Early Monday morning, the four young Americans arrived at the airport. Their plane was awaiting them, all serviced, fueled, and ready to go. The Maxxim Starcraft 170 was a sharp, if unusual looking aircraft. Designed by Astrid’s father Dr. Roger Maxxim, the 47 foot long Starcraft featured a long pointy fuselage with a small canard wing just behind the nose. The main wing was at the back of the aircraft, and carried twin turboprop engines, with the propellers facing rearward. These were known as push-props. The cabin, which could accommodate up to nine passengers, was more than spacious with just Astrid and Denise and their carryon luggage. Dennis and Toby took their places as pilot and co-pilot respectively.
An hour later, the Starcraft was soaring westward over the Atlantic Ocean. Though no jet, its cruising speed of 320 mph would carry them back in Maxxim City in under ten hours, even allowing for a short refueling stop in Atlanta. The girls carried on a spirited game of Toad Town using their MX-360 PDAs.
“Do you want to go sit up front?” asked Dennis, walking back down the aisle. “I’ve got to make a pit stop. Toby’s got the stick.”
“I told you that you shouldn’t drink so much orange juice right before takeoff,” said Denise.
Her brother ignored her and continued on toward the diminutive restroom at the rear of the cabin. Astrid unbuckled her seatbelt, walked to the cockpit, and carefully climbed into the pilot’s seat, strapping herself in.
“This is cool,” she said.
“I know,” said Toby. “By the time we get home, I’ll have enough hours to pilot one of these babies myself.”
“Good, you can fly us to Hawaii in two weeks.”
“I don’t know if I can go,” he said. “I haven’t asked yet. I know my dad will be fine with it, but Aunt Gerta thinks that I spend too much time away from home.”
Toby’s great aunt had come to live with him two years before, when his mother had passed away after a long struggle with cancer.
“What the heck is that?” cried Toby, as a loud beeping rang out in the small compartment.
“It’s the SAR,” said Astrid. “Somebody’s fired a missile at us.”
She pointed to the round radarscope at the bottom center of the control panel. It showed a blip coming up toward them from behind.
“What do I do?” asked Toby.
“I’ve got it,” said Astrid.
Taking the control stick in her left hand, she grabbed the twin throttles with her right, shoving them both forward. The engines screamed as they pushed the aircraft toward its maximum speed of 400 mph. Astrid didn’t take her eyes off the radar. The blip, indicating the missile, came closer and closer toward the center of the amber screen. At the last moment, she jerked left on the stick as she stamped down of the corresponding foot pedal and the plane rolled over onto its back. She and Toby watched as a missile shot past them, below the plane, and from their upside down perspective, just above their heads. It flew right through the space where the Starcraft had been.
Astrid flipped the plane back right side up and banked right in a climbing turn.
“What in the world is going on!” shouted Dennis behind them. “Are you trying to crash us?”
“There was a missile,” said Toby. “She just saved all of our lives.”
“Now let’s see if we can find out who shot at us,” said Astrid.
They spotted several recently made contrails high up in the sky, but no other aircraft in their vicinity.
“I’m sure that was an air-to-air missile,” said the girl inventor. “Our attacker must have high-tailed it as soon as they fired.”
“Just a couple of weeks ago they were trying to kidnap you,” said Toby. “Now they’re trying to kill you.”
“Yeah,” mused Astrid. “I wish they would hurry up and make up their mind.”