The afternoon is softly ending in a bright, amber light. The Major is closing the door of his fighting room. All his trainees are already gone. Only one other person remains.—Thank you, Nori, for coming.
—My pleasure. I’m not used to sessions with so many people. How many were they? 25? 30?
—With you and me we were 28. Having two teachers is great.
—They all seem to be beginners…
—Ahem! says someone behind them.
—Yes, David. I’m sorry, my life card is missing. So I can’t call for transportation. It must have fallen out of my bag. May I have a look inside?
The two men look at each other.
—Go home and join Beth. I’ll bring you back the keys as soon as we’ve finished up here. Have you got yours?
—Your life card…
—Well, I don’t need any transportation, but you’re right, better check…
The Major rummages in his pocket and waves out his card, so that Nori now knows what he should be looking for.
—See you soon, my friend, he says taking the key the Major holds out to him.
When he is home, Beth is not there. It has been a week now since they’ve been back from their unofficial honeymoon on Frigellya. Beth’s parents left the two Smith’s flat the day before, in the morning. Beth and the Major have had a strange feeling of emptiness since. But they’re happy to have more time alone.
As the Major thinks Beth is at the two Smiths’, he crosses the communication door and heads to the living room, through the kitchen. He is annoyed to find nobody there. He is thinking of knocking on some doors, when Paul arrives.
—I heard some noise, he informs the Major. You’re looking for Beth, aren’t you?
—Yes. Do you have any idea where she is?
—She came here an hour ago with Mira to tell us she planned to go to Frigellya for a couple of hours. And as she is waiting for your baby, she will respect her biological clock in coming back after the same time she spent in the future. She added you don’t have to worry…
—Which is the best way to make me worry. I suppose Mira came with her own transporter, so we still have ours at home? I’ll go to Frigellya.
—Are you sure? You’ll probably interrupt a girl’s day.
—Paul, if Beth says I don’t have to worry, it is because there is something to worry about. I know my wife.
—Well, do as you feel, David. You need the time coordinates, I presume.
Paul does not wait for an answer and goes to look for the entry and exit logs in his supervision file. He comes back with a regulator, in the shape of an ancient watch.
—You know how it works. To add time you push this button for hours, this one for minutes. To send the coordinates to the transporter press the middle of the screen. The Major nods, puts the regulator in his pocket and turns back to go and take the Frigellyan transporter he and Beth keep at their home.
Before going, he adds a bit more than one hour. He is just a worrying husband, not a warder. He is impatient to see her again, as if he hadn’t seen her for days.
He materializes as usual in the entrance hall of the castle, where this transporter is specially allowed. It does not take much time for someone to arrive and welcome him. Christopher seems surprised, though.
—Hey, my friend. What brings you here?
—I’m looking for Beth.
—Beth? I don’t believe anyone in the castle has seen her today…
—Oh. Maybe I should have gone straight to Mira and Reymo’s shelter.
—Would you like to talk to them? Reymo’s here. He’s in the office near Nori’s fencing room. I don’t know where Mira is.
—Well, I should speak with Reymo, I think. I know where the office is.
—Would you like me to come with you?
—It’s nice of you, Christopher, but I’ll manage on my own. I’ll come greet everyone before I go back to Earth. I promise.
—So be it! See you later.
When he arrives in front of the right door, the Major knocks. Reymo comes to open the door.
—Hello, Reymo. Do you know where Beth and Mira are?
—Hello, David. Yes, I do. Well, sort of…
—You’re embarrassed, am I right? I can sense it.
—It’s difficult to hide anything from a Dalygaran … mutters Reymo.
—Why would you have anything to hide from me?
Reymo takes a deep breath before answering:
—It’s Mira, she’s kidnapped Beth.
—I’m devastated. She’s turned mad. I think it’s the baby. We lost ours a long time ago. She’s left a message saying the Earthling has everything but she does not deserve it. A horrible message with horrible words. I can show it to you. It’s stored in Nori’s fighting room, where no one would look for it.
The intensity of Reymo’s look makes the Major think quickly. There is something other than this story of a kidnapping. Reymo’s state of mind does not match his spoken words. He is not devastated; he is making an effort to send the Major a kind of silent message … his expectations maybe, but about what?
—There is nowhere to hide anything there, the Major answers, staring straight into Reymo’s eyes.
—Really? answers Reymo in the most ironic way he can, letting the Major feel the relief in his mind.
Apparently the Major gave the right answer. He lets Reymo lead him by the arm to the fighting room, remembering it is the safest place in the Palace. Nori’s office is certainly tapped, or suspected to be, thinks the Major. Reymo confirms and explains the situation after having closed the fighting room door behind them. The Major listens silently to him, but lets his anger out once the Frigellyan has finished.
—How could you have set up such an operation without telling me anything? I can’t believe it.
—If we had put you in the loop, we all know it would have added even more pressure on Beth’s shoulder.
—I would have disapproved this … crazy plan.
—Beth is no field agent. And she’s pregnant.
—I’m well aware of that. Her pregnancy is what makes all this believable for the rebels. Do I have to remind you that being inexperienced didn’t stop her from saving your planet, by traveling in time, when she’s from an alpha world? You know better than anyone all her skills. And Beth has an ability our enemies have no idea of. For them she’s just an Earthling. She will know who she can trust and what to do … at any time. Beth is fast and clever.
—I don’t want her to become like us…
—Oh, Reymo, you know perfectly well what I mean: dark! The job you and Mira do, and that I did too not so long ago, leads us to make tough decisions we have to live with … like sacrificing a few people for the greater good, for example. Does that ring a bell with you?
Reymo just keeps his head down.
—I hope Beth won’t have to make one of those tough decisions, one that will haunt her nights for all her life. Be certain that between Mira and our child, she won’t hesitate…
The Major regrets his words as soon as they have left his mouth. He can feel Reymo’s anger. Two husbands, worrying for their wives—that is all they are at the moment.
—I shouldn’t have said this, apologizes the Major.
—Oh, I’m as angry with myself as I am with you. This darkness you’re talking about, it consumes Mira every day…
—Does this have something to do with the loss of your child?
—Yes. Mira never got over it. I’m not sure I have myself… One case in a million, and it happened to us … a stillborn. We live in a gamma world, our medicine is able to cure so many diseases and body dysfunctions and one newborn in a million does not survive, nobody knows why.
—I’m sincerely sorry, Reymo.
—Mira refuses to consider trying to have another child. I can’t blame her… But it’s true, learning you two are going to have one awakened something in her… I don’t think she’s had to pretend to be jealous…
—Using Beth in such a mission, you’re playing with fire…
—David, I told you, she’s our centerpiece. This operation will prevent a new war.
—It’s a never-ending story, Reymo. You Frigellyans are bound to face deviants and manipulators. There will always be someone here to want to make war. You know it.
—It’s not true anymore. We thought there was no cure for our violent people, but we accidentally found one.
—What do you mean?
—Our brain has a special structure. We can’t forget anything because of a very efficient repair system. If something alters our brain, immediately a mechanism of recovery is launched. It’s the case for memory loss, but it works for mind disorders too. So we weren’t able to cure any brain illnesses. Each time, the initial sick state was naturally restored. And if we insisted on trying to cure a brain disorder, the system learned to fight all attempts of healing. No nanites were effective. The more we tried, the more inefficient we ended up being. And we have to deal with very vicious people.
—I know all this, interrupts the Major abruptly.
—One day, continues Reymo, someone came to surrender to the authorities claiming to be a former rebel. He was a middle-aged man. He told us that all his hate and rage were gone. And he wanted to help. The problem was that he has no idea of what really happened to him. We checked his story. He was effectively known as a rebel, and a very perfidious one. We put him in a safety cell, not knowing if it was just a manipulation or not. We conducted medical analyses and observations.
Feeling the Major’s impatience growing, Reymo shortens the explanations.
—His repair system did not repair anything anymore. We had before us a Frigellyan man who could have memory loss. We don’t understand the mechanism yet, but he has something in his blood that prevents the natural repair system from being efficient. It’s a microorganism, and it’s not from our planet. Our immune system ignores it, it’s like it’s not even there. That’s absolutely surprising, almost impossible. It’s what we observed, though. Furthermore, injecting it to another deviant cured him too. We verified it. This is our greatest secret now. The other rebels, as far as we know, are not aware of it. So wars are about to end here, if we catch the last batch of rebels remaining on this planet. Because there’s a cure, and all these people will be neutralized. Even if we don’t know where it really comes from and how it works.
—You have no idea of the stability of this cure over time…
—We have no idea of any side-effects either. What we hope is that we won’t make these people worse. We’ll only cure the most dangerous ones first, and keep the others in jail in the meantime, until we see the results. We’ll have a better knowledge of the mechanism yet.
—There is something else you aren’t telling me, something you’re ashamed of.
—Do you know what a red notice is, David?
—Yes, only Epsilons can decide to deliver it. You asked for it?
—Yes, if the cure failed…
—You’ll kill those people.
—I hope we’ll never have to. But if they become worse, we have to eliminate any risk of spreading their genetic material and the alien one among our people.
—Is Beth aware of this?
—I don’t know. Mira is the only one who’s spoken to her.
—She won’t learn it from me. But I demand that in the future you never include her in something without providing her all the details beforehand. Am I clear?
—You don’t need to be so abrupt. I trust Mira.
—How dare you…?
—Don’t misunderstand me; but Mira and I are too much alike. We suffered something that made our job the most important thing in our lives. She and I are able of high manipulation when it comes to our planet’s safety. If I wouldn’t have told Beth about the red notice, why should she have? You and I know it would have placed greater pressure on her shoulders, and you’re truly concerned by the pressure on her shoulders, aren’t you?
Reymo stares at the Major, eyes wide open.
—You’re unfair, protests Reymo.
—Am I? dryly answers the Major. Yet, you know I’m right. Mira probably didn’t say anything about the red notice to Beth. It’s just wiser for the operation’s success.
—You must have been a hard Chief Commander.
—It’s my past now.
—But you’ve got many ghosts haunting your nights, haven’t you?
—Too many. Beth is the one that makes them disappear one by one. She’s my second chance, and I don’t want her to enter the dark like I had. It doesn’t mean we’re going to have a peaceful life of alpha humans. We plan to help the almost-humans, as you know. But I’ll be vigilant in the way we do it. And Beth is my motivation. We’re a formidable team, but a caring one…
—Sometimes, I dream of a new start with Mira… You’re a lucky man, David.
For the first time since he met Reymo today, the Major smiles. Briefly.
—Reymo, do you know where Beth is? he finally asks with a grave face.
—As I already told you, she’s with Mira.
—I have no idea. In one of the rebels’ retreats, I suppose. I’m waiting for her signal.
He takes a very small brown box out of his pocket and shows it to the Major.
—This is its normal color. It vibrates as a message is sent. The box becomes green, for everything’s ok, and red, for danger. I’ve got people in the field. We’ll soon know where Mira and Beth are. It’s a big operation, David. Months of work…
The Major sighs. He was not proud of all the decisions he made as Chief Commander. He calms down, and nods to Reymo showing his understanding.
Somewhere on Frigellya, one hour before.
—Mira, where are we?
—Don’t ask questions, you’ll be briefed soon enough.
—Let’s recap what we’re doing here. We’re supposed to fool rebels?
Beth and Mira are in front of a huge troglodyte construction whose back seems literally swallowed by the mountain behind. Mira is holding Beth by the arm. When she came to explain what her intentions were, she insisted that Beth must just rely on her feelings, not on what’s she’ll hear or see, but that she has to react normally to every situation.
—We’re going to a rebel base, announced Mira. And I came to see you on Earth to convince you to help me fool them. Do you trust me?
—I do, answered Beth.
Then Mira gave more explanations. When she had finished, Beth went to inform the two Smiths exactly the way Paul recounted it to the Major. And here they are in front of a closed door.
—What are we waiting for?
—I said, shut up.
The two women can hear noises behind the door now. It opens slowly on a tall, dark-haired man, who stares at Beth with icy grey eyes.
—You convinced her to come? You really do live up to your reputation. She thinks she’s helping you?
—I trust her, protests Beth.
—You shouldn’t have, mumbles Mira, pushing Beth inside.
—What? You said…
—How many times do I have to ask you to shut up?
They are now in the entrance hall. About twenty people circle around them.
—Well, Mira, during your stay on Earth, the committee ruled on your proposition about the Earthling, says the grey-eyed man.
—It’s a pity I wasn’t here.
—We had no time.
—Really? What did you decide then?
—As you suggested, we’re going to wait before sending her to Skajarpicrus.
—You’re going to wait for her child to be born then?
—Yes, the chief thought the idea of raising the child as one of us so great. What revenge against the woman who brought back the former King’s son.
—What? Mira you’re…
—Both of you shut up! Mira, I have bad news. Despite all your efforts, and your apparent devotion, the chief is not sure you’re one of us. He said, you are probably a pretender, and as he doesn’t want to take any risk; he sentenced you to be sent to Skajarpicrus.
—Understand us. We can’t rely on you. Now we have what we want, you’re no longer useful. You’ve got one day left. Our chief wants to lead you there himself. And tonight, he wants to celebrate the Earthling’s capture. With everyone.
—You’re making a big mistake, I’m with you. You don’t need to send me to Skajarpicrus.
—Skajarpicrus? What’s that?
—Oh, your former friend Beth doesn’t seem to know what Skajarpicrus is.
—Skajarpicrus is a planet populated with big creatures like those of the Earthly Jurassic period. It’s a dangerous place to live without a security bubble, explains Mira.
—And be sure, we won’t give you one, dear Mira.
—You can’t do that.
—I brought her to you.
—You’ll live 24 hours more. That’s our gift. And you, Earthling, you say nothing?
—I have nothing to say, muttered Beth, raising her voice on the last word as she slaps Mira’s face. What have you done? Are you completely mad? You want to give my child to these psychopaths?
—Well, brothers, it seems that those two have to talk. Put them in the same cell.
After having crossed many rooms and walking through a bunch of corridors, they arrive in the jail area. They are pushed in a cell.
—The couch is for the pregnant woman.
Mira squats on the other side of the cell and stays silent. Beth looks at her and stays silent too. Exhausted she ends up falling asleep.
Back in Nori’s fighting room.
—She’s late for the signal, says Reymo.
—Something must have gone wrong.
—I’m afraid you’re right.
—You put Beth in dan… Wait a minute…
—Beth! I can feel her. She’s here…
—Her mind is wandering around me. She seems to be fine. But it’s weird, it’s like she’s somewhere else too. She … no … she’s disappeared. Reymo, I need a travel pill.
—You know we don’t practice mind traveling.
—I’ll be back in a few moments. I’ll bring one from Earth.
And the Major runs out of the room. He is soon back.
—You were fast.
—Well, if this is the only safe place, I will go from here. Let’s have a discussion first.
The Major explains what he plans to do.
— Using her mind like a scanner, Beth explores space. I never practiced it, but I have the same genetic material that permits this. Believe me, I’m motivated to make it work so I can find her.
He and Reymo plan out a strategy. Then, the Major takes the pill. He quickly lies on the floor. When his mind is freed, he is surprised to be literally sucked up to the place where Beth is a prisoner. His will to find her was so strong that he needed almost no effort to succeed. Beth, sitting on the couch, raises her head. He can feel her happiness to know he is there, and he also feels the calm of Mira. Beth’s mind opens. For the second time within a very short period, he is surprised. Beth didn’t succeed in opening her mind when they trained the last time. Now she can, he is able to leave her a message.
—Wait a sec? mumbles Beth.
—What? asks Mira.
The Major has to analyze the forces on the field and determine where he really is. Reymo suggested he take height and notice special landmarks so they can be sure of where to send the field agents. When this is done, the Major goes back to Beth. She opens her mind again. “We are arriving. Tell Mira.”
—See you soon, whispers Beth to her husband.
—It’s David, he was here. They’re coming.
—Oh no! Hey, hey, you out there, I’ve got something to tell you, shouts Mira to the guy guarding the door.
—Mira, what are you doing?
—Hey, come quick, we have to move.
A man enters the room.
—The Earthling, she received a visit from her husband.
—Don’t talk nonsense.
—Humans can mind travel thanks to a pill. He probably took one.
—Shut up, bitch! Let the lady speak.
—He was here. He sort of spoke to her. She told me they’re coming. We have to move fast from here.
And Beth runs on her and tries to slap her again. Mira catches her arm.
—Not this time, love.
Seeing that, the man decides to take the advice into account and opens the door in order to evacuate the prisoners, and the place. As soon as the door is open, Mira immobilizes him and Beth punches him in the face.
—That was not necessary.
—I’m under hormonal attack. Why did you do this?
—This building is very ancient, and one of its characteristics is that the jail area is trapped. In case of attack, nobody can escape from here, we’d have been sort of buried alive.
—Not so alive then…
The man escapes Mira’s hold.
—Leave him to me, you’re pregnant.
—Need help? asks Beth, tripping the man as he tries to escape.
Mira notices some sticks hung on the wall. She quickly takes one and throws another to Beth.
—You know who I am and what I’m able to do with this. Kneel, hands behind your back! commands Mira.
Beth is amazed to see the man comply.
—We must tie him up. Hands at the back and feet together so he can only take very small steps.
Beth looks at the couch and decides to tear the fabric into pieces.
— Straight to the point hey? remarks Mira…
—Resourcefulness… ,answers Beth
When she has finished, she says:
—Er, knots are not my cup of tea.
—Beth, take my place. And you, if you fear me with a stick in the hand, this is the woman who beat me not so long ago and disarmed my fencing Master.
—You let her win.
—She did, retorts the man.
—Why are you so sure?
—I was in a Dalygaran travel body.
—She was, and I can tell you suggestion did not work on her, clarifies Mira. Don’t even think of moving a muscle, she adds as she ties him up.
—You’re lucky to be pregnant … mutters the prisoner.
—No suggestion possible on human pregnant women hey? How frustrating it must be, sniggers Beth.
Mira just gags the guy from behind. The conversation is over. She takes him under the arms to help him stand up, and walks past him to contemplate her work.
—Try some steps, she commands as she gets her stick back.
The man is able to take very small ones with the hindrance he has around his feet.
—Well, that’s perfect. We’ll be safe before you’re able to give the alarm. Go on, then, run for your life “mate.”
And she and Beth rush out of the room, leaving the man moving forward as fast as he can.
—We’ve got to hide until the assault. There are plenty of rooms here, I noticed them when they led us to our cell. Let’s try this one.
Mira opens the door softly, and has a look inside.
—It’s ok. We’ll wait here. David must have made his report by now. As soon as Reymo knows exactly where we are, the troops will be sent. They must be pretty close, in position. Without any news from us, the delay between the time they learn the location and the assault is about 30 minutes. But, now we are safe, I can give the green light with this. She brings a coin out of her pocket: a long pressure between two fingers if everything is ok.
—Really, all this time you were in touch with your, er, top management?
—And I suppose you have sent a danger signal when we were trapped.
—A danger signal means immediate assault. In case they figured out where we are from, it would have been dangerous for the two of us. I didn’t send anything. I had to make us get out of the jail area first.
—Why don’t you just send the coordinates? We arrived with a transporter.
—It was theirs, not mine. They controlled the destination. I didn’t know where we were supposed to go. And the first thing you learn by being undercover among the rebels is that they monitor everything they can.
— And the signal from your coin?
—It’s undetectable. But it can only deliver two simple messages: yes or no, that we are ok or in danger. It uses a chameleon technology that makes it invisible among all the other messages…
—Well, I noticed something surprising in a rebel base. Nobody has a gun.
—Yes. You threatened someone with a stick. A stick is nothing against a gun…
—Oh, I get it. You’ve never heard of the universal jammer, have you?
—This is something that makes every weapon with a firing mechanism inefficient. As soon as a world leaves the alpha state, it has to accept being under a universal jammer field. Epsilon’s rule. It’s why we only have sticks, blowpipes, slings…
—Sorry, but usually battles in wars are rarely smooth rides.
—We have rules.
—And sending prisoners to a world they can’t survive in…
—Rebels break rules.
—You know, on Earth, being a rebel is not always a bad thing…
—Ours have a specialty: they’re all deviants… mentally sick. And most of them know how to manipulate ordinary people.
—Don’t you have precocious detection?
—It’s not that simple. Genetically speaking, half of the Frigellyan population is a potential psychopath. I’m one of them. But only few become real ones. It’s triggered by a trauma that has not been treated, or has been underestimated. Remember Nori’s wife? Nobody could have guessed she was so sick. She hid how strongly not having a baby had disturbed her. So she didn’t get the necessary help. She focused all her hate on the King’s newborn, and acted to ruin the life of people who had anything she hadn’t. She was the lovely spouse and the evil opponent at the same time. Once the illness is declared, there is nothing to do. It’s called the Frigellyan Tightrope Syndrom. Once you’ve fallen, you can’t ever stand up again.
—And? There is something you’re not tell…
—Not here. I’ll tell you later.
Beth suddenly raises her head.
—The Major is here?
—Yes, I can feel his presence, but he’s still far from here.
—Let him find us. He will, eventually. It’s the best way to stay safe. We’re far inside the building, near the jail area, while the rebels try to escape. Nobody will look for us here.
—How will they make the rebels surrender if nobody has guns?
—The number, and the specialties. Everyone has one. The whip unit enters first to disarm anybody with something in his hand, and the blowpipe unit is just behind, to put to sleep the most agitated of them. We’ve got some archers to flush out those who hide.
—Our arrows never get stuck in something or someone like human ones. They’re special. They disintegrate when they meet something and if there is a living person in the area, this will be very irritating for him or her. The effect is immediate and very localized.
Most of the time, when an assault begins rebels just kneel and put their hands behind their necks. They never wage any battle they can’t win. I know it’s something surprising for a human being… Most of the time we don’t even need to use our archers. Everybody knows we have some. And it stops everything.
—You said rebels breaks rules, why don’t they use swords or other deadly weapons like real arrows?
—Because they’ll lose anyway: we’re trained and numerous. And killing is not in our culture.
—Except sending people to a planet where they can’t survive.
—They don’t kill you themselves.
—That must console the dead ones…
Beth smiles suddenly.
—He’s just behind the door.
She stands up as the door opens.
She throws herself in his arms. He holds her tight, stroking her hair and breathing deeply. She parts after a few moments.
—Oh, you’re relieved but you’re fighting anger.
—I am. Let’s get out of here, he answers more dryly than he wanted to, nodding briefly to Mira.
The two women follow him in silence until they are outside.
When Reymo sees Mira he comes to her. They stay face to face motionless for a while, just holding each other’s hands. The rest of the world seems far away. He surprises her by saying:
—I’m fed up with this kind of life, Mira. We need to speak…
Mira stares at Beth and David, who are some steps away before answering:
—I know what kind of life you wish to have. It’s out of the question.
—Mira, it’s time to stop fearing building a family. Our family, whispers Reymo, taking the face of his wife between his two hands.
Mira looks down.
—I can’t, she answers, sadly, pushing his hands away and moving aside.
Beth and the Major can sense the tension between their two Frigellyan friends. It makes them realize they need to lighten the tension between themselves.
—I feared for you, Beth.
—Is it why you’re angry?
—I’m angry because a mission like this can change you forever, and not always in a good way.
—You don’t trust me?
—It’s not about trust, Beth. It’s about consequences, about what events can do to us, about our choices.
Beth stares at her husband:
—Am I right to think you experienced things you don’t want me to?
—And if I want to experience them?
—Beth, I’ve done things that you wouldn’t believe, all in the name of the greater good. My memory is haunted by ghosts I hope nobody ever has to face. I don’t want this for you. I will fight to spare you from this. That’s what it means to me to be on your side.
—David, I’ve never seen you in this state, you’re scaring me… What could you have done that’s so terrible?
—Please don’t ask, he implores.
—You don’t have to tell me things you don’t want to, she answers quickly. Please, calm down.
—You see what that kind of memory does to me. Do you really want to become like this?
—David, I don’t know what you’ve done in the past. But I am sure of something: you’re the most upright man I’ve ever met. If you haven’t given this high value to life, you would never feel any regrets having done what I suppose had to be done; you wouldn’t have any ghosts haunting you. All this only means you’re a good man, and being a good man in the position you had before resigning to live on Earth was certainly something very difficult. I had no difficult choice to make today. Nothing will haunt my nights. Please don’t be angry. I promise, because I understand this is important to you, that I’ll never accept anything without discussing it with you first in the future.
They are about to hug when they hear Mira behind them saying:
—We all need to talk, I think.
—Let’s go back to the castle, suggests Reymo. We’ll have a discussion in the Library. Follow me.
Once in the Library, everybody sits in comfortable armchairs, Beth and David facing Mira and Reymo.
Beth can feel her husband is much calmer than before. She even detects some curiosity. It is obvious there is something he is impatient to ask her.
—Beth, how did you free your mind, when you were a prisoner?
—You came to see me. Your mind wandered around me.
—I didn’t do this.
Beth hushes and thinks intensively. Suddenly a memory gives her some light.
—I …. Once, during a training day at the spatial center, when I was in the gas unit, I saw my boyfriend, in his flat. It seemed so real. I learned much later from the two Smiths that my mind had escaped before they even sent any gas through. It’s why they immediately noticed I wasn’t an ordinary human. It seems I’m able to travel without any extraction means when under high emotion. But as it never happened again, I thought maybe they had been mistaken. Today, I dreamt about you, David. I saw you in the Castle beside Reymo.
—This wasn’t a dream. You really did it. So your mind escaped while you were sleeping…
—I wanted so much to be with you…
—… that you found me.
—You’re a surprising couple, whispers Mira.
—Well, you made me, answers Beth almost laughing.
Mira sends her a sad look.
—There is something I told the rebels you’re not aware of. Maybe it’s time you know it too, before you learn it another way. You’re right, I made you.
—Yes, I know.
—No, you don’t. Sometime after we met you in the Jurassic area, we were audited on Frigellya, for what we’d done on Earth in the 25th century. The hearing was public, but after I presented the Royal mission letter that authorized us to use any means at our disposal, the hearing went on behind closed doors, the public was cleared. The rebels wanted to know what the Court learned. Nothing leaked out, apparently. David, you know better than anyone the best way to convince people…
—Tell an incomplete truth…
—Exactly. I told them nothing about your Frigellyan genes. I told them, that as I met you and you may have a role in finding the King’s son, that I had to make you live.
—What are you talking about?
—Your mother had two miscarriages before having you. You were your parents’ third child, and you never would have been born without my early intervention. I didn’t inject your mother with the Frigellyan genes you have. This is a side effect of the cure I gave her to correct what needed to be corrected so you could survive. I did for your mother what couldn’t be done for me.
In front of Beth’s questioning eyes, Reymo clarifies:
—We lost our only child.
—I’m so sorry.
— I thought helping someone have a baby would be a sort of cure for me. It was like I’d have a victory over life. But all didn’t go as it should have. You might have had at least a sibling if I had understood immediately what happened. Your parents were simply incompatible. They couldn’t have a child together. I arrived too late for the first pregnancy. I tried to help but failed with the second. Humans and Frigellyans are so different. I succeeded with you. I morphed into your mother’s gynecologist to give her numerous appointments and made my own analysis.. And here you are.
—So you didn’t “make” me, you “created” me.
—Yes. I had to. But I wasn’t ready to talk about correcting a miscarriage to anyone at the time the hearing took place in front of the High Court. They got a lighter version, of manipulating your Frigellyan genes. This I hid from the rebels. But I had to tell them something convincing.
—You told the rebels what you hid from the High Court.
Beth’s tone was disbelief.
—I had to work on this, but it took time. It’s the curse of being a Frigellyan with Tightrope Syndrome: you must not let anything gnaw at your heart or mind, or it can turn you into a monster. I’ve sent a full testimony to the High Court since.
—Abeena refused our resignation, adds Reymo. Even though not telling the whole truth in front of the High Court is a serious offense.
—But you felt the need to redeem yourselves, am I right? intervenes the Major.
Mira bows her head.
—Sort of, she mutters.
Then she looks straight into the Major’s eyes, raising her voice:
—I’ve no regrets.
—Well, let’s summarize the situation in the light of these new elements. I’m ultimately a repaired human being, by Frigellyan tools that left genetic traces as a side-effect. Knowing my genome was manipulated, I accepted it. But learning I wouldn’t exist without it it’s a shock.
—It’s why I didn’t tell you in the first place. But I can’t let you ignore a truth the rebels know. I…
—That’s ok, Mira. What’s past is past. I’m alive, pregnant and happy. You did a good job.
Beth’s tone tells Mira and the others that it is not exactly what she is thinking. And apparently, nobody wishes to carry on with the conversation this way. The Major takes advantage of a moment of silence to bring it back to what happened this day.
—You have been working on locating the rebels for months you said, Reymo.
—Yes. Mira has always been excellent underground. It appeared quickly that they wanted revenge on you, Beth. They know you can do extraordinary things when you’re in the Dalygaran travel body, but they ignore your permanent abilities. Mira suggested kidnapping you. But we had a problem. It would have been difficult for you to guess when they used suggestion on you and when they didn’t. So asking you to react as if you were sensitive to it was a bit risky. You might have complied when they expected opposition. Rebels are mad minds. They do not act rationally. They would have put you to a test, anyway. We had to find something that wouldn’t put you in danger. We couldn’t tell them you’re not sensitive to suggestion. Pregnancy was the solution. As you met your daughter in the future, we knew you’re going to be pregnant. It was really great timing when you announced it here, during your wedding party. The staff heard it, and it spread outside the Castle. Women are known to be different during pregnancy, so when Mira told them Beth won’t be receptive to suggestion, they believed it.
—The weeks you took for your honeymoon gave me time to organize the kidnapping. I had to convince the rebels’ chief that it would be a piece of cake. If pregnant, you were not sensitive to suggestion anymore, you would be wiser, caring for the child to come. Furthermore, the honeymoon was supposed to lower your guard. For rebels, happiness is a poison they don’t understand. They see it as a weakness. David, it was the safest moment to do this operation…
— … with Beth as bait.
—Mira took about one hour to explain the ins and outs of the mission to me. I made my decision in full consciousness of the danger. My capture was prepared for weeks, and most of the rebels wanted to see it. It was a unique chance, David. With this bust, years of peace are given to a planet we both owe our meeting to.
The Major doubts she really had all the ins and outs but he chooses to hush. Beth goes on:
—Furthermore, I was sure you would have come for me. Whatever happened, you would have found me.
—Yes, as soon as Paul told me not to worry, I worried … and came here.
—You opened your mind today. You never succeeded in this before.
—You traveled without a body. I know how unnatural this is to you. I was so happy to feel your presence, that it happened naturally. “Wait a sec” was not the kind of message I was expecting after such a performance.
—I wanted to try the mind scanning like you do, but we’re so strongly bound, that I was literally sucked up to where you were. I still don’t know how to scan space with my mind…
—You’ve got other skills.
—Your visit accelerated things, explains Mira. I was trying to find a means to get the two of us out of that room, and there you were. You gave me a good reason to ask to go away…
—Mira was about to be sent to Skajarpicrus the day after, informs Beth.
—It’s why I was in the cell too. They doubted I really turned mad. I have to give them more proof… Denouncing your impending arrival was a real opportunity to fool our guard.
—Mira told me the jail area is trapped so that prisoners can’t survive in case of assault.
—I never would have sent the danger signal as long as we were stuck in there.
—They wanted to keep me for the rest of my pregnancy, steal our child and raise him as one of theirs. I wasn’t in immediate danger…
—Beth there are many ways to hurt people. You were their prisoner; they might have played with you, until you mentally cracked up, or worse. They needed you just physically strong enough to give birth…
—I never thought it would really last 8 months, David. And I was right…
Beth hushes, wondering what her state of mind would be if nothing happened until Mira was sent to Skajarpicrus. She knows she can’t really take part in a fight without risking the baby’s life. What if Mira hadn’t found a way to get them out of that room? There might not have been any assault. This operation could have been a real disaster if David and she didn’t have their mind traveling abilities, and a bond so strong… Only love saved them. “David is right,” she thinks. “I was not so far from having my first ghost, if we had lost Mira by reacting too late.”
The Major can sense the trouble spreading in his wife’s mind. He takes her hand softly.
—Well, maybe it’s time we go back home. It must be late in the evening on Earth since I went away, and I’m exhausted.
—Mira, Reymo, could you tell Christopher I’ll come to see him and his family another time. I prefer to accompany Beth back home.
—With pleasure, answers Reymo.
—Thank you, retorts the Major.
—See you next time, adds Beth.
And they leave the library, hand in hand.
When they arrive in their living room with the transporter, they are surprised to find Nori sitting up but asleep on their sofa, with Rose leaning her head on his shoulder.
—Rose didn’t find her life card after my course and thought it has maybe fallen on the ground somewhere in the fighting room… If she’s here with Nori, it means she didn’t find it, the Major whispers.
Rose awakes suddenly. Her movement makes Nori wake up too.
—Well, what time is it?
– 1 o’clock in the morning, Beth answers softly to her childhood friend.
—We were surprised not to find you when we arrived here, informs Nori. The guy named Sylvester arrived a few minutes after us. He recognized us, and made us enter through his home. He showed us the communication door.
—We thought you may not be very far and decided to wait for you.
—It seems we both fell asleep … remarks Nori.
—It seems I forgot you, Nori, apologizes the Major.
—It’s nothing, answers Nori.
—Rose, there’s a light blinking on the top of your bag, notices Beth.
—Oh, I’ve got a message. It’s from Benedict. “Rose, where are you? Your life card is in my sports bag. Tell me where you are and I’ll bring it to you.”
—Well, a mystery solved, says Nori.
—You can both stay here for the rest of the night, suggests the Major.
—There’s only one couch here, remarks Rose.
—I’ll take the armchair, proposes Nori. I’m tired, I will be asleep in a few minutes.
The Major knows Nori can’t propose to take Rose home. He has no life card himself. Pretending a need to sleep was the best way to avoid problems.
—I’ll tell Benedict to come here tomorrow morning if he can. I’ll take the couch. I’m tired too. What did you do outside together until now?
—We ate in our favorite restaurant and then went to Pines Height to watch the night scenery. We can stay there for hours, retorts Beth. Good night.
—Good night, answers Rose and Nori in chorus.
Alone in their bedroom, Beth and the Major laugh as softly as they can.
—What a perfect liar you are, says the Major to his wife.
—I trained with the best to be able to go undercover.
—There is no doubt you’re ready.
—Just remember it next time I accept a mission.
—Beth, you made a promise…
—I know, don’t worry.