Beth and the Major haven’t returned to Dalygaran since the celebration. They were very busy with their move into the adjoining flat of the two Smiths. A connection was kept up with Dalygaran thanks to the communicator given Beth by Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
The Major: The High Command wants me to investigate the origin of the epidemic that wreaked havoc on our planet. Are you sure you want to come with me? It could be dangerous.
Beth: You’ll investigate using time travel, won’t you?
The Major: Yes, I’ll try to go back to the time the epidemic started.
Beth: I’ll follow you then. The new body hasn’t travelled in time yet, but I guess now’s as good a time as any to put it to the test.
The Major: I don’t know if…
Beth: I will do a trial run before, as you must have done with the other body. And if there is the least problem, I promise I won’t follow you. I’ll wait for you at Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe and Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain’s home.
The Major: Promise?
Beth: Promise! Let’s go and see our neighbors.
She pushes on the button of an internal communicator.
Beth: Hi guys. We’re coming. Er, can we?
Beth: Is there anyone there?
Paul: Beth? We don’t stand around next to the communicator waiting for a call. Give us time to answer. We’re now waiting for you.
As they’d been told, the two flats adjoin, and it’s through the common door that the couple enters the two Smiths’.
Sylvester: Hello, you two. Are you pleased with your new flat?
Beth: It’s perfect.
Paul: Courtesy visit or space travel?
The Major: Space travel. We’ll do with simple pills this time. Twelve hours will be ample.
Beth: Are you sure about that?
The Major: We’re going to travel in time. I know I wouldn’t be teaching you anything by saying we can come back very near to our start time. So, we’ll go and then we’ll see what we still have to do on the planet, but we have to avoid piling up long-lasting travels. It exhausts the organism…
Paul: He’s right, Beth. Twenty-four hour pills have to be the exception. Just with those repetitive travels you both already severely test your bodies.
The Major: I’m aware of this. We have to find a less sustained pace. I’ve even no time to build a life on Earth. I’m never here. Well, not enough time anyway.
Beth: You want to do fewer travels?
The Major: I want to spend more time here. For me, being here is like travelling. I want to know the planet that’s taken me in. Moreover, I can’t be the Commander-in-Chief of the Dalygaran Army anymore. I already told them that. But the candidates to succeed me are few. I can go on being an instructor, from time to time. And you too, Beth, you’ll be able to do this as well.
Beth: You’re kidding.
The Major: No, you’ve got more experience in time travel using a Dalygaran travel body… Furthermore, we both accepted the mission of gathering the lost data from the past. We’re going to have a strong experience in time travel with these bodies.
Beth: Honestly, I didn’t think about this.
Sylvester: Shall I contact Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe to inform him you’re coming soon?
The Major: Yes, Sylvester. Tell him we’re ready.
Sylvester goes out of the room.
Paul: The aim of your travel this time?
Beth: An investigation!
Paul: And you’re bringing her with you?
The Major: There’s no way to dissuade her, I think.
Beth: You guys have no idea how you annoy me each time you speak of me like I’m not here.
Paul: Be careful.
The Major is about to answer when Sylvester comes back.
Sylvester: Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe said the two bodies’ll be ready in a little more than a hundredth. How long is that, about twenty minutes?
The Major: Yes, more or less.
Beth: What if we spend this time showing you how we fitted out our new flat?
The Major: Excellent idea. Paul, Sylvester, come with us.
And without waiting for an answer from the two Smiths, Beth leads the way to the flat she lives in with the Major. The visit is the occasion of joyful babblings on both sides. The two Smiths seem very pleased. Then Paul says,
– It’s been nearly twenty-five minutes since the call to Dalygaran now. You two are expected. Let’s go back next door.
The procedure is unchanged since the last time. The pill and the glasses of water are already near the berths.
Sylvester: See you soon.
Beth kisses the two Smiths on the cheek. The Major just waves.
Then, they take their pills and lie down.
Having arrived on Dalygaran, each in his and her body, they both open their eyes to discover Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe and Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain with little Moon Crystal in her arms.
Beth: It looks like a welcoming committee.
Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain gives her husband the baby and goes to hug Beth, and then the Major.
Flower: You got away without saying goodbye last time, she says with a hint of reproach in the voice.
The Major: Our time was almost up. We went away a little bit in a hurry.
Beth: We didn’t notice the time go by at the Great Waterfall.
Star: You went to the Great Waterfall?
Beth: Yes, this is a place we really love. I’m not the only one who likes swimming.
Star: Oh, I know how much you like swimming.
Star: Er, what if we tell them why we’re all here?
Beth and the Major look questioningly at the couple facing them.
Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe and Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain each seems to be waiting for the other to take the plunge.
Star: We’d like you…
Flower: … to become…
Star: … our daughter’s …
Flower: … heartparents.
Beth prevents herself from bursting out in joy. She asks, falsely intrigued,
Flower: Doesn’t this exist on Earth?
The Major: On Dalygaran, parents may decide to expand the family circle by choosing for their children heartparents among the people they highly trust.
Beth: Really, and you choose a man and a woman?
Star: We call them heartmother and heartfather. That doesn’t exist on Earth?
Beth: Not under this naming, but there is something similar.
Flower: So, do you agree?
The Major and Beth look at each other without giving any answer. Beth can’t prevent herself from feeling a huge joy, almost a relief. “Finally”, she says to herself. “I was starting to think I didn’t understand well, or that the future could be changed.” The Major looks at Beth.
Star: We’d have rather told you this over dinner, but we never know when you arrive and when you go away…
Beth can feel a certain trouble from the Major. She holds out her hand to him.
The Major: …We…
The Major: … very honored.
Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain throws herself literally onto the Major to hug him and then does the same with Beth.
Flower: We were so afraid you thought it was inappropriate. Considering where you’re living, I mean.
The Major: It’s true we’ll have to find a travel rhythm less wild than those last few times. But I think we’ll be glad to come to see you from time to time, to see our heartdaughter grow.
Beth frankly smiling: On Earth we’d say “goddaughter”, but heartdaughter, that’s a very nice naming. As heartparents we become close relatives, don’t we?
Flower: Yes, of course.
Beth: Great. I love to think of you as part of my family.
The Major: I love it too. But, I’m sorry, my friends, we have to go. Our coming here today is, above all, professional.
Star: Yes, right. The High Command asked to be informed when you two were here. They asked me to deliver you a message, Major…
The Major: Please, call me David. I’m your daughter’s heartfather now, remember.
Star: As you wish, David. As I was saying, the High Command asked me to deliver you a message—priority for the investigation. Also, go to see them before you go back to Earth.
The Major: All right. Beth, you’ve got a trial to do.
Beth: Yes, Major. I’m going.
And she vanishes while giving a wink.
The Major: She has to check if the body is available for time-travel.
Beth: It’s perfect.
Star jumps with surprise: I’ll never get used to this.
The Major: Where did you go?
Beth: I went to see myself jump from the diving board at the Great Waterfall the first time. I was furious with you…
The Major: I remember that.
Flower: So Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe and I are going to leave you to your mission. Come on, let’s go.
Flower: Let’s go.
They get out of the room, the mother taking her daughter in her arms again.
The Major: You knew it.
The Major: You knew it. This joy you felt as Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain asked us to become the heartparents was full and entire. I was personally surprised. But not you. It was like you were waiting for it. I’m sure you knew it. They told you about it?
The Major: But you knew.
Beth: Yes. And you want to know how, I presume…
The Major: Yes.
Beth: I met our heartdaughter as an adult.
The Major: You did? Unbelievable! You were perfect, except for this lack of surprise that warned me.
Beth: You’re not angry at me?
The Major: Of course not! What you know about the future, you mustn’t tell anyone and even more difficult, you have to behave like you don’ know. And that was what you did, for something that makes you full of joy. I didn’t know you have mastered your emotions that much.
Beth: I attended a sort of training.
The Major: A training?
Beth: Yes, but I’m not ready to talk about it now.
The Major: That’s ok. You’ll talk about it when you wish to. Let’s go now. Let’s investigate. But before, we are going to try a travel technique I thought of, that will allow us to follow each other. That way, only one of us needs to know exactly where we are going. We’ll call this duet travel. One of us chooses the time and the place to go, and the other focuses on his partner to be able to follow. Let’s try. I will be the follower. Take us to Laurina Mountain a short time after you left—the first time I mean, when you went back to Earth.
Beth: All right.
The Major: Not immedia…
The Major arrives a little late and about a hundred or so meters from Beth.
Beth: It doesn’t work very well your thing…
The Major: I wasn’t finished yet. I had to look for you then. It could have been much longer. Never do this again.
Beth: I can see you’re angry.
The Major: Beth, when we’re on a mission, you have to listen to instructions. I didn’t even have time to give them to you.
Beth: I thought you had.
The Major: I hadn’t. If we want to have a chance of it working, the duet travel I mean, we have to go at the same time. It’s why we have to agree on a start signal. Do you know the river there, about ten kilometers in that direction?
Beth: Yes. I think it’s where I met the Hermit. It’s only about ten kilometers?
The Major: As the crow flies. It’s much longer by foot.
Beth: We didn’t need to come here then?
The Major: We absolutely need to be ready before we really start… Ok. Let’s go. At three. One, two, three.
And they dematerialize almost at the same time. They rematerialize near the river. The Major and Beth are face to face. The Major puts his index finger on his mouth ordering Beth to hush. Voices can be heard. The Major takes Beth by the hand and they head toward the voices.
Protected behind a thick bush, they watch what seems to be two Frigellyans in their security bubble, going about their own business.
Beth at the Major’s ear: Frigellyans can breathe on Dalygaran?
The Major at Beth’s ear: They need no equipment as long as they don’t go out of their security bubble, I think. I’m going closer. You told me you can go into their security bubble thanks to the genes you’ve got. I’ve got them too. Wait for me here.
Beth: I’m coming with you.
The Major: Please, don’t argue. Here, it’s the Major speaking. In the approach on an enemy, you never ever send all the cavalry. We’re only two. One of us has to watch over the other. You’ll be my backup.
Beth: Yes, Major!
The Major: It’s not time to sulk.
He flashes her this smile, one she can’t resist.
He crawls closer. He observes two persons: two men. Between them is an opened chest with five phials inside, plus five vacant spaces where other phials had most probably been. The Major comes as close as possible without making a sound. Suddenly, he feels something winding around his neck, and then he hears a click.
A woman’s voice: Here she is, the nosy girl. Don’t try to escape dearie, this is a movement disactivator you have around your neck. Don’t try to remove it either; you need an unbolter, and we never take the unbolter with us, for security purposes. Hey, mates, look at who I just found. Get me the scanner.
One of the two men goes and comes back with a little spherical device.
Unknown woman: We’re going to see what you’ve got in your head, beauty.
The woman pushes her thumb on the button that is on the top of the sphere and shuts her eyes.
Unknown woman: Nothing. I can see nothing. She knows how to make the Dalygaran psychic bolt work. I was told you were gifted, but not that much. You impress me dearie. Well Rigo, take the last five phials and place them according to the plan. And you Tilean, go and search for Inissina. Explain to him the situation.
The two men each take a place on a seat, bring a kind of tiny console out of their pockets, push on many places on the screen and dematerialize. The woman is alone now and she suddenly feels a determined drumming on her shoulder. As she turns around, she receives a huge punch in the face and falls, knocked out.
Beth: From the nosy girl!
The Major: It’s not me who taught you that, says the Major after a brief whistle. Your opponent seems to be quite damaged. We’ll talk about that later …
Beth: Sorry. When it’s about you, I still lack a bit of self-control.
The Major rubs his cheek mechanically, thinking back to the slap he received the day of their reunion.
Beth: Do we tie her up?
The Major: What with? I’d rather put her to sleep more durably.
The Major rummages in his overall’s left pocket and brings out a little case.
Beth: What’s this?
The Major: The soldier-on-mission little tool kit. I’m going to give her an injection. She’s going to sleep for a long time and will lose her recent memory for at least one moon. Frigellyans have a natural memory regeneration. It can’t be wiped out.
Beth: I know. We’re like them.
The Major: That’s true. It’s why your memory was regenerating…
Beth: What do you want her to forget? The others saw you anyway.
The Major: They took me for you and they didn’t see you. They don’t know we’re two. Let’s go before they come back.
Beth: Where are we going? You’re stuck here. You can’t dematerialize.
The Major: Yes, I can, thanks to you. You need to make the bond.
Beth: We’re already bound.
The Major: Not that bond. That one’s actually permanent. More like the one with the horse. You’re going to take command of my mind so I can follow you.
Beth: We can do that?
The Major: Yes, we are empathists. We feel things, staying at the surface, but we can go deeper, if we are allowed to. I’m going to let you take command of my mind. Come over here, very close to me and put your arms around me. Find the way in my mind and let’s go to Frigellya. We have things to clear up.
Beth: I’m going to try to bring us to the meeting point with Mira and Reymo, some friends of mine. They had me at their headquarters one time. And once I’ve been somewhere, I’m able to go again.
The Major smiles at her: You’re an outstanding pilot. Let’s go there.
She cuddles up to him and puts her arms around him. The Major puts his arms around her too. Both shut their eyes and dematerialize a few moments later.
Beth, with her arms still around the Major, opens an eye.
– Did we succeed? she asks.
They part and she looks around her.
Beth: I don’t recognize anything.
– Yet, you’re at the right place.
It’s Mira’s voice. Beth and the Major turn to discover the presence of Reymo too.
Mira: Very strong, this two people travel trick. You landed at the right place, but not at the right time. Being two bodies to be transported by one mind has delayed you a bit. You’re 150 Frigellyans years too early. The shelter is not built yet.
The Major: How does it happen you’re here, then?
Mira: Major Moon Crystal, let me rid you of this first.
Mira takes a sort of remote control out of her pocket and pushes a button. Everyone can hear a click. The Major catches the disactivator collar as it glides off his neck.
Beth: How do you know who he is?
The Major does not say anything, but his questioning look indicates he is waiting for an answer too.
Mira: You two sent us here.
The Major: This is the first time I’ve ever seen you.
Reymo smiles and answers,
– Oh, so this is the moment I tell you: “You should know that with time travel, we’re not living things all in the same order.” When you get away from here, you’ll meet us in our own era, then tell us all and send us to rescue you… Very nice this new body, Beth. I didn’t have time to tell you before.
– Anyway, thank you, says the Major, waving the collar that is still in his hand.
Mira: May I get it back? This is a piece of evidence in the investigation we’re leading about Dalygaran events. You’ve already negotiated full access to our files, Major. Not yet from your point of view, but it’s not going to be long. You’ll find us at +150 years, 45 days, and 3h on Frigellya.
– Ok, says Beth
– Please w…
– …ait, goes on the Major.
– She has always been fast, chuckles Mira.
The Major smiles.
The Major: Mira and Reymo, am I right?
The two spouses nod.
The Major: I need a psychic scanner. Oh, and one of your furtive ones too…
Mira: You know about the furtive scans?
The Major: I’m a serviceman. And now I’ve got a new team member. She’s very gifted, but she hasn’t got the proper training about psyche control. I have to teach her how to lock her mind, open it and detect furtive scans. I’d like to start this training as soon as possible, before we leave Frigellya. We’re meeting in the future…
And the Major dematerializes before Mira and Reymo have given any answer.
– They’re really two of a kind those two, mumbles Reymo. Let’s go home.
150 Frigellyan years later at the same place.
The Major and Beth are inside the shelter.
Beth: It’s here, but there’s no one. Give me the revelator, I’m going to call them.
Mira: That won’t be necessary.
She and Reymo just materialize in the shelter.
Reymo: We’ve got an alarm signal that warns us as soon as someone enters this shelter. So you’re two. Beth, who is with you?
Reymo is looking at the Major.
Beth: Er, Beth, it’s me. Give me the revelator.
The Major rummages in his left leg pocket and holds out the revelator toward Beth, who puts it on her wrist immediately and pushes the round button.
Beth: Here I am.
Reymo: Who is the other person then?
Beth takes off the strap, returning her to her traveler shape immediately, and gives it to the Major.
Beth: Go on. Show them who you are.
Without a word, the Major puts on the strap on his wrist and pushes the round button.
Mira: My Gritchac! You’re… You’re…
The Major: Major Moon Crystal of the Dalygaran spatiotemporal fleet.
Reymo: Major Moon Crystal, the youngest Dalygaran Army Commander-in-Chief ever. We thought you were dead. Well,…
Beth: Mira and Reymo are old acquaintances. I’ve told them about you as I thought you were…
The Major: I understand.
The Major: I’m alive. Well, in an Earthling body, but alive.
Reymo seems to be as surprised as Mira, even if he doesn’t say anything.
Beth: The two Smiths. It’s their work. As they knew he would never make it back to Dalygaran, they intercepted him the day he came to Earth without a body to warn me about what was happening on his planet. They proposed him a body. And he’s now like me.
Reymo: Could you explain this?
Beth: My Frigellyan side, he’s got it too.
Mira and Reymo in chorus: What?
Beth: They wanted us to be able to travel together…
The Major: Listen, I can understand you’re surprised, but I have to tell you that we are in an uncomfortable position in the past, and you told us we sent you to help us.
Reymo: This is the first time we’ve ever seen you.
The Major: Someone wise told me, not long ago, and I quote: “You should know that with time travel we’re not living things all in the same order.” In the past, I’ve got a movement disactivator around the neck and I’m at the same place as I am today, some 150 Frigellyan years earlier.
Mira: How did you succeed in getting there if you can’t use your travel body abilities?
Major: She can.
Beth: It’s the psychic bond, a Dalygaran thing. I commandeered his mind to make him follow me.
The Major: According to you, being two bodies led by one mind delayed us and we didn’t land at the right time. You came with an unbolter and you informed us about the time differential: +150 years, 45 days, and 3h from now.
Mira: Ok. Stay here until we’re back. There is no safer place on Frigellya than this shelter. We’re going to bring what’s necessary and release the Major of his disactivator collar.
The Major: Before you go, I have a request. The trail of the start of the last plague that affected Dalygaran lead us to those Frigellyans who put this collar around my neck. I demand the total cooperation of Frigellya to help us find those people.
Reymo: We’re on the trail of renegades that lead us to Dalygaran too. It must be the same ones. Major, as it is about your planet’s security, you’ll have full access to our files.
Beth: We can identify them.
Mira: We’ll see to that when we get back.
Mira and Reymo sit on their transporter seats and dematerialize.