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Waiting for the Light

Authors: Colleen Bement
Show Year: Y2
Rating: PG
Date: 2007
It has been a year since the Alphans last encountered a planet, and Helena is struggling to deal with the Alphans' long-term depression.
Average Rating: 4.6/5 (based on 3 reviews)

Helena Russell slept through her alarm for the first time in years. All she was aware of was that she was lying on a beach and had only an hour before her shift started at Kennedy Space Center. Her back relaxed firmly on the sand with her eyes closed and at perfect peace. She was soaking up every ray of the sun. She couldn't remember a time when she felt such contentment. She was shocked to be pulled back to reality. She felt disbelief that she was no longer laying on the beach back home in Florida. Her eyes slowly focused in on the stark white walls and the pitch black darkness of space outside her windows. She took a couple deep breaths and tried to bring herself back to reality.

For the past few weeks it was a struggle for her just to get out of bed. She hadn't had feelings of hopelessness like this since her husband Lee had died many years ago. Lately the only motivation she experienced was when there was a crisis with a patient. Unfortunately these instances were far too frequent lately. She wished she wasn't Chief Medical Officer in charge of the health and well-being of a base full of tired and desperate people. They were no longer people from Earth searching for a home. They were now Alphans...inhabitants of a floating moon displaced from their true home, their families, and their friends. It had been almost five years since the moon was blasted away from Earth's orbit, and so far they had not found a habitable planet on which to settle. Most everyone on the base had lost the hope of finding such a home.

It had been almost a year since they passed by a planet. It felt like they were at the end of the universe and they haven't been close to any light of a nearby star. There had not been any excitement or trouble to speak of. Most everyone had struggled through the previous years waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. They felt pretty certain that there would eventually be a habitable planet on which to settle. But lately, the Alphans had been going on day by day without change, and without hope. She knew that this would eventually become a severe problem, and felt prepared to handle it. However, she never expected to deal with it herself. Even her husband had no idea that she had been taking anti-depressants for weeks now. He need not know that the person he counted on the most had the classic signs of depression. Sleeping in excess, difficulty thinking clearly, feeling like there's no hope and would just rather sleep. Then of course she was no different from anyone else on the base. Except that she knew that a doctor's insight usually goes faster in depression than in any other illness. For the first time, she had doubts that she was in complete control.

Like Helena, most people on the base had been hiding it for so long, and it was now affecting them physically. She had never disbursed so many aspirins and anti-depressants. A daily counseling session was a common occurrence for many of the staff, and she tried to come up with creative ways to prevent anyone from sinking even further. There was no way that she could fall apart. She, more than anyone, needed to keep it together...keep the Alphans on their feet and the base running.


It was the sound of her comlock chirping that pushed her get out of bed. It was the second doc in charge on Moonbase Alpha, Dr. Ben Vincent. She knew immediately that she was to be his relief over an hour ago. She told him honestly that she had overslept and that she would be there promptly. As tired as she was, she knew that he was even more exhausted. With the exception of the many disasters they'd had over the years, the Medical Center had never been so busy. The past month Helena had had to brush up on her counseling skills in hopes of helping people cope with a depression that has permeated the base. Everyone looked to Helena for a quick fix; a pill that would make them feel better. There were some that were affected so greatly that they refused to leave their quarters, or even leave their beds. They didn't care what the consequences were. The majority of the staff rarely stepped foot on another planet. They were never part of the landing parties. Most have stared at white walls for five years now.

Ben was adjusting the IV on an unconscious patient when Helena walked in. He was surprised to see her with her hair not fixed and with no make up on.

"Are you OK, Helena?" Ben asked.

Helena adjusted her posture and answered, "I'm just fine, thank you. What's your report?"

"It was a busy night. Susan Johnson asked for sleeping pills for the 5th night in a row and I went ahead and gave her a few extra. I admit the error in judgment. She apparently had been saving them up in order to commit suicide. She was found in her quarters by her supervisor when she didn't show up for work. I should have paid attention to the signs."

"Why didn't you wake me?" Helena asked surprised.

"What could you have done? Besides, I could tell that you needed the rest."

"She had an appointment to see me today." she stated sadly. "I've had 12 therapy appointments this week."

"We're going to run out of anti-depressants," Ben added.

"Was Commander Koenig notified?"

"Yes, I called him about 2 hours ago. He wants to see you in his office first thing this morning."

"I'll be there. What's the status on the other patients?"

Ben directed her to an unconscious man with cuts and bruises on his head. "Sam was injured while working in the caverns. Some equipment fell on him. He has a concussion and vitals are stable. Ann came in for aspirin for carpel tunnel. That's about it."

"Thank you. Please get some rest. I'll see you tonight," Helena added.

Helena checked on Sam and then put a nurse in charge while she went to see the commander. As she walked down the hallway, she composed herself to be ready to face the commander's questions. As she approached his office, her pace slowed. There was a security guard at the end of the hall sitting against the wall starring aimlessly up at the ceiling. She stopped to ask if he was OK.

"Hi, Jim," She started.

Jim was on his feet at attention in a moment. "Yes mam'm."

"Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, doctor."

"Okay, just asking," she responded cautiously. He stood at attention until she left.

The Commander's office was just a few steps away and she took a few deep breaths before knocking. She pressed her comlock requesting permission to enter.

"Come in," John Koenig responded.

"Good morning, John," Helena said as she entered his office.

"Good morning, doctor. What happened with Susan Templeton?" John sounded firm.

Helena sat in the chair next to him and began to explain. "Ben filled me in this morning when I came on duty. Apparently Susan had been coming to him requesting something to help her sleep. Apparently she had been saving the pills up in order to have a sufficient amount to over-dose. She OD'd some time last night. Neither one of us suspected depression."

John rubbed his forehead and stared at the floor. He finally stood and started pacing the room, as he often did.

"John, it wasn't Ben's fault. He took the appropriate actions."

"I don't doubt that," he said then looked straight in to her eyes. "Helena, what the hell is going on? This base can't function if this gets much worse."

"I know, I know,' She said softly.

"Why now? What's changed that this problem has become drastically worse?" He raised his voice.

"It's something that's been building for years. What do you want me to say? You think I have an instant cure for classic depression? These people have been locked up in nothing but plastic white walls for five straight years." she said, raising her voice past his.

"Well, you're the doctor!" He shouted. "Fix it."

"Did you see me walk on water this week? I don't have any miracles up my sleeve." She took a breath, calmer now, "I've been trying my best with counseling and anti-depressants. Ben and I are using cognitive therapy, focusing on correcting the patient's negative thinking and pessimism."

"Well try something else. There has to be a way to get this under control."

"I'm doing everything I know." Her voice trailed off as she tried hard to fight back tears. John immediately altered his tone, and moved to sit next to her on the couch. By then she had already composed herself.

"I'm sorry, Honey," John said as he placed his arm around her. His role quickly changed from commander to husband. They were, after all, together in this as the leaders of Moonbase Alpha. "I know you're doing everything you can."

Helena nodded and added, "I'm open to suggestions here."

"Our situation is what it is. We can either fall apart or choose to make this a life worth living."

She turned to face him, "We have, John. For five years we've survived with rotten food, no fresh air, no sunshine... We've survived-we haven't lived."

John held her hand and said, "We have to do something."

They had nothing more to say to each other as their frustrations had peaked. Helena told him that she'd try to have dinner with him later and made her way out of the room. John stood and again began pace the room. He knew that everyone relied on him. Being in charge of almost 300 people isn't an easy task in any situation. But this job is 24/7, with no time off, no vacation time, and varies from constant monotony to urgent crisis. He cared about each and every person on the base and remained focused on survival. In keeping things running smoothly, he relied heavily on Helena to be his rock to steady and guide him. This was either a stumbling block or the beginning of the end of Moonbase Alpha.


Tony's Pub was full today. Five pilots were engaged in a serious round of Texas Hold 'em, including Alan Carter and Frank Templeton. Thanks to Tony's home-made brew, the pub had been established about four months ago. Not much was served at Tony's. Just the basics- beer and pretzels. Someone tried to invent artificial fish and chips, but they ended up tasting worse than dirt.

Sandra and Operative Kate were creating some disturbing karaoke singing. Far more outgoing then Sandra, it didn't take much to loosen up Kate. She was fairly well known around the base as being pretty "loose" anyways.

Light betting had moved on to the serious waging of unwanted duties. Pilots were always eager to try to wager away their unwanted duties. Everyone was having a great time, except for Frank Templeton. He had lost big today, and had enjoyed far too many rounds of Tony's famous beer. He chugged the last of his beer and slammed it down hard on the table as he stood.

"Well guys, I'm out," Frank announced.

"Better luck next time, buddy," one of the pilots quipped.

"Yea, it wasn't my night. As a matter of fact, it hasn't been my month," Frank added. He swayed as he staggered away from the table.

"Hey, "Started Alan. "You OK, mate? Need a guide back to your quarters?"

Ignoring Alan's question, "OH sure, life is grand."

Alan and the guys played poker for another hour and then finally headed back to their quarters. Alan was the next to leave and decided to check something back at his workstation before he retired. To his amazement there was no one on duty and found Frank slumped over on his desk.

"Frank?" He said as he gently shook him. "Frank! Wake up, buddy." Frank moaned as he awoke, still pretty drunk.

"Alan, Ol' buddy. Time for work already?" Frank slurred.

"Let's get you to bed. Come on," He said as he helped him up and walked him to his quarters. They came upon the last person on the base they'd want to run in to...Commander Koenig.

"Evening, gentlemen," Koenig stated, his eyes fixed on Frank.

"Hi, John. Just heading back after a poker match," Alan stated.

"Commander!" Frank spoke loudly, still slurring. "I've been meaning to talk to you about my pay. I need a raise."

"Do you, now?" Koenig asked. "I'll see both of you in my office tomorrow morning."

"Yes sir," answered Alan. They walked slowly back to Frank's quarters. "Dammit, Frank! What's the matter with you? That pub's a privilege I don't plan on loosin'."

"I don't give a rat's ass. I had a good time tonight. That's all," Frank answered.

"Too good a time," Alan said under his breath. They made it to Frank's quarters and Alan deposited the drunken pilot on to his bed and set his alarm clock for 0600.

Alan made it a habit of limiting himself to 1 beer. He could often be found in Tony's Pub after his shift ended, but he had a rule to always remain sharp. He never knew when a chance to fly would arise, and nothing meant more to him than flying. He finally made it back to his quarters and immediately went to bed. This was unusual for him as he usually stayed up late working or reading. He just had not had any ambition to do much else lately.

The morning came too quickly for Frank as he heard the alarm sound. He smacked it across the room and went back to sleep. Of course, Alan awoke right on time and went to make sure Frank was on his way to the commander's office. Frank was sound asleep when the room comlock sounded.

"Frank?"Alan called. "Wake up, Mate?"

Frank ignored it as long as he could. He finally got up to answer the call. "What do you want, Alan?"

"You're late, mate"

"Yea, yea. I'll be there when I get there."

Alan added impatiently as he signed off the intercom. Alan shook his head and went back to the pilot's station. He had an eagle in desperate need of some repairs.

By the time Frank wandered in for work, Alan had already fixed eagle 9. They were supposed to work on it together. Alan and Frank had become close friends and he wanted to stand by Frank's side.

"It's about time," Alan joked.

"Oh shut it," retorted Frank as he walked over to his work station and kicked up his feet on to the desk.

"Ahhh. By the way, the commander is on his way."

Frank sat up straight and said, "What the hell for?"

John Koenig was leaning far back in his chair staring up at the ceiling. He let out a long sigh just before answering the comlock ring from Alan.

"Enter," he said.

"You wanted to see us, sir?" Alan asked. Frank stood not meeting Koenig's eyes.

"Yes. When I approved the pub, I had reservations. So far we've hardly had any incidences. But lately, the number of incidences has been increasing and I'm thinking of shutting it down. Even I enjoy a beer every once and a while. Let's not abolish the privilege."

Alan added, "John, we're all a bit stressed lately."

"I know, and it's my job to keep this base running. Frank? You have anything to say?"

"Nope," he answered.

"OK, you're both dismissed," Koenig granted.

Both men turned to walk about and all at once Frank turned around. "Actually, I do have a bit to say. Tell me why we've passed up so many habitable planets?"

"Excuse me?" Koenig asked.

Alan turned and tapped Frank on the shoulder trying to nudge him to move along.

Frank persisted.

"Why have we passed up so many places we could have called our home. Instead, we're stuck on this hell hole."

"To what missed opportunities are you referring, Frank?" Koenig asked.

"Let's see...Arkadia, Piri, Meta, and plenty of others. There always seemed to be a reason why we couldn't settle there. At least give it a try. Of course, then you wouldn't be in command anymore, would you?" Frank barked.

Koenig simply starred at Frank for a moment then said, "As I had said before, you're dismissed. And Frank, I want you to head down to Medical Center. I'll contact Dr. Russell." He then turned his chair around and reviewed some reports. Alan pulled Franks' arm and was finally about to get him outta there. John called Medical Center and asked for Helena.

"Yes, John?" She quickly answered.

"I've sent Frank Templeton your way. If he doesn't arrive there, please let met know,"

"Anything I need to know ahead of time?"

"He needs a session,"

"I'll take care of it," she reassured.

Frank finally arrived at Helena's door almost an hour later. Helena greeted him with "Please come in, Frank."

"I don't know what I'm here but I'll humor the commander."

"That's fine with me. Have a seat," she motioned to a chair and he slouched back in it.

"I'm not crazy, Doctor," he started.

"I just want to hear what's on your mind. That's all. Everyone's on edge lately and I just want to help."

"You can help me by getting me the hell off this rock. If you can't do that, I'm afraid that you're useless to me."

"I want to breathe fresh air too. We all want the same thing and we have to be patient."

"What for? It won't do me any good to complain to you because you'll just stick up for your husband."

"Let's get back to you. Would you like some time off? Sandra's made some nice changes in the solarium."

"I don't need a tan," he snapped.

"When I say I understand what you're going through, I'm being honest. I'm here for you no matter what time it is. Any time you want to talk."

"Fine, all right. Got any good drugs?"

"As a matter of fact, yes I do." She reached in to her locked cabinet and handed him a small bottle of fluoxetine. "Follow the dosage carefully and please cut back on the drinking."

"Whatever. Thanks for the stuff," he said.

"You're welcome and please call me absolutely any time you want to talk."

"Fine," he replied as he got up to walk out. But just before he left, his tone changed to a quiet, serious tone and said "It won't do any good. This is base is done for."

She wanted to reply to his statement, but it somehow sent chills up her spine. She didn't know why he'd affected her that way that way, but she was sure that she didn't do enough for him. She planned to check on him later that day to see if he was doing better. She wouldn't get that chance.


It was unusually quiet in the pilot's section this morning. They weren't known as a quiet bunch, yet this morning was an exception. Alan and another tech were busy working on Eagle 9, while Frank Templeton appeared to be asleep at his desk. He starred at the bottle of meds that Helena had prescribed, barely blinking. Frank sat there with the Elton John's Rocket Man singing loudly through his head. He remembered thinking how he always felt the song was tailored-made for him. The people he had left behind for this job were so proud of him! The wife and kids he'd never see again as they were long dead now. It was high time he joined them in heaven, he thought.

Alan glanced over to Frank, "Man, I wish I could cheer that guy up," he said to the tech. He shook his head and then returned to his task.

All that was on Frank's mind was not wanting any more. He didn't want any more hydroponic food, stale, recycled air, and no more imitation coffee. He was done. After glancing over to Alan and the other techs to ensure that they weren't watching, he quietly strolled over to the airlock in the hanger bay and opened it. This caught Alan's attention right away.

"Frank?" He yelled. "What are ya' doin'?

Ignoring Alan he closed the airlock door behind him. At this point Alan had figured it out and dashed over to try to stop him. It was too late. Frank took a deep breath, smiled, and the pressed the airlock. Alan shouted.

He was gone. There was no reason to call medical as there was nothing that could be done to rescue him. He was dead in an instant. He pressed the alarm and called Command Center.

"Command Center?" Sandra Benes answered.

"This is Carter. There's been an accident in the technical section,"Alan said somberly.

Helena was the first on the scene. She sat there starring at the door in disbelief as Alan told her what had happened. The commander and a couple security guards arrived shortly after.

"What happened?" John asked.

"Frank Templeton entered the airlock on his own, for no apparent reason, and-" Helena was cut short by Alan.

"Oh there was a reason all right. He killed himself. I saw the whole thing. He just walked in to the airlock, shut the door, and pressed the button. As calm as could be," Alan explained.

John's mouth dropped as he turned to face away from the airlock. "I can't believe it. This is insane. Second death this week." He turned to Helena, "Doctor. How do you account for this?"

"He was obviously more depressed than I had thought. We did have a session yesterday and I offered time off. I also gave him anti-depressants," Helena explained.

John continued to shake his head in disappointment. "Something has to be done." He then pulled out his comlock and called Sandra in Command Center.

"Command Center," She answered.

"Sandra, set up a meeting with all station heads in my office, 1300 hours," John directed.

"Yes, sir," she replied.

"Doctor, I'll see you at 1300 hours," John replied coldly and then walks out.

Helena didn't even watch John or the others leave. She just stood there, starring at the airlock, unable to move. She slumped down against the wall to the floor and just sat there, pondering how she could have done something different and saved both Frank and Susan. Feeling devastated, she sat on the floor just starring at the airlock. It had been almost an hour and she was still sitting there. Finally a tech came in the room and noticed her. She contacted Medical Center.

"Medical Center," Ben answered.

"Dr Vincent. I don't know if anything's wrong, but I happened to notice that Dr. Russell has been sitting here near the airlock where the incident was, and I have no idea how long she's been here. It just seemed strange and I thought I should report it," the tech stated.

"I'll be right over. Thank you for contacting me." Ben stated. "Nurse? I'll be in technical section. Please call me if you need me."

"Yes, doctor," she answered.

Ben sensed something was wrong and quickened his pace through the corridors. By the time he had reached the airlock, Helena was standing there writing on a clipboard. She had already noticed the tech enter the room, she and didn't want her to think anything was wrong. She immediately stood and began to take notes for her report.

Ben was careful not to bring any further attention to the situation. He quietly approached her. "You OK, Doctor?"

"Of course. Thank you for asking though," she responded without taking her eyes off her clipboard.

"Rough day," he added, trying to get something out of her.

"Yes it has been."

Ben gently pressed down her clipboard to force her to face him. "Come on, Helena. I know you're not all right."

"I'm fine...really." She walked away from him.

He followed her, still whispering as to not bring any attention to her. "Cut the crap, Helena. I know this is really getting to you. You have been doing all of therapy sessions, and you've heard it all. I know it's getting to you. It's getting to all of us, but you're bearing the burden."

"Really, Ben, I'm fine. I just need a little rest. I'll take tomorrow off," she promised with a smile.

"Take the rest of the day off," he added.

"Tomorrow," she promised.

"Deal."

Helena walked back to Medical Center and turned on her computer to type up her report. To her dismay, someone sent an anonymous email to her demanding that she resign as Chief Medical Officer. They went on to describe how worthless they thought she had been from the very beginning and blamed her for the current situation. Logically, she knew that this was simply someone's frustration that needed to be voiced. But in the state she was in, it hurt deeply.

As much as she wanted to just hide in her quarters until tomorrow, she had to attend the staff meeting. After this, she promised herself rest. She saved her report, grabbed a coffee, and then headed to the Commander's office. The last place she wanted to be. She was the first to arrive for the meeting.

She walked in without saying a word, and sat at the table while John was starring out the window. He moved to sit at the opposite end of the table.

"How are you holding up?" John asked.

"I'm fine," she replied confidently. "How about you? I didn't even hear you get up this morning."

"Just busy," he added.

He decided that there was enough seriousness and tried to attempt small-talk. "I wonder what's on the menu for dinner tonight?"

"Nothing exciting, I'm sure. What I'd give for real cocoa beans." she added.

"I'd give anything for a steak," he added.

Helena smiled as the others started filing in. Alan Carter, Sandra Benes communications, science officer Maya, and Tony Verdeschi, head of security. They somberly took their seats.

"Thanks for taking time out of your schedules," John welcomed his staff.

Some nodded, others said no problem.

John started, "I'm sure you're all heard about the tragic deaths of Susan Johnson and Frank Templeton. Dr. Russell believes that depression is becoming a very serious problem on this base. I called you all here today to find a solution to this problem."

Without speaking, most glanced over to Helena, as if seeking her advice first. She picked up on that and immediately spoke, "I estimate that over half the personnel has been affected, and at least 25 % of them have severe depression. Ben and I have been recording incidences and complaints, and offering therapy sessions to anyone willing. Unfortunately were close to running out of anti-depressants. I'm looking for suggestions."

"We have to make changes so that Alpha feels more like a permanent home," John added. "I think we all know that the chances of us ever finding a habitable planet are very slim."

Sandra was the first to offer, "I don't think we make enough use of the caverns. Maybe we can dig further and expand them for our use. Maybe another rec center. Something other than 4 white walls to look at. We have paint, don't we?"

"Yea, white paint," Alan quipped.

Maya added on to the idea, "Absolutely. We could focus a few techs on building a new hydroponics unit in the caverns. There's no reason why they can't grow more spices to make the food taste better."

"Cocoa beans," Sandra smiled. "All women know that the benefits of chocolate."

"We could possibly starting growing plants to add some greenery around here," Tony added.

"Maybe grapes?" Sandra added. "Add wine to the pub menu?"

"Is wine different from beer?" Maya asked. Being from the planet Psychon, she wasn't familiar with most of Earth's delicacies.

"Better than beer,"Sandra laughed.

Tony's mouth dropped, "That's a matter of opinion, of course."

"Of course," Sandra smiled.

John smiled. Finally some fresh ideas. He added, "I'm glad to hear the enthusiasm," he said nodding. "We need to convince people that all hope is not lost. There really is a light at the end of the tunnel and we WILL find it. I'm sure of it."

Helena managed a brief smile as she took a breath. But she couldn't stop her heart from racing, impatiently awaiting more suggestions. She knew these were only long term solutions. She needed something today and she couldn't help but concentrate on the fact that it was her responsibility. Trying to calm her breathing and nerves, she focused. "I think those ideas are valuable and will absolutely help us in the long run. But Christmas is around the corner and typically that's the hardest time of year for people suffering from depression. Changes need to be made now."

The joy in the room sank with her statement.

She continued, "I'm asking for your help. Please take this list and familiarize yourself with it. It's a list of the most common symptoms of depression. Please watch for it and encourage your staff to make an appointment to see either Ben or myself in the next week. We will offer Fluoxetine, an anti-depressant, to all staff. Those who believe they are fine may refuse. Ben and I will set up appointments for everyone on the base. We just want to touch bases with everyone to see where they're at. This includes all of you, of course."

Helena added, "Please remember that severely depressed patients suffer greatly and are high suicide risks. It takes weeks before antidepressant drug therapy starts to work, thus these patients desperately need counseling and caring."

Everyone grabbed a list and shook their heads in understanding. John felt some relief that things were going in the right direction. "Is there anything else that you need from us, Doctor?" John asked.

"Thank you for all so much for your help," she responded. "And please, please take care of yourselves. We especially need to stay focused."

"Thank you everyone. I want a daily report from each department head," John requested. Everyone responded with a yes sir and walked out. "Helena, stay a moment."

"Yes John? She turned to face him still standing in the doorway.

"Are you sure you're alright?"

"Of course," she answered reassuringly. "I'll see you at dinner."

"Sounds great."

Helena returned to Medical Center and discussed the meeting with Ben. She advised that Fluoxetine needed to be offered to everyone on the base.

"We also need to set up appointments for everyone on the base," Helena advised.

"After the incidents this week, I agree. I will send the notification to the department heads to make sure that everyone comes in for an appointment."

Thank you for everything. Are you sure you're OK for the rest of the day?"

"Absolutely. Please get some rest," Ben reassured. "And let me handle the appointments today and tomorrow. You've been handling all of them. It's too much."

"I will relax today." With a sincere smile, she grabbed some medical books and walked towards the door. "I promise."

Ben noticed the books and stopped her, "Helena, I thought you were going to rest."

"Light reading. Don't worry." She retreated to her quarters with the books. Her short walk back to her quarters was interrupted by two staff fighting. Their fist fight bumped in to Helena, knocking the books from her hand. Not wanting to call security just yet, she shouted "Gentlemen!"

Immediately they stopped, breathing heavily and both apologized.

Sternly she stated, "Both of you report to Medical Center immediately."

"Yes Mam'm," they both replied. Helena followed them to medical center and had Ben take one and she took the other.

She instructed the person to have a seat and he refused. "Chris, relax and have a seat," Helena continued.

"I'd really rather stand, Doctor," He responded with frustration.

"Suit yourself. Chris, what was that all about?"

"Just a personal matter. It really wasn't a big deal."

"It didn't appear to be a small matter."

"Really, I'm fine. It was just a scuffle between guys."

"OK, but before I let you go, I need a few questions answered," she insisted.

Chris finally sat down and relaxed a bit.

"Please take a breath. I'm just trying to help. Have you had any troubles sleeping?

"Yes, Mam'm."

"Have you been feeling exhausted and find even the smallest tasks difficult?"

"I suppose so. Yea."

"Do you feel like there's no future for you?"

"Well hell yes to that one. There's no fricken' future for us! We're stuck on a rock floating through space. My wife's probably long dead, I never got the chance to have a kid, my job sucks... is that what you wanted to hear?"

"Yes, that's what I was looking for. I understand what you're going through. I really do."

"Yea, I suppose you do. We're all in this together. I just want out! I don't mean killing myself, I just want out of this hell hole. I want to breath real air!"

"I do too. I'm not sure if we ever will find a planet. I believe that we need to make Alpha our home. I've heard great ideas on how to make some big changes around here. Changes that will make this place feel more like a home."

"Whatever. Can I go now?" Chris asked.

"Do you have anything else you'd like to talk about?" She asked.

"No."

"I'm asking that your supervisor give you a day off and I want you to spend it in the solarium. Also, please take one of these per day." "Helena handed him a small bottle of anti-depressants.

"Thanks, I know you mean well, Doc. I just don't care."

"Please come and see me any time you want to talk," she insisted.

Chris walked out without another word. Helena called over to someone in the hydroponics section and asked that they put any spare plants in the solarium. They had only a few and they promptly placed them in the solarium. She had hoped that a few hours of rest in there would help change their frame of mind. She made a mental note to herself to be sure to take her own advice, and then joined Ben in his office.

"How did your session go with Matt?" She asked Ben.

"Not well. How about yours?"

"Same. I don't know what else to do, Ben, I really don't."

"Have faith. These are hard times and we'll get through them, just as we have so many times in the past."

"I hope so," she said solemnly as she again grabbed her books and headed to her quarters.


She entered the quarters that she and John had shared since they married almost a year ago. It was never easy to find personal time together for the two leaders of the base. Most of her time was spent in Medical Center, while his time was spent in Command Center. She was grateful when the door closed behind her. After setting the books on her table, she collapsed face down on to the bed and didn't move for minutes. She just wanted to sleep and hope everyone and everything would just go away.

Before long she felt pains of guilt and started studying the books on therapy. No where in these books did she expect a miracle solution, but she had to try her best.

John entered the room unexpectedly. "Are you alright?"

Helena slowly sat up in the bed and responded "I needed a day off. My back's been hurting"

"Since when did you have a bad back?"

"I'm fine," she added, still turned away from him.

She lay back down and turned away from him. John sat down next to her and started a massage. She couldn't help but relax, and a slight smile broke on her face.

"Helena, you know how much I rely on you. You're my rock." John added as he continued the massage. "I need you here-fully present,"

With tears beginning to fall, still turned away from John, Helena answered, "You know that was true of me in the past. You could always count on me for anything. But not now. I'm NOT here. Not at all. Every counseling session I haven't helped them. Every time I dispense an anti-depressant, I feel I've failed. No one's getting any better, Susan and Frank are gone-"

"Helena, no one blames you," John interrupted.

"Oh yes they do!" She said firmly as she finally turned to face him. "They expect miracles and I'm all out," She said as she walked to the corner of the room. "I'm all out."

Just then a tremendous bang was heard throughout the base and everyone was plunged in to darkness. The dim lights from the emergency power assisted them in finding their way out the door. John grabbed his comlock as he was headed towards Command Center. "Report!"

Helena headed straight to Life Support section.

"Sandra here. Power's out base wide and the generator has kicked in."

"I'm on my way," John added.

John arrived in Command Center within minutes. Everyone was busy contacting their respective departments. Instead of sitting at his desk, he paced.

"Status?" He barked.

Maya answered, "It appears to be a blown transformer in life support section.

"Cause?"

"Unknown at this time, Commander," Maya responded.

"Any casualties? Damage?" John inquired further.

"I don't believe so. It appears that no one was at the station during the accident."

"What do you mean NO one?" John snapped.

"We'll have to check with Dr. Russell on that," Maya replied.

"Dammit," John snapped. He turned abruptly to leave and the room suddenly went dark. "Now what?"

"The generator batteries may be dead," Maya shouted.

In complete darkness, he fumbled along the wall to where he hoped there would be a flashlight that worked. With luck it worked. He and Maya made their way to Life Support Section by manually opening each door. It was a long journey with no power, no lights, and no communications.

Helena was already there along with 2 technicians. Chief Medical Officer hardly made Helena an electrical expert; however, she understood the basics of how the system worked. She and the techs verified that the batteries in the generators were drained. One tech suggested that they try to harvest the energy from the back up generators from other sections of Alpha.

"It won't be long until we're outta air," one tech stated.

"And how are we supposed to transport the generators here?"
"We can re-route the power to -"

Helena interrupted, "Let's concentrate on the fix here. We've gotta be missing something. Let's take a step back and eliminate the obvious."

"We've been down this road already," Greg added. "I figured it was the transformer but we haven't found any fried parts."

By the time John had arrived, 3 other techs had shown up to help. People all around the base were coming together to await their fate. For the first time in a long time, Alphans were pulling together in a crisis. The loneliness and despair they had felt had vanished while people were huddled around the scarce flashlights, staying warm with coffee.

It had been over 4 hours and the repairs were still in the works. Sandra and Alan were in Command Center with flashlights, not saying a word...just watching the monitors. Finally, Sandra spoke.

"Did you know it's Christmas?" She spoke softly

"Ah yea, so it is," Alan replied.

"I miss Christmas...I miss the Christmas carols we used to sing in church youth group."

"Can't say I ever did that," Alan commented. "But I sure miss music. All music. Especially the Beatles. Bet no one on Earth even knows what a record album is anymore," Alan added.

After a few moments, Sandra closed her eyes and started quietly singing "Silent Night." She wasn't aware that the com system was on and the entire base was listening. In complete darkness, other Alphans started singing along. There was a feeling of warmth and well being that permeated the corridors with each verse. Helena couldn't help but take a deep breath and smile as she heard Sandra's sweet voice. She suddenly didn't feel cold any more. Not only was their spontaneous singing throughout the base, some started praying. They felt sure that God had not deserted them. He was indeed listening to their prayers. The unfairness and desperation they had felt began to fade with each prayer, with every added voice.

All of the sudden, a tech shouted "YES!"

Everyone gathered around that tech hoping he'd found the answer.

"The transformer blew because of some primary windings. It was probably a manufacturer's defect. This caused an ARC malfunction. We'll have it fixed within the hour."

"Nice job, Greg," John stated. "Very nice. Thank you from all of us."

"Sorry it took so long, sir," He responded.

Helena sighed in relief. "Thank you so much, Greg." She couldn't help but feel comfort in the fact that she had brilliant technicians working under her. Her expertise was being doctor, certainly not an electrician. Although the in the back of her mind, she was painfully aware that the fault of Life Support's uncharged batteries ultimately fell on her.

"No sweat," Greg added as he turned to his fellow techs. "Let's get the heat turned back on in here."

Everyone expressed their appreciation and relief to their commander as he started on his path back to Command Center. With each thank you he came across, he reminded them that it was Greg who was clearly the hero. He felt a sense of pride he hadn't felt in far too long a time. His people worked came together in a crisis and worked like a well-oiled machine. He was impressed and finally had some hope that maybe they could get past the depression. Helena stayed behind until the repairs were completed and everything tested OK.

Everyone knew the transformer was an easier fix than the depression. Yet a sense of community instantly began to permeate the base. Most Alphans now felt a renewed and strong sense of direction. Sandra and Helena began to hold community meetings to discuss changes to be made to try to change attitudes. Helena ran further studies to determine who had suffered from the depression and why. It varied depending on the person and where they worked. She found that people who worked in hydroponics have not been affected. Helena began treating patients with bright light phototherapy. The more severe cases were asked to continue counseling along with the antidepressants.

Not that just putting some plants around the base and offering drugs would cure them, but she knew it was a step in the right direction. Sandra had the idea to start painting the crew's quarters with cheery colors...especially blues and greens. They planned to build a rec center in the caverns to get away from the white walls. The idea that they would probably would spend the rest of their lives on this moon and they need to make it more of a home.

John made an effort to spend more time in Tony's pub with his crew, and to pay more attention to Helena. He had realized how far he had distanced himself from his people. This was just his way of dealing with the cold reality of living on a lifeless rock for the rest of his life. It was easy for him to tell people that there was hope for the future of Alpha, but it was surely he and Helena that would have to keep that attitude present. He felt more certain than ever that there was hope for the future, even if it meant making the moon their permanent home. Helena sat across from John at dinner that evening and for the first time in weeks, her beautiful smile was genuine. She had finally felt the security that she no longer needed the beach or sunshine on her face to feel whole. She just needed to remember deep within that she was with a man she loved, good friends she cherished, and a place she could call home.


Copyright (c) 2007. Reprinted with permission.
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