Shanghaied to the Moonby Michael J. Daley
Stewart Hale is about to turn thirteen, and all he wants is to become a rocket pilot, just like his mom. But ever since she died in a crash, Stewart’s dad won’t hear of it. He/b>
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A New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age: Stewart jumps at the chance to travel into space, but it turns out his mission is more dangerous than he thought
Stewart Hale is about to turn thirteen, and all he wants is to become a rocket pilot, just like his mom. But ever since she died in a crash, Stewart’s dad won’t hear of it. He refuses even to bring Stewart to the space museum anymore. Virtual reality videos of his hero, pilot Val Thorsten, aren’t enough. Worst of all, Stewart realizes he’s beginning to forget some of his favorite memories of his mom, and wonders if something in the past is being hidden from him.
After bumping into a grizzled old space traveler, Stewart finds his chance to escape to the moon. But in a beat-up craft with a pilot who’s well past his prime, this isn’t quite the adventure that Stewart had in mind.
Gr 5-8 - The year is 2165 and all Stewart wants for his 13th birthday is his dad's signature on his Space Academy application. When his father won't comply, and his holograph of a counselor tries to force Stewart to watch his mother's tragic death repeatedly, the boy throws a dangerous tantrum and runs off. He follows a mysterious but intriguing stranger onto a ratty old spaceship heading on a secret mission to the moon. During the journey, he learns who this person really is, what his mom has to do with this mission, and what secrets his dad and brother have been keeping from him for most of his life, all while trying desperately to help keep the rickety spaceship from crashing. This adventure is fast paced and exciting, full of small mysteries and somewhat shocking surprises, and Stewart's narration is quite believable. Daley's writing style is simple, with short sentences and minimal description, making this a great read for reluctant readers, but perhaps a little light for seasoned science-fiction fans. While not an exceptional novel, it is still a fun adventure.-Sharon Senser, Oakland Public Library, CACopyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Shanghaied to the Moon
By Michael J. Daley
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2007 Michael J. Daley
All rights reserved.
T minus 16 (hours):00 (minutes):01 (seconds)
TOMORROW'S my birthday and my father is on the Moon.
That's no coincidence. Two days ago, Dad blasted off to do an emergency job for All drives, the biggest aerospace company in the solar system. He didn't have to go. A thousand other computer network specialists could've handled the job. Nope, Dad went to the Moon to get away from me.
Through the window in the Counselor's waiting room, I watch as the Moon slips between the perfect line where the sky meets the ocean. It's a daytime rising and the gigantic orb is pale, almost ghostly. It seems to linger at the threshold of the sky as if someone is holding it back, then it breaks free to claim all of space for itself.
Makes me shiver.
Like an enormous opaque bubble, the Moon rises higher above the Old Spaceport out on the end of the peninsula. I can barely make out the big dimple of Copernicus Crater. Invisible, Luna Base rests at the rim. Dad's staying there.
The only thing I want for my thirteenth birthday is his signature on my application to Space Academy Camp, which is due next week. I had a whole new round of arguments about why I should go all planned out, but now he's gone.
I turn my back on the window. No one else is in the waiting room. No one is in with the Counselor ahead of me, either. But the sign above the office door still says, "STEWART, WAIT, PLEASE." Everybody's acting weird. The Counselor never makes me wait.
I take a seat.
If you ask me, Dad ought to be sitting here. Mark, too. He's like an old mother hen with Dad gone. I mean, he called to make this appointment at two o'clock in the morning! The dream wasn't that bad, as my dreams go, even if Mark says I woke up screaming.
My feet jiggle. A few more minutes and I'm outta here. I have a science project due tomorrow that I haven't even started.
I snug my portable 3-Vid goggles and earphones over my head and select a capsule at random from the cluster of Val Thorsten adventures in my pocket. When I pop the capsule into the earpiece, virtual reality takes over. The waiting room becomes the bridge of a spaceship, the Predator from Asteroid Run. The engines throb, a deep bass note in my bones. There's the smell of people in a tight space. I'm stationed at weapons control.
Not ten feet away stands the captain, Val Thorsten; tall, muscled, his long blond hair swept back into the classic pilot's ponytail. Leadership radiates from him like a force. It's easy to imagine his Viking ancestors on the foredeck, awash in the spray of a stormy ocean, guiding their ships to new worlds.
The voice-over begins: "Pirates have been raiding ships throughout the asteroid belt, then escaping—"
Asteroid Run isn't one of Val's best adventures. There's only one really exciting part. I hit fast-forward.
Fast-forward in virtual reality is wild. The world squiggles. I don't like to use it. It reminds me too much about why I've been seeing the Counselor since Mom died. The squiggly effect is a lot like what happens just before a flashback hits me. Sometimes a word, or sound, or smell will trigger one. One second I'm living a normal life, the next things kind of shimmer around the edges and—wham!—I'm in a waking nightmare.
I haven't had a squiggly in months. That's why I don't just cut out on the Counselor. The Counselor helps keep them away.
I hit play. At least with a 3-Vid, I know I'll drop back into the same story ...
... and we're in hot pursuit of a vicious-looking pirate ship: all cruel angles and Z-blasters. It plunges into a dense cluster of asteroid rubble. We blaze in after it. One wrong move and those flinty rocks will shred us into confetti.
Three other pirate ships shimmer into view on the main screen.
They open fire. My teeth chatter. My ears ring. Alarms blare.
Another volley pounds the hull like a thousand hammers on a gong. The deck pitches. Vertigo grips me. In the real world, my arm flies out. Knuckles smack hard against the empty seat next to me in the waiting room. Good thing no one else is here. Shouldn't watch 3-Vids in public.
"NavComp damaged!" Tony, the chief engineer, shouts. "We have to stop or we'll be smashed to pieces!"
"And let them capture us? Never. Let me have her, Bob." Val leaps into the pilot's seat. Bob's a good pilot, great even, but he's not the greatest. Val's hands flutter over the helm console. The ship responds, engines purring like a stroked cat. We hurtle between the clustered rocks. Dance around death. The Predator breaks into clear space. Val takes us through a loop the loop, then shoves the throttle to the max, leaving the pirates lost in the rocks.
I yank off the goggles, stung by the beauty of Val's skill and mad at Dad all over again. Why is he ruining my chance to do that? Unless he lets me go to Space Academy Camp, I'll never get to be a rocket pilot like Val. I can do all kinds of advanced aeronautics, but not basic AstroNav. It's humiliating. Camp is my last hope. They have the best AstroNav training program in the solar system. Even a few chimps have passed.
I know I'm smarter than a chimp.
With that little chime, the sign changes: "ENTER, PLEASE."
Mrs. Phillips isn't in the office. The huge view screen on the wall behind the empty desk declares:
MRS. PHILLIPS REGRETS SHE CANNOT APPEAR IN PERSON, STEWART. AUTOMATED SIMULATION IS DOWNLOADING.
Too bad. I'd get out of here faster with Mrs. Phillips. She's my human counselor. The Counselor is an artificial intelligence program. It's more rigorous than Mrs. Phillips. I have to be careful what I tell it. We could waste the afternoon chasing associations around the rings of Saturn!
I sit on the stool in front of the desk. The holofield shimmers into the empty chair and becomes a perfect live-action image of Mrs. Phillips, right down to the three red hairs that grow out of the mole on her cheek. On the wall behind the hologram is a large view screen containing the machine's sensors. They warm up, murmuring like a crowded room.
Sometimes I imagine a bunch of psychologists are behind that screen controlling what the Counselor does and says. But the machine never acts like a real person. It's never warm and caring like Mrs. Phillips.
"Hello, Stewart," the hologram says. "Sorry I'm a simulation. That was pretty short notice."
"Yeah, well, Mark got rattled. He's been awfully jumpy lately. And Dad, too.
It's like living with two sticks of dynamite. Did you know Dad's on the Moon?"
"We are aware of that."
"Why do you sound so surprised?"
"Because Mark and I wouldn't even know if I hadn't found the space suit. Dad said the job was in Australia."
I'd snuck into Dad's room to slip his Megaplexor tool back into its case before he could find it missing and the suit was lying on the bed like a puddle of mercury: one of the new ultralight models. I remember the cobweb lightness of the material as I pulled it through my hand; how it reflected back my own body heat when I draped it over my shoulders.
"Don't you think it's weird Dad going to the Moon and trying to hide that from us? Mark burst an O-ring when he found out. He kept yelling about Dad postponing something again. Do you know what he meant?"
"We have discussed the incident with your brother."
"Oh." Sometimes I forget that I'm not the only one in my family who needs counseling. "So you've seen Mark?"
"Earlier today." The holo image smiles. "But this is your session, Stewart. Please tell us why you found your father's actions weird."
"Dad doesn't do space! Ever since Mom's crash. He won't even go to the space museum with me. It's totally weird for him to blast off without a moment's notice. What if he doesn't get back in time to sign my application to—"
"That conflict is not the subject of your visit." The image leans its elbows on the desk. "Tell us about the dream."
Mrs. Phillips might come around in front of the desk to hear a bad dream. Definitely, she'd pay more attention to what's really bothering me.
"Actually, it gave me a neat idea for my science project, which is due tomorrow. So can I go now?"
"Tell us the dream."
"Okay. Fine." What a pain! Now we'll have to analyze it. "I was on this rolling surface ... all silver and gray. There was a black shoe box, but something red caught my eye first. When I picked it up, the red bit was a miniature door, shaped just like a cockpit door in a passenger shuttle. I thought I heard voices, you know, in the box. Lots of them. They ... the voices ... they wanted me to open the door. And then I thought I heard ... Mom's voice ... inside and I tried to open it, but—I woke up. Mark said I was screaming. I don't remember that."
The image sits frozen; analyzing. Right now, I wish it were Mrs. Phillips. She'd care that remembering the dream has upset me. It's much creepier than it seemed in the night.
"Your birthday is soon, isn't it?" the Counselor says. "You'll be thirteen?"
"You know exactly when my birthday is. Why are you changing the subject? Is the dream that bad?"
"A birthday is an exciting day." The image smiles. "It can also be a difficult day for someone who has lost their mother."
"You're obsessed with Mom. She's not the problem. Dad is. And AstroNav. I'll never be a rocket pilot without AstroNav. I have to take the entrance exams to Space Academy while I'm thirteen. That means this year! I'll never be able to pass if I don't get to camp first—"
"You have explained the details in previous sessions."
"Well, the way you keep changing the subject makes me think you never pay attention."
"We are always aware. Are you planning a party?"
"You're ignoring my real problem! Only the very best get into Space Academy. Julio and Tanner and Caytlyn all want to be pilots, too. I'm competing with them!"
"We know of your classmates' aspirations. Are you inviting them to your party?"
I give up. Even I can't outstubborn a machine. "Yeah."
"Mark mentioned that he and Andrea will be baking you a cake. That's very nice of them."
"You don't sound too happy about that. Does Mark having a girlfriend trouble you at all?"
"No." I like Andrea, but if I told the Counselor why, it would just say I was off subject again. She thinks my wanting to be a pilot is a kind of calling, like ministers get for the church. Dad acts like I have a disease. And Mark—well, lately there's been Andrea, so he's not paying much attention to me.
"Girlfriends become wives, then mothers. Perhaps she reminds you of your loss and that brings pain?"
"Aren't I supposed to do the associating?"
"Very well." The image folds its hands primly on the desk. The sensors behind the screen whir, adjusting for close observation. "We are all ears."
Machine ears, machine eyes focus on me. I don't like how it keeps bringing up Mom. It's probing for something. But what? When it gets chatty like this, I have to be careful what I say.
Sometimes Mom's death seems so unreal to me that I imagine she's away on a long haul to the moons of Jupiter. Any day, she'll walk through our apartment door. She'll take me by the hand and say, "Come on, Stub. Let's go to the Old Spaceport. I've got a rocket to show you."
The Counselor would call that an unhealthy fantasy. But sometimes, it's better than anything the Counselor can do for me.
I shift on the hard seat. "Can I go now?"
"This is a critical time, Stewart." Mrs. Phillips's image takes on a somber, disapproving expression. "Perhaps, before you rush off, we should review past events that may be a source of pain for you?"
The Counselor's talking about the NewsVid. It hasn't shown that to me in ages. How can it be so off course? "Watching that won't help. I'm not thinking about Mom. I'm mad at Dad. He's ruining my life!"
"It has helped. It will help." The image shimmers, then fades away around a sad smile, leaving a clear view of the screen on the wall behind the desk. "Watch, please."
Maybe the bad dream connects in a way only the Counselor can understand? Maybe I'd better pay attention.
The old NewsVid detailing the last minutes of Frisco Shuttle Flight 78 begins. I know it better than many of my Val Thorsten 3-Vids. The view is of a pale blue sky crowded with cotton ball clouds. The camera moves, seeking the incoming passenger shuttle. The chatter between Tower Control and the pilot is calm. Shuttle landings are routine events, repeated a dozen times a day.
The camera pans the crowd and there I am, a short, auburn-haired boy beside my tall dad, my tall brother Mark, the basketball star. I'm short even for a six-year-old. The camera stays focused on us for a long time. Pretty boring really. I can never figure why the news crew wasted so much time watching us. I'd rather see the shuttle. What was Mom doing just before it happened?
A sharp sputter of static erupts from the NewsVid. My breath catches and I can't help but pay attention.
Tower Control says, "Contact lost with incoming."
The camera moves urgently now, its electromechanical optics straining just as the human eyes strain. The screen fills with an image of the mysteriously stricken passenger shuttle, upside down, wobbling in a rocklike dive toward the hard earth.
I grab the edge of the stool. Bile stings like grapefruit juice at the back of my throat.
"Eyes open, please."
The camera is on the boy again. His mother, the famous rocket pilot, is on that shuttle. She was only a passenger, returning from a trip to the Moon. But now she is called upon to take over for the blinded pilot. To fly her toughest mission yet. Raw fear shows in the upturned face of the boy.
I can't bring that feeling back into my own body. I can't remember the terror. The Counselor has explained that the combination of youth and shock has dulled my memory: a kind of self-protective reflex of the mind.
A good thing, really, but that ... absence ... makes the NewsVid seem more like a bad 3-Vid; too stingy on the special effects. Just once I'd like to really remember the feel of the cool air on my face, the hush of the crowd, the biting chemical stink of the crash foam in my nose. Feel Mark and Dad pressing against me as they're doing now in the picture. Hear the soft whistling sound of the massive, too-quickly-falling shuttle.
I wish the camera spent more time watching the shuttle. What was Mom up against? What systems were damaged? What was working? How did she even get into the pilot's seat from the ceiling?
I've tried flying upside down in the simulator. It's really hard! The belts bite into your shoulders. All the controls work opposite and backward. You have to fight every instinct, every bit of common sense, or you'll make the wrong maneuver.
I rise up off the stool. The miraculous moment is coming. The shuttle abruptly flips upright. Mom's triumphant cry rings out in the office. "Tower, tower, positive airfoil! I've got control!"
Whatever she was faced with in there, she was handling it. But then something went wrong. Maybe she made a mistake. Or another system blew. Or maybe, with the hydraulics out, she wasn't strong enough to work the yoke.
In the best of my dreams, I'm there with her. Not a six-year-old. I'm Val Thorsten and I reach into the cockpit. Grab the yoke. Put my hand over hers. Pull! Pull! The scar across my palm hurts from pressing against the yoke, but I just pull harder.
"Eyes open! You must watch." I want to stay in my head ... where it ends different—
the lightning reflex
the brilliant last-second maneuver
even the cavalry
Because the hero shouldn't die in the end.CHAPTER 2
T minus 14:42:02
I take the elevator from the Counselor's office to the TransHub, hail a Marble, and get in. When I press my thumb to the fare plate, the Marble rolls down the chute to the main travel tube. Dozens of Marbles whiz by like beads on a string, while mine bobs gently in the levitation field.
I should go home. Get to work on my science project.
"I'm sorry. Perhaps I did not hear you. Destination please?"
The neat idea for the project is gone. It was clear as a blueprint before.
"If you do not wish to take a ride, please return to the TransHub. If you do not wish ..."
Mark won't even be home yet. He was going to the cafe with Andrea.
"If you ..."
Excerpted from Shanghaied to the Moon by Michael J. Daley. Copyright © 2007 Michael J. Daley. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Michael J. Daley’s career as an author has been inspired by a lifelong love of science, spaceships, and science fiction. He writes his stories on a solar-powered laptop in a five-foot-square tower room. This keeps him well acquainted with the cramped conditions in spaceships! When not traveling among the stars, Daley lives in Westminster, Vermont, with his wife, children’s author Jessie Haas.
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In this book titled Shanghaied to the moon by Michel Daily tells of a young boy named Stewart that has had a dream of being a space pilot ever since his mom was evolved in a shuttle crash. His dad has recently left on a trip to the moon right before he needed some very important papers signed. While trying to gain control of himself he takes a trip to an old launching platform where he meets this very mysterious spacer. Now he is having recent trips to a counselor that is trying to control his life, he is pushed him into running away from home to find his dad on the moon. Now he, and the mysterious spacer, blast-off in a rusty old shuttle where Stewart finds a lot of information on his late mother that his family has failed to tell him. Will he find the truth on the moon? Who is the spacer? Find out when you read this book. This book is filled with twist and turns and things that you will never see until the 25th century. It is filled with science fiction. I recommend it to every body that loves a good adventure novel.