At the end of the universe lies the meaning of family …
Just as his relationship with his boorish divorce attorney dad is about to go nova, cocksure high schooler and Space Corps aspirant J.R. Rider embarks with his family on a summer vacation race to break the galactic barrier, but when the Riders’ starship is crippled, leaving the family lost and stranded in deep space, J.R. and his father, Rudolph, must discover the one thing that can save all of them from certain death: Each other.
The Rocket Riders, an 81,000-word young adult science fiction novel, is a funny and fast-paced romp across the galaxy that pits J.R. and his family against hostile aliens, a band of robotic space pirates, a shape-shifting monster, and ultimately Commander McArthur J. Bowman, a rogue Space Corps officer out to steal the Riders’ flight plan and their glory. The book also plays as a novel-length riff on the classic Ray Bradbury short story titled “The Rocket Man.”
I’m currently querying for The Rocket Riders in hopes of finding an agent and a publisher.
Vanguard: RX-7, Endeavor Class, long-range interstellar vessel, crew compliment of seven, equipped with blasters and three plasma torpedoes.
Excalibur: BX-27, Meridian Class, Space Corps scout, ship of the line, crew compliment of two, state-of-the-art stealth technology, equipped with double action mega-blasters and 120 plasma torpedoes, dual-throttle hyper-drive.
The Crew Manifest
Rudolph Rider, age 40, burned out divorce attorney, son of a Space Corps officer.
Felicity Rider, age 38, former police officer, state rifle champion, devoted wife and mother.
J.R. Rider, age 15, high school sophomore, Space Corps aspirant, craves cherry limeade.
Sally Rider, age 14, quiet, ultra-competitive, basketball nut.
Patrick Rider, age 12, under-confident, keeps a low profile, dog lover.
Lyra Rider, age 9, violinist, conscientious, a pleasant peacemaker.
Apollo Rider, age 35 (in dog years), golden retriever, hates the vet, addicted to tennis balls.
The Space Opera
Here is the soundtrack to the imaginary movie version of The Rocket Riders:
“And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
‘Til touch down brings me ‘round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home.”
“Rocket Man” by Elton John
“I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naive
Men weren’t meant to ride
With clouds between their knees.”
“Superman (It’s Not Easy)” by Five for Fighting
“If you could soldier on
Headstrong into the storm
I’ll be here waiting on the other side …
‘Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown …”
“Keep Your Eyes Open” by NeedToBreathe
“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright Sun-Shiny day.”
“I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash
“Short Trip Home” by Joshua Bell and Friends
The First Five Pages
THE ROCKET RIDERS:
A SPACE OPERA IN THREE PARTS
by Christopher D. Seifert
Thee lift me and I’ll lift thee,
And together we’ll ascend.
A CAREER DAY
“Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, boy meets girl. It’s love at first sight. They look up at the stars. They look at each other. ‘I love you,’ says the boy. ‘I want to spend forever with you.’ He gives her a ring. They marry, honeymoon in Mexico, move to the suburbs, and have lots of kids.
“Time goes on. Life gets hard. The boy despises his dead-end job. The conjugal couple is saddled with a mortgage, a car payment, student loan debt.
“The boy starts to irritate the girl and vice versa. He snores. She grinds her teeth. He leaves the toilet seat up. She heaps laundry on the bed.
“One morning, they wake up and decide they don’t like each other anymore. In fact, they can’t believe they ever did.
“That’s where I come in. One of them – we’ll say the girl in this case – visits me at my office. I say, ‘I’d like to help you, but can you afford my retainer fee?’ If so, it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
“We sue the boy for everything he’s got. We go after the kids, child support, alimony, and the majority of the marital assets. We probably have the boy served at work in front of his co-workers.
“The boy hires his own attorney, who turns out to be a pompous, arrogant windbag. The case drags on for months – continuance after continuance. The legal fees keep piling up. Eventually, the case settles or we have a nasty trial. In the end, I get a cut of the blood money …
“So there you have it: That’s my job in a nutshell …”
Rudolph Rider stopped at this, apparently marveling at his own exposition. He blinked at Mr. Hampton’s eighth-hour class from behind his glasses, gave a half-smirk, and folded his arms across his chest.
Somewhere near the back of the classroom, J.R. Rider, who was doing his best to avoid eye contact with his father, groaned. “This isn’t happening,” he said to himself. “Please stop …”
But Mr. Hampton was undeterred: “Do any of you have questions for Mr. Rider?”
The classroom passed in silence before a nerdy-looking boy on the front row started in: “Do you carry a gun to work?”
“Uh … no …”
“How much money do you make?”
“Enough to get by, thank you.”
“Have you ever lost a trial?”
“Well, see, no one ever really comes away feeling like they won.”
The nerdy-looking boy frowned, wrinkled his nose, and looked down at his desk.
Mr. Hampton: “Well, then, if there are no further questions, let’s hear it for Mr. Rudolph D. Rider, Esquire!” The class was dead to the world, and Mr. Hampton gave three hearty claps all by himself.
“Thank you, Mr. Rider,” he said.
“Don’t mention it.”
“You may step down.”
“That last part was a joke. Get it?”
J.R. groaned again and slouched low in his chair when he realized his father was coming straight for him. Rudolph slapped his son on the knee and flopped down in a seat next to J.R.’s desk.
“How’d I do?” Rudolph said. J.R. shook his head, so that sandy-brown locks from his shaggy mop of unkempt hair fell into his eyes.
“I’d rather not talk about it.”
“What? Was it something I said?” J.R. brushed his hair back behind his ears and slid even farther under his desk.
“Keep it down, Dad.”
“Our next guest,” Mr. Hampton said, “is a real hometown hero. We were lucky enough to catch him while on leave before his next deployment. Steven, would mind inviting your father in?”
“Sure thing,” Steven Bowman said as the rest of the class gasped with the realization of what came next. The classroom door opened and a gust of wind whistled down the aisle in the middle of the room, rustling greasy teenage hairdos. Heavy boots thundered into the room and everyone, including Rudolph D. Rider, Esquire, craned their necks around to catch a glimpse of the new guest.
The fluorescent lights gave Commander McArthur J. Bowman’s jet-black uniform an otherworldly sheen. The visitor strutted down the aisle to the sound of shrieks and whoops and other celebratory banter. Commander Bowman cocked his head toward Rudolph as he passed and offered a “’Sup, Rudy?” out the side of his crooked smile.
“Hey,” Rudolph replied before slouching down in his own chair in a posture reminiscent of his son’s. But the space commander did not hear the attorney because he was too busy slapping students’ hands on either side of him as he continued down the aisle.
“That’s Commander McArthur J. Bowman of the Space Corps!” J.R. exclaimed.
“No kidding,” Rudolph said.
“He said hi to you!”
“Yeah, so what?”
Mr. Hampton needed a full fifteen minutes to get the class quieted down. Commander Bowman stood at the front of the room, flashing his supernova smile the entire time. The commander was tall and fit with dark hair parted in the middle and piercing blue eyes.
“Now, again,” Mr. Hampton said, “I want to thank you for being here today, Commander Bowman. It really is a special honor.”
“Not at all,” said the commander, “and, please, call me Mack.”
“Er, yes, Commander Mack. Now, I understand you’ll be shipping out later on tonight.”
“That’s right,” Commander Bowman said. “It’s a big day. Liftoff at 2200 hours. I’ll be setting off on my most daring adventure yet.”
“Wonderful,” Mr. Hampton said, “just wonderful. I’m sure we’ll all be looking for you. Well, Commander, sir, the class is understandably anxious to learn what it’s like to work in outer space. Let’s go ahead and open it up for questions, shall we?” J.R. thrust his hand into the air.
“Give me a break,” Rudolph said under his breath.
Commander Bowman smiled again. “Questions,” he said, “fire away.”
“What’s the most amazing place you’ve ever been?”
“Pulling into orbit around Rigel VII just as the binary system is rising, now, that’s pretty special.”
“How do you go to the bathroom in zero-G?”
“Well, uh, it’s complicated.”
“What’s one thing you’d like to accomplish before you retire?”
“I’d love to break the galactic barrier. But then, really, who wouldn’t?”
“Do you carry a gun to work?”
“You better believe it.” The space commander de-holstered his Space Corps standard issue blaster and incinerated the flower pot resting on the shelf just behind Mr. Hampton.