Books & Beyond

Midshipman Henry Gallant in Space by H. Peter Alesso

Posted on: December 6, 2013

Midshipman Henry Gallant In Space

Except#5

Gallant was slouching in his seat in the officer’s mess when Kelsey walked in for dinner. To his surprise, she flashed him a luminescent smile and took the seat beside him.

She asked, “What’s the matter? You look like death warmed over.”

Tired from his mental exertions, and deflated by the exercise’s outcome, he replied evasively, “Nothing.”

“Something’s bothering you.”

Gallant shrugged.

“You’re not brooding about the exercise are you?” her eyes conveying maturity and understanding.

Gallant grimaced.

“You’re too sensitive.”

“What? We lost.”

“Get over it. You did okay. It was your first exercise and Mather threw you in the deep end as team leader. Neumann and Chui are not only a year senior to you, but they’ve run that exercise a dozen times already. The fact that you didn’t get us all slaughtered in the opening salvo was better than anyone anticipated.”

“You included?”

Kelsey shrugged and began eating.

As Gallant stirred his simulated coffee clockwise, he watched in apparent fascination as the liquid swirled around the lip of the cup. After a moment, he stole a glance at Kelsey.

“Where is your family from?” he asked, hoping to get the conversation on friendly ground.

“Oregon, old-USA. We’ve been farmers for generations. My brothers help run the farm. Though with all the automation and advanced bio-engineering, the only remaining production variable is the weather. And even that is closely regulated with the weather monitoring and seeding satellites. It’s amazing how much food is produced from well managed land these days. My family is proud of helping to feed people.”

She smiled and balanced a morsel of food on her fork. Then as if to illustrate how rapidly food could be consumed by a hungry population, she quickly gulped it down.

“What about before the Unification?” asked Gallant, as he recalled a little history.

In the middle of the last century, economics became the driving force that unified the governments of Earth. Over the course of the Twenty-first Century each of the continents formed common market trading blocks that created a close dependency between former independent nations. As trade and economic interests coalesced, the free movement of workers and goods mixed the various cultures of the regions into a global ‘melting pot.’

Once colonization and asteroid mining began, commerce was established between the planets. Eventually, immigrants on the planetary colonies sought full rights as citizens. Many on Earth felt they had subsidized the colonies and should be repaid before citizenship was granted. The colonists felt they had sacrificed much in terms of depravation and danger, and therefore deserved full citizenship immediately. At first, this united the remaining governments of Earth, and led to a short sharp conflict between Earth and the colonies. The subsequent peace settlement granted the colonies equal citizenship rights with Earthers and united all of the planets’ governments into the United Planets. One democratic government was formed with a president and multi-body congress.

“I’m the first off-Earther in my family. We had some distant relatives who were early settlers on Mars, but they didn’t participate in any of the revolutionary movements. Now they live just like everyone else – citizens of the United Planets,” said Kelsey. She added, “Where are your people?”

“My parents died in an accident on Mars when I was very young,” said Gallant, the painful memory cast a dark cloud over his countenance. “My grandmother raised me until she passed away last year while I was at the academy.” For a moment he remembered his grandmother bending over him to kiss him good-night. “I don’t know of any other relatives on Earth or elsewhere. I guess that leaves me without any real roots.”

They sat eating their meal quietly for several minutes. Occasionally, Kelsey turned to Gallant to make a comment about the ship or its personnel. And after a while she began to talk more comfortably about personal matters. Gallant found out more about Kelsey’s home in Oregon. In return, he told her about his pilot training experiences.

He said, “I started training on an old fission-fragment rocket. You know they’re designed to directly harness hot nuclear fission products for thrust instead of using a separate fluid as working mass. They can produce very high specific impulses around 100,000. The new antimatter engines dwarf that performance of course. But the f-f rockets make good trainers. I learned a lot.”

Kelsey said, “The antimatter engines are so much more powerful and responsive. The only drawback is that the fuel supply is still so hard to store in quantity.”

After a moment she asked, “You love it, don’t you? Space flight, I mean.”

“There’s a feeling of independence and self-reliance that I find grand. It makes life an adventure. Usually it’s tranquil, but it can turn terrifying in a hurry,” he said.

“I know what you mean,” she replied. “But it sounds like you’ve found a home – in space.”

Gallant simply nodded.

Eventually the topic shifted to the space service and Gallant asked, “Why did you join up?”

“It’s necessary for someone to stand guard on the frontier. Everyone back home depends on us,” said Kelsey with a quiet gravity. “I just knew it was the right thing for me.”

“So you’re a patriot?” asked Gallant with a grin.

“Yeah,” she looked at him and wrinkled her nose, “right back atcha.”

midshipman

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Genre – Science Fiction

Rating – G

More details about the author and the book

Connect with H. Peter Alesso on Facebook

Website http://www.hpeteralesso.com/Default.aspx

Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.

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