Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe is still there. He stares at Beth with full, questioning eyes.
– Have you not succeeded in going?
– I’ve succeeded in coming back. I’ve got the sample.
– What did you say?
– I’ve got the sample.
Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe remains silent for a moment, then recovers.
– You can step out of the sterile bubble now. This body is not going anywhere other than here. And I have to take the sample anyway.
She rifles through her left leg pocket, brings out the tube and holds it out to Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
He hugs her strongly. “Thank you, thank you so much.”
– My pleasure. Hey, I still need to breathe…
– Oh, I’m so sorry.
– It’s nothing. Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, I can just stay here 12 Earthling hours. That is how much time the travel pill my friends gave me will last.
– You’ve got Earthling friends who can give you travel pills?
– I’m surprised.
– They’re surprising.
– What do they know about you and your abilities?
– They’re epsilons. And I told them everything. They are the ones who help me control time-travel. They gave me a regulator.
Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe opens his eyes wide.
– Epsilons, he mutters. Better not upset them…
– Why would I upset them?
– Oh, sorry Beth. I was just thinking out loud. I have to bring this sample to the laboratory. By the end of the day, we’ll have something to stop this epidemic from spreading further. At the rate it ran for the past few days, half of the population would have been infected in only one moon. The dead can already be counted in the thousands.
– I’m so sorry.
– You’ve just saved the planet.
– But I haven’t saved everybody.
– You couldn’t. Nobody could. You did it as fast as you could. You have honored the Major’s trust in you.
– Beth, I’m sorry, I’m an idiot. I didn’t want to make you feel sad.
– I… am proud to honor his memory.
The emotion-management training on Frigellya turned out to be a very good thing after all. She can transform sorrow into something positive now.
– You’ve changed, remarks Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
– I… matured.
– We’ll see.
– But what are you still doing here? Don’t you have a sample to bring to the laboratory?
– I’ll hurry.
– I’ll come with you.
– You’d better go to the High Command, to explain to them the situation. It’s going to be tricky. They don’t know anything about what’s going on. I didn’t have time to tell them. Do you remember where it is?
– In the building where I used to train?
– On the same floor as the pendula room. Will you find…
– … it? She hasn’t changed that much.
Beth knocks on the High Command front door.
– Come in!
Beth enters the room and goes straight to the man sitting behind the desk in front of her. He looks at her frightened.
– Who is in the travel body? Who are you? You can’t be the Major.
– I wish it were him. I’m Beth Smith, the Earthling. The Major gave me an assignment. He learned I knew how to pilot this body and that my memory had not been wiped out. He died while warning me that Dalygaran was in great danger. So I came. And I brought the morning star.
– I beg your pardon?
– Sorry, maybe I said it a little too quickly.
– You brought back the morning star?
– A few moments ago. The sample is on the way to the laboratory.
– If you don’t mind…
The man taps on the screen in front of him.
– I’d like to speak to the Supreme Commander.
Beth hears someone say “I’ll put you through”.
– My respects, Sir. I might suggest you hold a High Command meeting and invite the Great Council members, for an Extraordinary Council, Sir.
Beth does not understand the Supreme Commander’s answer.
– As a Protocol Officer, I insist, Sir. I invoke the emergency procedure, Sir…. I can understand, Sir… Meet you in the Council Chamber.
The man stands up and addresses Beth.
– There’ll be a hearing. Your hearing.
– As soon as possible. The emergency procedure implies the hearing begins when two-thirds of those expected are present. The High Command is on site; they will be in the room at the same time as you. When five Great Council members arrive, we’ll have reached the minimum attendance and the hearing will begin.
Beth is led to a boardroom where some people have already assembled. As she comes in, a whisper of surprise can be heard. Everybody goes to sit behind a long semi-circular desk. Beth stands at a lectern in the middle of the room. All stares converge on her. The man says into her ear:
– Talk when you’re bidden to.
– Is it going to take a long time? she whispers.
– Three more Great Council members are required at least.
It does not take long for a group of five to come to the gate.
– We won’t be more, announces one of them. You can close the doors.
Everybody is looking at Beth insistently now.
– I, Supreme Commander of the Dalygaran Army, open the hearing co-led with their Excellences from the Great Council. Whoever you are, you have the floor.
Beth tries to gather her thoughts together. She really doesn’t know how to begin.
She provides her identification.
– I’m Beth Smith from Earth.
– Beth Smith, we sent you back to Earth two moons ago.
– Yes, and I know I was supposed to remember nothing about that. But your (mumble) pill… you know against re-synchronization sickness? Yeah,… I didn’t take it. So I can remember all of it.
– How is this possible…?
– It doesn’t matter! The fact remains that Major Moon Crystal learned of it, and he learned another thing too: I know how to use this body to travel in space.
A murmur spreads in the room.
The Supreme Commander goes on with the questions.
– You’re aware, then, that Major Moon Crystal is… dead; he died a short time ago, today.
– Yes, I know. He’d had time to deliver a message to me just before.
– He delivered to you a message?
– He begged me to come back. And I came back.
– The travel body was ready then?
– Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe prepared it.
– We should hear him too.
– By their acts these two men saved this planet.
– We are not a court Miss. This hearing is just about facts. Please, go on.
– Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe explained the situation to me and informed me that this prototype—the travel body I mean—can travel in time.
– You have never traveled in time before, have you?
– No, I didn’t even know it was possible. But the solution to your problem was in the past, and I was the only one other than the Major who knew how to pilot the travel body.
– In his evaluation in front of the Great Council, the Major described you as “surprising”.
Beth recognizes one of the Excellences who came to assist at her departure.
– Your Excellence may forgive me for interrupting, but I don’t think you had the main information. I brought back the morning star. And the sample is now on the way to the laboratory.
– You mastered time-travel without training?
– I received some help, but I don’t wish to talk about this.
– As you wish.
Beth is very surprised by this reaction. She was expecting some protests.
– So, the morning star is here?
– Miss Smith, we thank you for this information. This Extraordinary Council was fully justified. We have to discuss this amongst ourselves.
– I’m sorry, but what is going to happen now?
– This is what we have to decide. Kindly allow us to convene this meeting in private now, please.
Beth goes out of the room to find Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe pacing in circles.
– How did it go?
– I don’t know. Good, I suppose. Dalygarans are so different from Earthlings. They didn’t demand an explanation from me when I asked not to speak of my training.
– As an alien, you have to be heard with a representative of your planet. Since you come from an alpha world, no representatives at all are appointed, so nothing can be demanded of you if you do not want to answer.
– I see. Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, I have to go. As I told you, I only have 12 Earthling hours…
– You’re far from reaching that yet. Even if the duration of days are different here, the morning isn’t nearly finished.
– I want to go.
– Ok, ok, as you wish. Your extraction pill will be ready in 3 hundredths. I’ll order the synthesis. We’ll meet in the travel center.
– See you.
– See you.