South of Bikini: E9- The Evil

While recruiting a new sister Alex and Jack witness firsthand how the smallest assumption made in another dimension can be lethal to the Empress and her sisters. Can Alex redeem herself and turn mistake into success? Can the Sisterhood make a slight difference in the war without revealing themselves?


Copyright 2006 R.G.Beyer


South of Bikini

Episode 9

“The Evil”

0150 hours, Atlantis-Minor, Ni’ihau, May 10th, 1944

Having just settled down for the night, loud knocking sounded out from my quarter’s main door.

“I was hoping I left that on Kili.” I griped to no one in particular as my feet touched the floor beside my bed.

The knock sounded again as I got closer.

“Just a minute!” Who could be so impatient to see me this time of night?

To my surprise, Mina and her daughters forced their way into the building as soon as I turned the knob.

“Captain, tell mother she has no right to do this- that it is fool-hardy and self-centered!” Nina, Mina’s youngest exclaimed being the first to enter.

“Empress, I beg you not to honor our mother’s request of you! For everyone’s benefit, please!” Mina’s second eldest, Kayla, pleaded as she entered.

“She is not of her right mind, Captain! Please do not humor her request, ma’am!” Mia, her eldest, warned as she and Lailu pulled Mina into the office.

I raised my hand to stop the chaotic ramblings. “Y’all wanna ta tell me what’s goin’ on here? And why can’t it wait ‘til mornin’?” I glared at the five women. “Y’all realize it’s nearly two in the mornin’, right?”

“Alexandra, I assure you I had no intention of bringing this to your attention until well after breakfast tomorrow.” Mina tried apologizing as her four girls stared back at her.

“Mother, this is too important to put off! What you are planning is inexcusable!”

“You intend on breaking up our family?”

“Why, mother?”

Mama, please don’t go! Empress, please don’t let her go!”

“Enough!” I raised both hands this time. All four stopped in mid sentence…or complaint…whatever.

“Mina, you wanna tell me what all this hollerin’s about? I’d like to try for some sleep sometime tonight.” I set my tired eyes to her. Only now did I realize I was standing here in my futuristic medium blue peignoir. I thought I would treat myself after spending seventy-two hours in my ‘Kili suit’.

“Alexandra, apparently these four have finally deduced that I will be leaving in a matter of days and have decided to inhibit my doing so. Please tell them it is for the best.”

“I can’t do that Mina.” I said as I shook my head slowly. “You see…I don’t want you to go either- I know I have to- I just don’t want to lose you. Not yet.”

“See! Even the Empress would rather you stay here, Mama!” Nina interjected.

“I didn’t exactly say that, Nina” It hurt me to say what I had to now. “I must deliver your mother. I have no other choice if this world is to stay the way it is. I’m sorry, Nina.”

Mina’s youngest stood there just blinking her eyes in disbelief of what I said.

“But…”

“Rest assured that your mother won’t leave here for a number of weeks! We have so much left to do; in fact, all of you still have quite a lot to do here! Now I suggest y’all go back to bed.” I went to turn for my bedroom.

“It’s true about Mariah then, isn’t it Empress?” Lailu blurted out.

That stopped me dead in my tracks! I hadn’t been watching our shipwright’s future too closely, so I looked quickly. “Damn! How could I have missed it?”

“I suppose it is, Lailu. It happens to everyone though, Kakak tiri (half sister).”

She looked at me with a half-sad, half-understanding expression.

“Maybe, if we could find her twin, then…”

“Sedikit adik (Little sister)! That is not an option! Mariah must be given the choice! What did we do in the days before the arrival of the Empress?” Mia chastised her younger sister. “And now it is up to the Empress’s charity whether that option is even offered.”

“My sisters, listen to me! I will do everything in my power to protect our sisters and friends! That is the best I can do- now…can I please get some rest? I have had limited sleep these last three days.”

“Of course, Alexandra. They don’t realize you have been to Kili to welcome two new sisters.” Mina said loud enough to catch her daughters’ attention.

“Two new sisters, Empress?” Lailu caught what was said first.

“Wait, what sisters? I have not seen any new sisters in my visions!” Nina looked confused.

“Obviously, as it has not happened yet, sisters. Remember the Empress stated she had limited sleep the last three days. She has undoubtedly returned from our near future- three days hence.” Mai’s evaluation was correct- as usual.

“If you must know, my sisters, the past Empress, Alexandra Reilly, has fulfilled her complement of staff at Reilly Research Station in 2026BC. Yuuka Sukiro and Hoshi Takara are about to undergo the Mahanilui in…” I looked at my new wristwatch- the one Tibius had given me. “In ten minutes. Yuuka will become Alex Reilly’s resident pixie; Hoshi, Yuuka’s partner and handler. Together they will create many legends and myths the world over.” I giggled just thinking about the many adventures they would share- the many times Alex would have to ‘clean-up’ after them.

“I thought their existence was pure fantasy, Alexandra?” Kayla giggled.

“Alex wishes that right about know, sister, trust me! They will be the reason she is the first Empress driven to gray hair.” I covered my mouth as I let out a good laugh.

“And that is precisely why I am needed, my daughters! My excellent teaching abilities are required. That is why I must leave.”

Even without my gift I could see the argument flickering back to life. I decided to quench it before it could. “Sisters, I can assure you that your mother will not leave for another few months, now go back to your quarters and back to bed!” I shooed them toward the door. “Go!”

“Thank you, Alexandra, sometimes I wish the family gift had eluded them. Four against one is never good odds.”

“Only if you’re Jack. You knew they would find out eventually, Mina. Why such a ruckus so late at night- you aren’t going to leave for another few days?”

“They know you have changed our future and wish you to intervene again. They do not understand the danger of multiple paradoxes.”

“I don’t think I even understand them yet, Mina. What are there, ten or so in play right now?”

“Far too many for me to comprehend and still remain sane, Alexandra! You are truly the marvel, Empress.”

“What makes you think I can keep them all straight, Mina?” I smiled.

“My point exactly, Empress. It is time to close the circle on a few…before several more open and you risk losing this universe in an unstable time vortex of your own doing!”

“A bit melodramatic don’t you think, Mina? You and I both know this is the primary universe- the one the other is built from?”

“It is now, Alexandra, but that wasn’t always the case was it?”

I smiled deviously. “Why Mina…y’all mean to insinuate that I traded an entire universe with one that stood to wipe out an entire civilization…just to save that said civilization?” I covered my mouth in faux shock.

“And almost destroyed yourself in the process, yes, that is exactly what I speak of! Should Random ever chose to carry out an in depth inspection of that chamber, she would be very unhappy with you!”

I looked conspiratorially to either side of the office. “You won’t tell her or Cami will you? Randi would be crushed to find out I did something she correctly deduced theoretically impossible.” I tried to hide the pride in my smile.

“Your humility is overwhelming, Empress. Still, it is time to conclude several of the temporal loops you have previously set in motion.”

“Mina, you know as well as I that the Sand Dollars’ saga is still far from through. It will be another thirty years before her design is declassified. And it will be several weeks until I meet with Eleanor for the first time.”

“I do not refer to those two loops specifically, Alexandra. You know the paradox to which I refer! Do not take me for the fool, Empress; we’ve both seen its conclusion!”

It was time to get serious. My playful smile left my face. “We leave in the morning, Mina. Say nothing to Emily about this…“ I looked around the room quickly. “That includes you, Jacquelyn Cummins!” Mina looked around the room in response to my warning.

“How did you know?” I heard the question audibly from Mina and mentally from Jack.

“A good captain always knows her crew!” I said to the ceiling. Returning my attention to Mina, I continued. “We shove off at 0900. Wear your ‘Reilly’ whites and be ready to take fire when we arrive. Now can I get some sleep?”

“Aye, Captain!” I again heard audibly and mentally as Mina stiffened to attention.

Somehow I didn’t feel so commanding dressed in a blue nightie!

0910 hours, Atlantis-Minor, Ni'ihau, May 10th, 1944

“Mina, nice of you to join us.”

“My apologies, Empress, your four half-sisters received their second wind shortly after my return from your office. They proved…trying!”

“Daughters can certainly do that, Mina. Mine have certainly been difficult.” I said with a raised brow.

“Doesn’t it ever bother you that you haven’t had your children yet, Alex?” Jack sounded exasperated.

I paused a minute then shook my head a few times. “No.”

I looked around the compound to make sure we were alone- out of sight to Emily.

“Ready to go?” I asked as I offered my hands.

Pearl Harbor Naval Base replaced our small compound. Having yet to rephase, we had appeared close to the women’s dormitory.

“Ladies, don’t let go yet. We have to check some things out before we actually get here.”

“When is here, Alex?” Jack asked with some confusion.

“If I’m right, 0900 Friday, December, 5th, 1941, Jack.”

“Oh, shit!” She exclaimed.

“Such language, Jacquelyn!”

“In this case, Mina, it is warranted- trust me! I wouldn’t want to relive Sunday morning over and over if I could help it.”

“Yet that is exactly what you keep doing, my dear.” She looked at me with both eyebrows raised slightly and a devious smile.

“So why do we have to stay hidden, Alex?” Jack innocently inquired.

I pointed just ahead of us. Not twenty yards from our position was Admiral Demmit. Fast approaching from the rear and on an intercept course, was Emily! Motioning us closer, we listened to the conversation.

“Admiral Demmit? A minute if you could?” Emily’s voice was loud and pleasant, but slightly out of breath.

The old man turned and scowled until he saw who was calling him. His scowl eased somewhat.

“What is it Ensign, I’m very busy at the moment.” He growled.

“Sir, I was wondering if I might talk to you about one of my fellow nurses…if I may.” She looked very uncomfortable, looking around them constantly as she posed her question.

Demmit, too, looked around nervously. Seeing the general area was devoid of personnel, he seemed to relax, but only slightly.

“Emily, what have I told you about us being seen together out of the privacy of my office? The last thing I…we need, is to be recognized as family!”

“I’m getting sick of all the cloak and dagger, Uncle Rick. Why can’t you just admit that I’m your niece and take it from there?”

“Because I refuse to have my only niece used as a promotional stepping stone, young lady!” Demmit animatedly pointed at his niece. “If anyone is going to get promoted around here it’s you- and for the right reasons! I do not have tolerance for any young officers engaging you in order to enhance their military standing. If someone wants a promotion, let them do the required time and work.”

“But how am I going to get promoted if all I do is check blood pressure and change bedpans? I want to finish medical school, uncle!” Emily stomped her foot in frustration.

“Emily, you know how hard it is to get into medical school! I told you that I’m doing everything I can to get you in at Norfolk. You have to be patient, honey.”

“I’m trying to, Uncle Rick, but working with those pompous jerks at the hospital makes me wish I was their superior! Then there wouldn’t be anyone in that place free-loading to get out of active duty!”

The old man laughed at Emily’s remark.

“It can’t be that bad, honey!”

“It’s worse! Most of us girls have little or nothing to do. The ‘doctors’ have us fixing coffee, filling out their requisition forms, filing their reports, and sitting on their desks with our legs crossed for their entertainment most of the time! Real good use of our talents, huh?”

“Do you want me to talk to the base commander, Emily? You know I’m only in charge of the Submariner’s here and have only a slight influence on how that side of the base operates.”

“What I’d like from you, uncle, is for you to try and arrange a discharge for one of the nurses, Cynthia Riggby. Cindy has been here so long that she’s doomed to be an old maid and therefore is about to go AWOL if she gets turned down for another transfer state-side!”

“I see. Well maybe this will lift her spirits, my dear.”

Uncle Rick reached into his back pocket and removed a folded, brown envelope. Handing it to Emily, he smiled.

“Make sure Lt. Riggby gets this, Ensign. She leaves for San Diego in two weeks.”

Emily wrapped her arms around Uncle Rick and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re the greatest, Uncle Rick! Thanks!” She chirped then quickly headed back the way she came.

A wide satisfied smile developed on Demmit’s face, but quickly submerged as the sound of something metal hitting the ground echoed through the air. A moment later, two sailors rounded a building a short distance away.

“No wonder the broads don’t want nothin’ to do with ya, Jimmie! I betcha dance just as graceful too!” The one said to the other.

“I swear that trash can jumped right out at me, Chuck!”

I immediately looked at Jack, who smiled. “Hey, Maybe it was ol’ King Kamehameha!”

“Of course it was.” I grinned back hoping she didn’t notice my tears.

“Hey, maybe one of them cute nurses could teach ya how to be charming, Jimmie!”

“I’d like to charm one of them cute nurses right out of her…”

“What was that about cute nurses, boys?”

Both men froze, stood to attention, and saluted as they almost ran into the old man.

“Nothing, sir! Just dreaming, sir!” Both said together.

“You will treat the enlisted and commissioned women of this base with respect and not like real estate! Is that clear?”

“Aye-aye, sir! Both answered.

Demmit used his patented ‘eye’ to look the two up and down for a long minute.

“Hmmm…” He returned their salute. “If I hear of either one of you in trouble with this base’s female staff, you’ll both be spending time in the Aleutians- got that? Now get out of here!”

“Aye, sir!” They replied, saluting once more before hurrying off at an angle from the Admiral.

“Richard certainly has his moments!” Mina commented as we watched the Admiral start to walk away. “Thank you for the transit, Empress. It is now time for me to do my part in this paradox.”

Mina released my hand knowing that she would immediately become visible.

“Mina, wait!”

It was too late for her to hear me. After a slight stumble, a slightly disoriented Mina called out to Admiral Demmit.

“Admiral? I say Admiral, please allow me to catch you up, sir!”

“What is it now…” he turned toward Mina’s voice. Shock filled his face as he strained to make out her rank. “Yes, lieutenant, what can I do for you?”

From where we stood, we could make out Demmit sizing her up.

“I just arrived, Admiral. Lt. Philamina Smith, sir.” She saluted.

Admiral Demmit returned salute with a weak smile. “Lt. Smith, what can I do for you?”

“Admiral, I was wondering if there was some place to talk…privately, sir? I have been engaged to deliver to you, a most secret parcel.” Mina told him softly, tapping her purse a few times. Seeing his reaction, she added, “You have been informed as to my arrival, Rr.Adm. Richard Demmit?”

“Matter of fact I haven’t, Lieutenant!” Uncle Rick stared at her intently.

I knew what that felt like!

“Judging from the accent though, I gather Washington just neglected to tell me. Please, allow me to show you to my office, Lt. Smith.”

“Of course, Admiral.” Mina flashed her best smile.

“First time they’ve met, huh?” Jack winked at me.

“Him, yes- Mina, no, Jack.”

“Any idea what’s in her bag, Alex?”

“Our futures, Jack. The start of them anyway.”

“Cap?”

“Mina carries a time sensitive dossier containing a request from the royalty of Kili Island for relocation to a safe area if the Japanese decide to occupy the island. There is also a file containing the specific hull number and potential list of crewmembers for Sand Dollar, Jack. She will convince Uncle Rick that he open it only after receiving notice directly from the White House.” I pointed to the two walking away arm in arm. “What we have just witnessed is the start of the rest of our lives, Jack. This is the defining moment of our sisterhood…our society.”

“So…let me get this straight. Okay…Mina started this whole paradox thing?” I nodded. “Then why does she blame you for it?” Jack raised a confused eyebrow.

“Because I did start this, Jack.”

“Say that again? I thought I heard you just say that you started all this!”

“By traveling back to this point in time, I have set in motion the device for my own change- for our change. Had I not already become the Empress, I would never have provided a means for Mina to deliver that package. If Uncle Rick hadn’t received that list with our names, we would never have undergone the Mahanilui, thus never traveled back in time to close this paradox, thereby completing it and moving forward.”

“So…if we hadn’t changed, we would have been going around in circles?”

“No, as Mina stated several weeks ago, we would have all died, Jack.”

“But, in order to do that we would have had to have been selected as the crew of Sand Dollar in the first place, right?”

“Only Mina could tell you the possible outcomes that would entail, Jack. I wasn’t there at the time to foresee that.”

“But you…we…are here, Alex! A whole two years before we were picked for this!”Jack stopped talking for a minute and rubbed her forehead. She then made a sweeping stop gesture with her free hand. “You know? I’m just going to stop thinking about all this time paradox crap and do what I’m told! Empress, tell me what is to be done next!” She said, annoyed and confused.

“We go to the base hospital, Jack! Where else would we go to find headache medication?” I giggled.

“Really? It was that simple, Alex? Couldn’t it be more in keeping with the general FUBAR everyone seems to feel when accompanying you on these little adventures?”

“You love these ‘little’ adventures, Jacquelyn Cummins!” I smiled at her and we both giggled.

“I wonder how Constance is doing?” Jack said out of the blue. That stopped me dead in our tracks- unfortunately it also took my mind off holding us out of phase.

A sailor that we had just passed stumbled and looked back at us- probably wondering how he could have just walked by two very cute girls and not noticed.

“Who’s Constance, Jack?” I tried to cover.

“Oh, like you don’t know!” She glared at me. “Constance, my forty-year old daughter, Alex! The one we left back in Citadel with your daughter Alexis, Randi’s Isabeau, and Tish’s Melanie? Tibius can try as hard as he wants to erase those memories, Alex, but if I don’t want them erased…” She left the statement hang and just winked.

I was quiet while we walked the street leading out to hospital point.

“It didn’t work on Cami either. She remembers giving birth to Cassiopeia like it was yesterday.”

I think everyone in Citadel will remember that birth for a long time! I wonder if they ever found the ceiling to the delivery room yet?”

“Pffft! That thing is halfway to this galaxy by now, Jack! The ceiling from Constance’s delivery room is due to splash down sometime next fall, by the way!” I laughed and winked.

Arriving at the hospital around 1000hrs, we entered and I led us to the office I had seen Cynthia explode from two mornings from now. As Emily’s memory indicated, the place was almost deserted. We entered the outer office to find it empty, but our ears quickly picked up two people conversing in the next room.

“Doctor, I don’t think it’s standard practice to check my pulse from my thigh.”

“But you seem a little flush this morning, Lieutenant. I’m just making sure you’re all right.”

“I’m fine, Doctor.”

“You certainly are from what I see, Lt. Riggby.”

“You know there’s an SP just down the hall. What if I were to scream?”

“Well…I suppose he would come in and join us.”

“That’s quite enough.” Jack whispered in an angry tone. We then heard something hard hit a table or something wooden within the room.

“Wow, I never had that happen before- serves you right though. I would suggest a cool compress to the forehead when you wake up though…doctor.” The woman’s voice giggled.

The clicking of heeled shoes grew closer to the door we were standing before.

“Jack!” I whispered loudly as I looked at her with distain.

“The pig’s hand was moving farther up her thigh, Cap. I had to do something.” She whispered back.

“This is supposed to be a low-key mission, Jack! One with limited use of gifts, remember?”

“Ewwww, a low-key mission! Count me in ma’am!” A third whispering voice joined in making us jump.

“Lt. Riggby, we didn’t hear you open the door.” I tried to cover our apparent eavesdropping. “Did we arrive at a bad time?”

“Not at all, Commanders. The doctor decided to give me the rest of my shift off today. He said something about taking a well-earned snooze.” She put a finger to her mouth as she quietly closed the inter-office door.

“So, what can I do for you girls?” She asked with a genuine smile.

“Well, since you have the rest of the day off, let’s go for a nice walk, Lieutenant. We need your advice on some very…sensitive matters.” I smiled back at her.

“Do I know you, Commander?” She stepped behind her desk and looked Jack and I over carefully.

“Oh, how rude of me. Lt. Riggby, I am Commander Alexandra Steinert and this is Lt. Commander Jacquelyn Cummins, We need advice on some very…um, important issues and were told you were the one to see.”

“Who told you to ask for me?” She partially closed one eye and cocked her head slightly.

“An Ensign Scott, Lieutenant. She claims that you have been here forever and that you would give us a straight answer. If you would rather us leave…”

“No! If Emily thought I could be of assistance to you then I’ll try my best. Let’s go, I could use a nice walk about now anyway.”

“Wonderful! Let’s walk around the point then head for the OC. I’ll buy.” I suggested with my best smile.

When we were clear of the immediate hospital grounds, I got down to business.

“Lt. Riggby, I’m going to ask you a few hypothetical questions and I’d like you to think them through very carefully before answering. I must warn you, they may seem delusional and maybe a bit strange.”

“How ‘dilusional and strange’ Commander Steinert?”

“Bordering on the realm of pure fantasy, Cynthia Riggby.” Jack answered calmly.

The lieutenant stopped abruptly and looked at us.

“You mean like witches, trolls, fairies, and such?” Her voice raised an octave.

“Something like that, yes.” I admitted before pausing. “But I can see we’ve already taken up too much of your time, Cindy. Jack and I will be on our way now, thank you for being truthful.” I said as Jack and I started to walk back toward the hospital building.

“Wait! I didn’t say anything, Commander, come back!” Riggby shouted to us as she ran to catch up.

“You did, Miss Riggby. You declared us clinically insane, Lieutenant.” Jack informed her.

“How did you…I said nothing of the kind, Cmdr. Cummins.”

“Not verbally, no, but you thought it, Lt. Riggby.” Jack answered then stared at her a moment. “The same way you can hear me now.”

Cynthia Riggby jumped with a start as her eyes widened.

Jack just closed her eyes and gently nodded in answer to an unheard question.

Cindy looked toward me- her face asking the same question. I phased out and quickly walked around her, re-phasing with my mouth close to her ear. “No, Miss Riggby, I have my own gifts. Would you like to hear about them?”

“Cap, must you do that? She’s on the border of hysteria as it is!”

“I see no reason to be blunt, Jack. I’m running out of time and we still haven’t asked her the important questions yet!”

“You…run out of time? Pfft!” Jack laughed. I just glared at her.

“Cindy, I suggest we find a place to sit down before we reveal anything further…” I saw the skepticism on her face, “or…Jack and I can leave and you can go get drunk and forget we were even here.” I opened my purse and placed a few dollars in her hand. I gestured to Jack and we turned to walk away.

“Did you just do what I thought you did, ma’am?” Lt. Riggby asked quietly as she continued to stare.

“What? What is it you think I just did, Lieutenant?”

“You…” She pointed to where I had been. “And then you…” She pointed at me.

“I don’t know, Cindy. Maybe you should take a good look at the currency I just gave you. It may help to explain things better.

Lt. Riggby looked to her hand, the money still clinched in her closed palm. Slowly she began to unravel a bill and examine it. Turning it a few times to inspect it, her eyes again began to bug out.

“Series 2024?” She stared at me. “But…how?”

“How indeed, Miss Riggby. I would think the answer obvious- especially to someone as intelligent as you- someone capable of thinking outside the normal- someone who is not afraid to confront the commonplace. By the way, Cindy, I wouldn’t go spending that around here! Someone might think you were a crazed counterfeiter.”

“What’s it like?”

“Excuse me?”

“The future, what’s it like, ma’am?”

I thought about it a minute with my finger resting against my cheek and one eye closed. “Well…it’s not much different than today. The price of everything is astronomical; Cars don’t run on gasoline any more, and everyone dresses provocatively. Things have become much easier since the invention of the Internet though. Would you like to see it, Cindy- while you still can?”

“The way you say that…what happens to me? Tell me!” Her face grew scared.

“For God’s sake, Alex, stop fooling around!” Jack growled at me.

“She has the right to know, Jack- before she dismisses us as certifiable lunatics.”

“Yes she does, Cap, but right now she would make her decision out of fright instead of knowledge. She deserves to hear the whole package.”

“Lt. Riggby, do you believe that there are things out there,” I motioned to the horizon, “that simply cannot be explained? Forget what you have just witnessed and think it through, hun.”

“She’s running it, Cap.” Jack whispered leaning closer to me.

“The things you refer to, I trust you have seen your fair share, Captain Steinert?”

I nodded and immediately noticed she picked up on Jack’s address of me.

She looked at Jack, who also gave a nod.

“There are more of you…out there?” She glanced and nodded to the horizon.

“Worlds full, Lieutenant.” I smiled.

“Adventure; Danger; Intrigue; Romance?” She clicked off rapid fire.

“Ooooh ya!” Jack interjected with a silly grin.

Lt. Riggby paused to consider those things.

“You…” looking down in thought, she continued, “You are human, aren’t you?”

“Yes.” I laughed. “Barring the fact that we have these special gifts…and we live almost four hundred years.” I added seriously as my smile went tight.

“Oh, good. I thought for a minu…what? Four hundred years?” Her octave again changed.

“One of the side effects of being us, Cindy. Oh…we heal very fast too.” I casually added.

“How fast is fast, ma’am?” She asked cautiously.

I leaned over and pointed to my calf. “Two months ago I was shot by a Japanese soldier trying to board our boat. I had an inch-wide slash right here. Emily stitched and bandaged it. The next day it was completely healed. That’s how fast, Lieutenant.”

“Japanese soldier? I knew it! I had a feeling about that! When? Wait…Emily? As in Emily Scott?”

I nodded.

“Emily is one of you? I would have never guessed.” Cindy shook her head in disbelief.

“Not yet, Lt. Riggby- not until 1944. None of us before then.” Jack answered candidly.

“1944? You do realize that your being here creates a paradox? According to what I’ve heard and read that can be disastrous.” She watched to see my reaction.

“The captain has been here before, Lieutenant- she saves her brother the day after tomorrow.”

“Jack! That has no bearing on this mission! What I do here on Sunday is reckless and selfish- nothing shy of pure greed!” I growled, quickly growing angry that she even mentioned it.

Riggby stared intently at my sudden change of temperament.

“How can saving someone- especially your brother- be considered greedy, Captain?”

“Because ten other men died in the process.” I fought to hold back the tears I felt forming.

“Alex! They all would have died if you hadn’t tried!” Jack scolded.

“You don’t know that!”

“Um…ya, I do, Alex- Brie can attest to that, remember?”

“Sir’s? Can we get on with the questions you want my opinion on?” Cindy interrupted.

We both stopped, realizing we were ignoring our guest.

I took a minute to compose myself before asking the main question- the one that would allow me to terminate one of many paradoxes- one of the most important ones.

“Cynthia Jane Riggby, do you sometimes wonder if you have been overlooked- that you were meant for better things other than just filing paperwork and emptying bedpans-“ I paused a second, “that you just don’t belong here, but in a different place or time?”

I noticed Jack suddenly shift her attention to me as she obviously read my mind and the scenes playing out there.

“Where do I sign, ma’am!” Riggby said excitedly, her face quickly displaying a smile.

“Not even the slightest hesitation, Lt. Riggby? I would’ve at least had a few.” I raised a brow to her.

“I figure it this way, ma’am- if you traveled all the way back here a second time…just for me…to offer me the chance to join you, then how could I decline? I’d be crazy not to accept!” The twinkle in her eyes was infectious.

She looked down a moment, “besides, I’m probably going to die on Sunday, aren’t I?”

‘She’s very perceptive, Alex.’ Jack thought to me. I ignored her and spoke my prepared half-truth.

“It has been rumored that you disappeared during Sunday’s attack, but it was never confirmed. Of course, since you have unanimously agreed to join us that became a mote point- and an advantage.”

“How bad is it?”

“It’s pretty bad- death, destruction, chaos, horrible loss of life!”

“No, how bad is it? Do you have to operate or bite me- drain me of blood or something?”

I looked at her thinking she couldn’t be serious! “Been reading Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker, eh? Have we ever heard that one before, Jack?” I tilted my head slightly in Jack’s direction while keeping my eyes fixed on our candidate.

“Some enemy soldiers thought that you, Alex, Cami, and Scotti were demons.”

“Of course you heard that, didn’t you? Jack, you just keep surprising me. Do I need to go off-planet for some privacy?” I rolled my eyes.

“You could try, Alex, you could try!” She gave me a devious smile and a wink.

“Um…you still haven’t answered my question, ma’am!” Cindy again caught our attention.

“Jack, would you care to do the honors?”

“Aye, Cap.”

“Lt. Riggby, there is no bloodletting- no anatomical or internal surgery of any kind…” I opened my purse and a small, normal looking, metal flask floated out and moved through the air unfettered, to Cindy. Her eyes again opened wide with astonishment. “You just have to drink this elixir, add to it any high octane booze, and take about a six hour nap. That’s it- simple and painless! You’ll wake up feeling no different than you do now.” I giggled in spite of trying to be serious.

“That’s it? No lightning; no scary organ music- just drink this, get drunk, and sleep it off?”

“Sorry it’s not more melodramatic, honey.” I shrugged.

Taking the flask out of the air, she unscrewed the cap and quickly took a slug.

“This tastes like water!” She looked confused.

“It is, hun, that’s the only flavor people seem to like.” I laughed. “Don’t drink the whole thing, I’m a little thirsty.” I winked as she handed me back the container. “Jack?” I offered it to her after taking enough to wet my whistle.

“Thanks, Cap.” She put the flask to her lips and her eyes went wide!

I felt something sting my neck.

“Alex!” Jack spit water from her mouth as she screamed out my name.

I reached back and felt something stuck in my neck. Pulling it out, I observed that it was a small, blue fletched dart of some kind.

An intense burning started to radiate from the wound.

“What the hell is this? I gasped out as I continued to look at the thing.

The intense burning seemed to be spreading fast. I started to feel nauseous and my sight began to blur. A high-pitched buzzing filled my ears. Losing my balance, I fell to the ground and whatever was left of breakfast spilled out.

“Alex! Jack screamed out again as she reached for me. I could barely see her now- my head was spinning wildly and I felt on the verge of passing out.

“Jack…help…me.” I managed to get out as things started to get dark.

“Alex…bravo…tango…emerg…reset,” was all I heard before everything went black.

Opening my eyes, I’m looking up to the sky. It was very warm and the surface on which I lay is coarse and somewhat yielding. I think I see a cactus before everything goes dark again.

I’m looking up at the sky again. The air feels humid and hot- palm tree fronds shade my eyes from the bright sun. Darkness follows quickly.

I’m looking up at the sky. Enemy aircraft are flying overhead. The sound of all hell breaking loose fills my ears. I can feel the concussive vibration of explosives. Everything goes black once more.

I’m looking at…at a single yellow sun surrounded by blackness. I can’t tell if I’m sitting, laying, or standing. There is a calming feeling about this place. It is neither cold nor hot here. Again blackness consumes me.

My vision slowly brightens then begins to focus on some shapes I assume are close to me. I want to rub my eyes to clear them, but my arms feel so heavy…so terribly…heavy. I think something is touching my hand- maybe rubbing my forehead? I try again to focus on the shapes above me. People! The shapes appear to be people. I try to call out for help. Why can’t I speak? The effort makes the darkness return.

My vision slowly brightens again, this time the shapes are easily recognizable as people. I try to rub my eyes but feel resistance as something touches my arm. I try again to focus on the mysterious figures above me and am rewarded with four women coming into sharper focus. All are dressed in tight fitting shimmery dresses. I try to speak and am rewarded.

“Where…where am I?” My voice sounds horrible- as if full of gravel.

“Welcome back, mother! We did not expect your return so soon.”

The voice is familiar, but I can’t put a name to it.

“Who?”

“Alexis, mother. You are back on Terra- in Citadel.”

“How?”

“Your garments. The personal protection system in your clothing was activated. You appeared here in the park unresponsive and near termination two weeks ago. As near as we can tell you had been injected with an unknown toxin. Father was able to isolate it and administer a counteragent.”

“I closed my eyes and began to slip back into darkness once again. I felt someone shake me and I re-opened them having to refocus.

“Who did this to you, mother?”

“Please tell us, Empress!”

I tried to recall the events leading up to pulling the dart from my neck.

Jack had just started to take a drink from my water flask when her eyes flew wide open. She was so startled by whatever she saw that she spit out the water. Cindy screamed? No, Cindy and Jack screamed! What did they see? Was someone behind me? Who could have snuck up without Jack hearing something?

I heard Alexis’ voice in the background. She was relaying what she saw.

“My mother could not react fast enough to protect you?” Another familiar voice asked.

“Constance?”

“Here, M’lady, as are Melanie, Isabeau, Reilly, and Cassiopeia.”

“Welcome Empress.” The girls said in unison. At the moment I was more concerned about me then the two unfamiliar names last listed.

“Why can’t I move? I feel so heavy!”

“You are still very weak from the toxin, mother. Your practitioner feels it will take a few more days for your nanos to return to large enough numbers to start your physical regeneration.”

“I want to see! Get me a mirror at once!”

“I would not advise that right now, mother. The toxin has taken an adverse toll on your appearance. Trust me, you do not look your best at the moment, Empress.” Alexis shook her head slowly.

“You mean I look old right- white hair, saggy jowls, sunken eyes, and wrinkles galore?”

“That would start the list, yes, mother. At present you look more like the previously terminated, I’m afraid.”

“You mean I look like a corpse- is that it?”

“That is a crude way of describing your current condition, M’lady. We will now leave you to rest and gather your strength. I will be back with you tomorrow, mother- sleep well.”

The room and women darkened as I felt myself forcibly entering unconsciousness.

1100 hours, Pearl Harbor, December 5th, 1941

(Supplemental Log- Lt. Cmdr. Jacquelyn Cummins)

“Alex!” I screamed the second I saw her.

Alex reached back and produced a small blue, fletched dart of some kind.

“What the hell is this?” She gasped out. The woman that had appeared behind Alex had vanished as fast as she had appeared.

“Alex! Cindy and I screamed again as she fell to the ground and upchucked.

“Jack…help…me,” was all she could get out before collapsing entirely. It was immediately apparent she needed better help than what we could offer! Without hesitation, I began to recite the activation code that Tibius had given me before leaving Terra. All he had said was to use it in the direst of emergencies. This certainly fit the bill!

“Alex,” I tried to get a reaction, but she was already unconscious. I went straight into the activation code. “Bravo-Tango-Echo-Sam-Three-twelve. Empress Emergency Reset- activate!” A flashing red light started blinking on her right collar.

Alex promptly vanished, leaving the two of us alone.

“Cindy, did you catch a glimpse of her face?

“What happened? Where did Capt. Steinert go?” She said in panic not answering my question.

“I activated her uniform’s emergency protocol! I haven’t a clue what it does, Cindy. Apparently it makes her phase out or transport somewhere! Did you see who did this to her?”

“She did!”

“What?”

“It looked like she appeared behind herself, ma’am!”

“Are you sure?”

“Hey, I may be your new recruit, but my eyes have always worked fine, Commander! I saw the captain behind herself- like twins! Does she have a twin?”

This was not good! One of them- a past or future Empress had gone rogue! I had my idea as to which one, but speculation at this moment was not a luxury!

“Commander?” Cindy caught my attention, “Does she have a twin?”

I was at a loss to how I wanted to tell her, so I just rambled out what I knew. “She can be in the same place as many times as she wants…I think!” I started. “Once, there were four of her standing right next to each other having a normal conversation- laughing, joking, touching, everything! I didn’t understand it then- I don’t expect you to believe me now! What I do know is that I’ve got to get you inducted before any temporal shifts develop from this attack! We need to find Mina,” I explained trying to keep my composure.

“Who’s Mina?” Cindy asked, but she would have to be patient for her answer as I was busy informing Mina what happened. She sounded horrified as she asked where she should meet us.

“Philamina Smith is the third person in your rescue party. She was taking care of some paradoxical details with Admiral Demmit. Is there any place we can meet her that would be private enough to discuss what needs to be done?

“Emily’s uncle is one of you too? It kinda all makes sense now!”

“You knew? I didn’t think anyone knew?”

“Are you kidding? I saw through that one a mile away! I just never let on. Emily is a hard-working girl that deserves to go as far as she can- maybe even become a surgeon someday!”

“Alex was right about you, lady! You certainly are a horse of a different color!”

“I hope that was a compliment, Commander!”

“It was, now do you know a place we can meet up with Mina, or not?”

“Tell her to meet us at the OC in twenty minutes; I’ll take us to some place safe.”

“Thank you, Cindy.”

“When do I get drunk, Commander?”

“As soon as possible, Lieutenant!” I told her as we started out for the Officer’s Club.

“Mina, have you been able to contact Alex?” I asked as she took a seat on Cindy’s bed. The room was comfortable for one person, but cramped with three.

“Jacquelyn, are you sure this room is secure? Can we be certain the walls are sufficiently insulated?” She cautiously looked around the small room.

“I have a dampening field up around the perimeter walls and the door and window have been immobilized. This is as safe as it gets, your highness.”

“Highness? You’re our Queen or something?” Cindy’s mouth dropped in surprise.

“Only figuratively, Love.” Her attention came back to me. “I have not been able to reach Alexandra since hearing of her assault. I fear the worst, Commander.” Mina shook her head.

“My God, we won’t be able to leave, Mina.” I realized. “I didn’t ship to Pearl until July of last year…um…of 1943. Before that I was stationed out of Norfolk. I haven’t a clue where we would be safe come Sunday morning!” I felt myself start to panic.

“She’ll be alright, Cmdr. Cummins. I have a feeling she’ll return before the attack starts.” Cindy advised in a cheery voice.

“Has she undergone the Mahanilui yet, Jacquelyn?”

“Not yet, no.” I answered.

“How can you be so certain, Cynthia Riggby? I was not informed you possessed any natural gift that would allow you to see our Empress any clearer than I?”

“It’s called optimism, highness. And where I come from that’s all some people got, aside from hope! Those two characteristics are what keep the human race going, you know!” The authority carried in that statement must have impressed Mina because she just nodded her agreement and went silent.

“The question remains where and what do we do. We still don’t know which Empress is behind all this. Mina, have you tried to contact Brianna? Maybe she can get through.”

“I’ve been trying, Jacquelyn! There simply is no one at the other end!”

“Alex Reilly! Try Alex Reilly, see if she can help!”

I listened to Mina’s attempt to contact Alex Reilly. A very groggy Alex finally answered. Mina informed her of what had happened and asked if there was any way she could help us. Unfortunately, the reach of Alex’s travel abilities would land her four hundred years shy of us! Instead, Alex checked to make sure our time and dimension were still intact by asking us various questions about current events and cross referencing them with Random’s archive.

Relieved that we hadn’t taken a temporal tangent, Mina and I bid Alex Reilly a good night and terminated the connection.

With our temporal security safe at the moment, we set about planning for our security during the attack. Mina and I were still reluctant to shed light on Cindy’s whereabouts Sunday morning though.

“I suggest we stay away from all airfields and barracks. I remember hearing about Schofield’s barracks taking a direct hit. Of course it makes sense to stay away from the harbor as the main target is the fleet.” I thought for a minute. “That leaves the civilian areas like Honolulu, and the mountains.”

“How about the hospital? Do they hit the hospital?” Cindy asked with concern.

“I don’t know for certain, Cindy. Alex is the one to ask about that- though I do know that Emily was on duty there that morning and she escaped injury!” I hated to lie to her, but if I told her that she was at the center of the explosion, she might refuse to go there and cause a tangent. “Why? I asked instead.

“Well, I go on duty 0600 Sunday morning. When does the attack start, Commander?”

“0800, I believe.”

“But I still die on Sunday? In the attack?”

Mina gasped as I nodded my head.

“You told her? Jacquelyn, we are here to save her! Why would you tell her that? Do you have no scruples?”

“Lt. Smith, Cmdr. Cummins and Capt. Steinert did not have to tell me what lay ahead. When you said that Captain Steinert was here before to rescue her brother, I put two and two together. The only logical reason you were here, talking to me, was that I was to be rescued also- that I somehow don’t make it past Sunday. I am obviously part of her grand plan to help mankind survive!”

“Emily was right about you, Lieutenant, you are very special! I can see why she tried her best to save you!” Mina praised the girl.

Cindy broke eye contact with Mina and stared at me. “I thought the Captain told you about me?”

“No, when Alex returned to 1944 with Brian by her side, she was upset that she could only save Brian- that ten of his shipmates still died after she rescued them from the Arizona.”

Cindy audibly gasped.

“She did however tell of a kind Lieutenant that offered her a place to stay for the night. Someone that made sure she had food, a bath, and a bed. This Lieutenant even gave her some clean clothes! Alex was surprised that she was so hospitable and caring to a complete stranger.”

“Me?” She asked.

Mina and I both nodded.

“Emily asked if Alex had gotten her name. When she said your name, Emily broke out in tears. She told us that you had died in the attack- that you had less than two weeks before shipping stateside. Alex has spent the better part of three weeks trying to devise a plan to get you out safely.”

“Why so long? Someone with her talents could just appear and take me! Why make a plan?”

I really didn’t want to say any more, but felt it necessary for her to understand.

“Because Emily saw you die, Cindy! She was the first on the scene- the first to check for…for a pulse!” I had to stop a second to compose myself. “

If Emily doesn’t see you die, she might not decide to transfer to a forward hospital- then she might not be aboard a submarine to load the torpedo that sinks an attacking Japanese destroyer which, in turn, gets her a silver medal and the opportunity to become a doctor and be assigned to the mission that ultimately changes us all! The future might very well change for every one of us if she does not think you are dead! Do you understand?”

We remained quiet for a long time before Cindy’s tears stopped. I was still wiping mine away when she broke the silence.

“I mean that much to the Empress? Why?”

Mina took over now. “Cynthia, the Empress has vowed to help save the world from itself. In the process, she has made it her duty to protect her friends and family- no matter the cost. She is the personification of the legendary Empress from two universes, maybe more! What she has in mind for you has not been revealed to me, but I can tell you it is far into the future, so far in fact that I cannot see you in it. Take no offence to what I say because my time here is severely limited.

“You’re dying, highness?”

“Let’s just say I am ‘going away’ and leave it, Cynthia.”

“As you wish, ma’am.”

“And I will have none of that, Miss Riggby! Our society does not require homage to nobility! We are equal- even the Empress! Is that understood?”

“Yes, ma’am. So…what do we do now?”

I opened my bag and removed an unopened bottle of whiskey I had purchased while at the Officer’s Club.

“You…get drunk!” I floated the bottle to her as I willed the top to unscrew. “That is unless you’ve changed your mind, Lieutenant?”

“No ma’am! I could use a good stiff one right about now! Care to join me?”

Empress’ Suite, 209th floor, Consulate Building, Citadel Social Center, 11:22, Median, Junia 3rd, 349 of the New Age

My eyes opened and immediately focused on Alexis at my bedside watching me. A huge smile developed on her face seeing my eyes open.

“Oh, mother, I’m so glad you’re feeling better.” She said as she leaned over and kissed me on my cheek. “You had us all worried when you first arrived.”

“How long have I been here?” I asked, noticing that my voice had returned to normal.

“Three Terran weeks, mother. It is good to see you back in good health, Empress. Father has been here every day since you arrived and has stayed your bedside every night after finding your cure. I have never seen him more protective of anyone since my coming of age forty years ago!”

I took a good look around the room and recognized my personal bedroom suite at the Consulate Building. Everything looked the same as the day we left! It made me wonder…

“When is here, honey?” I smiled back at her.

“My apologies, Empress.” Alexis blushed as she realized what I meant. She immediately bowed her head. “Welcome to Citadel, Terra, Empress. Today is Median, Junia, 3rd, 349 of the New Age.”

“Fifteen years from when we left.”

Alexis nodded.

“That would explain the two unfamiliar voices I heard earlier!”

“Reilly and Cassi are just dying to finally meet you, mother! They go on and on about…”

“I am truly sorry I was not here at your awakening, Empress Alexandra! I got here as fast as the transport system could handle!” Tibius explained as he burst into the room.

“Thank you, Tibius! Our daughter tells me you are the one to whom I owe my life.” I gave him my best smile. I felt a tear from each eye dance down my face.

“I should take my leave, mother.” Alexis said as she turned for the door.

“Stay. I wish to spend some time with my family of this world- with the people responsible for saving me.” I insisted as more tears came. Alexis made an attempt to lean over me again, but I waved her off and carefully pushed myself up to sitting. Everything about me felt stiff and sore!

Both Alexis and her father, Tibius, stared in fascination as I then touched my feet to the floor and stood for the first time in three Terran weeks! It was at this time that I noticed I was in a very smooth, silky feeling- very short- pink sleeping gown.

“After fifty-five years you still have this? Tibius, I didn’t think you were that sentimental?”

That got him to blush!

“Forgive me, M’lady, but when you arrived your protective clothing was all but destroyed. Its neuro-circuitry proved difficult to disengage from your synapses, drawing precious energy from your body. I’m afraid we will have to modify and construct a replacement.”

“As long as it brought me here to the one person that could save my life, Tibius! I should give you and your engineers a medal if I was really that kind of Empress!”

“Ah, but you truly are that ‘kind’ of Empress, M’lady! You are nobler than any royalty here or on any other world!” Tibius took my hand and kissed it.

I felt myself blush. This was how it all started in Citadel fifty-five years ago. And just like fifteen years ago, I had to resist his extensive charms yet again!

“Tibius, would it be too much to ask if I could get dressed? I fear you may be in trouble should I wear this any longer- and I may get into trouble because of you.”

Alexis covered her mouth as a giggle escaped it and looked away.

“I should go now.” She implied.

“Don’t you dare, young lady! You are the only thing keeping your father from his intended duty! And I am still saving myself for my future Earth husband!”

“If I may, Empress, from whence did thou remove when thoust emergency reset did activate?” Tibius inquired.

“Again with the Shakespearian talk, Tibius? I’ll tell you this just once! We had only been back on Earth for a few days…before…scratch that, I’d been back seven days before setting about my plan to rescue Cindy Riggby. Jack, Mina and I had just arrived at Pearl Harbor on Friday, December 5th, 1941”

I paused to do the math. “That’s thirteen years before I come here the first time, Tibius! Now please allow me to dress. I’ll join y’all shortly.”

Both Alexis and Tibius turned to exit the room. “My daughter can stay if she wants to.” It was a request not a suggestion. Alexis stopped and returned to my side. We waited for the door to close fully.

“You wished to talk with me, mother?”

“Your father said my uniform was almost destroyed? How much longer until I would have been-?”

“In all truthfulness, we could not believe you were still alive, Mother Empress- the internal and external damage to your body was so severe and extensive! It was as though the toxin was slowly digesting you from within. The practitioner attending you archived all available information because he could not understand how you survived such devastation. During your treatment he kept reprising your strength to live. I can only hope I have your fortitude when the time comes, mother.”

“I believe all my girls have it in them, Alexis. My son will too.” I said as I walked over to the closet to find something to wear.

“I have a half-brother, Empress?” She looked surprised for a moment. “Oh yes, James isn’t it?”

“No, Alexander, born December 21st, 2012- Earth time. James is your Aunt Emily’s boy born May 6th, 2002- Earth time.”

“Forgive me, mother, I should have remembered that.”

“Alexis! It’s been fifteen years! No one expects you to remember the names of people you’ve never met- especially if you have other things on your mind! Now who is Nathan?”

“Mother! For someone that claims to have no telepathic talent your hyper-cognitive skills continue to astonish me! When did your foresight return?”

“I guess today. Although I do recall seeing several different places after the reset was activated. They looked very familiar to me- did you see them when you looked into my mind earlier?”

“That was the recall system’s basic protocol, mother. The first place visited was some area called Arizona. I believe the year recorded was 2027AD. The next place you traveled was dated 2027BC- quite the range extreme, mother!”

“Ancient Kili Island and the Reilly Research Facility.”

“I believe you are correct, mother. The third place…”

“I know where the third place was, Alexis. 0815hrs Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941!”

“Such useless barbarism on an antique scale, though I would love to safely observe that specific event, Empress.”

That was a very dark day in American history, Alexis. Our president summed it up perfectly when he said ‘it would be a day that lived in infamy’.”

“He sounds like a very wise man. Your fourth and final stop was an unknown, unnamed place devoid of any and all life except you, mother. It sends shivers down my spine every time I picture it.”

“That would be my private dimension, honey. On that plane, I can call upon the dead for advice and conversation. The people I’ve met there have been fundamental in my education as Empress. I can take you there if you wish.” I said as I carefully shucked off the short, delicate, pink gown.

“With all due respect, Empress, I would just assume not.”

“I understand.” I said as I began to pull up my britches.

“Mother, you may consider this first.” She said as she handed me a small cylindrical device. “Terran weeks are eight of your Earth days long, and Terran days are twenty-six Earth hours long. I can sense you are about to start your cycle.”

“Aren’t you the considerate one?” I gave her a mock smile before turning and inserting the Terran equivalent of a tampon. Finding out who had poisoned me would have to wait another week…another Earth week.

Once finished dressing, Alexis and I went to the large meeting room where Tibius, Constance, Melanie, Isabeau, and two younger women greeted us.

“Mother, I’d like to introduce two more members of our society, Reilly, and Cassiopeia.”

Both girls took their turn bowing to me, greeting me properly as was the custom here on Terra. Reilly, for the most part, looked like a younger version of Alexis. Cassi, on the other hand looked like a younger version of Mariah Banes, our Shipwright.

“Greetings, Empress!” Reilly sang out. “I have been so excited to meet you. I had hoped that my own mother had been the one to arrive- not that I wanted her to be near death like you, but I so hoped it would have been her and not you, so you can imagine my surprise when Alexis confirmed to us that you were her mother instead of my mother, but you both are my mother in the relative scheme of things, which is confusing as well, but if you really think about all the parameters and logically evaluate them you two are not so much alike yet you both share the same genetic structure and programming, except you have lived in way different eras and had different experiences, but since you share memories you’re more like twins instead of temporal copies of one another- so you must be the same person or not…I get so confused, Empress!” She finished in exasperation.

“You’re about sixteen, right honey?” I asked, hoping I followed half of everything this teenager had just babbled to me.

“Sixteen this Saturian, Empress.” She blushed.

“Thought so! Honey, don’t be so afraid of me, I hardly bite! Don’t forget, I was here at your birth and share all your mother’s memories. It would honor me to act on behalf of your mother while I’m here, Reilly!”

She ran over to Alexis and wrapped her arms around her. “Did you hear that? The Empress says she would be my mother while here! She really is as nice as you say, Lady Alexis!”

“Greetings Empress! Is it possible to take me with you in order to visit my mother, Camille Darough? I long to speak with her about a great many things!” Cassi wasted no time with her inquiry- exactly as her mother would!

“That is not the way you have been taught to welcome our Empress, young lady!” Isabeau reprimanded the young woman.

“In case you’ve all forgotten, I do not stand on any strict protocol, my sisters! Cassi has left no doubt as to who her birth mother is!” I looked down the few inches to her face. “You remind me so much of her, sweetheart!”

She looked at the others. “You all hear that? She called me ‘Sweetheart’, that’s what she calls my mom!” She announced proudly.

We all laughed.

“Have you two received your gifts yet?” I asked the two after things had settled down.

“You brought us gifts too?” Cassi asked as her eyes widened.

Yep, there was Cami!

“The Empress wants to know if you and Reilly have grown into your abilities yet, Cassiopeia!” Constance corrected her.

“Oh…not yet, Empress. I have not currently found my talent and am worried it may never arrive.” Cassi’s excitement drained as her face saddened.

I carefully leaned toward her. “You will find your gift, Sweetheart. Your mother was well over one hundred and twenty-one years old before she noticed and began developing her gift. You must be patient, young one.”

“Do you see when I get my talent, Empress?”

“Oh yes. It will arrive soon, in fact.”

“Tell me! Tell me what it is…please?”

“That would spoil the surprise, sweetheart! You must wait.”

“Awwww!”

“Well I’ve gotten my talent and I saw when Cassi gets hers too!” Reilly sniped. “But I’m not going to ruin the surprise either!” She ran a finger across her mouth like a zipper and crossed her arms in front of her. I half expected her to stick out her tongue too! They reminded me so much of my two at that age!

“That is enough of that, Reilly! Your father did not raise you to be so rude!” Alexis growled. “What a show you’ve put on for the Empress! Now apologize to her and to Cassi!”

“But I didn’t do anything wrong, Alexis! Why should I say I’m sorry for something I didn’t do?”

I made my way over to Tibius who was standing at a distance from us women. Leaning in closer to him I whispered, “Reilly reminds me of Alex Reilly so much! You do know that is how she got the nickname ‘Empress’, right?”

“M’lady, I spotted the similarities as soon as she was born. Quite a handful, that one! I hope she out grows it soon though. Her father is at wits end with her, I fear!”

“Inform Gaillan and Timus that I will be taking their daughters for a visit with their mothers as soon as I clear up the mystery of who tried to kill me.”

“They will forever be in your debt, my love.”

“I could have them back in under an hour you know!”

“I think they will agree you should take your time with their return, M’lady.”

We both started laughing as Constance continued to read Reilly the riot act.

My week on Terra passed quickly and turned into two weeks as I pondered the identity of my assailant and how I would track down and capture said villain. Alexis and the other girls tried to help, but achieved nothing concrete.

Eight days after waking up in Citadel, I was reminded of one aspect of time travel and such a long life!

“Mother, you should keep this door locked! Secure building or not, someone could enter and do you harm!” Alexis warned as she opened the suite’s door.

For some odd reason I felt she was not alone, even though that looked the case. I searched my feelings as she walked over and kissed me on the cheek. Momentarily shocked, I realized that I knew this feeling- very well, in fact!

Alexis apparently noticed my expression toggle and raised an eyebrow. Standing still, she rolled her eyes once and started scanning the room.

“Alright you little pixies, I thought I told you to stay home? Show your selves!”

“Grandma!” A child’s voice shouted as a girl of about eleven appeared on the couch to the right of me- I jumped slightly. Her hair was two shades darker than mine.

“Gramma!” A second child’s voice echoed the first’s greeting as she materialized on my left side. The eight-year-old’s hair was much lighter than her older sister’s- the same color as mine, in fact.

“Hi, Grandmother!”

The third child’s voice sounded much different and I jumped in surprise.

A third child appeared right in front of me. The boy of about ten had medium brown hair and looked at me with large, blue eyes. This one reminded me of Brian at that age.

“I’m sorry, mother, but they have been so anxious to meet you! When they heard you had arrived, it took everything I had to keep them away until you recovered. I’ll take them home if you wish.

I was still in such shock to be a grandmother that Alexis started to gather her children and direct them to the door.

“How long were you going to keep this quiet, my daughter? Didn’t you know I had foreseen them before my previous departure? Come here, kids! Let Grandma have a proper look at you!” All three broke from their mother and ran back to me. A three-way mugging ensued as my grandchildren wrapped their arms around me like tentacles!

“I should have known you had seen my future, mother. In some ways you remind me of Aunt Cami. She can never mind her own business.” Alexis laughed as she sat opposite us on the matching loveseat.

“Never, ever be afraid to use your gift, Alexis. Camille saved my life a few times by eavesdropping. Oh, and always look into your family’s future, honey- you may end up saving one of them.” I tried to point to the active chaos moving and swirling around me. I found it tough to talk and give kisses at the same time.

After they settled down, I asked a question in my mind.

“I’m surprised you didn’t know their names already, mother.” Alexis winked at me.

“And I’m surprised you don’t practice what you preach, honey!”

Alexis rolled her eyes at my trapping retort.

“Children, could you introduce yourselves to Grandma?”

“Me first! I’m Nathan, Grandma! I’m nine!”

“I’m Samantha, Grandma! I’m ten!”

“I’m eight!” The littlest said.

“That’s a good age to be sweetie, but what is your name?” I asked with a smirk.

“She doesn’t listen real well!” The boy tattled.

“Nathan! That is not nice!” Alexis warned her son.

“I’m eight!” She repeated with a frown.

“Honey, tell Grandma your name.”

“I’m eight!” She said again. I felt her take her hands off me so I phased myself out and quickly moved off the couch. Hurrying around the furniture I positioned myself behind where she sat and re-phased.

“Hi, I’m Alexandra! What’s your name, honey?” The girl jumped a few inches and started to laugh.

“Alexandra.” She said shyly before quickly disappearing. I felt a finger push into my sides, just above my hips and heard a “BOO” from behind me, followed by uncontrollable laughter!

Turning quickly, I caught the little trickster before she could vanish. Picking her off the floor and hugging her close, I said, “You scared me! Why did you scare me, Alex?” We both continued laughing until I looked down and noticed I was standing in the couch. Before she did something we’d both regret, I took a few steps away and put her down, still holding her hand. “You have to put us back, Alex; your mother will start to worry. We don’t want her to do that now do we?”

“Sorry Grandma, I just do that sometimes.”

“There you two are! Mother, I didn’t think you would be gone so long- I was starting to worry! Where did you two go?”

“We were just phased out for a minute or two, dear, everything was fine.”

“Mother, you two have been gone for almost half an hour! Why did you do that?”

“I didn’t do it.” We both looked down at the girl still holding my hand, who was looking back at us with a quirky grin.

“Great! Now I have to worry about one of my own time traveling! What did you say fifteen years ago about something called ‘Karma’?” Alexis shook her head while closing her eyes a moment.

I just raised my hands, “Hey, it is the family business you know?” I forced a smile myself before looking down to young Alexandra. “Honey, y’all scared yer mother. Better not do any travelin’ ‘til I can show you how to control it, okay?”

“I promise, Empress…I mean Gramma!”

“Good girl.” I said as I released her hand.

Walking back around the furniture, I sat down next to my daughter and leaned into her ear. “Watch that one, honey, she’s my replacement.”

“Mother, don’t speak of such things!” He voice jumped an octave.

“Hey, it almost happened this time, honey. It could be worse next time.

“You…you don’t know that…or do you?” She glared at me with one eye almost closed. Although we were worlds apart, I could see she had my mannerisms.

Suddenly, all three kids screamed, “Daddy!” and flew to the door as it opened. A tall, handsome man with brown hair entered and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw me. I recognized him as my receptionist from fifteen years earlier.

“Forgive the intrusion, Empress Alexandra, I came in search of my children. I trust they haven’t been too much of a distraction?”

“No, Nathan, they have been no distraction, they have been a revelation!” I smiled to him as he battled the swarm around his midsection.

Over the next couple of days I immersed myself into my grandkids- giving my advice and experience to them- especially young Alexandra. She turned out to be a very good student.

Still, when not playing Grandma to the kids, I continued to ponder and pose ideas about who had attacked me. I seemed no closer to an answer then the day I arrived!

A break came the night before I would be clear for takeoff, so to speak. It had been five weeks since I woke up on Terra. Tibius, Gaillan Timus, and Nathan had stopped over to give their approval and requirements for me to take Reilly and Cassi back to Reilly.

“Any developments concerning your assailant, Empress?” Gaillan asked.

“None yet, I know I keep missing something though. Something so simple it could bite me on the leg.” I conceded, as I grew angry at myself for about the ten-thousandth time.

“I think I understand the colloquialism, but would that not put you back in harm’s way- possibly creating a dimensional shift?” Timus asked innocently.

“Dimensional shift?” I repeated as my mind shifted into overdrive.

Was it possible? Was she still alive? The possibility of the other Alex being out there somewhere…it wasn’t possible, was it? She would have disappeared when that dimension collapsed, wouldn’t she?

In the background, I heard a faint voice say, “I think the Empress has just had her epiphany. Gentleman, I suggest we leave and retire for the night. I will alert my daughter as to Alexandra’s present bearing, she will no doubt want to remain here until her return.”

Ignoring the voice, I continued working the possibilities.

Blinking my dry eyes several times for moisture, I came face to face with Alexis. She wore the biggest smile I’d seen to date.

“Your mind is a wondrous, vast, fast moving landscape, mother!” She laughed, still staring into my eyes. “So many facets, possibilities, theories, and chaos! No wonder father refuses to look any deeper than just below its surface! I trust you have worked out all the specifics?”

“Where did the men go?” I asked looking around the room.

My daughter seemed amused by my question, but answered with a devious smile. “They went home two nights ago, Empress. You have been…um, thinking…for fifty-two hours straight! Mother, I was beginning to speculate if you had lapsed into a coma!”

“I think I know who poisoned me, honey. If I’m right, Earth’s timeline has been drastically changed, but I have a plan that may return it. I will require the talents of all my sisters here on Terra.”

“You know you have only to ask, Empress. We will be honored to help restore our neighboring world to its right and proper path! My sisters have been informed and should arrive here in a few minutes. Father, Gaillan, Timus, and Nathan have also been told and are enroute now. You do know that Reilly and Cassi have also been listening and are in the elevator as we speak?”

“They have a role to play in this as well, Alexis! I will need the help and cooperation of all the talented women of Citadel in order to right this wrong!” I announced regally.

I’m afraid not all the talented women on Terra are willing to volunteer, mother.”

“Those six still haven’t come around yet?” I asked in amazement before I focused on them. “I don’t understand some people! They have everything they could possibly want yet, they hold me responsible for thwarting their plan to take over Earth!”

“Only in their mind’s, mother! It is hard to focus on such fantasies while being serviced by their husbands so frequently!” She laughed.

I laughed with her a few minutes before something disturbed those humorous thoughts.

Alexis stared into my eyes once more then giggled, “You get to blow something up, don’t you?”

I felt my face sadden. “Yes…something like that…unfortunately.”

“That was not the look I anticipated, mother! You are usually more excited at such a prospect. What is different…oh, I see. That paints quite a different picture, does it not?”

I just nodded slowly to her.

“We’re ready to go Empress!” Two voices cried in tight harmony as the door to my suite flew open and banged loudly off the wall!

“Oh, to have that much energy!” I mumbled to my daughter.

“It was worse a couple of years ago when puberty struck!” She laughed back.

I stood back up, although I hadn’t remembered sitting down in the first place, and pointed to the two excited teens. “You two! Sit over there! Keep quiet until I have explained everything!”

“Yes, Empress!” They acknowledged and sat where directed. Occasionally there was a giggle or whisper from them as we waited for everyone to arrive.

Tibius was the last to enter the suite. He looked bushed- I suspected he had been busy and hurried whatever meeting he was in to get here quickly.

“I beg your forgiveness, Empress Alexandra! I was overseeing the newest agricultural proceedings half way across Terra. It is a three-station journey from there- one that requires a ten minute layover at each!” Tibius seemed out of breath as he apologized.

“M’lady, I trust you have arrived at a means to foil your attacker?” Timus asked as he stared curiously at the two quiet teenagers. Gaillan raised an eyebrow at the two also.

“I have, sirs!” I said as I began spelling out my plan.

“Aye! Regrettable that it must be done, Empress, but the proper tracking of time is more important in this case!” Tibius gave his opinion as I finished laying out my plan.

“Your logic of the situation is truly remarkable, M’lady! Might it be too dangerous for the young ladies though?”

“He called us young ladies, Cassi!” Reilly whispered as she elbowed her friend. It was the first movement out of them since I began our strategy meeting some sixty minutes ago. I noticed Timus and Gaillan frequently looking over at their daughters in total disbelief the whole time.

“They’ll be fine, guys! I promise nothing will harm them.” I reassured the men.

“She’s managed to keep them caged this long, Gaillan, that’s more than we were ever able to do!” Timus admitted.

He nodded in agreement.

“Bring them home safe, Empress- all of them, I mean.”

“That’s the plan!” I reassured Tibius. “Don’t worry, Nathan, I’ll bring Alexis home to you in the same condition she leaves in!” I beat him to the punch.

“Are you sure you do not have telepathic talent, M’lady?”

“Foresight and a wealth of friends and family is all I need, sir.” I said feeling a little choked up. I decided to readdress the discussed topic. “Getting back to the plan. Does everyone understand their part in it?” Seeing all nods to the affirmative, I concluded our meeting. “Okay, we shove off at 0800 tomorrow. Remember to bring enough clothing and personals for a week. Let’s get some sleep, now. See y’all in the morning!”

As people filed out of the suite, Nathan and Alexis lagged behind and stopped at the door. I looked back at the loveseat and noticed Reilly and Cassi hadn’t moved.

“Take a seat you two.” I motioned my daughter and her husband back to the couch.

“Mother, there is apparent danger in this plan. It is not as mundane as you spelled out! There is a slight chance some of us will not make it back!” She warned. I heard the two teens gasp quietly.

“So you have learned to use your primary gift!” I watched her reaction to my statement. Nathan looked to his wife with serious concern.

“I can assure you that your betrothed will return to you and the children, Nathan, however…”

His attention shot to me.

“However, she may be somewhat different when she does.” I squinted at Alexis.

“How? How will she be different, M’lady?”

“She will no longer be of just this world, sir, She will have experienced something this world has not seen in many eons- the barbaric violence and unnecessary destruction of war! Everyone returning to Terra will have a better understanding of what can be involved in securing peace for an entire planet. Earth is at a point in its development that you have long since committed to legend- to folklore. For us it will be reality.”

“As long as she remembers me, Empress. That is all I ask of you.”

“A reasonable request, my son-in-law! I shall honor it with my life!”

“We need to be going now, mother! Join me, Nathan?” Alexis’ question was more a command as she grabbed him and escorted him out of the suite.

“Now, what seems to be bugging you two?” I asked turning to the angelic looking teenagers still motionless on the loveseat.

“We’re worried about you, Empress.” Reilly answered after a short pause.

“Oh?”

“Yes, Empress, Reilly has seen you in conflict and we worry for your safety.” Cassi continued with a sad look on her face.

“That is my worry, girls, not yours. As I said earlier, we all have our parts to play in this adventure- I am no different in that regard. I alone brought about this debacle, so I should be the one to remedy it. Now isn’t it time you two got to bed? We have a lot of traveling to do tomorrow.”

“You are as fearless as legend records, Empress- a true warrior, M’lady!”

“I’m just as afraid as you are, Reilly. If I weren’t, I’d be a fool! You would do well to remember that! Now scoot!”

I shooed the two out of the suite and walked to my room. I didn’t expect to get much sleep tonight, but decided to try.

I was the first to arrive at Citadel’s central park the next morning. Dressed in my new, upgraded uniform, I decided to finish the coffee I had brought with me. Tibius had done a wonderful job of reconstructing and modifying the design. My only concern was what he had added to it- that and the white, comfortable material looked unusually white!

Laying my bag on a bench, I sat down next to it, sipped my coffee, and waited. An hour later, Alexis and the others approached along the stone-paved path. I had learned the night before that Connie would not be joining us having just found out she was just starting her first trimester. Jack was going to flip when she found out she was going to be a Grandma!

Cassi and Reilly were last in line followed by Tibius, Nathan, Timus, and Gaillan. All four men were dressed in formal business attire. The six of us women looked very ‘Navy’ in our ‘Whites’.

“Welcome, my sisters!” I stood and greeted them. “Welcome, kind Gentlemen!” I greeted the guys separately out of respect for the trust they were placing in me. I was in turn, welcomed by each individually.

With tears flowing freely, except for Reilly and Cassi that is, I motioned for the men to step back and asked everyone to hold hands.

“Empress, what will be your first stop?” Tibius asked, breaking my concentration on our destination.

“Reilly Research Station, 2026BC, Earth Time. I want to see if the tangent has caused a ripple that far back.” I said even as I heard two excited gasps from my youngest companions. Timus and Gaillan nodded. I returned to concentrating on my target and date.

“”The trip will take several minutes,” I informed everyone. “There may be a little pain, but I must ask you all not to ease your grip. You may close your eyes if you wish. I will first out-phase us then begin travel after a ten count. We will begin in ten, nine,”

I started to phase-out our group and immediately heard Tibius in my mind. ‘Travel well, Empress. I look forward to your return- and good hunting!’

“Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two…mentally, I squeezed the trigger and we were off.

The white-blue light of Terra’s sun faded to darkness and a multitude of stars filled our vision. Quickly, the stars jogged and transited from ahead of us to behind us. Did I hear two young voices screaming in excitement as if riding a rollercoaster?

A yellow star came into view and as we neared, I caught sight of Earth’s neighboring planets, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. Earth came into sight and her bright blue oceans began to increase in size. The Pacific Ocean centered up in my field of view and loomed larger and larger.

A group of small islands appeared as the light around us increased. A second later we found ourselves standing on the sandy soil of one of those islands- I hoped it was the right one…and the right time… and the right timeline!

Turning around, I recognized the futuristic building I had brought to these shores- to this universe. There before us was the airlock and in it stood Alex Reilly slowly looking around!

I immediately re-phased us.

“About time you got here, sis! I was beginning to worry you got lost!”

Alex practically fell to one knee with a devious smile. “Welcome, Empress, to Reilly Research Station! It is high time you got here in the year 2026BC!”

Her smile and humor were a welcome sight indeed!

“Mother!” Reilly cried out as she released Cassi’s hand and ran to Alex.

At first Alex looked confused, but quickly welcomed the girl by wrapping her arms around the teen.

Cassi screeched as she suddenly rose up off the ground a few feet and looked around in terror for the source.

Cami appeared in the doorway with a huge, tear filled smile. As expected no words were exchanged, but that didn’t matter as the hovering teenager floated over to her mother, landed gently, and the two wrapped their arms around each other.

Randi exited the door next and walked over to Isabeau. They kissed, lip to lip for several seconds before Randi lifted her arms. Every light in the whole facility came on instantly as Randi greeted her daughter.

“Welcome to Reilly, my revision! Welcome, all of you!” She shouted.

“Show off!” Alex Reilly hissed.

“So you’ve been expecting us? I take it you’ve been in contact with Mina.”

“Indeed! She and Jacquelyn are expectant of your return to Pearl. It’s good to see you sister!” We hugged and I felt the reassuring tingle.

“I never thought that would feel so wonderful, Alex! I’m afraid the memories included with it may infect your dreams for several months though.

“You’re a Grandmother? How wonderful! Oh, the future Empress has emerged.” Alex smiled as she called that memory.

“I’m not entirely sure she has, Alex! Young Alexandra may just be able to manipulate time on a limited basis. She has much to learn yet. Of course she is only eight.”

“Too bad we have no way to gauge her talents.”

“Part of me wishes I could, Alex.” I said a little saddened at the thought.

“M’lady, it is nice to see you again!” Alexis said as she bowed her head to Alex.

“Listen, hun, you bow to me one more time an I’ll take you to some place and time that demands paying respect like that! We bow to no one here, you understand?”

“You tell her, mom! Alexis can be such a stickler for protocol sometimes!” Reilly interjected.

“Learning to pay the proper respect is part of learning to be civilized, young one! You should always respect your elders!”

“See?”

“Your sister is right, my precocious one!” Alex agreed.

“Did someone call me?” A tiny voice said from just over Alex’s head.

Reilly’s mouth fell open the minute she laid eyes on Yuuka! Cassi followed suit with the exception of trying to capture the tiny flying figure.

“Hey, don’t touch, kid! I’m real- trust me- look!”

Yuuka quickly grew and stood in front of the surprised teenagers.

“I don’t care if you are new here, don’t touch the pixie!” Yuuka snarled, pointing a finger at both girls. Turning to me, Yuuka addressed me in Japanese. “Empress, it is nice to see you well again! When I came upon you laying face up in the glade, I feared the worst! You looked ready for the afterlife, ma’am! I’m sorry I did not get help, but you disappeared so fast!” She hugged me. “Now can you tell Alex to stop hovering over Hoshi and I so much? She is really getting annoying!”

“Um, Yuuka? We all have translators, hun! We all can understand you?” Alex Reilly said seriously, but couldn’t hold the straight face and started giggling.

“So where is Hoshi? I thought…” I started to ask before someone tugged on my coattail.

“I’m right here, Empress!”

“Not a second ago you weren’t!” I laughed.

“Did you see that, Reilly!” Cassi shouted as she pointed to Hoshi. “I love this place!”

“Let’s go inside, shall we?” Alex gestured to the door. “I’m sure everyone else would like to meet our Terran sisters too!”

Alex stopped and turned quickly before entering the airlock’s door. “I suggest that all natural telepaths temporarily mute their gift before entering our airlock! She’s old and cranky, and may just bite!” She focused on me and giggled.

“Why did she say that, mother?” Alexis asked as we entered the hallway past the airlock.

“Because we had a run-in with it in 1944. The system fed back on my gift and knocked both of us out with a bolt of, I guess, lightning. Some Japanese soldiers occupying the island captured us and tried to interrogate us.” I motioned to Yuuka and Hoshi.

“No! Not them, they don’t look like the enemy, mother!”

“Not in this form, no, but before their Mahanilui…”

“Oh. What’s that Cami? Oh, I’ll tell her.”

“What?”

“Cami says that they would rather us not remind Yuuka and Hoshi of their lives before the Mahanilui, they are still sensitive in that regard.”

“She couldn’t tell me personally?” I looked at her in disbelief.

“No she couldn’t, Empress- not when she does not know where I am,” said a small voice close to my right ear. I didn’t even feel her land on my shoulder!

“Pixie, I warn you this one time…announce yourself! I have a lot of things on my mind and am in no mood!” I growled quietly not wanting to break her tiny eardrums.

“My apologies, Empress, I will respect your wishes.” Yuuka’s voice took on a sad tone.

“Pixie?”

“Yes, Empress?”

“Thank you for finding me. Your presence there may have saved my life. Thank you, Yuuka-chan!”

That seemed to cheer her up as she took off like a bullet up the hallway.

1323hrs. Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, February 10th, 2026BC

“So, what is your plan, Alex?” Alex Reilly asked for the benefit of Cami, Randi, Yuuka, and Hoshi.

“First we need to find some way of tracking her- some way that she won’t initially foresee.” I informed everyone.

“You should think of something that you wouldn’t think of, M’lady!” Reilly interjected.

“That made absolutely no sense, Reilly- be quiet!” Cassi warned her friend.

“I was just trying to help!”

“Honey, I already know I need to think of something I normally wouldn’t think of. Unfortunately, if I can think of it the other Alex can too!”

“Oh ya. I didn’t think of that.”

“What you need is a spy, ma’am!” Yuuka said from my shoulder. True to her promise she had announced herself and asked to perch there as our meeting started.

“How could a spy help, Yuuka? Hoshi asked with a little opposition. She had taken to repeating everything Yuuka said so that everyone heard her.

“A spy would be discovered almost immediately, little fae!” Alexis stated flatly.

“Not if she were…say…five inches tall!” Cassi burst out pointing a finger at Yuuka.

“Why should I be the spy?” Yuuka asked and Hoshi repeated.

“You said you would do anything to help!” Cassi snapped back.

“I didn’t say a word!”

“No, but you thought it!”

“Wait!” I interrupted the escalating argument. “You can hear her thoughts when she’s like this?” I asked as I pointed to where Yuuka sat on my shoulder, nearly poking her in the stomach as I did.

“Yes, I thought everyone could?” Cassi answered matter-of-factly.

“No, not everyone can, Cassiopeia! Just Hoshi and…” I looked around the table at the smiling faces, “And those of Terran ancestry, apparently!”

“Interesting.” Alex Reilly raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t see that one coming!”

“Nor did I, sis. Pixie? Let’s take a walk.” I said to Yuuka as I stood up from my chair. “You can stay where you are Yuuka-chan.”

“What are you thinking, sis?” Alex asked as I neared the doorway.

“Yuuka and I are going to go for a walk and I would like our Terran sisters to monitor our conversation.” I turned around and looked at the five women. “I won’t be too long. Oh, see if you can relay what you see and hear to Randi so she can record it. I’d like a playback when we return, Randi.”

“As you wish, Empress- file transfer is engaged.”

“Thank you, Randi.”

I turned around and walked out into the hallway with Yuuka still on my shoulder.

“What are you going to do, ma’am?”

“You just sit still and gently touch my neck. I want to see if I can feel your touch. Let me know when you’re ready, Yuuka-chan.”

“I’ve been leaning on your neck the whole time, ma’am.”

“I suggest you keep leaning then, Yuuka-chan. We’re going on a short trip.”

“Where…”

Darkness suddenly surrounded us- not complete darkness though. A small unmoving yellow sun provided enough light for us to comfortably see with.

“Are we going? Oh. Where are we, Empress?” Yuuka asked in bewilderment.

“This is my private realm, Yuuka-chan- a place I come to have some peace and quiet. A place where I can talk to friends and family long since departed.”

“This is heaven? I expected it to be lighter here.”

“This is no more heaven then hell, pixie.”

“Then it is purgatory!”

“Let’s just call it Alexandra’s private domain and leave it at that, Yuuka.”

“That works too.”

I shook my head a few times at the tiny comedian.

“Why are we here, ma’am?”

“To test the Terran’s ability to follow you. If they can do that, we stand an excellent chance of capturing the rogue Alex!”

“But why here? This place is so…empty!”

“Exactly why we’re here, Yuuka-chan. This domain is unique to me. Alex Reilly has a domain similar, but reversed from mine. This being true, our rogue Alex should have a unique domain also. If Alexis and the others can monitor you here, it stands to reason they can hear you in other realms also.”

“That’s if I volunteer.”

“Yes, only if you volunteer.”

“I’d like to try something else, Yuuka. If you could talk to anyone now departed, who would it be?”

As Yuuka thought about that I concentrated on her unvoiced selection. I already knew whom she chose.

“Who calls me from my sleep? Who are you and why am I here?” A woman’s ragged voice called out from the surrounding darkness. An older Japanese woman stepped into the light before us.

“Mama?” Yukki gasped.

“Oh, you have a fairy in your possession too! A very lucky sign, young lady! Now why do you call me?”

“Mama! It is me, Yuuka Sukiro!”

“I know of no such woman…fae or human! Do you always let your pet speak and dishonor you?” The older woman glared at me.

“Do you know who I am, Mrs. Sukiro?” I asked as I put a hand on my hip.

“You are an American! From somewhere in that country’s middle, I surmise!”

“Mama was a cook that traveled with our dignitaries to America after the Great War. She and father died when a Nazi submarine sunk their ship while returning to America from Europe.” Yuuka informed me.

That would explain her dripping clothes and sour attitude.

“Again you let your pet speak for you…” She purposely stopped so I would identify myself.

“Empress, Mrs. Sukiro! I am the Empress of Time and Space- have you not heard of me?”

The older woman let out a gasp. “I have heard talk among the others about a being powerful enough to talk to the resting. I thought her only myth. I did not mean to dishonor you, Empress! How my I serve you?”

“First you can say hello to your son, Shinji Sukiro! She has agreed to undergo a ritual we call the Mahanilui. It gives the recipient special gifts at the cost of his male identity.”

“Shinji?” The woman repeated as she stared at her tiny daughter in disbelief. She never noticed that her dripping attire had changed- or that she appeared younger- I thanked Alex Reilly for that trick.

“It’s me, mama! I’m called Yuuka now.”

“But you are a fairy! How is this possible?” She came closer and touched Yuuka’s small face with her finger.

“It’s her gift, ma’am. Yuuka has the ability to become a pixie.” I answered.

“I can fly, mama!” The pixie sprung up from my shoulder and flew around us a few times then tried to land on her mother’s shoulder. Yuuka quickly caught herself after finding no tangible perch. She returned to my shoulder.

“Why can’t I land on her? Why is she not really here?”

“She is only the spirit of your mother, Yuuka. We can see and communicate with each other, but she is not really here- I’m sorry, Yuuka-chan.”

“Yuuka…That is my name also- it means little flower. It fits you well, little one.”

“I did not mean to dishonor you or father, mama.” Yuuka lowered her head.

“Why do you assume you dishonor us at all, little one?”

“I am no longer a man and cannot carry on the name of Sukiro!” She said with sadness.

“But you are aligned with the Empress, my Yuuka! Rumor has it she is sworn to help all mankind! What could be more honorable, little one?”

“Awwww, Sukiro Yuuka! Where is my little fairy?” A commanding, deep male voice called out and echoed around us.

Yuuka quickly stood up on my shoulder and put a death grip on my earlobe! “It is father!” she cried in fear.

A well-dressed man about five-seven appeared next to Yuuka’s Ma.

“Empress!” The man bowed, “I am honored you have chosen my son…daughter to assist in your cause! I have been watching her with interest these many years!”

“He can do that, ma’am?” Yuuka’s eyes got big.

“Ya, hun, they can watch if they so choose.”

“It saddens me that you resorted to violence on first meeting the Empress! I thought we taught you better young ma…lady!”

“But father! At that time she was the enemy! I only sought to do my duty for the Emperor!”

“The Emperor is weak! He dishonors all of Japan by submitting to the military!” The man just about shouted.

“You would do well to serve the Empress! She has no political goals. Empress, if our daughter dishonors you in any way, bring her back here and we shall discipline her! If it were possible I would say leave her here with us. Now it is time for us to take our leave! Do the Sukiro family name honor and serve the Empress well, little flower, we will be watching you!”

Both of Yuuka’s parents faded away and the two of us were left alone again.

“That went well…I thought.” I mumbled.

“Can we return home now ma’am- before my uncle shows up?”

“Ready, Yuuka. Just hold on.”

My quarters at Reilly replaced my domain and Yuuka quickly took flight and grew to full size.

“Let’s head back to the others and find out if that experiment bore any fruit.” I put my hand on Yuuka’s shoulder. She was still shaking from her encounter. “They really seem to care for you, Yuuka-chan! Most parents would shun someone like us.”

“Did you see the way father was looking at me, ma’am? I never knew him to be such a deviate! I felt as though my clothing was being removed piece by piece!”

“And you wouldn’t have if put in his position?”

“But he is dead!”

“Since when did that ever stop a man from looking at a beautiful woman?” I laughed.

I motioned her to follow me as I walked out into the hall.

‘Randi, could you play back the file you just recorded?” I requested as Yuuka and I entered the meeting room.

“But Empress, you just left a minute ago! What could possibly be there in that short of time?”

“Random Peltierre! Are you questioning the Empress? Locate and display the designated archive.” Alex Reilly protested.

“I found the file, Alex. I don’t think…oh, that’s bigger than I thought.” Randi started to say then changed her tune. “There is a good twenty minutes of information here, but how?”

“Could you just play the file, Randi?” I asked politely. I motioned to the large screen on the wall.

“Playback online.” She announced with a slight look of disbelief.

The monitor came alive with the image of a huge indefinable mass with a sparkly, large glassy looking circle in the middle.

“What is that?” My voice raised an octave.

“Your ear, Empress. That is your diamond stud in the center. This is how you look through my eyes.” Yuuka explained.

“That out of focus, Yuuka? Girl you need some glasses!”

“That is my fault, Empress. Just a moment…there!” Randi apologized as the image snapped into focus.

The image started to pan around to the right. My cheek and nose passed by as I heard myself say, “You just sit still and gently touch my neck. I want to see if I can feel your touch. Let me know when you’re ready, Yuuka-chan.”

“I’ve been leaning on your neck the whole time, ma’am.”

“I suggest you keep leaning then, Yuuka-chan. We’re going on a short trip.”

“Where…”

The image went dark suddenly then a new image focused. A small unmoving yellow sun provided enough light for us to comfortably see with.

“Are we going? Oh. Where are we, Empress?”

“This is my private realm, Yuuka-chan, a place I come to for some peace and quiet. A place where I can talk to friends and family long since departed.”

“This is heaven? I expected it to be lighter here.”

“This is no more heaven then hell, pixie.”

“Then it is purgatory!”

“Let’s just call it Alexandra’s private domain and leave it at that, Yuuka.”

“That works too.”

Everyone watched as the file continued to play. For Yuuka and I it was just a boring replay of what had just happened- only from Yuuka’s unique point of view, but looking around the room I saw surprised faces watching in amazement as Yuuka’s parents just appeared, had their say, then disappeared. I noticed Alex smile when Mrs. Sukiro’s clothing immediately dried and she grew a little younger- she gave me a thumb’s up. Yuuka also noticed her mother’s transformation and looked at me with a tear rolling down her cheek. She just nodded once and turned her attention back to the recording.

“You would do well to serve the Empress! She has no political goals. Empress, if our daughter dishonors you in any way, bring her back here and we shall discipline her! If it were possible, I would say leave her here with us. Now it is time for us to take our leave! Do the Sukiro family name honor and serve the Empress well, little flower, we will be watching you!”

Both of Yuuka’s parents faded away.

“That went well…I thought.”

“Can we return home now ma’am- before my uncle shows up?”

“Ready, Yuuka! Just hold on.”

The recording stopped as the image moved past my face in my room.

“Well, I think we proved that theory!” I said cheerfully. “What we need now is for a spy…a tiny…little…spy to volunteer!” I looked toward Yuuka, who had remained full-size after our return.

“If Empress Alex Reilly wishes me to participate, I shall do so without hesitation, Empress!” Yuuka stood and bowed to Alex.

“Alex and I are one in the same, Yuuka-chan.” Alex said as she looked to me.

“That is not entirely correct, Alex-sensei. There are slight differences in your behavior and actions.”

“She is observant, Alex.” I looked to my twin with a devious smile.

“For instance, Alex Reilly is far easier to anger than you and she expresses that anger differently too, Empress.”

“Yuuka?”

“Yes, Empress?”

“Stop while you’re ahead, honey.”

“So does anyone have any idea how to get Yuuka to hitch a ride on our rogue Alexandra?”

“Mother, I thought you had this all worked out before we left Terra? You spent almost two days in deep concentration!” Alexis looked disappointed and a little confused.

“Honey, we were almost what, a hundred and nine light-years and four thousand years from here! Even by my standards, that is a long way away! I could only see your part in this mission, my Terran sisters! Now that we are all here, we can fine tune it.” I looked around the room. “Since we have the means to follow our pray, how do we find her? That is where you come in Melanie.”

“Me? Why me? What can I do that any of my sisters can’t?”

I mimicked her word for word, which only got her mad.

“Why do you mock me, Empress? You know that I share my mother’s talent for languages!”

“Honey, I’m just trying to show you that this is one of those parts I’ve foreseen! Now go on and say what was really on your mind, sweetheart.” I urged.

“I was just thinking that…will you please stop mimicking me, Empress- both of you?!”

Alex and I both smiled again. “Please continue, dear. We won’t make fun of you any more- promise!” Alex motioned for her to continue.

I was just…” Melanie glared back at us a moment.

“Or any less,” I giggled.

“We should go back to when it first happened!” She hurriedly shouted out the rest in annoyance.

“You two really are like sisters! And you call us the adolescents!” Reilly giggled out while shaking her head.

“Honey, you should see when more than two of us get together!” Alex Reilly laughed. “Now that’s a party!”

“I still don’t see what this had to do with me, Empress!” Melanie looked upset as she replied quietly.

“Well someone had to have the idea, why not you, Melanie?” I looked at her seriously.

“I thought my talent would come into play or something!” Her face turned sad.

“Did I say anything about that, hun?” I winked.

The girl’s depression immediately eased.

“Well, we now have the means and a possible contact location. All we need is the when. Shall we plan on 0900 tomorrow?”

Everyone nodded in agreement.

“Great! Then I’ll see y’all in the morning.” I said with excitement.

Everyone got up and started to leave the room.

“Alex, I’d like you, Yuuka, Hoshi, and Alexis to stay a few minutes more please?”

“Sure, sis, what’s up?”

“I would like to practice Yuuka’s deployment and retrieval if you don’t mind.”

“Why do you request me here, mother?” Alexis asked.

“Because you can see where she is and relay that to me if we should lose her and Hoshi is more familiar with this island than you. She would be able to direct me to where Yuuka is.”

“Then why am I here, sis?”

“Because Yuuka is your responsibility and seems to have taken a liking to you. Plus I need you for a backup, sis- in case anything happens…to me!” I told her downheartedly.

“Stop that right now! I have no intention of taking your place in the future, so don’t even consider your departure, Alexandra Steinert!” Alex growled. “We both know it won’t be necessary, anyway!”

“I didn’t see my assault coming, Alex! Can you actually say, without one doubt, that we’ve actually seen every possible scenario?”

“No, but…”

“I have to consider the fact that I might not come back, Alex. It’s part of my training!” I looked at her with all the seriousness I could muster.

“Feces!”

“What?”

“Um…Bovine dung!”

“I don’t get the meaning, sis.” I eyed her curiously.

Alex paused as her eyes searched around the room for the correct term and usage.

“Bullshit!” She exclaimed.

I finally let the laugh I had been holding free. It quickly rebounded off Alex then hit Alexis, though I don’t think she quite got the meaning or the humor. After our laughter settled down, I told her the real reason I needed her here.

“Alex, I need you for the target. Yuuka needs to know how hard she can land, where she can hold, and where to hide. Since we are identical to our rogue sister, she will know exactly how to do it.”

“Why didn’t you just say that in the first place?”

“Because she’s trying to keep Yuuka from getting too nervous.” Alexis interrupted with the correct answer.

“You read her mind!”

“No, Aunt Alex, I didn’t have to. Mother’s attempt to disarm our resident pixie’s stress with hi-jinx has been used on many worlds with moderating success. In this case it has worked on a limited basis.”

“Well, I was feeling better before you had to ruin it, Alexis.” Yuuka complained before shrinking back to pixie size. “Can we just get started with the training, Empress?” The tiny, winged woman queried as she landed on my shoulder.

With a full two hours of trial and error behind us, I was confident that our plan might work. Yuuka had successfully completed all but her first deployment- missing her target that time due to the momentary disorientation she experienced re-phasing by herself. I had seen the same thing happen when Mina released her grip at Pearl.

Mina…I hoped she was all right.

For her part, our tired pixie was rewarded with a large mug of honey before she grew to full-size and trudged off to bed for the night. Alex, Alexis, Hoshi, and I discussed and critiqued Yuuka’s performance.

“Yuuka is simply amazing, mother! I never thought anyone could move that fast!”

“I can move just as fast, Alexis!”

“Let me rephrase. Yuuka and you, Hoshi, are amazing!”

“Thank you, M’lady.”

Alexis glared at Hoshi. “You are of our sisterhood. You shall not call me anything other than my given name.”

“A little touchy, ma’am?”

“I have been referred to as ‘M’lady’ ever since I was born! That was…” Alexis stopped to convert to Earth equivalents. “Seventy-eight Earth years ago and mostly by the men of Terra! I will not have one of my sister’s address me in like fashion!”

“You mean Hoshi and I are still the youngest ones here, my daughter?” My smile grew until I noticed Hoshi look at me.

“I’ll tell you later, hun. Alexis, why don’t you get some sleep? I want all of us to be at our best for this mission. You and your Terran sisters have to be at the top of your game for this to all work.”

“But it isn’t even past 2200hrs yet, mother. It’s just after dinner back home!” Alexis argued.

“Tough! Here on Earth we only have two hours left in the day. Now go and try to sleep! Don’t make me ground you from this mission, sweetheart!”

“Like you could do that!” She snorted.

“I can’t, but your Aunt Camille can! Now go!” I pointed to the hallway, as my smile became an evil grin.

“And if she won’t, I definitely will, dear niece!” Alex reassured her with an evil grin of her own.

Whether intended or not, Alexis stormed out of the room like a scolded teen.

“They are so precious at that age, sis!” I giggled after Alexis had disappeared down the hall.

“You know that with all the traveling you’ve done over the last few months, you really aren’t twenty-eight any more, sis. More like thirty-six, unless I’ve forgotten a few shorter larks!”

“A wise woman once told me that a true noblewoman never reveals her age, Alex.”

“And that’s why we’re going to set this all right!” She winked.

“Yuuka was right about you two, Empress. You really do act like twin sisters.” Hoshi shook her head as she smiled.

“Time for you to sprint off to bed also, Miss Takara. We may need your speed tomorrow too.”

“I’m going to turn in too, I think, Alex.” Alex Reilly covered a yawn with the back of her hand. “All that quick phasing tires a body out. Good night, Alexandra.”

“’Night, Alexandra.” I had been fighting a yawn myself as my twin exited the room. I waited a minute before setting course for my own room.

“What is it about this place?” I asked myself as I got up to answer my door. I had just laid head to pillow not one minute before!

“Mother, I had a terrible fantasy, can I come in?” Alexis said as she pushed her way past me.

“Sure, come in and have a seat, hun.” I noticed that she wasted no time taking a seat. “Horrible nightmare fantasy or dirty fantasy?”

“Mother!”

“Hey, you’re the mind-reader, not me.”

“This is serious! In this dream I saw you get kidnapped when we tried to capture the rogue! She threatened to kill you if we didn’t return to Terra! She slashed your throat anyway before we could stop her!” Her tears were enough to tell me she was truly frightened.

“I saw that scenario while still in Citadel, honey. It was just one of many that proved unsatisfactory.” I walked over to her and started to comb my fingers through her hair.

“I always loved when you did that, mom.” I decided not to challenge her slip of formalness.

“It always seemed to set you at ease. I assure you that I will not die tomorrow. No one will die tomorrow. The natural flow of time will be restored and all will be as it should be, sweetheart- I promise you.” I said as I continued stroking her hair.

“Mom?”

“Yes, honey?”

“Mom, something is going to happen between our two worlds and I…I feel powerless to stop it.”

“You mean the invasion, honey? Don’t worry about that, hun, Tibius will give up the notion after you return to Citadel.” I kept my voice calm and soft.

“You’ve seen what happens?” Alexis looked up with a start- her eyes wide with disbelief and tear-filled.

“Of course! And I have worked out the best diplomatic tactic to quell such a conquest.”

“How did you keep such an important subject from me?” She paused. “Then you must also know he asked me to find Earth’s vulnerabilities?”

“Yes, honey, I did. There are a great many things you and Tibius don’t know about the Empress of Time and Space. That’s why he asked you to do recon for him- I frighten him.”

“I’ve searched your mind for any evidence or hint that you knew and found nothing. Where have you been hiding it, mom?” She looked up at me again in confusion.

“Where you, your father, or anyone else on Terra couldn’t possibly find them, Alexis.”

“Where?”

“When.”

“What?”

“When, honey. Where in ‘time’ do I keep them- I can do that, remember?” I gave her a wink. “Why disclose this to me, honey? Your father will be outraged when he finds out, you know.”

“I didn’t want to do it in the first place, mom! Terran philosophy teaches us to respect others, but to respect our parents above all. You are my mother! My morals and feelings have been in serious conflict since asked to gather intelligence on Earth! Sometimes, I think he doesn’t understand us- sometimes, I don’t understand myself, mom!”

“He is a man, honey! Take some advice from one who knows how they think. Some people, not just men mind you, will treat you like a queen only until they get what they want. Others will forever treat you like a fragile doll and give you the illusion of importance while cautiously manipulating you.” I paused. “Then, there is your father. Tibius has his own agenda, that is true, but it involves the continuation of his race- your race, Alexis. In a little under a hundred years, Terra’s sun will brighten and shrink at the same time. This may possibly bring an end to life on Terra. Tibius wants to relocate your race to another planet- another solar system. One where Terran’s will live in safety- our planet fits the bill. The only problem is that Earth already has an expanding population all its own.”

My daughter’s mouth couldn’t get any farther open without dropping off her face.

“You…you’ve seen this? How? It is so long into the future!”

“You seem to forget that Reilly Station was originally an astronomical observatory. Randi and Isabeau exchanged data when they kissed- she also spent three years on Terra, remember? Her observations of Terra’s sun matched archives recorded here about a similar solar system in Reilly’s original universe. She had me hide…she called it making a ‘backup’ of the information before sharing it with your father. Tibius immediately wiped it from her mind when Randi revealed her findings.”

“Why would he do that, mom?”

“Probably to squelch the fear people would feel if that information were made public. My guess would be that he had finally cured the Terran plague only to find out his planet was again doomed. Don’t resent your father, Alexis, I might do the same thing if presented with a similar situation.”

“So what should I do?”

“Tell Tibius the truth. Never forget that and never lose respect for your father. Tell him that he has nothing to fear- that the Empress of Time and Space is well aware of Terra’s situation and will gladly provide any help necessary. She will even find a new home to settle if he agrees not to invade Earth. That is one condition I will not negotiate.”

“I’m sorry, mom! I should have never assumed that you would overlook something like that. It has been said that Terra once looked as beautiful as Earth does now. When our sun entered into its second stage of life, most of that was lost. Only a handful of recreational areas like Citadel’s Central Park exist around the world to remind us of what was.” Alexis wiped her dampened eyes. “Mom, can I stay here with you? Earth is so beautiful and peaceful- so completely different from Citadel. Please, can I stay?”

“I’m sorry, Alexis, but after our rogue Alex has been dealt with, you and your sisters must return to Terra. It is imperative both our timelines remain aligned. The only way to assure that is for you to have a long talk with Tibius. Don’t be afraid of him, honey, he means well- even though he chose the wrong direction.”

“But he asked me to destroy your trust in me! I will not do that for anything, mom!” She cried. More tears formed in her beautiful eyes.

I motioned her out of her seat, wrapped my arms around her, and held her tight.

“The fact that we are here…like this…proves that your education has been proper! I am proud that you are my daughter, Alexis, First Daughter of Terra.”

“I’ve missed this, mom! I’ve missed your touch, how your stroking my hair makes everything else seem to disappear and become unimportant. Most of all, I’ve missed you!”

Her hold on my midsection tightened as she began to cry in earnest. I continued to rub her back and hair. Did she even realize we weren’t in my room anymore? I had moved us to my domain shortly after starting to comb her hair- just after she first closed her eyes.

After a few minutes, her crying subsided and she moved back enough to look at my face.

“The one thing I do not miss is this void you call your ‘private’ domain, mom.” She quietly said with a slight smirk.

“I felt it prudent to keep our conversation private, honey. I know for a fact that without Yuuka tagging along, this place is safe for us to talk.”

“It gives me the willies! I can’t hear the mass of thoughts I have learned to ignore. I think you called it some sort of torture once?”

“I might have…or will in the future, I don’t remember.” I smiled at that.

“Can we go home, mom- please?”

“Home, honey? You want to go all that way?”

“Home, mom- to Reilly, okay?”

“Done.”

We were back in my room instantly.

“Now, can I get some rest? Or, do I have to go somewhere and rent a room for a few days?” I said to her as gruff as possible, but I guess my face said differently as Alexis gave me a final hug and kissed my cheek.

“I love you, mom! I hope you drop by more often after this.” She smiled as she released her hold on me and headed for the door. Pausing a second she turned and looked back sadly. “Thank you, mother.”

She walked into the hall and I retreated to my bed hoping for no further visitors.

0855hrs. Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, February 11th, 2026BC

Walking through the doorway to the meeting room, I expected to be its lone occupant. Instead, I was almost the last to arrive!

“Welcome, Empress, I trust you slept well?” Alexis greeted me with a conciliatory smile.

“It was a restless night, hun.” I quickly scanned the room. “Where are Hoshi and Yuuka?”

“They’re right on time, Alex…late!” Alex Reilly laughed.

“They will be here any moment now, Empress!” Camille reassured me.

I had to raise an eyebrow at her statement. I half expected both to come hovering in still asleep, but was rewarded instead with both walking in under their own power.

Taking my place at the end of the table, I officially greeted everyone.

“Morning, everyone. I trust everybody is ready for battle?”

The confused looks around the table reminded me that I was not on Ni’ihua addressing my crew. I rephrased.

“Are we ready to reset the balance of this and adjacent dimensions and return the timeline to normal?”

The nodding of heads was a good sign.

“Great! Today we must work and function as a team- a single entity, if our objective is to be realized. Y’all must follow my orders explicitly for our plan to work. An order, once given, must be carried out promptly and unquestioningly! All our lives depend on each other doing what I say!”

I looked for any reaction around the table- especially from Reilly or Cassi. Seeing nothing unusual, I continued.

“Try to stay focused on Alex and me as our rogue Empress looks and acts exactly like us. She will try to confuse you. Do not let her. Use your abilities to discern her true identity by searching her mind for Randi Van Pelt’s whereabouts. I am sorry to say that our sister perished from malnutrition in her dimension. Only I will have that memory, but have hidden it beyond your ability to see.”

“Won’t my mother have the same memory set, Empress?” Young Reilly asked.

“Excellent question! No, honey, each Empress has her own temporal hiding place for special memories. They are not passed on through touch unless specifically required. We have to assume that Rogue Alex will be expecting us to show up and will be highly unpredictable. Remember though, that she does not have all of you at her side. I can only presume she is alone and possibly mad, so be careful!”

“Now at this point anyone wishing to stay here- anyone that feels they cannot follow my orders to the letter- anyone unsure of themselves, please say so now. You will not disgrace me in any way. It is better that you have doubts before we leave than to have them in the field. Does anyone feel they need to stay?”

Again, I got no reaction from the group.

“Thank you all in advance for your courageous participation. Now, when we arrive at Pearl Harbor in 1941, I must keep us phased out in order to remain undetected. Yuuka, you must pay attention and be ready to take your position on Rogue Alex the instant she appears. Cmdr. Cummins will be taking a sip from my hip flask when this happens. That will be your trigger point.”

Yuuka nodded her understanding.

“Those with telekinetic abilities must refrain from stopping the dart that lodges in my neck. Alex must see the dart hit its target or she will immediately know that someone has interfered and will change her tactics accordingly, thus endangering Yuuka’s life! Once we start following her hold onto each other tightly and don’t let go lest you be lost dimensionally and temporally. Now are we ready to do this?”

“Let’s go get that bitch, mom!” Alexis spit out to my surprise…and to the shock of her Terran sisters. Cassi and Reilly looked exceptionally stunned by her outburst.

We all stood up and gathered at one side of the table. Alex and I stood together and joined hands. The familiar tingle was reassuring and we smiled at each other. Alexis took my other hand while Isabeau and Melanie lined up beside her. Cami, Randi, and Hoshi lined up beside Alex with Reilly and Cassi joining both ends together in a large circle around Yuuka. She quickly shrank and flew to my shoulder to assume her ‘attack position’.

“Ready for phase out in three, two, one.”

Reilly’s meeting room became the coarse green lawn of Hospital Point. I had positioned us behind me so that Rogue Alex would appear right in the middle of our out-phased circle.

1058 hours, 55 seconds, Pearl Harbor, December 5th, 1941

“That’s it? No lightning; no scary organ music- just drink this, get drunk, and sleep it off?”

“Sorry it’s not more melodramatic.”

We watched as Cindy took the hovering flask and took a swig.

“This tastes like water!”

“It is hun, that’s the only flavor people seem to like.”

“Don’t drink the whole thing, I’m a little thirsty.”

Cindy handed back the container, still a little perplexed.

“Jack?” That me said, offering it to her after taking a sip.

“This is it, pixie! May your aim be true,” I said quietly to the tiny winged figure on my shoulder. I felt a tiny hand squeeze my earlobe tighter.

Our attention shifted back to the scene playing out in front of us.

“Thanks, Cap.” Jack said as she put the flask to her lips. Her eyes then went wide!

“Now, pixie!” I shouted and immediately saw Cassi’s head jerk to the left as the dart passed close to the right side of her head and through her brown locks. Like before it hit home on the back of my neck.

Yuuka’s aim and timing proved perfect as she managed to secure a secretive grip just before Rogue Alex disappeared.

“That was close!” Cassi exclaimed as she tried to look directly behind her. We stood quietly as the scene continued to play out before us.

“Alex!”

I looked on as the other me reached back and pulled the small blue, fletched dart from the back of her neck.

“What the hell is this?” I heard my voice gasp out.

“Alex!” Cindy and Jack screamed at once as that instance of me fell to the ground and upchucked.

“Jack…help…me!”

It was immediately apparent I needed help! Without hesitation we heard Jack recite the activation code that Tibius had given me before leaving Terra.

My lifeless body immediately disappeared.

“Are we receiving anything from Yuuka?” I asked evenly, trying not to lose concentration.

“She seems to be on a military base of some sort, Empress. I will relay the images to everyone.” Melanie said as I suddenly saw Atlantis-Minor in my mind. It looked desolate and rundown. Jack’s frantic voice caught our attention.

“Cindy, did you catch a glimpse of her face? I heard Jack ask.

“What happened? Where did Capt. Steinert go?” Cindy cried in panic.

“I activated her uniform’s emergency protocol! I haven’t a clue what it does, Cindy. Apparently it makes her phase out or transport somewhere! Did you see who did this to her?”

“She did!”

“What?”

“It looked like she appeared behind herself, ma’am!”

“Are you sure?”

“Hey, I may be your new recruit, but my eyes have always worked fine, Commander! I saw the captain behind herself- like twins! Does she have a twin?”

Everything we heard confirmed my original hypothesis. I had to concentrate on our mission now.

“Melanie, has Yuuka’s position changed?”

“No, Empress, she is still on that military base. Do you know where she is?”

“The question is…do I know which dimension she’s in, honey!”

“This is impossible!” Randi exclaimed suddenly.

“What’s impossible, Randi?”

“These images I am seeing, there is a specifically defined delimiter!”

“In English, honey?”

“Atlantis-Minor is the only tangible ground in that dimension! There is no other physical existence beyond that, Empress!”

“Okay, I think I know where to go. Everyone hold on tight! Transiting in three, two, one!”

A very dismal looking Atlantis-Minor replaced the bright sunshine and green plant life of Hospital Point.

Ahead of us stood our quarry. She was looking around expectantly. What was she waiting for?

“It should have worked! Why didn’t it work?” She shouted in anger, receiving only an echo in response.

Disappointed by the lack of any expected change, she broke down and cried. Falling to her knees, she pounded her fists on the compacted soil of the base.

“Why didn’t it work?” She screamed! “Why! Why! Why! Why! Why!”

A temper tantrum…I was taking a tantrum?

“Something went wrong! Somehow she survived, I bet! How dare she survive! That arrogant bitch- only she would do this to me- only she would find a way!” She snapped as she cautiously, slowly looked around her.

Rogue Alex jumped to her feet and began looking around in earnest for me.

“I know y’all are here, ‘EMPRESS’! Come on out an’ play!” She hissed in anger! The acid in her pronunciation of ‘Empress’ left me no doubt that this was not Alexandra Steinert any more. What had happened here? Moreover, why did this reality end just outside of the base?

Do I really sound like that when I get angry?

“No, mom, you don’t sound that crazed!” Alexis reassured me.

“I don’t know…there was that one time…”

“Shut it, Reilly! Concentrate!” I said as I glanced over to Alex.

“But I didn’t say anything, Empress!”

“Not you, your mother! Everyone concentrate!”

I looked back to our target- she had disappeared!

“Great! Where or when did she go?”

“Yuuka is seeing a desert, Empress. Sand and sparse succulents as far as the eye can see.” Melanie informed us as images again filled my mind.

“Arizona- but when?”

“Didn’t you say there was some kind of land vehicle race in Arizona, mom?” Alexis questioned.

“There would be a large crowd gathered if this was 2027, honey.”

“What if she had disrupted history and the ripple only moved forward in time?” Isabeau proposed. “The competition might have not happened, Empress!”

“Excellent observation, sweetheart!”

Our quarry once again disappeared.

“Yuuka is back on Atlantis-Minor, Empress! There are people there now- and a man! An older gentleman dressed in uniform like us!”

“Got it! Hold on everyone!”

The deserted base suddenly teamed with life!

“Lt. Scott, how can this base run properly if its commander or first officer is nowhere to be found? Do you realize that we are about to start a major push toward Japan and I need all my submarines and they’re crews in the war zone to protect the fleet? I’m afraid I have no choice but to close the installation and transfer everyone out!” Admiral Demmit declared sadly.

”But Uncle Rick, Alex will be back! Please, what will happen to Mina’s girls? You just can’t transfer them too!”

“If Mina were here, she might have other ideas, but I’m afraid she has instructed me, in such cases as something unseen happens, to protect them to the best of my ability! Therefore, those of Kili Island decent will be discharged and flown stateside where they will be safe for the duration of the war.”

“Uncle, you can’t do that!” Emily protested. “They will become outcasts! You mustn’t do this!” She protested.

“I’m sorry, Emily, but without Alex or Jacquelyn here, this base is of no use! If you had the training to be Sand Dollar’s captain I would consider it, but Nimitz would laugh me out of the Pacific if I requisitioned submarine training for seventy women! No, I’m afraid this is it, Emily!”

“Give them a little more time, Uncle! Please?”

Uncle Rick thought about her request a moment, as he looked at all the disparaged faces around him.

“Alex, Jack, and Mina have one more week, lieutenant! Then I decommission this base, is that understood?”

“Thank you, Admiral! They’ll be back, you’ll see!” Emily’s face showed a glimmer of hope.

“Where is our target standing, Melanie, I don’t see her?” I asked as I looked around the compound. “Oh my!” I exclaimed as I realized from the images that we were standing in the same place!

“She must be out of phase, Empress, and she is laughing! Why would she do that, ma’am?”

“Because she is ruining everything that we have achived here! Apparently, I am more important to the success of our sisterhood than believed. Without Jack and I here in command of the base, our society breaks up and collapses.”

“The images in my mind changed location again.

“She’s moved again, Empress! I think back to her base. By the lords!”

The images suddenly stopped as Melanie lost concentration.

“What! What happened?”

“Empress, she has found the pixie!”

“Hold on! We finish this cat and mouse game now!” I growled as my base became desolate once more.

Before us Alex scrambled around trying to catch a blur- Yuuka.

“So the Empress has enlisted the services of a mythical creature to spy on me? I will capture you and pull those lovely little wings out of you one at a time,” she shrieked!

“Empress, do something! Before Yuuka is caught!” Hoshi pleaded with me as we watched several close calls. It was apparent that Yuuka was tiring.

“Alex keep everyone out of phase, it’s time to end this.” I ordered. “The rest of you keep an eye out. If she even thinks about doing anything to me or Yuuka, destroy her!”

Everyone in the group gasped in surprise of what they heard.

“But mother! You said that no one would die today!” Alexis shouted

“Remember what I said about following orders!” I growled before releasing Alex Reilly’s hand followed by my daughter’s hand.

“Here I am, Alex! If that’s who you really are! Leave the Fairy be, I’m the one you want!” I shouted as I re-phased.

“Well, well, well! How’d y’all escape my little hunting dart, Alex? No matter, I’ll just finish the job now. Come over here and I’ll let the insect go.” Her eyes said it all! She had gone off the deep end!

“Try all you want, Alex. You won’t make it off this base alive. Your fun is over, time to say goodbye.” I warned her, as I got closer.

“You and what army…sis!” The venom in her voice grew more caustic.

“I don’t need an army to defeat you, Alexandra! All I need is what I have here.” I pointed to my head.

“Y’all are forgettin’ I share the same mind, Empress!”

“Do you really, Alex? I wonder.” I raised an eyebrow, “Do you share the memories of my four children, or of my exploits in another universe? Have you even ever been to another planet, my deranged sister?” I saw the confusion in her eyes as I continued. “Or have you ever known love on two different worlds, Alex? I can see the answer to those questions in your eyes. No- all…no. You have none of those memories, nor shall you ever if you continue on this course of temporal destruction.”

The ground rumbled a little. What was with that?

Yuuka landed on my shoulder.

“The woman is certifiable, Empress!” She whispered in my ear.

“Fly, pixie! Keep me between you and this disgrace!” I ordered at full volume.

“Good luck, Empress!” Yuuka wished, kissing my earlobe before she took flight once again.

“How quaint! She’s your friend.” My demented doppelganger said in a saccharin sweet tone. “I LOST ALL MY FRIENDS BECAUSE OF YOU!” She screamed.

“So, what did you do with them, Alex? Transport them away? Lose them between dimensions? What?”

“They all died! THEY JUST DIED!”

“Just like the rest of this dimension, Alex?” I asked dryly.

“Aren’t you the smart one! Yes, they all died when you reset your precious timeline! My world collapsed while yours continued! I’ve lost everyone and everything I’ve ever cared about because your world was more important!”

“Jack and I told you that this dimension would probably disappear once we found a way to fix the problem. Why is it still here, Alex?”

“I don’t want to die! Is that so hard to figure out, ‘Empress’?” Again with the caustic pronounciation.

“But you would return to being a part of me.”

“I like being me! I don’t want to become part of you!”

“So you stayed here and pouted like a spoiled child, is that it? You are a disgrace to that uniform, sailor!” I tried to goad her as I slowly moved closer.

“I am not a spoiled child, you stupid bitch! I am the one true Empress- not you! Or I will be once I dispose of you!”

“That might be harder than you think, hun. There’s still a lot you don’t know about us.”

Having slowly edged closer, I reached out and grabbed her hand. Reflexively, her other hand flew at my face and I felt her fingernails take some skin as they made contact. I shook off the searing pain as best I could.

“You do realize that we could be at this all day, right?” I swung my own claws across her face. I couldn’t believe I had retaliated like a girl!

“You bitch!” she shrieked, her free hand quickly moving to her injury.

“Do we really have to fight our self, Alex?”

“If that’s what it takes to kill you, Alex!”

“And just what would that accomplish hun? Are you even sure I’m from your future? If that’s the case then your plan might work, but if I’m from the past…well, things won’t look too good for either of us, would they, Alex?

“You’re just trying to confuse me!”

“No I’m not. Think about it- If I’m Alex from the past, and you destroy me, wouldn’t it follow that I wouldn’t be around to make the mistake that created your dimensional offshoot, thus, eliminating you and this dimensional eddy in the first place?”

I felt the ground quake again.

“Empress, Random detected a zero point three-five percent decrease in this dimension’s tangible space. The more you make her doubt herself, the weaker she apparently gets. She is the key to the stability of this place.” I heard my daughter’s thoughts say.

“Alex, come back to me and live the way we are meant to be- as one person- whole in every respect- to share the adventures and experiences that you have so obviously missed.”

The ground shook yet again, harder this time.

“Random detected another decrease- two percent this time, Empress!” Alexis thought to me.

My foe’s attention momentarily toggled from me to the ground then back to me.

“Very clever, Alex, but it won’t work. I rule here, not you, and I make the rules!”

The ground shook harder this time.

“This dimension just increased in size by five percent, mom!” My daughter’s thoughts sounded panicked.

“Are you trying to compensate for something you no longer have, Alexander?” I smiled at my foe as I cautiously calculated my strategy while continuing to concentrate on cancelling her gift so that we remained here.

“That hurt, Alex. That really hurt! Unfortunately, I’ve become just as accustomed to this body as you. I have no need of compensation.”

“No, but think of the things you are missing, hun, the companionship of friends and relatives- the love of a good man- the pain and fulfillment of child-birth- the satisfaction and peacefulness that nursing those children can provide- the feeling of achievement when they grow up and prove themselves upstanding and courageous…and willing to protect you at all costs!”

From the look on her face, I could tell that eight uniformed women had suddenly appeared behind me.

“So you did bring an army! I should have known you couldn’t do this on your own! You always did keep a reserve!”

I moved so that we both faced the group.

“Mom, do you require assistance?” Alexis asked as she took a few steps forward.

“Mom? Oh Alex, I thought you were better at poker than that! Sweetheart, you’ve just gone and blown the whole plan for ‘mommy’!”

“The plan that you refer to, madam is not poker, but chess. This is but a calculated move in the tactics that define the game.” Alexis stated evenly.

“You forget that I share your mommy’s talent for the game, sweetheart! I know every defense and tactic- every move she employs.”

“Really! I suppose you saw this last move, Alex? And…you countered appropriately? Tell me honey, what is my next move then?”

“Or mine, Alexandra Steinert.” Alex Reilly chimed in as she stepped from behind Alexis and approached the two of us.

“You can’t be here! I destroyed that future! I was there- the race never happened!”

“You don’t listen too well do you, Alexandra Steinert?” Alex Reilly goaded then paused. “Don’t you know who I am?”

“You are me, of course! From which time period I have yet to figure, but you must be from before 1941.”

“Please forgive my illiterate twin, Empress, she hasn’t developed her gift to our extent. Her ignorance is…embarrassing.”

“Empress? You call yourself, Empress?” Bad Alex pointed at me while referring to Alex Reilly.

“Had you the training, you would recognize the original Empress of Time and Space.”

“Alexandra, she could not possibly recognize me as I look identical to you. Therefore it is only logical that she assumed me you. The only logic that she has shown since we got here, I might add.”

“And she calls herself the one true Empress! Does she even remember what that title entails? Can she honestly say she is doing this to help the world…or herself? Think about that, Alex. Think about how your greed has affected the Earth- how the ripples affect the stars.” I gave a mental nod to the Terrans.

Movies and images began playing in my mind. The first scene was life onboard Sand Dollar. Second was life on Kili before we, Sand Dollar, had arrived. Thirdly, alternate dimension Atlantis-Major with the despair and loss of morale from my perspective.

Next came a few pleasurable scenes from Terra in which children played and enjoyed the bright sunshine, these faded and became images of wives and mothers dying- young girls receiving the news that they could no longer produce female offspring. A final scene from Terra related the despair and fear that the whole Terran race was doomed to die off- into oblivion.

Then came the images I hoped would drive Alex back to sanity- Her deserted and desolate base; a fade from the Arizona DARPA race with Cassandra, Samantha, Ricky Lynn, Josie, Randi, and Tish and her girls to the barren desert brought about by Alex’s meddling.

Lastly, the scenes I had hoped to never recall ever again. The White Sands Test Area- the recorded footage of the awesome devastation that just one specialized bomb could deliver. Included in that footage were images taken from the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, although the burnt landscape was generic enough that it could have been anywhere.

It played six times start to finish.

Alex was noticeably stunned and I could feel her shudder as the mushroom clouds formed over and over again.

“How can you do this? Where did all this happen?”

“This is what has happened since your feeble attempt to kill my successor, Alex Steinert. Because of your petty grudge, you have brought humanity to its knees. Not only here on Earth, but in other galaxies as well.” Alex Reilly answered her as if scolding a naughty child. “You have destroyed the hopes and dreams of children…of races not even born. They never got the chance to even bud- never had the chance or choice to survive. The same fate that you forced on your crew in this dimension, Alex!”

“But I didn’t force them into oblivion! They choose to die!” Her volume suddenly lowered, “They choose to leave me.” Shaking her head she continued. “Mina said it was the right thing to do and to just accept our fate. She said we should accept that we had been born out of a mistake- that the only acceptable answer was to let this dimension slip and melt back into the original and true reality. She claimed it would be painless and swift- that we would merely be ourselves again and everything would be back to normal.”

“But you didn’t listen, did you, Alex?” Alex Reilly asked.

“No. I…I was too afraid.”

The ground shook violently.

“No!” Alex shouted. “I will not let you do this! I will never give in to you! I want to live!”

“Is this really living, Alex? Look around you, woman. There is nothing here except the base! I would venture to guess that your supplies are starting to run low too. Is this really the way you want to live? This place isn’t even robust enough to be called an oasis. Rejoin me, Alexandra, and end this insanity.”

“Insanity?” She succeeded in pulling her arm free of my grasp. “You call this insanity? I will show you insanity, Empress!”

The ground under us spasmed violently and only a small circle of ground about sixty feet in diameter remained- just enough for the eleven of us to stand comfortably.

“Bravo, Alex! If this isn’t a tantrum, I don’t know what would qualify.” I remained impassive.

“Huh! This is check, Alex! Give up and submit to your fate, Alexandra Steinert!”

“The Empress and I will just leave this dimension, Alex. Your threat holds no weight.”

“All I have to do is release the rest of this dimension and your friends and family will perish with it!”

“Are you so sure? Have you foreseen all the scenarios- every single one, Alex?” I questioned knowing I still had an ace to play.

“I don’t need to see anymore, Alex! I hold your friend’s fate on this very soil; this is checkmate, my…sister!”

“You will not harm my Grandmother or my Aunt, you retched creature!” My voice announced from behind the rogue.

A younger version of Alexandra Steinert/Reilly wrapped her arms around our foe and held her tight. Alexis’ eyes immediately went wide!

“Three of you! There is no way there can be three of you! It’s impossible!”

“By the Lords! Alexandra, what…how did you get here!”

“I should think you’ve figured that out already, mother! After all you have told me about this confrontation for the last eight years of my life!”

Alexis looked on with the most confused stare I had ever seen her use!

Rogue Alex fought and twisted in Alexandra’s grip.

“Grandmother? You’ve got to be kidding me, Alex! You’re a grandmother too?”

“You’d be surprised what I am, Alex! See what you missed hiding out here?”

“So she can phase herself like we can- big deal!” My rogue sister dropped to the floor and flipped young Alexandra over her head- immediately standing again, but with young Alex held in a headlock! “You didn’t teach her very well Granny! It seems I again have the upper hand! Now, how ‘bout y’all just lay down an’ die! I’ll make it fast and as painful as possible…for you!” She cackled at the top of her lungs.

The smiles and giggling from our group was not the response she expected. Alex Reilly and I took up position to either side of our twisted twin and joined hands behind her. The tingle felt good.

“Check, again, Alex. I suggest you release my granddaughter before you anger the Terrans.”

“Who are the Terrans? And what makes you think I would give away an important advantage like this, Alex?”

“Because, hun, the Terrans are not of this world, and therefore do not have the standard gifts or the same ideas on right and wrong. I suggest you release my granddaughter or suffer the Terran version of torture.”

“Grandmother, it is good to see you again.” Young Alex remained calm and collected. “It has been what, eight years since we last played together?”

“And you’ve grown up right well, young lady. Hope your father knows about this little trip.”

“You forget I can return the instant I left. He won’t suspect a thing, Empress. As long as I am chaperoned by one parent I am fine. Isn’t that right, mom?” The younger version of us slowly reached her arms out and motioned for us to take hold of her hands. The familiar tingle never felt so wonderful.

“You are eighteen, Alexandra. On this world you are considered fully matured, so you have no reason to require a chaperone or follow my orders.” Alexis advised her daughter as she approached us.”

“Not another step! I will kill her! Have daughter dearest step back, Granny or I kill the youngin’!”

“No you won’t, Alex. You will not kill anyone today…or ever.” I told her as Alexis took hold of my shoulder. “Nor will you cause any more grief to any timeline ever again.”

Melanie, Isabeau, Reilly, and Cassiopeia closed the gap and took Alexis’ outstretched hand. Camille set her hand on Alex Reilly’s shoulder. Randi and Hoshi joined hands and took Cami’s. Yuuka flew over and landed on Hoshi’s shoulder as Hoshi closed the circle by taking Cassi’s hand.

Everyone nodded when they were ready.

“What you never learned about us, Alex, is that there is a certain legend about the power of the Empress of Time and Space. It tells of how an assemblage of three Empress’s- the past, present, and future multiplies their power a thousand-fold. With three joined, even the dead have no chance of status quo.”

“So what! I refuse to join with you and therefore this triad cannot come to fruition. We are again at a stalemate!”

“Forgive me, Alex, I haven’t formally introduced my granddaughter to you, have I? I said serenely. “Alex, this is my granddaughter Alexandra, the Future Empress. Checkmate.” I leaned over her shoulder to see her reaction and was rewarded by the sight of all blood draining from her face.

“Ladies, let’s put my long lost dark side back where she belongs.” I kissed my evil twin just under her ear. “Time to go home, Alex- back to those who loved you no matter the cost or temperament.”

“No!” She cried as I phased us out and started concentrating on our rogue.

“No!’ She cried again as tears poured from her eyes.

I started to feel the burning I had felt before being dragged back to Reilly and that universe. My rogue twin began to become translucent, and fade.

“Please…I want to live!” She cried before disappearing completely.

“And so you shall, Alexandra Steinert…so you shall.” I whispered sadly.

Reilly Research Station’s meeting room replaced what was left of the alternate Atlantis-Minor base.

“We did it, grandmother!” the young Empress exclaimed with a beautiful smile.

“Yes, we did it, Alexandra.” I answered trying to hide my melancholy.

“Why so sad, grandmother?” She looked at me confused.

“Because I have done something I vowed never to do, my young Empress. I have killed a loved one- a member of our family- a sister.” I explained.

“Hey, sis, she was going to kill you, remember?” Alex Reilly rebuked.

“No she would never have succeeded, sis.”

“That’s not the way it looked from our vantage point, mom.” Alexis raised an eyebrow and shook her head.

“Empress, we didn’t get to help! Cassi and I just stood there and…and, well, that’s it! We didn’t do anything!” Reilly complained. “You said we would help!”

“You both did more than you realized, girls!” I smiled.

“I didn’t do anything, did you, Cassi?” Reilly asked, ignoring the rest of us.

Her friend just shrugged her shoulders and shook her head.

Young Alexandra came over to the pair and put a hand on both their shoulders.

“My sisters,” she put on her best smile, “without you I would have never found that horrid place! I followed your thoughts and talents across our galaxy to that one dimension- using my grandmother’s terminology; you were my beacon in the storm! Thank you, my sisters!”

“So we really did help?” Cassi seemed unsure.

“Without a doubt!”

“Does this mean we have to call you Empress and bow to you when we get back to Terra?”

Alexandra giggled as she quickly glanced over at Alex Reilly and I, “Only if you feel you should, Reilly.” She winked.

“Alexandra, do you still remember our prearranged meeting place and time?” I asked my granddaughter.

“I do, Empress. Is there something else I should know prior?” She approached and held her right index finger out to me.

“Just one minor detail, young Empress.” I said as my right index finger touched hers. We both giggled at the tingle that passed between us. This was our special game that we had created during my recuperation in Citadel, Terra. It became more of a secret handshake of sorts as we spent more time with each other and I taught her the ‘family’ trade. If Alexis ever found out that eight-year old Alexandra and I had spent several weeks in 1942 Oak Ridge, Missouri…ah well, she probably already knew.

“I understand, Empress, and will eagerly await your arrival. And don’t worry about those details, I have…hidden them…from prying minds as you have instructed.” She winked after we had composed ourselves.

Young Alexandra turned to face our group, “Sadly, I must leave as I have several tasks that cannot wait. I therefore must bid you all farewell.”

The young Empress made her rounds of those in the room starting with Yuuka, who had returned to full size.

“Pixie, I thank you for your sacrifice and bravery in defense of my grandmother.” She placed a kiss on Yuuka’s forehead and embraced her a moment.

“Thank you…um…Empress.” Yuuka bowed as Alexandra released her to move on to Hoshi.

“Shooting Star, keep the pixie safe, my sister. I look forward to our working together again. Thank you, also for protecting our Empress.” Alexandra repeated her kiss and embrace.

Hoshi also bowed in respect.

“Camille Darough. I could not wait to meet one of the most powerful mind warriors in the known universes! We definitely will work together in your future, M’lady! I thank you for providing a good friend, babysitter, and sister. Already, Cassi and I have had many exciting adventures. I look forward to our next meeting, thank you.” Alexandra bubbled over with praise. She wrapped her arms around Cami, kissed her cheek and whispered something in her ear, to which Cami gasped and immediately started crying. The two held each other for a few minutes before parting.

“Random. You are a true marvel on any world, M’lady! I especially want to thank you for your precise and indispensable telemetry, without which we would have never been able to track our reprobate. Without Isabeau’s help, several of my adventures might have failed miserably. You must be so proud of your revision, Lady Controller!”

Alexandra put her arms around Randi’s hips and kissed her lips. Holding the kiss for about a minute, Alexandra nodded to Randi and moved on.

“My two favorite babysitters! I look forward to your return to Terra, ladies. We have many adventures and games yet to be played in the eight years before my arrival here to help Grandma. Until your return, my sisters.” She wrapped an arm around both girls and kissed a cheek on each.

“Isabeau, thank you for helping track the pixie through time and dimension. I know it is not your gift, but your Terran talent that proved useful today- it only proves how resourceful we can be when required. Lady Controller, I await your arrival on Terra also- until then.” A repeat of Randi’s farewell followed.

“Interpreter, your natural talent has proved significant in our tracking of our sister pixie’s whereabouts on this quest. Without your determination- your dedication to the Empress, any resolution would not have been possible. I look forward to informing your mother of the many exploits we have shared. Thank you, brave Lady Melanie.” Alexandra approached her mother after embracing a stunned Melanie.

“Mother…I know I should have yielded to father’s wishes- many times, in fact, but this event was crucial to the survival of every world in existence- in this universe and many others.”

My ears perked up as she said this. “Many universes? How many?”

“Yes Grandmother, many universes! The exact number is limited only by the imagination. Mom, you understand that I had to be here! Saving Grandma was paramount, if the Empress were to discontinue…” Alexandra abruptly stopped and buried her face into Alexis’ shoulder. Both began crying.

“I understand, little one, your father and I are very proud of you.” Alexis said quietly as they finally parted.

“Aunt Alex, thank you for being here to help Grandma. I really enjoy my visits to Reilly and I’ll see you soon.” Again the young Empress renewed her tears as she put a bear hug on Alex. “I wish there were some way that you and Grandma could have an extended stay on Terra! I’ve really missed you both so much. Stay well, Empress.” She kissed Alex on both cheeks and her forehead. I had been told that was the most formal goodbye protocol on Terra.

“Grandma, don’t make me have to save your butt ever again!” She giggled before damn near strangling me. “Grandpa Tibius sends his best wishes and hopes the two of you can get together again soon.” She grimaced after relaying the message. “I’ll see you soon- y’all stay out of trouble in the meantime!”

Kissing both cheeks and my forehead, she took a step back from me. “You really are special, Grandma! So many creatures owe their very existence to you…to us.” She nodded to Alex Reilly and I. “But we three already know that, don’t we?”

She took a few more steps back from us as Alex and I nodded in agreement.

“I guess I have to be going now…” Young Alexandra stopped as we all knelt down on one knee before her.

“Until another time, travel well, Empress!” We said in unison.

“Will y’all stop doing that? When will you people ever learn that I am nobody to kneel before! I am the one that should kneel before you, my sisters!” Alexandra also fell to one knee and bowed her head. “Until another time, my sisters!”

The young Empress disappeared…though not entirely.

I felt a slight peck on my cheek- a very familiar tingle made it much more special. Alex Reilly’s crimson face told me that she too, received a special parting gift.

“Let’s have a celebration!” Alex exclaimed as we all stood up.

“What, a ding dong the witch is dead celebration?” I asked with some sarcasm.

The whole room looked at me as if they had rid the world of the wrong Empress.

“No.” Alex giggled, “Today just happens to be the one year anniversary of our rescue and relocation to Earth, sis!”

With that more people joined us, and the meeting room filled to capacity. Billie appeared next to me carrying a large decorated sheet cake. “You realize she’s been planning this for weeks, Empress! Welcome back!”

The present Queen of Kili started to shrink…wait…I was starting to grow! I looked down to the floor and noticed that my feet were roughly a foot off the floor and rising.

“Camille Darough! Put me down!” I shouted.

“But I’m not doing anything, Alex!” She shouted back from beside me.

“Then who…”

Camille pointed across to one corner of the room. Cassiopeia stood about forty feet away with her face flushed in concentration. Reilly, who had been watching for an opening to grab some cake, heard me and followed my gaze back to her friend. A wide, surprised smile filled her face as she realized what was happening.

I signaled with my finger for Cassi to put me down and nodded as I felt my feet reconnect with the floor. A look of relief filled the teenager’s face as Reilly wrapped her arms around her and both jumped up and down in triumph.

“You mean to tell me that you hadn’t seen that coming, Alex?” Alex Reilly asked, suddenly beside me.

“Oh, I knew it was going to happen, I just haven’t had the time to see when, Alex. I have been a little preoccupied, you know.”

“Well, it wasn’t really supposed to happen today, but we’ll give her some slack.” Alex giggled. “Have some cake before my daughter convinces her friend to use her new found gift to literally confiscate the confection.”

I shook my head as I began to laugh. “Cake, Alex! Before she literally takes the cake! Will you ever get your colloquialisms straight?”

“Not if it means sacrificing humor, Empress.” She grinned.

A transparent breaker-like container filled with an amber viscous liquid slowly floating over to the conference table caught our attention. It hovered a few seconds then gently settled on its surface.

“It’s about time!” Yuuka shouted as she quickly shrank and grew into her wings. A second later she was standing next to the beaker, leaning over the rim dipping her tiny hand into the thick liquid. Her wings twitched erratically as she greedily spooned the sweet nectar into her mouth.

Something about the cake caught my eye. Three pieces were missing from one end and an icing coated spatula sat on the table beside it. It took a minute of searching the room, but I found the culprits in the opposite corner of the room from where they stood before. Hoshi, Cassi, and Reilly all stood together and displayed revealing icing mustaches.

I loved being among friends and family, I thought as I phased out then in just enough to acquire my own piece of cake then out again. Rephasing next to Reilly, I took a bite. “You aren’t the only devious cake thief here you know!” I winked at my niece and we all laughed.

1655hrs. Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, June 18th, 2026BC

“Alex?” I called to my sister. “Alex, I’m afraid we have to be going now, sis.”

“So soon?” She looked to the ceiling a moment. “I guess you have to, huh?”

“Unfortunately. This chapter of the Empress and the inductee isn’t over yet. I still have to set the timeline straight, and that isn’t going to happen on its own or if I stay to enjoy this party.” I said with disappointment. “Did you ask her yet?”

“I haven’t had the chance yet. Are you sure she will agree?”

“Do you really need to ask that, Alex?”

She smiled.

“Cami is about to ask Cassi if she would like to stay a few years.” I gestured over to the mother and daughter.

Cassiopeia suddenly screeched in excitement, in the process, drawing the attention of the room.

“You really mean that, mom? Really, really, really?”

“With Alexis’ approval, sweetheart. She is you chaperone after all.”

Cassi literally, as well as physically, floated over to where my daughter stood.

“By the Goddess, not another one!” Alex grumbled as she rubbed her face.

“Lady Alexis, may I petition to stay with my mother here on Earth?” The teen pleaded, but still followed Terran protocol.

“Let us see what your father has to say, Lady Cassiopeia.” Alexis said producing a small, circular compact. Placing the compact on the floor, she triggered the device and stepped back. A full-sized image of Timus appeared before Cassi.

The room went silent.

“Father! I petition you for approval to…” she stopped as the figure raised his hand.

“My daughter, Empress Alexandra has informed me of your impending petition to extend your stay on Earth. She personally guarantees your safety and well-being. I must inform you that my decision has not been an easy one in that many issues required address and careful debate.”

There was a notable pause in the recording.

“It is with great sadness…” The teen’s head dropped, “that I give my full agreement to your petition. Enjoy your visit, my lovely Cassiopeia; I look forward to your return to Terra and Citadel.”

The image of Timus seemed to be confused for a moment and suddenly acknowledged someone off camera, “Oh.” Timus turned directly to Cami.

“Lady Camille, I trust you will guard our daughter with your life. I humbly look forward to your next visit to Terra, my love.” The image turned back to Cassi. “Travel and learn well, M’lady.”

The image disappeared, but Alexis didn’t move to pick up the device.

With all the commotion an excited Cassi was making, few noticed the deflated expression on Reilly’s face.

“Why the sullen face, honey?” Alex Reilly asked her daughter.

“I also wanted to petition to stay, mother.”

A single tear rolled down her cheek.

“Why on Earth would you want to stay here…with me?”

“I am the Empress’s daughter, why not stay with her?”

“Why would the Empress expect her daughter to stay, child?”

“Maybe because I love her and I want to know her better, mother!” Reilly growled in a snit.

“Would you like to do this, Reilly…petition your father to stay?”

“Only if you wish it, mother.” The teen shook her head in defeat.

“I do.” Alex gave Reilly a devious grin.

“You do?” The teen stared at her in disbelief.

“Lady Reilly, could you turn around, please?” Gaillan’s annoyed voice caught her attention.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, M’lady. Empress Alexandra has also informed me of your petition for temporary residence on Earth with your mother. As with Cassiopeia’s father, I have thought long and hard on my decision. I must advise you that a lady of your character can sometimes be…trying.” Gaillan’s image said as he rolled his eyes, but paused just as Timus’ did.

Reilly looked on the verge of hopelessness.

“Stay as long as you like, Lady Reilly. Learn and take to heart everything your mother has to teach. I will miss you severely until your return to me, M’lady. Tell Empress Alexandra Reilly I wish her luck and look forward to her next visit to Terra. Please behave, my daughter!”

The image faded and Alexis picked the device up and placed it back into her jacket pocket.

Reilly just stood there in total shock. Apparently she hadn’t realized what had really been said.

“I have gone ahead and prepared your quarters. Have you nothing to say, honey? Mind you, from what I have been told it would be a first!” Alex Reilly said quietly.

Reilly remained quiet.

Cassi nudged her friend excitedly, “You get to stay, Reilly!”

“I get to stay?”

Cassi nodded enthusiastically.

The sudden realization washed over the teen’s face. “I get to stay!”

While the girls again jumped up and down like yoyos, I looked at Alex. “Are you sure you want to do this, Alex? I mean you already have Yuuka, Cami, and Hoshi. Can your sanity survive two more?” I asked with a devious grin of my own.

“Alex, if you can put up with your three girls, I can certainly try.”

We both laughed for some time until Reilly ran over and tightly embraced her mother.

“Thank you, mom!”

“Thank your father, hun, he’s the one that gave his approval.”

After a minute, Reilly attacked me too.

“Thank you, Aunt Alex!”

“My pleasure, hun. Don’t make me regret it though!” I pushed her back slightly and glared into her eyes the way Admiral Demmit would.

“By the Lords, I promise I’ll be good, Empress!”

Alexis tapped me on the shoulder. “Mom, the rest of us are ready to go.” She said quietly.

“Can I go with the Empress, mom?”

Reilly didn’t miss a breath!

“You just got here and you want to leave again, Reilly?” Alex Reilly asked in mock amazement.

“Honey, I need to do this next portion with your Aunt Mina and Aunt Jacquelyn. We were in the process of bringing in a new member to the sisterhood when everything fell to pieces. I’m afraid you and Cassi must stay here.” I explained then added; “We’ll see y’all later though.”

Alexis took my offered hand as Isabeau and Melanie joined us.

“See ya later, sis, and good luck!” I gestured to the two teens.

The whole room, except for Billie fell to one knee. “Until another time, Empress! Travel well!”

“Oh, for crying out…”

“Alex?” Billie shouted to get my attention.

“You’re Highness?” My expression changed from annoyance to a smile.

“Good luck and keep everyone safe- especially, Mina!”

“I’ll do that, Highness, thanks.”

Reilly’s meeting room became the coarse green grass and sunshine of Hospital Point.

“No one let go yet, we haven’t re-phased. I want to make sure we’re not being observed.”

Confident that we were alone, I turned us to face the water and re-phased. The declining angle of the sun and the breeze from behind us told me it was nearing evening.

“At this time I would ask everyone to enable their rank and identification.” I said as I gestured to my developing epaulets and nameplate. It was amazing to see my rank- three bars and a star, along with my nameplate, just appear from the material itself! This new hi-tech uniform was amazing!

Two double bars and a star and a two-and-a-half bar with star- not bad- I thought as I inspected and made adjustments to their uniforms.

“Hey, why does Alexis get to be a Lt. Commander?” Melanie asked in a whiny, childish voice.

“Because my mom’s the Captain!” My daughter replied smugly before sticking out her tongue like a spoiled child.

I just rolled my eyes. “Come on! You two can be Commanders the next time!” I growled as I started toward base.

Almost as an afterthought, I tried to contact Mina.

1600 hours, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 5th, 1941

“You shhure ya don’ wanna swig, Mina?”

“No Cynthia, this is your party, heaven forgive me, but get good and snookered, love!”

“’Right…if yer sure! Commander…anuzzer tug?”

“That’s alright, you finish it off, Cindy. I have to keep my concentration.”

“You ger…girls is no fffffun!”

“Mina! I sense Alex and…”

“Just a minute, Jacquelyn.”

“The Empress requests you drop your barrier, Commander. She has returned having rectified the problem.”

“I’ll take it from here, Mina. She wants us to make room for four more in here. I’m sending her our location now.

“Fantastic! I got through to Mina. That means we’re on Jack’s radar also. Hold on ladies, the room we’re going to is a bit cramped so make sure you’re clear of any furniture before we re-phase.”

Cindy’s room replaced Hospital Point. The small room was already cramped with just Mina, Jack, a wavering Cindy, the bed, a nightstand and chest of drawers, a lamp, and a bone-dry whiskey bottle.

“Ladies, let me know when y’all are clear.”

Receiving a nod from my companions, I rephased us in Cindy Rigby’s quarters.

“Ha, ha, ha, ha, the Emp’ess hath rereturd!” A very drunken Cindy slurred before her eyes rolled back in her head and it forcibly hit the pillow.

“Wow, how much did you give her?” I asked in amazement.

“Almost the whole bottle, Cap.”

“Apparently, the Lieutenant thought she had need of severe intoxication, Alexandra. Care to introduce our sisters?”

“Of course, Mina, but first I’d like Jack to re-enable the dampening field around this room, please.”

“Done, Cap, go ahead.”

“Mina I’d like to introduce the daughter of Random Valerian Peltierre, Isabeau- Isabeau, Lt. Philamina Smith.”

“Lieutenant.” Mina nodded to her with a formal smile.

“Next to her is Tish’s daughter, Melanie.

Mina’s eyebrow raised, “Indeed. Wonderful to make your acquaintance, love.”

“Mina. This is Alexis!” I gushed.

“Aunt Mina, mother has told us all so much about you, ma’am. It is very nice to finally meet you, Highness.” Alexis smiled and bowed her head slightly, as did Melanie and Isabeau.

“So this is that day, Alexandra.”

“What day is that, Mina?” I played dumb.

“The day I meet the saviors- the children of Terra and daughters of Kili, of course! What do you take me for, Alexandra? Why else would Alexis, a woman that looks remarkably similar to you, call me Aunt and you ‘mother’? When we went to Reilly, I looked ahead a few years from that point and observed your planning session.”

“So why didn’t you tell me about…oh, got it.” I quickly figured the answer to my own question.

“No, mom, she can’t see that far ahead! Aunt Mina only saw our meeting Aunt Alex and your introduction of us to her.” Alexis corrected as she obviously assessed her aunt’s thoughts.

Cautiously, I closed my eyes and thought to my daughter, ‘Do not underestimate any of your Aunt’s, honey; they are far more powerful than they let on. On this world as well as yours, it is not polite to brag about one’s attributes.’

Mina gave Alexis a knowing grin during our silence.

“Forgive me mother. Apparently, our research of this world has not been thorough enough.” Alexis apologized as she glanced over to her aunt then dropped her eyes to the ground.

Jack changed the topic. “So how is my Constance, Lady Alexis?”

Alexis, Isabeau, and Melanie quickly turned their full attention to my Ex-O!

“That is impossible! How did you…father made sure those memories were…” Alexis stumbled, unsure of how much Jack really knew.

“And what did your mother just tell you, sweetie? Camille Darough and I have full recollection of our time spent on Terra in that beautiful city you call Citadel, as do Capt. Steinert and Alexandra Reilly! It would be wise not to underestimate us again, Alexis. Think of that before you report to your father about the failings of this planet.” Jack stared at her, almost daring my daughter to perjure herself further.

The three women gasped collectively.

“I’ve known since Randi went to Tibius with her astronomical observations, what is it, thirteen years ago now? Your father was justified in his motives, but Randi should have been given the chance to choose for herself. Our two worlds should not have such mistrust, Lady Alexis! It might lead to war…or invasion.”

“It has been fifteen years and I apologize for my father’s incorrect analysis of your potency, Lady Jacquelyn; you are in fact, the Mind Warrior of legend. Mother has already confronted my deceptive agenda and I assure you all that Earth’s weaknesses will never be revealed to promote anything other than assistance- if requested.”

“So…about my daughter then. I trust there is a good reason for her absence?”

“M’lady, we are pleased to inform you that Lady Constance is with child.” Isabeau chimed out with a large smile.

As I feared, Jack’s mouth dropped open.

“M’lady, Connie has decided to honor you, her mother, by naming the child- Terra’s one hundredth female born since the eve of the new era- Jacquelyn!”

“I’m going to be a Grandmother?” Jack looked at me with a mixture of joy and confusion. A tear escaped both eyes as her mouth remained open.

“That’s what happens when you travel with the Empress, Commander! Congratulations, Granny!” I warned with a giggle.

“It’s a ger…girl, Gran…me!” Cindy startled us by raising her head up, making her proclamation with a huge smile then assuming her previously unconscious state.

“Empress the field has dropped! We are vulnerable to outside surveillance!” Melanie interrupted in a whisper; her concern was clearly visible.

“Cindy? Are you okay in there, dear? I thought I heard voices. Do you have a guy in there? You know that’s against regulations.” A voice called through the door from the hallway.

“Everyone take my hands.” I whispered.

“Hide the three, Alexandra. Jacquelyn and I were seen entering with Lt. Riggby.” Mina said as she motioned for us to phase out, which we quickly did.

Mina quickly scanned the room then opened the door quietly.

“Please, the Lieutenant is sleeping. There is no one here but the Commander and I.”

“I thought I heard other voices in here, Lieutenant. Is she okay?”

Mina opened the door fully and motioned the concerned woman in. “I assure you, Commander, Lt. Riggby is in no danger whatsoever. We, however await the inevitable, I’m afraid.”

“How much has she had this time?” The woman asked with a stern face, but little concern.

We watched as Jack held up the empty bottle.

“Is that all,” the lieutenant asked, a little surprised? “She had more than twice that last Christmas. No need to be concerned, ladies, Lt. Riggby can hold her liquor very well. You don’t have to worry about any…spills.”

“’Mander’s a Grammy, ha, ha, ha, ha!” Cindy laughed out again. Still there was no sign of consciousness. Cynthia Riggby was apparently really fun at parties!

Seeing Jack and Mina’s terrified reaction, the woman tried to ease their fears. “Oh, that’s nothin’, last year she claimed the Admiral was walking ‘round in a brassiere! Sorry to bother you, ladies, I just thought she had another gentleman in here and didn’t want her to get into trouble with the C.O. again. She should come out of it in another six hours if you two were thinking about staying that long, otherwise, I can look in on her every so often.”

“Lieutenant, I feel somewhat responsible for this. The Commander and I shall stay a while longer if possible.”

“Suit yourselves. I’ll be just down the hall if you need me.” The woman said as she closed the door quietly.

“Field is back up, Alex.” Jack said into the air.

We rephased.

“What happened, Commander?” I asked and raised a brow.

“You caught me off guard is all. So Connie’s having a baby. Wow, not bad for someone that hasn’t given birth to the child’s mother yet.” Jack’s smile was a mix of pride and understandable confusion.

“Lady Jacquelyn, I fear we expected the worst from you, but surprisingly you have taken the news very well. Can you forgive us?” Isabeau apologized.

“Just promise me you won’t invade Earth. I would feel terrible if I had to challenge my own flesh and blood.”

“That would be unwise indeed, Lady Jacquelyn.” Isabeau freely admitted as she bowed her head slightly.

“Aunt Jackie, there will be no invasion! I have promised mother that I will confront father with all I have learned about the Empress and her Earth sisters. Either he listens to reason or the women of Terra will oppose him. We have no desire to repeat your American Civil War on a galactic scale!” Alexis’ strong words held no alternate meanings.

“Can we get on with this? This room is becoming increasingly restrictive!” Mina complained, changing the subject.

“You had but to ask, Mina. Everyone take hands please?” I said with a smile as I searched my brain for the proper time to jump to.

Cindy’s clock and the angle of the sun were the only things that changed in the room.

“And Cindy starts to wake up in three…two…one.” I announced as I released Jack and Mina’s hands.

“Wow, what a hangover!” Cindy rolled to her side as her hand moved to her grimacing face. Looking up at us, her face turned to confusion then realization struck.

“Oh Lord, there’s more of you!” She stated with a little surprise.

“Cindy, meet my daughter, Alexis, and her friends, Isabeau, and Melanie. Girls this is Lt. J.G. Cynthia Riggby, our newest sister.”

“Not so loud, I ‘ve got a killer…um, okay…that’s…um…different. I had a killer headache.” Cindy said in surprise as her fingers explored her skull.

I reached for her hand mirror on the dresser, “Here, Lieutenant, have a look.”

“The legend of the Mahanilui still holds true, mother, she is beautiful.” Alexis complimented.

“Thank you, Commander.” Cindy said as she stared at her improved image. The Mahanilui had erased several years from her face as it had with my entire crew and me. Cynthia Riggby now looked every day of maybe nineteen.

“So what can I do? You said I would be given a gift, Captain.”

“You will know when you receive it, lieutenant.”

“But you should know what it is- you told me you can see the future!”

“What fun would it be to reveal such things now? Where would the surprise, the drama…the romance be, lieutenant?” I winked at her with a devious smile.

Lt. Riggby winkled her nose in annoyance. “So, what do I do now, Captain…or do I call you Empress now?”

“You call me Alex in private or with friends or my indicated rank while on base, Lieutenant…though Empress would be acceptable on another planet…say, Terra?” I nodded to Alexis, Isabeau, and Melanie with a smile.

Cindy was quick on the uptake. “You’re not from this planet?” She gulped loudly as she stared at them.

The three women smiled and shook their heads slowly.

“But she’s your daughter…Cap…Empress?” Cindy asked quietly with a tense, tight smile.

“You aren’t the only girl that gets around, Lieutenant. The commander and I are also both Grandmothers.” I said as I winked at our three Terran sisters- all of which smiled broadly as they caught my announcement.

Jack’s mouth opened wide once more.

“But I didn’t think you were that old?” Riggby blurted.

“As of 2530hrs Terra time.” I confirmed.

Alexis, Melanie, and Isabeau all placed a hand on Jack’s shoulders.

“Lady Jacquelyn, congratulations!” They said as each followed proper Terran protocol by leaning in and placing a kiss on her cheek.

“Speaking of getting old…Lt. Riggby, I suggest, that for the next couple of days, you make yourself look your original age.” I said changing the subject.

“Why?”

“So the people you work and interact with don’t take note of our handy-work, of course! How would you explain to them looking ten to fifteen years younger overnight?” Mina said as she looked at her, a little surprised that Cindy even asked.

“Oh…ya. Kinda forgot about that, didn’t I?” Lt. Riggby blushed. “So…besides making my face look…’old’…what should I do for the rest of the weekend?”

“What you would normally do on any weekend- except for letting our visit slip. Remember, there is that crazy blonde Commander in need of kindness that’s arriving tomorrow afternoon, Cindy- the one that talks to herself?” I reminded her, batting my eyelashes. Mina, Jack, and the others took my proffered hands. “See ya Sunday, Lieutenant.”

I phased us out and watched as Cindy searched the room for us. “Travel well, Empress.” She said looking straight at me. How did she know, I wondered?

“Where to next, Alexandra?” Mina said quietly.

“Sunday Morning.” I said with despair and sorrow evident in my voice.

“Which Sunday morning, Empress?” Melanie asked on behalf of the three off-worlders.

“The Sunday that started everything.” I responded grimly. I felt tears begin to form.

Jack took over for me seeing I was having trouble.

“Sunday, December 7th, 1941! The day that still lives in infamy, sisters!” She replied through gnashed teeth. “The morning that turned everything we knew upside down!” She paused. “The day my uncle and three cousins lost their lives!” She hissed.

My skin started to tingle and goose flesh appeared on my arms.

“Jack? Jack, please try to control your anger. I’m starting to lose my concentration and we may end up somewhere…unexpected.” I calmly reasoned with her.

“Lady Jacquelyn, please curtail you power output. The Empress’s phase shift is becoming unstable. If it collapses we will become visible to all.” Isabeau pleaded.

“Jacquelyn, stand down, love. Perhaps Alexandra can remedy that situation as she has others.” Mina said softly.

The tingling and Goosebumps disappeared as Jack looked at me. She said nothing, but her eyes asked the question instead.

“Jack, your uncle wasn’t even on base. He and your youngest cousin were on the road from Honolulu. Robert and Louis were at Schofield when it got hit. How can I be in two places at once?”

I realized how stupid that sounded the second it left my lips!

“Please! As if you’ve never done that before, Cap.” My Ex-O said sarcastically.

Mina smiled and shook her head at the statement.

“You can be in two places at once, Empress?” Melanie asked in disbelief.

“Well, not really, honey, I just return to one place a split second after I leave it. It just looks like I never left.” I admitted.

“Would you, Alex? If you foresee a problem then I’ll understand.” Jack looked ready to cry.

“I’ll run the options.”

“I’ve done that already, Alexandra. It is feasible.” Mina advised me.

“Everyone wants to hurry the Empress now? What is it with y’all?”

“We are just trying to assist you, Alexandra. Have you not vowed to protect your sisters and friends?”

“I have, but…”

“Wouldn’t Jacquelyn’s family fall into those criteria?”

“Just let me concentrate!” I glared over to Alexis, “Honey, if you don’t stop with the mind relay from Mina, we might all end up in my private domain- the one you don’t like?” The images flooding my mind stopped.

“I have to move us to a secluded spot so I can concentrate on this and not be noticed.” I said as Cindy’s room became a familiar landscape- one devoid of buildings.

“Ni’ihau, Cap?”

“Before the base was built, Jack. Friday evening, December 5th, 1941.”

“What about the village across the island?”

“That’s where y’all come in. If you want your uncle and cousins out of harm’s way Sunday, you keep the natives away, Jack. Have the Terrans help. I’m sure they can be just as playful and imaginative.” I winked to Alexis.

“Alexandra, it is not cricket to play upon local superstitions and fear!” Mina giggled slightly.

1811 hours, Ni’ihau, Hawaii, December 5th, 1941

“Lady Mina, she just blinked her eyes.” I heard as I finished my last scenario.

“But it’s only been an hour! Usually she stays this way for a day or more!” Melanie chimed in.

“So now we’re placing bets on when the Empress comes back to reality?” I asked trying to get my eyes to water enough to re-wet them. “This was an easy one.”

“Cap?” Jack looked on in anticipation.

I smiled at her.

“Thanks, Alex,”

I had never been hugged by my first officer before!

“I need everyone to stay here for a few minutes- except you, Jack.”

“Mom? Aren’t you forgetting someone?” Alexis caught my attention just in time.

“Oh ya. Come on then, honey. We’ll be back in a few, ladies. If I’m not mistaken, there’s a grove of pineapple plants about five hundred yards to our northeast. You girls can use your sharp wit to prepare them. Mina will show you how. Bye!”

With the exception of a road appearing, the scenery didn’t change much. Alexis, Jack, and I found ourselves standing beside a semi smooth, concrete road. The sun hadn’t climbed over the eastern mountains yet. A calm quiet filled the air except for the barely audible, high-pitched whine of enemy aircraft off in the distance.

“This is it, Jack.” I announced. “In ten minutes a stray Japanese bomb will explode at the same instant a hack carrying your uncle and young David passes this point. What you will need to do is pull the car far enough ahead to avoid the explosion. Fifty yards should do it. Alexis, I ask that you quickly remove those critical seconds from all three occupants. They should have no recollection of any…um…assistance, or us.”

“Can’t you just keep us out of phase, Cap?”

“Not this time, Jack. You and Alexis must do this alone. It is critical to my plan that I appear just outside the barracks at Schofield a minute before the offending bomb hits. No, you can’t help me- either of you! Our time to work together will come- just not now. You will need to take a position two hundred feet to the southwest. Good hunting, Commanders.”

One of the Schofield Army barracks buildings replaced the lush tropical roadside. My simulations told me which part and side of the building was relatively unharmed by the blast. It was up to me to draw the attention of its occupants here. Again I would call on my body to achieve this.

I removed my jacket and started to unbutton my blouse.

0756 hours, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7th, 1941

“I don’t believe it! Alex just left us here by the side of the road!”

“She must have had a very good reason for doing it, Aunt Jackie. What do you suppose she meant when she said she had to be just outside before the bomb hits?”

“I hope it isn’t anything stupid. Your mother has a knack for that! Did you know that she unbuttoned her blouse almost the whole way down just to lure her brother and his compartment mates to her so she could save them all? Maybe that’s what she has in mind this time.”

“Aunt Jackie, what is that noise?”

“It’s the sound of World-War-Two starting, Alexis. The attack on Pearl Harbor is about to commence and we have to let it progress- again!”

“Aunt Jackie, what did you just do? I felt my skin start to crawl again.”

“It’s just a high strength shield for protection. If anything happened to you Alex would hold me personally responsible.”

“But why issue forth such power for such a small shield?”

“I have one over your mother too, pumpkin. It takes more power to throw two separate fields over the distance.”

“That is not the truth, Commander! Mother has not reappeared yet! You are producing a shield over the whole island! Aunt Jackie, you must let history run its course!”

“This attack should have never happened, Alexis!”

“It’s not your decision, Commander, only the Empress can decide that!”

“But I can…”

“Aunt Jackie, please lower your shield. Let the attack happen as history dictates!”

“I can save so many lives…”

“The attack on Hawaii provides the spark that unites the American people and focuses her massive industrial base on the war effort. If the attack never happened, the whole of Europe and most of the Pacific would become enslaved to what you call the Axis powers. Millions of innocent people would lose the freedoms they know today…1941. Great Britain would fall to the Nazi forces within two years and America’s shores would be invaded in three. Also, if this does not happen, you, mom, and the others never come to exist! Connie will never be born, Aunt Jackie. I will never exist.”

“…”

“Please, Commander Cummins, don’t try to change your world’s history like this! I don’t want to die, Aunt Jackie! Please…please decrease your shield! Trust our Empress- trust in your friend.”

“…you talk just like her you know… Alex, I mean. You have her power of persuasion, her logic, and her morality. You are every bit Alex Steinert’s daughter. I’ve dropped my shield, Alexis.”

“Thank you, Commander, now can we seek protection from the impending disaster?

0806 hours, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7th, 1941

“Hey boys, y’all wanna help me?” I shouted to a group of eight Army officers entering the building I stood before. At this moment I felt cheaper than I felt onboard the Arizona some five minutes from now!

I released another button. “Y’all hear me? I’m lost an’ require some assistance. I need some straightenin’ out!” I said with as much sugar as I could muster as the men seemed to just now notice me

The sound of at least a hundred heavy, running feet filled my ears...or so I thought. The sound continued. Off in the distance, the bombing could be heard at Pearl. My eight targets had stopped, turned, and were now approaching me as planned. I noticed that I had attracted more than just them. A dozen or so more faces filled the building’s open windows.

“Hey, baby!” A voice greeted.

“Undo another button, toots!”

“Wooohooo!” Someone else shouted from the building.

My group stopped as they noticed the noise grow in volume. You could hear the planes getting closer.

“Shit! Here come some planes!”

“Hey! They ain’t ours! Hit the dirt, Honey!”

Machine gun fire then a massive explosion rocked the ground I stood on as several buildings- including the opposite end of the building before me erupted in a plume of fire and smoke. Jack’s two cousins and their buddies took off running for the nearby airfield. The men I had attracted inside poured out of the windows as smoke began bellowing out the newly shattered windows. In the mayhem that ensued, all attention to me was lost and the mysterious blonde harlot standing just outside the building smiled and instantly disappeared.

0815 hours, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7th, 1941

“Aunt Jackie, The personal protection system in my uniform has just picked up a cloud of small projectiles about to rain down on us! You might want to tune your shield for Plumbum rejection.”

“Mine too. Plumbum? What in the world is that, Allie?”

“My name is Al…oh…Plumbum, element number eighty-two- you may call it Lead, Aunt Jackie.”

“Lead, got it!”

“Where are they coming from?”

“Friendly fire, Allie- from the guns onboard the ships in the harbor. The Navy is trying to fight off the Japanese planes. All ordinance going up into the air has to come back to earth somewhere! Oh, God, no!”

“What’s wrong, Aunt Jackie?”

“My uncle…he and Davie where killed by us!”

“First you say they were killed by friendly fire, now you say we killed them?”

“The Navy, Allie! We killed our own people with misguided or stray ordinance!”

“Then we should probably prepare and stay alert, because I sense a vehicle closing on our position.”

“That would be my uncle and youngest cousin.”

“Commander, I sense a larger projectile on trajectory to this location- about twenty kilograms in mass.”

“Wonderful! A five-inch shell! This is going to be loud, Allie! I suggest you phase us out now!”

“Take my hand, Commander.”

“Here comes the car now. After I accelerate it out of the way, it will probably stop. The occupants will get out and survey the near catastrophe. We’ll have a few minutes for you to remove just the sudden acceleration from their minds, okay?”

“But mom suggested I delete even our existence, Aunt Jackie. Why would you want them to remember our meeting?”

“A feeling, Allie, just a feeling, okay? Ready?”

“It’s your call, Commander. I just picked up mom several kilometers to the north.”

“We knew that, Allie. Now! Damn that was a big explosion! Let’s head for the car.”

“We are back in normal phase, Commander. My I ask how you do it?”

“What, Allie?”

“How do you remain so calm in light of such devastation? Deafening noise, traumatic concussive force, and flying debris- you never flinched- how?”

“I hate to say this, but in times like these you just grow callus to it- you have to. Try riding out a depth charge attack in a submarine- now that’s a real experience!”

“Mom’s back, by the way.”

“Where?”

“Five meters to our right.”

Arriving back to where I had left Jack and Alexis, I positioned myself on the ground as if knocked down by the explosion.

“What took you so long, Alex?” My Ex-O asked as the two approached.

“What took me so long? What happened to ‘hey thanks for helping save my cousins, Cap?’” I complained as I picked myself up off the ground and put my jacket back on.

“Girls, are you okay? Did anyone get hit?” A middle-aged man of six feet shouted as he ran toward us. A younger man in his late-teens followed close behind - I could see the family resemblance to Jack’s previous male face. A third Hawaiian looking man stayed by the car; he was busy looking it over and then tried to get the car’s hood open.

“Honey, I thought I asked that you remove our existence. Why are we still here in plain sight?”

“Because I asked her not to, Alex.” Jack stated calmly to me while looking me straight in the eye.

“The Commander seems to think it would not be a good idea to erase our existence here, mom. She said she has a ‘feeling’.” Her tone was a little snarky.

“Since when did you start getting feelings, Jack?” I raised an eyebrow.

Any forthcoming answer or jab was quickly dropped as Jack’s uncle and cousin slowed to a stop beside us.

“Was anyone hurt here?” Jack’s uncle asked again, this time out of breath.

“No sir, we’re unharmed. Are you three okay?” I asked in concern.

“Yes, but for some reason I can’t explain how. We were moving along at a normal jaunt when suddenly the car accelerated without warning. If that strange occurrence hadn’t happened…we’d be dead.” He continued as he tried to gather his breath.

“Then it’s lucky that your car surged when it did. What are the chances of that happening?” I looked to Jack with a sideways grin. She returned it with a small tight-lipped grin of her own.

‘Incoming small ordinance!’ Rang out in my head.

Jack immediately brought her arms up in front of her. The sound of metallic rain filled our ears as the cloud of projectiles impacted against her protective shield. A scream of agony not far away replaced that sound.

We looked over in time to see the car’s driver slide off the front fender of the newer Ford. The wet red liquid left behind indicated that the shield had not been extended that far. I stared at Jack in disbelief. Alexis followed my eyes and explained.

“He was a Japanese spy, Captain.” She said nonchalantly.

Jack’s uncle and cousin looked at her confused by what she had just said aloud.

“Captain, it is not safe for us to stay here! The weapons fire from the harbor will get us all killed.” Jack snapped everyone back to reality.

“I agree Commander, let’s get out of here!” I said as we began running for any kind of shelter we could find. Jack’s shield would protect us, but we had to make it look good for our two civilians- Alexis’ Terran ability would help mask things- As long as she could concentrate.

As we ran alongside the road, gunfire could be seen impacting the ground as linear dirt plumes ahead and behind us. I hoped neither man would catch on to the fact that the void moved with us.

‘Incoming! Another twenty kilo projectile!’ Alexis screamed into my head.

“Everyone hit the ground…everyone!” Jack screamed.

The flash, concussion, and eardrum-splitting explosion occurred simultaneously!

“That was close!” I exclaimed as I again picked myself off the ground.

“Thanks for the warning, but how did you see that coming? I didn’t even hear it.” Jack’s uncle shouted out, rubbing to clear his ears. His son remained on the ground shaking with his hands over his head and covering his ears.

“Come on Davie, you have to get up and keep going!” Jack reached down to pull her cousin from the ground.

I noticed her uncle looking around us in confusion. His confused gaze centered on Jack, Alexis, and I.

“Who or what are you?”

So much for Alexis masking our gifts from them! The question was simple, but complex at the same time.

“Excuse me?” I spoke for the other two.

“That shell…it…it exploded directly over us! Look at the ground around us! Can’t you see the unscathed circle? Who are you three? How did you do that… moreover… why us?”

“Uncle Dave, I can explain!”

“Do I know you, commander?” The older man eyed Jack carefully.

“I think…” I phased out and re-phased on the opposite side of him, “that we’ve said and done too much already, David Cummins.”

“How did you,” he jumped as my voice changed location?

“It is of no concern to you. Commanders Cummins, Fleming, and I are part of a special Top-Secret unit. That is all you need to know, sir. It would be wise to forget you even saw us.” I said as officially as I could.

“Cummins? I have a nephew in the Navy! John…but…everyone calls him Jack though. Are you related to us somehow?”

“Yes, Jacquelyn is related to you, sir. Anything beyond that is classified!” I interrupted.

“Mom, I’m ready to perform the mind wipe.” Alexis cut in.

“You’re some kind of Space aliens like in the comics aren’t you?” Young David asked excitedly.

“She is”, I pointed to my daughter. “Jack and I were born here on this planet.” I smiled, ignoring my slip of tongue.

“Jack?” The older man looked stunned, “What have you done with my nephew?”

“Empress, I am ready for the mind wipe. If we are to rescue Lt. Riggby we need to proceed and leave soon.” Alexis pressed.

“Empress? What are you the Empress of, madam?” Jack’s uncle’s face grew red with anger- his voice stern.

“Uncle Dave, this is my Commanding Officer and friend, Commander Alexandra Steinert. She is known throughout the known universes as the Empress of Time and Space. We came back to this date in time to help you and Davie escape a terrible fate.” Jack broke into tears as she unexpectedly wrapped her arms around her uncle.

“Commander, we have more incoming projectiles. I strongly recommend restoring your shield if we are to continue this mission unscathed.” Alexis officially reminded her.

“Jack, hold it together.” I urged. She released one arm and snapped her fingers in the air just seconds before more bullets rained down to strike her re-deployed protective, invisible umbrella.

“You came back in time. You really expect me to believe three beautiful young women traveled back in time just to save me and my son?”

“Sons, sir, I saved your other two sons at Schofield just a minute ago.”

“How could you have done that, Commander, if that really is your rank! I don’t know of any woman making a grade higher than Lieutenant!”

“That’s where y’all are wrong, Indiana State Rep. Cummins!” I growled as I pulled him away from Jack and grabbed his hand.

The road changed to a grey pavement with yellow and white markings instead of concrete, and the vehicles on it looked more futuristic.

“Unhand me, madam! How dare you…” David Cummins stopped abruptly and looked around when I didn’t comply. “How did you do this? I demand to know how you did this! Where are we?”

“We…sir, are still on Oahu- along the same roadway and in the same location. By the style of the cars, I would say this is the early-to-mid 1990’s.”

“That’s impossible!”

“I’ll show y’all impossible!” I sneered as I quickly dragged him out into the street where car after car ran straight through us. “Any more questions, sir?” I growled as I pulled him back to the curb.

Our surroundings returned to the worn concrete road with Alexis, Jack, and young David searching the immediate area for us. I rephased us.

“Don’t do that again, Alex!” Jack advised me.

“You’ll find your uncle more receptive to our information now, Commander.” I smiled at the still quaking gentleman.

“Where did she take you dad?” Young David’s excitement was refreshing.

“I showed him the future, hun- 1992! Care to see what he saw, David?” I winked to Jack.

“Ready, Cap.”

Mr. Cummins, I want you to think about what you saw just now, if you please. David, close your eyes.”

“Wow! Look at those cars! They must be doing at least forty!” The teen’s eyes flew wide open as Jack relayed his father’s memories.

“The speed limit on this road…in that time is thirty-five, hun.” I grinned in amusement.

“Will I have a car like that, Captain?”

“Maybe, David. You’ll be sixty-eight, so you could most likely have any car you want!”

“Wow! So I live that long?” The teen wrinkled his brow.

I just smiled and nodded my head. Jack nodded her head to me in acknowledgement and thanks. I noticed Alexis smiling too.

“Mr. Cummins, what were you doing on the road at this hour on a Sunday morning?” I asked casually as he continued to stare at me.

“Huh? Oh, our plane landed last evening. We decided to stay in Honolulu overnight and meet up with my older boys this morning. They’re assigned to Schofield and had leave coming, but you already knew that.” He cautiously accused. I smiled and nodded as he continued. “Dave Jr. and I decided to surprise them with a visit.” He answered as he continued to wonder about us.

“So how did you meet up with a spy?” I nodded back the way we had come.

“He met us outside the hotel and offered us a ride to the base.”

More bullets could be heard ricocheting off Jack’s shield. Young David looked around us in fascination.

“Mother, we have to get back to Lt. Riggby.” Alexis prodded impatiently.

“Honey, we have all the time in the world. Never forget that.”

“But, Cindy.”

“Alexis, honey, I can always take us back a few minutes. Don’t fret so much.”

“Take us back a few minutes? You wouldn’t do that?” Jack’s cousin caught the gist of the statement.

“They wouldn’t call me the Empress of Time and Space if I couldn’t, hun.”

“But we’d be,” He gulped, “killed!” The teen exclaimed.

“We wouldn’t put you back, Davie, relax!” Jack reassured her cousin.

“So you came…back?” Jack’s uncle looked for acknowledgement and received a nod. “To rescue us?”

“Yep. Jack was quite adamant about that, Mr. Cummins.”

“Why, honey? Why return and risk your lives to save Davie and I?” He posed the question to Jack.

“You’re the only family I have, Uncle Dave, since mom and pop died…” Jack stopped to think and wipe her eyes, “Last January.”

“Wait…what? Johnny didn’t have a sister!”

“I didn’t say I did, Uncle Dave!” Jack tightened her smile waiting for her uncle to put two and two together.

“Mother, his blood pressure and heart rate have doubled, we are revealing too much!”

“He can handle it, honey. Besides, this is Jack’s mission. She’s in command- you and I are just the muscle.” I giggled. “It’s her decision about how much to reveal to her family.”

More small ordinance rained down on Jack’s unseen shield.

“You’re him?” Jack’s uncle pointed with a shaky finger. Another tear fell from Jack’s face. “But you’re a girl!”

“And you’re a man…whoopty-doo! Does that fact look like it affects her performance, Mr. Cummins? She just saved all our lives by deflecting incoming gunfire several different times. Could you have done that, sir- I think not?” I said in exasperation.

“Alex, I can see this has gotten out of control. Allie, go ahead and erase us from their memories. This was wrong. I just thought that Davie…” Jack lowered her head in defeat.

“Is that such a wise decision, Aunt Jacki? If I were to wipe away our existence, your cousin may not fulfill his newly redefined destiny. Many lives would be put in danger!”

“Allie, what are you talking about?” Jack questioned.

“What my daughter is talking about, Jack, is NASA’s Apollo Eleven mission. Man’s first successful Moon landing. Without system engineers like your cousin is to become, manned spaceflight will be more hazardous than it should be. David Samuel Cummins Jr. argues with his fellow engineers about the value of carrying a few more pounds of fuel in the Lunar Lander- a decision that transforms near disaster into triumph for the United States,” I monologued.

“Empress, is it wise to reveal so much of someone’s future?” Alexis cautioned.

“To get the point across- yes, honey!”

“Davie makes that much of a contribution, Alex? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I wanted to see if what I saw in you could be developed further, Jack.”

Jack glanced at her uncle and cousin a moment then stared at me. “What did you see?”

“A woman that would go to great lengths to protect her friends and family- a woman that not only follows orders, but knows when she must occasionally ignore them and stick with her gut feelings- a woman that unconditionally gives of herself to…say…save a dying race on a far away planet?”

Jack’s uncle and cousin continued to stare at us in disbelief.

I was cut short by Alexis’ warning. “Mom, several vehicles are approaching. I recommend shifting phase.”

“What does she mean by shifting phase, Jack?” Young David asked.

“Everyone take my hands, quickly!” I shouted.

We formed a circle and joined hands just as an array of police and fire equipment came into view.

As the sirens and horns grew louder, David asked a simple question.

“What did you do, Captain? Why do we need to hold hands?”

“So they don’t see us, hun- watch.”

I moved our circle around until I was next to the road. As the first police car approached, I leaned out into the oncoming traffic. The heavy Chevrolet sped right through me. Standing straight again, I continued my explanation, but not before Jack interrupted.

“Show off!”

“As I was saying, David, Alexis and I can shift ourselves and anyone touching us slightly out of phase with reality. To those around us, we appear to vanish. We cannot be seen or heard by ordinary people. Only a few people with our ‘talents’ have any idea we’re here.”

“Talents? You call passing through solid objects, stopping bullets with some invisible ‘shield’, and traveling through time, just talents? Commander Steinert, this is nothing short of miraculous! This conflict…this new war that seems to have started could be won in a matter of days with people of your ‘talents’!”

“Which is why you must forget we even exist, Representative Cummins- I’m sorry. Alexis?” My sadness was evident on my face as I looked to the ground reluctantly.

The older man immediately froze in position.

“Jack, don’t let them harm Pop! He didn’t mean what he said! I’ll make sure your secret is kept…please!”

“Davie, Alex is right. If our identities or talents ever got out, we would be hunted down like animals- abused and mistreated…forced to do the bidding of unscrupulous people both wanton and corrupt!” Jack explained sadly.

“But you said you protect your friends and family!” Young David turned his glare to me.

“That is true, sir, the Empress has sworn to protect those she holds dear.” Alexis confirmed.

“Then why not just let us die back there? Why save us from that fate only to torture us by removing any memory of you?” The hysterical teen questioned.

“Define the word torture, hun! Would you mean the painless act of simply forgetting about us, or the disposition you both would go through convincing the authorities of our presence? You said it yourself- we are the stuff of comic books, David, equivalent to Superman himself! How long would the government allow your father to serve in their ranks if such unbelievable tales were touted as truth? Tell me then which would be the greater torture.”

“But you killed him!” He glared at Alexis.

“I did no such thing, young sir! I merely disabled his brain’s mobility functions. His breathing, thinking and vital organ functions are all normal. He simply cannot move or converse.”

“I can reason with him…get him to reconsider what he said!”

“You would do well in our sisterhood, David Cummins.” I said sadly. “Your heart is caring and your courage is outstanding! I see many similarities between you and your cousin Jack. Maybe when you are older we will approach you. For now though, we bid you farewell, young David Cummins!” I nodded to Alexis and winked. I released my grasp on Jack’s uncle.

“How did I get…David! Oh God, David! Where are you?”

We watched as Jack’s uncle scanned the area for his son, alarm written on his face.

“He really does love you, you know.” I said to the boy as he slowly opened his clinched eyes. Jack immediately focused on Alexis then me, confused.

“Captain? Commanders? Why can I still remember you?”

“Someone has to record this for the future, why not you, David Cummins?” I shrugged.

“But I’m not one of you. I’m not even a girl! How can I tell this story- you said no one would believe it?”

“True, but tales as strange as this are what make comic books fascinating- or do I need spell it out clearer, hun?”

“The Empress wants you to remember us, Davie- for whatever mystical reason, she has chosen you for this.” Jack said as she put a one armed hug to her cousin, happy his memories had been spared.

“Why?”

“Because my foresight has shown me that this encounter today…is the catalyst for you’re becoming an aeronautical engineer, David. Somebody that sides with me during the final design stages of the vehicle which will ultimately advance mankind into the Space Age!”

“We meet in the future?”

I smiled, closed my eyes softly, and nodded.

“Will I recognize you?”

“Yes, hun, I won’t have changed. We will meet several times in the future, in fact.”

“And you will always look this goo…like this?”

“Let’s just chalk it up to a very long lifespan, hun- leave it at that.” I giggled.

“My father! What about him, Em…Empress?”

“I told you I had a feeling about him!” Jack squeezed him harder.

“David Samuel Cummins Sr. will survive to retire from the Indiana State House of Representatives with a distinguished record having never known about us directly. Only through an obscure collection of comic book superheroins his son creates will he suspect anything. You, David, will not see any substantial income from these publications, but through them we remain alive in your memory until such a time as we request your presence. Is there anything else you would like to know before we return you to your father, young David?”

“Will I look as pretty as you, Jack?”

My first officer blushed profusely.

“He does have potential, mom!” Alexis giggled.

I shook my head. “If and when we approach you…possibly.” I smiled at him. “For now study hard and become the rocket scientist to which you are now meant to be! Watch closely now, David Cummins.” Jack released her hold on the teen.

Jack’s uncle instantly reappeared closer to us, moving twenty yards in the blink of an eye.

“Wow that was amazing! Can we go to the future now?”

“Sorry David, I’m afraid y’all have to time travel the old fashioned way from now until we meet again, hun.” I winked to Alexis. When she nodded, she released David’s hand. The sudden phase shift disoriented him and caused him to fall to the ground.

“David! How did you get there, I thought I’d lost you, son?”

“The Empress and…and…” The teen rubbed his head as he tried to recover. “And her two commanders- the three women that saved us from the explosion! Don’t you remember?”

“Did you hit your head, David?” His father began to search through his son’s hair for any wounds or bumps.

“I’m fine, Pop! In fact, I couldn’t be better! The Empress…she said I would be instrumental in sending a man to the moon one day! Think of it…a man standing on the moon!”

“I think you hit your head on the ground when we were thrown from the car, David! Let’s get you back into town and have you looked at!”

Jack’s cousin looked directly at us. “I know! And thank you, Empress, for saving our lives!”

“Who were you talking to David?” His father asked, looking around them.

“Angels, Pop- three absolutely beautiful angels!”

“Just couldn’t resist, could you, Jack?”

“Not me, Alex, Allie.” Jack nodded to Alexis.

I eyed my daughter, who just giggled.

“Don’t give me that, mom. You knew that was coming!”

We continued giggling, as the roadside, with its chaotic explosions, sirens, and whistles became the serene, lush tropical setting of Ni’ihau.

“Welcome back, Empress! I trust Lady Jacquelyn’s family is safe?” Melanie sang out seeing us appear. Isabeau looked quite shocked having been caught with a large piece of pineapple in her mouth. She quickly swallowed.

“Welcome back, sister.” She said as both greeted Alexis with a customary bow.

“Have you righted yet another wrong, Alexandra?” Mina asked as she turned around.

“I have…we have, Highness.”

“And has she…” Mina stopped midsentence nodding to Jack.

“Everything is as it should be, Mina- except…”

“Ah yes, Miss Riggby.”

“Ready to jump into the fire, ladies?” I looked around and saw every head nod acknowledgement.

“Melanie and Isabeau, pay particular attention to you’re built in protection systems. Alexis can tell you how fast the bullets are flying around.” Both women nodded to me then to Alexis as I assumed she was giving them the details telepathically.

“Alexis, you protect Mina and keep her and Isabeau phased out when we separate. I’ll keep Jack and Melanie phased out. Jack will transmit the plan to y’all now.”

“Ready, Alex.”

I repeated my plan in my mind while Jack relayed it to the others.

“Under no circumstances are we to be seen! Remember that Emily will be only a few yards away when the explosion occurs- she is not to be approached. That includes telepathically- understand?” Again everyone nodded.

“With any luck this should be the last time any of us need visit this accursed point in history. Please take my hand.”

The pleasant solitude of Ni’ihau abruptly exploded into the unfolding chaotic hell of 1941 Pearl Harbor. We had arrived on the shoreline of the harbor just behind the base hospital. In the harbor to my right, a listing, heavily damaged, smoking destroyer was trying to make for open water. I remembered that her skipper would realize that he wouldn’t make it and would instead run her aground nearby. Overhead, another squadron of Japanese planes buzzed past, eager to inflict their own damage on the unprepared Pacific Fleet.

“Why, it’s a wonder anyone lived through this, Alexandra!”

“Sometimes I think the dead had the better deal, Mina. Time to get to work. Now, according to Emily, Cindy was in her office when the blast occurred. She saw the hallway wall erupt and found Cindy lying in a heap on the far wall with a broken neck. Jack, it’s up to you to cushion her impact and see that she just suffers a dislocation. Cindy will just be knocked out though. Honey, it’s your job to make Emily think she’s dead. A simple suggestion to her should suffice because of all the confusion. Any questions?”

“Empress, what would happen should Lady Emily be too close?” Isabeau inquired with concern.

“I’m leaving that a judgment call, sweetheart. You do what you feel is necessary to protect her.” I advised with a smile. “Remember, she has never met you three yet.”

Isabeau’s eyes widened. “I had not thought of that, Empress, she has no knowledge of our existence.” A sly smile appeared on each of my Terran sisters as expected.

“Let’s break up into two groups and follow the plan.” I said as I released Alexis’ hand. She, Mina, and Isabeau immediately disappeared.

Turning the corner of the building, we ran headlong into the mass hysteria created by the attack. Men and women ran around in complete disarray. Severely wounded men started arriving by any means possible. Concentrating on staying out of phase, I led Jack and Melanie into the building.

“How do you manage to ignore the people that move through us, Empress? It is quite unnerving!” Melanie asked with a slight loss of color in her face.

“You get used to it, honey. Cindy’s office is just ahead. Alexis, Mina, and Isabeau should be in position.”

“Isabeau confirms our sisters are in position, Empress.”

“Thank you, Mel. Jack, get ready, it won’t be long now.”

“Empress, a large projectile of about fifty kilograms has been released from an approaching air vehicle! Its trajectory indicates this building as its terminus!”

“I have a lock on Cindy, Cap. I have a small shield around her for protection.”

“Let some of the debris through, Jack, this has to be believable.”

“Aye, Cap.”

A second later, Emily appeared down the hallway walking towards us.

“Isabeau! No!” Melanie shouted out suddenly. Her friend appeared directly behind Emily.

“Ensign Scott?” Emily immediately stopped and turned toward the voice. “Emily, what’s happening? It sounds like all hell broke loose outside!”

“We’re under attack, Lieutenant! Gather everybody up and get ready for casualties!” Emily said as she tried to figure out who was talking to her.

“I have a shield around both of them, Alex.” Jack reassured Melanie and I.

“Will do, M’lady!” Isabeau acknowledged and immediately looked frightened.

Emily seemed not to notice the slip as she turned toward us and started walking again. Isabeau quickly disappeared behind her.

“Got her!” Jack shouted as the wall ahead of us erupted with a huge crash of thunder, smoke, and rubble. Cindy’s body flew out, struck the far wall about half way up and came to rest in a heap on the debris-covered floor. Isabeau’s delay was just long enough to save Emily’s life. The smoke and smell of cordite hung heavy in the air as Emily rushed to her friend’s side and felt for a pulse.

“Cindy! No! No! No, you can’t be dead!” Emily wailed as she covered her eyes and cried.

“My turn”, Melanie said as she released her hold on my hand. She stumbled a second as she shifted back into phase then stumbled through the rubble.

“Emily, we have to get out of here! Another one may hit at any moment! There is nothing we can do for her now, but the men outside…we may be able to help them! Come on, let’s hurry!”

Isabeau reappeared and carefully approached the wreckage and Cindy’s seemingly lifeless body.

“Emily, I couldn’t find anyone else. We need to get out of this building before another bomb hits!”

Both women helped Emily stand and guided her out of the building. Alexis and Mina appeared where Isabeau had previously.

“Keep your shield up, Jack. I’m going to re-phase us.

“Those two are incorrigible, mom!” Alexis shook her head.

“More like courageous, Love! A right proper example of Terran morality!” Mina confirmed.

“Of course, Highness, my humblest thanks, Aunt Mina. Their selfless acts will be broadcast planet-wide on our return to Terra.” Alexis backed down and praised her sisters.

“Alex, I think we should get Cindy out of here.” A gut-wrenching crack filled the vacant hallway despite the mayhem outside followed by Cindy’s blood-curdling scream of pain. “I fixed her neck, Alex, she should start healing immediately.”

“You didn’t tell me it would hurt so bad, Captain!” Lt. Riggby winced as she frowned.

“I didn’t tell you any of this, Cindy.”

“Oh ya. Why the hell not?” She groused then hit me lightly in the arm as she rolled her head around trying to work out one last kink or two.

I looked at her with a scowl. “And just why did you do that, Miss Riggby?”

“You could have at least told me what to expect, Captain! I’ve been worried sick the past few days about how I was supposed to die!” She finally took note of my face, dropped her gaze, and blushed. “Sorry…for that…um…I didn’t mean to hit you…ma’am…er Captain, sir…ma’am.”

“Like I said before, Cindy, we’re all equal here, I take no offense- just don’t do it again.”

“Aye, Captain. So…now that I’m dead…what do I do now, Empress?” Cindy asked giving her neck one final crack.

“Now I show you to your new home, Miss Riggby. Please take my hand.”

“So where you takin’ her, Cap?” Jack asked.

“That’s not for you to know at this time, Commander. I believe you three should go outside and help with the triage’. Stay as far away from Emily as physically possible though, you two!” I pointed to Jack and Mina. Honey, you can help Melanie and Isabeau, but no miraculous recoveries, got it?” I said seriously. “I’ll be right back.”

“Ready for a little trip, Cindy?”

“Past, present, or future, Empress?” Her eyes gleamed with excitement.

I just smiled at her as we disappeared.

1035 hours, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7th, 1941

“Commander, Captain Steinert has returned.”

“It’s about time, Allie! Alert the others. Where is she by the way?”

“At our insertion point, Commander. Behind this facility.”

“Quiet you two!”

“Corpman, this one can be saved, take him over there.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Lieutenant, hand me that new tube of lipstick. That was the last of this one.”

“Whose idea was it to use lipstick to mark the casualties, Commander Cummins?

“It could have been Emily, but I’m not certain.”

“Commander Fleming, that man was not going to survive. What made you decide to repair that leaking artery?”

“A hunch, Mina. I had a gut feeling, as Aunt Jackie calls them.”

“Bless you child! Your mother and father have taught you well!”

“Thank you again, Lady Mina.”

“You gals sure are perty ‘nough ta be princesses alright!”

“I think you should close your eyes and be patient now, kind sailor!”

“See what happens, ‘Lady’ Alexis?”

“Could we limit the noble labels until we are done here, Commanders?”

“Of course, Lieutenant Smith. Isabeau and Melanie have finished up with their patients and confirm they will arrive here shortly.”

“Good, if I have to see another burned corpse, I may just lose my stomach instead of just my breakfast this time!”

“Easier to inflict damage than to observe it, Jacquelyn?”

“I wasn’t the only one to lose my breakfast, Mina, and yes…it is. Unfortunately, I’ve seen both sides…many times, in fact. Neither ever sat well with me, ma’am.”

“I’m sorry, Jacquelyn.”

“Lady Alexis, we are ready to go. With the amount of confusion here our departure should go unnoticed.”

“I agree. Allow me to finish diagnosing this kind gentleman and then we shall phase…what? Um…phase shift.”

“What have you sensed, Lady Alexis?”

“Nothing. For a moment I thought I felt…nothing. Let me finish up here, Isabeau.

“I read a severely lacerated liver, several centimeters of perforated intestine and several pieces of metallic shrapnel embedded dangerously close to this one’s heart. He has an hour at best, M’Lady.”

“Well, kind sir, for paying us thy kindest compliment, I shall grant thee a favor.”

“You shouldn’t have removed all the shrapnel, Allie. A few pieces left behind would have guaranteed him a trip stateside.”

“Who else would be brave enough to help raise the American Ensign at a place called Iwo Jima, Aunt Jackie? Please take my hand, ladies, we must be on our way, Mother is... Wait! I knew it! More sisters are here! I can feel them! At first I was not sure, but now I know Cassi and Reilly are here somewhere!”

“But how would they arrive, The past Empress cannot travel this far ahead…unless…”

“Take my hand and let’s find out, sisters!”

“About time you four got back here! Have we repaired yet another hiccup in history, honey?”

“The glitches you and Aunt Mina revealed to us have been rectified, yes, although, I wouldn’t wish to repeat this process ever again. This era’s medical practices are far beyond barbaric. How does Aunt Emily deal with it?”

“It’s all in what you’re use to, kid.”

“Where to now, Empress?”

“First to the past then to the future, I imagine.”

“I suspect you’ve been there already…Aunt Alex.”

“Really? What gave me away, honey?”

“I felt the presence of Cassi and your daughter, Reilly, Empress.”

“Couldn’t put one over on you, hun! Alex will be right back. She went to collect those two. They’re overdue by about fifteen minutes.”

“She didn’t buy it, did she, Alex,” I asked as I re-phased with Reilly and Cassi in tow?

“Not a minute, sis. These two,” She pointed to Isabeau and Melanie, “they never said a word though.” Alex Reilly told me. Alexis glared at her Terran sisters, receiving tense smiles from both. “I trust Cindy is in place?”

“Everything is set, Alex, I just have to go collect the others from around the island. Care to come and help, dear?” I smiled at Alexis.

“If that is what the all-knowing Empress wishes, M’Lady.” Alexis bowed before me with a pout.

“Just stop that this instant, young lady! That look is not becoming to a proper ‘Princess’!”

“You heard that, did you, Cap?” Jack blushed.

“I thought y’all performed admirably, Jack- even these two!” I gestured to Reilly and Cassi.

“Lady Alexis, we have helped the Empress both here and in her time. Would you care to bare witness?” Cassi interupted.

“One at a time, Cassiopeia! You first then Lady Reilly.”

“You put those two through their paces, Alex?” I asked Alex Reilly.

“There was this one territorial squabble with Caesar that needed…modifying.”

“Which one…um, Caesar?”

“I believe his name was something like Caligula. Smart man- decent engineer, but he made Genghis Khan look like Thomas Beckett! Cassi straightened him out though. I’m really proud of them both, Alex.”

“I’m sure they’re fathers will be proud too, sis.”

“You did WHAT?” Alexis suddenly shouted out, stopping our conversation.

“I sank his barge, Lady Alexis! He deserved it after causing so much pain and suffering to his people! I would do it again given the chance! The man is evil and perverted beyond any moral codes, here or on Terra!”

“She sunk his royal barge, Alex?” I asked stunned.

“Straight to the bottom of the lake- one minute flat! The old miscreant barely made it off with his toga!” She giggled as she used her down-turned thumb to indicate the sinking. How poetic, I thought.

“We are all very proud of you, Lady Cassiopeia and you, Lady Reilly. All Terra will be thrilled by your exploits here on your maternal home.” Alexis praised the two now older teens. As planned, I had returned to Reilly and ancient Kili a year later.

“Honey, are we ready to go fetch the other girls now?” I interrupted.

“As you wish, mother.”

“Fine, take Cassi and Jack with you. Cassi knows whom we left here at the hospital. Three in total I believe.” I looked to Cassi- she nodded. “I’ll take Mina and Melanie over to Hickam Field, and Alex, you, Reilly, and Isabeau get the others from Schofield. Meet back on Ni’ihau in twenty minutes.”

1105 hours, Ni’ihau, Hawaii, December 7th, 1941

“Where are you, Alex Reilly?” I asked into the air, seeing that she was ten minutes late.

“Maybe she was not able to return, Alexandra?”

“No, Mina, another piece of the puzzle we call the future has been placed.”

“Well I think it’s wonderful, Isabeau!” Alex Reilly said as she and the last ten women appeared to our right.

“There have to be appeals and approval hearings before any decision can be granted, Empress! You above all people know this as Terran law!” Isabeau argued back.

“This is Earth, honey, not Terra! We play by our own rules here, and the Empress has spoken!”

“What, pray tell, are we arguing about now, sis?” I rolled my eyes.

“Reilly has a boyfriend, Cap” Jack answered quickly.

“Is that so? And does my niece’s boyfriend have a name, Commander?” I raised a brow.

“David, Cap.” Jack said sadly.

“Click!” Alex Reilly, Mina, Alexis, and I all said together.

“You all knew?”

“Really, Jacquelyn, you have to ask that? I should think you would have had a ‘gut’ feeling about it!” Mina replied light-heartedly.

“You knew about that too?”

“That and more, Commander Cummins!” Yuuka shouted as she flew close to my EX-O’s face and then flew away in a blur.

“A pixie, Alex? Really?” Jack said aghast.

“An’ maybe a wee leprechaun here an there too, Jackie me darlin’!” I laughed in my best Irish accent.

“No!”

I gave her a wink.

“Yuuka, thank you for remaining grown up, sweetheart!” I called out. “I know it was hard for you to resist your gift, but the hospital grounds are no place for pixies to be seen! Strong drugs and delirious fever spawn much more dangerous and ugly demons there!”

“Thank you, Captain.” The enlarging figure said as she moved toward me.

“For what, Yuuka?”

“For allowing me to atone for some of my peoples’ sins, Captain. I feel that by helping here, I have begun to make up for all we have caused. I apologize for them, ma’am.”

“Our’s or her’s, Cap?” Jack nodded to Alex Reilly.

“1944 to 2026BC, Jack. Didn’t you read my report or Scotti’s?”

“Unlike you, Alex, I can’t control time, therefore, no I didn’t, ma’am!”

“This is Cami’s equal, Empress? She looks exactly like Billie- except for her attitude.”

“Yuuka, remember what I told you about Cmdr. Cummins before we left?” I put my thumb and forefinger together and squeezed them tight.

Yuuka gulped loudly as her eyes widened. “Good to make your acquaintance, Commander. I…I think I’m wanted over there!”

I laughed as Yuuka quickly joined another group a short distance away.

“What exactly did you tell her about me, Alex?” Jack eyed me critically.”

“Just that you’re feeling crampy and a little agitated.” I smiled at her with a slight giggle. “I may have also hinted to the fact that, when agitated you can catch a fly in mid-flight and rip it’s wings out instantly then by just thinking about it, cause it to explode then and there- nothing too fantastic.”

“Noooo. Nothing too fantastic, Alex! What possessed you to tell her that?”

“It’s true, isn’t it?” I winked.

“That was just a little experiment though, Cap! The thing kept flying around me being a nuisance! It was really starting to get on my nerves!”

“And that describes Yuuka to a tee, Jack.” I broke out into a full laugh as I remembered Yuuka’s first few days with us knowing Jack was watching.

“Oh. Ya, she can be, um…trying, can’t she?”

“You have no idea, Commander!” Alex Reilly cut in as she joined the conversation.

After a round of tearful goodbyes, I offered Jack my hand.

“Okay, Cap, where to next? I could sure use a bath.”

“You and I head back to base, Jack.”

“Is that it? We just head back to base? What about Mina?”

“You and I head back to base, Commander. We have reports and duties to complete.”

“But Mina.”

“Mina has agreed to join Alex,” I gestured to Alex Reilly, “As tutor to her and Reilly. She will also provide a trans-temporal communications link between us and Alexandra Reilly.”

“She’s leaving us, Cap? When did she agree to this? Or did she?” Jack asked conspiratorially.

“This was her decision, Jack. I had no say in the matter, as my half-sisters will attest. I don’t want her to go any more than you, but Mina has her mind made up.” I shrugged my shoulders in resignation.

“So we just go home and resume our boring everyday drudgery- as if none of this happened- as if evil Alex never tried to kill you, huh?”

“Something like that Jack.” I dropped my volume a little as I tried to force those memories to a forgotten corner of my mind. I noticed Jack’s expression darken for a moment. She changed the subject quickly.

“Will you ever tell me where you took Lt. Riggby, Alex?”

“Nice try, Commander. One day you will learn her whereabouts,” I paused dramatically, “but not today.” I gave her half a smile. “As for boring and normal, that will never be the case, Jacquelyn Cummins. We have plenty more adventures to share on this newly extended journey we call our lives. And I can assure you, traveling with the Empress of Time and Space is an adventure all its own!”

“Of that I’m sure, Alex!”

“Best of all, Jack,” I looked into her eyes, “sharing them with a good friend makes it all worthwhile! Let’s go home.”

Jack and I hugged each other.

My brightly lit office replaced Pre-base Ni’ihau.

“No goodbyes, Alex?” Jack said as she noticed our surroundings had changed.

“None necessary, we’ll see them again. Why don’t you go get that well-deserved bath, Jack?”

“Not until you tell me why Cassiopeia is tagging along with us, Alex!” I put on my best tense smile. I had been caught…we had been caught.

“How did you know I was here, Lady Jacquelyn? I thought myself masked completely!” The girl appeared behind me, her hands on my waist.

“If the Empress can feel you, Cassi, I can feel you through her thoughts.”

“I am truly sorry for any misdirection, M’Lady. I felt I needed to travel with you.”

“If you felt so strongly, Cassi, why not just ask?” I softened my smile slightly.

“I feel it to be just the last throngs of my childhood, Empress. This last day has challenged me to assume more responsibility- to confront my fears so that I may help others, and it has made me think about my direction in life.”

“And there I just thought you felt you had to stow away because you felt someone here can use your help. Silly me.” I said in all seriousness as I glared at the shying teen.

“You shouldn’t be here. Cassiopeia Darough! This is a wartime military installation and is no place for children of noble birth from other planets!” Jack growled, making the girl cower even more. “What occurs if something happened to you? It could cause friction between our worlds at the minimum!”

“Um…Jack?” I tapped my Ex-O on the shoulder. “Commander, she just finished diagnosing and treating our wounded at Pearl Harbor. She, as well as many others, forcibly grew up that day, my friend. Cassiopeia has proven she is a competent soldier, as have we. I see no reason why she shouldn’t be here. She already displays the rank of Ensign in our Navy.”

“Aye, Cap, but what will Cami do when she finds out?”

“She knows, Jack. I let her know just before we left.”

“And?”

“And she has no problem with Cassi participating in humanitarian missions- especially this one, Jack.” I raised my hand to stop her from saying anything else and turned my attention back to our young Ensign.

“Cassi, your orders are to go three buildings over, knock on the door, but do not wait for an invitation before you enter. There is an older woman there who suffers from age-related muscular weakness. I would like you to help her from her bed and escort her to the infirmary directly across the grounds. You will introduce yourself as Ensign Darough and announce your orders, but will restrain yourself from using your gift, is that clear, Ensign?”

“Aye, Captain Steinert!” She exclaimed, jumping to attention.

“Oh, and Ensign Darough, she may talk funny, but I think you will understand her.

“Aye, Captain.”

“Off with you now, Ensign.” I ordered. Cassi performed an about face, walked to the door, and exited the office. I offered Jack my hand and we phased out.

“Mariah, Alex? I hadn’t known she was that bad, but why Cassi?”

“Didn’t you notice, Jack? She’s Mariah’s temporal twin!”

“How did I miss that, Cap?”

“Maybe because she’s so young, Jack. I had quite the shock when I woke up in Citadel and saw her looking down on me.”

“Will Mariah notice, you think?”

“It depends on how old Mariah looked after her Mahanilui, Jack, but we’re about to find out! Come on.” I pulled us through the sidewall of my office. “Shortcut.” I giggled.

Jack and I reached Mariah’s quarters just as Cassi finished knocking.

“Pardon the interruption, ma’am, I’m Ensign Darough. The Captain has assigned me to help you up and escort you over to the infirmary.”

“What manner of concoction hath Emily wantonly assumed try me this time, child?”

Cassi scrunched her face momentarily. “M’Lady, me knows not for what she doth prescribe, only that thy humble servant hath since received warrant with thy safe conveyance to thy honorable practitioner! Shall I be remiss to that end, I fear reprisal.”

“Nay, our Empress is hence not capable of such sordid dealings, young page. Only goodness flows from such heaving bosoms! Come close and render thy hand, child.”

“I hated reading Shakespeare in school, Alex! Do you think she knew him?” Jack asked me. I just put a finger to my mouth then pointed for him to watch the unveiling scene.

Cassi noticeably flinched as the two women touched, yet she never let her grip loosen.

“Ouch! M’Lady, why hast thou inflected the mystic ball of the saint upon thy offered hand, I have done nay to ye less render assistance?” Cassi cried out.

“Stand assured, child, the pox hither be total surprise to thee. Tis a matter should be charged our Empress for she is wise and cunning!” Mariah stood straight at her bedside and looked around the room and then at her aide.

“Cunning, M’Lady? Me thinks the Empress gentle, wise, neigh forgiving, cunning doth imply treachery!”

“Aye, young page- treachery indeed! Our Empress hath employed clever treachery cloaked of kindness, deviously depriving old scratch his deserved prize!”

“Me understands not, M’Lady What trick hath the Empress played of such two so beloved?”

“Trick? Indeed! What say you, scheming Empress? Present thyself!” Mariah called out to the room in general.

I couldn’t take it anymore- I just couldn’t! Jack and I re-phased.

“Did people really talk like that, Ensign Banes? To be honest it is very, very annoying! As a result Cmdr. Cummins must empty another bottle of aspirin to dispel her newest migraine!”

“If you’ll excuse me, Captain?” Jack held her head as she left- this time through the building’s door.

“Why trick me into helping this woman, Empress?” Cassi asked in confusion.

“Mariah, turn to face your benefactor, please.” I asked. Already her gray hair was darkening- the curve of her spine easing.

“You are me,” Cassi cried out in surprise!

“Captain, why enlist this child? It was my decision to lapse into oblivion!” Her speech was already becoming more contemporary.

“Maybe so, Mariah, but it is my job to make sure the proper crew member is available for the needed circumstance. I trust you are beginning to feel better?”

“Aye! But why not leave me hence?”

“My sister, Alex Reilly requests your considerable knowledge and abilities to commission vessels for transit to the neighboring islands and beyond.” I said as I noticed the wrinkles in her face smoothing. “She is in need of your expertise in the old ways of ship-building. Remember, no person before 1860 has seen a steel ship and you are the only person alive with the ability to construct a seaworthy wooden craft.”

“So ye resurrect me from death’s grasp tasked to servitude?”

“No.” I shook my head in disagreement, “I revitalized you because we all love you, Mariah! Your passing would create great sorrow amongst our sisters. I arranged this because we are all greedy at heart and wish to enjoy your company a while longer.”

“But ye still task me to build a grand vessel fer thoust past Empress?”

“If you would consider it, ma’am.” I bowed to her with a flourish of my hand.

Mariah let out a hearty laugh. “Never thought I’d see the day a royal would bow to me, Empress!” She said as she hugged me tight. “Sincere thanks, M’Lady!”

“As for thee, thy naive accomplice, how have I overlooked thee in such a small encampment?”

“M’lady, I was not privy to our Empress’s whims, nor am I of this world, but of another, many leagues from here.” Cassi pointed to the sky.

“Cassiopeia is the daughter of Camille Darough, Mariah. She was born on a planet called Terra, in a city called Citadel, many hundreds of light-years from Earth. It is a wonderfully placid world devoid of strife and war. I have been there thrice…” God, she had me talking like that now. “Three times this month and will return many more times. I don’t think you would like the place, Mariah, as it has little surface water.”

“A world with no oceans? How does one survive without the sea’s precious bounty?”

“I’m sure Cassi can take you on a visual tour. She is gifted with telepathy as are all native to her world- except one. I warn you though, she has her mother’s disposition and gift also.” I winked at the two women and turned for the door.

As I reached for the doorknob, I turned back to the silent pair. “I want you both in my office ready for temporal transit at 0800 tomorrow- don’t be late, Miss Darough!”

“Carry on.” I said before leaving.

0800 hours, Atlantis-Minor, Ni’ihau, May 12th, 1944

“Capt. Steinert, Ensigns Darough and Banes reporting as ordered.” Mariah spoke for both women as they presented themselves before my desk. I noticed the two now looked similar in age.

“Are we ready to go for a trip with the Empress then?” I asked with a pleasant smile.

“May I ask if we’re going to the past or future, M’lady?” Cassi asked boldly.

“Yes.” I responded without specifying.

“Which is it, Empress?” Mariah tilted her head slightly. That was new for her, I thought, then remembered the two now shared memories and some character traits.

Realizing what she had just done, Mariah shook her head to clear it. “It is a bit disorienting to have such youth again, Captain.”

“I understand, Miss Banes. The future Empress was but eighteen when we touched. I understand the feelings completely, Mariah.”

“Well, if we’re leaving…” Cassi blurted out.

“A trip cannot start if all attendants are not present, Miss Darough- patience.”

The door to my office opened quickly and Carroll rushed in and went to attention. “Skip, radar has a plane approaching from Pearl. It should be here in ten. Were we expecting the Admiral, Alex?”

“As a matter of fact, yes, Carroll, the Admiral has been invited on a trip!”

“Aye, Skip, I’ll alert the dock.”

“Thanks, Carroll.” I responded and smiled at her as she looked at Ensigns Banes and Darough then rolled her eyes quickly to the ceiling before leaving.

“Ladies, if you will accompany me to the dock?”

“Welcome to Atlantis-Minor, Admiral Demmit! I hope your flight was smooth.” I greeted Uncle Rick with my most heart-felt smile. My crew held our salute until the Admiral returned it, which was significantly longer as he tried to figure out how we knew of his arrival.

A few of the girls helped him onto the pier as a few more received his gear.

Turning to the PBY’s crewman, Demmit dismissed the plane.

“I’ll contact Pearl as to schedule my return. Per my orders, you’ve seen none of this, understand?”

The airman nodded as he motioned with his free hand to the pilot. After pushing off the plane from the dock, the PBY started her engines and taxied away. We all watched silently as the plane took to the sky a few minutes later.

“So you knew I was coming, Captain?” Admiral Demmit finally growled.

I nodded with the big smile still on my face.

“You’ll cause this Admiral to take early retirement if he can’t surprise his best boat crew once in a while, Alex.” The old man chuckled.

“I’ve been expecting you, Admiral.” I calmly replied, still smiling.

“Should I ask for how long you’ve known, Captain Steinert?”

“Would it make any difference, Admiral?”

“You know, Alex, I just can’t get used to this more playful demeanor of yours. Things were much more acceptable when I still had the upper hand.”

“I’ll try to remember that, sir!” I saluted him once more- as did everyone else.

“At ease, ladies.” Demmit said as he saluted back. His eyes seemed to squint past me for an instant. “Ensign Banes? I was not aware you had a twin on this base. Have you changed your makeup or hair, my dear?”

“Niegh, Admiral, I was not privy to her existence prior to last eve, sir.”

Cassi took a step forward. “Ensign Cassiopeia Darough, Admiral.” She said with a smile as she saluted her superior officer.

“Ensign…Darough, is it? I don’t believe we’ve met.” Demmit returned her salute and offered his hand. “And where is home, Ensign?”

“Citadel, sir.”

“The Citadel…as in South Carolina, dear?” Admiral Demmit frowned and looked over to me. “Captain Steinert, I wasn’t aware you were recruiting from the services now!”

“Oh...no, sir, Citadel is the capital city of Terra, fifth planet from the blue dwarf star, Solara, sir.” Cassi quickly clarified.

Demmit’s jaw dropped as he looked to me for confirmation of the assumed joke.

I just stood there, closed my eyes, and nodded once.

“You can’t be serious, Commander! This woman’s an…” Demmit barked before cutting himself off.

Again I stood there with my eyes closed, and nodded once more.

Admiral Demmit shook his head. “They never covered this one at Annapolis!” He said to himself.

“Ensign Darough and several of her sisters assisted with the wounded at Pearl back in ’41, sir.” I stated proudly.

The old man just looked between Cassi and I several times before replying.

“The United States thanks you for your assistance, Miss Darough.” Uncle Rick then did something unusual- he hugged Cassi then whispered “I thank you from the bottom of my heart, Cassiopeia Darough!”

“Glad I could help, sir.” Cassi’s smile out grew her face.

Uncle Rick broke his hold a moment later and again looked at the three of us.

“Going somewhere, Captain…or should I say ‘Empress’?” He pointed to our dress whites.

“As a matter of fact, we’ve been waiting for the last member of our party, Admiral.”

Demmit looked to either side of us. I noticed Jack, on my right, shake her head ‘no’ and, Emily on our left, did exactly the same with a smile. Uncle Rick sighed.

“I see. When do we leave,” he said in defeat?

“As soon as you change into your dress whites, Admiral.” I said seriously.

“I am in uniform, Captain!” Demmit growled.

“With all due respect, Admiral, your present garments will not protect you quite as well as the uniform we had tailored exclusively for you, sir.” I advised. “Cmdr. Cummins, could you escort the Admiral to his quarters and present him with his new uniform? I’ll be there in a moment to instruct the Admiral in its use.”

“Aye, Cap. Admiral, if you will follow me, sir?”

“Alex! What is this about?”

“Please, Admiral, we only have your personal safety in mind, sir.”

“Give me instruction- for a uniform, Captain?”

“Humor me, Admiral Demmit.”

Uncle Rick stared at me with an angry scowl before offering his arm to my Ex-O and walking off the pier toward his quarters.

As I approached the building, I heard Admiral Demmit complaining.

“Commander, what is so special about this uniform as opposed to my others- beside the poor fit?”

“Alex is on her way, Admiral. I’ll let her explain. Its better you hear it from her, sir.”

“I agree. The fit is a bit rough, Uncle Rick- easy enough to fix though.”

“Have you been studying to become a tailor, Alex?”

“No sir, Uncle! We just need to turn it on.”

“Turn it on, Alex?”

Jack smiled at the old man’s response.

“Uncle Rick, I want you to think the phrase ‘enable security’ while putting your right index finger on your left sleeve’s cufflink.”

“And this procedure accomplishes what, Alex?” Demmit asked sarcastically.

“It registers your finger print and bio-signature with the onboard computer, Uncle.”

“Of course, how ignorant of me!” He said sarcastically as he performed the requested operation. “Wait, where did that chime come from?” He asked looking around.

“That was the system accepting your parameters, Uncle Rick. You’re now ready to activate your uniform. I’d like you to think of a unique word or sequence- one that only you can know and remember. This will be used as your personal password. Let me know when you’ve selected one, Admiral.” I instructed.

“Okay, Captain, now what?”

“Great, now you need to touch your left sleeve cufflink again and think this sequence, sir, ‘your password’ then ‘enable’ followed by ‘your password’ again. You’ll know if it was successful or not.”

Uncle Rick jumped with a start and frantically looked around the room at some invisible entity.

Jack and I watched with amusement.

“Very Good, Admiral. The information you are seeing is in your mind and not actually before you. It may take a moment to become comfortable with it, sir. In the meantime, Jack will download the instruction manual to you. After that she will guide you through some of the more popular features.” I gave Admiral Demmit a discriminating eye. “Jack, first show him how to make alterations.” I winked at her.

“Aye, Cap.”

Minutes later, Uncle Rick, Jack, and I met up with Ensigns Banes and Darough.

“This is a marvelous piece of equipment, my dear. Should I even ask where it was manufactured?”

“It was made on Kili Island, Uncle. Where it was designed is another matter altogether I’m afraid.” I glanced over to Cassi.

“My father and Lady Alexis’ father designed and later modified the prototype for our Empress, Admiral Demmit. She liked the design so much that she commissioned them for every one of us, sir. It is the first cooperative venture between our two worlds.

“…”

“Did you tell him of the emergency defensive properties, Empress?” Cassi beamed.

“Emergency defenses, Alex?” Demmit stopped and glared at me.

“Yes, like when she was attacked by her dimensional twin! How it delivered her to Terra nearly expired!”

“You almost died, Alex? Did she just say I almost lost you?” My uncle’s voice jumped an octave as his face went crimson.

“That is enough, Ensign! I thought you would have learned the finer points of discretion before leaving Terra!” I hissed in anger. The woman cowered and looked on the verge of crying.

“Stand down, Commander!” Demmit growled at me as he put a protective hand on Cassi’s shoulder. “Miss Darough, I would love to hear about the exploits of my niece! Maybe later though.”

“Alex, maybe I should require you to file reports on the ‘Empress’ activities as well as your ‘regular’ missions!”

“I was perfectly fine, Uncle Rick.”

“Not from what I’m seeing at the moment, Captain!”

I glared at Cassi again.

“He is your Uncle, Empress. He…family deserves to know!” She said, this time standing her ground.

There was that strict Terran protocol again!

“Sometimes, Cassi, it is not wise to follow Terran protocols while visiting other worlds!”

“I disagree, Alex! In this case I am in complete agreement! If something happened to you, Emily, or any other member of this base- or Kili- I would hold myself personally responsible! You women are the breath of fresh air this old seadog has sought for so long. You’ve given me a reason to believe in miracles- a reason for hope through this long war. Also you’ve all made my job truly interesting…and complicated!” The Admiral added with a cynical grin.

“Don’t we have to go somewhere, Empress?” Mariah blurted out uncharacteristically.

Uncle Rick, Cassi, and I turned our attention to her.

“My humblest apologies, Admiral, Empress, I have no idea where that outburst appeared from.” Mariah blushed.

“Unfortunately I do, Mariah.” I glanced to Cassi. “But you are right, Ensign, we must be on our way.”

“Incoming! Everyone hit the dirt!” Admiral Demmit suddenly shouted and pushed the three of us to the ground.

Looking up, I noticed we were the only ones getting our uniforms dirty and that everyone else was giving us a quizzical stare.

“What the hell was that about, Admiral?” I growled as I worked myself free of his arm and stood back up.

Jack had a huge smile on her face, which quickly vanished as the old man stood and looked up at the sky around us in concern.

“What did you do, Jack?” I asked, not understanding her smile.

Pointing up to our left, she said, “seagull at ten o’clock, Cap.”

“Oh.” I touched the Admiral’s shoulder. “Uncle Rick, you have the gain of your uniform’s alert system turned up too high. It thought the bird was an unknown aircraft, sir. Jack can show you how to turn it down.” I said as I helped brush the sand off his jacket.

“I can do it, Captain!” he said with a little anger. If he was embarrassed it didn’t show too much.

“Should I have the Chief set an extra plate or two for lunch?”

“No, Jack, we’ll be back before nightfall this time- I imagine Admiral Demmit has many things awaiting him in the morning.” I glanced over at the old man for his reaction. I received the expected glare- one that Jack and I knew well! “Anyway, after dropping Mariah off back at Reilly, Admiral Demmit, Cassi, Mina, Alex Reilly, and I will jump ahead to attend the first official ‘Convergence’.” I informed her.

“Convergence, Alex?” Jack and Uncle Rick said at once.

“A meeting of the three Empresses’; past, present, present-future, and future- a convergence of the Empress if you will.”

“So which way are we going then, Empress?” Cassi and Mariah asked more confused than ever. Mariah shook her head as she stared at her twin- she looked a little angry.

Mariah stepped in front of me to stop us and pointed. Her face displayed a rare angry scowl. “I hold you personally responsible for this, you know! Before we touched, I would have been perfectly happy to pass on- I welcomed it! Now I feel I must grow up all over again, Empress! You do realize it has been over two hundred years since I first exited female puberty and thirty-five before that from male puberty! I do not relish progressing through it once again, Alexandra Steinert!” Her snippy sounding voice was totally out of character!

“So you do not wish to accept a gift from the Empress, Miss Banes?” I asked calmly with a brow raised.

Cassi gasped as her color drained. Mariah closed her eyes a moment to compose herself before answering.

“I did not say that, M’Lady! I merely intended to express my heart-felt opinion of your rather uniquely unsolicited gift. How ungracious would it be for me not to accept a third chance at life- my thanks, Empress!” Mariah bowed with a flourish of her right hand.

“I’m not sure, Alex, but I think Mariah has the market cornered on diplomatic sarcasm! Tell me Ensign Banes, how would ‘your opinion’ have been received in the British Navy of which you previously served?” Admiral Demmit asked with a slightly amused look.

“Aye, Admiral! I’d be flogged, keel-hauled, an’ flogged twice more fer good measure- far worse punishment awaited me if I were a lass at the time!”

“Then it’s a good thing you’re a member of Captain Steinert’s crew in the American Navy, isn’t it, Ensign Banes? I could think of less tolerant CO’s to transfer you to!”

“Neigh, Admiral, sir, impertinence is part of this life reset. As stated hence, it must be grown out of, sir. Forgive me for being so forthwith, Captain Steinert.”

“As I said before, Mariah, I understand completely. Please take my hands, ladies and gentleman. Jack, you have the Con.” I said before phasing out.

1005hrs. Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, May 12th, 2026BC

“They’re here!” I heard Reilly’s voice shout, as we appeared a safe distance away from the discriminating Airlock of Reilly Station. I rephased us immediately.

“Admiral!” Reilly immediately jumped to attention. “We were not informed of your visit, sir.” She saluted.

Uncle Rick chuckled as he returned her salute. “At ease, my dear, I assure you that I had no forewarning of this trip either.” He admitted as he welcomed her into his outstretched arms.

“I want to thank you for assisting with the wounded at Pearl, Cassi gave me a very thorough visual report.”

“Thank you, sir, it was the right thing to do.” Reilly replied graciously.

“Speaking of the right thing to do, niece?”

“Oh yes! Forgive me, Empress.” Reilly fell to one knee. “Empress, Welcome to Reilly Research Station! It is 1000hrs on May 12th in the year before your Lord, 2026.”

“Do get off you knee, honey. You know how much I hate that.”

Something flashed past my eyes and stopped in front of Cassi. Though I couldn’t hear her, Yuuka was apparently welcoming Cassi back home.

“I missed you too, pixie.” She spoke quietly and giggled.

Uncle Rick looked ready to pass out having obviously seen the hovering, five inch, green-clad woman.

I quickly took the opportunity to make introductions.

“Uncle Rick, this is Yuuka Sukiro, she and Hoshi Takara are the newest of our sisters.” I said as Hoshi appeared before him out of a stiff breeze and a blur.

“Admiral!” Hoshi stiffened up and saluted while Yuuka grew to full size beside her and also saluted.

Uncle Rick stood silent. All I needed was for him to have a heart attack! I knew, with the suit on it wouldn’t happen, but I had learned that even I could not see everything.

I leaned over to Admiral Demmit. “Admiral. Admiral, they are waiting, sir.” I whispered to get his attention.

“My reaction as well, Richard.” Mina said as she emerged from the Airlock’s door. “Do snap out of it, Richard. You should have learned by now that many strange and wondrous things are experienced whilst traveling with your niece, the Empress. Excuse me, ladies, might I get in here?” Mina stepped in front of the still saluting pair and, embracing Uncle Rick, kissed him.

“Mina?” Demmit snapped out of his stupor, “When did you get here, highness?” Uncle Rick then continued to look between Mina and the other two women patiently awaiting his salute.

“Oh, Richard, just salute the pixie and her handler. They are quite trustworthy and will not bite, I assure you.” Mina said as she moved aside.

Uncle Rick gave the two a very mechanical salute and focused on Yuuka.

“How…ho…how did you do that, young lady?”

“Do what, Admiral?” she replied with a giggle.

“How did you…um…do…that?” He pointed to her.

“Oh, do this?” Yuuka giggled as she shrank back into her wings and hovered before the old man.

Uncle Rick nodded in amazement. Hoshi just rolled her eyes and shook her head.

“You never grow out of it, do you, Yuuka-chan?” Hoshi said in exasperation.

The pixie now took light on the Admiral’s shoulder and grabbed his earlobe. Hoshi relayed what was said.

“This is my gift, Admiral Demmit, sir. I hope I have not given you too much of a start. I would like to thank you for allowing me some atonement for my peoples’ misdoings, Admiral.”

“Misdoings?” Uncle Rick said at full volume which caused us all to ‘shhh’ him and Yuuka to quickly cover her ears in pain.

“Admiral, Yuuka-chan’s ears are very sensitive at this size, I ask you to lower your voice, sir.” Hoshi said quietly.

“Misdoings?” Uncle Rick repeated at almost a whisper.

“Yes, sir.” Yuuka and Hoshi continued, “The Empress transported several of us here at Reilly to your base on Hawaii where we took part in the treatment of the wounded from the Japanese attack, sir. I wish…I wish to apologize on behalf of Japan, Admiral Demmit.”

Demmit tried to look at the tiny woman almost in tears on his shoulder, but decided to look at me instead.

“Yuuka feels she alone must make retribution for the people of Japan, Uncle Rick. She and Hoshi worked tirelessly with their Earth and Terran sisters to sort, diagnose, and treat the wounded at the hardest hit locations on Oahu. She and the others performed admirably, sir. I estimate they saved an additional eighty to ninety people if I remember my original totals correctly.”

“Could you get off my shoulder, Miss Sukiro, and return to full size, please?” Uncle Rick growled softly.

Yuuka complied with drooping shoulders. She looked very distressed as she reached full height.

“Let me ask you a question, Miss Sukiro. Did you personally participate in the attack of Pearl Harbor, 7 December, 1941?”

“No, Admiral, I was stationed on the Mainland of China at the time- Hoshi also.” Yuuka replied still looking at the ground. I noticed Hoshi drop her gaze also.

“And your ranks at the time, Miss Sukiro?” Uncle Rick continued, still with a noticeable growl.

“Hoshi was my sergeant and I was her colonel, sir!”

“Hhmmmm.” Uncle Rick paused for a long time as he just stared at the humbled girls. He looked at me as if to ask a question. I nodded.

“Tell me, colonel, how do you figure you and Miss Takara must do penance for the whole Japanese Empire? Are you two the ones to blame for the design and implementation of the attack? Are you also the ones that decided to attack China and Manchuria in order to expand the Empire?”

“No sir, I’m…we’re not, Admiral. In fact we had little or no say in any military decisions. We just did as our General commanded, sir.”

“So what you are saying, colonel, is that you followed the orders given to you and carried them out as issued?”

“Most of the time, Admiral. In some cases we didn’t…exactly.”

“Oh? Give me one such case, colonel.”

I started to get a little nervous about Yuuka’s next answer.

“When we captured the two Empresses’, Admiral. My orders were to eliminate anyone found alive on Kili Island.”

“Really?” Uncle Rick turned and glared at me. “And why did you not carry out your orders on my niece…nieces, Miss Sukiro?” He rectified his question as we both noticed Alex Reilly approaching.

“We could not figure out why two women as beautiful as them were found unconscious on an island we knew had been evacuated over a month before, Admiral. It seemed a waste to kill such beauty!”

“I see. So you just let them live- to have your way with them, colonel?”

“No, sir! In fact, I interceded on a potential digression by the guard I had posted to them! His conduct was most dishonorable, sir!”

“So, did you take action against this man, colonel?”

“I didn’t have the chance, Admiral, the Empress’ forces took the offensive in order to rescue them. At first I feared I was the lone survivor of such a brutal onslaught. Later I learned Hoshi was alive and that we had been beaten by a handful of women. No…no offense, Empress, I am just conveying the story!”

I nodded my understanding.

“A handful of women against a Japanese shore patrol- sounds about even to me.” Uncle Rick winked at me with a slight grin.

“No, Admiral, not just a patrol. Twenty-seven men died that day, sir! At the time I thought it inconceivable how we had been beaten so thoroughly. I now understand the power we faced. It has been said that ‘hell hath no fury as a woman scorned’, Hoshi and I bear witness to that fact!”

“So you seek forgiveness for your people because you were beaten by a handful of American women, is that it, Miss Sukiro? Miss Takara?”

“Two women, sir.”

“How many, dear?” Uncle Rick asked in astonishment.

“Camille Darough and Scotti Williams, Admiral.” I responded on Yuuka’s behalf.

Uncle Rick nodded his understanding as Yuuka answered his question.

“Not at all, Admiral Demmit! We did not agree with our military or Emperor! The Emperor is weak and bows to the military instead of being strong and leading his people. Many of us and many more civilians share this consensus. The Empress showed us mercy and kindness even though I struck them more than once. She…they firmly guided us when needed and provided us with truth, facts, and opportunity, asking only that we make an educated decision to stay or leave. Both Hoshi and I are very happy with our decision, sir.”

“Oh for heaven’s sake Richard, can’t you see that they have recanted? Quit taunting the girls and let’s get on with it!” Mina groused.

Mina’s impatience brought a grin to Uncle Rick’s face. “As you wish highness.”

Admiral Demmit took each girl in an arm and squeezed them tight. “Thank you for rendering assistance to the men and women of the American Military, ladies!” The old man looked up to the crowd that had grown around us. “Thank you all for your kindness, dedication, and selflessness in the treatment of our injured at Pearl Harbor. It makes me feel honored to be among those willing to make such sacrifice to help their fellow man.”

Applause rang out from all around us.

“A fine speech, sir, fine indeed!” A voice said as a familiar blonde walked through the crowd.

“Cmdr. Cummins, when did you get here? We just left you back at…” Uncle Rick again looked to me for answers.

“You have me mistaken for the Empress’s Mind Warrior, Admiral Richard Demmit.”

“Uncle Rick,” Alex Reilly cut in, “This is the reigning queen of Kili Island, Billie Sangiere. She is the temporal twin to Jacquelyn Cummins though she does not share her gift.”

“Marvelous! At this rate I would expect to meet my own ‘temporal twin’ next!” He stated sarcastically.

“Not yet, Uncle.” Alex Reilly smiled evilly.

“Stop that, sis.” I glared at her.

She giggled.

“Don’t you have a request to make of Miss Banes here, Alex?” I raised a brow and smiled.

“Spoil-sport!”

“Empresses, if you please, as ruler of this Island community, I humbly request that I be given the opportunity.”

Alex and I looked at each other and giggled as we both fell to one knee and put our right fists to our chests. “As you command, Queen Billie of Kili,” we chorused.

“You two are almost as bad as the pixie!”

“They are not, highness!” Yuuka whined in childish protest.

Billie Sangiere rolled her eyes, but stayed focused on Mariah, who had been surprisingly quiet to this point.

Cassi, on the other hand, had long since joined Reilly and each was bringing her friend up to date on everything that had happened while apart.

“Mariah Banes, as acting Queen of Kili Island, I hereby offer you commission in constructing vessels of the type worthy of trans-oceanic crossings. I cannot provide compensation of the monetary type, but shall provide ample sustenance and an over-abundance of loving thanks. What say you, Shipwright Banes?” Billie inquired in her most regal voice.

“M’Lady, why could you have not spoken in such eloquent terms in order to raise me from death’s doorstep?” Mariah asked as she looked past Billie to me.

“Because I’m not the Queen, Miss Banes.” I replied as I heard Uncle Rick clear his throat.

The nobility of the moment was broken when a crown made of local flowers floated into view behind Billie Sangiere and slowly came to rest on her head.

“Camille Darough! You ARE just as bad as the pixie!” She shouted into the air.

“Na-ah!” Yuuka’s childish voice whined back.

“You see what I have to put up with, Admiral? I trust your officers and enlisted give you far more respect than I receive here!”

“The people under my command indeed pay more respect, highness. It is my superiors and equals that act like this. One of my boat commanders, though, is as troublesome as a pixie in her own right!” Uncle Rick chuckled, as he looked my way.

“That’s just not fair!” Yuuka whined out again from somewhere in the crowd.

Billie rolled her eyes yet again. “I pray to the goddess nightly for the patience, Admiral Demmit. Still we are happy to coexist here.” Billie turned her attention back to Mariah. “So, again I ask, what say you, Shipwright? Shall you accept my humble offer or should I seek out another?”

“Aye, mum. I’ll accept yer gracious offer with one condition.”

“Speak your terms, Miss Banes.” Billie commanded with somewhat of a smirk.

“I’ll accept yer offer if, and only if, you and the residents of Kili provide assistance and inspiration in all aspects from design to completion, mum.”

“Shipwright, you drive the hard bargain, but we accept thy terms. Welcome to the Kili staff, Mariah Banes.”

Applause erupted again.

After things had once again settled, Billie glanced at Alex Reilly and I. “Empresses’, do you not have a convention to attend?”

“Yes, highness, but we formally request the following also attend. Camille Darough, Cassiopeia Darough, Reilly Reilly, Random Peltierre, Isabeau Peltierre, Melanie Moritsu, Philamina Smith, Richard Demmit, and Alexis Fleming.” I listed loudly, but held one name in reserve.

Uncle Rick gave me a rather surprised look as he watched Alexis appear from the crowd. She smiled at him, winked and took her position by my side.

“If they are willing, I see no problem, Empress. Anyone else?”

“Just one more, highness, a certain Billie Sangiere. We request her presence most of all, highness!” I said as my smile widened.

“I’d be happy to attend, Alexandra. I thought you’d never ask.”

“Whenever you’re ready, highness, we can leave. All amenities have been taken care of.” I said as the others I had listed assembled beside us and took hands.

“Ladies, see that Mariah Banes is treated like the royalty she is. We will be back…when, Alex?” Billie asked.

Alex Reilly looked to me and shrugged. I returned the gesture. “Two days, Billie.” She looked to me again and received a nod. “Two days.”

“Very well!” Billie smiled. “Let’s go have some fun girls!” Her smile turned devious.

“And when were you going to tell me about my other grand-niece, Alex? Uncle Rick asked, slightly put out.

“What fun would that be? Honestly, Uncle Rick, the fun will come when all my children meet each other for the very first time. This will be great!” I laughed. Alexis looked a little worried.

“I’m not going to like this, am I, Alex?” Uncle Rick groaned.

“Relax, you’ll have fun, and I’ll even throw in some adventure too, sir.” I said as I phased our group out.



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