Ah, Youth!
by Patricia
John Koenig hit the snooze button on his alarm one last time.  He sat up
slowly and swung his feet over the side of the bed.  Rubbing his face with
his hands, he made his way to the bathroom.
       
Standing at the sink as the automatic lights came on, John bent and
splashed cold water on his face.  He stood up slowly and wiped his face
with a towel.  As he opened his eyes, John let out a yell of astonishment
from what he saw.
       
Commander John Koenig stood wide-eyed at the reflection of himself.  A
reflection he hadn't seen for over 20 years.
       
He ran his hands and fingers several times over his face and hair.  "I look
like I'm 16 again!" he said aloud to himself.  John looked down at his blue
polyester pajamas that now hung on him like a sack.
       
He was wide-awake now as he stepped back into the living area and turned
up the lights.  Confusion reigned as he looked around the room trying to
figure out what was happening.  John's eyes fell on the bed where Helena
lay curled under the covers.  He thought to himself that she might have
some answers.
       
He crossed the floor to her side of the bed and slowly pulled back the
covers.  John jumped slightly at the sight of his beloved doctor.
       
Helena lay curled against the spot that Koenig has just vacated, as if he
were still there.  Her blond hair spilled onto her pillow further than usual and
John noticed how soft and fine it was.  Her tiny frame stirred as Koenig
placed his hand on her shoulder and spoke her name.
       
Helena rolled onto her back and stretched out fully.  She placed her hands
behind her head and smiled as she opened her eyes.  Seeing the young
man standing over her, Helena inhaled sharply and snatched the covers up.  
"Who are you?" she asked fearfully.  She clutched at her throat when she
heard her own voice.
       
"Helena, it's me.  John." Koenig pleaded, sitting on the edge of the bed.
       
Helena backed up quickly, pressing herself into the wall.  She grabbed her
comlock and hit a button.  "Security needed in Commander Koenig's
quarters."  She grabbed her throat again as the high squeaky voice
emerged.  The computer made a rude sound indicating that it had complied.
       
"Now just calm down, Helena." John started to reach out to her.  Helena
recoiled closer to the wall, yanking the covers up to protect herself.  Koenig
stood and went to the dresser.  He picked up his grandfather's old shaving
mirror and returned to the bed.  "Look."  He held out the mirror to her.  "I'm
John Koenig, just as much as you're Helena Russell.  Look!"
       
Helena took the mirror cautiously and looked into it.  She inhaled sharply
and then let out a little squeak.  "Oh, my God!" she cried, touching her face
and checking the length of her hair.  "What's happened?" she looked up at
Koenig.  "John?" she inquired.
       
"Yes." he said as she began to relax.
       
"What's going on?" she looked at herself again in the mirror.  "I look like I'm
13 or 14 years old."
       
"I'm not sure.  I was hoping that you would know until I saw that you were
effected too."  John stood and paced around the room.  He stopped
suddenly and turned toward Helena.  "Do you think that we’re the only ones,
or do you think there are others?”
       
Helena threw off the covers and jumped out of the bed.  “We definitely need
to find out.  If there are more cases then we’re going to have a lot of
panicking people on our hands.”  She crossed to the closet and growled as
she pushed her clothes around.  “Well this is going to be interesting.”  She
finally found a mini-dress that now hung to her knees and attempted to make
it fit.

As they stepped into the hallway it was obvious that all of Alpha was in the
same predicament.  Children littered the halls.  They milled around
confused, reintroducing themselves to one another.  A lot of the girls stood
crying or looked as if they had been.
       
John and Helena stopped just outside their door.  They had the presence of
mind to wear their I.D. badges even though their uniforms didn’t fit.
       
A boy of about 10 years, who worked in the technical labs according to his
uniform, stepped up to Koenig and read his badge.
       
“Commander!” he half yelled.  The entire hallway hushed and all eyes
turned to John and Helena.  “What’s happening?  How did we get this way?”
       
Murmurs began to fill the corridor and John lifted his hand to silence them.  
When he lowered it Helena took his hand.  “We don’t know anymore than
you do.  Dr. Russell and I are headed for the Medical Center to see what’s
affected us and how to possibly reverse it.”  Helena’s freckled face blushed
a little as everyone looked at her expectantly.
       
Almost like the Pied Piper, the crew of Alpha followed Commander Koenig
and Doctor Russell to the travel tube.  As they waited for the doors to open,
John turned to the assembly.  “Please, go back to your quarters or duty
stations and wait to hear the results of Dr. Russell’s findings.  We need to
keep the base running and the anxiety level down.  Under the
circumstances, let’s try to maintain as normal a schedule as possible.”  They
broke up not sure of what to really do.
       
As the travel tube doors opened a little girl of about 2 years approached
Helena.  “Dr. Russell, may I go with you?”
       
Helena was shocked to see such a young child amongst all the teens and
pre-teens.  “I’m sorry, what’s your name dear?”  She knelt down to be eye
level with the child.
       
The little chubby blond started to cry a bit and she had some difficulty
speaking.  “I’m Kami.  Kami Ellerson?”  The tiny physicist wiped her tears,
trying to remain calm.  Kami was only 19 years old and the event that had
transformed them had almost left her an infant.  

Helena could only imagine how frightened she must be.  Helena stood and
took Kami’s hand and helped her into the travel tube.

       

The travel tube door opened up near the Medical Center to a flurry of noise
and confusion.  Kami tightened her grip on Helena’s hand and tried to hide
behind her.  John stepped out first, pulling Helena along side.  “It’ll be okay.”
He whispered to her.
       
An 11-year-old blond boy stepped quickly and purposefully up to Koenig and
grabbed his shoulder.  He led him threw the crowd toward Medical Center
as he spoke.  “Most of us woke up this way.  But those who were awake
and on duty, passed out right before it happen.”
       
Koenig smiled.  With that accent he had no trouble figuring out whom he
was speaking to.  “Alan, I want you to try and get these people organized in
some manner.”
       
Happy to have a purpose, Carter began to back people away from the
doors.  He stopped a moment as John called to him.  “Have you seen Tony
or Maya?”  

Carter pointed to the Center’s doors.  “Yea, they’re in there with Dr. Mathias
and Professor Bergman.”
       
The scene inside Medical Center was no better than the one outside.  
Helena was overwhelmed by the sight.  There were children on examination
beds, gurneys and some even sat on the floor.  Near her office an 11-year-
old Tony stood talking to a 12 year old Bob Mathias and an obviously
younger Victor Bergman.  

“Ah, John!”  Victor recognized them immediately and waved them over.
       
John strode across the room to speak with them, but Helena moved slowly
off to her left.  She couldn’t have missed Maya.  She moved toward the
Psychon slowly with absolute fascination in her eyes.  “Maya?”
       
The 9-year-old Psychon child sat on an examination table holding a little
dark haired girl of about 6 years.  

Seeing Helena she whispered to the girl and jumped down.  “Helena!” Maya
embraced her friend for a moment.  She let go and noticed the toddler
Helena had in tow.  “Kami?”
       
The little girl nodded.  “I’m scared, Maya.”
       
“If course you are.”  She took Kami’s hand from Helena’s and led her toward
the examination table.  “You sit here next to Sandra and we’ll be right
back.”  With a bit of effort, Maya lifted Kami up onto the table and sat her
next to Saun.
       
“Sandra?” Helena spoke a little to loudly.  She rushed over to the small child
that had started crying afresh.  “It’s okay.” Helena soothed.  She tried to
comfort her, moving some of her black silky shoulder length hair out of her
face.
       
Maya pulled Helena away gently.  When they were out of earshot she
explained.  “Saun was on duty when it happened.  We were doing some
routine sector sweeps when we lost consciousness.  She woke up to find
everyone in this state and she started screaming and crying so hysterically
that I brought her straight here.  Dr. Vincent sedated her slightly but she’s
still having trouble excepting it.”
       
Helena looked at her friend in surprise.  “Aren’t we all.”  She looked around
the room.  “Where is Ben, anyway?”
       
“He just left to help some of the more severe crewmen like Sandra.”  Maya
explained.  “One of the nursed is in your office fielding the calls as they
come in and relaying the emergencies to Dr. Vincent.”
       
Helena was proud to see and hear her people so rational and calm in this
situation.  “Would you mind staying with Saun until she’s a little more
calm?”  She asked the Psychon girl.
       
Maya smiled slightly.  “Shall I keep an eye on Kami, too?”
       
Doctor Russell hugged her friend tightly and whispered in her ear.  “Thank
you.  I would appreciate it.”  She let go and started to leave when she
thought of something and turned around.  “Maya, why is it that you don’t
seem as bothered by this as the rest of us?”
       
Maya smiled broadly.  “Helena, I deal with transformation every day.  That’s
not to say I wasn’t shocked when I woke up to find myself looking like this,
but I can handle it better than most simply because it’s not that foreign.”  
Maya took her hand and squeezed it slightly.  “I’ll look after Kami and Saun.  
Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.”
       
“That’s what John keeps saying.”  The two women separated and Helena
went into her office.  The 10-year-old nurse almost jumped out of her chair
as she read the doctor’s badge.  “I’m sorry Dr. Russell.  Dr. Mathias told me
to come in here and field the calls so as not to upset the patients.”
       
“That’s quite alright…Maggie, isn’t it?”  Helena leaned against the doorway.  
“You’re doing just fine.  I was just checking, I don’t need the office.”  Helena
turned slowly out the door and stood next to Koenig.  She resisted the urge
to take his hand as he stood speaking to the others.
       
Victor held his elbow with one hand while the other stroked his chin
thoughtfully.  “Now what I’m thinking, is that we must have passed though
some kind of space anomaly or disturbance that created this strange
phenomenon.”
       
“Yea, but how do we reverse it?”  Tony piped up.  “No offence, but I’ve
already done puberty just fine.  I do not need to repeat it!”
       
“Of course the most obvious way would be to go back through the
anomaly.”  Victor replied.
       
“But we can’t simply go back and fix this!”  Koenig interrupted.
       
“No.  We’re not even sure if that’s what caused it.”  He turned around
suddenly and grinned broadly at them.  “I feel fantastic though.  You have to
admit that we’ve all wished at some point to be young again, to go back and
right a wrong!”  Everyone smiled and giggled at his enthusiasm as he
snapped his fingers, winking, and turned back toward Maya and Sandra.  
“Sandra.” He stepped toward her.  “Do you remember what you were
scanning when you blacked out?”
       
Koenig stepped slowly up to Victor’s side and placed his hand on Sauna’s
shoulder.  “Anything you can remember will help.”
       
Sandra took a deep breath and brushed tears and hair out of her face.  She
looked at each of them in turn then fixed her attention on the Commander.  “I
was making a routine sector sweep when I noticed a large cluster of stars
that had not been there earlier.”  She paused, taking a couple of deep
breaths.  “I remember that they were acting strangely.”
       
“Strangely?  How?”  Victor interrupted.
       
“Well, there was one that seemed brighter than the others and it appeared
to flicker slightly.  I decided to enhance and scan only that area and … and
I…”  Sandra began to cry softly and she choked out her words.  “I don’t
remember, Commander!  I woke up and we were all children!  I was a
child!”  They stood quietly while Saun attempted to regain control of her
emotions.
       
Victor folded his hands across his chest and spoke softly.  “Which sector
was it?  Do you remember actually seeing what it looked like?”
       
Taking a very deep breath and concentrating on her hands, Sandra
continued.  “It was in sector 4G.  At first it looked like a nova.  As we got a
little closer I thought that it could be some type of probe.”
       
Maya chimed into the conversation when Saun paused again.  “Our
instruments weren’t registering anything substantial.”
       
Saun nodded in agreement.  “Scanners were too far out of range to give
anything definite.”  She looked at Bergman.  “Do you think this object
caused this to happen?”
       
“I’m not sure.”  Victor turned and paced the room.  Everyone turned to watch
him, waiting, hoping for an answer.
       
Koenig smiled at Saun.  He stepped over to Helena and took her hand.  `My
God,’ he thought, `even when she was young, she was beautiful.’  Then he
said aloud.  “Helena, find out if there’s any way to reverse the physical
effects of this … phenomenon.”  Koenig then turned to Tony and Maya.  He
smiled at the thought of how mischievous Tony must have been and how
impish Maya still was.  “I want you two back in Command Center trying to
find out whatever you can about what caused our condition.”  He said.
       
“I’ll check with computer to see if we’ve run into anything like it before.”  
Victor nodded and almost ran out the door.
       
Koenig turned back to Sandra.  “Do you think you could help Tony and
Maya?”
       
Sandra managed to smile.  “Yes, Commander.  I’m okay now.”  Koenig
smiled and took her hands to help her down off the table.  Sandra’s belt was
pulled tight and her tunic was now a dress.
       
John walked to the compost and spoke to the entire base.  “This is
Commander John Koenig.  As you are well aware, we have all experienced
a bizarre … transition.  If we all work diligently and maintain as normal a
routine as possible I know we will find some answers.  Dr. Russell and Dr.
Mathias will be available for anyone who may need immediate care.  
Because of the circumstances, I’m asking all crewmen to please wear your
name tags at all times.”  He smiled slightly.  “And of course, your style of
dress is optional under these conditions.  Thank you all for your
cooperation.”  He turned off the monitor and turned to face his friends.  
Their expectant faces made him feel a little insecure; almost as if he really
were sixteen.  John shook off the feeling and smiled.  “Let’s get busy!”




John was happy, a few days later, to see that everyone did their best to
perform their duties as normal as could be expected.  Some still had the
annoying task of carrying a step stool around just to reach the buttons at
their station, but most were either still tall enough or coped nicely.
       
Sandra was the one he felt the most sorry for.  Helena had determined that
she was a healthy 9-year-old, but because of her origins, she appeared to
be only five or six.  Tony and Maya had concocted a type of `high-rise’ for
her chair from a bed tray and a pillow.  Alan had managed to modify every
aspect of her quarters to accommodate her.
       
As the travel tube doors opened, Koenig stepped into a hallway soccer
game.  The ball flew up suddenly and John managed to catch it before it hit
him in the face.  

The players froze when they saw who it was.  A young man around twelve
reached out for the ball.  “Sorry, Commander.  The rec-rooms are all full and
we just wanted to burn off some steam.”
       
John looked at the group for a moment.  Then, instead of handing back the
ball, he dropped it and proceeded to play keep-away.  All the boys followed,
trying desperately to retrieve the ball as Koenig made his way toward the
distant goal.  When he was close enough, John took aim and kicked it
toward the goal.  The 14-year-old goalie, with outstretched hands, hit the
floor hard, the tips of his fingers skimming the ball as it went in.  

John threw his hands up in victory!  The team he made the point for all
rushed around him, slapping him on the back and giving him high fives.  He
walked over and helped the goalie off the floor, shaking his hand.  “That
was great!  You’re very good … John!”  He checked his nametag.  “Wow,
same name.  Pretty cool!”  Both boys laughed.  “Did I just say, cool?”  
Koenig laughed harder at himself.  “I can’t remember the last time I used that
expression.”
       
Koenig moved off down the hall to shouts of `thanks, Commander’ and
`good job, Commander!’  He sauntered into the Medical Center with a broad
grin and greeted everyone he met.  He headed straight for Helena’s office.
       
With his arms across his chest, John leaned against the doorframe.  “How’s
it going?”
       
Helena jumped slightly.  “I didn’t see you come in.  You’re looking very
smug.  How’s it going with you?”
       
“Fantastic!”  He moved to the desk and sat on the edge of it.  “I just made a
goal in the hall outside!”  John said proudly, still grinning.  “I hate to admit it,
but Victor was right.  I feel great!  Like a kid again!”
       
Helena giggled at him.  “We’re all kids again.  Perfectly healthy kids as a
matter of fact.”  Standing, she moved around her desk.  “Each of us has
regressed somewhere between 20 and 30 years.”
       
They were both serious as John followed Helena out of her office.  “Have
you found out what caused it?” He asked.
       
“Not yet, but we’ve suffered no obvious ill effects.  Now it’s just a matter of
figuring out how to reverse the process.  Have Maya or Victor come up with
any kind of theory for what happened?”  Helena stretched on tiptoe to put
medicine bottles away in a wall cabinet.
       
John resisted the urge to help, knowing that it would upset her.  “No, we’re
still not sure what caused it.  Victor thinks it has something to do with the
nova or probe that Saun detected.  It’s still out there but it seems to be
keeping its distance.”  He picked up a vile and handed it to her.
       
Helena sighed suddenly and bowed her head.  When she spoke, it sounded
as if she might cry.  “I don’t know if I can stand being young for much
longer.”  She straightened and swept her blond hair back out of her eyes
and off her shoulders.  There were tears in her eyes.  “We are all normal
teens and pre-teens and, I don’t know about you but the mood swings are
starting to kill me!”
Suppressing a sob with her hand, Helena turned her back on John.
       
Koenig stepped forward and placed his hands on her shoulders.  
“Everything’s going to be alright.  We’ll find a way to fix this.”  He reached
up with one hand and stroked her hair lovingly.
       
Helena turned suddenly and cried quietly into his chest.  John knew that it
must be hard for her.  Helena Russell was never the kind of person to break
down in any public area.  He held her for a moment, smelling and stroking
her hair and then just as suddenly let her go.
       
Koenig took her by the shoulders and shook her slightly.  Helena noticed a
slight pinched sound to his voice.  He cleared his throat and bent slightly to
be eye level.  “Now, this isn’t like you.  Let’s get back to work and find a
solution.”  He kissed her quickly on the cheek and strode out the door.
       
Helena stood shocked for a moment then began to giggle softly.  She
pushed her hair out of her eyes and went back to her office, smiling.  
“Puberty.”  She said quietly to herself.
       
Koenig walked into Command Center and immediately noticed Tony’s empty
desk.  His eyes swept the room for his friend, but he was not there.  He
stepped up to Maya’s desk and spoke softly.  “Maya, do you know where
Tony is?”
       
“I don’t, Commander.  He was scheduled for duty 30 minutes ago.”  She
answered.
       
“Have you tried calling him?”  Koenig asked, concerned.  It wasn’t like Tony
to miss his shift.
       
“Several times.”  Maya replied, quietly.  “He won’t respond.”
       
Koenig walked to his desk.  “Saun, locate Tony’s comlock, please.”
       
Maya hopped down out of her chair and stood in front of the Commander’s
desk.  “We’ve done that, too.  It was found abandon in his quarters.  I have
security looking for him now.”
       
John sat down hard in his chair and ran his fingers through his thick black
mane.  “Okay.  Thank you, Maya.”  Koenig hit a button on his desk hard as
Maya returned to her console.
       
Tony raced down the hall, grabbed the door casing of Command Center and
whirled into the room.  He stopped, breathless, behind John’s chair.  “I’m
sorry…I’m late.”  Tony put his hands on his knees and tried to catch his
breath.  “We were playing rugby in the …”

His voice trailed off and he stood up straight as Koenig rose slowly from his
chair to face him.  “You’re 40 minutes late for your shift, Mr. Verdeschi.”
       
Tony looked around the now silent room and bit back a rude response.  He
forced his voice to remain calm.  “I’m sorry, Commander, it won’t happen
again.”  Koenig nodded and the security chief took his seat.
       
Victor Bergman nearly ran into Command Center.  “John, I think I may have
something!”  He threw papers across Koenig’s desk and proceeded to make
his point.  “I believe that whatever happened to us was caused by that thing
out there.”  Victor pointed to the big screen at the front of the room that
displayed the glowing entity.  He shuffled the papers then slammed his
finger down onto a particular series of numbers.  “See here, when I
rechecked the data that was recorded at the time everyone passed out, I
found minor fluctuation in room temperature, system defaults and even a
change in air pressure in certain areas.”
       
Maya had walked to Koenig’s desk and now stood on tiptoe looking over at
the papers.  “System defaults are only triggered when someone tampers
with them out of sequence.”
       
“Yea, that right.”  Victor smiled at her.  “I think we’re dealing with another life
form.  It must have invaded the base while we were unconscious.”  He stood
up straight and looked seriously at John.  “I want to take an eagle up and try
to get a better look at it.”
       
Koenig looked at him sharply.  “We don’t know what that thing is!  It could
be dangerous!”
       
Victor laughed openly.  “Who else would you send?  Alan?”  He placed a
hand on John’s shoulders and squeezed.  “I understand that you’re trying to
protect me; protect us all for that matter; but who better to fly out and get a
better look?  Almost everyone else is too small.”
       
John looked around the room at his friends and colleagues.  Their small
faces looked back at him with apprehension and expectation.  He took a
deep breath.  “Okay, but I’m big enough, I’ll go with you.”
       
Victor gathered up his papers as Maya practically jumped forward and
grabbed the edge of the Commander’s desk.  “Please, may I go?”  She said
hurriedly, her eyes large and bright.  “Please, Commander, may I?”

“Well, I don’t think…” John started.

“I could really use her help.  Let her go.”  Victor interrupted.

Koenig wagged a finger at her.  “Alright, but you have to stay in the back.”  
Maya nodded vigorously.  “Strapped in!” He added.

The little Psychon was all smiles as she ran around the desk and grabbed
Victor’s hand.




The crew of Alpha held high hopes as Eagle 7 blasted off the launch pad.  
Helena Russell sat at her desk and watched them go.  She couldn’t help
biting her lip and wringing her hands slightly.  She had begged John not to
go.

John Koenig sat in the cockpit of Eagle 7 with just as much trepidation as
Helena.  He didn’t like the idea of leaving the safety of Alpha.  He squeezed
the controls a little tighter.

Victor noticed him and chuckled softly.  “Calm down, John.  Everything is
going beautifully.”  He called back to the passenger section.  “How’s it going
back there, Maya?”

“Wonderful, Professor!  We’re getting oh so much data now!”  Maya’s small
voice floated forward.

The eagle shook suddenly and John and Victor had a difficult time
controlling it.  It sway back and forth and skipped occasionally like a ship on
the stormy seas.

John set and reset his instruments as the power fluctuated.  He tried in vain
to turn the craft back toward Alpha.  “What’s hitting us?”  He yelled to Victor
as sparks flew from a nearby panel.

“It’s an energy wave.  Try rising above it.”  Victor tightened his grip on the
controls in an attempt to help.

John did his best, but the eagle continued to be buffeted.  “Alpha this is
Eagle 7.”  He called to the base.  “We seem to … energy wave … hit …”

Sandra tried to clear up the communications.  “There’s too much static,
Tony.  I can’t get a clear signal.”

“Keep trying.”  Tony hit a button on his desk.  A young man of 9 years
appeared on his screen.  “I want an eagle on the launch pad now!”  The boy
nodded and the screen went blank.  Tony turned to the boy in front of him.  
They stared at each other for only a moment before he spoke.  “Alan, do
you think you could handle an eagle?”

“To right!”  The young Australian grinned broadly.  Alan was out of his chair
and down the hall before anyone could blink.

Tony stepped up to Helena’s desk and put a reassuring hand on her
shoulder.

Maya’s small body stumbled forward and grabbed the door casing.  
“Commander!”

Koenig scowled briefly in her direction.  “You’re supposed to be strapped in,
young lady!”  He yelled at her.

“But Commander, it’s uniformed.  It has a pattern.  If you fly into it just right,
you can maneuver better.”  She held on tightly to the door and Victor’s arm
that he had put out to steady her.

“I’m open to suggestions!”  Koenig yelled over a grinding metal sound.

Maya made her way back to the passenger section and strapped herself in
at the computer console.  She linked into the onboard control systems and
began relaying `wave’ and flight patterns to Professor Bergman.

With Victor and Maya working together to transfer information to John the
eagle slowly began to respond to the controls.  As the ride began to smooth
out Koenig was able to maneuver the eagle out of the energy wave and turn
back toward Alpha.  No one spoke on their way back home until John
noticed another eagle approaching them and he opened up a channel.

Alan Carter’s young face appeared on the screen.  “Are you all right,
Commander?”

“We’re fine now.  It was rough for awhile, but we made it.”  He paused for
moment as a thought struck him.  “What are you doing out here?  I ordered
all eagles grounded under the circumstances.”

Alan knew he was upset.  “We heard you were in trouble so I flew out to
assist.  We were very worried, Commander.”

“You disobeyed a direct order.”  Koenig said harshly.  

Victor looked at him sympathetically.  “John.”  He said softly.  

Koenig took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment.  “Thanks,
Carter.”  He opened his eyes to see Maya standing next to him.  She put her
hand on his shoulder and smiled.  “Would you accompany us back to Alpha,
Captain?”  John asked Alan.




As the door of the travel tube opened and John Koenig stepped out, Helena
Russell threw herself into his arms.  “For a moment I didn’t think you’d make
it this time.”  She whispered anxiously.

John wrapped her up tightly and buried his face in her hair.  “I will always
come back to you.”  He whispered back.  He let go of Helena except for one
arm draped over her shoulders.  “Maya.”  John looked down at the little girl.  
“Process the data as soon as possible.  We need to know what we’re up
against.”

Maya screwed up her face in an odd way and began to whine.  “Now?!  But
I’m tired and I haven’t had any dinner yet?”

“Maya!”  Helena’s shocked voice resonated in the hall.

John held up his hand.  “It’s okay.  She’s right, we’re all tired and hungry.”

Victor stepped forward and took Maya’s hand and started down the hall to
the nearest cafeteria.  “We’ll get something eat and then we’ll go over that
data together.  Okay?”  Maya quietly agreed as she walked along.

John and Helena walked into the Medical Center together.  They went into
her office and John shut the door.  “What’s going on?  Tony’s late for his
shift.  Maya's having a tantrum in the hall.”  He paused as he picked up a
picture of the couple from her desk.  “You’re having difficulty controlling your
emotions in public and I’m...running around playing soccer in the hallways.”

John set the picture back in its place and paced the room.  “There are other
things too.  Like hormonal changes.”  Helena thought she saw him blush as
he mentioned that.  “I’m afraid, Helena.  I’m afraid that I’ll make the wrong
decision or a fatal mistake.”

She came around the desk and stopped him.  “You’re acting like a perfectly
normal, healthy 16-year-old.  All the changes and insecurities that you men
go through at this age is a process of growth.  Tony has the discipline and
attention span of any normal 11-year-old boy.  And Maya’s acting like a
cranky, overtired 9-year-old … Psychon.”  Helena nearly giggled.  “That’s
what I’ve been trying to explain.  We have to find a way to reverse whatever’
s happened or before to long, this base will cease to function properly.  
Order, discipline and command will simply fall apart.”  Helena sat back
behind her desk.  She put her elbows on the top with her head in her
hands.  “Some of the crew are actually beginning to forget how to be an
adult.  It’s not just Tony who’s tardy or late showing up for duty.  It’s
everywhere.”  Helena folded up her arms on the desk and lay her head on
them.  “I’m tired.  I’m just going to take a nap here.”

He nodded, knowing that she hadn’t been sleeping well.  As she started to
doze off, John walked around the desk, gave her a kiss on top of her head
and quietly left the room.




Victor had convinced Maya to lie on a cot in his lab after her meal.  She
woke and sat stretching as John walked into the room.  “Victor, how’s it
going?”

Bergman put a fatherly arm around Koenig’s shoulders and led him to his
board.  “I’ve got all of the facts about that thing out there written down.  All
the information that computer retrieved before that energy wave tried to fend
us off.”  Victor chuckled.

Maya walked over and stood in front of them and examined the information.  
Letting go of John, Victor picked up a marker and pointed to the board.  
“Look here.  It has mechanical moving parts, but it’s also got some type of
inner and outer tissue, like a living organism.”  Victor pointed to the rough
sketch.  He put down his marker and handed John a computer printout.  
“This thing was going full tilt, just before we passed out, during and after.”  
He raised his eyebrows in a very knowing way.

“So it is responsible for what happened to us!?”  Koenig half questioned.

Victor nodded.  “More than likely; yes.”

Maya turned slowly and faced the two men.  “Then the only way to reverse
this is to wait for that thing to do it for us.”  She stated seriously.  “We can’t
change what’s happened.  Whatever it is has the ability to alter molecular
DNA.  It might have just as easily made us twenty years older as younger.”

Koenig hit his forehead with the palm of his hand.  “I’m truly starting to lose
it!  Maya has anyone tried talking with that thing?”

“Not in a conventional way.”  Maya said slowly, crinkling her brow.

John started for the door.  “Helena’s right.  If we don’t go back to being
adults, we’re not going to be able to run this base.  I can’t believe I didn’t
think of this sooner!”




The noise from Command Center assaulted John’s ears as soon as he was
half way down the hall.  He heard what sounded like Tony’s laugh above it
all.  A shout of `go long’ was heard as he approached the doorway.  

Alan Carter barreled into Koenig just as he caught the oncoming football.  
John picked himself up, then helped Alan off the floor.

“Sorry, John, didn’t see you!”  Carter was all smiles as he ran back into
Command Center.

Koenig entered to find Tony and Alan still tossing the ball around.  Sandra
was sitting and doodling on some papers and a group of female technicians
in a corner were giggling and whispering.  No one seemed to notice him as
he stood behind his chair.  He cleared his throat loudly but no one stopped.  
John stepped toward Maya’s desk and tried again.  “Ahem!”

The room became suddenly quiet.  All eyes turned and stared at the
Commander for a moment before returning to their stations.  John worked up
his best fatherly tone.  “What I’m about to say is very important.  You must
listen carefully and do exactly what you’re told.”  Helena walked in quietly
and sat at her desk.  “This aging process is no accident.  According to our
data, the entity out there is the cause for our youth.”  He pointed to the big
screen.

Everyone turned and looked at it a moment before turning back to face
Koenig.  He paced the room slowly, nervously.  “According to Dr. Russell
we're starting to forget how old we really are.  I agree.  The conduct I’ve
seen in all of us is proof that she’s right.”  Maya and Victor arrived and stood
just inside the door.  “It is her medical opinion that if we don’t 'grow-up’ we
will lose the ability to run this base.  Therefore, I suggest that we try
communicating with it.”  Soft murmurs arose from his crew as he continued.  
“Professor Bergman informs me that it is some type of living organism,
possibly capable of thought, emotion and hopefully, speech.  I think that we
need to find out.  I don’t know about you but I want to be my true age again.  
John stopped and waited for their reply.

They looked at each other a moment and Saun slowly raised her hand.  
“Commander?  Should I try all frequencies and access the language
banks?”  She put her hand down slowly as a grin immerged on Koenig’s
face.  

“Yes, Saun, please do that.”

There was suddenly a quiet buzz around the room as they became
productively active.  Helena and John smiled briefly at each other before
she set to work.

Maya dashed to her seat and hopped in.  Her little fingers moved quickly
over the keyboard.  John leaned over her desk briefly.  “I want it completely
monitored.  If it so much as sparkles, I want to know.”  

“Yes, Commander.”  Maya’s look of concentration satisfied him.

“Ready, Saun?”  John turned and grabbed the back of her chair.  She
nodded and he began.  “This is John Koenig, Commander of Moonbase
Alpha.  We believe that your presence has affected our molecular structure.  
We cannot maintain this level of change to our physical bodies.  We
understand that you are not attempting to harm us, but … you are.”  Koenig
floundered for a moment and he looked at Helena.  She gestured for him to
continue.  “We are a peaceful people and we have no control over our
trajectory.  It was not our intention or purpose to intrude.  We wish only to
pass peacefully.  We welcome contact with other species and would
appreciate your assistance in changing us back to our original condition.”

The only sound in the room was the whirring and clicking of machinery when
Koenig finished.  They all stared at the big screen waiting for something to
happen.  John turned and walked slowly back to Victor who still stood at the
command desk.  He shrugged at the older man.  “What now?”  He asked.

“I’m not sure.”  Victor looked at his papers.  “I suppose that maybe…”

“I am able to speak now.”  An older male voice was heard.  “Your language
is crude and difficult.”

Koenig walked back up the center isle.  “You do understand that we are no
threat to you?”  He could hear Maya clicking away at her keyboard as
information suddenly started to come in.  “We have no control over our
presence in space.”

“True and false.”  The voice declared.  “We have learned that you are
partially to blame for you predicament.  I understand that you no longer
control your flight.  We inquire if you presume to control your fate?”

John looked at the others for a moment before turning back to the screen.  
“We believe that we chose our own destiny and base our decisions on that
choice when fate intervenes.”

“I will think about these words.  We will speak to you later.”  The voice
stopped as quickly as it had started.

Maya growled and banged her fists on the desk as her screen turned to
static.  Koenig looked over at her.  “What did we get?”

She folded her arms in front and pouted.  “No more than we got in the
eagle.”  She threw her hands in the air and they smacked the desk as they
fell.  “I was just starting to get new stuff when it shut off!”

Her look of utter frustration made Tony laugh.  He jumped out of his chair
and punched her in the arm when he was close enough.  

“Ow!  What was that for?”  Maya rubbed her arm.

“You’re funny looking when you do that!”  He ran back to his own chair and
jumped in, causing it to spin around.

Victor leaned over Maya’s scowling face and pretended to whisper.  “When
a boy hits you in the arm; that means he likes you, Maya!”

“I do not!”  Tony yelled.  He pointed at Victor and stood defensively.  “You
take that back or I’ll … I’ll …” Tony thought desperately for something
appropriate.

“That’s enough, Mr. Verdeschi.”  Koenig’s stern voice and the use of his sir
name seemed to slightly calm Tony.

“But he said…”

“Enough!  Take your seat and continue with your duties.”

Tony reluctantly did as he was told.  He and Maya looked at each other and
stuck their tongues out before the Commander could see.

“You are an instigator.”  John whispered to Victor when he reached his
desk.  “I’m trying to get them to act like adults and you’re over here causing
trouble.”   The two men laughed softly.

“You have to admit, seeing them as children gives you a better idea of what
their parents went through.”  Victor commented.  John had a hard time not
laughing aloud.




John Koenig paced around Command Center.  He looked around at the
faces of the children.   `Children.’  He thought.  `These are my friends, my
co-workers … my family.’  He let out a heavy sigh.  Helena stood and went
over to him under the big screen.  “Do you think they’ll answer?”

It had been three hours and Koenig had sent another message but there
was still no reply.  “I don’t know.”  He sighed again.  “I can’t help worrying
that they can’t figure out a way to tell us that they can’t change us back.”  
He ran his fingers through his hair.  “What if they can’t fix us?  What if they
don’t want to fix us?”

Helena touched his arm, trying to be supportive.  John smiled down at her
and put his arm around her shoulders.  She didn’t pull away but John could
feel her tense, as if it made her uncomfortable to be held by the man she’d
been living with for several months.  He let her go and they both returned to
their desks.

Before John could sit in his chair all hell broke loose.  Alarms at almost
every station went off, the lights blinked, faded to near black and then came
back at half power.  Certain monitors went blank and two computer banks
shut down completely.
 
“Malfunction in Life Support.”  Maya and Sandra spoke in unison.

“What is it?”  Koenig stood behind Maya’s chair.  The little Psychon jumped
out of her chair and raced out of the room.  Victor followed close behind.

Sandra turned and looked at the Commander.  “System failure.”  She turned
back to her console and continued.  The lights blinked again.  “Each system
is shutting down in sequence.  Back up generators are at full but there is a
strain.  They are compensating for the entire system.

“Reason for the malfunction.”  John watched Helena rise and dash from the
room.

Sandra did her best.  She whined slightly as she answered.  “I’m not sure.  It
doesn’t make sense.”   She turned to the Commander with wide eyes and a
quiet voice.  “It seems like no body’s there.”  Koenig sat at Maya’s desk and
tried to raise someone in life support.

Maya and Victor rushed into the Life Support Unit to find it deserted except
for two little girls sitting on the floor playing jacks.  “What are you doing?  
Where is everyone?”  Maya yelled as she ran past.  She and Victor read the
computer panels and set about resetting and fixing the malfunction.  The
girls simply sat and watched as Helena ran in and helped them.

It took nearly half an hour to correct.  When they were finished, Victor and
Helena knelt on the floor next to the girls.  “Where did everyone go?”  
Helena asked calmly.

The redhead spoke first, obviously eager to tattle.  “Tommy took some of
the little kids to the cafeteria to get icees and Sarah and a couple of the
older girls went to the pool.  Me and Nancy didn’t wanna go.”  She turned
back to her friend and her game.

Helena grabbed the girls’ shoulder.  “Why didn’t you do something when the
system malfunctioned?”  

She stared blankly at the doctor for a moment.  “It’s not our job.”  

Helena watched Victor stand and nod toward the door.  She rose and turned
slowly to face John and Tony.

The Commander’s arms were folded and his expression was worried and
disgusted.  Helena twisted the pinky ring on her first finger from nervous
habit.  She shrugged slightly and had trouble making eye contact.  “They left
to eat and play.”  She stated.

John looked straight at Victor.  “We need answers.  Now!”  He turned and
was gone suddenly.

Helena looked quickly at the Professor and ran to catch up with the
Commander.  “It’s not their fault!”  She called after him when she was close
enough.  “I warned you this would happen.  They’re acting like children!”

John stopped and turned slowly to face her.  “I understand that.  We’re all
just children!  It’s been fifteen days.  We need to fix the situation Doctor, not
make excuses for it!”

Helena put her hands on her hips and closed the gap between them.  “I’m
not making excuses.  I’m merely saying that people under stressful situations
have a tendency to be immature.  Now put those same people in the body of
a 10 or 11 or even a 7-year-old and you’ve just handed them the opportunity
of a lifetime.”

John placed his hands gently on her shoulders.  “Yes, but we have to
change them back into adults, mentally at least, or this base and all of these
Children won’t have anymore opportunities.  This is just the beginning.  If we
don’t do something, everything will shut down from neglect and we’ll all
die.”  They stared at each other somberly, eyes locked.

John Koenig smiled as, for the first time since the transformation, Helena
Russell fell willingly into his arms and held him tightly.  “I’m scared, John.”  
She whispered.  He tightened his grip.  “We all are.”  John moved her
slightly and walked her into the travel tube.

As soon as the trio stepped from the travel tube they saw Kami Ellerson
running toward them.  She held her t-shirt up so she wouldn’t trip.  Helena
stopped her.  “Kami, where are you going?”

She stopped, breathless and excited.  “Dr. Vincent asked me to take these
samples to the lab.  He says it may help to find a cure.”  From the folds of
her shirt emerged a container of several vials that she held out to show
them.  Kami was a child prodigy and had been training on Alpha as a
physicist during the breakaway.  Because of the circumstances she was
unable to perform her normal duties so Helena had asked her to help out in
the Medical Center to keep her busy.  

“Okay.”  Helena opened the travel tube doors for her.  “Just be careful not
to drop them.”

“I won’t.”  Kami almost skipped into the tube.  “I just know that this is going
to work.”  And the doors closed.

Helena sighed.  “That’s a hopeless effort.”  She walked off toward the
medical center.

Tony turned to stare at the Commander.  “Is she right, John?  Is it
hopeless?”

Koenig took a deep breath.  “Nothing’s ever hopeless.”  He stormed into
Command Center, his voice booming as he strode up to Sandra’s desk.  
“Open all communications to our friend out there!”

Saun began to work quickly when a small voice was heard near the
Commander’s desk.  “That won’t be necessary.”

“What?”  John spun around to see a boy of 12 leaning with his back against
Koenig’s desk.  “That won’t be necessary, Commander Koenig.”  The boy
stood and folded his arms and took a few steps closer to John.

“Who are you?”  Koenig tried to read his I.D. badge.

The boy stopped and smiled slightly.  “I am the observer.  The watcher, if
you like.  You may call me Tad.  I leave my master to observe the effects of
his work and report on the progress.”

“Who is you master?”  Koenig asked.

The young boy pointed to the entity on the big screen at the front of the
room.  “He is my master.  He sends me to report the results of his work.”

Annoyed, Koenig took a deep breath and tried to keep his voice under
control.  “That’s the second time you’ve said that.  What work?  Who is your
master?”  Koenig’s voice started to rise.

“You are asking to know something beyond your comprehension.  My
master is my master.  He has no conventional name, as you would think of.  
He is everywhere, every time.  His work is to understand and explain all that
he sees and knows.  This is all that you would understand, Commander
Koenig.”

John stepped up to the boy, towering over him.  “Your master’s work is to
manipulate a beings life and disrupt his very structure and existence!?”  He
had lost his control and yelled at Tad.  “We are not lab animals for your
masters’ personal research!”

Tad remained calm.  “I understand your reference, Commander.  That’s not
quite how it is.  Although I do see now that it may be misconstrued.  Let me
explain.”  

Maya and Victor walked quietly into the room.  Maya sat down as the boy
leaned against her desk.  

“When we encountered you we were content to observe and learn from a
distance.  However, the closer you got, the more curious we became.  It was
your manner and sense of existence that intrigued my master the most.  So
we got a little closer.  The closer we got, the more we heard, and the more
fascinated my master became.”  He began to pace the room as Helena
entered.

“What was it that intrigued him so much that he would want to do this to
us?”  Victor questioned.

“Perfect question, Professor!”  Tad said excitedly.  “You see, he learned of
your disastrous ride through space and how you’ve survived all this time.  
But when he tried to go back deeper into your memory something very
interesting happened.  Your conscience mind shut down under his
influence.  And then …”  He stopped near Helena’s desk and looked deep
into her eyes.  “…the deeper he went into your memory, the younger you all
became!”  He paused.  “It was phenomenal.”  Tad whispered to Helena
alone.

“Why didn’t he stop and reverse it when he saw the effect it had on us?”  
Helena asked.

Tad shook his head and looked around the room.  “We were in awe of you!  
No other species had ever had this happen and my master felt that he must
know the full meaning of your remarkable lives!”

“So you just sat back and watched us move toward a slow death from not
being able to do our job and run this base properly.”  Koenig struggled to
control his voice.  “We are not here for your amusement.  We are not toys or
animals in a lab that you can manipulate!  We are human beings!”  John
yelled.

Tad smiled.  “My master would have restored you soon after Commander
Koenig if you had wished it.”

“We did wish it.  We do wish it.”  John said, slightly calmer.

Tad’s smile became broader.  “At first, yes.  But as more time passed and
you became used to the idea, very few wanted this to end quickly.  You
yourself Commander told Dr. Russell how much fun you had scoring the
winning soccer goal in the hall.”  He turned and faced Victor.  “And you
Professor told Commander Koenig how wonderful you felt at being young
again.  Lieutenant Carter told Miss Sands in the lounge that a part of him
didn’t want to go back to being an adult.”  Alan blushed slightly and
shrugged when John looked at him.

“What about the others?”  Koenig said calmly.  “What about people like
Saun, who have had their whole lives turned upside-down from this
experience … or should I say experiment?  What about Kami Ellerson?  Any
deeper memories would have reduced her to an infant, or worse.  What
about them and those like them?”  Koenig spoke with a hint of frustration in
his voice.

“For them, my master is truly sorry.  But he had to see this through to the
end.  We have never before encountered a species such as yours,
Commander.”  Tad looked at each of them until his eyes rested on Helena.  
“I will say again, you are a remarkable people.”  He looked at John and
smiled.  “I wish that I could stay and watch you longer, but it is time for my
master to restore you to your proper existence.  Commander, if you would
ask everyone on the base to sit or lie down so that they aren’t hurt.”  The
boy gestured in Sandra’s direction.

Koenig went to his console and made the announcement as Saun jumped
down out of her chair and sat on the floor.  Tad smiled as she slumped over,
sound asleep.  Helena started to get up to help her when she too fell asleep
against her console.  The others followed suit.

Tad looked around himself as the transformation began.  Sadly he stepped
out of the room and disappeared down the hall.




As he awoke, John Koenig could still hear Tad’s voice as the boy whispered
to him on his way out.  “You and your people are destined for greatness,
John Koenig.  Do not let them stop you.”  He shook his head to clear it.  
“Helena!”  He stood and rushed to her side, smoothing out his rolled up
shirtsleeves.  He checked her pulse as she lay with her arms folded under
her head.  He breathed a sigh of relief and turned to check Sandra.  As John
knelt on the floor and touched her neck she stirred.

Saun opened fearful eyes and looked at the Commander.  “Are we all right,
Commander?”  Her voice told her all she needed to know but John
answered anyway.  

“Yes we’re all right.  And we’re all back to normal.”  He took her hands and
helped her to her feet.  The others stirred and woke then.

John turned and took Helena’s shoulders as she stood tentatively on her
feet.  “You all right?”  She nodded, inhaling deeply and ran a hand through
her hair.

The familiar gesture made Koenig laugh aloud.  He held her tightly for a
moment as her clarity returned.  Then he released her slightly, for only a
moment before he bent and kissed her.  She responded fully for the few
moments that felt like forever.

They parted as the screen lit up and the voice of the entity was heard.  “I am
sorry for the inconvenience we have caused you.  You are fascinating and
unusual people of Moonbase Alpha.  Someday we will return.  We promise
that I will do no more harm if you should encounter us again.”  

“Thank you.”  John answered.  “I hope that we may learn more about you
and your people should that time come.”  John looked around at the others
when there was no response.  “I guess that’s all they …” Koenig stopped as
he heard Tad’s voice call to him.  “Do not forget, John Koenig.”

“John?”  With their arms around one another, Helena looked up at him.  “Are
you all right?”  

He smiled down at her.  “I’m fine.  We’re all going to be fine.”

Kami Ellerson burst into the room at that very moment and embraced Maya.  
“You’re normal, too!”  She let go and strode toward Helena with
outstretched hands.  “Helena!”  She took Kami’s hands and smiled.  “Dr.
Vincent reports that everyone is back to normal and that there are no
injuries to report.”  She hugged her, despite the fact that she knew the
doctor was on duty.  “I have to go to work now and check on my station.”  As
she left, she grabbed Maya’s hand quickly and squeezed it.

Koenig and Bergman looked at each other and smiled.  “Ah, youth!”  The
older man replied.

THE END
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