.

At that moment, Astrid’s phone rang from where her pants were draped over a patio chair.  She answered using her Maxxim Carpe wrist computer.


“Astrid?  Hi.  It’s Michelle Pennington.  I hope you don’t mind me calling.  I got your number from Dr. Born.”

“No problem.  What’s up?”

“Arthur and I were going over our experiments and we think we have a winner.”

Astrid and the Pennington twins had, weeks earlier, set up an experiment to test a dozen compounds of Astridium to see which, if any, might absorb carbon from the air.

“You’re looking over the results now?  At school?  It’s Sunday.”

“It’s all right,” said Michelle.  “Dr. Born is with us, and Mrs. Frost is somewhere in the building.”

“Mrs. Frost,” grumbled Denise, evidently still upset about the aborted assault on her nose ring.“All right,” said Astrid.  “We can go over the results in class tomorrow and if it works out, we should start designing some kind of prototype device to use the product.”

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 6

Eclipse made a successful landing at the Maxxim Airfield on the evening of Friday, October fourth.  That gave Astrid a relaxing weekend before she had to be back at school.  She finished up the small amount of schoolwork she hadn’t done in orbit, and spent several hours practicing her oboe.

Back at school on Monday, life seemed so much smaller than it had when she was zooming around the earth at 17,500 miles per hour.  On the other hand, sometime Astrid just enjoyed being a teen-aged girl.

Mrs. Werner really worked the orchestra hard that morning, preparing them for their first concert which was that evening at 5:00.  After all that, it felt great to throw Austin to the mat several times in Jui Jitsue class.  By the time lunch arrived, Astrid was really looking forward to her meal of arctic char, butternut squash, snow peas, and cheesecake for dessert.  When she got in the lunch line however, she was handed a tray with a chili dog, fries, an apple, and a chocolate chip cookie.

“Where is my arctic char?” wondered Astrid.

“The refrigerator died over the weekend,” said Monica de Leo, a senior who was helping to distribute lunches.  “The fish and the cheesecake went bad.”

“What about the squash and the peas?”

“Chef wasn’t able to make them,” said Monica.  “I think he had a breakdown.  He kept kicking the refrigeration unit, calling it a donkey.  Then he just started crying.”

“I hope he’s okay,” said Astrid.  “After all, there are worse things than having to eat a chili dog.”

“This is the worst lunch I’ve ever had,” Denise was saying as Astrid joined her friends in the quad.  “Look at these fries.  They’re limp and pathetic.”

“I’ll eat yours if you don’t want them,” offered Austin.

Denise passed everything to him except for her apple.

“There are plenty of kids who have to eat lunches like this every day,” said Christopher.

“But think how much worse it is for me,” said Denise.  “After all, those kids are used to eating horrible food.  I’m used to the finer things in life, and now I’m not getting them.”

Christopher gave her a look that he usually reserved for people that thought school was a waste of time.

“Cheer up, guys,” urged Toby.  “Eat your apple now, and then we can swing by the Malt Shop and get something on the way home.”

“This kind of makes me glad I don’t have to eat anymore,” Robot Valerie announced.  “I’ve gotten used to just plugging in since Astrid turned me into a robot.”

“See there?” said Astrid, taking a bite of her apple.  “Silver lining.”

She had long since given up trying to explain that she hadn’t turned anyone into a robot.  She had merely built a robot and copied her friend Valerie’s memories into it.

“Say, Astrid,” said Regular Valerie.  “Denise and Valerie and I were thinking that this year we should have a joint birthday celebration.”

“Really?  Last year we all made such a big deal with our families about having separate parties.”

“But now you have Miss Scacchi,” said Valerie.  “She has party-planning superpowers.”

“That’s true,” agreed Astrid.  “On the other hand, I think I might be in China the week of my birthday.”

“You’re going to China?” asked Denise.

“Astrid has mentioned this before,” said Toby.  “She’s going to the Beijing Auto Show.  You weren’t planning on staying two weeks though, are you?”

“Probably not,” said Astrid.

“I didn’t know that China was a sure thing,” Denise frowned.  “I kind of want to go to too.”

“Maybe we should all go,” said Austin.  “I’m pretty popular in China.”

“And why would you be popular in China?” wondered Robot Valerie.

“Because of the game.  Battling Princesses of Solaron is huge in China.  I’ve made enough money from sales there to buy a private island.”

The others all stared at him.

“Well, a small island… in a lake… with a really big house on it.”

“We should all see if we can go to China,” suggested Christopher.  “It would be an educational experience, after all.”

“I don’t think I’ll be able to go,” said Bud.

“I don’t think my parents would be too keen on me going either,” said Regular Valerie, “and I’m really sure they won’t allow Valerie to go.”

“I don’t think she should be going anywhere outside of Maxxim City without some serious security,” opined Toby.  “For that matter, I’m not sure that Astrid should either.”

“I’ll be fine,” said Astrid. 

“Yeah,” said Austin.  “After all, she’s already been to Antarctica, space, and even Vegas.  And if Valerie can go to China, I’ll be there to protect her.”

“It’s an awfully expensive trip though,” said Bud.

“How about this,” said the girl inventor.  “Everyone ask their parents for permission.  If it’s okay, we’ll all fly over together and stay as a group.  Maxxim Industries will pay for our stay and for the appropriate security.”

The afternoon classes flew by.  Meeting together at the monorail station, the entire gang all agreed that they were really hungry.  Getting off at main street station, all eight made a beeline for the Maxxim City Malt Shop.  Inside, they pushed two tables together and all sat around, arranging themselves boy-girl-boy-girl seemingly by accident.  Anyone who knew them would no doubt notice, however, that they were not arranged by accident.

“I’ll place our orders,” said Denise, getting up and starting toward the counter.  “I know what everybody wants.”

“We got here just in time,” said Bud, watching students entering through the front door in groups of twos and threes, and sometimes more.  “I guess a lot of kids skipped their school lunch.”

“They’ve been spoiled by the fries here,” said Denise, returning to the table and taking her seat next to between Christopher and Toby.

“Are you sure you ordered what I wanted?” asked Austin from across the table.

“Seven cheeseburgers,” said Denise.  “No onions on Valerie’s, no pickle on Bud’s, and no tomato on yours, Austin.  Fries for everyone except Bud.  He gets onion rings.  Chocolate shakes for Austin, Christopher, and me.  Vanilla for Bud.  Strawberry for Val.  Chocolate sodas for Toby and Astrid.  And Robot Valerie, there’s a plug by your feet, under that little metal flip-up door.”

They looked back and forth at one another and then, all at once, nodded.

“I can’t stay too long,” said Astrid.  “I have to get home and get ready for the concert.”

“Is there a concert tonight?” asked Denise.

“Um, yes,” said Astrid looking around the table.

Christopher laughed.

“We all know you have a concert, Astrid.  Everyone here is going to be there to support you.  Even Bud is going to be there.”

“I have to bring my brother and my sisters with me,” Bud grumbled.  Everyone knew that Bud was often pressed into service as a babysitter for his four siblings.

“I’ll help you with them,” said Valerie, batting her long lashes at the dark-haired boy.

“Me too,” added Denise.  “Kids love me.”

A moment later, she got up and began ferrying their food to the table.  Christopher jumped up to help her.  Everything, as expected, was delicious, and everyone finished in plenty of time for Astrid to get home and get dressed in her concert gown.

The school theater was overflowing with students, parents, and faculty at concert time.  The orchestra played Bernstein’s Divertimento and the Fantasy Overture of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, followed by the Kabalevsky Overture to Colas Breugnon and Bernstein’s Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront.  The final piece was a medley of America the Beautiful and Colors of the Wind from Disney’s Pocahontas.  The crowd gave them a standing ovation.  Astrid couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the night.

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 5 Excerpt

“Hey, Boss!  What’s up?” called Dr. Roger Maxxim from behind a large rocket engine.

“Hi, Dad.  You know, I thought it was pretty funny when you used to call mom Boss, but I don’t think I’m as keen on it when it’s me.”

“Yes.  She felt the same way.  On the plus side, you have fewer ways that you can show your displeasure than she did.  What can I do for you, Dear?”

“I need to talk to you about something,” said Astrid.

“And are you talking to me as my daughter or as my boss?”

“Um, boss, I guess.”

“Okay, I’m listening, and I promise to follow directions just as much as I did when your mother had that position.”

“Look, Dad.  I already know you do whatever you want, no matter what anybody else says, but I want you to at least give me a fair hearing.”

“Of course, Dear.  Let’s have a seat.”  He led her over to a pair of plush chairs situated near the door of his personal lab.  “What’s on your mind.”

“Uncle Carl and I want to get back into the commercial aircraft business in a big way.  I need you to come up with some great plane designs.  We’re doing well with smaller executive aircraft, but we think that now is the time for us to re-enter the market with larger passenger planes.  We need everything from commuter planes to jumbo jets.  Can you do it?”

“You know that I spend a lot of my spare time designing planes, Astrid,” he said.  “I have updated designs for just about anything you could name.  However, your mother has decided that this isn’t a market we can dominate.  What makes you think your Uncle Carl knows better?”

“Actually, this isn’t Uncle Carl’s idea,” said Astrid.  “It’s mine.”

“Well, I guess, then, that we have to do it,” said Dr. Maxxim.  “After all, if the whole thing blows up in our faces, it’s going to hurt you more than me.”

“How’s that?” wondered Astrid.

“Well, you own more company stock than I do, so you’ll lose more money.  Besides, it’s always the person in charge that takes the fall, and who do you think your mother will blame for tanking the company.”

“Gee thanks, Dad.  That’s a lot of pressure for a fifteen-year-old.”

“Good thing you’re wearing your big-girl pants,” he said.

“Um, I’m wearing a skirt.”

“Anyway,” he continued, “you’ll be sixteen in just a few weeks.  You really are growing up way too fast.”

“Do you think you can have a presentation for the board by the end of October?”

“My Halloween gift to you,” he said, reaching over and pulling her into a hug.

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 4 Excerpt

“At least I’m not the only one trying to get caught up,” Astrid told herself.  Then remembering her earlier conversation with Denise, she texted, “Would you send me your brother’s phone number, please?

Denise sent the number, and Astrid tapped the link.  It rang five times, and she was just about ready to hang up when it was answered.  She immediately recognized the voice as Denise’s brother, whom Astrid had known since she was in elementary school.

“Enough already, Redwood,” he said.  “It’s not funny anymore.”

“Um, Dennis?”

“Who is this?”

“It’s Astrid.  You know… Denise’s friend.”

“Hi, Astrid,” Dennis laughed.  “I know who you are.  You’re world famous, you know, so being a friend of my sister is hardly the most obvious descriptor for you.”

“So, who’s Redwood?” wondered Astrid.

“Oh, he’s this guy that lives in my dorm.  His real name is Morris, but we call him Redwood because he’s from someplace called Redwood City.  He’s been on my case since school started because I mentioned that I know you.  Of course, he doesn’t believe it.”

“Gosh, Dennis,” said Astrid.  “I would hate to be the cause of you being bullied.  Maybe I could find a picture of us together and send it.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said.  “I’ve got plenty of pictures of us from when we went to Spain last year, including a very embarrassing one of you spilling paella.  I just don’t feel like showing them to him.”

“Wouldn’t it shut him up?”

“I’m sure he would find something else to annoy me about,” said Dennis.  “Anyway, enough about him.  Why are you calling me, Astrid?  Is Denise in some kind of trouble again?  She didn’t get a tattoo or anything, did she?”

“No,” laughed the girl inventor.  “She did mention though that you were having second thoughts about your major.”

“I guess that’s fair to say.  I just had this realization that, while I love drawing and design, I’m never going to be as good a designer as my father.”

“Dennis, you don’t know that.  He’s probably way better now than he was at your age.”

“Oh, he is.  But I’ve looked at designs he made when he was still on college.  They’re amazing.  It’s a lot to live up to.  I know you understand, Astrid, because your Dad’s a genius.  But in a lot of ways, you’ve already surpassed him.  How would you feel if you thought you never could?”

“I guess I’d feel pretty conflicted.  I’ll bet that’s how children of many of history’s great achievers must feel.  So, what are you going to do?”

“Well, I haven’t made any firm decisions about anything yet.  I’m going to weigh my options and think about it.  After all, this is only my sophomore year at the university.  I may go into architecture or it may be something else.  I’m more fortunate than most students.  My dads can afford to support my education, whatever I decide.”

“It sounds like you have a plan,” said Astrid.  “I just want you to know, Dennis, that there will always be a place at Maxxim Industries for you, whether as an architect or a designer, or something else.”

“Thanks, Astrid.  I appreciate that.  Just remember, I’m not responsible for anything my sister does to you in the meantime.”

“I should be saying that to you.  According to her, I’m always trying to ruin her life.  Anyway, Dennis, it was great to talk to you.”

“You too, Astrid.  Thanks for calling.  Bye.”


Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 2 Excerpt

The train arrived in only a few minutes at the large, three-story, modern school building that was Rachel Carson High School.  The school had its own internal monorail station on the top floor.  Stepping off the train, the kids gave each other a quick wave and hurried to their lockers in the team rooms.  Astrid and Christopher walked together, since they were in Team One.

“Well, we’re four weeks in,” said Astrid.  “How do you think school is going so far?”

“Good,” said Christopher.  “I have to say I’m enjoying Medieval History more than I thought I was going to.  You?”

“Oh, everything’s great.  I’m first chair oboe, you know, in Orchestra.”

“Aren’t there only two oboes?”

“You’re getting back at me because of that romance comment, aren’t you?” said Astrid.

“Maybe,” Christopher laughed.

“Are you kind of sad that you and Denise don’t have any classes together?”

“No,” he replied.  “I’d rather not be distracted.  How is being a teacher?”

“Kind of fun, actually.”

“Well, better you than me.”

Having dropped off their backpacks in their lockers, the two friends headed off toward their respective classes.  Advanced Orchestra was Astrid’s first class, and she was first chair oboe, the only other oboist being Mark McGovern.  The heavy-set boy had been very unfriendly to Astrid and her friends in the past but seemed to be making an effort to be more pleasant now.  This was possibly because she was his teacher for Robotics, or it might be because more than a few of his relatives worked for Maxxim Industries.  The class was working on Bernstein’s Divertimento for Orchestra.

“Astrid,” said Mrs. Werner, the orchestra teacher, as they were packing up.  “You know that the concert is the seventh of next month.”


“Will you be able to be with us?”

“Sure,” said Astrid.

“You’re not going to be in space or on an expedition to the center of the Earth or anything?”

“I’ll make sure I’m here, Mrs. Werner.”

“Don’t you go into space anymore?” asked Mia Escalante, a sophomore viola player.

“Oh, sure.  I’m going up next week, but I’ll be back in plenty of time for the concert.”

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 1 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim stepped up to the counter in the Maxxim City Police Station.  The officer, who had been busy writing, looked up.

“Oh, Miss Maxxim.  How can I help you?”

“I’m here to meet my friend Valerie Diaz.  She’s writing a report on the police department for school.”

“Right.  She’s with Chief Gillespie.  He said to bring you on back when you got here.”

Stepping out from behind the counter, he waved for her to follow and led her back down a hallway to a door.  He knocked once and then opened it for her to step inside.  The room beyond was a small one, unremarkable except for a large window filling up one wall, and a camera on a tripod pointed at it.  Standing there, looking through the window, which Astrid surmised was a two-way mirror, were the Chief of Police and her friends Valerie Diaz and Valerie’s cybernetic twin Robot Valerie.

Astrid Maxxim was a cute girl of fifteen.  Her shoulder-length strawberry blond hair set off her very large blue eyes.  Valerie Diaz had been Astrid’s friend for years.  She had a crewcut of black hair, as well as flashing brown eyes.  Robot Valerie was the result of one of Astrid’s experiments a year before.  She had a metallic blue polycarbonate skin and long blue hair but was otherwise very similar to Regular Valerie.

“Come here, Astrid,” whispered Regular Valerie.  “We’re watching an interrogation.”

Astrid stepped over next to her to peer into another room where a female police officer and a man in dirty clothes faced each other over a small table.  Astrid knew Officer Cutler.  The policewoman had helped write the safety rules for Astrid’s hoverbike.  The man across from her, despite his clothes, had very clean hands and face.  He was bald, with a bit of a scraggly beard.

“So, let me make sure I have everything,” said Officer Cutler to the man.  “Your name is Thomas Eckles, and you’re from the future”

“That’s right.  Twenty-five years in the future.”

“But you lost your time machine.”

“I didn’t lose it,” he said with a sigh.  “The government took it.”

“Then you came here to Maxxim City.  Why was that again?”

“To get another time machine.  They invented it here.  I mean, they’re going to invent it here—any day now.”

“Are you working on a time machine now?” Chief Gillespie asked Astrid.

“Of course not,” said Astrid.  “Time travel is impossible.”

“If you say so, but I’m standing here next to a robot.”

“Well, it’s good to know that Maxxim City is still here in the future,” Officer Cutler told the man.

“It is, but it’s different,” he replied.  “It’s very different.”

“Come on, let’s get you girls on your way,” said the Chief, waving them toward the door.

“You’re going to get a psych evaluation at the hospital,” said Cutler, from the other room.  “If they say you’re not a threat, you’ll be free to go.”

“I understand,” replied Eckles, if that was really his name.  “I’m not worried.  This is before things got bad.  If this were my time, they’d throw me in the reeducation booth.”

“Wait.  What did he say?” asked Astrid, who had just stepped out into the hallway.

“Just more gibberish,” said Gillespie, closing the door after them.  “Let this be a lesson to you girls—don’t do drugs.”

“We wouldn’t do that,” said Robot Valerie.

“Um, I wasn’t really worried about you,” he clarified.  

“The future is always dystopian, isn’t it?” asked Cutler, still in the interview room.

“It’s because of the Internet,” replied the so-called time traveler.  “Once someone controls all the information, robot stormtroopers are sure to follow.”

Astrid looked back through the mirrored window.

“I think I want to hear more.”

“Don’t get too invested,” said the chief, guiding her by the shoulders out of the room.  “There are a lot of crazy people in the world.”  He looked at the Valeries.  “I hope you were both able to get all the information you needed.  We’re a small-town police department, but we’re proud of the job we do.”

“I think we did,” said Regular Valerie.  “Thanks so much for taking the time to give us the tour.”

“You’re welcome.”  

The chief led them to the lobby and then, bidding them farewell, turned and marched back toward his office.

“That was really fascinating,” said Robot Valerie.  “I think I might want to go into law enforcement someday.”

“I like your new shoes, Astrid,” said Regular Valerie looking down, “but if you don’t keep them tied, you might fall on your face.”

“Oh,” said Astrid, following Valerie’s gaze to see that her left shoe was untied.

She dropped down into a squat to tie it.

“Governor!  How did you find me?”

Astrid turned to see that Officer Cutler had led the man calling himself Thomas Eckles, his hands cuffed behind his back, into the lobby.  Now he was staring at Valerie.  Astrid stood up.  Eckle’s eyes turned to her and suddenly his face drained of color.

“No!” he wailed, dropping to his knees.  “No!  I didn’t tell them anything!  I swear I didn’t tell them anything!”

“Johnson!” called Officer Cutler, to the other officer on duty, who ran around from behind the desk.  They each took one of the man’s arms and lifted him up, pulling him back down the hallway.  “You girls go on out,” she said.

As the two police officers half carried/half dragged the man away, Astrid could hear him shouting.  “No!  Don’t you understand?  We’re all dead!  Nobody crosses the Supreme Ruler and lives!”

“I hope they get him the help he needs,” said Robot Valerie, once they were outside the station’s front door.

“Unless he’s really from the future,” said Regular Valerie, “in which case, I hope he gets another time machine.  I guess you better hurry up and invent it, Astrid.”

“Time machines are not possible,” said Astrid, with a frown.

“Just because nobody’s made one before, doesn’t make it impossible that they might someday,” said Valerie.  “Nobody thought a rocket to the moon was possible, but they built one.” 

“You can go to the moon, because the moon is there.  Time isn’t.  Time isn’t a place you can go.  It’s not really like another dimension of space.  The past is just what has already happened, and the future is just what hasn’t happened yet.”

“Didn’t Stephen Hawking say time travel was possible?” wondered Robot Valerie.

“That was theoretical,” Astrid replied, “under very confined parameters, and only at the quantum level.  Why does nobody seem to get that?”“Because nobody knows what any of that means,” said Regular Valerie.

Astrid Maxxim and Her High-Rise Air Purifier

Now available where ever fine ebooks are sold– Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier, the seventh book in the Astrid Maxxim: Girl Inventor series. Astrid takes on kidnappers, global warming, Chinese conglomerates, and high school. 99 cents in any ebook format. Look for the paperback edition at Amazon.

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 16 Excerpt

Rachel Carson students were each assigned one of eight Programs of Focus. It was not all that different from having a major in college. Though the students inevitably just referred to them by their number, the programs were Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Formal Sciences, Language Arts, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Leadership, and Kinesthetics. Astrid and Christopher were both in Program One. Of course every student’s course of study was tailored specifically for him. Even though Christopher and Astrid were both in the same program, each of their studies were weighted toward different areas, which was why they only shared one class together. Each program had a team room, and inside each team room was a lounge area and two locker rooms, one for girls and one for boys. Astrid and Christopher walked into the Program One team room, and then into their respective locker rooms. Astrid pulled her books and digital tablet from her backpack and then placed it in her locker.

She was headed to her first class when she found herself walking along next to Mark McGovern.

“Hello, Nerd,” he said.

“Hello, Mark,” she said brightly. “How does it feel to be a junior?”

“Pretty cool,” he said, adding a little swagger to his step.

“What class do you have now?”

“Why do you care?” he demanded.

“Just wondering.”

“I have Advanced Orchestra, but you’d better not make fun of it.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” said Astrid, but Mark hurried ahead before she could add that she was on her way to the same class.

Astrid had not had a music class since Junior High, but she had been able to place into Advanced Orchestra because of her regular practice at home. She retrieved her oboe from the cabinet and took her place, to find that she was seated right next to Mark. They were, in fact, the only two oboes in the orchestra. She looked around for a friendly face, knowing that Austin played viola, but he apparently wasn’t part of the class. She spotted quite a few faces that she knew, but nobody she knew well. With a shrug, she turned her attention to Mrs. Werner, the instructor.

“Boy am I glad to see you, Austin,” she said, upon arriving at her second class.

“Oh? Why?”

“I hardly know anyone in my orchestra class. It’s good to see a friendly face. How come you aren’t in that class with me?”

“I have Concert Orchestra third period,” he explained. “This year is going to suck! This is the only class I have with any of my friends.”

“That may not be completely true,” said Astrid.

“All right, class,” said Miss Gracie. “Take your positions. We’re going to start out with some basic moves.”

When Astrid got to her third period class, there were only two students sitting in class, one boy and one girl, neither of whom she had ever seen before. Astrid took her seat and waited, but no one else showed up to fill any of the remaining seats.

“Hi. I’m Astrid,” she said.

“We know who you are,” said the boy. “I can’t believe we have a class with you. My dad said we might.”

“I’m Michelle,” said the girl, “and this is my brother Artie.”

“Arthur,” he corrected. “We just moved here from Alaska.”

“Our dad is going to be the new chief of the Maxxim Fabrication facility.”

“Oh yeah,” said Astrid. “Mr. Gortner is moving to Detroit to work with my uncle. So, you two are brother and sister?”

“We’re twins,” said Michelle.

“Not identical, obviously,” added Arthur.

“You guys must be really smart,” said Astrid. “This is an advanced class. Where did you go to school before?”

“We’ve never gone to a regular school,” said Michelle. “We’ve always been home schooled.”

“That’s mostly because we lived in the Arctic, and there wasn’t a school close,” added her brother.

At that moment, Dr. Born entered from the door at the back of the class.

“Welcome to the wonderful world of Materials Management,” he said.

“What do you guys have next?” asked Astrid at the end of class.

“Calculus IV,” said Michelle. “My dad says we might be the only ones in the class.”

“Nope,” said Astrid. “We don’t have to go anywhere, because it’s the same classroom and the same teacher.”

“That’s good,” said Arthur. “I hate having to fight the crowd.”

Astrid didn’t point out that Rachel Carson High School had much less crowded halls than any school she had ever heard of.

“It must be weird going to school with so many people,” she said.

“It’s weird seeing so many people at all,” said Arthur. “Our town in Alaska only had eighty-five people.”

Christopher walked into the room and sat down, completing the class compliment.

“Hello,” he said. “You two were in my Medieval History class.”

“This is Michelle and Arthur,” introduced Astrid. “I didn’t catch your last name.”

“Pennington,” they said together.

Dr. Born stood up from his desk and started with a warm up activity involving vector operations.

After class, the four of them walked to the quad together. They stepped into the lunch line and received their lunches, which consisted of roasted swordfish, grilled asparagus with lemon pesto, French beans with heirloom tomatoes and hot cherry peppers, and for dessert, roasted pears with mascarpone.

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 12 Excerpt

The following morning, Eleanor and Océane took the speedboat into Tahiti. Astrid and Penelope spent most of the morning helping Adeline clean up the damage from the hurricane. The few trees had lost many of their branches and the young women soon had a pile of wood for which to make future beach bonfires. Some of roof tiles had been damaged and they did what they could to repair it with the single hammer, box of nails and one tube of roof cement.

They went swimming in the lagoon in the afternoon, but the dolphins did not put in an appearance. Afterwards the young women warmed themselves on the beach. Penelope had just suggested going inside, when the speedboat sailed into the lagoon.

“We brought take-away!” called Océane, as the boat touched the sandy beach.

“Take-away what?” wondered Astrid.

“That’s what Europeans call takeout,” said Penelope.

“Yes,” continued Océane, hopping down from the boat’s side. “Chinese food!”

“Yay!” Astrid shouted, suddenly realizing just how hungry she was.

After pulling the boat onto the sand and tying it down, they all went inside to eat, leaving the unloading of supplies until after.

“We got Dinner B for five,” said Océane excitedly. “It’s my favorite. We have won ton soup, egg rolls, fried shrimp, steamed rice, cashew chicken, and sweet and sour pork. And because the two of you are here, we also got egg foo young and sesame chicken.”

“I’m glad we could be helpful,” said Penelope.

They all filled their plates with heaps of Chinese food. Feeling like they had been underfed for the past few days, they ate until they could eat no more. Then they lay back to let their food settle.

It wasn’t long before Astrid dozed off. When she woke up, the others had already finished unloading the supplies. It was too late to take the boat out by then, so the girl inventor used the time to check over her equipment. Aunt Penelope talked her in to going back out to the beach and playing in the surf for a while. For dinner, they ate the remains of the Chinese food, which was fine, since nobody was really very hungry anymore.

For breakfast the next morning, they had toaster pastries that were not toasted, which to Astrid’s mind, made them almost inedible. Eleanor turned on the generator long enough to check the status of the new replacement generator online. Astrid used the opportunity to recharge everything. Then the whole crew climbed into the speedboat and headed out into the ocean.

Adeline knew of several locations the dolphins frequented for hunting. They tried two of them with no luck before spotting several dorsal fins cutting through the waves between two tiny atolls.

“This is tricky diving here,” said Eleanor, as she threw the anchor over the side. “The pass here has a fairly strong current.”

“This is also a popular hunting spot for sharks as well as dolphins,” added Océane.

“I always kind of wanted to swim with sharks,” said Penelope.

Eleanor stayed topside, while the other four young women donned their scuba gear and dropped one by one into the azure blue water. Astrid followed the others down into the depths, holding the translator gear in her right hand. The visibility was amazing.

It didn’t take long before they found the dolphins. One shot right past Astrid’s shoulder. She thought it was Catherine, but she wasn’t sure. It didn’t take long before she spotted sharks either. There were dozens of black tip sharks cutting through the water in formation. She could see more sharks down in the depths but couldn’t make out just what species. A large fish shot just by her left, and it took a moment before Astrid recognized it as a yellow fin tuna.

It wasn’t long before the girl inventor saw what was drawing all the hunters. A large school of anchovies was being herded upwards by the dolphins. The sharks and the tuna were taking advantage of the situation by shooting into the cloud of small fish from the sides.

Astrid could hear the clicks and whistles of the dolphins, but nothing came out of the translator. The microphone must not have been able to pick up the calls from the distance between her and the marine animals. She dove down deeper and moved closer to the action. Finally, the translator offered a hint at the conversation in the depths.

“John hunt!” came the words from the device. “Anchovies up.”

Astrid saw two very large dolphins shoot up and into the cloud of bait fish. She didn’t need the machine to tell her that it was John and Alister. Carefully aiming the microphone around, she could pick up the calls from the other dolphins.

“Rachel anchovies! Catherine down around! James hunt!”

Suddenly the translator spat out another word.

“Alister, Adaline!”

Astrid looked around. She saw Océane and Penelope just to her left, but she didn’t see Adeline at first. Then she spotted her, she had been caught by the current in the pass and had been swept across the reef. She had managed to stop herself but was now swimming in a cloud of what looked suspiciously like blood. Worse, there were a dozen black tip sharks circling around her.

“Alister! Sharks!” the translator said again.