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…To Take the Risk

Authors: Andrew Caruthers
Episodes: Set after The Last Sunset
Show Year: Y1
Rating: PG
Date: 2013
Not part of any FanFic series, just a “what-if”.
Average Rating: No reviews.

Sandra Benes felt the light squeeze on her shoulder, as she and Paul Morrow watched the last whisps of the Moon's atmosphere vanish into space, from the windows of Main Mission. She fought back the tears, the despair. There, right under their feet, had been the new home they'd been searching, hoping, longing for. By an unfathomable gift, now taken away...She sighed, and looked up at Paul, his eyes still glued to the horizon, where Ariel's sun had set moments before.

"No!" she heard, from somewhere behind her. Shaking off her emotions, she heard it again. Louder this time. "No!" She turned, and saw Commander Koenig, on the steps up to his office, frozen in place. He was scowling, looking down at the workstations that filled Alpha's Operations Center. He moved back down, and pressed several keys on the communications console.

"Commander?" someone asked.

"This is Commander John Koenig, calling the inhabitants of the planet Ariel. Can you hear me? Please respond." The speakers remained silent, and Koenig spoke again. "Please! I must speak with you! This is Commander John Koenig. I must speak with you! Respond!" Sandra tilted her head in curiosity, Paul turning to look Koenig's way. Koenig looked to Kate, "Anything? The alien satellites?"

"No, Commander. All clear."

"Damn!" Koenig swore, and once more spoke, requesting a response. As he did so, Sahn could sense two things coming into his voice. Anger, yes. But also...a pleading? Was John Koenig...

"Commander," said Kate, "radar contact." She looked up from her panel, to him. "Alien object is headed back to Alpha."

"What?" said Carter, next to them. "Headed..."

They watched, as the mysterious alien device, as before, hovered above the tower of Main Mission, spreading out its equally mysterious cone of light over it.

"What do you wish, Commander Koenig?" asked the alien monotone that had spoken to them a few minutes earlier. This time the voice seemed...wearied. Put out, perhaps, as if dealing with the Humans was an annoyance. As before, it seemed to come, not just from the speakers, but from the very air about them.

"I...I wish to know. You say you have watched us since the dawn of time. That you know of Human nature."

"That is correct, Commander."

"Then you know that we are not here of our own volition. That we are here solely due to an unforeseen occurrence. Something over which we had no control."

"Yes. We are aware of this as well."

"You....you obviously are beings of great power. Great technological skill, to have done to our Moon what you did."

"Solely to prevent you from penetrating the atmosphere of our world, Commander. As we told you."

"I understand, and accept this. But I must know. I must ask you...you changed our Moon. Can you change her course, as well?" There was a long delay.

"Explain yourself, Commander."

"Our Moon's trajectory, which for a time seemed to be arcing towards entering orbit around your sun."

"Yes." Came the reply after a long moment.

"If you can do all that you did, could you alter our Moon's course sufficiently, so that it would begin to orbit your sun?"

"We have already told you, the nature of your kind makes any contact between us a thing to be avoided." Slowly, the alien satellite began to rise up.

"NO! Please!" shouted Koenig. "I offer myself to you."

The alien device stopped.

"Yourself, Commander Koenig? What do you propose?"

"Put us into orbit around your sun, at a distance commensurate with Human life. Give us back the atmosphere, and I will offer myself up, as hostage to you."

"John!" said Helena, clearly aghast. Several others moved closer, clearly surprised.

"Elaborate," said the alien voice.

"You wish us to leave your world alone. Very well. Give us what we need to survive, here, in this solar system, and I will surrender myself, to you, as hostage for my people's compliance. We will never attempt to land on your planet, without your express invitation." Again, there was a long silence from the alien voice, but the satellite remained motionless. Everyone looked at Koenig, with expressions running the gamut from approval to incredulity. Was he serious? What sort of hand was Koenig trying to play here? Then...

"You are in earnest, Commander? You offer yourself, as a pledge of your people's compliance?"

"Yes. I will stand as hostage. My life forfeit, if the agreement is violated."

"John, you can't really..." Helena began.

"Helena, what can we do? We need a new home, and this..."

"We must weigh this, Commander Koenig," said the voice at last. As before, the alien satellite moved away from the Moon, heading back towards Ariel, now noticeably smaller, as Alpha moved ever further away.

Koenig turned slowly away from the instruments, face and shoulders clearly telegraphing defeat. Victor put an arm on his, smiling.

"It was well-played, John. I...I can't imagine anyone making an offer like that."

"Only card I had, Victor," Koenig sighed back. "What could I do?" He looked at the instruments again, but the alien satellite was long gone. He shook his head, and pounded his fist on his thigh. "Damned..."

Beep.

"Commander," said Kate.

"Yes?"

"Our trajectory, Commander," she said, clearly not believing what she was seeing. Koenig and Bergman fairly dove for the instruments. Sure enough, the arc of the Moon's path, as it curved its way through the sun's gravity well, was shifting, ever so slightly. They ran it again. The same. Could they....dare they...

Beep.

"Commander," said Kano, over at the computer. "I don't believe it, but..."


"It's beautiful," said Helena, as the breeze wafted through her hair, the sunlight giving it a golden glow. She stood, high on wide shelf of rock overlooking Plato Crater, and gazed down. Behind her, around the small cabin, flowers were blooming, they and the grass soaking up the gentle rain just past. John had just set the last rock in place, in their low wall, and straightened up. "Who knew our gray, dead Moon could be so wonderful?"

"It's everything we could have hoped for, Helena," he replied, massaging her neck. Like himself, she wore a cut-down version of their old Alphan uniforms, sans sleeves. Both were sweaty and had dirt under their fingernails, and were loving it. Even as they gazed out across the vastness of Plato, they could see the green, slowly creeping up the sides of the once-lifeless crater, the shoots of grass interspersed with splotches of color, and the trunks of saplings. A few hundred yards to the left, another shelter, built from materials cannibalized from Alpha, was visible, more to the right.

Koenig looked down, at what had once been their home, sunlight reflecting off several windows. Even as he looked, an Eagle was lifting off from one of the launch pads, ferrying people and equipment to one of the other building sites that lined the edges of Plato, and some distance beyond. He turned his gaze to Helena, and smiled.

It had been two years to the day, since the Moon's course had suddenly shifted, and become locked in orbit around the alien star above. Though the aliens had not been heard from since, they had done all that Koenig had asked, both restoring the atmosphere that had briefly enveloped Alpha, and giving them an orbit as close to what Earth had known back home as possible. With a year of 365 days, an axial tilt of 24 degrees, and a rotational period of 24 hours, the aliens had been both as good as their non-word, but had obviously done their homework. As before, the atmosphere's rapid development of an ozone layer gave an excellent filter against ultra-violet, and the slow, gradual, and surprising, emergence of a global magnetic field, plus a more familiar gravity, completed the picture.

Thankfully, Koenig's prediction of the flooding of Alpha had not yet materialized, much of the accumulating groundwater percolating away into the lower strata around Plato. Still, preferring to be proactive, he had ordered a truncated form of Operation Exodus, spreading out and setting up settlements around the area. The Eagle was on its way to the Alpine Valley, not far away, where the rains and melting snows of the first two winters had made it into a genuine river valley. Many Alphans had chosen to settle there, and it already was the center of the bulk of their agriculture and terraforming efforts.

"Well, ready?" he asked.

"Soon as we clean up," she replied, and headed towards the house. Tonight, everyone who could possibly make it would be in New Alpha, to celebrate the second anniversary of their new home. Koenig watched as his wife got ready, then eased her heavily pregnant form into the Moon buggy, for the trip to the airport. Soon, they, like Paul and Sandra, Alan and Tanya, Kano and Alibe, and more than a dozen other couples, would join the ranks of the parents of Terra Nova, watching their future grow, even as Alpha herself grew from dead dust, to living world.

He looked up into the sky, at the bright dot low in the Southwest-

As long as they continue to let us. But what of the future? He looked down at his wife. But what of the future?

We watch, Commander, a voice suddenly sounded in his head. We watch.


Copyright (c) 2013. Reprinted with permission.
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