South of Bikini 2: E3- Mission to Infamy

With Sand Dollar assigned to escort duty, Captain Steinert and her sisters take on their most demanding mission to date. Can Alexandra successfully complete a mission seemingly doomed from the onset?

Copyright 2008- 2010 R.G. Beyer

 
 

South of Bikini:

Onward

Episode 3

“Mission to Infamy”

 
 
2300 hours, 200 Nautical Miles North-northeast of Tarawa Island, May 18th, 1944
 
 

“Ensign Masterson, report to the Wardroom on the double!” I said into the squawk as Emily entered and sat down. Mina arrived next, but remained standing.

“Please have a seat, highness.” I motioned to her. She had been extremely quiet since leaving Atlantis-Minor three days ago- something entirely out of character for her.

“I’m still working the problem, Mina.” I casually informed her.

“What problem, Alexandra? Is there something still unknown about our latest journey?”

“You know there is, Highness! I refuse to give up on a solution, though.” I said just a little perturbed.

“Some things cannot be easily changed, Empress. I have come to terms with my future, however it may turn out. It would be wise of you to do the same.”

“Unfortunately, your daughters have yet to ‘come to terms’ with that, Mina- nor have Emily or I for the record.”

“Having met Mr. Lincoln, Alexandra, would you consider him accepting of our help or will he require...convincing?”

“All right, Mina, I get the point. Changing the subject, Abraham Lincoln is a fair man for his time. He is, unfortunately, unwilling to accept our presence at first and I must demonstrate the Empress’ abilities.”

“Really, Alexandra, you should not be surprised that mortals question your very existence!”

“Stop it! Stop it right now, Mina! I am still mortal- as is everyone here! What is wrong with you?" I asked in anger as I glared at her. My inner friend informed me of the answer to my question. I was shocked!

“Alex?” Emily asked, concerned by my expression.

“Her Royal Highness is planning on sabotaging her own future, sis.” I announced.

“That is none of your business, Alexandra!” Mina quickly protested.

“Bull!”

“Excuse me?”

“Bullshit, Mina! Your future IS my business! I will not allow you to change anyone’s future out of personal pity! You taught me that- you preached it until I took it to heart! I’ll be damned if I’m gonna allow y’all to ignore yer own lessons!” My voice raised an octave, I was so adamant!

The lights blinked almost imperceptibly

“Ya know what, Highness? You just try an off yerself this trip! Go ‘head, try it! Ah’ll have y’all back in the past faster’n y’all can say ‘balderdash’! Ah refuse ta let one’a mah bess friends do herself harm while ah’m still breathin’! Y’all are messin’ with the wrong gal, Phil’mina Smith!” I pounded the table once before I broke down in tears.

Out of frustration, I looked to the ceiling. “What do ah have ta do ta keep y’all alive, Mina?” I exclaimed.

I stopped crying and smiled so suddenly that Emily jumped! It’s amazing how asking the right question at the right time can simplify things!

“Did I come at the wrong time, Skipper?” Corrine Masterson asked as she appeared in the doorway.

“Right on time, Corrine. I smiled brightly.

Emily just stared at me quizzically and remained silent. She knew from my expression- just like two close sisters would- that things had taken a positive turn.

“Emily and I need our hair color changed, hun. One or two shades darker should do. Oh, and we need it a little longer too- maybe six, seven inches more? Curls require more hair after all.” I looked to Mina adding a little more mischief to my smile. “Mina needs hair down past her ass, Corrine.” I cut her off before she started to protest.

“You can start on Emily, Mina, and I while we wait for Jamie to finish her watch. Mina...” I glared at her, “Pray I don’t order her to make you a true blonde!”

“Skipper?”

“Miss Masterson?”

“Skip...how do I do this?”

“How did you make your own hair longer, Corrine?”

“I...I just thought about it.”

“Just gather our hair up in your hands and think a few shades darker, Corrine! I thought you said you talked to your future self?”

“I did, I just didn’t think to really listen to her, ma’am.”

“Just do what I said, Corrine.”

“How should I style it then?”

“Wait.” I stood and motioned for her to take my hand. “We’ll be right back, ladies.”

Corrine and I were suddenly in the open air standing on what appeared to be a cobblestone sidewalk. Men and women of the era walked straight through us, oblivious to our existence.

“Corrine, these are the hairstyles and fashions of the day. We’ll watch for a few minutes then I’d like you to match us each up with the appropriate style for our clothing and color, got it?”

“Aye, Skip. Are we really here- in 1865?”

“1864, actually. I thought the latest fashion would bring too much attention to us when we arrive here next January.”

“Skipper?”

“Just mind the women, Ensign.”

“Aye, Skip, but could we move to the side? I’m getting a little nauseous with all these people walking through me!”

I pulled her back so that we were standing on the lawn.

Ten minutes later Corrine said she was ready and the cramped Wardroom of Sand Dollar reappeared.

“Did you just do what I think you did, Alex?” Emily asked as we rephased.

“Maybe?”

“Alex, it looked like you just blinked! Where did you two go?”

“Corrine went shopping for our hairstyles, sis. She needed some examples.” I just smiled.

“Miss Masterson, you can commence when ready.” I motioned to my scalp.

“Aye, Skipper. Here goes nothin’!”

 
 
2315 hours, 200 Nautical Miles North-northeast of Tarawa Island, May 18th, 1944

 
 

Our travel party left the cramped Wardroom and headed aft to the Con. I dared not have us engage our Reilly Uniform’s changing abilities in such close quarters as our period dresses took up way too much real estate.

“What’s the weather topside, Jack?”

“Slightly overcast, three to four foot swells, Ale...wow! Where did you get all that hair, Cap?”

“Don’t you like, Jack?” I asked, batting my eyelashes several times. Emily, Mina, Corrine, and Jamie joined me in the compartment.

“Holllly...” Carroll exclaimed from back by the galley. “Is that how they actually wore their hair back then, Alex?”

“As near as we saw when we went back on recon, Carroll.”

It’s massive! That has to be heavy, Skip.”

“Just wait ‘til you see what we have to wear.” I rolled my eyes. “We’ll be departing from the foredeck, Commander.” I informed Jack.

“Can’t we have a peek here, Alex? I’m just dying to see how you look.”

“Very well, Commander.” I pointed to Mina, Jamie, Corrine, and Emily to move forward against the bulkhead.

When I was sure I had enough room, I took several large breaths of air then exhaled heavily as per Emily’s instructions. Focusing on the virtual switch on my uniform’s HUD, I triggered the change.

A series of disgusting ‘cracks’ signaled that I had not made myself small enough before the dread torture device known as a corset assembled itself and tightened around my midsection.

If I’d had any breath left in my body, I would have screamed! Instead, I merely saw more than my share of stars, my field of vision narrowed significantly, and I cried silently in pain!

Immediately I reached for anything that could support me- a pipe, a valve, some gauges, or a conduit leading to the diving alarm switch.

“Alex!” Jack shouted, and was immediately at my side.

While I tried to regain my breath, I heard Emily scolding Mina.

“What possessed you to bring up the corset in full closure, Mina? You just gave Alex four cracked ribs! Are you trying to kill us as well as yourself?”

“Doctor, I assure you that was not my intent! For your information, I only had catalog drawings and first hand observations of the bloody things in use! I have no present or previous knowledge of their installation! It was simply a slight miscalculation on my part. Alexandra, can you forgive me, love?” Mina started over to me, but I waved her back.

Jack was holding me up- physically for a change- just above my waist. I didn’t have the heart or breathe to tell her that’s where my ribs were.

“Alex, I didn’t know somebody’s waist could get so small!” She looked to where I was cut in two, turned bright red, and removed some pressure from my damaged ribs.

“Neither...” I gasped. “Did I...Jack!” I gasped again as I labored to finish my sentence.

“Randi Van Pelt to the Con!” Jack’s voice echoed over the pressure hull. She never even reached for the mic- nor moved her mouth!

“Ya, Commander?” Randi replied as she stuck her head out of our Radio Shack.

“Randi, the captain seems to be having a problem with her uniform. Could you maybe take a look?” Jack asked officially as she momentarily glanced back in her direction.

“Sure, what seems to be the pro...blem...Skip? Oh, that isn’t good, is it? I’ll find the problem in a minute, Skipper!” Randi stumbled as she got a better look at my situation.

“Thanks.” I gasped with what little air I could draw in.

Immediately, a small, blue window appeared in my HUD. Print of some kind quickly filled it and kept right on scrolling up from the bottom. The words stopped after a few seconds and an entire block of print became highlighted, flashing between red and white.

“There’s the problem!” Randi remarked with her eyes closed. “I’ll have the problem fixed in a sec, Skip.”

A larger block of print replaced the previously highlighted print. I immediately felt the constriction at my waist ease.

“There, Skip, I rewrote the subroutine containing your corset’s initialization values and incorporated a longer delay loop to gradually decrease circumference. I also adjusted the program to determine the smallest possible diameter acceptable, yet promote healthy lung function. Who wrote this program anyhow?” She tilted her head slightly.

“I’m afraid I gave Random the measurements, Miss Van Pelt. I may have misjudged the Captain’s size slightly.”

“Ya think?” Jack glared back at Mina. She looked back at me. “You look very pretty, Alex. I guess no matter what age we visit, we’ll always be breathtaking.”

“You would choose other words had this happened to you, Miss Cummins!”

“Sorry, Alex.” Jack winced.

“You’ve had your fashion show, Commander, but I have to change out of this Iron Maiden in order to scale the bridge ladder so, if you don’t mind...”

“Wait, Skip! I’d like to make a few more modifications to the program before you do that!” Randi insisted.

Again, a window of type print scrolled before my eyes and after another minute, Randi declared me done. I triggered the change back to my modern uniform and noticed I fell a few inches. I hadn’t noticed I’d been wearing three-inch heels. I didn’t even know they wore high heels back then!

“I’ll make the necessary changes to everyone’s uniform program, Skipper. It’ll only take about four minutes.”

“Can I come over and check Capt. Steinert’s ribcage while you’re reprogramming our clothes, Randi?”

“Go ahead, ma’am, that shouldn’t affect what I’m doing.”

I sucked in a huge amount of air and immediately expelled every cubic inch of it. This time I did moan- loudly- as I heard further cracking from my chest.

“Alex, are you okay?” Emily asked as she gently touched my unseen wounds.

“I’ll be alright, sis. It only hurts when I take a big breath...or smile.” I winced. “Good thing they’re only cracked, huh?”

“Good thing we heal fast, too.” Emily added as she looked back at Mina.

“All ready, ladies. That shouldn’t happen anymore.” Randi gave us a thumbs-up.

“Jack, you have the Con. We should be back in five minutes- barring any unforeseen difficulties.” I glared at Mina again! That was my final warning for her to behave and not jeopardize the mission.

“Alex, are you sure you can climb the ladder?” Emily asked with concern.

I’ll be fine. Let’s get this mission started. Let’s go topside everyone!” I said through tightly clenched teeth.

 
 
2330 hours, 200 Nautical Miles North-northeast of Tarawa Island, May 18th, 1944
 
 

“Hey, Salenzsky, look over at the Sand Dollar!”

“What’s wrong, she got company?”

“No, just look on her foredeck. Tell me what ya see.”

“Looks like some kind of initiation to me. How’d they get them wigs past the brass?”

“You know them sub mariners. They get all the breaks.”

“Ya...WOOW! Did you just see that? How’d they change into them old fashioned dresses so fast?”

“Not a clue, Salenzsky. Maybe they hid ‘em under their work clothes. HOLY SHIT! They just disappeared! We need to report this to the OD!”

“And what do we tell him? We seen five men with long-haired, girly-wigs come onto the deck then we seen their regulation clothes change to somethin’ from ‘Gone with the Wind’ an then we seen ‘em disappear completely?”

“Ya!”

“Don’t be an idiot! We’d spend the rest of the mission in the brig!”

“They looked good in them dresses though didn’t they?”

“Shuddup!”

 
 
Washington DC, January 10th, 1865
 
 

“No one let go yet! I want to make sure we’re really alone here!” I cautioned my companions. I had read somewhere that Confederate Marksmen had been reported fairly close to the White House at this time. Also, assassination plots against President Lincoln were fairly common these days.

“There’s snow on the ground!”

“Good observation, Jamie! It IS the middle of January, and this IS Washington DC after all!”

“And it’s dark out!”

“Ya?”

“Why doesn’t it feel cold though, Skipper?”

“Because I haven’t rephased us yet, Ms. Hilf. While we’re out of phase, our previous environment stays with us.”

“Oh.”

“Alex, shouldn’t we be inside the White House instead of outside it?” Emily asked. It was a good point- one that required our secondary mission to be revealed as an answer.

“According to my information, the Lincoln’s are having a little get together tonight. Unfortunately there is also an assassination attempt we must foil before our official arrival. Let’s all walk over to the side Portico, shall we?” I informed everyone.

“I still don’t see why I’m here, Skipper. I really can’t do anything, and I don’t see how my hearing can help stop an assassination.”

We were halfway across the snow-covered lawn by now, yet we left no tracks.

Mina took notice. “My word, Alexandra, just like walking across water!”

“That would be the three-inch heeled boots you put us in, highness! Did they even wear such things in this day and age?”

“I’ve seen old photographs of women wearing heeled boots, Alex, but I don’t think they ever went over two inches!” Emily answered candidly.

“Great! Just great! We come to Washington to help the president looking like high-priced prostitutes of the time! So much for not being noticed,” I cried, rolling my eyes as the sheer volume of our skirts caused them to bounce wildly and us to walk like drunken sailors while holding hands.

“Skipper, you haven’t answered my question yet.” Jamie nagged. “And look, there they are.” She pointed to the basement service entrance where two shadowy figures struggled with a moderate sized box.

“Miss Hilf, I want you to talk them out of it- simple as that! Just suggest they shouldn’t do it- that they will never succeed and concentrate on that. That should do it.” I smiled at her. We had almost reached our destination.

“Say again, Skip?”

“Walk on over and suggest they stop what they’re doing- maybe suggest they go to a saloon. Mind the dizziness as you let go of Corrine’s hand, though.”

I nodded and Corrine released her crewmate’s hand.

“Aw, for cryin’ out loud!” Jamie cried as she stumbled a few steps, almost falling face first in the inch deep snow.

Her sudden appearance got quick attention.

“Hey! Whatcha’ doin’ here, girly?” A man’s voice asked in a quiet, angry growl.

“Um...trying to stop you from...um...making a big mistake.” Jamie replied in a frightened tone.

“Mistake? Hell, we’re meanin’ ta remedy one, Missy!”

“I...I really think you should find something else to occupy your time, gentlemen.” She suggested cautiously as one of the men began to move closer.

“I could think ah somethin’ right here to occupy our time, ain’t that right, Tom?”

“Yep, I could do a whole lotta occupyin’, cousin- yes siree!”

“No...no, I was thinking more of going to a saloon for a drink, gentlemen! Leave this ill-fated plan and go have a drink. Yes, I think that is what you should do.” Jamie firmly insisted, just a little flustered.

“Ya hear that Tom, she wants us to go get drunk ‘stead’a puttin’ this here bomb in the cellar!”

“Sounds like a good i'dear ta me cuz. What’er we wastin’ our time here fer anyway?”

“Wastin’ our time? This was your plan, Tom! You says all we had ta do was put the box in the cellar; set it behind a few barrels and things ta hide it and skeedaddle! Nothin’ to it ya says! Now this ere fancy whore tells us we shouldn’t do it an ya takes her at er word!”

“I really think you need to discuss this further over a few well-deserved drinks, gentlemen!” Jamie insisted again, her voice even and maybe a little seductive.

“Ya knows what Tom? Maybe the pretty lady’s right! Let’s go down ta Randall’s an ferget ‘bout this all together!”

“You buy the first round, Cuz!”

“Why me? It were your plan!”

“Why don’t you two buy each other drinks?” Jamie suggested in an annoyed tone.

“Good i’dear, ma’am! Let’s go, Cuz!”

The two men gently placed the box on the ground and tipped their hats to Jamie.

“Have a nice night now, ma’am.” One of them said.

The genuine courtesy shown toward Jamie just now by the two seemed surreal- totally out of character for either one.

The two walked away, oblivious of the mysterious box they left behind.

I immediately rephased the four of us.

“That was very well done, Miss Hilf.” I said as I walked over to the wooden crate. Jamie looked thoroughly confused by what had just transpired.

Placing my hand on the large wooden box, I transported it somewhere it wouldn’t hurt anyone- after all what’s another explosion on Ford Island in December of 1941?”

“Where did you take it, Alex?” Emily asked.

“Where it shouldn’t harm a soul, sis!” I said as I looked at Mina calmly, but punctuated my hint to her with a slight nod.

“I understand, Alexandra! I’m not the thickheaded man I once was, you know!”

“No, but you’re still thickheaded just the same, Highness.” I giggled.

“Skipper?” Jamie asked quietly.

“Skipper, how did I just do that? Talking two bad guys into quitting, that is?”

“The same way you got Commander Cummins to show leniency during your first monthly, Miss Hilf!” I couldn’t help but smile at her confused expression.

“But I haven’t received my gift yet.”

“Ah, but you were the first to receive it, Jamie.”

“You mean I can talk people into doing stuff?” Jamie asked as her eyes went wide.

I laughed. “It’s a little bit more involved than that, Miss Hilf. We will require your gift several more times on this mission, so remember how you did it.”

“What, I just talked to them and suggested they...”

“Yes.” I laughed as I gently laid my hand on her shoulder, “Remember that.”

“Alexandra, if we stay out here any longer, we’ll catch our death of cold, possibly even pneumonia.”

“Quite right, your highness, we should be moving on now. Everyone please join hands.”

A warm, inviting, warmly lit hallway in the White House replaced the harsh, cold night.

“As before, remain holding hands until I find us a private location to rephase, ladies.”

“Jamie, I have to touch up your hair once the Empress finds us some privacy.” Corrine told our crewmate. Her hair had become windblown, some of it escaping her delicate hairnet and she looked a little disheveled at the moment. If we were to meet the President, we’d have to look our best!

A furnished, unoccupied room halfway down the hall proved the perfect place to phase in. As Corrine attended to Jamie’s hair, I explained our entrance into the gala.

“Okay, for tonight we are all cousins. Emily and I are sisters and...”

“No real surprise there.” Jamie interrupted sounding a bit catty.

I stopped and glared at her before continuing.

“Mina...Mina is our cousin from England, who has been stranded in the colonies because of the naval blockade. To say that she is not happy about being here, so close to the fighting is an understatement!”

It was Mina’s turn to roll her eyes in annoyance.

The four of us are originally from Hartford, Connecticut, while Mina still hails from her birthplace. We are in town at the request of Senator Abernathy, also from Connecticut and a friend of the family, so we can meet influential beaus as requested by our respective fathers.”

I noticed everyone cringe, except Mina.

“If asked, Alex, what do our fathers do?” Emily inquired.

“This is the Civil War, sis, munitions...of course. We all should be able to talk at length about old powder rifles. Be careful of our role in this society though. Women are not expected to carry on highly intellectual conversations. Y’all must ensure the man leaves the conversation feeling superior...which is unfortunate.”

Corrine was just finishing up Jamie’s touch up.

“Jamie, when we reach the entrance to the ballroom I’d like you to suggest that we've been invited, but only after Emily and I introduce us. Once inside, we have to find Sen. Abernathy and you need to suggest that we’re family friends and he’s known us all our lives. Got it?”

“Aye, Skipper.”

“One more thing…” I glared at Jamie Hilf. “We are cousins. Cousins call each other by their given or pet names. Understand, Jamie, Corrine, Emily, and Mina?”

“Yes, Alexandra, I think we can handle that small detail!” Mina replied smugly.

“Alex...hmmm, that’s going to take some time to get used to, Skipper.”

“Jamie!”

“I mean that’s going to take some time to get used to, Alex, ma’am.”

I rolled my eyes as I went to slowly open the door into the hallway. Once clear I ushered my cousins and sister out.

We were about midway between our original hiding place and the reception area adjacent to the ballroom when a man’s voice rang out behind us.

“Alexandra? You really should wait for your escort. It would not be proper to allow such beauty to go unattended in this day and age.”

I knew that voice!

Stopping, I turned around to see who knew me in this time period.

“Sanford Fleming, what are doing here?” I quietly asked in amazement.

“Father advised me that eligible young women should not go out after dark by themselves. He insisted I attend you and your cousins to this ball or suffer certain embarrassment.”

Sandy caught up to us and took me in his arms.

“Please my love, I would be tortured more from your absence than my father’s disinheritance!”

Immediately my stomach felt like a thousand butterflies took flight!

“Why are you here?” I whispered into his ear as he held me tight.

“The Empress remembered she forgot something when she was here, Captain Steinert.”

“And what, pray tell, did I forget, Mr. Fleming?”

“Women of the time were always escorted by their men, Alex. You forget that women’s suffrage was in its infancy during the Civil War and that it was not accepted for women to attend gatherings of state stag.”

Raising my head from his shoulder, I noticed my face peeking from the room we had just left- her visible hand giving me an enthusiastic thumbs up.

I winked my thanks to her and tried to put some distance between my…our escort.

Sandy looked very suave in his black suit with matching dark gray vest and pocket watch, the thick, black, silk ascot tied around his neck and collar, and black leather shoes. He sported a finely groomed mustache as appropriate for his bachelor status in this society.

In all, he looked very handsome!

Sandy and I shared a long glance before he looked to the others.

“Ladies, I believe we are expected?” He motioned down the hallway.

Sandy took my arm and offered Emily his other as we approached the heavily bearded man standing watch at the ballroom’s door.

“Good evening, sir. I believe we are expected? Sanford Fleming escorting Alexandra, and Emily Scott of Hartford, their cousins, Corrine Masterson, Jamella Hilf of Albany, and cousin Philamina Smith of Manchester, England.”

“We are invited to this occasion, are we not, handsome sir?” Jamie smiled and blinked her eyes a few times.

What a flirt!

“Ah yes, Mr. Fleming, I was informed by your father of your arrival here and escort of these beautiful flowers! Go right in sir!” The receptionist replied happily as he stepped aside.

We entered a beautifully decorated, ornate ballroom wondering how Sandy’s ‘father’ had passed on any message at all. Calming Chamber music filled the room as a large number of men and women socialized.

Mr. Lincoln stood just off center of the room talking to- and towering over- four union officers in full dress uniform.

Sandy guided us closer.

“Excuse me, Mr. President?” He politely interrupted the conversation. All five men stopped talking and just stared at us like four hungry wolves’ would a flock of unattended sheep! Only the President seemed to regard us as human.

“Excuse me, gentlemen, I must continue my duties as tonight’s host.” Lincoln said to his officers. “We’ll continue this discussion after dinner, thank you, gentlemen.”

Abraham Lincoln towered over my Sandy by about four inches. The president took a minute to apprise each of us before he said anything else.

“I’m sorry, sir, I would remember such vast beauty had I made acquaintance before.”

“Allow me, Mr. President.” Sandy offered. “I am Sanford Fleming Step-son of Col. Richard Demmit- now retired and these are my lovely charges for this evening: Alexandra and Emily Scott of Hartford, Connecticut; Corrine Masterson and Jamella Hilf of Albany, New York, and Philamina Smith of Manchester, England. Unfortunately, Miss Smith is not here quite by choice, sir.”

“It is regretful to have inconvenienced your return to England, Miss Smith. Unfortunately, we must sometimes make sacrifices in wartime. Seldom do such things affect the right parties, though, I’m afraid.”

“I’m sure her majesty, Victoria, is most displeased with the behavior of her colonies, Mr. Lincoln, but her highness has wisdom beyond her years and so chooses to refrain from taking sides. I had not expected to extend my visit with my cousins quite so long, but I understand the reluctance of the British Empire to go to war for just a single one of its subjects.” Mina said with her usual royalty.

Lincoln seemed unaffected by Mina’s courtly scolding; instead, he motioned us to one side of the room.

“Ladies, I’m afraid I must attend to my other arriving guests. I therefore leave you in the most able presence of my wife, Mary.”

Lincoln gently rested his large hand on his wife’s small shoulder.

“Mary, my love, I wish to introduce some lovely young women. Philamina Smith from England, Corrine Masterson, Jamella Hilf…”

“Jamie, sir. Just Jamie.” She protested.

“My apologies, Miss Hilf. Misses Masterson and Hilf are from Albany. Emily and Alexandra Scott here are from Hartford, Connecticut. All five young ladies are cousins.

“And who is this handsome young man, Abraham?”

“Again I am sorry, dear; this is Sanford Fleming, step-son of Colonel Richard Demmit. He has the pleasure of escorting these lovely ladies around Washington.”

Mrs. Lincoln stared at me curiously, which made me feel very uncomfortable! Had she met me already…in my future? Given her reputation, I was sure I’d find out soon enough.

“Thank you, Abraham, you and young Sanford should return to your complicated, compelling men discussions and allow us women to socialize.”

Mr. Lincoln took his wife’s hand and kissed the top of it.

“I thank you, Mrs. Lincoln.” He said gently, excused himself then he and Sandy walked away.

Mrs. Lincoln motioned the five of us closer to the ballroom’s wall. We stood there awkwardly quiet for some time.

“So, Alexandra, you and your sister are from Hartford?”

“That’s right, Ma’am, have you ever been there?” I answered her politely, still not sure if I’d met her on any future missions.

“Though I suspect not originally?” She glared at me.

This wasn’t good!

“I’m sorry, ma’am?” I said in surprise.

“I can always spot a fellow frontiersman, Miss Scott.”

“My sister and I grew up in Hartford, ma’am.” Emily insisted.

“Miss Scott,” Mrs. Lincoln looked to Emily, “You may have spent your childhood in Connecticut, but your sister’s accent tells me she grew up farther west- well west of the Ohio’s forks? Isn’t that right Miss Alexandra…Steinert, isn’t it?”

Whether it was the sudden shock of my real name being spoken or simply the severe compression of my corset, I began to see stars in my vision for a second time tonight.

I vaguely heard Emily and Mina gasp.

Mrs. Lincoln then guided me to a nearby open window.

“Empress, it was not my desire to drain the life from those pretty cheeks. Here, sit down and catch your breath.” She whispered quietly.

“You know? How?” I looked up into her eyes searching for any hints.

“Don’t you remember? You came to my aid three years past- right after…my son…left us.” Her voice turned angry as tears appeared in the corners of her eyes.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but if we’ve met already, you must know that time flows differently for me.” I tried to remind her without adding to her anger.

“So you claim, Empress! So you claimed!” Her angry tone continued.

Ma’am, if I have angered you in any way, I would be happy to leave the premises and not return, but I do have a mission to complete in order for the future of this country- the future of this world to remain on track.”

“Alexandra, you should know that I personally consider the ‘Empress’ the harbinger of death for my family! I assume your attendance here heralds the loss of another of my loved ones?” She asked candidly, remaining all too calm.

This woman was indeed perceptive!

“I gather from your silence that is the case. Who is it to be then, Empress? Will it be Robert or Tad this time?” The deep, dark scowl on her face dared me to tell her otherwise!

I had no choice but to start crying! How could I deprive this woman of another loved one…of her husband? She had already buried a son, Edward, fifteen years ago and another son, William, not quite three ago. How could I possibly ask this woman to bear any more pain?

“Mrs. Lincoln, please don’t blame Alexandra for what she has to do. Coming here was not her wish- more an unpopular, unpleasant task this world demands be done to satisfy its undying hunger for balance. Dear lady, she is no more the grim reaper than I am really a subject of Victoria!”

“You sound English to me, Ms. Smith!”

“I am a reigning monarch in my own right I’ll have you know, Mrs. Lincoln!”

“Excuse me, Mrs. Lincoln; I really don’t think you should be speaking so loudly! People in the room are already looking this way, ma’am.” Jamie suggested as she interrupted.

“So what is your specific power, Ms. Jamella Hilf? You arrived with the Empress, so you must be an auxiliary to her in some capacity.”

Jamie jerked back sharply at the question and her hand quickly covered her forehead. She quickly recovered and glared at the First Lady.

“First off, ma’am, my name is Jamie and apparently my gift entails empathy to those around me, and yes this is my first time assisting the Empress! I wish you to stay calm, ma’am!” She told Mary Lincoln as she verbally strengthened her suggestion.

Mrs. Lincoln’s demeanor lightened. “It seems your ‘gift’ is nothing short of magic, Miss Hilf. A talent someone would pay dearly for just two centuries ago!” She looked intently at Jamie for a minute or so. She seemed dead set on fighting her sudden, unexpected calm.

“Mrs. Lincoln, I’m sorry about our first meeting, but for me, it hasn’t happened yet. I have vague memories shared from my future self, but nothing specific from her visit with you. It happens that way sometimes, ma’am.” I calmly explained, hoping she would understand somewhat.

“Alexandra, you tried to explain your method of travel to me three years ago. I understand it no better this time- nor do I want the malady that accompanies it! Tell me who it is to be, Empress.”

“We really should be going, ma’am.” I looked up at Emily, Mina, Corrine, and Jamie through gathering tears. Facing this woman was tearing me apart! “I can’t do this- not to you, Mary Lincoln!”

I stood quickly to grasp Emily and Jamie’s hands- to phase us out- to go anywhere but here! My private domain appeared in my head.

The gas lit ballroom suddenly became the dark emptiness of my private domain. All five of us continued to hold hands, unsure of our location.

A single gasp from behind Emily told me that we had brought along an unexpected guest.

“Is this heaven or hell? Surely heaven would not be so desolate, Empress!”

“You haven’t been here before, ma’am?”

“I would surely remember such a forbidding place, Alexandra! Is this what you call home?”

“No ma’am, this is a place to which I sometimes retire when I wish to think and entertain conversation.”

Entertain conversation, Empress?”

“It’s a long story, ma’am, one which would severely bore you! We had best get you home now, so take a hand, ma’am.”

“I wish to see your home, Alexandra! If you truly are a traveler from the future, show it to me now! Prove to me this is no mere dream!”

“So, y’all been readin’ Dickens, hmmm?” I took a minute to see how bad I had fractured history this time. Surprisingly there wasn’t the slightest change. Why? ”All right, ma’am, I’ll take you on a quick tour of our home…” I thought twice about that. “No, on second thought I’ll take you to our time, ma’am. What city would you like to visit in 1944, Mrs. Lincoln?” I raised an eyebrow as I glared at her.

“Washington, if it still stands after this hideous war! Show me Washington City in this 1944 of yours, Alexandra!”

“Oh it still stands, ma’am, in fact, it has more than tripled in size since we left your gathering. Please take a hand, ma’am.”

My dark, lonely domain became a lawn sided by a wide street with cars traveling in both directions. The sky was somewhat overcast and gray and the people walking its sidewalks wore summery clothes and formal hats- late spring I’d guess.

“Continue to hold hands, ladies, we are not dressed appropriately for this time period and Mary does not possess a Reilly suit.” I reminded everyone.

“What is a…a Reilly suit, Alexandra? What are these strange noisy carriages on the street?” Lincoln looked about in childlike wonder.

“A Reilly suit is what we wear to blend into the various time periods, ma’am, and these horseless carriages are called automobiles. They were invented in the late nineteenth century and helped to mobilize this country more than ever before.”

“And this is Washington?”

“Let’s all turn around while still holding hands, ma’am.” I suggested.

Again the shear acreage of our period dresses made my simple suggestion into a circus clown routine!

“Its still here!” Lincoln exclaimed as she beheld the President’s Mansion.

“And it will stand for several more centuries if I ever carry out this damnable mission!”

“What is that over there, Alexandra?” She pointed past her former home to the Mall. “Is that Washington’s monument? It still stands also?”

“Yes, ma’am.” I answered as she awkwardly pulled us across the lawn. Once we cleared the trees and buildings making up the White House gardens, she glanced farther down the mall. “And what is that being constructed at the end?”

“A monument to your husband, ma’am. It will be called the Lincoln Memorial.”

A squadron of fighters, P51’s, flew over us on patrol. Of course our guest jumped several inches and almost released her handhold. I quickly explained them.

“Ma’am, what you have just seen is the limit to which technology has evolved in 1944. Early this century, 1903 I believe, we perfected manned flight. The five contrivances that have just over flown us are called airplanes- fighters to be specific. They patrol Washington for enemy aircraft intent on bombing the city.

“Are we at war still?”

“Unfortunately, Earth’s history is fraught with wars and skirmishes, ma’am. This is but the latest of several since the end of your Civil War, as we call it here.”

This country is still fighting itself?”

“No ma’am, England, France, the United States, and several other countries have joined forces to fight Germany, Italy, and Japan, whose leaders wish to enslave the Earth under they’re rule. It will be referred to as the Second World War, Mrs. Lincoln.”

Nearby, a marine and a young woman sat at a bench along the sidewalk. Mrs. Lincoln raised a hand signaling her intent to listen in.

“Charlene, I know you said you wanted me not to enlist, but I feel I need to do this! I need to make sure we still live free of Hitler and his Nazi plague! I have to do my part for this country and the world, Charlene, can’t you understand?”

“Oh Michael, I do understand! I should have realized you were the kind to try and protect this country as well as me! How long do we have together, my love?”

“I ship out early next week, but I’m to report to Camp LaJune tomorrow, Charlene honey, I’m sorry!”

The young woman began crying into her beau’s shoulder as we continued to watch.

“I don’t want you to go, Michael! Stay here…with me…please?”

“I have to go, honey! I gave my word! I’ll be back, I promise!”

“Where should I write you?”

“I’m being sent to the Mediterranean, I’ll write you first with the address as soon as I find out. I have to get back to base now, Charlene. I love you!”

The marine was now in tears as he kissed her for several minutes. They parted in tears with him going northeast across the Mall and her just standing there dazed, silently crying until he was several hundred feet away.

“Michael Ferranti, you better come back to me alive, you hear! I love you!” She shouted and waved.

“Such outward display of love!” Mary Lincoln looked at me. “Empress, you say you are a seer. What future does this couple face?”

I concentrated on the man’s name and the girl’s face.

A few tears ran down my face as their tragic future played out in my mind.

“Can you not stop events from happening to this poor couple, Alexandra?” Lincoln’s voice grew angry again as she stared at me.

“He makes it back alive, Ma’am! Charlene and Michael marry and parent four children to adulthood!”

“Then why do you cry, Empress?”

“They are both killed by their second son when they deny him financing to buy into a foolhardy business venture thirty-five years from now. It rips the family apart and puts the children at odds with each other. Eventually, the Grandchildren suffer and become criminals. The family so beloved at first, falls, then disappears from history.”

“You can stop it though! Is not that your mission?”

“If I meddle in that which should not be tampered with, I chance drastically changing the future, Mary. The result of such tampering can sometimes cause unintended shifts in our timeline. It deviates from its original track to become an alternate dimension with an alternate future. In short, I must reference my gift carefully and change only those events that stand to derail this timeline. The Empress can only smooth the bumps in this road we call time. I must carefully fix the glitches that would sidetrack our future- even if it goes against my firm belief of saving as many lives as possible.” I sniffed.

“Mrs. Lincoln, I too am a seer.” Mina informed Mary Lincoln. “I was the one who carefully guided Alex Steinert’s future along with her entire crew. Had I not planned out every detail of the mission that brought them to my Island, none of us would be here with you now and the Empress would not exist. The timeline Alexandra speaks so fondly of would be on the verge of fracturing into infinite pieces and there would be absolutely no one available to offer assistance. The Earth…the Universe itself might just blink out of existence.”

“Skipper, is what Mina just said possible?” Jamie asked in horror.

“If we had failed to rescue Mina and not undergone the Mahanilui, Janelle Hathor would have succeeded in becoming Director of Reilly Station, Jamie. There would have been no one there with reason to rescue the station or its inhabitants from their fiery demise. The Protoverse chamber at the station would have ultimately failed and the universe contained therein- our universe- would have collapsed and ceased.” I responded.

“You talk as if our very existence- this creation that God has graciously provided is but a small thing contained within a pail!” Mrs. Lincoln accused.

“Mary, I claim nothing of the sort! I submit that God’s realm is significantly larger and more complex than we humans can possibly imagine- than anyone can imagine! Think of this universe, as vast as it seems, as just big enough to be held in the water pail of a larger universe; think then of how many pails could fit in that universe; that one universe in turn, can be contained in one of how many other buckets of a larger universe and so on into infinity! To make it easier to understand, there may be an infinite multitude of universes that God oversees, ma’am. This universe is but one, yet no less important than any other!”

“You’ve been to another of these universes, Empress?” She asked, already knowing the answer.

I nodded.

“Then should I not refer to you as one of the Archangels or Seraphim instead of Empress?”

“To do that would only anger them that are, Mary! I am no more an Angel than a Demon from hell! I am human like you or anyone on Earth. I am no more privileged than you or any other! Like you, we are all just servants! Now shouldn’t we be getting back to your fundraiser for the homeless, destitute, and orphaned, Mrs. Lincoln?”

“You know about the nature of my social events?”

“It is a well documented fact that the first lady of the United States of America, Mary Todd Lincoln, was a well renown sponsor of the numerous soup kitchens, relief stations, and hospitals- both military and civilian, in and around Washington during the ‘War between the States’. Your generosity and selflessness during those dire times is your legacy, ma’am. As is the rumors that you are also a Confederate sympathizer just because you were born in Kentucky. A state, I might add, that didn’t join the rebels until well after you and Abraham were married and living in Illinois.”

A gasp escaped her mouth as I revealed the last few facts.

The White House Ballroom reappeared and I immediately rephased us. Hopefully, our disappearance and subsequent re-appearance- just a flicker if I had timed it right, would not be noticed.

“We’re back!” Mrs. Lincoln started to exclaim, but quickly lowered her volume to a whisper.

“I’ve returned us to almost the exact time that we left, ma’am. If anything we would only look to flicker as a disturbed candlewick would.

“How did you know about those awful lies? I’ll have you know that I personally suggested Mr. Lincoln propose his Emancipation!”

“I know that also, ma’am.” I admitted as I pointed to my head. “What is your future was our history Mary; that is one of the tragic constants of time travel.”

“But you have shown me what will come. Am I not now destined to change it with what I have learned?”

“That would be why I am here, Mrs. Lincoln.”

“Jack?” I asked as I carefully turned around in the voluminous dress.

“Um, Allie sent me.” She mumbled quietly as she dropped her head.

I was so glad to see her; I let a childish squeal escape my lips as I wrapped my arms around her as best as I could, given our clothing.

“I’m so glad you decided to come!” I covered for my emotional outburst.

I again turned carefully and introduced Jack to Mrs. Lincoln.

“Ma’am, this is my first officer, Jacquelyn Cummins. Jack, Mrs. Lincoln.”

“We’ve already met, Alex. Ma’am, nice to see you again…I hope.” Jack replied shyly.

“Oh, I remember you, Miss Cummins!”

“Ma’am, you should calm that temper.” Jamie warned. “Don’t make me squelch you again.”

The threat worked and Mary Lincoln mentally dampened her anger.

“Alex, Allie brought me back here to complete what I failed to do on our last visit.” Jack whispered into my ear- apparently louder than she hoped.

“What? What did you forget to do three years past, Miss Cummins?” Lincoln‘s face started to pale.

I knew what Jack meant, but raised my hand for her to wait a minute. A stray memory caught my attention.

“Ma’am, Jacquelyn’s not here to kill you if that’s what you’re worried about.” I told her quietly as several other women had migrated over to us. I glanced at them several times hoping she would get the hint.

“Then what is she here TO do, Alexandra?” Lincoln lowered her voice catching my hint.

“Ma’am, she’s here to save you from all the grief and despair. Jacquelyn has the ability to make you forget…things.” I looked around conspiratorially.

“Make me forget? Make me forget what?” She looked shocked.

“Whatever you allow us, ma’am. I would suggest that you allow her to erase any knowledge of us,” I pointed to Mina, Emily, Jamie, Corrine, and Jack, “and the Empress, ma’am.” I motioned to myself. “May I also recommend what you have just been witness to?”

“So you want me to forget you and your girls were ever here?”

“It would be safer for you, ma’am. Who would believe you if, by mistake you mention us, or that you’ve seen the future?”

“I don’t believe I know what will become of our lovely gardens should the confederates succeed at invading the city, Alexandra. One would hope the rebel heathens would spare at least a small portion.” Mrs. Lincoln broke topic as a couple of women meandered a little too close.

“One of my suitors told me that the rebels have no regard for beauty- they just assume ravage it all! It would be better to plant poisoned oak, ivy, or sumac in the gardens. At least we would extract some revenge!” I played along as Mina, Emily, and Corrine nodded in agreement. For whatever reason, Jamie remained surprisingly quiet.

“I never thought of that, Alexandra! Surely they would recognize such dangerous plants growing about?”

“Not if hidden by other common garden species, ma’am!” I smiled.

Apparently the two women that temporarily joined our conversation became bored with such dull botanical talk and quickly moved away to join another tête-à-tête.

We waited for them to get far enough away before resuming.

“Ma’am, the time for decision is here. Jack needs to know what, if any, memories of us you would have her safeguard.”

“I wish to remember it all, Alexandra! Every last detail of every moment I have been in your presence! It is my wish to never forget any of you and what your importance means to my family- ever!” Again her tone grew angry.

“I’m sorry to hear that, ma’am, I really am. Jack, what Allie discussed if you please.” I said sadly as Mary Lincoln seemed to freeze a moment before blinking her eyes and shaking her head a few times.

“Alexandra, my dear child, you’ve grown up quite beautiful since the last time we saw each other. How long has it been, child?”

“Almost three years ago, ma’am, I try to forget those times and wish not to speak of them. It would only reopen an old wound, ma’am.” I looked to the floor as I spoke, just over the music filling the ballroom.

“Still, you and your sister provided unwavering support when I needed it most, Alexandra, and I thank you for that. How old are you now, child?”

“Twenty-two, ma’am, and Emily just turned twenty-one. Why?”

“You two don’t look a day over seventeen, Alexandra!”

“Thank you, ma’am. Mrs. Lincoln, have I introduced my cousins yet?” I said as both Emily and I blushed.

She shook her head. “No, child, I don’t believe you have.”

“How rude of me, ma’am. May I introduce Mina Smith of Manchester England, Corrine Masterson and Jamie Hilf of Albany, New York, and Jacquelyn Cummins of Warwick, Rhode Island. Everyone, this is Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, wife of our President.” I said as I introduced each of my ‘cousins’.

“It is very nice to meet you all.” Lincoln said happily, but I noticed her linger a fraction of a second on the word ‘you’. She was being extremely careful to not reveal the accent of her birthplace, Lexington, Kentucky.

“Alexandra, Emily, how long have you and your cousins been in Washington?”

“Not long, ma’am. We had barely the time to wash off the dirt of the road and dress for the occasion at our escort, Sanford Fleming’s house, before his father’s carriage swept us away to your mansion. Travel to and from Washington these days can be extremely harrowing and uncomfortable, as you know, ma’am.”

“All unfortunately necessary, ladies. Tell me, were the soldiers courteous along the road?”

“As can be expected, ma’am. Some may have overstepped their authority a bit, but most conducted themselves admirably.” I told her as I hastily covered my mouth to stifle a yawn.

“How thoughtless of me! I’ve failed to consider the toll you all must be feeling after such a long trip. Tell me, ladies, do you have lodging?”

“Mr. Fleming has graciously offered a room or two, ma’am. He is a business associate of Daddy’s and can be trusted.”

“Where is this escort of yours, child?”

“I last saw him over with Mr. Lincoln, ma’am.” I pointed to Sandy, still listening intently to the president and his officers.

“Very handsome, Alexandra! Do I see an announcement in the near future?” She smiled deviously.

“The future is as unpredictable as the weather, ma’am- I do hold hope though!” I smiled back.

Without another word, Mrs. Lincoln motioned for us to stay put. She then turned and made her way over to her husband, carefully interrupting what looked like a somewhat heated discussion. I saw Sanford steal a glance in my direction a few times as the Lincolns conversed.

President Lincoln then looked over at the six of us and, after a moment, smiled.

Our hostess rejoined our little group with a satisfied grin.

“It’s settled. You all will be our guests here at the mansion until your departure from Washington. I shall be very disappointed if any of you should decline. I will send someone to the Fleming residence to fetch your belongings tomorrow, first thing. Shall we seat ourselves at the table as I see the staff has made the final preparations?” Mrs. Lincoln quickly changed the subject as a bell softly rang out in the large hall.

 
 
2100hrs, The Presidential Mansion, Washington DC, January 10th, 1865
 
 

“Alexandra, should you or any of your cousins require something, just let Gerald know and he will see to it. Gerald is the floor attendant on duty tonight, so sleep with the assurance that he will keep you all safe. I have requested that appropriate bedclothes be sent up for tonight until your things can be collected. Sleep well, ladies.”

“Thank you for your hospitality, ma’am, it is most unexpected, but appreciated.” I said to our hostess with genuine gratitude.

We waited until the door shut fully then waited a little while longer before we all relaxed. Our rooms, three in secession, were furnished in the style of the time, two chairs, two bureaus, several original paintings, and boasted what I would call a full sized, four poster, canopy bed. Each of the three rooms had its own color scheme and theme.

I quickly accessed my HUD and selected more comfortable clothes from it. A pair of denim shorts, pink cotton tank-top, bra, white ankle socks, and pink sneakers replaced the heavy, cumbersome, period hoop dress, shawl, corset, and pair of leather, high heeled ‘granny’ boots.

Stretching my arms over my head, I basked in the freedom of expanding my lungs and ribcage to their full capacity! Only Jack remained in her period outfit.

“How on Earth can you stand being confined in that thing any longer than necessary, Jack?” I asked of my Ex-O.

“Our ‘bedclothes’ will be here any minute now, Cap. I just figured I’d save the pleasure of modern fabrics until they leave.” She replied. Unfortunately she made sense and I begrudgingly reselected my period ball gown after emptying my lungs once more.

“Hey Alex. What’s these two bowls, the pitcher of water, and towels on the dresser for?” Jamie asked innocently.

“Miss Hilf, those simple items have been attending bed chambers since the dark ages. Have you never used a chamber pot and toiletries before?”

“What, they don’t even have a head in the White House? That’s disgusting!” She protested, wrinkling her nose.

“Not until the turn of the century I think, Jamie, sorry!” I giggled. “We just have to do things the ‘old fashioned’ way, hon.”

“I thought our suits were self contained, Alex?”

I rolled my eyes. “They are, Jamie, they are.”

Our conversation was interrupted by gently knocking at the door. Since Jack was closest, she opened it and granted two chambermaids entrance.

“Mrs. Lincoln had us bring an assortment of bedclothes for your use, ladies. We had to guess at your sizes and hope they are not too uncomfortable.”

“Hon, I don’t think anything could be more uncomfortable than what I’m confined to now.” I said with a wry smile. Both women covered their mouths and giggled. I motioned for them to set the two piles of neatly folded clothing on the bed.

“Do you require assistance with your binding, ma’am?” Her question was meant for any of us instead of just me.

“No thank you. We’ve been traveling together for some time now and have grown accustom to assisting each other, but thank you for the offer.” I gave them both my best smile.

“Very well then, if you should require anything, Mr. Gerald is right down the hall and will fetch us should any need arise. Good night, ladies, ma’am.”

“Thank you, and good night to you too, ladies.” I smiled brightly. The two giggled to themselves before closing the door behind them.

“Alexandra, I don’t think it is entirely proper to refer to the wait staff as ‘ladies’.” Mina scolded in her regal tone. “You may have just- how do you Americans say- ‘made their day’.”

“What were they- all of sixteen, Mina? Besides, they must know someone here to get on staff.” I rationalized.

“They were probably born here, more like, Alexandra. I have heard that, unlike your president, the service staff here remains somewhat constant.” Mina stated as she crossed her arms in front of her and raised her nose smugly.

Ignoring Mina’s sudden regal attitude, I triggered my dress to change. Within seconds I was back to my soft denim shorts, comfy cotton tank, ankle socks, and sneakers.

“I don’t know about y’all, but I’m going to sleep in this tonight…minus this!” I reached around and unhooked the bra that had just changed back from the sinister corset. As had become habit, I deftly pulled my arms through the straps and pulled the foundation from under my top and tossed it to the bed.

“That feels so much better!” I purred after taking a big, unrestricted breath of air.

“Jack, I take it Allie will be picking you up in the morning?” I asked as I reveled in another unhindered breath.

“She didn’t say, Alex. Just that I needed to come back and fix what I fouled up. I guess I’m part of the crew again, huh?”

“That goes without saying, Jack.” I thought a minute. “So, where is Sandy staying, Jack?”

“You took him back to 1952, Alex. You…Allie told me that she had special plans for both of them tonight- something about how hot he looked in his federal period finery, I think.” She said punctuating her statement with a wink and devious smile.

I didn’t have to use my gift to know what she meant. I had been thinking the same thing earlier.

“Okay, room assignments are as follows. Corrine and Jamie, Mina and Jack, and Emily and I. We’ll meet in this room at 0800 to discuss tomorrow’s activities. Good night, ladies, and sleep well.”

“Skipper?” I glared at Jamie Hilf. “Alex, won’t they become suspicious when they can’t find Mr. Fleming’s house? I mean Sanford Fleming is your future husband…isn’t he?”

“I’m sure I’ve already thought about that issue. Go and get some rest, Jamie.”

 
 
 

Feather stuffed mattresses are not the most comfortable means of achieving sleep- I don’t care who you are! They are lumpy, scratchy, and downright impossible to find a happy report with! The duvet, on the other hand, warmed quickly and stayed cozy all night- when I wasn’t tossing and turning to find a comfortable position to sleep in that is!

On more than one occasion throughout the night, Emily had groused about it and I had retreated to the woolen rug on the floor in front of the room’s smoldering fireplace, which I had rekindled for extra warmth. The bedclothes delivered to us plus the duvet proved more comfortable as bedding. Didn’t anything remotely comfortable exist in this time?

With daybreak came knocking at our door.

“They’re coming! Everyone wake up!” Jack’s voice rang out in my head.

Quickly I pulled my ‘nest’ from the floor throwing them onto the bed. Donning my bra, I selected just my underpinnings to transform. A few seconds later, I found myself again in my corset and bloomers.

After pulling down my side of the covers, I moved to Emily’s side and gently jostled her shoulder a few times until she fully woke.

“We have company, sis! Corset and bloomers like me!” I whispered as another set of knocks befell our door.

“I heard! What time is it anyway?” She groused.

“Who is it?” I spoke out.

“We’re here to turn the bed, Ms. Scott,” one of our chambermaids answered through the door.

“Already?”

“It’s 6AM, ma’am.”

Emily and I just looked at each other a minute in complete disbelief!

“Just a minute, I’m almost done with my sister’s laces.” I told them. “They have to see our dresses, sis.” I added quietly to just Emily.

“We were told to attend you, ma’am.” The concerned voice said from the other side the door.

Instantly, we both jumped out of bed and triggered our dresses from last night. Joining hands, I took us back about fifteen minutes where we helped each other remove our ‘circus tents’. We quickly joined hands again. Two huge dress hoops now sat on the floor at the foot of our bed and two piles of clothing that were our ball gowns, petticoats, and hairnets, now rested on the footboard.

“Come on in then, girls- door’s open. Far be it for us to deny such gracious hospitality.” I said to the closed door as I took position behind Emily. The door slowly opened.

To the two arriving pair of eyes, I looked like I was finishing the bow on my sister’s corset in preparation for the day.

“Ladies, Mrs. Lincoln asked that we launder the gowns from last night. She has dispatched our daytime floor staff to retrieve your belongings. They should arrive here presently. Miss Scott, I see there is space left in your lacing. I’ll draw them tighter if you would turn around?”

“You’ll do no such things, hon!” I verbally pounced and winced at the same time. “I’ve been nursing four cracked ribs the last few days! The corset stays where it is!” I softened my glare at the helpful pair. “I’m sorry, girls, I’m still tender and Emily just got done finding my sweet spot. Oh, and you two can call me Alex and my sister, Emily. We were taught that using one’s name is the highest form of respect.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The two teens harmonized.

I glared at them.

“Yes, Alex.” One intoned while the other girl just giggled.

“Breakfast will be with the President and Mrs. Lincoln in the west ballroom, ma’…Alex, at 8 o’clock.”

“The West Ballroom?” Emily asked with some confusion.

“The ballroom that you were in last evening, ma’am.”

I cleared my throat.

“The same room you were in last night, Emily.” She rephrased shyly.

“Thank you…” Emily stopped, prompting them for names.

“Elizabeth, ma…Emily, but everyone calls me Liz.” The taller of the two thin, brunettes caught herself.

“I’m Sarah, Miss Emily, Miss Alex.”

“Well, nice to meet you, Liz and Sarah.” I smiled.

Emily and I looked at each other for a moment then I looked back to our two attendants. “If you could, Emily and I would prefer you leave our gowns here in case our baggage does not arrive in time to prepare for breakfast. I’m sure you’ll find the same is true for our cousins. We, unfortunately had a small mishap on the trip to Philadelphia.”

“Yes,” Emily continued, “Our belongings were misplaced and arrived in New York by mistake. If not for the telegraph, our layover there would have been far longer.”

“We are, however, indebted to Mrs. Lincoln for her forethought and charity of our bed clothing; hopefully we will not require such donation after today. You can take them to be cleaned if you wish.” I said with a sincere smile.

Sarah had walked over to the dresser.

“I’m…we’re so sorry, Alex, Emily! How thoughtless of us for bothering you before you had the chance to wash the night off!” She apologized as she noticed the wash towels still folded neatly and the water pitcher full.

“We were just getting to that. These last few days, I find it to be quite beneficial to wash after my daily lacing ordeal.” To illustrate, I wiped my forehead with my hand and sniffed it. Wrinkling my nose a bit, I must have gotten my point across as both girls giggled quietly to themselves.

“You are very humorous, Miss Alex.” Elisabeth continued to giggle. “Sarah and I will return later to remake the bed and change the toiletries. Enjoy your morning.”

The two teenaged chambermaids hurried from our room and we heard them talking to themselves as they moved to the room next door.

“I like them, Liz. They aren’t near as rude as the other guests.”

“I think Miss Alex is funny, Sarah.”

We heard no more after the two were granted entrance to Mina and Jack’s room, so we made use of our room’s appointments- not that we really needed to with our Reilly suits, doing so created less suspicion.

 
 
0830hrs, The Presidential Mansion, Washington DC, January 11th, 1865
 
 

“So, Miss Smith, despite the evident hostilities, has your visit so far been a safe one?” Mr. Lincoln asked of Mina as one of the servers poured her tea.

“So far we have remained clear of any altercations, sir. Being this close to your enemies does limit my sleep though.”

“As it does mine, madam. I cannot tell you how many nights I have lain awake trying to predict a possible onslaught. Rest assured our guests are afforded the best possible guard. How about you, Miss Alexandra? Being the daughter of one of our munitions suppliers, how has your safety fared these last four turbulent years?” His question caught me partially off guard- mainly because I’d lapsed in my foresight of this conversation. Lose of sleep can do that sometimes.

“Mr. President, even before this war started Emily and I had lost sleep. Father is ever vigilant awaiting the day some saboteur sets his factory to bits! It has carried over to the house staff, as well as his daughters.”

“So seems the nature of that business, my dear. My hope is that one day the need for your father’s products will be limited to celebrations and civil constructions. I fear the disease plaguing this country to divide its self also forces my heart to do so! The sadness I feel for this nation multiplies ten-fold each time I must order one brother to fell the other!” Lincoln looked on the verge of tears, but quickly forced a tight smile.

“I am sorry for being so sullen in the presence of such beauty. Such troubling thoughts should not be your concern, ladies.” President Lincoln apologized as he looked at me. For some reason I felt very uncomfortable with that look. Did he sense my real agenda somehow? Did he know and was trying to cryptically consol me?

“No it shouldn’t, Abraham! These girls should have stayed far from this vicinity! They have better things on their minds- like finding a husband, attaining suitable residence, and rearing children!” Mrs. Lincoln added.

I noticed my ‘cousins’ and sister cringe…again, everyone except Mina.

“I quite enjoy such conversation, mum.” Mina spoke up. She had remained quiet up to this point. “The way your husband speaks of this confrontation and his feelings on the matter are very inspirational, poetic, and eloquent- far from boring and blasé.”

“Thank you, Ms. Smith. You British have a way of making even a simple public servant like me sound noble.” Lincoln nodded his head to her.

“You are far from a ‘simple’ public servant, Mr. President.” I complimented. “I’m sure history will tell a whole different story, sir.” I added off-handedly.

His eyes momentarily fixed to mine and his expression turned curious.

“Could it be that we have a seer in our company, Mrs. Lincoln?” He said looking to his wife with a slight, playful grin. “Pray, Miss Alexandra, could you possibly predict to me when this atrocious division of our nation should cease?”

That hit way too close to home! He had to know about me! I had to downplay this quickly.

“Mr. President, I cannot claim such divine gift, I merely guess the right answer sometimes. I am hardly a Prophet or Soothsayer.” I lowered my head to shy from his gaze.

‘Oh, that was truthful!’ Jack commented in my head. ‘What’s he going to think when you do your thing tomorrow night?’

‘JACK!’ I thought loudly.

My ‘cousin’ Jacquelyn smiled deviously before deciding to ‘render’ aid.

“Mr. President, don’t let my cousin’s modesty downplay her talent. She correctly predicted growing conditions around Corrine and Jamie’s community ten years running! Our family and communities think she is simply amazing and compare her regularly to the ancient oracles of Delphi. Why, our fathers even refer to her as the ‘Empress of Time’ on occasion.” Jack boasted.

“Corrine and I will testify to that, Mr. President. Alex can act very much like an Empress if ignored or not seriously heeded!” Jamie giggled. Corrine, Jack, Emily, and Mina joined in.

Mary Lincoln almost choked on some food she had just put in her mouth.

Emily immediately started to stand- the practiced physician taking over. Mary Lincoln quickly waved her off. The president looked concerned, but relaxed as she did so.

“I have indeed noticed the outstanding aire of nobility about her, Jamie. Your cousin, Mina, too has the presence of royalty, though I believe that to be her British upbringing.” Lincoln said seriously.

More hints that he knew about me- us? And what was up with Mrs. Lincoln’s sudden choking spell? Did she still retain memory of me- of us? I knew from our shared memories that Allie, future me, had found those rare individuals that Jack’s gift simply would not work on. In those cases multiple attempts by her to remove our existence proved fruitless, thereby making Jack always question her effectiveness. Was Mary Lincoln one of those rare individuals? She certainly was one of this era’s anomalies! Not many fathers of the time insisted on educating their daughters in the basics- mathematics, writing, and especially reading let alone philosophy and theology. Such extravagances were considered unnecessary for regular women’s duties- housework, cooking, and childrearing. Of course, there were always exceptions. Most of the elite for example, provided limited secondary education to their women- Dolly Madison came to mind.

Such common, unfair, practices were the reason the Women’s Suffrage Movement had started a few years ago- relative to 1865.

“Humor me, Miss Alexandra. Please give us a glimpse of what lies in store for these precious United States in the coming years? Give me your best ‘guesses’ on our future, my beautiful, young Oracle.” Lincoln turned his full attention to me, as did the entire table and wait staff.

I gulped, feeling the pressure build. ‘Thanks Jack!’ I thought angrily. A wicked smile flashed across her face.

“I’ll try, Mr. President, but I warn you our futures are not always lined with sweet bounties! Many times it is strewn with pitfalls and disappointment. I hope you will not hold these visions as absolute truths, but merely suggestions of what may be.” I warned as best I dared.

“Please, Alexandra, I wish to hear these predictions, child.” Mrs. Lincoln coaxed as her eyes bore into me.

Closing my eyes, I tried my best to imitate what a trance would look like in this era and sorted the future displayed before me.

“The end of the cruel separation of brothers nears. A small, lonely, country courthouse figures prominently. Although honorable surrender has been agreed to and documented, fighting will continue for some time thereafter. The newly reunited will mourn as a whole, but still remains divided spiritually for years to come. Many past debated issues newly righted remain obscure, almost unattainable in this and much of the coming century.”

At this point I decided to see how much either Lincoln really knew about us.

“Many conflicts shall arise that draw the newly reunited into rendering men, equipment, and assistance abroad- across both oceans. Large, fire belching, birds will do the Commander-in-Chief’s bidding with extreme prejudice and effectiveness. The Dictator’s of Europe and Asia will fall individually to the Allies of the Atlantic, but only after a monstrous power is twice unleashed on the innocent.”

I heard a gasp from across the table and slowly opened my eyes. Mary Lincoln had the look of horror etched on her face. Mr. Lincoln stared at me in disbelief, his eyes looked moist.

“My dearest Alexandra, what has been told does not resound as mere guesswork, but actual foresight? How can one so young possibly hold continence seeing such visions?” President Lincoln said with some reservation.

I blinked a few times for effect. “What? What did I say? Oh, I hope I didn’t insult anyone, Mr. President! Usually I am not privy to my own visions! I tried to warn you, sir!” I shied and lowered my sight to the table before me.

“Child, never be afraid of your gift, or its consequences! Such truth and candor will never be shunned in this house!”

‘He had that wrong!’ I thought to myself!

“Alexandra, these birds you spoke of…were they loud and glistened in the sun?”

Bingo!

“Ma’am?” I looked to Mrs. Lincoln as if confused.

“You spoke of large, fire belching, birds! Could we become advanced enough to actually fly to the heavens?” She pressed less gently. President Lincoln stared at his wife in concern.

“Mrs. Lincoln, Alexandra has already stated that she is unaware of her visions. Let the poor girl heal after such an ordeal!” Abraham scolded his wife.

“Ma’am, I have dreamt of man flying higher. High enough above the Earth to see that it is but a large blue and white ball floating amongst the stars.” I again shied as if waiting for my father’s switch.

“Alexandra?” Lincoln’s even tempered voice called to me. “Child, our dreams, strange and distant as they may seem can hold truth, but more so they contain our hopes for the future. That is what I believe! I have no doubt that this nation will finally resolve it’s differences and do a great many things considered impossible today- take Mr. Brady and Mr. Morse- men who followed and acted on their dreams. I have no doubt man will fly to the stars in the not so far future!” He winked at me as he finished.

I swallowed hard. He somehow knew! They both knew!

“Alexandra, don’t be afraid. We will not harm you- nor will we judge your gift, as some would have two hundred years prior! My dear, it often requires more courage to dare to do right than to fear to do wrong!”

The famous quote produced a small giggle from me. I looked up at him with a smile. My reaction caused a puzzled expression to wash over his face.

“Mr. President, Mrs. Lincoln, I think we have taken enough of your time this morning. Sanford has promised to show us the town today. We thank you for your hospitality.” I said as I started to rise from the large table. It now seemed out of place in the large ballroom.

“Of course, Miss Alexandra. We shall see you tonight for the evening meal then. Remind Mr. Fleming to heed the checkpoints as you tour Washington. The edges of which can be sinister these days.” Lincoln rose from his chair, bowed slightly, and watched as we left the room.

 
 
0010hrs, The Presidential Mansion, Washington DC, January 12th, 1865
 
 

“Good evening everyone. I hope y’all were able to catch some shuteye before we begin the critical portion of this mission?” I had just returned with Corrine and Jamie after phasing out and walking them straight through the walls between our bedrooms.

“Alex, I think I might have a piece of lathe stuck in my gut or maybe a piece of fabric from that chair I walked through.” Jamie protested.

“It’s probably just nerves, Jamie.” Emily empathized with her. “Same as the rest of us.”

“Are we all going to travel with Alex tonight?” Jamie then asked as she looked around at all of us.

“First we will be taking both Lincolns to Chicago’s World Exposition for a brief look at the future. While y’all entertain Mary Todd, the president and I will travel back here to April 14th where I must reveal the gruesome details of our visit.” I tried to hold back the despair I felt at the moment.

“Empress, it has to be done! A major rift in this dimension will result and change their future…change our future. There is simply no way around what must occur, Alexandra.” Mina rationalized.

“It doesn’t make it any easier, highness!”

“So, what do we do with the First Lady in the mean time, Alex?” Jack asked, using a term not coined until after World War Two.

“Mina, or should I say Phillip, was there in attendance as a teen, so she will act as a guide. Mina, show Mrs. Lincoln some of the brighter technical advances that have been achieved. Don’t forget, she still has latent memories of us. Jack, she is one of the special people that your gift has problems with- it happens, don’t fret about it.”

“Bravo, Alexandra!” Mina gushed.

Emily, Jack, Corrine, and Jamie began looking between Mina Smith and I in curiosity.

“Mina is applauding the ingenious use of my gift in this time period to determine what y’all will do in 1893. She forgets that I did a similar thing when we traveled back to Reilly B.C.- only then on a very limited basis.” I looked at each of them then centered on Mina.

“As we speak, Mina is doing the exact same thing in order to counter my supposed solution to her ‘problem’. I promise her, she will not find a suitable defense.”

Everyone grinned with satisfaction…except Her Highness.

Seeing the reaction my statement had on our sisters, Mina simply glared at me. The fire I saw in her eyes did nothing to dispel the satisfaction I felt right now!

“If everyone is ready, let’s all join hands and wake our president and first lady. Jack, I’d like you to bring up your acoustic field as soon as we appear in the Lincoln’s bedroom. There is sure to be some commotion.”

“Yes, my Empress!”

I instantly glared at her, as Emily’s and my room became the dark, quiet presidential bedroom.

“Alright, Jack, shield up and begin doing your fancy lamp lighting.” I whispered. Jack nodded her acknowledgement.” Jamie, can you suggest that they wake up, please?”

“I can do that, Skip…er Alex?”

“Yes, hon, I wouldn’t have asked if you couldn’t. Emily, monitor Mary’s vitals. Corrine, stand by to do her face.

“Aye,” came back in harmony.

Jack slowly brought the room lights up as President and Mrs. Lincoln began to stir.

“Pardon the interruption, sir and ma’am, but there are issues that need to be addressed- issues of the utmost importance.” I said calmly, but loud enough to be well heard.

“What! How…how did you…who let you in here!” Mr. Lincoln jolted awake clearly able to see all six of us in the lamp lit room. “Robert! Robert, how did these women get past you?”

“I’m afraid your chamber guard cannot hear you, Mr. President. No one in this building can hear anything that goes on in this room until Jack wills it, sir.” I informed him.

“Alexandra! What is the meaning of this…oh dear? I remember! It was true wasn’t it? It really happened?” Mary Lincoln shrieked in terror and looked to her husband.

“You knew this was ordained to happen, dear? Tell me how?”

“Abraham, Alexandra and her cousins are much more than they seem! She is most definitely the Empress her family claims!” Mary Lincoln stuttered.

“Do you represent the witches of old? Are you even human, Alexandra- if that really is your name? What have I…what have we done to warrant such visitation?”

“Mr. President…” I started, “Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of these United States of America, author of the Emancipation Proclamation. We are not here to hurt you, only to show you the future beyond your years.” I said, overdramatizing a little.

“Alexandra, must you be so melodramatic? These people are already on the verge of coronary! Why terrorize them further?” Mina chastised me.

“I was just trying to have some fun, Highness. Emily is keeping watch over they’re vitals anyway.”

“We don’t want her to utilize her training though, do we?”

“Fine! Mr. President and Mrs. Lincoln, we have come to you tonight to give you a glimpse of this nation’s possible future- a future past your natural years, in the hope that you allow us to right a wrong that will inevitably happen without our intervention. Neither one of you will be hurt in any way, shape, or form, I assure you. You have my word as an officer in the United States Navy, sir!”

“You all can travel through time, Alexandra?” Mrs. Lincoln burst out carefully.

“Y’all can stop bein’ so stiff with the accent, ma’am, I’m from Missouri and I know our accents are similar.” I admitted.

“Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, Alexandra is the only one among us with the gift of time travel- a gift she utilizes to help people and help this fragile timeline along. The Empress of Time and Space has made it her life’s work to protect those of Earth and other planets in this and other universes.” Mina explained. “She believes that peaceful negotiation, rather than fear or force is appropriate for such endeavors.”

“You travel the oceans of time?” Lincoln repeated. “To help people?”

“I do, sir.”

“The captain has already repaired several problems in our recent past, Mr. President. She has also battled people that have endangered our future.” Corrine added succinctly.

“And just what time would you all hail from, Alexandra, if I were to believe you?”

“Most of us are from the year 1944, sir.” I suddenly answered from the opposite side of the room. Both Lincolns noticeably jumped.

“Most of you?” Lincoln asked after finding his composure.

“Jacquelyn is from 1953, sir. My future self brought her here to rectify an assumed mistake- an incident that turned out to be more miracle than error.”

“You were here three years ago!” Mrs. Lincoln shouted out accusingly.

“Yes, we,” I motioned between Jack and I, “Came here to render comfort in your despair, ma’am.” I lowered my eyes. “The loss of Mary Todd Lincoln to the timeline at that precise instant would have sent it hurdling into its own separate dimension, changing the future forever. I could not let that happen.” I embellished the truth somewhat.

‘Somewhat?’

‘JACK!’

“What would you have done my wife?” Lincoln asked. Mrs. Lincoln’s response was to lower her eyes from him and remain silent.

“If I may, sir?” I asked on her behalf, “Mary contemplated suicide shortly after Will’s passing. However, she has many more fruitful years ahead of her- years that she can now use as she wishes.”

The Lincoln’s remained silent for a few moments before Abraham turned back to me…to us- I had again reappeared beside Emily and Jack.

“I am eternally indebted to you then, Alexandra,” President Lincoln jumped again when he finally found me, “Empress of Time and Space. The loss of another son was devastating enough without the loss of my beloved too. Thank you all!”

“I would do it for everyone I could, sir.”

“Then should we not waste the precious night as it grows old quickly?”

“Charles Dickens, sir? I assure you that you and Mary can be returned to this exact time if you wish. No one would be the wiser.”

“Mary and I will do what you request, Empress. We are yours to command.” Lincoln nodded they’re ascent to me.

“We do not request nor require your allegiance, Mr. President. It is you and this country we pledged to protect from harm, sir. Normally, it is we that take your commands. Except in this instance; tonight I must insist that you two travel with us and experience the wonders of the future.”

“Melodramatics again, Alexandra?” Mina cautioned me.

“Sir, if you would please dress for warm weather. Ma’am, I have something that will amaze you further than what you have already experienced. I will be back presently.”

Instantly I was beside Mrs. Lincoln holding what looked like an ordinary, blue, period housedress that I had retrieved from ‘my’ travel bag- a medium sized, leather covered trunk about three feet by two feet by two feet high that had ‘appeared’ in our room earlier in the day.

Again Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln were startled by my sudden relocation.

“Mrs. Lincoln, Corrine will help you into this dress we brought along for the occasion. She will also help prepare you for our trip. She also requires permission to touch you, ma’am. Again, no harm shall befall you.”

“Is this a…what is it you called it…a…a…Reilly suit?”

“It is similar, ma’am, but lacks the individual control. It will only respond to one of us.”

“What does such an innocent looking piece of clothing conceal, Empress?” Mr. Lincoln curiously inquired.

“This.” I said as my elegant light pink and black accented ball gown from two nights ago replaced the much simpler dusty pink and brown cotton travel dress, matching full-sleeved cotton blouse and wool jacket I wore tonight.

Two sets of eyes and a pair of jaws almost hit the floor!

I exhaled with a gasp as the corset slowly tightened automatically around me once more.

“I fail to see how women of this age can be comfortable in such things!” I complained before reselecting my previous attire.

“It is magic!”

“No, sir, it is simply technology well advanced of this time. With that said, we have built in several safety measures, fire resistance being one of the most important- should we ever need travel to Salem, Massachusetts or fourteenth century Spain.” I giggled.

“Prudent safeguards, Empress.” Mr. Lincoln chuckled as he nodded in agreement.

“Ma’am, I will now set your makeup if you will allow me to touch your face?” Corrine said as she finished assisting Mrs. Lincoln into her matching slipper flats. “I could change your hair color too if you wish.”

“Change my hair’s color? How can that be possible? Does this garment affect a person’s body as well?”

“No ma’am, Corrine’s gift allows her to alter the body and its attributes as she wishes.” I carefully removed my delicate looking hairnet- a staple in these times, but not suggested where we were going, and allowed my hair to flow freely over my shoulders and down my back.

“Observe, ma’am. Corrine, return my hair to its natural shade, please.” I turned my back to her and she gathered my hair in her hands and held it for a minute. Corrine allowed my dirty blonde hair to cascade through her fingertips.

To say Mary Lincoln was impressed was an understatement.

“So, what color would you like, ma’am? Be assured it is quite painless…and reversible.”

“Chestnut.” Her husband insisted.

“Chestnut?” We all harmonized.

“Mrs. Lincoln, although I am truly and humbly betrothed, I must admit to idealizing what you would look like with chestnut locks.” He told his wife and us.

Mary Lincoln nodded her assent to Corrine.

Nodding back, Corrine asked one more question.

“How long of hair would you desire, ma’am?”

“A change in length is not necessary, Miss Corrine, Mary’s hair is quite acceptable at its present measure.” Mr. Lincoln smiled.

“I wish it to be of the same length and style as Alexandra’s- if that is within your ability!”

Corrine smiled brightly as she gathered Mrs. Lincoln’s dark brunette tresses in her hands. A minute later, a new silky brownish-red mane fell from her hands and cascaded down her back. Corrine then lightly fussed it into the style of our next travel stop.

Mary Lincoln immediately attempted to reapply her hairnet.

“Ma’am, where we are going the use of a hairnet has been discontinued.” I looked over to the President. “Sir, do not be alarmed! I will now activate the garment. Ma’am, if you would please exhale and stand on your tip toes.”

Placing my hand on the dress’s sleeve, I quickly selected and activated the proper switch on my suit’s HUD.

Mrs. Lincoln let slip a quick squeak as the dress shifted and changed, her slipper-clad feet becoming encased in leather, high-heeled granny boots perfectly acceptable for our early 1893 fashion target.

“Corrine still needs to apply your makeup, ma’am.” I reminded as she examined her newly changed clothing.

A minute later Corrine removed her hands from Mrs. Lincoln’s face. She looked ten or fifteen years younger.

“You look ravishing, Mrs. Lincoln!” An enamored Abraham told his wife.

“And now for the finishing touch. Ma’am, if you would allow me?”

“Alex, I’d like the chance to help if I could?” Jack begged.

“Of course, Jack, I’ll leave it to you.” I smiled at her. “Jack has been itching to use her gift this trip.” I told the Lincolns.

From Mrs. Lincoln’s waist a large-brimmed, flowery, quilted hat that hadn’t been noticed detached itself and slowly righted itself; it floated into position over Mrs. Lincoln’s head. Just as slowly, it settled perfectly on her. Several hairpins appeared from the hat’s ribbon and carefully installed themselves strategically.

“Had I not just witnessed that with my own eyes…” The President whispered in awe, letting the statement drop.

Jack smiled at him as I rolled my eyes to her blatant display.

“Miss Jacquelyn can move objects with only her mind, Alexandra?”

“That and more, sir. At this time she is also producing a dampening field around this room to isolate our conversation from the staff and other guests.”

“I am also able to lift vessels several magnitudes larger than your biggest Ironclad, Mr. President.” Jack added with a brighter smile.

“Jacquelyn is also the most humble among us, Mr. Lincoln.” Mina snickered.

“At least I’m not still trying to find a way to dispatch myself, Highness!” Jack fired back rudely.

Lincoln looked appalled by what he had just heard!

“Child, why on Earth would you purposely try to leave this world? Has this dreaded conflict made you so distraught that death is the only answer? Miss Mina, I assure you that the loss of such beauty to this world would be sorely missed! To waste such talent…such abilities…such friendship!”

“Sir, with all due respect, it is none of your concern- nor is it the concern of the Empress, or her travel companions!” Mina replied in her most regal tone.

“You are going to help her I presume, Alexandra?”

“With my last breath, sir! I have worked out an acceptable scenario.”

“Then why, Miss Mina, would you decline such assistance?”

“I have seen what should happen if I survive, sir. Sometimes it is better to leave history play out as it should!”

“Miss Smith, Alexandra seems to have your best interests in mind…your safe future, I’m certain, is assured. Why deny her? After all, you cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

Mina stayed quiet for a while, presumably thinking of an answer to Mr. Lincoln’s wisdom.

“I grow weary of seeing the future…always seeing other people’s fortune or fate…always looking out to protect everyone else’s future! I’ve spent a good part of my sixty-nine years watching…and guiding…and watching again… I’m tired…so very tired! At first it seemed that I was only responsible for Alexandra and the rest of Sand Dollar’s crew. Then it grew logarithmically to include the well being of other planets- then other dimensions! The anxiety it causes has no definition on this Earth! I…I just cannot…I just can’t…anymore!” Mina broke down and tears streamed from her eyes.

Mary Lincoln gingerly walked around to her and pulled her close.

“Philamina Smith, Has it gone unnoticed that you needn’t worry about so much? In fact, Alexandra has demonstrated that she has taken on that burden unsolicited. She is trying to help you, child! Can you not see that? Or is it that you have grown so familiar that you fear to release it?”

“I’m afraid to see myself.” Mina finally managed to whisper.

“What was that child?”

“I’m afraid to see myself when we get to the Columbian Exposition.”

“I don’t think I understand? Alexandra, to what does she refer?”

“Mina is afraid that we will run into Philip Smith, ma’am.”

“Her brother, perhaps? But why did she refer to him in singular terms?”

My eyes immediately dropped to the floor. From the loud sigh in the room, it was evident my sisters followed my lead.

“Ma’am, sir, I’m afraid we have misled you, we were not born in this form…the form you see before you.” I let what I said fade before continuing.

“Not born in this form? What other form then, Alexandra? Seraphim? Angel? What?” Mary Lincoln pressed.

“Before meeting Mina on her island home, my crew and I were all men…except for my sister Emily!” I informed them, motioning to Emily in the process.

Mr. Lincoln raised his fingers to his forehead and turned his head side to side slightly in an effort to sort through my startling admission.

“Having witnessed such magical abilities from everyone here, I find this latest information highly suspect! Such beauty…such femininity…surely it can only be inborn! Tell us this is but a fable, Empress!”

I gave out a large sigh. “Jack, please show them.”

I looked away in embarrassment while Jack passed along the implausible memories of our invention.

A minute later the two stood flabbergasted. The humiliation of those memories being seen by these specific outsiders…

“Mina, you have participated in this as well?” Abraham asked gently.

“I have, sir.”

“I see the dilemma. Tell me, do you look anything like the old you, child?”

“Not that I remember, Mr. Lincoln. I mostly resemble my adoptive mother, the former queen of Kili Island.”

“Then I submit that you have nothing to fear.” Lincoln rubbed his hands together before motioning to us with them.

“You don’t understand, sir! If I see me…like this,” She motioned down her body, “I stand a very good chance of approaching me!” She pointed to her chest. “In which case I would fall…um…head over heels…for me! It would be the quintessential fracture of this timeline- of this dimension! It would spell the destruction of Alexandra- everyone…everything! She would no longer exist to right the wrongs of this world, our universe, our children, and grandchildren! Nothing would be as it is now! We wouldn’t be here now or three years ago! Mr. Lincoln, you wouldn’t be you, but a still grieving widower with no ambition of winning this rebellion or reuniting these States.”

The President dropped his gaze from her to contemplate what had been said.

“I disagree with your assessment of my conviction, Miss Smith!” Lincoln paused as he looked to his wife a moment. A look was exchanged between them before he continued. “As you say, I would be the ever grieving widower. That is true, for no force on Earth could sway my love and adoration for my wife, but you are wrong about my tenacity! Mrs. Lincoln and I have been in agreement about the future of this nation since before the first volley was exchanged at Sumter! I would be as I am today, dedicated to reassembling this great nation! Nothing will deter me from that course, not here or in another one of those dimensions you hint at, Mina Smith!” Lincoln’s voice was stern, yet gentle.

“Sir, I couldn’t have said that any better! Mina has refused advice from not only Emily and I, but her four daughters and our crew as well. We all have tried without success- numerous times- to sway her belief that she will leave us in a few short months, despite my finding an acceptable resolution. My first officer’s presence here is testament of that.”

“Say what, Alex?” Jack asked with a start. “You set this up?”

“Sorry, my friend, but I had to have a viable reason for you to come back here. I’ve known that Mrs. Lincoln’s memories would meet with limited results to your gift. You will be needed on several occasions during our visit to Chicago to protect her Highness from Philip Smith. Also, you are to remove all traces of our presence from his memory! Jamie, you will read his feelings and ‘suggest’ alternate feelings so that he will continue on his path of self-discovery.”

“I understand, Captain.” Jack nodded to me and stood to attention.

“Aye, Skipper.” Jamie acknowledged me likewise.

I nodded to both then turned toward Mina.

“Mina, I’m sorry this has to happen, but you are too important to our family to simply fade away into oblivion. I have vowed to protect my friends and relatives, and that is precisely what we are going to do. President and Mrs. Lincoln, I now ask that you take an offered hand, for we must all be coupled in order to travel. The trip is instantaneous and completely painless.”

“By God, Alexandra, you remind me of U.S. Grant! Why, I’ve only seen such resolute determination in one other woman!”

Lincoln looked to his wife and smiled. Mary blushed, but winked back and smiled.

“You were right all those months ago, my dearest. I regret my disbelief of your account and seek your sincere forgiveness.”

“So you knew about me?” I asked.

“I had heard about you, Empress, but was unconvinced that such great women even existed.

I’m not sure, but I suspected we all crimsoned.

“Please take an extended hand, and we shall ply the waves of time to our destination!” I said with as much nobility as I could muster without giggling.

“Really, Alexandra…”

The lamp lit room of President and Mrs. Lincoln became the bright sunlit plaza just outside the Great Electrical Building at the 1893 World Exposition. All around us, people of the day wondered about on undefined courses to undisclosed destinations throughout the grounds. In the distance a train whistle signaled yet another group of fair-goers eager to take in the marvelous sights, sounds, and grand decoration found everywhere.

“-Must you be so dramatic?” Mina nagged through our transit.

A man in formal suit and bowler walking alongside a younger woman- in my exact dress, quilted hat, and parasol- walked cleanly through the Lincolns without as much as a shudder.

“This is unbelievable! Alexandra that couple walked straight through as if we were spirits! Are we really here in this strange time?”

“Sir, ma’am, this may be a bit too much to comprehend, but we are actually here, in 1893. The reason people of the time are able to pass through us is based on a concept of time. I am able to keep us slightly out of time so that we remain unseen until I am able to find a safe place to realign us. Once that is done we can interact normally with those around us.”

“So we are just a fraction of a second behind everyone else?”

“Something like that, sir. I don’t quite understand the concept myself yet, I just know it works.”

The loud, roaring sound of electricity echoing through the monstrous building before us told me that one or more of Nicola Tesla’s machines resided inside.

Concentrating on the proper location to rephase our group, I pulled us off to the right corner of the Grand Electrical Building. Walking through several more people on our way to the rear of the building took its toll on Mrs. Lincoln. Complaining of severe nausea, she begged me to find a suitable location quickly.

Once behind the huge building, I waited a few ‘agonizing’ moments- for some of us- then informed everyone I was going to rephase.

“We have realigned ourselves with this time period. You may release hands.” I smiled brightly before being interrupted.

“Hey! You can’t be back here! No one can be back here who’s not cleared to be back here!” A man’s voice shouted.

A policeman quickly ran over to where we stood. The man, in his late forties stopped a few feet short gasping for air. At about five-five, I towered over him, but his gaze did not make the intended incline to my eyes, they simply remained level and trained on my chest.

“Then perhaps you could tell us where the lavatory is located? We seem to have been given bad direction, officer! It is becoming rather urgent that my sister seek relief!” I told him.

The pervert’s eyes never left my chest.

“Oh. Oh! You go back out to the front of the building and go into the front doors. Go to the first door on the left for you ladies and the second door to the left for you, sir. Don’t forget that you have to buy tickets, though.” The officer said before turning his eyes to Mr. Lincoln. At which point his eyes grew large and his mouth opened slightly.

“You look like him! You really look like him!”

“Well of course I look like him! Whom else would I look like, constable?” Lincoln said with a leer.

“I actually met him when I was younger! You’re the best one I’ve seen to date! How do they find such good impersonators?”

“Impersonator? Constable, do you impugn I am not the true article? I am…”

“He’s the best dern character actor this side of the Allegheny’s! Why, he’s been playin’ ol’ ‘Honest Abe’ since we was knee high, officer!” I jumped in to save Mr. Lincoln any unwanted embarrassment. He was quick to catch on.

“Like my niece so eloquently stated, constable, I…am…an actor!” Abraham declared as he gracefully put his hand into his coat Napoleon style. “Now if you will excuse us, sir, my niece seeks immediate relief! Good day, constable! Come along girls.”

Abraham Lincoln took my and Mary’s hand in his and led our group back to the front of the huge building and politely opened the door for us.

“Good show, sir!” Mina congratulated the President as we stopped just inside. “I wouldn’t think that someone who has a reputation for ‘honesty’ would improvise so quickly.”

“My dear Mina, I stake my reputation on that quality, but I must also remind you that I am still a politician and as such I must be quick on any given opportunities!” He chuckled warmly.

“Alex? I really do have to go!” Corrine said quietly as she looked around sheepishly. “Do I really need to buy a ticket to use the head?”

I looked at her in disbelief.

“No, seriously, Skipper, I have a red indicator on my HUD that says ‘Recycling System Offline’! I’d rather not risk it!” She warned with pleading eyes.

This is all I needed- technology breakdown!

“What is a ‘hud’ if I may be so bold, Alexandra, and what is a recycling system?”

“The H.U.D. or ‘Heads-Up-Display’, is how we control our garments, sir. It provides operational information about every system incorporated into it and allows us to control its many features- such as changing its appearance as I demonstrated earlier. The Recycling System allows us to forego local…um, sanitary conditions.” I explained while being cautious of unwanted observers.

“Where is this HUD you speak of, Alexandra? I wish to experience it firsthand.” Mary Lincoln asked.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but your garment is a slave to be controlled by one of ours. It lacks the neural interface necessary to display a HUD in your mind.” I answered, but immediately learned of my mistake.

“Slave? I am wearing a slave?” Mary Lincoln grimaced.

“Not in the context you’re thinking about, ma’am- I’m sorry! As technology has progressed, we have redefined some of the more controversial terms of your time. In the world of computers a term like slave and master denote which device has direct control and which waits its turn to communicate.”

“Computers, you say? I once read about a scholar, Babbage I think the name was- he wrote something about a computer a few years ago.” Mr. Lincoln cradled his face in his hand while trying to recall the memory.

“Skipper.”

“Alexandra, couldn’t Miss Jacquelyn show us a vision of this HUD with her gift?” Mary inquired with curiosity.

“Skipper.”

“I don’t see why not! She’s always trying to show off anyway. Jack show them you’re HUD, plea…?”

By the look on the Lincolns’ faces I could tell Jack was already at work.

“Skipper.”

“That is truly miraculous! And when will these marvels come into existence, Alexandra?” He asked intrigued by what he saw.

“The computer doesn’t really appear as a viable technology for another ninety-five years. Relative to your own time, Mr. President.”

“Skipper!”

“What, Corrine- oh!”

“Do I have to buy a ticket, Alex?”

I blushed.

“Mr. President, ladies, this will only take a moment!” I rolled my eyes as I took Corrine’s hand. “No, Miss Masterson! Not while I’m still the Empress!” I declared as I took one final glance around us.

“There, now that another incident has been averted, shall we take in the marvels of Chicago’s World Fair?”

“But you didn’t go anywhere, Alexandra! Or did you?” A surprised Mr. Lincoln posed with an eyebrow raised.

“Ah, the wonders of time travel, sir!” I smiled brightly.

“You two went back to base, didn’t you? You also got Randi to repair her suit, didn’t you? Alex, had I known you were going to go that far, I would have tagged along! I dislike the use of chamber pots and outhouses very much!” Emily complained then looked at the Lincolns. “No offence, Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln.”

“None taken, Miss Emily. I would opt for more sanitary conveniences myself if they existed. I’m sure Mary would agree also.”

Mrs. Lincoln looked at me with a hopeful, yet needy expression. “If you could be ever so kind, Empress?” She gracefully pleaded.

“Alright. Who else needs to go?” I rolled my eyes again.

 
 
1410hrs, The Electrical Building, Chicago World’s Fair, Jun 18th, 1893
 
 

“There, now is everyone feeling better?” I asked sarcastically. To all passers-by that showed even the most remote attention to our group, we had just been standing there for a few minutes.

For me, twelve hours had passed as I made three trips back to Atlantis-Minor for repairs and ‘potty breaks’. Mr. Lincoln had been the only person to hold his continence.

We spent the remaining daylight trekking across the fairgrounds investigating the architecture and the innovations contained in the various buildings. Dusk was approaching when we finally took a break and sat down to each enjoy a waffle cone of ice cream.

The modest bustle of our dresses made the ornate wooden benches a little uncomfortable, but I was willing to trade my slightly sidesaddle position for the agony assaulting my brain from those three-inch heeled Granny boots!

“So ladies fashions have gone from barely comfortable to miserably uncomfortable in the matter of thirty years? Is there a reason for this, Alexandra?” Mary Lincoln asked as she removed one boot to rub her foot.

“Our researcher took some liberties, ma’am.” I looked to the next bench- at Mina before apologizing. “I am deeply sorry that they proved so difficult, ma’am.”

“You should try the sadistic four and five inch contraptions they wear in the nineteen-seventies, ma’am!” Jack added, raising both thin, but well-kept eyebrows. “Mary Shelly couldn’t have written better torture devices for her monster!”

I laughed at her analogy and almost lost my ice cream as I recalled one of my future self’s memories of something called a ‘Disco’.

“Mr. Lincoln!” Someone shouted from a fair distance away. The President looked up in shock. He looked at me, the question quite evident on his face.

I shook my head no.

“I say, Mr. Lincoln?” The tenor voice called out again. It had a noticeable British accent.

“Bloody hell!” Mina gasped as she quickly lowered her head to hide behind the wide quilted brim of her hat.

The man drew nearer. “Mr. Lincoln? It is you! Sir, are you not appearing in tonight’s pageant?” The young, slightly built, brown-haired man of about eighteen inquired.

“Alas, tonight is my night away from the stage. You see there are two of us employed in that capacity. Tonight, I am engaged in the company of my nieces.” Lincoln said courteously.

“Begging your pardon, gov, I wasn’t aware of such details. May I say, sir that you are the spitting image of the glass plates I’ve seen since arriving in this country! Spitting image, sir!” The young man bubbled.

“Why thank you, um…”

“Smith, sir. Philip Smith, sir.”

Lincoln stood to shake his hand.

“Mr. Smith, glad to make your acquaintance. Stanton…Stanton Douglas and this is my lovely wife Dolly!” Lincoln introduced Mary with a motion of his hand.

I almost shot ice cream out my nose!

“Pleased to meet you, gov, ma’am. Eh, you wouldn’t need help escortin’ these lovelies about now would ya?”

“Unfortunately no, young Philip. I’m afraid all five are recently engaged, but thank you for the kind offer.”

A bit of ice cream went down the wrong hole and I started to cough as I choked.

Emily came to my aid. “Dee? Ya alright, Dee?” She asked, patting my back.

“Went down the wrong hole is all, Amy-Jo! Ah’ll b’fine!” I responded in my thickest drawl.

“Stanton, honey, ah’m feelin’ a chill. We best head fer the rooms ‘fore the girls catch their death.” Mary Lincoln said without missing a beat.

“As you wish, dear. Mr. Smith, it was nice to meet you, but I’m afraid Dolly’s right. Their suitors would hold us solely responsible if any of them caught so much as the sniffles! We bid you goodnight, young sir.”

And just like that we all stood and Mr. Lincoln guided his ‘nieces’ away from young Philip Smith, who tipped his hat to us.

“That was bloody embarrassing.” Mina stated quietly after we put some distance between her former self and us. “Embarrassing, but bloody brilliant, Mr. Lincoln! Thank you.”

“It was the only viable solution, Miss Mina, but you are very welcome.” Lincoln chuckled.

“No help from you, Empress! I hope you are proud of yourself- nearly choking on your smugness!” Mina growled at me.

“Yes, Alexandra, what caused you such affliction?” Mary Lincoln asked.

“Stanton Douglas and your wife Dolly.” I couldn’t contain my giggling. “You’re Secretary of War, swarn political rival, and President James Madison’s wife, sir?” I continued to giggle. “It all came out so effortlessly!”

“Like I said before, Alexandra, I’m a politician!”

Emily tapped my shoulder.

“Amy-Jo? Really Alex, do I look like an Amy-Jo?”

“I’m definitely not a politician, sis. Let’s find a nice quiet place for departure, shall we?”

 
 
0012hrs, The Presidential Mansion, Washington DC, January 12th, 1865
 
 

“The dampening shield is back up, Alex.” Jack informed me as we arrived back in the Lincolns’ bedroom mere minutes after we had left.

“Thanks, Jack. It’s safe to talk now.” I said as I released the Lincoln’s hands.

“That was a very informative trip, Alexandra. It makes our work here all the more worthwhile. To have actually witnessed how great this republic becomes in the coming years! What say you, Mrs. Lincoln?” Abraham Lincoln seemed excited, but a bit teary eyed.

“Well, Mr. Lincoln, I think women’s fashions near the turn of next century have improved somewhat from today, but improvements still need to be made. The absence of a hoop is a major improvement though. Tell me, Empress, do they not make lower heels in the eighteen-nineties?” Mary Lincoln took the opportunity to voice her complaint- one we pretty much all shared.

“I’m not sure, ma’am, as I said before I relied on Mina’s experience having lived through that period. As you have seen firsthand, she was present at the Columbian Exposition in her previous handsome form.”

“I was an outright tosser.” Mina grumbled.

“That’s not true, Highness, I thought you were handsome.” Jamie interjected sincerely.

“I would have gone out with you, Mina!” Corrine added with a giggle.

“Well I thought him to be a little rude! Mina, before your Mahanilui did you always think of women in that capacity?” Jack said seriously. I could see her scanning Mina even now.

Without so much as a yes or no, Mina flushed bright crimson.

That conveyed the obvious answer quite well!

“Mrs. Lincoln, I’m afraid I must ask you to remove the dress. We cannot allow you to keep it- for obvious reasons.” I told her, trying to change the subject. “Corrine can again assist you. I’m sure you would rather apply your own makeup in the morning and not wage war against Corrine’s masterful art work?”

Mary nodded hesitantly and Corrine went to work, helping her back into her nightdress.

“Alexandra, would it be too much to ask to see some of your time as Mrs. Lincoln has undoubtedly done earlier?” Lincoln asked in curiosity as he began to remove his suit coat.

The time had come!

With much regret I gave the answer to the appalling question I had foreseen almost a month ago.

“I think I have a little time for a quick spin around the twentieth century, sir. Take my hand and be amazed.” I said with little excitement as I offered him my right hand and waited for Mina’s groan at my dramatics.

“Mrs. Lincoln, would you mind if this vibrant young lady were to escort me singularly through time?”

“Just be back by 12:30, Mr. Lincoln!” She giggled as she eyed the mantle clock with a devious smile.

“Just ten minutes for a tour? Why, we spent more time at water stops on the train to Washington!” He complained.

“I could have him back in a minute, ma’am, if that would better please you. I know this certain blonde that might have some pull when it comes to time? That reminds me. Corrine could you…um…darken my hair again, please?”

Two minutes later President Lincoln and I were again holding hands.

“We’ll be right back.” I said to everyone just before phasing the two of us out.

Lincoln’s bedroom became the bright, sunlit submarine pier just outside of CINCPAC headquarters at Pearl Harbor. Sand Dollar sat tied up, calmly awaiting her crew. Several larger ships sat anchored out in the Loch behind her.

“Amazing! This is what developed out of the Ironclads, Alexandra?” Lincoln asked in astonishment.

“These are just some of the modern designs for the United States Navy, sir, but this…this is my boat…My Sand Dollar. She’s what we call a submarine. She’s capable of cruising at a depth of five hundred feet for almost eleven hours.”

“A direct descendant of the Confederate Hunley! I’ve had secret briefs about this type of vessel, Alexandra. My we go aboard?”

“Of course, sir, but I must warn you that the compartments may be a little cramped for a man of your stature. Please keep your head down and I will transport us into the pressure hull.”

“Can’t we walk across the gangway, Alexandra?”

“To enter the boat we would need to climb ladders, sir. For that we would need both our hands. You would be visible to the people of this time period and quite possibly shot on sight as a saboteur, sir. I can’t let that happen.”

“Point taken, Captain, lead on.”

The subdued light of Sand Dollar’s deserted Con replaced the sunny topside.

“Welcome aboard Sand Dollar, President Lincoln. This is what we call the Control Room. From here we pilot, dive, surface, and control weapons fire. I motioned for him to follow me forward.

“This is my office, rack, and washroom all wrapped into one, sir. I motioned into my quarters and kept moving forward.

“Alex, was this you with your parents?” His question caught me off guard. Turning around, Lincoln held the picture of Brian, Ma, Pa, and me…the old me, in his hand.

I nodded.

“It must be maddening at the best of times.” He said calmly, in a gentle tone.

“Not so much anymore, sir. The Mahanilui sees to it that you quickly grow accustom to your new body. Not to mention that I’ve lived like this for over five years in my travels.”

“But your calendar states it is May of 1944. I thought those memories Jacquelyn shared with us indicated you all went through this Mahanilui just two months ago?”

“Relatively speaking, sir, that is true, but you miss one nuance of time travel. I can spend an almost unlimited amount of time in one or more eras and still return to the very second I left- as was similar tonight in your bedroom.”

“Am I to believe that you have aged five years in two months, Alexandra? How can one so beautiful allow herself license to grow old so fast? It seems like a wretch’s deal with the devil!”

“An extended lifetime would definitely compensate for such discrepancies, sir.” I smiled and winked.

“And you are also gifted in that respect, I imagine?”

“Let’s just say that the Empress and her sisters will see a few centuries pass before finally seeking rest, Mr. Lincoln.” The statement made me wince slightly and I looked to the deck.

Lincoln looked to the floor momentarily as if finally understanding why my expression took on such sadness so often in our conversations.

He remained silent as we exited the forward hatch into the forward torpedo compartment.

“These are our main means of protection, sir. Each torpedo carries enough explosive to break the spine of any modern ship…or rip a hole large enough to sink her. Sand Dollar has six confirmed kills to her credit in the six weeks since she was commissioned.”

“Mostly due to her commander, I suspect, Alexandra?”

“I couldn’t have done it without my crew, sir. Without them, I’m useless.” I looked down not wanting to hear what I knew was coming next.

“Spoken like a true leader, Captain, yet I sense you are fighting some inner turmoil, a war against yourself. Can we not speak openly of this, my dear? You have shown me so much today- so much of the future. One might suspect that these actions are not just coincidence, but have ulterior motive, such as to delay the inevitable?”

The calm, gentle demeanor this man gave me proved impossibly hard to resist.

I broke down and began crying. I hated myself for having to do this!

“I see.” He said after holding me to his shoulder for a few moments. “My fate…it has fallen to you, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space?”

My tears flowed a little faster and I felt him gently tighten his hold on me.

“So my days are numbered then.” He spoke quietly. “Pray, Empress will it be quick and painless?”

I said nothing, only nodded once.

From the tugging on my hair, I pictured Lincoln raising his head to the heavens searching for divine guidance. We stayed motionless for several minutes as I continued to cry on Abraham Lincoln’s shoulder.

“You have found no other alternative that preserves the union and guarantees my existence?”

“None yet, I’m afraid.” I sniffed. “There are a few that might do both, but would still fracture the timeline into another dimension entirely. From there on this timeline will plummet from one dimension to another until finally becoming too fragmented to support its own reality and collapse.” I managed to explain before grief in what I had to do overcame me once more.

It took everything I had to pull myself together enough to do what I had seen next.

“Mr. Lincoln, I need to show you something else…something important.”

“This certainly is turning out to be something of a Dickens novel, Alexandra! How could such a numbing duty fall to one so caring? Does God himself feel the need to punish you so cruelly?”

“We all must do our part, sir” I paused to wipe my eyes, “Even if that part seems ill-fitted to the candidate selected.”

“Wiser words have never been spoken.” Lincoln sighed heavily. “Shall we get started then, Alexandra? Show me what is to become of Abraham Lincoln so that I may decide the best path in assuring the reunification of this grand republic. Show me what might be should I remain among the breathing, Empress.”

“I cannot go to a dimension where the Empress does not exist, sir. I fear it would destabilize and collapse, killing scores of innocent beings throughout the galaxy.”

“Then do not go to such lengths, Alexandra. Show me, as Dickens put it, some tenderness, spirit.”

“Take my hand, sir.”

Sand Dollar’s forward torpedo room became the sunny pier front at Norfolk Naval Station. A huge gray ship stood tied up before our eyes.

“Where and when is this, Alexandra?”

“Norfolk Naval Station, sir…about 2009 I would guess.”

“And what manner of ship would this behemoth be?”

“This is what we call an Aircraft Carrier, sir; it carries several different kinds of airplanes…flying machines, and is capable of launching them anywhere in the world’s oceans. This particular ship is the USS Abraham Lincoln, sir.”

As if on cue several jet fighters screamed overhead- probably practicing formations.

I gently tugged at the President’s hand so that we could get a better look at his namesake.

Instantly we were standing on the Lincoln’s massive air operations deck. It seemed completely deserted and all too quiet.

“Where is the crew, Alexandra?” Lincoln asked as he looked around the great ship. “More over, where are the fluestacks? Something this size would surely have more than one boiler.”

“This Aircraft Carrier does not use wood, coal, or bunker oil, sir. It harnesses the power of the atom! I am told it only needs refueling every ten or so years.”

“What is an Atom, Alexandra?”

“It’s a little hard to explain, sir. Think of a reaction, like burning coal, only hot as the sun. The people of this time call it nuclear energy.”

“Extraordinary, Alexandra, but where is the crew?”

A single figure appeared in the island’s deck hatch. The woman, dressed in her work kakis clumsily staggered over to us while cautiously looking around her.

“Empress, Mr. President, please stay where you are.” My future self said in a pained voice when near enough. “I’ll come ta y’all.”

Allie seemed to shimmer a second as she apparently matched our phase.

She immediately fell awkwardly to one knee.

“Welcome to Norfolk, Empress!” She paused. “It is exactly 1205hrs July 10th, 2009.”

“I told you to stop that, sis.” I growled and rolled my eyes in annoyance.

“Welcome, Mr. President.” My future twin winced as she slowly, carefully, stood to attention and saluted.

Lincoln seemed flustered for a moment before saluting back and shaking her hand.

“An amazing vessel, Alexandra. I would like to see more, but I’m afraid I might be experiencing more afflictions to my skull if things become any more bizarre.”

“Why are you here, Alex?” I asked curiously.

“Why do you think, Alex?” She said in a tired, agonizing tone.

“That’s what I’m askin’ y’all! Why y’all here, Alex?”

“For you, hon.” Her voice took an exhausted, pleading tone now.

“Sorry?”

“I’m here ta help y’all help Mr. Lincoln, Alex.” She just about moaned!

I hadn’t noticed her hair turn gray, but it was now. When had the wrinkles appeared on her tired face?

“Ah don’t need no help! This is hard ‘nough as it is, Alex!” I growled back.

“Then why haven’t y’all told him yet?”

“Ah can’…Ah will! This is the hardest thing ah ever had ta do. Ah’m not ready.” I snapped.

“As long as ah been an off’cer, Ah known a day like ta’day would come, Alex. Ah know’d what must be done. It must be done now!”

Her hair was now white- her face…my face, ancient looking!

“Ladies?”

Alex, Ah cain’t do this! Ma job is ta perserve life, not ta play the Grim Reaper!” I cried as I wrapped my arm around her.

I felt only the slightest hint of a tingle between us.

I immediately pulled away from my ‘old future twin’.

“Why ya here and who’re ya?”

“Ladies?” Mr. Lincoln asked again, but suddenly looked between the two of us in shock of what I said.

“Ah’m you, Empress, but barely. Y’all delayin’ the en’evidible’s fracturin’ our timeline as w’speak. Ah’m y’all in twenty minutes time, Alex. As y’all have a’ready noticed our temporal bond has all but dis’peared. Y’all mus hurry and return this reality back on its proper path, Alex! Ah can only hold this here reality stationary for a few more minutes. Please Empress, ah beg y’all, continue the mission without further delay!” She pleaded, her eyes barely remaining open now.

I now noticed the dual trickles of blood from her nose. Did it take that much concentration to…?

It all made sense now- the lack of crewmen on the deck- the silence all around us instead of the usual wind, voices, and seagulls normally present on the massive deck! She…I had somehow managed to freeze time here in order to right what I had obviously failed to do the first time! I was here as a warning to myself and I was now paying the price for my initial procrastination- for my following my feelings!

“Thank you, Empress! I owe you for this!” I said quickly as I refocused on our next location.

She smiled carefully and nodded- her face, now many decades older than when she first appeared.

A large, dimly lit room appeared around us. At one end, a black cloth draped casket sat on an elevated platform several feet above the great room’s floor. Black cloth and matching crepe draped the walls around us- effectively hiding all windows and mirrors about the room- the depressing decorum only broken by sparsely placed white flowers and greenery. Above the coffin, supported on four ornate pillars, sat a domed, black cloth canopy. A white silk fluting around its base tried desperately to brighten both the room and the fifteen-foot tall catafalque. At the head, foot and sides of the casket stood an Honor Guard- twelve officers, eight representing the Army and four the Navy stood at attention and motionless.

“When is this, Alexandra? I recognize the East Room of the Mansion, but when?” Lincoln asked in a somber, but unsure voice.

“April 19th, 1865.” I replied just above a whisper. It was all I could muster given the tears filling my vision.

“Can I assume I know the esteemed gentleman before us, Alexandra?” Lincoln asked quietly as he nodded to the flower-decorated shrine. He swallowed hard.

I didn’t answer; instead I lowered my head and turned away as best I could without releasing my grasp of his hand.

“I see. It all makes sense now.” Lincoln nodded once before turning his attention to me. “I now understand how hard this was for you, child. Had I thought my end so close, I would have begun preparations earlier- though I cannot deny I received ample warnings.”

“No, you can’t!” My voice cracked as I turned back to face him in haste. “You can’t let it be known that you were forewarned- not to anyone! Not ever!” I lamented as I tried to sniff back more tears.

“It would change things that much?”

“Aye, sir!” I sniffed again, unsuccessfully trying to dry my eyes with my free hand.

Lincoln mulled things over a while.

“I want the whole story, Captain Alexandra Steinert!” Lincoln demanded, taking a large breath as he stiffened himself. “I think I deserve to know the circumstances of my own demise given this!” Lincoln said with calm authority as he motioned to the casket before us.

I felt his sympathetic, yet commanding eyes burn deep into my soul- waiting…demanding my reply- to hear the dread account of his personal endgame. Closing my tear filled eyes and taking a long breath, I began to relate the circumstances of his final hours.

“April 14th, 1865, President and Mrs. Lincoln attend the performance of the play ‘Our American Cousin’, a comedy I think, at Ford’s Theater. During the presentation an actor, John Wilkes Booth, gains access to your private box and places a single small caliber round through the back of your skull. I cannot relate to you the pain involved, but death comes at 0722hrs, April 15th, 1865 across the street in the Peterson House. The members of your cabinet and Mrs. Lincoln are in attendance as you expire.” I told him coldly as tears finally breached my tightly closed lids and cascaded down my already wet cheeks.

“And the war? Does it still rage on at this point?”

“No, six days prior General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General U.S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, though word of the cessation of hostilities won’t reach the frontier for another six months. Even then skirmishes occur throughout the country as Confederate soldiers refuse to believe or observe the armistice.”

“Thank you, Alexandra. I thank you for honoring me with the truth, Empress of Time and Space.” Lincoln bowed to me slightly.

I noticed a single tear run from his right eye and seek refuge in his beard.

That one, single tear hurt me more than I could ever describe- the pain millions of times worse than being kicked in the groin! What had I just done, I asked myself? How could I live with myself after completing such a morose task? Here I was, a simple submarine captain, telling my childhood hero, my most beloved historical figure, how he would die- all while standing in this makeshift funeral parlor! How had this…this appalling task fallen to me in the first place?

As I lowered my head in sorrow an unhindered barrage of tears exploded from my eyes and fell to the hall’s floor. I could almost hear them hit.

“Captain! Come look here quickly!” I heard through my continuing waterfall of tears.

Two Naval Officers keeping station in front of the coffin hurried over the few feet from their station to where we stood. Had I mistakenly rephased us in my despair?

“What is it, Lieutenant?” His fellow officer- a Captain- asked with concern as he approached.

“Sir, they just…they…they just appeared- just now,” the lieutenant exclaimed in fascination as he reached right through my leg to wipe whatever he spied off the floor with his gloved finger. He then looked up to the ceiling in confusion after looking curiously at his fingertip.

Mr. Lincoln and I stood frozen in place- afraid to even breathe, the only things still moving were my tears falling to the ground. Both of us followed the lieutenant’s hand to see what he had found.

“What do you have there, lieutenant?”

“Sir, its water! I don’t see where it’s coming from though.” He said as he touched the finger gently to his tongue. “It’s salty, sir! Just like…just like…” his eyes widened in recognition, “it tastes like tears!”

Both men wordlessly looked back to the casket- to their fallen leader peacefully awaiting his noonday funeral for a few solemn moments.

“It’s been said that even God weeps for a truly great man, son.” The ranking officer, an Army Major-General, said softly, observing them from his station at the head of the casket. “This proves the fact! Now please return to your posts knowing without a doubt that he’s being well taken care of.” The older man said solemnly.

“Aye, sir! All our prayers must have been heard.”

“Agreed.”

Both men turned and reverently returned to their positions.

“It is comforting to know that the people of this great nation shall not forget me, Alexandra. There have been times throughout my administration I suspected that not the case though!”

“Only a small minority will cause problems in the near future, sir, but as historians dig deeper into your presidency they will inevitably find many inaccuracies and conspiracies. One of which my sisters and I defused the evening before last- just before Mary’s charity ball.”

“What happened that night, Alexandra? I was not informed of any foiled conspiracies.”

“We arrived in Washington that evening in time to prevent two men from sneaking a time bomb into a storage room directly below the west ballroom, sir. I quickly dispatched the device to some place it would do no damage after Jamie talked some sense into the two would-be criminals.”

“I see. I am indebted to you, Empress.”

“You’re welcome, Mr. President. I only wish I were able to do more.” I paused to think and to wipe my eyes once again. I was endangering the mission by standing here in the redressed East Room. One emotional slip or for me to lose enough concentration and the world would learn of the Empress and her abilities. “We need to go somewhere safe, sir. Someplace we cannot be discovered.”

The air around us went dim- almost black- the only illumination provided by a single motionless sun some distance away.

The President immediately began looking around. Strangely, no fear appeared on his face- just confusion.

“This is my private realm, sir. I come here at times to contemplate my options and decide how to proceed. It is perfectly safe here, Mr. President.”

Lincoln nodded once and seemed on the verge of speaking before again looking around him.

“This place…it seems to be familiar somehow, Alexandra. Have I been here before?”

I was stunned by his question.

“Again, I’m not sure about that, sir. Maybe at some future time?”

“It seems I have none too much ‘future time’ remaining, Alexandra! Maybe some time in the past, though I struggle to remember such a meeting.” He thought a minute. “Maybe after I pass on, most honorable Empress of Space and Time?”

By all that was right, he knew! How could he know of our abysmal debate with President Truman?

I broke down and cried again.

Several minutes passed as I tried desperately to contain my emotions.

“I’m truly sorry, sir. This is turning out to be many times harder than I ever imagined.” I apologized to my guest through lingering tears.

Lincoln nodded, remaining quiet, but continued to scan his surroundings.

“Alexandra? What would happen if, say, Mary and I were to decline attendance to the comedy?”

I paused to seriously work that scenario.

“In two weeks time another explosion, much bigger than the one we intercepted, will succeed in killing not only you, but Mary, Tad, and Robert, along with your entire cabinet and many White House staff members- two of which hold special importance to me. Vice President Andrew Johnson will still succeed you, but at a greater disadvantage with the added death of your cabinet members and other high ranking officers. Without proper leadership and diminished confidence, the Confederacy reforms in the western territories as marauding vigilante militias. Another Civil War erupts in ten years time allowing Great Britain, France, and Spanish-backed Mexico easy inroads for conquest. Your blessed Grand Republic becomes forever divided between the three invading Monarchies. The United States of America ceases to exist as a viable nation and is written off into history as ‘The Great Failed Experiment for Democracy’. The people of North America suffer dramatically as the three Empires tear the former country apart, raping its resources and labor force. Another black plague consumes its downtrodden, beaten, population. Millions die.”

The images I beheld told of horrific, almost sadistic clashes between rival militias or militias and common townsfolk or just average people competing for food- for personal survival. How could we humans be so brutal?

It also revealed another disturbing consequence.

“And all this would be brought about with but one, small, innocent decision?”

“That is one of many scenarios I have seen should you choose to neglect your attendance, sir, yes.”

“What might happen if…“

“Sir, all alternate realities where your survival is paramount ultimately result in my nonexistence!” I interrupted brusquely, my voice straining to maintain a civil octave.

“Life in this and many other universes unravels unchecked, spiraling out of control to oblivion because the Empress of Time and Space remains an unrealized dream- not even a passing thought. Why, you might not even exist if I had some previous interaction with, say, your Grandfather, or Great-Grandfather.” I proposed emotionally.

“Please, sir, I beg of you, for all peoples near and far- for the lives of my sisters, your wife and sons, my children and Grandchildren, please promise me you will go to that theater!”

I broke down and cried once more.

“Alexandra, I did not mean to upset you anymore than I already have. I merely wanted to understand the extents for which I must make my sacrifice- to what degree the world would change if Abraham Lincoln were to survive- what dramatic twists destiny would enlist. I was unprepared for such wide-ranging consequences a single decision could set in motion.” Lincoln’s sad eyes begged me for forgiveness. “Tell me, child, what affliction did you…would you have suffered in twenty minutes time had we not returned?”

I again took a minute to compose myself and ineffectively wipe my eyes.

“I was there to remind me,” I pointed to myself, “that I had a job to do, sir. That the job was significantly more important than my personal feelings or self assigned doctrine to protect all life. Apparently, I found some way to pause time- to hold it in flux long enough that I would realize my mistake.”

“What mistake, Alexandra?”

“The mistake of letting you move forward unharmed as was my intention- to possibly change your future or cause me to change it because of my own selfishness. I had the chance to save my hero- my role model!” I paused briefly.

“The stress of holding that dimension in limbo for even that short period of time was physically killing me. Did you not notice the change in my appearance minute to minute, or the blood trickling from my nose and ears? I was causing irreparable damage to myself in order to remind me…remind me about the dangers of changing history for my own frivolous wants and desires! Every ounce of energy contained in my body was being discharged to hold that single moment for me to see my folly!”

Yet again I felt the stream of tears come.

“To care enough to willingly do whatever it takes to save someone’s life is hardly frivolous or wanton, Empress. It speaks volumes about your morality- your convictions- your humanity!”

I took a long cleansing breath.

“Don’t be so quick to sight my humanity, Mr. Lincoln. Remember that I am responsible for the deaths of hundreds of enemy sailors in the name of protecting this country. I’m not, and never will be a saint.”

“Nor will I, Alexandra, nor will I. Of that you can be assured. I must admit I’ve committed many unscrupulous deeds- none of which I’m proud of- as leader of this nation.”

He decided to change subjects. “You say you have Grandchildren? How can that be for someone of your youth, or is this just one more facet of the mysterious Empress?” A tense smile formed on his lips.

“As you see me presently, I am thirty-four total years old. By official accounting- as one normally would draw from my birthdate, I am twenty-eight. I will live approximately nine hundred and eighty-three years in total, but only four hundred and sixty by standard count at this point in time. By 1956, I will have three wonderful daughters- the youngest of which born on a distant, but similar planet many billions of miles away. My third granddaughter from that blessed off-world joining will succeed me as Empress despite her protests and outright reluctance.”

“You are an amazing woman, Alexandra. To be able to see one’s finite existence yet remain sane and humble…” Lincoln paused a second. “I can see why God has chosen you to be his emissary- the ‘Empress’- for you appear the only one capable of divining reason out of such chaos!”

“I’m not sure God had anything to do with it, Mr. President. An effort to save a doomed race in another universe brought about the mistake that changed me…changed us. Simply an unconsidered, miniscule detail, combined with an effort to better that race’s survival started this whole fantastic voyage called ‘The Empress of Time and Space’.”

“Yes, but someone had to provide the muse for such an endeavor. Why not the Almighty himself?”

Could Lincoln be right? Had I…we been manipulated- designed- by someone or something from the start? I mentally forced myself to nullify those proposed questions- I had no inclination to receive those answers from my gift!

“Mr. Lincoln, we have to get you home before Mary gets worried.” I changed the subject immediately.

“But for you, time has no authority, Alexandra.” Lincoln said calmly as he raised a questioning eyebrow to me- in essence calling my bluff.

“One part of my gift answers questions I propose as thought, sir.” I closed my eyes momentarily. “Some questions should remain unanswered and unsought.”

“Oh, to have such discipline! If given the power to see the results to such questions, I would hasten headlong into them without a moment’s thought, unconcerned as to their true meaning or effect, yet here you stand before me- the ultimate enigma! Tell me, Alexandra, how is it one so young as yourself could be so wise and prudent?”

“Mr. President, since becoming the ‘Empress’, I’ve literally had my physical identity stripped from me- lost everything I held dear- everything I’ve ever loved. I nearly lost my commission, my boat, my crew, my…my usefulness! Topping all that, I’ve almost lost my life several times!” I paused to compose myself- those memories again causing me pain.

“On the other hand, I’ve been given a miraculous gift and become part of a larger family- with a larger purpose! I’ve met my children and grandchildren and whole worlds of interesting people. I now have twin sisters through my unique gift that share my memories, thoughts, and desires. We help guide each other through our many adventures- adventures required to make sure time flows smoothly. Also, I’m able to share my many journeys across this and other universes and dimensions with my sisters and friends.” I smiled with those thoughts and memories.

“Given those extremes and experiences, along with the training and advice I’ve received from my mentor and instructor, Mina Smith, I have reason for prudence, critical reasoning and above all, an open mind, yet those are of minimal importance where concern and love are involved. Without love for the countless number of beings out there…“ I motioned to the blackness surrounding us, “without concern for their well being, I might as well relinquish my gift and allow time to fend for itself!”

“My dearest Alexandra, never relent in your quest to bring order to this existence! I fear without you- as you have previously emphasized- everyone and everything may not survive. Why risk…everything? Perhaps this is HIS way of testing your fortitude and determination. Perhaps my plight is HIS way of proving that you were destined to be his Empress of Time and Space all along.”

“Ah’m no damn D’tee, if that’s what y’all are m’plyin’! Ah want no parts a’ that!” I protested, allowing my drawl free reign over my words.

“No, dear lady!” Lincoln countered, “You are many levels above that! Lest you forget, the Gods and Goddesses of myth were self-centered, greed-driven beings intent on controlling mankind for their own selfish wants and desires! Not one of them would do what you have fervently set out to achieve! You are a human- a woman- one who has taken up the titanic challenge to right the wrongs where they develop using the gifts that God has freely given. You…your sisters…you all are the ultimate protectors of our…of simply everything, Alexandra!” He exclaimed with scholarly tact.

“So now y’all think us better than God? Abraham Lincoln, the ‘Great Emancipator’, declares the Sisters o’ Kili omnipotent?” I looked at this man- President Abraham Lincoln- flabbergasted by such insinuation! “We’re nothin’ o’ the sort, sir! We all’re normal womenfolk simply tryin’ to help keep things straight, nothin’ more!” I retorted, my drawl breaking its restraint once more.

“I will not debate with you, the facts of your crusade, my dear, but you and your sisterhood are precariously far from normal by every mortal definition of the term. Alexandra, for once in the history of everything we hold dear, you and your ‘Sisters of Kili’ have the pow…have the abilities to make a difference- to actually and truly help! Humility…you’re humanity is why I position you higher than the ancient deities! Without that to conduct your route I’d consider you no better!”

Lincoln’s eyes burned with confidence and authority. I found it hard to look away until his expression softened once more.

“Now, if you wouldn’t mind returning me to my lovely wife, I will face my destiny with strength, dignity, and an unbroken faith in the Almighty. I will honor all that you have shown me and sacrificed to preserve our Republic and all beings widespread. I move forward undeterred, knowing I am doing the right thing…for the right reasons, Empress. I bid you, Alexandra, please take me home.”

The space around us brightened and became the familiar bedchamber of President and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln.

I released my charge’s hand and greeted my waiting sisters with a solemn nod.

Jack, Emily, and Jamie stared at me with concern as Mr. Lincoln drew Mary into his outstretched arms.

“What is it, Abraham?” Mary asked, looking into her husband’s dour face.

“Nothing, Mrs. Lincoln. I am sincerely overwhelmed by what has been revealed to me.” He quickly reassured her, though he did not lie.

Corrine made a move to place her open hands to my face, but I silently shook my head and forced a smile, an indication that I was content with my present appearance- rough as it was.

From off to my right, Mina nodded her approval- her fragile, reserved smile reminding me that certain details of this mission still required attention.

“Mrs. Lincoln, I hope this not too abrupt, but we must depart in the morning. Certain matters in our own time demand our physical attendance.” I announced after allowing the couple some time to themselves.

“So suddenly, Alexandra? Might I persuade you all to attend the morning meal with us before taking your leave? The cook has already been informed of such.” Mrs. Lincoln urged.

‘It’s not good to travel on an empty stomach, Cap.’ Jack thought to me.

I glanced around the room to see my sisters and Mrs. Lincoln giggling and the President smiling at me.

Apparently, my First Officer has overruled me. We would be happy to attend breakfast with you and the President, ma’am. I only request that afterwards we be allowed to return to my room in order to take our leave privately.”

“Of course, Alexandra, but Mr. Lincoln and I will no less accompany you. I have special parting gifts for each one of you and shall be very displeased if you were to deny them.” She warned.

“Gifts are not required ma’am, but we will honor your wishes. Thank you. My sisters and I will now take our leave for the night. Good night, Mr. President. Ma’am.”

I quickly motioned for my companions to take my outstretched hands and our surroundings changed once more.

“You look awful, Alex! How many days did you go without sleep this time?” Emily asked, using her gift to scan my health.

“It was a short trip, sis, only a few hours- honest.”

“So how did it go, Alex? Will he still go to Ford’s Theater?” Jack asked impatiently.

“Everything is as it should be, Jacquelyn. Rest assured the Empress has completed her dreadful task.”

“I’m feeling really tired right now so, if you don’t mind, Emily and I will take you and Jack back to your room, Mina, then we’ll return to ours for the night. I thank you all for helping me set history straight. Good night, Corrine and Jamie.” I said just before another bedroom appeared around us.

“You performed admirably, given the vile nature of the task, Alexandra.” Mina said as she pulled me into a tight hug. She seemed surprised when I failed to return the embrace.

“I’m sorry, Mina, but I’m extremely tired. I’m glad I performed to your expectations.” I said half-heartedly as I released her but kept hold of my sister’s hand.

Emily and I were now in our private bedchamber.

“Care to confide in your sister, Alex? I can see that this has really worn you down. I can’t begin to understand the extreme pressure you’ve been under. So, you want to talk about it?”

“After I do one last thing, Emily. I need to do just one…this one last thing.”

She nodded in understanding, released my hand, and took a step back.

The East Room reappeared around me- the shrine to the newly fallen president directly before me. I stood, staring at it for untold minutes, my tears flowing freely as I thought of the sacrifice this man made on my account so that history could progress smoothly- of the deep remorse I felt having to do this at all!

“Captain! It’s happening again!” I heard a voice say.

“Stay your post, lieutenant,” another warned!

I commanded my uniform to change into my dress whites and took position, kneeling directly on the floor before the ceremonial platform holding the presidential casket. It seemed the right thing to do. A strange shiver raced through me, though I paid it no attention.

“Could y’all please make sure it ain’t too painful? He’s a noble man, but like the rest of us, he has his demons and sins.” I asked as my tears began to flow heavier once more. I began again, this time a little louder. “Lord, I pray you never again bestow on me the charge you bequeathed of me today for I fear I shall fail miserably in its management and implementation! Please guard over him and comfort his widow, Mary, and their sons, Robert and Thomas.”

Standing slowly, I wiped my eyes best as I could and returned to our room- to my sister, Emily.

 
 
0112hrs, The East Room, President’s Mansion, Washington DC, April 19th, 1865
 
 

“Captain! In front of the coffin! Look!”

“I said stay your post, Lieuten…By the Great and Powerful Almighty!”

“You see her too, General?”

“How can I dismiss that stunning apparition surrounded by such a brilliant white splendor?”

“Who is she, sir?”

“I would assume an Angel from on High!”

“She’s saying something! Can you make it out?”

“Not with you interrupting!”

“Lord, I pray you never again bestow on me the charge you bequeathed of me today for I fear I shall fail miserably in its management and implementation! Please guard over him and comfort his widow, Mary, and their sons, Robert and Thomas.”

“She’s praying for him! An Angel, praying for our fallen president!”

“The Angel is weeping! Look, sir, she’s wiping her eyes! Those were real heavenly tears! I touched real angelic tears! Sir, she’s so beautiful…she…she’s gone! Sh…sh…she just vanished! Did you see that? We have to report this immediately!”

“You will do nothing of the kind, lieutenant! Honor Guard, what you have just bore witness to did not happen! A report will stand submission, but what the report will officially state is only that an unusual phenomenon of unknown origin and composition presented itself prior to President Lincoln’s funeral and viewing at the Capital. Let our descendents seek their own conclusions.”

“Aye!” The honor guard chorused in agreement.



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
53 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 25920 words long.