An excerpt from
Legacy of Atlantis
I toed the rubber in the bottom of the seventh, about to throw what I hoped and prayed would be the last pitch of a no hitter. My heart pounded. My fingers tingled as they gripped the seams of the baseball. I looked over at my dad. He gave me an almost imperceptible nod and his “you’ve got this” look. I took a deep breath and started my windup.
A buzzing noise sounded.
The mound faded away as I woke up and hit the snooze button on my alarm. I still had a few minutes before I had to get up. The lights brightened slowly in my room. My uncle’s doing. He doesn’t like me oversleeping. I glanced at the picture of me and my dad. It’s a few years old, taken after I pitched my first shutout in the Little League AAA playoff s. I suppressed a sniffle and glanced at my mitt and ball sitting on the bedside table next to the picture. I slipped my legs off the side of the bed, picked up the ball and gently lobbed it against the far wall. I had plenty of time to slip on the glove as the ball floated toward the wall, hit and slowly drift ed back. Hard to play catch on the Moon, with one-sixth gravity and all. You’d think that living in Clarksville would be fun. That’s what I thought when I’d moved here. Th e problem was, being the new kid’s never easy, even when you’re living on the Moon. I moved up here a few months ago to live with my uncle. I was glad to move, to get out of my old house. Now that I’m here, I wish I could go home. I was always a better than average student, but up here everyone’s smart. Made me feel like an idiot.
The alarm went off again. I slipped on my iLet, got up, brushed my teeth and went to our living room/dining room. As usual, I found breakfast waiting with a note from my uncle.
“Special treat today, Charlie, in celebration of your field trip. Have fun, but remember, this is the Moon: one wrong move and . . .” He’d drawn a poor picture of a skull and crossbones. Sometimes my uncle’s a bit weird.
The oven popped open and the smell of bacon and eggs wafted through the air. My mouth watered. This must have cost my uncle a bunch of food coupons because the farm dome had just recently added hogs. While eggs were rare, pigs were even rarer. I began to wolf down the eggs and bacon when my uncle’s cat, Nim, jumped up on the table. How my uncle convinced anyone to let him bring a cat to the Moon was beyond me, but he did. Nim rubbed up against me, purring.
“Here you go.” I slid my plate over and rubbed between her ears. Nim seemed satisfied as she licked at the yolk. She licked her paw and gave me an “is that it?” look. When I picked up the plate, she leapt off the table and floated through the air into my uncle’s bedroom. It still amazed me the way Nim had adapted to the Moon’s gravity. Better than me.
Somebody began to bang on the door, startling the heck out of me.
“Just a minute.” I jumped up and opened the door. Jamie stood there grinning like the Cheshire Cat. “Let’s go. Don’t want to be late for the field trip.”
I followed him to the Tube station, struggling to keep pace with Jamie’s loping stride. For some reason they called the maglev subway a Tube station here. Maybe some British influence in the design of Clarksville. A couple of the kids that lived on the outskirts of town were already on the train as Jamie and I got on. School was located near the middle of town, in the center of the small crater where they’d started building Clarksville. We had about a ten minute commute on the train.
“So, what d’you think? Whose group will we be in?” Jamie glanced my way.
“Don’t know. Hope we’re not with Richard.” Richard was one of the cool kids and had given Jamie his nickname—the bear. I was curious as to why until I saw Jamie in the showers after gym. He had the thickest matt of brown hair across his back that I’d ever seen. It rivaled the hair on the back of one of my baseball coaches who we’d also called the bear.
Jamie rolled his eyes up. “Acts like he owns the place. But don’t let him get to you. That’s what he wants.”
I nodded. “After weeks of sims, I’m ready to get outside.”
“It’s not that different from the Gym Dome or the Hangar.” Jamie’d been outside before. In fact, he was scheduled to get his moonwalk permit after this field trip.
“Think they’ll throw a test at us?” The first time I’d been in a vacuum in a suit was in the main hangar. Half the class ended up with one malfunction or another. I got lucky, but Jamie’s suit had a doozy. His legs swelled up when the pressure seal reacted as if he’d developed a leak in both legs. He collapsed to the ground, grunting in pain. I went to help, but Trolga made him crawl to the airlock on his own.
Jamie shook his head. “Doubt it. This is for real. But you never know with Trolga.”
I scowled at the thought. “Hope we don’t have her leading our team.” Olga Larsen was our history teacher. She was Swedish. Sounds good, right? Blond, Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition? No way. There was a reason she was called Trolga—short, fat, jet black hair and skin that looked as tough as leather. She must’ve looked like a crow amongst a flock of snow geese in school in Sweden. Her
favorite hobby seemed to be lecturing us.
Jamie grunted in response.
“So, how goes your memorization of pi?” Jamie was convinced that memorizing pi to five hundred decimal places would help him get a scholarship to MIT or Cal Tech.
He shook his head. “Saw online that a fifteen-year-old just got a scholarship to Cal Tech after memorizing pi to 750 significant figures. Don’t think it’ll work twice.”
“Go figure.” I smiled, but Jamie just scowled at my lame joke.
I tapped my fist against his arm. “No biggie. You’re the brainiest kid here, and that’s saying a lot. You’ll get in wherever you want.” Jamie’s parents worked for Dahak mining, and, while everyone up here made good money, it was not enough to pay for a top-notch college without a scholarship. He did great in all of the sciences and math, but had trouble in Trolga’s history class. While he memorized all the facts, he couldn’t put them together in an essay—and Trolga loved essays.
“Maybe your ridiculous knowledge of baseball stats will get you in. You could easily be on ESPN.” I’d first met Jamie shortly after arriving when he’d found out that I was a baseball player. He quizzed me on my favorite teams, players and stats. We’d get together to watch as many MLB games a week as we could. He’d know the stats of every player on every team as they came up to bat. If he didn’t become a scientist he knew enough to become an MLB manager.
Jamie’s eyes widened. “You really think . . .” But then he shook his head. “Hey, have you asked Rhea out yet?”
I looked down at the floor of the train, at the wrapper of gum lying next to the seat, and kicked it.
Jamie chuckled. “I didn’t think so.”
When we arrived at the school’s station, we went straight to the assembly hall. There weren’t many seats left, but, then again, calling it an assembly hall was a joke. My ninth-grade homeroom class back in Seattle had more seats than this auditorium. The only seats available were next to Richard’s clique. Richard smiled at us.
“Come on, Oso, have a seat.” He tilted his head toward the end of the row.
Richard stuck his leg out as Jamie tried to squeeze past him. If Jamie hadn’t expected the move, he might have tripped and fallen onto Richard’s girlfriend, Imee. That would have caused a real row. Jamie tentatively stepped over Richard’s legs, half expecting Richard to raise his knee up and goose him. He probably would have if half the faculty wasn’t up on the stage in front of him and if Imee hadn’t hit him in the arm.
“You too, Rook.” I guess Richard hadn’t come up with anything worse than rookie for me—yet. I was the newest kid in school and a baseball player, so it made sense.
Richard pulled his legs back and smiled. I squeezed past Richard, then Imee. Jamie’d left a space between himself and Rhea, forcing me to sit next to her.
Rhea smiled at me as I attempted to slide past her. I glanced down at her, but tripped over one of her feet, falling toward her. I whirled my arms around, trying to regain my balance. I must have
looked like an idiot, as I heard a few chuckles. Rhea reached up and stabilized me, enabling me to grab the chair in front of her.
“Sorry.” My face flushed. I looked into Rhea’s ruby-red eyes. Little flecks of gold seemed to glitter in them.
Rhea smiled. “No problem. Is that what your windup looks like?”
I gave a half-hearted laugh and took the seat next to her. I glanced over at Jamie. He gave me a thumbs up as if I’d orchestrated the whole thing. I turned to say something to Rhea, but she’d leaned toward Imee and whispered something in her ear. Imee giggled and then leaned over and whispered into Richard’s ear. He glanced over at me and laughed. My face flushed.
Fortunately, Principal Blaubecker walked up to the podium. “Ladies and gentlemen . . .” He cleared his throat as if to signal that he didn’t really think we were ladies and gentlemen. “You will be divided up into three groups of nine students and one of ten.”
I swear he looked at me when he said that. There had been a perfect even number of thirty-six sophomores and juniors in the school until my arrival. I had thrown a monkey wrench in the entire buddy or, as my uncle would say—he’s British—bloody system. My uncle did point out to our pin-headed administrator, Dr. Valerie Jackson, that I increased the numbers in the two classes to a prime number, thirty-seven. Dr. Jackson didn’t find that at all amusing. Did I say that my uncle’s the math and science teacher at the high school and the college? In fact, he was sitting in one of the chairs behind Principal Blaubecker. I hoped he wasn’t going to lead my team. If he did,
he’d never let me out of his sight.
“I know all of you are looking forward to the trip outside Clarksville. It’s a rite of passage for all of our students here. After this, most of you will be certified to moonwalk on your own.”
I looked around. Kids were shifting in their seats. Principal Blaubecker’s “most of you” did not include me. This would be my first trip outside.
“Dr. Merl Ambrose will outline the science project for the trip and then read off the list of mentors and their teams. Doctor?”
My uncle slid his feet along, taking little pee pee steps as if he was worried that he’d float away if he walked normally. As he got up to the rostrum, I hunched down in my seat. He wore the typical jumpsuit that most residents of Clarksville wore, but, somehow, his always looked crumpled. He pushed his round, wire-rimmed spectacles up on his nose—and no, don’t ask me why he wears glasses this day and age or why he calls them spectacles—and cleared his throat.
“This year we have two science projects for each team. In addition to the traditional geological sampling for helium-3, we will be looking for magnetic anomalies. As usual, the team that comes up with the highest concentration of helium-3 will be exempt from my next test and will be allowed to spend the class period in the Gym Dome. In addition, I have arranged with Dr. Larsen that the team that maps out the most magnetic anomalies will be exempt from her next history test as well. Good luck!”
My uncle looked my way as I tried to shrink further down in my seat. One time he actually waved at me. I didn’t hear the end of that for weeks. Principal Blaubecker came to the rescue.
He edged up to my uncle and cleared his throat. “The list, Professor.” Startled, my uncle turned back to the podium. “Ah, yes, the teams.”
My uncle pulled a wrinkled list out of his wrinkled jumper and laid it out on the podium. He straightened his glasses again and squinted at the list.
“This year we will have four teams, three groups of nine and one of ten. With Dr. . . .”
I tuned my uncle out and started to think about the quest. My uncle had always been fascinated by the small magnetic anomalies that surrounded the city. He told me about them all the time. Every time someone discovered a new one, he couldn’t wait to get to the site. When the anomaly turned out to be ferrous rocks, he’d go into a funk. It was as if he expected to find the remains of some alien technology out there. There’d been some excitement, years ago, when I’d still lived in Seattle with my parents. They’d found a magnetic anomaly close to one of the old lunar bases buried a couple of feet underground. Turned out to be an old Russian lunar probe from the sixties that had never been documented. The Soviets had hidden the failure and it took some digging to track down the launch. After that, the talk shifted from aliens to uncovering the bodies of dead
cosmonauts on the Moon.
Jamie elbowed me and rolled his eyes. I mouthed, “Trolga?” He nodded. He keyed a message into his tablet. I opened mine and read: “Rhea’s in our group.”
“Richard too?” I glanced down the row. Richard’s glare answered the question.
I looked up at the podium. Fortunately, my uncle was engaged in conversation with one of the other teachers. The screen behind the stage indicated that Dr. Larsen’s group was to meet in ready room four. Trolga had already headed for the door.
“Move it, Charlie. I’d like to be the first team out.” Richard reached past Rhea and shoved me as I stood up. Due to the low gravity, I lost my balance again and stumbled into the aisle. Rhea glared
She looked down at me and smiled. “You ok?”
I couldn’t help but smile until I saw the look on Richard’s face. I nodded, grabbed Jamie’s hand and stood quickly, too quickly. I bumped into Imee, but Rhea grabbed me before I stumbled. She chuckled as my face reddened.
“Takes some getting used to. Took me six months.”
I’d been there almost four months.
Now Richard looked ready to yank my head off. I smiled meekly at Rhea. “Thanks. My uncle’s cat’s doing much better than me.” We funneled toward the ready room.
“He’s got a cat? You’ve got to be kidding. I didn’t know anyone had pets up here.” Imee looked back at us.
I nodded dumbly.
Rhea chimed in, “I used to have a cat before we moved up here.”
Jamie elbowed me.
“Why don’t you come by some time and see her. I’m sure she’d love the attention.” I smiled lamely.
Rhea smiled back. “Ok, it’s a date.”
Before I could react, Richard banged into my shoulder as he hustled past me.