Midshipman's Hope

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Midshipman's Hope is a 1994 science fiction novel by David Feintuch, and the first book in the Seafort Saga. It depicts the first voyage of UNNS officer Nicholas Seafort, and is followed by Challenger's Hope.

Plot[edit]

Nicholas Seafort is a seventeen-year-old midshipman who boards the UNS Hibernia on his first space assignment, a three-year interstellar voyage to the colonies of Hope Nation and Detour. He beats back a challenge to his authority as senior midshipman by Vax Holser, the next most senior. During the trip, he strikes up friendships with Third Lieutenant Harv Malstrom and an attractive passenger, Amanda Frowel.

A disastrous rescue of a passenger injured while sightseeing on the wreck of the another ship results in the deaths of Captain Haag and his two senior lieutenants, elevating Malstrom to the captaincy and Seafort to second-in-command of Hibernia. When Maelstrom falls ill with a quick-acting cancer, Seafort, believing himself to be unqualified to command, begs him to promote Holser to lieutenant, but Maelstrom dies without doing so.

The other surviving officers (outside the chain of command) share Seafort's opinion of his leadership abilities and try to get him to relieve himself, but he cannot find any regulations that permit it. They back down when Seafort points out the penalty for mutiny.

Seafort is immediately faced with a difficult decision. Malstrom had condemned three crewmen to death for assaulting the sergeant-at-arms in an attempt to conceal their drug-making operation. Their punishment was extremely unpopular with the rest of the crew. However, despite the danger of a revolt, Seafort has two of the men hanged; the third's sentence is commuted to several months confinement. His resolute handling of the situation quells the unruly crewmen. This action estranges him from Amanda, who feels the executions to be barbaric.

Other dangers follow. By thoroughness and sheer stubbornness, Seafort discovers that the ship's sentient computer, Darla, has been corrupted by careless naval programmers and would have sent the ship hopelessly off-course on the next leg of their journey. Darla was also responsible for the explosion that killed Captain Haag. To fix the problem, Seafort has a backup restored.

When the ship arrives at its next stop, Miningcamp, a small mining colony in an otherwise uninhabitable system, mutineers from the space station try to take over the ship. Seafort single-handedly holds them off until the crew can regroup and deal with the intruders. Eventually, Seafort ends the rebellion and finds out the cause. An ore barge and the starship Telstar are long overdue, which resulted in the panic that led to the trouble.

When the Hibernia reaches Hope Nation, Seafort expects to be relieved, but discovers that not only has the admiral in command of the naval garrison died in a strange viral epidemic, but a captain has deserted, leaving a Hope Nation commanding officer who is junior to Seafort. Seafort finds himself in charge of all naval forces in the system. During a tour of the planet, Seafort, Amanda (with whom he has reconciled) and one of his officers run into the officer who had deserted. He is hiding in the mountains with his wife because he believes he saw meteors spraying something in the sky shortly before the epidemic broke out. Believing the man to be mad, Seafort dismisses his story as fantasy, but does not force the couple to return to civilization.

Seafort recruits several officers from the local personnel, then continues on to the next stop, Detour. He finds that two of the new men are poor officers, dumped on him by their former commanders. However, he manages to deal with the situation.

Then Hibernia's sensors detect the Telstar, adrift in space with massive rents in her hull. Seafort leads a boarding party to investigate and, to his horror, encounters a strange alien life form resembling an amoeba in the ship's corridor. When it attacks, it becomes clear that it was responsible for the disabling of the Telstar and the death of its crew. Fortunately, Seafort is able to escape unharmed. After a stop at Hope Nation to warn the residents, Seafort takes Hibernia back to Earth to report the news.

First Seafort Saga Succeeded by
Challenger's Hope