Stubborn is a good word to describe the protagonist in my first novel. I thought I would take this opportunity to share a single chapter of the book that gives you a few clues into the psyche of Sted Richardson. Maybe it will entice you to take a look at the book. Your feedback on the writing would be greatly appreciated.
“Let’s get started,” Emily said from the chair she had placed next to Sted’s bed. “The vice admiral has taken up quite a bit of your time over the last two days, so we have not even started to gauge the amount of emotional trauma you have suffered from the accident, let alone begun to work on healing the emotional scars. I know it will be very difficult to talk about the loss of your two crewmates in the airlock, so I want to start on something a little less sensitive. Can you give me some background on how and why you joined the Space Navy? I want to understand your motivations. I need more insight into your basic personality, including details that don’t show up in your fitness report. Can you share any of that with me today?”
“Do we really need to do this today?” Sted asked in a somber tone. “I’m really tired, and I don’t see how this will benefit me.”
“Yes, we do have to start today,” Emily replied. “If you aren’t up to filling in some of your background on your own, then why don’t I just ask you a series of questions that require simple answers? Then maybe along the way you will be able to expand on some of your responses without me asking additional questions. Are you up to trying this approach?”
Sted sighed in resignation. “I’ll do my best.”
“Let’s start with when and why you joined the United Space Navy.”
“I joined the Navy immediately after graduating from SMU in Dallas, Texas. That was almost twelve years ago, but it seems like another lifetime now.”
“That is half the answer,” Emily said. “Now why did you join?”
“Ever since I was a young boy growing up in Plano, Texas, I was fascinated with everything related to space. My father was an account executive at Texas Instruments, and he always tried to discourage me from pursuing a career in space. As far as Dad was concerned, that was a dream for little boys, something to be forgotten about when it came to real world opportunities. After all, how was I going to settle down and get married and have children for grandpa and grandma to spoil?”
“What first got you interested and eventually hooked on a career in space?”
“The answer to that is really quite simple,” Sted replied. “When I was just ten years old, I found an ancient copy of the book Voyage of the Space Beagle by A.E. van Vogt. The book was originally published in the 1950s, but the copy I found was the later 2008 reprint. Even so, the pages of the book were yellowed with age and ready to fall off the spine. This was my little secret treasure. I don’t think I had a single friend at school who had read a paperback novel. There was something magical in those pages.
“After that, I began searching out more of the classical science fiction stories from the middle of the last century. I discovered Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov classics that I could not put down until I finished each story. My parents were always looking for me to help out around the house, but I was always off somewhere reading.”
Sted settled himself back into the bed, obviously a bit more relaxed as he related part of his early life and thought about the many times he read through the entire night.
“Reading all of those larger than life stories really expanded my imagination, and I knew that I had to pursue something grander than anything offered on Earth. I had to be out among the stars. I knew what I wanted, and I studied all of the various options for getting into space. There were several different paths I could have chosen, but to me, the way to go was to join the Space Navy.”
“So, how did you go about making your dreams a reality?”
“I worked harder at my classes than anyone else I knew, and when I wasn’t studying for a class, I spent time studying the history of the formation of the Council of Eight and how and why they established the United Space Navy. I knew if I wanted to achieve my goal, I had to learn everything I could about all of the steps in between where I was and where I wanted to go.”
“And where did you want to go?” Emily asked in a conversational tone. She really wanted an honest answer to this question, but she did not want to seem overly anxious.
“I wanted to escape our solar system and visit the stars, of course,” Sted replied. “In fact, I wanted to lead the first mission to the stars.”
Sted paused and looked down at his legs, or what was left of them. The animation in his attitude and voice changed instantly. That dream was obviously not going to happen now. How could he lead such a mission when he was no longer eligible to be the captain of a Navy ship, let alone the first ship to head for the stars?
“I can see by the change in your body language that you still haven’t truly internalized your losses,” Emily said. “You were animated and almost happy when you described your goals but then became deflated when you realized once again the impact of the loss of your lower limbs on your goals. So, what are you going to do about it?”
“Nothing.” Sted rolled onto his side so that he faced away from Emily and her uncomfortable questions.
“So you are that easily defeated?” Emily asked in a quiet voice. “That does not seem anything like the man I’ve read about in your fitness reports.”
“Go away,” Sted intoned to the wall in front of him. “This session is over.”
Emily sat there for a few more minutes entering notes into Sted’s records. She typed “Loss of life goal due to the accident appears to be the surface cause of Captain Richardson’s emotional distress, but the loss of his two crew members is probably the driving force behind his serious depression. We will need to tackle that loss in the near future if we are going to make any real progress.”
After she finished entering her notes, Emily shut down her tablet and started for the door. She stopped in the doorway and addressed Sted’s back one more time. “We’ll pick up again tomorrow. I’m afraid you are a captive audience for now, and I am going to take advantage of that fact for as long as I can.”
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