Beth6787

February 2019

Cradle of Hope

An episode epilogue to the season 1 story "Alpha Child"...

Medical Centre, Moonbase Alpha, 23:00 hours...

Dr. Bob Matthias finished his usual verbal report at the end of the evening shift and handed over to his CMO. It was only the second night since Sue Crawford and her baby son had been restored to their own bodies and his boss was understandably adamant that she would not release either of them from round the clock clinical observation for several days yet.

They were all still suffering from 'shell shock' after encountering the malevolent body snatching aliens and he felt angry that what should have been a beacon of hope for the Alphans - their first born child since the momentous events of Breakaway - had been sullied by yet another encounter with the dark forces that seemed omni-present out here : in the vastness of interstellar space.

Dr. Helena Russell had smiled at him, though that smile had not reached her eyes since she had been terrorised by Jarak, and gone to check on the baby herself. He knew she was still as shaken and unnerved as he was. All the laws of biology that they had learned were sacrosanct at medical school, had just been thrown out of the proverbial airlock by their encounter with Jarak and Rena's people! Just knowing that the previously impossible could happen out here : without warning - had shaken both their belief in their abilities to provide medical care for their own people here on Alpha.

Bob paused momentarily at the exit wanting to say something to reassure his colleague and close friend but, at a loss for words he found himself merely inclining his head "Goodnight Dr. Russell" and with that he stepped over the threshold and was gone.

Helena sighed and turned back to check on Sue once again. Bob told her that she had fallen asleep a little over an hour ago and had breastfed the baby willingly about twenty minutes earlier. So she need not wake Sue for another feed until around 3am unless the baby stirred first. At least Sue seemed to have forgotten the events of the last few days as far as she could tell. She appeared totally accepting of her baby son and had shown no negative reaction when the Commander had accidentally referred to him as Jackie in the immediate aftermath of Jarak and Rena's disappearance.

In fact, an hour or so later, when the others had returned to Command Centre she had asked Helena why the Commander had called the baby that. Had she murmured a name in her sleep? As far as she was aware she hadn't decided on one but she liked it. Helena had found herself making up a story that John had probably heard her say it. She had just used a child's version of his father's name Jack as a temporary measure to save calling him 'baby Crawford' until Sue announced her choice. She had seemed happy with that and then they had changed the subject to his weight and Helena's recommendations for a feeding schedule before Helena had made her excuses and gone to her office.

She very much hoped that Sue would choose another name. Any name that the rest of the Alphans would not associate with recent events. "Jackie" had been an alien imposter, not Sue and Jack's much longed for child at all.

Scanning through Jack Crawford's autopsy report once again she noticed that his middle name had been Charles. Perhaps she would suggest that to Sue when she next awoke. Before she could gather her thoughts any further her commlock chimed and on answering she saw the image of John Koenig appear on screen. "Come in John. Sue and the baby are both fast asleep so come straight through to my office. I'll put the kettle on."

John slipped quietly through the door, having stopped briefly by the crib. He knew he was being irrational but he felt compelled to see with his own eyes that it was indeed a six day old baby inside. He was grateful for small mercies that at least Sue was apparently unaware that anything had ever been amiss. She had suffered enough with the sudden loss of her husband Jack, less than a week after her pregnancy had been confirmed. She did not need to relive the traumatic events since their son's birth for the rest of her life too. John had already made a base wide announcement to that effect. Everyone had been told that the events of the last few days were strictly classified and that no one was to mention the incident again: for the sake of Sue Crawford and her baby son.

He had kicked himself for calling the baby 'Jackie' in front of Sue only minutes after bursting into Medical Centre but fortunately she did not seem to have noticed. John could only hope that he would grow up normally from now on...

Helena put the mug of coffee down on the glass table in front of him and sat in the armchair opposite. She was obviously waiting for him to begin the conversation. After all, it was he who had arrived unannounced at the start of the night shift. Clearing his throat, after downing a sip of the still too hot coffee, he cut to the chase. "So Helena, what's your gut professional feeling? Will the baby truly be unaffected long term by what he's been through these last few days?"

She avoided looking into his eyes. He wanted reassurance : certainty. Which she could not truthfully provide. Face it, no human baby had ever been subjected to alien possession and exponentially accelerated growth before. It was a miracle that he was still alive and - as far as their late twentieth century medical instruments could tell - a normal six day old baby boy. All she could tell him was what he already knew. So far, so good : and the future was in the lap of the gods. "Honestly John, I just don't know. No one can answer that for sure. All I can tell you is that the aliens who removed Jarak from his body appear to have restored him to how he was at birth. The same can be said for Sue. Sue appears to have no memories of "Jackie" or possession by Rena so I can only assume that will be the case for her son too. I can tell you he is not deaf. The first test Bob and I ran (several times to be absolutely sure) was setting off sounds in various directions and the baby moved his eyes correctly each time. Obviously, when he is a little older and can sit up, I can give him a more thorough testing but by all parameters he checks out as a healthy, normal baby so far."

"Still, it highlights just how vulnerable we all are out here. Before he was born there had been such a sense of anticipation and hope for the future across the whole community here on Alpha. Helena, we have sixteen other married couples here on Base and several more in serious, stable relationships. Baby Crawford had been envisaged to be the first of many. Now...well, in light of recent events we may need to think again."

Helena had been thinking those same dark thoughts but to hear John voice them sent a chill down her spine. If they were to advise, or worse ban, the others from becoming parents until an eventual Exodus ...that could be months or even years away!

She put her cup down and placed her hand on top of John's which was clenched on the desk in front of him. "John, look at me. I know you are scared. We all are, but we can't let this fluke event rule all our lives. My gut tells me it may be prudent that we wait a few months...make sure Sue's baby really is developing normally and remains unharmed...but to tell every woman on Alpha that she is to be denied the chance of motherhood? How long for? We have no idea when - or even if - Exodus will eventually occur. We cannot wait indefinitely. Already our youngest woman on base is twenty eight, our eldest Angela Robinson is forty four and I am not far behind her. Within ten years we will have very few women still young enough to become mothers, even if all restrictions were lifted and we all actively tried to conceive."

"I realise that Helena. Maybe we will find a new world to call home soon. I hope so. Maybe not. If we do then a moratorium on breeding will only be very temporary. But, if we are to remain up here for several years to come...for a start, Alpha's systems cannot support a second generation of any significant numbers. Even if the events of the last few days had never happened, we would be restricted to fifteen, maybe twenty, children at best. That means one child only for the lucky few and none at all for most of the women here on Alpha. All Jackie Crawford's advent has done is to bring that painful fact into clear focus."

Logically John was right but... "John, I know that from the standpoint of pure logic and reason : you are absolutely right. The problem is we are talking about people, living feeling human beings, not machines. How do we tell our people that although we are thrilled at the arrival of Sue's baby, due to our current circumstances - over which we have no control - he will be the one and only child born here ! How could we possibly go about enforcing such a dictat?"

She was gripping his hand a little too hard and staring him down. Daring him to put the onus on her. If he ordered her to do it, would she comply? "I don't want to play the bogey man here. The dictator. And I'm sure the vast majority of couples on Base are using regular contraception. I know it would be an invasion of privacy to go there and under any other circumstances a Moonbase Commander would of course, never impinge on the personal lives of his crew. But any and all measures of normality ceased to exist the moment we were blown beyond the reach of Earth. Out here, day by day, our lives hang by a thread. We are totally dependent on Computer maintaining our artificial environment here on Alpha for our very existence : with no known end in sight. What right do we have to intentionally bring innocent lives into such a precarious situation?"

Helena steeled herself mentally. She had to make him understand. "What right do we have to deny baby Crawford any play mates? To deny our children the right to be born because we are afraid or what might or might not happen in the future? John, no one ever knows for sure what is around the corner. That was true when the moon was still in orbit of Earth, yesterday, today and tomorrow. That has always been human experience. We just have less certainties out here but that makes it all the more important to maintain hope for the future. If we have no children - ultimately - we have no future either. By all means let us proceed gradually, with caution. But carry on living we must."

He wanted so much to accept what she said. But Helena was not in command of Alpha with the ultimate responsibility for everyone. He was. Though, on days like this it felt like a real poisoned chalice : a noose around his neck. He was also well aware that their own relationship was getting serious and the questions about their own hopes for the future had not been far ahead. He had hoped for children in the early days of their journey through space, but as time had passed and they had experienced so many harmful and deadly events, he had accepted that his children would now never be more than a wishful thinking daydream. He had never asked Helena directly, but he had wondered. She had not had children with Lee. He did not know why, but had assumed that as she had only been twenty seven years old on her wedding day that they had not been in a hurry. Helena would be forty two on her next birthday and no doubt, she was becoming very aware of her ticking biological clock.

He did not want to deny any woman her dream of a child : least of all his Helena. But...it was a very big but... "I'm sorry Helena. Truly I am, but we cannot have any more children born here on Alpha. Not now and...maybe...not ever."

She could not believe what she was hearing! Maybe she could talk some sense into him once the dust had settled. They were all still far too on edge after recent events. It was best to let it pass for now but Hell would freeze over before she would allow all her hopes and dreams...her future children to remain for ever unborn! Neither would she impose John's fears on the rest of Alpha either.

Inwardly counting to ten to regain her equilibrium, Helena did her best to school her features into what she hoped conveyed an inner calm that she had yet to achieve. "John, it's late and we are all still somewhat shaken by recent events. Now is not the time to be making far reaching decisions, though I do agree : for the immediate future we focus on ensuring that Sue and her baby have all the support that they could need. If you'll excuse me I need to check on my patients."

John understood. It was time he took his leave and allow Helena the space to think through the issues for herself. Sadly, he strongly suspected that her scientifically trained mind would inevitably reach the same conclusions that he had himself. Though for her, and the other would-be mothers on Alpha, it would be a bitter pill to swallow. He just hoped that their relationship - in all its' aspects - could survive the fallout.

Nodding to Helena and thanking her for the tea, he headed out towards his quarters in the hope of grasping a couple of hours sleep before the challenges of the new day bore down on him once again.

Three days later, Medical Centre...

"I don't understand it Dr. Russell. I have run the blood tests a third time and still nothing. No sign of bacterial, viral or fungal infection. No elevation in leukocyte levels or antibody titre. No elevation in pro-inflammatory cytokines. Nothing. Yet all six patients continue to deteriorate."

Helena came over to stand beside Dr. Bob Matthias and took the printout from the blood analyser. She already knew that if Bob could see nothing amiss then it wasn't going to reveal anything further to her eye either. Still, she stared at the piece of paper, praying for inspiration.

Just over twenty four hours ago she had taken the decision to release Sue and her baby son to their quarters, fearing that they were more at risk in Medical Centre, once it became apparent that this was not an isolated case. First John Koenig, then Paul Morrow and David Kano from Main Mission followed by Alan Carter and lastly Hilary Marks and Brenda Furlow, two of her nursing staff. If only they could make a connection. It was fairly apparent that Hilary and Brenda had caught the 'contagion' from the other four as they had been the two nurses assigned to monitor them around the clock. Twelve hours on and twelve off shift. Under normal circumstances she would have used a three x eight hour shift pattern but that would mean exposing yet another member of her team to a potential pathogen they neither understood nor could even isolate and identify so far.

For the last twenty four hours there had been no further cases brought in and the the four medical staff - herself, Bob Matthias and the two stricken nurses - were in isolation with their patients until such time as whatever it was ran its course or... she would not let her mind follow that path just yet...

"There has to be something we are missing Bob. Let's run through the entire sequence of events from the time the Commander staggered in here until now. He presented over twenty two hours before Alan Carter. Then Kano and Paul were brought in less than half an hour before Alan. Therefore we are agreed that John Koenig is patient zero."

Bob nodded. "Agreed. So was there anywhere that the Commander went, anyone or anything he had exclusive contact with?"

"I don't see how Bob. We are a closed community here. There is no one that only John Koenig would have been in contact with. If it was a hazard from the Research Labs then surely Victor or one of his team would be showing symptoms by now, yet I checked in with the Professor only half an hour ago and he reported that he was fighting fit as were all his team members."

"Then it has to be something to do with Jarak and Rena." Bob Matthias had no hard and fast evidence but he was beginning to suspect the two aliens had contaminated the Alphans in some way. " There is one connection...at least for the four initial patients. John Koenig ; Alan Carter ; David Kano and Paul Morrow. Helena those four men were the ones who went out onto the surface to destroy Jarak's fleet of ships."

Granted it was a connection, though she still couldn't see how that was relevant. "Yes Bob, but they were all in their fully contained space suits. None of them reported tearing their suits or exposing themselves to anything on the surface at all. Even after Jarak forced me to recall them before they completed their plan, they still went through routine decontamination procedures before heading over here to confront the alien. If the contagion originated with Jarak, then you or I would have had the longest exposure and we should be ill now. Yet we are both fine."

"Agreed. I know it doesn't make sense but what other connection is there between the four and no one else?" Bob grimaced then continued " Always assuming that there will be no further cases, of course."

Helena knew very well that he was right. They just didn't know. It made no sense whatsoever. Her nursing staff Hilary Marks and Brenda Furlow , who had shown initial symptoms around sixteen hours after Alan had been admitted to Medical Centre - yet she and Bob who had both remained in quarantine with the others since then - appeared to be unaffected. All four of the men who had been out on the surface had been in contact with many of the Command Centre staff and, John in particular, had unlimited access across the Base and regularly held meetings in the Research Sector, the Eagle Hangars, the Nuclear Generating Plants etc. etc. Logic dictated that if he was carrying some sort of alien pathogen then half the Alphans should by now be affected.

Gazing down at Paul Morrow, having wandered past the other three men, she made her decision. "We must be missing something crucial Bob. We've analysed their body fluids, skin cells and hair. Run every conceivable test on their central nervous systems and carried out every type of brain scan known to medical science. Yet still all six patients are in such a deep sleep that they appear comatose and running a fever. If it is not some form of infective agent then it must be something in the environment. Such as the magnetic radiation that flummoxed us for so long just before Breakaway. And who was the person who resolved that one?"

Dr. Bob Matthias rapidly picked up her train of thought "Professor Bergman. If anyone can resolve this mystery it's him."

She knew that she was taking a risk by breaking quarantine but they were rapidly running out of other options. Instructing Dr. Matthias to watch all six patients like a hawk and notify her the moment there was even the slightest development, Helena Russell strode out of Medical Centre determined to brainstorm with Victor for as long as it took to crack this case.

Meanwhile in the Crawford's quarters ...

Sue glanced at the clock for what must have been the hundredth time this afternoon : it was now 23:53 hours. Just over eleven hours since baby Charlie - Dr. Russell's suggestion somehow fit, he looked like a Charles - had last awoken for a feed.

At first she had been relieved, perhaps he would just be one of those babies that slept through the 'night' i.e. eight hours or so of blissful satiation, almost from birth. So she had happily put him down after his feed and nappy change just after lunch and slept through herself until late evening. On waking she had noticed he was still happily sleeping. She had briefly checked his temperature and felt the outside of his nappy - still dry - and decided to make the most of it. A well earned shower, wash and set of her hair followed by eating a leisurely supper and - with the baby still blissfully sleeping - she had even sorted out the laundry to go to the central services department. Still he did not stir.

Finally she decided that she would just have to change his nappy and sleep suit and no doubt he would be wailing away at her ready for his feed the moment she lifted him out of his crib. The fear only set in when she did just that and no response. He was breathing normally and as far as she could tell he was just asleep. No temperature, no rash on changing his nappy and clothing. He just would not rouse. Even when she resorted to picking him up and rocking him whilst calling his new name!

Fear hit her like a sledgehammer to the gut. She briefly remembered the Commander and then a couple more patients being admitted to Medical Centre just before she and Charlie had been suddenly discharged unexpectedly back to their quarters. She had no idea what was wrong with them. Only that they had been placed in the isolation ward... Had Charlie somehow picked something up? Grabbing her son's bottle and wrapping him as securely as possible in his blanket she held him close against her and made for Medical Centre. Not wanting to risk using theTravel Tube until she knew what was happening on Alpha, Sue headed for the little used maintenance corridor network. It would take her about half an hour to reach the Medical Centre this way but the less people she met along the way the better...

Victor Bergman sat quietly and listened to his friend. Much as he appreciated her confidence in his analytical abilities, on this occasion he felt hopelessly inadequate. He had no more idea about what was the matter with the four senior staff or her two nurses than anyone else on Alpha. At least, to date, their had been no further outbreaks so he could only hope that Helena and her team had contained - whatever it was - in time.

"I'm sorry Helena, I just can't see a causal link. I've analysed all four spacesuits and there is no sign of damage nor of any external radiation or DNA on any of them. There is nothing to indicate that John and his team encountered anything out of the ordinary on the lunar surface, nor that any energy emissions from those four ships came in contact with - yet alone penetrated - their protective suits. Nothing at all. If the four of them were somehow affected by Jarak ... I cannot see how. Their people had removed both Jarak and Rena by the time John and Alan broke through the Medical Centre doors. Bob was still inside as were the two nurses, yet Bob is unaffected and Hilary and Brenda only showed symptoms after several hours of caring for their four patients. By the way, what is the current situation?"

Helena sighed and flung her arms out, gesticulating in exasperation "No change Victor. All six have a mildly elevated temperature for no apparent reason and all appear to be asleep. Not in a coma, not even conventionally unconscious. Just asleep. I've tried every test known to medicine and repeated the cranial scans several times. I just get normal cycles of sine wave and REM sleep. None of the six patients respond to either electric shock treatment or chemical stimulants. There just appears to be no way to bring them back to consciousness. It can only be some alien influence but what or how are a total mystery. It was only after Bob pointed out to me that you were the one to think outside the box when the nuclear fuel dumps started to overheat..."

"Magnetic radiation! Helena, that may be it! Perhaps the remaining deep stores that did not ignite eleven months ago are going critical now. Those technicians and astronauts that presented to you back then, they all behaved erratically before descending into comas that they could not be revived from. The symptoms are similar this time, just less extreme. Which would fit with the remaining radioactive waste being stored much deeper below the surface and possibly leaking electromagnetic emissions at a slower rate. So slow that our surface detectors have yet to pick it up..."

Helena felt an icy dread creep up her spine " and John, Paul, Kano and Alan were all walking around on the surface for almost an hour by the time they positioned themselves under those four ships and then returned to the airlock. Victor, could you analyse their suits again for residual electromagnetic effects and I will look for alterations in the polarity of the haemoglobin molecules in their blood samples."

Victor had already jumped up and punched through a connection to Command Centre "Sandra, please run a full scan of the EM bandwidth. Maximum sensitivity and focus on the surface between Alpha Base and where the Commander's team attempted to destroy those alien ships. Also get Technical to take core soil samples down to a depth of three metres above Nuclear Storage Areas 2 & 3. I'll be out to join them shortly."

As he cut the connection he heard rather than saw Helena disappear down the corridor towards Medical as fast as her legs could carry her.

On entering Medical Helena was confronted with apparent chaos. Sue Crawford was standing next to Bob Matthias begging him to save her baby who appeared to be unresponsive. She could see that the ECG trace had flatlined and ordinarily she would have been instantly at his side, attempting to pull off a miracle. Except that there appeared to be one already occurring. John was staggering about in an apparent daze and the other five were all sitting up and looking about in confusion.

Making her way across to John she steered him back to the biobed. "John, please. Just sit still a minute and let me run a few tests on you." Turning to Alan who was on the next bed she asked him to lie back down and get the others to do the same. Setting up the ECG scan she quickly took John's blood pressure and temperature. Both were in the normal range. If Victor was right then she needed to get fresh blood samples from all six patients immediately. Smiling as reassuringly as she could she went over to Bob and took him aside. "Bob, I don't have time to explain right now but could you take blood samples from all six of our patients and then extract the red blood cells. Then, if all our patients have normal temperatures and ECG readings please get everyone some liquid refreshment. I'll examine Sue's baby in the meantime. Am I right to think that he presented as just being asleep and you could not rouse him?"

Bob nodded "Yes, until about three minutes ago when all brain activity stopped. I'm sorry Helena, he's dead. There was nothing I could do."

By now Sue was sobbing and holding her baby close to her chest, as if trying to transmit some of her own body warmth to him. "Sue. Please, let me examine him."

"His name is Charlie doctor. Please, he cannot die...I can't lose him too."

Helena took the baby who was still warm and not as yet showing any signs of rigour mortis. In fact, his cheeks were still rosy?...Lying him gently on the examination bed she saw his chest rise and fall. He was breathing! She hastily took his pulse and temperature. Both were climbing by the minute. What was going on? "Sue, he's not dead !" The moment the baby's mother appeared at her side he opened his eyes and started to cry.

"He must be starving Doctor Russell. I last fed him over twelve hours ago. Nothing would rouse him...how did you...?..."

Helena had absolutely no idea but she wanted to calm Sue and gather her thoughts. "He must have fallen into such a deep sleep that our instruments could not detect his life signs for a moment. Your picking him up and warming him against your body must have brought him around. Go ahead and see whether you can get him to take his milk." She was talking nonsense from a medical stand point but if she could reassure her patient's mother and buy herself time to analyse those blood samples...

As if on cue Bob appeared and told her that the six red blood cell samples were mounted on the microscope slides as she had asked. Hurrying over she took John's, Paul's and Alan's and asked Bob to look at Kano, Hilary and Brenda's samples. "We are looking for the polarity of the molecules being non random. If I am right then all three of my samples will be polarised to magnetic north and so will Kano's. I would expect the phenomena to be less pronounced with our nursing staff samples."

Just as she was about to begin, Victor burst in. "Helena, I was right. There are traces of EM radiation in the metal of the suit helmets. All the molecules are orientated towards magnetic north. We haven't received the core samples yet from the surface but both teams are out drilling right now. I've only just sent them because I had to wait for technical section to coat the suit helmets in graphene before they left. Both teams know that they are to stay outside for as short a duration as possible..."

Victor was still in mid-flow but John Koenig had heard enough. "Victor, are you telling me that the four of us are suffering from the same EM radiation poisoning that killed Warren and Sparkman just before Breakaway?"

Helena answered for him. "It's possible John. That's what Bob and I are about to find out by analysing your blood samples. If Victor's right then the iron in your red blood cells should be showing magnetised polarity. Victor will fill you in on what has been happening since you fell unconscious." She hurried back to her microscope as Victor took John through to her office to prevent their conversation being overheard by the others and she was relieved to note that a couple of orderlies had since arrived for duty and were busy dispensing tea and coffee to her other patients.

Bob Matthias glanced up from the samples he had been looking at and shook his head. "Hilary and Brenda's slides are perfectly normal, as you suspected they may be but... so is David Kano's. All his Haemoglobin molecules are randomly orientated. No sign of external polarisation at all."

Helena scanned Paul and Alan's samples. Both were normal too. "John Koenig was the first to show symptoms, perhaps his slide will reveal something..." she tried to keep the edge of despair out of her voice as she handed the other two slides over for Bob to double check. Looking at John's it too proved to be perfectly normal. Had she and Victor been wrong?

"I don't understand Bob, there's nothing here. All six are perfectly normal yet Victor tells me that the space suit helmets were polarised. Could you join me in my office, we need to confer with the Commander and Professor."

Ten minutes later and no one had come up with any new ideas. John Koenig wanted to get back to duty and she had no clinical reason to detain him. Reluctantly she returned to the main isolation ward and discharged the other five back to their quarters with instructions to take the next two days off. If they showed no further symptoms then they could return to light duties after that. The Commander agreed to remain in his office, confined to 'paperwork duties' only for the next couple of days unless the soil core samples proved to be contaminated. After ensuring that they were all wearing their medical monitoring wrist bands she discharged them and indicated to Victor that she would like him to stay behind for a moment.

Heading over to Sue Crawford she saw that baby Charlie was wide awake and looking around. Sue confirmed that he had taken all his milk and she had had to make up a second bottle. Helena noted that he still looked flushed and his temperature was above normal, though not dangerously so. Still, she had more questions than answers, so it was prudent to keep Charlie and his mother here under observation for the next twenty four hours at least. She left Bob to get them settled in and returned to her office to find Victor pouring the tea.

"So Victor, what are your thoughts?"

"Well, the negative blood results and the apparent miraculous recoveries have thrown a significant spanner in the works of my theory haven't they? The only hard evidence we have for a new electro-magnetic disturbance is the data from the space suit helmets. Where we go from here will depend very much on what the lunar core samples turn up. If any of them exhibit a clear uniform polarity then we at least have a potential source. If not..."

"... if not, we are back to the proverbial drawing board, aren't we Victor?" Helena put her cup down and went to stand by the window, looking out over the crater housing their home-from-home as if willing it to answer her.

Victor understood. They had all been shaken by recent events with young "Jackie" and he strongly suspected that there would be a personal fall out for Helena and John. Before the sudden attacks of the 'sleeping sickness' ( for want of a proper diagnostic name ) he had spoken in depth to Commander Koenig about the ramifications and they had come to a consensus very quickly. There should be no more births on Alpha for the foreseeable future. He did not know whether Commander Koenig had spoken to Dr. Russell from a professional standpoint about this but, from the looks of things, John had spoken off the record to Helena. And she had not taken it well. At least they didn't have any conclusive evidence linking this latest incident to Jarak and by extension, the poor baby. The only circumstantial evidence they had was the magnetisation of the helmets which pointed to their nuclear waste stores though if they really were the cause then they needed to act quickly before the whole of Alpha was affected. He really needed to get back to the Geology Research Facility and set up the analyses so he could hit the ground running as soon as the cores arrived.

"I'd best get ready for those core samples Helena. Don't worry, you'll be the first to know the results : though don't tell John that will you?" He winked at her on the way out and was glad to elicit a glimmer of a genuine smile is response.

And I must get back to my patients Helena remonstrated with herself. First check on Sue and baby Charlie then a few house-calls to those I've discharged. Putting on her professional facade and doing her best to exude an aura of composed confidence she headed out to start her rounds.

Three hours later...

Dr. Helena Russell, Commander John Koenig, Professor Victor Bergman and Professor Karin Werner were clustered around the computer in the Lunar Geology Research Laboratory of which the latter was the senior scientist on Moonbase Alpha.

It was Professor Werner who was now addressing the group. "Theoretically it is impossible without a second counteracting field, yet I observed it in real time with both core samples just minutes ago. I ran a continual background scan - to act as a baseline - throughout the analyses and also have background data for this complex every day since before Breakaway. There is not - and never has been - a counteracting electro-magnetic field. Yet the polarity went from matching that discovered in the helmets to random to the exact inverse polarity within 1.04 minutes. The two cores were exactly synchronised at all times yet they were sourced from two entirely separate sites on the lunar surface and their mineral composition varies dramatically at all depths throughout the two cores. Not only the reversing of the polarity but the synchronicity cannot be a naturally occurring phenomenon. Nor, in my professional opinion, can it be due to the degradation of the remaining nuclear waste in either waste disposal area."

"So what you are saying is that you believe there is a sentient third party deliberately exerting this effect?" Commander Koenig challenged.

Karin Werner was not prone to wild speculation and she was not inclined to start now. "No Commander, I have no conclusive evidence to that effect. All I can tell you is what I can confidently eliminate as a cause."

Victor suppressed the urge to chuckle. John did not know Karin as he did. If they were to avoid spending all night painstakingly analysing the minutiae and getting nowhere fast he had better paraphrase. " So what we do know is that there is an external EM field of unknown origin that has acted, only moments ago, on these core samples. It is reasonable to assume that it was the same field that acted on the space suit helmets. Whether it also acted on the Commander and the other three men who wore those suits as well as Dr. Russell's two nursing staff is pure speculation as all their blood and tissue samples proved negative. Of course they are all living beings, whereas the only positive results to date have been observed in inanimate objects."

As Victor was talking, Helena suddenly had a thought. "Yes, that's true. I also only took blood samples looking for EM field effects from the Commander and the other five after they had suddenly awoken. Perhaps therefore also after they had recovered. The only patient still running a slight fever is Charlie Crawford, although even he is now alert and responsive once again."

"Still, it couldn't hurt to run the red blood cell polarity tests on a sample of his blood could it?" Victor was beginning to wonder...was it possible that the baby was the source of the EM fields? It was still here after all, as was self evident from the core samples they had all witnessed perform the impossible in front of their very eyes only a few minutes earlier.

"Agreed. Helena run those tests as soon as possible then report back to me. I'm calling a Command Conference at 0900 hours and I want all the Section Heads in attendance : recovering from sleeping sickness or not." JohnKoenig brought the meeting to a close and headed out to his office.

He felt the need for some time alone to process everything he had heard and try to make sense of the scientifically impossible once again. Somedays it felt like that is all he had done since they had been torn out of Earth's orbit. Stagger around in the dark leading his people down a blind alley towards oblivion and there seemed to be no reprieve or end in sight.

—-

0930 hours. Command Centre Conference Room ...

They were all gathered around the large round table. Commander John Koenig, Chief Operations Officer Paul Morrow and his Deputy Sandra Benes, Professors Victor Bergman and Karin Werner, Drs. Helena Russell and Bob Matthias, Chief of Computing Dr. David Kano and lastly their Chief Eagle Pilot and Flight Commander Captain Alan Carter.

Commander Koenig was just wrapping up the briefing, bringing everyone up to speed on developments so far. She herself had been ten minutes late because she had taken a second blood sample from Charlie Crawford as well as his mother to be absolutely sure that there was no mistake. The results were consistent and also defied logic. Somehow the babies red blood cells were not only all polarised in exactly the same conformation as the helmets and core samples but when she had accidentally spilt a drop on John's blood slide the cells had instantly polarised the same way. She had then done something medically insane, based on a sudden hunch. She had removed a tiny piece of the inversely polarised core sample from Nuclear Waste Site 3 and added a tiny drop of Charlie's blood. Instantly the polarisation had randomised leaving the dust totally inert! She knew she was next up to speak and would have to present her findings before having a chance to discuss them with Victor and Karin...

Commander Koenig turned towards her. "Dr. Russell, I believe you have completed your analyses of young Charlie Crawford's blood samples?" She nodded her assent and picked up the pile of computer printouts and graphs she had brought from Medical. "Then perhaps you could brief us on your findings."

Helena stood and looked around the table at her closest colleagues and valued friends, knowing that what she was about to say defied all the laws of science but looking into little Charlie's eyes before she made her way here she just knew. "Dear friends and colleagues, what I am about to say sounds fantastical. Perhaps there is a scientific explanation for my results but in the meantime I can only conclude that baby Charlie is our miraculous saviour. I am now handing round a copy of his blood results and also the effects that just a tiny drop of his blood had on the EM polarised contaminated spacesuit helmets and lunar core samples. Somehow - don't ask me to explain it - his blood cells not only absorb the EM radiation but neutralise it too. Sue brought Charlie back into Medical Centre just before all six of my patients, four of whom sit in this very room now, miraculously regained consciousness. He then appeared to die - at the moment I believe he absorbed the polarity from each of you - before suddenly waking himself. He still has a slight fever and all his blood cells are highly polarised and emitting the same EM signature as the core samples. I then accidentally dripped a tiny amount of sample onto the Commander's blood slide and instantly those cells polarised. A second drop and they returned to normal. I then added a drop of Charlie's blood to samples from both cores from Nuclear Waste Areas 2 & 3. Instantly each sample de-polarised and became harmless dust. I am convinced that Charlie cured John, Paul, David, Allan, Hilary and Brenda and...'" she took a deep breath before giving voice to her craziest idea of all ... "I believe that if we take just one drop of Charlie's blood to Nuclear Waste Disposal Areas 2 & 3 the threat will be neutralised for ever."

As she sat back down there was absolute silence from around the table. She saw the glances pass between Paul & Sandra and John & Kano. She couldn't blame them, she sounded as though her brain had been polarised and scrambled too. It was Bob Matthias who spoke first. "As crazy as Dr. Russell's conclusions sound, we all have the hard and fast facts in front of us. I for one think her suggestion is worth trying. Stranger things have happened out here. Maybe baby Charlie really is the saviour of Alpha."

"I agree. Remember, Jarak and Rena lied to us. They told us that their people were malevolent and would destroy all of Alpha for harbouring them. Yet when their mothership arrived they simply removed their two outcasts and returned Sue and her baby to us unharmed. Maybe they did more than that. Perhaps they wanted to make amends for the damage Jarak caused. Perhaps they gave baby Crawford the ability to save us all. We know those aliens can alter the course of time. Jackie growing the equivalent of five years in an instant then transforming in minutes into the thirty year old human equivalent Jarak. They may have been able to see the events of our past that caused us to be cast adrift and maybe also future events such as the EM surges that we have just discovered under the later waste dump sites. So they gave him the ability to save us and our moon. It's a crazy theory, granted. But almost every situation we have encountered out here defies the laws of physics as we understood them as Earthbound humans and ... if there is a Universal Intelligence watching over us then perhaps Charlie is our modern day 'baby in the manger'.. ? ..."

Victor fell silent and nodded to Helena who was trying her hardest not to let the welling tears spill down her cheeks. One or two of the others smiled at her and Bob squeezed her hand under the table as they all waited for their Commander's verdict.

John Koenig, for the first time in his forty five year life, found himself utterly speechless. All he could do was nod towards Helena and then Victor before standing and heading towards the door to indicate the meeting was over.

36 hours later, Commander Koenig's Quarters ...

John finally put his pen down and rubbed his aching hand. That was the most bizarre diary entry he had yet recorded but it had been cathartic for him. Yet again, the miraculous had occurred on Moon-base Alpha, defying all the laws of known science. Helena's crazy theory had proved true. All traces of electro-magnetic radiation fields from below the surface of the moon had been eliminated by a single drop of the baby boy's blood over each site. There had been no more cases of the 'sleeping sickness' or any other malaise on Alpha and as soon as the last traces of the EM field had been removed the baby's fever had vanished and his blood samples had returned to normal for a healthy and completely human eight day old infant. Sue Crawford was in glowing health too and all was well on their home-from-home once again. It was indeed a scientific 'miracle' the cause and explanation for which they may never be privy. Still, it had made him take stock and he found himself reconsidering his conversation with Helena at the start of all this. She had been right, they could not reasonably predict events or foresee the future but no children meant no future and that was now anathema to him.

He had a lot of making up to do and the sooner the better. John headed out for that long overdue talk with Helena, taking the long route via the Hydroponics Facility. He just hoped that Warren still grew those peace roses that Helena loved so much.

THE END.

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