Astrid Maxxim and her Undersea Dome – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim 2Early 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.”


Astrid Maxxim and her Undersea Dome – Chapter 1 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim 2Shark!

Denise Brown tapped frantically on her friend Astrid’s shoulder to get her attention. Astrid Maxxim’s focus, like the focus of her underwater camera, was fixed on the bright orange starfish, which rested on the top of the coral outcropping as if waiting for its picture to be taken. Astrid snapped a photo before turning to see what was agitating her dive partner. Denise pointed at the shark, and then to make sure that she was getting the message across, made a fin with her hand and put it on top of her head. Astrid held up her fingers about an inch apart in the universal symbol for small. Denise shook her head violently and shot up toward the surface.

In exasperation, Astrid blew out bubbles around her regulator, and then kicked her way back up to the surface of the Mediterranean. She spat out her mouthpiece and pulled the dive mask up onto her forehead.

“We’ve got fifteen minutes left before we’re done,” she said.

“Shark!” shouted Denise, scrambling up the ladder that hung from the side of the small boat.

“Shark?” said Toby Bundersmith, who was waiting topside. He threw aside his Batman comic and helped Denise up the ladder. “That’s lucky. I was hoping to see a shark when I was in the water, but I didn’t.”

“Come on, Denise,” called Astrid. “I still haven’t got a picture of a lobster yet.”

“There is a shark!”

“It’s only a little one,” said Astrid. “It is more afraid of you than you are of it.”

“That’s not possible,” said Denise. “And it wasn’t little. It was big—large, hefty, colossal, enormous, gigantic, mammoth, massive, oversized, tremendous, vast.”

Astrid tossed the camera up to Toby. “It was little—tiny, inconsequential, minuscule, petite, teeny, undersized, microscopic, miniature, did I say miniature already, no? runty, bitty, wee.”

“Come on,” said Toby, holding his hand down for Astrid. “I’m getting bored up here anyway. Let’s go in and have lunch.”

“Hurry up and get in the boat before that shark gets you,” said Denise, helping Astrid up.

“Honestly,” said Astrid. “It was the size of a dachshund.”

“I got bit by a wiener dog once and had to have five stitches,” replied Denise. “He didn’t have shark’s teeth either, just regular dog teeth.”

Astrid Maxxim and her Undersea Dome – 99 Cents at Smashwords

Astrid Maxxim 2Girl inventor Astrid Maxxim and her friends are back. This time Astrid is building an observation dome beneath the sea. Will she complete her amazing construction project, or will she be sidetracked by underwater monsters, the evil organization known as the Black Hand, or her snotty cousin Gloria?

Astrid Maxxim and her Undersea Dome is available at Smashwords in a variety of ebook formats.

Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing Hoverbike – Chapter 10 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing HoverbikeThe next morning, Mr. Bundersmith again took the kids to school. They didn’t go to first period this morning though, but collected in their team rooms with the seniors who would serve as their guides on the field trip. Then they loaded up onto the monorail train for the trip to the Saguaro Cactus Park, located deep within the Maxxim campus. There were 105 freshmen on the trip, divided up into groups of five. Each group was guided by a senior. Dennis Brown led Astrid and Christopher, as well as Alicia Noble, Madison Laurel, and Bud Collins. Each of them carried a small backpack, containing their lunches and their personal digital assistants.

Supervising the entire gathering was Dr. Franklin the Geology teacher, Dr. Ikeda the Biology Teacher, History teacher Mr. Hoffman, and five parent volunteers.

Technically there wasn’t a monorail station in the Saguaro Cactus Park. However there was a platform forty feet in the sky and a stairway leading down to the desert floor. The students and teachers climbed out of the train and made their way down to assemble into their groups at the foot of the stairs, as the monorail whooshed away.

“Alright guys,” said Dennis, taking charge. “We’re going to walk about two hundred yards due east. There’s an outcropping just above a dry riverbed there where I think you’ll find some great samples.”

The freshmen dutifully followed him through the sand, around rocks, prickly pear cactus and towering saguaros. Alicia and Madison happily snapped pictures of the various plants, squealing excitedly when they identified a teddybear cholla. Astrid made note of the various cactus varieties too, but she really wanted an example of the wildlife. She began looking in the many holes around the bases of the cactus plants.

“Watch out there,” said Dennis. “There are five different kinds of rattlesnakes around here and I don’t want either one of us bitten by any of them.”

“I don’t want to be bitten either,” said Astrid. “But I wouldn’t mind getting a few snapshots.”

When they reached the dry riverbed, she found not a snake, but a large chuckwalla lizard that had taken refuge in a crack on the rock face. She took a dozen photographs and recorded her findings on her MX-360. The beast was about eighteen inches long, and its orange colored body indicated that it was a male of the species. She tried coaxing it out of the crack, but the lizard closed its eyes and ignored her. By the time lunch rolled around, she had photos and notes on half a dozen different lizards—no snakes or tortoises though.

As the six students sat on a large rock, in the shade of the outcropping and ate their lunches of ham and cheese sandwiches, they compared their findings. Bud, who was the only student in the group besides Astrid working on desert animal life, had found and photographed coyote, rabbit, and kangaroo rat tracks. He and Astrid shared their data by bumping their MX-360s together. An hour later, Dennis guided them all back to where they had started, to find another monorail train waiting to take them back to Rachel Carson High School.

“I hope you found plenty of interest, Astrid,” said Dr. Ikeda. “I’m expecting something great from you.”

“I think I got everything I need,” replied Astrid.

Toby and Denise approached the staircase from the west and gave Astrid a wave. They both looked just as pleased with their field trip as she was. When she saw Austin trudging back in the rear of his group however, his face was clouded over by a frown. Once everyone was aboard the train and it was on its way, she stepped forward to where he was sitting to see what the problem was.

“Um, nothing,” said Austin. “I’m just worried about… um, putting all this stuff together. I never had to write a really big assignment, um, paper, like this before.”

“Don’t worry,” said Astrid. “You’ve got lots of time and I’ll be glad to help you.”

Austin nodded, but looked far from happy.

Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing Hoverbike – Chapter 7 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing HoverbikeThey had just finished eating when the phone rang.

“It’s for you, Astrid,” said Mr. Richards.

“Hello,” said Astrid, putting the phone to her ear.

“Astrid, please you must come at once. We need you.”

“Mrs. Diaz? What’s wrong?”

“It’s Valerie,” replied her friend’s mother. “She’s very sick.”

“Did you call Dr. Lower?”

“No, no. It’s my other Valerie.”

“You mean Robot Valerie?”

“Aye, si,” said Mrs. Diaz. “She feels week and she won’t eat ever since you turned her into a robot.”

“I didn’t turn her into a robot!” said Astrid, exasperated. “She’s always been a robot.”

“Please come and help her.”

Mr. Brown gave Astrid and Denise a lift over to the Diaz home where they found Valerie and her mother wringing their hands as Robot Valerie lay rather stiffly across the sofa.

“I tried to get her to eat some chicken soup,” said Mrs. Diaz.

“She can’t eat,” said Astrid, more exasperated than ever. “She’s a robot.”

“But she’s so week and she feels so sick,” said Valerie.

“Did you plug her in?”

“What do you mean?”

Astrid lifted Robot Valerie’s right arm and pressed a small recessed button. A compartment door opened and she pulled out a retractable cable. Unlike the rest of the United States which used NEMA 1-15 two prong or NEMA 5-15 three prong electrical outlets, Maxxim City and Maxxim Industries used an Excalibur interface plug, a smart plug capable of channeling a wide variety of power levels and data at the same time. Astrid plugged the tiny square plug into a matching outlet on the wall of the Diaz living room, right behind the end table.

“I feel better,” said Robot Valerie.

“I’m surprised you managed to go this long without a recharge,” said Astrid. “Why didn’t you plug yourself in?”

“I didn’t know I had to.”

Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing Hoverbike – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing HoverbikeAll nine members of the Maxxim Board of Directors were seated around a very large oval table. Astrid’s mother left her to take a seat at the far end, leaving Astrid to face the entire group, and she was feeling very small. The girl inventor knew how it worked. Those at the table didn’t own all the shares of Maxxim Industries. In fact, she herself had quite a large block inherited from her grandmother. But these nine had been chosen by the shareholders to oversee the operations of the company, so they had tremendous power.

“These will be the new line of Maxxim Supercell Batteries,” Astrid started, lifting the cover off of the cart full of mock-ups. Mr. Brown had outdone himself. There were more than 30 different battery sizes represented—everything from tiny button batteries to large, square lantern batteries.

“Aren’t there already lots of battery manufacturers?” asked Astrid’s aunt Lauren, usually her harshest critic on the board. “Why would we want to get into a such a crowded business.”

“Our batteries will change the marketplace,” replied Astrid. “They will change the world. First of all, since they are made with our own, patented Astricite, their charge will last much longer than any other batteries. Secondly, again because of the Astricite, they can be made for far less. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they will be far less toxic than batteries made with lead, mercury, or cadmium.

“Every year Americans alone dump 180,000 tons of batteries into landfills where toxic contaminants leach out into the soil and water. Every year dozens of children are hospitalized because of ingesting tiny batteries, from which corrosive or poisonous chemicals are released.”

“Our batteries would be safe to swallow?” asked former Senator Charles Bentlemore.

“No,” Astrid replied. “There is still the problem of liquefaction necrosis, which occurs because sodium hydroxide is generated by the current produced by the battery.”

“But our batteries won’t leach into landfills?” asked board member Saul Smith.

“Correct. Astricite has a relatively short life, on the order thirty to forty years depending on the sample size. After that, it degrades into its component compounds, all of which are non-toxic.”

“How much money can we make on this?” asked Astrid’s uncle Carl, her father’s brother and Aunt Lauren’s husband.

“As my mother can confirm,” said Astrid, “batteries are a $64 billion dollar business.”

“How soon can we get these to market?” asked Mr. Roy Dillanson.

“I’ve talked to Mr. Gortner in production, and he says we can have a factory in place in fourteen months.”

“Why don’t we just use an existing factory in China or Mexico?” asked Aunt Lauren.

“We will discuss that after Astrid has gone,” said her mother. “You are finished, aren’t you Astrid?”

“Yes, Mom.”

Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing Hoverbike – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim CoverThey arrived in the lab and Astrid examined the readings on her experiment.

“I think this might make it till the week-end.”

“What’s in this box?” asked Toby, from across the room. “What’s Project RG-7, and why is it top secret?”

“I was going to show you guys next week,” said Astrid, leading the others to where Toby was standing beside the crate. “I guess you can go ahead and take a look now.”

Reaching up, she flipped open a latch and opened the side of the crate. Inside, packed with straw, was a metallic girl. She had bright silver skin, but was otherwise quite human looking. Her hair was the same metallic material as the rest of her, a solid hair-shaped mass rather than individual fibers, but she was wearing regular clothing. She had on a pink jacket over a blue t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers.

“Oh my gosh!” squealed Valerie. “She looks like me!”

“Yes, she does,” agreed Denise.

“That’s because I patterned her after you,” said Astrid. “She’s a Robot Girl 7.”

“What’s she… I mean it, for?” asked Austin.

“Well, who wouldn’t want a robot?” wondered Astrid. “She could be anything: friend, babysitter, maid.”

“Why did you make her look like me?” asked Valerie.

“She’s just a prototype. I thought you would be a good model for her.” Astrid stepped over to a table and pulled back a sheet. “What we’re going to do is hook you up to her and we’ll copy all the information from your brain into the robot. It will be much faster than trying to program it with a computer.”

“I don’t know…” Valerie took a step back.

“It’s perfectly safe,” Astrid assured her.

“What if it sends my brain into her body? What if I wake up and you’ve turned me into a robot?”

“That can’t happen,” said Astrid.

“That would be way cool!” exclaimed Austin. “Make a boy robot and copy my brain!”

The rest of the week went by quickly. Astrid spent most of her time after school polishing up the two papers that were due that Friday: one on The Count of Monte Cristo for her Independent Study class, and one on fungus for Biology. She did have one opportunity for fun with her friends in the evening. On Wednesday night her father had a barbecue and invited the Bundersmiths, the Browns, The Diaz’s, and the Harris’s, and two other families. Everyone ate heaps of ribs, chicken, and brisket and the kids spent hours in the pool.

Saturday morning, Astrid was back in her lab looking over the results of her battery experiment. It had gone far better than expected. She gave a quick call to Mr. Brown, Denise’s father, who was in charge of model-making at Maxxim Industries, and asked him to create a line of mock-up batteries in all the popular sizes for her presentation the next week. No sooner had she hung up the phone than Denise walked in the door, followed by Valerie.

Toby and Christopher weren’t with them, but Astrid knew right where they were. They were two of only a four freshmen at school who had their pilot’s licenses, so they spent every other Saturday at the Maxxim Industries airfield, trying to get enough hours to qualify on the newest aircraft models.

“Hey Guys,” said Astrid. “Right on time.”

“I’m still not sure about this,” said Valerie.

“Don’t worry. We’re just programming the robot to be able to follow some basic input. We want to be able to tell it to go here, or pick that up, or bring me that test tube. Programming it by hand would take weeks. This way, we can map out the entire command structure by copying the way your brain works. I thought you would enjoy this, being a part of history.”

“I guess it’s alright,” said Valerie. “You’re not going to fry my brain or anything?”

“Of course not.”

“Don’t worry,” said Denise. “I won’t let her do any mad science stuff to you.”

“What do I have to do?”

“Just sit down here on the table by Robot Girl 7,” Astrid instructed. “I’ll just put these sensors on your temples.”

She stuck a white circular sticky pad with a wire extending from it onto each side of Valerie’s head.

“Now I just throw the switch.” She flipped a switch on a nearby panel. “Feel anything?”

“No,” answered Valerie, a little shakily.