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The Long Goodbye

Authors: John Pasiakos
Characters: John Koenig
Episodes: Refers to The Rules of Luton
Show Year: Y1
Rating: PG-13
Date: 2003
In September 1999, John Koenig prepares to leave for Moonbase Alpha and thinks of what he has lost on Earth.
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"September 10th, 1999. The big day at last" John Koenig finished with the packing and sat heavily on the big rocking chair - the only remaining bond with the past - after he had taken one last look at the other rooms. This time though, he looked around the empty sitting room with an insatiable pain which lay deep in the core of his being. Soon he would have to abandon his minuscule chalet. He would have to leave back far more than that; his life, his memories, Earth itself as a matter of fact! For memories would only be a hindrance to his command of Moon base Alpha, an obstacle to the tremendous task that awaited him and the rest of the three hundred and eleven men and women scientists on tour of duty in the multinational base up there on Earth's natural satellite. Despite that, the pain and nostalgia would accompany him across the void of space to his lunar destination, always intertwined with his destiny.

He got up, stepped out into the balcony and looked around. The sun was burning fiercely now, its disk of a pale yellow color, filling the mid noon sky overhead. His mind raced back to the astronomical article he had read the day before on Scientific American by his friend and mentor, professor Victor Bergman - still overseeing things on Moon base Alpha - about the sun going nova in the far future. Like a hungry hyena with a voracious appetite - Victor had a flair for similes - it would start engulfing the inner planets of the solar system, Mercury first then Venus and eventually Earth itself. Everything that humanity had achieved would be lost forever. The Parthenon, the great Pyramids, man's great works of art, his deeds as well as his embarrassing pitfalls would go down in the fierce solar maelstrom to come. "Just like the maelstrom humanity barely survived; the world war of '85 which came upon us with all the sneakiness of a viper and the devastation described in some ancient Sumerian epics" Koenig whispered as in a reverie.

The war amongst the nations of the Earth had come and gone. All the prejudices, vice and iniquities of mankind exploded with incomparable viciousness and plunged mankind into unprecedented terrors. Brother turned against brother in an attempt to rectify the wrongdoings of an infantile humanity. In a moment's time all the great cities of the planet were engulfed in manmade infernos. Earth itself was almost burnt to a cinder, a hair's breadth away from never again embracing the blackness of space. There were no winners only losers and as soon as the vanquished mankind realized it, it united under the aegis of the fledgling threat of the atomic waste disposal. Moon base Alpha was built to solve the problem of the wastes and to help humanity take the first step into the colonization of space, united at last.

Little by little the world had started to pick up momentum again but for John Koenig it was too late. He had had enough of "Earth and its so-called civilization", another of Victor's favorite aphorisms. The war had claimed many things but two of them were the dearests to his heart. No longer would he be able to enjoy the sunrise and sunset from the shores of the lovely beaches, or be taken in by the beguiling beauty of the rainbows after the rains in the same way as before the war.

Soon, Eagle one, with its nuclear engines at bay, would take him to Moon base Alpha and to the commencement of his extended second tour of duty away from painful reminiscences.

All this raced past his mind as he stepped inside once again and sat on the rocking chair. In the shade that the fir trees cast through the open window, his eyes absorbed vehemently the details of the dusty room's layout. He had loved every inch of it. He had painstakingly built it to suit his dream of the ideal sitting room. There was not a corner that did not bring back long cherished memories.

To his left was the corner he had jumped for joy when he had first held his newborn daughter. Her sweet tiny face had been like an angel's. She would bring him years of love and joy before...

In the corner over there, the fireplace lay orphaned of the lively people that used to gather round in the cold nights of winter. It seemed out of place now. It had been the favorite place of the family where they had warmed their bodies with its flames and their spirits with the fire of their love. Stories still reverberated on its now frigid walls; stories that had brought laughter, amazement and incredulity on the faces of their makers and listeners alike.

Pictures of him and his family had adorned the mantelpiece and given a touch of personality to the simplicity of the surroundings. He remembered a picture showing him hugging two women, one about thirty and the other, much younger, about thirteen. All of them looked happy, smiling at the camera that had frozen that moment in eternity. The older woman had been his wife Ann and the younger their daughter Lisa. They both had long blonde hair and blue eyes and had made him extremely happy.

Every single item in the chalet carried their signature. Once, the whitewashed walls had been full of pictures varying in themes from landscapes to their own portraits. The wooden parquet floor had been sparkling with radiance and the light-brown lacquered furniture matched the oak beams in the ceiling. The distinct rattle of the wooden shutters in the wind still echoed in his ears and the silky drapes of the open French windows, blowing in the soft breeze, let the smell of lilacs waft through the air inside the house.

How nice it had been here at springtime away from the worries and obligations of The International Space Authority! In the distance the forest of plane trees gave away to landscaped prairies full of flowers and trees of every kind and variety. A deep-rooted memory surfaced all of a sudden. It had been on a picnic he and his family had had on one of the innumerable prairies of the countryside. There, under the moonlight, next to a pond with the starlight shimmering in its still waters, he had sung his favorite Beatle oldies to the accompaniment of his wife and daughter.

"Imagine all the people..."

Strange! A long-forgotten poem emerged now from the vestiges of a past life. Perhaps it was triggered by his reverie.

It glides from the valleys of Leathe
And in a ripple of time
Undresses and blooms
An untouchable butterfly
Of unfulfilled dreams
Only to flap its wings away
In a hot summer's day.

In its flight of fancy
It gathers treasures
The ethereal stuff from which
Worlds are built and lost
On imaginative shores...

A tear ran down his face on remembrance of that day. He got up leaving the chair rocking back and forth behind him. Its squeaking rattle brought him out of his trance. He had forgotten the ending of the poem but that was not important now. Soon he would be traveling once again to another world. He would be witnessing wonders out there beyond imagination amongst the stars but what could replace the first steps of your child or the dancing of the snowflakes on a winter day? Indeed, what could take the place of the dew dripping from the flowers on the first day of spring or the thunderous waves of the sea breaking on the rocky coasts? He would be missing his family terribly and he knew it.

Would he find happiness on Luna? Would the eternal sand dunes and quiet mountain cliffs bring peace and forgetfulness at long last to his tormented soul? Perhaps the smile would return to his lips and the much-needed joviality would once again knock at the door of his spirit while traversing the tranquil whispers of the lunar landscapes. Earth's follies would be thousands of miles away and under the cold light of Alpha he would start a new life. Only time would tell; only time would be the healer and perhaps work would be the crutch to lean on.

He stepped outside and walked a couple of steps carrying his white satchel. He took one last look at the chalet. Its red-thatched roof was buried under the fir trees and its small-unattended garden had grown weeds covering the two tombstones in the corner. He approached the burial place and at that moment he remembered the rest of the poem.

So unfair though
Is memory!
For it is like a chalice
In which joy, pain and fortitude
Are stirred together
And just like old wine
Its residue
A bittersweet intoxication.

"Farewell Ann! Farewell Lisa! I will be missing you!" He turned around and took the long winding path leading to the eagle.

The mighty motors of the grasshopper-like ship thundered in the tranquility of the noon and as it started to take off, a cloud of smoke and debris were scattered all over the place by the force of her engines. It would take some time before the nearby forest returned to its previous peace. Once it did though, the rustling of the tree leaves would continue in the soft breeze oblivious to the iron bird's ascending to the stars and to the man in its belly whose destiny would never allow to come back again!

Copyright (c) 2003. Reprinted with permission.
Space:1999 is (c) 1976 by Carlton International Media.
All stories are the property of their respective authors.

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