She was awake in bed for several minutes, staring at the clock, before it registered that it was morning and that she was almost an hour and a half late for school. She jumped up and scrambled to find a clean school uniform in her closet. Halfway down the stairs, she was intercepted by her mother.
“You’re staying home from school today.”
“Mom, I can’t. My attendance is important if I want to be Valedictorian.”
“I’ve already talked to your principal. It seems that a mission to space is a valid excuse for at least one day’s absence.”
“Mr. Fellows said that?”
“He did. Now, I want you to go back upstairs and take a hot bubble bath. After you are dressed, you can come down and join us for brunch. Your father has only just gotten up as well.”
Astrid did as her mother directed and enjoyed a long soak in the tub. Afterwards, she dressed in a pair of jeans and a comfortable top and joined her parents, who were already eating at the table in the breakfast room.
“What would you like to eat,” asked Chef Pierce, suddenly at her shoulder.
“I just realized I’m starving,” said Astrid. “How about a sandwich?”
“Right away.” The chef hurried back to the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with a thick roast beef sandwich.
“How are you feeling, Dad?” Astrid asked, before taking a bite.
“I’m just fine, sweetie, although I’m a little upset. Your Ariel has made my Quasar IV rocket program obsolete before its time.”
“I think we’ll still need the Quasar/Nova configuration for a while,” replied the girl inventor. “We’ll need it for cargo launches. Quasar IV also makes a good launch vehicle for deep space probes. But I think you need to get to work on Quasar V. We need a heavy lift vehicle.”
“I’m already at work on it,” said Dr. Maxxim, pointing to his temple. “Great minds think alike.”
“So, how long am I grounded for?” Astrid asked her mother.
Mrs. Maxxim looked at her husband, who shrugged.
“We’ve never had to ground you before,” she said, “but this is very serious. Leaving the Earth without permission has to warrant a severe punishment. I think one month is appropriate.”
“Oh,” said Astrid, her shoulders slumping.
“What’s the matter?” asked Dr. Maxxim.
“Well, the Sweetheart dance is February 8th, and Denise wanted us to all go out and get new dresses. I guess I can’t, but it doesn’t matter, because I can’t go to the dance anyway.”
“You can still go to the dance,” said her father. “Today is January 8th. The dance isn’t till a month from today, so your grounding will be over.”
“And you can still go out with your friends,” said her mother. “You’re not grounded from that. We’re not barbarians.”
“What exactly am I grounded from?” wondered Astrid.
“No flying,” said her mother.
“Oh, I’m literally grounded.”
“Well, except airplanes,” said her father. “Airplanes are fine.”
“So… I can’t go into space?” said Astrid. “For a month.”
“That’s right,” said Mrs. Maxxim.
“And let that be a lesson to you,” said Dr. Maxxim.