Zero Hour

by Alexander Blade

Public Domain

Science Fiction Story: By accident Bobby discovered the rocket was about to be shot to the Moon. Naturally he wanted to go along. But could he smuggle himself aboard?

Tags: Science Fiction   Novel-Classic  

Dad had already gone when Bobby got up. This disappointed Bobby a little but then he remembered--this was the big day. Naturally Dad would get over to the project early. And at four o’clock-- Bobby shivered deliciously at the thought of it.

He ate his breakfast in silence with Mom across the table drinking a cup of coffee and looking at a fashion catalogue. He was glad she was occupied because he didn’t want to talk; not today he didn’t. Might spill something secret. Might even let out the big secret. That would be terrible.

Of course, all things were secret at Buffalo Flats. So secret top scientists like Dad didn’t even discuss them with wives like Mom. And wives like Mom never asked.

So it was really something to sit there eating breakfast knowing that, today, Dad was going to rocket to the Moon. And with Mom not even knowing the Lunar project was in the works, so naturally not dreaming that he was going with Dad! The thrill was overpowering.

Maybe they would have radio communication after they got there and he would call back and say, _Hello, Mom! Guess where I am? On the moon with Dad! And Mom would say, Why, Bobby! Scaring me to death like this! I was looking all over for you._ Sounding very angry but not being really angry after all. Because maybe Dad would cut in and say, _Yeah, he’s right here with me, dear. What do you think of this boy of ours?_

Bobby gulped the last of his cereal so he could go outside and wriggle for joy. As he got up from his chair, Mom said, “And what’s your plan for today, young man? Davy Crockett or Buck Rogers?”

[Illustration]

Bobby had a quick thought--a sudden temptation. Why not give Mom a hint? Why he could even tell her and she still wouldn’t know. Then later, after he was gone, she would remember back and say, _That boy! When he tells you something he really means it._

Bobby smiled and said, “I think I’ll go to the moon today.”

Mom smiled too and went back to her fashions. “Well, see to it your fuel mixture is correct.”

“I’ll check it. And Mom--I might not be home for lunch.”

“Where will you be?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Well, mind your manners and say thank you when you leave.”

Mrs. Kendall, still smiling, watched Bobby dash out into the yard. Living on a restricted government area had one compensation at least. You didn’t have to worry about your children. Four dozen families, all with offspring, trapped behind ten-foot patrolled fence. Here, nobody worried about their children. They came and went and at noon a mother fed whatever number happened to be in the house at the time. Mrs. Kendall usually drew six or seven. It would be a relief to dodge the chore for one Saturday...


Out in the backyard, Bobby fussed around his space rocket a little: tightening a screw here--hammering in a nail there. Just until he could slip away without Mom noticing his direction.

It wasn’t a bad rocket at that, he thought. Six feet long with two seats and a keen instrument panel. But kid stuff of course. After he found the way in through the sewer he hadn’t paid any more attention to his own ship.

He could see Mom through the window, back in her book, so he went casually out through the back gate and turned left, kicking at pebbles as he sauntered along and trying to look as though he had no place to go. Had to be careful. Didn’t want to bump into any of the other kids today, either.

The way in through the sewer was at a place behind Laboratory B. There was a kind of an alley there that nobody ever walked through and then this round lid you could lift up and look under. And a ladder you could climb down.

Bobby hadn’t dared go down at first. But, after thinking about it overnight, his curiosity won out and he went back and ducked down into the lower level. He called it a sewer because of sewers being underground, but this place was clean and had bunches of wires strung in every direction and faint little lights you could see by.

Bobby went further and further every trip he took, never telling anybody because you weren’t supposed to talk about things at Buffalo Flats--not even to the other kids.

Then he found the big drome where they were building the rocket. It was so sleek and beautiful and shiny that he just stared at it--up through the grating in the floor that was for air circulation or something.

He didn’t know it was the moon rocket at first. Not until he’d gone back several times to peek up at it and then one day two scientists came walking along right in front of his nose.

One of them was Dad.

Bobby almost called out but he caught himself and just listened to them talking. This was the first time his conscience bothered him about going underneath the drome. He thought about it a lot--whether it was the right thing to do. And while he was never able to still his conscience completely, he quieted down by saying he really wasn’t doing any harm because he’d never told anybody what he saw.

He learned the rocket was going to the moon by listening to Dad and the other scientists talk when they thought they were alone. And it was funny. Because even there, they spoke in low voices and didn’t give too much away.

He had known now for three days that at four o’clock the roof would open and the drome would be turned into a blast-pit and the rocket would shoot out through space to the moon.

That was all he did know for sure. None of the men had said who was going on the first trip to the moon. Nothing had been said on that subject at all, but Bobby knew Dad would go. He would have to. After all, Dad was the second biggest scientist at Buffalo Flats. Second only to Schleimmer himself and Professor Schleimmer was very old and certainly wouldn’t make the trip. That left Dad. Dad would just have to go in order to run the rocket. There probably wasn’t anybody else smart enough in the whole place.

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