When Very First Gold Ring Ray materializes at the Space Travel Center, she finds the Major deep in conversation with Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
– I’ll never get used to these sudden appearances, says Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe. Captain, I’m an admirer, even if it took David shaking you up a bit to help you succeed…
– My name on Earth.
– It’s even shorter.
– This is a name that suits me.
– Does he know anything? asks Very First Gold Ring Ray.
– Yes. I told you, he is my friend, and above all he is one of the travel-bodies’ designers. We have been working together on this project since the beginning.
– I’m delighted to meet one of the designers of this… wonder.
Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe answers with a large smile.
– You came quickly.
– I haven’t finished yet, over there. I just announced my departure and gave some instructions. I’ve to go back, but…
Very First Gold Ring Ray hesitates. She turns her gaze to Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, then says,
– I couldn’t wait…
The Major raises his eyebrows and encourages her with a glance to go on.
– I… travelled in time. I couldn’t stop myself.
– Hey, she reminds me of someone, guffaws Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe. Well, I’ll leave you two alone. I’m expected at the laboratory. See you soon, my friend. Madam.
– See you next time, answers the Major. Well, it’s just you and me now.
– You told me travelling with this body was easy, that I just had to want it. And I wanted to go back in time, to see some things again… Did you realize this? This mean of transport is so amazing, repeats the Captain.
– Isn’t it?
– How could I resist?
– Do you want to travel more?
– What, now?
– Yes, you’re coming with me.
– To the future. We’re going to use tandem travel.
– It’s a technique I use with Beth. It’s very practical to arrive exactly at the same place at the same moment. I know where I want to go in the future, and your destination will be at my side. You’ve only to wish to follow me, and you’ll see, you’ll re-materialize just beside me.
– You two do that?
– Yes. I told you, it’s practical. We’re going to perform a trial first. To succeed, we have to leave exactly at the same time. Let’s try, on three. One, two, three…
The Major materializes in front of the Great Waterfall. The Captain is not at his side. He goes back quickly to the Space Travel Center.
– I’m sorry, I…
– It doesn’t matter. We’re going to try again. Will you come with me?
– It’s… It’s not easy to follow you like that, without knowing exactly why…
– You’re right. I owe you an explanation.
And the Major proceeds to explain his project to the Captain.
– So, we’re supposed to investigate the reason for the delay to the improvement of the almost-humans’ status.
– Yes. It’s the investigation phase. We won’t intervene. It’ll be just an analysis of the situation.
– Yes, but after that, you will do something.
– It all depends on what I’m going to find out; but if I intervene, it’ll be with Beth.
– Shall we try again?
– On three: one, two, three.
The Major is alone again at the Great Waterfall.
When, he is back at the Space Travel Center, the Captain is very embarrassed.
– I’m sorry.
– I’m the one who is sorry. Don’t worry. I owe you an apology for earlier, when I pushed you to the limit to make you use the travel-body. You can’t follow me, if you don’t totally trust me. And I can understand your hesitation. Very First Gold Ring Ray, I’ll be really honored if you agree to help me with my investigations. You’re fast, you’re effective, everything will go faster if you’re with me than if I’m alone. But this is only possible if you totally trust me again. You understand.
– Yes, I think. Let’s try a last time.
– Sure! Go on, count.
– One, two, three.
The Major materializes in front of the Great Waterfall, and Very First Gold Ring Ray is at his side. She starts to laugh out loud.
– This is amazing. I love it. Where are we going now?
– To Frigellya.
– On three: one, two three.
The two Dalygarans materialize in Mira and Reymo’s shelter.
– We’re visiting the ones that poisoned our planet?
– Yes, those were Frigellyans, but it was a dissident clan.
– I know this, but we’re on their planet…
– Yes, we’re going to investigate on Earth, but we can’t show up in Dalygaran travel-bodies. We’ll need morphers.
– Morphers, those devices that allow beings to change their appearance?
– Yes, but it doesn’t change voices. We’ll have to do with observation and listening. Unless…
– Professional visit?
The Major and the Captain turn around on the female voice that has just spoken.
– Mira, Reymo, it’s a real pleasure to see you again, says the Major.
– You can’t do without us anymore, teases Mira. Beth, hello.
Mira comes closer for the Frigellyan greeting, but Very First Gold Ring Ray does not move at all, so Mira stops, surprised.
– It’s not Beth, says the Major. Show them who you are, you’ve still got the revelator at your wrist.
Very First Gold Ring Ray complies.
– Oh, a Dalygaran, says Reymo.
– Yes, Captain Very First Gold Ring Ray, she introduces herself.
– Pleased to meet you, answers Reymo, while Mira just nods.
– Major, well David, do you have any special reason to bring this person here to our shelter? asks Mira.
– Don’t worry, my friends. Captain Very First Gold Ring Ray is someone absolutely reliable. She’s going to be the next Dalygaran’s Chief Commander. You can trust her as much as me. I asked her to come with me on an investigation. On Earth. I thought we could borrow your morphers, but we’d like to speak too.
– This might be possible for you David, but not for her. We can try to reveal your real voice, the one of your human body, but we can’t assign a voice to just anyone, answers Reymo.
– As you’re s not in your real body, we’ll have to make a connection with the one left on Earth. We’ll see if we can manage to do it with one of our piloting implants. We use them to connect cerebral waves on exploration mobile units, a sort of flying sphere that allows us to…
– … collect information discreetly, completes the Major. I’ve heard of these. Let’s have a try.
– We haven’t got the implants here. I’ll have to go and search for one, answers Reymo.
– Meanwhile, I’ll give you the same face as last time…
– It’s up to you, Mira.
Mira applies the appearance affectation procedure to the bracelets and gives one to each Dalygaran.
– You’d better take off your revelator, Captain, advises Mira. So now, to appear in your new shape, push the colored stone. To get back to your initial shape, push it again. You see, it’s that simple.
– Indeed, answers the Captain.
She and the Major both push on their bracelet stones to take their human shape.
– You’re going to investigate on Earth? asks Mira.
– Yes. I want to know why the almost-humans have had to wait so long for their request to become human to be examined. Why has nothing happened earlier?
– It’s a personal investigation then?
– Who is being informed of this?
– Beth, my father, and now you.
– Right. Take care of yourself, says Mira.
– We will, intervenes Very First Gold Ring Ray.
Reymo is now back with an injector.
– David, come closer, he says.
And he injects the implant in his neck.
– We’re going to try a connection with your body on Earth. As soon as it’s done, your voice will be the one of your human version, says Mira.
As usual, she applies her finger to some invisible buttons and a command console appears in front of her. Mira’s hands glide along the console as she’s proceeding to the settings.
– Ouch. This isn’t without any effect, exclaims the Major.
– A dizzy spell? asks Mira.
– Yes, he answers.
– Great, good sign. It means the connection has begun. Say something…
– If I can have a human voice, I could directly question the humans.
If the beginning of the sentence was pronounced with the Dalygaran body voice, the end was clearly pronounced by the human being, David Crystal.
– It works, he says, delighted.
– Do you think it’s necessary for me to come with you now that you have the ability to interact directly with people, asks the Captain.
The Major thinks for a while before giving an answer.
– Let’s meet someone first, and then we’ll part. You’re a good observer, and you’ll be able to collect useful information.
– As you wish. Where are we going?
– I don’t know exactly. Someone else is going to decide that, answers the Major.
– Improvisation, hey? That’s a human thing, isn’t it?
– I love it, says Very First Gold Ring Ray, enthusiastically.
– Let’s go then. On three: one, two, three.
And the two Dalygarans disappear from the shelter. They materialize in their human shape in front of Nelly.
– Raymond, Moira, I was waiting for you.
Very First Gold Ring Ray, used to this kind of mission, doesn’t bat an eye and lets the Major direct operations.
– Hello, Nelly. You were waiting for us?
– Yes, it was exactly for you. Your voice effectively is …
– … younger?
– That’s it.
– You know who I really am, right?
– I just guessed it a few moments ago, in the lab. But I promise nobody here will ever pronounce your name.
– How many people know?
– Your molecular analysis has been sent to the four other persons who are working on your body.
– This is the one that will receive my mind the night I will be too weak to come back to my planet?
– Yes. Moira, you haven’t said anything. I’ve never seen you so calm.
– She’s got a loss of voice.
– A loss of voice?
– I can get her rid of that in a split second.
– That won’t be necessary.
– I can assure you, it’s almost nothing.
Using his suggestion ability, the Major answers,
– That won’t be necessary.
– You’re right, says Nelly.
– So you were expecting us?
– Yes, the Ray who came to see us regularly for four years gave me a box for you. He told me you’ll know how to open it and that you’ll find inside all the answers to your questions. I’ll go and bring it for you.
The Major and the Captain are now alone. She says in a low voice,
– Apparently, it’s another version of you who spent time with these people.
– And he sent me a message. Let’s think. This is my own strategy. I obviously knew when I arrived here, he says pointing to the luminous calendar-clock. It’s been four years I’ve been coming here with… Moira. The morpher allows us to have the same appearance each time. And so over four years, it’s normal not to change that much. In contrast, she noticed a change in my voice. The Raymond she recently met had an older voice than mine today. I’ve already imagined several strategies to help the almost-humans, and one of the craziest was to come regularly, all along our lives so Beth and I could gather and organize the undergrounders, if necessary. Let’s imagine once each month we quit our own time to come here, but transformed the frequency in this time to one visit each week.
– That way, your voice would have changed gradually as you got older in your own time, but here, all this runs continuously and goes unnoticed. But if a younger version of you comes just after the older one that usually spends time here, the difference between the two voices becomes obvious, adds the Captain, always in a low voice.
– I think I set up this strategy. And I decided to make myself gain some time. I know what is in the box.
– All the answers to your questions.
– Exactly. The Raymond of the future knew perfectly well which data I was missing. He could have gathered it together during all his life, discreetly. I think our investigations are finished “Moira”.
– That was fast. I would have expected something more… tedious.
– You don’t have any loss of voice and you’re not Moira, says Nelly who has come back without their noticing her.
– She has a loss of voice and she’s Moira, answers the Major.
– Of course, this is Moira and she has a loss of voice, repeats Nelly. Here is the box.
The Captain raises her eyebrows: two times the Major made Nelly shift. It’s not by chance. The Major can feel the confusion in his temporary partner.
– Let’s go, he says to her. Good-bye, Nelly.
He holds the box tight to his body, arms crossed over.
– On three: one, two, three.
– Good-bye, shouts Nelly as they dematerialize.
In the shelter, Mira and Reymo are waiting.
– That didn’t take long, or you’ve just come back at the nearest time.
– Both, answers the Major.
– I have a question, says the Captain. Can you explain to me Nelly’s shifts? It happened twice. It just took you a few words and it was like you hypnotized her.
– Oh, that’s the suggestion ability. Do you have it, Major? wonders Mira.
– Yes. It’s a Frigellyan ability I have developed.
– A Frigellyan ability?
– Yes, like Beth I’ve got a few Frigellyan ancestor genes. It’s a long story. But as a result, I gained certain abilities. Beth said my habit to give orders predisposed me to have this one, while she’s got others…
– She’s probably right, says Reymo.
Showing the box with satisfaction, the Major announces,
– There must be a complete report inside on the investigation I wanted to lead.
– I don’t see a lock for this, notices Reymo. How does it open?
– I know whom to ask, answers the Major. A newer version of this box has a place of honor in Paul and Sylvester’s living room in our era.
– Definitively, those two never stop surprising us, drops Mira.
– We’ve got to go home, says the Major.
He and the Captain push on their bracelet stone to take back their initial shape.
– Keep the morphers, says Mira. I’ve got the feeling they will be useful to you in the future…
– Are you sure?
– Yes, answer Mira and Reymo in chorus.
– See you soon then, says the Major.
– Hep, hep, hep, intervenes Mira. You’re not going to Dalygaran with your human voice combined with your travel body. Let me cut the connection, David.
Always with the same gestures, Mira makes the console appear and after some movements with her hands on the screen, the Major can feel the same dizzy spell.
– Talk to us now.
– I sensed the disconnection, Mira.
– It’s indeed the Dalygaran travel-body’s voice that can be heard. You can go now.
– You’ll follow me, right? On three: one, two, three.
The Major and the Captain re-materialize at the Space Travel Center, startling Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe who gives a little jump again.
– I came to put the extraction pill in this little drawer, he explains. I didn’t think I would see you so soon. You were away only for a hundredth…
– I’m going to take mine now, says the Captain.
– Go to the place where I laid the body before, instructs Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe. David, you’ll do the same when you’re ready. Er, what’s that box?
– Answers from the future, but I can’t open it yet…
– Are you leaving soon?
– I have to go and see father again first.
– I suspected this. You won’t need to wait for me. When you’re ready to leave your pill will be in this drawer. It’s what I will do from now on.
-Very First Gold Ring Ray, it was a pleasure to see you again.
– A shared pleasure indeed, Moon Crystal. Not to mention the opportunity to have tried this… wonder. Well, I have to get out there now and handle the transfer to this base.
– You accept, then? says Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe. You’ll need your own travel body.
Very First Gold Ring Ray bursts out laughing.
– The Great Council has decided to create two other bodies in the near future, one male gendered and one female gendered. The goal is to have a fleet of about ten bodies in two gold rings, specifies Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
– You’ll have to choose who will use those bodies. It’s your responsibility now, says the Major.
– Meanwhile, I’ve got paperwork to do. I’ll return to my body.
As she opens her eyes in her own body, the Captain gets up slowly, smiles at the two men, and shouts a “see you” as she heads toward the transporter left by the Major. When the transporter has disappeared, the Major says to his friend,
– You’ll see. She’ll be an excellent Commander.
– What matters to me is that she is a good pilot.
– She’s learning fast.
– I could see that…
– My friend, I’m impatient to go back and see Beth. I’ll go to see my father immediately and when I’m finished with him, I’ll give the travel-body back. We’ll probably come here together on a social visit soon.
– Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain will be very pleased to see you again.
– We’ll be pleased too, and we’ll enjoy seeing our heartdaughter.
– She’s growing so fast.
– I’m looking forward to seeing that, my friend. I have to leave you now. See you next time.
– See you next time, David.
After having seen his father a last time, and making the promise to come back soon with Beth, the Major goes back to the disembarkation room where he left the box. He quickly goes to Earth to drop it in the room where his body lies and notices Beth is at his side. He recognizes the stiff immobility of the space travelers and wonders where she might have gone. He quickly goes back to Dalygaran and takes the extraction pill.
When he opens his eyes at the two Smiths’, he gets up slowly. He lays a kiss on Beth’s forehead, and hearing some noise in the living room, he goes to see who is in there, bringing the box with him. When he recognizes it, Paul whistles in surprise.
– Do you know how to open it? asks the Major.
– I have to get Sylvester. He is in his studio… with Lucia.
– I’ll wait for you here.
As Sylvester arrives in the living room he whistles too at the sight of the box.
– This is a unique model of my conception, says Sylvester. I created it, less than one year ago… But here, it seems to have terribly aged…
– Sylvester, how can we open it?
As an answer, Sylvester and Paul come close to the Major and Sylvester holds out a hand to ask for the box. As soon as he gets it, he holds it with one hand, and waits for Paul to put his own at the opposite side of his.
– My right hand, his left one, on the box is the only thing that can open it.
Indeed, everybody can hear a click. Sylvester gives the box back to the Major. He finds inside the box a 10cm by 2cm sheet that reacts at his fingers’ touch and on which he can read in Dalygaran characters: “Organize the undergrounders, just as you have seen it in your wildest imagination. Build them their network. It is what they don’t know to do.”
The Major bursts out laughing.
– I should have known. I’m always very careful when it’s about the future.
Lucia who came back with Sylvester and had remained silent until then asks,
– What happened?
– I just received a message from the future, answers the Major.
– And you can’t talk about it, am I right? adds Paul.
– Yes. I can only talk about this with Beth. It’s about us. Does someone know where she has gone?
– To seek out my biological father, to see his face and draw it for me…
When she notices the Major’s raised eyebrows, Lucia starts to tell him about what happened to them earlier in the day.
– I’m… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked her for this, she says at last.
The Major is about to answer when the living room door opens on Beth holding high a drawing.