Satoru, 34, unmarried, (last name not given,) rubbed his eyes.
Two gates over, a boarding announcement sounded out. It was in the usual disembodied, wheedling, electronically-modulated voice which reminded him of a Christmas elf trapped inside a metal barrel, and also gave him the Pavlovian feeling of being a Christmas elf trapped inside a metal barrel.
He lowered his newspaper, and watched as a sharp-dressed set of epaulets and sleeve stripes chatted up the stewardess at the desk. The scrambled egg on the pilot’s cap reminded him of the breakfast he hadn’t had. He thought about a pink film he’d seen once, or maybe not only once, where the pilot had done it with the heroine while he was flying the plane. The actor who’d played the pilot had been an amateur aviator himself, apparently. Satoru only knew this because there was an article in the newspaper about how he’d flown a Cessna into a yakuza boss’ house in Tokyo yesterday.
He decided to put airplanes off his mind.
Ordinarily, this would be a tall order, given the setting—aluminum henhouses tend not to be known for the absence of aluminum hens. But Satoru, 34, unmarried, was not a complacent man, despite the impression that he gave off, which was that he worked a boxy beige device with a name like ‘CS-64RC Mathematronic’ for a living, which was true. But complacent—not so. He was a man of enterprise. When he had chosen his seat, on first arriving at the gate, he had not chosen it arbitrarily. There was a reason he had chosen this seat, which was second from the end and had no arm-rest and where the morning Sun jabbed at his eyes through the panoramic window glass which saved on electric lighting costs.
The reason was it was next to a cute girl. Obviously.
He had, by now, and with the help of the newspaper, surely established his dis-interest in her. This was a crucial step. Girls were contrary creatures that craved attention, but hated to actually receive it—this was the common wisdom among the commiserati which gathered at his bar of choice, the ‘Eight-Headed Snake’. He thought the name was cool, and it had never really occurred to him to question the dating advice of a cabal of drunks whose common, unifying trait was their lack of dates, which was why he was one of them.
Carefully, he slid his eyes over to the side.
The girl’s hands were bunched peaceably in her lap, and her shoulders rose and fell subtly, one beneath her blazer, and one beneath her blouse, where her blazer had slipped off of it. Her tie had been loosened, and a bit of her orderly lavender hair fell disorderly down one side of her face and tickled her exposed collarbone. Her eyes were closed, because she was asleep.
He had lost his chance. Indeed, Satoru, 34, and so on, was not the sort of boor who would wake up a sleeping girl just to chat her up. Not with anything more disruptive than three otherwise-than-subtle coughs, anyway, and she didn’t stir.
Swallowing his disappointment, he uncrossed his leg, folded up his newspaper, set it down strategically over his lap, strategically clasped his hands over it, and strategically accepted the cough sweet from the old lady across from him. One could hear the ‘clunk’ of switching modes in his boxy, beige, figurative CS-64RC Mathematronic.
Because, if the girl was asleep, then he could express all the interest he liked—visually speaking, of course. He cracked the cough sweet in half between his teeth, and got to work …
The girl had rabbit ears on her head.
Now, he’d seen no shortage of girls wearing rabbit-ear headbands before, because of course he had. But those were flimsy things made of snips and sticks of satin and plastic, and nobody made any pretenses about them. The ears he saw right now reminded him of Peachie, who lived next door with the neighbours and shed fur and snored for a living.
Peachie wasn’t representative of rabbits, of course. Satoru knew, from reading a remarkable story of tenacity and survival printed in an outdoors magazine, that rabbits in the wild kept so little fat on themselves, one could die of starvation from eating them. But, he considered, if that was the case, it stood to reason … that the shapely specimen, sitting beside him right now … was actually a total walrus, from the standpoint of a rabbit. An utter whale. The top percentile of rabbits, in terms of plushiness. The tuna’s belly of rabbits. Yes, he thought, she topped the charts. Especially in the thighs, which existed unsubtly beneath her sensible-times-five-sixteenths skirt and were flattened out just a little against the seat, pillowy and inviting.
The article had convinced him to balance his meals more properly, so he made a point of also staring down her shirt.
(The little detail where the rabbit ears hadn’t been there when he'd sat down was vanished to the aether.)
He studied her from toe to head, from her firm calves, to her soft thighs, to the sloping hips hidden but unhidden by the pleated skirt, to her immodest chest which was much the same way beneath her blouse. He studied her face, which was unblemished by lines and had unpainted lips, and a touch of foreign severity he couldn’t quite finger on any map of the Earth. The indistinguishing scent of hotel soaps was only augment to her mystique.
He swirled the image around in his head. Then, he imagined.
Satoru had a good imagination. It was not the 70 mm, Eastmancolor imagination of the film auteur, with carefully arranged scenes shot painstakingly and precisely. It was the U-matic, NTSC imagination of the common man, which played anything as long as it met the official quota of four nude or sex scenes per hour, and it served Satoru well. Right now it was playing a film which might have been titled, Sex Report From the Female Secret Agent: Last Night in Wonsan.
The scene opened in medias res, as was the convenience of imagination.
“Halt!” he barked, in harsh, guttural subtitles. “What do you think you’re doing out here?”
‘Out here’ was on a pier reaching out from the beach of the North Korean port city of Wonsan, amid the roar of midnight rain over the Sea of Japan. The girl stood facing the water, rabbit ears bent but otherwise unminding of the downpour, and of his presence. Her lavender hair was formed into a long, braided ponytail, which rested in front over one shoulder for no other reason than to expose the translucent clinging of her blouse to the gentle curve of her back, and which mysteriously appeared behind her instead when came the front cowboy shot, where she looked pensively downward and pushed up her chest with folded arms.
He stepped onto the pier, blocking off any means of escape. “Show me your papers,” he demanded, and immediately escalated to, “You’re under arrest. Come with me, and don’t try to resist.”
When she didn’t respond, he marched down to where she stood, officer’s boots clomping on the rain-darkened wood, and reached to take her by the arm.
She moved, with the incontestable speed of pure reflex. In an instant, she had his tie in her fist, and pushed the crown of a hard-chromed Tokarev beneath his jaw. He froze, hand hovering over the flap of his own holster, and growled, but dared nothing further.
Still saying nothing, the rabbit girl made full use of both sources of leverage, wedging his arm between her breasts as she reversed their positions on the narrow pier, and marched him backward to the edge.
He stared into her eyes.
He, Satoru, stared into her eyes.
The rabbit girl was awake. And not only was she awake: she did have a fist around his tie, and a pistol to his neck, built from a ramrod forefinger and a thumb, anyway.
She smirked, and thumbed the safety down, or perhaps the hammer back, making a soft click with her tongue.
Satoru, 34, unmarried, was no hard-nosed People’s Army, Reconnaissance Bureau man, with sanpaku eyes and a heart of Paektu snow. He did not have his initiation in the mists of Congo-Léopoldville, and never had he been blooded in the hinterlands of Kontum. He had not sniffed out and cornered the Lunar emissary at the port city of Wonsan, unrelenting in his duty though he had been returned to his home and native province.
But somehow, all the same, he felt the vertigo of the yawning Sea to his back, and the full metal certainty of the shot that was to come.
“Bang,” said the rabbit, and he remembered nothing further.
Reisen, who was not yet Udongein, debarked from the plane.
Satoru had not accompanied her.
It had been true that Satoru, 34, unmarried, was an unremarkable man, who, for a living, worked a boxy, beige device, with the actual and marginally less fantabulous name of ‘Sharp COMPET CS-10A’. It had also been true that Satoru, 34, unmarried, was blessed with little success in his endeavours toward female companionship, and it was true that this solitude by night had shaped Satoru, 34, unmarried, into somewhat less-than-a-gentleman behind his stolid, unmemorable visage. But this, too, was unremarkable, in the grand, or even medium, scheme of things.
And it had been true that Satoru, 34, unmarried, frequented the bar ‘Eight-Headed Snake’, which was really a clean-kept izakaya. Not only that, but it was one where the sins of its regular clientele extended at worst to delusions of expertise on such variegated topics as dating, or sports, or contract bridge, (but never politics,) fed by a romantic love of drink for drink’s own sake. And finally it had certainly been true that Satoru, 34, unmarried, kept his finances well in order, and never so much as left an open tab, living modestly by day so that he could live modestly large by night.
All this was to say, Satoru, 34, unmarried, last name not given, was an informant, and reported every other week to his handlers in the Public Security Investigation Agency of the Ministry of Justice of Japan.
She hadn’t killed him, because an informant was not a spy, with sanpaku eyes and a heart of Paektu snow. But he had been made to miss his flight.
It was not a mere professional nicety, however, which had stayed Reisen’s hand. The rabbit, too, was a spy no longer; an emissary no longer, in the heightened imperial register of the Lunar eminences; and if she had then-and-there flung a bullet through his pencil neck, she could have remained pristine of even the smallest gout of (stark, red, arterial) blowback. Such conventions held no sway over her now.
But there are certain laws of warfare, laws inherent to warfare, which are not decided by treaty, convention, or courtesy.
One of these laws is as such: that conflict breeds convergence. And those sunk deepest in a conflict, those who live by it and who are buried in it to the elbows, though they swear their oaths and form their lines, become most similar of all.
Reisen was stained past the elbows in a war which stretched back to the kuni-yuzuri, the ancient pacification of the primordial reed-plains by the heavenly kami of the Moon: a war which with the advent of recorded history had retreated to the quietly burning corners of the world, but which nevertheless had not once in ten thousand years seen armistice. And where the Moon was a landscape of the unsullied pure, the Earth was a landscape of the quick, the muddy, and the dead. Where the Watatsukis had taught her to pacify, the Earth had taught her to kill.
And she had killed.
One half of her, the half which still retained its Lunar sensibilities, was disgusted. And what was more, it was disgusted in true Lunar fashion: not by the necessary act, but by the distasteful vulgarity of it.
The other half had quietly gone about the hum-drum labour of becoming very, very good at it.
Satoru, then, 34, unmarried, accountant, and PSIA informant, had managed to hold on to his life. Not by mercy, and not by courtesy, but by sheer weight of an otherworldly disgust. And, if the Sharp COMPET CS-10A between his ears still functioned as it should, he would quit both his awful fucking jobs tomorrow, and move back to the fucking inaka to care for his nag of a fucking paternal grandmother.
In Dionysus ApolloSummerfield!02X6/ifNow2020/08/03 (Mon) 01:45No. 2270▼
The Capital of the Moon is a sight unlike any other in reality or in fantasy. How should one describe it?
It is grand; it is opulent; it is palatial—these words mean nothing, in fact they are less than nothing. To understand the architecture of the Capital, thou shalt first understand the species of its architect.
A Lunarian architect, as a rule, has the incredible attitude toward the Capital, with its impossible materials and sublime geometries, as being little more than a great mass of unworked rock, from which perfection could be carved, if only the opportunity could be granted them. (And, of course, the tools, and time, and labour, but on the Moon these are trivialities after all.) Monuments are raised; edifices built; inconvenient palaces are plucked up and moved; whole streets are widened or narrowed until they are just so. And, after they have worked their craft, everything will remain untouched, for ever and ever and never shall it alter, until the next architect makes their rounds, and wipes the slate clean once more with a summary sweep of the eye.
It is a city which spits down upon the parochial once-upon-a-timeness of Mount Hourai’s peak, or the Dragon King’s Palace beneath the sea. It is a city of the pure idea made real. It is a city of History, next to History, next to History, each era straining itself white amongst its fellows to grasp for itself the crowning prefix, ‘End Of’.
In short, it is a city fit for eternity.
And, by fall of night, when only rabbits are out, it becomes a silent one. It becomes a city where a rabbit can relax over her drink in a smoky barroom, among sickly green bottles, pearl-white napkins, and dim candlelight—while suffering no greater company than the Divine Seat of Takamimusubi across the street.
Reisen rubbed a finger around the moistened rim of her glass, which made a gentle hum.
Outside, through a window, began the mounting of the Guard. It was one of many, taking place simultaneously throughout the Capital. She watched, absently, as the incoming group of palatine sentries trooped up to the gate of the Divine Seat. They halted before it, and were cleansed with purified water and salt by the sentries being relieved. Not a sound was made, despite the military purpose in their movements.
She had seen it countless times before, of course, as had any who lived in the Capital proper. But, essentially, she had only seen it once.
The palatines’ precision was immaculate. If the ground they trod were ever to countenance the idea of erosion, one would see their steps wear out not channels but straight-walled imprints, as if left in wet concrete. The ceremony was a four-dimensional crystal: a pattern, repeated perfectly, both through space and through time.
It was beautiful, it was sublime, it was a farce.
Reisen had no better word for it. It fit like a starched, pressed collar around a goose’s neck. It was security theatre, a never-ending pantomime of guard-as-guards-might-guard, an ouroboric parade of sword and spear and shining aiguillette. The Lunar powers-that-are-and-will-be-forevermore contented themselves with the aesthetic of security, knowing anyway that the Front rested safely three hundred eighty thousand kilometres and a burn-for-landing away.
(The Lunar veil she’d stolen away was testimony to the fact. Requisitioning simple ammunition took longer, at postings where the rabbits knew what they were doing.)
Gemini and Voskhod had been ice-cubes in the champagne. But, like ice-cubes, they were mere dilution, quick to melt and remedied easily, with a wrinkling of divine nose and a swapping of crystal glasses when the kannushi came round with the timely offering of more fizzy, Eminence? … They failed to understand that the Front was here, already, and it was not atop a rocket.
It was here, in their midst. Here, in the heart of the Capital, where the eminences built their Seats, and the palatines made their rounds. Here, further out, on the shores of the seas which led to the unhidden side of the Moon, where the udonge trees drank deep of earthshine. It was all the way out at little pre-fab crater barracks like the one between Lansberg and Fra Mauro, where they weren’t even given proper Lunarian names and had to pilfer them from Earthling maps. It was everywhere, because it was everywhere a soldier was sent, and everywhere they went after that, and in everyone they spoke to and in everyone they spoke to.
(And a rabbit loves to chatter …)
In some circles, this was considered revolutionary talk. Reisen had to scoff at that. A rabbit is not a revolutionary. They haven’t the grandeur, or the delusion for it.
Where some others, however, made a second step too far, was to believe that a rabbit is not a soldier, either. They believed this on the basis, admittedly with some rightness, of the rabbit’s inborn state of childishness. But it had fallen to an Earthling to make the observation in their stead: that often within the true soldier is found the child, and almost always within the child—the soldier. And both soldier and child, and rabbit for that matter, share in the habit of listening, ears wide open for anyone who will speak.
One does well to mind what is said and what is shown, to the child armed with rifle.
The Watatsukis were, basically, aware of this. They treated their rabbits like the children that they were, and were beloved by them in return. They trained them up into true soldiers, who were fit, loyal, and ready to die like lions in exchange for a smile—in the kind of war the Earthlings had left behind a half a century prior, because in this regard, too, the Earth spun faster than the Moon.
Reisen sucked down the rest of her drink, dimly aware that the train of her thought had misplaced its manifest.
She waved, and the barroom kannushi, of Dionysus perhaps, swapped her glass for another.
She took the first sip, and then wet the rim again. This time, she played an ultrasonic melody, which only she could hear. Reisen had not the skill for improvisation; she lacked the spontaneity; but tonight, this was not an issue. Tonight, she sought no novelty. Only to remember, as much as she could, of the Moon and of her beloved Capital.
She would be leaving her soon.
She played an old song, one of the oldest songs she knew. It was in multiple voices, and she had only one glass, but this was not an issue for her either. Music flowed out from her fingers, slow and melismatic, filling her heart with a plaintive ache.
What was the Lunarian thinking—well, if he was thinking at all—when first he looked up at the Moon, so distant and bleak and desolate she was, and devised to settle there? To flee his own mortality for a barren pure land, and in the same breath forsake his very life? To hide himself away, whilst steadying himself with the muttered reassurance that he was but mastering the heavenly sphere?
What was he thinking, when first he saw the rabbits of the Moon? When he saw their simple life, a stressless life of peaches and shogi and tea, and, in superbiam elevatus, determined himself too grand, too august for even that? Or when he raised up his Capital, in which to lay sword and spear and silver in such towering hoard, in the very manner of those countless who lived and ruled and died on the Earth from which he fled? What, then, was his thought?
What was he thinking when, at the end of all this, he glanced down upon the war-drunk Earth, and saw suddenly the technology of which he was so proud being forged there in the flames? When he saw radio and rocketry in the hands of the impure masses, though it seemed never so long ago that he could condemn them to their meagre lifespans there, never knowing anything beyond rot and soil and watery abyss—and this without even the lift of divine finger? What was his mind, then?
And when he saw the humans’ flag planted on his Moon …
(She planted the wooden skewer upright in the Lunar sand …)
… anger and indignation enough to pale himself white, okay. But perhaps he should not have been so surprised.
Ringo flicked the would-be flagpole with a casual finger, and watched it fall tumbling over, in recreation of the footage she’d seen.
This, at least, she had to smile at. The humans could send three of their proudest specimens to the Moon atop a three-stage pillar of chemical flame, and they could even think to give their flag of conquest an extra bar along its top, to make it ‘fly’ victorious in the breathless unhidden side of the Moon, but it defeated them to imagine planting the bloody thing a few feet further out so that their engines wouldn’t blow it down as they left.
It was perfectly characteristic, she thought, of this most latter-day species of Earthling. They were the oddest people a rabbit could ever see, who came to the Moon inside a mechanical spider, and made their return home aboard a Hornet, and all of this under the name of Apollo: a god, of all things, of the Sun. They’d not even set for themselves a true destination in their haste, instead simply touching down wherever they felt the tranquil Sea beckoned sweetly enough to their foil-and-spindle craft, that she might not swallow their likewise fragile lives whole.
And, in so (not) doing, they had completely frustrated the best effort of the Earth Reconnaissance Unit to intercept their landing. It is, after all, impossible to plan against no plan at all.
(The intelligence officer of same Unit produced another skewer from her pack.)
It had fallen to a lone rabbit, whose name Ringo had never heard before, and from a unit whose name Ringo had certainly never heard before, to bear witness on their behalf. Someway or another, this rabbit had been the Moon’s singular and most precious set of eyes and ears on the dawn of the first Earthly invasion since the nightmare war of a thousand years past, and was accordingly the inquestionable source of the sole Lunar accounting of what really had transpired.
She was also, therefore, chief among the mounting list of reasons that Ringo could barely taste the dango which she was, at present, rapidly attriting.
There were two things which could be certain of this ‘Reisen’.
The first was that she was, from tip to root of her crinkly ears, a creature of the Capital. It was the first observation Ringo had made, when they had met for debriefing, and it had not been a difficult one to make. It is obvious on a rabbit, the way being a dog is obvious on a dog: one need not catalogue the wet nose or the wagging tail as evidence, for one to be sure of it.
The second was that she was young. Incredibly so—and it showed, paradoxically, in how aged she seemed to be.
This was no contradiction. The younger a rabbit is when she becomes an emissary, and Reisen was an emissary, the more heavily upon her do her experiences there weigh. It shows in the eyes: in the cast they take, which hardens like bullseye glass, and warps all that they take in forever after. Ringo could remember many, from the long cursus of her life: ones which teetered on the cliff’s edge of amentia upon their return from the maddening Earth, and ones which, deep inside, had never really returned at all. They had not the myriad timeless years that she could draw upon, to buoy her up out and away from the depths of one’s own mind.
But Reisen’s eyes, hard-cast though they were, showed in them no hint of madness. Much the opposite, in fact. They, as red as they might shine, when caught by just the right angle of light, could not but be described as deathly sane. The Lunarians who had the responsibility for her education had done a compleat job of it, in the classical sense of the word, and the rabbit had only been galvanised by her years at Earthly war.
It was why Ringo considered it such an irony that she was going to defect.
That, now, was no certainty, or not one about Reisen, at any rate. But it was a certainty, based on everything Ringo knew and suspected true, that someone was going to defect, either today or in the days to come, and Reisen was simply the most likely expectation. She fit just about none of the criteria of the hypothetical profile that Ringo had assembled, beyond the very first—‘having bunny ears on top of her head’; and yet she was entirely perfect for it. Questions of means and motivation aside, of any potential defector, it would take a rabbit like Reisen to understand the true consequences of such an act. And not only to understand them, but to intend them, consciously and fully.
Because, when it happened, it would confront the Lunar eminences with a truth, which they had till now been happy to ignore. This truth: that Earth and Moon were as much at war within a rabbit-emissary as via her, and that the rabbits of the Moon were as much a theatre of war as a means of it.
The chilling effect it would cause would be enough to freeze the Seas twice over. It would spell a withdrawal of the Moon into herself, in an isolation not seen since the Hourai treasons of millennia past.
Ringo set aside her binoculars and lay onto her back, gazing down between her feet at the rising crescent Earth.
Today was a good day for it, she thought. The first invasion had been a haphazard landing anywhere in the Mare Tranquillitatis, seemingly just to have done it once. But the humans were quick to learn, and the second invasion today was to have an actual target, planned (and duly intercepted) in advance—the salvage of their reconnaissance probe, Surveyor, on the shore of the implacid Oceanus. Its namesake storms would provide the necessary cover against signals intelligence from the Capital, and the probe itself would serve as a natural meeting-place.
When she raised her binoculars again, the humans’ newest spider had completed separation from its forward command post, and begun to bleed out from its orbit into final Lunar descent. The sight itself, however, stirred no anticipation in the intelligence officer’s breast: everything proceeded exactly according to schedule, and there was no question of what was to come next.
She wondered only what the Lunarian would say, were he here beside her now.
FINDING: An examination of operating practices showed the following examples of problem areas: • The number of the open items at the time of shipment of the Command Module 012 was not known. There were 113 significant Engineering Orders not accomplished at the time Command Module 012 was delivered to NASA; 623 Engineering Orders were released subsequent to delivery. Of these, 22 were recent releases which were not recorded in configuration records at the time of the accident. • Established requirements were not followed with regard to the pre-test constraint list. The list was not completed and signed by designated contractor and NASA personnel prior to the test, even though oral agreement to proceed was reached. • Formulation of and changes to pre-launch test requirements for the Apollo spacecraft program were unresponsive to changing conditions. • Non-certified equipment items were installed in the Command Module at time of test. • Discrepancies existed between NAA and NASA MSC specifications regarding inclusion and positioning of flammable materials. • The test specifications was released in August 1966 and was not updated to include accumulated changes from release date to date of the test.
DETERMINATION: Problems of program management and relationships between Centers and with the contractor have led in some cases to insufficient response to changing program requirements.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Every effort must be made to insure the maximum clarification and understanding of the responsibilities of all the organizations involved, the objective being a fully coordinated and efficient program.
Reisen had been, in truth, unable to directly infiltrate the Earthlings’ first landing site: their so-titled Tranquility Base. The account which she delivered of the two hours and almost-thirty-two minutes of the invasion had been wholly reconstructed, from long-range visual observation and intercepted radio communications.
It had not been for lack of trying, and neither had it been for any disparity in force. No—it could have been nothing so simple. The Earthlings had, if it could be believed, come to the Moon unarmed, recognising if nothing else the futility of direct combat against the overwhelming force of Lunarian arms.
Instead, they had brought with them a single artefact, which carried such intense defilement that it rendered approach an impossibility to any pure being of the Moon.
It took the form of a small, golden lapel pin, easily dwarfed by the palm of a hand, and its image was that of a shooting star. Three tails trailed behind it, as it passed through a halo, and a small diamond was set into the star’s middle.
The crew of the Eagle and Columbia were probably not even aware of its true power. To them, it was only a simple act of commemoration for those left behind, unable to share in their journey. But by the same token, it was a cenotaph: a memorial to the dead. And what was more, it was a memorial to three of their fellows, who had died in the most ignominious of circumstances besides. They, the crew of the posthumous Apollo 1, had died screaming, trapped inside a hyperoxygenated metal coffin and consumed by flames of Hell, their deaths the consequence of nothing more than an errant spark during a simple test of equipment—and the sheer negligence of those who had the responsibility for their lives.
Blood, and blood enough for crime—which, for the very first in history, could stain the blameless Moon itself as accomplice.
Photographs were taken, and the removal efforts resumed at approximately 5:30 GMT (12:30 a.m. EST) on January 28. Removal of the crew took approximately 90 minutes and was completed about seven and one-half hours after the accident.
Accident, said the report.
Reisen dismounted, shot apart the fuel line, and walked the last mile in silence, feeling the Lunar dirt nonetheless crumbling beneath her feet.
It is ever rare for a rabbit of the Moon to know true silence. Their kind have been linked by a psionic canopy since the cradle of their species, and indeed the former has an eminent claim toward being synonymous with the latter. It is as inherent to them as the faculty of language is to the Earthling, and shares similar pride of place, as a lens through which all the world is to be viewed, and made tractable.
But what is transmitted is not the formal language of Earthlings and Lunarians. It is something much closer to the soul of a rabbit than abstracted syntax. The wind carries for them instead the likes of sorrows; joys; hopes; fears; stresses; infatuations; rumours; accusations; whims; ironies; idle thoughts and drunken musings—as if all were gathered round the ancestral fire, the cold night banished for another liminal hour by the ritual dance of smoke and shadow and shimmering air.
There is not true silence for a rabbit, in other words, for the reason that there is not really such a thing as a rabbit in singular.
The Lunarians, and their spell of eternity upon the true Moon, had in all truth not changed things in this regard. Reisen, though she had the education of the Watatsukis and though her soul belonged to the Capital, bore just the same white-furred ears atop her head as any other of her kind, even if they were a little crinkly. And shared little of herself, it was true; but she remained no less sensitive to the moods of her fellow rabbits; and though she knew her lady Toyohime to have the uncaged heart of a saint, even Reisen, distant as she was, easily picked up on the buried undercurrents of discontent in the Lunar Defense Corps which escaped the ever-gentle Lunarian princess.
For Reisen then, who besides her crinkly ears possessed the honed senses of an emissary, and the power to perceive not only sounds but waves of any kind, silence was ever rarer to be found.
But the true silence was with her now, as she walked up the last mile to Surveyor Crater. Her steps traced a yawning arc along the strand of the Oceanus Procellarum, vast and desolate, where the air was still as eternal repose, and remained so for miles around till where the true storms began; but those were yet faraway. Neither did the Earthlings disturb the stillness: their invasion craft had drifted round to the far side of the Moon, where they were occluded by its physical mass, and could not exchange radio communications with the faraway Earth.
Reisen most of all was faraway. Far from all that she once knew—far from the Capital; far from the eminences; far from the palatines; far from bottles and white napkins; far from the Watatsukis; far from the gentle Princess Toyohime and the decorous Princess Yorihime; far from peaches and udonge trees and the penitent Mare Ingenii. Far from her comrades, whose voices had grown ever fainter as she went, till she ceased to hear them entire.
Not from distance. Not by dint of any distance. A rabbit can transmit her thoughts even from the infinitely low Earth, and still receive an honest reply or three.
Reisen had turned her back on them, and that was the bare truth of it.
And for what? …
… it was not the lack of an answer which made the question churn so restlessly within her. She had her answer, and she was firm in her convictions.
But whereof one cannot speak, one must therefore remain silent. And it is a maddening fact that one comes to question anything, when there is no one around to explain oneself to.
So her steps unravelled out, in the fraying solipsism of a silence triply felt.
… fear, once again, was to become her salvation.
It welled up within her, slowly, subtly; nevertheless it anchored her mind and senses back to the immediate.
She pressed a finger below the crown of her pistol, and checked for the glint of brass from within its chamber. Something was not right, here.
There was a Lunarian outpost building at Surveyor Crater, which overlooked the namesake Earthling probe. In truth its official designation was the more prosaic Barrack 170, and the barrack itself was a small pre-fab, thrown up hastily only two years prior, housing a bare minimum of rabbits to serve as a living picket line.
Reisen had prepared for this, however, and it was not the cause for concern.
Her eyes flashed crimson, as she reached out with her power.
Forward-line Lunarian military buildings are, by standard doctrine, universally equipped with a rudimentary form of optical camouflage, which renders them nearly-invisible from afar. Nearly, however, as a tell-tale distortion is produced, which becomes more intense as an observer draws closer, until the effect collapses entirely.
(Reisen, by contrast, could make herself truly invisible—up until the press of trigger, and the boundless relief of bullet snicking through pons.)
She had to be close, by now; and yet … this, now, was the cause for concern. That, as far as she could detect, there were no distortions, there was no camouflage—and there was no building.
The reason became clear when she crested the crater wall. The prefabricated barracks building had been energetically de-fabricated, and lay in an imploded ruin, the result of what had been a series of bomb blasts at key structural locations.
But the rabbits who were to have been posted there were nowhere to be found, in body nor in thought, and neither was there any trace of impurity to indicate injury or death. The precision of the charges, too, was exacting, and as Reisen reconstructed the waves of the blast and subsequent collapse in her mind, she found that the placement was only possible to one with inside knowledge of the designing principles of Lunarian military structures.
She was aware of only one unit with such extensive skill in demolitions. It was none that she could name from the Watatsukis’ Defense Corps, of which she was a nominal element. Rather, it was the separate Earth Reconnaissance Unit—newly titled ‘Eagle Ravi’, in recognition of their valiant attempt to intercept the landing of the namesake Eagle four months prior. She could hardly believe them saboteurs, however, given the tone of her meeting with their intelligence staff then, or not active ones, anyway. Sabotage through failure or inaction, perhaps, but that was really true of more rabbits than not.
In any case it was unusual, that a reconnaissance unit should be so versed in the employ of something as unsubtle as explosives …
… their patron, she reminded herself, was the enigmatic Lady Sagume.
Her Eminence had been present for the debriefing, and personally, which was doubly unusual. The white-winged sage was an esoteric figure, even among Lunar sages, and seemed above all else to disdain the spoken word as a means of communication. She preferred instead to convey intent through action, which was something that left her, charitably speaking, extremely unpopular amongst her deific peers. Lady Yorihime, in particular, had been very vocal in her distaste of the half-winged heron, when Reisen mentioned her name afterwards.
Lady Sagume had remained for the entirety of the meeting that day, and not spoken. Yet Reisen made the realisation now, and belatedly, that something had been exchanged between them nevertheless. That their having met at all had, in itself, a meaning; a message.
She surveyed the wreckage again, and this time found minute flecks of ceramic scattered throughout: the broken remnants of bomb casings. They revealed themselves alternately in white and black, black and white, white and black, subtly patterned—not as stark-lined right and wrong, but motley, like the magpie’s wings.
Another meaning; another message.
Was this, then, the hidden blessing of a goddess? One who saw as Reisen saw, and believed as Reisen believed?
She could have laughed. Just the idea of it might have pulled her back from the precipice where she stood, and bade her stay, here, on the Moon, with the hope for the future that might be kindled—if it did not instead push her ever firmer forward. All the more reason to act, she resolved, if such a thing could be true.
… Reisen considered, briefly, to send a whispered prayer, in post-factum gratitude.
She decided against it in the end. Perhaps she would do so later, after she made good her escape. She would need every blessing she could get, once she was truly vogelfrei.
The soundless moratorium would reign, till the Yankee Clipper reappeared from up the eastern horizon. It would then re-establish radio communications with its controllers in Houston, receive the necessary confirmations, and finally the invasion proper would commence.
But, until it did, both rabbit and goddess would wait, and mind the silence none.
The only photographs taken by astronauts on the Lunar surface each capture, at most, a single astronaut at a time. The other might occasionally make his presence known as a looming shadow, or, at best, a reflection in the gilded sun visor of the subject; but, being of necessity the one taking the picture, he is never in frame himself.
However, there lies on the surface of the Moon, among a carefully catalogued list of sundry other Earthly artefacts, a commercial screw-in self-timer for a Hasselblad 500 EL data camera. The timer was not originally part of the official equipment manifest, and in fact had been smuggled aboard, by the enterprising crew of the second Apollo mission to land men on the Moon. With its help, they might have produced the only photograph ever taken of two astronauts on the Lunar surface together in a single shot—standing proudly side by side in front of the derelict Surveyor 3, on the shore of the great basaltic Ocean of Storms.
The timer was misplaced inside a sample bag, and was never used.
This has been Now (Not) Boarding. I hope you've enjoyed this flight of fancy even just a little bit as much as I have.
Timeline: 1963-1967 >P. S. I Am (events described) 1967, January 27 >We Came In Peace, For All Mankind (events described) 1968 In Dionysus Apollo 1969, July 20 >We Came In Peace, For All Mankind (events described) 1969, November 19-20 We Came In Peace, For All Mankind; Untitled Heron Short; Earthrise; The Intrepid Has Landed 1976, March 24 P. S. I Am
Recommended reading order: P. S. I Am In Dionysus Apollo Earthrise We Came In Peace, For All Mankind Untitled Heron Short The Intrepid Has Landed i.e., in order of posting.
>>2289 There's not much context. The first short actually came about totally by coincidence. I saw the image first and wrote the thing for fun, and everything else came because of that. Reisen is a mysterious bunny.
In centuries past, when Lunar emissaries descended to the Earth, they would bring with them always a cutting from an udonge tree, in order that they should remember their true home on the eternal Moon.
This tree, the udonge, is not a beautiful one, however, which inspires of painture and poetry. It is a cursed tree, with the worthless, ashen soul of a vampire: one which never grows, and never bears fruit, living only to live, and to spite the very passage of time.
But in the presence of impurity, the udonge transforms. Filled with life, true, Earthly life, the kind of life which may only be lived at the cost of another, it blossoms with scintillating jewels, which shine in all the seven colours of sin. And in the presence of the most impure, it blossoms its most brilliantly: all the better to entrap these most unrepentant of hearts. Its shining crystal branches have been the downfall of untold many, sown by the emissaries of the Moon as seeds of discord among the nations of the Earth.
Today, these branches are little more than quaint curiosities to the people of the Moon, and objects of myth and legend to those below. They were either way primitive, unsubtle means for a primitive, unsubtle age, long since obsoleted by the forged banknote, the secret telegram, and the well-timed bullet. But the lies which they embodied live on, sweet, cloying, in the hearts and designs of Earthlings yet, and the work of the emissaries has never truly ceased …
Seiran tossed another dart at the portrait on the corkboard, and swore when it only clipped him by the crest of an ear. Had it been a bullet from a rifle, it would have cracked his teeth, but the blue-haired rabbit had never the same skill at darts.
(She was also dead plastered on scalding Lunar shochu.)
The smiling Earthling in the portrait was, himself, no stranger to marksmanship. It ran in his very blood: his father, Ali Sulayman al-Assad, the one who had first won for himself the surname of Lion, would pin a cigarette paper to a mulberry tree, and pierce it with a pistol from a hundred paces out, and this at the venerable old Earthling age of seventy. His forefather in turn, Sulayman al-Wahhish, could drive a sacking needle into the same tree from the same distance, with only an unrifled Ottoman miquelet. And while Hafez al-Assad was not the wild mountain-man his grandfather had been, he had inherited the same steady eyes, and his father’s prodigious memory besides.
When Seiran had fired the provocateur’s shot into the riotous crowd at Hama, then, Hafez had seen her, and he had remembered her.
Seiran remembered him in turn. She had failed to kill him then, and failed twice more after that: the first time at his private home in sunny Damascus; the second time in foggy London where he had fled, in the wake of the second coup d’état in only three years’ time.
The shot, and the bloody quelling of the riot which followed, had created a rift between the National Command and the Military Committee of the Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. With the second coup, the rift had grown into a full splintering down the middle of the Ba’ath movement entire, one half falling to Damascus, the other to Baghdad, and their enmity would grow so bitter that Ba’athist Syria would sooner support the Islamic Republic of Iran than hated Ba’athist Iraq, in the withering trench war to come a decade hence.
But that decade was yet to come, and right now, Seiran knew only that she had failed. And not only failed: she had been recalled back to the Moon on unprecedentedly short notice, and had no opportunity now to erase her mistake. Then, layering insult upon insult, within a year of her withdrawal, said mistake had seized power in the third coup of this current decade, and enthroned himself President, and dictator, of the whole Syrian Arab Republic.
This, from the defection of one shit-eating bunny to the fucking Yankee Doodle Dandies.
Seiran hefted another weighted dart in her hand, and focused on a spot between the Earthling’s dark, beady eyes.
“Puppy-loves like that’ll have the years catchin’ up to you,” someone said, from behind her.
(The dart landed in the wall.)
“Bloody manyook d’you think you are,” muttered Seiran, only barely turning around.
“I’m tellin’ you that for free,” said the rabbit in the newsboy cap, smiling guilelessly through a mouthful of what, to Seiran’s nose, had to have been mitarashi dango. “I don’t usually do that, hey?”
“Buy you one,” the annoying rabbit counter-offered.
Seiran closed her eyes, and ran her tongue behind her teeth—but ultimately waved her other hand, in raising no objection. Her mood tonight was, if nothing else, unabashedly mercenary, and the other rabbit played straight into it, to her only half chagrin.
“Kome or mugi?” the rabbit asked, and exchanged a briefest nod with the bartender.
“Mitarashi,” said Seiran, leaning back and glancing sidelong at the skewer in the rabbit’s hand. When the rabbit blinked in surprise, Seiran closed one shining red eye, and added: “And Copernican kokuto.”
(A rich, golden shochu, meticulously brewed from malted rice, blackest cane sugar, and the mineral waters of the Mare Insularum—aged, like all Lunar spirits worth drinking, in casks of unbloomed udonge wood.)
“Don’t much hold back, do you?” said the rabbit, grimacing.
Seiran shrugged. “Offer’s an offer.”
“Ah-hah,” said the rabbit, indecipherably. Still, she conveyed the order faithfully, and doubled it for good measure, finding in that, at least, the means to grin good-naturedly once more. She hopped up onto the stool beside Seiran, hoisting up one pale leg over the other.
“And did you want something else?” asked Seiran curtly.
“Only curious,” came the retort—“about the kind of bunny who goes drinking alone, because she couldn’t catch herself a bloody lion.”
Seiran jerked her head sharply round at that, teeth ground tight and face flushing hot with provocation, a curse perched on her tongue. But … if the annoying rabbit’s words had been meant as a taunt, the smile on her lips was unfittingly subdued, and seemed only to tell of a genuine interest underlying them.
“Bastard,” said Seiran anyway, but the vehemence was gone from it.
The rabbit received no offense, only flicking her eyes momentarily downward. Seiran followed them—to the honeyed dango and golden kokuto, which had appeared silently in their midst. Without bothering to ask, the other rabbit helped herself to a skewer, and neatly finished off the one already in her hand, in one fluid motion of exchange.
“I’m payin’,” she said, “sho you go ahead an’ talk.” She paused a moment to chew—almost purring, sotto voce, as if tasting the sweet–savoury confection for the very first time—and her cheeks bulged out ridiculously. “Mmh. About the clever lion of Damashcush.”
Slowly, and Seiran, blue-haired rabbit and Lunar emissary, felt herself quirking a smile back, infected despite everything else by her fellow emissary’s flagrant, carefree display.
(And Ringo was, of course, a fellow emissary. No other rabbit could have known, or dared approach her the entire night.)
She took up the glass of liquid gold and held it to her lip, glorying in its aroma. Then she set it down, and picked the last dart up from the counter, letting it hang loosely by its fins between just middle and fourth fingers. Sparing barely half a second’s glance over her shoulder, she flung it backhand at the corkboard, where it punched into the middle of the Earthling’s face: right in the bridge of his narrow nose, that he might not taste even a whiff of the beautiful Lunar kokuto.
“He’s no lion,” Seiran replied finally.
And was returned, at last, to the pure, bright Moon.