Author : Q. B. Fox
Bill had never been the sort of person who looked for the limelight. He was the sort of team player that kept his head down and worked hard; no doubt that’s why he had been selected for this mission.
But it bothered him that he would be the first person in the world to do something as remarkable as this and no one would ever know. He would not be a name in text books or the answer to game show questions. But worse, no one, beyond a very small circle, would ever know that he’d done it at all.
Not for the first time, he sighed wearily.
“Telescopes, William,” Professor Paulson had confided in him, “It’s all because of telescopes. Before that no one could see the details, so we hadn’t bothered with them; there was enough to do. But Cambridge University’s new Gorsky Orbital Telescope… They say it’ll be able to read the serial number on the reflector array.” The professor had laughed at his own exaggeration. “And you know what academics are like…,” Paulson had added with a wink.
At least Bill had met the president.
“I’m sorry to ask you to do this,” he’d said to Bill solemnly. “As you know this is our second attempt to complete this mission. Travelling in space is harder than people imagine.”
“If it wasn’t, sir,” Bill had replied, “then there wouldn’t be a mission to carry out in the first place.”
The president had smiled, but it had been sad smile; no doubt he was thinking of the missing astronaut’s family.
Bill turned his head to check the navigational readouts and in the cramped cabin he banged his head on a rover’s replacement wheel; the original was damaged during landing, apparently.
The professor had shown him the pictures from the obiter.
“They’re convincing,” Bill had conceded.
“It’s all really there, William. We put all the machinery up there. The problem has always been the people.”
“That’s what Agent Gregg said, sir.”
It was what Agent Gregg had said.
“The problem was always the people. We lost lots of craft; fifteen before we even managed to slam one onto the surface, another two after that. When three people were killed, someone (and I am not authorised to tell you who) proposed a different direction.”
“But how did you keep it quiet?” Bill had asked.
“Well, we weren’t entirely successful with that, now, were we?” Agent Gregg had said with a grin. “But mostly there was much less to keep quiet than you’d think; mostly what folks think happened, happened. ‘Cept there wasn’t any more people involved.”
“And the Russians? How could they not have known?” Bill had wondered aloud.
“Now there is a tale all of its own,” Gregg had laughed. “Shall we just say that ‘bout the time the Soviets found out, we found out they hadn’t been entirely honest either.”
Bill shook his head, forced himself to concentrate as his pod started its landing procedure.
His main mission was to take stuff away from the sites; like the garbage left over from deploying the reflectors. But some things he was there to leave behind. It’s all in the detail, he told himself, parroting his training.
He adjusted his boots, larger than they needed to be, so they left the right size prints. Then idly he rolled a dimpled spheroid around the palm of his hand.
“What a lot of fuss,” he thought to himself, “to put a golf ball on the moon.”