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.”

“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.”

“Yes?”

“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.

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 11 Excerpt

Astrid woke up to the sounds of rain coming down upon roof. It was a surprisingly comforting sound, and it took her a few minutes to figure out why. Then the realization suddenly hit her. The sound of the rain was present, but the sounds of wind that had seemed so oppressive for the previous two days, were now gone.

She got up and hurried into the main room, looking out the crack in the boarded up window. The rain was falling in torrents, but it was falling straight down, not blown to the side like it had been. Looking around the house, the girl inventor realized that she was the only one up so far, so she wrapped up in her sleeping bag and sat by the window, watching the falling precipitation.

It was past nine when Adeline joined Astrid in the waking world. The two of them began setting out breakfast, and when the other three women joined them they ate the last of their fruit, along with cold cereal and the last of the milk.

They spent the entire day indoors without power, but with the winds much reduced, the mood was lighter.

The next day, when the skies hadn’t changed, Astrid began to get antsy. She decided that she had been indoors long enough. The others seemed to feel the same way. Mid-day, they all decided to go outside and evaluate the storm damage. Adeline and Océane went to check on the boat, while Astrid and Eleanor examined the generator. Penelope was assigned to check out the house. They shared their findings when they returned to the house.

“The generator is a total loss,” said Eleanor. “It’s so old, I was keeping it together with bubble gum and hair pins anyway. But some flying debris hit it. It took out the whole top assembly. I honestly think it will be cheaper to buy a new one, but it’s going to be $4000 and probably more than that in shipping.”

“The money is no problem,” said Penelope. “We can order it online. In the meantime, we’ll shoot over to Tahiti and buy a gasoline generator to hold us over.”

“And that brings us to a bigger problem,” said Adeline. “The speed boat is completely up on the beach, and it’s upside down. It doesn’t look too badly damaged, thought it is hard to tell.”

“All right,” said Astrid. “Let’s make a list of everything we need to order online. Then we can make a few Internet calls.”

At dinner, the five young women felt satisfied that they had done everything that they could. They hand ordered a replacement generator, though it might take a month to arrive. They had also purchased a small gasoline generator in Tahiti, which would be delivered by a salvage team who would arrive to right the speedboat and return it to the water. That wouldn’t happen though until the storm had completely passed.

There were two more days of heavy rain. The ladies mostly stayed indoors and ate fruits and vegetables from cans. The following day, which was Sunday, started out just the same, but after breakfast the rainfall started to slow, and just after lunch, it stopped.

The young women quickly changed into their swimsuits and went to lie down on the sandy beach, taking in as much of the sun as the still cloudy sky would allow. Even Astrid, who generally didn’t believe in tanning, enjoyed the feeling of the warm rays bathing her body.

“Look!” called Penelope. “The dolphins are back in the lagoon! Can we swim out to them?”

Before anyone could answer, the rain started again. It was only a sprinkle at first, but the skies were growing dark again. The girls gathered their towels and made it to the house just before the downpour returned in earnest.

“If anybody had told me that I would spend all my time in French Polynesia huddled inside the house,” said Astrid, “I would have thought they were off their nut.”

Both Océane and Adeline gave her a puzzled look.

“I would have thought they were crazy,” translated Astrid.

On Monday, the skies were still full of clouds, but the rain was limited to very light intermittent showers and the wind was no stronger than that found in a typical tropical day. The dolphins were back that afternoon, and all five young women joined them.

Astrid cast a glance at the battery charge on her translation devices. The MX-360 had pretty good battery life compared to similar products, thanks to the batteries that Astrid had invented almost two years earlier. Still, they designed to be charged after use, and the ones that formed the basis of the translator hadn’t been. The reading on the one she carried was 29%. The girl inventor decided that she would use the translator as long as it lasted.

Astrid hadn’t even reached the center of the lagoon where the other young women were floating when a large grey form brushed past her.

“Alister! Alister!” the large male announced himself.

“Astrid, Astrid,” replied the girl, using her translator to produce the dolphin-like sound that she had chosen to be her cetacean name.

The dolphin made a sound that Astrid thought might be her name, but the translator didn’t indicate anything.

Alister sailed up next to her and she reached out to touch his dorsal fin. He didn’t do anything but roll over as if to make her reach easier, so she grabbed hold of it. He shot forward, pulling her through the water at tremendous speed. After about thirty feet, she lost her handhold, and Alister shot away, leaving her right next to Océane.

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 10 Excerpt

The storm continued to rage outside the walls of the little house on Dolphin Island. The five young women had to make due with lighting from a single flashlight and several candles. They only ate food that could be eaten cold, and concentrated on that which was in the refrigerator, since without power the food within would eventually go bad.

“I wish I knew which direction the storm is moving,” said Penelope, as they sat around the table, eating a dinner of cheese sandwiches and cabbage and fennel salad.

“We had a hand crank radio,” said Eleanor, “but I broke the crank off of it.”

“Cranked it too hard?” wondered Penelope.

The blonde nodded.

“I can hook up the laptop directly to the internet,” said Astrid. “We’ve got enough battery power to run it for several hours.”

Unplugging the now unusable router, the girl inventor connected one MPro 5 notebook to the cable. Loading up the browser, she pulled up the satellite image of the storm.

“It’s passing to the north of us,” she told the others. “It’s not moving very fast though. I would guess we’ve got another two days of rough weather.”

“That’s what I figured,” said Adeline. “We’d better turn off the computer and conserve the battery.”

“First though,” said Penelope. “We each need to send a message to our loved ones telling them we’re okay.”

When it was her turn, Astrid sent the following message, making sure to address it to her mother, father, and to Toby. Power is out here, so no phone, but we are safe and sound. Don’t worry. Love to you all. Call you when we get the power back.

“Sending your love to Toby?” asked Penelope, looking over her shoulder.

“No, I’m just… That’s just what people say. You don’t think he…?”

“Stop worrying about it. He knows how you feel about him and he has since he was old enough to stand.”

“Well…” said Astrid, shrugging. “I guess.”

That night, the wind rattling loose boards and shingles on the outside of the house, made sleep difficult for Astrid. When she finally dozed off, it was late, and she was awakened at least three times during the night. It was a surprise therefor to find that she had slept late into the morning. All of the other young women were up and dresses and sitting around the table eating bread and jam.

“Why did you let me sleep so late?” asked Astrid, as she wiped the sleep from her eyes.

“There wasn’t much point in waking you,” said Penelope. “We can’t do anything but sit around staring at one another.”

“I thought now that it’s light outside, I might take a look at the generator,” returned Astrid.

“It’s light out,” said Eleanor, “but it’s still too windy to go outside. You would be blown off your feet. I’m a little surprised that we haven’t lost the roof.”

“The house is sturdy,” said Adeline. “We are also protected somewhat by the trees.”

“I hope the dolphins are okay,” said Astrid.

“They will be fine,” assured Océane. “They will swim out to the deep water. The storm won’t bother them at all.”

There was just enough light coming in through the boarded up windows that they were able to play a French version of Monopoly during mid-day. In the afternoon, the wind seemed to die down a bit, giving Astrid some hope that maybe the storm would soon be over. Then it grew suddenly dark, and minutes later, the island and the little house were deluged by waves of rain. The girls immediately had to scramble to lay out pots and dishes under the sixteen leaks in the ceiling that ranged from a steady drip to a constant stream.

“I feel like we need to look for two of every animal,” said Penelope.

It was so dark by five o’clock that it could have been midnight. Astrid peaked out a crack in the boards covering the window. All she could see were bushes being bent by the wind and pelted by the rain.

“Astrid,” said Océane, at her elbow. “Will you come help me make dinner?”

The girl inventor followed her to the part of the room that made up the kitchen.

“You seem very nervous,” said the French girl.

“Do I? I guess I am. This is the first hurricane that I’ve ever been in. We don’t get a lot of stormy weather in the southwest U.S.”

“Everything will be fine.”

“Oh, I know it will be,” said Astrid. “At least I know that in my head. I guess some other part of me isn’t so sure.”

“You will feel better after you eat. I’m making sandwiches with the last of the bread and hazel nut spread. I want you to chop of this bag of pistachios and whatever fruit we have left to go on them.”

Astrid found a handful of strawberries and two bananas in the no-longer-cold refrigerator, and diced them up fine, along with the pistachios. Océane sprinkled them on the hazel nut spread before placing the two pieces of bread together.

“I have a secret treat,” said Océane. “We’re all going to have hot cocoa.”

“How are we going to do that?” wondered Astrid. “We don’t have any heat.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 9 Excerpt

Astrid kicked her legs as hard as she could, shooting through the water over Swen’s Atoll. The grey monster shot up from behind and passed her like a bullet, only to roll over and propel itself directly toward her. At the last moment, it rose just enough to pass above her without touching. Seeing him from the surface, it was difficult to tell just how big Alister was, but seen from here beneath the waves, he was huge—over ten feet long and weighing about a thousand pounds.

“Alister play. Alister play,” the device in Astrid’s hands translated the dolphin’s signals.

From twenty feet to Astrid’s left, came another sound. Alister’s partner called out to him.

“Alister. Alister”

Astrid didn’t know for sure, but she suspected that John was trying to get Alister to pay him some attention, rather than lavishing it on the surface-dweller. Five consecutive days of swimming with him had certainly given Astrid the impression that Alister enjoyed her company. She couldn’t say the same about his companion.

She dove down and flipped over, swimming in the reverse of the direction she had been going. As she approached where the boat was anchored, she saw Penelope and two female dolphins playing with the scarf. Then she saw Adeline, who was signaling to return to the surface. Astrid followed her until both their heads popped above the waves. The girl inventor was surprised to find it darker than it had been when she had submerged.

“We’ve got to go in,” said Adeline. “The clouds have rolled in and the wind is picking up.”

“Okay,” Astrid replied. “Let me get Penelope.”

Pushing the regulator back in her mouth, Astrid dove down to where her aunt was floating, tapping her on the shoulder. When Penelope looked, she signaled to head for the surface. When their heads reached the air, they could see that the ocean was already becoming choppy. They quickly climbed into the boat.

“Were we expecting weather?” asked Penelope.

“It’s Hurricane Diego,” said Eleanor. “It was supposed to be far north of us, but it’s turned our way.”

She pulled up the anchor and then took her place behind the wheel, starting up the engine and steering toward Dolphin Island. The dolphins swam along behind them for a while, riding the wake, but then disappeared.

“That was great fun,” said Astrid. “I can’t believe that Alister is saying whole sentences—well, at least a two word sentence.”

“I think our translation is problematic,” said Adeline. “The dolphins use gestures and other signals, but I think they should be saying more. I think we are only getting a little slice of what they could say to us.”

By the time the boat was cruising into the lagoon, the waves of the open ocean were five feet or more.

They pulled the boat as far onto the sand as they could and tied it to not one, but three trees. Then they hurried inside the little house.

Eleanor turned on the radio and dialed into the weather.

“I’m going to pull up the storm on the Internet,” said Astrid.

“I’m going to puke,” said Penelope.

She staggered to the front door and stepped outside. The others could hear a retching sound. Astrid stepped out to make sure that she was all right and found the sky so dark she could have been forgiven for thinking it was night. The wind was so strong that it pushed her two steps to the left. Steadying herself, she stepped over to where Penelope knelt in the sand and bent down over her.

“Are you okay, Aunt Penelope?”

Her aunt arched her back and heaved again in reply. Astrid pulled her aunt’s black hair back to keep it out of the pool of vomit in the sand.

“I think I’m going to be turned inside out,” gasped Penelope at last.   “I haven’t felt this bad since the after party at the Grammy’s.”

“What were you doing at the Grammy’s?”

“Getting sick. That’s really all you need to know. Well, I think I’m done.”

She began struggling to her feet. Astrid helped pull her up and then threw her shoulder under the elder Maxxim’s. She led the way back inside and into the office, where Penelope crawled into her sleeping bag.

“Here, Penelope, drink this,” said Océane, stepping into the room with a glass of amber liquid.

“What is it?” came the croaked reply.

“It’s ginger ale. It will settle your stomach. We keep it on hand because Eleanor gets seasick too.”

“Is she sick now too?” wondered Astrid.

Océane nodded. “You should drink some too, Astrid.”

“I’m not seasick.”

“Not yet.”

“I need something stronger,” said Penelope. “I think I need to be put in a medically-induced coma.”

“I’m sorry,” said Océane. “I’m afraid we don’t even have motion sickness pills.”