It has been seven days now since Very First Gold Ring Ray and Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain have switched bodies. They decided to declare immediately their bond to their inner circles, both personal and professional. They were troubled that this revelation surprised no one.
The first day, he led the woman he loves to her home. They explored the place together, and she quickly found her bearings. Even if she had no memory of having lived there, there was no denying that it was she who had fitted it out, and if she were to do it again, even in another’s body, she would do it exactly the same.
Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain, or Chief Commander Very First Gold Ring Ray as far as everybody at the base was concerned, organized special sessions for training, officially designed for Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain. Very First Gold Ring Ray wanted to evaluate the man she is bound to before letting him take her place with her soldiers. The first two mornings were dedicated to agility exercises, but only involved the two of them. In the afternoons they talked a lot, about the other people at the base and about their viewpoints regarding command. After two days, Very First Gold Ring Ray decided he can assume her role. She made him command her to follow an observation session, meaning the guy everybody saw as Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain officially had to analyze what commanding was all about. This kind of session, everybody knows, is a springboard to a better rank. In fact, it allowed Very First Gold Ring Ray to analyze how Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain managed the situation. She especially demanded that the research center be discreet about what was really going on. She was hoping that nobody would notice anything unusual.
But after seven days in a man’s body, she is becoming impatient to have hers back, all the more since they’d made love together. They couldn’t resist anymore, being strongly attracted as they were for days. They laughed a lot, that night, each feeling so clumsy at being the other. But they now have an experience nobody else has: they know how the other senses things.
On this day, the eighth, the travel body is ready to be used again. The researcher found something, fixed it, and now they have to know if it works.
Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe organizes the return of Very First Gold Ring Ray in the travel body at the same time as the return of Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain in his. Very First Gold Ring Ray is supposed to go back to her own body after a few tests in her travel body.
—So, how do you feel? asks Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, stumbling over the last word.
He can feel Very First Gold Ring Ray’s annoyance.
—No memories back, I’m afraid, she answers.
—Maybe it’ll take some time for the connections to be rebuilt? suggests Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain, back in his own body is looking down at Very First Gold Ring Ray in hers, which seems to be asleep.
—Let’s wait some hundredths, he says softly. You’ll go back into your body today one way or another.
—Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, do you think Moon Crystal will use the travel body he was inside last time, today?
—Not to my knowledge.
—Soldier, what would you think about trying a travel body?
—This one? The Major’s, Ma’am?
—Is there another one?
—No, there are only two…
—So there is only one left…
—You want me to pilot a travel body?
—I want us to find out together how it works…
Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain is torn between enthusiasm and apprehension. What if he fails?
—I’ll get it, says Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
When he is back with the body in his long arms, he lays it on a couch, and gives a pill to Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain.
—You know how this works…
—Not exactly, retorts Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain to Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
—I was talking about the pill.
As soon as Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain opens his eyes in the male travel body, he says:
—Do you have any idea how much time it took Major Moon Crystal to succeed in traveling with this body?
—No. How much?
—A few days for Beth, adds Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
—Who is Beth?
—Oh, you’ve forgotten her?
—It seems so.
—You know it’s better you remember by yourself…
—Yes, I know. I won’t ask. So, it’s possible to succeed quickly then.
—And have you any idea why this…, Beth, succeeded faster than Moon Crystal?
—She’s a cauldron of emotions, answers Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
—Yes. The link with the machine is made under high emotion.
Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain sees his partner thinking deeply.
—What if we go to this place you love: the view over Laurina Mountain where your parents met first? she suggests.
He smiles at her and says…
—Seriously? Is it what you want to do?
—Horse riding, that’s what I’d love to do. Let’s see a beautiful view before trying to use our travel bodies. We have time.
—All right, let’s go. See you later, he says to Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
Riding a horse in a Dalygaran forest is something Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain loves, too, especially when it is with the woman he is bound to. The weather is so nice today, he thinks. During the ride, he senses something in Very First Gold Ring Ray’s mind, some confusion. He asks her if something is wrong.
—My memories. It’s like they are very near, but I can’t reach them yet. It gives me such a headache.
—Do you want us to stop here?
—No, let’s go to the view. If I’m going to have a headache, better have it in front of an amazing view!
And she dashes away at full gallop. Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain catches up with her immediately.
When they stop in front of the view, they both jump off their mounts. They start to purr and hug warmly.
—I would have preferred to be here in my real body, whispers Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain. Let me show you something…
He heads toward an enormous tree.
—My hiding place, when I was a kid…
As he says these words, he slips on a wet root.
—Ouch! That hurts, he complains, sitting on the ground, holding his right leg in his two hands.
—Can you stand up?
—Let’s have a try…
She tries to help him up. He screams with pain.
—I don’t think I can.
—We need a transporter to take you back to the base, she says and disappears.
—Done, says aloud Spring Wind over Laurina Mountains standing up smiling.
He hopes she will react well to his trick to make her use her travel body. After a few moments, he can sense her presence some steps behind him. He turns around and has just enough time to see her disappear again. He hopes she’s not angry. He didn’t feel any anger, anyway. After a few moments, she returns. He turns around.
—Help me, she says, before disappearing again.
He begins to panic. Something’s gone wrong. He is unable to decipher Very First Gold Ring Ray’s state of mind. She appears again.
—It’s out of control, she has time to say before re-disappearing.
Distress. He sensed distress, clearly. All his faculties are now open. As he feels her presence again; he doesn’t hesitate. In a heartbeat, he encloses her in his arms.
—Got you, he says with a soothing voice.
—Got you, she answers with a smile. Look at what you’ve done. You were there, she says pointing to some further place. You used it. You used the travel body.
He hugs her, spins her in the air, laughing all the while.
—We did it, he says. What a good actress you are. I really sensed great distress.
—That was not easy… But you’re not that bad an actor yourself. I really thought you were suffering. It’s why I came back immediately with some painkillers, before looking for a transporter.
—I threw them away as soon as I saw you standing up.
While saying this, she rummages in some bushes.
—Here they are.
Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain raises his eyebrows. It reminds her of someone else.
—You’re troubled, remarks Spring Wind over Laurina Mountains.
—It’s nothing. I’m happy to have found you.
—I’m happy my feelings were shared.
She smiles at him, and regrets as much as he does to be in a travel body at that moment.
—Well, let’s have some more practice. Where else would you like to go? she asks him.
—The Moonfish Lake…
—I love that place too. Would you try to go there and come back here? Then I’ll follow you.
In front of Spring Wind over Laurina Mountains’ questioning eyes, she adds:
—We’ll do what is called a duet travel. One goes and the other follows the trace. My destination will be by your side.
—Duet travel, hey?
—That’s memories, am I right?
—Very First Gold Ring Ray … he almost implores.
—All. I remember it all, she announces with a hint of childish happiness in the voice.
—Really. Before the accident, after the accident. All. I’m back. It happened just after the dematerialization.
—That’s great! exclaims Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain.
In front of the strange look of Very First Gold Ring Ray, he adds prudently:
—Of course it is. Don’t be silly. Now, try to go there and come back.
—Well, this is mind control, do we agree?
—It doesn’t work anymore.
Very First Gold Ring Ray smiles, reminded of what the Major told her in the same situation. She advises him:
—Don’t try to force things. It has to be natural. If you want to go to the Moonfish Lake, you just need to wish it…
And Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain disappears and reappears almost immediately.
—That’s great! he nearly shouts.
—It’s an amazing sensation, isn’t it?
—Now, let’s try a duet travel, shall we?
—To be able to follow each other, we must go at the same time. I need to count. At three we try, ok?
—One…, two…, three.
And they both rematerialize at the same place.
—Wow, this is unbelievable.
—It’s very useful when one of us knows where to go…
—It’s powerful. What are you doing?
Very First Gold Ring Ray just dives into the lake. Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain does not hesitate for long before diving himself. If he chose the Moonfish Lake, it’s because it’s full of moonfish and he loved to go there when he was a child. They swim together and tickle some moonfish for a couple of hundredths, before going back on the bank. When they are outside the water, Very First Gold Ring Ray laughs at the surprise of her partner.
—You’ve never experienced this, have you?
—We’re already dry. I’ve heard of this, but you know, before living it, it’s just words. That’s very fast…
—Do we go back to the base on our horses?
Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain just answers with a smile and disappears. Very First Gold Ring Ray goes back to where they were before, but he is not there. She is annoyed. Where could he be? She thought he mastered the travel-body… He reappears with a bottle in his hand.
—I didn’t know if I could take an object with me.
—If you hold it near your body, it works. But you seem to have discovered this by yourself. You…
—Drink with me, please.
The bottle Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain brought with him isn’t an ordinary bottle. It is the Gold Ring’s beverage, the one that two lovers share when they decide to get married.
—The Gold Ring Rise is in three moons. Are we going to wait for another cycle? he asks.
—Don’t you think our bond is strong enough?
—Of course I do. It won’t disappear.
—Very First Gold Ring Ray, I can bring this bottle back in one or two moons if you prefer.
—I’ve a preference for being in my real body for that kind of event. I suggest we ride back to the base, return to our own bodies, and this evening, you and I will have a wonderful meal together, and then … we’ll see what happens. We’ll drink this bottle soon, I’m sure.
—Should I bring it to your home?
—Better don’t ride with it…
She has no time to finish her sentence when Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain has already disappeared.
—Whatever you want to do will be fine, she ends up saying to the emptiness.
Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain is soon back. Very First Gold Ring Ray is already on her Dalygaran horse.
—Catch up if you can! she challenges him.
He reacts as quickly as he is able, chasing after her. He suspects she is letting him get closer, before speeding up once more. He can hear her laughing. When they approach the base, she slows down obviously. The Chief Commander takes the place of the lover. They arrive at a trot, as serious as they can be.
After they each go back into their own bodies, Very First Gold Ring Ray says:
—I’ve got to speak to the High Command. It’s time they learn what happened over these last days.
—Will you tell them everything?
—Every professional thing.
—It goes without saying, he retorts, nodding slightly while smiling.
Very First Gold Ring Ray asks the High Command for a hearing, specifying it was not an emergency procedure, but something important, nonetheless.
—There is something they all should know, she tells the protocol officer to convince him to call everybody.
With the request coming from the Chief Commander herself, he can’t avoid trying to convince everybody himself.
—The High Command will be gathered in less than one hundredth, he announces with satisfaction.
When they are all there, Very First Gold Ring Ray begins to inform them about her memory loss and what she and Spring Wind over Laurina Mountains did thereafter.
They don’t hide their annoyance at being informed just now.
—Understand me, says Very First Gold Ring Ray, I needed to find a substitute. I had no idea who among my soldiers could do this. Obviously, this man wouldn’t do anything to put me in a difficult situation. We’re bound… And this base needed to go on being operational. I had to try. If it hadn’t worked, I would have stopped everything, and you would have all been informed immediately. I didn’t have to… I’ll post my reports on these last days.
—Be sure, we’ll read it with the greatest attention…
—Thank you, Supreme Commander.
—Well, Major, we’ve got to evaluate the situation by ourselves. We’ll do our own investigations and we’ll hear from you again in a couple of days, maybe more. Go on with your work as if nothing has happened.
—At your command, Sir.
—What did they say? asks Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain
—They’ll lead an investigation.
—That’s normal. Don’t worry. Everything went alright. They’ll have nothing against us. You did a very good job. Nobody sensed any difference. It’s actually disturbing how fast you took over my place. I’ll have to keep a close eye on you, she teases him.
Neither Very First Gold Ring Ray, nor Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain will forget that night, the night they made love for the first time in their own bodies. With the knowledge of the feelings of the other, they could have a very intense moment together. And they made it last as long as they could.
Three Days Later
—Major Very First Gold Ring Ray, our investigations are over now. Well, nothing special happened in this base, except everybody is happy the Lieutenant and you are finally bound. It seems clear to everyone that he already was your unofficial second in command. His professional abilities didn’t escape you. However, you managed your memory loss in a strange way. We audited Major Moon Crystal who recommended you to us for this position, and he told us it was the best way to put the Lieutenant to test. …
—It was effectively the best way to see him react under high pressure, Sir. I’m good at evaluating people quickly. I was sure he could do it.
—And you were right.
—Supreme Commander, we could be a pair…
—You read in my mind, Major. We think that working together will assure our planet a high level of security. So, starting today, Lieutenant Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain becomes Captain Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain. He is officially your second-in-command, and you’ll work as a pair on all investigative missions.
—At your command, Sir.