They were hovering not far from Miro, approaching close, a living planet that radiate an astonishing green aura. It had two moons, one nearly the size of Earth's and the other a bit smaller. Its sun, in the far off distance, kept the planet tropical. In winter the entire world, except at the poles, never dropped under sixty five degrees. During the Summer, even in the more arid of areas, the temperature never raised above eighty five degrees. It rained often, was humid, and most of the world was lush and green.
'Eden' he thought.
The Commander stayed on Gwent (per its order), relinquishing Thomas to Zandor and his people. The Kaldorian promised Koenig that Thomas would be well taken care of and he would tell the boy personally about his mother, her memory loss, and how she had been found alive. Zandor also pledged to speak directly to Helena about Thomas. Koenig would see them both very soon on the planet.
"I should be there." John said, feeling Thomas needed this talk from his father, but both Zandor and Gwent advise him that at a time like this cooler, less emotive heads were paramount. Although the Commander was as wise as he was passionate he was not always level headed when it came to his loved ones. Koenig wanted desperately to argue, ardently defending his right to be with his wife, for that is what he considered her, and son. But then, that would rather prove their point. He was over-emotional when it came to Thomas and Helena. They were all he really had.
'Get a grip, Koenig.' He bit the skin at the inside of his lower lip and tasted blood. John Koenig took a breath and practiced patience.
"I have a child?" she asked again, bewildered.
"A handsome young boy." Zandor told her, "Would you like to meet him?"
The Kaldorian space craft was making its ascent. They would be landing within the hour.
At first Helena seemed uncertain but then she said, "Yes, I would."
Zandor watched her, measuring the woman's disorder, hoping they were not introducing too much too soon. Helena, even now, was strong but she was also frightened and mystified by the people and things about her. She was like a baby born a fully grown woman. Any mortal being, Zandor thought, whether they be from Earth, Kaldoria or anywhere in the galaxy would feel just the same after her ordeal.
Soon Dr. Zeda, the female who had been treating Helena, brought Thomas in. She held him by the hand then bent low to direct the boy's attention to the woman sitting on the bed.
Thomas looked over at his mother. His four year old mind made an immediate connection. He was quickly away from Zeda and Zandor, running to the only woman in his life, she who had been taken away from him too soon.
"Mama!" he cried.
Without reservation, Thomas threw himself into her arms. He clutched her, not wanting to let go, happy in the warmth of her embrace. He remembered the way it was when he was a year younger and she had always been there to love him and sooth him when he had a scare or bumped his knee. His head pillowed against her breast and his eyes closed.
"Mama." he whispered once again, fulfilled.
Helena held him, lifting a hand to his head, gently stroking the boy's dark hair. "Thomas." she murmured, recalling the name Zandor had mentioned. Her expression was slightly adrift as she looked over at the Kaldorians.
"I must have been out of my mind agreeing to this." Koenig paced back and forth inside of Gwent. Helena and his son were inside that Kaldorian craft, preparing to land on an unknown planet with unidentified people. They could be in danger and he let it happen!
"Commander, do settle down. There is nothing to fear." Gwent said.
He should be there with them, talking with her, attempting to get Helena to understand that they were a family. Instead here he was, with little time to spare, away from his son and the woman he cherished. Koenig had been advised to do this by an alien who, if memory served, was once attracted to Helena. Also, an apparatus which wanted nothing more than to see Koenig fail in his attempt to bring her back.
"Not true, Commander!" Gwent said as Koenig muttered his fears, "I have come to appreciate that Dr. Russell was not just your companion but, in some deeply emotional way, a part of you. I welcome her return or I would not have brought you to her in the first place. It is I who have given you the opportunity to be with your woman again."
'After having taken her from me in the first place.' Koenig wished he could be sure of Gwent's motivation.
"Commander, before we land I do need to speak with you on a matter ..."
Koenig said nothing but waited.
"I know what you think of me, that you feel I am solely responsible for Dr. Russell's loss of life, but I suspected there was more to it than a simple death after penalty." Gwent paused, as if waiting for Koenig's inevitable shouts of anger. When it did not come, at least verbally, Gwent continued. "While her punishment was deserved and should have certainly hurt I could never completely understand why she passed away. I've employed that method of chastisement many times and never did it actually kill a human being. Curious, last year I began to review some old files and I believe I have the answer."
Koenig looked upward, curious despite the subject matter. Was Gwent trying to purge a guilty conscience or was it genuinely trying to tell him something important?
"Watch the screen, Commander."
A digital video file came up that read 2:14am. The date was three months before Helena had died. He saw them in bed together, sleeping, when she awoke and sat upward. She looked down at her lover, leaned over and touched his hair. Koenig never stirred. She then got up, checked quickly on Thomas, and appeared as if she was going back to bed. But she paused, thoughtful. She glanced once again at John then, bare foot, turned from the bed and walked to the far side of Gwent, to the main computer bank. Helena tapped some information into the machine.
Koenig watched the video closely, nearly heartsick. It was hard, seeing her alive and moving, appearing well before the tragedy.
Over a twenty minute span of time Helena had run tests on herself, including blood, skin and urine samples. On Earth or even the moon it would take some time to get the results but Gwent computed it in minutes. Helena read the results on the screen in front of her, seemed troubled - her face registering mild alarm - but not surprised by what she saw. She then ordered the computer to erase what was just catalogued.
Koenig's eyes narrowed as he watched the screen.
Helena returned to their bed, slipped in beside him, and looked at her lover for awhile. She was distressed but silent. Should she tell him? What would be the benefit if she did?
"What did she find?" Koenig asked Gwent, nervous. He wondered why he never sensed a change in Helena. Or, if he did, he merely assumed it was a result, as it was with him, of living in Gwent. But she seemed fine … perfectly fine …
Gwent said, "Captain Zandor told us they found a brain aneurysm and repaired it. It is my believe Dr. Russell suspected she was ill, perhaps that she had a brain tumor, but never said anything for fear she would frighten both you and Thomas. I suppose she thought to wait, to be certain, before revealing her findings. If she was wrong there was no need upsetting you."
"Why would she do that? We could have …"
"Because there was no cure for either a tumor or aneurysm here and she knew it. Dr. Russell, if she was doomed, wanted to live out what was left of her life with you and her son as a happy family. She probably would have eventually told you on Neera, if you had remained, about her fears. But she was never given the chance." Gwent then added, "When I disciplined her it perforated the blood vessel in her brain, the aneurysm, causing her death sooner. But Commander, Dr. Russell was already dying or, as Captain Zandor calls it, 'falling into stasis'."
Koenig gulped. When he had told her early on that he felt there was life on Neera other than themselves Helena had hoped the planet's life forms or people could cure her. If not, at least Thomas and John would not be alone after she had gone.
Angry, Koenig barked - "Why didn't you know about this sooner, Gwent? She used you, your computer, to gain information. You should have …"
"I am not a medical professional, Commander. I did not understand at the time what she was searching for. I was, quite frankly, not very interested. I thought it a simple physical with lab work. Rudimentary. Moreover, she used my computer independently. My consciousness, at that time, was not activated." Gwent's tone suddenly lightened, "But look on the bright side, John Koenig, she is now cured. And, once you remind her of your past happiness, you both can begin again. That is, of course, if you can convince her to return to me."
Koenig sighed inwardly. One week. If only it was that simple.
As they ascended Koenig watched the screen and felt a great rush. He was both thrilled at the prospect of standing on soil once again and dreading the unimaginable task ahead. The last time they had come to a planet where Gwent landed … It did not end well.
Despite reassurance from Zandor, Koenig could not help feeling a deep trepidation.
An hour later, Gwent broke through the atmosphere of the great green planet and they landed in a clearing. Thirty minutes before them both Helena and Thomas hand also settled on Miro, aboard the blue Kaldorian spaceship. Gwent had managed to park himself right next to the blue craft.
It stirred Koenig to know that Helena and Thomas had already been greeted by the planet's inhabitance and were waiting for him. He hoped it was as uncomplicated as Gwent claimed. On the screen, Koenig could not see people but he could see various homes dotted over hills and a river with fresh water. He even spotted animal life, some very familiar and others unidentifiable.
The screen blanked.
"It's time, Commander." Gwent said.
Slowly, the hatch opened and Koenig walked over to the exit, anticipating much - but not what eventually greeted him.
A committee of ten people stood to the front of a crowd, dressed in rough robes tattered from years of hard work, but at the very front was someone he never thought to see again.
"Greetings, Commander Koenig." her smile was warm and even after forty years she looked much the same, "It is so good to see you again."
Koenig could barely believe his eyes. "Sandra!"
Sandra Benes, Alpha's data analyst … and behind her were other recognizable faces, some young and a few much older.
Moonbase Alpha had found their home!
To be continued.