Chapter 4 – Surprise!

Beth materializes upon arrival from the Jurassic period in the lottery travel-room, her revelator activated. This was not what she had expected. She had thought of the two Smiths’ surprised reaction, yet, ironically, her own big eyes are those that open wide as she sees herself lying in the travel unit.
Hurried paces sound in the hallway, making her turn around. It is the two Smiths. They too are taken aback.

Sylvester: We have two of her now…
Paul: Miss Smith? Miss Beth Smith?
Beth: Yes, that’s me.

Beth pushes alternately on the triangular button and the round button, only to hear exclamations of surprise each time she changes shape.

Beth: I’m in the Dalygaran travel-body I told you about before, and now I’ve got a Frigellyan revelator.
Sylvester: You’ve been on Dalygaran and there you met Frigellyans?
Beth: No, it’s not that exactly. I didn’t meet them on Dalygaran. But yes, I was on Dalygaran for 10 of our days, and I came back. Damn! You seem not to know it yet. I’m a bit early, aren’t I?

Paul moves his chin in the direction of the Beth lying in the travel-unit.

Paul: It’s your second travel…
Beth: This is the one during which you were so weird at the debriefing. I understand better now… Listen guys, I know that I have to tell you as little as possible concerning the future, but at this moment I need your help.

Sylvester raises his eyes saying: “… and she’s a time traveler.”

Beth: It’s an obsession with you two, speaking of me in the third person while I’m right in front of you.
Paul: We’re sorry, but understand our surprise. You’re travelling in a travel-body, through time and space. Humans don’t do this…
Beth: It seems they do. I’m a human being, and I travel in time, even if I have to use Dalygaran technology to do it.
Sylvester: So, where did you meet the Frigellyans?
Beth: On Earth… in the Jurassic period.
Paul: Listen Beth, we’re going to stop the explanations there. You could awake at any moment. I mean her.

And he points his chin once more in the direction of Present Beth lying in her travel unit.

Paul: We’re going to give you a locator which will allow you to materialize at our home and you’ll tell us there how we can help you.

Sylvester goes out of the room and comes back a few minutes later with a wrist-strap.
“Well, I’m going to have one on each wrist,” thinks Beth, as she sees him approach.

Sylvester: The coordinates are set to get you to our home. You don’t need to pilot this leap with your mind, let the strap do it for you. You just have to push on this green button and you should rematerialize in the living-room. I’ll tell you a little about how it is at our place.
Beth: That’s not necessary. I know the place very well…
Paul and Sylvester: Huh!?

Beth is happy to be able to say to them in her turn: Spoilers!
Then she dematerializes.
It was just in time. Present Beth just opens her eyes in the travel unit.
Sylvester and Paul go hurriedly into their glass bubble to engage in the gas withdrawal. Then they come back for the debriefing.

Beth:  Something wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?
Sylvester: Sorry?
Beth: Your faces. I wish you could see your faces.
Sylvester: Oh sorry. Don’t pay any attention to us, we…
Paul: … just had a strange phone call during your trip. Nothing about you.
Beth: Oh. Let’s start the debriefing then.
Sylvester: We can’t wait.

And so begins the second travel debriefing, with an enthusiastic Beth. Until Future Beth materializes just in front of her, behind the two Smiths. Both Beths yell. Future time Beth hurries to dematerialize so that Present Beth has just enough time to say “What does that mean?” and for Paul to answer “Sorry?” that she doesn’t remember what she’s seen anymore. So she answers Paul with a “What?” only to have a taken-aback and lost Sylvester retort “What?” as well.

Beth: You two are completely odd today, eh? I was saying someone led me to an underground city.
Sylvester: But you ye…

Paul, always a bit sharper than Sylvester, quickly grasps the situation, for he’d heard two yells of the same voice. He cuts Sylvester off…

Paul: … you’re completely right. Our apologies.
Sylvester: Er, yes, sorry.
Beth: May I go on?
Paul: Please.

And so continues Beth’s second travel debriefing, with the two Smiths bursting to finish it and meet Future Beth again. However—and they know this—they have to act toward Present Beth as though they hadn’t met Future Beth. And once again, with the danger represented by the blog Beth wishes to write, they decide to keep only Proxyterra in her mind.

As they return to the glass bubble to retrieve the previous day’s data before they leave, another surprise awaits them. Hidden behind the command desk they find Future Beth. She tells them that they’d asked her to come back after the debriefing as a training exercise to set her time-leap precision. She’s got a twenty-minute gap, apparently, and so she hid behind the desk after daring a leap of only a few minutes.
“People forget us as soon as we quit their space-time,” she remembered.

Paul: We gave you a regulator?
Beth: Yes. It’s in the right pocket of my overalls. You explained to me that I have to calibrate it according to my abilities, and that there could be a small gap at the beginning. I just had to estimate this gap to correct it. I didn’t correct anything for the moment. The short leap didn’t need any precision. By how much did I get it wrong?
Paul: It’s been 25minutes since the yell. It’s 18:30 now. What time did you leave our home?
Beth: 21:00. So I arrived here at 18:05 instead of 18:30.
Sylvester: The recalibration has to happen just after you materialize. You’ve done a leap since. You have to do it again. Your leaps in time are longer than they ought to be. Generally, it’s the contrary. You really can’t do things like everybody does.
Beth: Oh, I’m sorry I can’t fit into your little boxes, guys.

Sylvester, irritated, waves his hand as an answer meaning something like “don’t interrupt me”.

Sylvester: On a leap estimated at 2h30, you’re doing it at almost 3h. It’s 18:35 now. By setting 21:05, you’ll arrive at 21:30 at our home. Let’s do it like this and we’ll set the differential at this moment.

The regulator cursor is set by mind. The time spot has to be given: here, now, Earth. The present time is set automatically. There is then just to enter the wished coordinates in year, month, day, hour, and minute. It can be set to the second. Beth just needs to give an hour and the minutes, finishing with “plus” to go into the future. To come back, she has to think to “18h30 minus”. That would have meant 18:30 the same day in the past.
Beth: Do I go?
Paul: Yes, go.

Beth rematerializes at the two Smiths’ home.

Beth: You knew that I was going to get it all wrong.
Paul: No one can change…
Beth: … one’s own timeline. I know that. What is lived is definitive. Whatever you tried to do, I would have failed.
Sylvester. Right. It’s 21:30. You have to do the correction now. You know how to do it.
“Correction -25minutes” thinks Beth.
Paul: Let’s do it again.
Beth: What?
Paul: The test. You leave the travel center at 18:35. Go back for 18:40 and…

Beth is already gone.

Sylvester: This girl is really impossible.
Paul: Yes, but she’s gifted.
Beth: Who’s gifted?
Paul: Who told you to come back so near your departure? Are you reckless or what? There can’t be two Beths from the same time in the same room. You took an enormous risk.
Beth: I’m sorry. I needed to know if I could rely on good precision. And I can say this is precise.
Sylvester: In two returns, she masters managing seconds…
Beth: She’s right here!
Paul: Beth, time travel ought to be done with caution. It seems you take it as a game.
Beth: You don’t understand. I need accuracy because I have to go back the nearest I can to my departure point from Dalygaran. Lives are at stake.
Paul: Tell us what happened.

Beth takes a deep breath and begins to tell.

Beth: I don’t know to what extent I can tell you things. If you think I’m going too far, stop me. During my third travel with the lottery, I arrived on a planet—it was Dalygaran. You’ll have all the details at the debriefing, so I’ll get to the point. Two months later, in my sleep, I received a distress message from the Major.
Sylvester: The Major?
Beth: You’ll know who he is soon. I drew his portrait for you some days after my return. The night he came to talk to me in my sleep, he told me that the whole planet was in danger and he begged me to come back. Oh, my god. I had been so cold to him the day of my departure from Dalygaran. And today, he’s… dead.

Beth’s voice breaks and she suddenly bursts into tears. She throws herself into Sylvester’s arms, as they are the nearest to her.

Beth: I regret so much…

Sylvester pats her on the back, and with a soft voice that even she wasn’t aware he had in him he says: “Beth we’ll go on with this conversation later….”
Beth takes a step back and wipes her tears.

Beth: No, I have no time to lose.
She sniffs.
Beth: When I… got back to Dalygaran, I learned that an epidemic of old origin was raging on the planet. The Major put his last ounce of strength into the message he delivered to me, and Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe—the person in charge of the Dalygaran travel center—clarified what was being asked of me. It happens that I know how to pilot their latest travel-body prototype and the only other person who knew how to do it was the Major. I have to find a plant in the past—about 500 gold rings—and take it back so they can stop the epidemic. It is why I need to travel in time precisely, for me to come back to the closest point to my departure. And I thought of you to help me. You’re not from here, that’s obvious. You know how to wipe out precise parts of my memory. And you’re anomalies like me, time travellers, aren’t you? You’ve absolutely no problem remembering any of my returns even when I forgot myself after a leap of a few minutes.
Paul: We’re actually not in the time we belong to. But we’ve been here for a long time.
Beth: You won’t tell more, will you?
Paul: We won’t. But we’ll help you anytime you ask for it. You’ve shown that you can use advanced technologies, much higher than those of your own world, and you try to use them well. On that subject, this Frigellyan revelator… Usually, their aim is to unmask the polymorphs—beings known to impersonate the shapes of other beings they meet.
Beth: They told me it fits my situation. That I can’t go to Earth in a Dalygaran shape.
Sylvester: Frigellyen aren’t known to be kind-hearted. This strap, it’s against a favor. They want something from you, don’t they?
Beth: Yes, I have to find someone for them. Their son.
Reymo: It’s not exactly our son…
Paul, Sylvester and Beth turn round surprised.
Beth: Reymo, Mira, what are you doing here?


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