– My children, we’re glad to see you again, says the King. Come closer.
At the end of their last dinner on Frigellya, the Queen and King insisted on showing them how people used to greet each other on their planet. Even if the Queen really loved the Earthling hug, on Frigellya people did it differently. It was very simple and very practical when there were many people. Everybody would gather into a circle, take each other by the hands and raise them in unison in the center of the circle once, then lower them again. Once this action was complete, everybody would let go the hands. And that was it.Beth and the Major come closer to the royal couple and their son for the collective greeting. As their hands come back down the Queen says to the Major,
– Your father caused quite a scandal.
– We were close to a diplomatic incident, adds the King. The authorities here refused to believe that a Dalygaran was living in a human body, no less the Commander-in-Chief of your army.
– I can’t believe I’m still the Dalygaran Commander-in-Chief myself, mutters the Major.
– That’s not what made your father furious.
– Father got angry? My father?
– He called Beth your fiancée, which the local authorities said was impossible. A gamma man couldn’t be engaged to an alpha woman, and certainly not marry her.
– What? It’s not their concern! David and I will get married if we want to. We need nobody’s permission.
– That’s true… theoretically. But our wedding wouldn’t be acknowledged in the Universe.
– I don’t care about the Universe.
The Major smiles. He too doesn’t care about the Universe’s acknowledgment. Living with Beth is all that matters to him, married or not. But he is very surprised by his father’s reaction.
– If you do get married one day, I want the celebration to be at the Palace, announces the Queen.
– It’s very nice of you Majesty, but my family is from Earth in its alpha version, and David’s is from Dalygaran. We don’t breathe the same air. I have difficulties imagining them attending a wedding in spacesuits, not to mention what those from Earth might think…
– We’ll find a solution to allow everybody to come to the celebration at the same time.
Heads turn to Christopher who hasn’t said a word till now.
– Beth, David, my parents are here to retrieve you, their honorary citizens. You’re, in a way, under Frigellyan protection. Our world owes much to Dalygaran, and I’ve got a personal debt with you, Beth. I testified in your favor, so that your status can be changed.
– You see, you can’t be an alpha girl as you travel through space and time. You’re going to have trouble one day or another. You know, this obsession in the Universe of wiping out memories…
Beth feels this isn’t the moment to bring up the special nature of her memory.
Christopher goes on;
– I went forward to testify in your favor, Beth, because you gave me my parents back, thanks to your space-travel and time-travel abilities. So, your status has been upgraded from an Alpha to a Gamma. They can’t retain you against your will now. It was not easy to make them accept that you’re able to use such advanced technologies. But as no one can lie in the truth room, they could only bow to the evidence. Also, they searched for any trace of your having engaged in or even discussed your spatiotemporal travels with alphas in the alpha past of Earth. This would have worked against you. But, as they found no such evidence, they could just admit you deserved the Gamma status they were about to give you.
– Christopher went to the truth room, says the King. But sovereigns, or high-ranking military officials, like your father, can’t go there. A matter of protocol.
“That’s what made father so angry,” thinks the Major.
The small man, who had brought the young couple to the King and Queen, and who had witnessed this scene in polite silence, feels obliged to add,
– The sovereigns and the high-ranking militaries can only go into the truth room for their own defense. Neither Their Majesties nor your father were being charged with anything.
The small man pauses before going on,
– Beth Smith, here is your gamma level identification badge.
He holds out toward Beth a kind of rectangular medallion that hangs at the end of a string. Made of a silver material, the medallion seems to vary in color depending on its exposure to the light.
– Take it between your thumb and your index finger, says the small man.
Beth does so, and the badge turns black.
– You can stop squeezing the badge now.
Beth grabs the string and can see now a golden Gamma stand out against the black background.
– Your registration is complete now. This badge will gradually regain its silver color. Your status will only appear when you touch it. It’ll only react to your fingers. This is a molecular analysis badge.
– Do you have this sort of badge? Beth asks the Major.
– Mine is round and the Dalygaran Gamma doesn’t look like yours…
– You’re now free to go, pompously announces the small man. I’ll lead you to the transporter room.
The small group follows the small man through the maze of corridors. He pushes the door marked “42” this time. Reymo is there, waiting. He waves to Beth and the Major.
– They are waiting for you, he says to the young couple. Take a seat, we’ll go.
The transporter rematerializes at the Palace.
The two Smiths are there, sitting on a sofa. It is with an unconcealed joy that they welcome Beth and the Major. Sylvester runs to hug Beth, and does the same thing with the Major.
– I’m happy to see you again too, Sylvester, he says, patting his back.
Paul comes closer, and hugs Beth and the Major more calmly, though he can’t refrain a tear.
– I’m so relieved, he says.
– These two wanted to surrender, exclaims the Queen. As soon as they saw you disappear from the transporter, they wanted to go back to their world to free you. They were certain their authorities intercepted you. We forbade them. The King and I wouldn’t accept their evacuation, to have them finish their life in a prison at the edge of time.
– Our contacts sent us an alarm a short time after your departure for Dalygaran. We were about to be localized. We had to go as quickly as possible. We thought of Mira and Reymo. It was easy to reach them. We recorded the call signal, the time you made them come to take you to Frigellya the first time, Beth.
– We record all that comes in or out of our home, apologizes Sylvester. We explained the situation to them. And the decision to evacuate us to Frigellya was quickly taken. As we helped you find the royal couple’s son with the extractor, we have been deemed Frigellyan honorary citizens now.
– It seems that that is the case for David and me too, answers Beth.
– My friends, announces Christopher, I have to go now. I entrusted Lucia to Nori. I’m impatient to get my little sunray back.
– May I come with you? asks the Queen. You’ll soon start your training with Nori. I’ll take care of her while you train.
– Sure, mother. Lucia adores you.
– You don’t really think I’m going to let this little girl alone with her grandmother, intervenes the King in a joking tone. She adores me too.
– I know, father. Let’s all three go together.
And the trio goes away.
– There’s someone who wants to talk with you…
Once more, Mira appears behind them without a sound. She doesn’t even try to get off her transporter seat. Some taps on the tablet and more seats rise from the floor.
– Take your places, she says to Beth and the Major. We’re going to our shelter. Sylvester, Paul, please take this.
Mira holds out a navigation tablet.
– You know how it works now. You’re expected by some High Court Eminences. Don’t waste time. I entered the coordinates; you’ll arrive directly in the meeting room.
– Thanks Mira, says Paul.
– They pilot a transporter? asks Beth, with a hint of envy in her voice.
– It’s not very complicated, answers Reymo. If you stay here for a while in your human bodies, we’ll teach you too. It’s very practical to go from one place to another.
– What are they supposed to do with the High Court Eminences?
– Beth, we’ll talk about that later. We’re expected at the shelter.
Mira taps on the navigation tablet, and a few moments later, they’re in the place. The big screen is on, and two faces share the space: on the left, the Supreme Commander, and on the right, Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
– What happened to Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe? whispers Beth in the Major’s ear.
– I think he’s about fifteen gold rings older, answers the Major in a very low voice.
– Your father hasn’t changed, she goes on very quietly.
– He must be our era’s version…
– Ah, my children, here you are! I’m very glad to see you again, exclaims the Supreme Commander.
– Well, there they are, my mischievous friends. For sixteen gold rings you’ve known I’d be getting you out of trouble and I never suspected anything, says Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe in a joyful tone.
– My boy, it was about our future. You know that nobody could tell you anything.
– Supreme Commander, I perfectly understand. But it doesn’t stop my admiration. Having to hold my tongue such a long time would have been torture for me.
– Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, I guess you met our “messenger”, says Beth.
– Yes, that secret alone has been difficult enough for me to keep. I know I can’t talk about this here. Of the messenger’s identity, I mean.
– Never mind, my boy. This person allowed us to have the exact time and place of my children’s detention, and that’s all that matters. You did the right thing to have asked to talk to me. This affair is from this era and not yours. You acted wisely. My daughter, my son, are you alright?
The Supreme Commander never addressed Beth as his “daughter” before. Until now he’d always said “my child”. She reasons, then, that calling him “father”, having become his “daughter”, would not be improper. Beth likes this Dalygaran way of seeing things.
– Father, we weren’t badly treated nor threatened, except for a change of status if we wouldn’t do what we were expected to. Your son and I didn’t look for trouble. We ate and rested. The only thing we could do was keep waiting.
– How long has it been since we disappeared? asks the Major.
– My son, today marks the fourth day of your disappearance. We all worked together for the best ending. The two Smiths explained to us their world, and our lawyers, Dalygarans and Frigellyans, gave us advice on the correct procedure. We learnt your exact location only yesterday.
– I’m sorry. I got mixed a little up with the dates, apologizes Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
– Don’t be so tough on yourself, my boy. It’s only a mistake of 2 days out of sixteen gold rings!
– Furthermore, it hasn’t been a long time for us, adds Beth.
– I’m so happy to see you so… young. These inter-temporal communicators are so great. I’ve got the feeling of looking at my past, when, strictly speaking, you’re in my future, says Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
– My friend, that’s the paradox of time travel—there is no linearity at all, answers the Major.
– Father, I’d like to show you something, says Beth.
And she brings out her status badge from her pocket, squeezes it between her thumb and her index finger, and shows him the result.
– I’m an Earthling Gamma. I’m totally one of you now.
– This badge may save you a lot of trouble, but you already were one of us, Beth, answers the Supreme Commander.
– Nobody can contest our wedding anymore, replies Beth.
– You’re going to get married? ask in chorus the Supreme Commander, Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, Mira and Reymo, while the Major says more personally,
– We’re going to get married?
– It’s what those that are bound on Dalygaran do, isn’t it?
– We’re living on Earth…
– I know that. Will you marry me, nevertheless?
– What a question, of course I will!
Beth and the Major come closer to each other and kiss tenderly.
– It’s in these moments that I miss the purring, she whispers in his ear.
– I miss them too, he answers in a low voice.
– My children, you fill me with joy, says the Supreme Commander.
– And me! I can’t believe this, retorts Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe. Not about your wedding, I’m somewhat… er.. aware of it. But I didn’t know I’d get to see your… your…
– Engagement, completes the Major.
– Yes, that was the word I was searching for.
– Christopher suggested we might be able to have everybody, Earthlings and Dalygaran, at the same reception. That would be great, and I hope we succeeded if that’s what happened. But you shouldn’t tell us anything about this, Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
– I know Beth, he sighs. I think it’s time for me to say good-bye. I really am starting to fear making a mistake. See you soon my friends.
Everybody greets him back and he cuts the communication.
– I’m going to leave you too, my children. May I announce this excellent news to your friends? The Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe from this era doesn’t suspect anything.
– Please do, father, answers Beth, laughing. I don’t need to be there to imagine the face he’ll make. What do you think, David?
– I agree.
– See you soon.
– Good-bye, my children. See you soon.
And the Supreme Commander cuts the communication.
– Yes, Mira?
– I never know how to behave with you. I’m not like the Queen. I’m not comfortable with Earthling hugs. But I… I..
– I think that Mira’d like to show you what we do on Frigellya to express our affection for someone. We’ll be glad to congratulate you in our way.
– Beth, come closer, and you, Major…
– Yes, David, go close to Reymo. You’ll see, it’s not complicated. You’ve just to face each other, holding your hands in front of you, not higher than your shoulder level. Even closer. We have to be able to join our palms. Now press them gently. A little bow with the head, and that’s it. The hands part now. Congratulations.
– Thank you, answers Beth, all smiles.
– Congratulations, says Reymo to the Major.
– Thank you.
– David, it’s our turn now says Mira.
– Beth, if you don’t mind, says Reymo.
And the scene repeats. When it is finished, Reymo proposes,
– We’ll take you to your apartments now.
– That’s an excellent idea.
– We’ve provided you with a wardrobe this time. You’re not in your travel bodies… Will you stay for the trial? asks Mira.
What trial? answers Beth.
– The one for the two Smiths, clarifies Reymo. We didn’t have time to explain the situation, that’s true. We’ll do it this evening in their presence. But don’t worry about them. They don’t risk anything regrettable. Their new Frigellyan citizenship protects them.
– I don’t understand, says Beth.
– Their world’s authorities are prosecuting them.
– The Epsilon Earthlings?
– And it’s safe?
– Beth, you know us by now. We promise, answers Mira.
– All right.
– David. Please, call me David.
– Well, David?
– I believe you. We’ll wait until this evening to know more. Let’s go and freshen up a little.
– We’ll take you with the transporter. Have a seat.
The transporter dematerializes to re-materialize in front of their room.