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********

She left the hospital early, around three thirty, hoping to go home and clear her mind
with a hot cup of herbal tea or a long, much needed nap.

Walking into her apartment, Helena was greeted with the incessant beeping of her
monitor phone. The meter read five. She half suspected who one of those calls might be
from and wasn't certain she really wanted to hear or see him. John would either apologize,
calling from the airport where he and Marcia were preparing for flight, or give a 'It
could have been great. Maybe we can work on this.' speech from home just before he left
for the weekend. Either way, she could just hear him trying, once again, to explain why he
felt as he did and was doing what he was doing. He would probably even expect her to
understand and be there for him upon his return to Earth - post Alpha - in six months.

And what made it so horrible, a total slap to her self respect, was he would be right
to expect it. Helena thought she was stronger. Before she met John Koenig, the man on the
moon, there was no one who could have stopped her. Helena doubted that even Lee, had
there been problems in their marriage, could talk her into staying in a relationship so
obviously one sided and sick. But this was John. She couldn't just walk away. If it was
necessary to share his affections with Marcia Gilcrest, Helena decided she could do it.
She would hate every minute of it and loath herself in the process but the compensation of
having John Koenig with her, loving her, would be enough. It would have to be.

Sighing heavily, Helena tossed her keys and purse onto the sofa and picked up the
remote to her phone. Carefully, she pressed the red 'play' button and waited for his face
to pop up on the monitor.

But it was Victor: "Helena Dear," He was calling from what appeared to be a busy cargo
bay, where Eagles headed for Alpha were being stocked and maintained. "I'm calling from
Geneva. I know this is quite out of the ordinary but I've been hearing things you might
find interesting ..." Suddenly tense, he looked around to see if anyone was shadowing him.
In a whisper, he continued: " ... about Alpha." Victor cleared his throat and Helena
realized, with a start, that Professor Bergman was afraid. Something was urgent but
frightening him enough for Victor to attempt a call he was ill prepared to complete. "I'm
coming to New York on the next available flight. Expect me around nine o'clock tonight.
I'll explain everything then." the screen blanked.

Helena sank down on the sofa slowly. She awaited the next message.

It was Koenig: "Helena, we have to talk." His face was stolid yet edged with a tinge
of emotion which was very familiar to her. "I know you don't want to hear from me but
..." The eyes flashed a message of affirmation, "I ... We need to talk." His lower lip was
on the verge of trembling but not quite. "I'll call again." Blank.

Was he calling from Fiji? Helena couldn't tell. A solid gray wall was behind John and
she wasn't able to make out background noise.

Next: "You have no idea how much I hate you!"

The shriek came before Helena could make out the stumbling human figure on her monitor.
Marcia Gilcrest's body was reeling from side to side, the colorful caftan she wore
billowing and deflating as she moved. It was obvious to Helena, as it would be to anyone
watching, that the socialite was distressed and intoxicated.

"How could you do this to me!?" Marcia's words slurred and she was having a terrible
time keeping on her feet. It might have been funny if it wasn't tragic. "I was the one! He
should be marrying me! We had plans ..." As the tears slid down her cheeks, so did a good
portion of the woman's eye makeup. "I wanted him so much! He's going places ... and he
loved me before you ruined everything!" A sob and swipe at her disheveled hair, "Doctor, I
*need* him more than you. How can you be so cruel?"

Helena looked away from the monitor. Saddened, embarrassed and - yes - a little guilty.
John obviously told Marcia he was seeing another woman and Miss Gilcrest, having
connections, pin pointed who her lover was interested in. Could she blame her for being
resentful? Helena wasn't sure. Marcia had always been a name to her, surrounded by an
enigma, until she finally met her at the party. An enigma has no feelings but a human
being does. Perhaps, in trying to catch John, Helena had miscalculated just how deeply
Marcia's feeling for the man extended. Still, what about Fiji?

Helena looked up at the monitor, recognizing the well decorated background of the
woman's fancy apartment. The time clock positioned at the corner of the screen announced
2:15pm. This message was made a little less than an hour ago. Marcia and John should have
been well on their way by then.

"You will pay for this, Doctor Russell! I'll see to it that your license is pulled and
your reputation totally destroyed! I've heard things about you ..." Perhaps if Marcia
wasn't so emotionally wrought, she wouldn't have said such incriminating things, Helena
thought. After all, she was speaking to an answering machine and this afforded Helena
ample evidence if Marcia actually decided to carry out her threats. Finally, "But you
watch ... He'll come back to me! He'll leave you ravaged and alone. I know this! I know my
John!"

So, John left Marcia and now he wanted to speak with Helena. Very interesting.

Helena leaned her head back, eyes closed. Despite her pity for defeated Marcia, she had
to feel good about John's decision. It would have been easy for him to just go to Fiji and
forget about the woman left behind, especially after their appalling fight last night. But
he'd been honorable. He told Marcia straight out he was in love with another and couldn't
keep stringing her along. It must have been tough for him because, Helena knew, he wasn't
yet certain what their relationship now consisted of. For all John knew, Helena was ready
to toss him aside without a second thought. Yet, he knew he couldn't continue seeing a
woman he had obviously grown apart from.

Another message: "Dr. Russell, you've been prying into matters that do not concern
you." Commissioner Simmonds spoke with his typical high clipped British accent. There was
menace in his tone as well. "Professor Bergman has been making a pest of himself in
Switzerland and I've been told, by a reliable source, that it is all because of you. I
would think you could afford to be more careful considering where you've been and what
happened to you a few months ago. Oh yes, I know all about Standish and Yamoto. We will
talk, Doctor. Tomorrow morning in your office. Nine sharp." He looked off a bit as if
recalling something more he needed to tell her, "By the way, John Koenig will not be
Commander of Alpha come Monday. He will work on Alpha as the astrophysicist he is but
Alpha's first Commander, as it turns out, will be Italy's Marcela Penoise. Have Dr.
Ripperton prepare a physical." Blank.

Helena paused the machine, taking in all Simmonds said. What had Victor found? Why was
John so suddenly passed over and just who were Doctors Standish and Yamoto?

Then, the last message: "It's me again." Victor, appearing rushed and distracted.
Helena could tell he was in an airport. According to her monitor clock this was recorded
forty five minutes ago. "Helena, I'm bringing Professor Inglestour with me. He's going to
need our help. Together, we found ...." Bergman's attention was diverted and Helena could
hear another man's frantic accented voice calling: 'We must leave now!'. The connection
then broke without another word.

Doctor Russell entwined her fingers and placed her hands on her head as she leaned,
once again, back on her sofa. Dear God, she thought, what has Victor gotten himself into?
Or was it something she got him into? It suddenly occurred to Helena, but only for a
moment, that she may have drastically changed matters on Earth for the worse instead of
the better. So much was happening so fast that she could hardly keep pace with it.

Later, Helena changed clothes, slipping into a comfortable terry-cloth house robe. She
was on her way into the kitchen, thoughts of John and Victor swirling in her head, when
the door buzzer sounded. She jumped, startled. Who knew she was home? Carefully, knowing
Victor was still too far away unless he hopped an Eagle transporter instead, Helena
activated her door monitor. She had visions of Simmonds or Marcia making an impromptu
visit and she did not relish it.

"Helena, it's me. Open up."

"John?" She stood mute for a moment. Finally, Helena pressed her door opener and they
stood, face to face.

"I'm sorry, John." Helena said.

He extended his arms as if to embrace her, "I am too. Words were spoken last night that
were ..."

Helena stepped out of his way and lifted a hand. She indicated he was welcomed into her
apartment but no more. As he walked in, puzzled, she said: "I'm not sorry for what I said,
John. My anger and hurt was genuine. I think I did the right thing. However," She moved
away from him, stuffing her hands into the pockets of her robe, walking into the living
area, "I think I over-reacted a little and underestimated you. Marcia left a message on my
machine."

John bowed his head, a little embarrassed - "I thought she might."

They stood close to each other by the sofa. "What I'm really sorry about, John, is
Alpha. Simmonds told me there had been a change in Commanders."

"Oh." Now, he lifted his head and laughed a little, "Somehow, I never felt it was
right. Alpha is too new. I'd have been their paper-pusher and no more." But still, it
would have been wonderful to be there. To be a force and have his name in the history
books ...

Helena nodded and tried to meet his eyes. He felt rejected, she knew, but he wouldn't
show or admit to it. She'd known John Koenig too long not to see how he felt about his
sudden demotion. Changing the subject to something, if not happier, then a little more
down to Earth, Helena asked, "What happened to Fiji?" She wanted to tell him how upset and
frantic Marcia had been on the phone but shied away. It would only serve to make John feel
more guilty and with the stress of coming to see her capped off with Helena's knowledge of
his unexpected elimination ... It would be too much. Helena noted the familiar stress
lines around his sea blue eyes, an indication of toll being taken, and knew John had had
little sleep. The thought made her smile sadly.

Suddenly, "I love you, Helena." he said. "I've broken off with Marcia. I couldn't stand
the thought of being without you. Will you ... Can you forgive me?"

A rush of tenderness overcame Helena and she allowed herself to be embraced by him.
Their lips met and a hand lifted to touch his hair. In the back of Helena's mind she could
hear the soft hum of her television set, a news brief about the space program, and knew -
eventually - she would tell John about what could happen to the moon. Victor will be here
soon. We can tell him together. But all that mattered now was that she was here with John
... Her John ...

The delight in Helena's expression lessened, hidden by their kiss (Marcia: "I know my
John!").

Helena pulled away from him, unexpectedly awash with new uncertainty.

'Oh no, I can't be having doubts.' This was John Koenig. She'd worked hard for this
moment! Thoughtfully, Helena walked over to sit on the sofa, looking ahead of her -- as if
she was thinking a bit too deeply about something.

"What's the matter?" John asked, sitting beside her.

The television buzzed lowly before them.

"Wait." John took a hand and squeezed it, "I think I know and you don't have to worry.
I don't care about the mental institution. Marcia told me she found out about your
breakdown and the fact that you shouldn't ..." His voice slowed as he watched her
surprised expression, " ... be practicing medicine or ..."

"Where did she hear about this?"

"From your doctors -- Yamoto and Standish."

Helena shivered. Something was horribly wrong here. Never in her life did she have a
breakdown or was a patient in an institution ...

"But, as I said, it doesn't matter. Let them put it in the newspapers or run it through
the computer network. I'm leaving the space program ...."

"John!" WRONG. This is wrong.

"I can find a job anywhere and we can be married ..."

Helena could barely breath. This was insanity. Where was she?

"Oh my God." John's attention turned from Helena to something being reported on the
news. He lifted the remote to turn up the volume.

The middle aged man on the screen spoke clearly with an impressive base: "This is a
Special Report .... Flight 616 from Switzerland to New York has exploded in mid air. Among
the passengers were renown scientists, Professor Victor Bergman and Professor Byron
Inglestour ...."

"No!" Helena stood and cried.

John reached for her.

"Noooo!" She backed up, nearly stumbling on a step. Tears streamed down Helena's face.
"God, NO!" And she felt something strange, a prickly feeling that went beyond her
emotional pain. Then, there was a blue flash and the last thing Helena saw was John's face
as he lunged at her - attempting, through his own grief, to assure, care and keep her.

"Helena!" he cried.

**********

She was running but hadn't been spotted yet by any of the doctors, nurses, orderlies,
students or volunteer care givers she remembered from her time at The Lawson Center. This
place was bigger, with many halls and rooms. Finding a door to the outside was impossible.
If she could only reach a monitor phone and contact Bruce Ripperton she would be okay. He
bailed her out last time, when she convinced her friend that she was so much better than
after her husband's murder. That's what had happened. Lee was assassinated by those
bastards in Space Commission. That's one reason she fought as she did to get the Medical
Center built on Alpha. Something good had to come out of his death. But now this ... this
deception. They wanted to stop her by using confinement and it would not happen! She
couldn't allow it.

Helena ducked into an alcove when she heard the footsteps of a couple armed security
guards. They passed her, eyes searching but never making visual contact. She turned, ready
to retreat in the opposite direction, when she heard a noise. A cooing. She walked slowly
toward it and watched, through a large window, as men and women - three different couples
- played with their children.

The sight stunned her. The young ones were all babies, not yet a year, but the parents
were laughing at their antics. A stretched hand, a sneeze and a giggle were enough to make
all warble with delight. The oldest of the three, a charming dark skinned boy sitting in a
high chair, allowed his mother to spoon feed him what looked like mashed bananas. He saw
Helena before any of the others in the nursery and waved in her direction,
enthusiastically.

Alibe Gundersen looked over to where her son's attention was directed but saw nothing.
Whoever had been there was now gone.

****

"Damn it, she *one* woman! She can't be that hard to find!" Koenig bellowed at
Verdeschi over the communications console.

"John, that's just our problem." Tony patiently tried to explain, "She's one woman and
the base it big. She wasn't wearing any type of tracer in her pajamas and it's taking
time."

Koenig took a breath, touching the cream colored bandage at his temple, and relented.
"Keep at it, Tony." he said in a lower tone and pushed a button to end their transmission.

He looked up, aware that a few in Command Center were watching him. Koenig was letting
current events get the better of him and knew his people were suffering because of it.
During the past four days he'd hardly been near his desk and many were wondering if their
Commander wasn't allowing the base to move toward ruin because of an emotional issue. Few
would actually comment, most being loyal, but he knew what they were thinking and John
couldn't really blame them. He'd feel the same if in their shoes.

Actually, hadn't he accused Helena (if not verbally then mentally) of doing just what
he was doing when she jumped ahead, excitement on high, and gave herself the flu? At least
she'd been professional, doing what she did for the good of the base. He was being rash
simply because something he wanted wasn't being done fast enough. Just like a little boy.

Maya glanced once at Yasko and stood. She crossed over to her Commander, "Anything I
can do to help?" She asked, quietly.

Koenig half smiled, "No, you have enough on your mind."

"True." She reached down and touched her slightly swelling tummy, "But it doesn't
prevent me from wanting our Helena back. More than ever I need her advice and
friendship." Focusing, she shrugged. "I guess I've been making that very clear to anyone
who wants to hear it. I just don't believe that woman is Helena, John. And ..." She
hesitated, " ... I know that's why you haven't been seeking me out for answers. You wanted
so much to believe she is yours but that" she nodded towards his bandage, "pretty well
says it all. Helena never would have hurt you like that, ill or not."

"Ill or not ..." John repeated. For awhile he thought her experimentation with the flu
virus might have added to Helena's problems, causing brain damage during the Tagleon
probe. But now he didn't think so. She told him there would be no long range side effects
and he should have believed her. He should have done a lot of thing, as it turned out.

"Commander!" Yasko called, "I'm picking up a signal. It's far away but gaining
momentum."

Maya ran to her console and analyzed the numbers popping up on the screen.

"John!" Verdeschi called over his console, "We found Helena but something happened. She
was in front of us one minute, cornered by guards, but then it was as if a giant whirlpool
opened up in the middle of the hall, sucking her under. Honest to God, John. She screamed
and disappeared and that was the last we saw her."

Suddenly, the base began to shake ....

******

She was floating again in an airless void. Helena could see the stars all around her,
resting in their black velvet night cloth, yet she could breath. "Is it you?" she asked.

"Yes. I am Yur." came a disembodied voice.

"Do I know you?"

"Not personally, but you've met the beings I serve. The Tagleons."

"You are not a Tagleon?"

"No. I am as human as you. Or, at least, I was. It's been well over two hundred years
since my abduction. Now, I teach and the Tagleons listen and learn."

"What could you teach them?"

"They are fascinated by humans. They are a race, millions of years old, and have
knowledge of many things. But human emotion is the one trait which continually escapes
their grasps. Really, they are like my children."

"Are you taking me back to Alpha?"

"Yes. It is time. Your friends are not doing well without you and ..." The voice which
echoed around Helena paused, " ... error was made where you were."

"Earth, you mean."

"Yes, it was Earth but not your Earth. The Tagleons couldn't take you back to your own
planet because what happened to your people on the moon was preordained. So, they took you
to another Earth, in a different dimension, but one that was quite nearly the duplicate of
yours."

"Is that why everyone seemed the same yet so different to me? Was it a world that
doesn't truly exist?"

"Oh, doctor. It exists. You traded places with the Helena Russell of that world. It
seemed a logical exchange to the Tagleons. But the children didn't take into account that
you might disrupt that world with your well intentioned deeds."

"Did I do wrong? Was I responsible for Victor Bergman's death?"

The voice hesitated, "I am sorry." Then, "It was never meant to happen to him like
that. But there is nothing we can do now. However, corrections have already been made.
Where one moon is expelled another must remain and when one man dies another must live. It
must balance."

So, Victor didn't die in the plane and the moon is going to remain where it is. Helena
sighed in relief.

*******


"Helena!" Koenig shouted as the doorway in space opened, flinging Doctor Russell across
Command Center to lay on her back next to their wall computer. He ran to her and helped
the woman to at first sit then stand.

She was dressed in the pink house robe she left Earth in. Part of her mind, still not
quite in sinc with the significance of what was happening, wished she could have brought
something more with her. Alpha needed more.

"Where am I?" Helena asked groggily. She was shaky on her feet.

"Helena?" Koenig put his hands firmly on her shoulders and looked into puzzled green
eyes. He had to be sure. "Do you remember our last conversation while in your quarters?"

"Of course. You were angry with me because I caught the flu ..." And then the full
impact of what he asked came to Helena and she laughed, "I'M HOME!" and threw her arms
around him, spontaneously kissing John on the lips.

Koenig held her tightly, "Oh, I missed you!"

"John, we just heard!" a familiar voice announced as he and Tony rushed into Command
Center, "Thank God, Helena. We were so worried ..." He stopped when she turned and looked
at him in shock. "What is it?"

"Victor?"

He stood before Helena and the others, wearing his uniform and appearing mildly
troubled by her stare, "I hope so. Did you go to Earth as we suspected, Helena? You would
not believe the woman who was here, replacing you while you were away. She ..."

But, of course. Why wouldn't Victor be here ("Corrections have already been made ...")?
Where else would he be? They didn't see as much of him as they used to. He retired to his
lab once Maya came aboard. Gratefully, he relinquished his post as Science Officer and
elected to be an advisor. But his continuing contributions to the base benefited all.

Helena sighed her contentment. More than once John had asked what Alpha would do
without Professor Bergman. He was special and the moonbase would probably only limp on
without his intelligence and experience.

*******

One week passed.

Helena discovered that although she spent nearly two months on Earth it had been less
than a week since she was kidnapped from Moonbase Alpha. Very little changed. The children
were well, as was the expectant Maya. Medical Center managed to putter along, although
Mathias took a well earned two day holiday.

Victor admitted to Koenig that it was he who encouraged the research of Alpha's new flu
vaccine. He never knew Professor Fairfax talked Helena into using it on herself. Bergman
believed it was all her own doing but he admitted to not wanting to stop them either.
"Sometimes we have to take risks, John." Victor reminded, "It may not stand well with
those we love and who love us in return but, at least in this case, the results are
sometimes astounding!"

She sat in a lounge chair in the moonbase's swimming pool area and looked at the water
as it lapped against the navy colored trimming. It was after hours and peaceful. Sometimes
Helena just came here to be alone and think, as she was doing right now.

"Am I interrupting?" John Koenig pulled up a chair and sat facing her, "I'll leave if
you would rather be alone."

"No." Helena gazed at him, thoughtful yet compliant. The fingers on her left hand
lifted to touch the small cut at his temple. John told her how he received the wound. "I'm
glad you're here. I want to talk." A three second pause, "I want to get married, John."

Cut off before he could start a sentence, Koenig stared at her, unsure of what she just
said. "What?" His reply bounced off of the tall concrete walls about them, making the
moment nearly surreal.

"I think we should get married." Helena repeated, quietly. "I love you and want to be
your wife." When he said nothing, she started to get a little worried. Perhaps by refusing
him so many times she had made his initial offers null and void? "John?"

He sighed, "Why *now*, Helena?" John reached out and rubbed her arm with his left hand
as it lay on the chair's rest. He was happy but curious. And why, of all places, were they
having this discussion near the pool? Despite their solitude, it was hardly the intimate
setting Koenig had in mind for such a chat. Luckily, the echo wasn't as bad as it might be
if buffers hadn't been installed in the walls a couple years ago.

"I've seen what my world could be like without you." Helena bit her bottom lip, emotion
betraying her, and looked away from him. "I survived but was deeply unhappy while on
Earth. I need your companionship and want you to know, by marrying you, that I respect
your opinion and beliefs." She almost said she also wanted him to be the father of her
children but stopped just short of the comment. They hadn't crossed that road yet and
probably never would. It didn't matter. Helena would still live a long, happy life with
her husband. Children or not.

"But you're not just doing it for me. *You* want marriage too, right?"

She looked at him. The sincerity in those eyes could not be doubted, "Yes, John. I want
it -- with all my heart." and she leaned forward for his kiss.

********

***"Yes, my children. We shall keep an eye on these Alphans. I see a possible home for
them not too far away. Yet, there will be problems. Bad things. I fear there is another
power out here, very close, who wants them harmed.
What is that? You want to intervene? Ah ... no. We cannot do that. You saw what
happened when you thought you could take the woman and ... Yes, it was sound theory. But
you forgot to count on unpredictability.
Perhaps you're right. If nothing more, we can talk with our malevolent neighbors. They
have intelligence. Perhaps we can reason with them ..."
After all, who in space really wants to destroy Moonbase Alpha?"***



((To be continue in the final Chapter of ALPHAN QUEST .... "The Discovery"))