Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 5 Excerpt

“Hey, Boss!  What’s up?” called Dr. Roger Maxxim from behind a large rocket engine.

“Hi, Dad.  You know, I thought it was pretty funny when you used to call mom Boss, but I don’t think I’m as keen on it when it’s me.”

“Yes.  She felt the same way.  On the plus side, you have fewer ways that you can show your displeasure than she did.  What can I do for you, Dear?”

“I need to talk to you about something,” said Astrid.

“And are you talking to me as my daughter or as my boss?”

“Um, boss, I guess.”

“Okay, I’m listening, and I promise to follow directions just as much as I did when your mother had that position.”

“Look, Dad.  I already know you do whatever you want, no matter what anybody else says, but I want you to at least give me a fair hearing.”

“Of course, Dear.  Let’s have a seat.”  He led her over to a pair of plush chairs situated near the door of his personal lab.  “What’s on your mind.”

“Uncle Carl and I want to get back into the commercial aircraft business in a big way.  I need you to come up with some great plane designs.  We’re doing well with smaller executive aircraft, but we think that now is the time for us to re-enter the market with larger passenger planes.  We need everything from commuter planes to jumbo jets.  Can you do it?”

“You know that I spend a lot of my spare time designing planes, Astrid,” he said.  “I have updated designs for just about anything you could name.  However, your mother has decided that this isn’t a market we can dominate.  What makes you think your Uncle Carl knows better?”

“Actually, this isn’t Uncle Carl’s idea,” said Astrid.  “It’s mine.”

“Well, I guess, then, that we have to do it,” said Dr. Maxxim.  “After all, if the whole thing blows up in our faces, it’s going to hurt you more than me.”

“How’s that?” wondered Astrid.

“Well, you own more company stock than I do, so you’ll lose more money.  Besides, it’s always the person in charge that takes the fall, and who do you think your mother will blame for tanking the company.”

“Gee thanks, Dad.  That’s a lot of pressure for a fifteen-year-old.”

“Good thing you’re wearing your big-girl pants,” he said.

“Um, I’m wearing a skirt.”

“Anyway,” he continued, “you’ll be sixteen in just a few weeks.  You really are growing up way too fast.”

“Do you think you can have a presentation for the board by the end of October?”

“My Halloween gift to you,” he said, reaching over and pulling her into a hug.

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 4 Excerpt

“At least I’m not the only one trying to get caught up,” Astrid told herself.  Then remembering her earlier conversation with Denise, she texted, “Would you send me your brother’s phone number, please?

Denise sent the number, and Astrid tapped the link.  It rang five times, and she was just about ready to hang up when it was answered.  She immediately recognized the voice as Denise’s brother, whom Astrid had known since she was in elementary school.

“Enough already, Redwood,” he said.  “It’s not funny anymore.”

“Um, Dennis?”

“Who is this?”

“It’s Astrid.  You know… Denise’s friend.”

“Hi, Astrid,” Dennis laughed.  “I know who you are.  You’re world famous, you know, so being a friend of my sister is hardly the most obvious descriptor for you.”

“So, who’s Redwood?” wondered Astrid.

“Oh, he’s this guy that lives in my dorm.  His real name is Morris, but we call him Redwood because he’s from someplace called Redwood City.  He’s been on my case since school started because I mentioned that I know you.  Of course, he doesn’t believe it.”

“Gosh, Dennis,” said Astrid.  “I would hate to be the cause of you being bullied.  Maybe I could find a picture of us together and send it.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said.  “I’ve got plenty of pictures of us from when we went to Spain last year, including a very embarrassing one of you spilling paella.  I just don’t feel like showing them to him.”

“Wouldn’t it shut him up?”

“I’m sure he would find something else to annoy me about,” said Dennis.  “Anyway, enough about him.  Why are you calling me, Astrid?  Is Denise in some kind of trouble again?  She didn’t get a tattoo or anything, did she?”

“No,” laughed the girl inventor.  “She did mention though that you were having second thoughts about your major.”

“I guess that’s fair to say.  I just had this realization that, while I love drawing and design, I’m never going to be as good a designer as my father.”

“Dennis, you don’t know that.  He’s probably way better now than he was at your age.”

“Oh, he is.  But I’ve looked at designs he made when he was still on college.  They’re amazing.  It’s a lot to live up to.  I know you understand, Astrid, because your Dad’s a genius.  But in a lot of ways, you’ve already surpassed him.  How would you feel if you thought you never could?”

“I guess I’d feel pretty conflicted.  I’ll bet that’s how children of many of history’s great achievers must feel.  So, what are you going to do?”

“Well, I haven’t made any firm decisions about anything yet.  I’m going to weigh my options and think about it.  After all, this is only my sophomore year at the university.  I may go into architecture or it may be something else.  I’m more fortunate than most students.  My dads can afford to support my education, whatever I decide.”

“It sounds like you have a plan,” said Astrid.  “I just want you to know, Dennis, that there will always be a place at Maxxim Industries for you, whether as an architect or a designer, or something else.”

“Thanks, Astrid.  I appreciate that.  Just remember, I’m not responsible for anything my sister does to you in the meantime.”

“I should be saying that to you.  According to her, I’m always trying to ruin her life.  Anyway, Dennis, it was great to talk to you.”

“You too, Astrid.  Thanks for calling.  Bye.”

“Bye.”

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 2 Excerpt

The train arrived in only a few minutes at the large, three-story, modern school building that was Rachel Carson High School.  The school had its own internal monorail station on the top floor.  Stepping off the train, the kids gave each other a quick wave and hurried to their lockers in the team rooms.  Astrid and Christopher walked together, since they were in Team One.

“Well, we’re four weeks in,” said Astrid.  “How do you think school is going so far?”

“Good,” said Christopher.  “I have to say I’m enjoying Medieval History more than I thought I was going to.  You?”

“Oh, everything’s great.  I’m first chair oboe, you know, in Orchestra.”

“Aren’t there only two oboes?”

“You’re getting back at me because of that romance comment, aren’t you?” said Astrid.

“Maybe,” Christopher laughed.

“Are you kind of sad that you and Denise don’t have any classes together?”

“No,” he replied.  “I’d rather not be distracted.  How is being a teacher?”

“Kind of fun, actually.”

“Well, better you than me.”

Having dropped off their backpacks in their lockers, the two friends headed off toward their respective classes.  Advanced Orchestra was Astrid’s first class, and she was first chair oboe, the only other oboist being Mark McGovern.  The heavy-set boy had been very unfriendly to Astrid and her friends in the past but seemed to be making an effort to be more pleasant now.  This was possibly because she was his teacher for Robotics, or it might be because more than a few of his relatives worked for Maxxim Industries.  The class was working on Bernstein’s Divertimento for Orchestra.

“Astrid,” said Mrs. Werner, the orchestra teacher, as they were packing up.  “You know that the concert is the seventh of next month.”

“Yes?”

“Will you be able to be with us?”

“Sure,” said Astrid.

“You’re not going to be in space or on an expedition to the center of the Earth or anything?”

“I’ll make sure I’m here, Mrs. Werner.”

“Don’t you go into space anymore?” asked Mia Escalante, a sophomore viola player.

“Oh, sure.  I’m going up next week, but I’ll be back in plenty of time for the concert.”

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 1 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim stepped up to the counter in the Maxxim City Police Station.  The officer, who had been busy writing, looked up.

“Oh, Miss Maxxim.  How can I help you?”

“I’m here to meet my friend Valerie Diaz.  She’s writing a report on the police department for school.”

“Right.  She’s with Chief Gillespie.  He said to bring you on back when you got here.”

Stepping out from behind the counter, he waved for her to follow and led her back down a hallway to a door.  He knocked once and then opened it for her to step inside.  The room beyond was a small one, unremarkable except for a large window filling up one wall, and a camera on a tripod pointed at it.  Standing there, looking through the window, which Astrid surmised was a two-way mirror, were the Chief of Police and her friends Valerie Diaz and Valerie’s cybernetic twin Robot Valerie.

Astrid Maxxim was a cute girl of fifteen.  Her shoulder-length strawberry blond hair set off her very large blue eyes.  Valerie Diaz had been Astrid’s friend for years.  She had a crewcut of black hair, as well as flashing brown eyes.  Robot Valerie was the result of one of Astrid’s experiments a year before.  She had a metallic blue polycarbonate skin and long blue hair but was otherwise very similar to Regular Valerie.

“Come here, Astrid,” whispered Regular Valerie.  “We’re watching an interrogation.”

Astrid stepped over next to her to peer into another room where a female police officer and a man in dirty clothes faced each other over a small table.  Astrid knew Officer Cutler.  The policewoman had helped write the safety rules for Astrid’s hoverbike.  The man across from her, despite his clothes, had very clean hands and face.  He was bald, with a bit of a scraggly beard.

“So, let me make sure I have everything,” said Officer Cutler to the man.  “Your name is Thomas Eckles, and you’re from the future”

“That’s right.  Twenty-five years in the future.”

“But you lost your time machine.”

“I didn’t lose it,” he said with a sigh.  “The government took it.”

“Then you came here to Maxxim City.  Why was that again?”

“To get another time machine.  They invented it here.  I mean, they’re going to invent it here—any day now.”

“Are you working on a time machine now?” Chief Gillespie asked Astrid.

“Of course not,” said Astrid.  “Time travel is impossible.”

“If you say so, but I’m standing here next to a robot.”

“Well, it’s good to know that Maxxim City is still here in the future,” Officer Cutler told the man.

“It is, but it’s different,” he replied.  “It’s very different.”

“Come on, let’s get you girls on your way,” said the Chief, waving them toward the door.

“You’re going to get a psych evaluation at the hospital,” said Cutler, from the other room.  “If they say you’re not a threat, you’ll be free to go.”

“I understand,” replied Eckles, if that was really his name.  “I’m not worried.  This is before things got bad.  If this were my time, they’d throw me in the reeducation booth.”

“Wait.  What did he say?” asked Astrid, who had just stepped out into the hallway.

“Just more gibberish,” said Gillespie, closing the door after them.  “Let this be a lesson to you girls—don’t do drugs.”

“We wouldn’t do that,” said Robot Valerie.

“Um, I wasn’t really worried about you,” he clarified.  

“The future is always dystopian, isn’t it?” asked Cutler, still in the interview room.

“It’s because of the Internet,” replied the so-called time traveler.  “Once someone controls all the information, robot stormtroopers are sure to follow.”

Astrid looked back through the mirrored window.

“I think I want to hear more.”

“Don’t get too invested,” said the chief, guiding her by the shoulders out of the room.  “There are a lot of crazy people in the world.”  He looked at the Valeries.  “I hope you were both able to get all the information you needed.  We’re a small-town police department, but we’re proud of the job we do.”

“I think we did,” said Regular Valerie.  “Thanks so much for taking the time to give us the tour.”

“You’re welcome.”  

The chief led them to the lobby and then, bidding them farewell, turned and marched back toward his office.

“That was really fascinating,” said Robot Valerie.  “I think I might want to go into law enforcement someday.”

“I like your new shoes, Astrid,” said Regular Valerie looking down, “but if you don’t keep them tied, you might fall on your face.”

“Oh,” said Astrid, following Valerie’s gaze to see that her left shoe was untied.

She dropped down into a squat to tie it.

“Governor!  How did you find me?”

Astrid turned to see that Officer Cutler had led the man calling himself Thomas Eckles, his hands cuffed behind his back, into the lobby.  Now he was staring at Valerie.  Astrid stood up.  Eckle’s eyes turned to her and suddenly his face drained of color.

“No!” he wailed, dropping to his knees.  “No!  I didn’t tell them anything!  I swear I didn’t tell them anything!”

“Johnson!” called Officer Cutler, to the other officer on duty, who ran around from behind the desk.  They each took one of the man’s arms and lifted him up, pulling him back down the hallway.  “You girls go on out,” she said.

As the two police officers half carried/half dragged the man away, Astrid could hear him shouting.  “No!  Don’t you understand?  We’re all dead!  Nobody crosses the Supreme Ruler and lives!”

“I hope they get him the help he needs,” said Robot Valerie, once they were outside the station’s front door.

“Unless he’s really from the future,” said Regular Valerie, “in which case, I hope he gets another time machine.  I guess you better hurry up and invent it, Astrid.”

“Time machines are not possible,” said Astrid, with a frown.

“Just because nobody’s made one before, doesn’t make it impossible that they might someday,” said Valerie.  “Nobody thought a rocket to the moon was possible, but they built one.” 

“You can go to the moon, because the moon is there.  Time isn’t.  Time isn’t a place you can go.  It’s not really like another dimension of space.  The past is just what has already happened, and the future is just what hasn’t happened yet.”

“Didn’t Stephen Hawking say time travel was possible?” wondered Robot Valerie.

“That was theoretical,” Astrid replied, “under very confined parameters, and only at the quantum level.  Why does nobody seem to get that?”“Because nobody knows what any of that means,” said Regular Valerie.