"Our Time, Our Place"
An Episode Addition to the season 1 story "Another Time, Another Place". After the two moons collide and the Alphans disappear from orbit once again - Victor, Paul and Sandra sit around the camp fire in Santa Maria and reminisce...
Four hours after the two moons collide...
Paul looked up as Sandra approached, smiling reassuringly. "It's alright Paul. The boys have finally settled for the night. Mickey is already asleep and Tanya was reading a story to Benjamin as I crept out. She knows where we are if there are any problems."
Victor looked up from where he had been stoking the fire. "Coffee Sandra? I wouldn't usually indulge myself, this late in the evening, but I doubt any of us will be sleeping for a good few hours yet." Sandra nodded and Victor handed the coffee over to Paul who passed one of the mugs on the Sandra.
Once she was comfortably settled on the remaining deck chair it was Paul who voiced the question on all their minds "Do you think there is any hope that they survived somehow? Not just the Commander, Alan and Helena but everyone on that other Moon Base Alpha?"
Victor saw Sandra looking at him with a mixture of hope and trepidation on her face. Realistically, how could they have done so? They all felt the ground beneath their feet shaking and witnessed day turn into the blackness of space as all light from the sun was obscured the moment the two moons collided. Then, within only a couple of minutes the shaking stilled and the sky was as clear as day with no sign that any moon had ever existed up there. Logic said it was impossible that they could have survived a collision that obliterated both moons in an instant, but then again, logically their atmosphere should be shrouded in dust and debris and they should all have perished down here too. "Honestly I cannot see how. Both moons were vaporised within the blink of an eye. There is nothing up there at all. Nothing remains. It is almost as if they never were there. Either moon."
"Yet we know that's impossible. We all arrived here just over ten years ago and ever since we decided to risk Exodus our moon has watched over us nightly and then suddenly that other moon appeared like a harbinger of doom four nights ago. We all saw it, felt it and then experienced the consequences. First Regina and then Helena." Paul tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice, but he was angry. " It was such a waste. And what for? Haven't we suffered enough? Struggled and sacrificed to make a life for ourselves down here and succeeded against impossible odds. Only for John and Alan to return to our Alpha for those desperately needed power cells and never return. Regina and Alan had only been married for six months and John and Helena had been hoping for child. The two of them coping as valiantly as they could with widowhood. Helena losing a husband "presumed dead" for the second time and then this. Our past selves re-appear and what happens. Regina and Helena perish before our very eyes...all for nothing. Those other Alphans are now no more than stardust.."
"Paul ! That is enough!" Sandra was close to tears. She understood. It was unfair but blaming their other selves served no purpose : especially now. And she hated to think or speak ill of the dead. "They were us once upon a time and...at least our Helena had the chance to see her beloved John one more time before she passed away."
Victor put a comforting arm around her shoulders. "That's right, and we now know what became of our John and Alan for certain. No more agonising about the 'what ifs' . We all heard their Helena's report. They died instantly on impact so would not have suffered. We can be grateful for that and the power cells their Commander kindly donated us before they headed home."
Paul moved around the fire and came to kneel in front of his wife. "I'm sorry darling. I didn't mean to sound cruel and uncaring...I was just so frightened. For you, our children...all of us. If they had tried to settle here then..."
"Then we would all be stardust by now too." Victor voiced the natural conclusion to Paul's train of thought. "I have to agree, I am glad that John decided to return with his people to meet their fate on Alpha though I suspect it had more to do with their Helena's impassioned plea than my words of warning. She persuaded him to make the sacrifice to save us all : and they did. Us sitting here, around this campfire tonight, is proof of that. We owe them our gratitude and our very lives."
Sandra warmed her hands around the still hot ceramic mug, wanting to change the direction of the conversation. She felt the need to reminisce. Looking at Paul then Victor in turn she spoke softly "Did you know that their Helena asked me about our story. The exodus from Alpha and how we came to be as they encountered us now."
Victor nodded. "John did the same with me. I told him that our John Koenig had made the decision to commit all Alpha's resources from day one. That it was the results of his vision, unquenchable belief in our ability to prevail and sheer hard work, that has resulted in where we are today. It was then that he asked me about what they found on our moon. The crash site and..."
"Did you tell him Professor?"
"Yes, Sandra. Though I only had time to relay the details of the salvage mission. There was so much more he needed to know. About our John's life with Helena... it is such a shame that I never had the time to talk of such things with him."
"But I did. With their Helena. We must have spent well over three hours with me talking and her listening. Every time I stopped, for her to ask a question or to tell me about their experiences : she urged me on. Almost as though she knew that our reality was the only chance she and John would have to fulfil their dreams of a proper life together." Sandra could feel the tears welling again and sipped at her coffee, swallowing hard. "I also think she was trying to pluck up the courage to face her other self, in the flesh. She needed to know her story."
Paul squeezed her hand gently. "So what did you tell her Sandra?"
"Everything. At least all the important milestones. The Exodus decision and the setting up of the four villages; our deciding to marry only a few weeks later and that being the impetus for them to follow suit. Then the birth of Mickey on the first anniversary of our Eagles landing here in Santa Maria." Sandra looked up and laughed at the memory. "Your being stumped for a name for our son, having decided the baby would be a girl and naturally our choosing Maria in honour of our new home."
Victor nodded "As I remember it was Helena who suggested Michael as the closest male alternative."
Paul was already going a decided shade of pink as Sandra joined in "Thank goodness she did, it was a lot more palatable than "Claus" which was Paul's inspired idea!"
"Alright! I was only joking back then you know."
"Of course you were my dear. We believe you don't we Professor?" The look on poor Paul's face sent her into fits of laugher and soon the two men were bellyaching too. She was so glad! This had been the point of tonight's gathering. To dispel some of those ghosts once and for all and them to remember all that they had to be so grateful for.
Nine years earlier...First anniversary of the Exodus and Paul and Sandra's wedding day...
The day dawned with a clear sky and the first hints of warmth in the sun after a long and hard winter. Sandra supposed it was around mid-March on the Old Earth calendar and excitement had been mounting for the last few weeks as seedlings continued to sprout from the reclaimed soil. She could already hear muffled voices from Helena's living room and guessed that Tanya and Regina had already arrived to begin getting ready for midday. Sandra stretched and glanced at the clock. Just gone 7am so there was no hurry. Perhaps she should get up and join them, after all she was far too excited to dose off again, but she did not want to disturb Helena if she was busy helping her two bridesmaids with their hair and make up. However, she had forgotten what a finely tuned sixth sense their chief medical officer had !
No sooner had she sat up then there was a rap on the door and Helena popped her head around the opening "Good morning. I thought you may like to have your tea and toast in here before joining the melee outside." She smiled conspiratorially, glancing quickly over her shoulder before gently shutting the door behind her.
Sandra beckoned her over and sat on the edge of the bed whilst Helen placed the tray on the small table on the verandah. "Doctor Russell, please. Join me. I would welcome the company."
Helena smiled kindly as the younger woman strolled over to the table where they had a bird's eye view of the sunrise over the newly cultivated corn field behind the house. "It's Helena - today of all days - please. I for one, am looking forward to giving Dr. Russell a well earned day off!"
Sandra nodded her understanding. "Of course. Helena it is and may we have a quiet week or more on the medical front!"
There had been many a sprain, cut or broken bone as the Alphans had had to acclimatise to the hard labour of an agricultural community more reminiscent of the mid nineteenth century than the early twenty first. Paul had been in charge of establishing both the essential infrastructure for the settlement and adapting their machinery to fertilise and till the land in preparation for planting the first fields of crops. It had been back breaking work - almost literally - but his team had somehow pulled off the impossible. They had power lines and plumbing to all sixteen residential buildings as well as the Meeting Hall and machinery workshop and Victor Bergman's teams had ensured that all three fields at each of the four settlement sites were planted to capacity and tended daily over the winter months. Within another four months they should have sufficient wheat, corn, barley and rice to fill the barn for next winter as well as crops of fresh lettuces, radishes, tomatoes and cucumbers over the summer months. It really was quite the achievement !
"So, are you feeling ready to become Mrs. Morrow in less than five hours time?" Helena gently brought the conversation back to the here and now.
Sandra looked intently at her mentor and now close friend...no, Helena was more of a surrogate mother figure to her these days. She had taken on the role of mother of the bride without either of them having to consciously make the decision. When Paul had proposed a little over six months after touchdown, it had been Helena who had quietly talked the Commander around to perform the official ceremony for them. Sandra knew from what Paul had told her that John Koenig had tried to persuade him to slow things down. That their former commander was still struggling with the adjustment to their new way of life and less hierarchical social structure and... Paul strongly suspected that he was still plucking up the courage to address his long term future plans with Helena. With Helena's gentle and discreet guidance he had come around to accepting that life was finally beginning again though they knew of no other engagements so far. Dare she ask?
"I'm nervous and excited all at once but yes, I am sure. I am more than ready to take this step. Paul and I have dreamed of such a future for so long but we were beginning to wonder whether Exodus would ever happen then...well then, this Earth appeared in front of our eyes and now? Now we really can begin living again. Promise me you will not say anything just yet to Regina or Tanya but we have already started trying for a baby and I am hoping..."
Helena had to ask "Any signs yet?"
Sandra blushed and looked away "I am already nine days late. Too early to be sure but..."
Helena got up and hugged her friend. "Your secret is safe with me, at least for a little longer. If nothing has happened by the end of your honeymoon you must promise to come see me as soon as you return."
"Of course, Doctor. Helena may I ask you something personal too?"
Helena suspected that she knew what was coming but better to talk to Sandra alone. Whilst the other young women were well meaning enough, they were prone to gossip, whereas Sandra had always instinctively empathised with her. If ever she was to have a child of her own she would choose to have a daughter just like the young woman sitting in front of her. "You are trying to pluck up the courage to ask me whether your impending nuptials have prompted a certain older gentleman to broach the subject with me?" It wasn't really a question at all.
Sandra blushed "Forgive me. I should not have asked."
"No. It's fine really. Actually it's been quite funny watching John trying to avoid the elephant in the room whilst attempting to create an official wedding ceremony for our new community. I'm sure he secretly wants to ask me but as Commander he is the one who will be officiating at all the future ceremonies : so I suppose he is at a bit of a loss as to how he will conduct his own! That and deep down...they all fear we will say no to them. However much they know we love them in private, it must be hard to know the right time to ask us to go public with that final act of commitment. For all his apparent confidence and commanding presence in public, John Koenig keeps his vulnerabilities close to his chest. And... if I am completely honest with myself, I think he would feel a little foolish asking me. He thinks he is too old to start a family of his own. He turned fifty only a couple of weeks after Paul told him of your engagement and I think he is feeling his age now." Helena sighed then pulled herself mentally together. "But that is more than enough talk about us oldies. Today is yours and Paul's. When we look forward to our new future and the families that will follow."
Sandra blushed again. "Come on. Let's start getting you ready and we had better get out there soon or heaven knows how much slap Tanya will have plastered over poor Regina's face !" Arm in arm the two women took a deep breath before stepping through the doorway into 'Bridal Central'.
At five minutes to midday Victor walked Sandra up the hastily assembled aisle to the outdoor altar in front of the Meeting Hall whose entrance had been adorned with arrangements of origami flowers that had been beautifully hand painted by the women. With luck, by next year, there would be real roses for any future bridal bouquets. Paul was waiting for her with Alan standing next to him in his capacity as best man. Commander Koenig stood on the platform in his Alphan Commander's uniform and Regina and Tanya brought up the rear as her beautiful bridesmaids.
The ceremony itself had been short and sweet but poignant, and there had not been a dry eye amongst the gathered congregation. Almost the entire Alphan family had attended, the only ones absent being Dr. Matthias and any of his patients that were too unwell to attend as well as a few essential services staff needed to keep the settlement up and running. They had both written their own vows and it had not escaped Sandra's attention that John Koenig had surreptitiously glanced over at Helena sitting in the front row more than once whilst Paul was reciting his! She did so hope that it boded well for her dear friends.
After the ceremony there was to be a small reception in the Meeting Hall and a group of Alan Carter's Eagle Astronauts had formed a band and were going to play for an hour or so whilst the guests danced.
As soon as the band started up and Paul had pulled Sandra into the middle of the floor for the traditional first dance, Alan Carter made a bee-line for the chief bridesmaid, Regina. "Would you do the dashing Best Man the honour of accompanying him for this waltz darling?" Regina tried and failed to suppress a giggle. She knew that said dashing Captain had quite the reputation as a ladies' man but even so, could he be any more cheesy?! For a brief second she hesitated, trying to decide whether to play hard to get, but one glance in Tanya Alexander's direction told her that if she didn't lay claim to him quickly then her competition certainly would !
"Well now Captain Carter, it wouldn't do for me to renege on my Chief Bridesmaid's duties now would it? I just hope you can keep up with me." Winking at him she shimmied seductively out onto the middle of the floor and beckoned to him. Alan couldn't believe his luck - she was the hottest Sheila in the room and she only had eyes for him. "They don't call me the Flying Ace for nothing you know. Here...just hold tight for the ride of your life!"
Sandra smiled as she watched Alan and Regina swirl around the floor, stealing the show. It really was a perfect day. Regina had been fantasising about Alan for weeks now and she finally had his full attention which allowed her and Paul to sway quietly to the music on the periphery of the crowd. That suited her just fine. Neither of them liked being the centre of attention and no one seemed to be watching them at all any longer so they could quietly slip away soon. She had not eaten much and drunk only water at their reception, yet had still ended up feeling a little queasy. It could just be the excitement of the day but her instincts were telling her otherwise and tonight seemed the perfect occasion to voice her suspicions to her new husband just as soon as they were alone.
"Come on Paul, let's call it a night. I'm feeling a little tired and looking forward to a little 'just us' time with my husband."
As Paul took her arm and led her back to his - now their - new home she whispered something in his ear and Helena smiled as she saw Paul sweep Sandra up in his arms and kiss her fiercely. In that moment she was sure she would deliver the first child born on New Earth in time for Christmas.
Present Day, around the campfire Sunrise Settlement, Santa Maria...
As Sandra finished recalling the events of that day as she had recited them to the newly arrived Alphan Helena, Paul pulled her towards him and kissed her gently on the forehead. Victor smiled at the young couple "It only feels like yesterday, it's hard to believe that day was nine years ago and that you now have an eight year old son to show for it. As well as young Ben of course and the little one on the way..."
Paul finished for him "Due in just over five months, around late August is our best guess. Sandra is hoping for a girl this time."
"Yes, a little Helena of our own, but please keep it to yourself for now Professor. It doesn't seem right to announce our happy news until after poor Helena's funeral." Sandra was always thinking of others feelings before her own. Victor well understood why Helena had become so fond of her, especially after the loss of John and with him any chance of a late life child of her own.
Victor brought the conversation back to happier times once again. "Speaking of our Helena, did you have the chance to tell that young version from Alpha about our Helena & John's story?"
Sandra smiled wistfully as she stared into the mesmerising flames of the open fire. As Paul prepared a fresh pot of coffee she recounted their story...
Ten years earlier, Santa Maria, New Earth. Exodus Day...
Dr. Helena Russell looked around her in dismay. The only other senior clinician who had been present on Alpha that fateful day almost two years ago, was valiantly attempting to organise their crates of medical equipment and supplies into some sort of logical order. Although their moon had been pulled into orbit of this 'New Earth' fifteen days ago, Commander Koenig had not felt confident that the orbit was stable enough to delay any longer. Victor Bergman and his team had carried out thorough radiographic analyses of the surface and determined that this small region of what would have been the western seaboard near the old southern border of the USA, held the only climate capable of sustaining human life for any duration of time. She and her survey team had taken extensive soil samples and seeded them with normal biome bacteria from their original home planet to see whether the cycle of life could be re-initiated here. All the indications were good that it could. But it would take time and, as far as they could tell, it was the equivalent of late October on the Old Earth calendar down there. Which meant that crop seeding would need to be carried out as a priority if they were to have generated enough food by the following summer for the Alphans to have any chance of surviving down there. That could not be done on a large enough scale by small work parties alone. Either they initiated a full Exodus within the next few days or they stayed permanently on Alpha. So the decision had been made. They left, and time was at a premium. So much so that in the end, she Bob and the nursing and technical team, had had only forty nine hours to pack up as much of Medical Centre as was feasible and get it shipped down here.
Looking around at the array of containers and crew from all different departments across the Base it looked as though everyone was in the same boat. Just as she was about to start helping Bob get the field hospital tent erected, her dear friend Professor Victor Bergman, appeared at her side. "Well Helena, for better or worse, this is it. John has just told me that we have used up all but the emergency Eagle fuel supplies so anything that is not down here now has to be written off. Did you manage to salvage all you intended to from Medical?"
"Yes and no. We do have all the consumables because John allocated priority Eagle space to us as well as to the food production and engineering sections, but I would have liked more of the larger infrastructure. I only have four hospital trolley beds and enough equipment to set up a single surgical bay. We'll manage as long as there are no serious accidents for the foreseeable future. Do you have an idea of the overall picture?"
Victor grimaced and rolled his eyes in David Kano's direction. "Needless to say, Kano's department have lost the most. Nearly all the main processing power was in the central computing core which was, of course, part and parcel of the very infrastructure of Alpha. He's assembled as many portable laptops and mini tower computers as he had the time and resources for within the two days notice we were given but...well, we only have rudimentary capacity in comparison to what we are used to. Crucially we lost interstellar communications capacity so if anyone is out there from now on...we'll only know about it when they land and say hello."
"That's true but making friends with passing aliens is hardly a priority given our current circumstances." John Koenig had caught the last of their exchange as he made his way over to them. "Helena, as soon as you and Bob have the field hospital set up, let me know how much power you will require for the bedside medical monitors. Kano's fist priority will be to get those set up for you and then I'll focus on using the portable nuclear generators to get heating and lighting set up in the residential tents. After that I'll allow Kano's team to set up a central "command centre" to centralise the remaining computing capacity under one roof."
John Koenig rubbed his forehead and wobbled a little before regaining his balance. "And just how many hours straight have you been on duty without a break?" Helena switched immediately into professional mode. "John, you've been shuttling back and forward with supplies since before my medical Eagles landed and that was over twenty hours ago!"
John immediately stood up straight and tried his best to look alert. "Dr. Russell I will take a break when the workload allows. I just have too much still to do and it's all urgent."
She made her decision there and then. It was best she started off as she meant to carry on. " Commander Koenig I am still the Chief Medical Officer of this community and as such, am relieving you of duty for the next ten hours. You will eat then sleep in that order. Do I make myself clear? There are many competent senior staff amongst us that are more than capable of keeping things ticking over, isn't that right Victor? Are you seriously intending to become my first patient right now ? !"
Victor patted John on the shoulder on his way past to help Paul and his team set up the temporary 'co-ordination/command centre' and smiled knowingly at Helena. "I suggest you capitulate with dignity, old friend."
John was about to argue then glanced between his friends and the penny dropped. Helena was right, he could barely stand up, yet alone think clearly enough to set up the power plant right now. He was still the commander and the others would follow his lead. The last thing Helena and Bob needed right now was several senior staff members collapsing in a heap on them! "Okay, you're right. I'm sorry. I can grab some field rations from the cockpit of Eagle 3 and take a brief nap there too. It's probably best if the rest of the Eagle pilots do the same. We've all been shuttling to and from Alpha continuously for almost a full day now."
Helena glanced towards Bob and the others. "John, just sit there on that crate for a moment. I'll be right back."
John Koenig collapsed willingly onto the nearest supply crate and closed his eyes for what seemed like only seconds. The next thing he was aware of was Helena's voice over the temporary tannoy system. "Alright everyone, gather around and listen carefully. See that array of crates in strips over there with the smaller crates in parallel? Those are our temporary dining facilities. First shift : all Eagle crews please take a seat and refreshments will be served in the next few minutes."
He shook his head in amazement after looking at his watch. He had only been resting his eyes for ten minutes and Helena had somehow rounded up enough personnel to set up dining facilities and refreshments. Half of Alan Carter's team were already seated and Paul's team were serving sandwiches and hot drinks as fast as their legs would carry them. It was moments like this that it hit home. His people were both resourceful and pragmatic. He really did not have to oversee everything himself all the time. He had his whole command team and most of all, he had her.
As she walked back towards him he felt something shift inside. A cracking of that armour he always wore around his heart. Ever since his Jean had died pointlessly way back in 1987. As she reached him and held out the plate of sandwiches he moved over "Won't you join me?" and before she had the chance to move out of reach, he stood and pulled her into his arms for their first public kiss.
Santa Maria colony eighteen months later ...
Paul couldn't concentrate on a thing! After three solid days of false alarms he had finally decided it was better to distract himself with work only to be paged by Helena to tell him that this time Sandra's waters had broken and there was no going back now. She was only thirty two weeks pregnant but looked full term, what with her tiny frame and what was suspected to be quite a large baby boy to deliver. He had spent the first hour pacing outside the delivery room until he had almost worn a hole in the flooring, then decided to get on with finishing the cot he had been carving. So far he had broken more of the side bars than he had successfully installed and to top it all he had just cracked the headboard as he took his frustration out with full force on the screwdriver. "Damn it!" he swore as he threw the two broken pieces against the wall. He just felt so useless and helpless. Yes, that was the word. Helpless! Truth be told he was terrified for Sandra. The baby was too big for her to deliver, even this early. If only he had kept his hands to himself she wouldn't be in this situation now. What if she didn't survive the birth? Helena and Bob were both highly skilled doctors but still...they didn't have proper medical facilities down on this primitive settlement. Why oh why did Sandra have to be the first to give birth here! The Commander had been right after all, they should have waited to marry. Waited until the settlement was well established...waited until several others had started families first...just...waited...full stop !
It was Alan Carter who had heard the crash and shout as he was walking back to the makeshift Eagle hangar. It was only really a crude 'carport' on the side of the newly constructed Meeting Hall for now but Alan had plans to build a proper one with his team. After all, they had but a single Eagle left so it was vital that it did not corrode and was kept in tip top flight readiness at all times. He was on his way to clean down and polish the underbelly of the cockpit module - once again - when he passed Paul and Sandra's home and heard the commotion inside. Bracing himself he drew his stun gun. He knew that Sandra had gone into labour and Paul had rushed to be with her the moment the Doc had paged them. So the house should be empty. Carefully prising the door open as silently as he could Alan slipped into the hallway. At first he could hear nothing then just muffled sobs from the farthest room. Holstering the gun, he crept forward until he could just see through the half open door. A half demolished - rather than constructed - cot and a pile of broken wooden parts were arrayed in front of him and in the far corner of the room sat Paul, huddled up in the corner on the floor sobbing his heart out!
Alan felt an icy fear grip his heart. Had something bad happened to Sandra...or the baby? Forcing himself forward and wishing one of the women were here to know what to say, he forced his voice to sound as relaxed and calming as he could make it. "Hey Cobber, what's up?"
Paul wanted to sink through the floor. Of all the people to find him snivelling like a baby, Alan Carter would have been one of his last choices! Trying desperately to think on his feet, he mumbled "Nothing! My eyes are just watering as I caught my thumb with the hammer. I'm fine." With that he hastily stood up and started dusting himself down keeping his face averted from Alan. "Haven't you got work to be getting on with in the Eagle hangar?"
Alan was nonplussed. Seemed like a lot of silly fuss over a sore thumb and he had only intruded due to his natural concern for his friend. Suddenly he felt annoyed at the brush off. "And shouldn't you be with Sandra who is really suffering instead of making such a carry on about a stubbed thumb!" Alan regretted his outburst the moment he had said it but it must have hit home. Paul ran at him and thumped him in the gut. Within seconds they were brawling on the floor like a couple of five year olds. They were still scuffling ten minutes later when Regina walked in on them.
She couldn't believe her eyes! Sandra had just given birth to a bouncing 9 lb 3 oz baby after six hours of really hard labour and what were her husband and best friend's boyfriend doing? Having a fist fight on the nursery floor, having demolished the poor baby's cot in the process by the looks of things. Grabbing the bowl of icy cold water which was presumably set up to mix the paint once the cot was assembled, she threw it full force over the two of them. "Hey, what was that?!" Alan rolled away and Paul wiped the water from his eyes to be confronted by one very livid Regina Lewis.
"What the heck do you two think you are doing?" she glowered at them. "And look at the state of this cot. How do you propose to sort this out before Sandra and the baby arrive home tomorrow morning?"
Paul and Alan both stared at her dumbfounded and then Alan broke into a massive grin and grabbed hold of Paul, hauling him up. "Congratulations mate! You're a daddy!"
Paul stammered "Sandra, she's had the baby? Is she alright?"
Regina sighed and rolled her eyes. "Yes, she delivered your son about ten minutes ago. I came here looking for you to give you the news. Mother and baby are both well and Helena says that she is asking for you." Almost before she had finished speaking Paul raced out of the door and over towards the Medical Area, still soaked through and matted with sawdust and the beginnings of a black eye. Goodness knows what Sandra and Helena would make of the sight of him!
Alan looked sheepishly at Regina. "I know that looked bad but I actually came in to help when I heard Paul yell and then..."
"I don't want to hear it. Go get changed then get back here with some fresh wood and your toolkit. Better bring Mike and Sandy with you too. The three of you are going to make a new cot and paint it before morning whilst I clean this place up. Go!"
As Alan rushed out to follow orders and - truth be told - relieved to have something constructive to do, Regina smiled to herself. Typical Alan! Somehow, his attempts at dealing with emotional crises always ended up in a fist fight. Thank goodness he had her to sort things out. Though how they were going to get this room looking like a pristine nursery before Sandra and the baby got home she had no idea. Still she mused to herself, I have the easy job. I wouldn't want to be in Paul's shoes when Sandra catches sight of him and wheedles the story out of him...
Meanwhile in the Medical Area temporary delivery room...
Sandra was exhausted but happy. Her newborn son was cradled in her arms after his first feed and although sore, she was intact. It had been touch and go whether she would need a C -Section but she had been determined. She wanted to deliver her first baby the traditional way, though by the last hour of labour her resolve had been all but exhausted. It had been Helena's constant presence at her side as she and Dr. Matthias took it in turns at the 'business end' that had kept her going. Now she had her beautiful baby boy and just wanted Paul there to see him. She heard his voice in the anti-room and wondered why he did not come straight in. It wasn't until curiosity got the better of her discomfort that she stretched over and pulled the privacy screen aside : to be confronted by an apparition of the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz! At least, that was her first thought. No one had noticed her watching as Dr. Matthias hauled Paul over to the sink and moments later Commander Koenig himself arrived with a pile of fresh clothes for her husband. He looked as though he had been in a fight with a pile of sawdust until she caught a glimpse of his rapidly swelling left eye. He had been fighting, but not with any piece of equipment from the looks of things. Whatever had gotten into him! She had been just about to call out when Helena spotted her watching proceedings. Hastily rushing over she pulled the screen back round and sat on the edge of the bed.
"He's fine Sandra really. Apparently he was still in the middle of assembling the cot when Regina found him with the news of baby's arrival. He was so excited he rushed over here before remembering to clean himself up first."
"And I suppose I am to believe that the cot gave him a black eye in the process? It's alright Helena, you don't have to protect me. I want to know the truth, without it I cannot help Paul can I ?"
Helena regarded the young woman in front of her. Sandra had matured so much since Exodus. Both mentally and emotionally. She was now a wife and mother as well as a valued member of their professional complement and a dear 'daughter' to her. She was right, although the physically diminutive partner in the Morrow household, it was Sandra who provided the emotional security in that marriage. Alan Carter had gone to get the Commander's help with Paul on his way back to their house to repair the cot and John had subsequently rushed over here with fresh clothing and some fraternal advice for his second in command. As Bob helped him clean up John had gleaned the full story from Paul and was, even now, reassuring him. Alan and his team were under the competent command of young Regina from the sounds of things and Helena was confident that all would be well at home for Sandra by the time she was ready to be discharged. Which would now be a couple of days hence she had already prudently agreed with Bob. So she sat and relayed the whole sorry tale and when she had finished Sandra simply said in that quiet but firm voice of hers " Please Dr. Russell, bring Paul through now. It's time he saw for himself that all is well."
Smiling at Sandra in mutual understanding she stepped through to the reception area and sent Paul through. Bob Matthias spoke first "Why don't you and the commander take a tea break. I'll tidy up out here and I'm sure that Paul and Sandra won't want to be disturbed for a while."
John didn't need telling twice. Helena was exhausted and so was he. Besides, it had been days since the two if them had had half an hour to themselves. Guiding Helena out towards his office he waved over to Maureen to bring them both a pack of sandwiches and a flask of tea. Five minutes later they were stretched out on his sofa - one of the few luxuries he had been able to salvage from his office on Alpha - sipping their tea and processing the events of the day.
"So all is well that ends well as far as today is concerned. Though it's really more of a beginning. Only the second child born to our community and the first here on New Earth. I'm even glad it's another boy. With Charlie Crawford being only eighteen months old they will be ideal playmates for one another."
Helena was both surprised and relieved to hear John voice such positive sentiments. She knew that he had had a hard time accepting the finality of their move down here and the loss of a significant amount of their technology and ability to carry out scientific research. They were now most likely to spend the rest of their lives here and it would no doubt take several years to fully establish their community and have the luxury of spare time to undertake academic pursuits. Particularly for John and the other astro-physicists amongst their people. Perhaps he needed a nudge to revive his hopes in that direction. "John, have you thought about assigning a small group to surveying the surface of this planet for possible sources of Eagle fuel? I'm sure Alan Carter and Mike Fisher in particular, would jump at the chance."
Well that was a non sequitur ! "It's appealing and I'd be tempted to join them myself, but realistically, we only have the one Eagle and very little fuel left. If we were to start scouting about at random and found nothing then we would soon be in the position of having no space flight capability at all."
Helena thought for a moment. "Well perhaps Victor's radiographic analyses of this planet taken on our original approach will shed some light on possible locations to investigate. I'm sure he said that he brought all the records pertinent to this planet down with him on Exodus."
She saw John's eyes light up. "Of course! Why didn't I think of that. I'll go see what he has right now."
Before he had a chance to move from the couch Helena slid herself across onto his lap! "Oh no you don't! You are supposed to be resting remember. And, what's more, the reason you didn't think of it yourself : is chronic exhaustion. I know, I'm a doctor and in my profession it's a daily challenge to overcome."
John relaxed back into the soft leather cushions, all thought of rushing off to brainstorm with Victor abruptly de-prioritised the moment Helena landed on his lap! He definitely wasn't in the mood for working anymore though he couldn't really define their current situation as relaxing. Highly stimulating was more like it. "What would I do without you?" he whispered as she leant against his chest.
She prodded him playfully as she gave him a very candid answer. "Work yourself into the ground no doubt, trying to juggle all the balls single-handedly. It's just as well you have me here to badger you into delegating from time to time."
John hugged her to him. "Point taken. Actually going back to what you were saying about carrying out some targeted fuel source scouting missions, perhaps I should send Alan out for a little flying practise. He seems to be getting a little too hot-headed lately. Probably, it's cabin fever setting in. I feel it myself, being restricted to using the moon buggies these days. It's just that with only the one Eagle, I'm very aware of the need to keep wear and tear to a minimum."
"That makes sense but then again, having it sit grounded in the hangar on a permanent basis will do the Eagle about as much good as it's doing you and Alan!" Helena was looking up at him with that intense stare of hers, almost as though she was engraving the message onto his brain cells. "Why don't you mull over the options then have a nice long chat with Victor tomorrow morning about when and where you'll head out to?"
John grinned at her "Done. Now remind me...what am I supposed to be doing in the interim...relaxing was it?" As he leant in for what he'd planned would be a gentle, affectionate kiss - appropriate for their current setting - but soon became far more passionate as Helena pulled him down to lie on the sofa next to her. Only it wasn't that wide and he found himself lying on top of her.
At these close quarters Helena could feel the effect she was having on him and knew that she should calm things down but -oh how she'd missed him these past few weeks! John was always snowed under with work and she had been dealing with Sandra's pregnancy as well as the continual rounds of coughs and colds as they all adapted to a non-sterile environment once again. It must have been at least four weeks since they were last alone together. So instead of pushing him away she pulled his jumper over his head so she could enjoy the sensation of stroking his naked chest. John needed no more encouragement and within a couple of minutes they were both naked with John poised above her. Pausing for just a moment so that their faces were only inches apart he tenderly brushed her hair off her cheek. "You know, it occurs to me that someone should produce a baby girl in the not too distant future, to even things up. That baby girl would of course require parents that could endow her with leadership skills and it would be to her advantage to inherit the beguiling persona that young men would willingly capitulate to. Now, I wonder, who should those parents be..." He could see her feelings by the expression in her eyes and the intensity with which she kissed him as he slid the condom off before entering her slick and very inviting passage.
Half an hour later they had reluctantly dressed and tidied themselves before anyone came looking for them. It was a long shot, although she had not used birth control pills for a while as they were in such short supply and the priority had to be the young women in active relationships. Still Helena couldn't help hoping. With a newfound spring in her step she headed back to Medical to check on Sandra and Paul.
On arrival she found Sandra happily chatting to Regina with the baby fast asleep in his crib at the end of the bed. Apparently Sandra had shooed Paul out about five minutes beforehand with strict instructions to eat humble pie and go help Alan finish constructing the cot and any other jobs that needed doing. Regina laughingly whispered to Helena that Sandra had made it quite clear to him that he was banned from visiting her or their son again until the Commander came and told her that everything was fixed, in all senses of the word. As Regina kissed her friend goodbye and returned to supervise the men's progress, Helena offered to make the coffee whilst Sandra filled her in.
"...and the worst of it was that Alan was only trying to help. Honestly, Paul is all over the place, it reminds me of that time we were out on the lunar surface when the people of Ariel fed him those hallucinogenic mushrooms. You don't think he's found something similar growing around here do you?"
"I hope not! Actually, now you mention it, that's one phyla that appears to be absent altogether around here. Either there are no surviving spores on this Earth or the atmosphere is just too dry for them to germinate. I'll have to ask Victor to get some of the botanists to look into it." she mused as she waited for the kettle to boil. "Anyway, did you manage to convince that jittery husband of yours that you and the baby are both fine?"
Sandra rolled her eyes. "Eventually! Just as I thought his sanity was returning he suggested we call our son "Claus" as in Santa Claus! You see, we were intending to call a daughter Maria which seemed appropriate and also happens to be my mother's name. Admittedly that was Paul's idea too, but he got so carried away with what he thought was his witty idea that it did not even occur to him that the baby might be a boy instead. So determined was he to use our location of 'Santa Maria' as inspiration that is the best he could offer !"
Helena had to agree. "Perhaps I had better check him for concussion after all. Maybe Alan did more addling of his brain than was at first apparent."
Sandra gratefully took the pro-offered coffee and made a face. "That's all I need. Alan getting in on the act and coming up with 'Joey' or 'Dinkum Cobber' or some other Aussie beer inspired suggestion."
Helena dreaded to think, "I suggest you get in there first. Have you got any ideas?"
"Something inspirational for all the right reasons. Our defender of hope for the future. After all our son will be the oldest child born here so it will fall to him to lead the way for his generation."
Helena thought for a moment. "Almost a defender of the faith and a keeper of all our hopes for the future. Like the Christian St. Michael."
Sandra's eyes immediately lit up. "Exactly. Michael. I love it. It's perfect for him."
Helena hastily added "Though I really think you should discuss it with Paul first."
"Oh I shall, as soon as has finished putting things right with our friends and put Michael's nursery back together."
John Koenig popped his head around the door "May I come in and say hello to the baby properly? I was somewhat distracted earlier."
Helena was not quite sure which 'earlier' or which 'distraction' he was referring to but excused herself while he went to congratulate Sandra and coo over the little one. With any luck it would be her and their baby in nine months time.
Camp fire, Santa Maria, present day...
Sandra met the sad eyes of Paul and Victor. "I know, it is such a shame that it was never to be but I know that both she and the Commander fully embraced their roles as grandparents to Mikey and godparents to Ben ..."
Paul looked across at Victor. "What exactly did you tell their John Koenig about that fateful mission back to what was left of Alpha?"
Victor swirled his coffee and stared into the flickering flames. "Oh only the basics. That we had exhausted the small amount of trace elements that we could extract from the mountain range to the southern extremity of the reachable zone down here. That we had a choice. Either we dissemble the last remaining Eagle and recycle it's parts as we had done for the others five years before, or we could attempt one last flight back to Alpha and extract the remaining fuel rods from Area 1. There were only three intact but they would have given us maybe another ten years of Eagle use if we were careful. That our Commander had been dead set against it as just too risky, there being no back up Eagle to mount a rescue should the crew be stranded, but that Alan had pushed him to let him go. In the end, John could not bring himself to let Alan attempt the flight alone so the two of them had gone. With tragic consequences as we all know."
Sandra sensed there was more. "Go on, please Professor."
"Yes, he did ask. About Helena, how she had coped and also Regina. Their John had seen the grave as we walked from my home towards yours and Paul's. We stopped for a while by Regina's grave and I told him how you had taken Helena under your wing the moment it dawned that they would not be returning. That Helena moved in with you ten days after the Eagle departed and never left. He was grateful and...glad to hear that Alan had settled down with Regina too."
Sandra smiled at that last. "Good. Then he would have understood when his Helena told him Alan and Regina's story. I hope she had time to do so on their flight back to their moon before..." she fell silent without needing to elaborate.
"Go on Sandra. Tell us what you told their Helena about Regina & Alan's story." Paul prompted gently. It was obvious to him that she needed to exorcise the ghosts tonight if they were going to draw a line under this sad encounter and move on when tomorrow dawned.
Eight years earlier, baby Michael's naming ceremony...
The day had dawned with a clear sky and it was warm which was great as far as Alan was concerned. Having grown up in Tasmania, the run up to Christmas had always involved swimming, surfing and ogling the sunbathing beauties arrayed across the golden sands. Today was such a day, though he'd have to make do with the artificial lake they had dug out six months ago.
Slipping out of bed quietly so as not to wake the rest of the guys sharing their house, he headed down for an early morning swim. It was going to be a hectic day. Little Mikey Morrow's first birthday and Sandra was, by all accounts, going full out with the party preparations. He knew that Paul had been spending every spare moment for the last few weeks putting the funfair rides together and assembling some sort of platform for goodness knows what. He'd been roped in on more than one occasion and he knew that there were still finishing touches left to complete when they had packed up - exhausted - just before midnight. He had no intention of being one of the mugs working up to the wire this morning!
Boy was he looking forward to a couple of hours all to himself in the cool water, so he was disappointed to hear splashing as he approached from the rubble covered path cut through the boulders. Whoever it was, he would see them first. Erring on the side of caution - in case Paul had concocted the same 'escape ploy' for this morning - he crouched down behind the large rock nearest the shallow end : then spotted the towel and sundress draped on top to catch the early warmth of the sun's rays. Taking in the scene, he was just about to retreat when she stood up, thankfully facing away from him towards the sun. Whoever she was, she was stunning. The water lapped around her buttocks and she had the smoothest cream coloured skin and tiny waist and her damp blonde hair skimmed her shoulders. He really should retreat before she spotted him spying on her but how? If he stood up now or tried to reverse she was bound to hear him and then what...if she started screaming he doubted he would survive long enough to explain the genuine mistake ...
Alan crouched down behind the rock with his back to the lake and prayed that whoever she was she would decide to swim over to the other side, allowing him to make good his escape. He heard movement in the water and then it went quiet. Holding his breath he waited for what must have been a couple of minutes at least. Great! She must have swum off. With relief he stood and stretched only to find his face less than three inches from the closed eyes of Helena! She was lying stark naked on top of the rock drying in the sun. STREWTH ! ! How was he going to get out of here without waking her? Then, just as he thought the situation couldn't get any worse he heard footsteps approaching from the other direction. Not having time to make an attempted run for it he slid down and squeezed himself into a small crevasse at the back of the giant boulder. It was wet, cold and dark but he had no choice. He would have to hide down here until Helena left.
Only she didn't. The second set of footsteps approached and he heard someone stealthily climbing the rock the other side. Alan only hesitated for a second before his instinct to protect his friend from the intruder over come any fears of what she might think of him. Jumping up and making to grab at the intruder he realised his mistake too late. There on the rock only inches from the naked Helena was an equally naked John Koenig!
"What the hell ! !" Koenig's face was like thunder as he grabbed the towel and threw it over Helena. Taking that split second distraction to back away from John's striking range he high tailed it as fast as his legs would carry him away from the lake and the village. How was he ever going to make them believe it was an honest mistake. Boy, they must both think him some sort of pervert peeping Tom!
Four hours later...
Well everything was just about set up. She was still jittery, wanting everything to be perfect. Paul had told her so many times to stop stressing, after all, Mikey was hardly likely to remember the day. But the point is they would, all of them. This was another landmark event for their new society. The first baby naming day. At Breakaway there had been nationals from over thirty countries serving on Moonbase Alpha and from almost as many different spiritual traditions, and many followed no faiths at all. So they had decided against a traditional 'Christening' service but she had wanted to mark the day and give Mikey the equivalent of godparents. It was important to her. Her pregnancy had been challenging and, although she had played things down for Paul's sake, she more than most was aware just how precariously all their lives hung in the balance. They had no back up resources. No 'mother' planet or back up personnel. It was just them and if anything ever were to happen to her or Paul then Mikey would need that insurance policy. So she had decided that today would be more than just a first birthday celebration, it would be his naming day and she had the speech all prepared. She had even discussed it individually with the two godparents she had chosen who were both close friends but with very different, complimentary attributes. The 'godmother' had been a given in her mind and Helena had been both honoured to be asked and readily accepted. She had thought long and hard, and argued quite a bit with Paul, about the 'godfather'. Paul had wanted the Commander and as he and Helena were now an established couple (however much they refused to officially announce it) then John was the obvious choice. He was mature and responsible and could be the perfect role model as far as Paul was concerned. She saw things differently. Helena would already fulfil all those roles. What she wanted was a male role model who would be fun for Mikey. Someone he could look up to without being in awe of. Someone younger, more her own age. She had chosen Alan Carter. Ironically, in the end it was John Koenig himself that talked Paul around, arguing that he could vouch for Alan. He may seem a little hot headed and reckless on the surface but it took discipline, intelligence and a deep sense of team responsibility, to make the rank of Captain in the airforce and later the astronaut corps. So Paul had come around and it was all agreed.
Everyone was gathered and most had taken their seats. Everyone but Alan that was. She had seen no sign of him and now Regina had appeared all on her own. Running across as quickly as she could in her high heels on the newly sprouting lawn, she grabbed Regina arm. "Where is Alan? I thought you were coming together?"
Regina looked worried. "So did I. When I got to Alan, Mike and Tony's place I knocked and got no reply so I let myself in. No one was there. I'd already seen the other two making their way down here in the distance on my way over so I thought that maybe Alan was running late as he's not used to wearing a waistcoat and fancy suit. I went through to his room meaning to help him along but no sign of him, only his outfit was all laid out neatly on the bed in readiness. He wasn't in the shower either. I've no idea where he has gotten to."
Helena had seen Regina arrive by herself looking perplexed and then the two women deep in conversation and she had a good idea what was amiss. She hadn't seen Alan since their embarrassing encounter by the lake first thing this morning. She didn't blame him and she didn't for one moment think he had turned into a voyeur! It was her own silly fault for skinny dipping and just assuming no on else would be around. It would all have been sorted out then and there if John hadn't surprised her moments beforehand. He had obviously been feeling amorous and finding her gone when he awoke, hunted her down. She was sure it was John's embarrassment at being caught about to... by the member of his junior staff that he had mentored through flight school himself no less...that had caused his furious outburst. No wonder poor Alan had decided to keep a very low profile for the rest of the day. She approached the two young women "No sign of Alan still?"
"I'm afraid not and we are due to start any moment. The naming ceremony was meant to be a surprise to the others so they are already wondering why they have to sit and wait for an announcement. I cannot prevaricate for much longer. Where is he?" Sandra was beginning to wish she had accepted Paul's idea in the first place. Perhaps Alan really was unreliable.
"I have a very good idea why he hasn't shown up. It's a little awkward. Could I speak to you in private Sandra?" Helena looked apologetically towards Regina but she stood her ground. "Sandra, Doctor. If you tell me what is going on I may be able to help you find him. I promise it will fo no further. Besides, Mikey's mother and godmother can hardly wander off now can they?"
Regina had a very good point. "Alright, I'll tell you both. I just hope you can find him and get him back here in the next few minutes Regina."
Having suppressed the urge to laugh out loud at Helena's tale, Regina just smiled at her two worried friends. "Leave it with me. Just get Paul to make an opening speech and get everyone to sing Happy Birthday to the baby. I'll have Alan back here in about ten minutes time."
Sandra gave her a look that was a mixture of incredulity and gratefulness as Helena guided her towards Paul and Mikey who were already up on the stage.
As soon as she was out of sight of the marquee Regina threw off her ridiculous high heels and ran barefoot to the Eagle hangar. She was sure he would be hiding out with his own 'baby' : Eagle 1. Sure enough when she got there the hatch was sealed but she could see that the Eagle was powered up. Using Alan's own commlock that she had found on his bed next to the unworn suit she overrode the door lock and let herself in. She could hear what sounded like a very small, high pitched Eagle engine noise coming from the cockpit and she approached silently still on her bare feet. Then she stopped dead in her tracks. Alan had his back to her but hovering above the co-pilot's seat was a perfect replica model Eagle, about the size of a Baked Bean can. Alan had some sort of remote control box in his hands that he was fiddling with, a couple of wires dangling from it as he worked away.
He was so engrossed that he was still unaware of her presence but now she understood. It hit her right in the gut. Sandra had been absolutely right to choose Alan. Even thinking he had been ostracised, here he was, perfecting his godfather's gift to little Mikey not knowing whether he would now even have the chance to give it to him. Regina felt the tears well up. Let John Koenig be embarrassed, he'd get over it! If Helena could laugh it off - and so had she and Sandra - then there was no way Mikey was going to lose out on the best godfather ever as far as she was concerned.
"It's perfect Alan. Come on, everyone is waiting for us."
Alan jumped at Regina's voice and felt so bad that he would have to let her down. Maybe he could give his gift to Mikey next year or perhaps not at all. No doubt Paul and Sandra wouldn't want the reminder of how he'd ruined their son's big day. "I'm sorry Gina, but I wouldn't be welcome now. I expect Paul has already asked the Commander to replace me. It's fine, John Koenig would be a better role model anyway."
"No Alan, you're wrong. Sandra asked you for exactly this reason." she picked up the little model which was lit inside with a miniature pilot at the controls. "She wanted someone who Mikey could play with. Someone to inspire him but that he could just as easily jump on and be piggy backed around or play pranks with. Someone that when he screwed up would bail him out rather than judge and punish him. A buddy to have his back. That person is not John Koenig. It's you."
Did she really see him that way? "Thanks for the vote of confidence but I doubt Paul sees it that way. I know the Commander won't after this morning. I made one cock up too far there!"
Regina looked at her watch. Time to be a little reckless herself. Grabbing the remote control out of Alan's hand she sprinted for the steps, calling over her shoulder. "You're wrong and I am going to prove it to you. We are going to give that baby his naming day gift right now and if you won't make the speech, I will. I've heard you practise it enough after all."
Scrambling down the steps and hitching up her skirt with her free hand she ran as fast as she could towards the gathering with Alan hot on her heels. She could see Paul, Sandra and the baby on the stage with John Koenig and Helena Russell standing to the side. She just hoped she was in time.
It was now or never! As she sprinted the final leg towards the stage she heard Commander Koenig take the microphone. "And here they both are. Better late than never. I give you Regina Lewis and Alan Carter, Mikey Morrow's godparents."
Paul and Sandra were smiling at them and the audience were all clapping! Alan was so dumbfounded that he missed his footing and crashed onto the stage face first. Thank goodness Regina was holding their gift. He became aware of a male voice chortling and the women squealing with laughter as strong arms hauled him up facing the Commander. "Well, I see he's starting out as he means to carry on. Look out Paul, you're going to have your hands full if Mikey follows in his godfather's footsteps."
Giving up on trying to maintain his dignity, Alan dusted himself down "Well what do you say cobber? Shall we take a test flight whilst the adults make their boring speeches?" Little Mikey laughed and toddled towards Alan holding his Eagle close to his chest.
Regina smiled and joked "We may as well let them play, they'll be no taking their toys away for some hours yet."
Picking Mikey up with one arm he came to stand only inches from Regina. "Oh I don't know about that. There's one adult I wouldn't object to tucking me up later. In fact, perhaps we could make that a permanent arrangement?"
Regina didn't need to be asked twice and from that moment on they were inseparable. They married one year later to the day.
Present day, sitting around the camp fire ...
They were all smiling at the memory. "We never did better that day, even though Ben's naming day was a lovely affair and John and Helena eventually got to be godparents after all."
Victor nodded as Paul stamped out the last embers of the fire. "There have been so many landmarks since then. We've set up the other three settlements and had a dozen marriages and the same number of new additions to our community. We now have as much renewable energy as we could need and can at last start on some of those research projects Kano and I have had on the back burner for a while. Thanks to the sacrifice of those other Alphans our community thrives and will continue to grow. You know, maybe we should mark this day every year from now on. Our very own "Remembrance Sunday" for those we have lost along the way and our other selves."
"I think that's a lovely idea Professor. I'll put it to the vote with the other community leaders tomorrow. Goodnight." Paul held his hand out for Sandra and gently helped her up. As they walked off arm in arm, Victor smiled and looked up at the night sky where the other community had existed only hours ago. "I wonder ? ..."
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