July 27, 2016 by Lyn
This story begins the July before the first year of the Addergoole School, on July 20th, 1995.
The school was ready, the walls painted and paneled, the books on the shelves, the wards set, and in less than two months, the first students would step foot inside Regine’s project. The staff and faculty gathered to celebrate in Mo’s spacious living room where, for this one night, children were banned.
Ambrus had barely squeaked by; Luke had been of the opinion that “Fucktoys aren’t adults. This is supposed to be an adult party. Let him stay with the kids or something,” but Mike had his own new arm candy that he wanted to play with, so he’d leaned, and Luke, who seemed much more willing to forgive Ludmilla being a fucktoy than he was to tolerate Ambrus, had caved.
As the party went on, though, Ambrus had to admit – privately – that Luke had a point. Ludmilla and he had ended up relegated to an oversized armchair by the TV, out of the conversation and ignored by their owners – and, despite being hip-to-hip, trying to ignore each other as well. It was that or… well, nothing. Milla was touchy and insecure in the company of so many older Ellehemaei, and her mood was infectious, making Ambrus feel sullen and miserable, sent to the corner like a naughty child.
To distract himself from the girl pressed against him – to give Mike credit, his pets were always attractive; this one whiffed nice, too; she smelled expensive, clean, and very aware of her own body, a body Ambrus did not want to become too aware of, himself – to pull his attention away from her, he fished the TV remote off of the end table and began flipping channels. Unsurprisingly, Mo didn’t get more than a few channels, and there wasn’t much on. News. Click. Sitcoms. Click. More news. Click. Moon landing.
Moon landing? The grey surface of the moon, the grainy, shaky film, spooled out against Peter Jennings’ voice, explaining the events with a tone of almost-wistful remembrance, and Ambrus perked, sitting straighter in his chair. He’d been nine when man first walked on the moon; sitting in the living room with his father, watching Armstrong and Aldrin bounce across the dusty grey landscape, was one of his last warm memories of childhood. For a very brief period, he’d wanted to be an astronaut.
“What’s that you’re watching?” Reid Solomon, vodka seven in hand, had wandered up nearby; Ambrus jumped a little bit and cursed himself for not paying closer attention.
“Moon landing,” he answered laconically. He didn’t know the eagle-like, buttoned-up math teacher all that well, certainly not well enough to relax around him; beside him, Milla seemed to have the same feeling, curling herself into a more attractive position.
“Oh, really? Which one?” He leaned forward, clearly interested, and just as clearly not interested in Milla’s well-displayed scenery.
Fighting the urge to point sullenly at the TV, where “Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Moon Landing” was scrolling across the bottom of the screen, Ambrus answered,
“Eleven, hunh? Oh, man, that was fun! A nightmare to rig, of course, but not nearly as hard as thirteen!” He leaned further over the chair. “You see that? Doesn’t that look perfect?”
Ambrus twisted to stare at him, wondering if the feeling of shattering disappointment was his own or Ludmilla’s. Blame it on Milla, though he doubted she was even paying attention to the conversation. “You…” he sputtered, then swallowed, and collected himself. Adult. Calm, collected. Sound like Regine.
Yeah, right. But he could manage mature. “You’re saying the moon landing was really faked?” There had been more than one, hadn’t there? “All of them? They really were filmed on sound stages?”
“Sort of.” He grabbed a chair, pulled it around, took the remote from Ambrus, and muted the TV. “Mind if I join you?”
“Go ahead.” What else could he say? And, besides, Solomon was already sitting down.
“Thanks. So, yes. Sound stage. But don’t look at me like that, it’s not as bad as it sounds.” He lounged backwards in the seat, lacing his hands behind his head, getting comfortable. “It was a sound stage of sorts, yes, but it was on the moon. It took a lot of arranging.” He looked over his shoulder. “You remember, don’t you, Mo?” he called.
Mo ambled over, her dual fox tails moving over her skirt with a sensuousness Ambrus could only hope to achieve some day. “I confirm nothing. What am I remembering? Oh-” she caught sight of the television – “that.” Her smile grew lush and fond. “Yeah, I remember. Those were some fun times.”
Regine looked over. “You were in NASA, Maureen?” Ambrus cringed at the note of academic disdain in his mistress’ voice, but it didn’t seem to bother Mo in the least. She grinned insouciantly over her shoulder at the Director.
“There’s more than one way to Inspire Humanity, Regine,” she said playfully. “I played my part.”
Regine made a noise of comprehension and turned back to her other conversation, dismissing Mo and her inspirations. Ambrus resisted the urge to bounce up and down. Just tell the story, he thought impatiently.
Solomon smiled at him. “All right. We’ll get to the story.” Ambrus blushed hard, wishing someone had told him Solomon was a telepath, and settled into his best “listening” posture.
“When the Russians started going into space, it really put us in a hard place. Us, in this case, was a small council of Ellehemaei who watched over certain scientific advances – well, still do, but I’m no longer an active member.” He laughed shortly. “I had my time.
“But anyway, yes, it gave us some concern. We couldn’t actually let them wander around the moon, of course-”
“Of course?” Ambrus interrupted, surprised to find himself sounding indignant.
Solomon looked startled. “Of course.” He frowned deeply, and called, “Regine, you ought to let this boy get some education. You’re running a school now, aren’t you?”
Ambrus tried not to bristle. After all, his formal education hat stopped when he was thirteen, so it wasn’t as if Solomon was far off the mark.
The teacher turned back to him. “Don’t worry about it,” he said gently, “it’s not all that well known. Certainly nothing you’d have learned in public school.” He shook his head. “Not your fault.” Before Ambrus could ask what wasn’t his fault, Solomon continued. “The Lost Ones. There’s – there was – a slim chance they could be apocryphal, just a legend, a fable, but, then, after all, aren’t all of us mythological?” He smiled a lopsided little grin.
“Who are the Lost Ones?” Ambrus knew a cue when it was handed to him.
“Ah, yes.” Apparently, he played the role of student well; Solomon was pleased. “The legend had it that a very long time ago, back before the Split – call it about seventh century BC – some Ellehemaei found a way to walk between the worlds – oh, dear god, son, have you been taught nothing?” Of course he hadn’t; he assumed his ignorance went without saying. His only consolation, as he shook his head mutely, was that Ludmilla was as lost as he was.
“Well, never mind that for the moment, but you are going to study with Laurel and I and that’s all there is to it. You know about Elleheim, at least, right?”
He nodded; he’d heard the word, at least
“Right. So the boundaries between Elleheim and Earth were fluid, back in the day. And a group of Ellehemaei found a way to cross the border in such a way as to land on the moon.”
He gaped. “Just – just like that?”
“Just like that,” Solomon agreed with a smile. “Of course, that was back then, when such things could be done. And then the borders were sealed, and the Lunar Ellehemaei were stuck. No way to get home. No way for us to get there.
“There’s been some communication,” he continued, “but it’s been sporadic and spotty, just enough that we know they’re still there, that they’ve formed quite a little society up there.”
“Seriously?” Ludmilla blinked at Solomon. “You’re seriously telling us there are fae on the moon?”
“Ellehemaei,” he replied, a little prissily, “and yes. They have been there for over 2 millennia.” He wasn’t telling the whole story; Ambrus could sense the hedging at the edges of his words, but it wasn’t quite lying either. Like so much else in this place, his story was woven of half-truths.
He caught Ambrus’ eye and nodded, a bit of wry embarrassment floating off of him. “Yes.” He nodded, and then picked up the thread of his story as if he’d said nothing. “So you see, with the Lost Ones living on the far side of the moon, and ruins scattered across a quarter of its surface-” He really wanted to glaze over those ruins, and Ambrus was inclined to allow him to, but Milla was paying attention now, and she had a question,
“Wait, but didn’t they have telescopes by then? And what about now? How could the astronomers miss an entire city on the Moon?”
“How do they miss a man with horns and a tail walking in their midst?” he asked her gently, gesturing over at Mike VanderLinden, perhaps unfortunately, as Mike’s tail was, at that moment, sliding up Shira Pelletier’s dress. Milla stood abruptly and hurried over to Mike’s side, trying to unobtrusively become the center of attention.
Ambrus shook his head – she might smell expensive, but she was still an amateur – and turned back to Solomon, who continued his explanation as if Milla hadn’t just run off.
“And, after all, most of the civilization is on the far side of the Moon. Because of the way the moon rotates,” he clarified gently, “we always see one side of the Moon; most of the ruins, and most of the cities, are on the far side.” Ambrus nodded gently, not asking questions. Solomon nodded in response, and moved on.
“So we couldn’t just let the humans wander around aimlessly up there; we’ve been keeping the existence of the Ellehemaei secret for thousands of years for good reason, and fae living on the moon would pretty much blow that wide open. But Khrushchev was breathing down our throats and, really, we had a lot harder time controlling the Soviets than we did the Americans, back then; we couldn’t let him get there first. The U.S. had to get to the moon.”
“So you faked it?” he asked, still incredulous. The next thing he knew, this guy was going to tell him that the moon was made of green cheese.
“We faked it,” he agreed. “We handled the Russian unmanned landings easily enough. But once they started orbiting the moon, we started sending up an Ellehemaei with every mission. And, let me tell you, that took a hell of a lot of finessing.” He gestured over at Mo, who had been listening to the entire story with an eerie stillness. “The lovely Maureen is an expert at finessing.” She curtseyed suggestively, and Ambrus grinned at her. Forget astronauts; he wanted to be her when he grew up.
“So… mind games?” He knew all about mind games.
“Mind games. And we sent a message to the Lost Ones, warning them to tighten their Masks and the illusions around all the settlements and ruins. So all those first missions saw was what had been there before any civilization or development.
“But then it came time for humanity to actually walk on the Moon, and then we had to get really, really creative. We talked about just scrapping the mission, but the public morale really needed something positive, a clear win. And they needed heroes. Human heroes.
“That was the hardest part. It involved a great deal of gin, two shape-shifters, and judicious misuse of the quarantine.” He smirked softly. “It also involved a park area on the moon, and very careful filming. Very, very careful filming.” He smiled regretfully. “I’ve seen the memories. When we were done, Aldrin and Armstrong might as well have been on the moon, rather than in a very happy stupor in one of Maureen’s best rooms. And I do sorely regret that I could not be there. It must have been spectacular.”
He brought his focus back to Ambrus. “And that’s what we did. Man did walk on the Moon, but that ‘man’ was two halfbreed Ellehemaei shapeshifters playing several roles, and the Moon in question was a small park of undeveloped land that the Lost Ones allowed us.”
Ambrus gulped softly, still tasting disappointment. “And what about the rest? Apollo 13? Challenger?” He tried to not make it sound like an accusation. The Ellehemaei did not play by human rules.
“Aah, that’s a story for another day.” Solomon sounded somehow both sad and a little amused. “Come by my classroom, and I’ll tell it to you sometime.”
He nodded again, stifling the disappointed nine-year-old inside of him he’d thought long dead.
Solomon straightened, finished the last of his drink, and glanced at Ambrus over the lip of the drink. “You know,” he said thoughtfully, “dreams don’t really die. There’s still Mars.”