By Chris Grabenstein
Read by Andrea Emmes
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 14, 2021. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
World Champions . . .
From racing across glaciers in Greenland and flying in a super fancy solar-powered jet to Hawaii, to visiting the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia and hanging out with a robot named Leo, twelve-year-old genius Max and her friends live for adventure.
Whenever there's a problem to solve, the kids work better together. So does an evil group of the rich and powerful, who will do whatever it takes to split the kids up—even as the planet is changing before their eyes.
NEVER GIVE UP
Max has one more surprise in her playbook, and if she's going to pull it off, she needs her team around her. Whoever said that kids can't save the world?
The Story So Far…
MAX EINSTEIN is not your typical twelve-year-old genius.
She hacked the computer system at NYU so she could attend college classes. She built inventions to help the homeless people she lived with.
She talks with her hero Albert Einstein. (Okay, that’s just in her imagination.)
But everything changed when Max, a homeless orphan who could barely remember meeting her parents, was recruited by a mysterious organization known as the Change Makers Institute. Their mission: solve some of the world’s toughest problems using science and smarts. She led a diverse group of young geniuses from around the globe as they worked to solve humanity’s biggest problems.
But they can only continue to do good in the world if they can continue to outfox the forces of greed.
And those forces aren’t going away anytime soon.
Running Out of Time
Max Einstein raced across the slick surface of the glacier wishing she had worn something warmer than her flapping trench coat.
Wishing she could somehow run faster, that her bulging backpack wasn’t slowing her down.
Wishing some angry crew of mysterious mercenaries wasn’t chasing after her and Siobhan.
The ice rapidly melting beneath Max’s feet created snaking rivulets of turquoise blue water that widened into streams that sliced through the ice and made gaping holes that ended up as gushing waterfalls.
The frozen tundra was melting.
“We don’t have much time, Max!” shouted her friend and colleague, the twelve-year-old geoscientist (and certified genius) Siobhan.
Max realized that the fiery redhead could be talking about the earth or their current predicament. Both were true.
They had been examining the Jakobshavn Glacier on the west coast of Greenland because global warming was causing its ice to disappear at an alarming rate. It was turning the once-solid Greenland Ice Sheet into a melting slab of leaky Swiss cheese. Benjamin Franklin Abercrombie, the billionaire backer of the CMI, had sent Max and Siobhan to this glacier in Greenland to research the team’s next big assignment: turning around the world’s climate crisis.
Max and Siobhan were also running out of time because a mysterious team of thugs in white camouflage (which made them look like Darth Vader’s stormtroopers) was pursuing the two friends on sleek, glistening white gas-powered snowmobiles with skids that could churn across the slippery surface much better than the soles of Max’s and Siobhan’s hiking boots.
They also had rifles.
“We should lose these bloomin’ backpacks!” Siobhan shouted, tugging at the straps. “They’re slowin’ us down.”
“No!” Max shouted back. “But let me rip out the zipper.”
Max dug into the deep pockets of her trench coat to grab her Swiss Army knife. She flicked it open and, with a few swift slices, cut out the strip of bumpy zipper teeth. She separated the two sides and handed the pair of nubby fabric strands to Siobhan. “Tie these around your feet. They’ll give you better traction. Like cleats or snow chains for tires.”
Siobhan quickly lashed the grip strips around her boots while Max ripped out the zipper in her backpack and improvised her own pair of slip-proof running shoes.
“Friction is our friend!” said Max. “Let’s go.”
They took off. The running was a little easier; a little less slip-n-slide.
But the goons with guns had those snowmobiles. They were gaining on Max and Siobhan, quickly closing the gap in the race across the icy plateau.
Now Max wished Ben hadn’t “terminated” the CMI’s security detail, Charl and Isabl. He thought the team didn’t need armed guards anymore since the evil Corp was currently out of business.
“Who are these bloomin’ idjits chasing after us?” Siobhan seethed. “I thought the Corp was over and done for. Who wants to stop us now?”
Lots of people, thought Max. You make dealing with global warming your top priority, you’re gonna make a whole lot of very wealthy, very powerful people very angry.
Suddenly, Max heard something louder than the roar of the rushing water boring through the melting ice. The whomp-whomp-whomp of chopper blades as a sleek black helicopter rose up on the bright blue horizon, clearing the edge of the glacier just as another huge slab of ice and snow let loose and crashed into the sea.
And yeah, the guys inside the helicopter were decked out in the same snow camo as the guys on the snowmobiles. They also had the same kind of weapons.
“We’ve definitely run out of time!” cried Siobhan.
“We’ve also run out of glacier!” Max shouted back.
They were racing straight toward an icy cliff. There was nothing ahead of them but blue sky and thin, wispy clouds.
“We need to jump!” said Max.
“Off a bloomin’ glacier? Bad idea!”
Max agreed. “Terrible idea! But it’s the only one we have left.”
Max and Siobhan reached the end of the ice.
“Jump!” said Max.
“I thought we were supposed to be smart,” said Siobhan.
“Geniuses,” added Max.
And then the two friends closed their eyes and jumped off the icy bluff.
Three seconds later, Max gave Siobhan another command.
Max yanked hard on the rip cord attached to her backpack. Siobhan did the same.
A pair of small, tactical parachutes exploded out of their backpacks and caught the arctic air. Max and Siobhan, of course, both totally understood the physics of their low-altitude jump: air resistance buffeting the chute would overwhelm the downward force of gravity, transferring their net force and acceleration upward. The two skydivers slowed down. As their speed decreased, the air resistance also decreased until Max and Siobhan were just floating over the chilly blue waters of Greenland’s Baffin Bay.
“We’ve reached terminal velocity,” Max announced.
“Thank goodness those two haven’t!” said Siobhan in her lilting Irish accent. She gestured down to a rapidly approaching boat skimming across the surface of the water, gunning for the spot where Max and Siobhan were about to splash down.
On board was another member of the CMI team—Klaus, the sausage-loving robotics expert from Poland. But he wasn’t the one piloting the boat. That job was being deftly handled by Leo, the CMI’s amazing automaton. Klaus was just along for the ride and to make sure the robot’s circuits stayed dry.
Triangulating and timing his approach perfectly, Leo positioned the mini ice-cutting craft right where Max and Siobhan needed it for a pinpoint, deck-rocking landing.
“Thanks, you guys,” said Max, peeling off her backpack when she and Siobhan were safely on board.
“Appreciate the on-time arrival,” added Siobhan as she undid her parachute.
“We were tracking you across the ice,” said Klaus. “You guys were moving fast.”
“May I inquire as to why you needed to execute such a dramatic extraction from the iceberg?” said Leo in his clipped, robotic voice. “After all, Ben charged you two with gathering geographical data for our upcoming—”
Max held up her hand to silence Leo and pointed behind him. “That’s why.”
The pack of snowmobiles had reached the craggy bluff of the glacier.
“We were runnin’ away from those blokes,” said Siobhan.
“And those,” said Max as the helicopter hovered up and over the glacier again. “We don’t know who they are—just that they don’t want us snooping around on melting glaciers.”
“Leo?” said Klaus, squinting up as the chopper cleared the crest of the frigid cliff and dropped down to chase after the CMI’s tiny ice-cutting craft. “Execute Ostatni Rów Awaryjny Manewr.”
Max and Siobhan both had huh? expressions on their faces.
“It’s Polish for ‘Last Ditch Emergency Maneuver,’” said Klaus. “Grab hold of something and hang on.”
Max and Siobhan braced themselves.
Leo jammed the throttle forward as the helicopter hovered closer. A rifle shot reverberated off the walls of the towering glacier. The bullet zinged past the fleeing boat and sliced through the water.
“Initiating thermal scan,” reported Leo.
“Are you doing what I think you’re doing?” Max shouted to Klaus. She had to shout to be heard over the roar of the little boat’s engine, the thrumming of the helicopter charging up behind them, and the strange straining groans from the walls of the blue-streaked glacier.
The glacier Leo was heading straight for.
More shots rang out. One bullet dinged the metal bow of the boat.
“Klaus, you lunkhead, override the bot!” shrieked Siobhan. “We’re going to slam right into that wall of ice!”
“No, we’re not,” insisted Klaus. “Right, Leo?”
“Correct,” Leo (who looked like a grinning department store mannequin in the boys’ wear section) calmly replied. “Right full rudder!”
He gave the wheel a wicked twist to the right.
The small boat lurched to the side and skirted along the glacier. They were so close, Max felt as if she’d just stuck her head into a frosted-over freezer.
The helicopter followed in hot pursuit. It banked into a right turn and chased after the boat, the tips of its whirling blades flicking against the screeching glacier wall, sending up a chilly spray of ice chips.
“Wait for it…” said Leo.
The glacier seemed to groan even louder.
“It’s calving,” said Leo, using the technical term for a glacier shedding sheets of blocky ice. “Right full rudder!” He swung the boat into another hard turn, streaking away from the glacier just as it let go and tumbled down in a massive avalanche of ice.
The helicopter probably wanted to make the same hard right turn. But it was too late.
The crumbling wall of ice crashed into its rotors and shattered the glass bubble of the cockpit.
Whoever had been chasing after Max Einstein and her Change Maker Institute friends was now sinking down into the rising sea—right alongside a massive chunk of Greenland’s endangered ice sheet.
Max whirled around in the stern of the boat.
She saw several angry, fist-shaking mercenaries in white camo bobbing up and down in the icy water where the chopper went down.
“They’re okay,” she said, relieved. “And they probably have their own recovery team…”
“Maybe,” said Klaus. “But I bet they’re not as good as me and Leo!”
Leo throttled the small boat’s engine and raced away from the glacier.
The automaton had become such a trustworthy member of the CMI team, it was sometimes hard for Max to remember that the boy-bot with the molded plastic face had originally worked for (and was created by) the Corp to help them hunt down Max Einstein.
Back then he was called Lenard—probably because Dr. Zimm, who used to be Max’s number one nemesis, knew that Philipp Lenard had been one of Albert Einstein’s big-time antagonists. Dr. Zimm also knew that Max idolized Professor Einstein. Always had. Always would.
But, during their last major project, Max and her team had exposed Dr. Zimm and the other very powerful members of a shadowy, secret organization called the Corp to the public. The group had been disbanded and totally shut down. Their West Virginia headquarters, located inside a creepy cave, was gone—all its files and data carted off by various investigators from countries all around the globe. Dr. Zimm was no longer a threat. The Corp no longer existed.
But somebody had just chased Max and Siobhan across the slick surface of a melting glacier.
“Thanks for being there to save our bacon,” Siobhan said to Leo.
“Bacon?” said Leo. “I don’t recall encountering breakfast meat during our rendezvous and rescue mission.”
Leo’s hard-core logic made Max and Siobhan laugh. Laughing felt good. Much better than running for your life.
“I coded all that heroic action-movie stuff into Leo’s hard drive,” boasted Klaus. “But what happened back at that glacier is bad news, Max. The Corp is kaput but, all of a sudden, you have new enemies?” He shook his head. “Bad, man. Bad.”
“Whoever they were,” said Siobhan, “they were undoubtedly bought and paid for by some money-grubbing pack of climate change deniers.” She looked like she had a bad taste in her mouth.
“Whoa,” said Klaus. “Who says climate change is responsible for what’s happening to those glaciers? It’s summer. Sure there’s a bunch of surface meltwater and ice shedding because, hello? It’s summer. Here’s a little Einsteinian thought experiment for you, Max. Put an ice cube in a beam of sunshine. What do you think’s gonna happen? It’s gonna melt!”
Max gave Klaus an honestly quizzical look. “You really believe this is all a hoax?”
“Then, congratulations. You’re my new challenge.”
“We already have enough of a challenge,” said Siobhan. “The planet is running out of time and we need to fix it—whether Klaus is with us or not.”
“Not,” said Klaus, crossing his arms defiantly over his chest.
“I hope you’ll change your mind,” said Max. “Because there is no Planet B.”
“Oh, now you’re quoting T-shirts at me?” snorted Klaus. “Ha! Brilliant, Max. Brilliant.”
Leo puttered the small boat toward the dock where the CMI data-gathering team had launched that day’s expedition.
“Is that Vihaan?” said Siobhan as they drifted closer.
“What’s he doing here?” wondered Klaus.
Vihaan, another member of the CMI team, who had been busy managing the group’s water purification efforts back home in India, waved both arms over his head. He was dressed in a kurta, a loose collarless shirt. Vihaan Banerjee was only thirteen, but he’d already earned a university degree in quantum mechanics. He also hoped to, one day, develop a U.T.O.E.—a unified theory of everything—that would explain all physical aspects of the universe.
Something that Max knew Albert Einstein had always wanted to do.
Klaus tossed Vihaan a rope line.
“What are you doing here?” Klaus asked.
“It’s urgent,” Vihaan replied. “Ben is assembling the entire team in Miami. He sent a jet to pick me up in Mumbai. I am to bring you four with me to Florida.”
“Great,” said Siobhan, as the boat crew climbed onto the dock. “Here we are tryin’ to deal with global warming, but we’re fixin’ to blaze through the sky in a private jet that, of course, spews out carbon dioxide and other disgusting greenhouse gases?”
“Not this jet,” said Vihaan. “It’s brand-new and powered by quantum solar cells. Zero carbon emissions.”
“Solar powered?” said Klaus, sounding horrified. “What if it flies through a cloud? Do the engines just quit?”
“Um, no,” Vihaan said with a slight chuckle. “It has these things called batteries?”
While Klaus and Vihaan went back and forth about the solar-powered jet, Max thought about Albert Einstein’s 1921 Nobel Prize, which he won, in part, for his “discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.”
Yep. Back in 1921, the emission of electrons from an illuminated surface had been a theory. But, eventually, that theory led to electricity being generated by solar panels. And now, a solar-powered jet aircraft.
Max realized that big leaps were often just the end result of a series of small steps. She just hoped that she and her teammates could take all the right steps to help save the planet—before it was too late.
Because the earth’s doomsday clock was definitely ticking.
The stern middle-aged woman was having difficulty breathing the thin air surrounding Dr. Olezka Ivanovich’s mountaintop fortress.
She, like all the other invited guests, had to ride a chairlift from the car park for the final approach to the summit. Although she’d visited Russia before, she much preferred Moscow to the desolate isolation of these Ural Mountains near Bashkortostan.
But, she realized, Dr. Ivanovich was such a genius he knew exactly where to place his secret fortress. If the oceans were truly going to rise (as all the gloom-and-doom global warming alarmists insisted), then the Urals were the perfect place to build. In time, the slopes of this craggy, 1,600-meter mountain might even become beautiful beachfront property.
A group of soldiers decked out in white camouflage uniforms checked the woman’s identification papers at the top of the chairlift. She then lined up behind all the others waiting to pass through the metal detector before entering Dr. Ivanovich’s top-secret compound. She recognized several of the dignitaries ahead of her. They were all major players from the fossil fuel industry and the world of high finance. Powerful funders of the global anti-climate-change coalition.
All of them were betting on Dr. Ivanovich—a man with a mind to rival that of Albert Einstein himself—and his secretive Okamenelosti Group to lead them into a future that was a carbon copy of its past. None of these gray-haired titans of industry and commerce wanted anything to change. They had so much more money to make sucking the earth’s resources dry.
Once she’d been scanned and cleared, the woman made her way into the renovated fortress where she was greeted by one of several gruff men and women in blue blazers, all with listening devices jammed into their ears, interviewing each arrival. Most of the guests were champions of fossil fuel. Worldwide leaders of the climate change denial movement. All of them very rich, very powerful people.
“You are Ms. Tari Kaplan?” her assigned man asked, consulting his sleek tablet computer.
“That is correct,” the woman replied, stiffening slightly.
“You were the Corp’s mole inside the so-called Change Makers Institute?”
“Correct again. I started in the CMI’s Jerusalem headquarters and moved on to field operations.”
“Alas,” said the man, perhaps sarcastically, “the Corp is no more.”
Ms. Kaplan managed a smile. “Alas.”
“We welcome you to the Okamenelosti. Dr. Ivanovich may wish to ask you a few questions following the presentation. In private. A return on his, shall we say, investment in you?”
“Of course,” said Ms. Kaplan. “It would be my honor.”
The man clicked his heels and made a swooping gesture toward the grand lobby where the audience was already starting to shuffle into the mountain retreat’s mammoth auditorium, many of them bringing their flutes of champagne and small plates of caviar with them.
“Spasibo,” Ms. Kaplan told her security guard interrogator, using the Russian word for “thank you.”
She also knew that other Russian word. The name of Dr. Ivanovich’s group. The Okamenelosti.
It meant “the fossils.” Not because so many members of the wealthy group had wrinkled skin and gray hair. Because so many of them made so much money off coal, oil, and natural gas—the concentrated organic compounds in the earth’s crust that had made modern life possible.
Ms. Kaplan skipped the elegant refreshment tables and entered the posh auditorium. She found an empty seat on the aisle, down near the stage. The other 299 red velvet chairs around her were filled quickly.
Finally, the lights dimmed and Dr. Olezka Ivanovich, the genius himself, strode, somewhat awkwardly, onto the stage where he was illuminated by a dusty spotlight. The famed intellectual giant had wild black hair, a bristle brush mustache, and slumped shoulders. His eyes were narrow and dark. One hand was stuffed into the baggy coat pocket of his three-piece tweed suit. The other hand was fidgeting with a pair of clacking balls about the size of robin eggs. When the spotlight glinted off their faceted faces, Ms. Kaplan realized that the objects Dr. Ivanovich was rolling around between his fingers weren’t classic “worry balls” made of steel. They were two egg-sized diamonds.
“Welcome, my friends,” Dr. Ivanovich said to the crowd. He had a slight Russian accent. “I see that the ranks of the Okamenelosti have swollen somewhat since our last annual conference.” He smiled at some oil men in the front row wearing cowboy boots. “I am so sorry that so many of you wasted so much of your time and money hoping that the Corp, may they rest in peace, would, somehow, deliver a more glorious future. Unfortunately, they did not. In fact, they are no more. Wiped off the face of the earth by a crusading band of activist children. How sad. But do not despair, ladies and gentlemen. You are now in precisely the right place.”
The audience applauded enthusiastically.
“As we all know, the earth still has at least fifty years of crude oil reserves remaining beneath its crust. Natural gas will last us another ninety-two years, thanks to fracking. And, of course, we have one hundred and fifty years until our mountains run out of coal. It would be rude for us not to take all that Mother Earth has to offer. And why should countries, such as India, be deprived of a coal-fueled industrial revolution, much like the ones already enjoyed by England and America centuries ago?”
Dr. Ivanovich rolled his diamonds around in his hand, positioning one between his thumb and forefinger. He held it up for the audience to admire. Light reflecting off the angled cuts on its face danced across the stage. “This flawless, one-hundred-and-eighteen-carat gem was once nothing but a lowly lump of rotting carbon buried deep within the earth. Look at it now! LOOK AT IT! I am told it is worth thirty-five million American dollars. Thirty-five million… and I have two.”
The audience chuckled.
“From carbon comes great wealth, ladies and gentlemen. From carbon comes great power! From carbon comes great strength and beauty!”
The audience was on its feet.
“And nothing will stop us,” Dr. Ivanovich continued. “Not the Paris Accord. Not all the fake and phony science. And especially not the infantile, foolish, sentimental children of this world!” Now he was whipping the crowd into a frenzy. “Who are these sniveling little brats to tell their elders what to do with what we have worked so hard to achieve? Who are they to march out of their schools demanding action on this hoax of climate change? My friends, the children of this world need to be taught a lesson.”
He turned again to the oilmen in their cowboy boots.
- On Sale
- Sep 14, 2021
- Hachette Audio