THE LUNAR LANDER touches dust, and boots inside itch for ground, but protocols must be observed. This means the "Also Sprach Zarathustra" opening played by a band consisting of artificial life designed to closely resemble, for our benefit, beloved figures from 20th-century American culture. Naturally the lander's passengers cannot hear the reception committee performing on the surface of the moon just outside the window, but a recording played in the lander nearly in synchronization with the band provides an approximation in keeping with the moment, a moment which this reporter in her storied career never dreamed possible.
On the dark side of the moon, no light pollution dims the stars, a permanent night sky so prolifically abundant and pristine, the journey might well have been accomplished for this result alone, if the greatest star in the galaxy did not happen to reside in a mansion on the moon.
The guide that greets me at the disembarking station is a terrestrial hominid with green and purple skin from a distant planet with amazing stories of his own. When I ask him what it's like working for the King, he shows me a ring on his finger with the letters TCB.
"Taking Care of Business," I acknowledge.
My guide smiles, nods, and leads me into an immense auditorium entirely covered by a transparent dome revealing the star-thick sky. From a colorful array of artificial life I am reminded of the many faces of Elvis Presley. A Young Elvis android curls his lip and shakes his hips as he tells me of his early experiences, followed by a gold-suited version of himself a decade later with Android-Margaret dancing by his side. Lastly, Elvis ten years further advanced, bloated in a blue sequined cape. This one has nothing to say. He only points to the figure seated high on the throne in the center of the shadowy room.
Intergalactic General Elvis Aaron Presley, champion martial artist in three solar systems, descends in a glorious white jumpsuit sequined with otherworldly gems and asks if I'd like a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. He doesn't make the sandwich himself, I learn. That's done by the Marilyn Monrobot. But it tastes as close to the real thing back home as possible.
"Elvis Presley," I ask as we sit down, "is this really you?"
"I hope so. I think so. Yes, this is really me."
"But how? After all these years? The world thought you had died."
"Rock and roll can never die. Never forget that."
"But they held your funeral."
"They held a funeral."
"Why? Why the deception? And how is it that you don't seem to have aged a day, but in fact look younger than you did in 1977?"
"Hold on, hold on, hold on. Listen, the first thing you have to understand, I volunteered into the Space Program very soon after I hit it big."
"The Space Program?"
"At that time, the Army had access to certain non-terrestrial officers stationed in Germany at a top secret underground base. I was told one night that several of the non-terrestrial personnel had requested I entertain them with a private, first class performance."
"What happened that night?"
"I did the show."
"And I saw more than I wanted to know. Much more."
"What did you see?"
"I saw that we aren't alone. That there are other beings much older, much more advanced than our species."
"How did you react?"
"Honestly, it scared the heck out of me. I couldn't sleep at night, but I wasn't allowed to say why."
"Why is that?"
"Because I was under orders to not reveal what I had seen. I couldn't tell anyone. The pressure to stay silent was incredible."
"What did you do to cope?"
"I turned to pills."
"And they nearly killed you?"
"Yes. Fortunately for me I had friends in high places."
"Your non-terrestrial officer fans?"
"Yes. And others. They made all of this possible for me here."
"Is it true that you undergo advanced culture youth-promoting treatments?"
"Yes, ma'am, that is true."
When I ask Elvis if he can tell us anything about that, he responds in the negative as politely as possible and leads me on a tour of the sprawling estate.
Big sideburns, big collars, big cuffs, big sunglasses, big rings, big bell-bottoms and one very big estate with much of the lunar landscaping--and yes, including the gates--replicating Graceland. He's one hundred years old now, yet he looks and moves like he's thirty-five.
I notice Elvis calls all of his android impersonators "Jesse." That, we will all recall, was the name of his young twin brother, who died early.
'68 Comeback Special Elvis, clad head-to-toe in black leather, and Aloha From Hawaii Elvis, wearing a white cape and sporting layers of leis, provide security for the King. Who would win in a fight between the King versus both of his android bodyguards, remains uncertain. Incredibly enough, odds lean toward actual Elvis. He's that good.
"Obvious question, perhaps, but I have to ask: Why is it called Graysland?"
The King smiles. "You may have noticed a large population of what folks back home call little gray aliens."
Indeed, I had. When I inquire about these grays, the King shocks me with steely assurance that the grays help maintain what is actually a hollow base, formerly a stronghold and long-since an Area 51-like prison.
"The moon is an alien prison?"
"Sounds pretty out there, right? But the truth is, the only thing that quelled a massive prison uprising sometime back was my 'Jailhouse Rock' performance."
Here Presley pauses, surveying his gray, cratered terrain. The android contingent vigorously agrees with the King's view.
"Did you move into your amazing estate site-unseen?"
"No, ma'am. I was fortunate enough to visit the entire area in all directions some years earlier. 1972 I believe."
"What more can you tell us about these pre-existing structures on the moon?"
"I'm afraid nothing more at this time."
The King shifts our conversation back toward the deal he made. In the course of explaining that the famous photo of his handshake with Nixon in fact ensured that Elvis would stay silent on alien secrets in return for lunar asylum, emergency alarms suddenly blare. It is a sound which throws celebrity androids into instant action.
Himself in the lead of a mighty host, the King storms toward the boarding station where we left the lander and discovers a serious conflict between members of the lunar escort and certain boarding station personnel...