Despite Astrid’s assertion, it wasn’t really all that hard to get around at Maxxim Industries. It was a ten minute walk from the R&D building to the monorail station. The five teens boarded the sleek elevated train which ran all over the campus as well as to the neighboring town of Maxxim City, where they all lived. Once they stepped off the train it was a twenty minute walk home to Acacia Avenue, where both the Maxxim and Bundersmith homes were located.
They spent the afternoon swimming under the watchful eye of Mrs. Gerta Bundersmith, Toby’s great aunt, who had come to live with him and his father two years before, when they had lost his mother to cancer. Astrid arrived home in plenty of time for dinner, and thanks to three phone calls and Mrs. Purcell, her father made it too, only five minutes late.
Astrid would gladly have spent her Sunday at the lab, and she usually did, but this Sunday the R&D was completely shut down for a seminar two miles away at the Advanced Research Institute. So, she spent most of the day in her room on her computer. She had a paper on Quantum Theory for her physics class due in two weeks anyway, and she didn’t want to wait until the last minute to finish it. Every so often the computer would chime and she would read a message from Denise, answer it, and return to her work. Most of Denise’s messages were questions about which of the most popular boy singers would look best on her arm at the Spring Fling. Astrid in turn, pointed out that it was no more likely that any famous singer would be visiting Rachel Carson High School on the day of the Spring Fling than it had been on the day of the Freshman Mixer, Sadie Hawkins Day, or the Winter Festival.
Astrid woke up the next morning to the sound of the alarm clock. She showered and did her hair, pulled on her skirt, shirt, and tie; socks and shoes; and blue uniform blazer, and would have bounded right out the door with her backpack, if only her mother hadn’t insisted she stop and eat breakfast. French toast was not the breakfast for someone who was excited to be on their way, but she had to sit. Her father read the news from his digital tablet as he absentmindedly dunked his French toast in his coffee instead of his syrup. Her mother watched her like a hawk from the other side of the table to make sure that she ate.
“Bye, Mom! Bye, Dad!” called Astrid, as she shot toward the door after the required minimum seven bites.
“Learn stuff!” called Dr. Maxxim.
“Stay out of trouble!” called her mom.
As always, Toby was waiting for her at the sidewalk, right where the massive row of poplar trees divided the Maxxim property from the Bundersmith property. His uniform was neatly pressed and his hair was slicked back. He carried his backpack slung over one shoulder.
“You look nice,” said Astrid.
“Really? You don’t think I look stupid?”
“No, of course not.”
“Great aunt Gerta put this stuff in my hair.”
“Is it like gel?”
“No, it’s like axel grease,” he replied.
“Well, you look fine.”
They walked the carefully cultivated sidewalk, shaded by overhanging trees, until they reached the corner of Fourth Street, where they found Denise waiting in front of her house. Christopher lived two blocks further down, and was waiting for them at the corner of Cyprus Avenue. From there it was a short block south to Fifth, where Valerie lived. Valerie, who all agreed spent an inordinate amount of time on her hair, was always late and today was no exception. But ten minutes later, they arrived at Main Street and climbed aboard the monorail train that took them to school.
Rachel Carson High School was not actually in the city at all, but sat just inside the border of the Maxxim Industries campus. It was a large, three-story, modern structure with its own internal monorail station on the top floor. As they stepped out of the train, the five teens gave each other a quick wave and hurried toward their classes.
Astrid and Christopher were both on program one, so they had the same classes, except third period when she had Physics and he had Chemistry, and fifth period when she had Biology and he had Geology. Denise and Valerie were both on program five, so they spent their day together. Astrid got to see Denise in first period because she was in English Composition with her and Christopher, but she didn’t have a single class with Valerie. The only class she shared with Toby, who was on program seven, was seventh period when they were together in Fencing.
Even though they spent a great deal of time away from each other during the day, the whole gang always got together in the Quad at 12:00 for lunch. Astrid had been looking forward to lunch since she read the menu that morning just after the Pledge of Allegiance—Sicilian broccoli and cauliflower pasta with pine nuts, whole grain garlic bread, tossed salad, and yogurt parfait. Toby, Denise, and Valerie were already sitting at their usual table when she and Christopher sat down.
“So, how’s it going?” asked Toby.
“Fine,” said Christopher and everyone agreed.
“I heard Mr. Kramer is sick,” said Valerie. “I guess we’ll have a substitute today.”
“I don’t like substitutes,” said Denise. “We always end up behind. Then we have to work all that much harder the rest of the week.”
“You won’t get behind today,” said Toby. “My dad is your sub today, so count on extra homework.” He laughed. “I’m glad I don’t have Geometry.”
“You just wait,” said Valerie. “When my dad subs, he’ll have you swimming extra laps.”
At Rachel Carson High School, all parents were required to serve six days a year as faculty or staff members. For Toby’s father, who was a structural engineer, that usually meant teaching Math. Valerie’s father, head of security for Maxxim Industries, usually either taught a Physical Education class or served as a school safety officer.
“Hey, what’s going on over there?” wondered Denise, indicating a table across the Quad from where they sat.
“It looks like Mark McGovern is picking on that kid,” said Christopher. “He picked on me last year because I have dark skin.”
“He picked on me because my mother is from Mexico,” said Valerie.
“He picked on me because I have two dads,” said Denise.
“He calls me a nerd all the time,” said Astrid.