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A Man We'll Never Forget

Authors: Heather Hammonds
Show Year: Y2
Rating: PG
Date: 1996
It is the anniversary of Victor's death; Helena remembers him and wonders if anyone else on the base is thinking about him too.
First published in the fanzine "S9 Fanzine"
Average Rating: 4.0/5 (based on 1 reviews)

Dr Helena Russell stepped into her private quarters and dimmed the lights, brushing a weary hand across her forehead. She was fighting the first pains of a headache and felt uncharacteristically worn out, in spite of the fact that she'd just completed a relatively uneventful shift in Medical Center. Still, it was not surprising, considering what day it was.

She had remembered halfway through her shift, whilst standing over a patient taking some x-rays. The memory hit Helena like a surprise dose from one of her own needle guns, sneaking up from the back of her mind and leaving her previously tranquil mood shattered. The first anniversary of Victor's death. How could she have forgotten? Easy, really, she supposed, when the days and years out in space cease to have any real meaning, except as a clinical means of measuring time. No seasons changing, no sun rising and setting rhythmically. One could not say, "He died in the fall," or " He died in the middle of summer."

Nobody had noticed her change in mood; she had gone about her duties in the same professional, kind manner that she always did, suppressing her personal thoughts until she could pull them out and examine them in private. Forcing herself to do this had brought on the headache.

Helena changed her uniform for a clean one and poured herself a glass of cold water from the pitcher she kept by her wash stand, staring at her tired reflection in the little mirror that hung above it.

"Victor wouldn't have wanted grief," she said out loud to her image. "He thought he was extremely lucky to have lived as long as he did."

Still, the untimely failure of his artificial heart had come as a shock to all Alphans. The ageing professor had always been on Moonbase, ever since its inception. It was the unspoken feeling amongst his colleagues and friends that he always would be, as long as Alpha existed. Nobody could have foreseen, or prevented the breakdown of the mechanism. Nevertheless, it was Helena's secret belief that had it not been drained of power when they were captured by that infernal machine, Gwent, he would have gone on for years without a problem. But what could she have done? His 'clockwork heart', as he liked to call it, had checked out perfectly in the tests she had performed on it after that episode.

"The second law of thermodynamics," she imagined he would have said. "Entropy at work- everything breaks down eventually; heads towards chaos."

Victor had an unemotional, rational explanation for most problems, even if it was sometimes difficult to follow his thinking. But Helena was one of the few on Alpha who knew another side to the man.

Contrary to popular rumour throughout the base, Victor Bergman did have a very human side to his nature. One just had to search a little behind the vagaries of his brilliant scientific personality to find it. He had been a good friend to her; a father figure in some respects, but also someone who she knew would always treat her as an equal when it came to listening to her hypotheses on various subjects. And he'd been extremely kind at times, making her feel welcome and at home when she had first come to work on the moonbase, not long after Lee had died. Also, he'd subtly worked to smooth her initially volatile relationship with John, recognising that between them there was the potential for a relationship far more special than one of merely Commander and Chief Medical Officer. For that alone, she would be eternally grateful to him.

Helena took a photo from her cupboard and sat on her bed with it, all the while sipping at the glass of water. It showed a smiling Victor with his arm over John's shoulder, standing in front of a special infra- red telescope he had built for some experiment he was conducting at the time. Both men looked relaxed for once and Helena remembered the occasion as a happy one. It was the only photo of him she possessed.

Hard, dry regret filled her throat and the tears that should have come to soften it refused to make an appearance. So many had died since the Moon had been blasted away from Earth; leaving friends and loved ones behind on Alpha to suffer quiet moments of personal sorrow. She knew this from her work. The grief was as it should be; these emotional wounds must not be covered up, but taken out and examined carefully by every Alphan who bore them. In this way, they would heal without scars. It didn't make them any less painful, though - and just because she was a doctor with an extensive knowledge of human psychology, she wasn't immune to the hurt herself.

With a sigh, Helena finished her water and put the glass down on her bedside table. This morose attitude was no good; John was still working and she would be alone for some time yet. She wanted to spend the period alone thinking of Victor, as was only right on the anniversary of his death, yet she knew he would not have wanted her to sit in her darkened quarters mourning. The records room was the place; there were videos of him during happier times stored there and she decided to check some of them out.

Leaving her quarters, she made her way across the other side of the base to the little room full of terminals, where a visual library of many of Alpha's personnel, both living and dead was kept, along with the places they had been and things they had discovered. It was here the information from the ill fated Voyager mission was stored, here that many of Victor's own scientific discoveries were documented. All on a computer kept separate from the moonbase's main one, to protect and preserve it for posterity.

Only the records librarian was in the room when Helena arrived, and he looked up to give her a polite smile and a nod, before returning to his work. Taking a seat in front of a blank computer monitor, she accessed the files on Victor Bergman using her special command personnel number and was surprised to find that someone had already done the same thing a short time earlier. Others had remembered, then. This fact gave her a strange feeling of comfort.

For a time, Helena played tutorial videos of Victor giving lectures to small groups of technicians on different aspects of physics. It was plain from the look on some of his student's faces that what he was saying was more often than not, completely incomprehensible to them. But it was a measure of the respect the Professor commanded that not one of the technicians let their attention wander from him for a minute. Helena smiled fondly as she watched.

Next she played some segments from Alpha channel news service, where Victor was being interviewed about various events that were either about to unfold, or had just taken place on the moonbase. It reminded her of the number of times his brilliant mind had saved Alpha from destruction. Force fields, anti- gravity screens, modifications to eagles- nothing was too difficult for him. If Victor thought a scientific endeavour was even vaguely within the bounds of possibility, he seemed to be able to bring it to life. Watching the screen, Helena was reminded again and again of how lucky the Alphans had been to have him in their corner.

She often wondered how Victor and Maya would have got on together. Famously, she suspected. At last, Victor would have had someone who could follow his incredible theories and very likely, match them with her own. How he would have relished that.... Still the tears did not come, still Helena felt as though her throat might close over with emotion. Why wouldn't the pain ease?

As she watched the video images flash before her eyes, Helena realised that although they gave a good impression of Victor professionally, they showed very little of the other, warm, humorous side of his personality. Where could she go to be reminded of this? The thought came to her that perhaps a trip to the property store was in order.

After Victor had died, his things had been cleared out of his quarters and placed down in the lower recesses of the base, in a room kept for the belongings of the dead. Nobody had the heart to throw the personal possessions of their former friends away and besides, out in space where the simplest things became luxuries, they really couldn't afford to. Helena rarely went down there; there was usually no need for her to. On the odd occasion where it was necessary, the room always reminded her of a crypt and she spent as little time in it as possible. Still, she hadn't been the one to clear Victor's room out and she felt slightly guilty that she had not even supervised the procedure. Now would be a good time to go and make sure everything that he'd left behind was in order. It was a way of doing something constructive; paying him a last respect.

The records librarian watched Helena leave and shook his head. Everyone knew what day it was and felt sad about it. Nobody wanted to mention it, however. Death was too near to them all at times, and it didn't do to dwell publicly on it. That was something to be done in private. Still, he liked Dr Russell and wished he could have said something to make her feel better.

As Helena was about to step into the lift that would take her further down under the Moon's crust, to the lowest level of the base, she bumped into Sahn.

"Are you all right Doctor?" the petite woman asked her, scrutinising her face.

Helena gave a start and then smiled automatically. She had not even noticed Sahn's presence.

"Oh- yes. Sorry Sahn; I didn't see you there," she replied.

"I know I am not very tall, but people usually still manage to catch sight of me," laughed Sahn. "By the way; a group of us from Command Center are getting together in the recreation room for a tasting of Tony's latest brew, in about an hour. If you have time, would you and the Commander like to join us?"

Helena's first reaction was to refuse the invitation, as the last thing she felt like was an impromptu party. But she recognised that it might cheer her up. Tony's beer making efforts were always good for a laugh, even if they were pretty well undrinkable.

"Sounds like a great idea to me," she answered at length. "I'm sure John will want to go also."

"Okay- see you there," nodded the communications officer, resting a hand briefly on her arm for a moment. "I think we all need a little cheering up."

Helena watched Sahn walk off down the corridor and realised that she too had remembered the significance of the day.

The property store was cold and dark when Helena walked in, and she turned the lighting in the room up to full power, dispelling the hoards of gloomy shadows which lurked about it's corners. Hexagonal storage containers lined two of the walls of the room and she examined the names on them, looking for Victor's.

Too many containers, she thought. Too many needless deaths.

A single container at the end of a wall held almost everything that Victor had owned. After his death, all of his experimental equipment had been dismantled and returned to Technical Section, so when Helena lifted the container down and opened it, she was surprised at how little he did actually possess. One half of it was stacked neatly with old books and papers, together with a small pile of computer discs. She leafed through a few of the books, smiling at some of the titles- Science As History, Quantum Mechanics Explained, Applications In Relativity. Reading matter that only Victor could enjoy. Then her eyes lit upon The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare. The Professor's tastes were extremely varied and Helena fondly remembered his love of classical music and old literature. She wondered if she should suggest that these books be brought out of storage for all Alphans to enjoy. Victor would have hated to see them sitting idle and unread.

The second half contained items of a more personal nature, arranged just as neatly. Helena was pleased to note that whoever actually cleared Victor's quarters, had done so very respectfully. A gold fob watch rested on top of a shoe box full of old photographs. Snapshots of the family he had never really spoken about. Helena picked up the topmost photo. It was in old fashioned black and white and a young Victor clearly stood out in front of a group of six other much older people. There was a strong family resemblance amongst them all. Who were the others? Aunts, Uncles and parents, perhaps? All long dead, she supposed.

Suddenly, Helena felt like she was prying. Placing the lid back on the container, she was in the act of putting it back where it belonged when the door to the storage room slid open.

"I thought I'd find you here; Sahn told me she'd passed you on your way to the lift," said John Koenig quietly. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, yes," replied Helena, wiping her hands as she turned to face him. "I was just checking Victor's things were in order. You see, you may not remember, but it was a year ago today that we lost him..."

She stood with her back to the wall of boxes, feeling rather forlorn and not quite sure whether John would understand the purpose of her visit.

"I remembered- of course I did."

John walked the few strides across the room and put his arms around her, pulling her head down onto his chest.

"One thing about Victor stands out in my mind," he continued. "He seemed to treat his whole life as a learning experience- a kind of exciting experiment. I'll bet that in the seconds before he died, he was busy wondering what he would discover next. I hope he found something worthwhile."

Helena smiled into John's shoulder and at last, the tears began to fill her eyes. She didn't bother to wipe them away but let them fall unimpeded, the tiny droplets cleansing and healing painful wounds that the death of a dear friend had left on her soul. At length they ceased and she looked up into John's grave face, grateful for his love and empathy.

"Sahn mentioned that there is something of an impromptu party in the recreation room shortly, to celebrate Tony's latest brew. Do you think we should go?"

"I know about it," he responded, running his thumbs under her reddened eyes and up through her hair. "If you're feeling up to it, I think it's a good idea. Alan and Tony were accessing some files from the records a few hours ago, and I would like to bet they were on Victor. It would do us all good to share our memories of him over a drink- even if it is only Tony's beer. A kind of old- fashioned wake."

Feeling much better, Helena pulled away from him and took his arm.

"Victor would have loved that," she smiled, as they turned off the lights and left the room.

A short time later, Moonbase personnel on duty who were passing the recreation room had cause to frown and poke their heads through the door to see what all the noise was about. Gales of laughter could be heard echoing up the corridor at various intervals, as helped along by Tony Verdeschi's barely palatable beer, the staff of Command Center swapped tales about the professor, reminiscing on good times.

Eventually, when there was a lull in the lively conversation, Alan Carter stood up to propose a toast.

"To Professor Bergman- a man we'll never forget," he said solemnly.

Everyone present raised their cups and followed his lead.

"To Professor Bergman- a man we'll never forget."

Copyright (c) 1996. Reprinted with permission.
Space:1999 is (c) 1976 by Carlton International Media.
All stories are the property of their respective authors.

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