Beth and the Major materialize with their Frigellyan transporter on the landing in front of their own door, hoping to discreetly go to their bedroom. On Earth, it is the morning after the wedding, around 6:30. Everybody is supposed to be asleep.
When they come in and enter the living room on their way to go to sleep, a surprise is waiting for them.
—Dad, what are you doing here? asks Beth.
—I wasn’t able to sleep, sweetheart. All that I learned last night is spinning in my head. I worry for you, for the sort of life you’ll have. And now you are going to have a baby. What kind of life are you going to give this child? Are you going to stop traveling? I’m sure you’re not. When I heard you telling me your story…, it’s obvious you love this. And you two are important there, in—what’s its name, Dalgran?
—Dalygaran, corrects the Major.
—Dad, everything’s ok.
—It’s not. Not for me. As I said, I’m proud of what you’ve done, Beth. But, really, I’m in shock. All this is so unbelievable. And I can’t speak of this to anyone. Now, I feel guilty when I look at your mother.
—I know the feeling, Dad. It’s the worst part of knowing this secret: guilt. You can’t escape it, not telling the truth and feeling bad for hiding things; or worse, telling the truth and feeling bad for binding somebody else in hiding things.
—Why did you tell me?
—You needed answers to your questions. You saw something was wrong.
—And it was a way to make me hush, am I right?
—Dad, you’re being unfair…
—Beth loves you, father. As she said, telling the truth to someone is not easy. And, you know what I’m able to do; she didn’t have to tell you the truth to make you hush. I could have done it myself, with very few words. This was not her choice, nor mine.
Beth’s father sighs.
—You’ve got such a huge power, son. Beth trusts you with its use. I hope she’s right.
—Son, forgive an old man. It’s just, I don’t know you as well as Beth does. I’ve heard your story. I know what you’ve done for her. And I’m very grateful. I should go to sleep now. See you later.
Beth’s father heads in the direction of the communication door, to go back to the room he shares with his wife.
—I don’t like to see him that way, whispers Beth.
—I understand. Let’s have some rest and our thoughts will be clearer, proposes the Major.
Later, around noon
When Beth and the Major arrive in the living room at the two Smiths’, everybody greets them warmly. Sylvester discreetly whispers something in the Major’s ear. Beth notices a certain annoyance passing through her husband’s mind, but on his face, nothing to be seen. After a few minutes, the Major begins to hold his head, pretending to be sick.
—I should have slept a bit more, he says as an apology. I’m going to lay down in bed for an hour or two. I’m sorry.
And he starts walking, staggering a bit.
—I’ll come with you, says Sylvester, holding him by the shoulder.
—I’ll give you a hand, declares Beth’s father taking the Major’s other shoulder. He seems to really be shaky, he adds.
It’s with Sylvester, Beth and her father that the Major leaves the room.
When they are out of sight, the Major stops Sylvester, and surprises him by saying:
—Beth’s father knows everything, you can speak in front of him. Let’s go to our bedroom.
—You’re a good actor, son.
—You’re very smart, father. You understand quickly.
—Believe me, I understand nothing, but I’m willing to try.
When they are in Beth and the Major’s bedroom, Sylvester explains:
—Very First Gold Ring Ray is missing. She used a travel body to go on an archeological mission. As nobody else over there knows how to use the travel body, she went alone.
It was Spring Wind Over Laurina Mountain who alarmed Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe. He said it’s absolutely abnormal. Never has Very First Gold Ring Ray been away for so long without notifying anybody. Usually, as it’s time traveling, she tries to come back within a couple of hundredths.
—I have to go, says the Major.
—If she is lost somewhere in time, you won’t find her without me. I’m the one who is very fast at mind scanning time and space. That’s how I found Christopher, Beth adds for her father.
—I remember that, he answers.
—You can’t do mind traveling now…
—David, I know, and I’m not going to risk our child’s life. I can’t do it now, but when the baby’s born, I could. I will choose the right moment. She is in Dalygaran’s past. I can start to look for her whenever I’m ready.
—What do you mean? asks the father.
—After I’ll have given birth and be in good health, I’ll do the search, and my future self is going to meet David in Dalygaran today, to lend a hand. Time travel is a bit crazy.
—No, it’s brilliant, welcomes Sylvester.
—Sylvester, I need a travel pill.
—I can get one, but it’s impossible to have the usual monitoring material without arousing your mother’s suspicion, Beth…
—I will risk going without it, interrupts the Major.
—Beth and I will take turn watching over you, son. You’ll never be alone.
—Thank you, father.
—I’ll be back right away with a pill.
The same day on Dalygaran
When the Major opens his eyes in his travel body on Dalygaran, there are three people waiting for him.
—Beth, is that you?
Beside Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe and Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain, stands another “man.”
—Yes. No female travel-body was available the day I was finally able to help with this case. I took what I found. Anyway, hi. I’m happy to see you here.
Beth comes closer to her husband and whispers something in his ear, indicating Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain with her chin:
—This is actually his travel-body, but he’s not aware of this yet.
—You were about to give us your report, Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain says nervously. Tell me you found her.
—Er, yes, I did. But it was without a body. I have to be very fast, because you Dalygarans can sense the presence of a mind wandering around. And I know your people thinks it’s very rude not being seen. So I just noticed the time and place I saw her and we have to go now. I can lead you there, David, by a duet travel. But I have to tell you, she’s with someone who knows you. Well, who thinks he knows you…
—You’re kidding me?
—Not at all.
—Well, let’s go and meet the Hermit then.
—You’ll follow me?
—I’ll follow you…
The couple disappears.
—I always said they’re two of a kind, says Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe to Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain.
—They should have given us the coordinates. We don’t know where they have gone. If they’re not here in a hundredth, I’ll have to consider taking her place in her body, so she won’t lose it forever. We are reaching the limits of the pill efficiency. I already prepared the drip feed. If I don’t know how much time I have to stay in that body, I can’t rely on a pill.
—You already did this for Beth. You saved her life.
—And I won’t let the Major’s life be lost. I… I … want her back.
—I know them well, and I’m sure they’ll come back with her in a few moments, even if it lasts a day over there. It’s how they work in cases of emergency, and they’re aware that the clock is ticking for her here. I’m confident.
—I can feel it. It’s reassuring. You trust them a lot, don’t you?
—Indeed. And you know what I can feel about you? You really care for her.
—I … I…
—I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable.
—Well, you failed a bit.
—That’s nothing. Having feelings for Very First Gold Ring Ray, when she’s your superior, is not easy. I have to fight every time not to embarrass her… So when she’s not around, I just slacken. And that’s what you’ve felt.
—I promise, I’ll be as silent as a grave.
—Thank you. I just want her back.
—I told you, they won’t be back without her. And they’ll be here soon.
On Dalygaran, 500 Gold Rings in the past
Beth and the Major materialize behind a bunch of trees. From where they are, they can see the Hermit, putting a wet towel on the head of Very First Gold Ring Ray. He speaks softly to her.
—Let’s go, says the Major.
—Hey, Moon Crystal, here you are again, who’s with you?
—I’m Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain, answers Beth.
—Come on boys, we’ve had an accident here. Some rocks fell down the mountain. This woman just arrived when it happened. We were relatively far from the scene, but then the rock cracked…, and she—and my bag were unlucky. I have got no more means of communication. A big piece of that rock split in two and hit her head. I couldn’t call anyone. Can you take care of her?
—How is she? asks the Major.
—Barely conscious. When she wakes up from time to time, she doesn’t even remember her name. Do you know her?
—Yes. This is Very First Gold Ring Ray, a friend of ours.
—She needs to be quickly evacuated, underlines the Hermit.
Beth and the Major speak in a low voice.
—Obviously, she can’t travel the same way she first came. We need a transporter, observes Beth.
—If we go back with her in this state, she won’t be able to go back into her body. Go tell the others the situation. Come back with a transporter.
—Hey, why are you muttering you two? Just call for a rescue team.
—Sir, she can’t be treated here. We must take her to where she belongs, says Beth.
—You’re talking nonsense. What happened, Moon Crystal, can you tell m…
—Ouch! Who are you all? Where am I?
—These people said your name is Very First Gold Ring Ray. Do you remember the last time we talked together, you couldn’t tell me your name…
—You didn’t tell me yours…
—Just call me the Hermit
—The Hermit? The Hermit is just a legend… Or is it not? It’s confused in my head…
—A legend? I’m here in front of you. Moon Crystal, why am I…
—Moon Crystal’s here? Where? I can’t see him…
—Very First Gold Ring Ray, you’ve been hurt at the head. I’m here. It’s Moon Crystal.
—Oh no no no no no no. If there is someone I remember very well, it is Major Moon Crystal, and you don’t look like him.
—You were badly hurt, objects the Hermit. This man tells the truth. I know him as Moon Crystal, and have seen him many times…
—Believe me, I can’t forget the man who broke my heart!
Beth looks at her husband. For the first time she can see just how competent he is at hiding his feelings. Even if this is something she’s lived through before, when they first met in Dalygaran, she was not aware of it at that time. But today, she knows that Very First Gold Ring Ray’s words most probably hurt him. And yet he shows absolutely nothing.
—I’m going to talk with her, says Beth.
—Who are you?
—Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain.
—Really? That name rings a bell, but not your face…
—Let me help you get up. We’ll see if you can walk a few steps…
Beth holds her hand to Very First Gold Ring Ray.
—Can somebody explain to me what’s happening here? asks the Hermit.
—Let’s talk together, says the Major, taking the Hermit by the shoulders, and leading him away from the others.
Beth and Very First Gold Ring Ray
—If you remember Major Moon Crystal, you remember who you are now, don’t you?
—Yes, I’m responsible of an investigation team on the North base.
—You’re not anymore.
—I haven’t been fired.
—Of course you haven’t. You’ve been given a promotion.
—Because a position had been freed, in the main base.
—Nothing can take me back there. I feel good in the North.
—You’re the new Chief Commander.
—And you’re level 8 in the Pendula room.
—You really don’t remember anything? The epidemic? What happened to the Major?
—If I’m the new Chief Commander, it means … he is no more. Tell me he’s not dead.
—No, he isn’t.
As Beth sees Very First Gold Ring Ray staggering a bit, she proposes:
—You should sit down for a moment. Let me help you.
—Thank you. I feel nauseous. It’s like my head is being attacked by all my memories at the same time. It hurts.
Settling with her back against a trunk, she closes her eyes.
—Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain, she whispers. Do we know each other well?
—I’m not Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain.
—You said you were.
—I had to offer a Dalygaran name, for the Hermit.
—I don’t understand.
—I can’t say who I really am. You must remember by yourself. As soon as you’ve got a memory of me, you’ll remember everything. Do you have any idea of where we are?
—In the Dalygaran forest. Is he really the Hermit, you know, the man…?
—Yes, he is.
—We’re in the past, then. I have no memory at all of where I left my transporter.
—You didn’t come here with a transporter. Look.
Beth dematerializes and rematerializes in front of Very First Gold Ring Ray.
—Yes, yes, a travel body. It’s no more a project; it’s a reality. Am I in a travel body?
—And Moon Crystal too I presume?
—It’s why I didn’t recognize him. This is not his body…
—You’re perfectly right.
Very First Gold Ring Ray seems to be lost in her thought for a while. Then she asks:
—Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain … is he one of my soldiers?
—Yes. He is the one who gave the alarm, when you didn’t come back. He worried a lot about what could have happened to you. We should go back there now. I’ve got to get you to a transporter; you can’t make this body work in your state.
—It’s mind controlled, isn’t it?
—Yes, but you’re weak. Listen to your voice: you can just whisper.
—Yes. I’m very tired.
—I’ll be back in a sec.
—In a what?
Beth disappears and reappears almost immediately.
—The real Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain is coming with a transporter. I gave him the coordinates.
Indeed, a Dalygaran transporter materializes just behind them.
—Major, says Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain.
He hesitates, and then, coming closer to her, he gives her a hand to help her stand up.
—We …, says Very First Gold Ring Ray, we … are bound.
And she hugs him warmly. Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain shyly puts his hand around her waist.
—Ma’am, we shouldn’t do that…
—Why? I can feel the bond…
—I feel it too. Beth, can you leave us alone please?
Beth has already disappeared when she turns around.
—Major, I … I have feelings for you. I’m sorry I let them out this way. I was so anxious. I didn’t know it was shared… This is the first time we’ve felt the bond. And I don’t want to do anything you will regret when you’ll be better. I’m not sure this is what you really feel, when you’ll remember everything. Let’s go back to the base. You have to return to your body. We’re near the time limit…
The Major and the Hermit
—Moon Crystal, you’re not the man I met before. You’re still as secretive, you care about people, you seem to have a high sense of responsibility. This has not changed. But there’s something missing…
—Well, it’s hard to explain. A kind of … spontaneity, I would say. Why are you laughing?
—You may be right. I lack of spontaneity today…
—I remember you as if it were yesterday. There is something else that makes you different. The first time we met, I saw your inner strength. When you arrived, you were completely lost and hungry, but you had a goal, and you never gave up. You spent time with me, being nice and caring. I only felt how finding the morning star was something very urgent for you, before you disappeared. You sort of let it all out at that time. The man I see today is not of this kind. You don’t let things out. Is it possible to change that much, in a half Gold Ring? You’re most likely not the same.
—I’m someone else, that’s true.
—Oh, I hate you when you do that.
—Tell me the truth with no explanation. I know it’s what I asked you for. But, each time, it creates more questions than answers. And this time, it’s worse. It doesn’t make any sense. How could you be someone else?
—I am. That’s all I can say.
—Ok, and what do you have to answer this: when I said you disappeared, it was not a figure of speech. You really disappeared. Twice, I would say. You did it again three moons after our first encounter. You sort of dematerialized. Like a transport… Oh, no. The woman, Very First Gold Ring Ray, thought I’m not real. You’re able to disappear like a transporter. You’re…
—From the future…
—Dalygaran or machine?
—A Dalygaran in a machine. Does this mean it can be used by someone else?
The Major only answers with a smile.
—Ok, I got it. Don’t worry, I’ll forget it as soon as you leave this time, anyway. I presume you also can’t tell me what the woman Very First Gold Ring Ray was doing here.
—You’re perfectly right. We’re going to bring her back to our time, and treat her so that she can recover all her memory.
—Do me a favor. Come back to tell me when she’s fine. I would be grateful.
—I guess you’re a man of your word… The other guy, Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain, you know him very well. You’re able to understand each other without speaking.
—You’re very observant. We’re a tandem, for not very long. But we are powerful together.
—Each of you is in one of those future travel-machines, aren’t you?
The Major sighs, yes.
—But Very First Gold Ring Ray can’t travel that way in her state. We’ve got to get a transporter for her.
—Major Moon Crystal, where are you? shouts Beth from not so far behind.
—We’re here, answers the Hermit.
—He knows, announces the Major.
He quickly raises his hand to ask her to shush.
—He knows we’re from the future and we travel inside a machine. He knows I’m someone different from the one he met the first time.
—And I know you two are very close to each other.
—Self-deduction, clarifies the Major.
—Well, I’m not surprised, answers Beth. You’re a legend, she adds quickly.
—I can’t believe that. You must come from a far future, if my existence has morphed into legend…
—Major, the transporter is here. We should bring Very First Gold Ring Ray to our time. We’ve to go, Sir.
—Remember your promise, Moon Crystal.
—I won’t forget.
—I have to give him news of Very First Gold Ring Ray. Let’s go to her now.
Beth and the Major take their leave of the Hermit.
As they arrive near Very First Gold Ring Ray and Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain, the Major commands,
—Take her with you in the transporter and lead her to our time as fast as possible. Beth and I will follow you.
—Beth? aks the Hermit, surprising them all.
—You shouldn’t have followed us, Sir. Goodbye.
They all dematerialize from the past to rematerialize in their own time.
As soon as the transporter materializes in the Dalygaran Space Travel Center, Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe arrives with a pill and a glass of water.
—Very First Gold Ring Ray, you have to take this pill immediately.
She complies, and he takes her by the arm to lead her to a couch.
—Lie down, and let your mind be freed. Your body is just there, and he points to her body that seems to be asleep.
—What about Moon Crystal? I can’t see his body, she remarks.
—He’s in another room, don’t worry. Lie down please, insists her Lieutenant.
She gives him a skeptic look but ends up lying down.
Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain stares intensely at Very First Gold Ring Ray in her travel body.
—She’s still in there, he says.
—How can you know? asks the Major.
—They discovered they’re bound, informs Beth. Just a few moments ago, in the past.
Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain kneels down to Very First Gold Ring Ray in her travel body , and whispers in her ear:
—I’m going to save you.
She opens her eyes, and sits.
—I’m sorry. I didn’t succeed in freeing my mind. It seems that I’ll have to stay in this… machine longer…
While she is talking, Spring Wind over Laurina Moutain approaches the couch.
—I have to take your place, Madam. Or your body will be lost forever.
—He already did it for me, and he wasn’t prepared. This time he is, says Beth softly.
Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, installs the drip feed in Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain’s arm. As soon as his mind gets free, it worms its way into Very First Gold Ring Ray’s vacated mind. Very First Gold Ring Ray’s body comes back to life and her eyes open under the command of Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain’s mind. He gets up under his new appearance. The real Very First Gold Ring Ray trapped in her travel body goes to kneel near Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain’s body now deprived of his mind and lying on the couch connected to the drip feed. She strokes his forehead whispering a “thank you”. Suddenly, the travel body collapses, and Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain’s body suddenly sits up. Everybody is surprised.
—I … think we are both in the wrong body, analyses Very First Gold Ring Ray. Well, my memory is still fuzzy, but I feel much better. I’m not tired anymore. In fact, I feel really good. And you?
—I … feel good too. It’s weird to have myself in front of my eyes. What happened? asks Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain.
—It seems that the pill has an effect eventually. But it has been altered, observes Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
—When I kneeled and touched your forehead, my mind was literally sucked into your body. It’s weird to see myself standing in front of me too…
—The travel body has to be examined. Your memory loss happened when you were inside. You can only recover it by going back inside it, but after we fix the problem, announces Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
—Great. I am Chief Commander with memory loss. I won’t be effective until this travel body is repaired. So, soldier, it’s time for an undercover exercise. For the next few days you’re going to be me.
—Don’t look at me like that. I’m certain you’ll take care of my body.
—Very First Gold Ring Ray, are you sure?
—Yes, Moon Crystal, I’m sure. It’s time for Lieutenant Spring Wind over Laurina Mountain to prove himself. You were particularly attentive to my way of doing things, am I right Lieutenant?
—Yes, I … I…
—Everything is going to be ok, I promise. You and I, we’re going to talk together. In private… Er, Moon Crystal, I don’t know what you’re waiting for to go back to your own body. But you should think about it…
That being said, she takes her Lieutenant by the arm and goes out of the room.
—Should the High Command be informed of this? worries Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe.
—Very First Gold Ring Ray is aware her memory has a problem, and she’s asking to be replaced by the person who knows her job best. She’s Chief Commander. It’s her decision. She’ll break the cover if something goes wrong. Don’t bother, my friend. She knows what she’s doing. I’m sure. I know her well.
—I’m going back to my time now, says Beth. See you.
Nobody has time to answer as she is already away.
—That was Beth, no doubt about this, guffaws Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe. She never waits for answers. And she entered a man’s body again…
—Well, when I fell in love with her, she was in this body, answers the Major gesturing at himself. But I always saw her as a woman. I not only knew it. I felt it.
—Yes, I agree. Whatever her appearance, she’s always the same…
—… impossible, they both say in chorus, laughing.
—I have to go back home soon too, my friend. Is the extraction pill in the usual drawer?
—Yes, it is.
—I’m going to see father for a few moments and then I’ll go. I’m just supposed to rest after a long night. I’ll have to show up soon. See you next time.