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A New Testament

Authors: Steven van der Merwe
Episodes: Set after Message From Moonbase Alpha
Show Year: Y3
Rating: PG
Date: 2000
The descendants of the original Alphans return to the moonbase. Their subsequent discovery is so remarkable -- even profound -- that it necessitates a complete rethink of human history...
First published in the fanzine "Semper et Ubique"
Average Rating: 3.0/5 (based on 1 reviews)

Author's Note

Minor final alterations have been made to this online version of "A New Testament". Due to the likely readership of the original printed version, American English has generally been used throughout.

Dedication

With appreciation and full acknowledgement to the original creators and authors of Space: 1999, and especially to the brilliant Johnny Byrne. Thank you, sir, for deeply touching the heart and imagination of a nine-year-old boy in Africa so many years ago. You made my future indeed fantastic.

Links

Message From Moonbase Alpha:
www.kikgraphics.demon.co.uk/spaceyr3eg.html#Episode One
www.space1999.net/catacombs/txmfma.html
MainMission: 2000 Convention:
www.cybrary1999.com/con2000/

Prologue

Dear diary. Today we say our last farewells to this place we have called our home for so many years, this unsteerable moon which has travelled aimlessly through the endlessness of space for such a long time.

Our initial findings proved correct. We'll be within range of the planet for six days only. So little time, yet enough for us to gather our meagre belongings and leave you, our wandering moon, behind forever.

And as we take a last silent walk through the hallways and the catacombs of you, our brave but failing moonbase, it is with sadness and with joy. Sadness to leave our home and refuge place behind, but also with the inevitable joy that comes with the promise of a new beginning.

On that day long ago, when we defied the odds by surviving chaos and destruction, we were so ignorant about the destiny of our race -- our naive, jealous and power hungry race, which had yet so many lessons to learn. When this moon was violently flung out of orbit, our group of 311 brave souls had but one last glimpse of our beloved planet... Our fate was sealed and our wanderings through endless space began.

Heed now, our last Testament. We are the only survivors, and we believe that our real journey has just begun. To you, who might one day stumble upon this place to find these writings: May they be a lesson and a warning. Use them wisely. And may our legacy continue through you, oh brave explorers.

The planet we'll be settling on is remarkably similar to our own, the one which had been our true home before disaster struck. The air, the water, rivers and streams, oceans... oh, and the soil. The soil seems locked in stasis, simply waiting for us, ready for the seeds of life. In fact, we've decided to name the planet after the once fertile soil of our own Arkadia. We've decided to call it Earth.

Oh Arra, spiritual mother, how we wish that today you were here. Why, on that fateful day, did you choose to stay behind in the darkness of that cave, waiting for the end? We wept trough our final embrace, yet you were shrouded by a strange sense of knowing and understanding, which seemed so reassuring.

Beloved moonbase, may you encounter countless wonders as you continue on your voyage. May you one day be a witness of the final destiny and purpose of the human race in this mysterious universe. God speed, Moonbase Omega.

Chapter 1 - Main Mission: 2099

Robert Koenig was only 13 years old when the Terra Space Commission, after lengthy debate, approved the plan to eventually recolonize Moonbase Alpha.

Initially there were those who argued that Alpha should be left alone, that it was a solemn monument to their forefathers, a holy shrine. But in the end, logic prevailed: It was too good an opportunity. Construction of any other form of manned base in space would have been an impossible task for the fledgling civilization on Terra, but here they already had a complete base -- it simply needed a thorough overhaul and comprehensive refit.

Young Robert was mesmerized by the whole idea from day one, and not only because of his family lineage. For as long as he could remember, even before he was old enough to read the chronicles of his famous grandfather, the late Commander John Koenig, Robert had been dreaming of travelling in space almost every day of his life...


"Well, Doctor Alexander, who would have thought it back then. It eventually took the Recolonization Program almost six years to get Alpha shipshape for its second life. It still seems unreal, yet here we are."

Lara smiled almost unnoticeably, and briefly gave the few blond hairs protruding over her forehead a sideways touch. But her face promptly returned to its earlier, far more serious expression. "Commander Koenig, you're changing the subject. The Hardware Installation Program in Medical Section is way behind schedule, and already we've had to cope with a broken arm and a badly sprained ankle. Why, those two poor patients are sitting on the floor, surrounded by crates, wiring, tools..."

They were standing in Robert's office, next to his desk which overlooked the hive of activity in Main Mission, the cavernous central nerve system of the sprawling new, refurbished Moonbase Alpha.

Robert stared intensely at his Medical Chief for a moment, for the first time really noticing the classic lines of her face, the strong cheekbones, those beautiful eyes... yet right now Lara carried the iron faade of a very strong-willed individual.

He tried to explain. "The technical team has other priorities, Doctor, ones which are far more important. You know full well that the Far Colonists are threatening secession from the Terra government, and word has it that the rebel group is armed to the teeth. Alpha is of enormous strategic importance, but only two of our nuclear generators are up and running yet, and life support is at an operational level of only eighty percent. I cannot possibly dedicate more technical staff to..."

But she stood her ground. "Commander, I'm responsible for the health and medical care of altogether 311 people on this base. What if another accident occurs, what if the injuries are more severe this time, what if Intensive Care is not ready to receive any patients. And what if..."

Lara's string of "what ifs" was suddenly interrupted by voice calling from Main Mission. It was Ray Stevens, the Main Mission Controller on duty, his voice thick with urgency and excitement.

"Commander, I don't understand this. The long-range radar systems have gone crazy! I've double-checked, but even the backup systems show a Red Alert. There seems to be something very big out there, and it's approaching us at an enormous speed!"

Robert and Lara rushed down into Main Mission, striding the few steps from the Commander's office two, three at a time. "Eva, on screen please!"

The big surveillance screen, glaring down on the Main Mission complex from its setting high up on a wall, flickered into life. And for a few quiet moments, gaping looks of shock and surprise were clearly visible on every face.

"Ken, what does Computer say?"

Ken Parks, a young graduate from the David Kano School of Information Technology who finished first in his class the year before, didn't hesitate. "It is far bigger than just a large asteroid, Commander. Computer's initial calculations indicate something almost the size of our own moon, something like a wandering planetoid!"

Koenig rushed over to Ken's terminal, and stared at the flood of data intensely for a few moments.

"Eva, please locate the Professor and ask him to come to Main Mission immediately!"

Chapter 2 - Alpha Child

Jack Crawford took a short break from his busy schedule, and sat down at his desk. For a few moments he reflected on the ironies of life. He was but a child all those years ago when Moonbase Alpha was finally evacuated, to eventually become the oldest person to return.

"Well, I'm not really a writer," he thought, "but there's a deadline, and in retrospect I do owe the editor of the Terra Times a favour"... and he wondered where to start. In fact, he felt rather flattered when he was asked to submit a series of articles on his life, his achievements and his dreams. And on the fact that his destiny and his career took him full circle from Alpha to Terra, and now back to Alpha, the place of his birth.


Terra Alpha - the rarely used full name of the planet - had ultimately been kind to them, despite their initial misgivings way back in 2019. When it became clear that their life support systems would inevitably fail, that the moonbase would be unable to support them indefinitely, fate intervened, like it did so many times before. A strange magnetic force in space unexpectedly altered the moon's course, giving them a lifeline in the form of a planet: Terra.

The final Operation Exodus saw them settling on the planet in harsh winter conditions, not out of choice but because of necessity. Those early days were extremely difficult, especially for a fatherless child. What should have been a joyful new beginning, became a nightmare, a desperate struggle for survival.

The group consisted mainly of scientists and technicians, yet many of them had no choice but to turn to full time farming. They had to learn by trial and error. They faced the unknown, and every new day brought new obstacles and dangers. There were wild animals, strange insects that brought new diseases, and severe storms which sometimes destroyed crops, claimed lives and damaged their fledgling infrastructure.

Yet, through years of hard perseverance, the brave colonists made Terra their own. Slowly, at first hardly noticeable, the community prospered. Bit by bit, the future started to look increasingly bright. The birth rate increased, the population grew, towns and schools and factories were established. Eventually even the principles of democracy, trade and currency were introduced, and the economy boomed.

Who would have thought back then that the small community's first makeshift clinic would eventually grow into the vast medical facility that sprawls across the meadows today... On the official opening day of the Helena Russell Memorial Hospital, Jack experienced a mild paradigm shift. To him it was final symbolic proof that they've made it. That civilization, peace and intellectualism have triumphed over chaos.

"How easily we could have slipped back into barbarism, how easily we could have turned our backs on our intellectual heritage, and how easily we could have reverted back to becoming nothing more than roaming animals ourselves during those difficult early days," he reflected.

It was as a teenager on Terra that Jackie found his true calling in life: The magical lure of science and mathematics. In adulthood he became one of the founding fathers of Victor Bergman University, later heading up its Faculty of Sciences for many years.

And when the Terra farming community's eventual spread over a wide geographical area necessitated better long-range communications, Professor Jack Crawford led the team who designed, built and launched three satellites into orbit around the planet. Despite the sad loss of his wife shortly before the launch, he felt such a proud sense of accomplishment as he watched satellites Sandra, Yasko and Alibe disappear into the wide blue yonder. Against severe odds, Terra's growth had indeed been remarkable.


During all those years of perseverance, hard work and community building on Terra, Moonbase Alpha increasingly became a fading memory. Harsh reality dictated the legacy of Alpha to be relegated to the history books, a mere incidental fact of how the human population on Terra came to be, only taught to first graders in history class.

There was that brief visit to the moon in 2044 when its highly elliptic, comet-like orbit swept the wandering moon to within Eagle range of Terra for a brief period. But the purpose of the visit was merely to retrieve a few cargo loads of equipment and records which had to be left behind during Operation Exodus twenty five years earlier.

In 2069 the moon briefly came into view again as it swept towards the inner planets of Terra's solar system. But this time there were no means to visit Alpha in any event, the last Eagle spacecraft having long been stripped of its electronics, its engines and its superstructure to address more immediate concerns. Alpha's flypast, as well as the centennial anniversary of the day when mankind took that giant leap by setting foot on another world for the first time, were merely observed in a solemn ceremony, attended by only a handful of Terrans since it happened to be in the middle of the harvesting season.

Yet the moon's 2069 passing was not without consequence. A few months after the event, an announcement made headlines in the newly established Terra Times: Two young amateur astronomers continued to track the moon's orbit that year, even long after it had disappeared from naked eye view. Gerry and Sylvia's observation was in itself an astonishing achievement, since astronomy had not been a systematic pursuit in decades - after all, the community on Terra had more pragmatic demands on its skills and labour.

Not only did they confirm that the moon's orbit would indeed take it past Terra again twenty five years later, in 2094, but this time it would approach the planet much closer than ever before. In fact, it would be so close that the moon might just alter its path again and become locked in orbit around Terra!

Jack temporarily took his leave from the New Eagle Design Team, and convened a special science committee to evaluate the calculations, and yes, the predictions made by those two eager astronomers were indeed confirmed...


Crawford's reflection was abruptly interrupted when a commpost screen behind him flickered into life. He recognized Communications Specialist Eva Spencer, and she sounded excited.

"Professor, we need you in Main Mission urgently. The long-range radars have picked up a gigantic object in space. And it seems to be on course for Alpha!"

Chapter 3 - Collision Course?

"Ken is right, Robert. The current information is simply insufficient. Computer can only give us the same vague details that we already know. Without a complete set of data it cannot carry out any meaningful calculations. But I did manage to cross-check the initial visual observations with the data from the long-range systems, and it looks to me as if we do not have much cause for concern. The gigantic asteroid, or whatever that thing is, will probably miss us by many thousands of miles."

Koenig calmly listened to his old friend, yet despite the reassurances, to him the Professor still looked terribly worried.

"Jack, any news yet from the radio observatory on Terra? If we could obtain their data, we could calculate the approaching planetoid's path far more accurately by triangulating their observations with ours."

But the professor shook his head. "I've thought of that, but the continent side of Terra is facing in the wrong direction at the moment, away from us and away from the approaching object. I expect a first report from the Terra Observatory only in about six hours. That enormous thing out there is still very far away, and at least the distance should buy us some time to make a decision."

Koenig did not waste another moment. "Ray, sound a yellow alert throughout the base. Eva, retrieve the first stage protocols of Operation Exodus and program them in standby mode for the time being. Eric, I want all Eagles on standby, fuelled and ready to take off for Terra at short notice, if necessary!"

Eric Carter, Alpha's Reconnaissance Section Head and chief Eagle Pilot, jumped into action, grabbed his commlock and rushed down a corridor. Main Mission personnel scurried in various directions. Preparations were made, instructions were entered into various terminals and commands were hastily given over several communication systems...


Six hours later, a united sigh of relief was visible on every face throughout the sprawling Moonbase Alpha. The triangulated data from the Terra Radio Observatory had brought the deliverance that everyone had hoped and prayed for. Alpha was safe. The runaway planetoid would indeed miss their moon by a very wide margin.

The Yellow Alert, which later became a Red Alert, was cancelled and all Alphan personnel returned to normal duty. Everyone but Jack Crawford.

The elderly professor was unable to concentrate on his Terra Times assignment. Deep down, perhaps subconsciously, something was bothering him intensely, yet he couldn't put his finger on it...


Robert assessed the chaotic situation in Medical Section, and spoke a few kind words to the two injured patients.

He turned to Lara, who was not at all impressed about the further setback in the installation schedule of her domain on Alpha, a direct result of the false alarm.

"At least it was a good exercise, Doctor. A false alarm, yes, but we know now that Alpha is ready and prepared for full evacuation at short notice, if ever it should become necessary."

"Commander, my orderlies and I have done what we could to get a basic makeshift clinic ready in here, but we are all medical professionals, not technical people. It would be a great help if we could at least get the life sign monitors connected to the main computer."

Robert's commlock bleeped, and the face of Controller Ray Stevens appeared on the small built-in screen. "Commander, the scanners have picked up a faint radio signal, almost like an automated pulse. And it seems to be coming from that same passing space object which gave us such a scare."

"Ray, stand by, Doctor Alexander and I are on our way. And call the Professor again. Ask him to join us in Main Mission!"


Jack confirmed Ray's observation that the signal was an automated pulse, a simple, linear beep which repeated every few seconds. But still, a radio signal - and coming from what increasingly looked like a desolate asteroid, albeit an extremely large one. Could it be that the people on Alpha and Terra were not the only sentient life forms in this solar system, after all?

Ken Parks and the Professor concentrated for several minutes on the data readout at the young computer technologist's terminal. Eventually Jack looked up. "Robert, I realize this might sound peculiar, but Computer has concluded that the radio pulse is a navigational beacon, very similar to our own in frequency, duration and omni-directional properties."

Lara gasped. "Commander, if there are any indication of life - past or present - on that runaway planetoid, isn't it our duty to investigate?"

Robert clearly hesitated, but Lara continued persistently.

"Commander, isn't this why Alpha has been recolonized in the first place, to figure out, to seek and to find, and to extend the base of human knowledge?"

And for the second time that day, Robert realized that it was up to him to make an important decision.

"Ken, please consult Computer. Will we be able to reach that infernal object by booster Eagle, and if so, how much time will we have to explore its surface?"

The calculation of Eagle trajectories to passing objects was a pre-programmed process, and it did not take Ken long to come up with an answer.

"Commander, taking into account the object's trajectory and speed, an exploration party will be able to reach it and travel back safely, but there's a window period of only three hours for actual exploration before it passes out of Eagle range - if the Eagle leaves immediately."

That was enough for Robert, and he knew what he had to do. "Professor, Doctor, you will both join me on the exploration Eagle. Eva, you will come with to handle communications and assist with trajectory calculations. Eric, you will pilot us. I want Eagle One ready for take-off immediately. Ray, you will be in command of Alpha until we return."

And as Robert and his colleagues rushed out of Main Mission towards the travel tube station - destination Launchpad Three - the Commander turned around and gave a last instruction. "Ray, I want Medical Section fully operational as soon as possible. Call in all off-duty Technical Section personnel if you have to, even if they're asleep. It's a priority."

Chapter 4 - Catacombs

The moon-like planetoid was scarred and cratered by what appeared to be many thousands of years of asteroid impacts. They circled it three times to look for any signs of life or activity, but below the orbiting Eagle there was only barren desolation.

Eric's face appeared on-screen in the passenger module. "Commander, I've cross-checked the source of that radio pulse during each orbit, and I think we have it's exact position pinpointed."

"Then put us down Eric, right next to it if you can. And inform Alpha that we've decided to land on the surface."

Jack was studying the projected trajectory figures of the planetoid, deeply lost in thought. He was still unable to pinpoint in his own mind why something did not seem right, yet when he spoke it was only to remind his colleagues that they had only a limited window period, before they had to return to Alpha.

Robert gave further orders. "I want everyone to suit up. There's no atmosphere out there, and this mission will demand personal investigation outside. Eva, Eric, we'll need some of those hermetic containers, even it it's only for collecting rock samples."


The planetoid's dead surface was covered inch-thick in dust, and small rocks lay undisturbed and scattered over a wide area, much like the surface of their own moon. The gravity was only one sixth of normal, and their progress was cumbersome.

Eva was the first to spot it. The surprise was not so much the small radio mast on top of a low, steep hill - they were tracking down a radio signal, after all, so that was something they'd expected to find. The real surprise was the small, cave-like entrance a few metres below the mast, almost fully hidden from view under a rock overhang.

Even at first glance, it was clear: The entrance was artificial. Square and tomb-like, with crumbling signs of vehicle tracks and spacesuit footprints leading in and out, etched forever in the dusty surface of this desolate, atmosphereless place.

"Commander, look!" Even over his spacesuit radio, Eric couldn't hide his excitement. He was the first to reach the mystery entrance awaiting them, and he was pointing at what looked like beams of heavy metal, framing the entrance, apparently severely corroded by many thousands of years of micrometeorite impact, but still clearly visible against the rock face.

The Professor closely inspected both sides of the entrance, and found what he was looking for. "Look, old hinges, firmly set into the rock. Yes, there was definitely a door here once, maybe even one which could seal to keep an atmosphere inside!"

Nothing more remained to be seen on the outside, and Robert was the first express out loud what everyone was thinking. "Then let's go inside to explore. I know this place looks desolate and empty right now, but I want everyone to stick together. Be extremely cautious at all times. And keep your stun guns ready!"


Labyrinths of long, dark passages, empty rooms leading off to the sides, staircases leading to lower levels with more passages, caverns and catacombs... all apparently carved from the bare black rock, and all of them empty!

The five Alphans explored the entire amazing complex twice, the light from their headlamps fading into eerie shadows around corners and through doorless openings inside this lifeless, dark and airless place.

Eva tried to imagine the labyrinthine complex as it might once have been, filled with electric light, breathable air, furnishings and computer screens... and suddenly it dawned on her. "Commander, I think this was a base once, exactly like Alpha. Perhaps people lived and worked here once, maybe even for the same scientific reasons that we have colonized our own moon."

Robert turned to the Professor. "What's your opinion, Jack?"

"I believe Eva is right, Robert. Look at those small holes, carved crevasses and furrows in the walls and roofs, they might very likely once have been fixture points for all kinds of equipment, wiring, tubing and life-support systems. Yet it does seem as if this place had been very hastily constructed, and of course the question remains why the only entrance is so obviously hidden from view."

Robert closely looked at the walls for a few moments. "Yes Jack, I've had the same feeling. I keep on getting the impression that this place was once more than just a scientific base on some moon-like planetoid. It was a hiding place, or a place of refuge. But who was hiding here, and from what?"


It took a reality check from Eric to snatch the others back to the situation in hand. "Commander, where is the Doctor?"

Lara was no longer with them! She had been there only a moment ago, yet now only four spacesuited figures were standing in that large, underground cavern, the one which marked the deepest dead end of the sprawling, substrata labyrinth.

"Doctor Alexander, come in. Lara, where are you, do you read me?!"

But Koenig's frantic radio calls remained unanswered, and only silence and static came back over the ether. Eva panicked, but Jack tried to calm her down. "She's probably very close by, Eva. It must be these thick rock walls between the passages and chambers, simply blocking our radio signals."

It was then that Robert noticed a small, low doorway in the furthest, darkest corner, a perfect square chiselled from the rock face. The doorway was slightly covered by fallen rock, and none of them had noticed it before.

They walked closer, and the four Alphans were visibly relieved when Lara's voice finally reached their ears. "Commander, come quickly. In here, through the low entrance in the far corner of the chamber where you are. I think we've found something at last!"


It was obvious that the scroll-like book, clad in what appeared to be a leathery cover, was very, very old. Despite the lack of air inside this underground base, the bulky document - or whatever it was - was covered by a thin layer of dust where they found it on top of a rock slab in the centre of the small chamber.

"Wait, don't touch it!" Jack sounded adamant, and everyone automatically gave a step backwards.

"It looks extremely fragile, perhaps even thousands of years old. We'll have to be very careful. Look, there seems to be hundreds of individual pages between those covers. This might be a record or a clue as to whom once occupied this base. But it might simply disintegrate if we don't handle it with utmost care."

Robert glanced at the time readout on his spacesuit control panel. "We don't have much time left, Jack. This planetoid is speeding further away from Alpha as we speak. I think we should take the object back to Alpha and analyze it there."

Jack realized it must have been the very vacuum of space itself which apparently preserved the document they had found. "Eric, pass me one of those hermetic containers please."


But as the Professor carefully picked up the ancient book, turning it on its side to lower it into the container, the fine layer of dust on the leathery cover fell to the floor, uncovering the front cover clearly for the first time.

And five pairs of amazed eyes stared through five spacesuit visors at two short words, written in strange characters on the cover of the book.

Several gasps of surprise echoed over the spacesuit radios. Because, instantaneously, each of the explorers knew that the script was vaguely familiar, and the realization came quickly. Alpha's former history was taught in school on Terra, and as youngsters they had all come across this form of script in history class. Those strange words on the cover of this old manuscript were in an ancient form of Earth writing!

It was a basic proto-European root language, much like Sanskrit, but an earlier form. Or, more accurately - as the Professor pointed out - the words were written in a language known as Arkadian.

It took Jack only a few minutes to figure out the meaning of those strange, yet familiar characters. Those two words on the cover of the manuscript, embossed in gold on a black leather cover, simply said "Moonbase Omega".


Once again Eric was the first one who managed to shake off the feeling of surprise and astonishment, and he reminded his colleagues that time was running out. Their window period has almost expired, and they were speeding further away from Alpha as every second ticked by. The five explorers hastily retreated, out of this ancient, godforsaken and mysterious labyrinth. Back to their waiting Eagle, back to Alpha.

Chapter 5 - Breakaway

The exploration party left the travel tube, and had scarcely made their way to Main Mission down the short connecting passage, when the shrieking sound of the Red Alert Alarm suddenly pierced through the air.

Seconds later, it felt as if hell itself had descended on Moonbase Alpha as the ground shifted and trembled, sparks and smoke flamed out of walls and panels, and enormous G-forces gripped their iron fists around the fragile moonbase.

There was no time to react as the moon gave a violent jerk. The lights flickered out. Fragile human bodies were flung to the floor throughout the base, structures and masts and equipment came tumbling down, and Eagle spacecraft were turned on their sides on their launchpads and in their hangars.


Yet, amid the chaos of screams and panic, the old Professor stayed strangely calm, suddenly realizing exactly what it was that had been bothering him so naggingly, so deep down all along. The very significant fact that had eluded him, the one thing he had overlooked, suddenly stared him very clearly in the face.

The last thing Jack thought of, before he bumped his head and fell unconscious, was the strange, unexplained magnetic force in space. The same force which, eighty years earlier, unexpectedly changed the course of the moon. The same force which had brought their moon within range of Terra when time was running out for Alpha. The same mysterious force field which, Jack instantly realized, was located in space exactly in the path of that planetoid, that runaway moon they had just returned from. The one they had thought was on a clear, safe and calculated trajectory, very far from Alpha...


Robert grabbed hold of a console edge, and managed a last glance out of a Main Mission window before the enormous acceleration forces dragged him down. He desperately tried to fight the G-forces, but they were so strong that he was unable to lift even a finger off the floor.

He too had a last realization, one which instantly chilled him like a shroud of death, before he blacked out. Because what he saw during that last moment, looking out into space, was the runaway moon, the one now known as Omega, flashing by at enormous speed and missing their own moon by a hair's width.

But the real image that frightened him, the one that would be forever etched in his mind, was not the way in which Alpha was being violently flung out of its orbit. It was not the enormous acceleration of their moon, nor the spectacular interaction of gravitational and magnetic forces as Omega missiled past. What shocked Robert Koenig down to his innermost being, was his clear view, in an instant, of where that runaway planetoid was going. It was headed straight for Terra!


Lara was fortunate. She had been kneeling down, in the process of putting down the vacuum container, the one in which they had brought that mysterious book back from Omega. And when she fell, when a dozen G-forces took grip of her, the distance to the floor was a mere few inches.

And as Alpha's incredible acceleration pushed her body immovably to the floor, she too had a last glance before blacking out. Not through a window, not at her colleagues. With her eyes barely able to move in their bursting sockets, Lara was staring straight at a commpost panel. Not at the fire and sparks, nor at the cracked screen or the smoking controls. The last thing she noticed, was a small panel on the commpost which indicated date and time. And the enormous irony of it all struck at her last inch of consciousness like a bolt of lightning.


Because today was September 13, 2099.


"Moonbase Alpha calling Terra. Come in Groundbase Terra. Terra, do you read me?"

It was to no avail. Eva, Ray and other Main Mission personnel took shifts at the communications console, even Ken, who was normally almost glued to his Main Computer terminal, came to help out at the radio desk for a few hours. But Terra remained silent, and the only signal coming back at them was the ever-present static noise of space.

"Keep on trying, Eva. Somewhere, somebody must have survived on Terra. And keep on trying on all frequencies." Robert tried to sound reassuring, but he found it difficult to hide the anxiety in his voice.

"Commander, look at Terra." Tears were welling up in the young Communication Specialist's eyes. "Already our view of her has shrunk to only a fraction of what it was an hour ago, and we're moving further away all the time. We'll never be able to get back!"

Robert instructed the frightened young woman to take a break, and for a while even he took a shift at the radio desk. But deep down he knew it was only a token action. By now, any radio signal would take several hours to travel between Alpha and Terra...


Lara, her co-doctors and their medical orderlies had their hands full. Many Alpha personnel were injured, some severely, during those many hours of breakneck acceleration and terrible G-forces.

At least the Professor was more or less fine, and Lara discharged him back to his quarters after a thorough examination, ordering him to rest. He tried to protest, but she was firm. "We've all been through a very traumatic experience, Jack, and you've taken a nasty bump on the head. Take it easy, and don't start running around the base to see where you can help. The essential systems have suffered only minor damage, and the technical guys are on top of it."

"Then I guess The Doctor has spoken," Jack said with a grin. "But at least allow me to start photographing the pages of that Arkadian document, the book we brought back from Omega."

Lara hesitated for a moment. "Fine, but keep the book in the vacuum chamber and let the robot arm do the work. And for heaven's sake, sit down while you're busy at it."


Despite the rigorous selection process, despite the Terra Space Commission's ensurance that every man and woman on Moonbase Alpha was a highly skilled and disciplined individual, it took more than a day for the general shock, trauma and panic to settle down somewhat.

Robert had addressed the base several times in the hours ensuing the moon's violent acceleration out of its orbit, but every time it had only been to give some or other specific instruction. And he could feel that everyone was desperately looking towards him for guidance and leadership in their desperate situation.

He knew that he could no longer postpone the inevitable. He gathered his command staff in his office, and after a short conference, he walked up to his desk and pressed the button which opened the wide sliding wall which gave access to the huge Main Mission complex. A dozen pairs of eyes stared expectantly up at him, as their Commander took hold of his commlock and keyed in the General Alpha channel.


"Attention, all sections Alpha. This is Commander Robert Koenig."

He hesitated for a second, and Lara moved closer to put a calming hand on the Commander's shoulder. Jack looked at Robert, and gave him a reassuring thumbs-up. The Commander continued.

"As you know, our moon has been blasted out of orbit. We have been completely cut off from planet Terra. As we are, we have power, environment, and therefore, the possibility of survival. If we should try to improvise a return to Terra, without calculated travel trajectories, without full resources, it is my belief that we would fail.
He paused, and took a breath. "Therefore, in my judgement, we do not try."

Chapter 6 - Full Circle

Jack laboured for several days, barely eating or sleeping, and working almost round the clock. He was not a trained philologist, but Computer and the Reference Library proved to be of invaluable assistance.

At times, some of the more idiomatic expressions in the proto-Sanskrit language of the Omega document had Computer totally stumped, and a human decision was required. Jack tried to form his own interpretations to the best of his ability.

And the remarkable, even profound story that unfolded in front of the old Professor's eyes, left him amazed, shocked and doubtful.

At one stage, he decided he must have made a terrible mistake somewhere in his interpretation of the Omega book's contents, and he started from scratch. He discarded his entire initial translation, and began the process again.

But in the end, he had no choice but to accept what he had found.

Earth and Arkadia, Arkadia and Earth. It defied logic. And yet...

The hardened scientist trembled visibly when he eventually found the courage to enter the Commander's office, carrying a bulky stack of translation printouts.

"It's preposterous, Jack! You're a scientist, you've spent your entire life looking at the world and the universe from a clinical, logical and scientific point of view. And now this? You really should know better!"

Robert was angry. Jack hesitated for a moment, deciding that he should go back to his lab and attempt to retranslate and reinterpret the contents of the Omega book once more. But he changed his mind.

"Robert, if you'd just hear me out. I'll attempt to explain my theory in, how did you put it, a clinical and logical manner."

"But listen to what you are saying, Professor. You're discarding the principles of cause-and-effect. You're proposing that a particular event in history happened because of itself. Or rather, that two events in what we believe to be a linear flow of time actually caused each other. It totally defies logic!"

Jack also raised his voice. "Commander, it is precisely because I'm a scientist, and especially a mathematician, that I've come to these conclusions. Look at the statistics, look at all these coincidences. I can still write off one or two coincidences as pure chance, as a simple twist of fate. But when mathematics is faced by an overwhelming amount of so-called coincidences, they start to form a statistical pattern. And cold, hard scientific principle dictates new conclusions when faced by such overwhelming evidence."

Robert hesitated briefly. "All right, Jack. Sit down. I'm prepared to listen to you with an open mind. But I don't have much time, we're in a desperate situation here and there's a lot of urgent work to be done on Alpha."

Jack decided to start with the simpler facts, the ones which, although they contained a number of startling coincidences, were still relatively easy to accept.

"Robert, here are the facts. Firstly, the book we found on that runaway moonlet is partially a diary, but also an account of Arkadia's history -- the same planet visited by your very grandfather when Alpha briefly came within range of it all those years ago. And Arkadia, as you know, is the planet on which they discovered the roots of the human race, the one on which those two rebel Alpha staff members, Luke and Anna, chose to stay behind. Their story is a well-documented piece of our own history.

"Secondly, that same runaway planetoid, or Omega, the one which have pushed Alpha out of its orbit around Terra in a giant celestial billiards game, was once a natural satellite -- a moon -- which orbited the planet Arkadia, many thousands of years ago.

"Thirdly, the underground complex we found on Omega was indeed a base, hidden from view, which served as a hiding place for a group of peace-loving Arkadians when a terrible nuclear war broke out on their planet. The war was fought not only on Arkadia, but also in space around the planet.

"The fourth fact from the diary: During an attack on Omega, the scale of which one can hardly imagine, the little moonlet was violently flung out of its orbit. Some of those Arkadians in their underground dungeon on Omega survived, but their moon was flung out into space, and their journey of many years through the universe began.

"And then there's this: The very first page of the Omega diary seems to have been the page that was written last. The inscription was made on the very day that the inhabitants of Omega finally evacuated their base, to settle on an Arkadia-like planet. Granted, the fact that they named the planet after the soil of their own planet, and 'earth' was the closest idiomatic translation I was able to come up with, shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. As I've said, this fact is a well-documented part of our own history."

Robert interrupted. "All right, Jack, I can already see your point of several amazing coincidences here. There's this historic account of a runaway moon with a manned base on it, which closely mirrors the history of our own Alpha -- something which has now happened to Alpha twice, in fact. But perhaps the occurrence of a moon losing its orbit around its planet is not such a rare thing, perhaps it is something that quite easily happens everywhere in the universe, and if so, we should simply accept it as a natural statistical law. And yes, I can also see the question of names. Moonbase Alpha and Moonbase Omega, or the First and the Last, if you want. But this is something I'm fully prepared to accept as mere coincidence -- Alpha was Earth's first base on the moon, and Omega was the last hiding place for a group of Arkadian refugees. The names simply make sense, and I don't believe one should read anything more into it."

Jack smiled, and cleared his voice. "Well, let me get to the more interesting coincidences, Robert. There's the question of the number of people on Earth's moon as well as on Arkadia's moon, altogether 311 poor souls every time, when their respective journeys through the universe began. And have you had a look lately at the exact head count on Alpha?"

The Commander's initial anger has subsided, and he looked at his old friend intensely for a few moments.

The Professor continued. "Robert, don't you also start to get the feeling that the veil of 'coincidence' is starting to wear a little bit thin by now? Isn't it at this point where even I, as a clinical scientist, have no choice but to start believing that there's no such thing as pure chance? That some greater being, some mysterious or unknown force, is in charge of this huge celestial stage play in which the human race seems to be the leading characters?"


Robert stood up from his seat and walked across to a window, his back turned to the Professor. He remained silent for a while.

"Jack, what else does this book, this diary, tell us?"

"A number of very interesting things, Robert, most of which we basically already know, or could have guessed, because of our own known historical facts and documented Earth mythology. For one, the casualty rate on Moonbase Omega was extremely high, not only during Omega's violent departure from its orbit around Arkadia, but also during the ensuing years of drifting through space. And contrary to what we initially might have thought, most of the Omegans did not survive. In fact, in the end only two of them lived to settle on Earth. A man and a woman. They were the ones who left these writings behind on Omega, they were the ones who colonized Earth and planted the human species there, so many thousands of years ago. And yes, Robert, the diary tells us their names. The names of a man and a woman who, according to Earth's own creation myth, were the very first humans in the world. I guess I don't even have to tell you what those names are..."

Robert turned around, and faced the Professor again. "It's a remarkable account, Jack. But still a simple linear one in time, with one event following another in a logical sequence. I really have to admit that I don't understand your earlier theories."

"Then let me repeat my conclusion, Robert. The one which I prematurely shared with you when I walked into you office an hour ago. Yes, our Alpha ancestors established the fact that the human population on Earth had originated on Arkadia. And we now also know how those Arkadians reached Earth, and why their journey started in the first place."

Jack got up from his seat and walked across to the Commander. "Yet, what I'm proposing is that the exact reverse situation is just as true. A parallel history has also occurred, in the opposite direction, but nonetheless one just as real. In other words, a group of Earth people left their planet, living in a base on a runaway moon - Alpha. Eventually, that moon reached the planet Arkadia. Two of those Earth people stayed behind on Arkadia, and planted a human population there, which eventually, thousands of years later, went to war with itself. And during this war a number of Arkadians escaped on a runaway moon, eventually found the planet Earth and planted a human population there."

The Professor looked out of breath, and Robert urged him to sit down again. He joined him on the couch.

"Well Robert, there you have it. A huge repetitive cycle. And these events were not mere remarkably similar ones which simply repeated, they were one and the same event, every time. Time did not flow linearly into the future, it bent back on itself, and met itself again at a particular point where it had already been. Arkadia is Earth's history, and Earth is Arkadia's. And both statements are true at the same time."

"But why, Jack. What could be the purpose of all of this? Are we nothing more than an ant colony, being kept like brainless pets in an artificial universe for the purposes of someone's macabre entertainment?"


Jack knew that it was time for his final trump card.

"The simple answer is, no, we don't know why. Good god Robert, we don't even know how many times the cycle, this full circle in time-bending history between Earth and Arkadia, might have repeated itself. But I do know why I have reached these astounding conclusions, thanks to a branch of mathematics known as statistical sciences. You see, in the face of simply too many coincidences, the science of statistics demand that they be redefined as fact."

Robert looked surprised. "Jack, what is the basis of all of this. Is there another coincidence from this Arkadian diary that you haven't shared with me yet?"

"Yes Robert. A coincidence so profound that it cannot be ignored. Because you see, just as Earth, Arkadia also had its own creation story. The diary tells us of a mythological tale, passed down the generations over thousands of years on Arkadia, a story of a man and a woman who supposedly were the first two human beings in their world. And this is the final fact where the pot of coincidence starts to boil over. Because those two original Arkadians, the man and the woman named in the Arkadian creation myth... Robert, their names were Luke and Anna."

Chapter 7 - A New Testament

"Come in, Robert."

They had been drifting in open space for several weeks, yet it felt like only yesterday when Alpha was still quietly orbiting around Terra. There was so much to do since calamity struck. Repairs to the base, attention to injured people, and time went by in a flash. But at last they had the opportunity to relax somewhat, as the traumatized personnel of Moonbase Alpha slowly settled down into a new routine, each trying in his or her own way to come to terms with what had happened.

Robert entered Lara's quarters, and couldn't help but notice that she had addressed him by his first name for the first time. He liked it.

She offered him a drink, which he gratefully accepted. "Please take a seat, Robert."

He sat down on the edge of her bed. "Lara, there was something you wanted to discuss...?"

She looked at him with a serious expression for a few moments. "Yes, the Professor's ideas about space and time and destiny. You know, his amazing conclusions from the diary we found on Omega."

Robert was at first surprised to learn that Jack had also shared his theory with someone else. But he admitted to Lara that he had not yet found the time to personally read the bulky set of translation printouts. There had been simply too many other priorities which took up his time. What he knew about the contents of the Arkadian document, he learned from his earlier conversation with Jack.

"Robert, assume for a moment that Jack's theories and conclusions are indeed correct. Yes, I know they're amazing, I know they seem to utterly defy logic, but for the sake of this conversation, please just accept them for the time being. Now tell me, what do you see?"

He wasn't sure at all what she meant.

She approached the subject from a different angle. "Don't ask yourself how it is possible that human history seems to have followed a huge, logic-defying circle. But rather, why it happened. Try to look at the big picture. And then let me ask again -- what do you see?"

He frowned, but didn't answer.

"Robert, don't you see that the circle has now been broken?"

He looked into the deep blue of her eyes, and it suddenly dawned on him.

"Robert, perhaps the purpose of mankind's history, up to recently, was to experience life, to learn about ourselves, to learn about peace and faith and trust, and simply put, to grow up. I believe we have reached that point. I believe that humanity has finally passed the test. We on Alpha have been deemed mature enough to encounter Omega, we've finally been allowed to learn the full truth about mankind's mysterious but great history. Perhaps our few decades on Terra was merely incidental, a halfway refreshment station if you like. And now that the circle of history has been broken, mankind has been set free, to go forth into the real future, to meet our final destiny..."

They sat silent for a while.

"I see you have taken up painting." Robert looked at the easel next to Lara's dressing table, covered by a large cloth.

She laughed. "Only in my spare time, to take my mind off things. But to answer your unasked question: No, you may only see it once it's finished."

She poured him another drink.

"I'm painting the face of that old woman, the one referred to in the Arkadian diary as their spiritual mother, the way I imagine she must have looked. What was her name again? Oh yes, Arra. I think Arra must have been a very scared, yet also a very wise and brave woman."

Robert was visibly surprised. Arra? Where has he come across that name before? It sounded familiar, yet he couldn't put his finger on it. Something in a history book somewhere? Or perhaps simply another coincidence? But he was sure it would come to him sooner or later.


Later, alone back at the desk in his half-darkened office, Robert wrote a few paragraphs in his log book, every once in a while stopping, looking up and staring into nothingness. Eventually he stopped writing, closed the book and put down his silver pen on the black cover.

Deeply lost in thought, 33 year old Robert John Koenig Junior, 10th Commander of Moonbase Alpha, stared out of his office window into the void of space, searching. At last his eyes found what they were looking for: Terra's sun, now nothing more than a fading speck of light among a million bright stars. "Goodbye Terra, old friend. You were good to us," he whispered.

He picked up the translation printouts of the manuscript retrieved from Omega, and started reading.


Dear diary. Today we say our last farewells to this place we have called our home for so many years,



Copyright (c) 2000. Reprinted with permission.
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