Transition: 2000 – A Space:1999 Short Story

Back in 1997, Farpoint, my home convention, decided to publish a fanzine featuring works by committee and interested members. The zine was called Encounters, and it was edited by Beverly Volker, my mother-in-law and a Fandom legend for her work on the zine Contact. It was a mixed media zine, meaning it was open to stories from any fandom you could name. I decided to do four shorts based on four of my favorite SF shows, showcasing drastic changes in the lives of the characters, changes which either occurred during the runs of the shows, or after they were off the air.

We published them in chronological order. The first was this one, based on Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s Space: 1999. This is a “during the run” transition, chronicling why the character of Victor Bergman disappeared without explanation between the first and second series of the show. The same subject has since been addressed in the authorized novel Survival, published by Powys Books.

Transition: 2000

by Steven H. Wilson

They had assured him it would be painless.

Not that such things mattered to Bergman, really. The discovery of new knowledge wasn’t meant to be a painless process. If it were, such discoveries would be commonplace, and knowledge, precious knowledge, would not be valued.

They were on the moon’s surface, Koenig, Helena Russell, Alan Carter, Tony Verdeschi, two of his security team, and Bergman himself. The upgrade of the generators to the massive force field towers was almost complete.

It was time.

Each space suit had a bleeder valve on its oxygen pack, so that the system could be purged after use before being recharged. It was unthinkable that anyone would even touch it while in vacuum.

Calmly, with a small hint of a smile playing over his features and a sense of anticipation, Victor Bergman reached over his shoulder and opened the valve. Before the others noticed anything amiss, before the shock registered on their faces, Victor Bergman was dead.

Helena Russell hesitated but a moment as she drew the sheet up over his face. She wanted one last look, but what she saw wasn’t pleasant. It brought her no comfort. If only she could summon up the memory–summon it up clearly–of Victor’s face the last time he had smiled at her. If only she could feel his warm, calloused hand, the last time it had squeezed her shoulder. How odd, she had thought many times in the past, that so knowledgeable a scientist should be so warm and caring a person.

Victor was an eccentric, to be sure. He had never married, for he didn’t think it right to ask a wife and family to take a backseat to his one true passion: the quest for knowledge. It was a pity, Helena thought, for he would have made such a wonderful father. Indeed he was a father figure to the whole of Moonbase Alpha, the respected patriarch who’d come here with her inception and never left.

To Helena, in particular, he was a key figure in a life which she’d had to rebuild almost from the foundations. Four years ago, after her husband had been lost in an early exploratory mission to the outer solar system, she’d come to Moonbase Alpha for a change. She’d worked for the ILC for years, but had never visited their premiere facility. When the life she’d known ended, its death knell sounded in a simple, unfinished transmission about radiation bombardment, she’d decided it was time to see what the new frontier looked like. Perhaps she wanted to feel closer to Lee, too.

Moonbase Alpha was as close as she could get.

She’d met Victor Bergman when he’d come to earth during the Ultra Probe inquiries. She’d been assigned to evaluate the mental stability of Tony Cellini, the commander and sole survivor. Cellini had disliked her intensely, and Bergman had stepped in to act as a buffer between them after the initial hostilities. She’d appreciated that gesture, and had spent a great deal of time with the Professor during his involuntary stay on earth. She’d found him a good listener as well as an excellent conversationalist.

When she’d come to Alpha, his friendly face had been her first anchor, the only familiar part of a new life. Although she was far along in her career, earth’s leading expert in space medicine, she came to see the old man as a mentor. He was her sounding board, her reflection, her devil’s advocate, her confessor.

He had been the same to John Koenig for years. When Koenig and Helena had finally met, after years of being involved in the same projects, but from opposite ends of the spectrum, Victor had helped them find the common ground they needed to establish a working relationship. Without him, they might very well have hated each other. With him… both widowed, both instensely concerned for their people, Helena and Koenig were not quick to allow themselves to be emotionally entangled. They both knew as well as Victor did, though, that the last twelve months had seen the two of them fall deeply in love. It was a love of which Victor approved, one for which he was almost solely responsible.

And now he was dead.

The blue flesh of his oxygen starved face, the contortions involuntarily wrought by dying muscles, left behind a horrid picture. Helena wondered how much he’d suffered. Death had come quickly, but had it been merciful? Or was the tale of pain and suffering told by Victor’s features true? She couldn’t bear to think of him in pain.

A commlock chime announced an arrival in Medical Centre. The door quietly slid open to admit John Koenig. For a moment, Helena considered trying to hide the tears that were coming to her eyes. She quickly realized, however, that there was little point in hiding from him. With Victor gone, he was now the one who knew her best.

He didn’t bother saying anything, for there was nothing to say which would bring any comfort. He crossed to her and stood beside her. For a brief time he gazed down at the covered body, his own features grim. Then, giving the corpse of his friend and mentor a brief squeeze on the motionless arm, he reached out for Helena.

She fell against him, burying herself in his embrace. Neither looked to see if the other was weeping. For an undetermined time, they stood there–prolonging, as much as possible, the last time together the three of them would ever have.

When Alpha had been designed–decades before its final implementation–earth’s nations had been ever on the brink of one disastrous war or another. Consequently, the blueprints had included many provisions to guard against attack by hostile powers. Chief among them was the allocation of space at the lowest level of the Main Mission Tower for an emergency operations centre–a “bomb shelter” of sorts for command staff.

One disastrous war had come a decade and a half ago, and its chief by-product had been a new spirit of international cooperation on earth. Part of this cooperation was enforced by mass fear of the terrible biological and atomic weapons used in that war, part of it stemmed from the fact that the war had reduced the population by almost fifty per cent. There simply weren’t as many people on earth getting in each others’ way anymore, and those survivors needed each others’ assistance to overcome famine and disease left in the wake of military violence.

Moonbase Alpha, when finally constructed, was built as a symbol of that international cooperative spirit. Defense became a low priority, and the Emergency Op-Center idea was abandoned. The sub-basement of Main Mission was left empty, however, and used only for storage.

Following Alpha’s recent encounter with the warring worlds of Betha and Delta, it had been Victor who’d pointed out the vulnerability of Main Mission to attacks from space. Ensconced in the relative protection of the moon’s home solar system, there wasn’t too much concern over having the command facility sitting somewhat precariously atop the base. It put the staff’s interface equipment close to the antenna arrays, conserving resources and allowing for better quality data transmission. In the unfriendly environment of deep space, however, it didn’t make sense to leave the most critical piece of Alpha’s operations most vulnerable to attack.

The cleaning out of the underground facility had begun months ago, an occasional project for those who had time in their schedules. (And not many Alphans had time in their schedules–most everyone’s work was crucial to survival in space).

Now, with Victor gone, Koenig had stepped up the pace, mapped out a schedule, and implemented Operation Burrow. In two weeks, Alpha’s new Command Centre would be operational, and Main Mission would stand empty.

Koenig would admit, to himself, that his motivation for making the move now was a sentimental one. If he was to continue without Victor, he wanted to put a whole new face on his command. He was going to have to promote people into new positions of responsibilty, establish a new inner circle of leadership. He didn’t want them to feel intimidated by the ghosts of the old regime. What was more, he didn’t want to tread on his memories of his old friend. Main Mission and his spacious office belonged to another time–Victor’s time.

Today would be the last meeting of the command staff held in his private office. Already, many of its fixtures had been cannibalized for use below, leaving the room looking something like an abandoned storefront. One operative–speaking in tones he thought the Commander couldn’t hear–had suggested the mounting of a FOR SALE sign in the window which looked out on the lunar surface. Koenig had to admit the idea had its humor.

His people were beginning to gather. Sandra Benes sat quietly at the conference table, reviewing her notes. Beside her, Paul Morrow’s and David Kano’s chairs sat empty. She tried not to notice. The tragedies which had taken the two men from among them were still fresh, still painful. Paul’s death, particularly, had changed her, made her quiet, perhaps toughened her.

Alan Carter strode in, followed by Tony Verdeschi, looking uncomfortable in the flame-colored sleeve of the Main Mission Controller. It was obvious the security chief felt out of place here. He was normally as gregarious as Carter, if a trifle more serious. He knew he’d been invited today to fill an empty position, though, and he knew how that position had been emptied.

Victor’s death would only make the strain greater on Verdeschi, and he knew it. Koenig had asked him last week to take over Paul Morrow’s slot. Paul had been in charge of base operations, and thus, Koenig’s second in command. It was well-known, however, that Victor Bergman would have commanded had anything happened to Koenig. Paul was merely Prime Minister, as it were, not heir apparent. Tony Verdeschi was now both.

Koenig had little other choice. Not that he disliked Verdeschi, but he didn’t know him well. He’d only become head of security following the death of the man who’d commanded it when Koenig had come to Alpha. The security chief was never included in command staff meetings, and rarely accompanied Koenig on reconnaisance missions.

With the attrition in the security force over the last year, however, the chief was called on to be more active. Besides, Verdeschi, like Koenig, believed a leader belonged on the front lines, facing the same danger his subordinates did. He was truly superior to his predecessor anyway. Now that they were in space, security’s function had changed. Once they had protected the base against infiltration by possible terrorists, controlled members of the press, done little more than airport security could have been expected to do two decades ago. Now they were called upon to settle the internal disputes that came with the confinment of Alpha’s new life. They observed and confined those who became violent from the strain and monotony and hopelessness of endless space travel. They faced any number of unexpected dangers from outside the walls of Alpha.

Tony was quick on his feet, adaptable, just suspicious enough, and relatively calm. He had a temper, yes, but not the unpredictable one Alan Carter often displayed. That trait had made the chief pilot undesirable for the number two spot, although Carter had become less confrontational of late, with Koenig, anyway.

Koenig had still found no one to replace Kano. His computer skills had been unparalleled. Now that he was gone, and the computer was in need of such drastic overhaul work, Koenig was leaving it to Sandra to fill in and establish a clear course of action for how Alpha would handle its computer needs in future.

At last Helena arrived, dry-eyed but looking worn. With her entrance, Tony looked a bit nervously at the chair next to Sandra’s. Obviously, he’d wanted to avoid actually sitting in it as long as possible. Time was up. He sat with an apologetic grimace, directed particularly at Sandra. She did not look up.

Koenig himself did not bother to sit. He often did not, being too full of frustrated energy. Today, he knew, the assembled group also needed a clear leadership figure on which to focus.

I take it you’ve finished the autopsy, Dr. Russell,” he said.

She nodded. “Yes. It reveals nothing unexpected. Cause of death was asphyxia.”

Koenig looked to Carter. “You checked out the suit?”

Yeah. The valve stem seal was weak–an almost invisible stress point. The valve was shut tight as you please.”

How did it–?” Koenig began, but Helena leaned forward urgently.

No,” she protested, “that’s wrong!”

Koenig looked at her sharply. He was met, not with determination, however, but uncertainty. Helena looked as though she wasn’t sure she’d even spoken, or why she had.

Helena?”

She shook her head. “I–I don’t know, John, for a moment…”

The seal was torn, Doc,” said Alan. “There’s no two ways about it.”

Koenig circled to stand over Carter. “And just how in the hell did a defective system get past inspection? Was it inspected?”

Of course, Commander,” said Carter testily. “We never let someone on the surface in an untested suit. The defect must have been…”

I’m hearing a lot of unfinished sentences today,” snapped Koenig.

Carter sighed. “Looking at it now, I don’t know how it could have been missed; but it was missed.”

Who inspected the suits last?” Koenig demanded.

Bill Fraser. He’s the most competent man I’ve got.”

Hindsight is always twenty-twenty,” Helena said quietly. “It’s easy now to say Bill should have noticed a defect, but–”

I want all suits triple-checked from now on. I’m not going to lose anyone else to a damned mechanical failure. Understood, Captain?” Koenig realized he was right in Carter’s face.

The pilot looked at the floor. “Understood, Commander.”

Koenig turned to Helena. “You had something else to add?”

No, Commander. I–It was nothing. I suppose I’m just having trouble… accepting it.”

You are not alone, Helena,” Sandra said quietly.

No,” agreed Koenig. “This is going to be hard on us all. The memorial service should help. I want to have it tomorrow.” He looked to Helena. “Any problems?”

None,” she said. “We’re finished with the body.”

The rest of the meeting went quietly. The specifics of Operation Burrow were hammered into place, the schedule finalized. There was nothing more to say about Victor’s death, at least nothing appropriate to a staff meeting.

When it was over, Koenig dismissed all but Helena and Tony. He turned to Verdeschi, who still seemed quite stiff.

How are you settling in?” he asked.

Well, Commander–”

Koenig immediately held up his hand. “Tony… why don’t you try calling me ‘John?’ If we don’t seem comfortable with this arrangement, odds are no one else will be.”

All right, John. I don’t know if the others–especially Sandra–are comfortable with my being in charge. I can’t say as I blame them. It’s going to take some time.”

Agreed. Let’s hope time is something we have in abundance. Take it slowly. They’ll come around. Now, I wanted you in on our next discussion.”

I want to know more about this reaction you had to Alan’s statement about the valve,” he said without preamble to Helena.

I can’t tell you any more, John. It was like a sense of deja vu, as if I’d heard your question answered before, with a different answer.”

You think it wasn’t valve failure?”

Of course it was valve failure. What else would it be?”

I was hoping you could tell me. You jumped in and said Alan was wrong.”

Yes I did. What he said about the valve failing–being completely shut–it just felt wrong.”

Felt wrong?” asked Verdeschi. “Doctor, you’re a professional. Facts are facts. We haven’t worked together that much, but I don’t think you’re the type to make assertions you can’t back up.”

I know it doesn’t make any sense,” she agreed. “It’s just that–for an instant–I knew what Alan was saying wasn’t true–as certainly as I know my own name.”

Verdeschi leaned in toward her. “What part of what he said wasn’t true?”

I don’t know. The whole sensation was gone as quickly as it came.” She looked to Koenig. “Look, just forget it. I think I’m just having trouble coping with Victor’s death. That’s all.”

He tried to soften his face. Now, more than ever, she needed him, and he was afraid he was being needlessly harsh. He reached out and clasped her wrist. “You’re sure you’re okay now?”

She nodded and forced a smile. “Don’t worry.”

He would worry, and he wouldn’t forget, but further discussion was useless. Verdeschi looked to him, saw the decision in his eyes, and as quickly dropped the subject.

Helena returned to her quarters feeling weak. Everything she had told Koenig and Verdeschi was true. She couldn’t explain why she’d said what she did. The feeling had come and gone, leaving not a trace of itself behind.

Well, perhaps a trace. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, and in her dreams in the nights which would come, she would always have the feeling that Victor Bergman’s death was not an accident.

But, as Verdeschi had said, facts were facts, and she was a professional. As the days progressed, pushing Bergman’s death farther and farther from her, as the business of survival demanded her ever-increased attention, the feeling would fade from her conscious mind.

Then, in the minds of everyone on Alpha, Victor Bergman’s death would be considered an accident.

Have I talked to you before?”

Perhaps. If you did, I do not remember. It may have been so long ago that I have purged my memory of the conversation. It may happen in a future yet unknown to me.”

How is that possbile?”

All things are possible.”

Why did you ask me to come here?”

There is potential among your fellows. It is potential which must be nurtured if it is to be fulfilled. The variety of life in the universe includes many seeds. Left to their own devices, many would die, subject to the harshness of life in the cosmos.

Just as you, in your past life, might have fertilized a particular plant to make it healthy enough to grow, or set aside an area for a dying species to survive, so we choose those species whose survival might benefit us, and nurture them.”

Are you God?”

No more than you are God, Victor Bergman, and no less. You are one with Us now.”

And why am I here?”

We have selected you to be the nurturer of those you call Alphans. You shall engineer the means of their survival, intervene when necessary, challenge when called for. You will be their gardener, as it were.”

Or their guardian angel?”

I believe you once called it ‘a sort cosmic intelligence.’”

Then I was right. You have been protecting us all along.”

Yes. But my attempts were obvious, clumsy. I was not familiar enough with your species, and often you suspected my intervention. I believe you can be more subtle–protect your charges without their knowledge. Without your help, they would die.”

And with my help?”

They may die anyway. They may conquer all that is. The choice is theirs.”

Not mine?”

Never yours. Your abilities will be limited. You may give them the opportunity to survive always, the guarantee of survival never.”

God helps those who help themselves?”

That is quite true.”

Then I’m afraid I have to ask again: are we God?”

We are scientists.”

You didn’t answer my question.”

No. I doubt I ever will. Do you regret sacrificing the life you knew, Victor Bergman?”

I regret only the pain it caused the others.”

The pain will pass, and you will do them the most good here. Your work is about to begin.”

Is it?”

Your moon is headed directly for a space warp. There is a great possibility the stresses placed upon it will tear it apart. You can help. You are also allowed to guide it to its destination. There are many possibilities. Reach out with your mind and examine each. What do you see?”

Hmm. It’s beautiful… and dangerous. I wonder if you’d give me some time to examine this one more closely.”

The planet Psychon? An odd choice. It’s nearly barren.”

True, but I sense it has potential to be interesting.”

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