Master of the Sky

July 24, 1969.

TAPE 70/24 Page 377


monitor, but we can make out a fair amount of detail.

[04:13:22:28] LMP: Okay. Will you verify the position - the opening I ought to have on the camera?

[04:13:22:34] CCM: Stand by.

[04:13:22:42] CAM: [CDR moves down the lander's ladder, descending toward the lunar surface.]

[04:13:22:48] CCM: Okay. Neil, we can see you coming down the ladder now.

[04:13:22:52] CAM: [CDR pauses, then climbs back up to the ladder's first rung.]

[04:13:22:59] CDR: Okay. I just checked getting back up to that first step, Buzz. It's — not even collapsed too far, but it's adequate to get back up.

[04:13:23:10] CCM: Roger. We copy.

[04:13:23:11] CDR: It takes a pretty good little jump.

[04:13:23:25] CCM: Buzz, this is Houston. F two — one one-sixtieth second for shadow photography on the sequence camera.

[04:13:23:35] LMP: Okay.

[04:13:23:36] CAM: [CDR once again descends the lunar lander's ladder, arriving at the final rung.]

[04:13:23:38] CDR: I'm at the foot of the ladder. The LM footpads are only depressed in the surface about one or two inches, although the surface appears to be very, very fine grained, as you get close to it. It's almost like a powder. Down there, it's very fine.

[04:13:23:40] CAM: [CDR pushes back from the lander's ladder, easing down toward the lunar surface.]

[04:13:23:43] CDR: I'm going to step off the LM now.

[04:13:23:45] CAM: [CDR makes contact with the lunar surface.]

[04:13:24:48] CDR: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

[04:13:24:56] LMP: Wait. What?

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[04:13:25:05] CAM: [CDR commences to slowly walk along the lunar surface.]

[04:13:25:12] CDR: And the — the surface is fine and powdery. I can — I can pick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere in fine layers like powdered charcoal to the sole and sides of my boots. I only go in a small fraction of an inch, maybe an eighth of an inch, but I can see the footprints of my boots and —

[04:13:25:21] CAM: [LMP emerges from the lander module and descends toward the lunar surface.]

[04:13:25:23] LMP: Neil, can you repeat your previous transmission to me?

[04:13:25:28] CDR: — and the treads in the fine, sandy particles. There seems to be no difficulty in moving around as we suspected. It's — sorry, Buzz, come back?

[04:13:25:32] CAM: [LMP makes contact with the lunar surface.]

[04:13:25:38] LMP: Repeat your previous transmission to me.

[04:13:25:43] CDR: About the surface texture? I said —

[04:13:25:49] LMP: Negative. Repeat what you said when you touched down on the surface of the moon.

[04:13:25:53] CAM: [CDR stops moving along the lunar surface, and turns to face LMP.]

[04:13:25:55] CDR: I said, 'One small step for a man, one —'

[04:13:25:58] CAM: [LMP approaches CDR.]

[04:13:26:02] LMP: No, you didn't. You said, 'One small step for man'. You left out the 'A'.

[04:13:26:08] CDR: Buzz, we just landed on the moon. I don't think it matters whether I — and no, for your information, I — I did not leave out the 'A'.

[04:13:26:15] CAM: [A large figure can be seen approaching from the horizon, approx. fifteen meters from CDR's position.]

[04:13:26:17] LMP: Yes, you did. I heard you. You left out the 'A'.

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[04:13:26:22] CDR: I did not leave out the —

[04:13:26:28] CCM: Neil, this is Houston. We didn't hear an 'A' down here.

[04:13:26:33] CDR: Houston, stay out of this.

[04:13:26:34] CAM: [The figure is now approx. ten meters away. It appears humanoid.]

[04:13:26:37] LMP: Look, we'll just do it over.

[04:13:26:40] CCM: Guys, this is Houston —

[04:13:26:42] CDR: Do it — are you — we can't do it over. It's done. We landed. My footprint is already there.

[04:13:26:46] CAM: [The figure is now five meters away. It can be identified as a bronze full-body deep-sea diving suit. Its design is notably bulky and antiquated.]

[04:13:26:48] CCM: This is Houston, come back, there's, uh, some sort of —

[04:13:26:54] LMP: We'll dust it out.

[04:13:27:01] CDR: What — no. No. For Christ's sake, no. This is history in the making. We have accomplished what no other human being has ever done — we have set foot on the lunar surface. We are not doing this over. There are no do-overs on the moon.

[04:13:27:17] CAM: [The figure is now directly behind CDR and LMP. It proceeds to forcibly shove both astronauts aside, and climbs up the lander's ladder.]

[04:13:27:20] LMP: What the —

[04:13:27:25] CCM: This is Houston, come back, Neil, come back. Are you alright? Come back.

[04:13:27:30] CAM: [The lander door closes. As LMP and CDR recover, the lander initiates its lunar lift-off sequence.]

[04:13:27:32] CCM: What the fuck just happened?


KRANZ: Hello? Hello?
█████████████ ██████ ███ █████
KRANZ: We have an emergency. Two of our —
█████████████ ██ ███ █████ ██ ███ ███████ ███████████ ██ ███ ██ ███ ███████ ██ ████████████ █ ████ ██ ███████
KRANZ: Fine. I don't care about your 'plan of action', though. What matters right now is that we've got two of our boys on the surface of the moon — and some goddamn lunatic just hijacked their ride.
█████████████ ███ ██ ████ ████ ████ ████ ██ ███████
KRANZ: I… what? Did he — no, he didn't look like — why would you ask if he looked like a — are you saying ███████ are real? And there's — there's one on the fucking moon?
█████████████ ████
KRANZ: And you didn't think that was something you should have briefed us on before we went there?
█████████████ ███
KRANZ: Fine. Whatever. I don't care. How do we get our boys —
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KRANZ: Okay. Good. Okay. Thank you. Thank you.
█████████████ ███ ███ ██████ █████ ███ ██████ ██ ████ ██ ██ ██████
KRANZ: Yeah, we can — but, we won't be able to recover it. And I don't think there's enough fuel left to — the orbit will eventually decay. I think — uh, one sec. Let me check.
█████████████ ██████ █████ ██ ███ ██████████ █████ ███████ █████ ████ █████ █████ ██████ █ ████ █████ ████████ █████ ███ █████ ███ ██ ████ ███
KRANZ: Jesus Christ. Okay. Okay, fine. I don't know how you're going to, uh — but — I guess that's above my pay-grade. And, yeah, I just checked my notes. We can do it, but the orbit won't be —
█████████████ ████ ████ ████ ████ ███ ███ ███████ ████ ███ █████ ██████
KRANZ: Yeah. I'll brief them personally once you've brought them back. And the orbit won't be stable. Whatever that thing is, it won't stay up there forever.
█████████████ ███████████████ ██ █████ ███ █████ ████ ██ ████ ██ ███ █████
KRANZ: You got about… fifty or sixty years before it drops. And when it drops? It's gonna drop hard.

Fifty or sixty years later.

"You our new merlin?"

The speaker resembles a plump silver-bearded viking dressed in military fatigues. He stands at the top of the four-prop sea-plane's stairway, grinning down at Yara Toma.

She gives him a guarded smile. Yara is comparitively tiny — a petite brown woman with a head shaved as smooth as glass and a face full of iron piercings. She draws her thick coat close to ward off the brisk morning chill, then leaves the tarmac and cautiously ascends the steps. The man looks like a hugger.

"Sargeant Matthieu LaPierre, I presume? Yes, I'm your new esoteric specialist — Yara Toma." Please don't be a hugger, please don't be a

ngh. Yep. Definitely a hugger.

"Just call me Yorkie." He has a particular scent. Inexpensive cologne, with just a lingering trace of his last meal. Ramen. She can smell the cheap seasoning packet. Yara steps back as he releases her.

"Thank you, sargeant." Her nerve endings throb from the unwanted contact. She tightens her grip on her coat and disguises the pain as a shiver, then darts under one of his enormous arms to enter the cramped cargo bay of the Shin Meiwa US-1A.

Two more people sit along the farthest wall. One is a young man with russet skin and dense, tightly curled charcoal hair. He's dressed in civvies, like Yara; a black leather coat with a satchel tossed over his shoulder. Something about him reminds her of an over-excited puppy.

The other is a large woman in a dark sleeveless top. She's not quite as big as Yorkie, but she comes close — and it's all muscle. Her exposed biceps are thick and scarred, with red lines that branch out from her shoulders and wrap down the length of her arms. They resemble jagged, fractalized bolts of electricity. Her head is shaved down to a mocha peach-fuzz. She looks Asian, though Yara can't identify what ethnicity.

It's only then that she realizes she's been staring. Yara blushes, then quickly makes her way to sit somewhere where she can see everyone's face.

"Chilly as a frost giant's nuts out there," Yorkie tells her. "Sorry this was such short notice." He turns to close the door. "Our previous merlin…"

Yara can't see his mouth; his words trail off to nothing. She waits for him to turn around, then lifts her fingers to catch his attention.

"Sorry. I can't understand what you're saying unless I'm — " Yara gestures to her mouth. "I have to read your lips."

Yorkie locks the door and faces her. His pale features crinkle with confusion — before popping back into a cheerful grin: "You're deaf?"

She nods.

Yorkie leaves to tell the pilots they're ready to go. When he returns, he sits across from Yara. He takes care to keep his mouth in her range of vision.

"Again, sorry for this being such short notice. Our previous specialist left pretty suddenly. We were in the process of finding a new one when this whole situation dropped into our laps, and — " The plane's engines start up with a low, keening rumble. "…well, that's why you're here now. So, anyway — "

"Who'd you piss off?" The big woman in the back is speaking. Her question prompts Yorkie's face to scrunch up.

"That's Xiaoshan," Yorkie tells her. "AKA, 'Crunch'. And this fine gentleman over here is — "

"Rasheed," the young man chirps, fidgeting. "Or, uh, Clark-Bar. Just Clark is fine, though."

Yara puzzles over both Crunch's question and the code-names. "Candy-bars?"

Yorkie grins. "Yeah. Like in that movie, Hudson Hawk. Y'know?"

Yara opens her mouth to tell him that she doesn't watch many movies, but Crunch cuts her off:

"You had to piss somebody off," she insists. "So, who was it?"

Yara shrugs out of her coat and settles back into her seat, buckling herself in. "'Pissed off'?"

"Nobody gets assigned to Dämmerung unless somebody's pissed at them."

Yorkie laughs. Yara can't hear it, but by the way his chest and mouth move, she can tell it's a sound full of weight and mirth. "Don't let her get to you. Crunch is good people. She's just a little prickly — like a hedge-hog. You know who we are, though, right? You read up on us?"

The rumble of the propellers intensifies. Yara feels a tingle in the pit of her gut as the plane lifts; it reminds her of passing through a Way. "I read the file. A joint operation between the Foundation, Global Occult Coalition, Unusual Incidents Unit, and Serpent's Hand. An attempt to cooperate and establish a safer, more unified response against parathreats."

Crunch rolls her eyes. Clark smiles. Yorkie grins.

"Yeah," he says. "At least, that's what it is on paper. In practice, uh…" He glances back at Crunch and Clark, then faces Yara. "Well, in practice, it ends up being a bureaucratic clusterfuck. Nobody agrees on anything. We're over-glorified consultants, basically. About the only thing we ever get authorized to handle directly is old OBSKURA junk. Busted Nazi para-tech that never really worked right in the first place."

"So, is that what this is about?" Yara taps her lip-ring against her front teeth. "I was told this had to do with