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´╗┐Title: My Lady Selene
Author: Ludens, Magnus
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Lady Selene" ***

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                            My Lady Selene

                           By MAGNUS LUDENS

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                      Galaxy Magazine April 1963.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



                   Everyone knows the Moon is dead.
                    Everyone is quite correct--now!


On impact he'd had time to see Hatter's head jerk loose from the
carefully weakened strap. As Hatter slumped unconscious he touched the
hidden switch.

A shock, then darkness.

What first came to him out of the humming blackout mist was his own
name: Marcusson. Al Marcusson, just turned sixteen that Saturday in
June, that green-leafed day his father had called him out to the back
yard. They had sat on discount-house furniture under the heavy maple,
Al who wore jeans and sneakers and a resigned expression, his father
who wore glasses, a sport shirt, slacks, eyelet shoes and a curious
reckless smile, a smile that didn't belong in the picture.

"Now you're sixteen, Al, there's something I have to tell you," his
father had begun. "My father told me when I turned sixteen, and his
father told him. First, the name of our family isn't Marcusson. It's
Marcopoulos. Your name's Alexander Marcopoulos."

"What? Dad, you must be kidding! Look, all the records...."

"The records don't go back far enough. Our name was changed four
generations back, but the legal records disappeared in the usual
convenient courthouse fire. As far as anyone knows, our family's name's
always been Marcusson. My grandfather went to Minnesota and settled
among the Swedes there. Unlike most foreigners he'd taken pains to
learn good English beforehand. And Swedish. He was good at languages."
For a moment the out-of-place smile came back. "All our family is.
Languages, math, getting along with people, seldom getting lost or
confused. You better pay attention, Al. This is the only time I'm going
to speak of our family, like my father. We never bothered much, by the
way, about how our name was written. You can believe me or think I sat
in the sun too long, but I'll tell you how our most famous relatives
spelled it: Marco Polo."

"Oh, now...."

"Never mind what you think now. Besides, I won't answer any questions,
anyway. My father didn't and he was right. I found out some things by
myself later; you'll probably find out more. For example, the best job
for us is still exploring. That's why I became an oil geologist, and it
paid off. Another thing: learning the legends of the place you're in,
if you take up exploring, can mean the difference between success and a
broken neck. That's all, boy. Guess I'll get your mother some peonies
for the supper table."

Al Marcusson had gone up quietly to his room. Later, his special gift
for languages and math got him through college and engineering school;
his sense of direction and lack of inner-ear trouble helped to get him
chosen for Astronaut training while he was in the Air Force.

While in training at the Cape he had met and married a luscious
brunette librarian in one of the sponge-fishing towns, a brunette with
a rather complicated last name that became forgotten as she turned
into Mrs. Marcusson, and unbeatable recipes for the most bewitching
cocktails since Circe held the shaker for Ulysses.

Marcusson's hobbies included scuba diving, electronic tinkering and
reading. His psychiatrists noted a tendency to reserve, even secrecy,
which was not entirely bad in a man who worked with classified material
and had to face long periods of time alone. Besides, his ability to get
along with people largely compensated.

       *       *       *       *       *

With slowly returning consciousness the last months of training swam
in Al Marcusson's mind. The orbital flight--the only part of it he'd
really enjoyed was the quarter-hour alone with SARAH, the electronic
beacon, cut off from Control and even from the rescue team just over
the horizon, alone with the music of wind and sea.

For the moon shot he'd been responsible for communications, recording
and sensing systems inside the capsule, as Hatter had for the
life-support systems and their two back-up men for propulsion and
ground systems coordination respectively. He relived the maddening,
risky business of the master switch to be secretly connected with the
capsule's several brains and camouflaged. The strap to be weakened.
Then the blind terror of launch when his pulse had topped 120; blurred
vision, clenched teeth, the suit digging into him, the brief relief of
weightlessness erased by the cramped, terrifying ride filled with new
sensations and endless petty tasks. The camera eye pitilessly trained
on his helmet. The way things had of staying there when you'd put them
away. On Earth--already it was "On Earth," as if Earth was a port he'd
sailed from--you put things out of your mind, but here they bobbed
before you still, like the good luck charm in its little leather bag,
for instance, the charm his wife had tied to one of his fastener tabs
and that kept dancing in the air like a puppet, jerking every time he
breathed.

Every time he breathed in the familiar sweat-plastic-chemicals smell,
familiar because he'd been smelling it in training, in the transfer
truck, in the capsule mock-up for months. All that should be new and
adventurous had become stale and automatic through relentless training.
His eyes rested on the color-coded meters and switches that were
associated with nausea in the centrifuge tumbler-trainer. The couch
made him think of long hours in the chlorinated pool--he always used to
come out with his stomach rumbling and wrinkled white fingers, despite
the tablets and the silicone creams. His skin itched beneath the
adhesive pads that held the prying electrodes to his body, itched like
the salt and sand itch he felt after swimming between training bouts.
It was still Florida air he breathed, but filters had taken out its
oil-fouled hot smell, its whiffs of canteen cooking, fish, seaweed and
raw concrete in the sun. Hatter's and his own sing-song bit talk, so
deliciously new to television audiences, rang trite in his own ears: a
makeshift vocabulary, primer sentences chosen for maximum transmission
efficiency to Control.

The Control center he remembered from having watched orbital flights
himself. Machines that patiently followed pulse rate, breathing,
temperature. Squiggly lines, awkward computer handwriting, screens
where dots jumped, screens that showed instrument panels, screens
where his own helmet showed, and inside it the squirming blob that was
his own face, rendered as a kind of rubberized black-and-white tragic
mask. He felt the metal ears turning, questing for signals, the little
black boxes, miniaturized colossi tracking, listening, spewing tape. On
the capsule itself--all folded in like Japanese water flowers--sensors,
cameras, listeners, analyzers should have burgeoned on impact, shot up,
reached out, grasped, retracted, analyzed, counted, transmitted.

But he'd cut the switch.

       *       *       *       *       *

Al Marcusson blinked awake.

He set about freeing himself, a task comparable to getting a butterfly
alive out of a spider web. Every creak of his suit and of the moulded
couch sounded loud and flat in the newly silent capsule. His breathing
soughed about him. But no signal went out from the electrodes taped to
his chest to say that his heart beat had again topped a hundred, that
he sweated, that his stomach contracted--even though he was under no
gravity strain, the emergency cooling worked, and his latest no-crumbs,
low-residue meal had been welcomed by the same stomach an hour earlier.

He sat up. The port gave off a pale creamy glow. He leaned forward and
could see nothing except for a cream- or eggshell-colored mist, even
and opaque.

He undid his glove-rings and took off his gloves. By the gleam of his
wrist-light he checked whether Hatter was breathing correctly from his
suit, visor down, and not the capsule's air, then put his gloves on
again and bled the air slowly out. They were not supposed to leave the
capsule, of course. Still the possibility of having to check or repair
something had had to be considered and it was theoretically possible.
He began the nerve-rasping egress procedure, through the narrow
igloo-lock that seemed to extend painful claws and knobs to catch at
every loop and fold of his suit. At last he gave a frantic wiggle and
rolled free.

Because of the dead switch, turning antennae circled in vain, pens
stopped reeling out ink, screens stayed blank. The men in the control
room activated emergency signals but got no triggered responses.
Meanwhile, television reporters sent frantic requests for background
material fillers, their "and now back to's" falling thick and fast.

Al Marcusson bounced on a kind of lumpy featherbed two or three times
before coming to rest in the same eggshell soup. Dust. Moon dust that
had no particular reason for dropping back now cocooned the ship. He
stood up with great care and staggered straight out, putting his feet
down slowly to minimize dust puffs. The mist thinned and he rubbed the
gloves against his visor and goggled.

Cliffs, craters, spines, crests and jags stood there as in the
photographs except for a curious staginess he realized came from the
harsh footlights effect of the twilight zone they'd landed in and from
the shorter horizon with its backdrop of old black velvet dusty with
stars. But the colors!

Ruby cliffs, surfaces meteor-pitted in places to a rosy bloom, rose to
pinnacles of dull jade that fell again in raw emerald slopes; saffron
splashes of small craters punctuated the violet sponge of scattered
lava, topaz stalagmites reared against sapphire crests, amethyst spines
pierced agate ridges ... and on every ledge, in every hollow, pale
moondust lay like a blessing.

When you were a kid, did you ever wake up at night in a Pullman berth
and hear the snoring and looked at the moonwashed countryside knowing
you only were awake and hugging the knowledge to yourself? Did you ever
set off alone at dawn to fish or hunt and watch the slow awakening of
trees? Did you ever climb the wall into an abandoned estate and explore
the park and suddenly come upon a statue half-hidden in honeysuckle, a
statue with a secret smile?

Al Marcusson sat by himself on the twilight zone of the Moon and
watched the sun shining through cloudy glass arches and throwing on
moondust the same colored shadows that it throws through the great
stained-glass windows on the flagstones of Chartres cathedral. He
looked up at Earth, now in "New Earth" position, a majestic ring of
blue fire flushed with violet, red and gold at the crescent where
clouds flashed white iridescence. He jerked free the little bag that
held his good luck charm and waited.

They came.

       *       *       *       *       *

He could see them silhouetted against Earth, the long undulating V
of them. Now he could discern their wings beating in the vacuum that
couldn't support them and heard the wild lonely honking through the
vacuum that couldn't transmit sound. White wings surged steadily
nearer. Soon there was a tempest of white, a tempest that stirred no
dust, and the swans settled about him.

Al Marcusson stood up.

"My Lady Selene," he began, speaking carefully although he knew that
the sound could not be heard outside his helmet. "My Lady Luna, my Lady
of the Swans, I greet you. I know of you through legends: I know you
are Aphrodite the Swan-Rider, goddess of love that drives to suicide.
I know you are the White Goddess, the Three-Women-in-One, who changes
your slaves into swans. I know of your twin daughters, Helen the fair,
bane of Troy, and dark Clytemnestra, Mycenae's destroyer. I know of
your flight as the Wyrd of death who took great Beowulf of the Geats,
of your quests as Diana of the cruel moonlit hunts; I remember your
swan-wings shadowing the hosts of Prince Igor on the steppes, I have
seen the rings of your sacred Hansa swans decorating the moon-shaped
steps of temples in Ceylon, your flights of swans and geese on painted
tombs beyond the Nile. The witches of my own Thessaly called upon you
to work their spells. On the feast of Beltane, on the first of May,
with hawthorn branches blooming white as your swans, the Celts did you
honor. The folk on the Rhine brought you figurines of white clay and
long remembered your wild Walpurgisnacht. But as other beliefs drove
out the old, you went from the minds of men to those of children.
Only in Andersen's tales do you still change your slaves into swans,
only children understand the spells held in the foolish rhymes of
Mother Goose. Children know of the lady who flies on goose's back, her
cape dark behind her, and each generation in turn still listens to
your spells, my Lady of the Swans. And sometimes poets, and sometimes
hunters, and sometimes lovers look up at the moon and are afraid and
acknowledge your power."

Al Marcusson stopped. The birds ringed him in. He held up his good luck
charm, a small, carved rock-crystal swan, such as are found in the very
ancient tombs of the bronze-age sea kings of the Aegean.

"My Lady Selene," he cried, "I bring an offering! I came alone, before
the others, to tell you the new beliefs now come to your dwelling. I
came to warn you, my Lady of the Swans, to beg you not to be wrathful
against us, unwilling intruders, to ask you to take up your dwelling in
another place, but not to deprive us of poetry, of witching spells and
dreams, and all that the Moon has meant to us." He threw the crystal
swan before him.

The plumes about him foamed and a snowy form emerged, a moonstone with
black opal eyes who smiled and began to sing. Marcusson's knees gave
and his eyes closed. Then she spread great swan wings and soared,
circling far lest her shadow fall on the crumpled spacesuited figure.
She rose. And her swans--her thousand myriad swans--rose after her out
of cracks, caves and craters, from beneath overhangs, from ledges,
hollows and rock-falls, their plumes at first stained with the colors
of the stone. They winged away, V after sinuous V, across Earth and
into space. When the last swan had left the Moon became just another
piece of colored rock.

       *       *       *       *       *

Al Marcusson opened his eyes and made his way dully back into the
dust cloud now shot with flashes of red-orange as Earth's laser beams
searched for the capsule's nerve centers. He bumped against a strut and
forced his way in.

A hum filled the capsule. Ungainly jointed limbs, paddles, calyxes,
sprouted from its outside walls. On Earth pens jiggled, tapes were
punched, rows of figures in five columns appeared on blank pages,
pulses jumped and two groggy, worn-out faces appeared on the control
room screens. Hatter's eyes flickered over the boards and he opened his
mouth. Some time later his disembodied voice came out of the monitor,
reading dials, reporting on systems. Then the screens showed Al
Marcusson's eyes opening in turn. Control could see him leaning forward
towards the port, his face drawn in haggard lines and shadows, then
letting his head fall back. "Hey," he said, "didn't Doc tell you guys
dust gives me hay fever?"

On Earth the men about the screens slapped each other's backs and
grinned and wiped their eyes. Good old bellyaching Marcusson! Good old
Al! The Moon was just another piece of rock, after all.

But a star went nova in Cygnus, and lovers wished on it that night.





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