ONWARD

by AFL

[]

She walked into her quarters, paused, then smiled. He was sitting on her sofa, with his eyes closed, dozing. In front of him, on her coffee table, was an ice bucket. Inside rested a bottle of what might be wine or some kind of barely drinkable alcoholic beverage.

Helena was warmed by the romantic gesture.

It was not surprising that an exhausted John Koenig had nodded off. They had all been pulling long hours since the Commander gave a decree, life changing in its magnitude, that frightened some but delighted many.

After deep consideration and detailed reports from their medical unit and other interrelated sections of the moonbase, Koenig had finally agreed to allow births on Alpha. There would be a few to start. A lottery would be formed to see who the lucky and brave men and women were. Age, partnerships, good physical and mental health were primary considerations.

It was time to replenish their people.

"John."

His eyes opened and he focused on her, "Helena."

She rounded the sofa and sat beside him, smiling as he took her hands. "You're all in. Maybe we should put this off for another evening."

"No," He stretched slightly, rolling his shoulders. "We haven't been able to spend much time together over the last couple of weeks." John reached up and gently touched the underside of her chin, "I miss you and I'm glad you asked me over."

She leaned forward and lightly brushed his lips with her own. Then, pulling back, her eyes veiled and she looked away from him, a bit reluctant. "I had an ulterior motive in asking you here." she said. Helena saw the concern and ever so slight disappointment on his face. She began to wonder if she should broach the subject at all.

"What is it, Helena?"

She reconsidered, "Nothing of great concern, John. Just something I've been wondering about and …" Again, she saw his expression cloud. "It will keep for another day. Don't worry about it."

"If it's on your mind, Helena. Please just tell me. I'll be wondering about it all night if you don't." and he smiled.

Helena nodded and chuckled. "It's just … We know a great deal about each other. We've talked about our lives on Earth and our potential future on a new world."

"Yes." he nodded, waiting.

"But there is one thing we've never really talked about - in your past. And I'm wondering why."

"My past?" He relaxed a little. Koenig honestly thought Helena was going to ask him something else, having to do with their current situation on Alpha, and was relieved they - for now - were not discussing it. As the Commander of the moonbase, already responsible for nearly three hundred people, he was not entirely certain he was ready for fatherhood.

"A relationship." she said, "An intimate bond."

Koenig appeared confused for a moment. "You know about Jean and, God help me, Diana Morris." he said, "There were a few others here and there but, really Helena, my romantic past is quite dull. Nothing you …" Then he paused. He knew who she was talking about even before she said the woman's name.

"Marcia Gilcrest."

"Oh."

"You never talk about her, John. I know who she was simply because it was common knowledge that you had left her for Moonbase Alpha." Helena hesitated. What she said made him sound arrogant and she knew he was not. Yet, whenever Helena attempted to bring the woman up there was always a good excuse to go onto another subject. Now that she had his undivided attention Helena really wanted to know what pulled he and the socially accomplished Miss Gilcrest away from one another. "Did she hurt you so terribly?" Helena watched as his expression shut down a little and she suddenly felt regret.

He did not say a word for a few moments, merely stared at the ice bucket and its contents, thoughtful.

Helena sighed and she spoke with a low, slightly quivering voice. "I'm sorry, John. Maybe one day, when the memory isn't so fresh, you'll confide in me. I understand the pain …"

"No, Helena. It's not that." He turned and looked at her. "Marcia was a somewhat selfish and embarrassing time in my life." He reached over and, once again, took her hands in his own.

"In what way?

"I was lonely and open to suggestion. I needed someone to feel sorry for me and take my side. Marcia was smart, beautiful, and a socialite with connections. At the time I felt she could help me and I was happy to have her on my arm. With her assistance I met all the right people or - at least - people she and I thought I should know." Koenig looked up and met Helena's eyes, "I was an angry man back then. I had just been tossed out on my ass by Space Commission. Grounded because of my position regarding the Tony Cellini situation. She hated them for what they did to me and so did I …"

Helena gulped, feeling remorse. "Then?" She had never quite forgiven herself for not believing in Cellini, as John had, when it came to the monster killing his crew and - eventually - the man himself so many years later.

"Then, a year and some months passed and they asked me to come back. I agreed. It was a chance to come back to the moon, Helena."

Outer space exploration had been John's passion. She did understand. "And by that time," she added, "you and Marcia were engaged?"

"Yes."

She pressed, "When you told her you had accepted the post on the moon, to be Commander, she was unhappy?"

"Livid." He chuckled dryly at the memory, "I told her we would be married quickly and she could come with me to Alpha ..."

An inexplicable shiver suddenly chased through Helena.

"She walked. Marcia said she had no time for someone like me who obviously would always make bad career decisions. Basically, it was as you said. I chose the moon over Marcia Gilcrest and she knew it."

"It must have broke your heart when she rejected what you offered." Helena whispered.

Koenig was silent.

"I mean, you were going to marry her, John. You must have loved her very much."

He said, "You would think so, wouldn't you?"

Helena started a little, "Didn't you?"

He looked away from Helena, remembering. "If I said no would that make me an evil man?"

"John!" Helena's grip on his hands tightened slightly, "Then why … why?"

"It was expected." He shook his head back and forth, still unable to look at her. "I didn't think I would ever fall in love again after Jean. When Marcia came along - we had good times. She was a decent enough lady and she seemed to be very fond of me … When we started talking about marriage it was more like a business arrangement." He looked down at his hands holding Helena's, "I don't think I ever really thought it would happen and when Marcia broke it off … I felt liberated. Once on Alpha, that relationship was something I didn't want to think about anymore. There were more important things to worry about."

"You said you didn't think you would ever be able to fall in love again after Jean." Helena whispered, unaccountably tense.

"Yes." Finally, he met her eyes. "Until I met you, of course. One of the few times I was happy about being wrong."

Helena smiled and blushed ever so slightly. He said exactly what she needed to hear. "If I wasn't a doctor, hadn't studied the sciences, I would say it was fate which kept you and Marcia from marrying." She then added wryly, "Whatever it is that has helped us on our journey through space, intervened."

And brought you to me, he thought. John Koenig leaned in close to her and murmured, "Yes." A hand raised to her soft cheek and to touch her silky hair. And that's enough about Marcia Gilcrest. Wherever she was, on Earth, John Koenig wished her well. However, like his deployment to the moon all those months ago, not to mention Breakaway itself, there were now more important things to think about …

Their kiss was gentle, surging into something personal and passionate.

Science be damned, Helena thought, melting into his embrace. This was providence.

[]

In another life, a different dimension, in an alternate world where everything was the same but different, she awoke.

Helena's eyes fluttered gently open and she reached beside her. The space was warm but empty. He must have left only a short time ago. Disappointed, Dr. Russell sat up and acknowledged that none of them would be able to spend the time they wanted with one another. Now that John Koenig had allowed births on Alpha her Medical Center would be moving non-stop to insure the safety and life support of the lives, not just their regular inhabitants, but the children who would soon enter into it.

Reluctantly, Helena got out of bed, tottered to the bathroom, and quickly showered. Drying her hair and slipping into a fresh uniform, she poured a cup of coffee, sipped it until it was gone then brushed her teeth. She had three physicals scheduled for the day and the first would be waiting for her when she got to Medical Center.

Perhaps it was good he had left early, despite the wonderful night they had spent together. She needed to focus and there were times, especially in the early morning hours when he was feeling exceptionally amorous, where he made that difficult.

Helena waved at a few Alphans who passed her in the hall as she walked to the medical unit. She could hear the buzz, excited couples hoping to be one of the first chosen in "the baby lottery", and she smiled. John had been right. It was great for morale.

"Good morning, Doctor."

Helena entered Medical Center and nodded at her patient, "How are you feeling today?"

"Very good." the woman answered, propped up on the bed. Her dark blond hair was tethered to the back of her head in an efficient but attractive bun and her slender, artificially but appealingly tanned arms were crossed, hands resting in her lap, fingernails long and painted an impressive cocoa color.

Mathias had already hooked her up and the woman was merely waiting for Helena Russell to arrive and continue both the internal and external evaluation. "I hope we can get through this quickly." she said, "I fasted twelve hours, as you requested, for my blood-work and plan to have a big breakfast with my husband in an hour."

"Hasn't he already reported for duty this morning?" Helena asked.

"Yes," Marcia Gilcrest-Koenig replied, "But if I tell him he's expected he'll be there. I have my ways."

Helena noted a typical, if ever so slight, slant of superiority in her tone. Perhaps it was expected when your husband was the Commander of Moonbase Alpha. In many ways Marcia was considered "the first lady" of the moonbase although she contributed very little. Still, Helena had always felt Mrs. Koenig directed most of her more stinging comments, or ill-conceived authority, onto herself. Dr. Russell wasn't certain why the woman disliked her, maybe she thought her a threat of some kind, but it was probably for the same reason Marcia and Gerald Simmonds, who Helena detested, got along so well.

Internally, Helena shrugged. If everyone was the same what a boring universe it would be, she thought.

Flipping on a monitor, Dr. Russell forced a smile, "I'll try to get it over with as soon as possible." She would never understand why a fine, dedicated man like John Koenig - someone she admired a great deal - married a shallow woman like Marcia Gilcrest.

[]

To be continued …

(Marcia Gilcrest was an invention of author E.C. Tubb who presented her in his Space: 1999 novel, EARTHFALL. Later, the character was incorporated into the graphic novel, AFTER SHOCK AND AWE, published by BlamVentures and Archaia Entertainment LLC - now available. It was the second publication that inspired me to write this fiction although I thought her an intriguing character from the first moment I read about her in Tubb's earlier work. I hope you find this fan fiction enjoyable. More chapters to follow. Let me know what you think! Best, AFL)