South of Bikini: E4- Her Arrival

Having completed their first mission as a ‘Search and Rescue’ unit, the crew of the Sand Dollar is given shore leave while their new base is completed. Things become even stranger when Alex and some members of her crew start to ‘develop’. What does the ‘future’ hold for Capt. Steinert?


Copyright 2006 R.G.Beyer

South of Bikini

Episode 4

“Her Arrival”

2313 hours, Howland Island, April 14th, 1944

“Are you sure you want us to leave you here, Admiral? We can drop y’all off at Pearl just as easy.” I thought it too late for the Admiral to be leaving the safety of Sand Dollar.

“I’ll be fine, Alex! I’ll call for a PBY to come get me in the morning! I have a lot of work to do both paper and otherwise, to get the ball rolling on your new base. Besides Alex, I only brought enough supplies for our three-day excursion. Tell Chief Peterson she did a good job stretching them into nine!”

“I’ll do that sir. So does this change your orders?” I asked due to the old man’s change of plans.

“No, Captain, the orders still stand. You and your crew are to signal Pearl five days from now, 19, April where you all will begin a ten-day pass. You all have earned it, Alex! My only request is that you and the crew check in every night just in case we need you.”

“Understood, sir. We’ll see you back at Pearl, Uncle Richard.”

Admiral Demmit gave both Emily and I a kiss on the forehead.

“Lt. Smith, you take good care of my nieces and take care of you too!” Demmit said as he embraced the Lieutenant.

“You can be assured, Admiral. Safe journey!”

Once the old man was safely aboard the PT boat, I gave the order to stow the gangplank, release the moorings, and set course for Hawaii. The strange sounding patrol boat rumbled away into the darkness toward their base on Howland Island. I hoped the Admiral would be safe for the fifteen minutes it would take them to reach the dock. I foresaw no problems for him in the next few days.

Once underway, Emily, Mina, and I rejoined Takashi up on the bridge.

“I like him, Captain. He has the quality to command, yet does not over indulge in the power- what you Americans call ‘down to earth’, I believe?”

“He has his moments, Takashi! He can be a real bull when he needs to!”

“The mark of a true leader, Captain. I see the same traits in you three also!”

“Thank you, Miss Moritsu. You provide further proof that our captain and doctor are of the royal bloodline.

“Please stop with the royalty pitch, Mina! Alex and I are convinced already!

“We’ll take that as a compliment, Takashi, or are you just buttering us up for more time above deck?”

“The thought had crossed my mind, but that is at your discretion, Captain.”

“I’ll take it under consideration. Right now we need to get below because my watch was finished over an hour ago.”

“I would like to take one last look up at the heavens, Captain, I have always been captivated by the stars. Do you think we will ever venture out?”

It was a darn good thing Emily was beside me!

“Captain? Doctor what happened to her? Is she alright?”

“She’ll be fine Takashi! I think she just took another one of her trips.”

“Quite correct, doctor, but this time I think we will learn more- much more.”

“Must you always be so cryptic, Mina?”

The squawk sounded. “Bridge, Con. Lt. Scott, what happened up there? Is the Captain okay?”

“Jack? How did you know something happened to the captain?”

“I…I’m on my way up!”

“Ma’am? I…I need a signature on these reports, if you please.”

“What?”

“The reports…on your desk, Ma’am? They have to be signed before I can forward them to the Joint Chiefs, Captain Steinert.”

Without saying a word I picked up a pen and signed my name to several multipage reports not knowing what or whom they were about.

“Thank you, Ma’am. I think they’re expecting us down the hall. They have a TV setup with a direct satellite feed from Cape Kennedy. This is going to be so cool!

As I got up from behind ‘my’ desk, I looked around ‘my’ office. No longer was I aboard my beloved Sand Dollar. Around me was a small office with high ceilings and four white plaster walls. One wall let light in through a bank of four blinded windows. I could make out the Washington Monument off in the distance. An airport was directly across a busy four-lane road from me. Was I in the Pentagon? Something told me yes.

“Captain Steinert, we’re going to miss the landing! We have to go now, Ma’am!”

I nodded and moved around the large mahogany desk. On the wall closest me I noticed a picture of a sleek black submarine, her conning tower a streamlined sail. I didn’t recognize her configuration though. Leaning in closer I read the name and date plate on the bottom of the frame: USS Nautilus, First U.S. Nuclear Submarine 1958.

Storing that information away, I followed the young Lieutenant out of the office and down the corridor to another larger room. Inside were about thirty members of the various military departments; Marines, Army, Navy, and Army Air Corp- strike that, their uniforms had USAF on them. Something else to store for later, I thought.

“Everyone be quiet! It’s happening!”

Everyone turned to face a box at the other end of the room. Somehow, there was a movie playing on its two-foot square screen. I turned around to look for the projector but found none.

“Alex, turn around you’re going to miss the landing!”

I knew that voice! Carroll! Carroll was here with me. She looked at me in a way that I had seen before. I realized that I had gone on another time trip. Carroll noticed too and leaned in close. “Alex, welcome to 1969! I’ll cover for you as best I can! This is the greatest day in American history, Skipper! We’re going to land on the moon- two Americans are going to land on the moon! Can you believe it?”

I shook my head no.

“Who would have thought in the middle of a war we would ever do something this fantastic! I mean, I know technically it’s not a war, but a police operation. Everyone still calls it the Vietnam War! Come on, let’s watch the TV!”

I turned my attention to the ‘TV’.

“Five hundred feet! Thirty down and five forward. Houston, I have a Master alarm!”

“Twenty seconds!”

“Roger, Eagle, we see it and you are still go.”

“Roger, Houston, Master Alarm reset. Two hundred, twenty down and five forward.”

“One hundred, ten down, two forward. Houston we’re kicking up a lot of dust from the surface! We have another Master Alarm!”

“Five seconds!”

“Roger, Eagle, We’re confident here. You are still go!”

“Sixty, fifty, forty…Houston, we have DECO, repeat, DECO! This is going to be a hard one!”

The picture of the gray, desolate landscape on the TV’s screen jerked hard! A minute or so went by before anything was heard.

“Houston. This is Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed! It wasn’t pretty, but we’re still here!”

“Ah…great to hear Tranquility! You have a lot of people down here that can start breathing again! Congratulations Tranquility!”

The room erupted in clapping and cheers.

“Son-of-a-bitch! We really did it!” I said aloud which prompted Carroll to turn back to me with concern.

“You aren’t supposed to speak when you go on these trips, Skip, Mina’s orders! What if you aren’t with friends?”

“I was on the bridge, Carroll, we’re all friends.”

A voice from the TV interrupted our conversation.

“Houston, you think you could give the next guys a little more gas? We ran out five seconds before touchdown! The landing was a little rough.”

“Roger that Tranquility. We’ll pass that along.”

“Those men almost died, Carroll! Why didn’t they have enough fuel to make a good landing?”

“I think it was to conserve weight. The Saturn 5 is the biggest rocket the world has even seen, but weight is still a concern.”

“You mean to tell me that we couldn’t afford to put just ten seconds more fuel onboard? Who decided this?”

“The engineers at NASA I guess, Alex. Maybe you should have joined the space program. You could have warned them about this!”

“Maybe I will join NASA! What does it stand for again?”

“National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“National Aeronautics and Space Administration? Okay when is…was it formed, Carroll?”

“1959 by President Eisenhower.”

“’59 by President Eisenhower- got it! Thanks Carroll! I think I have to go now. See you in a minute.” As before the room darkened, but the light did not return, instead my eyes opened to a dark sky filled with stars.

“Captain, please come back to us! I did not mean for this to happen! Captain Steinert, you must return to us, please!” Takashi’s trembling voice pleaded.

“Did you get all that Emily? Mina?”

“We got some of it Alex. What year did you visit this time?”

“Lt. Smith, what does she mean by ‘what year did the captain visit’?”

“It’s a long story, Takashi, one that I hope to reveal in a few years if things progress properly.”

“I had my own office in the Pentagon! Carroll was there and we watched the moon landing on TV! They did it, Emily! They actually did it!”

“When, Alex? When do we land on the moon?”

“August, 1969. I didn’t ask what the date was, but August was on all the calendars I saw.”

And Gen. Eisenhower was our president? He had to be just starting his fourth term!”

“I don’t know if he was still in office, Emily. I saw nothing to indicate that. I did however; see a picture of a nuclear submarine- from 1958. It was called the Nautilus!”

“Why, that is right out of Jules’ book! He would be so proud! Ensign Beaumont spoke highly of him.”

“That does not surprise me, Mina! Now, could you let me get up, sis? I feel fine!”

“What did you mean they almost died- that they needed ten seconds more fuel?”

“I guess that is the problem we have to rectify. Somehow, I have to talk someone into putting more fuel onboard that Lunar Lander.”

“Alex, that won’t happen for another twenty-five years! I think we have some time. What do you think, Mina?”

“Alexandra, I suggest you start writing your temporal projections down in a journal. That way you can reference them at a later date- one that is closer to the actual incident.”

“That’s a good idea Mina. Alex, maybe we should both keep a journal?”

“What happens if someone were to find them, sis?”

“That does pose a problem, sisters. Could we ask Josie to encrypt…”

“Mina, I don’t think that is a good idea, given our guest here. No offense, Takashi.”

“None taken, Captain Steinert. I am aware that I am off limits to Josie Two-Eagles, that she may not visit me. You feel I may become a danger to the crew if I learn her native tongue. I understand. I would set such limitations if the tables were turned, Captain. One question though, Captain. Do you really consider me grouped with your company of friends?”

“What?”

“While on your…um…temporal projection…you said that you were on the bridge, among friends. Is that not correct?”

“Yes, Takashi, I remember saying that. Let me just state for the record that I have seen a time…in our future, that…that Japan is an ally of Britain, France, Germany, Spain, the United States, and many more countries- some of which have yet to be formed! So, yes, we become friends.”

“You have seen this? In our future, you claim?”

“Absolutely, Miss Moritsu! I too have seen the collaboration of many countries! I have also seen allied countries become rivals in the not too distant future. Be warned that your country and the Nazi will be held accountable for war crimes so hideous I dare not think them!”

“Captain, Doctor, your highness, we need to talk!” Jack interrupted as her head popped through the hatch. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, Takashi.”

“But I didn’t say anything about being…”

“Is this what you meant by ‘we will learn much more this time’, Mina?”

“Possibly. Jacquelyn how is it that you knew something had happened to our captain?”

“I had this sudden feeling that somehow she left the boat- that she wasn’t here on Sand Dollar anymore! It scared me that maybe she had gone overboard.” Jack sounded confused as she answered.

“I see. Commander Cummins, how did you know you startled Miss Moritsu? We can barely see each other on this moonless night. I heard no sound from Takashi- no squeak or movement whatsoever! How did you know?” Mina questioned.

“I…I…thought…I…thought…I…I’m not sure. How did I know?” She asked herself.

Mina tried a different tactic. “You say you felt that the Captain was no longer aboard Sand Dollar? Do you know where she went?”

“It felt like she just wasn’t there anymore, Mina! I got this empty feeling, like I couldn’t hear her anymore! It was a lonely feeling!”

“Bravo, Jacquelyn, bravo! Sisters, Miss Cummins has discovered her gift, though I think she knew it existed days ago and just ignored it!” Mina said with excitement.

“What?” Jack’s voice screeched.

“Your gift, dear, it has finally manifested! You must now learn to control it, Jacquelyn. In the wrong hands you can become a substantial and dangerous weapon. Used properly you will reach great heights. You will be well respected among your peers.”

Jack disappeared from the hatchway suddenly. Emily leaned over to see where she went.

“Great! Now I have to attend to another fainter! Mina, do all men have recurring fainting spells after the Mahanilui?”

“Neither of you saw this coming? I’m surprised!” Lt. Smith giggled.

Emily and I hurried down the ladder.

“Miss Moritsu, I would consider watching what I think if I were you. Commander Cummins’ gift will very likely uncover your little escape plot. Also, Captain Steinert has allowed you into her circle. It would benefit you to remember that. There will come a time, not far from now, that Alexandra will again save your life!”

“Knowing what the people of this boat can do, myself included, is deterrent enough, your highness. I will do nothing to make Capt. Steinert an adversary. I stand no chance of friendship should that happen.” Moritsu paused. “So my plan would fail?”

“Miserably! In that timeline you would spend the rest of the war at an internment camp constructed solely to contain Asian Americans. Your fate would be similar to that of returning to Japan. Your unique gift would ensure that you established a rather large and diverse clientele. You would make your proprietor one of the richest men in San Francisco. My word, you can do so much better, Takashi!”

“They have internment camps for their own?”

“Your government’s attack on Hawaii did more than disable their Pacific fleet. As you predicted, Japan indeed awoke a sleeping dragon! One who’s breath shall twice destroy millions of your countrymen! Yes, internment camps- so surprised were they that distrust overflowed their shores! Immigrants, as well as native-born Americans of Asian descent, Japanese or otherwise, were herded into these camps for ‘safe-keeping’. Every one considered a spy or potential spy! The Empire and the Nazi are not the only villains of this war. Greed and discrimination are heavy players also- players that observe no boundaries- players that heed no Geneva Accords!”

“If the Americans destroy my home, how do we become friends, your highness?”

“It is only after many years that relations between your two nations reach harmony. Not perfect harmony, mind you, as they will still differ on many issues, but peace nonetheless. I’m afraid your home is completely destroyed, Takashi! It will be unsafe to go there for many years after. I am sorry for your losses, dear!”

Moritsu got choked up. “My home will be destroyed? I cannot go there for years after? Just my home- Why?”

“Because of the devastating new weapon they use. Their President will lose many days of sleep making his decision to use it. If not used the war would drag on for four more years and kill thousands more than the considered alternative. It is not your home alone that disappears, Miss Moritsu! It is the entire city centers of Hiroshima and Nagasaki! All life in those locations will be snuffed out in the blink of an eye!” Mina said with disturbing calm.

“It will come to be called a weapon of mass destruction in one form and a viable energy source in another.” I added as I climbed back up to the bridge.

“So you did pay attention, Alexandra. Wonderful!”

“I also remember seeing a familiar name on the side of Chief Samuel’s robotic car, Mina. Takashi, I want you to remember one word. At first this word will make little or no sense to you, but trust me, you stand to become very influential worldwide!” I let my statement drop.

“So?”

“So, what? Miss Moritsu, have we treated you that bad? We rescued you, fed you, healed you, and brought you into our fold, yet you still planned an escape!”

“You knew?”

“Since we left Ni’ihau.”

“You never let on, why?”

“Because I foresaw Mina’s talk with you tonight. The future is a fragile thing that is not tolerant to meddling- a wise monarch once told me that.” I smiled at Mina.

“So it has happened.” Mina said to herself as she turned her head slightly to the side, as if whispering to some invisible person.

“What has happened, Mina?” I inquired.

“Nina was right to warn us of you, Alexandra. She envisioned someone whose gift far out reached my own- a person who possessed not only the years of wisdom, but also the knowledge to counter and control her gift. Someone who could rule over our race and make it flourish once again.”

“Whoa! Hold it right there, your majesty! I’m not this…this savior…you’re talking about! I’m just an average farm girl from Missouri; I’m not your girl!”

“It doesn’t matter what you think, Alexandra! The Mahanilui has chosen you!”

“You two are scaring me! Captain, Your Highness, what ‘race’ are we speaking of?”

I had almost forgotten Takashi was there. Her voice trembled as she spoke.

“I’d like to know the same thing, Takashi! Mina, what are you goin’ on about?”

“Clearly, I have said too much already. All will be revealed when the time is right. Now, I think I shall retire. It has been a long day- one of many discoveries. I bid you good night ladies.” Mina finished speaking as her head disappeared from view down the ladder.

“Any idea what she was eluding to Captain?”

“Not one, Takashi! She can be one frightening woman though!”

“My ancestors wrote stories of half demons that acted in a manner similar to her. They lived to torment us mortals for their own entertainment!”

“I’m beginning to wonder if the term ‘mortal’ even applies to any of us anymore! Speaking of entertainment, let’s call a truce, Takashi. If you drop the idea of escaping, I might entertain the idea of liberty privileges when we get to Hawaii. Of course, you would have to stay with Lt. Scott and I, but you would be out in the sun- sleeping on a real bed…what do you say?”

“I stood no chance of escape, Captain- of course you knew that! Where would I go if I actually succeeded? I at least had to try, after all, what kind of prisoner would I be if I hadn’t?”

“You are only a prisoner in as much as confinement and restriction to certain members of my crew. Anything beyond that is up to you, Moritsu Takashi.”

“You honor my family, Captain. Did you also learn that from your schoolmate?”

“Something like that, Takashi.”

“So?”

“Again with the ‘so’, Miss Moritsu?”

“The word, Captain. What is the one word you were going to tell me?”

“Oh, that? Must have slipped my mind.”

“I find that highly improbable. Captain Steinert!”

“Semiconductors.”

“What is that?”

“’They’ will revolutionize the way people communicate, the way products are manufactured- they will make the most impossible, possible!”

“You really are starting to sound like Mina, you know that? Only with a Missouri drawl.”

“Thank you, Takashi-Chan.”

“Y’all er welcome, Ma’am!”

“I said I was from the ‘show-me’ state, not Texas, Miss Moritsu- too far west!”

1005 hours, Oahu, Hawaii, April 19th, 1944

“Josie, signal Pearl of our arrival and to drop the nets. If they give any static, ask for Admiral Demmit.”

“Will do, Alex. Hopefully Adam will answer.” Her voice took on an airy sweetness.

“Skip, we’re one mile out. Awaiting your orders.”

“Thanks Carroll. We’ll hold here until we get authorization- normal protocol.”

“Aye Skip! All stop!” Lt. Sheldon announced to the Control room.

Josie Two-Eagles responded to the voice in her headphone. By the sound and tone of her voice it was evident that Adam Redhorse was at the other end. So too was the old man since Demmit did not translate into Navajo.

“Cap, we are cleared to enter Pearl…wait.” She continued her conversation. “The Admiral wants you to remain submerged beyond the nets, Cap, surface in the main channel as far as you dare. Pier 4.”

“Acknowledge that Josie and give my regards.”

“Aye, Cap.”

This was another test by the Admiral. Question one: How do I run the main channel while submerged?

After the requisite instructional video, that’s what they called it in the future, I sought the answer to question two: could I show off even more and surface closer to our designated berth?

Another video played itself out. It was possible because of the high tide, but I decided not to dig our screws into the muck-laden bottom. Once turned up the mud would announce our presence, so what was the point. I decided to surface in front of Battleship Row to pay our respects. I felt I needed to talk to Brian- inform him of the changes and how I wouldn’t be able to carry on the family- beg for his forgiveness…

“Alex, I think Brian would understand! Don’t beat yourself up! You had no way to stop this! Besides, all those negative thoughts are giving me a headache! In a few minutes I’ll be flooded with grief, sorrow- all the negatives! My head might explode! That will be hard enough to handle!” Jack implored.

Since her gift revealed itself five days ago, Jack had been working with Mina and Ensign Rodriquez in her off hours to learn to control her- what did they call it in the nineties…telepathy. I had also learned more about controlling my gift in that time. I had taken half a dozen ‘trips’ to the future the past few days. I was fairly confident I could initiate my ‘projections’ on demand. The hard part was staying in the present while on watch.

As we prepared to surface, I noticed Jack rubbing his temples.

“Receiving a lot of chatter, Commander?”

“Rumors, Alex, rumors about why we haven’t surfaced yet. Everyone is wondering where we are. They know we’re well into the harbor by now, but are confused by your orders.”

“Well, I guess it’s time to remove the mystery, Jack.” I reached for the squawk.

“Attention, all hands! At this time I want full dress whites for all off duty personnel. We will surface in ten minutes! Captain out!”

“Owww! That just made it worse, Alex!”

“Sorry, Jack. Prepare yourself for the onslaught.”

“All hands on deck!” my voice resonated through the pressure hull below me.

Women in dress whites filled the fore and aft decks.

“Attention!” Jack screeched from beside me when everyone was lined up.

I nodded to Chief Samuels.

“Honors!” She shouted. All saluted the Arizona. Chief Peterson volunteered to be our Yeomen and proceeded with the Boson’s pipe.

On cue, Jack fell to her knees holding her head tightly. I quickly said my piece then offered to help my overloaded Ex-O.

“Two!” Chief Samuels shouted. All hands dropped salute.

As I helped Jack to her feet, I noticed everyone on the bridge had wet cheeks- even Mina seemed choked up!

“Forgive me Captain, my images do this solemn spot no justice. Please accept my sincerest condolences on your loss, Alexandra.”

“On all our losses, Lieutenant!” I dabbed my cheeks.

“Why do they not raise her, Captain?” Takashi inquired. She too was dressed in full uniform, one gold bar on each epaulet. Ensign Moritsu…it looked good on her. I just hoped the Admiral would accept it.

“Because, Takashi, the current here is too strong for salvage operations. She will remain here for the next few centuries as a reminder that we got caught with our pants down. A floating monument will be placed right above her. In it the names of all who perished aboard her that morning shall be listed for all who visit to see. My brother’s name will reside there- a constant reminder that fate…that war, is cold and unforgiving. Excuse the crew, Jack! Excuse me, please.”

With practiced ease I dropped through the hatch and burst into tears as my feet hit the control room decking. Paying our respects to the Arizona always choked me up, but this time I felt I had lost more than just my brother- I had lost my…I had lost me!

“Alex is really taking it hard this time Emily! She’s flooding me with all sorts of questions- ones that I have no way of answering.”

“I knew this would happen.”

“So you saw this coming?”

“I didn’t need my gift to see this one coming, Jack!”

“Oh ya, I guess not. I just wish she would go easier on herself, Emily! Her thoughts are louder than any of the others- Mina included!”

“I’ll go down and talk to her Jack. I’ll give you some aspirin when we tie up.”

“That would be appreciated, Doc!”

“Hit you hard this time, sis?”

“Like you didn’t know?”

“If you are referring to our gift…no, I didn’t consult it for this! Don’t forget Alex, I was here that morning! I saw the damage- the carnage- first hand! You aren’t the only one to lose friends or family!”

“It’s not that, Emily! My…my parents…they’ve lost everything! I…I was the…only…the last hope they had to carry on the family name! That…it can’t happen now.” I cried and sniffed. Emily placed her arms around me and held me tight. I said nothing for a few minutes.

“He didn’t answer me.”

“Who didn’t answer, Alex?”

“Brian.”

“My God, Alex! Did you really expect him to?”

“I thought that…maybe…”

“Oh, Alex honey, our gift is to see the future, not resurrect ghosts from the grave! Isn’t our gift amazing enough for you?”

“I miss him!” I started to bawl in earnest.

Emily held me even tighter. “Let it go, Alex. Let it all out.”

“She should have been here by now!” Admiral Demmit stated to Major Charles Canton

“She, Admiral?” the chief of the Shore Patrol asked thinking the Admiral was talking to him.

“Yes, she, Chief! Cap…er, Sand Dollar, she should have been here by now. Hand me those binoculars, Major!” Maj. Canton said nothing, but handed his superior the requested item.

“Maybe they were farther out than they said, Admiral. It’s a clear day, you can see right out of the harbor.” The SP said. The Admiral looked at the man.

“Her captain made a bet with me, Chief- that they could run submerged right up to the pier- foolhardy idea!” Demmit covered for his orders. It was hard to suppress the urge to call the captain ‘her’.

“That would be impossible, Admiral! The water here is only thirty feet deep!”

“Chief, I helped build the place! I think I would know the depth!”

“Sorry, sir.”

“What the…?”

“What is it, sir?” Both Maj. Canton and the SP asked.

“She just surfaced! About three hundred yards up Battleship Row! Alex, you sneaky bitch!”

“Don’t you mean ‘Son-of-a-bitch, Admiral?”

“Stop correcting me, Seaman!”

“But Admiral, I’m a Chief Pett…oh. Aye, sir, shutting up as ordered, Admiral!”

Maj. Canton just smiled.

Admiral Demmit watched as the submarine’s crew appeared on deck in uniform. He watched as all saluted in unison for a good two minutes while they passed by Arizona’s remains. A boson pipe’s faint whistle echoed across the water.

Cheers went up from the pier. Apparently the Admiral wasn’t the only one watching. He was, however, the only one able to see the crew’s long hair billowing in the breeze and the unusual fit of their shirts…and the skirts. A minute later the deck stood deserted and the sub altered course and slowly drew closer.

“Well done, Alex! Well done.” Demmit commented as he lowered the field glasses to wipe his eyes.

“Admiral, that was the best show of respect I ever saw! That Captain has class- real class!”

“He’s right Admiral, Captain Steinert’s got style!” Canton agreed.

“Chief that is one of the best sub commanders in the fleet! She…Sand Dollar holds the record for most kills on her first mission!” Demmit praised.

“I got ta meet that guy!”

“Chief, before they tie up, I want you and your men to clear out until her crew can unload their highly confidential cargo. Leave a couple trusted shore men here to grab the lines. The rest of you take a break. I’ll let you know when we’re done.”

“Aye, Admiral. You heard the man! Lowell and Stepik, stay here to tie her off. Everyone else to the galley- Admiral’s ordered a break!”

Another cheer went up on the pier. Within minutes only four men were left.

“You two!”

“Aye, Admiral.” Sounded in unison.

“You two will say nothing about what you see and hear, or face court-martial! Understand?”

“Aye-aye!”

“Good, now prepare to take those lines!”

“Since when did the Navy let the bubbleheads grow their hair that long?”

“Those aren’t sailors- they’re women you idiot!”

“What’s women doin’ on a submarine?”

“Maybe that’s why the Admiral wants it kept secret, moron!”

“Oh…ya…”

“Welcome back to Pearl, Captain! I trust you had an uneventful trip?”

“You could say that, sir!”

“Alex, I’m not even going to ask! Commander, Lieutenants, welcome back.” He saluted us.

“With your permission, Admiral?”

“Of course, Captain!”

“Okay, Jack.”

“All hands! Parade!” My Ex-O shouted. Ten rows of women lined up in parade formation.

The Admiral perused the ranks quickly inspecting the nine rows of junior officers that were my crew. We were lucky to have enough gold and silver bars. As expected, he officially started his inspection with the senior officers.

“Well, ‘Ricky’, I see that you do clean up nicely! Though I never pictured you as the skirt type!

“It’s the uniform, Admiral!” My Chief blushed.

“Still thinking about that commission, Lt. Samuels?”

“It feels nice, Admiral!”

Demmit just shook his head and continued on.

“Ensign Two-Eagles? Tired of the grunt work I see?”

“It’s the only uniform small enough, Admiral!”

“Very well.”

Demmit motioned for Maj. Canton to join him, motioning with his eyes to the woman next to Ensign Two-Eagles- the woman wearing the Marine Sergeant’s uniform. Canton nodded agreement to some unknown question.

“Sgt. Williams how is it that your uniform still fits?”

“I know a little about sewing, Admiral!” Sgt. Williams blushed.

“You look very fetching, but I want you back in uniform and rank, Lieutenant!”

“Thank you, Admiral…excuse me, sir?” Williams broke protocol by abruptly looking at her superiors. Her voice broke a higher octave.

“You heard me, Lieutenant!” The Admiral looked to the front of the unit. “Lt. Scott, come here please.”

Emily broke rank immediately and marched to the Admiral’s position.

“Lt. Scott, why is Lt. Williams out of uniform?”

“I don’t know, Admiral.” Again Maj. Canton smiled.

“Take her below and see that she changes into her proper uniform, Lt. Scott- and see that she applies regulation makeup while you’re at it!”

“Aye, sir!” Emily saluted and grabbed Williams’ hand. She hurriedly dragged her back to the boat. Only mild protesting was heard. Maj. Canton chuckled and shook his head.

Josie giggled. “Thank you, sir.” She said quietly. Both Admiral Demmit and Major Canton winked at her.

Something then caught the old man’s attention.

Demmit looked across the row to see Two-Eagles’ Asian doppelganger between two other Ensigns. He cut through the row and stood before her.

“I wasn’t informed that prisoners of war were granted commissions in the opposing side’s military, Miss…Ensign Moritsu?” He raised an eyebrow and kept his voice low.

“The Captain’s idea, Admiral Demmit!” Takashi said with a perfect British accent. She saluted the old man as she continued. “It was the only uniform that fit, sir!”

“Ensign, if the circumstances were any different…”

“Understood, Admiral! I shall endeavor to conduct myself properly, sir!”

“See that you do, Ensign.”

We stood at attention on that pier for fifteen full minutes before Emily returned with a much-improved Lt. Williams. Both quickly returned to their positions.

“See that you are not out of uniform again, Lieutenant Williams!”

“Sir, yes…” Ensign Two-Eagles hit her friend’s leg. “I mean…aye-aye, sir!” Williams corrected herself. Canton laughed again.

“Ladies! In a moment a transport will arrive to take you all into town. I have issued ten-day passes to everyone attached to the Sand Dollar. However, you must report to your lieutenants nightly. This is to ensure your safety as much as keep you out of trouble! I needn’t remind you what dangers await pretty women in a port town!” Demmit zeroed in on Chief Samuels.

“I suggest remaining in groups of five or more for protection. Major Canton has agreed to distribute your pay. Our first stop will be to drop off your gear at your quarters. I have taken the liberty of reserving one floor of rooms at the Ala Moana hotel in Honolulu for the duration. Check in with the front desk for room assignments and keys. You will be responsible for your own meals.” The Admiral stopped before he continued on with his prepared statement to look over the formation. He shrugged his shoulders in defeat and decided to change the wording.

“Officers, you have full club privileges. Remember to report in every night, I would hate to see any of you end up in the brig!” He eyed up ‘Ensign’ Moritsu, who instinctively swallowed hard.

Returning to the front of our formation, the old man leaned toward me.

“I hope you know what you’re doing Alex! Keep an eye on her! She knows too much about…certain things!”

“It is already taken care of. There will be no problems, Admiral!”

“See that there aren’t, Captain! I hear your transportation coming. You may dismiss your…crew, Captain Steinert!”

“Thank you, Admiral!”

“Jack, dismiss the men.”

“Men, Cap?”

I rolled my eyes. “Dismiss the girls, Commander!”

“Aye, Cap! Dismissed!” She shouted then abruptly held her hands to her ears. “Owww! They’re too loud!” She cried out.

Admiral Demmit looked back at the docile group; one, maybe three, had cheered. “Lt. Smith?” the old man shouted.

“Admiral?”

Demmit pointed to my Ex-O. “Explanation please?”

“Jacquelyn has realized her gift, Admiral.” She said with some excitement.

“I can hear peoples’ thoughts, Admiral.” Jack said without prompt.

“Ask her a question, Richard, but not out loud- just think it.” Mina quietly suggested.

“Why thank you, sir, but I didn’t have to read your mind to know that, Admiral.” Jack said as she blushed. “Yes, sir! I think dress uniforms while passing the Arizona is a marvelous tribute! It was Captain Steinert’s idea, sir! Yes, sir I’ll stop reading your mind now, sir!” Jack took a few steps to the side looking a little frightened. The old man just shook his head.

“Lt. Smith, may I request your presence at the Officer’s Club for dinner tonight, I’ll have my driver pick you up at, say 1900 hrs- 7 o’clock?”

“It would be my pleasure, Richard. Thank you!”

“You three! You keep out of trouble, do you hear me?” Demmit pointed to Takashi, Emily and I. “Emily, keep your sister away from reporters!”

“I will Uncle Richard!” She giggled.

“He’s your uncle?” the petite Ensign beside me spouted as she looked at the three of us.

“Don’t you have nepotism in your branch of the service, Ensign Moritsu?”

“It’s a small world, Admiral! We’re all related!” Mina interjected.

“Soon to get a lot smaller!” I added.

“That’s right, Uncle Rick, a lot smaller!”

“You should hear some of the things she’s seen, Admiral!” Jack finished off.

“Enough! Alex get your group, your money, and get on the bus, dear.”

Once at the hotel, room assignments proceeded quickly, except for mine.

“I’m sorry Capt. Steinert, the rooms are only outfitted with one full-size bed. I’m afraid there is no room for a third…person.” The desk clerk eyed Moritsu with distain.

“Look, when we left home I promised her pappy I’d keep an eye on her. Since this here war started, she’s been gittin’ the evil eye more ‘n’ more! Why, just last month the Senator…her Pappy…he wrote her sayin’ he wished she hadn’t joined the Navy so’s she’d be back in Hannibal taken care ‘o her ailin’ Ma. She ain’t been feelin’ so good since they come took her sister ta the De-ten-shun Camp in St. Louie. ‘Course the Senator…he says he’s doin’ best as he can ta git his sister ’n law out o’ there an’ back home. Woman weren’t even born oversea! Born an’ bred in Sac-re-mento. Mayb’ I should give the Admiral a holler to sort this all out?”

“Senator? No, Ma’am that won’t be necessary! I’ll have the maid put a trundle into the room. Will that be all right, Ensign?” The distressed clerk answered.

“Ain’t a’ custom ta sleepin’ on no floor, Allie! If they’s no ahther choice, well, I guess ill do! Hope Daddy don’t find out! He’d come right dahn here ta person’ly padlock the doors!” Takashi did the accent better than I ever could!

“Ah b’lieve she’s right, Allie! Her Pappy’s got one ragin’ temper! Specially when it come ta kin!” Emily got into the act.

“You know what? I believe we have a suite available, it normally has a standing reservation but according to my book it won’t be occupied for three more weeks. Will that be acceptable?”

“A suite? Why that’s what Daddy calls mah room in the man-shun, Allie! Didn’t know they had em here too! Does it have six rooms like mine?” Takashi batted her eyes at the nervous desk clerk.

“No, I’m sorry, it’s only a two bedroom suite with its own water closet and bath tub, Ma’am.”

Takashi pouted. “Could be a might cramped, Allie. What y’all think, Emmy?”

“If it’s the best they got, Tish…”

Ensign Moritsu paused a moment to think. “Sir, ya got yerself a deal!” ‘Tish’ reached out and shook the clerk’s hand.

“Here’s your key. The room is on the third floor, first door on the right. Enjoy your stay, ladies!” A relieved desk clerk chimed.

“Now this is living!” I said as I finished looking around the suite.

“I call first dibs on the bath tub!” Emily announced as the door to that room closed. I immediately heard water running.

I sat down in the overstuffed armchair by the window. Now this was luxury! Takashi took a seat on the coach against the longer wall.

“Allie?” I asked with curiosity as I looked at her.

“Alexandra is too proper!” She replied in her British accent. How did Lt. Scott get ‘Tish’ out of Takashi?”

“It’s what we call you…later on.”

“Oh? How much ‘later on’?”

“From now till…never mind we call you that starting now.”

A long, feminine moan resonated from behind the bathroom door. “Oh! It’s been so long!” which was followed momentarily by, “This water feels so good!”

Takashi looked confused. “What does she mean ‘its been so long’?”

“Women claim they are cleaner than men, Takashi. I don’t know about you, but I feel the draw of a warm bath myself.”

“I too feel the pull, Captain Steinert. I just thought she meant something else.”

“Yes, there is that too.” The thought was tempting.

After fifteen minutes the bathroom door opened and Emily walked out wearing a towel around her midsection and another wrapped around her head.

“That felt wonderful! I feel human again. How can men stand to feel dirty all the time, Alex?”

“I don’t know- we just put up with it I guess. Did you leave any hot water for us, Emmy?”

“Yes Alex! This is a hotel- they have a boiler remember? Yes, there are plenty of clean towels too!”

“Good because it’s my turn!” I stood and walked through the doorway and closed it behind me.

“You and Alex have a good conversation, Tish?”

“If you had a good bath.”

“Just what the doctor…just what I ordered, Tish.”

“Why ‘Tish’? Why not Tashi, Tasha, or Kashi?”

“Long story short, I went to grade school in Hartford with a girl named Morticia. She hated that name with every part of her being! Someone in our small group started to call her ‘Tish’. Her Mom hated that nickname and wanted us to stop, but that prompted us to call her that all the time. Tish sounded more fun than Morticia anyway. Besides, the other names still sound too Oriental.”

“I hate to break it to you, but I am ‘Oriental’, Dr. Scott!”

“Only partially, Tish. You seem to have an equal amount of Navajo now.”

“Shame you won’t let me learn the language.”

“Maybe later, Tish, maybe later. Look, how much trust would you put in either of us if the tables were turned. Would you let us see your code books?”

“Point taken, doctor. Tell me…why has the Captain put so much trust in me?”

“Because you prove yourself a good friend and ally, Tish. You earn our trust.”

“I earn your trust- in the future? What about now…in the present?”

“We earn your trust, Takashi-Chan…soon.” Emily turned and hurried over to her duffle bag- as she did her towel fell to the ground.

“That is a good start at earning one’s trust, Emily-Chan.”

“Oh, give it a rest, Tish! I don’t have anything that you don’t!”

“That is the shame of it, doctor!”

Emily was right, the warm water felt heavenly! I felt my entire body relax as I submerged myself. The fragrance of the perfumed bubble bath I added further relaxed me. Why had I never done this before?

“Alex, have you seen Tish lately? She and Emily went to check their makeup five minutes ago! I haven’t seen them since.” Carroll brought me out of my fog. My sudden change of venue told me I was doing it again. Taking another ‘time trip’.

“They haven’t come back yet Carroll; maybe I should go check on them.” A woman seated next to me at the bar said as she stood and walked toward the lavatories.

This was another one of those trips! I realized I hadn’t been sitting on any stool; instead I was standing in the stool. Immediately I realized I would have no interaction. I had to admit that I did look good in my whites although my butt did look a bit big. As before, I shook that thought from my mind.

I followed the other me into the lavatory and found it empty. This worried both of us.

“Where did they go?” I heard myself say.

‘Good question!’ I answered.

Future me ticked her head to the side a few times then ran right through me and out the door, but instead of heading back to the bar, we headed out the back door. In the dark alleyway, I heard Emily’s professional voice.

“Tish! Tish, just stay still and I’ll go get help. Hang in there, hon!”

“Emily, what happened?” the other me asked.

“I don’t know Alex! She finished first, said she would wait outside in the hall for me, and when I came out she was gone! I found her out here just a minute ago. She’s in bad shape, Alex! She needs a hospital!” Emily explained in her calm professional voice.

“Why didn’t I see this coming?” Future me asked.

I noticed me freeze.

“Alex? We need to get her to the hospital! Alex? Hey!”

Before I knew it the water had grown cold and Emily began banging on the door.

“Hey! You going to stay in there all day, sis? Tish needs a bath too!”

“Alright! I just lost track of the time! Give me a minute.”

I quickly washed my hair and did a final once over, got out, pulled the stopper and dried myself off. I wrapped my long wet hair in a towel like Emily had shown me and wrapped another around my waist.

“That felt good! Why didn’t you tell me it felt so good, sis?”

“For the same reason I didn’t tell you to wrap the towel across your chest instead of your waist. Submarines don’t have bath tubs!” She pointed to my bared chest and laughed.

“I see that you are also trying to earn my trust, Alex-sensei!”

I let my grip on the towel release. “You do know we have the same equipment, right Tish, so what does it matter?” I walked over to my duffle to retrieve some clean clothes.

“I can tell that you two are sisters.” Tish continued.

“Why, because Alex said almost the same thing I did when I dropped my towel, Tish?”

“No.”

“Because we both dropped our towels in your presence?” I asked.

“No, because you both have the same tattoo on the small of your back! What does it mean?”

“What tattoo?” Emily and I asked at the same time.

Before we had the chance to go any farther someone knocked at our door.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“Lt. Smith. May I enter?”

“Door’s open, Mina.” I responded.

“You didn’t lock the door, Alex?” Emily said aghast.

“No. Should I have?”

“I always lock the door, Alex! You never know what kind of deviate might be waiting to enter!”

“I assure you, doctor, I am no deviate!” Mina announced as she entered the large gathering room. “But, I seem to have come by at the wrong time judging from your apparent lack of proper accoutrements!”

“As we were just telling Tish, here, none of us has anything different than anyone else, Mina!” I indicated for her to have a seat. Instead, Mina turned her back to us.

“That’s not entirely true, Alexandra.” She said as she began undressing. “Ensign Moritsu, are you not the next occupant of the bathing facilities?” She turned just her head in Tish’s direction as she unhooked her foundations. There was also a serious glare directed at the petite Ensign.

“I guess that is my cue to try out this bath tub you both speak so highly of!”

“Be sure to add some of the lavender bubble bath, you’ll love it, Tish!” Emily added as she shut the door.

Mina waited until we heard the water start. She now was as naked as we were.

“Is this some island custom you haven’t told us about, Mina?” I asked as she turned back around to face us.

“Do pay attention! Take another look, Alexandra, Emily.” She turned her back to us once more. Do you see it?”

“Cute tattoos, Mina. What do they mea…you have two? Is one the same as what Tish saw on our backs?” I asked in surprise for the both of us.

“The very same! I would have thought you two had found it by now.”

“What do they mean, your highness?” Emily inquired.

“One is the sign of the royal bloodline- an ancient rune symbol handed down through the generations. What they mean exactly has been forgotten. They have not been recorded in any texts that I have researched so far. My…our mother thought they meant ‘long-sighted and traveler’, which would make sense. The exact symbols appear nowhere in any Asian language.”

The water suddenly shut off and Tish walked naked through the door.

“It means ‘gifted’ in Japanese, your highness.”

“Ensign, are you in the habit of eavesdropping on private conversations to which you are not a part?”

“No, Ma’am! I just remembered that’s what it means! How could I hear you with the water running?” Tish defended herself.

“Turn around Ensign! We shall see if your translation is correct.” She motioned for Tish to approach and turn.

From our vantage point we could see no mark of any kind.

“Doctor, would you be so kind as to fetch me a piece of stationary from the desk drawer, please?” Emily retrieved the requested paper and pencil. “Thank you.”

Mina wrote down something while looking at Ensign Moritsu’s back then wrote down something else.

“Alexandra, which is the symbol on you and your sister’s back?” she handed the paper to me and I checked Emily’s back. “This one.” I handed Emily the paper to check my back.

“That’s it, Mina. We both have the same design.” Emily concluded.

“Does it correspond to mine?”

“Yes, but what is this other symbol for Mina?” I asked.

“This is the rune on Ensign Moritsu’s back, sisters.” She handed the paper to Tish. “Care to translate this symbol, Tish.” She pointed to the first symbol she had drawn.

“It means ‘Trusted friend’, your highness.”

“It is close to the Japanese character, yes, but not exact in your case, Miss Moritsu. By the way, ‘Tish’, I know a little Japanese and it translates as trustworthy- nice try though! Each of us has two symbols that, I suspect, fully describe our gifts. Some rune symbols are small or obscured by birthmarks, and such. Others, like ours, when fully developed, are freely visible. See here on Tish’s back?” She turned the small Ensign around and pointed to the small of her back.

“You can barely see it now, but as her gift develops, one then the other most likely will become more visible.” Mina instructed.

“Any idea what it really means your highness?” Tish asked.

“It means that you should dispatch that ‘your highness’ moniker and call me by my given name, Mina, Moritsu Takashi! Start doing that and we can communicate more comfortably!”

“As you wish, your…Mina…Ma’am.”

Mina giggled. “In your case, Tish, the first would seem to indicate ‘Language’, given your extremely high aptitude for learning new tongues and accents! I must say, Alexandra, she does your version of hillbilly better than you!” I stuck my tongue out at her. “I should say we shall see yet another symbol appear on Jacquelyn’s back in the next few days- the other’s as they discover and develop them. It seems to be a way for us to validate each other as sisters- members in the same society- sorority, so to speak.”

I hated to be the devil’s advocate, but I needed to point out one very slight problem.

“Mina, these symbols, they look an awful lot like Japanese, maybe even confused for it. If someone sees them during this war, we might be accused of treason. I suggest we hide them as much as possible- at least till after the Cold War.”

Emily and Tish just looked at me as if my third eye suddenly blinked open- not that I had such a thing.

“That is a wise suggestion Alexandra! I see you have taken more ‘time trips’ as you call them.”

“So how long do we have to hide our markings, sis?” Emily sniped.

“Let’s see, the Berlin Wall falls in 1988, but Japanese, Korean, and Chinese symbols…letters become popular around the turn of the century. We should definitely hide then from now through the sixties- especially during the fifties.”

“That seems like a logical assumption, Alexandra, although there is that brief period between 2006 and 2011 that relations become a bit strained with North Korea.”

Mina noticed Emily’s confusion. “Doctor, the time frame, Alexandra suggests is from the present to just after the development and mastery of arthroscopy surgery.”

“Okay that makes better sense to me now.” Emily nodded.

“You three are amazing! Sitting here in the all together, calmly and nonchalantly talking about the future as if it were history! I think I better go take my bath before the water cools.”

“Isn’t that what I advised five minutes ago, Takashi?”

Tish quickly padded off and closed the bathroom door.

“You’re still not going to tell us everything about our newly adopted ‘society’, are you Mina?”

“We share the bloodline’s symbol, Alexandra, you tell me.” Mina replied as she redressed herself. “This has been a very…revealing chat, ladies, now I must ready myself for your uncle’s dinner invitation.”

“What about the other symbol, Mina? What does it mean?” I wanted more information, which I probably wouldn’t get.

“It is a sub designation of sorts, Alexandra, specialization. You will figure it out in time, sister.”

As usual, her reply raised more questions than it answered.

“Don’t forget to check in with us tonight, Mina. We want to hear all about your date with Uncle Richard!” Emily said quickly as Mina closed the suite’s door.

“Sis, maybe we should call for a car and hit the O.C. tonight.”

“You’re not ready for that yet, Alex.”

“I’ve been there before; I know what to expect, Emily!”

“If you think you can handle all the pawing and drooling!”

I glared at her.

“It’s your funeral! First, we need to get you and Tish ready. We’ll need our heels for dinner, sis, just so you know. You’ve never worn them before so get them and start walking around in them.”

“Aye-aye, Skipper!” I saluted in jest.

Someone else knocked on our door.

“Now who is it?”

“Cmdr. Cummins, Cap. Can I come in? Oh, okay I’ll wait ‘till you two get decent, doc.” Her muffled voice said through the door.

Emily and I hurriedly got dressed.

“It’s open, Jack.”

My fair-haired Ex-O looked beautiful in her dress whites.

“Cap, Doc, I took the liberty of calling for a transport to take us to the Officer’s Club. Everyone seems to be in agreement tonight, Alex.”

I answered her through my mind. ‘Good job Jack, although, you should ask the traditional way first. You might creep people out!’

“Thank you, Cap. Believe me, it still creeps me out! Anyway, the bus should be here around 1900. Get this! Josie even talked Scotti into going! Kayla…Ensign Langford even offered to help with her face! Okay, I’ll let you guys get ready. Oh, tell Tish not to worry, she’ll love it! See you in four!”

“I’m worried about her, Emily.” I stated.

“Who, Jack?”

I nodded, “out of everyone, she has changed the most. Remember when Jack was the strict taskmaster type? Jacquelyn turns out to be the exact opposite. I wonder if she even noticed the change?”

‘Yes, I noticed the change, Alex.’

“What the hell was that?” I shouted, startled by the disembodied, female voice of my Ex-O.

“What was what, Alex? I didn’t hear a thing.”

“I think Jack’s tattoo just got a little darker! Hey, if I brush your hair out would you brush mine and…could you help me with my evening look?”

“Sure, sis.”

2130 hours, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 21st, 1944

For dinner Carroll, Emily, Jack, Tish, Ricky Samuels, and I decided to visit a small bar about two blocks from the Ala Moana, our hotel. The place was dimly lit and barely large enough to hold the ten tables, bar, and billiard table. We had been told of this place by one of Alex’s old shipmates. The place, though small, was said to have a wonderful chef and menu.

“So, what do you think of them vittles, y’all?” Emily, again poking fun at my drawl, asked everyone at the table.

“Emily, do you have to keep doing that? Can’t you let it rest for the duration of our leave?”

“What fun would that be, Alex?” Emily giggled.

“Ya, Alex, take it easy. Don’t be such a stick!” Carroll added her two cents.

“Y’all, stop makin’ fun a Ally, y’hear! Cain’t help she’s been brought up in the Ozarks! They’s lucky they learnt how ta read let ‘lone speak proper!” Tish could barely finish without laughing.

“Et tu Brute?”

“What’d she say, Emily?”

“It’s Latin, Tish. From ancient Rome, members of the Roman Senate, in an effort to keep ultimate power from Caesar, each stabbed him to death- including his friend and confidant, Brutus. It translates as ‘you to, Brutus?’”

“Sounds like an elegant language. I’d love to learn it. Does anyone speak it today?”

“Mostly doctors, pharmacists, and priests. Some people call it the language of love, Tish.”

“Funny, that’s what Ensign Rodriguez said about Spanish!”

“I’m sure she did, Tish. A lot of western languages had their start in Latin.”

“I think I need to check my makeup. Whose turn is it to accompany me?”

“I’ll go with you, Tish. I need to use the toilet too.” Emily conceded. “We’ll be back in a few.”

As Emily and Tish got up and made their way to the back of the bar, I got a shiver down my spine. Something about this setting seemed familiar- very familiar!

“Jack, can you still hear Tish and Emily?”

“Yes, why do you ask, Alex?” Her expression grew serious as she looked at me. “Something is going to happen…to Tish! Alex, we have to stop it! Tell me how, Cap.”

For some strange reason I started getting pictures in answer to Jack’s request.

“Jack, I want you and the Chief to go to the lavatory, but instead, sneak out the back door and find a hiding place. Two men are going to come out in a few minutes. They will be dragging Tish with them. You have to find a way to stop them from hurting her! As little damage as possible, chief!”

“Count on us, Cap. Come on Ricky Lynn, I need to powder my nose.” Jack guaranteed, as Chief Samuels looked disappointed.

Roughly two minutes later, two men got up from their stools at the middle of the bar and walked toward the back of the establishment. Carroll and I got up and seated our selves at the abandoned stools for a better vantage point. One of them had gone into the men’s room while the other stood watch. I didn’t like the looks of this at all.

“No matter what happens Carroll, act like you don’t know a thing. Let’s try to carry on a normal conversation.”

“Aye, Skip.” She nodded slightly.

“So, did you have a chance to check out that lingerie shop on Kona yet, Alex?”

“Not yet, Carroll. Emily and I have been busy sightseeing. Did you see anything I might like?”

“They have things from all over the world! I saw this darling lace trimmed garter belt. They have it in a dusty rose, Alex. I think you would like it.”

I gestured with my eyes to the back of the room as one of the men reached for Tish, spun her around, and held his hand over her mouth. The other man exited the lavatory and helped his partner carry her out the back door.

“Alex, have you seem Tish lately? She and Emily went to check their makeup five minutes ago! I haven’t seen them since.”

My spine started to tingle like no tomorrow! I felt like someone was standing next to me, but the stool had just been deserted. Could I really feel my own temporal presence?

“They haven’t come back yet Carroll; maybe I should go check on them.” I got up and walked towards the back, the whole time feeling as if someone was behind me.

Opening the door to the toilet, I noticed that it was empty.

“Where did they go?” Somehow I had missed seeing Emily go out the back door. This was not turning out the way I wanted!

“Good question!” I heard behind me. As I turned my head to look, something caught my eye in the mirror. Had I seen the other me reflected there? The chances were good!

Turning around and heading out the door I felt a chill pass through me. I just ran through myself, I remembered!

I hurried out the back door just in time to see two men fly across the alley and hit the brick wall of the opposing building…then fall twenty feet to the alley’s floor! Turning, I saw Emily holding Tish off to my right. Even with the dim moonlight I could see their astonishment! Chief Samuels and Jack stood to my left. My Chief also looked astonished, but Jack’s expression was one of extreme anger.

“No one tries anything funny with any of my friends!” She hissed.

Again the men flew into the building’s wall, again falling twenty or so feet to the street.

“Do I make myself clear gentlemen, or do you want more?”

“At ease, Commander!” I shouted. “I think they got the message!”

“I’m not sure they have, Captain!” she replied with even more anger.

The two flew down the alleyway some forty feet knocking over several trashcans as they landed. Slowly they picked themselves up and staggered away, never bothering to look back.

“Don’t come back until you know how to treat a lady!” Jack shouted as she pointed several times to the retreating attackers.

Chief Samuels said it best. “Boy I’d hate ta get on yer bad side, Commander!”

I had to ask the obvious.

“How on earth did you do that, Jack? It was amazing!”

“They just got me so damned steamed, Alex! I guess I let my temper get the best of me! I just wanted to throw them against the wall and…and they did just that! I don’t know how I did it!”

Emily and Tish came over to us. “How long have you known, Alex?”

“Two days, sis.”

“Yet you did nothing to warn me?” Tish sobbed.

“If the Skipper here hadn’t told the Commander and I to come out here and wait, you would have been worse off.” Chief Samuels advised her.

“Tish, I’m sorry! Sometimes I don’t see the date or time. Things didn’t start looking familiar until you two got up to go to the lavatory. By that time it was too late to warn you. Are you okay? Did they hurt you, Takashi-Chan?”

“Just my pride, thank you! Thank you all for rescuing me, sisters!”

“We protect our own, Tish! Plain and simple!” Jack acknowledged.

“Ladies, I think we’ve had enough fun for one night! I’ll settle up with the barkeep and let’s go back to the hotel.”

“Ladies, could you come up to our room for a minute, I need you to see something?” I asked as we made our way up the steps from the lobby.

“Sure thing, Alex.” Jack answered for all.

After we got inside, I had Emily and Tish stop.

“Jack, Carroll, Chief, I’d like you to look at something. Emily, could you please lift the back of your blouse and show them your symbol?”

Emily did as asked and I did likewise.

“As you can see, we both have the same symbol tattooed to the small of our back.”

“Why would you do that, Alex? It’s already evident that you two are sisters! Why get tattooed?”

“We didn’t, Jack. Tish has a different symbol on her back. I’d be willing to bet that you all have a different symbol on your back. Care to show us?”

Cautiously each turned around and lifted the back of their blouse.

There it was- as visible as our symbols! I retrieved the paper and pencil from the desk drawer and drew out the characters.

“This is your symbol, Jack. According to Mina it indicates your gift and recognizes you as one of us.”

I showed Carroll and the Chief theirs. Each of you must be mindful to cover them when in public or anywhere other than around our crew for the foreseeable future. Outsiders must never find out about them. Do you understand?”

“After finding out what I can do tonight, I don’t think anyone should know- except us.”

A quiet knock sounded at the door.

“It’s open, Mina.” I didn’t need premonition to see this coming- I just knew.

Lt. Smith entered and headed straight for my Ex-O.

“Welcome Jacquelyn, our newest mind warrior!” She embraced Jack and kissed her on the forehead.

“Excuse me, Ma’am?” Jack squeaked.

“You fought off two fully grown men with just your mind, did you not?”

“I…guess…I guess I did!” She stopped and thought about it. “Did I really do that though, Mina, or did I have help?” Jack glanced back at me.

“The circus cannon stunt was all your doing, Jack! I had nothing to do with it- honest!”

“There were two of you there, Alex! I heard both of you! I distinctly sensed two of you!” Jack exclaimed.

“Alexandra, please turn around, dear.”

“Why, what happened?” Now I was worried.

“So it has manifested! Doctor, have you seen your sisters back lately?”

“Mina, Alex just showed us her tattoos.” Carroll interrupted.

“Tattoos? Last time I looked she only had one!” Emily hurried over to look.

“That definitely wasn’t there this afternoon, Mina. What does it mean?”

“Hey! Care to tell me what’s goin’ on back there?”

“You have another symbol, Alex, right above the first one, just like Mina!” Emily replied with excitement.

“Is it the same symbol?”

“No, this one is completely different, sis. Any idea as to what it means, Mina?”

“I have only heard tell of this symbol, doctor! It comes from the earliest stories of Kili- from its first occupants.”

“Oh, from the Asian migration. About seven or eight hundred years ago?”

“Several thousand years before that I should think, doctor.”

“So now it’s up to me to figure out what it means, right Mina? You’re going to tell me that in your cryptic gypsy voice, right?”

“No, supreme highness.” It came out in a very quiet voice- barely above a whisper. I noticed tears forming in her eyes as she gazed at me.

“No. No! No, you didn’t just say that, Mina? No, you are the reigning monarch! I have no desire to take your place in any time or place! No, Mina! No!”

“Not time or place, Alexandra. Time and space!”

“Okay, time and space. I went ahead in time and saw man land on the moon, hence, space! You knew that already!”

“You don’t understand, Alexandra! Time and space! That is what the runes on your back indicate- time and space! Nina was right about you all along! To think that I should be the lucky one!” She turned me around and hugged for all she was worth, while burying her head into my neck and shoulder.

“Look, Mina, I have no idea who you think I am, but I’m just an average girl from Missourra! I’m nobody special! Come on, stop the cryin’ before I start.” I looked around at my officers for answers. Everyone looked as confused as I felt.

“Please, Mina, tell me the stories about this symbol- tell me what this means!” I reached around to touch the symbols location.

Tish walked behind me. “Alexandra-sensei! There is a third mark above the second- barely starting to show!” She said as I felt her touch slightly higher on my back.

Mina started to laugh and cry at the same time as her arms squeezed tighter. I said the only thing I could, given the circumstances.

“Oh, God!” I gulped. “Mina…what, um…what does a third rune mean? Dare I ask?” This simply was not happening! I had only existed in this body, as a woman, for barely three weeks, now Mina, Queen Mauikimau- the queen of an entire island community was calling me ‘Supreme Highness’! Conductor, stop this train I want off!

The warm sun felt good on my face. A gentle breeze blowing through my hair smelled of tropical flowers and exotic herbs.

“Oh, great! I’m on another time trip!” I said aloud. “When and where am I now?”

Tropical vegetation surrounded me. Looking down I saw sandy soil beneath my regulation black leather heels. I was still in my dress whites. Around me, I heard hundreds of birds’ singing- I also heard voices from directly ahead of me- women’s voices.

Intrigued, I cautiously made my way along a narrow trail I happened to be on until I came to the outskirts of a village. All of the twenty or so buildings were made from native materials and were very ornate.

As I watched from the safety of the brush, several women moved between several of the buildings with baskets and other items that I couldn’t quite make out. I thought I recognized most of the faces.

“Where am I?” I once again asked myself. I knew I was back in the hotel room among friends, so anything I said would not be questioned.

Someone tapped me on my shoulder. “I believe this is our village on Kili, Alexandra.”

“Oh God!” I screamed as my heart skipped several beats and I jumped a mile.

“Why so jumpy, Supreme Highness?”

“Get down, they might hear us!” I turned to Mina and put my finger to my mouth. I squat back down behind the bushes motioning for her to follow.

“You can see and touch me? Mina, how is this possible?” I asked trying to understand.

“You tell me, Supreme Highness, you brought me here!”

“Last time, okay Mina? I’m…not…your…Supreme…Highness!” I was getting angry now.

“Then how do you explain our both being here? Only someone with more power than I possess could bring a companion along on a journey.”

“Mina, I don’t know why I’m here let alone why you’re here, or how! You say this is your village on Kili? When? Is this after the war? Do we come back here after it’s all over?”

“Let’s find out, Alexandra. I can guarantee that we will not be turned away.”

“Why so confident, your highness?”

“Oh Alexandra, haven’t you figured it out yet? We all possess gifts here! We are unafraid of the paranormal. Come, let’s have a look.”

Mina took my hand and we walked into the village side by side. She was right- no one seemed to pay us any mind- except a small girl of maybe four or five playing nearby.

“Mummy, how did you get over there so fast? Did Aunty Laria take you for a ride again? Who’s your friend, mummy? I like her! She’s pretty!” The little girl rambled with excitement.

“Nina! My lord, look at you!” Mina cried as she lowered herself to the child.

Her arms swept right through the little girl’s body as she tried to hug her.

“Oh, so you’re not my mummy, mummy. That’s okay, I understand! You’re my mummy, only from a different time, right?”

“Yes, child. Alexandra and I are from another time and place.”

“Alex…ann…dra…that’s a pretty name too! Nice to meet you, Alexandra!”

“Nice to meet you too, Nina! Can you tell me where your mummy in this time is? We need to talk to her, sweetie.”

“Sure! Here I’ll take you to her.” Her little hand passed right through mine.

“Well, that won’t work. “ she frowned. “Follow me please.”

Little Nina led us to the largest of the dwellings.

“Wait here and I’ll get her, mummy.” She giggled.

“Alexandra, I know when we are!” Mina suddenly spoke up. “This is THE day…March 11th, 1932!” She wiped her eyes with her thumb, “the day that Nina told me about you! I didn’t understand at the time. She was only a child. I thought she was just playing like normal children do. I can see now that I was wrong.”

“She told you…about…me?”

“Mummy, come here! Mummy is here with a friend, mummy! Look, they’re right over there!” little Nina’s finger pointed directly at us. Mina looked around.

“Where are they, dear?”

“Right here, mummy! Mummy and Alexandra are right here!” Her head turned back to us. “Tell her mummy, Alexandra. Tell her what you want, don’t be shy!”

“Nina, dear, I see no one out of the ordinary in the village. I’m sorry.”

“Why can’t you see them mummy? They are right in front of you! They are wearing white tops, white skirts, and black shoes. Mommy has two gold bars and a gold star, on a blue cloth on each shoulder and Alexandra has three gold bars and a gold star, on a blue cloth on hers! Say something to mummy, mummy!”

“Queen Mauikimau, my name is Alexandra Steinert. You don’t know me yet, but you will. I’m not quite sure how or why we are here…” Queen Mauikimau didn’t flinch in the least; instead, she continued to search the area, at times looking right through us. “She can’t see us, Mina.”

“Mummy, Alexandra was just talking to you! Didn’t you here her?”

“Sorry, little one, but I heard nothing but the birds. Go back to your play, dear, mummy is preparing dinner. We’ll play after, when mummy has more time, okay?”

“Nina?” My Mina suddenly asked. “Nina, could you give your mummy a message for us, dear?”

“Of course!”

“Tell your mummy to ask specifically for S-S-3-5-3 when she complains of nightmares. Can you remember that my little one?”

“S-S-3-5-3, okay, I’ll tell her, mummy!”

“Also tell her you have met Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space. Can you do that my child?”

“Sure, the empess of time and spath. I can do that, mommy.”

All of a sudden I started to feel light-headed.

“Mina, I think it’s time to go. I feel faint. Nina, sweetie, it’s been nice to meet you, but I think your mommy and I have to go. Remember to tell your mommy what we said, Nina, I will see you in a few years. Behave and listen to your mommy, sweetie!”

I squeezed Mina’s hand just to be on the safe side.

“Good bye, Nina!”

“Until then, my sweet Nina!”

“Bye mummy!” The little girl waved as the light faded.

“What did she mean, Doc? I heard her say something about Supreme Highness then they both collapsed!”

“Just help me get them comfortable, Carroll. I think Alex took another one of her time trips and I think Mina went along for the ride this time!”

“Look, they’re both starting to cry!”

“I see that Tish!”

“Not to change the subject, but does anyone else smell flowers?”

“Now that you mention it, they remind me of Kili, Chief. Where is it coming from?”

“You’re not going to believe this, Emily, but it’s coming from Alex and Mina!”

“No!”

“Really! Take a whiff!”

“You’re right, it is coming from them!”

As the lights came back on, I saw Emily leaning over me. Oddly enough she was sniffing the air about me.

“I took a bath this morning Lieutenant! What’s the problem?”

“Alex!” Emily began to strangle me.

I was able to move my head high enough to look at my body. I still held Mina’s hand in mine.

“Mina? Are you alright, your highness?” I asked as her eyes started to flutter slightly. I wiped my eyes dry with the palm of my free hand.

“Thank you, Alexandra!” Mina replied quietly. “Thank you for allowing me to complete the circle, Empress.”

“You knock that crap off right now! You hear me Lieutenant? I am not this…this…Empress…supreme highness…whatever, that you keep talking about…no way!”

“Alex? Where did you go this time?” Emily asked as I stared at Mina in frustration.

“Kili Island, March 11th, 1932. We were both there, Mina and I. We talked to a four year old Nina. No one else could see or hear us though.”

“You two went back in time? I thought we could only see into the future, Mina? How could you go back? Why did we smell flowers here in the hotel room? Alex, what’s going on?”

“Alexandra took me back at my request, doctor! We…you, my daughters, and I, cannot achieve such an accomplishment! We must ask temporal transit from the Empress- she alone can grant that passage- so the ancient stories tell us. Alexandra, by granting my request you set in motion the very plan that saved us all. I am forever in your debt, Empress!” She gently squeezed my hand, which she still held.

“Le’me up, sis!” Emily released me and I stood up, helping Mina to her feet in the process. “Na’ hear this! I…am…not…nor…ever…will…be…any…Empress…or…any…dignitary, that clear, Queen Mauikimau? I’m just yer normal ever’ day farm gal from the ‘show me state’! I got no royal blood ah any kind in my body er fam’ly line! I’m just the commander of a U-nited States Navy Submarine! That is, for right now! After this war…I don’t cater ta know what’ll become a me…or us! Do I make m’self clear, Lt. Smith?” I still hated how this voice of mine sounded when I got angry.

“Calm down, Alex! I’m sure she can explain her reasons for your new title! Can’t you Mina?”

“That’s jus it, Em! I don wannit! Never asked fer it, an never wanted it, ever! Cain’t en’one hear what she’s sinuatin’? ‘Cause is sounds as tho she’s puttin’ me right up there with ol’ J.C.! Ah jus cain’t ‘llow that no how, no way!”

“Alex just calm down! Please? I’ve never heard you this upset before! Please settle down before something else happens! Tish take her over to the couch and have her sit down!” Emily said as she tried to control the situation and cool my temper.

“I don wanna settle down! I need ta be ‘lone so ah kin think! Ah needta git outta here…”

“Where’d she go! Alex? Alex, where did you go?”

“Mina? If you know anything about this, you better spill it immediately!”

“I assure you doctor, I have nothing to do with this! I’m as much in the dark as any of you!”

“Jack, can you still hear her? Is she somewhere close by?”

“Emily, I can’t hear her! Her mind just went quiet- like she doesn’t exist anymore! Oh God, I think she’s gone!”

“She is still alive, Jacquelyn, of that I am sure.”

“You’re so certain! Why, Mina?”

“The ancient stories tell of the legend of the ‘Empress of Time and Space’, Doctor, a being that is not tied to any one reality. The ‘Empress’ chooses her reality, moving forward or back through time- able to change locations at will. Our stories tell of her being a humble being full of compassion for every race and world. She does not rein like your typical Monarch- instead she helps steer the destiny of those around her- especially those she loves dearest. Sisters, what we have just witnessed, as miraculous as it sounds, was prophesized over five thousand years ago! The Empress has returned.”

“That’s crazy, Mina! Alex couldn’t be this ‘Empress’! She’s the best boat captain I ever served under! All the girls love her and would do anything for her! The captain would never let any of us get hurt…or die…if she…could…”

“Go on, Miss Sheldon. Tell us more about your Captain’s compassion, how she used her new gift to save us many times over. Now can you all see the validation to what I tell you?”

“So let’s say the Skipper is this “Empress” lady. What just happened to her? No one can just disappear like that, can they?”

“Ricky Lynn, tell us how you fixed a worthless pile of cast iron and made it run again.”

“I just knew ta pull the piston with the bent rod outta the block an…”

“How did you know to do that? Had you ever tried it before? How did you get that piston out of the block without first removing the crankshaft- I would think there shouldn’t be enough room to do that?”

“It was loose in the cylinder! I was able to cock it enough to…wait…it shouldn’t have been that loose! It never could have worked if it were small enough to tilt in that cylinder…huh! How did it get so loose, Yer Highness?”

“You tell me Chief, you’re the mechanic!”

“Had to be a defect in the build! Someone at the engine plant threw in the wrong sized piston. That would account for it failin’ in the first place.”

“There is an alternate explanation, Ricky Lynn.”

“So, what yer sayin’, I made the thing smaller so’s it’d come out?”

“Precisely, Chief!”

“Get outta here!”

“Miss Samuels, please give us a list of items in your luggage. Try not to leave anything out.”

“Just the standard stuff: two pair of deck shoes; two pair of regulation heels; a week’s worth of civvies; five brassieres, four pair of socks; three sets of work blues; an overcoat, two complete dress whites; a toothbrush; my toiletries; um, my pillow; oh, and some tools just in case I need them for somethin’.”

“You fit all that in your bag, Chief? How’d you do that? I couldn’t fit half that in mine and we got the same regulation duffle as everybody!”

“Ya got to know how ta pack, Lt. Sheldon.”

“No one can pack that much in a regulation duffle, Chief, I’ve tried. Trust me, if I could take my surgical tools with me wherever I go, I wouldn’t need an extra bag for them!”

“So I was able to fit them in- so what!”

“An estimate on how much those tools weigh, Chief?”

Well…about fifty I’d say, why?”

“And how much would you say that chair weighs?”

“Thirty, maybe forty.”

“Try to lift it, please, Ricky Lynn.” Chief Samuels looked at Mina, but approached the upholstered chair and tried to lift it.

“Ow! Too heavy, must weigh more than I thought, Ma’am.”

“No Chief, you were right. It weighs about thirty-eight pounds. So how can you lift a duffle containing fifty pounds of tools…and a week’s worth of clothes if you can’t lift a forty pound chair?”

“She got ya there, Ricky Lynn!”

“Shut up Carroll!”

“We get it, Mina. Alex can travel through…anything. Where did she go? When will she come back? What will we do in the mean time?”

“We carry on as we would otherwise, Jacquelyn. Our Empress will return when she decides that it is best.”

“Why did the lights just blink?”

“Power plant probably changing over to a different generator, Miss Cummins.”

“Well if Uncle Rick doesn’t get a report from her tomorrow night, he will get very upset, Mina!”

“What if the captain does not return by tomorrow night, Lieutenant?”

“Then I guess we cover for her! Say she’s had one too many or something. We’re all on leave don’t forget.”

“There’s only one problem with that Chief, I have never known Alex to get drunk- even before his tribunal!”

“Then what was with all her talk of a still in every backyard and drinking moonshine from baby bottles, doctor?”

“Exaggeration, Tish. My sister still exaggerates like a man would.”

“Well she certainly has a woman’s temper! Trust me I know a woman’s temper, Doc!”

“If that statement had come from anybody else, Chief, I wouldn’t have believed it! Still the matter of covering for Alex is foremost!”

“The doctor’s right! We need to get Randi, Ricki, and…heck; we need to get everybody briefed on the Captain’s disappearance. Everyone needs to cover for her, even if it’s to say they just saw her minutes before!”

“Let’s get everyone together in the morning. If Alex reappears before then, we let the whole thing drop. If not, we gather the rest of the crew in the ballroom after breakfast- agreed? Okay then! See you all in the morning, ladies.”

1400 hours, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 23rd, 1944

“Mina, I’m starting to worry about Alex! She’s been gone for three days now and I don’t think Uncle Rick is going to accept Jack’s reports much longer. He has to suspect by now that we’re hiding something.”

“Emily, we cannot hurry Alexandra’s return! She must decide that on her own. She has much to learn about herself and no one to help her through it. Quoting your baseball, she threw out the playbook! She will return soon, dear.”

“Well I hope it is soon, Mina! If the captain is gone much longer I can see myself becoming a permanent resident of Pearl Harbor’s brig!”

“Tish, we would never let them take you away! Like it or not, when Alex had us put that uniform on you, you instantly became one of the crew. If that weren’t true, the crew would have abandoned you by now.”

“I miss her, doctor. Do you think that, wherever she is, she is healthy?”

“Tish, one thing to know about Alex; she always finds a way to survive. She calls it her pioneer’s spirit. I just call it tenacity. I’m sure she’s doing fine- where or whenever.”

“She is fine, Takashi! According to the stories, there is not much that can cause her harm, though I fear I have done the lion’s share. Once I learned who she was, or because of whom I thought she should be, I failed to consider her psychological stability. I let my excitement blind me of my training. She will return, Moritsu Takashi, of that I am certain!”

Location: unknown, Time: unknown, Date: unknown

Where am I? When am I? Is this even a place at all? A dozen other questions begged for answers, and I had little to go on. First and foremost: how did I get here? How did I do this if I did this at all? Did I do this…or, did Mina have something to do with this?

Mina! The anger I feel at this moment! How could she do this to me? I trusted her to teach me…to teach us to use our gifts! Yet she continually withheld important details- details that could be useful right now. Imagine…me an Empress…huh! The audacity- the sheer inconceivability of the thought!

Inconceivability, huh? Just how do I explain my surroundings then? How do I explain this black void surrounding me, lit only by a single unmoving sun- the peaceful, yet strange feeling that there is no sense of time here- the unimaginable fact that I am here at all? How do I leave this…this place?

I might as well start to figure this out. I’ll start with just before I arrived here. What was I doing- thinking?

Mina and I had just returned from our time trip to Kili Island’s past -check.

She thanked me for taking her there- check. But, how did I do that?

She referred to me first as ‘Supreme Highness’ then as ‘The Empress of Time and Space’- that raised some fur- check!

She claimed that I, alone, had the power to travel anywhere in space or time! Oh, how arrogant to assign that much power to one person- check!

She more or less insinuated that I was some kind of god! Oh, if I could see her again, I would tell her exactly how I feel about that!

Instantly I’m standing next to Mina as I was before I went to wherever I was. That was easy. I just thought about seeing her again. Could it be that simple though?

Emily looked upset.

“Mina? If you know anything about this, you better spill it immediately!”

“I assure you doctor, I have nothing to do with this! I’m as much in the dark as any of you!”

“Jack, can you still hear her? Is she somewhere close by?”

“I’m right here beside Mina, Jack!”

“Emily, I can’t hear her! Her mind just went quiet- like she doesn’t exist anymore! Oh God, I think she’s gone!”

“I’m here, Jack! I’m still alive…at least I think I am?”

“She is still alive, Jacquelyn, of that I am sure.”

“How can you be sure, Mina? I’m not even sure!”

“You’re so certain! Why, Mina?” Emily asks.

“The ancient stories tell the legend of the ‘Empress of Time and Space’, Doctor, a being that is not tied to any one place or reality. The ‘Empress’ chooses her reality, moving forward or back through time- able to change locations at will. The stories describe her as humble- being full of compassion for every race and world. She does not reign like your typical Monarch- instead she gently steers the destiny of those around her- especially those she loves dearest. Sisters, what we have just witnessed, as miraculous as it sounds, was prophesized over five thousand years ago! The Empress has returned.”

“Now she claims I’m not even human? Will she ever stop this fantasy?”

“That’s crazy, Mina! Alex couldn’t be this ‘Empress’! She’s the best damn boat Skipper I ever served under! All the girls love her and would do anything for her! The Skipper would never let any of us get hurt…or die…if she…could…”

“You tell her, Carroll! Tell her she’s nuts! Wait…what?”

“Go on, Miss Sheldon. Tell us more about the Captain’s compassion, how she used her new gift to save us many times over. You have just reiterated what the legend describes. Now can you all see the validation for what I tell you?”

“No, that’s not it at all! I used my skills as a captain too! What validation? So I’m a good strategist, so what!”

“So let’s say the Skipper is this “Empress” lady. What just happened to her? No one can just disappear like that- no trace er nothin’, can they?”

“Not you too, Chief! She has them all fooled!”

“Ricky Lynn, tell us how you fixed a worthless pile of cast iron and made it run again.”

“I just knew ta pull the piston with the bent rod outta the block an…”

“How did you know to do that? Had you ever tried it before? How did you get that piston out of the block without first removing the crankshaft- I would think there shouldn’t be room to do that?”

“It was loose in the cylinder! I was able to cock it enough to…wait…it shouldn’t have been that loose! It never could have worked if it were small enough to tilt in that cylinder…huh! How did it get so loose, yer Highness?”

“You tell me Chief, you’re the mechanic!”

“Ya, Chief, how did you do it? I’ve rebuilt a motor or two! There isn’t much room in there!”

“Had to be a defect in the build! Someone at the engine plant threw in the wrong size piston. That would account for it failin’ in the first place.”

“There is an alternate explanation, Ricky Lynn.”

“So, what yer sayin’, I made the thing smaller so’s it’d come out?”

“Precisely, Chief!”

“Oh for the love a…! That’s impossible! No one can change the physical properties of metal in that way!

“Get outta here!”

“Miss Samuels, please give us a list of items in you’re luggage. Try not to leave anything out.”

“Just the standard stuff: two pair of deck shoes; two pair of regulation heels; a week’s worth of civvies; five brassieres, four pair of socks; three sets of work blues; an overcoat, two complete dress whites; a toothbrush; my toiletries; um, my pillow; oh, and some tools just in case I need them for somethin’.”

“How the heck she do that! The thing must weigh over a hundred pounds!”

“You fit all that in your bag, Chief? How’d you do that? I couldn’t fit half that in mine and we got the same regulation duffle as everybody!”

“Ya got to know how ta pack, Lt. Sheldon.”

“Cut the bull, Chief!”

“No one can pack that much into a regulation duffle, Chief, I’ve tried. Trust me, if I could take my surgical tools with me wherever I go, I wouldn’t need an extra bag for them!”

“So I was able to fit them in- so what!”

“An estimate on how much those tools weigh, Chief?”

Well…about fifty I’d say, why?”

“And how much would you say that chair weighs?”

“Forty, maybe sixty.”

“Try to lift it, please, Ricky Lynn.”

“Ow! I can barely lift it- must weigh more than I thought, Mina.”

“No Chief, you were right. It weighs about forty-eight pounds. So how can you lift a duffle containing fifty pounds of tools…and a week’s worth of clothes if you can’t lift a fifty pound chair?”

“She got ya there, Ricky Lynn!” Carroll and I said at the same time.

“Shut up Carroll!”

“We get it, Mina. Alex can travel through…she can travel anywhere. So, where did she go? When will she come back? What will we do in the mean time?”

“How do I get back would be a good starting point!”

“We carry on as we would otherwise, Jacquelyn. You are second in command, dear. Our Empress will return when she decides it is best.”

“DON’T CALL ME ‘EMPRESS’!”

“Why did the lights just blink?”

“Did I just do that?”

“Power plant probably changing over to a different generator, Miss Cummins.”

“Ya that was probably what happened!”

“Well if Uncle Rick doesn’t get a report from her tomorrow night, he will get very upset, Mina!”

“Oh no, I forgot about the nightly report! How am I going to do that?”

“What if the captain does not return by tomorrow night, Lieutenant?”

“Then I guess we cover for her! Say she’s had one too many or something. We’re all on leave don’t forget.”

“Ya, like I would ever get drunk! I didn’t even do that before my tribunal!”

“There’s only one problem with that Chief, I have never known Alex to get drunk- even before his tribunal!”

“Emily really does know me after all! Defend my character, sis!”

“Then what was with all her talk of a still in every backyard and drinking moonshine from baby bottles, doctor?”

“Exaggeration, Tish. My sister still exaggerates like a man would.”

“It was no exaggeration, Tish! The family next door was too poor to buy milk for the baby so they fed him shine, and coffee when they could.”

“Well she certainly has a woman’s temper! Trust me I know a woman’s temper, Doc!”

“I most certainly do not!”

“If that statement had came from anybody else, Chief, I wouldn’t have believed it! Still the matter of covering for Alex is foremost!”

“The doctor’s right! We need to get Randi, Ricki…heck; we need to get everybody briefed on the Captain’s disappearance. Everyone needs to cover for her, even if it’s to say they just saw her minutes before!”

“Y’all would do that for me?”

“Let’s get everyone together in the morning. If Alex reappears before then, we let the whole thing drop. If not, we gather the rest of the crew in the ballroom after breakfast- agreed? Okay then! See you all in the morning, ladies.” Jack said taking command.

“I’d like to see y’all in the morning, if I could figure out how to escape this nightmare!”

“Y’all weren’t listening, Alex.” A man’s voice said as the black void reappeared around me.

“Who said that? I thought I was the only one stuck in this limbo?” As I concentrated on it, the voice sounded vaguely familiar.

“Well, maybe ya are, maybe ya ain’t! If it helps y’all feel better, just think of me as being stuck here with ya, Alex.”

“I know that voice! Brian?”

“One an only, Alex! Y’all got cuter since I last seen ya! Love that dark blonde hair, brother!”

“Show yourself!”

“Who am I to decline the ‘Empress o’ time an space’!”

There he was! Impossible as it seemed. I ran to him and hugged and kissed him!

“Brian! Kid, I missed you like no tomorrow! Where have you been? We all thought you were killed back on December seventh! We’ve been lookin’ for you ever since. How did you escape?”

“Technically…I didn’t, Alex.”

“But you’re here with me, right now!”

“Can you tell me exactly where here is, Alex? I ain’t sher the concept works here. Look, big broth…dang, that don’t quite work no more either. Look, big sister, whether y’all kin accept it or not- I’m dead! I can’t go back- not ever! You just have to move on with your life and enjoy the time y’all have. Enjoy the time with your new friends and family! Wasting your time pining over me ain’t healthy! Leave me rest in peace, Alex. Don’t keep calling out to me. It hurts us all when you do that and I don’t want you to hurt anymore, sis!”

“But Ma an’ Pa, they got no one to carry the family name! I sure can’t do it now- not like this!”

“What’s wrong with the way you look, big sis? I see a beautiful woman that any feller would pay heavily fer! You’ll make some lucky guy very happy some day, Alex!”

“You’re just sayin’ that ta cheer me up!”

“Alex, I may be dead, but I sure ain’t married! If we weren’t kin, I’d take my chances!”

“Why not,” I figured! “Go ‘head, I must be dead too if I’m talking to you?”

“What makes you think you’re dead, sis? Just ‘cause I’m dead don’t mean you are!”

“Then explain it to me, Brain- explain how, if I’m not dead, I’m talking to my brother who has been dead for two years now!”

“Has it been that long ‘ready? Wow, time sher flies, huh? Ya see, it gits complicated, Alex. Basically, you and I are here on a neutral playing field. Someplace that’s neither in your reality, nor in mine.”

“You have your own reality, Brian?”

“Some term it Heaven, others call it Hell, or Purgatory, it’s just another reality- another dimension. One that you enter after ya pass- get it?

“So, I’m in another dimension?”

“That’s where it gets sticky, Alex. Ya see, I’m not really here! You brought me…my essence to this dimension. You alone seem to have the ability to travel between and call others to them.”

Not you too, Brian! Mina started that hogwash back in Hawaii!”

“She’s right, big sister!”

“But I’m nobody, Brian! Why pick me- some grand joke? I have no idea how to be this ‘Empress’!”

“You knew enough to get here! Y’all hollered for me here, didn’t ya?”

“You never leave my thoughts, Brain! We all miss you!”

“I know that, Alex! I ain’t never doubted that since! There are others, though, that miss you much more! Do you want them to mourn you as you done me?”

“No.”

“Then go back ta them Alex…andra! The time fer anger is over, so go home! Be with the people that love you- be with your friends- your family. Ma and Pa will forgive you for who you’ve become- I know that fer certain. They’ve also forgiven that young woman that tried to panhandle ‘em.”

“You knew about that?”

“Let’s just say I got firsthand knowledge and leave it, big sis.”

How did he have ‘firsthand’ knowledge? I decided that question could wait.

“Brian, if I am this ‘Empress’- not to says I am- that everyone thinks I am, I can save your life! I can git ya outta there before the explosion!”

“You could sher try…”

“I can do it, Brian! I know I can!”

“But Alex, that would mean y’all believe! Only the ‘Empress’ could pull off such a marvel!”

“I would try anything to get you back, kid- if believing…if becoming this Deity, this ‘Empress’, is the only way ta do that, so be it!”

“Alexandra, my beautiful big sister, you just cain’t believe. Y’all have to know and accept it- body n’ soul. In order to be her, y’all have ta accept her, sis!”

“I’ll let y’all think on that, Ma’am.” He saluted me! My brother, of all people, saluted me! I could feel the tears running. I returned it with as much respect as I could.

“Now could you please send me back so’s I can finally rest in peace?”

“How do I do that?”

“Do it the way y’all do anything else, I guess. Use your head ya silly skirt! Oh, before I go, though: Congats on yer promotion, Empress!”

As quickly as he appeared, he was gone- just vanished! Could I really be…be her? Was I? I realized my brother was right about several things and had done his best to explain. First, the very fact that he appeared at all. No one other than this ‘Empress’ he said, could achieve such an accomplishment.

Secondly was the fact that I, and no one else, resided here. If I was the lone occupant of this…this ‘place’, then I, alone, was responsible for all this! How could I do this if I weren’t…wasn’t her? Brian had said I had to do more than believe- I had to become.

Did I believe in all this? Did I believe in myself?

I had to admit that over the past few weeks, I had witnessed and seen many strange and unusual events. I, alone, had been there to see men land on the moon. I had witnessed my Chief win her eighth consecutive, fully autonomous solar vehicle competition in 2026- eighty-two years into the future! Doing the math, that made me one hundred and eight! Then there was the big one, traveling backward through time! I had provided transportation for both Mina and I to Kili Island- Kili in 1932!

The realization of what these facts added up to astounded me! What Mina and Brian had claimed must be true. I was the Empress! But was I any different than before? I still felt like Alex Steinert…no, not Alex Steinert, Alexandra Steinert! I still felt like Alexandra Steinert! That hadn’t changed- I was still me.

Brian had disappeared when I released him. Could leaving this place be as simple?

Before I left though, I had to figure out where to go- when to go. Do I go back to Honolulu- to my friends, to report to Admiral Demmit, or should I go rescue Brian?

Maybe I should just check in on my friends first.

“Mina, I’m starting to worry about Alex! She’s been gone for three days now and I don’t think Uncle Rick is going to accept Jack’s reports for much longer. He has to suspect by now that we’re hiding something.”

“Emily, we cannot hurry Alexandra’s return, dear! She must decide that on her own. She has much to learn about herself and no one to help her through it. Quoting your game of baseball, she threw out the playbook! She will return soon, dear.”

“Well, I hope it is soon, Mina! If the captain is gone much longer I can see myself becoming a permanent resident of Pearl Harbor’s brig!”

“Tish, we would never let them take you away! Like it or not, when Alex had us put that uniform on you, you instantly became one of the crew. If that weren’t true, our crew would have abandoned you to the SP’s by now.”

“To bestow such an honor to one’s opponent is…is unheard of! I miss her, doctor. Do you think that, wherever she is, she is healthy?”

“Tish, one thing to know about Alex; she’s a fighter, she always finds a way to survive. She calls it her pioneer’s spirit. I just call it tenacity- okay, stubborn! I’m sure she’s doing fine- where or whenever.”

“She is fine, Takashi! According to the stories, there is not much that can cause her harm, though I fear I have done the lion’s share. Once I learned who she was, or because of whom I thought she should be, I failed to consider her psychological stability. I let my excitement blind me of my training. She will return, Moritsu Takashi, of that I am sure!”

“Captain? If you can hear me, Ma’am, be well and return safe! We are all worried about you, Alex-sensei!” Tears poured from her eyes.

Did Takashi look at me? Did she see me or was it just coincidence?

“Tish! I’m over here! Do you see me?”

“She will be Tish. We’re all worried about her!”

What…what was that?” she pointed right at me.

“What was what, Tish?”

“Through my tears…I thought I…no it must be my imagination.”

“Do explain, Ensign, The imagination tends to be highly underrated.”

She wiped her eyes as she took a moment to compose herself. “For an instant…through tear-filled eyes, I thought I saw the Captain- standing right there,” she pointed, “in front of us! It cannot be though! If she were returning she would stay.” She paused again, “Could she have another destination planned and decided to check on us, Mina?”

“Brian! She’s going to help Brian! Mina, can she do that?” Emily shouted

“I haven’t the foggiest, doctor! We know the future can be changed, whether the past can also be changed without harming our present or future is unknown.”

“Does she really want to chance it? Alex, I know your still here! Do you really want to chance damaging the present and all our futures just to save your brother?” Emily questioned as she looked around.

I walked over to her. Placing my lips close to her ear, I gave my reply. “I have to try, sis.”

“Oh my god!” Emily’s hands went to her mouth. “She really is here! She just answered me. She said ‘I have to try, sis.’ In my ear!

“Alex? Take me with you! Brian might need medical treatment. Alex?”

Again I leaned in close, “Too dangerous for you! I can’t guarantee your safety, Emily.” I kissed her on her cheek. “Be back soon. Uncle has been taken care of. Love you all.”

“NO! Alex, Wait!”

There she was- States Class Battleship, USS Arizona! At least what I could see of her as a tender was moored next to her blocking my view. I had appeared on Kuahua point, directly opposite Ford Island. To my left the Oklahoma and West Virginia were moored together- both were still afloat. This confirmed I was indeed at Pearl prior to the attack, but how soon before? I needed to find a newspaper stand, radio, or something. I started to walk toward where her launch was tied up.

“Now how do I get on the Arizona?” I asked aloud.

“Sorry Miss, but I’m afraid the Arizona is off limits!”

“I turned around to see a handsome SP sprinting my way. I could imagine the thoughts going through his mind- especially ‘how did I miss her?’ He stopped when he saw my rank.

“Sorry, Ma’am…er Commander, Captain’s placed the ship under quarantine for the next forty-eight hours. No one on, no one off.”

I quickly pushed the shock of someone actually seeing me aside. “I understand, Seaman. News travels fast among the Auxiliary. I just wanted to come over to see her and remember her this way. Have a nice day now!” I flashed him the smile that Emily had used on me so many times. Why did I say that? He must think I’m crazy! ‘I just wanted to remember her this way’- how could I be so stupid?

“Thank you, Commander! You have a good weekend yourself!” As required he saluted and I returned it, and then walked away.

How was I going to get aboard? More important, what was today’s date? The sailor had said ‘have a good weekend’. That narrowed it somewhat but not enough. I observed the position of the sun in the sky- winter- mid-afternoon by my estimate, but which day?

My attention was diverted by a familiar voice a short distance away. Admiral Demmit! Uncle Rick was forty yards and closing! He couldn’t see me here! At this point he didn’t even know I existed and I knew Emily’s ma had been dead for a couple years now. No telling what the old man would do if he suddenly saw a younger version of his dead sister in uniform! I quickened my pace and hid behind the closest building I could find.

What was I doing? I could have just shifted in time slightly and become invisible to them. Wait, how did I know that? No time to ponder that question. If Demmit glanced to his right he still might see me. Time shift it was. My hand passing through the nearby building wall provided all the proof I needed to confirm I was a phantom once more. I boldly strode out onto the main thoroughfare…

And straight through the old man himself. That…that felt strange!

“Wow! Did you feel that, Major?”

“Feel what, sir?”

“That blast of cold air just now! It sent a chill down my spine!”

“No, sir! I didn’t feel any breeze, sir.”

“Must have been someone walking on my grave.” Admiral Demmit looked around- looking right through me in the process. “Humph!”

With my unseen status assured, I made my way back to my appearance point. The cute SP was still walking his beat. There had been a small motor launch beached and tied up to a palm tree nearby. I immediately found a problem boarding the launch- my foot passed clean through the deck. One other minor problem- my hands passed through the railing. Now how would I get onboard to save my brother?

Turning around in disappointment, I set back on my previous objective- today’s date.

Why can you never find a newspaper or desk calendar lying around when you want one?

I decided that the only way to get the required information was to go to the Officer’s Club. They were bound to have some.

I suppose I could have just relocated myself there in an instant, but I decided to take the twenty-minute walk from Kuahua point around our submarine base instead. At some point, I must have relaxed enough that I realigned myself to this time as sailors began saluting me when I passed them. I received many whistles of appreciation. Things sure were lax around here before the attack!

I almost forgot to grab the doorknob when I arrived.

“Allow me, Commander.”

“Why thank you, Lieutenant!” I flashed him a sincere smile. I could get used to the receiving end of chivalry!

Mina had once told me, or was she talking to the crew in general, that we could stop traffic. I knew by the sudden hush in the building that I could definitely stop all conversation!

“Can I help you find something, Commander?” The attendant behind the bar asked.

I noted the underscored meaning of his question.

“I just came in for today’s paper.”

“Sure, that’ll be one bit.” He said as he laid the rather emaciated daily on the bar.

I reached to my pocket and fished out some coins. As I handed the Barkeep a penny, I spotted the date and the composition. It was a 1943 steel penny! Two problems: it wasn’t 1943 yet, and pennies were still made from copper in 1941! The war had yet to force most copper to be secured by the government for ammunition casings! I quickly recoiled and searched for a coin of past date. Handing the clerk my 1939-nickel, I cheerfully told him to keep the change.

“Thank you very much, Commander! You have a good Saturday evening now!”

“You too! Bye now.” I exited the club and released the breath I realized I had been holding.

“Emily?” I heard someone call. Well, too late to disappear now.

“Ensign Scott! Wait!”

I quickly glanced behind me to see Lyle, ace newspaper jerk, running my way. I quickly doubled my pace. “Ensign Scott, Emily, please wait?”

I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to face my past nemesis- the one who nearly cost me my commission!

“Can I help you?” I tried to keep a civil tongue.

“Emily, I…oh excuse me, I thought you…I thought you were someone else…”

“Commander Steinert! Commander Alexandra Steinert! Who are you, sir?”

“Lyle…Lyle Stepchaki, Ma’a…Commander.”

“Well, Mr. Stepchaki, I haven’t been an Ensign for a number of years, but thank you for the compliment! I hope you find your Ensign. Good day.” I didn’t wait for any retort and continued on my way. No way was I going to give this…no way was I going to give him the time of day!

“I’m sorry, Commander, it’s just that you and Ensign Scott look so much alike! You could be sisters.”

I stopped, turned and thought about my response. Could I chance telling this leech that I was…will be her sister in a few years- to tell him to leave her alone, thus sparing me that nerve wracking tribunal? If I did that, Emily and I may have stayed together. If we stayed together, would I have gotten my command? If I hadn’t gotten Sand Dollar and undergone the Mahanilui, could I be here now? I decided to consult an old friend. ‘Should I tell Mr. Stepchaki to leave Emily alone? There was that big response I hated to hear! Should I tell him I even know ‘Ensign’ Scott? Another dreaded response- rats! I tried another question. Should I be here at all? The lack of any response kept my hopes up.

I noticed Lyle was still looking to me for an answer. “I don’t believe I’ve heard the name before, Mr. Stepchaki, although I just shipped in a few days ago- sorry. Now if you will excuse me, I have to get back to my quarters. I’m meeting my boyfriend, Marine Major Canton for dinner at 1700hrs.”

He looked at his watch. “Oh, I’m sorry to have kept you, Commander!”

I struck at the opportunity to learn the exact time. “Why?” I looked at my watch, “Oh, dear, my watch stopped! Do you have the correct time, Mr. Stepchaki?”

“ Almost 4 o’clock…er, 1555hrs, Ma’am.”

“Please excuse me, Mr. Stepchaki, I have to run!” I took off as fast as two-inch heels and a wool skirt would allow me. I never looked back until I stopped at the women’s barracks.

The barracks…that building reminded me I had nowhere to sleep, if today was December 6th, that is. Remembering the paper, I opened it to the front page. Its dateline read Saturday December 6th, 1941. Wonderful, I was here the evening before all hell was to break loose! The problem of where and when had been solved, all I needed to figure now was the ‘how’! How would a woman’s auxiliary commander get aboard a battleship quarantined by its captain for punishment?

She wouldn’t! There was no reason I should be let onboard! If I could just pop in and grab Brian, then pop back out!

What was wrong with me? That was exactly what I could do; after all, I was the Empress! All I had to do was wait for 0745hrs tomorrow morning and…I tapped myself on the head. “You stupid blonde! You can move through time! Hello?”

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, were you talking to me?”

A brown-haired Lieutenant about my height had come out the door and thought I was remanding her. I felt bad for her and had to cover.

“No, Lieutenant, I’m afraid I was reprimanding the commander here!” I pointed to myself. “I lost my purse somewhere on the way over from the Naval Air Station and haven’t been able to find anyone to report it. My orders, money, and identification- gone! Without orders they won’t issue me my quarters!”

“Ma’am, you can stay here tonight if you’d like. We always have a spare bed- just in case.”

“No, I couldn’t inconvenience y’all, Lieutenant, but thanks for the offer. I’ll just walk into town and get a room.”

“Nonsense, Commander!” She grabbed my hand and pulled me through the door.

“Everyone! This is Commander…” she looked at me to finish the introduction.

“Alexandra Steinert.”

“Alexandra…Cmdr. Steinert here lost her purse and her orders on the way over from Ford. Think we can hide her till Monday?”

The few women in the community room nodded in the affirmative and went back to their business. One Lt. Commander looked back around.

“Crandall just shipped out. The commander can stay there for the weekend.”

“See? Told you! Here, I’ll take you up and show you the room. Stay if you like it or I’m sure we can get someone to drive you into town if you don’t.”

“You’re too kind, Lieutenant…?”

“Riggby, Ma’am. Lt. J.G. Cynthia Riggby! Now come on, follow me. We have our own bathrooms here. You look like you could use a nice warm bath, Commander!”

“Alex. Just call me Alex. Now show me to the warn bath!” I guess I could stay the night.

1600 hours, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 21st, 1944

“Ensign Fischer, it’s 1600hrs and Friday, let’s call it a day, son.”

“Yes sir, Admiral, I’ll see you in the morning, sir. Are you coming too?”

”No, I have some paperwork to finish, and then I’m meeting a friend for dinner, Ted.”

“Aye sir. You and Lt. Smith seem to have really hit it off! She is one good looker!”

“Dismissed, Ensign.”

“Aye, sir!”

“Now to get back to work. First order of business: why are they covering for Steinert? Cummins called in for her today. Where’s Alex?” The old man shrugged. “Maybe I shouldn’t even ask? I may get an answer I don’t want to hear! Wonder what they’re hiding?”

“That would be me, Uncle Rick. They’re covering for me.”

“Alex? How the hell did you get in here? I was just at the door and you didn’t come through it! What did you do, captain, climb through the window? Is that why your uniform is in such disrepair?”

“In a skirt and heels? Not likely, Admiral! Let’s just say I popped in and leave it at that, shall we?”

“Popped in from where, Alex?”

“I just popped in, that’s all- I’m serious!”

“Somehow, I know you’re serious, but I’m afraid to as…Alex why are you crying? Alex? Where did you go?”

“Over here Uncle Rick! Like I said before, let’s just leave it at that, sir.” Demmit noticed that the woman now sitting in his chair looked like she hadn’t been crying. Her uniform was spotless. How did she do that?

“Fine! State your purpose, Captain! I’m a busy man!” Demmit growled as he tried to hide his confusion.

“Yes, I know. Meeting Mina for dinner! Three nights in a row, too! You really like her, don’t you, Admiral?”

“It’s that easy to see, Alex?”

“Plain as day, sir. I’m just here to check in, Admiral…as requested.”

“I see. Well Alex, construction continues on your base. Your electrical plant should go online a week from Wednesday…um, 3rd, May. Quarters are being outfitted as we speak. Alex? Alex, stop disappearing like that!”

“Sorry, sir, I just had to look. The base looks wonderful, Admiral. Mina and Ensign Banes have done a wonderful job designing the base.”

“You saw it already? Oh, you’ve seen it in the future! What’s with the disappearing act though, Alex?”

“Oh, it’s just something I found I could do recently. And I was just there…at our base! That’s where I disappeared to, Admiral. It’s not something we should let on to, though.”

“You are going to be the death of me, Alex! I take it you can jump from place to place now? Wait, how did you know about Mina and I?”

“Well, I can sort of phase out so I can’t be seen. I’ll demonstrate. See?”

“You just passed your hand right through me!” The old man’s eyes grew wide.

“The cat’s meow, isn’t it?”

“I…I know…I remember that feeling! It happened one other time to me!” His eyes lit up with realization. “That was you! Before the attack! You were there weren’t you? How, Alex? I thought you could only see the future? Now you can go back in time too?”

I stood up from his chair and gestured for him to be seated. “Admiral Demmit, please calm down and I’ll answer your questions as best I can, okay?” I motioned for him to be seated again, this time waiting until he did so.

“Good, now to answer. Yes, that was me that inadvertently walked through you that Saturday afternoon! Just recently, I found that my gift allows me to go anywhere- that’s anywhere- in time; to any location, to any dimension. Before you even ask, Admiral- no, I cannot disrupt the timeline as it pertains to the extended Sand Dollar crew, and I will not, under any circumstances, change the future or past to suit the whims of any government- do I make myself clear, Admiral? I will, however, do anything I can to provide the best outcome for my friends and loved ones, Uncle Richard!”

“You’re calling the shots now, Alex?”

“I’m a submarine captain, sir! I command a weapon of war! I am not a weapon in and of myself to be used to settle petty political differences! I’ve seen too much of that, Admiral!”

Demmit thought a minute, the confusion about what I had just said, still evident. Finally his expression changed to one of understanding.

“So you went back to save your brother- he originally died on the Arizona, as I recall? I trust he is healthy, Alex?”

“Sort of, things didn’t work out as I planned though!” I started to cry again. This time I didn’t disappear for, what was for me several hours, but for him an instant. Instead I lowered myself to him and securely wrapped my arms around him. “Oh, Uncle Rick, I couldn’t save them! I had the chance, but I couldn’t save them!”

“Shhhhusshhh, Alex, that’s why I lose sleep most nights! We can’t save them all, honey. Shh. I’ll hold you as long as you want. Let it out, Alex. Let it out.”

1600 hours, Ala Moana Hotel, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 23rd, 1944

“Mina, I thought Alex would’ve returned by now. Could she really be that mad at you?”

“I’m afraid our new Deity has yet to control her feelings, doctor. She was confused and overloaded by my insistence that she fulfill her destiny! I would not be surprised if she never speaks to me again.”

“Mina, Alex isn’t like that! Look at our history. She could have left me on Kili for the Japanese. I could have had an ‘accident’ on our way out here to Hawaii! Alex is a fair person- she doesn’t hold a grudge, Mina.”

“She holds one, Emily!”

“Yes, one I am sure she will try to remedy! Mina, if she did actually succeed, though, would I…would we feel a change?”

“Your question is out of my field of expertise. Let me ask my youngest, Nina.” Mina got up from the chair and walked out into the hall. She returned a few minutes later with Ensign Truman.

“Little one, Emily has asked a question that I cannot answer. I thought, perhaps, you could.”

“I’ll do my best ibu (mother). You want to know if you will feel any change to our timeline if the Empress changes something in the past.”

“Yes, Sedikit adik (Little sister). Being of the bloodline, could we possibly be immune to such changes?”

“It is possible the change or changes would skip over us…provided that no changes have been made to us on a personal level. If that were to happen, we would be oblivious to it and continue on in our new timeline seamlessly. Only the Empress would see the change, I suspect.”

“On a personal level, Nina?”

“An example, Kakak tiri (Half sister). If the Empress has indeed decided to return to the day of the Japanese attack to save her brother, which is highly likely, she might chance to bump into you. Such a chance meeting might result in you thinking you had gone mad! In which case, you would not feel confident enough to perform those actions that boosted your career; would have not met the Empress and not participated in the mission to Kili Island. In short, doctor, you would not be here now. Has this cleared things up?”

“And you’re only sixteen? Mina, what do you feed your children?”

“Love, understanding, and temporal thinking- deep, temporal thinking- but mostly love, doctor!”

“Speaking of ‘love’, Mina, how is it going with Uncle Rick?”

“The Admiral is slowly succumbing to my way of thinking, Lt. Scott.”

“So, I take it, he’s invited you for dinner again tonight? That makes it what, five days in a row?”

“He has fallen for me, has he not?”

“I think we all know the answer to that, your highness. Oh, that reminds me- When Alex does return, can we nix the Empress moniker? I think that is what really got her upset in the first place, Mina. She prefers Alex- just good plain old Alex! That is except when we’re on the Sand Dollar, there she prefers ‘Skipper’, ‘Skip’, ‘Captain’, or ‘Cap’. Those are the only formalities she will allow, are we clear ladies?”

“Yes, Kakak tiri (Half sister)! I will pass that among her subjects at once!”

“Um…that might be another problem waiting to happen, Nina! I know, for a fact, that Alex would never think of any of us as her subjects! She thinks of the crew as family- yes she does adhere to the required military chain of command, but that is as far as it goes. If she returned and heard someone refer to us as her subjects she may never return! No, Nina, It’s best to continue as though she never was or became Empress.”

“We understand, doctor, and will inform everyone of her wishes.”

“Thanks, you two. Now about constantly calling me doctor…”

1900 hours, Women’s Auxiliary Barracks, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 6th, 1941

I was so relaxed that I barely heard the knock on the door.

“Hey, Commander, I think you should get out, that water has to be cold by now!”

“What? Oh, ya I guess it is! It’s just what the doctor ordered though! God, I never thought a hot bath would feel so relaxing!”

“You must have been in transit a while, huh?”

“You have no idea! I feel like I’ve been traveling for years, Lieutenant.”

“I felt that way when I got reassigned here. I think they put us on the slowest boat they could find!” The Lieutenant replied.

“How long have you been here, Lieutenant?”

“Please, Cindy! I hate all that masculine saluting and stuff!”

“How long have you been here, Cindy?”

“Almost four years! I was thinking about resigning, and heading back home to Fredericksburg to start a family.”

“Sounds wonderful. How long?”

“I have two weeks left, Commander.”

“Alex, please! I’m not real comfortable with the formalities either, Cindy! So, have you given notice yet?”

“A full month ago! This place seems to be slow to do anything! Sometimes I wonder how we would fare if we actually got attacked?”

“Not too good from what I’ve seen around here so far! The Japanese could really do some damage!”

“So you think they’re planning an attack too? Some of the other girls around here say they have a feeling its coming! You think so too, don’t you?”

“Unfortunately, I’ve heard things back at Norfolk that indicates that may be a possibility. I’m not at liberty to discuss it either, sorry.” I was drawing lightly on the information released after the attack.

“Oh, so you heard too much and they sent you out here to keep you quiet! You’re not the first, Alex!”

“I didn’t think I was! I’ve had my suspicions, Lieutenant…sorry, Cindy.” Everyone loves a conspiracy, so I played along.

“Well, only time will tell, won’t it?”

“Ya. So, tell me, Cindy, what do you do around here all day?”

“Well, when I’m not working as an admissions secretary at the Hospital, I just kind of walk around admiring this tropical paradise! Have you taken the tour?”

“The extended tour, I’m afraid! Did you know we have a very nice submarine base? They have several charming SP’s that were kind enough to show me the way out of it! None thought of offering me a ride to where I needed to be though!” I stood to get out of the tub.

“I can’t understand that at all! You must have been stopping traffic everywhere you went! They must have been blind!” She giggled. “Here, have a towel, Alex.”

I blushed and wrapped the proffered towel around me. Cindy handed me another for my hair. “Thanks.”

“So…um…where are the rest of your clothes, Alex?”

“Now there’s a mystery the Navy may never reveal, Cindy! All I can say is, they were with me in San Diego!” I laid it on thick.

“I’ll see what I can find- be right back, Alex.”

I was just about to grab my dirty clothes when Cindy popped her head in.

“Almost forgot, you need anything else, belt, pad?” An honest question that made me blush.

“No, next week, thanks.” I still didn’t know for sure, nor was I looking forward to it.

“Okay, I’ll be back.”

Quickly, I dried off and started to get dressed, when I decided to experiment. With britches, brassiere, and the rest in my arms, I phase shifted, then preceded to dress. A knock sounded at the door.

“Alex, I found some clean things for you to wear!” The door opened slightly and Cindy poked her head in. “Alex?”

Cindy screamed.

“Alex, how could you put those dirty things back on?”

Oops! I guess I didn’t shift after all! Note to self: check to see if hand passes through something- never assume!

“Look Cindy, I can’t burden you with my problems! I’ll just hitch into town tomorrow morning and buy what I need- then I’ll find the quartermaster and req-out some new uniforms.”

“Hey, you’re no burden, hon! As for going into town to buy anything on a Sunday around here- good luck! The whole town is closed on Sunday! The only people working are those of us fortunate to work weekends, and those that walk the streets at night!” Here wear these,” she handed me a pile of clothes; “they should fit. The bra might be a little tight though- I’m not as big as you up top. When you’re done, come on down to the living room and Beaver…Ensign Heavers said she would cook up something warm for you. No arguments now. Get dressed!”

“Aye-aye, sir!”

“Ya, right!” I heard her laughing as she left the room.

The toast and re-heated, leftover vegetable soup reminded me that I hadn’t eaten in quite some time. In fact, I had no idea how long it had been.

“Coming up for air, Alex?”

“What? Oh, sorry, this soup is delicious!”

“Thanks, but Melissa should get the credit.”

“Melissa?”

“Ensign Heavers”

“Oh!”

“Time for someone to get some sleep! Come on.” Cindy grabbed my hand and dragged me up the stairs. She released her grip only after I was seated on the bed. “Here, put this on.”

I was handed a white cotton nightgown. “Thanks again. You don’t have to do this you know! I could just disappear.”

Did I just let that slip? Maybe I did need some sleep!

“No you will not disappear, Alexandra Steinert! If anyone is going to disappear it will be me in two weeks! Now, get ready for bed, Commander!”

A few minutes later Cindy helped me into bed and drew the cover over me. “Hopefully your luck will be better in the morning, Alex. Sleep well, Commander!”

My guardian angel turned off the light and quietly closed my door. I waited a few minutes before I got back up and turned the lamp on the nightstand back on. Grabbing the alarm clock from the nightstand I wound it back up and reset the alarm for 0600hrs. I wanted to have enough time to get ready. The attack started at 0800 so that left me two hours. That done I turned off the lamp.

Whose alarm clock is going off? Wait…where am I? I was momentarily disoriented. The alarm clock…I had set it last night. Grabbing the annoying device, I turned it off and turned the lamp on. 0600hrs. My mind suddenly caught in gear and started. I had to get ready to put my plan into action! Thirty minutes later I was in the living room as Cindy had termed it.

“Oh hi, Commander Steinert! Early riser I see?”

“Always have been.”

“Getting an early start on finding your gear?”

Going to try. I wanted to thank Cindy for her hospitality. What time does she usually rise?”

“Lt. Riggby? She left for the hospital five minutes ago. She starts at 0800.”

“0800? What time is it?”

“0750, Ma’am.”

“Oh shit!” I screeched as I ran out the door.

Today was off to a wonderful start! As I ran along the street to the main docks, I felt the difference a well-fitted brassiere made. It felt like my ribcage was being squeezed. In my haste to get dressed I noticed that my blouse wasn’t buttoned up completely. The combination gave me a burlesque, harlot appearance- that gave me an idea!

The sun was full over the horizon now. I knew the enemy planes weren’t far off. I still faced the task of boarding the Arizona.

Knowing the direction an enemy will attack from is very useful if not stressful. As I gazed in that direction I could see I was out of time. Dozens of small dots on the horizon indicated I had moments before the first bombs started to fall. I hoped my plan would work and I would save more than one person today.

“Hey, Rudy! You gonna sleep all day?”

“It’s Sunday! We can’t go anywhere anyway, remember?”

“I was thinkin’ of going to services- ain’t been there in a while.”

“Don’t you have to be at your station at 0800, Brian?”

“Ya, that don’t give me time I guess- oh well, next Sunday then. Hey, do you guys smell somethin’ sweet?”

“Ya, smells like perfume! Alright, which one of you guys is wearin’ the stuff?”

“I am, boys!”

“Holy mother of God! How’d you get aboard?”

“Oh, I just popped in! I’m your fairy godmother, boys!”

“Ma’am you shouldn’t be here! If the Captain catches wind of this, we’ll all be drummed out of the Navy!”

“Seaman Steinert, the Captain will never know what happened! Trust me on that!”

The sirens started to howl. Horns of all types sounded as the raid commenced topside.

“I know I’m going to have bad dreams after I say this, but…”

The first torpedo hit the side shaking the whole room.

“My name is Commander Alexandra Steinert, boys and if you want to live grab hold of me and don’t let go! This is the only time I will offer! Do it now!”

“I felt a dozen or so hands grab onto me. Brian had been the first and was right against me. I felt someone’s hand go farther north than I expected. How did he do that?

A second torpedo impacted. The ship shuddered harder this time. I knew that the next one was Arizona’s death note! I had to hurry.

“Your name is Steinert? Are we related?”

“Quiet Brian, I have to concentrate to get you guys out of here!” I shouted over the deafening noise erupting around us.

I heard a faint click and knew my time was up! I willed us all to the nearest shore and out of harm’s way.

It worked! We were now standing on the shoreline of Ford Island a few hundred yards from the Arizona’s mooring- just in time to see her explode in a huge ball of fire! That was cutting it close!

“Boys, you can let go now. I think you’re safe- for the moment.” I had succeeded in saving my brother and eleven of his buddies!

“How did you know, Ma’am?” Brain asked.

“I won’t lie to ya, so don’t ask me, kid!”

Several of those I just saved ran to the water’s edge and started to point at something.

“Torpedo! It’s coming straight for us! Run!”

Too late!

I grabbed hold of my brother, turned my back to the explosive ball of fire roaring in our direction and phased out.

“Shut yer eyes, boy!”

I felt the heat of the blast on my back and felt pieces of shrapnel, sand, shells, fire, and body parts passing through me!

“Keep holding on, Brian! Don’t let go of me or you end up like them!”

“Why…how are you doing all this? Why can’t I open my eyes? What is that strange feeling going through me, Ma’am?”

“Do you really want to know, Brian? Hold my hand and open your eyes then.” I turned around

We both looked on in horror to see that the explosion had negated my rescue efforts!

I felt sick! Through the smoke and lingering flames I observed the destruction. I didn’t bother to count the bodies- it would take all day to find enough for just one complete corpse. I had to pull myself together and get us out of here. Ford Island was heavily damaged in the attack and my stomach couldn’t take much more.

Brian must have taken a step back behind me. “Commander! Your back! Your jacket is burnt clean through and I can see burnt skin!”

I suddenly felt the pain of such wounds.

“Brian!” I shouted with pain. “Never point out an undiscovered wound! It only makes it hurt more- best to ignore it, kid!”

He stepped ahead of me- still holding my hand, his eyes intently scanning my face. “I died in there!” He pointed to the badly burning ship.

I nodded.

Several more large explosions, some behind us, reminded me that we still weren’t safe. Another huge explosion to our right signaled that the West Virginia had met her fate. The Oklahoma had already started to list. We had to leave.

“Why me, Commander? Why am I so special?” He continued to look into my eyes- I assume searching for my identity.

“Because I couldn’t do it the first time, little brother! I fought tooth and nail to get transferred here after the attack, but the brass had other plans for me!”

“Ma’am, I don’t have an older sister! Who are you? What are you?” He started to release his grip on my hand as he grew frightened of me. I squeezed tighter.

“Brian, I know this is going to sound bizarre, but you have to believe me. I would never hurt you, kid! I would never hurt anyone as important as you! I want to explain everything, but we need to go somewhere safe! Please hold my hand and don’t let go, I beg you!”

“Why shouldn’t I let go? I don’t know you from eve. You don’t even look like my Ma!”

“To answer your last questions will require a demonstration and a choice for you. If you let go of my hand I cannot guarantee that you remain out of phase with this reality. If you rephase, you will be killed by any number of bombs falling on this island for the next forty-five minutes! After all the work I just went through, I prefer you live!”

“What about them?” He pointed to the human fragments around us. “Why couldn’t you protect them?” His volume rose.

“Because I wasn’t fast enough, Brian! Because I wasn’t fast enough to reach them!” I felt the tears starting. “You have to be touching me for it…for it…to work! They got too far away, I couldn’t touch them!” I began crying in earnest. “I failed! I failed to save more men! Innocent men that had no idea how short their lives actually were! I’m sorry, Brian, I’ve failed you!”

The sounds of the second wave of bombing pulled me out of my lament.

“You haven’t failed me yet, Commander, or whoever you are! You will fail if we don’t get out of here!”

“Here is the first part of your explanation, little brother- hold tight. We’re leaving this time!”

“We’re leaving this time?”

“Just like Dorothy, kid!” I started to think of home- my home, my time.

“Where are we?”

I looked around. We were standing on my bridge! We were home! Judging from the pier to my right and the two guards stationed on it, I would say we were back in 1944.

“I’m home, Brian. This is my home! Welcome to SS353, USS Sand Dollar. Welcome to 1944, little brother!” My smile was guarded. “We have to go below before we’re seen!” I motioned to the hatch. He started down the ladder.

“Before we’re seen? Is this really your sub, Commander?” He stopped halfway.

“Stop with that Commander crap! Call me Alex, Brian! Yes, this is my boat! Commander Alex Steinert, captain of the Sand Dollar! Pleased to meet you, little brother! Now get below!”

“My brother, Alex, is in the Sub service!”

“Ya, I know kid!” I said, annoyed.

“No one is here, Captain. Why?”

“Because we’re on a ten-day pass, Brian. My crew is staying in town at the Ala Moana, follow me.”

I led him to the Wardroom and had him take a seat.

“Stay here, I’ll be right back.”

I went across to my quarters and retrieved a few items I thought would explain things better.

“Brian, I want to show you a few things, first, do you recognize this picture?”

“That’s my Ma and Pa, and my brother Alex.”

“I’m glad to see that your eyesight is fine! Do you remember when that picture was taken?”

“You’re the one trying to convince me that you’re my older brother!”

“Can’t put one past you, can I? 1940. You took that picture of me at my graduation from Annapolis. You three were so proud of me, ‘specially Pa! He kept goin’ on about upholdin’ Pappy’s Naval tradition!”

“Alex coulda’ told you all this, proves nothin’, Captain!”

I picked up my logbook and handed it to him.

“Open this to the first page. Is this or is it not Alexander Steinert’s writing, Brian?”

He glanced at several pages. “Looks to be his writing, yes. So what?”

“Keep going through the book, Brian. Read the entries starting Monday 27th, March 1944.”

I waited for him to reach the end of my entries, which should have been two days ago. More than once I saw his eyebrows rise.

“You’re really my brother Alex?”

Instead of answering, I retrieved my logbook and opened it to the last page. Ripping it out, I took the pen I had brought and wrote on it. I handed Brian the message, which read: “Yes, I was your brother. Now I go by Alexandra, but I still love you, Brian!”

Brian got the message and compared the writing to that in my log. He then swallowed hard.

“You really are him!”

“Her, if you don’t mind.”

“Your entire crew…they’re women too?”

“Every last one.” I acknowledged.

“Did it hurt?”

“What kind of question is that, Brian? No, it didn’t hurt! We were asleep when it happened. Every one of us passed out.” I paused. “Did it hurt? The Admiral didn’t even ask that one! That reminds me, stay right here I’ll be right back.”

“Alex? Alex where did you go? Captain?”

“Right here, little brother.” For some reason I reappeared in the Control room- one compartment back.

“Alex, why are you crying? Where did you go?”

“I had to report in to Admiral Demmit. He requested I check in every night during our leave. Uncle Rick is a nice guy- you’ll like him.”

“First you say you’re my brother, Alex, transformed by something called a Mahanilui! Now you call this Admiral Demmit- Uncle Rick! I’m dead, right? I…died on the Arizona and this is my punishment for skipping bible school that one Sunday, right? You’re not my brother; you’re the angel assigned to make me repent!”

I started to laugh!

“I’m far from an angel, Brian! An angel would have known how to save those men despite the circumstances! There are those in my circle of friends that want to call me ‘Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space’, though. How silly is that? Me…royalty!”

“I’m no expert, but that title fits, Captain. What I witnessed today- appearing out of thin air in our compartment- All twelve of us suddenly appearing on the shoreline as the ship exploded- surviving a direct bomb blast- appearing here, on a submarine in 1944- nothing else makes sense, Ma’am. You have to be ‘somethin’ of Time n’ Space’!”

“As far as you are concerned, my name is Alex! That is an order Seaman Steinert! Understood?”

“Yes, Ma’am…Alex. Hey, your back! I just remembered about your back, Alex!”

“Oh, that? It’s okay, you don’t have to bother with it, Brian.”

As expected he slid around the table and pushed my shoulder forward to look.

“The burns, they’re almost healed! How did you do that, Alex?”

“You must learn to read with more comprehension, little brother.” I paused. What did I just say? “God I’m starting to talk like Mina! Uurgh!”

“Who’s Mina, Alex?”

“She’s the queen of Kili Island, Brian. She’s also one of my dearest friends- a might feisty and mysterious at times, but a dear friend nonetheless. You’ll like her!”

I leaned back against the seatback and felt the cold material on my skin. I let a squeak escape.

“Wow, that seat is cold! I didn’t notice it before. Brian, do you mind if I change? I may be a few minutes. I’ll be across the passage if you need me.”

“Sure! Hey where do they put the head on these things? I kinda need to go.”

“There’s one two doors forward, just make sure you hold down the pedal before you turn the flush valve or we’ll have to clean it up- oh, and put the seat down! I never thought that mattered much until…” I gestured to my body.

“Got it, big sister! Put the lid down. Aye-aye, Captain!”

I rolled my eyes as I closed and locked my door. No wonder the Admiral commented on my appearance! The back of my uniform jacket was almost nonexistent. The same was true for my blouse and brassiere! I guess I was slower than I thought.

The cool water felt nice on my face as I washed the smoke, ash, and other things away. I decided to freshen my makeup and brush my hair out while I had the chance. I finished with just a dash of Emily’s toilet water. I felt presentable again. That reminded me, I still had to report to the Admiral! Where was I when I had to leave the last time? Oh, yes, I was standing by his desk when…when the thought of those men re-emerged! I can’t let that bother me right now. I think I’ll appear in his chair this time and listen awhile before I phase in.

“”Now how did Alex say to work this thing? Push the pedal on the floor…then turn the valve…the valve…oh, here it is. The outhouse back home was a lot easier! There, the only complicated thing was which page of the catalog to use next! Why are there paper cups here when there’s no sink or faucet? Oh, that folds down and there’s the faucet! What will they think of next? I could use a drink- my mouth is so dry you’d think I was just in the blazin’ heat! Wait, I was! Oh, that hit the spot- think I’ll have another. Ah, just one more should do it. I better get back, I don’t want Alex to think his…her younger brother can’t figure out these modern contrivances!”

“Okay, I’m back.” I had made a side trip to our new base to see how the construction was coming along. I got the impression from Admiral Demmit that I was starting to frighten him! The man is very intuitive, I thought. He rightly deduced that I had gone to save Brian. The thought of those men- making it to freedom only to… No, I had to be strong! The Admiral was right! We can’t save them all. Dammit! Why not? I heard the water pipes groan as Brian finished in the head. Once again I checked my face and hair. I opened the door just in time to see Brian enter the Wardroom again.

“Boy, are you a knockout!” Brian said, astonished.

“Well, I feel better! Why didn’t you tell me my uniform was that badly damaged, Brian? No wonder the Admiral commented about it!”

“You said not to remind you of undiscovered wounds!”

“Wounds, yes. Need I remind you, officers must present a professional appearance at all times! That blast even burned the band of my brassiere off! Not that it mattered all that much, it didn’t fit well anyway. Cindy let me borrow one of hers. I wonder how she made out. She only had two more weeks before shipping stateside.”

Brian started laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“You! You sound just like a girl, Alex!”

I quickly unbuttoned the top four buttons on my blouse and leaned over in his direction. “Wonder why, smart guy?”

“This is just so strange, Alex! My big brother- a girl!”

“Ya, well get used to it. This is permanent. There won’t be any little Steinert’s from me, suffice it to say!” Having said that, I turned my gaze to the tabletop.

“That’s why you did it! ‘Hey, little brother, I came back to save you- by the way, it’s your responsibility to give Ma n’ Pa grandkids.’ Good luck!”

“No! That’s not the reason, Brian! The real reason’s because…” I wiped my eyes. “’Cause ever-time I pass that damn ship’s hulk out on Battleship row, I lose m’composure! I lose m’composure ‘cause my damned little brother jus’ had ta foller after his older brother n’ join the damned Navy! You got no idea how that feels, Brian! No idea!” I smacked my hands on the table in anger. “Ya think ah wanted this to happen? Ya think ah wanted ta dis’point Ma and Pa? Dammit kid, ya got no business passin’ that judgment on me! At least y’all kin go back home! Ma n’ Pa will recognize you! What would they think of me? Like ya said earlier- I look nothin’ like Ma! I look exactly like Emily’s Ma instead!”

“Who’s Emily, Alex?”

“Emily. Lt. Emily Scott. Sand Dollar’s surgeon. She was my girlfriend! Now, because of the damn Mahanilui, she’s my sister! I think I need a drink!”

“But you don’t usually drink, Alex!”

“No, I drink, but I don’t go so far as getting’ drunk!” Come on; take my hand- we’re going into town!

1600 hours, Ala Moana Hotel, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 24th, 1944

“Mina, I’m really getting concerned! Alex should have been back by now! Are you sure she will return?”

“She has to come back, Emily! How else would she be in the future?”

“Jack, have you been able to hear her snooping around at all?”

“Not a whisper, Doc! I hope she forgives us soon, I really miss her!”

“As do I, Commander Cummins. Without her, I am just a prisoner of war.”

“I will have none of that, Ensign Moritsu! No one under my command is a war criminal! Get that through that pretty skull of yours!”

“What did I tell you yesterday, Tish?”

“That I became a member of the crew the moment…”

“The moment I put that uniform on you! That order still stands, Tish!”

“Alex!” Emily ran over and hugged me so hard I thought I’d pass out! “We were so worried about you! We thought you’d never come back!” Tears ran freely down her cheeks.

“Captain, I too had my doubts. Only Mina held to her belief that you would return!” Takashi was next to embrace me.

“So Mina was the only hold out, heh?”

Jack caught me mid-stride as I headed toward Mina. “You almost made me take over your command, Alex! What is wrong with you! I want to earn my command, not replace you!”

“I missed you too, Jack!”

“You!” I pointed to Mina. “You and our sisters will refrain from calling me anything other than Captain, Skipper, Cap, or Skip when on duty, and only by my given name when off duty! Is that clear, Lt. Smith?”

Mina had tears in her eyes as she approached me. “Quite clear, Captain Steinert! Welcome home, Alexandra! We’ve missed you immensely, sister!”

“We? As in, I’m queen, or as in Mina and her four daughters?”

“Everyone, Alexandra!”

“She’s your sister too, Alex? The family sure has multiplied!”

“You must be Brian! Welcome to 1944, little brother!” Emily embraced Brian. “Lt. Emily Scott, Sand Dollar’s doctor and your newest sister. Alex has brought you up to speed, I take it?”

“I’m sorry. Everyone, this is my brother Seaman Brian Steinert, of the late BB-36, USS Arizona. He just got into town and we were going down to the bar to celebrate! You’re all invited and I’m buyin’!” I looked around the room. “Where’s Carroll?”

“She had a date tonight! Met a J.G. at the O.C. the other night. They look good together, Alex.”

“I hope you’re paying attention, Jack.”

“You can count on it, Cap. The first sign of trouble and I contact Ricky Lynn! She’s been itching to get into a scrap! By the way, Brian, I’m Lt. Cmdr. Jack…Jacquelyn Cummins, Sand Dollar’s Ex-O. Welcome back.” Jack shook Brian’s hand.

“Welcome home, Brian Steinert. The captain has told me so much about you. I am Takashi Moritsu…” Tish looked around at all the glares. “Ensign Takashi Moritsu- just call me Tish! I’m…” Again Tish looked around stopping at me. Hoping I would finish her sentence.

“Tish is Sand Dollar’s interpreter. She ‘s fluent in…how many languages now, Tish?”

“Twelve, Captain” Tish answered, relieved that I filled in the blank. “We ran into some officers from a Canadian Destroyer at the O.C. last night. Two of them were from Quebec. They spoke both French and Latin, sir! Another, was part Eskimo from British Columbia, he called his people Inuit. Would you like to hear some?”

“Easy Tish, I just got back. Brian and I are hungry and I’ve been jumping around like a maniac.”

It was Mina’s turn at introduction. “Philamina Smith, formerly of his majesty’s merchant fleet, Queen of Kili island, and Lieutenant in the US Navy’s Women’s Auxiliary of late. Welcome back to the living, Seaman Steinert!”

“The pleasure’s mine, Ma’am.”

“Ladies? Shall we step out with our gentleman friend?”

“So, there I stood…looking at Arizona and Ford Island when this handsome SP ran up to me and told me she was off limits! Can you imagine what was going through his mind?”

“Alexandra, I can assure you, I know exactly what was on his mind, dear!” Mina giggled.

“Wait! So you just appeared behind his sentry post? Like you just appeared in our compartment?” Brian asked.

“Yep! I was so frightened he could see me that it slipped my mind completely I could just pop in anywhere I liked! I ended up walking all the way to the Shipyard past CINPAC headquarters! It never dawned on me that I had no orders, no gear, or even a place to stay- nor did it occur to me to just pop ahead twelve hours! I found myself at the OC where I bought a paper just to find out the date. Then I ran into him!”

“Him? Alex, who did you run into?” Emily asked with concern.

“Ensign Scott’s boyfriend…Lyle! Thinking back on it I should have grabbed him and taken him to some remote island and left him!” I paused. “But that would have altered history for my crew…I can’t…I won’t let anything alter the past events that led to our Mahanilui!”

“But, you rescued me from the ship, Alex! Doesn’t that change things?”

“Officially, you are still dead, little brother. I’m sorry, but that is still a fact. No one saw us appear on the beach that morning and…and there was nothing left of…oh, why couldn’t I have saved them?” I started to get choked up again.

“Saved who, Alex? How many men did you save that morning?” Jack inquired.

“Alex saved eleven of us from our compartment! One minute eleven of us all had our hands on some part of her body, the next; we were all standing on the beach watching the ship explode in a huge ball of fire! Everyone except me ran to the water’s edge…that’s when someone hollered.” My vision had cleared enough to see Brian’s expression grow sad.

“That’s when someone hollered that a torpedo was heading towards us! Alex wrapped her arms around me and told me to close my eyes. There was this God-awful explosion and I felt things going through me, I mean, right through me! When I opened my eyes, we were alone on the shore. Everyone else…they were gone. It was the most disgusting sight I ever laid eyes on!”

“I know how you feel Brian, I was on duty that morning at the base hospital! To say I saw my share of carnage…” She let it drop. “Changing the subject! So, you say you ran into Lyle? What did you do, Alex?” Emily looked concerned.

“He thought I was you, Emily! Until I turned around that is. When he saw my rank he apologized by telling me how much I looked like you. I played it calm and told him I was heading back to get ready for my date with Maj. Canton…”

“You actually said you had to get ready for a date with Canton?” Emily interrupted with a laugh.

“His name was the only one I could think of! Anyway, I hurried off after that and found myself in front of the woman’s barracks. It was then I realized I could have just jumped ahead to the next morning!” I took another drink from my glass.

“I started to chastise myself when this Lieutenant interrupted me thinking I was talking to her. Cindy insisted I come in after I told her I had just arrived- that my gear, purse, and orders had been lost. She showed me to a vacant room and suggested I take a warm bath. She then gathered some clean clothes for me. I wonder what ever happened to her? Cindy said she only had two more weeks before she shipped stateside. She’s probably happily married by now.”

“Cindy? Lt. Riggby? Lt. Cynthia Riggby, Alex?” Emily’s eyes grew to saucers.

“Ya, Lt. Riggby. Did you know her, Emily?”

“Oh Alex! I’m sorry!” She put her head into her hands and let out a big sigh. “Alex, I watched Lt. Riggby die at the hospital that morning! A bomb exploded outside her office window. She was blown through the door and landed twenty feet in front of me in the hall! Her neck was snapped and she had glass shards everywhere! If it wasn’t for her name tag we wouldn’t have identified her.”

“I need another drink.” I said solemnly.

“Alex, I don’t think you should have any more to drink, sis.”

“Alex can hold her own, Lt. Scott. Pa brought us up to know our limits and this so called liquor ain’t nothin’ compared to the family brew!”

“Why did you have to tell em’ ‘bout Pa’s still? I’ve been tryin’ ta live that stereotype down since I became an officer, Brian! Now you gone an give em more ammunition!”

“Why? I’m proud of Pa- you should be too! His recipe won first prize at Branson! Where do you think the money came from to pay fer yer schoolin’, Alex?”

“Little brother you talk too much!” I looked at my glass and wondered when I had emptied it. I could feel a slight tingling in my lips.

“Hey, a dead man’s got no secrets, big sister! Barkeep, ya got anything stronger?” Brian shouted to the older guy behind the bar. He was rewarded with another glass; which he promptly emptied.

“That’s better! How about another?”

“I think we’ve all had enough, Brian, It’s time to go.” I pulled my purse to my lap and removed a wad of bills from it. Not bothering to count it, I laid half the wad on the bar and motioned for my friends to follow. I was starting to feel a little light-headed. Brian stumbled as we reached the door.

“Wow…that was some good shine- went straight to mah head, Alex!” Emily and I caught him and guided him through the door. By the time we got back to our suite, we were supporting Brian’s full weight.

“Alecth, ah don’t feel ver’ good! Ah’m woothy! Ah wanna go home!”

“We’re home now, Brian! I’ll get ya ta bed. It’s right through here.” I could feel the alcohol doing its job on me too.

“Alex, do you want me to help you?” Jack asked from behind me as I held Brian up and led him to the bedroom door.

“No, I’m the Empress and I can do this myself!” Even in my slightly inebriated state that sounded snobbish.

Brian suddenly spun around and flung both arms around me holding me tight.

“Empreth of Time ‘n Thpath, take me home!”

“My word they disappeared again!”

“Jack, did you get any hint to where they went?”

“Sorry Emily, they just went quiet!”

“Mina, do you have any idea where they went?”

“Not the foggiest, Emily! I don’t think they went to the future, though. I would see that.”

“Mina, will she be doing this constantly? I think I would feel safer if I were back in the Sand Dollar’s brig!”

“Ensign, keep that attitude up and you will return to the brig!”

“I’m sorry, Miss Cummins!”

Time: unknown, Place: unknown, Date: unknown

My head felt like it was in a vise! The throbbing so painful, I wished I had my sidearm.

Slowly I opened my eyes. The intense light pierced my brain like a Marine’s saber. Where was I? When was I?

As my eyes became accustomed to the bright sunshine and things came back into focus, I looked around. I was lying under an oak tree, a rolling field then forest stretched out before me.

It all seemed so familiar. I blinked to clear the sleepers from my eyes.

Missouri! I was home!

This spot. I knew it well. As a boy, I frequented this pasture at the northern edge of our property. Twenty yards beyond the far tree line was the dirt road into town. I had fond memories of Pa driving the team and us down that road every Sunday morning.

It was on one of those Sunday drives that I spotted this tree thinking it was the perfect place to build a tree house. I looked up the trunk I now sat against. Yep, it was still there! Ten feet above me, still nailed in place were the remains of my beloved outpost. I realized I hadn’t been here since before I went off to Annapolis! It wasn’t much, just a floor and some railing with a few timbers nailed to the trunk as ladder rungs, but it was my refuge from the rest of the world- a place to sit and enjoy the peaceful quiet- a place to forget about the hard times that had befallen us and Pa after the crash in ’29.

Suddenly, I heard a high-pitched scream off to my left. The woman’s scream echoed through the field and off the surrounding trees. Instantly I staggered to my feet, wishing my two-inch heels were deck shoes. Fifty yards from my position I found a young woman, maybe nineteen or twenty, staring at her hands, legs tucked tightly into her chest. Through her long, light brown hair, tears ran over a look of disbelief. She was wearing Naval working blues.

“What are you doing on my family’s land?” I questioned angrily.

The girl shook violently as she looked up at me.

“It’s my family too, Alex!” Her voice sounded sweet even though jittery.

My surprise was limited to how much she looked like me. I asked one question.

“Let me guess, you drank some water while we were on board the Sand Dollar. Am I right, Brian?”

You know who I am, Alex?” The frightened girl asked in surprise.

I simply pointed to myself and said, “Duh? You didn’t listen to me when I told you about the Mahanilui, did you? Well, little brother…er, little sister, now you know what it feels like!”

“I was thirsty, Alex! I didn’t think a few cupfuls would do anything! Take me back to the boat and let me do this over!”

“I can’t do that, Brian, it doesn’t work that way. I’m afraid you’re stuck like the rest of us!”

“No! No, no, no, no, no! You’re the Empress! You can reverse this, Alex!”

“I’m ’fraid not, sis! What’s done is done! I would risk damaging the timeline and that might affect my gift- even negate it- in which case you would again be dead! Understand?”

My new sister slowly shook her head side to side, her hair dancing lightly over her shoulders.

“In the future they call it a paradox, Brian. If I went back to change something I might run into me- maybe the male me! If the past did not run its proper course- if I, say, started to date me and I never made it to Kili Island, then I wouldn’t have undergone the Mahanilui. I would not become the Empress. You would be at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and many more people would have died- all because I tried to return you to your male body! I simply will not risk that! Now, stand up so I can look at my new little sister!”

As she stood, I noticed she was now a few inches shorter than me- maybe five-six. She was a real beauty, as all of us were. Her blue eyes blazed with intensity. It would be interesting what gift the Mahanilui bestowed. With very little makeup she would be a real head turner!

“I feel funny, Alex.”

“How so?”

“Dunno, like I can’t get my balance!”

“That will pass, Brian. It happened to all of us.”

“My chest feels irritated too!”

“There’s only one cure for that, little sister!” I opened my purse and counted the money I had left from last night’s celebration. I still had enough for our purposes. “I’m afraid we have to go into town in search of the dreaded brassiere!” I giggled.

“You want me to wear one of those things?” She pointed to my bosom.

“You don’t have to wear one, but you run the risk of rubbing yourself raw! You will find them,” I pointed at her chest, “very sensitive- the discomfort will only grow. Now let’s get going!”

“But we’re eight miles from town! How will we get there before dark?”

“Hold my hand, little sister. I know a shortcut.”

Our location changed instantly.

“This isn’t Oak Ridge or Neely’s Landing! Where are we, Alex?”

“I thought we should go to the big city, Bri. Welcome to St. Louis, little sister!”

We stood on a busy sidewalk of what looked like the main street. People passing by paid no attention to us. A few even walked straight through us.

“That is the strangest feeling! How do you get used to that, Alex?”

“I guess you get callus. It’s only happened a few times before, Bri. Let’s look for a safe place to phase in, okay?”

“Lead on, sis- just don’t let go of me!”

Across the street, I spied a clothier’s shop and guided Brian across, being careful to miss the cars driving by. I had no intention of finding out how they felt passing through me! Once in the somewhat larger store, we found a vacant changing room and I phased us in.

“You stay here and I’ll go find you some things to try on.”

“What if someone comes in, Alex?”

“Here.” I unbuttoned her shirt. “Take this thing off and if someone knocks or starts to come in just say that you’re in here. Remember you’re a girl now- you belong here.”

“What if they open the door?”

“Then you hold your blouse up to your chest, silly!”

“Alex, what’s a blouse?”

I had helped her out of her shirt by now and held it up for her to see. “This…this shirt. Women call this a blouse. You’d do well to remember that from now on. I’ll be back with some clothes to try on.”

Searching the store, I grabbed several sizes and styles of brassieres and several styles of britches. I was glad Emily had taught me how to estimate dress sizes. On the way back to Brian a woman, probably the owner asked if I needed help with anything.

“I just brought my little sister in for a few things. She’s waiting for me back in the changing room.”

“Funny, I didn’t see you come in. I’m usually very observant.”

“Well, you were over at the register when we came in. I saw that you were busy and we didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Oh, okay, let me know if you need any help then.”

“Oh, we’ll definitely need your help in a few minutes!”

I knocked on the door. “Here, try these on, sis.” The door opened a crack and I handed the lingerie to Brian. Brian… I had to start calling her something more appropriate to her new gender.

“You want me to wear these? Alex, I don’t even know how to put one on!” She whispered loudly through the barely opened door.

“Brianna, let me in and I’ll show you.”

“Who are you callin’ Brianna?” She asked as she opened the door so I could get in.

“Well, I can’t keep calling you Brian now, can I? And believe me sweetie; you don’t look like a Brian anymore! Now turn around and I’ll show you how to do this.

After several tense moments in the tight room, we had found and agreed upon several items. I left to return our discards and started searching the racks for something more appropriate than working blues.

“You look like you could use that help now, um…I’m not so good with military rank.”

“Commander. Cmdr. Alexandra Steinert, U.S. Navy Women’s Auxiliary. Please just call me Alex, Ma’am.”

“Pleased to meet you, Alex. Now what can I help you with?”

“My younger sister, Brianna, needs some traveling clothes. She wants to accompany me back to San Diego. Unfortunately she fell in love with my blues. She’s very shy.”

“Well have her come out, Alex, and I’ll lend my assistance.”

“I would ma’am but she’s tryin’ on some foundations back there. I don’t think she’s decent yet.”

“Nonsense!” The storeowner marched back to the small changing room.

“Brianna? I’m Mrs. Bennington, dear. My husband and I own this store. Would you please come out so Alex and I can find something nice for you?”

“But I’m not decent!” The expected, muffled reply came back.

“Nonsense, dear! You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before. Now please come out.”

Slowly the door opened and the frightened girl stepped through.

“Now then, let’s find you some traveling clothes, Miss Steinert.”

Three stores later we had several sets of clothes and several pairs of shoes in our bags. Mrs. Bennington had even allowed Brianna to wear her new lingerie and a new dress out of the store. Unfortunately my new sister was still extremely awkward in her new body. My own body was starting to concern me as I felt some discomforting twinges in my gut.

“Alex, why are they all staring at me?” Brianna whispered. She quickly glanced around us as we walked past the storefronts.

“Bri, I asked Emily the very same question when we pulled into Palmyra to refuel.”

“And?”

“And she told me something I had known for years. Men look at beautiful women and women rate themselves against other women. She said that I would get used to it, as will you. So just smile at them or ignore them. Are you hungry, sis?”

“Just a little.”

We entered a small restaurant and sat down. A pleasant waitress appeared.

“What’ll it be...Commander is it?”

I nodded. “We’ll each just have a small burger and two root beers. Um, could you point me to the ladies room?”

“Sure, honey, it’s right back there. I’ll have your order ready in a few.”

“Thank you.” I stood up and turned. “I’ll be back in a minute, Bri. Just act normal!” My sister looked like she wanted to hide under a rock.

The day I dreaded had finally arrived. The telltale red tinge on the paper took me by surprise. Emily’s training lecture came to the forefront. ‘Always be prepared’ she had said. I opened my purse and retrieved my belt and a napkin. Unfortunately, I would need to buy more. The feeling of something extra down there made me more self-conscious as I walked back to our table.

“I should have come with you, Alex. I have no idea how to…you know.”

“What, Bri?”

“You…you know.” She looked down to her lap.

“You have to sit now, Bri…for everything. Wipe back to front when you’re done. It’s that easy…except for…well, except for when you start.” I could feel my face burning.

“Start what, Alex?”

“When it’s that time.” I gestured down to my lap with my eyes.

“That time? Oh! Oh, I hadn’t thought about that! Does it hurt?”

“I don’t know! I just started and this is my first time. So far it just feels like a twinge every so often. Hilf said it hurt like hell though!”

Our food arrived and we ate in silence for most of our meal.

Brianna’s face grew solemn. “I guess I did let Ma and Pa down.”

I noticed a trace of wetness at the corner of her eyes.

“No you didn’t let them down, Bri! You couldn’t know this would happen! Remember I came back to save you, so I let them down, not you!” In fact, I let them down twice now!” I started to feel my eyes fill up.

“Twice? Why twice, Alex?”

“The first time was when this happened!” I gestured to my body. “The second was when this happened!” I gestured to her. “The whole idea to rescue you was not only to save you, but to carry on the family name, Bri! You do remember that women take their husband’s last name when they marry?”

Brianna grimaced at the thought and abruptly changed the subject.

“Can we go home now, Alex?”

“I don’t think that is a very good idea now, Bri. Ma and Pa won’t recognize us like this. I don’t even know what today’s date is. Remember what I said about paradoxes? What if we meet us there?”

“I saw a calendar on the wall in Mrs. Bennington’s store. It was turned to April 1942. Both of us…well, you were at sea and I was…”

“I got it, Bri. I still don’t think this is a good idea. Let me settle up and we can go.” I left a quarter on the table and we again hit the sidewalk.

“So where do you want to appear? At the tree house again?”

“First we have to find a place to phase out, then I’ll worry about our destination, Bri.”

We rounded a corner onto a quiet side street. This would do.

“Hold my hand little sister, and don’t let go.”

I lead us back onto the busy street.

“Hey, watch where yer goin’, Darlin’!”

“Oh, I’m sorry, sir!”

“Why hadn’t we phased? I did the same thing I had done several times- why hadn’t it worked this time?”

“Alex, why didn’t we…um, phase out?”

“I’m not sure, Bri. Let’s find another spot. This time I’ll just take us to the farm.”

Again we retreated to a quiet side street. We held hands and I concentrated on the dirt road to our home.

“Why are we still here, Alex?” Bri was getting worried- so was I!

“You girls lost? Ya need help?” An older gentleman asked from the street corner.

“Um, no we were just deciding where to go next and we didn’t want to plug up the sidewalk, thank you for offering though!”

“Okay, have a nice evening then!” He said as he continued on his way.

“What’s wrong, Alex? Why aren’t we back at the farm?”

“I don’t know, Bri! I did everything the same as I have been; what changed?”

“You started bleeding, could that be it?”

“I’m not bleed…” Ya, I was! Could that be the case? Did it render me ‘normal’?

I called on my old friend. ‘Can I travel through time while menstruating?’

Big response.

At least I wasn’t totally defenseless. I tried another question. Do we need to find a room just for the night?

A response.

‘Do we need to find a room for two nights?’ Small response. ‘For four nights?’ Smaller response.

I realized where this was going and asked the only question left. ‘Should we find a room for the whole seven days?’

Damn!

“Bri, I think we need to find a room. I won’t be able to move us till I’m finished.”

“Finished? Oh! How long does that last, Alex?”

“Seven days. Something else you need to remember, sis.”

“Seven days? What are we going to do for seven days? How do you know you can’t do your thing for seven days?”

“I have another ability that I use to figure out what I should do in the near future, Bri. It’s like a question and answer session with me asking the questions and ‘it’ giving me a response for a negative answer. It has gotten us out of some tight scrapes in the past. At least it still works! Right now we need to find a place to stay. Let’s go.”

Near the train station I consulted a policeman for his recommendation about lodging. It still surprised me the amount of disapproval some people had for women in the military. It brought back memories of that first morning- how angry Emily had gotten at me for inferring that women should stay home. I hadn’t meant it- it had just slipped out. I now knew how she felt. We ended up asking a clerk in the station’s lobby. She had cheerfully given us directions to a nearby hotel.

“And how long will you be staying with us, Commander?” The desk clerk asked.

“I’m not sure, sir. The clerk at the station said our luggage would be put on the next train. He didn’t specify when the next train would arrive!” I had manufactured our situation on the way here.

“My sister and I thought it best to stay in town until it arrives since we live so far away.”

“How far away, Commander…?”

“Steinert. Alexandra Steinert. Brianna and I live about eight miles southeast of Oak Ridge, Missouri.”

“Yes, that’s quite the distance! I believe there is bus service to Neely’s Landing and points beyond! I think it leaves first thing in the morning- 7 o’clock I believe. The bus station is four blocks over on Twelfth. I could call over to make sure.”

“Thank you so much, but I think we should wait here just the same. We’re running short on money and I wanted to stop and get something from the big city for our Ma and Pa.”

“I understand, Commander! The rate’s fifty cent a night per room.”

“Just fifty cents?”

“As long as you’re wearin that uniform, yes! Man or woman you’re still protectin’ this country, darlin’. We all have to do our part!”

I paid for two nights and the handsome, older clerk handed me the room key.

“Sleep well, Commander. Missy.” He added as we turned for the elevator. I waved and gave him my best smile.

Our room was well worth the half dollar a night! The bed was large and very comfortable plus, we had our own bathroom complete with tub. I wasted no time running a hot bath. When I finished, I introduced Bri to the luxury. She had been busy writing at the small desk when I came out.

“What y’all writin’, Bri?”

“It’s a list of men I knew personally on the ship. Someone needs to remember them.” She folded the two pages and placed them in the purse we had bought her.

Our hotel proved convenient to many places, including a pharmacy and in house laundry. Despite our first days of shopping, I still needed my uniform cleaned and other toiletries. Two nights passed quickly.

0800hrs, Lafayette Hotel, St. Louis, Missouri April 20th, 1942

“Good morning, Commander Steinert!” Our desk clerk greeted.

“Any word from the train station, yet?” I asked.

“Nothing yet, I’m afraid. You sure you don’t want me to call over there?”

“No, Brianna and I thought we’d walk over there today. I still have a week or so of my leave. We can wait a few more days, I’m sure they’ll arrive by then.” I gave him another one of my smiles before Bri and I walked out the lobby door to the street.

When we returned that afternoon I paid for two more days.

“They said our luggage was ‘in transit’.”

The clerk just shook his head.

“Alex, I want to go home! I’m bored! I don’t want to wait another four days!” Bri wined when we got up to the room.

“Bri, I told you it wouldn’t be a good idea to go to the farm looking like we do! You know how itchy Pa’s trigger finger can be! What would you think if two women come walkin’ up to the house? Then think how crazy them two women would look if they claimed ta be their two boys!”

“I guess you’re right, Alex. Pa’d go straight for the 12 gauge an’ Ma’d be handin’ him the shells!”

“You know it, sis! Best we wait the four days an’ jump back to Pearl of 1944, an’ acquaint you with the rest of the crew, Bri.”

0700hrs, Lafayette Hotel, St. Louis, Missouri April 23rd, 1942

‘A girl could get used to this.’ I thought as I stirred under the soft, warm covers.

“Bri. Time to get up, sis.”

My hand reached back and felt cold linen.

“Brianna, you in the bathroom?” I got no response so I sat up. The bathroom door was open- the room beyond, dark. Where was she? Getting up from bed, I checked the dresser. All her clothes were gone! I immediately grabbed my purse and counted the money. I was short a five.

“Little sister what did you do?” Pictures of Bri seated on a bus, a town, and a familiar dirt road filled my head.

“Brian Steinert, you idiot! You just had to go home!”

If only my gift would work! The thought of my little sister on the receiving end of Pa’s buckshot scared the hell out of me! How could she be so stupid? I noticed a note on the desk.

“Alex, I can’t take it anymore. I need to see Ma and Pa regardless of the risks. I’m sure you, of all people understand how I feel. I need to do this, Alex. See you in a few days. P.S. I borrowed five dollars for food and bus fare. I’ll pay you back. Thanks for rescuing me, sis. Love, Brian na.”

“Bri, you don’t get a paycheck! The Navy thinks you’re dead!” I growled to the walls. How I wished I could travel!

I quickly got dressed and went down to the front desk.

“Good morning, Cmdr. Steinert, sleep well?”

“Not so good today, Martin. Did you see my sister this morning?”

“She walked out the door about an hour and a half ago- said you told her to go ahead- that you would follow when your bags arrived. She had me call for the departure time and then she left. Is anything wrong, Commander?”

What could I say to that question? “No, Martin. We talked about it last night. I just didn’t think she would leave so soon. She forgot Ma and Pa’s gifts.” I improvised.

“I can send them on the next bus if you’d like?”

“No, I’ll take them with me. I’m going over to the station to raise some hell! This is ridiculous!” I growled as I turned for the door.

By evening I was past angry! Every attempt I made at phasing met with failure. Even though relatively new, I felt vulnerable without my ‘Empress’ abilities- how quickly I learned to rely on them.

“Evening, Alex!” the chipper desk clerk, Martin greeted.

“Hi, Martin. Any word?” I answered in a defeated tone. Of course he shook his head no.

“They are really trying my patience, Martin! They shouldn’t try my patience!” I said as I walked past him and signaled the elevator operator.

I must have looked at the alarm clock every hour! My mind constantly rehashing what had gone wrong- why Bri had decided to take the chance and go home. I looked at the clock again- 0533hrs. Where was she?

A picture of Brian in some sort of concrete block building flashed into my head. What did that mean? Another picture of a building appeared. A sign on the building read ‘Oak Ridge Sheriff’.

“Brian! You fool!” Again I groused to the walls.

I decided to get up and dress for the day. If only I had my abilities! Entering the bathroom to clean up, I reached for the wall switch. My hand passed right through it. I hurriedly pulled it back and thought about phasing back in then tried again. The light turned on with a click. I tried phasing in and out several more times. It was back! The Empress was back! I felt a wide smile appear. Walking back out to the dresser, I removed my clean, white uniform.

“Hold on little sister, I’m on my way!”

“Up early this morning, Commander?” Martin greeted me. He looked down at the bags I was holding. “I assume you’re checking out then?”

“Right as usual, Martin! I decided the railroad kin keep my things! When I get back to San Diego I’ll requisition some new things!” I tried to sound angry.

“Well, I hope your accommodations this week were satisfactory?”

“Martin, the room was great! Brianna and I had never stayed in such a lavish place before! Everything was great, thank you!”

“I’m glad you and your sister had a nice stay. If you’ll just sign out, we’ll be clear- oh, and thank you, Commander Alexandra Steinert!”

“Thank me? What for?”

“For saving all those men in Hawaii! Brianna told me you saved eleven men back in December. I guess hero’s come in all shapes and sizes, but none prettier than you, Alex! Although, I could see something special about you the moment you walked through those doors. I have a knack for that, you see.”

“Martin, those men didn’t make it! I rescued them from one catastrophe only to put them into another! I’m no hero, sir.”

“At least you tried, darlin’! Sometimes fate can be hardheaded, Alex! We can fight it with everything we are, but fate still wins!”

“I’m not a big believer in fate, Martin! I do believe fate can be swayed if you try hard enough!”

“And that is why you are special, Commander! I believe you can and will sway fate if you haven’t already! My only regret is that I am unable to follow you into battle. Good day to you, Alexandra! May you continue to fight the good fight!”

“We all do our part, Martin, as best we can! I’ll do my best to recommend the Lafayette to my superiors. May your business grow, Martin.” I gave him my best smile before turning and walking through the front door.

“Now to find a quiet place to disappear.”

I turned the very next corner and phased out. My elbow moving through a brick wall proved my ability was back. Now I had to figure out where I could appear in a town that claimed ten buildings as its town center! One other thing came to mind- should I go back a day or so to stop Brianna from going to the farm? I got a response from my friend.

“Well, I guess I’ll just do a lateral- St. Louis to Oak Ridge- same day.”

But where to appear? A picture came to mind. The place was good as any so I held that image.

The sky was slightly overcast in Oak Ridge and slightly cooler than St. Louis had been. Quickly, I made sure I was still out of phase. My hand passing through a nearby wooden railing reassured me.

The main street was almost empty as I made my way across it to the jail. Passing right through the front door, I proceeded back to their brig. There sat my sister, sole inhabitant of the four cell holding area. She sat tightly huddled in the back corner of the first cell on a very uncomfortable looking steel cot. I walked straight through the bars and leaned over to her.

“I told you it wasn’t a good idea, little sister! You should listen to your big sister more often!” I didn’t expect a reply, but she looked right at me.

“You were right! Is that what you wanted me to say, Alex? I was wrong, you were right! Okay?” Tears feel from her eyes.

“You can see me, Bri?” I was totally flabbergasted.

“No, but I can hear you! Now get me outa’ here, Alex!” She hissed with anger through her tears.

“I will, but first we need to reach an agreement, sis. I’ll take you to the farm only if you promise not to do anything this foolhardy ever again! You seem to forget that you’re a pretty girl now. Pretty girls need to be careful! Pretty girls don’t travel alone unless necessary! You could be attacked or worse! Now, do we have an agreement, Brianna Steinert?”

“What do ya mean attacked or worse?”

“You could have the guys kid, Bri! You can give birth now, remember?” I chided.

“Damn, forgot about that!” She looked down at the floor a minute. “Okay Alex. You take us to Ma n’ Pa’s and I’ll be a good girl- as strange as that feels comin’ from my lips!”

“Lips that any feller would love to kiss, sis.”

“Just get me out of here, Alex!” She yelled in a whisper.

“I’d like to try something first, Bri. I want you to concentrate and try to phase out of your reality slightly. Could you try to do that?”

“How do I do that, Alex? I thought only the ‘Empress’ could do that.”

“Maybe the little sister of the ‘Empress’ can do it too, Bri. Try standing up then try to make your hand pass through the masonry. Try to remember how it felt back on Pearl.”

Try as she might, Brianna couldn’t do as I asked. I had to go with plan ‘B’. After several attempts including pounding the concrete wall with the side of her fists, my sister was reduced to a blubbering mess.

“Maybe your gift hasn’t developed enough yet, Bri. I’ll phase in momentarily, you grab my hand and I’ll phase us out then we can find a place for you to change clothes.”

“Wait for the deputy to go back up front, Alex.”

At that moment I heard the sound of key to lock and turned to see Deputy Kincaide enter the holding area.

“Well, missy, how we doin’ this mornin’?”

“I’ve been better, Roger!” Brianna replied with distain.

“It’s disrespectful to address a stranger by his first name, missy!”

“You’re no stranger, I’ve known you since the second grade, Roger Michael Kincaide! You were in the same grade as my brother!”

“An’ just who would be your brother, sweetheart?”

“Alexandra…Alex Steinert!”

“I know the Steinert’s, sweetie, and they ain’t got a daughter! They got two boys…” the deputy dropped his eyes. “‘Least they had two boys! Their youngest died at Pearl Harbor, God rest his soul. Hell, you don’t even look like either ‘em!”

“I am their youngest ya dimwitted, poor excuse fer a lawman! I’m Brian! Alex, get me outta here before his stupid germs attack me!”

As much as I wanted to hear what insults Brianna came up with next, I suppose it was time to get the crazy girl out of the hoosegow. I placed the bags I had been holding on the floor and walked over to the bars.

“Hey where’d them bags come from?” The stunned deputy asked.

I looked around to see Bri pick them up.

“How’d they get in there? Prisoner’s ain’t allowed personal belongin’s. Hand them out here, now!”

I guess now was as good a time as any. I phased back in.

“No, Roger, they belong to me and you can’t have them! I’m not a prisoner!”

The poor man fell backwards against the wall- his eyes wide and complexion whiter than a sheet.

I know I shouldn’t have, but I figured I’d make my appearance as unbelievable as possible. I phased out and walked through the bars and phased in again.

“See? I’m not a prisoner!” I stretched my arms out slightly with my palms facing the panicked officer.

“Yo…yo…yo…yo…you!”

“I am the Empress of Time and Space, dear boy, not yo…yo…yo…yo…you! I’m here to retrieve my sister and return her to our home.” I repeated my previous maneuver and joined Bri back in her cell. “You would be wise to re-holster your weapon, Roger, they would have no effect on us anyway!” I advised.

“Sssssstaaay where you are! I got a gun!”

“I see that, Roger Kincaide! Question is, are you man enough to use it?”

“I kin if I need to, ma’am!”

“At last, some respect!” I walked over to Bri and wrapped my arms around her. “Well, Mr. Kincaide, I intend to remove your prisoner from this lockup so fire away if you think that will stop us!”

“I’ll do it, ma’am!”

“I tire of this, Brianna! Are all humans so cowardly?” I wanted him to fire his revolver to add credence to his story. Roger was a good man and I wanted him to keep his job. If he reported that two women just disappeared from their cell during his watch, he’d be laughed right outta town. I had to get him to discharge a round!

“Alex, only deputy’s of Oak Ridge!”

“We are leaving, Mr. Kincaide! Fire your weapon, Deputy!” I screamed as I prepared us to leave.

A pistol shot echoed through the small jailhouse. If anyone had been on the street it would have sounded like a cap gun.

“Where are we Alex?”

I felt strange- sickened. My shoulder felt like a knife was stuck in it.

“We should be just down the road from the house, Bri.” I released her. “Ouch!”

“Alex! Your shot!”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed! What was your first indication, sis?”

“I need to get you to Ma! She can stop the bleedin’- come on!” Brianna grabbed my good hand and pulled me up the uneven, dirt road.

I had done a good job of getting us close to the house, appearing some two hundred yards from the door. Predictably we were met at the front door by Pa’s 12 gauge.

“I thought we seen the last of you, missy! Do we have to call the Sheriff again?” Pa shouted as Bri dragged me up the walk.

“She’s hurt, Pa! She’s been shot in the shoulder an she’s bleedin’ good! We need yer help!” Brianna shouted back. I heard no fear in her voice, only desperation.

Pa held the sight on us till we got close enough for him to see the red streaks on my otherwise clean uniform.

Seeing my wound, Pa lowered the shotgun. “Good God girl, what happened to you? D’lores come quick, we got a ‘mergancy! Bring yer kit!”

I was starting to feel lightheaded, but wanted to introduce myself. “Commander Alexandra Steinert, sir, U.S. Navy- CINCPAC, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.” I remember raising my hand to shake before everything went black.

1211hrs, Fredrick W. Steinert Farm, Oak Ridge, Missouri April 26th, 1942

“How could it just pop out, D’lores? I ain’t seen a bullet ever do that before!”

“Maybe Alexandra can tell us herself. I think she’s comin’ ‘round.”

How’s a .38 slug just fall outta someone?”

“Hush now, dear.”

“Ma?”

“I’m here, dear. You’re gonna be alright now, ya hear?”

I opened my eyes to see my Ma at my bedside. Pa was standing behind her.

“Ma, I missed ya so much!”

“What girl don’t miss her ma, child?”

“I told Bri it was a bad idea to come here, Ma, he wouldn’t listen. He never listened to me!”

Ma flinched slightly with a gasp.

“Good Lord, could she be tellin’ the truth, Fritz?”

“Don’t see how, Dee. A thing like that ain’t possible is it?”

“Good Lord worked miracles, Fritz.”

“Could be a trick of the devil, Dee!”

“I ain’t no devil an’ don’t go thumpin’ me with the bible either, Ma!”

“Then who is ya? What is ya?” Pa came closer.

“Commander Alexandra Steinert, U.S. Navy- CINCPAC, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.”

“Ya said that the other day, Commander. Ain’t no women in CINCPAC! Mah son Alex told me that!”

“Well I was wrong, Pa! ‘Cause I’m commander of the USS Sand Dollar SS-353. Wait, what year is it?”

“What year? Most people ask what day it is after they’s been unconscious a few days.”

“Humor the crazy WAVE, Pa! What year is it?” I growled.

Ma answered. “Year ah our Lord 1940 an’ two. It’s April 26th, Alexandra. Why would you not know the year, child?”

“Because I’ve been hopping back and forth in time so much I get confused, Ma. I’m able ta do that now. Please help me sit up.”

As Pa gingerly helped me sit up, I noticed Brianna standing near the door of…of my bedroom!

“Thought you were goin’ to make this a sewin’ room for Ma? What happened?”

“After our son Brian died, we decided to leave it.”

“Bri ain’t dead, Ma, she’s standin’ right over there!” I carefully raised my arm to point. “Tell ‘em Bri!”

“I tried, Alex, but we get our bullheadedness from them!” She pointed at our parents. Tried ever’ way ta Sunday to explain things, but they ain’t lis’nen!”

“I’ll try to sway ‘em, Bri. April 26th, 1942, eh? I remember that postmark! You just mailed a letter to me yesterday sayin’ that a strange woman come to the door sayin’ she was Brian’s wife. That she had a list ah men died on Arizona.”

“How could you know that, child?” Ma asked in surprise.

“Cause I’ll get it three weeks from now when I…when Alexander gets back to San Francisco. You never did write back tellin’ me what happened to her, but I think I can fill in the blanks now.” I glared at Bri. “I could have told you that wouldn’t work, Bri, Ma n’ Pa ain’t stupid!”

“I kinda found that out didn’t I? You could‘a told me ‘bout it when we was in 1944, couldn’t you?”

“1944? You was in 1944? I knew you was pullin’ our legs! Ain’t nobody can time travel! Ain’t possible!” I could tell Pa was thinking of goin’ for his gun. I guess I had to demonstrate. I went to get out of bed only to discover my skirt and blouse were missing.

“Where’d they go?”

“I did laundry yesterday. I mended the hole in your blouse best I could. Got the blood stains out too.”

“Thanks, Ma, I owe ya. Can I have them back now, please?”

“Brianna, fetch your sister’s clothes from the basket.”

“Sure thing, Ma.”

Ma gasped again. This time her right hand came up to her mouth.

“What’s matter, Dee?” Pa asked.

She didn’t reply, instead she touched my chin and turned my head to face her. Her gaze made me nervous as I felt her searching my soul. Why did everyone have to do that? I let her look- in fact I looked right back into her eyes! Maybe she would get the idea of how annoying it was!

“Fritz? It’s true! She really is Alex!”

“Not possible, Dee! It’s some sorta trick, I tell ya!”

“Fritz, a mother knows her own child! This here’s Alex! She does the same thing Alex done every time I’d look in his eyes. This beautiful angel is our Alex!”

“That’s what I been tellin you two for two days now!” Brianna complained as she returned with my clothes. “Here, sis!” She tossed the neatly folded pile at me.

“Now I know these two are ours, Fritz. They always threw clothes at each other!”

“Sorry, Ma.” Bri said sheepishly.

“That caps it! Pa our kids has come home!”

“I ain’t buyin’! No, sir! It’ll take more ‘en that to convince me!”

“And so you shall have a proper demonstration, Pa!”

I removed the bandage from my shoulder. The wound was almost healed. I pointed to it.

“When have you ever seen a gunshot wound heal in two days, Pa?”

“Maybe you wasn’t hurt so bad!”

“I thought I heard you say somethin’ about the bullet poppin’ out as I was comin’ to?”

“Have ta do better, girlie!”

I pulled my blouse back on slowly. My shoulder still felt a little stiff. Once done buttoning up my blouse I stood and pulled on my skirt then pulled on my shoes.

“Okay Pa, here’s the real demonstration.” I phased out and walked into their bedroom where I phased back in and borrowed some of Ma’s makeup. Having finished that I phased out again and went downstairs to the kitchen where I got a glass of fresh milk. Phasing out again I went back ten minutes and returned to my room phasing in next to Bri.

“Milk’s still good as ever, Pa.” I said as I took a sip from my glass. Pa’s eyes looked big as saucers! Ma looked surprised as well.

“How’d ya do that?”

“I told you I can do things like that now, Pa!” His face told me he was close but still needed more to convince him, I gave a quiet sigh. “I guess I should do something even more impressive. Ma? Pa? Stand next to me. I want you each to hold my hand.”

“Where ya gonna take ‘em Alex?”

“2026, sis, want to come along?”

Brianna walked over and grabbed my good arm. “You two’ll love this! Ready, Alex!”

2100 hours, Ala Moana Hotel, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 24th, 1944

“Alecth, ah don’t feel ver’ good! Ah’m woothy! Ah wanna go home!”

“We’re home now, Brian! I’ll get ya ta bed. It’s right through here.”

“Alex, do you want me to help you?”

“No, I’m the Empress and I can do this myself!”

“Empreth of Time ‘n Thpath, take me home!”

“My word they disappeared again!”

“Jack, did you get any hint to where they went?”

“Sorry Emily, they just went quiet!”

“Mina, do you have any idea where they went?”

“Not the foggiest, Emily! I don’t think they went to the future, though. I would see that.”

“Mina, will she be doing this constantly? I think I would feel safer if I were back in the Sand Dollar’s brig!”

“Ensign, keep that attitude up and you will return to the brig!”

“I’m sorry, Miss Cummins!”

“Mina!”

“Yes doctor?”

“Mina, I found them. I found Alex and Bri…Brianna. They’re at the DARPA Competition!

“Ah. Yet another item to tick off my list!”

“You knew about Brianna?”

“Only when she appeared in our future, doctor”

“Excuse me, Lt. Scott, but who is Brianna?”

“That’s Alex’s brother, Tish. She must have had some of Sand Dollar’s water when Alex brought her forward in time. The last drink she had tonight must have been tequila or something just as strong. She underwent the Mahanilui. Alex calls her Brianna now.”

“Wonderful, we’re going to need a bigger base!”

“In my wildest dreams, I could never have seen our society expanding as it has lately, Jacquelyn!”

“Somehow I find that implausible, Mina.”



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