Thanks for having me as your guest today to talk about Embrace the Romance: Pets In Space 2!
I thought today I’d share a true story I’ve talked about before, regarding a ‘pet’ who actually went into space and came back.
Even though we’re writing about fictional pets for this anthology, I’ve seen an actual animal who went to space and survived to enjoy a well-deserved retirement on Earth later – Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey who became one of the first two monkeys launched together into space by the US and recovered alive in 1959. The petite one-pound lady had a sixteen minute flight including nine minutes of weightlessness (one wonders what she thought about all of that but the way she was strapped into her flight capsule, she probably didn’t float much.) Her nickname was “TLC” because her handlers appreciated the way she responded to their tender loving care.
Sadly, Miss Able, the rhesus monkey on board the same Jupiter rocket, also survived the actual flight but succumbed four days later to a rare and fatal reaction to anesthesia. Ironic to have been to space and back, and then be stricken with a more earthly fate.
It’s hard to imagine now, in the days of the space station, and men and women who routinely remain in orbit for months on end, that in the earliest days of the space race, no one was sure humans could survive even a brief trip off. It was deemed necessary to send up other animals first. Monkeys, mice and dogs were the mammal test cases, and much was learned from each flight, even though sometimes there were tragedies. Other animals sent up by the USA and Russia before the double monkey flight didn’t fare as well as feisty Miss Baker. The Russians had successfully recovered two dogs before the time of Miss Baker’s flight, however.
She got to retire after her one trip into space and resultant fame, including her photo on the cover of LIFE magazine. In 1962, she ‘married’ a fellow monkey named Big George and when he predeceased her, she married again, to ‘Norman,’ although she refused to wear the wedding outfit someone had designed for her.
I saw her several times at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where she lived from 1971 to 1984. She was a lively little thing, accepting the admiration of all the visitors, and enjoying herself, scampering around the enclosure. Miss Baker became the oldest recorded living squirrel monkey, so apparently her flight into space didn’t faze her much.
Strawberry gelatin with bananas was her favorite food and she received approximately 100 letters per day from school children.
The rocket she rode to fame was approximately 70’ tall. For comparison sake, the Saturn V rocket that sent men to the Moon was approximately 363’ tall.
It’s said that people leave bananas on her tombstone in Huntsville, Alabama to this day.
Snails, fish, spiders, moths, sea urchins, mice and baby chicks have been sent into space so far, but no mature birds like my alien eagle in the story. The theory is that birds would cope well with gliding about in the lack of gravity. Bees which were sent to the Space Station had a tough time at first but by the end of a week were flying normally. Nature finds a way, as they famously state in the movie “Jurassic Park.”
Blurb for Star Cruise: Songbird:
Grant Barton, a Security Officer on the Nebula Zephyr, is less than thrilled with his current assignment to guard an Interstellar singing sensation while she’s on board the ship. It doesn’t help that he and his military war bird Valkyr are dealing with their recent separation from the Sectors Special Forces and uncertainty over their future, with their own planet in ruins.
Karissa Dawnstar is on top of the charts and seemingly has it all – talent, fame, fortune and devoted fans, but behind her brave smile and upbeat lyrics she hides an aching heart. When a publicity stunt goes wrong, Karissa finds herself in the arms of the security officer assigned to protect her – and discovers a mutual attraction she can’t ignore.
Trouble continues to plague the pair, driving a wedge between them and leaving Grant certain that Karissa is in more danger than she realizes, from overzealous fans and her own management. Grant is determined to protect Karissa whether she wants his help or not. Can he discover the truth behind what’s going on before he loses Karissa or is there someone else plotting to keep them apart – permanently?
The excerpt, where the singer meets the alien eagle:
“Wow,” said Karissa, coming closer. “His claws are like knives. How can you hold him without getting hurt?”
“The glove and the shoulder of my shirt are made from woven cartefl fibers, strongest material in the Sectors,” Grant said. “In the old days, a handler had to wear bulky leather gloves and thick padding but modern tech makes things much easier. Shall we go?”
Karissa moved toward the door but gave him a dubious look. “You just carry him through the ship? What if he gets spooked and flies away?”
“Valkyr is a highly trained military asset,” he said, entering the corridor behind her. “And a registered sentient. He knows how to behave in a noncombat situation. This way.”
“So the two of you were in the war?”
He really didn’t want to talk about his past or explain himself to this pop star. “Yes. We were in the Special Forces Z Unit until recently. Z for zoological.”
“I saw a documentary on them once,” Karissa said as they entered the gravlift.
Valkyr liked antigrav and flared his wings to the full 8’ span, posing dramatically as they drifted downward toward the hangar deck.
Don’t show off for her too much. Grant chuckled a bit as Karissa gasped at the display his companion was making.
“How can you keep him on a spaceship?” Karissa asked, her voice full of reproach. “How can that possibly be good for him?”
They stepped off at the hangar deck, Valkyr folding his wings obligingly so Grant could get through the portal. “This a temporary job for me. I needed a place to land after the military, while I figured out our next steps.”
The hangar deck was the single largest space on the Nebula Zephyr, as big as the two cargo decks combined, and ran the entire length and breadth of the ship. Currently the three shuttles, the captain’s flitter and two small exterior maintenance vehicles were parked neatly in their assigned spaces, with plenty of room left over for incoming shuttles when the liner was in orbit above a planet.
A crewman greeted them, staring at Karissa so hard it was amazing to Grant that the man managed any coherent words. “Deck’s clear, as ordered. You have an hour.”
“Thanks.” Grant watched the man leave as Karissa gave him a wave and threw him a kiss. The crew member stumbled and all but fell into the gravlift.
“What now?” she asked.
“Now he flies.” Grant lifted his arm in a rapid motion and Valkyr launched himself into the air, flying low across the deck at first and then beating his wings to gain height. He was soon lost to view in the far end of the deck.
Blurb for Embrace the Romance: Pets In Space 2:
The pets are back! Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, featuring twelve of today’s leading Science Fiction Romance authors brings you a dozen original stories written just for you! Join in the fun, from the Dragon Lords of Valdier to a trip aboard award-winning author, Veronica Scott’s Nebula Zephyr to journeying back to Luda where Grim is King, for stories that will take you out of this world! Join New York Times, USA TODAY, and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley, Jessica E. Subject, Carol Van Natta, and Alexis Glynn Latner as they share stories and help out Hero-Dogs.org, a charity that supports our veterans!
10% of the first month’s profits go to Hero-Dogs.org. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence.
Best Selling Science Fiction, Fantasy & Paranormal Romance author, as well as the “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”