Susan Heim on Writing is pleased to be a stop on the book tour for Midshipman Henry Gallant in Space, a new science fiction novel by H. Peter Alesso. Read on to find out more about this book and the author, plus read an excerpt!
Midshipman Henry Gallant in Space
by H. Peter Alesso
Genre: Science Fiction (sub: adventure/space opera/military)
As the last star fighter in squadron 111, Midshipman Henry Gallant is on his way from Jupiter to Mars. With the United Planets' fleet on the verge of annihilation, he can expect no help as he passes through the asteroid belt and threatening aliens. With so much uncertainty about the aliens’ capabilities and intentions, analyzing the captured computer equipment in Gallant’s possession could prove crucial.
The fate of Earth could rest on the abilities of Midshipman Henry Gallant. Unfortunately, it is his abilities that have been much in doubt during his tour of duty. In an era of genetic engineering, he is the only Natural (non-genetically enhanced) officer left in the fleet. His classmates and superior officers have all expressed their concern that he will not be up to the demands of the space service. Only bright and attractive junior officer Kelsey Mitchel has shown any sympathy for him. Now as his navigator on the last fighter in squadron 111, her life as well as a good many others, depends on Henry Gallant.
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About the author:As a scientist and author specializing in technology innovation, H. Peter Alesso has over twenty years research experience at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). As Engineering Group Leader at LLNL, he led a team of computer scientists and engineers in innovative applications across a wide range of supercomputers, workstations and networks. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a B.S. and served in the U.S. Navy on nuclear submarines before completing an M.S. and an advanced Engineering Degree at M.I.T. He has published several software titles and numerous scientific journal and conference articles, and he is the author/co-author of six books.
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The dome window revealed a setting sun, as Gallant walked through the heavy ornate glass door of The Lobster Tavern, an upscale restaurant residing along the spiral arm of the entertainment district of Jupiter Station. Red was right beside him, gawking at the lavish cocktail lounge. The furniture and settings were extravagant for a neighborhood so far from home. Everything indicated it had been prepared with immense care, from table’s linen and cutlery, to food, drink and entertainment. Nothing had been left to chance. Gallant could see a waitress bustling around the room, ensuring that the last minute touches were completed for the evening’s activities.
The main room had been reserved for Squadron 111’s party, in part to celebrate his ‘star,’ and in part as a last liberty before their escort mission. The officers were arriving a few at a time in their civilian attire with their last month’s pay burning a hole in their pockets. Prices for farm-grown lobster and drinks promised to quench those funds soon enough.
Kelsey Mitchel was dressed in slacks and a sweatshirt that read UPSA. She was sitting in the center of the room, tapping her fingers impatiently on the top of her table. Her brown hair was pulled back from her face into a ponytail that fell across her shoulder. When she wasn’t tapping, she was making faces of displeasure, as if something important of hers had gone astray. With all of that, her classical facial features still made her the most striking woman in the room.
Unceasingly, men she knew, as well as locals she didn’t, would come over and try to join her.
“Hi,” she would say. “It’s great to see you, but I’m waiting for someone.” Then she would tilt her head to one side and flash a big smile that somehow said she was really disappointed and she hoped he would understand. This placated most, but one hopeful suitor remained hovering over her until she spotted Gallant and Red. She stood up, waving her arms excitedly. As they approached, her last admirer capitulated and withdrew.
Red occupied the chair to Kelsey’s right, and Gallant took the chair on her left. Something about this arrangement was vaguely familiar and unsettling to Gallant. His uncombed tangled hair, casual shirt and khakis, and fresh-faced naiveté attracted a waitress’s attention. She came by to take their order.
“Beer all around,” said Red, eager to get started before the dinner service.
To his relief, Gallant’s seventeen-year-old illegal drinking status wasn’t challenged, and as soon as their drinks arrived, Red raised his mug and said, “Here’s to the newest star pilot in the fleet.” They clicked mugs, downed the beer, and brought empty mugs down to the table with three resounding thuds.
“Again!” shouted Red, to a waitress who was servicing a nearby table.
She laughed, waved her hand in acknowledgement, and went to fill the order. The crowd was rapidly growing. The combination of civilian garb and alcohol was having its predictable effects. The mood in the room was gay and boisterous.
Sandy Barrington entered the restaurant and quickly crossed the room. She stopped at Gallant’s table. She tipped her head and waved her hand as if offering a non-verbal congratulation to Gallant.
Gallant nodded back. He thought, And thanks for your help during requalification training. But already, her eyes were roaming to the farthest corner of the room.
Gallant looked past the overexcited throng to see what had distracted her. He saw Neumann and Chui sitting at the table looking grim and somber.
Grim and Somber -- those could be their names, thought Gallant.
Neumann’s good-looks and fashionable civilian attire were attracting stares from many of the young ladies in the room.
After a few moments, Gallant’s attention returned to his own table when their waitress arrived with another round of beer. Gallant had no sooner filled his mouth with brew than Ed Stevenson came up from behind and slapped him on the back. He said, “Well done, Henry.”
Gallant struggled to swallow the liquid in his mouth. Then he stood up to greet his friend. “Thanks,” he managed to stammer, extending his hand for the requisite shake.
He said, “Red, Kelsey, this is Ed Stevenson. He was one of my academy roommates. He’s off the Renown.”
“Hi,” Red and Kelsey said almost simultaneously.
“Kelsey, you must be Henry’s astrogator whom I’ve heard so very little about,” Stevenson said with a quizzical smile.
Gallant quickly diverted the conversation by inviting him to join them. Stevenson plopped down and began drinking beer, but after several minutes, he said, “I hate to leave the party early, but I promised some of my Renown shipmates that I’d meet them just about now. I’ll have to see you later.” He got up and began to leave.
“I’m sorry to see you leave, Ed,” said Red. “I’d hoped to wheedle a few tales of Gallant’s academy days from you before you left.”
“Next time,” said Stevenson as he waved and quickly became lost in the milling crowd.
The room continued to fill up and the empty seat next to the bar’s virtual electronic piano was soon taken by Chui, who started to produce amazing tones from the instrument. His selection of songs started with the most popular tunes but soon drifted to some oldies from a bygone era.
“Kel -- sey! Kel -- sey! Kel -- sey!” The chant was taken up from one table to another. Gallant was surprised when she got up and joined Chui at the bar.
Calls came from every corner, requesting a half dozen of their favorite songs.
Midshipmen were seated at various tables around the room, with local patrons choking the bar and surrounding area. The room fell stone silent as soon as she started to sing. She had their full attention. Within moments they were spellbound.
Kelsey’s lovely voice blended with a sweet melody. The lyrics voiced a love story of passion and farewell. The melancholy tones touched the audience and filled the nightclub with elegance. After several numbers, she returned to her table as a storm of applauses broke over the room.
“You were marvelous,” said Gallant, expressing his genuine admiration.
“Thank you,” she said, blushing as if his praise was somehow more meaningful.
Chui continued to play, and several couples got up to dance.
Red nodded at Kelsey, while staring at Gallant, as if trying to convey some vital information. Gallant remained befuddled for a minute, which was all the time it took for Neumann to cross the room and ask Kelsey for a dance.
She stood up and Neumann took her hand and led her onto the dance floor. Chui began to play a romantic melody.
“It’s been quite an evening,” she said, placing her hand on Neumann’s shoulder, her bright eyes shining with delight.
“A wonderful evening -- thanks to you,” he said as he drew her closer.
Kelsey nestled comfortably into his arms. Her sweet breathe brushed past his cheek; her soft hand gently caressed the nape of his neck.
Kelsey and Neumann were such an attractive couple that they invited stares from the evening’s crowd, but they seemed indifferent to their momentary celebrity as the joyful participants of the evening’s festivities swirled around them in rhythm to the music.
After a few moments, Chui segued into an old-fashioned ‘cha cha.’ As Neumann and Kelsey began the dance, they separated slightly, and Kelsey turned away; Neumann followed behind her -- one, two, three, cha, cha, cha. Then, in time with the music, they each turned around to reverse the chase sequence of the outdated dance. There was an impish gleam in Kelsey’s eye.
“Which do you prefer: being the pursuer or the pursued?” Neumann asked with a grin.
Kelsey didn’t answer but smiled discreetly as they continued to dance.
Gallant sat rigidly and watched the couple with a dazed look on his face. To his eye, the old fashion dance seemed to provide a hidden metaphor and the participants seemed to be enjoying the byplay.
Red, shaking his head in disgust, gave Gallant a withering look and said in exasperation, “Klutz!”