When they are finally alone in their apartment, the Major says to Beth,
– You look very tired. I’ll leave it until tomorrow to tell you what I did on Dalygaran, if you don’t mind…
– And I’ll tell you what happened with Lucia…
– I’m already aware of it. Lucia told us everything.
– Oh. I feel so bad. I shouldn’t have given in to her demand.
– You showed your humanity. You can’t blame yourself for this. Certainly time travels have their rules; but it’s not always that easy to stick to them. There are occasions when you have to think fast and make decisions, and therefore rely on your own judgment. People don’t always have time to think about the rules. I know of no species in the whole universe that is infallible. Humans have their own weaknesses, Dalygarans have theirs. From our cultural perspective, we may have different temptations, but believe me when I say nobody in the universe applies time rules to the letter.
– I can’t help myself from thinking Helena’s future would have been different if…
– Helena belongs to the past.
– I feel so guilty…
Beth comes to find comfort in her partner’s arms. A tear runs down her cheek. He softly wipes it away and holds her tight.
– Shhh, he says, stroking her hair. You’ve got to chase all those dark thoughts right out of your head. Our actions always have consequences. As soon as we go to an era, we leave a print behind. Our prints, whenever they are from, past or future, are not more or less unfair than those we leave in the present time. Here’s an example: one morning, you go out 10 minutes later than expected because you had to look all over the house for your keys.
(As this “example” has happened many times since the Major came to live on Earth, Beth gives him a soft punch in the shoulder, while unable to resist a smile.)
– I really don’t know what you’re talking about.
He goes on,
– Later, as you enter a shop, you are told you’ve just won, I don’t know, a big chocolate cake, as you’re the hundredth client of the day. What are you thinking then?
– I’m thinking I’m lucky because I love chocolate cake. But this you already know.
– You don’t tell yourself you’ve stolen the cake from the person arriving just after you. If you were not late because of your keys, you might have entered the shop as the eightieth or ninetieth client, and then you wouldn’t have won the cake.
– I think I understand what you’re trying to say. Things happen because they…
– … just happen. “If I hads” are missed chances; but you hadn’t, and that supposed chance has no existence, and it never will.
Beth nods her head in agreement. She yawns.
– Let’s go to bed, you’re exhausted.
– Yes, I’m dead tired, answers Beth.
When Beth awakes the next morning, the Major is already out of bed. She can feel his presence just nearby though, and finds him in their living room. They greet tenderly, and sit together on the sofa.
– Well, I’m listening to you, says Beth point-blank.
– Do you remember, when I left that time, I was really worried…
– Yes, I felt it.
– The person I had to meet was one of my former cadets. She and I had a… complicated relationship.
– She hurt you, didn’t she?
– You felt that too…
– On Dalygaran, it’s easy to know if love is shared or not, thanks to the bond.
– You were in love with her but she didn’t want to be bound?
– Er, more the other way round, even if, at the end, I finally gave up resisting her a little bit. But as it was after a long time, it made her very angry with me, and led her to want to hurt me.
– Dalygarans and Earthlings are not so different after all. Why are you laughing?
– I told her exactly the same thing.
– Very First Gold Ring Ray. That’s her name, isn’t it?
– Yes. She’s someone brilliant and very competent. I really think she’s the right person to succeed me. But I had to convince her first, and I hadn’t seen her for such a long time.
– I felt such a wound inside you before you went over there.
– Beth, things we fail at can sometimes be very hurtful. When she rebuffed me, after I hesitated for a whole Gold Ring to respond to her expectations, I behaved like a child. I didn’t realize myself how much I had hurt her. I was not pleased in understanding recently how stupid I had been then. This wound, it was still there, had no reason to be there anymore. I should have fixed it. And I had the opportunity to. But I had to… play with her emotions to achieve my aim…
– You did what?!
The Major takes a deep breath and goes on with his explanation.
– Emotion. That’s what initializes the connection between the travel-body and the mind. As Chief Commander, she becomes responsible for the travel-body project. I knew that as soon as she felt the sensation of traveling in the body, she wouldn’t be able to do anything but accept the position. I asked her to get in, and I recalled my state of mind from the last time we argued. Then, I provoked her.
Beth opens her eyes wide.
– I wouldn’t have succeeded if I had talked to you before I went. Beth, you made my heart literally melt. I needed to harden it again, for the time it was required. I had this last journey to do inside of myself, and I’m happy it’s over now. Very First Gold Ring Ray finally succeeded in piloting the travel-body and we had the necessary conversation about our past.
– You’re someone formidable when you decide to do something…
– Very First Gold Ring Ray thinks I use my humanity as just another tool.
– What do you think?
The Major shrugs.
– I had never acted like that before becoming human. I’m sure. But I’m a strategist, that’s who I am really. This is not Dalygaran or Earthling. It’s military skills, and in a way, my nature. However, I’m not very proud of what I’ve done.
– Major Moon Crystal is still watchful over you. I love you both.
The Major smiles, then goes on with his tale,
– We went together to see Father, and he agreed to support her appointment to my position.
– Is he getting on well?
– Yes. We talked a little bit in private after Very First Gold Ring Ray left to inform her base. He told me that he noticed something had happened to me after my return from the edge of time. He worried, so I told him everything. He now knows about our daughter.
– You did the right thing.
– And I told him about our project to help the almost-humans. I don’t think he was delighted with this, but Father never let me down before. And this time again, he did not.
– Beth, I… I took the opportunity of being up there to start the investigations.
– On Earth? About the almost-humans?
– Yes. And Very First Gold Ring Ray came with me. She was still in the travel-body when we met again in the disembarkation room. She confessed she couldn’t resist trying the time travel. I wasn’t that surprised, by the way. She’s a good investigator, you know. I figured the faster I knew what to do, the faster we—you and I—could begin any necessary actions. As we couldn’t show up on Earth in our Dalygaran shape, Very First Gold Ring Ray and I had to go to Frigellya first, for morphers.
– Yes, two Dalygarans, even in the very far future of Earth, wouldn’t have gone unnoticed.
– I wanted to use the tandem technique. You know how practical it is. But after what I did to her, it was rather difficult.
– For me it has always been easy. I always want to be by your side. She needed to regain confidence in you, didn’t she?
– Yes. I did my best to convince her. She succeeded on the fourth try.
Beth nods and lets the Major go on with his story. When he gets to their arrival in front of Nelly, she asks,
– Whom did she take you for? Raymond and Moira?
– Beth, it’s us, us later. We’re going to visit undergrounders for many years under these shapes.
– Really? How did you know where and when to materialize?
– I can assure you, I had no idea.
– I don’t understand.
– I left this to Nelly.
– I still don’t understand.
– You remember when, at the edge of time, you said, “I’d give anything to see a familiar face,” our daughter appeared shortly after? My assumption is that your wishes—our daughter’s and yours—coincided. She wanted to go to the end of time and she arrived at the moment we were at because you wanted to see a familiar face. So I wished to see Nelly, in her era and at a moment she ardently felt like seeing me. According to the admiration we saw in her eyes the last time, I thought our wishes could converge. And it worked. I was somewhat surprised she was waiting for us, though.
It is now Beth’s turn to be surprised, but she keeps her thoughts to herself until the Major speaks of the box.
– You led her to give you a box, a box you had actually sent to yourself. Isn’t that against all time-travel rules?
– There are rules, and above all there is our consciousness. As I told you last night, we all bend the rules one time or another for reasons only we can judge. But I was the one who sent the message, and I’m always careful when it’s about the future.
– So what did you send to yourself?
– The minimum. I have to develop and organize their network. It’s what they don’t know to do. And I added something like, “Plan it as you thought in your wildest imagination.”
– Which is?
– Going there regularly, for example, maybe once per month for the rest of our lives until their era, but gather those visits into once-a-week intervals for them.
– Brilliant. I love it.
– I’m not surprised.
– This will be a conscious choice this time at least, not an accident…
– What do you mean?
– Oh, says Beth suddenly embarrassed.
– What’s “Oh”?
– Maybe there’s something else I need to tell you…
– Don’t put on this guilty face. What could you have done that’s so terrible?
Beth proceeds to tell the Major how she became the Messenger, after having played with Sylvester’s inter-temporal tablet.
– Why are you laughing like that? I find it annoying, she says at last.
– Beth, have you already lost sight of what I explained to you yesterday? Things just happen. That’s all. There’s not necessarily a sophisticated trigger, a heroic action, or whatever to explain each event. You manipulated this device and it led Sylvester and Paul to you. On Dalygaran, it was unwittingly too that you implanted the morning star in the Hermit’s mind. All in all, none of this would have happened if you didn’t have inside of you those few Frigellyan ancestor genes. Everything overlaps, Beth. Absolutely everything. Sylvester and Paul chose to follow this message. This was their decision. If they didn’t have this will to change the almost-humans’ fate, this message wouldn’t have had any importance. But it had. And it led them to you. All across the universe, many peoples believe in Destiny. All in all, they’re not wrong. The passages between future and past, these are what seals everything. As soon as a time line crosses another, nothing can be changed in it, thus giving substance to Destiny. Your life has been impacted by the future Beth, and consequently all that you’re going to live is already written somewhere.
– That isn’t very reassuring.
– What does this change really? Other than the fact we know we’re going to have a daughter, we have no idea what our lives will be made of. We’ll discover our everyday life as anybody else would. And we’re going to discover it together, Beth. And I’ll enjoy it.
In response Beth huddles up in her partner’s arms and kisses him. Then she whispers in his ear,”Paul doesn’t know anything either.”
– It’s your choice to keep this between Sylvester and yourself, he answers.
– I’ll tell Sylvester you know and he’ll decide if he wants Paul to be informed or not.
Then changing the subject, she suddenly says,
– Aren’t you hungry?
– Oh yes, I am. Let’s go and have breakfast.
The young couple goes to the kitchen.
– There’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while…
– I’m listening…
– I would like to introduce my friends to you. We’re going to get married and I’m going to invite them. I haven’t seen them in such a long time, you know, and they don’t even know who you are…
– You mean you want to introduce me to them then, he teases her.
– Both, she protests.
– Let’s do it whenever you want, Beth. It’s time I have a social life on this planet.
– When are you going to start your fencing lessons?
– In two weeks.
– Until then, what do we have to deal with? A coronation, an inauguration, and two friends getting operated on.
– And if we find time, a visit to our Dalygaran friends and our heart-daughter. I more or less promised it to Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
– Excellent idea. Little Moon Crystal must have changed a lot.
While having this discussion, the two young people busy themselves with preparing the food and soon the breakfast is ready.
– 9 o’clock and Lucia’s still not here? She’s a heavy sleeper, says Beth.
– Or maybe she prefers having her breakfast next door.
– Oh, did you notice it too? She really likes to be with Sylvester.
– It seems so.
– Let’s eat and then go next door.
– All right.
With their breakfast eaten, the couple head next door. They decide not to use the interphone, as the door is now permanently open. They go directly to the kitchen. The Major knocks softly, and hearing no answer at all knocks again, louder.
– Nobody’s home apparently, remarks Beth.
They cross the kitchen and go toward the living room.
– There’s not even a sound, whispers Beth. Do you think they’re all still sleeping?
– At this time of the morning? Most probably not, answers the Major, whispering too.
He knocks on the living room door.
– Come in, says Paul.
As the young couple enters the living room, they discover Paul in an armchair with his reading tablet in hand. Sylvester and Lucia are absorbed in a chess match on a table further away.
– I’ve spoken to them twice; they didn’t hear anything, says Paul to the visitors.
– You shouted, so it’s difficult not to have heard you, answers Sylvester without looking away from the chessboard.
– Oh, welcome back among the living, retorts Paul.
Lucia, still fully concentrating, does not say anything.
– It’s her turn to play, whispers Paul. Let’s go to the kitchen. I’ve a feeling we’re too many here, he adds.
When they arrive in the kitchen, Paul tells the two,
– She arrived early this morning. I was preparing for myself something to munch on. She told me, if I didn’t mind, that she would prefer to take breakfast at our place. You’re a young couple, you see, and she doesn’t want to disturb your intimacy. So we ate together and then we went to the living room. Since then she’s been sitting in front of the chessboard. Sylvester and she didn’t finish their last game.
Paul pauses, and after a long sigh, goes on,
– Sylvester showed up a good quarter of an hour after we arrived in the living room. He saw Lucia in front of the chessboard and took the seat opposite her. I didn’t even get a single hello. I’m not sure he’s even eaten anything. Those two, they…
Paul is interrupted by Lucia and Sylvester’s entrance in the kitchen.
– He beat me, she admits. Hey, David, Beth, hello.
– Er, hello, answers Beth. You really didn’t see us a few moments ago?
In front of Lucia’s surprised look, everybody understands that the answer is no.
– I was… concentrating. I made a bad move and I was trying to pull through, but he didn’t spare me.
– If you hadn’t made that mistake, I would have been the one in trouble, answers Sylvester.
Then he goes on,
– I’ve got only an orange in my stomach. I’m starving! Anyone care to accompany me?
– We’ve just had our breakfast, answers Beth.
– I’m not hungry, adds Lucia.
– I’ll have a coffee, says Paul.
– I’ll have one two, says the Major.
– Lucia, Beth, you really don’t want anything? insists Sylvester. Not even some tea?
– A cup of tea then, answers Beth.
– Why not, adds Lucia.
As Paul is busy in making coffee, he suddenly rummages in his trousers’ pocket to get out a small and flat device that is vibrating.
– Nelly put it in my coat pocket the day of her first visit, he explains. There’s a message inside, “We’ll stay in touch.”
– A pocket inter-temporal communicator, whistles Sylvester admiringly. What does the message say this time?
– It’s so indiscreet, says Lucia with mild disapproval.
– Lucia, you may think of us as an old couple, says Paul amused by the young woman’s remark.
– An old couple? she wonders.
– 25 years of common life, without meeting many people, adds Sylvester.
– Until this hurricane came along and made our lives an absolute mess, goes on Paul pointing at Beth.
– Isn’t your life better now? she retorts.
– Of course, yes. And it’ll be even better soon, answers Paul. This is a message from Nelly. She’s trying to convince me to be operated on earlier.
– Have you made a decision about the definitive date? asks Beth.
– We said in one week, answers Sylvester.
– That was yesterday, adds Paul.
– There’s the inauguration of the Earthly-Dalygaran Territory to attend before that, says Beth.
– If we do things in order… answers Paul.
– …which I’d rather prefer, interjects Sylvester.
– How about going to the coronation tomorrow? asks Beth.
– I’ve nothing against this, answers Paul.
– Neither have I, goes on Sylvester.
The Major just smiles as an answer.
– Perfect. I’ll contact Mira. She asked me to notify her the day before we go. She’s got information on the protocols to give us. The device to call her is back home. I’ll be back in a minute. I’ll tell her to meet us here.
– We’ll be in the living room, says Paul. No need to arrive on the landing this time. We’re waiting for her.
– Ok, Paul. I’ll tell her.