(1)

Helena sat by the fire in the hearth, hypnotically watching the dancing flames and listening to the popping and cracking from within. She rocked slowly and silently, the mending in her hands forgotten as she reflected on their last six months on planet Sorcre.

Jophery and Abigail were fine people, wealthy but kind, and taught them all they knew, which was considerable. Koenig and his crew stayed in their large vacation house for the week left of their holiday. The man and woman did not entirely understand their new friends but Jophery told the Alphans he and his family were from the city and were far more open to something out of the ordinary than those in the villages. Besides, the Alphans had saved their daughter's life and as far as Jophery and Abigail were concern that was enough reason to call their new acquaintances dear friends.

Koenig already knew a few things about hunting, having spent Summers with an Uncle in the mountains of Tennessee when a young man, but there were finer things to learn. He and the others came to understand that if they were going to live peacefully on Sorcre with its people they would have to blend into the scenery and adapt to its people's eccentricities. Jophery sent them to his home in the village of Swaynip. The tale they spun was that Koenig had purchased the property and brought along his wife, Helena, her Uncle Victor and their man-servant, Bassy.

Jophery told them he had moved from the place years ago, rented it out for a time, when work became available in the city. Once he grew well-off in textiles, accustomed to city life, he had nearly forgotten the place but knew there was no one living there now. Jophrey wrote a transfer of sale and basically gave the property to his new friends. He told them there was good, rich land surrounding the house and if they wanted to farm it they could and possibly make a fine profit. However, he warned Koenig about some of the more affluent men-folk of the village who had wanted his property and might not feel kindly to an outsider buying it.

Helena, was taught the art of canning, sewing, and cooking from Abigal. As they worked on a batch of preserved wild blueberries, she told Helena there were good people in Swaynip but she also warned her to be careful. They should joyfully join in on village events but never over-question what might seem strange or even offensive to outsiders.

"There are always people watching." She warned, "Do not tell them you are a doctor. They won't understand, Helena. Say you have helped a doctor and have watched him during surgery. Say you are a practiced midwife … That will impress them without frightening them – especially the women who are expecting."

Professor Bergman, doing research of his own, reading books and question Jophery as well as a couple of his house servants, determined that the planet fell close to the Earth timeline of the mid to late seventeenth century. Superstitions were abundant, men followed their god, women served their men, and anything out of the ordinary could be twisted into deviltry rather than progress. This both fascinated and dismayed Victor.

Charity was smitten with her rescuer and spent nearly all her time with Sean Bassy, teaching him the proper village and city lingo and helping him to find the proper clothes for his people. She was a good girl and when he eventually gave her a sweet cheek-kiss goodbye the twelve year old was in Heaven for weeks thereafter.

Before the friends parted, Jophery gave Koenig a generous purse of money – nearly all he had with him - and told the Commander to keep his eyes and ears open. He and Abigail were coming back to their vacation spot again at this time next year. If John and the others wanted to visit and tell them how they were doing they would be welcomed guests. John agreed, and bowed ever so slightly as he was taught. Jophery was impressed by his quick study.

'Six months.', Helena thought and lifted a poker beside the hearth. She moved some logs around and when the fire was roaring again, she replaced the tool back into its holder. So much had happened during that time. They came to Swaynip, purchasing a cow, seed, food and a horse along the way, and found their home with little problem. It looked exactly as described, brick with a dark tiled roof, and was a truly lovely – if slightly dusty - home. As a matter of fact, it was much better than most houses in the area, which consisted mostly of one or two room wooden houses with a loft.

John introduced himself as a gentleman farmer who was now somewhat retired, having lost a great deal of his wealth from bad crops and, he sheepishly admitted, bad management last year. The men of the village admired his candor. Master Kornig simply wanted to retire with his family in Swaynip. He was sophisticated and respectful and made friends with many of the village leaders right away. Koenig was asked to be on the village council after only two weeks of living in Swaynip.

Helena told him she thought it might be fine for later but it may not be a good idea to stand-out so soon. She remembered Abigail's warning and they discussed it around the dinner table one evening. While Victor understood her concern he also said being a town elder might be a good way of learning about the life they had been thrust into. Then later, in private, Victor told Helena that John was a born leader and if he was not allowed to do anything other than tend to a back yard garden or milk a cow he would go stir crazy. She understood and finally agreed but, before he left at night for his weekly meeting, she would always adjust John's scarf and tell him to be careful. It became an intimate ritual between them. Victor and Sean would always scoot away and give the couple privacy.

In close quarters, playing husband and wife, it did not take long for the Commander and Dr. Russell to find the affection they were forced to hold in check while on Moonbase Alpha. A few weeks into their new living situation, they were softly smiling at one another over flickering candles at the dinner table, holding hands while walking outside in the moonlight, and speaking quietly, whispering words of deep regard, near Summit lake. Soon John had moved from the room he shared with Victor into the master bedroom with Helena. Neither Bergman nor Bassy questioned them and the couple was grateful.

As well as helping with the chores around the house and yard, Bassy found himself a job at the village tavern. It brought in a little money and he enjoyed it, talking with the simple townsmen and spending some time with the pretty girls who stopped in either to pick up their fathers or brothers.

Helena made a small name for herself, especially after delivering a fine set of twins to the Donner couple, as an exceptional midwife who dispensed potent herbal pain medicines. She remembered Abigail's words of caution and told some that she had helped a city doctor for a time and he was generous with his teachings. Her explanation seemed to satisfy most but a few snappish women and cynical men.

If there was one person who did not adjust well to their new surroundings it was Professor Bergman, a man of deep skill where science and knowledge was viewed with a fearful eyes and heard with closed ears. He tried to make himself useful and made some very helpful suggestions to better their lives but more than once Helena saw him sitting out on their porch, rocking in a chair, staring up at the planet's two moons.

One night just before they lay together Helena voiced her concerns to John. He told her he had sensed Victor's frustration too but was not certain what they could do about it. Helena had another fear. While on Moonbase Alpha they could regulate Victor's condition, the mechanical heart that kept him alive and well, but here in this world of the unintuitive, he could be in great danger. A simple chest cold or flu could cause Victor a great deal of harm, possibly even kill him. It was something they needed to think further and deeper about but Koenig, speaking wisely, said it was not a question they would be able to answer that evening.

"Besides," he said as they crawled into their sides of the big bed, "if Victor had to be stranded with us I am very pleased that you too are here – to take care of him."

Helena turned to look at John and, with a rather simpering smile, said: "Take care of him or …"

Then, he made a hungry sound with his throat and his arms embraced her, as did his mouth, and they did not say another word about their dear friend again that evening.

Victor Bergman rocked on the porch, hearing a soft giggle from the window of the upper floor master bedroom, and he smiled as he looked up at the stars and moons – his pipe tight between his teeth. Helena told Victor she did not like the idea of him smoking but he countered that, in this world and time, it would be odd if at least one of them did not smoke. He promised to do it just for effect and not often.

Tonight he was waiting up for young Sean Brassy. His shift at the tavern was nearly over and he promised to bring the newspaper to him. It was a weekly event. Victor liked to study it, think about what was important inside of the crudely printed pages, and discuss it with John and the others in the morning. They were all still learning what it was to be different in a small insecure village and slip-ups could be detrimental. The newspaper helped with their ongoing charade.

Taking a deep drag, Victor was also considering other matters. While it was true he and his friends were stranded here on Sorcre, he had a feeling there was a greater reason afoot than an accident of space and time. It still bothered the scientist, even after so many weeks, that their Eagle had disappeared with no trace. Part of him believed it was still up there somewhere, trapped in time, held in stasis until they returned – if they returned.

It seemed his three companions believed it would never happen and logically they were right. Alpha was long gone by now and if they had sent another Eagle to rescue them when their transport disappeared it must have been diverted in some way.

Victor thought deeply about their options until he heard the crunching sound of gravel beneath boots. He smiled, anticipating young Mr. Bassy. But when the man came into view it was Elliot Kincade, the school master, and his expression was grim.

"Sir, there is trouble. Please awake the master. He and Goodwife Koenig are needed."


TO BE CONTINUED.

And sincerely, thank you for your kind comments and encouragement. :)