[8]

John Koenig was leaving the following evening. "Tom-boy, we need to talk."

They sat in the tall grass together, licking appreciatively on frozen treats procured from a large refrigerator-freezer, a sort of community ice box, used by all the Alphans in their region. In the steamy climate where they lived refrigeration of their food was a necessity and one the Alphans did not set aside for another time. It was one of their first projects, during and after the building of houses and the power towers, when settling on Miro.

Koenig did not want his and Thomas' conversation to be solemn, although the subject was important and life changing for their family. But his son, even at nearly five years old, had to understand the repercussions. He was not being abandoned by a man who was aloof or did not want to be there for him. His father was leaving because there was no other choice. He had to make the boy comprehend this before he left him.

Thomas concentrated on his treat while John spoke.

"Are you happy that your mother is back with us?"

"Yes."

"And you want to stay with her forever?"

He smiled, "Forever." and Thomas licked his treat.

Koenig recalled the boy's grief aboard Gwent, how he cried nightly for weeks, his mother's disappearance devastating for such a young child. John did not want him to experience such a thing again. Thomas would know before his father left him so he could adjust … "It would make you very happy to stay here with her on Miro. You will have the other children to play with, lots of friends, and other adults who will love you just like Mommy does."

"And Daddy." he said, a sound of satisfaction in his tone.

Koenig lifted a hand and touched Thomas' cheek, "And Daddy." He repeated and looked over the tall grass to Tanya, who was on the porch of her home, sweeping busily and paying little to no attention to them.

He had hoped Helena would be back by now but he did not see her. She made a small break-through, remembering a nurse named Joanna who worked closely with her on Alpha. The woman had passed away a few years ago but Helena wanted to talk with her family, ask them about things she remembered and perhaps see if there were any photographs she could examine.

Koenig nearly smiled, recalling the anticipation in her expression. Helena still did not remember their own past, what they had together, but she adored John just the same. She told him he was a wonderful lover, instinctively knowing where and how to touch her …. And John did not have the heart to tell her he knew how to please her because, while it was new to Helena, he had made love to her many time in past and knew exactly what it took to satisfy her.

And it was a pleasure, in so many ways, to demonstrate physical love with Helena again when their time together was so short. Yes, pleasurable and difficult.

After their first night together, waking exhausted but happy, the couple had spent the entire morning in bed, loving each other, talking, imparting dreams for a future that, sadly, would not include togetherness. There were tears but also many chuckles. He told her intimate things about their past, funny stories, also antidotes about their family life with Thomas aboard Gwent. He also mentioned those early days on Alpha when they recognized an instant attraction, did a sort of mating dance around each other, but never quite made a move until Gwent forced them together. For that, at least, they could be grateful.

In the afternoon, after showering and dressing in fresh robes, they picked up their son over at the Mathias' and John would never forget the expression on Alan's face as he, Sandra and the others rested in the gazebo. Carter was not a naïve man. 'Are you sure you can give her up now?' his expression asked.

God, if only he had a choice.

"Tom-boy," Koenig looked back at his son as he finished his popsicle, "You know if Daddy could stay with you forever he would. I love you more than anything in the world."

Thomas suddenly looked up at his father, meeting his eyes with grave expectancy. "Mommy, Daddy and Tommy." he said, firmly.

"Yes, that is the way it should be but Gwent is very lonely, Tommy. He is making Daddy go with him when he leaves Miro."

"Stay."

"Gwent doesn't want to stay. And as much as I want to be with you …"

"You come back." Thomas said, sounding like a demand.

"I will try. I'll come back as often as I can."

"You come back and stay."

Koenig was stunned to see a nearly adult sternness on Thomas face. If someone, who knew Koenig, were to look at him they would say he looked just like his father during a moment of extreme agitation. There was a near threat in those small blue eyes. "Tommy, I can only do what Gwent will allow. You know that. But you need to understand if it was up to me …"

Thomas stood and backed away from his father, throwing down what was left of his ice-treat. Tears were now visible, threatening to fall, and it broke John Koenig's heart. Then Thomas said the words, before he turned and ran to the house, that no parent wants to hear: "I hate you!"

Koenig watched him go, mount the porch, and run into the home.

Tanya looked over at Koenig then followed the boy inside.

With a deep sigh, John lay back in the grass for awhile, recovering. He did his best but decided it might be better this way. It was going to be hard enough leaving them, waving goodbye to Helena and his friends, without seeing his beloved son crying and calling for him to remain. He would make sure Mathias kept Thomas busy. Perhaps he could play with the other children and lose himself until it was time to go home to his mother …

Briefly, Koenig thought once more of the alternative: Helena and Thomas rejoining him on Gwent. If he asked he was sure they would come - but Captain Zandor and Mathias were right. He could not ask and even if they volunteered he would have to decline.

Miro was their home now. He wished it was his.

[]

John, Helena, and Thomas spent their final night together at Sandra and Alan's. The mature couple were generous, understanding their friends need for a final night of privacy. Bob and Tanya were happy to have Sandra and Alan stay another night at their house.

Thomas was not receptive at first. As John and Helena talked by the fire, the boy lay in her arms and would not look at his father. He barely spoke a word during supper and he ate very little.

John told Helena that he talked with Nathan and some of the other men and women. They would help her build a house in the location she desired. She preferred a house with a common area, kitchen and at least two bedrooms and a small bathroom. John told her there would be three bedrooms just in case she had company one evening.

Helena looked at him. John did not elaborate further but she knew what he was telling her. He did not want her to be a hermit. She needed to get out and meet people for Thomas sake. John wanted her to seek companionship and bring people home. He did not want to picture her alone, waiting for him on the chance that Gwent would be kind and allow him visits. It would not be fair for either Helena or Thomas to dwell on him. Especially if Helena did not remember John Koenig as the love of her life.

Later in the evening, when they brought Thomas to bed, Helena kissed him gently. However, when Koenig attempted to do the same Thomas turned his head away from him. Undaunted, John ruffled his hair and kissed Thomas on the forehead. He then whispered in his ear that he loved him before they left him to rest in Sandra and Alan's bed.

The daughter of two operatives in Main Mission, Kate and James, brought Helena a bottle of wine that afternoon. They made their own, Alicia said, and she told Helena that she and John should drink it this evening, "Enjoy yourself." she said, "And know that the love of your Alphan friends are with you wherever you go." Helena accepted the kind gesture and thanked the woman, wishing she knew who Kate and James were.

She and John enjoyed the wine, with its rather light and fruity taste, as they sat on the sofa in front of the fire. They watched the flames dance as they had the night before, holding hands as they talked. Helena grew quiet as John mentioned she should start a garden, get a few tips from those who once worked in Alpha's hydroponics unit. She could grow a wonderful variety of fruits and vegetables for she and Thomas. He also suggested working with Mathias again, relearning the medical profession, so she could help the others in their community.

John finally looked at Helena when he realized she was barely listening to him (or perhaps had listened too deeply). He gently touched under her pale chin and turned her face to him. He said nothing and neither did she. But he saw the misery, the shiny gloss of her eyes that indicated Helena did not want to think of living a life without him now.

"Maybe we can try again. We can ask Gwent to give you more time."

"It won't. It's made up its mind."

"This is so damn unfair!" Helena cried and lifted a trembling hand to her mouth.

John took the wine glass from her hand, laid both of them on a side table, then pulled Helena into his embrace. She was right. It was unjust and he hated Gwent for putting them through this hell. He would have to do what his master demanded but Gwent would not fair well with his solo companion. Koenig was already determined to make the machine miserable. He might be a recipient of the green discipline light, probably on more than one occasion, but he didn't give a damn anymore. Gwent was taking him purposely away from what he loved most. It deserved no honor or friendship from him other than what was agreed upon.

Finally, Helena stood and, still holding his hand, pulled John with her to the bedroom.

Their love making was gently sincere and they took their time, softly devouring each other, missing nothing, then they held each other, whispering, kissing, and even praying a little. For surely there was a god somewhere in the universe that might take mercy on these two pathetic humans who had only one wish, to live as husband and wife, have a family, and tame together the land around them.

In the early morning hours, Thomas left his bedroom and entered theirs. He climbed into bed with John and Helena as they slept. He snuggled against his mother and he held his father's hand.

[]

The following day there were many goodbyes.

John Koenig walked from home to home, with Carter and Kano accompanying him. He shook hands, wished the families well, and promised to visit the moment Gwent allowed him the opportunity. Koenig did not say that by the time that happened the first generation of Alphans would most likely be dead, but the sentiment was taken as a kindness by his people.

By evening a crowd had gathered around Gwent, including the Kaldorians.

Although Koenig had wanted Thomas away when he left, the boy was nevertheless there with his nervous mother, preparing to say farewell to his father. Sandra, Alan, Mathias and Tanya stood behind them.

When he and Helena awoke this morning they were delighted to see Thomas resting beside them. Helena found it especially moving, practically unable to speak, and John was so please to see his son's small hand resting in his own he had to take a deep breath to keep from sobbing. Forgiveness was granted, he knew, and John could not ask for anything more.

Helena just stared at him, seemingly too overcome with emotion, realizing what this day meant, and she could not speak.

[]

"Are you ready, my companion?" Gwent called, sensing Koenig standing on the ramp.

"Yes, just a few more minutes." he requested.

"Of course." Gwent intoned, generously. "But not too long. We have many places to visit, dear friend."

Once again, Koenig bit the skin inside his lower lip to prevent himself from saying anything precarious. He and Gwent would, however, have words later.

John Koenig addressed the Alphans, all looking at him now. "I could not be happier with what I've seen here." the Commander said, "When we started this quest, to find a new home, so many years ago, I could only hope and pray that we would be successful. You, my friends, my people, have exceeded my dreams and expectations. I am so very happy to see the families of the original 311 men and women on Moonbase Alpha thriving on Miro." He looked at Kano who nodded at him from the audience, "Someone told me the word 'miro' is an alien word that means 'happiness' - and you certainly have that here on this great planet. All I asks is that you never forget your origins, those who came before you and those who will come after. Heed the lessons from our original planet, Earth, and do all that is right for Miro. Abstain from corruption." He looked at Zandor and the Kaldorian's beside him, "And learn from those who have much to teach. You shall all do well here." Then he added, "I am very, very proud of you …" Koenig choked up slightly, "… and one day I hope to return and …: He looked at Helena and Thomas, " … experience some of the triumphs of this wonderful new world."

He lifted a hand, to wave goodbye and go inside, when he heard her call.

"John!" Helena ran to him, moving up the ramp, and threw herself into his arms, "You can't go."

"Helena, we've been through this. You know I have to …"

"But you don't understand …" she gasped, "I remember!"

"What?"

"I remember everything!"

He pulled her back a little, looking at Helena's tear streaked face, "When?"

"This morning. I woke before you, saw Thomas in bed with us, and everything came flooding back to me! Then you awoke …" She stuttered slightly, "I … I … was so shocked, so overwhelmed, I didn't know how to tell you or if I should tell you. It was going to be such a hard day as it was … Oh, John!"

The couple held one another as the others look on, distraught.

It did not make a difference, unfortunately. Gwent still required a companion.

"I may have a solution to this problem." Captain Zandor approached, mounting the ramp.

"Captain?" Koenig, still holding Helena, looked to the alien.

"Commander, do you recall that I once told you that for a Kaldorian outer-space travel is a way of life?"

"Just as the security of soil and fresh air is paramount to an Earthling." Yes, John remembered that conversation. "But you and your people have been looking for a planet to settle on, just as we have … or had."

"Certainly, and we felt we have that here. A base to begin again. However," he looked at his own people in the crowd, "We are also a learned people. Knowledge is very important to us and we have talked about Gwent and the vast data it possesses." Zandor's eyes now met Koenig's, "I would like to take your place in Gwent."

Koenig's eyes widened, "Captain if this is a noble gesture …" he started.

Helena said, "But Captain, to be all alone on Gwent with no other company than an enormous demanding apparatus …" Helena was amazed but also alarmed, "Even if Gwent were to agree, are you sure this is what you want?"

As they spoke they hadn't realized that Dr. Zeda had mounted the ramp and was approaching, "He will not be alone." she said and stood beside her Captain.

Both John and Helena looked down and realized the couple were now holding hands.

"And you are absolutely positive you both want this?" Koenig pressed, leery and elated.

"Yes." Dr. Zeda spoke, then she looked up at her companion, "But we need to tell them, Zandor."

"Tell us what?" Koenig asked, now slightly suspicious.

Zandor looked out at the curious crowd watching them then to Gwent, "Yes, we will but first we need to know if Gwent will agree to this proposal." At Koenig's nod he looked to the watching assembly, "Alphans, please wait." He called to them, "We will be back in a moment."

Both couples walked the ramp into Gwent.

There a strange negotiation started. Zandor explained to the machine how he and Zeda were willing companions and how fascinated they were with space exploration and the prospect of learning from Gwent. The machine was skeptical at first but it did know the Kaldorians as an honest, even tempered people. Koenig reminded Gwent of their recent history and how it might behoove the apparatus to have attendants aboard that actually wanted to be there rather than waste its time on a human male who was unhappy and could only feel despair. Helena added a finality that seemed to touch the cold machine's mechanical conscience. She told it she did forgive it for what happened and she knew that it always had an affection for Thomas. If Gwent wanted to come back some day and visit, they would not mind and would greet it, Zandor and Zeda with open arms.

The last was probably a bit of an exaggeration but Koenig recognized the effect she was having when they heard an audible sob from Gwent.

It did have a heart after all.

"Yes," it finally said, "I agree."

[]

Gwent gave Captain Zandor and Dr. Zeda an hour to say goodbye to their people and gather whatever it was they required before leaving Miro.

Koenig shook Zandor's hand, feeling a bond with the alien, and also slight guilt at what he assumed were Zandor's initial intentions with regard to Helena. Zandor, a sincere man, did admit to Koenig that he felt him a very lucky Earth man. Dr. Russell was unique and beautiful and a prize for any being who was wise enough to make her his own.

But then again, he turned to his mate, so was Dr. Zeda.

"You saved my life." Koenig told the doctor and thanked the alien.

"Not quite, Commander." Zeda looked from Koenig to Zandor.

He nodded.

"Commander, your wounds were not entirely healed by the device we used on you after you were attacked by the dogs."

Helena and John looked at one another then back at the aliens.

"You see," Zandor took up the conversation, "the device Dr. Zeda used could certainly speed up the process and make your wounds less painful but it truly did not have the power to heal you. That came within yourself." Zadnor chose his words carefully, unsure how the Alphan people would take what they were about to hear, "Commander, you and Dr. Russell - and Thomas as well I suspect - are not quite mortal any longer."

"We understand that we are not aging like we normally would." Helena said, "But certainly now that we are here on Miro …"

"Your body chemistry has changed." Zeda attempted to explain, "You are partly human, of course, but because of your interaction with Gwent and other space phenomenon, you are now also partly …"

"… alien?" Koenig asked.

"In a sense." she said.

"Are you saying we are - immortal?" he asked.

"No, not immortal. You will die one day but not for awhile."

Helena nodded, "We know Gwent's original companion was at least one hundred and fifty years old when he passed away." She smiled and looked at John, "If it is our fate to live to that ripe old age I think we can tolerate it."

"Would you feel the same if we told you that Gwent did not tell you the truth about Companion? He was not one hundred and fifty years old but …" Zandor trailed off, now unsure if he should divulge what they had learned.

"Tell us." Koenig said.

"Companion was nearly five hundred years old when he passed away."

John and Helena could only stare at the Kaldorians.

[]

Epilogue:

Miro was a paradise.

A government was formed and John Koenig, not surprising, once again became their leader. But it was a simpler life. They made progress, of course, building and teaching all they knew.

Helena, not long after Gwent and the Kaldorians had left, discovered she was pregnant. They determined she had conceived during that first night she and John made love over at Sandra and Alan's. The birth of their daughter, Sarah, was greeted with joy and was a surprisingly easy delivery. A few years later their twins, a boy and a girl, were born and it was also an easy, nearly carefree delivery.

Thomas grew into a fine you man, a teacher of both science and nature. He eventually married Breanne, Nathan's daughter, and they had a home and children of their own. He lived not as long as his parents, until he was three hundred years old, marrying once more after Breanne's passing,, having more children. But then, after his second wife's passing, Thomas lived the rest of his years as a professor at the university he helped to build.

In his later years, Koenig and Helena could not help comparing him to Victor Bergman.

There was immense happiness on Miro - but also grief.

John and Helena lived as long as Zandor said they would, watching there friends, children and grand children pass before them. For although they were given the gift of long lives their off-spring were still mortal and they did not outlast their ancestors …

However, John and Helena were able, in their five hundred years, to see these descendents build not just homes and structures of security and science, but also develope spaceships which took them into outer space, to their moons, and beyond.

Arra from Atheria once told them their kind would disperse and visit the deepest reaches of the galaxies. It was true and they were gratified.

One evening, three hundred and fifty years after they had first come to Miro, Helena sat outside their home on a rocking chair and looked down into the valley where crops grew and she could see children dancing and playing. She and John had moved a long while ago from their original house by the creek. However, it was an honored structure, preserved as a sort of museum of their founding fathers.

Koenig joined her, sitting on a chair beside her own, and took her hand. It was a familiar gesture now. There was an ever so slight touch of gray to his hair now and a few lines creased his forehead but he was still as handsome as she remembered him, when she first saw him on Moonbase Alpha. Helena looked back on that time with fondness despite the danger.

He had once wondered where Earth's original moon had gone and Zandor, during one of their visits, told him Gwent had taken them to it. Alpha was still well maintained although barren. He suspected some alien life forms had gone to the moon to explore and gather information. Alpha had become a teaching tool of sorts.

Koenig and Helena were very pleased.

"John," she asked him, "Do you have any regrets?"

"Some of the deaths on Moonbase Alpha." he said, "Also that we were never able to see Victor come to Miro. It would have been wonderful seeing the look on his face, watching him explore our new world. But truly, I have only one big regret."

She waited.

He smiled and looked at her, "I wish I had known you on Earth, before we met on Moonbase Alpha, before Gwent brought us together, and before we settled on Miro."

She smiled and squeezed his fingers, looking into his eyes - those eyes she had adored since the beginning of time.

They had much to be thankful for.

They were home.

[]

THE END

Sept./Oct./Nov. 2012

Thank you so much for taking on this ambitious adventure with me. I enjoyed it so much and also truly appreciate the kind comments you have taken the time to make with regards to GWENT 1 and GWENT 2. It may be awhile before I take on something this large-scale again but it was fun while it lasted!

Currently I am helping Diamond Dixie with her new fiction. I hope you will take a moment to read A PERSONAL PROBLEM because when I read her outline I thought it really quite wonderful. She took on a subject I had never considered and her reasoning was quite valid! I hope, with my help, the fiction will make you think and perhaps even smile a little.

Take care, AFL

((NOTE - The planet's name is Miro although on a few occasions I've typed it as Muro and Mira. Please forgive my lack of memory. I will be going back to earlier chapters to correct. This is why you should always have notes by your side while typing ...))