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They understood the pain, although they knew not why it affected humans as it did. Still,
didn't teacher Yur, who was once the same as the Earth people, tell them feelings were
important to their growth if ever the Tagleon race hoped to break out of what many of
their kind considered a stagnant cycle?
And these earth-moon people were a fairly new race of beings, catapulted into deep
space, not knowing what to expect, yet up for the challenge. This excited Yur. Therefore
it excited the Tagleons as well.
The Alphans' emotional make-up confused many. The loss of and beginning of life - as it
was being experienced by these humans - was merely biological to Tagleons but if they,
what Yur termed "Children of the Universe", were to understand emotions such as love, hate
and hurt they would need to be educated and explore. Moonbase Alpha seemed a good place to
start.
"You are stepping over a line." Yur told them, "You will experience tempered emotion
and this is a good thing. You will help beings, starting with these humans on Alpha, and
you will FEEL good about it."
To some it might have appeared an experiment but the Tagleons hearts were in the right
place, Yur knew. He allowed them the choice of who it was they wished to help on Moonbase
Alpha and their decision and plans seemed odd to him. Yet, sometimes a teacher had to
leave students alone with a problem and just watch. And that was exactly what he was going
to do. Watch and learn.

*****

"Helena Russell, if it were anyone else I'd be yelling my head off and bringing you up
on charges!"

"Please, John. Don't shout like that. I have a throbbing headache and just don't feel
up to it. If you think you must, you can take your anger out on me after I'm better -
Okay?" Her tone was dull.

Koenig stood there, inwardly anguished and outwardly severe. He towered above Helena as
she lay on the bed in her quarters. His arms were folded patronizingly over his uniformed
chest. John was furious and in no mood to stop what he'd started. "Just what were you
thinking, Helena?"

In one sense, Doctor Russell couldn't fault him. She had acted in a marginally
irresponsible manner, not checking with the Commander and - basically - ignoring his
wishes before she acted. But Helena thought John would forgive her, being a man open to
discovery and trusting in, as he should, his Chief Medical Officer. Especially when it
came to the well being of the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha. Normally.

He once told Helena, as they lay together after an evening of intimacy, that he'd
fallen in love with her not only because she was beautiful and wise but because she took
risks - as he did - in both her personal and professional lives. 'We're more alike than
either of us is willing to admit.' John had verbally pressed with a smile, her head
pillowed on his shoulder. Often, he mentally reasoned why they connected so early on,
almost immediately after their first meeting. There had been conflict in the beginning,
verbal cat and mouse games, and their physical relationship hadn't come for almost a year
after the Moon left Earth behind. But that mental connection - a feeling of oneness - was
there from the start.

In the present: "You could have killed yourself." Koenig continued with a charged
whisper. His own comment startled the Commander. 'She's sick,' John told himself, 'We can
do this another time -- when she's feeling better.' But he couldn't. He wasn't cruel but
something was driving him to pursue the matter. He had to let her know just how he felt.
"I'm disappointed, Helena. Bitterly disappointed." and personally hurt he wanted to add
but didn't. Then, with an uncontrollable stab: "You put the entire base in jeopardy. Even
the children."

Eyes half open, Helena stared at him calmly and did a slow burn. He knew better than
that. Now he was just being nasty. Helena painfully pushed her head into a pillow,
attempting to muffle the sound of his ire. She'd already told John her illness wasn't
contagious but he was having a difficult time believing this fact. "It's a manufactured
flu, John." Helena murmured again, as she had five minutes before. "Just a non-
communicable flu. If those cultures had been filled with anything more dangerous I would
have destroyed them on the spot."

Why wasn't he picking on Professor Fairfax? The venerable scientist had been more into
this probe than she. As a matter of fact, it was he who encouraged Doctor Russell to
inject the flu virus into her bloodstream in the first place. They, all in Alpha's science
department, needed to see if the inoculation cured and who better than an accomplished
doctor to clearly analyze what was happening? Helena knew what to look for and it seemed
logical. Perhaps Fairfax just reminded John too much of Professor Bergman for him to
berate the old man. Even after all of these months, whether he was willing to admit it or
not, John still felt the pain of his friend's passing.

Still, she should have informed the Commander before experimenting. But - as always -
he was busy and everyone in the lab was so anxious to get started ... and they knew Helena
had the eyes, ears and heart of John Koenig. Also, in all honesty, there was always an off
chance he would say NO to their request. Helena and the others didn't want to hear it and,
being least likely to be severely punished if things didn't pan out, she threw herself
into the project, purposely taking advantage of her position. Both professionally and
personally.

Helena, her eyes closed, sighed when she heard nothing from the Commander for a few
moments. "John, if my calculations are correct, I should be out of bed in about eight
hours."

"Eight hours too long."

Was that tenderness in his tone? Actually, Helena thought, John's anger was more from
worry than genuine resentment. She scared him. Perhaps a little levity was needed. "The
lab animals came out of it a bit sooner but I was given a slightly bigger dosage." Helena
said, with mild mirth. It was an old joke between she and the other doctors. Moonbase
Alpha had no laboratory animals to experiment with. "So, don't act like a little boy,
John. Everything's fine."

But when she opened her eyes he was not smiling back at her.

'Did she really think this was funny?' - "I used to have faith in you, Helena ... What
good is all of this experimentation if the people on Alpha it was meant for aren't around
to enjoy the success of one of your intrigues?"

'Intrigues? Was he serious?' - "John!" Did he actually think she was willing to gamble
with the lives of Alpha's children? Granted, there were only a few now but any new life
was just too important! Helena, closing her eyes again, reached for the pillow behind her
head and placed it over her flushed face. She may have been wrong - with regards to her
own personal health - but she would never take undo risks when it came to the rest of
Alpha. John knew this. Or, didn't he want to understand? After all, the experiment had
been a success! Why wasn't he congratulating her on a job well done?

If ever a habitable planet was found and the Alphans were given an opportunity to
colonize, they would need a medicine to fight against infection until they adapted to
their new environment. The children would be especially susceptible to illness. And now,
through the miracle of modern science (and medicine), they had it! The inoculation wasn't
all things to all people but it was certainly a step in the right direction.

But each success was fraught with minor pains. She was sick. A small thing which would
eventually be a mere memory.

And now, she didn't want to argue. Helena just wanted to sleep and get better.

"What is the sense to all of this?" John barked, unable to help himself. He was being
unreasonable but she managed to pique his anger and he just couldn't let it lay. It wasn't
just that Helena had over-stepped her authority, going through with the test without his
permission, or that he felt she had endangered lives (particularly her own) by working
with a live virus - although both occurrences were important enough to make him reconsider
the trust he'd afforded his companion over the last couple of years. It was the doctor's
attitude. A definite air of rebelliousness and something else he couldn't quite put a
finger on.

Helena was exhibiting an odd type of independence lately and it seemed to be entirely
at her Commander's expense. She wasn't usually one to hold a grudge but she and John had a
few rather loud, vocal fights about perspective during the past two weeks and Helena
wouldn't budge an inch. Why was she being so difficult and passionate in her beliefs? Not
even when she came after him, over a year ago, about allowing births on Moonbase Alpha had
the doctor been so unrelenting. But now ... now ... it was as if she was a different
woman. Or maybe he was a different man?

Or ...

... perhaps their relationship was different? John wanted to marry Helena. He'd asked
her on three different occasions. Always, Helena waved his proposal away, telling him they
had plenty of time to make their relationship official. Why rush? But he was of the old
school. Maybe that little piece of paper, and an officiator, didn't mean much in today's
world, particularly on Moonbase Alpha, but he felt it important. In retrospect, perhaps
it was Helena's lack of immediately wanting what he wanted that bothered Koenig most.

Briefly pondering, as he watched Helena make herself more comfortable, John had to also
admit to a feeling of neglect. Not long ago she stayed late in Medical Center,
experimenting with applications which - in his opinion - weren't as important as she
imparted. If it wasn't the monitoring of a liquid chemical compound, it was the diagnosis
of an odd and interesting ailment. Being honest with himself, John was beginning to doubt
Helena's devotion. Or even more disturbing, he felt she was becoming bored with him. But
Koenig couldn't place the blame squarely on the woman's shoulders. It was also possible
he'd gotten too comfortable with her, taking his loved one for granted, not showing Helena
enough interest, excitement and romance.

Could this be the reason she ducked his offers to wed?

Yet, was this any reason for her to show a complete lack of respect? There were only
so many things he could ignore. What did a man, whose heart wasn't made of stone, do when
faced with such a dilemma?

Puzzled by unaccountable silence, Helena lifted the pillow off her face and with one
aching eyeball, looked in his direction. John was gone. She never heard him leave. Helena
sat up a little and looked about her. Sighing, she laid back again and - regretfully -
felt relief and sadness. Couldn't they talk anymore without arguing or walking away from
one another in a huff? There was a time, Helena fondly recalled, when she could hardly
wait to see him. The mere sight of John Koenig, especially during those early months of
their intimate relationship, caused her heart to beat a little faster and her pulse race.
She wanted him with her, passionately and totally. It wasn't an obsessive love, just fresh
and, on her part, very much needed. But lately ... lately ...

Helena couldn't think about it now. She wouldn't admit to herself - although she knew
full well - what the problem was. She had to sleep. She had to dream and ... escape.

**********

It was the rocking and Yellow Alert alarm which woke Helena Russell nearly four hours
later.

Her eyes opened wide and she steadied nausea while sitting up. With a mighty effort,
Helena threw her weakened legs over the side of the bed and struggled to her feet and into
soft, fabric slippers. She felt momentary dizziness as she grabbed for her blue robe.
Slowly, carefully, the woman activated the door opener on her comlock.

She could hear Tony Verdeschi's clear determined voice over Alpha's composts,
announcing that his security team should stand ready, as she ran from her quarters to
Command Center.

********

"What's going on?" Helena asked. She came up behind John and gently touched his arm.

He stood near his desk and, as was everyone else in Command Center, stared up at the
Big Screen. "Visitors." Koenig answered, firmly. John didn't look at Helena, he was so
taken in by the sight before them. But his tone held concern for all when he spoke, "I had
Sandra open a communication channel and I think it did try to talk to us. That's when the
base began to shake ... but so far we haven't heard anything." The Commander allowed the
possibility of danger to merely hang in space. They'd all been here before.

The alien, or perhaps the collection of aliens, appeared to be a bluish mass. It
reminded Koenig of an innocuous cloud and he might have mentioned it if enigmatic,
pulsating orange lights weren't visible in the middle of the collection of outer space
cumuli.

"Commander, I think I've done it." Maya spoke from her console. Pressing a few colorful
buttons and appearing somewhat unsure, the lovely auburn-haired alien blinked and breathed
in heavily, "Sahn, call to it as clearly and articulately as possible. Their signals
should come back to us in English."

Sandra, petite with soft brown eyes, nodded and mentally crossed her fingers, "This is
Moonbase Alpha. Please respond."

When there was no immediate reply, Chief of Security Verdeschi glanced at Koenig.

Then: "People of Moonbase Alpha ... we are peaceful. We are a feeling race of beings
and wish you no harm." The utterance was somewhat mechanical yet it was also united with a
form of warmth. Its inflections were erogenous and combined, as if many were talking at
the same time. "We are Tagleons."

"How may we help you?" Koenig asked, uncertain.

"It is we who wish to help you. There is one amongst you who is different than the
rest. It is she who needs our help most."

Several sets of eyes focused on Maya.

"In what way?" Helena asked, stepping forward to stand nervously beside Koenig. She saw
Maya stiffened and thought their resident alien was having flashbacks to the time when
sinister aliens came to Alpha. They wanted her unique Psychon brainstem and were willing
to kill all who stood in their way. Were the Tagleons in league with the Dorcons?

"We must be sure ... Please be calm. We will not harm you."

Suddenly a stream of bright white light from an unknown source penetrated Alpha's
defense systems and began to separately bathe each female in Command Center with
illumination. Because she was so obviously different than the other women, the light
paused on a frightened Maya a bit longer than most. Yet, soon it became clear she was not
the female of mention when the probe moved on.

Lastly, Helena was illuminated. The probe lingered awhile, seeming curious, and she was
forced to look away when her fever sensitive eyes could take it no more. "Stop." Helena
said and was gratified when the aliens immediately did as requested.

"You are in pain." the alien cloud said, "You are ill in spirit and body. We wish to
help you."

Helena glanced up at John Koenig then, a bit puzzled, she said - "Yes." slowly and, "I
am physically sick but it is not anything I cannot overcome." She assured, partly to press
the point again with her Commander. Curious, Helena moved forward against Koenig's console
and asked, "How can you help me?"

"We sense you want something ... need an item of some importance. You want to go home?
Is this true? Will going home to Earth make you well?" The question was asked in a manner
which was almost endearing.

Helena paused. Careful. It needed to be worded just right: "Yes. We ALL want to return
to Earth. Everyone on Moonbase Alpha."

"May we assist you?"

The Alphans tensed. Were they hearing what they thought they were hearing?

"Can you return us to Earth?" Koenig asked, "Without pain or loss of life?"

"Yes. Shall we?"

Could it really be as simple as that? No, this was too good to be true.

"Geez," Verdeschi whispered under his breath. He looked over at a wide eyed Maya and
smiled. He had plans for her, the mother of his children. Won't Mama be surprised to see
who her favorite son married?

Helena, in spite of a fever induced headache and weakness often associated with the
flu, felt a sudden surge of adrenaline. If it was real, this couldn't have happened at a
better time. Perhaps now she and John could focus on a life together on Earth, with all of
the happiness it could bring, and stop their senseless bickering. They - all of them - had
more to look forward to than life on sterile Alpha. And the children ... The children
would have a home. "John ..." Helena reached for his hand as a stunned murmur swept
through the Center. "Can it be?"

Koenig affectionately eyed Helena and held her close for a moment. Yet, his enthusiasm
was guarded. They didn't really know anything about their Earth right now. What condition
was it in? Could it be safely inhabited? And what about these generous aliens? Could they
be trusted? "Maybe. I want to know a little more."

"We are awaiting an answer from the female."

It was a loaded moment and many anxious eyes now focused on Doctor Russell.

Helena inwardly gulped, feeling the weight of negotiation fall yet again on her slender
shoulders. "I am honored with the gift you have offered us. However, we are people of
caution. There ..."

"The female has spoken. We wish her well."

The bright light once again materialized, this time engulfing the whole of Command
Center. Most Alphans had to raise hands in front of their eyes to block out the intense
glare. A shaking was felt beneath their feet and when it was over many expected to find
the moon miraculously brought back into Earth orbit.

However, this was not the case. The alien had heard but misunderstood. The only
difference on Alpha was the disappearance of one person.

Helena was no where to be seen.

Koenig, horrified, felt her dissolve in his protective arms. He looked again at the Big
Screen but there was nothing he could do. The bluish mass was no longer there. The aliens
were gone ...

... and they had taken Helena with them ... to Earth!

"Commander!" Still stunned, Sandra spoke. "I am getting an odd report from Security
..."

********

She sat up poker-straight on the sofa. The wind, knocking a hanging planter against a
stabilizing column on the balcony, awakened her from a nap. Not her alarm. She set it for
five p.m. because Bruce would be picking her up in ninety minutes and she needed the extra
time to shower and pretty herself for the cocktail party.

Helena felt a bit of nausea creep up on her as she threw her long legs over the side of
the sofa cushions. Was it the result of too much champagne at lunch while celebrating her
birthday? Or was it the thought of another of these damnable get togethers?

No one she questioned really liked Gerald Simmonds, the party's honoree, but he was an
influential man, a politician of some note, and if she and her colleagues were going to
get the funding from The International Lunar Finance Commission they were asking for,
they'd need his support. This Alpha Project, the building of the actual moonbase, was
getting more and more complicated and costly as the walls were erected, computers
installed and atmosphere added. It was taking shape but as Bruce said: "Money is
everything." and he needed her help. Helena was willing. Some day she might even want a
position on Moonbase Alpha herself.

She stretched, suddenly wondering why she was so achy. "Not the flu ..." Helena
murmured, looking vaguely about her New York apartment, almost as if she was seeing it for
the first time. She was sick. No wonder she was having such odd dreams about the moonbase
and the people she saw there. Aliens, she mused with a mild smile. To actually come face
to face with such a creature ... impossible. And interesting.

Stripping and stepping into a shower, she allowed the water to wash over her in a
comfortable tide ...

**... and she wanted to wear the peach colored night dress because it was one hundred
percent cotton and reminded her of Earth and all those soft touches of home. Besides, John
really liked it. It was sexier than any of those frilly, sheer teddies that were so
popular at one time and ...**

Startled, Helena jumped in the shower. What was that? What gown was she thinking about?
Who was John? Certainly not John Koenig, the astrophysicist she'd read about in the
newspaper. It was said he was one of ten men who were being considered as Alpha's new
Commander. But why was she thinking of him and a night dress?

Perhaps it was his resemblance to Lee that triggered the thought. No, they didn't
really look alike. But he was tall and dark like Lee ... and she thought Koenig terribly
handsome in a rugged, somewhat unconventional way.

Lee Russell. Oddly, she hadn't really thought about her dear departed for sometime now.
He was gone, assumed dead nearly a year ago. Helena attempted to stay on in London for the
first couple months but couldn't. They lived together there for many happy years - but
North America was home and New York City was where she was most comfortable. Helena's one
regret was that she and Lee never had children together. Now, she doubted it would ever
happen.

Stepping from the shower and toweling herself dry, Helena glanced over at a small
flower trimmed calendar beside her cream colored medicine chest. August 5, 1997. Another
of those days which would live in infamy. An unwanted birthday. That ever present
biological clock was ticking away at an ever alarming rate.

Doctor Bruce Ripperton, her friend and colleague, was determined she join him. He
enthusiastically assured Helena she would have a good time, mixing business with pleasure,
and he wanted to see her happy and active for a change. Also, he added, it wouldn't hurt
if he was seen at the party with an attractive woman at his side. Dear, Bruce. A
sweetheart but also a total lackey. He would follow and paw over nearly anyone who could
give him a leg up on whatever project it was he was working on at any given time. It
sometimes bothered Helena but also made her smile.

Helena slipped on a thin robe and was walking to her small kitchen, to prepare a cup of
coffee, when she heard something that caused her to stop in her tracks. She then twisted
about and stared into the living room in shock and fear.

"Helena!"

She could hear the echoing cry plainly. It was male and, from the sound of him, he was
in pain or utterly devastated. But that was all she heard.

Nervous, but knowing she must have imagined the wail, Helena moved once again into the
kitchen.

********



ALPHA QUEST - "The Discontented" Part Three
by Rebecca Eisenhuth