The double tingle and blue around their vision faded, and they found themselves in a familiar place.
Mission Control, Houston Texas. By the graphics on the board, they figured out they were still on the Apollo program.
But which mission? When?
Agnes scanned her boards. By the graphics displayed, she figured out that she was at the EECOM station. Looking over her readouts, she noticed a flag for a O2/H tank stir. Not realizing at first, she turned on her mike, "Flight, I recomend a stir of the Hydrogen and Oxygen tanks when they have a chance"
Al was slightly disoriented by the activity around him... voices were ringing in his head... he reached up and noticed he wore a headset. With that discovery, and noticing his boards, he realised he must be Capcom on this mission.
Whatever it was.
He heard Aggie's order and his brow furrowed. Why did that seem.... wrong....
*Hey, beautiful... where are you?*
*Capcom. Turn around, lemme make sure it's really YOU.*
Agnes turned, as if to confirm that Capcom had heard her order . . . and had to grab the handle on her console to keep from falling over. *It's me but is that YOU?*
He smiled at her, removing any doubt as to his identity. That killer smile was unchanged. But the REST of him... *Yeah...it's me. Why?*
She swallowed hard, *You look . . . my age . . . you seem to have de-aged thirty years!*
The smile vanished. *Show me.*
She took a deep breath, took a mental snapshot and closed her eyes as she sent it to him. *See?*
*S***!* His face was pale, his eyes had gone huge.
*You okay Al?*
*Why did she DO this to me? WHY?*
And laughter wafted through their minds. <<Merely to help, Al. Your body could not stand the strain of your abilities... so I altered it so it would. You shall age again... normally. Good luck, my children.>>
Then she was gone from their minds.
*Ohhhhhhhhhhh . . . boy . . . *
*Yeah you can say THAT again.* Al rubbed his eyes.
"EECOM, was that Oh-two tank one or Oh-two tank two or both you wanted a stir on?" came overthe headset. She spun back to her console.
"Um, both tanks Flight."
"Roger, EECOM. Odyssey stir commencing..."
*ODYSSEY! Oh s***... this is THIRTEEN!*
*Oh No!!! I can't believe it -- I just ordered the STIR!!* Agnes paled.
*Relax, beautiful... you had no way of knowing.... and I dunno what we're here to change...*
"Hey," a gentle voice said, and Al felt a hand on his shoulder. "You okay, rookie?"
Al turned to find himself looking into Roger Chaffee's face. He grinned in relief... then noticed the hook where his right hand used to be.
They were still in the same dimension they had leapt from.
"Fine... just got excited for a minute..."
*Just got excited? Please! Just nearly had a heart attack -- for both of us*
*Hey beautiful? Enough.*
"Well," Roger said, "It's a pretty routine night... why don't you knock off and let the replacement take over for --"
"Uhm... Houston, we have a problem..."
Agnes' jaw dropped as she looked at her consoles.
Al brought the microphone up to his lips. "Say again, Thirteen?"
The commander's voice came on. "Houston, we have a problem."
Al's eyes closed. *Well, beautiful... here we go.*
*Yeah . . . oh, boy* "Flight, I've got zero reading on Oh-two tank two, tank one is reading 200 PSI and falling, I've got nothing on Main Bus A and Main Bus C . . . "
"Hang on," Roger said, striding over to her. "ALL major systems can't go out at ONCE!"
"I know that, but that's what I'm reading!"
"Er... Houston... we're venting. We're venting something into space!"
"Copy, thirteen," Al said, rubbing his eyes again.
Roger sighed, "Okay EECOM . . . what do we have on the capsule that's working?"
Agnes looked over her monitors . . . and fought a migrane. "I'll get back to you Flight."
Al suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to merge with Agnes, to reassure her from the insideout that things would work out okay.
But he didn't move from his post.
And he couldn't even check the handlink to find out what they were supposed to do --- Capcom was the ONLY person authorised to communicate with Odyssey!
*Oh boy...* he groaned.
*We'll make it . . . oh, I need an Advil!* Agnes took of Sy's glasses and rubbed her eyes. She unhooked the monitor to check the wiring . . . and her rubbery fingers couldn't even find anything loose in the way back spots. *No screws loose here . . . *
*Present company exluded,* Al cracked, rubbing his eyes a third time. He suddenly realised the Capcom wore glasses... and his eyes were feeling the strain of being without them!
Roger clapped him on the shoulder. "Take five, man --- you've been here all day. I'll take over while you're gone."
Al nodded. He came out into the hallway and leaned against the door.
*What's the handlink say Al? I'm having trouble making heads or tails of this feed.*
Al produced it and sighed. *We're not here to save 13,.... they get saved anyway. We're here to save Roger... again.*
*He has a heart attack right after this... his wife leaves him and the strain of that plus all this... nobody was there to help him, and he died alone. We're here to get him help so he won't die.*
*Great. But for now . . . I should be calling in the EECOMs from other shifts to brainstorm but I can't leave this data feed . . . *
*I'll bring them in. Gimme their names and descriptions.... And follow my lead.*
Agnes scanned the duty roster and fed the information to Al. *Thanks Al. I need the help!* She turned back to the monitor.
Seconds later, a man from one of the rosters walked in, and up to Agnes. He tapped her on the shoulder. *One down, beautiful,* she heard, and started, looking into the twinkling green eyes. *Three to go.*
*Thanks Al.* She unscrewed the panel again and triple-checked the connections,then put it back in.
"Excuse me?" the newcomer asked. His eyes were now blue, and she saw Al running out the door. "How did I get here? What's going on?"
"Hi. Why, I had Joe call you in for me -- we've got a major problem on the capsule. Take a look at this data." She pointed to the monitor.
He looked and his eyes grew huge. "No way in H*** this could be right!"
She nodded. "Unfortunately, that's what I'm hearing from the astronauts too. Here, listen yourself." She grabbed the spare headset and plugged it in for him.
He whistled. and about that time another EECOM walked in. Al slid out and ran again, returning with a third.
Agnes ran and grabbed more headsets and plugged them in. "Okay people. We gotta make a decision and quick -- before they run out of oxygen. To me, it looks like the only option is shutting the react valves on fuel cells 1 and 3 . . . if the leak's *there*, that'll stop it."
"And if it's not?" the only female EECOM -- Janice by name -- asked.
Agnes sighed, "We panic."
A chorus of sighs was her answer.
Agnes activated her microphone as Al walked over to her station.
"Flight, we recommend shutting down the react valves on fuel cells 1 and 3 to try and stop the leak."
There was silence for a moment, then "Are you sure, EECOM?"
Al turned to look at her, confusion on his strangely youthful face.
"From my chair Rog this is the only thing I can see that might work. Without knowing exactly where the explosion was, this is all I can offer." Agnes said as she turned and looked right into Roger's eyes.
Roger paued a second, then tapped Al's shoulder and nodded. Al activated his mic. "Odyssey, shut down react valves on fuel cells 1 and 3. EECOM recommends may stop the leak."
Agnes held her breath as she waited, knowing that it wouldn't do any good - the O-2 tanks were just blown -- open, gaping holes.
After a moment came, "Roger, Houston... shutting down .. now."
Aggie, and Al over her shoulder, watched as the needles continued their steady downward plunge... then paused... then stopped....
Then, after a minute, slide downward again.
"S***!" Al cried. *WHY didn't that WORK?* *Because of where the explosion was. The two Oh-two tanks share plumbing - and that plumbing was blown to pieces in the explosion. There's a big gaping hole in tank two and it's just draining away.*
Al's face turned paler and paler. *Aggie... I was HERE In 70! I... I don't remember ANY of this! Not even a little.... I've swiss-cheesed so badly it's ALL GONE!*
Agnes looked at him, and started as she saw the fear in his eyes. *It'll be fine. I remember all this.*
He relaxed visibly, and shot her one of those lethal grins -- that to her chagrin, had only become MORE lethal without the lines around his mouth and eyes.
Aggie had to fight a surge of hormones . . . this was gonna be mighty difficult with Al looking so gorgeous!
The grin faded and puzzlement leapt into his green eyes... THAT was different too, she realised with a jolt. before Roma's empowerment of him, his eyes had been so brown as to be almost black. Now they were a dazzling vivid green....
A beautiful shade of green . . . and on top of the young looks and lethal smile . . . it was getting harder and harder to just sit there.
*Hey, beautiful... what's the matter?*
She jumped a bit, *You realize you're like the ultimate sex god now, don't you?*
He blushed --- actually BLUSHED! -- a bit, and shook his head, turning his attention back to the troubled capsule.
Agnes took off the bottle-top glasses Sy wore and rubbed her eyes, which were crossing from looking at that computer screen for so long.
*YOU need a break.*
*I don't take a break till my shift is over.*
*When's that? What time is it, anyhow?*
Agnes looked at her wrists . . . no watch. *No watch . . . look up at the MOCR screens up there -- there might be a clock*
Al rolled up his sleeves -- and paused, grinning. *Found a watch...*
*Groovy. What time is it anyhow?*
*Then our shift oughta be ending soon . . . and that means Tiger team duty starts . . . unless Rog is less of a taskmaster than Gene*
*Tiger team?* Al's face lit with sudden comprehension. *Overtime. We don't go home.*
*Nada. Well . . . if we were only a mile from home some MOCR guys ran home to change real quick but I don't think it's worth it . . . 'sides, I don't really wanna leave till I'm sure those guys are safe.*
*And one of us needs to stay with Rog... help him when the time comes.*
"Okay team. Our shift is over . . . but I want all of you to go over to the backup MOCR and start working on ways to get these guys home!" Roger called. Agnes looked up at Al and smiled, then unplugged and headed for the other MOCR.
Al tagged at her heels. Roger was already there, leaning his one hand on the table, glaring at the maps and mockups in the room. "Fire the banks up!" he called. "We're gonna be here a LONG time, people..."
And a man groaned from the back of the room.
Roger whirled and glared at the moaner. "LISTEN!" he bellowed. "I didn't survive that DAMN fire, lose my hand and my best friend, to quit NOW! We are bringing them home SAFE! AM I UNDERSTOOD?"
The man just tried to slink underneath his chair.
*Guess we're here for the long run, eh Al?* Agnes mentally giggled.
Aggie and Al left the backup MOCR for a short while to eat. Al was picking at his food, again, and shifting his mashed potatoes around on his plate.
Agnes suppressed an evil grin as she slowly picked up a pea and using her spoon flung it at his plate. "Bullseye!" she cried as it landed smack-dab in the middle of his pile of potatoes.
Al looked at the pea, an eyebrow on the rise. With a half-grin, he neatly plucked it out of the potatoes, wiped it clean, and sent it sailing...
Right into Aggie's water glass.
"Bullseye," he smirked.
She glared at him . . . then, her eyes not leaving his for a second, piled a nice, large, perfectly rounded lump of mashed potatoes on her spoon and launched it . . . landing it right on Al's front.
He looked at the mess, making his face and mind perfectly blank.
Then Agnes found herself facing a barrage of every one of Al's peas.
"Meteor shower!!!!!" she cried, attempting to duck the barrage but she only managed to miss a few.
Her eyes narrowed as she carefully stirred her peas into her potatoes and then stirred a nice couple of spoonfuls of gravy in . . . and launched the concoction at Al.
Al ducked neatly, and it went SPLAT behind him. He came up and there was the knee-weakening grin again. *Never, ever try that with someone you're mentally linked with,* he chided.
She gave him a killer look and then tried to block the link as best she could as she took a creamer pack and worked on making it into a creamer bomb in her lap . . . which she then tossed at Al.
The change in expression was PRICELESS. He looked stunned, shocked, and embarrassed all at the same time. Then he smiled sweetly at her and reached out. Agnes felt his hand touch her knee...
Then he was suddenly GONE!
Agnes suddenly became aware her hands were in motion, quite without her control. They were scooping up the mashed potatoes... making them into a nice, neat pile.... adding gravy....
*Don't even THINK about it shotgun!* she mentally screeched.
*You started it...* Her hands did not stop moving. Now they were stirring peas into the glop.
*Did not. I was sharing my peas since you seemed more interested in those than the potatoes* she retorted.
*Not hungry, beautiful. Now... truce?*
She sighed, *Fine. Truce*
He appeared back in his seat, smiling at her. *Thank you, beautiful.*
She just glared thermonuclear devices back at him.
To their dismay, the super came over and picked both of them up, throwing them out of the cafeteria bodily and telling them to eat out next time. Al got Aggie's keys from her belt and went to get sandwiches for Rog.
*Just get non-flingable, non-messy sandwiches, dig?*
The mental raspberry came through loud and clear.
Minutes later, Aggie returned alone to the MOCR.
Rog looked at her. "Where's Kerwin? Wasn't he with you?"
"He went to grab some sandwiches . . . he knew you'd never voluntarily leave here to eat." she replied.
Janice, the female EECOM, had joined them in MOCR. Rog looked at her and shook his head. She smiled at him in return."Guy knows me better than my own wife..." he murmured.
Agnes grinned, then her smile faded as a GUIDO in the trench called Roger over, "Flight, I'm seeing a slight veering off-course here, probably because of the venting."
"How slight is slight?" Roger called, grabbing his headset.
"Only a few degrees but if there isn't a course correction burn they may end up way out of the re-entry corridor by the time they reach that point."
"S***!" Roger cursed -- right when Al walked in.
*Okay... what did I miss?* he asked Aggie, wide green eyes riveted on Roger.
*The venting is throwing the capsule off course*
*S***!* Al swore, shoving the sandwiches into a startled Roger's one hand and grabbing his own headset.
An hour later, the decision made, Roger left the Tiger Team in the backup MOCR working on other problems that were cropping up like wildfire and headed to the main MOCR where Glynn Lunney and his Gold Team were now in charge.
"Lunny -- gotta do a burn here, to get them on a free-return trajectory." Rog said.
"Are you insane?" Lunny gasped. "They don't have the fuel to --" But Roger interrupted.
"But the only engine with enough power for direct abort is on the CM. And that could blow if they light it. Free-return is the only option. Here's the details."
Lunny gaped at him open-mouthed for a moment, then studied the paper he had been given. He then turned and slammed it in front of the Capcom. "Feed it to them."
The Gold team Capcom, Bruce McCandless, nodded and triggered his mic. "Aquarius, we've got data for a burn we need you to do here . . . we gotta get you on a free-return trajectory before you plow into the Moon." and then he called off the coordinates and durations to Lovell.
Agnes and Al moved into main MOCR, watching Roger closely. As the directions were read, his breathing began to increase...
*Uh, oh. Get ready* Agnes held her breath.
Al nodded and eased closer to Roger.
"Roger, Houston," came Lovell's voice. "Initiating burn on my mark.... Mark."
And Roger's hand flew to his chest as his knees buckled.
Al caught him neatly and lowered him to the ground.
"Roger!" Agnes cried. She ran to the emergency line at the rear of the MOCR and called for NASA medics.
Janice knelt beside Roger, worry etched on her face.
Al pulled Roger's hand away and touched the chest. He could barely feel a heartbeat--- then it stopped.
Without even a curse over the mental link, Al flew into CPR.
Agnes, having called the medics, ran over and assisted. "You do artificial respiration, I'll do chest compressions." she stated and started a rhythmical "one and two and three and four and five and . . . " followed by a check of Rog's pulse.
And Al blew into Rog's mouth, making his chest rise. "Come on, old man..." he chided. "You lived through that damn fire... don't you DARE check out on us on the verge of victory here!"
Just then NASA medics ran into the MOCR and carefully slid Rog onto a stretcher, two paramedics taking over CPR while another slid in an IV.
Lunney looked over at Al and Agnes. "Good job Sy, Joe. Looks like you two need a break. Get some sleep. I think the Tiger Team can manage without you for a while."
"Thanks, sir." Al took Agnes's arm. "Let's go."
She nodded and followed him out of the MOCR and into a deserted hallway.
He pulled out the handlink and smiled. "We did it. The 13 crew is safe and sound... and so is Rog. His wife does leave him, and he marries Janice, who is his constant companion the rest of his life."
Agnes sighed. "Another mission well done. I wonder what surprise is in store for us next time?"
"I know one thing..." Al sighed. "I could use a break from NASA!"
And the familiar tingle began to spread. Al took Agnes's hand...
And they leaped.
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Last updated 03 DEC 98
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