The story of the disappearance of Victor Bergman, Paul Morrow & David Kano at the end of season 1. Inspired by Kano's experiences during "Guardian of Piri".
Episode 1 - Conception:
Scene 1 : Space Commission Medical Research Centre, Houston, USA . August 1992...
The funding had finally been approved after the third Ethics Committee Review Panel had reluctantly given the go ahead. Had the stakes not been so high, then the chances of the experiments about to be performed ever progressing beyond mere virtual reality simulations : were almost zero. But if the Ultra Probe mission was to have a reasonable chance of success, an exponential leap in processing power of the core computer was imperative.
It was Professor Bergman who had first postulated the idea (he later admitted it was intended as a joke) that what was needed was a computer with the adaptability and creativity of the human mind ! There followed much banter around the table about creating a 'Frankenstein's monster' hybrid of man and machine - a cyborg if you like. A few drinks later and somehow the throwaway comment had transmuted into a long shot theory. One that, over the months that followed, Professor Victor Bergman and his research associate Professor Clive Moore would develop into the program starting today.
Four men had been carefully selected from amongst the Space Commission's elite software development team. Tim Forrester, a twenty four year old Stamford graduate in theoretical physics ; Connor Wright twenty nine and the best engineer on the team; Mark Gordon a thirty year old Harvard educated statistician and lastly David Kano, at thirty one the oldest of the group, and chief software programmer for the new Moonbase Alpha Flight Control computer in Main Mission. Each man chosen for his unique insight and understanding of the complexities of the computer's "mind". They were believed to have the best chance of interpreting the mass of data bombarding their neurones after link up and - crucially - they were all known to possess rational, unemotional and highly disciplined scientific minds that did not scare easily.
For frightening the proposed experiment indeed was. To implant a mechanical conduit into the brain stem of each man which would allow the hard drive to be, quite literally, plugged into their brains. The objective being to allow the human mind to read, overwrite and ultimately control the computer processes by thought alone, should it become necessary. A human failsafe should there be a catastrophic functional failure of the mainframe on board the Ultra Probe ship once it passed out of range of Earth Control on exiting the solar system.
As recently appointed Chief Medical Research Officer, Dr. Helena Russell was to oversee proceedings and monitor each participant's vital signs and brain activity. Sine wave traces would be analysed in real time and levels of stress hormones in the blood, such as adrenaline and cortisol, closely monitored. At the first signs of abnormally high stress, the plug would be pulled. Literally.
Approval may have been given at the highest political levels but she was not happy. There were just too many unknowns. Never before had a human mind been linked directly to a mechanical CPU and there was no telling what the effects could be - or if it would even be possible to reverse them - should things go awry. She had insisted that the volunteers be sedated in REM sleep for the first attempt, in order to gather some baseline data without the men's minds being directly aware of the computer's 'presence'. Even the terminology for these experiments sounded more like pseudoscience to her!
Now all she could hope for was that Victor Bergman and Clive Moore could pull off a scientific miracle !
Two weeks later...
Dr. Helena Russell had to admit, that so far at least, the testing had been an unmitigated success. All four men had shown significant signs of stress in their blood chemistry for the first couple of ten minute sessions but, as the days had progressed, those readings had returned to within normal parameters. So far, they had all remained under sedation for the duration of each session and although Tim Forrester and David Kano had reported some odd REM dreams the others had no recall of the sessions themselves.
However, all four had been plugged into databases pre-programmed with specific data on subjects of which they had no prior knowledge. Thirty six hours after each session they were asked to sit an exam, asking questions on the data they would have received through the link. To ensure that there could be no other source of that data both the electronic link up and the exam papers were in Swahili : a language none of the four had ever come in contact with before.
The results were groundbreaking! All four participants recalled correctly between 68 - 89% of the data from each link up with all four having exceeding their previous score with every additional session. Just over a month later all the men had scores above the 95% threshold required to move to the next stage : receiving erroneous data from the computer and correcting it with their minds before sending thoughts of the corrections back to the mainframe. Crucially for this phase they would need to be wide awake.
November 11, 1992 - Mainframe Control Room, Earthside Auxiliary Control Complex for Moonbase Alpha, Houston USA.
After several weeks with nothing for her team to do but monitor routine life signs in Medical Centre, the Research Group were allowed to set up in the main computing complex with a portable medical monitoring station. They knew that this was the most challenging phase of the research but the focus at this stage had been primarily on the success of the technology - could the human mind overwrite the computer operating system software by thought alone?
If so, the astronaut team that would be flying the Probe ship to planet Ultra in three years time would undergo the same process as the four pioneers sat in front of them now.
She heard Professor Moore giving the four men a 'pep talk' followed by their instructions whilst Professor Bergman hooked their neural interfaces up to the computer core and helped her connect up the medical monitoring equipment. Each was to link up to the same program but there were four deliberately engineered errors. One for each man to correct.
The simulation was a flight program, navigating the virtual probe ship through the asteroid belt on the edge of our solar system. Connor Wright, the engineer, was to correct a power fluctuation in the ion drive converter ; Tim Forrester, the physicist, was to adjust for turbulence from the solar wind sheer ; Mark Gordon was to correct a mathematical error in the flight navigation program and lastly, David Kano to receive the corrections and transmit them back from the Alpha Ground Control CPU to the mainframe on the virtual probe ship.
If the test worked they would see the image of the probe ship on the monitor correct it's flight path and successfully avoid a collision with any of the asteroids within the Kuiper Belt.
All four men nodded to confirm their readiness then Victor flicked the switch...
Episode 2 : Aftermath
December 30, 1992 - Commissioner Simmond's Office, NASA Headquarters, Washington DC.
The heated debate had raged long into the night and she had lost. The entire episode would be wiped from all official records as if it had never happened. Tim Forrester, Connor Wright and Mark Gordon's permanent brain damage was to be attributed to radiation poisoning from a fabricated accident in the reactor room adjacent to the computing complex. Even now, a special operations team of military surgeons were removing all trace of the hardware implanted under the base of each man's skull. The only exception being David Kano, whose mind had not only completed it's task but who showed no ill effects after the initial migraine had worn off.
After the top secret enquiry panel had filed out of the room Victor had told her that David Kano was to be assigned to Moonbase Alpha with immediate effect. The other men would receive ongoing support from the Space Commission and she was to provide "medical care as appropriate for those suffering from chronic, incurable, radiation sickness."
All three were to be pensioned off and their families financially compensated for the 'tragic accident'. Helena just hoped that David Kano had been kept in the dark about the fate of his friends and that she would never encounter Gerald Simmonds again in her lifetime!
January 2nd 1993, Cape Canaveral Eagle Launch Site...
Kano took his seat on Eagle 3 and introduced himself to the man sitting alongside him. It turned out he was travelling with the new Chief Operations Officer, Dr. Paul Morrow. He could not believe his good fortune to have been assigned to the newly extended Moonbase Alpha so soon after the final set of Professor Bergman's experiments. Now that Alpha would have the capacity to train astronauts and launch deep space exploration missions as well as process nuclear waste, the computing facilities were being massively upgraded and he would be in charge of writing and integrating the new software.
He could not help but feel proud of the fact the four of them had performed so well and that the research program had been a groundbreaking success. It was sad that the whole operation had to be classified for security reasons as he had rather hoped that they could publish in an academic journal and bask in the glory for just a little while. But it was not to be. He would not even have the satisfaction of being able to discuss their work with the others as they had apparently been assigned to operations within ground control.
Chatting happily to his new boss, he could hardly wait to start work on Alpha's computer core for which he would have overall responsibility for the next ten years.
He was only to discover the truth about the fates of Tim, Connor and Mark after 'Breakaway' almost seven years hence.
Episode 3 - Inside the mind of Piri
16th December 1999, Moonbase Alpha Mainframe Control Centre...
After the horrific events surrounding the demise of Commissioner Simmonds the truth had eventually emerged and he was still trying to come to terms with it. He had sworn to himself that there was no way he would ever agree to undergo the process again: however dire the circumstances! But since then, they had all had to adapt to being set adrift in deep space with no realistic chance of ever seeing Earth again. Yet now they were confronted with their automated life support systems falling under the influence of extra terrestrial beings of possibly malign intent.
Commander Koenig was right. There was no other way. Either he link his mind up to Alpha's central computer core and try to communicate with whatever entity was overriding their systems or they would all be held captive by the intelligence on Piri : and who knew what its intentions towards them all truly were.
The pain had initially been excruciating but in an instant his mind had cleared and he was surrounded by tranquility. The mind of Piri was truly beautiful in its perfect mathematical symmetry! He was instantly aware of the whole history of the planet's civilisation. Its fantastic scientific and technological achievements. The Pirian's art and culture and their evolved sense of morality. A civilisation without sickness, pain, want...just a perfect understanding of self. The ability to absolutely perfect oneself. To be physically without injury or wear and tear; to transport oneself anywhere in the universe simply by willing it; to acquire anything that the mind desires simply by requesting it of The Guardian : forever. Perfection suspended in time.
It was only as the light faded to background luminescence that he became aware that his body was no longer on Alpha. He was on the surface of Piri looking towards The Guardian. He felt as though he was suspended in mid air : weightless. Happily he allowed his mind to explore all those mathematical possibilities vastly beyond the computing power of Earth's late twentieth century technology.
Later, much later, he became distantly aware of Commander Koenig's face in front of him. Hitting him and yelling : yet no sound reached him. With detached, idle curiosity, he watched the drama play out like an early twentieth century silent movie. He wondered why the Commander was not as fascinated as himself by the perfection encompassing them all. Eventually John Koenig wandered away in search of Dr. Russell and perfect tranquility resumed until their former commander destroyed their sanctuary and the illusion was shattered forever.
28th December 1999 - Moonbase Alpha Command Centre ...
With the loss of The Guardian, the passage of time was restored and Earth's moon continued on her odyssey through the universe. Paul Morrow and Sandra Benes reported that Piri now had plant and animal life re-emerging. Apparently the planet would now be ideal for human habitation were they not already beyond its reach. Such were the ironies of their existence out here.
No one else seemed to remember anything much about their time on Piri other than the light and a feeling of contentment. Absolute apathy as their Commander saw it. But then he had never experienced the virtual world of Piri or the mind of its electronic guardian.
Kano had tried talking to Professor Bergman but the man just seemed embarrassed to have been beguiled by The Guardian and claimed not to remember much of his experience at all. No one else admitted to remembering anything of Pirian society itself, and he had confirmed this to himself by reading the confidential mission reports stored in their computer memory banks. It would seem that the Pirian computer had interpreted his cybernetic interface as his being a higher form of life than the other humans and had chosen to share with him what it had withheld from the rest of them. So once again he was alone : alone as the only Alphan who mourned the loss of the Pirian world of the mind.
Episode 4 - Destiny
10th February 2001. Command Conference Room. 96 hours after the destruction of the Bethan gun ship Certasius, Commander Dionne and her crew...
The technical repair crews had been working around the clock to seal the bulkhead breaches and repair the infrastructure of Alpha. Much of the travel tube network was out of action and they had lost a significant amount of equipment from stores as well as half the plants in the hydroponics laboratories and food production sections.
Fortunately the Alphans themselves had escaped relatively unscathed for once, with Dr. Russell reporting only five personnel suffering from temporary hearing loss and no fatalities or serious injuries. Sadly the same could not be said for their central computer core. The last volley of Deltan missiles had hit the secondary power plant directly adjacent to the core housing unit and the debris from the explosion had ruptured the bulkheads. The explosive decompression and subsequent electrical fires had caused significant damage and although the hardware could be replaced large swathes of the programs themselves would have to be recreated.
In the meantime, David Kano and his team had to be ever vigilant to patch and divert key streams of binary code just to keep essential services operational and their crew mates alive. The five of them had been continually at work for the last four days, sleeping one at a time for three or four hours, until dragged out of their slumber by a semi-conscious flagging colleague. They could not carry on like this for much longer yet it would take several weeks before the systems were stable enough to resume normal operational procedures.
It was as this point that Commander Koenig summoned Kano to his inner office. On arrival, seeing The Commander, Paul Morrow, Victor Bergman and Helena Russell in attendance he knew in his gut what was ahead.
Monday 22nd February 2001 A.D. - Personal Log, John Aaron Koenig 9th Commander of Moonbase Alpha...
"Computer, begin recording. It's been six long days now and no sign of any of them. Nothing. It makes no sense. The procedure should have worked. David Kano had successfully managed it before and this time he had his close colleagues Paul Morrow and Victor Bergman to assist him. Hell ! It was actually Victor that conceived of the whole concept almost a decade ago.
This time, the idea had been relatively simple. Kano would be plugged into the mainframe and using his mind, he would re-write and re-direct core sections of the operating system to get essential services up and running without continual manual input and monitoring.
Our entire environment on Alpha is automated. From the basics such as air and water recycling to highly complex real time operations such as Eagle launch and flight control. There are literally tens of thousands of computer controlled adjustments to every facet of our artificial world every minute of our existence. With only three hundred personnel it would be absolutely impossible to run those systems manually even if we were all on duty 24/7.
After the last bombardment of the Bethan/Deltan missile salvoes, our computer core complex sustained almost irreparable damage. Kano and his team worked night and day to replace the essential hardware but so much of the programming system had been lost. Kano's implant was designed for just such a catastrophic computer failure.
Twelve days ago I convened a command conference with Dr. Helena Russell, Chief Operations Officer (and my second in command) Paul Morrow, Head of Scientific Research Professor Victor Bergman (and the scientist who initially conceived the program itself), Head of Computer Sciences Dr. David Kano and myself.
Kano knew what I was going to ask and had already discussed the possibility with Victor. He readily agreed to be plugged into the mainframe once again and, using his mind, direct the computer as necessary to overwrite and repair its central operations software. What I had not foreseen was that Victor would propose that he and Paul be linked in tandem to Kano's mind. He argued (very convincingly at the time) that with his mathematical expertise and Paul's intricate knowledge of all the operating systems on the Base that together, the three of them could get the job completed in minutes rather than the several hours it was expected to take Kano alone.
Helena was against the idea, arguing that if either Paul or Victor were affected like the original participants on Earth : then we would have lost two of our most valued colleagues and friends with no known way to undo the brain damage. In her opinion it was far too great a risk. Both Victor and Paul disagreed, arguing fervently that Helena could disconnect them both at the first signs of concern so there was really nothing to lose and potentially everything to gain. Helena had all the medical knowledge to carry out the implant surgery on Paul and Victor and they would undertake the same basic tests as Tim, Connor and Mark had all those years ago. If there were any problems at all then Kano would go ahead alone.
My gut warned me against this but our systems were suffering critical failures hour by hour and there were three hundred other lives to consider. If computer suffered a catastrophic cascade shutdown : we would all die within the hour.
Given the gravity of the situation I agreed that they could go ahead. Within twenty four hours Helena and Bob Matthias had carried out the necessary surgery on both men. Twenty four hours after that we started preliminary testing. Both Victor and Paul retained all the information and reported no ill effects. The medical monitoring concurred.
The next phase was a test linking the three men together and passing a simple message from the research computer to Kano and from Kano to the other two and back. Again, all went well. So the following three days were spent going over the schematics and software for the Alpha mainframe, ensuring that all three were up to date. Kano included detailed lectures and diagrams of all the damaged systems and how he proposed they re-route and re-write the operating systems.
Then six days ago, at 8am on 16th February, it was time to carry out the procedure for real. They would move from the isolated research department hard drive to Alpha's mainframe itself.
Helena and Bob linked Kano up to the mainframe central input and Victor was linked to the same router in tandem. Paul Morrow was linked to the back up mainframe server so that both systems could be updated and repaired simultaneously.
Once all three indicated they were ready to start, I activated the connection. At first, all seemed to be going to plan. On the monitor in front of me was the schematic of the central services and I could follow in real time as circuits went live. Within minutes the mainframe was re-wiring and re-writing itself at break neck speed! The vital signs of all three men were stable and I could see Helena and Bob both taking a large mental sigh of relief.
Needing to get back to Command Centre to assist Sandra Benes in Paul's absence, I took my leave and headed for the Travel Tube. By the time I walked through the door of Command Centre I realised something was very wrong. You could have heard a pin drop. Sandra was visibly shaking and Helena's distraught face was now looking directly at me through the monitor.
She told me that David Kano, Victor Bergman and Paul Morrow had dematerialised before her eyes - simultaneously - a couple of minutes after I left the central computer room! Just as Kano had almost a year ago when we encountered the Guardian of Piri. Except this time there was no alien outside influence, nothing to rationally account for their disappearance.
So for the last six days we have carried out every test conceivable. The whole of Alpha, including the subterranean catacombs, have been searched with a fine toothcomb. Nothing. Every possible energy trace has been analysed in the room where the three men had vanished. Helena and her team have analysed the three chairs they were reclining on. Not a trace of DNA, no skin cells, no hair, nothing.
We are now well beyond the reach of the twin planets Delta and Betha, even with long range scanners set to maximum sensitivity. Although we know that Dionne possessed short range teleportation ability there is just no reason to believe that they have been kidnapped. Even if it were possible, what for? Their technology far exceeds our own and there would be no point in holding the men for ransom in the full knowledge that we would have no means with which to retrieve them.
The only conclusion I can rationally draw is that they have all perished. How and why will probably remain a mystery for all time. Now I have the somber task ahead of preparing memorial services for my three closest male friends. More than that. David Kano, Victor Bergman and Paul Morrow were three of the most vital personnel aboard. They are all irreplaceable yet that is exactly what I must now - somehow - do.
Others will inevitably be trained to fill their professional shoes but to replace them ? Impossible.
Computer end recording."
With that John Koenig stood and wandered across to the viewport where he would remain, contemplating the universe beyond, well into the night.
It had taken them a long time to comprehend why they had not been unplugged. It was days ago now that he, Paul and Victor had completed the task of recreating all the vital programmes to keep Alpha operational. Once they had finished those, they had taken to fine tuning and upgrading the remainder of the less essential circuits. Finally they had done the same for all the auxiliary systems. Yet, still the Commander had not seen fit to wake them!
At first he was at a loss. Even if the Commander wanted to keep him connected a little longer - perhaps whilst they were running testing on the new systems - then surely they needed Paul and Victor to oversee operations and analyse the results from Command Centre. The three of them were the only personnel on Alpha fully qualified and knowledgeable enough to do so!
It was only now, as the Commander's personal recording played through their collective consciousness, that the truth dawned on him. He, Paul and Victor had no corporeal bodies left! They had vanished into the ether, leaving no trace that they had ever existed, except their minds were intact. Here, inside computer ! Somehow they had to let the others know they were not dead. They were alive and well, their thoughts disseminated through the circuit boards; wires; diodes; capacitors and hard drives of the entity known as Computer.
At first they tried the obvious: random glitches in the programs that they hoped would ring a bell in the subconscious minds of their closest friends. Victor had tried producing the trace pattern of his electronic heart on the ECG machine in Medical Centre when no one was attached to it and Helena was alone on duty. Paul had tried playing his own guitar music compositions in Sandra's quarters late in the evening. Himself...well he had no close friends in the same sense. His first love and only true friend had been Computer but he had tried in his own way to help the other two. Knowing that the last project he had been working on before they became embroiled in that twin planet war was an upgrade to the autopilot systems of the Eagle fleet, he sent the last series of computations to Alan Carter's office terminal. As the two of them had been working on it in secret - planning to notify the commander once they had tested the prototype and been happy with the results - it was very unlikely that Alan would attribute the data to anyone else but him.
So they waited for realisation to dawn, but it was in vain. Helena just purged the old data files on Victor's medical records after archiving a paper copy, thinking that it truly was a glitch in the system that had evoked painful memories. Meanwhile Sandra just became distraught, thinking someone was playing a cruel practical joke in very bad taste. Of course the 'culprit' was never found! Even Alan Carter assumed that Kano had completed the calculations before the bombardment of the Base had begun and that the file had only just come to light now that computer was repaired.
Eventually he persuaded Victor and Paul to accept their collective fate. Alpha was, for now at least, safe. The three of them would always stand ready to act whenever future crises occur. They and Computer were now one entity which meant that Alpha now had a self repairing and learning Artificial Intelligence endowed with the real time consciousnesses of three of it's most learned personnel.
Who knew? Perhaps they would live forever. At least for as long as Moonbase Alpha existed : so would they. Guardians of Alpha - not suspending time but protecting it. Keeping their friends safe and well until such time as they found their Garden of Eden...somewhere out there.