"Are you cold?" John asked and, before she could answer, slipped his jacket around her shoulders. "We will be back on Alpha soon." he promised.
The Numbers, also known as the true Vegans, were clearing up the area. They were removing the androids one by one, now all deactivated, and preparing warm drinks for their honored guests, their liberators.
The Vegans told Koenig they had the ability, like the androids before them, to send he and his people back to the moon. However, they would need time to program the coördinates into their computer. Unlike their former masters, they were incapable of merely sending the Alphan men and women back and forth by simply concentrating. This was one of the abilities the automatons had achieved that the humans had not and it was something they would study, if it was possible, in the years to come.
"We would ask you and your people to stay with us, Commander, but ..." The unmasked #8 said, "... we cannot be certain we will survive over the next few years. It will certainly be a struggle now that our computer is only at half capacity. As you can see," He lifted an expressive hand, indicating the view outside their windows; the freezing cold, snow and sleet, "our weather is bitter. Life support will be our main area of focus at present then, when our future is assured, we can move on. It may take a very long time. Maybe decades and perhaps even centuries."
And already they could feel the outside creeping in, the facility becoming cold and uncomfortable.
"We understand." Koenig said, Maya and Tony by his side.
"We are better off on Alpha." Verdeschi concurred.
Helena, sitting in the lounge area on a long, flat white box, shivered and clutched Koenig's jacket around her. She then looked over to where Zarl lay. A blanket had been thrown over his android body, ready for reclamation, and Dr. Russell purposely turned her gaze away from it. The scientist in her knew he hadn't ever been truly alive, wasn't mortal in any way, but the more human side of her felt she had participated in his death. It was silly really and she tried to put it from her mind.
Koenig sat beside Helena, passing her a cup with a steaming drink inside, and put his unoccupied arm around her shoulders, adding to the warmth his jacket was providing. As beautiful and slinky as the gown she wore was it was far too thin for current conditions. He drank from his own mug and noted how quiet and sad Helena had become, "Okay?" he asked.
She nodded and looked up at him, smiling mildly, then returned thoughtfully to her drink.
"I um ..." He struggled for words, watching Maya and Tony move away, talking near one of the many indoor trees. Verdeschi was pointing at one of the birds and telling Maya about the similar parrots they had at home, back on Earth. "I can't believe I punched-out a robot." Koenig chuckled, quietly.
Helena looked down at her cup and laughed quietly. She supposed she should scold him for being so insensitive but, in a way, it was rather funny. "Suppose I should feel flattered." Then she said, "I guess this makes us even, John."
"What do you mean?"
"Remember the Guardian of Piri?"
"How could I forget?"
"Later, you told Victor and myself that she greeted you with a kiss on the mouth. A pretty girl robot, kissing you before you even introduced yourself?" She gently elbowed him, "If I had felt about you then how I feel about you now ... I might have had to scratch her fake little eyes out." She teased.
He pulled back from her, mock-shocked. "Doctor!" Koenig exclaimed, "Such jealousy. I didn't think you had it in you."
Helena pushed her cup aside and watched while he did the same. "You would be surprised, Commander." She moved in closed, allowing him to hold her, absorbing the warmth of John Koenig's body. She whispered, "You never told me if you liked my gown."
He spoke above her head, "Oh, I like it very much." John then looked over at the blanketed form across from them, "I just didn't like him liking it."
"He didn't really." Helena pulled back a little and sighed, "He was just displaying emotions that were programmed into him .. it."
"You know that's not entirely true, Helena. You proved that, somewhere in there, Zarl did have a spark of humanity. Perhaps it will prove to be an evolution of sorts on this planet. Next time the Vegans decide to upgrade their androids they might well school them in the better facets of the human race. Maybe then they won't have to worry about their accomplishments taking the planet by force."
"Hopefully they will have learned from their mistakes." Helena agreed. It would be nice if Zarl, reborn again, could be given a second chance, she thought.
Koenig took her hands in his and held them, warming them, and he watched as dimmed lights flicker brightly above them. "The power is returning." he concluded.
They would be going home soon. Back to Moonbase Alpha where there was warmth, friendship, joy, and all the things that made their current lives worth living.
He stood and pulled her up with him. "We need to get back to Alpha and prepare for a party."
"Do you think we should?" she wondered, "All things considered maybe it's inappropriate."
"Valentine's Day is coming up and I think we need an excuse to have some fun. So yes, I think we should. And quickly."
Maya heard what the Commander had said and she smiled at Helena from across the room, her blue eyes sparkling.
"Yes, of course." Understanding the need, Helena looked from the Psychon to John. "We are only human, after all." she mused.
Hand in hand, they walked over to the device that would send them all home, once again, to Moonbase Alpha.
Thanks to Becky and Marisa for your help.