Beth6787

October 2018

Epitaph

After the events of "Space Brain", John Koenig is relieved of his post as Commander on Moon Base Alpha...

2330 hours : Main Mission, Base Commander's Office...

Victor Bergman braced himself as he turned, reluctantly, from the viewport and sipped at the dregs of his - now barely lukewarm - coffee. Placing the cup back in its saucer and trying to get comfortable in the 'big chair' which was now his, he turned his attention to the matter at hand. His first official log as Base Commander.

Earlier that day there had been an extraordinary meeting of the Section Heads, relieving John Koenig of his position, followed by nominations for his replacement. There had been only two names in the hat : his own and that of Paul Morrow, Chief Operations Officer. The vote had been open to all residents of Alpha and the final tally had been 126: 122 in his favour. He had been both humbled and honoured to have won the trust and respect of so many of his fellow travellers on this crazy journey through the Milky Way. However, he had taken note of the tight vote and surprised quite a few with his acceptance speech this afternoon.

If the events of the last six days had taught him anything, it was that the era of a dictatorial one person "commander" had to end. For good. It may have served them well in Earth Orbit, but out here - where they were confronted by potential extinction level events on a regular basis - no one human being could be expected to bear that burden of responsibility alone. So Victor Bergman had laid out his vision. The Section Heads would govern by consensus : with the most appropriate person taking the lead in each situation they encountered. Mercy missions and assessing potential new planets for settlement would fall under the primary jurisdiction of Helena Russell and Paul Morrow. Reconnaissance and expeditionary work would be the remit of Captain Alan Carter. Anything computer based would fall to David Kano. As for himself, well he would act as a figure head, a first point of contact for alien species and the usual person to relay decisions from the Command Group meetings to the rest of the Alphans.

He should have called it a night hours ago but Captain Carter's eloquent eulogy to his close buddy and fellow senior astronaut, Finnbar Kelly (affectionately known as Kell to his close friends), kept playing over and over in his mind. So here he was, downing the dregs of his fifth coffee, facing the task of writing the day's official log.

Switching on the recorder, he began...

" Alpha Command Log, 2340 hours, Earth Date 22nd March 2000 AD. Let the record show that this is the first day of tenure of the tenth Commander of Moonbase Alpha : namely myself, Professor Victor Norman Bergman. Please note that I shall be retaining the designation Professor Bergman and that all future command decisions will be made democratically and collectively by the Section Heads. All personnel will remain in their current posts with the exception of our former Commander, John Koenig, who will now revert to his Space Commission assigned rank of Captain Koenig and will co-head the Eagle Command group with Alan Carter.

To say that we have experienced a difficult few days would be the understatement of the century. As this new century is only a few weeks old ; doubtless there will befall us many trials and tribulations in the years to come. Yet we begin this new era having finally learned a profound truth about ourselves and henceforth endeavouring to overcome our greatest weakness : the emotion of fear. The 'knee-jerk' reactions of our then Commander to our initial encounter with the Space Brain and - crucially - our collective complicity : led to not only the death of astronaut Kelly but also to the destruction of a life form that we understood to be responsible for sustaining ecosystems on countless worlds in this region of space. On our current trajectory I believe it highly likely we will encounter at least some of those civilisations during our travels. I just hope they will have had the capability to adapt and survive : and I 'pray' they will not condemn us for our human frailties.

Without reiterating all the tragic details of recent events, already carefully catalogued within the record by each Department Head, I hold my hands up to acknowledge my own shortcomings. After the tragic loss of Wayland's Eagle and our gruesome discovery of its fate, I should have counselled John more wisely. It was obvious that an intelligence was attempting to communicate with us via Kelly's brain and I should have advised John to allow the process to proceed. The subsequent arming of an Eagle with atomic bombs to punch a path through the creature was a reprehensible act borne of sheer panic at the unknown. As Commander, John Koenig bore the ultimate responsibility but I should have done more to dissuade him. The fact that we survived it's return is a small miracle in itself, though I have to credit John Koenig with both courage and insight in his attempt to right that original wrong. My (extremely) long shot plan to counteract the compressive force of the alien's immune reaction merely by increasing our internal atmospheric pressure, made my 'forcefield' against the Black Sun seem like credible physics! Somehow something - or someone as John would have me believe - does indeed seem to be looking out for us.

Tut, Tut. I digress! Now where was I supposed to be...?... ah yes, the base status report update. How dry...if ever I needed a reminder as to why I chose a science rather than command track career... (Victor shuffles a pile of crumpled status reports) well...the clean up is progressing well. Only two bulkheads failed with explosive decompression but no loss of life or serious injuries, bar Kelly. Technical will have their hands full for the next month ensuring that all the 'immuno-foam' , for want of a better description, is completely removed from every nook and cranny of the Base and Eagle Fleet.

I have ordered that samples are collected and stored under containment in the Science Division where I intend to eventually evaluate them myself. If I can determine the molecular structure and catalyst for the matrix rearrangement, then such a substance could be invaluable as a defensive barrier against catastrophic structural collapse anywhere on Alpha. In the first instance I'll assign some basic analyses to Jim Haines and his team.

Now where was I? Ah yes, Base Operations are gradually returning to normal yet I must somehow reshuffle our ever depleting numbers to fill the voids left by those we lost along the way. So who can fill Wing Commander Finnbar Kelly's shoes? There is only one logical choice though it will entail a difficult conversation with Melita, his widow. John Koenig.

Ironically, I am beginning to understand our former colleague, Commissioner Simmonds. It would seem I will have to acquire the dubious skills of the politician and diplomat over the coming months. This will inevitably be a difficult - but necessary - period of adjustments for us all.

After my 'acceptance' speech this afternoon I went to seek John Koenig out : hoping to make my peace with him but, alas, his feelings are doubtless still too raw. I know Helena tried too, without success. Upon reflection, I think it best we give him the time and space he needs to come to terms with recent events...".

Victor leant back in his chair to relieve the ache in his neck and the cramp beginning in his shoulder muscles. It was time to call it a night before he was expected to confront the first full day in his new position : less than six hours away. As he rose from his chair and was about to exit his office by the back door, there was a bleep from his commlock. Suprised to be contacted at this time of night he acknowledged with the full intent of telling Sandra that whatever it was could wait until 0700. Instead he was confronted by the image of his young post doctoral researcher, Jim Haines.

"Sorry to disturb you Professor, but you did ask me to contact you straight away if I found anything interesting."

Victor could see Jim's barely contained excitement by the gleam in his eye, even over the comm screen. "Yes, of course. Are you still in the Science Lab?" Jim nodded and was about to elaborate but was cut off by his new Commander's "I'm on my way."

Victor Bergman shut down the link and sprinted for the Travel Tube, all thoughts of getting a few hours rest erased. He had asked Jim to sift through all the data received by main computer whilst John Koenig had been linked to Kelly and the Space Brain by Dr. Russell's equipment. John had described seeing many strange worlds and lifeforms but the sheer quantity of information transmitted meant that most of it had passed through John into the computer without registering within his conscious mind at all.

Now that the Space Brain was no more and Alpha was busy making repairs David Kano's time was pretty much tied up. So Victor had assigned the task of trawling through the reams of data to young Jim. He had started less than forty eight hours ago and there was enough to keep him busy for a month or more, so the fact that he had been summoned now must mean that Jim was onto something important.

When Victor strode into the Science Lab, wheezing a little after all but sprinting down the corridor from the Tube stop, Jim thrust a stack of papers into his arms.

"Here's my latest report Professor. It's fantastic. Whilst the Space Brain was searching through our navigational archives it took the time to upload Wing Commander Kelly's entire medical file from Dr. Russell's hard drive. It seems that it wanted to understand human physiology enough to link use Kelly's organic brain as a conduit without killing him. In the process it must have come to understand the basics requirements for human life. The last few teraquads of data before we collided with it list two planets suitable for human life that we will encounter within the next six months if we remain on our current trajectory.

The first is inhabited by what appears to be a roughly stone age culture of bi-pedal mammalian 'humanoids' but the second has no intelligent species at all. Here, see for yourself."

Victor was dumbfounded. So the Space Brain had helped them after all, even as it knew it was facing certain extinction when it's successful communication through Kelly was finally achieved, several hours too late to change the Moon's path. It's last act had been to provide them with all the information they would need to choose a new home. ...

Nodding to Jim and sending him back to his quarters to rest, Victor rushed through into his old office to analyse Jim's findings.

0900 the following morning, Command Centre conference room.

The Section Heads were all gathered around the table, including John Koenig who would attend with Alan Carter, from now on. They had had barely twenty four hours to review Jim Haines report and Victor's overview and proposed course of action. But there was not one voice of dissent.

In less than two weeks time they would be in sensor range of the first planet and JohnKoenig and Alan Carter were already fully engrossed in their preliminary plans for the initial reconnaissance mission. Paul Morrow and Helena Russell were liaising on the medical, environmental and scientific game plan and David Kano's team were knee deep in data and analyses.

'Commander' Victor Bergman stood to close the meeting. "So we are all agreed on the plan of action and the timeframe for implementation of the initial phase?" His gaze swept around the table and received a tacit nod from each of his colleagues. "Very well. I have but one request to make in my capacity as...figure head. A small indulgence if you will." With this he glanced towards his closest male friend and former boss and was relieved to see John Koenig looking as intrigued and receptive as all the others.

Clearing his throat he announced "In honour of our dear fallen friend through whom all this was made possible...I propose that we name our new home Kelly's Planet."

There was not a dry eye in the room as he opened the main doors to the Command Centre. As Victor took his leave to address his first diplomatic mission he fervently hoped that their decision would offer some small comfort to Melita.

THE END.

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