Back to main page

A Thousand Ships

Authors: Em Wycedee
Categories: John/Helena
Show Year: Y1
Rating: NC-17
Date: 2001
John Koenig and Helena Russell are profoundly affected by a passing fleet of ships
Average Rating: 5.0/5 (based on 8 reviews)

Space: 1999 fans tend to be a cerebral, technologically clever lot. What follows is a Year One John Koenig/Helena Russell love story which is neither. Be forewarned that it contains scenes of explicit lovemaking and vague science, with no guarantees of canonicity as I am a latecomer to the fandom. Thanks to Laura for telling me about The Love Test and to Cheryl for telling me about "One Moment of Humanity." There are several ancient versions of the legend of Helen of Troy; for the purposes of this story I've used the one that's kindest to women, assuming that Helen's mother was not a rape victim and Helen didn't choose to betray her husband. The characters herein at one time belonged to ITC Television, but they've been in the hands of fans for decades.

A communicator buzz pulled John Koenig back to reality, dispersing the dream that had taken him far from Moonbase Alpha. He stabbed at the acknowledgement button with his finger, hoping his expression wouldn't reveal his residual arousal. The monochromatic image of Paul Morrow replaced the radiant figure fading from his consciousness. John had been afraid of facing the woman from his dream, though he also longed to see her, which troubled him. He needed to be able to consult with Alpha's senior medical officer with no personal agendas getting in the way.

It was just as well that John had no time to indulge the fantasy his sleeping mind had concocted. His relationship with Helena was still tenuous, with her husband newly lost and the entire staff under great stress as the Moon headed deep into uncharted space. Pushing private yearnings aside, Commander Koenig gazed levelly at the screen. "What's happening, Paul?"

"We've picked up a large fleet of ships on the long-range monitors. They're out of hailing range, but coming closer."

"I'll be right there. Notify Alan and Victor. And Helena." John hoped Paul hadn't noticed the slight pause when he said the final name. He'd almost said "Dr. Russell" because her given name seemed too intimate, but he'd already called the other crewmen by their first names so it would have been awkward not to address Helena the same way.

And he would be meeting with her in just a few minutes. A twinge of excitement raced through John, which he tried to suppress. Though they were becoming good friends and he often felt chemistry between them, he had no reason to believe she might be willing to breach the professional boundaries they had established. They had risked their lives for one another, which had brought them closer but also emphasized the hazards of caring too much. His current turmoil indicated that he was already over-involved.

Forcing his attention back to Paul, John gave a sharp nod to convey an authority he didn't feel at the moment. If the mission control specialist noticed his commander's hesitation, he didn't react. "Very good," Paul said and broke the connection. John struggled into a clean uniform and strode toward the control room, nearly knocking over Sandra Benes in his haste.

Frenetic activity electrified Main Mission. "There must be a thousand ships, sir!" Morrow reported anxiously. "Computer hasn't been able to give us an accurate count. But it does confirm life signs."

"Of an indeterminate nature, and also an indeterminate number." Dr. Helena Russell strode toward them, her gait controlled yet energetic, betraying her excitement. It usually took Helena longer than John to arrive at Main Mission, for her quarters were near the medical center, but she had apparently studied the initial reports.

"Anything else you can tell us?" he asked her.

"Not about the readings, but I had a strange dream," she replied. John felt heat suffuse his face and bent close to a monitor, feigning interest in the miniscule blips crossing the screen. Helena continued, "Something was trying to communicate with me to learn about Alpha. A presence, I felt. It was curious but not malevolent. Then for one minute I was the presence, and I could travel anywhere I wanted on Alpha without leaving my quarters. And then I woke up."

"Really," deadpanned Alan Carter, in a tone just short of condescending. "Did you go anyplace interesting?"

"Certainly not your quarters, Alan." Paul's interjection made Sandra and Victor smile. But Helena still wore a serious expression.

"It was very vivid. It wasn't at all like a typical dream experience. Everything was crystal clear, and I saw things I've never consciously noticed before, like the seams in the bulkheads of the isolation bays."

"Look. Those ships are holding formation, matching our velocity exactly." Victor pointed at the screen right in front of John's face. With a start the commander realized he had been staring unseeing at it since Helena started talking.

"Can we hail them?"

"Not from this distance."

"We could send Eagles, but they might view that as a hostile move." John stood, jabbing a finger at the monitor. "A fleet that size must have a home base somewhere. A planet...or several planets. They must have data about this entire region."

"Sir, if we send an Eagle to contact them, we might be able to find a suitable planet for Operation Exodus." Carter couldn't resist the prospect of piloting a ship on a potentially heroic mission. "I volunteer to..."

"I haven't made any decisions yet, Alan," John interrupted, more sharply than he intended. Helena stood inches away from him, prepared as always to warn of the potential risks -- as Alpha's senior medical officer, she would be called upon to try to resuscitate the astronauts if the worst happened. In a more moderate tone, John asked Sandra for an analysis of the aliens' speed and trajectory, sending Victor to investigate their probable methods of propulsion. Apologetically he clapped a hand on Carter's shoulder.

"What about Helena's dream?" inquired Victor. "We shouldn't assume it's purely a coincidence."

John started to retort that he, too, had had a strange dream the night before, then envisioned the subsequent interrogation and clamped down on the remark. "I -- maybe you should have Dr. Mathias run a scan on you," he suggested to Helena, not looking at her. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her stiffen.

"All right, Commander."

Her voice sent a chill of regret over him. Helena rarely called him "Commander" anymore, only when she wanted to emphasize the professionalism of an exchange -- usually when she disagreed with him. Was she annoyed that he had recommended Mathias instead of telling her to do the scan herself?

"I hope everything's okay," he appended lamely. "In a place like this, we all must have pretty odd dreams."

"I imagine so." Probably Helena was just trying to be polite, but her glittering gaze seemed to burn right through him. Before he could make a further fool of himself, John turned back to the monitor, focusing all his attention on the distant ships.

Several hours later Alpha's scientists had no new information about the fleet of ships. Nor did they have the results of Dr. Russell's brain scans, because a power failure in one of the grids had left the computer struggling to keep up. These added frustrations did nothing to improve John Koenig's mood.

"They're still matching our course and velocity. They appear to be studying us," Victor mused. "I suppose it's possible they haven't paid attention to our hails because they're more interested in the moon itself. To see an object this large hurtling through space at these speeds...that can't be a regular occurrence for most space-faring civilizations."

"Maybe they don't know we're here," Alan added hopefully. "If we took an Eagle, we'd be able to make direct contact..."

"Not if they don't want to talk to us." John studied the hovering ships on the monitor. "We're no match for them, Carter, there are just too many of them. Right now I think it's more prudent for us to wait and see if they make a move."

In the medical section he found Bob Mathias leaning against a desk, laughing at something Helena had said. "Oh, Commander," Mathias said, straightening when he saw John. "I still don't have that analysis of Dr. Russell's brain scans. Unofficially, she seems fine. No changes in temperament or cognition."

John cast a glance at Helena, who brushed a golden curl off her forehead as she smiled at him. "She seems to be in a better mood," he noted.

"Shouldn't I be? Bob sent me to the solarium and finished my reports." That explained her heightened color and her physical ease. Unfortunately the senior officers spent too little time in the gym and solarium -- while Alan was fanatical about his workouts, foregoing sleep if necessary to make time for his physique, John was starting to grow thick around the middle. He missed intense exercise that left him running with sweat and contentedly tired. For a brief second he imagined Helena in a solarium suit soaking up broad-spectrum rays, or stretching her lithe form in gym clothes, but he forced himself to put such fantasies aside. His trouble keeping his mind on the matter at hand only served as further indication to John that he needed more down time.

At the moment Helena looked happy and relaxed. Though John was glad to see it -- she worked nearly as many hours as he did, under similar stress, and during a crisis she often went without sleep and food -- it also surprised him. With the power grid acting up, the medical staff would be relying on manual equipment, running diagnostics on older portable devices that the computer normally rendered unnecessary. Mathias was a good man, perfectly capable of handling the situation, but Helena tended to micro-manage everything under her purview and had been known to discipline tardy officers by requiring them to work during their off shifts.

Now she rose cheerfully as Mathias waved a hand at her. "You might as well go have dinner. There's nothing else we can do here, for you or the equipment."

Helena nodded at him, but her words for John. "Would you like to join me?"

Instinctively he started to decline, thinking that he should return to Main Mission. But he had left standing orders to alert him if they detected any change in the alien fleet, no matter how miniscule. He'd only been gone for a few minutes; the ships had not changed course or speed in hours. Besides, this was Helena Russell inviting him to dinner, with a hint of a smile crinkling her eyes and a hand held out in welcome. "I'd love to," he replied truthfully. She slipped her arm through his, leading him away from the sterile medical bay toward the sound of conversation coming from the residential part of the base.

An hour later they were in her quarters, where she reminisced about her career prior to her arrival at Moonbase Alpha -- a brilliant doctor, daughter of a brilliant doctor. John listened raptly, asking questions about the choices that had led her from research science to medicine, looking at the few keepsakes she'd brought from home. He had worried that seeing Lee Russell again might have reopened old wounds, but Helena seemed at peace with the loss of her husband, content to leave Lee's memory in the past along with the pet dog in the photograph she displayed on her desk.

Before taking the job with the space commission, she had been a world traveler, spending time in Africa and the South Pacific studying rare bacteriophages. When John asked if she had brought souvenirs from those warm climates, she dug out a small collection of handmade jewelry. The bright glass and clay contrasted sharply with the drab beige and whites of her uniform. So much color, so different from her usual cool demeanor. "I like handmade things," she told him. "I studied sculpture when I was in school. Haven't had much time to practice, though."

But she had horror stories from Africa as well -- two years trying to stem blood-borne epidemics while world governments sank their research grants into weapons platforms and nuclear waste disposal. John had seen tears in her eyes before, but never knew her to shake with rage the way she did as she condemned the politicians who had raced toward Meta without stopping to consider the alien diseases spacefaring humans would face. "Thousands dead. Thousands! But all men like Dixon and Simmonds cared about was their budget. It's criminal, John."

They shared a glass of brandy. He told her about losing his parents, losing his wife during the war, nearly losing his life's work after the Ultra Probe failure. She sat across from him on her bed and stroked his arm, not at all perturbed by the personal revelations as he always feared a woman might be if he showed her his scars. Finally he realized he had better get to his office before the crew started to wonder whether something had happened to him -- he needed to make sure the engineers got a break, they'd all been working for nearly two shifts.

Regretfully he excused himself and made his way to the base's nerve center, where he found Sandra off-duty and Paul itching to get away. With a slap on the back, John dismissed him. Victor was still working, believing he had tracked some sort of psionic energy from the alien ships that was headed in the direction of Alpha. But the readings had vanished immediately and Alan insisted they must have been another computer glitch. He had stayed up too, still plotting to get into an Eagle and get a close look at the fleet, but John ordered him to get some sleep in case they decided to make the flight in the morning.

With the backups under orders to wake them all at the first sign of any change, the commander decided he should join his crew in resting before whatever the next day brought. His commlock buzzed as he was getting ready for bed, the lights dimmed although he hadn't yet taken off his uniform. John didn't bother to find out who it was before opening the door, expecting the summons to be from Main Mission where perhaps contact had finally been established with the aliens. He nearly knocked over Helena, who was waiting outside.

One look at her told him this wasn't a professional visit. She was wearing a bright natural-fiber gown -- unevenly dyed, evidently handmade -- and a cloth band that wove through her hair, emphasizing her chiseled cheekbones. "It's from South America," she explained while he stared. Mutely he gestured her inside, wishing his quarters were more interesting. He had few colorful stories from a past filled with struggles both physical and private, not all of which had been successfully resolved.

"I couldn't sleep." Helena sat on his bed, wrapping her arms around herself as if she were cold. Her fingers slid sensuously from her elbows to her shoulders. "It's odd, because I didn't sleep well last night and didn't feel rested when I woke up this morning. But I'm still full of adrenaline, like something's about to happen."

John wondered whether Mathias was making any headway on her brain scans. Aloud he said, "Maybe you're just agitated about the fleet. We're all a little on edge."

"I am curious about it, of course, but we've had so many disappointments when we've gotten excited about the possibility of finding a home..."

Her sigh was nearly inaudible. Concerned, John sat beside her, covering her hand with his. Eyes gleaming with intensity locked on his.

"Do you really think there's a chance this time?"

"I think we've already started building a community on Alpha, and when we find a place to settle, it will only cement what's already here." Helena cocked an eyebrow, and John asked himself how much he believed those words, a component of every pep talk he'd made since the Moon blasted out of Earth's orbit. For certain people -- Alan Carter who was content to be exploring space, David Kano whose first love was their computer, Victor Bergman who had never had so much freedom anywhere else, and particularly couples like Sandra and Paul -- he knew it to be true.

But the commander tried not to think about his own isolation, despite the friends he had on the base. "Are you lonely, Helena?" he asked his companion.

"I am sometimes. Aren't you?"

"Not now." She smiled at his reply, then turned her hand over in his, meshing their fingers together.

The gesture resolved the uncertainty that had spurred his query. Her unwavering gaze and the tilt of her chin invited him closer. Like an insect drawn to a flower, John gave in to the temptation to touch the softness of her hair, to inhale the sweet clean scent of her skin, to taste the nectar of her mouth.

The kiss started gently, but Helena soon wrapped her arms behind his head and pulled John to her, moving her fingers over the ridges of his skull and around his ears. She moaned into his mouth when he did the same, following his fingertips with his tongue all the way down to her collarbone. As he stroked up her abdomen from the generous hips to the hollow of her ribs, she arched into his hands, an involuntary groan escaping the back of her throat.

It wasn't a sound he'd ever imagined coming from the elegant, serene Dr. Russell -- not consciously, at least. John stared hungrily at the curve of her exposed neck as her blonde curls fell towards the bed. She leaned back on balled fists, lifting her breasts with their erect nipples poking through the fabric into his palms. His lower body pulsed and throbbed against the pressure of his uniform.

"Touch me," she begged, although it was also an order, in the honey-smooth voice that could calm him when the whole universe was blowing up in their faces. Now it made him nervous, even though her plea excited the hell out of him. John groped under her skirt with the eager clumsiness he had never quite outgrown when it came to women, particularly after so many years alone. To his gratification, Helena answered his silent prayer for guidance. "Yes, do that. Oh, right there. A little higher, just like that, right there, oh god..."

Her voice remained clear and steady, though the pitch rose as he fumbled over dry resisting skin that parted suddenly and gloriously into hot silken wetness. Helena's legs lifted off the bed, tilting her pelvis against his fingers, pressing into the rise of his palm. He slid one long digit deep inside her and put his thumb on her clitoris, hoping he was getting it right. "Ahhhh!" she cried, spreading even wider, lifting one hand off the bed to clutch his upper arm. Small beads of moisture trickled from her temple, around her ear and down her throat. Again Helena made him think of an exotic flower, opening damp and pungent in the morning heat...

Then she cried out again as her body clamped down on his probing finger. John could see the muscles in her thighs clenching and releasing while she convulsed, shaking the bed. Her skin glowed with color from her cheeks down her neck to where her torso disappeared under the gown. He felt a surge of pride.

Slowly Helena lowered the hand that was clinging to him, shifting her center of gravity as her legs returned to support her weight. His fingers slid away from her uncertainly when she opened her eyes.

"Will you make love with me, John?" she asked huskily.

"With great delight." John's voice was earnest but his grin felt buoyant enough to levitate him. Smiling back, Helena rose to her knees on his bed and bent to unfasten his uniform. He helped her pull her gown over her head before he finished undressing; that way he had time to admire her as she sat back on her heels to wait for him while he stood to remove his boots and pants.

When he had finished, he knelt facing her, unsure whether he was supposed to touch her again or wait for her. His penis pointed at her as if it were indicating its desire. "You're a big man," she said approvingly, making his face grow hot. John felt awkward and ungainly -- he had never forgotten how much discomfort he had caused his first lover, though over the years in various locker rooms men hooted and slapped his back, telling him he had it made with the ladies.

He thought perhaps Helena would stroke him and braced himself for her touch, afraid he would explode in her hands if he did not rein himself in. Instead she moved toward him on her knees to put her arms around his neck, surrounding him with warmth. She kissed the side of his face, running her fingers through his hair.

A wave of tenderness swept over John. He urged her back with his hands so that he could gaze into her eyes, the color of Earth's sea on a brilliant summer day. "Helena..." he began, in a voice hoarse with emotion.

But Helena misinterpreted his passion for a different kind of urgency. She smiled again as she cocked her head toward the wall behind the bed. "Sit," she commanded him, and John could not find his voice to speak further. He moved past her to lean against the wall, propping a pillow behind his back. Helena followed, putting her hands on his shoulders as she straddled his thighs.

"Now," she said and took him in her hand, rubbing the ridge of his erection into the satin warmth between her legs. His jaw fell open as he fought to bring air into lungs that had forgotten how to breathe. Pressing his head against the wall behind him, John fought the urge to ram himself inside her while Helena sank onto him slowly, one hand on his chest, the other cupping his groin. She lowered and raised, opening to him a little more each time until her heat enveloped him. Her lids sank shut as she tightened her muscles, sighing. When she opened her eyes, they were unfocused, cloudy with pleasure -- not completely familiar.

Unable to restrain himself, John began to move, rocking up into her. After a minute she slid her hand between him and herself, parting her fingers around the point of joining to rub them both. When the bed began to shake, he took her hips in his hands to keep her pelvis in contact with his belly. Helena's sounds increased until she was moaning in time with his thrusts, bucking in counter-rhythm. He wanted to pull her mouth to his and kiss her, but she threw her head back, tipping her breasts toward his face.

His lips closed over a nipple which grew erect in his mouth. He felt for the other with his hand, found that it, too, had stiffened to a tight peak. "John," Helena gasped. She's going to come again, he realized, but as the recognition sank in he knew he could not wait for her. He could not even reply with her name, though his fingers dug into her hip, the only warning he could manage. A cry of joy burst from his throat as he felt himself yielding, falling forward from the wall in an effort to press as deeply inside her as he could.

By the time the waves of pleasure had finished rocking him, Helena had wrapped her arms and legs around him in a tight embrace. Her lips nuzzled his throat, her fingers cupped his head and pressed against his back to hold him inside her. He did not think it was possible to be physically closer, to touch in more places, to be more open.

He knew then for certain that he did not need to see Earth again to come home.

The alert came over the interbase communication system, paging Commander Koenig to the medical center. Drowsing beside the golden warmth of the woman in his bed, he resisted the intrusion for as long as possible. Inevitably, however, he knew that he had to go.

John sat up and began to dig around on the floor for his clothes, not wanting to turn up the lights and wake Helena, who groaned and whimpered sleepily. He hoped she wasn't sore. They had made love again in the middle of the night when he roused her and pinned her beneath him before she was fully ready, though Helena rose to the occasion and locked her ankles behind his back, wrestling playfully with him. They had been rough, then tender -- starting urgently but slowing as exhaustion caught up with their bodies, extending into a drawn-out session of sensuous massage and traveling kisses, until they were both sated and limp.

All too soon he had to recover. "I have to go," he whispered.

"Anything wrong?"

"It didn't sound like an immediate crisis."

"Then stay for five more minutes." She curled into a ball around him and moved her thigh alongside his, sliding a hand across his waist to pull him down to her.

"You know I can't." John tried to sound disapproving but was entirely unsuccessful keeping a grin off his face. "We'll have time later. After we know what's going on with this fleet out there. Much more time."

"All right." She had stiffened a bit when he mentioned the fleet, and sat up beside him. "You go on. I'll meet you in a few minutes."

John frowned at the thought of Helena leaving his quarters out of uniform at this hour, something someone would surely notice. The crew was bound to find out about them sooner or later, but this was a bit too fast. Besides, he enjoyed the idea of a private romance -- a secret shared just between the two of them.

"Go back to sleep. We'll call you if we need you. I'm sure it's nothing urgent, just some new problem with the power grid."

They shared a delicious kiss of brief farewell and enduring welcome. As he crept out of his quarters, John reflected that it was odd Helena had not been summoned along with him. Anything that affected the medical section fell under her purview, even something like a power failure that she couldn't cure herself. There would still be back-up plans to be made, portable equipment to be charged, and if necessary a transfer of supplies from the Eagle emergency packs.

When he arrived, he was surprised to see Victor Bergman and David Kano as well as Bob Mathias waiting for him. "We have the results of Dr. Russell's scans," Mathias stated in a tone John didn't like a bit.


"It's not her, John." Victor was the one who answered, as if he knew Koenig would dismiss such a comment from the junior doctor and wanted to save them all the trouble of confirmation. "The brain waves show a completely new pattern. It's not at all typical for some aspects it's not typical of a human being. These are reminiscent of the psionic energy readings I got briefly from the alien fleet. Someone or something else is dominating her mind."

"That's not possible," John said emphatically, feeling slow anger building within. Either the computer was in worse shape than Kano had let on, or his scientific staff had become incompetent. "I spent the evening with her. We talked about unofficial matters that only Helena would know."

"Commander, look at these brain scans." Bob Mathias' calm, rational voice only served to infuriate John further. "This is from three weeks ago, and this is from this morning. These are entirely different patterns. Something has altered her centers of speech and reason. It may be mimicking Dr. Russell, but it's not her."

"I'm telling you, it is her. She has her memories. She has the same wants and needs she's always had." John could feel Victor staring at him, figuring out what had happened the evening before. He heard his voice rise but was unable to stop it. "She knows private things that aren't in any file. Intimate things!"

"If Dr. Russell is being controlled by an alien being, it's possible that presence could tap into her memories and feelings."

"She's not being controlled by anyone!"

"John." Victor spoke quietly. "You couldn't have known. We all believed it was her until we saw these scans."

"You didn't spend the night with her, Victor! That wasn't some alien pretending to be Helena -- it was Helena!" Out of the corner of his eye John saw Kano cover his mouth with his hand, while Victor studied the floor. Horrified at his own unprofessionalism, John nevertheless continued to rant, certain his crew was about to recommend some sort of exorcism that might permanently damage the woman in question. "It doesn't make sense. Think about this! She could have gone anywhere on Alpha, she could have gotten the computer to tell her anything about us. You can't tell me some alien creature took over her body and pretended to be her just to be with me."

"Perhaps it thought that by knowing our commander, it would understand us." Bob's eyes were sympathetic, nonjudgmental. "Or perhaps, as Victor said, it tapped into her memories and wanted to be with you."

A tight, nauseous feeling began to coalesce in John's gut. He didn't want to tell Mathias that Helena's mind couldn't have tapped into memories of making love with him because it had never happened before. Yet he suspected that was vital information -- the proof, in all likelihood, that they were right, that Helena Russell did not control her own actions but was under the influence of something that had lowered her inhibitions at the very least.

Dear God, thought John. He had taken Helena if not against her will then at minimum without her consent. Even if an alien presence were responsible for violating her, his body had performed the act. The tightness moved to his chest, where it threatened to choke him. Those scant hours of happiness meant the end of whatever hope there had been to nurture a real relationship with Helena, to break down barriers they had discussed only the day before...

She was someone else. And even if they got her back, he had lost her.

"Fix the damn computer and figure out what happened to Dr. Russell," he managed to say to Kano and Bergman. Then he walked out of the impromptu conference, concentrating only on keeping his composure until he was out of sight.

The library area of the recreation center was deserted, its door sealed. John used his commlock to open it, taking refuge in the stacks of data saved in drawers on small discs. At first he could not even control his breathing, swallowing great gulps of air that did not assuage the pain in his chest. Eventually the cramp moved lower, as if he'd been punched in the stomach. He sat down and tried to think.

Had he suspected? How could he not have? "I didn't want to," he muttered aloud. So he had deliberately ignored the evidence, and made his choices based solely on his desires -- a direct violation of who and what he was, of the responsibility of command. He had sold his soul. A memory came to John, so apt it made him wince at the irony. Rising and rummaging in the drawers, he found the disc containing Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, the pleas of a damned man to another Helena, long ago:

Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies!
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.

The beautiful queen of Greek legend had driven men to destroy a kingdom. Surely John Koenig would not be so weak. Yet his eyes clouded with sorrow as he remembered his Helena flushed and glowing, wrapping him in warmth like nothing he'd felt since his last day on Earth. Even before the previous night, simply being near Helena had brought him peace, giving him the strength to cope with dying astronauts and destroyed hopes.

The thought of losing her was intolerable.

John stared unseeing at the text of Doctor Faustus, lost in recollections both personal and epic. The King of Sparta had launched a thousand ships to bring home the woman he loved. All those who had cared for Helen had followed their leader to save her -- even the ones who felt betrayed by them both. No matter the jealousies and pride among the men in her world, the queen had been held blameless, and her people had been willing to sacrifice their kingdom to retrieve her.

How could he do less for Helena?

Straightening his uniform, John strode from the library to the center of the base. Though Main Mission was abuzz with activity, it fell eerily silent as he entered, letting him know without a sound that gossip had already spread. It was too late for him to worry about protocol, so he dismissed it as irrelevant. Dr. Russell was extremely popular among the crew, a well-liked and highly respected figure to whom they entrusted their lives and well-being. No one would challenge an order to protect her, no matter what they thought of their commander's motives.

"Carter," he said. "Prepare the Eagles for launch. All of them. Paul, calculate a trajectory to intercept that fleet. Kano, I want computer working overtime -- see that there are no more power failures. It's about time we got some answers." He spun on his heel. "I'll be in the medical section...questioning Dr. Russell. Have Professor Bergman meet me there."

He summoned the woman from his quarters in a neutral voice of command, requesting that she come to the medical center prepared to assist with research. She arrived in uniform, crisp and unruffled even when she learned her own brain scans were the source of concern. Her initial insistence that the discrepancy must have been a computer glitch sounded so convincing that even Mathias seemed on the verge of believing her before Bergman double-checked the systems and proved her a liar.

It was very hard to talk to her, especially when her first response was to show concern at his anger, to flinch from his accusations. And especially with Victor there, observing when she touched him, trying to reestablish the connection between them. It was excruciating not to respond to her, not to play it her way. Only his concern for the real Helena enabled John to carry on the interrogation.

"Tell me what's wrong, John," pleaded the Helena-shape, reaching for him once more. He pushed her roughly away. "You're trying to hurt me. I don't understand."

"You have hurt all of us. You've taken our doctor away."

"But I am Dr. Russell."

"No. You may be able to access her knowledge, but you will never be Helena Russell. We want her back."

The woman's eyes grew sad, wistful. "I didn't know you would make it so difficult to love you, John Koenig."

"You do not love me," he raged. "Or you would never have betrayed me -- or her -- like this."

From his position by the monitors, Dr. Mathias signaled for John's attention. "Her brain wave patterns are changing again," he reported. "I can't tell whether it's because she's agitated or if the real Helena is starting to reassert her dominance."

"Is Helena still alive?" Victor asked the thing in her body.

"Of course. I wouldn't harm my -- " She broke off abruptly. Her eyes clouded, as if she were regarding something inside her own head, the cleared just as suddenly as she glared at John. "You've sent ships!"

"Of course I sent ships! You've been here taking advantage of us without telling us the first thing about who you are or what you want! That's going to stop!"

Now her expression was one of alarm and profound sorrow, as her wide eyes rounded and her lips parted. "You must not do this, John. Recall the ships."

"Give me back Helena and I'll consider it." Though Victor made a gesture warning him not to make promises, John ignored him; no matter how curious he might have been about the fleet, getting Helena back was more important to all of them.

"But the danger...!"

"Those Eagles are not turning around until Dr. Russell has been returned."

Now John could see the wildly fluctuating readings on Mathias' monitor, just as clearly as he could read the struggle in the woman before him. "I'm sorry, John." God, she sounded like Helena. "We only wanted to know about your people. To share your lives. Our world was destroyed by plague. All the survivors are infected, even the children. We are all dying. We cannot make planetfall in any inhabited system, and we cannot risk direct contact with any other species. But sometimes we enter the minds of those who are receptive, so that we can remember how it feels to be alive. To feel love."

John looked around at the stricken faces of Victor and Bob. "Maybe we can help you," he began. "Helena is a doctor. Maybe she..."

"No. She is a bright and sensitive woman who cares deeply for others, but there is no knowledge in this mind that could save us." The woman with Helena's form removed the medical monitors attached to her and rose, backing away from them. "On behalf of all my people, I apologize. We will depart from Dr. Russell and your computer, and stop intruding on your thoughts. Please recall your ships."

And she collapsed toward the floor. John caught her before she fell, lifting her back onto the cot, where Dr. Mathias immediately focused on reviving her.

When she came to, she was just Helena Russell, with no memory of anything since the approach of the fleet -- not even her dream of wandering the ship. She looked pale, ethereal, nothing like the vibrant woman John had touched only hours earlier. When he stiffly greeted her, Helena's smile wilted at his aloofness, but he was quite unable to reach out to her.

Instead he went to the center of the base to recall the Eagles. Victor found him there, hiding in his office with the doors shut.

"You have to tell her, John."

"Not until the ships are back."

"No, I can oversee from here. You need to get down to the isolation bay. This isn't something you can leave for her to read in a medical report. She has to hear it first from you."

"I know that, Victor." He didn't bother to add that he didn't know how to tell her -- where to start, how to apologize. "What do I do if she files charges?"

"She won't file charges. She'll understand you had no way of knowing she wasn't in control of her actions..."

"That doesn't mean she'll ever forgive me."

Victor was silent for a long time. Finally he said, "All you can do is ask."

He had thought it would be easier to talk if he were alone with Helena, but when Mathias tactfully excused himself, John found himself petrified, desperately wishing someone else were there to back up his claims that her behavior had given them no reason to suspect she was not in full possession of her faculties. She listened calmly as he recounted their conversation in her quarters, seeming discomfited that she had shown her jewelry to him, yet not troubled about sharing her background and political views.

"I must have bored you, going on about myself like that," she mused.

"Not at all. I was...enthralled." That earned him a long glance, but without rancor. Again he told her the secrets of his past that he'd revealed the night before, feeling as if he'd been unfaithful to this woman by sharing such intimacies with an alien wearing her face. Again she gave him her full sympathy, without recoiling when he discussed his marriage or his mission failures. John knew Helena could sense that something was upsetting him, but she waited for him to tell her without asking, as if her psychiatric instincts told her to let him explain in his own time. Her face flushed in embarrassment when he described her arrival at his quarters in an exotic gown, but she did not seem to doubt him -- surely she knew she owned such a garment.

"What did I do then?" she inquired with a bit of trepidation.

"I'm sorry. I would have stopped it if I had known. I never planned it, Helena. I didn't know, so I didn't try to stop, I had no idea..."

The unease furrowing her brows coalesced into wide-eyed fear. "Don't tell me we..."

But John found that he couldn't answer, because he could not face the disavowal that would follow the confession. He could only apologize. " sorry, I would never hurt you, I'd take it back if I could..."


"...wish we could start over again, but I can't undo it. And I meant everything even if you don't remember..."


" I feel -- that was real even if you weren't. I only said it because I thought it was you, just you, you're the only..."


Her raised voice snapped him to attention, his eyes on her face, imploring. She didn't look angry, she looked sad, which was worse -- he could have tolerated her anger, he had it coming, but to know that he had wounded her was unbearable. "And the worst part is, I still feel the same way," he blurted, unable to stop. "Please, Helena, no matter how you feel about me now, you have to believe that it was an act of love."

For a moment they were both silent, staring at one another. Then her mouth twisted, and her eyes filled with tears. John couldn't accept another moment of causing her pain. He turned and fled, brushing past Bob and Victor, ignoring an exclamation from Paul Morrow as he raced to his office and locked the door.

Only much later, when he had recovered enough presence of mind to ask computer for an update, did he learn that the departing alien fleet had broadcast star maps and data on inhabited systems covering hundreds of light years. And that Dr. Russell had sent them all her medical files, even the personal ones she'd kept on Earth, containing every scrap of knowledge she could gather about the treatment of plague.

She came to him in uniform, as if it were armor she needed to protect herself. Yet she came to his quarters, late at night when there could be no mistaking her visit as Alpha business. She looked troubled, uncertain, not at all like the Helena he'd grown to love -- not just this past day but ever since the Moon broke Earth's orbit and went missing deep in space.

It devastated John to think that after all she had been through, he was responsible for causing her distress. He wanted badly to put his arms around her, to offer any comfort he could, but he knew he could not risk touching her unless she initiated it. So he stood and paced while she sat on his bed, her hands crossed in her lap as if they were at a briefing.

"I don't blame you for what happened," she began.

His response was automatic. "Helena, I'm sorry. I'm sick about it."

"I know that. I read the medical report; I realize you couldn't have known. You don't have to keep apologizing."

"I feel terrible. It's an unforgivable violation..."

"You're making yourself suffer more than I am, John. I'm the one who should feel violated, and I don't think it was unforgivable under the circumstances. Let it go."

"I can't. I would never, ever take advantage of you like that."

"Never?" Incredibly, Helena smiled, though her eyes darted away from his. "I don't know whether to be relieved or disappointed. Can you move past your recriminations so we can get beyond this?"

John didn't want his own guilt to get in the way of whatever friendship they might salvage, though he found it hard to believe she was so willing to dismiss the incident -- especially after he'd tried to force his passions on her again just by telling her about them. "If that's what you want, I'll try," he told her.

"Good." She started to ask another question, smiled self-consciously and looked across the room. Then she turned back to him. "What was it like?"

"What was...?"

"Last night. Can we talk about that?"

So she planned to press for details after all. John wanted to beg her to leave them be, the memories he longed to consign to oblivion before they began to consume him, but he knew he owed her that much. Reluctantly he nodded.

"What do you want to know?"

"Well, it seems to have made quite an impression on you. I'd like to know what I missed." Unconsciously she twisted the ring she wore on her fifth finger. John felt his hands start shaking, and damned them to hell. It did not escape her notice. "That bad?"

"That good."

"Was I nervous?"

"No." He grinned in spite of himself. "You were fearless. But I was terrified."

"Of what?"

"A lot of things. Mostly that you'd think I was a bumbling idiot. I guess I've assured that now." Helena laughed and reached out a hand, tugging him toward her, so he sat beside her, hoping she wouldn't mind his clammy skin. "I'm still terrified."

"But you've been here before. I haven't. Or at least I don't remember." She shifted on the bed as if it had suddenly become uncomfortable. "I haven't...since Lee. Not here on Alpha, either. Before he disappeared on the mission to Jupiter. It's been a long time."

In contrast to his previous, willing amnesia on the subject, John tried to remember Helena's husband. When they encountered Lee Russell, years after the disastrous incident that had thrown him far across the galaxy, Helena had seemed to care for Lee still. But had she loved him passionately? They had never spoken afterwards of the choices she had made, but John did not believe Helena had fought to stay with her husband. He did believe she had fought for his own life.

"That me you were with," she added hesitantly. "Whatever tricks she performed...I hope you won't be unhappy if I'm not as fearless."

Hope leapt in John's chest to replace the dull ache plaguing him. "I could never be unhappy with you," he promised sincerely. He understood her nervousness -- if he had been her lover in a past he could not remember, he would have been concerned about her expectations, too. That she had been celibate for so many years was something the alien hadn't confessed the night before, either. There were still so many intimacies left unshared. "I'm sorry if I overreacted. I was afraid of losing you. We don't have to rush things."

A reassured smile crossed her face, yet she forged onward. "We've waited long enough, John. We haven't kept our feelings a secret, we just didn't talk about them. You were right to think it was time. I'm just sorry it wasn't me."

"Helena." He took her face in his hands. "There's only been you since I've been here. Since we lost Earth. You've kept me going." She parted her lips to speak but he ran his thumb over them, silencing her with a shake of his head. "It didn't surprise me that you were fearless because you've been fearless all along. Whatever the universe throws at us, you face it and find the good in it. When you came to me, I couldn't believe how lucky I was. I was afraid I wouldn't be the man you deserved, but you helped me, you showed me what you wanted, and it was what I wanted..."

While he spoke, Helena turned her head so that her mouth brushed across his fingers. Now she parted her lips to taste his thumb, sucking gently as her tongue swirled across the surface. John felt the tug through his body, pulling his groin to attention. With his thumb still in her mouth, she turned mischievous eyes to his.

"Tell me," she entreated, lifting her head. "Show me what I wanted."

So he drew her face to his and kissed her, and the thrill made him hot and shivery and wild and weak just like before. And like before she began to explore his lips and mouth, then his neck and torso, using her hands and her body to let him know where she wanted him. John was more confident and perhaps more aggressive than the first time, but Helena seemed to enjoy that as well when his fingers began to roam.

She was not as demanding vocally, but the poised assurance of her touch remained, particularly when her fingernails began to toy with his nipples through his shirt as she gently raked his chest. Realizing that the responsiveness she'd shown the night before had been all Helena, not some hormone-driven invader controlling her actions, John finally stopped drawing comparisons. By then he was rock-hard, moving his hips involuntarily against hers. Helena lay back on his bed, smiling with the unfocused gaze of desire that had seemed so alien before it became wonderfully familiar. Quickly he stripped off his clothes and hers, leaving them unencumbered when he moved down her torso to the warm wetness that reminded him of Earth's oceans and assured him her arousal was genuine.

Helena rocked against his face as if she were kissing him with her entire body, groaning in encouragement when he touched certain spots, until once more she said his name and cried out, convulsing. Her low, musical voice never sounded more beautiful. And she was his again. John's feelings overwhelmed him; he pressed his face into her belly and clung to her, trying not to scare her off with the intensity of his emotions. When finally she whispered, "Come here," he closed his eyes and kissed her blindly as he moved up the bed to lie beside her.

Helena shifted beneath him, but John suddenly wanted to make love with her just as he had before, to supplant the unreal first experience with this one. "Not like this," he said hoarsely. "What you wanted..." He rolled and sat back against the wall, drawing her towards him by her arms.

Realizing his intention, she rose onto her knees and moved over him. "Like this?" She smiled. He nodded, transfixed by her eyes, so glad Helena was willing to make love with the lights on. Concentrating on her face helped his stamina, so that she came before him this time, immersing him in warmth that again reminded him of being on a tropical island somewhere far from the artificial environment of the sterile base.

Afterwards she glowed in his arms, serene as the moon, yet nothing like the chaste lunar goddesses of mythology -- still an exotic blossom, warm and fragrant and so soft. Sometime he would have to give her a flower, he thought, something beautiful from the hydroponics unit.

Different myths about the original Helen claimed she had burst from a flower or hatched from an egg that fell from the moon. John recalled the stories about the woman for whom the greatest heroes of legend had followed their kings into battle. He smiled at the realization that his crew had done the same...not just for Helena, but for him.

"What's funny?"

"Nothing. Everything. I'm just so happy. Are you?"

"Mmmhmm," she said sleepily, shifting so that his cheek was pillowed on her breasts. "Tomorrow let's find a nice planet to settle, and everything will be perfect." He glanced up at the curve of her cheekbone, drawing favorable comparisons with the face that launched a thousand ships -- part goddess, part swan, the bards said, her parentage immortalized in the constellations of the night sky on Earth.

Now the most familiar object of that sky was gone. The dwellers on the Moon traveled among stars more distant than the ancients could have imagined. John recited, "'Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips, and all is dross that is not Helena.'"

"Doctor Faustus?" she asked. Her voice was light but held a serious undertone. "You don't have to sell your soul for me, John."

"Let's be glad I didn't have to."

This time, he added silently. For he knew that if it came to that, he would.

Copyright (c) 2001. Reprinted with permission.
Space:1999 is (c) 1976 by Carlton International Media.
All stories are the property of their respective authors.

Database last modified in 2018.

If this page does not display correctly, switch to the Plain Text layout