The Great Council meeting is in two days. I have gone back to my indoor training in the mornings, and I spend my afternoons with Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain.
The Major’s initiative of taking me up to swim was not appreciated by his hierarchy, who remind him that my body was still breaking in and that each physical activity has to be monitored.
I came back once to the pendula room. The session was stopped again when I reached the 10th level. My nimbleness is now being tested in combat situations. Dalygarans fight in a particular manner: “You have to visualize your opponent and neutralize his attack by using all the strength he put into it against him. You can avoid him, throw him away, or immobilize him; on no account should you harm him. This is our code of honor.”
The Major made some of his men come to show me. My learning was facilitated by my anticipation abilities. The exercises became harder and harder, from one-on-one to one against four opponents. The more they were, the faster was I. The session ended when my opponents lined up in front of me and put their right fist in their left hand at their chest level.
“It is a token of respect. They admit your talent. You may answer them by putting your left fist in your right hand if you don’t want to humiliate them.” And so I did, immediately.
This afternoon, Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe is in charge of me. The High Command has decided I should never be left alone, and Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain is unavailable as she has to go to her doctor for a routine check.
On today’s agenda, walking in the forest and botany. Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe is inexhaustible. We arrive at a viewpoint on Laurina Mountain, one of the highest of this planet.
– Beth, I can feel your trouble.
– Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, you told me the first day that I am going to forget everything when I get back home. I don’t want to forget. I want to remember, all of you, all that I’ve seen here. Your world is so wonderful.
– But it’s the law…
– I meant, it’s the law of time.
– No, no, no, no, no. You said “the law”. I can feel your trouble now too. Remember: in this body I’m one of you.
– Nobody must know that you know.
– That I know what?
– That we’re going to erase your memory.
– I forbid you! All of you! You won’t do anything to my memory.
– As I told you: it’s the law. You come from an alpha planet.
– Your technology level is far too unequal to any of the planets from this part of the universe.
– So? And what is your level?
– Gamma. This is the third level. Civilizations can access technology when they are ready to. Earth is not ready to absorb what you’ve seen here.
– This story of time differential was just smooth talk then, eh?
– I’m afraid it was.
– How? How did you dare put it on me like that?
– Beth, your arrival was… unexpected. We had to take quick decisions. We had no idea of who you were. And you’ve chosen to stay…
– I didn’t know the consequences.
– But I had to offer you a body. It’s what we do for every travelling mind.
– How is it possible that I didn’t hear the return signal from Earth?
– Yes, felt.
– Because there wasn’t any.
– How is it possible? When I am in another body the bond is broken, isn’t that right? And don’t lie to me this time.
– No, it persists. This is what is allowing you to have all these abilities in addition to ours.
– And so, what?
– We’ve sent somebody inside your body.
– What? What have you done?
– Don’t be angry. We had to do it. When we understood it was a gas travel unit, we were in a hurry to make sure that your body had a mind inside. You wouldn’t be able to go back before the decision of the Great Council, and if no mind had gone in your place when the gas cut, your body would have been lost forever. You wouldn’t have been able to go back to Earth.
– I’ve never talked about gas with you.
– We got it from our records. We can access your memories during the acquisition time if necessary. And it was necessary. It was the Major who told me, when I went outside the disembarking room. Do you remember?
– Oh, better and better. You’ve got access to my memories. But why don’t you tell me anything?
– We didn’t know anything about you. And you were in this body…
– Why the hell is this body so special, eh? You know what? I wish I’d never come here!
And then I saw Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe looking at me with big surprise.
– What is it? What happened? Tell me!
– You… literally flashed.
– Go under the tree other there, he says with an authoritarian tone.
And then I am under the tree. A moment later I am near him again.
– What’s that?
– You’ve activated it. Incredible, you’ve activated it!
– I don’t understand anything. Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, can you explain it to me?
– Your body isn’t only a body. It’s a travel unit. Everything is miniaturized and connected so that your body travels like those that do so with our transporters. You dematerialize yourself and rematerialize wherever you want to go.
– Are you kidding me?
– Oh, no. It’s a prototype. And it seems that you’ve succeeded in making it work.
– Oh, and I flashed?
– You wished not to be here without giving a destination. The machine didn’t know what to do. You dematerialize and rematerialize at the same place. When I gave you the order to go under the tree, you went under the tree.
– Then I wished to talk to you, and I was facing you again.
– That’s it. When the Major finds out…
– And how are you going to explain it to him? That I was so annoyed about what I’ve just learned – and that nobody must know – that I’ve activated the transporter part of the body? They already want my memory to be erased. Do you really think that now they’ll let me go? I am certainly going to have to stay some more days. I like Dalygaran, but I want to go home. I miss my friends and family… And if I’ve understood correctly, I can do it now. I only need to wish it.
– No. I told you, this is a prototype. It can only go on this planet at this time. But that you succeeded in moving within just a few days is a great performance. The Major needed a whole moon long.
– The Major? I’m in the Major’s body?
– In the prototype he was testing before your arrival.
– I know. I understand now why he was so furious. I’ve interrupted the test.
– Yes. And we should talk to him.
– We’ll talk to him if he admits the stuff about time is a lie.
– I don’t know if…
– A secret for a secret. Convince him…
– You’re impossible. But I agree that trust has to be mutual. I’m going to try to convince him.
Thereafter, we walked in silence.
– It is time to go back now, he says to me after a while.
He looks around him.
– Where the hell are you?
I appear in front of him briefly and disappear straight away.
– Beth, this is not a toy. It’s high technology.
I start laughing and he looks up. I am perched in a tree just on his right.
– Climb down from there, normal…
I materialize beside him.
– Oh, don’t look at me like that, I say to him. I just have to learn how to control this new feature if I don’t want to activate it accidentally, during my morning sessions.
– Oh, dear me! I hadn’t thought of that.
– Don’t worry. I don’t understand how it works, but it seems that when I learn something new, I control it quite quickly. It’s as though there were an on/off button in my head. It’s something I can feel.
– You’ve got to be careful if you want to keep it secret. You promise?
– I promise! And I swear that I’d never speak of this planet, if I were able to keep my memory. Who would believe me, anyway?
– You would do this?
– It would save me from being considered insane. The travels as they’re done on Earth aren’t very popular, you know. And there are some people who think that it’s not even real.
– Is that so? And what do they think it is?
– Hallucinations due to drugs.
– If I tell all that I’ve experienced here, they would treat me like a liar. I’m not sure even my friends are ready for the idea of a transporter. It’s science fiction to them.
– You mustn’t tell them either. Tell nobody.
– I know. But your law’s going to erase this secret anyway, isn’t it?
– I’m going to see what I can do.
– I can try anyhow.