The following morning found Astrid walking in the front door of the Maxxim R&D building. The half-mile wide, fourteen-story structure dominated the northwest corner of the Maxxim Industries campus. The campus, sprawling across 180,000 acres of the American southwest, featured machine shops, office buildings, factories, power plants, and its own airport. It was here, where for the past forty-two years, thousands of Maxxim products had been developed and produced, making the Maxxim family very wealthy and making the world a better place in which to live.
Astrid took the glass elevator up to her lab on the fourteenth floor. As she stepped out, she saw Mrs. Purcell, the office manager, at her desk surrounded by several Maxxim employees. As she approached, they glanced nervously in her direction and then hurried away.
“What’s up, Mrs. Purcell?”
“It’s nothing really, Astrid. Some people are just worried about their jobs.”
“Why? Did they do something that might get them fired… no, never mind, don’t tell me.”
“It’s nothing like that,” Mrs. Purcell assured her. “It’s everything that’s happening in the stock market.”
Astrid gave her a blank look.
“You should pay more attention to what’s going on, Astrid.”
“Wall Street just seems so far away,” said the girl inventor. “I’ve never been that interested in finance.”
“I dare say you can afford not to be. No matter what happens to Maxxim Industries, your family will be one of the richest in the country.”
“What do you mean ‘no matter what happens?’ What could happen? Maxxim Industries is the largest, richest company in the world.”
“Actually as of last week, it was number six. As of this morning, it’s number fifteen.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Purcell,” said Astrid, before walking to her lab. Once there, she picked up her Maxxim tablet and plopped into an overstuffed easy chair. She called up the recent financial news and read through the headlines. Maxxim Investors Worry Over R&D Costs. Maxxim Shares at a Six Year Low. Maxxim CEO Under Fire. Maxxim Earnings Call Larger Than Expected, Investors Not Appeased. Maxxim Needs Products, Not Financial Gimmicks. Maxxim Launches Stock Buyback. It didn’t make much sense to Astrid. As long as she could remember, her grandfather’s company had been the bedrock of her existence. Maxxim Industries was the main employer for adjacent Maxxim City and the nearby Indian reservation. It funded Rachel Carson High School that Astrid attended. And it allowed her to be a girl inventor, without worrying too much about money. She guiltily glanced back at the headline that mentioned R&D costs. She had probably had a hand in that.