South of Bikini 2: E2- Danger, Developments, and Confusion

There appears to be a stow-away within USS Detroit’s crew. After returning Sand Dollar to 1944, Alex mysteriously collapses. Finding herself back in 1942 and in someone else’s body, can she maintain the timeline as she remembers it or will things spiral into nightmare? Can Alex find a way to save one of her beloved sisters?


Copyright 2008 R.G. Beyer


South of Bikini II:

Onward

Episode 2

“Danger, developments, and confusion”

1820hrs, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, May 19th, 2028

Alex was waiting for my return from Detroit.

“So, does Vern still know about Peyton, sis?”

“Was there ever any doubt?” I answered with a wry smile on my face.

“Well…ya! Everytime you change our future I have to wonder if we’re going to sync up the next time we touch.” She said defensively.

“You know you could always go back to the moment. Why does it seem that I’m the only one of us that sees that?”

“I’m not sure, sis! I’m still puzzling over that one.” Alex paused for a minute. “Maybe you’re the ‘baseline’ Empress- the reference point if there is such a thing.”

“You tell me, sis. You’ve had what, eighty-four or so years to ponder that?”

There was a long pause in our conversation. My future self looked down as she started to answer.

“Alex, we aren’t going to touch until the next time we meet. We’ve seen that. And before you try to change that fact, I suggest you check our gift. It needs to be that way, we…we are not to touch one another!” My twin’s face took on a very dismal look as she looked back up. My gift only confirmed her statement- nothing more could be seen though as to any basis.

Now I was the one that began to worry- especially when the finicky airlock began moaning and groaning as I tried entering the station. Its alarm produced a very sluggish and feeble growl as I walked through. Despite all the noise, the monitors displayed nothing but a message stating that calibration was needed. One of these days I hoped Ricky Lynn could get to that.

0715hrs, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, May 20th, 2028

Admiral Demmit completed his thorough, but unnecessary inspection of Reilly just before 0700hrs. Alex Covington’s crew escorted the old man to the dock and we all said our goodbyes.

Mina had remained dockside having finally convinced her four daughters of her safety and the crucial mission back on Kili Island, BC. She was scheduled to depart with Alex Reilly later today. Mia, Kayla, Lailu, and Nina were already brooding at they’re stations.

My future twin and Alex Reilly were noticeably absent- as were our daughters.

It pained me to leave without saying goodbye to my future family. What hurt more was the news that Alexis, Alexandra, Tibius, and the rest of the Terran delegation had departed not long after I had returned from the Detroit last evening. Alex Covington had conveyed they’re goodbyes and well wishes to me post-departure.

Yet, that wasn’t why I hardly slept last night.

I was still perplexed by my failure to foresee the cause and need for my physical isolation this morning.

“Captain, are we going to get the Sand Dollar back into the war any time soon?” Admiral Demmit’s gravelly voice brought my attention back to our departure procedures.

“I thought you would like to do the honors, Admiral. You are the ranking officer onboard Sand Dollar.” I said as I tried not to meet his eyes.

“I appreciate the offer Alex, but as experienced as I am, I still can’t get us home from here! You might as well do your job, Empress!”

Why couldn’t I see the reason?

“Alex?”

“What? Oh…right. Jack, drop the moorings and take us out…slow astern.”

What was wrong with me? Except for my arrival in Reilly’s original universe, my gift had never let me down. Now it remained strangely quiet. Why?

“Um…Cap? Wouldn’t it be better if we stowed the gangplank first?” Jack nudged my shoulder gently to bring me back from my thoughts.

“Oh…oh… I thought you had done that already. By all means stow the gangplank, Commander.”

Jack cautiously stared at me for a few seconds before carrying out my…the orders.

“Aye, Cap. Stow the plank!” She shouted to the deck.

Minutes later we were under way and clear of the island’s shelf. I had again retreated into my internal tribunal to assess my conundrum.

Again Jack tapped me gently on the shoulder. “Cap, we’ve reached deep water and are awaiting your orders.”

“Oh…right…” I paused to actually think what to do next. Why was I so absorbed by this?

“Alex, are you okay? I’ve never seen you this distracted. Maybe if you talked about it, Cap?” Jack offered.

I looked at her and contemplated what or how much I should say.

“Captain Steinert?” Uncle Rick growled. “Alex, what’s wrong? I’ve never seen you act this way since that afternoon you appeared in my office after rescuing your brother! Should we head back to Kili and have Emily do some tests before we head back home?”

“No.” I said quietly still thinking only slightly about my job. “No, Admiral, I’ll be alright. Jack, call general quarters please.”

“Aye, Cap. General quarters, all hands to general quarters.”

A rough hand placed itself over mine as I held onto the bridge plating.

“Alex, I know something’s eating at you. What that something is may or may not be any of my concern, but the well being of this crew and boat deserves your full attention. I need you to concentrate on getting us back home…to 1944, okay?” Uncle Rick’s tone was gentle and kind. I looked up to meet his eyes. They showed deep concern- concern like a mother would show to her distraught child…loving concern…for me.

Gathering all the concentration I could, I made my announcement.

“All hands, this is the captain. At this time I would ask that everyone take hold of the pressure hull in some way and do not release that hold until I have given the okay to do so. All compartments please acknowledge when ready. Temporal transit will take place thereafter.” I said into the microphone.

“Aft torpedo, ready.”

“Maneuvering, ready.”

“Engine one and two, ready, Skipper!”

“Con…ready.”

“Foreward torpedo, ready!”

“Bridge, ready. Ladies, prepare for transit in three, two, one!”

A familiar island appeared ahead of us. I looked astern to make sure Kili hadn’t tagged along.

“Ladies you can secure from general quarters. Welcome to Ni’ihau, 1944!”

I felt a slight shift in my balance and a few stars suddenly appeared in my vision. Had it taken that much out of me?

“Jack, take us into the grotto, please, I’m going to my quarters. I think I might be coming down with something.”

More stars encompassed my field of vision.

“Better yet, have Emily meet me…”

Time: unknown, Location: unknown, Date: unknown

“So tell me, Kim, why this place again? I thought after last time, we had agreed to stay on base and hit the Officer’s Club for lunch?” A woman’s voice asked.

Where was I?

I looked around the small room with its chrome, reddish-brown, and beige veneer counter, at the large windowed wall facing the street, the matching chrome, reddish-brown, and beige veneer tables and chairs. It reminded me of someplace…someplace familiar!

“Kim? Kimberly Jenson? Honey, where are you?” The same voice asked.

I ignored the voice and continued my internal questioning. Where was this place? It looked like a small restaurant.

“Emily’s off in La-la land too, Chris! Any idea what’s going on?” Another woman’s voice asked.

If I had to guess, I’d say they’re dreaming about the two guys that just walked in.”

That’s it! This was the place! The place where Emily and I met! I realized I was now gazing at…at…me! Not me, Alexandra Steinert, but me Alexander Steinert! Lt. Cmdr. Alex Steinert!

Wait did that woman say Emily was here too?

“Fletcher’s even gotten into the act, Lieutenant. What gives?”

“I’m not sure, but I really don’t think they’re that appealing! Come on girls let’s concentrate on ordering!” The voice sounded agitated and insistent.

“Maybe we can all have what those three are having!” Yet another voice said with a giggle followed by two others giggling.

Was I really looking at myself? I noticed Steven Smith sitting across from me…the male me…at the table diagonal to where I was.

Everything seemed to fit what I remembered of that day.

This had to be June 8th, 1942!

I thought harder to remember the faces of everyone at Emily’s table that day. I couldn’t remember seeing anyone else’s face other than Emily’s though!

“Kim!”

A hand grasped my right hand roughly and started to pull it, as well as me, across the table. “Ensign Jenson, wake up! He’s out of your league, sweetie!”

“Huh?”

“Honey, he’s way out of your league! I don’t think Emily would have a chance with him even if she was available!”

“Emily?”

“Ya, hun. Emily maybe…you- not a chance!”

“Why am I here?” I asked in an unfamiliar voice.

“And they call me flighty! We’re here to get something to eat, Miss Dreamy!” The first voice replied.

“Alex?” I heard my sister ask.

“Here!” I answered. Her voice sounded like it was right next to me so I turned to it.

Emily Scott sat right beside me and as we looked at each other, a confused expression spread across her face.

I winked in acknowledgement.

Her expression shifted to ask the million-dollar question- ‘but how?’

My response was to slowly shake my head. I had no idea what was going on yet.

“I think I need the lavatory!” I announced as I looked at Emily, silently asking her to allow me exit from the booth we were in.

“I’ll join you, if you don’t mind?” Emily winked back at me.

“Girls, I think I’ll tag along too!” another unknown voice decreed.

I looked to that voice, but didn’t recognize the face.

One thing that did catch my attention was the fact that I was now a few inches shorter than my sister. My confusion doubled.

The woman’s lavatory in this establishment was typical of the small civilian owned eateries in the vicinity of the base- slightly bigger than a broom closet and not really well kept! The three of us barely fit with only enough room to allow the door to shut.

“I hope no one actually had to use the head!” I mumbled.

Emily didn’t waste any time. “Who are you two? I know who you’re supposed to be on this day, but I’m not sure why I’m here!”

“Well you’re looking at the wrong girl, Emily! I have no idea how or why I’m here! I don’t even sound like myself!” The unfamiliar girl exclaimed as she held herself from falling into the heavily stained porcelain throne.

“Let’s start by you telling me who you think you are, then!” Emily looked seriously at the woman.

“It’s me…Carroll! Who did you think it was?”

“Actually, you look a lot like Ensign Donna Fletcher!”

“Let me see!” The girl almost lost her battle with gravity as she tried to see her reflection in the hazy, cracked mirror above the disgusting sink.

Hang on a minute! Let’s get the introductions out of the way first! Is that you in there Alex?” Emily asked, staring directly into my eyes.

“Ya, its me sis, but I have no idea how…or why!” I lowered my head slightly.

“This is the day we met, right?”

“I believe that’s me sitting at the table across from you…us, yes.” I acknowledged quietly.

“But why here?”

“Honestly, sis, I don’t even remember how I got here! Last thing I remember was being on the bridge of Sand Dollar just after we returned to Ni’ihau! Maybe you can fill in the blanks?”

“I’ll try, but we don’t have much time! I assume I still have to agree to go out with you just before you place your order?”

“That’s how I remember it, sis. We should try not to change anything if we can help it.” I tried to sound confident, but found my mind still strangely quiet. My statement caused no reaction from my gift. Did I even have access to my gift in this body, I wondered?

“Alex? Alex, we’d better get back out there. The other girls are going to start wondering then the rumors will start flying!” Emily caught my attention again.

Since Emily was closest to the door, she left first and I followed. Carroll was the last one out- after checking herself out in the mirror.

“Great! They still have their blonde hair, but I’m a little, round-faced redhead now!” She hissed in annoyance, having finally seen her reflection.

We reseated ourselves at the table just as a waitress arrived and asked male Alex to place his order.

I quickly took the menu from the Ensign across the table from me and tried to hide myself behind it hoping history would repeat itself as it should. I already feared that just our being here had irrevocably changed things!

“Hi,” Said a voice that was so familiar yet now so foreign to me.

“Hi,” Replied Emily in a voice so pleasurable that it brought back the butterflies in my stomach again.

“I was…um…I was wondering if y’all have been here before? I…um…my submarine just tied up this morning for a two week leave and I was wonderin’ if you could recommend anything. Ma’am, I noticed that you haven’t ordered yet and thought I might buy your meal in exchange for your culinary advice. I’m Alex, by the way…Alex Steinert.”

God, did I really sound that nervous?

“Well, I’m really not what you would call a regular, but I’d go with the burger- pickles, onions, lettuce, and ketchup. You can’t go wrong with that, Cmdr. Steinert. Oh, I’m Emily- Emily Scott.”

“Thank you, Lt. Scott, but I prefer to be daring so I’m thinking ketchup and mustard instead. Care to join me at my table?”

“If your offer to pay doesn’t turn Dutch!”

Five women ow’ed and ah’ed as Emily looked back at us with daggers in her eyes.

So far, so good, I thought.

Emily and Alex ordered, just as I remembered. After the waitress shouted out their order to the kitchen, she approached the five of us still seated at the crowded booth.

“What’da ya want?” She asked rudely, as if annoyed by our presence.

“Chicken soup and a cup of tea.”

“Vegetable soup and soda.”

“I’ll split a tossed salad with Donna, separate sodas though.” The ensign across from Carroll ordered. ‘Donna’ tried to keep her mouth closed and just nodded.

“I guess you want us to cut that in two and serve each half on a separate plate too, right?” The older waitress asked sarcastically with a sneer.

“That’d be good, ma’am, thanks!” The unknown ensign replied with a forced smile.

“How ‘bout you…what’da ya want blondie?” The woman glared at me with all the hate and contempt she could muster.

I thought about it. This had all the earmarks of Brianna and I in St. Louis- of our treatment by that policeman at the train station.

“I’ll have the grilled cheese with lettuce, tomato, and a cup of coffee with two sugar cubes, please.” I said as pleasantly as I could.

I watched as she scribbled my order down with the others. When she was finished and as she turned away to the counter, I caught her.

“You know what miss, now that I think about it, I’m not that hungry anymore! I’ll have a fruit salad and a soda.”

I grinned as she scratched out my previous order in anger and wrote something else down.

Once she turned her back again I interrupted again.

“You know I’m really not in the mood for salad today. I’ll just have a coffee…black, please!”

“Anything else…miss?” She asked through gnashed teeth as she scratched off and rewrote my order again.

“Well…you could treat us-“

A less than gentle kick to my shin stopped me from finishing my real request.

“No…that’s all, thank you.” I finished, forcing a smile.

She hadn’t even waited for me to finish my sentence before walking away!

“Keep it up, Kim, and you’re going to get us kicked out of here. She’s just mad that they wouldn’t take someone her age. Let it go.”

“I’m tired of the attitude of some people! We should get the same respect the guys do!” I argued.

“Preaching to the choir, sweetie.” Our Lieutenant sang.

The orders for both tables came out in rapid succession. I observed Alex and Emily as I sipped my lukewarm drink. Everything seemed to be going as I remembered for them.

Soon Emily excused herself and returned to our booth. The inquisition started as soon as her skirt touched the seat.

“Well?” The lieutenant asked with excitement.

“Well what?” Emily asked back coyly.

“What is he like, silly?”

“I thought you didn’t like him that much, Chris?” Emily responded.

“I’m just jealous.” She giggled with a devilish grin.

“He asked to take me to dinner tonight!” Emily bubbled over.

I breathed a sigh of relief, as history seemed to have repeated itself perfectly.

Our pleasant waitress appeared with our check.

“Here’s yer bill, you gold-digger’s better leave me a good tip!” She warned as she threw down the slip of paper.

“I’m buying!” I exclaimed as I searched my…Kim’s purse for the tab. There was barely enough to cover, but I wasn’t concerned about leaving a tip, instead I found a pencil and scribbled on the check: ‘Tip: It would be advisable to treat the people protecting your ass with a little more respect!’

Dropping the money and ticket, I looked around the table. “I’m finished, let’s get out of this dive!”

After the other girls stared at me for a minute in disbelief, we all filed out the door and started our walk back to base. Glancing back through the window, I noticed the expression sour on the woman’s face as she read the check and stared out at us. I didn’t know if it would change things, but I used a gesture that had become popular in the future. I flipped her the ‘bird’, as my future twin called it.

It was satisfying even though the meaning maybe wasn’t known in this time.

“Kim, what did you just do?” Our Lieutenant- Chris was apparently her name- asked me with raised brows.

“I was just tellin’ her she was number one in my book, Lieutenant!”

Emily and Carroll…Donna both choked back a laugh.

“Funny it looked like some rude gesture that a New Yorker would use. I will have none of that in my squad, understand Ensign Jenson?”

“Aye, ma’am.”

“Emily, a girl with a medal should have better manners than to egg her on!”

“Yes, Lieutenant.” Emily replied quietly as she slowed to walk with Carroll and I.

“Sis, we need to talk!” I said, just above a whisper.

“As I remember it, Admiral Demmit will see me walking back to our barracks and call the three of us aside. Carroll and I can bring you up to date on what happened to you after he dismisses us.”

“The three of us, sis? Why would he invite us along?” I cautiously motioned between Carroll and I.

“Kim and Donna are the only ones that know about Uncle Rick and I, Alex.”

“But won’t he think something is wrong, Emily? I don’t think I’m acting like Kim Jenson at the moment.”

“More than you know, sis! There he is!” Emily finished by putting her finger to her lips.

“Lt. Caskey, how are you and your girls doing today?” Demmit’s gravelly voice sounded somewhat pleasant as he tipped his cap to us.

“Fine, Admiral! We were just heading back to our quarters from lunch, sir. Is there something I can do for you?” Caskey asked as we all stood to attention and saluted.

“I need to speak with your recently decorated nurse, Christine- in concern to a pressing matter she informed me of the last time we talked.”

“Ah-oh!” The two other ensigns in our group gasped.

“Ladies, I assure you your exploits of three days ago are not the subject of discussion.” Demmit laughed, then added, “I do want to talk to you two also, Ensign’s Jenson and Fletcher!”

“Ah-oh!” The two unknown ensigns giggled this time.

Admiral Demmit eyed the two for a moment. They quieted immediately at his stare.

“Yes…” The old man cleared his throat. “Well, I don’t want to keep you from your duties, Lt. Caskey. I’ll try to have Lt. Scott, and Ensigns Jenson, and Fletcher back before they go on duty. Ladies, if you please?”

Admiral Demmit motioned for us to follow him.

“Good day, Lieutenant, Ensigns.”

The four of us were quiet for a while before Uncle Rick looked around us and stopped.

“Alright, I want to know which one of you did this and why! Alex, I know you’re here! Show yourself, Empress!” He growled quietly as he looked around.

Our eyes went wide!

“I’m not sure why we’re here, Uncle Rick! I was hoping Emily would fill in the blanks, sir.” I slowly shook my head.

“Alex? How?”

“I wish I knew, Admiral! I haven’t possessed anybody since before the PT incident.” I continued to shake my head.

“Well, could you at least do that phase thing so we can talk in private?”

“Sir, I can’t! Not one of my gifts seems to be working. Uncle Rick, right now I couldn’t predict the next rain storm if I saw it on the horizon.”

“Uncle Rick, can we go somewhere so I can bring Alex up to speed on what I think has happened?”

“You…you know what’s going on here, Emily?”

“I have a rough idea, Uncle.”

“Then you are my Emily from…”

“From 1944. Yes, Uncle Rick. For some reason everyone attending Alex’s bedside is here…July 8th, 1942.”

“But why does Alex look and sound like Ensign Jenson?”

“Ya, and why am I this pudgy redhead, Emily?” Carroll cut in.

“Look, let’s get some place safe and I’ll lay out what I think happened, okay?”

“Fine. Let’s go to my office. I gave my clerk the afternoon off anyway…then we can all be enlightened!”

“Admiral?” I asked. “I would recommend that you try hard to remember what you did today and not stray from it or chance changing the future, sir!”

“Gee Alex, I hadn’t thought of that! Especially when I suddenly found myself in a meeting concerning the effectiveness of the Doolittle Raid!” His voice grew louder and angry.

“I’m sorry, sir, but I have no idea how this happened.” I felt a tear begin to form.

“I’m sorry Alex. I was just reminded why I hated that meeting, that’s all. It irked me that all Halsey and Nimitz talked about was how the attack group let themselves get discovered before reaching their target distance! I shouldn’t take it out on you.” Uncle Rick’s tone eased. “Let’s get to my office, girls.”

1321hrs, CINCPAC Headquarters, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, July 8th, 1942

“Donna…sorry…Carroll, make sure the coast is clear.” Admiral Demmit ordered once his young clerk had left the outer office.

She opened the door and stuck her head out for a second.

“All clear, Admiral.”

“Good, now can you please explain to me why I’m suddenly back in 1942 and why Alex is masquerading as Ensign Jenson?”

“I’ll get to that soon enough, Uncle Rick, but first Alex has a right to know what happened after she passed out on the bridge.”

“By all means, Emily.”

“Alex, you’ve been unconscious for three days now- deliriously so! You were running a temperature of one hundred and four!”

“Excuse me Emily, but wouldn’t that high a fever kill a man?” the old man asked in shock.

“A normal human, yes, Uncle, but I wouldn’t refer to us as anything close to normal, would you?”

Demmit shook his head.

“Alex, I can’t find any way to stop this bug! I tried antibiotics, sulfa plasters, my own gift- I even tried Chief Peterson’s chicken soup! Nothing, repeat, nothing worked! Carroll and I were at your bedside when you started hallucinating again this morning. You kept going on and on about how you would never see me again- how you missed me, Alex!” She sniffed.

“But how did we get here? I don’t even remember who was with you at lunch today! I tried, but all I remember is you! How did I know to jump into this…Kim’s body? Where is the real Kim? Why can’t I see the future?” I tried to keep myself calm, but I could feel my panic rising again.

“That’s what I’d like to know too, Alex! I wasn’t even on this side of the world on this date. Why am I here?”

“I’m afraid Alex isn’t to be blamed for our predicament.” Emily’s head sunk a little. “I am.” She whispered in embarrassment.

“That’s not possible is it, Alex?” Carroll looked at me in confusion.

“Technically she is my sister, Carroll. My daughters have a portion of my gift- why can’t Emily have a portion also?” I rationalized.

“I have one question for you, Uncle Rick. What were we doing when you came into Alex’s bedroom?”

“You three were holding hands…why? I thought you were doing some kind of mystical spell or some such thing so I just joined in. Thought you could use the extra power, I guess.”

“That’s a good one, Admiral! Us…casting a spell! Like that could ever happen!” Carroll scoffed as she looked around at our faces. Emily looked deep in thought.

“In a way…maybe…maybe I did cast a spell, Carroll. Well not really, but maybe that’s the closest definition that fits.”

Carroll didn’t look happy with what my sister was saying. I didn’t quite follow either.

“That’s clear as mud, Emily! Would you care to simplify for the old man?”

“Right before we found ourselves here, I was asking my gift what I should do for Alex. Instead, I started to think about our first meeting. I guess it ties into your delirious ramblings about not seeing me again, Alex. Anyway, I started to think about how things would have been if we hadn’t met- how you wouldn’t be so sick if we hadn’t gone through the Mahanilui. I’m not certain, but I think I wished we could do it all over again!” Emily paused a second. “Imagine my surprise when, poof, I was sitting at that booth again, staring at you!”

“You weren’t staring at me, sis, you were staring at the man I used to be.” I whispered sadly.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Alex! This must be really hard for you! I’m sorry for dragging us back here and reopening that wound!”

“Its okay, Emily. Right now I’m neither one of me, am I? Question is, why am I like this and why won’t my gift work?”

“That’s the answer, Alex!”

“Huh?”

“That’s why you are Kim!”

Carroll, Uncle Rick, and I stood there, silently looking at Emily in confusion for a few minutes.

“Now I know you two are true sisters! You’re starting to sound just as confusing as she does!” Uncle Rick sounded somewhat annoyed as he motioned to me.

“Sorry, Admiral, I’ve got no idea what point she’s tryin’ ta make!” I apologized while shrugging my shoulders.

“Oh Alex, think about it!”

“What’s there to think about, Emily? You jumped into your body. Uncle Rick jumped into his body. Carroll, because she wasn’t here at this time jumped into Donna’s body. Why didn’t I jump into my body? I was right there! You saw me there in the restaurant, right? Why didn’t I jump back into my own body too?”

“I agree that you are here today, Alex, but you are not you!”

“Honey, can we dispense with the cryptic double talk, your Uncle Rick is getting a throbbing headache!”

“Uncle, Alex didn’t jump into her body because it isn’t here!”

“But you just said that she WAS here! I don’t see the difference!”

“The difference is in the gender, Uncle! The male Alexander Steinert is here, but the female Alexandra Steinert doesn’t exist yet- not in relative, er…normal time anyway! We are here, in our own bodies, because we were here then…now. Alex, Empress of Time and Space technically won’t exist for another eight and a half months! She is physically not the same person I talked to twenty minutes ago- genetically speaking.”

“So, because I’m a girl now, I can’t possess my old body? Who wrote those rules?” I exclaimed.

“I guess I did, sis. I seem to be the one calling the shots here.” Emily said as she raised her hands and motioned around the room. I just wish I knew how I was doing it.”

“Have you asked your gift, sis?”

“Asked it what, Alex?”

“Asked it how you are doing this, of course!”

“You mean I should ask my gift how I’m doing this?” Emily seemed to freeze for a second. “Oh! Is that what it’s like for you, Alex?” She asked with surprise.

“What, sis?”

“The movie-like images flashing in my mind, a complete visual explanation!”

“Something like that…if I could ever get it working again! What’s it saying, sis?”

“Alex, you’re here because it’s not safe in your own body!” She told me as a few tears ran down her cheeks.

“Emily, what are you telling us? Is Alex dying?” Carroll gasped out.

“That’s not possible, sis! If it were true then why does Alex Covington still exist?”

“All I know, Alex, is that I have to keep you here until the bug has run its course! I have to keep your conscious safe and active until your body has recovered enough to put you back into it.”

“You can do that, doc?” Carroll scoffed.

“Apparently she can now, Carroll!” I looked away from Emily to her for an instant.”Why not just activate my emergency recall protocol? I’m sure Tibius could find the cure just like last time, sis.”

“I can’t, Alex! Alexandra informed me before they left that, under no circumstances, shall anyone be allowed to activate your recall! She wouldn’t tell me anything more except that you would wipeout everyone on Terra if we did!”

“What is this thing, Doctor?” Admiral Demmit growled.

“As near as my gift can define, it’s some kind of genetically selective virus, meaning it is designed to infect people with certain gene sequences- people of the same region, ethnic group, or family. Beyond that, I’m at a loss for anything more specific.”

Things became quiet as each of us thought things through.

“You say that my Great-grandniece told you everyone on Terra would become infected?” Uncle Rick asked as he sat down hard and adjusted his chair.

“That’s what she claimed, sir. It must be genetically keyed to their unique physiology.”

That one, simple fact stunned me!

“Admiral, you need to get away from me! You all need to get away from me now- before it’s too late!” I cried as I felt my heart start to race.

“Alex, what’s the matter? You should be safe here!” Emily looked alarmed.

“You all have to get away from me back on Atlantis-Minor! You’ll all be infected!”

“What are you talking about, Alex?”

“The Terrans! It’s keyed to the Terrans!”

“Alex, honey, we’re not Terran. If what Emily says is true, we shouldn’t be affected.” Demmit calmly rationalized.

“You don’t understand! You and Tibius felt the tingle, Uncle Rick!”

“So, we’re temporal twins, as you call it. That doesn’t mean I’m a Terran!” Uncle Rick argued.

“No, but you do contain the same DNA as Tibius! What if this virus zeros in on that?” I was starting to panic because I was dangerously close to disclosing the Terran origins- a story I was in no mood to tell wearing this body!

“Now how would I have the same…um…DNA as a man from the other side of the galaxy, Alex? I drank water from the village spring back on Kili Island- the water you told me was safe!”

The tone in which Admiral Demmit’s eyes stared at me made me shiver!

“You were born that way, sir.” Oh God, this wasn’t how it was to happen! “Your genes have always been a part of you.” I closed my eyes, not wanting to see his reaction or make eye contact. I was desperately trying to hold back my tears.

“And just how long were you going to keep this little tidbit from your commanding officer, Captain?” His tone brought back unwanted memories of my disciplinary hearing- now less than two weeks away again.

Unconsciously, I let my head tilt forward. I reopened my watery eyes to see a blurry floor and regulation men’s, black leather shoes.

“I didn’t want to alarm you, Uncle Rick! Truth be told, you and Tibius are identical in every way save one, sir.” I felt a few tears drip from my face.

“And what way would that be, Alex?” That disappointed growl still horrified me!

“Your undeveloped telepathy, Admiral. The very gift that allows you to look into other people’s souls, sir. If you allow it to come forward, it will develop fully. Denying it only confines it to just a ‘knack’.”

“You’re one of us, Admiral?” Carroll asked in astonishment.

“Not that I’m aware, Miss Sheldon, but I think Alex IS implying that I’m Terran!”

“In a way we’re all Terran, sir. Please, can’t we just leave it at that? The only thing that matters is we have to find a way for you and Emily to get back to base and far enough away from my physical body to avoid infection!”

“Hey, what about me? I didn’t ask to come along on this adventure, Alex!” Carroll protested.

“Alex, I’m committed now. If I release you, we both return and you conceivably die! I can’t let that happen. It would conflict with my oath! Plus, I could possibly lose my sister- there’s no way I’ll ever let that happen either! I’m staying! I’ll try to get Jack to pull you and Uncle Rick away from us, Carroll, but before I do that, we need to get out of your office, Admiral!”

“Why do you need to get out of my…” Admiral Demmit’s body seemed to shimmer for a split second. “So there you have it, Emily. The offer you’ve been waiting for! A chance to become that full-fledged doctor you’ve hoped for! I want you to think about it, but don’t wait too long! I can’t promise you this will wait for you indefinitely- I’d say three weeks tops.” The Admiral’s whole demeanor had changed suddenly.

“Emily?” He asked in concern. “Did you get all that, Lt. Scott?”

“I did, Admiral, it’s just that…well…I just met this man…today, and…and I thought he might be the one, sir.”

“Do I know this possible nephew, dear?”

“His name is Steinert, sir, Lt. Cmdr. Alex Steinert.”

“Steinert? I’ve heard good things about him from his captain. Very intelligent, strategically, and he has a good report with the enlisted men. He’ll make a good commanding officer one day- might even make Admiral if he watches himself.” Admiral Demmit squinted at Emily. “What about that Lionel? Did you break it off with him, yet?”

“No, Admiral, I’m going to, but I want to learn more about his angle before I do. I’m not so sure he likes me or is using me! Sometimes he seems a little too interested in certain commanding officers and my relationships with them, sir.”

“Well you keep an eye on him, Emily! One thing we don’t need around here is more muck-raking by the American press!”

“I’ll do that Admiral, and I’ll consider your offer thoroughly before I give you my decision, sir.”

“I would expect nothing less, dear. Oh, and I expect Cmdr. Steinert to behave like a gentleman, young lady! If either of those men do anything to…”

“You’ll be the first to know, Uncle Rick! Now, we’d better get back to our quarters, sir. Donna and Kim are due at the hospital at 1600hrs, and I have to get ready for this evening’s dinner with Lt. Cmdr. Steinert.”

“Emily, I have a feeling the future holds something special for you and Commander Steinert. Good hunting, dear.” Admiral Demmit confessed with a wink.

Had he read Mina’s time sensitive report already or was he just subconsciously channeling his ‘gift’?

“Kim, Donna, you two lend Emily an ear, but remember to use the utmost discretion where you talk, I don’t want our little secret getting out, understood?”

“Yes sir.” Carroll acknowledged.

“Aye, sir.” I confirmed.

“Dismissed, girls.” Demmit stood from his seat.

We jumped to attention and saw ourselves to the door.

“I guess Jack pulled Uncle Rick away from us.” Emily said when we found privacy- something difficult to find on a busy naval base!

“That would be my guess, sis. Why are you still here though, Donna?” I asked, hoping Carroll was still with us.

“Carroll Sheldon’s the name, Alex, and I decided to help, so I told Jack I wanted to stay with you.”

“What happened to ‘I never asked to come along, Alex’?” I asked her with skepticism.

“You’re my CO, ma’am, but above that you’re my friend and I would never intentionally abandon a friend, Alex!”

“Thanks, Carroll! I really appreciate that, but can you stand to inhabit this body until I whip this thing?”

“It isn’t all that bad, Skip, I just have to get used to the extra weight around the middle- say do you think I should try to drop some of it while I’m in here- do the ensign a favor?”

“It wouldn’t matter how much weight Donna dropped, Carroll.” Emily looked to the ground having said that.

“Why? I think it could help with her health. Carrying around an extra fifty couldn’t be good for her!”

“She ships out for Rahbal in four weeks, Carroll.” Emily said sadly.

“Ya, okay, and?”

“Her ship is attacked by a Japanese sub, Carroll! Donna and Kim both drown as a result! They never see me make full Lieutenant!”

“In that case, you better hurry and get well, Alex!” Carroll turned to me quickly.

“Your concern is overwhelming, Carroll Sheldon!” Emily groused.

“I don’t mind being her for a while; I just would like to die in my own body- on my own terms, doc!”

“The Empress could help out, sis.” I raised an eyebrow momentarily.

“And just where would you put them, Alex, Terra?”

“If my gift would ever start working again I could tell you that! You didn’t think to ask yours how long we’d be stuck here, did you, sis?”

“Right now it looks like two weeks unless something changes.”

“So what do we do in the meantime, sis? I know what you’re going to be doing, but I have no idea what Kim does, who she knows, what she likes to do when off duty- you know, things like that?”

“Well, she pals around with me and Donna most of the time.”

“Good.”

“She is just your average clerk/nurse, out at the hospital, so you’ll just be typing and filing patient records- maybe bandaging an occasional scraped knee…until another ship comes in.”

“Okay, got it!”

“There was also rumor that she had a guy before shipping out. I think it was Maj. Canton, Alex.”

“You’re kidding!” I felt my mouth drop open!

“No…I think that was the rumor. She would disappear for several hours one or two evenings during the week and come back just before lights out with feathers in her mouth.”

“You mean she likes to eat live birds, doc?”

Emily and I rolled our eyes. “No, Carroll, as in the cat that ate the canary?” I corrected.

“I knew that! I was just trying to add some levity here!”

“Are you sure that’s all you intended, Carroll? Donna was a bit of a ditz. Maybe a small part of her is still in there somewhere with you?” Emily giggled.

“Maybe that’s why Carroll entered her, sis.” I smiled devilishly.

“Hey! That’s not nice, Alex! I could easily ask Jack to pull me out too, then where would you be?” Carroll pouted.

“I would still be here waiting for my body to kill off that bug, Carroll!” I said in all seriousness.

“Oh ya.”

Emily suddenly put a finger to her lips as we heard male voices approaching.

“We better get back to our quarters, girls!” She motioned us to follow her.

1700hrs, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, July 15th, 1942

Working rotating shifts in a Navy Hospital was even worse than the long duty shifts we used originally on Sand Dollar! Today, I was scheduled for the evening shift. A particularly slow shift that, unless a hospital ship with causalities docked, was thoroughly mundane. A week in the body and life of Ensign Kimberly Jenson only proved one important fact. She deserved much better than this! Any primary school dropout could do her job and from what Emily told me about her friend, she had way more talent and a whole lot more ambition than required!

I found out early on how women were treated here. Early in my first shift last week, a handsome doctor entered my office and began a conversation. The topics ranged from how his profession wasn’t allowing him sufficient time to tan and tone his body, to how much paperwork he had to fill out for each patient, to how time consuming it was for him to file said reports! All the while he jockeyed around my desk trying to gain some premium viewing angles of this body’s cleavage. I secretly wished Jack could be here to ‘lend a hand’! Actually, I wondered if this was the very same doctor that had been annoying Cindy the previous December.

Emily and ‘Alex’ were right on schedule romantically, which, I guess was a good thing, historically. I just couldn’t shake the jealousy I felt for that…man! I would have given anything to relive our pleasant, but doomed courtship!

All week I had intentionally avoided Major Charles Canton. Unfortunately, my luck had taken tonight off.

“Kimberly, where have you been all week? I missed you kid!”

“Oh, hi, major. I’ve been busier than usual lately, sorry.”

“Major? Why so formal, honey? I thought we’d gotten past those formalities weeks ago?”

Ah oh!

“The Captain must have caught wind of us. She cautioned me to stay focused, major.”

“I see. Well, I could have a little talk with her. Maybe tell her that what you and I do while off duty is none of her concern, if you’d like.”

“She may have brought the issue up with Admiral Demmit, though! I don’t want you to face a tribunal because of me.”

“Don’t worry about that, Kimmie, Admiral Demmit and I go way back. I’m sure I could get him to see my side. I’ll have a talk with him tomorrow.”

“You really don’t have to do that, Charles. I’ve been thinking that we need to slow down- lay low for a while.” I slowly cautioned. I immediately realized my poor choice of words.

“Kimmie, I just love when you throw out those innuendoes! Don’t you have some rounds to make? I hear the upper floor is quite vacant this week.” Maj. Canton almost purred.

“Gomez and Tish,” I thought, but who were Gomez and Tish?

“What was that, my dear?” Canton sounded confused. Only then did I realize I had said it out loud.

“A strange couple I knew from back home. Gomez and Mortisha Addams. They live in this creepy, old house.” I informed him, now knowing where I had heard the names. My future twin’s recollection of an old TV show!

My future twin! She had told me weeks ago that she’d been watching me develop- making sure I didn’t fowl up too bad. Was she watching now, or had she seen fit to stay clear of my infection?

The overall rush of emotion that hit me as I felt an old friend wake from dormancy flooded my eyesight.

“What’s the matter now, Kimmie?” Canton asked with real concern.

“Oh…nothing. I’m just a little emotional today, that’s all.”

“Oh! Maybe I should leave then- let you work through IT in private?”

Give me a break! He thought that… hmmm, maybe I could use this to my advantage?

“That might be a good idea, Charles. You know how messy IT can be.”

Marine Major Charles Canton actually started to turn green! Imagine… a marine that couldn’t handle a little blood!

Maj. Canton excused himself in the most gentlemanly way possible.

“Um…you know…I just remembered that I have some procurement reports to finish…and then there’s that rear area inspection that the old man wants me to assist with…I might be off base for a few days…maybe a week…I’ll catch you up then. Take care of yourself, Kimmie!”

He was out of the office and down the hall before I realized he had stopped talking!

“Well, that was convenient!” I said to myself with a smile.

“You know he really loved Kimberly Jenson, don’t you?” A very familiar voice informed me.

“I knew you were watching, sis! How long have you been here?” I stared straight ahead, afraid that if I looked back at her I would give her the disease.

“Long enough to remember that we played that well, Alex, or would you prefer Kim right now?”

“Like you don’t know the answer to that by now?” I turned to see me leaning against the inner office doorframe.

“You’re almost through this, Allie. Just another day and Emily will return us to our rightful place. Hang tough, sis!”

“I know it’s almost over, Empress, I found an old friend just a few minutes ago!”

“I remember.” My future twin looked relieved.

“Peyton…is she alright?”

“I forgot we had a lot of time to figure things out while stuck here. Yes, Peyton is doing well in this very hospital…several decades in the future though. Emily used the antibodies our body developed to formulate a vaccine. She administered it to the entire Terran delegation before they left Kili. Alex Reilly took enough back with her to inoculate Anna-Beth’s crew and families also. So relax, kid, this is almost over!”

“Thank you, Empress!” I said with tears in my eyes. It felt so good to see me again.

“No. Thank you, Empress!” She winked at me and smiled before suddenly phasing out.

“Hey there, Kim! How are you hanging in there?” Emily appeared in the doorway to the hall with Carroll…er Donna.

“I think I might be beating that bug, sis! I got part of my gift back a little while ago!”

“Oh, that’s great news, Alex, but I thought I heard your voice in here just before Carroll and I arrived!”

“I was talking to Alex Covington, sis.”

“What did she have to say?” Carroll asked before Emily could say a vowel.

“She told me to hang in there!” My smile grew wider as I said it.

“So we’ll be able to go home soon, Alex?” Carroll again cut Emily off.

“That’s usually what it means, Carroll. Emily, she told me that my ‘antibodies’ would be used to make a vaccination for this thing and that you administered it to all the Terrans and sent a batch of the stuff back with Alex Reilly. She said that Peyton is recovering here as well…I mean here in 2028, that is.”

“I wasn’t aware Peyton was sick, Alex. When did you know that, a few minutes ago?”

“No, sis, I’ve had plenty of time to think things over. In a way I was following your prescription- you know, keep my mind active? Well, I was trying to put it all together- how I caught this bug; how it was transmitted; who gave it to me; who engineered the thing, you know.”

“And there I thought you were just thinking of new ways to avoid Canton! So, how did you arrive at Peyton, Alex?” Emily looked sternly at Carroll, daring her to cut her off one more time.

“I traced my movements, sis. I realized that, before a certain time, if I had contracted this thing you, all of us Alex’, the Terrans and the Reilly’s would be sick also, but you aren’t. So, that meant that I had contracted it sometime when I was relatively alone. The only time that happened was when I transported Peyton to my private domain and again when I transported Detroit’s command crew back to their boat. After my return, you and the other Alex’ stayed clear of me until we boarded Sand Dollar in the morning. The initial contact had only one common denominator- Peyton. Before that afternoon, I hadn’t seen her in or around Reilly. That’s why I rushed her off to my domain!”

“But how do you know she was infected?” Emily asked in confusion. Carroll nodded her head in agreement.

“When we were alone, she told me she had stowed away with Hathor’s raiding party. Apparently she wasn’t hidden as well as she thought! Hathor must have found out from Peyton’s mother what she planned on doing and somehow gave her the bug and made her the…the…”

“Carrier?” Emily interjected.

“Ya, carrier! It was probably her plan ‘D’ to get rid of Alex Reilly and I- her failsafe so to speak. I’m thinking she didn’t know about our close genetic relationship with the Terrans- not that the heartless bitch would mind killing them too!”

“So you…you figured this all out without your gift working, Alex?” Carroll asked in amazement.

“I’d like to think I was a good tactician before I received my foresight, Carroll! Are you sure Donna isn’t forcing her way back in there?” I giggled.

“You know what they say, Alex! ‘Smarts are only skin deep, but blonde runs clean to the bone!’” Emily downright laughed.

“Aren’t you the funny one, doc? I’ll have you know that I’m still mathematically advanced- even in this redhead’s body!”

“I rest my case, Alex!” Emily continued laughing.

Carroll…or Donna came in a close second to Jack looking so cute when perplexed.

After our laughter had died down, I asked an obvious question.

“So, are you and Alex going out again tonight, sis?” I closed my eyes knowing what tonight would almost do to my military career.

“No, we hadn’t planned on going out tonight, Alex, you should know that!”

“But tonight’s the night, Emily!” I cried out in shock.

“Tonight? That’s tonight?”

“What’s tonight? What’s going to happen tonight, Alex?” Carroll demanded.

“Tonight Lionel looses some teeth, Carroll! Tonight he forces my hand by questioning Emily’s honor and her relationship with me! Tonight he almost gets his big story about civilian abuses by the military!”

“I thought that was tomorrow, Alex!” Emily stared at me.

“No, sis, it’s tonight!” Alex disagreed, as she appeared leaning against the hallway wall.

“How am I going to get there now? It’s almost 6PM! I’ll never have time to get ready! I told Alex I had something else to do tonight. What happens if I miss this date?”

“You don’t want to miss this date, Emily, trust me on that! You miss tonight and we never get to Kili! We never get Sand Dollar, and we never get to see each other again…ever!” Alex warned.

“But how do I get to the base gate in five minutes?”

“Leave that up to your fairy godmother, Cinderella!” Alex giggled then disappeared momentarily. She reappeared with Corrine Masterson and Jamie Hilf in tow.

“Ladies, one of our own needs help getting to the ball! Shall we help her with that?” Alex still giggled.

Jamie held out one of our Kili uniforms while Corrine studied Emily’s face.

“It’s all charged up and ready for your big date, Doc! Better hurry though. Empress says she can’t time port ya like this.” Jamie advised her.

Alex reached over and closed the office’s door then locked it. “Privacy engaged, number one.” She continued to giggle.

I looked at my temporal twin. “I’m going to laugh when I make the connection to that, right?”

“Yes, its funny Alex, trust me.” Alex deadpanned. You two could help her out of her clothes you know! Up until a few months ago you were willing to try, Alex!”

“Isn’t this great…I’m the butt of my own jokes!”

“All in good fun, sis! All in good fun! Corrine, are you almost ready with the makeup? We have to fly in about two minutes! I told Alex I’d meet him by the guard shack promptly at six!”

“You told…Alex?”

“We sound similar, sis- especially with the excellent sound quality of these antique phones! Hurry up Miss Masterson! She has her future to catch!”

“Don’t rush me, Alex!” Corrine hissed as she held her hands across Emily’s face a few seconds then quickly gathered and cupped her hair a minute more. “There, all done. What do you think?”

“Just as I remember it!” Alex and I said in unison, our voices harmonizing this time.

“I never thought I’d be so thrilled to hear you two do that again!” Emily said trying to hold back her tears.

“Don’t you dare ruin my work, Doctor,” Corrine scolded! “She’s ready, Empress.”

“Then let Operation Fairy Godmother begin! Quickly, Emily, take my hand, but continue to concentrate on keeping Alex’s mind here in the past!”

“Ready, Empress.”

Alex smiled and winked at me. Emily and Alex promptly disappeared.

“So, did Alex bring you two straight from 2028 or were you here already on a mission?” I asked Jamie and Corrine.

“Boy, she wasn’t kidding when she said your gift wasn’t workin’! Alex, she picked us up in 1944! We’re your crew from Atlantis-Minor!”

“But…but…Corrine…you…”

“What can I say, skipper, I took some lessons from my future twin! I’ll hide my gift from the rest if you want…until the time is right, that is.”

“You’ll do no such thing, Corrine Masterson! You know how embarrassing that would be! Besides, other’s have received their gifts earlier than planned, why can’t you?”

“That’s what I told her, Cap! I said it would be a waste if she’d do that!”

“You did not! You said I’d never develop my gift- only my bust line, Jamie Hilf!”

“I said nothing of the kind!”

“Knock it off you two!” Alex said, suddenly appearing again. “Take my hands! We have to leave now! See you when you get back, sis, bye!”

Carroll and I were left alone in my office.

“So, Carroll, what are your plans for tonight?”

“Carroll? Have you been drinking on duty again, Kimberly,” came her reply?

“What?” I took a second to ponder her response. Emily must have lost focus and Carroll lost contact. “Sorry, Donna, this shift puts me to sleep! I think I was just dreaming. Someone named Carroll was in it.”

“Funny you should mention that name, Kim, I seem to remember a Carroll from somewhere- Carroll Shelby…Sheltie…”

“Sheldon?”

“Ya, Sheldon, That was the name! How’d you know that, Kim?”

“I bumped into a nurse by that name last December! Maybe you did too?”

“I think you’re right, Kim, I wonder what happened to her?”

“I heard she shipped out to one of the forward hospitals back in the spring.”

“We know about those don’t we, sister? I hope she’s safe.”

“I have a feeling she’s doin’ alright for herself, Donna.”

“Now how on Earth could you know that, Kimberly Jenson? How could you possibly know anyone is safe out there with any certainty?”

“Hey Donna, what’s the square root of 1068?” I raised an eyebrow.

“32.6802927… Hey, how did I know that?”

Her expression was priceless!

“Beats me, I was just being silly!” I smiled at her confusion. Apparently Carroll’s possession had some latency, I thought.

“Sometimes, I don’t know about you, Kimberly Jenson! I’m going to the Officer’s Club to get drunk! I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She didn’t know the half of it. “Bye, Donna. Thanks for stopping by.”

I wondered how much Kimberly Jenson would remember after I left.

Oh, wow, that much? I thought as another portion of my gift reawakened and another bout of joyful tears filled my vision.

1100hrs, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, July 22nd, 1942

“…And that Lt. Cmdr. Alexander Fredrick Steinert did willfully and wantonly attack a civilian representative of the United States Wartime Press Corp. 1900hrs, 15, July, 1942 with intent to disfigure and or maim and or murder!” The balding prosecutor stated as I watched my own tribunal from an entirely different perspective.

“Thank you, counselor, but this isn’t a civilian court. This is a military tribunal to determine the validity and extent of the charges brought against Lt. Cmdr. Steinert. Should the Commander be found at fault, the possibility of punishment will be discussed at his court marshal! I must warn you counselor as I had yesterday, this is a disciplinary hearing, not a murder case and it will continue as such!” Admiral Demmit reminded the enthusiastic lawyer.

Emily, Donna and I sat behind Alex awaiting our chance to testify on his behalf. If I remembered right, this being day two, none of us would still get that chance.

What I did remember was that it was the longest, most stressful, two days I had ever experienced! Alex certainly had that part down as I noticed his feet and hands constantly fidgeting. Had I really been doing that? I only had to look down and see my own feet moving in a similar fashion.

I had expected to be home already, but Emily seemed to be airing on the side of caution. As we watched the hearing continue, I was surprised to notice that certain parts I remembered quite vividly hadn’t happened this time. Most concerning was one section of Lionel’s testimony. In that portion, he was asked how committed he was to a relationship with Emily. Emily became angry at his response that they were intimate and stood up to let the tribunal know he was lying. That hadn’t happened this time!

“Emily, didn’t you hear what that SOB just said? I know for a fact that you never let him near you! What gives?” I whispered to her as I gently touched her hand.

“How could you know that, Kim? You’ve only met Lionel a few times. I can’t be sure we didn’t do anything- I’m having trouble remembering for some reason!” She whispered back.

Oh, no! My Emily was gone and I was somehow still here! It was all up to me to keep history straight now!

“Still you couldn’t have done anything, Emily- I know you too well! If you don’t stand up and defend Alex, his career is over! Do you really want to be responsible for that? Don’t you love him, Emily?” I asked, still whispering.

“You’re right, Kim, Alex isn’t at fault here! He shouldn’t take the blame for this- he was only protecting me!”

Emily suddenly stood up. “Admiral, Lionel is lying! At no time during our relationship did we share anything more than a kiss, Sir!” She announced with more authority then I’d ever heard.

“Lt. Scott, your outburst is out of line! You have not been called for testimony nor petitioned for any response! You will please be seated, Lieutenant!”

“But Cmdr Steinert and I were setup, Admiral! This man used both of us to create a false news article for his own personal profit!” She continued.

“Lt. Scott! That is enough! You will be seated or you will be forcibly escorted from this tribunal! Sit down, Lieutenant!” Admiral Demmit ordered in a louder, angry voice.

If you looked close, you could see the sweat rolling off Alexander’s face as he sat there facing our superiors-I felt it then and I could definitely see it from where I now sat!

The room’s door opened with a slight creak as someone tried to enter quietly. A young, brown haired man- a lieutenant by rank- approached the desks of the five attending officers. His walk seemed nervous and unsure.

“Admiral, sorry for this interruption, but I have information detrimental to this officer’s inquest- your permission to approach, sirs?”

I recognized the voice immediately! Spencer Rosen! What did Alex have in mind? Why was she trying to save this reality as the root dimension? Hadn’t it already been compromised?

“You may approach, Lieutenant…” Demmit motioned him to present the new information only after conferring with the other four officers. He stopped not knowing the man’s name.

“Lt. Rosen, Admiral- Communications Surveillance Specialist, Lt. Spencer Rosen. Sir, I have evidence in the form of transcript here that we recorded the night of 15, July, 1942- 2100hrs.” Spencer handed the folder to Admiral Demmit, who opened it and began reading. A brow rose several times during the read.

Fifteen minutes passed as each member of the tribunal read and sometimes re-read the new evidence.

“Lt. Rosen, are you certain this account is accurate? You are aware of the severity of the charges contained within these pages?”

“I am, Admiral, and I am sorry for the lateness of this evidence. We were only informed of this inquiry earlier this morning, sir- barely enough time to have it typed up by our secretary, Ensign Covington. Thank goodness she is the timeliest typist on base!”

“Gentlemen?” Admiral Demmit said. “In light of this new information, I suggest we convene for lunch to discuss the matter.” He nodded to the four other officers- each nodding their agreement.

“But Admiral, I have not presented anything pertaining to the charges against Lt. Cmdr. Steinert! The evidence I have collected is overwhelmingly specific as to the commander’s actions of the 15th, sir!”

“Counselor, I think you should have lunch with us! We have many things to discuss! This tribunal is adjourned for lunch! All parties will reconvene here at 1300hrs.”

Everyone in the room stood to attention and waited until the Admiral, his four attending officers, and Lionel’s attorney filed out. Lionel, looking quite humbled and swollen, lingered a moment looking at Alexander before exiting to the hallway. I remembered that look! He knew he had just lost his gamble for a permanent by-line!

I wasn’t so sure I was off the hook though. History had been changed- ever so slightly, but changed nonetheless! I wondered how it would feel to be the one being reabsorbed into the real or root dimension.

“I’m hungry, Emily. Let’s get something to eat!” Donna reached across me to tug on Emily’s sleeve.

“You know…if you didn’t eat so much, you would lose some of that belly of yours!” Emily forced a giggle. It was evident that she was still terribly concerned for Alex.

“I thought we agreed not to talk about my weight, Emily? Even so, I’m still hungry.”

“Fine, Donna, we’ll go get something at the O.C! Kim, are you coming?”

“I think I’ll just walk down the hall and get some water. You two go on without me, but thanks for asking!” I responded as cheerfully as I could, given that things hadn’t happened exactly right.

After a few minutes I became the sole occupant of the room.

Or so I thought.

“You understand we just changed history, Alex.” My real voice said calmly behind me. “You know what that means?”

“It means a new dimension has been spawned and I’m the one that gets absorbed into myself this time, right?” I turned around to see my twin seated directly behind me. Her face looked so sad, yet understanding.

“Alex, I’m not so sure that can happen this time! You are the base Empress after all! If you are merged back into another dimension, we may all cease to exist, but if we don’t reassemble, we all possibly cease to exist here! This is the worst kind of paradox, sis- one that Mina would never let us forget!”

“What would make you think Mina would survive something as catastrophic as this, Empress?”

“Mina should be safe back on Kili! I have no doubt that this can’t possibly reach her that far back in time, Alex.”

“You’re forgetting one important tacit, Empress- Mina was still here on Kili in this time period! We hadn’t gone to rescue them yet! No Rescue, no Mahanilui, no Empress- remember?”

“I already thought about that, Alex, and here’s the thing. Your body is up in 1944, so technically Mina is back on Kili BC. This dimension was temporary- a device Emily created to hold your consciousness safe until you got better…”

“Wait, you said my body WAS back in 1944!” My voice had jumped a few octaves.

“Just a slip of the tongue, sis, sorry!”

“No, Empress, I want to know the truth! Am I dead? Did I expire back at base?” I tried and failed to keep the sheer panic from my voice.

“Don’t be silly, sis! If you had passed, would I be here talking to you? She smiled defensively.

“I don’t know the answer to that and neither do you! Give it to me straight…or don’t you know the answer, Alex?”

“You tell me, sis, you seem to have all the answers! I could be just a remnant of our past memories here to keep you company in the afterlife, or…I could be just spoofing you because you’re taking all of this too seriously, Alex, you decide!”

“Empress, I don’t know what to think at this point! I didn’t think Emily could hold me here without being here herself- at least that’s what she told me earlier! Now that she…Emily of 1944, has obviously left this reality, how do I return home?”

“Have you tried clicking your heels together three times?”

“Knock it off, Alex, I’m serious! Tell me, how do I get home- to my…our body?”

“I’m afraid there is no way back, Alex, the Empress of Time and Space doesn’t exist- never has! All this” She looked and motioned around then touched my temple, “All this is just your imagination- pure fantasy! It’s all in your mind, Alex Steinert! There is no way back…or forward for that matter!”

“That’s impossible, you’re lying! I’m not caught in some kind of crazy loop! I just have to find the weakness and force my way out of this nightmare!”

“Go ahead and try, Alex, it’s your mind. Twist and bend it all you want, but you’ll still end up back here…with me.” She warned.

“No, I will not accept that! I’ll find a way out of this if it’s the last thing I do!”

“Knock yourself out, Alex! I’m just going to phase out right now since Alex’s tribunal is reconvening. I’ll see you afterwards.”

Alex disappeared just as the door opened wide and men started filing back into the room.

Donna and Emily took their original seats on either side of me as Alex, accompanied by two marine guards, returned to the ‘hotseat’.

Lionel and his attorney entered and took their seats also.

“This tribunal into the alleged allegations pertaining to Lt. Cmdr. Alexander Steinert is now in session. Cmdr. Steinert, before our lunch break this tribunal received information crucial to its decision regarding the charges of assault and battery leveled against you. We have reviewed and thoroughly discussed this new information and have made our decision.” Admiral Demmit announced. His tone was steady, but very sad.

I didn’t remember it going this way the last time! Demmit’s tone was one of elation then.

“Cmdr. Steinert, it is the decision of this tribunal that you will be held to all charges including the following: Illegal communications with a foreign government; passing of confidential information to a foreign government; treason; espionage; and willfully endangering a fellow officer’s life. You will be confined to the brig until the date of your court marshal! Cmdr. Steinert, I really had expected to clear you of all previous charges, but the recently introduced evidence is clear and undeniable! I’m sorry, son!”

I couldn’t believe my ears! I immediately stood after the Admiral had finished.

“I object! Admiral, this isn’t the way it originally happened! Alex Steinert was cleared of all charges and went on to receive his own command! This is totally unacceptable! Cmdr. Steinert must be released so he can go on to assume his rightful place as Empress of Time and Space! Millions of people will die if this does not happen, Admiral!”

I noticed the shocked faces all staring at me. Emily and Donna’s faces struck me the hardest. Somehow I expected them to be the understanding ones. In my moment of passion, I’d forgotten that my Emily and Carroll no longer inhabited these bodies.

In short, I must have sounded like a first class mental patient!

“Guards, arrest Ens. Kimberly Jenson! She is also to be held in conjunction with Cmdr. Steinert! Miss Jenson, we trusted you- Emily trusted you! How could you so easily abandon your country in favor of some unknown monarchy! Take her away!”

I searched the future to see if I’d be able to pull off my trademarked disappearance- I smiled.

“I’m sorry, Admiral Demmit, but you will not lay one hand on me! This room- this dimension- everything here is askew! Nothing here has happened the way it should have, therefore nothing here is valid- least of all my arrest and confinement! I’m very sorry, but I’ll be leaving now!” I announced as I concentrated on phasing out.

The barrel of a service revolver touching my right temple indicated that portion of my gift didn’t seem to be working at the moment! I was really in it deep now. Glancing over to see the gun’s owner, I was surprised to see Emily’s hand on the grip!

“Sis, why?”

“I’m not your sister, Kim, I’m your superior and you’re coming with me to the brig! This grand delusion of yours is over, Ens. Jenson! Move!”

“You wouldn’t shoot me, Emily. Killing is not in you nature!”

“She might not,” Donna said as I felt another muzzle place itself on my left temple. “But I would, now move!” She pushed on the gun harder.

“It’s a shame you won’t last more than three more weeks. I hope you learned to swim, Donna!” I stated as we moved out of the room.

“Shut up, Kim!”

Alex and his escort were now a few feet down the hall from us.

“Alex, it was fun while it lasted, right?” I shouted ahead to him.

Emily looked between Alex and I- her look was anything but amused. Alex turned and looked at me in silence. I could see the wheels turning, trying to put a name to my face.

“Was she really worth it? To cause you so much pain after getting so close and romantic? You knew it was all to help her boyfriend get a by-line, right? Did she even admit to you that she had no intention of continuing your relationship past your two-week leave? Did she inform you that she ships out for Norfolk next week?”

“Shut up, Kim! You have no idea what we did or didn’t do together!” Emily hissed.

“Wrong! I can tell you about that hideous looking mole on the left side of his back; about the scar on his right inner thigh just above his knee; I can even tell you how he likes his coffee, Emily Scott! I know more about Cmdr. Steinert than you will ever know!”

“Who are you?” He asked me in confusion.

Now was the time to drop my bombshell! “I’m you twenty-two months from now, Alex! That is, I was…until everything went FUBAR around here!”

“But…but you’re a girl!”

“Very astute observation, Alex! Ma and Pa would be very proud that you figured that one out by yourself! Grampa would be even more proud!”

“My Grampa’s dead!”

“Not in my world, Alex! I just talked to him two weeks ago!”

“Keep moving!” Donna ordered.

We were passing Admiral Demmit’s office now.

“I’m sure Lt. Philamina Smith would be appalled by the results of this mock trial, Admiral! Have you ever wondered about that time sensitive folder containing the location and date of the launch and commissioning of the USS Sand Dollar, or the complete crew list for her. You might not have even read the specifics on her first mission to Kili Island! Have fun talking the President out of using the Manhattan Project to end this war, Admiral!” I shouted to the closed door as we continued down the long corridor.

What was wrong with these people? I had just exposed myself as Empress and the course of history for the next twenty-two months and absolutely no one was the least bit interested? This had to be a nightmare!

Thinking about that premise caused me to rethink the last few hours here. Everything that happened- the characters involved- everything was happening contrary to history. I realized my worst fears were becoming fact here!

Maybe I had to do something equally unimaginable to get out!

“Within three weeks time, you and I will be shark food while Emily stays warm and safe in Norfolk! She will receive promotion to full lieutenant and her medical degree. You and I, Donna, will never see that happen! We will be forgotten- replaced by one woman’s personal ambition!” I tried to make myself sound trance-like.

“What kind of garbage are you babbling, Kimberly?” Donna demanded as she increased the gun barrel’s pressure on the side of my head once more.

“If you’re so intent on shooting me, do it! Do it now you rotund little ditz!” I shouted before I stopped walking. I turned to face her- the muzzle now depressed heavily to my forehead. I stared down into her eyes for a moment.

”Do it!” I shouted and paused. “You can’t do it! I knew you couldn’t- you don’t have the stomach for it, Fletcher!”

“Kim, I’ll do it if I have to! Please don’t!” Donna said with trepidation.

“Do it before I take the damn thing off y’all an’ do it m’self, Ensign! Do it! Now!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.

“Time to leave, Alex!” Some familiar voice said over my rant.

A bright flash, sharp crack, and an intense pain were the last things I sensed before everything went black.

~o~O~o~

“Alex. Alex? Alex, it’s time to wake up! Alex!” A voice called to me.

Who was it?

“Alex! Alexandra Steinert! Time to wake up, Skip!” Another voice called.

“Alexandra Steinert, it’s time to come back to us, dear!” A man’s voice ordered gently.

Opening my eyes slowly, they were met with an incredibly intense light. Nothing seemed in focus so I quickly shut them again.

“Emily! Her eyes just opened for a second! Did you see that?”

“Carroll?” I mouthed slowly. Only some of the sounds came out.

I felt someone take my hand.

“Emily, she said my name!” I was now sure it was Carroll’s voice.

“You…you…you shot me!” I whispered as loud as I could at the moment.

“You hear that doc? She said I shot her! Isn’t that…wait…I didn’t…I did what? I didn’t shoot you, Alex! What are you taking about?” Carroll sounded confused.

“I think I know what she’s talking about, Carroll.” I heard Jack say in the background.

“Don’t keep it to yourself, Jack, tell us what she means!”

“A nightmare!” I got out before Jack could continue.

“She’s right! By her perspective it was a bonified nightmare- the worst thing that could have happened at Alexander Steinert’s hearing!”

“Her hearing? When? What hearing, Jack?”

“Remember Emily took her back to 1942- the day Alexander Steinert and Emily Scott met.”

“Ya, I was there, Jack! So was the Admiral! That was yesterday though.”

“From her perspective, that was almost two weeks ago, Carroll! While you and Admiral Demmit left Emily’s temporary dimension, Alex kept living the life of Kim Jenson- right through to the trial of her former self- Alexander!”

“So why does she think I shot her?”

“When Emily tried to terminate the temporary dimension, Alex must have continued it somehow. Her reality began to twist and redirect itself into her worst nightmare!”

“From what I could see in her mind, the hearing fell apart! She thought that Spencer Rosen had delivered information that would clear her male self; instead it declared him a traitor- a spy! Her worst fears manifested themselves in the form of damning evidence! To make matters worse, she found her Kimberly Jenson persona facing the same charges!”

Jack stopped as I tried to continue the story.

“I…I was placed under arrest.” I whispered a little louder now. My voice seemed to be getting louder with each passing moment. “Emily and Donna both…you both held pistols to my head! We were walking down the hall as I tried to convince you I was Alex…Alexandra! They wouldn’t listen to me! I even tried to convince Uncle Rick who I was, but his door never opened.”

“So how did I shoot you, Alex?”

“I…I couldn’t…I couldn’t let it go on any longer! I stopped walking. You tried to keep me moving, but I told you I wouldn’t move any farther. Carroll…” I felt water running down my face into my ears. “Carroll…I told you that you couldn’t kill me- that you wouldn’t shoot! Someone told me it was time to go…and…and…you shot me, Carroll! I saw the flash, heard the report, and felt…Oh, God, it hurt!” I could feel myself break into tears. I turned over on my side and cried!

“Alex?” I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Who told you it was time to go?” Emily’s soothing, professional voice asked gently.

“I’m…I’m…I don’t know!”

I tried opening my eyes again. This time things were a little clearer. I was in my quarters- in my own bed! Everything looked to be in the right places- pictures, clothing, and knick-knacks.

“Am I really home?”

“Yes, Alex, you’re back in 1944! We thought we had lost you for a few minutes, sis!” Emily looked relieved to see me looking at her!

“How long have I been gone?”

“You’ve been unconscious for three days, Alex- three long, sleepless days- for Carroll and I!”

“But you two were there for a week and a half!”

“Alex, you would be more understanding of these things than I would be, but it was only three days.” Emily smiled as she ran her fingers gently through my long, dirty, blonde hair. It felt nice to have her do that. “Everything is okay now, Alex, you’re back home now. Try to forget the bad dream, okay?”

“But I was really there! I almost even had to go on a date with Maj. Canton!”

“Chuck Canton? Alex, aside from Emily’s relationship to me that had to be the closest guarded secret on base at that time! How did you know about that?” Uncle Rick questioned me.

“Emily told me about the rumor right after you left, sir! Right before we left your office that first day!”

“Alex, Uncle Rick, Carroll and I all left around the same time! I never mentioned anything to you about Kim and Maj. Canton!”

“That’s not what I remember! I distinctly remember you and Carroll coming into my office about a week into my life as Kim Jenson- just after Canton thought I had started my period. He ran out of the room faster than a cockroach with his shorts on fire! You forgot your dinner meeting with Alex and Alex Covington brought Corrine Masterson and Jamie Hilf with her to help get you ready. It played out like a scene from Cinderella!”

“Alex, Cinderella hasn’t been made yet.” Emily reminded me. “How could I ever forget a date with you…him, Alex? That is something I would most definitely be on time or even early for! I would never forget about you, Alex!”

“Still, who told me it was time to go?”

“That would be me, ladies.”

Alex Covington and Emily Rosen walked in from the short hallway.

“I thought you said we wouldn’t meet again until after Sam was born, sis?” I scolded her.

“Technically, we came to see you, Alex! I meant that you wouldn’t come to see me…until…never mind! How you feelin’, sis?

“Confused… thanks for asking!”

Alex smiled and nodded to her Emily. Opening her purse, she produced a rather large looking syringe.

“With your permission, Empress?” Emily asked gently. I offered my arm and prepared for the pinch I knew was coming.

“Will you relax, Alex? We don’t take blood that way anymore!” She pushed the strange syringe gently into my skin and pressed a small button on its side. The device made no sound and brought no pain whatsoever! Emily held it there for a few seconds.

Uncle Rick looked on in silent, but curious, fascination.

“There. That wasn’t so bad now, was it?” She smiled as she recapped the device and placed it back into her purse.

“Are Alexandra, Alexis, and Tibius okay, Empress?” I asked my twin.

“Everything is as it should be, sis! Our family is healthy and growing, but now you have some sleep to catch up on! Don’t tell me that you don’t, because I know better!”

“How did you get into my nightmare, Empress?” I asked abruptly.

“Isn’t a dream or nightmare just another kind of dimension, sis- one that we can sometimes control and manipulate to our likes or dislikes?” She smiled at me then winked.

“I never thought of it that way, but what you say makes sense! I have to remember that, Empress.”

“You’ll never forget, Empress! It comes in handy in a few years!” She laughed as she leaned over to hug me.

I felt that wonderful tingle pass between us! I automatically closed my eyes and felt a few tears run down my cheeks.

“Em, is there anything else?” Alex asked our sister.

“No, that does it, Alex. I’ll process this and make enough for distribution.” Emily took Alex Covington’s hand, but let go again and walked around my bed to Uncle Rick.

“I’m going to miss you!” She cried as she wrapped her arms around the old man. “Don’t be a stranger, Uncle Rick. You have the means to visit us at any time, you know.”

Emily clung to him for several minutes before releasing him and walking back over to Alex.

“Ready, Empress.”

“We’ll be right back.” Alex said before disappearing.

“Why did she say she would be right back, Alex?” Carroll asked.

“Do you like needles, Carroll?” I asked offhandedly.

“You know I hate them, skip! Um…why?”

“Because you’re going to get one right now, Lieutenant!” Alex said from behind her and promptly pressed a similar high tech syringe into her neck.

“Alex, you almost made me…nope, scratch that, you did! I’ll be back in a few!” Carroll groused as she scowled at my twin and left the room walking strangely.

“Uncle, you’re next! Sleeve up!”

“Why do we need the antidote? I thought only Terrans and Reilly’s were susceptible?”

“Just roll up your sleeve, old man!” Alex giggled as she reset the same syringe and plunged it into Admiral Demmit’s awaiting arm. Alex moved beside Emily. “Sis, I’ll get…” The device left Alex’s hand and flew over to Jack’s outstretched arm, dispensed itself then flew back to her.

Alex rolled her eyes and proceeded to administer the vaccine to Emily.

“Could I have a word with Alex, please?”

Alex waited for Uncle Rick, Emily, Carroll, and Jack to leave before she said anything else.

“Come and get Emily or I should someone develop a reaction, Alex.” She said as she deposited the empty syringe back into her purse.

I was glad my gifts had returned!

“That won’t be necessary, Empress!” I said confidently as I sat up in bed.

“Welcome back, Empress!” Alex again embraced me, this time squeezing the breath from me.

Pulling the covers back, I saw that I was wearing my favorite pink nighty and concentrated on my uniform. I was rewarded with a seamless clothing change, though I noticed my feet were still bare. A quick search found my shoes waiting for me a few inches away.

“Alex? When do we finally tell the truth about the Terran’s, I mean, does it ever really come out? I haven’t been able to pin it down to any certain date or time- as much as I’ve tried.”

As far ahead as I can see, Alex, that secret will always be on the cusp, but never fully revealed. I can’t imagine the repercussions from that one!”

“Do you think they’ll ever put it together? I mean, really put all the pieces together?”

“Let’s stop talking about that one, sis, we’re confusing the hell out of Jack, and you know how persistent she can get!”

“Agreed.” I thought for a second. “I’m hungry! Let’s go to the mess hall, my treat, Empress!”

1300 hours, Atlantis-Minor, Ni’ihau, May 15th, 1944

“So, how you feeling, Alex?” Allie asked as we took our dishes back to the kitchen.

“Better now that I have something in my stomach. So…” I stopped and looked at my temporal twin. “So…did it really happen?”

“You being sick? Sure did. Why ask?”

“No. Did IT really happen? Do I have to go back and fix my hearing?”

“Sis, do you remember when I appeared behind you during the recess?”

“Yes, why?”

“Do you remember me telling you that everything was in your mind- that nothing was real?”

“As I recall, I told you that you were wrong and I’d do everything I could to prove that to you! I also remember you telling me that the Empress didn’t exist- that she never did!” I said, angered by the recollection.

Allie grabbed my blouse tightly. “Well, I’m still telling you that! We are still in your mind, Alex! In here the Empress does not exist and never will! It’s time for you to go, Alex!” Allie shouted and slapped me across the face hard!

1100 hours, Atlantis-Minor, Ni’ihau, May 15th, 1944

“Welcome back, Skipper.” Carroll greeted me as I opened my eyes and saw her leaning over me.

“What happened?”

“You’ve been out of it for three days now, Alex. Emily says you’ve been running a high fever- one-oh-six! She said she’s never seen anyone survive such a high temperature before!”

Carroll quickly lunged at me and wrapped her arms around me as best she could!

“Alex, I almost…we almost lost you!” She cried as she burst into tears.

“No such luck, lieutenant. I’m here for the foreseeable future.”

Carroll’s crying turned to intermittent laughter.

“You are amazing, Alexandra Steinert! Even as sick as you were, you can still make light of something so serious!” She backed off a little and gave me a gentle punch to my shoulder. “You better stop trying to kill yourself before Emily actually does it for you!”

“Is that what I did?” I looked at her seriously.

“No! You passed out on the bridge just after you transported us back to Ni’ihau…1944, Alex! Don’t you remember?” Carroll replied with concern. “Forgive me, Empress.”

Carroll bowed as she placed her fist to her chest. “Empress, Welcome to Ni’ihau, Atlantis-Minor Base, it is May 15th, 1944, ma’am.”

“I know what year it is, Carroll! I just wanted to make sure I was home and not in some twisted nightmare tightly folded into another twisted nightmare!”

“Huh?” She stated quite simply. “Alex, you never left your bed these last three days- not since Jack carried you off Sand Dollar after we docked in the Grotto!”

“Jack carried me?”

“Well, technically she levitated you here from the Grotto, but ya, she carried you!”

“Admiral Demmit, is he still here?”

“Emily shooed him off base as soon as a plane could get here, Alex! She didn’t want to risk him getting sick too!”

“So she knows? She figured out who the target of the virus was?”

“I don’t follow, Alex? She figured out what? Can a virus target a specific person?”

“Did she figure out that the virus was intended to attack me, primarily, and the Terrans secondly?”

“I’m sure she knows that Admiral Demmit is related to the two of you, if that’s what you mean. I still don’t follow, Alex.”

“Did she figure out that Uncle Rick... has Terran nanos in his body, Carroll? He was born with them!” I raised my voice.

“She does now, Alex Steinert!” Emily growled, appearing in the doorway. “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about our Uncle? Is he also from another universe?” She waited for me to say something, instead I figured silence was golden and she could take that any way she wanted.

“Of course he’s from a different universe, doc! He’s an Admiral!” Carroll wisecracked with a smirk. Emily joined in, both laughing at me and my discomfort

I moved my arm to wipe the embarrassment…spelled s.w.e.a.t, off my face and found a strange, thin plastic tube taped to my right forearm. It was at that time that I noticed the other end attached to an upturned glass bottle hanging over and just forward of my right nightstand.

“It’s been three days, Alex. I had to keep you hydrated somehow!

“Oh.”

“If you’ll be patient for a few minutes more I’ll take it out, okay?”

I nodded.

Emily went to her opened bag and removed a small ball of cotton and a roll of bandage tape then came over to the suspended bottle and turned a small valve below it.

“Hold still now, sis.” Emily ordered as she placed the cotton over the insertion point in my arm and slowly pulled an amazingly long needle out.

Seeing my expression, Emily laughed a little. “Its amazing what the human body can hold, isn’t it, Alex?”

When I didn’t say anything, she continued. “This isn’t new technology, Alex. IV’s have been around for twenty years or more, I just borrowed the silicone rubber tubing and drip adjuster from Amelia before we left Kili.”

“Oh.” I mumbled.

“Is that all you can say? Oh? I expected more from my sister! Something like, ‘why on earth would you do that, Emily? You’ll change the course of history, Emily!’ But, no, I get a simple ‘oh’!”

When I didn’t say anything more, Emily just smiled at me.

“Want to talk about it, sis?” She asked in a gentle tone.

“Talk about what, Emily?”

“You want to talk about the crazy, twisted, nightmarish, dimension you made for yourself while you fought off that bug?” Emily had resumed her ‘professional’ voice, but kept it essentially to a whisper.

“How do you know that?” I responded in surprise. I began to wonder if I had actually reached my reality yet.

“I know you were in a dream-state for three days, sis- delirious at times! I wouldn’t be a good medical seer- or the Empress’s sister, if I couldn’t see those images, Alex! Did you really dream that Carroll shot you?” Emily began to giggle.

“I did what? I didn’t shot you Alex! I would never do that, Skip!” Carroll said, quickly going on the defensive.

“I know you wouldn’t, Carroll! It was all part of my dream- nothing more! Did you really put me into that dimension, sis, cause I still don’t know if I’m back! I’m really confused right now!” I tried not to show the panic still lingering in me.

“Try to use your gifts, Alex. From what I saw in the dream, you couldn’t, and I quote, ‘predict a storm even if you could see it coming’!”

“That’s a good idea, sis!” I said as I willed myself to phase out.

“Alex, I figured you would do that, but I didn’t expect the bed to go with you. Mariah would be mad if only half of it came back, you know.” Emily closed her eyes, laughed, and shook her head.

Slowly I pulled back the sheet and rolled out of my bed on the left keeping my hand on the mattress until I felt steady on my feet. I removed my hand and stood straight up.

“Well, the bed made it back in one piece, Doc!” Carroll said with some relief.

It was good to know that that part of my gift was working properly. I decided to take stock of myself. I was dressed in an outfit I hadn’t thought practical for nighttime in the tropics- pajamas- flannel pajamas- heavy, blue, flannel pajamas to be specific. In order to find out who was responsible I tried to bring up my clothing’s heads up display. Apparently I wasn’t wearing my Reilly clothing at the moment. I decided to rephase.

“What’s with the PJ’s, sis?” I asked. Both pair of eyes quickly locked on me from across the bed.

“Alex, you shouldn’t be out of bed yet. I’d like you to rest for a few more hours. We’re quick healers but even we need to let things catch up.” Emily scolded.

I crossed my arms and waited for the answer to my question.

“Oh, fine, if you must know, I put those on you, Alex!” Emily finally admitted. “I did it because with a hundred and six degree fever, I wanted you to stay cool! I’ve had to douse you with water a number of times over the last three days to keep the fever manageable and the fabric held the moisture! Had I not, your temperature would have gone high enough to kill even you, Alex! Need I remind you that we are still slightly human! Now get back into that bed before I have Jack do it for you, Captain Steinert!”

“Please not the Mind Warrior, Doctor Emily!” I cried with as much sarcasm as I could.

Suddenly I was two feet off the ground and rotating into a horizontal position.

“Jack, put me down!”

‘Doctor’s orders, Alex! No can do,’ came her response in my mind!

“Fine, We’ll play it your way then!” I said as I phased myself out and dropped straight through my bed.

“Ouch!”

I concentrated on the Empress’s quarters and found myself standing in the darkened building.

“I’ll decide whether I need more rest or not!” I said defiantly to the empty room. I kept myself phased out so Jack couldn’t find me.

Even though the curtains blocked most of the sunlight from entering, the heat from the sun wasn’t stopped from entering so easily. I could feel the stifling heat even in my phase-shifted condition. I had to change out of these pajamas!

My private dimension replaced the hot, darkened, bedroom of the Empress’s quarters. The weather here was at least bearable, but I could feel myself tiring. I had to find out if I was finally out of my nightmare though.

“Can we ever really escape our dreams, Alexandra?”

“Ma Scott?” I answered the unseen voice.

“I said you could call me mom, Alex, not Ma!” Emily’s Ma came walking into the light near me.

“Sorry, mom, I didn’t mean to insult you. Back home, it’s perfectly fine to call my mother ‘Ma’.”

“Then you can refer to me as ‘Ma’, Alex, but only you! Understand me, young lady?”

“Yes, Ma. Why are you here anyway? I didn’t call you did I? If I did, I didn’t mean to disturb you! It wasn’t on purpose, ma’am.”

“Alexandra, I took the initiative to appear here on my own, dear.”

“You can do that, Ma? I thought I was the only one…”

“There are special, limited exceptions, young lady! One being when a mother sees her daughter misbehaving like a spoiled child, Alexandra! Of course, this private little universe of yours is much easier to materialize in than earth!” Ruth Scott cut me off to scold me.

“Your sister only has the best of intentions for you, Alex. She would not confine you to bed rest if she didn’t think it necessary. What you did just now- using your talents to escape from Jacquelyn’s talent…its…its childish, Alexandra! I thought my girls would know better than to abuse such special god-given talents as yours! Shame on you, Alexandra!”

Ma Scott stood there, just staring at me for a while. I said nothing as I assessed my own actions of the last few minutes. One thing that was becoming evident though, I was really starting to feel tied. Indeed, I had acted like a child- a spoiled child!

“You’re right, mom, I acted like an impudent child- I’m sorry. It’s just that I have to find out if I’m still trapped in my nightmare. I’ve never been so confused in my life, Ma.”

“Come here, child.” She offered her arms and before I knew it, I was being held by Emily’s mother- my second mother. “I understand how things can get so confusing, Alex. My world…my dimension as you call it, can be just as confusing at first, dear.”

“I can imagine, but I just want to know if I’m back, mom.” I replied into her shoulder. A few tears unexpectedly left my eyes.

“Of course you’re back, dear, you wouldn’t be here if you were still locked in your dreams, and I’m not the type to invade them, my dear daughter. I’m not that malevolent!” Ma Scott giggled as she started to rub my back gently.

“I think I have to go now, ma, I’m feeling really tired. I’m sorry.” I admitted as my adoptive mother released me.

“See dear, Emily was right. You aren’t as strong as you think you are yet.”

“I thought I was better, ma, I guess I’m just too headstrong. Thank you for coming, mom, I appreciate it.” I hugged the woman then stepped back from her.

“You listen to Emily from now on, Alexandra. She knows what is medically best for you.” She said before starting to fade. Ruth Scott faded back in.

“Tell your sister I’m really proud of her, Alex. I’m proud of you both, dear.”

I stood alone in my private domain once more. A yawn escaped my mouth as I turned to gaze at the single yellow sun, ever stationary in the otherwise black emptiness. One day I would have to figure out what it meant.

My bedroom replaced the emptiness of my private sanctuary. Emily and Carroll were still there waiting patiently.

I appeared with my head lowered.

“You’re right, Emily. I’m not as recovered as I thought. I’ll get back in bed now, sis.” I admitted as I climbed back between my covers.

“What happened to you? Where did you go, Alex?” My sister asked as Carroll nodded her head in agreement.

“I…I think some of my Granddaughter surfaced. It was explained to me that I was acting like a spoiled child, which, I guess I was. I’m sorry, Emily, Carroll, and you too Jack!”

“It was explained to you? Who told you that, Alex?” My sister asked, confused.

“Mom. She told me.”

Emily eyed me cautiously for a minute. “Mom told you, Alex?”

“I went to my domain. Mom was waiting for me. She scolded me for not listening to you- for not following your orders, Emily.” I told her through a yawn as I turned away from her and Carroll and fluffed my pillow.

“You talked to Mother again? Alex, why?” Emily was flabbergasted.

“She came to me, Emily, not the other way around. She said there are special times that they can do that, but that it was much easier to materialize there than here on Earth.” I yawned several more times.

“They can do that? Did she say anything else?”

“She says she’s real proud of you, sis- she’s real proud…of…both…of…us.”I replied as a warm cozy haze fell upon me.

~o~O~o~

“Empress.” I heard a voice through my sleep-fogged mind.

“Empress, wake up. I need to talk to you.” The insistent voice said again. My warm haze began to disperse.

“Empress, I need to talk to you about something important. Please wake up, ma’am.” I thought the voice sounded a little like Corrine Masterson, but I still wasn’t sure.

“Corrine?”

“Yes, Empress, its me. I need to talk to you about something…important.”

I opened my eyes and was met by the light of the midday sun streaming through my partially opened curtains. Turning away from the obnoxious light, I looked into Corrine Masterson’s forlorn face no more than a foot away.

“I’m sorry for waking you, Skipper, but I…I…I need your counsel on something!”

She waited for my response as I took a minute or two to wake up properly.

“My door is always open, Corrine. What’s on your mind?” I asked wiping the sleepers out of my eyes.

“Skip, this morning I woke up and...and I looked in the mirror.”

“Okay…and?”

“And I looked like this, Skipper! I’m…I’m different! I look different!”

I took a second look at her. Nothing seemed different, she looked as proportional as always. I stopped to think on that. She looked proportional, not overly buxom! I rolled my eyes to refocus them. Yep, she had received her gift. But hadn’t she received it a few days ago on Kili…in 2028?

“Corrine, you just received your gift, that’s all. What’s the problem?”

“I…I can’t get my old form back, Skip! I’ve tried and nothing happens! I’m worried!”

“Did you have a talk with your future self before we left Kili, Corrine?”

“Ya, why?”

“I would’ve thought she’d given you some pointers for when this happened.”

“She told me how to change to this form, but not how to change back. How do I do it, Empress?” She stated quietly whispering ‘Empress’.

“Just relax, Corrine.”

“How can I relax when I look like this? What if someone sees me?” She whispered conspiratorially.

“Miss Masterson, you look exactly like your future self, and almost everyone has seen her, but I meant that’s how you resume your original form, honey- relax.”

“Oh.”

“I thought you would be overjoyed with your new look, hun- especially with all the ridiculing you’ve been taking since the change. Why would you ever want to go back to it, Corrine?”

“I…I…I just want to know I can go back, Skipper. Being stuck in that form, I’m just a little worried I might not be able to control it…or hold it for that matter!”

“Just try to relax, Corrine. Let all the worry- all the embarrassment fade away. You have my word that you can return to your original form. Go ahead, relax and see that I’m right.”

The person at my bedside began to shimmer and change, becoming bustier every second until the old Corrine stood there beside me.

I looked her up and down and gestured with my hand for her to appraise her body.

“It worked! It worked, Skipper! Thank you ma’am, thank you!” She leaned over and kissed my cheek.

“Thank yourself, Corrine, you did it all, not me.” I gave her my brightest smile.

“But you told me it would work, Skipper!”

“I told you nothing you hadn’t known already, Corrine. Now, wouldn’t you like to continue to show off that wonderfully normal body to those that have teased and ridiculed you the last couple months?”

Corrine Masterson changed once more, assuming the form she would display for the next three hundred or so years- except for those times her gift was called upon when needed for an adventure by the Empress. She turned to leave.

“I’m not so sure I should reveal my other gift yet, Skipper.” She stopped and turned back to me. “You said I would be receiving my gift in another month. Should I wait until the time you specified? I don’t want to be responsible for changing history, Empress.”

I moved to the edge of the bed and placed my feet over the side to sit up. Corrine stepped back to give me room.

“Corrine, I’m not so sure you’ve been listening to Mina or any of us Alex’s. You alone decide whether to change your future. By making a decision, you set the ultimate course through your life’s journey. I’m only here to see that you make the best choices possible- the ones that benefit the most people, friends, and family.”

I paused a moment.

“You alone must choose whether you should hide your secondary gift or not, Corrine Masterson! I’m just going to recommend that you choose not to hide it, but to develop it farther. Do you understand?”

“You need me on an upcoming mission, right, Empress?” She began to smile.

“That’s a definite possibility now, Corrine.” I winked at her and kept smiling.

“Will it be a dangerous one, Empress?”

“There’s always a chance of danger and intrigue, hon.” I admitted cryptically.

Her smile widened as her hair grew longer.

“I think you need to practice a little more, Corrine, things shouldn’t change randomly when you lose concentration, hun.” I giggled and pointed to her mid-back length brown hair.

Corrine Masterson took a handful and pulled it over her shoulder to examine the length and laughed.

“This is the best day of my life, Skipper! Thank you!”

She happily hugged me and turned again for the door.

“Good afternoon, Doctor!” I heard her sing as she passed Emily out in my office.

“Was that Corrine I passed out there, Alex?” Emily asked as she pointed out to my office when she appeared in my doorway.

I nodded.

“Wonderful! I was hoping she would get her gift earlier then you predicted.”

“She was worried that she would change things, Emily!” I giggled. “She wanted to know if I thought she should hide her gift! Can you imagine that?”

“She needs to build her confidence, Alex. Your approval means the world to her and to all of our sisters, you know. They look to you more now than ever before, my Empress.” Emily giggled back.

“Some won’t look to me quite so much in the coming years I’m afraid, Emily.” My giggling stopped immediately as I thought of Tish.

Silence filled the room for a while.

“We’re being sent on our longest mission in a few days, Emily.” I said out of the blue.

“Where?”

“Attack Group Escort for a campaign to New Guinea- Biak Island. From there we head for Saipan- same roll. We’ll be on patrol for four weeks straight.” I said sadly.

“And how many sorties will the Empress be making in that amount of time, Alex?” My sister inquired, raising an eyebrow.

“I’ll add another eight months or so under my belt, sis.” I admitted.

“Any places I know, sis?”

“A few.”

“Such as?”

“Vicksburg, DC, Chicago.”

“Chicago, Alex?”

“World’s Fair.”

“Oh.”

“What about Vicksburg?”

“Something about Great-Grandma- Brie is going to contact me with the specifics after we get to DC.”

“Am I needed for any of them, Empress?”

“Chicago and DC for sure, Mississippi is a maybe, sis. I’m afraid corsets will be the order of the day for all three trips, though. I’ll need you mostly for back rubs at the end of each day.”

“You had to go and spoil it, didn’t you?” Emily giggled again.

I raised my arms and shrugged my shoulders. “One good point though, sis.”

“What’s that?”

“Mina’s coming with us to DC.”

“I didn’t think it would be one of our better trips, Alex. Don’t we lose her there?” Emily looked a little sullen.

“Wrong trip, sis. Mina makes her fateful decision when we book passage on Grandpa’s riverboat. We may or may not lose her there though. I’ve seen at least three different acceptable conclusions for that one. It’s all up to Mina, though.”

“Is this the one where you first get mentioned in the President’s personal diary, Alex? The one you told me about two weeks ago after you returned from next year?”

“I’d rather not recall that trip, Emily, but yes, this is the one.”

“You’re going to try talking him out of going to the theater?”

“Worse, sis, I have to talk him INTO going.” I looked to the floor and turned my head away from my sister.

“Oh, Alex, I didn’t know! I’m sorry, sis!”

“Has to be…done…I’m afraid.”

“Can I ask how you figure to persuade him, Alex?”

“That’s where Chicago comes in.” I looked back at her as I wiped a tear from my cheek.

“So when do we leave?” Emily asked quietly.

“Night three when we surface for recharge. We’ll only be gone for five minutes…relative, but I’m afraid you, Mina, Jamie, Corrine, and I will be corseted for about twelve days- Empress time.”

“Corrine and Jamie? They’re coming along, Alex?”

“We’re going to require several wardrobe changes- who better than Corrine to change our hair color and length?”

“But Jaime Hilf?”

“We’ll need her acute hearing and her gift of empathy and persuasion arrive right on time, sis. She’ll develop it in DC.”

“Will she be up for it, Alex? That might be a little too extreme for her to handle, you know.”

“Can’t be helped, sis! For the record, Jamie has already realized part of her gift on our initial return from Kili. She needs to know how to control both parts of her gift and this is how I’ve seen she accomplishes it. Unfortunately, she’s going to whine like an air raid siren- so fair warning!”

“I’ll keep an eye on her, don’t worry, sis.”

“Thanks, now I guess I better get dressed and pay a little visit to Uncle- I’m sure he’s wondering how I’m doing. Am I cleared for travel, Doctor Scott?”

Emily closed her eyes for a moment. “Cleared for travel and immediate departure, Empress!” She smiled.

“Thanks, now where did you hide my uniform?” From the look on her face I could tell that I would have to ask a higher power.

“Jack! I want my clothing back! Now!” I shouted into the air. Emily burst out laughing. As we heard the wooden trunk at the foot of my bed unlock.

“She did that herself, Alex! I wondered how she was going to keep you on base.”

“Thank you, Commander.” I again called to the ceiling.

1400 hours, CINCPAC Headquarters, Pearl Harbor, May 15th, 1944

“That’s all, Mr. Ford. I want that encrypted and sent out immediately!”

“I thought this was a fully involved mission, Admiral, I don’t see Capt. Steinert’s Sand Dollar on the list, sir.”

“You don’t worry about the Sand Dollar, lieutenant, her captain has been fully briefed- trust me.”

I watched Admiral Demmit look about the air in his office and giggled to myself.

“But how, Admiral, I don’t recall seeing any other communiqués cross my desk for encryption today?”

“Lt. Ford, I gave you an order, I expect you to carry it out! Dismissed, Lieutenant!” Demmit growled in annoyance.

“Aye, sir!” Ford looked thoroughly confused, but stood to attention momentarily and let himself out.

“Come on out, Empress! I know you’re here.” Uncle Rick said in a hushed voice to the empty office walls after waiting a minute or two.

“You knew I was here, Uncle?” I asked with a quirky smile and a raised eyebrow as I rephased.

“Alex, we have a big push into New Guinea set for the 27th and I’m going to need all my available boats for escort duty. Of course I would expect you to be here!” He said as he finished signing some report and looked up at me. “Should I ask how you’re feeling, Captain Steinert?”

“That’s why I stopped by, Admiral. Emily just gave me a clean bill of health and I figured I’d check in, sir- though I thought you’d be more concerned.” I gave a little sniff for effect.

“You gave your uncle quite a shock when you passed out- I won’t lie to you, Alex, I was very concerned! Now that Dr. Scott has released you from her care, I expect you will do your best on this upcoming mission?”

“Admiral…” I leaned in closer to him, my face going stone serious. “I can’t be everywhere at once! Y’all are gonna lose a lot of good people in this one, sir. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but if I tried to save…”

“I didn’t ask the Empress to intervene, Captain Steinert! I’m asking if you will assume your responsibilities as captain of the Sand Dollar in the usual fashion! I want to know that my premiere boat crew will have the necessary leadership.”

“I’ll be in command for the entire four weeks, Admiral. Any extraneous trips will be undertaken when off duty, sir- of that, you can be assured!”

“Good, Commander, I...! Wait, you mean you’ll be assuming your Empress persona while off duty, Alex?” Uncle Rick looked surprised.

“The four of us will only be gone for five minutes, Admiral- and only on the third night of the mission…unless something unexpected pops up.”

Admiral Demmit rubbed his eyes and took a long breath.

“So who is the Empress going to help this time, Alex, or is that confidential?”

“President Lincoln, sir. He needs some advice on a certain issue.”

Uncle Rick’s mouth dropped open, his eyes popping wildly from their sockets.

Maybe I could have worded that a little differently- eased into the subject a little slower. At this rate my new uncle would suffer a severe heart attack before the end of this war!

“Sir, I’m not looking forward to this one at all! If I had the choice, I’d pass over the task expected of me.”

“But you’ll be helping the President, Alex.” Demmit eyed me critically.

“You could say that, sir.” I again pictured my forthcoming visit to 1865 and dropped my gaze to the floor.

“I’ll let it drop, Alex. I can see you’re conflicted. I trust you’ll assist the Commander–In-Chief any way you can. Now, I want Sand Dollar here by 1500hrs tomorrow for supplies and fuel. How are you doing on fish?”

“Chief Peterson just finished reworking the detonators last week, sir. I believe a Rec. for two additional Mark 14’s should top us off.”

Admiral Demmit nodded his approval.

“I’m sending orders for Sand Dollar to only refuel with a tender near dawn, Captain. You’ll be running submerged by day under the guise of carrying some new, specialized sonar equipment on her. All the information on when and where you’re to rendezvous is contained in this.” Admiral Demmit said as he handed me the brief.

“Aye, sir.”

“Alex?”

“Sir?”

“Alex, I know how mundane these missions seem to you now, given your…um…acute talent…for…for seeing into the future, but we really need you! I’m not asking you to hunt down and personally sink every enemy sub and destroyer, but just to guard the convoy as you have so many times in the past- before your Mahanilui.” Demmit said in a calm quiet voice. He looked like he was holding back.

“I’d have thought you would want me to clear the way, sir?” I asked with slight confusion.

“Alex, I took the liberty of examining the archives at Reilly on our visit. I know how history will unfold on this campaign- what the toll will be! We all know the risks, Alex. I’m not thrilled with our loses, but if that’s what it takes to win the war... Having reviewed the battle accounts, I want you to do only what you feel necessary to achieve the reported outcome- nothing more. Do you understand me, Capt. Steinert?”

“Understood, Admiral! I’ll try not to change the future too much, sir!” I reassured him.

Uncle Rick looked pleased at first- until he thought about my answer a little harder. He again rubbed his eyes.

He stared at me hard for a few seconds, probably to intimidate me, but I held strong.

Admiral Demmit scowled.

“My…niece…will not…change…our…future…anymore than she already has! It is to remain the concise, disturbingly bloody, history that I read while visiting Reilly Research Station in 2028! Is…that…clear, Alexandra!” Demmit growled.

“I’ll try not to change a thing, Uncle. That’s the best I can agree to.” I answered honestly as I looked directly back into his eyes.

“That’s all I ask, Alex, that’s all I ask. Dismissed, Captain Steinert.” Admiral Demmit sat back down at his desk.

Had I really just stared down the Admiral and…and won?”

I phased out, but didn’t leave immediately.

“Admiral?” Maj. Canton knocked at the slightly ajar door just mere seconds later.

“Chuck, come on in and close the door, please.”

“Are you sure it’s clear, Rick? I thought I heard Alex Steinert’s voice in here a second ago?”

He sniffed at the air a few times.

I hadn’t realized I’d spritzed any perfume on.

“She’s gone, Chuck, have a seat.”

“I heard she was pretty sick the other day. Is she okay now?”

“Dr. Scott gave her a clean bill of health. She just stopped by to let me know. I gave her her orders so she doesn’t have to attend tonight’s briefing.”

“Good call, sir. That might not go over so well with her fellow boat captains.”

“I told her I didn’t want the Empress to interfere with the mission, Chuck.” Uncle Rick said solemnly out of the blue.

“Why would you do that, Rick? Her knowledge of the upcoming battle could save so many lives! She could lead the convoy around any Jap patrols and direct our landing crafts to safer beaches! Why not take advantage of that?”

“Why indeed, Maj. Canton!” I growled, having rephased.

Canton jumped about a foot!

Uncle Rick rolled his eyes and dropped his stare to the desk before him. He then placed his palms into his eye sockets and elbows on the desk to support his head and new headache. “You opened the can this time, Chuck.” He said, shaking his head slightly.

“I’m waiting, Major! Why would Uncle Rick take advantage of a reliable resource such as the Empress of Time and Space?” I tried to keep my anger out of my voice- to no avail.

Did the light just flicker? But it was daylight yet…

“Alex, I just meant…you…it…so many lives could be saved on our side though!”

“On our side! What about the people on the other side, Major?” I moved to stare him down. “Shouldn’t I save them too? They do live on this planet and we won’t always be at war- why shouldn’t I save them too?”

“I just thought that…but you’re on our side, Capt. Steinert!”

“True as can be, Major! My allegiance to our country is beyond question, but my gifts are not to be abused by anyone! Admiral Demmit has shown remarkable restraint by ordering me not to influence this mission and I salute him for that! You, on the other hand seem to side with those that think I could bring about a quick end to this! Know this…there will be a quick end to this conflict, Charles Canton- an end so quick it would see Japan choose unconditional surrender within a week! The cost of which though is only a scant few hundred thousand unsuspecting civilians!” I began to cry as I recalled the destructive force due to be unleashed next August.

“Alex, I never meant to…”

“You never meant to assume we should use the Empress to help win the war? No, you never meant to anger me! You seem to forget that the blonde skirt before you can see the future, Chuck! Do you want me to show you what could have been if I interfered? I can do it- just one hop into a dimension where things happened exactly that way!”

Why did the lights blink again?

“Empress, stand down!” Uncle Rick ordered as he interceded. “You too, major!”

“But, sir!”

“Chuck, I’ve actually seen what Alex has only hinted at just now! The images of which have haunted my dreams every night since! Capt. Steinert has given me her word that the Empress will only intercede where necessary to guarantee that which is recorded, so history stays intact! It is my intent to protect and not abuse the talents of any of the Sand Dollar’s crew, Chuck!” Uncle Rick glared at him a minute.

“Believe me when I say that you don’t want to get on the wrong side of any of these women for any reason!”

“Tell me, Major, do you miss Ensign Jenson?” I asked as I thought of an illustration to my argument.

Canton’s mouth fell open.

“How…how do you know about…about Kim?” He asked, quite flabbergasted.

“I know the how, the why, the when, and the where, Major! I could take you to a place where you could talk to her- or would you just want me to save her for you?”

“You can do that?”

“Easily.”

“But Kim died almost two years ago, why would you do that? Why would you disturb her rest?”

“Why would Alex risk saving all those that would perish in the next few weeks, Chuck? If we had fewer casualties at New Guinea, what’s to say we wouldn’t lose more on the next beachhead- or the next? I think what Alex is trying to say is that she has to keep the world in balance, Major! The Empress has to balance our futures and try to repair any deviations that might threaten that.”

“Very astute of you, Uncle Rick. Think about my offer though, Charles Canton. I have seen several favorable futures involving Kimberly Jenson and yourself- a select few even manage to enhance our present timeline. I now task you with the choice of whether her future changes and for what reason. Admiral Demmit, I will now take my leave, sir!”

I phased out. My office replaced Admiral Demmit’s office.

“SHIT! ALEX!”

I turned to see Carroll had almost run into me- moreover, I had almost phased into her, not pausing to see myself clear!

“Sorry, Carroll, I guess I forgot to look around before I rephased.”

It’s okay, Skip, I almost…just…damn!” She cried in annoyance. “Excuse me, Skip, I have to…never mind, I’ll be back in a few minutes!” Carroll groused as she abruptly left my office.

“You better stop that, Alex! She’s going to have to requisition more undies from supply if you keep scaring her the way you have lately. That our next mission briefing in your hand?”

“I’m really sorry, sis. I didn’t mean to pop in like that. I should be more careful when distracted. Ya, these are our orders for the next four weeks.”

“What’s got you so flustered, Alex?”

“Maj. Canton.”

“Did he make a pass at you?” Emily’s eyes widened.

“No, it was worse! He assumed that I would help ensure the convoy’s success with my gifts!”

“No! What did Uncle Rick say?”

“I’m under orders to keep the Empress out of it, sis.”

“Good! I told you our uncle was a fair and reasonable man.” She smiled at me.

“He wasn’t the problem, sis. Canton! Canton seemed appalled by Uncle Rick’s order for nonintervention. It’s just frustrating to have someone assume…” I stopped before saying something I shouldn’t.

“You mentioned Kim, didn’t you?” She asked, tilting her head slightly. Her expression went neutral.

“His mouth dropped wide open, Emily!”

“Gee, I wonder why?”

“I asked if he wanted me to rescue her. I left it up to him. I was hoping it would help him see what I’m faced with as Empress. I didn’t think my bluff would give him hope though.”

“So…any scenarios save her and Donna and keep the timeline stable?”

“One, sis, only one.”

“Mina would have a field day with this, Alex!”

“Don’t remind me. It’s bad enough I have to hear her gloat about the president next week!”

“Speaking of which…” I pointed to the door as if shooting a pistol after I sat down behind my desk. On cue it opened and in walked Mia, Nina, Lailu, and Kayla.

“Sisters, we have seen that mother will join you for the upcoming mission. Why have you not gone to retrieve her?” Mia inquired officially.

“First off, Mina will not be officially part of the crew; she will be traveling with the Empress as we right several temporal problems in nineteenth century America. She will only be onboard for a day or two then I must return her to my sister Alex Reilly.” I informed them.

“Secondly, who among you has misinterpreted the near future to their liking?” I looked at each of them with a raised brow. I glanced up to see Emily snicker with a quirky smile.

“You didn’t?” I accused her.

“What? No, I thought it funny that you sounded exactly like Mina just now! I hadn’t had the chance to look and see what our next adventure would be or who would participate, Alex- not that I can do that anyway.” Emily stated, somewhat irritated by my accusation.

“Setengah-saudara (Half-sister), I am responsible for the flawed interpretation.” Kayla admitted quietly as she bowed her head. “I hoped by skewing the premonition, I would influence your departure to retrieve mother.”

“Saudara (Sister), we all miss her, but you have seen what must be for yourself!” I said sadly. “Mina would fight us tooth and nail if we meddled. You all know this to be true. If I found a way around this, I wouldn’t hesitate to implement the plan! We must remember that what happens in the next few weeks does so for a reason, and we have to accept it to stabilize our precious timeline. I’m sorry.”

“We have no doubt you would do everything in your power, Empress, but knowing you are losing a loved one is comparable to the most severe cruelties imaginable! The futility we all share in knowing there is no recourse but to watch and wait for it to happen angers all who know and love her, Saudara!”

“I know what it’s like to lose a loved one, sisters! The anguish I felt at the time; knowing I was unable to even assist in the recovery of my brother’s remains…” I choked down that far off, half-forgotten memory that had since been remedied with my gift.

“I guess we were hoping…” Nina wiped a tear from her eye. “Hoping that you had found a way… We should go. I’m sure your work has piled up during your illness, Empress.”

Our youngest half-sister turned and ran from the room out into the compound.

“We are glad you are again well, Saudara! Good evening.” Mia said as our remaining three sisters also turned and hurried out of the office.

“Alex, isn’t there some way…”

“I’ve tried to find any loophole possible, Emily. There just aren’t any that work out and hold the timeline! I never said that I’d quit trying though, sis. Somehow, someway, there has to be a viable solution!”

“I didn’t think you would give up, Alex. It’s not in your nature.” Emily gently took and squeezed my hand.

“I think I’m going to move this topic down the list a few slots though, sis. We’ve got to get Sand Dollar ready for departure in the morning. The Admiral wants us tied up at Pearl by 1500hrs for provisioning. We drop moorings tomorrow morn…”

“Excuse me, Cap, just wanted to let you know that the boat will be ready for departure tomorrow at 1000hrs.” Jack burst through the doorway, stopped and stood to attention while she finished my sentence.

“Thank you, Commander. That’s all for tonight.” I acknowledged her.

“Glad you’re feeling better, Alex. We were all really worried about you for awhile there.”

“Thanks, Jack.”

“Alex?”

“Ya?”

“Alex, will it really be as bad as you think?”

“The DC trip or the mission, Jack?”

“The mission.”

“”Well, it may turn out better than the history books will reflect, Jack. Answer your question?”

“Clear as loose silt, Cap, thanks!”

“Good. See you at dinner, Commander.”

“Aye, Cap!”

Emily and I waited a few minutes before continuing.

“Sis, I’m going to take a fast trip to Reilly- care to come along?” I asked with a devious smile on my face.

“We’re phased out already, right?”

I nodded.

“Thought you would never ask, sis!”

My office became the brightly lit clearing just outside Reilly’s discriminatory airlock. I had landed us just outside its range of detection and rephased.

“What…no welcoming committee?” I looked to Emily in confusion.

Shrugging our shoulders at each other we made for the door and entered.

“RVP, where is everyone?” I asked as I opened the inner door.

“Empress, Alex Reilly, Camille Darough, and their daughters are on a mission and will be back in a few minutes. Please proceed to the infirmary for nanotech firmware patch upload.”

“What?” I looked to Emily for a translation.

“I think I know what she means, Alex. Come on.” She said as she took my hand and led me up the passage.

Arriving in the infirmary, we were met by Cynthia, Reilly’s resident doctor.

“Hey, Cindy! We’re here for this so called firmware patch upload.” I said with a cheery smile and a small amount of sarcasm.

“Welcome Empress!” Cynthia fell to one knee. “Welcome to Reilly Research Station. It is the year before your Lord 2026, Tuesday, December 24th, 1332hrs.”

I let out a large sigh.

“I’m sorry, Empress, but it has advanced to become autonomous.”

“No, Cindy, I failed to note our arrival date- December 24th.”

Emily looked at me in surprise. “Christmas Eve!” She exclaimed before looking down at the floor a minute. She looked back up at me.”It hasn’t happened yet, Alex, does it still count?”

“Maybe not for those originally born to Reilly, but for we travelers from the future, most certainly, sis!”

“Merry Christmas, sisters!” Mina greeted as she entered the infirmary. “Although I believe it somewhat premature for such celebration.”

Mina approached us and embraced us both, placing a kiss on one each of our cheeks.

“Welcome back to Reilly, you two. I’ll be ready to go in a few minutes. That should give Cynthia plenty of time to process her flu vaccine.”

“Mina…um…Empress?” I gestured to myself. “We have all the time in the world, your highness!” For some unknown reason I spoke the latter part with a thick Scottish accent. I thought about why I’d do such a thing and nodded to myself, having found the answer in my future twin’s memory.

Three people stared back at me.

“H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine!” I exclaimed, amazed that neither got the reference.

“Alexandra, I consider myself well versed in Mr. Wells’ works- having met the man several times before leaving Britain- and that quote simply was not in the manuscript- of that I am quite certain!”

“But it was in the movie, Mina!” I spouted, sure that I was right about that fact.

Emily nudged me in the side. “Alex, even in our time they haven’t made that into a movie yet- and I think Wells is still alive!”

“Oh ya, well it was a good line just the same. Anyway, we’ll be leaving in the morning, Mina. I just got over that bug and I’m still not one hundred percent.”

Cynthia placed a syringe looking device to my upturned wrist and pushed gently. After a few seconds a beep sounded and she removed the strange device then walked into the lab next door with it. We watched as she placed it into a machine and pressed a few buttons. She nodded her head in agreement to something then rejoined us.

“Thank you, Empress. The antibodies have been read by your nanos and added to their reference database. I will use that database to prepare the patch nanos for distribution to all in Reilly.”

“Be sure to include enough for the ancestors in Egypt, Cindy. I’d like to beat Janelle at her own game! I’d also like one syringe of the Terran-Earther type vaccine for a fellow resistance fighter if it would be okay.”

“Of course, Empress. I’ll have it ready for you before you leave in the morning.” Cindy smiled at me and walked back into the lab.

“Peyton?” Emily asked as we turned to leave.

“Yup.”

“Alex, Eighty percent of carriers usually don’t contract the disease they carry. We still don’t know how Hathor did it!” Emily assumed her professional voice.

“Peyton isn’t exactly your normal human carrier, sis, and she passed it to me via touch- when I took her hand after the conference.” I reminded her.

“Alexandra, I have taken the liberty to enter our upcoming fashion requirements into the station computer- with Random’s help. The necessary information will be loaded into your uniforms overnight as they recharge. Though, because of the complexities the time period presents, we will be issuing companion foundation pieces as well.” Mina changed the subject as we walked down to the recreation room.

“Yes, I’m so looking forward to the use of corsets this trip, Mina.” Emily remarked in a sarcastic tone.

“Every woman of age was expected to wear one, or so I’m told.” Mina countered.

“So how did you manage to talk RVP into issuin’ us britches, Mina?” I inquired, marveling at her apparent success.

“You forget that I have pull with the hierarchy, Alexandra.” Mina winked playfully.

“Oh, and I don’t? Mina, what’s the use of being the Empress if no one recognizes it?”

“Alexandra, we all respect and admire you. Never forget that, love! I was just at the proper place at the appropriate moment. Now let’s go in and take part in the celebration, shall we?” Mina stopped and motioned to the open doorway.

“Merry Christmas,” rang out through the crowded Rec Room as we entered! A seven-foot pine tree stood decorated with strangely focused, multicolored lights and colorful ornaments in the far left corner. Holly vines draped in gentle arcs from the ceiling around all four walls.

Alex Reilly appeared in an empty spot directly ahead of us and immediately caught me in a very tight embrace.

“Happy solstice, my revision!” She exclaimed with excitement. “I trust your health superior, having vanquished Hathor’s mysterious influenza?”

“Y’all talk real funny, ya know that sis?” I told her in my best drawl adding my most sincere smile. “Happy solstice to you, Alexandra Reilly.” I returned her greeting.

“Y’all know um foolin’ with ya?” She responded with a devious grin while trying not to laugh.

I winked.

Two decorative glasses flew overhead and hovered just out of reach until Cami and her daughter, Cassiopeia, appeared through the crowd.

“Empress, welcome to our winter solstice celebration! Doctor Emily, we are also pleased you came along.” Cami greeted us.

“I managed to talk Alex and mother into resurrecting the old Homeworld tradition, Empress. I have been informed you yourself instituted the first celebration on one of your visits. Does it meet with your expectations, M’lady?” Cassi Darough bubbled enthusiastically.

I looked around the large room. One thing in particular looked really out of place at this gathering. Nodding, I motioned to Emily and we walked through the crowd to where Alex’s daughter, Reilly, stood. She had her back to us.

“Honey, has anyone told you about this little piece of holiday tradition, yet?” I asked, tapping her on the shoulder.

“Merry Solstice, Auntie Alex!” Reilly gleefully screeched as she turned around, reached up around my neck, and kissed me full on the lips!

Apparently, she had only heard a partial interpretation of this tradition, I thought as I struggled for air and looked up at the mistletoe hanging above us.

Emily began laughing hysterically!

Quickly releasing me, Reilly accosted Emily next.

“Merry Solstice, Aunt Emily!”

I took advantage of my sudden freedom and return of breath to compose myself.

A moment later Reilly finally released her other Aunt.

“Now what were you asking about the traditional, indigenous, toxic berry bush hanging above our heads, Aunt Alex?”

“I think you only got half the tradition, hun.”

“What portion am I missing, M’lady?”

“Mistletoe always works better with a man, Reilly- at least in my time anyway!” I laughed, knowing that in the future those criteria had been skewed or even dismissed as ‘old fashioned’ and somewhat unsanitary.

“I already know that, Aunt Alex. Do you see any men around here, though? I’m just making due with what’s available!” Reilly admitted with annoyance. She pointed behind us. “Your celebratory beverages still await you, M’ladies.”

Emily and I turned and reached for the hovering glasses that seemed to have followed us through the room.

Eggnog! Heavily spiked eggnog at that going by the burn traveling down my throat! I was going to have to make a point of reading the Homeworld’s stories of the Empress’s visits in the very near future.

I hesitated while Emily seemed to savor every drop of the stuff. Sadly, Eggnog was never one of my favorites. Instead, Pa would always tap a small barrel of what he called ‘Applejack’ that he’d brewed at harvest. That had become our traditional Steinert family toast to the holidays. The memory of that hint of fresh apple combined with the warmth of the alcohol warming your whole body- mouth to toes- made me think of home. What was it- four or more years- since I had been able to attend a Steinert family Christmas?

“Alex? Alex, what’s wrong, sis?” Emily’s question pulled me back to the party.

“Oh, I was just thinking this party is still missing something, Emily.” I replied as I tried to keep a tear or two from escaping my eyes.

“I know just what you mean, Alex!” Alex Reilly interrupted as she took my glass from me and handed me another smaller cup full of a clear liquid. She smiled deviously. “I too found the traditional beverage somewhat lacking…in, um…spirit. I hope this more suits your liking, Empress.”

She nodded at the small container as I stared curiously at it. Looking between her and the cup a few times, I finally decided to take a swig. Familiar warmth spread throughout my body as I downed the initial sip then several more in quick succession. Memories of Christmas celebrations at the Steinert farm filled my mind and my heart. I smiled.

“Sometimes our shared memories prove convenient, sister. I hope it tastes like we remember it. I only wish it were possible for me to go get Pa or to at least bring a barrel or two back. This is the closest formula I could replicate.”

“Its fine, Alex. Thank you.” I said as I closed my eyes and savored another sip.

“Emily, y’all like a slug too?” Alex Reilly asked.

“Sure, I’ll try some, Alex.” Emily took the proffered glass too easily.

Emily closed her eyes and slowly, cautiously, moved the cup to her lips. They shot wide open as the drink bit hard. She opened her mouth and began gasping for air. I had seen this reaction many times before when Ma and Pa had some of our prohibitionist relatives over to celebrate.

“Wow! Now that’s some strong hooch! Pa sure knows how to make liquor!” She said as she fanned her open mouth with her free hand.

Yet she took another drink from the cup!

I had never seen Emily drink hard liquor before! None of our dates had ever seen her order anything harder than wine, yet here she was, downing this synthesized version of Pa’s holiday cordial!

I unconsciously downed my own cup at the surprising sight. I never noticed it refill as I held it, but felt its weight increase. I downed the cup once more, but this time held it sideways.

“Are you going to wake in my rest chamber again, Alex?”

“What?” I looked to my twin with confusion.

“The last time you decided to…um…get stinkin’ drunk, y’all ended up sharing my bed, Alexandra Steinert! Is that what you intend tonight?” Alex Reilly laughed as she placed her hand to her hip.

Emily immediately looked to me in surprise and almost choked as she swallowed the last of her first cup.

“You…” She coughed a few times. “You…you two…slept together? I almost forgot about that!”

She started laughing uncontrollably. Little did she know that I wouldn’t be the one waking up in a strange bed tomorrow!

Alex Reilly and I exchanged winks before joining in on our sister’s laughter.

0800 hours, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, December 25th, 2026BC

“So tell me again how I ended up sandwiched between Camille and Cassiopeia Darough this morning, Alex?” Emily asked as she rubbed what was left of her hangover from her forehead.

“I would have thought yer Pa woulda’ told ya ’bout mixin’ drinks, sis! Pa always made it a point to remind me an’ Brie to drink one or the other and not both when we went ta town.” I snickered as I drank my morning coffee.

Cami had just walked past us and sat down at the next table. She looked back at us with a subtle grin.

Cassi walked past a moment later with a similar smile on her face. When Emily’s eyes met hers, the girl’s eyes quickly lowered to the floor and she hurriedly joined her mother at her table.

“Tell me…what exactly did I do last night, sis?” It was an order, not a question as she turned back to me.

“Ah can’t say for certain, but ah think y’all had fun.” My smile widened.

Mina joined us and sat opposite Emily.

“So, how are we this morning, Dr. Scott? I trust your lips have recovered from the excessive snogging last eve?”

I thought Mina’s smile would burst out of her strict British demeanor any moment.

Reilly walked past us and joined Cami and Cassi at their table. She too displayed a smile similar to her friend and her mother. All three giggled quietly amongst themselves, but stopped suddenly and lowered their eyes to the table as Emily glared at them in annoyed confusion.

“Don’t tell me I…” She stopped after turning back to me. I fought with everything I had not to laugh as our three friends restarted their giggling as soon as she looked away.

“Look over where Reilly was standing last night, sis.” I managed to just squeak out the hint before my smile erupted into snorts of laughter. The location I mentioned caused my sister to again look in the direction of the Darough’s table. The giggling once more stopped abruptly and three pair of eyes again lowered to the table.

“What happened to the Mistletoe?” She asked after finally deciding to ignore our three sisters to notice its disappearance.

“Word has it that the facility’s fire suppression system detected and extinguished a sudden blaze in the Darough’s shared residence late last evening, doctor!” Mina managed to get out before succumbing to a full-out fit of laughter! “Excessive frictional heat generation, I reckon!”

“Ya, that there Mistletoe sure is powerful stuff!” I snorted out.

Emily’s expression was priceless and I broke out into my own fits of laughter. She was not amused or happy at the moment.

Things were about to get worse, though.

As our laughter died down, Alex Reilly entered the Rec. Room. After filling her coffee cup, she approached and sat down beside me.

“So...busy night last night, Em?” Alex Reilly asked then waited a second for any response before continuing. “I caught Cami’s digital feed on the monitors last night. Randi just finished achieving them.”

The laughter that I thought had abated erupted all over again!

Laughter wasn’t all that erupted, unfortunately.

Emily banged her utensils down hard on the table and quickly exited the room without another word.

Maybe we went a little too far?

Hey, at least she didn’t wake up next to her twin wearing a very provocative, almost transparent, pink nightie!

At least I hoped that weren’t the case!

I’d have to watch the recording.

Alex Reilly handed me a very small rectangular object.

“I made a copy for you, sis- for those lonely nights.” She winked.

Alex, Mina, and I laughed for another ten to twenty minutes before finally composing ourselves.

When I finally gained access to Emily’s room, I spent another hour or so apologizing. Finally, I got her to realize that we all had our share of embarrassing incidents. In the end, we both agreed that, while embarrassing, it was also humorous, and that we would never talk about what happened again.

I never got around to telling her about the file storage device I had in my pocket.

Instead, Mina signaling that she was at Emily’s door conveniently changed the subject.

“Dr. Scott...sister, I am truly sorry for engaging in such adolescent behavior earlier. I ask your forgiveness, Love.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Mina! I should have known dormant male influences in our sisters would resurface at times. I just didn’t realize that I’d play right into it so easily! If anyone, I’m the one to blame. Like Alex, I felt the pull of the holiday seize me as soon as I realized the date. I imbibed and succumb to the liquor’s relaxing affects simply because it is December 25th.” Emily closed her eyes and lowered her head. “I should know better than to drink excessively and I should have realized both Alex’s would share a higher tolerance!”

My sister shook her head as if to shake off more thoughts.

“Mina? I’ve already discussed this with Alex and we’ve decided not to bring up the matter ever again. What happened last night was a mistake...one I would rather forget. I consider the incident and my reprehensible behavior- as much of it as I can remember- closed! The more I remember about it, the more disgusted I am with myself, and it’s something I alone have to face- no one else, Highness! Can we move on and go home now, Alex?” She said as she looked to me, her wet, red, puffy eyes making me feel absolutely terrible!

“Doctor, the first time such a thing happened to me, I absolutely abhorred myself as you obviously do- though I cannot declare the experience entirely unpleasant. May I remind you that my moral upbringing was far more stringent and claustrophobic than you presume yours to be?”

Mina reached out to brush a few stray hairs from my sister’s face.

“You must ask yourself if those learned morals may be too strict or if they were meant to be a guide instead. Ask yourself if there was any harm done- physically- to any party involved. Weigh that against the exhilaration- the release of stress- and last of all, the pleasure. Consider those aspects before implementing the stark judgment of our society’s Victorian morality and its somewhat strict taboos. Alexandra, and I’m sure your future twin, can relate to you the ever changing morals of modern civilization- its continuing cycles.”

Mina pulled Emily into a tender embrace.

“Child, by my observations, you appeared to be having a wonderful time last evening. Sometimes that is more therapeutic to one’s body and soul than any prescribed rest and relaxation. To blazes with the bloody taboos, I say!” Mina paused after her decree.

“We’re all adults here...all women, after all. There isn’t one among us who could claim immunity from these little indiscretions, isn’t that right, Alexandra?”

“Camille Darough could substantiate those claims better than I, Highness. She has been ‘listening’ for over eight hundred revolutions. Isn’t that right, Cami?” I said to the walls.

‘The Empress is correct, Dr. Scott. I have been witness to many hundreds of...um...covert rendezvous’.’ Cami acknowledged in our minds. ‘Emily, if Cassi and I had known of your post turmoil, we would have simply rejected your advances. We are truly sorry to have compromised your trust and friendship. If you would like, I can remove the conflicting thoughts, thereby making what happened null and void.’

“That won’t be necessary, Cami. I would rather use the memories for future reference…before I do something I would most likely regret. Thank you for the offer just the same.”

‘Again, Emily; Cassi, Reilly, and I are truly sorry if we caused you excessive trauma.’ Cami apologized once more, her voice faded away to almost nothing. It sounded so sad and remorseful.

“Alex, can we please leave? I need to get away from here.” Emily said near a whisper, almost pleading with me.

“Allow me to collect my personals, Empress. I shant be but a moment.” Mina said before I had a chance to reply to Emily.

“We’ll be waiting outside, Mina, take your time.” I told her before my sister and I left for the airlock.

“I’m sorry, Alex. I let things get out of control and I should have known better. You must think I’m a complete prude for my performance this morning.” Emily confessed as we reached the inner airlock door.

“To tell the truth, I’d have committed suicide by now, sis. I have such a dread fear of doing anything with…with…anyone…at…at this point in my life. Though sometimes, I can’t help fantasize about all the options available to me now! I know that must sound contradictory- it’s very confusing and I have second thoughts all the time- especially when future and past Empress memory’s come into play. I can’t put to words the feelings I have when I look at Brandon Covington…or when I first met Sanford Fleming.” I admitted.

“I won’t even go into the thoughts going through my head when I awoke with Alex Reilly snuggled up to me that morning! I fought with myself about the wonderful feeling of her touch…” I noticed Emily’s sad expression. An expression that suggested I abandon the conversation.

Instead, I opened the airlock’s hatch and motioned for Emily to enter.

Arriving outside, we were met with the usual pleasant tropical splendor of sunshine and a slight, sweet smelling breeze.

“Alex? Sis, I’m sorry. I know that you mean well, but…but I’m just not ready to talk about it. I know and am interested to understand your feelings and fears toward…our biology.” She motioned down her body then down mine.

Emily began to laugh suddenly.

“I can understand though, the feelings you had toward Sanford, Alex.”

“You can?”

“Yes, Alex, I had similar feelings when I met you in that restaurant at Pearl!” Her laugh stopped amidships. “Where’s Mina? I’d like to get home.”

“She’s saying her goodbyes, sis. Remember this is the last time she sees Reilly and her beloved Kili Island.” My eyes fell to the ground as I said it.

This was it.

The time was finally here.

Our last adventure with the woman who had not only started our wonderful new lives and so carefully guided our development, but also became mother, confidant, and friend to me and my crew.

“Let her have her time, sis.” I said quietly.

“I…I forgot, Alex. I had hoped that you could…you know.”

“I haven’t given up, sis! I will never give up- even if I figure something out after…” I let that thought drop as I noticed Mina stepping out of the airlock door.

“Empress…” Mina’s voice had taken a decidedly sadder tone. “I am ready to go. I look forward to our next adventure.”

The entire staff of Reilly suddenly appeared, surrounding us! As one they began clapping.

The applause was thunderous!

Mina burst into tears as she hurriedly took my hand. She quickly nodded to me.

I gently found and took Emily’s hand.

We found ourselves on the base’s commons…surrounded by Atlantis-Minor’s personnel. They too started applauding the instant we rephased!”

My four half-sisters ran up to us and mobbed their mother.

Emily and I moved aside.

Nina was the first to step away and moved toward me.

“Empress, I thank you for bringing mother here earlier than planned. I knew you could not resist the urge!”

“I couldn’t bear the thought of depriving my sisters some extra time with their mother- after all what kind of Empress would I be?” I said as I wiped away some escaping tears.

Emily gently put a hand to my shoulder. I turned to look at her. She nodded her approval.

Jack appeared out of the crowd and made her way over to us.

“Cap, Doctor, Ricky Lynn has informed me that Sand Dollar is refueled and ready for departure at 1000hrs tomorrow morning, ma’am.” She saluted as she informed me.

“Thanks, Jack. Emily and I will be in my quarters for a while. Good job, Commander.” I saluted back. Having never released Emily’s hand, I phased us.

The darkness and single, unmoving sun indicated we were alone in my private domain.

“What are we doing here, Alex?”

“Looking for counsel, Emily.”

“From whom, Alex?”

“Who else would be suitable counsel for such troubling thoughts, Emily Amelia Scott?”

“Momma?”

Emily immediately broke into tears as Ruth Scott slowly appeared and approached us.

“It is good to see you again, my daughter.” The two embraced each other.

“It’s good to see you again too, Momma!” Emily cried openly.

Momma Scott glanced over her daughter’s shoulder and mouthed ‘thank you, Alexandra’ to me.

That was all it took to get my own tears flowing!

“I wish I could leave the two of you in private, but I’m not sure I could, Ma Scott.” I said quietly.

“Nonsense, Alexandra. Come over here, child! You are more than welcome at this gathering of mother and daughters.”

Her arm swung out to grant me entrance.

“Emily and Alexandra! My two girls. My two heroines! I have never been so proud of my daughters- in either dimension!” She said as she squeezed Emily and I harder.

The outpouring of unconditional love woke certain feelings in me that I had forgotten long ago- feelings of motherly affection- warm and inviting- feelings I had not experienced since I was a boy of nine or ten- since I had become a man.

All thought of those ancient memories, the lack of such feelings, evaporated instantly! I was different now. No longer was I that male being who had to be strong and keep his emotions in check. I was Alexandra and I was here with my sister and, strange as it sounded, one of my mothers. Yes, I was with my sister and mother! Here, we were a family!

All too soon the reunion ended.

“So, tell me about your problem, Emily, after all that’s why I’m here.” Ma prompted.

“I...I...I’m not sure I can talk about it, Momma. It’s too embarrassing.”

“Nonsense, child! Nothing is too embarrassing between mother and daughter- isn’t that right, Alexandra, dear?”

“I’m afraid I have almost no experience on that topic, Ma. I’m still too new at this to agree or disagree.” I answered truthfully...and slightly embarrassed myself.

“Come now, Alexandra, you have three different sets of memories floating around under those dark blonde tresses! You mean to tell me that, in all those you cannot find one instance to lend comfort to your sister?” Ma Scott stared at me in disbelief.

“Well...there has been some experimentation, I guess- just a little.”

“I can vouch for her, momma, Alex, wasn’t exactly secretive or quiet about it!” Emily giggled.

“Emily!”

“So, child, you have no problem talking about embarrassing situations when it is not you? What is the difference if it is you or your sister?”

Ma Scott stared at Emily, awaiting an answer.

I stared at my sister also, wanting to know the answer to that one myself!

“It...just...seems...easier to...um...talk about some…someone else’s misfortunes I guess.”

“Fine, then let me tell her about yours, sister.” I tattled. “Emily and I traveled back to Kili BC to get Mina Smith for our upcoming mission. When we arrived it was Christmas Eve. Alex Reilly had arranged a huge party to celebrate the winter solstice, as was traditional on her Homeworld. We were presented glasses of eggnog- highly spiked mind you! Being raised on the farm, my initial family instituted a tradition of toasting the holiday with some of Pa’s special brew. Emily made the mistake of mixing drinks.” I said as I set up the tale.

“And that’s when you found female companionship, child?” Ma Scott interrupted.

“Hustler couldn’t have come up with a better photo spread!” I prattled.

Both women suddenly stared at me. I had to think a moment before I could explain my statement.

“A men’s publication featuring the posed and airbrushed photos of young women in the all together. The publication contains contributed stories, editorials, and reader discussions also. It will not be published until the late 1960’s.” I could feel myself blush as I explained. “But yes, Emily shared favors with Camille and Cassiopeia Darough, and Reilly Reilly that night.”

“Reilly was there too? Oh...my...God, Alex! Are you sure about that?” Emily’s mouth had dropped open.

“Ya, I have the recording right here, sis.” I answered as I pulled the small memory bank from my trouser pocket.

Oops!

“Alex Steinert, you pervert!” Emily snarled. “How could you?”

Ma Scott glared at me without saying a word.

My private domain remained strangely quiet as I tried desperately to find a way out of my self-assembled doghouse.

“I would like to see this recording, Alexandra.” Ma Scott said calmly after what seemed like hours.

“You what, momma?” Emily cried in surprise.

“I’d like to see what actually went on, Emily.” Ma Scott restated.

“I’m afraid that the only place to view the recording would be Reilly Research Station, Momma. The technology does not exist in our time anywhere else- unless the future possesses such devices.”

Had I just called Emily’s ma ‘Momma’?

“Then you have nothing to worry about in these times, Emily.”

“I can’t believe you’re sticking up for her, momma!”

I cannot condone what your sister has done- nor can I condone your actions of that night, but I do have one question in dire need of an answer, young lady.” Momma Scott paused as if trying to phrase the question properly. “Was it enjoyable, Emily?”

“Momma!”

Neither of us could believe our mother’s question...or frankness in its delivery!

“Oh, come on! You would have thought I’d asked about your first time with a boy! All I want is a truthful, honest answer, Emily! Was it enjoyable?”

“Momma, must I answer that?” Emily protested.

“Alexandra, did you find your time with Alexandra Reilly enjoyable?”

“How do you know about that, momma?” I asked, being totally caught off guard.

“Empress, I told you the last time we met I’d be watching my girls! The people in my dimension are very good at watching our loved ones- why, you’re grandfather demanded a cigar or cigarette after watching you, Alexandra! I thought that rather strange, but he would not talk of it any time afterwards.”

“Grandpa was watching...me...and...oh, I suddenly feel sick!” I groaned at her revelation. “I never thought anything happened that night.”

“Your sister watched that recording several times during your stay on Reilly, Alexandra.”

Emily’s mouth again dropped open.

“ That’s what I mean. You girls are more alike than you think. You should be better able to talk about embarrassing things to each other.”

“Momma, we talk about things!”

“Talk about what things, child?”

“We talk...about...um, things.”

“Yes, that’s very specific, Emily. Things...hmmm...yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about.’ Momma giggled as a smile came to her face.

I thought I’d try something that Alex Reilly and I had done to a few of our guests here.

Momma’s wrinkles slowly vanished as her hair color returned. She immediately looked years younger- maybe a few years older than us.

Emily nervously looked over to me then returned her attention to momma as she went on about what specific things Emily was trying to say we talked about.

“You and your sister must never be afraid to confide even the most humiliating of affairs to each other. A familiar ear is always soothing and confidential. Never forget that you two! And I want to thank you for the makeover, Alexandra.” She looked me square in the eyes. “Yes, I know what you have done to my features while I’ve been talking to your sister! It was not necessary, but much appreciated.”

Momma Scott pulled me closer and tried to squeeze the air from my lungs.

“We do look very similar, Alexandra, but I believe you have a little more on top than I do, otherwise we could be twins. Thank you for bringing Emily here to see me, child- I only wish I could be a part of your lives.” Momma sniffled quietly into my ear.

“I could try, momma.” I whispered back. “It worked for Billie Sangiere.”

“Heaven’s no, child! Upper management might take offense to going over their heads!” She whispered conspiratorially before pushing herself away from me.

“I...going over their heads, momma? How could I ever do something like that?” I asked dumbfounded.

“Alexandra, my daughter...our Empress of Time and Space...there are a great many things you have yet to learn about yourself- things you will find remarkable and most importantly, thought impossible.” Momma winked at me with a wide smile.

“Momma, I’m no Goddess, if that’s what you’re implying. I don’t even want to be mentioned in the same text as the man upstairs. That would be sacrilege!”

“Who says he’s a man, Alexandra?”

“You’ve met him?”

“No, I just posed the question, child. Why would I want to bother the higher-ups? They’re busy enough.”

“I thought we were here to talk about my problem, momma? Instead you’re embarrassing Alex. I’m getting a little bit jealous here!”

“But you already feel better about yourself, Emily, or didn’t you realize that yet?”

Momma Scott looked at my sister and raised an eyebrow to her.

“Gee, I guess I do feel better. How?”

“The same way I always talked sense into you, child. You’ll figure it out after my grandson is born.” She giggled then covered her mouth as she yawned.

“Empress, I am sorry, but I grow tired. I feel I have accomplished what you have asked me to do.” Momma Scott suddenly looked worn out. “Girls, it was very nice to see and talk to you again, but I’m afraid my time here is finished. I must return home, as should you.”

Again both of us were pulled into an emotional hug.

“We can return for more visits, momma. I know this crazy blonde that thinks she can summon the dead! She can bring us back if you’d like.” I said, trying to hold back the tears and keep my voice from cracking.

“I don’t think you’re crazy at all, Alexandra; enigmatic and implausible- yes, but crazy? Never!” She laughed. “Take care, my daughters. I shall continue to watch and possibly guide you both. Goodbye for now.”

Momma Scott slowly backed away from us into the shadows and vanished. Emily and I were alone in my domain again.

Emily wrapped her arms around me and rested her head against my shoulder.

“Thank you, Alex. Thank you for bringing me to see momma.” She cried into my shoulder.

“That’s what sisters do, Em.”

My bedroom replaced my private domain.

“We better freshen ourselves up, sis.” I suggested before once more wiping my eyes.

Emily nodded as she pushed away from me before heading into the short hallway and my lavatory.



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