As the Major opens his eyes, he is in his travel-body on Dalygaran. Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe is waiting for him and warmly welcomes him.
– Hello, my friend. You’re here as a single this time, he says joyfully.
– I have some stuff to work out. I must see someone.
– Someone? Really?
– I’ve got someone in mind to succeed me as Chief Commander, but I have to convince her first.
One of my former cadets. I want her to try the travel body, the one Beth usually uses.
– These two bodies are permanently on stand-by and ready to go, you know.
– Yes, I know, answers the Major with a smile. I have to go to the other side of the planet. She is at our second base. I’ll come back as soon as possible. Meanwhile, can you bring the second body here?
– And bring a travel pill along, please.
The Major dematerializes and re-materializes at Dalygaran’s second military base. At the check-in area he asks for a tablet to identify himself, even though everyone there recognizes the planet’s first travel-body and knows perfectly well who is inside.
– I would like to speak to Captain Very First Gold Ring Ray.
– She’s in the Pendula Room. She’s training. She is trying to reach the 8th level.
– I’m not surprised. She’ll succeed one day.
– You know where the room is…
– Yes. Don’t let know I’m here. Just let her concentrate on what she’s doing.
As the Major arrives in front of the Pendula Room door, he can hear the mechanism in action. He waits until it stops and knocks.
– Come in, answer a woman’s voice.
As he enters the room, the Major recognizes the tall and slender green-eyed woman. She has the distinctive mark, white, around the left eye.
– Good morning, Captain.
– Major Moon Crystal…
– Very First Gold Ring Ray, you and I know each other well. I think we can give up the formalities…
– We know each other well… really? This was what I thought…
– We know each other because we’re the same.
– We’re not.
– I assure you, we are.
The Major raises his hand to ask for silence, as Very First Gold Ring Ray is about to answer.
– Listen, I come to make you a proposal.
– A proposal?
– I want you to take my position as Chief Commander.
– You understood me perfectly.
– What tells you I want the position?
– Oh, you don’t. Nobody does. But if the opportunity is given to you, you’ll take it. And I’m here to give it to you.
– You haven’t this power. Never will the command be given to me.
– No, not right now. But I can assure you it will.
– I’ve got no support at the High Command.
– You’ll have my father.
– We’ll go and see him, if you tell me the position interests you.
– Dalygaran Army Chief Commander?
– Because, you’re the only one…
– You’re not serious.
– Of course I am. You’re the only one who can hold this position and continue what I’ve implemented. As I’ve told you, you and I, we’re the same…
– We’re not.
– We are. As I had, you’ve treated a deep wound by putting everything you have into your work.
– I don’t want to speak about it.
– I do, but not now. Let’s go to the transporter room. I’ve got something to show you. Come. I’ll take you to the Space Travel Center.
Very First Gold Ring Ray hesitates, but at last submits and follows the Major, who, after all, still is her superior.
In the transporter room, the Major chooses a machine and enters into it the Space Travel Center’s coordinates. The transporter is small enough to land in the disembarkation room, where Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe has already laid out the female travel-body.
– I didn’t expect you back so quickly, he says.
Noticing the Captain, he goes on,
– Good morning… er… Captain? I’m not very used to military grades.
– Yes, it’s Captain, she answers. Captain Very First Gold Ring Ray.
– Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, Head of Research, introduces the Major. Did you remember to get the travel pill?
– Of course, what a question.
– It’s for her.
– I suspected it.
– Oh, because he knows.
– He’s my friend, interrupts the Major.
– So, Captain, here is your pill. There’s a couch out there, just beside the desk, he says, accompanying his words with a hand gesture.
– Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, could you leave us alone, please?
– Ah? Er, yes, he answers a little bit put out.
– Don’t worry my friend; I’ll explain why later.
– No problem. I’ll leave you.
As he makes his way out, he brings a glass of water from the desk and holds it to the Captain.
– Thank you, she says.
As soon as he leaves the room, Very First Gold Ring Ray turns toward the Major.
– Your friend, hey?
– The best I have on this planet.
– You haven’t changed.
– Do you think so? Take your pill, lie down and enter the travel body.
– At your command!
The Major doesn’t answer, and lets the Captain go. As the travel body opens its eyes, he says,
– You and I are the same.
– That’s wrong.
– We were nearly bound.
– But we weren’t. I was in love with you, you weren’t, end of story.
– But I ended up…
– … doing nothing. One gold ring, Moon Crystal. It took one gold ring before you condescended to pay me some attention. You’re a well-mannered man, Moon Crystal. You thought you should be nice to me. I didn’t want to be involved in any fake relationship, which would have looked more like a duty than a real feeling. You let yourself soften, but you never loved me.
– I think I am best suited to know what my feelings were. You awoke my heart. And at last, it was you who rejected me—because of my name!
– And you believed me?! Come on! I knew your name since the beginning. I just freed you, Moon Crystal.
– That’s wrong. The truth is that you didn’t really love me.
– Of course I did.
– Of course you did not. Listen, speaking about all this was a bad idea… I just wanted everything to be clear between us, and it’s still so painful. I need fresh air. I’ll go to the Great Waterfall. Over there, at least, I can breathe. Don’t try to follow me. How could you anyway? It took me a whole moon to get the travel-body to work.
– What? I…
– It requires you to use your mind and to know what you want. I’m not sure you know what you want.
The Major dematerializes, leaving the Captain alone in the disembarkation room.
– Bloody hell! What nerve! Him and his freakin’ Great Waterfall, I hate them both. I’ll show him how my mind…
And the Captain dematerializes in her turn and re-materializes at the Great Waterfall.
– I’m sorry, says the Major softly.
– Wow. This body is surprising…. I was furious with you, and I wanted to speak to you, and here I am.
– Yes. Emotion. This is the decisive factor to be linked to these machines. Without an emotional wave to initialize the link between your mind and the machine, nothing happens. It’s why it took me an entire moon to be able to use it. I succeeded just at the moment I despaired. For Beth, it was easier. Humans bubble up with emotions. And you’ve just validated my theory. The emotions you felt led you here. It was what I wanted to show you. About us, you were right; we weren’t made for each other. I hesitated too much. I should have understood that what you said about my name was just an excuse, but it had above all been an excuse for me to withdraw into myself. I wasn’t ready to be involved in a love relation. Again, I’m sorry to have shaken you up to get you here.
– You’re not really. You accomplished exactly what you set out to. You’re right, though; the Moon Crystal I knew would never have acted that way.
– The human inside me knows it was the fastest method. I silenced my Dalygaran scruples.
– You turn your humanity into a strategic tool. It seems that finally, this is you, Moon Crystal. Straight to the goal. We’re very much alike on this point. That’s why I’m not angry with you anymore. We needed an explanation for those times. Now it’s done. A bond needs two people to be woven and I was alone, even if you ultimately think to the contrary. It couldn’t have been a solid and durable bond. I had to release you. Certainly, I didn’t choose the best method. I was so hurt. I wanted to hurt you back.
– Dalygarans and humans are rather alike on certain points.
– You know more about humans than I.
Very First Gold Ring Ray shushes for a while before going on,
– And you’re right. I am like you. I rushed headlong into my work to forget all this.
– You’re not bound to anybody?
– It won’t happen.
– I too didn’t think it would ever happen to me, and look at me today…
– Oh, I was in the crowd, the day of the celebration in honor of the Earthling girl, well, of your… partner. And I saw you. Your bond is obvious. It shines.
– We’re getting married.
– I’m not surprised. I wish you both a radiant future.
– Thank you. Shall we go back to the Space Travel Center now?
– Do you think I will succeed?
– Once the body is initiated, it’s easy. Go first, I’ll catch up.
The Captain tries to concentrate but she does not move an inch.
– Don’t try to force things. It has to be natural. If you want to go back to the travel center, you just need to wish it…
The Captain disappears.
When the Major re-materializes in the disembarkation room, she is there, triumphant.
– I succeeded. You see. I succeeded.
– I told you. We’ll work on time leaps another day, if you don’t mind. Let’s go and see my father.
– Does he always live at the same place, at the High Command?
– Let’s meet in front of his door.
– Very First G…
The Major has no time to finish his sentence when she is already away. “She has common features with someone I know,” he says to himself. When he arrives, his father is just opening the door to Very First Gold Ring Ray who seems to have already knocked.
– My children, what a surprise, says the Supreme Commander.
– This is not Beth, father.
– Who is it, then?
– I am Captain Very First Gold Ring Ray.
The Supreme Commander looks at his son with questioning eyes.
– Shall we come in, father?
– Yes, of course, yes.
Once they are inside, the Supreme Commander shows the Captain to a seat with his hand. He and his son face her.
– Father, you know I can’t be Chief Commander of the Dalygaran Army anymore. My life is on Earth now…
– Yes, I know my son, I know… answers the father, lowering his voice and bowing down his head.
– Captain Very First Gold Ring Ray can stand in for me. She’s got all the abilities. And she already knows how to pilot the travel-body. She learns fast.
The Supreme Commander looks at the young woman in the travel body usually occupied by his future daughter-in-law.
– I’m impressed. Is this what you want young lady?
– I would be honored, Supreme Commander.
– If my son chose you as his successor, that means he holds you in great respect. I’ll rely on his judgment.
– You won’t regret it, Supreme Commander.
– My son, do you have this device–the revelator–with you that I may see what this young lady really looks like?
– It must be in one of my overall pockets, father.
The Major rummages a moment in his overall pockets and gets the strap out. He puts it around his wrist and gives an explanation to the Captain.
– This device reveals your real nature, as soon as you push on the round button.
And he pushes the round button. He starts to frankly laugh as he sees the reaction on the Captain’s face.
– Have you already forgotten how I look?
The Supreme Commander does not give her time to answer and says,
– Don’t be surprised, young lady. My son, would you give the strap to the Captain?
– Yes, father. Push the round button to show your real appearance and the triangular one to go back to the travel-body one, he says holding the strap to the Captain.
After she has pushed on the round button, the Supreme Commander says,
– All right, young lady, you can push the triangular button now. I seem to remember you…
– I was stationed at the main base for about three gold rings.
– We must have seen each other from time to time… Listen, I’d like to have a private conversation with my son for a while. Would you mind leaving us alone?
– Of course not, Supreme Commander. My respects.
Before she leaves the Major adds,
– Go back to second base and explain to them the situation. We’ll confirm your new circumstances as soon as possible. You can stay in the travel-body if you wish, so you’ll be able do things faster.
– Do I start immediately?
– If this is your wish, answers the Major. This decision is yours to make. If you’ve got some things to manage before leaving the base, we can give you some time…
– No, that’s ok. I’ll give the necessary instructions to conclude the current investigations. I’ll be back as soon as possible.
– I’ll do what it takes for you to be immediately placed on probation as Chief Commander. But the High Command will have to confirm this decision before one moon passes, specifies the Supreme Commander.
– Thank you, Sir.
– When you’re finished, please come right back to me. I’ll be finished with my son most probably.
– At your orders, Supreme Commander. I’ll return soon.
And the Captain disappears.
The Supreme Commander stands up and takes the Captain’s seat. He faces his son and looks at him straight in the eyes.
– You’re changing, my son.
– I’m more and more human you know.
– That wasn’t what I meant. There’s something different about you since you came back from the End Of Time. Something happened there. I’m sure of it. Can’t you tell me?
– If you ask for it, you’ll get an answer; I’ve nothing to hide from you, father.
– Thank you for your trust son. So tell me, this thing that makes you want to relinquish your Dalygaran duties as soon as possible, what is it? You were letting things go, so to speak, already before…
– It’s nothing grave. On the contrary. I… Beth and I… we met our… daughter.
The Supreme Commander raises his eyebrows and tells his son,
– It must have been quite a surprise.
– Beth and I felt the parental bond that linked us with her. Even if I’m used to time travel, I wish I had discovered this feeling the same way any Dalygaran does…
– You’re not “any Dalygaran,” my son. You live on Earth, in a human body. And you’re going to be the father of a human child. You’re unique among your kind…
– I know.
– So, tell me, how is she?
– My daughter? Impossible, like her mother was when we met.
The Supreme Commander starts to laugh.
– Am I right to conclude this young person annoys you?
– She “borrowed” a travel-body without having a clue how it worked. If she hadn’t met us, how would she have gone back home? She could have wandered in space and time forever… and lost her own body. It was totally reckless of her. Father, being more and more human, I had to fight myself so as not to burst out in anger. I had to act fast. There were presence detectors and one person too many in the room. So I did the only thing I knew to do. I spoke to her as to one of my soldiers. That’s not how I wished to speak with my own daughter.
– You cared about her security.
– I was afraid for her.
– You behaved like a father.
– I wasn’t ready.
– Believe me, nobody’s ever ready for that; being a parent is a mission always full of surprises. It can be said, at least, that your fatherhood started with a bang, my son. But you’re not alone. You’re two to manage this situation.
– Yes, I know. Beth has been perfect.
– This young woman has enormous potential my son. I love her very much, and I’m happy of what you’re going to build together…
The Major smiles and mutters, “Everything is happening so fast.” Then a silence falls between the two men.
The Major is lost in his thoughts and the father is waiting for his son to speak again. At last, he says,
– Father, I owe my life to Sylvester and Paul. I would be dead without them. Instead, I’m going to have a family. This debt, I could never fill it, but I know what I can do for them: make sure almost-humans can one day become full humans. I can make sure that one day they can build a family too.
– You’re going to get involved in Earth’s future.
– Yes. I want this world to treat my friends and those of their kind better than they have until now.
– Your intentions are honorable my son, but you’re going to take huge risks.
– I know. I’ve talked about this with Beth, and she agrees to support me.
– I’m not surprised. My son, I won’t try to dissuade you. Without these two almost-humans, I would have had to bury you. You’ve got my support. And if one day you’re in trouble, I’ll fight for you. I swear.
– Thank you, father. Believe me when I say I’ll do all that is possible so that you won’t have to.
The Supreme Commander stands up and moves forward. His son stands also. They embrace for a moment, the father patting his son on the back. As they part, the Major says,
– I have recently learned the situation is about to be unblocked for the almost-humans, and that their demand to become humans is about to be examined. I need to know why this has occurred only now, why it has taken so long for their fate to be considered. If you don’t mind, I’ll take advantage of my coming here to go and investigate in the far future of Earth.
– In a Dalygaran travel-body?
– Yes. I’m going to get a morpher from our Frigellyan friends to take on a human appearance.
– Have you already got a strategy?
– My human part urges me to improvise. In this case, I think I will follow my instinct.
– Take care of yourself, son. You won’t be imprudent, will you?
– My Dalygaran personality is still dominant. Don’t worry, father. By the way, according to Very First Gold Ring Ray, my humanity is just another tool at my disposal.
The father bursts out laughing.
– This girl doesn’t lack presence of mind. There was something between you two, am I right?
– It’s in the past.
– For her too?
– For her too. My offer for the Chief Commander position came along with an explanation about this past. All is clear now, father.
– Perfect, my son.
The father and the son go on chatting about this and that for a good hundredth, mainly about David and Beth’s life on Earth and their projects. Someone knocks on the door.
– Come in, says the Supreme Commander.
The door opens on Very First Gold Ring Ray, still in the travel-body.
– That was fast, wonders the Major.
– I’ve not yet…
– Come in, young lady, says the Supreme Commander. And you, my son, it’s your turn to leave us alone. I’d like to speak in private with this young person. Come and see me again before you’ve left the planet, will you?
– Yes, father.
– Moon Crystal, wait for me in disembarkation room, I have to talk to you…
– I’ll be five minutes, my son.
– Al right, I’ll go to the Space Travel Center.
– I’ll meet you there.