One Moment In Time

Episode 39

(From the Mayan Creation Myth)

In the beginning, there was only Tepeu and Gucumatz. These two sat together, and thought. Out of their muse came everything.


(Derivation of the Moment of Inertial Formula)

If a particle of mass 'm' is joined to a pivot by a thin rod measuring to length 'r,' we know that the distance it travels is equal to the angle the rod sweeps out as measured in radians that are multiplied by the radius 'r.' Thus differentiating twice reveals that:

a = rA


Molten Man aimed his red eyes at the infernal vectors beyond the lake of fire. He looked left. He looked right, seeing nothing as interesting as a face in the furnace.


"Professor?" Controller Paul Morrow called from his workstation. "We'll reach Magnus Velocity in one minute."

Commander John Koenig spared a glancing look at the data that crowned Analyst Sandra Benes' out-tray.


Huddled in the valley sides of normal physics, Moonbase Alpha glowed an uncool, reflective, carnival mirror white. There was no space on the horizon--only flame, and conflagration.


Hearing the controller's voice brought Victor Bergman out of his revel. Turning away from the opaque vision ports, he crossed through the Main Mission trench, and joined Koenig, and Astronaut Alan Carter who, for lack of a nobler purpose, stood with his thumbs hitched over his belt. To the commander's left, Emma Black rolled a software cart over a steamy stretch of mainframe deck.

"I take it you're happy with the report?" The commander broke the asphalt solitude of silence.

Someone had to.

"Yes, I am." Bergman replied with pep. "When we first discovered that we would be passing this close to a star, I was somewhat concerned."

"But now?" Koenig asked fatuously.

"Now?" The professor related, au courant. "I think we're going to be alright. Yeah. We've surpassed the sphere of influence." He shrugged. "Soon, we'll reach the Magnus Point. At that time we'll be propelled out of here--faster than a rail car--far and away from Procyon by the counter current."

"I'll say one thing about these hot spots." Carter divulged. "They can make you appreciate life a whole lot more."

"No doubt about it," Angelina piped up from the Technical station. The exterior and interior temperatures of the base had been rising and the air conditioning had been running at maximum for several days. That meant the reactors were in high gear, splitting plutonium atoms and sending the precious released energy to the cooling units.

Now, the demand was lower and they were actually able to return the HVAC system to normal.

"It did add some excitement, though," Ben Ouma spoke, bored of the weeks of monotony and routine until their encounter with the star.

"That's not my idea of excitement," Ang retorted gloomily. "If you mean excitement equals fun."

"Excitement does not equate fun," Ouma defended his position, swiveling his desk away from her.

'Of course it isn't, you geek,' Ang thought but really wanted to vocalize. She smiled and rolled her eyes at the back of the Chief of Computer Operations. 'The more Ouma spent time with computer, the less human he seemed to be,' came the second silent thought. In a few short years, Moonbase Alpha, as small a community as it was, became split into many sub communities which crossed and criss crossed over department lines. Ouma spent his work and his off hours with computer, the off duty hours spent specifically creating and playing cyber games. Several people in technical, security and even medical were heavily involved in this type of recreation and looked to Ben Ouma as supreme cyber master.

In a way, though, it was an "escape". Life on Moonbase Alpha, in real time, was not a fairy tale, even for those with spouses/significant others and children.

Sometimes, she literally wanted to escape from the moment.


lxx =Px2dm = {(y2 + z2) dm

lyy ={Py2dm = {(z2 + x2) dm

lzz ={Pz2dm = {(x2 + y2) dm

where 'x' is the distance from the yz-plane to an infintessimal area of dA

where 'y' is the distance from the zx-plane....

where 'z' is the distance from the xy-plane....


Astrophysicist Charlotte Birchall waited patiently for the laser jet printer to give up the extract. Upon completion, she ripped it cleanly away from the wall-mounted, tractor driver, and strolled leisurely past the other, undulating modules in the MPSR Room. Totally absorbed by the forecast, she stepped out into the Main Mission auditorium.


"Paul, stand down the alert." A greatly, greatly, mungo relieved John Koenig told his deputy. "Inform the base, we're at condition one."

"Got something, do you?" Victor Bergman asked kindly as he saw Birchall approach from open hatch.

"Not much." The junior AP confessed. "It's nothing life threatening." She debated, and won. "Really, it's more of a curiosity. Our receivers picked it up, so I thought I'd pass it along."

Umberto Garzon thought the pitch black, hot energy in his coffee cup was more interesting. Geologist Phil Geist must have agreed because he drank deeply from his own cup as he sat atop the System Test Conductor's paper shredder. Now the butt of Angelina Carter's humiliating joke, an under-worked Benjamin Ouma took to throwing a pair of Parker Brother's dice on his workstation blotter as they counted down the seconds to the Magnus dispatch. Emma Black fought valiantly--but ultimately failed--in her attempt to liberate a shrink wrapped, defragmentation disc.

Koenig watched as Birchall handed the professor her findings.

"Jackpot?" The commander checked.

"Hardly." A deeply engrossed Bergman assured. "I do think our media needs overhauling." He rolled his eyes pathetically at Ouma. "It appears that something is siphoning nuclear fuel from Procyon. There's nothing for it. The effect is barely a millimeter wide, but there is a definite, stable dent in the fabric of space.

"And thanks to the slap-sidedness of computer, we shant' have the opportunity to study it."

"No." Ouma rebuked, his back still turned to them. He expanded his shoulder muscles like a belligerent peacock. "Computer interprets--I say 'interprets' information. You do know what that word means, don't you? To interpret? If the satellite transmission failed, the problem lies at the feet of our illustrious technical program, and staff."

Again he rolled the die. A five, and a one. Support? He would have none. If Paul Morrow had his Stratocaster guitar, he'd play him a tune. It was the worst excuse they had heard yet.

"All satellites are functioning properly as well as all communication receivers," Angelina tipped the verbal lance of touché, "according to computer, that is." She added with final emphasis. "Computer's interpretation." She spoke with a dangerous cheerfulness as Ouma threw the dice again.

He was distracted, not because of formulating his next come back at the Technical Chief but because he noted the numbers on the dice: one and five. It was the third time in a row.

He picked them up and tossed them again.

One and five.

And again.

One and five.

He frowned. He threw the dice again.

One and five.

"Confirm on operational level of receivers," Sandra Benes added salt to the ego slashing wound.

Taking his silence as victory, Angelina prodded, "What...are you in Vegas or something Ben?" As Ouma kept throwing the dice and getting the same result: one and five, again and again and again.

"What the FUCK?!?!?" The Computer Chief blurted, standing abruptly as he threw the dice against his desk. They ricocheted off his key board, one landing on the Technical desk in front of Ang and the other landing on the Reconnaissance station in front of Carter.

He swiveled around to Ang again and bolted from his chair, intent on finding his dice. He picked them up. One and five.

"Look at this," he displayed the dice, one in each hand. "I've been rolling these dice and getting the same, the exact same result each time: a one and a five. EACH time and I've done this at least a dozen times." He straightened, realizing he made a scene with his outburst. "Statistically, it is impossible."

Carter thought him to be an ingrate, and a whine-bag.

"Ouma." He began, pronouncing the name with a down-under, down-negative 'Oumer.'' "After the war, I got the chance to hang out in Spielbank for a bit. They've got a casino there called the Baden-Baden. I've seen a lot of blokes lose their bones on the crap table.

"Anyway, I'm pleased not to have had the pleasure of your company there."

"It's too late to launch a probe." Koenig commiserated with Bergman. "Isn't it?"

"Perhaps not." The professor scratched his sideburns. "The acceleration won't be that fast. We could still get a parting look."

"Do you think it's worth it?" The commander asked skeptically.

"I think so." Bergman admitted. "It's not often that we see elementary traces like this." He scratched his nose thoughtfully. "It could come in handy for something...someday."

Here's to someday. Geist thought, and sampled his disgusting coffee with rancor.

"Sure," Angelina agreed, eyeing Ouma who retreated sheepishly back to his computer desk. "Solving the relativistic puzzle is a reverse engineering type process. Get all the pieces together then figure out what the picture is going to be."

"I take it we're cleared for launch then?" Carter clarified, ready, willing and able to unleash the steeds of reconnaissance.

"I take it you're right." Koenig answered, and mounted the steps to the command office with Bergman following behind. Observing the occasion from a distance, Dr. Helena Russell met them on the landing.

"Lomax, Fabris." The astronaut ordered the pilots over the direct link. "I need you two, a couple of cameras, and Eagle One--on the pad, and ready for liftoff in five minutes."

Ouma began to swivel his desk again, to face the big screen and to preferably have his back to everyone else. The motor ground to a halt before he could even turn 10 degrees around.

"Wha??" Ouma looked highly inconvenience.

"Put a work order in, Ben." Angelina spoke without looking up. "My illustrious Technical team will get to it. Someday."

She would ask Chris Potter to assign Ed Malcom to this job, to be sure.


"Panel Eight closed." Morrow's voice reverberated in the pressurized command module of Eagle One.

"Copy that." CDR Darla Lomax ticked her flight plan, rolling forward in the zero-g couch towards the coruscating lights of the instrument panel."STC-V-CDR, verify RCS Select Yaw."

"CDR-V-STC." Umberto Garzon replied easily. "Roger your B3-MNA; CMP-V-STC, Panel Five; switch primary ascent engines to on."

"Affirmative." Command Module Pilot Lucio Fabris answered back. "We are go for PA at GMT:10:30."

Beneath the spacecraft's keel, the steady build-up of jet engine transients could be heard.


"Liftoff in T-Minus ten seconds." Morrow said unastoundingly from his workstation while turning the page on his copy of the flight plan.


The view of the moonbase network from two kilometers away was one of uninterrupted tranquility. One thing was different. In the seconds that proceeded the stillness, the surrounding stars did not appear to be frozen, immobile comets.


Alan Carter felt uneasy as he tapped his pen against the flat screen of the DS tracking system. From somewhere across the trench, he could hear Ang' working her keyboard.

"Fifteen seconds." He told Morrow in slow boil. "Are we initiating a hold?"

He cogitated.

A useless enterprise.

He received no reply from the controller. Carter did notice that Ang' was still doing data entry. What he failed to notice was that the electronic ambience--the opening, and closing of circuitry, and the ceaseless anaphora from the big screen had ceased, and desisted. The biosphere grew banal in the ungrowing, unevolving passage of anti-time.

"Paul, answer up." The astronaut said caustically, cracking his agitated knuckles. "Do we launch, or do we scrub? Name your poison."

Weird, Carter felt. It was a statement concerning the situation, and not the personality of the flight controller.

That was when he looked up and saw Ben Ouma's dice, suspended at left angles to one another beneath the gooseneck lamp. The chief himself was not motile. He sat at his station, looking like Rodin's Thinker, forever and always pondering a red flimsie.

John Koenig was likewise fixed. He stood stationary atop the steps, mouth open in an elocution with fellow mannequin, Victor Bergman that would never be completed. Helena Russell's concrete physique was sealed in a motionless tableau--her lips were turned downwards in an attitude of disdain. To Carter's left, Umberto Garzon placed pen to paper, but he did not write.

Phil Geist was trapped in an instant between abusing caffeine, and not abusing caffeine.

"Angelina." The pilot stood up, his face pale, and sallow.

She had been completely engrossed in an Excel spreadsheet when she realized, despite her point and click maneuver of the mouse, the screen did not respond. At first she thought her terminal locked up and she was getting ready to throw another sarcastic zinger at Chief Ouma and his band of software engineers.

Then she heard Carter's voice, echoing through a noiseless void.

She slowly looked up, making eye contact with him.

Sandra Benes, with a frown deepening the premature fine lines on her forehead was in mid keystroke, her hand suspended delicately in the air. Emma Black was poised on the computer deck, the register tape from computer half ripped away from the dispenser. Paul Morrow's right index finger was depressing the "u" key on his keyboard.

" going on?" She asked pointlessly, slowly, as she stood. Next to her station, Operative Pam Daltry did not answer her but instead, remained frozen while flipping a page of her green flimsie.

She instinctively moved toward him, after attempting to contact her, very confused and trying to squelch an understandably growing feeling of fright.

Across the base it was the same situations. Alphans, statuesque, in various forms of mobility or immobility.

In the day care area, a determined Nicky Carter was frozen while attempting to pull an equally determined baby Jack Profitt up to a standing position. In Medical Center Dr. Bob Mathias was in the process of administering an injection of cortisone to Astronaut Tom Graham, who got too close to Caesar the cat, and had an allergic reaction. Caesar the cat, tail stopped in mid-swish, was watching the chickens, which were in the process of pecking at fallen grain on the floor when they too suddenly stopped moving. Ed Malcom was in the dining complex, the fork loaded with the twirled pasta poised at his lips but never reaching its destination. Hangar 2 featured Bram Cedrix, who was on his back inside the command module of a reconditioned Eagle 10, voltmeter probes touching the red and the black wires while eyes, seeing but not seeing the reading on the meter. Nuclear Engineer Carter Jackson, with headphones in place, was relaxing in the recreation room, eyes closed and had been listening to jazz when the frozen moment claimed him.

Carter climbed the tile steps, bewildered by the cryptic deep freeze.

He studied Koenig, Russell, and Bergman--waving his left hand before the commander's face--even snapping his fingers, but to no real service. There was no respiration; no movement of the joints; no watering of the tear ducts to keep the eyes from solidifying. He went so far as to touch Victor Bergman--the subcutaneous tips of his fingers, witnessing only empty, shell-like sarcophaguses. Disconsolate barns, and forgotten acres.

He relaxed against the edge of the desk--the only other percipient being in an sgraffito, museum of a base. Beyond the tower's high vision ports, there was an ornamental, con-job of a universe to baffle, and deceive.

Carter languished.


The scorching solar flares began to recede. The crater Plato was slowly consumed in the cold, bleak termination of the Moon's encounter with Procyon.


"Liftoff." Paul Morrow told the pilots, turning his head slightly as he cleared the pre-flight tab from his monitor.


Eagle One rose from the steaming turntable of Launch Pad Four--barely escaping the fateful return of darkness at 2.4 kilometers per second. In the command module, pilot Lomax prepared to release the yoke to manual control. In the co-pilot's chair, Fabris monitored the booster control, and fuel usage bars as the spacecraft gained velocity.

"EDS Auto to off." He described over the link, and the bone crunching that accompanied a good thrust.


"...that I could understand." Helena Russell explained torrentially.

"I know." Bergman nodded, smiling. Still, he wasn't about to concede defeat.

"Of course we should utilize all of our resources." The physician was no thick wit. "Survival sounds good to me too, but sending a ship into a maelstrom like that is an unnecessary risk, and--I might add--a stupid one."

"I would most likely agree." The professor affirmed. "If there was any real danger present. In this case, there isn't."

"Where's Carter?" John Koenig overlapped--his blurt interrupting the contention as he stepped towards the vacant CapComm Station. "And Ang'?" He added to the missing person's list as he surveyed the left side of the trench.

"That's curious." Paul Morrow perceived, frowning. "I never saw him leave. For that matter, I never saw him get up out of his chair."

"I just saw her," Sandra stared at the technical station, blinking, then looked at Paul and Koenig. "I didn't see her leave either."

"He knows better than to leave the MCR during a launch." The commander stated, confused, and perplexed. "They both do. We can't have an empty seat at the TECHCON station either. Ouma, instruct computer to locate Alan, and Dr. Carter. Tell them I want them to return to Main Mission.


Helena Russell blinked. She could swear that in her peripheral vision, she saw Angelina typing at her station and then...she wasn't there. "Well, they must be close by," she glanced at the door of the men's and women's lavatory in the hallway beyond the left archway, relaxing. Above each door, the 'occupied' rectangular sign was lit. Then, confusion marred her brow again as Lars Manroot and Adisa Talic stepped out into the corridor simultaneously, returning to Main Mission.

Ben Ouma, in his half turned desk, was becoming frustrated. He tapped a few commands, waited as computer spit out its hard copy registry tape result, ripped it off the dispenser and frowned. He did it again....and again.

"What's up?" Koenig stepped into the pit, moving toward Ouma. Koenig had an ominous feeling, one that he felt too many times since leaving earth.

"Something is wrong," Ouma muttered. He punched a comm button to the Central Computer Room. " O'Kane. Run a diagnostic check on the personnel tracking software." He ordered then cut the link after a curt 'right away' response.

"A virus or something?" Bergman joined Koenig, his curiosity peaked.

"Maybe," The Chief of Computer Operation replied guardedly. He handed Koenig the register tape. "According to computer, Alan Carter and Angelina Carter are here." He made a sweeping motion. "In this room.


(On the number 'zero')

The constant function of the universe has the same value in every element of its domain.

The Moon drifted away from the giant star Procyon, minus two people.

Chapter 1

"Well, they are obviously NOT here," Helena Russell commented, incredulous.

"Once again, computer fails us," Sandra Benes commented from her station. "Why does that not surprise me?"

"O'Kane here," came the software engineer's interruption. "Preliminary diagnostics reveal no faults in the personnel locator software."

"Do it again," Ouma responded bellicosely, "I want an in depth diagnostic performed. I know it will take you more than 5 minutes." His bruised ego lashed out at the unfortunate O'Kane as he cut the link.

"Why do you assume Computer is wrong?" He turned his ire toward Benes. "You said yourself you just saw her." He motioned to Ang's empty chair. "How could she have possibly, literally disappeared so quickly without anyone seeing her, or Alan for that matter, leave?"

"Well, you're correct when you say 'literally.'" Koenig said as he, and Bergman exited the security backroom. "According to MB Surveillance, Carter and Ang' are nowhere on the base."

"That's absurd." Paul Morrow defended hotly.

"Maybe." The commander concurred. "In any case, I've just spoken to Quentin. We're commencing a room-by-room search, beginning with the core."

"Wouldn't it be easier to try their quarters first?" Russell anticipated.

"That was the first thing we tried." The commander informed her, passing the red flimsie to an engaged Victor Bergman. "They weren't there, and no one has seen them in the Care Centre."

"Commander." Pilot Farendahl arrived at white heat for the dual purpose of reporting results, and manning the CapComm desk. "The LSRO has been turned inside out, as well as all block houses, and launch facilities. No one has seen Carter since this morning."

Directly on the heels of Farendahl's arrival, Michelle Cranston rushed into Main Mission through the right archway. "Dr. Carter is no where to be seen either," Cranston pulled out the Technical station chair and frowned at the growing stack of red and green flimsies. "She's not in manufacturing, not in the power generation area and not in the bullpen or in the main cubical section. Petrov hasn't seen her and no one from mining has spotted her in the lower levels. We're still searching, but this is highly unlike her."

She sat down. "Last time anyone heard from her, she was IMing Smitty. He thought she was communicating from here, in Main Mission. Her laptop is still here." She pointed out. "He said he asked her a question and she just stopped responding."

"When was that?" Koenig asked, stepping toward Cranston.

"About 30 minutes ago," she glanced at the digital clock.

"About the time we passed the Magnus Point of Procyon," Bergman addended, left eyebrow raised.


"I don't get it," Angelina commented, from her position on the floor, sitting Indian style. In front of her, Nicky Carter and Jack Profitt were embraced, one pulling, the other using his small thighs to gain balance and stand.

Nicky's frozen expression was one of determination, getting down to business. Little Jack was smiling, giggling. About a meter away, Jack's brother, James had crawled to a crude tower composed of plastic blocks, carefully built by Gretchen Erhlich.

James' hand was in mid swipe, destroying the toddler architectural wonder. Red and blue blocks were suspended in mid air, and the beginnings of tears in the little girl's eyes had formed and beginning to trickle down her cheek when both children became statues.

"Jack and James are identical twins," Ang went on. "But ever since they were born, they've been as different as night and day; polar opposites. Jack is always so cheerful. James always seems to be miserable." She ran her finger's mournfully through Nicky's soft hair. "I hate to say this and I never would have believed in such a thing before...but James is a bad seed."

She glanced at the child. "I don't believe I just said that."

"Don't mention it." The astronaut said munificently. He could hardly believe the distaste--the complete disdain he had for the twin who was two minutes older. That was one sprog that he did not like. Hell, he wondered if the punk was an alien. It would be just their luck to sire superbreeds of advanced, extraterrestrial conquerors that would begin their reign by stomping the Moon. "Something has got up to dickens." He assayed, looking at the stasis around them. "The question is, what? I think we can assume this isn't a natural phenomenon." The pilot tried, looking to Ang' for support. "Is there anything out there that could stop everyone in their tracks like this?"

"Before we left earth," she stood up, but still holding on to Nicky, "I would have said only in a Star Trek episode. "Since Breakaway? As the Professor says all the time now, 'anything is possible.' We've learned that space and time are in no way linear, and they are not necessarily in the same plane either. Do I know what caused them to 'freeze' or appear to be frozen? No. Do I know how to unfreeze them? No. Not until we can at least figure out what caused them to become frozen."

"Cutie,' if it's not a place, or a thing that caused this...." Carter determined. "Then it's a person. Whatever they used, it was surgical. Everyone's an ice cube; we have no communications; but we do have life support." He verified by breathing deeply. "If we could find a way to access computer, we might get a gander at what was floating around out there before Medusa turned everyone to stone."

"I doubt it is a person or entity....though, of course we can't rule it out." She answered, studying a sleeping Julia Manroot, lying peacefully in the corner of the room on a pile of blankets. In another corner, a father with a purple sleeve, obviously on a lunch break, was feeding his 5 month old son applesauce and cereal. The smiling harness bull had likely been engaged in a game with his boy.

'Open the hanger, junior, here comes the pla.........'

"I won't rule out a thing or a place causing this either," she went on.

The pilot paced the floor of the Care Centre in seeking, half circles. Then the lightening bolt struck his brain cell with an obvious implication.

"Wait." He turned, and was sure. "Victor's gopher hole. The one that we were sending Eagle One to reconnoiter. Might that have caused it?" He trilled, but his genius was short lived. "No." He decided, and effused solitude, and bewilderment again. "That was thousands of kilometers away. We already passed that star when it was first detected. There's no way it could have sucked the life out of them like this."

He hated his phraseology.

"Wait..." Ang resurrected the thought. "Hold that thought. I said time and space are not linear. The fact that it was thousand of kilometers away has no bearing on a gravitational anomaly, especially if it has relativistic properties."

"Consider this. What if they are in a different plane of time?"

In the hours to come, Carter would consider it until it ripped his insides out.

"If that's the deal, then we're wasting our time." He said terminally. "There's no way we could possibly bring them back."


Unfamiliar waves filled the void. Subtle, strange but nevertheless disruptive electrical activity permeated the environment. It was very disconcerted, awaking from a quasi slumber.


Eagle One began to brake on the X-axis, slowing to an angular slide beneath the blinding, white, neutron periphery of Procyon.


In the command module of the spacecraft, Lomax was already making way for the Lower Equipment Bay.

"So...." Fabris relaxed the yoke, and commenced the first in a series of facile chats. "Here we are. Would you like my first observation?"

"I'm dying to hear it." The mission commander lied as she strained her back muscles in an attempt to reach the AV controls in the narrowing bilge.

"It's hot." Her co-pilot parlayed in sum, and then took to twirling his coquettish, suave, silly-ass Monopoly Man moustache.

Lomax grinned from inside the shaded utility well beneath the superstructure.

"Right." She mediated after activating the panel. "Tell Alpha that the mainstage cameras are on. They should start receiving telemetry any time now."

"If you insist." Fabris clowned as he pulled the speaker of his headset into place.


At the spheroidal, command conference table, two of the moduform, rough-on-the-ass plastic chairs were stark, and unfilled.

"I have the results of the door-to-door search." John Koenig told the rest of the team with mock, sardonic glimmer as he closed the big doors. "It won't take long to read them to you. There's only one sentence, and the gist of it is, Ang' and Carter are no longer on Moonbase Alpha." He paused before the highback deck chair, and tossed the report onto the center of the table. "They are, in fact, nowhere within the settlement limit. Security wants to know if they should deploy squads in lunar rovers to search the Plato basin.

"Victor, what do you make of this?" He finished abruptly as he dropped down into his seat, and uncapped his ink pen.

"I'm not sure," Bergman sat back on the foam couch, fingers clasped behind his head, the only person in the room who actually comfortable in his seating. "Computer still insisted that they are indeed on the base. First they were in Main Mission. Now, at least 5 minutes ago, they are in the Care Centre."

"But no one has seen them," Russell continued. "Actually, there is no one in that room right now. The day shift children have left and the evening shift children are with their parents in the dining complex. Nicky was picked up by Melita 20 minutes ago. The nurse is on break as well." She shrugged. "The room is empty."

"Not according to computer," Ouma spoke up, obnoxiously. "There is nothing wrong with the software, Commander. The diagnostic is complete and the result was negative for viruses or irregularities. They ARE in that room."

Sandra Benes exchanged a smirky glance with Morrow, who rolled his eyes.

"Ouma." Koenig shook his head unknowingly to the group who went forth unwillingly. "There's a big difference between having digital, and statistical information, and a warm body. A corpus delectai. Carter, and Ang' aren't in the Care Centre, nor were they in Main Mission."

"They have to be somewhere, John." Bergman sat straight, turning his mug of Vitaseed 365 degrees. "As preposterous as it might sound, the fact that they aren't outside the compound proves that they're still within the confines of the base."

"Maybe the ground opened, and swallowed them up." Asinine Paul Morrow remarked, low and serious.

"Computer-" Ouma started, blotching from blood pressure.

"-is glitching." The commander completed the sentence with furor.

"Sorry." Astrophysicist Lorna O'Brian apologized as she entered awkwardly through the maintenance, side door. "I hope I'm not interrupting."

Ouma had a problem, but John Koenig didn't.


The strange source of electrical activity grew stronger as it approached. It perceived the source as dual rather than single. The being reached out, swiping at one of the sources.


Carter's last statement momentarily deflated Ang's hopes, sending her into a thought distracting depression.

"Thanks a lot, Alan," she remarked, gloomily. Then, she shook her head. "No. There's got to be a way to bring them back. It has to be the anomaly we were about to check out. That is the only different piece of the equation. Now...."

"AHHHH!!" She blurted and whirled around, feeling the sharp, stinging pins and needles sensation move through her skin, the flesh beneath, muscles and bone then back through the other side of her left arm. She moved closer to Carter, holding her left arm with her right.

"Oh my god...something just touched me..almost, no, did go right through my arm!" She rubbed the still tingling sensation. Carter released her waist, and then stepped back to apprehend a universe that was built for two.

"Take it easy." He advised gently. "I'm not throwing in the towel. We'll set things straight." He mused, looking at the white doom beyond the vision ports again. "On, and off again, I've been riding this wagon for over a decade now. In all of that time, I've never stopped to think what it would be like to be alone inside this tin can of a base.

"Every noise is multiplied by ten." He described. "The mind becomes a runaway apple cart."

"I'm not losing my mind," she shook her head, unzipping her sleeve. The flesh on her left arm looked..normal. "I felt something," she emphasized, rezipping her rust colored sleeve. He glanced at her arm momentarily but otherwise said nothing.

"Where do you think they've gone to?" The astronaut turned the conversation towards an intimate, therapeutic comparison of condemnations. "They're here, but they aren't." He committed himself to the abstract, contradictory madness of it all. "Cook, I'll tell you something else. Have you noticed, we're not moving?" He gazed out of the vycor transparency. "The Moon has stopped. For some reason, we haven't budged since this all started."

All they had to look forward to was eternity in the exploding flares of Procyon.

She gaped out the window. The suspended animation of Procyon's fusion reactions brought her to a chilling realization.

"Alan, 'they' haven't gone anywhere," she motioned around the room. "They don't have the problem. We do. Theoretically, universal time itself cannot be stopped. It keeps moving, forward, even backward but moving. It may be possible for an individual object, living or inanimate, to exist in a different time plane. However, as the saying goes, 'time keeps marching on' for everything else."

She paused. "If they really had the problem, if they were in a different time plane rather than us, we would be able to see Procyon getting further and further away. We would be able to perceive computer running or any other piece of machinery on the base. But we can't, because we are in a different plane of time." She sighed. "That's what I think, anyway."

Carter wondered if it was true--if you're alone long enough, or in small community, eventually the companionate mind will drive itself insane as a defense mechanism. Elbow room was their problem. Too much of it. Now, all of the clichés would be turned inside out, and pitted against them. Two is company, and two is a crowd. He yearned for congestion, and the state they enjoyed before becoming islands, entire of themselves, John Donne. This was how it felt to want because before they were through, they'd learn what a moon without pity could do.

"That thought crossed my mind." He recalled, wondering if Eagle One made it away before the overthrow of non-motion. "Back in Main Mission. I hate to spoil your jolly, chief, but come have a look at this."

He inclined his head towards the vision port.

She reluctantly released Nicky and stepped toward the viewport. In the foreground, one of the gravitational tower's beacons remained frozen in mid blink.

"Beautiful view, isn't it? No, it's not. Look real close." He mentored. "In the area east of those corona loops."

"Procyon, a sun much like Earth's but without the benefit of planets revolving around it," Angelina stated blandly, unimpressed, and wishing there were planets around it: an earthlike planet, in particular.

"Those black spots." The astronaut interpreted. "At first I thought they were energetic particles. Now, I'm starting to think they're asteroids. Procyon's gravity is sucking them in just as it was sucking us in. They weren't there fifteen minutes ago.

"Ergo, there is movement going on out there." He detected. "A new element. We're survivors, love, not victims."

He winced, and suddenly remorseful, took to massaging the bridge of his nose.

"I don't know about that," she disagreed, squinting at the black spots. "If there is motion 'out there', then why isn't that gravitational tower's light blinking on and off. Also, the receiver," she pointed to top of the technical hub. "It should be rotating as well, but it isn't. On the other hand, I suppose it is possible that near the sun itself, there could be yet another time plane. Who said there had to be two?"

The pilot was not listening at all, which was nice, because here was a situation where having an attention span would have cost them dearly.

"I must be bonkers." Carter reproached himself, but euphorically. "Hot stuff, I don't know why I didn't think of this before." He blurted incomprehensibly. "Eagle One. That's the ticket. Lomax is the only throttle jock I know of who has any interest in placating the eggheads. She passes muster with them too because she's the only one in the rotation who finds the 'scientific aspects' of the missions more important than a trip to the head.

"I would just about guarantee that she potted up the onboard instrument package, immediately after boarding." He grinned. "There are probably enough print outs in that tray to wallpaper the passenger module, and some of that information may just give us a clue as to what's going on."

"It's worth a try," she smiled, approvingly. She didn't mention that if Lomax had not gathered data prior to the frozen moment, there would be no data. She moved toward Nicky. "I am not leaving him. He will come with us."

Angelina wrapped her arms around Nicky and lifted.

She held air.

She frowned and tried again. Nicky remained on the floor, statuesque, with the same determined expression and holding on to Jack Profitt. Her arms were empty. She was torn. Angelina did not want to leave her son behind but it appeared she had no choice.

"Yeah," she straightened, "there's got to be answers on Eagle One."

The entity, feeling the change in molecular wavelengths of the first electrical disturbance source, reached through the second source. It was the same material composition.

"Damn, there goes the old rotary cup again." The pilot explained ignorantly, rubbing his shoulder muscle. "It happens every time I'm under stress. Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt, eh?"

He didn't like that analogue either.


"No, you are welcome," Koenig motioned Lorna OBrien to Ang's empty chair. "What do you have?"

Before she could answer, Koenig's commstation chirped. The commander rose to answer it and Technician Chris Potter, Technical Section Electronic Instrumentation Chief Engineer, appeared on the monitor.

"Commander," Potter, obviously harried and perplexed, "we are receiving reports around the base of equipment failures. It appears that power supplies are blowing due to sudden E/M frequency shifts. At first we thought there was phase variation coming from the transformers but reading show output from there to be normal. Once the power supplies are replaced, the equipment runs normally...though, we have just received a report of a condenser blowing again for the same problem."

"Obviously, though, we can't keep toasting power supplies," Potter went on. "We are already starting to make a dent in our inventory and eventually, we will have machines and equipment going down."

"That's all we need right now." Koenig judged. "An electrical pandemic. That will sit nicely on the shelf next to our other problems. We can't be sleuths, and a technical support team, all at the same time. No coveralls are that large; no crescent wrenches that wide."

Morrow nodded approvingly.

Sandra Benes didn't know what to say.

"This might ease the burden. Somewhat." Lorna O'Brian brought up her reason for being. "We've looked over the data from Eagle One. There's no way that the crease we discovered could have caused the disappearances, and there's even less prospect of it being the source of our mechanical problems."

"Because?" The controller baited.

"Because, there is no physical way to fit an elephant into a motor car." The astrophysicist replied. "The mass displacement goes beyond the improbable. The phenomenon was three millimeters wide. At that rate, there wasn't enough superstring material to cause a ripple, much less a temporal crack for someone to slip through."

"Alright, Lorna." Koenig was game. "Let's peel the onion back even further. Suppose that Carter, and Ang' disappeared in Main Mission."

"Let's also suppose that fish can fly." Ouma railed.

"Are you still talking?" The commander favored him with an ugly look. "Let's take it for granted--the tower was their point of departure. They turned up missing, but we're still here because the rest of us couldn't fit through hypothetical dimensions that are microscopic?"

"It doesn't seem likely." O'Brian divined.

"At this point, I'd like to reiterate my earlier statement." Victor Bergman concurred as he returned to the table after adding atrocious nutragrains to his Vitaseed cup. "That indentation in the wall of space was over a hundred thousand nautical miles away."

"We'd stand a better chance of getting thunderstorms from Earth." Morrow reasoned.

"The odds are terrible." Bergman affirmed. "Which is not to say that the situation is all sprite, and cheerful. It's not. Barring some sort of trick, whatever happened to Alan, and Ang' is beyond our comprehension, John."

"I don't buy that, Victor," Koenig shook his head adamantly. "Something happened to them. A relativistic event, though very small and far from the base, appears to be the only significant factor which could possibly, I say possibly, cause their disappearance." He leaned on his elbows. "What concerns me is such a cause creates chaos, even more disappearances, for the rest of us? Are any of us out of the clear?"

Bergman folded his arms together, cupping his palms beneath easy elbows. The Braille of unresolve was viable on his brow, and cheekbones.

"If the problem is a geometric hypotenuse, I'd have say yes." The professor concluded. "We discovered the first one, alright. That's behind us now, and there don't seem to be any other spatial distortions lurking at the forefront." He removed his stirring stick, and lifted the Vitaseed mug with both palms. "Then again, if it's something beyond our science--and I believe it is--we could be living in a fool's paradise. Alan and Ang' were the first, but they may not be the last." Bergman smiled, hoping to promote false avenues. "Better ill taught than untaught."

"Then why does computer report they are both still on the base?" Ouma offered unasked again. He typed on his laptop. "According to computer, right now they are in corridor 16, moving in the direction of Launch Pad 3."

"You are suppose to tell us, Ben," Sandra smirked with another eye roll. "Why is computer giving us bogus information?"

"Computer is NOT giving us bogus information, I tell you," Ouma retorted. "I have been tracking both of them." He connected his laptop to the overhead projector and the opposite wall lit up with a spreadsheet. "See? Every 30 seconds, computer has recorded each of their whereabouts. They are together, moving from Main Mission, the Care Center and now toward Launch Pad 3. In fact, they are taking the stairs up to the embarkation area right now."

Russell exchanged a glance with Koenig, whose face was set rigid in an unreadable mask.

"Ben," Helena Russell soothed. "This is very interesting. But I am concerned about you. Perhaps we should let Emma review the data. I would like you to get some rest, take a 12 or even 24 hour break." She smiled warmly. "We've all been under stress but you in particular with the analysis of our approach to Procyon."

"You'll remain in the trench until further notice." John Koenig subsumed the physician's concern in a tyrannical goad. "And I don't want you staggering around, stoned on Styrene, or anything else from Mathias' bottom drawer.

"Call in your support teams, and tell them to comb the RTC. Tell Manroot, I'm interested in MPG, MP3, DAT, WAV, and DVR--any and all audio, and visual information from the Main Mission recorders. Maybe we can't tell what happened, but we may be able to discern when it happened.

"Doctor Russell, we need answers, not entropy. If one of us did a disappearing act, Carter and Ang' would remain steadfast. Well, so will we.

"Victor, how much longer will we be in Procyon space?"

"Well...." Bergman righted his natural inclination towards disfavor for the insane. "Not long.... We're outbound, and gaining speed exponentially."

His Triple Mocha Vitaseed Latte' tasted like crunchy shit to him now.

"Do we have an hour?" The commander mined for information.

"No." Bergman dissented sternly. "More like fifty minutes. John, if you're planning what I think you're planning, be advised, you could find yourself left behind if you aren't careful."

"Paul, have Eagle One return to base." The commander said heedlessly. "Tell Coop' to skip the prep.' I want the ERS Eagle ready for ignition when I get there."

"Where are you going?" Doctor Russell objected, already knowing the answer.

"Out to the anomaly," Koenig answered rigidly, then his features softened a bit. "Helena, I think the answer to their disappearance is out there. We have to find out what happened, not only for their sake but, I believe, for the rest of us as well."

Russell stifled further objection, knowing it was a waste of breath.

"Victor? Would you like to go along?" The Commander continued to the professor.

"Of course," Bergman nodded, setting down his half empty cup of Vitaseed. "I never pass up an opportunity to expand our knowledge..."

The professor was abruptly cut off as he found his vitaseed and himself being suddenly flung across the conference table. He was not alone in his suddenly being tossed.

Sandra cried out in surprise as she was thrown to the floor with Benjamin Ouma's laptop landing on her stomach. Helena Russell landed painfully on her tailbone on the steps and Koenig's motion was broken by the commpost, resulting in a shower of sparks and a cracked digital clock from the impact of his commlock.

In fact, everyone on the base experience the sudden one way carnival ride jolt.

The Red Alert klaxon blared as Koenig and the others, with Morrow bolting to the controller station ahead of them, staggered into Main Mission.

"Commander," Emma Black, with one long strand dislodged from her French twist hair, reported, "according to computer, all forward velocity has ceased."

"The moon has stopped?" Russell summed her general physics background to laymanize.

Koenig slowly nodded.


Both Carters arrived at the procedures desk of Launch Pad 3. Marilys Singh had a look of annoyance on her stone features, attempting to ignore the ever obnoxious William Harms III, leaning casually against the desk with obvious flirtatious intent.

"Boy, is he stupid or what," Angelina observed. "Did you know Marilys has been seeing Sam Danvers? You know, THE Sam Danvers in Phil's mining group who is as big and strong as a bull? Do you know what Sam would do to Harms if he found out Harms was trying to come on to his girlfriend?"

All the while, Angelina had felt uneasy, as if they were not alone; as if they were being followed.

"They'll get on, alright." Carter responded with dire, unfunny continuance. "There's not much to worry about if your girl takes a fancy to the spokesperson for Rogaine.

The technical manager blinked, seemingly confused.

The pilot reached out, and touched Harms' forehead. Bergman's was cool--this one was more like refrigerated ice.

"His body is bloody, below zero." Carter wagered. "And look at this--his mop is receding." In a knee-jerk reaction, he looked at the surface of Singh's cubicle. Laying atop her White Room Closeout data, and to the left of her headset, there were follicles, courtesy of blabbermouth Harms. Soon, a billiard ball would have more hair. "What's this, then?" He explored, stepping carefully away from Singh, and her graying mane. The astronaut searched the desk.

As wide as a crown, he discovered a hole.

As minute as a drill cavity, he found another.

A niche the size of a hex nut was positioned beside a cordless, powerless mouse.

Carter stooped to the floor, and ran his fingers through the stardust, leaving behind a four finger track.

"It's a sand castle." He exclaimed abundantly. "The place is falling apart."

They discovered likewise punctures, miniscule, in the tile, wall panels, and in one corner of the ceiling.

"The lights are on." The pilot was fazed. "That means the fuel cells are operational, but how can they be if we have no power--and how can those holes be dark if there's a current running through the beams?"

It was like lightening without voltage; creation and simultaneous eradication; a cup that is half empty, and half full. Scanning the ingress corridor, he could see that two of the three commstations were tipping away from their eroding anchors. Towers of Pisa, ready for permanent ground duty.

Years of post secondary education and two hard earned PhDs and now Angelina Verdeschi Carter felt small and stupid. Nicky's kindergarten grade knowledge would be more useful.

"I don't know," she shook her head, completely baffled. "This is something beyond our comprehension," she echoed Bergman's words. She knew that was not the response he was looking for from her. "Alan, hon, if you want me to give you answers, I have none. Whenever I think of a possibility, we come up against something weird," she picked up a pen and the cap crumbled into dust.

The answer was perhaps not at hand, and a billion, zillion astronomical units away in the mind of a smarter being.

"Let's go." Carter prompted, and turned to the boarding tube, and the brightly lit, White Room at the end. There was a one meter crack in Eagle One's hull. The hatch had frozen before the pad crew could finish sealing the cabin. "It must have happened just before the ten count." The astronaut made a mental note in his memoirs of catastrophe.

"Oh my god," Angelina gripped his left elbow, then relaxed. The hole in the wall of the boarding tube, mimicking an open window to the lunar surface, was large enough such that they would have already been dead, already sucked out into space. She reached toward the hole, then through the hole.

Nothing happened.

"Well, this is a first," she commented. "I bet we could take a walk too...outside...without EVA suits."

"This can't fucking be." Carter decreed as he stuck his fist through the hole, and into the void.

The pilot marched up the ramp, his face as red as an overdrawn account at a blood bank, and his surprise, evident at the sight of the gray clad, lifeless creature that lay dead on the floor of the passenger module.

Chapter 2

The firmament above a stalled Moonbase Alpha was still white.


Six stories up, a microwave transmitter dish on the roof of Technical Section broke away from the roof, and fell--past the rows of vision ports--into the cul de sac that lay beneath. Gravity, even at one-eigth of a percentile, was no issue. The aluminum rod, and dish impacted against the unmoved lunar surface, and exploded in a flatus of smoke, and granules while broken, coaxial cable danced overhead.

It was a sign of the times.

Or a sign of the non-time.


In the command module of Eagle One, Ang' managed to unseal the compartment using the manual crank. It was not to her astonishment to find mission commander Lomax, and her CMP fixed like a pair of ice sculptures in a Mardis Gras parade. Lomax was gripping the arms of her acceleration chair when the Bumble fell upon her--docile while she waited for computer to execute lift-off, and staging. Fabris almost had his clip-board tucked beneath his seat.

The countdown clock was at T-minus eight seconds.

Through the open hatch, Carter rolled the corpse over onto its back for examination.

"Tell me this isn't strange."

"Who, or rather what is it?" Angelina stepped out of the Command module with streamers of register tape, asking him a question she knew he did not have an answer.

The figure was obviously alien, gray skin and with eyes which were disproportionately large. Aside from the obvious non human appearance, something very odd struck Angelina. The being was old, very old, not just evidenced by wrinkles, which did not seem to be a natural part of the alien, but from the geriatric crippled form of skin, bones and long gone muscle.

"There doesn't appear to be any sign of trauma," she commented, stooped, noting the absence of wounds and bodily fluids. "If I had to make an amateur medical guess, I'd say this guy...or woman...or whatever....died of natural causes; in other words, old age."

She stood up, shaking her head, and turning her attention to the data on the register tape. "It doesn't make any sense. What kind of being is this? Has it ALWAYS been on Alpha?" She paused thoughtfully. "More importantly, are there others like this one...or others who are not....harmless."

"Good thing you went to the chapel with me, Sheila." Carter elucidated. "Our friend here is beyond androgynous. He's got no flavor for his fare, either way. A race can't exist like that, so he, she, or it is a lone wolf."

No fun and uglier than a frappin' bullfrog, the astronaut esteemed. The being's head was shaped like a gourd, or maybe a bowling pin. The clothing it wore was comparably metallic gray. Laying next to the body, they had discovered a flat-top chapeau of matching material. Attached to the rim of the exotic hat was an airflow robe of similar tint, and texture. The elliptical features of the face were covered in a kind of grease paint with diagonal, blue circles appearing prominently on the forehead.

Carter hoped it wasn't war paint.


Then the iron-ore glint caught his eye, and the astronaut reached under the alien's rib cage, and produced a long handled, otherworldly tympanum. The object was silvery, and etched with even more circles. The astronaut thought there were holes in their thinking--having a language like  that--then he reminded himself that in this fellow's case, there was no 'they.'

"A weapon?" He wondered aloud, and showed Ang' the hammer.

"I don't know," Angelina took the object, running her finger along the cool metal and tracing the etched circles. "These circles. They are not metal." She weighed the object up and down in her palm. "I'm not even sure this thing is metal or even a weapon."

Magic wand to get them out of their situation? She hoped but guessed it probably was not so.

"It's not adding up." The pilot quested as he approached the open command module, leaning against the outer airlock with one foot propped up on the lower facing. It was here that he felt particularly mythical. "Did you notice...." He called over his shoulder. "Lomax, and Fabris. They're  almost totally gray. I bet their body temperature is even lower than Marilys' back there." He squinted hard, hoping to give birth to a solution, but all he seemed to get was the constipation of reason. "Whatever happened, I get the feeling that this is where the ball started to roll.

"I'll concede that we're the ones with a problem." Carter admitted of their situation. "But still, my gut instinct is that this is where the hole thing originated.

"Sorry, if I sound like I'm raving on, kit-"

Before he could fully apologize for being a nut, a large crash could be heard, emanating from the molded, concealed girders above them. Huge, many cornered chunks of amorphous black shit slid down the orange, quasi-transparent recesses on either side.

"That don't look good." The astronaut told Ang.' "Say goodbye to the servo controls." He frowned disapprovingly. Not that it would make much difference, he supposed. The deck could crumble beneath them, and the only difference would be that they would be standing on Luna firma instead of here. "We better get back to the White Room before we get smacked on the head."

"Agreed," she nodded, gathering up the register tape of data. "We should at least be inside Alpha, or where the inside of Alpha should be. Something tells me that when we get back," she refused to accept the possibility of not ever returning, "if we are not within the confines of the base, we really will be 'outside'...and well, that wouldn't be good at all when we returned."

They quickly moved out of the Eagle and through the boarding tube, stepping off the platform into the base as another section of corrugated wall disintegrated.

So did molten man.


"Paul, status report," Koenig glanced at the frozen controller. The soundless void of Main Mission was actually the first thing he noticed after the moon stop.

"John? What's going on?" Helena Russell, clearly not affected, looked around quickly at the faces, statues in time.

"I think I have a pretty good idea what happened to Ang and Alan," Bergman announced, his voice echoing as he waved his hand in front of Emma Black's unblinking face.

"I'm glad to hear it." Koenig moved behind Morrow who was turning to page three of his DC flimsie when the answer imposed itself. "Victor, I don't understand. That event was thousands of kilometers away. We were even further away than Alan, and Ang,' and they weren't in range either. How can this be?"

"But remember, distance has no bearing on time, other than travel in the physical plane. For us, it matters but for the singularity," he nodded, looking every bit of the professor that he was, "distance is irrelevant."

"The lab didn't alert us to the presence of any singularities." The commander went down the Einsteinian list. "We skated past Procyon's gravity. So much for relativity, and the four unities."

"John, that's assuming that this upshot was caused by something natural...something scientific." Russell poised. "What if it isn't?"

Koenig noticed that the commstation monitors were black, save for a single, milky white dot that looked--for all the world--like the effect of a blown picture tube.

"Intervention from some outside source?" He shrugged, folding his arms, and glowering. "According to our scanners, there is no life in this solar system. Procyon is an unwed star. There are no planets, no satellites...not even...." His eyes fluttered, staring at the plated, upper bulkhead. Square sheets of titanium, incurved into the solemn ceiling. Everything appeared as it did before the crash of creation. Except for the colossal, potentially life threatening--and atmosphere compromising--crack near the east wall. Barring that, everything was gorgeous. "We've sustained damage." Koenig blurted urgently as he marched towards the too wide reticule. "The insulation is visible." He told them with dire construe. "This goes all the way to the core.

"We'd better get out of here."

"Damage?" Bergman objected. "We have not suffered any impacts either on the structure of the base or nearby on the lunar surface. We also have not had any moonquakes recently. There is no physical reason why we would have damaged."

Still, there was no explanation of why the exterior wall of Main Mission was coming apart at the seams and Bergman was not interested in dealing with the explosive decompression consequences.

"Listen." Russell interrupted the fast rap as she moved past an inconsequential block of Sandra Benes, and stepped up to the command desk. "That you hear it?"

They did.

To John Koenig it sounded conspicuously like someone hammering metal.

Russell heard the shearing of metal and looked up, just as a 4'x5' section of ceiling came crashing down, landing behind Ben Ouma. She gaped at the 4'x5' opening, an opening to space, her neck craned upward in amazement.

"We should be dead," Russell pronounced in complete awe. "We should have been sucked up and there should be no atmosphere right now."

She stared at Koenig then Bergman. "I don't believe it."

"Obviously, we are in another plane, a dimension if you will, of time or space," Bergman concluded, more amazed at their existence displacement than the hole in the ceiling. "I can't think of any other explanation, John."

Bergman, like Ang, was stumped, and felt his many years of knowledge was now no more useful than the intellectual development of a kindergartener.

As long as the crenellations, and the plumbing were set at a distance, the commander was desperate. As soon as the pounding commenced in the O.K. Corridor, you could add pissed to the list.

He glared at the professor in covert signal. Puddled at first by the gesture, Bergman quickly realized that a practical plan of pounce had been fomented. He nodded expectantly, and raised his left index finger to his mouth. Helena Russell acknowledged the hush, and watched as the commander, and the professor walked quietly over the platform that separated the Main Mission auditorium from the executive office. The trio moved past the sphinx's that were once MCR operatives in a slow, deliberate stalk towards the left archway.

Like her, they must have noticed the legion of blue clad, expired alien corpses that littered Level-A, and the computer deck. In each of their ashen, twelve digit palms, there rested a silver sledge with raised, oval etchings, and teardrop mallet.

As the fabrication noises grew more pronounced, she turned and viewed a sight so bizarre--so totally outré,' and Daliesque as to be startling.

"JOHN." She called out fulminantly, thereby ruining the element of surprise.

After seeing what lay beyond the vision ports, neither Koenig nor Bergman could blame her.

A fantasy metropolis co-existed with Moonbase Alpha. On an increasingly displaced lunar surface, it's foundations climbed towards the inert stars; obelisks disappeared into infinity; impossibly complex skyscrapers--designed, apparently, from the architect's ultra-geometric, free association--disappeared in the haze of space. Barges of light crept across a neotopian sea; interstates of dream-like envisage were filled with hyperlight transports, their destination unknown on tracks of Cartesian coordinates. Here was the length, the breadth, and the width of advanced  civilization. It was the fourth dimension, ever at their doorstep.

Koenig and Bergman stopped dead. Their fixation prevented them from seeing the high beam that fell, and crushed Benjamin Ouma like a Nike from God. The computer chief exploded in a diseased, tubercular cloud of blood-red smog.

Before they could fully process the closed cycle of birth, and mutilation, a Hell born creature stepped through the wall, and attacked Helena Russell.

Russell shrieked as she was knocked down the steps and into the pit, crashing against the leg of Sandra's workstation, which instantly crumbled, and the weight of the desk collapsed on top of the creature. The physician cried out not in terror but in rage as she grappled at what appeared to be eyes.

Her long manicured nails dug into the orbs and squeezed, as the creature attempted to choke the life out of her. The orbs popped like inflamed acne pustules, spewing brownish-green viscous liquid everywhere.

The creature screamed an earsplitting howl before becoming limp and dead, slumped on top of Russell. Helena pushed the corpse off in disgust, as Koenig and Bergman gave her a hand up, one on each side.

"For God's sake," she blurted, turning around and glaring at the hideous creature, "what in the hell was that?" She brushed off clumped of goo from her chest.

"No. John...." Bergman brushed the commander's hand away--a surly, offhand gesture, seemingly, but Koenig was unoffended in light of what he saw next.

The monster, as well as it's excretion, had begun to vamoose.' The process began with the noxious vaporization of the waste products from it's kidneys. Gone. Then the negative flow wiped away the spill of red, and white corpuscles. After that, this form of self-cleaning death mopped away the straw-colored plasma, and the solid cells with invisible enzymes that brought puke to the top of their throats. Then the ubiquitous eraser began to attack the thing's muscle tissue. The outline of its body transformed--from a solid, to a slush, and then a liquid.

Eventually it turned to steam, and floated upwards towards the high, crumbling skylight.

"Victor?" John Koenig was agog.

"I don't know." The professor answered, biting his upper lip. "It's like we disrupted whatever it was that held it in this universe.... We pulled out the staples...."

They noticed the woman, standing under the left archway. She was wearing a Medical uniform with the prominent white sleeve. None of them could remember who she was but they knew they had seen her before. Her curly strawberry blonde hair cascaded beyond her shoulders.

"What are you doing here?" She asked gently. "You do not belong here. You must go back."

Koenig and Bergman were stunned momentarily into silence. They looked to Russell to address the woman. After all, she was in Medical and one of her people. Dr. Russell, though, had the same non descript look on her face of unfamiliarity.


"Commander, Section 4 reports..." Paul Morrow looked up to where Koenig stood..or where he should have been standing. "Commander?" He turned around, completely confused.

"AAAAIIIIEEE!!!!" Operative Pam Dauber let out a scream of surprise. "PAUL!! The professor was standing right in front of me and he just.....disappeared!!!"

Sandra Benes turned quickly around. "Doctor Russell was just here! Now she is not!"

Morrow stood up and peered up at the balcony. Aside from a stunned Lars Manroot reacting to Pam's scream, no one was on the balcony, or the steps. Morrow bounded up the steps and peered inside the Commander's office then the MPSR room.

Both were empty.

"Pierce," Morrow stabbed the white communication stud to the Security dispatch, "the Commander, Professor Bergman and Dr. Russell are missing. Put together a search team immediately."

"No need for a search team," Ouma interrupted. "According to computer, Commander Koenig, Professor Bergman AND Dr. Russell are in this room.....right now."

Morrow speed dialed the next number on the call tree.

"Tactical." He summoned. "I wish to speak to Petrov."


"You've fallen behind." The anonymous medic recapitulated. "You must catch up."

Koenig stepped boldly, albeit blindly, forward.

"Fallen behind? How?" He counterclaimed. "Who are you? You're wearing one of our uniforms, but you're not one of us."

"That's unimportant." The recondite RN told him as plaster dust fell in a polluted rain behind her. The overhead pounding was now deafening. "If you're not caught up by the time the Amendment begins, you never will be. We have reached the limits of this term. All that remains is destruction, and death."

"What kind of 'amendment' are we talking about?" Bergman canvassed. "Does this have anything to do with the gravitational distortion near Procyon?"

The almost recognizable EMT said nothing. For the longest time, there were only the sounds of demolition, and the accompanying whippoorwills of mind boggling perplexity.

The conversation came to an abrupt end. It had to. From beneath both archways, the rank, and file of gray clad aliens marched into the condemned, Main Mission auditorium. One of them raised its gleaming tempo arum, and hammered Umberto Garzon to a gaseous pulp. Surprised, John Koenig spun around to see that a similar throng was entering through the dilapidated command office. Victor Bergman retreated as he saw yet another plentitude as they marched single file down the balcony steps.

They were surrounded, and the box was growing smaller with each passing non-second.

Chapter 3

"This data doesn't tell me much," Angelina Carter rubbed the weary corners of her eyes, dropping the register tape. They were in the experimental lab and she was dismayed when the bundle of snakelike paper, weighing no more than about 1/2 kilogram, broke the edge of the table like a heavy stone.

She needed a nap, as well as something to eat, judging from her rumbling stomach. Ang stood up and opened the door of the mini refrigerator, hoping to find something edible. The Technical Chief grabbed a golden delicious apple, fresh from a recent harvest from Hydroponics Farm #1, and tossed one to Carter.

She bit into it, frowned, and then spit it out. It tasted like nothing. In disgust, she chucked it across the room, aiming toward a waste basket. The apple slowed perceptibly, hanging in mid air and appearing to dissipate then, it reappeared and landed with a slam dunk thud in the trash barrel.

Angelina gaped, unbelieving. "Did you see that?" she whispered to Carter.

Carter bedel-BEDEL-BEDELLLED' his manic upper lip, and then shook it off before a paranoid psychosis could set up.

"Yes ma'am." He said flatly, and then pitched his own, sour-damn Smith apple into left field. It disappeared into the darkness of the angular grove. His didn't hover, which was good. You should be able to dispose of your apple without it defying the laws of physics, and motion. "That's life in the land of Tier Na Nog, I guess. I'll keep that in mind...just in case I have to make a run to the head.

"In this town, untimely pauses are the rage." He winked dismally, and then kicked the obdurate grass.

"It wasn't just the pause," she objected, not accepting his attempt to calm and dismiss,"it appeared to be structurally coming apart then reforming again." She shook her head. Her short term memory was already losing the details. "I don't know. It certainly was weird. Maybe it was just something that happens 'normally' here."

Molten Man had recoiled at the assault of projectile passing through it. Confused, it moved toward the source, homing in on the electrical activity but the other was too quick and had moved out of the way. When each source was apart, it was able to determine the location of each one. However, when they were in close proximity to each other, it was more difficult to pinpoint the source of the interference.

"Have a look, rose blossom." He led the way towards a bend in the nearby bulkhead. Stepping through the loading hatch, he stopped to show his contempt for the flush, uniform roller gate. "You know, it's never made much sense to me to have an exit to the surface in a place like this."

Perhaps it was one reason why dining on Moonbase Alpha was the stuff of puke, and Salmonella. The gardens weren't grown, they were poured--moreover they were poured while only a few feet away from the galactic rim. "You know what gets me? There are three inches of Tungsten steel in this door, with a quarter of an inch of beehive padding between the two sides. When I was in college, I saw a butterfingers grad' student break his foot with this stuff.

"Now, there is superior craftsmanship. The industry would be proud." Carter lamented, and then kicked open the airlock as if it were rice paper. "Care to join me for a walk?" He asked, and then stepped out onto the surface of the Moon.

"I suppose," she peered outside at the gray and black landscape then joined him outside. The surface did not feel like sand. Instead it was firm.

"Do you suppose that we could be dreaming?" She proposed. "Both of us may be fast asleep and we're sharing some strange psycho dream. It can happen, you know. Yeah, and maybe, just maybe, you're really not looking forward to taking that trip to pick up those guys out at the Tycho station with Will Harms." She laughed. It was decided in the last poker game. Loser go with Harms. Alan Carter was not having a good game. "You want to keep yourself in the moment of 4:29 lunar time just so you can avoid spending the day with Harms; just so you can avoid reality. But, you're taking me along for the ride, which, I guess I don't mind but you could have picked a better place to escape a ski resort...or a beach." She smiled broadly. "Should I switch professions and go into psychology? Or should I keep my day job?"

"You're dandy at whatever you do." Carter said lovingly, and lustfully--almost forgetting that, technically, their lives were in immediate peril. "A few years know...before the match got struck, which in turn, lit that little candle on the far side...before we were finally, and inexorably fucked--I would have said we were dead, or woolgathering. No, to be fair, I would have internalized my guilt, and out of this froth of dementia, I would have realized that I was the one with the problem. I am the Ninth Configuration...I guess...but now....

"Ain't this a Hallmark moment." He said connubially, and placed his arm around Angs' shoulder. Before them was the concrete dog house that protected a surface-flow valve that was routed to the heating units in Frigoris. A hundred meters away from that, there was one of the flat, double bay maintenance garages. The fifty foot, chain link containment fence that was erected around the colony line was nowhere to be seen.

Carter assumed it was laying on the ground somewhere.

He was about to say something glib about the hump-backed look of Technical Section's development L-Frame when the shadow flapped over head. The astronaut looked up in time to see the reptilian aviator shriek past them. The creature looked vaguely familiar--it was pterodactyl; diornis; emu; and teratornis, all rolled up into one, biologically improbably, nightmare package, and it was bigger than both he, and Ang' put together.

"Cheerio, brain." He said slowly, imperviously to his own, malfunctioning head. "I never knew we had critters like that on the Moon. I need to seriously start paying attention to my surroundings. All this time, I mistakenly believed space to be a near vacuum."

"This is incredible," Angelina mumbled, barely audible while watching the bizarre prehistoric 'bird' fly toward the ridge of mountains ringing Plato Crater. "I swear, we must be in a different dimension." She was in awe. "This is really awesome."

The anguished, terrified deplore came from atop a dune that was crisscrossed from the wheels of lunar rovers. The hillock was beleaguered with a squall of ethereal glitter. The paraplegic being, palms caked with blood, scrambled anxiously up the slope as Dino, the alien eating Triceratops honed in for an early lunch.

"THAT CRY IS HUMAN." Carter distinguished. "C'MON."

He tore up the side of the knoll like there was no tomorrow.

Angelina kept up as well as she could, catching up to him as he grappled and slid down the soft dunes of the lunar hill. The hill continued to crumble and a landslide resulted. The otherworld Triceratops creature lost its footing and toppled down the slope.

"AHHH!" Angelina cried out as the creature rolled down the hill toward them. They had no time to react but were completely surprised as the alien tumbled through them rather than the expected landing on them and crushing them.

The hill collapsed and with it the paraplegic, human appearing alien. Angelina and Alan scrambled to the mound, where a single hand with distended fingers protruded from the gray regolith. They dug frantically until Angelina, recognizing the face, cried out in horror.

It was impossible. It was Commander Koenig.

Behind, and turreted high above Ang,' the Pterosaur soft landed with a windfall cracking of carpal joints.

"Why have you interfered?" The Paleolithic, bird demon badgered unforebearingly. Then its bill turned downwards on Alan Carter, with orbits of round coal narrowing the process of elimination. "Are you cyphers? Fiftanenes? I never thought this was possible."

Its wings fluttered faintly. It was like seeing ghosts. Really, it couldn't get over it.


"WE'RE NOT FIFTANENES." John Koenig squawked back in his, and Russell's, and Bergman's slice of the sedentary, time pie. "OR CYPHERS, OR ANYTHING ELSE YOU JUST MENTIONED. WE'RE BEINGS FROM THE PLANET EARTH. THIS IS OUR BASE, AND I DEMAND TO KNOW WHAT YOU'VE DONE TO IT.

"MY PEOPLE." He pointed to the red, crystalline remains of Benjamin Ouma, and the peeling, through-a-razor-sharp-combine face of a stationary, entranced Paul Morrow. "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO THEM? ARE THEY DEAD?"

Helena Russell blinked then saw movement in Angelina Carter's formerly empty chair. A small girl about 3 or 4 years of age, with green eyes, curly blonde hair with a pink ribbon streaming down the back to match her satin pink dress and maryjanes smiled at the physician. She looked familiar to Russell, yet, she knew for certain the oldest female child on Alpha was only 2 years old.

Russell approached the child easily yet cautiously, squatting down to her level. "What's your name, sweetheart?" the physician asked gently.

She did not answer. She merely smiled at the doctor.

"Come," the mystery medical woman once again appeared under the right archway. "Come child, come to me."

Before Russell could stop her, the little girl jumped out of her chair and ran to the strange woman. The woman took the child's hand and turned, disappearing into a sudden fog that enveloped the corridor beyond Main Mission. Bergman stepped forward and peered into the corridor.

No fog; all that remained was the gradually disintegrating tiles and wall panels.

The stellar outlander who was at the fore stepped forward, its blue robe floating mysteriously across the shards of glass, and construction dust that covered the floor. Its hammer, not raised.

"I am the one called Epheme.'" The industrious alien responded with nada emotion. "Chief architect of the Society Of...Kairos." It finished suspiciously.

"I AM-" The commander started, but was muzzled quickly.

"John Koenig." Epheme cut him off with curt acquaint. "I know you very well. We also know, very well, Professor Victor Bergman, and Dr. Helena Russell."

Several of the observatory vision ports splintered and cracked in striking finis.

"How..." Koenig began, glancing into the corridor again but not seeing anything other than destruction, "how do you know us?" He straightened. "What is the 'Society of Kairos'? What is this place? An anomaly in time? Space?"

"This place is the Moon." One of the monk-like females said basically. Her cheekbones were high, her rictus, diamond shaped.

Heads cranked sideways at the commander's low intelligence quotient.


"The Moon did not break away due to a nuclear explosion." The monastic woman argued mysteriously.

Helena Russell glanced neutrally at Koenig, while placing a calming hand on his black sleeve forearm. "From our perspective," she began, "that is exactly what happened. The nuclear explosion was the mechanical, if you will, cause for our moon being dislodged from the orbit of our home planet." She paused, then realized she had the unnamed alien woman and Epheme's attention. "The real root cause of our plight though is human arrogance." She finished philosophical then stopped, deciding to let them mull over her explanation.

"Epheme," Koenig tried the direct approach again, "I ask you again. What is this place? Where are my people?"

"There are no people here." Epheme assured with stoic certitude. "Like the night surf of your world, the waves arrived; this beach was engulfed. Your people, and your base were assigned to the next moment, the new time."

"Just as you should have been." His hooded cohort criticized blandly, and unless John Koenig's persecuted imagination was playing tricks on him, her lithe, white hand tightened ever-so-slightly on the mallet she carried.

Epheme was fantastical, antic, monstrous, and truthful.

"How can that be?" Koenig's burned out shoulders ambled.

"What you see before you now is but remit." The alien explained, passing his hammer over the unmoving desks, the collapsing bulkheads. "It is refuse, and resist. These are merely structures of the past. Furniture from another era."

"They are shadows and decline." The female chose to converse with Helena Russell who was searching for Emma Black's pulse. "Waste that is ready for removal."

"For some reason," Bergman finally spoke up, piecing together the puzzle, "we are trapped in one moment in time." He began pacing introspectively, arms folded across his chest with right index finger tapping his chin. "We think of time as a continuum, a wave but like light, there is no reason to assume it can't have a finite, particulate nature as well." The professor nodded to Koenig. "This is quite an interesting experience, John, to be existing in a one of a kind moment, in the past and ready to be dismantled'. Very interesting."

"I can appreciate the scientific intrigue, Victor," the Commander acknowledged Bergman, "but what effect would our presence in this moment have on time?"

"More importantly," Helena Russell interrupted, "how do we get back to 'normal' time?"

Epheme's smooth, unrevealing pallor was the one constant.

He treated them like night crawlers beneath a rock.


On the surface of the moon, the strange alien bird glanced at Angelina and Alan Carter, making eye contact, and finally settled its gaze on Ang. She became uncomfortable.

"Why are you staring at me?" Angelina finally challenged. "I told you we are not cyphers or fiftanenes. We don't even KNOW what those creatures are. We are humans from earth." She glanced at the mutilated corpse. "Whoever that it, looks a lot like our Commander."

"Who are you and where are we? What is this place?" Angelina went on.

"You must acknowledge," the dinosaur bird spoke.

"ACKNOWLEDGE?" Carter called forth his Testosterone--the most powerful solvent to be had on a used-up, bargain basement moon. "ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT? THAT EVERYTHING AROUND US IS A SLAP-BANG-JOB, OR DO YOU WANT US TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU'RE AN UGLY FLAPPER THAT'S HERE TO COME THE RAW PRAWN?"

"You act like cyphers." The avian likened harshly as he straightened his wings, allowed the crud to fall...mostly on, and around Alan Carter. "The war of the ages is coming to a close, and you still have more energy in your mouths than you do in your hands."

"DO NOT." The astronaut rebuked, and proved it by showing the creature his middle finger.

"Please don't misunderstand," Angelina interceded, gently lowering Carter's gesture arm. "We realize we are not where we should be. Time around us has stopped yet we exist. It is beyond our experience and we are trying to determine what happened and how to make it right."

"I am Daetor." The bird offered more detail. He thought that he preferred the female of the species. She seemed more clever, more resourceful. "Fifth alter of the deconstruction." He opened, and closed his beak, caring not if he impressed Carter, or not. "I come from an honorable house--a temple dedicated to the demolition of the past. Since time inconceivable we have combated the Society Of Kairos--who would be known as lazy, and who produce an inferior product.

"Who would not prefer our methods? The technique of the Old Ones?"

"What a ripper that is." Carter balked. "Judging by the looks of things, you batch it all together with fucking duct tape."

"We do the best we can." Daetor replied. "Knowing all the while that the ultimate sacrifice will be our lives."

"Time as a production? A quantity?" Angelina was intrigued. "Interesting."

Daetor ignored Carter, turning his complete attention to Ang. "You must acknowledge."

Angelina appeared confused. "I don't understand. Acknowledge what?"

"That is the key. You must acknowledge."

Angelina Carter felt like an imbecile. She had not clue, no idea what the being was referencing. She closed her eyes, feeling exhausted, stupid but exhausted.

"Your humanity serves you well at times but fails you often," the woman with the long, curly strawberry blonde hair replaced Daetor. Beside her stood a small female child, recognizable yet unknown. "As it has failed you now."

"Who are you?" Angelina squinted at the brightness. "I have seen you before but I don't remember you."

"A friend," she responded with serenity.

"If you are a friend," Angelina went on," help us. Help us return."

The beautiful woman merely gazed at her. "The answer is within."

When she awoke, she was her office in technical section. Carter was next to her, stirring, returning to reality, whatever reality it was. The digital clock on the commpost read 1010.

She bolted upright from the white leather couch. "I'm sorry," she rubbed her eyes. "I must have dozed off. I didn't sleep well at all last night. Speaking of sleep, I just had the weirdest dream. It was like time stopped and everything froze except for us. Time just kept marching on. It was very strange. Actually, it was more like a nightmare." She heaved a sigh of relief. "I'm glad that's over."

Head in his palms, a thousand ton Alan Carter tried to shake the barbells off. He had no memory of either the intent, or the act, but somehow he had dozed in one of the busiest departments on Moonbase Alpha. There was no light, no noise. They might be in low-tide mode--to save power, or because the universe was against them. Again. Mute, he walked towards the open lavatory door, passing the vaccuform chairs that Ang' used to decorate her office.

The hot water wasn't working, nor was the cold. The clam-shell sink was covered in a fine layer of foundation dust. Carter's cheeks stabbed upwards. The facility was pleasant--like the rest of the Technical Manager's work area--the Sweet Williams hung with pride from plastic hooks in the ceiling; the burgundy shower curtain completed a difficult, but tasteful decor.

The crunching plastic beneath his feet told him what he needed to know, but in blind faith, he looked upwards anyway.

"Angelina." He called, resigned.

Angelina had been staring at the pendulum of the cuckoo clock on the wall, gaping at the fact that the pendulum was swung completely to the right and not moving. The time on the digital clock was still reading 1010. The nightmare was not over.

"Alan..." she acknowledged him then noticed just outside her open door, Caroline Kennedy stood immobile, carrying a stack of flimsies. She did not blink. She did not breath. She did not live.

"It's not over," an aghast and almost to the point of tears Angelina continued, waving her hand in front of statue Kennedy.

A column of lavender illumine poured through the skylight. The blackness of space had replaced the exploding horizons of Procyon, which was good. They had moved on. On the other hand, the gaping hole in the ceiling was missing its glass, which was not good.

They had traded one desert island for another. They were still stuck, and in all likelihood they would be stucker still.

Disgusted, Carter left the room.

Chapter 4

"Funny how you've attached yourself to us." Carter remarked, folded his arms over his chest. The avian visitor to the dilapidated Technical Section didn't expect him to pule, and he was not disappointed. "Especially since you, and I don't get on very well."

Metacarpals cracked as the giant Pterosaur opened, and closed its wings.

Ang' exited the lavatory in time for the draft.


"...A SANDTRAP IN TIME...." John Koenig argued vehemently.

"...can see the theoretical possibility...." Bergman overlapped with his own argle-bargle.

"How did we get here?" Russell broke with the theoretical into the practical, addressing Epheme. It was with an educated guess she decided he would know the answer, since Koenig and Bergman seemed clueless. "I ask you again. How do we get out and return to our normal time?"

"There is only one route of entry." Epheme said again as he monitored his squad's progress at tearing down the east wall of the auditorium.

"I know you say that...." The professor professed. "But how can you really know for certain. If an individual can walk through the door, then it seems reasonable that the same person can walk back out."

"Are you saying we are trapped here?" Russell, impatient with the talk of theories of time irregularities, just wanted a solution. She straightened. "Clearly, we do not belong here. As the woman said, we must go back or there will only be death and destruction."

"I would not say you are trapped here," Epheme spoke to Russell, almost acknowledging her as an equal. "Your presence may not be accidental but preordained." He nodded slightly at his unnamed female cohort. "Our society is responsible for dismantling the last moment. Without our efforts, the forward momentum of the next moment would be slowed by the continued existence of the last moment. Eventually, all time itself would cease to be created; and implode."

"I think I understand," Russell nodded tentatively.

"Of course you do," Epheme nodded. "In the beginning, there were two societies responsible for the dismantling of time. Rather than cooperate, the other society desired to be dominant and since then, they have become our enemies. They do not dismantle time but seek to counter our efforts, even if it means the annihilation of all time." Epheme finished with a hint of disgust in his voice. "They are vain, horrendous creatures without any regard for the common good."

"You seem knackered about it all." Bergman noted, stepping away from the look-out-below zone as rivets from the upper bulkhead began to fall like iron rain. "Surely it's not too posh to consider negotiating with these...antagonists...if you will?"

John Koenig could care less, and he did not try to hide it.

"Who cares?" The commander punked them down. "Epheme, bottom line: we don't belong here. You have stated that there's no way to escape this slipstream. I'm not sure I believe that. What I am certain of is your ability to crush reality to smithereens. question is: how extensive is this bulldozing? What level of destruction are we facing?"

Epheme shrugged. What could he say?

One of the ebullient workers standing behind him uttered degrading, yuk-yuk sounds.

"When the next moment arrives...." The nameless, general female replied. "Our labors will cease, our task will be completed."

"I detect a definite underscore to that statement." Koenig told them sardonically. "Will the Moon still be here?"

Bergman moved closer. A finger was poised to his lips in guarded verity.

"Hmmm." He said unhappily. "The universe is ever changing, John. You can pass your hand in front of your face. Do it again, and it won't be the same, even though it's the same hand in a similar movement. Anything different will probably require a new construct."

"Precisely." Epheme agreed.

"Then if we're not out of here by the time you bucket all of creation?"

"You will succumb to the fires of the next moment." The lady in drab laid it all out, calmly, and dispassionately, and heartlessly. "As will we all."

Koenig's face was razed with garden hoses of rage.

"DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT YOU INTEND TO ANNIHILATE YOURSELVES IN THE PROCESS?" He could not comprehend the martyrdom, the fault, the sub normality. "THAT CITY OVER THERE?" He pointed towards the dis-TIME capital beyond the vision port. "EVERY ONE IN IT WILL ALSO DIE? YOUR ENTIRE RACE?"

"No race is meant to last forever," Helena Russell added smoothly, philosophically. "Every race either becomes extinct or evolves."

"You are correct," Epheme approved.

"That being the case, Epheme." Bergman interceded. "Who will handle the particulars of the next moment?"

"That is not given to us to know." The leader of the society said, but he speaketh with forked tongue, the professor felt. The annotation was more in his tone than anything else. "The Unity provides for the nouveau time. We are but servants."

They were sheep.

Self-proclaimed goats who found it a laurel to be ground up in the garbage disposal.

The commander wanted to punch him.


Angelina stepped between Carter and the Pterosaur, if for no other reason than to prevent Carter from impinging Daetor with brute force. She had the feeling that the large dinosaur bird would have no problem defending itself in an attack. She also felt that Carter's physical prowess was no match for the creature and he would end up injured or worse, dead.

"Daetor," Ang addressed, eyeing her pilot spouse. "We are still frozen in a moment. It is a later moment but it is still not normal, progressive time. I get the feeling you know how to help us return to normal."

"Please, if you know, tell us what we must do."

"Daetor?" The big bird responded loquaciously. "You refer to my ancestor, of course. One who passed many cycles ago. I am Arsenios." Carter did not believe it possible, but the bullshit cockatiel was, somehow, able to kiss Angs' hand in royal genuflect. "For generations we have awaited your coming."

"Yeah." The pilot was plaintive. "With neon lights too, I see."

Across the ceiling, the word KALYNDA burned red.

Angelina swallowed hard then look away. It was a name she had pondered recently. It was different, unique and even though she was not Hindu, the reference to the Sun was fitting; a bright light in deep space.

"Generations," she ignored the sign in the sky. "It does not appear we have come generations. In fact, it looks more like a few hours, for us anyway. Why are we here? Why THIS moment in time?"


"There is no sign of the Commander, Dr. Russell or Professor Bergman on the base," Harness Bull Pound's image reported from Morrow's desk monitor. "It was just like doctor and captain Carter. They just vanished."

"They could not have 'just vanished,' Sandra Benes blurted with irritation after Pound signed off. "Do you know how silly that sounds?"

"Computer reports them to be in this room," Ouma replied casually, almost snugly.

"Do you know how silly THAT sounds?" Sandra fired back sarcastically.

Before Morrow could respond, Chris Potter's stressed face appeared on the monitor. "Paul, all of the spare power supplies have blown. The cause is still unknown. Right now we are in the process of pulling power supplies from non-essential equipment but we are fast reaching a point where essential equipment will be affected and go down."

"We're having the daft carpet pulled right out from under us." The controller smirked in hatred. "Very well, then. Sandra, have the quartermaster issue suits, and hard packs to all personnel."

Ouma looked stricken.

"Paul, are you feeling quite well?" The computer chief wondered maternally. "That last part left me a bit gob-smacked. Traditionally, we'd handle situations like this by alienating me, and placing computer in low-tide service."

"We can't afford to down-mode." Morrow cracked. "Especially in a situation like this where we have half of our facilities are crashing already. As to the alienation problem, don't worry, Ouma. I'll tend to it."

Sandra Benes smirked at Ben Ouma, then chuckled, shaking her head. "Right away, Paul." She slid gracefully out of her chair toward the archway. "Minus 5, since computer seems to be counting people who are not here."

Morrow let out a muffled guffaw. Ouma scowled.

"I hate to add more bad news," Yul Ostrog continued his trip into the auditorium, finally pausing at the capcomm station. "All Eagles appear to be non operational. Cedrix is going through the diagnostics now but so far, they are failing multiple tests."

"...........are failing multiple tests."

Ostrog wrinkled his brow as did Morrow.

"What the..." Lars Manroot noticed.

"I did not say that," Ostrog objected. "I mean, I did say that but I only said it once!"

More reverb, and less alphans.


What could it all mean?


"Sorry to be so taciturn." Arsenios, the Fifth Wonder Of The Moon apologized, and then dropped Alan Carter through the faux surface of the temple. The astronaut landed in the apostate hole--covered with muck, and dead center of the bird fest.' A thousand, or so beasts of prey looked down on him presumptively. The millennial alter of the deconstruction had decided that a collapsing barracks was no place to have a conversation. You know, about Kalynda and all of that. Carter was reasonably certain that the foul had more personal motivations, but agreed. Little did he realize, he would be grabbed by the head, and transported--through the roof of Technical Section, across the seas of Plato to a teeming, water color municipality--or so it appeared in the haze of the tall, factory smoke stacks. In his mix-up, this was something else he had overlooked. A capital the size of Sydney--there all the time; there, and not more than a single kilometer from the base.

Ang' was paraded like a queen, lavishly pyramid on Arsenios' back.

Somewhere, at thirty thousand feet, or so, Carter was unclutched, and plummeted towards the city. The squat, alien schools, and the avant-garde healthcare facilities; the retail billboards, and the unconventional corporate structures; the crates where bums hung out, and transit systems of pure light, all spiraled into a screaming dive that ended with him, literally, in the hay with all of these tall, rara avis, bird fuckers surrounding, and gawking at him.

"You cannot be the one." One of the senators announced with gross disapproval.

To add insult to injury, one of the younger members of the gaggle zinged him in the head.

"No, no." Arsenios fluttered to the ground so Ang' could dismount. "Here is our messiah. Tell me she does not match what was written of in our parchments. Bow, all acolytes."

The vast majority of them did.

She slid off the bird and went to Carter's side. She turned abruptly to Arsenio. "When you dropped him, he could have been seriously injured. Please do not do that again."

Arsenio nodded humbly. "If that is your wish."

"I don't understand," she continued. "What is going on?"

The dome was scorched with more fluorescent epistles.

One was simply the year '1999.'

Another read: SEAT ALPHEARAS

Carter wondered as to the meaning of STARCHILD COMET.

Chapter 5

"From the beginning," Arsenio explained, "there were two of us responsible for the dismantling of the last moment and the construction of the next."

Angelina gawked at the fabulous city around her. It was utterly mind-blowing that such a metropolis existed on the barren moon; or at the least moon was always barren from her frame of reference.

"However, within a few generations, the others, the Society of Kairos, became corrupt and driven by their own lust to conquer and dominate." Arsenio continued his explanation.

"Society of Kairos?" Ang repeated. She thought for a moment. "You mean that being which resembled our Commander?"

"Yes," Arsenio went on. "You of course realize that it was not your Commander. It was one of the Society of Kairos. I do not yet understand why they attempted to appear to you in your Commander's form. However, we are constantly surveying them."''

Carter scratched his cowlick on that one.

"Guv,' talking to you is like talking to a blowfish." He succeeded. "You claim there's a row between you two; then you try to get us to feel sorry for you...saying your time--and our time--is limited. How can you have a bloody hegemony if each generation is obliterated each time the clock goes tick?"

"If the society realizes their plan...." The first senator, whose name was Dexicos, interpolated. "There will be no more moments, no new births, not even deaths. From this stationary moon, they will move outward--to the stars, enveloping every race, and world that they encounter, and drawing them into their ever dark, and increasing empire of non-Time."

"It will be worse than destruction." Arsenios added. "Days will be passing phlegm. Inertia, and inactivity will be the grand order."

"So, where's the threat?" Carter said skeptically. "You're here; the universe is there...beyond the wall of the moment. Ask me, you blokes are the only ones who stand to lose anything in this civil war you're fighting."

Dexicos looked at Ang' beseechingly.

"He is not bright." The elder statesman informed her.

"For it is written in our sacred text." Arsenios warmed up his out-of-tune, hymn singing Pterosaur vocal cords. "The Guilty One will smite them down. Her remorse will overturn their ploughs, and break the leashes of bond servants. There shall be war no more."

"Who's feeling guilty?" The astronaut liked their talk less, and less...he wasn't sure why, but he did. "I feel like a million, and so does she."

To prove it, he put his arm around Ang' in a surreal, unconvincing Grant Wood-style pose. They were the Lunar Gothic; Green Acres of the cosmos.

"Earthman, you speak not from the Book Of Harmon." Dexicos relayed sadly. He thought they knew. Then again, no one said they had to know...even the prophets of yore.

"Guilty one?" Ang answered, curious but confused and increasingly nervous. She did not relinquish her hold on Carter. "I am not guilty of anything or at least anything that I know of."

"You refused to acknowledge," Arsenio cued gently.

"There's that word again....acknowledge." Ang repeated. "Acknowledge what? Acknowledgement implies recognizing denial. I am not in denial of anything. How would you know about me, other than what your ancestor told you? Surely, he did not know me long enough to make an assessment about me."

"There are things that the Divine Spirit has given us to know." The flapping alter told Carter, and Ang,' and his flapping, partner in crime agreed. "Then, too, there are things that we may never know."

It was all very latent, and numinous.

Angelina felt her stomach turning. There was an emerging headache and her lower belly ached, tightening and relaxing. She broke out into a sweat and shook her head. Instantly, she felt better.

"What's this?" Carter squinted, looking at the triangular, open stone of the temple.

Peering inside like a snitch, Astronaut Darla Lomax--somehow liberated from the confines of a popsicle Eagle One--had apparently overheard their entire conversation. Making eye contact with Ang,' she fled on stoolpigeon heels.


"Don't go." Arsenios cautioned as Carter took off after her.

"It's a trap." Dexicos forecast fatefully.

"DARLA!!" Angelina called out and, ignoring Dexicos, followed Carter into the temple.


"Victor, how much time do you think we have?" John Koenig said as they marched across the open basin to the A-GRAV control bunker. "Hours? Minutes?"

"It's impossible to say." The professor said as he scaled the slope. The abut of huge towers, and tresses grew larger in the distance. He stopped by an abandoned rover to look over his shoulder. "They're making short work of the base. The Moon itself will require even greater exertions. At their present rate, maybe a week?"

Helena Russell stood at the top of the hill. The city was breathtaking. She found that thought amusing. The fact that she was even breathing on the lunar surface was....breathtaking. High above, her eye was caught by what appeared to be a pterodactyl.

"LOOK! UP THERE!!!" She shouted, pointing to what should have been an extinct creature. Koenig and Bergman, just created the top as they averted their eyes upward. The creature made contact and swooped toward them.

"GET DOWN!!" Koenig shouted, pulling Russell with his right hand and Bergman with his left to the ground. All three ate gray lunar dust.

Despite laying flat, the pterosaur adeptly gripped its claws around the Commander's and Bergman's arms. Russell gripped Koenig tightly about the waist.

"HELENA!! Hang on!!!" Koenig shouted the obvious and struggled as did Bergman but the viselike grip of the avian creature was unwielding as it continued to gain altitude. The commander realized that freeing himself at this point would mean a death sentence.

Almost immediately, members of the Society of Kairos appeared, bearing bows and arrows instead of hammers. Despite their attempts, the avian was an artful dodger of bows and soon he and his cargo were beyond reach.

As with Carter, Koenig and Bergman were both released without benefit of a soft landing, though instead of hay, they found themselves dropping head first into 'droppings.'

"Where is it taking us?"

"Dunno.'" Bergman faltered. "I'm sorry we didn't make it to the A-GRAV core. I could have sworn that I saw a navigational beacon flashing atop Tall-T."

"Power?" Koenig said as he assessed the land of no voltage.

"Somehow, I believe so." The professor went on.

"If we've been sequestered-" Helena Russell noted. "It's unlike any captivity I've ever heard of. Usually, confinement follows kidnapping. I've never heard of just dropping someone off. What are we supposed to do? Be patient, and wait for our interrogators to arrive? If that's the case, this culture has the strangest allegiance to decorum that I've ever heard of."

They were on the edge of the hyper-advanced metropolis. Many a Triceratops passed them on the dank street, but none evinced any awareness of their existence.

"Helena, I'm starting to think that Epheme, and company sold you swamp land." The commander warned. "For my part, I'm wondering if we ought to hang around. Something about this seems...liberating." He finished in ambiguity. "But I know we can't. The A-GRAV pylons are on the other side of that embankment." Koenig said, pointing due east. "The Tall-T transmitter is less than a mile away. Let's go have a look at the buoy Victor saw."

To say that the physician was uncooperative would be a magnification.

She nagged, literally, the entire way back.


"LOMAX." Carter bellowed in the wilderness between the capital, and the declining ruins of Moonbase Alpha. Most of the plated rooftops were gone now. Only unstable bulwarks remained. "THAT'S A FAIR DINKUM." He panted, and heaved. "I NEED YOU TO STOP RIGHT THERE. YOU'RE STARTING TO PISS ME OFF."

"DARLA!!!" Angelina called out. "Darla! Stop!!!"

The pilot withered as he saw Lomax turn.

Her running had ended. Through ghostly circles, he could see that the whole thing had been a gambit...a stratagem to lure them to some killing zone, away from the Church Of Kalynda. The thing was Darla Lomax, or at least, a percentage of her. The revenant had somehow squeezed through the crack between moments, not physically but as a creature of assiduity.

"This is not the person you know." Dexicos essayed. Admittedly, he wasn't very good with this stuff.

"It is...." Arsenios modified. "And it isn't. All living things secrete a residue. Physically, she resides in the next moment. These are the remainders of your friend's thoughts, and feelings."

"Yeah?" Carter blew his own hairy bang away from his forehead. "Then why does she look like she's cracked mental. I never did anything to her."

Angelina remembered the last expression on Darla Lomax face before Ang's commlock interrupted their conversation and the Technical Manager left quickly to Main Mission. It was hours ago but she almost forgot the encounter.

For the life of her, though, Angelina Carter could not remember the actual content of the conversation. Darla Lomax's face had been a mask of sadness and distress. Ang hoped she had not offended the woman.

"I think we should leave." Dexicos had a bad feeling. "There are risks. If we stay."

The floating shade of hateful energy turned demonically, and attacked Alan Carter.

Chapter 6

Dexicos interceded.

Somehow, by the powers afforded him in the irrational, unscientific dys-time--and in spite of his urge to let things be--he dispelled the abominable, invidious residue of astronaut Darla Lomax. Atop his scepter was Kalynda's gem; in his pterosaur heart, there was the belief in continuous time. The semblance of the pilot shrieked from the pillory of inconclusive pain. Her image went haywire like an out of control film reel before being blown away in the psychic winds.

At the end of it all, Alan Carter's eviscerated corpse lay face down on the ground.

"That was bad." Arsenios told Ang,' wise of beak. "Bad for him, but good for us." He weighed these things carefully. "With a mind as small as his, I'm sure life was a terrible burden. The universe can be fantastically cruel to a man like that. Let us celebrate the very few good things about him, and then be about our business."

Angelina ignored the alien, instead, stooping down and rolling Carter's body toward her, supporting him in her arms. It happened too quickly and despite the fact it was his rash action, one of too many impulsive acts that she know would get him killed someday (now), she still felt responsible for it.

"I loved this man," she bit back at the giant pterosaur, staring into the pilot's lifeless face. "I don't appreciate your opinion of him and frankly I don't care." She paused, as salty tears dripped down her face.

Dexicos stood silently without reply.


"What do you make of it, Victor?" Koenig stared upward at the dimly glowing light of the grav tower.

Helena Russell abruptly turned when she heard the scuffle. Alan Carter engaged in a fist fight...with an invisible adversary. He left hooked violently at the airless atmosphere and pivoted out of control to the dusty lunar surface. Still enraged but somewhat dazed, he jumped up, looking around.

"ALAN!!" Russell led the charge as Koenig, Bergman and she approached him.

Carter bounded backwards to a nearby outcropping of magma. Then, he let his heels do the talking, his soiled flared puffing outwards as he dropped down--his head still spiraling; every molecule in his body, exhausted from the impromptu journey. Millions of years in the space of one second, and without even knowing it. The Relativity Express; the train to another plane.

"Ang.'" He caught his breath, but not his mind. "Have you seen her?"

"No." Bergman replied. "We assumed she was with you."

"You both disappeared." Koenig explained the chronology of events. "From Main Mission. We couldn't find you anywhere. We even tried using computer to get a fix on your position. Then we fell through the same portal."

"We've got to find her." The pilot prioritized, wiping the muck from his mug. "What moment is this? Am I in the same space that I was?"

"Moment?" Bergman scratched his head. "Why, of course. If you hadn't found us before, Alan, then no, you are not in the same moment of space. You are further ahead than you were." He nodded. "The question is, how did you get here? That could very well be the key for getting use back to normal time."''

"I'm not sure." The pilot told them, rubbing furiously his inflamed temples. "We were with some mouthy, overgrown parrot, and his mate. They claimed to be priests, or something. In the House Of Kalynda, I think they called it."

"Kalynda?" Helena Russell considered dubiously.

"Right." Carter told them. "They're responsible for all of this." He gleaned the collapsing walls of the artificial gravity block. "They're the wrecking crew. After each moment is used up, they come along, and tear it down...they make way for the future, more or less...and create crunched-down, midgets."

"John, except for the last part, it sounds a lot like our 'hosts,' the Society Of Kairos." Bergman suspected.

"Right," Russell interjected, "but according to Epheme, they are the enemies of the Society of Kairos. It is good that you came here and are safe with us." The doctor decided. "But Ang may still be in danger."

"Helena," The Commander shook his head, "you are assuming what Epheme says in true. What if, in fact, the Society of Kairos is not as benevolent as you believe? What if we are more at risk with our association than Ang is with the others?"

Koenig could not understand Helena's preference for the Society of Kairos.

A small hand tugged at Carter's tunic. The child, backlit with a blinding light, looked up at him and smiled, lifting her arms. Instinctively he crotched down to pick her up. He blinked and she was gone.

"Steady," Helena Russell was at his right side while Bergman was propping him up on the left.

"They think Ang' is their Tudor queen." The pilot shrugged them off. "I never did like that Arsenios. If I see him again, I'm going to break his beak."

It was a done deal.

"Their queen? Leader?" Bergman questioned eyebrows raised. "For what purpose?"


Gag me with a spoon, Arsenios thought--respective of Angs' crown, of course.

"I think I understand now." Dexicos believed, and from a pouch at his side, he removed a moldering tome, and opened it to one of the intaglio pressed pages. "From the Second Book Of Daetor, our beloved ancestor." He lubricated his tonsils for the recitation of scripture. "FOR MAJESTY ACCEPTED HIS SLOTH, AND HIS FETID, AND THE FACT THAT HE LAYS AROUND--IN THE SAME UNIFORM THAT HE WORE YESTERDAY, AND THE DAY BEFORE--UNSHAVEN, AND FOR WANT OF FRESH SOCK. WOE TO THE FOOL WHO EXPECTS HARD LABOR OF HIM, AN UNSHAVEN CLOD....

"My queen, we could learn from you. Your agape love, and acceptance."

The senator doubted that he could have lived with Carter. The astronaut had been dead for ten minutes now, and in those ten minutes, he seemed more articulate than he had his entire life.

"I feel that I have missed something...." Arsenios pondered. The pilot was creamed. So what? She acted like she'd never see him again.

"I doubt if your sacred scripture was referring to him," Angelina gently laid Carter to the ground and stood up. "Why do you refer to me as your queen? I do not profess supremacy over anyone and I certainly would not consider myself fit to lead you."

Arsenios beamed. "She IS the one. Her modesty, her humility..."

"YES!" Dexicos shouted, overjoyed and flipping his battered reference to another page. "IT IS WRITTEN: SHE HUMBLES HERSELF TO SERVITUDE. HER GREATNESS, SHE LEVELS TO THE LOWLY."

"Oh brother," Angelina shook her head wearily.

"SHE EMBRACES HER SUBJECTS AS KINDRED, AS SIBLINGS TO HER ABUNDANT COMPASSION." The senator continued, flapping his wings in excitement.

He was scintillate.

"My queen, what we need from you is your birthright." He extrapolated. "In our line, Etragian beget Eudora, who beget Domitian, who beget Clymenestra, who beget Androcles, who beget Daetor, one thousand, who beget Hypatia...."

"Back, and back, and back." Arsenios mimed. "Unto the oldest of the old."

"Yes, but even our scrolls make no mention of the Age Of Fire." The senator decried. "The period when the Moon was separated from the Earth. These gospels did exist, for millions of years until the Society Of Kairos suppressed them, and butchered the martyrs."

"They told of the mythical civilization on your home world." The alter remembered. "How militant they were, what asses they were."

"We need that level of instruction." Dexicos told her what he wanted.

She leaned back on a shining, jeweled pillar, the stone reminded her of the smoothness and coolness of marble. She knew it was not marble as she felt a wetness creeping up her back. The pillar appeared to be perspiring...or weeping. She hadn't felt anything in a long time, hours or perhaps days, but then again, time was irrelevant.

"You want me to show you how to act like savages?" Angelina finally spoke. "We have never been proud of our negative qualities, at least most of us." She admitted. "Why? For what purpose? Aren't you concerned that by learning our darker traits that you would become savage?"

"No," Dexicos told her gently. "We do not wish to become like you. We wish to understand the savagery such that we could understand and defeat out enemies, the Society of Kairos. Remember, these are, ultimately, your enemies as well. It is to your advantage to help us and to become allies."

"If I help you," she spoke carefully, "will you help me get back to continuous time?"

They agreed, but did not know why. It was like asking for arms, and legs.

She already had them.


"There has been a disruption," Epheme appeared with his unnamed female companion. He stared at Russell, Bergman, and Koenig then scanned Carter. "I am afraid one of your people was deceived into aiding our enemy and the balance is shifting. If our enemy succeeds, all time will be destroyed."

"Angelina Carter," Russell replied quickly. "She must have been tricked by the others. How can we get her back?"

"Tricked." The astronaut complied. "Yeah, that's it. Tricked."

"You all seem awfully sure of that." Koenig noticed. He didn't even bother to stand. The situation was getting old. "I'm not, though. Epheme, what would happen if this other force managed to take control?"

"If the House Of Kalynda prevails, then you can expect to wake up to abolition, disintegration, extirpation, and extermination every day. Morning, noon, and night, John Koenig. This process will continue. Each moment have no more significance than an empty chalice. At the end of it all, you will be hacked to pieces, and then recycled again, and again for the matrix of the new time. Anger won't be a luxury because you'll have no memory of it happening except, perchance, at the deepest, most unreachable, subconscious level. Instead of your days being long, and easy, they will be murdered segments--glued together for some higher purpose--stabbed on a spit like a shish kabob." Epheme said.

Russell trembled.

"It sounds frightful." She effused.

"Not to worry." The leader put his arm around her like a comforting, big brother Pookie Bear. "We've vowed to bring it to an end. Sliced wrists, and intermixed blood--that is our signature, our compact."

Koenig chuckled bemusedly as he picked up a pebble, and skipped it across the lunar sea.

"What if that's the natural order of things." The commander challenged. "Death does seem appalling--but in the end, it serves a necessary function. The real sin against nature is to die without purpose."

"What?" Epheme wobbled.

"This cycle you're referring to." Koenig was cognizant. "It's been in place since forever. What are your credentials? Who the Hell are you to subvert it. I can't say that I love God. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that I have an attitude problem when it comes to that. My attitude is, I think He, She, or It sucks. It's easy to feel that way after watching 'God' play 'Ninety-Nine Bottles Of Beer' with 311 men, and women who committed no crime. On the other hand, He does have rather more experience than I do in running things. God knows where the keys are, when the floors need to be mopped."

"I don't understand." Epheme scrabbled.

"John," Russell stepped away from Epheme toward Koenig, "no one is questioning a belief or disbelief in a higher deity. In fact, what does that have to do with our situation at this moment? This society IS a necessary component in the continuation of time. If there job is somehow disrupted or halted, it makes sense that there would be dire consequences in normal time."

Epheme beamed with almost fraternal pride at Russell. Koenig wanted to barf.

"No one doubts the purpose of a race responsible for the dismantling of the last moment," Bergman interjected, "but, Helena, where is the proof that the House of Kalynda is indeed the aggressive and destructive society?"

"How do you know they aren't?" Russell shot back, eyes blazing.

"Look." Bergman eased. "Helena, there really isn't enough information. Either way-"

'Return to the point of entry,' whispered the subliminal voice in Koenig's ear. He bristled. 'Return to the point of entry.' The instruction repeated again. The Commander turned slowly, only to see Russell standing agape at the apparition.

"Bob?" Helena questioned the ghostly Dr. Bob Mathias.

"That is not your companion," Epheme explained. "He no longer exists in the last moment though his residual energy of emotion remained. Ignore it."

Carter swallowed his heart. In his mind, there were detestable remnants; the now anonymous vestiges. Throughout the visitation, he appeared to be the only one who was not startled to see Dr. Robert Mathias' shredded image as it hung high above, beckoning.


He almost believed himself.

Chapter 7

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely," Angelina Carter, dressed in a silk gown with a golden cape. it seemed she had been there for years but had not aged even a minute. Dexicos and Arsenios, however, had aged, both the equivalent of senior pterosaurs, feeble and hunched over.

Perched before her were the generation of their grandchildren, Demetrius, the grandson of Arsenios and Kala, the granddaughter of Dexicos and now head priestess.

"The most potent weapon against a tyrant is to allow him to feed on his lust for power and destroy himself. The more power he consumes, the more he craves and will consume.

"It will destroy him."

They applauded adoringly.

"The Society of Kairos is weak, much weaker than they were generations ago," Dexicos spoke from the back of the crowd. "My children, it will be you who will finally stop the oppressors. There is much conflict within the Society of Kairos. They are tearing themselves apart with their lust for power and urge to conquer."

They lapped it up.


"HOGWASH." One of the shavers in the rear heckled. His name was Thrasymachus--disposition, jerk-off, and sarcastic, besides having a name that was unpronounceable in the ex-moment. The ninety-year old, preteen rooster swooped over the others, and landed before Angs' pulpit, boldly daring the others to find him unmeritorious, or unfit. "HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN? HOW MUCH CLOSER ARE WE TO THE NEW TIME--THE NEW 'DEMISE,' FOR US ANYWAY--AND WE STILL HAVE NOT MANAGED TO GAIN PROMINENCE OVER KAIROS." He informed their queen. "THEIR PRODUCTIVITY HAS INCREASED, AND ALL WE HAVE IS THE BURDEN YOU PLACE ON OUR EARS, LADY."

"Not to worry, my liege." Demetrius promised Ang.' "He'll pay for this sedition. How does death-by-hanging sound?"

The other birds in the throng murmured their assent. Here were wings that needed to be clipped.


"A TOTAL BLOODBATH." He spewed vitriol at Ang.'

"I AGREE." Keres shouted. She was one of the rebel females, and she waved her protest sign proudly over the throne. "MY SPOUSE WAS LOST IN THE NECTARIS CAMPAIGN, AND TO WHAT END? THE DAY, AND THE COLLAPSE OF THE CRATER, BELONGED TO KAIROS. WORDS MEAN NOTHING. WE NEED DECISIVE ACTION.


"Keres, dear Keres," Angelina answered the widow. "Your anger is caused by grief for your spouse. I too understand the loss of beloved a long time ago. Grief has blinded you and for that, I understand. I have never dominated you, any of you, but have merely advised you."

"But you, Thrasymachus. I am glad you are here, now, where I can observe you but at the same time I am saddened. For your presence here confirms my suspicions I've had about you for a long time." She looked down, shaking her head. "Why was Proteus and his army so easily defeated? The plan was foolproof. There could have only been one way and one way only for it to have failed; Kairos knew about it beforehand."

The crowd gasped, even Keres glanced at Ang then Thrasymachus with lifted brow.

"Of course," Arsenio realized with horror, piecing it together. "Benedict Arnold!"

"You cannot prove a thing," Thrasymachus puffed his chest dominantly.

Ang sighted the sentry, Nicodemus, flapping hurriedly toward the crowd. His avian visage exuded enthusiasm.

"Regrettably, I can," Ang answered as the sentry swooped to the podium.

"My queen, senators!" He caught his breath. "Callus and his army have penetrated the walls of the city of Kairos! The city will soon be ours!!"

"MURDERER!!!" Keres turned on Thrasymachus. "YOU were responsible for the slaying of my spouse!" She shrieked then before anyone could stop her, she attacked Thrasymachus with goring beaks and razor sharp claws.

"PLEASE!!! No!!! STOP!!!" Angelina cried out but the female refused to relent on her attack against the traitorous youth. Angelina turned to Arsenio and Dexicos. "I knew this would happen! I knew you could not merely observed savagery. It has now become part of you, part of your race."

"God," she whispered, "what have I done?"

The Pterosaurs, though, were confused by Angelina's grief. Victory was at hand and in their thinking, Thrasymachus was reaping exactly as he sowed.

"I knew you would see things my way." The double-dealing dodo humiliated Ang.' "Humanity--doing what it does best." Thrasymachus coddled her. "I approve."

Then came the noose.

He did not approve.


"You must go back and stop your female from doing any more damage. She is interfering with the natural order." Epheme mandated.

"How," Bergman scratched his sideburn contemplatively, "how do we go back?"

"You must desire it," Epheme shrugged, bored, as if the answer was obvious.

John Koenig looked wary, and irritable.

"From the moment we got here, we've 'desired' to go back." He told the chieftain. "If it was as easy as that, we would have been gone, a long time ago."

"What do you think it means?" Carter blurbed nonsensically.

"What does what mean?" The commander replied.

"Seeing Mathias there." The pilot brooded. "What's the story?"

"Well, I don't know Alan." Koenig responded harshly, ignorantly, unsympathetically. "It could be a lot of things, but right now I'd like to stick to the conflict at hand. Let's not add any new ones."

"It was nothing." Epheme buried the argument. "Just residue. Vapors. Happens all the time. John Koenig, we will take your predicament before the Bund. The elders that govern it may be able to determine a solution to your problem.

"Until then...don't call me, I'll call you."

He left.

Then, he reappeared, this time with ten others, presumably elders of the Society of Kairos. "The others," Epheme explained, "the House of Kalynda has taken the city."

"Commander Koenig, we hold you responsible for this." One of the barely walking, ten thousand plus octogenarians carped as he bollixed his way down the coliseum steps. On the abstract winds, the rapport of numerous explosions could be heard.

"You're the Bund?" The commander did not retract, but the thumbnail in the mouth betrayed his obvious stymie. We're it not for his ability to stonewall--his gift of straight face--he could not have continued the negotiation.

The legislators of the universe did not wear the gray, and blue robes of the Society Of Kairos. They preferred loud, pink kilts that unveiled their hairy, old men's legs. They also had huge, cauliflower ears, a gift of the beaurocracy.

"We indict you." The titular head--a being named Andros--said.

"Has anyone ever told you, you have the perfect weapons against hostile aliens." Koenig drifted off-topic. "Incidentally, I don't care if you like what's happening, or not. We were pulled into this situation. My dislike for your behavior affords me the right not to cooperate.

"Besides, I'm still not convinced that one of my people is responsible."

"I am." Carter spoke out to the tune of glass breaking, bones crunching.


Over the ninetieth story of the Mineral Bank Of Kairos, a lieutenant in Callus' brigade had a rock jawed, monk-grunt in each claw. Without their precious hammers, they were nothing. He sang praises to Kalynda as they kicked, and thrashed, and pleaded. Pity the workers, they told him. The lieutenant said 'oh,' what were they working on? Both fell silent, save for their own, personal absolutions.

"Have a nice landing." The lieutenant said, and dropped them like rocks through the burning skylight to a plummeting, agonizing cremation.


"John, we have to do something." Helena Russell importuned.

"What do you propose to do?" The Commander shrugged. He decided Helena was too far taken in by the Society of Kairos. She had been too easily charmed, a weakness of hers, occasionally endearing but this time, it was just plain annoying and perhaps dangerous.

"Why, help the Society of Kairos restore balance," Russell went on.

Epheme nodded approvingly as did the other 'elders.'

"No," Koenig went on. "We will not interfere."

"You have already interfered," Epheme cut him off. "If she is one of your people and you are the Commander, then you are responsible for her actions."

"I can't believe Ang would have taught them anything which would overcome you," Bergman negated Epheme. "She does not have a military background and it is not in her nature to advocate violence. Surely, she would have preferred the path of a more peaceful resolution."

"Oh...I dunno.'" Carter interjected, pulling away a chunk of alien interstate asphalt that was clinging to his bruised forehead.

John Koenig shifted, his gaze become more intense.

"What do you mean you don't know?"

"Things haven't been fantastic here lately." The pilot revealed. "If push came to shove, Ang' would do right by everyone--even these mentals. Then again, she's got a whole lot of anger in her right now. She could be their angel, or their worst nightmare.

"It truly is the luck of the draw."

"We'd better get going." The commander conceded to Bergman. "Dammit."

They charged up the rile.


"DON'T KILL HIM!!!" Angelina cried out in distress, but the angry mob had already secured the line to the column above. Keres, once a sympathizer to the traitor, was now chief executioner. "HIS DEATH WILL SOLVE NOTHING!!!"

The cacophony became louder and louder and she dropped to her knees, clutching her ears. In a moment of dizziness and nausea, her belly ached with waves of pain. She wanted to die. She wanted to be anywhere but where she was.

She got her wish. The noise had stopped but she was still on the lunar surface. No longer in regal wear, she was clad in the engineering jumpsuit with the generous waistband she had been wearing when Alan had died and the Pterosaurs had made her their queen.

Their queen? It seemed like a dream.

Alan died? It was surely a nightmare for Alan was in front of her, along with Russell, Bergman and Koenig.

"Alan?" She looked around. "COMMANDER!! PROFESSOR!! HELENA!!!"

"Do you see, now Koenig?" Epheme spouted off with his smug buddy in the rose-colored skirt trailing behind. "Our honor is thrown to the winds. This is why we feared your coming. We always knew one of your kind would slip through the hole in the sky."

"Our soothsayers wrote of it." Andros testified. "In the Book Of Paprika: the she-devil will arrive, and none will think too much of her."

He gave Ang' a puffed-up, censorious look.

"Paprika can kiss my ass. Where in Sam Hill have you been?" Carter addressed her, more angry than joyous. "

It was then that she noticed Helena Russell did not seem to be as happy of her return, along with the strange group of aliens which she just noticed, glaring at her menacingly.

"Fomenting insurrection amongst the Kalynda's." Epheme told him. "That's where she has been. During her brief time with them, she managed to secure the entirety of the fifteenth parallel, and the destruction of our capital. As a result, for the first time in history, the Society Of Kairos did not sponsor the deconstruction of the moment.

"You're not a nice person." The elder told Ang,' and then raised his infuriated hammer.

"Nope." Carter seized it. "Pounding us under won't help, especially since it's your fault that the moment got razed. He studied the mallet's cool surface. He speculated on what it would do to a person's head. It also occurred to him that there were fewer notches on it than there were before. When they first arrived, the followers of Kairos carried implements that were covered with the metallic etches, like acne. Now the surface seemed more clear.

"Insurrection amongst the House of Kalynda?" Angelina began to remember bits and pieces of a lifetime. "I did not incite any insurrection. The Kalyndas were liberated from the oppressive Society of Kairos." She surveyed the Bund and Epheme. "Which I'm guessing would be you."

"Oppressive?" Helena Russell looked shocked then took on the demeanor of a psychiatrist. "No. You are mistaken, Angelina. You have been misled to believe the Society of Kairos was evil. In reality, it is the House of Kalynda." Russell turned to Epheme. "Deceived. She was deceived by the Kalyndas and in that light, she is innocent of any intentional wrongdoing."

"I was NOT deceived," Ang retorted with conviction. "What makes you so damn sure that the Society of Kairos is pure of intention and virtuous of heart? Because this guy says so?" Ang pointed to Epheme. "What proof does do you have that the Kalyndas are the bad guys?

"I didn't 'teach' the Kalynda's anything." Ang went on, exasperated. "They just..." she paused, thoughtfully, mournfully, "observed me over time."

"Over time?" Russell questioned. "It couldn't have been more than 5 minutes since the time Alan appeared and the time you appeared."

"It seemed like years," Ang shook her head, confused. It was and it wasn't. Was it a lifetime in a few minutes or just a dream? "Maybe it was just a dream."

"It was NOT just a dream," Epheme interrupted angrily. "It was you, your example, which has caused the destruction of the Society of Kairos. You are the cause of all of this."

"There you go again." John Koenig cautioned. "Trying to pull us away from the straight, and narrow. Epheme, you shot this arrow into the sky. You made the bed. You lay in it."

"It could be that I differ with you." The priest confessed.

"I expect you do." The commander was prepared.

Andros contributed his two cents worth, but his protestations were back-masked--erased by the opening rectangle of light, and the reality that changed forever.

"He's ready for you." Anne Delline, RN told Ang'--stepping onto the lunar surface from the open doorway.

Chapter Eight

Ang' bore a hole.

Carter leaned next to her, hoping for a glimpse of the interesting thing in the outcropping of aluminum that she was staring at. Epheme' looked malcontented. Andros knelt for a word of prayer. Kairos deliver them from this untenable situation.

"Quaint." Epheme' lorded his superiority over them. "Not only is she bloodthirsty, and a rara avis, she also has no attention span."

She was enchanting, a pretty little girl, playing happily and humming merrily in the tall green grass. The azure sky was dotted with cottony stratus clouds in recognizable shapes of Earth creatures: a bear, a cat, a rabbit, a puppy, a ladybug, a preying mantis. A golden butterfly caught the child's attention and dropping the three roses she had collected, two large and one small, she skipped after the monarch into the setting sun.

Angelina blinked and the green and blue were replaced by gray and black. "She's gone," Angelina mumbled, in a daze, seemingly on the edge of the canyon. Then, she metaphorically backed away. "No," she shook her head. "She is still there. I just can't see her anymore."

"But she is there."

"Who's still there?" Carter queried.


"If you don't know how to squeeze, you'll never be a member of the Bund. We're on the move." Andros allowed as he moon bathed beneath a falling sky. The disintegration of space itself had begun. Epheme' felt emotionally sure that Krystof of Kalynda was behind the dismantling. His hordes, his evil drove.

"We are applying pressure." The high priest defended his office. "The physician is with us. It's only a matter of time before Bergman cracks. You can forget Koenig, and Carter. How many centuries have we spent observing them. They're nothing, if not obstinate."

"Their mamma." Andros said, donning his sunglasses. "Their mamma's butt cheeks are so big, they both have different area codes."

He offered this as a symbol of native dislike--disapproving in a language that the commander, and the pilot would comprehend.

"Rebuke will get us nowhere." Epheme wizened.

"Their mamma." Andros said, sipping from a glass that held a lemon, and a miniature umbrella. "Their mamma is so ugly, they tried to beat her with an ugly stick, but the stick ran."

"Wait." Epheme was inspired.

"You have a solution?" The chair asked mildly. He hated that the stars were crumbling. The dust made his hair all unmanageable.


"Alright," Koenig stood among the ruin of what once was Main Mission. It was now an empty void. "Here we are."

"Where are we?" Angelina looked around blankly.

"We are in the spot where we were when we disappeared," Koenig went on. "We need to go back to the beginning, back to the point of entry."

The stress, the fatigue, the whole situation, finally took its toll on Angelina. She burst out laughing. "Ah, and if I click my heels, I, Dorothy will be back in Kansas." She stifled her outburst to a chuckle under the Commander's glare. "If only I brought my ruby slippers."

Carter couldn't help but smirk.

"I'm glad you think it's funny, Ang," Koenig remarked in complete dismay.

"I'm sorry, sir," Ang was genuinely somewhat contrite. "I couldn't help it. You must admit, it does seems a bit far fetched. Wishing? Wishing we were back? I want to go back, I really want to go back but all the wishing in the universe hasn't helped me get back. I'm still here."

"It would make sense to go back to the point of entry," Russell commented, "but I don't believe we should leave, not now." She turned to Koenig. "John, we have a moral obligation to help the Society of Kairos, after what Ang did."

"After what I did?!?!" Angelina blurted indignantly.

"Oh, I don't mean to imply you did it on purpose," Russell tried to soothe. "I can understand it was accidental."

"You think so," Ang retorted neutrally, not confirming and not denying.

Russell either missed or ignored her tone. "Yes, I think so. But now we must correct the situation for Epheme, Andros and the others."

Let those who disagree chomp the head of their partner. Carter was steeped by the incompleteness of Angs' statement. It was an unrealized run on sentence; it was gobbled grammar. He stared down at the remains of the antique CapComm station, overturned now in the topsoil of unimprovement. The current of centuries had washed away the plastic of his lamp. To him it seemed like only an hour ago. To the universe, it was eons since he last manned the station on the day-mode rotation.

"John, not that I'm keeping an eye on the clock...." Bergman chided. "But have you noticed any changes in the star field." He glanced upwards at the irregular, but increasing number of white smirches that formed a celestial 'G' in the heavens. "The solar systems we were passing didn't contain that many stars.

"I fear that either the Society of Kairos, or the House of Kalynda--or both--have expanded their demolition project to include space itself."

It was like being aboard a sinking windjammer, and realizing that the ocean would submerge before the wood of your mast.

"Have they?" Koenig questioned. "How do we know this isn't part of the normal dismantling of the last moment?"

"Why should it stop with just the moon?" Angelina shrugged, drawn into the physics conversation. It made her feel more comfortable, philosophizing about the greater universe and about the construction (and deconstruction) of time. It kept her mind off the growing anxiety, gnawing insider her and a creeping sense of melancholy.

"That other flapper...." Carter referred. He had drifted away from the others, and was leaning against the cracked, and pitted east wall--the only bulkhead in the auditorium that was still standing. "Daetor?" He consulted Ang.' "Remember, the first one we encountered? He didn't say that we could 'wish' our way back. He said that we had to accept something." He placed his left fist in his right palm symbolically, thinking. "Accept what, though?"

Angelina glanced sideways at Carter, not sure why she was annoyed at the interruption. "I have no idea; none at all," she shrugged. "He was probably talking symbolically. They all do." She frowned. "Or did, I think."

The memory of the experience had already faded to the point where she wasn't even sure it happened. The only thoughts that seem to stay with her were the fleeting sights of the small child. Those images only appeared to increase in her memory, increase in details. The soft curly, sun kissed blonde hair. The long, dark eyelashes framed by delicate brows. The petite hands with the short pinkie finger which was just like....hers.


Old and decrepit.

"Evening." The nearly polite server told Koenig, and Bergman as she shoved menus at them in the dark. The hole was known as the Singin' Wheel II. The place was not the town of Webster--the location of the original. This was right off of the NASA road, and only a few miles from the beating heart of the FCR.

Forget the lost moment. This was the lonestar state, where bamboozle was big.

Welcome to Texas, partner.

"Victor, did you come here much?" Koenig asked, unshaken by the transition. He opened the schedule, and looked for the blue plate special.

"Not much," Bergman perused the menu, likewise unaffected by the sudden change in location. Besides, he was hungry. It had been hours, seemingly, since he ate his last meal. "Most of my casual dining was on college campuses, MIT, though I did enjoy the cafe at Texas A&M." He nodded. "Good, hearty home cooking with an ample choice of Tex-Mex."

"I take it this is Epheme's way of coercing us." The commander said. He couldn't decide whether the double decker ham, and beef looked more appetizing than the meatloaf with a choice of two sides. "He's getting on my nerves."

"Something to drink?" The waitress waited. One floor below, the sounds of loud, proud, god-awful country-western music creamed their eardrums.

"I'll have a draft beer." Koenig said, and scanned the room. It sounded clichéd, but true. The recreation was almost perfect. Among the various patrons, he was able to pick out the neon silhouettes of ILC Security Personnel; various flight controllers, and an assortment of astronauts, and JPL engineering staff. At one of the wooden round tables, he could have sworn he saw the elderly, now, but famed cosmonaut, Gherman Titov. "He wants Ang' to assist him the way she aided the House Of Kalynda. In so doing, he hopes that the transfer of power will operate in his favor."

Smog, and all, he always did like Houston.

"I don't know why it has to be her," Bergman stirred the freshly poured coffee with a well used stainless steel spoon. "If they want a model of the negative side of humanity, it could be any of us." He looked up at the waitress. "I'll have the roast beef on rye and a cup of chili."

He stopped stirring thoughtfully. "On the other hand, events do seem to be centered around her. I wonder why...."

"Steak...and eggs...I guess." The commander decided, and handed back the menu.

"Do you need any sauce with that?" The server asked, scribbling.

"I hope not." Koenig said subjunctively. Sad, there was no way she could possibly get a tip. Even if he was inclined to give her one.

The booze tasted like lasagna.


The headache erupted as she slowly opened her eyes. She sat up, slowly, as Carter, likewise returning the conscious realm came to her. "What the heck happened?" She asked standing up and looking around. "Commander! Professor! Doctor!"

"We were probably run over by the Relativity Express again." The astronaut surmised as he tried to get his bearings. He was laying on a concrete slab. The ceiling was composed of various, conglomerated hunks of metal, and plastic refuse. Warped conductivity pipes, like arteries, crisscrossed the silo of evil hardship. "So much for the command tower." He stood, dusting off his flares dubiously. "I don't see how these blighters can get anything done." He announced while looking for a way out of the substratum. "You've barely got time to catch your breath, and then BANG. You're off to the races again, and each time it's a cheesier deal than the one before."

"Try wearing a rope bowtie." Thrasymachus, the apostate Pterosaur said ill-favorably from his niche in the bedrock. "Then tell me about what a flimflam this is."

"Thrasymachus!" Angelina blurted, as if surprised to see a ghost. In fact, he was one. "It was your treason which led to your execution, of which I was against and tried to stop."

"You, my queen, were ultimately the cause of my death," the dead bird bowed in mock adulation.

"Give it a rest," Angelina countered. "You were responsible for your own actions. What do you want?"

"To put an end to all of this," Thrasymachus responded vague. He stared at her, making immovable eye contact. "Why do you not acknowledge?"

"ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT?!?!" She surprised herself at her anger.

"YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT AND YOU HAVE REFUSED TO ACCEPT," the pterosaur yelled back. Then, surprisingly, his voice grew softer. "There is nothing in your power to change it. You must accept what is. You must see the world as it is, not how you wish it to be."

"I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!!!" She screamed at Thrasymachus, her voice cracking.


The floating image of Thrasymachus was replaced by Bob Mathias.

Angelina back away, bumping against Carter. She turned, embracing him and closing her eyes. "I don't want to be here. We need to get out of here."


"We had every confidence that you would help us," Epheme strolled, taking Helena Russell's arm in gentlemanly fashion.

The physician was dressed in a robe as one of the Society of Kairos, complete with her own mallet.

"Angelina would never have purposely taught the Kalydas to wage war against you. You have to believe that," Russell appealed.

"Of course," Epheme went on. "We understand. You will help us restore the balance, the way things should be and the way they were before. For that, we are infinitely forgiving and will be eternally grateful."

"Where shall we begin?" Russell was ready. The LSD trip was upon her.

"Behold." The high priest led her beneath the rays of a refulgent ball of bright sumptuousness. "This is the encephalon. It regulates our world--a race of pure dignity. No one can demolish the moment like we can."

"Can I participate?" The physician glimmered, bleary eyed, and plastered.

"Sure." Epheme said. "Just pick a spot, and dig in."


His food cometh up.

Somewhere along the line, one of the imposters in the Singin' Wheel II dropped a quarter on them. Now the jukebox was playing the most unspeakable, revolting song that John Koenig had ever heard--"Muskrat Love" by the Captain, and Tennile.

"Victor, what did you make of those emanations in the A-GRAV bunker." The commander educed. "Was it for real. How could those panels have any amps going through them? We're in a place where electricity doesn't exist."

"Not in the classical sense." Bergman agreed, not liking the taste of his chili. It was like taking a mouthful of unsweetened lemon pie. He wondered if the lemon pie would taste like chili. "But that does not mean there can't be a power source in this dimensional plane working in relativistic terms."

His roast beef on rye wasn't roast beef on rye either. "What do you have in mind?"

"I don't know." Koenig confessed, and nodded at the attractive professional woman who was eyeing him from the bar. He recognized her; a chance introduction in the systems row of the JSC. She was a GNC flight controller, but beyond that, his memory was vague. "Maybe this." He changed his mind, leaning forward secretly. "If there's some form of hypothetical pressure being transmitted--a quintessence--would it be possible-"

They were rudely interrupted by Andros of the Bund, lap dancing towards them in a ten gallon, cowboy hat.

Chapter 8

"You suck as a spouse," Tony Verdeschi slurred, sitting casually in a hard plastic chair next to the crumbling statues of Marilys Singh in an eternity of suffering in the presence of a crumbling stone image of William G. Harms, III.

Once again, Carter and Ang were in a different place but in fact, they had been there before in their first foray into non-time. Verdeschi was visible and heard only by Carter, not Ang, who was still embracing Carter in a bid to escape whatever it was she was suppose to acknowledge.

"I always knew you would," Tony took a swig of his beer. "At least with her brother, Ang could never take the trip down 'de Nile.'" He chuckled at his own untalented 'wit.' "If she was too fat, I told her so. If she was being a bitch, I told her so. If she was doing something stupid, it was me who enlightened her of that fact each and every time."

"Now she's pretending everything is a-ok and you just play along like a dumbass." Verdeschi swigged. "Loser."

"You got a big mouth." Carter had not forgotten. "It must be a terrible burden. Especially for someone who looks like Potsy Webber from 'Happy Days.'" He scorned. "Tell me, champ: how's that little rattle you got in your neck? I'm sure it must have been excruciatingly painful."

He wished he had been there to see it.

"Yeah, and I don't miss any of it." Verdeschi's ghost told them. "Especially the love that I shared with you. Mate. I mean, I know that we all sprang from apes, but somehow, Carter, you didn't spring far fucking enough.

" usual." He inclined his stein towards Ang.' "You're overlooking the big picture--the total formula.

"Evidence that you can't count very high."

"Ouch." The astronaut reacted with sadism. "Good show, Antonio. Are you feeling alright? You don't seem yourself today. I noticed the improvement immediately." He told Ang.'

What a relief.

Ang slowly raised her head, looking up at him. Maybe he had lost his mind.


She slowly turned where he was staring and carrying on a conversation that was evidently not directed at her. There was nothing but Harms, Singh and a crumbling, empty chair.

"Alan?" She asked gently, warily, "are you feeling alright?" She glanced at the empty space again then back at him.

"Ay?" The pilot responded with subnormal intelligence. It dawned on him, out of the blue, that he was carrying on a conversation with a quarter bulkhead. True, the bulkhead probably had no problem with it, but he did. It had seemed so vivid, so saturated. There he had stood: Tony Verdeschi; harness bull; malodorous dumpkoff--called away not early enough to that everlasting distillery in the sky. "I feel chipper." Carter said with gurgling insanity, with one foot in this world, and the other somewhere else. "Just thinking out loud. You know how some people do that? They vocalize their thoughts; and hallucinate; and talk to blokes who aren't there."

May the flea that climbed up his ass find happiness.

She understood. She rationalized it was "'nothing". It was fatigue, exhaustion. The mind plays tricks when suffering from extreme tiredness and discouragement.

"I won't ask how we got back here," she released him and walked around the area which one would be hard pressed to recognize as the embarkation section of Launch pad 3. She glanced at the Eagle. "Which way do we go? Into the Eagle or back to Main Mission?"

Carter slid his fingers through two inches of reinforced steel, and peeled back the hatch. It's a bird, it's a plane, it's SUPERMAN. The boarding tube was completely decimated, but strangely, the launch pad was still intact with Eagle One on the turntable.

"I keep getting the feeling that this is some vital link." He opined. Yes, a vital link to his leash. From here on out, they were hounds of the gods, fetching answers like Rover chasing a stick. "Let's have another look."

This was fair. Someone, or something had been watching them since their arrival.


"They are hideous creatures," Helena Russell, dressed in robe and holding mallet, scanned the horizon of the gathering onslaught of pterosaurs. "But are you sure annihilation is the only answer? Have you talked with them? Negotiated with them?" She asked, hesitant and seeming to come to her senses.

"Isn't there any other way besides destruction?" she questioned. "I'm not sure I can do this. I took an oath to preserve life, to help others...not take it."

"But you are preserving life," Epheme pontificated. "You are preserving the race which will restore time. Do not think of the House of Kalynda as 'life'. They are lower than your lowest of microbes."

"Where are John and Victor?" Russell abruptly changed the subject.

"They are safe," Epheme replied, neutrally. "They do not understand as you do. They would try to interfere with our work and I fear would hurt themselves. We have moved them for their protection."

"Can I join them?" The physician postulated.

"Follow." Epheme led her to the great, illumined fishbowl in the center of the room. "Forget your primitive desires. Gaze into our fount. As the cream rises to the top, likewise the scum. If deity is one of us, then certainly the pejorative may, in priori, produce the order of events, and Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

The wind was his train.

"Yes...." Russell said, totally mesmerized.


"Uh-oh." Koenig warned as the hat fell upon them. "Klaatu Barada Nicto."

"What does that mean?" Andros inquired. For the first time, a gap between his two front teeth was visible.

"It's a greeting from a movie, a form of entertainment," Bergman answered untruthfully unless 'switch off' could be considered a greeting, though certainly not friendly. "Uh, say, Andros," Bergman quickly changed the subject, "why the elaborate masquerade with this set?"

"Right," Koenig went on impatiently, "and where are the rest of my people? What have you done with them?"

"We have done nothing with them, Commander," Andros answered smoothly. "I assure you, they are where they want to be and they are free to move about."

"What kind of..." Koenig went on but restrained himself, acknowledging Bergman's cautionary glance. The commander regained his composure. "Can we go to where they are?"

"Of course," Andros replied vaguely. "All you have to do is desire it."

My heart's desire is to see you upside down in a mound of cow flop, Koenig concentrated silently.

Of course, that was the one wish that didn't come true.


The Eagle itself remained intact, all except the passenger module. Crumbling from the metallic spine, it resembled a withered, decayed cocoon, surrounded by the sturdy and intact ship. Carter and Ang had to climb over the twisted and disintegrating metal and plastic to gain access through the passenger module.

"That is really weird," Ang commented, catching her breath and looking back at the decayed belly of the ship. "Why is just the passenger module gone to hell but the rest of the ship is ok?"

Molten Man reached out and grabbed her in the midsection.

"AAHHH," Angelina gasped, doubling over in pain and backing away, almost falling out of the Eagle had it not been for Carter's quick reflexes. "Something just touched before in the care centre."

She looked around nervously. "There's something here. We're not alone!"

"I don't see anything." Carter said clamantly, and with no hesitation. "Talk to me. What direction are we looking in?"

Less than a meter away there were the EVA rungs that they would have to use to access the command module. He could see nothing of a woman grabbing, pervert' interloper, invisible, or incarnate. Hanging over his head, there was only space, and it was a synonym for stone. Various arithmetical expressions--a number of shapes, and cookie cutter sizes were left--gaping, white holes in the galaxy as the void was leveled. The sky could not only fall; it could fall completely, and then be ground up, and recycled in the interest of a moment. It made Carter feel stupid--his pointed head...all that he could think, and aspire to be was less than an irrational zero.

"Not behind but in front, as if whoever or whatever was facing me," She turned around, waving her arms in front of her, looking for the invisible man.

"What did it feel like?" The astronaut asked. His eyes were closed, and his cheeks were clutching painfully.

"Tingling, numbing then almost like a pulling, no, yanking," She went on, continuing to look around, failing to notice his expression. "I'm terrified," her voice trembled, "for the first time since this whole thing started, I'm not just nervous or scared, I am terrified as all hell."

"You got the willies again." Carter prescribed, with one hand grasping the lowest wrung. He was about to start climbing, but then he stopped, and stared blankly at Angelina. "Know what? I kind of feel like I do understand what those roosters meant. Daetor, and the others. It's been driving me crazy. I keep telling myself it's just a feeling...that it will pass...but somehow, I do feel like I'm running from something. There's no label for it. Maybe like a goose...stepping over my grave. Everything we've done; everywhere we've gone--I've felt like it's all happened before, but none of it has happened yet."

She had felt it all along as well and it was getting stronger. It seemed that she was literally, being painted in a corner but at the same time SHE was the one doing the painting. The entire universe was about to crash on her head and she was trying to hold it up with a toothpick.

She knew that time, in this non-time, was running out.

She did not share these sentiments.

"Like your upcoming date with Harms and the clock is stuck at 4:29 lunar time?" She crossed her arms, and gave a slight smile. His expression did not convey agreement. In fact, he wore the mask of a man deep in thought, formulating and pondering, and on the brink of realizing the solution to the problem. "I don't know, Alan," she continued, seriously, "I don't think I'm running away from anything. I don't want to be here. I miss Nicky. I want us to be back with him."

What disturbed her was how her desire was half intensity. She did but she didn't.

"I'll tip you this much." The astronaut relaxed his shoulders. "Remember when we both took turns standing watch so the other could sleep? I dreamt that I smelled alcohol. I don't mean alcohol as in Zombies, and Screw Drivers; I'm talking about Isopropyl.

"And I could hear machinery." He faded. "Those circuits...opening and closing constantly; the very same noises that I came to hate, and despise on Alpha. Our lives depend on the wires. That's the way I was feeling again. Inhuman, that's the word. Then I woke up, was gone.

"So, you think I'm whacko yet?"

"No, you're not whacko," she assured. "You're the strongest person I know. I keep getting whiffs of, well, Medical Center. You know, that lingering benodyne disinfectant crap. Another thing is I keep feeling a pinch in my arm, like something is poking me with a needle or something but I look down and nothing is there."

"I think we are just both completely mentally exhausted," she concluded, believing the statement less each time she said it.

"Probably." Carter thought it feasible, and did a chin-up to mount the first wrung. "Well, let's go have a look."

He stopped upon hearing the drumbeat of exploding rocks which rode the celestial winds.

"I wonder if that's the Kalynda's, or that boofhead, Epheme?"

The excavation had reached the Sea of Serenity.


"If that's the case, then why are we still talking to you?" Koenig said defiantly. "Parting company with this world is the one thing that is first, and foremost on my mind, Andros. I don't like it, and I don't like you."

The magus tipped his hat to the waitress as she arrived with his beer.

"Now, that's mean." Andros conceded caustically. If he could think of something acrid about the commander's mother, he'd sure say it.

"Go to Hell." Koenig answered back. He was tired--sick, and tired of the puzzles, and the word searches; the riddles, and the flummoxes. The latest thing was the football game that was currently running on the bar's twelve inch Magnavox. Somehow, the Dallas line-up had been usurped by members of the Society Of Kairos. The gridiron was silly with robes, and helmets.

"I can understand your pique, Commander Koenig." Ranch hand Andros said. "Maybe we can help each other. Allow Angelina Carter to remain here with us, and in return we'll see to it that you, and the others arrive safely in the next moment."

"No," Koenig shook his head adamantly. "I am not in the practice of leaving my people behind. But, if you want some sort of hostage, I'll stay."

"John," Bergman objected, but Koenig put up his hand.

"No, not good enough. We do not want you," Andros replied, disappointed.

"Why do you want Angelina?" Bergman pushed away his awful chili.

"Because she refuses to acknowledge," Andro answered simply, as if it was as plain as the wart on his nose.


"I just read the results," Dot Sullivan, MD, stepped into Dr. Bob Mathias office. She crossed her arms. "I can't believe you didn't admit right away," she lectured. "You know each moment that passes will be potentially dangerous, and I'm not just talking physically, Bob, but emotionally as well."

She knew it was pointless to lecture him since, in areas of psychiatry, Mathias was the expert on Moonbase Alpha.

"Mois?" Her colleague replied, and then slammed the open file to his desk with clenched teeth. His coffee cup went airborne. "SO SORRY IF MY ETIQUETTE IS LACKING. I'M NOT MUCH ON PROFESSIONALISM WHEN THE GRIM REAPER ENTERS THE ROOM."

"I know your interest in this case is personal," Dr. Sullivan went on, completely unaffected by being the target of Mathias' rage. After years and years of an unending tour of duty, one does get to know their fellow prisoners in their floating tomb. "If you would like, I can handle it."

She already knew the answer.

Chapter 9

She saw jewels, emeralds, rhinestones; plums, and ball bearings.

"Am I dead, and this is...Heaven?" Helena Russell--the newest acolyte in the Society Of Kairos--wondered strangely. She seemed drugged, but closer scrutiny would reveal a case of the durrrrrr.'

"A bit higher with that sledge." Epheme' tutored. They were reducing the 164 kilometer crater, Ptolomaeus to endless scatter. "No, what you conceive of as an afterlife is nothing more than cajole, brought upon by the power-hungry clergymen on your world. It is the Vatican, throwing bones instead of edicts. I suggest to you that it is a confutation to create an everlasting reward that no one is worthy to receive." Even though she was doing all of the work, his back was aching.

"Are you atheistic?" The physician asked, dizzy and stiffed. This seemed to be her natural state. She was under no mind control.

"We're nontheists." Epheme ducked to avoid the splintering rocks.

For doing so much work, Helena Russell felt no aches or soreness. In fact, for every stroke of the sledgehammer, she felt more energized and invigorated. A final heave of the blunt instrument finished the crate demolition.

"You do not believe in a higher power?" She queried, eyeing the moon for her next dismantling project. "You live in the last moment. Don't you ever wonder about the next moment? Don't you wonder about the authors, the creators of the next moment?"

"No." Epheme sufficed.

You have to admire an ape with a philosophical lick.


He glanced down the corridor of the service module of the Eagle, expecting to see the command module and the viewports. Carter was about to turn and help Ang up the ladder when he realized she was already in front, sitting in a pew, dabbing her eyes.

A clergyman stood at the end of the aisle, holding the Good Book, and beside him, a nervous young man in tuxedo waited along with three other young men, equally clothed and ready for the celebration. Young women in pink, frilly dresses stood on the opposite side of the young men.

All looked back toward him, Alan Carter, also dressed in nuptial ceremony finery and he quickly realized his role in the proceedings. He glanced behind him, anticipating the woman in the white dress to take his arm. He squinted and saw her in the distance, beckoning to her, to hurry, to come to him. Carter looked back up the aisle, nodding to the waiting young man and to his wife. Angelina's face froze with terror then she screamed.

He turned and recoiled in horror. The bridal gown was blood red, oozing and dripping with sinew and gore instead of pearls and lace. The skeletal face gaped at him, bone fingers reaching before the figure shattered, exploding into a million pieces.

"Alan?" Ang had climbed the ladder herself, quickening her pace when she noticed the dazed, detached expression then the horror. "Alan? What's the matter?"

Carter drooled, and then realizing the inappropriateness of slobber, licked it from his chin. He showed her five fingers.

"Don't worry about me." He addressed. "By the way, if anything happens in here--or anywhere else--I want you to try to find the commander, and the professor on your own. Don't hang around to roll the boulder off my foot. I don't know about you, but I get the feeling that this place ain't much on second chances. If you find a way out, take it."

"I'm not leaving you," she shook her head. "Where you go, I go." In reality, it had been the other way around.

The astronaut ignored her, and stepped onto the chasse that lay beneath the outer airlock of the CM.

"I hope this holds." He said as he wiped the dust away from the manual jack screws. Breathing deeply, he opened the port, and started priming the hatch. After stowing away the knob, he pumped the actuator handle. Slowly, the overlapping doors began to part. "Fuck me." He proposed as the hatches slowed to a halt before the ingress could be completed. Through the blanketing darkness, he could see Darla Lomax's gangrenous palm as it continued to grip the flaking arm of the CDR couch--just as it had done an hour before; just as it would do an hour from now. Fabris, not visible, was buried beneath a jagged pile of plate sheeting. A single, Disco black boot heel was the only thing visible beneath the oxidizing bus boxes, angle bars, and a nest of cold voltage cobras. Carter angrily force fed the unlocking mechanism again. Gradually--elementally--the doors opened completely.

He paused before catapulting himself aboard the Flying Dutchman.

Through a series of open styes in the forepeak, the placid surface of the temporary Moon could still be seen. The astronaut pulled open the drawer beside the con station, and removed the maglite. Realizing that D-Cell batteries were completely worthless here, he pitched the thing. It crashed soundlessly through the double bottom of the lower equipment bay.

"O'kay, peaches, if there are clues let's find them."

He started with yet another inspection of the powderizing bodies of the crew.

"I don't know how, but this was the catalyst." He proclaimed. "I know it. I just-"

He stopped talking--his Snuffy Smith tonsils dangling over a wordless tongue.

The face staring back at him from the foam chair was not the mission commander's.

It was his own.

"Uh," Angelina saw the same thing and shut her dropped jaw. "If that's you..." She trailed off, knowing the answer to the question as she pulled crumbling sheet metal off of the other pilot. Fabris was not Fabris but Angelina Carter. It was not the same Angelina Carter though, as this version was noticeably slimmer, less rotund and less bloated. "But that's not me. Not exactly."

She turned and stared at the image moving toward her: Bob Mathias, again. This time, he was clad in the transparent, surgical garments with cap covering his head and pulling on latex gloves. From his expression, he apparently was not about to embark on a particularly happy procedure. She rested a hand on Carter's shoulder and he turned.

"Do you see Bob?" Her expression was blank. "Do you think its more than coincidence that we keep seeing him? Why? Why him? What does it mean?"

"It's like something on the telly.'" Carter advanced mightily. "Isn't it? A scary show. A YOWIE IN THE NIGHT. RIGHT?" Incensed, he grabbed for the psychic physician who took the assault quite well. "I SAID 'RIGHT.' MATHIAS."

The energy achromatized, and then withdrew completely, leaving them alone in the crumbling compartment.

The astronaut fell back onto the step, bloated with results.

"I think I know what this is." He said, wiping away the fresh plaster from his cheek with the heel of his left palm. He peeled a scrap of Velcro from the ruined knee of his flares, and flicked it towards the Tachometer Gauge on the main console. Ang' stood next to him, stooping to avoid the thistledowns of declining wreckage. "No." He resolved purposefully. "It can't be that."

But secretly, he thought it was.



His mamma was so dumb, she got locked in a grocery store, and starved to death.

"John." Victor Bergman stopped for a breather. They were still over a kilometer away from the eastern border of Moonbase Alpha. This trip was longer than the one before. Seismic eruptions had turned the local geography into a giant birdbath. Strewn over the ledges of a mammoth caldera, they could see the remnants of the vehicle assembly building. Across from this wonder of the world, there was an island, surrounded by a mote of legend, and warped girders.

Koenig was half-way across a makeshift bridge of solar panels. They could turn a corner, but only metaphorically. One wrong move, left, or right, would send them gloaming into the copper pit.

"I don't want to alarm you." The professor said consonantly. "But I'm having a terrible time with remembering things. How did we get here, for example. Weren't we sitting in a pub? As I recall, the entree was very bad."

The Commander glanced at Bergman with obvious concern. He had noticed his facts were inaccurate and his memory was confused. At first, he attributed it to fatigue but when he asked "'Who is Helena?" when Koenig mentioned Doctor Russell, he knew Bergman's deteriorating mental condition was being influenced by more than lack of sleep.

"You're just tired, Victor," he lied, though convincingly. "I've forgotten a few things myself. Fatigue affects the short term memory." He smiled, while guiding him across the rickety solar panel bridge. "That energy source. Remember the AGRAV tower? We're checking it out."

Bergman nodded tentatively. "Right," he replied, though the details were escaping him. It made sense. In the distance, the glowing light of the navigational beacon on the tower emitted a pale blue glow. Interestingly, the tower itself was also still intact.

"Lily," Bergman said as they trekked through the increasing devastation of the moon toward the AGRAV tower, which loomed larger and larger. "That's a nice name, don't you think? That's what they decided. They took your suggestion, though, he was beginning to wonder how you came up with it. You never told him about her, did you." He said as a statement, rather than as a fact. "I think its very nice how the children have all been named for family, for ancestors from earth." Bergman went on. "Nicky was named after Ang's oldest brother. Gretchen was Joe Erhlich's mother. Jack and James Profitt were each named for their grandfathers. Jackie Crawford was, of course, named after his father and grandfather." Bergman paused to catch his breath.

Now, John Koenig was really concerned.


Helena Russell, disciple of the light, entered the tabernacle, and noticed immediately that the way was blocked by an angry pair of thighs.

"What is your purpose?" The only other viable female in the Society Of Kairos accosted her.

"What do you mean?" The healer, turned junkyard technician asked, startled.

"You are from the last moment." The vicar continued her interview, and her hammer did not waver. "Do you really expect me to believe that your purposes are benevolent."

"I seek to learn." Russell entreated.

"Liar." Her adversary cross examined her. "None of your kind wish to be edified. The growth of your mind is the last thing you want. Your race is content to be stupid. Our collective assumption is that you want power. It has oft been written of in the Chronicles of Hubert: knowledge is a canker to those who do evil. Do you hear? You may have beguiled Epheme, but not the rest of us."

"How can I convince you that my aims are just?" The physician asked, little realizing that she was shaking her own mallet with attitude.

"You think you can fob me." The woman said, insulted. "But you can not. I am Ursula of the Trust, and I answer only to the Bund. Am I confusing you? Would you like to see the scroll that speaks of the finagle you human beings are capable of? It goes back to the first farmer, whose name was Jethro."

"This conversation is getting old." Russell sighed deeply, her visage growing more adamant, and inflexible.

"You are reprobate in all that you do." Ursula went on, digging the hole deeper, and deeper. "Were it not for you, we would not be disassembling the Moon for all eternity in deep space."

"No, you wouldn't." The physician chuckled. "You'd be disassembling it for all eternity in Earth orbit. Your point is?"

"My point is that I'm going to kill you." The vicar announced proudly, and dropped her encumbering robe to the ground.

"Well." Russell smiled. "I hope you packed a lunch."

Their hammers clashed.


John Koenig inspected the wiring inside the maintenance panel at the base of the AGRAV tower. Beside him, Victor Bergman sat on the ground plunging further into increasing incomprehension.

"Why are we here?" The professor scratched his sideburn. "Did we fly here? I don't see an Eagle."

"We walked. Victor," the Commander responded patiently. He could not determine the source of energy for the AGRAV bunker but he was able to confirm that it did in fact was tapping energy from somewhere. "Don't worry about it. It's not important."

"Beef stew," Bergman continued. "I can't remember how to cook beef stew. Do I use carrots or corn?" He paused, confused.

"Carrots," Koenig offered, "it's easy to forget." He was very worried but concealed it well. "Now I have a question for you, Victor. Take a look at this." He motioned to him, peering into the circuitry. "If I reroute Node 7 to Node 4..."

"It will become dangerous, perhaps explosive," Bergman concurred, rubbing his temple and not sure how he knew this fact. "Do you think that will be effective against them?"


Helena Russell lithely dodged the broad strokes of Ursula's hammer which enraged the alien woman further. Russell had the athletic advantage in both speed and strength, avoiding the strokes while able to deliver painful blows with her mallet.

Epheme and Andros made no attempt to stop her and made no merciful offer of aid toward their own Ursula.

Chapter 10

"Say something, you...." The words escaped him. Epheme sauntered forward, doing the all-a-man left to avoid solid, cylindrical chunks of the galaxy as they fell from above. " uncertain chopstick."

Andros was mute, unwilling to commit to victory or murder.

Epheme parted the sea of gore. Helena Russell--spine and ganglia in one hand, and the melting, crimson hammer in the other--did Cheyenne stokes as her mind raced towards the finish line of slaughter. Her face was divided into quadrants of rich, infected serum. All around her, someone's blood bank was overdrawn. Eyes stared up at her from the floor. A scalp swam away like a Peruvian Guinea Pig.

"Ray of light?" She convulsed, and prated madly.

"No one believed me." The societies' main flamen explained. "They told me to let you let you face the tortures of the new moment, but I had better things in mind." Epheme boasted. Literally, he was walking all over Ursula.

Helena Russell, Doctor Helena Russell came to a shocking realization. Her blank expression transformed instantly to utter horror as she dropped the hammer. "No," she mumbled, crouching down, pointlessly attempting to take a pulse, then not knowing but simply guessing, she began to perform CPR, furiously administering chest compressions.

"No," she cried out and cried streaming tears, etching flesh riverbeds, her flesh, through the gore and blood of the now dead member of the Society of Kairos. "NO!" She panted, "I couldn't....I didn't!!!"

But she did. She remembered clearly. She remembered the glee, the delight and the rush she felt in the act of murder. She continued the chest compressions, her arms aching, despite the grotesque gurgling from the deceased throat.

"Epheme." Andros postponed the declaration of sainthood. "A word, please."

"YOU MADE ME DO THIS!!" Helena Russell jumped up, angry but resigned that Ursula would not be returning to life. "It is against my nature, against my sworn oath." She attempted to stifle the flood of nasal discharge, wiping the gore from her forehead.

"On the contrary, it is your very nature," Epheme observed. "The savagery. The lust and desire to kill." He observed a worker diligently tearing apart a lunar hillside. "Come here." He called out and the grunt immediately obeyed.

Epheme stared directly at the minion, capturing his gaze. He nodded and smiled.

Then, in the next instant, he buried the mallet in the worker's skull, directly between the eyes. The other instantly fell backwards with a thud on the dust, twitching and convulsing. Epheme watched until the movement ceased.

"There was a sensation," Epheme turned to Andros. "Yes, it was somewhat invigorating. But somehow, what I just did seemed to lack the intensity of Ursula's demise."

"She's the man." Andros divined. "Epheme, I said I wish to speak to you. Privately."

He gave his lawn chair to one of his cronies to carry, though they were running low on sun these days.


Surrey, not curry. There was no eastern gumbo in his mishap. It was as difficult as the common cold. His brain was congested; his emotions were running. The misfortune of his near recollections nearly caused John Koenig to be electrocuted by RF cables that should have been dormant, but weren't. All was not well that ended well. Being in the canyon of moments was bad.

It was diminishing.

A lot like death, not a song.

Through his mind, the dismantling of all time--it made him an audio slave. From the heavens he could hear the Spinal Tap of the Four Horsemen. The Moon quaked from the Ozfest' of Valhalla. He was the Bon Jovi of absent minded savants, and all he wanted to do was to lay down on his bed of nails, and-

"Victor?" The commander sounded concerned. The lines still were not connected. The copper pipe rested on his shoulder, awaiting a bushing.

"Oh....I'm sorry," Bergman blushed with shame. "My mind was wandering, that's all. You know, when I was a boy, my uncle told me many stories about working in the diamond mines of Africa."

The topic seemed relevant. The exposed copper was shiny and so were diamonds.

"Yes, and the extraordinarily tight security precautions Debeers took to discourage thievery," Koenig was growing impatient. "Victor, the bushing?"

"Oh yes," Bergman glanced between the bushing and the disgarded wire stripper before taking a gamble and picking up the bushing. He had no clue whatsoever what to do next. "John. I can't remember again."

"That's the correct part, Victor," Koenig took the bushing, completing the connection. "I think we're ready," he announced, after checking the terminals with the voltmeter.

"Well." The professor blushed. "I hope this works."

Such was the moxie of the milk truck driver who has been asked to repair an IBM Mainframe.

He had no idea what he was talking about. The final solution flew out the window like a long handled pot in a domestic squabble. Like a randy scrap of paper, barely visible beneath someone's refrigerator, Bergman sort of remembered the hypothetical permeation; the energy that saturates everything with negative pressure. Or was it positive pressure? Or was it negative permeation? Or was it his pants that were saturated?

"There's only one form of dynamism that could still operate in this zone we're in." Koenig said expertly.

He left out the part that there was no, possible way of knowing if they had tapped it, or not. The unlikelihood of succeeding at this experiment was endorsed by every known science on the planet Earth. The commander could only cross his fingers, and eyes--hoping beyond hope that reason didn't mean nothing no more.

"The Kimberly Mines." The professor waned fondly--as if he were remembering a vacation in Aruba. "Funny, I wonder what caused me to think of chaps getting their ankles bludgeoned."

Hammers were just too much the rage.

"We need to improvise some sort of power-up procedure." The commander switched hats. "It's a shame Ang' isn't here. Dealing with these gaussing coils is more her thing. I believe that we'd still blow our last chance, but she'd at least be able to console us by saying whether, or not we were in the ball park."

Since leaving Earth orbit, every day, their ankles were precious.

"Not to worry." Bergman imagined. "Forget what the Society Of Kairos, or anyone else says. In my deepest subconscious, I still think of you as a clever fellow, John. I'm sure you bolted that contraption together with great aplumb.

"Well done."

He extended his hand just before the Plato ravine began to convulse.


"You aren't as brisk as we would have you be." Andros abused him. "Really, I consider you a harebrain, Epheme."

"And I consider you to be an unprogressive twit," Epheme shot back, not sure if "unprogressive" was even a word. It didn't matter. He would make it a word. "Has it occurred to you that the House of Kalynda may have gained the advantage over us because we refused to change? The Kalyndas took advantage of a situation and manipulated their environment. We can , we must, do the same."

"To be one with the Bund, you must be aware of the environment around you." The elder described. "Take intergalactic space for example. I bet you think it's blank because we were born into a moment where the Moon was in Procyon space. You do, don't you? Logic might dictate something else entirely, but you persist in your eidolons of comfort, and safety, and being a chump.

"The star fix is white because Krystof of Kalynda is ready to call it a day, my dear, ignis fatuus friend." He smirked, and poked a finger at Epheme's sternum. "You do know what that means? The task force you sent out was defeated, and now those oversized buzzards are ready to seize the moment.

"The end of everything is lost to us." Andros resounded. "Krystof will be engulfed in the pyre of time extended, but at least he will go to oblivion as a conquering hero.

"Match that one, you big oaf."

"Oh no. He will not," Epheme shook his big, naive head. "We will regain the advantage. We have already seen how to defeat the enemy. Victory is ours, I tell you, OURS!!"

He was mad, and not in the anger sense of the word.

"The only 'victory' will be the one belonging to the grave." The council believed. "Thanks to you, my young grandson will never live to be a ripe, old age, Epheme. He'll be erased, along with everything else. I do take solace in that I'll never have to look at your face again.

"Because frankly, it's killing me." Andros said.


She was in so much pain, she was on all fours, dry heaving and gagging. Even after her stomach was emptied, she could still feel her guts spasming.

"Something's wrong, something is terribly wrong," Angelina stated the obvious to Alan Carter who could do nothing but stand by helplessly while she was sick. The tears were pouring down her face, such was her anguish. To add to her misery, once again, the image of Bob Mathias floated toward her.

"No," she stated flatly. "Go AWAY!! Do you hear me?!? I don't need your help!!!" She screamed then collapsed down onto hands and knees, a position which helped abate the dizziness.


John Koenig saw more than stars. He saw whole worlds; the Red Shift; nucleosynthesis. A cartoon knot rose on his scalp. His cruor hands wrestled with the indigenous rocks that had buried him alive. Slowly, infinitesimally, his efforts at self-rescue yielded dividends, and a hole in the mountain which enabled him to see the outside world again. Black asteroids, circling high above in the ex nilo glow. It took a moment for him to realize that these were shards of the disunited Moon.

"Victor?" He called as he heaved his torso upwards to the surface, and grasped the riveted steel girder of a collapsed tower.

Somehow--providentially--the AGRAV Bunker had survived the quake, and that was all except for a very few, die hard bulkheads that had once supported the defunct satellite tracking station. Fragile mankind was not so lucky. From a distance, the commander could see the mutilated backside of Bergman's civilian tunic. It was trapped beneath fifty feet of cyclone fence, and regolith galore.

Koenig slumped back onto a shattered upgrade. There was no point, no need to hurry to the Professor's side. His bloodied, shattered body lay limp in the avalanche of debris, cables and concrete.

"Victor!" Helena Russell, still covered in gore from the remains of the female from the Society of Kairos, stooped and felt for a pulse in Bergman's broken wrist. She already knew he was dead. She knelt to the ground, breaking down into tears. "He's dead." She sniffed and mumbled. "He's dead and it's all my fault."

For the second time in this moment, she had caused the death of another living being, rather than save and preserve life.

"No," the Commander stood tall, despite his own near brush with nearly being buried alive. One part wanted to comfort but the other part, noting her Society of Kairos robe, was still completely disgusted with the physician. "Nothing you did caused him to die," though, he wasn't entirely confident of this sentiment, "he died as a result of a lunar quake."

Russell sat back on her heels, still holding Bergman's hand, while staring blankly into space.

Somehow, John Koenig always believed it would happen on the Moon. Like it, or lump it. Command, and protocol forbade him to give utterance to his opinions. He had genuinely hoped that he would be the first to go--before Bergman; before anyone else on Alpha, but he also realized how unfair a deck of cards could be.

"We're running out of time." He analyzed while pulling the puzzle pieces of grime away from his cheeks. All around them, un/TIME was becoming more ocular...more inescapable. "There must be an impossible number of them. The Kairos, and the Kalyndas. Enough that they've unraveled the threads of reality itself. There aren't enough zeros in all of mathematics to express the sheer multitude." He allowed a handful of soil to trickle onto his deceased friend's back in minimal ceremony. "And yet, normality accompanies the devastation. We're stuck, so we see it differently, but this elimination is the doorway to our world.

"Helena, listen to me." Koenig grew direct, pulling Russell to her feet, and holding her sensibly by the shoulders. "I need information. You were with Epheme, and the others. The Bund. The Vicars. How were they able to bring us here? What's their source of power? What's their real purpose? I know that you, and Ang' are central to their plan, but I need to know in what way."

Doctor Helena Russell wore a blank expression. Some would say it was 'wooden' or 'cold' but John Koenig knew it was the look of a woman deep in contemplation. The wheels were turning, analyzing the situation, despite the obvious emotional trauma on her face.

She returned the hold, grasping his biceps and looked up. It was a gesture of assurance. "No," she said carefully, "they used me as a counter-action, a remedy of the situation. She is central to all that has happened," she looked to the side, thinking, "I'm sure of it."

"Except," she paused, her eyes now taking on a spark of awareness. "No, it couldn't be."

"What?" Koenig prompted, "what is it?"

She gazed at him. "Normally, I couldn't tell you. But, in this case..." she lingered quietly then decided. "John, there's something that you should know, which might be relevant to our situation."


"YOU DON'T MAKE SENSE." Carter reviled her knowledge as he stormed past the blasted ruins of the Fourteen Parabola. The half dish protruded from the new slope as gray, pumice covered hands pulled upwards on the ledge of the embankment. The last tremor did not bury them. It did toss them, hard into the deep lake bed. Even now, he wagered that part of the Moon was already gone. A fleet of asteroids moved in low orbit as the satellite's devolution reached advanced stages. Occasionally, the smaller ones impacted the surface like bullets from a strafing gun. "I SAW HIM TOO. I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT MEANS, BUT WE DON'T KNOW IF IT MEANS THAT." He got over himself long enough to hoist her top-side.

"He keeps reappearing," she observed the crumbling foundation of the former medical center hub. "I saw Anne Delline. The smell of benodyne and alcohol lingers and just keeps growing stronger. Something is wrong. I know it. I can feel it."

"Look...Buttercup...." The pilot became easy. "We also saw ourselves in the command module of Eagle One. That doesn't mean that we've stopped breathing. It means that this place knows how to get inside your rearranges things."

"That wasn't me, not exactly me; not as I am now," she shook her head despairingly. "Maybe I am going nuts. Maybe this is some kind of sick head game. I don't know. Maybe, I don't want to know."

The astronaut was listening--until the 6.0 Richter Scale event turned them both upside down, and dumped them on their heads.

"That's it," she slumped back into a kneeling position, too weak to stand, "Daetor said we need to acknowledge. Maybe I need to acknowledge but acknowledge what? What is so terrible that I would refuse to deal with? Is it possible that I caused this whole fucking thing?!? That I brought this misery on us? On the Commander and Doctor Russell and the Professor?!?"

"Gorgeous, let's make a deal." Carter choked--his tunic billowing dust after the rock, and roll surceased. "We'll argue about this if, and when we make it out of here. Deal?"

The end was near.

He didn't have to say it.

"Gosh, look what we've got, honey." The pilot sneered as one of the great winged Kalyndas touched down. "One of the turkey monsters from the planet Xenu. How are you getting on, Daetor? Or am I speaking to one of the other ones? In my extreme dislike, you all sort of blend in, and smear."

"I am neither." The unamused Pterosaur replied in a monotone. "I am Daetor's descendant. I am known as Anaxamander, and my business is with you, my Queen." He addressed Ang.' "You have been summoned back to the temple. We have received a communication from the society. It's contents may be of interest to you."

"Really?" Carter exclaimed. "Maybe you ought to tell the temple that we don't give a damn."

"That is a choice." Anaxamander agreed as he shook the debris from his ailerons. "It's just not the appropriate one."

She did not want to go but knew time was running out. Un-time was running out. "I think the solution is with the communication." She resigned herself. "We should go."

Chapter 11

It was a bizarre victory parade as Angelina and Alan Carter (Ang being the focus, Alan Carter as the regrettable but necessary consort in the eyes of the House of Kalynda) were escorted to the steps of the temple. The crumbling star field, splintering and raining down around them, served as the cosmic confetti.

"Behold!" Kristof shouted to the crowd. "Behold Our Beloved Queen! She who guided us to victory over our oppressors! She who led us to smite the Society of Kairos!"

A deafening thunder of flapping wings and enthusiastic cheers went up in the crowd. Angelina felt empty and depressed. In front of them, the sacred text was mounted on a podium.

It was a blue flimsie.

"Is it over with yet?" Epheme' was livid. "I was not told that it was over? Were you told that it was over?"

"What's he doing here?" Carter seemed unphased. "I thought you were mortal enemies."

"You can think?" Andros was impressed.

"On Earth, you build fences." An eleventh hour Pterosaur named Etragian spoke up. "That is not our way. Even when fragmented, we remain unified in the body. As you can see, both the House of Kalynda, and the Society of Kairos emanate from the same city."

"Commander Koenig, I apologize from the depths of my penitent heart." The mysterious alphan medical technician espoused.

"O'kay." The commander responded. He could kill them all after what happened to Bergman, but as it was, he was doing an apt job of concealing his hatred. Helena Russell believed that the professor lived, like the stone cold Carter before him, but in a different chronology. This didn't help Koenig to like these people any better, but as pipe dreams go, it was nice. "You've committed so many transgressions. Would you mind telling me which one you're making amends for now?"

"She's not sorry." Epheme answered for the Woman in White. "In fact, she's glad."

"What would you know about Her intentions?" Kristoff of Kalynda scoffed, flapping his wings in mild irritation. His lieutenants guffawed in agreement. "Superior intellect and telepathic powers? Obviously, they have failed you in the final expunging of the moment."

"Final expunging of the moment?" Helena Russell repeated, suddenly and tremendously frightened. "'What does THAT mean?"

"You were an unfortunate participant in this epic," the mysterious woman with the long, curly strawberry blonde hair, answered compassionately, ignoring Epheme and the others. She took Koenig by the hand, guiding him toward the podium, bearing the flimsie.

"No doubt, this is all my fault," Angelina interjected herself. The woman in white merely gazed at her, maternally. Ang felt guilty. She was being belligerent at an angel, or so she thought.

"I would not assign any sort of blame to the situation," the woman replied vaguely, taking the flimsie from the podium. She turned slowly toward the Technical Manager.

"This is for you," she offered it. "Read it."

Ang stared at the flimsie then crossed her arms defiantly over her breasts. "And what if I refuse?"

The woman in white gazed at her sadly but her arm remained extended, frozen, the delicate fingers holding the blue flimsie as an offering.

"I don't want to read it," she shook her head miserably, fighting back the tide of dread.

"You must," the mysterious woman beckoned.

"You must," Helena Russell, still dressed in Society of Kairos garb, minus the hammer, stepped forward. She formed the third point of a triangle between Ang and the Woman in White.

She didn't have to read the sacred document of the House of Kalynda; she knew what it contained. She was overcome with dizziness and nausea as visions of lambs, kittens and fuzzy yellow chicks swarm in her head, to be unexpectedly attacked and ripped to shreds into blood splattered wool and fur and downy fluff by furtive weasels. The remains of the baby animals fluttered before her eyes against the increasingly blank backdrop.

BLANK! It occurred to her that there was no longer a star field, no longer space, but a blank.

She wanted to run away. Instead, she reached for the flimsie.

"Captain." John Koenig extended a mysterious hand, and with gentle, top secret mirth. "The pleasure has been mine."

"Wha'?" Carter looked goofy. "Bon voyage. I guess. I wasn't aware that you were going anywhere, sir."

Helena Russell smiled.

"I understand now." The commander lacked details. "I can't tell you how I know." He looked at the zone of white that had begun to converge on them. "I just do."

The physician waved supportively at Ang.'

"We've lived a long time." Koenig said comparatively, moreover.

"A life filled with memories." The doctor recalled as she cast away the robes of Kairos. "Some good...and a whole lot of them were just plain awful. Now it's time for us to move on."

"You act like you're going to cash your ticket." The astronaut thought.

"In a sense we are." The commander defied logic. "The House of Kalynda has brought us to the end of an age. Only now, I'm beginning to see that there's more to history than a clock. The people you knew in one moment won't necessarily be there in the next. Our personalities will go on." He espoused, chewing his lower lip. "But not as they are now."

"Angelina, take care." Russell bade as she took her position beside the wistful commander.

"Are you prepared to change?" The Woman in White studied them.

"Yes." The physician spoke for both of them.

"There will be agony...a condition.... The next moment is incredible. It is rebirth."

"Do it." The commander said firmly, and then: "I know who you are now."

A crevasse opened, and the two of them plunged to their deaths.

She didn't notice, in her own world, as she read the final paragraph. The look of complete devastation, the disappointment, rimmed her eyes as she lowered the script.

"Alan..." she whispered, turning to him and voice trailing off.

The moon exploded.


"Liftoff in T-Minus ten seconds." Morrow said unastoundingly from his workstation while turning the page on his copy of the flight plan.

The sounds of Main Mission, the closing and opening of circuits filled the room as Angelina noted Victor Bergman, standing with eager anticipation next to Ben Ouma's half swiveled computer desk. Alan Carter, focused on the count down and answering "affirmative" two, three, four times to Darla Lomax queries and status reports, glanced at her briefly and subtly winked from the capcomm station.

Helena Russell stood neutrally next to the Commander in front of his desk, staring at the big screen. Koenig himself stood, studying a very long register tape print out, reading glasses perched on the bridge of his nose.

Angelina was exhausted. Why? It was the beginning of her shift but somehow, for some reason, she felt she had been up and about for hours....days....a lifetime. She closed her eyes then reopened them slowly. A wild thought occurred to her: magic mallets and pterodactyls flying over the lunar horizon but she dismissed it as figments of weariness coupled with imagination.

The IM window had been flashing at her and she had minimized it but the 'R_Mathias' dialogue box continued to flash insistently at her on the tool bar at the bottom of her screen.

The electronic calliope was alive inside Ouma's desk. The automatic update began to unfurl, but Koenig, and company were more attentive of the stricken look on Angelina's face. The computer chief regarded only hardware, and software--sometimes even more than his own underwear. Clue number one should have come when the large, high definition image of Procyon was replaced by the X5 screensaver which bounced from side to side in a zonking neon light.

"Roll complete." Lomax reported obliviously over the link.

"You're good on all four, one." Morrow vibed routinely.

"Helium valves opened." Co-pilot Fabris grew eager with anticipation.

"Forget it Hosea." Ouma stole their fire. "You'd better write this off as simulator time."

He walked the digest over to Bergman who grew close to Ang,' who now looked as waxen as a heart attack victim. The commander lost interest in the mission also as he joined a confused Alan Carter in blocking the Data Analyst's workstation.

"Strange." The professor read the summary carefully. "That mathematical angle has disappeared. There's nothing out there, but clouds of hydrogen, and solar flares."

"What's crackin,' Queenie'?" Carter asked Ang,' and he hated his choice of words. He had no idea where the anonym came from, but it fit like a forgotten glove.

"If this isn't rubbish then I don't know what is." Paul Morrow dissented as he began typing his way, way early commands to the pad three recovery team. "Commander?"

The question was born of sheer, pounds of paper technicality. The response was obvious.

"Scrub the mission." Koenig said from far away. "Eagle One return to base."

Helena Russell, deeply troubled in spirit herself, gazed at the Technical Manager profoundly after reading her text message on the micro screen of her commlock. Russell slowly replaced the communication device onto her belt clip, staring vacantly out at the viewport onto the lunar surface.

Angelina was unaware of the stares from Koenig and Carter. Sandra Benes was now studying the Technical Manager with increasing concern. Ouma merely glanced at her as he grudgingly lowered himself under his desk, attempting to troubleshoot the unswivelling swivel computer desk. She could care less about Ouma's desk. Opening Mathias' IM window, she fixated on the word 'NOW' in all capitals and emphasized in an angry and ironic blood red font. Joe Erhlich, returning under the left archway, shifted uncomfortably before tapping her shoulder.

During the entire time, Koenig watched her while Bergman presented theories about the appearing then the disappearing anomaly.

Perhaps it was a computer miscalculation, the professor offered, and smirked over Ouma's muffled objection from under the desk.

Angelina would have normally smirked as well but she did not hear the comment. Instead, she stood up and nodded to Joe to take her place. She glanced at Carter momentarily, gazed thoughtfully at the balcony for twice as long, and then left the room under the left archway. Koenig turned and walked up the three steps slowly toward his desk, Bergman still trailing behind him with two register tapes. Helena Russell leaned toward Carter, whispering a brief comment into his right ear, as Pam Rose passed in front of them, handing a green flimsie to Joe Erhlich, who had begun ribbing the Chief of Computer Operations.

On the balcony, unseen since coffee break was in another 20 minutes, two small footprints with toes facing the railing appeared on the gray tile floor. Then, they turned, padding silently toward the viewports and disappeared.

Below, Ben Ouma gave Joe Erhlich the finger. Helena Russell finished delivering her message, glanced at Koenig then left Main Mission through the left archway.


Mathias didn't want any more.

"Not the poison I'm looking for." He told Marg Stryker--an astrophysicist turned candy striper--as she moved past him with a tray of coffee for the third time. After not admiring the testament of her shapely figure, he closed the door to the office, and was seated at his desk before realizing that his colleague, Dorothy Sullivan was sitting in front of him.

"If I knew, then that would make one of us." He intoned subjunctively as he typed his password into the server.

Dot chuckled thoughtfully.

Marg Stryker decided she wanted to change professions in mid life. The woman had been cracking the medical texts during the day but during the evenings she worked in the wards, "starting at the bottom", as Mathias had put it. The scientist who held a PhD in astrophysics was now a student and a CNA, filling coffee cups for the MDs and changing bedpans at the direction of Head Nurse Jerry Parker. Not that there were any bedpans to change tonight, as the last patient had been discharged this afternoon to her quarters for bed rest.

Mathias had just personally checked in on the discharged woman.

"Margie," Dot called out the open door, "Jerry left instructions for you to change the sheets in Ward A then put the surgical instruments from Operating Theater A into the boiler."

"Yes, Doctor," the woman responded with weary cheerfulness then turned toward Ward A. Dot sat back, returning her attention to Mathias, who was typing his notes into the patient file.

"I see you've abandoned the dictation software," Dot noted the silence. "Me too. Ouma thinks its marvelous but it misspells every other friggen word. You have to manually correct it and it seems you spend more time dicking around doing that than just typing it in. Truman told him that it sucked and it needed considerable more revisions before he'd try it again," she chortled softly. "Ben didn't seem too please with that assessment," she laughed again, remembering the geek's very indignant reaction and sour puss.

Her face turned serious. "How is she doing?"

He tipped her wise to the small, stapled book in front of him.

"She's surviving." Mathias replied. "Physically, there's nothing wrong. She's not smiling the way she did before the pre-natal." He remarked, verging on barf. "Then again, Ang' is a bulldog. She'd never lay down, even if it was the appropriate response. You know, I couldn't read her reaction at all when I told her that her condition might be histolytic. She just walked away with this frozen, Five Card Stud expression on her face.

"Carter was the one that I expected to go nuclear, and I hit the jackpot. He even got into a shouting match with Delline. Mind you, she had absolutely nothing to do it--and was, sincerely, administering a well deserved enema to Ed Malcom, but apparently her existence was all he needed.

"As for me, I thank God every night that we didn't tell them about experimental solutions to ectopic pregnancies." Mathias dropped his penlight on the blotter. "Jack Kairos may have been a wunderkind at Harvard. His techniques may have even worked in the birthing wards at New York State.

"On Moonbase Alpha, his procedure would have gotten someone killed."

"I have the postmortem report," she slid the blue flimsie toward him on his desk. "I wish I could tell you the cause of death. I can't," she said flatly. She had done the autopsy herself. "Everything was, well, perfect, as far as I could tell and Helena agreed. Though, she wasn't a whole lot of help, I have to admit. She became very upset and excused herself before I was done. Frankly, I've never seen her react that way before. I mean, sure, she knows what happen and is sympathetic but I have always admired her clinical professionalism and her outstanding ability to handle emotion but this..." She trailed off. "I didn't know what to think."

"At times she's too close to the subject matter." Mathias replied, fucking hypocrite that he was.

Doctor Dorothy Sullivan stared at Mathias briefly, her thoughts mirroring his but she said nothing. They had one infant death and now the third prenatal death since Nicky Carter's birth and Koenig agreed to a carefully controlled (ha-ha) birth rate for their dubious future. Realistically, the children were all they had and after many years in deep space, at times the only reason for them to continue onward. Each time before, though, Mathias took the unenviable task of dissecting the tiny being, which expired much too soon, to determine a cause of death; autopsies out of necessity in the hopes of learning something and potentially avoiding another fetal death in the future.

This time, however, Bob Mathias would have no part of it. Perhaps when he saw his friend holding the body of the nearly 20 week old fetus, perfectly formed and wrapped in a hand towel, gazing into the dead child's face, he could not detach himself and return to the role of physician. Helena Russell was equally weepy and so, Dot Sullivan stepped up to the plate.

"I think we all get that way sometimes," Sullivan answered carefully. "We can't help it, Bob. We're human beings. It's a benefit and a curse at the same time."

She took a gulp of imitation coffee. It was crappy as usual.

"Ugh," she shook her head disdainfully. "You know, after all these years out here, after all of our experiences of living in deep space and all of the innovations we have done to survive out here up to this day, you would think that in all that time we could have developed a half way decent tasting cup of coffee from the soybeans. As it is, it isn't a whole lot better today than when we left."

She lowered the cup of horrid java into her lap, staring at it. "It's almost like us, when you think about it," she waxed philosophically. "Perhaps we, as human beings, haven't changed much since Breakaway either."

Mathias concurred.

On Alpha everything was obverse.

They alchemized gold into straw.

They turned roasted coffee beans green.

It was something like gloom, despair, and agony on them.

"That's interesting that you brought that up." He implied, pointing his pen at the tall floor lamp. "Funny." He considered, with the most serious look of gore, and Hell ever to be evinced on the NASCAR Moon. "I was just thinking about the good old days--back when I would wake up in the morning, and--schmuck that I am--contemplate the promise of working in a permanent, lunar settlement.

"What it's like to be part of the solution...on the crest...the cutting edge.

"Yada,' Yada.'" Mathias chewed the barrel of his penlight. For a moment, Dot Sullivan worried that he might commit Hare Kari with it. "I didn't know it at the time, but I wonder if I accepted a government posting because I wanted to escape? You know...Henri Chariare,' casting his innertube into the ocean from the shores of Devil's Island. It wasn't so much ego....

"Well, that's not entirely true. It was ninety percent ego. Who wouldn't have their head turned by the opportunity to be chief of staff in some exotic, far away, outer space hospital. I used to wonder, resentfully mind you, why Commander Korkova used to shake her head at me. Before I had not a single clue. Now I know. I'm a rum-dumb.' The minute I stepped off that Eagle I thought I was free from terminated pregnancies, from D&C.

"Free from crippling birth defects, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I was a spaceman--I could forget that shit now. Then along came September 13, 1999. Madame Curie, and Einstein kicked the Moon in the posterior, thereby commencing the greatest, most wretched game of King Of The Hill ever played. When the commander, and Dr. Russell proposed this new program, I oh-so-willingly dived head first into it. For the most part, it's been a total failure, but still we forge ahead.

"In this week's episode, our intrepid, castaway physician does a y-stitch on an infant who wasn't developed enough to even be considered a zygote."

"But it hasn't been a total failure," Sullivan attempted to uplift. She momentarily considered the latest "failure". Ironically, in another 6 or 7 weeks, the child might have been viable enough to survive outside the womb. On the other hand, she had just died without physical cause from her mother, the environment, even herself. It was a mystery, one of many. "The infant, Katrina," the doctor began to summarize, brushing away a strand of auburn hair from her face, "well, that was homicide, Bob." She paused realizing that the point could be argued that it perhaps could have been avoided, if they had recognized the psychotic depression of the mother.

If. There had been many "ifs" since they left earth.

"The other two miscarriage were caused by an external force, unfortunate, yes, but known and there was nothing you or I or any of us could have done to stop it. We did manage to save Brianna Farrow out of that tragedy, despite our woefully inadequate facilities to deal with neonatals on Moonbase Alpha.

"All totaled, Bob, there are 11 more children in 3 years, 12 if you count Melitta Kelly-Geist who's due any day now." Dot sat back wistfully, trying to consider the glass half full rather than half empty. "I'd say, considering the circumstances, we've done pretty damn good so far."

She glanced down awkwardly as she noticed Mathias, though listening, was staring at the picture frame with the Power Puff Girls icon in the corner; one of the badly drawn animations shouted "Girls RULE!" in the comic dialogue bubble. The little girl in the picture frame, about 8 years old and astride a brand new bicycle with a dazzling, toothy and 'mugging for the camera' smile was forever immortalized. Her pink t-shirt read "Daddy's Princess".

"Save the backslapping for the plumber's convention." Mathias told her dreamily. "It's not over yet. It won't be over until we abandon this hunk of copper that we're living on. As long as we're up here, personal loss won't be an occasional thing--it will be the 'only' thing. We have to stop humoring ourselves. There is no way we can possibly be natural people as long as we're in a bizarre situation. Kudos on the delivery of those other children, but we can't forget that everyone on Alpha, tikes not withstanding, has only a temporary stay of execution.

"I hate to malign such a beautiful thing with my gloomy view." He supposed. "But you know, and I know...that's the score.

"I know," she said quietly and huskily, raw emotion filtering into her voice. "I know that very well."

She did know. She had officially been the first pregnant woman on Moonbase Alpha post Breakaway, if only for just a short time. On September 1, 1999, she discovered she was pregnant with her first child. Her husband, Dr. Amir Amari, Chief Neurosurgeon of New York University, never knew about his pending fatherhood. Sure, the communication blackout did not allow her to tell him the good news, but she had intended to show up at his office unexpectently and surprise him when she left on September 14, 1999. She had it all worked out in her mind, how the scene would unfold.

The scene had been cut from the play...permanently.

Instead, it had been rewritten and on September 13, 1999, like everyone else, she sustained injuries during the Breakaway blast but she had taken a particularly hard fall and broken her pelvic bone; and lost her baby.

"But on the other hand," her voice cleared and gained strength and resonance, "I have to look beyond today and get ready for tomorrow." She sat back, smiling. "We are going to find a home," she nodded, determined and believing. "We are going to find a real home and when we do, we need to be prepared or at least better prepared than we are now."

"Have you considered, Bob, what life will be like returning to normal after living in a uniform biosphere for many years? Even on the most hospitable planet, there will be weather changes. We'll get cold. We'll get hot. We'll get wet. We may even get sunburned. Those of us with arthritis, those of us with bad backs and trick knees will feel the barometric changes of a storm coming on with advanced aches and pains. Most likely the planet will be bare bones, not exactly set up with living quarters, heating and air conditioning.

"Life will be a trillion times better than now...but it certainly won't be 'easy', not by a long shot." Dot downed the last of her awful coffee. "We have to prepare ourselves for that situation, especially our children, who have yet to experience the joys but also the realities of living in the great outdoors."

How she wished they had that 'problem' now, this minute.

As did Mathias who presently wanted nothing less than non-being.

Another second arrived, and then another, and then another. The ebb and flow of the universal tide had swept them into the great North Atlantic of human ignorance, and stupidity. Call it desperation. Or a berserk moon that is hopelessly adrift in the uninterrupted clouds.

"I'm not really sure what it was, the best moment. You always hope it's to come."

--Bryan Ferry

"Children have a way of forcing you back into the present moment."

--Lorna Luft

"The problem at the moment is that there are no other channels."

--Yitzhak Rabin


Written by tgarnett & moonbasealpha_s1 of Space:1999: The Classic Adventures