Astrid Maxxim and the Great Water Project (Chapter 11 Excerpt)

“Socketburg has gotten pretty big,” said Astrid, as she parked in front of the mall.

“There are all those new jobs at Maxxim, but Maxxim City has controlled growth.  The people have to live somewhere.”

“That’s a long commute to make every day,” observed Astrid.  “We should extend the monorail to Socketburg!”

“And if it came to the mall, we wouldn’t have to drive.”

“But I just bought a car.”

“Come on.  It’s time to shop.”

“Where are we going first?” asked Astrid.

“My favorite store—Flips.”

“What do they sell?  Hats?”

“Things,” said Penelope.  “Wonderful things.”

Flips turned out to be a store that sold all kinds of strange gadgets and unique gifts.  Within a few minutes, Astrid had found a small programmable robot that she thought would be perfect for Christopher and a make-your-own soda machine for Austin.

“What do you think I should get Toby?” Astrid asked.

“Something cool and very, very expensive,” said a voice from behind her.

She turned to find not her aunt, but a smiling Toby.

“Hey, what are you doing here?” the teen inventor asked as she stepped over and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“My dad saw Penelope and came in to talk to her.”

“Yeah, she’s around here somewhere.”

“She’s a couple of counters over.”

“Let’s sneak over and listen to what they’re talking about,” whispered Astrid.

She tiptoed to the end of the aisle, Toby following along.  When she reached the end, she could just hear Mr. Bundersmith on the other side.  He said something that she didn’t quite catch but she heard Penelope’s reply clearly enough.

“In Magic in the Moonlight, Emma Stone was twenty-five and Colin Firth was fifty-three.”

“I’m no Colin Firth,” said Toby’s father.

“No, you’re better looking than he is, although he has a better accent.  And in Lost in Translation, Scarlett Johansson was only eighteen and Bill Murray was fifty-two.”

“They didn’t actually get together in the end, as I recall.”

“Maybe not, but in A Perfect Murder, Gwyneth Paltrow was twenty-six and Michael Douglas was fifty-four.”

“We live in an overly permissive modern society.”

“Debbie Reynolds was only nineteen in Singin’ in the Rain, while Gene Kelly was forty.  That was the forties, in case you forgot.”

“I think the only thing that proves is that you watch too many movies,” he said.

“I watch too many movies alone.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Great Water Project (Chapter 11 Excerpt)

Leaning back and propping her tablet on her knee, Astrid turned to the Maxxim Motors web page.  She found the Maxxim Mongoose and selected “buy.”  She ticked the boxes for all the options— all electric, all-wheel drive, deepwater blue exterior, blue and charcoal interior, custom interior with heated and cooled seats.


Astrid pressed the purchase button, and the next screen was financing.  It offered options to finance through one’s bank or the company.  Astrid wanted to just purchase it outright, but there didn’t seem to be an option for that.  A window popped up with a button to press for assistance.  Astrid pressed it.  A young woman’s face appeared in a little window.

“Hi.  I’m Janice.  How can I help you?”

“I’ve selected my car, and I’m just trying to make the final purchase.”

“I’m very happy that you were able to find a Maxxim automobile that you like,” said Janice, “and I can walk you through the rest.  How would you like to finance your vehicle?”

“I have the full amount in my bank account, and I just want to transfer it over.”

“Okay, I can help you with that,” A form appeared on the screen. “Just fill out your banking information in the spaces provided.”

Astrid waved her Carpé smart watch over the screen and the information was automatically filled in.  She pressed the submit button.

“There you go.”

“It has come through and is confirmed.  Now what day do you want to schedule your delivery, Miss… um, Maxxim?  Is that correct?”

“Yes,” said Astrid.  “Astrid Maxxim.”

“Um… well, we can offer delivery any day… um… between the twenty-third and the twenty-seventh.”

“Definitely the twenty-third,” said Astrid.  “I want to be able to drive it as much as possible during winter break.”

“Okay.  I have you on the schedule for the December twenty-third, between the hours of 7AM and 6PM.  Thank you and I hope you enjoy your new Maxxim motorcar.”

“I’m sure I will,” said Astrid, before hanging up.

She sat for several minutes, imagining herself driving around town behind the wheel of her new vehicle.  She was just turning her attention back to her space station blueprints when her phone rang.

“Hello, Uncle Carl,” she answered, having seen his face on her screen.

“Astrid, why are you terrorizing our customer service representatives?”

“I’m not terrorizing anyone!  I just called to order a new car.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it can be for a regular person to talk to you?”

“I’m a regular person,” said Astrid.

“How would you feel if Neal Armstrong called you on the phone?”

“Well, I’d be surprised since he’s dead.  But I guess I get what you mean.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Great Water Project (Chapter 4 Excerpt)

The parts for her prototype hoverdisk had arrived and she worked for a couple of hours assembling it.  She had just about finished when she heard voices in the hallway and looked up to see Denise and the two Valeries step in the doorway.

“What’s up, Frankenstein?” called Denise.

“Well, that’s kind of insulting,” said Astrid.

“No, it’s not.  Frankenstein was the scientist.  The monster was called Frankenstein’s monster.”

“I know that,” said Astrid.  “But Dr. Frankenstein was kind of evil, not to mention crazy.”

“I suppose you’re right.  He experimented on people and brought his creation to life.  Does that sound like anyone you know, Valerie?”

“Leave me out of it,” said both Valeries at the same time.

Astrid’s face flushed as she looked back and forth between Valerie and Robot Valerie.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Denise.  “We love you even if you turn out to be evil and/or crazy.”

“Denise will like you better if you’re crazy,” said Regular Valerie.

“That is probably true,” said Denise thoughtfully.

“Did you come here just to bully me?” asked Astrid.

“No,” said Robot Valerie.  “We came to take you to lunch.”

“What do you suggest I eat?  Hemlock?”

“Greek food does sound good,” said Denise.  “There’s a new place on Tesla Street called The Yummy Gyro.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Great Water Project (Chapter 3 Excerpt)

“So, when are the Bundersmiths getting here?” asked Astrid.

“Unless I miss my bet,” said her father, “Martin will arrive when the first goodies come out of the kitchen.”

Astrid’s father was right.  Toby, his father, and his Great-Aunt Gerta arrived at 2:00 o’clock on the dot, just as Chef Llywelya Pierce was setting out brie and bacon palmiers and roasted pumpkin seeds.  Five minutes later, Penelope Maxxim rang the doorbell, before letting herself in.  Astrid and her parents, who, in the meantime, had donned casual dress clothes, led everyone into the sitting room.  Just in front of the dining room and right of the formal living room, the sitting room had plenty of space, comfortable seating, and multimedia.

“Guess what, Astrid,” said Toby, after giving her a quick hug.  “I’m going to Africa.”

“What?  When?”

“Congresswoman Abdullahi is leaving on a fact-finding mission to see what the U.S. can do to help the people in the Horn of Africa.  The leadership program arranged to have two students go along as interns and Cameron Martin and I were picked.  We’ll be leaving on Saturday, and we’ll be back the following Saturday.”

“That’s great, Toby!” said Penelope.  “I’m going too.”

“Why are you going?” wondered Astrid.

“There’s a terrible water crisis in Africa, and several organizations are working to help.  Matt Damon was going to go, but he’s filming a movie this week, so I said I’d go.”

“You know Matt Damon?” asked Astrid’s father.

“No, not really,” said Penelope.  “We’ve only met a couple of times.”

“On a totally non-Matt Damon related topic,” said Astrid.  “Don’t you think it’s too dangerous to go there?  I mean, you are talking about Somalia, right?  We all saw Black Hawk Down and Captain Phillips.”

“The country is much more stable since the new national government was put into place,” said Toby.  “Besides, we’ll be traveling with a member of the United States Congress.”

“Are you okay with this?” Astrid asked Mr. Bundersmith.

“I trust Toby.”

“Well, if you’re going to be all reasonable about it, then I guess I can’t get upset,” said Astrid.

Astrid Maxxim and the Great Water Project (Chapter 2 Excerpt)

After class, the four of them walked together to the quad, where they collected their lunches.  Arthur and Michelle then went to sit with friends, while Christopher and Astrid sat with their regular companions.  In addition to the two of them, there were Toby and Austin, as well as Denise Brown, Bud Collins, and the two Valeries.  Denise was one of Astrid’s oldest friends.  She was about the same height as the teen inventor but was a little on the skinny side.  She had recently bobbed her blond hair short and added a new piece of jewelry: a tiny gold ring in her nose.  Bud Collins was a tall, thin boy with black hair, and was the most recent addition to the gang, though Astrid and the others had known him since Junior High.  Finally, there was Valerie Diaz, who had been friends with Astrid and Denise for years.  She had a crewcut of black hair, as well as flashing brown eyes.  The second Valerie was Robot Valerie.  She was the result of one of Astrid’s experiments almost two years before.  She had a metallic blue polycarbonate skin and long blue hair but was otherwise very similar to Regular Valerie.

“I can’t believe I’m a blue belt now,” said Austin.

“I don’t think any of us can,” said Toby.

“Oh, I believe it,” said Astrid.  “Austin has worked really hard.”

“Did you get a blue belt, Astrid?” asked Robot Valerie.

“Um, no.  I’m still a white belt.”

“Holy smoke!” exclaimed Austin.  “I’m beating Astrid Maxxim in a school class.”

“That’s true,” said Astrid, looking down at her meal for the first time.

It consisted of grilled salmon, rice pilaf, roasted potato and green bean medley, and broiled mango for dessert.

“Do you think we get too much fish in our lunches?” Denise asked no one in particular.

“No,” said Astrid.  “I think our lunches are the last thing we should complain about.  We have a Michelin star chef and most kids in this country have frozen pizza or hot dogs.”

“Yes, well,” said Denise.  “I heard on TV that you were a socialist.”

“And I like fish, too,” said Astrid.

Astrid Maxxim and the Great Water Project (Chapter 1 Excerpt)

“Thank you for being with us today, Miss Maxxim,” said Brock Tucker, a smirk, which he probably thought was a smile, pasted across his face.

Sharing the television screen with him, though in a separate virtual window, was teen inventor Astrid Maxxim, a startlingly cute girl of sixteen, with shoulder-length strawberry blond hair, which set off her very large blue eyes.  She could see neither Tucker’s smirk nor his carefully gelled brown hair.  She couldn’t even see his expensive blue suit.  She was in a room hundreds of miles away, staring at a video camera aimed at her face.

“You’re welcome, Mr. Tucker.”

“Call me Brock.  We can be on a first name basis.”

“That’s fine,” said Astrid.

“So, Astrid.  First, let me ask you this.  What’s the deal with billionaires and rockets?  I mean, there’s Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, and then there’s you and your father.  What’s the appeal?”

“I can’t speak for anyone else,” said the teen, “but I’ve always been fascinated with spaceflight.  I remember reading all about the Apollo missions to the moon and the space shuttle when I was little.  I think the space program is one of the greatest achievements in American history.”

“Those flights to the moon were very expensive,” said Tucker.  “Now you’re spending a lot of your own money, but also the money of your investors.  Do you think they appreciate that?”

“I think Maxxim Industries will see a positive return on our investments in space.”

“Are you thinking maybe of the asteroid that’s worth quadrillions of dollars in iron and nickel?”

“I think 16 Psyche is only one of many, many valuable things we’re going to be learning more about in the future,” said Astrid.

“I see though, that you are aware of it.”

Astrid shrugged.

“So far,” Tucker continued, “your spaceflight efforts have been pushing pretty far into red ink territory.”

“Our spaceplanes are expensive, but we think that over time, they will prove cost effective.”

“You have four of them.”

“Our fifth spaceplane, Intrepid, will be making its maiden flight next week,” said Astrid.  “She’ll be accompanied by Beagle.  We’ve had two in orbit before, but this time, they will be flying in formation and working together.”

“And your plans call for a fleet of ten spaceplanes.”

“We hadn’t made an official announcement,” said Astrid slowly, “but we do have five more under construction.”

“That’s great,” said the commentator.  “I, for one, am always happy to see American free enterprise pushing the limits of technology.  There’s just one more thing I wanted to ask you about.  I wanted to get your opinion on the recent comments by your district’s Representative in Congress.  Do you know the ones I’m talking about?”

“No, I don’t think I do.”

“Let me play a clip for you then.”

He stopped speaking, and Astrid heard a recording of Representative Aamiina Abdullahi speaking at what must have been a recent press conference.

“We must root out and tear down systemic racism and inequality in this country at all levels and keep fighting for a society that benefits all of our people regardless of race, creed, color, or gender.”

“So, Astrid,” said Tucker.  “What do you think about this woman… a woman who was welcomed into our country as a refugee, who should be down on her knees thanking this country for the blessings it’s given her… What do you think about this woman threatening to tear down the traditions and institutions of the United States?”

“I don’t think that’s what she was saying,” said Astrid.

“Oh, it is!  She said root out and tear down systemic racism and inequality in this country, in our traditions and institutions, which are the hallmarks of western civilization!”

“Um, I think you may be inferring that our institutions and traditions are racist, when that’s not what she said.”

“That’s what she meant!  You can take that from me.  Let me ask you this, Astrid.  Are you a socialist?”

“I don’t think so,” said Astrid.  “I’m only sixteen.  I won’t even be able to vote for two more years.”

“I understand completely,” said Tucker.  “That’s all the time we have, but I want to thank Astrid Maxxim, a brilliant young woman when it comes to rocket science, who still has something to learn about politics.”

The light on the camera in front of Astrid went off and the overhead light came on.  Astrid pulled the earpiece from her ear and handed it to a young woman who appeared at her side.

“You did great, Astrid.  I’m sure you’ll be back soon.”

“Not likely,” grumbled Astrid, as she unpinned her microphone.

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – $5.99 in Paperback.

Genius girl inventor Astrid Maxxim is back! Called to the aid of her friend Océane Feuillée, Astrid leaves her friends and family to journey to an uncharted tropical paradise. Here she must use every ounce of her ingenuity to solve the mystery of Dolphin Island.

Available from Amazon with Free Prime Shipping.

Astrid Maxxim and the Electric Racecar Challenge – $5.99 in Paperback.

Astrid Maxxim, brilliant teenage inventor returns. Astrid is looking forward to racing against a professional driving team to prove her electric racecar can take on the gas-guzzlers. Then without warning, she wakes up in the hospital with partial amnesia. What could have happened to her? Now everyone treats her like she’s brain-damaged! What if her IQ really did drop to 184? What a nightmare!

Available at Amazon with Free Prime shipping.

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – $5.99 in Paperback.

The world’s climate is in crisis and Astrid Maxxim is determined to help by building a device to remove carbon from the atmosphere. A journey to the Beijing Auto Show might provide her with a way to get her invention into production faster, but sinister forces are out to get her. What’s a girl genius to do?

Available at Amazon with free Prime Shipping.