Chapter 6: Reunited

John Koenig brought his eagle in over the settlement on Berg with a wide arc, and nearly lost control at the sight below him. Trees were draped with streamers and balloons, and what he was sure was the whole population on Berg was gathered, dressed in their Alpha uniforms, waving enthusiastically.

He guided his eagle down in the area marked out as a landing zone, and as he stepped from the eagle, Paul and Victor came trotting over, with Sandra and Helena at a more leisurely pace behind them. John smiled: Sandra's pregnancy was beginning to show, and Helena was radiantly glowing, her golden hair framing her face in a softer, more natural style.

"John!" The two men had reached him, and they all shook hands enthusiastically. "Welcome, all of you!"

Behind him more eagles were landing: three more with passenger pods, and two freight eagles. Today marked the day the first people from Erath were moving to Berg, and this group of 32 people had specifically asked to join the existing settlement on Berg, now known as Uzazi, which meant "birth". During the next few weeks, the rest of those from Erath would be moving as well, but as the area where Uzazi had been laid out was filling up, they would start a settlement in a flat, clear area about 9 km from Uzazi. The new settlement would be known as Kukua, which meant "growth".

Koenig hugged Helena and Sandra and they watched as the eagles touched down one after the other. The others from Berg had moved closer too, waving and shouting as their friends disembarked from the eagles.

"Walk with me, Victor," John asked, his hand on the older man's arm. They headed for one of the freight eagles, loaded with equipment and belongings. As they drew near, Alan Carter stepped from the eagle.

For a moment the two men, Victor Bergman and Alan Carter, stood facing each other. Then Carter extended his hand.

"I apologize, Professor Bergman, for my immature behavior at our meeting on Erath. I was not thinking, and I regret the rash things I said to you, and lifting my hands against you."

Victor took the young man's hand. "It's all right, Alan" He smiled, clapping the pilot on the shoulder. "I apologize for my callous reply to your question. We were all pretty wound up at the time, but all is forgotten now!"

"Thank you, Professor," Alan smiled, and the three men fell into step to join the others, when Victor quipped:

"However, had I been 10 years younger and a few inches taller I would have decked you there and then!"

The men laughed and Alan quickly took on a boxer's stance, his fists held up. The Professor did the same, and they bobbed and weaved for a minute, before merely bumping fists. Then the older man draped his arm around the younger man's shoulder and they walked over to join those gathered to welcome the Alphans from Erath.

The faces were filled with joy, the voices a cacophony of excitement. Victor tried to make himself heard over the noise: "We have some refreshments in our cafeteria for you! Join us there!"

The snake of people slowly made their way to one of the structures, done up with ribbons and streamers around the doorway. Tables and chairs were set out, with snacks and drinks, and people started helping themselves after the journey from Erath. Victor banged a cup on the table until the voices died down.

"Welcome to Uzazi, everyone! We are happy that you are joining us. We have volunteers that, once you are ready," he gestured to a group wearing teal armbands standing by one of the walls, "will show you around the settlement and point out the most important structures. We've erected five more of our residential units, and there were some empty after we all had a place to live, and the doors to the available units are open, so you are free to choose. We have many helping hands and the moon buggies to help you move your stuff. So, take your time and settle in! But now, let's celebrate this joyous occasion…"

People ate, drank and mingled. Berg people crowded around Commander Koenig, happy to see him, and as John conversed, he couldn't help noticing how Helena stayed by Victor's side, how uncharacteristically animated his old friend was, how they occasionally glanced at each other or affectionately touched each other briefly. To his great surprise he found that it didn't really bother him as much as he thought it would. His eyes strayed to Sandra, talking animatedly with a group of the new women, and to Paul, Alan and some other men in deep conversation, and he smiled to himself. This was how he knew it would be; Berg would welcome them with love and acceptance. He was proud of his people.

After the people on Erath had been presented with the done deal of the move to Berg, and the initial skepticism and uncertainty had been overcome, a smaller group had helped him and the leadership team on Erath to formulate their request, draw up guidelines, and speak to each and every one on Erath individually to ascertain that they understood the necessity of the move, and the importance of controlled behavior and speech. He knew that there would eventually be differences of opinion, clashes of personalities, but they wanted the initial period to be as smooth as possible.

The necessity of starting a new settlement helped seal the deal for many of those on Erath. They would still be autonomous, taking the lead in rebuilding their settlement, but the Alphans would all be united again, and John acknowledged to himself that it made him feel much better.

"John!" Victor ambled over to him. "I know you have to go back later, but come eat with us later." John Koenig was not yet moving to Berg, but had merely accompanied his first group of people. He would return to Erath later that day, together with the unloaded freight eagles and one of the passenger eagles. The remaining eagles would be added to the inventory of Berg eagles and become the responsibility of Uzazi.

"Thanks, Victor!" John wanted to walk around the settlement and look at what had been done since his last visit.

The settlement had been laid out roughly like a five-spoke wheel, with the command/administrative structure and meeting hall in the middle, and the medical center, recreation center, cafeteria, laboratory and hydroponics units each starting a "spoke". Each spoke was then made up of seven residential units radiating outward, with space left for later adding roads or other embellishments. Moon buggies were parked here and there, and John had to laugh: some innovative person had added a canopy to one of the buggies, which made it look more like a golf cart. Further away from the settlement were the vehicle hangar, and other hangars he knew were used for storing unused materials. Work had also begun on a new manufacturing structure.

He walked to the recently completed laboratory. It was an impressive space. Initial entrance was into a large room with tables, shelves, cabinets and scattered chairs. Here and there a workspace had been individualized where a scientist had set up station, but most of the area was still empty. Leading from the main room were many smaller laboratories, and towards the back even some offices. A passage led off to a cluster of storerooms and extended to connect the laboratory with the genetics unit. The entire roof of the laboratory was constructed from solar panels.

The large breeding barn was equally impressive. While there were large pens, there were also smaller areas with transparently fronted cages, smaller pens, offices and storerooms. He found Anna Wong and Robert Young at work in one of the rooms: lining the walls of this room were cages about 4 meters long and wide, stacked 4 deep, with some sort of Perspex window facing the outside world, meshed floors with huge slide out trays for cleanup, and planters filled with green in each cage. Each cage also had a small fountain and water feature, and three of the 12 cages held rabbits.

"Amazing!" John commented, greeting the young people. "You've been working hard here, I can see that."

"Yes, Commander," Robert Young replied. "We'll be breeding here to supplement our protein intake, and right now as many people as possible are being trained to help here. We're hoping everyone will eventually manage a shift."

Anna took a rabbit from a cage and handed it to John Koenig. He enjoyed clutching the furry little body for a few moments before handing it back and wishing the youngsters good luck.

It took him a while to investigate the entire settlement, but finally he made his way to the last residential unit on one of the spokes, the one overlooking the lake. As he drew near, he stopped in amazement. A very basic pier had been built out over the lake, and tied to it was… a boat?! His curiosity awakened, he gingerly stepped onto the narrow walkway.

"John!" He heard Helena's voice behind him, and turned around with a smile.

"You have been up to a lot of things!" he remarked, looking down at the very simple little boat: just some old building panes from Alpha that had been curved and joined, and two plastic oars.

"Well, it has not sunk yet, John," she laughed, placing her hand on his arm. They stood looking back at the settlement where the new residents of Berg were ferrying possessions to their new homes. "But, come look at this!"

She led him around the side of the residential unit, and there, leaning against the wall was… a bicycle! A very strange looking bicycle, but definitely a bicycle. He laughed.

"Victor built it for me when I joked about people cycling around the countryside," she smiled. "The whole thing is some kind of graphite mold, and the tires are solid as you can see, but it actually works very well! Try it, John…"

He climbed on the strange looking craft and found that it did indeed work very well. He pedaled around the residence a few times, while Helena looked on. As he drew level with her, he studied her face.

"He's taking good care of you?"

She smiled, somewhat shyly. "Yes, John." After he leaned the bicycle against the outside wall, she reached for his hand and led him inside the unit.

He could immediately see the unit had been altered. The connecting wall normally between two units was gone. On one side was Victor's familiar clutter, his telescope, glass sphere, piles of books, models and other things, giving John a sudden feeling of déjà vu. On the other side was Helena's Donnelmeyer microscope replica, her encyclopedia Britannica and more familiar items from her quarters on Alpha. Victor was nowhere to be seen.

John sank into a couch.

"We're preparing a communal meal for later, John. Please eat with us before you leave."

"Thanks! Victor already invited me."

She sat on the other side of the couch, her legs drawn up and facing him. "So, you managed to convince the people on Erath that moving here is better?"

"I'm sure there are still dissidents, but most came around. The nasty rumors that had been doing the rounds just as mysteriously died down, but I'm sure we've not yet heard the last of it. Alan did finally realize how he had been had, and I think his mind is now clear and functional again." He laughed.

"What are your plans for Erath?"

"We'll be converting the more permanent structures into a command area, a laboratory and emergency medical unit. We'll be leaving some of the structures as dormitories for teams working there. But David will be bringing over Computer. Once the move is complete, we hope that a combined team from Uzazi and Kukua will return for further research, of course for set periods of time. As to any other purpose," he smiled at her, "I'm open to suggestions."

"What about your new settlement here? I'm curious!"

"David and Victor have been working on some plans. I love the layout of your little town, but we want to do something of our own. Initially we'll put up some residential units like yours in one area, but we're working on plans for duplexes and even a few standalone houses. Our medical center will be much smaller, as yours is already established and close enough. Same for the laboratory and other scientific areas. We don't need to build more, we'll simply commute."

They smiled at each other. It had been years since that word had been used by an Alphan. Berg was slowly becoming their new earth.

John returned to Erath, where eagles were being loaded up once again. Fortunately for them, there was no window of range, so the groups deciding to leave together, could take their time. He knew Victor already had a crew constructing residential units at the location for Kukua. The first group for Kukua would leave in a few days.

David and Angela were in the command area, enjoying a cup of coffee together. "How did it go, Commander?"she asked.

"Victor never ceases to amaze me," he smiled. "They had a full scale welcoming party complete with balloons and streamers. Our first people have moved into their new homes and will soon be part of the Berg workforce."

Bob Matthias strolled in. "That's great news, Commander. Most of us are pretty excited to be going to Berg."

John unrolled some diagrams of the future community of Kukua. "To conserve our resources, you'll just be working with Doctor Russell again, Bob. We need but a small medical clinic in Kukua. I'm thinking Raul is the perfect doctor to head that up." He turned to David Kano. "The biggest structure in Kukua will be the unit to house computer. We'll build a power structure close by and use a power unit similar to Alpha. We'll also establish our final armory and weapons maintenance unit in Kukua. There has been no strange presence anywhere since we arrived, but we all know that we are not alone in space."

'"I've been studying the time breakdown on Berg, Commander," Kano said. It's very logical and we can easily fall into that routine. We did not set up any routine here on Erath, but based on what Bob said, it may be better in the long run."

"Run it by me, David."

"The day on Berg starts at around 06:00 lunar time. Everyone is assigned to one of the sections on Berg. Of course most of the sections are still the same as on Alpha, but a few have become obsolete while some new units are being formed. Since the group on Berg was small, they have been working fairly long shifts, but around 18:00 they generally go home or spend some time relaxing. By 22:00 they generally regard it as 'night'. The residential units are all equipped with blackout screens, and it is required that each household lower them in position. It's not a curfew, but people generally like to get some sleep then. Of course there is always a skeleton crew manning the vital units, but it is not nearly as strenuous as on Alpha."

"I'm convinced that providing our people with better structure will assist in the transfer," Bob interjected. "While we have much more freedom now, and certainly do not want to become like a prison world, our people on Alpha were used to structure. We might avoid further problems by just adapting the Berg day and drawing up schedules again."

"Well, once our people have completed the move, there is a long list of things that need to be done. While we have basic structures for survival and even some growth in place, we need to start thinking about development and the future. Our hope, of course, is that our communities will grow rapidly, and we need to start planning for those children."

"A school," Angela Robinson breathed with wonder. "Just imagine when we open our first school!"

"Victor and I have been talking about some kind of community education center," John added. "There are some skills we have to re-learn. We have all kinds of talented people who could teach us what had been their hobbies and pastimes on Alpha." He suddenly laughed. "You know what? Victor actually built a bicycle. I rode it!"

"I envision events between the two communities," Bob chuckled. "Soccer games, chess tournaments," he glanced at David Kano, "even perhaps, one day, a theater." He turned to Koenig with a big smile. "Oh, Commander, could we please have a golf course at Kukua?"

They all laughed. Commander Koenig slapped him on the back. "Who knows, Bob. The future is limitless now. Whatever we imagine, we can achieve. We are together again."

The move to Berg proceeded slowly, day after day, and the residents of Uzazi became used to their sky being dotted with eagles all day. All other scanners remained quiet. It seemed that suddenly they were alone in the universe again. But there was enough work to keep everyone busy, as the new settlement rose, and the Alphans settled into their daily routine. Residents from Uzazi who were not needed for vital functions in their own community commuted to help with the work in Kukua. As the residents from Erath settled in, they took their places in their sections: either in their own new community or in the units based in Uzazi. Old friendships were revived, and new ones formed. There was always a gaggle of moon buggies and eagles traveling to and from the two settlements. The days were long and full, but Helena Russell and Bob Matthias reflected often on how content and even happy people seemed.

Helena returned home one day to find Victor snoozing on the couch. She had not seen much of him, as he had been traveling back and forth first to Erath to help alter the Erath science base, and then to and from Kukua to help with planning and construction. He often arrived home long after her, tired to the bone, and she was pleased to see him home early.

She perched on the side of the couch, and his eyes flew open.

"Sleeping on the job huh?" she joked. He laughed and sat up, taking her in his arms.

"It's been rather hectic," he confessed. "I needed a power nap."

"What are you guys working on at the moment?" she asked.

"David has his beloved Computer up and running." He smiled pensively. "Well, maybe not so beloved anymore. I think Angela has scrambled his circuits." Then he looked at her, his face more serious. "John wants us all to meet in a few days. We'll use the meeting hall here in Uzazi."

"What do you think it's about?" she asked.

He shrugged. "I have no idea. The move is almost complete. Probably just a consolidation of things."

She leaned against his shoulder. "He's taken things remarkably well, Victor. Sometimes it worries me."

"He knows I'll check out first," he laughed, playing gently with her hair.

"Don't you say that, Victor! It's not funny."

"It's reality, Helena. I'll care of you as long as you let me and I'm able, but I'm thankful to know that a man like John Koenig is waiting in the wings."

She pulled his face down and shut him up with a kiss. "Stop thinking," she whispered mischievously.

"Thoughtless action, huh?" With grin he picked her up in his arms, nearly stumbled but bravely carried her through to the sleeping unit. She flung her arm around his neck.

"What are you doing, Victor Bergman?"

"I stopped thinking," he teased, laying her down on the bed.

Their lovemaking was always gentle, but intense. He had learned to play her body skillfully, and she had learned to respond to his silent needs. They fitted together perfectly, giving and taking, and finally, after the moment of release, she lay with her head on his shoulder, filled with wonder. She had suddenly, and with complete clarity, had the thought that on this day, they had created a life together.

All the Alphans, reunited once again, were in the large meeting hall at Uzazi. There had been speculation on what the meeting would be about, but no ugly rumors or gossip had started up so far. Two tables had been set on a small raised platform. At the one table sat the original Berg leadership: Victor Bergman, Helena Russell, Paul and Sandra Morrow; Sandra clearly very pregnant, Mila Santimuko and Mark DeVos. At the other table was the Erath leadership: John Koenig, David Kano, Angela Robinson, Bob Matthias and Alan Carter.

Finally, as the hall filled up and people settled down, John Koenig stood up.

"Fellow Alphans," he said. "Nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing you all here, together again." There were cries of "Hear! Hear!" and scattered applause, and John waited until it died down.

"I want to start by extending my warmest thanks to the original residents of Berg, who have welcomed us with open arms, and made us very welcome." He stepped over to Professor Bergman and shook his hand, but the older man stood up and it turned into a warm embrace. "While we are still faced with many dangers and even more questions," John continued, "I feel much more confident now that we are reunited. We worked together on Alpha, and now we will work together on Berg to build our future."

People clapped and whistled loudly in approval.

"You are all aware that continued research will be conducted on Erath, even while we build our communities here. But we are not afraid of work. We are, however, not on Alpha anymore, and I have asked us all to meet here, together, so we can address the question of leadership."

People started glancing at each other. Paul wanted to get up, but Victor held him back with a whisper: "Let him finish."

"While we had been on Alpha, I was your Commander, as assigned by the Space Commission. On our uncharted journey through space, I remained your Commander through unspoken agreement, and tried to make decisions to ensure our survival. And you all helped, in many ways. We made it, and are now here, together, with a better but still unknown future ahead of us. While we were on two planets, we had two leaderships, and I know in my heart that the Berg leadership is just as capable, if not more so, to continue in their elected roles. So, I want us to decide, together, how we are going to move forward…"

There was a long silence, people looking at each other; then Victor Bergman stood up. "John, you are our Commander. There is no doubt about that. You alone have the strength and character to lead our communities in the near future."

People started getting up, shouting approval.

"Back on Alpha," Victor continued, coming around the table to approach John, "everyone worked together, and we had times where we had some differences, but without you, John, none of us would be here today." He turned to the crowd. "I propose that John Koenig once again takes his place as our rightful Commander."

The applause, catcalls and whistles were deafening, and some started stamping their feet, so that the meeting hall vibrated with noise and movement. Since there was no wind, nor rain on Berg, buildings had no foundations and merely rested on the ground. John gazed over the crowd in front of him; then drew his friend to his side. But he could not open his mouth, as the applause continued, wave after wave. Everyone was up on their feet, faces aglow. The two teams on the platform had left their seats and pushed the two tables together, rearranging the chairs to represent one united group. When the noise finally started abating, John took a deep breath.

"Thank you. Thank you all. I must say… it feels good." He beamed, then walked around the table to take chair placed in the middle. He looked up again. "Of course, no leader can ever do it alone. So, I need my team back." He gestured to Professor Bergman: "Victor, my second in command and head of the science department. And a very capable Angela to help you." John smiled. "Let's not forget to congratulate the lovely Professor Robinson with her upcoming wedding to David Kano! Kano!" He gestured to another chair. "Computer is still yours. Paul Morrow and his lovely wife: communications and data. We need a radio station, Paul! The ever lovely Helena Russell to head up medical unit again, with her second in command, Bob Matthias. And Alan, our eagles and our pilots, and for heaven's sake Alan, start scheduling some flying lessons for all of us!"

People laughed, and the tension lifted somewhat.

"There are many others leading their units or doing the work. Without a team, a leader is useless. I appreciate each one of you, and ask that you will continue to do tasks assigned to you to the best of your ability. Bring problems to us early, and share joys and breakthroughs. Our future is by no means secure," he raised his arms high, "but, Alphans, together we will build it!"

That brought the house down again. On the leadership platform, the leaders exchanged handshakes and hugs while the crowd cheered them on.

"This is about the time," David Kano whispered to those around him, "where we could have done with a flyover of eagles and some fireworks." Then arm in arm they left the platform, shaking hands and sharing hugs. John alone stood standing, looking at his people, his heart filled with hope and happiness. He was no longer alone and lost. He was their leader, and their friend, and as he finally left the platform to mingle with the reunited Alphans, he wondered with smile what great adventure would befall them next.