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.

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Astrid brought the Maxxim Starcraft 170 down on the runway at LAX. The 170 was a sharp, if unusual looking aircraft. Designed by Astrid’s father, the 47-foot plane 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, now seated only Penelope and Sabrina Scacchi and their carryon luggage. Astrid was, of course, up front, along co-pilot Don Herron.

Herron stayed with the plane, while the three young women disembarked and made their way into the LAX Private Terminal. Astrid was surprised to see her friend from France waiting just inside. Océane Feuillée was about an inch taller than Astrid and quite thin. Her pleasant face was framed in short black hair, cut in a cute little wedge. She reached out and embraced Astrid in a tight hug.

“Hello, Océane,” said Astrid. “I thought we would have to search for you.”

“You’re Miss Scacchi told me where to come.”

“And here she is. Océane, Sabrina Scacchi. Sabrina, Océane. And you remember my Aunt Penelope.”

“Oui.” The three women shook hands.

“So what is the big secret?” asked Astrid.

“Let’s find a quiet place, and I will tell you all about it.”

“I’ve reserved one of the private rooms here,” said Miss Scacchi. “It’s just down the hall.”

The small private room, enclosed in glass, was quiet and featured comfortable chairs. Astrid sat down next to Océane, and the other two sat across from them.

“So what’s going on?”

“I’ve been working with my friend Adeline Petit. She is a graduate student with my father, and she has been working on a special project for the past three years. So I decided to help. She is studying dolphins and their communication. It would be wonderful if you could create a device to translate their language to ours.”

“Of course that would be great,” said Penelope. “It’s not possible though.”

“Maybe it is,” said Astrid. “I’ve read about some work along that line that an engineer from Google was doing. It’s simply a matter of finding out what sounds are associated with what actions and objects.”

“You make that sound easy,” continued Penelope. “There could be millions of nouns and verbs to sort through.”

“Adeline has thousands of sounds recorded and identified,” said Océane. “She just needs the program and the computer. And it would have to be portable… and waterproof.”

“Is that all?” said Penelope.

“I think it can be done,” said Astrid. “What’s more, I want to do it. Where is she working? Hawaii?”

“No. She’s at a very small, uncharted island, in French Polynesia. It’s fifty miles east of Tahiti. She calls it Mokupuni Nai’a.”

“Dolphin Island,” translated Penelope.

“I didn’t know you spoke Tahitian,” Astrid remarked.

“I do, but that’s actually Hawaiian.”

“All right,” said Astrid. “I want to help, but why the hush hush? Why couldn’t you tell me all of this over the phone?”

“There’s more to it,” replied Océane. “Something is hurting the dolphins. There have been mass strandings every year for at least the last three years.”

“That’s horrible,” said Miss Scacchi.

“It is,” agreed Astrid. “But it happens all around the world. Why the secrecy?”

“We think it may be caused by the United States navy and their sonar. Adeline is afraid they will try to stop us from reporting it.”

“Well, I don’t think we really need to worry about nefarious Navy agents stalking us, but let’s agree to keep this all between us until we can figure out what’s really going on.”

“My flight leaves for Papeete Fa’a’ā in two hours,” said Océane.

“I need a while to get the necessary computer equipment together,” said Astrid. “Then I can fly the Starcraft out and meet you.”

“You can’t Astrid,” said Miss Scacchi. “Your mother said you must have an adult with you and I have to be back in Maxxim City by Monday.”

“I’ll go with Astrid,” said Penelope. “We’ll get you a first class ticket back home.”

“You don’t mind?” Astrid asked her aunt. “This may take weeks.”

“What? You need weeks to create a device to talk to another species? You must be slipping.”

Astrid laughed. “All right then. Let’s get Océane to her flight, get a ticket for Miss Scacchi…”

“Call me Sabrina please, Astrid.”

“Okay, but if my mother get’s mad, it’s your fault. A ticket for Sabrina. Then you and I, Aunt Penny, need to go to the computer store.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 2 Excerpt

After breakfast the next morning, Astrid called her mother, who was already at work by the time the girl inventor had gotten up.

“Mom, I’m going to Los Angeles after the board meeting, Friday.”

“Astrid, you’re fifteen. You can’t take off on a five hundred mile trip without permission and without adult supervision.”

“I’ll take Miss Scacchi with me.”

“I suppose that’s all right. How long do you plan to be in California?”

“Probably just a day,” replied the girl inventor. “Océane wants to meet me there. She said she needs my help, but she didn’t give me any details.”

“Well, I know that Miss Scacchi will keep me informed of any pertinent information.”

Astrid found the family’s personal assistant willing to make the trip.

“I have to be back by Monday though,” she said. “I have several events that I’m working on for your father.”

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” replied Astrid. “We’ll leave tomorrow, right after the board meeting—say ten o’clock.”

Chef Pierce made Astrid a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch. Since both her parents were at work, she took her food into the family room and ate while watching the financial news.

Maxxim Industries stock is up three and three quarters, as the market anticipates the seven to one stock split set to occur at the close of trading tomorrow. This as the company is projecting record sales on the back of their transportation division, which includes the amazing Maxxim Hoverbike.

“Hey, genius!”

Astrid looked up to see four of her friends entering from the hallway to the living room. The one who had spoken was Denise Brown. She had been Astrid’s friend since they toddlers. She was five foot six and a little on the skinny side, with long blond hair and green eyes. Next to her was Valerie Diaz, who had been a close friend for almost as long. A couple of inches shorter than Denise, she had luxurious black hair and flashing brown eyes. And right next to Valerie was a robot version of her. 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. The fourth arrival was Austin Tretower, who had joined Astrid and her friends when he had moved to Maxxim City as a freshman. His brown hair, once in a buzz cut had grown out over the summer and a recent growth spurt had added a few inches to his height.

“Hey guys!” said Astrid, hopping up. “Hey Austin. Hanging out with the girls now?”

“Um, no,” he replied. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

“We just bumped into him on your front step,” said Robot Valerie, her tone and her body language indicating that she thought this was an extremely fortunate turn of events.

“We came hang out,” said Denise. “I don’t know what he’s doing here.”

“Um, Astrid,” said Austin. “Can I talk to you in private?”

“He has a secret project he needs help with,” confided Robot Valerie.

“Sure. Let’s into the living room,” said Astrid, taking him by the elbow. “Why don’t you girls load up Minecraft while I’m gone?”

“So what’s this about a secret project?” she asked him when they were alone.

“I’ve designed a game,” he said. “It’s going to be an app for phones and tablets. But I need somebody to do the coding for me. Do you think you can do it?”

“What’s your idea, Austin?”

“It’s all about these princesses that battle each other. They get stronger and cooler as they gain experience.”

“I suppose these princesses will be scantily clad.”

“Well at first, but then they get this cool armor—they’re still super hot though.”

“Hmm,” said Astrid. “I’m really too busy, between my work on the Board of Directors and my experiments.”

“You don’t like my idea, do you?”

“I’ll be honest with you, Austin. It all sounds a little sexist, but I suppose boys might download it—cause, you know… boys.”

“But it’s a game for girls,” he said, somewhat deflated.

“I really am too busy, anyway,” continued Astrid. “Why don’t you see if Christopher can do it for you? He’s at least as good a coder as I am.”

“All right, I guess,” said Austin. “I’ll see you later.”

Astrid felt a little bit bad as he walked toward the front door, his shoulders slumping, but she really was too busy, especially with her surprise trip to meet Océane Feuillée.

She went back to the family room and joined the girls in a game of extensive game of Minecraft. Later, Astrid and Denise talked while the two Valeries played Ms. Pacman.

That evening, Astrid and Toby went to the movies. The Cinema was a small theater, originally built in 1937 in a town in Kansas. It had later been moved to Maxxim City and rebuilt. Because it had only had one screen and seats for only 122 movie viewers, the Cinema seldom showed the newest movies. It was almost always the classics like An American in Paris.  Astrid thought the movie was just as good as Toby had indicated. When he dropped her off at her door, he kissed her on the corner of her mouth.

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 1 Excerpt

The space plane lurched violently. At first, flames were the only things that could be seen through the thick windows. Minutes later though, the flames dissipated, revealing blue skies.

“Transferring control to manual,” said Astrid. “How does it feel?”

“Pretty sluggish,” replied Toby. “Is it always like this?”

“At this point, yes. It’s a lot like flying a brick until we’re ready to throttle up.”

Astrid Maxxim was a startlingly cute girl of fifteen. Her shoulder-length strawberry blond hair set off her very large blue eyes. She sat in the copilot seat of the Constellation, the newest of her hypersonic space planes, as it blasted its way back into the Earth’s atmosphere. Toby Bundersmith occupied the pilot’s seat. Though it was difficult to tell in his spacesuit, he was tall and muscular. His brown hair hung down in bangs just above his hazel eyes. He turned and gave Astrid a nervous smile. While he was a skilled pilot, this shakedown flight was his first trip to space. Astrid, in addition to being a world-famous inventor, was already a veteran of three previous orbital flights.

“Descending to ten miles altitude,” she said. “Prepare to throttle up.”


“Throttle up to sixty percent power.”

“Roger,” replied Toby, pushing the thrust control forward.

“Houston, this is Constellation,” said Astrid into her microphone.

There were a few seconds of static before a reply came through her headphones.

“Constellation, Houston. Welcome home.”

“Thank you. Now that we’re safely back in the atmosphere, we’ll bid you farewell and switch over to Maxxim Tower.”

“Roger, Constellation. Happy landing.”

“We’re passing over Southern California,” said Toby. “It’ll be a few minutes before we’re ready to ask for a landing clearance.”

“That’s a fact,” said Astrid, as she unfastened and then removed her helmet. “Do you want some help with your helmet?”

“No, I’m going to leave it on,” he said. And then a few seconds later, “No, I want to take it off. As soon as you said something, my nose started itching like no tomorrow.”

Astrid helped him remove it, stowing it, along with hers, in the appropriate compartment. Toby immediately scratched his nose with a gloved hand, before returning all his attention to the controls.

“I pointed out that we had a few minutes,” said Toby, “to highlight the fact that we have a bit of time to talk.”

“What did you want to talk about?”

“My cousins are coming to town next week and I thought maybe you could help me plan some activities for them.”

“Event planning is not really my field of expertise,” said Astrid, with an arched brow. “Are you just asking me because I’m a girl?”

“No!” Toby exclaimed. “Absolutely not. I was asking… What I really should have asked… It would really be cool if they could take a flight into space.”

“I’m sure it would be cool for them,” said Astrid. “They’d probably think you were the best cousin ever. I’m afraid it can’t happen though. You remember all the training you’ve gone through, and even our passengers have six weeks of rigorous training before they fly on one of the space planes.”

“Yeah,” said Toby. “I guess I already knew the answer to that. I’m just getting worried that they’ll be bored. They live in Berlin and I live in a little town in the Southwestern U.S.”

“Maybe Jürgen and Sabine aren’t looking for a wild time. It seems to me that most Europeans visiting the states enjoy the great natural wonders we have here. Take a trip up to the Grand Canyon. Fly over to Mesa Verde and show them the Ancient Pueblo ruins.”

“I’m sure that would be great for Jürgen,” he said. “I’m worried about Sabine. She is really into the German nightlife. Maxxim City is going to seem really tame.”

“Well, if you have to, you can always fly them to L.A. You can take them to a disco and visit Disneyland on the same trip.”

“Well, that sounds pretty good. Does that mean I have free access to a Maxxim Industries plane?”

“A Starcraft 170 and all the fuel you can use.”

“I guess it pays to have a girlfriend who is the CEO of a major multinational corporation.”

“I’m just the co-CEO, said Astrid, “and are we saying the B and G words?”

“What? Boyfriend and girlfriend? I’m saying it. I say it all the time. My girlfriend Astrid. Astrid, my girlfriend.”

Just then the space plane lurched.

“Pay attention to the controls, boyfriend,” said Astrid, climbing back into her seat.”

“I am. It was just a pocket of turbulence.”

“Maxxim Tower, Constellation,” said Astrid into her microphone. “Requesting a landing vector.”

“If I crashed us,” said Toby, “I’d be grounded for a month.”

“Only a month?” asked Astrid with a grin.