Twisted Fate – part one

Helena was tired.

She had only just gone off duty last night, just got to her quarters in fact, when her commlock had gone off, calling her back to the Medical Centre. The condition of one of the Meta Probe astronauts had deteriorated dramatically and she had been forced to perform surgery on him, in the early hours of the morning, to relieve a build up of pressure on his brain. He was stable now, but for a while she'd thought he might not make it through the night.

The situation on Alpha was getting more and more difficult by the hour. Helena and her team had worked tirelessly for several weeks now, but to no avail. One by one the crew of the Meta Probe had been struck down and now two members of Alpha personnel were also affected. Nine men were dead to date. The pressure to find a cause and cure was intense. Helena knew she was being judged and found lacking by both Commander Gorski and Commissioner Simmonds, but despite her total commitment to the problem she was no closer to coming up with a solution. In her opinion, what she was seeing was some form of radiation sickness and yet the illness did not conform completely to that diagnosis. No matter how hard any of her team worked, people continued to die and the pressure from Space Commission continued to increase.

Helena checked her watch. She was late.

The fallout from the delayed Meta Launch was already being felt. Gorski had been removed from Command of Moonbase Alpha and today the new Commander arrived. Well...he had actually arrived last night, Helena had heard some of her staff talking as she'd scrubbed in for the emergency surgery, but today was his first real day on Alpha. She herself as CMO had received a command communication as she left medical yesterday, requesting her attendance at his first Command Conference this morning. She was required to brief him on the situation and bring him up-to-date with her findings regarding possible causes.

Helena hoped that the new Commander would be easier to work with than Gorski.

She had been on Alpha for nine months now. Professionally it had been an excellent career move. Her interest in Space Medicine and her impeccable management abilities made her the perfect choice as CMO. She had changed the dynamics of the medical team in the last few months considerably. Around her now everything was efficiency and control. This ethos she carried through into her private life. Coming to Alpha had been a means of escape for Helena. She had been able to leave behind the grieving widow image and bury herself in her work with no one to question her about it. Here there was no need for explanations. Most people on Alpha knew her as Dr Russell, very few knew her as Helena and that was the way she wanted it to be.

Gorski had been a nuisance. Initially he'd seemed unable to grasp the concept that his new CMO did not find him at all attractive and desirable. When he did finally accept that Helena had no intention of having any sort of 'personal relationship' with him, he became very difficult. Helena had found herself having to deal with his petulant behaviour on many occasions during the months that followed and it had gotten worse during the last few weeks. As the Meta problems had come to light, he openly disagreed with her evaluations and blamed her incompetence as a causal factor in the whole situation, making for a very stressful working relationship.

Helena would not be sorry to see the last of Gorski, she only hoped that the new Commander would be willing to listen, with an open mind to her theories regarding radiation sickness, because time was running out for the astronauts and also for the launch of the Meta Probe. The whole command team on Alpha was being judged by the politicians at Space Commission and careers could be ended if answers were not found soon.

Glancing at her watch again as she hurried along the corridor, she knew that she was not going to be making a good first impression with the new Commander. She was terribly late for the Command Conference but first and foremost she was a doctor...and her patients had to come first. She hoped he would understand.

John Koenig was pleased to be back in command on Moonbase Alpha. Despite the problems he knew he was taking on and the demands that would be made of him, he loved his role on Alpha. He knew many of the current staff who were assigned to the base at present, had worked closely with several on many occasions in the past. In fact Victor Bergman, an old friend and John's mentor, had been the first person to greet John on his arrival yesterday. John smiled now as he recollected how good it had been to see Victor after several months apart. Looking back over his career he acknowledged that some of his best memories were of his time up here on the Moon. This was what his life had been all about...his love of Space, his need to be at the forefront of space exploration. He had awoken today, on his first proper day of command with a sense of exhilaration. There was a job to be done up here and he would be the one to do it.

On the journey from Earth to the Moon he had spoken with Paul Marrow, Controller of Main Mission and put in place a Command Conference scheduled for early on his first full day. It would be a good opportunity to meet key members of staff and assess the situation as they saw it.

John had worked with Paul before and had been pleased when he realised that he was still on Alpha. He knew that the next few weeks were going to be difficult and to have known and trusted colleagues around him would undoubtedly be beneficial. John was aware that his replacing Gorski was a political move and that everything he did would be under surveillance from Earth. He was gonna be watched closely. There was a lot at stake for the political animals of Space Control and he, John Koenig, had been given the unenviable task of sorting out what was rapidly developing into a disaster on the Moonbase. Well, he was always interested in a challenge and the Meta Probe was a project close to his heart.

John made his way from his quarters to Main Mission, stopping to greet a few a people he recognised, on the way. He entered Main Mission and was greeted by Paul and several other operatives who were already at their desks and pleased to have him back as Commander, shook hand with Kano, a wonder with computers and climbed the steps to his office. Using his commlock to close the sliding doors that sealed him off from the activity of Alpha's control centre he allowed himself a minute to take in his surroundings. He moved around the large space noting that nothing really had changed. Gorski had left little imprint of his personality on the office space. The muted hustle and bustle of Main Mission was just audible, the hum of the atmospheric conditioning system, constant background music. The very essence of Alpha seeped back into his being. He felt this was where he belonged.

It was good to be back.

Taking his seat behind the large desk, he used the time before the scheduled meeting to go over all of the facts and familiarise himself again with the full extent of the problem. He had spent the journey up to Alpha looking through reports and preparing for the task ahead. He wanted the looming conference to be productive. Send a clear message to everyone that he was here to achieve results and would accept nothing less than total commitment from each and every member of staff until the problem could be isolated and a solution could be found.

Before too long Victor arrived and then, soon, everyone else was present except one. Paul passed on a message from Medical, that there had been some issues there through the night that had required the attendance of the CMO and that this may result in her being a little late this morning. The CMO's input was vital and he hoped that she would not be too late, but John knew that there was a lot of ground to cover and so the meeting began.

Helena strode purposefully through Main Mission. Despite the fact that she was late and the meeting would already be underway she was calm and controlled. Acknowledging Sandra who was busy at her console, with a slight, distant smile, Helena climbed the steps. Inwardly gathering herself together, for her first meeting with the new Commander, she requested admission to the command conference.

The interruption caused by the CMO's arrival was a blessing for most gathered at the meeting. The new Commander had been relentless in his grilling of each participant, wanting answers and not reacting kindly when none could be found. There was an air of frustration in the room. As the doors opened to admit Helena, John finished a conversation with Victor and turned from the table, automatically rising to greet his CMO.

Helena felt a frisson of recognition as she approached the Commanders chair.

A warning!

A sensation of dread washed over her so quickly that she didn't have time to react or to analyse it. She was already introducing herself and about to explain her late arrival as he turned to face her. The words caught in her throat as she came face to face with her new Commander.

John rose from his position at the large round conference table, and turned to greet his CMO, his hand already in place for a formal handshake. In the same instant as their eyes met and locked and he came face to face with his CMO, his hand dropped away and his words of greeting died on suddenly dry lips. He needed to do something to hide his confusion but found his mind had suddenly slowed. Aware that they had an audience he composed himself as best he could, but was unprepared for the wave of anger that overcame him.


Here on Alpha.

Why had he not known? How could this be happening?

As the questions exploded in his brain he reacted instinctively. His face became a cold, closed mask, his voice menacing, as he quietly but firmly explained to Helena and all present that she was late. He would not tolerate such unprofessional behaviour from a senior member of his team. He didn't need to raise his voice for the anger to be clearly heard. Voices hushed and all eyes were drawn to the new Commander as he very publically hauled his CMO over the coals. How dare she assume that she could just waltz into an important meeting, late! She was not the only one with a busy work schedule. Her input was critical and her failure to be on time had held the whole meeting up. This may have been the way she had behaved when Gorski had been Commander but it would no longer be acceptable.

Those present, who'd worked with John Koenig in the past, were somewhat shocked. They knew him to be a firm, strong willed leader who demanded the best from those in his command, but never before had they seen him react with such open contempt towards any individual.

Victor was perplexed. He had gotten to know Helena quite well since she had arrived on Alpha earlier in the year. He respected her professionally and liked her as a person. He knew that the last few months with Gorski had been particularly difficult ones for her and had assumed that with John now in Command the situation would improve.

Helena had visibly paled since John had began his verbal assault and Victor cleared his throat and made an attempt to intervene, not understanding why John was being so hard. A cold glance from John silenced him before he could utter a word.

Helena stood before the new Commander, John Koenig, in shock. Totally unprepared for the situation she found herself in.

This couldn't be happening! How could this be happening?

She called on every vestige of self control to stand there before him and not shrink away from the angry words, as he lashed out at her. As their eyes had met she had seen instant recognition quickly followed by contempt. His cold eyes were now blank, giving nothing away. She knew that she should respond. Should say something, but she found herself completely unable to do anything other than let his anger wash over her. As the initial shock began to fade she became aware of many pairs of eyes on her. She could feel the embarrassed silence and stillness that shrouded everyone present in the room. Finally, Victors attempt to intervene on her behalf acted like a catalyst.

Although overcome with embarrassment by the Commanders very public onslaught she managed to hold herself together and tried to, at last, defend herself.

'Commander...if you would just allow me to explain...' was all she managed.

The sound of her voice was the last straw. John raised his arm to ward off any excuses and Helena flinched as he waved her away. Her face flamed with embarrassment as, before the entire hierarchy of gathered Alphan personnel, he ordered his CMO to leave the meeting.

He would not tolerate such unprofessional behaviour from a member of his staff and he would deal with her later. The meeting would continue without her.

Helena made her way back to her office in a haze of confused, wounded emotion.

What the hell had just happened?

The thought keep going over and over in her head, making her feel dizzy. As the numbness that had taken her over and protected her began to subside she realised that her position here on Alpha had just become untenable. She had been so busy over the last few days that she had somehow missed the fact that John Koenig was the new Commander. How could she have not known? If she'd had some warning she could have prepared herself for their first meeting. As it was, the shock of coming face to face with him for the first time in several years had completely thrown her. Oh God...she must have looked like such a fool. Too stunned to react, she had allowed him to publically humiliate her in front of the entire command staff. Shock and embarrassment turned now to anger...and fury.

How dare he talk to her like that!

How dare he treat her with such contempt...not even allow her to defend herself.

She had sensed danger as she'd walked into the room. Something about the figure before her had set alarm bells ringing. Some sort of in-built defence mechanism, had tried to warn her, but it had been too late. As he turned, smiling towards her, the world that she had so carefully built around her crumbled away and turned upside down.

In the relative safety of her office she relived the moment their eyes had met. For a split second she had felt her heart explode with the sheer joy of seeing him there before her, and then felt it shatter again with sadness and loss, as the memory of their past surfaced. It had been over before it had really begun but their relationship was something that still had the power to cause her pain, even now, after such a long time. Seeing him here today on Alpha, actually being in the same room with him, allowed every deeply buried memory to come flooding back.

Helena had grown up believing in fairy stories and happy endings. A somewhat serious little girl had turned into a straight 'A' student with a dream to follow in her father's footsteps and become a doctor. But there, inside Helena alongside her passion for medicine, had been the notion that she was waiting...waiting for her knight in shining armour...who would come, sweep her off her feet...confess undying love for her and carry her off into the sunset. And...they would, of course, live happily ever after. Helena carried this dream around with her as she grew up with complete faith that this was how her life would be. College followed school and Helena's dream of becoming a doctor became reality as she progressed into the world of medicine. She worked hard and as the years passed her life took shape. Everything seemed to fall into place except for one thing...the missing knight. She had some boyfriends and as she got older a serious relationship or two but nothing that equated to her fairytale dream. And then Lee came along. He was an astronaut with the Space Programme and they met through work as she was specialising in Space Medicine. They drifted into a relationship and quite quickly he asked her to become his wife. At this point Helena began to question the existence of the whole fairytale dream that she'd believed in for all of her life. Did that sort of love really exist? Perhaps what she felt for Lee was love? Not the 'slap you in the face', earth shattering, mind blowing love that she'd been expecting. But love none the less. Perhaps she'd been waiting for something that didn't really exist. So Helena accepted Lee's proposal, the wedding was planned and Helena tried to let go of her dream and face the reality of a new life with Lee.

Then at a party, a few weeks before their marriage, Lee had taken her arm and guided her across the crowded room to introduce her, his fiancé, to a fellow astronaut, John Koenig.

His smile was enough.

Enough to send her world spinning around on its axis!

She briefly wondered if the champagne she'd been drinking was responsible for the sensations flooding through her and then she found herself caught up in his eyes...eyes so blue and so deep that she thought she may never find a way out. As his hand took hers, electricity seemed to surge through her whole body making her pull away quickly.

Lee continued with the introduction, amazingly noticing nothing amiss and then Helena became aware that she was being guided away from John and into a new group of people. She was perplexed...had she imagined what had just happened? People smiled greetings at her and she acknowledged them with vague smiles in return. Her hand still tingled from his, it wasn't had been real.

She excused herself and made her way outside for some fresh air, finding herself on a quiet balcony and within seconds he'd materialised at her side. Their eyes met and locked and the strangest thing was that they didn't really need to say anything. It was as if they both knew that this was meant to be. As the party continued without them, John moved close to her and took her in his arms. She could feel his hardness along the length of her body as he drew her close. Smelt his maleness as he lowered his head and found her lips, with a rough, demanding kiss. Without a word being spoken they lost themselves in each other. This was it! This was what she'd been waiting for. This earth shattering, mind blowing sensation coursing through her veins was what she'd dreamt of for so long. A feeling that made her come alive. Alive and wild and crazy for his touch.

For the touch of a stranger!

Part of her was shocked. A tiny part of her couldn't believe it was happening.

How could she be doing this?

But the rest of her seemed to understand. Understand and recognise that he was 'the one'. The one she'd been waiting all of her life to meet. Their bodies seemed to meld into one as their hunger grew.

Then he forced her away from him and reality hit her like a bucket of cold water as he pulled away and stared down at her, shock evident on his face. She felt bereft as his lips left hers but as she became aware of their surroundings, aware that anyone could have witnessed what had just happened, she was overcome with guilt.

How could this be happening to them?


In her head they were already a couple. How odd!

Speechless and unable to sort her chaotic thoughts into any semblance of order she heard Lee call her name. He was downstairs in the grounds, obviously looking for her. Unable to look John in the eye she mumbled an apology and fled the balcony...heading for the powder room to give herself some breathing space. How she got through the next hour she didn't know. Eventually she went to find Lee, pleading a headache, which at that point in time was not a lie and asked him to take her home. If he sensed anything strange about her behaviour he kept it to himself and they completed the journey to Helena's apartment in silence. He noticed that she really did seem very pale and after she assured him that she just needed to get some sleep he drove off leaving her alone.

When sleep finally came, she dreamt of dragons and witches and of her knight in shining armour riding to her rescue. But tonight she could see his face for the first time, his eyes, his smile. She had experienced the touch of his lips and knew that it was no longer a dream. He was real. He was the one she had been waiting for.

A shrill noise made her jump. A summons from her commlock brought her back to Alpha.

It was Dr Mathias with an update on the condition of the Meta Probe astronauts. He was slightly concerned about his superior. In all his time working with Dr Russell he had never known her return to the Medical centre and not ask for a status report. After what seemed a very short conference she had returned and gone straight to her office, without a word to any member of staff.


Helena listened to the update and then asked not to be disturbed.

Very unusual!

In her office Helena was having difficulty getting her world back onto kilter. She would obviously need to resign. There was no other choice. There was no way that they would be able to work together long term. It would be impossible.

For years she'd suppressed his memory, thinking of him was just too painful. Now he was here, actually on Alpha and she would be expected to work with him until she could be replaced. How was she supposed to do that when the very sight of him nearly tore her apart. She took a deep breath and tried to collect her thoughts, but her mind was full of him.

She remembered how he'd been waiting for her outside the hospital the day after the party. She should have been shocked but she wasn't. She'd known that it would happen. That he would come to her. Her sense of commitment to Lee stopped anything untoward from happening but for the next week she led a double life. What little free time she had was spent with John. Lee thought that she was busy clearing the decks for their honeymoon and Helena didn't correct him. All she knew was that she needed to be with just be with him. Learn everything there was to learn about him. She was supposed to be marrying Lee in a few weeks and John was preparing to leave on a mission imminently, but they found that they could hardly bear to be apart. The connection between then had been obvious from the moment they'd first met and in some uncanny sort of way it seemed like they'd always known each other and were merely reacquainting themselves with each other, after a period apart. The time she spent with John was delicious and special and as the days passed Helena was overwhelmed by the depth of feeling for him.

One evening towards the end of the week Helena, who had been caught up with an urgent case left the hospital late to find John waiting outside. He'd just got news that he would be leaving later that night, and had come by to say goodbye. Lee was not expecting to see her that evening so they took the opportunity of a last few hours together, before they had to part, driving along the highway and pulling over at a rest stop on the edge of the dunes. The atmosphere in the car was strained. Although Helena had known that John would be leaving, now that the time had come she wasn't sure she'd be able to let him go. It sounded overly dramatic, even in her own head, but she was finding it impossible to contemplate living without him in her life!

Although she'd only meet him barely a week ago Helena knew that she was meant to be with this man. The thought of him going away so soon scared her. Helena knew beyond doubt that she loved John deeply and although it would seem a rash decision to most people who knew her she'd come to realise in the last few days that her relationship with Lee was over. It would seem crazy and irresponsible and she was sure that no-one would understand, but she sensed beyond a doubt, that John was her future.

Sensing her confusion, John suggested they take a walk. The evening was warm, the sun just setting on the horizon as he guided her along a path away from the car towards a thicket of trees. They sat on a huge log watching fireflies dance through the warm, tranquil air as the sun slid silently into the ocean neither wanting to spoil the moment with thoughts of tomorrow but each separately aware that time was ticking away. John drew her close and turning her face to him, kissed her gently as the sky darkened and stars appeared. Helena wanted more, so much more. Deepening the kiss allowing her tongue to move suggestively with his, she slid her hands over his chest and then moulded herself against him...she wanted more. She had to have more.

'Make love to me...John' she whispered into his mouth as their kiss deepened.

This hadn't been part of the plan. He'd wanted to give her the time and space to realise that her engagement to Lee was not right and that her future was with him, John Koenig, but everything was happening so quickly and he found he was powerless to resist what she was offering...seeing his own need mirrored in her eyes, he swept her up into his arms.

He released her when they reached the shadow of the trees, allowing her body to slide slowly along his length, capturing her mouth with his lips, making her moan into him with her need. She could feel the hardness of the tree bark digging into the flesh of her back as the kiss deepened and she held him close, his heart beat drumming against her breast, his long lean length pinning her tightly against the tree. Her hands explored his chest, his back, luxuriating in the feel of his masculine body crushed to hers. Then the cooling night air touched her hot skin as his hands opened her blouse, quickly removing her bra, his hands moulding her breasts sending sparks of desire coursing through her veins. Lips soon replaced hands and Helena clung to him as she was swept away with sensation. She heard herself gasp as his lips found her nipples and nearly stopped breathing completely as his hand moved beneath her skirt, slowly, deliciously sliding along the length of her thigh. He deftly hooked her panties down helping her to step out of them before returning his hand to where she most wanted it to be. Feeling her slick and hot, bucking against him, he knew she was ready.

Helena was overcome with longing, desperate for more. Never before had she known such intensity of emotion. There was no awkwardness or worry, just a feeling of complete rightness. Her fingers found the fastening of his jeans, working quickly, releasing him, raw desire unleashed as she held him, rigid in her hands, stroking him, teasing him. Then he could take no more. Lifting her against the tree he parted her legs, moving forcefully between them, hooking each long limb around him as he held her in place against the trunk. Their eyes locked together as their bodies joined and became one. Slowly he thrust into her, watching as her eyes closed in the ecstasy of the moment. Finally able to lose himself in her at last he surrendered to the need that had been building in him since their first meeting. Mouths locked together in a fusion of wild kisses, flames of passion licked around them, growing with intensity as each new thrust pushed them both steadily towards the edge...until finally...they plunged together into an inferno of sensation neither had experienced before.

It was as if their whole lives had been leading towards this one perfect moment of union.

Locked together as one, their bodies slowly stilled, breathe coming in shuddering gasps, foreheads resting together. They stayed, kissing and whispering quietly in the shadows neither wanting the moment to end, until they slipped apart and moved to cover up, reality finally closing in on them.

Time was ticking away, Helena could feel it. Soon he would have to leave and suddenly it all seemed so complicated.

The Moon had risen as they made their way back to the car but Helena was oblivious to its beauty as thoughts flew in and out of her head like angry magpies. She knew now that things had changed forever. There was no more thinking to be done. If she was completely honest with herself she'd known from the very first moment that she'd met John that her destiny lay with him. It was something she felt in her very soul. She couldn't explain it, even to herself, but nevertheless she knew it was true. She wasn't a deceitful person and had been uncomfortable meeting John over the last few days behind Lee's back. After what had just happened she knew she would have to tell Lee it was over between them. She needed to be totally honest with him. He would be hurt and she hated that it would be her fault, but she couldn't deny her true feeling any longer.

As they drove through the dark night she felt John's eyes on her, watching her in the dim light as she struggled with her thoughts. Soon he would be gone. She fought to stay in control of her emotions not wanting John to leave worrying about how upset she was. When they reached the gates of the base, from where he was to leave early the next day, Helena pulled the car over and stopped the engine. Silence surrounded them. Time kept ticking away. He turned in his seat, pulling her to him in the darkness and she was lost. He told her how much he loved her, told her that he would be back. Kissed away a tear as it fell. She held him tightly wishing that she could stay in his arms forever, not wanting to spend a single moment without him ever again. The 'realistic, practical' Helena knew this was an irrational desire but the 'crazy, madly in love' Helena never wanted to let him go again. Deep within her she could still feel the warm afterglow from their lovemaking and she wanted that feeling to never leave her. Struggling to swallow the tears that threatened to fall she whispered her love to him, returned his kisses with a passion that once again threatened to overcome them both. Gently pushing her away before they were carried away again, his eyes locked with hers. Time seemed to stand still for the briefest of moments as she was lost in his tender smile, leaning towards her he brushed his lips against her brow in the lightest of touches and kissed her goodbye. She felt his fingers brush against her cheek in the most tender of caresses and then he was gone. She watched him pass through the gatehouse and disappear from view. Feeling bereft, she started the engine and drove away, finally allowing her tears to fall.

It had been a long time since Helena had allowed herself to think about that night.

Alone now, sitting in her office on Alpha, knowing that John was close by, she felt panic building inside her.

What was she going to do?

That night had been the last time she has seen John Koenig, until today.

She remembered how difficult it had been to tell Lee that she couldn't marry him, that she'd fallen in love with someone of his colleagues. She remembered how he had begged her not to leave him, to reconsider. She remembered how dreadful she'd felt to be causing him so much pain and yet how right it seemed to be looking forward to a future with John. She could still vividly recall how lonely she'd been waiting for John to contact her. If only she could hear his voice she would feel better. Time passed. She was sure that there must be some logical reason for his silence but she missed him so much. Days turned into weeks and still she waited.

Waited for a call, that never came.

A few weeks later Lee had come to her, asked her if she'd heard the rumours...told her how sorry he was.

It had been Lee who had told her the truth. That John Koenig had just been using her, having a little fun with her before he returned to his wife.

There would be no happy ending.

Helena had struggled to take in everything he was telling her. Struggled to accept that John had lied to her, but Lee was adamant that it true, it was common knowledge he said. John had been boasting with friends about his fling with a certain easy she'd been, how she'd fallen for his charms. Rumours were starting to circulate on the base, people were talking. Again Helena had tried to defend John. He just wouldn't do this to her...there must be some sort of misunderstanding. It must be a mistake! But at the same time she began to wonder. Why hadn't she heard from him? Why the silence?

Suddenly everything seemed to make sense.

How could she have been such a fool? She'd believed John, believed everything he'd told her. Believed, that he'd loved her. She'd known about his wife, John had told her that they were separated, that the marriage was long over. To find out that she had been some sort of light hearted, 'wile away the time' bit of fun was heartbreaking. What a stupid fool she'd been. How he must be laughing at her right now. Why had he hurt her so much?

Struggling to keep painful tears at bay she asked Lee to leave and then she lay for hours in darkness, too wounded to really make sense of what was happening. Overcome with a pain and misery so overwhelming she curled herself into a ball and sobbed. By morning no more tears would come and she vowed to herself never to be so stupid again. Never too love so deeply or trust so completely.

It was a stronger, harder Helena who finally accepted Lee's suggestion, a few days later. He wanted them to go away and marry straight away. He said it would give Helena some respect back. Show everyone that Koenig hadn't totally ruined her life. To Helena, in her raw pain, it seemed like a lifeline.

And so she became Dr Russell and life continued in much the same way as before, except for the deep ache that John's betrayal had left behind. Helena buried it along with her memories of him and worked hard at making her life with Lee a success. Time passed and Helena slowly recovered from her affair with John. Lee was a good husband. They were a highly driven, career focused couple who were happy together until, one day Lee left on a mission and never returned.

Helena was alone.

As a widow, with her husband presumed dead, Helena turned to her career for solace. She channelled all her energy into her specialism and after years of dedicated hard work she grabbed the opportunity to transfer her skills to Moonbase Alpha when she was selected for the position of Chief Medical Officer. Her new role was demanding and fulfilling and apart from clashes with Gorski and the normal Space Commission politics she'd really enjoyed her months on the base.

Resting her head in her hands she almost gave in to the temptation to cry. Seeing John today had been such a shock. That, on top of the fact that she hadn't slept last night was making her feel very fragile. She needed some time alone. But that wasn't about to happen. Her Commlock beeped and Helena took a message from Paul in Main Mission. The Command Conference was over and the Commander was on his way to meet with her. Brilliant...just what she needed!

John waited for everyone to file out of his office, barely able to conceal his agitation and then pressed the button close the doors to Main Mission and seal himself off. Victor had wanted to stay and chat but John had sent him off with a report to compile on a launch delay scenario. John knew that Victor wanted to ask questions about his treatment of Helena and he didn't feel able to answer them at the moment. He needed to get used to the fact that she was here on Alpha, that she was his CMO. That very soon he was going to have to go talk to her.

Throughout his career John had prided himself on his attention to detail.

How had this...VERY IMPORTANT...detail got by him?

How the HELL had he not known?

He tried to go over the last few days since being re-assigned to Alpha. Reports he'd read and conversations he'd had. All mentioned the CMO...but had any given a name? Actually mentioned Dr Russell? Dr Helena Russell! He swore out loud. By some twist of fate he was sure her name had not been provided and hence he had not known who to expect.

Would it have changed things if he'd known?

He couldn't really answer that one. As he paced his office his agitation grew. He had no other choice but to work with her for the time being. Alpha was in a crisis and some key personnel were essential to a successful outcome. Dr Russell was one of those personnel. He would need to put his personal feelings aside and tolerate her presence until matters could be rectified.

Hell...he didn't have time for this now, but having been stirred early today the memories wouldn't go away.

One by one they kept coming.

How soft she sweet she'd passionate she'd wild she'd driven much he'd loved her.

One by one they kept coming.

Taunting him!

His marriage to Jean had not been happy, it had been a mistake from almost the beginning, with no real shared interests and little common ground and after their separation he had been happy to immerse himself in his career. Meeting Helena had made him rethink everything. Their connection was instantaneous. Electric! God that sounded so corny but it was the only way he could describe the effect she'd had on him. He knew what they had between them was unusual. The very next day after meeting Helena he had talked with Jean, told her he'd met someone else and asked for a divorce. It had not been a blow to her because their relationship had been over for ages and a divorce was really only a formality. With a failed marriage behind him he knew how lucky he was to be given a second chance at love. And what he felt for Helena was real, proper love. Fairytale love. He wanted to sweep her off her feet, carry her away and never let her go.

But then real life got in the way. He was about to leave on a mission and she was engaged to another guy who happened to be a fellow astronaut. He hadn't wanted to rush her into making a decision about them. What they had was special and he knew she recognised it too. Everything would sort itself out in time. He trusted their love.

As each, long buried memory surfaced, John's mood grew darker and darker. He really didn't want to remember. He'd shut her away a long time ago and had sworn never again to allow someone into his heart and now his mind was full of her again.

Damn it and damn her! Why was this happening?

He remembered their last night, remembered he hadn't planned to make love with her but he'd been unable to resist the pleading in her eyes. Her hands on his body had made him crazy with desire and it had all seemed so it was meant to be. He remembered kissing her goodbye at the car and walking away from her and being so sure that they had a future together.

What a bloody fool!

For days he'd hardly been able to sleep without images of her driving him mad...he could feel her, smell her, taste her, even in his dreams. Thoughts of her had distracted the hell out of him and for the first time ever he'd had trouble concentrating on the mission. He'd been flying with Alan Carter who'd noticed that his mind wasn't quite on the job. John had taken quite a bit of ribbing for letting a 'Sheila' get under his skin! He'd laughed at the banter before telling Alan that this was one hell of a special 'Sheila'!

Alan had teased him about his secret woman and John hadn't minded one bit. It felt so good to know she was waiting for him. He knew that their love making on their last night together had changed everything. He'd been desperate to get back to her so that they could tell the world that they were together and make plans for their future. He hated being incommunicado but that was one of the penalties of his line of work. Helena would be aware of that because of Lee. The thought of Lee made John a little uncomfortable. They'd flown together on a few missions and although not good friends like he and Alan, they were colleagues. It was going to be difficult for John to be the cause of Lee's broken engagement but there was no other way to sort the mess out. Helena loved him, John Koenig, of that he was sure.

On the day he returned, a last minute change of plan meant he'd only had a few hours on base before being sent off on a new mission. He'd tried to get hold of Helena to tell her but she'd been tied up in surgery so he hadn't been able to see her before he left. Instead he wrote her a message, explaining the change of plan, that he was going to be away for a few weeks, probably unable to contact her, that he missed her so much, that he was having difficulty concentrating on anything else but her, that he loved her and couldn't wait for them to be together. He had no time for anything else, for flowers or chocolates, just a hastily scribbled message containing all of his hopes for their future. He'd left the envelope containing the letter at the front desk of the hospital. She would be sad that they'd missed each other but at least she would know how much he loved her.

When he returned to find that Helena and Lee had gone away and married, John had not known how to react. Helena had married Lee...What had he missed? How could she have done this to him?

He had tried to call her and eventually the telephone had been answered, but it had been Lee who John had spoken with. Apparently Helena was unavailable.


John could vividly remember that he'd almost laughed out loud at that!

Darn right she's unavailable...she bloody well married you didn't she! At that point he could have cheerfully strangled her, so mad was he with her!

Apparently, Lee had said, her little affair with John had made Helena realise who she truly wanted to spend the rest of her life with. Again the urge to laugh...sure as hell not me then, was what John deduced.

He had been left reeling. Expecting to come back to Helena he was shocked to find it had all been make-believe.

Alan never knew who was responsible for John's broken heart, but he was bloody furious with her that night, as he helped his friend drink himself into a stupor. It seemed to help dull the pain for a while so for days John drank and drank. In a haze of alcohol and misery he began to wish he'd never met her. He eventually picked up the pieces of his life and buried himself in work. His marriage had been a disaster and his love affair with Helena a farce. He was obviously a very poor judge of women. Safer to keep part of him back, always protected. He'd never open himself up to so much pain again. From now on he would be immune. Alan who had been there for John was glad to see him slowly get back to normal and was always reminding John that there were ' plenty more fish in the sea'.

Time passed and over the years John found himself involved in a few relationships.

Women found him attractive and he had no problem accepting their ministrations, but he never let it get too intense and he was always in control. Alan joked that his friends reserve with women only made them want him more, and this was ironic but true. His rise through the ranks also added to his appeal. Most woman, he realised were turned on by power and found him even more attractive because he was 'The Commander'. John was always being subjected to provocative stares and propositions and while Alan thought this was absolutely hysterical, John saw it only as annoying.

Years had passed since she'd smashed his heart to pieces and walked away from him and he'd never allowed himself to get too involved with anyone since.

Until today he'd done quite a good job of burying her memory away. Seldom, allowing thoughts of her to permeate into his consciousness, and then she was suddenly there, standing right before him at the conference. Stunned didn't begin to describe how he felt. Shocked senseless was more like it. He'd just managed to get control of himself, realising that they had an interested audience watching their every move. He knew his behaviour had seemed unusual to those who had worked with him before but he didn't allow himself to worry about that now.

What the hell was he going to do?

How he would manage though, he wasn't sure. He'd been shocked today at the intensity of his anger towards her. She'd made him burn with rage. A part of him had wanted to hurt her, retaliate for the wounds she'd inflicted on him. But it had been years ago! In fact, the more he thought about it the more he concluded, he'd probably over reacted somewhat. He could not let her get under his skin. He couldn't allow his personal feelings to impact on his command of Alpha, so he was going to have to find a way to work with her until the situation could be resolved.

Moving to his desk and opening a channel through to Paul in Main Mission he asked for a message to be sent to Medical Centre informing Dr Russell that he wanted to meet with her in her office immediately. Then massaging his temples to try to alleviate the pounding headache he could feel developing, he moved to a viewport and staring out at Earth so far away, wished with all his heart that that was where Helena Russell was.

Far away on earth.

A safe distance away from him.

Victor was absorbed in working through the analysis of the rescheduled Meta Probe launch implications but still, absorbed as he was, his mind kept straying to John and his unusual behaviour.

So much for his hoping, that John would get along with Helena.

If today's reaction was anything to go by it would seem that Helena's problems had just got worse. Gorski had been spurned and had not reacted well to Helena's rebuffs. John on the other hand, had seemed to loathe her on sight. Victor was confused. He had been working with Helena for, oh, probably nine months now and had gotten along with her wonderfully. He greatly admired her skills both as a doctor and a leader. He'd heard only good things about her professionally. Although a hard task master she was well respected. Her staff responded well to her directions and the new plans that she'd implemented since arriving on Alpha had restructured and reorganised Medical Centre.

Personally however, she was somewhat of an enigma, mostly keeping herself to herself. She allowed very few people to cross the boundary between colleague and friend. She kept up her professional persona with most and was still, after many months, known to nearly everyone on Alpha, only by her title, Dr Russell.

She was reserved with everyone, but once you got through that reserve, if you were allowed to get through that is, she was a genuinely lovely person. He was one of the few on the base who knew her as Helena. He found her a warm and gentle person and he attributed her withdrawn nature to the loss of her husband. She didn't talk about her life on Earth but he'd spent a little time with her off duty and sensed a deep sadness within her. Victor mused that her husband's tragic end, had obviously had an effect on her, closed her off, made her hard to reach. Yet despite that, he had expected her and John to get along famously. They both shared the same work ethic, they were both passionate about what they did. They had so much in common.

He shook his head, muttering again to very, very odd.

As John made his way along the maze of Alphan corridors towards Medical he mentally rehearsed his words in an effort to prepare himself for the meeting. He would explain that they would need to be professional, put their past behind them. Treat each other with respect. For the time being they were here, on Alpha, together and they would need to make the best of it.

He was waylaid by several people as he travelled along the familiar passageways, glad to have him back, eager to talk. Finally he reached the medical section and as the sliding doors closed with a swoosh behind him he paused momentarily and prepared himself for what lay ahead. A few nurses moved around the reception area, busy in their work. The air smelt mildly of antiseptic. Muted voices and the hum of machinery reached him from unseen diagnostic units and offices. Everything seemed calm and controlled.

John made his way along the main corridor acknowledging several open stares and as he arrived outside the main office suite he was intercepted by a doctor in a white sleeved tunic. Dr Mathias had worked with the Commander previously and they shared a brief discussion about life on Alpha and the status of the remaining probe astronauts. Then John asked to be shown to the CMO's office.

Helena activated the door with her commlock and he entered the room.

She was seated at her desk and even though she had been expecting him this time, had tried to prepare herself for the meeting, she was overcome by the wave of emotion that washed over her as their eyes met and fused.

Blue eyes, clouded with emotion locked and held green eyes, misted with pain. For the merest slip of time both individual souls were united in intimate, shared memories.

She caught her breath and was thankful she was seated. Her earlier fury had dissipated somewhat and despite logical thought her body ached for his touch. The memories that had been forcing their way into her consciousness since meeting him again filled her mind and jostled for supremacy. The desk provided a barrier of sorts and after the rollercoaster of emotion she'd been riding for the last few hours she was glad of its relative protection.

He had not expected the sight of her to have such an effect on him this time around. Earlier he'd been shocked...but now he was prepared. What was it about this woman that got under his skin? Mentally he shook himself...get a grip Koenig he chastised...remember how she treated you!

John dragged his eyes away from hers and in an effort to give them both a little more time to adjust to the situation, moved around the room taking in his surroundings, willing himself to keep control. He tried to play the role of interested superior officer, making small talk, asking questions about a microscope on display, acting out the part of new Commander, all the while aware of her presence close by, becoming more aware as each second passed, of the effect she was having on him.

She watched him warily hardly able to conceive that he was in her office, chit chatting with her after so many years. It seemed so unreal and yet she knew it was happening.

Although he had planned to be rational, to treat her professionally, anger once again exploded within him as his traitorous body responded to her proximity. God dammit how could he still want her after everything that had happened? How could he be so pathetic? What the hell sort of hold did she have on him!

Losing his battle with himself, he turned abruptly and planted his hands on the desk opposite her, bending forward and locking his eyes with hers. Contempt written all over his face!

'What are you doing up here Dr Russell?' he spat out, with quiet but deadly anger. 'Fed up with playing happy families back on earth...Did you use your husband's name to pull strings and get yourself up here?'

'Lee died five years ago...' Helena chocked on a whisper. 'I was assigned to Alpha on my own merit!'

Part of John was disgusted with his behaviour but another stronger part needed to inflict pain. Of course he'd been aware of Lee Russell's tragic death on the doomed Ultra Probe mission but he could see that his words were hurting her and it felt good...

'MERIT...Dr Russell...don't talk to me about merit,' he spoke quietly but with barely contained fury. 'Alpha is in the middle of a desperate situation and YOU as CMO are partially responsible. If your conduct of earlier today is anything to go by...'

Smarting with his accusations Helena tried to interrupt, to explain the reason behind her lateness but was prevented from doing so by a look, so full of anger that her words died on her lips.

'Is it any wonder that no solution has been found?' John continued, his voice rising with barely contained fury. 'As Commander I need to have complete faith in my CMO and, to me it's evident that you're not up to the job. You clearly have been promoted to a position far exceeding your abilities. Tell me...did you sleep your way up here? Gorski? Was he another one of your conquests? Did you make a fool out of him too? Did you have a lover's quarrel? Is that why he's busy telling everyone who'll listen to him that you're incompetent?'

John was in full flow now, years of pent up anger being released. He was beyond caring how much he hurt just felt so good to finally get the chance to yell at her.

Drowning beneath his onslaught, allowing his words and accusations to wash over her, Helena tried to make sense of what was happening. Sickened by his cruelty, a part of her was nonetheless confused by his anger. Why did he hate her so much? Surely it was she who was the injured party here? Why was he so mad at her? What had she missed? And anyway it had all been so long ago...what was happening here?

Calling on her years of medical training to portray a calm disposition Helena tried to speak again. If nothing else she needed him to understand the dire consequences of her recent findings. She could feel tears threatening to fall and she willed them away, not wanting to appear weak. She would not let him get to her...a mantra she kept repeating over and over in her head in an effort to keep it together.

He leaned in closer across her desk so that their faces were only inches apart, once again capturing her eyes with his.

'I want all of your paperwork and reports on my desk by 0800 hours tomorrow morning. And, if it's at all possible Dr Russell' he spat with mocking contempt, 'try not to be late this time!'

Watching her closely he lowered his voice trying to regain control of his anger. 'For the time being you and I will be working very closely together, but mark my words, your days on Alpha are numbered. I cannot work with someone I can't trust!'

With that, he turned abruptly, activated the doors and strode purposefully out of her office, leaving behind a shaken and confused CMO and some very interested group of medical personnel.

As the drama played out between the bases Commander and CMO most of the Alphan personnel continued with their duties oblivious to the tension that surrounded two of their most senior officers.

Final preparations were underway in the maintenance bays for the Meta Launch with staff busy checking and re-checking pre flight data. The whole area was a hive of activity, people working against the clock to get the job done in the vain hope that the illness could be combated.

On the Commanders orders, Main Mission personnel were engrossed in checking all recent data, trying to find some clue, however small, that might help to explain what was going on.

Victor was absorbed in working on Helena's theory regarding radiation sickness, believing that he was missing some important factor that would shed light on the situation.

As the doors to her office closed behind the Commander, Helena allowed herself a brief moment of solitude, allowing the familiar calmness of her office to soothe her shattered emotions before collecting together the required information for tomorrow's summons. She was called to the isolation area as another astronauts condition deteriorated and again she felt the all familiar sense of frustration as all life signs ceased and another man's life was lost. All signs of death pointed to radiation sickness except for one, the obvious lack of radiation. Helena was not used to being thwarted and especially not by medicine. She had to be missing something? And so her next hours were spent again going over everything that had happened from the first illness weeks earlier to this last death, just awhile ago. Looking for, the proverbial, needle in a haystack.

After leaving the Medical Centre John made his way back to his office banishing all thoughts of his meeting with Dr Russell from his mind. He could not afford to be distracted. There was too much at stake. He had a frustrating conversation with Commissioner Simmonds back on Earth via video communication link-up. He talked briefly with Victor in his lab, asking for an update but receiving no new news. He was informed of another death from a nurse in Medical. He dropped by Alan Carter in the pilots section of the base, the man responsible for the Meta crew's training, trying to uncover any small snippet of information that could be of value. Being so busy was a blessing because he had no time to dwell on personal matters. No time to probe feelings he was not yet ready to deal with.

Conversations on Alpha that night were full of the day's events.

Another death! Who would be next? Who was at risk?

A delay in the launch of the Meta Probe! What would this mean for those who were working on the project?

The arrival of John Koenig had everyone talking. Old colleagues were glad to have him back in charge on the base. He was strong and familiar and exuded confidence. They had every faith in his ability to sort out the problems that Alpha was facing and were more than happy to sing his praises. People who had come up to Alpha since John Koenig had left hoped the new Commander would be an improvement on Gorski.

There was some talk about his treatment of Dr Russell earlier in the day. Personnel who had actually been at the conference that morning and those in Main Mission who had witnessed the CMO as she, for want of a better word 'fled' his office, were a little intrigued.

What was going on with those two anyway?

The electricity sparking off between them had almost been tangible. They seemed to have taken an instant and intense dislike to each other. Apparently if rumours were to be believed they'd had another coming together in Medical too. Voices had been raised, an argument overheard. It was said that the Commander had left Dr Russell's office in a very bad mood indeed.

This talk, however cheered most of the female population on Alpha, with whom the arrival of John Koenig had caused the greatest stir. Those who had come into contact with him had spent a very pleasant day allowing their thoughts to drift and to dwell on their new Commander. Those who had met him, told friends of his dark brooding looks, his lean hard body, a few whispered about his blue eyes, his smile. The stewardess who had travelled up on the Eagle with him the previous night professed herself 'in love' with him. His aura of barely contained power and restless energy had left its impression on most females he'd come into contact with that day. To have Dr Russell so publically 'out of the running', enhanced their chances of making an impression on him, a pleasant thought for many.

Overhearing a quite blatantly explicit conversation regarding John, whispered between a group of Alphan Technologists, as he sat in a cafeteria eating dinner that evening, Alan Carter again wondered at his friends 'effect' on women. seemed John only had to walk into a room and they were falling at his feet. Alan shook his head with wonder. He'd been on the base barely twenty four hours and already he had a fan club. He made a mental note to have a word with John tomorrow...tell him how irresistible he was to the opposite sex. He couldn't wait to see John's face when he realised he was the centre of so many women's fantasy's.

Even if John had been aware of the impression he had made on so many on his first day back in command he wouldn't have given it a second thought that night as he allowed the darkness of his quarters to envelop him. He'd skipped dinner, he had no appetite.

Earlier, having travelled to Area One with Victor, something had taken place causing their pilot to succumb to the illness. It had happened before his minute everything had been normal...the next, all hell had broken loose, the crazed man trying to smash his way out of a gallery window. It had been a sobering sight to witness. One which brought home to him just what Gorski and Helena had been fighting.


When had she ceased to be Dr Russell?

In the relative solitude of his private quarters he allowed himself to think about Helena, to analyse his reaction, now that the shock of seeing her had worn off a little. She had hardly changed. Okay she was a little older but still as beautiful as he remembered, still able to effect him so strongly. He stared out at the stars beyond the viewport, broodingly, remembering how close he'd been to her today. Close enough to touch. Close enough to kiss. He caught that thought, frustrated with himself, annoyed with her for having such an effect on him.

He thought about the way he'd treated her. If he was honest with himself he hadn't been fair to her today. His own anger and hurt was not an acceptable excuse. If he allowed himself to remember the wounded pain in her eyes as she'd looked at him, he would be lost. He was the Commander and her superior officer and he should have had more control. He'd allowed personal feelings to outweigh his professionalism. His treatment of her in front of the whole Command Team had been shocking and totally uncalled for. He had been unprofessional and he really did owe her an apology. He needed his whole team working together to get to the bottom of the problem on Alpha and today he had undermined his CMO publically, both in Main Mission and in Medical. If he continued to act as he had today it would be obvious that there was something going on with them. Tomorrow he would need to repair the damage he'd done.

He needed to get a few hours sleep while he could. He had an early start tomorrow.

The past was the past. It was their secret and no-one knew about them.

Them! Irritated with himself he swore out loud. There was no them!

As he relaxed into sleep the memories once again returned and he lost himself in her for the first time in many years. For a few hours, at least, back in a place where life made sense. Where, he and Helena were together.

Having had no sleep during the previous night, Helena was relieved to fall into bed that night and shut herself away from the demands of Alpha, for a few hours.

She was exhausted, both physically and emotionally. There had been little time over the past hours to dwell on how life on the base, had now changed for her. Obviously she and John were not going to be able to work together long term, but for the next few days at least they would need to come to some sort of agreement. Helena was a strong person and although she'd been shocked into submission today by John Koenig, she would not let it happen again.

Who the hell did he think he was, treating her so badly. If he had problems with her on a personal level, that was one thing. To call into question her professional competence was a totally different matter altogether. How dare he insinuate that she had slept her way to the top. Helena could feel her blood begin to boil again as she remembered his words and she tried to steady her breathing in an attempt to keep control of her temper.

Why was he so mad at her anyway?

Despite her tiredness sleep would not come. Her mind was filled with John Koenig, his angry words playing over and over in her head.

Was Gorski another one of your conquests? These words made no sense to her at all.

He had been the one to use her and then to leave her.

He'd been the one to make her look a stupid, naive, trusting fool.

I cannot work with someone I can't trust. His words echoed around her quarters as she whispered them out loud.

He...had betrayed her trust.

So why did he think he couldn't trust her?

It made no sense. She shook her head with frustration. None of it made any sense.

Calling on her learnt ability to catch up on sleep whenever she had the opportunity, a handy skill for a doctor, Helena willed her mind to be empty of all thoughts of John Koenig. She knew she needed to rest but would be unable to while his image swirled around in her mind, tantalising and tempting her.

Oh Helena you're such a fool...she told herself...have some dignity for God's sake...he used you and then left you without a backward glance...he hurt you...broke your heart...shattered your dreams.

Shewould need every ounce of strength she possessed to face him tomorrow.

She had to get some sleep!

Concentrating on her breathe she cleared her mind of him, stilled her thoughts and slowly drifted off into a light restless slumber, and as she slept he returned to her in her dreams. Pervading her consciousness and making her moan out loud in her sleep, with a longing that refused to be ignored anymore.

Main Mission was a hive of controlled activity as Helena arrived for her scheduled meeting early next morning. The Commander was in conversation with Paul and catching her eye, he gestured her to go ahead to his office while he finished his discussion. She climbed the shallow steps leading to the Command Office and dropped her reports and files onto the large conference table, taking a seat and allowing her gaze to settle on John as he spoke with Paul.

She had woken, after a few hours of restless sleep, with her head full of him. Vivid dreams had left strong images in her mind. Images of his hands on her body! His lips touching her in intimate caresses. Erotic and crazy images that had made her breathless with a long suppressed need!

She didn't want to be dreaming of John Koenig...didn't want to remember.

And now, here she was in his office waiting for him and the images wouldn't go away.

Something told her to keep herself detached. She must keep a distance between them. She could sense, deep within her, a yearning for him and she couldn't afford to give into that yearning. He'd hurt her badly and it had taken a long time for her to recover, but that was in the past and she'd managed to put it behind her. Life had moved on and for the time being anyway, he was now her Commander and she needed to remember that. Even after twenty four hours she was still having difficulty coming to terms with the fact that he was actually on Alpha.

Her Commanding Officer!

They would need to work together closely for the next few days until someone could be arranged to take over from her, so she would keep her professional persona in place and do what needed to be done.

Not wanting to be caught staring, she turned away and began opening files, arranging paperwork, preparing for the meeting ahead. The sound of the doors sliding shut signalled the beginning of the meeting and she took a steadying breath and allowed Dr Russell to take over.

Firstly he apologised, he had been wrong to be so angry yesterday. He had no justification for his behaviour other than the fact that he had been shocked by her presence on Alpha. No excuse he knew. Would she please forgive his professional slights and put it behind them?

Acknowledging his words she agreed to start again, work together as the professionals that they both were.

The meeting began.

John was brusque and businesslike as they discussed Helena's findings, questioning the reasoning behind her diagnosis of radiation sickness. It wasn't that he was insinuating incompetence on her part, he was quick to point out, it was just that there was no evidence to support her conclusion. Nothing to suggest radiation of any sort! A plan of action was agreed, a further meeting scheduled for later, after the autopsy on the latest fatality had been completed and maybe some more information had come to light.

They assumed their professional roles with forced ease and managed to concentrate on the issues at hand without straying onto personal matters.

John was just starting to relax, to give himself an imaginary 'pat on the back' for handling the situation so well, when it happened.

Helena was relieved. The meeting had gone well. John had listened to her report and not dismissed it out of hand as Gorski had done. Maybe it would be ok. She just needed to keep up her guard, be Dr Russell, cool and always in control, and maybe they would be able to work together.

Then they touched.

It was nothing really, quite insignificant.

She moved to start collecting papers together, he moved to help and they brushed against each other.

That was all it was. But it was enough!

Electricity jolted through Helena. Gasping she twisted away but somehow managed to fall closer against him.

Shocked, first by the searing sensation of her touch, and then by the intensity of her reaction, he was unprepared for the total body contact that came, as he cushioned her fall with his arms, wrapped them around her instinctively, held her close.

It all happened in a split second, but it was the sort of split second that seemed to last forever. Memories flooded through them both, evoking thoughts of pleasure and of pain.

Frantic to escape his embrace Helena pushed herself away from him gasping for air, flushed and furious with herself for overacting to his touch. To be in his arms even for a moment had been ecstasy. His body had felt so good! could she feel this way? Disgust, at her own weakness, etched itself across her features, anger flashing in her eyes as she realised how stupid she must seem to him.

John, misunderstanding the reason for her reaction, turned away, put some space between them. He'd seen the disgust in her eyes as she'd frantically pushed away from him. He didn't need it spelt out for him. She detested him. Fresh pain caused by the emotions he'd seen written on her face, sliced through him. His initial hurt turned quickly to anger.

Suddenly it was as if it all became real...somehow.

Yesterday he'd been shocked to meet her again after so many years.

Today! Here! Now! It that one moment it all became real.

She was real.

And nothing had changed.

She was still the same person who had thrown his love away, heartlessly, without a backward glance. Used him as some sort of final fling, before settling down, with another guy! had been a long time ago, but his sense of pain and loss, was still raw and too intense for him to contain.

Years of hurt flowed out as he snarled at her 'Oh for God's sake Dr Russell, what do you think you're up to...trying to manipulate me like before? Is that it?'

He turned to face her, his eyes blazing. 'Well I'm not gonna fall for your tricks this time around...I learnt my lesson the first time! You like playing games...don't you?' he sneered

His eyes pinned her to the spot and the fury in them seared into her. 'Oh...was that the problem with Gorski? Did he not want to play either? Is that why you two didn't get along? You're good I'll credit you that...very believable! You've even got Victor believing your stories...well, I know what you're capable more games...Dr Russell' his voice rose menacingly...'No more games...understood!'

Helena had frozen as he began his rant, not sure how they had got to this point, not knowing how to stop the angry words directed at her. She watched him as he paced, saw the look of dislike on his face as he turned to face her and was genuinely confused by the outburst. She had to be missing something here...again he was acting the injured party! Him the injured party! It was almost funny but she was way too upset to hold on to the humour in the situation. She had been trying so hard to get through the meeting, hold it all together. Years of pain, weeks of frustration, days of anguish finally took their toll.

With a bravado she was far from feeling she glared at him. 'WHO...THE...HELL...DO... YOU...THINK...YOU... ARE... COMMANDER'?' She almost chocked on the last word. Green eyes glistening dangerously with tears she refused to shed, she carried on, her voice rising with every word.

'Let me tell you something...' she bite out. 'I take my job and my responsibilities here on Alpha very seriously...I really don't have a clue what you're yelling at me for! I have never used my husband's name to pull any strings...never! I've worked hard to get where I am...bloody hard! Harder than any man! Commander Gorski was very difficult to work with, HE WANTED ME...DO YOU UNDERSTAND...HE WANTED ME!' she gasped for breathe. 'He wanted more from me than a professional relationship and...when I wouldn't play along...when I wouldn't give him what he wanted he got angry! He couldn't handle being rejected! Victor has been a real friend over the last few months. How dare youoH suggest I've manipulated him in some way?'

She could feel her voice beginning to crack and tried desperately to finish what needed to be said without breaking down completely in front of him.

Her throat ached with the pain of unshed tears as she caught his eyes and fired her next words at him with as much control as she could muster. 'On a professional level Commander I find your accusations insulting! On a personal level I find your recollection of our past delusional! I have no wish to be in your company a moment longer!'

Leaving her paperwork and reports scattered across the table she flew across his office hitting the door control and waiting for what seemed like an age, but was really a matter of moments, for the large doors to slide open.

With tears blurring her vision she almost knocked Alan Carter down the steps as he approached the opening doors. His arms caught and steadied her, he felt her trembling. One look at her ashen face told him that something was very wrong. He let her go without comment, allowing her to make her way across Main Mission with as much dignity as was possible when the entire room was trying not to watch, but were nonetheless glued avidly to the proceedings.

Raised voices had been audible from the Commanders office for a few minutes. As the doors had opened everyone had tried to look busy, to go about their duties as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. There had been rumours yesterday, talk of a clash of personalities. But today the rumours had turned to fact. The new Commander and Dr Russell really did not get along.

Shocked at how upset Dr Russell had been, Alan watched her until she was out of sight and then turned to go ask some questions of John Koenig. Alan knew John well, they went back a long way. He respected John as Commander and they were friends outside of the work environment. There was something unusual going on here. Something very unusual indeed!

He was however, unable to get to the bottom of it. John was not in the mood for joking that much was obvious. His face was dark and his temper barely contained. He was probably as mad as Alan had ever seen him before. Deciding to leave questions until later, Alan brought John up to date with some technical reports and left, arranging to meet later with John, for some lunch.

Slamming his fist forcefully against a wall panel as Alan left, John tried to get a hold of himself. He was furious with her and furious with himself. He knew that Alan had been curious and was glad that he'd not asked any awkward questions. God what a mess! He must not allow himself to be distracted by her! He had to put her out of his mind and concentrate on Alpha. Surely he could do that? She meant nothing to him anymore...

Once more in the relative safety of the Medical Section and the quiet of her office, it took Helena awhile to regain her composure. Sipping strong coffee she tried to analyse what the hell had just happened. She was normally able to keep herself tightly under control ,yet he'd been able to breach her defences and make her mad so easily.

She was a jumble of conflicting emotions. Anger, confusion, sadness and frustration. A shudder passed through her as she remembered his arms closing around her...why did her body still respond to him...why did she ache for him...why?

And what about him? Why was he so mad at her? It didn't make sense.

From a bad start, the day deteriorated even further for both Dr Russell and the Commander. After a hectic morning all hell broke loose around lunchtime. Frank Warren died at 1.28 Lunar Time followed shortly afterward by Eric Sparkman. There was nothing Helena could do to save them. At around the same time the heat levels in Waste Disposal Area One began to rise steeply. Several surveillance cameras on the surface blew out and a spike in the data recordings over Navigation Beacon Delta One was found. A connection was made between the flight paths that the shuttle pilots followed, and training grids that the Meta Pilots flew. Could this be the breakthrough that everyone had been working towards? Surely it was more than mere coincidence?

As the Alphans went about their duties, Commander Koenig took an Eagle to go look at the area in question. As John surveyed the surface from his eagle, Victor analysed the data that was being streamed to him in Main Mission where most operatives were transfixed at the unfolding events. Although highly trained for their roles on Alpha, no-one had ever witnessed such scenes before. Every now and again the large screen showed arcs of magnetic energy pulsing from the surface and exploding into showers of sparks. It was awe inspiring sight, yet deadly in its implication.

Helena quickly made her way to Main Mission after hearing that the Commander was flying the reconnaissance mission himself, not allowing herself to think too deeply about the knot of fear churning in the pit of her stomach, as she thought of him out there, in danger.

Tension mounted as the minutes passed and heat levels continued to rise. To Victor's amazement he found evidence of a magnetic field being created and expanding rapidly over the area that John was monitoring. Even as he sounded the warning and ordered Paul to get the Commander back, emergency signals began to emanate from the Eagle and contact with John was lost. Suddenly the whole of the area began to shimmer as the intense build up of heat and magnetic energy combined together to cause an intense fire ball. The tremor was felt by all on Alpha.

Rescue procedures were initiated immediately and Helena made her way to Medical to prepare for casualties. She tried to ignore her anxiety as she directed her team and waited for news but she couldn't stop the nagging worry. The relief she felt when Medical received word that the crashed Eagle had been located and the Commander was safe and on his way back to Alpha was overwhelming.

When he arrived at Medical for his examination, Helena made every effort to be professional, but performing her role as Doctor, with John as her patient was very distracting to say the least. To her dismay she found herself reacting to his nearness in a very unprofessional manner. Tingles of awareness raced through her as she began to check him over. Trying to distract herself from the memory of his lean body pressed to hers, she instructed Bob to take over from her and she busied herself inputting data into the diagnostic unit and reading off results until the exam was over. Luckily no-one could read her mind as she fought to banish erotic images of the Commander from her head. It seemed that despite many warning messages from her brain, her body still craved him!

Cross with herself she concentrated on the readings Bob was giving her, looking for any trace that John could have been affected by whatever had killed the others. After a thorough check-up with no sign of 'the sickness' Helena dismissed Bob. John was suffering from shock, minor physical shock but nothing worse, at the moment anyway.

Having been obliged to submit to the medical exam because of his crash, John was not in the best of moods to say the least. Not normally known for being the most patient of patients, being so close to Helena in her professional capacity had proved difficult. Luckily she'd handed him over to Dr Mathias to complete the actual physical examination, but just being in the same room with her had been a challenge. When she told him that, in her medical opinion, he was just suffering from shock, relief that it was over, caused him to be a little flippant as he rose from the examination couch.

'I told you there was nothing wrong with me...I walked away from damage' he smirked as he rose from the examination couch.

His smirk was the thing that did it...his smirk along with his stupid, childish comment!

It was a challenge to her authority that she couldn't let pass.

'Commander that is not the kind of damage I was looking for' she snapped.

Her voice became icy. 'You knew that that area was suspect. You knew that it had already affected the two Probe astronauts and the Eagle shuttle pilot, in some way and yet you went right out there yourself ', she paused to take a breath, to make sure that she had his full attention.

'We're looking for answers Commander...not heroes!'

The way she said the word 'commander' was the last straw.

He was irritated by her words but at the same time he found himself aroused by her temper. Her cold disdain sent his temperature soaring. Without a thought for the implication of his action he strode across the room, unable to resist the temptation any longer, and pulled her to him. Their eyes locked as he yanked her to him, then his lips descended.

The kiss was rough and hard and borne out of frustration with the way she was making him feel. The catalyst had been anger, yet as he held her to him, felt her stiffness melt away, the kiss deepened and turned into one of the most passionate moments he'd ever experienced.

It had happened so quickly and had been so unexpected that Helena hadn't had time to prepare herself for his touch. One minute she was using her best Doctors voice with him and the next moment she was being pulled roughly into his arms and held close. As his lips crushed hers and her token resistance dissolved away, passion flamed through her. Her arms wound around him, holding him even closer, responding instinctively to her yearning need as the harshness of the kiss turned to somehow into passion.

As he felt her soften against him, as his body hardened against her, he realised that he had lost the initiative. What had begun as a form of punishment, a way to vent his frustration at her, had backfired somehow and had now become an exquisite torture for him.

He had to stop he still could!

Thrusting her from him, he span away towards the door, his clenched fist trying to wipe away her taste from his lips, his breathing ragged. Then, pausing, he turned and stared at her fully for a moment, taking in her flushed cheeks, the bruised mouth, dishevelled hair.

God she was beautiful.

Before leaving he couldn't resist another flippant remark. She made him mad as hell!

'I didn't know you cared Doctor!' were his parting words as he turned abruptly and left Medical.