Everyone was back in school for lunch, which was butternut squash soup, yellowfin tuna ribbons with avocado and spicy radish in a ginger marinade and hamachi sashimi with avocado, yuzu, and radish, alongside mushroom risotto with citrus foam. Dessert was peanut butter torte with caramel.
“I don’t think my fish is done,” said Austin.
“It’s supposed to be served rare,” said Christopher.
“Yeah, but mine’s still going like this.” Austin formed his lips into a fish mouth, opening and closing.
“If you don’t want it, I’ll eat it,” offered Bud.
“I didn’t say I wasn’t going to eat it.”
Astrid was only paying half attention. She was busy sending an email memo on her phone. “Attention all Maxxim Employees. The correct name of the launch facility located on the Maxxim campus is the Maxxim Spaceport. Any official use of the term ‘Startopia’ is prohibited. Signed, Astrid Maxxim Co-Chairman of the Board, Maxxim Industries.”
“What are you doing?” asked Denise.
“Um, just texting.”
“Who are you texting? We’re all right here.”
“I’m texting my chief of design that his daughter is a nosy-Rosie.”
“Fine,” said Denise. “No need to be snappish.”
The rest of the day was pretty routine. Astrid rode home with her friends, who said goodbye and parted, one after another, until only she and Toby walked the last leg up the hill. When they were halfway home, Toby reached out and took her hand and held it until they said goodbye near the poplar trees where their yards touched.
Astrid’s mother wasn’t home all evening and of course her father was in space, so Astrid did her homework, which she was three weeks ahead on, and sat down to dinner by herself. Chef Pierce baked a fish pie; something Astrid had never tried before, though she had heard people in Britain ate them all the time. After an hour of TV and an hour playing her oboe, she climbed into bed and slipped into sleep.
An annoying sound woke Astrid from a deep slumber. It took her a minute to realize that it was her phone. Staggering across the room, she picked it up and pressed it to her face.
“Astrid, have you seen the news?”
“Who is this?”
“I’m sorry. This is Tomiko Ikeda. Astrid, you’ve got to turn on channel 25.”
“Yes, right now. Channel 25.”
Astrid flipped on the all-news channel and tried to shake the cobwebs out of her eyes. There was a male news anchor in a grey suit talking to the screen.
“It is confirmed now. There is an emergency in space. Nova 5, the privately funded manned spacecraft of Maxxim Industries has experienced a catastrophic failure. The vehicle has lost all power, is in a decaying orbit, and is venting oxygen into space. Indications are that the ship was hit by an object, though whether that object was a meteoroid, a piece of space junk, or some type of space weapon is unknown at this time. Houston has confirmed that the three crewmembers, billionaire industrialist inventor Roger Maxxim and two veteran NASA astronauts are alive and in no immediate danger, but how long that will continue to be the case is unknown.”