“Help! Help! We’re all going to die!”
“Stop it, Dad,” said Astrid Maxxim as she steered her father’s car.
“Somebody save me! For the love of Mergatroid, save me!”
“Stop it, Dad.”
“Oh, the horror! Oh, the humanity!”
“I’ve already stopped, Dad. The car is parked. It’s right between the yellow lines.”
“It’s really over?” asked Dr. Roger Maxxim, peering out the car windshield at the massive Research and Development Department building in front of them. “I’m still alive?”
“You are so very funny,” said Astrid. “You should have been a comedian instead of a mad scientist.”
“I’m an inventor,” said her father, as they both climbed out of the car. “I am an inventor just like your grandfather and your great-grandfather and your great-great-grandfather. And you will be too.”
“I already am.”
“Yes you are.”
They were parked in Dr. Maxxim’s personal parking space next to the R&D building, a half-mile wide, fourteen story structure that 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.
Dr. Roger Maxxim was a tall man whose brown hair was only just beginning to show a touch of grey at his temples. He wore a pair of sturdy glasses, behind which were creases that could more honestly be called laugh lines than wrinkles.
Dr. Maxxim’s daughter Astrid was startlingly cute, with shoulder length strawberry blonde hair and very large blue eyes. At five foot five, she was exactly in the middle of her class when they arranged themselves by height for their class picture, which still made her four inches shorter than her mother. Like her father, she wore a white lab coat over her street clothes.
“You see,” said Astrid. “Look at that parking job. That’s just about as good as a person could get.”
“It’s pretty good,” her father agreed.
“It’s good enough that I should be able to drive all the time.”
“I let you drive as much as possible, Astrid.”
“I could drive a lot more, if I had my own car.”
“Astrid, the minimum driving age in this state is eighteen,” replied her father. “You know this. You also know that you have only just turned fourteen.”
“But Dad, I could just drive here at Maxxim Industries. It takes forever to get around here. I wouldn’t drive anywhere else. Honest.”
“No,” her father said. “In the first place, Astrid, it’s against the rules. In the second place, what would I say to all the other people who work here and are parents of fourteen year-olds? And in the third place, your mother would kill me, so that’s really all the places that I need.”