Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane“How much time before the launch?” asked Denise.

Toby looked at his wrist. “Thirteen minutes.” He turned to show the device strapped to his arm to everyone else on the row. “See? I got my Astrid watch when I got my Astrid phone.”

“That’s not what they’re called,” said Astrid.

“Really? Because that’s what the guy at the electronics store called it.”

The wristwatch device that had been dubbed by marketing specialists the Maxxim Carpé was a high powered computer in its own right and when paired with the Maxxim Phone it was even more powerful. It came in about two-dozen different styles including the one that Toby had with a dark blue band and a blue and grey bezel—The Mariner. Astrid had originally designed the wearable computer as a Fathers Day present for her dad, but her work could also be found all through the phone. She had written part of the operating system for both devices and designed the batteries that powered them.

“That is so cool,” said Austin from the far end of the row. “My grandma said I could have one for my birthday if I promise not to lose it.”

“I hope you didn’t promise,” said Christopher. “There’s no way you’re not going to lose it.”

Austin had a history of misplacing all kinds of things, including his phone and other electronic devices. He was once bitten by a rattlesnake while looking for a lost PDA.

“That’s the beauty of it,” said Austin. “It has a built in app so it can’t get lost. Your phone will lead you right to it.”

“I confess to thinking of you when I wrote that app,” said Astrid.

“You’re welcome world,” said Austin.

“The countdown is at ten minutes,” said the voice over the loudspeaker.

“I love my phone,” said Toby, fishing it out of his pocket. “I’m surprised that Maxxim never made one before.”

“It’s a tough market, so I think my mother thought we couldn’t compete,” Astrid explained. “She’s probably right. We’ll never be the industry leader, but my dad and I think if we just make the best phones in the world, that will be enough.”

Toby held the phone up for her to see that he had set the wallpaper to Astrid’s new school picture. It was a good likeness, and picture day that year had been a great hair day, but still it made Astrid uneasy seeing her image looking back from the screen.

“Bow down before me,” she whispered.

“What?” asked Toby.

“Nothing. Um… I think it would be better if you took me off your wallpaper.”

“Why?”

“Well, um… somebody might find your phone and think it’s mine.”

“Then you could give it to me,” he said slowly, as if trying to find the meaning behind her words. “Are you mad because we haven’t been on another evening date since Junior Prom?”

“No.”

“It’s just been such a busy summer, Astrid. I was in Europe and you were in Antarctica and then working. It just seemed like whenever we had time the whole gang should get together.”

“No, really,” said Astrid. “I’m not angry about that… or anything really. I just think you should put something else as your wallpaper—maybe something manly. You could put um… football or a truck or maybe Iron Man.”

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Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane“What’s the matter?”

Looking up into the face of Robot Valerie, Astrid screamed again. She looked around, but for a moment couldn’t remember where she was.

“Are you all right, Astrid?” asked Regular Valerie, looking down at her from above.

“I told you we couldn’t all three fit in the bed,” said another voice, and Astrid saw Denise looking over the edge of the mattress.

“Denise? You’re not in prison?”

“Valerie, you’d better go get one of my dads. I think Astrid hit her head and knocked a screw loose.”

Regular Valerie hopped off the bed and hurried out of the room.

It was coming back to her now. She was at the Brown family home for a sleepover, but she still flinched when Robot Valerie reached toward her.

“I just wanted to check your head for a bump,” said the mechanical girl in a hurt voice.

Her flesh and blood sister returned, followed by Denise’s brother Dennis and both her dads.

“Dennis,” said Astrid. “Thank goodness you’re alive.”

“Are you all right?” asked Dennis Brown Sr. “Do you need a doctor?”

“No,” Astrid replied. “No, I just had a bad dream.”

“And Valerie pushed her out of the bed,” added Denise. “Me too. I’m fine by the way.”

“That must have been some dream,” said Mr. Brown.

“It was. It seemed so real. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream that seemed as real as this one.”

“Well, what happened?” asked Dennis. “Obviously I was in prison, so that sucks, but what else?”

“I traveled in a time machine twenty-five years into the future into a dystopian world ruled by… ruled by an evil military dictator, with robot storm troopers.”

“Oh my,” said Robot Valerie.

“It’s your own fault,” said Denise, and when Astrid looked questioningly at her, she said, “You’re the one who wanted to watch The Hunger Games last night.”

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Chapter 1 Complete

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneAstrid Maxxim stepped out of the time machine and looked around. The Main Street of Maxxim City didn’t look very different twenty-five years in the future, at least at first. Then she noticed gigantic buildings off in the distance, so high they reached up into the clouds. Hearing a thunderous noise to the west, she turned to see a huge spacecraft, spherical and the size of a football stadium, rise up into the sky. As her eyes followed the vapor trail from the sky to the ground, she saw the monorail station, looking just as it always had. In front of it though, was a four story tall video screen. A close up of a woman’s face filled the image. She was talking but Astrid couldn’t hear what she was saying, and from this angle she couldn’t make out the woman’s features.

“Must be a soft drink add,” she mused.

It suddenly occurred to Astrid that at mid-day there should have been shoppers going in and out of the stores and cars moving up and down the street. There were neither. The storefronts across the street from her should have been The Bagel Nook and Dickens and Co. Books. Now however, neither building was labeled. They didn’t even seem to have front doors. There was a kind of a slot about five feet wide and three feet tall just above where the door would have been. As she watched, a flying drone, held aloft by four Maxxim hoverdisks, just like those in her hoverbike, zipped over her head and into the slot in what had been The Bagel Nook.

“Maybe they have drones pick up things for them at the store,” she thought aloud.

Turning around, she saw that the Malt Shop didn’t look all that different. It appeared to be open, so she started toward it. It wasn’t until she was right in front of the door though that she noticed the sign. Instead of Maxxim City Malt Shop, it read Startopia Malt Shop. The door whooshed open, kind of like on Star Trek, as she passed through. Inside though, it was exactly the same—the same barstools and counter, the same tables and chairs, and the same menu board. There were no customers though.           “Just a minute,” she heard someone call out.

A minute later, a man who looked to be in his thirties stepped out of the back room and walked out to the counter as she sat down on one of the round stools. Dressed in white pants and shirt, and with an apron tied around his waist, he was pretty normal looking. He was a little chubby around the middle and his hair was thinning. Astrid looked at the nametag above his shirt pocket.

“Irving?” she said. “Irving Witzel?”

“Yup, that’s me. Do I know you? You look familiar.”

“Um, my name is Gloria.” Astrid didn’t think she had to worry about changing anything here in the future the way she would have if she was in the past, but if she admitted who she was it might cause complications. “My parents used to live here in Maxxim City and they told me you worked here.”

“Oh yeah? Well, they must have lived here quite a while ago if they still called it… if they still used the old name.”

“You’re good friends with Dennis Brown, right?”

“We were best friends,” he smiled sadly. “He was killed in the war.”

“What war?”

“The Last War, the only war.”

“How about his sister?”

“Her name was Denise,” said Irving. “She became a writer—a pretty good one from what I hear. She might be working for the news agency, or she might be in prison.”

“Prison?”

“Yeah, well you know how writers are. Are you going to order something?”

“Um, yes. Let me have a chocolate soda, please.”

Irving’s eyes lit up.

“You’re parents must have told you about chocolate sodas. I used to be the best soda jerk in North America.” He pulled a large glass from beneath the counter and began mixing chocolate sauce and soda water together. Then he plopped two scoops of chocolate ice cream into the mixture. “Sorry. No whipped cream. I haven’t made one of these in years.”

He slid the glass toward Astrid, and she took a straw and stuck it into the confection, taking a long sip.

“Delicious.” She took another sip. “Say, Denise Brown used to have a friend named Valerie.”

Irving’s face scrunched up as if he’d bitten into a lemon.

“Governor Diaz. I don’t talk about politics. Say, why are you asking all these questions?”

“Um, I’m doing a report for school… um, it’s about my mother growing up.”

“Oh yeah?” suspicious dripped from Irving’s words. “Just who is your mother?”

“Oh, you probably never heard of her,” said Astrid, struggling to think of someone whom she could name. “Her name was… Océane Feuillée.”

Irving’s face broke into a grin. “I know you!”

“You do?”

“Sure. You’re Gloria Bundersmith! Your dad was a good friend of mine. Boy-oh-boy, I remember when he married Océane and moved to Europe. That was the last big party we had around these parts. How is your dad?”

“Fine, last time I saw him,” Astrid’s voice came out as a squeak.

“Is he still friends with Christopher Harris. We all expected Toby to move to Europe, marrying a French girl and all, but it was a surprise when Christopher and Alicia went with them.”

“Um, yes,” said Astrid. “They’re still best friends. Why wouldn’t they be?”

In a daze, she turned her attention to her soda, sipping all the liquid out and then taking a bite of the leftover ice cream with a spoon. Irving took out a white towel and began polishing some glassware. Her mind abuzz, the girl inventor watched him. Finally she noticed that every so often he looked up toward the back wall. Back in the present, or the past, or the past present, or whatever, a large mirror had hung there. Now a white tablecloth thumbtacked to the wall covered the space. Finally Irving turned back to her.

“Um, I don’t know if my money is still good,” she said.

“Not if it’s Euros,” replied Irving. “Don’t worry though, kid. This one’s on the house.”

“Thanks,” said Astrid. “Say Irving, I mean Mr. Witzel, do you remember Astrid Maxxim?”

“I wondered if you would ask about her.” He looked around the room and then leaned across the counter to look out the front window. “I bet people still show up to some town in Austria and ask what Hitler was like when he was a boy.”

“Hitler!”

Irving laughed nervously. “Not really a fair comparison.”

“I should think not,” Astrid blurted out.

“After all,” said Irving. “I hear Hitler loved music and was kind to dogs.”

Suddenly the door burst inward, sending shattered glass across the room, and a dozen bluish silver figures marched in. Irving turned as if looking for an escape, only to see six more of the invaders marching out of the back room and into the space behind the counter. As one, all eighteen figures raised their right arms, which transformed into some kind of weapon. Red laser targeting dots appeared on Irving’s chest, and Astrid’s too!

“Irving Witzel!” said the foremost figure. “By the Authority of Valerie Diaz, Governor of District Three, you are ordered to stand in judgment!”

Astrid gasped. The voice was that of her friend Valerie, only she sounded grown up. Even more shocking though was that the eighteen bluish silver figures all looked like grown-up versions of Robot Valerie!

“Why is your reminder covered?” demanded the closest Robot Valerie, pointing to the spot where the large mirror used to hang.

“Uh… I was painting.” Irving’s voice shook. “I didn’t want to get paint on it.”

“Covering the reminder is a class six crime, punishable by no less than 100 hours in the reeducation booth.”

Irving collapsed, sobbing. The Robot Valerie closest to him reached up and yanked the cloth down, exposing a video screen. Though she hadn’t been able to see any real details before, Astrid could tell that this was the same face that was on the giant screen by the monorail station. Only the head and shoulders of the woman, who was wearing a stiff-collared military style uniform was visible. Her strawberry blond hair was cut short, like a boy’s, and parted on the side. Though pretty, in a hard sort of way, and wearing a modest amount of makeup, a scar ran from her forehead down her left cheek to her chin, marring her face. Whatever had caused that scar had obviously cost her an eye, because while her right eye was large and bright blue, a glowing red robotic eye replaced her left one.

“She looks a little like my mother,” thought Astrid.

And then the woman on the screen spoke.

“I am Supreme Ruler Astrid Maxxim. All will bow before me!”

“What?” yelled Astrid.

“She said to bow down!” growled one of the robots, grabbing the girl inventor by the shoulders and pushing her down.

Astrid screamed as she hit the floor.

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 7 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionWhen Astrid took the elevator down to the lobby, she found Paige already waiting for her. Taking her by the hand, the woman led her out to a private car, introducing her driver as Jake. Over the next two hours, they saw as much of the city of Melbourne as was humanly possible. They had breakfast in the vibrant suburb of St. Kilda, and visited the Shrine of Remembrance. Astrid would have loved to spend more time at the Royal Botanical Gardens, but Paige insisted that no young lady could stop in the city without browsing the shops on Swan Street. They returned to the hotel with barely enough time to pick up Christopher and make it to the airport on time.

“Are you sure this is the right plane?” asked Christopher when they reached their gate.

“This is it,” said Astrid.

The plane awaiting them was not another huge 747, but a medium-sized corporate jet. Astrid had expected this. Though commercial flights left Australia for Antarctica once or twice a month during the summer, it was winter here in the southern hemisphere. Besides, they weren’t headed to Australian territory, but France’s Adelie Land.

“Will this plane be able to make it all the way to Antarctica?” asked Christopher.

“No problem,” Astrid assured him. “You can recognize the Dassault Falcon 900 by its distinctive tri-jet configuration. The 900LX which we have here— you see the blended winglets— has a range of 5,520 miles.”

They walked down the boarding ramp to the plane’s open hatch, where a smiling young flight attendant awaited them.

“What about the weather?”

“I’m sure it will be fine,” said Astrid.

“We have an excellent radar system,” said the flight attendant. “We also keep in contact with Dumont du’Urville, the station in Adelie Land. If the weather is bad, particularly if there are high winds, we just have to turn around and come back.”

“How often does that happen?” asked Christopher.

“About one out of three trips,” she replied. “You two find a couple of seats and we’ll get started shortly. If you need anything after we get started, let me know. We can have lunch whenever you get hungry. I’ve got sandwiches and hot cocoa in the galley.”

“Are we the only passengers?” Christopher peered into the plane’s cabin.

“The only ones,” she confirmed. “It’s a charter flight. Not many people want to visit the bottom of the world in winter. Summer’s bad enough.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 6 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionMr. Bauer, whom Astrid had met only briefly once before, had been an investor in Maxxim Industries for years and had advised her mother in the past. He waited, smiling at the front door for them. He was of medium height and heavy set— one would have more likely called him beefy or stout than fat. The greying hair around his ears contrasted with the bald dome on top of his head. He was dressed in a suit, but without the tie.

“Hello there, Astrid! So fantastic to see you again! You’re about twice as tall as I remember.”

“Nice to see you again, Mr. Bauer. This is my friend Christopher Harris.”

“Hello Chris.” Bauer shook both of their hands violently. “You must both call me Max. Come along inside. The misses is literally dying to meet you.”

“I hope not literally,” said Christopher, who had never much liked being called Chris.

Astrid shot him a glance as they followed Mr. Bauer into his home. The very large entry way led into a very large living room. Both rooms were filled with furniture, all of which was very ornate and looked very expensive. The walls were covered with art. Compared to Astrid’s home, where with the exception of the family room it was not unusual for a room to have only a single picture on the wall, this looked like a museum or an art showroom.

“Here’s my jewel now,” said Mr. Bauer, as his wife appeared from a back room.

Mrs. Bauer was a gorgeous African American woman at least six inches taller than her husband and about half his age. She hopped over to Astrid and took her hand excitedly.

“I’m so so glad to meet you, Astrid! I just think you’re fabulous!”

“Thanks. This is my friend Christopher.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” said Christopher. “You look really familiar.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Christopher, though I confess Astrid, I was hoping you would bring your robot girl, since I played one in a movie once.”

“Invasion of the Robo-Girls!” said Christopher, snapping his fingers. “I knew you looked familiar.”

“Yes, that was a great film,” said Mrs. Bauer. “I’m not acting anymore though. I might like to direct.”

“She’s very talented,” said Mr. Bauer. “Come, come. Let’s all go into the dining room. Dinner is almost ready, I think.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 4 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionAs soon as she had hung up, she looked up a second number and dialed.

“Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Geophysics Division, how may I direct your call?” said a female voice.

“May I speak to Connor Brown?”

“Who may I say is calling?”

“It’s Astrid Maxxim.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Um, no.”

“One moment, please.”

Seconds later the line was picked up and a man’s voice said, “Hello, is this really Astrid Maxxim?”

“Um, yes.”

“Are you calling about my hoverbike? It was just delivered but I haven’t had the chance to try it out yet.”

“Oh, well I’m glad you got it,” said Astrid. “But that’s not why I’m calling. You are the Connor Brown who is the head of Antarctic research for New Zealand, aren’t you?”

“I am the Director of Operations, the organizational head.”

“Well good. I’ve discovered some data about an Antarctic expedition that was made in 1928 by my great-grandfather. Their records indicate they discovered something important beneath the ice, but I can’t find any record of what it was. Since the location is within New Zealand’s area of authority, I thought I would give you a call.”

“Hmm,” said Brown. “We don’t normally have any personnel on the continent during the winter, but we have this idiot… this movie director who is filming a documentary. Maybe this is something he can check into.”

“That’s great. I’ll send you copies of the maps and other information.”

A few minutes later, Astrid was back outside, astride her hoverbike, and strapping on her helmet. She felt the ground shake briefly like an earthquake. Then two seconds later there was a tremendous boom and one of the glass panes in the front of the R&D building shattered. She looked up to see a huge black cloud rising up into the air about five miles to the south. Astrid knew just where it came from too— the Maxxim rocket launch facility.

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionThe Screaming Pterodactyl was a modern, high-speed roller coaster, with seats that hung down below large polymer pterodactyls, giving one the impression that he was being carried by the beast through twists, turns, corkscrews, and loop-the-loops.

“It is open today, isn’t it?” asked Regular Valerie.

“Yes, yes, of course. We have a temporary queue line set up so you can ride the same ride we’ve had for the last seven years. But Astrid designed a whole new queue system. Now, as you walk though the line, you go on a fantastic hike through the primeval world, with twenty-two realistic animatronic dinosaurs. I’ve had the power turned on for you and the security guard at the door will let you in. You can check it out on your way to the ride. When you get through, the cast member at the ride entrance will let you go right to the front.”

“We don’t really want to see a bunch of old dinosaurs, do we?” asked Denise.

“Of course we do,” said Christopher.

“Dinosaurs are awesome!” shouted Austin, making both Valeries wince.

“We have to support Astrid,” said Toby.

“Don’t I always?” said Denise.

“You do,” said Astrid, with a laugh. “You’re just not quiet about it.”

When they finished eating, they walked to a large building draped with canvas tenting, next to the roller coaster. A security guard was standing by a slit in the canvas and pulled it aside, revealing a door, which he then opened. Inside, they followed the marked path through the entryway and found themselves standing in the middle of a desert scene.

“We start with the triassic?” asked Christopher.

“I would have liked to have gone through the whole prehistory of the earth,” said Astrid. “Since I couldn’t, I decided to stick with the three geological periods of the dinosaurs.”

They walked around a large rock to find themselves threatened by a group of four coelophysis, hissing and snapping their teeth-filled jaws. At the top of a hill, they could see a ferocious ticinosuchus, while closer by an elephant-sized moschops tugged at the shaggy fern.

“That’s the ugliest dinosaur I’ve ever seen,” said Denise.

“It’s technically not a dinosaur,” said Christopher. “It’s a therapsid.”

They rounded a corner, went through an arched doorway, and stood at the border between a grassy plain and a conifer forest. The painted mural on either wall made it seem as if both went on forever. Right in the middle was a massive brachiosaurus, reaching up to pluck pine needles from a tree. Nearby a pair of allosaurus harassed a stegosaurus, and beyond that a Quetzalcoatlus, the size of a jet fighter, soared overhead. Other, smaller dinosaurs hunted through the trees.

“Now these are what I call a dinosaurs!” said Austin, looking up at the Brachiosaurus. “They’re so realistic. It’s like we went back in a time machine. Say, why don’t you invent a time machine, Astrid?”

“That’s not really possible,” said Astrid.

“Well, sure it is.”

“Don’t get her started on time travel,” said Denise. “We’ll never get to ride the roller coaster.”

Astrid and her friends passed on through the Jurassic period and through another arched doorway to find themselves at the foot of a volcano, steam rolling down from the artificial lava. Running along the hillside were psittacosaurus, caudipteryx, and ornithomimus. Snapping and squawking below were several velociraptors. A large beipiaosaurus browsed through low-hanging trees.

“What’s with all these chickens?” asked Denise. “I thought this was a dinosaur exhibit.”

“These are all anatomically correct,” said Christopher. “Most cretaceous dinosaurs had feathers.”

“No wonder Maxxim Industries is in trouble,” said Denise. “You’re spending all its money building robot dinosaurs.”

“Who says Maxxim Industries is in trouble?” wondered Astrid. “Did your dad say that?”

“Yes. Not my dad that works for you. He thinks you’re the greatest thing ever. My other dad— he said it.”

“Maxxim Industries is just fine,” said Astrid.

Walking around a lava flow took the group to a triceratops nursery, where two of the huge three-horned creatures were caring for some tiny tykes just emerging from their shells. But looking over this tranquil scene from beyond the bushes was an enormous tyrannosaurus rex.

“That’s odd,” said Astrid.

“What?” asked Toby.

“The t-rex should be roaring and chomping and generally being scary. It’s the only dinosaur not working. I think I’ll take a look at it. Maybe it’s something minor.”

“Trust Astrid to turn riding a roller coaster into an electronics experiment,” said Denise.

“You guys go on ahead,” said Toby. “I’ll stay with Astrid and fix the dinosaur, and then we’ll follow you.”

“You sure you don’t mind?” asked Valerie.

“Go ahead,” assured Astrid. “I’m sure we won’t be more than a minute.”

While Christopher, Austin, Denise, and the two Valeries continued through the last arched doorway to the ride entrance, Astrid led Toby to the base of the monstrous creature. Pulling out her pocket toolkit, she unfastened four screws on the tyrannosaurus’s hip and opened a large panel.

“Uh-oh.”

“Is that what I think it is?” asked Toby, pointing to a cylindrical metallic object behind the panel.

“Do you think it’s a pressure cooker connected to digital clock?”

“No, I think it’s a bomb.”

“Well, either way, you’re right.”