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The Face Of Eden

Authors: Christopher Dalton
Show Year: Y2
Rating: PG-13
Date: 2004
The Alphans come across the remains of a starship and its only survivor. But why does the survivor's presence make John Koenig and some of the command staff uneasy?
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Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hope for a still higher destiny in the distant future.

But we're not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth, as far as our reason permits us to discover it, and I've given the evidence to the best of my ability.

We must however acknowledge as it seems to me, man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his godlike intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of solar system, with all these exalted powers, man still bears in his bodily frame, the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.

Charles Darwin, 'The Descent of Man', 1871


New Lexington, Kentucky

August 23rd, 1999 AD

The tiny Catholic church was packed to capacity. They had even had to borrow some chairs from the schoolroom next door, so full the place was. It was as though the whole town had turned out to witness the baptism of the second child of these two people. Two people known through the local community. The couple stood before the font at the front of the church. The man, tall, dark haired, and looking very smart in his air force dress uniform. The woman, slight in build, with short dark hair, slightly arched eyebrows, arching over deep blue eyes that gazed down lovingly to the small sleeping human being in her arms that was her two month old son.

For once she felt a little out of place, normally she would be watching proceedings from the small seat in front of the organ. As church organist, she had observed many a baptism, and played many a baptismal hymn for all the proud parents. Now it was her turn, for the second time. Just three years after the first.

The priest, Father Patrick, called the congregation to stand.

They duly did.

He began, "Members of the body of Christ, are you ready to receive this child".

"We are", they replied.

"Will the parents of this child please present him for baptism".

The couple stepped forward and the young lady placed the tiny infant in the arms of the minister.

He asked, "Name this child".

The man answered in a deep and clear voice, "Christopher Richard".

The minister, supporting the baby with his right arm placed his left hand in the font, drew out a small amount of water, and drew with it a cross on the child's forehead. The little one didn't utter a sound, "Christopher Richard Brent, I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In baptism we welcome this child into Christ's flock, and we pray that the Lord will help him and guide him in all that he chooses to do, through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen".

Father Patrick turned to face the parents, "I'm sure Michael and Mary won't mind me taking a walk down the aisle and showing off little Chris to the folks now", he said, loud enough for the whole church to hear.

"Of course not", Michael replied, and looked down at his other son who had been a bundle of excitement all morning.

He asked, "Ron, would you like to walk with the minister?".

"Yessir", came the enthusiastic reply, and the minister and the three year old lad by his side did a brief tour of the congregation. Every now and then they would stop to allow some of the folks to stand up and take a closer look. Ron, on more than one occasion during this walk would point up to the baby and with a huge smile on his face would say out loud, "that's my little brother, and I'm going to take very special care of him".

His mother, looking on from the font, wiped away a small tear, and looked at her husband, "I think these two are going to be really close Michael. Isn't it beautiful to watch?"

"I think you're right honey. Although I have a feeling they are going to be like chalk and cheese in some way. Remember Ron? He cried his eyes out when he was baptised, yet we've not heard a peep out of Chris all day", he smiled, and kissed his wife.

"I wonder if he'll be musical", Mary asked, "goodness knows I spent many an hour sat in front of the piano at home and the organ here while I was pregnant with him. I still don't regret going back on the concert circuit after having Ron, and staying on the tour for the first three months of this second pregnancy, somthing I chose not to do when I was expecting Ron."

Michael couldn't help but smile at that last sentence, "Well it was certainly a first, a well known concert pianist announces to the packed audience in, of all places, the Royal Albert Hall in her native London, that she is pregnant with her second child, and offers a secret wish that this one takes after her and becomes a successful pianist".

Mary laughed, "Well it got the biggest applause of the night, I was playing Mahler after all".

By now the priest had made it back to the font and very carefully handed the infant over to his mother. As he did so he took one last look at the tiny face and uttered something that Mary would remember the rest of his life.

"Don't he look like his mother?"

He would also remember something else. Something that would haunt him the rest of his life. A memory that he would take with him to his dying days.

One that was almost a month away, on Earth's great natural satellite.

A place that his favorite cousin had fled to....


The universe bubbled and seethed to overflowing with paradoxes, Matthew Prentis knew. One of the most ironic was that the mere observation of its wonders made a man feel older than his time, when instead, it should have made him feel young, filled with the desire for exploration.

Take himself, for example. He was an inhabitant of the decade euphemistically called his "early thirties." Mentally the label meant nothing to some. To him, it meant that he was getting old. His body, tall and broad shouldered, may have been limber and healthy as when he had joined the United States Air Force. But, when you got right down to it, his mind had adopted the outlook of an old fossil - an old fossil turned cynical misanthrope who had seen and witnessed too much. Especially during the 1990's. Or as he would say, the 'gloomier' 90's'.

Christ, he admonished himself. I have seen too much. And that is no wishful thinking. I'm not like Victor Bergman, God rest his soul. He was the all-knowing old sage of space. My problem is that I still have the perception as well as the physical sense of well-being of a university student. For a time, I used to imagine myself as the inheritor of the skills of Swift and Voltaire, or Clarke and Bradbury. Hell, even that goddamned Ben Bova at one point. But, I know damn well that I'll never write anything that makes me worthy of sharpening the pencils of such giants. I'm just satisfied with what I am: a reasonably competent, very lucky astronaut.

Lucky indeed, he reminded himself. Half of the astronauts in the World Space Commission would have permanently relinquished use of their regular duties for a chance to serve a tour on Moonbase Alpha. How you, Matthew Prentis, ended up on the pride and joy of the International Lunar Commission when far better men and women languished behind merely to go about their other lives and duties. Or to give accounts and reports to the media when the Moon was blasted from Earth's orbit back in September of 1999. It's a mystery for the muses and wish granted for me. Count your lucky stars. Earth was always a dirty, smelly place. Too many people creeping up to ten billion again. No wonder I did not like Earth.

If Matthew Prentis had been on either the Ultra Probe, or Captain Michaels' Swift expedition, he would not ever come inside the Mars orbit on the return trip. His hatred for humanity, its barbaric nature, and its warlike tendencies (not too mention his involvement in the aftermath of the Ultra Probe disaster), had caused him to sign on for a tour of duty on Moonbase Alpha that would have lasted a year. A tour of duty that he would have kept re-enlisting for. He preferred the isolation of the lunar colony. He had also reached the point where he had had it with the trials and tribulations of Earth. The horseshit of institutions. The civilization and species in which he had no belief and for which he had no love for.

Matt had been relatively an elite member of society. Yet, he felt that he was alienated from it. At odds with a society for whose people he lamented and whose world he bemoaned on a sarcastic level. At odds with humanity and despising the value system, he tried to evade the pressing problems of his people. By taking an outsider stance and dropping out.

In his capacity as an astronaut, he was quite happy to be leaving Earth on July 29, 1999 AD. He was really happy, despite some initial shock that his wish came true on that dark day in September of that same year.

"Humans are a flawed race," he said to no one in particular. "comprised of flawed people, and there is always the potential for the flawed instinct to run amok and lead humanity down the garden path of disaster."

The incident at Area Two and the folly of those on Earth vindicated all the misanthropic beliefs he had held as a man.

He had watched human civilization grow too smug and sure of its so-called accomplishments.

Lying on his bed, in his quarters, totally lost in the tortures of his innermost thoughts, he ran through the events that led him here. For most of the time, the bearded young man's arms had been folded behind his head as he stared up at the ceiling. The rest of the time, he had been absently fondling the picture he kept on the table next to his bed, staring intently at the image of the attractive woman with an olive complexion and shoulder length dark hair.

"What would you say about me now, Melissa?" Matt stared at the lovely image. "And your wonderful sisters? Janet, Falina, Gloria....what would you all say?"

He tried not to think about it.


Moonbase Alpha Status Report : 2364 Days since leaving Earth orbit.

Dr. Helena Russell recording.

Two days ago, our long range sensors detected a solar system in our eastern quadrant. There has been no sign of life detected from either our scanners or survey teams. We won't know of any further information analysis until we are closer to the edge of the system. However, our seismic readings have indicated that something has occurred on one of the planets within a time-frame that could have a bearing on our arrival in this area of space. Commander Koenig has ordered a yellow alert status until further notice.

A lot had changed on Moonbase Alpha since September 13th, 1999. The dangers driven home by the loss of Professor Victor Bergman, Main Mission Controller Paul Morrow, Technician David Kano, Tanya Alexander, and others had prompted John Koenig to order the close down of Main Mission and transfer control to the base's underground Command Center facility. Other changes soon followed. New nomenclature was created for Alpha signage and equipment was among some of the changes. Including the completion of the laser cannon defense system and Weapons Section.

Even something else had changed. By popular request, Koenig and the department heads approved a new official uniform for Alpha personnel. Which also included a standard lightweight field jacket that most Alphans wore.

The uniforms had a revised tunic (adapted from the original tunics). All uniforms, not just the Commander's, included a turtle-neck collar in the section colour. Male tunics had a single thickness collar, while female tunics had a folded over collar. The collars were fastened by Velcro or sometimes stud fasteners. Stitching in the section colour was added in three lines, across the chest and vertically on the left hand side. This stitching was only on the fronts of most people, although some had stitching across the back. The vertical stitching ended on a triangular insert cut in the hem and continued around the hem line. On the top left of the chest (inside the area delimited by stitching) an ID badge was worn, possibly above a circular insignia badge. The belt now had a tan cartridge-like buckle on the front instead of just a flap. Female uniforms now included a skirt, either above or below the knee, with the same vertical stitching and insert as the tunic. Skirts were worn with high boots.

Security uniforms now had a black "Security" badge on the right shoulder.

In many ways, the new uniform design seemed more comfortable.

If only John Koenig had felt such an emotion at the moment.

Constellations and other star patterns slid viscously around on the Command Center screen, as the latest data of the solar system the Moon was approaching began to be processed through the Main Computer. So far, it did not correspond with any of the systems that the Voyager One probe had visited and recorded in its memory banks.

Maya studied the raw data on her monitor. The Psychon female keyed in a few commands on her console and the responses came within a matter of a couple of minutes. The scanner finished processing.

"Sensors are detecting five planets in fairly widespread orbits," Maya said, studying the layout of the solar system. Nothing special yet. The lunar colony's computer quickly ran through a few scans, and flashed their results on the small scanner screen. "I'm not detecting any life forms."

"Neither am I," Sandra Benes replied from her console, "but we're still a long way off from any of the planets' surfaces."

"What about the long range sensors?" Koenig demanded. "Have they detected anything from that angle?"

Maya punched in Koenig's request and received an instant reply. The auburn haired alien tapped another computer key. "I've got something. The first planet is a giant. Eighty percent compressed hydrogen, twelve percent helium. No life forms." She paused as her voice took on an appreciative tone. "It certainly is beautiful."

John managed a smile at the female alien's last description. The Jovian-world had an artistic beauty about it. Almost like a Renaissance portrait.

"So is number two," Sandra continued, checking her screen's readout of the ghostly and gray world. "Beautiful but deadly. The atmosphere's almost completely comprised of compressed carbon dioxide. No life forms."

"You don't say," Tony Verdeschi muttered as the long range sensors started scanning the third planet. He grimaced, then groaned slightly, as the results came on the screen. Thankfully, he managed to make a short recovery after the incident on one of the planet's in the Ellna system and keep his sense of humor. Obviously, his encounter with the life form that nearly killed him did not hinder his abilities on a permanent level. "Ugh. Leave it to me to get the ugly one. No atmosphere, just barren rock. Might make a nice resort. No life forms of any type."

"Anything on the fourth planet?" Koenig inquired, staring at the viewscreen.

Maya did a quick scan. "The atmosphere is that of molten lead. Nothing could exist in such an environment."

"There have been forms of life that could breathe chlorine gas," Tony recalled.

"True," Maya stated. "However, if their were a life form that could breathe elements of molten lead, our sensors are not detecting it. It's conceivable that certain forms of life could not be recorded or detected."

The last statement reminded John of the Ultra Probe disaster, of how the alien that killed Tony Cellini and his three companions could not be recorded or detected by the spacecraft's scanning equipment. Or the flight recorder. John cast that memory aside as he focused on the immediate situation.

"Those seismic readings that we detected recently," Maya said, looking at the screen. "Are coming from the fifth planet. Sensors have established that the planet is almost like your Earth. However, there does not seem to be any life forms on the surface. Very odd..."

"All we know is that there are readings of some kind of massive space explosion or disruption of some kind that happened relatively recently in or near this same sector," John stated as he shook his head slightly and crossed his arms. "We just don't know if it is a natural phenomenon."

"John," Tony said, "That seismic report. I don't like the implications of it. It was much too sudden and abortive. It doesn't fit the profile for anything natural. If it's an explosion, it...well it would have to be something else. And if I were to make a preliminary guess, I'd say that something massive crashed with full force into the planet in that sector."

"The question is what?" John wondered. "Maya, do you have more information on the fifth planet's surface?"

"It is iron-silicon based," Maya said, looking at the screen while glancing at her console's readout. "Oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. A bit lower oxygen content than our own. Traces of some argon, neon, and krypton. All in acceptable quantities to our own life support. In all aspects...it is quite ordinary."

"Except for what caused that seismic disturbance," John pointed out. "How long are we in range of this system?"

Maya studied the screen and tapped in the question. "The Moon will still be in Eagle range of this system for five days. As to the range of the fifth planet, it will be virtually the same."

"You think it is worth exploring?" Tony asked. "A Phase One probe?"

"We'll know soon enough," Koenig said, resting his hand on the front of his desk.


In Matt's dream, he was back in the playground in New Louisville, Kentucky, and children were with the others, playing with that freedom born of trust that their parents were not insane enough to cremate themselves in the radioactive fires, whirling on swings, slipping down slides, and giggling through the jungle gym in Waterfront Park, just right in front of the Ohio River. The grass was a vibrant green and the sun was not hurtfully hot, but warm and nuturing.

He hooked his fingers in the chain link fence, as he was staring at the young mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles playing with their own children and godchildren.

Little girls and boys played skip-rope. Their singsong chant weaved through the random burbling of the kids. One mother appeared, walking her two year old son by the hands. She was wearing a pink and white shirt. She turned, a cheerful smile on her features. Beautiful and radiant.

Matt knew what was coming, like the hammerblow of God.

Grim-faced, Matt pressed against the fence. He started shouting at them, but no sound came from his mouth. He clutched the fence in frustration, shaking it. Screaming soundlessly.

The edge of global oblivion and mankind winding down was approaching.

No wonder I got bored with Earth, he thought to himself. I guess it is just natural selection. Darwin mechanized into an efficient killing machine that mowed down its original creators.

The woman's smile fell away, like leaves in a gathering autumn. And for a moment, their eyes met across a timeless gulf. But she turned the other direction, her smile returning when her little son gurgled and threw a fistful of sand at her. She laughed heartily, forgetting Matt at the fence as if he were only a shadow, a trick of the light.

The bright blue sky suddenly blossomed into an unearthly white. The children ignited like match-heads. Matt was burning, shouting silently, writhing in hell. Blowing away like burnt paper in the giant strobe of light.

The huge mushroom cloud formed in red-orange flame.

The blast wave hit, devouring the cowering parents and children in a whirl of hate. Matt's scream merged with the howl of the wind as the shockwave ripped into him, blasting him apart.....

The image changed to what appeared to be the eastern coastline. Somewhere in between Virginia and New York. He was naked and on his knees, pounding his fist into the sand, and venting his anger out over something. The ocean rolled over his legs and hands. He could see, out of his peripheral vision, his two friends from high school, Heather and Chris, standing nearby. Chris was fully-clothed. Heather was not. Both wondered what had gotten into Matt.

"You finally did it, Goddamn you!" Matt's tormented voice echoed off of the cliffs as he pounded his fist into the sand once more. "All those years of killing each other was not enough! You just had to go all the way and blow everything to hell!"

He looked up and stared at the scrub brushed dotted hills and darkening sky all purple with dusk before he saw the shattered and salt-stained remains of....

Matt awoke from REM sleep before his dream could finish. Dreams flowed like neural traffic in a cerebral rush hour on occasion. And other times, it did not. Dreams of cataclysm and the end of the world were very common. Including those concerning tornadoes. However, the dream of World War Three beginning in 1987...or the nuclear accident of August 29, 1997 was the one that disrupted his sleep.

If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One, he thought of the lines from an ancient Hindu epic. I am become death, the shatterer of worlds.

"Shit," he cursed, trying to get rid of the fuzziness still whirling in his mind. "that's humanity for you. The ruining of the Earth."

Slipping out of his powder blue pajamas, he stepped into the shower. The water pelted him a thousand times over. His own hands pummeled the body wash, turning the rassberry scented soap into a froth that filled his hair, whitewashed his huge shoulders, and invaded every bodily crevice with 99.44 percent purity. He was glad that Moonbase Alpha had provided the colonists with certain body washes and shampoos. The shower and its jarring bit of stimulation reminded him that Moonbase Alpha was home for him.

He felt good as he rubbed the soapy lather up and down his legs, working the body wash into the warmth at the top of his thighs where he felt the familiar pleasure of lubrication as well as cleansing.

"Matthew!"

Matt's spongy knees snapped into the familiar Air Force near-joint lock.

"Why did you not wake me? I could use a shower myself!"

Matt relaxed. It was Yasko, back from the journey to slumberland. The Asian beauty looked even more lovely in her nudity.

"Sorry," Matt said, awakening from his drowsiness. "The water is still warm."

"I can think of other ways to make it warmer," she said slyly, as she stepped in.

I can see where this is going, Matt thought, not minding her idea.

It was not before long that she was against the shower wall, her legs locked around Matt's, as she welcomed him inside of her. Which was soon followed by the moaning of passionate lovemaking and thrusting.

Now this is how to wake up, Matt thought as he exploded inside of her, trying to put aside the thought's of Man's primitive savagery behind him.


The very depth of space. There was the length and width, and height; and then these dimensions curved over on themselves into a bending blackness measurable only by the glinting stars that tumbled through the chasm, receding into infinity. To the very depth. These stars marked the moments of the universe. There were aging orange embers, blue dwarfs, twin yellow giants, and the like. There were collapsing neutron stars, and explosive supernovae that hissed into the icy cold emptiness of space. There were borning stars, pulsing stars, and dying stars.

There was even of course trinary stars.

After the successful construction of Moonbase Alpha on the Moon, and the beginning construction of a colony on Mars by the World Space Commission and its sub branch the International Lunar Commission, there was already a huge space industrial infa-structure to support future space probe missions. Like both the Ultra and Meta Probe projects. An epic scale project once the target solar systems were identified by the lunar farside observatory.

If only the scientists at the observatory could have seen this trinary system back in the late 1990's, Koenig observed, fascinated by the site on the Command Center screen. Back then, the Moon was only a quarter of a million miles distant from Earth, when it used to orbit it.

It was a sight to behold. The system contained three stars. One white dwarf and two yellow suns. The five planets, as Maya reported earlier, were in fairly widespread orbital patterns. All three stars were stable. There was even an asteroid field composed of various ores and metals. Another celestial phenomena that Maya found worth noting, was a small comet that was in an elliptical orbit. One that would be back in the Moon's current position in about 845 years.

Maya was able to determine that the comet was composed of various frozen gases. Frozen amonia, oxygen, cryogen, ozone, freon, and methalon. Almost in a perfect balance. There were of course some traces of radiation from the comet's tail, which was a bit unusual. Thankfully, when the Moon passed through the tail of the comet, the radiation screens of Alpha blocked out the harmful elements, like sunblock.

"Judging by those trinary suns," Maya began, examining the computer display. "And their compositions, they are entirely stable. No sign of any unusual sunspot activity. It seems normal."

"Any readings from the fifth planet?" Koenig inquired.

Maya looked at her computer display and keyed in the inquiry. The raw data spat out and displayed its refined answer.

"Nothing," Maya reported. "That seismic disturbance that we detected seems to have subsided. No traces of any harmful radiation or other forms of contagion."

"At least what our sensors are able to detect," Tony said, suspiciously about the planet's calm nature. "That seismic disturbance almost seemed like an electromagnetic pulse, judging by the previous readouts."

"If it were that," John stated, standing next to the science console. "Our instruments would have been affected."

"Think it is worth looking at?" Tony offered.

John stared at the image of the planet rotating slowly. It seemed peaceful enough. But there was a fuzziness of caution that slid over his prudential mind.

"It might be," John tapped the comm button on his desk. "Alan, have Eagle Two ready for launch."

"Right away, John," came Alan Carter's voice from Flight Control.

"Tony, you're in command until we return," Koenig ordered. "Have Dr. Russell, Eddie Collins, and Matt join us at Launch Pad Four."

"Understood," Tony said.

John exited the Command Center.


We're approaching the fifth planet now, John." Alan suddenly broke the silence, "Indications are of seven moons among the planets in the system. Two among the first. Three among the third. And two more around this world. If there had to be life forms in this system, this is the only place they could have resided. ETA to scanning range in one minute."

John slowly returned to his awareness of the blackness of space surrounding him. He shook his head and seemed to shudder slightly.

"You know," he said, "I don't why, but this part of space makes me nervous for some reason."

Ever since Eagle Two launched from Alpha, John felt that sense of caution for some unknown reason. When it came to the safety of those still alive and residing in the cold, sterile solitude of the lunar colony, he exercised caution when confronted with something entirely alien and unknown.

And now, for some reason, he felt the need to exercise extra caution. He just could not quite put his finger on the source of his anxiety.

"There it is," Helena quietly spoke up, standing near the entrance threshold of the Eagle command module."Planet dead ahead."

They could see the reddish-gray planet looming up ahead of them in their field of vision, growing steadily bigger and bigger.

"Activating scanners," John sucked in his breath as he hit the switch on his main console.

In a matter of minutes, the important data was flashing on his small monitor in bold, block letters: NO LIFE FORMS.

"No life forms," he repeated dejectedly.

"I still wonder why?" for the second time since they'd left, Helena's professional instincts seemed to kick in, "The atmospheric conditions seem right. There's no reason why the planet should be devoid of life."

"One problem at a time, Helena," Alan said, "Our first concern is finding traces of that seismic disturbance. Maybe that will answer some questions."

"Or lead us into a dead end," John observed. "Let's head on in for a first look."

The Eagle then descended into the atmosphere of the planet. As soon as the cloud cover dissipated around them, they were greeted to a strange sight in the sky around them and the landscape beneath them.

"Look at the color of the vegetation," Helena said in amazement, "It's all warm and red."

"Yeah," the same tone was in Koenig's voice, "I've never seen anything like this before. Try to find a place to set down and we'll do some investigating on foot."

"Hey just over that rise ahead," Alan quickly interjected with a note of excitement, "Look at that."

As the Eagle streaked over the landscape, they were surprised to first see the sky around them return to a normal color, and then beneath them, a blackened scarred gully filled with massive pieces of some kind of wreckage that Koenig, or the others didn't recognize.

"Looks like something big hit this area," the commander said, "So big in size, it destroyed and burned out all the vegetation. That's why the sky's now a normal color again."

"I see the wreckage, left-of center," Alan said, "Whatever it was, it's huge."

"Let's go in," a determined edge entered John's voice as the five of them brought their spacecraft back into the red areas beyond the gully where an open field came in to view. Less than a minute later, the Alphans noticed something else on the ground. Something that reminded John of the remains of Expo 67 in Montreal, Canada some three decades past.

"Would you look at that," Matt marveled, as he stood next to the door's main threshold.

It was a large, modernistic city. Intact and composed of tall, sleek, boxy, conservative buildings. All geometrical in shape and size. A systematic row of symmetrical structures. Intact but unpopulated.

"There's no life forms, John," Helena checked the scanner on the flight panel. "Nothing but extensive traffic systems. All barren of traffic."

"That is odd," John pressed a button. Maya's image on the small screen appeared. "Maya, are you certain the sensors are not detecting any forms?"

"Sensors are confirmed, John," the Psychon replied. "No forms at all. Not in the urban areas that you are now in. Or the rural hinterlands."

"Okay, keep scanning," John ordered. "Let us know if something is detected."

"Yes, Commander."

As Maya's image blanked from the screen, Koenig returned his attention to the vast wilderness below. "Let's set her down outside of the city. In that area there."

Within minutes, the five of them were on the ground. Matt was the first to get out of the Eagle, and he sprinted across the field to where they had just viewed the large city complex. The red glow of the sky cast its strange tint not only on the strange surroundings, but on each of the Alphans as well.

"This is the strangest light I've ever seen," Matt shook his head in disbelief at what seemed like something out of an old fairy-tale story to him.

"You two should see yourselves," Alan grinned at both John and Helena, "You both look like a bad contrast picture on a hovermobile license come to life."

"So do you, Alan," Helena smirked back at him, "And in your case, you never looked better."

The blond astronaut chuckled as he realized that he'd been topped. After the way she had so expertly and friendly cut him down to size he realized he should have known better. John cracked a smile, too.

"Well at least the atmosphere readings check out," John's eyes wandered about the field and the nearby forests,"Comfortable to breathe in every sense, despite the thinness of the air."

"And yet everything's so eerie," the smirk faded from Matt's expression from the joking earlier as he stopped to take in the surroundings.

"But alive," Helena tried to reassert an optimistic note.

"The wreckage is about five hundred meters that way," Alan pointed to an area where the red glow's dissipation became apparent.

"Let's check it out, first." John said. "We'll look at the city when we're done with...whatever the wreckage is."

Several minutes later, they had emerged in the more reassuring glow of a normal-tinged sky. But once they looked beneath them at what lay in the gully far below, that reassurance promptly vanished.

"Would you look at the size of that crater," Alan said in near-awe, "Whatever hit this place must have been as big as a battleship."

"And that," John pointed, "looks like the remains of a very big ship."

They stared at the twisted, blackened remains of the massive craft beneath them, trying to see if it registered any sense of familiarity with them.

"About the only reassuring thing I can say, is that that's obviously not an Earth spacecraft, let alone several of them," John said.

"I wonder," Matt mused, "Are there any records of other probes launched and disappearing without a trace since the Ultra Probe disaster?"

"None," Alan said as he looked at the wreckage with the same transfixed amazement, "The Ultra Probe mission was the last deep space intelligence probe, but as big as that thing is, that doesn't resemble anything Earth-like in the least."

"Let's get a closer look," John said as they started down the sloping hillside. As they walked down from the unusual reddish tinged meadow, they both found themselves taking slow, measured steps during the giant crater and gully in the distance, where the red tinge of the planet stopped and the scorched earth that restored normal color to the sky began.

When they reached the top of the gully and looked down, they both found themselves staring in fascination at the twisted wreckage for what almost seemed like an eternity.

John took a breath and finally broke the silence, "That's where the answer lies," he pointed down, "Let's go."

They started to slowly descend into the gully and drew steadily closer to the blackened hull. Alan took out his portable scanner and began to look at the readings.

"Maya was right, earlier." he said, "No radiation readings at all. Looks like it is safe."

They were halfway between the top of the hillside and the wreckage when their attention was suddenly distracted by the sound of something overhead. Something unseen, but resembling the sound of a craft's engines reducing power as if it were on an approach heading for the meadow where the Eagle had set down. The five Alphans looked up and saw nothing. The sound faded almost immediately.

John then shook off whatever it was he was thinking and summoned all of his professionalism back to the forefront, "Whatever it was," he said with determination, "it's gone now."

They resumed walking toward the wreckage. Both John and Alan were shaking their heads in amazement at the enormity of the site, as well as the extent of the damage.

"Everything is pretty well vaporized," Alan noted, "Whatever hit this thing must have had the power of a sun."

John came over to what looked like the remains of a door that led into some kind of passageway within one large, broken section of the ship. There were only several large chunks of the door still in place, and John delicately pulled at them. The dark and blackened, brittle metal snapped off with the delicateness of a twig breaking in his hands, and now the doorway was open, offering an unobstructed view of what lay inside.

John then froze in horror as he saw a sight that in many ways he had not been expecting to see, ever since he'd come to his conclusions about the wreckage. But the fact that he'd prepared himself to see something alien, in no way diminished the horror and revulsion induced by actually seeing it with his own eyes.

"Helena! Alan!" he shouted.

His friends had been focused on some of the wreckage further aft and promptly dashed up to him. The blonde astronaut, the ice-blonde doctor, the botanist, and the security guard stood alongside him and also peered in.

"By all that is---" for the first time in his life, Eddie Collins truly felt at a loss for words.

In front of them, lying underneath a pile of collapsed wreckage, were the distinct shapes of several bodies. The upper half of each body was obscured by the darkness deep inside, but the lower half of each figure was clearly visible. They were humanoid.

Matt gently pulled away another piece of wreckage and saw more detail on the rear of one of the corpses. An arm was visible, and like that of the others, the rest were humanoid form. All charred and burned beyond recognition. Like burnt paper, itself. Something that made Matthew Prentis think of the bad dream he had earlier. Or, as he was beginning to re-evaluate, a sleep terror.

"Jesus Christ!" Alan said, just as shocked.

"Guess again," Matt responded, despite the image of Soddom and Gomorrah whirling furiously in his pattern of concious thought.

The five Alphans were in such a state of shock that they at first did not notice a mysterious figure staring down the incline of the gully, toward them.


"I wouldn't go down there."

The five Alphans all grabbed for their laser pistols as they spun around and saw something that none of them had expected to see. The sight of a woman standing at the top of the ridge.

"Where did she come from?" Helena whispered in bafflement, "The scanners and sensors said no life forms."

The woman seemed to be slightly in her late thirties in terms of appearance, but for the most part seemed quite beautiful. She was of five feet, six inch tall height, with long dark hair and doe eyes. Her clothes though, were what gave her an elegant aura. She was garbed in an elegant white dress from collar to foot and seemed like someone who belonged more in a royal chamber, or Mount Olympus for that matter than amidst the emptiness of a deserted planet.

Despite the woman's warning, she made no initial move toward them, and remained standing on the ridge. "It's not safe down there," she spoke again.

And then, as the five colonists from Moonbase Alpha watched in total incredulity, she slowly made her way down the slope to where John, Helena, Alan, Matt, and Eddie were standing. By the time she reached to within five feet of them, she added, "What is left is not a beautiful sight."

Matt was the only one who still had his laser out, and he kept it cautiously trained on her, "Where did you come from?" he demanded.

"Where did you come from?" the woman smiled back with a lovely retort, "I was here on this planet long before you, I would think."

"We mean you no harm," John said, adopting a diplomatic tone, "You're obviously human. Do you need our help?"

"I think it's more likely that I can help you," the woman said.

"How?" Alan refused to lower his laser, "Are there others like you?"

The woman's face suddenly took on a grave expression, "Not here."

John quietly motioned Alan and Matt to lower their weapons. As the two put them back in their holsters, Helena cautiously spoke for the first time since they'd seen her, "Was that a ship?" she pointed sown to the remains without taking her eyes off the stranger.

The woman's eyes gazed down and the grave aura of her expression only increased, "Yes, it was. It was destroyed."

"By whom?" John asked.

"The Great Axis Of Power," she said simply, and then left it at that.

Despite putting his laser away, Alan refused to be as diplomatic in his tone, "And just who...or what is this 'Axis Of Powers' as you call them?"

"It's not easy to explain," the woman was once again cryptic.

She then cast a glance at the wreckage in the distance, "Would you mind if we moved from here? I don't want to be reminded of what happened to my people."

Even before she had finished though, the woman had already started to move off back up the slop toward the path that led back to the top of the ridge.

Cautiously, the Alphans began to follow her. John pulled out the portable scanner from his belt pack and quickly activated it. As he trained it on the woman ahead, he frowned in disbelief, "Something's wrong with my scanner. I can't get any reading."

The woman suddenly stopped in her tracks but didn't turn around, "That scanner won't be of much use to you. There is an enormous dampening field in this area."

She resumed walking, and again the Alphan survey team followed, leaving the massive wreckage of the starship behind them alone and forgotten for now.

They moved back into the reddish tinted area, and for a brief minute, John felt a sense of unease go through him when he saw the mysterious woman bathed in the red glow. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but the sight alone seemed like a warning flag that he should take heed of.

He watched as the woman came to a stop in front of a small pond on the other side of the meadow where the Eagle was parked. Her shoulders seemed to sag, or tire, in weariness, causing Matt to come over to her and offer an arm in support.

"I don't understand it," Alan mused quietly to John, "Who is this...lovely woman?"

John didn't respond immediately. His attention was still on the woman and her elegant beauty.

"John?" Helena gently nudged him.

"Sorry," John shook his head, "I was just thinking."

"And?"

John Koenig took a breath, "I don't know. I've got a very strange feeling about her."

"That makes two of us," the Australian grunted, despite his attraction to the lovely goddess before them. "I don't understand how she could survive that crash without a mark on her. Especially if that ship crashing is the tie-in to what Maya was telling us about the massive seismic disturbance that Alpha's scanners picked up"

"Assuming she came from that ship," Helena interjected. "She could have come from that city we detected earlier."

"That is a possibility," John noted. "I think I'd better do some delicate questioning of her."

The Alphans made their way over to the edge of the pond.

"I'm very weary," the woman was saying to Matt, "I'm drained of energy."

"We have some emergency rations with us," Matt's tone was gentle and friendly, as he continued to hold her up by the arm, "We'll be happy to share them with you."

The woman turned and smiled warmly at him, "You're very kind," her voice matched the grateful benevolence of her smile, "It's not food I require."

"Look," John entered the conversation, keeping his tone cautious and diplomatic. "ah...."

"My apologies," the woman turned to John and courtsed slightly, "My name is Androna."

"Androna," John said, "How did you survive the crash?"

A blank frown came over the face of Androna, "I honestly don't know," she sounded apologetic, "That might seem difficult to explain, but I simply can't recall."

"Are from that city that is near this area?" Helena inquired.

"Yes," the woman answered. "I don't remember being there, either."

"You spoke of your people," Alan said, "Were the....bodies we found, the people on that ship?"

"Yes," Androna admitted, "They are now gone from this dimension. Gone to other things," her voice trailed off as she turned away and looked off into the distance.

Before any of the Alphans could say anything else, she abruptly turned around and started to cautiously pace in front of them, "But what about you? You must have people. Will you be returning to them soon?"

"Yes," John nodded.

The caution suddenly faded from Androna's face and was replaced by an expression of politeness, "I wonder if I might accompany you?"

"We'd have to know a little more about you," John said, as he tried to be firm without being antagonistic, "Where do you come from?"

"You do not know my people," Androna walked several steps away from them, "They are not of your world."

John moved toward her, "Yes, but my concern is for the safety of our people. For all we know, you could be..."

"Maybe I can help you with your odyssey," Androna unexpectedly interrupted.

"Oh?" John raised an eyebrow, "What odyssey was that?"

"Whatever it is you're looking for," Androna said simply and then looked off into the distance, "My knowledge of the universe is infinite. If you desire my help, I think we had best be going immediately."

And then, the mysterious woman in white walked off in the direction of the Eagle.

"Well," John said aloud to Helena and the others, "What's your preliminary assessment?"

"Hard to say," Alan said, "Beautiful and lovely."

"But a bit on the loony side, if you ask me." Eddie Collins finished.

"I just wish I knew where the hell she came from," John kept his eye on Androna's retreating form.

"John, you keep asking that," Helena seemed amazed by the level of suspicion in his voice, "What does it matter?"

John looked back at her, equally amazed by her lack of suspicion, "It should matter a lot, Helena. Especially since she is here for no apparent reason, and we're still left with an unanswered question about what happened here."

"I don't even think you bothered to put the question to her," she retorted mildly, "Not that she probably know a thing about it anyway.

"At least we know she is humanoid," Matt observed. "And she is all alone."

"Matt, why are you suddenly so protective of her?" Alan's amazement deepened, "So far, she has been nothing but evasive with us."

"Look, she is probably just confused and disoriented," he held his ground, "I think she's in shock from the explosion."

"That makes sense," Alan conceded, "If she ejected from that ship, the fall may have hurt her."

"No," John shook his head, "She doesn't look any too tattered to me. Dress all neatly immaculate, not a hair out of place. There has to be more to it than that."

"Well we just can't leave her behind," said Helena.

"There's always the possibility she could be some form of intelligence, one that has observed us since the Moon came into this system," John suggested, "Or someone who was planted here and knew we'd be coming. She could be a sentinel or...a gatekeeper of some kind."

As soon as he mentioned the term gatekeeper, Matt remembered the incident on Piri and looked back at where Androna was standing, as though he were inwardly reproaching himself for not being cautious enough. Goddamn hormones are affecting my better judgement!

"John, she is only one person," Alan pointed out, "If we keep our guard up, I just don't see what she can do."

John cast another glance at the mysterious Androna and finally nodded, "All right. But first let's make sure she is not carrying any kind of weapon."

"Good idea," Matt said, his voice more cautious than it had been before, "If she turns out to be anything like Balor or that damned Cantor or Zova, we'll have the upper hand on her."

"Right," John nodded. "But, first, I'd like to take a look at that city. There could be some informational records that could be of some use. Maybe our visitor might know some things and shed some some light."

The Alphans went over to the other side of the meadow where Androna remained transfixed, looking up at the sky from time to time.

"We've decided to take you with us," John said. "But, first, we would like to visit your city."

"Very well," Androna smiled and then moved off into the center of the meadow. "The lonely dreariness of this place has affected me somewhat. May I say how appreciative I am of your kind offer to take me back to your people."

"You're most welcome," John straightened his pink-salmon colored jacket. "You'll understand that we are being cautious. We have the safety of our people to think about first."

"Of course," she bowed her head slightly, "And it occurs to me that I don't have the pleasure of knowing either of your names."

"I'm Commander John Koenig of Moonbase Alpha, and this is Dr. Helena Russell," John introduced his friends. "Chief Eagle Pilot Alan Carter, Botanist Eddie Collins, and Sceurity Officer Matthew Prentis."

Androna looked them over for a brief instant and then slowly nodded her head.

"Ah yes," she smiled again, "I have a feeling that I will long remember both of your names. Not simply for the kindness you've shown me today."

She moved away from them toward their Eagle and seemed to cast an admiring glance at the machinery.

Koenig shook his head in amazement, "There is something quite odd about that woman that I can't figure out."

"John, is your first instinct always to be so suspicious to people you don't completely understand?" she retorted in a disapproving tone that caused John to look at her.

"Yes, Helena," John replied gently. "Where the safety of Alpha is concerned."


John was still amazed by the appearance of the abandoned city. In some manner it represented the area in Montreal, Canada known as the Ile Notre Dame, site of the Expo 67 World's Fair. John had visited the place once during its April to October 1967 run. With its tall conservative and innovative structures, the fair had looked like something out a science fiction film. It came as no surprise to him some ten years later, when the remains of the site were used as filiming locations for two science fiction series . Something that would last up until the early 1980's.

The city was modernistic and pretty much silent, which made the Alphans err on the side of caution. It looked peaceful, but sometimes appearances could be quite decieving. Even the buildings seemed to hold hidden depths and dimensions that he could begin to fathom.

When John thought of the Expo 67 event, he immediately thought of the sixties in general. An era that resonated the social and political turmoil of the world. The human race had spent the past two decades of that time living in fear of nuclear annihilation since the start of the Cold War, and still remembered the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cuban Missile Crisis only six years prior to 1968. A year that was probably the most tumultuous year of the Sixties, with the world in a state of momentous political and social change. A world devastated by the scourge of intolerance and paranoia.

The children of the Baby Boom were coming of age in a much more dynamic and confused world than the relatively stable and prosperous Fifties that they had grown up in. The conflict in Vietnam had escalated in January of that year during the Tet Offensive, feeding a growing anti-war sentiment both in the United States and around the world. Russia invaded Czechoslovakia to put down the 'Prague Spring' democratic movement. The dream of 'Camelot' died with Senator Robert Kennedy's assassination in a Los Angeles hotel.

Even the civil rights movement mourned the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., which triggered a summer of looting in several major U.S. cities. The Chicago National Democratic Convention was interrupted by hundreds of anti-war protesters... and so on. Between the start of 1968 and the end of the decade, no corner of the globe was untouched by political unrest and social upheaval. Science and technology had progressed furthur than political and social knowledge.

Not only had the Big Brother's machinery of state control and suppression been well oiled for decades in the Union Of The Soviet Socialistic Republic and its satellites, but the shadow of the absurd, merciless beast hanged over many of those nations for a time.

The Third World War in 1987 also proved that point in an explosive fashion. When all the hatreds between races, classes, and religions finally came to a head. In the form of mutually-assured destruction (MAD), no less. The North Korean terrorist cell that claimed responsibility for the start escalated a number of the sobering issues that were found after the war. Issues that still rang true. Which immolated the entire planet, forever ending the war between those that were different from one another.

The Cold War may have been over, but man's ability to inflict pain and suffering on his neighbor continued to be demonstrated, whether it been in Los Angeles in 1992, Yugoslavia for the bulk of the Nineties, or Chechnya, before September 13th. The planet of man was a world where the ideals of the few were often silenced by the madness of many.

John recalled the discussion that he and Helena had about Earth's history in the Medical Center at one time.

"With a history like that," she had said, lying in bed, recovering from pneumonia. "who would want to go back anyway."

All knowledge is for good, John mused in silent thought. Only the use to which you put it can be good or evil. I'm beginning to see why Matt left Earth for good. The human race had eventually made its own existence a living hell, succumbing to crime and violence.

Matt held out his scanner as he scanned the water bubbling out of a fountain. The area they were in was a plaza of sorts. Or one of the small pocket parks that they had detected earlier. The water was clean and pure in appearance, and from what the Kentucky native could tell, there were no impurities or other harmful elements within its chemical structure.

"This place looks like it has not been used in years," Alan stated, as he drank in his surroundings. "Nothing looks used or worn."

"It's eerie, though," Helena added. "I'm beginning to think that a thousand eyes are watching us."

"I don't see how, doc," Matt stated. "My scanner has not detected anything. Unless it is that dampening field that our new found friend had described to us earlier, today."

John focused his gaze on the person that Matt described. The angelic female was standing near the same fountain that Matt was close to. Obviously, the woman seemed to be comfortable around the tall young man. Something else that made Koenig a bit uneasy. For someone who was a harsh and embittered misanthrope, Matt did not seem to mind being in close proximity with a beautiful woman. Then again, he had heard about some of the women on Alpha that Matt frequented.

Eddie Collins scanned a nearby area of park shrubbery. The results that his scanner projected were not so surprising.

"Commander," he said, looking at the data readout. "The plants seem fine. Almost compatable and similar to the ones in Alpha's hydroponics section. We could bring these back with us, once we've picked out some samples."

"If we do," Koenig reminded him. "Make certain they've been processed and analyzed during the quarantine proceedure."

"Right,"

Matt felt the solar warmth of the trinary suns spread around and through him as he leaned against the cold, hard surface of the fountain. He also determined that the warmth was not entirely solar related. It was coming from Androna.

She is no Mathilda May, Matt thought, intoxicated by her beauty. But she is beautiful. Almost perfect. Either the feminine in me is causing a romantic haze, or she is really angelic.

Androna took a breath, as John and Helena came up to her. And when Koenig spoke, his tone was more polite than it had been at any other point.

"Androna, there's one question I neglected to ask you. Have you seen any other people like us, before or after you came to be here?"

"Other humans?" Androna thoughtfully mused, "No, I can't say that I have. I certainly don't think I'd be in this lonely predicament of mine if I had seen anyone else."

John didn't bat an eyelash or lessen the politeness of his tone, "Excuse me, Androna, but do you mean you know what kind of people we are?"

The stranger broke into a disarming smile, "Yes, I understand what you mean, Commander. But I do know of your people. After all, as I said, my knowledge of the universe is infinite. Including the knowledge of your people, and of your quest."

"And you say you can help us in that?" John folded his arms.

"Perhaps." she turned away from them, "I feel so fatigued from my ordeal. I hope it would not be asking too much if these questions which I know are legitimate ones, could wait until I am back at your base and have had a chance to recover myself more."

"That's perfectly all right," John said, "We'll let things go until then."

As Androna moved off again back toward the middle of the plaza, John felt a tinge of unease at the look of fascination on her face, as she kept her eyes trained on Matt, and he with her.

He found himself wondering if it meant anything significant.


The giant dome was roughly three-quarters of a sphere, designed to look like a lacy filigree weightless against the sky. It's height, John estimated was two hundred feet, with a spherical diameter of two hundred and fifty feet. It's construction was obviously a space frame of steel pipes enclosing one thousand and nine hundred molded acrylic panels. In some manner, it reminded John of a biosphere.

When John Koenig had become an astronaut cadet with the World Space Commission, he trained at the Biosphere 2 center in Sonoma, Arizona. A place that was best described as a sealed, energy-rich environment. A complex consisting of medium-scaled synthetic communities of plants, soils, and water encased in gas-tight glass and metal shells. The biosphere's mini-ecosystems, or biomes, included ocean, rainforest, intensive forestry, and desert areas that could be studied as integral systems.

The sphere before him and the others in the silent city was a far cry from that facility he trained at so many years past.

The Alphans entered one of the buildings and walked down some steps into what appeared to be an industrial area of some type. Almost like the basement of some industrial complex.

"It doesn't look like a records area would be in here," Alan noted.

John looked about his surroundings. "No, it doesn't. Let's head back outside."

Walking back up the steps and into the open plaza, the Alphans, along with Androna, searched some various spots. When asked if she knew if there were a records library of some type, Androna confessed that she did not remember.

It was after the third search of a building that they came across what appeared to be a records library. John shook his head in awed admiration at the row of computer terminals lining the facility. Screen filled computer panels with their multicolored complexities.

"This looks like the right place," Alan spoke, just as awed.

Computers get more elaborate all the time, Matt thought sardonically. And yet somehow at the same time they're simpler to use. These somehow have that look and feel about them. Almost sentient.

Helena looked at one of the consoles and heard a pleasant, yet bland synthetic female voice speak from the console. "Yes?"

John and the others, aside from Androna, looked over in that direction where Helena was standing. "Hello, what is this?" Koenig wondered.

"May I be of some assistance?" the computer voice spoke.

"Uh....yeah," Koenig began, trying to form the right words. "Can you present any information on planet's history and culture please?"

"Right away, sir," the computer voice spoke.

Alan supressed a desire to laugh at the circumstances.

"A cybrarian no less," he said, trying to prevent himself from chuckling at the humor of it all.

"No doubt about it," John admitted. "We found the right place. This has to be a reference library. Or cybrary for that matter. I don't see any particular books or text volumes. It seems all computerized and electronically processed."

"Could this be like Metal City back on Earth?" Collins wondered.

John remembered the city completely operated by artificial intelligence, off of the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It seemed possible.

"I can not answer that question without further input," the computer suddenly spoke again. "I would need to know what Metal City----"

"Never mind that inquiry," John turned back to the terminal and said with exasperation. "We would like the information we requested earlier."

"Yes, sir,"

"Female computer voices," Matt sighed as he looked on, "I sometimes think they were designed by a programmer who never had a meaningful social life. They'll drive you crazy after awhile."

"Obviously, whoever these people were," John pointed out, with a bit of a laugh. "They obviously did not have a social life."

"Here is the information you requested, sir," the computer voice spoke. "Let me know if you need furthur assistance."

A small slot opened, and a computer stick, no bigger than an old memory stick for a Sony television set, came out. John pulled out the object.

"Maya should be able to access this code disk," Koenig stated, eyeing the small rectangular object. "It seems compatible with Alpha's computer access and data encryption systems."

"Hopefully, it won't cause a problem," Helena stated.

John noticed that Androna had a quizzical aura about her, as she leaned over and inspected one of the computer terminals. As if she knew something about the computer systems, yet could not recall the memory of how she knew.

Or she did know and was not saying anything about it.

We'll need that memory stick to substantiate that the information we required came specifically from this place, John thought. And to determine who Androna is. Assuming if that information could help in that field.

A stray thought flashed through John's mind when he watched both Androna and Matt looking over one of the terminals.

A thought he put on the backburner for the time being.


The Eagle launched twenty minutes later and came to a heighth above the middle of the meadow. The spacecraft powered up and took off into the atmosphere to begin its return trip to the Moon. Androna wasted little time in boarding it. As soon as it was away, it reached escape velocity from the planet.

"Helena?" John radioed the passenger module, "How's our guest acting?"

The voice of Helena Russell came back through the comlink, "She is acting perfectly normal John. Just sitting in the back relaxing. She hasn't said a word since she got onboard, but she does seem grateful that she's off that rock."

"Okay thanks. Let me know if she says anything, or if something funny happens."

"Are you expecting something to happen, John?" Alan inquired, from the co-pilot's seat to his starboard.

"I'm not sure, Alan," Apollo said, "I'm not sure."

The commander then switched frequencies from the passenger module to Moonbase Alpha, "Koenig to Moonbase Alpha. Are you receiving?"

"Loud and clear, John," Tony Verdeschi's image appeared on the small screen. "What was it like down there?"

"Pretty much deserted," John sounded dejected, "I hate to say this, but barring a miracle, I don't know if I have much hope for this planet at this point."

"What happened?" Tony inquired.

"We found the remains of an urban complex," John reported. "But, no life forms, save one. We're bringing her back with us and some records from that city's library. We should have some answers momentarily. Have security stand by at launch pad two when we land."

"Will do," Tony replied, as his image went blank.

"So much for vaunted optimism," Alan pointed out. "That world did seem like an ideal place."

"Let's not rule out that planet yet," John stated. "Not until we have some answers."

"Somehow, I think those answers will turn out all right," came Matt, as he stood near the command module door's threshold.

"How?" John demanded, "In what way?"

"I don't know," his voice trailed off, "Something I felt, when I was talking to Androna on the planet."

"I didn't hear her say anything to inspire confidence on that point, Matt," Alan said, choosing his words carefully.

"Maybe not," he said with slight awe, "And yet at one point, I could feel it. Being with her somehow makes me think that something important and good for all of us is going to happen."

John promptly choked off the retort he was thinking of and kept silent. Alan was too incredulous to say anything himself at this point.

What's with you, Matt? Alan thought. Is there any reason why you want to trust her so willingly?

The reassuring sight of the Moon finally came into their field of vision. As did Moonbase Alpha in the crater Plato. The cold, gleaming, sterile bulk of the wheel-shaped lunar colony was a welcoming sight. Within a few minutes the Eagle landed first on the pale orange cross of launch pad two, followed minutes later by the pad descending down into the lower level of Alpha.


As John got out of the travel tube car and stepped onto the polished floor, he felt his stomach knot slightly when he saw Matt instinctively stand next to Androna as soon as he was out of the travel tube.

At that point, John saw Tony and Maya enter the pristine corridor, with Bill Fraser and security guard trailing them. A look of concern lined the security chief's face.

"What exactly happened there, John?" Tony inquired.

"We found the source of that seismic disturbance," John replied. "It was a starship of kind. We found the remains of her crew and that of a city. We didn't find any signs of life at first, but we didn't exactly come up empty."

"We found somebody." Alan indicated the lovely woman next to Matt.

Before Tony could ask another question, Matt escorted the mysterious woman up to where they were standing, "May I introduce our guest?" he smiled and motioned to Androna, "Androna, this is Tony Verdeschi, and Maya."

Androna courtsied slightly as she had done before when she had introduced herself on the planet, "An honor, Mr. Vesdeschi."

The second in command said nothing, and appeared to look her over with a dubious expression. If not with one that indicated an attraction to the woman's beauty. It was only when he got that look from Maya that he got his senses back in proper order.

"I know your mind is full of questions," Androna went on, "But as I explained to Commander Koenig, I was hoping to find somewhere to rest after my ordeal."

"Tony, we'll have a debriefing in a little bit," John said to the Italian astronaut. "And discuss the situation at length. Have security escort our visitor to the guest quarters."

Tony slowly nodded, "Of course." He looked over at Matt, who nodded at Tony's silent command.

Matt was still beaming as he and the two guards led the woman down the corridor.

"Our guest seems....very interesting." Tony observed, as he started to move away.

John nodded, despite the wave of suspicion and discomfort that he felt.

"There's something bothering me about our visitor," his eyes were still trained on her and Matt, who had finally disappeared from view down the corridor, "That look on Matt's face..."

Alan decided it was safe to talk, "Well, I don't think Androna exactly inspires much confidence me. Yet, somehow..."

"She seems to with Matt," Maya noted, "And that appears to be something interesting."

Helena chose her next words carefully, "John," she said, "Have you ever gotten the impression that maybe Matt...."

"Has some kind of interest in Androna?" John finished without looking at her. "I certainly have. And that is something we need to keep an eye on."

The experiences that Matthew Prentis had endured on Earth, before his posting to Moonbase Alpha, had seemingly produced a bitterness in him that wasn't apt to heal for a long time. It was only after breakaway, that the particular breach had been healed for him. Mostly beacuse he was forever seperated from the human race, and among those that he considered to be better than man, itself. Especially where the female population of Alpha was concerned. Despite that expression that often taken a cold aura, Matt was not a bad person. He just had issues with a race that he grew to hate in the end.

With that thought in mind, John felt an intense sense of relief as he, Helena, Alan, Tony and Maya went through the corridor and heard the travel tube doors close behind them all.


"And she was all alone on the planet?" Tony was incredulous as he walked down the corridor.

"As far as we could tell," John said, as they arrived at the Command Center. "Along with the wreckage of an immense ship of unfamiliar design."

John stopped in front of his desk in the Command Center and looked directly at his entire command staff, "What puzzles me is that it did not give off any high radiation levels. And that dampening field that she had mentioned...somehow that doesn't quite jell with the evidence we had seen."

"I wished we could locate that dampening field," Alan mused in disappointment, "Our sensors could have located its power source."

"And yet she survived despite the cataclysm of the explosion?" Helena wondered.

"We can only speculate she ejected from the ship before she was struck," John said, wishing he could come up with a better possibility than that.

"Did she elaborate as to how her ship crashed?" Maya asked, curious of the incident and what followed after.

"She said something about some 'Great Axis of Powers', which didn't make much sense," John went on, "Who knows what condition her mind was in after going through the encounter she'd been through."

"John," a pointed, urgent edge entered Alan's voice, "She seemed to be very evasive. She knows more than she is letting on."

John Koenig paused to reflect for a moment before responding.

"Yeah," he said as he sat behind his desk, "Helena, I want a complete report on her from Medical Center, after she has rested. Cranium probe, neuro systems, everything up to and including psycho electric recall. As soon as you're finished with her, we'll see about meeting with her later."

"I'll have Ben and Raul begin the tests right away," Helena nodded.

The others nodded and left Koenig alone to his paperwork.

After finishing with the decontamination procedure, Matt led Androna down the corridor in the direction of Moonbase Alpha's Hydroponics Section.

"We can stop here for some hypernutrients and a quick energy treatment," Matt was saying, "It will get your strength up and get you through the debriefing."

Androna, who'd been seemingly paying little attention to him, abruptly stopped in her tracks and said in a flat monotone, "No."

Matt turned around and looked at her with surprise.

"Oh it's not that I don't appreciate your concerns," she smiled as the air of warmth returned to her voice, "But I had my own concerns."

"We only want to help you," he said reassuringly.

"I'm sure. But you don't understand," a distant quality entered her voice, "I'm not of your world. It's highly probable your instruments could be destructive to me."

"They're the very latest---"

"For your time," Androna interrupted and then looked him in the eye, "For your time, perhaps. But...as you sensed back on the planet....by the pond, when you held me by the arm....I am....quite....different."

For almost a second Matt's gaze was locked on her smiling visage. Finding himself thoroughly captivated by her expression and the soft, gentleness of her words.

"May I see more of your base?" Androna's smile only deepened.

"Run down the checklist for all of the communications systems," Alibe said, "They're due for a full inspection now."

For the next several seconds, Bill Fraser and Alibe went over each monitor, and each piece of communications circuitry, making sure that each was in proper working order.

"Looks to be running smoothly," Alibe said.

All of a sudden, the images on several of the monitors in back of them were filled with snow and static.

"What the--?" Alibe was caught off guard and as she heard the annoying crackling sound of static,

"Bill, what the hell happened?"

"Can't tell," Bill Fraser looked befuddled, "It doesn't seem possible."

At that moment, they were both distracted by the sight of Matt entering the area. Behind him, Androna followed his steps, looking about the room with considerable interest.

"This is our communications center. Where we can maintain a constant monitor on all the activities within the base," Matt was saying to the woman, and then motioned toward the banks, "Alibe, here, is in charge of this station."

Alibe looked up in surprise at the sight of the two people, which had provoked rumors earlier.

"A pleasure to meet you," Androna smiled.

"Yes," she dimly nodded, "I'm, ah, sorry our hands are a bit tied right now. We seem to be receiving some unexpected electrical interference. The whole system was fine a second ago."

"Sorry to see that," Matt said and then looked back at Androna, "One of the many problems of space travel. Electrical voids and equipment failure. But I'm sure you understand all that, don't you?"

"Completely," Androna kept smiling, "Completely."

As Matt led her away from the banks, Alibe found herself staring at their retreating forms for a while, thinking about the potential ramifications. She was so lost in thought that she didn't initially feel Bill tugging at her sleeve.

"Look at this," Bill Fraser said in amazement, "Now it's all cleared up again."

Alibe looked back and her eyes widened in amazement at the sight of the clear images on the monitors.

Strange, she thought. When she was here, they were all crazy. And now that she's gone, they're back to normal. And why is Matt just leading her about in an area like this?

"Bill," Alibe said quietly, "Get hold of the Command Center and see if Tony is there. I think he has to tell the Commander about this."


Koenig was still absorbed in administrative paperwork when he saw the Command Center doors slide open and a concerned Tony enter.

"What's wrong, Tony?" He asked.

"I got an urgent message from Alibe and Bill. Our strange visitor just left the communications center with Matt. I've got a Security team tracking them down now."

Koenig suddenly dropped his papers onto his desk.

"Just left the communications center?" his voice was equal parts suspicious and stunned, "Why would Matt suddenly give her access to a sensitive control center?"

Tony stiffened in embarrassment. At the moment, he was kicking himself inwardly for not having kept an eye on Androna himself, instead of Matt.

"It...does seem a bit out of the ordinary."

"Out of the ordinary?" Koenig's voice had a trace of suspicion, "Matt's the type of security guard who should know better. Why would he do this?"

"I don't know," Tony said.

The commander went over to the intercom and pressed the switch that tied him into the communications network throughout the entire base, "Matt, would you and our guest report to Command Center immediately."

Koenig looked back at his friend and seemed on the verge of seething, "I want some answers about this woman, Tony. And I think it is time to find them."

"Down this way is the Recreation Center," Matt motioned as he and Androna got off the turbolift/elevator and began walking down the corridor, "The place where we spend much of our spare time relaxing. It's not much, but that's because the one we use now is a rather makeshift kind of set-up. Our main Recreation Center is one level up on Level A, but that entire area was closed down, a few years ago, for safety concerns. We still haven't reopened operations on that level."

Androna stopped in her tracks and looked at him with disarming attraction yet again, "You're very kind, Matthew. But I think the time has come for that debriefing you spoke of with Commander Koenig."

"Oh," he almost seemed disappointed, "Well I'm sure if you felt like waiting a while longer, they wouldn't object."

"Perhaps not," she said as her gaze into his face grew more piercing, "But lead me to Commander Koenig."

Again, Matt found himself looking at her lovely face with transfixed awe for nearly a second before he once again nodded and led her in the direction she desired to go in.

As soon as Matt and Androna heard Koenig's voice pipe through his commlock, demanding their presence, the security officer was decidedly uneasy about what he would be hearing from the Commander. As soon as they arrived, his discomfort had decreased.

Tony was in a state of incredulous disbelief. As concerned as he'd been by Matt's overpoliteness toward Androna, he hadn't counted on something like this happening.

"John," he started awkwardly, "I don't know what is with---"

But before his second in command could go any further, the door to the Command Center abruptly slid open and Matt entered, with Androna right behind. John, Tony, Alan, and Maya were so surprised by her entrance that they didn't notice the burst of static that erupted briefly from the communication post's monitor outside the door, and which quickly faded as soon as the mysterious woman entered the room.

"You wished to speak with me, Commander." Androna was full of respect as she bowed slightly, "I am at your service."

Koenig's suspicious expression softened so he could show some courtesy to Androna's arrival, "Yes." He then turned back to Matt, "I'll want to speak with you, later. Make sure you're in one place so we don't have to look all over the base for you."

"Would the Security Office be suitable?" Matt delicately asked.

"Perfectly," the commander responded sourly, "I know you won't leave there. That will be all."

Matt exited out of the room, leaving Koenig and the others with Androna alone. As soon as he was in the corridor, Matt heaved a sigh of relief, "I don't think I've ever seen him quite so...unsettled." he said to no one, his tone was light and nonchalant.

Tony.who came out of the center decided not to be nonchalant with him, after overhearing the comment he made to himself.

"Actually, I don't think you can blame him, considering that you just escorted a perfect stranger into a classified area. That's not the sort of thing a good commander, would understand."

Matt stopped and stiffened at the harshness of his remark, "She asked me to--"

"Do you always do everything you're asked to do?" he demanded.

"Tony, for Christ's sake!"

"You know what I mean," Tony calmed down slightly, "Look, I don't think giving her free rein of Alpha amounts to playing things by the book."

"Look," Matt said, trying to make him understand, "I know it's a little hard to explain, but...it wasn't so much as what she said, as what I felt."

"Felt?" there was a mixture of concern and dubiousness in Tony's response.

"She needed to feel order and security," he went on, "So I took her some place where I could help settle her. And it worked. She feels much better now."

"You've been acting this way ever since you found this Androna, or she found us," the level of concern in Tony's voice increased, "All that stuff on the planet that I was told, and while you were flying back to Alpha. What makes her so important to you? You don't know who she is. None of us do."

Matt's eyes then blazed at him with a defiant fury reminiscent of his British ancestors, "I know she cares."

"For you?" the question seemed to impulsively come out of Tony's mouth.

"For all of us," he said, quietly "I can't explain how or why I think and feel that. I just do Maybe John will find out something better to tell us when he gets through with her."

An uneasy silence filled the air as Matt resumed walking toward the security office.

As soon as Matt left and Tony returned, Koenig had summoned all of the training in diplomacy he'd learned over the years to the forefront, acting with cautious courtesy, as he offered Androna a drink. The stranger gratefully accepted it.

"As you probably realize, we are in a constant state of caution," Koenig said, "However, I trust you will find your quarters here to be suitably comfortable."

"I'm infinitely grateful to you all," Androna smiled as she and the others raised their cups and drank. Once they had finished, Androna set her ceramic mug down, "Not simply for your kind hospitality, but for delivering me from my enemies."

"Oh?" Koenig carefully set his cup down and moved back toward his desk, "Tell me about them."

An almost mystic, dark expression came over Androna's face as she suddenly shifted her gaze toward the Command Center screen, "They are infinite," she whispered, "They are everywhere. They are relentless."

"Who are they?" Alan kept his tone neutral and cautious, "Why are they called the Axis of Power? Where are they from?"

Androna looked back at him, and the charming smile abruptly returned to her face as if it had been switched on, "Forgive me my inability to communicate with you. Those are things you might not understand."

"Androna," the commander said patiently, "I've been told that we're fairly bright when given a chance."

"Yes of course," Androna smiled and came towards him, "And generous to help one more survivor. That's precisely why I'm not sure it's wise to burden you with my fight."

"I don't mean to infer that we can take on any threat," Koenig said, "But perhaps we could help out in your situation."

The mysterious woman's expression darkened and grew pointedly cold, "There are great and infinitely more dangerous powers in the universe than anything combined."

Koenig refused to be impressed, "Then you do know our plight."

"As I told you, my knowledge in such matters is infinite," Androna said, "Let me use that to bring you a more optimistic epistle."

"For instance?"

Androna looked him in the eye, "You are searching for another planet to live on."

The commander didn't bat an eyelash, "You were told that?"

"No," Androna smiled, "But that's not all I know."

For the first time, Koenig seemed impressed with Androna, "Am I to understand that you know of Earth and the human race?"

"Of course," Androna said.

Koenig felt a cautious air of optimism fill him. He was hearing things he had not been prepared to hear. Had it not been for Androna's use of describing her knowledge regarding Earth and what the Alphans had been looking for, he might have been more inclined to write the woman off as insane. But now he was determined to hear her out completely.

"What do you know of Earth and its civilization?"

"It has known great rises and falls," she replied cryptically.

It still seemed impossible to Koenig that one woman alone could know so much about the things he had placed the survival of the Alphans on. "Who are you?" the commander demanded calmly, "Where are you from, that you could know such things?"

Androna's silence indicated he wasn't going to get an immediate answer to that question.

Koenig decided to change tactics again. "Is there a world that we could settle on?"

"Your people will be safe," Androna said, "Under my protection."

Once again, Koenig found his mind racing as he tried to come to terms with the enigma of this woman, and the things she was saying.

"Androna," he decided to retain the initiative, "I don't believe that's answering the question I put to you. My question was, is there a planet that we could colonize?"

"Place yourself under my protection and you will know the answer soon enough, Commander," Androna smiled, "Why do you think I'm here? I have come to prepare your way to another world."

Three days had passed since the arrival of the mysterious woman called Androna. Despite the magnitude of her revelations to Koenig, the commander of Moonbase Alpha had chosen to remain cautious in implementing his next moves. He had shared the full details of his conversation with Androna with Helena and the rest of the command staff, while keeping the details to a bare minimum with the rest of the Alphans. At the moment, he knew he couldn't dare run the risk of raising false hopes if the full level of what Androna had said were made public. Yet despite Koenig's attempts to keep word of Androna's conversation kept to a minimum, it failed to prevent rumors from starting to spread throughout every corner of the lunar base. Whether it had come from a security guard listening in on one of the commander's conversation, or an enthusiastic remark from Matt to another Alphan who in turn told another person, the word managed to get around that a remarkable woman had arrived who conceivably could help those on Moonbase Alpha solve all of their major problems.

For the most part, Androna seemed to accept Koenig's reluctance to press too far ahead in trusting her completely. No sooner had Androna finished her revelation about preparing their way to another planet, when she had also commented on how past experiences were dictating Koenig's desire for caution, and that she could appreciate that.

"You have been the victim of unfortunate circumstances and betrayal before by those who promise so much," she had said to Koenig, "I will soon make it clear to you that you need not fear such a repetition by placing your trust in me."

At this point, three days later, the one piece of information Koenig wanted most was a full medical scan of Androna. After another meeting with Helena and her staff, he had literally ordered them to do what they could to insure that such a scan be taken.

John and Maya entered the Medical Center, to see if the latest attempt to get that important information had finally paid off. As soon as she saw the two arrive, Helena let out a dismal groan and started to walk away from them.

"Helena, wait," John called after him.

"I know what you want, John," the chief medical officer refused to turn around, "And I'm sorry, but I still don't have it."

"Come on," John finally caught up to her, "Even if she still refuses to come in herself for a full testing, there are all kinds of portable scanners. Surely you can get close enough to her to get a simple respiratory probe."

Helena spun around, "I tried that John. I sent Ben and Ed to get close to her. They both came back with broken scanners."

"You've got to be kidding," John shook his head in disbelief.

"I'm not," the ice-blonde doctor said, "I even sent Raul. If you want to see how Ben failed--"

"We're interested," Maya spoke up.

"Okay," Helena said and led them over to the other side of the Medical Center where a nurse was working on the scanning equipment with Ben Vincent. Obviously Raul was on break. "Ben, suppose you explain how your attempt with Androna went."

The dark skinned doctor looked up at them and smiled faintly, "When all of our medical technology fails, we still resort to our masculine ways of persuasion."

"Hmmm," Maya injected a note of mock jealousy into her tone, "And what happened?"

"Well, I certainly think she was the most remarkable woman I've ever met," Ben said candidly.

"The most remarkable?" Maya smirked at her friend.

"The charming and beautiful part was all on the outside," Ben resumed, "I still have no idea what she's like under that radiant beauty and her beautiful smile."

"Maybe you weren't close enough to get a good scan on her," John offered.

Ben let out a chuckle, "Possibly. However, I'd be lying to you if I told you I wasn't attracted to her. But the bottom line is that I still came back with an empty disc. Let me show you."

The young doctor placed a thin silver disc into one of the machines on the table and activated it.

"What are you talking about, an empty disc?" John glared slightly at the rhythmic dancing line on the bottom of the screen, "That heart rate is dancing around like a computer scanner."

"You're looking at the wrong line, Commander." Ben said, "That's my pulse rate. The other line is her."

He pointed to the line on top. It was a continuous straight line, with no indication of any movement.

"A straight line," John said, a bit surprised. Something which reminded him of Helena's late husband, and how he came to Alpha while they had been exploring Terra Nova, some years past.

"It's not Ben, John," Helena re-entered the conversation, "It's the equipment. Now either it's defective, or she is operating on some other wavelength."

"Or she has some way of deliberately jamming us," John said with a slightly ominous air. This latest piece of information about Androna only made him feel even more nervous about the woman.

"Possible," Helena conceded, "Although I've yet to see any kind of species, human or otherwise, with that kind of capability."

"Helena," John ventured, "Is it possible that this woman, however beautiful, could be an android?"

"A machine?" the chief medical officer rubbed her chin, "Designed in every way to look like the perfect woman?"

"Exactly," John nodded.

"Conceivably programmed as a special project by some other machines?" Maya inquired casually, to see if she understood where John was going, "Is that what you're thinking John? That Androna may be an android underneath that exterior?"

"Let's just say it's one possibility that deserves to be considered," John said.

"Our bio-robotics institutes were well-advanced in that science before the breakaway from Earth," Helena said, recalling the studies in cybernetics.

"Ed Malcolm would be the best expert on that subject," Maya offered. "He might be able to find out if someone had developed the same capacity. The answer may still lie in that memory stick that you found on the surface of that planet."

"How soon will that stick be decoded?"

"It should be ready within the hour," Maya answered. "The Technical staff are still decrypting the encryption code sequence."


Matt felt relieved to finally be off duty. After finishing a busy shift, he had decided to spend it in the one place he'd been frequenting most often since his arrival aboard on Alpha those years past, whenever he decided he needed to have some privacy and collect his thoughts.

As he left the security office, he was pleasantly surprised to see the smiling form of Androna standing in the corridor, as though she'd been waiting.

"Hello Matt," she said, "You look very handsome, today."

Instantly, he felt himself having an erection. He was still wearing his security uniform and blue-green field jacket something that wasn't designed or intended to be provocative or attract attention. Even though he had dated a few women on Alpha.

"Thank you," he managed to say.

"Are you off to somewhere?"

"Yes," he kept his gaze on her, "I was planning a visit to the hydroponics section. It's one of the few lovely spots here on Alpha."

"I'd be honored if you'd show it to me," The brunette kept smiling, "If it's all right with you."

As he continued to look at her, he knew right away that only one answer was possible.

"It's quite all right," Matt said, "Come with me."

They walked down the corridor to the nearby section that served the critical function of growing and supplying all agricultural foodstuffs to the lunar colony. It also served another purpose as a vast greenhouse for all known species of Earth plant life that had been transported from that once beautiful planet. In some sections of the area, there were trees that towered high towards the top of the clear glass dome that dotted the length of the hydroponics area, which to many Alphans, created the illusion of walking through a vast forest.

That very illusion was why Matt enjoyed coming to the agricultural station. He could still remember how as a boy, he had enjoyed taking long walks through the Kentucky woods, where his mind always felt at its freest, and where his sense of imagination could run wild. He had walked through the high, rolling bluegrass of the fields and climbed the lonely wire fences with rotting posts the dry wind had beaten down over the years. He had squinted into the harsh sunlight from a blue sky so deep and pure that he felt the solar warmth wash over him and cool his skin.

He had walked into Jefferson Forest, into a peaceful world of shady trees. Part of his soul - he supposed that was what it was - embraced the essence of the silent forest. They became mysterious beings somehow gifted with peace and life long wisdom. The dark shadows managed to ease the misanthropic qualities of his personality and temporarily freed him from a world and people he despised. In the forest, life and death mingled with the logic of the inevitable, and he pursued his communion with nature with his usual single-mindedness.

And in turn, the forest embraced him. Birds alighted on his shoulders. The raccoon and possum did not fear him. Bucks and does ate leaves from his hand. Rabbits and squirrells hopped behind him and the porcupine did not bristle as he walked by. The wolves and coyotes even came by to play. He even studied the silent, eternal battle of the plants, slowly strangling one another in the quest for growth and life. The tranquility of the woods and bowing to eternity beneath the canopy of stars radiated something of the romantic poet within him. Even though he would deny it.

Coming here to ease his mind from the sourness of Earth had done a lot to help him adjust to his new life on Moonbase Alpha. Not that the people of Alpha hadn't been doing their share to help as well. He had appreciated it from the very outset that Koenig had promised to make him part of the security personnel, and he had seen plenty of kindness from people like Tony, Victor, Paul, David, and the others.

"We've arrived," Androna's voice broke his train of thought.

"So we have," Matt smiled, "Let me show you. It's really quite beautiful."

Several minutes later, he was leading her through the section of forest underneath the small dome of the agricultural and hydroponics station. All around them was a wide variety of plant life from Earth and each of the planets that they had encountered since the Moon had been hurled out of Earth's orbit. Tall oaks, mixed with fragrant spruces, and dotted along the bottom by the exotic colored flowers from other worlds. Some Alphans always took note of the somewhat strange clashing of styles, but once he or she began to walk through the area, they inevitably found themselves overwhelmed by the beauty of the scenery.

"Was I right?" he asked, "Isn't it lovely?"

"A veritable garden," Androna noted.

"From what I've learned, they brought a few of everything from Earth before this whole accidental journey across the stars began," Matt said, "After all, they had no idea that the Moon would be thrown out of Earth's orbit from a nuclear explosion."

He then came to a stop and looked at her with total trust. He felt absolutely sure that she was capable of answering the next question.

"What can we expect to find on another planet?"

Androna smiled, "What do you wish to find?"

"The thing all of us desire the most," he said, "A chance to start over and raise families, have children, and do things right for a change."

She looked him in the eye again and faintly shook her head, "That is not the quest which burns truly closest to your heart."

Matt seemed caught off-guard by her comment, "Well of course it is. It's what we all want. How would you know?"

"I know you," her voice suddenly grew softer and her gaze grew more intense and piercing, "I feel you. At this moment I am closer to your spirit than anyone has ever been."

Matt found himself unable to take his eyes off of her, "You're unlike any woman I've ever known."

"Think Matthew," she went on, "Think with your soul. And I will tell you your heart's desire."

There was a mixture of confusion and awe on Matt's face. Still, he kept his gaze locked on her. He found that even if he'd wanted to turn away from her, he wouldn't have had the strength to do so.

"Many thoughts go through you," Androna said, "You've been thinking of some of your female friends only recently. You are still concerned for the sfaety of the other Alphans. But..." Androna's lovely doe eyes seemed to narrow in understanding, "Yes, yes of course. I should have known sooner."

And then, Androna suddenly smiled reassuringly, "You will have your wish granted."

"What do you mean?"

"Your wish to find something in the universe that is better than man," her radiant smile seemed to intensify, "You will find that something in time. The Moon's breakaway from Earth is not the last chapter of the Alphans odyssey."

Matt's awed bewilderment only increased, "How could you know what I was feeling?"

"All people are capable of feeling each other's thoughts," Androna drew closer to him, "It merely takes time and experience. Place your trust me, and I promise you, all things will be possible."

She suddenly pulled him close to her and gently kissed him on the mouth. Matt didn't even bother trying to resist her embrace. He only felt a sensation of awe that for the first time, someone was offering everything he'd always desired. A promise of hope for the future. And a promise to find something better than humanity. For the first time after the long years since being parted from a world he hated, it seemed as if all the things he'd only been able to think of dreams could become a reality. All because of this one woman.

You are so wrong my freinds, his mind blissfully whispered to himself, so wrong.

Too numb to respond himself to Androna's touch, though he felt himself dearly wishing that he could, he simply allowed himself to go limp as he relaxed in her embrace.

It was not before too long that they were both naked and on the ground, making passionate love. Both a handsome young man on top of a beautiful young woman, naked under the stars and enjoying the physical sensations of sex. She welcoming him inside of her, moaning with orgasmic pleasure, as he thrusted into her.

After a couple of hours of lovemaking, dressing back into their clothes, and leaving the hydroponics section, Matt had taken Androna over to Alpha's gymnasium, where he led her to the deserted emptiness of the volleyball court. Both of them enjoying the afterglow of physical pleasure.

"So this is where you play your games," she said as she looked about.

"Volleyball," he said as they walked about, "The oldest competitive sport in Earth history. For those of us who can't play it though, it's a lot more than just a game. It's a very important part of the well-being of our people. It gives them something to root for. A chance to win and be a part of something. A moment to forget that we are ensconsed inside this artificial environment."

"You don't have to convince me," Androna said as they came to a stop near the Volleyball Net, "I'm a great believer in distraction," she then flashed another smile at him, "Even pleasure."

Matt smiled back, wondering if they could have one for the road. "And what kind of games do they play where you come from?"

"Games that amaze you," the mystic quality entered her voice, "Games of life. Games of death."

For the first time since they'd been together and made love, a look of unease came over Matt's face, "It sounds fascinating, and yet, horrible."

She looked at him as if in reproachment, "Far from it, Matthew. Death is not the end. It's just the beginning."

"You have a very dark side to you," he said carefully, not wanting to make it sound like a criticism, "There's something about you that reminds me of another woman I once knew. Her love of war and conflict."

Androna smiled again, "That's a very perceptive observation."

"Maybe that's why I think...."

"Maybe that's why you find me so beautiful?" she finished his thought, "You see so much of the one you once knew?"

Matt felt himself blushing again.

"You need not answer that, Matt," she said gently, "The answer is already clear to me."

Matt slowly regained his bearings, "This war you fight, Androna," he said, "Is it one of your choosing?"

Ed Malcolm's main computer lab on Moonbase Alpha was cluttered with a large amount of disassembled machinery when Alan and Tony entered. Once they explained their reasons for coming though, the scientist was all too happy to put his work aside to talk with them. Long ago, Alan had come to realize that one of Malcolm's most distinctive traits was that he seemed to enjoy talking about his work even more than actually doing it.

"Ah yes, android technology," Malcolm's eyes seemed to light up, "There were so many projects that were on the verge of unveiling at the time of September 13th. It's such a pity that I weren't able to salvage the blueprints for any of them, or else I might have been able to resume them here on Alpha."

"For what purposes?" Tony casually inquired. The way Malcolm talked so lovingly about them made him feel a trifle uneasy. But then again, Tony always felt that Ed "Sam" Malcolm was a trifle odd in his devotion to technology.

"Quite a few Tony," Malcolm said, "Factory drone workers for one. And the space program even commissioned a feasibility study on the use of androids to replace pilots in case of ---"

"Wait a minute, Ed," Alan suddenly interrupted, "Now there are some things that I'd definitely draw the line at, and giving up my job to a robot---"

"If you let me finish, Alan, I was about to say to replace pilots for missions that carried the risk of being one-way in nature."

"Care to amend yourself, Alan?" Tony grinned.

"I guess I should," the blonde astronuat blushed slightly in embarrassment, "There's not been any indication that she is an android."

"Then what you're saying is that even though you don't know of any specific projects, it's still theoretically possible to construct a human android that can blend in among real humans without being detected?"

"Absolutely," the scientist nodded, "It is possible. But there are subtle ways for an expert to tell the difference. For instance---"

Before Malcolm could go any further, the commlock on Tony's belt beeped.

"Tony, can you and Alan come to the Command Center, please?" John's voice came through.

"Right, we're on our way."

"Sorry Ed," Alan said hurriedly, "We'll talk to you later."

"We hope," Tony added, as he and Alan dashed out of the lab.


Mankind had pushed and kicked the frontiers beyond the confines of a single world, beyond his primordal bubble of air. He sent probes searching the moons of Neptune and burrowed beneath the pock marked surface of the Moon and the the dry, oxidized surface of Mars. He mined the floating wealth of the asteroid belt that drifted between the red planet and giant Jupiter. He had even long since developed marvelous, efficient power sources for powering his, or her, civilization. Fusion and solar power among some.

However, the intellect of human civilization did not deal with being rational. It had an amazing ability to refuse responsibility for their own actions, or for their existence in general. The actions of the late Rob Gieszel and Beth Nahinsky came to mind, as far as John Koenig could remember.

Man had become obsolete. He was like the dodo and the dinosaur, but for the opposite reason. His damned mind had gotten the entire human race into messes because of his pride. Man had calculated himself into so specialized a braininess that had gone beyond reality, itself.

Judging by what the command staff saw on the main viewscreen, from the memory stick that had been decrypted, those flawed and impure traits had poisoned the now extinct civilization of the planet they had found Androna on. A race who once had a rich history and tradition. They had once been a humanoid species totally disinterested in space colonization or military power that had instead channeled all their resources into becoming both a world and nation of culture and reason. Their home planet had become renown throughout this part of the galaxy, as a center for the greatest achievements known in art, literature, music and philosophy. Outlets to take their minds off of various social problems.

Regretfully, the planet, having been one of many nations, had polarized into two factions that fought for control of its resources, food, and other necessities. A conflict that led to a war that annihilated both sides. Despite the use of neutron and biological weapons of mass destruction, the buildings of the cities remained intact. Obviously to be used by one of the two factions, if any members survived. A complex race leaving their cities solely in the control of their sentient, heuristic computer systems.

A civilization of fifty million that represented the finest achievements in art, literature, and intellectualism, John thought solemly, gone forever. All because of a power struggle.

The thought added a dimension to an equation concerning World War III. Three elements that John pushed out of his mind immediately.

John, Tony, Alan, and Helena were watching the Command Center viewscreen, as both Maya and Sandra were displaying what information had been found in the memory stick.

"Apparently, this world suffered a similar war like your Earth," Maya pointed out. "In their case, they chose not to slow down and end the conflict."

"They blew themselves to infinity, all right," Alan noted, as stared at the image of a subterrannean missile silo. "Did they ever say what started the conflict?"

"Judging by the historical records," Maya looked at the decrypted data information. "It began with the unauthorized invasion of one of the small nations. Which was followed by the annihilation of another nation that wanted independence from one of its neighboring countries. The entire northern area of that nation was made radioactive and sterile."

"What's more, they began to place their entire trust in the computers that served them," Sandra Benes stated, as she pressed a small button. "Some type of computer defense netowrk that became self-aware, geometrically."

"So, the computers basically said enough," Tony mused sardonically. "And launched a full scale attack, prompting the rival nation to do the same. And I thought The Terminator and its sequels were frighteningly bad!"

"The Terminator?" Maya asked, a bit puzzled.

"It's an old Earth movie, Maya," Tony grinned. "I'll have to show you what it is some time."

"Point being," John broke into the discussion. "This civilization entrusted itself with its own technology, and let it go out of control. The results were the annihilation of the planet's entire race. Both the two factions and all. It does explain why that city we explored was abandoned and unused."

"And to some extent," Alan pointed out. "What happened to Androna's people on that ship. The only difference is that, that ship apparently crashed after the war."

"Maya," Helena jumped into the conversation. "Do the records show when the war started and how long it lasted?"

"From the information on the memory stick," Maya stated. "The war lasted almost a year, by your Earth's measurements of time. From the analysis that Sandra and I made of the memory stick, the war was lost almost a year to this date."

"What puzzles me is how does Androna fit into all of this," John said, leaning against the front of his desk. "And how she has offered us a planet to colonize."

"You think there could be a motive behind her actions, John?" Alan asked.

"I'm beginning to think there is," John said, with a serious expression. "We're dealing with something that does not correspond with the facts that we have witnessed on that record. We've gotten some of the answers, but not all of them. And that's disquieting."

John walked back around his desk and pressed a button. Matthew Prentis' image came on the blue-white monitor.

"Matt, " Koenig began. "Is Androna with you at the moment?"

"Yes, she is, John," Matt replied. "We're in the gymnasium at the moment."

"Bring her to the recreation room on Level C, please," Koenig ordered.

"We're on our way."

The image went blank.

John could not help but notice that Matt's features seemed to be glowing.

Something, which gave him immediate cause for concern.


Koenig was waiting in the empty recreation room where the Alphan personnel usually met for relaxation, games, pleasure, meetings, and the like. As if he was to show his authority to its fullest, he had settled in a chair at the head of the circular gaming table, waiting to confront the mysterious woman who had asked Koenig to surrender all of his authority to her alone.

He finally saw the door slide open and saw Androna enter with a flourish of her white gown. Behind him, Tony, Alan, Helena, Maya, and Matt filed their way in.

"Please be seated," Koenig gestured coldly.

Androna nodded and took a place at the other end of the table.

"We have managed to uncover some answers from that memory stick," Koenig refused to let up, "Some that are disquieting. What do you know about that?"

Androna threw him a disarming look, "I told you that I don't entirely remember. All that matters now is that I can give you protection."

"How?" Koenig knew what was coming anyway, but decided to let her say it again in the presence of others.

"Follow me," the goddess like beauty said pointedly, "And I will lead you to safety."

"Who are you?" the commander's eyes blazed with a rising tide of exasperation.

"I am of another world. Degree of being developed far in advance of your own."

"How can you verify that?"

"Allow me to demonstrate," Androna leaned back in her chair and then pointed at the crystal centerpiece of the table, "As I have the power to move that object, so I have the power to deliver your people."

Androna remained motionless in her seat and stared at intently at the crystal centerpiece. A sculpture consisting of three axes of blue neon tubing with tiny plastic details and grain of wheat lights. And then, to the stunned amazement of those present, the object slowly slid across the table from the center towards the far edge where Androna was seated.

Koenig refused to let what had happen shake the impatience from his visage, "I will ask you once again. Who are you? Where do you come from?"

Androna rose from her chair and walked toward them, "I am from that place where man's ability to comprehend and to will is in the highest degree of accomplishment." She stopped and smiled with a superior air at Koenig, "We've learned to use the powers of the mind to create what you deem to be miracles."

"For what purposes do you use these 'powers?'"

The woman's expression grew cold, "Commander Koenig, I converse with you out of courtesy. I know your questions before you ask them. I know your fears, your concerns. That man on your immediate right for instance, Tony Verdeschi. He's thinking quickly of whether I am a threat to you and your people. I believe that he feels a sense of responsibility for your safety and the rest of the Alphans. I believe someone else close to him is also a concern of his."

Tony stiffened in amazement at how Androna had tapped into exactly what he was thinking at that particular moment.

"And your Chief Eagle Pilot," Androna continued, "He too is thinking of Alpha's safety. Although," she looked at Alan directly and smiled wryly at him, "Although that is not the only thing that preoccupies his mind at the moment with regards to me. Something of greater concern burns within him, although modesty forbids me from mentioning what that is."

Alan's face reddened as he knew right away what Androna was referring to. If it had to do with Sandra, he immediately got on the defensive. He shot a glance at Sandra, who had just arrived, and almost felt relieved that her attention was still on the discussion between her and John, although his expression was noticed and instantly understood by both Tony and Maya.

"The destruction of my civilization was not my doing," Androna turned back to Koenig, "They were beyond my.....dominion. But that can change if you accept my offer to follow me."

"To another world?" Koenig pressed, "You said to me at our first meeting that you had come to prepare our way to another world."

"If that is your wish."

"Then it is of no importance to you, where we go."

"If your destiny is to colonize another planet, let us begin the task at once. I have the ability to lead you to that which has been elusive."

Alan cautiously stepped forward, "If you have the power to do that, Androna," he said, "Then surely you could also have the power to tell us what happened on your world and your ship."

"That might present a problem," Androna said.

Tony pushed the thoughts about Maya's safety that had been crowding his mind aside as he stepped forward, "Why are you being elusive about what happened down there? Do you feel it is a threat to you or us if you come forward."

"If I did have some knowledge of what happened, it cannot extend from this point in time forward," the woman's tone was emphatic, "I cannot change that which already is. I am as powerless to honor a request concerning whatever answers you seek, as I would for a request that the wheels of time be turned back in order to prevent the near annihilation of your civilization in one of your wars, or your Moon being hurled out of its orbit."

Koenig slowly exhaled. Much of the impatience was gone from his face by this point, but he was still determined to not show any signs of immediately caving in on the spur of the moment. Particularly with the semi-riddle that Androna had given about why she would not discuss what happened to her people if she had any knowledge. "You will have our decision," he said as he rose from his chair.

"Soon, I trust," Androna called after him, "Because the axis of powers that I had encountered once may return again and again, until you are under my protection."

Koenig refused to turn around and look back at Androna as he quietly stalked out of the room. Alan and Sandra were next to leave, followed by Helena. Before Tony and Maya turned to go, both looked across to the other side of the room where Matt was still standing.

"Matt?" Tony quietly called over to him, "Are you coming?"

"Yeah, in a minute," he didn't look at him. But there was an air of curiosity in his voice that indicated that he would like to investigate furthur on what the mysterious woman had to offer.

Tony understood immediately what Matt had in mind slowly as he turned and left the room, leaving Matt alone with Androna.

"Are you convinced, Matt?" the beautiful goddess asked.

"Not completely," he said, suspiciously. "The commander does make a valid point. I, too, am suspicious as to what information you have chosen not to bring out.

"Your loyalty to Commander Koenig and your friends is noble, if not admirable," Androna drew closer to him, "I would not have expected it otherwise."

Again, he found it impossible to take his eyes off her, "What is it about your world that you don't wish us to know about?"

"All in due time, Matthew," she said, "Perhaps we could continue our tour of your wonderful colony? I'm beginning to understand why you favor this place and its people than those you left behind on Earth."


Maya tapped away on her console's keyboard, as a series of geometrical shapes appeared on the small monitor in front of her. On her right, Brian was calculating some equations in a simultaneous rythum. John and Tony stood by as the Psychon completed typing some alphanumerical requests.

"If those fragments of information were correct on that memory stick," Maya stated, as she pressed another computer key. "We should be able to access one of the cities central information nets. I've done a systematic review of the entire subspace grid. We should have some time before the Moon is out of range."

"Almost two days before we lose the connection," Tony observed. "I wish our computer transmission array were more powerful."

"I'll design some upgrades when I have a chance," Maya said, playfully. "The data network from that planet was protected by sophisticated security measures. With the instructions from the memory stick, I have managed to bypass and isolate some of those measures."

"Why not all of them?" John asked curiously.

"The information net employed a progressive encryption lock," stated Brian, his voice having been reprogrammed to a different voice and tone. The computer, or cybernetic brain, designed by the late Captain Michael, had proven very useful, since the Alphans had discovered it and the Swift spacecraft it had been housed on. With its memory core reprogrammed and its past memories erased, the AI computer no longer presented a threat, as it had before. Even the Swift it had been found on had been made useful for various reconnaisance flights.

"Maya had been unable to penetrate the security measures at first," the artificial intelligence explained furthur. "However, we able to isolate and bypass it once we penetrated the forty-three part cipher key in the entry sequence. The twenty-ninth cipher access code proved difficult at first."

"In any event," Maya finished. "We should be able to access whatever information is available. Possibly the information that Androna has withheld from us."

"Well," John took a breath as he looked on the main viewscreen. "It's a start."

Later in the evening, John sat down in his chair, drinking a mug of English tea, as Helena and Tony discussed the latest events, concerning their alien visitor. Something that made him appear to be in a philosophical mood than he'd been the last time metaphysics and theology had been brought up.

"John," Tony said, "we have to do something. This woman is convincing everyone that she has supernatural powers."

"I know," John nodded as he sipped the cup of tea, "It's been on my mind a great deal."

"And?"

"Tony," John contemplated, "Suppose she does have some extraordinary power."

"Oh come on," Tony lowered his head and almost felt his despair increase. If it had come to the point where even his friend had started to believe in Androna, then there was no hope left at all.

"Tony, think about it," John moved over to the row of windows and cast an idle glance out at the stars, "We're not alone in the universe. And now that we've discovered many things in space as we may or may not know it, should it surprise us that we may have encountered another kind of lifeform altogether? Theoretically, there should be an infinite number of different lifeforms out there."

Tony still didn't look up at him, "I know but---"

"Can you assure me that the very people from which our civilization descended, did not themselves come from a race which evolved in advance at a greater speed than our own?"

"John," Helena looked at him, "I don't think that interpretation of our origins is explicitly stated in the Holy Bible or various scientific texts."

"Perhaps not," John smiled thinly and set his cup down, "Although it is a favorite theory of many of Earth's leading scientists and theologians down through the millenia. Science and religion were marvelous guides of instruction on how we live our daily lives, Helena. And yet it both contained enough wonderful ambiguities that have had scientists, scholars, believers and skeptics arguing for thousands of years. Who's to say that the theory I mentioned is not correct?"

"If Victor were still here," Helena pointed out fondly. "He would have a field day trying to solve this puzzle."

"I think we all did at one point," John recalled. "When we traveled through that one black sun."

"Even if I accepted the premise," Tony said, "then why would this advanced race, this.....offshoot of our own stem, not make themselves known to us?"

"Perhaps they have," Koenig said, "Perhaps Androna is the first. Or that intelligence that Victor and I once encountered."

Tony's eyes widened in disbelief, "If that were true John, well....it'd be more frightening a prospect than a black sun finishing us off."

"Why?"

Tony's frustration only increased with every word he spoke, "Because from this point forward we'd be powerless to control our own destinies.

"I'm not so sure," Koenig noted, "Now think of it Tony, Helena, she has asked us to follow her and place our trust in her. She has not commanded it."

"That's next," the Italian security chief said flatly.

"Is it?" John shook his head, "Maybe it's possible that she can't command us."

"Meaning we have to submit to her of our own free will?"

"I think that very likely," Koenig said, "I remember reading in the Bible, after what happened on Arkadia, it was explicit when it came to matters of faith, and of choosing right or wrong. We are all individuals given a direct choice in the matter. We are not....controlled by any impulsive predestination of any kind. The idea that faith and salvation in God is only reserved for a predestined elect is an old heresy that was condemned eons ago."

"The way you talking, John, you make Androna sound like a goddess herself."

John smiled thinly, "Not in the literal sense, Helena. Victor once said ' would we not seem like gods ourselves to a race more primitive than our own?' And if we offered to help such a race, surely we would be bound by our own laws to ask it of them, not demand it. With Androna, it could well be the same way. Ultimately, she's no more than a woman. A woman from another time, with great powers and great strengths, but," he held up an emphatic figure, "governed by the same rules that are universal in nature."

John decided it was time to get back to the matter at hand, "What are we going to do?" he quietly demanded, then sighed. "We've survived several years of endless, treacherous drifting across the stars not just because we've been able to bring our resources together at a critical time, but because I firmly believe there has been an ultimate purpose at work behind our survival. Planned by someone Who's face has never been seen by any mortal, and Who is ultimately in control of all things that happen in this universe."

"If it turns out that placing our trust in Androna's protection is a part of that same plan...." Helena began.

"We can only hope that the end result will still work to our ultimate good. That's the kind of faith we need to rely on at a critical time such as this."

"Assuming that the ultimate good is just that," Tony pointed out.

Koenig's eyebrows narrowed and his expression darkened as he gave that remark a thought. He'd developed an instinctive knack for knowing what the morale of his people were like without speaking to them or seeing their faces. Morale was something a commander could sense like a presence in the air. And from there it was only a matter of knowing whether the presence in the air left him at ease or filled with sick tension.

On this day, there was no question it was the latter.


Inside the agricultural station, Matt stretched herself out on the ground amidst the lush gardens under the large dome, and nestled his head against Androna's breast, while she held him in her lap. He felt a sense of contentment inside him that he hadn't known at any time since he'd been parted from the Earth.

As he continued to relax in Androna's hold amidst the beauty of the dome, he couldn't help but think of how different the mysterious woman was. With Androna, he had the sense of being with someone who he felt truly cared for him, and wasn't afraid to express it. A far cry from the lack of openness he'd seen for too long from other women over the passing years.

"It's so beautiful here," he said aloud.

"A veritable paradise," Androna commented as she gently stroked his hair.

"It's the only place that comes close to what we left behind," Matt smiled, "Even if it's drifting through space, it's alive. You can feel it."

Matt wondered how many nights he'd spent in his quarters, or in the station, dreaming the same dream over and over again. A dream about the 20th Century Earth he had been so contemptuous of and so anxious to escape. Dreaming of things he'd always dismissed as idle trivialities that he could easily jettison and never miss. The comfort of his own bed in his Houston apartment. A lavish steak dinner at the most expensive restaurant in town. A night at the theater or symphony. A ball game at the Astrodome. A basketball or ice hockey game at Rupp Arena. Images from a time and place he had expected to recede into forgotten memories once he'd left for Moonbase Alpha.

And then, he'd wake up and find himself back in the cold reality of his current situation. His bitterness over the realization that all his fears about mankind had been borne out, when he thought of September 13th.

"One reason why I left was to get away from a society where war seemed to be the natural way of things." he had told Androna, while showing her the gymnasium on Alpha. "And I'm not about to be a part of where I have to face more of the same. I've never been the kind of man who liked to work within a system that I felt was flawed. That's another reason why I left Earth in the first place."

When Androna had pretty much explained to him what she had told him of of her world and what happened, Matt rolled his eyes and let out a mirthless chuckle. "Even on the other side of the galaxy human beings can't keep themselves out of war and disaster. Everywhere he exists it's all the same."

Androna eyed Matt with an increasing amount of curiosity, if not disbelief. Matt was the first man she'd ever met in her life who could be classified as a misanthrope. A hater of his own race.

Human failings and human corruption had caused the near fall of human civilization even more than the Third World War's fire of destruction in the final analysis. Just like human error had resulted in the Breakaway of Earth's moon. When the subject of good faith and bureaucrats came out, Matt snorted a little bit, and recalled his rage and fury that he had felt with those who had made the destruction of human civilization possible, vindicating all the misanthropic beliefs he'd held as a man of the 20th Century.

"'Good faith negotiating,'" Matt had said with sarcastic irony, "That reminds me of the kind of bullshit I used to hear from my own government about what they were doing while they justified building all the weapons of destruction."

Suddenly, Androna loosened her hold of him and got to her feet. She was staring up at the dome, at the stars shining through, a look of strange, twisted bewilderment on her face.

"What's wrong?" Matt got to his feet and looked at her with concern.

"I don't know," she said, her cold voice suddenly filled the air. "But something is not right."

She suddenly shot to her feet, wheeled around and glared coldly at the stars.

"Something is definately not right," she said again, her beautiful features troubled.

And then, to Matt's surprise, she began walking out at a hurried pace.

"Wait!" he called after her, "What's the matter? Where are you going?"

Matt found that he was too shocked by her sudden departure to instantly follow after her. When he finally did summon the strength to get up, he dashed towards the doorway leading into the station.

When he entered the corridor of the agro ship that led back to the travel tube area, he looked about in vain for Androna but saw only Jerry Travis standing off to one side consulting a clipboard.

"Where did she go?" he came up to the Eagle pilot and shook him, "Where did she go?"

Travis frowned in puzzlement, "Who?"

"Androna!" Matt demanded.

"I thought I saw her with you."

"Jerry, she came out this way!" he pressed, "You must have seen her!"

"I didn't," the Eagle pilot was thoroughly baffled, "Are you all right, Matt?"

Matt then pushed him aside and sprinted back to the travel tube.

Six hours had passed since the last report from the Command Center, and Koenig had spent almost the entire time in lonely isolation in his quarters, spending the entire time reading several works in philosophy and theology that he maintained in his personal library. Books once owned by Victor Bergman. Wondering if he could find some small thing that would provide even the faintest of clues that could shed more light on the nature of Androna's people.

So far, Koenig had only found some imprecise leads to consider. None of them concrete enough to speak to anyone about.

He then looked at some texts concerning war and various forms of computer technology. He had some leads, however inconclusive those speculations may ahve been. He thumbed through another text that he had made a note of. One concerning cybernetics and the theory of Asimov's positronic brain. His concentration was interrupted by a beep on his communications post.

John pressed a button and Tony's image came on.

"John," Tony spoke anxiously. "Maya has got something. Can you come to the Command Center right away?"

"Be right there," John said, rising out of his chair.

He idly wondered if matters regarding Androna were about to enter a final stage.


When John arrived in the Command Center, Maya's hands danced over her science console's keyboard, loading the information into the main viewscreen's software. Tony and Helena watched as the information appeared. >From the look of what was being displayed, it confirmed John's suspicions earlier. Everything about Androna was reaching its final stage. And on a bad note at that.

"We uncovered this about a minute ago," Tony reported. "Those tricks that Androna displayed in the recreation room were not tricks at all."

"What do you mean?" John demanded.

"Those acts of supernatural power," Maya began, analyzing the data on her console. "Were more than just that. It was a simple test of mind over matter. It was part of an old, special training program at one of their scientific institutes many years ago. The people of Androna's world disbanded it over forty years past," she leaned back in her chair, "A lot of people thought, and perhaps not unjustly, that instruction in this kind of thing carried too many dangerous risks. Tapping the abilities of the mind to cause objects to move across tables, altering the shapes of metals. The chief complaint was that it was all too easy to think of the potential for abusing this kind of raw mental power as opposed to using it for practical military purposes. So they shut down the program and placed all the research data in a classified file."

"What is really interesting is what else we uncovered," Tony said, pressing a button on Maya's keyboard.

The image of the information decrypted changed to that of an image of Androna herself, in the same white gown that she wore when the Alphans first found her.

"It turns out that Androna was one of the many people who were opposed to the war that had been coming on her world," Tony continued explaining. "She was also one of her governments leading scientists in the field of artificial intelligence and....a minister of sorts in the planet's main religion."

"Which would explain her spiritual qualities and her abilities earlier," John stated, catching on to what was described. "It still doesn't explain much as to why she can't remember about anything after the crash. Unless she were holding back any information that she deemed a threat."

"This segment could explain why she has not been forthcoming," Maya pointed out. "That picture of Androna was taken before she had been in an accident. With her knowledge of cybernetics, she had a group of cyberneticists build an android body. An exact duplicate of her original form. She downloaded her entire personality into the positronic matrix of her artificial form. Everything down to the last detail."

John could not believe what he had just heard.

"So, Androna was an android," John began, light dawning on him.

"And apparently she has the ability to block certain scans," Maya finished. "Which explains the disruptions on the communication posts when she comes near them."

"John, it could be that she is malfunctioning," Helena pointed out. "Which would explain why she cannot remember what had happened to her and her people. Another possibility would be that she blocked those thoughts from her mind during the transfer procedure."

"Or she knows and she is not telling us," John said suspiciously. "Did the record on that stick reveal anything about her works in cybernetics?"

"Basically the building of various computer and data storage network mediums," Maya answered. "Some in the field of defense protocols. A project that she had been opposed to. She was later removed from her post as a reserach engineer when she began a peace movement. The accident that she had been in was the result of a clash between anti-war demonstrators and security enforcers."

"Let's see the information on the defense protocols," John ordered.

When the information appeared as per Koenig's order, the answer came as a sudden shock to all of them.

"Oh, shit!" Tony groaned.

"Good Lord," John said, as just as shocked as his second in command was.

Helena was speechless at first, until she broke the silence. "John, if she...."

Before Helena could finish, Matthew Prentis appeared on the small monitor on Tony's console. "John, Tony, we've got a problem!"

John looked over at the screen. "Yes, Matt."

"Androna just disappeared from the agricultural station," he said, worriedly.

"What do you mean she just disappeared?" Tony broke into the conversation.

"I was with her in the station, giving her a tour of the facility," Matt explained. "She suddenly had this look on her face and said something was wrong. When I asked what the problem was, she just ran out. Nobody saw where she went."

"Okay, Matt, thanks," Koenig said. "Get here as soon as you can."

"I'm on my way," Matt replied.

As the image on the screen went blank, John hurried over to his desk and punched the intercom. "Attention all sections, Alpha. This is Commander John Koenig speaking. Security Alert is now enforced. Red Alert. All security personnel find and detain Androna. She may be armed and presents a threat. Repeat, she may be armed and presents a threat."

Tony punched the intercom on his panel. "Security alert all levels. Set all laser sidearms to kill. Repeat, set all sidearms to kill."

The klaxons began sounding off as Alphan personnel scrambled to whatever duties they needed to do. Ones that concerned the defense and protective safety of the lunar colony.

As Matt would have been prone to say, the shit had just hit the fan.

Androna had harnessed the full abilities of her mind to perform what many would consider to be miraculous.

Now she had harnessed the full abilities of her mind to perform what many would consider to be something else.

Something destructive....


In The Command Center, there was an air of somber quiet, as everyone realized that they were facing their most serious test since the Moon had been blasted out of Earth orbit. And how they performed, would undoubtedly determine if they'd still be alive by this time tomorrow.

"Apparently this bomb can only be activated through a complex process rooted in sound," Maya concluded. "As to whether Androna knows the exact sequence, it is hard to say."

"With enough explosive firepower that power source has," John stated. "It could do more than just damage the entire base. It could literally obliterate all of Alpha."

Matt arrived in the center just as Koenig finished that last description. He too, was just as surprised. "A power source? What do you mean?"

"She's carrying a bomb inside of her," John explained. "About the size of a beer can, but with a power source unlike anything we know of. From the information that Maya filtered through, we know know how powerful and destructive that it is."

The astronaut's jaw fell open in disbelief. "You mean that she is a suicide bomber of some kind?"

"It looks that way," Alan stated from his desk.

"My guess is is that she did not tell us what we needed to know," John determined. "Because it interfered with her programming. Obviously, she had another set of programming inputed into her system, and it is causing some conflict in her."

"She's an android?" Matt said, in disbelief.

"I'm afraid so," John said, just as surprised.

It was one thing to sleep and have sex with a beautiful woman. It was another to be physically intimate with a beautiful woman that was in reality a machine. The very last thought made Matt shudder and visualize that he had dipped his wick into a computer's CD-ROM hard drive. She may have seemed real to the Alphans, but she was...in all aspects...a mass of electronic impulses.

Or, as Matt would say, like all women, a mass of conflicting impulses.

"She's got a detonator inside of her that could set off a premature explosion," Tony stated, nervously. "Based on the schematics that Maya uncovered, the explosion would be like ninety-eight megatons!"

"Ninety seven point three eight five megatons to be precise, Tony," Maya corrected.

"We'll have to get her off the base somehow," Alan said.

"More like away from it," John noted. "Even if we lured her into an airlock, she could still destroy Alpha. Even if she were out on the surface and within two meters. Or more."

"We could lure her into an Eagle," Matt pointed out. "Set it on automatic and have it clear the base before something happened."

"That could work," Tony liked the idea immediately after Matt proposed it. "The question is, how are we going to lure her in it?"

"Leave that me, Tony," Matt offered. "I'll go straight for her personality matrix and convince her. John, if you could supply me with that information.."

"Consider it done," John replied. "Alan...have Eagle Six ready on Launch Pad Two. Tony, have security on stand by in that area in case Matt needs assistance."

"We're on it," Tony replied, as Alan nodded.

John looked straight at Matt. "Are you certain you want to take this risk?"

Matt nodded. "Commander, when the safety of Alpha and everyone here is compromised, you know I'll do everything in my power to stop anything bad from happening. Before it even starts."

John nodded and smiled. One of the many reasons why he requested Matt to be assigned to Moonbase Alpha was because of his strong loyalty to him and all of the Alphans. Matt chose his friends well, and like John, he did not take any Alphans deaths lightly. He also knew, from Matt's personality profile, that he would do whatever it took to ensure the safety of all Alphans. Even if it meant going to the extreme . Something which he had done on many occassion, and gave John, Helena, and the others cause for concern.

Hopefully, the outcome would not lead to something that extreme.

John lightly slapped Matt on his shoulder in friendship. "Good luck."

"I'll need it," Matt said, as he hurried out of the Command Center.

Alan watched as Matt departed. "I hope he knows what he is doing."

So do I, John thought. That's the price we pay for thinking of the universe in bipolar terms of human and alien, like we've been doing all these years.


"No matter how evolved we believe we are, we still are merely insignificant in the vastness of the universe.. 'small' in the theory of evolution," Matt snorted to himself, as he raced down the corridor toward the launch pad. "People were always lousy and rotten. Obviously it is the same here, on the others side of the galaxy."

Many thoughts ran through his mind, aside form the plan that was initiated as he left Command Center. However, many thoughts were focused on one thing, and one thing only.

It seems that human nature is just not to care for nature itself, he thought bitterly. Humans just do not seem to care. Humans ruin everything they can lay their hands on. Humans cannot live in peace with a certain environment. The human race cannot adapt or accept difference. The different must adapt to them, by force if necessary. And people fled Earth because they could not get along! And to think that I was one of those people!!!

Matt almost felt like exploding with frustration as he rounded the corner and immediately boarded the travel tube, almost running into two other security officers, who were looking for Androna, as he was.

Human nature makes us so constricted! We want everything nicely categorized and neatly packaged. Most of all, we need to have control and understanding over everything in life, otherwise we feel frustrated and are unable to function! Obviously, Androna's people had the same nature. It got them killed, and now it's trying to kill us all here on Alpha! Not if I can help it!

Technician James C. Rose was busy attending to his duties in Tech Lab Three, when the alert was sounded. The white haired man did not pay much mind to the Commander's announcement concerning the young woman that they had found back on the planet that the moon was slowly drifting away from. He figured that security would handle it.

Rose was not the type of person that some people would have liked to have been around. Like the late Heather Sullivan and Carolyn Vetter, he had the personality of someone who was always in a bad mood. A few times, he was put on report for being difficult. Especially after Melinda Jameson had talked with Tony Verdeschi and Matthew Prentis about how he was being insubordinate on a few tasks that he was assigned. The bottom line was this. James Rose was not very well liked.

The white haired technician shrugged the thought aside and continued with his duties, unaware that Androna was standing next to the glass window that looked in to the tech lab.

Her neat prudential mind analyzed everything that Rose was doing on his console and she immediately took a course of action.

She took out a laser that she had taken from the weapons locker and pointed it at Rose's back. She depressed the firing trigger.

Without knowing what had happened, Rose was vaporized in a small puff of vapor.

Androna immediately set about her next course of action, hoping that this distraction she made would throw the Alphans off her path. She estimated that there was a ninety percent probability that her action would.

Concealing the weapon back in her gown she moved on ahead to her next location.

Helena was standing by in Medical Center in case of any casualties, when her desk monitor gave off a warning. The last time the life monitors gave off such a warning was when both Mark Dominix and Hilary Preston had been killed by that alien life force that killed Anton Zoref and nearly destroyed all of Alpha.

Both she and Ben Vincent looked up from a thermographic plate they had been studying and at the monitor. The words appeared as the Main Computer spoke.

"Technician James Rose Life Functions Terminated."

Helena pulled out her commlock. "John..."

"I want security patrols at every strategic location on Alpha," Koenig ordered. "Ready to move at a moment's notice." He turned back to his monitor and pressed a button. "Matt have you found anything?"

"Nothing so far," Matt reported. "She must have cleared this area after she killed Rose. We're sweeping Section D right now."

"All right," John spoke. "Notify me as soon as you reach the launch pad."

"Yes, sir."

Matt's image went blank as Koenig focused on the Command Center viewscreen. "What is she trying to do?" he said to himself.


Androna walked down the corridor, discarding the laser she had confiscated earlier. After scanning the area for any activity, she arrived at another travel tube. Pressing the door mechanism plate, the doors slid open and she stepped through. The doors immediately closed behind her. The travel tube megan to move at its usual speed toward its programmed destination.

The first protocol had been initiated.

The second protocol was about to become active.

"She was here, alright," Tony stated, as he noted the scorch mark where James Rose had been standing at earlier. "Obviously, she is armed."

John placed his commlock back on his belt. "Security just found the weapon that she had used. Obviously, she did not need it."

"Damn."

"She's trying to throw us off," John determined. "The question is why. What the hell is she up to?"

John's commlock beeped and he picked it up. "Yeah?"

Maya's face appeared on the small screen. "John, the computer reported an unauthorized entry into travel tube section A. No identification. Security is pretty certain it is her."

"Right, we're on it." John placed his commlock back on his belt as both he, Tony, and three other security guards exited the tech lab.

Security Officer Neil Hemmings searched the area he was assigned to, when the alert had been sounded. Keeping his laser drawn, he searched over a supply closet in the explosives room. There had been no sign that Androna had been in the area. The young Canadian with a blonde coffiure took out his hand held scanner, and scanned the hallway, trying to locate any unsual energy signatures.

Nothing turned up on the scanner readout. No interference or any other strange abnormalities.

Hemmings spoke into his commlock. "Security sweep in Section A completed. No sign of any intruder activity."

"Very well," Tony spoke. "Begin sweep in Section B."

As Hemmings proceeded down the corridor to the next section on Level A, he heard a small thud in the room up ahead. With his laser drawn, he hurried at a brisk pace toward the threshold of the second supply closet. As he entered, a big and very loud explosion followed, setting off a series of alarms.

Androna stepped from the smoking room and over the charred and ripped apart dead body of Neil Hemmings.

Some of her facial features had been burned by the explosion, showing what was under the organic flesh. Cold, hard metal that represented the microprocessor controlled part of her form.

She proceeded on ahead to the next phase of her plan.

One that was deemed the final protocol of her programming.

Matt arrived at the travel tube that led to the launch pad. Keeping his weapon close by, he saw the red alert signature flash on the communications post nearby. He pressed the button on the post and got Maya's image on the screen.

"Maya, what happened?"

"There's been an explosion not far from your location," Maya said. "Androna could be on her way to your area."

"I've got the travel tube programmed to take her to the Eagle," Matt reported. "Keep your fingers crossed."

As the screen went blank, Matt pointed his commlock at the plate near the doors, and pressed the button.

The doors slid open automatically.

"Showtime," he said to no one in particular as he stepped in and waited.

Normally, the travel tube would have taken its passengers to one of the nuclear generator areas on Alpha. The last place that anyone wanted the female android to go to. Matt quickly determined that she would probably try and make an attempt at sabotage in that specific area.

Now with the travel tube programmed to take her to an eagle, instead, it would be a matter of timing to get her off of Alpha.

"Cutting it really fine here," Matt muttered. "Must be my lucky day!"

Matt heard footsteps on the polished floor outside.

Hell was coming.

As Matt once heard, 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.'

Only this woman was not scorned.

She was just programmed to kill.

Androna stepped into the travel tube as the doors immediately closed behind her.

She turned and revealed part of what had been burned off in the explosion earlier, which automatically repulsed Matt. Androna was just as surprised to see Matt, as he was of her.

"Holy shit, shove me in it!" was all that Matt could say.


The travel tube continued to move forward as Matt kept his laser pointed at Androna. The sight of some of her flesh having been burned off sent a cold chill down down his spine. And it was definately not the type of cold chill that he usually got when the temperature was a bit low, or when he and Yasko were making love late in the evening. He immediately made a promise to himself that if he ever survived this incident, he would just stick to sleeping with one woman and one woman only. And hopefully begin a serious relationship.

I hope Yasko is up for our relationship becoming serious, he thought, keeping his laser trained on the android. I've learned my lesson today!

Androna looked at the young man, but with a look of benevolence. If her soulless face were enriched with false malevolence, it certainly did not show.

"Matt," she said, her tone a bit posh. "Why are you pointing a weapon in my direction?"

"To make certain that you don't do any more damage than you already have!" he stated, regretting having met this soulless machine that represented a beautiful, flesh and blood female. "I already know who and what you are! So does everbody else! And I'm not going to allow you to put the safety of Alpha at risk!"

"The words of a feisty malcontent!" Androna raged with fury. "Someone who left Earth in search of a better life!"

Matt shot her a glance back with contempt. "That's right, sweetheart! To get away from fanatics like you and your people were!"

Androna visibly stiffened and her sudden look of anger increased. "So you know what my people really were!"

"Oh, yeah!" Matt angrily gritted his teeth. "So do everyone else on Alpha. Those were not supernatural acts you made! And you certainly did not have amnesia! You were just programmed by those who felt they could exert their power over the real Androna. The one who was ever difficult and tried to do what was right for her people! You may look and act like she was in some ways. But in others, you're not!"

Matt activated his commlock so everyone in Command Center could witness the confrontation.

I hope John and the others are receiving this! Matt thought as the adrenalin in his body surged and his heart pumped faster than in any combat engagement he had ever known.

John and the rest of the Command Staff watched the confrontation between Matt and the female android. A look of fear and concern were washed over their features as the image came in sharp on the main viewscreen.

"I hope he knows what he is doing!" Tony said, as he finished notifying security to stand by.

"Is security in place?" John inquired.

"If this plan does not work," Tony replied. "They're standing by."

Sandra made a quick glance at her monitor. "They're at the launch pad now."

"Has the Eagle been programmed?"

"All pre-flight checks completed," Alan answered. "If Matt can get her in the passenger module, she'll be launching immediately."

"Let's hope Matt does not get caught on board," Koenig stated, worriedly.

"You can experience true power and glory beyond your greatest expectations," Androna tried to convince the young man. "If you'll lower your weapon."

"I don't have any use for power or glory," Matt retorted sardonically. "And I know that you would use it for unconstructive purposes."

The door opened behind Androna, and the eagle's passenger module interior was in full view. Androna's peripherial vision confirmed what had just transpired.

"I will give you one more chance!" Androna raised her voice in warning. "Before I annihilate this base and all of your friends!"

If there was one thing in life, or the universe, for that matter, that he hated and could not tolerate, was threats. If not to him, but to those on Alpha. He had sworn to live and die at John Koenig's command(something John was uncomfortable with) long before he had encountered this mysterious woman. He would be goddamned to hell if this woman would get away with such a serious threat.

As soon as the words came out of Androna, Matt's rage literally exploded. He raised his laser pistol and fired directly at the woman.

His laser blast struck Androna directly in the chest, but it had little effect on her.

She began to advance forward.

Talk about Michael Myers' twin sister! he thought.

Matt looked at Androna with indescribable hatred and rage, "Oh, no you don't!!!"

He fired his laser at Androna. Again it bounced off her chest. A red glow emitted from her body. Matt's rage only increased and he fired again at the woman, where he was again welcomed to the same effect.

He made one last attempt and fired again.

The last shot made an effect.

Androna was enveloped in a bright red glow.

What followed was a ghastly sight.

Gone were her billowing gown and her human features.

What stood before Matthew Prentis was a metallic endoskeleton of cobalt blue metal. One that gave off a faint, soft gleam of light. And the machine's eyes were of an icy silver contact lens feel.

"Son of a bitch!" Matt yelped.

The machine fired a bolt of blue-white energy that struck Matt down. The young man immediately fired his laser again, knocking the android over, into the passenger module. The android got up immediately and charged at Matt. Matt got up and charged at it.

"If that's the way you want it!" Matt growled viciously. "That's the way you'll get it!"

Both collided with each other and both fell back hard in opposite directions from the impact. Matt got up and swung a right hook that connected with the machine's metal skull. He swung again and repeated the same process, despite the fact that his hand was really starting to hurt. He made a flurry of lefts and rights, followed by a crescent kick that sent the machine backwards, again.

Everyone in Command Center watched the exchange with shock.

"Secuirty," John said, urgently. "Stand by to move in!"

Matt made one last punch as his knuckles were bleeding and raw from all the fighting. Pain shot through his hands and feet, but he was too infuriated to take notice. He made another punch, only to have his fist caught in the left hand of the android. The android backhanded the security guard, which sent him flying back into the travel tube. Androna approached the threshold before the Eagle's doors closed on her automatically.


"Now, Alan!" John ordered.

Alan pressed a series of switches and the launch sequence immediately went into effect. The image on the viewscreen now showed the Eagle lifting off from the launch pad and rising up into the starlit blackness of space.

"Activate meteorite defense screens!" John barked out the order.

Tony crunched the button on his console, activating Moonbase Alpha's defensive shields and screens.

Androna toppled over onto the passenger couch of the launching Eagle. She immediately activated the destruct sequence by pressing two buttons on her left wrist. The small console built into her cybernetic appendage gave off a small beep, then a series of small beeps.

"ALAR BE PRAISED!!!!" she shouted in a mechanized voice.

As soon as the Eagle was clear of the wheel-shaped metropolis of Moonbase Alpha, it erupted in a huge explosion of bright light. The impact shook the lunar settlement up and then subsided.

John punched his commlock. "Matt, are you alright?"


Matt picked himself up from the floor, sore and a bit bruised. He could tell that he would have a blackened left eye for awhile. He also noticed that his nose and mouth were bleeding, although not too seriously. He picked up his commlock.

"I'll be fine," he said, spitting out some blood form his mouth. "Now I know what it was like when you took on Balor!"

John's image on his commlock smiled a little at that last statement. "We'll get you out of there in a second." He looked over at his console and pressed another button. "Medical crew to travel tube two."

Matt smiled a little bit as he slid down onto the smooth, hard floor of the tube.

"Looks like I won the title there," he said to no one.


Matt laid on top of the bed in Medical Center with his left wrist in a cast, and his left foot raised up. Like his wrist, his foot was also in a plastercast. After hearing about the aftermath and Androna's fate, he resigned himself to the fact that he had slept with a female android. One that had been programmed with two sets of conflicting orders and had also been programmed not to reveal any other form of information. As Maya would later explain in a Command Conference, Androna had been programmed in an H Mobius Loop, which could happen to any sophisticated computer systems.

Nevertheless, the incident was best left forgotten, as far as everyone was concerned. Despite the fact that there had been two fatalities. Matt had sworn that he would never sleep with any other woman again. He would only sleep with one and one only. And that woman was finally off of her shift and entering the Medical Center.

Yasko came in with a bouquet of flowers and a couple of glasses. She even had a bottle of Green Tea with ginsing and honey. Something that Matt enjoyed from time to time.

The beautiful Asian woman leaned over and kissed Matt on the mouth, which made him feel wonderful, despite the condition that he was in.

"How are you today?" she asked, sitting down next to him.

"Restless," Matt confessed. "I want out of here and back on duty. I hate hospitals and being bored to death!"

Yasko chuckled. "Well, you won't be bored for long. Dr. Russell told me that you'll be discharged from here by tomorrow afternoon."

Matt rested his head on the soft pillow. "Thank God for small favors!"

"And after that," Yasko smiled slyly. "I'll help you even more with your recovery."

Matt raised his eyebrows. "I can dig that."

"But first," Yasko pointed out, pouring him a glass of tea. "You'll need to rebuild your strength. Hopefully, this will help re-energize you."

Matt held the cup of tea in his right hand and drank it down. "That and you being here also helps. How bad was the damage?"

"Not too bad," Yasko explained. "The Commander and Tony are going over what Androna had pulled. It's nothing that can't be fixed."

Matt leaned back a little. "I swear, the next time something like this happens again, I'll blast any threat to Alpha out the nearest damn airlock!"

"Just don't get yourself blasted out with it," Yasko said, in a serious tone. "What were you thinking when you lured her into the travel tube?"

"The safety of Alpha and everyone here," Matt said, drinking another glass of tea. "Including you. I've sworn to live and die at John Koenig's command."

"Well, the Commander does not want you to go that far!" Yasko fussed. "And neither do I! You do something that insane again, and you'll have even something more serious to worry about."

Matt could tell that Yasko was very serious. He already experienced the fury of one woman. He did not want to experience the fury of another beautiful woman. He knew that Yasko was very skilled in Tae Kwon Do.

"Yes, dear," Matt said, not wanting to enrage the lovely Asian.

John sat back in the chair, witnessing the exchange between Matt and Yasko. He smiled a little as he drank some of the tea that Yasko had fixed earlier. Helena was also doing the same. Matt had found the right woman in Yasko. She was good for him. Hopefully, she would set him straight in some matters.

"I think he'll be in good hands," Helena noted. "Maybe next time, Matt won't so impulsively jump the gun when it comes to dealing with threats to Alpha."

"Let's hope so," John chuckled. "He's a good man. Everyone on Alpha owes him a great deal. I just wish he would not take his loyalty too seriously."

"He owed you a debt, John," Helena recalled. "Many on Alpha would gladly follow you to the fires of hell and back for keeping us alive. Matt is no different."

John nodded, despite his uncomfortability at such loyalty.

"Let's just hope that something that terrible does not happen," John said, finishing the last of the tea. "We've been through a lot and encountered many unusual things in this universe. Many have died here because of that."

"And many have survived," Helena stated. "Someone is looking after us, John. Whether it is God or some other intelligence. We're being looked after."

"Amen to that," John echoed.

John sat his cup back on the table and leaned back in his chair, staring out at the viewport of the lunar surface.

And the eternal, cold light of the distant stars....


Copyright (c) 2004. Reprinted with permission.
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