The following morning was the launch of Maxxim’s Nova 4 unmanned spacecraft. There were far fewer high school kids there than there had been during the Nova 3 launch. Most were off visiting friends and family or Christmas shopping. In fact, as Astrid watched the rocket disappear among the clouds, she was reminded that she hadn’t done much in the way of Christmas shopping yet herself. Fortunately she knew just who she needed to help her.
The girl inventor flew to Phoenix, which was the closest major metropolitan area. She had to take a certified pilot with her, but it was another chance to add miles to her flight log. More importantly, Miss Scacchi went with her. They spent the day at the Biltmore Fashion Park and by that evening, Astrid had her Christmas shopping done.
One of the many stores in the mall was the Maxxim store, where in addition to several presents, Astrid purchased a Carpé Aviatrix for herself. The clerk who waited on her was so excited that Astrid worried he might wet himself. She was frankly surprised that he recognized her, until she saw a large picture on the wall of herself climbing out of a mini-sub in the waters near Hawaii. It was right next to an even larger picture of Gloria riding a hoverbike. After a quick dinner at an Italian restaurant, Astrid, her instructor pilot, and Miss Scacchi flew home.
The clock said 10:43 AM when Astrid finally climbed out of bed the morning of Christmas Eve. It was unusual for her to sleep so late. It was even more unusual for her to find both parents at home that late in the morning, even if it was the day before a holiday. Still in her pajamas, she plopped down at the table in the breakfast room as Chef Pierce placed a bowl of oatmeal and fruit in front of her. She was on her second bite before she realized that though both her parents were seated, neither was eating and they weren’t talking. Glancing at her mother, Astrid noticed that she was intentionally not looking at her father.
“All right, who’s in trouble?” asked the girl inventor. “It’s not me, is it?”
“No, it’s me,” said Dr. Maxxim. “I just informed your mother that when Nova 5 launches on January 7th, it will be the first manned launch from the Maxxim Spaceport.”
“Can you get the launch facilities ready so quickly?” asked Astrid. “That’s a turn-around of less than four weeks.”
“I think so,” he replied. “It was up and running in less than five weeks between the last two launches. We’re just pushing it a little.”
“Stop beating around the bush,” snapped Mrs. Maxxim. “What your father neglected to mention is that he’s planning on being in that capsule.”
“It’s not a capsule,” he said. “It’s a spacecraft.”
“Stop it! You have no business going up into space!”
“I’ve gone through the training. I’m in good physical shape. In fact, with the exception of some less than perfect vision, I’m a perfect specimen. Besides which, space literally is my business.”
“Talk some sense into your father,” Astrid’s mother demanded.
“Can I come too, Dad? The Nova holds up to seven and I’ve already had a spacesuit custom made to fit.”
Mrs. Maxxim’s face went white, and then red.