As the two Smiths explained to Beth and the Major, even with the trial’s conclusion and the pronunciation of their guilt, Paul and Sylvester’s lives will not be greatly changed.
When a citizen from a non-epsilon planet has to face the Epsilon’s justice, the verdict belongs to the Epsilons, but the sentence to be administered is left to the defendant’s world of origin to see through, though this sentence has to be ratified by the two worlds.
In the present case, as Sylvester and Paul appeared before the court as Frigellyan citizens, the Earthlings and Frigellyans have to find a common ground. That the two Smiths’ were guilty of using epsilon technology in an alpha world is unquestioned, especially given that the prosecutors gathered enough evidence for this not to even require discussion. The trial was a closed-door affair and didn’t last very long, and now it is up to Frigellya to propose a penalty that fits the offense.
For the “crime” of having frequently used, and for no assigned mission, technologies much more advanced than those of the world they were living in, exile to the past was the only suitable penalty according to the Frigellyan law. The sentence was mitigated, however, by a measure of clemency towards the two Smiths in light of the assistance they provided the Queen and the King in locating their son. The Smiths, then, were given the chance to choose where they were going to be exiled to: on the planet that has adopted them today, Frigellya, or the one where they are from, Earth. It goes without saying that the two Smiths chose Earth, yet Epsilon Justice requires that the era of the exile be removed from the condemned person’s date of birth by a minimum of twice the average lifespan of the species in question. The two Smiths were thus sentenced to live on Earth of the 25th century, without being noticed. In essence, then, their “real” absence from their flat lasted just a short week. And though they were exiled, they were asked to participate in a mission, a Frigellyan one of course, which consisted of take caring of and protecting two other Frigellyan citizens: Beth Smith and David Cristal. The Queen and the King gave them for this purpose the authorization to use any necessary means at their disposal. The mission, of course, was not part of the penalty, but the Queen and the King could give a mission to anyone they wanted, even condemned people, as soon as the sentence was applied.
Ultimately, Sylvester and Paul would stay in the 25th century for the rest of their lives. Yet now they could use any technology they wanted to without any risk, protected by the Royal mission letter.
Alone again in their old apartment, Paul says,
– And here we are, home again. You see, Sylvester, nothing has changed.
– Oh, yes, it has. Many things have changed for me. We don’t need to cover our tracks anymore. We’re legitimately part of the 25th century. The only thing we need to be cautious about is to not get noticed by alphas; that would cause us a lot of trouble. And we’ve been living here for such a long time. Beth and you were right: a new life is starting for us. Do you plan now to look for a fencing master here?
– Those sessions with Nori did me good, that’s true; but with whom would I do this here?
– How about me?
The two Smiths turn around to discover Beth and the Major laughing at their surprised faces.
– If you could just see yourselves! guffaws Beth.
– They gave you a transporter? wonders Sylvester.
– Yes, Sir. They’re discreet; they can be parked at home without anybody suspecting anything.
– Well, your place is over there, says Sylvester, his words by pointing his hand in the direction of Beth and the Major’s apartment.
– Wow, nice greeting, Mister Grumpy, teases Beth. But, you’re right, we all need to get back to our previous lives. I hope my mother didn’t try to phone us. We’re going to have endless complaints regardless.
– David, I would be glad if you would, become my fencing master, I mean.
– I’ve made a big decision, the Major answers. I want to spend more time on Earth, and maybe I could set up a fencing master’s course here, such as Nori has.
– There are activity rooms for free in the area. A simple subscription would allow you to start.
– Yes, adds Beth. I already explained this to him. There’s a form to fill out to describe the project you want to develop, to ask for slots allocation, and to request equipment. We’ll do it together. And I will be your partner for the demonstrations. Before they validate anything, though, they are going to ask you to show them exactly what you want to do.
– I’ve never fought in a human body before.
– Ironically, neither have I. This too, we’re going to adjust to together. So, guys, we’re going to leave you. See you soon.
Beth taps on a navigation tablet and she and the Major disappear from the living room.
– A Frigellyan transporter in the 25th century. And we’re the ones who have been condemned, mutters Sylvester.
– Sylvester, focus. Mira and Reymo are going to be bringing us our things. Would you like me to make you a list of the things we own, I mean, those that don’t exist today on Earth?
– That won’t be necessary, thank you. I’ve got a good memory. But a transporter in Beth’s hands…
– She’s got her guardian angel.
– Yes, that’s true, says Sylvester smiling.
Someone knocks at the door.
Paul goes to open it. A woman stands at the doorway and says,
– Good afternoon. I’m looking for P…
As the voice stops suddenly on the “P”, Paul shuts the door brutally and walks away from Sylvester’s amazed look as he approaches the door to see who it is.
– I forbid you to open this door, says Paul dryly.
– You have no authority to forbid me anything, answers Sylvester calmly, as he goes to the front door.
When he opens it, he can see a mature woman of at least Paul’s age.
– Pardon my friend, Madam…
– My name is Nelly. Nelly233.
– Oh, you’re…
– Like you. I suppose you’re Sylvester. I was told he got away with a Sylvester.
– I’m Sylvester, he confirms.
– I don’t want to see her, shouts Paul from the living room where he has already taken refuge.
– I’d like to talk to him, says Nelly in a quick breath.
– I think I’m going to leave you two alone. I’ve never seen Paul in such state, and I think you’d better try to talk to him. You’ve come back to this era for him; I guess, it must be important…
– It is.
– You’re the person who shared ten years of his life before going underground, aren’t you?
– I didn’t…
– I don’t want you here, says Paul, interrupting her and standing in the living room door. Go away.
– Paul, I won’t go before I’ve had a chance to talk to you.
– As for me, I’m leaving. I’m going for a walk, announces Sylvester, grabbing hold of an overcoat and a scarf.
Paul has no time to protest as Sylvester walks through the door.
– What do you want?
– To talk to you. Please. Give me a chance…
– You ran away. Overnight, you vanished. Pfft. Evaporated. I’ve turned the page Nelly…
– Judging by your anger, you haven’t turned anything. After all these years, you still hold such a grudge against me.
– Paul, things are about to change in our world. I didn’t leave you to go underground, but I’m there now. I didn’t hold out even a single year with the partner they gave me after you.
– You don’t expect me to feel sorry for you, do you?
– Paul, please. You were in the underground in our world a few times, I was told, and you never met them I think. It was too early.
– Met who?
– Those who organized us and gave us a heck of a hand. They’re a couple: Moira and Raymond Twolords.
With his curiosity overwhelming his anger, Paul enters the living room, letting Nelly follow him. He points to an armchair, and takes a seat facing her. Then he asks,
– Moira and Raymond Twolords, really?
– It’s obviously not their real names.
– I think I know who they are.
– I understood this for a while, too. Actually, the entire team that made the body you requested for that mind knows, which makes five of us. I’m part of this team.
– You built the body?
– With four other persons, yes. And we nearly failed. Ray learned about it, I don’t know how. But Ray is very gifted when it comes to discovering and understanding things.
– That’s what we called Raymond Twolords. Ray told us to draw our inspiration from him, that his body had been created specifically to hold his mind, and that we might find in him the points we missed. The analysis revealed a body of about a twenty-year-old, molecularly. Ray knew that this analysis would reveal his identity. He’s got the little particularities you and Sylvester asked for, the few Frigellyan genes and a psychic translator implant from our world. We had in front of our eyes the result of our work. I don’t know why he took this risk…
– Knowing him, he might have thought there were more important…
– This analysis made us gain time, but not the way Ray might have imagined. Though with Ray, nothing could be less certain. We didn’t have a problem with the final result; we knew what we had to obtain. We had a problem of process, how to get to it. Knowing we succeeded boosted the team. We finally figured out how to initiate the construction of the body: this was the first stage that slowed us down for a little more than two months. After, we just had to go on to the maturation phase. About ten months later, we sent you our work.
– You made him completely from scratch?
– We couldn’t really find people we trusted in the almost-human nursery. To get the process from there would have revealed to the humans what we were trying to do. Over time, quite a number of attempts had already failed. Ray and Moira confirmed this to us. Those two made quite a team, you know. They became legends among the almost-humans. It is said that at the beginning, they started to search for our kind on their own. They found about twenty of our people, spread out over time, and convinced them to come back to our era to grow our network. Then they started to ask us, this embryonic network, to help them to find others. They trained us to search. As soon as we got enough data on several others, Moira was able to find them in a short time with her scanning mind, as she called it. She knew how to travel the old way, without a body. She used to take a pill, lay on a couch, and as she opened her eyes again, she knew where they were and just brought them back to us with a very discreet transporter. Each time she went to our world, she came back with as many people as she could find. Altogether, she brought back about five thousand people. Ray was more of a strategist. He really allowed us to build a solid and powerful network. We became very efficient by following his advice.
– I’m not surprised.
– One day, as his future body was about to be mature, Ray spoke to our team: “My wife and I have come regularly, throughout our life to gather you and help you to get organized. Our aim was to allow you to become human one day. Your team is going to have to go on with this work now. This body is just a first stage. You’ve now got to focus on your own people’s transformation. Without delay.” And so we did.
– Even knowing them today, what you’re telling me amazes me. They dedicated their life to almost-humans?
– From our point of view, Moira and Ray acted on a time line no longer than 5 years.
– And you didn’t see them aging?
– Not at all.
– I guess they wore a morpher. Our Frigellyan friends might have given them some.
– Morphers, those devices that change your appearance?
– Those exactly.
– Paul, the recent arrival of two humans from our world’s past has triggered a huge ethical debate. Hearings are going to be held at the demand of the Frigellyan Queen and King that they be protected. Your friends will have to come to testify, and their children too.
– My friends?
– Oh, don’t try to fool me, please. I deserve better. We’re talking about the first alpha Earthling woman granted Gamma status and living with a Dalygaran man in a human body. And we know how a Dalygaran man received a human body and who, he is. There is no question these two are the future Moira and Ray.
– You’re right. But you talked about their children?
– Yes, there are more than one. The Epsilons want to summon your friends, the older versions of them, about ten years from today, and their adult children. As such, they won’t be called from the same era.
– My friends are going to speak in the truth room while they are building an underground network?
– If there had been any problem, the molecularly twenty-year-old Ray would have told us. Speaking the truth and telling everything are two different things.
– Those two are clever enough to get through such difficult situations, I suppose, sighs Paul.
– Paul, the stakes of this debate are to allow or not the almost-humans to become real complete humans. But whatever the decision, I can tell you, we’re ready.
– Ready for what?
– We now know how to give our bodies what they lack to be complete. We found a means to modify almost-humans.
– I’m complete.
– I can feel and love like humans now.
Silence fills the air suddenly. Paul stares out into emptiness.
– You could become whole too, she finally says, softly.
– I’m condemned to exile in the past. I can’t change eras, and moreover, I don’t want to come back to our world even for a transformation.
– But you could become human…
– I… I don’t know.
– Paul, when I left you, I was furious. Not about you. I tried to explain it to you. I wanted more and we couldn’t. Our relationship became unbearable for me. I wanted to be able to love you. Really. We felt so little when we kissed.
– It’s still the case.
– What, you kissed someone recently?
– Yes, Sylvester, he answers. He stares right in her eyes as he delivers this information, and she, in turn, lowers hers.
– Well, in twenty-five years, it’s normal you’ve changed. If you love this man, you’ll love him in a better way by being human. I was a fool to think we could get on with our lives where we left off…
– You still propose for me a transformation?
– Yes. Of course, yes! Every almost-human must be able to become complete.
Paul closes his eyes a moment and rubs his forehead. His anger has disappeared now. He stares at Nelly intensely, then after a deep breath, he confesses to her:
– Nelly, Sylvester and I don’t have the same relationship that you and I could have had. We burst out laughing after we kissed. It was idiocy on my part. I wanted just to prove to him that he really meant something to me. You know I’m not the kind of man who does things by halves…
– I do.
– And may I point out to you that he is twenty years younger than me. He’s always a kid.
– After twenty-five years of common life, you still consider him a kid?
– That’s what he is.
– You must have made him spend some hard times.
– It seems so. The exact word he used about me was “unbearable”.
– Oh, he doesn’t lack nimbleness. You know perfectly well how to be unbearable when you want to.
– Ok, I surrender. I think you’ll like him. He’s an artist, in every sense of the word.
– He too could be among the next almost-humans transformed. You should talk to him.
– Nelly, when I say we can’t go back to our world, I wasn’t joking.
– You never were very rule-abiding.
– Nelly, we didn’t get out of trouble alone. The people who helped us, I don’t want to embarrass them.
– Are we the people you don’t want to embarrass, Paul?
– Damn Mira, you always come without warning. Can’t you try knocking, you know, like everybody else next time? And what if she was an Alpha?
– She would have forgotten me as soon as I left this space-time then. I came to tell you Reymo is about to arrive with the rest of your stuff. You should move these two armchairs to the walls, to make space in the center. In a few moments, this room will be full of boxes. Reymo is waiting for my signal to come.
– Mira and Reymo, Moira and Raymond, whispers Nelly, thinking.
– What? asks Mira.
– Reymo you said, not Raymond answers Nelly louder.
– Yes, my husband’s name is Reymo, not Raymond. That is an Earthling name, and we’re not Earthlings.
– Oh, and you’re…?
– Do you see any transporter?
– So, we’re…?
– Completely unknown.
– Frigellyans. They come from Frigellya, clarifies Paul.
– Oh, the same world as the Queen and the King who…
– Exactly. Mira and Reymo are Moira and Raymond’s friends. Mira, I promise you’ll get an explanation, you and Reymo, but later if you don’t mind.
– No worries, Paul. Can I say to Reymo we’re ready to bring the rest of your stuff here?
– Yes. We’ll go to the kitchen during the landing.
– Excellent idea, she answers. Do you have any tea?
Paul starts to laugh.
– I’m going to make some for you Mira. We’ll be waiting for you there.
– I’ll be right along.