Astrid Maxxim and Her High-Rise Air Purifier

Now available where ever fine ebooks are sold– Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier, the seventh book in the Astrid Maxxim: Girl Inventor series. Astrid takes on kidnappers, global warming, Chinese conglomerates, and high school. 99 cents in any ebook format. Look for the paperback edition at Amazon.

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 16 Excerpt

Rachel Carson students were each assigned one of eight Programs of Focus. It was not all that different from having a major in college. Though the students inevitably just referred to them by their number, the programs were Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Formal Sciences, Language Arts, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Leadership, and Kinesthetics. Astrid and Christopher were both in Program One. Of course every student’s course of study was tailored specifically for him. Even though Christopher and Astrid were both in the same program, each of their studies were weighted toward different areas, which was why they only shared one class together. Each program had a team room, and inside each team room was a lounge area and two locker rooms, one for girls and one for boys. Astrid and Christopher walked into the Program One team room, and then into their respective locker rooms. Astrid pulled her books and digital tablet from her backpack and then placed it in her locker.

She was headed to her first class when she found herself walking along next to Mark McGovern.

“Hello, Nerd,” he said.

“Hello, Mark,” she said brightly. “How does it feel to be a junior?”

“Pretty cool,” he said, adding a little swagger to his step.

“What class do you have now?”

“Why do you care?” he demanded.

“Just wondering.”

“I have Advanced Orchestra, but you’d better not make fun of it.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” said Astrid, but Mark hurried ahead before she could add that she was on her way to the same class.

Astrid had not had a music class since Junior High, but she had been able to place into Advanced Orchestra because of her regular practice at home. She retrieved her oboe from the cabinet and took her place, to find that she was seated right next to Mark. They were, in fact, the only two oboes in the orchestra. She looked around for a friendly face, knowing that Austin played viola, but he apparently wasn’t part of the class. She spotted quite a few faces that she knew, but nobody she knew well. With a shrug, she turned her attention to Mrs. Werner, the instructor.

“Boy am I glad to see you, Austin,” she said, upon arriving at her second class.

“Oh? Why?”

“I hardly know anyone in my orchestra class. It’s good to see a friendly face. How come you aren’t in that class with me?”

“I have Concert Orchestra third period,” he explained. “This year is going to suck! This is the only class I have with any of my friends.”

“That may not be completely true,” said Astrid.

“All right, class,” said Miss Gracie. “Take your positions. We’re going to start out with some basic moves.”

When Astrid got to her third period class, there were only two students sitting in class, one boy and one girl, neither of whom she had ever seen before. Astrid took her seat and waited, but no one else showed up to fill any of the remaining seats.

“Hi. I’m Astrid,” she said.

“We know who you are,” said the boy. “I can’t believe we have a class with you. My dad said we might.”

“I’m Michelle,” said the girl, “and this is my brother Artie.”

“Arthur,” he corrected. “We just moved here from Alaska.”

“Our dad is going to be the new chief of the Maxxim Fabrication facility.”

“Oh yeah,” said Astrid. “Mr. Gortner is moving to Detroit to work with my uncle. So, you two are brother and sister?”

“We’re twins,” said Michelle.

“Not identical, obviously,” added Arthur.

“You guys must be really smart,” said Astrid. “This is an advanced class. Where did you go to school before?”

“We’ve never gone to a regular school,” said Michelle. “We’ve always been home schooled.”

“That’s mostly because we lived in the Arctic, and there wasn’t a school close,” added her brother.

At that moment, Dr. Born entered from the door at the back of the class.

“Welcome to the wonderful world of Materials Management,” he said.

“What do you guys have next?” asked Astrid at the end of class.

“Calculus IV,” said Michelle. “My dad says we might be the only ones in the class.”

“Nope,” said Astrid. “We don’t have to go anywhere, because it’s the same classroom and the same teacher.”

“That’s good,” said Arthur. “I hate having to fight the crowd.”

Astrid didn’t point out that Rachel Carson High School had much less crowded halls than any school she had ever heard of.

“It must be weird going to school with so many people,” she said.

“It’s weird seeing so many people at all,” said Arthur. “Our town in Alaska only had eighty-five people.”

Christopher walked into the room and sat down, completing the class compliment.

“Hello,” he said. “You two were in my Medieval History class.”

“This is Michelle and Arthur,” introduced Astrid. “I didn’t catch your last name.”

“Pennington,” they said together.

Dr. Born stood up from his desk and started with a warm up activity involving vector operations.

After class, the four of them walked to the quad together. They stepped into the lunch line and received their lunches, which consisted of roasted swordfish, grilled asparagus with lemon pesto, French beans with heirloom tomatoes and hot cherry peppers, and for dessert, roasted pears with mascarpone.

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 12 Excerpt

The following morning, Eleanor and Océane took the speedboat into Tahiti. Astrid and Penelope spent most of the morning helping Adeline clean up the damage from the hurricane. The few trees had lost many of their branches and the young women soon had a pile of wood for which to make future beach bonfires. Some of roof tiles had been damaged and they did what they could to repair it with the single hammer, box of nails and one tube of roof cement.

They went swimming in the lagoon in the afternoon, but the dolphins did not put in an appearance. Afterwards the young women warmed themselves on the beach. Penelope had just suggested going inside, when the speedboat sailed into the lagoon.

“We brought take-away!” called Océane, as the boat touched the sandy beach.

“Take-away what?” wondered Astrid.

“That’s what Europeans call takeout,” said Penelope.

“Yes,” continued Océane, hopping down from the boat’s side. “Chinese food!”

“Yay!” Astrid shouted, suddenly realizing just how hungry she was.

After pulling the boat onto the sand and tying it down, they all went inside to eat, leaving the unloading of supplies until after.

“We got Dinner B for five,” said Océane excitedly. “It’s my favorite. We have won ton soup, egg rolls, fried shrimp, steamed rice, cashew chicken, and sweet and sour pork. And because the two of you are here, we also got egg foo young and sesame chicken.”

“I’m glad we could be helpful,” said Penelope.

They all filled their plates with heaps of Chinese food. Feeling like they had been underfed for the past few days, they ate until they could eat no more. Then they lay back to let their food settle.

It wasn’t long before Astrid dozed off. When she woke up, the others had already finished unloading the supplies. It was too late to take the boat out by then, so the girl inventor used the time to check over her equipment. Aunt Penelope talked her in to going back out to the beach and playing in the surf for a while. For dinner, they ate the remains of the Chinese food, which was fine, since nobody was really very hungry anymore.

For breakfast the next morning, they had toaster pastries that were not toasted, which to Astrid’s mind, made them almost inedible. Eleanor turned on the generator long enough to check the status of the new replacement generator online. Astrid used the opportunity to recharge everything. Then the whole crew climbed into the speedboat and headed out into the ocean.

Adeline knew of several locations the dolphins frequented for hunting. They tried two of them with no luck before spotting several dorsal fins cutting through the waves between two tiny atolls.

“This is tricky diving here,” said Eleanor, as she threw the anchor over the side. “The pass here has a fairly strong current.”

“This is also a popular hunting spot for sharks as well as dolphins,” added Océane.

“I always kind of wanted to swim with sharks,” said Penelope.

Eleanor stayed topside, while the other four young women donned their scuba gear and dropped one by one into the azure blue water. Astrid followed the others down into the depths, holding the translator gear in her right hand. The visibility was amazing.

It didn’t take long before they found the dolphins. One shot right past Astrid’s shoulder. She thought it was Catherine, but she wasn’t sure. It didn’t take long before she spotted sharks either. There were dozens of black tip sharks cutting through the water in formation. She could see more sharks down in the depths but couldn’t make out just what species. A large fish shot just by her left, and it took a moment before Astrid recognized it as a yellow fin tuna.

It wasn’t long before the girl inventor saw what was drawing all the hunters. A large school of anchovies was being herded upwards by the dolphins. The sharks and the tuna were taking advantage of the situation by shooting into the cloud of small fish from the sides.

Astrid could hear the clicks and whistles of the dolphins, but nothing came out of the translator. The microphone must not have been able to pick up the calls from the distance between her and the marine animals. She dove down deeper and moved closer to the action. Finally, the translator offered a hint at the conversation in the depths.

“John hunt!” came the words from the device. “Anchovies up.”

Astrid saw two very large dolphins shoot up and into the cloud of bait fish. She didn’t need the machine to tell her that it was John and Alister. Carefully aiming the microphone around, she could pick up the calls from the other dolphins.

“Rachel anchovies! Catherine down around! James hunt!”

Suddenly the translator spat out another word.

“Alister, Adaline!”

Astrid looked around. She saw Océane and Penelope just to her left, but she didn’t see Adeline at first. Then she spotted her, she had been caught by the current in the pass and had been swept across the reef. She had managed to stop herself but was now swimming in a cloud of what looked suspiciously like blood. Worse, there were a dozen black tip sharks circling around her.

“Alister! Sharks!” the translator said again.

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 11 Excerpt

Astrid woke up to the sounds of rain coming down upon roof. It was a surprisingly comforting sound, and it took her a few minutes to figure out why. Then the realization suddenly hit her. The sound of the rain was present, but the sounds of wind that had seemed so oppressive for the previous two days, were now gone.

She got up and hurried into the main room, looking out the crack in the boarded up window. The rain was falling in torrents, but it was falling straight down, not blown to the side like it had been. Looking around the house, the girl inventor realized that she was the only one up so far, so she wrapped up in her sleeping bag and sat by the window, watching the falling precipitation.

It was past nine when Adeline joined Astrid in the waking world. The two of them began setting out breakfast, and when the other three women joined them they ate the last of their fruit, along with cold cereal and the last of the milk.

They spent the entire day indoors without power, but with the winds much reduced, the mood was lighter.

The next day, when the skies hadn’t changed, Astrid began to get antsy. She decided that she had been indoors long enough. The others seemed to feel the same way. Mid-day, they all decided to go outside and evaluate the storm damage. Adeline and Océane went to check on the boat, while Astrid and Eleanor examined the generator. Penelope was assigned to check out the house. They shared their findings when they returned to the house.

“The generator is a total loss,” said Eleanor. “It’s so old, I was keeping it together with bubble gum and hair pins anyway. But some flying debris hit it. It took out the whole top assembly. I honestly think it will be cheaper to buy a new one, but it’s going to be $4000 and probably more than that in shipping.”

“The money is no problem,” said Penelope. “We can order it online. In the meantime, we’ll shoot over to Tahiti and buy a gasoline generator to hold us over.”

“And that brings us to a bigger problem,” said Adeline. “The speed boat is completely up on the beach, and it’s upside down. It doesn’t look too badly damaged, thought it is hard to tell.”

“All right,” said Astrid. “Let’s make a list of everything we need to order online. Then we can make a few Internet calls.”

At dinner, the five young women felt satisfied that they had done everything that they could. They hand ordered a replacement generator, though it might take a month to arrive. They had also purchased a small gasoline generator in Tahiti, which would be delivered by a salvage team who would arrive to right the speedboat and return it to the water. That wouldn’t happen though until the storm had completely passed.

There were two more days of heavy rain. The ladies mostly stayed indoors and ate fruits and vegetables from cans. The following day, which was Sunday, started out just the same, but after breakfast the rainfall started to slow, and just after lunch, it stopped.

The young women quickly changed into their swimsuits and went to lie down on the sandy beach, taking in as much of the sun as the still cloudy sky would allow. Even Astrid, who generally didn’t believe in tanning, enjoyed the feeling of the warm rays bathing her body.

“Look!” called Penelope. “The dolphins are back in the lagoon! Can we swim out to them?”

Before anyone could answer, the rain started again. It was only a sprinkle at first, but the skies were growing dark again. The girls gathered their towels and made it to the house just before the downpour returned in earnest.

“If anybody had told me that I would spend all my time in French Polynesia huddled inside the house,” said Astrid, “I would have thought they were off their nut.”

Both Océane and Adeline gave her a puzzled look.

“I would have thought they were crazy,” translated Astrid.

On Monday, the skies were still full of clouds, but the rain was limited to very light intermittent showers and the wind was no stronger than that found in a typical tropical day. The dolphins were back that afternoon, and all five young women joined them.

Astrid cast a glance at the battery charge on her translation devices. The MX-360 had pretty good battery life compared to similar products, thanks to the batteries that Astrid had invented almost two years earlier. Still, they designed to be charged after use, and the ones that formed the basis of the translator hadn’t been. The reading on the one she carried was 29%. The girl inventor decided that she would use the translator as long as it lasted.

Astrid hadn’t even reached the center of the lagoon where the other young women were floating when a large grey form brushed past her.

“Alister! Alister!” the large male announced himself.

“Astrid, Astrid,” replied the girl, using her translator to produce the dolphin-like sound that she had chosen to be her cetacean name.

The dolphin made a sound that Astrid thought might be her name, but the translator didn’t indicate anything.

Alister sailed up next to her and she reached out to touch his dorsal fin. He didn’t do anything but roll over as if to make her reach easier, so she grabbed hold of it. He shot forward, pulling her through the water at tremendous speed. After about thirty feet, she lost her handhold, and Alister shot away, leaving her right next to Océane.

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 10 Excerpt

The storm continued to rage outside the walls of the little house on Dolphin Island. The five young women had to make due with lighting from a single flashlight and several candles. They only ate food that could be eaten cold, and concentrated on that which was in the refrigerator, since without power the food within would eventually go bad.

“I wish I knew which direction the storm is moving,” said Penelope, as they sat around the table, eating a dinner of cheese sandwiches and cabbage and fennel salad.

“We had a hand crank radio,” said Eleanor, “but I broke the crank off of it.”

“Cranked it too hard?” wondered Penelope.

The blonde nodded.

“I can hook up the laptop directly to the internet,” said Astrid. “We’ve got enough battery power to run it for several hours.”

Unplugging the now unusable router, the girl inventor connected one MPro 5 notebook to the cable. Loading up the browser, she pulled up the satellite image of the storm.

“It’s passing to the north of us,” she told the others. “It’s not moving very fast though. I would guess we’ve got another two days of rough weather.”

“That’s what I figured,” said Adeline. “We’d better turn off the computer and conserve the battery.”

“First though,” said Penelope. “We each need to send a message to our loved ones telling them we’re okay.”

When it was her turn, Astrid sent the following message, making sure to address it to her mother, father, and to Toby. Power is out here, so no phone, but we are safe and sound. Don’t worry. Love to you all. Call you when we get the power back.

“Sending your love to Toby?” asked Penelope, looking over her shoulder.

“No, I’m just… That’s just what people say. You don’t think he…?”

“Stop worrying about it. He knows how you feel about him and he has since he was old enough to stand.”

“Well…” said Astrid, shrugging. “I guess.”

That night, the wind rattling loose boards and shingles on the outside of the house, made sleep difficult for Astrid. When she finally dozed off, it was late, and she was awakened at least three times during the night. It was a surprise therefor to find that she had slept late into the morning. All of the other young women were up and dresses and sitting around the table eating bread and jam.

“Why did you let me sleep so late?” asked Astrid, as she wiped the sleep from her eyes.

“There wasn’t much point in waking you,” said Penelope. “We can’t do anything but sit around staring at one another.”

“I thought now that it’s light outside, I might take a look at the generator,” returned Astrid.

“It’s light out,” said Eleanor, “but it’s still too windy to go outside. You would be blown off your feet. I’m a little surprised that we haven’t lost the roof.”

“The house is sturdy,” said Adeline. “We are also protected somewhat by the trees.”

“I hope the dolphins are okay,” said Astrid.

“They will be fine,” assured Océane. “They will swim out to the deep water. The storm won’t bother them at all.”

There was just enough light coming in through the boarded up windows that they were able to play a French version of Monopoly during mid-day. In the afternoon, the wind seemed to die down a bit, giving Astrid some hope that maybe the storm would soon be over. Then it grew suddenly dark, and minutes later, the island and the little house were deluged by waves of rain. The girls immediately had to scramble to lay out pots and dishes under the sixteen leaks in the ceiling that ranged from a steady drip to a constant stream.

“I feel like we need to look for two of every animal,” said Penelope.

It was so dark by five o’clock that it could have been midnight. Astrid peaked out a crack in the boards covering the window. All she could see were bushes being bent by the wind and pelted by the rain.

“Astrid,” said Océane, at her elbow. “Will you come help me make dinner?”

The girl inventor followed her to the part of the room that made up the kitchen.

“You seem very nervous,” said the French girl.

“Do I? I guess I am. This is the first hurricane that I’ve ever been in. We don’t get a lot of stormy weather in the southwest U.S.”

“Everything will be fine.”

“Oh, I know it will be,” said Astrid. “At least I know that in my head. I guess some other part of me isn’t so sure.”

“You will feel better after you eat. I’m making sandwiches with the last of the bread and hazel nut spread. I want you to chop of this bag of pistachios and whatever fruit we have left to go on them.”

Astrid found a handful of strawberries and two bananas in the no-longer-cold refrigerator, and diced them up fine, along with the pistachios. Océane sprinkled them on the hazel nut spread before placing the two pieces of bread together.

“I have a secret treat,” said Océane. “We’re all going to have hot cocoa.”

“How are we going to do that?” wondered Astrid. “We don’t have any heat.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 9 Excerpt

Astrid kicked her legs as hard as she could, shooting through the water over Swen’s Atoll. The grey monster shot up from behind and passed her like a bullet, only to roll over and propel itself directly toward her. At the last moment, it rose just enough to pass above her without touching. Seeing him from the surface, it was difficult to tell just how big Alister was, but seen from here beneath the waves, he was huge—over ten feet long and weighing about a thousand pounds.

“Alister play. Alister play,” the device in Astrid’s hands translated the dolphin’s signals.

From twenty feet to Astrid’s left, came another sound. Alister’s partner called out to him.

“Alister. Alister”

Astrid didn’t know for sure, but she suspected that John was trying to get Alister to pay him some attention, rather than lavishing it on the surface-dweller. Five consecutive days of swimming with him had certainly given Astrid the impression that Alister enjoyed her company. She couldn’t say the same about his companion.

She dove down and flipped over, swimming in the reverse of the direction she had been going. As she approached where the boat was anchored, she saw Penelope and two female dolphins playing with the scarf. Then she saw Adeline, who was signaling to return to the surface. Astrid followed her until both their heads popped above the waves. The girl inventor was surprised to find it darker than it had been when she had submerged.

“We’ve got to go in,” said Adeline. “The clouds have rolled in and the wind is picking up.”

“Okay,” Astrid replied. “Let me get Penelope.”

Pushing the regulator back in her mouth, Astrid dove down to where her aunt was floating, tapping her on the shoulder. When Penelope looked, she signaled to head for the surface. When their heads reached the air, they could see that the ocean was already becoming choppy. They quickly climbed into the boat.

“Were we expecting weather?” asked Penelope.

“It’s Hurricane Diego,” said Eleanor. “It was supposed to be far north of us, but it’s turned our way.”

She pulled up the anchor and then took her place behind the wheel, starting up the engine and steering toward Dolphin Island. The dolphins swam along behind them for a while, riding the wake, but then disappeared.

“That was great fun,” said Astrid. “I can’t believe that Alister is saying whole sentences—well, at least a two word sentence.”

“I think our translation is problematic,” said Adeline. “The dolphins use gestures and other signals, but I think they should be saying more. I think we are only getting a little slice of what they could say to us.”

By the time the boat was cruising into the lagoon, the waves of the open ocean were five feet or more.

They pulled the boat as far onto the sand as they could and tied it to not one, but three trees. Then they hurried inside the little house.

Eleanor turned on the radio and dialed into the weather.

“I’m going to pull up the storm on the Internet,” said Astrid.

“I’m going to puke,” said Penelope.

She staggered to the front door and stepped outside. The others could hear a retching sound. Astrid stepped out to make sure that she was all right and found the sky so dark she could have been forgiven for thinking it was night. The wind was so strong that it pushed her two steps to the left. Steadying herself, she stepped over to where Penelope knelt in the sand and bent down over her.

“Are you okay, Aunt Penelope?”

Her aunt arched her back and heaved again in reply. Astrid pulled her aunt’s black hair back to keep it out of the pool of vomit in the sand.

“I think I’m going to be turned inside out,” gasped Penelope at last.   “I haven’t felt this bad since the after party at the Grammy’s.”

“What were you doing at the Grammy’s?”

“Getting sick. That’s really all you need to know. Well, I think I’m done.”

She began struggling to her feet. Astrid helped pull her up and then threw her shoulder under the elder Maxxim’s. She led the way back inside and into the office, where Penelope crawled into her sleeping bag.

“Here, Penelope, drink this,” said Océane, stepping into the room with a glass of amber liquid.

“What is it?” came the croaked reply.

“It’s ginger ale. It will settle your stomach. We keep it on hand because Eleanor gets seasick too.”

“Is she sick now too?” wondered Astrid.

Océane nodded. “You should drink some too, Astrid.”

“I’m not seasick.”

“Not yet.”

“I need something stronger,” said Penelope. “I think I need to be put in a medically-induced coma.”

“I’m sorry,” said Océane. “I’m afraid we don’t even have motion sickness pills.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 8 Excerpt

The next morning, Océane woke the two Maxxims early. After a quick breakfast of cold cereal, the five women climbed into the speedboat and started across the ocean. Swen’s Atoll was about twenty miles away and soon the boat was floating above it. Eleanor shut down the outboard engines and dropped anchor.

Astrid quickly arranged the translation devices. Then she, Océane, and Adeline donned their scuba tanks, masks, and fins.

“Here’s the scarf,” said Eleanor, producing a red silk scarf.

“What’s that for?” wondered Penelope.

“The dolphins love to play with it. They think it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever seen. Adeline thinks it can be a breakthrough item. We’ve created a dolphin word for scarf. The plan is that we’ll play with them as they chase the scarf around while repeating the word. Hopefully they will copy it. Then we will know that they can learn a new word and add it to their language.”

“Let’s go,” said Adeline, dropping over the side.

Astrid followed.

The water was a beautiful azure, and amazingly clear. Visibility was as great as Astrid had ever seen in a dive anywhere. She could see almost one hundred fifty feet in any direction. The ocean seemed to want to give away its secrets. She could see a large manta ray flying through the depths and a few spotted eagle rays, skimming the tops of the coral that made up the atoll’s top. In the deep water beyond, swam several lemon sharks. And everywhere were crowded schools of colorful reef fish.

The only thing that was missing were the dolphins. The three women swam across over the reef, constantly on the lookout for the great grey mammals, but there was no sign of them. After twenty minutes, Adeline signaled for a return to the surface.

“We’ll wait aboard the boat,” she said, after spitting out her regulator.

“Why aren’t they here?” Astrid asked.

“Who can say?”

Eleanor and Penelope helped them all back into the boat. Then they waited, watching every direction for any sign of the missing dolphins. After two hours though, there was still nothing.

“How disappointing,” sighed Astrid.

“That’s how it is sometimes,” said Océane. “The ocean creatures do not follow our schedule.”

They returned to Dolphin Island and ate a simple lunch of fruit, cheese, and bread. The mood was subdued.

Astrid took the opportunity to take a brief nap after lunch. She had only just woken up when her phone rang. The screen showed her father’s face.

“Hi, Dad.”

“Hello, sweetheart. How’s Polynesia.”

“It’s fine, although apparently the dolphins are vacationing elsewhere.”

“Them’s the breaks, as they say. Is that why you’re there? To observe their behavior? What is this, a school project?”

“Dad, it’s summer.”

“Oh, yeah. So, not a school project?”

“I’m here to help one of Dr. Feuillée’s protégées with her study of dolphin language.”

The girl inventor went on to describe the project in detail and the technological solution she had developed for translation.

“That sounds amazing, Astrid,” said her father. “I hope you don’t get your hopes up too much. It may be that dolphins don’t really have a language as such at all. Just because an animal makes noises, doesn’t mean they’re talking. I learned that with my dog Buster when I was a kid.”

“Dolphins are a lot smarter than dogs.”

“You didn’t know Buster.”

“No, I didn’t,” said Astrid. “That brings up an important question. How come I don’t have a dog?”

“I didn’t know you wanted one,” he said. “Most four-year-olds ask for a puppy. You wanted a chemistry set… and a robot.”

“Well, maybe we could get a dog now.”

“Maybe,” he said. “Talk to your mother about it. On an unrelated topic, how are you and Penny getting along.”

“Famously,” said Astrid.

“Well, don’t be too rough on her.”

“You make me sound like a juvenile delinquent,” she complained.

“You’re no delinquent.” She could hear the smile in his voice. “But you’re not the easiest kid to rein in.”

“I guess I just have to run free.”

“Whatever. Just take it easy on my little sister.”

No sooner had Astrid finished talking with her father, when her phone rang again. This time it was Toby.

“Hi, boyfriend.”

“Oh, um, hi, Astrid.”

“How’s life with Jürgen and Sabine?”

“It’s going okay. We went fishing yesterday at Pearl Lake. It was a really nice day. We caught four trout and Aunt Gerta fixed them for dinner.”

“I can’t imagine Sabine found that very entertaining.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 6 Excerpt

The next morning after breakfast, Eleanor and Penelope left for Tahiti in the speedboat, leaving Astrid, Océane, and Adeline on Dolphin Island. After helping clean up the kitchen, the girl inventor turned on her computer system and checked everything over.

“Adeline,” she called into the other room. “I don’t suppose you have a connection to the Internet, do you?”

“As a matter of fact we do,” the young woman replied, stepping past Astrid to point to a spot on the wall. “They laid an underwater cable from Papeete a long time ago. I think back in the eighties. I hope it still works.”

“More like the nineties,” said Astrid, sitting down in front of the outlet, and pulling out her pocket toolkit. “This is a CAT-3 connection. I’m going to need to convert it. I’ll just strip an end off one of these cables I brought and we can see if the connection still works.”

A few minutes later, Astrid had a wire running from the wall to the back of the Ion desktop computer. After she ran the setup routine, the Maxxim Industries web page appeared on the screen.

“This will work. We’re limited to 100 megabits, but that’s not too bad really. When you said it was made in the eighties, I thought it might have been a 1200 baud connection.”

“I know most of those English words,” said Adeline, “but I still have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“That’s okay. Why don’t you show me your data?”

Adeline had recorded 2,164 sounds on a digital recorder. Each recording corresponded to an entry in a notebook that described the likely meaning. The job would require that all the sounds be copied to the computer and then to the data from the notebook would be typed in. Afterwards, a database would have to be written that included both.

“Well, I’d better get started.”

“I can help,” said Océane. “I am a very good typist. I can input everything from the notebook, while you create the program.”

“Great,” said Astrid. “Why don’t we take two of the portable computers and do it while we sit on the beach? I hope you have sunscreen.”

Océane did have sunscreen and they helped each other cover all their exposed skin. Océane had a black one-piece swimsuit, but Astrid wore shorts and a yellow top, not having thought to pack a suit. Adeline followed them down and set up a large beach umbrella, under which the two teen girls sat with their computers.

It was a lovely day and the only sounds were of the surf crashing onto the sand, and an occasional squawk of a seabird. It seemed like very little time had passed, when Adeline arrived back on the beach with a wicker picnic basket.

“Eleanor and Penelope should be back soon,” she said, as she passed out plates and then scooped potato salad onto them.

“Good,” said Astrid. “I really want to meet your dolphins.”

“Well, we really don’t need the boat for that. Most afternoons, they swim right around the island. I flatter myself that they come to visit me, but in reality they hunt over the reef and sun themselves in the lagoon. Have some cheese.”

“How come all the French people I know are thin,” said Astrid, taking a slice of Camembert, “and you all eat so much cheese and bread.”

“Obviously it isn’t bread or cheese that makes a person fat,” said Océane.

“You Americans don’t take time for your food,” said Adeline. “You are in too much of a hurry. It’s not healthy.”

“I agree with you there,” replied Astrid. “My mother is a perfect example. She’s busy all the time. Although, now that I think about it, both times I’ve talked to her recently, she’s been relaxed and at home.”

“Maybe she’s decided to start taking it easy.”

“Maybe, but that somehow doesn’t sound likely.”

“Have some dried fruits,” said Adeline, passing out an assortment of dates, apricots and roasted nuts. “Would you like some wine?”

She handed glasses out and then pulled out a bottle.

“Um, I’m too young to drink.”

“I only drink wine,” said Océane. “My father didn’t let me even drink it until I was twelve.”

“In France, everyone drinks wine. It is good for you.”

“This is that peer pressure everyone keeps telling me about,” said Astrid.

“I don’t want to pressure you, Astrid,” said Océane. “You can drink water.”

“Thank you. I’ll go and get it myself.”

The girl inventor got up and walked up to the house. As soon as she stepped inside, the phone ringer on her Carpé watch began to sound.



“Hi, Toby,” said Astrid, a grin breaking out on her face. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing’s going on with me,” he said. “What’s this I hear about you being in Tahiti?”

“Um, well, I flew down to help a friend of Océane’s with some research.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Dolphin island was not just a small island. It was miniscule, barely a hundred yards across. It was shaped like the letter C. Inside the open mouth of the C was a beautiful white sand beach that stretched out into the blue ocean. Around the rest of the island was a coral reef about twice as big across as the island itself was. Right in the center of everything was a small house.

Eleanor steered the speedboat up onto the sandy beach. Océane hopped over the side and ran ashore to fasten a line from the boat to a stumpy tree at the edge of the sand. Astrid noted with some disappointment that there were no palm trees, just a few scrawny deciduous trees and quite a few large bushes.

A young woman with short brown hair emerged from the house and stepped briskly down a wooden walkway to the shore, where she gave Océane a hug and kissed both sides of her face. Then the two of them waded out to the boat.

“Girls,” said Océane. “This is Adeline. Adeline, meet Astrid and Penelope Maxxim.”

“This is quite a surprise,” said Adeline, her French accent just as pronounced as Océane’s. “I didn’t expect Océane to bring back anyone, let alone two celebrities.”

“Oh, we’re not celebrities,” said Astrid.

“I have a copy of People Magazine in the house that says differently.”

“All right, everyone,” said Eleanor. “We have a lot of cargo to unload. Then we can talk.”

Even with all five young women pitching in, it took almost thirty minutes to get all the cargo from the boat to the house. In addition to all the computer equipment that Astrid and Penelope had brought along, and their luggage, they had several large boxes of supplies that Eleanor had bought in Tahiti.

“If you girls will help put away the groceries,” said Eleanor, once everything was safely inside, “I’ll get started on lunch.”

Twenty minutes later, the entire group squeezed together around a small kitchen table. They had to use all the chairs in the house and even then, Astrid sat on a crate. Eleanor served filets of mahi mahi grilled on a small hibachi, a salad with asparagus and duck cracklings, green olives, cheese, and French baguettes.

“Except for the fish, I feel like I’m back in Paris,” said Penelope. “Where did you find all this?”

“We brought the olives and cheese with us,” said Adeline. “Vegetables are hard to get here, but Eleanor found the asparagus in the market. She also bought the duck. That was a rare find. We ate most of it the day before yesterday. Eleanor made the bread.”

“It’s wonderful,” said Astrid. “Fresh fish must be one of the benefits of living here.”

“You can always find dolphin fish,” said Eleanor, using the alternate name for mahi mahi. Red tuna and white tuna are available in the market, and often shark. Shellfish, not so much. If you are lucky, you can get prawns. The hotels import lobster from New Zealand. There are no crabs worth eating here. The land crabs are everywhere, but they’re poison.”

“Well, where can I set up?” asked Astrid, when their meal was finished.

“I don’t understand exactly what you are setting up for,” said Adeline. “Why are you two here?”

“Mon dieu!” cried Océane, which started a conversation in French between her and Adeline.

“Now I wish that I had taken French at school with Denise and Valerie,” said Astrid.

“She told her that you’re here to build the translator,” said Penelope.

“I am sorry, Astrid,” said the French girl. “I will try to remember to speak English for you.”

“Hey, we’re in French Polynesia. You shouldn’t have to communicate in a foreign language. My watch already has and English to French translator. I need to change the settings so that it works in the reverse as well.”

“You can set up your things in the office,” said Adeline.

“There’s something else, Astrid,” said Eleanor. “I should have mentioned this before. Our power is from a propane-powered generator. We only have about 200 watts available. Our lights are all LED, so we only use about 30 for all of them, but our little refrigerator uses 40.”

“We should be okay,” said Astrid. “The Ion desktop only needs 65 watts, and the laptops less. We can run them one at a time. We’ll need about 6 watts for the router.”

The office turned out to be a small room with a single bookcase and a desk made from four cinder blocks and a pair of old boards. Astrid began unpacking her computers, her aunt helping her.

“I think we may be sleeping in here too,” said Penelope.


“Because there’s only one bedroom and its not any bigger than this room.”

At that moment, Océane entered with a sleeping bag under each arm.

“Here you go.”

“I don’t think that anyone mentioned the lack of a bed when inviting us to a mysterious tropical island,” said Penelope.

“I didn’t think,” said Océane. “I sleep in a sleeping bag here, but I should have thought that you Americans would be too fragile to go without your comfortable beds.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 4 Excerpt

The Starcraft 170 shot through the sky at 320 mph, three miles above the vast Pacific Ocean. Astrid was piloting, though the autopilot was currently engaged. Penelope sat in the copilot seat. Both Sabrina Scacchi and Don Herron had taken a commercial flight back to Maxxim City.

“I don’t know if this is such a good idea,” said Penelope. “I’ve never piloted a Starcraft before.”

“But you have qualified on twin prop planes,” said Astrid. “Besides, I’m piloting and I’ve logged quite a few hours in the 170 over the past three months. You can go back and take a nap if you want to.”

Penelope looked over her shoulder.

“You didn’t leave much room after loading all that computer equipment.”

“So what was going on at the Maxxim Store?” wondered Astrid.

“What do you mean?”

“I saw the look on your face when that guy called you the ‘smartest girl in the world’.”

“His name was Daniel,” said Penelope.

“Don’t change the subject. You were upset. Why? You are the smartest girl in the world. I wouldn’t mind having an IQ of 228, I can tell you that.”

“You would mind, if they trotted you around showing you off like a circus act. I was sent out to every morning talk show and variety show. ‘Look at the little genius! She can tell you the cube of 23,916!’”

“It’s um… fourteen trillion…”

“Thirteen trillion, six hundred seventy-nine billion, three hundred fifty-five million, four hundred thirty-nine thousand, two hundred ninety-six.” said Penelope. “Look at what I can do. Tricks, like a trained dog. Penelope, the little freak of nature.”

“It wasn’t really that bad, was it?” wondered the girl inventor.

“It really was, and it didn’t stop until I left for college. It really ruined my relationship with my father. He thought I was a great little marketing tool. I graduated high school at fifteen just so I could get away. And that ruined my relationship with my mother.   And then they both died, and I never had a chance to settle anything with either one of them.”

“I’m sorry, Aunt Penelope. I hadn’t heard any of that.”

“That’s partly why your parents try so hard to give you a normal life,” she said. “You should be grateful for it.”

“You are smart though,” Astrid pointed out. “You have the highest I.Q. ever recorded. You finished a PhD in physics at the age of twenty-two.”

“Yeah, well… I haven’t done anything with it. Having a high I.Q isn’t the be-all and end-all of life. You have to have drive and vision, and you have to enjoy what you are doing. I don’t really think I want to be a physicist, or a scientist of any kind really.”

“What do you want to do?” asked Astrid.

“I don’t know. I just know that I don’t want to live off my trust fund my whole life. I want to contribute somehow. I guess, I’ll go back and take that nap after all.”

When Penelope returned to the cockpit an hour later, Astrid was quite tired. It had been a long day and now a long evening as well. Astrid decided to nap in the pilot’s seat with the autopilot on. Penelope sitting in the copilot position was just one more precaution.