South of Bikini: E7- Homeworld

Alex finds that her new life is about to get stranger and even more complicated as important pieces of the Mahanilui’s origin present themselves in wonderful, but sometimes painful ways. Can the phrase ‘Everyone has a twin somewhere’ be taken too far- and what about those ‘twin’s’ secrets?


Copyright 2006 R.G.Beyer


South of Bikini

Episode 7

“Homeworld”

0800 hours, Ni’ihau, Hawaii, May 8th, 1944

“Good morning, Empress.”

“Good morning, Corrine.”

“’Morning, Empress.”

“Good morning, Jamie.”

“Good morning, Empress.”

“Hi, Tish.”

“Good morning, Empress.”

“Hi, already! Oh, et too, Alex?” Allie seemed a little upset this morning as I approached on an intercept. We were both on course for breakfast. As usual, the weather on the island was picture perfect- eighty-two wonderful degrees, few clouds and plenty of sunshine. Maybe some sunbathing was in order if I could talk Allie and our daughters into dawning the tiny scraps of cloth considered obscene by today’s standards.

I thought about it, trying to see the outcome.

I was momentarily shocked when nothing came to me. Strange…usually I would get something- no matter how small or far in the future. This morning…nothing.

I decided to try again. I asked myself whether today would be a good day to lie out on the beach. My answer came not from my gift, but from all around me!

Out of nowhere the wind began to kick up. Clouds I hadn’t noticed before quickly surrounded the sun and began to suffocate it.

“What’s happening, Allie?” I asked in alarm, looking around at the sky. “Is someone getting their gift?”

“Not that I know of, sis! I don’t remember this happening the last time. We better head indoors.” She had that nervous ‘uncertain of our timeline’ look again.

“The Mess Hall is just ahead. Come on.” I pulled her toward the mess hall door just as the wind seemed to increase- the familiar tingle reassuring both of us as we touched.

Thunder echoed off in the distance. The picture perfect day was quickly turning ugly gray. Was this some kind of freak typhoon developing?

“What’s going on out there?” Jack asked as we entered the building.

“Not sure; Jack, can you sense any unusual mental activity- like someone realizing their gift?” I asked her with more than a little concern in my voice.

“I’m not sensing anything, Alex. What’s going on?”

I just shook my head.

Sam and Cassie were next to come running into the Mess Hall.

“Where the hell’d this come from, mom?” Cassie growled.

“I don’t know. You three know the range of talents here better than I do. I’m open for ideas.” I asked as another angry clap of thunder echoed- this time, not so far off.

“We may appear to use magic, sis, but no one that I know of can affect the weather…not like this!” Allie informed me.

“Alex! What the devil is happening?” Mina shouted as she and her four daughters rushed through the door.

A crack and thump from somewhere outside was indication that the wind had become strong enough to knock trees down. More thunder reverberated through the building. What ever this was, it was getting closer and building in intensity.

Maybe we should make for the grotto, Cap.” Jack suggested and added. “Before it gets too strong.”

“Agreed. Everyone. Head for the grotto, we should be able to ride out the storm there.” I shouted to everyone in the building as more thunder sounded and rain could be heard on the metal roof of the building.

Allie and I were the last to leave, having made sure the kitchen crew had also left. Outside we met up with Brandon, Spencer, and Amelia. Allie and I motioned for them to follow. I hadn’t seen Emily yet, though.

“Where’s Emily? I shouted to them over the howling wind. The cold, driving rain stung my skin.

“She was just behind us, Alex!” Amelia shouted back.

“Go! I’ll look for her, Emily!” I shouted back before heading up the path to retrace their steps. I felt a hand on my arm and a tingle.

“I won’t let you do this alone, Alex!”

Small tree fronds and other debris started to fly all around us- our hair being blown parallel to the ground.

“You get back to the grotto, Admiral! I’ll find her!” My hair whipped at my face as I turned to her.

I noticed two other people hurrying toward us.

“Cassie! Sam! Get back to the grotto! It’s not safe out here!” I shouted as I tried to wave them back.

“There’s safety in numbers, Captain! We’re going to help- like it or not!” Sam shouted back at us.

Still the weather worsened. The bright daylight had now turned into a dull twilight.

We had to find Emily before this got any worse!

The four of us began to call for our comrade.

“Alexandra! Wait, We can help!” A male voice sounded behind us. I could just barely hear Brandon as he appeared beside Allie and I. Spencer and Amelia were directly behind him.

“What are you doing? Get back to the grotto! You’ll get hurt!”

“Tough! I’m not going to lose you this way, Alex! Let’s find Emily and get out of this!” He shouted. We could barely hear each other over the gale.

“There she is!” I pointed to the prone figure on the ground several yards ahead of us. A small palm had fallen and pinned Emily’s legs.

Since my voice couldn’t beat the noise of the typhoon, I signaled where I wanted everyone placed and motioned for us to lift the tree. Amelia and Allie gently pulled Emily out while the rest of us lifted the trunk. Brandon and Spencer took Emily into a fireman’s carry and we all hurried off to the grotto and safety.

As soon as Allie and I entered the yellow brick road, the tunnel started to reverberate and glow!

“What’s up with this now?” I tried to shout over all the commotion.

“Stop using your power, sis!” Allie shouted to me.

“I’m not using it! I thought you were?”

Allie shook her head.

“Keep going!” I shouted, not knowing what else to do.

We had just reached the grotto when the ground suddenly trembled below us. The tunnel we had just exited was now glowing and pulsing as profusely as a lighthouse beacon and the rumbling was evident in the quivering walls.

“Get the Sand Dollar fired up, Jack! We may need to get out of here quickly!” I ordered as I looked around at the walls and ceiling surrounding us. I could see them shudder as another crash of thunder sounded.

“Aye, Cap!” Jack saluted me quickly then turned toward the gathered crowd. “You heard the Captain, Ladies! Let’s get the old girl up and running!” Jack shouted as she waved for everyone to follow her.

“We won’t have enough room for everyone, Captain Steinert!” Mina calmly advised as she moved past me.

“Sure we will, Mina. We’re smaller than we used to be! That…and we have to!” I motioned her on as Allie and I started past her.

Mina started to move, but stopped dead and looked to Allie and I with shear terror in her eyes.

“Alexandra, your feet!” She pointed down and gasped.

“What about my feet, your highness?”

“They’re glowing, Empress!”

“What?” I looked down to my feet. A faint glow was surrounding them, as well as Allie’s. I moved one foot then the other as Allie did the same. Sure enough, our feet were glowing, not the ground.

Instinctively, Allie grasped my hand. The tingle we both felt was more of a strong electrical shock instead of a gentle tickle. Allie looked directly into my eyes. I could put no known description to the look I saw on my twin’s face. Surprise, confusion, panic, and terror all combined couldn’t begin to describe it!

Samantha and Cassandra were now next to us looking on just as shocked.

“What’s going on, Alex?” I asked in horror.

“I can’t let go, Alex!” She shrieked realizing the dilemma.

“Cassie, you grab mom, and I’ll grab mom! We have to get them apart! Pull!” Sam cried, almost in tears.

The shock I had experienced tripled in intensity as the two took hold of us!

“I can’t let go, mom!” Sam shrieked as horror overtook both the girl’s faces.

I noticed Brandon and Spencer coming closer to us.

“Stay back! Both of you!” I shouted to them. “If you want to live, for God’s sake stay back!”

I looked down to Allie’s hand. There was now no sign of her fingers- just my hand- as if she were melting into me!

Another tremor shook the ground below us.

“I’m sorry, Alex!” Allie said to me with tears and a pained expression. My arms felt like they were on fire!

“No you don’t!” Her arm was now disappearing into my arm. “You aren’t getting out of this that easy, Alex!” I growled to her as our shoulders slowly met and began melding together. I could see Cassie’s hand fusing with Allie’s other hand.

“Mom!” She screamed in terror. “What’s happening to us?”

I looked back at Sam instinctively knowing the same was happening to her.

“Mommy! Make it stop! Please? I don’t want to die!” Her frantic pleas made my heart crumble to pieces. Tears streamed down my cheeks as the pain increased exponentially. I started to realize there was nothing I could do to save them!

Not far away, Spencer, Brandon, Emily, and Amelia could only watch as, slowly, the four women in front of them were fusing together, becoming one- me!

“Get away from me!” I shrieked to them. “Get away while you still can!”

The pulsing glow emanating from the tunnel now seemed to accelerate, as if some unseen entity had suddenly increased the power. This all seemed so Frankenstein-esque!

Still the three other women melted into me, now at an increased rate. Allie was just a thin sliver on my side- Sam and Cassie little more than two extra, bodiless limbs.

The resonance coming from the tunnel now took on a low-pitched thrum, as the pulsing light grew faster and even more intense.

Though now one entity, I could still hear the cries of my two daughters and Allie. Their shrill screams of terror echoed through my body as the severe electrical type shocks kept right on coming.

Trying to understand or just figure out what was happening; I looked about the grotto, or what was left of it! Gone were my friends and relatives. Gone were most of the equipment and spare parts. The Sand Dollar herself seemed almost transparent, but still floating on the surface. The pulsing light emanating from the tunnel had quickened it’s pace once more- the light, now so intense, I could not bare to look into it- in fact I was forced to close my eyes entirely or go blind.

Was this what it was like to experience the atomic bomb? Had I inadvertently triggered one of Mina’s ‘paradoxes’?

I really didn’t want to know about that! The three voices inside me continued to shriek and wail in pain, confusion, and agony. I had to stop this…whatever it was!

But how could I possibly stop any of this?

One more high intensity shock rolled through my body. Try as I might to stay lucid, the intense light faded to black; the thrum; the rumble- the chaos of the world around me ebbed and became muted, then went silent.

I was able to hear my own thoughts again, a sure confirmation that I was still alive, but a cold reminder of what I had just lost! But, was I really still alive?

I would quickly find out.

The blackness around me slowly brightened to incoherent smudges of light. Ever so slowly, those increased to tiny, focused pinpricks of light. They reminded me of stars. As I thought about it, I was able to identify constellations, but all too quickly they grew too small and coalesced into clouds. No, maybe they looked more like galaxies- things I had seen in a Planetarium once. One stayed centered in my field of view- a spiral shaped cloud- was that the much talked about Milky Way? Focusing on this galaxy, I had the sensation of movement- could it be that I was traveling farther and farther away from my home? It sure felt like I was moving!

Still I traveled, my home galaxy becoming jumbled with other galaxies to form a shapeless cloud of light.

Another intense jolt of electricity wracked my body, this time causing me to lose consciousness again.

I felt something cold beneath me. Was I lying on a cold floor? Why couldn’t I move? Why couldn’t I see anything? Had I actually died? It sure felt like it- or rather what I assumed it felt like.

“Still nothing! Increase the stimulus! Ready!” I scarcely heard echoing through a thick fog.

Another intense shock struck me.

“No good! Increase the stimulus again! Now!” I managed to hear before I faded into oblivion again.

A blinding flash was the next thing I saw, though I wasn’t sure if it was in my mind or through my eyes.

“I have cardio-rhythm and her pressure is coming back up, Assistant Director. I think she’s going to make it.”

I was still ice cold and so was whatever I was lying on. The gentle, but excited feminine voice I heard didn’t make any sense, but her concern told me she was trying to help me somehow.

“Get her to the medical wing and into some coverings before she goes hypothermic.”

“I want to know what went on here, Darough! Why did she re-materialize in the reaction chamber? How did she even get in there in the first place?” Another female voice, more brusque than the first, told the other.

“Yes, ma’am, I’ll get right on it as soon as I’m sure Alexandra has stabilized and won’t disappear on us again!”

“I’ll await your report, Darough.”

“Where am I?” I heard myself say. Had I actually spoken?

“Alex, you’re safe now.” The gentle, concerned voice answered me. “We were so worried about you! You just disappeared and then…and then…you were gone for so long!” I heard the voice sniff back tears.

I felt a hand squeeze mine.

“Everyone…everyone…wondered where you had gone! Do you remember anything about it, Alex? Where were you?”

“Hawaii.”

“Where?” the concerned voice asked in confusion.

“Hawaiian Islands.”

“Alex, I’ve never heard of these Hawaiian Islands. Where are they?”

“Pacific Ocean.”

“I don’t know that place either, Alex. You must be worse than I realized. Don’t worry; I’ll stay by you till you’re better. We’ll get through this!”

“Cassandra and Samantha?”

There was a noticeable pause.

“Cassie and Sam are just as worried about you as I am! They refused their rest periods until you were found and retrieved.”

I felt my face form a smile. At least my daughters were okay. I felt extremely fatigued, but happy now. The world around me started to fade again. I recognized the need to sleep, and cautiously I let it overtake me.

The room my eyes opened upon appeared to be some sort of hospital room, though much more modern than I would have expected. Was I in the future? How did I get here and, more to the point, where exactly was here? I started to scan the room. To my left, a head of long, brown, wavy hair met my sight. As my eyes focused, a woman’s upper torso, arms spread out and bent at the elbows to support her head, came into view. She was asleep at the side of my bed; her tresses spread wide covering most of her white sleeved, forearms. Who was she and why was she here?

Since I could move my head and eyes, I decided to see if the rest of my body would follow suit. My trials disturbed the sleeping figure. It began to stir. Slowly she twisted and turned trying to shake out the cobwebs, finally reaching above her to stretch her arms, she opened her eyes. A smile flashed onto her unfamiliar face.

“Well, hello there, sleepyhead!”

“Where am I?” I croaked. My mouth felt like the Mojave.

“Facility Medical, Alex. We brought you here after retrieval. We were all worried about you!”

“Retrieval?”

“Yes, you vanished from the control room and were missing for thirty-two hours! You had us all scrambling to find you!”

“Who are you?”

“What?”

“Who…are…you?”

“Oh dear! I had hoped this wouldn’t happen! Alex, I’m Camille…Camille Darough? We work together on the Protoverse Reactor. Don’t you remember?”

I think I shook my head, but wasn’t sure. I was too busy processing what she said.

“Proto…verse…Reactor?” My eyes caught sight of a pitcher on a stand to her left.

Camille picked up on that and poured some water into a glass for me as she tried to answer my question.

“The Protoverse Reactor…” She put the glass to my lips and I felt moisture return to my mouth. “You designed the Reactor to prove the Big Bang Theory. It essentially mimics the theoretical formation of the known universe.”

“What? I have no idea how to design a reactor, nor do I know anything about some ‘big bang’ thing! I’m just a regular Submarine Captain in the United States Navy. Y’all got the wrong girl, Camille!”

“Sub…marine? Allie quit fooling around. I’ve never heard of such a thing as this United…States…um…Navy. What are ‘united states’ any way?” She looked at me perplexed.

Then and there I came to the only viable conclusion. I had somehow been taken prisoner!

“Alexandra Steinert, Commander, United States Navy, four-one-one-six-three-two-seven-three-two-two. By order of the Geneva convention that’s all I’m required to tell y’all.” I stated with a shaky voice. I tried to move ahead in time, move back in time- nothing.

“What are you talking about, Alex? Your phylum name isn’t Steinert, it’s Reilly!”

“Alexandra Steinert, Commander, United States Navy, four-one-one-six-three-two-seven-three-two-two.” I tried again to move through time. Not even a phase out!

“Come on Allie, we’ve been friends since entering adolescent education! Why can’t you remember me?” I noticed her expression take on a more pained look as if she really believed me to be this Alex Reilly she claimed I was.

“Alexandra Steinert, Commander, United States Navy, four-one-one-six-three-two-seven-three-two-two.”

I noticed tears forming in the corners of her eyes before she abruptly stood up and headed for the door. She paused and turned around looking very disappointed.

“I’ll go get the physician, Alex. I may have missed something when I pulled you out of the chamber. Try not to worry, we’ll figure this out!”

What kind of place was this? Camille, if that really was her name, seemed to get genuinely upset when I invoked the Geneva accords. Could I really be on some other planet or in some other dimension?

Moreover, should I trust these people, after all they hadn’t tried to hurt me yet?

No, I was going to play this one by the book. Trust no one until convinced otherwise.

I heard her…Camille’s and a second voice, coming back.

“Welcome back, Miss Reilly! Camille tells me you’re suffering from some variant of post trauma, delusional amnesia.” A woman of about twenty-five greeted as the two walked into the room.

“Alexandra Steinert, Commander, United States Navy, four-one-one-six-three-two-seven-three-two-two.”

“I see…look, Allie, whatever that all means, I’m not here to harm you, I’m here to help! You’ve just been through a terrible trauma and I’d like to help you recover from that. Won’t you at least let me help you, Allie?”

“Alexandra Steinert, Commander, United States Navy, four-one-one-six-three-two-seven-three-two-two.”

“What’s the matter with her, doctor? Why doesn’t she recognize me?” Tears streamed down this woman’s…Camille’s face.

It made me feel terrible to be doing this to someone who had just saved my life, but all my training told me this could be some elaborate interrogation technique. Since my gift didn’t seem to be working, I had to fight this as best I could, no matter how convincing they were!

“My guess would be she has somehow created a new personality- one that overrides the pain, confusion, and trauma she has no doubt experienced. This new persona wouldn’t know you, Cami- unless you two met- in her imagined world that is.” The doctor rubbed her chin while thinking out loud. I decided to remain quiet. If I just listened carefully, maybe I could find a weakness and use it to my advantage.

“But why make up those places and names? Where did she get them from?”

“The mind often invents places as well as people to fill them, I’m afraid. Allie believes she is this Commander Steinert in her world’s Navy- a place called United States, I presume.”

“What’s a Navy? I’ve never heard of such a thing!”

“It sounds like it has to do with water!”

“Sounds more like an orange…naval orange?”

“You might be right, Cami.”

“But who would name a planet United States?”

“I’ve heard of changing states- like in the reactor…and uniting protomatter…”

I couldn’t take it any more!

“No, you idiots!” How stupid did they think I was!

The lights blinked quickly.

“I…am…a…Commander- a commissioned officer…in the United States Navy- as in big boats…they float on water? The United States is a country in the Northern Hemisphere on the planet Earth! You two must be very new to interrogation!” I hissed having broken my vow of silence and patience.

“I’m sorry, ma’am! We didn’t mean to offend you! We’ve just never heard of these things you speak of!” The as yet unnamed doctor apologized.

“Something as large as three thousand miles by two-thousand miles and you’ve never heard of it? What kind of crazy, mixed-up world is this?” I was so angry I sat straight up in the bed. Two confused faces looked back at me.

I noticed an older woman, maybe fifty with gray-streaked, honey-brown hair looking in through a window not too far right from the door.

“What the hell you want lady?” I snarled at the woman, noticing that she looked as angry as I felt. Strangely, her mouth moved in time with my own.

Looking to the two women by my bed, I growled. “Why is she out there mocking me?”

“Who, Alex?” Camille asked, looking even more confused.

“That woman in the window there!” I pointed.

“Ma’am, that’s not a window, but a reflector.” The doctor informed me with disbelief. To illustrate, she moved her hand closer to my head.

It was a mirror!

“Oh, God, I’m old!” My own hands reached for my face- my reflection did the same. “How long was I out? What year is this?”

“Year, Alex?” Camille asked, again perplexed.

“You were only gone for thirty-two hours, Miss Reilly.”

“What year is this?” I shouted in frustration.

Both women looked to each other trying to understand my question. I decided to try something I had seen on a television show back in 2026 Arizona.

“What cycle around the sun are we in? What is the season we’re in?”

Again they looked at each other and said nothing.

I thought again. “How many times have we traveled around the local star?” I held my right pointer finger up straight and circled it several times with my left pointer.

“Oh! It is said Reilly has gone many billion revolutions around the hot elemental, fusion giant. No one knows for sure, Alex.” Camille admitted, finally understanding.

“Wait, Reilly is the name of this planet? You said my name was Reilly!”

“That it is, ma’am! The satellite of Reilly was renamed after our supreme leader! The one who saved us from total annihilation when our home could no longer sustain life!” The doctor said looking at me strangely.

“You mean me? I’m this supreme leader? Ma and Pa will never believe this!”

“Who? I don’t know who you are referring to, Alex?”

“My parents! The people who produced me!”

“I’m afraid we don’t have parents, Allie! Not in the old tradition, anyway.

“Huh?”

“We are the newest revisions of our species. In time, we will be required to donate a portion of our beings to the next revision. It has been the way for hundreds of revolutions- since the fusion giant was awakened.”

“That’s it, I’m getting out of this nuthouse!” I shouted as I pulled the covers back and scrambled off the opposite side of the bed. As soon as my feet hit the floor, I made for that door!

Two women standing to either side of the doorframe, just outside of it straightened as I passed and entered the brightly lit hallway. Left, right, or straight- it didn’t matter which way I went at the moment. I just wanted out! I decided to turn right. No one seemed to be chasing me as I turned the next corner heading down that corridor. Why?

Ahead I could see a break in the wall of doors- a way out? I decided to check.

It turned out to be just a small waiting area, but one with a window! The light filtering through looked strangely dim. Was it nighttime? Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to stop and look.

Before me a dim landscape of trees and bushes fanned out a few hundred yards and abruptly stopped with a definite curved demarcation. Beyond lay a rugged, desolate expanse that promised no chance of life. Looking up to the sky reminded me of my private domain- a single, yellow star. This one appeared to be moving ever so slightly, though.

“There you are, Alex! You know you shouldn’t be out of bed yet!” I heard Camille’s voice behind me.

“Where am I? What is this place?”

“I told you, this is Reilly- a satellite revolving around the Fusion Giant.”

“That…that up there…that’s the fusion giant?” I pointed to the small yellow star.

“Oh no, Alex, that is the Fusion Giant that our Fusion Giant revolves around! No one here remembers if it has or had a name.”

“I’ve seen that sun before!” I mumbled.

“Wonderful, Alex, you are regaining your memory!” Her voice sounded happier.

“Why is there nothing after that delimiter?” I pointed.

“Nothing can live outside the transparent wall. You of all people should know that, Alex!”

“Why’s that?”

“Why, you constructed it before the rest of us arrived! You saved us all, Alex! Please remember, please?”

“Welcome back, Alexandra, it is the fifty-sixth hour of the third quadrant past the Fusion Giant’s hibernation, my Director.” Another familiar voice greeted me from behind. The way it pronounced ‘Director’ left nothing unclear as to its hatred of the term.

“Assistant director, I am not yet satisfied as to our leader’s safety and well being, my report remains open and unfinished.” Camille apologized to her.

Hearing this woman’s voice more clearly than before, I recognized it as one of the two I had heard when Cassie and I found ourselves in the presence of the three, self-proclaimed, ‘gods’.

Cassie! How I missed her and Sam! I felt a tear run down my face.

“Assistant director! Do you have a name, woman?” I said taking a page from Mina’s royalty book.

“I am Assistant Director, Janelle Hathor, Alexandra Reilly.” The dark skinned, raven-haired women introduced her self, obviously annoyed by my ignorance.

“Now you, I remember!” I pointed to her. “When last we spoke, you tried to pass yourself off as a goddess, I recall! Tell me, Janelle, Juno, Hera, or Jupiter, if you are a goddess, what would that make me?” I growled to her with a wicked smile.

I heard Camille gasp next to me.

“My Supreme Leader, ma’am.” I noticed a sneer form at the corner of her mouth. I felt a small victory and maybe a little payback had been won. I decided to push harder.

“Cami has stated that her report is not completed due to the fact that she is not yet convinced of my safety and well being, is this correct, Assistant Director Janelle?”

“It is, ma’am.”

“Then why are you still here bothering me?”

“As you wish, ma’am.” The Assistant Director turned in a huff and marched down the hall, disappearing around the far corner.

“Praise the goddess, Allie, you’re back!” Camille sounded overjoyed.

“It’s called bluffing, Camille…or should I call you Cassiopeia, Goddess of beauty and love?” I raised an eyebrow to her.

“I am truly sorry about that, Allie. The Assistant Director thought it would help jog random archives when we first triangulated on your bio-emissions within the Protoverse.”

“How did you know to call me ‘Empress’?” I asked as I put a finger under her lowered chin and gently raised it up to see her face.

“That is our pet name for you, ma’am. You are the closest thing we have to the old royal bloodlines. That, and sometimes you actually act like the Empress written of in the old legends. I’m afraid you do not like it much, so we use it sparingly.”

“I appreciate that, Cami. I thought it was because I was all old and matronly looking!”

“Oh no, Alex! You only look that way because of the retrieval process. As we speak your hair and facial features recover. Soon, you will look no older than I.”

“Nice to know some things are the same!”

“Ma’am?”

“Nothing, sweetheart.”

“Oh, you remembered!”

I rolled my eyes and looked back out the window.

“It’s about time you found your way back to us!” Samantha’s voice sounded from behind me.

Her voice caused a surge of emotions that resulted in immediate tears. “Sam, I’m so glad to see…” I turned to see Cassie smiling at me. In that instant, I decided it didn’t matter and wrapped my arms around my daughter.

“Ease up, ma’am, it’s only been thirty-some hours!”

“For me it’s been an eternity, honey!” I bawled over her shoulder. “Where’s my other daughter?”

“Daughter? I know we’re close, Allie, but we’re colleagues, not phylum members- at least not through the last hundred revisions!”

I lifted my head from her shoulder. “It doesn’t matter, Sam! It doesn’t matter!”

It didn’t either. This place was so FUBAR, I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Hopefully this odyssey I was on would dissolve back into reality just as with Alice- before any white rabbits appeared!

“Why didn’t anyone tell me she was up and walking around?” Cassie’s voice cried out from down the hall. Samantha appeared turning the corner from the hall.

“Cassie!”

“Welcome back ma’am! You had us all frightened that you might have deleted!”

“Well, as you can see, I’m still here, dear!”

“Thank the goddess, ma’am.”

“Yes, Deirdre, Goddess of all knowledge and the sciences! Thank the goddess, indeed!”

“You remember that, do you? I had hoped you wouldn’t.” The girl cringed. “Please don’t punish me, ma’am! It wasn’t my idea!”

“I know whose idea it was, honey! Tell me though, why the ancient robes?”

“The assistant director thought you might relate the vision of the goddesses to home and stir your desire to return to us. She did not count on the Empress surfacing, ma’am.” She looked unsure as she giggled.

“You are not the one requiring punishment, child. Janelle strikes me as the one needing the switch!”

The girl gave me a confused look.

“A form of punishment on my world, sweetheart.”

“But this…is…your world, ma’am.” Even more confusion issued forth from her.

“Ladies, I’d like to see this ‘Protoverse Chamber’…after you give me back my clothes.”

“Clothes?”

“Do you mean coverings?”

I nodded.

“But ma’am, you wore no coverings when you reappeared in the chamber! We must visit your residence for proper attire.” Camille informed me.

“Then lead on, Miss Livingston!”

Three women looked at me in total oblivion.

“Escort me to my room, ladies!” I growled in mock anger.

“Yes, my Empress!” All three giggled.

“Some get-up this is!” I complained, appraising my reflection.

The blue trimmed, red one-piece garment felt like cellophane and conformed to my every curve. Apparently underwear was not a prerequisite on this world! As a result, certain parts of my anatomy felt…shall we say…uncomfortable.

I had to admit, though, I did look enticing!

“Now could we go to the Proto-whatsit chamber?” I said as I checked out my bottom in the mirror one last time.

“I shall take you wherever you like, Alex, but Sam and Cassie are overdue for their rest period and cannot join us. Why did you call them your daughters? I have heard the term, but am unfamiliar with its usage in this case.”

“Daughters…referring to my children…um…new revisions I have given birth to.” I tried to put it in terms she could understand. I knew I had failed when she returned a blank look.

“Never mind, let’s go!” I pointed out the door.

“So this is the chamber, huh?” I looked around the room filled with computer and various unknown equipment along three white walls. I deduced that the console in the center was the unseen object blocking the three goddess’ lower bodies in our last meeting. Directly in front of it, about twenty feet away was a fourth white wall with a large plate glass window in the center. Only darkness could be seen through it from just inside the doorway.

“This is where you found me?” I turned my head slightly to ask.

“This is where you disappeared from, Alex. We found you on the floor in there.” Camille pointed to the window.

I started to walk over to the large window, curious to see what it contained.

A hand gently snagged my arm and tried to stop my approach.

“Alex, we just got you back! I cannot lose you again!” Camille said in a frightened voice.

“I’ll be all right. Hold my hand if you’d like.” I offered.

Carefully making my way closer, I noticed a small luminescent vapor was the only thing visible in the room beyond. I also felt a strange force building on my skin. Taking one more step closer, I noticed the feeling build slightly. What was this glowing cloud they had detained in there?

Images started to flash into my mind- images of this place; images of Kili Island; images of my friends and family! My gift was back, for how long I didn’t know. What did all these images mean? How did they fit together? I had to solve this puzzle if I ever wanted to see my friends and family again!

“Alex! Your hand! Get back!” Camille shouted while quickly jerking me back. My hand, which I had unconsciously moved out in front of me, seemed to be glowing, just as our feet had back on base! Was this a clue of some kind?

Another image flashed in- an image of this room…

“Time to go, Allie! It’s too dangerous for you here!” Camille broke my attention as she forcibly pulled me from the room.

I suddenly felt extremely tired. Looking to her, I saw the concentration on her face.

“Cami, stop that! I don’t need to rest right now, so just…just stop it!”

Her concentration turned to surprise- surprise that I knew what she was doing. I immediately felt more aware.

“How did you know, ma’am?”

“Because I know someone else that has the same gift as you, sweetheart!” Jack’s image immediately popped into my mind.

“Who is she, Alex? What kind of strange coverings does she wear?”

“Her name is Jacquelyn, and she is my first officer back on Earth. That is the uniform we are required to wear. She has a gift similar to yours.”

“She is very pretty, Alex. Your mind…it can make up some very real looking people.”

“She’s very real, Camille, and I miss her somethin’ awful! I miss them all!” I began to flood her with images of my family and crew. In the despair this caused me, I let slip with the big one!

She jumped!

Camille’s face immediately lost all color, tears gushed from her eyes, as her hand shot to her mouth. Despite her best efforts, she emptied the contents of her stomach on the floor before us.

“I’m sorry you had to see that, Camille!”

“I understand the people, but what was that last…”

“That.” I paused. “That was the deadliest weapon known to man. A weapon so devastating that every country on Earth will try to use its existence as a bargaining chip to gain power and importance around the world. Yet, in a different form, provides energy in the form of electricity for billions of people- making life comfortable and convenient. I’ll find something to clean this up.”

I looked down at the puddle only to see it dissipate into the floor!

Hey, why not?

“But, how do you make up such things, Alex? We have nothing like that here. Where do these thoughts come from?” Her voice sounded troubled.

“The people, the atomic bomb, they’re all real! I’ve been trying to tell y’all that all along!”

“How can they be real? You saw for yourself, there is nothing outside this facility- there hasn’t been for hundreds of revolutions, Alex. We are alone out here! We are what is left of our kind- one hundred of us- that is all!”

“I refuse to accept that, Camille! Somewhere out there…beyond the transparent wall… is my planet- my solar system- my…Earth! I am willing to use everything at my disposal to find it and get back there! If possible, I’ll take y’all back with me!”

“Brave words from someone who cannot even remember her status or the fictional reason for this experiment, Empress!”

“Wow…Janelle…you’re here.” I deadpanned hearing her voice, but not turning to see her immediately. “I guess every world- every dimension- needs a villain, huh?”

“I am no more villain than you are rightful leader of this facility!” She fired back.

“That’s right, I’m not the leader of this place! I’m not even qualified to be a janitor here!” I turned and glared at her. “But then again, neither are you, Janelle! When I look at you, I see only wanton jealousy…greed…contempt, and a desperate need for power! All the makings of a proper tyrant! We were fighting a few of those when I left Earth- when I was suddenly pulled back here against my will!” Admiral Demmit’s stare tactic still worked. Janelle first just glared back, but quickly began blinking and finally lowered her eyes.

“I was wrong, ma’am, it is you. One cannot dispute the power of those eyes, Director.” Janelle quickly turned and walked back the way she had come. I waited till she turned the next corner.

“Glad we had this little conversation, Janelle! Stop back any time you feel you need a shoulder!” I made a feeble attempt to wave in her direction. Her arrogance reminded me of Cassie’s Greg. His image came to mind.

“That is a strange looking person, Alex. Who is she?”

“He’s even stranger if you were to meet him in person, Camille.” I gave her a slight smile.

“He?”

“A male of our kind; a man.” Now that I thought about it…I had seen no men here since waking.

“There are men here right?”

“According to legend, the last males of our species departed when the Fusion Giant awakened, Alex. Revisions began to be produced as a way of continuing thereafter.

“So, you’ve all been manufactured?” I looked at her in amazement.

“A revision consists of the previous revision with refinements added for better performance. I don’t know what manu…factured means, Alex. You should know all of this though; you are a revision, too- like me!”

“I beg to differ, sweetheart, I have fond memories of my mother and father back in Missouri! In fact, I was a man not too long ago- before I inadvertently mixed water with alcohol, that is. Here I was before my change.” I found it much more difficult to recall that image. Mina’s observation must have been right on; I had completely accepted my new form!

Camille’s mouth dropped.

“Yes, Camille, that was me not even a fraction of a revolution ago. It seems so long ago now. To think water did this to me.” I waved a hand down my body.

“Then the story is true!”

I gave her a puzzled look.

“One story tells of a few males arriving on Reilly just after the awakening. The airlock is said to have become angry and resisted their entrance, but the males were persistent and, after reaching the inner doors, were welcomed. The story tells how a celebration ensued. Food and drink was consumed and within a rest period the males had disappeared.”

“It continues by relating how two unfamiliar women were found crying and protesting in the male’s room- that they claimed to be the males. The tale claims our water system not only purifies, but also protects us using molecular sentinels programmed to assure our continuation as a species. The sentinels are claimed to awaken when introduced to strong spirits.”

Another piece of the puzzle had appeared and slid neatly into place.

A flashing light on my left breast and a barely audible beeping caught my attention.

“What’s that?” I asked as I tried to figure out why I couldn’t feel any heat from the bulb, or where they had hidden the loudspeaker in this garment.

“Your rest period, Alex. It is your scheduled rest period. You should return to your room and recline for eight hours. I’ll walk you back to your room.”

Once back in my room, I looked around for someplace resembling a lavatory.

“Camille, could you tell me where the lavatory is?”

“Lavatory?”

“Yes, lavatory, bathroom, water closet, loo, head, throne, privy, necessary, outhouse, I don’t care what you call it! I need to relieve myself, sweetheart!”

The woman cocked her head slightly.

“I have to pee! If I don’t go soon, there’s gonna be a puddle on the floor, darlin’!”

“Oh.” She giggled. “Your covering takes care of that, Alex. It is fully integrated with the recovery system.” She kept giggling.

“You mean I can soil myself and this get-up will take care of everything?”

“Your covering will process all the waste; transferring liquids to the reclamation system, purify, and return it into the water system. Solid wastes are also processed and returned to materials storage and converted into food, fertilizer, or other solid materials.”

Note to self: Don’t eat the local cuisine, or drink the water! Yuk! Too late!

“That is just disgusting!”

Camille turned and moved back toward my doorway shaking her head and giggling the whole time. “I will see you after your rest period, Alex. Rest well, my Empress!”

My door closed and the lights started to dim by themselves. If I wanted to get any sleep I would have to do the unthinkable. I felt both relief and disgust as I let loose. Unbelievably, my clothing stayed dry!

“Mommy! Mommy, help us! Where are you, Mommy? We need you!”

Sam, I’m right here! I can’t see you though! Where are you?”

“Here! Mommy, we need you! Why won’t you help us?”

“Your mother can’t help you now, my pretties! You’re all mine!” An old woman cackled.

“Mommy, please, we need you! We’ll behave! We promise!”

“Your time is running out! Soon you both will be mine- and you’re little aunt too!” Again the old woman cackled.

“What?” I woke with a start. The room’s lighting slowly increased as I looked around it. What kind of dream was that? My Cassie and Samantha were being held in some castle. The sand in the hourglass had almost run up? What did it all mean? Was I really running out of time- and for what?

“I think I’ll do some scouting around this place.” I said aloud to no one in particular.

A chime called my attention to a panel opening up on the wall. In the revealed alcove was a white laboratory coat. I took it and put it on, then approached my door. It opened for me and I walked into the hall.

Already knowing where the Protoverse Chamber was, I decided to head in the opposite direction. Maybe, I thought, I could find this storied airlock Camille told me of.

“Now to find the airlock.” I said quietly aloud.

Green arrows lit up along the left wall. Convenient.

The airlock proved easy to find and placed one more piece of the puzzle into place as I looked into the long, slightly curved chamber. I decided to try something.

“Please show me the outside of this complex.” I stated to the wall. A technical drawing of a large, multistoried building appeared.

“Thank you. Please show me where the water system is located in the building.” The wall panned and zoomed in on a portion of the building.

“Great! Now zoom back out, but keep water system circled.” I asked and was rewarded with the information I requested.

“Can you rotate drawing to place the water system at two hundred-seventy degrees.”

Surprisingly the drawing turned, placing the water system to the west. Yet another puzzle piece fell neatly into place.

Time to ask the hard question that I assumed my nightmare hinted at. I figured I’d take the shot.

“If you could, show me the estimated time to failure of this complex.”

A countdown appeared on the wall starting with ten, zero, zero, zero, nine. The right most digits moved like seconds. That made the middle digits minutes, and the left digits, hours. Just great!

“Can you give me the reason for failure?” I asked not really wanting to know the answer.

Text started to scroll down the wall, much to fast for me to make any sense of. I remembered Samantha telling me about her computer. She had called the operating system a GUI- Graphical User Interface. It was worth a try.

“Show graphical representation of failure, please.”

An image of the ‘Fusion Giant’ and Reilly appeared. The Fusion Giant expanded to envelope Reilly. Wonderful! I was on a world scheduled to be dinner for its sun! Even better, I had less then ten hours to either stop it- highly impossible- or evacuate the facility! Equally impossible!

“This is terrible! I have to get everyone out of here.”

“That would be highly recommended, Alexandra!’ The wall spoke to me!

I recognized the voice. “Mina? Is that you, your highness?”

“Why waste time calling me unfamiliar names, Alexandra, you have your race to save!”

“I don’t know how yet!” I cried toward the wall.

“Of course you do! Follow my direction, Alexandra.” It told me sounding a bit annoyed.

Green arrows appeared on the wall leading away from the airlock and back the way I had come. They lead me straight to the Protoverse Chamber.

“But, I was told this is a dangerous place for me! I shouldn’t be here!”

“The effects of the chamber will not reach to the control station. Please step over to it, Alexandra.”

“Okay, I’m here. Now what?” I looked at the large window before me. I could see the glowing cloud much better now. From my new vantage point, it appeared maybe fifteen to twenty inches across and fifteen inches high. If it was indeed a cubical mass- I couldn’t tell.

“Please watch the vid screen on the station.”

A recording flashed to life on the smooth surface of the station in front of me.

“This experiment will test the possibility of dimensional travel through the Protoverse Chamber. Since I can neither trust my assistant director nor ask anyone else to depart in my stead, I must be the one to venture closer to the chamber.”

“Our readings show a massive buildup of energy- the likes of which are not explainable. Drawing closer to the chamber, I experience strange visions! Visions I cannot comprehend or understand. These visions, some of which are very much pleasing and enticing, taunt me ever closer to the viewport. As I move closer, I notice some of the strange energy dissipate into my outstretched fingers…”

“That’s me!” I screeched as I noticed my face flash on the screen. The recording suddenly froze.

“Please continue your observation, Alexandra. It is important to understand the concepts.”

“Sorry. Please continue.”

“What does it mean? Will it be possible for us to find and safely travel to a new home? As of yet, I am the only one to know of our impending departure. I fear panic and chaos could disrupt my efforts to secure a portal into the chamber should news of our demise become public!”

“That is a very good summation, Alexandra.” The disembodied voice agreed with me on the recording.

“Thanks, RVP. In that regard, I want these files locked and only made accessible by my voice pattern.”

“Acknowledged, Alexandra.”

“Thank you, RVP. Now where was I…oh, yes! Alex, I know you will be here to review these files. On one of my closer ventures to the chamber, I have seen your arrival…my arrival…our arrival back here to Reilly. You must finish and confirm the experiment before our time runs down! RVP will help with calculations, but theoretical, psychological, and philosophical inspirations must be yours alone. RVP is not capable of multidimensional temporal paradoxes. Only our biology allows us the freedom to move between our reality and those of the implied multitude of others.”

My face then came on screen again.

“Alexandra, I know you are still in denial of your existence here, it must seem a dire rest period fantasy, but you must finish the work I have started! For the continuance of our race and yours! Yes, I have seen small segments of your history in my visions. With your help they will become as great a race as we before the awakening of the Fusion Giant! As you have no doubt learned, everyone on Reilly has developed ‘talents’- evolutionary refinements applied to each progressive revision. I also have no doubt that Camille is listening in at this very minute and will arrive at your side momentarily. She is trustworthy, as is everyone except maybe Janelle. Alexandra, trust your training and experience, but most of all, trust your intuition!”

“It is now time for me to prove my hypothesis. RVP, make sure Alex reviews all of my files and help her as much as you can. Also, enable proximity alerts for Janelle Hathor. Alert Alex of her movements as they relate to the Protoverse Chamber.”

“Acknowledged, Alexandra.”

“Hopefully, I’ll see you on the other side, RVP. Good bye.” I noticed tears running down my face on the screen.

“Until another time, Empress!”

“Until another dimension, RVP!”

The recording faded out as I saw the other Alex walk toward the Protoverse ‘viewport’ and begin to glow.

As Alexandra had predicted on the recording, Camille joined me immediately after I finished reviewing the next file.

“My Jacquelyn has a problem with privacy too. I guess you heard everything, Camille?”

“Yes, ma’am, you do an excellent job of transmitting. So what should we do first?”

“First? First we finish learning as much as we can from these files, then I take a closer look through that window.” I pointed to the portal. “If I can get close enough, my gift could allow me to foresee different scenarios and possibly find the right sequence of events and a solution.”

“What is a…a gift, Alex?”

“You’re reading my mind for starters, Camille! I’ll bet you can move things with you mind also.”

“I’m sorry ma’am, but I have not tried. Is this something you wish of me?”

“It’s not necessary, Camille. You try it when you feel you should. For now though, I need your help. We’re going to look at these files. I have to know what your Alex was thinking about when she walked nearer to that chamber. I need to know where she intended to go…and how! RVP how long do we have?”

“Nine hours, thirteen minutes, and fifty-one seconds, Alexandra.”

“Thank you. Could you display the next file please?”

“Acknowledged, Alexandra.”

One hour later, I was feeling worn out and disappointed. The remainder of the files contained the inception, construction, and startup of the Protoverse Chamber. It also contained previous failed attempts to open a portal to the newly formed Protoverse, which now existed in the chamber. I was nowhere nearer a solution to this puzzle than earlier!

“Now what, Alex?” Camille looked more tired than I did.

“Now we try things my way! I want you to hold onto me as tight as you can, Camille. I’m going to get as close as I can to the chamber. I’m counting on you to pull me back, got it?”

With just a nod she took my hand and I inched closer to the unknown force enveloping the chamber. Like the previous day, I could feel the surge of power flow into my body. Images began to appear in my mind as my gift slowly returned. I stopped my forward trek when I felt my gift was responding properly and began running the scenarios.

Nothing was conclusive. Each and every scenario ended with some or all dying. One even resulted in the total collapse of the Protoverse. A logical solution seemed impossible!

“Camille, please pull me away.”

“What will we do now, Alex? Everything you tried ended in departure.”

“I know, Jack.” I said forgetting where I was for an instant. “Every logical situation failed.”

“Alexandra, did you not recommend trying the illogical? You recommended using your intuition.” RVP’s bodiless voice proposed.

“My intuition only works in my world, Mina- my universe! Apparently that is my universe in there!” I pointed to the window and at the small swirling cloud through it. “That’s where y’all pulled me from. Wait!”

I looked at the countdown on the control panel. Less than eight hours to go.

“That’s it! Camille, get Samantha and Cassandra in here on the double!”

“What is…on the double, Alex?”

“Just get those two here as fast as their feet can carry them!” Camille pressed a few controls then smiled. “RVP, what are the odds of a total reversal of universes?”

“According to my calculations, total erasure of both our universe and the Protoverse. Such an impulsive action is nonproductive, Alex. I have no data or reference for such an event- please elaborate.”

“Are you able to see me, RVP?”

“I should think so!”

“Good.” I removed my lab coat. “This coat, it is what I call right side out- the way we normally wear such garments…um, coverings, correct?”

“Yes, Alex, I understand that this is the correct implementation of such coverings.”

“Alright, I’m proposin’ doin’ this.” I reached through both sleeves and pulled them inside out. The rest of the coat was soon reversed. “Do you understand what just happened?” I asked the computer.

“That does not make any difference, Alexandra! The covering is still a covering!”

“Yes! And…and no, RVP! The coat is still a coat, yes, but it has been turned inside out. If you look at it from the other side, the opposite happens- like this.” I again turned the coat inside out, restoring it to its original condition. “What if we could use the portal in the exact same way? Would the result not be an exchange of universes?”

“The theory has relevance in the older texts, but this facility’s power generation capabilities are far too minimal to achieve total universal exchange as you have theorized.”

“Then let’s not exchange the whole universe! Would we be capable of exchanging the galaxy or solar system?”

“Computing. No, neither is possible given current power capabilities.”

I looked at the countdown again. I missed my gift of time travel, and my ability to phase out. Raising a fist against the control panel only proved one thing.

My fist passed straight through the console!

“Yes!” I shouted in triumph! A few more passes proved more of my gift was back.

“Alexandra, where are you?”

“I’m here, RVP. Apparently more of my gift has returned. This could give us an edge!”

“I missed it, Alex, what did you just do?” Camille had been busy checking a bank of equipment in the far corner of the room and had her back turned.

“This.” I simply said as I phased myself out once more.

“Alex! No, not again! Alex!” She cried in horror.

“I didn’t go anywhere, Camille! I was right here the whole time. It’s okay, sweetheart!” I took her into my arms to consol her.

“How did you do that, ma’am?” Another voice asked from the doorway. Sam and Cassie had arrived.

“It’s part of my gift! Its slowly returning the longer I stay here- in this room!” To demonstrate, I continued to hold Camille and phased us both out.

“Hold onto my hand, Camille. Walk with me and be enlightened.” Her face showed no comprehension. “It’s a quote from a nineteenth century book- oh, never mind! Now don’t panic, this won’t hurt.” I informed her as we walked right through the two women just entering the room. Once clear of them we turned around and I re-phased us.

“Back here ladies!” Both turned with a start.

“Must we waste precious minutes with this slight of hand, Alexandra? I fail to see how becoming transparent can possibly leverage any advantage!”

“We…we walked right through them! Not around them…through them!” Camille was so excited, I thought she would pop!

“How did you do that, ma’am?” Sam asked in astonishment.

“Like I said, ladies, it’s part of my gift. I call it ‘phasing out’. It allows me to be here- to see and hear what is going on, but to be unseen until I decide otherwise. Somehow, when phased out, I can pass through objects and people- it’s gotten me out of many difficult situations since acquiring it.”

All the jaw dropping was starting to get old.

“RVP, if it were possible to phase this whole complex out then enter the portal, could our survival projections improve?”

“Unknown, Alex, trans-dimensional probability contains too many variables to ascertain definite results.”

“Just say you don’t know, Mina…sorry, RVP! I guess we’ll have to guess!”

“Janelle is approaching with four others, Alexandra.”

“Understood. Sam and Cassie take our hands and hold on tight. RVP, lock the console- my voice print only!”

“Acknowledged, Alexandra.”

I phased out after the two had taken hold of Camille and I.

“Whatever you do don’t…repeat, don’t let go. Understand?”

“What are you doing, ma’am, she’ll see us!” Cassie cried.

“No, she won’t. I phased us all out.”

Five women entered the room to find it empty.

“I thought you said you saw them enter Chamber Control?”

“I did, Director, I saw Cassandra and Samantha standing in the doorway just a minute ago!”

“Then why are they not here? I assign you one, simple task! I shall lobby for your removal from the revisional database myself if you do not find that alien and her three conscripts! Go! Find them!” The Mediterranean woman hissed in anger.

“I knew I didn’t like her the moment I saw her!” I said to no one in particular.

“Shhhh! The assistant director will hear you!” Sam whispered loudly.

“I don’t think so, Sam, watch!”

I swung a fist at my assistant director. As expected, it passed straight through her. “See, she can’t see, hear, or feel us, so just relax and enjoy the fun, ladies!”

“RVP, grant me access to the control center! Access Ident, Janelle-Goddess-Majesty-six-six-six- Hathor-Revision thirteen.”

“Control has been locked out pending specific voice verification! Access denied.”

“What? You dare deny me anything? I am the director of this facility and demand access to this equipment!” She fumed.

“For the record, Janelle Hathor, you are not the director! Reilly is still under the control of Alexandra Reilly. Access denied! Please exit this area before containment protocols are enacted and social control representatives are requested!”

“Ahhhh!” Janelle screamed. “You poor excuse for an A.I.! I will return, and when I do, I will have the means to permanently shut you down!”

“Good day to you too, assistant director, Janelle Hathor!” RVP replied as the irate woman stormed out of the room.

“That was enlightening, wasn’t it?” I asked as the four of us reappeared in the room.

“So you do have a personality, RVP?”

“I also have a body, Empress! Please do not forget that when the time comes!”

“We Americans took an oath to leave no one behind, Mina…RVP! Can you function outside this facility though?”

“I can re-upload and be ready for mobility in under ten minutes, Alexandra!”

“Fantastic! Don’t wait that long though. I want you here, bodily, no later than ten minutes before we try to open the portal- got it?”

“Acknowledged, Alexandra.”

“Now, how can we get everyone loyal to us to assemble without Miss Hathor mucking up the proceedings?”

“Alex, we can’t leave anyone behind! You said that yourself…just a minute ago! Janelle may be politically aggressive and conspiratorial, but she is still one of us! She deserves to continue.”

“You remind me so much of them, Camille! Of course we’ll take everyone away from here! I don’t believe in smite.”

“Who?”

I looked to Cassie and Sam trying to ignore Camille’s clueless stare.

“You two…I want you to verbally pass the word around to meet here in…” I looked at the countdown. “In three hours. Tell them to pack personal items into one personal bag, container, whatever. Try to bring along as many mobile personal/diagnostic devices as can be carried comfortably- as long as you can carry everything on your shoulders. Everyone will be holding each other’s hand in daisy chain fashion like we did just now. Tell Janelle and her four minions’ last- I don’t want them trying to sabotage our chance of escape.”

I motioned them out the door.

“So what do we do now, Alex,” Camille asked when we were alone once more?

“Well, we figure out how much of this complex will fit comfortably through the rabbit hole!”

“Um…I think I followed that one, Empress. We see how much of Reilly we can take with us.”

“You’re catching on, Cami. If only Ricki Lynn were here!” I rubbed my forehead trying to think of a substitute.

“How would she be able to help, Alex?”

“Sweetheart, Chief Samuels has this uncanny talent to fit fifty pounds of manure into a two pound bag! Her gift allows her to concentrate, or shrink objects like equipment, tools, coverings, furniture, and those sorts of things, to fit into small containers. If it were possible for her to shrink this complex, we would use less power, thus enabling us to take more of it with us!”

“Please state the composition of manure.”

I rolled my eyes at her request. “Forget about that for now, RVP, do we have anyone able to reduce the mass of objects, people, space itself?”

“Alexandra, I have no files pertaining to the sort of abilities you require. Personal privacy sometimes prohibits attributes from being entered into my database.”

“That’s okay, RVP, we’ll make do.”

“Fabrication equipment is online and ready, Alexandra.”

“Fabrication equipment? For what?”

“To make this “do” you speak of! But first, I require the formula or mechanical design for said product.”

I rolled my eyes yet again. “It’s just an Earth expression, RVP.”

“How strange.”

I noticed Camille concentrating on a small green button on one of the cabinets against the back wall. “Cami, I don’t think it’s going to change color! What are you trying to do?”

“I was hoping I could push it in!”

“Why would you want to do that? What does it do?”

“Nothing, the equipment is offline, but I wanted to push it with my mind like your Jack can do! I guess I just don’t have that gift.”

“Never stop trying, Cami! I know one day you’ll get it.”

“I know I should be able to do it, Alex! I just can’t figure what I’m doing wrong.”

“Well, I know that Jack does this little flourish with her finger.” I twirled my finger at her to demonstrate.

“I never tried that!”

She stared at that green button for a few long minutes more before imitating the finger movement. The button gave way slowly at first, then, not only did the button depress, its cover shattered and the whole cabinet slammed against the wall with a loud crunch.

“I hope we didn’t need that to open the portal, Camille! Are you happy now?”

I hadn’t seen such a large smile develop on her face since I first woke up here.

“Use the force, you will, but beware the dark side!” I giggled as I pointed to her and imitated a strange character I had seen in a movie while in Arizona.

“You are so unorthodox, Alex!” She giggled back.

“Likewise, I’m sure. Now, can we get back to saving our collective asses?”

“Move out of the way! Who ordered this gathering? Why am I the last to receive invitation?” Janelle’s harsh voice could be heard over the noise one hundred and two voices produced when in close proximity.

“Nice of you to show, Assistant Director, Janelle Hathor! I have requested this gathering. Is that a problem?” I confronted her as she entered the room and drew nearer to the Control console.

“You have no authority here, Alien!” She turned to face the gathered crowd. “This woman is an imposter! She means to take control of Reilly and enslave us all! She is not one of us, she emerged from the Chamber!”

“The Assistant Director is absolutely correct!” I shouted as the noise level rose slightly. The crowd around me quickly focused their attention to me instead of Janelle. I had to quell this now! Phasing out, I quickly passed through the crowd to the opposite side of the corridor where I rephased in an opening left in the crowd.

“Like Janelle has stated, I’m an alien and I don’t belong here!”

As one, everyone turned completely around, refocusing on me- including Janelle. Like I said, the jaw dropping was getting really old!

“Yet, here I am! For whatever reason, I have been brought here to help you escape the terrible event about to befall this facility and your race! RVP, please open an audio channel so everyone can hear me. Oh, and display the graphic of our dilemma.”

“Acknowledged, Alexandra.”

“Thank you, RVP.”

Within seconds, I was back in front of them again. As before, the whole crowd turned around.

“What has been hidden from you is the real reason for the creation of the Protoverse Chamber. Reilly is about to be destroyed by the Fusion Giant!”

A hushed gasp escaped the crowd.

“In two hours this planetoid and complex will be completely devoured by the sudden expansion of your sun…Fusion Giant! Everything will be incinerated in an instant. Nothing shall remain of Reilly or us! I have observed this occurrence before in my travels and will share what I have seen with you now.”

I nodded to Camille. Everyone jumped collectively as I recalled the file footage of the atomic tests carried out in White Sands, New Mexico.

“This is but one documented example of the devastation wrought by such an event! The cataclysm that awaits Reilly makes what you have all seen look like a small-scale test! On the displays throughout this facility is a simulation of the expected sequence of expansion. The original Alexandra researched, compiled, and calculated all of this before I arrived here- before she disappeared into the Protoverse portal.” I paused to give everyone a chance to see the whole tactical simulation. Everyone here seemed smart enough to put two and two together.

“Now, if y’all think that I’m a bad alien, I’ll just move closer to the Chamber and go back to my home! It’s as simple as thinking about home for me!” The last statement was definitely a lie, but I wanted to convince everyone we should at least try.

“Those of you who choose to stay will be remembered in the archival database as heroes unafraid of departure or self sacrifice! We will celebrate your individuality at our new home!”

“Can you not see what this abomination has concocted?” Janelle spat with anger. “It wants you to follow it to certain departure! This whole destructive expansion of our Fusion Giant is improbable fantasy! We will be perfectly secure here on Reilly! Should any expansion develop, Reilly’s transparent wall will protect us!”

“Alex, she’s going to activate the social control representatives!” I jumped as Camille shouted in my head.

“Enough of this conspiratorial paranoia! Social Control, do your tasks! Clear these corridors immediately!” Janelle cackled like an old witch caricature.

“I can’t take this anymore!” Camille screamed over everyone. She pointed to Janelle, her face red with anger, or maybe concentration?

“The Empress is trying to save all of us, Assistant Director!” Janelle slowly slid backward through the parting crowd, pushed by some invisible force until coming to rest against the far corridor wall.

“Janelle, I have gone over the data and have come to the same conclusion as Alex- this complex is departing in under two hours!” Cami motioned her finger up slightly. Janelle slowly slid up the wall’s smooth surface until her head bumped the ceiling.

“I have had enough of your attempts to sabotage Alexandra’s efforts!” I started to get concerned that Cami might go too far as her finger moved to call the terrorized woman back to her. The assistant director’s immobilized body started moving back across the corridor and back into the Control room, her head still scraping the ceiling. The assembled crowd again parted to allow her lower body, legs, and feet clear passage.

“Janelle, you are a failed improvement to you previous revisions! As such, you should be made to depart!” Cami’s voice took on a decidedly darker tone, her hand started to reform as if holding an orange, bottle, or baseball. The assistant director immediately reached for her throat gasping for air. All eyes toggled between Camille and Janelle, as the scene grew darker. I had to defuse this situation quickly.

“Cami, ask yourself if she’s really worth you becoming a murderer,” I calmly advised her.

“I don’t know the meaning of that word, Empress. Why should we take this failed excuse of a revision with us,” she hissed? “She would only advance descent among us. Our new domicile would not stay within the prescribed balance!”

“On my world, if a person is responsible for another’s early termination…departure, that person is considered a murderer, Camille. If the courts…um…if Social Control finds she indeed is guilty of the crime, she is herself sentenced to departure.” I hoped I was translating properly. “Do you really want to move to your next revision having that filed for random access?”

My head was really starting to hurt trying to translate our legal system into something they could relate to.

“But you are one of these ‘murderers’, Empress! I have seen this in your mind! You have not been brought to justice as you call it!”

I had to admit the girl was listening to my thoughts longer than I thought.

“Yes, Cami, you’re absolutely right! I cannot deny it- I’m a murderer! I have to live with that my entire life- it’s something I’m not proud of, believe me! Before passing any judgment on me though, please let me explain.” I paused a few seconds to get everyone’s attention.

“Sometimes, on my world, different societies have disagreements that devolve into barbarism. Lines are formed and the opposing sides form armies- large groups of people willing to fight…mutilate…even murder, in order to make the other side or sides accept their beliefs. In my case, a handful of societies decided they wanted the rest of my world to take orders from them- to take over my world- to enslave us and make us do their bidding!”

Cami’s hand relaxed slightly- enough that her captive could at least breathe.

“The societies I belong to believe that everyone should be free to decide their destinies, not have it be decided for them! We went to war to ensure my world is free of domination, violence, and corruption! Thousands of people have died…departed already on my world in that pursuit!”

The assistant director slowly lost altitude. I was getting through to Camille and in doing so, giving everyone a glimpse of life on Earth- hopefully that wouldn’t become a negative in the evacuation column.

“Cami, Janelle is nothing but a two bit thug! I’d be surprised if the recovery system weren’t working overtime keeping her coverings clean at this interval!”

The captive woman crumbled to the ground. She was not moving very much.

“That description is both humorous and vile all at the same time, Alex! How can you imagine such things in so little time?”

“Because we have so little time left, sweetheart!” I looked to the ceiling. “RVP can we make the necessary adjustments without your control from this console?”

“Affirmative, Alexandra, but I am also capable of control in my physical form.”

“Great to hear! RVP begin upload into your body. Cassandra and Samantha will be there shortly to assist you. See you soon, my friend.”

“Acknowledged, Empress, till we meet in the physical dimension!”

“I look forward to it! Cassie?” I shouted looking over those gathered.

“Here, ma’am!” I saw her wave from the hallway.

“Find Sam and go to the interfacing chamber! Assist RVP as she reloads into her body. I have a feeling she’s been out of it a long time. Go!”

Making my way over to the fallen assistant director, I, along with the doctor and Camille, pulled her to standing.

“I hope you’ve learned a few things about human nature, Janelle. If you haven’t, you’re more of an idiot than I previously thought! Because of your lame, childish, power play-slash-tantrum, our margin for a successful evacuation of this facility has been greatly diminished! What would your previous revisions say if they were here?” I could see she was still a bit groggy from Camille’s attack.

Looking toward her, the assistant director jumped back from her as terror exploded onto her face.

“How can you do such things?”

“Everyone here has a gift, including you Janelle, should you accept and develop it. Cami is what those on my world call a mind warrior. She has the gift of telekinesis and telepathy.”

“Are there many of my kind on your world, Alex?” Camille asked.

“I only know of one.”

“Jacquelyn?”

“Yes Jack.”

“I would like to meet her some day, Empress.”

“First we have to get there, sweetheart! Help me get the targeting system online. Alex said it takes some time and patience to align it.”

Camille immediately made for the control console.

“What can I do, Empress?” Janelle asked in a timid voice still rubbing her throat.

“Try to stay out of the way for now. I’ll let y’all know when your services are required.

“Targeting is online, Alex.” Camille informed me.

“Good, now all we have to do is find Earth!” I said as I let the doctor tend to Janelle.

We had wasted nearly thirty minutes trying to find the Milky Way galaxy. Finding Earth’s solar system was proving an exercise in futility! Time was running out- I needed a breakthrough- and fast! I still had a hard time believing that my home, solar system, galaxy…my whole universe resided in the experimental chamber a mere twenty feet before me.

“Let’s try this one more time, Camille. Zoom in on that spiral galaxy again.” Once done, I took over the controls from her once more.

“If this thing had a vernier adjust I would stand a better chance, Camille.”

“Perhaps I can render assistance, Alexandra?” I heard RVP’s voice say from my right.

“Tish!” I screeched when I saw the smallish, black-haired woman being escorted through the crowd toward us by Cassie and Sam.

“No…my name is Random, Randi for short. Who is…Tish?”

“Not important right now, Randi. I’m glad you could make it though!” I gave her a quick embrace then stepped back to the controls before me, my frustration making me slam a fist down on the console.

“You have to have patience with the controls. Alex. Small sharp movements of the controls will cause large movements off the target. Try just tapping it instead of turning.”

I realized I had heard similar advice before. Jamie had told Cassie something to that effect on our last mission. Hard as I tried, I just couldn’t zero in on Earth! No amount of finesse would give me a lock. “It’s just no use! I can’t get a targeting lock on Earth! It’s like I’m going at it the wrong way!”

I looked at the clock- one and a half hours left! Barely enough time to get everyone through!

“Alexandra, if I may?” Janelle’s voice interrupted.

“What is it, Janelle?” I spit back with a little anger.

“I know the reason you cannot lock. To help you, I need access to the panel.”

“Fine, Randi, grant access to the Assistant Director here!”

“Acknowledged, Alexandra. Access granted. Please proceed, Janelle Hathor, but be warned- I will lockout any attempt at sabotage!”

“That is how you succeeded the first time, Alexandra. I reconfigured the controls.”

I watched as she brought up a smaller screen- my Samantha called it a popup, I think. It simply displayed the mathematical formula ‘1/x’. Janelle touched the box then touched another popup simply stating ‘Acknowledge’.

Instantly the targeting screen returned, zoomed back out then panned one hundred and eighty degrees to the opposite side of the Protoverse cloud. Next it re-zoomed into my solar system. There, before my eyes, were nine pinpoints of reflected light.

“You should be able to lock onto your world now, Empress.”

“You caused all of this?”

“I am sorry, Alexandra. I allowed my quest for vast importance to obscure my mind.”

“I don’t know whether to leave you here or thank you, Janelle!”

“What?” Camille, Randi, Cassie, and Samantha screeched together.

“Don’t you see?” I looked between them, “Janelle’s greed for power ultimately set in motion the events that brought me here! The real Alexandra would have ended up somewhere completely different than Earth, had Janelle not compromised the targeting system! Someone else might be standing here right now with no clue as to how to save y’all!

Making a few small taps to the control screen, I succeeded in targeting Earth. The red crosshairs of the targeting screen gratefully turned green and a popup box appeared with the word ‘Proceed’?

For a moment the six of us just stared between each other. Finally I nodded to each and received a nod back in return.

“This is it. Randi is the shield ready?”

“A one square measure has been solidified near the nine-zero garden exit. It should be safe to touch, Empress.”

Looking out over the crowd, I instructed everyone as to our plan. “We need to link everyone’s hands together and stretch ourselves out to reach the spot Randi has indicated! Whoever is last at that point must be told not to release their touch for any reason! If the shield is lost, we will never make it to our new home and therefore not survive!”

“I’ll go.” Janelle quickly made for the door, never looking back for any acknowledgement.

Not waiting any longer, I touched the small box. A loud, distinct crackle echoed through the now quiet room, making everyone in earshot jump.

“Everyone! Everybody needs to shoulder your bags now and join hands. We have succeeded in opening the Protoverse portal. You must hold hands tightly and do not panic! I am not sure how rough of a ride we will experience! Having experienced this once before, I can assure you there will be pain involved, so try and disregard it as best you can. I would recommend closing your eyes if you fear heights!”

An increase in the noise level traveled up the corridor like a wave. “Janelle is ready,” was repeated many times over before finally reaching us in the control room.

“Pass this along. Count down to insertion in thirty seconds. Twenty-nine, twenty-eight…” My count quickly traveled down the hallway growing louder as each individual spoke out the seconds left.

“Randi, Take the shield to full power, please.”

“You got it Alex!” I heard as I slowly moved us over to the portal.

As I closed the gap, I could feel the power surge into my outstretched hand. Quickly I ran the situation past my gift. I was rewarded with only a slight negative and in that moment I saw the reason for it. They would be greatly missed, I’m sure. I also saw another important problem- one I hoped I could maneuver around!

“Alex! Your hand is dissolving- just as before! Maybe we should stop this!” Camille cried out momentarily diverting my attention.

“Don’t let go! We’re going to do this!” I shouted at the top of my lungs as I phased us out and stepped closer to the portal.

As at the base, everything seemed to merge and dissolve. Screams echoed in my ears! They made it hard to concentrate, but I willed myself to remain phased out and holding tight to the hand I still grasped.

Blackness enveloped me…us, as we moved closer to the Protoverse cloud…to home! As on my previous transit, all sound now ceased. Everything was happening completely reverse from my previous transit. Instead of moving away from the cloud we were moving toward it. The cloud seemed to split into smaller individual clouds, which continued growing in detail and clarity.

Still we moved closer with galaxies becoming larger and more detailed. I noted that the Milky Way was directly ahead and growing larger with every moment that passed.

We entered one wispy finger of the spiral, a small pinprick of light ahead of us growing in size and brilliance. The sun? The tantalizing thought of actually flying past the outer planets took my mind off the continuing pain coursing through my body. Just for a moment, I wondered how the rest were coping with our journey.

Just ahead a small bluish orb, Earth, came into view and grew in size- its vivid blue oceans and white cloud tops coming into view first. We were almost there! I…I was almost home! The ocean now zoomed up at an alarming rate, so fast in fact, that I thought we would crash straight into it! A few small dots of land grew larger in my sight. As we grew closer I recognized the islands from Sand Dollars charts- Hawaii! We were heading back to the base!

Something caught my eye as being slightly off though.

Focusing down on the group of islands, I noticed smoke coming from Oahu…from Diamondhead? Had my violent departure from Earth caused it to erupt?

Yet more smoke centered in my vision. A shiver traveled my spine! We were headed directly into the mouth of an active volcano!

I prayed the complex’s shield could hold back such a force.

The screaming returned to my ears’ as the fiery, bubbling red surface loomed closer at an astounding rate. I felt the impact and realized my eyes had closed of their own accord. Slowly I opened them expecting to see nothing but molten lava- to feel the extreme heat on my skin.

Around me the control room slowly rematerialized and I looked back to see Camille reappear, then Cassie and Sam, then Randi. Soon everyone was back in view!

“Protoverse transit complete, Alexandra.” Randi announced. Her voice could be heard echoing down the hall through the PA system.

“Everybody stay where you are! This trip isn’t over yet!” I shouted. I had our daisy chained group move with me back to the console where I brought up the exterior of the complex. Red-hot lava all around us made the transparent wall visible. Its shape looked vaguely familiar as well.

“Empress, shield temperature is at eight thousand and climbing. Power drain to the shield is increasing. Estimated endurance is twelve minutes with Protoverse reactor active.” Randi informed me.

“How long would it last if the complex weren’t a concern?”

“Almost indefinitely, but how could that happen, Alexandra?”

“Leave that to me! For now, set the power generators to tap into the geothermic forces of the volcano and command the shield generators to shut down once the lava has cooled and solidified then remain in standby until needed.”

“Acknowledged, Alexandra.”

“Randi, is it possible to setup an alarm at the airlock to detect and nullify someone with my gift of phasing?”

“Modifying Protoverse containment generator into airlock safety system. That should do it, Alexandra, but why?”

“In case a future ‘bad’ me should happen upon this site and try to abuse it! I know what I’m talking about, so don’t ask!” I looked past Randi to the doctor. “Pass this back to Janelle. Tell her to remove her hand from the shield and hang on tight!”

The message quickly moved back the line. Confirmation of the message’s delivery soon came back with the added massage of ‘ready’.

“Phasing out in twenty, nineteen, eighteen…”

Again the voices grew louder as the count decremented. I began to focus on the impossible task I knew I must accomplish.

My concentration was so intense that I barely heard the countdown conclude. At zero, I forced everything I had into moving the complex and its occupants to another place- any place! Moving people and some equipment was a breeze, but moving people and a huge building full of equipment was something I had never attempted.

I felt my skin begin to burn- my brain began to pulse and vibrate, and I could hear my heart beating in my ears- its rhythmic beating became deafening.

It was all over in an instant. I felt lightheaded; in fact, I fought to keep myself conscious as a strangely deep depression came over me. I felt warm liquid running from my nose into my mouth- blood! I also noticed the same warm feeling from both ears. I labored to speak the next few sentences.

“Rephasing complete! Everyone can let go now!” I shouted as best I could. Again the message was passed back as I began to feel weak in the knees.

The expected message soon reached us- Janelle and three others were gone.

“Alex, your containment has been breeched!” Camille looked at me in alarm.

“What? I thought these clothes were connected to the recycling system!” I started to reach down with a shaking hand.

“No! Your head, Empress! Your head has started to lose containment!”

“I’m okay, Cami. It happens sometimes when I push my gift to the limit. I’ll be fine.”

“Cynth! Get over here! I think Alex is hemorrhaging!”

“Be there in a minute, Camille.” Came the doctor’s reply.

“Randi, what is the complex’s status?”

I got no reply. Turning around, I saw the petite woman being held upright by the doctor.

“What happened?”

“She just passed out, ma’am!”

I had seen this before too!

“She needs a reboot!” I shouted, holding my forehead. “Quick, get her clothes off! I need access to her reset!”

To say the people around me thought I was crazy was an understatement!

I prayed her reset was in the same location as my Randi’s while Sam and Camille helped Cassie and I pull the futuristic ‘covering’ from her motionless body. The control room had filled to capacity as the others moved in to see what was happening.

“I need space! Please move back and give me room to work!”

The petite beauty now lay naked from the thighs up on the floor before me. I mentally prepared myself for what I had seen Ricky Lynn do to Randi back at base.

“Honey, I know this is getting way too personal, but this is the only way. Please forgive me, Randi.”

I reached down and carefully inserted my finger. Just after passing my second knuckle, I felt it- the reset! Carefully depressing it, I felt a tactile snap and quickly removed my drenched finger- oh, so disgusting!

This Randi’s body repeated, movement for movement, the observed boot up routine of my Chief. After a few minutes her eyes snapped open.

“Where am I?” Her head lifted slightly. “Why are my coverings missing?”

“I had to reboot you, Randi, you were caught in a loop. I had to press your reset.” I steeled myself for the hand slap.

It never came.

“It really is you! At first I had my doubts- your speech patterns were so foreign, but now I know the real Alexandra Reilly is back among us!”

I just looked in amazement at her.

“Alexandra, I have only revealed to one person, the location of my reset!”

Randi reached for my neck and pulled me closer- she kissed me!

“Thank you, Empress, but where are we?”

“I’m not quite sure, Randi.”

“Improper input, would you like to defer initial location to a later date?” Her voice went mechanical.

“Yes. Defer location, date, and time to a future point.”

“Request accepted. Location will be compared to current star charts and time and date will be set to ‘zero hours, zero minutes, and zero seconds’, and zero-zero-one. Return to OS.”

Randi blinked twice then looked at me. “What just happened?”

“Were there any startup errors, Randi?” I asked calmly remembering Ricky Lynn asking the question to Chief Van Pelt.

The girl closed her eyes for a second. “Negative, Alexandra.”

“Good. Can you give me the status of this facility, please?”

“Connecting…” there was a few moments of silence. “All systems functional; power reserves are steady at fifty-two percent.”

“Wonderful! Bring up the exterior monitors so we can see where we are.”

“Acknowledged, Alexandra. Alex, sensors have detected life forms directly outside this facility in all three hundred and sixty. Hundreds of unknown or known extinct species and one known life form!”

“What is the known life form, Randi?”

“One of us, Alexandra!”

“Janelle!” I shouted as I fought my way across the crowded room. “Clear a path, ladies!” I shouted. “Open the airlock, Randi!” I said as an afterthought.

The fresh, sweet-smelling, scent of tropical flowers caressed my nose as I exited the outer airlock door and beheld tall palm trees and other tropical vegetation. Songbirds filled the air with their unique music.

“Kili!” I’d know that sweet scent anywhere! Instinctually, I raised my arms and twirled around like an excited child at her first snowfall.

“I’m home!” I shouted for joy as uncontrollable tears rolled down my cheeks.

“My name is not Kili, and I am definitely a long way from my home, Alex!” My voice spoke from the brush a short distance ahead.

Alexandra Reilly walked out into the treeless border around the complex. Her one-piece covering torn and dirty in a few places- it’s front zipper-like fastener open about six inches. Alex looked like she hadn’t slept in some time- nor bathed from the smell. Coming close, she clumsily fell to both knees.

“Empress, I welcome you to my own personal hell! I hope you know where we are and what the date is, because I certainly have no clue to either!”

“Will you please stand up? What is it with our kind and the need to kneel before another person of equal status? If anything, I should be kneeling to you, ma’am!” I now knelt before her, kneeling to me.

“Welcome to Kili Island, Empress. We are on my home planet of Earth, A planet in the Sol system located in one of the spiral fingers of the Milky Way Galaxy; one of billions located within your Protoverse. I am unsure of the date or year as we have just arrived.”

“You know this kneeling to each other is silly? Wait, we? There are more of you?”

“No. We as in everyone on Reilly…save four very brave women, Empress.” My gaze lowered to the ground. I couldn’t help thinking about Janelle and the other three. I didn’t even know their names.

“Which four, Empress?”

“Janelle Hathor and three others I never met, ma’am. I’m sorry!”

I saw a hand with an outstretched finger near my chin. “Empress, it would be unwise to touch me until we know for certain doing so would not create some paradoxical calamity!”

“We didn’t get this far by playing it safe, Empress!” She replied as her finger contacted my skin, a much stronger surge of tingling raced through me. Pictures, screens of information, movies…information of all kinds flooded my mind!

I felt lightheaded again and tried to stand. I noticed Alex was having the same difficulty, but helping each other, we both finally stood facing each other.

“So your name is Alexandra, too? I can remember that you weren’t always though! I welcome you, revision! Whether that be previous or future we must find out.”

“There are two of them!” Someone gasped out from behind us. Women had begun to exit the facility to look around.

“Welcome my friends! Welcome to Kili Island- your new home!” Alexandra shouted to them then placed a hand on my shoulder as I again started to feel dizzy.

“Alexandra, I am eternally grateful for what you have accomplished, but right now, I could use new coverings. This unit stopped its functioning as soon as I arrived here!” She must have felt me lean slightly. “We must get you inspected for damage, my brave revision! Are the complex’s systems still in working order?”

“Randi…um, Randi confirmed all systems operational with a little over fifty left in power reserve.” I reached to rub my head, hoping it would help clear my reoccurring dizziness.

“Randi is here too? You certainly are the resourceful one, aren’t you, Empress?”

“A rescue is not a true success unless everyone is accounted for, ma’am! Still…this was not a successful rescue.” I started to feel a bit more coherent, which meant I was starting to heal.

“So Janelle was lost! She was probably the one responsible for me being here! I knew her devious nature would ultimately thwart my evacuation plan! Good riddance! It is better she depart then darken her previous revisions’ archives!”

“You know you don’t mean that, Allie! She was one of us- that will never change, but she did finally come around.” I looked her straight in the eyes. “If not for her sabotage, your portal experiment would not have succeeded- I would have never been pulled to Reilly, and none of us would ever have escaped the Fusion Giant’s expansion!”

“Excuse me, Alex, but could we resume this exchange later? If I have to use one more broadleaf…”

1200 hours, Kili Island, Date- unknown, Year-unknown

“Feeling better, Alexandra?” I asked as Allie emerged from the open airlock.

“You don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it, Alex. Have you been able to determine a time and revolution yet?”

“Time of day, yes. The date and year are going to be a little harder, I’m afraid. Kili resides in the area of the planet we call the tropics…near the equator. The seasons and position of the sun aren’t as noticeable here. According to the position of the sun in the sky, I would estimate its twelve-noon, or 1200hrs military time.”

“You keep mentioning ‘year’- what is year?”

I pointed to the sun directly overhead. “That is our Fusion Giant. We call it the Sun. A year is equal to one revolution around it- roughly three hundred and sixty-five days. One day is divided into twenty-four hours. The day is also separated into two portions; day and night- this is day, night is when this part of our planet, Earth, is facing away from the Sun and thus dark. However, we do have a satellite we call the moon. It reflects differing levels of light from the Sun at night depending on its position in orbit around Earth. There is a twenty-eight day cycle that it sequences through from full to half to eclipse, or new moon. Your minutes and seconds equate to ours exactly. Does that clear things up?”

“Randi, did you catch all that?” She asked.

“Acknowledged, Alexandra.” The petite, raven haired, woman answered from the opposite side of the table several of us were now seated at.

“Will…you…please…please speak like a normal member of our species? You have no idea how annoying that is becoming!”

“Acknow…Okay, Alexandra.”

“And just call me Alex! Or do you prefer I keep calling you RVP?”

“RVP refers specifically to the computational controller of the Reilly facility, not to the physical form you now see before you, Alex.” Randi smiled, apparently thrilled by her witty response.

Allie put her hand on my shoulder. I felt the familiar tingle again. “See, this is what I’ve had to contend with! By the way what is that tingle I keep feeling every time I contact you, Alex?”

“As near as I can tell, it happens only to temporal twins. You and I for instance.” I pointed between us. “Physically we are the same. One theory is the tingle we feel indicates we are the same- that we belong to the same timeline and dimension. It also synchronizes our bodies so we can co-exist at the same time, so we can interact with each other. My future self and I have also experienced synchronizing of our physical cycle.”

“How convenient.” Alex answered with a slight bit of sarcasm. Did she even understand what I said?

“Not really.” I commented back.

“Alex, are we to celebrate Janelle and the others like you said we would?” Camille asked innocently as she looked to me.

“Celebrate? The woman who caused all this departs, and you want to celebrate her? What were you thinking, Alex?”

“Since our minds have synchronized, think about how we mourn on this planet, Allie.” I suggested.

“How strange…celebrating tragedy.”

“We consider it a show of respect to recognize those that have given their lives to protect the rest of us, Allie. Once a year my country honors those that have died in previous wars- the holiday is called Memorial Day or more commonly, Decoration Day. Parades, reverent graveside services with taps, picnics, and fireworks celebrate their sacrifices for freedom.”

“Then that is what we shall do! Twice a…a year?” Allie looked at me wondering if she had used the right term. I nodded. “Twice a year we shall celebrate the departing of our previous revisions for their contributions in continuing our species!”

Allie looked at me again. “But when shall this celebration take place, Alex? We still have no confirmation on the phase of revolution.”

“In these latitudes, the sun only moves a few degrees from directly overhead, to about there and there.” I demonstrated with my arm indicating the two positions. There is one day that is longer than the rest when the sun is at its zenith. Coincidentally, there is one day shorter than the rest when the sun is lowest. I suggest we celebrate on those days; we refer to them as the summer and winter solstice.”

“Excellent! Come each…solstice we shall celebrate those who made our trip to safety…to freedom, possible!”

Those in attendance smiled at the decree- especially Camille.

“Our next order of business is to determine today’s date! Any ideas?” Allie looked around the table.

“If I travel into the future one hundred years at a time, I could keep count until I find some history that I recognize. That would narrow us down to a century.” I suggested.

“If…” Alex paused. “If you could travel through time that is!” Allie looked at me thinking I was joking.

“What’s to say I can’t?” I phased myself out and quickly took up a position behind an empty seat next to Randi as I rephased. “I mean…I can do this, can’t I? Oh, stop it with the jaw dropping already!”

“How did you do that?”

“We can do it, Allie, because we,” I pointed between the two of us, “are the Empress of Time and Space! In this universe it is possible for us to move through time! We can also phase shift slightly to appear invisible to those around us.” A second later I reappeared sitting next to her. “Let me show you.”

I took Allie’s hand and phased out.

“Alex, you are so attention challenged!” Camille said looking around the room. Allie and I hadn’t moved.

“They can’t see us?”

“Nope.”

“They can’t hear us?”

“Nope. Watch this.”

I put my hand through the tabletop.

“We can pass through solid objects, too?”

“And people too, Empress. Satisfied?”

“Yes. Could you instruct me, Alex?”

“I’ll try my best, Empress, but I must warn you that I still don’t know how I do some of the things I do!”

“Oh, you’re back. We weren’t sure you were still here.” Camille said calmly.

“Where would we go, sweetheart?” Allie looked perplexed.

“I thought maybe Alex took you into the future.”

“Not yet I haven’t. I’m trying to think of a foolproof way to verify my jumps into the future. What good would my traveling forward in time serve if I couldn’t find my way back?”

“If we had detailed star maps of this universe, I could determine the date by galaxial drift, Alexandra.” Randi suggested.

“That’s one big if!” Allie guffawed.

“Not necessarily!” I had an idea that might work.

“Randi, are you capable of storing enough astronomical information to pinpoint today’s date over say, a few thousand years?”

“Yes. Why do you ask, Alex?”

“What if you were to do that, and I take you to someone I know can help- someone much like you?”

“If the interface is compatible, informational query should be satisfactory.”

“I just happen to know when your, I think, future revision is. Will the facility be okay in your absence?”

“The facility has a copy of my operating system. It is fully independent.”

“Good! Alexandra Reilly, with your permission, I would like to take your Randi to the year 1944 and interface with my Randi. This would require a time and location change. It would be painless and instantaneous, I assure you.”

“Does this meet your approval, my friend?” Allie looked to her with apprehension.

Randi absentmindedly swallowed hard. Her eyes jumped back and forth between the two of us as she debated.

“When do we leave and what should I take?”

“We can leave immediately, as for what to bring? I think my base should stock everything we should need- food, water, clothing, and a crude form of sanitation. We can leave when you’re ready, Randi.” I smiled at her. “One thing though, as Allie can attest to, these garments will not work anywhere else but at this facility, so you’ll have to go ‘old school’.”

“I think I can figure that out, Empress! Let’s get this over with, shall we?”

We both stood. I walked around the table and took up position beside Randi. I started to concentrate on the base, specifically May 8th, 1944- the morning I was violently pulled to Reilly. With our destination set firmly in my mind, I looked over at Allie.

“Empress, until my return. On my life, I will take good care of this woman.”

“Travel well, Empress. I anticipate your return.”

“Take my hand, Randi.”

I noticed she closed her eyes tightly.

My office on base replaced the well-lit meeting room.

1000 hours, Ni’ihau, Hawaii, May 8th, 1944

“Welcome to May 8th, 1944, Randi.” I looked over at my wall clock. “1000hrs.”

“Input accepted. Setup complete.”

I just shook my head as she came out of programming mode again.

“This is nothing like what I had pictured, Empress.” She said looking around.

“I brought us back to the day I disappeared…that everything disappeared.” I felt the sadness of that memory return and listened for any sign of the tempest I had previously experienced.

Everything was surprisingly quiet.

“Let’s see if it still happened. Follow me, Randi, and keep holding my hand. We’re still out of phase.”

To prove the fact, we passed right through the front wall and out onto the grounds. Looking around, I noticed dark clouds to our west. They were moving away at a good clip.

The base seemed deserted and I observed no movement whatsoever. I did notice several uprooted trees and other storm damage as I lead the two of us to the yellow brick road and to the grotto.

As I stepped past the threshold of the tunnel, it started to pulse and rumble.

“Rats, I forgot about that! Take a few steps back Randi, I have to rephase us.”

This time when we entered the tunnel it remained quiet.

“It is nice to see that the alarm you had me set still works- assuming this is the future.”

“What do you mean? I had nothing to do with this tunnel doing that!”

“Alex, envision the airlock door here.” Randi pointed to the opening and outlined an imaginary door’s shape. “Reilly’s shield is still active, as is the alarm you had me activate in the facility’s airlock! The detectors must have separated from it when you moved us to Kili Island.”

Things had finally come together.

Walking through the tunnel, I gave her some history. “Before I was pulled to Reilly, we had taken refuge in the grotto from a sudden severe storm. That is where we moor our submarine. Jack was preparing the Sand Dollar in case we needed to evacuate quickly.”

To my delight I heard voices up ahead.

“No, I have no idea where she went, Jack! Can you read her anywhere close?” Emily sounded near panic.

Quickly I started repeating a two-sentence mantra in my mind. I heard Jack’s voice repeat it word for word.

“Gee, Emily, I have no idea were Alex is. Maybe just follow the yellow brick road!”

“What kind of answer is…?” We were just coming to the end of the tunnel when Emily noticed us. “Alex! Where in the world have you been? You’ve been missing for two hour…” Her attention snapped to Randi. “Hey, how did Tish get out there? I just saw her on Sand Dollar’s foredeck! Wait, why are you dressed so strangely?” Emily looked back at the boat then looked to us again, confused.

“Mom!” Cassie and Sam came running over to us wrapping their arms around me and severely limiting my breathing.

“I missed you both too! Is your mother alright?”

Cassie nodded to my right as she looked at my smaller companion with a raised eyebrow.

“Sure! Go traveling about while the rest of us ride out the hurricane of the century! Hey Tish, what’s up with the Star Trek getup?” My future twin complained as she walked over.

What was going on here? Had I just imagined the four of us merging together?

“I am not ‘Tish’. My name is Random Valerian Peltierre…Randi for short. I assume you are the future Empress?”

“That would probably be right, Randi. Alexandra Steinert-Covington.” Allie shook hands with her then embraced me- the familiar tingle was much stronger than usual this time, but was a very welcome feeling nonetheless.

“Welcome home, sis, we were pretty worried about you- disappearing in such an awful electrical storm like that. Where’d y’all go, and what’s your star date, beautiful?” Allie looked back to Randi.

“Star…date?” Randi looked puzzled. “I am Random from Reilly. When I come from…is nine hundred and eighty-two revolutions past the Fusion Giant’s great awakening!”

“Ummm…Okay! I take it you’re not from anywhere near this world, right?” Allie tried to hide her disbelief with a slight grimace.

“Randi is from a different universe entirely, sis. In fact, she had a hand in creating this one!”

“Y’all wanna to run that by me again? I could’a sworn y’all said she had a hand in makin’ this universe. I couldn’ta heard you right ‘cause that would mean you’re some kind’a goddess?”

“Alexandra and I collaborated on the design and initialization of the Protoverse which we now inhabit, future Empress.”

“Will you close your mouth, sis! It’s no stranger than us traveling through time, or phase shifting, or seeing the future, is it?”

“Well…no…but…”

“Allie, in their universe, ours is about the size of a basketball and exists in some kind of reaction chamber! They…” I pointed to Randi. “They created this whole universe- everything we see around us- everything we are! I was there! I saw it with my own eyes!”

“Our universe…” Allie imitated holding a basketball. “That big? How’s that possible?”

“Quantum mechanics, string theory, and interdimensional atomic scaling, future Empress. A small amount of proto-matter suspended in an anti-gravitational vacuum eddy then compressed by bombardment with concentrated graviton particles until a singularity of sufficient magnitude collapses in on its self and implodes. The resultant reversal of the reaction propels the proto-matter out away from the singularity and into a highly charged plasma-like cloud of superheated elemental gases which then cool and migrate forming smaller gaseous clouds, which cool even further to form Fusion Giant/satellite systems of varying configurations. We are now on one of those systems.”

Allie pulled me away slightly. “Is this girl for real, Alex? I’m not sure if she’s firin’ on all cylinders.”

“If it wasn’t for Randi, We would’ve never made it back, sis!”

“We? There are more where she came from?” Allie thumbed toward Randi with a look of concern.

“When…when we came from. We’re here to nail down an exact date for our arrival on Earth.”

“You’re going to help them invade us, Alex?”

“No…they’re here already- on Kili Island of all places! We just need to know when.” I noticed Mina walking over to us. She immediately dropped to one knee.

“Goddess Controller, we are honored that you and the Empress choose to visit our humble facility! Welcome.”

“Um… What did you just call me?” Randi tilted her head.

“You are of Reilly?”

“Yes, but how could you know that?”

“I am Mauikimau, forty-fifth removed from Camille Darough of Reilly.”

“Wait! Mina…y’all are tellin’ me you’re a descendant of Camille?” Now it was my turn to do some jaw dropping.

“Camille of Reilly, yes, Alexandra.”

“So you are the foremost revision of Camille? Do you have a name given of Reilly, Mauikimau?” Randi questioned calmly.

“I am called Philamina Smith, Mina for short, Goddess.”

“It is nice to make your acquaintance, Mina Smith of Earth, I am Random Valerian Peltierre, Randi for short.” My travel companion took Mina’s hand in greeting as she stood.

Mina suddenly looked at me. “What made you decide to travel back to the ancestors, Alexandra? That had to be a trip of several thousand years!”

“Your highness, I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. They pulled me out of this universe and into theirs! I woke up cold and naked on the floor of something called a Protoverse reaction chamber! Believe me, it’s not a trip you would ever want to take again!”

“You’ve been to the homeworld? Alexandra, I did not think you had the power for such a trip!”

“Alexandra did not have the power, Mina Smith of Earth. Janelle Hathor, our Assistant Director ordered Alexandra’s recovery from the Protoverse. She calculated that with her missing in this universe, progression to Director of Reilly would not be favorable until her return.”

Mina looked at me strangely. “The mother of the Egyptian Gods! She was one of us? I never saw that coming, Alexandra! You truly are the Empress legend describes!”

“Cut out the legend crap, Mina! Randi and I are here to figure out when the Facility is. I know it now rests on Kili, but we’re not sure when...”

“Reilly is on Kili? How could such a wondrous event have happened, Alexandra?”

“Alexandra nearly hemorrhaged to death moving the facility from here to Kili Island, Mina Smith of Earth. We are eternally grateful to her for saving us from the Fusion Giant’s expansion.”

“Wait, sis, you moved this…this facility from here to Kili?” Allie looked at me in disbelief.

“Alexandra was forced to jettison our shield here in order to save the facility.” Randi added.

“You left a shield here? Where?” Allie asked looking around the huge grotto.

“All around you, Future Empress! Observe!”

Randi raised her arms up to form a ‘t’. All around the perimeter what we all thought were large mineral deposits came alive with tiny twinkling lights of all colors. The ground shook slightly as the walls of the grotto started to glisten with a strange, grayish light.

“Reilly shield power is ninety-seven percent and all shield generators are functional, Alexandra. Geothermal interface now accounts for fifty-five percent of generator requirements.”

“Thank you Randi, you can place it in stand…”

“Captain! Captain!” Chief Van Pelt, running across the gangway to our position, interrupted us.

“Captain, I just picked up a huge power fluctuation in the grotto, ma’am! I’ve never seen anything so large before…” I raised my hand to stop her and pointed up to the ceiling and the strange light show. “Oh, you knew! How did you do that, Skipper?”

Without saying a word, I pointed to her counterpart.

“Okay, Tish, how did you do…wait…I was just talking to you in the Galley…What’s with the Buck Rodgers getup?” The Chief started pointing back and forth to the boat.

“You are the RVP of this temporal period?”

“Huh?” Chief Van Pelt cocked her head.

“You are the controller of this temporal period?” She asked again rolling her eyes.

I nodded to her twice, closing my eyes while doing so.

“Um…I think so?”

“Then you are the one I must interface with. Connect with me so we may correspond, Controller of Earth.” Randi reached out towards my Chief.

“Whoa! Just hold on a second, lady! That sounds a little too personal, ma’am- whoever you are- and I’m not that kind of girl!”

“Randi, this is Random Valerian Peltierre, she’s like you…your gift that is! Randi is here to determine the date for her new home.”

“You don’t know what the date is?”

“This date is known and accepted into RTC. Date of Reilly Facility as it relates to Earth is still undefined.”

“Um, Randi? Could you place the shield back into standby please? Best to not waste power.” I cut in worrying that the grotto might start to collapse.

“Acknowledged, Alexandra.”

Our grotto slowly grew darker and quieter as she lowered her arms.

“Chief, Randi would like to interface your system to compare star charts- so just cooperate with her. It’s not like she needs to reset you or anything!”

Chief Van Pelt turned red with embarrassment. Her mouth began to ask a question- nothing came out. I just nodded a few times in answer.

“Though I have never done it, our interface is a simple procedure. I understand it to be quite pleasurable.”

“I guess, maybe, I could let you…if that’s all you need. How do we do this?” The Chief replied a little apprehensively.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Spenser and Brandon approaching.

“To begin the interface, we must join…like this.”

Random grabbed the sides of Chief Van Pelt’s face, pulled her closer, and began kissing her! A kiss that went on for close to two full minutes!

“Whoa! Some girl on girl action! Glad I’m here to see this! Wish I had a camera though!” Brandon quipped.

“Perv!” Allie accused as she grabbed her husband roughly and pulled him a short distance away where she planted a kiss of her own on him.

Spencer stopped mid-step and watched in silent fascination. Emily…Amelia eyed him intently.

“Wow! That was great! Let’s do that again!” Chief Van Pelt excitedly exclaimed as Random broke the kiss. Cheers went up from the Sand Dollar’s deck- apparently they had drawn a crowd.

“Settle down, Chief!”

“Random, did you find what we need?”

“Still processing, Alexandra. Oh!” She suddenly squeaked.

“What’s wrong?”

The petite, black haired girl in the strange clothing pointed to my chief- her eyes wide and her mouth opened slightly. “You…you are my revision!”

“What?” Randi and I cried at the same time.

“Your revision number…it is four increments above mine!” The small girl went on.

“Okay…and that means what, exactly?” I asked.

“There have only been three revisions between us! Four revisions in four thousand twenty-two Earth years! How is that possible?”

“To answer that we should go to where it all started. Who wants to go to Kili Island?” I declared as I decided then and there.

“Alexandra, it is dangerous to travel there at this time! Have you forgotten the reason we are here?” Mina spoke up.

“With your permission, highness, I was thinking of Kili before the war, say, 1922?”

“Why that specific year, Empress?”

“That would have been the four thousandth anniversary of our arrival here. What better time to visit?”

“We cannot be seen by our sisters, Alexandra! It would disrupt the flow of this timeline!”

“Empress, why not go forward to 2026?” Emily suggested.

“Because there is still radioactivity present on Kili then, sis! Fallout from the nuclear tests on Bikini Atoll!” Allie informed her, Amelia just nodded once.

“The facility’s internal shielding should provide protection from atomic radiation, Alexandra. Our coverings will provide yet another level of protection against it.” Random provided.

“Will we be able to find this facility and get into it after that long?” Emily asked as she and Amelia took hold of Spencer tightly.

“We want to come too!” Sam and Cassie cried out together.

“I didn’t even ask who wanted to go yet!”

“Yes, you did, mom!”

“What is ‘mom’?” Random cocked her head.

“She’s our mother.” Cassie said simply and a little irritated.

Random cocked her head the other way.

“The Empress gave birth to us, Randi of Reilly. Don’t you procreate on Reilly?” Samantha asked in bothered curiosity.

“Such things have only been depicted in our stories from before the Fusion Giant’s awakening! Is it painful?”

“Not since the invention of morphine.” Allie quipped.

“Why do they call you ‘mom’, Alexandra, when clearly the future Empress has procreated and not you?”

“Um…because I move through time, Randi, it loses meaning. Since we live so long, I look the same today as I would in, say, three hundred years. The girls can never be sure of which Empress is here, unless two of us are in the same time. Basically they show me the same respect as Allie.” Allie took over.

“Since the Empress can sync up with her temporal counterpart, we both know the love and maternal emotions brought about by their birth.”

“As does Alexandra Reilly now that I have synchronized with her on Kili Island earlier today.”

Mina looked confused at the mention of that name.

“I wish to understand this concept, Alexandra. Would it be possible to ask Camille to relay those emotions to me when we get back?”

“I’ll do you one better, Randi! Jack? I know you’re listening! Shut everything down on Sand Dollar and dismiss everyone. I need you to do what you do best!”

“Be right out!” Echoed in my mind.

Jack appeared shortly with Tish by her side. Noticing her twin, Tish stopped dead in her tracks. Both Tish and Random’s eyes widened, their mouths opening. Both were excessively silent.

“Tish, I’d like you to meet Random Peltierre, Randi for short. Randi, this is my linguist Takashi Moritsu, Tish for short.” I introduced them.

Both shook hands and noticeably jumped then pulled their hands back to inspect.

“You shocked me! Why did you do that?” Tish looked hurt.

“Alexandra, was that the tingle you spoke of between you and our director?”

“Yes, Randi, that indicates that Tish is your temporal twin, although, it may be interesting to see if your gifts have synchronized as well. Tish, would you care to demonstrate the latest language you’ve learned for Randi.

The two conversed for several minutes in what I recognized as French, Japanese, and Philippino. Randi then took over speaking Latin, Spanish, and then strangely, English. Why did she speak English? I had to ask.

“Why did you speak English to her last, Randi? We already speak that?”

“I’m talking in the tongue of Reilly, Alexandra-sensi.”

“I think I now understand that language, Randi. At first the syllables and usages were difficult, but I believe I now grasp them. Thank you for teaching me another language, ma’am.”

“I don’t get this! I can understand both of you perfectly and I’ve never spoken a lick of Reilly!”

“Enough, you three,” Allie interrupted as she glared at us! “Can the three of you please speak the queen’s English so the rest of us can participate in this conversation?” She complained.

Randi saw my confused expression and giggled before explaining. “Alex, you have been speaking Reilly since you were recovered from the Reaction Chamber. Our coverings contain a neuro-interface that accommodates speech translation. Reilly is our natural language; this English you speak of is being translated for you, Empress.”

“That’s impossible! My native tongue is American English! Sometimes during High School I thought that was a foreign language! I’ve never really learned a second language!”

“I’m warming you, sis, I can barely understand what you’re saying! It’s very rude to carry on a conversation in another language! People will think you’re speaking badly of them!” Allie continued to complain.

“Mom? Samantha touched Allie’s arm to get her attention. “Could you speak English? We have no idea what you just said to the Empress.”

Allie looked like she was going to say something, but stopped suddenly to look at Sam.

“I’m talking Reilly? How could I…? We synchronized! I get it now! Sure, why not, what the hay?”

I concentrated on speaking English again. “Now that that’s settled, how many of us will be traveling to the Reilly facility?” I looked around to see hands held high! I was glad I had been understood, but surprised by the response. “Oh, come on! I can’t take everybody!”

“Why not, Empress? We know you can transport at least one hundred and two.” Randi insisted.

I rolled my eyes. “Jack, Base compliment stands at?” I finally asked.

“Eighty-two counting visitors, exceptions are Random and the six, Alex.”

“I almost forgot about them, Jack, how are they coming along?”

“They won’t be complete until tonight, the storm made it hard for them to fall asleep.”

“Fine, we’ll leave them. I’ll try to get us back here as close to when we leave as possible. Have everybody assembled on the parade ground in twenty minutes. We’ll leave from there, Jack.”

“Aye, Cap!”

“Empress?”

“Yes, Mina?”

“I’m not sure if I should join this expedition.”

“How can you say that, your highness?” I looked at her, questioning myself if she should be included. I got the answer- not the one I was expecting, but an answer nonetheless. “You of all people should be thrilled to see the homeworld facility! I don’t understand!”

“2026…It falls well beyond my range of foresight. I fear going that far into the future will cause some sort of imbalance.”

“As long as you’re with me, your highness, the sky is the limit! If I had any concern that you would come to harm, I would ask you to stay. We might not even end up in 2026, Mina.” The last sentence I said with little emotion- in fact, I was looking past her. She noticed and raised an eyebrow.

“You’ve seen this transit, Alexandra?”

“We’re going to pay the ancestors a little visit, your highness. They need our help acclimating to this world.”

“You would honor me with a visit to the ancestors…? My original? Camille?”

“It would be an honor, your highness!” I bowed slightly to her.

“You are truly the wise and caring Empress legend speaks of, Alexandra! Thank you!” Mina hugged me and kissed me on the cheek.

“Welcome, everyone!” I shouted so my base personnel could all hear. “Today we will be traveling to Kili Island.” A commotion rose among them. They all knew the present danger in that statement.

I raised my hand to quell them. “I understand your concern, but we will not be traveling to present day Kili, so there will be little chance of Japanese occupation. The Kili we go to can potentially answer questions we all have about our origin and miraculous changes.”

Again the fervor rose, again I raised my hand to stem it. “If any of you would rather stay behind and not participate in this adventure, you are welcome to go back to your assigned duties. My intention is to return us ten minutes from now, so you will not have to wait any great length of time without proper leadership.”

Not one single woman broke rank, which reassured me of their confidence in my abilities. Some of the newer members showed some concern as to what would happen- they had been urged, almost forced to travel with me, I recalled.

Mina struck me as the most uncertain of the group, followed close behind by her four daughters. I understood her concern of traveling farther into the future than we both knew she would see naturally, but I was reminded that Randi had come thousands of years and she was fine.

Brandon on the other hand was grinning from ear to ear. This seemed to really bother Allie as she continuously exchanged angry glances with him.

It was time. “I’d like everyone to hold the hand of the person next to you; those on the ends hold either the hand of the person in front or behind you. This will form a long chain. For anyone that hasn’t traveled with me before, the trip is instantaneous and painless! Of course, if you would like to close your eyes, that is perfectly acceptable and understandable. I will count down from ten. I must ask that you do not release your hands until I tell you it is safe to do so! Watch each other and make sure the person next to you is not in a wall or bulkhead after we’ve arrived! If that is the case, simply move into the clear. This includes any people we may find at our destination! I’m sure they would have something to say if one of you materialized inside them!”

“I walked into the middle of the group and inserted myself in the line. Allie, Sam, Cassie, Amelia, Brandon, Spencer, Joss, Lynn, and Random all followed suit.

“Last chance to pull out!” I looked around to see everyone’s attention focused on me. “Starting at ten…nine…eight…seven…six…” I phased everyone out. “Five…four…three…two…one.”

The dim interior of Reilly Facility replaced the bright parade ground. Quickly, I asked everyone to make sure they were not part of anything or anyone. The room we arrived in was remarkably empty- the whole facility seemed quieter than expected.

“Alex, everyone is clear, you can rephase now.” Jack spoke rather than thought to me.

“Rephasing in three…two…one.” I shouted so everyone could hear.

“Are you sure this is Kili, Alex? I don’t remember any of this.” Allie sounded concerned as she looked around.

“Welcome to Reilly Facility, everyone! Random, have we returned to the correct time? I thought there would be more people here to greet us?”

“Re-establishing communications with Reilly A.I.; synchronizing internal RTC. Galaxial drift computed. Revision twenty-four, please use port two, seven, seven, one, four, nine when connecting to Reilly A.I. to avoid data collisions!” Random said to her right- where Chief Van Pelt stood. My chief just nodded.

“Establishing communications with Reilly A.I.; synchronizing internal RTC. Galaxial drift computed. Ready.” My Randi echoed her counterpart’s response.

“So when are we?” I asked them.

Chief Van Pelt’s eyes grew large! “According to my internal timer, this is the year 2027, Skip!”

“Wow, sis, you overshot that one! Must be getting old, huh?” Allie rebuked. I just smiled back at her.

“Not 2027, Future Empress. I believe you separate time into AD and BC? We are in 2027BC!” Random interrupted.

“Good one, sis! A few years are excusable, but four thousand? What…are you going senile?”

“I assure you, Alexandra, you are far from senile…whatever that means!” My voice announced politely from behind us.

“Oh great! They’re three of us here! Y’all really botched this one, Alex!” Allie continued to goad.

“Alexandra! Is that any way to talk to your initial revision?”

“My initial…what?”

“The beginning of our line, sis. The original Alexandra.” I smiled slightly.

“You’re…you’re Alex Reilly?” Allie gulped.

“And you are Alex Covington!” She turned and walked through our line to embrace Randi Peltierre.

“Welcome home, Random! I trust your RTC has been precisely re-calibrated?”

“Affirmative, Alexandra.”

“And what did I tell you about that, Miss Peltierre?”

“Sorry, ma’a…”

“Ah-uh! Try again, Randi!”

“Sorry, Alex.”

“Better!” Alex kissed her cheek.

“Temporal calculations show that Reilly has arrived in the Earth year 2027BC. Four thousand and twenty-two years before Alexandra Steinert and her followers.”

“Whoa…whoa! Hold it right there!” I held my hand up to stop her. “Stop right there, Randi! These are my crew, family, and base personnel!” I waved my arm around me. “They are not my followers! Those not related, I consider good friends!”

“Forgive me, Empress, you had yet to clear that up before we left your time.”

I noticed Alex Reilly’s attention shift to my right.

“You! You two are my…my…my children?” Joyful tears sprung from her eyes as our shared memories of Samantha and Cassandra came to the fore. She embraced both women together. “I know I shouldn’t, but I remember both of your births!” She began laughing nervously. “I don’t even know what that is yet!”

She hugged the two even tighter and released them. “I have someone for you to meet! Everyone! Let’s go outside! I’m sure we will all meet people very familiar. Come.” She waved as she made her way through us- Cassie and Sam locked in her tow.

Emily, Amelia, Spencer, Allie, Brandon, and I quickly followed. Reaching the end of the airlock, I was stunned to see everyone from the facility outside waiting for us. Camille greeted Allie then me.

“Empress, welcome back to Kili Island!” She wrapped her arms around me and whispered in my ear, “We have missed you these last four days.”

“And what am I, recycled mass, Camille Darough?”

“No ma’am, but you have not been away, either!”

Alex Reilly shrugged her shoulders and nodded her head to the side in agreement.

“I cannot argue that logic, my sister.”

“Empress, you have brought males!” Camille screeched in joy seeing Spencer and Brandon exit the tunnel.

“Back off sister! This one’s mine!” Allie hissed as she grabbed Brandon’s arm tightly. Amelia did likewise with Spencer.

Camille grimaced as her shoulders drooped in defeat, her attention quickly changed to Jack.

“You are THE Jacquelyn?” Camille smiled as Jack nodded. “I thought so. Welcome Jacquelyn Cummins, I am Camille Darough!”

“My word! It is you!” Mina said flabbergasted.

Camille’s attention changed once more.

“And you would be?”

“Your granddaughter, Mina- many times removed of course.”

“Then welcome to you, my future revision! Alexandra has told me much about you!” Camille embraced her and kissed her cheek.

“Cassandra and Samantha I’d like you two to meet someone!” I heard Alex call into the Islander crowd.

To say that my two girls’ mouth’s dropped to the ground was an understatement!

“Cassie Fleming, this is Samantha of Reilly. Samantha Fleming, this is Cassandra of Reilly.” Alex introduced.

The four women stood in total silence looking back and forth at each other like two sets of twin that had just been reunited. Finally, my Cassie spoke the question I too had been thinking of asking.

“Are you both related to your Alexandra?”

“I am not sure as to what you inquire, Cassandra Fleming.”

“Sam and I are a product of our Empress,” Cassie pointed to me, “and our father, Sanford Fleming. Are you two the product of Alexandra Reilly?”

“That fact is not known, Cassandra Fleming. As far as we know our revisions have been unique since before the Fusion Giant’s awakening. Any revisional information prior has been lost or discarded as trivial.”

“Then what do your tattoos say of your relationships?” Samantha brought up a brilliant question- one I had forgotten.

“What are tattoos?”

“On the small of our backs, we each have relational tattoos! Look here.” Cassie pulled the back of her blouse up and pointed to her tats. I leaned over slightly to catch a glance. The first, I recognized as the family symbol- ‘Reilly’. The second was different from mine- it simply said ‘Phase Control’. Her third symbol…she had a third symbol? It claimed she was a Statistical Forecaster’.

Wait…How on Earth did I know that?

“You truly are my revision!” Samantha of Reilly exclaimed.

Cassandra of Reilly motioned for Sam to turn around and pulled her blouse free. She too had the family symbol ‘Reilly’, followed by ‘Phase Control’, and ‘Technical Forecaster’.

“It is true, they are truly our revisions.” Both Cassandra of Reilly and Samantha of Reilly turned around as one, unfastened their coverings and pulled them down to reveal the exact same symbols on their backs.

Allie and Amelia covered their respective husband’s eyes quickly.

“Wow, I guess there’s no such thing as modesty where you come from, is there?” Sam quipped.

“Physical attributes, though somewhat different in size and shape, are nonetheless the same functionally and structurally. Therefore, personal differentiation or comparisons among us need not be discussed.”

“Ummm…right. Thank you for that detailed explanation! Wouldn’t it have been easier to just say that we all have the same equipment, and leave it at that?”

Samantha of Reilly looked to her sister, “Isn’t that what you said?” Cassandra nodded.

“Great now there are two sets of them!” Allie retorted, raising her arms in defeat.

During all the introductions, I noticed both Randi’s had wondered away. Camille, Joss, and Jack had done likewise. Tish was now walking by us three Alex’s.

“Randi? There you are, sweetheart. Can you give me the functional status on the fabrication system? I’d like each of our guests properly attired for tonight’s celebration. Wait, why have you exchanged your coverings?”

“I’m sorry, Empress, I am not Randi Peltierre. I am Takashi Moritsu…Tish.”

“Oh, I’m very sorry, Tish. Alexandra, this universe of yours is going to randomize my short and long term cognitive abilities!”

“I find it all too confusing at times also, Empress.” Allie admitted.

Emily, Amelia, and Spencer approached us.

“Excuse me, Empress?”

“Yes, Lt. Scott?” Alex Reilly looked somewhat confused by her unintentional response. “How did I know that?” She looked at me for an answer. I just touched my two pointer fingers together. She nodded in understanding.

“You look troubled, Emily!”

“Are there three of me here as well?”

“Dislodge your covering, sisters,” both stared in confusion.

“Show me your symbols, sisters.” Emily and Amelia did as she asked.

“Ah, the family of Reilly! Welcome my revisions! Both of you are medical forecasters, that is a very useful profession- as well as physiological healers. All fine traits worthy of Reilly, but I’m afraid your equal does not reside among us physically or characteristically. I do, however, suggest you seek out Cynthia. She is Reilly’s physician.”

“Where is this Cynthia, Empress?”

“I believe I observed her location to be zero, five, zero at fifty.” Noticing the two blank faces again, she simplified, “Over there, next to that taller palm tree!” and pointed.

“So, Alexandra Steinert, have you found my facility’s protective shield yet?” Alex Reilly calmly asked watching the three walking away.

“Yes, Empress, it is located nine hundred nautical miles east-southeast of here. I’m afraid it is unreachable in these times. Upon our entry into this world, Reilly came to rest in the caldera of an active volcano. In order to save the facility, we had to jettison the shield there. Is it important that you get it back?”

“No Alex, Reilly’s shield was mainly used to isolate this facility from the vacuum of space between us and the Fusion Giant- to guard against its intense bombardment of radiation. Your Fusion Giant produces far less radiation, thus negating the need for such a dispersal shield. I have found the radiation from your…um…sun to be very relaxing. I have, however, found one concerning side effect from it though. My exposed surfaces seem to darken in color, if only for a …um…day. Though I cannot feel it, I suspect damage may occur should I receive too much of this radiation.”

“It’s called a suntan, Empress, and you are right. If you stay out in the sun for too long at one time you will damage your skin. It is called sunburn and can be painful, but you look like the sun has been good to you, Alexandra. You have a wonderful tan- what is left of it.” Allie complimented.

“Thank you, Alexandra! Your tans look wonderful also!” Her attention turned to me.

“Thank you too, Alexandra. I had a chance to do some serious sunbathing while on leave in the future. Amelia’s condominium complex has a fabulous pool with comfortable lounge chairs that are just perfect for relaxing in the sun while wearing a bikini!” I smiled at the recollection.

“Bikini?”

I thought a minute for the best description. “Three small triangles of covering placed here, here, and here with thin straps to hold them.” I used my hands to indicate the three spots described.

“And our daughters are worried about revealing themselves!”

“Yes, ironic, isn’t it?” Allie replied sarcastically as the three of us giggled.

“Alex, you said something about fabricating coverings for us, why?”

“Have you forgotten so quickly, Alex? We are severely limited as to sanitary options here. Without proper coverings, your friends and family will be forced to…um…rough it! A proper host cannot let that happen! Where is Randi? I require her to initiate fabrication.”

Jack’s voice boomed into my head- all three of us apparently, judging by the amount of wincing I saw in Alex Reilly and Allie’s face. “I see her, Alex. I’ll pass along the message.”

“Thank you, Jack.” I replied aloud.

“I see Camille’s revisions hold true.” Alex Reilly said while rubbing the pain from her forehead.

“Jack and Joss excel at it!”

“Why call them by different names, Alex? Is it simply to tell them apart?”

“I guess you haven’t remembered that yet. Allie and I agreed that whoever is traveling is the Empress and should be referred to as ‘Allie’. Consequently, anyone traveling with me will be referred to by their twin name, hence, Jacki and Joss, Ricky Lynn and Lynn, Emily and Amelia.”

“What of Takashi and Randi, or your Randi and my Randi?”

“Please don’t confuse the issue, Empress! I’m having trouble just keeping the three of us straight.”

“I suspect that after you tutor me in the ways of temporal travel, Randi will want to use her given name of Random…”

“I like the name Cami, Alex!” Camille blasted into our heads.

“That never stops, does it?”

“’Fraid not, Alex.” Allie and I laughed.

“Alex, Randi said production has started on our…um…our coverings?”

“Thanks, Jack.” I thought back.

“Joss! Thanks, Joss.”

“Thanks, Jack!”

“Hey, Alex?”

“Yes, Jack.”

“Joss.”

“Whatever! What?”

“Ricky Lynn wants to know where the head is.”

“Head? I’m right here, of course!”

“Sanitary facilities, Empress, not you.”

“Oh.”

“You aren’t going to like the answer, Jack! Tell her to hold it for a few more minutes!”

“Empress, Ricky Lynn is about the same size as Camille. Camille, please take Chief Samuels to your room and give them each one of your spare coverings. Explain its usage to her…them, please.” Alex Reilly said into the air.

‘We’re on our way, Alex,’ came the mental response.

I looked around at the airlock in time to see Camille, Ricky Lynn, and Lynn quickly scamper into it.

Turning away from the airlock, I noticed three coconuts floating toward us about ten feet off the ground. Alex Reilly’s mouth fell open.

‘I found some ripe coconuts, I know you like them, Alex. Care for one?’ We heard Jack say telepathically.

The three husks lowered, one stopping in front of each of us. With a sharp crackle, each developed a quarter-sized hole in its top. Allie, Alex, and I each took the one offered us.

“Thanks, Jack!” I shouted.

“Goddess forbids, Camille should ever develop such an ability!” Alex Reilly whispered conspiratorially to me.

“She didn’t tell you about Janelle Hathor?” I asked in surprise.

Alex Reilly just looked at me equally surprised. “No.”

Camille, using only her mind, pushed Janelle from the Protoverse Control Room, out across the hallway and up the wall putting her head to the ceiling! She then proceeded to pull her back into the room, her head still dragging the ceiling, and squeeze her neck with an invisible hand. Alex, she almost killed Janelle to protect me!”

Alex let out an audible gasp as her hand came to her mouth in shock.

“I never realized she possessed such talent!”

“I can’t emphasize enough the restraint she must exercise to avoid abuse, Empress! Camille and Jack are by far, the most dangerous of us all.”

“I understand. As for the three of us…are we not also…dangerous?”

“I don’t think we are anywhere near as dangerous as those three, Alex Reilly!”

“Are we not able to travel the temporal currents? Can we not influence the past, present, or future to change? If that is not dangerous, I do not know what is! Entire civilizations could depart if we were successful in changing one small detail somewhere.”

“That is precisely what I have been trying to teach Alexandra, my Empress!” Mina chimed in. Until now she had remained disturbingly quiet.

“Your Highness, what you have taught Alexandra so far is admirable. We appreciate each and every piece of advice and suggestion you have shared with us! However, the scope of our reach has increased exponentially since her recall to Reilly. I’m afraid we are on our own to decide how and when, or why we should take action or to make necessary changes. Our decisions no longer relate just to this world. They now affect this universe as well as many others.”

I noticed our hostess’ eyes had glazed. I took her hand hoping the tingle would gently snap her out of it.

“Alex, you were prophesizing,” I quietly informed her.

“What?” She shook her head as she reached for her forehead. “I saw…that is…disturbing! How do you stand for it, Empress? It…it is so…so surreal! Are these visions random or do they follow some intelligent sequential format?”

“Yes on both accounts, Empress. You will learn to use them to your advantage as will you learn to transit time.

“I believe I have found your private realm already, Alexandra. If not for our synchronization, I doubt I would be here now. As I recall you were missing for several days at its discovery.”

“Then you already have the knowledge and experience to move through time, Empress.” I suggested to her. Allied nodded her agreement as well. I noticed Mina’s saddened face.

“Mina.” Alex Reilly looked over to her. “I did not mean to change your emotional disposition. Prior to coming here, I had no conceptual thoughts concerning these gifts our species seem to have acquired in the revision process. I do hope I have not modified your attitude regarding me.”

“Empress, I have enjoyed our time together, and shall forever take solace in my segment of your education!” A single tear formed and ran down her cheek.

“You make it sound like you anticipate your departure at any time, Mina! Your current revision has several hundred Earth years still to experience!”

“No offence, Empress, but I was told I was an heir of Reilly only to find I am actually the paramour of her first. Somehow I feel I have been betrayed by my adoptive mother and her lineage.” Mina fully broke into tears.

“We are all family, Mina Smith. We are all products of Reilly.” Alex Reilly reached out and pulled Mina to her.

“Ouch!”

“I’m sorry, your highness, but I believe we have just established your true revisional archive.” Alex Reilly said quietly with a mother’s love. “Quickly, Mina Smith, reveal your symbols.”

“She doesn’t need to, Empress. I know for a fact her highness is your descendant! She has shown us her marks before. She is of the family Reilly.” I said beating Allie to the statement.

“That has been established, Alex; I would still like to see what qualities her revision represents. If you please, Lieutenant?”

“As you wish, Empress.”

“As I expected, the mark of Reilly first and foremost! You are a forecaster- also as expected, but I have not seen this third symbol on Reilly before- transcommunication- interesting!”

Mina turned to me as I stared at the third symbol- nonexistent until today!

“I bare no third mark, Empress! A third mark is reserved only for the Empress- so I have been told.”

“Mina, there’s definitely a third symbol there! My sister Brianna bares the same mark, in fact.”

We exchanged stares for a moment or two before Alex Reilly got our attention.

“Alex, would you both reveal your marks, please. I am curious about Mina’s rise in status.”

Allie and I both pulled the back of our blouses up to reveal our tattoos.

“Fascinating! You both are aware you now have four symbols? I fail to recognize it though. Is it a meaningful symbol in this universe?”

I quickly turned around in place and lowered my gaze to Allie’s tats. There, above the familiar three was another symbol. This one I knew well from my schooling. Infinity!

“Infinity!” We both said together.

“If I had to guess, I would say the three of us are forever linked to this and every other universe that may exist…or that we cannot die. My choice is the first. I do not wish to live forever.”

“Alex, covering production has terminated successfully. Randi says that they have been distributed to our guest’s quarters.” Camille boomed into our heads.

“What about Ricky Lynn and Lynn, Cami?” I thought.

“They weren’t too happy, Empress, at first. Like you they were amazed by our simple technology.”

“Nothing simple about it, Camille. Even in my time, sanitary conditions remain somewhat primitive…by your standards!” Allie said aloud.

“Come, let us go inside. I will show you two to your rooms; from there you can upgrade your coverings. Cami, would you and Jacquelyn inform everyone else to meet in the deliberation chamber? We will tour the facility from there. Afterwards, they will be shown to their rooms so they may also upgrade their coverings.”

“Okay.”

“Aye, skip.”

Alex Reilly looked back at me as she led the way toward the airlock. “I believe I’m getting the hang of this…this…telepathy.”

1300 hours, Kili Island, June 21st, 2027BC

“I thought this thing would be a better fit, Alex! I’m feeling somewhat confined…if you know what I mean.” Spencer complained as he and Amelia met us in the hall outside their room.

“I suspect the pattern for men’s clothing has been either lost or removed. Need I remind you Spencer, that there has not been a man at this facility for a long time.”

“Plus!” Brandon exclaimed before Allie’s elbow made contact with his ribs.

“May I also remind you two that the last two men to arrive here weren’t men for very long? Don’t drink the water in this facility! Camille and Jack have gone in search of the safe spring near where Mina’s village will be.”

“Mom, do we have to wear this?” Cassie’s voice whined from down the hallway as she and Sam approached us. “Feels like I got a constant wedgie!”

“You, of all people should be use to it! Let’s go outside.”

“Skipper, can I bother you for a minute,” Chief Van Pelt asked as I exited the airlock hatch? Both Allie and I stopped.

“What’s on your mind, Chief?”

“Well, ma’am, I’ve been scanning the history of this place and…well…I found something I feel is very disturbing.”

“How disturbing, Randi?” Allie beat me to the question.

“It seems…well…it seems everyone in it…the ancestors, I mean…well, they are all copies- some eight, nine, even fifteen times removed from the original!”

“Copies?” Allie again spoke first.

“Copies, sis…as in carbon copies, facsimiles. So what is disturbing about that, Chief? They are the last of they’re kind. I can’t fault them for finding some way of carrying on. Why not copy themselves,” I stated, unaffected by the information?

“I understand that, ma’am, but what is so disturbing is I found evidence of genetic modification!”

“I already knew that, chief. They call it revisional enhancement. Making changes to their offspring…revisions to better the species. We do the same to farm animals, chief. What’s the problem?”

“You knew?”

“Of course! What do you think the Mahanilui is? The water from the purification system contains tiny machines that manipulate, maintain, and modify our cells and genes. They are initially triggered by high levels of alcohol in the bloodstream.”

“Did you also know that this was the main research facility for genetic modification before the planet they were living on exploded into a sun? That this facility changed from a relatively balanced male-female population to all female in less than twelve hours? Skip, the person responsible for the quick transition was the head of research for the whole place- a man by the name of Alexander Reilly.” My chief paused to let it all sink in. “Moreover, he had an assistant named Cameron Darough.”

Could what Randi said be true?

“I must hand it to you, Miss Van Pelt,” my voice suddenly said from behind me. “I knew it only a matter of time before you parsed our archives and found the truth, yet I did not expect it so soon! Alex, you have a very intelligent and resourceful crew!”

“Is what she states true, Alex? Are you the original?” Our hostess did not answer.

“Alex, she just walked up to you. She didn’t rephase. I had a fix on her the whole time. She’s been hiding something, and guarding it quite well too!” Jack informed me telepathically. I asked her to pass a message to Allie only. When I was ready, I gave the signal.

I nodded to Allie, who winked back. Instantly we both took an arm, and I zipped the three of us off to our private realm.

“What is the meaning of this? Take your hands off me at once!”

Allie and I smiled at each other.

“Not until we get a few things settled, Alex! Or, should I say Alexander Reilly?”

The third Alex sighed. “I have not used that name in such a long time! What revealed me?”

“You share our memories! You tell me…sorry, sis…you tell us!”

Our guest thought a minute. “You were once male too. I should have realized that from the start.”

“Wrong, Empress. Jack felt you were hiding something. Since my change, I’ve never been able to hide anything from her.” Allie and I harmonized. I continued solo.

“Jack also informed us that you snuck up on us instead of phasing- which could only indicate you don’t really share our gift”

“She is very astute; more so than Cami.”

“I want to check her back, sis! I’m not completely satisfied she is us.”

Allie harshly opened the front of Alex Reilly’s covering and exposed her from neck to waist. Once revealed, I examined the small of her back.

“Well that was disappointing.”

“She’s not us, Alex?”

“No, she is us, sis. Every last symbol, and in the correct order.”

“Okay, so why hasn’t she transported us back to Kili then?”

“Miss Reilly, care to enlighten us?”

“I haven’t been able to do it yet,” she said softly- her ego deflated now that she was caught.

“Since we got here or not at all, sweetie?” Allie asked with a little smirk.

“At all.”

“Alexandra, the one thing the Empress is not, is a liar. Why lie about who you are- claiming to be a revision? Why have Camille pass herself off as her own revision? Hasn’t anybody ever caught on to you two?”

“One person has, but she has since…departed.”

“Janelle!”

“She found the archives that proved my identity as did your comptroller. I believe she sabotaged my Protoverse targeting system hoping I would depart, thinking I was lying about the Fusion Giant also. When it actually worked, she must have decided to go through with the recall attempt hoping to redirect Camille’s suspicion. Your unexpected appearance in the reaction chamber caused her to recalculate her plan for assuming the vacated Director’s position. I am not a liar, my rev…my sister…I…I merely withheld certain facts as to my identity. Camille was the one to suggest it initially. Can you imagine the social imbalance that would arise if word got out that Alexandra Reilly and Camille Darough are actually the originals and over nine hundred of your years old? Empress, the mobius symbol means the same in our language as it does in yours…infinity…without end…never ending.” With that Alex Reilly broke into tears.

Allie and I kept exchanging looks of disbelief of what we had just learned while she sunk her head into my shoulder.

“But I…I was old when I woke up in Reilly’s infirmary.” Allie’s attention snapped to me. I had not told her yet. Alex Reilly’s sobbing eased up slightly.

She looked up from my shoulder a moment. “The recall process would have caused immediate departure of anyone else, Empress. The nanotechs simply rebuilt a body that has forgotten how to expire and they will keep rebuilding it, no matter the damage inflicted. It was a slight design flaw on my part- an impulse of my own covetous devise.” She replaced her head on my shoulder and continued to sob.

“So y’all are sayin’ I can’t die?” Allie spoke our common question.

“I just said I am over nine hundred years old. Believe me, had I thought about how long forever actually was going to be, I would have removed that asinine specification! Under the right conditions and circumstances though, we can depart…that’s what I’ve theorized, anyway.”

“What about Camille, does she know she’ll be around for a long, long time,” I asked?

“Cami will live as long as I do…through her revisions, though.”

“I thought you just told us she couldn’t die either?”

“You assumed that I said that, Alex. You assumed that Camille is an original, which she is definitely not.”

Allie and I stared at her, speechless for more than a minute or two.

“Camille is revision three. I learned to take advantage of her ability. While still maturing, I transmit a set of completely up to date archives over and over to her revision’s developing mind. She has no conscious or subconscious knowledge of this procedure.”

“That’s horrible! Why?”

“Because I have great affection for her,” she wept through increasing tears!

“You love her.” Allie interpreted with some surprise.

“Yes.”

“You really are an egocentric bitch, aren’t you? Manipulating the lives around you for your own personal needs and wants! You self-centered, egotistical, arrogant, selfish, bitch!” Allie spit out the last with enough venom to peel paint.

“Y’all have no right implyin’ you’re the Empress, Alex! Have you even read the old stories? Supposedly the Empress of Reilly lore was kind and caring- compassionate! She wouldn’t treat her people the way you have! Never!” It was my turn to scold. Allie composed herself and just shook her head in disappointment.

“I can’t…I…I can’t let her go! I don’t want to. I don’t want to be alone; you have no idea what it’s like!”

“Sister, we’re all lonely at one time or another! You just have to go on, regardless!”

“It was fifty long, lonely years before I made her first revision,” she mumbled as spasms wracked her body once more.

“She needs to know the truth, Alexandra! She needs to know the reason. You owe her that much,” I recommended.

Allie nodded her head in full agreement.

1400 hours, Kili Island, June 21st, 2027BC

“I think one of our sisters spoke of finding a fresh water source in this direction.” Camille indicated as she pointed.

“Joss, Alex, all three of them, just phased.”

“I know.” Jacki looked over in time to see Joss narrow her eyes to their other companion.

“Camille, what are you hiding?” Jacki stopped as Joss reached for Camille’s shoulder.

“Hiding? I’m not hiding anything!”

“Yes you are! Just now, when Jacki mentioned the Empress had phased, you briefly let slip with a thought- ‘they found out’. Found out about what?”

“Nothing! You must have heard someone else! I thought nothing of the kind! Besides, it’s rude to listen to other people’s thoughts!”

“Oh, that’s rich! Our prototype, telling us it’s not polite to eavesdrop! Now I know you’re hiding something! Let’s hear it, or Jacki and I show you how really effective interrogators we’ve become!”

“You know, sis, I’ve been waiting for a chance to use that technique again! Too bad the last person we tried it on hasn’t come out of that coma yet.” Jacki said with excitement and a wicked grin.

“You wouldn’t?”

“The easy way, or the hard way, Camille…for you.”

The woman looked down at the ground for a few minutes.

“Ok, but you can’t tell Alex! Never tell Alex of this!”

“Which Alex, honey? There’re three of ‘em here today!”

“My Alex, Alex Reilly.”

Jacki and Joss looked at each other for a moment. Camille could not read what was being thought.

“Okay, deal, now spill it.”

“The Empress’ must have found out that Alex is really Alexander Reilly, founder and lead researcher of the Reilly facility, and if I’m right, they will also find out that I’m his assistant, Cameron Darough.”

“What? You’re an original?”

“Yes, but they’re wrong about Alexandra.”

“And why would they be wrong, Camille?”

“I’ve done a really terrible thing to her.”

“What terrible atrocities could you be responsible for, Camille?”

“Because…because…she’s not the original.”

“But didn’t you just state that-“

“I have great affection for her.”

We all have a great affection for Alex, honey. How’s that so terrible?”

“You love her, don’t you, Cami?” Joss understood and seemed to melt as she asked her question. Camille nodded ever so slightly.

“If she finds out, our relationship will likely depart! I don’t want that to happen. If the truth ever presented itself…”

“So tell us the truth. Maybe we have some ideas that can help you with this.”

“You would do that?”

“Depends on how bad the circumstances, honey. Now talk.”

“Several thousand hours before the awakening-“

“Speak English, girl! You’re on our planet now, talk like it!”

“All right, I’ll try. Several…um…months before our…um…planet…exploded, Alex and another researcher, Will…um…oh, William Sangiere succeeded in designing microscopic machines capable of repairing the body on a cellular level.”

“Nanobots.”

“No, they called them nanotechs. I was Alex’s main research assistant at the time. Will refused to allow the nanotechs to be inserted into any of us, claiming more testing was needed. It was then that we found out from Geo-researchers about the cataclysmic chain reaction developing within our…um…planet’s core!”

“Fearing we would have no chance for survival otherwise, Alex decided to overrule Will and began clandestinely programming some nanotechs which he would insert into his body as a trial. While we proceeded, I too, secretly programmed my own group of nanos.”

“My series of nanos were programmed to enhance my ability to sense people’s thoughts, to give me the virtual physical body I had desired for so long, and to increase my lifespan. I know that sounds vain and irresponsible, but I was determined to survive the impending holocaust- to be there for Alex. Little did I realize how much alike Alex and I thought.”

“We had been testing nanos on indigenous rodentia up to that point. The clearest indication of positive results that Will could think of was to change the gender of the vermin. Given the extreme physical differences in their reproductive organs, this seemed logical and convenient to our needs. In our haste to achieve success, Alex and I forgot about that slight detail.”

“Alex, on the other hand, had programmed his series with similar specifications: physical improvement; enhanced abilities; longevity. His idea of longevity though, meant immortality.”

“A few days later, we were ready to proceed. Alex had suggested we incorporate a delay into the nanos’ programming to assure any changes would activate when we wanted and not randomly. Will walked in on us just before Alex had inserted his series. My series was still in hydration when they began to argue over authorizations.”

“Alex, being the more formidable, succeeded in overpowering Will, but not before toppling and sending the synthesizing equipment, with my nano series still inside, crashing to the floor. As you know the waste reclamation system is an integral part of this facility. The hydration containing my nanos dispersed into that system.”

“It is believed that the system’s bio-filters and separators took no action to remove the intelligent machines and passed them straight through to the water system. There they began replicating, as programmed, infusing Reilly’s water reserves with my transformational nanotechs.”

“So get to the good part, Camille. The part where you explain what you did to Alex?”

“I’m just getting to that.”

“Will recovered and isolated himself. We wouldn’t see him for another three hundred and sixty hours. I imagined him locking himself in his room to await Alex’s departure from something he thought quite hazardous.”

“With no viable means for survival found, an ‘end of the world’ party seemed in order. Reilly’s store of spirits and cordials was unceremoniously liberated and served. Everyone imbibed heavily. Everyone that is, except Will. He refused to see any benefits of inebriation in facing our imminent departure.”

“Just hours before the explosion that transformed our home into a fusion…sun, the nanotechs became active. The alcohol that we had programmed as the nanos’ trigger reached critical level in everyone save one on Reilly. We had no idea as to the actual time our homeworld exploded. The only reference we have is sometime within the six hours we had all become dormant. Fifty percent of us awoke to strange feelings, faces and bodies.”

“After the hysteria that ensued, Alex and I found Will’s heavily irradiated body in his room. The anguish and pain displayed on his departed face so disturbed us that we wondered whose fate was worse. It was at that time we informed each other of our nanos’ programming.”

“As Alex explained her series specifications, I was appalled by her immortality feature, but could not bring myself to deny that I had not done similar. We agreed to encrypt and lock the specific archives containing our secret from the general population of Reilly.”

“Several…um…years later, Alex and I were again working on a very important experiment; that of creating modified revisions of the facility’s personnel. You see many of our staff could not adapt to the changes my nanos had wrought and found ways to depart rather than accept. Where before Reilly was home to five hundred-sixty three, our number had dwindled to just below two hundred. A way had to be found to continue our species without males.”

“We found out that two males had been off-world exploring one of the outlying planets when the disaster occurred and sought refuge on Reilly. The airlock scanners detected high levels of radiation and refused them entrance. Alex decided the radiation was residual from their exploration and welcomed them to Reilly. Again a party was arranged, this time to welcome the only remaining males of our civilization. After five years, we had grown accustom to our new bodies with all their new emotions, requirements, and…um…needs.”

“As facility leader, Alex sought them out first, visiting their room shortly after the finale of the party. In the excitement brought on by the actual arrival of two healthy compatible males, Alex failed to have the two men decontaminated. First we found two new females in the males’ room, then I found Alex…um…the next day wandering the complex with a high grade fever and no idea where or who she was. She remained delirious for two days before her departure, sometimes conversing with friends and family we knew to have departed on our homeworld. She would randomly mumble about witnessing pieces of homeworld archi…um…history, even going so far as claiming to have changed it for the better!”

“Her departure hurt me deeply, deep enough to continue with and successfully implement our revision program. Alex was the first modified revision to be produced.”

“While I worked to bring Alex back, I became aware that my own ability had developed- well beyond my expectations. I could read the thoughts of everyone on Reilly; I could also make suggestions to them, therefore, as Alex’s first revision matured, I projected the complete history of Alexander and Alexandra to her mind. She has no knowledge, conscious or unconscious, of being anyone other than the original Alexandra.”

“So Alex is just like us? She won’t live any longer? No immortality?”

“No, the Empress’ lifespan is no longer than anyone else’s on Reilly. In fact today’s Alex is revision three.”

“So, she will live the standard three or four hundred years and die like the rest of us.”

“Barring any catastrophic situations, and if my calculations are correct, three hundred and sixty years, yes.”

“And she has no knowledge of her dying twice?”

“None that I know of.”

“She should be told!”

“Jacki’s right, Camille. It wouldn’t be right to keep information of this kind from the one you love. Tell her! I’m sure she will see that you only did what you felt needed to be done. If she loves you as much as you love her, I’m sure she’ll forgive you.”

“What if she doesn’t? What then?”

“She will forgive you! She’s the Empress! The Empress has a kind and forgiving soul. Everything will work out!”

Time unknown, The Empress’ Private Domain, Date unknown

“I found Camille aimlessly walking the hallways of Reilly running a dangerously high temperature. She had no idea who she was or who I was. She couldn’t even read my mind! The original Camille departed two days later with me at her bedside. I was deeply saddened. That is when I vowed to finish the revision project. Camille was the very first revision I created.”

“So it took you fifty years to reproduce your lover? How could you stand it,” I asked as Alex Reilly wiped more tears from her cheeks?

“Sis, it took me thirty years to find Brandon after I left Sandy! That was bad enough!”

“You left Sandy? Why on Earth did you do that?”

“Sandy turned sixty-five in June of 1984. By that time Sam and Cassie were already grown and out of the house for two decades with the three of us looking more like sisters than mother and daughters. Although he would never admit it, I could see Sandy was having a hard time coping. For the last decade, whenever out on the town, we would be referred to as father and daughter instead of man and wife. Strike that! There were a couple times Sandy got accused of robbing the cradle- even with my face aged with makeup. Oh, the disgusted looks we got from some people during that time!”

“I decided to offer the Mahanilui. Sandy outright refused and wouldn’t allow further conversation on the matter! It was in everyone’s best interest for the three of us to disappear. After that, I’d stop by the house from time to time dressed as a visiting nurse and restate my offer only to leave in tears! Sandy died in 2009 at ninety.”

“Oh, sis, that had to be the hardest thing I have ever had to do!”

“Only one of many, Alex. Trust me, there will be many more tear laden breakups ahead.”

I noticed that neither one of us was still physically holding Alex Reilly.

“Why haven’t you returned to Kili, Alex?” I asked her.

“What?”

“We’re not holding you here, so why haven’t you gone back?” Allie reminded her.

“I can’t, I told you both that before!”

“Listen Empress, if you are us, you have the gift! Your symbols prove that.”

“I can’t! I just can’t! You both go back, just leave me here!”

“To do what- sulk about what a horrible thing you did to Camille; maybe to figure out how to leave on your own; or do you want to die here?”

“You two are the intelligent and wise Empress, you tell me!”

“Oooh, aren’t we the sullen one, Miss Reilly! Of course you want to hide here and die- not show your face to your friends for fear they hold you responsible for everything! I’d just like to point out that time seems to have no meaning here! Without a frame of reference, that sun moving or something similar, there is no way to determine the passage of time! So go ahead and stay. I’ll check back every so often, but you’ll be totally alone here, Alex. I know this for a fact!”

“Sis, why is the sun over there, isn’t it always on our left when we arrive?”

“Maybe we got turned around. I haven’t been paying too much attention to it this time.”

“No, it was on the right when we got here this time!”

We both looked to Alex Reilly, each with a raised eyebrow.

“Why look at me? I had nothing to do with us arriving here from the opposite direction!”

“You had everything to do with this, Alex! We’re not in our domain, we’re in yours!”

“First you accuse me of being a fraud- a disgrace to the Empress’ name, now you accuse me of stealing you both off to a place I’ve never been to, let alone can’t even get to? How ridiculous!”

“Yes, how ridiculous!” Allie said smugly. “If you didn’t have a hand in this, how did we get here, hmmmm?”

“Alex, we would have no reference to know where here is,” I shrugged my shoulders as I spoke! “You had to have done this somehow!”

“I told you, I have no idea how we got here!”

“Alex Reilly,” Allie put her finger to her chin, “if there was one person you could talk to; if there was one person you would like to apologize to; who would it be? Take your time and think about it.”

“Why would you ask such a strange question?”

“Precisely! Why would you ask such an odd question? A better question to ask would be…why am I here…along with…who are you three beautiful goddesses,” a male voice answered from behind her?

“Will?”

“It’s William! Only those who are my friends call me Will, madam! I restate my inquiry, where am I and who are you three?” A rather handsome man of maybe five feet-eight with brown, well-kept hair walked into the dim light.

“Will, it’s me, Alex!”

“I don’t know any Alex even if she did look like you!”

“Alexander Reilly!”

“Right! Look, madam, I may be departed, but I’m not visually incapacitated!”

Alexandra Reilly spun around. “How are you doing this? I do not find it humorous in the least! Stop this right now,” she screamed!

“Look, lady, your identical sisters aren’t doing this, you called me here so state your intent!”

“He’s right, Alex. How would we know who you wanted to talk to, Jack and Camille are the only ones that read minds, and we’ve only just met you! This is your doing, sister!”

“Look, I’d like to get back to my eternal rest, so if you could get on with whatever you had planned?”

“You’re the same William Sangiere from Reilly Research Station?” Alex questioned.

“The very same, young lady.”

“But I found you departed in your room over nine hundred years…eight million hours ago! How could you be here now?”

“Gods, has it been that long? Time flies when things are so peaceful! You know, I had almost forgotten about that.” Immediately his face became spotted with large open sores.

“Your face!” Alex Reilly shrieked in horror.

The man’s face reverted to its previous clear complexion.

“Sorry, that’s the first time that’s happened. What kind of place is this?”

“Its you!” She said as she wrapped her arms around him, kissing him once on the lips. “I’m sorry, Will!”

Allie decided to answer while Alex Reilly took a step back and tried to understand her action.

“We are in the private domain of the Empress of Time and Space, Mr. Sangiere. A realm where she alone has control.” She nodded toward Alex.

“I’ve heard of this Empress…yes…right…in the stories from my homeworld. Are you really that Empress, my dear?”

“I’m not sure. These two seem to be debating that very issue. I don’t think I am, though.”

“But if you brought me here then you must be the Empress!”

“No, I’m just Alexandra Reilly, Director of Reilly.” She rehashed.

“William, do you remember what you were doing before you departed?” Allie quickly asked.

“Why yes, of course. I was performing genetic research on Reilly Research Station with my obsessive, impatient, and headstrong partner Alex Reilly, the Director…of…”

The man’s eyes widened as he finally made the connection.

“No! You’re supposed to be departed! Those nanotechs weren’t ready to be inserted into our species yet! How did you…oh…I see…you…you forgot about the gender switch, didn’t you?” William started to chuckle. “You really botched that up, Alex! I can’t complain about the outcome though! Hope you learned to be more patient!” He laughed.

“By the Goddess of departures, shut up, Will Sangiere! You’ll be happy to know that you were the only casualty of the homeworld’s explosive awakening on Reilly! Because Cameron and I reprogrammed the nanos, the entire population of Reilly was saved, so who was right in the end?”

“Your nanotechs saved the station? I didn’t even know you had released them. How?”

“Remember knocking over the hydration equipment as we fought? Cameron’s nanos escaped and leached into the recycling system to begin multiplying in the water reservoir. While you sought isolated sanctuary in your domicile those few days before the celebration, they traveled the length of the system and entered into every living body on Reilly, including yours! Had you not been so chaste and simply imbibed the spirits and cordials, you would have survived!”

“I doubt I would have turned out as alluring as you, Alex,” he chuckled again. “Can you picture me as female?” As he said that, his body shimmered and changed- his voice raised an octave or more. “That’s the most humorous thing I’ve heard in a while!”

Jack now stood before us- body, face, and voice!

“No, Will, you wouldn’t look good at all!” Alex Reilly exclaimed as she smiled in amazement.

“See, that’s what I said…wait…what have you done to my voice?” She looked down at herself, “What have you done to me, you devious sorceress!” The new Will Sangiere’s hands flew all over her body.

“Why have you done this?” Alex Reilly looked at Allie and I.

We both smiled and pointed back to her. “Not us, honey, you,” we told her in unison.

“Me?”

“Try to put him back.”

She looked back to her guest. William Sangiere shimmered and changed again, returning to his original male self.

“I really did do it!” A devious smile appeared on her face and William Sangiere again changed back to Jack’s twin.

“Why did you change me back? I did nothing to you!”

“Wrong, Will! You mocked me for accelerating the nanotech project, you mocked me for my success, and you mocked me as I am now! All I wanted was to apologize to you! Now you will exist like the rest of us, as you should have! Sisters, we are going home!”

Allie and I took her proffered hand and just before we traveled, Alex Reilly grabbed Will’s arm. “And you’re coming home too, William Sangiere!”

“Alex, Will can’t come back with us, honey, he’s been dead for nine hundred years. We can only call them to our private…”

Welcome back, Empress, when did you come back and get Jack?” Emily greeted, standing next to Amelia, Spencer, and Brandon.

“We didn’t come back for Jack!” I said as I looked past our hostess.

“Oh…my…God! Allie!”

“I see it, sis. I’m not sure I’m believing it though!”

“Where are we now, you insane, evil sorceress?”

“William? But, I thought we…we couldn’t…Empress, did you know we could do this?”

“Surprised beyond all rational thought, sis!”

“What is that beautiful fragrance? I have never sensed anything so wonderful in over eighty million and one hundred hours! Is this the homeworld? I thought it exploded?”

“Welcome to Earth, William! You are on what we call an island, Kili Island to be specific,” I informed her, still in shock of what Alex Reilly had done!

“I’m sorry! You didn’t tell me what we could or couldn’t do there, Empress!”

Amelia pointed to our new arrival, “You’re not Jacquelyn? Who the hell are you then?”

“Why didn’t you tell me our staff turned out so fetching, Alex?” William pulled free of Alex’ grip and walked over to our sisters. “Greetings, I’m William Sangiere, co-administrator of Reilly Research Station, and you ladies would be?”

Amelia and Emily looked puzzled for a moment. “I’m Amelia Scott-Rosen, Emily Scott’s future self and this is my husband, Spenser Rosen. Welcome to Earth, Miss Sangiere.” Amelia and Emily each gave her a welcoming hug.

William Sangiere stood there dumbfounded.

“Willie, this is my husband, Brandon Covington, in case you haven’t guessed it yet I’m the Empress’s future self.” Allie made her and Brandon’s introduction.

Still the woman stood there dumbfounded.

“Why is the complex sitting in the middle of a tropical environmental zone? How did it get here?”

“Um, I brought it here, Will. I brought everything here, well almost everything. I had to leave Reilly’s defensive shield on another island about three days’ journey that way.” I pointed to the east.

“You moved it, the whole thing? How?”

“With my gift…and the help of Alex’s Protoverse reactor.”

“You succeeded in building that thing, Alex? You actually proved the ‘Big-Bang’ theory? Impossible!”

“Just as improbable as bringing you back from the dead, Will!” I calmly stated.

I noticed Emily and Amelia looking at their hands with sour faces.

Brandon asked the million-dollar question as he pointed to our hostess. “You…you brought her back…from the dead?”

Alex Reilly smiled, “I guess I did, didn’t I!” She immediately phased out and a few seconds later appeared behind William, scaring the pants off her in the process.

“Oh, by the Gods! How did you do that, Alex?”

“I theorize, the same way I brought you here, Billie!” She accentuated the name.

“About that, Alex, I was told, by several people I’ve called to my domain, that what you’ve done was simply out of my power.”

“Did they specifically state that rule or did they just not want to leave, Empress?”

“I never thought about that end of it before- good question.”

“And you thought she was an imposter, Alex. She knows how to break the rules just like you do!” Amelia smiled as she winked at the three of us. Emily broke out into a fit of laughter while Spencer just gently shook his head. Brandon was still looking at us as if we were the three Stygian witches.

“Come on, honey! Is it so hard to believe? After all you’ve seen and experienced already?” Allie coaxed him.

“I can live with the passing through walls, people, and furniture; traveling through time is pretty cool too, but cheating death? I’m not sure anyone, not even the Empress should be doing that!”

“I acknowledge that well deduced statement- in fact, I’ve told Alex that on more than one instance while working on our Nanotechs, Sir Brandon!”

“What did she just say?” Brandon looked at us in confusion.

“She said she agrees with you, honey.”

“Oh.”

“Billie, we’re not royalty, so ditch the Sir Brandon crap, he’ll get an even bigger ego!” Allie rebuked.

“Listen, if this pretty woman wants to refer to me as ‘Sir’, she is most welcome to, dear!”

I could feel the heat emanating from Allie’s glare.

“I’m sorry, um, future Empress, I did not mean to…”

Billie abruptly stopped her apology as five red containers floated past us on their way to the airlock.

“By the Gods! This cannot be reality!”

“No, that’s just Jack and Camille showing off. We sent the three of them out for fresh water so our men won’t change sides.” I reassured her.

“You said Jack and Camille. That is only two persons…unless…”

“She catches on fast,” I pointed to Billie before continuing.

“Because of Alex’s Nanotechs, we have received unique gifts- abilities specific to each of us, Billie.”

“Must you continue to reference me as Billie? My name is William Sangiere!”

Billie immediately closed her eyes, winced, groaned, and reached for her head with both hands. We all knew what that meant!

“What in the Goddess’s name was that?”

“Was what, Billie?” I asked while stifling the urge to giggle as I noticed two red containers settle heavily to the ground at the airlock door.

“A female voice screamed ‘Will’ just now. Didn’t you hear her?”

“Camille can only be heard by those she wishes to hear her, Billie. She is what we call a telepath.” I explained.

“Who, in the departure God’s name, is Camille?” She cried as she again reached for her temples.

“Camille is our assistant…Cameron Darough, and she is responsible for the many varied abilities you have and will experience now that you have returned to us, Billie! Her forethought has lead to many modifications in our next revisions. These are not our original staff, but modified copies of them.” Alex told her.

“Except my family, friends and crew, Alex. We had lives previous to our unexpected changes.” I pointed out.

“I keep seeing a beautiful, brown haired female in my mind!”

“Yep, that’s Camille!” Allie and I could not contain our giggles any longer; they spread to all in our presence.

“That is Cameron? Does he…she do this…this telepath often?”

“Oh, it can get worse,” Allie deadpanned.

“Frequently,” I added with another giggle and a roll of my eyes.

“And annoying as well!” Alex Reilly growled with a forced smile.

Another round of giggling erupted.

Five minutes later Billie came in contact with the real Camille- quite literally, as the fast moving Camille impacted the unsuspecting, stationery Billie, knocking her to the ground.

Almost.

Camille had avoided any injury to Billie by suspending them both several inches from the ground. Righting them both she gently settled them to the ground and released her tight embrace.

“I saw you departed!” She said through her joyous tears. “How has this happened?” She looked over and between the three of us.

Allie and I both pointed to our hostess who was now standing between us.

Camille immediately dropped to one knee. “You truly are the Empress of old!” She bowed her head.

“Get up you twit! I’m nothing of the sort, I just have similar abilities!” Alex Reilly gestured to Allie and I. “This is the true and proper Empress! She alone possesses the qualities, experience, and wisdom of the storied Empress, Cami! I am but a poor imitation.” Her head drooped.

“Then explain my presence here again, Alexandra Reilly! Who else but the Empress could have worked such a miracle,” Billie exclaimed?

“I signaled to Allie with my eyes. She nodded.

“Alex, there is one sure fire way to prove you are us! Now sis!”

Both of us took a hand for which we received a gently tingle.

“Stop doing that! It doesn’t tickle you know!”

“No it doesn’t,” I confirmed, “But it does verify your title, Empress.”

“You’re a little rough around the edges, but I think we can work on that, Alexandra,” Allie added with a devious smile.

“It is complete,” we suddenly heard behind us. Mina stood there, stiff, her eyes glazed over, “The power of the three has now been fulfilled. Her majesty, the Queen, has returned as prophesized.”

“What?” We asked in three-part harmony.

Our chorded response snapped her out of it.

“You…you…” she blinked, looking straight at Billie, “you are her! The original Queen of Kili…an original ancestor!”

Mina fell to one knee and bowed her head. “I never imagined we would ever meet, mum.”

“This just keeps getting better! I’m told I’m the true Empress and you bow before Billie? I’m again reduced to atypical waste?”

“My apologies, Empress, you are but a revision of the original, as is our captain. She is the original, the Queen. Legend records only one original ancestor made the journey. I officially welcome you to Kili, Queen Sangiere!”

Billie Sangiere’s mouth dropped.

“But I am also an original! I’ve lived for over nine hundred years!” Alex protested quietly as she looked around us.

“I’m sorry, Alex, you haven’t. You are the third revision, my friend.” Camille shyly interrupted.

“You are in error, Camille, you are the third revision! I oversaw your modification myself!”

“So I have seen to your revisioning, Alexandra.”

“Well, this is confusing. I thought talking face to face with my future and past selves was insane.” I admitted. “Allie, how ‘bout you and our family here let these two hash things out? Let’s amscray!”

“Perhaps I can parse this dilemma, Empress.” Randi Peltierre offered as she and Chief Van Pelt approached. “May I check for revisional information, Empress? It is a very pleasant process, I assure you!”

“What is she talking about?”

“Randi is the comptroller, Billie. She has the means to interface with the Facility A.I., and apparently us. Why not let her try?”

“Are you absolutely certain it is safe, Empress?”

“Billie, it has been my experience,” I gestured between Allie and I, “that sometimes you just have to take the chance and trust your gut instinct. An ability Alex and Camille used quite effectively to save Reilly and your civilization.”

The woman stood silent as she thought over Randi’s offer and my advice. Mina rose and approached her.

“Your majesty, I have seen the process in operation and guarantee no ill effect.”

“What is your name, beautiful prophet?”

“Philamina Regina Smith, mum. On this island I am also referred to as Mauikimau, Forty-fifth Queen of Kili.” Mina answered in her most regal voice.

“You, the recognized ruler of these people, call me queen? What kind of world is this?”

“As I have stated, mum, I am the forty-fifth to hold the title. You…you, are the first, mum.”

“She tells the truth, Will, I sense no deceit.” Camille added reading her unspoken question. “Yes, ma’am, I’ll stop reading your mind.” Cami’s face flushed as Billie quickly glared at her.

“If you say it is benign, Philamina Smith, I shall submit.” Billie gently took Mina’s hand and immediately jumped in surprise. “You say the process to be safe, Philamina, but your touch is a bit shocking! Why have you done that?”

“Well now, I think we just determined Mina’s complete lineage, sisters!” I smiled to Allie and Alex as Mina looked at her hand in confusion.

“And she referred to us as the three! Girl, you’re the one that got the triple whammy! It seems you’re descended from Camille, Alexandra, and Billie! If anyone is royalty around here, it’s you, highness!” Allie excitedly exclaimed.

“Can we please proceed? Randi and I are in the middle of what she calls a tic-tac-toe tournament. So far we’ve tied one hundred and fifty-one times!” Random said in exasperation.

“I’m ready when you are, comptroller, please make your interface or whatever.”

Random walked up to Billie and lip-locked her as she had done to Chief Van Pelt back at base.

“Revisional information is non-existent, revision one assumed.” Randi stated quite mechanically. She moved to Alex Reilly and repeated the procedure.

“Revisional information indicates version four.” Randi moved on to Camille, leaving Alex with a dreamy expression.

“Revisional information indicates version four also.” She moved over to me. “Empress, I would like to check your revision also if permitted.”

I looked to Allie for her acknowledgement, to which she nodded.

“Proceed, Miss Peltierre.”

As her lips touched mine, images and memories, past, present, and future, flashed through my mind at breakneck speed. Suddenly it all stopped.

As I opened my eyes, which I didn’t remember closing, I was met by Randi’s confused stare. “Empress, I am confused. I can find no revisional information, only some reference to an ‘Oak Ridge, Missouri’! My I try you, future Empress, as a control?”

“Sure, why not.”

“Dude! Can you believe this! Who would’ve thought we’d see this much girl on girl action, man! This is a great vacation, Bro! Oowww! “ Brandon exclaimed to Spencer just before Allie elbowed him hard in the ribs.

Randi repeated her data gathering technique on Allie only after smiling and gigling at the two men.

“I find the same discrepancies as the present Empress, yet I cannot suggest a conclusive justification! Please state any theoretical hypotheses for this divergence.” Randi looked even more confused now.

Allie looked at me and shrugged, leaving it up to me to explain this conundrum. I began to run through the recent events I, alone, had experienced. Why would I be any different from Alex Reilly? Hadn’t I mistakenly gone there in her place? We should have the same information, shouldn’t we? She had traveled through the Protoverse just like I had when…when they pulled me…that was it!

She had traveled to Earth. I had been retrieved from Earth! When we found Alex here on Kili, she retained her clothing. I woke up naked on the floor of the Protoverse chamber!

“Randi, I have only one theory as to our difference. Could the direction traveled through the Protoverse affect revisional history…um, archives? If so, I submit that Alex Reilly’s transit direction to Earth assured archival, um, continuity, whereas I was pulled back to Reilly- the opposite direction!”

“It is possible, Empress. More data is required to make an educated assessment, though.” Randi admitted.

“Okay. When we arrived here on Kili, we also found Alex Reilly, correct?”

“Yes.”

“She was fully clothed…covered?”

“Yes, she was.”

“Now, when I appeared in the Protoverse chamber, I was naked as a jaybird…um…uncovered! Could the direction of travel reset this revisional archive of ours?”

“Computing…”

“Way to go Capt. Kirk! Looks like you stumped her, sis. Good job!” Allie winked at me as she whispered.

“Stumped them both, sis!” I whispered back, pointing to our frozen Chief Van Pelt. Our answer took a few minutes to arrive.

“Hypothesis comfirmed as viable. Molecular reconstruction could statistically result in revisional deletion and reinitialization, possibly even substitution.” Both Randi’s shuddered back to life as Random announced her analysis. My Randi looked around in confusion trying to figure out what had happened.

“Empress,” Random caught my attention, “My I access you again, I am curious about some files I parsed before?”

“Sure. As long as Allie’s husband can hold it together!”

Again the images and memories, past, present, and future flashed before me.

“Curious,” was all she said this time.

I waited a moment for her to continue, which she didn’t.

“And?” I stared at her. When Randi still didn’t continue, I pressed harder. “Curious, how, Randi? I’m waiting!”

The petite comptroller seemed to be having difficulty phrasing an answer. Finally looking like she had arrived at an acceptable response, she began slowly.

“Your memories…so foreign…past, present, and future, all matrixed together in such a complex array! I am having trouble accessing and sorting them into any logical sequence or pattern. Empress, how…how can you operate on such a complex processing level? My nearest correlation to logical format would indicate chaos theory.” She stared into my eyes searching for some other answer.

“I told ya they think differently then us, bro! She just- Ouch! Dammit, Alex quit hittin’ me in the ribs! They’re bruised bad enough!”

“I’m warning you, Brandon honey, keep talking and in eight or so hours you’ll get to experience exactly how we think! Capisch?”

Brandon’s face lost its color while Spenser chuckled quietly. Amelia pointed with two fingers between her eyes and Spencer’s a few times to let him know he was not immune to the same fate. Emily and I laughed as we shook our heads.

Randi again caught my attention.

“Empress, what is this highly encoded interface you keep active? Analysis indicates it is temporal in design.”

“For that explanation, Randi, I need Jack to act as my relay.”

“Be right there, Alex. Boy, Cami can really move fast when she wants to, took off like a shot!” I heard in my mind.

“I take it you’ve been listening in?”

“That obvious huh?”

“Duh!” Allie groaned out loud, to which everyone focused on her. She pointed to her head and mouthed, “Jack”. They all nodded in understanding.

Jacki and Joss arrived shortly there after.

“You ready, Cap?” Jacki asked as she stopped next to Randi Peltierre, but stared at our new arrival, Billie Sangiere.

“Randi, I’m going to demonstrate this other interface as you call it. Jack will relay everything to you so that you can understand, okay?”

“I’ll begin.” I thought about my sister Brie back in the States.

“Brie, come in, Brie. Can you hear me, sis?”

“I hear you, Alex, what’s wrong? I haven’t picked up any faults in the timeline, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Brie. By the way, I’m talking to you from Kili Island.”

“So, you’ve done that before. I mean you will do that before…in the future!”

“Kili Island, circa 2077, Brie.”

“Ya, okay. How’s the weather there this time of year?”

“Brie, what’s the date on your end?”

“What? Oh, well it’s about 2AM here in Oak Ridge, September 20th, 1943. I just finished nursing little Dee. Alex is there a point to all this? I need to get some sleep!”

“Brie, I’m on Kili Island in 2027BC…BC, Brie!”

“Holy crap, Alex! I didn’t know you could go back that far!”

“Neither did I! Could you do me a favor, Brie?”

“Will it take a lot of time, Alex?”

“Not too much. I just want you to try and contact Mina. Could you try that, sis?”

“Okay, I’ll try, but what’s going on?”

“We discovered a third symbol on Mina’s back, Brie- the same symbol as you!”

“When did she develop that, Alex?”

“Just recently. Could you try to get her, please?”

“I’m starting to concentrate on her now, Alex. Mina? Mina Smith, can you hear me?”

From our right, Mina called out. “Brianna Steinert? How is this possible? Where are you, young lady?” Mina searched the area for our sister.

“Brie, do you think it possible to connect us? Like a telephone operator?”

“I knew it wouldn’t be so easy! Alex, I only get so much sleep with little Dee callin’ the shots here! Can we please finish this up?”

“Just try to connect us, Brie.”

“All right, here goes. Go ahead Alex, circuit’s open…I think.”

“Mina, this is Alex. Can you here me?”

“Of course I can hear you Alexandra! You’re right there!” She physically pointed to me, speaking aloud.

“I know that! Can you hear me here?” I physically pointed to my head.

“Jacquelyn, what are you playing at?” I heard her think.

Jack just shook their heads and pointed to me.

“How are you doing this, Alexandra?”

“We’re connected through Brianna, Mina. Apparently you both have the ability to contact me anywhere in time. Okay Brie, you can disconnect and go back to sleep. Thank you, sis, I’ll visit soon!”

“Good night, Alex. Good night, Mina.”

“Absolutely amazing! A transdimensional communications link! What a marvelous modification!” Random exclaimed after Jack cut the relay.

“I don’t understand, Alexandra, why would you want to link to me along with Brianna?”

“Oh, I don’t know! Maybe to keep in touch with my mentor and sister, no matter where she may go?”

“You told her?” Mina glared at Allie so hard I expected her to burst into flames!

“I kept telling you she would find out, Mina. You’re the one that insisted she wouldn’t.”

“I have taught you too well, Alexandra Steinert!”

“And I thank you for all you have taught me, Highness. I shall remember fondly, our lessons and shared experiences.” I added cryptically.

“Then you know it all? How did you find out, Alexandra?”

”A man in a stovepipe hat, Highness.”

Mina looked at me with curiosity, obviously trying to ascertain whom I was talking about. Her mouth opened slightly when she finally connected my description to a face.

“Ah, so you still have not seen the whole of the outcome…good! You still have much to learn, Alexandra.”

Allie and I looked at each other then looked at Mina in disbelief.

“Still won’t drop the slightest crumb!” Allie accused.

“Life is a game, my sisters- sometimes a cruel one at that. Just be happy to participate in it. Shall we start our celebration?” Mina said enigmatically as she headed for the airlock.

“I have never before met a prophet; are they always so mysterious, Empress?” Queen Sangiere asked Allie and I.

“You never quite get used to it, your highness.” I giggled.



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