South of Bikini: E10- Conference of the Empress

The first gathering of the three- figuratively- Empresses quickly degrades into a trap for Alex, her sisters, and the Admiral. After a hasty retreat, Alex and what is left of her original travel party must regroup and plan the liberation of Kili Island carefully. Relatively, can the present save the past in the future?


Copyright 2006 R.G.Beyer


South of Bikini

Episode 10

“Conference of the Empress”

1005hrs. Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, May 12th, 2028

“Empress, welcome to Reilly Research Station. It is 1000hrs on May 12th, 2028.” My Samantha immediately dropped to one knee to greet us.

“Aunt Mina!” Samantha squealed when she saw her. Standing, she ran over, wrapped her arms around the woman, and kissed her several times. When finished she stepped before me. “Mom, I’m so glad you got Uncle Rick to come!” She smiled. “Uncle Rick, we’ve missed you!” She cried, again repeating her greeting with him, and I.

As expected, Randi and her daughter Isabeau suddenly froze in place for a few seconds before announcing they had successfully connected to Reilly’s computer interface. Alex and I just shook our heads in amazement.

“Lady Alexis, she is your sister!” I heard Isabeau whisper conspiratorially after resuming human operation. Sam heard her also and grinned.

“You must be my younger sister.” Samantha moved in front of Alexis. “Hi, I’m Samantha Fleming…” Sam didn’t wait for an answer though before wrapping her arms around Alexis.

Her impulsiveness broke all formal Terran greeting protocols. In their culture, one may only introduce one’s self face-to-face if not escorted by a common acquaintance, but under no circumstances must physical contact ever be permitted initially. As a result, Alexis stood stiff and silent. Before the Terrans moved to step two of their ‘Breached Introduction Protocol’, I stepped in.

“Remember girls, you are not on Terra. May I remind you that the people of Earth are more physical, therefore a hug and possibly a kiss on the cheek is proper etiquette here. Say hello to your older sister, Alexis.” I gestured to Samantha who was staring at her in confusion.

“Did you just try to change my location, sister? Because for a second I thought I was in some hot, dense jungle.”

“You three better be nice!” I pointed at Alexis, Melanie, and especially Isabeau. “It is a defense mechanism, Sam- one that obviously needs more control.” I reprimanded the three women.

“Lady Samantha, we beg forgiveness! We were surprised by your unsolicited affection and perceived it as an attack. Our expectations for this protocol have been loosened, M’lady.” Isabeau stated most diplomatically.

“Well I hope y’all aren’t gonna be sticks in the mud, honey.” Sam laughed then paused when she got no reaction. “Well, welcome to Earth anyway, ladies. Hope you enjoy your stay.”

Samantha moved away and pulled me to the side. “Mom, I’ve seen corpses that aren’t this stiff!” She whispered as she looked conspiratorially at Alexis.

“Well I’m very happy to meet you, Lady Samantha!” Reilly interrupted. “I’m Reilly Reilly, you can hug and kiss me, if you like!”

Sam laughed. “Of course!” She repeated her greeting then moved on to her aunt. “Aunt Alex, I’ve missed you too!”

“As have I dear! I must apologize for Reilly’s forwardness; she just turned nineteen last month. So where’s the present Empress, dear, I thought she’d be here to welcome us?”

“Mom had to take care of something for Aunt Brie. She should be back soon enough. How’s everything back on your Kili?”

“Wonderfully unpredictable, honey. Billie here is constantly surprised by the things our sisters do.” She then pointed to Jack’s twin. “She just hates that!” Alex giggled before the blonde next to her cleared her throat. “Oh, I’m sorry, Billie, this is Alexandra Steinert’s daughter, Samantha. Sam, Billie Sangiere.”

“Highness, it’s good to finally meet you, ma’am.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Samantha. I was wondering when someone would get around to introductions.” Billie pointed her nose to the sky in mock snobbery and began laughing.

I noticed Sam’s mouth drop as her attention moved back to me.

“Aunt Allie, you…you…” she slowly pointed to me. “You have a fairy standing on your shoulder!” She told me in disbelief.

“Oh that thing? Ya know…they are just the hardest things to get rid of! Your Aunt Alex has tried poison, roach traps, fly paper, rudeness, even honey! This one simply just won’t go away!”

Sam laughed as I felt a hard tug on my earlobe. “What?” Yuuka shouted in my ear.

“Honey, Yuuka can’t help herself! Her gift makes her disobey orders frequently! Time to grow up and present thyself, pixie!”

“That thing? I am a person, Empress! I am not a ‘thing’!” Yuuka Sukiro griped as she grew to full size beside Sam.

Sam wasted no time putting the squeeze on her! “Welcome, pixie! I guess you’ve come to visit the others, Yuuka-chan?”

“Others?” Yuuka tilted her head in confusion.

“Ya, the other pixies! Kili is full of ‘em!” Sam laughed.

“I do not believe you!” Yuuka grumped like a five-year old.

“At last count two hundred seventy-five, Yuuka-chan. Here they come now! You know, word travels fast on a small island, hun!” Sam pointed up at the near tree line to a green swarm that was growing larger as it closed on us from port.

“Um…I have to fly now!” Yuuka said quickly as she ran and shrank at the same time. Flying off to the right, the swarm followed her back into the palms.

“Mom got your message from Aunt Brie and brought a few…descendants ahead to keep Yuuka…occupied!” Sam giggled.

“Told you we would have fun here, Admiral.” I looked over to my dumbfounded uncle and winked.

“You are so devious, Alexandra Steinert!” Alex Reilly scolded as she and Mina laughed. “That’ll teach her to hitchhike.”

“Where is Cmdr. Cummins? I need to tap her supply of aspirin, Samantha honey.” The old man asked while rubbing his forehead.

“Aunt Jackie is with mom. They should be back any time now, sir. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to the infirmary. Aunt Emily is still running her inventory.”

We began to walk toward the airlock, but I stopped us quickly as I remembered its past history with men.

“Sam, has Randi reset the airlock security yet? I wouldn’t want Uncle Rick to experience any…confusion.”

“She finished it earlier this morning, Aunt Allie. He’s safe to enter. Uncle Spencer and Brandon are already inside.”

“Alexandra, wonderful to see you again!” Emily’s second husband, Spencer greeted us as we turned the corner of the hallway near the station’s infirmary. “Admiral Demmit, a pleasure to see you again too, sir!” Spencer stood to attention.

“At ease, son, I’m just Uncle Rick for the next couple…” He looked at Alex and I for confirmation and received a nod from each, “for the next couple of days.” He concluded, shaking Spencer’s hand.

Spencer then stuck his head into the open doorway. “Em, there’s someone here to see you.”

“I’m almost done here! I’ll meet whomever in a few minutes,” Emily’s response was barely heard!

“Emily, you should get out here, hun! ASAP!”

“ASAP? Why? Who could be here that I haven’t seen…” Emily cleared the door and stood motionless for a second.

“UNCLE RICK!” she screamed. Despite herself, she bolted to the old man and just about knocked him over. She immediately started to cry. “I’m so glad you could make it! I’ve…we’ve all missed you terribly! Thanks sis, I knew you could get the old despot here despite his complaints!”

For my efforts I received a hug and a kiss on the cheek-, as did Alex Reilly.

“Doctor, I trust you have been well?” Mina asked in her regal voice as she stepped out from behind me. Apparently she underestimated Emily’s response and expected a greeting similar to mine.

Mina’s welcome, however, was another scene altogether! Emily put a strangle hold on her and both cried and laughed and cried some more.

“I guess it pays to be the queen!” Billie said sadly.

“Jack, I thought you were with…your highness, I’m sorry, I thought you…”

“Yes, Emily, I’ve been getting that alot today! How are you, doctor?”

After a somewhat more subdued greeting, Emily moved to Alexis. Melanie had stayed with us, but Isabeau stayed with Random outside when they found Randi and started a conversation.

“Sis, stop!” I warned.

Emily did as asked, but looked at me for the reason.

“Emily Scott-Rosen, I’d like to present my third daughter, First Daughter of Citadel, Lady Alexis of Terra. Alexis, this is my sister, your aunt, Emily Scott-Rosen.”

God, these Terran protocols were tiresome!

“Alexis, nice to meet you, sweetheart!” Emily put her arms out and gestured for Alexis to approach- which she did and received Emily’s embrace and a kiss on the cheek.

Melanie took the initiative from Reilly. “I’m Melanie Moritsu, M’lady, nice to meet you!” Much to Alexis’ chagrin, Melanie initiated the embrace this time.

“Tish is going to be so surprised!” Emily beamed to her.

“Emily, I seem to have contracted a headache on our arrival. Could you prescribe some aspirin or whatever the present remedy would be?” Uncle Rick asked kindly.

“Alex! Both of you know how confusing your mode of travel can be on us!”

“Hey, it wasn’t us this time, sis. It was the stow-away pixie!” Alex beat me to the explanation.

“I wondered why Alex took Sasha with her last week! When I asked her where she was going, she just said she had to drop back to the dark ages to pick up a friend or two.”

“Sasha?” Uncle Rick asked.

“Sasha is one of Yuuka’s kind and helps us out from time to time. She calls herself ‘The Fairy Queen’. She’s been dying to meet Yuuka though!” Emily giggled. “Pixies- they certainly are a difficult branch of the sisterhood!”

“Trying at best would describe them better!” Billie concluded.

“Amen to that, sister!” Alex Reilly and I agreed in unison.

Changing the subject, I asked Emily how Carroll’s baby was doing.

“She’s doing wonderful, Alex. Turn around.” Emily pointed.

There stood Carroll with her bundle of joy held tightly in her arms!

“Hey, Skipper, want to hold her?” She looked down at the infant. “Does you want Auntie Alexandra to hold you a few minutes, sweetums?” Carroll looked really happy as she spoke to the child in baby talk.

I accepted the smiling nine-month-old baby girl into my arms without a thought. Memories of Sam at this age flooded my mind.

The hallway lights flickered.

“The old place is having some problems with the reactors. Ricky Lynn is down there now, sis.” Emily explained quickly.

Alexis seemed distracted for a second before her maternal instincts took over and she and Melanie came nearer to fuss over our newest sister. Even Uncle Rick got into the act.

“Fine job, Miss Sheldon!” He said proudly.

“Thanks, Admiral!” Carroll gushed as I returned Cassie to her.

Again the hallway lights flickered.

“Ricky Lynn better get that problem fixed before the conference starts, sis!” I groused.

“It’s been acting this way for a couple months now, Alex, Ricky Lynn’s doing her best.”

“Shouldn’t Randi be hardwired and helping her?”

“She claims she can do it herself, Alex.”

For a third time the lights flickered, this time the time off was noticeably longer. In the many times I had been here, this was the first time the reactors had given any hint of failure- strange. I consulted my old friend- Will Ricky Lynn fix the problem before the conference?

I got a big response!

Wonderful, I thought! Will she get it fixed after the conference?

I got another big response! What the?

That single, simple fragment of a question provided me with all the information I needed.

Quickly, I used my sudden pause as an excuse. “Alexis, I just got a call from your Aunt Brie, she and Alex need our assistance! I need you, Melanie, Mina, and you, Admiral! We have to go now! Sorry, sis, I’ll try to make it back as soon as I can. Alex, you and Billie keep an eye on Reilly and the pixie. She may find a way to get into trouble yet! Everyone, take my hands. Bye, sis!” I spouted quickly as I phased us as soon as we were together.

The flickering lights of Reilly’s hallway faded into the blackness of my private domain. A quick check to my left- to the distant, single, unmoving sun- reassured me that we were indeed in my domain.

“I hate this place!” Alexis groaned as she looked around us in confusion.

“I concur, Lady Alexis. I also have fond memories of this isolated hell!” Mina also complained.

“Where the devil are we, Alex?” Admiral Demmit growled.

“This is that private place I told you about, Uncle. I brought us here because something is not right on Kili!”

“How can you be so sure, mom?” Alexis asked.

“You didn’t feel…it, Ally?”

“I felt a strange twinge right after you took Aunt Carroll’s Cassie, Mom. What does it mean?” Alexis seemed confused for a second then a light went on.

“Cassie is my oldest sister! What’s going on, mom?”

“Melanie, how many people did we leave past Reilly with?”

“M’lady, besides yourself and I, Lady Mina, Queen Billie, Lady Alexis, Lord Admiral Demmit, Lady Reilly, Lady Cassi Darough, Lady Camille, Lady Yuuka, and Co-Empress Alex Reilly made up our group- eleven in total, Empress!”

“Exactly! By my count, eleven also, yet did you see Camille or Cassi when we arrived?”

“You are right, Empress! Lady Camille and her daughter were nowhere to be seen! Where did they go…did they release their hold?” Melanie said as her face began to lose color.

“Mind telling the old man what’s going on. Alex?” Demmit growled.

“When was the last time you made a fuss over a baby, Uncle Rick- exempting Samantha, Cassandra, and James of course- which you haven’t done yet?”

“Why, I’ve never made a fuss over any child, Captain!” He seemed to reconsider his answer as if not sure now.

“That’s my point! Any of us would have and did make a fuss, but you wouldn’t, Admiral. A commanding figure like you would show restraint and professionalism. Someone tapped into my mind the second we rephased! As a matter of fact does anyone remember me saying we were about to rephase?” I looked between us after asking. All heads shook to the negative. “I thought not!”

“Alexandra, the others, are they in jeopardy?” Mina asked in concern.

“From what I saw, they should be fine if they don’t suspect anything’s wrong.”

“The pixie! She saw through it! They had to scare Yuuka away so that she wouldn’t ruin their plan.” Melanie’s eyes lit up as she deduced correctly, Yuuka’s sudden departure. “That wasn’t a horde of pixies chasing her, was it, M’lady?”

“I don’t think so, Mel- and if you don’t start calling me Alex…!”

“Understood, Empress.”

“Mina, do you think you could reach me…Allie from here?” I inquired of her.

“Trying, Alexandra.” Mina stood quiet a moment. “Nothing, Empress. Might you try Brianna?”

“My next move, Mina.” I said as I concentrated on my sister. ‘Brianna? Alex calling Brie.”

“Empress HQ Hotline, any time, any place. This is Brianna, how may I direct your call?”

“Cute. Brie, we have a little situation here. Can you tell me the date and time where you are, sis?”

“Of course, Alex, it’s May 9th, 2028. Ma, Freddie, Dee, and Frederick are waiting for you to pop in and transport us to the conference- what’s keepin’ ya?”

“Brie, this is me from 1944. I’ve got Mina, Alexis, Mel, and Uncle Rick with me. We’re here in my private dimension. Something isn’t right at the conference. You try to get hold of Alex and tell her to meet me here, got it?”

“Aye, Skip! Good as done, I’ll try to backdate my call to her…to yesterday. I know she was still reachable then.”

“Thanks, Brie, I owe ya.”

“Alex?”

“Ya?”

“Be careful, Empress, its like somethin’ weird’s goin’ on.”

“Thanks, sis. Love ya.”

“Brie says she’ll tell Alex to meet us here. It shouldn’t take long.” I informed everyone.

“The Empress of Time and Space never takes ‘long’! Please state the nature of your temporal emergency in five hundred words or less.” My sister announced as she and Jack appeared in front of us.

“Alex!” I shouted in excitement as I wrapped my arms around my twin. The gentle tingle made me feel that much better.

“Thanks for the boost, sis, I see we’ve met the future Empress recently. I forgot what it felt like to meet that precocious eighteen-year old.”

“Would somebody please tell me what’s going on?” Uncle Rick shouted out. His voice seemed to echo endlessly.

“Only if you wish to participate in the adventure of your life, Ricky!” A woman’s voice echoed back.

“Who said that? Show yourself!” Uncle Rick ordered.

“Simmer down, Ricky! I’m almost there.” The voice giggled and a woman that looked like me only with shorter gray hair, walked into view.

“Ruthie? Oh God, I’m dead!”

“No, Ricky, you’re quite alive- I, on the other hand…”

“Mrs. Scott? Emily’s told me all about you!”

“Alexandra, the dearest daughter I never knew- or gave birth to! You have made quite the stir in the afterlife, Empress. Word has it that you’ve even resurrected one of us!”

“That was Alex Reilly, ma’am, but yes, the story is true. William Sangiere is indeed among the living again- more or less.”

“Yes, I saw the outcome and thought it poetic…and quite necessary, dear. How can I assist the Empress, her daughter, uncle, and friends, honey? Oh, and ‘mom’ will work from now on Alexandra, okay?”

“Ruth, I don’t understand! How can you be here?” Uncle Rick was really having a hard time.

“The same way you’re here, Ricky! The Empress brought me here.” She giggled. “When the Empress calls, we appear- when she’s finished, we disappear- simple as that, brother. Why don’t you relinquish command for a few minutes and let the Empress state her business?”

Left without words, Uncle Rick motioned to me.

“Mom, we were just starting to try and make sense of things. A conference of the Empresses is being held in our dimension and, as near as we can tell, someone means to scuttle it. Y’all wouldn’t have any idea or heard rumor to that?”

“Oh, I love that accent, honey! Unfortunately, we do more watching than listening, dear, but a few things have resurfaced after a few thousand years…rumors really.”

“Well don’t keep us in suspense, dear woman! What have you heard?” Mina rambled out.

“Fritz Steinert told me of this woman he entertained on his steamboat one summer. He described her as impulsive and commanding- do we know any one like that, Mina Smith!”

“That’s Grandpa for ya! He always was good at assessin’ a body’s character!” Allie whispered as she nudged my elbow.

“Girls, that is enough!” Ruth scolded. “The word is that some old acquaintance of yours’ has found a way to travel and plans to wreak havoc at your gathering.”

“Do the rumors place a name to this ‘old’ acquaintance, mom?” I asked politely.

“Hath-something, dear, that’s all I know. Calls himself a god though! I can tell you that upper-management isn’t too happy about it at all!”

Allie and I looked at each other to see our color drain.

“Noooo!” We gasped in unison.

“Mom? Do you know this person?” Alexis asked in concern to our response.

“Hathor!” I said in shock.

“Janelle!” Allie added in equal shock.

“How?” We asked each other at the same time.

“Who’s Hathor Janelle?” Melanie asked innocently.

“Janelle Hathor, Melanie! She was an original member of Reilly Research Station before I moved it into this universe.” I noticed Uncle Rick give me a double take. I ignored him and continued my explanation. “Janelle was engaged in a power play for control of the Station. Unfortunately, she is the reason we all exist, honey. When I was forcibly recalled to Reilly, she felt it her duty to out me as an imposter hoping it would rally our sisters to her. Had she been successful, Reilly, along with you, me, everyone, would’ve been destroyed. During our transit from a still active Ni’ihau, Janelle and three of her followers disappeared. I feared they had let loose their grip and become lost in time.” A tear appeared as I related the incident.

“Alexandra, I am not a close follower of archeology, but I knew several professors at Cambridge who participated in several ‘digs’ in Egypt. If memory serves me, Empress, Hathor is the name given to the Mother of the Egyptian Gods! You don’t suppose Janelle Hathor is just that?” Mina looked appalled by her theory.

“That’s exactly what I’m thinkin’, highness! Question is how she would get to our future! I don’t think Alex Reilly would knowingly interact with that woman, I happen to know she hated her guts! So if it wasn’t one of us…” I pointed a finger between Allie and I.

“Rogue Alex!” We both shouted then stopped to search that part of us.

“I’m not feeling it, Alex! She has no knowledge of Ancient Egypt.”

“I felt the same thing, Allie. Who then?” I confirmed with disappointment.

Alexis must have noticed Uncle Rick’s confusion. “Admiral, the rogue was a latent entity from a dissolved dimension. The Empress of that dimension refused to rejoin our dimension and somehow poisoned mother. She spent three Terran weeks recovering. Tracking the rogue back to her shrinking reality, the three Empresses, past, present, and…and future…mom, you don’t think?” Alexis looked terrified by the thought!

“Was there any time that Young Alexandra was missing for any extraordinary length of time after I left…after we left to hunt her down? I mean after I…oh, we haven’t been back yet, have we?”

“No, mom, Melanie, Isabeau, and I have yet to return to Terra since your recovery.”

“Well, I think it’s time to use the family gift, Alexis. All you have to do is ask the right questions! Give it a try, honey.” I encouraged her.

“Yes, try, my granddaughter, I have absolute faith in your abilities!” Ruth added confidently with a smile I knew all too well...

“Of course she can do it, Ruth; she’s my grand-niece!” Uncle Rick boasted proudly. “It runs in the family!”

“Shhh!” Alexis hissed. “I need to concentrate!”

“That clinches it, Cap!” Jack said quietly. “She’s your daughter alright!”

“Obviously.” Mina added, rolling her eyes.

“Cap, looking through your recollection of the events, I think I know what the flickering lights were.” Jack suggested quietly while Alexis worked.

“Go ahead, Jack, I’m all ears.”

“On the surface they seem just that- flickering lights, but if I freeze-frame and look deeper they seem to be attacks…not attacks, really, but rescue attempts. I think Cami and Cassi are trying to break through the illusion and rescue you. Alex, those two could be in real danger! We have to get back so I can combine our gifts!”

“Easy, Jack! Our first step is to figure out the how and when of this. After that we can figure out how to kick ass, Commander!”

“Will we get to blow something up, mom?” Alexis joined the conversation with a twinkle in her eyes.

“Heavens, not another one!” Mina groaned as she raised her arms in defeat.

“Runs in the family, highness, y’all should know that by now.” Allie laughed.

“One would expect it to skip a generation or two, I should think!”

“In this case I’m glad it didn’t, Mina. It sounds like a viable solution to me!” Jack vehemently disagreed. “Anyone who would use a child to seek any imagined revenge deserves whatever we throw at her!”

I felt my skin start to tingle.

“JACK! Stand down!”

“What the hell is that, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked in concern as he looked around us for the reason for his extreme gooseflesh.

“That was the answer to your question, Ricky! Jacquelyn saves your keester several times using that immensely powerful gift of hers!”

“Begging your pardon, Grandmother Ruth, but if Lady Jacquelyn generates too much power on this dimensional plane we may surely be expelled from it…with dire consequences!” Alexis warned.

“Jackie dear, hold your temper, young lady- there will come a time- soon now!” Ruth advised.

The tingling disappeared immediately.

“Sorry, Alex! It just irks me when a child is abused!” Jack apologized. Her anger never disappeared fully though. Alexis looked a little frightened during Jack’s power run-up, but then annoyed that she hadn’t been able to give the information I asked her for.

“Ricky, this is where you impart your vast military experience to the adventure.” Ruth Scott giggled changing the subject. “But you already knew that, didn’t you Richard Demmit?” She smiled at him- a smile that held all the love, hope, and best wishes a sister could have for her brother. “Empress, I believe I will take my leave of you. Tell Emily that I’m still watching over her and her sisters. I’m also watching you, Ricky!” She gave Uncle Rick a wicked glare. “Good hunting, Empress and good bye.”

Ruth Scott stepped back from us and faded away into the blackness.

“Ruthie wait!”

“Uncle Rick, its okay- let her go.” I said calmly.

“Where did she go?”

“Back, sir.”

“Back where, Alex?”

“Just back, Admiral. We need to focus on our problem now, sir!”

“Will I see her again, Alex?”

With a tear in my eye, I changed the subject without answering his question.

“So let’s start with what we know. Apparently Jack has seen the answer in Alexis’ mind, am I right, honey?”

Alexis nodded. “It would appear my little Alexandra went time traveling shortly after we left Terra, mom. I don’t think she remembers doing it though. What deviant would do this to an eight-year old girl?”

“Someone who thinks she holds all the cards, honey.” I tried my best to look understanding to reassure her, but knowing who had done this… “Someone who is about to find out she’s dead wrong!” I hissed thinking about my granddaughter being taken advantage of like that. To hell with the Japanese and the Nazis! This was a real war!

“Admiral, we need a plan- one that is decisive, bold, and workable! We have to assume Janelle has new friends in concealed places so we cannot afford to be caught off guard. If you have an idea that you think is too crazy, run it past Allie, Alexis, or I before crossing it off, okay?” I nervously rattled off my words. “If you want Allie or I to run through a scenario or two just ask.”

“Great! We’ll be here for an eternity then!” Alexis griped.

“Y’all could help, young lady! Sam and Cassie have learned- so you should too! So stow that strict Terran princess routine and help yer Ma!” Allie scolded, angered by her rudeness.

“I agree with Alexandra, Love! Those of the royal Kili bloodline all have the capacity to work through temporal scenarios. I would consider it an honor to tutor you, Lady Alexis.”

“Can we start, Captain? Or are you three going to play nanny to my great niece?” Admiral Demmit growled in frustration.

“Sorry, Richard, please continue.” Mina apologized on our behalf.

Uncle Rick eyed us all for a minute or two before continuing.

“The first problem I see is returning unseen. When we arrived before, you said you didn’t remember doing your…ah, rephase…thing, right?”

I acknowledged his question with a nod.

“So therefore they must employ some sort of amnesia device…or someone erased it from everyone’s memory on our arrival.”

“Easily done, Uncle, Lady Jacquelyn, Melanie, and myself- or anyone from Terra- can do that.” Alexis admitted.

“Alex, you said that this Hathor woman was part of the original Reilly staff?”

Allie and I nodded together.

“We need to know who else disappeared with her on your arrival to Kili.”

“Allie and I will sift through Alex Reilly’s memories, Admiral. One minute.” I offered.

“You have her memories in there too? Busy place, Captain!”

“You have no idea, Richard!” Mina winked at him.

“Alex is scary in general, ma’am!” I heard Jack add with a giggle.

“I find you the scariest of all, Aunt Jackie!” Alexis admitted with a shiver.

“Sis, I only found mention of two lost with Janelle. Natalie and Isabelle Cabot.”

“I’m finding the same thing, Alex. Nat and Izzy were friends of Janelle. Brother and sister researchers before the change.”

“I find it hard to believe she had any friends at all.”

“Ya, she had a real good report with people in general, didn’t she?”

“Made me a fan right away, sis.”

“Pardon the interruption, Empress, but what were the two nicknames you used?” Mina asked us with interest- and a little sarcasm.

“Nat and Izzy…why Mina?” Allie replied curiously.

“Nat, or Nut, was rumored to be the mother of Osiris and Izzy could be mispronounced Ey-zee or even Isis according to some Egyptian creation myths!”

“On Terra the accepted pet name for Isabelle is Isis. Isabeau frequently advises me of her disgust for its use!” Alexis informed us with surprise in her voice. “These ‘Egyptians’, did they construct large geometric structures, pyramoids, I think they were called?” She continued.

“Pyramids, Love, grand, four-sided, triangular structures of stone constructed as tombs for their dead pharaoh. I’ll picture one in my mind.” Mina offered.

Alexis’ eyes went wide! “How could they be on both our planets when clearly they had no form of space…travel? MOTHER? You or Alex Reilly wouldn’t have anything to do with that, would you?”

“I find only one memory of Alex ever visiting Alexandria, Egypt, but that was during the First Century BC.” I informed her.

“She’s right, honey. Alex has been to Ancient Rome several times, but only once to the Nile Delta.”

“Then how did they get to Terra?”

“Or, how did they get to Earth? Both ways are technically possible.” I tossed that one in just for thought. Alexis remained silent and confused.

“Okay, so Janelle and her cronies procreated. We can expect a wide selection of powers and abilities then, I assume.” Uncle Rick said, setting us back on course.

“Empress, I have succeeded in receiving a visual transmission from Yuuka!” Melanie said barely able to contain her excitement.

“Great! Jack, patch us through, please. Let’s see what we missed!”

Instantly, a view of Kili filled my mind- Kili from some distance above.

“Why is she flying so high?” Mina inquired.

“She must be at about five thousand feet! The thin air must be draining her quickly. We have to get back there before she’s too exhausted to land safely, sis!” Allie said distressed.

“Poor thing could definitely use help! Too bad I can’t send a plane to pick her up.” Uncle Rick said off-handedly.

“Maybe not a plane, but how about another pixie?” I suggested. “Sis, is Sasha really on Kili already or is that something we were expected to believe?”

“As far as I know, Sasha is still on Ni’ihau, Alex! She chose not to attend for some reason. I would have thought her curiosity would subconsciously draw her there.”

“Who is this Sasha, ladies? I don’t recall meeting any pixie other than Yuuka Sukiro.” Uncle Rick asked.

“Sasha Trent, Admiral. A member of my crew who hasn’t received her gift yet, back in 1944, I mean. Machinist Mate Stephen Trent, sir. She chose Sasha instead of Stephanie claiming she didn’t look like a ‘Stephanie’- whatever that meant. By your perspective, Sasha will receive her gift in about six months- just after Terry Galetti finds she can outrun any Olympic athlete, Admiral.”

“Little Terry? She can’t be more than five-one! How could that girl outrun anyone with those short legs?”

“Sir?” Jack asked. “How can any of us do the things we can do?”

“Good point, Commander.”

“Sis, do you think our friends will notice my return if I pop in to Ni’ihau for a few?”

“Jack and I were at Pearl and everything seemed fine, Ni’ihau isn’t that much closer, so I say go for it, sis/”

“Alex, you want me to come along…for protection?” Jack implied more than asked.

“Um…” I saw the old man nod my way. “Ya, sure, I guess it wouldn’t hurt. Allie you hold the fort, we’ll be back in a flash.”

Our domain brightened into the tropical landscape of Ni’ihau. In this time, our base had long been decommissioned and all buildings removed. The island had reclaimed Atlantis-Minor nicely.

“Is she still here, Jack?” I asked sentimentally.

“Sand Dollar? Ya, she’s still in the grotto, Alex.”

“I guess time has been hard on the old girl, huh?”

“Actually…let’s go see her, Alex.” Jack’s smile widened at my confusion.

“Wait. Before I rephase I’d like you to erect a psionic shield around us. I know Tibius showed you how.”

“I remember, Alex. Your shield is up.”

Thanks, Jack. Rephasing in three, two, one.”

I looked first at Jack then at her hand holding mine. We were still together.

“Jack, slowly decrease your shield strength and let’s see what happens. Let me know when its down.”

“I don’t think I’ve seen you this cautious or edgy in a long time, Cap.Shield at seventy-five, sixty, fifty, forty, thirty…”

I kept looking between her face and our hands expecting to see her disappear any second.

“Shield is off, Alex.” She said softly. “Everything looks cool. Let’s head to the grotto.”

I motioned for her to lead.

Although the entrance was overgrown and well hidden, the yellow brick road was just as clean and well kept as if I never left.

“Every year a group of us spend a few weeks keeping her battle ready. If we had the crew, I’d say we take her to Kili and exercise the three-inch! That would sure shake up those bitches!”

“How are her batteries, Jack?”

“Oh, we replaced those a few decades ago. She has her own Fusion Reactor, courtesy of Reilly technology. Ricky Lynn put it in a few years ago- great little unit, Alex! Tons of reserve power! She also replaced the air scrubbers and automated the weapons control. Why?”

“I have an idea.”

Reaching the grotto, I was amazed that the place looked exactly the same.

“One second while I get the lights on, Alex.” Jack said as she clapped twice in quick succession.

Instantly the lights came on to reveal…nothing!

“I swear she was here last week, Alex! Jamie was here to re-align the RADAR! No one told me she was shipping out Cap, honest!”

“I think I know where she went, Jack. Let’s go find Sasha.”

“Good luck with that, Alex, I have no idea where she is. You know I can’t see her when she’s in pixie mode.”

“Well I guess I’ll have to use the old tried and true method for finding a pixie, Jack. Sasha!” I shouted into the large, open grotto. Between the echoes I heard what sounded like a far away scream.

“Ya, why didn’t I think of that.” Jack said sarcastically as she looked at me with a quirky smile.

Within a minute a woman grew to full size about twenty yards away.

“You didn’t have to shout so loud, Alex, you knew I was here- you always know!” Sasha shouted as she walked along the water’s edge and weaved in and out of the well-preserved, antiquated equipment still residing here.

“I wasn’t sure where in the grotto you were. How y’all doin’ girl?” I asked as she walked closer.

“Something’s wrong at the conference, isn’t there?” She got straight to the point.

“Why can’t Yuuka be so intuitive? I said looking to Jack.

“Because I didn’t let my gifts go to my head, Alex!”

“Noooooo! You didn’t let your gifts go to your head? Heaven forbid!” Jack’s sarcasm was way over the top this time.

After rolling my eyes, I got to the point. “Sasha, Yuuka’s in trouble. We estimate she’s flying at five thousand feet above Kili. She’s tiring as we speak. How long would it take you to get there?” I asked with as much concern as I could. “I can’t risk getting any closer to the island right now or I’d try to get her myself.”

“At top speed, I could get there in just under an hour, but I might be just as tired as her, Alex. We’d never make it back; it’s just too far a round trip, Empress.”

“Oh.” I said in disappointment.

“If we were able to get closer…say about a hundred miles from Kili, I could have her out of there in nothin’ flat.

“Jack, what is the range of the three-inch gun now? I know Scotti’s been playing with the shell loads.”

“Full accuracy at almost two miles. What are you thinking, Alex?”

“And if the shell had some help, Jack?”

“Weeeell, Let me think…” Jack put her hand and pointer to her face as she did the math. “I’d find a way to put it right up ol’ Janelle’s ass from thirty miles out, Cap! Maybe more if I had someone to back me up!”

“Let me run some simulations.” I told her and Sasha as I went into deep thinking mode.

“How much longer is she going to…oh, look, Jack, she’s coming out of it?” Sasha’s voice said as I began to rub my eyes.

“Four hours. Not bad for such a large problem, Alex!” Jack smiled at me after I got some tears going. “So have you figured out what to do yet?”

“For the most part, Jack. Sasha, have you been on Ni’ihau for the last four days?”

“Of course, Alex. I live here, remember?”

“So, I haven’t been here or taken you with me in that time?”

“No, Cap, I’ve spent the better half of two quiet weeks topside at the house with Dennis and the girls. Why?” Sasha looked at me quizzically.

“Did you notice Sand Dollar departing the grotto in that time?”

“Didn’t see or hear a thing, usually you or some of the sisters come up and let us know so we don’t go pixie on their asses.”

“What are you planning, Alex, I know that look?”

Instead of answering Jack’s question, I looked at Sasha.

“Sasha, I think it’s time to get the boat wet again. You up for a little time travel?” I asked with excitement.

“Just give me fifteen to tell Dennis…could I bring the girls, Alex? They’ve been fully trained on the propulsion and I’m thinking we’re going to be light on crew for this.”

“They must stay full-sized, Sasha. I don’t think we have enough honey stored for everyone.” I told her as I saw her eyes begin to twinkle.

“Be back in a flash, Cap!” Sasha was already half-size and running toward the yellow brick road as she shouted.

Jack and I walked out of the grotto to await her return.

Twenty minutes later, tiny laughter could be heard overhead. Sasha and her four daughters, Dahlia, Rose, Petunia, and Peony, appeared above our position and flew spirals down to us. Once close enough to the ground, all five women began to increase in size.

“I thought I said fifteen minutes, sailor?” I said somewhat annoyed.

“Empress, mom isn’t in the Navy anymore, don’t be so strict!” Dahlia waved her finger at me.

At least I thought it was Dahlia. All four girls were almost perfect copies of Sasha when full-sized. I could only tell the difference between them when in ‘pixie mode’ as Sasha called it. Then, each girl had different color tinges to their wingtips. Dahlia had light blue tinged tips, Rose had pink tinges, and the twins, Petunia and Peony had purple tinged wingtips. As a comparison, Sasha had crimson tinged wings and Yuuka, dark blue tinged wings.

“Rose, don’t be so critical of the Empress. If you hadn’t stopped to do your face, we would have been on time!”

“It’s okay, Sasha, I knew y’all would be late- Empress, remember?” I smiled as I pointed to myself.

“What’s up, Empress?” One of the twins asked.

“Well, all seven of us are going to make a stop to my private domain then we’re all going back four days.”

“Is that all? Why just four days?” She cried.

“Well, we need a little time to power-up Sand Dollar and…”

“You’re going to take out the sub? Oh boy!” One of the girls shouted with excitement.

“Then what?” Her sister asked.

“Then we head for Kili Island to rescue my dear friend, Yuuka Sukiro, from the clutches of the evil Janelle Hathor, Mother of the Egyptian Gods!” I tried to make it sound melodramatic.

“Awwwe! I knew it was a secret mission. Empress, why not just say it’s a secret mission?”

“Girls, Alex is telling you the truth! We are going to rescue another pixie- Yuuka Sukiro- who should be so tired by now that her wings will fail and she will fall almost a mile to her death if we’re not there to help her! Now let’s let Alex do what she needs to do,” Jack stressed!

“Ladies, please take my hands and no pixie mode while in my private domain, please.”

“Well it’s about time you got back! I was beginning to think I’d have to do this alone!” Allie complained as we appeared in our private dimension. “Sasha, glad you decided to join us. Girls, I trust you’ve been good since my last visit? You haven’t been bothering the villagers have you?” Allie raised an eyebrow.

Melanie looked to me and mouthed the word ‘pixies’. I nodded and smiled.

“So, who else is available, sis? I could still use a navigator and a planes and rudder crew.”

Jamie Hilf is in between…modeling…jobs; Corrine Masterson is about ready to retire for the second time; Amy Reynolds is between lives for the next year; Tammy Richards is back at Pearl on vacation for two weeks; Ricky Lynn’s semester just finished up at CMU; Carroll is still a stay at home; Brie, Dee, Frederick, Ma and Freddie are still home waiting for me.” Allie listed all available crewmembers. “Alice, Gerry, and Michelle are free too. They’ve been fully checked out on Sand Dollar’s systems, Alex. Romney is on the hill for another term, and we both know that Abby won’t get into anything smaller than a Cadillac.”

“Emily claimed Ricky Lynn was on Kili working on the reactors and we all saw Carroll with the baby too!”

“Sis, this is 2028, Carroll’s Alexis is almost two! She started walkin’ an’ talkin’ almost six months ago!” Allie corrected me.

“Janelle assumed that was a newer memory! She hasn’t accessed the station’s A.I.! Where is Randi? Is she on Kili as we were lead to believe?” I asked.

“Randi is with Ricky Lynn. She talked her into teaching a few computer classes. The two were going to be late to the conference. You want me to fetch her too, sis?”

“If she wouldn’t mind reliving the action-packed, glory days onboard a World War Two submarine!” I asked sardonically.

“You know Ricky Lynn will jump at the chance, but you know how useless Randi feels when she isn’t interfacing with something electronic!” Allie reminded me.

“If she wants she can talk to our uniforms when she feels lonely! I think we’ll need more than twenty-six crew members to get the old girl wet.”

“You know what you have to do, Empress.” Allie raised a brow to punctuate her statement.

“So I wasn’t the only one working the problem!” I smiled at Allie. She gestured to Alexis.

“I’m proud of you honey!” I smiled and gave her a hug. “So, Alexis, whom shall I take with me and who should go with Allie?”

“First things first, mom. Uncle Rick, I need you to let me control you for a minute. Some options of your uniform are not set correctly.” Alexis looked at the Admiral with pleading eyes. “I will not hurt you, sir.”

“Do your worst, honey.” Uncle Rick chuckled.

“Okay, that’s better. You should see a new icon on your HUD, Uncle Rick. When it flashes red just focus on it and that will open up a jam-proof comm link to the rest of us. Its range is useful over ten kilometers- free-air or submerged.”

“So to think to the rest of you, I push the little red thing with my mind.” Uncle Rick tried not to look confused.

My daughter nodded.

“Mom, you and Lady Mina need to enable Psionic Communications too.” Alexis said to the three of us. “If we need to use it that means Melanie or I have been compromised.”

“It won’t come to that, honey. Your mother, Mina and I wouldn’t let that happen.” Admiral Demmit assumed command.

“So can we get things moving, I want to blow something…or someone up?”

“We’ll,” Alexis motioned to everyone but me, “See you at the rendezvous point at 1100hrs, May 9th, 2028, Captain. Mom, care to do the honors?” She looked at Allie and everyone took my twin’s hand.

I was alone in my domain. Looking around, I took a moment to prepare for my latest battle. Several things would come to light if all went as foreseen. A few were wonderful but one in particular would forever change our future. I prayed it wouldn’t be as bad as I had seen.

1000 hours, Atlantis-Minor, Ni’ihau, May 12th, 1944

“So, how was the conference, Cap?” Jack asked as I emerged from my office.

“It hasn’t happened yet, Jack, we ran into a small snafu.” I tried to keep my mind off the details.

“I’ll spread the word, Alex.” She immediately headed for the enlisted quarters. Why did I even bother to hide things from her? Instead of worrying about that, I headed for the officer’s quarters.

Within ten minutes everyone on base was gathered before me. Uncle Rick would be proud of the quick muster.

“Everyone!” I shouted to get the group’s attention. “I need Sand Dollar’s crew to go to the grotto and prepare for immediate departure.”

“Hustle!” Jack shouted and three-quarters of the girls before me broke rank and hurried away.

“Now, as for the rest of you, I need thirty volunteers. Submarine experience is acceptable but not required. We will be joining our sister boat for a very dangerous mission.”

Thirty-four women stepped forward- the rest of Atlantis-Minor’s staff. I started to point to those I considered appropriate and capable. Romney, Alice, Abby, and Gerri were not among my picks.

As usual, Michelle Simonetti had to know exactly what we were going to do.

“Skipper, What do you mean we’re going to meet up with our sister boat?”

“I’m afraid I can’t divulge that quite yet, Michelle, you’ll just have to trust me. Now those of you I picked report to Cmdr. Cummins immediately for rack assignments. Everyone else I want to thank you for your courage and generosity! I guarantee you will be given first consideration the next time we have this type of mission! Dismissed.”

I turned and made for the yellow brick road as everyone dispersed. Once inside the grotto, it became clear how much my Ex-O had actually seen.

“Captain, we’ll be ready to depart in another twelve minutes. I just need to finish duty and rack assignments.

True to Jack’s word, Ricky Lynn had the diesels running and our moorings slipped at exactly 1100hrs!

Once clear of the entrance, I ordered us to general quarters then to stop and surface a half mile southwest of Ni’ihau.

“Alex, what’s this I hear about us meeting our sister boat?” Emily asked as she cleared the Bridge ladder.

“You’ll see in a minute, sis.” I said as Jack joined us.

“Ready, Alex.”

“Okay, here we go, Jack.” I confirmed as I reached for the squawk. “All hands, this is the captain. Ladies, I want everyone to grab a piece of the boat. Take a good firm hold of anything attached to Sand Dollar’s pressure hull. All stations report status.”

“Aft torpedo, holding on, Skipper.”

“Maneuvering, holding on, Skip.”

“Engine room two, holding on for dear life, Cap!”

“Engine room one, ready, skipper.”

“Con ready.”

“Forward torpedo, holding on, Skip!”

“Bridge ready.” I finished. Holding onto the mic, I too grabbed Sand Dollar’s thick metal skin. “Hold on, ladies, transit in three, two, one.”

Fifty yards off to our port, another submarine appeared.

“Alex, that’s Sand Dollar over there!” Emily sounded surprised and confused.

“I know, sis. Welcome to May 9th, 2028.”

“You moved the whole boat?”

“Ya, I’ve done bigger before, remember?” I picked up the mic again. “Stand down from general quarters, we’ve arrived everyone. Welcome to May 9th, 2028!” I released the button. “Jack, take us over to her and rig the gangplank. We need to complete their crew.”

“Aye, Cap.”

“What took you so long, Captain? We’ve been waiting,” Admiral Demmit looked at his watch as we crossed from one Sand Dollar to the other, “Two minutes! Even though we aren’t still at war, I expect punctuality!”

“Nice to see you again too, sir!” I rolled my eyes. I turned my attention to Allie. “How’s it feel to be back in the saddle, sis?”

“Like I never left, Empress. I’ve taken the liberty to call CINCPAC and file our course and destination. I even cleared us for ‘fireworks’ at Kili.”

“But will we be on Candid Camera, sis?” I looked up to the heavens.

“Not unless they want to lose more satellites!” Jackie answered smugly.

A commotion behind us drew our attention.

“Melanie!” Tish squealed as she quickly crossed the gangplank and embraced her daughter. The two jumped around like long lost schoolgirls!

“Ladies, we need to shove off!” Admiral Demmit said as he quenched more than one reunion, but backed down slightly as both Jacks gave him a devilish smile.

Within fifteen minutes we had completed phase one of my plan and set our course for Kili Island. I called my command staff into the Wardroom.

“Okay, here’s the situation.” I looked at Jack, daring her to cut in. When she didn’t, I continued.

“On our arrival at Kili three days from now, we were greeted by my daughter, Samantha. Everything looked ship-shape until we met Carroll and her baby…”

“I have a kid?” Carroll interrupted.

“Yes, a beautiful eighteen month old daughter, Carroll, can I continue?” She nodded, but her mouth still hung open.

“She had me hold little Cassandra for a few minutes then the lights started to flicker on and off. It was at that point that…”

“I named my daughter after your daughter, skip? I think I could be less of a copycat!”

“You and little Alexis weren’t really there, Carroll! Can we move along?” I glared at her. “That’s when I asked my gift what was going on. I was rewarded by a flood of images and conflicting information and we immediately traveled to my private dimension to sort things out.”

“Alex, who’s the woman in the shorter gray hair? She looks just like you, only older.” Jack interrupted this time.

“You saw mom?” Emily gasped. “What did she tell you? Did she ask how I was, Alex?”

“She told me to tell you that she’s watching, sis. She seemed more intent on keeping her Ricky focused on our problem.” I confided. “Oh ya, she told me to call her ‘Mom’.”

“I guess our moms aren’t that much different, are they, Alex?”

“I guess not- they just have different ways about them, Emily. Anyway, our first order of business is to rescue Yuuka whom we believe to be hovering about five thousand feet above Kili- three days from now- May 12th. I’m still not sure how close we’ll be able to get to the island before being discovered though. These people seem to be very good at creating illusion. I didn’t even remember rephasing when we arrived.”

I paused a moment to dampen my anxiety from the recalled visions.

“Captain, why would this Yuuka be hovering that high over Kili?” Tish stopped and asked as she walked by in the passageway.

“Because Yuuka is a pixie, Tish, she does that…you know, fly…don’t you have something to do?”

“Yuuka means little flower in Japanese, Sensei. Pixies are thought to be very sensitive and insightful. It has been said that a pixie can see through your very soul.”

“Have a seat, Tish.” I motioned her into the crowded Wardroom.

“You stated that the little flower was hovering above the island. Why would she even consider doing something like that, Sensei?” she asked.

“Because she stowed away on my shoulder when we left Kili BC. The Samantha that greeted us said future me had collected around two hundred other pixies and they sort of formed a swarm and Yuuka flew off to escape them. Later we figured that she could see through the illusion. If we don’t get there she will tire and fall to her death.” I felt a tear form in my eyes.

“If you were in the Empress’ domain, how could you know where she was or what she was doing, Sensei?”

“Your daughter, Melanie, can see what Yuuka sees. Apparently it is a trait of the Terrans. Jack…sorry, Joss relayed the received images to the rest of us, Tish.”

“Amazing, Sensei! Tell me…does Yuuka know about my daughter’s gift, Captain?” Tish looked deep in thought.

“Yes, why?” I narrowed my eyes at her.

“Could it be that she was trying to tell you something, Sensei?”

A flashbulb went off in my mind!

“I think you’re right, Alex!” Jack broke in. I glared at her once more. “Sorry, Cap.”

“Can I, for once, present my own thoughts, Commander?” I waited for a response and only received silence. “She might be indicating the limit of their power!”

“You could be right, Captain.” Jack agreed with unusual formality. I gave her a quick glare.

“Alex, you might be on to something! If the range of whoever’s power is limited to one mile in altitude, one can presume that the field of that power may be hemispherical in coverage. One could therefore draw a conclusion from that presumption that we can approach unseen if we stay outside that one mile boundary.” Randi deduced with all the authority of a college professor.

“Extraordinary!” I gasped as I willed my mouth to close. I looked to Jack and gestured to Randi with my eyes. “You have some serious competition for being scary, Jack!”

“Lt. Sheldon,” Randi continued, “Here is the theoretical formula for psionic field strength. Given that distance and circumference are equal to one mile…care to solve and plot a field strength graph?”

Randi had written down what I recognized as a fairly complicated calculus equation. Carroll looked at the formula for a minute then began to draw a somewhat distorted circle by first plotting out over a hundred points. After finishing, she thought a moment and drew in an arrow to indicate north.

I looked to Jack again. “The competition’s heating up, Jack!” I laughed.

“Fffffft!” She said as another piece of paper rose from the table and began to tear itself to tiny pieces. The paper was reduced to a pile in the center of the table. We watched in awe as the pile began to rise and spin into a circle. As the pile continued to spin quickly, it took on the form of a three dimensional, slightly deformed, hemisphere with a small, funneled depression in the middle.

“That’s it exactly, Commander!” Carroll cried out with excitement.

“Skip, this is the field’s pattern and range. If we stay outside its limits, we should remain unobserved. Thank you, Commander Cummins, well done!” Randi complimented my show-off Ex-O, who had a triumphant smile on her face.

“I wonder if Neanderthal man would find this humorous.” I said seriously as I glared back at Jack.

“Ease up, sis! She’s just having a little fun!” Emily reprimanded me with a giggle or two. “A little friendly competition is good for moral! Or…oh, I get it now- you’re jealous!”

“I am not!” I flatly denied. “I’m just worried about Random, Isabeau, Cami, Cassi, Alex, Billie, and especially Yuuka!” I admitted.

“They’ll be fine, sis. All are very resourceful- especially Cami. If anybody can take these people on single-handedly, she and Cassi are the girls to do it!” Emily said trying to raise my spirits.

“If they don’t blowup the Earth in the process.” I said grimly.

“Like we can really do that, Alex!” Jack chortled.

“Really, Jack? Can you really tell me what your limitations are? I have no idea what my limits are and I can see the future! How can you be so sure you won’t go all nuclear on this or any other planet! How?” I snapped.

“You know, if we could get the location of whoever is generating that field, it may help us target her weak spot.” Carroll changed the subject back to our original topic and pointed to the slight depression. “If we take out the field, we gain the advantage.” She continued, ignoring my glare.

“Lieutenant’s right, skipper. The whole thing could come crashing down on ‘em.” Ricky Lynn voiced her opinion.

“Jack, have you been keeping your sister in the loop?”

“We’ve been in constant contact since we arrived in the future, Alex, why?”

“Have her discuss Carroll’s idea with Admiral’s Demmit and Steinert- see what they think.”

“Done, Alex.”

“And?”

“They’re discussing it as we speak.”

“Alex, Allie wants to know what you think about using…um, GPS?”

“What is it?”

“GPS or Global Positioning System, Skipper. Accurate to three feet in military applications.” Randi explained for us antiques. “A GPS receiver can pinpoint a location by receiving signals from three or more satellites in specific orbits around the globe.

“How do we get it there? Does Ricky Lynn have some robotic airplane to fly over the island?” I asked off-handedly.

“”Pixie, Alex. Allie says she has five in the hanger, gassed up and ready for the flight line!” Jack giggled.

“Sounds good to me, Jack. Tell her to thank Sasha and her girls for me.”

“Allie wants to know if we have any honey in the stores, and if so, how much.”

I knew they wouldn’t do it for free, I thought.

Jack just smiled.

“Chief?” I looked at Ricki Peterson.

“Last inventory we still had three, two pound cans, Skip.”

“Pass it on, Jack.”

“Aye, Cap.”

“That’s about all I have right now ladies. I hope y’all didn’t mind me asking Tish to join us. I think her information helped. Thanks Tish.”

“I only provided background on Japanese mythology, Sensei, but I am glad I helped.”

1400hrs, 100 miles South of the Southern Marshall Islands, May 11th, 2028

“It’s still strange to look over and see her a hundred yards away, Alex.” Emily commented as we looked starboard from the bridge.

“What’s stranger still is no sound of the diesels or their smoky exhaust!” Chief Samuels added.

“That would be the fusion reactor that you installed in her, Chief. No need for the diesels to ever run again.” I saw her mouth open to argue the point. “Don’t worry, Ricky Lynn, they still run, it’s just that fuel is so expensive these days!”

“I know skipper, my sister took me out clubbin’ on our last visit. Them hydrogen cars is somethin’ ain’t they? And who woulda’ thought ya would have to pay to listen to the radio?”

“Chief, how are your engines holding out, we’ve been running them pretty hard since we left Ni’ihau?”

“They ain’t even breathin’ hard, Skipper! When do you plan to submerge?”

“Like we discussed, we’ll submerge tonight at 2300hrs. We’ll stop just outside that one mile range limit from Kili until 1030hrs- then we launch the pixies.”

“Alex?” Jack appeared in the hatchway. “Alex, Allie wants to borrow Randi. She and her sister need her to access some surveillance satellites and want us to come along side.

“The sea is smooth enough. Tell her we’ll be right over, Jack.”

Within minutes the two boats gently bumped hulls and mooring lines were exchanged.

“So, sis, what’s your idea?” I asked as I reached the future Sand Dollar’s bridge.

“I figured we could use a little heads up before we storm the island, sis. I asked Randi to patch into one of the Navy’s satellites and do a little twenty-first century reconnaissance. I still have a few favors at Norfolk- not that we would need them with two Randi’s here.”

“Do you think that will work? Won’t Janelle be expecting something like that?”

“I’m betting her knowledge of modern technology is minimal. She is more expecting of our gifts then conventional weaponry.”

“I saw that the three-inch gun does the trick, sis, but I couldn’t get specifics like trajectory, windage, or accuracy.”

“Neither could Alexis or I! I guess we just have to do things the old fashioned way- rely on our gun crews.”

“Speaking of crew, how’s Alexis taking to the silent service?”

“Like she was born on the boat, sis. Melanie, well, she’s not doin’ so good. I assigned the forward head to her specifically. She’s a little better today- so far.”

“Do you want Emily to have a look?”

“It wouldn’t hurt, I guess.”

“She’ll be right over, Alex.” Jack echoed in my head.

“It never ends, sis.” Allie confided with a smile and a wink.

“This is called Dramamine; it will help settle your nerves, dear.” Emily said to her Terran patient as Tish and I looked on.

“I’m sorry, mother. I thought my continence would equal yours. I am an embarrassment to my lineage.” Melanie declared sadly as tears ran down her cheeks.

“You have made me nothing but proud, love! Remember, I was practically born on the water. You, on the other hand, have only seen it in a glass, fountain, or reflecting pool before coming to Earth. You have not dishonored me in the least, sweet Melanie.” Tish consoled her daughter.

“Um, Alex, can I have a word with both of you…in private?” Emily said mysteriously.

“Sure. Tish, stay here with Melanie, we’ll be right back.

Emily, Allie and I went topside while Admiral Demmit and Jack stayed in the Con.

“What’s the problem, sis?” I asked as we stopped by the breach of the deck gun.

“Alex, we should have left her at base!” Emily said cryptically.

“Why, sis?” Allie asked.

“She doesn’t have sea-sickness, sis.”

“Get outta here!” Allie exclaimed with a smile.

“You’re kidding!” I choked.

Emily nodded. “Almost a month along.”

“So, how do we tell Tish- or Melanie for that matter?”

“My guess is that Mel already knows, but is trying to keep it secret. What I have prescribed isn’t Dramamine, but a placebo. I wouldn’t risk giving her anything in her condition.”

“Sensei, a word if you please?” Tish’s voice asked quietly from behind us.

Turning around, I immediately noticed the loss of color in her petite face.

“Are you okay, Tish?” The three of us gasped.

“Sensei, I wish to inform you that something quite amazing has come to pass!” She paused and swallowed hard. “I am to be a grandmother!”

At this point Tish began to waver and shake- her head dipped to each side in confusion.

“Sensei, I fear I am at a loss for words, ma’am. I look to you for your guidance on this issue- I also fear I am in danger of losing consciousness!”

Carefully Allie, Emily, and I, lowered the motionless women into Sand Dollar’s pressure hull after carefully crossing the gangway, and gently placed her onto her awaiting rack.

“Bet you didn’t see that one coming!” Allie giggled quietly as we turned to head topside again.

“I did, sis. I’m the medical seer, remember?” Emily answered seriously.

“You!” Allie pointed to her, “You…need to be less serious, Emily Scott!”

“Sis, until this mission…and this war, are finished, I will stay serious and attend my patients- both of whom now require my attention!” Emily abruptly closed the door to Tish’s quarters on us.

“What’d I say?” Allie looked confused as we stood in the narrow passageway.

“In case you don’t remember, sis, Emily takes her profession very seriously. It’s like she has this switch that she flicks on…” I confided.

“I know that, but…”

“No buts, sis! When Emily is working you leave her alone if you aren’t her patient. That’s just the way she is- always has been.” I reminded her. “Especially when so much is riding on the success of a mission.”

“I’m sorry, sis. It’s just that she hasn’t been so focused since the fall of Saigon! I really did forget how she could be.” Allie admitted.

“Well you two can make up and get reacquainted. I’m requesting she stay with Melanie and Tish over here until we secure Kili.” I suggested.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, sis.” Allie smiled. “We better get underway if we want to get to Yuuka in time. I take it you’ll be surfacing just after sundown tonight? Just like old times?”

“Unless you know where I can get one of those fusion reactor things, yes. If you want to run ahead and take up position, feel free, sis, I don’t have the luxury of higher power output like you do.”

“Hey, I never said my Sand Dollar was any faster than yours! We still have the same hull and electrics- just a better power source. I’ll see you on the surface tonight, sis.”

Our embrace tingled as usual and I returned to my Sand Dollar. Once Randi and I were aboard, I ordered our moorings released and moved us away from our sister boat. With just a nod from me, Jack recalled the lookouts. After securing the hatch, I gave the order to submerge the boat.

“Clearing fifty feet, Skip.” Carroll informed me from my doorway.

“Thanks, Carroll. Inform the next watch that we surface at…” I looked at my wristwatch, “At 2150hrs to recharge.”

“Aye, Skip.” Carroll went to leave, but turned back to face me. “Skip, a word if you don’t mind?” She asked quietly.

“Lieutenant?”

“Skip, why…” she paused. “Why did I wait so long?”

“Wait so long for what, Carroll?”

“Why did I wait so long to have a baby?” She blushed.

“As near as I can remember, the Navy has a reg that forces female officers to resign should they become pregnant.” I couldn’t reveal the true reason- that she was just too frightened to get married and have children. I would be changing the timeline if I did.

“But you are still commissioned when Cassie and Sam are born!”

“But I can be in two places at once, Carroll!” I smiled as she caught my statement’s meaning.

“So that’s how you do it!”

“Don’t tell anyone, Carroll, especially, Admiral Demmit.” I put a finger to my smiling lips and raised an eyebrow.

“Your secret’s safe with me, Alex.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that, being the niece of an Admiral, certain courtesies were afforded Emily and I.

“Cap, Joss just sent word that Tish is awake and well. Dr. Scott wants to know if we’re all healthy over here.” Jack informed me from behind Carroll.

“I take it you told her everything is fine?”

Jack blushed. “Ya, Alex, I did. You don’t mind, do you?”

I just rolled my eyes at her.

0600hrs, 150 miles Southeast of Kili Island, May 12th, 2028

“Alex, Allie just received a call from the Detroit. They want to join up with us as an escort.” Jack told me after gently knocking at my doorframe to wake me.

“Why would a Destroyer Escort want to escort us, the war’s been over for eighty years?” I replied somewhat groggy.

“Alex, the Detroit is a nuclear sub- so Joss tells me.”

“Why on Earth would a modern boat want to hook up with us?”

“I asked the same question, Alex. Admiral Steinert wants us to surface and pull alongside after they surface.”

“Well, I guess the Admiral knows best! Give the order to surface, Jack. I’ll be right there after I put my modern face on. You and Ricky Lynn probably better show the crew the modern version of makeup too.”

“Aye, Cap! Can I borrow your washcloth first?”

“We’re just breaking the surface, Cap.” Jack informed me a few minutes later as I cleared the forward hatch of the control room.

“Then let’s go see what a city class sub looks like, Commander.”

Reaching the bridge, all that was visible was Sand Dollar two hundred yards to our starboard.

“Admiral Steinert wants you to go to battle stations, Cap. She also wants pennants and the ensign flying.” Jack said to me with some confusion.

“Lookouts to the bridge.” I announced into the squawk. “I also want battle stations and full parade dressings topside- on the double!” I added.

Five minutes later all guns were manned and our long wire antenna was strung with pennants. The stars and bars flew proudly over our heads- albeit minus two stars for the date!

Our sister ship took a few minutes longer to dress.

“So, where are they, Jack?” I asked a few minutes later as I scanned the waves for any periscope wakes.

“Joss said they’re here, Cap. She said the Admiral says to be patient.”

“Skipper! Sonar has something huge coming up beside us quick!” Jamie’s excited voice shouted from the squawk.

I caught a stray glint of sunlight between our two Sand Dollars. The glint became a periscope, then two periscopes. A large black sail appeared next and continued to rise out of the water. I recognized the modern conning tower from the picture of the Nautilus I had seen in my earlier travels.

The smooth, streamlined sail rose higher and higher off the waves. If this was any indication of size, my proud Sand Dollar was dwarfed in comparison!

Finally the hull of our guest gently broke the surface. The Detroit was more than four times the size of my boat! Her sleek, rounded black hull glistened in the early morning sun.

“Cap, Allie says come to all stop and prepare our moorings. She also says that it’s your turn to be Allie.”

“Maneuvering, all stop.” I ordered into the squawk.

“All stop, aye, Skipper.” Carroll replied over the speaker.

“Prepare mooring lines!” Jack shouted down to the crew.

No one moved; all eyes were transfixed on the monstrous boat.

“Prepare mooring lines!” She shouted again, this time getting action.

“Ahoy, Captain! Bring your vessel alongside!” A man’s voice echoed across the water from some thirty feet over our heads. I could barely make out the faces high up on their bridge.

Within minutes we were moored alongside the Detroit and their gangway finally made landing on our deck. Jack and I descended the ladder to our foredeck as a male and female officer appeared from a hatch on the side of Detroit’s huge conning tower. We waited as the two made their way across to us. I thought both looked somewhat familiar.

“Captain…“ The late twenties man said before both gasped, abruptly stood to attention and saluted! “Admiral, we didn’t recognize you in that old uniform, ma’am!” He said.

Before I had a chance to correct him, both heads turned slightly and their faces went pale. They seemed to be looking past me.

“Jack? There’s a familiar looking submarine off our port side now, isn’t there?” I asked my Ex-O calmly without looking around.

“Yep.”

“She’s laughing at me right now too?”

“Yep.”

“You…um…want to take care of that, Commander?”

“Yep.”

“Thank you, Jack.”

“You are quite the show off, Alex.” She replied ending our calm conversation. “Excuse me a moment.” Jack said dropping her salute and turning away. “Prepare to receive mooring lines off to port! I want them secured now ladies!”

“I’m sorry you had to see that Captain. My sister loves to make a bold entrance.” I smiled and held my composure as both officers returned their attention to me. “Commander Allie Steinert. Welcome aboard the Sand Dollar.”

“Captain Vernon Reynolds and this is my Ex-O, Commander Julia Masterson of the USS Detroit. I’m sorry, Captain, I thought you were your sister. We always get the two of you confused.” He winked at me.

“People always have trouble differentiating us, captain. The Admiral will be over shortly, I predict.”

“You had to use your gift for that one, Empress?” Cmdr. Masterson asked with a giggle.

“Forgive us for not following protocol, Empress. You can never be sure who is on watch.” Capt. Reynolds added as he clandestinely pointed back toward the Detroit.

“That’s okay. I already know what day it is. I’ll let it slide this time…so, y’all here to visit your moms, you two? I have a two for one special today only- post moms and pre moms! What’ll it be, y’all?” I laughed as we shook hands.

“Actually we’re here at the Admiral’s request, Empress. That’s about all we know.” Cmdr. Masterson answered before I saw her eyes again look past me. A moment later I felt a familiar tingle on my shoulder.

“Vern! Jules! Glad you could make it! Has Allie been boring y’all again with her travel stories?” My twin asked with a giggle.

“No Admiral, we were just wondering why we were called in as escort. The Empress thought we were here to visit our mothers.” Julia replied.

“That is one reason, I suppose, but the main reason is for some hardware y’all are carryin’!”

“Something’s happened on Kili.” Vernon stated suddenly. Cmdr. Masterson looked at him with concern.

Alex and I both nodded.

“Whatcha need, Admiral?” He asked.

“Do they still have you carrying that ultra small GPS unit? The one the CIA uses for tracking someone? The one no one’s’ s’pose to know about?”

“Is that all? How many do ya need?” The captain responded.

“Just one, but I also need you to hang back a few miles tomorrow for back up.”

“CINCPAC gave you Carte’ Blanc, Admiral. We’re at your service.”

“Good, I’ll need that positioner ASAP so we can get it fitted to Sasha.”

“She’s here? And her girls, Alex?” Julia’s voice jumped an octave.

“The whole flight is aboard my boat, Jules.” Alex confirmed.

Cmdr. Masterson turned to her captain. “Permission to board her Sand Dollar, Captain?” She asked, her excitement very evident.

“Granted. Tell mom I’ll be over shortly, I’d like to see what she really looked like in her heyday, first.” Vernon looked to me for permission.

“She hasn’t received her gift yet, hun, she’s still a little sensitive about that.” I warned.

Capt. Reynolds chuckled. “Not mom…err, Ensign Reynolds, Empress- the boat!”

“Oh. Well right this way, captain.” I pointed to the ladder on Sand Dollar’s conning tower. Something bothered me though as we approached the first rung. “Shouldn’t you have a watch posted Captain?” I asked.

“No, I just have to check in every-so-often, Empress.”

To prove his point he reached for his left ear and gently touched a small, thin stick jutting out from just below his earlobe. “Officer of the watch, I want notified only if radar picks something unusual up. I’ll be performing my safety inspection with her captain first. Cmdr. Masterson has started her inspection of the Admiral’s boat also. Maintain VLF and SATCOM silence. Reynolds out.”

He released the device. “There, Empress, we shouldn’t be interrupted now. After you, ma’am.” Capt. Reynolds motioned to the ladder. “Where is Ensign Reynolds anyway, Empress?”

“We’re still at battle stations, Vernon, Foreword torpedo.” I motioned to our bow as I started up the ladder.

“Does she know about me yet?”

“Well, we haven’t had any unexplained, localized snow showers on Ni’ihau yet.”

“That’s right, you did say she hasn’t developed her gift yet, didn’t you?”

Reaching the bridge, I looked forward. “Jack! You might want to issue foul weather gear! I think it might rain in a few minutes!” I shouted down to her.

My Ex-O scanned the horizon in vain for any sign of storm clouds. “Are you sure, Cap?”

“Trust me; it’s going to pour for a few minutes…but only on the foredeck!” I answered as I pictured mother and son meeting for the first time.

Jack nodded. “Everybody in slickers! Now! Cap says it’s going to rain!” She shouted to the crew.

Vernon Reynolds stared at me. “You mean I’m the catalyst?”

“It’s the best gift you’ll ever give her, hun.” I laughed.

0800hrs, 150 miles Southeast of Kili Island, May 11th, 2028

“Thank you for the breakfast invitation, Captain Reynolds. My compliments to your galley staff.”

“Thanks, ma’am, glad you liked it.”

“Cap?”

“Yes?” Both Alex and I and Vernon responded to the voice at the door.

Alex and I smiled at Capt. Reynolds.

“Sorry, Commander, Admiral. Capt. Reynolds, I still can’t explain that freak rain shower to our port earlier! It just came out of nowhere!”

“It’s okay, Jones, I’ve seen stranger things happen. I’m not even entering it in my log so don’t sweat it, chief.”

“But sir, what about the incident with SS353? She was on our starboard one minute then on our port the next!”

“Mr. Jones, I don’t think you need to know about that aspect of the mission.” Alex interrupted with the authority of her rank.

“No, ma’am! Sorry, Admiral!” the young man jumped to attention.

Alex stood and approached him. “Mr. Jones, are you familiar with an old twentieth century motion picture based on a book called ‘The Philadelphia Experiment’?” She put her hand on his shoulder and smiled.

“No shit?” He quickly corrected himself. “I mean…no kidding…um…Admiral?”

“No shit, Mr. Jones. Something like that, yes.” Alex winked at the astonished sailor. “Not a word of this to the rest of the crew or I’ll have you up on charges so fast it’ll beat the astronauts to Mars! Now get back to work!”

“Yes, Ma’am…err, Admiral!”

He quickly disappeared down the passageway.

We sat in silence for a few minutes before Capt. Reynolds spoke.

“So…Ensign Reynolds…you’ve been uncharacteristically quiet all morning? What do you think of the Detroit?”

Amy sat and stared back at him. Something she had been doing since we sat down in the officer’s lounge.

“Miss Reynolds, it is quite safe to speak freely, everyone here knows who we are.” I reassured her.

“I just can’t get over it. My son has his own boat, Captain.” She said at such a low volume, those of us on the other side of the table could barely hear her.

“I owe it all to you, mom.” He smiled.

“No son, I owe it all to you!” Present day Amy told her son.

I noticed my Amy still wasn’t comfortable with her ‘twin sister’ as she refused to make full eye contact with her.

“You’ll get use to your gift, Amber. A few months from now, you’ll be all grown out of those little squalls!” Amy told her past twin- my 1944 Amy. She put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“Ow! Stop doing that! Skipper, why do I keep getting shocked?” Amber whined.

“It is our way of saying ‘Hello’ to our temporal twin, Miss Reynolds. You just have to accept it.” I answered with a giggle.

“So, Allie, why wouldn’t my mom accept our invite?”

“You know how sensitive she is about her appearance, Julia. She still has a month before her gift appears. Corrine is afraid your crew might get the wrong impression of her, hun, and I need my gun crew on their toes tomorrow!”

“I never realized what she went through when it first happened, Empress. I guess that explains why she and dad bought a large house with such high ceilings.”

“I wasn’t there until after Amy and the others got her clear, but she looked incredibly embarrassed when Jack and I entered the compartment that morning.” I admitted.

“I understand mom’s reason for not coming, but why didn’t my present mom come, Admiral?” Julia asked looking somewhat confused.

“I think she felt she would be teasing her past self, hun- in effect embarrassing herself further.” Alex explained. “Think of how you felt- how you were treated after you developed…before you realized your gift, Jules.”

“You…ah…too, Commander?” My Amy- Amber- cringed.

Julia Masterson remained quiet and lowered her eyes to her empty plate.

“Aaaackward!” Amy sang out quietly through clinched teeth as she elbowed her twin.

“About tomorrow then, Empress, what is your plan to liberate Kili?” Capt. Reynolds asked changing the subject.

“Alex and I plan on surfacing our boats at 1030hrs local time. Shortly thereafter, Alex will launch our reconnaissance and rescue sortie. After receiving targeting information and the girls clear the area, our gunners will try to land a few well aimed shells on their illusionist…”

“You intend to kill the person causing the disruption, Empress?” Vernon looked appalled at the thought.

“My intention is to incapacitate him or her, captain. I will only take a life if absolutely necessary. I must remind you that, while not sanctioned by our government, we are technically at war, Captain. This is effectively a hostage situation, and as you know neither the U.S. nor the Empress negotiates.” I growled as I thought about Yuuka, Billie, Isabeau, Random, Reilly and our two mind warriors, Cami and Cassi.

“Forgive me Empress, but I thought you vowed to preserve life…”

“In this case I make exception, Capt. Reynolds!” I slammed my palms down on the table.

Did the lights just flicker?

I paused a moment to settle down.

“This woman…these people took advantage of my eight-year old granddaughter to attack us! Damn right um gonna kill the bitch!” I hissed.

I shouldn’t have let that slip!

“When did Sam or Cassie have a child, Admiral?” Julia asked in surprise.

“They didn’t, Jules. You’ll understand everything, hopefully by tomorrow night.” Alex quickly covered my anger driven slip. “Sis, y’all just settle yerself down now, y’hear!” She pointed to me. “I’m angry ‘bout it too, but y’all don’t see me spittin’ nails! What’id Ma think ah us?”

“Wha don’ we call on ‘er over on yer boat ta find out, Alex?” I sassed back.

“Wow! I think that is the first time I’ve ever heard your full accent, Alex!” Vernon admitted.

“Y’all ain’t heard nothin’ yet if’in our sisters is harmed by that witch!” My sister snapped.

“Forgive us, Empress! Apparently we are not as up to date on the sisterhood as we thought.” Capt. Reynolds apologized.

“Vern’s right, Alex! We know that you have traveled the world and history, but can only speculate at your other adventures. Surely you have seen your successful outcome of this campaign?”

“I have seen many possible outcomes Julia. The solution we have settled upon- “I pointed between Alex and I, “provides the best resolution to the problem…however, our history and the future still throw out small…glitches. I have tried to anticipate as many of these temporal glitches as possible. I have made a few mistakes in my time as Empress- I’m still human, after all.”

“You sounded so much like Mina just now, Empress.” Vernon Reynolds complimented me. “I wish she and Admiral Demmit could have accepted my invitation this morning.”

“And just how would the crew react to seeing a man who died in 1985, Captain?” Alex asked frankly.

Vernon and Julia lowered their eyes.

“The thirty-seven of us on this boat WOULD have a lot of explaining to do to the rest of the crew and to the Navy, Admiral.”

“Then we’ll keep this quiet until later, Captain.” Alex suggested.

“Just later, Ma’am?” He responded. “Is something else going to happen?”

“If everything goes to plan, we all get to live- as in, the whole planet gets to live!” I divulged.

“Sounds awfully ominous, Empress.”

“Whether or not we evict our unwanted tenants will depend on how certain parties will react, Captain. That’s all I can say for now and still provide you with plausible deniability.”

“Do we really need that, ma’am?”

“Unless things go wrong and you want blamed for the loss of millions of Earth’s inhabitants- yes!”

“But you won’t let things get to that point, Empress.” Julia suggested sounding very concerned.

“Sis,” Alex interrupted, “Vernon Reynolds and Jules have never met Camille or Cassiopeia Darough.”

“I forgot about that, sis. Julia, you and Vern have met Jacquelyn Cummins, right?” They both nodded.

“Cami and Cassiopeia are just as powerful. I remind you that there will be four Mind Warriors on or near Kili tomorrow. Anything can happen.”

“Alex, Carroll recommends we get underway if we want to reach Kili on schedule.” Jack’s voice rang out in my head.

“Jacki is right, Empress.” Capt. Reynolds conceded apparently receiving Jack’s message too. “Empress, Admiral, it’s been very nice having you aboard the Detroit. Julia and I, on behalf of our other brothers and sisters on board wish you good hunting. We’ll be standing by at your specified rendezvous co-ordinates. Mom, it was good to see both of you again! I only hope we will have many more reunions!”

Capt. Reynolds embraced both women- the same was repeated on Alex and I. Julia Masterson followed her captain’s lead and we were soon escorted to the gangway.

“Captain, was it really the way it was to happen?” My Amy Reynolds asked after Alex and her Amy cleared our gangway to their Sand Dollar.

“More or less…why?” I gave her a devious smile.

“I heard Mina giving you warnings about creating more time paradox things, Captain, and just wondered…well…if this wasn’t one of them?”

“Ensign Reynolds, the very fact that we exist at all is a paradox. Think about that as you contemplate your life and the many twists and turns it takes over the next three hundred or so years.” My smile softened.

“He is handsome.” She mumbled out not expecting me to hear.

“His good looks are from his father, Amy, he looks just like him.”

I can’t wait to meet him, Empress.” She said as we started up the Conning tower ladder.

Jack, seal her up and take us to four-zero feet. Resume our course all ahead full.” I gave the order to start the final leg of our crucial mission.

“Aye, Cap. Dive control, sound the alarm and submerge the boat. Planes down two degrees to forty feet. Maneuvering, all ahead full.”

1025hrs, 1.5 miles East of Kili Island, May 12th, 2028

“Maneuvering confirms all stop. Alex, we’re here.” Carroll announced after checking her chart one last time. She looked nervous- maybe anxious?

“Thanks, Lieutenant.” I reached for the squawk. “Ladies,” I paused a second, “We have arrived at Kili Island. At this time I’d like us to go to battle stations. In another five minutes we’ll be surfacing next to our sister submarine, Sand Dollar. I’d like all gun crews and lookouts topside. We will be preparing the three-inch deck gun with the special shells that Admiral Covington has provided. Lieutenant Sheldon will be in charge of targeting after we receive the location of our primary target. I need everyone at they’re very best today- the fate of our society is at stake! I would like to add that we are to be observed by this era’s men and women of the Silent Service. The USS Detroit will be watching our performance from a safe distance. Let’s show the boys and girls what a real boat crew can do, shall we?”

Before releasing the mic button, I gave the order to surface Sand Dollar.

“It’s still strange to see her over there, Alex. I don’t think I’ll get used to it any time soon.”

“Barring any unseen circumstances this is the only time we’ll sail together, Jack.” I said sadly as we looked from the bridge. My crew had assumed battle stations in record time and we now waited for Alex…Admiral Covington to give Sasha and her daughters’ clearance to take off.

“Cap, Jacki says Sasha’s flight is equipped and standing by.” Jack informed me as we saw five women take up position on the fore deck of our sister boat. We were holding position fifty yards from her in order to reduce our radar and sensor profile at Reilly Research Station.

“Jacki says the GPS locator is functional and ready, Cap. Melanie said her test earlier confirmed receiving…video…from Sasha five by five- whatever that means. Alex is waiting for your signal, Allie.”

“Very well, Jack. Lt. Smith to the bridge.” I called into the squawk.

“Can you or Jacki hear anyone from over there, Jack?” I motioned to Kili.

“Nothing, Alex. It’s like when you phase out. We can’t hear a thing from the Island- not one soul.”

“You wished to see me, Captain?” Mina asked as she climbed out of the hatch behind Jack and I.

“Highness, I thought you should have the honor of starting the final segment of our mission to liberate our ancestral home. Take my pistol and fire one shot into the air, my sister.” Jack and I both bowed to her, as she looked between my Colt in her hand, the women waiting over on the other Sand Dollar’s foredeck, and us.

“Empress, this is for you to do.”

“Please, Mina, you alone have the right as Kili’s reigning monarch. Pull the trigger, Mina.” I looked to the pistol she held cradled in both hands.

“Will anyone die this day, Empress?”

“You know as well as I, Mina. The pixies await the signal, highness.” I nodded to the five women waiting in close single file on the foredeck fifty yards to our port.

“Fly safe, sisters!” Mina shouted before pulling the trigger and firing a single round into the air.

Like in file footage of the Doolittle raid, Sasha started to run up the deck toward the bow- gaining speed. As she neared the deck’s end she became smaller and smaller until her wings could carry her weight and she took to the air. Her daughters followed suit and soon all five were safely in the aloft. Sasha, Dahlia, Rose, Petunia, and Peony made one flyby before heading for Kili while gaining altitude.

Everyone witnessing the spectacle cheered and whistled their support!

Within seconds all five were out of sight. I turned around to see Jack crying. Mina too, was wiping her eyes.

“Commander? Lieutenant?” I asked.

“That…that was…so…so…beautiful, Alex!” Jack sniffed.

“They are so very brave and selfless, Empress. They will do anything for you, you know.” Mina wiped her eyes again.

“They will do anything for any of us, Highness!” I corrected her.

“Alex, Jacki is going to start her relay from Melanie.”

I nodded to Jack. “Have her relay the GPS coordinates to Carroll for targeting.”

“Aye, Cap”

We watched silently through Sasha’s eyes as she searched and found Yuuka over a mile above Kili Island. The tired pixie looked relieved and gladly accepted assistance from her sisters. Sasha’s eyes followed her four daughters and Yuuka as they turned and headed back to us. Her hands appeared in her vision and her two pointer fingers formed the bars of a crosshair- her signal that she was directly over our primary target.

“Jacki has relayed Carroll the location and altitude, Alex. I’ll relay her results to the gun crews in a minute.”

Sasha quickly dropped her hands as she, and us, suddenly noticed what looked to be a fireball heading straight for her. The fireball quickly moved off to the left as Sasha apparently turned to avoid the frightening projectile.

“Jack, can you do anything!” I shouted.

I’m trying to form a shield around her Alex, but I don’t know exactly where she is- or how fast she’s flying!”

A blinding glow filled Sasha’s vision and it began to lose focus and fade to black.

“NOOOO!” I shouted in anguish. “That wasn’t supposed to happen! All six should make it back alive!” I heard Alex’ voice echo back.

There was movement on our foredeck. Jack had relayed Carroll’s computations and both Sand Dollars’ guns were moving into position.

“Alex, guns are ready!” Jack’s voice drew me back from my distress.

“WASTE THAT BITCH!” I hissed. My tone left no question as to my intent!

In unison, both big guns fired- the deafening noise and concussion a small price to pay for losing one of our own!

“Time to target, Commander,” I barked!

“Five seconds, Alex.”

After the expected delay, my lookouts spotted smoke rising from the island.

“Anything, Jack?” I asked anticipating a positive response.

A smile flashed across her face!

“Cami sends her thanks, Alex!” she said with a joyous screech.

“Skipper, I have incoming- one o’clock, twenty degrees!” one of my lookouts shouted.

“Identify!”

“Pixies, Ma’am! Six of ‘em!”

Again a round of cheers erupted from both boats.

We watched as the flight of pixies split. A pair of pixies assisting a third approached each Sand Dollar. Both gun crews rushed forward to assist their landing.

“Chief Peterson, I need that honey on the foredeck immediately!” I said into the mic as Petunia, Peony, and Yuuka landed softly on the deck and quickly grew in size. Randi Peterson appeared from the forward torpedo hatch with two steel containers.

Jack and I climbed down to the foredeck as one container flew off to our sister boat.

“Thank you, girls, that was a marvelous rescue! I hope your mother wasn’t injured badly.”

“Emily says Sasha will be fine. She just had the wind knocked out of her, Alex.” Jack informed us.

“Yuuka, it took real dedication and guts to stay on position. Because of your sacrifice we were able to disable whoever was creating that delusion field. Thank you, Yuuka-chan!” I bowed to her.

“It…it was…only…thing…I…had…to do it…Empress.” She replied while trying to shovel honey into her mouth. “This…it…never tasted…so good!”

“Leave some for your rescuers, Yuuka-chan! They put their lives on the line to save yours!” I reminded her.

“So, are you three going to be okay?” I pressed.

“We are ready to move to step two, Empress!” Petunia/Peony stated enthusiastically.

“I too am ready, Empress!” Yuuka’s eyes burned brightly even though I knew she had to be tired from over forty minutes of hovering in the colder, thinner air.

“Ladies, I’m not sure if I should let you go with us. The illusion may have been disabled, but other unknown dangers may await us.”

“They hurt Momma! No one gets away with that, Empress.” The other twin said calmly. Her expression told another story though.

“Jack, tell Admiral Covington we’re going in- also get Tish up here. We might need an interpreter.”

“Aye, Cap! Alex says it’s your show! She’ll head up the second wave, Allie. As soon as we verify that the field is truly down, I’m to contact her.” Jack relayed my sister’s orders and paused a second. “She also says to expect three pixies at three o’clock, Cap.”

“Momma!” The twins shouted as they saw her and their two sisters’ approach.

A minute later six full-sized pixies stood beside us on the deck.

“Sasha, I’d rather you stayed behind to recuperate. You took a pounding up there!”

“It just knocked the wind out of me, Skipper. I’m feeling much better now.”

“Captain, you called for me?” Tish asked as she joined our group. “Sasha? But I just saw you back in Maneuvering. Oh, Sasha!” Tish smiled as she looked at the four beside her. “I take it these are your daughters?”

“Hi Tish! Ya, these are mine- Dahlia, Rose, Petunia, and Peony. Say hello, girls.”

“Ladies, we are wasting time. Where is Amy Reynolds, Jack?” I asked sounding a little impatient.

“Here, Skipper! What are your orders?”

“Take off your Mae West and helmet and take my hand, Ensign.” I ordered as the rest of our group joined hands also.

“Jack, bring up that Psionic shield of yours, please.”

“Ready, Alex.”

“Transiting to Kili in three, two, one.”

We found ourselves on the sandy ground of the tropical paradise called Kili Island. I quickly took attendance of our group- six pixies, one interpreter, one mind warrior, one local climate mage, and one Empress. I compared the number to the one I had written on the back of my left hand in ink. They matched and we were all still holding hands.

“Sasha, you, Yuuka and the girls let go and take to the trees. Keep us under constant surveillance just in case the illusionist survived. Amy, when I ask, I want you to think of something that will bring about a small, localized snowstorm. Think about how you would feel if your boyfriend cheated on you or some such thing.”

“Skipper?” She looked confused.

“Um…right. Then think about how your last girlfriend acted when you caught her with another guy and you were with her girlfriend.” I clarified- I hoped.

“I’ll try, Skipper.”

“Jack, have you heard from Cami since our arrival?”

“No, Cap, I haven’t! I’m worried!”

“Sasha, keep an eye out!” I said into the air. “Jack, let’s start for Reilly. I’m going to rephase us, but keep the shield on full.”

“Aye, Cap.”

“Done. I think we should still hold hands though- just in case!”

I felt a small hand tug on my earlobe several times.

“Empress, four unknown women are heading this way!” Yuuka informed me. I watched as Sasha landed and informed Jack too. She nodded.

“Acknowledged. Stay out of sight.” I whispered. A slight pulling of the hair at my neck told me Yuuka was using my long hair as cover. Sasha followed Yuuka’s lead by hiding under Jack’s long, golden hair.

“Amy, I’m about to ask for that snow, so start concentrating, Ensign.” I said softly.

“Aye, Skipper.”

“Yuuka, if you don’t stop that nervous twitching of your wings…” I didn’t finish the threat as I felt the tickling on my neck stop.

“Sorry, Empress.” A quiet whisper said into my ear.

“Stop right there, Alien!” A familiar, but unwanted voice shouted from somewhere just ahead.

“I’m afraid you and your minions are the aliens here, Assistant Director, Janelle Hathor! Y’all are playing on my turf now, hun!” I responded in kind. “Keep it causal, Jack.” I told her quietly.

My Ex-O glanced over at me and nodded.

A small cloud started to form just above the trees. It reminded me of a stray wisp of fog. “Not just yet, Amy.” I whispered as I motioned with my eyes toward the wispy formation.

“Oh, how precious! The ‘Empress’ and her fellow abominations are holding hands! Are you afraid of me…‘sisters’?” Janelle’s gravelly voice cackled out.

“I can see why you like her so much, Alex. First rate personality there.” Jack laughed aloud.

“So, Janelle, I didn’t think ‘party crasher’ was listed on your resume’. To what do we blame the honor of your illustrious, and might I say untimely, presence?” I goaded our still unseen adversary.

“A mutual acquaintance was kind enough to provide transit, ‘Empress’.” Her voice was starting to hurt my ears- much like it had in Reilly.

“What’s the matter, ‘Mind Warrior’, can’t find your target?” She ended with a laugh that grated at the base of my neck.

“Nope! I think you’d know if I had even tried, Janelle.” Jack said calmly as she kept smiling.

“I see you still don’t believe in keeping your pets on a short leash, ‘Empress’!” Her emphasis of my title was starting to get old. I decided to see how she liked it.

“I don’t need to keep my friends on any leash at all, Assistant Director! Can you make that same claim…if you had any friends, that is?”

A fireball sped for us through the trees and impacted against Jack’s shield, quickly disbursing with no damage.

“You teach your pets well, “Empress’. What other tricks might I be amused by today?”

“I wasn’t in charge of planning today’s entertainment, Janelle, I thought this more a sporting event. I call it ‘Thermo-Nuclear War’! Here’s a preview.” I nodded to Jack as I pictured that most frightening of images.

A familiar voice screamed out in pain twenty yards ahead.

“Cami?” I gasped, as I suddenly wanted Janelle disposed of!

Jack squeezed my hand harder and pulled back at the same time.

‘Cami just came back online, Alex’ She said in my mind.

‘Empress! I’m sorry, Empress, she has a powerful thought controller by her side. Your images have freed me from her power! Thank you, Alex!’ Cami’s voice rang through my skull.

‘If you are indeed Camille Darough, then you will stand down and allow us to save you, Sweetheart! Continue to play to them in your expected part though.’

‘You remembered, Alex! One thing…don’t let that ‘thing’ look you in the eyes! That’s how she gains access, Alex!’ Came her mental reply.

“Jack, can you read them?” I whispered.

“Now I can. They must have been using Cami to jam their thoughts.”

“How many?”

“Three ahead of us- Cami and two unknown women. I think one is this Janelle, the other must be this thought controller. Two more are thirty degrees to starboard, another two are twenty-five degrees to port. I also have one closing from the rear!”

“One behind us, Jack? I didn’t think she was that well versed tactically!”

“Casseopia Darough wishes to join our assault, Cap.”

“Tell her to hang back about thirty meters from our position, Jack.”

‘I can hear and answer you myself, Empress. I was just waiting for mom to ‘unjam’ all our thoughts!’

‘Cassi, are Isabeau, Randi, Reilly, Billie, and Alex Reilly okay?’ I mentally asked.

‘I haven’t seen them since we rephased here thirty minutes ago, Empress.’

‘I can only hope she transported before Janelle caught on.’ I thought back.

“Deficit of counter-defensive statements so soon, Alien? I thought your reserve would archive more!” Janelle’s voice cackled out again.

“What did she just say, Skipper?” Amy and Jack both looked at me for a translation.

“The only deficit I wish to archive is that caused by your deletion, failed revision!” I shouted. Lowering my volume slightly, I added, “You would think she could speak more like an Earther after spending so much time on the planet!”

“Some people are just beyond learnin’, Alex!” Jack laughed loudly.

Another fireball flew at us through the trees and impacted harmlessly against Jack’s shield.

“Like I said…you would think she would learn after the first one fizzled!” She laughed again as Amy and I giggled.

“They have a program in this time period that provides extra attention to the mentally impaired, Janelle! You should investigate it…soon as possible!” I laughed.

A fireball double the size of the two previous scorched through the trees and impacted Jack’s shield. She noticeably flinched.

“That one stung a little. You think she’s angry, Cap?” She winked, as she kept smiling. “Really, Janelle? Is that all you’ve got? I thought a smug, self-righteous, sanctimonious, pompous, faux deity like you would have more punch! I’ve seen candles with more heat!” Jack continued her ridicule of our as yet unseen foe.

My Ex-O was rewarded with a fireball triple the size of the first two. It’s impact seeped through and made Jack wince a little.

“Now you’re getting somewhere! Betcha can’t put more into it though, ‘Ass-istant Die-rector!” Jack again laughed.

“Janelle always did fall far short of expectations, Jack! The girls on Reilly just humored her hoping she’d go away- sad, really! An airlock mishap would have been so much more…convenient!”

My laugh turned serious as another fireball, some five times larger, screamed through the poor, previously scorched palms, shearing them off in passing.

I saw Jack tense up a bit as she concentrated a little harder on her shield. I felt a strange tingling run through my arm into my hand. Was she drawing from me?

Jack nodded her head once to my questioning thought.

My skin started to tingle and goose pimples skyrocketed to prominence as Jack fortified her shield.

The immense fireball dispersed into it, reformed and was deflected back along its original course.

Two women screamed- one sounding almost like a dog yelping.

‘Warn me before you do that, Jacquelyn Cummins! I barely removed myself from harm!’ Cami’s voice rang through my head. ‘You didn’t murder them, but rendered them unconscious? Why?’

“Two down, Alex.” Jack acknowledged with a grim smile.

A ruckus erupted from our right as two heavily tanned men in whitish linens rose above the brush among the trees. Two, almost simultaneous, sickening cracks echoed through the calm air as both dropped to the ground.

“Four down!” Cassi stated calmly from behind us. Her voice had a somewhat mollified tone.

Before I could chastise her for her actions, the sound of wood cracking sounded off to our left. Two very large palms came racing at us like enormous spears!

Cami came into view, stopped, looked at the large projectiles and wagged her right pointer finger side to side. Her expression was even darker than when she almost killed Janelle in Reilly’s home universe.

Both trees stopped in mid-air, fell straight to the ground, and disintegrated into a cloud of sawdust.

“Cami, we’re okay, Sweetheart!” I tried to get her attention, but seemed to be failing.

“Alex, she’s powering up!” Jack warned. Any warning was unnecessary though, as I could feel my skin start to crawl again.

“Cami?” I asked calmly again.

“Mom? Power down, please?” Cassi appeared from our right and approached Cami with slow caution.

“Mommy? Aunt Jacki and the Empress can finish this. Please power down- for me?” Cassi sounded ready to cry.

My crawling skin eased.

“You…you…deleted those two men!” Cami’s attention turned to her daughter. “I did not educate you on such procedures!”

“No, mom, you didn’t.”

“Analysis!” Cami demanded through tears.

“Petunia and Peony had been near capture, mother. I quickly assessed the situation and reacted. The resultant action was purely instinctual and necessary to continue our defensive posture.” She explained calmly.

As the two embraced, two screaming men jumped up and ran toward us from about sixty yards away.

“I have this one, Skipper!” Ensign Reynolds said as deep concentration turned her face bright red.

A small, dark gray cloud appeared out of nowhere. It quickly grew in size and density until roughly fifty yards in diameter and blacker than midnight. Two bright, white-hot, lightning bolts flashed from the cloud in rapid succession. Both bolts hit their respective targets! As quickly as it had appeared, the angry cloud dispersed.

“Nice shootin’, Tex!” Jack whistled in admiration as she pointed to her.

“I didn’t know you knew how to do that, Amy.” I said in amazement.

“I told myself I could, Skipper.”

“Here’s to positive thinking, Ensign!”

“No, ma’am, I literally…told myself…I could do it!”

Instead of congratulating her, I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed. “Then you both did a wonderful job!” I whispered.

“Alex! Janelle is awake and heading for Reilly! Her dog…um…thing is with her too!” Jack shouted.

“Anubis.” Cami interrupted.

“What?” I asked.

“Janelle calls her creation Anubis- part human, part canine! I don’t know how she did it, Alex, just don’t look into its eyes!”

“Is Jacki still relaying all of this, Jack?”

“Sure is, Cap! Why?”

“It’s about time the Empress has some fun, Ladies!”

“I know that look, Alex. You’re not taking another trip back to Pearl? They have enough problems as it is!” Jack looked worried.

“I think the paradox that is Janelle Hathor is about to terminate.”

“What’s she mean, Miss Cummins?” Ensign Reynolds asked in confusion.

“Someone’s gonna become dino-chow!” Jack sang childishly with a devious smile.

“Cool! Can we come, Alex?” Petunia and Peony asked as they grew up beside us.

“I didn’t say anything about dinosaurs!”

“AAAAWWW!” seven voices cried. I had forgotten about Yuuka and Sasha hidden on our shoulders. They had grown to full size behind Jack and I.

“Jack, ask Alexis if our secured commlink can reach someone who is, say…unconscious.”

“She says you know the answer to that already, so why ask?”

“Thank you! Alert everyone to go to stage three, Commander!” I said as my devious smile returned.

“Aye, Cap!”

“Ensign Reynolds, I want you to picture Reilly’s airlock.”

“Aye, Skipper, got it.”

“Next I’d like you to make it snow in that general area, Amy! I want a full-fledged blizzard- at least a foot of nice slippery snow- got it?”

“I’ll do my best, Skipper!”

“Good. Now let’s go snare us a two-legged varmint!” I exclaimed as we set off for Reilly station.

The temperature drop was very noticeable as we reached the small clearing one hundred feet from Reilly’s airlock. More noticeable still was the foot of virgin snow that had miraculously fallen in the ten minutes it took us to reach Reilly!

“That’s good, Ensign. Great job!”

“Thanks, Skipper!” Amy blushed.

“Now what, Alex?” Sasha asked.

“Now you and your small armada take to the air and wait for a clear opening into Reilly!”

“But Reilly’s sensors will be able to follow us, Empress, have you forgotten?” Yuuka cried.

“Time to learn a new pixie trick, Yuuka-chan.” I winked.

“Am I able to become invisible, Empress?” She said, excited by the prospect.

“No, but you can all do something even more amazing, my Pixie sisters.” I hinted.

“Alexis, time to rephase, hun.” I called out into the air above me.

“I really wish you would stop that, mom! You knew exactly where I was!” Alexis said after rephasing next to me with her hands on her hips.

“Now you know how I feel every time y’all kneel to me!”

Alexis rolled her eyes at me. That’s my girl, I thought!

“Are you sure you want to try this, hun?” I asked as she walked to, and stood with our six full size pixies.

“I have seen the initial desired results, mom. It will definitely work…being able to return is topic for much concern.” She replied looking to the ground sadly.

“Empress, what are we to do and how is your daughter involved?” Sasha asked in confusion.

“I want y’all to join hands.” I motioned to the six pixies and Alexis. I paused a moment. “Alexis, honey, you don’t have to do this- there are a few other options.” I advised her once more.

“Alexis? What is going to happen?” Sasha inquired as she looked between my daughter and I.

“I want the six of you to go to pixie mode while holding tightly to my hands.” Alexis ordered while closing her eyes to prepare.

“What? M’lady, what you ask is impossible!” Sasha cried out in surprise. “It has never been done- ever!”

“Do it! Before I change my mind, Pixie!” Alexis barked; her eyes still closed tightly.

The six women looked between each other a few seconds then nodded in unison.

Before my eyes, my daughter- First High Princess Alexis of Citadel, Terra- began to shrink with the other six women. Occasionally a moan would escape her ever-smaller mouth. To my amazement, a set of pixie wings emerged from her back through her changing uniform.

The new, dark blonde haired pixie with beautiful, pink laced wings looked around in complete amazement, examining her hands, face, and her altered, green-tinted clothing.

“Alexis, honey, while still holding hands, I want you to try to phase out, hun.” I asked quietly knowing how sensitive her hearing was now.

Seven pixies disappeared.

“That’s fine, hun, it worked. Can you rephase now?”

They reappeared, but the pink winged pixie stumbled and Yuuka stepped in to steady her.

“Sasha, is she okay?”

Flying to my shoulder, she gave me her report.

“Alexis is fine, Alex. She just got dizzy for a minute. I think she looked up too quickly. The same thing happened to me the first time.”

“Very well. Let’s see if those beautiful new wings of hers work.” I again said quietly.

“Aye, Skipper.” Sasha performed a controlled ‘swan dive’ from my shoulder and flew to her original position.

“Can they do that with any of us, Skipper?” Amy Reynolds asked quietly as she tried to keep her jaw connected and eyes securely in their sockets.

I nodded.

“What made you think of this approach, Alex?” Jack asked as she and Tish looked on in wonder.

“I didn’t, Jack.” I answered as we watched Alexis try to take-off. Her first few attempts ended with her falling on her behind. Her next try ended by knocking over Rose and Dahlia.

Yuuka flew up and took position on my shoulder.

“She’s doing good, Empress, really! My first few attempts caused a couple bumps and bruises. Give her a little time.”

I nodded, but stared at my tiny daughter.

“Alexis, stop over-thinking it! You Terrans always try to over-evaluate things- I swear you people love to make things complicated!” I glanced to Yuuka a second for any reaction. “Just let yourself go, hun. You think a bird has to concentrate on where it wants to go and all the merits it holds? No! It just spreads its wings and…” I motioned away from us- to the sky. ”Off it goes! Simple as that, honey- nothing complicated about it.” I smiled.

To my surprise, Alexis flew up to me and hovered a foot or so in front of my face.

“If you think it’s so easy you should try it, Mother!” She shouted with hands on her hips.

My smile burst forth as wide and as proud as possible!

“Did you hear me, Mother? I said you…should…I’m doing it! Mom, I’m actually flying!” She shrieked.

Alexis then smiled and took off like a bullet. I lost sight of her until she again stopped before me a few seconds later.

“This is so fun, mom!” She smiled as she flew forward and placed a kiss on the tip of my nose.

“Don’t let that detract from your mission, Princess! Remember not to phase out until after you clear the inner airlock hatch. It doesn’t like our kind of talent, honey.” I advised quietly. Alexis nodded her understanding.

Sasha, Dahlia, Rose, Petunia, and Peony took to the air and joined Alexis at eye level before me. Yuuka simply hovered off my shoulder to join them.

“See that Alexis is well protected, my Pixie sisters. I don’t want to explain any serious mishaps to her father. Now fly away to await your opportunity.” I motioned with my open hand to the airlock.

Seven pixies turned and flew away. One immediately returned.

“Empress, I will give my last breath for Lady Alexis!” Yuuka vowed before again speeding away.

“Seeing how enthralling flying around at five inches was to Yuuka, will she even want to return to us, Alex?” Cami sounded concerned.

“I haven’t been able to see that portion of the story, Cami. I hope she can fight the addiction.”

“Who would have thought a strict disciplinarian like Alexis would change so much from such a little change?”

“She just needed to be shown how to have fun, Cami. Now to get back to our own fun. I’m going to engage the encrypted comm link.” I informed my group.

“Is that wise, Cap? I mean, if Alex Reilly, Isabeau, Random, Reilly, or Billie Sangiere are compromised then Janelle…would know…everything…we…you…tell her! Great idea, Alex!” Jack smiled, as she understood my plan.

‘Allie, Janelle has taken the bait. We have confirmed that the past Empress’ standby has been inserted. Tell Alex Reilly her plan worked perfectly, over.’ I thought as I activated the ‘secured’ psychic link.

‘Alex, do you suspect her to have accessed our secured communications protocol?’

‘Negative. I doubt she would have the intelligence to decipher such a complex encryption scheme. Didn’t you tell me it took Random several sleepless nights of constant computations to generate the encryption format?’

‘But Random is one of those held in my station, Alex! If the Assistant Director has her, she has the key!’

‘I doubt she has the smarts to even figure that out, Alex.’

‘I’ll be over with the rest of our sisters in precisely zero-point-zero-zero-zero-four seconds, Alex.’

‘After the light resistance we’ve found so far, I think Jack and I can handle these amateurs, Alex. You and my daughter can come over to watch Jack and I mop up- shouldn’t take too long at all. After they show their cowardly faces, I mean.’

‘Alexis and I will be right over, Alex. Her heart rate has risen at the prospect of observing her mother prevail once again!’

‘I look forward to seeing you two, Steinert out.’ I glanced over to the red icon and thought about turning it off. The icon turned green to indicate communications had ceased. Now all we had to do was wait.

But the wait wasn’t long at all.

“Alex, a group of people, four I think, are entering the inside hatch- get ready!”

“Janelle one of them, Jack?”

“I’m not sure. The thoughts sound like hers.”

“As I expected. Amy, get ready to drop the temperature- think ‘Arctic Winter’- really sub-zero.”

“Aye, Skipper, one deep-freeze at your command.”

“Jack, two nice, well packed snowballs, one in each eye of this Anubis thing should disable its hypnotizing effect for a few minutes! Cami, once Jack blinds that thing I want you to melt a path wide enough to accommodate her. Combined with Amy’s temperature drop it should freeze solid. Tish, this is where you may learn to talk like an Egyptian.”

“Aye, Sensei.”

“Ready, Alex!”

As the airlock door opened, I strained to see if our advance assault team entered safely.

Four very strangely dressed women exited Reilly’s airlock. I noted that they wore way too much eye makeup and not near enough support for their breasts. Janelle was not among them, although a fifth being cautiously emerged behind the others. As Cami had described, it had the body of a human and the sleek, narrow head of a greyhound or maybe an Egyptian Jackal. It’s deeply tanned, slender body looked so androgynous I couldn’t tell if it was male or female.

“So, Janelle sent us more of her disposable minions!” I shouted. “Wait til you have a clear shot, Commander.”

“Aye.”

I pointed to the Halfling thing. “Not so sure about taking us on again, Anubis?”

“You will address a God with the proper respect, insolent one!” A woman about five-three with very heavy eye makeup shouted back. The arrogant tone of her voice did nothing to make me respect her.

“Before I decide if I should show any respect whatsoever, I’d like to know if it’s a man or woman. Back in Missoura’ we’d check a critter’s tail end to be certain. Jack…the loincloth?”

Anubis’ linen skirt flew up instantly.

“Looks like a eunuch to me, Empress. No sign of him or her!” Jack giggled as the…as Anubis fought to keep its modesty.

“It’s a suit, Jack. Trust me…there’s a woman trapped inside.” I whispered to her through the side of my mouth.

“Should I bust her out, Empress?”

“No, Janelle has it booby trapped! If we try, its life support system will fail immediately.”

“Anna-Beth, I understand your dilemma and will try not to injure you too severely. Still it would be better if you refrain from your intended assault- you will not succeed.” I calmly warned Anubis.

The creature started to run at us. At first its movement was labored as if some conflict or resistance were being encountered. As it neared us, Jack let loose with two well aimed snowballs. Both of which impacted the beast directly in the eyes.

Anubis immediately dropped to its knees and howled in pain while rubbing its eyes wildly.

“Now Cami.” I whispered quietly.

As the four women rushed to the aid of Anubis, the snow under them compacted and instantly melted.

“Ensign Reynolds, if you will?”

An icy wind blew the resulting steam into small whirlwinds as it raced across the wide clearing between Reilly’s airlock and us. Ice immediately began to form in the women’s long black hair, eyebrows and lashes. The diaphanous, off the shoulder, white linen togas each woman wore became stiff and began limiting their movement. Their movements in general, continued to get slower and slower until all five stopped, freezing in place to the ground like statues.

“Nice work, Amy! This should really frost the Assistant Director!”

“Skipper, did I just kill them?” Ensign Reynolds started to look a little pale.

“Did you ever see fish in a frozen pond, Ensign? No, they’ll be fine once they warm up, Amy.” I reassured her. “If they share our genetics, that is.” Ensign Reynolds tilted her head a little not understanding me. “They’ll be fine.”

“What about this Anubis…Anna-Beth…thing, Alex?” Jack asked as she took a closer look at it, tapping its icy head with her fingernails.

“We can’t do anything ‘til Janelle triggers the release mechanism, Jack. Until then she’s safer in hibernation.

“Skipper, why make an ice skating rink if you just intended on freezing them?”

“Because good planning and preparation are crucial elements to any victorious campaign, Ensign! Keep watching, Miss Reynolds.” I nodded my head toward the airlock.

“Joss says Melanie has confirmed that the pixies have found Alex Reilly and the others, Alex. All are sedated, but unharmed. Sasha and Yuuka are trying to revive them while Dahlia, Rose, Petunia, and Peony try to locate Emily, Brandon, and Spenser- apparently they are being held in a different location. Alex, Alexis is following Janelle back to the airlock!” Jack’s eyes went wide as she received the last report.

“Jack, keep watching Melanie’s feed and shut that inner hatch before our princess can enter! Janelle and I are going to have some fun and I want my daughter kept clear!”

“Aye, Cap. I’m on it.” Jack acknowledged as she looked at me cautiously.

“At this time I’d like to thank you all for your help and ask that you, Cami, Cassi, Tish, and Amy stay out of the way back in the trees, Jack.”

“Alex, you can’t do this alone! She can throw fireballs! You wouldn’t stand a chance if she hit you!” She protested.

“I’m not going to be alone, Commander, just keep my daughter locked inside Reilly.”

“Doing that as we speak, Captain. Got her, Alex! Janelle is opening the outer hatch now. Good luck, Empress!” Jack said as she motioned for Tish, Cassi, Cami, and Ensign Reynolds to move back into the cover of the tall palms.

“Well lookie yonder! If it ain’t ol’ Jay-nell Hay-thor! Finely got up the gum-shun ta face her superior!” I shouted with as much cheerfulness as I could muster.

Janelle froze as she latched the outer door and turned at the sound of my voice.

“So you and your…pet…think you can defeat my…” She stopped as soon as she saw her compatriots frozen where they stood. “So, you have more than one pet with you today. How unfortunate.” She deadpanned as she quickly recovered.

“Unfortunate, yes…for you, Assistant Director.” I replied as I walked onto the frozen tundra that the clearing had become. “I’m not the least bit afraid of your parlor tricks, Janelle.”

She made a rolling motion with her left hand and threw a fireball at me. Being well out of range of the airlock defenses, I simply phased-out partially and let it pass harmlessly through me.

“Ouch. That…that…ya’know, that did absolutely…um, nothing, Janelle! Like I said, I’m not afraid of your cheap parlor tricks, Assistant Director.” I giggled and continued closing the gap between us.

My adversary’s face grew angrier and another fireball passed straight through me without the slightest effect.

“I grow tired of this fooling around, Janelle, if you intend on defeating me, why not just do it? Why play such games and waste time? I have more interesting places to be right now.” I outright laughed at her this time.

“Insolent abomination!” She hissed as she fired several larger, fireballs my way in rapid succession using both hands- none of which did any harm. I was now within twenty feet of her- almost close enough to be targeted by the airlock’s defense system.

“Is that all you have, Assistant Director, Janelle Hathor? I thought you were this powerful, malevolent divinity! Haven’t you realized by now that your pathetic fireworks pose no threat to me? Why not give up now and release Alex Reilly, her friends, and daughter? I’ll transport you back to Egypt where you can return to being ‘Mother of the Gods’. I just ask that you release Anna-Beth from that nightmarish prison you have her restrained to.”

“You think me not intelligent enough to know a subterfuge? I know that is not the real Alex Reilly I have detained, but a facsimile! Show me the real Alex Reilly and I shall release your beloved friends, Alien!”

“Release Anna-Beth from her prison first, Janelle! I will not produce Alex Reilly until she is removed from that hideous confinement!”

“The hybrid is most certainly departed and of no use to me or anyone else now! I see no reason to waste my specially designed covering’s power system any longer.”

My opponent pulled a small pendant from her cleavage and pressed it between her finger and thumb. A muffled chirp sounded from far behind me. “She is free of the device for all that it matters. Now produce my Director, Alex Reilly, ‘Empress’!” She hissed.

“I’m a woman of my word, Janelle! Alex, we’re ready!” I shouted into the air.

From the look on Hathor’s face I could tell that I was not alone.

“Well hello, Janelle.” My voice said from behind me.

“Director, how nice of you to join us!” Janelle hissed. “Who’s your friend?”

“This is Alex Steinert’s youngest daughter, Alexis. Allie, this is the misguided creature that your mother lost while saving our sisters from certain destruction.”

“Looks like a real bitch to me, Aunt Alex! I take it she’s the reason some of the trees around here look so scorched?” Alexis’ voice chimed out as she regarded the scarred palms.

“Yep. She’s not the sharpest aim as you can see. Personally though, I wouldn’t bring a flame thrower to a trans-dimensional time fight, it’s somewhat useless.” I confided to them without taking my eyes off my aggressor. I watched Janelle’s eyes as they followed Alex and Alexis. As planned the two were now standing directly behind me. I now effectively stood between them and our mutual villain.

Perfect!

‘But I thought Alexis… Alex, who’s the other woman?’ Sounded in my head.

‘Quiet, Jack!’ I thought back. ‘Get Anna-Beth into the trees and get that ‘thing’ off her.’

‘Aye, Cap!’

“Analysis, Assistant Director Hathor, define and substantiate the process of how you have transited through time to beleaguer me? I thought us delete of your faulty revision!” Alex questioned

“I have returned seeking my proper station- the one so rudely retained by you, ‘Director’…and that secondary, illegal revision that apparently has stolen your identity!”

“She isn’t anything like you described, mom, she looks fat to me! I guess the only thing a Goddess has to do is sit around and eat?” Alexis giggled.

Alex giggled at her niece’s remark.

Janelle’s face became even more enraged.

“You mean my temporal sister, Alex Steinert-Covington? Janelle, she is no more illegal than your revisional commissioning! As for you taking my Research station away from me…try it vermin!” Alex Reilly said setting the record straight.

I took a few steps back from our enraged enemy.

A volley of four fireballs flew from both the faux Goddess’s hands in rapid succession. Being just out of sensor range, I phased- as did Alex and Alexis.

None of us were even remotely harmed.

“I should have suspected you would both share talents! It also seems to be revisionary.”

“Wow, she’s a real mental midget there, Aunt Alex! And you say she’s the ‘how many-ith’ revision? Talk about inbreedin’!” Alexis laughed. Her comment caused Alex and I to laugh also.

Again a volley of fireballs passed through the three of us.

“Time’s awastin’ ‘Assistant Director’.” I continued to laugh at her. “Either put up or shut up, Janelle!” I took a few steps closer to her.

“Keep your distance, Alien!”

“Or what, Janelle? You’ll hit me with another big, scary fireball?” I laughed and stared directly into her eyes. I took one last step toward her. We were at arm’s length now. “Give it your best shot, Hathor!” I hissed. “Go ahead, kill me you despicable, cowardly, sorriest excuse for a conscious-less tyrant I’ve ever been cursed to meet!” I brought my arms up and straight out from my sides. “Try and kill me, you heartless bitch!” I shouted as she rolled both hands to generate more fireballs.

I phased out…

The fiery pain I had experienced from the defense system previously was markedly less this time- of course I had expected that to be the case given another body was there to take the brunt of the energy discharge.

I awoke feeling a heavy object on top of me. My back was cold as I started pushing the dead weight off. The moan of fresh snow being compressed filled my ears as I succeeded in rolling Janelle’s motionless body off me. A short puff of steam wafted up from the opposite side of my unconscious adversary- the snow quenching some residual hotspot left on her back from the blast.

“Sensei, Are you alright?” I heard Tish shout from the tree line.

“You’re crazy, you know that Alex?” Jack exclaimed as she, Cami, Cassi, Tish, and Amy carefully ran across the snow-covered field to help me up.

“That was some show, Skip! A bit risky though, don’cha think?” Alexis asked as she and Alex Reilly both offered an arm.

“It was fun, honey! You should try it more often, you might enjoy it, Allie!” I admitted with a smile.

“Are you alright, Alex?” Jack asked as she hugged me and squeezed.

“I’m perfectly fine, Jack. How’s Anna-Beth doing?”

“She still hasn’t regained consciousness yet. Should we be expecting any violence when she does, Empress?” She asked.

“Just be ready for an exceptional outpouring of thanks, Commander.”

Jack turned her attention to Alex. “Allie, I know who you are, but who is your friend here?”

“And y’all’d be wrong! Can’t you see who I am, Commander Cummins?” Alexis giggled with a devious smile.

“Cap?” She looked around at me then back to the two giggling women.

“Jack, I’m Alex.” Alexis stated as she continued to giggle.

“Then who…” Jack asked before her mouth dropped open.

Slowly both women’s features started to shift. Alexis’ face gradually reverted back to my face by way of ‘Allie’s’ hands moving down her head. My twin sister, Allie, was back.

Alex Reilly’s face and physical build gradually changed until Corrine Masterson stood before us.

“Great job, Corrine!” I praised. “I thought I had the market cornered on dramatic acting though.” I said as I noticed a very uncomfortable look appear on her face. “Um, you might want to…you know…scale them back, Corrine.” I giggled as I pointed to her straining uniform jacket.

“Oh,” she said with a tense giggle, “I almost forgot! Thanks, Skip!”

Immediately her breasts shrunk several sizes.

“That’s better! What next, Skip?”

“Next we see if everyone held captive is alright. Jack, would you release our princess, please?”

“Done, Empress.” She said with a big smile.

“Cami, could you open the outer hatch for my little girl?”

“Sure thing, Alex!”

A tiny, pink flash shot from the airlock.

“You locked me inside on purpose, Mom!” Alexis accused as she came to hover a foot or so in front of me at eye level.

“Just to keep y’all safe, honey! Us grownups had to settle an ongoing feud with the crazy lady and I didn’t want you in the crossfire, sweetheart.”

“Alex, Sasha and Yuuka report they have found and revived twenty-five captives. They’re on their way out now.”

“Thanks, Jack. Tell the other Pixies that I want my daughter back before she decides to make her condition permanent.” I focused on my five inch, pink winged daughter.

“You know I could get used to this, mom. You really should try it. The feeling of independence one experiences is so refreshing. The freedom to go wherever you want- to do whatever you feel…” Alexis gushed before I interrupted her.

“That’s exactly why you have to return to your real size, Alexis. Terrans aren’t equipped to handle this much freedom!” I giggled.

“That’s not true! We enjoy leisure time just as much as you, mother!” She groused with hands on hips.

“Yes, I can see that, Alexis.” I said stone-faced.

Jack again caught my attention. “Alex, Jacki and Carroll are asking if it’s safe to approach and tie up.”

“In case you don’t remember sis, we extended the dock to accommodate larger boats.” Allie reminded me. I hadn’t forgotten though.

“Are we still going to invite Detroit to the party, sis?” I said knowing that she was receiving the same images via our gift.

“You’re the Empress, sis! It’s your decision as to whether they find out or not.”

“For bein’ me, y’all are no help!” I scolded.

“Is this when it happens? I hadn’t seen this till just now, Empress! Have you run any scenarios on the matter yet?”

“I’ve been recorded in secret memoirs and governmental diaries in many countries world-wide. The Empress is not the mysterious super-heroine she once was. I think the world can handle this- at least the Navy can.”

“If that’s what you think, Empress! Remember, it’s my problem once you leave, sis!”

“Not so, sis! I’m only a Brie away!”

We giggled.

“Commander, have Joss signal the Detroit. Tell them they’re welcome to tie up at Kili’s dock for some ‘R and R’.”

‘Don’t do it! The time is not right, Empress!’ A voice shouted in my head.

“Aye, Cap, she’s doing it as we speak. Admiral Demmit insists on bringing Sand Dollar in, Alex.”

“From one Admiral to another, tell him he personally repairs any scratches on my boat, Commander Cummins!”

“Aye, Admiral Covington!”

“That’s Admiral Steinert-Fleming-Covington, Commander.” Alex winked.

“Belay my last order, Jack!” I shouted out after wasting valuable time recognizing the voice.

“Alex?” Jack looked back at me in shock.

“Belay contacting the Detroit, Commander! Tell Sand Dollar to stand by!”

“Care to explain yourself, Captain Steinert?” My twin asked looking equally shocked.

“This isn’t right! Where’s Cami and Cassi?” I shouted as I looked around us.

“Alex, I don’t understand!” Jack continued to stare at me, as did Allie.

‘Cami, bring up your Psi shield around us- full strength- use Cassi as an auxiliary if necessary, sweetheart!’ I shouted in my mind.

The landscape around us shimmered, but didn’t look any different except Cami and her daughter were back with us. The two were holding hands and both looked to be concentrating intensely.

“What the hell just happened, Alex?” Jack growled in surprise.

“Our Illusionist is still alive, ladies! Jack could you help out Cassi and Cami?”

Without saying a word, she closed the distance and took Cami’s proffered hand.

Something told me to check our unconscious protagonist. Janelle was just starting to stir. As she groggily pushed herself to a sitting position, I wasted no time administering my best roundhouse punch to her waiting jaw.

The result was immediate- she was again out for the count at my feet and my fist hurt more than I remembered from any previous fights.

“Wow, great punch, Skip!” Amy Reynolds complimented. “But you swing like a girl!” She laughed.

I gave a hearty laugh, but made my face stone sober quickly.

“Ensign?”

“Skipper?”

“Have you ever met a Brontosaurus?”

“No, Skip.”

“Want to?”

“Aye, understood, ma’am!”

“What about me!” A tiny voice tried to catch my attention.

“What about you, honey?” I asked Alexis, who was still hovering at eye level with me.

“When am I going to get back to normal, mom?” She whined as if totally oblivious to what had just occurred!

“Just as soon as we figure out how to do that, sweetheart. Us grown-ups have been a little busy here!” I said soberly.

“You mean you haven’t seen how to return me either?” Her voice changed pitch as her anxiety grew.

“For the time being, Alexis, I need you to take to the air and reconnoiter the general area around Reilly Station. Try to find our unseen…see if you can find any other surprises that your aunt and I haven’t seen.”

“So you want me to fly off and leave you all alone.”

“As your Empress and mother, I’m asking you to look for more of Janelle’s minions outside the facility! If Sasha or Yuuka were here I would ask them instead- in fact, Sasha would already be on patrol!”

“Fine! I’ll get out of your hair then, mother!” Alexis huffed then flew away along the tree line.

“It really is addictive isn’t it, Alex?” Cami said as Cassi’s finger tapped me on the shoulder.

“Like a second adolescence, sweetheart! What’s the matter? Oh, Amy, could you turn the icebox off now, please?”

“I did, Skip! It just takes time to warm the place back up!”

“Alex, come have a look at Anubis- minus her covering. She’s not looking her best, Empress.” Cassi requested.

“Oh, my…” Corrine started to exclaim before I put my hand up to stop her. I appraised the still unconscious figure.

Cassi was right. Sans her exo-prison, Anna-Beth looked terrible! What quickly became apparent, aside from her pasty white skin tone, was the fact that she was also entirely bald- no hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, not even a single nose hair to speak of- bald as a cue ball some would say!

If that weren’t enough, large, evenly spaced, red wilts covered her entire head, her cheeks, jaw, and neck- everywhere. Her eyelids, as well as the skin around both eyes was black and blue- all due to the snow balling. There was blood running from her eyes as well. Looking further, her entire nude body was covered in similar sized and spaced, red wilts, except along her spine, where they were more concentrated. She looked downright gaunt- near starvation!

Cassi moved closer to the motionless figure and lightly put her free hand to the emaciated woman’s chest.

“Can you hold the field without me for a minute or two, mom?” She looked up to Camille with sorrowful eyes. Cami nodded and released her hand.

Jack winced slightly and I felt the shield she and Cami were generating ebb ever so slightly. “Your daughter was supplying more power than I thought, Cami. She’s been practicing?”

Camille Darough smiled and nodded proudly. Jack returned her smile.

“Empress, this woman will not survive the cold! Her heart rate is already below minimum limits and her brain activity is slowing- plus she is severely malnourished! I will do what I can, but without Lady Emily’s help I’m afraid she will pass before nightfall!”

“First we have to knock out that illusionist, Cassi! We’re trapped here until then! Jack, you have enough room to scan for the culprit?”

“Alex, I’ll be right back!” My twin said just before disappearing.

A second later she returned with Jacki.

“What’s the matter, sis, you can’t handle one little tele-illusionist?” Jacki jabbed at her twin.

“This really isn’t the time, sis! Your little tele-whatsit has been training for this prize-fight!” Jack grinned weakly. “Just find the damned bitch!”

“Not a problem!” Jacki closed her eyes and started turning clockwise.

“What’s she doing, Skip?” Amy asked.

“Jack-dar.” I replied flatly as Jacki stopped about thirteen degrees to the right of the airlock.

“Our target is out on the north observation deck- fifth level. Don’t worry; I’ll break out the ‘Raid’, Empress! We’ll be free of that pest once and for all.” Jacki made a fist and pretended to pound down like it was a hammer.

A woman’s blood curdling scream echoed through the air a few seconds later. Jack and Cami seemed to ease their concentration.

“There, that wasn’t so hard. Your problem has been removed, Empress.” Jacki said sadly.

“Did you just…” Amy didn’t finish her question, instead, her face paled.

“It was that or we stayed entrenched and she dies!” Jacki pointed to our withered captive.

I just looked at my future Ex-O critically.

“Empress, I’m sorry it had to come to that. With the strength of her ability, I wasn’t sure I could just stun her. Admiral Covington authorized use of deadly force.”

I continued to stare at her noticing a few tears form and roll down her face.

“Thanks Jack,” I said softly, “Although not the best action, it may have given Anna-Beth a chance. Let’s get her inside.”

“Hey, what’s that over there?” Corrine asked and pointed down the tree line. From this distance it looked like a butterfly casually flitting about the brush looking for a tasty flower. As it made its way closer, I caught sight of the pink wings.

“Alexis!”

While Cassi tended to Anna-Beth, the rest of us ran toward my five-inch daughter.

Holding out my hand, my stumbling daughter landed and immediately doubled over. She then upchucked.

It was disgusting, and it wasn’t the first time one of my daughters had done that…well…sort of, but not yet anyway!

“Honey, you okay? What happened?” I asked quietly so as not to deafen her.

“It was terrible! I had just spotted the one responsible for all the illusions when she suddenly compressed and exploded! Aunt Jacki had something to do with it, didn’t she, mom?” she accused before repeating her previous action in my hand.

“Yes, dear, she deemed it necessary to save another’s life. I’m not enthused with the result, but something had to be done and Anna-Beth is running out of time. I’m sorry you had to witness that, honey.”

“Can…can I get back to normal now, momma?” Alexis asked after wiping her mouth with her hand and wiping it off against the scandalously short skirt of her ‘pixiefied’ uniform. She hadn’t called me ‘Momma’ since she was almost two. “I don’t think I want to be a pixie anymore”

“We were just in the process of getting Anna-Beth to your Aunt Emily- have a seat, I’ll drive. I offered my clean hand to her. Once seated, I wiped my soiled hand on my own uniform to let its onboard sanitation system do its work.

“How could you…” She began to ask.

“It never gets any easier, you just become more callus the more you see it. “ I admitted to my tiny daughter as we entered Reilly Station’s airlock.

“So you’ve gone through this?”

“Many more times then I’d care to admit. I just try and not think about it…sometimes that actually works.”

“Is this how Lady Sandra felt after your second mission to Kili in 1944?” She asked as her color started to come back.

“No, doing the deed up close and personal is far worse, hun. But again, do it enough and you build up a tolerance. In Scotti’s case her Mahanilui weakened the dam that Scott had built- so to speak.”

I thought of some of the things I had done previous to my own change…and after. “We all handle it in our own way, honey- we all have to deal with what we’ve done.” I sniffed back a tear or two and wiped both eyes with my hand…eeeeew! Good thing my clothing had done its job!

We had just entered the main facility when I heard the best noise ever!

“Mom!” Two familiar voices screamed.

Cassandra and Samantha came running down the passage at flank speed!

“Hold on, Alexis, this may get ugly!” I warned as my other two sped closer.

“Mommy! Sam called out as she drew closer to me…then passed me by!

Both women slammed into Allie. I had no idea how she stayed upright until I noticed Jacki’s smile. She looked my way and winked once. I nodded my approval.

“I thought you said it would get ugly, mom!” Alexis looked up from my hand.

“I am a bit disappointed.” I deadpanned loud enough for everyone to hear.

Alexis immediately covered her ears.

“Sorry, honey.” I lowered my volume.

Even without my gift, I knew what was coming next. I raised my free hand. “Don’t even think about it, you two!” I warned. “I’m tired and cranky, and in no mood for formalities- plus I have a pixie in hand and I’m not afraid to use her!”

“Thank you, Empress!” Sam carefully wrapped her arms around me and squeezed. Cassie took her turn next.

“Thanks, mom! I knew you would rescue us!” She told me as she squeezed a little too hard.

“Hey, sis, watch your little sister! I’m kinda in a fragile state!” Alexis shouted after almost being jostled out of my hand.

Both girls’ eyes went wide noticing the pink winged pixie in my other hand.

Samantha responded the quickest.

“M’lady Alexis, First High Princess of Citadel, Terra, I am your maternal half-sister, Samantha Alexis Fleming. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, sister.” She said, taking a step back with a slight bow.

“And I am Cassandra Jacquelyn Fleming, Lady Alexis, First High Princess of Citadel, Terra. M’lady, it is wonderful to finally meet you!” Cassie said repeating her sister’s actions.

Alexis curtsied. “Hi!” She said simply- completely breaking the strict Terran introductory protocol that she ultimately had required when meeting the fake Sam earlier today.

“Wow, I’ve got the strangest feeling we’ve met before.” Sam looked a little confused.

Alexis started giggling uncontrollably.

Six small figures flew at us from around the hallway’s far corner. Sasha and Yuuka landed on either shoulder. Dahlia and Rose landed on Cassie’s shoulders as Petunia and Peony took Samantha’s.

“Nice work, ladies!” I complimented them all.

“You too, Skipper!” Sasha smiled.

Alexis cleared her throat. I almost didn’t hear it.

“Ladies, could you try to undo what the five of you did earlier, please? I think Alexis has had enough of the carefree pixie lifestyle.”

“Aaaaw!” The six, five-inch women cried.

I got it from three different locations.

“But we weren’t done playing yet, Empress!” Peony protested as her sister Petunia nodded her head in agreement.

“Ya, Alex, she really seemed to be enjoying it.” Sasha added.

“If we can get her back to full-size, you can always shrink her back again, but only if she agrees, girls. How would I explain this to her father if she was still like this when returning her and her friends to Terra?” I gestured to my tiny pixie doll.

“I guess we should try now, Sasha.” Yuuka acknowledged.

All seven tiny women took hands. Again they were still for a moment before nodding at each other. They started to grow larger.

“It didn’t work!” Alexis cried, as she alone remained a tiny pink winged pixie. “Why didn’t it work, momma?”

“I’m not sure, honey. I’ve seen that you return to full-size- I just don’t know when, I’m sorry, sweetheart.” I said through tears of my own.

“Maybe it was something we didn’t do the second time, Alexis. Did everyone leave ‘Pixie Mode’ the same way- like we agreed?” Sasha asked her daughters and Yuuka. All shook their heads ‘yes’. “Then it should’ve worked.” She sadly reasoned.

“But it didn’t.” Alexis flew to my shoulder. “Momma, why did it fail? I wanna be my original size! I don’t wanna be a pixie anymore!” She cried.

“Lady Alexis, we will all discuss this and try to reason out why the process failed. I promise- if there is a way to return you to human mode, we will find it.” Sasha promised. “May I remind you and the Empress that such a thing has never been tried before?”

“Momma, I knew what the odds were going into this. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it- just like you and our other sisters did when you changed.” Alexis sniffled into my ear. I felt her squeeze my earlobe tighter.

“I’m telling y’all I saw you back to your regular size, honey. I stand by that vision! It will happen!” I emphasized the positive.

“How do you know? You said you couldn’t see when it would happen!”

“Simple, hun, when we did battle with my rogue self, your Alexandra showed no surprise at your size. Had you never returned to normal in the eighteen Terran years that had passed for her, she would have shown at least some emotion.”

“Momma, your temporal logic simply defies all normal reason! I’m finding it hard to keep what happened ten minutes ago straight in my head and you try to confuse me further?!”

Four pixies appeared hovering in front of me. “Princess, your mother will find the cause for your failed reversal. Right now, we suggest you come with us. We know something that will temporarily take your mind off the problem. Follow us, M’lady.” Rose motioned for Alexis to go with them.

“Go ahead, dear, we’ll find a way to remedy this.” I nodded toward Sasha’s girls. Sasha and Yuuka had now joined her daughters and welcomed Alexis as she slowly took flight and hovered over to them.

“Tag! You’re it!” Peony shouted as she tapped Alexis on her shoulder and disappeared in a blur. Immediately all seven pixies were gone.

“Funny, I didn’t think her attention span would be affected that much, Alex.”

“She’s tired, Jack. It happened to Yuuka too, at first. I think the change may cause some sort of trauma.”

“Actually, the initial changes and growth of wings affect the motor control center of the brain, which in turn stimulates chemical changes similar to those found in reprogrammed stem-cells. The resulting reaction to those newly produced chemicals combined with a human’s natural wonder and desire for the freedom of flight, triggers a mild-to-moderate form of euphoria reminiscent of childhood.” Emily explained as she, Spencer, and Brandon appeared at the end of the hallway.

“Brandon, Honey!” Allie exclaimed as she hurried to her husband. He received an emotional embrace and an emotion filled kiss- one that I was strangely envious of!

“Empress, I thank you for coming to our rescue.” Spencer said as he took my hand and gently kissed it. Such a romantic!

“Thanks for coming, sis.” Emily said as she hugged me tightly. I could almost hear the tears dripping from her face to my shoulder.

“No one is going to hurt my friends or family, Emily. You should know that by now.” I told her softly as I gently rubbed her back.

Someone tugged at my coattail.

“Empress, have you seen Billie Sangiere or my mom?” Reilly asked in concern. I hadn’t seen her arrive. Emily moved away from me and began wiping her eyes dry as she nodded to Reilly.

“I haven’t seen Alex, hun. Where were they held?”

“They held the three of us together Empress, but mom and Billie disappeared when I turned my back!”

I asked the simple question and was appalled by the images I received!

“I need to get to the Protoverse chamber!” I shouted as I started to take off running. “Wait! What am I doing?” I said to myself.

The Protoverse Reaction Control Chamber appeared around me. Alex Reilly suddenly appeared rushing through the doorway and hurrying to the control console. Her face was stained with tears, her eyes bloodshot from crying.

She began tapping and sliding the various controls in front of her as Billie ran in.

“Alex, don’t do this! None of this is your fault! You couldn’t have known she was still alive. Alex, please. Please don’t do this!”

“Stay away from me, Will! If I hadn’t built this horrid thing in the first place, she wouldn’t have been here to hurt these people!” Alex Reilly cried.

“No, Alex, none of us would be here at all! Turn the targeting system back off and come away from the controls, Empress, I beg you!”

“I don’t deserve to be called that, William! I’ve randomized everything! Innocent people have been traumatized because of what I’ve done! I’m returning to rectify this! Don’t try to deter me, William! I must return and destroy the equipment before Alex Steinert arrives! It will be better if I stop Janelle before she leverages Alex to our universe! We should have all departed there instead of being saved to experience torture at that corrupt revision’s hands today!” Alex wiped her tears from her eyes and face with each palm as she alternated hands on the controls.

“You can’t be serious! Alex, you are the reason we’re here- why any of us are here! Will you terminate this process and re-analyze before you initiate any unintentional, unaddressed branching!”

Billie grabbed her friend’s shoulder. “If you had, you might have deduced that this irrational procedure will not only delete Reilly, but Alex Steinert and her sisters too. Process, Alex! If Reilly hadn’t materialized here initially, Mina, Alex, and the others would not be the revisions they are today! If Reilly failed to exist here, then your nanos wouldn’t have modified them! Would you really want to delete all that- all the wonderful things that have happened- all the lives and people that have been saved by ‘the Empress’?”

“But she hurt so many people, Will! I have to prevent her initial arrival!”

“At the expense of so many, Alex? Wouldn’t you be causing more unbalance than Janelle herself if you nullified all this?” Billie motioned around her. “You have a revisio…daughter, Alex! For the first time in over nine hundred revolutions you have a daughter- not a revision! A real daughter, Alex! You would deny her life just to prevent Janelle’s ill-fated and unsuccessful siege?”

“It’s called sacrifice, William Sangiere! Something you’ve known so little about!”

“How dare you!”

“Yes, how dare I! While Cami and I were trying to save our race, you choose to hide in your residence! Look where that strategy got you! Without me you would still be floating around in the ethereal plane- observing life pass you by- unable to interact- to participate!”

Billie Sangiere lowered her head and was quiet for a few seconds. “And I thank you for that reprieve, Empress! Of course you are absolutely correct…I would not be here if not for you, Empress! Without you OR Reilly being in this exact location, here on Earth, the specific set of actions and reactions that resulted in my restoration to life would not have materialized. You wouldn’t have been transported here. You and Alex Steinert would not exist as the Empress and she wouldn’t have been forcibly pulled through to Reilly to complete your project and transport Reilly here in the first place.”

“Like I said, I was the cause of all this! It would be better that I…that we met each other in the dimension of the deleted and not in my private domain!”

“You always have been the impetuous, rash type, Alexander Reilly! How is it you came to be administrator of this research facility; family diversification or real intellectual prowess?”

“My original worked tirelessly to earn this position! His family’s financial standing had no effect whatsoever!”

“Keep telling yourself that, honey, I am an original, remember? I interacted with the earliest Alexander Reilly and he wouldn’t have given up like this! Alex may have been impulsive and insubordinate, but he had higher moral standards and way more confidence in what he meant to achieve!

“That Alex Reilly didn’t initiate the very processes that would adversely affect innocent people!”

“Wrong again, my forgetful sister! Alexander Reilly did exactly that by developing his nanos! All at this facility were forcibly changed whether you believe it or not- some even felt so strongly about the perceived torture, they choose departure over existence! He may have saved our society for that moment in time, but he doomed us to extinction before conceiving of and implementing the revisioning process that has also been responsible for our abilities- something that would have taken many thousand more revolutions through traditional procreation!”

“And that is where the errors began! I should have been deleted from the revisional archives then!”

Billie seemed to be no closer to defusing this situation. Alex Reilly still seemed dead set on going back to pre-destruction Reilly. It was now my turn to try reasoning with her.

“RVP, Y’all wanna lock that thar console to mah voice print only, sugar, Commander Alexandra Steinert, USN?” I commanded as I rephased.

“Voice print accepted, console lockout enabled, Alex. I was wondering when you would arrive and stop our director from causing irreparable damage to this facility!”

“I’ve been here long enough to understand why she feels responsible!” I smiled at being able to stop her from making a grave mistake.

“Why did you do that, Alex?” Alex Reilly asked in astonishment. “You of all people!”

“Alex, did you even listen to what Billie was saying? I did, and she makes perfect sense. Without you, nothing…nothing, sugar, would be here now! Not Billie; not Samantha or Cassandra or Emily, …not even Reilly, Alex! We wouldn’t be here without you! Now you feel you have to reverse all of this!? Why? To prevent one bad guy from raising a little hell?”

“Since I built this device it’s been nothing but trouble…for me…for everyone! It has to be destroyed! The timeline has to be purged of the Empress…forever!”

“And you intend on doing this without asking the Empress, Alex?” I asked flatly.

“I am the Empress, Alex! I’m the original Empress! I have to be the one to stop this!”

“Think again, sugar. Who was it that not only brought Reilly here, but traded universes too? I didn’t see you anywhere around when I risked my life to do that. You probably had no idea such a miracle happened, hun!”

“What?!” Rang out all around us.

“I was here already!” She shouted at me, apparently not hearing RVP.

“No, Alex, you were here…on Earth…when it existed in that small cloud within the chamber you call the Protoverse! Reilly Station was not here yet!”

“We are the same being!”

“Hardly,” I snorted! “We may look and sound the same, but our thoughts, minds, and actions are subtly different! Your private domain is slightly different from mine- so is your operational time period! I wouldn’t call that exactly the same, Alex! I would more likely refer to us as twin sisters.”

“Alex, I need to do this! Please unlock the controls!” She pleaded.

“No! I refuse to let my twin sister commit any grave injustice to this wonderful universe! No one will perish by the Empress’s hand, Alex, no one- not even the Empress!”

“But if I return to dismantle this machine, the ultimate paradox will not have initiated and you will be male again!”

“Am I this dense too, Billie? Can I be this ‘blonde’?” I turned and asked her as I pointed with my thumb back to my distraught sister.

Billie seemed a little surprised by my use of hair color as an insult. “Do you want me to tell her, Alexandra Steinert?”

“No, but thanks, Billie, I’ll ‘enlighten’ her.” I sighed.

“Alexandra Reilly!” I said forcefully as I again turned to my twin. “I cannot dispute your theory that the ultimate paradox will negate itself if you were to succeed in destroying this chamber. What you don’t seem to understand is that the ultimate paradox…the highest order of irony in any universe…its first and foremost prototype…is us, sugar!”

“Us?”

“Us, Alex! Together, we form the enigma that is the ‘Empress of Time and Space’! WE, Alex…” I pointed between us, “We ARE the ultimate paradox! We…we are the cause- the effect- of all other paradoxes. We are the origin, the median, and the culmination!”

“How can you be so sure, Alex? We are just human after all- you say that all the time!”

“We’ve exchanged two universes, Alex. Two imperceptibly vast, incalculably large universes! Tell me again how human we are? Think Alex! Without our existence, you and everyone on Reilly would be ash, right?”

“That’s what our sensors indicated, yes.” Alex Reilly sniffed as she wiped her cheeks again.

“So you, Cami, Sam, Cassie, and Randi designed and built the chamber.

“We were the lead engineers, yes.”

“Janelle, in her effort to become Director, sabotaged the targeting system.”

“Yes, Alex, make your point!” She sniffed, rubbing her eyes again.

“I’m getting there, Alex- be patient! I want you to understand each point I make.” I urged.

“Without her meddling, you wouldn’t have been captured by the Protoverse and ended up here- thus setting in motion the first paradox- your arrival. Without you coming here, Janelle wouldn’t have realized she couldn’t ascend to full power as director until she found you and somehow got you to relinquish command. Now, enter me, Alexandra Steinert- fresh from her Mahanilui- something that mightn’t have happened had you not initiated the first action. I am the major product- the culmination- of the very same paradox! My creation, my unexpected visit to Reilly, my completion of your work, and the rescue of Reilly and her occupants has now completed the circle. Call it destiny, divine providence,” I winced, hating those two terms, “or maybe even dumb luck! Whatever the term used, it seems this was meant to happen, Alex! If you transit back to your home universe- if you can arrive without dying, somehow I feel our universes will find another way to make this all happen. Somehow, it feels we are needed to fulfill some grand scheme- some master-plan!”

I paused to think of how or if I should even confess certain things to the both of us. Doing what I considered would completely demolish the final defenses guarding Alexander Steinert’s fragile psyche, but then again what I planned on admitting had been confirmed so many times already. Was it even necessary? I nodded mentally.

“Alex, I don’t want to go back to being Alexander Steinert! I am so much more than just a submarine captain now! I have friends, family, adventure…most of all; I have purpose in this new life!”

It came out easier than I expected, but still I felt tears form at the finality that single admission brought. Fighting back my own tears, I continued.

“How many people wouldn’t give up everything they hold dear to be us- to be able to travel the oceans of time, dimension, and space- to visit people and places throughout history…or the future?” I had to sniff back a couple tears that made it to my nose.

“Historians, scientists, theologians, and philosophers can only dream of the wonders we’ve seen or have yet to see, Alex! Do you really want all that to end? Do you really feel it prudent to sacrifice our daughters, husbands, and friends just because someone played us, or has caused our loved ones pain?”

I gave her time to sort out everything Billie and I had given her.

“I almost killed everyone I love.” She said just above a whisper a few long minutes later.

Alex Reilly burst out into more tears and pounded the smooth, glossy top of the control console with the side of her fists a few times. “How could I be so selfish?” She cried as she looked at Billie and I.

“Alexandra, are you sure you don’t return to our Homeworld sometime in its past?” Billie asked me- or maybe both of us, I wasn’t sure.

“That remains in the realm of possibilities, highness. Of course, everything from this point on falls into that category.” I admitted cryptically as I made my way around the far side of the console and took Alex into my arms.

A gentle tingle greeted us- just one more reassuring sign that this was indeed the correct course.

“Let it out, Alex.” I told her softly. Immediately her body heaved with spasms as all the pent up emotions came rushing forth.

I let her cry on me for a good five or ten minutes. Emily, Allie and the others had quietly gathered in the doorway and patiently waited for Alex to compose herself enough for me to release her from my embrace.

“RVP, Y’all kin unlock the console now, I believe Alex has reconsidered her drastic actions. Y’all can power down the targeting system, too.”

“Acknowledged, Empress. All peripheral systems are disengaging and powering down. Protoverse chamber containment field returning to one hundred percent.” Random’s voice replied.

“Thank you, RVP! Could you tell me how Random and Isabeau are doing?”

“We’re doing fine, M’lady. Mother and I clandestinely made our way to the station’s processor docking chamber and uploaded into the facility just after you, Lady Mina, Lady Alexis, and Admiral Demmit transited from the station. As with you, Janelle Hathor has no control over our private domain, Empress.” Isabeau’s voice continued instead.

“Well done, both of you!” Billie congratulated.

“Thank you, your highness. Isabeau and I only wish we could have done more to help. I’m afraid we have been severely limited in our defensive responses to thwart the Assistant Director, mum.” Random continued. “Reilly was never designed to support two distinctly diverse processor modules simultaneously in its main core, I’m afraid.”

“I’m proud of both of you Randi!” I gushed. “That was very quick thinking on your part, now download back to your bodies and meet us in the infirmary. Cassi and Cami have taken our former captors there for medical attention.”

“We are returning to corporeal form as we speak, Empress.” Isabeau replied. Mother is out and I’m awaiting port access housekeeping to finish before I too am restored. Processor module purge in ten minutes, M’lady.”

“See you in the infirmary, Lady Isabeau.”

1900hrs, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, May 12th, 2028

“Are both Sand Dollars tucked in for the night, sis?”

“Tied up smartly, Empress. You know…the old man still has it, Allie.” My future twin responded with a wide smile. We had returned to Empress-equals-Allie protocol.

“I bet Jack was just thrilled.”

“I could tell she was a bit nervous, sis. She resisted giving him help though. I think that was harder for her to do.”

“So, why didn’t you just take her yourself?” I asked, wondering why my twin had gone back to future Sand Dollar after collecting Admiral Demmit and depositing him and my Jack on my Sand Dollar.

“It was something Uncle Rick said at his retirement party back in 1963. He confided that he never had a chance to relive his days captaining his ‘S’ boat. As he related story after story to us about his adventures during the last days of the Great War and onward, I felt bad that I couldn’t remedy that. The Empress has vowed to help her friends and family, you know.”

“Mina is going to be so angry with us, sis!”

“Why, I just thought that since I had the opportunity, I’d make the old man happy?”

“I don’t fault you for the kindness, sis, it’s just that we started another paradox and you know how upset she gets when we do that!” I giggled.

“Maybe she’ll be more accepting after this experience, Allie.” She thought a moment. “You ought to be real close to losing her. Are our half-sisters badgering you to talk her out of it?”

“Last week, sis. I told them that I had no control over what Mina decides- that I could only honor her wishes.”

“As I recall they didn’t really accept that line, did they?”

“It wasn’t a line, Alex. I can’t make…I won’t make…someone do something they refuse to do. If I did things like that, I’d be no better than that lame excuse for a sister.” I pointed to one of the three occupied beds in Reilly’s infirmary. Janelle was still out cold from my knuckle sandwich earlier.

“And I thought she was starting to come around just before we lost her.”

“Ya we did, sis. I think somehow falling out of a transitioning time stream into a world and time period totally alien from what you’re used to could cause some terrible psychological damage. I guess she blames me for that too.”

“And you’re just going to take them back to ancient Egypt, sis?”

“I think it best…but not before we see to it that she can’t bare anymore…’Gods or Goddesses’.”

“Sterilization, Empress? Wouldn’t that equate to torture?”

“I’m referring to the Reilly derivation of the Terran cure, sis.” I eyed her cautiously.

“Oh…ya, forgot about that, sorry.” Alex blushed. “You think it will work?”

“Don’t know, never tried it. Alex is the one to ask about that.”

“Ask me what, Empress?” Alex Reilly inquired as she and Reilly joined Alex and I in the room.

“Hey, how y’all doing, Alex?” I smiled as I greeted them.

“Mom has something to tell you, Alex!” Reilly said as she jabbed her mother in the ribs.

“Owww!” She looked sternly at her daughter. “Alex, I just want to say I’m sorry for almost destroying all that we’ve done together.” Her eyes alternated between Alex and I. “I hope you can forgive me.”

We both smiled at her. “Alexandra Reilly, you never had a chance at succeeding. There are so many people that love and care about you that even if you had managed to open the portal, you never would have moved from that room, sis.” I said, beating Alex to the reply we both knew we would say.

“And I thank you for stopping me, Empress.”

“No, I mean that Cami was transmitting every syllable we uttered in the Protoverse control room. She, Jacki, Joss, and Cassi were ready to take whatever steps necessary to keep you away from that portal…shy of killing you, of course!”

“Just shy of deletion, huh? Nice to know they really love me.”

“Just think if they didn’t, sis.” I raised an eyebrow and smiled deviously.

“So what do you have planned for…them, Empress?” Alex Reilly changed the subject quickly and motioned to the three occupied beds.

“I thought about trying out your serum on her, Alex. Do you think it will suppress the passage of nanos from mother to any future child?”

“Either that or hasten her departure. Let’s find out, shall we?” She said as she quickly pulled a dispensing unit containing a semitransparent liquid from her white lab coat.

“Easy there, Dr. Kevorkian.” Alex giggled as she raised her arm to block Alex Reilly’s advance. “She deserves to know the what, the how, and the why- and I refuse to stoop to her level. The Empress must maintain her standards, ladies!”

“Too bad we can’t deter her from using those fireballs she tosses around so freely.”

Out in the hall, a warning klaxon sounded making us all jump.

“Now what?” I asked to no one in particular as I raised my arms.

“Incoming Empress Transit detected! Incoming Empress Transit detected!” The announcement repeated.

Alex, Alex Reilly, and I looked at each other in confusion.

In unison all three of us spoke the same name.

“Alexandra?”

“Empress detected in hallway three-delta, section four, infirmary!” the announcement stated several times before stopping.

“By the Lords, there are three of them! I fear I shall fail miserably in my promise to resist your Grandmother’s potent charms, Granddaughter!” I heard Tibius proclaim.

“Empress Alexandra!” Reilly exclaimed and quickly fell to one knee. “Welcome to Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, Earth. It is 1900hrs, May 12th, 2028AD. We are surprised by your visit, M’lady!”

“Give it a rest already, Reilly! I told you just the other day I would be here!” My Granddaughter groused. Did I really look and sound that perturbed when they do that?

Young Alexandra approached and eyed each of us in turn.

“Aunt Alexandra, I’m glad to see you again.” She wrapped her arms around her. Both women flinched slightly. “I brought someone along who also misses you more so than I.” She motioned to the doorway.

“Gailan!” Alex shouted as she looked around her niece. Alex rushed to the doorway and into his strong arms.

“Grandmother.” Young Alexandra put an arm around both of us. All three of us cringed as we shared the common tingle. “Thank you both for repairing what I unknowingly released on your world! I regret my actions of ten Terran years ago, Empress.”

“Honey, you were eight years old. I’d hate to think what I could, or would have done if I’d received my gift at that age.”

“But she is a despicable woman, Empress! I was too naive to understand that then! I stand before you to ask for leniency of punishment.”

“Alexandra, honey, that is how we learn. I’ve heard it said that the best taught lessons are those we learn through experience. Janelle was wrong to take advantage of a child! She is the one who shall be punished, not you!” I consoled her.

“I am indebted to you, Grandmother Empress! Truly your compassion and evenhandedness fill the universe with optimism! I should add to my own qualities those that you have shown me today and endeavor to spread them among our people so they may know your limitless generosity.”

“Horshit!” Reilly coughed into her closed fist. That response received an angry glare from Tibius and her father. Alex looked like she was holding back a giggle or two.

“I fear you may have spent too much time here on this planet, young lady!” Gailan warned his daughter.

“Truthfully, I am sick to death of the Terran acquaintance protocol; the Terran rite of introduction; the Terran announcement of conception; the Terran declaration of attraction; and especially the Terran apology protocol! How can you people live with so many specific and tedious rites, announcements, protocols, and declarations?” Alex asked, apparently we were both exasperated by how complicated they made things.

“It has been our way for generations before the coming of the new age, dear Empress.” Tibius explained splitting his attention between Alex and I.

“See? That’s what I mean. A simple “That’s the way we do things’ or “That’s our way” would suffice, but no, you have to draw everything out! I’ll tell y’all…it’s borin’ me ta tears, Tibius!” I said.

“I’m sorry.” He said quietly.

“What was that, hun?” Alex asked in surprise.

“I said I was sor-“

“Never mind, I thought that’s what you said! Who are you and what have you done with my Terran mate?” I cut him off.

“I am me, Empress. A wise woman once advised me to simplify my life and strive to make things less complicated. I tell you it is a strenuous battle- one that defies our very basic of teachings! Yet I have struggled on for you my love!”

“Horshit!” Reilly coughed again, hiding her smile with her hand. She received another angry glare.

“Ohshit!” She coughed once more before quickly moving toward the door and squeezing herself through the narrow gap between her mother and the door’s frame.

Alex Reilly tried in vain to stifle her laughter.

“That’s my girl!” She finally broke out in a giggle fit. Despite himself, Gailan started to laugh, too.

“I see now where she finds example, Tibius.” He chuckled.

“Yes, Lady Reilly is a perfect match for this world!” Tibius deadpanned while succeeding in deferring any emotional outburst at all. “Empress, why has my daughter not arrived to welcome me? Surely she has sensed my arrival and knows the protocol. Or has she also succumbed to the laidback style of this world?”

I scanned the room and visible hallway before providing him with any answer. “I’m afraid Alexis is fearful of your reaction to seeing her, sire. In order to achieve victory over our intruders, Lady Alexis volunteered to undergo an experimental process- one we hope can be reversed.”

“Wait, the only time you call me ‘sire’ is when you think I’m going to…how do you say it…oh, ‘go ballistic’?” Tibius glared at me…at us.

Alexis slowly flew into the room. All eyes locked on her as she hovered then landed on my shoulder. Six more pixies entered and took up similar positions on Alex, Reilly, and Emily, who had just entered the room to check on her patients.

The room was quiet for some time.

“He is trying to hear my thoughts, Empress.” My tiny daughter said pulling down my earlobe to get my attention. “He will disown me for sure, momma!” She sniffed.

“You cannot hear our daughter’s thoughts while in pixie mode, Tibius. Terrans may only see through their eyes onless freely offered the connection. Alexis is still our daughter, my dear. Is her present form so hideous that you cannot offer salutation?” I asked sternly at the silent, wide-eyed man.

“Lady Alexis,” Her husband, Nathan, whispered?

Alexis immediately flew to her husband and landed on his shoulder. Carefully, she leaned out from his shoulder and placed a kiss on the side of his lips.

They were too far away for me to hear, but whatever it was, a tear or two rolled down Nathan’s face.

“Mother, you will return to normal, of that I am certain. I just can’t see when.” Our young Empress said sadly. “I believe Grandmother and Aunt Alexandra experience the same obstruction.

A disturbance arose out in the hall as I heard my daughter’s voice sing out.

“Please, let me pass! I’m the Empress’s daughter and need to see her.”

The doorway did not clear.

“I said, y’all gethehell outta mah way! Now!’” Samantha’s voice boomed out and created a hole at the doorway big enough for her to turn sideways through. “Thank you!”

She searched and found Alexis on Young Alexandra’s shoulder. “Sister, if you will come with me?” She pointed to her shoulder. Alexis nodded and slowly exchanged shoulders. Both walked over to Alex and I.

“I’m surprised at you two. The answer was right under your noses this whole time, mom.” Sam laughed.

“My Empress, is this also your daughter?” Tibius asked as he again found his voice.

“Tibius, this is my daughter Samantha Fleming- Sam, this is your sister’s father, Tibius of Citadel, Terra.

“It is an honor to make your acquaintance, Sir Tibius! On behalf of the citizens of this realm, I most humbly welcome to Earth.” Samantha said as she bowed reverently.

“Sam is two Earth years older than Alexis, dear.” I said, anticipating his next question.

Tibius offered his hand to Samantha, which she graciously took. He tenderly kissed it.

“You know of the reinterpreted and abridged version of the Terran rite of introduction? Your mother has taught you well, Lady Samantha.”

“Sorry, but it’s also an old line from a campy ‘B’ flick from last century, Sir Tibius. Mother has tried numerous times to teach the full Terran rite to us, but my sister Cassandra and I refused to learn anything so long and boring. No offense.”

“Even so, there still may be hope for this world. Lady Samantha I hold you no offense. Please tell us how this beautiful, tiny creature can be fully restored.”

“Yes, Sam, y’all wanna divulge the secret, then y’all can tell the Empress how you could see the answer an’ we couldn’t!” I pointed to young Alex, Alex Covington, and myself then pointed out the door where Alex Reilly was still locked in a passionate embrace with Gailan.

“Mom, I’m surprised you didn’t think of it, being the ancient film aficionado you are.”

“Look, Aunt Samantha, if y’all know how to restore mother then, by all means, tell us an’ get on with it!” Young Alex growled as she moved nearer to Sam.

“Yep, that’s you, mom! Is this how patient you were at that age?” Sam giggled at her annoyed niece.

“We once had giant reptiles on my planet, too, Aunt Sam!”

“You would have to catch me first, young Empress- something mom has tried and failed many times over!” Sam giggled.

“I let you get away, young lady!” Alex heckled.

“M’ladies, if not interfering too much, I’d like my daughter back to her original state?” Tibius interrupted, a little annoyed by our banter.

“Of course, Sir Tibius. Lady Alexis must take the following steps to be restored, but she must also be unfaltering in her belief that she can do so, my liege. First…she must ask herself an important question- if becoming full-sized is something she really wants. She must answer with her heart and only her heart! Second, she must fly to the floor and stand solidly on both feet.” Sam watched as Alexis landed on the floor beside us and looked up to Sam waiting for the next step in the process.

“Next Lady Alexis must picture her original form.” Sam paused as she saw her sister close her eyes. My Samantha smiled deviously before continuing.

“Finally, the Lady Alexis must click her heels together three times, and while walking forward repeat the sentence ‘there’s no place like home’ until she feels results.” Sam said quickly.

“The Wizard of OZ? Sam, that has to be the corniest…” I started to say before Sam put her finger to her lips and pointed to Alexis.

To everyone’s surprise, Alexis was starting to grow with each step she took!

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home!” Alexis’ voice grew louder as she continued to walk away from us. Several steps later, she bumped into the far wall of the infirmary ward.

“Ouch!” My off-world daughter exclaimed as she felt the solid wall then turned around and opened her eyes.

A huge smile flashed to her face as she realized it had worked.

“I’m me again!” She shouted as she rushed back and wrapped her arms around my Samantha. “Thank you, Sam! I owe you my life!”

“Nah, I think we can just call it even, sis. Pro bono- for family- you know.”

A confused look came over Alexis’ face. “I’m sorry?”

“If I understand the nuances of this language and world, Lady Alexis, she said that the service just rendered is free for family?” Tibius looked over to Alex and I. Both of us put a finger to our nose as confirmation.

“Thank you, Lady Samantha!” Alexis kissed her on the cheek and hugged her again- her excitement was very evident.

“Does this mean we can turn her back into a pixie anytime she wants, Sensei?” Yuuka asked, tugging on my ear.

“Time to grow up my sisters.” I said, ignoring Yuuka’s question.

Six women grew to full size in the open area of the room and joined us around the three unconscious figures occupying the beds.

“Doctor, how are they doing?” I asked Emily.

“Janelle is just sleeping off that knuckle sandwich you gave her earlier. This one,” she pointed to only surviving recipient of Amy Reynolds’ lightning, “He might live to cause problems another day, but not before extensive skin grafts to repair that huge third degree burn crater in his chest. I wasn’t sure he was going to make it at all until I hit him with the Defibulator a fifth time! It still won’t be known if he’ll be able to walk again until he wakes, Allie.”

“How about the two overly made-up street-walkers? Have they thawed out yet?”

“Locked in an unassigned residence awaiting transport back to Egypt as you ordered, Empress.” RVP replied instead. I looked to the ceiling and nodded.

I returned my attention to Emily.

“What about Anna-Beth?”

“Empress, I don’t know if she’ll last the night. Internal scans show her organs are severely damaged and on the verge of shutdown. Reilly’s medical equipment is highly advanced, but I’m not sure that will even help her. If she recovers at all, she’ll still be blind. There is no way possible to rebuild the delicate tissues of the eyes, I’m sorry, Allie.” Emily lowered her head and shook it slightly. “Unless you have some new technology, Tibius?”

It dawned on me that I had forgotten my manners. “Tibius, dear, I almost forgot to introduce my sister, Dr. Emily Scott-Rosen. She is our medical officer…sorry…wrong time period…she is our doctor. Emily has the gift of medical diagnosis and foresight. To her right is her husband, Spencer Rosen. Spencer has his own gifts and set of charms.”

“”Sir, it is an honor to meet someone of your high standing!” Spencer said as he offered his hand.

“How is it I can read you like a text, Mr. Spencer?” Tibius looked somewhat confused.

“I have not partaken of the Mahanilui water to date, sir, but I too can read you ‘like a text’! What is the real reason you have asked the young Empress to bring you here?” Spencer narrowed his eyes slightly at the Terran.

Tibius began laughing as he continued to shake Spencer’s hand.

“Alexandra, you still manage to outsmart me despite my secretive efforts. You have among you a man with the most precious gift of all- no gift! A man who uses his natural talent of observation to gauge his opponent’s character. I stand thoroughly defeated, M’lady. And well played, sir.” Tibius continued to laugh.

“Care to bring the rest of us into the joke, Empress?” Emily chided as she and Spencer looked at young Alexandra, Alex Covington, and I.

“Tibius is searching for a new Homeworld. He gave Alexis, Isabeau, and Melanie a secondary mission when they agreed to help vanquish my rogue counterpart. That mission was to learn our weaknesses so Earth might become the new Terran Homeworld. Since Alexis and her sisters are part human, they naturally felt conflicted. Common decency finally won out and the whole plan was revealed to me. Bearing witness to Lady Jacquelyn’s awesome power also played a part in swaying their loyalties.”

Tibius laughed harder, if such a thing were possible!

“You…you think…you think that…that was my endgame, Alexandra?” He laughed heartily.

“Do tell, sire! And may I warn you it is not healthy for a Terran to laugh so long. Procedural decay will result and you will digress to simply being human, my mate!” I warned flatly with one raised eyebrow.

“Empress, we do not want for your world. Young Alexandra has already found a suitable replacement for our civilization. I requested specifics on your home world at the request of our Granddaughter. She told me of the upcoming…of today’s confrontation. A plan was put into action that would lend assistance should the foreseen sequence of events run afoul. I wouldn’t wish to oppose you in combat of any kind, M’lady!”

“That’s not entirely the whole story though, is it, Sir Tibius?” Spencer again squinted an eye at the jovial man.

“Again I am countered, sir!” The Terran’s laughter seemed to ebb a little. “Alas, Empress, an emergency plan was also conceived in the event that everything fell apart and you fell to this one’s campaign. Its simplicity and effectiveness made it the most horrific thing any Terran has devised in well over two thousand years!”

Tibius suddenly stopped laughing, lowered his head, and paused a moment. “The full out destruction of Earth, M’lady. We could not have your talents or that of your Mind Warriors falling into that wretch’s hands! No system, galaxy…no universe would be saved from her thirst for power.” Tibius raised a hand and wiped his eyes with thumb and forefinger. “Should you have succumb, we were ready to sacrifice your Homeworld…Earth, you, and…and even ourselves to secure the safety of…of everything, my dear Alexandra.”

The heavy silence that filled the room was only broken after several minutes by the stirring of Janelle as she started to regain consciousness.

“Not quite yet, bitch.” Young Alexandra said calmly as she walked over and laid the bedridden woman out with another well-placed shot to the jaw.

“That’s for all those who took advantage of me and those that ridiculed me for not having Terran powers!”

‘Wow! I thought I had issues!’ I thought as I raised both eyebrows in surprise.

“I’m afraid I did not remember the pain involved with such a pleasurable act of violence, Grandmother.” Alexandra admitted as she winced in pain while gingerly rubbing her right fist.

Tibius’s jaw had dropped in amazement that his offspring would do such a thing.

“Done in true ‘Empress’ fashion, sweetheart.” I hugged her then moved aside to let Alex do the same. As before we shared the familiar tingle.

“Miss Hathor is really having a bad day, isn’t she?” Emily smiled mockingly.

“When we first arrived, I heard something about administering a variant of the cure developed on Terra?” Tibius asked while still shaking his head at his granddaughter’s act of brutality.

“Alex was just about to let me inject her when you arrived, Tibius.” Alex Reilly replied as she took position beside Alex, Alexandra, and I.”

“I wanted her to be conscious to explain what would happen, first, Alex.” Alex Covington chided.

“Did she give us that consideration?” Alex Reilly said with anger as she again pulled the readied, high-tech syringe from her pocket.

“Co-Empress, Lady Emily, informs me the serum has not been tested. Prudence would dictate that either we try it out on a willing subject or we inform the wretch of the possible outcomes.”

“She was part of my facility’s staff, so I am still responsible for her, Tibius.”

A chime from the display on the wall above Anna-Beth’s bed caused Emily to quickly excuse herself from Alex Reilly’s discussion with Tibius. As the two argued on about Janelle’s fate, I turned my attention to Emily who was now browsing through screen after screen on the display.

A look of surprise developed on her face. It became a smile.

“Alex, we’ll decide Janelle’s fate a little later. You might even get to blow something up. Would that make you happy?” I moved between her and Tibius as I made my way over to Emily. Alexandra, Alex Covington, and Alex Reilly followed quietly.

“What of the ‘Mind Thief’, Lady Physician?” Tibius asked as he too moved closer to the emaciated woman’s bed. This allowed more of young Alexandra’s entourage to enter the room. I saw a few more familiar faces, including Uncle Rick’s- one in particular, though, smiled back.

“Allie, this woman is clean!” She said, very surprised.

“Care to elaborate, Doc?” I asked.

“Alex, Anna-Beth is human! She has no nanos in her body at all. I don’t understand it, she has a gift- I saw it in use myself- how?”

“How indeed.” I repeated as I asked my gift and was rewarded with a sequence of images- strange images of a strange world- images of her capture- of her exploitation- her enslavement!

“You think she has enough left to speak, Emily?” I asked softly.

“I could give her something to make her conscious for a very short time. I wouldn’t risk it twice though.”

“Can’t we just give her the nanos and get her drunk, Aunt Emily?” Reilly asked as she moved beside Spencer.

“She’s too critical to risk alcohol, Reilly. In her condition, it would only take a small amount to kill her.

“Maybe Alexis can help. She repaired several severed arteries and mended a few vital organs back at Pearl Harbor after the attack.” Reilly went on. I noticed Uncle Rick’s eyes open wide at her details.

“No offence, sweetheart, but it would take a team of Terrans versed in human anatomy to give her even a ten percent chance of survival!” Emily replied sadly.

“If the Empress would allow me, Doc, I could try my hand at repairing a few things.” Corrine announced as she pushed through the crowd now gathered in the room.

“I thought you only did cosmetic alterations, Corrine?” Emily responded in confusion.

“I’ve been practicing, ma’am. Though limited, I can affect a few items closer to the skin.”

“I offer my services too, Aunt Emily!” Alexis offered as she too moved closer to the bed.

“We offer to help the unfortunate one also, M’lady.” Isabeau volunteered as she, Melanie, and Reilly stepped forward.

“It still may not be enough, ladies! Repairing one of our own in this condition is risky enough, but repairing an unmodified human…”

“Then would she stand a better chance if someone with intimate knowledge of the ‘unmodified human’ anatomy were here to help you, Lady Physician,” Tibius gently interrupted?

“That would certainly help, but do we know of anyone with those qualifications, Tibius?” Emily admitted.

“Doctor, I was once a nurse. Maybe I can be of assistance?” A female voice asked from back near the doorway- near Admiral Demmit.

“That voice!” Emily craned her head around to see its owner. “I know that voice!” She continued to search the crowd. Admiral Demmit, too, looked around at the young woman passing beside him.

“Doctor Scott, I believe I can help save this woman’s life, ma’am!” The woman offered again. This time her voice was a little louder.

“That’s impossible! You’re dead! I checked for a pulse myself!” Emily cried before looking at Alex Covington and I with an angry scowl.

“I’m afraid the reports of my demise have been gravely overstated, ma’am.” The voice explained, growing louder until finally a short, brown haired woman emerged through the crowd.

“Cindy!” Emily screeched.

The two women wrapped their arms around each other and squeezed for all they were worth.

Tibius shook his head side-to-side and chuckled a few times. “And that would be checkmate, my mate! Again Empress, you have beaten me, plain and simple. A marvelous game, this ‘Chess’. We must play more of it on your next visit to Terra.”

The handsome Terran kissed both Alex and I on the forehead. Just that small gesture made my stomach develop butterflies. I felt myself blush. When did I start smiling anyway? I looked away- to Uncle Rick. He nodded his approval as a single tear rolled down his cheek.

Tibius tilted his head toward the doorway- toward Uncle Rick.

“Yes, Admiral Richard Demmit, your niece, my beloved Empress and mother to the first-born Terran female in over four hundred Earth years, has turned despair and loss into victory once again. I must congratulate you sir!” Tibius moved through the crowd gathered by Anna-Beth’s bed and made his way back to Uncle Rick.

The two men stood facing each other for a moment. I noticed Uncle Rick’s patented stare, but could not see Tibius’ face.

Both men appeared to reach a draw of some sort and slowly offered each their hand.

“Grandfather!” Young Alexandra shouted out from across the room. “Do you think that wise? He has not made the full connection yet, though I feel he suspects!”

The room went dead quiet.

“Richard Demmit’s mind is his own, young Empress. Given that, he shall make it up himself!” Tibius answered back without turning his attention from our Uncle.

“He may not be ready, Grandfather!” Alexandra shouted again.

“Ready for what, Alexandra?” Both Alex’s and I asked.

I received images from that one small question- images that seemed to be creating another paradox. Both Alex’s must have received them too.

“Alex? What haven’t I quite figured out yet?” Uncle Rick growled out.

“Um, that this man is not from our world.” I was not sure if I should tell him what I…we had seen.

“Do I look that oblivious, Captain! What aren’t you telling me, Alex?”

“She is not telling you that I am her Granddaughter, the future Empress of Time and Space, Admiral Demmit, sir!” Alexandra replied in my place.

Mina had finally arrived and made her way to Uncle Rick.

“That is also obvious, young lady. Or should I refer to you as my great-grandniece? You four act and talk exactly like the captain there.” The old man pointed to Alex Reilly first then changed his mind and pointed to Alex Covington. Becoming even more confused, he finally pointed to me before raising his arms in defeat.

“I give up! You all give me the same headache!” He growled before looking at Tibius again. “Sir, on behalf of the United States, its military, and especially the people of Earth, I welcome you. Your women have done our country…this world…many wonderful and compassionate services. They are true heroines! We are eternally indebted, sir!”

Admiral Demmit and Tibius took each other’s proffered hand.

“Ouch!” Both exclaimed.

“My word! Is it possible?” Mina asked as the two men broke their handshake and observed his hand.

“Is what possible, Mina?” I asked barely holding my laughter.

Eyeing Alexandra, Alex, Alex Reilly, and me for a minute, she restated her question.

“Is it possible for two not influenced by the Mahanilui to ‘sync up’, Empress?”

The four of us…Empress’s… looked between ourselves.

“Beats me!” We exclaimed in unison before breaking into uncontrolled laughter.

“Richard Demmit, I believe that what the Empress refers to is our physical relationship. Apparently, you and I are what they call ‘temporal twins’, though I really don’t see any similarities. Alexandra…Steinert-Fleming told me of how she receives a slight electrical shock each time she greets her temporal twin, but if the supposed twin is not from the same timeline, no stimulus is felt. Somehow you and I are related in this timeline, Admiral, though I am confused as to our temporal position in this relationship.” Tibius explained.

“I never went through Mina’s Mahanilui. How on earth could I be any relation to you- a man from the other side of the galaxy? There has to be another explanation, Mr. Tibius.”

“Tibius, sir, just Tibius. All family monikers were released after our star entered its second phase three hundred years ago…Terran years. Most of our planet’s water evaporated into space at that time. What remained, we pumped into huge underground reservoirs that we use to this day- at least until our star enters its third and final stage of life.”

“Alex. Anna-Beth is coming around a little.” Emily interrupted Tibius’ history lesson.

I hurried…the four of us hurried to her bedside. Tibius, Uncle Rick and Mina followed.

The feeble woman mumbled something, but my uniform only translated one word from near the end of her sentence. “Home.”

“What did she say, Alex?” Emily asked the four of us.

“Something about home, sis. I think she is asking us if she is home.” I surmised, being the closest.

“May I get closer, Empress?” Tibius asked politely.

Once again the frail woman repeated her question changing it slightly as Tibius draw closer.

To all our surprise, his mouth dropped open and after a moment he replied to her.

“What did she say, father?” Alexis asked impatiently.

“By the Lords!” He gasped as he slowly put his hand to her right temple. “Can it be true?”

“Be careful with the Vulcan Mind Meld, Sir Tibius!” Emily warned. “She is far from being stabilized.”

As the leader of all Terra dropped his hand and stood, he muttered one phrase.

“They will do their best, Commander!”

“Commander? Tibius, what is she commander of?” I…we asked. All four of us had taken to speaking in unison of late. Whether young Alexandra was doing it on purpose, I didn’t know.

“I’m not sure, Empress! I need to correlate this with Gailan and Timus. One moment, M’lady.”

What do you think it is, Alex?” Mina and Uncle Rick leaned in to us four Alexandra’s. I had just asked the same question.

“You are not going to believe this!” I whispered after opening my eyes. I touched Alex Covington’s shoulder and received our little shock as I shared our big shock. She looked back at me as if seeing a ghost.

“Oh, fecies!” Alex Reilly quietly exclaimed as she too received the same answer.

“Indeed!” Mina added.

Young Alexandra just smiled brightly. She apparently had seen the answer first.

By the time Tibius had convened his closed discussion, all four of us were smiling like fools!

Taking notice, he shook his head. “Why did I even bother, gentlemen? Our beloved Empress here has already seen the answer to our query! Next time could you save us the trouble, M’ladies?”

“Need some aspirin, Tibius?” Uncle Rick offered up a bottle from his pocket. “So, what is the answer? What is she commander of, sir?” he asked with authority as he stared at all of us.

“It seems, Admiral, that we ARE all related.” Young Alexandra started.

“Anna-Beth is one of one hundred-eighteen survivors of a crash landing, sir.” Alex Reilly continued.

“A crash landing on Earth many thousands of years ago, Richard.” Mina added.

“Because she and her crew were stranded here, they shared certain technologies with the local tribes in exchange for food and in payment for nursing some of her injured crew back to health, Uncle Rick.” Alex Covington conveyed yet more of the tale.

“All went well- both peoples coexisted in harmony until four women suddenly appeared in the middle of a town they called Memphis. The four women, using powers similar to the stranded crew, forcibly enslaved the inhabitants- especially Anna-Beth and her remaining crew, Admiral Demmit.” I finished the story.

“But where were they from?” The old man suddenly paused as he considered everything that had been said. “No! You’re not going to tell me…”

Alexis cut him off. “Yes Uncle Rick, Anna-Beth and her crew are from Terra.”

“Several hundred years before our star entered its second phase, Terra undertook a plan to explore our solar system, much the way Earth is doing now. A series of what they called Deep-Space Probes were launched to neighboring systems in search of similar life. Exploratory Probe Twelve of the Meridian Project mysteriously disappeared several months out and was never heard from again- or so our ancient history archives record it.” Tibius filled in the missing pieces as he looked sadly at the withering Terran.

“So she is one of the ancestors?” Emily asked, as she made sure she understood things.

“Yes, Lady Physician. We are in the presence of our common ancestor- the missing link that now bonds us together as a common people. It also increases the urgency to which we must render treatment to this poor abused sole, M’lady!” Tibius sounded choked up as he answered.

“Emily, my gift is that of healing…and telepathy. With your help in diagnosis, together we can save this woman, M’lady.” Cindy offered. “I have been told that many of our sisters rendered assistance at Pearl Harbor. With so many practioners, this woman stands a very good chance of recovery.”

“An excellent idea, Lady Cynthia! First though, I must secure one bit of baggage. That of Janelle Hathor.” Tibius looked at me squarely. “Empress, I know that you are of the mindset to disable this woman’s ability to conceive gifted children.”

I nodded, as did Alex Reilly.

“I am of like mind, M’lady, but would that not be another form of torture? I propose a trade-off of sorts.”

“I’m listening.” Alex Reilly replied for all four of us.

“If I were to disable her gift, neigh, prohibit it and erase the knowledge of it from her memory, would that not effectively end her crusade for power?”

“Not a bad idea, Tibius. I suggest limitation of her gift to nothing more than a small, candle-like flame, but imprison her lust for domination and power to the dark edges of her mind- in the place all of us keep similar thoughts and wanton desires. Janelle is a good person deep down. I saw it in her eyes just before exchanging universes. Her only flaw is her inability to suppress her all-encompassing need to be important- to be in control.”

“So you want me to modify her personality, Empress? Would that not be considered torture also?” He looked for my response.

“I submit that it wouldn’t be assumed torture if we were just repairing a few…um…design flaws. Alex Reilly would refer to it as ‘repairing the latest revision’, my dear Tibius.”

“Alex is correct in her deduced procedural options, Tibius. If a developing revision incurs some unforeseen error it is usually deleted and another devoid of the imperfection started in its place. How Janelle’s error escaped Reilly’s quality scan, I have no specific postulation!”

Tibius looked confused as he turned his head to Gailan for clarification.

“She says she has no clue, my friend.”

“I thought as much. Many thanks, my brother. We have a deal, my ever-caring Empress. With your permission, I will…’repair’…this revision’s error.”

Alex Reilly and I both gave one nod of our heads.

A minute later Tibius had finished the task.

An alarm sounded from the monitor beside us.

“What happened, sis?” I asked with concern as we turned to the noise.

“I couldn’t stop it! The damage must have been too extent, Alex, I sorry.” Emily shook her head as she cried. I offered my shoulder to her.

“It was always possible it would happen, sis. Even you know you can’t save them all.” I consoled my sister.

“I thought we were making good progress, Alex!” She cried into my shoulder.

“Emily, don’t take it so hard. We’ve all seen it happen. You did everything possible, honey! Some things just weren’t meant to be.” Uncle Rick added a loving hand to my sister’s shoulder.

“Not to seem uncaring, but shouldn’t we all focus on the victim still fighting for her life, Lady Physician? You said yourself that, should he survive, must likely he would be incapacitated from the neck down.”

“That is no excuse for not doing our job, Tibius!” Cindy spoke out with a scowl. “Here on Earth we physicians take an oath to help everyone- friend or foe! Our Hippocratic oath is as sacred as water on Terra!”

“Forgive me, Lady Cynthia. I have let greed of saving the ancestor momentarily cloud my judgment.” Tibius apologized.

“Then shouldn’t we turn all attention to Anna-Beth- before we lose her too?” My granddaughter strongly insisted.

“Of course, my Granddaughter, you are absolutely right.” Tibius said sadly.

“She’s just like you, Alex.” Uncle Rick whispered as he put his hand on my shoulder.

“Thanks, Uncle, she will do us all proud.” I whispered back.

Young Alexandra winked at me and smiled.

Our attention refocused on my Terran mate…future mate.

“My friends, let us all lay hand to this poor woman so that we may mend her wounds enough to give her the option of the Mahanilui!” Tibius decreed, as he motioned for his travel companions to approach.

Alex Covington, Alex Reilly, Alexandra, and I watched in silence as everyone with healing abilities laid hand to a critical point on our patient as indicated by Emily and Cindy.

I asked the simple question of whether Anna-Beth would survive.

I smiled.

This was the third time in Earth’s sometimes vicious and bloody history that people from three different worlds and two different universes had come together to help save lives! Officially it was the first, as our ancestor’s efforts in ancient Egypt remained unwritten- unproven, and my sisters’ humanitarian efforts at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941- the day that still lives in ‘infamy’- could never, ever, be revealed.

Tears poured from my eyes as I asked for, and witnessed, images of future adventures- both positive and negative.

Of course, all future adventures had the possibility to be coaxed toward the positive when one, or all three Empresses of Time and Space- past, present, and future- and our sisters were involved.

~o~O~o~

Author’s note:

This concludes the first ‘Season’ of South of Bikini. I want to express my sincere thanks to all who read, commented, and gracefully pointed out any errors or corrections as the story progressed.

There are many more adventures already set to paper for the Empress and her crew.

Thanks again for reading,

R. G. Beyer



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