Eleven-year-old Marnie Sandburg likes to make really complicated things. She's building a soap box derby racer, but she has to hide most of her work because her parents don't know she's entered to race in the Unlimited Class. Marnie's got lots of secret gizmos for her racer, including an artificial inertia generator. And now her Mom has told her she has to accept the help of an assistant . . . More
Eleven-year-old Marnie Sandburg likes to make things. Really complicated things. For her current project she's building a soap box derby racer for the regional trials. But she's got two problems.
First, she has to keep most of her work on her racer a secret. Marnie's parents think she's entered in the soap box derby Masters Division like she was last year. But the Masters Division was boring, and the racers didn't go very fast. So this year Marnie's entered in a division her parents don't even know about: Unlimited Class.
Marnie's got top-notch equipment—a GPS-based navigation system, automated aerodynamic wings and airfoils, a really cool helmet, and a state-of-the-art liquid helium-cooled artificial inertia generator, all tied together by the racer's onboard computer. And she was all set to start putting everything together, when the second problem popped up.
Marnie's Mom has commanded her to let someone help her build the racer.
Story length is ~9000 words. Typical comfortable adult reading time is probably 30 to 40 minutes. This story contains a couple instances of minor cursing.
"Mom, please! You know he'll ruin everything!" Whining hadn't worked, so I was reduced to shameless begging.
"Oh, come on, Marnie, he's not that bad. Besides, you know how much it means to him to be involved in your projects. I'm sure you can find plenty of ways to let him help you." Little Brother extended his tongue at me from his position of safety behind Mom's legs while Mom leaned down closer and stared me directly in the eyes, her glasses perched right on the tip of her nose. "And don't just stick him with filling out the entry forms and paperwork like you did last year!"
Damn! There went Plan B.
I folded my arms tightly across my chest and stomped out of the kitchen, noticing as I did so that it was hard to keep my balance without being able to move my arms. Hmmm, there might be a future science fair project in that. Maybe I could get Little Brother to volunteer as a test subject for a couple weeks.
I'd have to think about that later. Right now I had a crisis. I needed to find a way for an unnecessary assistant to help me prepare my soap box derby racer for next weekend's regional trials. It had to be a task that seemed important, that would make him feel involved, that would be obvious upon completion (so he could point out to everyone how he had helped), and absolutely, positively, most crucial of all, it had to be something even my Dad couldn't screw up.
I spun up the inertial projector and consulted the checklist on my kneeboard. Navigation program loaded and cued: check. Current atmospheric conditions entered: check. Data link handshakes completed: Whoops! Only five circuits were transmitting to my heads-up display. I slapped the side of my helmet. There, that fixed it.
Liquid helium containment field integrity: intact. Terrain mapping radar: fully ramped. One last item. I flipped a toggle and activated Dad's paint. Even my cranial protection system couldn't block out the crowd's roar of approval when the paint reached full charge. Too bad Dad had to miss that.
I looked up from the cockpit display panel just as the second bulb from the top of the start pole flashed amber, indicating thirty seconds until green. I was ready. I turned my head to the right as far as the anti-whiplash anchor tethers allowed, which was just far enough to see Jimmy in the other lane. We sneered at one another through our polarized visors.
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