Chapter 6 – The Encounter

Beth opens her eyes to see Sylvester’s smile.
Sylvester: Look who woke up at last.
Beth: Did I sleep for a long time?
Sylvester: Since late afternoon yesterday till this morning. It’s 6:30.
Beth: You’re awake too?
Sylvester: Don’t worry about me. I’m going to get the others.
Beth: Sylvester?
Sylvester: Yes?
Beth: Come closer. More. Come, sit next to me.

She hugs him.
Beth: Thanks for taking care of me. Sometimes I need someone to stop me.
Sylvester pats her on the back. “I have to go and get the others,” he answers, lightly embarrassed.

Soon the room fills up with the others: Paul, Reymo, and Mira look at Beth expectantly.

Beth: I’m ready.
Paul: Er, calm down. Breakfast first. Even if this body is a machine, it still needs the same “fuel” as every organic body: food. It’s not negotiable. It’s already made anyway.

Everybody seems to appreciate this breakfast, especially the two Frigellyans, who seem to hold earthly food in great esteem.
“Croissants,” exclaims Mira. “Peach marmalade,” gushes Reymo.
“No honey?” asks Beth. At this point, Paul gets up to bring a pot out of a cupboard and puts it in front of Beth without a word.
“Paul, this breakfast was fantastic. The best one I’ve had since a long time,” she says after having stuffed herself with some brioche and bread layered with butter and honey, devoured two fried eggs, gobbled up an apple and a banana, and drunk a glass of hot milk.

She gets up and leaves a kiss on his cheek.
Beth: Thank you. Thank you so much. Sylvester and you are like fathers to me. Or rather older brothers. You’re so lovely.
Paul: Lovely?
He begins to laugh.
Paul: Beth, you’re…
Beth: Impossible, I know. So, now may I go, the two L… Smiths?
Paul: I don’t think anybody could stop you now.
Beth: Not even my two older brothers?
Paul: Oh, shush. Hurry up. Off you go now.
Reymo: Hold on. Don’t forget to push the square button when you find the place. And then we’ll arrive.
Beth: Who do you think I am?
And she disappears.
Sylvester: She’s always been quick. Take care of her…
Reymo: She’s under our protection. I can assure you these aren’t meaningless words. Oh, this is the signal. We have to go. See you again, I hope. Glad to have met you, the two Smiths.

Mira and Reymo go to their transporter which was left in the middle of the living room. No walls or partitions are to be seen. Just two seats. Reymo takes a mini-tablet and they dematerialize.
They rematerialize not far from Beth.
Beth: He’s here, in this house. Is it normal that he is an adult?
Mira: Hmmm…The signal would be stronger if synchronized with the place he came from. You found him at the age he would have been if he had grown up on our planet. It’s nearly 50 earthly years since he disappeared. We are of the same generation. He might look like a 30-something-year-old Earthling.
Beth: Do you know exactly where we are?
Mira takes a look at a mini-tablet: “According to our Earthly data, we are in 545 BC, on the outskirts of Babylon.”
In front of them stands an unimposing yet stylish little brick house with a thatched roof.

The group speaks in a low voice.
Beth: Did you receive the signal too?
Mira: Yes, it’s certain, he’s here.
The trio stays motionless staring at the house.
Beth: What are we going to do?
Reymo: We have to make contact with him.
Beth: Thank you, Reymo. I meant, do we wait or are we going to knock on the door?
Reymo: Knock on the door!? You’re not serious. We have to find something to wear in this era’s style.
Beth: Are you kidding?
Reymo: No.
Beth: You’re going to have a dressmaking session right here?
Reymo: We don’t need to. We have a dressmaker.
Beth: I can’t believe it.
Mira: Not here, at our shelter on Frigellya.
Beth: I thought you were working as a pair only, for security reasons.
Mira: Our dressmaker is a machine. Very useful when you travel through eras. I sent the information when we arrived. The costumes should be inside our seats now.

The Frigellyan transporters always leave Beth in wonder; they are so discreet. A few seats, a mini-tablet as a control panel, surrounded entirely by a transparent and sizable security bubble. As promised, inside each seat there is a space linked to their era in which something can be left, as if it were a mailbox. So clever!
Such are Beth’s thoughts.
Mira: We’ll be right back.
Beth: I’m not given a costume too?
Mira: We can’t dress a revealed body. If we could, we would dress your human body where it is in 2426, but…
Beth: Ok, sorry, forget it. What do I do then?
Mira: You wait.
They enter the security bubble and come back elegantly dressed.
Beth: Your clothes are not very rustic. And now, what are we going to do?
Mira: Stay back for the moment. We’re going to knock at the door.
Beth: Great…
Mira looks at Beth and points out a tree just nearby. Beth sticks out her tongue and dematerializes to hide behind the tree.
“We found the Dauphin thanks to a childish girl,” Mira mutters.
“My ears are excellent. I’m not childish,” retorts Beth from behind her tree, forcing her to raise her voice.
With a glance Reymo orders Mira not to answer. In the house, there is movement. A man is coming out.

The man: Who’s there?
He looks to the right and left and ends up seeing Mira and Reymo.
Mira: Is it him? Look at the signal.
She is holding the tablet in her hands behind her back so that Reymo can see it.
Reymo: It’s him.
He passes by her while she hides the small device in one of her big dress pockets.
The man: Who are you?
Reymo: We’re travellers. A special kind of travellers.
The man: Special?
Reymo: We travel to find someone.
The man: It’s certainly not me.
Mira: We think the contrary.
The man: What are you talking about?
Mira: Are you an orphan?
The man: How do you know that?
Mira: I told you, we were looking for you.
The man: I was discovered near my mother’s body. She died of a severe injury, so I was told.
Reymo: It wasn’t your mother, but your nanny.
The man: You’re talking nonsense.
Mira: Let me tell you about you. You have lived here for almost 50 years and you age much more slowly than all other humans.
The man: Yes….My foster parents used to believe it was a gift from the Gods. They thought I wouldn’t age. The others said it was a curse. They banned us from Babylon. We have lived here for years. I made the plans for this house. Unfortunately, an infectious disease took my parents about 20 years ago and I have been alone since… You’re going to leave me alone now. Head off. And never come back.
Reymo: It won’t work on us.
The man: What?
Reymo: What you’ve just tried to do.
Mira: Usually, when you strongly wish to be left alone, people just obey and turn on their heels, don’t they?
The man: I ask them to and so they go. That’s normal, isn’t it?
Reymo: You don’t know human beings very well. They don’t always do what they’re asked to. What do you think, Beth?
Beth comes out from behind her tree.
The man: What’s that?
Beth: Beth, the only human around here apparently.
The man: Your clothes are…
Beth: From another time.
Reymo: Beth!
Beth: So what? Do you really think that by taking so many precautions he’ll end up believing you? He won’t. And that’s normal. “Hello, we are the King’s agents and we come from the future to bring you home.” To a 6th century BC being living in Mesopotamia.
The man: What in the name of the Gods are you saying?
Mira: Well, bravo Beth. You’re so tactful…
Beth: It’s not a question of tact, but quite the opposite, a question of electroshock. Believe me, things are more easily accepted when revealed in the raw, without fuss and convolution.
Mira: We are in charge of this mission, not you. Let us use our rules.
Beth: Without me you wouldn’t be here. You…
The man: Am I bothering you?
Beth: Sorry.
Mira and Reymo: Sorry.
The man: You all look quite mad. You, with the strange dress, try to explain all this to me without fuss and convolution, as you said.
Beth: Ah! You see?
Mira sighs loudly.
Beth: You’re a Prince.
Beth raises her hand.
Beth: Don’t interrupt me. You’re not from here. You come from a world called Frigellya. Your parents are still alive and they sent you here to protect you from a raging war.
The man: Is Frigellya beyond the ocean?
Beth: It’s beyond your imagination.
The man: I don’t understand.
Beth: It’s not on Earth.
The man: Under the ocean, then?
Beth: No, not on Earth. Up there.
And she points a finger to the sky.
The man: You’re talking nonsense.
Beth: Really? Where do you think I come from?
The man: I don’t know. East? Their clothes are very different I guess.
Beth: From the future. I come from the future. Look at this.
Mira: Beth, no!
Beth dematerializes to go behind the tree, says hello, and comes back in front of the man.
The man: You’re a magician.
Beth: Frankly, do you know any magician able to do that?
The man: I don’t know any magician at all. But if it isn’t magic, what is it?
Beth: Technology. I’m an Earthling from the future and they, they are like you. They aren’t Earthlings.
The man: I am an Earthling.
Beth: You’re not. You’ve got abilities no Earthling has. Mira, it’s your turn.
Mira: The power of suggestion works only on some species, including humans—except this one—she’s a bit like us, but that’s another story. There are other things, like anticipation: you can guess what people you meet are going to do, especially in high-tension moments, like fights. Quickness: you understand and are able to react faster than humans, and you don’t grow old at the same speed, we’ve already mentioned that. You have likely felt different since… always. And you behave differently; like now, you’re listening to us instead of chasing us away violently with fear.
The man stays voiceless for a moment. He seems to be thinking.
The man: Is this why I survived the war, when so many people died? I always pulled through. I thought I was just lucky.
Beth: It wasn’t luck. Being in a war is never about luck, in my opinion.
The man: And how do we go up there?
Beth: We use transporters, machines that take you from a place to another.
The man: I… Come in.
They enter what seems to be the main room of the house, with a place to cook, a place to eat and a place to rest. A woman holding a baby comes in from a door at the back of the room a few moments after they all get inside.

The man: My wife, my daughter.
Mira: This is impossible. Frigellyans and humans, though they are physically very similar, can’t have offspring together.
The woman: Who’s this woman? Who are these people? What is she talking about?
The man: Helena, they are travellers. They’ve come from very far away.
Helena: She knows it’s not your child. How is this possible?
The man: I forbid anyone to say Lucia is not my child. I married you and I recognized her.
Helena: My husband… the baby’s father, I mean, died of plague, after Lucia had been conceived. I had been left alone without any means. I was chased away from where I lived for fear of the disease. I wandered a few days about in the countryside, and I found here, in this house, a home and a man who knew what it means to be rejected. He took me in, married me, and considered the child his. If one day we consummate this marriage, do you mean we’ll never have children together?
The man: I needed company, and it seemed she needed help.
Beth: You don’t have to justify.
Mira: To answer your question, Helena, you might have noticed he is someone… different. He was born very far away, and people born where he was can’t have babies with people from here. It will never work.
Helena: I… Why? He was so nice with me and today… I love him.
The man: Don’t cry Helena. Maybe these people are wrong, or they try to lure us.
Beth: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. We are not trying to lure anyone.
Mira: We’ve come to take you home. Your parents are waiting for you. Responsibilities too. You’re the Dauphin. The royal couple’s son.
Helena: Where do you have to go?
The man: I’m going nowhere. I’m no Dauphin. My life is here on Earth.
Mira: You have to come with us.
The man: That’s out of the question. Are you going to take me by force?
Beth: Now that is out of the question. Reymo, Mira, my mission ends here; I’ve found the King’s son. He doesn’t want to go. That’s it! What’s this? This ringing, what is it?
Reymo: Royal message. They’re coming. Mira, did you inform them?
Mira: I promised the Queen…
Reymo: You’re completely reckless. And what if they’ve been followed?
Mira: We’ll know how to welcome the rebels.
The man: What are you talking about?
Beth: Your parents are arriving and they might not be alone. Helena, you and little Lucia should come with me. Let’s go somewhere we can be safe.
Helena: No! I am not going to follow you anywhere.
From outside the house, a woman’s voice can be heard shouting: “Christopher, Christopher, where is he, where is my son?”



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