South of Bikini: E3- Newfound Relations

Newly repurposed, the Sand Dollar sets out on her next mission, but does the strange Mahanilui plan more…’miraculous’ changes for Alex Steinert and her crew? Do the women of Kili Island know more about what is happening than they let on?

The following story is just that- a story- fiction. As such, all characters are fictitious and any similarities to persons living or deceased are purely coincidental. Some research has been done for authenticity and so I didn’t screw it up too bad. Just so I don’t receive nasty-grams from any WWII vets, the Balao class submarine, keel number 353, was never built. No military missions of this sort actually occurred in the areas at the dates specified. Furthermore, I hold the highest admiration for every submariner- every veteran, WWII or other, for what they sacrificed, endured and accomplished.

Copyright 2006 R.G.Beyer


South of Bikini

Episode 3

“Newfound Relations”

1320 hours, Palmyra Atoll, April 3rd, 1944

“Skipper, Admiral Demmit asked me to give you this.” My Ex-O said as I reached the bottom of the Bridge ladder. After fixing my skirt and tucking in the loose tail of my blouse, I took the proffered letter from Jack. We had just cleared the Atoll’s lagoon/harbor and set course for Hawaii.

The note was hand written by the Admiral himself. It read:

Cmdr. Steinert,

Make your course for the southeastern side of Kauai. I will meet the Sand Dollar there. Stay submerged just off the reef until 1100hrs, April 5th. We need to discuss Lt. Scott’s idea of a new base for my new Naval Emergency Recovery Unit. By then I will have chosen several prospective locations for us to visit and appraise. I will bring my own supplies.

Rear Admiral Richard E. Demmit, USN

PS: Alex, please accept an apology from this old stuff-shirt. I was totally out of line yesterday assuming you had compromised my niece’s virtue. I am also sorry I ever doubted your character- before or after this mission. Please accept my sincerest apologies. I still cannot begin to fathom the circumstances concerning your miraculous change, but I will try to accept it nonetheless. Be that as it may, I wish to offer my warmest welcome to the newest member of the Demmit/Scott family, Alexandra. You and Emily stay safe!

See you both in couple day,

Uncle Rick.

“Skip, need a hankie?” Jack quietly offered.

I politely declined and went forward to find Emily.

“Oh, Alex, I told you he would come around!” Emily said as she finished reading. “I told you he was a big teddy bear!”

“So Alexandra, how does it feel to be part of a family again?”Lt. Smith inquired.

“Actually, I never really lost my family, Mina. I just added another branch.”

“Bully for you, my dear!” Lt. Smith congratulated. She pondered a moment. “Surely you don’t intend reintroducing yourself to your parents? They would not recognize you, even if they had previously made Emily’s acquaintance. They would just see what the rest of the world sees- Emily’s sister, Alexandra.”

“I haven’t worked it all out yet, but there has to be some way I can stay near them. They’re still my parents!”

“Correction! They are Alexander Steinert’s parents. To them Alexandra Steinert doesn’t exist, Alex.” Emily stated calmly.

“Perhaps you could introduce yourself as your brother’s girlfriend…or fiancée?”

“No!” I screeched then cleared my throat. “I mean, no Mina, that wouldn’t work even if I agreed to go along with it.”

“Why not, Captain?”

“Because, Mina, Alex…”

“Because, Mina, my parents have already been down that road! I received a letter from them about a year after Brian’s death. In it, my Pa stated that a young woman had come up to the house insisting she was Brian’s wife- that they had gotten married only a week before the attack and that she had returned stateside afterwards. My Ma and Pa almost bought into her story ‘til Ma remembered Brian’s last letter. It was dated December 5th, 1941. In it he had complained about liberty being canceled the week before because of several crewmen sneaking ashore, getting drunk, and forcibly returned by the Shore Patrol. She searched through all our letters until she found it. Sure enough, Brain had stated that the Captain had revoked all shore leave for two weeks.” I stopped to take a breath…and also to steady myself. This was dredging up bad memories I desperately wanted to forget. Both Lieutenants looked flabbergasted.

“Pa took the letter into town and showed the Sheriff, telling him the whole story. When the woman came back later, Ma let her in the house and Pa…well, he held her there with his shotgun until the Sheriff arrived. Turns out she was in possession of a list of crewmen lost on the Arizona that day. How she got it is still a mystery. They never wrote me back with anything further on the subject.” I stopped again, this time to ease my anger.

“So you see…I can’t just show up on their doorstep claiming to be my brother’s anything! I won’t do that, I can’t. I love them too much!” I wiped some tears from my eyes.

“My word! How some people can live with themselves! To assume the guise of a grieving widow, probably for financial gain or security, I suspect! The sheer audacity! Of course, I have seen similar in my travels and it should not surprise me. Alexandra, your parents are very wise and observant people. I can see where you get some of your talents from- specifically, your penchant for weapons usage.” Lt. Smith said with a mischievous grin hoping to lighten my mood.

“Mina, just so you know, every Ozark hillbilly knows how to use a gun! Babies up there teethe on rifle butts instead of lollipops!” Emily giggled as she ran with the jest.

“While ya’ll are at it, don’t fer-git they’s a still in ever’ back yard an’ the whole fam’ly drinks ‘shine steada’ water!” I growled as I let a severely exaggerated version of my native drawl loose. I realized I sounded exactly like some young, Tennessee farmer’s daughter- blonde pigtails and all. Sometimes I hated my new voice.

“Oh Alex! You know we’re just having some fun! Take it easy!”

“I’ll take it easy if you stop reminding me of my accent. I’ve never made fun of yer high an’ mighty, nose in the air, all proper, Connecticut Yankee speak, have I?”

“Well, no, but…point taken, Alex. Boy, you can be too sensitive lately! Are you sure your not starting…?”

“No…I mean…I don’t think I…I’ll be in my quarters!” I turned, went the few steps, entered and locked my door. As I sat down on my rack, I questioned myself. Could it be starting…? No! I need some rest.

“I’ve never seen Alex get that ticked before, Mina.”

“We have been quite antagonistic as of late. Maybe a truce is in order, Lieutenant?”

“Agreed, Lieutenant. She still needs practice though, Mina.”

“Practice of what kind, dear?”

“Why, practice in the art of argument! Alex still concedes her position like a man- by dramatically exaggerating the topic then retreating.” Emily giggled.

Lt. Smith carefully eyed up the doctor for a minute. “Of course. Lieutenant, she is still fairly new at this, you know. Gradually she will catch on- faster if we do not nag at her.”

“What fun would that be, Mina?”

“What fun indeed.”

0830 Pearl Harbor, April 4th, 1944

“Sir? Major Canton to see you.”

“Send him in Ensign.”

“Aye, sir.”

The Marine Major entered the office and promptly snapped to attention.

“Canton, those better be the surveys I asked for.”

“Sir, yes sir!”

“At ease, Major. Take a seat.” Demmit said as he motioned to a chair. He gestured to the map tube the marine was holding. Maj. Charles. Canton USMC handed over the contents.

“Admiral, you can’t be serious about this! What would the War Dept. say? Sir, you must consider your career! You could be laughed right out of the Navy if this got out!”

“Let me worry about that Major! I’m well aware of the consequences! I hold myself solely responsible for any and all possible outcomes. Your name will never be used in any communiqué or reference to this project, Canton.”

“Sir, I’m just reminding you of what could happen. I know I made my opinions clear on the plane.”

“So noted, Major. As I said, your involvement will be kept from the record, as will this and every future conversation on the matter. I’ve listened to and understand your thoughts on the Sand Dollar situation.”

“Then you understand the situation they place us all in, sir. May I remind the Admiral that there has never been any women serving in command or frontline positions in any military, anywhere?”

“Yes, Canton, you voiced that fact many times on the flight back to Pearl yesterday. May I remind you, major, that these women we’re speaking of are the foremost submarine crew in the Pacific?” Demmit’s voice grew angry.

“Yes sir, but…”

“Are you also aware that the Sand Dollar’s crew- her female crew no less- sank more enemy tonnage on their first mission than any other boat crew to date?”

“But sir, they just got lucky…”

“Lucky! Major, you are aware that every Captain files an in-depth report of every attack- successful or otherwise?” Demmit growled.

“Yes sir.”

“Hummpf!” Admiral Demmit paused.

“Tell me major, when we first overflew, then boarded the Sand Dollar the other day, did you see anything out of the ordinary?”

“Well no, sir, they…”

“All stations were manned and ready as should be expected?”

“Why, yes, sir.”

“And when shots rang out on the beach, did the crew react with practiced precision?”

“Yes.”

“And in your opinion major, did their reaction time meet or exceed your standards?”

“My men could respond no better, sir.” Canton admitted.

“So tell me again how women can’t fight in this war, major? You have just agreed with me that the crew of the Sand Dollar responds equally as well as your marines.”

“Admiral, they may respond quickly under that set of circumstances, but if they were to see actual close combat situations…”

“Read this major! I was hoping I wouldn’t have to divulge to you, what have become, classified reports, but you leave me no alternative! Here are Captain Steinert’s reports on the Sand Dollar’s activities. I must warn you however, that once your eyes focus on these reports, your complicity in my plan is assured. So, if you want your proof, read the reports. Be assured I have never known Capt. Steinert or my niece to lie! Read… then tell me how your soldiers could perform any better given the circumstances, major!”

Canton slowly read through the files as if committing them to memory or evaluating them as he went. At one point his face flashed surprise.

“She fought off a Japanese officer by herself…after taking fire AND ordering the boat to dive?”

“You understand now, major? Men or women, this crew can fight! Maybe the gentleman’s club has finally found some competition? You would find her report on the Palmyra incident equally brilliant if I had allowed her to file such a report, but that incident never happened. Isn’t that right major?”

“Sir, what report?”

“Look Chuck, I’ve known you for a number of years now. If I had expected this much flak from you, I wouldn’t have asked you and Redhorse to go to Palmyra with me. I thought I was asking two open-minded soldiers to help me investigate the Sand Dollar mystery. Little did I realize one would basically condemn my decisions and the other would fall hard for her Encryption Specialist! Chuck, this crew didn’t ask for this, it just happened! They want to fight! The spirit to fight is still resonating through them, major- just as it rings through you or I. I think they deserve the chance, don’t you? Otherwise, what choice would they have? Would you be comfortable sending them stateside to be poked and prodded like lab rats? Because if news of this…this Mahanului, ever got out that is exactly what would happen!”

The Admiral paused to collect his thoughts.

“Put yourself in their place. Can you even begin to understand how you would feel about suddenly changing from male to female overnight? It sends chills up my spine thinking of all that entails. Yet they have overcome that; they have continued to do their jobs and pulled off some stunning victories in the process. Chuck, I believe them to still be a major asset to the war effort. That is why we need to locate and setup this base for them.”

“Admiral…if you believe in them as much as you say…why put such beautiful creatures in harm’s way. Wouldn’t it be safer to keep them here, at Pearl?”

“Would you like to go stateside and participate in the war bond campaigns, Chuck?”

“No!”

“Why?”

“Because I was trained to fight. I…”

“Now do you see my point, major?”

“But they’re still women.”

“Yes, women who use to be men. Just like you or I. Maybe one day they will wish to settle down…maybe after this damn war is over. Right now though, they wish to continue doing what they volunteered for- defeating the Nazis and the Empire. They made that fact quite clear at our campfire the other night. Cap. Steinert also demonstrated to me firsthand how committed they are to stay in the fight.”

“Sir?”

“While on the beach that night, she knew something was going to happen! A minute or so before Sand Dollar signaled us about an approaching vessel. Once onboard, I found out that their Hydrophone operator heard the approaching screws at four times the normal range. She accurately identified it as another boat. Whose it was she couldn’t tell because of the echoes reflected by the reef.”

Canton just sat and listened to the account of the unofficial incident.

“After the unidentified boat surfaced, I ordered Sand Dollar to also surface. Alex felt strongly enough to counter my order and stay submerged. She said there was something strange about the boat- something that just was not right about it. Within a matter of moments she had formed a strategy. She ordered Sand Dollar closer to investigate. Both Alex and her first officer sighted the deception and brought it to my attention. She fired two torpedoes at the intruder just before they fired a cannon round at Palmyra air station. It was a brilliant maneuver, major. I have never been witness to such acuity. It was like Alex now possesses some sort of precognition or the like.”

1050 hours, Southeastern coast of Kauai, Hawaiian Chain, April 5th, 1944

“Periscope depth, Skip.”

“Thanks Carroll. Stand by to surface.”

“Aye! Stand by to surface.” Lt. Sheldon relayed my command.

Seeing nothing out of the ordinary topside, I gave the order to surface.

“Aye, Skip. Surface. Blow all tanks. Lookouts to the Con.”

“Skipper, RADAR has a target bearing one-nine-two, fifteen miles out and closing.”

“We’ll check it out. Sound battle stations, Carroll.” I said as I ascended the ladder.

“Aye Skip! Sound battle stations, battle stations!”

Within a matter of moments the main deck gun had been manned and readied, as well as both machine guns. I felt nothing but pride for my crew!

“Cap, target is coming in low at eight-o’clock. Looks like a PBY.” One of the lookouts, Reynolds, said.

“He’s right on time.” I responded.

Jack, Emily and Mina joined me on the bridge just before the Admiral’s plane overflew our position.

In short order, the plane had circled back, descended and taxied to within twenty yards of Sand Dollar. An inflatable containing Adm. Demmit and two sailors launched from the plane and came along side. The Old Man was helped aboard- as was a duffle and crate. Demmit spoke with then saluted the sailors, who wasted no time returning to the plane. Minutes later, the plane having built enough speed, returned to the air and headed back to its base.

“Admiral, Welcome aboard.” I said as we all saluted.

“Captain. Commander. Lieutenants.” He returned our salutes. “I hope your trip was uneventful?”

“Yes sir, it was.”

“Good. Have your men…er…crew stow this gear. The duffle goes to my quarters and the crate to the galley.”

“The galley, sir?” I questioned.

“Yes, Alex. I brought my own supplies. I want them to remain separate and only Chief Peterson is to have access. Clear?”

“Aye, sir!”

“As soon as that is done I would like to meet with you and your officers in your Ward room. I have a few…

“Alex!” Carroll shouted from the bridge, “Skip, Randi has a priority transmission for the Admiral coming in from Pearl! They’re asking to talk.”

“Loosening the protocols a bit, Captain?”

“No sir! Not at all! I’ll remind the Lieutenant of that, sir.”

“See that you do, Alex.” Demmit chided.

“Sorry, sir, but sometimes it just slips out. We haven’t quite figured out why.” I gestured toward my body.

Admiral Demmit just looked Emily and I over a few times. He shook his head, and then looked toward Lt. Smith. She in turn winked at him.

“Yes…well…get my gear stowed and meet me in the Radio Shack, Alex.”

“Aye, Admiral. Jack, see to the Admiral’s gear and secure from battle stations. Go to general quarters.”

“Aye, Skip.”

Adm. Demmit walked over to and stopped at the Conning Tower ladder. “Ladies first,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

As with our first meeting since the change, I felt vulnerable, but I was learning.

“Admiral, maybe you should go first- it might be very important.” I said as I motioned for him to ascend the ladder instead.

The man looked disappointed as he started his climb and I felt somewhat vindicated. Not entirely understanding, I glanced back to Emily and Mina- both wore a slight smile. Emily nodded slightly.

Once on the bridge, Demmit must have said something to Carroll as she snapped to attention and saluted until the old man dropped through the hatch. As I topped the ladder, Carroll confronted me.

“Skip…it was an honest mistake! Hell, I didn’t even realize I said it…it just came out! Honest! I would never knowingly…”

“Hold it right there, Carroll! I know you didn’t mean to break protocol. Just pay more attention next time, okay?” I said cutting her off.

As I neared the galley I could hear the Admiral speaking.

“Negative. Seahorse is not ready for…No…I’m well aware of the importance…confirmed. Will contact in three. Shortstop out!”

The sound of his voice…so…so strong; so self-assured…such a nice deep voice…

What the hell was I thinking!

“Some bad news Admiral?” I asked as I stopped in the doorway.

“Nothing that concerns you, Captain.”

“Oh, okay. Sir, my command staff is assembled and waiting for us in the Wardroom, when you’re ready.”

“Hilf, I want to know the minute anything gets close to us.” I said as we passed through the Control Room.

“Aye, Skipper.”

“By the way Hilf, how are you feeling today?”

“A lot better now Skip. I feel like my old self again…well, sort of my old self…um…my new…old self that is.”

“Radar? Miss Hilf?” I hinted with my finger while holding back a giggle.

“What was that all about Commander?” Adm. Demmit growled.

“Women’s thing Admiral, nothing you want to hear about.”

“Hummf”

“Ladies, let’s get this briefing started shall we?” Adm. Demmit said as he motioned for us all to be seated.

“As you all know, the past few days I have been looking into possible sites for a new base of operations. I have narrowed my search to three or four locations on the smaller islands of this chain. I believe they all meet our somewhat specific criteria. All are mostly uninhabited. All are isolated enough for your privacy, and all have somewhat usable mooring space. One in particular, peaks my interest. We’ll visit that one last as I want you all to see the other locations first before making our decision.”

Admiral Demmit proceeded to retrieve and unfold charts for three of the northernmost Hawaiian Islands.

“We’ll start here at Kauai tomorrow morning 0600. Captain, set your course for these coordinates. Once we arrive we’ll hold off shore until morning. Now let me brief you on your new mission.”

“Admiral? Before you continue, did you not forget about something?” Lt. Smith asked. In her hands she held several sheets of notes.

“Oh…yes, your highness, I…”

“Lt. Smith!” We all contradicted in unison.

“Yes, Lt. Smith. If I may?” The Admiral glared at everyone momentarily then turned his attention back to Mina and reached across the table to retrieve the notes.

“You will find, Admiral, that my sisters are indeed a diverse group representing many trades and specialties. Granted we may be a bit rusty, but I can assure you we do learn fast.” Mina gushed.

As Demmit read through the notes, his expression grew more confused.

“Lt. Smith, I believe what you told me about this Mahanilui and it’s changes, but I cannot believe women as young as yourselves have such vast and far reaching backgrounds. For instance, how could…um” he searched back through several pages until he found what he was looking for, “…how could Ensign Banes have any experience as a Royal Navy Shipwright? I’ve never heard of HMS Thames.”

“I doubt you would have, Admiral. The Thames was a Ship-of-the-line that was captured, burned, and sunk during the Siamese Uprising against the Crown.” Mina giggled.

“Siamese Uprising? I never heard of that confrontation.” Demmit was even more confused now.

“That is because it gave the British Empire a black eye, Admiral. Rumors had it that several Nobles lost their heads when King Ja…”

“Lt. Smith! I doubt the Admiral here wants to be bored by British politics!” I subtlety glared across at her hoping she took the hint.

“Quite so. Excuse me Admiral. It has been such a long time since my sisters and I have had men to talk to. Pardon my rambling. Please continue.”

I could see the Old Man’s gears turning- trying to figure out just when this supposed uprising happened. Several minutes passed while Adm. Demmit scrutinized Lt. Smith and her words. My command staff held our collective breath.

“Admiral? Could we continue, sir?” I cautiously inquired.

“Yes… yes let’s continue, Captain.” He said while still evaluating the Lieutenant.

“This is what I asked for your…Lt. Smith. Thank you. Are you sure you and your girls want to participate in this mission? May I remind you your commissions were only a means of…”

“…Allowing our safe passage through the war zone. Yes, Admiral Demmit, we are well aware and most steadfast in our intentions. Please continue, sir.” Mina said with confidence and royal bearing.

“As you wish…Lieutenant. Captain, you and your crew will become the Navy’s new Emergency Recovery Unit. You and the Sand Dollar will provide emergency extraction and medical services to forward locations on short notice. Also some covert reconnaissance may arise. Once we have established the location of your base, I will dispatch a battalion of Seabees to prepare and construct it. The Sand Dollar will conveniently be out on a mission during that time so no interaction will occur. I think it best that your identities be kept secret. I have also prepared a short list of support personnel to help maintain the base. I cannot guarantee a steady stream of assignments to appease your need to ‘blow things up’, Captain, but you and your crew will have to stay sharp and be on the ready at all times. Think you can handle it, Captain?”

I looked around the table for any reactions. All nodded in the affirmative.

“Sir, we’re ready, willing, and quite able to carry out our new mission. Let me state, for the record that we may look, sound, and act differently than before, but we are still soldiers in the United States Navy and that is what matters most!”

“Excellent, Commander!”

“Admiral? May I inquire as to the Captain and her crew? Have you decided on a course of action towards their identities?”

“Yes I have…Lieutenant. For the time being, Captain Steinert and his men will still exist, if only on paper. I have people lined up to construct official documentation should this change not prove temporary in the six months you have requested.”

Adm. Demmit looked around the table as everyone except Mina dropped their gaze to the tabletop.

“I’m sorry. I could have worded that differently. You all must understand that I need to, at least, plan for the worst case? Look, no offence, but we all know that this is a man’s Navy. I doubt that will ever change even though you have proven the Navy and I wrong. However, you have proven to this old seadog, at least, that given proper training women can perform as well as men…if not better in some areas. Hell, I’d bring commendations for everyone onboard if I thought the War Department would believe me!”

“Medals and awards will not feed or clothe a crew, Admiral. My inquiry deals in the physical and financial. What of currency, shore leave, and holiday? Are we to be confined to our base for the duration of this war?” Lt. Smith questioned.

“No ma’am, I wouldn’t expect any of my personnel to be confined or denied leave! I’m still working on those and many other ‘special’ requirements that have surfaced from your last mission. I will however, consider any and all practical ideas, Mina. I am hoping that once we find a suitable location some of your concerns will have been answered. Captain, do you frequently allow officers under your command to speak for you?”

“Women’s…Captain’s purgative, sir. Now, if I may sir, should I give the order to set course for our first objective?” I caught Emily stifle a giggle.

“Yes, Alex. Make for site ‘Alpha’. Here are your coordinates.” The Admiral said dejectedly as he pointed to a location on the first chart. Carroll and I made for the Con

Chief Peterson intercepted me just as we cleared the forward hatch.

“Skip, the Admiral…he brought his own coffee pot! Where am I going to prepare things if another pot is taking up the space? As it is I don’t have enough space to put things! I can’t work like this sir!” Peterson whined.

“Look, he just wants to be safe. Think of what would happen if he changed like us. As an Admiral he can help us- as one of us, we don’t stand a chance. Just do your best back there.”

“Good point Alex…skipper.”

“Lt. Sheldon, submerge the boat and set a course to our first objective. Hold off shore till daybreak surfacing tonight for recharge. I’ll have Jack relieve you at 2100 hrs.”

“Aye, skip! Recall the watch! Ready for dive.” Carroll started to relay my orders. I returned forward to the Wardroom. Mina, Emily and Jack were still with Adm. Demmit. Two-Eagles, Randi, and Scott Williams weren’t scheduled to report for their duty station for two hours.

“Admiral, we’re underway. We should arrive on location at 1500 hrs.”

“Good Alex. Have a seat, please. We have more to talk about.”

“Sir?”

“Mina?” Demmit faced Lt. Smith, who was now on his right, “Is there something you have neglected to tell me, Lieutenant?”

“I don’t follow sir.”

“Come on your highness! I may not be as old as you- pardon the inference, but I wasn’t born yesterday. I did catch your comment about former-president Roosevelt. How is it you know him, my dear?” the Admiral asked calmly.

“Maybe the Lieutenant just got her Roosevelt’s’ mixed up, sir.” I tried to cover.

“Yes, maybe Mina just mixed up Theodore for Franklin, sir.” Emily added.

I noticed Jack started to turn white.

“Girls, your uncle didn’t get to be where he is today because he missed something that obvious!” Admiral Demmit scowled at the two of us.

“Lt. Smith?” He growled then paused. “Mina? You’ve met the former president haven’t you?” The table was eerily quiet. “Lieutenant, does the Mahanului have anything to do with extending one’s life? I assure you this will never be discussed or asked again, my dear. You can count on that!”

Mina paused then let out a defeated sigh. “And more, Admiral.” She admitted quietly. The old man gave a satisfied smile.

“I trust you have shared these ‘benefits’ with the captain and her crew?”

“Some of them, yes.”

“Some of the benefits or some of the crew? Would you care to elaborate, Lieutenant?”

Again Lt. Smith paused nervously. “Benefits, sir.”

We all looked at Lt. Smith somewhat surprised by her admission of withholding information from us.

I noticed Mina swallow hard as she glanced around to each of us.

“In addition to longevity, our bodies heal and rejuvenate faster. Our senses are heightened, as you already know.” She paused thinking how to continue.

“Go on. Please continue, Lieutenant.”

“As your crew is already aware, we pass on these traits to our off-spring. If the Hun or Japanese found us out, they would exploit both us, and our progeny. That is why we cannot be revealed…to anybody…to any government, Admiral.”

“We know all that Mina. What is it you haven’t told us? We’re all in this together now! We really should know!” Emily declared for us all.

“Well…I may have misled you a bit on the full extent of our longevity. I believe I stated the time factor as roughly two hundred years? It is closer to three hundred, my sisters. Learning of such an excessive lifespan can sometimes be traumatic to some people- I didn’t want to frighten you, I’m sorry.”

Again the table was silent.

“Also…we are fertile for most of that. If…if the Mahaului holds true now that we are away from its influence.” Mina dropped her eyes.

“But we still aren’t sure if this will last beyond six months, right Lieutenant?” My Ex-O asked.

“I told you, I just don’t know, Jacquelyn. That is one thing I cannot promise.”

“Mina? In the case of your Ensign Banes…when you said she was a shipwright on a Ship-of-the-Line…you meant a real Ship-of-the-Line?” Admiral Demmit asked as the pieces finally fell into place.

“Yes, Admiral, Zechariah Joseph Banes was born in the year of our lord 1715, near Hampshire, England. He apprenticed in Portsmouth until age twenty then signed aboard HMS Thames. He and seven others survived the battle and subsequent sinking just off Siam. He had heard tell of Kili Island from an envoy my mother sent out after pirates had pillaged and routed the island. Mr. Banes came to us sick with the onset of the plague. Mariah Banes joined our fold in 1747. She owes her very existence to the Mahanilui- it saved her life.”

“…So that means that everyone on this submarine…except me…”

“…Are in perfect health and should stay that way for a very long time to come, Admiral, yes…provided, of course, the Mahanilui does not wear away in six months as some would hope.”

“That’s not where I was going, Lieutenant. What I meant to say was that no one on board Sand Dollar will ever get sick or die?”

“Not entirely Admiral. We can all be dispatched as surely as anyone- it just takes…more severe means. Take for instance our captain; she suffered a severe bullet wound to her leg five days ago. The bullet nicked one of the main veins causing her to bleed profusely as Miss Sheldon can attest to. Despite severe blood loss, here she is. One cannot even locate the site of the injury. She was completely healed the next day!”

“You mean to tell me that all of you are some kind of super-humans? From what you have told me you cannot get sick, have extraordinarily heightened senses, retain your youth and beauty, heal faster than normal, are hard to kill, and live three to four times longer than normal people. Does that just about sum everything up, your highness…or is there more?”

Mina took too long to reply. I could see her debating the question. The old man took notice also.

“There is more isn’t there, your highness?” he asked as he wiped his face with his palms in frustration.

“Yes, but they vary by individual and are too numerous to list, Admiral Demmit. For instance, my adoptive mother, our former queen could foresee coming events- in fact, she foresaw my arrival to Kili several years in advance. I thought it strange how she welcomed me like a close relative, not the stranger I was. Once I experienced the Mahanului, she explained about her gift and some of the others. I share the gift with my four daughters as does everyone in Kili’s royal bloodline.” Mina dropped her head as she finished.

I quickly began to piece together these new facts. She had the gift of precognition, seeing into the future- seeing what would happen before it actually did. I leveled my glare on the Lieutenant.

“You knew!” I hissed. “You knew this would happen to us! Why, Mina? Why didn’t you try to stop this?” My pitch went higher. “Did you also know about this, Admiral? Were we just an experiment?” My angry stare was now focused exclusively on the old man.

“I can assure you, captain; I had no knowledge of this. I only acted on the request of the Kili government- the queen here. The only prior information I had relating to your mission was the list of names to use for commissions. A list that was forwarded to me by way of our resupply ship three months ago.”

“So you knew three months in advance that this was going to happen? Mina, we trusted you! You lied to us- why?” This was unbelievable! To know that she could have stopped this change, yet she did nothing. I tried to keep my temper.

Mina never moved her glance from the tabletop as we waited for her response. I noticed her facial coloring change to a rose shade. Her breath deepened. I could feel a storm brewing.

“The truth, Alexandra? I’ll tell you all the truth!” She looked up from the table at me, both fire and tears in her eyes. Her closed fists hit the table in unison. “The real truth is that the alternative was even more devastating than if I had done absolutely nothing at all- if I had simply let our future play out without any interference on my part!” She sniffed hard. “I did you all a favor!” Mina stated in her most angry of royal tones.

“Did them a favor! Mina, how could you be so cruel? How could you sentence fifty innocent souls to an unwanted existence?” Emily angrily interjected.

“Simply this, doctor. We would all have died had I not interceded- had things not played out according to my carefully re-thought future! That Japanese destroyer that you destroyed after your Mahanului would have caught you dead in the water and fired upon you first!” She paused to let her words sink in, yet her eyes still remained locked on mine. She continued.

“Had you not undergone the Mahanilui, you would not have given sunbathing privileges to us, or your crew. With no women sunbathing on the foredeck, the Japanese would not have been distracted nor would they have missed their target, Alexandra! The demise of the Kili civilization would have been guaranteed most assuredly!” Again she stopped- this time to compose herself for what she said next.

“This Sand Dollar that you hold so dear would now be lost- crushed and twisted wreckage in five hundred fathoms of water with all hands lost! A mere mention in the history books, if that.” She sniffed. “What I gave you all was another chance at life! Because of my foresight and my actions, this miraculous vessel, her crew, and passengers are here today! Believe me; the visions of our demise haunted me day and night until that morning of your change, Captain.” Mina closed her eyes as she stopped. Tears squeezed from them and ran down her cheeks. She shook her head slightly as if shaking off some unwanted memory.

“To envision ones-self alone, treading water with only fire light to see the horrific seen of everyone here floating, lifeless, as this submarine slipped farther and farther into the unknown depths. You cannot imagine the feeling of your life being squeezed from you by the extreme pressure- knowing that this could have been prevented- that it had to be prevented…” Mina abruptly stopped and buried her head in Demmit’s shoulder as she broke down.

Admiral Demmit did his best to consul her. I felt an apology was warranted.

“We’re all sorry, Mina. Had we known you had seen all of that, we would…please accept my deepest apology, your highness. We really do owe you our lives…thank you.” I said, trying to keep from getting choked up.

“Mina? How long ago was it that you saw your vision?” Jack asked innocently.

With a few sniffs, Mina lifted her head and answered, “Five years ago. Five excruciatingly long years.”

We were all shocked.

“How could you hold that inside for so long?” Jack burst out in surprise.

“I assure you Jacquelyn, it took everything I am to keep my sanity! That morning, when chaos reigned supreme throughout this vessel…it was pure ambrosia to me! I knew, without a doubt that I had saved my friends and family. I had succeeded in changing history- at least in a small way! Almost immediately, my visions of that averted future began to fade. They will remain- not disappearing entirely, but they have become just bad memories- lessons.”

“On behalf of the United States Navy, thank you, Mina. What you did for Alex and her crew, though unique and quite unorthodox, is deeply appreciated. We are in your debt, your highness.” The old man’s words were eloquent and sincere.

Without warning ‘it’ appeared. It was slight but still made itself known. I immediately began my questioning. I think Jack noticed first.”

“Admiral! Alex.” I noticed her pointing in my direction as I concentrated on my questioning.

What was wrong? Was Sand Dollar heading into trouble? I received a slightly larger response. I tried to be more specific. Was there an enemy in the area? No response. Is it something to do with the boat? Big response. Should we go deeper? Big response. Should we surface? No response.

“Alex? What is it? Are we in danger?” I heard Emily ask.

I gave no response- I wanted to narrow things down before replying. Are we under attack? No response. Are we going to hit something? Big response. I should surface and go over something ahead of us? No response. I wanted to better understand what would happen so I rephrased my question. Is there something on the bottom that we will hit and possibly cause us to sink? My head vibrated with the response. Something different then happened. I got the feeling of urgency. I reached for the squawk.

“Con, Captain! Blow all tanks! Emergency surface! All stop! Do it now Miss Sheldon!”

My commands echoed back down the corridor at us. We felt the bow rise sharply and held onto the table. Within seconds we felt the unmistakable rise then fall of the bow as we broke the surface. Carroll’s voice came over the speaker.

“We’re on top, Skip. All stop.”

“May I suggest a little warning before you do that again, Alex?” The Admiral said, relieved.

“What is it Alex?” I heard as I got up and hurried back to the Con.

“Alex…what the hell?” Carroll screeched. I didn’t answer.

“Sonar where’s the bottom?”

“Sixty feet, skip….thirty-five feet! Wow that was close Skipper, how’d ya know?”

I breathed a sigh of relief. That had been too close. I almost took too long! Somehow I needed to streamline my questioning procedures. I asked myself one more question. Should we stop and look? I got no response.

“Carroll, call the lookouts to the Con. Let’s have a look at what we almost ran into.”

“Alex, what is it?” Emily asked as she, Jack, Mina, and Admiral Demmit entered.

“We barely missed something big on the bottom. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the water is clear enough we can see it topside. Care to join me, Admiral?”

Demmit gestured to the ladder.

Once on the bridge, it became obvious what we almost hit.

“Well Alex, it looks like you found our lost supply ship. She failed to report in three days ago.”

“I see another problem in the making Admiral!” I said pointing to the masthead peeking above the waves about ten yards off our port side. “Bridge, Con.”

“Con here, skip. What’s going on up there?”

“We seem to have found one of the Admiral’s lost ships, Miss Sheldon. Rudders amidships and slowly back us away from the wreckage. We’re about to foul out on its rigging.”

“Aye, rudder amidships and slow astern, Skip.”

“What was she carrying, sir?” I asked as we slowly cleared the twisted mass of steel cables.

“My guess, from the damage, would be explosives, Alex.” He looked as if sizing me up. “You really saw that coming? Amazing!”

“Well, sir, I really didn’t see anything. Let’s just say something told me it was going to happen- you could call it a feeling.” I admitted.

“More like underdeveloped precognition, Captain!” Mina said from behind us.

A flash bulb went off in my head.

“No…that…that can’t be” I said to no one in particular.

“Excuse me, Captain?” the Admiral asked as we both turned our attention to Lt. Smith.

“Did you really think that highly of me at our first meeting, Alexandra?”

“Mina, it’s got to be a mistake! Yes, I respect you…I never met royalty before. I’m just your normal run of the mill Missouri farm boy! I have no royal blood at all in my family tree! Grandpa once met Samuel Clements before retiring from the river, but that’s as famous as the Steinert family gets.” I explained.

“Captain, the Mahanilui is miraculous, but mysterious at times. It alone decides who becomes what- who gets what- it’s most unpredictable.”

“Just like a woman!” the old man mumbled.

“Yes, exactly Admiral, Just like a woman.” Lt. Smith agreed. The Admiral just shook his head.

“I take it you knew this also, Mina?” I already knew the answer.

“Only since the day of your change, Alexandra. As I stated before, once the timeline changed so did future events in it.”

“But I don’t know how to be queen!”

“My dear girl, who said anything about you becoming the next queen?” Mina giggled. “I intend to have a long and prosperous reign and then hand over my crown to my eldest daughter, Mia, then to her eldest daughter and so on.”

“I’m sorry, I just…”

“Alexandra, you already are a ruler in your own right. You command your loyal subjects, your crew, as would any monarch. The Sand Dollar is your domain- your realm. But, I suppose your family tree has gotten a trifle larger. I reckon that makes us family now Richard- what say you?”

“How would ‘Princess Alexandra’ here make us related, Mina?” Admiral Demmit asked sarcastically as he gestured to me.

“Did you not refer to her as ‘Ruthie’ at first sight? Did you not officially welcome her into your family via written letter? You freely admitted she reminds you of your late sister, and her physical resemblance to Lt. Scott is remarkable, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Well, yes, I said and did those things, but how are WE now related, your highness?”

“Her gift of foresight, Admiral! The Mahanilui has decided her lineage and therefore brought us together! Do not forget, her gift is considered by my people to be the sign of royalty! I have it; my mother had it; her mother had it; and so on back through Kili history. Now, my sister Alexandra has it- it is also possible that Emily inherited the gift when she participated in the Mahanilui. I have yet to see evidence of it though. So, like it or not Richard, we are now related through Captain Steinert.”

Lt. Smith smiled then kissed me lightly on the cheek as she hugged me.

“Welcome to the family, Alexandra! Oh and don’t neglect to rescue the five survivors over on the shore in that small cave right…there. They prove a vital key to upcoming events.” She pointed to a small dark opening five hundred yards from us on the rocky cliff rising from the narrow beachhead. Mina then kissed Admiral Demmit on the cheek, turned, and climbed down through the hatch.

“Skipper! I have movement on the beach, nine o’clock!” Lookout Masterson shouted. Masterson. It still amazed me how that girl could even stand, or that a flak jacket would still fit her!

I decided to test my ‘gift’ as Mina called it. A simple question to start: should I leave them on the beach? It was no surprise to get a response- the question was rhetorical. Should we rescue them- again a no-brainer? Quiet. Next question: Could they do us harm? I got a mild reaction to that one. Interesting. I tried another. Are they all healthy? Big reaction! Ok, that did it for me.

“Bridge, Con.”

“Con, Skip.”

“Carroll, lookouts have spotted survivors on the beach. Assemble a landing party and have Dr. Scott report with her bag. We count five, repeat, five.”

The old man gave me a curious glance.

“Aye, Skip, Lt. Scott is already on her way up.”

“Thanks Carroll. Consult the charts and see if we can get any closer to shore.”

“Aye, Skip, already on it. Let you know in a minute.”

“How do you know there are five survivors over there, Alex?” Admiral Demmit cautiously asked as he strained his eyes to count.

“Lt. Smith told me before she went below, sir.”

The old man raised an eyebrow.

“All ready to go, Alex!” Emily said as she emerged through the hatch. “How many and is anyone hurt?”

“You tell us Lieutenant!” Demmit growled. “You three seem to have the market cornered on predictions!”

“What are you talking about, Uncle Rick?”

“You, your sister here, and Lt. Smith! Everyone around me today seems to know things before they happen! Maybe I should go ashore and just walk along the beach- let you girls find a location for your own base!” he continued to growl angrily.

I got a big response!

“Admiral, I would highly recommend you stay aboard!” I reached for the squawk as Emily gave me a strange look. “Con, Bridge. Sound general quarters and get the gun crew topside immediately, Carroll!”

“Aye, Skip! General quarters and the gun crew!”

“Alex? I don’t understand. Why is Uncle Rick angry with us?”

“Emily, I’m not angry with you and Alex- or even Mina. I just feel useless! The Captain here suddenly feels the need to surface his boat- had he not, we would be sinking or at least fouled in rigging. Mina tells Alex that there are five sailors on the beach before the lookouts even see anything! Now you show up with your medical bag immediately after Alex calls for a rescue party! Now Alex tells me that I can’t go ashore and puts everyone on alert! No crew can be that tight.”

“Look, Admiral, when you suggested going along I got this huge feeling that you might be in danger. I’m just protecting your brass, sir! I don’t know from what yet- I haven’t got that far.”

“Uncle Rick, you’re not making any sense! Mina told me to expect casualties so I grabbed my bag and reported to the bridge. I had no idea that I’d be treating a compound fracture or even a deep chest woun…!” Emily stopped short- a look of confusion descended on her.

“Just my point, Emily! How do you know what injuries await you?”

“I…I…I just…I don’t know.” Emily stopped and looked around for the answer. “How did I know?” She muttered the question several times before the Admiral interrupted.

“Great, I have two Princesses for nieces! Your father will never let me hear the end of this! Alex, I’m going below to oversee some quarters for our guests. Be careful over there, Lieutenant!”

After saluting, Admiral Demmit slowly lowered himself into the boat looking back at both of us several times in the process.

Before descending the Conning tower ladder to the deck, Emily asked. “Did I miss something, Alex? Uncle Rick looked really out of sorts!”

“We’ll talk after you get back, sis. Just be careful.”

I asked myself the question that I would probably ask a thousand times over before the end of this war: Will Emily be all right? I got no response.

“Admiral? All five survivors have been brought aboard. As soon as Lt. Scott gets them situated we will be underway.” I informed the old man.

“Fine, Captain. How are they?”

“Emily says they got pretty banged up- a leg fracture and a deep cut that’s badly infected just like she predicted…. She’s cleaning it as we speak, sir.”

“Good, Captain. I want to inform Pearl myself if you don’t mind. The less said about Sand Dollar the better. I’ll have a PBY rendezvous with us at the first destination. Will Emily have them ready for transfer by then?”

“She thinks so, sir. She set the leg on the beach.”

“Ah, she administered morphine?”

“No, sir. He was already self-medicated with whiskey. They were all pretty liquored up, she said. One guy started to get rowdy on the way back and almost capsized them. If there had been one more passenger they might have, Admiral. Oh! Because of the alcohol issue I’ve ordered Chief Peterson to use your food and water supplies- just to be safe.”

“Well then it’s a good thing you forbid me from going ashore now isn’t it, Captain?” Was it sarcasm or anger tainting his voice?

“Admiral, you’re still upset about Emily, Mina, and I? I didn’t ask for this you know- neither did Emily, sir.”

“I know, Alex. It’s just hard enough to believe that I now have two nieces. Add to that, finding out that you two have this special ‘power’ and that Mina and I are related through you both because of it! Buck Rodgers couldn’t have a better storyline! I’m not mad at you, Alex- I envy you.” He paused to look me over, head to toe.

“To be able to know something before it happens! I could think of numerous ways to use that talent. I also realize the responsibility of such a weapon. What gets me steamed is controlling the desire to ask Mina if we will win the war- about how many more men we lose. I hesitate to ask because of the detail she seems to foresee. She only confirmed earlier what I have heard speculated about submarine fatalities. As useful as the information would be, I cannot ask someone to witness such pictures. I have no right.”

“Richard, you are an honorable and wise man. Most in your position would interrogate until they achieved results.” Lt. Smith appeared at the Admiral’s doorway. “To answer your questions entirely would be likened to a deal with Lucifer himself. Revealing all would likely change the future and do irreparable harm. No, dear Admiral, I cannot, in good conscience, give you all the details. Instead, I will tell you that this war will continue for some time. The United States and her allies will rise above the Nazis and the Japanese Empire, but at great cost to both sides. The future I have seen is most disturbing and grotesque, but can be changed as I have demonstrated. That is all you need to know, Admiral Demmit- that is all to be disclosed.”

Lt. Smith looked like she was a million miles away as she spoke- as if in a fortuneteller’s trance. She let her last statement hang a moment then snapped out of it.

“Yes, well…now that you have your answer Admiral, would you and Alexandra care to join me for a spot of tea?”

“Lt. Smith, you are an amazing woman! I would be honored, Ma’am.”

As we left the Admiral’s quarters, Emily caught my attention.

“Excuse me Admiral, Lt. Scott wants a word with me. If you’ll excuse me, Lt. Smith?”

“Of course, Captain. Another time.”

I motioned Emily into my quarters.

“Alex, I’m a little concerned about what happened earlier! How could I possibly know about those injuries?” She sounded unsure of herself.

“Woman’s intuition?” I countered.

“Am I going crazy?”

“As crazy as any of us, given the circumstances, I’m afraid.”

“You’re not answering my question, Alex! Why did Uncle Rick include me in his accusations earlier? Why did he call us both ‘Princesses’? As far as I know, neither the Demmit’s nor Scott’s have any noble ancestry.”

“I have to believe you on that, Emily, being new to the family- but the Smith side does. Remember what Mina said about her adoptive mother’s ‘gift’? Near as I can tell, when we went through the Mahanilui, we somehow inherited that gift. In her book, that makes us family. She stated that only the royalty of Kili Island have this gift of foresight. Accordingly, if we are now sisters because of the Mahanilui, and I have this gift, you must also. Does that make any sense, sis?”

“Too much! Alex, I’m frightened! What have we become? How can we ever lead normal lives? People will think we’re some kind of sideshow oddities. Are we doomed to be gypsy fortunetellers and nothing else? Alex, I don’t want any of this!”

“Unfortunately, we’re stuck like this. Hopefully, for just six months, but somehow I have the feeling that it’s permanent, Emily. Let me try something.”

I posed the question: Can we return to our previous selves?

“Alex? What did you see? Why are you starting to cry? Alex?” Emily was visibly shaken.

“I asked if we could return to our old bodies.” I answered quietly- almost at a whisper. “I can’t ‘see’ anything, Emily. I told you, I only get a response to a negative answer.”

“Then this is…” She gestured to me, “…Is permanent?”

“’fraid so, sis. I’m sorry.” I felt wetness roll down my cheeks.

“Should we tell the crew?”

“And have a full scale mutiny on our hands? No, let them have their dreams, Emily. Maybe, as time goes by, they’ll forget about wanting to change back and just carry on with their new lives.” I dabbed a hanky to my eyes.

“Emily, its your turn. How did you know about the injuries? Did you picture them like Mina, or did you determine them through questions like me?”

“They just popped out of my mouth, Alex, they just appeared.”

“Okay.” I thought for a second. “So, if I were to ask you…oh…how many children I would have…”

“Six. Four girls and two boys.”

“Excuse me?”

“The number of children you have, or will have, Alex. That is what you asked, right? Alex? Alex Steinert don’t you dare pass out on me…not again!”

That was impossible! Emily was pulling my leg, right? Oh damn!

Emily’s gentle smacking of my cheek brought me back to reality or was it a nightmare?

“You better stop doing that every time you hear something you don’t like, Alex. People will think you have a delicate constitution!”

“Don’t you dare laugh at me, Lieutenant!”

“Did I tell you that twins run in the family, sis?” Emily giggled as I felt my face start to drain again. I consulted my gift. Will I have twins? A smile appeared.

“You’re lying to me! I’m not going to have twins!”

“You might not have twins, sis, but they do run in the family. I wasn’t lying.”

“Fine! Can we please change the subject? I don’t want to start abusing our gifts.

“You’re right, Alex, it is frivolous to misuse something so special.”

Emily stood up to leave.

“By the way, sis, how many kids will you have?”

She staggered to a stop just outside my door- reaching for the frame to steady her.

“Four…four wonderful, children, Alex. Three girls and…a…a boy.” She said solemnly. My attempt at retaliation obviously struck a nerve.

Getting up to help her I asked, “what’s wrong, sis?”

“Nothing you can help with, Alex. Nothing anybody can help with.” She said as she headed to her quarters and closed the door.

Twenty minutes went by before a gentle knock sounded from my doorframe.

“Alexandra? Would you please come with me?” Mina requested.

“Emily, dear, could we come in?” She asked at her door. Mina didn’t wait for a reply and we both entered the cramped room.

“So, you found out. That didn’t take as long as I thought. Now you know the consequences associated with foresight, doctor.”

“What are you talking about, Mina? What consequences?” I inquired.

“Looking into one’s own future can sometimes be disheartening, can it not, Lt. Scott?”

“You said the future can be changed…you did it yourself, right Mina?”

Lt. Smith sat down beside Emily on her rack and wrapped an arm around her.

“Alexandra, come join your sister and I.” She patted the mattress beside her.

“Foresight is a gift to be used wisely- sparingly. It can be a double-edged sword if not used properly. What you two were doing- what you considered practice- is considered irresponsible by our standards. Alexandra, what you did to your sister was childish.”

“I just thought since she told me I would have kids that I could get her to…”

“Yes, I know! A little sisterly sparring! What you fail to realize is you have not developed your maternal instincts to the same level as your sister. Neither of you have enough experience to fully control your gift. Did it ever occur to you, Alexandra, that something might be wrong with one of Emily’s children? You are the captain of this boat- do you not have to consider all possibilities?”

I felt her hand begin to rub my back and shoulders.

“My sisters, explore your gifts, but consider all possibilities beforehand. Do not use them in hurtful, spiteful ways- or even in jest. I hope you two have learned a valuable lesson or two from this. In answer to your question Emily, the future is what you make it, dear. With enough insight and planning it can be changed. You are a prime example.” Mina kissed her temple.

“Alexandra, you are learning, but you have yet to reach your full potential. Learn to ask the right questions. In time, and with enough practice, you will achieve that. You have much to do- much to prove- to others and to yourself. Already you have begun to understand what I say is true, for you have asked the question paramount to everyone in this future- Can you change back? Only the three of us know the answer to that mystery. You have shown great wisdom in deciding how to use that knowledge. You have taken the first steps in mastering your gift, my dear.” She kissed my temple as well.

“We will not speak of this again, sisters. I will, however, leave you with one last bit of advice: In my experience, there is no such thing as fate. All problems have acceptable answers- if not immediately apparent, search for them. There is always a viable option! Alexandra, you understand that concept already. Ladies, I will take my leave.”

Mina got up and quickly disappeared down the passage.

“I’m sorry I put you through that, sis. I just didn’t think things through. When you’re ready to talk about it I’ll try to help you find the right path.”

“It was disturbing at first, being the first time it ever happened to me, but Mina’s right, Alex, our futures are what we make them! She has shown us that things can be changed.”

“That sounded like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol!”

“Maybe someone she knows actually knew Dickens- that is more possible than we once thought.”

“Do we have any Charlotte’s on the crew roster?” I said with a slight giggle.

Emily smiled with excitement. “Alex, if we do as Mina suggests, the research…the planning…maybe we can change the future! She said you have a lot to prove. Could it be that we’re meant to help each other- meant to help the future change- maybe nudge it in the right direction? Sis, what’s with that big smile?”

“Skip, we’ve reached our first destination. Orders?” Jack interrupted from the doorway.

“Emily, I’ll tell you later. Right now let’s see if our survivor’s plane ride is here then let’s have a look at our first site. Are our guests ready?”

“Aside from a severe hangover, they should be ready, Alex.”

“Jack, take us to periscope depth. Let’s take a sneak peek at site ‘alpha’ as we look for that PBY.” I said, thankful that my Ex-O had provided a change of subject. My smile was an involuntary reaction to the question I posed to myself- ‘were we not meant to help change the future?’ and the overwhelming response to that one question. Mina was right! All I had to do was learn how to ask the right questions!

“Emily, be ready to get those men topside.”

“Aye, Skipper.”

“Thank you so very much for finding us, darlin’s!” One of the survivors, Andrew O’Neil said as we helped him into the inflatable.

“Just be glad that Capt. Steinert decided to surface! We could have all been visiting that beach for a long time.” Emily said in her practiced voice.

“From what I’ve seen below, ‘twoulda made the situation bearable if not a downright paradise! Thanks again fer settin’ the leg, Lieutenant. Tell ol’ Captain Steinert me and the boys owe ‘im one!”

“We’ll remember that Mr. O’Neil- maybe even take you up on it!” I said as Emily followed the sailor into the boat to check his leg splint and dressings.

“You take care of that leg and that hangover, Mr. O’Neil.” Emily smiled.

“Just an ol’ fam’ly cure, Doctor- sure your Gram’s passed her secrets ta you two darlin’s by now?” He looked at both of us but lingered on me.

“More than you could know Mr. O’Neil! Have a quick recovery!” I said as Emily looked back at me.

“Good winds be with you too, Miss…?”

“Steinert, Alexandra Steinert.” I immediately realized my mistake. So did Emily. Why did I say that? Why did I break my cover?

The man looked confused for a minute then shrugged it off.

“I hope you girls get back ta yer base safe ‘n sound.”

Emily finished checking the fifth survivor and I helped her out of the boat. The plane’s boat crew shoved off from Sand Dollar.

“Hope ta see you again, Alexandra! If ya ever get ta Portland, look me up!” O’Neil shouted and waved as they paddled back to the waiting PBY.

“If I ever do, I’ll do that!” I shouted as I waved back. Why was my face so hot and stomach so queasy? Emily just looked at me with a stupid grin.

“You’re sweet on him!” she declared.

“Not a chance, Lieutenant!”

“Yes you are and I can tell you exactly how you’re feeling! Blushing with a stupid smile, butterflies of the stomach, quickened pulse, feigning interest…I could go on if you want me to, Alex. Plus, there’s always ‘it’, dear sister. I can always use ‘it’.”

“You wouldn’t…you did already didn’t…How could you do that after what Mina said?”

“You should talk, Alex, you used yours just now, too!”

“Couldn’t we just call a truce and agree to plausible deniability?”

“Okay, sis, but you’re still sweet on him.”

“Maybe. Let’s go below, Lieutenant.” I headed aft to the Tower ladder.

0550 hours, Ni’ihau, Hawaiian Chain, April 8th, 1944

For three days now we have been traveling around the three northern-most islands of the Hawaiian chain searching for the perfect spot to build our new base of operations. Admiral Demmit had indeed been thorough in his efforts to provide privacy and security- unfortunately, the locations we had observed so far had had less than ideal mooring conditions.

Three days of endless soundings, landing parties, unexpected inhabitants, discussions, and frustration- yet Admiral Demmit seemed unexpectedly upbeat this morning as he entered the Wardroom with his coffee and a plate full of steaming hotcakes.

“You’re up early again, Alex, having trouble sleeping?” He asked as he put the first forkful to his mouth.

“I guess I have a lot of things on my mind, sir. In all truth, I haven’t been sleeping real good since this all started.” I admitted as I gestured to myself.

“Uummm.” He nodded then paused as he swallowed. “Well, I can certainly understand that, Alex. I couldn’t begin to imagine what you and the crew have experienced.” He took another bite as Emily and Mina joined us. “I must admit, though, that you all are the prettiest crew in the entire service! I’ve found it incredibly hard to concentrate these last few days, captain.”

“You’ve discovered our secret weapon then, Admiral.” Mina admitted as she took a sip from her teacup.

“Hey Masterson, watch where your goin’! I’ve told you before ta suck ‘em in when your passing someone!”

The disturbance in the passageway caught our attention.

“I’m sorry, Ricky…um…Chief Samuels! These things have a mind of their own. You try to walk with them!”

“No thanks, mine are big enough. Now let me pass you ditzy cow!”

“Chief? A word if you please?” I raised my voice to be heard in the passage.

A quiet “Awe, Damn!” was heard outside the door.

“Ya, Skipper?”

“Chief, do you really want to be put on report? You do know you already precede yourself into a room quite nicely, or has that valve cover incident been forgotten that fast?” I asked.

Her hand automatically came up and felt her right breast. “No, Skip. The pain an’ bruise was gone the next day. I still remember how it felt though.”

“Well, Carter’s problems won’t go away near as fast! Just think how her back feels after her duty shift ends. Now go apologize to her, Chief!”

The Admiral stopped eating and looked around at her, but didn’t say a word.

“Aye, Skip…I shouldn’ta blew my stack at her. I guess I’m just a bit grouchy today. Sorry for all the ruckus Admiral, Lieutenants.”

“Miss Samuels, if you would like to know how Miss Masterson feels, I have a cousin that has this fetching little potion that could increase that full bosom of yours. It could take you up two, three, maybe even four cups if you wish.” Mina told her while holding back a giggle or two.

The pretty redhead’s eyes and mouth went wide. “No, Ma’am that ain’t necessary! These is more than I can handle now! Excuse me, sirs, I have ta find Carter.” In a blink she was gone.

“You know? I never thought I’d see the day when Rick Samuels would cower to anyone, Lieutenant. I take it there is no potion or cousin?” Demmit asked.

“Do you really want to know, Richard?” She said with a wicked grin.

“No.” he said before putting another forkful in his mouth.

As I went to take a swig of my coffee, a yawn escaped before I had the chance to cover my mouth.

“Another restless night, Alex?” Emily asked.

“Yes. I just can’t seem to get him out of my head, sis.”

The old man froze with a loaded fork just in front of his mouth. He looked at Emily then Mina, then, he locked on me. Putting down his fork, he asked, “Get who out of your head, Commander?”

I didn’t like his tone- it reminded me of Pa.

“Yes Alexandra, of whom do you refer?” Mina raised an eyebrow.

“Mr. O’Neil, the sailor from the Jubilee with the broken leg.” Emily announced.

“My word, Captain, you are developing a wonderful taste in men! I thought you said you weren’t interested in them, Alexandra. I remember it like it was last week- wait one moment…it was last week! My, how fast they grow up these days. Don’t you agree, Admiral?”

“I never…” I felt the burning of my cheeks and decided to take another bite of my jelly toast instead of answering.

“Yes, Lieutenant, they do grow up too fast these days!”

“So, Admiral, what type of site will we be looking at today?” I abruptly changed the subject.

Emily and Mina both smiled at me. Mina gave a wink.

“Today’s location is our last, Alex. I believe this spot will be perfect for a base. It is isolated. The nearest population, a small fishing village, is well over five miles away on the other side of the island. It has a natural harbor of sorts, and will offer substantial security. I warn you though; it may seem a bit unorthodox and will present a challenge.”

“Unorthodox? Sounds like our type of base, Admiral.”

“That’s what I thought as I read the surveyors notes, Alex.”

“I think it is the perfect spot, Richard. Well done.”

“Mina, you haven’t even seen…it…yet. Oh, that’s right. Let’s let Alex and her crew decide, shall we, your highness?”

“By all means, Admiral.”

“Whenever you’re ready to surface, Captain. I’ll be in my cabin. Ladies.” He said as he got up and excused himself.

Several minutes later we had surfaced. What met my eyes surprised me.

“Sir, all I see is a cliff! I thought you said there was a natural harbor here?” I said in disappointment.

Demmit ignored me and instead started his tour.

“Off at eleven o’clock is a nicely shaded, five thousand acre area. A small portion of that would serve as your headquarters and main base. I’ve been told the beach here has fine, soft white sand- perfect for swimming. A fresh water source runs onto the property from the mountainside in the back. Deep water can be reached with a relatively short pier- two hundred feet or so…”

“Begging your pardon, sir, but where is the ‘natural harbor’? I don’t see any place that would provide safety for the Sand Dollar, Admiral!”

“I’m just getting to that Commander! Focus on that small black spot around nine o’clock.” The Admiral pointed it out.

“It looks like a small cave, sir. It can’t be more than six feet high- maybe fifteen across.”

“That’s not what the survey says, Alex. Here you might need these.”

He handed me some notes.

“What are these, sir?”

“Directions. You still can follow direction?”

“When I need to, sir!”

“Good, Commander lets go.” He pointed to the cave.

“I picked up the squawk. “Con, Bridge. Prepare to dive.”

“Con, aye. Prepare to dive, Skip.”

“Admiral, after you.” I motioned to the hatch as the dive alarm sounded.

Once in the Con, I gave my orders.

“Take us to periscope depth, Lt. Sheldon.”

“Aye, Skip.”

“Helm take us to two-nine-zero degrees, all ahead slow. Sonar, I want constant updates- bow and keel!”

“Aye, Skip.”

“Seventy feet under the keel, Cap. All clear ahead.”

“Three- five feet, Skip.”

“Thanks Carroll. Up periscope.”

Slowly we came around and before long the small cave sat dead ahead.

“Fifty feet at the keel. All clear ahead, Cap.”

“Thanks, Hilf keep them coming.”

Emily, Jack, and Mina had joined us.

“Captain, what’s going on?”

“We’re going to thread a needle with the Sand Dollar, Emily.” I started to unfold Demmit’s directions.

“Do you really need those, Alexandra?” Mina asked as she winked at me.

The Admiral glared at her with a worried look. Jack and Emily looked confused also. I thought to myself: did I need these directions? No response. Next, I thought I’d try asking something a little different. What was I up against?

Wow, the pictures that flashed into my mind!”

“Alex? Are you okay?” a concerned Emily asked as I leaned in hard against the scope.

“Fine. I’m fine. Let’s do this.” I said as I shook it off.

“Twenty feet at the keel, one thousand ahead, Cap.”

“Helm, three degrees to port.”

“Aye.”

“Ten feet at the keel, nine hundred ahead.”

“Helm, steady. Hilf, let me know when we’re seven hundred feet from target.”

“Aye, Cap.”

“Jack, be ready to blow some air into the forward tanks on my mark. Carroll, two degrees up on the planes on the same mark.”

“Aye, Skip.”

“On your mark, Skip”

“Why just the bow tanks, Alex?” Emily got concerned as she asked.

“Fresh water isn’t as buoyant as sea water, Lieutenant. Salt adds buoyancy. If we didn’t make our bow more buoyant, we would nose dive into the bottom.

Emily looked to the Admiral who nodded in acknowledgement.

“Fifteen feet at the keel, eight hundred ahead, Skip.”

“Keep them coming, Hilf.”

“On my second mark, I want the same thing done to the amidships tanks and decrease the angle on the planes a degree.”

“Aye, Skip.” came back in tandem.

“Ten at the keel, seven hundred ahead, Skip.”

“Jack, take the bow up five. Carroll, give me two on the planes.”

“Alex, how do you know that is the right thing to do?” Emily was really worried now.

“I’ve done it before, Sis! Piece of cake!” I replied.

“But this is the first time…”

“Doctor? Let her concentrate. Remember what I said earlier to you and Alexandra. Let her prove herself.” I could hear Mina advising Emily.

The bow of Sand Dollar began to dip slightly.

“A little more on the tanks, Jack. Down periscope, Lieutenant Scott.”

“Aye.”

I looked over at the Admiral, who also had a very concerned look on his tired face.

“Ceiling is too low up ahead. I’ll have to wing it from here, Admiral. Hilf, I want constant intervals of ten.”

Admiral Demmit just nodded slightly and looked to the ceiling. I noticed sweat forming on his forehead.

“”Keel at eight, six-eighty ahead, Skip.”

“Jack, amidships tanks now. Carroll, ease off the planes a degree.” I reached for the squawk. “Maneuvering, ahead full on my command.”

“Keel eight, six-seventy ahead.”

The Sand Dollar started to shake and buffet a bit.

“Chief, give me full power now!” I said into the mic.

“Keel, five. Six-sixty ahead.”

“You got it Skip!” came back.

“Keel just went through the floor, Skip. Plus five thousand! Six- forty ahead though.”

“Jack blow aft tanks to the same level! Carroll, level out the planes!”

“Maneuvering…slow ahead!”

“Keel, thirty five. Six hundred ahead, Skip.”

“Slow ahead, Skip.”

“Keel at thirty five. Five-sixty ahead.”

“Keel constant at thirty five, Skip. Five hundred ahead.”

“Keel still at thirty five, Skip. Three- sixty ahead.”

“All stop!”

“All stop, aye.”

“Jack, take us up.”

“Alex, are you…Aye, skip.”

“I believe we’re here, Admiral.” I motioned to the ladder. “Get some searchlights topside, Jack.”

“Aye!”

Total darkness met our eyes as each of us exited the hatch onto the bridge. I had grabbed a flashlight on the way up. Its beam barely cut through the murky nothingness, but our spotlights revealed a fantasy world! All around us were crystal formations any geologist would envy. Everywhere, stalactites and stalagmites shimmered in our lights. This place was fantastic! We were in a huge cavern, some nine hundred to one thousand feet across. I could make out various height ledges all along the edge. Looking directly behind us I noticed a flicker of light. It almost looked like an arrowhead pointing down.

“This way out.” I said aloud.”

“What was that Captain?” Admiral Demmit asked.

I pointed to the stern. “That faint light leaking through the passage. It looks like an arrowhead…pointing the way out- like an exit sign, Admiral.”

I don’t see what you’re talking about Alex.”

“Kill the spots!” I called out. Total darkness encased us once more.

“Give it a minute, Admiral.”

Slowly, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, two other flickers of light appeared to us- one to our port, and one just off our bow. The light to port looked brighter, maybe a bigger opening. I decided to check that one out first.

“And you saw that even with the spotlights on, Alex?”

“I saw it too Admiral.”

“Me too.”

“Of course.”

“I saw it too, Uncle Richard.” Emily rounded out the ‘I’s’.”

After some careful maneuvering, we closed to within five feet of the ledge that protruded from the opening. The opening I thought small turned out to be large enough to fit an Army Deuce-and-a-half through. The opening ended in, what looked like, a natural loading dock. Best of all it was level with our deck!

Being this close to the sides of the cavern, I could tell that my perceptions were initially off. What seemed to be small stalactites and stalagmites when we first arrived were immense pointed columns twenty, thirty, even forty feet high and ten to twenty feet wide at the bottom. They sparkled with a rainbow of colors when struck by light. This was truly a remarkable place!

“Break out the boarding plank and get us tied off on those columns, Jack. Let’s have a look around.”

“With pleasure, Skipper!”

As I started toward the ladder, Admiral Demmit caught my shoulder.

“Alex…Alex, what you did back there…it was incredible! I don’t think there is another boat captain in the world that could have done what you just did! Just incredible! How did you ask so many questions in so little time?”

“All I had to do, Admiral, was ask the right question. Everything I needed to know just shot into my head once I did, sir.”

“You make it sound so simple, Alex!”

“I…I…I guess it was…I mean…I guess it was simple, sir! I guess I just had to figure that out. Care to lead the expedition, Admiral?”

“Is anything going to jump out at me, Alex?”

“One minute…no, everything is in the clear, Admiral.” I moved aside to let him descend the ladder to the deck.

“Amazing! Simply amazing!” he mumbled as he climbed down.

Mina next caught my shoulder.

“I take it you have figured out your gift, Alexandra?”

“Not totally, Mina. I feel I still have a lot to learn about it. Maybe in sixty or seventy years I may get it down. Right now, though, it’s still strange…the feeling that is- it definitely will take some getting used to. I still don’t feel like royalty though.”

“My dear Alexandra, you have just taken another step to your throne! What you did today has cemented your power! By now everyone onboard Sand Dollar has heard about your skill and daring. They will follow you to the ends of the earth, Alexandra, maybe more! You are a true leader- Princess Alexandra!”

“Still not the queen yet, your highness?” I asked with a giggle and a tear on my cheek.

“As long as I am breathing, Alexandra. As long as I…” She paused. “When we go our separate ways, then you shall achieve greatness, my dear.” She reached over and wiped the tear from my cheek. Her own eyes looked quite moist. I restrained myself from asking any question. Instead I decided to give her a hug. “Don’t talk like that, Mina, please?”

“Everyone is guaranteed they’re demise, Alexandra. You have just shown incredible restraint in not inquiring about mine. The Mahanilui has picked a worthy recipient to our most royal bloodline.” She whispered to me then kissed me on my forehead.

“Come, let us go explore our new home, my sisters. Many good times dwell here- let’s start making them, shall we?” Mina nudged me toward the ladder and motioned for Emily, Jack, and Carroll to follow us.

The crystalline ground we stepped onto was smooth as glass, but not slippery, and reflected the light from the long curved tunnel in such a way that it amplified it. So much so in fact, that the smooth, glass-like walls of the tunnel seemed to glow brightly- as if somehow lit from behind. As we walked along this wide, glistening thoroughfare, a quote from a movie came to me.

“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”

“An appropriate quote, Captain! I see you have read Mr. Baum’s first book. Have you read any more?”

“Actually, I didn’t read the book; I saw the movie, Mina. Ma and Pa believe the only book that should be in the house is the bible. A group of us went to the theatre back in Maryland when it came out. This tunnel reminds me of the ‘Yellow Brick Road’.”

“Quite the sheltered life! Although, reading scripture has it’s own rewards- morals, social mores, differences between good and evil, and the like. Nothing expands the mind better than a library though! Admiral, I submit that we should endeavor to create a library of sorts- an alcove of knowledge…oh dear…I…I may have gotten ahead of myself…forgive me.”

We had come to the end of the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ and now faced ‘Emerald City’. Our ‘Emerald City’ though, had no green concrete walls, no green colored glass or windows, nor did we need to wear green tinted glasses. Our city was a beautiful green palm forested, paradise! Roughly fifteen acres, by my eye’s reckoning, of pristine tropical wonder, guarded from behind by a volcanic mountainside, and fronted by the most beautiful, white sand beach I had ever seen this side of Waikiki!

“This…this is just perfect! It’s beautiful, Admiral!” I said in wide-eyed wonderment. Both Jack and Carroll whistled their agreement. Emily grasped my hand in hers and held my arm with the other. I had to ask the question. “Why doesn’t someone already live here?”

“According to our sources, Captain, the locals believe this area to be inhabited by mystical spirits- Deities of some sort. They refuse to come here or even get within four miles of the place. My sources think that occasional tremors in the area keep them away. So, in a way, the U.S. Navy is validating that claim!” The Admiral chuckled.

“It is even lovelier than I pictured it, Richard.” Mina said as she gently entwined her arm into the Admiral’s and leaned her head against his shoulder.

“Ye…yes…” He looked at her, slightly uncomfortable. “Yes, it is magnificent, isn’t it, Mina? This place makes you ask the question: Why do we fight at all?”

“Richard, it is because of places like this that people fight!”

“I believe you’re right, your highness!”

As we walked through our newfound paradise, we heard hissing- similar to steam escaping a boiler. The noise gradually increased in volume, as we got closer. A small cave about five feet wide and three feet high entered the mountainside. A small stream disappeared into the ground several yards above it. Steam rushed from its mouth.

“Ricky…Chief Samuels would love this.” I stated to everyone. “I’ll bet he could rig up a steam generator to that- no problem!”

“Already in the works, Alex. It should provide the base with adequate electricity and hot water.” The Admiral assured me.

It took over an hour to encircle the property. By the end of our tour we were all tired, but excited about our base. We noted that, although tropical, the area was quite open and required minor clearing to build the various roads and buildings associated with a small, remote base. With my approval, Mina asked that several provisions be made in the construction. Most notably, that all buildings fit into the surroundings, that they be insulated; that roadways would be kept at a minimum and use the local volcanic rock as pavement.

The Admiral reluctantly agreed and added, “Lieutenant, how long would it take you to put together detailed plans for the base? I would ask that you include Sand Dollar’s crew to help you abide by naval regulations.”

“Those documents have already been produced, Admiral. You may take them with you when you return to Oahu. Ensign Banes has graciously agreed to design our buildings and their interiors. Ensign Sanchez is quite the draftsman, if a little outdated. I believe her technique is still accepted. She has drawn out everything according to my specifications. We will be happy to review them with you and the captain. You should find them most detailed, sir.”

“Of course, I should have known that, your highness.” Demmit said with slight sarcasm. “I take it you’ve seen the results?”

“Various permutations, yes, Admiral. I believe we have worked out all of the kinks.”

“Of course! Alex…would you like to see the Lieutenant’s plans or have you and Emily already seen them too?” He growled.

“What is he talking about, Lieutenant Scott?” I heard Carroll ask Emily.

“Ya, what does he mean about you and the skipper seeing them already?” Jack also asked, bewildered.

“No, sir, I haven’t ‘seen’ them yet, but I trust the Lieutenant and our people.”

“OUR people, Commander?”

“Her people, Admiral, her people.” I blushed at the slip.

“Alexandra is correct in her usage, Admiral, we have all been brought together by the Mahanilui. Our two peoples have been merged- your Sand Dollar crew with those of us from Kili. Furthermore, we have all agreed to work to the same end. So Admiral, what is wrong with the phrase ‘our people’ instead of ‘yours’ and ‘mine’?”

“This isn’t a family, your highness, it’s a military unit! I’m their Commanding Officer!” Demmit growled.

“As am I on Kili! May I remind you Admiral, we are also under your command! We are now part of your military unit! Whether you agree or not, you and I are the parents of this unit- like the father and mother.” Mina argued.

“But we’re not married!”

“Not yet.” Mina said as she winked at him.

“Would somebody care to tell me what in blazes is going on?” Jack shouted out unable to hold her curiosity any longer.

I guess it was all the excitement and being tired rolled into one.

“Jack, remember a few days ago when Mina mentioned that certain people are granted gifts from the Mahanilui? Well, it seems that Emily and I are the newest members of Kili’s royal family!”

“Ya, I gathered that when the Admiral here referred to you both as ‘princesses’.”

“Mina admitted she has the gift of foresight.”

“Ya, I know that too. I was in the Wardroom at the time, remember?”

“Wait! I missed this! What are you two saying? Mina saw this all happening? Everything?”

“Yes, Carroll, she did.” I turned and answered her quickly.

“Then she could have stopp…”

“No, we would have been dead instead!” I turned back to my Ex-O. “Haven’t you been wondering how I got us out of all those tight situations- pulled off all those brilliant maneuvers? How Emily knew there were five castaways and what their injuries were? Think it out, Jack!”

“You mean you and Emily…”

“Yep! Me and Emily, Carroll!”

“You mean you can see the future?”

“Yep, more or less, Jack. But loose lips sink ships, Commander. Something you both should remember, Carroll.” I informed them.

“They won’t hear anything from me, Skip!” Carroll said quickly.

“That’s not what I meant. Oh, here ya go: monkey see, monkey do!” I stared at her, exaggerating as much as possible.

“We can see into the future too?” Jack blurted out.

I wondered if the blonde myth had actual substance.

“No, I’m afraid not, Jacquelyn. What the Captain is trying not to tell you is that you all have received a gift of some kind. You may not have even realized it yet. For instance, Lt. Sheldon…”

I stopped when I heard Mina say her name, as did Emily, Jack, and the Admiral.

“I haven’t seen you lay pencil to paper when calculating our course or estimating our arrival at a destination since your Mahanilui. Why?” Mina raised an eyebrow.

“I’ve…I’ve been…um…I’ve been doing it in my head. Why?”

“I distinctly remember you telling me that you write everything down to double check yourself- have you grown so self-confident?”

“Now that you mention it, Lieutenant, she has been faster and more precise with her math.” I responded.

“Oh, God, not you too.” I heard the Admiral groan quietly.

“I never noticed it before, Ma’am, are you sure about this?”

“As sure as I am that your name is Carroll Ann Sheldon, Lieutenant.”

My navigator looked confused.

“So…what kind of gift did I get, Mina- I don’t feel any different?” Jack asked innocently.

“You have not yet discovered your gift, Jacquelyn, but soon shall. You will find it quite useful though, I promise.”

I suddenly felt my ‘feeling’ come back. As I had done previously, I asked to be shown why. A movie of my radio operator, Chief Van Pelt, running from the tunnel to our location flashed into my head. Admiral Demmit and Mina must have noticed.

“Alexandra, I certainly hope you acclimate yourself to your gift soon. It is very disconcerting seeing you convulse every time you use it.” Mina told me with amusement.

“Alex? What is it?” the old man asked.

“Chief Van Pelt is on her way.” I pointed in the direction we had just come and dropped my thumb like a pistol’s hammer.

Randi appeared sprinting through the palms.

“Skip…Admiral…we need…to get back…to the…the boat!” she gasped trying to fill her lungs with air and talk at the same time.

“What is it, Randi?” I asked.

Instead of her answering, I got more flashes.

Pictures of a patrol (PT) boat being torpedoed; fuel burning on top of the water as men tried to tread water through it to stay afloat. Something odd about these pictures though- they were dark as night. It was midday though. Could this have happened last night? Big response. I tried an alternate tact. What date will this happen? The picture of a desk calendar flashed in, ‘April 14th’ it said.

Where will it happen? Another picture flashed, this time a chart with an unknown finger pointing to a specific area. What can we do?

Suddenly I was there! At the site indicated on the chart. I looked around to see Sand Dollar coming to full battle stations. I saw myself at the periscope- did my rear-end really look that big? Jack was talking to me…me at the scope, that is.

“Can you see anything, Alex?”

“No, it’s like pea soup up there, Jack.”

“Then how are we going to find that disabled PT, Skip?” Carroll asked from the chart table.

“I guess we should surface.” I saw myself go stiff as ‘I’ said that.

“Carroll, Alex is doing it again.”

“How long will she be gone this time?”

“The pool has a wider spread this time, Carroll- a minute to fifteen.”

They were betting on how long I would take to snap back to reality? Another voice entered the conversation.

“Skip! I have two fish in the water! Bearing zero-zero-six, two thousand feet and closing.”

“Alex? What do you want us to do? Alex!”

I didn’t answer. Instead, Jack gave an order.

“Dive! Take us to two hundred! Let the air out, Carroll!”

As Lt. Sheldon relayed the orders, I just stood there! I walked around this other me trying to get her attention. For whatever reason, I couldn’t touch ‘me’- not even with my breath. Nothing I did fazed her. It was as if I wasn’t really here.

“Jack then did the unexpected! She pulled me from the periscope stalk and moved my unresponsive body to the side. As I watched, she lowered the scope- something that needed to be done before we went deeper.

Still I didn’t move. I felt numb knowing I could not be heard- totally useless as the enemy torpedoes grew closer. Finally, I heard the explosion. The Sand Dollar rattled, but only slightly. We had not been hit, but something topside had. The PT! I looked back at the chronometer and noted the time- 2135. We were too late! I had spent way too much time interrogating myself for a plan!

I looked back down at myself sitting on the floor- noting the tears.

There has to be another way!

Again I was at the scope, only this time it was daylight. Ahead of us I could see a small, nondescript, object on the horizon. As we got closer I could make out the battleship grey of the small PT boat. Her lookouts were pointing in our direction as the rest of her crew scrambled around. I decided to scan the surrounding waters for anything else.

At first I wasn’t sure so I took a second look. There it was- another periscope masthead! I cursed. The thought struck me to look at the chronometer- 1821. I looked at the scope heading- eighty-five degrees. Somehow we had to get here before 1800 hrs, find that enemy boat and or rescue the PT crew!

Something reminded me of what Mina told Emily and I. She said she had seen our demise coming well in advance- far enough ahead to fashion a viable plan for success. Could I do the same? I had to try. Something else hit me just then…

“Alex!” Emily screamed. “Alex! Come out of it! We need you! Alex!’ She screamed repeatedly. I felt her hand slap my face. I blinked and saw tears running down her cheeks.

“Wha…what happened?”

“You’ve been out for five minutes, Alex! We were all worried about you! What happened to you?” Emily cried.

I looked around to see Jack, Carroll, Admiral Demmit, Mina, and Randi Van Pelt standing over Emily and I. All looked extremely concerned. When and how did I get on the ground? I asked the first intelligent thing I could think of.

“Where am I and what day is this?”

Emily looked around to everyone. Only Mina seemed to understand my question.

“We are at our new base on Ni’ihau, Alexandra, and today’s date is the eighth of April.”

“It’s not too late to stop it!” I exclaimed.

“Quoting Charles Dickens now, Captain?”

“What? No. No, we can stop it! I know how we can stop it from happening!” I rattled on.

“Stop what from happening, Commander?” the Admiral growled.

“Uncle Richard! We can stop it! We can stop them from dying!”

“WHO?” Chorused in my ears.

“The PT boat crew! They’re going to all die if we don’t get there first! An enemy sub will find them and torpedo them first, if we don’t get there before hand! Before eighteen-hundred hours six days from now!”

A total hush filled our small group. Everyone, except Lt. Smith, was looking at me like I was mad! I started to get up, but Emily tried to keep me still.

“Alex, just stay still for a minute! I need to check you out.”

“I’m fine, sis! Let me get up! We don’t have a minute to spare! Not if we expect to save those men!” I exclaimed.

All five assisted me to standing. I started to run, but was stopped by a large strong hand.

“Before you go running off Alex, could you brief us on what you saw? Not so shrill or fast this time, though.” Demmit tried to calm me.

“Ok. Randi, you were running here to inform Admiral Demmit that a PT boat was reported overdue just off Howland Island- that Pearl thought the Admiral’s new rescue unit could assist, right?”

“Ya…how’d you know that, Cap?” An amazed Randi Van Pelt gasped.

“Well, if we don’t get there before eighteen-hundred hours six days from now, the entire crew will die- burned to death in a sea of flames!”

A collective gasp emminated from our group.

“Randi? You, Jack, and Carroll get back to the boat and prepare to leave. Carroll, I want you to chart a course for a point fifty miles west-southwest of Howland Island. I’ll give you the exact location when I get back. Admiral, Mina, Emily, I need to talk to you all about something. Get going!”

“Aye Skip, we’ll be waiting for you.” Carroll said as the three sprinted back through the trees.

“Mina?” I started. “I’m not sure I understand what happened just now.”

“It looked like you had a massive seizure and fell to the ground, Alex!” Emily answered.

“Not what happened to me physically, Emily! What happened to me, Mina?”

“I believe it was the next step in your development, Alexandra. Care to elaborate?”

“At first I was in the Con! I was watching me- like I was another person. I watched myself stiffen up as I was looking through the periscope. We detected two torpedoes in the water. Jack asked me what to do. I didn’t answer. She had to give the order to dive. I tried to snap me out of it but it was as if I weren’t there. Nothing I did mattered. I just stood there while Jack and Carroll ran my boat!”

“Did you look at the clock or the chart table for any clues, captain?” Lt. Smith asked.

“Yes, 2135 hrs. I heard the PT boat explode. I realized we were too late. So I asked if there was another way.” I stopped to wipe my eyes.

“This time I was looking through the periscope as we neared the disabled craft. I could see her crew scampering around in alarm. The lookouts pointed directly at us. I scanned the water around the boat and discovered another periscope masthead.”

“An enemy sub.”

“Yes, Admiral. I realized that we were still too late for a rescue. If we can get there and be in a position to fire on that sub before they target the PT…”

“We save twelve men! How can we do that though, Alex? We only have one torpedo left.” Emily asked.

“We make that one fish count, sis! Those men are counting on us!” I cried.

“Alex, have you thought that maybe you aren’t suppose to rescue them?” Demmit interjected.

“If we weren’t suppose to rescue them, I don’t think I would have been given the time to try, Admiral!”

“Then, by all means Captain Steinert, let’s go rescue those men! I hereby authorize your mission. You will depart immediately! I’m coming with you…to…observe!”

“Bully!” Mina shouted.

Within twenty minutes we had Sand Dollar turned and prepared to exit our new base.

“Ahead slow. Get ready to flood the bow tanks, Jack. We’re just going to reverse the procedure we used getting in to get out.”

“Aye, Skip. Ready on the bow tanks.”

Getting out proved to be simpler than getting in. The strong current we had experienced entering actually pushed us out like a fish from the tube. Again sonar registered a deep column in about the same spot as the fast current. Maybe it was some kind of deep, underground, fresh water river. I just made it a point to never find out how deep it actually was.

Carroll had our rough course computed and ready by the time the four of us touched the deck. It only took a minute for her to recalculate the exact location and arrival time, which she estimated to be 1605 hrs, six days from now at full speed. I advised her that I wanted to come in from the south to surprise the enemy sub. That added an extra twenty minutes to our ETA. I could live with that.

The Admiral had Josie Two-Eagles send a coded transmission to Pearl alerting them that the new rescue unit had been activated. Her smiling face glowed as she spoke her native tongue. I presumed Adam Redhorse was on the other end.

As I did almost every day since her rescue, I went below to talk to our prisoner, Takashi Moritsu. Shipping her back to Pearl was out of the question now that she had experienced the Mahanilui for herself. She had quickly learned passable English and could now carry on a decent conversation.

“Good afternoon, Miss Moritsu. Are there any complaints today?” I asked as I reached the bottom of the ladder.

“When can see sun? No see sun for many day now. Seat hard.” She patted the lightly padded steel wall shelf.

“I told you. When you start talking better English, we’ll think about letting you out.” I smiled.

“I was just spoofing you, Captain Steinert. You know I can speak fluent English since you changed me into a girl.”

“How many times do I have to tell you, Takashi, I didn’t have anything to do with that, besides, think of how you would be feeling now if you hadn’t! As I recall, you had a broken leg and a few broken ribs, plus a concussion. You, my dear, were in a world o’ hurt, as my Pa use to say.”

“I still say you have a strange accent, Captain. Where did you say you are from, again?”

“Ten miles up the hill from Hannibal, Takashi. I thought I told you that already. Next you’ll be asking me how to get there from here!”

“I don’t mean to question you, I just find your accent curious and want to learn more about the area you call home, ma’am. I mean you no dishonor.”

“And you’ll forgive me for not quite trusting you yet, Moritsu Takashi. You may have experienced the same miracle we have, but that does not affect your allegiance.”

“I agree with you whole-heartedly, Captain. I find it hard to believe the things you tell me my people have done, although I am not all that surprised.”

“I’m surprised you would say that, Takashi. A victorious surprise attack on your sleeping enemy has to be the ultimate honor. We had heard every pilot involved received a special medal from the Emperor.”

“There was much fanfare when news came of the attack. Many of us though, feared that we had awakened a sleeping dragon. Many others felt it was a cowardly act, and there is no honor in that, Captain. My fear is the dragon will bite back- hard!” Moritsu dropped her face to her hands and sighed. I had an idea what she would say next- something she said to me at least once in each of our conversations since her Mahanilui.

“Once again, my apologies for your missing brother. It was a mistake to even ask if you had lost someone. I feel I have dishonored your family by taking its sole male heir, Captain.”

“As I’ve told you before, Takashi, you are hardly solely responsible for what happened.”

“Yet, when we first met, you had no problem holding a pistol to my head and pulling the trigger if I didn’t answer your question!”

“I seem to remember a certain derogatory phrase leap from your mouth, Takashi. With all that had just happened to us…to me, I was in no mood to be berated by someone we had just rescued. I could have just left you there, you know.”

“For that I am eternally indebted, Captain. I doubt my Captain would have been quite that humanitarian. In fact, had I not just delivered his meal, that shot over your bow would have been disastrous. Had I not argued with him about killing women or reminding him of the meaning of your quarantine ensign…”

“I appreciate that, Takashi. I also believe you were forcibly removed from his sight and thrown in the brig- which you stated was what saved your life.”

“To contradict ones captain in any way is punishable by death, for he has almost as much power on his ship as the Emperor himself! If you had not shown compassion, I would be dead, Captain, one way or another.”

“I’m not so certain that you wouldn’t have been better off dying out there, Takashi. What has happened makes us all fugitives. Because of the Mahanilui, we can never reveal ourselves to our families. In my case, there is no longer anyone to carry on the family name. Sgt. Williams is frightened that her father would kill her on the spot if he found out. Seaman Masterson will never be taken seriously as a real human being again. She will forever be seen as some big-chested, blonde floosey- regarded as just some dumb prostitute probably. Lt. Scott is the only one of us to truly be afforded the liberty of family.” I started to get choked up.

“Lt. Smith has told me that your doctor has accepted you as her sister. At least you have someone who accepts you. If I ever return to Japan, with no family to speak of, I will be treated as Miss Masterson- a whore- that is what awaits me, captain. With you and the others I stand a chance for a normal life once this war ends.”

“Don’t be too sure of that, Takashi. If word of our…unique, um…condition ever made it past Admiral Demmit, we could become lab rats- test subjects. That, in my opinion, would be far worse than dying of starvation at sea or by firing squad.”

“That would be bad, Captain Steinert! Changing the subject, would you be up for a game of chess? Lt. Smith has been teaching me the game.”

“Takashi, I would love to play a few games with you but I’m afraid it wouldn’t be fair.”

“Why? Because of that uncanny trait you have for seeing the future? Lt. Smith told me of your gift, Captain. She felt full disclosure appropriate.”

I smiled.

“So, how many languages do you know so far, Takashi? I understand you have a knack for learning them?”

“Somewhere around seven I think, unless you consider the three variations of Polynesian as one. Getting back to our first subject, Captain. When will it be possible to see some real daylight again- I miss the sun on my face?”

“My answer was serious, Takashi. When you show me that you can be trusted- simple as that. I didn’t get to be a boat commander by underestimating people, did I, Miss Moritsu! I know when the time is right.” I said as I pointed to my head. Same time tomorrow, then?”

“I’ll look forward to it, Captain Steinert, good night.”

We exchanged bows as I got up to leave.

The scene that met my eyes was one of logical chaos. As I looked through the periscope at the disabled PT, I observed her captain nervously scanning the water around him for any sign of trouble. His lookouts pointed in my direction and the chaos aboard the small craft doubled. I continued to watch as all her machine guns came to bear on Sand Dollar’s periscope head. Unconcerned that they could cause us damage, I turned the scope clockwise until I saw the other scope masthead bobbing among the waves. There it was- the enemy submarine- right where I had seen it before.

“Flood and open tube two, Miss Cummins. Stand by for my final mark.”

“Aye, Skip.”

I leaned back into the eyepiece.

“Final mark: heading zero-zero-zero, one thousand feet. Mark!”

“Tube two ready for firing, Skip.”

“Fire two, Jack.”

“Two away, Alex.”

I looked at my watch- the time to impact figured in my head. 5- 4- 3- 2- 1- Nothing! Why had we missed?

“Cap, I have two fish in the water. They targeted the PT!”

“Damn!”

I reached above my pillow and turned on my reading light. My clock said 0300. Rubbing my face, I asked aloud, “What am I missing?” I preceded to further question myself. Was this enemy impossible to hit? Response. Was it heading toward us? Response. Was it broadside to us? Nothing. Ok…so it’s heading toward the PT- it can be hit. So how do I do it? I had expected flashes of pictures or some sort of movie, but nothing happened. Was there some sort of time limit on my new gift? Nothing.

“Then how am I going to sink that damn sub?” I again said out loud in frustration.

A quiet knock sounded on my door.

“Alex, can I come in?” Emily’s voice asked through my door.

“Sure. Come on in, sis.”

“Alex, you need to get some sleep! We all need you to be awake and alert tomorrow evening. Let yourself get some sleep!”

“Not until I get this figured out, Emily! I know I’m missing something…something simple!”

“Well, the less sleep you get the harder it is to concentrate! As doctor of this boat I can order you to bed rest if you’d like? Come on sis, don’t make me resort to that, please?”

“I know I’m close to a viable solution here, Lieutenant. I can feel it! I just have to figure out what the critical piece is.”

“You still have thirty nine hours to come up with a plan, Alex. I know you’ll think of one by then. I know you’ll figure a way to save those men. Now, forget about that for now and try to sleep- before I tell Uncle Rick that his new neice is intentionally putting this boat at risk!”

“You wouldn’t?”

“No?”

“You win, sis! I’ll try to get some shut eye.”

“See that you do, sis! Good night.” Emily pointed her finger at me as she left, closing the door behind her.

0310 hours, 30 nautical miles East of Howland Island, April 14th, 1944

The scene that met my eyes was one of logical chaos. As I looked through the periscope at the disabled PT, I observed her captain nervously scanning the water around him for any sign of trouble. His lookouts pointed in my direction and the chaos aboard the small craft doubled. I continued to watch as all her machine guns came to bear on Sand Dollar’s periscope masthead. Unconcerned that they could cause us damage, I turned the scope counter-clockwise until I saw the other sub’s masthead bobbing among the waves. There it was- the enemy submarine- right where I had seen it before.

“Flood and open tube two, Miss Cummins. Stand by for my final mark.”

“Aye, Skip.”

I leaned back into the eyepiece.

“Final mark: heading zero-zero-one, one thousand feet. Mark!”

“Tube two ready for firing, Skip.”

“Fire two, Jack.”

“Two away, Alex.”

I looked at my watch- the time to impact figured in my head. 5- 4- 3- 2- 1- Nothing! Why had we missed?

“Cap, all I heard was a metallic thud, wait! I have two fish in the water! They targeted the PT!”

“Damn!”

I reached above my pillow and turned on my reading light. The clock said 0310. Rubbing my face, I cried aloud, “What am I missing?” I proceeded to further question myself. Was this enemy impossible to hit? Response. Was it heading toward us? Response. Was it broadside to us? Nothing. Ok…so it’s heading toward the PT- it can be hit. So how do I do it? I had expected flashes of pictures or some sort of movie, but nothing happened. Was there some sort of time limit or restriction on my new gift? Nothing.

“Then how am I going to sink that damn sub?” I again cried out in frustration.

A quiet knock sounded on my door.

“Alex, can I come in?” It was Emily.

“Sure. Come on in, sis.”

“Alex, you really need to get some sleep! We all need you to be alert this evening. Get some sleep!”

“Not until I get this figured out, Emily! I know I’m missing something…something simple!”

“Well, the less sleep you get the harder it will be to concentrate! As I have been saying the last few days, as physician of this boat, I can order you to bed rest if you’d like? Come on Captain; don’t make me resort to that, please?”

“I know I’m close to a viable solution here, Lieutenant. I can feel it! I just have to figure out what that critical piece is.”

“You still have fifteen hours to come up with a plan, Alex. I know you’ll think of one by then. I know you’ll figure a way to save those men on that patrol boat. Now, forget about that for right now and try to sleep- This time I really will tell Uncle Rick that his new niece is intentionally putting this boat at risk!”

“You wouldn’t?”

“No?” Her glare told me she was dead serious. I had seen it once before and knew there was no way to win this one.

“You win, sis! I’ll try to get some shut-eye. It’s probably useless though.”

“Just try, sis! Good night.” Emily pointed her finger at me as she left, closing the door behind her.

Something about this was very familiar. Like it had happened before. Another soft knock came from my door.

“Come on in.” I said dejectedly before whoever could ask permission to enter.

“Alexandra, I’m worried about you, dear. You are pushing yourself to the brink!”

“What would you recommend, Lt. Smith?” I asked slightly annoyed.

“Well for one thing, my name is Mina- lest you’ve forgotten!”

“I’m sorry, Mina. I’m just tired.”

“That is exactly the point of my concern, Alexandra. You are focusing all your energies on this single situation! Even machines need rest from time to time, my dear. I must remind you that you…are no machine- no robot!”

“What’s a robot?”

Mina rolled her eyes in exasperation. “You’ll find out in about forty years- my point is that you, of all people, need rest, Alexandra! You are in command- you are queen! As such, you can’t allow your subjects to observe weakness, indecision, or fatigue!”

“Mina, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but trust me, I won’t…I can’t stop until I find the correct scenario! One that saves that crew and keeps us afloat! It’s my responsibility!”

“Is it? Is it your sole responsibility? I know of four other officers on this submarine that are more than able to assist you if required, Alexandra! Don’t be so demanding of yourself!”

“Did you have anyone to share your vision or planning, Mina? You don’t seem the type to ask for help either.”

“You forget that your sisters have the gift also, Alexandra. My daughters lost equal amounts of sleep as I! But that is not what I’m getting at, my dear. Your gift should supplement your natural abilities, not replace them. You mustn’t rely on your gift for answers to every situation- it doesn’t work like that, Captain. There are some instances where your gift would lead you astray. Use the other resources available to you! Maybe this is one of those situations. Now try to get some sleep, my princess. Your subjects await your orders, and I await the fulfillment of my vision, Alexandra. Sweet dreams.” She exited my quarters before I could reply. What wasn’t she telling me? Fulfillment of her vision- what was that all about?

“Sis, you look terrible! Didn’t you get anymore sleep like I told you to last night?” Emily said as she entered the Wardroom. “You just stay where you are, I’ll be right back.” She placed her plate and cup on the table beside me and disappeared down the passageway. She was back in an instant.

“Here, let me have a look at you! Look up at me? You really have to ease up, sis, no fella worth the time is going to even look at you in this condition! There! That should hide your battle scars!” She pocketed the small compact then slid her plate and cup with her as she took up position opposite me at the table.

“So, have you thought of anything yet? Judging by your appearance, my guess would be no.” Emily said as she carefully eyed me up.

“No, I haven’t. Even with Mina’s advice earlier I still have no resolution.”

“Oh? What type of advice did she give you, Alex?”

“She recommended I shouldn’t rely so heavily on our gift- that I ‘use other resources’.”

“Maybe she has a point, Alex. What if you ran some things past Jack, Carroll, or I? Maybe Uncle Rick can help?”

“Ask the Admiral? No, I couldn’t do that. The crew would lose all confidence in me! Besides, I don’t think that’s what she meant. I think she was hinting that I should do this ‘old school’- as if I never had this gift. I think that is the key to finding the missing piece.”

“The offer still stands- if you need my advice just ask, sis. I’d be glad to help!”

“Thanks Emily, I appreciate that. I’m not real hungry this morning; I better get to the Con.” I said as I grabbed my dishes and headed aft.

“A little early today, Captain? You don’t look so good! Another long night, Alex?” Jack looked concerned.

“Still haven’t got it figured yet, Jack. I guess Emily didn’t cover my ‘battle scars’ as well as she thought?”

“We girls can tell, Alex. Wait! Did I just say that?” My Ex-O’s face went crimson. I just had to giggle.

“Relax, Jack, we’ve all been making those slips lately- lasting effects from the Mahanilui, I assume. Mina did say it would help us adjust.”

“Well, if you’ll pardon my bluntness, Alex, I sure hope it helps you adjust faster. You’ve been losing much too much sleep lately- not good from a command standpoint!”

“Can’t be helped, Jack! I have less than twelve hours to come up with a way to save both those men and us! Everything I try, I just can’t get that to happen! If I could just find the key to it all!”

“As you’ve seen it…envisioned it, do they even see the other mast, Skip?”

“It’s always the same. Their captain is looking straight at our periscope. He never looks elsewhere- just at us.”

“If only he would look around somehow.”

“You might have something there, Jack! If I could get him to look around…that wouldn’t work! If he spotted that mast, they would fire on him immediately. That still doesn’t fit my criteria! I’m still missing something!” I said in frustration.

“You’ll get it, Skip! You always do. Something will turn that light above your head on, you’ll see.” She smiled.

“I’m no cartoon, Jack, not unless that is your gift- to produce lit idea bulbs over peoples’ head’s!” I tried to rub the exhaustion from my eyes. “It’s just so frustrating, Jack! Such a simple problem- how did Mina keep her sanity? Her problem had so many different and complex facets compared to this!”

My Ex-O reached for the mic.

“Lt. Sheldon to the Con.”

“Carroll’s not due for another eight hours, Jack!”

“She told me to call her if you had another bad night, Alex. Go back and get some rest. You might just come up with something this time.”

“I can’t, Jack! What will the crew say? What will the Admiral say?”

“At this point, Alex, I don’t care what any of them say! Everyone onboard knows what’s at stake here! They’re confident you’ll come through.”

I don’t know why I did it- fatigue- Mahanilui- I don’t rightly know, but I wrapped my arms around Jack and gave her a sisterly embrace.

”Thanks, Jack! That means a lot!”

“Get some rest, Skipper!”

I passed Emily in the passageway on the way back to my quarters. She was trying to hide a slight smile. Just before closing my door, I paused and strained to listen.

“I did what you told me to, Emily. At first I wondered if it would work, but she finally gave in.” I heard Jack say.

“Thank you! She’s no good to us like this, you know that, Jack. She’s been pushing herself twice as hard as she normally does. This mission has really gotten to her and if she keeps it up she could hurt herself.”

“I thought we were able to heal fast though, Doc?”

“Yes our bodies can heal faster than normal. That’s not what I’m concerned about, Commander Cummins. I’m worried that her mind will snap! I just got my new sister. I don’t want to lose her by becoming a vegetable!”

“You know we all love her too, Doc. The whole crew is in agreement on that, you can feel it in the air!”

I closed my door and reached for a hanky. I know they meant well, but they had just applied additional pressure to my quest for a solution. My tears weren’t going to help get me through this!

The scene that met my eyes was one of logical chaos. As I looked through the periscope at the disabled patrol boat, I observed her captain nervously scanning the water for any sign of trouble. His lookouts pointed in my direction and the chaos aboard the small craft doubled. I continued to watch as all her machine guns came to bear on Sand Dollar’s periscope masthead. As before, he trained his binoculars right at me. I turned the scope clockwise until I saw the enemy’s masthead bobbing among the waves. There it was- the enemy submarine- right where I had seen it so many times before.

“Flood and open tube two, Miss Cummins. Stand by for my final mark.”

“Aye, Skip.”

I leaned back into the eyepiece to check my heading then turned back to the PT. The captain turned his attention to the enemy’s masthead.

“Final mark: heading zero-zero-zero, one thousand feet. Mark!”

“Tube two ready for firing, Skip.”

“Cap, I have two fish in the water. They targeted the PT!”

“Damn!”

“Captian to the Con.” The squawk interrupted my misery.

My alarm clock said 1525. Splashing some water on my face, I looked in the mirror. The makeup Emily had patched me up with earlier had washed away leaving a worn-out, raccoon-eyed reflection. She was right- no worthy man would dare waste…I opened the door and proceeded aft to the Con.

“Status, Miss Cummins?”

“Just thought you would like to know we’re almost at our destination, Skip. Any…wow, I guess not?”

“Getting closer, Jack. Getting closer.”

“Any preference to which way we come in, Alex?”

“From the south seems to be the most favored. Come in on her port. That way the enemy sub is a clear target- if our fish will detonate. Beyond that I just don’t have anything concrete yet.”

“Aye, Skip. Heading, zero-zero-zero. Maneuvuering, ahead slow.”

“Aye, zero-zero-zero.”

“Ahead slow, aye.”

“I thought Carroll was at the Con, Jack?”

“She just went back to grab some coffee. It’s not a problem, Cap- really.”

“Commander, Skipper, I figured you could use a cup too.” Lt. Sheldon said as she appeared through the aft hatch juggling three steaming mugs of coffee.

“Wow! You look bad, Skip! Here you need this!” She handed me the first cup.

“Thanks, Carroll! Nice to know you two are so complimentary!” I said, feigning insult.

“We don’t mean it like that, Alex. It’s just surprising to see you letting yourself go like this. Usually your makeup is impeccable!”

Both Carroll and I looked at Jack in disbelief, shaking our heads.

“I just did it again, didn’t I?” She blushed.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, Jack, it’s to not fight this change. Whether we like it or not, the Mahanilui is going to make us act like the girls we are.”

“Well, someone should tell that to Sgt. Williams! She’s the only one still wearing her civvies! Josie tells me she only wears a brassiere because she’s too uncomfortable without one!” Carroll added.

“I would have thought that Chief Samuels would have been the lone standout.”

“Are you kidding? That’s not the pumps below deck you’ve heard crying and moaning the past few nights, Cap!”

“You’re kidding?” I was shocked.

“Ricki Peterson and Randi have threatened to tie her hands to the side rails of her rack if she doesn’t give it a rest! I’m surprised the Admiral hasn’t said anything about the noise! He has to hear it.”

“Hear what, Miss Sheldon?” A gravelly baritone voice said from the forward hatch.

“Um…the…um…one of the ballast tank pumps below deck, sir. It’s been making one heck of a racket these past few nights, Admiral.” Carroll tried to cover.

“Oh, is that what it was? I thought it was Chief Samuels doing some…some…exploring. I never thought I’d hear that coming from one of my boats! My God, Alex! You look like hell! Are you feeling all right? Haven’t come up with anything have you?”

I shook my head.

“Maybe you should do this the old fashioned way and just shoot from the hip! Hold the mystical stuff for bigger dilemmas like Mina suggested. You know your sister is very worried about you! She even came to me asking if I thought you should be temporarily relieved of command. Dammit, Alex! We’ve lost ships and crews before! Don’t let this one become your undoing! I don’t want a Capt. Ahab! I want both of my nieces to keep their sanity!”

“Both, sir?”

“Yes, both! Emily has been so worried about you that she hasn’t been sleeping well either! From what I have observed, Alex, the whole boat thinks you’re some kind of god or something. I haven’t seen that kind of loyalty and respect toward one of my commanding officers in quite some time!”

“Not a god, Admiral Demmit! We, you and I that is, still retain that rank and privilege!” Mina announced majestically as she and Emily arrived through the aft hatch. I turned in her direction.

“My word, Alexandra that is definitely not ones image of a princess- or any other member of the royal bloodline! You look simply ghastly, my dear! Do excuse yourself and do something with that train wreck you call your face!”

Emily said nothing, but stared at me in disbelief.

Skipper, I hear screws bearing zero-zero-zero- dead ahead- four thousand and closing!”

“Thank you Miss Reynolds.”

“Thanks, Mina! You really know how to cheer a girl up! I’m afraid I don’t have the time to look pretty. I’m about to be put to the test! If you will all remain quiet?”

I motioned for those not on duty, to move aside and picked up the mic.

“Maneuvuering, all stop and let her coast. Lt. Sheldon take us to periscope depth.”

“Aye, skip, three- five feet.”

“All stop, Skipper.”

“Rig for silent running.”

“Aye, Skip.”

“Admiral? Would you have any qualms about our prisoner being present?” I said trying out an idea I had the other night.

“Do you think that is wise, Captain?”

“It came up in one of my scenarios, Admiral. I’d like permission to try, sir.”

“It’s your boat, Captain! Permission granted.”

“Three-five feet, Skip.”

“Jack, could you go and escort Miss Moritsu to the Con, please?”

Did Mina just smile at me?

“If you think it could help, Alex.”

“I believe she holds a piece to this, Jack!”

“Screws have stopped, Skipper!”

“Thank you Miss Reynolds.”

Raise the periscope gently, Lt. Scott.”

“Aye.”

As the periscope slowly rose into position I took hold of the handles to adjust the magnification. My left thumb gently circled the pushbutton for the signaling lamp. This button was a relatively new addition to periscope technology and let submarines communicate with other subs or ships while still submerged. To date I had never used it.

I recognized the scene in the eyepieces immediately. There sat the disabled PT boat, her captain scanning the surface for any disturbance.

“Miss Moritsu as you requested, Captain.” Jack said to my right.

“Takashi, I don’t want any trouble from you, understand?”

“No say word, Miss Captain!”

“Cut the crap, Miss Moritsu! I’ve been fully briefed!” Admiral Demmit growled.

“My apologies, Admiral. I will not cause any trouble. Captain, why am I here?”

“Takashi, I want you to have a look at something.”

I motioned her to have a look through the scope while I held the heading.

“What do you see, Miss Moritsu?”

“I see a torpedo boat. I think you call them PT’s. It looks like it is having some difficulty. They look like they are working on the engine. Is this correct?”

“Yes it is, Takashi. Now, look again. Tell me what you see now.”

I turned the scope to where I knew the enemy sub would be.

“I don’t see…wait. I see another periscope! Why are there two of your submarines here? Is this some kind of exercise, Captain?”

“No. this is the real thing Takashi, and what you are looking at is one of your submarines just sitting there waiting to attack a disabled vessel. Down scope, Lt. Scott.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Are you sure it is really disabled?”

“Yes, I’m sure, Takashi. Headquarters reported them overdue six days ago. Nothing has been heard from them since then.”

“It’s a miracle they have not been attacked already. Why do they wait?”

“They will sit there and wait until dark, then attack! I have seen this to be true.”

Takashi Moritsu looked at each of us, starting with Admiral Demmit and ending with me. Her face said it all.

“There is no honor in a victory of this kind, Captain. It is cowardly to wait for the cover of darkness to strike a lame beast. The honorable thing to do is strike now or not strike at all as they pose no threat! This captain dishonors both the Empire and his family! Is there no way for your PT boat to counter attack?”

Was there a way for them to attack first?

Camera flashes went off in my head.

“Thank you Miss Moritsu. You may have just saved those men! If you would step over there, please?”

“What did I do?” I heard her ask Mina.

“Lt. Scott, raise the periscope again, please.”

As soon as the scope stopped I reacquired the Patrol boat. As anticipated her lookouts spotted us and alerted their captain. I wasted no time in breaking in that signaling button- I only hoped that he would believe me.

“Alex, what are you saying to them?” Emily asked.

“You’ll hear in a moment, sis! I hope!”

I saw him calmly turn his head slightly and say something. One of his crew appeared beside him and nodded.

“Sonar, give me a few pings!”

“Skipper?”

“I want you to give our guest a few pings on the SONAR! Is that understood, Miss Reynolds?”

“Aye.”

“Alex! What are you doing?” Emily screeched.

“Letting the enemy know we’re here, sis. They pose a threat to our rescue and I’m challenging them. It’s the honorable way.” I glanced at Takashi. She closed her eyes and bowed slightly to me.

As quickly as possible I focused on the enemy masthead. I saw it turn in our direction. I touched the signaling button slowly twice- ‘bye-bye’!

At this moment I expected the Japanese captain to be soiling his britches! If he played into my strategy, he would be trying to get us into range, thereby buying time for the PT crew to ready and fire their torpedo launchers. I had quickly figured the change of our enemy’s position into my message. I couldn’t be sure if I took into account lead or windage. Shooting from the hip can be complicated- especially with hips as big as mine.

I shook my head at the last thought. Did I actually think that?

A moment later I saw torpedoes spring from both their forward mounted torpedo launchers in an eruption of compressed air. I estimated ten seconds to target.

The following sound was music to our ears! Turning the periscope toward the sound of the explosion, I was rewarded with the characteristic fountain of pressurized water.

“Direct hit! Score another one for our side!” I announced as the pressure hull erupted in high-pitched cheers and I collapsed on the periscope with a huge sigh!

“Commander Cummins, surface the boat. Let’s introduce ourselves. Lt. Sheldon, lead the rescue party to look for survivors.” I looked to our guest, Miss Moritsu.

“Takashi, I’m sorry you had to be a part of this. I know we must look like the barbarians your people claimed we are. Please accept my apologies.”

“You do me a dishonor by apologizing, Captain Steinert. Your attack was cunning, like a ninja- you neutralized your foe using the resources available. Sensei would say ‘the rabbit has devoured the snake.”

“I agree with Miss Moritsu, Captain- well played, well played indeed! Wouldn’t you agree Admiral?”

“Good job, Commander! Glad you finally came up with something! By the way, how did you get the captain to fire at the enemy instead of us?”

“I simply told him: Do not look. Enemy sub, zero-four-six, one football field, thirty feet down.”

“One football field? What is football?”

“It’s an American game, Takashi.”

“An offshoot of rugby, Miss Moritsu.” Mina explained further as I smiled, but shook my head in wonder.

“It proved we were American, gave the distance to target at the same time while still keeping the message short.”

“Jack, could you escort Miss Moritsu back to the brig? I’m sorry Takashi, but you understand. Admiral, Mina, Emily; please join me on the bridge?”

“Passing fifteen, Skip! Tower is dry.”

“Thanks, Carroll. As soon as the holes are plugged get your detail together. See you topside. Admiral? Ladies?” I motioned to the ladder. Admiral, maybe you should go first?”

“Still feeling self-conscious, Captain?”

“No, I just think a man should be the first person they see. That way they won’t be too shocked by our appearance, sir.”

“Good point, Alex.”

“Thank you, Admiral.”

I followed Admiral Demmit up the ladder, but stopped mid span when I heard the two voices whispering below me.

“Congratulations, Emily, you have a very special sister- brilliant in fact!”

“Thank you, Mina. I saw that when we first met, eighteen months ago!”

“She may not have succeeded had it not been for you, Lieutenant!”

“I disagree, Mina! Alex has always been inventive strategically. You are right though, she is very special to me!”

“Exactly my point, Lieutenant. Because you care for her- your concern for her- she redoubled her efforts and explored even the most obscure of scenarios!”

“That was what I was trying to avoid, Mina! Her stress level was already too high! She could have…”

“Oh, pish-posh! She has yet to know true stress, dear. What faces you both will make this a walk in the park! But enough of that! After you, Lt. Scott.” Lt. Smith gestured to the ladder. I hurried up the last half wondering what she had meant or seen.

“Ahoy! Captain of the torpedo boat! Rear Admiral Demmit out of Pearl Harbor. Do you require mechanical or medical assistance?”

“If you have someone capable of performing miracles with Packard engines then yes, we could use three!”

“We might just have one in reserve, captain! Permission to come alongside?”

“Granted!”

“Admiral, who did you have in mind?”

“Rick Samuels is the best, Alex. He could tear apart and reassemble any engine blindfolded!”

“But Chief Samuels isn’t that guy anymore, sir!”

“Nonesense, Alex, Samuels can still kick their behinds! Girl or not! She’s a tough Brooklyn girl!”

“If you think she’ll be okay, Admiral.” I picked up the mic. “Chief Samuels report to the bridge. Con, sound general quarters, we’re coming alongside.”

“Remember, officers don’t brawl with the enlisted men, are we clear, Miss Samuels?”

“Sure thing Skipper, but what if they starts it?”

“Then you holler for help, Lt. Samuels.” I strongly advised, recognizing her temporary commission.

“Now…” The old man rubbed his brow. “Just act like a Lieutenant, Rick! You’ve had to put up with them most of your adult life. And by all means, remember that you are Ricky Lynn Samuels, Chief Samuels’ illegitimate daughter!”

Admiral Demmit gently put a hand to the redhead’s shoulder. “If you behave yourself, I might be inclined to make those bars permanent, Rick.”

“Wha’ the hell would ya do that for, Admiral? I got a good thing going jus’ like dis- why would I want to become the thing I despise the most? Er…present company excluded ‘course!”

The Admiral and I both shook our heads.

“Don’t make me relieve you of both those temporary bars and your stripes! Is that understood, Lt. Samuels?”

“Clear as glass, Admiral! I’ll try mah best at riggin’ them gas hogs, sir.”

“Remember, Chief, one engine will get them to port, two will get them there that much faster.”

“Got ya, Skipper. I’ll do what I can.”

“You’re a girl!”

“Very observant sailor, en yer a boy! Now that we got that outta the way, I hear ya got problems with yer motors?”

“Ya. Hey Cap! Lookie here, they sent us a girl ta do man’s work!”

“Pipe down Yablonski! Name’s Anderson, Lieutenant…”

“Lt. Samuels, Skipper, Ricky Lynn Samuels.”

“You wouldn’t be Chief Richard Samuels little girl by chance?”

“Yep, but he’d probably deny it if ya ask’d him! You the same Anderson that got his butt kicked in Newark back in ’38?”

“He told you about that did he?” Capt. Anderson forced a laugh. “Well, if you’re as good as your old man, we’re in good hands.”

“If not better, Skipper!” Anderson smiled slightly as he shook his head.

“Yablonski!”

“Ya, Cap?”

“Seems we have a real celebrity here! I’d like you to meet ol’ Rick Samuels’ kid. You’d stand to learn a few things from this little beauty! She was taught by the best! Give her anything she needs and any assistance she wants- don’t annoy the lady, we clear?”

“Aye. This way Ma’am.”

“Why thank you, but I know where the engines is kept.” She headed below leading the way.

“Skipper has nothin’ but praise for yer old man, Lieutenant. Talks about him every chance he gets, which in most cases is every time we’re not on patrol! Well, as you can see we’re pretty much dead in the water here. Center engine has a sheared prop shaft from a seized aft bearing- need a dry dock to change that. Port engine threw a rod- shot out the block and almost went through the keel- that one’s junk. Starboard: she’s got a bad cam- lobes are worn completely down. I was tryin’ ta piece together one when the fireworks started. Thanks, by the way.”

“Fer what, Yablonski?”

“Well…fer helpin’ us take out that Jap sub! We’ve only been out on patrol fer six days an’ we still have lots a fuel in the tanks. Torpedo’d hit us an’ it’d be Lights out on Broadway, baby! An’ then there’s the cute redheaded honey yer skipper sent to help me! The man upstairs must really be lookin’ out fer us- savin’ our hides and sendin’ his angels to help!”

“I’m far from being an angel and I ain’t yer ‘cute honey”, sailor! We’re wastin’ time here! What’s the problem?”

“It’s taking longer than I thought. I’m havin’ trouble pullin’ the cam from the center. Can’t get it to come out.”

“Let’s look at what yer callin’ junk, first.” Lt. Samuels accidently bumped Seaman Yablonski trying to examine the damage to the condemned port engine. Samuels looked up at the sailor momentarily trying to decipher- to fight- the feeling.

“Gimme some space here!” It was softer- gentler- not the Chief’s normal whiney growl.

“Hummm, looks like yer port ain’t out of it yet, Yablonski! How’s about ya get me some wrenches. If I get yer cam out fer ya, you reinstall it in the starboard engine. I’ll work my magic on the port. We’ll have ya underway in two hour, tops!”

“Ya sure ‘bout that Lieutenant? I’ve already spent three days on that cam alone!”

Lt. Samuels, aka, Chief Samuels pushed her way past the disbelieving mechanic and proceeded to the rear of the crippled engine, jiggled a part or two then twisted another.

“Try that, Yablonski. Give it a quarter twist clockwise then a good yank.”

The stubborn camshaft slid out smoothly to the amazement of her peer.

“That one knows her way around a motor, Admiral. No doubt she’s Samuels kid either- has his attitude. Funny, I didn’t think Rick was even married.”

“He isn’t! I know for a fact that she was a total surprise. I don’t have to tell you how Rick is on leave!”

“Oh ya! I could tell you some stories, Admiral. He can be a real hell-raiser! By the way, Admiral, any chance to meet and thank the captain of that sub? He’s got to be one hell of a gambler to take a chance like that- balls the size of…” He gestured to his groin. “You know…we were just about to fire on you until he pulled that football field message thing. We thought for sure you were the Jap.”

“ Unfortunately he’s a little under the weather, but you’re right, Captain Steinert is one hell of an officer! And believe me…he’s a sight for sore eyes, Lieutenant!” Commander Steinert is definitely different.”

“Well, pass on my thanks and appreciation. Lucky bastard- how’d he get to transport around all those pretty nurses?”

“Sand Dollar is a new project of mine, Lieutenant. She is the start of a rescue/retrieval unit similar in design to the Coast Guard.”

“You demoted a whole Navy boat to Coast Guard status? Why?”

“I didn’t demote anyone, Lieutenant! The Sand Dollar is the fastest boat in the fleet! Her crew is the cream of the crop- her nursing staff survived the hell at Pearl! Everyone onboard has years of experience! I’m very proud of her, Anderson!”

“But rescue and retrieval, Admiral? A crew like that would be of better use in combat!”

“She saved your ass, didn’t she?”

“Well, ya, but…”

The loud throaty sound of an engine breathing to life interrupted the conversation. It had a definite miss to it though.

“I thought your mechanic said the port engine was junk, Lieutenant?” The Admiral gloated.

“Yablonski! I thought you told me that thing was beyond repair!”

The red-faced sailor just raised his arms in confused defeat.

“You were telling me about how I demoted the crew, Lieutenant. Need I remind you that Lt. Samuels is one of our nursing staff and not our chief mechanic! She volunteered to come aboard and help.”

Within an hour the same sound echoed around the eighty foot PT as the starboard engine sparked to life. Admiral Demmit just smiled and winked. Captain Anderson took off his cap and rubbed his forehead with his forearm.

“Damn!”

“You can say that again!”

The petite redhead approached her two superiors while wiping her hands on an oily rag.

“That does it Skipper, yer good to go on two of the three! I wouldn’t push the port engine too much though. She’s only runnin’ on nine cylinders. Had to pull out the bad one an crank it’s exhaust valve open. Sorry it took so long, Admiral.”

“You did a fine job, Ricky Lynn! Chief Samuels should be proud!” Demmit smiled and surreptitiously winked at her. The redhead blushed as she smiled demurely.

Captain, looks like you’re good to go! We’ll follow you back to Howland just in case Lt. Samuels repairs…” Demmit caught the redhead’s angry scowl. He cleared his throat. “Just to make sure.”

“Thank you again Admiral, and sorry I doubted your project, sir.”

Anderson saluted the Admiral, and offered his hand to Lt. Samuels. “Thanks again, ma’am. Yablonski needed to be kicked down a few notches! Your dad would be proud of you! Next time I see him I’ll tell him his girl is just as amazing as him, only way prettier!”

“Thank you, Lt. Anderson.” She said, still blushing.

“Welcome back, Lt. Samuels! Sounds like you gave their engines the feminine touch? Meet a new friend, Chief?” I asked, having been high enough above them to watch her progress.

“I just straightened him out on some of the things he’d been doin’ wrong, Skip. I wouldn’t call him a friend though.” I noticed her cheeks told a different story.

“Oh, I bet you had him straightened out alright, Miss Samuels. So, how was life on the other side, Lieutenant?”

“Skip?”

“How did it feel to be an officer, Chief; to have the automatic respect of the enlisted men? The power to give orders and have them followed no matter if they’re right or not- the ultimate power of command?”

“To tell the truth, Skip, it felt just a little different- like I had more responsibility- more pressure to do the right thing. I didn’t want to fail you, them, or the Admiral.”

“And how about the way you were treated by the enlisted men?”

“He thought I was cute.” She replied just above a whisper.

“Say again, Chief?”

“Oh…um…it…it wasn’t any different, Skip. I guess I’m use to the girls treatin’ me like that.”

“Congratulations, Chief. You just helped us clear a major hurdle in legitimizing the new unit! Fabulous work, Chief, fabulous!” Admiral Demmit exclaimed as he topped the Tower ladder

“Thanks, Admiral. I didn’t do anything special. I just did what the Navy taught me ta do.”

“Somehow I don’t think the Navy taught you how to flirt, Chief! I think you bending over in the engine compartment made those sailors’ day. It’s a good thing you got those engines running! If the bilge pumps hadn’t started they’d be hip deep in their own slobber by now.”

“I wasn’t…I wasn’t…flirting, sir! I was just doin’ my job!”

“Oh, you were doing your job alright! Morale on that PT just went through the roof, Chief!” I laughed.

Chief Samuels looked over to me, her expression asking her unspoken question.

“I’m afraid so, Chief! You knocked them dead over there!” I said as I smiled while stifling another giggle.

I picked up the bridge mic and ordered Sand Dollar to make ready for departure. Once we freed our moorings from the PT, I had Carroll set speed and course to shadow them back to their base.

“Well Chief, don’t you think you had better change? I think Lieutenant Sheldon would like her bars back.”

It was strange seeing my chief mechanic wearing a uniform- especially an officer’s. She did look nice in them even though there were two embarrassing grease stains on her blouse.

She looked to me ready to answer then looked back at the Admiral.

“Um, beggin’ the Admiral’s pardon, sir, but were you on the up’n’up ‘bout that commission?”

“Chief do you think the war department is in the habit of handing commissions out to anyone?”

“Excuse me Admiral. Lt. Scott would like to know if you and the Captain would like some coffee?” Lt. Smith interrupted. Her timing was impeccable. “Why, Ricky Lynn Samuels you look simply fetching in those and your taste in lapel attire is very complimentary yet could go further. Don’t you think so, Captain? Admiral?”

“Keep behaving yourself, Chief, and I may think about it. Keep in mind that, with your rank, certifications, and specialization you already make more than an Ensign or Junior Grade Lieutenant.”

I noticed Mina look down at Chief Samuels’ trousers and smile. Before she could say anything I waved behind the Chief for her not to speak. She nodded her understanding.

“Chief you should go below and thank Ensign Banes for lending you her clothes. I think you owe her a blouse, though.” I pointed to her chest.

“Aye, Skip. I’ll go find her now. Admiral.” She saluted him.

“Chief.” He saluted back.

“Damn things! Always getting’ in the way!” Chief Samuels mumbled as she descended the ladder.

“Alexandra! You are the devious one!” Mina shook her head in amusement.

“Mina.” The Admiral started. “You have no idea how fulfilling it is to see Rick Samuels get his come-uppance! Some of my officers would give a years’ pay to see the Chief so embarrassed!”

“She will have the last laugh though, Richard- eventually.”

“Somehow, I don’t think I will see it, though, will I Mina?”

“If this timeline continues, sadly, no.” Her head twitched slightly and changed the subject. “How about that coffee?”

“We were just about to head below to change the watch, Mina. Admiral?” I gestured to the hatch.

Jack caught me on my way back to the galley.

“Hey Cap, I thought you should know, Ensign Hastings started her first watch at Starboard planes and I have Ensign Hardt over with Jim Hilf at sonar. Both are fine sailors.”

“Great to hear, Jack. Mina said her people are fast learners. Why should her daughters be any different, how’s Ensign Truman doing?”

“Last I talked to Chief Samuels, she said Nina had a natural aptitude for combustion engines, generators, electric motors, and the like.”

“The Chief spoke that highly of her?”

“Well, in her unique, Brooklyn way.”

“I thought as much!”

“Well, I felt she was sincere. Hey, I don’t suppose you told the Chief about that mark on her seat?”

“No, why do you ask, Jack?” I smiled while feigning innocence.

“I can just imagine the fireworks that sets off when she finds out!”

“Just to be on the safe side, Jack, secure the firing control board. We wouldn’t want to lose a PT to friendly fire!”

As if on cue, a familiar whining was heard getting louder as Chief Samuels made her way forward.

“How many fish do we still have, Skipper?” She hissed- her face was as red as her hair.

“Why, Chief? Did you sense something I haven’t?” It was hard to hold a straight face.

“Ya know damn well what’s wrong!” She unbuttoned her trousers, dropped them to the deck and stepped out of them. Standing there with shirttails just slightly covering her drawers, she bent over and picked them up without further modesty. She held their seat to us so we could see the greasy handprint on her left cheek.

“I wondered why them clowns was laughin’ after they helped me onto the gangplank!”

I couldn’t hold it back anymore! Neither could the rest of the Control room crew. We all started laughing hysterically.

“Not a damn thing funny ‘bout this, Skipper! I was nothin’ but nice ta them louts! Look what they did! They had no right ta do this ta me!” She screeched in an octave that rattled the lamp globes and gave me an immediate headache. She was near hysterics! Her face was so red I thought about calling Emily until I noticed her standing just inside the forward hatch watching intently.

Chief Samuels did the unexpected. She cried- hard!

Mina had arrived through the aft hatch stopping just behind Samuels as she broke down. A gentle hand pulled the distraught redhead toward her waiting shoulder. The Chief’s arms flew around Mina and she cried even harder. The laughter in the Con stopped immediately.

I nodded my concern to Mina who, in turn, nodded back, indicating that my little redheaded mechanic would survive. I looked to Emily. She gestured that I should offer her comfort also.

“Chief? I’m sorry I wasn’t upfront with you. I should have told you as soon as I saw it. It’s…well…it’s just that…it…it’s just so poetic! Look, don’t take it so hard, Chief. You’ve done the same thing to women yourself! You’ve laughed about it- bragged even! It should come as no surprise that other men would try to embarrass the cute nurse. This time though, the cute nurse was you! I hate to say this, but you had it coming, Chief! Unfortunately, now you know how all those women you embarrassed felt.” I scolded.

“Ricky Lynn Samuels, the Hindu religion has a word for this exact situation, dear- ‘karma’. Simply translated it means ‘what goes around comes around’. Though I hadn’t had the opportunity to observe it before your Mahanilui, your reputation with women has been well documented by the crew. I know it hurt your feelings, Ricky Lynn, but our captain is right to scold you.” Mina backed me up.

Chief Samuels turned her head to the side. “It’s” she sniffed, “it’s…I thought he liked me! He said I was ‘cute’!” she sniffed twice more and hid her head once again.

“Who, Chief?” I looked at Mina, Jack, Carroll, and Emily. Each shrugged their shoulders in confusion. Admiral Demmit appeared behind Emily.

“Charles…Charlie…Chuck…Chuck Yablonski!” The chief said trying to cover the feminine way she pronounced his first name.

“Who, Chief?” I asked.

“Machinist-mate Charles Yablonski, the PT’s mechanic, Captain Steinert. The sailor Miss Samuels was flirting with in the engine hold.” Admiral Demmit informed us. “Rick, I never thought I’d see the day when you got your just rewards! I can die a happy man! To think Ricky Samuels has a boyfriend!”

“Excuse me, please, Admiral?”

Chief Peterson appeared in the forward hatch. Both Emily and the old man moved to accommodate her request.

“He is not my boyfriend!” Chief Samuels argued.

“That’s not what I saw over there, Chief.” Demmit countered.

“I know who Ricky’s boyfriend really is,” declared Chief Peterson in a childish, singsong voice as she made her way past us to the aft hatch! As she did, she held out her right hand, palm down, keeping her index and middle fingers together and flexing them repeatedly. Her devious grin was hard to miss. I think even the Admiral blushed.

“That’s private, Randi!”

“With three in our quarters?” Her voice echoed from the galley.

“I thought those noises were from the pumps downstairs?” Emily admitted quietly.

Jack, Carroll, Admiral Demmit, Chief Samuels, and I stared at Emily in disbelief. Mina had no idea what she meant at first then smiled knowingly hiding her expression demurely with her fingers.

“What? Oh, like any of you were never oblivious before! I like to think the best of the people I work with!” Emily said with contempt.

“Ricky Lynn, are you going to be alright, love?”

“I…I’m fine! I just had a small lapse in judgment is all!”

“Small, Chief? That was on par with my tirade last week!” I chided.

“I says I’m fine! Why don’t anyone believe me?”

I cleared my throat and pointed to the pair of trousers lying in a pile at her feet on the deck. I tried my best to not laugh as my mechanic looked down at the rumpled garment then back up at the Admiral. The smile had never left his face since he arrived. To say her face matched her hair color was an understatement. She had completely forgotten about the mixed company.

Picking up her discarded trousers, she turned and calmly walked past the Admiral and Lt. Scott heading to her quarters. Before clearing the forward hatch, though, she stopped, turned, and walked back to her original position where she again bent over, picked up her shoes, turned, and retraced her previous route forward. Not one word was uttered during the whole maneuver.

“No, she’s fine…nothing wrong with her at all. Chief ‘Tomboy’ is perfectly fine.” I said sarcastically.

“I hope we didn’t break her spirit too bad, Ladies.” Admiral Demmit said. “It’s that very self confidence that makes her a great mechanic! It would be a shame to lose her.”

“She will overcome her demons, Admiral. Female emotions can sometimes be quite confusing at times- ask any one of us. Trust me when I say she will do many great things in the future.”

“If the timeline stays intact, right?”

“Possibly, Richard.” Mina purred.

Admiral Demmit shook his head.

“I’ll be in my quarters, Captain. Try to hold down the hysterics to a dull roar, please?”

“Aye, sir. A dull roar.”

As the Admiral left through the forward hatch, he could be heard saying to himself, “Rick Samuels broke down and cried! No one back at Pearl will ever believe me!”

“Was he really as big a scoundrel as the stories would lead me to believe, Captain?”

“Let’s just say that today’s cover story is quite plausible, Mina. Chief Samuels had real problems with respect and commitment in regards to women! Did you ever hear the saying ‘a woman in every port’? That was old Chief Samuels. If the stories are even half true his would be ‘a woman and child in every port’!”

“Then I suggest you keep a watchful eye on the Chief when in port from now on, Alexandra. To quote a future phrase she may be ‘boy crazy’. If she gets, then continually stays pregnant, she is of no use to us and consequently will not realize her full potential.”

“Maybe you should tell her that.” I paused. “Is that all you do any more, Mina- look into the future?”

“Before one goes into battle, it is wise to run as many scenarios as possible, is it not, Alexandra? An ingenious, well respected, and wise sea captain once told me that.”

“Someone famous I gather?”

“Not yet, but you will be! Now if you will excuse me I feel I must pay a visit to Miss Samuels.”

“Are you always going to watch out for us like this Mina- our futures, I mean?” I asked while still blushing from her previous statement.

“Someone has to watch you impetuous youths!” She turned and headed forward.

“You think Mina’s pulling our legs about the Chief, Skip?” Carroll asked innocently.

“I’d like to know the answer to that question myself, Cap?” Jack added.

“I’m curious too, sis.”

In retrospect, I should’ve put the thought out of my mind completely! When will I learn? It developed in my mind too fast to stop! ‘Show me what Chief Samuels will accomplish.’

Why did the lights go out?

The last thing I heard was “Sedikit-saudara, ibu mendapatkan! Telah terjadi!”

Time: Unknown, Location: Unknown, Time: Unknown

I opened my eyes and found myself in a desert somewhere. Around me were hundreds of people, all shouting and cheering for something as yet unseen. The banner stretched across a two-lane pavement read ‘DARPA 20th Annual Fully Autonomous Solar Vehicle Ecological Challenge 2026’.

“I hope nothing went wrong, Alex. You know how P.O.’ed Ricky Lynn gets when one of her babies misbehave! Alex? Alex, what’s wrong? Past or future, sis?”

I looked over to see Emily. She looked very comfortable in her denim shorts and lightweight pink tank top. Not knowing where I was and thoroughly confused by the banner, I just looked at her not sure what to say or ask. She glanced past me and gestured to someone with her eyes.

“Mom? Earth to mom? Mom, come in!” A somewhat familiar voice said with a giggle. “Aunt Emily, I think this is ‘past Mom’! I’m getting the feeling of bewilderment and confusion. What should I do?”

“Cassie, leave her to me. Your Aunt Mina told me what to do if this ever happened. Just go back to watching for Ricky Lynn’s car. Your mom will be back shortly, I promise.”

“You don’t think I should hang to watch what you do? What if she jumps when you’re not around?”

“You don’t worry about that now. I’ll let you in on the secret when the time comes. Go.”

I slowly turned to look at the voice. She was my height, had my eye color, but lighter blonde, and looked to be around twenty. She was dressed in similar attire to Emily with the exception that her shorts were almost nonexistent. On her ear rested some sort of device, a cell phone something told me it was called.

“Okay. Answer!” she said as she turned and started to talk to herself. No, the same something told me she was talking to someone on her cell.

A soft hand gently pulled me back around to Emily. “Is this Alex from 1944? Just nod, don’t speak.” She asked with a serious face.

I nodded.

“Mina said you did this! Alex, I know this sounds crazy, but this is the year 2026 and we are both on our second husband. That was your eldest daughter from your first marriage, Cassandra. You have three children right now. Cassandra, 76, Samantha, 74, and Alexander, 13. Do you understand?”

I nodded.

“Were you just on the Sand Dollar- in the Control Room?”

Again I nodded.

“Aunt Emily! It’s coming! Ricky Lynn is going to win! Mom, Aunt Emily, come on let’s get closer!” Another familiar voice shouted.

This time when I looked around a slightly shorter version of me was excitedly motioning us to follow. The young woman had slightly darker brown hair than mine, and better taste in shorts than her sister. A doubled over ponytail protruded from the back of her ball cap. She also looked to be around twenty. She stopped motioning with her arm- her expression became serious.

“Aunt Emily? This isn’t Mom! This is mom from a long time ago, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Sam. This is the day you told me you saw ten years ago, sweetie. Now go and watch Ricky Lynn’s car cross the finish line. I’ll help your mother.”

“Okay. Mom? Tell everyone on board I said hello. Tell Mina I miss her.”

“Sam, they won’t know what she’s talking about, you know that.”

“Sorry, I was just trying to be nice.”

“I know that sweetie, but your mom’s not here for pleasantries, she’s here by mistake. In her time she is not accustomed to her gift and accidentally triggered, in her mind, this little futuristic trip. I’m afraid that Jacki, Carroll, and I brought this about. Alex, right now we’re going to walk up to the street so we can watch the Chief’s robotic car finish the race, okay? Can you walk?”

I nodded.

We had caught up to my two daughters. Looking down the road I spotted a weird teardrop shaped vehicle approaching. No other vehicles were in sight.

“Hi, Mom.” yet another somewhat familiar child’s voice said from in front of me. I looked over and saw myself as a teenage boy- when I still was a boy. “Sam told me that you’re our past mom. It must be so cool to be in command of a submarine!”

“Honey, I can say without a doubt it was one of the most exciting times in our lives, now keep watching. Here comes the Sand Dollar 4!” Emily answered.

As we watched the car get closer, the crowd grew louder. The strange looking vehicle glided silently past us and crossed the finish line.

“And the winner of this year’s ‘DARPA Fully Autonomous Solar Vehicle Ecological Challenge’ is Carnegie-Mellon University- under the direction of Dr. Ricky Lynn ‘Red’ Samuels!” the Public Announcement system roared.

The crowd went wild! Young Alex took off like a shot in that direction followed closely by Cassandra, Samantha, and about thirty other women in they’re twenties. As we neared the crowd surrounding the winning vehicle, I saw many familiar faces. One in particular caught my attention. Right in the center of the crowd, her hand placed on the vehicle’s roof, was my Chief mechanic. She was currently being interviewed by a woman who was accompanied by a young man holding a small device- a camera, something told me. Her long red hair was in a ponytail, and she was wearing nothing but shorts and a colorful brassiere! Getting closer, she noticed us and excused herself from the conversation. She approached us with a huge smile.

“Emily, Alex, Glad ya could make it!” She stopped and stared at me for a moment.

“Ricky Lynn, you did it again! What’s that make now…four times?”

“Eight, Emily! I think they just keep makin’ it harder ta see if they can make me quit! I ain’t gonna give ‘em the satisfaction though!” She stared at me again.

“I know that look- seen it many times! Is this the day Sammie dreamt of?”

“It is.”

“Then she’s…”

“Yes.” Emily nodded.

“Welcome ta 2026, Skipper! Just ta fill you in, I’m a per’fessor at Carnegie-Mellon these days. Let’s see, in ’44 that would’a still been Carnegie Tech. They says I’m the youngest doctor of robotics ever to teach there! Little da they know, huh?” She winked at me.

“Anyway, this is my team’s eighth win in as many years! Here take a look!” she took my hand and pulled me over to the strange looking car. Emily followed.

“A beaut’ ain’t she? Completely autonomous, uses no gas, and can carry five people comfortably seven hundred miles without a recharge! Here feel this! The body’s one big solar array- Randi an’ me incorporated it into the paint- ain’t that amazing?”

I nodded.

She looked over to Emily. “This is the time right after the PT boat, ain’t it?”

Emily nodded.

My mechanic came closer and whispered in my ear. “Could ya put a word in with the Admiral about that commission? Tell him I learned my lesson.”

“Ricky Lynn Samuels! You know Mina’s rules about this! She was quite clear about trying to change history! Alex, you have to disregard her request, else you change this future.”

“How do you know I’d be changing my history? For all we know I’m supposed to do this!”

“Don’t start that paradox crap with me, not again, Chief!”

“Emily! There you two are!” I recognized my Ex-O’s voice.

“Hey Alex…whoa!” She stopped in her tracks as she approached me. She looked at Emily who, in turn nodded.

“Hey, Cap, bet this is real confusing, huh? Well, just so you know, the war is over and we won! I’m afraid that it opened up a whole new can of worms, though.”

I noticed Emily glance at her watch before she glared at Jack. Behind Jack, Cassie and Samantha carried on an excited conversation with someone out of my line of sight. They were both so beautiful!

“Yes, I know Mina’s rules, Em! Well, looks like it’s time for you to get back to the boat, Cap. I hope you enjoyed your little trip forward. I agree! They look so much like you!” She gave me a hug. See you shortly.”

“Welcome, Captain! You look well.” Yet another familiar voice greeted me.

“Josie! What brings you here?” Emily asked in surprise.

The petite raven-haired beauty pointed behind her. “My horse, Charolette.” She deadpanned. “No, I read about the race and figured Ricky couldn’t resist. I went to visit my old home on the reservation- to see some old friends, but they’re all gone now, so I decided to go for a ride.”

“But that’s over a hundred miles away! That is way too far to ride on horseback! That poor horse!”

“No, Emily…I didn’t ride her all that way! My truck and trailer are parked back at the hotel in Tuba City. I just rode her the five miles.”

“I take it you didn’t bring Dakota, Adam, Alli, or Mina this time?”

I blinked. I thought Josie Two-Eagles would have had more children.

“No, they weren’t interested this year. Alli, Adam, and Mina are over on Guam at that symposium on Oceania cultures. I told them to watch and listen, and to not talk to anyone about Kili. Dakota had to stay home with her grandchild, Scotia. Hey, I know she has to go soon, so I’ll be over talking to Ricky and her team. Come on over when our Alex returns, okay?”

“Sure thing Josie! See you in about,” Emily again looked at her watch, “Oh, Darn, it’s almost time.”

“Mom? Does she have to go so soon, Aunt Emily? I wanted to ask her about…”

“I’m sorry Alex, for her that hasn’t happened yet! It won’t for another eight months, sweetie. Alex, it’s time!”

“Time for what?” I spoke quietly. Emily looked at me in distress.

“I love you mom!” Young Alex said. Cassie and Samantha had rejoined us.

“We love you too mom!” Both my daughters were near tears as was my son and Emily.

“I love you all too! I will always keep your names: Cassandra, Samantha, and Alexander in my heart!” I said aloud.

Emily scowled at my outburst, and then a different expression appeared- one of understanding.

“I told you not to talk, sis! Mina said you weren’t supposed to talk!” She declared, but I noticed a smile appearing.

The world around me went black again.

“Alex?”

Thirty miles southwest of Howland Island. April 12th, 1944

“Alex?”

“Alex?”

“What happened, Doc?”

“I’m not sure, Jack. We were just saying how it would be nice to know what Chief Samuels would do in the…Oh, no…in the future! Is it possible- I wonder? Carroll, would you go get my medical kit, please?”

“Sure thing, Emily.”

From her station at the starboard diving plane, Ensign Hastings noticed what happened and shouted to her sister. “Sedikit-saudara, ibu mendapatkan! Telah terjadi!” (Little sister, get mother! It’s happened!)

“Saya menyatakan akan seqeral!” (I said it would be soon!) Ensign Hardt replied as she excused herself and headed forward.

The three officers had no idea what they said, but it sounded important.

“Time for what?”

“What did Alex just say, doc?” Jack asked.

“I missed it, Commander.”

“I love you all too! I will always keep your names: Cassandra, Samantha, and Alexander in my heart!”

“Alex? What do you mean? Who are Cassandra, Samantha, and Alexander?”

“What did she mean: I will always keep your names in my heart, Doc?”

“I’m not sure Jack, I’m not sure! Alex? Alex, honey, wake up. Snap out of it, sis!” Emily wiped away more tears. “Alex…Alex?”

“Alex?”

“Alex?”

The world around me began to brighten. I could hear Emily still calling my name.

“Emily?”

“Alex! Oh thank goodness you’re okay! We were worried about you! I thought I’d lost you!” Tears were rolling down her face as she came into focus. She lowered her head to mine and held me tightly. Somehow I was lying on the deck. What had just happened? Where had I just been? Scratch that, was I really there? Had I really been to the future? It felt so real! I had smelled the hot, dry desert air- the crowd’s various perfumes and colognes as they mixed together. Had it just been a dream?

I was confused.

“What year is this?”

Emily looked at me funny, but with a hint of understanding. “1944.”

“Why, what year did you think it was, Alex?” Jack asked.

I was thinking clear enough to remember what Emily had told Chief Samuels in the future- don’t say anything that would change the past. I was now back, in the past, my present. I couldn’t say anything to change our future, could I? I wasn’t sure. A safe answer to her question came to mind.

“The future.”

“What did you see in the future, Alex?” Emily quietly asked.

This she had already seen, so I could answer.

“Three of my children, Emily. They were beautiful! I have to remember their names!”

“You mean Cassandra, Samantha, Alexander…?”

“How did you know?”

“You called out those names while you were still unconscious, Alex.”

“Sis, don’t let me forget them! I love them so much! I can’t forget!”

“Alex, they haven’t been born yet! How could you forget them?”

“You two are frightening, you know that? All this talk about children that haven’t been born yet! Seeing the future? Alex, we haven’t even met anyone yet!” Jack interrupted. A frown formed as she realized what she had said.

“Not as frightening as you will be, Jacquelyn!” Mina cut in as she appeared at the aft hatch. “Doctor, Captain, I need to speak with the both of you, if you please!”

“Give us a minute, Mina! I don’t even know if Alex can stand yet!”

“I can stand, Emily, I’m not that fragile!” The reply came out of my mouth and Mina’s.

“Now that was scary!” Jack blurted out.

“Here’s your bag, Lieutenant.” Carroll said as she arrived. Skip, what happened? You okay?”

I pulled myself to sitting then stood up. I pointed to Mina as I again said, “I’m fine! I was just a little confused, that’s all”. She took the hint and remained quiet. I glanced over to the Chronometer- 2140 was the time. So that’s what happened! That’s why I saw myself on the deck in my dream. Was it just a dream, though? I remembered it being sharper- more detailed. The more I thought of it the more distant it grew. Mina had been right about memories of defunct timelines fading. I thought of some other alternate scenarios I had run. All seemed to be dreams as well- just distant memories. Had I just changed our timeline by successfully completing this mission? By Mina’s description it seemed so.

“Ladies, if you will come with me?” Mina restated.

Once inside Emily’s quarters, Mina began her lecture.

“You have made excellent progress, Alexandra. Unfortunately, I was unable to ascertain the exact time and date of your temporal projection.”

“Temporal what?” Emily and I asked at the same time.

“’Temporal projection’. It is a term that will not be used for another forty years, but means projecting ones conscious through time; what you have just accomplished, Alexandra!”

“So, you did see the future! Oh, Alex, what was it like? Was I there? Did you happen to see what the year was?”

“Doctor! Alex cannot divulge a single detail of her journey- tempting as it may be- to anyone! She risks changing our timeline! I must ask you to abstain from further inquiries, Emily.”

“But she has seen our future, Mina!”

“One possible future! And you are also quite capable of doing so, dear! I should ask that you also refrain from revealing any future events should you decide to experience them. You may talk in general about them, but do not, repeat, do not, disclose details.”

“I saw you, Chief Samuels, and three of my children, Emily. We were out in the desert, somewhere in Arizona. The things I saw…unbelievable! Strangely, everyone looked as they do now.”

“That would be the Mahanilui, Alexandra. It should not surprise you.”

“Mina, what is Darpa?”

Her eyes glazed over slightly. “A government agency responsible for developing robotic vehicles for your military. They will hold yearly competitions to promote the design of fully automatic devices capable of replacing humans in the battlefield. Universities from around the country will enter these competitions. As a result, the civilian sector benefits greatly.” Mina twitched and her eyes unglazed.

“Autonomous, Mina, that’s what Dr. Samuels called them.”

“Dr. Samuels, Alex?”

“You should have seen her, sis! She was on cloud nine! She said she won eight years in a row!”

“And that is all you shall say on the matter, Alexandra!”

“I know! Emily…in the future…she told me not to say a word. Why is that Mina?”

“Because, my sisters, if you say something whilst projecting, not only will your future reactants hear you, but present company will also. You may end up looking quite mad if not among informed friends and family.”

“So that’s what happened! You where talking to your children, weren’t you Alex?”

“You said something in the future?” Mina only sounded somewhat concerned.

“She said that she loved them- that she would always remember the names Cassandra, Samantha, and Alexander, Mina- and that she would keep them in her heart.”

“That is very touching, Alexandra!” Mina said with a sniff. “Samantha reminds me so much of you, dear. Cassie is of her own mind though! I recommend close supervision of that one!”

“Mina, are you sure your name isn’t Merlin? You talk of something that hasn’t happened yet in the past tense!”

“Alexandra, you are not the only person on this vessel capable of ‘Temporal Projections’! You forget that your sister’s possess the gift also.”

“So that’s what they said! They knew! That’s why Nina came to get you!” Emily said quietly to herself as she bumped her forehead gently with her palm.

”Yes, Doctor.”

“Excuse me a moment.” Mina said calmly.

Mina reached around the doorframe and hauled in Chief Samuels then shut Emily’s door.

“Have you heard enough, Miss Samuels?” Mina asked with a devious smile.

“Didn’t hear nothin’, ma’am!”

“Boulderdash! We both know you have been listening for quite some time, Chief!”

Our red headed mechanic lowered her head. “Guilty as charged. What happens now, ma’am?”

“You go about your business as usual, Ricky Lynn. What did you assume would happen?”

“Don’t know. You turn me into a frog er somethin’?”

“Dear girl, I can no sooner turn you into a frog than I can turn you into an award winning professor!”

“You mean doctor. Captain said I become a doctor.”

“ You must also have heard my caution about changing the future, Miss Samuels!”

“Aye, ma’am- won’t say a word!”

“Be on your way then Chief! The rest of this conversation is private! You’d do well to mind your own business!” She opened the door and the petite redhead scurried out.

Mina waited a moment then continued.

“You have progressed much faster and farther than I expected, Alexandra! I trust you now understand the implications of changing the future by revealing too many details?”

“I’m starting to understand, yes, but I haven’t changed anything yet! Have I?”

“I will leave that for you to decide, Alexandra. Only you know for sure.” She winked.

“What about me? Don’t I get to decide too?” Emily said with a little pout.

“Doctor, you already know of such consequences, do you not? Has your image of James altered since you first saw him?”

Emily’s eyes immediately fell to the floor. “Yes. Yes they have, Mina. You’re right-the future is nothing to be fooled with.”

“What’s she talking about, Emily? Who is James?”

“James will be my son, Alex! Your nephew! He will be born with…with a hole in his heart!” At this point she started to weep. “Mina told me that if I were to develop my gift, I could possibly learn a procedure used in the future to repair the deformity. If I could do that, my son James would lead a normal life instead of dying at age four.”

“That’s what hit you so hard in my quarters a few days ago! Oh, Emily! I am so sorry I forced those visions on you! Next time I’ll consult my gift before I even consider doing something like that. It was very careless of me.”

“It’s not your fault, Alex. We had no idea how to control our gifts, or the results. Maybe we could work together- practice together?”

“That is brilliant! You two are by far the best students I have ever had, except for my daughters that is. Now, having said that, I’m afraid I must speak privately with the Captain, Doctor. Captain, may we continue this in your quarters?”

“I thought we were going to work together?” I pointed between Emily and myself.

“Yes, but right now I must speak with you…alone.”

“Go ahead, Alex, I have to get ready for my watch anyway. It’s okay, really, go.”

Shutting the door to my quarters, I started the conversation with a hypothesis.

“You knew she would be out there listening to us! You knew what she told me in 2026, didn’t you? What happened to changing the timeline, Mina? I thought that was bad?”

There are some cases, you will learn, when leaking details of someone’s future is necessary to…coax that person in the right direction, Alexandra. By letting the Chief hear what her possible future holds in store is enough to keep her on the right path. In several other futures she shares a small rundown flat with seven children, six cats, and a mangy dog! Her life had become meaningless and downtrodden. She contemplates suicide almost every night and had never married, not once.”

“So you saw the same vision I saw, correct?”

“Sadly, I could not see to the limits you have, Alexandra. Sometimes dates elude me, so I have no reference to guide me. I can specifically say that I have seen Ricky Lynn win the Challenge! It is the culmination of her numerous achievements. It is what keeps her going.”

“So why discuss this in private, Mina?”

“Because your sister is not to know I have helped change another future! She must never know!”

“Why?”

“Alexandra, what I…what we have set in motion with this conversation will change Chief Samuels’ destiny, as I have said, but it will also alter your nephew’s life entirely!” She raised her hand to wave off any retort. “Emily will indeed learn the required procedure for saving the child’s life, rest assured, but so many other things will change as a consequence. I believe someone will write a thesis then later base a book on it called the ‘Butterfly Effect’. It postulates that a miniscule change, thought to be of little or no consequence, can multiply exponentially and literally change everything!”

“Then should I recommend the Chief for commission like she asked, Mina?”

“At this point you have learned enough about your gift to make that decision, Alexandra. We have already set her on the right path to success. She is your loyal subject, Princess Alexandra. Her life is firmly in your hands.”

“Boy, no pressure there! Mina, have I affected any other lives around me that I may not realize?”

“Only you know the answer to that question, Alexandra! Try paying a little more attention to your visions.”

“Your highness, I humbly request confirmation on one person specifically.” I pleaded.

“Since you asked so nicely, you and Mr. O’Neil have a brief interlude. Nothing becomes of it!”

“What! No! No, that’s not the person I was thinking of! No!”

“Alexandra, I foresee the future! I’m not a mind reader! Of whom do you speak? Oh.”

“Consult your vision of Chief Samuels. You will find that the images are as fresh and clear as first viewed. Scan the crowd for familiar faces. Your answer lies there.”

“Cryptic answers to questions? Quickly figuring out that I was asking about Takashi Moritsu before I say her name?” Sounds like mind reading to me, Mina!”

“Only because you just specified her, Captain. You said whom you were talking about in the future, which is now past. Do you follow, Alexandra?”

“Not without developing a headache!”

We both laughed.

A knock at my door ended our private conversation.

Mina being closest, opened my door, nodded and motioned for two of her daughters, Mia, and Lailu to enter.

“Saya katakan itu akan terjadi lebih cepat!” Lailu said. Whatever it was that she said.

Mina translated for me. “She said she told me it would happen soon.” To which she answered, “Ya, ia telah mengembangkan lebih cepat dari yang kita duga! (Yes, she has developed faster than we thought!) I told her that you have progressed faster than I thought, Captain.”

“Nina memiliki kompetisi!” Mia added.

“Maybe?” Mina answered. I started to ask what she said, but Mina held up her hand for me to wait.

Lailu turned slightly to ask her sister something. She had her mother’s devilish smile. “Apakah dia lebih kuat dari ibu? (Is she stronger than mother?)

“Itu masih harus dilihat! (That remains to be seen!)” Mina sounded angry.

Mia faced us, “Kita harus menyambut dia untuk keluarga. (We should welcome her to the family.)

“Oh, for… Will you two speak English! You know the Captain does not speak the language of the islands yet! Besides, Kita harus menyambut mereka berdua untuk keluarga! (We should welcome them both to the family!)

“Alright, Mum, we’ll speak English! We thought our second language would lend more privacy.” Mia’s British accent was impeccable.

“Anakku sayang, you forget that our captain hasn’t learned our language yet. You are a year too early.”

“I told you, Mia! Selamat datang, selamat datang setengah-adik. That means Welcome, welcome half-sister. We welcome you and your sister, Lt. Emily Scott to our family, Captain Steinert!” Lailu’s accent was also flawless

“Thank you, saudara. I am honored.”

“I told you she learns quickly.” Mina tilted her head in my direction. The three women laughed.

“Ensigns, could you please excuse me? I need to speak with the captain.” Emily’s voice sounded from the passageway. The two Ensigns moved to accommodate her. Mina motioned for the two of us to sit and five of us now occupied my cramped quarters.

“Selamat datang, selamat datang setengah-adik!” Mia offered. Emily looked confused.

“Ensign Hastings says welcome to the family, Emily. Although, she has a beautiful British accent.” I translated for her.

Lt. Scott’s mouth opened slightly as she pointed between the Ensigns and me. “You…you understood that?”

“Some of it. Lailu…Ensign Hardt said it to me just a few minutes ago.”

“Oh.”

“So what do you need, Lieutenant?”

“Alex, Takashi would like to know if you two could have your chat here in your quarters? She promises to behave. I think she’s getting claustrophobic.”

I thought about the request for a moment. Would it be okay? No response. What could go wrong? That was the wrong thing to ask. Images flashed into my head so fast I had little or no chance to remember half of what I saw. I willed the high-speed slide show to stop. To my astonishment it worked. One image remained clear in my mind- Takashi holding my arms behind my back and a knife to my neck! I brought my hand to my forehead. That was no help since my initial assessment of her character revealed no overly aggressive tendencies. Could this be one of those incidences where my gift could lead me astray? My gut told me it was.

“That seems like a reasonable request, Lieutenant. Have Richards bring her up.”

I noticed Ensign Hardt nod to her sister and Mina. Mina in turn, smiled at me. Emily noticed the exchange.

“Care to tell me what just happened, ladies?” she asked.

“Yes, Mina, what was that about?”

“Lailu just confirmed for me that you took another step with your gift, Alexandra. You too Doctor.”

“What step was that, Mina?”

“You tell me, Alexandra.”

I looked at Emily and saw she was just as confused by the request as I was.

“Well, if you mean what I just did when told of Miss Moritsu’s change of venue, I posed two questions- the first being ‘would it be okay?’ I got no response to that.” I stopped there without stating the second.

Mina looked to her two daughters and shook her head in frustration. The two Ensigns giggled.

“We are more interested with your second inquiry, Alexandra!” Mina said in exasperation.

“Oh, that!” I smiled.”I made the mistake of asking what could go wrong.”

“And what happened, Alexandra?”

“I got flooded with everything that could possibly go wrong! Things were popping in there so fast I didn’t catch most of them! Just the last image was clear.”

“Go on?”

“It was an image of Takashi holding me with a knife to my neck.” I said calmly. Emily gasped.

“Keep going, Captain, now we’re getting to the relevant part.”

Emily was watching me intently now.

“The image didn’t match up with what I knew about her character. I’d like to think I’ve gotten to know her since her rescue and she just isn’t the type. So I went with my gut, which was to grant her request. Mina was that one of those times you told me about earlier?”

Mina looked to Ensign Hardt and smiled.

“And why did you doubt what you saw? Your gift has not failed you to date, has it?”

“Like I said Mina, what I saw and what I knew about Takashi didn’t match up! I had to go with my feelings instead of what my gift suggested. You told me there would be times our gift might be errant.”

“Indeed.” She winked at me.

“Wait! I don’t recall you telling us that Mina!” Emily exclaimed.

“Why would I tell you something you have known all along, Doctor? Have you not lived your life relying on your feelings? Women tend to use their feelings and emotions more than logic whereas men rely heavily on logic and tend to let emotions start fights!”

“Amen to that, sister!” Emily agreed.

“So why did you smile at Mia and Lailu?”

“Mia had a difference in opinion from Lailu, Nina, and I, Alexandra. We made a wager of sorts with Mia that you would progress faster than what she had originally predicted. Mia has a tendency of using logic rather than her ‘gut’. As a result the future has again been changed.”

“I thought you said it was bad to change it, Mina? You said that it could be dangerous and have unexpected results?”

“You are quite correct, Doctor! To purposely attempt to change the future is dangerous and wrought with pitfalls! Think about this: do we not change our futures every time we make a decision? Everyone in the world can change their destinies; we alone do not hold the patent.”

“I hadn’t thought of it like that, Mina! We should still refrain from making our kind of changes though, right?”

Mia and Lailu looked to their mother and I. I noticed Mina give them a slight glare and a slight sideways shake of her head. Emily caught the gesture also.

“I saw that Mina! What aren’t you telling me? Did you and Alex change Chief Samuels’ future? I hope it’s for the better?”

“Told you Mum! That makes us even!” Mia gloated.

“Yes it does, anak saya.! (My child) I told you these two were exceptional individuals- that this whole vessel would be the means to our survival!”

“Mum, Nina saw that. You just saw our failed rescue, not that that wasn’t frightening enough! I’m glad those images have faded. Poor Nina suffered the most I think. She was much too young at the time to witness such horrors.”

“Captain, Mia and I are excited to have you and Dr. Scott join our family. I see many, many years of happiness for us.” She looked at her wristwatch. “If you will excuse us, Mia and I have to finish our watch. Captain.” Both Ensigns went to attention for a moment then filed out.

“So I’m ahead of schedule, Mina?” I asked.

“You both are progressing admirably, Captain. I must be on my way as my watch begins in twenty minutes. By your leave, Captain, Doctor?” She nodded to us then headed aft following her daughters.

“Lieutenant, could you have Tom bring Takashi up to the Con, please? I think we’ll go up to the bridge to get some air.”

“Aye, sir. Alex? Don’t you think our ‘new family’ is a bit strange?”

“In a wonderful albeit frightening way, sis! Exciting isn’t it?”



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