The sharp contrast between the gleaming white object and the gray lunar dust was what first caught Barney’s attention.

Not that he’d been looking for anything in particular.

It
was Tuesday, and that meant the Fra Mauro Comets were due to play the
Tranquility Shooting Stars in the Lunar Little League rotation schedule.

Not
that Barney cared that much. He’d been with the Comets for two years
now, ever since he was old enough to be trusted outside in his own EVA
suit. That made him 13 years old, time enough to begin to grow bored
with the slow-moving innings of Moonball.

But then, it’d been his father’s idea that he join the league in the first place.

Mr.
Samarin hadn’t liked all the time his son spent in the ether playing
mind games with his friends. "It just isn’t natural," as he was fond of
saying. Too fond for Barney, who found his father’s complaints annoying.
What was he expected to do on the Moon? Ride an air bike? Build a
clubhouse? It bothered him when his parents talked about all the
wonderful things they used to do when they were youngsters back on
Earth. What did that mean to him, who’d never set foot on the planet?

Anyway,
his father finally took steps (something else he always said) and
signed Barney up to the Comets. He’d been on the team through most of
the season, long enough for his fellow players to realize that he just
didn’t care. Which is why he now found himself way out in right field
where nothing much ever happened.

Located
about two miles from home plate, right field was out of sight of the
infield, just below the curvature of the Moon, and as expected, there’d
been very little action. In fact, Barney had seen none at all in the
five innings so far.

As Moonball teams
went, the Comets weren’t bad, having won the league championship a few
years before . . . but that was before Barney’s time. Since then, the
team had struggled to remain above .500.

At
the moment, with no flies to right field yet, Barney had grown bored
waiting for the Shooting Stars to finish their seven innings of ups so
that the Comets could have theirs. Unlike Earthside baseball, the lower
gravity of the Moon forced fielders to take positions far beyond sight
of home plate, making it inconvenient to switch sides every inning. To
move things along, one team had all their ups at once, followed by the
other. When the seven innings were over, the team with the highest score
won.

Unfortunately, the Moon’s lighter
gravity also made it difficult to judge just how far or in what
direction a ball would fly. It took good teamwork between fielders to
track the moving ball and make sure someone found their way beneath it.
Communication over suit radios was key to winning Moonball games, and
took practice to master.

In fact, playing
Moonball involved a lot of listening. Frequently out of sight of their
teammates, players had to follow what was going on by listening to their
teammates as they tracked the trajectory of any ball hit by the batter.
With practice and some luck, outfielders like Barney could make their
solitary way to where the ball was headed and have time enough to reach
it before it hit the ground.

If all went
well, the ball would be caught while still onA the fly. If not, well . .
. trying to get ahold of it after it buried itself in moon dust or
bounced away in the low gravity could be tricky if not impossible.

It
was just such a scenario that Barney found himself in while stargazing
in right field. He hadn’t seen any action since the game started and it
usually didn’t take long for his brain to push the radio chatter to the
back of his mind while his gaze drifted skyward.

From
a family trip to the dark side the year before, Barney knew that a
great many more stars should have been visible. But due to sunlight
reflected from the Earth hanging overhead, the view wasn’t as
spectacular as it should have been, even through the polarizing lens of
his helmet.

Barney was trying to pick out
one of the planets when he became conscious that the chatter over his
radio seemed to have increased. Concentrating on it, he realized that a
fly ball was headed in his direction.

"Barney! It’s headed to right field," squawked Danny Philbrook in center.

"Oh no! It’s going to Barney?" wailed Junior Phillits, no doubt saying aloud what the rest of the team was thinking.

"It’s gonna be a long one!" warned Coach Weedon way back at home plate. "Move, Barney!"

"Barney, where are you?" shrieked Jace Noblitz who’d been pitching a perfect game up to that point.

"Where’s it going?" asked Barney forcing himself to care.

"It’s high, you should be able to see it just over the horizon," said the coach.

Barney
shifted his gaze to the horizon beyond a number ofA ridges
characterizing the floor of Mare Imbrium, a 700 square mile area
createdA by an asteroid strike tens of thousands of years before.

Picking
out the oncoming ball from background stars,A Barney gauged its course,
bent his knees, and took his first bound to interceptA it. Sailing up
and then downward in the 1/6th Earth gravity, he prepared toA adjust his
direction slightly in order to land where he judged the ball would hit.

Although
the ball moved slowly, it covered an enormousA amount of ground in a
relatively short time and it took some skill toA accurately judge where
it would eventually land. But Barney was a pretty goodA fielder when he
wanted to be, with excellent depth perception. When he botheredA to
exert himself in practice, he could usually get the better of a
well-hitA ball. But Moonball just didnaEUt bring out the competitive
spirit in him. NotA like playing mind games did. It all seemed so
pointless.

aEUoeGo, Barney, go!aEU urged Jace as Barney likely came intoA his line of sight.

The
voices of the rest of the Comets joined that of Jace,A filling
BarneyaEUs ears such that he finally had to turn off his radio. He
neededA to concentrate, something he had plenty of time to do as things
seemed to moveA in slow motion the closer he approached the ball. Near
the end, his heart wasA pounding in anticipation against the fact that
he could do nothing more toA speed up his responses. From now on, the
outcome depended solely on whatA actions he had taken in the first few
minutes of pursuit.

Slowly, the ball grew
larger and larger as his finalA bound reached its apogee and he began to
descend to what he liked to callA ground zero. At that point, if he
wasnaEUt perfectly positioned to catch the ballA heaEUd have no second
chance to catch it.

Then, he felt his feet crunch into the loose lunar soilA and reaching outaEU|missed the ball by a good ten feet.

aEUoeDid you get it?aEU asked Jace after Barney had turned hisA radio back on.

aEUoeNo, I missed it,aEU he admitted, waiting for theA collective groan from his teammates.

aEUoeCan
you get hold of the ball and fire it back to homeA plate, Barney?aEU
coach Weedon wanted to know. Barney could tell he was trying toA hold
his temper.

aEUoeI still have it in
sight,aEU reported Barney as he ploddedA to where the ball had finally
wedged itself in a rocky crevasse.

Reaching
it, he unslung the air rifle from his shoulderA harness, plucked the
ball and dropped it into the forward end, and aimed backA toward the
infield. Slight pressure on the firing button sent the ball out ofA the
barrel and sailing back over the horizon.

aEUoeHere it comes,aEU reported Barney over his suit radio.

He
watched the ball grow smaller and smaller as it rose,A then fell out of
sight below the horizon. Somewhere beyond, his teammates wereA
scrambling to retrieve it in time to catch the Shooting StarsaEU runners
betweenA bases, which were a good distance apart due to the long bounds
made possible inA the MoonaEUs lighter gravity.

But
BarneyaEUs interest in the play had ended as soon asA the ball sailed
out of sight. Resigned to another two innings, he was turningA to leap
back to his original position when his attention was drawn to theA
object that lay whitely in the lunar dust.

At
first, he thought it might be another moonball, but heA immediately
dismissed the possibility. The odds of such a thing were a millionA to
one. Cautiously, he approached the object; why, he didnaEUt know. Maybe
it wasA the oddness of the situation–the unlikelihood of finding such a
thing in theA gray waste of the MoonaEUs surface. If heaEUd found a
plant sprouting from one ofA the rocks he couldnaEUt have been more
surprised.

Barney ignored the orders of
coach Weedon to return toA his position in right field and moved slowly
toward the white spot in the dust.A Cocking his head from side to side,
at least as much as he was able to insideA his helmet, Barney finally
decided that whatever it was, the object wasA harmless. Reaching out, he
plucked it from the dust only to discover that it wasA a ball after
all, though not a moonball.

It was small,
hardly big enough to fill his palm;A gleaming white with a pattern of
small indentations covering its surface. OnA one face, Barney could read
the word aEUoeTitleistaEU and the number aEUoe2.aEU

What
did the word and number mean? Having no clue, heA shrugged and dropped
the ball into a utility pouch on the leg of his EVA suit.A Giving the
object little more thought, he bounded off in the direction of rightA
field to fill out the rest of the innings.

Later,
the game finally ended, Barney managed to shed hisA suit and slip away
from the rest of the Comets before they had a chance toA complain about
his poor performance. HeaEUd almost forgotten about the objectA until it
tumbled out of his leg pouch and rolled slowly across the metal floor.A
Surreptitiously retrieving it, Barney headed for the hatch leading out
of theA teamaEUs ready room.

Hardly
noticing the slight pull of the magnetic solesA beneath his shoes, he
walked easily along the ubiquitous metal pathways thatA lined Mauro
CityaEUs streets, most of which ran beneath the surface through cavesA
and tunnels carved from the rock by past mining operations.

Although
the original mine had been tapped out over 80A years before (Barney
forgot what exactly had been mined there) engineersA foresaw the need
for permanent settlements and planned their operations so thatA the
empty tunnels and shafts could eventually be converted into an airtightA
community.

With minimum alterations such
as the above-groundA residential units, the mine was sealed off from the
outside, air locksA installed, and pathways lined with metal plates
allowing use of the tunnels forA the bulk of the settlementaEUs
utilities and infrastructure. There, waterA recycling and purification,
atmospherics, and power generation equipment wasA stored and operated as
well as numerous ready rooms and air locks to theA outside. Some added
excavation was included in the retrofitting to create largeA garage
units for the settlementaEUs land roving vehicles. A road leading from
theA mine to the communityaEUs modest spaceport was improved so that
residents hadA easy access to regular shuttle service from Earth.

BarneyaEUs
path skirted most of the below-ground facilitiesA and led to a series
of escalators that took him up several levels to theA residential area.
Stepping off the moving stairway, he found himself awash inA natural
light that poured through large banks of thick iso-glass lining theA
common area. There, thousands of people in the colorful styles of the
day movedA about visiting shops, enjoying meals in aEUoeoutdooraEU
cafes, or meeting friends. AsA they did everywhere, children ran about
while older youths hung around trying toA catch the eye of the opposite
sex.

Crossing the common area, Barney
reached a bank of clearA plex elevators and slowly ascended to the
topmost floor. There, he stepped offA into a plant-filled hub and,
taking one of the wide corridors that radiatedA from the atrium,
followed the metal pathway to his familyaEUs living unit.

Luckily
none of the passersby said anything to him, soA Barney wasnaEUt obliged
to delay the time when he could enter the ether for aA mind game.
Moonball was his fatheraEUs way of getting him out of the living unit,A
but as soon as he could, Barney returned to the ether where his
aEUoerealaEU friendsA wereaEU|other youths who could have lived in the
next unit or on the far side ofA the Earth for all he knew. So long as
they could provide the unpredictable elementA that made playing mind
games such a consuming pastime, he didnaEUt care.

As
Barney entered the unit the lights came on, revealingA a spacious, well
equipped apartment with iso-glass windows overlooking theA impressive
desolation of the Mare Imbrium. But BarneyaEUs only interest lay inA his
room where the supply of ether pills sat on his dresser.A

Changing
quickly from his Comets uniform into hisA colorful day wear, Barney
pressed the dispenser allowing for a single pill toA pop out from the
bottle. Arranging himself comfortably on his bed, he swallowedA the
harmless drug and as always, slipped into the ether without quite
realizingA it.

It took little concentration
for him to call up theA scenario that had dominated his imagination for
the past several months: aA battle themed playscape pitting heroic
Terrans against mindlessly bloodthirstyA alien insectoids. Immediately,
BarneyaEUs battle-rigged avatar was joined byA other squad mates whom he
knew only by their ether handles and whose realA selves could be any
age, any gender, or any place other than Mauro City.

For
the next several hours, Barney forgot the real world,A forgot the
Comets, forgot everything but the insubstantial yet neverthelessA
hyper-realistic environment of the playscape where all his concentration
wasA needed to keep his avatar alive and fighting. He had taken only a
single pillA knowing that time spent with the Comets had eaten into his
personal scheduleA and that his parents would expect him for the evening
meal.

MoreA often, Barney liked to take
several pills at once and remain in the playscapeA all day, not even
breaking for meals. But such long stretches inevitably ended inA an
argument with his parents. The resulting tension in the household onlyA
intensified his desire to return to the ether. Ultimately, his parents
hadA become resigned to his addiction, seeing it as a physically
harmlessA alternative to the admittedly limited options for distraction
in Mauro City.

Finally, after several
hours, Barney felt the familiarA tugging in his mind that signaled the
ether-pillaEUs effects were lessening andA reality began to impinge upon
his consciousness. Bidding farewell to his squadA mates, he emerged
from the ether to find himself staring up at his fatheraEUsA familiar
face.

aEUoeYou timed it pretty well this time,aEU said Frank Samarin.

aEUoeAm
I in time for dinner?aEU asked Barney, rising from hisA bed. With
ether-pills, there were no after-effects such as dizziness orA lethargy.
A player ended the experience as alert as when he first took theA
pills. For that reason, he immediately noticed the thing his father held
in hisA hand.A
aEUoeWhereaEUd you get that?aEU


aEUoeThis?aEU
said Mr. Samarin, looking at the small whiteA object. aEUoeIt fell out
of your pocket when I picked up your uniform. WhereaEUd itA come
from?aEU

aEUoeDo you know what it is?aEU

aEUoeOf
course. ItaEUs a golf ball.aEU Seeing the blank look onA BarneyaEUs
face, he elaborated. aEUoeA game played on Earth. A person hits a ballA
like this with a club with the object of sinking it into a series of
smallA holes arranged around a course. ItaEUs a game thataEUs not
conducive to the MoonA though.aEU

aEUoeOh.aEU

aEUoeSo whereaEUd you get this ball?aEU

aEUoeI
found it in the dust while playing outfield thisA afternoon,aEU replied
Barney, rising from the bed. aEUoeAround the Fra MauroA hills.aEUA A A
A A A A A A

aEUoeFunny place to find a
ball like this,aEU mused his father.A aEUoeBut I do seem to recall
something about golf balls and the early days of LunarA exploration.aEU

aEUoeWhat does aEU~TitleistaEU mean,aEU asked Barney. aEUoeAnd thatA number?aEU

aEUoeGood questions. I donaEUt know.aEU

His
father taught high school and college history andA likely knew more
than he was saying. That meant only one thing: if Barney hadA questions,
heaEUd tell him to look up the answers himself.

aEUoeBut
this could make for a nice little project for you,aEUA said his father,
confirming BarneyaEUs fears. aEUoeWhy donaEUt you do a little researchA
and find out for yourself? Let me know what you find.aEU

He tossed the ball to Barney who had no choice but toA catch it.

aEUoeYour mother says dinner will be ready in a few minutes,aEUA said his father, not without some satisfaction in his voice.

It was a few days later when Barney next thought of theA golf ball.

HeaEUd
spent a number of double-digit sessions in the etherA that took up
nearly all of his pills, forcing him to begin conserving them soA that
he didnaEUt run out before he could cajole his mother into buying
anotherA supply. He was therefore compelled to seek alternate sources of
distraction.A But what to do? Doing his chores was out of the question
and so was studyingA despite his low grades. Over the years, his parents
had tried to overcome hisA disinterest in schoolwork by shifting him to
different study groups or changingA teachers.

ButA
none of it succeeded in catching his attention. What was the point? All
of itA was boring compared to his time in the ether. Only there did
Barney meet othersA who shared his interests and understood his frame of
mind, however distant andA detached it might seem to his parents and
neighbors in the small community ofA Mauro City, where everyone knew
everyone else.

Just then, Barney was in the
common area window-shoppingA and trying to figure out what to do next.
HeaEUd toyed with the idea of trying toA find a little job so he could
earn some money of his own to buy more etherA pills. But the idea of
working struck him as unnecessary when all he had to doA was wait until
some begging and whining would get him what he wanted from hisA parents.
He was passing one of the tele-screens that were located in strategicA
spots around the common when his attention was caught by a progress
report onA the latest manned expedition to Mars. It seemed to Barney
that they were makingA more fuss than usual until he realized that for
the first time, a ship was toA land on the Martian surface. He hadnaEUt
realized how much the report hadA impressed him until heaEUd retraced
his steps all the way back to his livingA unit. The feeling remained
with him until, stepping into his room, his eyesA fell for the umpteenth
time on the golf ball that sat on his dresser.

Picking
it up, he noticed its shiny, pebbled surface and the word Titleist
neatly stamped across its white background. Shrugging, he sat down
before his computer and asked it to call up information on the game of
golf.

Instantly, he was
barraged with more information about the game than he really wanted.
The column of thick graphs discouraged him from reading and the words
all ran together. Barney was quickly reminded why he hated reading: it
was too much like work. Not for the first time he felt anger toward his
parents for not getting him the newer model Apples that read everything
aloud to the user. Idly, he ordered the computer to scroll downward and
as the words rolled past, something suddenly caught his eye.

It was a photo of a spacesuited figure standing on what looked like the Moon, holding a golf club. A


Curiously,
Barney ordered the computer to run the video and as the ancient film
progressed, he found himself leaning closer to the screen. Meanwhile,
through the speakers, voices could be heard:A


aEUoeHouston,
while you’re looking that up, you might recognize what I have in my
hand as the handle for the contingency sample return; it just so happens
to have a genuine six iron on the bottom of it. In my left hand, I have
a little white pellet that’s familiar to millions of Americans. I’ll
drop it down. Unfortunately, the suit is so stiff, I can’t do this with
two hands, but I’m going to try a little sand-trap shot here.aEU

aEUoeHe topped and buried it on the first swing. I assume that the six-iron was snuck on board.aEU

aEUoeIn his suit pocket.aEU

aEUoeYou got more dirt than ball that time.aEU

aEUoeGot more dirt than ball. Here we go again.aEU

aEUoeThat looked like a slice to me, Al.aEU

aEUoeHere we go. Straight as a die; one more.aEU

aEUoeMiles and miles and miles.aEU

aEUoeVery good, Al.aEUA

Barney
sat back in his chair. His father was right. There was a connection
between the game of golf and Lunar history! Slowly, it dawned on him
that he must have found the ball struck by astronaut Alan Shepard that
had gone aEUoemiles and miles and miles.aEU Lost for over 200 years, he
finally found it just lying around in the Lunar dust!


Taking
the ball in his hand, Barney contemplated it with more reverence. Was
that a mark he saw on it or was it his imagination? Did ShepardaEUs club
leave an indentation in the ball? Dimly, a sense of history began to
creep into BarneyaEUs consciousness, the kind of subtle feeling he was
not at all used to.

Unaware
that the apparently dead embers of his imagination had begun to glow,
Barney asked the computer to find information on the life of Alan
Shepard. Once again, the screen filled with columns of data. Scrolling
down, he decided to stop at an entry that included many illustrations
that broke up the text into less threatening blocks.

Barney
forced himself to begin reading, and discovered that Shepard had been
born in the early part of the twentieth century, a time of great
discoveries, world wars, and social upheaval. Somehow, Shepard managed
to survive those turbulent times and as a young man entered the United
States Navy serving aboard an ancient warship near the end of the
centuryaEUs second major war.

After
the war, he took flight training and became a Navy aviator. Barney
gasped when he read that following the war, Shepard took on the duties
of being a test pilot, a dangerous career that he need not have
followed.

With
growing fascination, Barney read that Shepard was assigned to flights
that included high-altitude testing to gather data on how light behaved
at different altitudes and on different kinds of air masses over the
North American continent. More dangerous assignments followed, like
experimenting with in-flight refueling systems for naval aircraft.
Eventually, he became proficient in the new F2H-3 Banshee and was given
command of a squadron of the new jet fighters.

Studying
pictures of the various aircraft Shepard flew, Barney developed a
growing appreciation of the courage and daring of the old-time test
pilots who had the nerve not only to fly such awkward-looking
contraptions but to do it in models that no one was completely sure
would stay aloft!

After
serving overseas with the Banshee squadron, Shepard returned to the
United States to pick up his test pilot career flying such advanced
aircraft as the A F3H Demon, F8U Crusader, F4D Skyray, F11F Tiger, and
the F5D Skylancer. By 1958, Shepard had logged over 8,000 hours flying
timeaEU|something Barney gathered was well out of the ordinary.

Asking
the computer to enlarge the illustrations accompanying the entry,
Barney found that his appreciation for the ancient aircraft flown by
Shepard grew the more he looked at them. The sleek, silvery bodies and
swept-back wings; the bubble topped pilotaEUs seat; and the grand
backgrounds of patchwork farmland or snow topped mountains lent them an
air of glamor and excitement and a sense of a world still vigorous and
on the verge of bursting its earthly bonds.

Barney
recalled something heaEUd heard in school about the early days of space
exploration. At the time, he hadnaEUt really been paying attention, but
now, seeing the primitive early efforts at high-altitude flight and
feeling a growing familiarity with Alan Shepard who placed them in a
human context, something of the excitement of those days seemed to rub
off on him. Barney couldnaEUt help placing himself in the seat of those
ancient flying machines as they groped ever higher, until at last they
scraped the edge of space and stars began to glitter through the
thinning atmosphere.

Barney
finally dragged his attention from a photo of the F4D Skyray back to
the text and continued reading which, for some reason, didnaEUt seem as
tedious as it had when he started.

By
the late 1950s, Shepard had flown almost every kind of aircraft and
risked his life any number of times. But apparently it hadnaEUt been
enough to slake his thirst for adventure. His thousands of hours at the
throttle qualified him for a new program that would eventually take him
beyond where any aircraft had taken him. Chosen by NASA (even Barney had
heard of NASAaEU| the precursor to the United States Space Exploration
Unit that had founded the first lunar colony), Shepard was chosen as one
of the countryaEUs first seven astronauts.

With
mounting excitement, Barney read how Shepard became his countryaEUs
first man in space. He did it on May 5, 1961 (so long ago!) while
strapped into a tiny capsule atop a rocket that was as likely to blow up
on the ground as launch him into space. Barney found himself relieved
to read that the Freedom 7 didnaEUt explode and that Shepard went into
orbit around the Earth as planned. More frightening than the flight
itself was the idea that on his return, Shepard was required to splash
down in the middle of the ocean and wait until his capsule was picked up
by ship! Barney thought of the regular shuttle flights from Earth to
the Moon that came and went every day at Mauro City and how much heaEUd
always taken them for granted.

Continuing
to read, Barney was dismayed to discover that ShepardaEUs career as an
astronaut was cut short just as it was getting started. Because of a
problem with his inner ear, he was grounded and served NASA in an
administrative capacity for the next ten years. As a result, he had to
stand by and watch fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong become the first man
to set foot on the Moon. But by that point, Barney knew that Shepard was
not the type of man to let an old ear problem slow him down. He had
surgery done to correct the condition and was immediately assigned to
Apollo 14, only the third mission to land on the Moon.

Shepard,
who was 47 years old at the time, launched with his crew on January 31,
1971 and personally piloted the landing craft. Wow, thought Barney, by
this time completely enthralled with ShepardaEUs story.

It was then that the golf ball entered the picture.

It
was near the end of his final Moon walk, with his assigned experiments
completed, that Shepard took ground control by surprise. He pulled out
something called aEUoea Wilson six ironaEU head from one of his pockets,
attached it to the end of a standard sample scooper handle, and dropped
a little white ball into the lunar dust.

Barney
watched, with far more interest and understanding than he had the first
time, as a film showed Shepard take some one-handed swings at the ball.
Missing the first few times, he finally connected and the ball took off
somewhere that BarneyaEUs eye wasnaEUt able to follow. But that was all
right because he knew where the ball ended up!

However,
there was an addendum to the golf episode. Some accounts stated that
Shepard had struck two balls and others three. The consensus of opinion
was that he had only hit two, an opinion that had stood ever since. But
apparently the consensus was wrong! Though the other two balls had been
found in later years and transferred to museums on Earth, a third ball
did exist, as proven by the little white sphere that even now rested in
BarneyaEUs hand.

Turning
back to the record, Barney discovered that Shepard retired from the
Navy in 1974 after being promoted to rear admiral. In subsequent years,
he became a businessman and wrote a book about his flight to the Moon.

Reaching
the end of the entry, Barney learned that Shepard died in 1998 of a
disease called leukemia, something (a footnote indicated) for which a
cure was found some 90 years later.

Finished,
Barney noticed he had a little difficulty swallowing and realized
suddenly that reading about ShepardaEUs life had affected him somehow.
He felt saddened and couldnaEUt figure out how just reading some words
on a data screen could affect him that way. As he continued to stare at
the screen, he noticed that Shepard had had three daughters, or rather
two, as one was actually a niece. There was Laura and Juliana and the
niece, Alice.

Staring
at the names, it gradually dawned on Barney that ShepardaEUs spirit had
lived on in his children. If so, maybe the story of their famous father
had been passed on like a family heirloom from generation to
generation. Could it be, he wondered, that their descendants were still
around? The notion began to excite Barney as he wondered if he might be
able to find them. Imagine their surprise and delight to be presented
with ShepardaEUs very own golf ball?

It was a thought that Barney took with him when he finally ordered the computer to return to standby mode

The
next day, he took an ether pill as he usually did right after getting
home from school and joined the rest of his squad in their ongoing
battle with the insectoid invaders. But for the first time that he could
remember, he found it hard to get into the rhythm of the playscape. His
timing was off and more than once the squad leader had to repeat his
orders to get Barneya’s attention.

"What’s
the matter with you, Killer?" demanded the squad leader. "Why are you
so out of it? If you dona’ pay more attention, you’ll endanger the whole
squad."

As if to
punctuate the reprimand, a bolt of ionic force just missed Barney’s
avatar, shattering a wall behind him. When the dust cleared, he had to
shove aside a pile of debris that had fallen on top of him.

The
squad leader was right, he was off his game. What was wrong with him?
All day, even while at school, he’d felt out of sorts, unable to
concentrate on anything. Thinking back, he realized that it was Alan
Shepard’s family, Laura, Juliana, and Alice. What happened to them?
Where did their children end up? Where were their descendants? He needed
to find out. Otherwise he’d never get them off his mind.

The
question of what to do about it was settled for him when a second burst
of ionic force caught his avatar dead center and his involvement with
the playscape was suddenly ended.

In
virtual limbo for an undetermined amount of time, Barney emerged from
the ether gradually. Finally clear, he swung his legs from the bed and
sat up. He was a little surprised at his lack of disappointment about
being aEUoekilledaEU during a mind game. In fact, he was kind of happy
that it happened because what he really wanted to do was start looking
for ShepardaEUs descendants. Where to begin?

aEUoeDad?aEU he asked, a few minutes later.

His
father was comfortably ensconced in the living room massager while
going over some student assignments that were being projected from the
compu-slate in his hands. On the family tele-screen there was an update
on the Mars expedition and though his father had set the instrument on
mute, Barney could tell the newscaster was talking about how the
astronauts had kept busy on the long flight. A live digital feed showed
the spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet and a cut to the interior
showed the astronauts busying themselves for the coming descent.

aEUoeWhat is it, Barney?aEU his father asked, putting his aEU~slate on hold.

His attention attracted to the news, Barney momentarily forgot the reason why heaEUd come to see his father.

aEUoeAre they going to land soon?aEU he asked, not taking his eyes from the tele-screen.

aEUoeTonight. Going to be late though.aEU

aEUoeCan I stay up to watch?aEU

His
father hesitated a moment but the very idea that his son had expressed
an interest in anything other than his mind games, let alone the latest
space mission, was enough for him to forget any school-day rules.

aEUoeI
think I can get your mother to go along with that. I was thinking of
doing the same myself. DidnaEUt think youaEUd be interestedaEU|aEU
Barney shrugged, uncomfortable letting his parents in on what he was thinking.

aEUoeThanks. But what I really wanted to know was how would I go about looking up someoneaEUs ancestry. Where would I start?aEU

aEUoeThataEUs a funny question,aEU said his father. aEUoeIs this a project for school?aEU

aEUoeNo.aEU

aEUoeSomething youaEUre doing on your own?aEU

aEUoeYeah.
You remember what I found out about Alan Shepard?aEU His father nodded.
aEUoeWell, I thought it would be neat to find his descendants and give
them the golf ball I found.aEU

aEUoeSay! ThataEUs a really good idea!aEU said his father, smiling. aEUoeDid you come up with that on your own?aEU

aEUoeSure.aEU

aEUoeWell,
the first place to start is the global genealogical data base,aEU said
his father, turning back to his aEU~slate and telling it to switch
functions.A

He accessed the network and began narrowing down the data until it began locating information for Alan Shepard.

aEUoeWow! There are a lot of them!aEU exclaimed Barney, looking on as the aEU~slate scrolled down the list of names.

aEUoeYou can narrow it down as much as you want by including more information on the person youaEUre looking for.aEU

aEUoeOkay. I can take it from there, dad. Thanks.aEU

aEUoeOh, and Barney,aEU said his father. aEUoeDonaEUt forget you have a game with the Comets today.aEU

ThataEUs
right, thought Barney, annoyed by the interruption the game would cost
him. Checking the chrono function on his compu-display, he discovered
that he had only a few minutes before he had to leave. That left him
just enough time to give the computer its commands.

aEUoeAccess global genealogical data base,aEU he ordered.

As
the display flickered through its boot up program, Barney thought of
all the keywords he could input to help the computer complete its
search. When it was ready to input more information, he rattled off two
dozen or so, everything from Apollo 14 to Alice Shepard.

With
the estimated running time coming in at nearly two hours, Barney
decided to have the answers streamed directly to his EVA suit computer.
At least heaEUd have something to look forward to while he was out there
pounding lunar dust.

Some
time later, Barney was once again cooling his heels out in right field,
daydreaming about old time jets and multi-stage rockets and first
flights. In the pocket of his suit, he could feel the bulge of the golf
ball as it pressed against his leg, reminding him of the courage and
resourcefulness that had enabled Alan Shepard to reach the MoonaEU|and
the playfulness that he managed to retain even after all of the
dead-serious assignments heaEUd accomplished. Only he would have thought
about sneaking a golf ball and club on Apollo 14 and using them in the
low gravity environment while the whole world watched via primitive
television!A

Suddenly
it occurred to Barney that if somehow he and Alan Shepard could have
known each other, they would have been good friends. He was certain of
that. His chest swelled with pride at the thought and a completely
illogical feeling of kinship overcame him, one that stretched across the
centuries between himself and the long dead astronaut. His throat
suddenly tightened and a vast regret seemed to come over him at the
thought that he could never meet Alan Shepard.

Barney
never considered himself susceptible to hero worship (heaEUd never even
thought that way about his own father). But he had to admit that he did
admire Alan Shepard in a way he would never have thought possible only a
few days before. Suddenly, the two-dimensional qualities of the
playscape characters were revealed as completely meaningless, utter
frauds. Alan Shepard had been real. He actually did all the things that
Barney had read about him. HeaEUd risked his life for real, test flying
primitive aircraft, even in stepping on the Moon to play golf. Alan
Shepard was bones and blood and guts. Despite his mortality, he wasnaEUt
afraid to dare, to strive, to do.

So BarneyaEUs thoughts were trending when they were interrupted by shouts over his EVA suitaEUs radio.

aEUoeBarney!aEU called Danny Philbrook. aEUoeItaEUs a fly ball headed to center right field!aEU

aEUoeBarney, are you there?aEU cried a despairing Jace Noblitz.

aEUoeIaEUm here,aEU said Barney getting set to begin his first leap.

Staring at the horizon, he caught sight of the tiny moving object, gauged its direction, and jumped off.

HeaEUd
bounded a mile or two and was at the apex of what he expected to be his
last leap when his suit computer notified him of an incoming message.
Trying not to take his eyes off the descending ball, he impatiently
demanded to know what it was.

aEUoeSearch for Alan Shepard last known descendent completed,aEU said the computer in a cheerful tone.

aEUoeNow?aEU he asked, the humor of the situation not completely escaping him. aEUoeWell, whataEUs the answer?aEU

Barney
was on the descent and even then he could tell he wouldnaEUt arrive in
time to catch the ball. Then, several things happened seemingly within
seconds of one another.A

Just
as the ground was rising quickly to meet his outstretched legs, the
computer reported, aEUoelast known descendent of astronaut Alan Shepard:
Barnard Samarin, currently a resident of Mauro CityaEU|aEU

aEUoeI
know who Barnard Samarin is!aEU shouted Barney. His heart swelled with
pride at the unexpected discovery. He himself was a direct descendent of
Alan Shepard!A

Suddenly,
the thought came to him that perhaps the astronautaEUs questing spirit
might also have come down to him; a spirit that would enable him to dare
and do as well. It was unlikely that he could ever fly rockets or walk
on Mars. But in a flash of insight, he realized that performing great
deeds was not the aim of achievement, but rather the will to succeed;
the trying and the doing was the goal. In ShepardaEUs long life, only a
small amount of time was taken up basking in the glow of achievement,
the rest was spent working, striving, doing. And throughout, he never
faltered, never doubted, always believed in himself.

The
revelation acted as a key in BarneyaEUs mind, opening up possibilities
and potentialities that heaEUd never realized before, or at least never
believed possible whenever he listened, bored and distracted, as his
parents talked about such things.

The
next instant, his feet struck the lunar surface, raising a puff of
dust. Directly in front of him, just out of reach, the gleaming
whiteness of the ball was still falling with only seconds left before it
hit the ground and became a home run for the Kepler Crater All Stars.
On the instant, Barney did something heaEUd never done before: he
exerted himself!

Just
as his feet hit the ground, he bent his knees, leaned forward, and
launched himself through the low gravity, stretching out his hand,
reaching and straining through his fingertips.A

The
next moment, his gloved hand closed around the familiar spherical
object, and he heard himself shouting into his mike, aEUoeI got it!aEU


*


0 0 votes
Article Rating