This was the part he had the least talent for even under the best of circumstances; the waiting, the inactivity,
the powerlessness. He possessed many traits that made him good at this job. Patience wasn’t among them. Several times,
he considered going down and assisting the crews with the graphiting process, but even he knew he’d be more in the way
than a help. In his current state, he’d just end up getting irritated with everyone and decide that he could do the
entire job more efficiently by himself and say things which he’d have to apologize for later. He knew they were doing
the best they could. He knew everyone was.
John stared out the viewport of his office while he waited for a status update on the re-fitted Eagle. He seemed
to spend a lot of his time staring out the viewport…that and nagging Technical at all hours were his two new hobbies…
His mind drifted and veered, turned over scenarios of horrors he couldn’t face, sought comfort in treasured
memories. He found no solace. Even his memories offered no consolation as he gazed at the harsh vista outside, knowing that
memories of her might be all he had left. These were going to be the longest two days of his life.
He wished he’d never sent them out. He should have delayed till they learned more about this new atmosphere
that had been provided, should have waited to see if it was stable. What other compounds were in it that they knew nothing
about besides whatever had joined forces with the moon’s own regolith and wreaked havoc with the machinery?
He wished there was some guarantee that the moon would go into orbit. What if it didn’t and they couldn’t
be found in time? What if they couldn’t be found?
He wished just one damned Eagle could get back in the air…
…He wished he’d kissed her in the rain.
On their first day of experiencing atmosphere, while nearly all of Alpha had, with his permission, abandoned
their posts and gone rushing outdoors to play in the sunshine, the two of them and a varying skeleton crew had remained on
duty. They’d spent a lot of time looking out the windows and enjoying the day vicariously through the antics of others,
but they were both too self-ingrained with responsibility and discipline to do anything other than make sure their staffs
had time off first. As long as the moon went into proper orbit, they’d have plenty of time to play in the sunshine in
the days to come.
So while he’d wanted to take her by the hand and go for a walk outside, he’d settled instead for
watching her at the viewport, the breeze in her hair, a seldom seen smile of relaxation on her face. They’d take that
stroll in the sunshine, after everyone else had their chance.
But he should have kissed her in the rain.
The rain, when it began, was terrifying. They didn’t know what the lightening meant, had assumed it to
be a sign of impending doom and disaster. When they did understand and the drops – huge drops, the size of old American
silver dollars - had started to fall, it had been welcome and fantastic and beautiful, but disconcerting in its convenient
timing. Too convenient, he would only comprehend later.
In the beginning, all he could think about was what too much of a good thing could portend for Alpha in the
long run. The base itself was probably watertight, but they couldn’t swim in and out of it. Granted it would take many
feet of rainfall to reach that point, but they would need plans in place long before. That was when he and Victor had decided
that a scouting party was in order, probably the first of several that would be required. A group of some of their best specialists
sent on a mission to begin the process of evaluating potential sites for a colony, a new home in what would hopefully become
a new world. He picked his crew for the job and had them make preparations.
But as the day wore on and the downpour continued, it got harder and harder to ignore the infectious clamor
of laughter and celebration…and the regular squish-squashing noises of Alphans traipsing past on their way inside from
frolicking in the puddles. Victor was preposterously cheerful, practically skipping around Main Mission whistling ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, and, most disconcerting, John
was positive he’d heard Kano humming. Kano! Humming! He’d never in his life seen so many adults behaving like
a pack of sugar-gorged kindergartners…and he really wished he could allow himself to just let go and join them.
Finally, when late afternoon approached and the showers ceased and the clouds parted and all gave way to what
John was certain was the most gorgeous sunset that had ever taken place anytime anywhere in any world, he could stand it no
longer. He’d paused mid-sentence with Victor, risen abruptly from his desk and gone to Medical, to find her gazing out
the viewport misty-eyed, as the watercolor palette smudged the sky. There had been no verbal exchange. He’d grabbed
her by the hand and led her toward the door, snatching a couple of blankets off beds as they went by.
Helena could still be reticent when it came to open displays of affection. They’d gotten over the hump
of ‘The First Public Kiss’ and survived that, but she worried sometimes, about appearing in a less than professional
light. But when he took her hand that night, there was no bashfulness on her part. It was as though she’d been waiting
all day for him to come and get her. She held his hand happily as they walked through the corridors as if it was something
they did all the time.
Exiting the Base onto the surface, people had noticed them. Some even acknowledged them and they responded politely
in return, but no one had paid them all that much attention. They weren’t the novelty they’d once been when all
of Alpha could play the ‘Are They or Aren’t They?’ game. Besides, their fellow Alphans had a sunset to watch.
Whatever the Commander and CMO were up to paled in comparison with the show that was going on in the twilight sky.
They wandered several hundred yards away from the complex. She wrapped one blanket around herself, and he wrapped
the other around them both. John leaned his back against a large boulder; she leaned her back against his chest and settled
into his arms. In tranquil silence, they watched the sun go down and the stars appear.
“I guess we’re going to have to learn all new constellations,” she observed quietly.
“Have to name them, too,” he murmured, his cheek resting against hers.
“Hmm…,” she studied the cloak of sky that surrounded, “well, that one…way over
there on the left,” she indicated with a nod of her head, “looks like a giant spider. And that one right above
us…looks like…” She had to think…the configuration was odd, but reminiscent of…something. “Moose
He laughed and kissed the curve of her neck. “So we already have two…the constellations Arachne
She giggled and turned to face him, her arms sliding around his neck. “We just need to find a squirrel-shaped
one and we’re in business.”
He smiled down into the vivacious sparkle of her eyes and kissed her softly, enjoying her carefree mood, her
As their lips parted company, she looked quite seriously at him. “Are you sure you trust me to do this?”
she asked him. He presumed she meant the assignment of leading the survey group and he assured her of his confidence in her
But that hadn’t been her question. “No, I…” she went uncharacteristically hesitant.
He hadn’t understood. She swallowed hard.
He frowned. She shrugged. He stared into her eyes.
She groped for the right words. “I just mean…” Finally, it came out in a muted burst, “picking
out a spot for a house is a…pretty personal decision.”
They had never discussed commitments or permanency. Such things didn’t seem to have a valid place in their
day to day lives. They weren’t seriously discussing it on this evening, but the fact that she mentioned it, albeit in
a roundabout fashion, touched him in an irresistible, visceral way he wouldn’t have believed possible before knowing
her, before loving her.
He wrapped her more tightly in his arms. “I believe I can trust your judgment with that, too,” he
whispered. “Just make sure it has a good view.” In visible relief, she smiled at him. Then he added, “And
make sure there’s enough space so every kid can have their own room.” It was an atypical postscript. The words
had tumbled out of his mouth with no forethought on his part, but he knew he meant them. It surprised the hell out of him,
but he meant them.
They said nothing further on the subjects of home and family just then. No additional speech was needed. A couple
of light-hearted sentences had been all they required to convey they were both in the same chapter of the story; each carried
the same expectations of a future together. The exultant kiss that followed was the only supplementary communication necessary.
When they pulled a little apart, he saw joyous tears filming her eyes. As one spilled down her cheek, he caught
it on his finger. “Your nose is cold,” he observed.
“The rest of me’s warm,” she whispered.
He applied a soft kiss to the tip of her nose. “If it wasn’t so chilly out here…” His
voice trailed off suggestively.
She flashed him a winsome smile. “I’m not worried about the temperature,” she informed him.
“I’m thinking about sound travelling.”
He acknowledged her point. “You do get loud sometimes,” he told her, and snickered as she smacked
him lightly on the arm. Holding her close, he asked, “Ready to go back inside?”
“Hmm hmm,” she nodded, “I have to get my rest for tomorrow.” Her voice was flirtatious.
Slipping his arm around her and turning toward Alpha, he promised her, “Oh I’ll let you rest, baby…in
With a small giggle, she’d kissed his cheek and once more held his hand as they walked through the hallways,
not caring about any notice they’d garnered in the process. In the solitude of her quarters, they’d made love
gently, unspoken promises imparted with each caress of lips and every slide of fingertips over warm skin. It had very possibly
been the most romantic night of his life.
She had surely been right to be concerned about even hushed noises in the stillness of the moon’s terrain.
He was fairly certain he’d heard the muffled sounds of other couples impulsively giving in to temptation as the two
of them strolled back inside the Base. He might have been willing to be reckless; putting on a public sexual exhibition held
considerably less appeal. Yet, as John’s mind relived the evening, part of him wished he’d made love to her on
the blankets under the stars, cold and caution be damned.
Now, while he stared out at the inhospitable environment and worried and hoped, he thought again that more than
anything, even more than making love under the stars, if he could do it over, if he were graced with another opportunity,
he would kiss her in the rain.