Apollo's Outcasts - By Allen Steele

On my sixteenth birthday, I went to the Moon.

"Jamey, wake up." My father's voice was soft and persistent in the darkness of my bedroom. His hand was on my shoulder, gently prodding me out of sleep. "C'mon, son...you need to get up."

"Huh? What?" It took a few seconds for me to realize I wasn't dreaming; he really was there, and he really did want me to get up. I pried open my eyes to see him sitting on the edge of my bed, silhouetted against a sliver of light seeping in through the half-open bedroom door. It wasn't morning yet; there was no reason for me to get up so early. "Lemme 'lone," I mumbled, rolling over. "Wanna sleep."

"I'm sorry, but you have to get up." Dad shook me again, and when I didn't budge he let out a sigh. "Lights on," he said.

My bedside reading lamp and the ceiling light came on at once. "What are you doing?" I groaned, wincing against the unwelcome glare. I pulled a pillow over my face. "It's too early..."

"I know it is, but you have to get out of bed." Dad took the pillow away from me. "And you need to hurry. I want you dressed and in your mobil in five minutes." His voice gained a no-nonsense edge as he stood up. "I mean it, Jamey. Up and at it...now."

He left the room before I could negotiate with him, or even ask why he was doing this. I gave myself a few seconds to rub the sand from my eyes and take a deep breath, then I told the bed to elevate to sitting position. My crutches were leaning against the wall where I always left them when I went to bed. Swinging my legs over the side, I took hold of the crutches and used them to help me stand up.

On the way to the bathroom, I noticed the calendar on my desk terminal: 12:07 AM AUG. 22 2097. What the...? I thought. It's midnight! Sure, it was my birthday, but there was no reason for him to wake me up this early.

Across the hall, I heard Melissa yell something nasty. At first I thought she was saying it to Dad, but then I heard Jan's voice and realized that Dad had given my oldest sister the task of waking up my next-oldest sister. Smart guy, my father. Melissa might be able to argue with him, but there was no way she could win a fight with Jan. But why did my sisters also have to get up, too?

Too tired to think, I put everything on automatic. A quick trip to the toilet, then I hobbled back into the bedroom and told the closet to give me something to wear. I realized that it must be unseasonably cool outside when it extended to me a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. Yesterday had been pretty hot, though, and I figured that I'd probably be switching to shorts and a T-shirt by lunch time. For now, though, I'd take the home comp's advice and dress warm. I continued to lean on my crutches until I shoved my feet into a pair of mocs, then made my way over to my mobil and carefully lowered myself into it.

The mobil woke up as soon as its padded seat registered my weight. "Good morning, Jamey," it said. "You're up early."

"Tell me 'bout it."

"I'm not sure what I can tell you. If you'd be a little more specific..."

"Never mind." I yawned and shook my head, and a sharp beep from the mobil's biosensors warned me that this small motion put a slight but noticeable strain on my upper spine. I ignored the warning as I folded my crutches and leaned over to lock them in place on the mobil's left side. "Living room," I said.

"Certainly." It started to roll forward on its two fat tires before it abruptly came to a halt. "I've just received instructions from your father. He's told me to tell you that you're to pack an overnight bag with a toilet kit and a change of clothes. And you're to hurry, too."

Okay, this was too much. "Dad!" I called out. "Why do you want me to pack a bag?"

No answer. From Melissa's room, I could hear her bickering with Jan; apparently she was even more cranky about all this than I was. I spotted my prong where I'd left it on my bedside table, and went manual to swing the mobil around so