“So, this is the day,” Beth thinks as she sits in an armchair in her living room. The Major just kissed her goodbye, whispering an “I won’t be long” in her ear. He has some paperwork to process in the District Hall, to get a bigger place for his activities. Nori comes more regularly to Earth now.
He already has an Earthly identity, thanks to Sylvester, and is declared as David’s partner in teaching the fencing arts. As they are officially two now, the District is likely to accept the demand.
It has been almost 5 months since Beth and David were Dalygaranly wed and one month since she’s found out. The night she dreamt about it, she woke up screaming.
—Hey, my Betty, what’s up?
—Nothing, just a bad dream…
—Do you want me to bring you a glass of water … or something else?
—No, thank you. We both just need to go back to sleep.
He did, but she didn’t. So she got up and went to the fridge for a glass of cold milk. She began to have major cravings for milk in her eighth month of pregnancy.
One night, as she was returning to her room, a glass of milk in hand, Reymo popped into their living room, startling her.
—What are you doing here at this time of night? It’s one in the morning, she whispered so as not to wake up her husband.
—Sorry, I’m just so excited that I must have mistaken the time coordinates a bit, he answered as low as he can.
—Beth, it’s done!
—Can’t you guess?
—Oh, yes, Mira is…
—… pregnant! But, shhhh. She’s not aware yet.
—Since you told me we’re going to be parents, I’ve been discreetly analyzing her state regularly.
—Well, don’t you think she’s doing the same thing?
—She would have told me, if she knew…
—As you have?
—Oh, you think she knows too?
—I think you should go back home and celebrate this together.
And Reymo disappeared. Beth smiled. She took from her dressing gown pocket the inter-temporal messenger on which was written, “Beth, this is it! I’m pregnant. I’ll surprise Reymo tonight. Mira.” She shook her head in disbelief. Mira and Reymo were the last persons she had thought to be driven by such impatience and excitement. The news of their impending parenthood totally transformed them. It made her happy.
In her armchair, in her living room, Beth smiles at this memory. She has a long day ahead of her, and no energy. She is tired. She is anxious. She thinks some good memories will relax her. Among them, come immediately to mind the Supreme Commander’s visits. The Old Man was so impatient to learn about Earth of the 25th century that he soon asked to come more often. Once per week he offers the couple the opportunity to go together to Dalygaran, but he sometimes wants to come for his own interests as well. He once asked Beth to accompany him to where she and his son were supposed to have met, the space travels museum, while the Major was busy with another know-how transmission to Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain. Very First Gold Ring Ray had asked him to do this as a favor.
—Why is there a crowd over there? asked the Old Man.
—Oh, this is the jubilee for the discovery of Proxyterra.
—Proxyterra, I’ve heard of it. Three different advanced populations living together on the same planet. This is something very rare in the universe. So far, there are no more than five cases listed. All Alpha worlds…
—I thought you weren’t allowed to have contact with Alpha worlds…
—We don’t have any. We sort of… spy….
—Really? Do you mean you observe without being seen?
—That’s what I mean.
Beth just answered by raising her eyebrows, the same way her husband does when surprised or disapproving of something. The Old Man went on:
—50 years, you say. This world has discovered far space travel so recently?
—This is only mind-traveling. We travel as far as our minds are able to.
—Without a body?
—Without a body. This is the only way.
—It’s how you arrived at…
—Yes. You know the rest.
—I do. And you told me, this kind of travel is not popular…
—No, some people think it’s inappropriate to visit beings that have no idea they are being observed.
—We, Dalygarans think the same.
—Well, it seems you allow yourselves to observe Alpha populations without being seen. It’s not so different.
—It’s for intelligence purposes.
—I’m glad to hear it.
—You still haven’t gotten me used to sarcasm. But you’re right: this is not coherent.
—Life is made of these—contradictions, little arrangements with our conscience…
—Life is made of choices, young lady.
—Yes, true. Every day there are choices to be made … answered Beth, lowering her voice.
—The more a conscience is developed, the heavier the weight of the choices. And I can feel such a weight on your shoulders, my child.
—Everything’s ok, father.
—Sure. Do you know, some people think mind-traveling is not real?
—They believe people claiming to have seen alien worlds must have been high at the time.
—You mean they took drugs?
—Or have been drugged without knowing it.
—Welcome to life among humans, father, taunted Beth.
—Let’s approach this jubilee room. I hope we’re going to be able to see something.
Surprisingly, as they arrived closer and closer, people left the place gradually.
—Wow, father is that you?
—Amazing. These paintings are amazing!
—Not the paintings, father, we’re alone…
—Oh? Er, well, it’s perfect. It’s what I wanted. Not you?
—You didn’t even say anything, and all those people went away.
—And I’m responsible for this?
Lowering her voice once more, standing very near the Old Man, Beth said:
—You know we’re not like any humans. We’ve talked about our abilities, your son and I.
—Oh, you think I have abilities.
—They are triggered by emotions and reflect what you really are. Your position got you used to many things. For example, it seems you don’t have to express what you want to obtain it. Am I right?
—Young lady, I’m the Supreme Commander. I don’t have to ask for anything to… I … I’m an idiot… It’s me, isn’t it?
—I think so. You just have to master it. See it as a tool. You can turn it off.
—Or keep it on, to make them all come back…
And gradually, the room filled with people again. The Old Man began to sway, so Beth led him quickly to a bench to sit down.
—You have to stop now, father. Let them do whatever they want…
—Beth, I’m sorry. I’m doing stupid things in this human wrap.
—Your son got through this. You may need to have a discussion with him. That’s ok. When you’re better, we’ll continue the visit.
That was such a nice day, thinks Beth, in her armchair.
But the memory that makes her smile the most is of the Old Man’s first attempt with Earthly cooking. As did his son before, he failed miserably. That day, all three ended up eating in the little restaurant downstairs, the one where Beth and the Major had their first meal together, the day he opened his eyes on Earth for the first time. The Old Man’s victims that day were some chicken legs that wound up over-dried and as hard as iron. The Old Man misunderstood the cooking time. Those poor chicken legs had no chance.
They all got the giggles while trying to take a bite out of a piece of meat. No knife on Earth could penetrate it.
—My children, it seems we need to find something else to eat, said the Old Man, falsely sheepish.
—We have a special place, answered his son.
And that is how they decided to go to the restaurant.
Each time the Supreme Commander enters a place with his son, people are amazed by their likeness. And that day was no exception.
—Hello. We haven’t seen you in a long time. Let me guess … this is your father, said the waiter.
The Major just answered with a smile.
—So a glass of lemony sparkling water for you, Sir, and a glass of white wine for the Lady as usual?
—No wine for me this time, answered Beth pointing to her belly. I’ll have an orange juice.
—Thank you, answered Beth.
—And for you, Sir? What do you wish to drink?
—I’ll try the white wine.
—All right. Someone is going to bring you the menu.
As the waiter was away, the Major whispered to his father.
—White wine is alcohol.
—I know. And I know you don’t like it, but I have to try, don’t you think?
Beth remembers very well her husband’s face when his father ordered a second glass of white wine, something between disbelief and disapproval. She and the Old Man tried to keep from laughing, but finally failed.
—Son, I just like it. I’m certainly the only human having his very first glass of wine at the age of…
—… 65, completed Beth.
—Right. I’m going to live here very soon. I need to be ready. I need to feel Earthling, he added as low as he could.
—I know dad, I know..
With eyes closed, Beth relaxes. Since she decided two months ago not to mind-travel anymore, she’s honed the way her ancient memories come back to her. She is now able to choose the moment they pop up, and is no longer disturbed during her sleep, with the exception of one particular night, when she learned about what was to come today. The life growing inside her helped her hide it from the Major. Not that she’s aware of anything or knows what is going to happen, but the baby inside her can substitute for her father and give Beth appeasement each time she needs it.
When she woke up shouting, totally annoyed, the Major, knowing what she was going through, gave her all he could to calm her down. The baby, at the end of the seventh month of pregnancy, began to do the same. And being inside her, it seemed she was able to anticipate her mother’s moods sometimes. But she was not to be outdone by the rest of the family. She also sent plenty of joy as soon as her father or grandfather came close to her, and this was plainly shared with her mother. Beth really loved how her future daughter was able to positively communicate with them. She felt extremely good each time it happened.
A noise makes Beth open her eyes. It is Rose, who enters the room following a light knock.
—Hey, how do you feel?
—I’m fine. Nothing will happen until this afternoon, Rose. A few minutes after 2, my water will break.
—What?! How can you know the t … Oh, your visions…
—Yes. And David won’t be here. This baby is going to be born like any other human. We’ll call for the medics like anybody else.
—Why won’t David be here?
—He is meeting his destiny today. Not something bad, don’t worry. But the fact is, he won’t be here when the delivery begins. Even knowing this, I have to think positively today. I don’t want my daughter to feel any distress from me. I want her last day inside me to be a great day. Since this morning, I’ve been practicing relaxation. Well, I’m just letting myself be filled with good memories.
—How long have you known this?
—You and David went on preparing the Dalygaran delivery this month, am I right?
—Yes. Rose, I loved those sessions. It was sharing among us three. It was important. Even if finally I will be alone…
—You won’t be. I’m staying. Nelly is a physician and she is next door. I can call Mira, or Nori. You can have the benefit of technologies from the future.
—Rose, it’s a delivery. I’m not the first woman in the world having…
—You’re the only one with Frigellyan genes and Dalygaran abilities. Shall I call your father-in-law?
—He already knows.
—I told him, as soon as I knew it. He’ll arrive for lunch. He will control the medics if there is something strange happening.
—He is an old man.
—Not that old. And he is strong. His mental abilities are powerful. Believe me.
—Beth, he is emotionally involved in the event! He’s the grandfather. Do you realize what you’re asking him?
—I didn’t see it that way… I’m so stupid…
—OK. I’ll call Mira and Reymo… And Nori.
—And Nori, adds Beth smiling.
Rose leaves the room. She has to go to the two Smiths’ to get the communicator. Soon everybody living on this floor, except David, will know about this afternoon. This was not in my vision, thinks Beth. She only saw her water breaking her and the time displayed on the wall, and later a team of medics around her as she screams to a contraction … and David missing. The reason for his absence is much clearer. She saw everything. She wonders if there is a sort of self-censorship in her mind. When it is about her, it is systematically confused and fragmented. When she is not involved, it is a crystal clear vision in full sequence.
Beth suddenly stops mid-thought. For the first time the baby exhibits some stress. She puts a hand on her belly, and begins to sing a soft song. She has to think of something other than the coming delivery, and why she hasn’t seen this entirely. This is her baby’s day. The song has its effect, and the baby calms down. Beth can feel the joy coming back into her daughter’s mind. From now on, till she can’t give her anymore, this baby will receive only positive energy, she decides.
When Rose is back, Beth is asleep. She wears a smile on her face and seems very peaceful. Rose withdraws on tiptoes from her friend’s living room and suddenly jumps as she feels a presence behind her.
—Don’t be afraid, young lady, says the Supreme Commander.
—You should announce yourself then, answers Rose more dryly than even she expected.
—Well, maybe I’m a bit nervous today, he apologizes.
—I know you know, goes on Rose in a low voice.
In front of the Old Man’s confused face, she clarifies:
—Regarding the delivery…
Then pointing to the door, she adds:
—Beth’s asleep. It’s almost noon. Are you hungry?
—As soon as I slip into this body, I am.
—Everybody on this floor is coming here for lunch. They are cooking things at the two Smiths’, and then they will bring it here, so that Beth does not need to change apartments.
—In the meantime, let’s have a drink.
—Is there any white wine here?
—I don’t know. Let’s have a look in the fridge…
The Major leaves his apartment with a twinge. He knows the delivery is coming soon, within the week. In a little more than one hour, he will be back. He hopes everything will be ok during his absence. Beth seemed very calm. Too calm, he would say. He thinks she has changed a lot over this last while, and he really does not know if he should be reassured or worried. If she can hide something from him today, she has become really strong. This morning she was just an island of serenity. But he can’t help thinking this was a counter-measure technique. He tries to reason with himself. Whatever the truth is, Beth knows what she is doing and he has to accept it.
He enters the shuttle leading to the District Hall. The last time he went there it was for their wedding. He sits down in the first seat he finds empty and immediately gets lost in his memories. He is quite ready for the Dalygaran-style delivery, even impatient for it. The vision of his training sessions with Beth puts a big smile on his face. Then his mind stops on some other trainings, when Beth tried to master her mind to go out of her body at will. They both had a fit of the giggles at the beginning, when nothing happened. Usually, Beth was the first to start laughing and then he would join in. They decided she should try being alone. He explained to Beth that he believed her mind was conditioned to go out when she was extremely relaxed, and that was why it happened on her Dalygaran wedding day. She had to find another way. He remembers entering their room, while she was still lying on the bed, and asking:
—No, answered Beth, mechanically.
As more time went on, he hesitated more about entering the room and did it later and later.
After a week, Beth didn’t even wait for her husband’s question and as soon as he was in the room she said a loud and disappointed “no”. Feeling his wife despondent a bit he tried to encourage her.
—It will take as long as is necessary, my Betty, but one day you’ll succeed, I’ve no doubt about this.
—I have the sensation my mind is resisting. The more I want it, the less I’m able to.
—You must find a state where your mind does not want to resist, then…
Beth almost glared at him.
—Hey, my Betty, just think about it, he murmured taking her in his arms.
And he offered her all the calming she needed.
The Major smiles again at the memory of Beth getting out of their room, a few days later, overexcited:
—Done! I’ve succeeded.
And she threw herself in his arms.
—And it’s thanks to you. That’s your teaching…
—Oh, come on. Your words were carefully chosen. You didn’t say, “a state where your mind can’t resist, but rather where it doesn’t want to.” It has been three days. I wonder why. When did I try making my mind not resist? After you lowered yours in the Dalygaran forest to escape despite the inhibitor around your neck. You tried to teach me how to do it too. I failed then. But I succeeded without thinking about it in the Frigellyan prison. At the moment I remembered this, I was sure it was the solution. If lowering one’s mind allows somebody to come in, it might be useful to get out too, as it opens something. And when I’m very relaxed, this is the equivalent state: my resistance is lowered another way. I can work now on canceling this reflexive mind extraction and keep it only at will.
The Major held his wife tighter, not too much because of the baby, but Beth could feel his pride.
—I knew you’d find it. I told you, he whispered in her ear.
The Major is still lost in his memories when the electronic voice in the shuttle announces, “District Hall.”
His appointment is on the first floor. He is ten minutes early. As he passes in front of the council room, he can feel a lot of fear and some rage behind the door. Without thinking more about it, he softly turns the handle to try to have a look inside. The door opens brutally. A hand grabs his coat collar to pull him in. He has no time to react when he is hit on the head and loses consciousness.
When he opens his eyes again, he is lying at the back of the room. There is a man and a woman sitting next to him, she on his left, he on his right. The woman stares at him with her index finger on her lips. There is not a sound in the room, except some nervous paces.
The Major turns his head slowly to take in the scene. He is behind the desk, and he can guess a dozen people are sitting on the floor in front of it. Three other people are standing, and one of them seems very nervous, walking back and forth, like a lion in a cage.
—Why don’t they call back? the nervous man asks.
—They will, answers a voice among the seated people.
—I told you to shut up, shouts the nervous man.
—I can help, answers the same voice as before.
The Major hears a big slap.
—He said: shut up, hisses another man’s voice.
—He is the District Governor; he really can help, protests a woman’s voice.
—Don’t, interjects another woman’s voice among those standing.
—Make them stay quiet then, answers a man angrily.
The Major moves his fingers. Little by little, he stretches his muscles. His head is heavy.
The woman beside him, without saying anything, draws a circle behind her head. He looks at the man on his other side who nods.
Very slowly, the Major moves a hand on his head where the lady showed him and discovers a big bump. He remembered having been pulled inside the room, and then the rest is a total blank. The man points at something on the wall and shows his index finger, moving it a little in front of him.
The Major’s vision is a bit blurred. He guesses the object on the wall is a clock, but can’t read the time. He supposes it is one hour later than he arrived, according to the one showed by his neighbor’s finger.
Suddenly a telephone ring can be heard. The angry man picks up and starts to shout some insults into the phone.
The woman beside the Major starts to whisper.
—They want to use the emergency broadcast network to send a message to the population, begins Nicole.
—A message? asks the Major
—They are Nostalgists. And they have guns.
The angry man is still shouting.
—They want the end of our society. They want the world ruled by a dominant caste again.
To the Major’s questioning face, Nicole goes on
—If you weren’t hit on the head, I would wonder where you’re from.
The man named Fred stares at Nicole with disapproval. They do not have much time to talk.
—They think superior people deserve much more than they have today, says Fred.
The Major raises his hand carefully to show he has understood.
“Supremacists,” thinks the Major. He has read about them. A dying movement…
The angry man stops shouting and seems to listen. He hangs up after yelling:
—One hour, no more!
The Major feels helpless. He really needs to recover if he wants to try something.
A woman, one of the hostage takers, suddenly asks across the room:
—How is he?
—Still out of it, answers Fred.
—I hope you didn’t kill him, says the woman angrily to her accomplice.
—Shut up. Are you with him or with us?
—She’s with us…
— … says the boyfriend.
—Stop! Stop it you two, intervenes the woman.
—Maybe we should show them we’re not joking.
The woman comes close to the angry man and mumbles something. He reacts violently, pushes her, and goes sullenly to a window. The woman waves a no to her boyfriend, who is about to react. Then silence fills the room.
After thirty minutes, the Major opens his eyes again. The clock is now clear. He feels much better. He discreetly raises a thumb up to inform the two people near him he is all right.
—Tell them I’m awake, he asks the man and the woman, as low as he can.
—That is not a good idea, answers the woman, very low too.
—Hey, no whispering over there, says the angry man.
—I need you to trust me, continues the Major. I have to see them…
The woman decides to fulfill the Major’s request.
—He is awake, she shouts.
—You see, he’s not dead, taunts the angry man.
Then he orders:
—You three, in front of the desk with the others. Now!
The Major says softly:
—We all stay behind. Help me get up.
Nicole and Fred comply.
The Major looks quickly around. Two guns and a rifle. The rifle is held by the most nervous of the three hostage takers.
The Major suddenly holds his hand to his head and sags. He is held up by Fred and Nicole.
—He is unconscious again! says Fred, while the Major raises up a thumb.
—No, no, I’m fine, answers the Major with a barely audible voice.
—What is he saying? asks the second man.
—He says he’s fine. He’s obviously not, retorts Nicole, as they all sit down again.
—We’re going to have an argument, whispers the Major. The goal is to make the couple come closer.
—They have guns.
—I know what I’m doing.
—What are you, some special agent?
—We must make them approach.
—Stop muttering, you three, and come here immediately.
Nicole flies off the handle.
—This son of the bitch is one of yours. Come fetch him yourself.
—Come with me, says the woman to her boyfriend.
—Just sit there with your hands behind your heads, orders the man to Fred and Nicole.
The Major on his knees looks at the hostage taker and says with rage in his voice:
—Get me away from these two morons…
—You, go sit with the others. We don’t know you.
The man and the woman are hampered by their guns as they try to make the Major stand up. He makes himself as inert as can be.
—My legs, they are weak. I can’t stand up, he complains.
—Make an effort, answers the woman.
—You see. This guy is a burden, says Fred.
—Take him away then, answers Nicole.
Distracted by Fred and Nicole ranting at them, the two hostage takers do not realize that the Major straightens a bit, and tenses his muscles. In a flash, he throws them off balance, and immobilizes the man. With a hand over his mouth, he whispers in the man’s ear with his suggestion ability before withdrawing:
—Shut up, and don’t try to move.
The woman is lying on her back, out of breath as though paralyzed. She knows the last hostage taker won’t hesitate to shoot people if she shouts for help. The Major knows that among the group she is the one who cares for people and won’t risk a bloodbath.
Nicole and Fred pick up the guns that had fallen within reach of their hands.
Nicole gives hers to the Major.
From where he stands, the angry guy has seen his two mates falling down.
Nicole and Fred go on talking:
—You see how stupid this guy is. Take him away.
The angry man comes to the desk, the rifle in front of him. The Major has to be quick. He drops the revolver on the ground before suddenly attacking and disarming the guy as though he were holding a simple stick, taking the rifle by the barrel in a rotating motion, making the barrel point to the ceiling and giving the guy a swift jab in the stomach with the butt of the rifle. The guy falls to the floor.
The Major throws the rifle away to have his hands ready to immobilize the guy.
—It’s finished, he says to him once he is neutralized.
And into his ear he adds, using his suggestion ability;
He takes a few moments to calm down.
—Now, here’s the situation, he says aloud as he stands up again. You’re under my responsibility until you’re officially arrested. Keep in mind that you have made many enemies here; you move, you get trouble.
The Major suddenly senses some rage rising in one of the hostages and has just enough time to grasp a woman by the waist before she could pick up the rifle.
—Bastards! You ruined everything. I hate you, I hate you all.
The man who was identified earlier as the District Governor takes the rifle, barrel pointing down.
It is at that moment that all the windows of the room blow in, and some soldiers enter the room. Meanwhile, the only door is broken open.
The Governor immediately drops the rifle, but it is already too late. One of the soldiers has already shot him. Fred, a little slower to react, has no time to drop his gun, as he was still pointing it at the two other hostage takers. He is shot too.
Luckily, nobody has picked up the one the Major abandoned on the floor behind the desk. So, the shooting stops.
A woman screams and kneels at the District Governor’s body.
—What have you done? she says in shock.
—It’s a sedative, Ma’am. He is only sleeping.
The Major who is still holding the hysterical woman in his arms, finds the energy to say:
—Well, you shot sedatives at two hostages, but this one here, she just needs to be calmed down.
A guy approaches with a syringe and puts the woman to sleep.
—Thank you, says the Major, laying the woman on the floor.
The confusion in the room is indescribable. The hostages, so calm before, are now out of control. They point to the hostage takers, shouting that they are the guilty ones, not them.
—Major Crystal, Special Forces, the Major presents himself to a soldier.
—At your command, Sir.
—Well, I’m not in command here. But I would like to speak to…
—I think you want to speak to me, says a slim man behind the Major. This operation is a disaster, he murmurs, lowering his head.
—You apparently have no idea of the situation…
—The wiretaps arrived too late. When we finally got them, we heard what seemed to be a fight. And it was. I ordered an immediate assault, with instructions to first shoot anyone with a gun in their hand.
—Luckily, it was only sedative.
—Of course. You knew this anyway.
—The hostages didn’t. You frightened them.
—Obviously. I’m not a serviceman you know; I’m just a security agent that is given the role of commanding this squadron of volunteers. We do security exercises. We’re supposed to know how to manage a panicking crowd, not provoke it. I might have to rethink my suitability for this position.
—After today, you’re someone motivated not to do this again, am I right?
—So now you’re the right guy at the right place. You just need to learn some strategic maneuvers.
—Are you going to do this for us, Major?
—Oh no, not me, I’m not serving anymore…
Then looking at the clock, he interrupts the conversation.
—Sorry, I have to call my wife…
The Major rummages in his internal coat pocket.
—Dammit, I forgot it at home…
—Major? I heard you’re a Major?
—I’m not anymore.
—Obviously, you still are. Something tells me to trust you… And Fred had the same feeling…
—You both were full of resources too. You helped me a lot.
—I was terrified, but I let my instinct speak to me.
—I know someone like you.
—David, I heard you complaining about not having your phone with you. Take mine for your call.
—Oh, thank you, Nicole.
The Major was supposed to be absent for one hour, and it has been almost two that he is away.
—Oh, I was having a nap in the armchair.
—Yeah, don’t worry.
—I will certainly get home much later than expected. I’ll tell you the whole story when I get back.
—Take your time. The baby is probably not for today, she lies.
—I love you.
—I love you, too. Bye.
Less than a minute after her husband’s call, Paul enters the room.
—Eh, Beth, I came to see if you’re still sleeping. It seems you’re not. Lunch is ready, he says joyfully.
—What? It’s not lunchtime.
—Of course it is!
—Look, answers Beth pointing to the clock.
—Oh, this device malfunctions all the time. Let me have a look.
As Paul takes the box in his hand, the date and time displayed on the wall disappear.
—Let me see, he mumbles.
After pushing some buttons, he puts the box back to its place.
Beth becomes pale. On the wall she can see the exact time her water is supposed to break.
—Oh, this is not the right time either. Sylvester will have a look at this. He is the one who can fix it. But he is not here today. Lucia has no idea where he is. She says he vanishes more and more.
“Tinkering on Frigellya,” thinks Beth. “Those two really need to talk.” Then aloud:
—I’ll join you in a couple of minutes. I need to refresh my face. Don’t wait for me.
Beth moves as if she were about to stand up.
When Paul is outside the room, she stops and stays in the armchair, staring at the clock.
She counts in her head twice to sixty to be sure a minute has passed. She then takes a look at the clock again: the time has not changed.
As she now has no idea of when she her water will break, Beth decides she will rely on her feelings, like every future mother. First, she lets herself take advantage of a good meal. The smell is so appealing. Then, after lunch, it is time for digestion and relaxation. She feels like doing some exercises on her soft exercise ball. She was told it is a very good preparation for delivery. Furthermore, the baby seems to really love the balanced movements it gives.
The ball is behind the armchair. Beth is alone again in her living room. The others stay chatting in the kitchen. They know she likes calm after each meal.
She takes the ball, sits down on it and begins the exercises. The baby’s pleasure is immediate. And it makes Beth happy. When she has had enough, she stands up. She barely has time to take a step forward when her water breaks. Inside the baby does not react. Beth breathes deeply. Still no contraction.
She needs to change, so she goes to her room, and puts on a long night dress.
Rose knocks frenetically on her bedroom door.
—Beth, what happened in the living room, it’s…
—My water broke, Beth says calmly as she opens the door.
—We must inform David.
—Please, do it for me.
—We must call the medics.
—Only when I have regular contractions. And I… Oh.
—The first one.
—I’ll call David.
A few seconds later, a ring is heard on the bedside table.
—Is that David’s?
—I’m afraid so.
—But he called you, you told us…
—He probably used someone else’s phone.
—We can’t reach him then.
—I’ll go and find him.
—No, Rose, please, stay with me.
—I’ll send someone. Nori can go.
—We need him here. Reymo and Mira as well
—… has a baby. Let him and Nelly alone.
—… has big trouble with her boyfriend.
—Believe me. Don’t put weight on her shoulders. Everything’s going to be all right.
—Rose, stop it. It’s unnecessary to try and find David today. He is with important people. Let him meet his destiny.
—Oh, Beth, you’re scary when you speak like this.
As soon as they hear the news of the first contraction, everybody comes to Beth and David’s living room. The door to Beth’s bedroom stays open. Each one comes to see Beth as she tries to relax on her bed.
—I need to do something, she says after the second contraction.
She suddenly stands.
—Where are you going? asks Rose.
—To the baby’s room. It’s not ready.
Rose follows Beth, making a sign for the others, meaning a sort of “don’t move, we’ll be back soon.”
In her daughter’s room, Beth frantically empties the chest of drawers in the cradle.
—Look, everything is muddled up.
—You’ve just done it…
—Don’t talk nonsense. It was a real mess inside the drawers.
Rose understands she has no chance to calm Beth down.
—Let me help you then, she says authoritatively enough that Beth wouldn’t dare refuse.
—Color by color. Tops on one side and bottoms on the other side.
When it’s finished, Rose proposes Beth join the others.
I don’t want to go back to my… Oh.
As agreed, Beth makes the call to the medics.
—Three contractions in one and a half hours? Good. I’ll prepare the team. Call back when it’s every five minutes.
Beth uses up a lot of energy to remain calm for the baby. Her daughter seems to be very sensible to her mood, not to what is happening in her body.
Beth has read a lot about first deliveries. They are supposed to be long, but two hours after the first contraction, everything accelerates. At that moment Paul tries to read Beth a story, but as she is laughing to a scene, a contraction comes and she screams so loud that he doesn’t dare read anymore. The Old Man comes in to help her reassure the baby. Beth is very grateful for his words of appeasement. Two and a half hours after the first contraction, she is already at every five minutes.
—I’ll call the medics for you, says Rose.
—We’ll be there as soon as possible.
—Ten to fifteen minutes.
After his phone call to Beth, the Major is requested to be taken to hospital to check his condition. He is driven to the hospital in the same medical van as the District Governor and Fred. They are still asleep and will undergo some tests when they wake up. As for the Major, he is prescribed a scanner and is not allowed to leave the hospital before the analysis of the result.
Two hours after their arrival at the hospital, the Major is still waiting for his results. Meanwhile, he is being questioned by an official investigator from the District. They are interrupted by a nurse asking the Major to come with her.
—Excuse me, I’m a District Investigator. I am not done with this man.
—I’m sorry, but the demand comes from the District Governor. He woke up a few minutes ago.
The Major follows the nurse to the Governor’s room, where he is surprised to see Nicole at his bedside.
—He is my boss, and I had something to show him.
—Major David Crystal’s file: your file.
As he usually does in such cases, the Major just raises his eyebrows.
—Classified files, underlines the boss.
—You neutralized the man and not the woman when you made them fall down. Why? asks Nicole straight out.
—She wouldn’t have risked making the other man angry. She was the one who cared for people. She kept quiet to avoid a bloodbath.
—You see? Nicole addresses her boss.
—Yeah, yeah. You’re a kind of personality reader or something, aren’t you?
—It was part of my job.
—Mr. Crystal, the District needs someone like you.
—Oh, no, no, no. Nothing on Earth will entice me to take command of anything.
—Nobody is asking you to. How about just being an instructor? Teach our people to be ready.
—Ready to do what?
—To react as you did.
—There is no procedure to be learned.
—There is a method to apply. You evaluated the situation. You chose a strategy according to a danger.
—Every time it’s different.
The Major hushes. He was far from imagining he would be proposed such a job when leaving his home this morning.
—I have to think about it. I’m not alone. I have a wife and a child on the way.
—We won’t take up all your time. You’ll decide on the session schedule yourself.
The Major stays silent.
—By the way, your request for your fencing room has been approved. You’ll have a bigger one soon in your neighborhood.
Another nurse enters.
—Is Mister David Crystal here?
—I’m David Crystal.
—Your results are ready, Sir. Follow me.
The Major is welcomed by a middle-aged woman.
—Please, sit down, she says as he enters the room. You’re a lucky man, you know. You have absolutely nothing wrong with you. Look at this wonderful image.
And she takes out the scan.
—Nothing. However, I recommend complete calm over the next 48 hours.
—OK, answers the Major.
As he leaves the doctor’s office, he is caught up by the District Investigator.
—We’re not finished.
—I have to call my wife. She is about to give birth in the coming days. I want to know how she is. I have to find a phone. I forgot mine.
—Please, take mine. First child?
—Yes, answers the Major, smiling.
He takes the investigator’s phone.
—It’s engaged. I’ll try later, if you don’t mind.
The investigator gives him a smile and says:
—Word travels fast. Let me guess: Nicole?
—She is my cousin. So, you know how to predict people’s behavior.
—This is a thing I’m good at.
—It’s how you knew about the woman ready to take the rifle. She was on your periphery, but you sensed something and reacted immediately. You amazed the witnesses you know. When the windows exploded, and the door broke, you just went on keeping her prisoner in your arms. When the Governor was shot, you immediately looked in the direction of the other guy with a weapon in his hand.
—Witnesses told you that?
—Camera records showed it.
—And what do you deduce?
—It wasn’t the first time you’ve been on a battlefield. You kept your grip on the hysterical woman, without weakening, until she got a tranquilizer injection. This despite your rage at seeing innocent people shot down, even with sedatives. Because you couldn’t do anything, and you knew there wouldn’t be others shot.
—Was she from the District organization?
—Hired for six months, on documentation abilities. She helped Nicole build difficult files.
—And she was the hostage takers’ inside help, I guess.
—The weapons were hidden in the room by her. The three entered there as reporters. As they were not registered for the session, they were asked to wait until someone came to check them out before they could approach the deliberation desk. Nobody was paying attention to them when they dispatched to different places to take the weapons. When the security guy arrived, they grabbed him like they did with you, except that you took a hit to the head.
—How was she able to take weapons there?
—By often being the last person to leave the office, after the automatic entrance checker is turned off, and a couple of times coming back under some common pretexts: she forgot her phone in her office, or she missed a shuttle and wanted to go to the toilet before the next one arrived.
The security guys were used to seeing her there late every day, and she only returned twice, so they didn’t think much of it. I suppose it was once for the two guns, and once for the rifle.
—Well planned and executed.
The conversation between the two men goes on. By the end, it is more the Major questioning the investigator. Involuntarily, he has already begun to analyze the vulnerability of the organization. The investigator has had clear orders: “Tell him all he wants to know,” said the Governor. He wanted him to hook the fish, and the fish seems to be hooked. Mission accomplished.
In the cafeteria of the hospital, the two men are now chatting about life.
—OK, I will come and have a try, says the investigator, to the Major’s proposition to attend his fencing class.
—I didn’t see the time passing. Could you lend me your phone again, please?
—Yes, of course.
This time someone picks up.
—Rose? This is David.
—David, where are you?
—The medics are in the apartment. Beth is about to give birth.
—What!? The baby is coming now? I’ll be there as fast as I can.
—I think you need quick transportation.
The investigator takes his phone.
—Mr. Governor. Mister Crystal must go back home quickly. His wife is about to give birth… Yes, I agree, he is too weak to take public transportation… Ok, we’ll go straight to the entrance.
The investigator puts his phone back in his pocket.
—The fastest way to go home. We took advantage of your time today. Go and join your wife.
The Major is home in less than fifteen minutes.
He runs to his room where Beth is surrounded by the medical team.
—Still 9, says one of the medics.
He immediately goes to take her hand.
—David, you … were only missing, at the beginning. I’m … happy you’re here. Ooooh.
—Contraction? Let me help you.
—You can’t, your head…
—How do you know that?
Beth shouts painfully.
—You didn’t give her anything?
—It was too late. The acceleration of the contractions was unexpected.
– 10. On the next one you push.
—Beth let me in. You push, I’ll take the pain… You know how to do it.
—What?! says one of the medics
As soon as the Major entered the room Mira and Reymo followed.
—It’s a way of speaking, says Mira.
Beth hesitates. But she is tired, so tired from struggling to send positive feelings to reassure her child between contractions. She lowers her mind to let her husband take what he wants to, just before the next contraction.
The Major is surprised by the intensity of the pain, but takes it all. He can’t refrain a shout.
—Concentrate on the woman, suggests Reymo to the medic.
—All of you, adds Mira.
Beth waits for next contraction and pushes. The Major is prepared, but does not succeed in stifling a shout. Beth tries to regain control of her mind.
—Please don’t, begs the Major.
—I …, I …
Beth throws all her energy in a last push.
The baby cries. The Major staggers, and is held up by Reymo, before collapsing.
—It’s a girl, says one of the medics, concentrating on Beth, as asked by Mira and Reymo.
—Where is the father? one of them asks.
—He’ll come round. First child … says Mira, winking to the medics.
Reymo, with the aid of Nori, takes the Major to the living room and installs him in an armchair.
—It’s so much pain, he murmurs.
—It’s ok now, son. Your daughter is born, says the Supreme Commander.
In their room, Beth has the baby in her arms.
—Look at you, pretty little girl, she whispers.
—Well, our work is finished. We’ll leave you alone with the father for a moment, and then we will do the paperwork. We have to register this young lady.
Beth’s friends enter the room one after the other to see the baby.
—Nelly, Paul, would you offer these people something to drink. David and I need to talk, asks Beth.
It takes time for the Major to be able to stand up and come to the room.
Beth sends her love to him and waits. She is too tired to get up.
When he appears in the doorway, the others withdraw. He can feel joy, from his wife and his little girl.
He sits on the bed and smiles at Beth.
—I am the one who usually gives too much until I collapse, she taunts him.
—That was worth it, he answers, caressing his daughter’s cheek with a finger. She’s so beautiful.
—Do you want to take her?
—Of course. Hey, beauty, this is dad.
—In 9 months, we never took the time to think of a name.
—Don’t you do this on Dalygaran?
—The baby’s name comes from something deeply linked to the parents. It comes from itself… It’s what the baby inspires in them.
—And what does this baby inspire in you?
—It’s difficult to say. Today, I was in the middle of a hostage situation.
—Today, I was fighting against my visions.
—You knew what would happen to me.
—But I didn’t know you would finally be here, just in time for the birth. When I’m deeply involved, my visions are fragmented, incomplete… I prepared myself for your absence.
—You didn’t even try to warn me.
—You needed to have your mind clear for what was going to happen to you.
—You protected me.
—And you gave me your last strength.
—Isn’t it a great way to end a day?
—It’s not an ending, but a start, don’t you think?
—A little sunray rising in the sky of our lives. That’s what she is.
—She won’t be little forever.
—You’re right. Let’s say … sweet.
—Sweet Sunray Rising in the Sky…
—If the sunray is rising, this is morning.
—It’s dawn then. That is her Earthly name.
—I love it.
—And her Dalygaran name…
—… Sweet Sunray Rising in the Morning Sky.