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"I blame this entirely on that technician, Ross Chaney." Tony Verdeschi said as he folded
blue jacketed arms in front of his chest and leaned back against a tiled wall in Moonbase
Alpha's spacious recreation area. "He put a camera in Maya's hands five months ago and I
haven't had a decent moment alone with her since." The Security Chief exaggerated, but not
much.

An area had been cleared for Maya and her model, Julian White. He was a Canadian body
builder-type who, in Verdeschi's opinion, smiled too widely and flexed too often. He was a fair
skinned dietitian, in charge of Alpha's physical fitness program. Verdeschi wished he was a
security guard.

Alan Carter, lifting a small recyclable cup and its contents to his parted lips, listened and
chuckled. Like Tony, he watched the attractive red-haired Psychon position the camera on its
tripod and snap a few pictures of her subject. She was far enough away from them not to hear
Verdeschi's complaining.

"Think of it this way, mate: She could have a worse hobby." The Australian pilot offered. Then,
to himself he muttered, "At least she's never attempted to make beer." He lowered the offending
brew, placing the cup on a table out of sight.

"That's good!" Maya called over to Julian, miming her brawny, naked from the waist up,
subject to stretch and hold his position once more. The young woman swiveled on her booted
heels and looked over to Verdeschi. "Tony, could you modify that light?" She pointed behind him
at an adjustable arm and smiled sweetly, "I need a high hot beam right on his brow." she
instructed with a wink and turned again to the camera.

Defeated, Verdeschi nodded and did as he was asked. How could he refuse her when she looked
at him like that? "It's not really the hobby that bothers me," he insisted in a put off
whisper, "or even the photographic topic," Tony struggled a moment with the lamp until Maya
gave him a firm thumbs up signal, "It's her enthusiasm!"

Amused, Carter shook his head back and forth. These two were impossible ... and perfect for
each other.

************

She didn't want to show him anger or impatience. He never reacted well to hostility and it
was important he see her side of the situation. Already, his composure seemed strained and too
many people were relying on her. She not only had to persuade the Commander but also gain his
support. "John, you're acting as if the whole idea is preposterous and it's not. Really. Many
of us truly think it's time."

They were in his quarters, the Commander settled back on his oatmeal colored sofa, as she
paced in front of him.

Helena gently wrung her hands as she presented the proposal to him."It's been three and a
half years since Breakaway and Alpha is stable, John. Or - at least - as stable as she's ever
going to be ... and more than one written inquiry has been deposited on my desk of late."
Helena used her gentle, reasonable voice to a great advantage. "Many Alphans have paired up.
You've officiated at more than three weddings in the past couple months and - well - none of us
are getting any younger." Helena faltered a moment, her expression faintly alarmed. "You know
what I mean." She looked again at him as he sat, staring blankly ahead, taking in all she said.

They had this discussion three times before, the last about a month ago, and Koenig always
felt a little ill when Helena brought up the subject: Children on Alpha.

He wasn't adverse to babies. He liked them. Or, at least, other people's. Koenig wasn't much
for the thought of kids of his own. He didn't have the patience or pressing need to carry on
his genetic line. Simply put, he wasn't cut out for fatherhood. Helena said she understood and
accepted it as a part of their on going relationship. Yet, sometimes he wondered. But now, with
regards to allowing other births on Alpha, John didn't want to be responsible for disaster.
Matters could get out of hand.

Helena knew he was thinking about Jackie Crawford. Only a few weeks after the ordeal with
Jarak, the baby died a quiet crib death. Morale plummeted on Alpha and Cynthia Crawford,
inconsolable, eventually took her own life. It was horrible and Helena knew the incident had an
impact on John, whether he was willing to admit it or not. Herself too. She'd been so proud.
The birth of Jackie, in spite of some unforeseeable circumstances, had been a shred of normalcy
in an all too abnormal way of living. In the end, it was up to her to explain it to everyone.
She found a small defect in the baby during an autopsy. The child would have eventually died
-- no matter where he was born.

Sighing, Koenig stood. "Okay, Helena. Make a thorough report, showing the advantages and
disadvantages, and a system you think might work for us ... and I'll give it some serious
thought."

Helena smiled triumphantly and clapped her hands together as he came toward her. "You won't
be sorry, John."

"I'm not promising anything, Doctor." Koenig hastily reminded, "But if you and others are
sincerely interested in the introduction of little ones, how can I ...?"

"Thank you, John!" Helena slipped her arms around him and hugged the Commander. Their lips
met in a sweet, gentle kiss.

They were showing a complete lack of professionalism, Koenig thought as he held her in his
arms, but at the moment he didn't care.

"Commander!" Sandra Benes, appearing unsettled, was on his quarters compost screen, "There
is a strange object, possibly a spacecraft, racing towards the moon. We are expecting impact
in three minutes!"

"Go to Yellow Alert!"

**********

The crashed occurred just as John and Helena entered Command Center. The small saucer style
spaceship skidded across the moon's surface and impacted on the side of a large crater.
Thankfully, the collision happened a good distance away from the moonbase.

"Sensors report one life form," Maya called from her station.

"Alive but wounded." Helena confirmed, looking over at the Commander from her console.

To Security Chief Verdeschi, Koenig asked: "Is there a danger?"

"Depends on the radiation leakage."

"None." Maya reported, after pressing buttons and making a few lightening fast calculations
in her head. "Nothing I can read."

"My medical scan doesn't look good, John." Helena persisted, "If we don't get the pilot to
Medical Center soon, he'll die."

Koenig hesitated. This conflict wasn't new. The safety of Alpha was all important but he
couldn't just leave a living being to die, even if they didn't know its intentions. "All
right." Decision made, John punched a button on his console, "Alan, prepare a rescue Eagle. Use
anti contamination screens. Security and Dr. Nunez will be joining you in fifteen minutes with
a medic unit."

"What about the ship, John?" Carter asked.

"Tow it to the pad but be careful." Abruptly cutting the transmission Koenig glanced at
Helena, "Prepare Medical Center and suit up. I don't want anything left to chance." As she
nodded and left, John turned his attention to Verdeschi, "Same with you, Tony. I don't want
anyone who doesn't absolutely have to be there near the areas we take the alien through."

"Gotcha, John." Verdeschi exited at a run.

Maya looked over at her Commander, "You're being very cautious." she said.

"We can't afford not to be."

***********

Under Tony Verdeschi's instruction, Dr. Nunez medical team loaded the small unconscious
alien onto a wheeled stretcher and transported him from his beaten craft to an Eagle.

The alien was thin, with a rather bulbous head and an oddly featureless face. Raul
vigilantly examined what he determined was a young male. In Earth terms he might have been
considered around thirteen years of age. He reported his findings to Dr. Russell.

She suited up and waited for her colleague near the door which connected Alpha to his travel
tube. With her was Nurse Paula and an orderly.

Koenig also over-heard as he watched the procedure from Command Center's big screen. He
found himself amazed but not at Raul's description of their visitor. The prospect of an
untested alien youth visiting the moonbase concerned some but, strangely, also delighted a few
Alphans as well.

Helena said their people were anxious and ready for children. Despite the circumstances, it
seemed she was right.

***********


Dr. Russell and her staff were sealed with in a room completely surrounded by a clear, germ
free plastic partition. Koenig, Maya, and a partially suited Verdeschi were watching from
outside of this structure as Helena and her people worked on the alien.

"This isn't good at all." Helena murmured, looking up at a lighted X ray as she attempted to
clean the purple fluid oozing from a gaping wound in the child's abdomen. "Suction." she called
to Paula.

Glancing at Dr. Nunez but addressing all who watched, she said: "Since he is so completely
different from
anything we've ever seen and I can't tell the difference
between his heart and liver - or whether this race of
beings even *has* a heart or liver. We can do one of two
things: An exploratory and hope he doesn't die on the table or we can sew him and hope for the
best. What worries me about the latter is I could quite easily put him in more danger than he
is now.

Koenig, Tony and Maya looked at one another but said nothing. They couldn't help in this
instance. The doctors were on their own.

"Dr. Russell!" Ben Vincent, who had been watching the alien's monitor exclaimed: "Something
strange is happening!"

Indeed, each of the patient's levels - as shown on the screen - were growing more erratic.
Not flattening, as if they might be losing him or even strengthening, to show progress. The
lines were bouncing on and off the screen wildly.

"He's in distress!" Raul offered, grasping at an explanation.

It was almost as if an electric surge had over-taken their equipment.

"Helena!" Koenig shouted, pressing against the clear wall.

The alien's arms had unexpectedly lifted and before any of the medical staff were aware of
what was happening, his hands roughly gripped Dr. Russell's gloved wrists. His eyes opened wide
and the fear inside of them was indisputable. He sat up and spoke urgently to Helena, "Matita
ka!" the boy cried, shaking. He didn't relinquish his grip on her, however. "Matita ka!" The
small mouth painfully formed words which made no sense to their human ears. He persisted,
"Matitca ... Koo." Then, realizing he was getting no where and in agony, the alien youth lifted
Helena's wrists and pressed even harder.

She cried out once then Doctor Russell, overcome, crumpled to the floor, unconscious.

A great shriek came from the alien's lips, causing the medics to jump backward, then he too
collapsed, on the bed.

"No, Commander!" Dr. Nunez shouted, observing Koenig's attempt to get into the room. Raul
kneeled on the floor, examining Helena as Vincent and the nurses tended to their original
patient. "She's alive." he said, relief in the doctor's voice.

Defeated, Dr. Vincent stepped back from the alien, as did the nurses. "He's not." The
medical personnel - as well as all on the outside - looked over at the monitor and saw flat
lines as they appeared on the screen.

*********

Much happened with in the next hour.

The alien, declared dead and free of contaminants, was slipped cautiously into a body-bag
and placed in the morgue. Bob Mathias, a medical doctor turned psychologist, promised all
concerned that Doctor Vincent and Doctor Nunez would perform an autopsy soon but, at the
moment, their top concern was Helena Russell.

The woman remained unconscious and they, all in Medical Center, were at a loss. No one could
figure out what the alien had done to her, although Doctor Ed Spencer did make an observation
that had gone previously unseen by others. Two small pin point-like incisions were spotted on
Helena's wrist, where their patient had gripped her. If the alien child, which the Alphans had
labeled Koo (since that was his last word before he died), hadn't bruised her, the tiny
scratches might have gone completely unnoticed. Doctor Nunez told Koenig he examined Koo's
hands and, indeed, there were small projectiles, no bigger than a bee's stinger, in each palm.
Thin and practically transparent they were, however, strong enough to penetrate Helena's rubber
gloves and dig into her skin.

"Perhaps," Doctor Spencer suggested, "As with an insect, Helena has been stung and is having
an allergic reaction."

It was a fair theory but tests Vincent ran on Helena proved inconclusive. There were no
toxins. She was healthy but unconscious.

Then, as Mathias spoke with Koenig at the foot of her bed, the woman's eyes flickered opened
and, groggy, she called: "What happened?"

Greatly relieved, Koenig stepped to Helena's bedside and took one of her hands in his. "We
were hoping you could tell us."

"Perhaps overwork." She murmured, looking at him in an odd manner. "Or ..." Confused, Helena
pulled her hand out of his, uncomfortable with his touch. " ...radiation sickness."

A little hurt by her rejection Koenig said, "No Helena, there was no radiation." He eyed
her, disturbed.

She was dazed but sure of herself, "Of course there was. I don't care what Commissioner
Simmonds or Commander Gorski say. I know those astronauts died from radiation. It's just the
*type* of radiation that has me baffled." Her eyes were closing, "My reports ..." The voice
faded off and Helena immediately fell, again, back into a deep sleep.

Mathias and Koenig could only look at one another.

***********

"Amnesia." Maya stated. She, Tony, Alan Carter and the Commander were gathered together in
Bob's office. It was explained that the psychologist wanted to speak to all of them before
anyone else because they were, he decided, Helena's closest friends. "Then, there was an
undetectable toxin ... and it made Helena lose her memory?" The last part of Maya's conclusion
was a question.

Doctor Mathias slowly shook his head back and forth, "No, this is the strange part." Bob
placed fingers on his chin in a thoughtful manner. "There is nothing there. It's as if whatever
the alien did to Helena, while in the operating theater, made a direct connection to her brain.
Do you recall Koo's monitor? It acted up as if there was a tremendous electrical surge of some
kind."

"He did that to Helena?" Tony asked, a bit shocked.

Bob nodded, "I think so, wiping out part of her memory in the process. The interesting part
is she has all of her memory from Earth to Alpha. But it stops just short of Breakaway. In
Helena's mind she is still awaiting the new Commander. She wants to tell him her opinion
regarding the deaths of Nordstrom and the other astronauts."

"I can't believe it." Carter exclaimed, "You mean, everything in between has been completely
erased?"

"No ... I wouldn't say that." The doctor looked for the right words, "Blocked. Helena still
has memory. If you're looking for an analogy ...It's as if a portion of a document has been
input into a computer then deleted. It's there and in perfect order but the computer operator
needs the key to open the file up, thus restoring the document. In theory, the document is
still there but hidden way, and someday it will surface again."

"How long will that take?" John Koenig, who had been standing quietly to the rear of the
room, spoke for the first time.

Mathias shrugged, "As long as it takes. She could snap out of it today or tomorrow. Maybe
next week or next month."

"Or never." Koenig added.

"That's a possibility we can't ignore either, Commander."

The group paused, upset and silently looking for answers.

"But having said all of this, I need to tell you something more ..." Bob stood, appearing
uncomfortable and hesitant. He paced behind his desk, "I took a liberty which I now regret. I
suppose it had to be done but if I'd known she was going to react ..." He looked over at the
group, "I told Helena about Breakaway when she woke up an hour ago. I thought it might be good
to get it out of the way early. It would give her something to focus on."

"How did she take it?" Alan asked, allowing a pressure-laugh, picturing himself under the
same circumstances.

"Not well. She believed me because she knows me. But I must admit to you, I was nervous for
awhile. As I explained it to her she ... I don't know how to really describe it. Helena nearly
slipped away. I was afraid she was going into shock. It was so unlike her and if it happens
again we may not get her back."

"Well then --" Maya's face registered fearful concern, "--how can we help her? Can we tell
Helena nothing of the past?"

Bob's eyes caught Koenig's for a moment. He would have to talk with him privately about this
situation. "Let's just say we need to take it slowly. Be a friend to her but don't introduce
anything outrageous. I've given her a general run down of her life on Alpha and the people
she's become friends with ..." Again, he glanced at Koenig, " ... but there are certain things
Helena is going to have to learn on her own. Tell her stories and let her read some of her
journals -- but don't shock her. Not like I did." There was regret in Bob's tone, "She'll have
to be visually monitored and, if we're lucky, some things will fall into place."

Later they went to see her.

Helena sat up in bed as her friends slowly walked into the medical unit. She seemed well,
even smiling.

"How are you feeling, doc?" Alan asked, returning her favor.

"Fine." she answered, "Confused." Helena took in the group with her gaze, "I know you two."
indicating Alan and Tony. "Alan's a pilot and Tony is in Security."

"We've both been promoted." Verdeschi piped, not seeing the harm in this. "I am now Security
Chief and Alan is, and has always been, in charge of Eagles and pilots."

Helena nodded, recalling Carter's rank. Amazed and a little amused, she said:
"Congratulations."

This caused a small ripple of laughter from all.

"And you're the Commander." Helena's eyes lifted from John's black sleeve to his impassive
face, "I understand we've been associates for the last three years but the only thing I can
think of to say right now is 'How do you do?'."

Koenig wanted to smile but he knew it would only look labored if he tried, "Yes, Commander
John Koenig." He looked for recognition where there was none. Nothing. This hurt but he managed
to keep himself steady. "We've been worried about you."

"I think I'll be all right." Helena scrutinized him awhile longer, a bit curious about this
tall, rather handsome man. He must be doing a good job or he wouldn't have remained Commander
so long after the moon left Earth orbit. Helena shook her head, still having a difficult time
believing the disaster possible. Then, she looked at Maya, "And you?"

"Science Officer."

"An alien. " Dr. Russell wasn't being unkind, just impressed. Her face lit up, "On Earth in
1999 we had all finally come to the conclusion there were life forms on other planets. It all
started in the early nineties when we found proof of one time life on Mars. Then, shortly after
came signals from a planet just outside our solar system - Meta." Then, a war Helena thought
but said nothing., "But never, in my wildest imagination, did I ever think to meet a genuine
alien being! I knew Earth would eventually be visited - but not in my lifetime."

"I'm a Psychon." Maya's voice was tiny and forced. It disturbed her to see Helena looking at
her as if she were something unique and worthy of scientific study. They were friends, after
all. And, besides all of that, Helena had met plenty of other alien creatures before she, a
being less awe inspiring (in Maya's own opinion) than most, entered into the picture. It was
all a little disheartening.

Sensing she might have offended the young woman somehow, Helena quieted and settled back
into her bed. She looked again at Koenig, "Where is Victor Bergman? He was on Alpha when it
broke away, wasn't he?"

The Commander took a breath. None of this was going to be easy.

************
Alphan Quest: "The Challenge"
(Part two of a four part Space: 1999 saga)





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