Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane“How much time before the launch?” asked Denise.

Toby looked at his wrist. “Thirteen minutes.” He turned to show the device strapped to his arm to everyone else on the row. “See? I got my Astrid watch when I got my Astrid phone.”

“That’s not what they’re called,” said Astrid.

“Really? Because that’s what the guy at the electronics store called it.”

The wristwatch device that had been dubbed by marketing specialists the Maxxim Carpé was a high powered computer in its own right and when paired with the Maxxim Phone it was even more powerful. It came in about two-dozen different styles including the one that Toby had with a dark blue band and a blue and grey bezel—The Mariner. Astrid had originally designed the wearable computer as a Fathers Day present for her dad, but her work could also be found all through the phone. She had written part of the operating system for both devices and designed the batteries that powered them.

“That is so cool,” said Austin from the far end of the row. “My grandma said I could have one for my birthday if I promise not to lose it.”

“I hope you didn’t promise,” said Christopher. “There’s no way you’re not going to lose it.”

Austin had a history of misplacing all kinds of things, including his phone and other electronic devices. He was once bitten by a rattlesnake while looking for a lost PDA.

“That’s the beauty of it,” said Austin. “It has a built in app so it can’t get lost. Your phone will lead you right to it.”

“I confess to thinking of you when I wrote that app,” said Astrid.

“You’re welcome world,” said Austin.

“The countdown is at ten minutes,” said the voice over the loudspeaker.

“I love my phone,” said Toby, fishing it out of his pocket. “I’m surprised that Maxxim never made one before.”

“It’s a tough market, so I think my mother thought we couldn’t compete,” Astrid explained. “She’s probably right. We’ll never be the industry leader, but my dad and I think if we just make the best phones in the world, that will be enough.”

Toby held the phone up for her to see that he had set the wallpaper to Astrid’s new school picture. It was a good likeness, and picture day that year had been a great hair day, but still it made Astrid uneasy seeing her image looking back from the screen.

“Bow down before me,” she whispered.

“What?” asked Toby.

“Nothing. Um… I think it would be better if you took me off your wallpaper.”

“Why?”

“Well, um… somebody might find your phone and think it’s mine.”

“Then you could give it to me,” he said slowly, as if trying to find the meaning behind her words. “Are you mad because we haven’t been on another evening date since Junior Prom?”

“No.”

“It’s just been such a busy summer, Astrid. I was in Europe and you were in Antarctica and then working. It just seemed like whenever we had time the whole gang should get together.”

“No, really,” said Astrid. “I’m not angry about that… or anything really. I just think you should put something else as your wallpaper—maybe something manly. You could put um… football or a truck or maybe Iron Man.”

Advertisements

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane“What’s the matter?”

Looking up into the face of Robot Valerie, Astrid screamed again. She looked around, but for a moment couldn’t remember where she was.

“Are you all right, Astrid?” asked Regular Valerie, looking down at her from above.

“I told you we couldn’t all three fit in the bed,” said another voice, and Astrid saw Denise looking over the edge of the mattress.

“Denise? You’re not in prison?”

“Valerie, you’d better go get one of my dads. I think Astrid hit her head and knocked a screw loose.”

Regular Valerie hopped off the bed and hurried out of the room.

It was coming back to her now. She was at the Brown family home for a sleepover, but she still flinched when Robot Valerie reached toward her.

“I just wanted to check your head for a bump,” said the mechanical girl in a hurt voice.

Her flesh and blood sister returned, followed by Denise’s brother Dennis and both her dads.

“Dennis,” said Astrid. “Thank goodness you’re alive.”

“Are you all right?” asked Dennis Brown Sr. “Do you need a doctor?”

“No,” Astrid replied. “No, I just had a bad dream.”

“And Valerie pushed her out of the bed,” added Denise. “Me too. I’m fine by the way.”

“That must have been some dream,” said Mr. Brown.

“It was. It seemed so real. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream that seemed as real as this one.”

“Well, what happened?” asked Dennis. “Obviously I was in prison, so that sucks, but what else?”

“I traveled in a time machine twenty-five years into the future into a dystopian world ruled by… ruled by an evil military dictator, with robot storm troopers.”

“Oh my,” said Robot Valerie.

“It’s your own fault,” said Denise, and when Astrid looked questioningly at her, she said, “You’re the one who wanted to watch The Hunger Games last night.”

Motivations: Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneIt’s a funny thing.  I had started and stopped writing Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition several times, but by the time I was done, I was just hitting my stride.  I immediately started working on Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane.  The previous books had hinted quite a bit about what would be in this book and I just continued on.

This was without a doubt the quickest I had ever finished a book.  I started the rough draft August 24, 2014 and finished it September 13th.  Twenty-one days inclusive.  The very next day, I started on His Robot Girlfriend: Charity, It took forty-two days, exactly twice as long, but still pretty quick.  A big part of this is probably because I just finished a second twelve credit graduate program at SUU, and I hadn’t been able to write much during those months.

The cover for the book went through half a dozen drafts as we got just the right spacecraft and image of Astrid.  Though not created at the same time, this cover and the one for the upcoming Astrid Maxxim and her Outpost in Space fit really well together.

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 1 Complete

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneAstrid Maxxim stepped out of the time machine and looked around. The Main Street of Maxxim City didn’t look very different twenty-five years in the future, at least at first. Then she noticed gigantic buildings off in the distance, so high they reached up into the clouds. Hearing a thunderous noise to the west, she turned to see a huge spacecraft, spherical and the size of a football stadium, rise up into the sky. As her eyes followed the vapor trail from the sky to the ground, she saw the monorail station, looking just as it always had. In front of it though, was a four story tall video screen. A close up of a woman’s face filled the image. She was talking but Astrid couldn’t hear what she was saying, and from this angle she couldn’t make out the woman’s features.

“Must be a soft drink add,” she mused.

It suddenly occurred to Astrid that at mid-day there should have been shoppers going in and out of the stores and cars moving up and down the street. There were neither. The storefronts across the street from her should have been The Bagel Nook and Dickens and Co. Books. Now however, neither building was labeled. They didn’t even seem to have front doors. There was a kind of a slot about five feet wide and three feet tall just above where the door would have been. As she watched, a flying drone, held aloft by four Maxxim hoverdisks, just like those in her hoverbike, zipped over her head and into the slot in what had been The Bagel Nook.

“Maybe they have drones pick up things for them at the store,” she thought aloud.

Turning around, she saw that the Malt Shop didn’t look all that different. It appeared to be open, so she started toward it. It wasn’t until she was right in front of the door though that she noticed the sign. Instead of Maxxim City Malt Shop, it read Startopia Malt Shop. The door whooshed open, kind of like on Star Trek, as she passed through. Inside though, it was exactly the same—the same barstools and counter, the same tables and chairs, and the same menu board. There were no customers though.           “Just a minute,” she heard someone call out.

A minute later, a man who looked to be in his thirties stepped out of the back room and walked out to the counter as she sat down on one of the round stools. Dressed in white pants and shirt, and with an apron tied around his waist, he was pretty normal looking. He was a little chubby around the middle and his hair was thinning. Astrid looked at the nametag above his shirt pocket.

“Irving?” she said. “Irving Witzel?”

“Yup, that’s me. Do I know you? You look familiar.”

“Um, my name is Gloria.” Astrid didn’t think she had to worry about changing anything here in the future the way she would have if she was in the past, but if she admitted who she was it might cause complications. “My parents used to live here in Maxxim City and they told me you worked here.”

“Oh yeah? Well, they must have lived here quite a while ago if they still called it… if they still used the old name.”

“You’re good friends with Dennis Brown, right?”

“We were best friends,” he smiled sadly. “He was killed in the war.”

“What war?”

“The Last War, the only war.”

“How about his sister?”

“Her name was Denise,” said Irving. “She became a writer—a pretty good one from what I hear. She might be working for the news agency, or she might be in prison.”

“Prison?”

“Yeah, well you know how writers are. Are you going to order something?”

“Um, yes. Let me have a chocolate soda, please.”

Irving’s eyes lit up.

“You’re parents must have told you about chocolate sodas. I used to be the best soda jerk in North America.” He pulled a large glass from beneath the counter and began mixing chocolate sauce and soda water together. Then he plopped two scoops of chocolate ice cream into the mixture. “Sorry. No whipped cream. I haven’t made one of these in years.”

He slid the glass toward Astrid, and she took a straw and stuck it into the confection, taking a long sip.

“Delicious.” She took another sip. “Say, Denise Brown used to have a friend named Valerie.”

Irving’s face scrunched up as if he’d bitten into a lemon.

“Governor Diaz. I don’t talk about politics. Say, why are you asking all these questions?”

“Um, I’m doing a report for school… um, it’s about my mother growing up.”

“Oh yeah?” suspicious dripped from Irving’s words. “Just who is your mother?”

“Oh, you probably never heard of her,” said Astrid, struggling to think of someone whom she could name. “Her name was… Océane Feuillée.”

Irving’s face broke into a grin. “I know you!”

“You do?”

“Sure. You’re Gloria Bundersmith! Your dad was a good friend of mine. Boy-oh-boy, I remember when he married Océane and moved to Europe. That was the last big party we had around these parts. How is your dad?”

“Fine, last time I saw him,” Astrid’s voice came out as a squeak.

“Is he still friends with Christopher Harris. We all expected Toby to move to Europe, marrying a French girl and all, but it was a surprise when Christopher and Alicia went with them.”

“Um, yes,” said Astrid. “They’re still best friends. Why wouldn’t they be?”

In a daze, she turned her attention to her soda, sipping all the liquid out and then taking a bite of the leftover ice cream with a spoon. Irving took out a white towel and began polishing some glassware. Her mind abuzz, the girl inventor watched him. Finally she noticed that every so often he looked up toward the back wall. Back in the present, or the past, or the past present, or whatever, a large mirror had hung there. Now a white tablecloth thumbtacked to the wall covered the space. Finally Irving turned back to her.

“Um, I don’t know if my money is still good,” she said.

“Not if it’s Euros,” replied Irving. “Don’t worry though, kid. This one’s on the house.”

“Thanks,” said Astrid. “Say Irving, I mean Mr. Witzel, do you remember Astrid Maxxim?”

“I wondered if you would ask about her.” He looked around the room and then leaned across the counter to look out the front window. “I bet people still show up to some town in Austria and ask what Hitler was like when he was a boy.”

“Hitler!”

Irving laughed nervously. “Not really a fair comparison.”

“I should think not,” Astrid blurted out.

“After all,” said Irving. “I hear Hitler loved music and was kind to dogs.”

Suddenly the door burst inward, sending shattered glass across the room, and a dozen bluish silver figures marched in. Irving turned as if looking for an escape, only to see six more of the invaders marching out of the back room and into the space behind the counter. As one, all eighteen figures raised their right arms, which transformed into some kind of weapon. Red laser targeting dots appeared on Irving’s chest, and Astrid’s too!

“Irving Witzel!” said the foremost figure. “By the Authority of Valerie Diaz, Governor of District Three, you are ordered to stand in judgment!”

Astrid gasped. The voice was that of her friend Valerie, only she sounded grown up. Even more shocking though was that the eighteen bluish silver figures all looked like grown-up versions of Robot Valerie!

“Why is your reminder covered?” demanded the closest Robot Valerie, pointing to the spot where the large mirror used to hang.

“Uh… I was painting.” Irving’s voice shook. “I didn’t want to get paint on it.”

“Covering the reminder is a class six crime, punishable by no less than 100 hours in the reeducation booth.”

Irving collapsed, sobbing. The Robot Valerie closest to him reached up and yanked the cloth down, exposing a video screen. Though she hadn’t been able to see any real details before, Astrid could tell that this was the same face that was on the giant screen by the monorail station. Only the head and shoulders of the woman, who was wearing a stiff-collared military style uniform was visible. Her strawberry blond hair was cut short, like a boy’s, and parted on the side. Though pretty, in a hard sort of way, and wearing a modest amount of makeup, a scar ran from her forehead down her left cheek to her chin, marring her face. Whatever had caused that scar had obviously cost her an eye, because while her right eye was large and bright blue, a glowing red robotic eye replaced her left one.

“She looks a little like my mother,” thought Astrid.

And then the woman on the screen spoke.

“I am Supreme Ruler Astrid Maxxim. All will bow before me!”

“What?” yelled Astrid.

“She said to bow down!” growled one of the robots, grabbing the girl inventor by the shoulders and pushing her down.

Astrid screamed as she hit the floor.

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – 99 cents for nook!

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionTeen inventor Astrid Maxxim is back in her third adventure as she makes a journey to the bottom of the planet to uncover the secrets of a mysterious lost expedition. Meanwhile, troubles plague her friends and family as a hostile takeover threatens Maxxim Industries. Join Astrid and her friends as she faces the frozen dangers of the Antarctic, wild animals, mad bombers, and corporate high finance.

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition is available for nook at bn.com for just 99 cents.

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 17 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionAstrid had just finished breakfast the next morning when there was a knock at the door. Opening it, she found Austin on her step, his helmet still on his head. His hoverbike was parked neatly just off the sidewalk.

“Good morning,” said Astrid. “You’re up awfully early this morning.”

“I hardly got any sleep last night. I can’t believe we actually get to see a rocket launch today!”

“I’m pretty excited myself.” she said. “I’ve only seen one before and that was when I was only six. My dad took me to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.”

“That must have been awesome.”

“Come on in, Austin.” She opened the door wide and the boy stepped inside. “The presentation doesn’t start for another couple of hours and the launch won’t be until after that. We can hang out here for a while.”

Austin followed Astrid through the dining room and breakfast room into the family room. There they found Océane, who was watching Bugs Bunny cartoons.

“Bonjour,” said Austin.

“Bonjour,” said Océane.

“Guess what, Océane. I’m taking French this year.”

“I thought you took Spanish last year,” said Astrid.

“I did, but I decided to change to French.”

“Was that because of Océane?” asked Astrid slyly.

Austin blushed. “No. You know we had to register for classes before the end of last year.”

“So it was for Valerie?”

“Ixnay on the irlsgay,” said Austin. He sat down next to Océane on the couch. “This is one of my favorite cartoons. Yosemite Sam gets shot in the face 27 times in this one. Do you have Bugs Bunny in France? Oh, I’ll bet you just have Pepe Le Pew.”

“Who is this Pepe Le Pew?” wondered Océane.

“He’s this French skunk who always falls in love with these cats, see? He falls in love with them but they don’t like him because he smells. He smells because he’s a skunk, not because he’s French, um… do you know what a skunk is?” He looked at Astrid. “What’s the French word for skunk?”

“Skunk,” said Astrid.

“Yes, skunk.”

“The French word for skunk is skunk,” said Astrid.

“I’m going to put my helmet on my hoverbike,” said Austin, hurrying from the room.

“He is so funny!” laughed Océane.

“Yup, he’s a riot,” agreed Astrid.

Austin returned, having taken far longer than was necessary just to put away his helmet. Astrid assumed he was trying to get over his embarrassment at having implied that French people like Océane might be smelly. Then again, Austin often paid even less attention to what he said than others did. He sat back down without a word.

“So, you’re taking French?” said Astrid.

Austin gave her a withering look.

“I was just wondering what else you’re taking. Maybe we have a class together.”

The boy sighed and counted off with his fingers. “French, Orchestra, Art, Algebra II, English II, American Lit and Outdoor Survival.”

“Hey, we’ll have the last two classes together,” she observed. “I’ve got American Lit and Outdoor Survival too. That’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I just wish you were in my Geometry class. I’ll probably need some help with it.”

“I can still help you,” said Astrid. “I remember it pretty well, even though I took it back in fourth grade.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 16 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionFriday night however, while Océane spent the evening at Denise’s, there occurred in the Maxxim home an event unparalleled in Astrid’s entire life when Uncle Carl, Aunt Lauren, and Gloria came to dinner. It was beyond weird. It was like living in the Twilight Zone, or that episode of the original Star Trek where Mr. Spock was evil and had a beard. Here sat Astrid at the dinner table, along with her parents, face to face with their evil counterparts. Well, to be fair, she wasn’t sure that Uncle Carl was evil. In fact, within a few minutes of his arrival, he and Astrid’s father seemed to have patched up most of their differences and were laughing and trading stories of their youth. The girl inventor marveled at their descriptions of a world without cell phones, computers, or broadband. How could a person have survived in that kind of wilderness? Gloria seemed to be listening too, in a bored sort of way. Aunt Lauren didn’t say or do much of anything and seemed not to really want to be there.

“Want to play a game of Toad Town?” Astrid asked her cousin, after their ice cream dessert.

Gloria looked at her for a long moment. “Okay. Can we go out and get our feet wet?”

They went out the back door, doffed their shoes, and sat down on the lip of the swimming pool, dangling their feet into the heated water. Pulling out their MX-360s, they tapped the application and selected their characters. Astrid as usual, picked Tugboat. Gloria picked Tiffaberry.

“My dad’s pretty happy with how things turned out,” she said, not looking up from the screen.

“I’m glad,” said Astrid. “I think my dad’s pretty happy that he has his brother to hang out with again. How’s your mom?”

“She’s kind of upset. My dad’s pretty mad at her, but he’ll get over it. They love each other and stuff.”

“That’s good.”

“We’re not best friends or anything all of a sudden,” said Gloria. “You’re still just a sophomore and a nerd. We’re not going to hang out all the time.”

“Fine,” said Astrid, annoyed. “I’ve got my own friends.”

“But we are moving back to Maxxim City. Dad needs to be closer now, and besides my mother says graduating from Rachel Carson High will help me get into a better college.”

“Oh, I doubt you’ll have much problem getting into wherever you want to go,” said Astrid.

“I know.” Gloria paused as she switched lily pads in the game. “Aunt Penny is moving back here too, you know.”

“I didn’t know,” said Astrid. “I haven’t talked to her since Monday. Is she going to live in our house?”

“I think she’s buying a condo,” replied Gloria. “Anyway, what I was saying was you’re a sophomore and a nerd…”

“Yes, you said that bit already,” Astrid interrupted curtly.

“Yes, but… You’re not a total freak, so maybe we could do something together… you know, you, me, and Aunt Penny.”

“Well that must have been difficult to say,” said Astrid. “I’m glad you didn’t hurt yourself.” She tapped the screen on her MX-360. “There, I have toad school, toad hall, and toad statue. I win.”