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Schanke Resurgens

Authors: Andrew Caruthers
Show Year: Y3
Rating: PG
Date: 2002

Story 4 in the "Forever Alpha" series +
1 - Forever Alpha
2 - Greetings from Cylon
3 - ... Et Willelm Ad Pevensae Venit
4 - Schanke Resurgens
5 - Crossfire
6 - Out of the Frying Pan…
7 - The Path To Eternity
Sequel to ...Et Willelm Ad Pevensae Venit.
Average Rating: No reviews.


"I... do not understand," said the beautiful woman sitting upon the green grass, wildflowers in explosive profusion about her. He long golden locks fell like a shimmering waterfall about her shoulders, and her intense blue eyes sparkled like precious gems. She was staring down at the image of a large, mottled grayish sphere, surrounded by stars, that seemed to be afloat in the pool between them.

"Well," said the man sitting across from her, his dark hair terminating in Elvis sideburns, "it was a bomb that did it, actually."

"That is what I do not understand," said the woman, looking up from the pool. "What exactly is a...bomb?" She frowned, pronouncing the unfamiliar word.

"A bomb is a device that explodes with great violence," he began, and went on to explain. "And I was sitting there, next to Amanda and our prisoner, when there was a huge ball of fire that burst through from the front part of the plane where the pilots were. All the lights went out, and then we started to fall."

"How horrid," said the woman.

"It was, believe me," the other continued. "I looked out the window, and saw the ground coming up. Believe me, I prayed. I held onto Amanda, and we prayed like crazy. People were screaming, and the fire was everywhere, burning our skin and our clothes. Then we hit, and that was that." He shook his head, remembering. "Then I was here." He looked up at the sky, then down at the pool, and the silver orb within it.

"And your last thought, there?"

"My wife. Her name's Myra. And my daughter. What would happen to them?" He was somber a moment. "But, hey, my partner took care of everything. The funeral. My daughter's education. All of that. What a guy, huh? Who would have thought, I mean with him being what he is, and all."

"My brother has never stopped being the chivalrous knight," replied the lady, with a smile. "Not even, really, in the darkest times. He loved thee as a brother. The brother he lost so very young."

"I wish I'd appreciated him more, when I had the chance," the other replied. "He..."

"He was saving you from the others," she interrupted, putting a hand on his, and smiling again. "Your life was precious to him, and he sought to protect you. As he did Natalie, by removing to Alpha."

"And I love him like he was my own brother." He looked up at her, then back down at the image before them.

"Then we are family," she smiled. She rose, and turned her face towards the City. "Fear not, Donald Schanke," she said, half-turning to look once more upon him, and gesturing towards the silver orb in the water. "We shall all be joined together again."

"I know. I just, well...miss him, is all. "He watched as Fleur left him alone, then looked up at the ever-bright azure vault above. "God bless you, Nicky old boy," he sighed. Then, looking yet again into the pool, and running a finger across its surface: "God bless you and Natalie, wherever that bouncing billiard ball of a Moon has taken you."

Chapter One

At a velocity which no instrument had ever been able to calculate with certitude, Earth's former satellite continued to move through the void, carrying with her the 258 people of Moonbase Alpha. A little older, a good deal wiser in the ways of an often capricious and bizarre universe, and stronger for their acquisition of various technologies, Alpha was more of a home than ever, if such a word could ever be applied to an airless rock, 2,160 miles across, careening blindly through space.

But, in the face of repeated disappointments, the Alphans had shown their strengths, and manifested the better angels of Human nature. Pulling together, supporting one another, and keeping both their sanity, as well as their cultural heritages intact.

Alpha's small theatre, not often used since Breakaway, was full tonight, part of a "cultural exchange project" dreamed up by Helena Koenig, nee Russell, Alpha's CMO, Victor Bergman, Alpha's chief scientist, and Maya Verdeschi, late of the late planet Psychon. In their travels, Alpha had managed to acquire some cosmic stragglers, Maya being chief among them, and the only non-Human among their number. Besides her were three Human castaways from a destroyed civilization called "The Colonies". One of them, Athena, sat next to her husband, Alan Carter, the other two, Greenbean and Brie, on their left.

Tonight had seen a moving recital by David Kano, Alpha's chief computer engineer, of modern African poetry, his voice and elocution leading one to wonder if perhaps he had missed his calling. Petrov, Alpha's lead gunner, gave a reading of Aloyshya's Apple, an old Russian story, in both languages as well as traditional Russian dress, and even Commander Koenig, not normally one to grace a stage, related some old Jewish stories, learned from his Rabbi father, about life in the shtetl. Maya, who never forgot anything, had transcribed over a dozen epic poems and plays from her now-extinct culture into English, and recited, actually sang, one for the assembled. Called Love Reborn, it told the story about two young men, and how the unbreakable bonds friendship and love between them led one to brave great dangers and dare fearsome deeds, to bring his departed friend back from the Land of the Dead. Some were actually in tears by the end.

The Colonials, appreciative of the opportunity to learn and to share, eagerly reciprocated. Athena, a warrior's daughter, told the tale of a great warrior of her Colony, Caprica, early in the Thousand Yahren War against the Cylon Alliance. Thick with parallelisms, alliteration and archaisms, it was a form of storytelling much revered on her homeworld, passed down from mother to daughter through the generations. Greenbean and Brie, from the Colonies of Gemon and Saggitara respectively, did comedy, a back and forth, rapid-fire send up of their Cylon enemies, which reminded Helena of Hope and Crosby in the old Road pictures.

The evening was capped off by Drs. Nicholas and Natalie Barber, arguably the two oddest residents of Moonbase Alpha. He was dressed as a knight (the costume was fabricated from an irreparably damaged spacesuit, and some sheet metal from the machine shop), she as the buxom Lady of the Manor. With a ruffle and a flourish that was all Nat, she was belting out The Wife Of Bath from Chaucer like an old pro.

"So they lived ever after to the end.
In perfect bliss; and may Jesu Christ send
Us husbands meek and fresh in bed,
And grace to overbid them when we wed.
And-Jesu hear my prayer!- cut short the lives
Of those who won't be governed by their wives!"

Here, Nat produced a rolling pin, looked it over minutely, then up at Nick, then back to the audience, all while managing to keep a straight face.

"And all old, angry niggards of their pence,
God send them soon a pestilence!"

The audience roared, as all through this Nick had run the gamut of expressions and postures, from drooling, to cringing. Greenbean, being from the most patriarchal of the Colonies, looked befuddled, as if the humor was passing him by. Maya, on the other hand, couldn't help it, and fell off her chair, laughing.

"You are a natural," said Helena, as people filed out of the theatre. "Theatrical family?"

"No, but I did do several plays in High School," replied the former Crown Coroner for Toronto, Canada.


"Uh huh," replied Nat, cleaning off her makeup. "Antigone, when I was sixteen. Arsenic and Old Lace was fun, too. She laughed a moment, recalling her brother, Richard, done up as the insane Johnny Brewster.

"Oh, but please," croaked a voice, and they both turned, to see Nick, making a face at Nat. "We can't leave Mr. Spinardzo in the rumble seat, Johnny!" She thwacked him with a towel, smiling sweetly.

"Well, you're a natural, Nat. We should try some of the Classics, sometime."


"Antigone, and the rest of the Oedipos cycle. Shakespeare, of course. Heck, Jeeves and Wooster would be a kick." She plopped her own wig back in a box. "Now, when you guys are done, I've got something important, make that very important for you in Medical."

"Oh?" asked Nick. "Did the last test...?"

"Uh huh. I think I've gotten a little deeper into..." She looked both ways, making certain the coast was clear, and dropped her voice sepulcherally, "the vampire bug."

"Really?' asked Natalie, all serious now.

"Yeah. Meet me in the lab tonight, at 23:30, alright?"

"We'll be there, Helena" said Nick.

The Moon was just exiting the arm of a nebula, and Helena was looking out the window in her office, watching as the last swirling tendrils of gas parted before them. This time, fortunately, there had been no planets lurking in the mist for them to crash into, and she fell to admiring the colors that washed across the Alphan sky. It was beautiful, in a way, and a painting began to take shape in her mind...

She turned at the beeping of her commlock, and she opened of the door greeting the Barbers. As always, she was struck by the seeming placidity, the normalness, of these two members of her staff. They were among the deadliest of predators, yet they looked so...ordinary.

"Helena," said Nick. "Sorry we're late. Jackie's lesson ran over a bit. What have you got?"

"Good news, I hope." She turned to the computer, and entered her private code. Up came a graphic, an electronmicrograph of the "vampire bug". It was smaller than the AIDS virus, yet in its own way so much more hideous. Both vampires leaned close, studying the screen, and the data scrolling up alongside. "Using some of the new technologies we got from the Colonials, I tried a new approach to trying to culture the bug."

"And?" asked Natalie, her voice betraying expectation.

"I managed to get it to replicate seven copies of itself before it destructed. But, I got this." She switched images. There on the screen was a series of amino acids.

"You got more?" cried Nat, almost ecstatic. "More base pairs?"

"Yes," replied Helena, and she allowed herself a small smile of triumph. "I managed to scan twenty-one base pairs, before the virus went poof."

"These sequences are different from the additions it makes to the DNA in the cell nucleus, Helena. All I ever got was five base pairs from inside," said Natalie, looking at the screen.

"Yes. And now we have twenty-six. Hey, can Helena cook, or can't she?"

"How much closer does that put us to a cure?" asked Nick.

"That I don't know," said Helena, straightening up, and rubbing her offended back. "Like most viruses, this thing has a lot more than twenty-six sequences, and those aren't even in exact order, mine and Nat's. But, it has never survived to be cultured for this long. We're getting there."

"Come on, Nick," said Nat, noting his downcast face. "You've waited 800 years. What's a little more time, huh?"

"Yeah. Yeah, you're right, Nat." He looked up at Helena. "Anything else?"

"Yes, in fact. I'm convinced that this virus is non-natural. First, the way it takes over, then repairs tissues. The database it seems to have, no, must have, on animal physiology in order to accomplish that has to be immense. That cannot be just a freak of nature, Nick. Nat. And when you try to analyze it, it self- destructs, as if to keep its secrets."

"A built-in fail-safe," said Nick. "Like the nuclear bombs the superpowers had. If they ever fell into enemy hands..."

"Exactly. Wrong approach dismantling it, boom."

"Helena," asked Nat, scrolling through the base pairs again, "what are these?" She pointed at a part of the display, showing the chemical formulae.

"That's the second part that convinces me that it was engineered purposely. Those molecules are unquestionably amino acids, Nat. You can see the amino structure, here. They function as amino acids, but they have never been observed or catalogued before." She rubbed her back some more. "At least in any organism on Earth."

Chapter Two

The news from Helena of having extracted more data from the vampire bug boosted the Barber's mood for a while. Armed with this, Nat renewed her attacks on the virus, while Nick divided his time between two projects, the first being the assisting of Doctor Mathias in the assimilation and retraining of Moonbase Alpha's latest additions.

It had been just over two months since Nick, while working to bring on-line Alpha's new zero-point power plant, had been transported into Earth's past when a bizarre malfunction had opened a portal in the fabric of space-time. He'd found himself, along with Jackie Crawford, Alpha's sole pre-adolescent, in Medieval England, in 1066, on the eve of the Battle of Hastings. They had at last, thanks to creative use by Victor's staff of the transport chamber that had once rescued Commander Koenig's party from the past, gotten home, barely surviving the battle, and discovered that they had company. Aside from a number of very bewildered farm animals that had escaped a burning barn along with them...

...there were two Medieval Humans as well. One, a hulking Anglo-Saxon warrior named (much to the amusement of some), Egbert, and his charge, King Harold Godwinson, last ruler of Saxon Britain. Two of the king's surviving warriors had been spiriting him away from the battlefield after it had become clear that all was lost, another having died in his place, when they had encountered Nick and Jackie hiding in an abandoned barn, and two of them had been accidentally transported to Alpha when Maya located them, and the portal was reopened. Both men had been terribly wounded, dying, but the medical staff of Alpha was not to be out done, and both men survived.

King Harold was slowly learning to walk again, and Egbert was propelling him around, pushing his "marvelous cart". In their (to them) spacious quarters, Nick was teaching them modern English, and slowly bringing them up to speed on history, the use of some basic modern devices, and the facts of where, and when, they were. It had taken some considerable time to convince Harold that this bizarre place was not, in fact, Hell. Having been surrounded by, and then passed through roaring flames, only to find himself strapped to a very strange bed, in great pain, covered in tubes and wires and surrounded by baffling lights, sounds and smells did not quite fit into his expected picture of the Hereafter. Ditto Egbert. Slowly, they were being made to understand that this was neither the Infernal Regions, nor some form of punishment. ("Can't be Hell," said Tony Verdeschi. "Simmonds isn't here!") Egbert, seeing the endless ocean of stars out the window (and being barely dissuaded from breaking it, as well. After all, glass...!), and Alpha firmly rooted on the ground ("Hwr is se gr�s?" "Where is the grass?"), wondered aloud if this were perhaps the Celestial Jerusalem.

"No," answered Nick, who had volunteered for the job, since he, being from the Middle Ages himself, understood the mindset of kings and nobles. He explained, as patiently as he could, that this was not the England of 1066, nor the Celestial Abode of the Blessed, but in actuality a city on the Moon. Harold seemed, surprisingly, readier to accept this mind-reeling concept than his warrior, who of the two men was the less talkative.

Of course he is, Nick, thought the vampire, helping the king as he took some tentative steps. He's lost his whole world. In both senses. What's there to say?

Even so, the erstwhile knight and his king wanted to see all of this "strange keep", and Commander Koenig reluctantly agreed. The hangar bay, the records section, hydroponics, and especially the new makeshift stockyards fascinated Harold. Predictably, thought Nick. It's something familiar, something he can grasp.

"He's a bright one, that's for sure," observed Victor Bergman to Nick, in his lab. "Born into our time, he might well have been a scientist."

"Well, I'm amazed at how well they're adapting," replied Nick, now at work on the second project. "I expected a nervous breakdown, at the least, Victor. Massive culture shock."

"The Human mind is more robust than we often think," said Victor, running tests on a circuit board. "After all, some of us can accept the impossible." He cast Nicholas a knowing glance. "I suspect that His Majesty is ultimately no different."

"They are learning modern English quite well, for sure," replied Nick, plugging another board into place in a large chassis. A light on it flashed green. "Ah. There."

"Good," said Victor, and plugged his own circuit board in next to Nick's. A series of green lights went on. Victor clipped one wire of his tester to the chassis, and probed the circuits with the other. "Excellent, Nick. Voltage steady."

"I just hope there's enough buffer space, Victor," he replied.

"Oh I think there will be," said the old academic. "If we use the same data compression methods that we used for the synthesizer, we surely will. Of course, we'll start small."

Victor and several of his staff were at present working on their latest "breakthrough". The transport chamber was being modified once again. The machinery they had encountered on Elna had shown that it was possible, and Maya, along with Alpha's newly enhanced computer had worked out the preliminary math. If this latest endeavor succeeded, Alpha would soon have a functioning matter transport system.

Although a few asked why, the reasoning was clear. If someone were trapped on the surface with air running out, or in a crashed Eagle, this could make all the difference in the equation of survival. And, when it came to exploring possible new homes, it might be possible to set the Eagle's aside, saving precious time and fuel.

As he worked, Nick looked out the window, catching sight of some of the remaining nebular gas. Many of the heavier compounds had actually been retained by the Moon's gravity, creating a tenuous atmosphere, clinging to a few low-lying places. While of scientific interest to the chemical people, it brought to mind for Nick their time near the mysterious planet dubbed Ariel, around whose sun it appeared the Moon would go into orbit. Xenophobic in the extreme, the inhabitants, in order to keep the Alphans away from their world, had given them an incredible gift. Air! An oxygen and water rich atmosphere for the Moon! Anything to keep the Alphan's from making a landing.

It had been difficult for Nick and Natalie, watching their friends go out into the open air and sunshine, even getting up a volleyball match, while they had to cower inside. Only come sunset could they venture out under the stars together, enjoying the sounds of the night. The wind, oh how he'd missed the wind!

But no-the Moon was not going into orbit around that sun, and once beyond its warmth, the new atmosphere, and all its water, would freeze down on them. Nick remembered the last photo taken from orbit. Cyclonic cloud formations, storm fronts brewing, a few lakes forming, even some tiny spots of green! All lost when the mysterious aliens took the atmosphere back, rather than let it freeze. He had mourned, Nat had actually cried, at the loss of what could have been a liveable home, right here on a living Alpha. Another chance lost, gone, robbed! And all due to the blindness of celestial mechanics.

Nick shook his head, dismissing such lugubrious thoughts, and went back to work. Soon, he told himself. Soon, they would be ready for the first test.

"So," asked Natalie later, in their quarters, "how'd it go?"

"Well," yawned Nick, tossing his jacket onto a chair, "the first test on the buffer seems okay. It's merely an extension of the buffer we developed for the blood synthesizer. More memory of course. A lot more."


"The Cylon memory banks stripped from the BaseShip. Huge memory capacity, Nat. Just one of those has twenty times what our original X-5 had."

"And Kano didn't scream in agony?" she asked, picking up his jacket, and shaking her head. "Ouma didn't fall on his circuit tester in shame?"

"With several others already successfully integrated into Main Computer as it is, we convinced them the universe wouldn't come to a screeching halt if we used one," he smiled. Sitting down, he tossed both shoes and socks off into the void somewhere, oblivious to Nat's discomfiture. "Tomorrow, we begin tests on the new scanner array."

"What are you going to use?"

"Something small, at first. Inorganic. But hopefully, eventually..."

"Uh huh," she replied, dumping his clothes into his lap. "Living things."

The first test went exactly as planned. With a variety of alien technologies integrated into the new device, a small sheet metal screw was put under the scanner, and data flowed into the memory bank. It was a slow process, taking almost a full minute, but in the end, every conceivable detail of the tiny metal object was scanned and stored. Perfectly.

Then stage two-Put into the chamber, surrounded by humming coils, the screw vanished. They ran checks, and more checks, and it was there. Held in the buffer circuits. They then reversed the process. There was a sharp glow in the center, a hum, then nothing. There on the floor of the chamber sat the screw.

Over the next week, they kept on, as Alpha drifted into another lobe of the vast, dense nebula. The stars slowly faded from view, and the Moon was swathed in myriad colors of flowing gases, an atmosphere of sorts. An atmosphere composed of hydrogen, ammonia, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and numerous hydroxyls and radicals. "Total witch's brew," muttered Helena, watching it blow across the surface.

"Moment of truth," said Victor, as a soybean was placed within the scan field. As with the screw, its every detail went into memory, but then they hit a glitch. They watched the seed dissolve in a wash of light. When it returned...

It crumbled into dust.

"Glad I'm not a soybean," said Nat.

"Complete breakdown of the hydrogen bonds in the DNA," declared head botanist Laura Adams. "It literally fell apart."

"Any clues on why?" asked Nick.

"Not yet. With the screw, all you had were atoms of iron and carbon mostly. With an organic object, the chemistry is vastly more complex, as you know."

And so it proved to be with other organic guinea pigs. A pea, a microbe-filled jar of water, even a drop of blood on a glass slide. All returned from their data-stream journey either badly damaged or destroyed.

"There's got to be an answer," hrumphffed Natalie, pouring over the test reports. "All of our other experiences with matter transport have worked, Nick. Dione did it. And they obviously solved the problem on Elna."

"I know. We've done it before, why not this time?"

It was Maya, naturally, who figured it out. The scanner was tuned too far into the ultraviolet and higher parts of the spectrum, the radiation inimical to living things. That, and being too intense irreparably damaged any cells that came under it for more than a few seconds. Run up to insure total penetration of the steel, it had degraded the delicate biological bonds of living things.

"Like using hundreds of rads of gamma rays to x-ray a tooth," said Victor. "Extraordinary that I didn't see it."

That corrected, the experiments went forward. This time, the soybean lived to tell the tale, as did the pea and the microbes. Then, gradually, they moved up the scale of complexity, experimenting with ever-larger organisms, culminating in one of the recently acquired chickens. For each increase in biological complexity, an increase in scanner power was needed, requiring a deft touch on the controls. Too much, and the organism came back sickly or dying. Too little, and whole parts of cells were missing entirely, giving the same happy result.

When at last only Human experimentation remained, an idea began to form in Nick's mind. By coupling another extra memory bank to the buffer unit, the complete pattern of any object could be kept permanently on file. Like the synthesizer...

"Natalie," he asked in the wee hours, unable to sleep. "Nat?"

"Mggmhhmmphffgmff?" said Nat, face down in the pillow.

"Nat, I have an idea. Wake up."


"Okay," sighed Nick, and rose. As he tossed on pants and a shirt, he watched the bizarre colors of the nebula flash and roil outside their window. He then went to Natalie's what-not shelf, rummaging through things, at last finding what he was looking for. Then, scouring his own few possessions from home, he found the rest.

"Nicholas?" asked Maya, trundling into the lab at about 0430, and looking awful.

"Hi, Maya," said Nick, eyes glued to the tunneling electron microscope. "Can't sleep?"

"No," she sighed. "The babies are practicing to be security guards, just like Tony." She grimaced, holding her side. "That, and I don't think goat cheese agrees with me."

"It can be a bit rich, as I remember. It didn't set well with Mother, either, as I recall." Unlike Fleur, he fleetingly thought. His sister had had a cast iron stomach. Could have eaten old boots!

"Perhaps one of your French dishes?"

"I don't cook," replied Nicholas.

"Oh yes. One forgets." She eased her plump, pear-shaped form onto a lab stool. "So, what are you working on at this ungodly hour?"

"Scanning DNA patterns."

"Oh? What kind?"

"Human. Natalie's, in fact. Look." He put a picture up on a monitor. "Here's her DNA, from a scan of her wisdom teeth."

"Her teeth?" asked the Psychon, surprised. Then she remembered. Unlike her race, Humans outgrew and shed their infant teeth. Psychon teeth on the other hand, once they come in, are for life, and there is no equivalent to the so-called wisdom teeth. Nick explained how some people kept their baby or wisdom teeth in a bottle or jar as a keepsake. She looked at him as if he'd gone mad, shook her head, but forbore comment on Human customs.

"I scanned the cells inside the pulp chambers," Nick explained. "It's a fairly reliable place to find uncontaminated DNA. Now this..." he indicated the viewscreen, "is the DNA pattern from before."


"Before she was brought across. Now look here." He put another graphic, side by side with the first. "See?"

"Yes, I see it. The extra sequences. And this is what makes her a ...vampire?"

"We think so, Maya. As we go on, the sequences gradually become longer. Here is mine." He put up yet another DNA image. Like Nat's, his was altered in the same way on the same chromosomes, with the exception of several anomalous base pairs on their respective sex chromosomes. "And here's yet another. A control." The new display was entirely clean, showing no sign of alteration.

"Whose is this?" she asked. "Or should I ask?"

"An old friend. A deceased one, from home." He reached across the table, and handed her a partially burned piece of paper, heavily bloodstained on one side.

"What is it?" she asked, of the charred document.

"Part of the extradition papers for a criminal." He explained Donald Schanke's horrible death, while transporting a bombing suspect from Toronto to Edmonton. Nick had found one remaining scrap amidst the plane's wreckage, and had never been able to part with it.

"I'm sorry about your friend, Nick," said Maya, putting her hand on his arm. She, no less than they, knew what agony it was to lose.

"Yeah. Thanks," said Nick with a nod, for a moment silent. Remembering.

"So, why this?" she asked, indicating the bloodstained scrap.

"No one else I could tap at this hour. Besides, the fewer that know about Natalie and I..."

"Well yes, but I still don't see your plan."

"Just this. I've already run one preliminary test. I ran a screwdriver through, then deliberately damaged the handle. I ran it through again, only this time I dumped the new pattern, and substituted the original pattern from the backup memory." He held up the tool. It was undamaged.

"Nick I...oh my."

"Yes. By creating a template of Natalie from her pre-vampire DNA, and then running her through the system, and substituting patterns, I might be able to..."

"To cure her," finished Maya, slowly. "Yes, Nick, this might work. But what about you? There were no DNA scans in 1228."

"I don't know, Maya," he replied, a bit glumly. "We'll just have to cross our bridges one at a time."

"When are you going to try it?"

"Not for a while. Even if Nat goes for it, we still have lots of tests to run." He began deleting the vampire-altered patterns from the machine. First his own, then Natalie's. No sense leaving needless traces.

"Maya?" asked a voice. They turned, and saw Tony in the doorway. Nick stopped what he was doing, and turned to the Security Chief. He must be getting soft, he told himself. He hadn't even sensed Tony's approach. For an instant, he had images of his Master, LaCroix, berating him for such "slackness".

"Oh, Tony," said Maya, interrupted by a cavernous yawn, "I..."

"What's going on?" asked Tony, a glint of jealousy in his eyes. Rather than fabricate something, Nick just locked eyes with the Italian, and told him to go back to bed. In the morning, he would remember not a thing.

Thank-you, said Maya, voicelessly with a wink, and escorted Tony back to their quarters. Nick just smiled, and shut the equipment down.

Outside, the nebula flashed and roiled on.

Chapter Three

After two more days, and myriad more tests, Nick at last laid his idea before Nat. She could be cured. She could become mortal, again. She could live life as a normal woman once more.

She said no.

"No?" said Nick, taken aback. "Natalie, how can you say that?" His face was aghast. "To be..."

"Separated?" she retorted, voice tight. "To grow old and die without you, Nick? No bloody way."


"No buts, Sir Nicholas deBrabant. We get our cure together, or we go on. Together." She looked him straight in the eye, arms crossed in that defiant pose of hers. The look that had, in its time, sewn caution even in LaCroix's heart. He looked to protest, but took her in his arms instead and kissed her forehead.

"What a woman," he said, smiling, and at once thought of Fleur, in many ways so like Natalie. A woman's body, with a lion's heart. "Alright, Nat. But I want you to promise me something."

"And that is?"

"If anything should happen to me..."


"No, please Nat. Hear me out. We're in danger, every day here on Alpha. Things happen. If something should happen to me, I want your promise that you'll go through the transporter, and return to normal."

"But Nick..."

"Please, Nat," he insisted, following his request up with another kiss. It was a long one, accompanied by the probing of hands, and the dropping of fangs.

"N...Nick, we're on...on duty..."

"I know."

"We really...really shou..."

"Uh huh."

An hour or so later, lying side by side, each feeling the blood of the other singing through their veins, Natalie languorously turned to him, and slowly ran her fingers through his wild hair.


"What is it, Maya?" asked Commander Koenig, moving from his desk in Command Center over to her station.

"A tiny change in our trajectory, Commander," replied the Psychon. She ran a full diagnostic on her station, and then went to concentrated scan. She nodded her head, absorbing the data. Alpha's course had shifted by almost a quarter degree, and Maya had detected a gravitational anomaly ahead. "If it weren't for our enhanced sensors, we'd have missed it entirely," she proclaimed. "Even so, all I can tell so far is that there is a gravity well ahead. How far or how strong I can't quantify. The nebula is scattering most of our scans."

"So you can't tell if it's a planet, an asteroid, or what."

"Not yet, Commander. We are still too far for any meaningful data at this juncture."

"Okay, get me Alan." He turned, as Nick entered Command Center, with a sheaf of reports for Koenig's perusal. What he got was an assignment.

"Alan is taking one of the newly modified Eagle's up to investigate a gravitational anomaly ahead, Nick," said Koenig. "You're going along."


"Helena's off flight duty right now, and your name is at the top of the roster." Pause "Dr. Barber. Report to Alan on launch pad two."

"Yes, sir," said Nick, and left. Normally, he'd have "whammied" Koenig and gotten out of it. He disliked flying by machine, and worked to minimize his ventures outside of Alpha, lest something should happen to give his nature away. But regs were clear-people from all departments had to pull Eagle time, and Nick was well below requirements. Hopefully, it would turn out to be a dull trip, and he could spend his time refining his calculations for the transport system. Already, he had ideas that went beyond mere transportation. Way beyond.

Back on Alpha in Victor's lab, Jim Haines, just coming on duty, began firing up the transport device for the next round of experiments.

"So, how goes the research, Nick?" asked Carter, over the IC. Nick was back in the passenger module, crunching numbers on the computer. Ideas for applying the new technology were coming thick and fast, and Nick was feeling like a little kid with a new toy to play with.

"Coming along great," replied Nick, running another equation through.

"Well, the nebula is starting to thin out ahead. I'm gonna need the computer soon."

"Right," said Nick, saving his work. He switched his monitor to forward view, and saw the swirling miasma of the nebula outside. Moving up front, he scrunched in between Alan and his co-pilot, Greenbean. Through the ports, the nebula looked like the proverbial witch's brew, its colors swirling and boiling like a vision from hell. "Anything, yet?"

"Hi, Nick," said Greenbean, late of the Battlestar Galactica. "Yeah, we're coming up on something."

"How far ahead?"

"About fifty micr...uh, about a half million miles." The former Viper pilot made some adjustments to the Eagle's reconfigured controls. "Shields are up, Alan."


Ahead, the nebula was visibly thinning out. The Eagle bucked slightly, as if buffeted by a heavy crosswind. Which in fact it was. The nebula was criss-crossed with severe currents, and the Eagle had crossed one boasting hurricane-force winds. Alan fought it for a while, then the ship's new boosters pulled them free...

"Merde!" hissed Nick, at what they now saw. The nebula had thinned considerably, as though they had passed through a curtain, and space was relatively clear ahead for about half a mil. And there, in the middle of it all,

"What in Hades Hole is it?" asked Greenbean, while Alan muttered something less than Churchmanlike. Directly ahead of their ship was what could only be described as a hole. A hole in space. Against the background of the ever-writhing nebula it sat, black as night, its edges blurred and irregular. Like a well or sinkhole, it seemed to be punched or dug, right into the very fabric of space-time. Around its irregular, undulating edges, gas and dust from the nebula, sucked in by the intense gravity, disappeared into the void like water down a drain.

"It's pulling us towards it," said Alan, hitting reverse thrust. "Gravity already at four times lunar normal, and increasing."

"What do the sensors say?" asked Nick. With his vampiric vision, he could see bizarre flickers and shapes dancing around the void's edges. And, it stung, his skin feeling like he was caught out of doors, too close to dawn.

"It's nearly half an A.U. in diameter," replied Carter. "But the edges are fluctuating. It's hard to get an accurate reading."

"We're getting enormous tachyon radiation on the screens, too," said Greenbean. "And gamma rays, too. Over 400 rads and increasing."

"Reverse thrusters, full power," ordered Alan. At once, they could feel the vibration from the engines hum through the deck plates.

"But we need this data," said Greenbean, "what with Alpha headed this way."

"We can't survive this radiation if the screens decide to give out," retorted Carter. "Let's haul it."

"Full reverse aye," replied the other. The Eagle's engines roared, then screamed, but gradually they pulled away from the black maw. Alan switched on the monitor to departure angle, and they watched as the mysterious rip in space began to fall behind them, then vanish back into the obscurity of the nebula.

Nick retreated back to the passenger module, and let the pain wash over him. His face was red, his eyes bloodshot. Some form of radiation inimical to the vampire had punched through the shields and the ports, and hammered him. He made for the head, and taking the hip flask from his jacket, downed it in one go. At once, the peeling skin began to flake away, and his eyes to clear. He washed his face and returned to his station. He had just started to run a preliminary analysis of the new data, when they came back into scanner range of Alpha.

In the lab, Jim Haines was busily fine-tuning the scan field on the new machine. All was, so it seemed, working well within expected parameters. Small devices, live plants, even small animals, now passed through it without harm.

The next step was to route the data stream through a wave-guide, up to one of the secondary scan emitters atop the old Main Mission tower, to the outside of Alpha. The diagnostic routines with the computer came back as expected, as did the dummy signals sent through to the outside. When all seemed well, a small rock was sent through-

To slowly rematerialize out on the surface, smack in the center of launch pad one. It sat there, as more diagnostics were run, oblivious to what was about to hit it. The machine was powered up to saturation point once more, coordinates confirmed, the sequence reversed, and the stone began slowly to shimmer, and then to fade...

There was sudden turbulence in the nebula, with a massive flash of light coupled with a huge energy discharge, just as the rock began to dissolve. A light began flashing on the main transport control, joined by the alarm, as Maya entered the lab.

"What is it?" she cried, dropping her papers and racing for the machinery, as acrid smoke oozed from somewhere.

"Some sort of overload," replied the other. "There was a huge discharge of energy from the nebula. I'm shutting it down."

"What were you doing with it?"

"Transmission to and from the outside of the..." The chamber flashed, and sparks flew at them.

"Shut it down!" cried the Psychon.

"I tried, Maya. It won't power down," said Haines. "The main switch is fused. I'll have to..."

As he stared at the Moon in the still waters of the pool, Schanke felt odd. What was it? He looked up at the sky, then back down at the image of Alpha, as the sense of disorientation slowly grew in him.


They both stared, as something began to coalesce in the transport chamber. It was amorphous at first, roiling and translucent. It flickered, then began to take on some measure of solidity. Slowly, fitfully, the light faded, and the form in the chamber...

Nick strode in, and stopped, eyes wide in utter shock. The shifting form in the chamber at last coalesced into a man, standing naked on the pad. He stood, rigid and unmoving, until the machine cycled down and the coils at last went dark, then toppled out, onto the floor. All three rushed towards the prostrate form, Maya turning him over.

"Emergency!" called into her commlock. "Emergency medical team to Professor Bergman's laboratory! Professor Bergman, report to the lab at once please!" Maya heard Nick curse, and looked from the insensate form to the vampire. His expression...

"Nick? Are you alright?"

"Mon Dieu!" whispered Nicholas, eyes riveted on the man's face. His eyes were open, staring blankly up at the ceiling, apparently oblivious. "How..."

"Oh my God!" cried Natalie, as she entered with two med techs, and saw him." Nick looked up at her, and they both said...


Chapter Four

"He's who?" asked Koenig, in Medical, looking down at the comatose form.

"We've identified him, from his photo as well as fingerprints, as Donald Garibaldi Schanke," said Helena, adjusting her new patient's IV drip.

"Who is?" Koenig pressed, looking from the patient to the Barbers. More of a scowl, actually.

"Was, Commander," said Nick, voice subdued. "He was someone that I knew, back home."

"Go on."

"He is...was, a member of the Toronto Police Department. A homicide detective."

"And how did he get here?" asked Tony, arms crossed. "According to our files, he's supposedly deceased."

"Yes," said Nick, never taking his eyes off the simulacrum of his old friend. "He died back in 1995."

"Again," said Koenig, "how did he get here?"

"I'm not sure."

"Well, don't you have a theory?" Koenig looked around. "Anybody?"

"Essentially, John," said Victor, face contemplative, "he's a clone."

"A clone?" said Tony. "He fell out of the transporter. How is that a 'clone'?"

"It has to be the pattern," said Nick. "I forgot to delete it."

"Pattern?" said Natalie.

"I scanned the patterns of a number of organisms, and ran them through the buffer. To see if something as complex as Human DNA could survive the process intact. I used Don's as a control. Someone never exposed to the hazards of life in space."

"And precisely where did you get his DNA from, Nick?" asked Tony, as ever the suspicious type. Bending the truth as much as he could, Nick explained. He also, under questioning, explained his idea of using back-up patterns for "medical purposes".

"I think, John," said Victor, still musing, "that when the rock was brought back in, a massive energy surge from the nebula must have come down the waveguide with it. It burned out the main memory in the buffer, and the machine defaulted to the back-up memory bank we've been experimenting with."

"But that's a rock," said Koenig. "How does that give us a man?"

"The back-up bank still had Schanke's DNA pattern in it," said Nick. "It was never purged. The computer used it."

"Okay, but I still do not see how..."

"The surge," Victor broke in, "blew the main memory, which included the mass of the object sent through. When the back-up memory was accessed, the machine pulled in matter from the nebula, as well as the stone. Enough matter to account for a 200 pound man, rather than a six ounce stone."

"And the nebula contains many of the same elements and chemical compounds as a Human body, John," said Helena. "Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, plus traces of zinc, sulpher, you name it."

"Yes, " said Natalie, looking at the medical scans. "The nebula includes virtually all of what our bodies contain." She motioned for Koenig to take a look.

"So you're saying that, once the original pattern was lost, the machine used his," Koenig looked up, and pointed at "Schanke", "and sucked in enough matter from the nebula to construct a Human body?"

"Essentially yes," said Victor. "The machine, to put it simply, made a man from his DNA."

"What's his condition?" Koenig asked Helena, looking at the body.

"Paradoxical," she replied. "On the one hand, as you can see, he's emaciated, with virtually no body fat." Schanke's eyes were sunken, his face very thin, his ribs showing through. He looked like a concentration camp survivor from old newsreels. "He's severely deficient in several minerals, calcium and phosphorous especially. I'm trying to compensate with this." She indicated the IV. "I'm surprised this body is even alive."

"But?" asked Tony.

"But, on the other hand, despite the weakness of his skeletal structure, his joints are good. They show no sign of wear at all, nor do his teeth. And no indication of arteriosclerosis, or any scarring."

"Schanke had pneumonia when he was nine," offered Natalie.

"Which his lungs show no signs of," finished Helena. "Scar free."

"Okay," said Koenig, "we have a fresh body. What about him?"

"Perfect functioning of the autonomic system," said Helena, indicating a monitor.

"But the rest?" said Nick, tapping his own temple.

"Flatline. Vegetative. Virtually no activity in the neo-cortex, and the ascending reticular activating system is strangely quiet. If I didn't know better, I'd say he had massive brain damage."

"But he doesn't?" asked Tony.

"No. All tests show that his brain tissue is healthy. It's just..."

"Nobody's there," said Nick.

"Essentially yes. Nothing indicates consciousness at all."

"So, what do we do?" asked Tony.

"I'd like to study thi...him, some more, John," asked Helena. "This is a unique situation."

"Alright. We have more immediate concerns, though. That thing, and Alpha headed right into it."

"What can we do, John?"

"I'm not sure there's anything we can do, Helena." Koenig looked at Nick, and it wasn't a nice look. "Victor, science briefing in 15 minutes."

"Right, John."

A small probe, originally built as the backup machine to Spacefarer 9, was launched towards the anomaly from an Eagle. It's sensors modified slightly, it radioed back data the whole trip, returning information on both the nebula, and the rift.

"It's a wormhole," said Maya, as the void became visible on the main screen, data scrolling up one side. "Tachyon and neutrino radiation. Gravity wave distortions, too."

"A wormhole?" asked Tony. "You mean like another space warp?"

"Very much," replied Maya. "Thankfully, we're better equipped to detect them now."

On the screen, the hole in the nebula had grown to nearly fill the entire view. The probe bounced and shook in the nebular winds, but remained inexorably on course for the dark maw.

"Distance to boundary?" asked Koenig.

"Hard to say, John," replied Victor. "The edges are indistinct, and radiation is beginning to interfere with the probe's transmissions, now." They continued to watch as the nebula disappeared from view. Something zoomed by, lost in the darkness.

and the screen went black.

"Meteorite," said Maya, and fired the probe's tiny engine, trying to slow it down as much as possible. It slowed, then cut out. "I think this is it," said the Psychon, and streaks of light began filling the screen. They seemed to fly by, like a driving rain...

"Probe velocity, Maya?"

"Off the scale, Commander," she replied. "It's last measurement was over 400,000."

"400,000?" whistled Alan. "Lord o'mercy."

"But it's still transmitting?"

"Incredibly, yes," she said, as the image on the screen changed again. The streaks of light shortened to blobs, seemingly connected by filaments.


"None of this makes sense, Commander," said the science officer. "This phenomenon read as a gravity well, yet I read null gravity inside it. This should be impossible."

"Null gravity?" asked Kate and Yasko simultaneously.

"Yes. Nothing." As she spoke, the image began to break up into snow. From what they could still see, the filaments were splitting up in different directions, and the probe was being drawn along one at enormous speed. Then nothing. "Contact lost, Commander."


"We won't know until we analyze the telemetry."

"There was a lot of radiation detected, John," said Victor. "It may simply have burned out."

"ETA to entering the wormhole?" asked Koenig.

"Two days, nineteen hours," reported Maya. Without, of course, looking at the readout.

"Alright Victor, rip that telemetry apart. We need to know all we can. In the meantime, Maya, prepare another probe. We've got to have more data."

As Helena monitored her newest patient, she found herself pondering the ethics of it all. Though she had never met Donald Schanke, she'd been shown some snaps by Nick, as well as that egregious episode of Cop Watch. He seemed a pleasant, if somewhat odd gentleman. Not the sort she'd have pegged to be a police homicide detective.

But, odd or not, Schanke had died more than four years before Breakaway, his body, what was left of it, lying in a Toronto graveyard, God alone knew how many light-years away. And from Natalie's description of the post mortems of the air crash victims, there hadn't been a whole lot to bury.

Yet, by a weird confluence of science and accident, here he was, at least in the flesh. Helena had always been ethically opposed to Human cloning, deeming it an immoral intrusion into the God-ordained order of nature. Sure, this body might have Don Schanke's genes, but Schanke was gone. Gone into whatever awaited.

That being the case, what would this new body become? Would a mind eventually develop? Would it ever be "Human"? A person? Was it even ethical to let it continue at all? She watched the body, pondering this. Since his "birth", Schanke had gotten marginally healthier, the deficiencies in his blood and tissues slowly beginning to disappear as the IVs continued. She ran a finger along his jaw. The body had emerged from the transporter completely hairless, but already his hair and beard were beginning to grow. Completely empty of food or drink, nonetheless his kidneys had begun to produce urine, and his skin to sweat. All in all, this body was gradually getting up to speed, functioning as it should.

"But what of the mind?" muttered Helena. "What of the soul?"

"But I don't want to go back," said Don, facing, surrounded, and infused by The Light. "I'm here."

"But you must," said The Voice. "Your body has been renewed."

"I know. I've felt it. I don't understand it, but I sure have felt it."

"The body needs a soul, and you will be needed, Donald."


"Do you not think that I shall continue to watch over you family?" said The One, gently. "I shall, and they shall be safe, Donald. But a crisis impends for Alpha, and you will provide the help they need."

"Well, it'll be good to see Nick and Natalie again," agreed Schanke. He was silent a moment, and The Eternal respected his silence. He looked across the immensity of Creation, and beheld Alpha, peering into realities where she still orbited earth, where she'd been destroyed, where...

The vastness of it all boggled even his much-expanded mind, and he turned to face The Infinite. "Can't you just stop it?" he asked, turning back to gaze at Alpha drawing closer to the wormhole. "And how could I possibly help? I'm no scientist."


"Alright," he sighed. "I will." He looked directly into the face of the Holy, and spoke again. "Very Well, I shall."

"Good, Donald Schanke. Now go."

Before he could even move, Schanke felt the Ethereal Realm slowly begin to fade, and saw myriad faces about him. Faces he knew. Fleur. Amanda. His parents. His long-gone baby sister. Then all was blackness. Blackness, and a crushing weight, like lead on his chest, his limbs like stone. His last thought was...

"Doctor!" cried a nurse, as the monitor over Schanke's bed took a jump. Helena ran as fast as she could into the ward. "His brain activity, Doctor Russell."

Nick and Nat rushed into medical, at Helena's call. All Schanke's indicators were active now. Natalie studied them, turning to Nick in bewilderment.

"It just started," said Helena. "He was flatline, like always, then this."

"REM," said Nick. "It's like he's dreaming." He watched Schanke's eyelids flutter and twitch, along with his limbs.

"And his pulse has jumped to over 100," said Helena. "Respiration and blood pressure are also heading up."

"He's here," said Nick, his preternatural senses to the fore. He closed his eyes, and slowly took a deep breath, letting himself "feel" the "ethers".

"Who?" asked Helena.

"Schank. He's here. He's back. I can feel him, Helena. His aura."

"Nick?" asked Natalie. "I don't feel anything."

"It takes age and practice, Nat." He slowly opened his eyes. "I'll teach you. But he is here."

Nat turned, and noticed that the nurse was still present. She looked into her eyes. "You heard none of this."

"I heard...none."

"Nothing at all."

"Nothing. Now go back to your station."

"Yeah. I think I'll return to my station now, Doctor."

"Right," said Helena. She looked at Nat, shaking her head. Nat smiled, shrugging. She turned back to the monitors. "Something's here. Brain activity increasing. Center after center is firing up. He's coming up out of REM, Natalie." She looked at the Barber's. "Could it be...?"

"Myra!!" croaked a voice, and they all turned. Schanke had taken a deep breath, sat bolt upright, and spoken. He drew another, and from a throat that had never produced a sound came the same word.


Slowly, he blinked and opened his eyes, squinting as he tried focusing in on the nearest face. His expression went from blank, to confused.


"Schanke?' whispered Natalie.

"God, I'm hungry!"

Chapter Five

Since Alpha was a little short of souvlaki at the present time, the patient would have to settle for chicken soup. Nick was forcibly reminded of his own time in hospital, eating the same thing, and feeling almost as confused. Like himself in that setting, Schanke seemed to have no memory of certain things. A lot of certain things.

"The Moon?" he asked, after eating all that Helena would permit for his first meal. His look could, charitably, be called confused, and the EEG confirmed that his brain was doing neurological somersaults. "You're kidding, right? Natalie, he's kidding."

"No," said Nat, looking down at the frail man in the bed. "It's true, Schank." She explained their being here, Breakaway, and adventures since.

" How can I be here, on Alpha? I was on a plane, which exploded. We crashed. Captain Cohen and me. With Dollard. I remember the explosion, then this...ball of fire, and then...Then I..." He pounded the mattress in frustration. "Why can't I remember, Nick?"

"You died, Schank," said Nat, slowly. "You didn't survive the crash. I...I identified what was left of your body." She looked at him, her eyes sympathetic, his filled with confusion and questions.

"My body?" He looked down at himself. "But I'm here, Natalie. I..." His eyes narrowed, thinking. "Then I..."

"No," said Nick. "This isn't the afterlife, Schank. You've been, well, resurrected."

"Res...resurrected?" replied Schanke, very confused. "I don't understand." He furrowed his brow, trying to remember...something. Something important.

"Yes, said Nick.

"We'll explain it all when you're better, Schank," said Natalie. "Right now, you need to rest, and gather strength. That body's very weak."


"Rest!" said Nick. "That's a medical order."

"I...okay," sighed Schanke, leaning back. "Nick?"


"Did you catch him? The bomber?"

"Yeah," smiled Nick. "We didn't give up till we got him, Schank." He headed for the door.

"Good. I knew I could count on you. Fleur said you were still the chivalrous knight. Like always."

"Fleur??" said Nick, turning back suddenly to gaze down on Schanke. "How do you know..?"

"You had a sister? Well, I...I...just do, Nick." Schanke scowled a moment. "How?"

"This is terra incognita," said Helena, in her office. Despite all pleas, she'd shooed the Barbers out of Schanke's ward. "We've never dealt with anything remotely like this before."

"Well, I know I never told him about Fleur," said Nick. "Not a word." He noticed Helena's look. "My kid sister. Fleur deBrabant."

"Helena?" said Natalie.

"Well, perhaps" said the CMO, "and I emphasize perhaps, all his memories aren't fully integrated yet."

"What does that mean, exactly?" asked Nick.

"To tell the truth, I'm not entirely sure, really. But his brain, while healthy, is new. Never used, and now he's..." she shrugged, "back in it. Our memory patterns and neural pathways are the product of our entire life experiences. That brain hasn't existed a week, and it having to go from zero to adult in nothing flat. It's trying to integrate the entire life experiences of Mr. Schanke all at on go.

"I see," nodded Nick. "Over 40 years in just a few hours."

"Exactly. And, well, this is only theoretical, but wherever he's been, as it were, since he died, he has experienced things, and acquired memories, without a physical brain."

"Like Near Death Experiences," said Natalie. "Seeing things that can later be verified, while you're in actuality clinically dead."

"Yes. It could be that a brain in Mr. Schanke's state cannot assimilate such things. Or at least not quickly."

"But he mentioned Fleur," said Nick.

"Exactly. If he met her, wherever, then it could mean that memories of there, wherever there are filtering back to the surface. Slowly."

"Heaven?" asked Natalie, palms upwards.

"There...we venture into the realm of Faith. Of the Mystical," said Helena. "While I believe in it personally, there is no way in which I can quantify it scientifically." She picked up Schanke's chart, and her pen. "It will all have to come back to him on its own, Nick. But..." she looked up at them, "if he's suddenly remembering you never told him, then I'd say he'll remember them rest, in time." She replaced his chart, and headed for the door.

"I hope so," said Nick, and offered up a silent prayer of thanks for the return of his friends. He moved slowly towards Schanke's room...

"Ahh ah ah!" said Helena, leaning back in. "None of that" she pointed to her eyes, "Woo woo woo stuff!"

"Right," sighed Nick.

Nick returned to his project, trying to both repair the machine, and figure out how this could have happened in the first place. The data recorder had fried, so he had to try and recreate the process, step by step. After several frustrating hours, he got a call from Natalie, who was ready for another blood sample for her own researches. Outside, the nebula continued to flash and swirl, the murky vapors obscuring even the distant hills.

"How's he doing?" asked Nick, as she put the sample into a test-tube of something really vile looking.

"He woke up, had a little more to eat, then went back to sleep again," she replied. "His vitals are getting stronger, and his brain activity is settling down."

"That's good. Nat, how do we explain him?" He looked through a window to the sleeping Schanke. "What do we tell people?"

"I...I don't know, Nick. The truth, I guess?" she said, adding something else, equally horrid-looking to her witch's brew, and putting the tube in the centrifuge. "What can we do?"

"But you know what this'll mean, don't you?"

"What?" asked Nat, removing the sample, and putting some under a tunneling electron microscope.

"Everybody with a DNA sample..."

"Oh God," said Nat, pulling away from her scope, and looking at him. "I never thought of that. You're right. And with all but a few of those we've lost preserved in vacuum..."


Many of those who had died since Breakaway had expressed a desire in their wills to have their remains preserved, if possible, until Alpha found a new home, so that they might be buried near their comrades on a living, breathing planet. In the walls of Plato Crater, numerous caves had been found during the initial survey for Alpha's construction, and some had been expanded as part of the work. Much of the original construction gear was stowed there, as well as numerous of the deceased, preserved by cold and vacuum, rather than put a drain on Alpha's space and power. Shielded by solid rock, their DNA should be intact.

What if...


It was Commander Koenig. A conference was called for 19:30 hours.

"How intense?" asked Dr. Spencer.

"The first probe reported in excess of 1,000 rads per minute per square inch of probe surface, before it entered the wormhole. And that was just the gamma band," said Maya. She indicated the various wavelengths on her screen. "The second burned out just short of the boundary."

"We've launched a third," said Victor, "sheathed in lead foil. Hopefully it will last long enough to give us more data."

"Yeah, but will we last?" asked Alan. "That kind of radiation? And no place nearby to evacuate to."

"Could we evacuate to the Eagles, and use the Moon as a sort of shield?" asked Tony.

"No," replied Maya. "The gravity distortions along its perimeter are not constant, according to the second probe. Computer shows the Eagles experiencing structural failure.

"Ouch," said Bill Fraser.

"Can our own shields protect us?" asked Helena. "The upgrades are finished, correct?"

"At best," said Victor, "the screens will block out 80-85% of the radiation bombarding them, at the levels we've recorded so far. But the gamma and neutron radiation is not constant. According to what we have, it fluctuates."

"Meaning it could go down?" probed Koenig.

"Yes. Or up, depending on how much nebular material is being sucked in at any one moment, John. We can't predict that. And there may be other variables, too. We just don't have enough data yet."

"Alright," said Koenig, "what are our chances of survival, then?"

"IF the gravity data is correct," said Maya, "we will experience moderate to severe moonquakes. Since there are no known faults near Alpha, the danger from that quarter is not great."

"Good, but I want major junctions and airlocks braced, just in case."

"Yes, sir."

"And you and Victor see if you can do anything to boost our shields. Any little bit."

"Right, John."

"Sandra, what's the probe's ETA at the anomaly?"

"Estimating event horizon in twenty-one minutes," she replied, checking her watch. "So far, all telemetry functional."

"Okay, let's start prepping the deep shelters," said Koenig. "We've got just over 60 hours. Let's not waste a second." As the meeting broke up, Koenig motioned Helena and the Barbers over to him. "How's our patient, Doctors?"

"He's doing very well," said Helena. "His vital signs continue to improve, and he managed to stand, today."

"Any clues yet, on... how?" asked the Commander.

"Everything we've found so far fits the original hypothesis," said Nick.

"Nick, I...want to apologize. I wasn't very nice at first."

"It's alright, Commander. You didn't authorize me to make people return from the dead," said Nick. "Leaving Schanke's DNA pattern in there, even making one, was irresponsible."

"Well, none of us knows where scientific curiosity will lead, Nick. Can he join in the effort?"

"He's still weak, John," said Helena. "We'll just have to see."

The third probe approached the vortex, but had trouble staying on course, due to strong nebular winds. Consequently, it entered the vortex at a different angle, and detected 40% less radiation bombardment than the last one.

"Yeah, but will it be that low when we go through it?" asked Tony.

For his part, Tony had other concerns. As Security Chief, a part of him naturally distrusted the newcomer, and he put a guard on his door. That guard was Falxa the Cylon.

"What the hell is that?" asked Don, once more eating. Nick had smuggled him in a chunk of the newly available goat cheese, thankful for the fact that Cylons have no sense of smell. Nick explained the cybernaut, and how they'd acquired it. Or rather them. That settled, Schanke returned his focus to important things. "This is fab, Nick. My mother used to make this when we were kids."

"Well, I figured you needed a little more than chicken soup, Schank," smiled the vampire.

"And how," said Schanke, mouth once more full. "So, tell me again how I got here."

Nick once more explained the new transport device, and how it had, inadvertently "created" a new body, identical to the old one, but without any traces of injury or wear.

"I remember the crash," said Schanke. "I remember dying. I even remember hovering around the crash site, Nick. I saw you, and Tracy Vetter. Captain Reese, too. I also remember the baby you rescued. Then it's all fuzzy."

"And Fleur?"

"Your sister. Didn't know you had one. In fact, we all thought you had no family."

"Well, that was...needful, Schanke. But that's years and parsecs behind us, now."

"Yeah, and I wanna hear it. So, you have a sister."

"I did. She died a long time ago."

"Got a pic?" Nick took a miniature from his pocket, and showed it him.

"A...painting?" He looked up at Nick from the tiny image.

"Yeah. Mom...had them done."

"That's the lady I keep seeing in my memory, Nick. Fleur." He examined the miniature closely. "Sure looks old." Nick gently pocketed it. "Nick there's..." He stopped, as if something. "Vudu!"

"What about him?' asked Nick, of the psychotic bomber who had killed not only Schanke, but Captain Cohen, and everyone else on the plane, save an infant.

"Vudu, uh...he...had help, Nick. LaCroix!" Don's eyes brightened. "That weird sucker, LaCroix." Nick blanched at the term. The one from the Raven, Nick. He was mixed up with Vudu!"


"And...and there was a... city?" Don was trying hard to remember, images coming faster. "And I saw god, Nick!" He looked at his old partner. "I saw God!"

Chapter Six

Bits of Schanke's life continued to slowly filter back, as Nick helped him onto his feet, and around the room. Though he knew how, Schanke's brain nonetheless had to relearn to walk all over again, much like a stroke victim undergoing physical therapy. The bulldog tenacity he'd often displayed as a cop came to the fore however, and even when he felt tired, Schanke didn't want to stop. As his therapy continued, Nick and Nat filled him in on events since the plane crash, hoping to jog his memory. Nick brought him up to speed on the rest of the Vudu case, then Jerry Show murders, even the body in the Raven's beer fridge, minus a fact or two.

"And Myra?" As always, his first concern.

"She made it through, Schank," said Natalie. "It was hard of course, for both of them, without you, but Jenny was there for her, and the baby."

"" he asked, stopping dead in his wobbly tracks, wide eyed.

"Didn't you know?" asked Nick.

"No. Myra said she had a doctor's appointment the day I left. She never..." He stopped, smiling. "Oh man, did I miss out."

"A boy," smiled Nat. "Donald Nicholas."

"Oh man," repeated Don, smiling idiotically. "I never...yet," he looked up at Nick, "I know that you paid for Jenny's college tuition. A trust fund. How do I know that? And how do I know that you were worth about half a billion bucks, Nick?" He blinked. "With a 'B'. On a cop's salary."

Nat's watch chose that strategically placed moment to beep, and she quickly left for her lab. It was time to check on yet another experiment. As she left, Don turned back to Nick.

"What's the secret, Nick?" He watched his former partner. "And how did a Toronto Homicide detective and a Crown Coroner end up on Moonbase Alpha, married, under the name Barber, right in time to get blasted into space?" Schanke concentrated, trying to grab on to the gossamer tendrils of memory, and make them tell him something.

"We'll talk later," said Nick, getting up. Despite the unusual situation, he still felt the instinctual caution he always did when it came to revealing the truth. But, he reminded himself, they were countless light-years away from LaCroix and the Enforcers.

And he could handle Tony Verdeschi.

"You rest, Schank. It'll keep coming back."

"Yeah," sighed the other, and returned to bed. He yawned, and ran his hand over his now bristling scalp. At least his hair was growing back! He did the same with his chin. "Hey, Partner, can I borrow a razor?"

"Sure. An electric okay?"

"No problemo, Nick. Thanks."

As he stood, wobbly, in front of the mirror, Schanke kept trying to get it all to come together, to fit into some rational pattern. There was something he really needed to remember. Something he was supposed to do. Do, or was it say? And something important about Nick, too. Something...some...

"Ow!" he exclaimed, as he cut himself shaving. "Oh great," he muttered, looking at the tiny spot of blood on his chin. "Can't even keep from getting nicked by..."




Nicked by the razor.


Nick's razor.



Nick's blood...

Nick needs...

Nick is a...

"Oh my God," he whispered, dropping the razor noisily into the sink. "Nick! Natalie!"

Much to Schanke's surprise, he got an invitation for the evening. Since he was convalescing so well, how about dinner? Given what he knew of vampires, this didn't make Don very, well, sanguine, about the evening's prospects, but he reminded himself that Nick was a friend. An old partner. Someone who put their neck on the line for you. How many times had he saved Schanke's life, back on the force?

A bit reluctantly, Helena agreed to the outing, but insisted that Don use a wheelchair, and issued a list of off-limit foods. Once out of her sight, however, he hoped, there would be something more...exciting to wrap his mouth around.

Nick and Nat's quarters were, like most of the rest of Alpha, somewhere between Spartan, and sterile, but Don at once noticed how Natalie's touch was everywhere in evidence. Flower pots, photos of green fields and wildflowers from home, crudely woven, but pretty, tapestries hung here and there. All made the place look less like a plastic fetishists dream dungeon, and more like a home.

Except for the chain mail armor and sword hanging in the corner?

Schanke was not tonight's only guest, he soon discovered. Almost as soon as he was seated, and had screwed up the courage to say the V word to Nat, Nick entered with Moonbase Alpha's other gatecrashers.

"Schanke,' said Nick, indicating the two men, one a tall, thin fellow walking with a cane, the other resembling the Incredible Hulk without the green, "allow me to introduce Egbert, and King Harold Godwinson." As expected, Schanke's mouth hung open, as he tried to absorb this, then Nick, after seating his guest, played old-fashioned host, pouring each some wine.

Schanke listened, when he wasn't stuffing himself, to Nick's tales of life on Alpha since Breakaway, and their various adventures. Nat's tapestry, he learned, had been a gift from someone whom they'd encountered during Alpha's brief time near Crom II, and the painting in one corner was of the raging volcanoes near their survey site on the planet they had dubbed "Easter Island", since they had first detected it on Easter, last year.

"Faith, many an adventure thou hast had," said Harold, "since leaving Earth behind. No minstrel ever sung the like of them."

"Well," said Nat, "space is so full of unknowns, sir. I'm sure there are more than we can ever imagine."

"'sooth, Mistress Barber," replied the erstwhile monarch. "What little I have heard already is wonders beyond words."

"Sure is," she replied, and Nick refilled their plates with chicken and vegetables. While neither Saxon had ever seen a tomato before, they both took to them with aplomb.

"How did you manage to get chicken here, Nick?" asked Schanke. "I thought Dr. Spencer said all the food was synthesized protein, and the veggies you grow in...uh, hydro..."

"Hydroponics," finished Natalie. "It was, till recently."

"It fell to the luck of this place that certain beasts came here with us," said Harold, obviously enjoying his meal. Nick poured him more wine, and the king smiled at Natalie. "Thy wife is a gracious hostess," he added.

"Sure is," said Schanke, downing another bowl of delicious soup, certain that he'd exceeded his medically imposed limit, but not caring. Man, what he wouldn't give for some souvlaki, or even some donuts. "But how did you get the meat, Nat?"

"Nick's fault," said Natalie.

"They came back through a time warp, actually," said Nick.

"Time warp?" asked the former cop. "How did...I mean..."

Nick explained, as simply as he could, the rift accidentally opened during Alpha's encounter with the planet christened Outback. He told Don of how he and Jackie Crawford had found themselves in 11th Century Saxon England, just in time to meet William the Conqueror, and his delightful, dedicated band of cheerful social workers. Finding that they were in a burning barn, with the wounded King, fleeing from Hastings, at the moment the rift was reopened, they jumped through, oblivious of the bewildered livestock, also seeking escape.

"So, we set up a stockyard of sorts, and began raising livestock," said Nick. "We've been able to expand the base's diet considerably, much to the delight of all."

"Incredible story," said Schanke, reflecting on Nick's tale. He also, as Nick's old partner, could tell that something was being left out. Why? Because of them? Or...

"Tell me," said Egbert, speaking for the first time tonight, "how camest thou here, Sir Schanke. Never have I seen thee, till now."

"Well, that's kinda...complicated, actually. It's got something to do with Nick's latest project. The transport machine."

"And it is from this...machine, that thou dids't emerge? Merry a strange device."


"I have striven to learn Anglish tongue since coming to this place," replied the warrior. "Some have loose tongues, deeming me ignorant of it."

"We aren't sure of just how it happened," Nick intervened. He could sense unease from the Saxon, regarding Schanke, perhaps thinking him a wizard, or demon. "We're still trying to understand it all, Sir Egbert. Even in our day, there are mysteries we don't grasp."

"Well, I for one am grateful for some of them, Nicholas," said Harold. "By God's Grace, we live, thanks to you. I think that I shall never fully ken all thou hast done, but I thank God for it." So said, the pious king crossed himself. Nick tried not to choke on his wine, and Nat squeezed her eyes shut a moment.

Reactions that did not go unnoticed by one Donald G. Schanke, cop.

Growing somewhat fatigued, King Harold and his man, after some measure of polite conversation, took their leave of the Barbers, and returned to their quarters. Once alone, Don looked at Nick.



"I take it that explains the armor?" He pointed to the chain mail.

"Yes. It was more in keeping with the situation than our Alphan uniforms."

"Safer, too," said Nat, stacking plates. "Even so, he came back looking like something Sydney would have utterly refused to drag in."

"Nick," said Schanke, slowly, trying to find the words. "I remember."


"What do you remember?" asked Nat, going into "Doctor" mode. "Your life on Earth?"

"That, yeah. And..." he stopped, eyeing them both, unsure. How will they take it? Sure, he's Nick, but he's also a vam...

"And?" said Nick, quietly. So quietly, they could all hear the ventilators blowing.

"You. And Natalie. You're both...vampires."

"Schank..." began Natalie, but Don barged forward, before his courage failed him.

"It all came back to me while I was shaving, Nick. I nicked myself, and I saw the blood, and I thought of blood, and you, and then it all clicked." He stopped, nearly gasping for breath, whether because of talking too fast, or genuine fear, he couldn't be certain. Nick leaned close, and Schanke could hear his own heartbeat rise, hammering against his ribcage like a blacksmith. He began to sweat, and soon Nick's eyes filled his vision. Nick's eyes, the eyes of a vam...

But then the eyes were replaced by a smile. The boyish smile of his old partner, Nicholas B. Knight. Kind, gentle, friendly. And, a little sad.

"I know, Schanke," said Nick. "I sensed it, earlier. But don't worry, you're in no danger."

"Yeah," said Natalie, sitting next to him. "We're not going to hurt anyone. We're not like..." She stopped, unable to bring herself to utter that name.

"LaCroix?" Schanke said, gingerly. From the sudden angry flush that swept over Nat's face, he could see that he was right. "Toronto's very own Vincent Price?"

"Yes," said Nicholas. "We're...what he is, but we're not like him, Schanke."

"We hate it, Schank," added Natalie. "In fact, we came to Alpha to get away from him and the rest. Because we hate what we are. And, to do research. To find the cure for what we are."

"A cure? But you aren't a doctor, Nick."

"I have been. Several times, in fact." He explained. "We decided Alpha was one place where LaCroix couldn't reach us. We were getting close, Schanke. Then came Breakaway, and...phfft!"

"Then you aren't..."

"No, for heaven's sake," said Nick. "I...we could never hurt you, Schanke. You're a friend. More like a brother. Keeping the secret before was only to protect you. From LaCroix. The Enforcers. You and your family had to be protected. But now..."

"Nick, I..." began Schanke, but he stopped, more memories flooding in, threatening to overwhelm him. He saw Myra, the crash, LaCroix, Janette, Nick, here on Alpha. And himself, too. Here, next to the pool, speaking to Fleur, talking to... He sank in his chair, head in his hands. It was all so much!

"Schank, you're tired. You need..."

"I was here, before, wasn't I?" he asked, head snapping up, suddenly. "Nick? I remember being here, on Alpha, before the waste dumps went kablewy ."

"Yes," said Nick, sparing Nat a glance. See? He mouthed. I told you! "You appeared to me, Schank. Warned me to leave Alpha. I...didn't listen."

"But...oh damn! Why can't I remember more?"

"It'll come back, in time," said Natalie. "Just give it time."

"If we have it," said Schanke. "I heard two of the nurses talking about this vortex thing we're headed for. They were worried Alpha's going to be crushed or cooked by radiation, or something."

"Hey, we'll live through it,' said Nat, not sounding entirely confident. "After all, we made it through the Black Sun."

"Yeah, but this time, there's all that radiation," said Don. "I heard it cooked a probe, or whatever. How the heck are we going to ride out the ultimate X-ray machine?"

"Frankly...we don't know," Nick admitted. "We're working on the force field, but we can't be sure it will hold."

"I see. That's why the dinner, tonight, right? One last festive occasion, before we die?" Schanke said, sharply.

"Schank, I...okay, yes. I promised something to Harold and Egbert a long time ago. Then you...returned, and we decided..."

"I get it, Nick. I'm sorry I snapped. It was wrong." He was silent a moment. "Can we survive, Nick? Any of us?"

"I just don't know, Schanke. We're setting up to try and shield everyone down in the catacombs. But if the force-field fails..."

"Maybe I should have stayed dead,' quipped Schanke. "At least there, or buried in your transporter, I wouldn't have to worry about being sizzled to death by..." he fell silent, and got that look Nick recalled so well, from Toronto. The look that said "Donut" Don was on to something, and the bad guys had better watch out.

"Schanke?" asked Nat.

"Nick," said Don, slowly, "what would happen to me if I was still inside that machine? Just a bunch of electronic signals, or atoms, or whatever?"

"Happen how do you mean?"

"Well, if your transport thingy protected Harold and Egbert from fire, well, what if something happened to everybody, like...radiation?"

"You mean..." began Nick.

"Yeah. If that device could save you all from being burned to a crisp, could it maybe protect someone in it from radiation?"

"Well, if the memory buffer was shielded sufficiently, your pattern...would..."

"Oh My God, Nick!" said Nat, suddenly. "Do you think?"

"It''s possible. Maybe." He thought hard for a moment, then moved to the commpost. "Schanke, you've got to get back to Medical. No 'ah ah ah', Schank. Doctor's orders. We'll have time for talk, later. " He keyed in a code, and waited. After a moment, Commander Koenig appeared on the little screen, looking tired, and clearly not pleased to have been disturbed. Awakened was more like it.

"What is it, Doctor Barber?" he asked, rubbing his eyes, and keeping his tone civil.

"Commander, can you call a science conference, at once sir? I think I have the solution. I have to go to the lab, and check on something. But, if I'm right, this is it."

"The solution? To the vortex?"

"To our survival, Commander."

Chapter Seven

"Ride it out? How?" asked Tony Verdeschi, as Nick laid his plan out before the assembled group in the Commander's office. "In the computer?"

"Essentially," replied Nick, and directed their attention to a monitor. "I've run the simulation twice now. We link all the salvaged memory banks from the BaseShip together, and then scan everyone on Alpha into the transporter, and store them, as it were, inside the machine."

"You're kidding," said Alan, slowly.

"No, I'm not. I've run a few quick tests, with one of the animals. If we keep the matter stream continuously cycling through the buffer, there's a better than 96% chance the patterns will remain intact."

"But what about any radiation that might penetrate the computer banks, and scramble the memory?" asked Victor.

"There is that risk, yes," conceded Nick, "but, if we set the banks up in the lowest part of the catacombs, and shield them, and the cable trunks, with as much lead as possible, it could work."

"And if it doesn't?" asked Helena.

"Then it will be an infinitely better death than being fried by radiation, or suffering as the Moon comes apart," said Nick. "At least I think so."

"The risk," said Tony, voice rising slightly, "is..."

"Is too great to do nothing," said Natalie, thumping her hand on the table. "And we have less than 19 hours till we get swallowed."

"She's right,'" said Maya. "We've no time to dig deeper, or to line the shelters with enough lead, which we don't have anyway. This is our only chance, Tony. Commander."

"Victor?" asked Koenig, turning to his old friend and teacher. "What do you think? Is it feasible?"

"There are a lot of unknowns, John," said the old academic, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "No question about it. But we've not the luxury of time to investigate other possibilities. This would seem to be our only chance."

"I agree, John," added Helena, with a heavy sigh. "We've no other option."

"Well, I'm in," chimed in Alan. "Professor Bergman's right, Commander. We just don't have the time."

"We'll I've got a question," said Tony, seemingly determined, as always, to play party pooper to the limit. "Just who gets to stay behind, while we're all a bunch of digits, and operate this doohicky?"

Nick, of course, said that he would. As the originator of the idea, he said he had no moral right not to share in the risks. As the first Human preliminary test subject, he was scanned, buffered, and returned to solidity an hour later.

"So far, so good," said Helena, after giving Nick a checkover, "but how will you survive, remaining behind?"

"I'll wear one of the heavy radiation suits," replied Nick. "Besides, I 'repair' easily."

"And if you die, and come back, where will you get sustenance, Nick?" asked Nat.

"I'll keep some with me, under the suit."

"You can't Nick," said Schanke, once again eating. "If you die..."


"Nick," said the other, eyes deadly serious.

"Look, you know I'll heal, if it gets too bad."

"Like you did, back in the late '40's?"

"Excuse me?"

"Nevada, Nick. You were in Nevada, downwind from one of those early nuclear tests, only you didn't know it, then. You, Janette, and LaCroix got sicker than dogs, and it took you nearly a week to recover, even with fresh, healthy blood."

"How did you know about that?" asked Nick, slowly.

"I told you, Nick. I've seen the Big Guy. God. Mr. G. He told me all about it. And Fleur and your mom clued me in on a few things too, like your chivalrous knight in shining armor attitude. Always rushing in, to save the day. Like the time your father took you hunting, and he was nearly gored to death by a wild ox? Eight-year-old Nicholas grabs daddy's sword, and attacks it on his own."


"Nearly got killed yourself," said Don. "If that had happened, think where it would have left me." He watched Nick smile, recalling the long-ago event. For centuries, the aurochs' head had hung over the fireplace in the Great Hall of Castle deBrabant.

"Actually, it was more like rusty chain mail," Nick quipped. "Okay, so what's your point?"

"Let me do it, Nick."

"You, Schanke? But you know nothing about this device. And you're still weak. If I can't handle the radiation, how will you?"

"I probably won't. But Nick, I serve no purpose here. I don't know diddly squat about Moonbases, or Eagles, or any of that stuff. I'm no loss."


"And I've been dead before, Nick. It's not that big a thing for me. Not anymore."


"Look, Nat's right. If you do it, and get really whacked by radiation, you might get a really bad case of the vampire munchies, and chomp down on the first one to return. And if the radiation is high enough to lay you out, what about any blood you keep with you? It'll get ruined too."

"No, Schanke. I'll keep the blood under the suit with me. And you don't understand the machine."

"What's to understand? It's got on and off and rewind. It can't possibly be any harder to get working than my old car."

"No. I've already told Commander Koenig that I'll be doing it."


"No. That's final."

As Kano and Ouma raced to configure the memory banks, Nick and Victor were laboring to refine the process as much as possible. The main problem was pattern integrity. With so many patterns in storage in a jury-rigged system, might they not begin to lose individuality, or begin to degrade? At this late stage, though, there was little they could do to improve the device. Time was at a premium.

At T-minus four hours, Nick and Nat sent the first Alphan in. All seemed well, and then a second, followed by a third. Soon, virtually every living thing on Alpha was disappearing in a wash of light, replaced by a computer memory pattern. There was some question as to whether the process was totally safe for the unborn. Unfortunately, no data existed on this matter, and thus the computer could do no simulations.

"I'm willing to take the risk," said Athena.

"And I as well," chimed in Maya.

Tony, predictably, was uncertain about sending Maya through, and suggested that the ladies ride it out in radiation suits, shielded like the memory banks. Maya pointed out that if things went south, they would die along with everyone else. If not, and the transporter system failed to return everyone, they would die, slowly, of starvation on a derelict base.

"Best we all go together, Tony," said the Psychon, next to the machine.

"We've been through too much to just have it all end now," said Athena. "Besides, I'm too fat for the suit, anyway."

"Yeah," said Alan, behind her, suppressing a grin. "Let's go. See ya on the other side, Nick."

"You too, Alan," replied the vampire. He hit the controls, and as the process took hold and he began to fade out, Alan said, "Look on the bright side. Maybe the radiation will improve your beer, Ton..."

"Nick, can you keep him in there permanently?" asked Tony oh-so-innocently.

"Come on, Tony," laughed Maya, and soon the Verdeschis were gone as well, followed by Helena, after a passionate farewell to the Commander, then finally Koenig.

"The Captain's the last to leave," quipped Nick, as Koenig stepped into the chamber.

"Not a sinking ship, I trust," replied Koenig. Even now, outside the lab windows, the nebula was thinning out, as Alpha drew ever closer to the vortex.

"We'll get through, John," said Nick, referring to the Commander by name for the first time, his movements awkward in the bulky suit. "Athena was right. We've come way too far, through too much. Besides, if we all croak now, what becomes of Arra's prediction?"

"Good point, Nick. Okay, let 'er rip." Nick slid the paddles up, till the chamber was filled once more with light. Then, he was alone.


"Come on out, Schanke," he called. Almost at once, Schanke emerged from an equipment locker.

"Why didn't you say anything, Nick?"

"I didn't want a scene, Schank, or Tony calling Security. Now you are going, and that is that." Nick looked at him, eye to eye, and started to push a thought. "You..."

He never finished. Quick as a snake, knowing about his old partner's vampiric speed, Don pulled the laser from behind his back, and fired a stun blast at Nick. Nick being what he was, it took more than one shot, but at last the vampire crumpled to the floor, unconscious.

"I'm sorry, Nicky 'ol boy," said Schanke, as he began to remove Nick's suit, "but this time, Donut Don is calling the shots. Ya hear?" He drug the nearly naked Nick into the chamber, and hoping that he accurately remembered what he'd seen from his hideaway, sent him after the rest, into digital limbo. "81 Kilo, over and out."

Chapter Eight

At T-minus 14 minutes, Donald Schanke, entombed from head to foot in the radiation suit, looked out the only remaining unshuttered window in the lab. A few degrees above the lip of Plato Crater, the vortex loomed like some hungry predator, waiting for its prey to come closer.

Most of the systems throughout the base were down to conserve power, along with the gravity generators. Life support was reduced, except in hydroponics, to a bare 10%, every spare watt being pumped into the Bergman Forcefield, both power systems and field upgraded with acquired technology.

"Well, Don," he said aloud to the walls, "you've done it. Gotten yourself into a real sticker, as Myra would say. Oh Myra. If only you could see me now. Or maybe not." He couldn't suppress a chuckle. "Yeah, and if the radiation doesn't kill you..." As he spoke, a slight tremor rippled through. "The earthquakes will."

"No", a voice seemed to say, everywhere, yet nowhere. Schanke looked around, but saw no one. He turned back, to look at the commlock Nick had left next to the transport cage. It was linked to the computer, and displayed the sensor readouts on the vortex. The range was currently at just under 200,000 miles, closing at over 50,000 per minute, and accelerating. The radiation hammering on the shields was staggering, though he lacked the technical expertise to fully grasp what the numbers and squiggles all meant. What he did understand was that a little over 85% of it was being effectively blocked by the screens, and that...

And that the vortex now filled over a quarter of his sky, the material around its edges fluorescing and glowing, giving the phenomenon the appearance of ghostly teeth. Small objects, no doubt space debris, zipped past to be swallowed by the stygian blackness.

Don was afraid, as he watched the vortex grow closer, grow ever more bloated. That...thing was about to swallow the Moon the way a drain swallowed soap bubbles. And considering what usually happened to soap bubbles afterwards, he wasn't all that sanguine about the Moon's chances.

Yet, he was also un-afraid. Having died horribly once before, it held no real terror for him any more, though the idea of being irradiated and then ripped apart by some weird space phenomenon he couldn't even name thrilled him no more than being blown up and crashing in a plane. Either way were bummers. But he'd been sent here for a purpose, and he didn't think he would have been if there were no chance for Alpha. The Alphans, and their journey, would go on. They would meet their destiny.

With or without him.

He looked out the window once more. No trace of stars or nebula remained in view now. All was the blackness of the vortex. He checked the commlock.

"Anomaly boundary in one minute, mark," droned the computer. "Shields at 94.3%."

"Uh...radiation?" asked Don.

"Radiation deflection currently at 89.7%. Bombardment on shields has dropped by 4.17%."

"I guess that's good," said Schanke. He spared another look out the window. Nothing. He looked back to the commlock, the numbers counting down.

Twelve seconds. Eleven. Ten. He quickly refitted the lead shutter to the window, and heard the computer say...

"Vortex boundary positive," and closed his eyes.

It would have looked, to any observer with a God's-eye view, as if the Moon actually hesitated a moment, on the very lip of the vortex. Like a basketball on the rim of the hoop, it appeared to wobble slightly, as if reluctant to take its final plunge. But finally, ineluctably, Earth's errabundic one-time satellite gave up the struggle, and surrendered to the abyss.

The first thing Schanke noticed, once he opened his eyes again, was a dimming of vision, as if his circulation had been momentarily choked off. The remaining lights did the same, casting the room into almost total blackness. The base shook, and a feeling like static electricity rolled over his skin, making him itch. There was another tremor, and the shutter fell from the window. He moved to replace it, but could not turn away from the surreal images outside.

The total blackness of before was slowly giving way to an eerie blue-white radiance, highlighted by flashes of pink or green. Slowly, it seemed to coalesce, till the sky over Alpha began to resemble a tunnel, a tunnel filled with bizarre and fantastic shapes, and Don felt as if he, and the entire Moon, were being literally sucked through this cosmic cuniculus lucis.

Spheres, filaments, spinning shapes, flashing tendrils of color and light. And, from the rapidity with which they sped by, the Moon's velocity must truly be staggering. It seemed to slide like a toboggan along one "bundle" of filaments, till the void ahead looked to be framed by...

A gate?

That was the only way Schanke could think of describing it. Dead ahead was a "ring" of sorts. A ring that for all the world looked artificial, like a series of braces or struts had been assembled and put in place with the idea of holding the wormhole up, maintaining its shape. How...

For a moment, Schanke felt sure that the Moon was going to hit it, but no. Alpha passed through harmlessly. Moments later, another such structure loomed directly ahead, only this one was more elaborate, branching off, spreading into myriad branches. Schanke was irresistibly reminded of an old mine he'd once explored as a boy, getting lost for hours, afraid he'd never get out. That feeling of sheer terror was back now, as he watched the cosmic "tunnel" race past them.

Was this cosmic phenomenon artificial, then? Had someone, some unthinkably powerful Superrace actually built it? Schanke had never been much of a fan of science fiction, his reading material as a youngster being limited mostly to crime literature and the Police Gazette. Yet this...this galactic subway tunnel looked like just that. A tunnel, bored through the very fabric of space by engineers that made Alpha look a campsite for a bunch of naked hunter-gatherers. Schanke was lost in utter awe at it all.

Then, he began to feel dizzy. An alarm sounded from his commlock, along with the computer's voice. The force field over Alpha had failed. He looked back up. Alpha seemed to be moving even faster than before, and once more passed through one, then another of the bracing "rings". Then the flashing iridescence slowly began to fade, and Schanke could see blackness. Blackness, stars, then...

Then a blackness of his own as he passed out, crashing to the floor.

Chapter Nine

Coming to, Schanke could see absolutely nothing at first. Thankfully, he discovered this was due to both his being face down, and the lights being out. Slowly, he brought himself to his knees, fighting a slow wave of nausea, and struggled to free himself form the helmet of his suit. Once done, he took big gulps of air, felt a little better, and saw the glow of the commlock screen and the transport console. At least something was still working on the base.

It smelled a little stale at first, and felt chill. His breath was foggy in the dim light, and looking up, he saw traces of frost forming around the edges of the window. Not good. Slowly, gradually beginning to feel a little better, he got to his feet, and surveyed the room. Reaching for the commlock, he picked it up. It was, to his surprise, still displaying data from the Main Computer.

"Uh..." he began, then had to think. "Computer?" No response. Oh, right. Press the button, dimbulb! "Computer?"

"Ready," it replied, after a few seconds.

Good. At least something still works.

"Uh...restore power throughout the base." He waited. Then the computer replied: "Unable to comply. Power distribution systems off-line on upper level, sections..."

"Well, where can you restore power?" he asked the machine, a little testily, as he felt his nausea and dizziness returning. He waited a few more seconds. As if in answer, the lights came up in the lab, and the air slowly began to warm. In all, over a third of Alpha was without power, and the technical crews would be busy for a while. As the chill began to fade, he began worming his way out of the rest of the bulky radiation suit.

Dumping the suit on the floor, he checked over the transport instruments. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to remember, then began pushing buttons and sliding paddles. He crossed his fingers, and prayed he'd gotten it right. The chamber began to glow and hum louder, and he hit the green key. The chamber slowly filled with a pulsing noise and light, and he felt a wave of heat wash over him. Within a few seconds, a Human form began to coalesce within the cubicle. Schanke thought the process seemed to take longer than before, as the form faded in and out. Then it solidified into something recognizable, and he found himself looking at Professor Bergman. Victor blinked a few times, seemingly disoriented for a moment, then focused his gaze on his rescuer.

"Mr. Schanke?"

Don didn't answer, but let the dizziness rise up, and blackness take him once more.

When he awoke once more, it was to the sight of the lovely Helena, leaning over him. For a moment, his mind was all in a muddle, then he slowly began to remember.

"Mr. Schanke?" she asked, as she adjusted his IV drip.

"Doc?" he asked, trying to sit up, but she gently pushed him back down. "Is everybody okay? Nick?"

"Here, Schank," came a familiar voice, and Nick appeared from behind Helena. His expression, one of extreme umbrage, couldn't hide his smiling eyes, and relief at seeing his old friend reasonably functional once more.

"Everybody okay, Nick? Natalie?"

"Pretty much, Schank. We did have one casualty, though."

"What? Who?"

"One of the chickens. It came out a real...well, never mind. All our people are fine, apart from a little intoxication."

"Intoxication? As in drunk?"

"Well, it turns out the transporter system developed a glitch somewhere," said Natalie, "and couldn't tell certain kinds of sugars from alcohol. Only one atom difference, after all, and some of us came out..."

"Sloshed," said Helena, with some amusement.

"Anyway, we're taking care of some dehydration, and not a few hangovers, Schank. Other than that, we're okay."

"What about me?" asked Don. "I gotta tell ya, Nick, I felt like pukesville." He raised a hand to his head, feeling the wires to the EEG, then leaned back. "Still do. Is it radiation, Doc?"

"You absorbed the equivalent of three or four old-fashioned chest x-rays, Mr. Schanke," said Helena, "which isn't life threatening. But there may have been side-effects of the vortex that we don't understand, exacerbated by your general weakness. What you did was foolish."


"But heroic," she added, landing a kiss on his forehead, and left to see to other patients. Once she was gone, Nick fixed Schanke with a gaze, and there was a long silence.

"Ah...Nick, I..."

"I understand," said Nick, adopting a mollifying tone. "You may have been right, Schank. The sensor logs say the radiation level dropped as we neared the vortex. Dropped significantly, too. You didn't get anywhere near a lethal dose."

"Well, that's good, isn't it? I mean, I guess the suit did its job."

"Yeah. Now," and Nick leaned close for the barest moment, his fangs coming down and eyes flashing, "don't ever do that again!"


"Got me?"


"Good. Now, here," said the vampire, normal again, and took a styrofoam box from Natalie, who'd held it behind her back. "Ta-da!" The vampires stepped back, as he opened it.

"Oh my God, Nick! Souvlaki!"

Thanks to the advance warning, damage to Alpha was minimal, and by the end of the following afternoon, more than 90% of the base was back up and humming. A pipe had burst from freezing in the water recycling plant, shorting out a power bus, and two airlocks pumps stubbornly refused to cycle, but other than that they had been incredibly fortunate. As soon as things were back to near normal, Commander Koenig called a Command Conference, to assess what the vortex had done to them.

"We've traveled just over 84 light-years," announced Victor, "according to our star charts. But according to the sensor data, were we within the vortex for only seven minutes, four seconds."

"That's incredible," said Tony. "Our speed must have been unreal."

"It still is," said Alan. "It's still off the dial, although we seem to be slowing. If we can trust that, of course."

"It wasn't just speed," said Maya. "That vortex was like a warp in space, Tony. A wormhole." She brought two edges of a piece of paper together to demonstrate. "Instead of the long way around," she traced one finger along the folded length of the paper, "we took a short cut."

"And what a shortcut," added Alan. "From what Schanke described, as well as the sensor video, it wasn't a natural phenomenon."

"Victor?" asked Koenig.

"Yes, someone built this vortex, John. Someone with an incredible level of scientific knowledge. And a technology we can't even begin to fathom."

"Any idea where we are?" asked Helena. Victor punched a starchart up on the screen, a flashing red dot indicating Alpha.

"Here we were, and here we are," he said. "The computer isn't back up completely, yet, but from what the scanners say, there's a plethora of systems ahead of us, including over a dozen G-Class stars detected so far."

"Then there could be habitable planets," said Alan. "A place to live. Finally."

"We can hope," said Koenig. He turned to look out across the surface. During its passage through the nebula, the Moon had acquired an atmosphere, of sorts. Though its pressure was less than a third of Earth's, it apparently wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Lunar gravity, it had been calculated, would be able to hold onto it for several thousands of years before the loss would become noticeable. Koenig thought once more of the mysterious world of Ariel, and quite a different sort of atmosphere. Not for the last time did he curse circumstances there. Still, who knew? Perhaps, if they went into orbit around a suitable sun, it could be altered, over time?

As always, time would tell.

"Okay, everyone," he said, turning back to the assembled group. "Let's get back to work."

Chapter Ten

A couple of days later, Schanke was up and around at last. Able finally to keep down every bite that Helena would allow (and a bite or two she did not), he was definitely feeling more like his old self.

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess I was pining a bit, Natalie," he said to her, late that evening in Medical. "I wanted to go back. Back to where I was, before." He sighed, and leaned back, full as a tick. "I guess that's just not on the agenda."

"You were sent here for a purpose, Schank," answered Nat. "You ended up giving us the means to survive. The amount of radiation that got through after the shield failed wouldn't have been good."

"And I'm...okay? I'm not going to mutate into something weird?"

"Not that I'm aware of," she smiled. "The suit worked as advertised, and the anti-radiation drugs we got from the Colonials took care of what little you got. I don't foresee any problems, but we did lose a few houseplants and some vegetables in hydroponics."

"And without enough suits," said Nick, "a lot of people would be dying. You were right, Schanke. You did the right thing. That was one hell of an idea."

"Well, I can't take all the credit," said Don. "It was King Harold and that other guy who gave it to me."

"Harold and Egbert?" said Helena, entering with a tray. "How?"

"Well, like I said, they were brought here by that machine. You said the barn was on fire, Nick, just like the fire that almost got the Commander and you in Scotland. Well, I figured, I mean, I'm no scientist, yeah, but if it could protect from fire, why not from radiation?"

"Simple, but profound," said Helena, looking at Natalie. Interesting, is it not? If we didn't have Harold and Egbert, Schanke would never have come here, and we'd never have had all the pieces in place to have survived this one."

"I guess we really are being looked after," said Natalie. "I just wish I understood it all, Helena."

"Don't we all?" said the CMO, putting a few last things away for the night. "Oh, Nat? I double-checked your work. Your latest experiment survived just fine." She saw both vampires light up. "I have a few ideas, there. Once things are a hundred percent back to normal, let's get back to work on the cure."

"You've got it, Helena," said Natalie. "I'm tired of all the interruptions."

"Well, as long as weird vortexes and nasty aliens leave us alone for a while," said Nick.

"Well," said Schanke, "glad I was useful. Which reminds me, what do I do now, Natalie? Doctor Koenig?"

"For now, Schank, you recover," said Nat. "You rest, and get well."

"Even without the radiation, that body of yours has a ways to go, Mr. Schanke," said Helena.


"NO buts," said Natalie. "Or I will give you many, many injections of the worst kind, Schanke. In the worst possible place." They watched him blanche. "Hhmm?"

"Okay," he said, settling back. "But when do I as least get out of here?" He waved, indicating Medical. "I hate hospitals." He turned to Helena. "Doc?"

"I don't see why he can't be discharged to quarters, Nat," said Helena, checking his chart. "Isn't there an empty one near you folks?"

"Yes," said Nick. "Baxter's old quarters."

"Perfect," said Helena. "As long as your primary physician concurs, Mr. Schanke."

"She does," said Nat.

"Then it's settled, Mr. Schanke. You're outta here."

"Come on, Schanke," said Nick, "we'll help you settle in."

"And after that?"

"Afterwards, well, we'll just have to see," said Nat, making an entry on Don's chart. "We'll find something."

"One thing at a time," said Nicholas.

"Yeah. Like I know diddly about being anything but a cop," said Schanke.

"Well," said Nat, as they led him towards his new digs, "we can talk to Tony in Security, when you're better. Your qualifications and experience as a cop are top rate, Schank. All those awards. And it's not exactly like he's got a pile of applications sitting on his desk right now."

"Yeah. Sure," said Don, still looking a bit glum.

"Schank, what is it?" asked Nick, but Natalie understood.

"You miss her, don't you?" she asked.

"Myra. Yeah. Yeah, I do, Nat." They finally reached his new address, and showed him in. Nick told him that tomorrow, he'd get him an Alphan uniform, get Tony to assign a commlock code for him, and Nat clued him in on what was where, and how it worked. Sighing, Don sat on the bed. "I know I wasn't exactly the world's greatest husband, but...God, I miss Myra and Jenny. I miss 'em so damn much! And the son I never even knew about, and'll never see." He fell silent, looking down at the floor, then about his new quarters, and both vampires could see his eyes get misty.


"I remember it all now, Nick. Seeing you and Natalie in your loft, the night LaCroix nearly turned you into a bug on a card, and you were forced to bring Natalie across."

" saw all that?" asked Natalie, quietly. She hated the very memory of that terrible night.

"Oh yeah, Nat. You have no idea how many angels were working on LaCroix, to get him to not impale you guys. I was actually tired, afterwards."

"I...I never realized..." said Nicholas.

"Of course not, Nick. The state you were in, you wouldn't have heard the Last Trump. LaCroix either, for that matter. We tried to get you not to take Natalie's blood, but we failed." He looked at both of them, and Nick looked away, a brief look of shame crossing his face. For a moment, there was silence.

"Tell me something," said Nat, after a quick moment, rescuing things. "Why did you try to get us to leave Alpha? Before Breakaway. Why? If we had, Nick would never have gone back to Hastings, and set in motion the events that ultimately led to our being here."

"Yeah, well I was wrong, Natalie, Nick," replied the former detective. "Not about LaCroix, or Vudu, or any of that. And there is danger here, folks. But I...I wanted you there, Nick. Back home. To look after Myra and my family."


"Uh huh. LaCroix was toying with the idea of threatening them, Nick. All to get you to come back home."


"I was scared, Nick."

"Why didn't you just tell me?"

"There were some things I wasn't permitted to say. I had to get permission, even to appear to you, Nick. The others, too. You had to choose your course. But, I guess you were needed more, here. At least in this universe."

"This universe?" asked Natalie.

"Yeah. I guess that there are some universes where it all happened differently, Natalie. I don't really understand it all, though."

"Quantum theory," said Nick. "I'll try and explain it to you, sometime, Schank."

"Threaten Myra," snorted Nat. "That sounds so totally LaCroix. So, you bent God's ear to come here, and play 'My Partner The Ghost'."

"Yeah. I guess I still have a lot to learn, huh?"

"We all do, Schanke," said Nick. "Stop beating up on yourself, okay?"

Look who's talking, thought Nat.

"I guess I...just miss 'em so much, Nick," said Schanke. "To see them, just once more..." He looked up at his old partner. "And yeah, I know about her getting married again." Nat raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, I know. It was sweet of you, Nick. Giving her away like that. And in a church."

"Small price to pay for friendship," said Nick. "I'm getting better about crosses and things, Schank. Gradually."

The Barber's left, and Schanke settled in to his new home, at last managing to drift off to sleep. He awoke, sometime amid the wee hours, awakened by what he wasn't sure. Was someone in the room? He turned, and found something next to his bed. A photo, or rather a triptych of photos, framed in what he could see was actual, genuine wood. One shot was of Myra, at a Toronto P.D. party, celebrating Schanke's promotion to Detective, Captain Stonetree behind him, making terrible faces. The middle snap was of Myra, holding little Don, with Jenny at her side. The third was of Jenny, in cap and gown, at her High School graduation. Slowly, Don picked it up, and lovingly ran his fingers over the images, savoring every sight of his loved ones. Loved ones so many years, so many light-years, beyond his reach. He stared, and stared...

Then, cradling the triptych to his chest, Donald G. Schanke, tough, hardboiled, iron-nerved cop, slowly let the tears begin to fall.


"Where was it found?" asked Koenig, looking through the window in technical at the wreck of the alien vessel. It was long and thin, with bulky engine pods and stubby wings. The front was narrow, and terminated in a bulb of a nose. The letters and characters painted on it were unfamiliar. All in all, it somehow reminded him of an old German U-Boat.

"About four hundred yards east of Seismic Monitoring Station Four, sir," replied Jim Haines. The installation had gone silent shortly after passage through the wormhole, and he and a team had gone out to check on it. There, they had found a wrecked ship. Apparently still more or less in one piece despite its crumpled appearance, it had nonetheless ruptured an airlock when it had clipped the station, then skidded to a stop at the end of a long furrow. Too big to be taken into the hangar, it had been brought here by two Eagles with tethers, and rested on the ground, just beyond pad four.


"We found seven bodies, Commander. All Humanoid." As he spoke, they could see Alphan personnel removing a corpse from the ship. "And one survivor."

As near as they could determine, upon emerging from the vortex, the Moon had appeared practically on top of the alien ship. Suddenly confronted with a gravity well that hadn't been there a moment before, the ship had found itself violently wrenched towards Alpha, crashing into the lunar surface. The crew, all male, had either died in the crash, or suffocated in the toxic atmosphere, when their air had bled out of the ruptured lock. The lone survivor had managed to get himself into an environmental suit, despite his injuries.

"I'd say he was about fifty or so, in our terms," said Helena, standing over her latest patient, checking a monitor. "He appears healthy, apart from his injuries."

"How bad?" asked John.

"He's got a fractured left femur, two broken ribs on that side, a badly subluxed shoulder, and a concussion. There was some internal bleeding, too."

"Will he live?"

"He's got a good chance. He seems quite fit and athletic."

Koenig nodded, and looked over at the man's clothing. Apart from his sophisticated environmental suit, he'd worn a black uniform, and a pistol in a holster on his hip. The pistol was a laser, and he was about to take it and the suit to Technical, when the door opened and Athena Carter entered. She looked at the uniform, then the comatose alien.

"Lords of Kobol!" she swore. "It's true."

"Athena?" asked both Koenigs, taken aback somewhat by her sudden bursting into Medical. "Are you alright?" asked Helena.

"Alan showed me the alien ship, Helena, Commander, and I just couldn't believe it," replied the Caprican woman. "I had to come and see for myself."

"What's the problem, Athena?" asked Koenig. "Do you know this man?"


"Commander," said Ouma, over Koenig's commlock.

"Koenig here, Ouma."

"Computer now at one hundred percent, Commander. And it has come back with an identification on the alien vessel, sir."

But Athena beat him to it.

"He's the Commander of a Destroyer, sir," she said. "He's Commandant Leiter, of the Eastern Alliance of the Planet Terra."

This is story 4 in the "Forever Alpha" series. Previous story - Next story
Copyright (c) 2002. 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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