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.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionThe following morning found Astrid walking in the front door of the Maxxim R&D building. The half-mile wide, fourteen-story structure dominated the northwest corner of the Maxxim Industries campus. The campus, sprawling across 180,000 acres of the American southwest, featured machine shops, office buildings, factories, power plants, and its own airport. It was here, where for the past forty-two years, thousands of Maxxim products had been developed and produced, making the Maxxim family very wealthy and making the world a better place in which to live.

Astrid took the glass elevator up to her lab on the fourteenth floor. As she stepped out, she saw Mrs. Purcell, the office manager, at her desk surrounded by several Maxxim employees. As she approached, they glanced nervously in her direction and then hurried away.

“What’s up, Mrs. Purcell?”

“It’s nothing really, Astrid. Some people are just worried about their jobs.”

“Why? Did they do something that might get them fired… no, never mind, don’t tell me.”

“It’s nothing like that,” Mrs. Purcell assured her. “It’s everything that’s happening in the stock market.”

Astrid gave her a blank look.

“You should pay more attention to what’s going on, Astrid.”

“Wall Street just seems so far away,” said the girl inventor. “I’ve never been that interested in finance.”

“I dare say you can afford not to be. No matter what happens to Maxxim Industries, your family will be one of the richest in the country.”

“What do you mean ‘no matter what happens?’ What could happen? Maxxim Industries is the largest, richest company in the world.”

“Actually as of last week, it was number six. As of this morning, it’s number fifteen.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Purcell,” said Astrid, before walking to her lab. Once there, she picked up her Maxxim tablet and plopped into an overstuffed easy chair. She called up the recent financial news and read through the headlines. Maxxim Investors Worry Over R&D Costs. Maxxim Shares at a Six Year Low. Maxxim CEO Under Fire. Maxxim Earnings Call Larger Than Expected, Investors Not Appeased. Maxxim Needs Products, Not Financial Gimmicks. Maxxim Launches Stock Buyback. It didn’t make much sense to Astrid. As long as she could remember, her grandfather’s company had been the bedrock of her existence. Maxxim Industries was the main employer for adjacent Maxxim City and the nearby Indian reservation. It funded Rachel Carson High School that Astrid attended. And it allowed her to be a girl inventor, without worrying too much about money. She guiltily glanced back at the headline that mentioned R&D costs. She had probably had a hand in that.

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 1 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition“Maybe we shouldn’t even be down here,” said Austin Tretower, as he looked around the gloomy basement. “Are you sure it’s okay with your parents?”

“Of course it’s okay with them,” replied girl inventor Astrid Maxxim. “We just need to carry this crate upstairs. That’s why I called the three of you.”

Austin looked at the dusty wooden container labeled Antarctic Expedition 1928.

“This is just about the point in the conversation when The Thing explodes from the box and eats our faces.”

“There’s rope handle on each side,” Astrid pointed out. “You and I will take the sides. Toby can take the top end and Valerie the bottom. Then we’ll just carry it right up the stairs.”

The four teenagers looked at one another, nodded in agreement, and then each took their respective handle and lifted. Five minutes later, they were at the top of the stairs and set the crate down on the floor of the Maxxim family room.

Astrid Maxxim was five foot five and startlingly cute. Her strawberry blond hair was cut to shoulder length, setting off her very large blue eyes. Astrid’s friend Austin was a sandy-haired boy who seemed thoroughly average in just about every way. He had only recently moved to Maxxim City, but was already a part of Astrid’s close circle of friends. The third member of the group was Toby Bundersmith. Toby had lived next door to Astrid since she was born and embodied, at least in Astrid’s opinion, everything good about a boy. He was tall and handsome, with brown bangs cut just above his hazel eyes. Finally there was Valerie. Valerie was a robot copy of a fourteen year old girl, built by Astrid earlier that year and programmed with the memories of Astrid’s long-time friend Valerie Diaz. Robot Valerie originally had bright silver skin, but after returning from Hawaii, Astrid had covered it with a bluish metallic polycarbonate so that she would be more water resistant. Thanks to another recent upgrade, she also had bright blue shoulder length hair. She was just a bit shorter than Astrid.

“What’s in that dusty old thing anyway?” asked Valerie’s flesh-and-blood twin from where she sat on the couch, with her feet curled up under her. Though she shared the robot’s features, her raven hair and flashing brown eyes made it only too clear that she was entirely human. “It’s not The Thing, is it?”

“See, I’m not the only one,” said Austin.

“You know Valerie could have carried that upstairs all by herself. She’s very strong.”

“I don’t want to go down in that basement by myself,” said Robot Valerie. “It’s spooky.”

“All three of you are just being silly,” said Astrid. “Now, let’s get this open and you’ll see that there’s nothing in there. Well, there will be something, but not The Thing.”

A rusty hasp, with an ancient padlock in it, held down the lid of the box. The wood was so old however that the hasp and the hinges on the opposite side all pulled loose. Toby helped Astrid lift the lid and set it to the side. Nestled neatly within the box were four stacks of manilla file folders.

“Oh great,” said Austin. “It’s worse than The Thing. It’s homework.”

Astrid Maxxim and her Undersea Dome – Chapter 19 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim 2A little more than an hour later, Astrid and Denise were standing near the driveway as Dr. Feuillée arrived in a long black car. She rushed to shake the oceanographer’s hand as he stepped out.

“Welcome to Hawaii.”

“Thank you, Astrid. It is absolutely lovely here. May I introduce you to my daughter Océane?”

A girl about Astrid’s age stepped out behind him. She was about an inch taller than Astrid and almost as thin as Denise. Her pleasant face was framed in short black hair, cut in a cute little wedge. She stuck her hand toward Astrid, who shook it.

“Bonjour.”

“Oh-say-AHN.” Astrid rolled the unfamiliar name on her tongue. “I’m very glad to meet you. I didn’t know you had a daughter, Dr. Feuillée, but I’m not surprised you named her after the ocean.”

“It is a fairly common name in France,” he replied.

“J’aimerais prendre si un hoverbike,” said Océane.

“L’anglais, s’il vous plait,” Dr. Feuillée told his daughter. “She so wants to ride a hoverbike,” he said.

“I wish I had brought mine,” said Astrid. “Maybe you could swing by Maxxim City on the way home and try one out.”

“This is wonderful idea,” said Océane.

“Let me help you with your bags,” said the girl inventor. “You’re staying in Gardenia House with us.”

Astrid took one bag and Denise took the other, leading the way to the house where Mrs. Maxxim met them. After helping to get the Feuillées settled in their rooms, Astrid was able to spend an hour getting to know the daughter of the famous oceanographer. She found Océane to be a sweet and very smart girl, who enjoyed listening to popular music and playing soccer, or as she called it, football. She was also fascinated by hoverbikes, and asked Astrid and Denise dozens of questions about them. She was in fact, still asking questions when a familiar person stepped into the room.

“I’m home,” called Toby from the doorway.

Astrid was so excited that she was across the room and wrapping Toby in a fierce embrace before anyone could blink.

“Hey, I’ve only been gone since yesterday.” He laughed, but his face flushed with embarrassment.

“We were just worried about you,” said Denise, hugging him from the other side. Astrid was grateful for her friend’s words, because at that moment she didn’t think that she could speak.

Astrid’s mother served lunch to everyone, including Toby’s father who had arrived almost unnoticed with him. Then they all piled into one of the vans and were driven over the hill and across the bridge to dock, where they climbed into a large motorboat and headed out into Kaneohe Bay.

It wasn’t long before they could see the Toronto, and standing high up on its deck, Austin and Christopher. Next to the ship was a large floating platform with a square building right in the center of it.

“That’s the elevator down to the undersea dome,” explained Astrid.

“How do you account for high and low tide?” asked Dr. Feuillée.

“The elevator is in a single fixed position, but the platform floats. The two are connected by a set of constantly adjusting steps. At any time, you may have to go up or down the stairs to get into the elevator, depending upon whether it is high or low tide.”

“Very ingenious,” said Feuillée.

“That’s our Astrid,” said Toby.

Astrid Maxxim and her Undersea Dome – Chapter 18 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim 2The Hawaiian waters were crystal clear and even at a hundred feet below the surface visibility was excellent. Astrid looked down at the undersea dome, suspended on massive cables from the ship above, as she dove her mini-sub in a sweeping downward spiral. She noticed a shadow passing her just as the radio popped to life.

“Astrid!” called Toby. “Look up.”

The girl inventor leaned forward and looked up through the Plexiglas canopy of the mini-sub, to see the massive form of a humpback whale swimming above her. The great beast paused for a moment and rolled over onto its side as though giving the strange man-made devices a good once-over, and then with a kick of its great tale, it swam away.

“That makes you feel tiny, doesn’t it?” said Toby.

“It sure does. I didn’t expect to see any humpbacks. Their season is just about done.”

They continued descending until both mini-subs reached the bottom edges of the dome, which thanks to preplaced guide wires, now rested snuggly in place on its foundation. Astrid flipped on the external spotlight, even though at this depth it was still just light enough to see. Using the manipulator arms, she withdrew a large nut from a container on the foundation and threaded it onto a massive bolt sticking up from the concrete through a hole in the dome’s titanium frame. She did this twice more and then maneuvered to the next attachment point. Toby did the same thing, starting on the far side of the dome, and between them they connected all twelve points.

“This thing is huge,” said Toby over the radio.

“It does look pretty giant down here, at least from the outside. I’m wondering how big it’s going to seem from the inside.”

“All right. Shall we go on up?”

“Let’s.”

They began spiraling upward, their propellers leaving a double helix of bubbles in their wake. Halfway to the surface, a shadow passed overhead, and Astrid looked up expecting to see their humpback whale once again. It wasn’t the whale though. It was another submarine. This craft was not a huge vessel like a US Navy sub, but it wasn’t a small one man sub like Astrid’s either. It was about fifty feet long, longer than the humpback, but not quite as big around. It was painted flat black, making it difficult for anyone on the surface to see it. Suddenly as she watched, the unknown submarine tilted its bow down.

“What is that guy doing?” she said aloud.

“What was that, Astrid?” called Toby.

“Toby! Look out!”

She realized what the strange submarine was doing, but it was too late to do anything about it. The dark vessel’s turn had sent it on a collision course with Toby’s mini-sub. Astrid could hear the loud crunch as the nose of the black undersea boat smashed into the little yellow vehicle. The mini-sub flipped over as a huge cloud of bubbles burst from it and shot toward the surface.

Astrid Maxxim and her Undersea Dome – Chapter 17 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim 2On a massive dockside platform just outside of the Marine Air Station, several large trucks were being unloaded. Cranes lifted heavily wrapped pallets out over the water. Here the great base portion of the undersea dome floated with the aid of giant inflatable pods. Dozens of workmen on the floating base, unpacked triangular panes of transparent Astridium, fitting them together like a huge jigsaw puzzle. Others constructed an internal frame that would hold the three floors in place. Paige Liebowitz carefully oversaw the operation.

“Is everything going okay?” asked Astrid, running up to her.

“Everything is on schedule,” the wavy-haired woman replied. “We should have the floors constructed this morning and the dome assembled by this afternoon. Then tomorrow we can float it out to the site. The foundation has already been laid using hydraulic cement just north of the reef at a depth of 175 feet. So we just sink it down and bolt it in place. While that’s going on, the workmen here can assemble the Astridium elevator.”

“It’s going to have an elevator?” asked Mr. Diaz, from behind Astrid.

“Sure,” she said, turning around. “That way people can go back and forth from the surface without having to scuba dive. It also serves as an airlock, since the dome will be kept at a pressure of one atmosphere inside.”

“I thought it was going to be down deeper,” said Mr. Brown.

“The Astridium can withstand the pressure up to a depth of 300 feet,” explained Astrid. “I chose 175 feet for two reasons, one being safely. This is a test after all. Plus, I want the people in the dome to be able to see without a lot of external lighting. At 300 feet, it gets pretty dark.”

“We have a construction ship coming on site tomorrow. It has cables to guide the dome down, and a crane to lower the elevator shaft,” explained Paige. “We’ll attach it to the dome and then pump out the water.”

“What’s in all those crates?” Mr. Diaz asked, pointing to a truck just pulling up.

“Equipment for inside and furniture,” replied Astrid.

“And that is my cue,” said Mr. Brown. “I’ve got to make sure that my chairs and lounges are set up properly.”

“Martin and I are going to roll up our sleeves and do some manual labor,” said Mr. Harris, as he and Toby’s father joined the workmen assembling the dome.

“Sound like fun,” said Dr. Maxxim.

Over the next several hours, Astrid watched as her dome slowly took shape, rising first to form a ring and then growing up until it became a geodesic dome—a half sphere fifty feet tall and one hundred feet in diameter. She moved from spot to spot around the dome, checking the Astridium panes and double-checking the fastenings. The three scientist/engineers who had taken on jobs as workmen had a great time, but Astrid was sure that they had actually increased the construction time by at least an hour. Mr. Brown however had successfully loaded all the furniture and equipment on board, and had overseen the installation of all the vital mechanisms.

“I’m starving,” said Dr. Maxxim, exiting out of the open emergency airlock along with Mr. Harris and Mr. Bundersmith, all three of them looking exhausted and happy.

Mr. Diaz, who had been working with a liaison from the Marine Corps all morning, guided them toward the van.

“I’m told there’s a pizza shop right around the corner,” he said.

“Pizza doesn’t sound very Hawaiian,” said Mr. Harris.

“Hawaiian Pizza,” replied Mr. Diaz.

Astrid Maxxim and her Undersea Dome – Chapter 15 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim 2The music thumped so loudly as they walked into Epicenter, that Astrid thought she could feel her internal organs bouncing around. The vast nightclub was filled with hundreds of teen-aged boys and girls, bouncing up and down to the throbbing beat. Strobe lights inside mimicked the spotlights outside. A few small tables and chairs sat around the perimeter of the dancers and a vast bar stretched across the back of the room, right below a metal catwalk which was just as full of twisting teens as was the dance floor.

“Come on!” shouted Penelope over the din. “Let’s dance.”

She grabbed Astrid’s hand and pulled her along through the gyrating crowd to the center of the club. Turning to face her niece, she threw her arms over her head and tossed her black hair, dancing in perfect time with the now louder-than-ever music. Astrid copied her as best she could.

“I don’t usually dance with girls!” Astrid shouted to make herself heard.

“What?” shouted back Penelope.

“You’re a great dancer!”

“What?”

Astrid gave up trying to communicate and waited until the space between songs to talk. There was no space between songs though. The throbbing beat continued on right into a different track—this one the girl inventor recognized from her own MX-360 favorites list. She kept dancing and by the end of the second song, began to feel well-exercised. Though the thumping baseline continued, the next song was slightly less loud.

“I don’t usually dance with girls!” Astrid repeated.

She was loud enough this time that several other dancers around her laughed.

“I’m just chumming the waters,” said Penelope. “Look around. You have plenty of boys waiting to dance with you.”

The young inventor glanced around and sure enough, there were half a dozen boys forming a circle around her.

“How do I pick one to dance with?” she asked, but Penelope was already moving away through the crowd. A tall, dark-haired boy took her place as another song thrummed into existence. Without a word, he started dancing. Astrid followed along.

She couldn’t have said how long she had been dancing, but after seven or eight dance partners, Astrid was exhausted and dripping with perspiration. She waved off a disappointed-looking and rather short boy with blond hair and started through the crowd toward the bar. The counter was two or three patrons thick all along its extent. Apparently a lot of others had the same idea that she did. Reaching forward, she waved for one of the servers.

“Here, have a drink,” said a voice right beside her.

Astrid turned and found herself nose to nose with one of the boys she had danced with. He was handsome and about sixteen years old, with brown hair and green eyes. He pushed a tall glass with a red straw toward her.

“No thanks.”

“They don’t serve alcohol here,” he said. “All the drinks are just soda.”

“I don’t know you though,” said Astrid. “I don’t take drinks from anyone I don’t know.”

“Sorry,” she called to him, as he turned with a frown and melted into the crowd.

Astrid Maxxim and her Undersea Dome – Chapter 13 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim 2“Astrid,” said Valerie, shyly. “Have you thought about what you can do to take care of Valerie’s problem?”

“I thought you were Valerie,” said Penelope. “I’ve been calling you Valerie for years now.”

“I am Valerie. I meant Robot Valerie.”

“Oh yes,” said Penelope. “I still can’t believe your robot, Astrid. It looks so realistic.”

“She’s not exactly my robot,” said Astrid.

“And I’m not an ‘it’,” said Robot Valerie.

“Sorry,” said Penelope. “What is the problem that Valerie… I mean the other Valerie was talking about?”

“Let’s go back to my room, and I’ll show you,” said Astrid.

Penelope and the two Valeries followed the girl inventor inside and down the hallway to her bedroom. Denise trailed them, carrying her plate of crepes. Once in her room, Astrid pulled out a dome-shaped shiny steel object.

“Here is your scalp,” she told Robot Valerie. “We’ll attach it after we remove your hair unit.”

“I’ll be bald!” gasped Valerie.

“That’s not what Valerie wanted at all, Astrid,” said Regular Valerie.

“No, don’t worry,” said Astrid. “We’ll put hair on it once we have it installed. I just haven’t decided what to make the hair out of yet. We could use wire or fiber-optic cable, I suppose.”

“Why don’t you just wear a wig?” Penelope asked the robot girl.

“We tried a few wigs,” replied Valerie’s flesh and blood twin. “They just didn’t look right with her metallic skin.”

“Wait right here,” said the young woman, stepping out of the room.

Astrid, the two Valeries, and Denise looked back and forth at one another. A moment later Astrid’s aunt was back, carrying a metallic blue wig.

“Here you go.”

“How come you have a blue wig?” wondered Astrid, cocking an eyebrow.

“I like to wear it when I go out dancing. It’s a good one—real synthetic hair.”

“Can you fix it for me now, Astrid?” asked Valerie.

The young inventor retrieved her pocket toolkit from her suitcase and removed a dozen tiny screws that held the solid hair-shaped molded scalp to Valerie’s head, replacing them once she had fitted on the new scalp piece. Then she used Maxxim Wonder Glue to fasten the wig to the metal. Penelope and Valerie carefully styled the new wig once it was in place, and minutes later, Robot Valerie was smiling at her image in the mirror.

“I look like Katy Perry!” she exclaimed happily.

“At least you look like you stole Katy Perry’s hair,” said Denise.

Astrid Maxxim and her Undersea Dome – Chapter 12 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim 2Denise was lying face down on a chaise lounge, her long blonde hair draped from her head all the way through the slats in the chair down onto the ground. As Astrid approached, she saw that a bottle of sun block was lying on the pavement beside her.

“Did you use that sun block?” asked Astrid.

“I couldn’t reach my own back, could I?” asked Denise, without looking up.

The girl inventor sat down beside her friend and began applying the lotion to Denise’s back. Looking around, she saw that the tiny cloud had moved on and the sun was shining warmly. A gentle breeze was just enough to ruffle the many flowers without moving the trees. When Astrid was done, Denise sat up and returned the favor by applying sun block to Astrid’s fair skin.

“Where are they going?” asked Denise, nodding her head toward the path that led down to the beach.

Astrid turned to see Toby, Christopher, and Austin heading toward the ocean, carrying snorkels and fins. Austin already had his facemask on.

“They’re taking Austin snorkeling.”

“You don’t suppose he’ll drown, do you?”

“Not as long as Toby and Christopher are there,” replied Astrid. She didn’t need to ask Denise who she thought might be the drowning victim. Disaster had a way of seeking out Austin. “Speaking of Christopher, what’s going on with you two?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the two of you went to the Spring Fling together. Has he asked you to the Junior Prom?”

“Not yet,” replied Denise. “I don’t know if he’s going to ask and I don’t know if I want him to.”

“I thought you liked him.”

“Well of course I like him. But we’re such good friends that when we think about being anything more than friends, it just gets weird.”

“Come on,” said Astrid. “Let’s try out this pool.”

The pool was roughly oval in shape, with a table and umbrella built into one end. A person could swim right up to the table and have a seat without even getting out of the water. Astrid entered the water, doing a perfect jack knife off the diving board at the other end. Denise followed with a one and a half forward flip. They swam laps for a while and then pretended they were synchronized swimmers, before getting back out and drying off in the sun.

“Astrid! Denise!”

Neither girl needed to look to recognize the owner of the voice, but they did look up just in time to see Valerie and her robot twin bouncing toward them. Following behind them were Valerie’s parents and Astrid’s mom and dad, and behind them—Astrid’s aunt Penelope.

“Look who we picked up in Denver,” said Mrs. Maxxim.

Penelope Maxxim could have been Astrid’s sister rather than her aunt, since only eight years and two inches separated the two of them. They shared a great family resemblance, with similar large, expressive eyes and cute button noses, but Penelope’s jet-black hair was a contrast to Astrid’s strawberry blond.

“Surprise!” said Penelope, as Astrid hopped up to give her a wet hug.