South of Bikini 2: E4- Good from Despair

With her primary mission complete, Alex takes care of some ‘housekeeping’ while in Federal Period Washington City.


Copyright 2008 R.G.Beyer


 
 


South of Bikini:

Onward

 

Episode 4

 
 
“Good from Despair”


 
 

0013hrs, The Presidential Mansion, Washington DC, January 12th, 1865

 
 

“Why are you in your whites, sis?”

“I just needed to do something, Emily. We need to get some rest.” I said as my dress whites quickly changed and shifted into my favorite pink nightgown. I wiped my eyes a few more times.

“You went to pay your respects!”

“After what I did to him…I think he deserves that, don’t you?”

“But he’s not gone yet, Alex. We just finished talking to him a few minutes ago.”

“I had to, Emily! I just effectively persuaded a man to give up his life to save the country he loves! I feel like I’ve become the Grim Reaper! Why did I have to do this? Why must I be tested like this?”

“You’re the only one capable of doing this and… wait, who’s testing you, Alex?”

“The President is convinced that the man upstairs is testing me- that it’s his way of trying to convince me that he chose me…chose all of us for a reason.”

“Something like that would be entirely out of the ordinary for us then, right sis?” Emily raised an eyebrow.

“I guess it could be in the realm of belief…given our gifts.”

“Ya, believable, I guess- especially if we knew someone that could transcend time and dimension, huh? Or someone that could carry off a thousand ton nuclear submarine with only her mind.”

‘Hey!’ Jack’s voice rang through our heads.

“Okay, point taken, sis. So it wouldn’t be so miraculous as much as improbable.”

“Entirely plausible would be what I’d call it, Alex.” Emily smiled at me.

“So what’s on tap after we leave tomorrow morning?” She quickly changed the subject seeing my somber glare.

“We return to Sand Dollar five minutes after we initially left. That’s what I promised Uncle Rick.”

“I thought this mission was to take twelve days, not four?”

“So I left plenty of room for mistakes and retries! I also postponed Vicksburg until a later date- ah kinda had it with the federal period for a while.” I said as I rubbed my sore ribcage as example.

Emily nodded her understanding.

“I knew going into this that things were going to be difficult so we’re just going back to Sand Dollar- to assume our normal, everyday lives.”

“No, I mean what adventures will the Empress embark on and when, silly?”

“Oh.” I paused. “We make right our scout mother’s seemingly unalterable plight.”

“You found a way to save her! That’s wonderful, Alex!” Emily said, overjoyed. She wrapped her arms around me and kissed my cheek. “Has she been able to envision it?”

“I haven’t told anyone yet- isn’t that right, Jack?” I said into the air.

‘Certainly not me! Not that I can remember! She’s still with us in ‘52, Alex.’

A huge smile filled Emily’s face.
 
 

“It’s 6AM. Liz and Sarah will be here any second, Alex. We better get our circus tents on. I think today the blue one with black trim should do.”

“I’m wearing the red and black one today! I feel like being a bitchy harlot!” I stated, as I began drawing large volumes of air to and from my lungs in preparation to have my middle crushed.

“We aren’t going to be stuck here for another week are we?” Emily asked seriously.

“What? No! I just meant that I’m still melancholy! This hasn’t been one of my happier ventures, Emily!”

“Hey, I’m here for ya, sis. You know that.”

“I know, Em, I’ll try to keep a positive outlook on things today.”

“I’ll hold y’all to that, Alex Steinert! Now, let’s get dressed before our chambermaids arrive.”
 
 

At precisely 0615hrs, the now familiar knock, the one heard these last three mornings without fail, came at our door.

“Come on in girls.” Emily invited just as my Reilly suit was finishing its task of severely constricting my midsection.

“Um…Good morning, Alex. Good morning, Emily. Did you both sleep well?” Liz asked as they both entered the room. I turned around to notice two questioning faces staring at me. Had they witnessed my clothing as it completed its change?

“I confess it has been hard to acquire proper rest while not moving these last three nights. I fear it shall require many more nights after returning home to Hartford, Liz.” I told the girls with a slight smile. That seemed to reassure them as both faces took on the normally pleasant, contented smiles we’d seen every morning.

“We’re sorry to hear that, ma’am.” Sarah said, a little discouraged by my reply. “Mrs. Lincoln required that we give you the best bed in the Mansion. Liz, she said, I want you to treat Alexandra like an Empress- a true woman of royalty!” She paused and blushed after doing a fair imitation of Mary Lincoln.

Emily let a snicker escape her lips. I gave my sister a sideways glare.

“Sarah and I are sad you’ll be leaving us today, Alex. You, Emily, and your cousins have been leagues better than any past guests here and we would be more than happy to serve you when next you visit.”

“Why thank you, girls. It’s been a real honor staying here with the President, and you two have been wonderful- in fact, everyone here has been simply marvelous! I’m sure we’ll think back fondly on these last few days.” I smiled the best I could, given what I had just done five hours prior.

“Miss Alex, may I inquire about your cousin, Jacquelyn? I pray I do not overstep my station with this.” Sarah lowered her gaze and blushed a bit.

“What about Jack, hun?”

“She…” Sarah stopped abruptly. What I could see of her ashen face as she shied away told me this was embarrassing for her.

“She what, hun?” I pressed.

“She…she gives me a pain in my head anytime I’m closer than a few rooms from her, Miss Alex!”

Emily stifled another laugh with her hand.

“She does that quiet often to us as well, hun.” I giggled with a wry smile.

‘Thanks, Alex! It’s so nice to be wanted!’ Jack thought to me sarcastically.

I noticed that Sarah quickly reached for her forehead and cringed.

‘Jack, I think Sarah can hear you.’ I thought back to her. ‘Let’s try something. I’ll ask a question and you think the answer to me.’

‘Aye.’

“Sarah dear, May I try a little experiment?”

“An experiment? What’s that?”

“I have an idea why you might feel the way you do around Jack. I would like to ask you a few questions. Don’t be afraid to say whatever pops into your head, okay?”

“You want to test me, ma’am?”

“Yes, hun, it shouldn’t hurt though. Can I try?”

Sarah looked at her friend, Liz, who nodded her approval. “Alright, Miss Alex.” She shyly agreed.

“Alright, here goes, but I want only honest answers…from up here,” I touched my forehead a few times, “no matter how strange they might sound.”

Both girls nodded.

“Okay. Can you tell me what year I was born, hun?” I asked.

‘1916.’ I heard Jack answer.

“1916, Miss Alexandra.” She immediately answered then closed her eyes and shook her head in confusion. “That is impossible, though! It is the year of our Lord 1865, you shouldn’t have been born yet if that were true.” She quickly reasoned.

I smiled.

“Tell me, Sarah, why would you say I was born into this world fifty-one years from today when clearly I’m here now?”

‘Because she’s a witch!’

‘Jack!’

Sarah’s eyes widened as quickly as her complexion drained! She raised her head and stared at me in fear.

“Tell me Sarah, what did you hear that caused such a harsh response?”

She looked at her friend and fellow maid then looked back at me, still in horror.

“Y…y…y…yyyyyou’re a…a…a…wwwwwitch?” She swallowed hard. Liz immediately followed suit hearing those words.

“And who told you such a despicable lie, hun?” I asked as I looked in the direction of Jack’s room.

‘Jacquelyn.’

“Miss Jacquelyn, ma’am.”

I thought the girl was going to pass out!

“Forgive me ma’am, I should not have bothered you or your cousins!” She turned to leave, snagging her companion Liz as she went.

‘Jack, the door if you please?’ I thought with a slight laugh.

The maids’ attempt to exit our room failed as Sarah couldn’t get the knob to turn. She was now visibly shaking- sheer terror filled her face.

‘I need Jamie over here now, Jack! Better yet, have everyone come over.”

‘Aye, Cap. Be over in a sec.’

Our two new guests had turned and were now facing us- tears streaming down their faces, trying in vain to become part of the door they had just tried unsuccessfully to open. ‘Deer in the headlights’ my future twin had called the reaction.

“Emily, are they okay?” I asked, not diverting my eyes from the two teenagers.

“Heart rate is twice normal, Alex, but they’re okay. I’ll keep an eye on them.”

A knock sounded at our door.

“Girls, we have guests, so could you kindly peel yourselves off the door so our cousins can come in?” I smiled nervously. “I promise we mean you no harm whatsoever!”

I raised my hand and gestured for them to move farther into the room as Emily and I, in turn backed away.

Slowly the two girls moved far enough for the door to swing open. Jack, Mina, Jamie and Corrine entered single file and closed the door behind them.

“Really, Empress, must you continually frighten the indigenous population?” Mina shook her head as she spoke.

“Y…y…yyyyou…” Sarah choked out quietly.

“I’m what, hun? Speak up, I won’t bite.”

“Y…y…yyyyou…yyyyou really…really are an…an Empress?”

“So my sisters claim, but I assure you both that we are not witches…not in any way, shape, or form, girls.”

Alex, Liz is about to pass out, better go easy.” Emily warned.

“Jamie, they both need to calm down.” I said, looking to her.

“Okay, Alex. Girls,” Jamie looked directly at the two quivering teens, “I really need you to calm down. The Empress has no intentions of harming either one of you!”

The fear drained from the two teenaged faces and the girls’ eye’s frantically looked around at us for the reason.

“That’s better. Girls, I have no reason to hurt either of you, nor am I intent on harming anyone else. Sarah,” I looked directly at her, “I believe you asked me why Jack here causes you pain when near? I am merely providing the answer. Would you like to know that answer?” I asked as I smiled.

The girl nodded once, but remained silent and stationary.

“Okay. Jack is what we call a telepath- a person who can read someone’s thoughts and even talk to them in their mind.” I paused to see if they understood. “I believe that you have a similar gift, Sarah. I’m also sure that Liz can hear you in her mind as well… that you two can talk to each other. Am I corrct?”

Both slowly gave a nod.

“Good, that means that everyone in this room has special gifts.”

I slowly approached the two teens and gently put my hand on Sarah’s shoulder.

She flinched sharply at my touch.

“Please relax, hun, I only want to offer you two a seat on the bed, so if you would do so, I can continue with my explanation.”

With a look of distrust, both girls slowly, cautiously, sat themselves on the bed.

“Girls,” I began, “we are travelers. Not the usual kind that you would normally expect though. Sarah, the date of my birth that you heard in your mind is indeed correct. I was born August 7th, 1916. You see, where Jack has the gift of reading minds, I have the gift of travel…time travel.”

“Y…y…yyyyou…aren’t…wwwwitches?” Liz bravely inquired.

“Hardly!” I chuckled, “Though in certain cultures and time periods I could see how our gifts would be misinterpreted- just as you have misinterpreted us.

“Alex, why are we revealing ourselves to these two?” Corrine asked in confusion.

“I’m going to let Sarah tell you for herself. Sarah, would you care to share with us your last name, hun?”

The girl’s eyes now started to sequence around to each of us one at a time. “GGGGoode. S…S…SSSSSSarah G…G…GGGGGGoode.” She stuttered out.

“Nooo! But I thought Sarah Goode lived…” Corrine blurted out before I stopped her.

“An ancestor, Corrine. Isn’t that right, hun?”

Sarah nodded.

“She has been told that she is named after a relative who lived in Massachusetts two hundred years ago, ma’am.” Liz again gallantly spoke for her friend.

“She seems to have also inherited the family gift, Liz.” I said as I tried to lean over and look in the girl’s eyes. The tight confinement of my corset and sheer volume of my dress made even half the distance impossible. I silently cursed this era’s styles as I stood back up!

“Do you mind if I change into something a little less…confining, girls?” I paused just after I brought my HUD online. “Now, what you are about to see may frighten you, but in no way is it any more magic than the telegraph.”

I selected my denim jeans, a pink short-sleeved ‘T’, bra, bikini britches, pink sneakers, and socks and immediately felt relief as my clothing changed.

“Wow! That feels much better!”

“Alex, we’re losing them.”

“Jamie…”

“I got it, Alex. Girls, you really should stay with us. Alex has more to tell you, right skipper?”

I nodded.

Again a sober expression appeared on the girls’ faces. Both scanned me from head to toe several times.

“How…how did you do that?” This time Sarah herself asked the question.

“This is what we wear where we come from, girls- well, not exactly where WE come from, but close.” I looked to the four corners of the room. We also have technology…machines…that allow our clothes to transform into almost any garment we choose. There is nothing magical about it. Here, feel for yourselves.” I leaned in close and allowed them to touch my jeans and blouse.

“It feels like cotton, but softer!” Liz exclaimed after cautiously extending her hand. Sarah then brought her fingers close to feel.

“Alex, a word with you in private, please?” Emily quietly asked for my attention.

“Excuse us for a minute, ladies.”

Emily and I walked over to the window and looked out over the south lawn and its beautifully groomed gardens.

“Alex, Liz has the start of a cancerous melanoma on her right forearm and left clavicle…collar bone. She has a few years at best.” Emily sadly whispered, trying not to move her lips.

“Corrine can handle it, sis.”

“I know that, but there’s more. Alex, both girls are in an early stage of Tuberculosis.” Her tone told me exactly how serious she was.

I consulted my gift and gave Emily a wink. She immediately smiled.

“Jack, do we still have the extra Reilly suit?” I asked as we stepped in front of the two, seated girls. I began critically assessing them.

“As a matter of fact, Alex, we have two. You want me to get them?”

“No, I’ll just pop on over.” I said nonchalantly just before phasing out.

Fetching the two garments and accompanying shoes, I purposely returned to a different location- behind our bed.

“Here we are.” I said as I rephased.

Both girls jumped high enough to make the bed frame groan and squeak loudly.

“Now I’d like you girls to put these on so I can take you on a little trip. My sister, Emily, will come along just to make sure I don’t cook you both for dinner, my pretties!” I cackled the last line.

“Alexandra! You’re frightening the poor girls again!” Mina chided. “Ladies, I’d change into the proffered clothing as quickly as humanly possible- before the Empress gets even more theatrical!”

Neither girl moved a muscle.

“Perhaps you are shy and require privacy? Ladies, please turn around so that Sarah and Elisabeth may redress in peace.” Mina suggested in a motherly tone. She looked over her shoulder. “You may proceed, my dears.”

After a few minutes, and with Emily’s and my help, Sarah and Liz were ready for their first experience with a Reilly suit. Both suits had been configured as period dresses, foundations, and footwear.

‘Jack, I want Sarah dressed for 2028- something more befitting a seventeen year-old of the time.’ I thought to her.

Jack nodded her acknowledgement while I concentrated on Liz’s outfit.

“Liz, do you like what I have on?” I asked, motioning to my clothing.

She nodded very, very slowly.

“Then please stand up on your tiptoes. Don’t be afraid, hun, it won’t hurt.”

I placed my hand on her shoulder and made the selection from my HUD.

A look of surprise flashed to her face as her clothing shifted and changed.

She now wore dark blue, denim jeans like mine, but her ‘T’ was a light blue and matched her bra, britches, and sneakers.

“You can put your heels on the ground now. How do you like?”

Liz was too busy examining every inch of her new outfit to reply, Sarah, likewise appeared fascinated.

“Ladies? When y’all are ready?” I said, looking to my ‘cousins’.

“I thought just you and Emily were going, Alex?” Jamie asked.

“You can stay here if you like. We’ll be right back.”

Everyone took hands after converting their Reilly suits to twenty-first century styles. Emily and I put Liz and Sarah between us.

“Won’t we be missed, Miss Alex? If we are not found at our assigned tasks we shall be punished and removed from our service at the mansion.” Sarah asked, worried.

“Trust me, honey; no one will even know you’re missing.” I smiled.

“Where are we to go looking like this? We cannot possibly leave the room, ma’am.” Liz added. “We would surely be discovered.”

I simply smiled at her then looked around my group to ensure all hands were held.

Our sunlit room became the sundrenched swimming pool area at Emily and Spencer’s condominium complex. Except for my future self and two daughters the place was completely deserted.

I rephased us.

“About time you got here, sis! What took so long?” Allie crossed her arms in mock annoyance.

Cassie and Sam dropped to one knee in unison.

“Greetings, Empress of Space and Time! It is 1100hrs, July 11th, 2028.” They said in harmony.

I pointed an angry finger to them. “Stop that this instant! You know how much I hate that!”

“Yes, Empress!” They harmonized again with devious smiles.

I rolled my eyes- both of me.

“Sarah and Elisabeth, we welcome you to the year 2028. I hope I have not frightened you too terribly.” Allie said as she took her position beside me and tilted her head in my direction.

“Sister, it is good to see you again! I trust you have recovered from your ordeal?” She asked as she wrapped her arms around me.

The now familiar tingle passed between us.

“You know the answer to that, Alex.”

“Is this real? Are we here in…in the future?” Liz asked with astonishment as she continuously looked around.

“It’s only the future for y’all, hun, my daughters and I call this time our home.”

“But you and…”

“Ya hun, we’re the same person, only ninety years apart. Is that any stranger than traveling through time though?”

A car drove up the street outside the pool’s perimeter fence. Both girls eyed the strange contraption until it was out of sight.

“It’s called an automobile, ladies- a car for short. It’s just one of many ways we get around in the twenty-first century.”

“Why do you refer to us as ladies? We are of no wealth or title.” Liz wondered.

“No, but you are more special than you know, girls!” I informed them. “Would you care to try the pool, the water should be perfect?”

“You bathe outside…in public… here?” Sarah seemed shocked.

“We wear clothing, silly girl- just not that much. My daughters Samantha and Cassandra will take you into the dressing room and help with your bathing suits.” Allie instructed.

“We must decline the generous offer if allowed, ma’am. The water appears too deep for our tastes. Our thanks though.” Liz refused politely.

“I knew you would say that.” Allie said calmly as she suddenly pulled Sarah’s top over her head.

We all gasped at what was revealed!

“My word! How did you acquire so many scars, child?” Mina gasped in disgust.

The surprised teen made every effort to cover her top. Allie stood back with her arms crossed in front of her waiting for Mina’s question to be answered.

“Before I first arrived at the Mansion, I…I required…dis…discipline, Miss Mina.” Sarah finally answered timidly with a crimson face.

“Some discipline! Looks more like torture!” Jack commented, as the air around us suddenly smelled sweet with ozone.

“Jack, you’ll get your chance. Back down, please.” Allie and I calmly said together.

Our two guests stared first at Allie and me then at Jack.

Liz pointed at Jack. “You sweetened the air? How?”

“Tell me who did this to her, sweetie, and I’ll show you exactly how I use my gift! When we return to your time, and when we find the bastard!” Jack promised the girl, in a very threatening tone.

But he will hurt you too, Miss Jacquelyn! If… you can find him…her father. We have not seen trace of him since giving Sarah up as recompense for a debt owed one of the mansion’s groundskeepers.”

“You were collateral for a bet?” Cassie spit out incredulously. “Mom, I want to go back with you! I want to have a serious talk with Mr. Lincoln about his apparently narrow ideas on slavery!”

“Oh please no! I wish not to involve our president in this matter! My arrival at the mansion predates him and Mrs. Lincoln! I was all of eight when Mrs. Pierce’s chambermaid took pity, gave me a home, and taught me my duties. Liz and I became friends my first day there. We’ve been like sisters since.”

“Cassie, why don’t you and Sam take Sarah and Liz to the showers and help them into they’re swim suits. I need to consult with your aunts on a couple matters.” Allie asked.

“Come on you two, we won’t bite!” Cassie stated as she picked up a small cloth bag and motioned for our two guests to follow. “Hard.” She casually added with a laugh. Sam followed behind in case either girl changed her mind.

I waited a minute before turning to Jack.

“You sure you can handle both of them Jack, teenagers can be difficult?”

“What are you talking about, Alex?”

“Sis, Joss doesn’t know yet. Wait till Jacki gets here. And you better start calling me Alex!”

“Sorry, sis, I got ahead of myself. Okay, ladies, you heard me, since we’re the travelers, we change our names. You know the drill.”

“That’s not fair, skip! I just got comfortable calling you Alex, now I have to call you Allie?”

“Sorry, Jane, but that’s what we agreed to.”

“I hate that name! I like Jamie better!” She complained.

“Hey you picked the name, hun. Carri, when the girls come back casually take care of those scars on Sarah’s back. Jack will then relay the locations on Liz that Emily would like you to heal.”

“What else is wrong with her, Alex…I mean, Allie?”

“She has an early form of skin cancer developing in two locations, Carri, among other more severe things.” Emily answered in her professional voice.

Five familiar faces appeared at the gate to the pool area.

“It’s about time you got here Brandon. Allie and I have been wondering when you’d show.”

“Don’t blame dad for being late, mom. I was the one dragging my feet. I’m not entirely thrilled about this- not one bit!” Young Alexander said in defense of his Pa.

Alex Covington looked at me. “He’s starting to hone the family gift, sis. He saw that he would meet her today- can’t see why though. He still needs to work on using his little mental friend.” She winked as she chuckled.

“He’ll get it soon enough. Jacki,” I reached out and pulled her into a good tight hug. “You sure you want to do this? I see some tough road ahead.”

“Allie, I missed so much not staying on Terra to raise Connie. At least I can get to do some of that with them- plus, they need a good home and a proper education. I think I can handle the occasional eruptions.” She smiled and winked once. “Besides, Randi already has official histories and documentation prepared for them.”

“As long as y’all are sure, Jack.”

Amelia had immediately greeted her twin, Emily Rosen, and her husband Spencer. Now we switched and I eagerly greeted Emily in a similar manner. James and Alex wondered off to the far end of the pool and took up residence on a couple lounge chairs- probably to talk about the latest hologames or such. Neither man seemed very interested in attending our little, private pool party.

I had a strong suspicion that would soon change.

“So I take it Alex gave you the specifics?”

“TB is easily curable these days, sis. Do we really need to offer them the Kili water?”

“If the future is to work out properly, yes. Wait until you see this, Em.” I smiled brightly.

“I’ve already seen what happens from a medical perspective, you know. I just thought the Mahanilui a bit drastic of a cure, but you’re the Empress, sis.”

“Well, I for one can’t wait to see what develops, Allie.” Spencer Rosen said excitedly as we exchanged a tight hug and a quick kiss of each other’s cheek.

“I thought you might, Spencer. Does James have any idea yet?”

“We don’t really know. If he’s seen anything it’s that he has a new friend to play games with. Allie, he hasn’t been real keen on developing or using his gift- I mean the boy’s in his seventies, I know he knows how to use them.” Emily said in exasperation.

“He’ll start to use them after today.” I winked to my sister and her husband.

“I’ll second that, sis.” Alex Covington said as she put a hand on my shoulder and nodded to the bathhouse.

The overall result of modern clothing was spectacular! Cassie escorted Liz out first followed by Sam with Sarah. Liz wore a black one-piece racer with white piping and looked amazingly fit.

Sarah wore the same style swimwear only in red with white piping. Both swimsuits tied behind the neck of the wearer.

Our Federal period teenagers looked very attractive in twenty-first century swimwear!

Both girls locked eyes on the two male adults standing next to Alex and I and instantly froze in place! Each face was a similar shade of red and displayed Alex’s ‘deer in the headlights’ expression.

Cassie immediately placed a hand on both girls and all three disappeared, along with Samantha.

“Well that was worth waiting for.” Brandon laughed.

Alex elbowed him. “That’s not what I meant and you know it, so just keep your comments to yourself. Remember, these girls were brought up in an age where women were more slave-slash-housekeeper than intellectual equals. As you may know women’s suffrage was just getting started back then and you know how long that took to catch on, dear.”

Brandon remained quiet and gave my future self a weak smile.

“Good boy.” She said, kissing his cheek lightly.

“Hey, Alex? Y‘all want to come over here and join the party, please?” Alex turned her attention to the two cousins.

“If I have to, mom,” Alexander groused as he and James stood up and slowly walked back over to join us.

“Boys, we want you to meet some people that Aunt Allie brought for a visit.”

Cassie, Sam, Sarah, and Liz appeared in front of us.

Both young males developed a sudden case of ‘stage fright’- eyes wide, mouths slightly agape, severely increased heart rate, and both drew in enough air to challenge a vacuum cleaner!

Cassie produced her cell phone thing and pointed it at the two startled young men.

“Two guys in ten-year-old swim trunks- twenty bucks. Two guys wearing thirty-year-old flip-flops- a buck and a half. Two guys seeing two really hot babes and actually taking notice of them instead of their hologame consoles- priceless!” Cassie amusingly announced as if quoting some TV or radio commercial. Alex rolled her eyes as Cassie pressed a button, making a beep.

The girls obviously noticed the boys and now four people stood silently staring at each other.

“Sarah and Liz, this is my brother Alexander, and this is my cousin James. James and Alex, meet Sarah and Elisabeth. Sam introduced them to each other, but I really didn’t think they heard a word she said.

“Fascinating! What we are witnessing is the none-to-often seen initial mating rituals of the human male in complete contrast and comparison to that of the human female! How bloody lucky we are to all have experienced this rare interaction today!” Mina monologued.

All but four pairs of eyes refocused on Mina, amazed by her unexpected sarcastic outburst- amusing as it was.

“Mina!” I gasped. “What has gotten into you these past four days?”

She remained quiet for a short period.

“I have seen your strategy, Empress.” She accused, glaring at me. Did I see some hatred in her eyes?”

“Despite all my warnings and efforts to dissuade you from tampering with my fate, you have nonetheless found cause to interfere in my future. How dare you change my expiration date and deprive me of my deserved rest?” She hissed.

“Look, must we really talk about this now, Highness? I’d like to remember this as the day my son and nephew met their soul mates, not the day my mentor and close friend, Mina, told me to mind my own business and let her die.” Alex scolded.

“Soul mate? You’re a matchmaker now, Aunt Alex?” James looked at my twin in surprise. Young Alexander remained quiet with his eyes still fixed on an equally transfixed Liz.

“Like y’all didn’t see this coming, Jimmy. You have the family gift as well as Alex here.” I pointed to my son. “Are you so afraid to use them as intended?”

“No, but…”

“No buts about it, Jimmy. I know you’ve used it in the past. What changed? What made you decide to ignore something so special?”

“I…I just want to be normal.” He said raising his voice slightly. He looked around at the others then out to the surrounding homes. “I just want to be the same as everyone else. I don’t want to be ‘special’.” He continued in a quieter voice.

“Oh, so you want to be like Mina and just allow yourself to fade away even though you still have so much to live for?” I countered.

“Empress, I have no intention of just ‘fading away’!” Mina protested.

“Oh? Then what would you call walking into Chicago the night of the great fire! I know of only three people that would feel comfortable in such an inferno and none of them would be you, my sister! If not wanton suicide, what would you call it?” Alex Covington continued for me, revealing to everyone present her clandestine plan.

Jacki and Joss visibly shuddered as they apparently were monitoring my premonitions of the event.

“Aunt Mina, why? Why would you have even thought of such an awful thing?” Samantha cried in shock.

“Apparently I’ve already had a change of heart! Isn’t that right, Jacquelyn?” Mina eyed Joss. “I have seen myself alive and well in 1952!”

“Of course you’re still alive, Aunt Mina! I was just so shocked that you had once entertained such ideas!” Sam re-iterated.

“Congratulations, Empress, it seems you have saved yet another soul. You have used what has been taught you well. We all know what will be henceforth.” Mina said with resignation.

“Does this mean we can dispense with all the dramatic, ‘Soap Opera’ type acting, Mina?” Alex asked with a slight smirk.

“This whole thing has been an act?” Emil…Amelia exclaimed.

“Mina’s unique teaching style, sis. I’ll tell you more back at the condo. Now,” I turned and motioned to our temporarily forgotten children, “Now can we get back to this pool party? Sis, what time did you reserve the pool till?”

“Midnight. Did you bring your bikini?” Alex answered.

“Got it right here.” I said as I produced the two small items from my left pants pocket.

I noticed Sarah and Liz glance my way.

“Miss Alex, what you hold in your hand cannot possibly cover enough not to be embarrassing!” Sarah warned.

“Yes, scandalous, isn’t it?” I giggled with a devious grin.

Our two young guests just looked at me in confusion.

“My sisters, I just happen to have brought enough for everyone, so let’s get this here party goin’! Jack, music if you please?” Alex Covington pronounced with an equally devious smile.

What Alex termed ‘top ten’ music spilled out of the loudspeakers around the pool area and she motioned for me to follow her to the changing rooms.

Alexander, James, Liz, and Sarah stayed stationery as Spencer and Brandon stood nearby as chaperones. The others soon joined us in the locker-shower room.
 

 

1145hrs, Flagstaff, Arizona, July 11th, 2028
 
 

“So, Sarah, what do you think about the twenty-first century?” I asked as I waded over to the yet unsure teen, standing in the shallow end of the pool.

“Ma’am?” She answered with a quizzical tilt of her head.

I motioned around me. “This. How do you like all this? No cleaning bedpans, no dirt encrusted travelers? Could you be comfortable here in 2028 instead of 1865?”

“Miss Alex, this is certainly a wondrous place, but Liz and I do not belong here. All this…this finery…neither of us deserves this.”

“Poppycock!” Mina interjected. “My dear girl, just because someone isn’t born to privilege or wealth isn’t cause to deny them basic comforts and happiness. Here, in this time, men and women are held at the same level- both equal in society and the law. The centuries of women’s suffrage have resulted in fair treatment no matter what gender. Yes, the world still has its royalty, but it does not mean the same thing. So stop assuming you are inferior and enjoy this liberated era, and by all means, say what is on your mind, child. No one here would want it any other way.”

The girl remained quiet as she thought about what Mina had said.

I nodded to Carri as she walked up behind Sarah.

“Sarah, you seem to be getting a little sun burnt. Mind if I rub on some suntan lotion so you won’t burn so fast?” Carri said to our meek guest as she squeezed some white liquid out into her hand and began to apply the lotion to Sarah’s back.

With every pass of Carri Masterson’s hand, evidence of Sarah’s lash scars began to fade.

Liz, noticing the miracle as it happened next to her, let her mouth drop open, but remained quiet while watching intently. Occasionally she would look over to me in bewilderment. I simply winked and shook my head slightly for her to remain silent.

Tears began to form in Elisabeth’s eyes as she waded over to me.

She silently mouthed ‘thank you’ before wrapping her arms around me tightly. I could feel the teen quiver as she began to gently cry into my shoulder.

“More wonders are yours to experience if you’ll allow us, sister.” I whispered into her ear as she continued to weep, happy that Sarah’s back was now smooth and supple- no longer disfigured by the ugly scars of her past.

“Why would you do this for us, oh mighty Empress?” She whispered to me after a few minutes.

“Um…because I…because we can, honey- because you and Sarah can be sooo much more than common servants. You girls have gifts, not unlike us. Would it be wrong not to let you develop them- to use them to help and do good?” I asked, smiling at her.

“But we have no gift like you or the others, mighty Empress.”

“Okay, I’m tellin’ y’all fer the las’ time, hun, my name is Alexandra! Alex or Allie fer short- dependin’ on which side o’ time we’re on, of course!” I corrected her, a little annoyed.

“What our EMPRESS is trying to say, Elisabeth, is that we are who we make ourselves to be- how we use those gifts given us. You see, you and Sarah most definitely have gifts, gifts that need tutelage in order to develop correctly. We only wish to provide that education and guidance.” Mina interrupted, to my relief. The ‘Mighty Empress’ moniker needed to be stopped immediately!

From the corner of my eye, I saw the water’s surface deflect and shimmer slightly. Searching my feelings, I decided to avert our guests’ losing any personal continence.

“Alexander, I really don’t think it wise to frighten our guests anymore, so decloak if you want to talk to Liz.” I warned, keeping my eyes on the fragile girl still in my arms.

As I said that, Liz looked around in time to see my future son become translucent then tangible.

“How do you do that?” She asked him curiously.

“D…d…do…do what?” Alex stuttered.

“How do you appear and disappear like that?” Liz refined her question further.

“I…I…I don’t know. I just…I just do it. What does it matter to you anyway?” Alex stuttered more before going on the defensive.

“I think it wondrous! To be able to disappear at will like that- it’s so magical!” A slight smile appeared on the girl’s face.

“It’s not that amazing.” Young Alex blushed. He started to go translucent again.

“Oh, please sir, don’t go! I meant not to embarrass you. I simply have paid you a compliment. Forgive me for being so forward.” Liz said quickly- her head sadly tilting forward, before the boy disappeared all together.

Too late, the only sign left of Alexander was the strange shimmer of the water where he still stood before us.

Liz looked up at me then back to where he had been. Sorrow filled her eyes.

“Young man, is that any way to treat our guests? You rephase and apologize to Elisabeth this instant!” I scolded.

Alex quickly reappeared in the same spot.

“Sorry, mom, I…she…I’m sorry, ma’am.” He said with his head lowered, not once making eye contact with her.

“Alex, maybe Liz would like you to show her what it’s like to phase out?”

“Oh yes, Empress! I would be ever so indebted, kind sir!”

“Why would you want to do that, it’s nothing special? I do it all the time.” Alex asked, confused by such a simple act.

“Alex, Elisabeth has never experienced what you, your sisters, or I consider mundane. Just phase the two of you out and walk through a couple of your aunts then rephase. I’m sure she would be thrilled by that?” I winked at him with a devious smile.

“Aw, mom!”

I glared at the boy.

“Alright. Elisabeth, you’ll need to take my hand so we can both disappear. If you let go, you will rephase…reappear instantly.” He instructed. “When…if we walk through people or things, make sure to hold tight, I wouldn’t want you to materialize inside someone. Got it?”

An enthusiastic Liz nodded her head multiple times.

Alex nervously reached out to take her hand, as did Elisabeth.

Upon contact, both teens looked first at their hands then at each other in confusion. Each teen’s face flushed instantly.

The look on my son’s face as he turned to me spoke volumes as to the status of his developing gift. Elisabeth too looked to me- her face displaying a multitude of questions requiring answer.

I simply raised an eyebrow, as my devious smile grew wider.

‘Oh, if you could hear the language! The boy swears like a sailor, Alex!’ Jack thought to me.

‘Gee, I wonder where he gets it, Jack?’ I thought back with a little extra sarcasm.

Instantly Alex and Liz vanished. Two distinct shimmers could be seen moving away from me- to the steps close by. Each shimmer diminished until gone completely as the two teenagers apparently left the water.

“Fell for each other completely, Allie?” Spencer asked quietly after swimming over to me.

“Like a stone in a pond, Spence. From this point on, Alexander makes his own future. His gift is now fully developed.”

Alex and Brandon walked over to us.

“Thank you, sis! I guess I don’t need to tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this to happen?”

I smiled even wider.

“When are we going to eat? I’m starved.” I said, changing the subject. I was now confident that both future and past would flow smoothly- well this part of the past, anyway! There would still be many missions to the far and near past- small gremlins popping they’re angry heads up from time to time.

I realized I hadn’t seen Cassie or Sam lately, asked a question mentally and received an answer just as the two appeared at one of the two long buffet tables setup alongside the shower building wall. A few minutes later, Cassie placed finger and thumb to her mouth and whistled. Lunch was served and we all left the water.

An assortment of cold cuts, sliced vegetables, condiments and two kinds of dip greeted us as we formed a line to take our turn. A container of sun tea and another with lemonade finished out the offerings at the end of the second table. An ice chest containing ice-cold beer sat on the ground beside the table’s end.

“Leave that for the men folk, girls. We have a legal drinking age of twenty-one here in the twenty-first century!” Alex Covington announced as Sarah bent down to inspect the strange metallic cylinders. Canned goods were still a pretty new technology back in 1865.

Soon we had each laid claim to a lounge chair and were enjoying our lunch.

“So, how was it, Alex?” I asked my twin.

“How was what, hun?”

“The night you brought Sandy back from DC?”

“Which time was that, sis?”

“The night of the charity ball…in January. Or, has it been too long ago for you to remember?”

“A lady nev’a kisses an’ tells, suga! You’ll just have ta find out firsthand.” Alex giggled. “I’m surprised at y’all for even askin’ sis. Y’all should have those memories already in storage.”

“Mom, do you two have to do that? I mean, really?” Alexander asked in embarrassment from where he shared a seat with Liz. The two made a great looking couple.

“Miss Alex, before, when you had Miss Corrine cure Sarah’s back, what did you mean ‘there are more wonders to experience if we would allow you’? You also called me ‘sister’, why?”

There was a rustling from Sarah as she tried in vain to see her back after hearing Liz say it was healed. She succeeded in running her hand over her lower back feeling only smooth, undamaged skin.

“How did you do that?”

“Miss Corrine healed you while in the pool, Sarah! Isn’t it wonderful?” Liz chirped happily to her friend.

The teen turned around and stared at Corrine…Carri Masterson.

Carri smiled. “Yes, sweetie, my gift helps me heal cosmetic differences such as scars, blemishes, hair length, hair color, skin afflictions, even skin tone, just to name a few. Oh, and you are very welcome, sweetie.”

“You can really do that, ma’am?”

Carri remained quiet. She showed the girl her bare finger and reached over to Jamie. She touched her cheek for a moment then removed it to reveal a cute, dark mole. Sarah’s eyes widened. Carri repeated the process and the blemish had disappeared completely.

The teen swallowed hard and took another sip of her drink. “My sincere thanks, Miss Corrine, I shall be forever in your debt.”

“Just to see that smile is more payment than I require, Sarah. I hope the pain associated with those scars has also subsided.”

The teen’s eyes widen as she realized it was indeed true.

“Why do you do this for us, Empress?” Liz caught my attention again.

Both Alex Covington and I twisted our heads around to glare at our other teenage guest.

“Elisabeth, I think you better call my mom by her given name and not that title. She gets very upset when friends and relatives use it.” Young Alexander told his seatmate.

“Sorry, Miss Alex, but why show such charity to common chamber maids?”

I thought a minute as to how I was going to explain things further and still conceal the obvious.

“Liz,” I paused. “Liz, have you ever once had the opportunity to stop doing what you are required to do for a moment and think- or ask: ‘Is this all that I am, or can I rise above my seemingly inferred station in this life and become…be something better? Do something better?”

“You mean to dream of being someone else or somewhere else, ma’am?”

“Like when we used to pretend that we were the president’s daughters, Liz.” Sarah added shyly.

Liz thought about it. “I sometimes look to the moon and wonder what it would be like to meet the man rumored to reside there.”

“Elisabeth, there is no such person as the man in the moon. American Astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin proved that when they walked on the moon fifty-nine years ago.” Alexander explained.

“A man has actually traveled to the moon, Alexander?” The girl said to him in wide-eyed amazement.

“Ya, we’ve gone to the moon a bunch of times. Mom’s been to a few planets too. It’s not so fantastic.” He said nonchalantly. “I even have a half-sister that was born on a planet named Terra.” Alexander babbled.

“You’ve been to another planet, Empress? What was it like?” Liz asked as her eyes sparkled with excitement.

I noticed both teens sit bolt upright in curiosity.

“It is no different than me sitting here with you, honey, although the scenery is a little different.” My voice suddenly responded from behind Sarah’s lounge chair.

Liz’s eyes almost popped from her head and Sarah almost gave herself whiplash turning toward the voice.

“Alex and I were wondering when you’d get here, Alexandra.” I said, rising from my seat. Alex and I walked over to our Granddaughter and each kissed her and gave her a welcoming hug. Each of us felt the familiar tingle as we touched.

“Sarah, Elisabeth, I’d like you to meet my Granddaughter, Alexandra, Second Granddaughter to Tibius, the Grand High Consul of Citadel, Terra.”

Alexandra suddenly appeared before Liz, shook her hand, and gave a Terran-incorrect welcome: ‘Hi! How y’all doin’? Call me Alex’! She then appeared in front of Sarah and repeated the salutation.

“My, aren’t we the show off?” Mina sniped.

“Aunt Mina, I’ve missed you too. How y’all been?”

Mina was too busy having the stuffing squeezed out of her to answer.

Sarah was still looking at her hand- the one she shook Alexandra’s with. “You…you…” She stuttered looking up to the heavens.

“Yup, that’s right, honey, I’m from out there!” She made her last sentence sound spooky and giggled.

Alexandra turned back to Alex Covington and I. “Mom says to say hi, Grandma. I wanted her to come along, but, well, y’all know how proper she can be. Truth is I think she’s still traumatized by her little stint as a Pixie. On occasion I catch her playin’ with Connie’s kid like she was the adolescent, you know?” She giggled again.

“Y…you…yyyyyou look just like her!” Sarah piped up again- disbelief very evident in her voice.

“A regular Sherlock, this one.” Alexandra pointed her thumb back to the confused teen without turning.

“1865? Remember?” I coaxed her to pull up the now-shared memories.

“Oh ya. OH! Oh, Grandma, I’m sorry!” She walked back to me and wrapped her arms around me once more.

“That was a horrible thing to go through. Forgive my insensitivity.”

“Hey kid, you going to change from that out-of-this-world clothing and into something a little more Earthy?” Alex Covington chuckled.

Alexandra’s clothing immediately transformed into a beautiful, pink trimmed, black one-piece swimsuit, complete with pink and black sandals.

“Is this more befitting the party, Grandmother?”

From the look on Emily and Amelia’s face, Alex and I must have both rolled our eyes.

“Miss Emily?” Sarah looked to Amelia. “Ma’am, being a physician, could you prescribe treatment or poultice for inside wounds to the head? I fear the pain of which is becoming severe!”

“How did you know I was a doctor, Sarah?” Both Emily’s looked surprised while Amelia responded.

Sarah lowered her eyes as if searching the ground for the answer.

“I…I don’t know, Miss Emily. It may have been mentioned before we left the mansion this morning.”

“You…you can read her mind? You can read my mother’s mind, Sarah?” My nephew, James asked from a few chairs away.

“No. It must have been told to me earlier! I have no special powers- I swear!”

“Grandmother Empress, these are the two?” Alexandra leaned over and whispered into my ear. “These are the two that bring love, happiness, and longevity to our family here on Earth?”

“Shhh!” I whispered to her, “That is for Alexander and James to decide. They must use their gifts for confirmation.”

“But I…we have seen this to be true, Grandma. Why keep it such a mystery?”

“Did I not teach you how to use your gift?

“As I recall, it was I that first demonstrated my gift to you.”

“Okay okay. James and Alex just needed a little push here, Alexandra. Just a little nudge to prove it useful.”

“You are ever so devious, Grandma!”

“As I recall it, you were the devious one, my little pixie.”

“Oh, you heard about that, huh?” Alexandra blushed.

“Sharing.” I sang, pointing to my head, even before I used my little friend to see that there was another meaning to her statement.

It was my granddaughter’s turn to roll her eyes.

I nodded over to Sarah. “Watch.”

“Ma’am, I didn’t know that you had experienced the Mahanilui. I should have enlisted my own gift so I wouldn’t insult you. I figured you were just a normal person and not a member of my aunt’s sisterhood.” My nephew James told Sarah. “I am deeply sorry, Sarah.”

James took the girl’s hand in his…and froze!

It was evident that James was, at that very moment, accessing his gift- really accessing his gift!

A pleasant smile washed over his face, eyes still closed, as images flashed in his mind- images of the future- of his future.

Sarah had also closed her eyes and a similar smile appeared on her face.

“But she hasn’t been through the Mahanilui yet, Grandma.” Alexandra whispered.

“Shhh!” Alex and I said together.

“Fascinating!” I heard Spencer say. Just the way he said it though, made a memory of some old TV show appear in my mind…one of Alex’s, I presumed.

“Aunt Allie! Why do you do this? I’m perfectly able to see my own future, you know.” James lamented, opening his eyes suddenly.

Sarah’s expression as she looked to Alex and I, said something else entirely.

“You knew this would happen! You knew that Liz and I would travel with you! You knew we would meet…”

“Honey, I wouldn’t be much of a clairvoyant or Empress if I couldn’t see something so blatantly obvious!” I interrupted the teen. Alex and I raised the same eyebrow.

“Yes, James, Miss Alex knew we would meet each other. She also foresaw our vows.”

“Vows?” He closed his eyes for a second. “Oh. Oh! You mean marriage?” He gulped.”Oh!”

“She has also seen her son’s union with Liz!” Sarah continued.

A finger tapped my shoulder. “Are you sure they didn’t hit the strong stuff yet, Alex?” Spencer asked quietly in my ear.

I calmly shook my head ‘no’.

“She’s already pretty impressive, Empress. How powerful will she become after the alcohol she consumes this evening?” He inquired in a whisper.

“Miss Goode will remain humble to her gift as she develops it to match Jack’s, Spencer. She will never misuse it as long as she lives, but will prove indispensible as a tutor to her many students.”

“A teacher? How wonderful, Alex! Wasn’t the original Sarah Goode a teacher also?”

“Ask Alex, I make the trip back this fall…I mean fall of 1944.” I motioned to her with a nod.

“I never did find out, sis.” Alex whispered from beside me. “We were having too much fun watching Jemma put the fear of God into those pompous…into those poor colonists. Imagine the surprise on their faces when she sat straight up after her fourth dunking and asked for more!” We both giggled at the memory. “They never could get that bonfire to do anything more than smolder before she just…poof!” Alex couldn’t hold in her nervous laughter.

“Will our Miss Goode get to meet her namesake, Alex?” Spencer shook his head as he waited, then asked his sister-in-law after she had regained control.

“As will Miss Bishop, Spence! They look remarkably alike except for height and hair color.”

“And who says history doesn’t repeat itself?” He grinned.

“You’ll never hear that from me, Spencer- never hear that from me!” I repeated as Alex and I laughed again.

“And what gift will Elisabeth Bishop receive when she wakes tomorrow morning, Alex?” My future brother-in-law asked, more out of curiosity.

“Ew! Ew! I can answer that one!” Alex chimed out like a third grader. “She receives my son’s heart!” She laughed maniacally.

I looked at her as seriously as possible without rolling my eyes. “When Liz finishes her schooling, and Jack finishes her lessons, Liz will be a first rate Mind Warrior in her own right.”

“So the two girls are more sisters than they know?” He deduced correctly.

“Especially after tonight.” I winked with a huge smile on my face.

“You really do love being so devious, don’t you, Empress?”

“Hey, a girl’s gotta have some fun, right?” Alex and I said and giggled in unison.
 
 

1945hrs, Flagstaff, Arizona, July 11th, 2028
 
 

“So, are you ready to open up your presents, Sarah?” Alex Covington asked as she appeared in the archway between Emily’s living room and hallway.

“How would you know when my day of birth is, Miss Alex?” The shocked girl asked.

“Do you really have to ask that, hun,” Alex tsk’ed her? “I thought everyone here knew that today is your eighteenth birthday.”

“She’s only eighteen?” I heard James ask his mother.

Emily simply patted her son’s leg a few times and looked at me with a smile.

‘She’ll probably be thirty before Jack let’s you near her, hun.’ I thought in jest.

‘Thirty-five!’ Jacki thought back quickly. Alex and I started laughing.

Brandon, Cassie, and Sam appeared behind Alex carrying several fancy-wrapped boxes. Each handed them to our guest of honor.

Sarah immediately broke into tears after opening the first of the six gifts- two new pair of denim jeans.

James instantly wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close. “What’s the matter, don’t you like them?”

“They are wonderful! I just…I…I just never received presents before.” She sniffed before wiping her eyes.

“You’ve never gotten presents before? I thought Christmas was observed back then?”

“We do. Mrs. Lincoln made sure we all received a Christmas dinner and Mrs. Brand, the mansion cook, made extra pastries, which we are only to eat in the kitchen. Any clothes I own were made by either Liz or I using cloth bought from the millenary using the small stipend our chores provide. This garment, its…it’s so soft and pleasing in color- surely fit for royalty!” She exclaimed before holding the blue jeans with both hands, moving them closer to her face, and closing her eyes, reveling in her first real gift.

What would she do with the new sneakers Alex and I had popped into town to purchase earlier, I wondered?

All told, Sarah now had a good start on her twenty-first century wardrobe having received new jeans, several causal blouses, new sneakers, and two modern dresses. Nothing she received required the use of a hoop, hairnet, or corset either!

I noticed Liz valiantly holding a smile as her friend opened present after present.

Queue the future Empress, my Granddaughter, Alexandra, I thought.

“Elisabeth Bishop, I sense some resentment toward your sister Sarah?” She stated, appearing in the center of the room directly in front of our seemingly slighted guest. To say the girl was startled was an understatement!

“No, Empress.” She looked over to Alex and I cautiously as to ask if that were the correct way to address her. “I definitely am not covetous of my friend’s acquirements! I simply wish it were my birthday also.”

I don’t know how she did it, or whether I could do likewise, but Alexandra produced two nicely wrapped packages from behind her back- supposedly out of thin air! How did she manage to keep them phased independently?

“Happy belated birthday, Elisabeth Bishop!” She exclaimed, handing the teen both mysterious boxes.

“I venture to wonder where she acquired her showmanship, Alexandra?” Mina looked in my direction and smiled.

Liz displayed the same emotions as her sister, receiving two pairs of jeans, two nice blouses, a pair of sneakers, and three ‘T’s’…

All from one, three inch high, twelve by eighteen inch box!

Leave it to the Terrans to maximize storage space!

I think we all wondered what the second package could hold.

“This next package is from me, my mother, and my grandfather exclusively, Liz! What is contained inside is for both you and Sarah with our sincerest wishes that you both have the happiest of lives- no matter which ti…time you choose to live in!” My Granddaughter began to choke up as she handed over the next box.

Liz looked confused by Alexandra’s emotional slip as she assessed the present. She quickly opened and produced from it a genuine, golden Terran sheath dress similar to the one Alexis wore on my first visit to Citadel!

The ecstatic teen looked at my granddaughter in silence, her mouth apparently incapable of producing any sound.

“Look farther into the packing, Elisabeth, there is something for your sister too!” Alexandra prompted the stunned girl.

In total, two dresses of similar design, one gold, one silver; four pairs of matching high-heeled shoes, two matching purses, and two matching full slips were retrieved from the alien package, though I suspected it could hold twice as much. Chief Samuel’s duffle bag came to mind. I wondered if that was how they actually did it.

“This is all too much for simple servants as us, Empress! We…we do not deserve such charity!” Sarah insisted. Liz, still dumbfounded, nodded her head.

“I look forward to seeing y’all in those the next time you visit Terra. I hope they still fit y’all by then. Grandfather included a little extra feature, but I’ll let y’all find that one on your own.”

Alexandra turned to Alex Covington and I.

“Grandmother Empress, I must take my leave now. I have pressing business in Citadel, which involves a three Earth year layover and a girl named Alexia. I look forward to your next visit, my sisters.”

Alex and I wrapped our arms around our granddaughter and received the customary tingle. The information shared brought tears of joy to our eyes. In unison, we both kissed a cheek then stepped back.

“See y’all later,” were her last words before vanishing.

“You saw that, right, sis?” Alex asked me as we looked at each other.

“Yep!” I replied and noticed a large smile on Sarah’s face.

“It is wonderful news is it not?” She smiled wider.

“Jack, I think you and Connie have competition.” I glared at my future first officer. “Honey,” I turned my softened face to our birthday girl, “It ain’t nice to eavesdrop in someone’s head without permission!” I scolded. “Especially when it’s the Empress’s head! Honey, there ain’t no tellin’ what horror you might see in there!” I pictured the Arizona’s main guns going off during a readiness targeting exercise I participated in before the war started. Sarah noticeably jumped.

“See what I mean, hun?” I smiled devilishly.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Miss Alex?” Liz tried to catch my attention.

“What is it hun?” Alex and I both answered at the same time.

Emily, both of them glared at us.

“Ma’am, Alexandra mentioned that we would visit her on her planet…um…Terra?”

“You heard right, hun.”

“She also wished us happiness in whichever time we chose. What did she mean by that if I may be so bold?” She asked, shying away a bit.

“First off, hun, never be afraid to ask questions- especially to me or any of our sisters! Secondly, you and Sarah are welcome to stay here in the twenty-first century should you choose. Identities and official documentation have already been created and a proper legal guardian has stepped forward, ready to provide a home. You shall receive a proper education and, as an added benefit, experience new lands, peoples and worlds! Jacquelyn Cummins has also agreed to teach you both how to read and write should you accept.” I smiled, waiting for what I had said to be grasped. To increase the chances of my offer being accepted, I began to playback the images I had foreseen.

Sarah’s eyes became large as saucers!

“You mean…you mean we can stay…here?” She screeched in excitement.

Liz, distracted by her friend’s sudden outburst, momentarily looked at her then back at me. She seemed on the verge of crying- whether that was good or bad; I had no idea without consulting my gift.

Sarah looked to James sitting next to her. She seemed to be reading him then suddenly looked at Liz, sitting next to Alex.

“Liz, we can stay! Empress Alexandra says we can stay!” She said slightly confused by her friend’s unheard response.

Elisabeth’s expression remained dour.

“No, Liz! The Empress says we can stay! You can see Alex any time you want! Is that not wonderful?”

“I…I can?”

“Sure, hun. but your education comes first- yours too, Sarah Goode!” I reassured them both.

“You want to see…me?” Young Alex gulped in surprise.

Liz slowly took the young man’s hand in hers, answering his question.

“Oh bloody hell, you’ve gone and set me to crying!”

“Mina!” We all chorused.

“I know!” Spencer suddenly shouted. “Let’s celebrate! Alex, do you think it might be alright just this once?” He looked for acknowledgement from my twin.

“I think it best they make that choice, Spence, don’t you?”

“Of course, Empress, I didn’t mean to rush things. Please.” He motioned for one of us to continue.

“What other choice are we to make other than whether to stay here or go home?” Sarah asked.

“Whether we should decide to become one of them, Sarah.” Liz surprised us all with her astute deduction.

“You wish us to become like you, Empress? I sorely lack the confidence to receive such powerful gifts as you possess.” She looked down to the floor.

“What will Mrs. and President Lincoln say should we accept?” Liz questioned. “Who will provide bedchamber services to them in our absence?” She asked in concern.

“Are you two the only chambermaids at the mansion, hun?”

“No, there are twelve of us.”

“Then there should be no problem until two more excellent servants such as you can be found.” I said suddenly thinking about Emily’s diagnosis of the two girls.

“Consumption? We both have consumption, Empress? Is that why you offer such extravagances? Because we are dying?” Sarah looked appalled.

“Once again it’s not nice to read someone’s mind without permission, Sarah Goode! It is what got your ancestor murdered so many years ago!” I pictured another battleship salvo in my mind.

I noticed both Jacks prepare themselves as I did so.

Sarah and Liz jumped this time.

Why must you do that, Empress? Why must you picture such horrible images?”

“To teach you a lesson, sweetie! Simply because you have such a gift doesn’t always mean it’s to be used every hour of every day! Alex had your best interests in mind when she brought you here. The Mahanilui is offered to you freely and not just as a cure for Tuberculosis!” Joss told the girls concisely. “Although the Mahanilui will completely eradicate the disease, modern medicine is quite capable of also curing it. The Empress’s intentions are pure and carry no indenture of any kind.” Joss got up, walked over to her, and placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder.

“Sarah, you and Liz already have the tiny machines- we call them nanos- that result in the Mahanilui in your bodies. They are water-borne, but require a catalyst to activate. They have not and will not harm you in any way, I assure you. We girls have all consumed the tea and lemonade from earlier today and, as you can see, suffered no ill effects. You alone must choose the path ahead of you. Even though I have seen the path you both likely choose, I now leave the choice up to you.” Alex Covington assured them.

Alex and I took our seats to wait while the two girls made they’re decision.

“Miss Jacquelyn, you would allow us residence, teach us, and guard over us as the Empress has said?”

“As long as you both abide by my rules, yes.” Jacki smiled thoughtfully. Her glass, now empty of its sweet tea, rose from her hand and whisked itself out of the room and into the kitchen.

Both girls blinked in amazement of what they had just seen. Each began to stare in fear at their tentative mentor.

“You two should just chill out! I’ll teach you both how to do it when its time.” Jacki told the two. “If you’ve decided to stay, that is.”

Both teens nodded their heads in silence- eyes wide, mouths still agape.

“Should I get the hundred-proof, Empress?” Brandon asked quietly from beside Alex.

I raised a hand. “Not yet, dear, I have to hear it from both of them first.”

Jack looked around at me and winked.

“I’ll require you both to attend school with one hundred percent attendance! All homework must be completed in a reasonable amount of time. Any problems understanding said homework or lessons must be communicated to me in real-time telepathically. We all share the daily household chores equally. On occasions where I will be traveling with Alex, you both are to behave yourselves and above all- no boys or parties while I’m gone! Oh, and under no circumstances do we make public, our gifts! The general public, even in this century, will not accept us as anything other than witches- though the consequences are completely different nowadays compared to those of old Salem!”

“You no longer burn witches?” Liz squeaked.

“Pffft! Witchcraft, or Wiccan as it’s called now is just another religion. Covens meet as regularly as church services.” Jack waved off her question as nothing. “Sweetie, I’m surprised the people of your time haven’t treated you strangely!”

“I have tried not to appear any different around the guests for fear of losing my employment, though I suspect that Mrs. Lincoln suspects something is different about me.” Sarah answered quietly, her gaze falling to the floor. Liz also dropped her head. “It wasn’t until you arrived at the mansion, that I…”

“So…ladies, have you made your decision and do you also accept my terms?” Jacki pushed gently, interrupting Liz.

Sarah looked to her friend with hopeful eyes. Liz, as if listening to her blinked a few times before a smile crept onto her face as well.

Joss smiled as well. “Girls, I believe the Empress would like to verbally know your choice.” She prompted them.

“But why? She already knows our futures.” Sarah chirped out.

“Dear girl, it is simply a matter of good form to notify a benefactor of your decision! Anything else would just be rude!” Mina advised.

Both girls exchanged glances.

“Empress, Sarah and I would very much like to stay in this century! We will serve you…”

I raised my hand to stop Liz. “Hold up one sec, kids. Y’all are missin’ the point of the whole exercise. We don’t want y’all to serve or worship us.” I shook my head as did everyone present in the room but them. “All we ask is that you become our sisters, nothing more. Equal in every respect to everyone else. I refuse to be treated as a deity, but simply as a friend or relative/ Is that clear to ya both? And my name is Alex or Allie, got it?” I scowled at the two.

“Yes, ma’am.”

I raised a finger to them.

“Yes, Allie, we understand.” Liz smiled finally.

“Good, it’s settled then! Mr. Rosen; drinks all around!” Spencer nodded to me and left the room.

“Drinks? I don’t understand, ma’am?” Sarah asked in confusion.

I ignored her tongue slip.

“Of course! Girls, in order for the tiny machines to do their job, y’all have to get stinkin’ drunk!”

“But I never drank spirits before, Empress!” Liz whined.

“Then it won’t take too much to get you there, hun!” I laughed. Alex, Sam, and Cassie joined in as Liz wrinkled her nose.

Spencer arrived carrying two liquor bottles; one of which containing a worm- Tequila.

Nine glasses floated in behind him and each presented itself in front of a woman in attendance. Four cold beers floated in next and Spencer, Alexander, Brandon, and James each took one.

Alexander looked confused, but opened his quickly.

“Just this once, sonny!” Alex pointed to him menacingly.

“Girls, pick yer poison!” I smiled pointing to the two bottles. “It’s an old quote from a western...never mind, nothing is poisoned here, girls.” I added after seeing two shocked faces.”

As expected Liz and Sarah selected the less disgusting caramel colored liquid over the worm infested bottle.

Each bottle poured itself and before long all glasses had been filled.

“One more thing you two should know before the Mahanilui starts. The process will make you extremely tired. Don’t try to fight the sleep, as you will ultimately lose. Emily and Amelia will be monitoring each of you and in the morning you will wake feeling refreshed- better than you ever have.” I informed them.

“Is there anything else you should add before we commit ourselves, Empress?” Liz asked boldly for the first time in her life, I think.

Alex and I looked at each other and winked.

“No, hun, that’s it! We all made it through without a lick of trouble.” I said, noticing Corrine grimace slightly.

“You went through this Mahanilui?”

“Yep!”

Sarah downed her whiskey in one gulp like a pro!

Liz was a little more tentative about imitating her friend and began coughing with the first sip. After some encouragement from her friend, Liz downed the rest in one swig.

Another round of coughing ensued.

Before long several bottles of both tequila and whiskey lay empty about the room’s floor. Two teenage girls lay quietly sleeping next to they’re would be suitors.

“Wow, I never thought two skinny things like them could drink so much!” Jamie exclaimed.

“And Liz claimed never to have touched whiskey before! She out drank Sarah by three full glasses.” Spencer added with shake of his head.

“Mom?” Alexander asked.

“Ya, hun?” Alex and I replied.

“How much will Elisabeth change? I mean physically?”

“Her hair will change slightly to better match her sister’s, honey, why?” Alex answered.

“I like her the way she is now. I can’t…I can’t keep my eyes off her as it is.”

“Alex, you have to trust your gift, hun. I know you were able to see glimpses of your future when your hands first touched at the pool earlier. Why have doubts now?” She asked in confusion.

“Because I saw me asking earlier and just wanted things to go right, I guess. I want things to work out for Elisabeth and I…just the way I saw it.” He explained.

My twin drew the boy into a tight hug. Stretching up slightly to kiss his cheek, Alex looked to our two daughters.

“So why is it so hard for you two?” She giggled. We both did.

“It’s not our time yet. You know that, mom.” Cassie complained.

“Jack, can we get our two new sisters upstairs and into a nice cozy bed?” I asked the Cummins twins.

“Aye, cap.” They acknowledged together.

 
 

0925hrs, Flagstaff, Arizona, July 12th, 2028
 
 

“I take it the girls are still sleeping it off?” Spencer asked as I joined him at the kitchen table. A steaming cup of coffee already awaited me along with four fully prepared pancakes on a plate.

“It should be any time now.” I told him before placing the first forkful in my mouth. I savored the taste as I felt the ‘feeling’ come over me. I suddenly stopped chewing.

“Empress? What is it?” Spencer looked at me with concern.

“Nothing, Spence, it’s just that my son is trying to sneak up on me. Alexander, you remember what happened the last time, right?”

“Aw, mom!” Alex appeared by the basement stairs.

“Come and have something to eat, hun, Liz will be down in a few minutes.”

“Mom? I’m nervous.”

“Why’s that, hun?”

“What if something goes wrong? What if she changes too much- that you didn’t see it properly?” The boy worried.

“You worry too much, hun. Trust your gift and your feelings…”

“Use the force, you should. See all that is to be seen.” My voice finished from the stairs to the second floor. Alex laughed at her impersonation of…I wasn’t so sure…whomever. All I knew for sure was it didn’t sound very human.

“Mom, I wish you wouldn’t do that! I never did like that character. I just don’t want her to change. She’s perfect just the way she is.” Young Alexander lamented.

A trumpet fanfare sounded in my head- sounded in everyone’s head I expected.

A loud moan came from the upstairs hallway.

“Miss Jacquelyn, why in heaven’s name would you do that when you know our heads to be splitting,” Sarah cried from the same location as the moan?

A scant two minutes after her initial decree, Sarah appeared at the bottom of the steps, wearing the long, pink, cotton nightgown we had dressed her in last evening. She was holding her head securely.

“Empress, I thought a painless morning awaited me? Never have I had such a pounding in my head as today!” Sarah said softly, using the wall for support. She slowly made her way the last few feet to the table on very unsteady legs.

“Give your body the time it needs to repair itself, hun. You should be feeling better in three…two…one.” I said calmly as I pointed a finger to her.

The girl’s pained expression cleared immediately- her eyes returned to their full brilliance and a smile burst forth.

“It is truly amazing, ma’am, thank you!”

“It was all you, honey. I had nothing to do with your healing.” I laughed. “You’ll do that a lot faster now too.”

“Maybe I should go check on Elisabeth. Maybe something went wrong, mom.” Alexander cried.

“Liz is feeling the same as I, Alexander. She will be down forthwith.”

“When is that?” He asked in confusion.

“She’ll be right down, Alex, relax.” Alex Covington reassured him with her mouth partially full. My twin had sat down next to me to engage an equally scrumptious plate of flapjacks.

“Sarah?” We heard from the stairway. “Sarah, it was most miraculous! One moment I had the worst ache of my head, the next it was magically dispatched!”

A wide smile erupted on Alexander’s face the minute he heard Liz’s voice.

“She likes you too, Alexander Covington.” Sarah told the young man- much to his chagrin. My son’s face went instantly crimson.

Elisabeth Bishop appeared in the kitchen taking her last step down the stairs, her purple cotton nightgown slightly wrinkled from her sleep. Her hair had lightened a shade or two, but only added to the girl’s beauty. The two Federal period girls now looked more like sisters.

“Oh, excuse me, Empresses, Mr. Rosen, “ Liz curtsied. “I didn’t know you both were here. Hello, Alexander, did you sleep well?”

Alexander opened his mouth to reply but only silence answered.

“Alexander, are you well? Your face seems flushed, are you with fever?” The concerned girl asked.

“Ahhh,”

Alex waved her hand at our son, still frozen in fear, “He always acts this way around strangers until he gets used to them, Liz, he’s fine.”

“I think you frighten him, hun,” I added with a giggle.

She smiled at him shyly as she took a seat between Sarah and a still stunned Alexander.

“Empress, why do I not feel any different than last evening? I thought to have my gift?”

“It takes a certain amount of time to develop, Elisabeth, be patient.”

Sarah looked to be assessing her sister the moment she sat down.

“I hadn’t noticed, Sarah. You say my hair has changed color overnight?” Elisabeth said to her sister.

“How can it look almost like your’s now?” She continued the one-sided conversation.

“I know that we act like sisters, but we’re not actually…oh.” Liz stopped as she realized she was the only one talking aloud. She instantly blushed.

“Elisabeth, would you and Sarah like something to eat? Pancakes, bacon…eggs, perhaps?” Spencer inquired, trying to dispel her embarrassment.

“Eggs would be nice. Allow me to go out to the hens and collect them, sir.”

“You just stay put. I’ll just check in the refrigerator, Liz.” Spencer waved her off. He pulled out the carton and took two eggs from it then placed the carton back into the fridge.

“You keep the chickens in that small thing?”

Spencer chuckled and shook his head a few times.

“The chickens still live on the farm. We buy them and their eggs from the grocery store. We put them in here until we’re ready to use them, Liz.” He retrieved the egg carton and opened it to show her. “See?”

An egg instantly leapt from the carton and crashed to the floor.

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to…” The surprised teen gasped.

Liz froze!

“Did I just do that?” She asked in amazement.

Sarah, Liz, Alexander, and Spencer looked at Alex and I.

A broad smile flashed to our face. A wide smile also crept onto Elisabeth Bishop’s face.

“I’ll clean that up, Mr. Rosen!” Liz said quickly as she leapt from her chair.

“No, I’ll get it, Elisabeth.” Alexander shouted as he tried to beat her to the spill. The two teens collided and both landed facing each other on the floor.

Alexander and Elisabeth began to laugh.

Spencer calmly placed the eggs back into the refrigerator and ripped a paper towel off a nearby roll. “No harm done, Liz, I’ll take care of it. You and Alex have a seat and I’ll have your eggs in a few minutes.

‘I didn’t think it would be so soon, Alex. You could‘ve at least warned us. Joss and I will be right down.’ I heard…Alex and I heard in our heads.

A few minutes later the Cummins twins joined our small group in the kitchen, taking the two stools at the kitchen’s small island closer to the sink.

Liz and Sarah seemed hell-bent on finishing their eggs and bacon in record time after Spencer placed the plates in front of them. Alexander just stared in fascination at the two apparently famished girls. Spencer grimaced a little.

“Ladies, there is no immediate hurry so slow down and enjoy your breakfast.”

“Uncle Spence is right. You two sure put the fast in breakfast!” Alexander chuckled nervously.

The quip only earned him a quick, menacing look from Elisabeth.

The girl’s plates suddenly moved away from them and rose above the table a few feet.

“Girls, in this and any other household in this century, we will not gulp down our food! It is rude, disgusting and extremely unladylike! I don’t mind how much you eat, but I do require you to eat it in a civilized manner! Is that clear?” Jacki told them in no uncertain terms.

“But we have to hurry so that we may finish our chores on time!” Sarah cried out, as her eyes remained locked on her levitating plate.

“No, girls, you don’t.” I said calmly to them. “You two have been officially relieved of your servant duties. As of now you both are free, twenty-first century, American women- free to select your own life and direction.”

“But the mansion. What will the President and Mrs. Lincoln do without us?”

“That’s up to them now isn’t it, hun?” I smiled at Liz.

“But we are indentured to them…”

“Hon, what year is this?” Alex Covington asked calmly, still holding our smile.

“Samantha told us it is the year of our lord, twenty-twenty-eight.”

“Correct! Now, what was the date when we left Washington?”

“Eighteen hundred and sixty-five, Empress.”

“Right again, hun! So, by my reckoning that was one hundred and sixty-three years ago.”

The two girl’s mouths opened wide at the impossible, but true fact.

“Hon, right now, the Lincolns really can’t complain about the loss of their two favorite servants. Pardon my being morbid, of course.”

“But…”

“No buts about it, girls, from this point in time, the Lincolns passed on over a hundred years ago. They are in no position to reprimand you- nor is any taskmaster from that era. Girls, you are your own masters from now on. Get it?” Alex interrupted as she tried to explain things another way.

Sarah and Liz looked at Alex and I for several seconds, temporarily forgetting about the two plates still hovering a short distance overhead.

“Empress, may I ask that we attend you on your return to Washington City? Sarah and I would be ill thought of if we did not settle our affairs and take our proper leave- if it be your will to return, that is.”

“Aunt Jacki, could you make it a point to teach them the proper way to talk? I’m not sure what Elisabeth just said.” Alexander asked with his face scrunched up in confusion.

“What is wrong with the way I speak, Alexander?” Liz countered with some anger.

“Sorry, Elisabeth, I just have a hard time understanding you. I have to use my gift to see ahead for the translation. I don’t mean anything bad by it.” He told her, shying away from her angry stare.

“And do you not sound the stranger to Sarah and I?” Liz shot back.

“Huh?”

“Listen kids; just let Sarah and Liz get comfortable with this century. I’m sure they’ll catch on to the local dialect in a short time.” Alex Covington tried to defuse the situation.

“I do like the way you speak, Elisabeth, I just don’t understand you all the time, I’m sorry if I made you angry.” He apologized timidly.

The anger melted from her eyes immediately.

“To answer your question, Liz, you and Sarah are invited to return with us, though not as servants, but as fully vested members of our sisterhood. I don’t want any more arguments on this topic, understand?” I scolded them, while setting my terms.

Both girls’ faces broke out in wide smiles.

“In fact, Carroll and Randi should be arriving any minute with your equipment and official documents.” Alex Covington added.

“Now, as for my conditions? What is your decision, girls?” Jacki asked, reminding them of the still hovering plates.

“Apparently it is a habit in need of retiring, Miss Jacquelyn. We will try to eat slower, ma’am.” Sarah apologized, accepting Jack’s terms for both of them.

The two plates gently returned to their owners, exactly where they had been originally placed.

“Can I join you when you go back to the civil war, mom?” Alexander asked shyly. He looked at Liz and his near-empty bowl, but refused to make eye contact with either of me.

“Hon, I’m not going back to Washington DC.” Alex Covington told our son. Sarah and Liz sighed in disappointment. “You have to ask your Aunt Allie if you can go. This has been her mission from the start.” She continued and nodded to me.

I didn’t think the boy could make his eyes so big! The puppy-dog look he was now assaulting me with made my heart break- I mean, how could anyone say no to that face? Did I have this affect on women in my previous form, I asked myself?

I consulted my gift.

“I guess it would be okay, hun, but you and your cousin best behave! The people of the Federal Period consider themselves’ modern, but are far from accepting of new things. There are strict rules young men must follow when in the presence of important male adults and especially when attending mixed company! No open signs of affection, Alexander! Ever! Do you read me, son?”

“Five by five and crystal, Capt. Steinert!” Alex barked out as he quickly stood to attention.

Liz and Sarah giggled modestly while covering their mouths.

“Alex, Carroll and Randi have arrived” Joss alerted us a full minute before the door chime sounded.

“I’ll get it!” Cassie’s voice shouted from the basement playroom. “OH MY GOD! Don’t you look fantastic! Come on in!”

We waited a few moments for our new guests to appear at the top of the steps. Carroll’s eighteen-month old daughter, Alexis, led her mother into the kitchen. The precious toddler waved at us enthusiastically with her free hand.

“Hiaaaaah!” the little girl squealed with a huge grin.

A collective ‘aaaaaaww’ echoed through the room.

“Hi everybody!” Carroll said as she kept young Lexie on a straight course, right for Alex.

“Empaa!” the child screeched as she broke from her mother’s hand and lumbered quickly to my twin, almost losing her fight with gravity in the process. Alex caught her just in time and lifted the child to her chest for a hug. Lexie wrapped her arms around Alex’s neck as best she could, a wide smile brightly lighting her face.

Opening her eyes and staring right at me, she reached out with her little, cherub-like hand and waved at me with her fingers. “Empaa!” she laughed happily.

Again, a loud ‘AAAWWWW’ filled the kitchen as the little angel continued to reach for me.

“You know, it never ceases to amaze me how children just run to you Alex!” Randi said as she finally appeared in the stairway.

I looked up from my goddaughter and froze!

“She’s in her third trimester, Allie.” Emily answered my silence from the base of the second floor stairway.

“Here sis, I know you don’t mind holding her.” Alex Covington said, handing Lexie to me before walking the short distance to embrace Randi.

Young Lexie continued giggling as she wrapped her arms around my neck.

“Empaa!” She squealed again as she squeezed my neck. The little pixie was stronger than she looked!

Cassie appeared at the top of the basement steps with two plastic garment bags over her arm and holding two large manila envelopes which she placed on the table- the garment bags over the nearest seatback. She smiled at Sarah and Liz, winked, and walked over to Jack after pouring herself a hot cup of coffee.

After prying little Lexie’s arms from my neck and handing her back to Carroll, I repeated my twin’s greeting to Randi.

“You must be Sarah and Elisabeth. Welcome to 2028, girls.” Randi greeted our newest sisters. She raised her right hand in a single, quick sweeping motion.

The microwave oven beeped; the electric stove beeped, and the refrigerator beeped! All displayed ‘Welcome Elisabeth and Sarah’ on their informational screens.

The girls’ mouths dropped wide open!

“Yes, Sarah, I am capable of controlling them…any electronic device as a matter of fact.” Randi answered her unheard question.

“And you say I’m a showoff, Allie.” Jack shook their heads.

Randi smiled and reached for the two envelopes.

“Elisabeth?” Randi said aloud and handed over her envelope as the girl looked.

“What is this, ma’am?” Liz asked as she emptied the contents onto the table after pushing away her plate.

“That, my new sister, is your life- unless you keep referring to me as ‘ma’am!” Randi’s voice turned into a growl at the word. “My name is Randi Van Pelt…Randi to my sisters, friends, acquaintances, strangers,…anybody…follow?” She said as she placed the other envelope before Sarah.

Both girls slowly nodded.

“In both packages are birth certificates, educational transcripts current to the high school junior level, health and immunization records, and even drivers’ licenses when Jacki feels you’ve earned the right. I’ve taken the liberty of starting savings accounts for each of you, giving you and Sarah a valid credit history.” Randi said as she concluded her brief briefing.

“What are those, Miss Randi?” Sarah pointed to the strange shiny bags.

“I’ll let Alex explain those, Sarah. Empress?” Randi looked at me then to Alex. “Spence, could I trouble you for some cold pepperoni, mushroom, olive, and anchovy pizza- maybe a cold beer too?”

“Um…Randi…um, its only ten in the morning, are you sure about the beer?”

“Do you have it or not?” Randi said as she pulled the frig door open and began surveying its shelves. “YES!” She shouted as she snatched a plate with several slices of pepperoni pizza on it.

“Bonus!” Randi shouted as she produced a can of beer, a tin of sardines, and carried all to the small island and began woofing down food and beverage.

“Oh ya, now that’s what I’m talkin’ bout!” She moaned as one slice disappeared quicker than I could ever make it do!

Liz and Sarah watched in amazement. Sarah started to open her mouth, but Joss and Jacki put a finger to their mouths. “Best to just let an expectant mother eat what she wants, girls- especially when the expectant mother can cause your car to spaz out from anywhere on the planet!” Jacki warned.

“I…I wouldn’t…wouldn’t do…that, Jack!” Randi said in between inhaling the third of four pizza slices and taking another gulp of beer. She popped open the can of sardines. Spencer cautiously handed her a fork.

“No, that’s why the stove, microwave, and refrigerator are all displaying ‘YUM’ repeatedly, right?” Jacki laughed sarcastically.

Randi looked back to the kitchen appliances and did a double take.

“Hey! I’m hungry! Quit making fun of me- like you never did anything like this with Connie?”

“That reminds me, Jack. That ceiling is due to splashdown sometime later this year right?” I reminded Jack with a devious smile.

My first officers blushed profusely.

Sarah and Liz looked on in confusion, but wisely choose to remain silent.

“Weren’t you going to tell them about the clothes, Empress?” Jacki retorted as she and her twin looked at the ravenous woman beside them in disgust.

“That’s right…the clothes.” I replied nonchalantly. “There’s a bag for each of you, Liz. They contain your very own Reilly suits.”

“But we already have a ‘Reilly suit’, Empress. Why would we need two?” She asked.

“The suits you traveled here in are only partially functional. These suits,” I pointed to the two bags, “are the real McCoy! Y’all will be able to access all features at will- clothing selection, communications, health monitoring, two-way speech translation, and emergency protection systems. Try not to worry about all this now, we’ll show you how to use them.” I said, giving them my own brief.

“Can we wear them when we return to Washington City?”

“That’s the idea, hun.” I winked.

“Aunt Allie, I’m ready to go.” Jimmy said as he appeared from the second floor stairs. He was dressed in his dark blue Federal Period suit, complete with a sharp-looking black, silk ascot.

Sarah gasped in surprise as she took in every inch of my nephew.

“James, we aren’t going to leave for another three hours, why are you rushing things?”

“I just wanted to be ready, Aunt Allie. I know how punctual you like to be.”

“You just wanted to impress Sarah.” Alexander sniped.

“Maybe just a little.” James admitted with a smile as he looked at Sarah.

The girl blushed immediately.

“Well I like Alex dressed just like he is.” Liz said, annoyed that first, he hadn’t tried to impress her and second, he wasn’t dressed for what she still considered appropriate for mixed company.

“Elisabeth, I’m still in my pajamas, I’m not dressed for the day yet. I thought maybe you would like to go up to the pool for a short swim…before we left.” Alexander told Liz quietly, his face ashen.

“I’d like that Alexander…if the Empress allows it.” Liz said as she smiled brightly.

“Correction, if your guardian, Ms. Cummins agrees. After all, you agreed to her rules.” Alex Covington told the teen.

“Finish your breakfast then you and Alex can go to the pool… just let me get my swimsuit on.” Jacki added.

“You’re coming with us?” Alexander cried.

“Kid, she’s my responsibility and I think you two require chaperoning…just this one time.” Jacki explained.
 
 

1345hrs, Flagstaff, Arizona, July 12th, 2028
 
 

“Mom, can I talk to you a minute?” Sam asked as she entered the living room and took a seat next to me.

“Sure Sam what’s on your mind?” I agreed, touching her thigh lightly.

I’ve been running the options…and…well…I’m concerned,” she said- the fact quite evident in her body language.

“Care to elaborate?”

“James and Sarah.” She paused. “I’ve seen a rocky road ahead for both of them. Every way I try it, they won’t have the happiest relationship. One even has them divorcing with two small children.” She looked down sadly. “Mom, I can’t let that happen. You need to keep that from happening!”

“Honey, I’m afraid Jimmy’s just going to have to guide his own future. You had to have seen that? There are just some things we can’t change without consequences.”

“Mom, she’s going to out us!” Sam shouted despondently.

“That’s just one scenario, Sam. I taught you better than that. Consider not just the facts, but consider everything- everything and anything that could be brought into play- anything that can change things even the slightest bit.” I said, gathering my daughter into my arms.

“Why aren’t you dressed, Sam?” I asked, changing the subject after holding her for a short while.

“I don’t think I should go, mom. It would just require you to make another stop before returning to Sand Dollar.”

Her excuse was lame and ill thought out.

“You do realize I have to bring Liz, Alex, James, and Sarah back, right?”

Sam remained silent and returned her gaze to the floor.

“Spill it, hun. What’s the real reason you’re against goin’?”

She refused to answer me. So I decided to cheat and asked a few ‘questions’.

“This isn’t that time, Samantha.” I quietly told her.

“It isn’t? How do you know?”

“Duh? My daughter really has to ask that?”

“Sometimes, I forget who you are, Empress, forgive me?” Sam looked back up to me. Her eyes glistened in the subdued light of the room.

“Go get changed, Sam. We leave within the hour. Make sure your sister gets ready too.” I stood and pulled Samantha up with me.

“Mom?”

“Ya, hun?”

My Samantha suddenly wrapped her arms around me and squeezed for all she was worth!

A moment later she was heading out of the room, I noticed Alex Covington standing in the archway, quietly.

“How come we’re the same person, but you always seem to get the good stuff?” She asked as she smiled and walked over to me. “You don’t have to answer that, Alex, I already know what you’re going to say, remember?”

“They really are amazing you know.”

“I know, sis.”

“I guess I should go get ready.” I said, slightly depressed.

“I know it gets…crazy…sometimes.”

I nodded.

“There will be those four times- all about a year long, that I get to live sequentially- like normal people.” My twin consoled me as she gently brushed my cheek. The familiar tingle felt stronger than usual- maybe because of the sensitivity of my face.

“Is everything okay in here?” Brandon asked as he appeared in the hallway.

“Everything is fine, dear. Allie’s just feeling a little overwhelmed…it happens sometimes, as you can imagine.” My twin explained.

“If it’s any consolation, I can’t see how you keep it together in the first place! I think that’s why I find you so attractive- so exotic! Don’t forget we’re here for you Allie- we’re all here for you!”

“Thanks, dear.” I paused a second realizing my error. “Thanks Brandon, I appreciate it. Speaking of us all being here, where has Mina been this morning?” I asked.

“Oh, she, Corrine, and Jamie went down to the recreation center. They have free yoga sessions from nine to noon. They should have been back by now”

“In fact, we have been back for quite some time, Brandon Covington.” Mina’s voice said from the kitchen.

Brandon shook his head in defeat. “I knew I should’ve taken stock in a pharmaceutical company!”

Alex lightly slapped his left cheek. “Relax, dear, my twin sister and her friends will be leaving shortly. The headaches will subside immediately thereafter. Now why don’t you go down and kill some aliens while I have a little chat with my sister?”

“Yes, Mrs. Covington! Me and little Spencie Rosen will be down in the rec room playin’ ‘n watchin’ the two grown-up ladies dressin’. Hehehehehe!” Brandon said in a child-like voice as he headed out into the hallway.

“Don’t you dare, Brandon Covington! You remember what happened the last time you walked in on the girls! Do it again and no sweets for you tonight! Understand me, Lieutenant?”

“Aye, ma’am.” His response echoed from the kitchen.

I looked over to Alex and raised an eyebrow. “Sweets?”

We both began laughing.

Twenty minutes more found almost everyone assembled in Emily’s living room. Joss had already coached Sarah and Liz on the proper use of their new uniforms. They now looked quite attractive in their 1940’s Navy whites. Randi did a last minute diagnostic of the two newest Reilly suits as we waited for Samantha to join us.

This was not like her to be late, but I guess she had re-evaluated her vision of our trip back to Washington DC to see that I had glossed over some important facts about her joining us. It wasn’t everyday that you met your soul mate. Why she didn’t want this to happen was beyond me.

Sam quietly entered the room and sat down next to Cassie in complete silence, the whole time glaring at me.

Okay, so she figured it out. At least she had worked her gift to find out the real truth.

I playfully glared back at her, daring her to say something- anything at all.

She remained quiet and finally looked away to Randi and then to Carroll and her Alexis.

“There, all finished, Elisabeth. I programmed in a variety of clothing choices for several historical time periods into yours and Sarah’s suit. I also modified the heel height of the shoes and added a manual override in case you should ever want higher heels.” Randi instructed the two girls before slowly turning her attention to Mina and raising an eyebrow.

“I make one, small miscalculation and am labeled a pariah for life! Really Ms. Van Pelt, you’ve never made a mistake?”

“Ya know Mina, once I thought I did,” she smiled at her highness, “But I was wrong! Can you imagine that?” Randi barely finished before breaking into a fit of giggles.

To say Mina wasn’t amused was the understatement of the year!

I glanced over at Alex. “Must be in the firmware.” I said as I wavered my slightly outstretched, open hand.

As I figured, everyone had a good reference to the joke except our two new sisters, who looked at us like we had three eyes each. Alexander leaned over to Liz and maybe tried to explain it. She looked at him strangely then her confused face changed to slight understanding. I figured Jack had given her the reference telepathically.

After another five minutes the laughter had quieted in the room.

“Is everyone ready to go?” I asked.

“If I have to.” Sam grumbled barely above a whisper.

“So you get to meet ‘him’! What the hey, sis? I thought you couldn’t wait to meet?” Cassie asked, confused by her sister’s attitude.

“He’s a Confederate, Cassie! Why did he have to be Confederate?” She groused.

I looked at the despondent girl, my daughter, for a minute.

“Y’all know that Missourra was a Confederate state back in 1865, right?”

“You are a member of the Rebel Confederation, Empress?” Sarah’s eyes went wide.

“Apparently you were not listening yesterday morning, Ms. Goode! Did I not tell you my date of birth?”

“You did, ma’am.”

“And?”

“Miss Jacquelyn told me it was August 7th, 1916.”

I nodded and looked to my son.

“Alex, would you please tell Ms. Goode how many states now make up the United States of America?”

“There are fifty states in the union, Hawaii and Alaska being the last to be admitted back in 1959, Sarah. As of today, Puerto Rico has yet to vote on statehood. If ratified it would become our fifty-first state.” Alexander said almost mechanically.

“Thanks, hun.”

“No problem, mom.”

They made Hawaii and Alaska states?” Corrine asked in amazement. Both she and Jamie looked surprised. Sarah and Liz took notice.

“How could you both not know when the Empress clearly has awareness of such events?”

“Girls, not all of our sisters travel with me all the time. For Corrine and Jamie this is only the third time they have accompanied me- first time in this small a group. Unless they have read the archives at Reilly Research Station on Kili Island or talked specifically about American history with their future twins, they would not know. As example, you stand on ground that was once called the Louisiana Purchase- a huge tract of land President Jefferson bought from Spain. This is the city of Flagstaff in the state of Arizona- a state located halfway between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.”

“We are in the Western Territory?”

“Yup!”

“Miss Jacquelyn,” Liz and Sarah both turned to Jacki after looking at each other in surprise a moment, “Will it be possible to see this vast new land?”

“Sure, kids. It’s all part of your education and more.” Jack smiled brightly.

Alexander stood by with a confused look on his face.

“Alex,” I said, catching his attention, “Alex, think about how many things have changed since 1865- how many things have passed Liz and Sarah by- or how much they have skipped over. People of the time- especially those employed as servants, rarely traveled more than a hundred miles from where they were born, unless taken along by their employers.” I lectured him.

“Mom, I know! I just forgot she wasn’t from this time. Um,” He looked down at the floor and blushed. “Um…not that you’re not welcome…I mean…um…I want you to stay here with…um…Mom, can we go now? Please?” Alexander said with severe discomfort in his voice.

“First I want Sarah and Liz to change into some modern clothes just to make sure they understand they’re HUDs. Girls, bring up your suits’ control system and select the outfits you wore yesterday before we left Washington DC.”

I nodded to everyone to follow suit after both girls wore blue jeans, short-sleeved tops, and sneakers.

Liz diverged from the request by selecting a pair of black three-inch heeled boots instead. ‘Good,’ I thought, a girl that knows what she wants.

‘Sarah changed things up too, Alex.’ Joss- my Jack- thought to me. An image of red, silky, thong britches appeared in my head.

‘Thanks, Jack!’ I thought back as I physically shook my head.

Sarah turned red in embarrassment while Liz looked over to her curiously.

“Time to go. Everyone coming along please join hands and don’t let go until I say to do so- ready?”

Looking around, everyone nodded- Liz and Sarah included, but with huge smiles!

“Phasing out in three…two…one.” I announced.

“I don’t feel any different.” Sarah said quietly.

“That’s just it, it doesn’t feel any different, Sarah! Isn’t it wondrous?” Liz replied enthusiastically.

As a courtesy and so they wouldn’t miss anything, I announce the beginning of our temporal transit. “Commencing temporal travel in three…two…”

A sunlit bedroom of the Federal Period in American history replaced Emily’s modern living room.

“…One. Okay, everyone, make sure you aren’t standing in any furniture or walls.” I requested of them. Again Sarah, who hadn’t yet had the experience Alexander had given Liz, looked around her in fear.

Liz let out a quiet giggle.

When I was sure everyone was clear, I announced our rephasing and confirmed we were back at the White House January 12th, 1865.

“Acoustic dampening field is up, Alex.” Jack verbally informed me

“Okay, everybody, time to dawn our circus tents again.” I said, exhaling as hard as I could.

Our two new sisters’ outfits didn’t change.

“Oh! You require us to change our garments.” Liz said in surprise. She and Sarah blushed not understanding my reference to the bulky, uncomfortable period dresses.

Both girls’ outfits changed within a matter of seconds.

I eyed the two critically and shook my head.

“Girls.” I paused. “Girls, when traveling with the Empress it is customary to dress the part.” I raised an eyebrow and crossed my arms in front of me.

“We are dressed in our 1865 clothing, ma’am.” Sarah acknowledged.

“That’s the problem, hun, you’re both dressed in YOUR 1865 clothing.” I hinted as I regarded the plain, pale blue and white striped servants garb the two now wore. “I told you about this last night!”

“Last night here or last night in Arizona, Miss Alex?” Liz shot back.

I smiled at the teen.

“Very well then if this is your choice… Ladies?” I motioned to everyone else.

Immediately our clothing matched our newest sisters- except James and Alexander, of course.

Elisabeth’s mouth dropped.

“Empress! Why have you all changed your style of dress? Why do you dress beneath your station?” Sarah asked, looking around her in confusion.

“To prove a point, Ms. Goode!” Mina answered for me. “A better question to ask would be: Why do you dress below your station, ladies?”

“These are our clothes, Miss Mina. What else should we wear?” Sarah asked, not getting the clue.

I nodded after thinking to Jack and approached Elisabeth Bishop. Jack approached Sarah Goode. We both extended our hand to a girl’s shoulder.

‘OakridgeEmpress8716, manual suit override.’ I thought as my hand made contact with Liz.

Elisabeth’s HUD display appeared before my eyes. I quickly made my selection before warning her.

“Honey, you better drain the air from those lungs immediately or else this is going to hurt!” I said before triggering the changes I’d made.

Liz stood before me in a stunning crimson dress with a black jacket and matching felt bonnet complete with a delicate, black hairnet. Sarah stood next to Jack in a royal blue dress, white jacket, and black hairnet.

Corrine noticed a problem immediately!

“Alex, they look great…they really do…but…I need to make a few adjustments before we go meet the Lincolns.”

Corrine walked over to Sarah and cradled her hair, net and all. Waiting the minute, she released a new curlier style neatly held in her hairnet.

“That’s much better!” She glowed. “You next, Elisabeth.”

Corrine came over and removed the bonnet’s hairpins then the bonnet itself, which she had the girl hold. Again she cradled the girl’s hair, it’s netting too. This time though, she slowly moved her hands forward to Liz’s forehead. Her newly curled hair was now slightly darker. Corrine smiled brightly as she pinned the bonnet back in place, adjusting it a few times before backing away.

“There, all better! Now no one will be the wiser. You look like the old Liz again.” She said as she stopped suddenly. “No, that’s still not right! I forgot one important detail…” Corrine looked over both girls again. “for both of you!”

With Corrine taking another two minutes to make Liz and Sarah’s makeup right we were now ready to attend the Lincolns’ breakfast.

Or so I thought.

“Empress, Sarah and I cannot possibly leave this room in such a condition!” Liz cried as Sarah nodded.

I watched Sam, Cassie, Emily, Jack, and Mina repeat my response of drawing my hand down my face!

“And why would that be, pray tell?” I asked in annoyance. These two just didn’t get it, did they?

“We will surely be punished for our arrogance! It is considered vulgar to dress above one’s station!” Liz replied in fright.

“Sarah, can you see what I’m thinking right now?”

“Yes, Empress.”

“Could you relay it to your sister for me?”

Yes, ma’am. Liz, she wants me to remind you that we no longer serve the mansion! You serve yourself… that…you now live in the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth! If you have any doubts about it you should try moving the chair closer to the window- with only your mind, Liz!” Sarah relayed as I thought it.

Elisabeth’s face grimaced a minute. The nearby chair groaned against the hardwood floor as it magically moved a few inches.

“Now tell me if you are dressed above your station, young lady!” I gloated.

“But if we are seen dressed like this…”

“I’ll take care of it, Liz! Jamie assured her. “I can be very persuasive when I want to be, right Skipper?” She looked to me for acknowledgement.

I nodded.

“Let’s go ladies. President and Mrs. Lincoln don’t like to be kept waiting.” I proceeded through them to the door with a bright smile.

“Ah, Miss Alexandra! I was just sent to escort you to the east ballroom. I trust your cousin’s…” Our escort’s deep voice trailed off as he undoubtedly noticed Sarah and Liz exit the bedroom. Four extra people, two being men, didn’t help matters either.

“What’s wrong Gerald?” I asked, feigning confusion.

“How dare you mock…who are they?” The large floor butler glared at the two former chambermaids then turned his attention on Sam, Cassie, Jimmy, and Alexander.

“Sarah and Elisabeth mock no one, sir.” Jamie said, stepping up to within inches of the angry man’s face.

The two glared at each other for a full minute before Gerald broke eye contact!

“They are nothing but common chambermaids, Miss Jamie! This will not be tolerated! I will not tolerate this behavior on my floor!”

“Gerald, dear Gerald, these two ladies aren’t common servants, nor is our group any larger. Why would simple chamber maids dare to wear such fashionable fittings?” Jamie waited for the answer a minute. A devious smile crept onto her face. “These aren’t the droids we’ve been looking for.” She said calmly, cryptically motioning with her right hand.

“These aren’t the droids we’ve been looking for.” Gerald repeated as his eyes glazed over.

“You can go.” She continued, motioning with her hand again.

“You can go.” He repeated robotically.

“Move along.” Jamie motioned with her hand a third time.

“Move along.” Gerald repeated and mechanically backed against the wall to let us pass.

We hurried past the confused man and headed down the stairs to the East Ballroom.

“Jedi mind tricks, Jamie?” Samantha giggled as we hurried down the first floor hall.

“I got it from that movie we watched last night. Crazy, huh? Who would have thought it would work as advertised?” Jamie laughed quietly as we approached the ballroom doors.

The same doorman from two nights before motionlessly watched us arrive, yet made no move to grant us entry.

“Alexandra and Emily Scott, cousins, and escorts. President and Mrs. Lincoln are expecting us.”

“Thank you, miss. They have been expecting you.” He said before opening both doors and escorting us to the table. He looked curiously at Sam, Cassie, Sarah, James, Alexander, and Elisabeth, wondering when our number had multiplied. He made no remarks about the former servants. Apparently, he did not mix with the rest of the mansion staff.

“Lovely Alexandra!” President Lincoln greeted me as he stood from his chair. “Mary and I are delighted you and your cousins have decided to attend. Thank you.” I noticed him take count of us, yet he showed no visible reaction.

Mrs. Lincoln stayed seated. “Alexandra, we were beginning to think that you had taken your leave without saying goodbye.” Her expression changed as she saw her two spiffed up servants, James, Cassie, Sam, and Alexander.

“I see. So you have come back to take loved ones from me after all!” She declared in triumph, forcing a tight, tense smile.

A noticeable gasp escaped both girls’ mouths.

“You have found me out, ma’am.” I replied casually. “With your permission, I would transport these two to the far future where they will receive proper education, supervision, and love- not that you haven’t seen to that already, ma’am.”

“These two…” She motioned to Sarah and Liz. “These two mean something to you, Empress?” She whispered my title, looking around to see if any of the attending servants had heard.

“Yes. Undoubtedly you have observed that they have…certain talents.”

She nodded, ever so slightly. Mr. Lincoln was more outspokenly perceptive.

He smiled at James and my Alex.

“What of these two fine, young gentlemen, Alexandra? I can’t help but notice the resemblance.”

“One is her son, the other, Emily Scott’s, Mr. Lincoln.” Mary Lincoln answered with a light snort. “The relationships presented themselves immediately, my husband. Now look, you have ashened the poor boys’ faces.”

Abraham Lincoln walked around the table.

“Mr. President, may I introduce my nephew, James Scott Gregg.” I announced him as I noticed Emily’s proud smile.

“Mr. Gregg, welcome to Washington City. I hope your trip was uneventful, son?” Lincoln greeted as he shook Jimmy’s hand.

“Our travels with Aunt Alex are always eventful…in many ways, sir.” He winked. “It’s certainly an honor to meet you, Mr. President!” James replied, trying not to babble too much or seem overly excited.

“This is my son, Alexander Covington, he’s my youngest, sir.” I smiled proudly as Lincoln shook his hand too.

“Alexander, you must be very proud of your mother and of her selfless convictions?”

“Eh, she’s okay…I mean…she’s my mom, ya know?” Alex said, nonplused by the man shaking his hand.

Lincoln let out a hearty laugh that caused him to hold his gut. “Why, you remind me of our Robert! Welcome to Washington, young Alexander.” Lincoln chuckled as his hand rose to stroke his beard a few times.

“And these two lovely creatures must be your daughters, Alexandra. I can see the same drive and ambition in their eyes as I’ve seen in yours!”

“Mr. Lincoln!” Mary Lincoln exclaimed.

“Pardon Mrs. Lincoln’s protests ladies, she is the one that first breached the observation to me.” The President kissed both girls’ hand.

“Cassandra and Samantha Fleming.” I said pointing to each.

Lincoln turned his attention to me after hearing the different surname. His eyes asked the obvious question.

“I lost my first husband through…through attrition, sir.” I couldn’t help recalling those heart wrenching, very disturbing, future memories of Sandy’s last days!

“I’m very sorry, Alexandra. I should have been more sympathetic given your…special talents. Forgive me.”

I silently nodded and blinked a few times to clear my vision.

“Ladies, I welcome you all to Washington City. Please enjoy our chef’s selections this morning.

President Lincoln waved off the butler as he personally seated each of us.

“Jacob, you may start serving, sir.” He announced before taking his own seat next to Mary.

“So, tell us Miss Goode, is the family name any influence in Alexandra’s interest of you?” Mary Lincoln asked as we enjoyed our breakfast. The president stopped chewing a moment to hear the answer.

“I believe it to be a factor, ma’am, yes.” Sarah responded quietly with her eyes fixed on the plate before her.

“And you, Miss Bishop. Can the same be said for you? After all, both names are synonymous with ancient Salem.” Mrs. Lincoln asked with a devious grin.

“I was not aware of that detail, ma’am. I assumed Sarah and I were just good friends. I had no knowledge of my ancestry.” Liz answered shyly. She also refused to make eye contact with Mrs. Lincoln.

“Sarah and Elisabeth share a…” I paused a moment. “They share a common trait…as if sisters, ma’am.” I said, rescuing them.

“I wonder Alexandra, have they learned of their ancestors…” It was her turn to pause now, looking at both frightened girls, critically assessing them. “Or haven’t their predecessors arrived in Salem yet?”

Half of the people sitting at the large table immediately stared at my wide-eyed and open-mouthed reaction!

“Mrs. Lincoln,” I paused to gently place my utensils down on my plate. “I can assure you that Sarah and Elisabeth are in no way they’re own ancestors. The original Sarah Goode and Elisabeth Bishop were murdered for their misunderstood gifts despite my best intentions! My retrieval group unfortunately arrived several weeks after their maligned sentences were carried out.” I paused, recalling those future memories. I lowered my head.

“Sometimes…things…sometimes, they don’t go according to plan, Mary.” I’m not perfect- contrary to what some might think or believe. I quickly glanced toward Mina on my right.

“You will get no argument from me, my Empress!” She answered quietly with a slight snicker.

“Elisabeth?” Jack asked for her attention. “Could you ‘pass’ me another piece of bacon, please?” She emphasized the word ‘pass’.

Liz’s face grew red as she concentrated on the request.

Two pieces of bacon leapt from the serving dish- one landing on Jack’s plate, one on mine!

A broad smile replaced the girl’s flushed expression. Mary Lincoln gasped then stared in disbelief at her former chambermaid. Mr. Lincoln started chuckling- quietly at first before growing in volume. He started to applaud.

“Well done, Miss Bishop! You must teach me your parlor trick next time you visit Washington!”

“Yes, well done indeed, Miss Bishop! What else has your cousin, Alexandra, taught you?”

There was a brief moment that Sarah, Jack, and Liz looked between each other as if having a silent conversation. Mary observed carefully.

“Nothing more as of yet, ma’am.” Liz answered demurely.

“Is that so?” She finished chewing then continued. “The silence of your private three-way conversation was most deafening, my dear.” Mrs. Lincoln countered deviously.

“So, rumor of young Sarah’s talents also extend to her friend Elisabeth. I now see why you have taken notice of these two, Alexandra. You…you will teach them patience, morals and responsibility, I presume?”

“Yes, Mr. President, I will instruct them on the proper use of their gifts, when to use them and on whom.” Jack answered instead, with confidence.

“Sarah and Liz will be well taken care of, sir. You have my word on that.” I added.

Mary and Abraham exchanged glances before smiling and nodding at each other.

“Then it is settled! Sarah Goode and Elisabeth Bishop, Mrs. Lincoln and I are saddened to inform you that your services here at the mansion have matured. We both hope you find happiness and enlightenment on your journeys through life. Heed well Alexandra’s wisdom and kindness. Learn well, everything Miss Cummins has to teach and by all means never forget your selves! To forget one’s self is to proclaim surrender to an adversary! It is a show of moral weakness, and you dear Sarah, dear Elisabeth, appear far from powerless! We entrust to you both our best wishes!”

The two girls began to cry. James drew Sarah to his shoulder as Alexander guided Liz to his.

President and Mrs. Lincoln watched the two couples for a few minutes before Mr. Lincoln asked a strange question.

“Empress?” He said quietly. “Where the girls will live, have they still a postal system there?”

“The United States Postal service is still in existence, sir, though much condensed. Why?” I asked as I narrowed my eyes.

“I would request a date and the postal address for the residence of Miss Cummins.”

“Mr. President, they are to live with Jack in the twenty-first century, 2028 to be exact. I doubt it possible for your correspondence to reach them. As far as I know the postal system has never been capable of timely delivery.”

Sam and Cassie covered their mouths trying to conceal their snickering.

“All I require is the address, Alexandra. Leave the rest to the President!”

“Aye, sir. Right away.”

I produced a blank piece of paper and an ink pen from my jacket’s concealed inner pocket.

Jack relayed her mailing address in 2028 to me as I wrote it down. Abraham and Mary Lincoln stared at the device in my hand.

“I humbly request your future address as well, Empress.” He added quietly.

I added Alex Covington’s address and handed the paper over to him with some resistance.

“I assure you, Empress, that this information goes no further! Your anonymity follows me to the grave.” He said stoically.

“Mr. President, we both know that is not the truth. I hope you spelled my maiden name, Steinert, correctly when you entered it into the Presidential Diary late last night?”

The table suddenly quieted.

“How could you possibly know that, my dear?” Lincoln asked. “I didn’t reveal that to anyone, not even Mary!”

“You told me, sir.” I looked down to the table again. “In another place…another…another time.” I said sadly.

“Oh. I see.” He replied, equally saddened.

“Sir, I’m afraid we must be on our way.” I said, noticing the wait staff immediately approaching as they heard. “We have tickets to catch the noon train north.”

“Then may we accompany you and your cousins to your rooms, Alexandra?” Mrs. Lincoln inquired.

“Of course, ma’am, the honor would be ours.”

This time the butler, Jacob, helped us from our chairs.

“Thank you all for a wonderful meal.” I said looking around the room and loud enough to be heard by every servant in proximity. That set off muted chatter among them.

“Mr. President! I wasn’t informed to your presence in this portion of the building, sir.” Gerald nervously greeted Lincoln.

“Alexandra, her sister, and her cousins couldn’t stop complimenting me on your fatherly presence during their stay, Gerald. As reward, I thought you and the chambermaids could take the rest of the day off. Compensation shall not pause, I assure you.”

“The rest of the day? Thank you Mr. Lincoln, I shall inform the floor staff at once!”

“Gerald?” Mary Lincoln asked. “Before retiring, could you please inform Mrs. Brand that there will only be Mr. Lincoln and I for lunch and dinner tonight? Our guests will be departing shortly.”

“I’ll tell her, ma’am, and thank you again for the time off.”

Gerald wasted no time alerting the service staff of the President’s generosity.

Mr. Lincoln leaned in and opened the door to our room, allowing Mrs. Lincoln and the rest of us to enter first.

“Will we see the Empress again, Alexandra?” Lincoln asked after closing the door.

“Mary has seen a few of us in the past so yes, you will see me again. We may even cross paths in the future as well, you never know.” I responded, forcing a smile.

“Then my deepest thanks for your help realigning the timeline as you call it, Alexandra. I can live out my life knowing that the future is properly chaperoned.”

“Excuse me, Mr. President?” Samantha asked. “Sir, can I get a photograph of everyone, please? I like to keep a record of historical figures as we travel. So far I have pictures of Augustus Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Maria Antoinette, Ramses the Third, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony…oh, and Genghis Khan.”

“Mrs. Lincoln and I would be honored to be part of such a notable collection. Where is your apparatus, dear? I see it nowhere in the room.”

“Oh, I have it right here, sir. Aunt Jacki can you do the honors, please?” Sam asked as she produced her cell…I-thing…whatever…from her jacket and pressed a few keys, which audibly chirped. It immediately left her hand and began to hover.

“Just press the ‘enter’ key to take a picture, Aunt Jacki.” Sam added.

“Everybody smile now.” Jack said cheerfully as flash after flash emanated from the device.

The device floated back to its owner and Sam immediately started looking through the saved pictures. She noticed the President trying to get a glimpse of this miraculously small camera.

“Here, sir, ma’am, have a look.” She turned the device around to show them the small display with our group’s image on it.

“Amazing! It sees things the way our eyes do!” Mary Lincoln exclaimed. “We must tell Mr. Brady of this!” She looked up to her husband, Abraham.

“I wouldn’t do that, ma’am, unless you want to be labeled mentally insane. This technology won’t appear for another hundred and forty years. Color photographs won’t be developed until the 1930’s.” I cautioned her.

“I expect you want none of this in the diary either, Alexandra?” Lincoln asked.

I nodded.

“Then I assume you will be leaving us then?”

“Mrs. Lincoln?” Samantha asked quickly before I could answer the President. “Ma’am, if we are to protect the timeline, you must make an appearance at the Marine hospital across town this morning.”

President Lincoln removed the pocket watch from his vest and observed its face.

“Mrs. Lincoln, we have ten minutes. I see no way of us attending promptly.”

“Mom?” Sam’s beautiful green eyes beckoned to me.

“I can provide ‘timely’ transportation this one time, Sam.” I paused. “President and Mrs. Lincoln, if you’d like I can get you there, and back.” I offered.

Without pause both Lincolns offered their hands.

“I take that as a resounding yes.” I smiled. “First Emily, Samantha, Corrine, and I need to change clothes. James and Alex will remain here with Sarah and Liz. Jack, Cassie…watch them.” I added as I pointed to the two young couples.

Cassandra nodded with a devious grin in response.

My suit immediately changed color and shape, becoming a Federal Period nurse’s uniform and bonnet. A moment later there were four of us dressed identical.

“Now we can proceed. Let’s join hands and don’t let go until we are entirely alone.”

Our bedroom became an empty, nondescript, lamp-lit hallway.

“Okay, we’re here. You can all let go now. Mrs. Lincoln, if you would lead on?” I motioned for Mary and President Lincoln to take point.

The doorway she entered opened into a relatively small room filled with beds and groaning men. It smelled of filth and decay! A single nurse slowly made her rounds of each bed- checking foreheads for fever and shoeing away flies before checking soiled bandages. She silently nodded to Mrs. Lincoln and us in acknowledgement, gladly accepting our help.

Many of the unfortunate soldiers here were missing one or more appendages- arms, legs, feet, toes, fingers, eyes, and hands. In all, the room equated to a very gruesome scene!

Out of all of us, only Emily and the Lincolns seemed unfazed. The putrid, sickening, stench that filled this crowded room was intolerable! I can only vouch for myself, but Sam and Corrine looked as overpowered by the smell as welI.

Here, in this building at least, the divisions of North and South, Union or Confederate, ceased to exist as soldier lay next to soldier. Most were in no condition to argue they’re differences- if they could talk at all, anyway.

Emily set to work examining some of the patients while Mary and Abraham visited some of the other more lucid occupants.

“Corrine, could you come over here a minute?” Emily asked quietly, standing next to a severely burned boy of maybe twelve.

She excused herself and moved to Emily’s side. Sam and I decided to continue checking dressings on the men closest us.

“Hey, missy?” A middle-aged man dressed in gray and lucky enough to still have his arms and legs croaked to me from his cot.

“Can I help you?” I asked leaning closer.

“Missy, could ya fetch a dyin’ man some water?”

“Sure thing.” I replied with a smile- well as much of a smile as would allow without vomiting!

There was a pitcher and a few tin cups by the door we had come in through so I partially filled one of the cups with what passed as drinking water here.

“Here ya go, sir.” I began to hand it to him.

“Just pour it in here, missy- gonna’ run straight out anyways!” He croaked as he threw back the sheet to reveal the gut ripped, bloody, cannonball-sized hole in his abdomen! “AH, hahahahahahahahahahah!’ He laughed maniacally as I dropped the cup and hurriedly turned for the nearest exit, hoping to spot an empty bedpan, container, or something my partially digested breakfast could launch into!

In the end, an open window in another ward, quickly checked, proved the unlucky recipient of my stomach’s contents.

The man’s hysterical laughter echoed through the halls as well as my head!

“Alexandra?” Sam’s voice asked from behind me as I finished wiping my mouth a few minutes later. “Alex, are you all right?”

We had previously agreed that ‘mom’ wasn’t the best way to address me when on missions- after all; we looked about the same age- more like sisters.

“I’ll be right again after I get some air, Sam. That was, by far, the most disgusting, grotesque, and cruelest thing I have ever been witness to! How can anyone do that to another person?”

“Alex, he died seconds after you left.” She sadly informed me.”Emily said he was probably delirious.

I lowered my eyes to the floor. Why was this affecting me so much? After all, hadn’t I seen my share of dying men before- so why now? What was different?

Thinking about it for a minute, I realized I had seen this sort of thing before! I now had an idea of what Scotti was feeling that day on Kili. The answer I had been looking for suddenly hit me hard. We had changed!

“What kind’a name is Sam for such a pretty thing like you, miss?” A young man’s voice kindly asked from two cots away. His voice loud and clear in a room filled with sleeping or comatose bodies. He lay facing away from us wearing a shredded, dirty, mud-encrusted, grey uniform.

“It’s short for Samantha, why?”

“No reason. Just wanted to make talk. People in these parts don’t talk much to strangers. ‘Ceptin’ the ol’ yank over yonder. Talks constantly- cain’t tell what he’s sayin’ but he talks nonetheless! Doc thinks it’s the fever- that they ain’t real, just die-lushuns.” The young man finally turned over. “Poor cuss.”

“SHIT!” Sam gasped, seeing the man’s face for the first time.

“Y’all got a foul mouth fer such a perty face, Sam! I’m Jarrod, by the way, but Pa used to call me what you said sometimes- right ‘for he connected with the switch!” He laughed and coughed a number of times. Sam and I noticed fresh blood on his sleeve after he wiped his mouth with it.

He must have noticed Sam’s look of horror at the sight.

“Doc says I got the consumption real bad- says I got next to no time left so’s y’all can see why I’d be talkin’ sweet-like to anythin ‘semblin’ an angel.” He smiled before starting another fit of coughing.

“Pardon mah manners, ladies, but y’all seen yer share of blood an’ guts, so what’s one more pathetic sight?”

Sam bumped an elbow into my already severely constricted ribs. Mom, that’s him! That’s the face in my visions!” She whispered after turning her head to look behind us, leaning in close to my ear.

“Ya, I think yer kinda’ perty too, Miss Samantha. I woulda asked yer ma if’n ah could court ya had these coughin’ spells not come.”

“Really? Can you also tell me what my Ma would have told you, had you asked her?” Sam asked, turning back to face the man and lifting an eyebrow.

“She’da prob’ly yelled fer yer Pa ta git his gun and fired lead at me near as fast as he could reload!” Again his laugh became a coughing fit.

“Son, why are you here?” Mr. Lincoln asked from behind us. I hadn’t even known he was there.

“Couldn’t keep up with mah unit, sir. They took mah boots, mah gun, powder an’ shot an’ let me ta mah fate. Reckon I spent a number ah days just sittin’ gainst a tree an waitin’ for the end. Then along come some yanks an tossed me on a wagon o’ dead fellers. Reckon someone heard me hackin’ up blood an’ here ah am.” Jarrod showed no recognition of who had asked the question.

“Emily?” Sam turned toward my sister, her voice strained.

“I know, Sam. I’ve seen this part, remember?” Emily calmed my daughter as she produced a syringe from her apron pocket.

President and Mrs. Lincoln’s heads nodded as Jack presumably relayed the young man’s future to them. Their eyes widened as they realized Jack was several miles away at the moment.

“Hun, what would you do if your consumption could be cured?” I asked the young confederate.

“Y’all mean if I wasn’t gonna get strung up?”

“Hun, y’all are dyin’ now, so why worry ‘bout bein’ hanged?” I replied, letting my drawl run free.

“Reckon I’d find someplace that ain’t afeudin’- start a new life- find somethin’ perty as y’all an settle down, but I ain’t heard o’ no cure for this demon, no sirree! Made mah peace ‘ready an ain’t got no re-grets fer when ah meet the maker.”

“How old are you, son?” Lincoln asked.

“Nineteen, if’n ah can hold on three mo’ days, sir.”

Sam’s eyes were filling up pretty fast so I decided the time was right. I phased out and relocated to the opposite side of his cot before rephasing.

“Mr. Mitchell, do you really think I’d let you die?” I asked sweetly.

His head snapped back around to my voice. Flip-flopping a few times between where I had been and where I was now- his eyes wide with fear.

“If’n ah’m seeing this right, ah reckon ah’m ’ready there, ma’am!”

“Son, you are far from dead, I assure you. Isn’t that right, Mr. Lincoln?”

The boy’s head spun back around to Mr. Lincoln!

“Yer that yankie President?” He exclaimed bringing about another coughing fit.

“Yes, son. And, unless I miss my guess, I believe you to be the luckiest man to ever survive this war. Apparently the Empress’ daughter has taken a liking to you, boy.” He nodded to Samantha.

“What y’all goin’ on ‘bout? What’s an Em-press?”

I phased out again, resumed my previous position, and rephased.

“Boo!” I said calmly.

“Least ah died ‘fore the Hangman got me! Y’all have a differ’ kinda humor here in heaven!”

“What makes you think this is heaven, Mr. Mitchell?” I smiled.

“Beggin yer pardon, ma’am, but ain’t no way any devil’d be perty as y’all.”

“Mom, can we dispense with the drama? Just let Aunt Emily cure him and let’s get back home.” Sam complained.

“Yer her ma?” Jarrod Mitchell looked up at me in surprise.

“Yep.”

“Ah shit.” He cried slowly, realizing his blunder.

“Such language from someone about to be offered a second chance at life!” Samantha chided with a small grin.

“Mr. President, with your permission?” Emily lifted the syringe a little.

Lincoln raised a finger and moved closer to Mitchell’s cot.

“Son, I am about to make a monumental leap of faith on your behalf. Every instinct in my body warns me that you are not honorable- that, as a seditionist, you would only bring Samantha disappointment. Alexandra, on the other hand seems to think you are in fact, an honorable man- willing to warrant your innocence in reference to crimes against your fellow man- war crimes, Mr. Mitchell!”

“Y’all would do that fer me- a ca’plete stranger, ma’am?”

“Jarrod Jameson Mitchell: born January 15th, 1846 to Jacob and the late Rebecca Ann Mitchell of Covington, Kentucky. Headed south from Covington to join the 2nd Louisville militia: March 15th, 1863. First saw action in the second battle of Manassas. Notable achievements: Successfully retrieved twelve wounded individuals from heavy frontline fire while wounded- three of the wounded were union soldiers. All but one rescued received field triage from Mr. Mitchell and have subsequently recuperated. Unfortunately, Jarrod Mitchell contracted tuberculosis…consumption, from the one man, now deceased, when he could not seal an arterial wound. The resulting arterial spray infected him. Mr. Mitchell officially died January 14th, 1865- one day before his nineteenth birthday.” My informational brief remained calm and even.

“How y’all know that?”

“I know more about you, Mr. Mitchell, than you can possibly know about yourself at the moment.” I warned. “For instance, I happen to know that you live significantly longer than officially reported.”

“I reckon y’all can tell me how that’s possible, ma’am?” His ensuing coughing fit produced more blood on his already heavily soiled sleeve.

“Mr. Mitchell, may I recommend you not question the Empress, for I fear you won’t like the answer- nor believe it. Alexandra, the Empress of Time and Space, has wisdom far outreaching her apparent years.” Lincoln warned cryptically.

“Mr. Mitchell, Alexandra and her companions have offered to cure you of this deadly plague. Will you accept their help or not? It is a simple decision.” Mrs. Lincoln interrupted.

“Ah’m no fool, ma’am, a’ course ah’m gonna a’cept, but ah cain’t help athinkin’ they’s a catch!”

“Sis, do it!” I pointed to the young man’s arm. Emily immediately rammed the needle home and administered every last drop of the powerful antibiotic into his system.

“What in blazes? What’d y’all shoot me with? Felt like a wasp stung me!”

“It’s called an antibiotic and it will clear your tuberculosis in about six weeks if you follow proper hygiene and get plenty of bed rest.” Emily informed him in her confident, professional voice. “After that you will undergo another month of stem-cell treatments to repair the damage to your lungs.”

“Who’s this ‘high jean’ feller?”

“Ya damn hick! Hygiene is another name for taking a bath every once in a while; brushing your hair; shaving!” Sam spat out, not being able to contain herself any longer.

She looked at the man in anger for a few seconds. “Of course you’re absolutely right, Mr. Mitchell,” she glared at him, “there is a catch- a few actually! You must never again raise a weapon against the United States of America! You will never raise a hand to me or any other woman as long as you shall live, and you will never, ever, doubt that my mother has anything but your best interests in mind!”

“Are you satisfied that everything has happened as you have foreseen, Samantha?” I calmly asked my daughter as she regained her composure.

“Exactly as I saw it, mom. Now, can we go? I can’t take much more of this awful stench! Warsaw, Poland, 1945 wasn’t even this bad!”

“After we get Mr. Mitchell here cleaned up and ready to travel.” I told her and looked at the disgustingly filthy, young man.

“We can depart any time you desire, Alexandra. I am through with my visit for today. I too cannot tolerate the aroma for any prolonged length of time.” Mrs. Lincoln informed us.

“Please stand, Jarrod Mitchell.” I ordered.

“M’pus hemm pee.” A man across the room suddenly moaned. He repeated the sentence over and over again.

“See? Like ah tell’d ya! He plum blathers on!”

“Mr. Mitchell, if you could please stand up?” I repeated the request.

“Why, where we gonna go, ma’am?” He asked as he slowly pushed himself from the cot. He was slightly unsteady on his weakened legs.

“First to get y’all cleaned up, then to take y’all to a place where they ain’t afeudin’!” I giggled, letting my drawl slip to mock him a little.

“Everyone join hands and, Jarrod, try not to let go, please.”

“Why we gotta join hands? How we gonna leave…”

The dreary hospital ward became our White House bedchamber.

“This hospital…whilst…holdin’…SHIT!” Jarrod finished, totally dumbfounded by the change in scenery.

“Welcome to the President’s Mansion, Mr. Mitchell.” I raised an eyebrow.

“How’d y’all do that?” He asked looking around at the surroundings and…the people suddenly standing next to him.

“My word, what is that putrid smell, Empress?”

“That would be our new friend, Mina. Sam and I will be right back with him.” I said, letting my grip of Mr. Lincoln’s hand relax and fall away. Corrine released Mitchell’s hand and a relieved smile filled her face.

A bright sunlit beach replaced our bedchamber.

“How in tarnation?”

“Jarrod, just don’t ask, alright?” Sam told him, annoyed that he was being so thick. “My mother can travel through time, okay? Get used to it cause she does it all the time!”

“How’s that possible?”

“Jarrod, everyone travels through time- we do it every second of every day. Mom just does it…differently.” Samantha explained to him. “Now, any more stupid questions?”

“Just one more comes ta mind, if y’all please- where y’all brung me?”

“A valid question, Mr. Mitchell- one that deserves an answer.” My voice said from behind us.”Welcome to Hawaii, 1945, Jarrod.”

My twin fell to one knee. “Welcome to Atlantis-Minor, January 5th, 1945, O mighty Empress of Time and Space! It is 1155hrs. You are late as usual, sister!”

“You know… I’m really starting to get on my nerves!” I told her with a smile as I pulled her to me and wrapped my arms around her. The mild tingle assured me things were still on track.

“You don’t know how good it is to see you, Alex! Then again, I guess you do.” Future Alex giggled.

“Mom?”

“Humor me! What’s been happening?”

“Mom?”

“Did something happen to the task force?”

“MOTHER!”

“What?” We both answered my insistent daughter.

“Jarrod? Remember? Delousing?” Her eyes shot daggers at the both of us.

We both giggled at her. I hadn’t forgotten. “Mr. Mitchell, go take a swim!” I pointed back to the surf. “And do take off those useless rags so the salt water gets to the three leaches on your back! They should release as they die.”

“EW! That is so disgusting!” Sam wrinkled her nose as Jarrod Mitchell made his way into the small, warm waves.

“Hey, you wanted the fixer-upper, Sam.”

She forced an angry smile and rolled her eyes at me.

“Alex, we’re ready for him whenever you’re ready.” Jack informed me as she approached us.

“Is he doing what I think he’s doing, Alex?” Jack nodded out to where our guest was vainly trying to fight the incoming surf.

“You idiot! What’s he trying to do, mom?” Sam looked crushed.

“What every good soldier is expected to do when captured, honey- escape!” I told her. “Jack, if you would?”

“Aye, Cap.”

Despite making excellent headway for his weakened condition, Jarrod Mitchell rose out of the Pacific, still swimming. He hovered about five feet over the three-foot waves apparently not realizing he was no longer in the frothy brine.

Slowly Jack brought the escaping man back to the beach. She stopped him between us at about waist level.

Jarrod never stopped trying though- his moans of pain, humorous considering he was heavily treading air.

“I like your tenacity, Mr. Mitchell, but you really shouldn’t be exerting yourself while in this condition.” I said smiling at the expression he displayed as he realized where he was.

Mitchell dropped straight to the sand with a muffled thud as Jack let him go.

“What on Earth were you thinking, you idiot? You’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!” Sam chastised the young man as she rolled him over and wiped the sand from his face.

“Why y’all doin’ this? Ain’t it ‘nough ta jus’ lemme die? I dun nothin’ fer tormentin’ like this! Ouch!”

Sam looked distressed by his outcry.

“Just missed one, Sam. Nothing to worry about.” Jack told her as a leach floated away from Mitchell’s body and exploded over the water.

Let’s go, Jarrod.” Jack said as the man again rose and hovered at eye level.
 
 

“Hi, everyone, we’re back!” I exclaimed just after rephasing in the White House bedchamber once again.

“About time, Alex, it’s been what…three seconds?” Jack said sarcastically.

“Mr. Mitchell, you clean up relatively well. I trust Alexandra has informed you of your new role in society?” Mina asked regally.

“She may’a said somethin’ bout that, ma’am, but I reckon she made sure I know’d all ‘bout y’all, highness.”

“Very good, young sir. Shall we say our goodbyes then, Empress?”

“I suppose we should, though I’ve sort of taken to this style of dress. Maybe I should make corsets a part of the uniform?” I said, smiling deviously.

A collective look of agony filled the room!

“Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, we thank you for your gracious hospitality. I also thank you for your tour of the hospital. I’m sure Emily has a new found appreciation for the medical profession of this time.” Mary and I embraced each other. “Again, I’m sorry for your loss, ma’am. I wish I could have done something more.”

She nodded once as I moved to the president. Unexpectedly he wrapped his long limbs around me and squeezed tight.

“Thank you for showing me my legacy, Alexandra! I shall remember our travels for the rest of my existence! Are you sure, the boy will prove faithful though?”

“Jack has explained things to him, sir.” I winked.

“Ah!” He nodded once.

We all sequenced our goodbyes through both Lincolns.

“Sarah and Liz, we will miss you here at the mansion.” Mary Lincoln broke into tears as she hugged both girls. “May you both live long and happily?”

“I promise Jimmy and I will take good care of them, ma’am.” Alexander said confidently.

“I’m sure you will, son.” Abraham Lincoln said as he shook my son’s hand. Alexander stepped back and stared at his hand, a slight smile appeared.

“Ladies,” Lincoln looked at Sarah and Liz, “Always remember how lucky you are. Also remember the kindness shown to you by Alexandra. It lightens my heart to know that you both will experience miracles well beyond those you’ve seen in this life. Now go and embrace the new life you have chosen.” Lincoln told them as a tear slowly ran down his cheek.

A gentle rapping sounded at the door.

“Mr. President? Excuse the interruption, but I have the requested items, sir.” Jacob’s voice said from beyond it.

Quickly, I hand-signaled for Sam, Cassie, Jimmy, and Alexander to take Jarrod and phased out.

‘Acoustic field is down, Alex.’ Jack thought to me. I nodded to Mr. Lincoln.

“Come in, Jacob.” He said to the door.

“I have the items you requested, sir. Where do you wish them placed?” Lincoln’s personal butler asked as he entered the room. Two maids followed him in and immediately stared at Liz and Sarah, confused by their manner of dress.

“Sarah and Elisabeth have been released from service here at the mansion.” Mary Lincoln informed them. “Alexandra and her sister have agreed to sponsor them. Place those things by the bed, please.”

Both maids placed the boxes neatly beside the bed, curtsied, and exited the room, but not before giving Sarah and Liz an envious look as they passed.

Both girls reentered the room quickly and tried to squeeze the life from our newest sisters. All four were crying as the two maids slowly moved into the hallway.

“I am sorry about that, Mr. President, Mrs. Lincoln. Miss’ Goode and Bishop will be sorely missed.” Jacob said as he looked at the two. “I trust you both have met someone special?” He winked at the girls. “Godspeed, ladies!”

“Mr. President, Secretary Stanton has asked that you meet him at 1 o’clock in the office. Shall I confirm the meeting?” Jacob then informed him as he turned to leave.

“I’ll be there, Jacob, thank you.”

“Travel well, Miss Alexandra.” Jacob suddenly stopped in front of me and leaned in close to my ear. “You have a wonderful family, M’lady.”

I gasped quietly.

He winked at me with a stiff smile and exited the room, gently closing the door behind him.

‘Field’s back up, Alex.’ Jack thought to me again.

The rest of our party reappeared.

“What was that all about, mom?” Cassie asked, and I noticed the Lincolns thinking the same.

“He said he thought I was cute and made a pass at me.” I lied.

“I will confront him, Alexandra.” Lincoln promised in a serious tone.

“That won’t be necessary, sir. I’m familiar with advances such as this. As far as I’m concerned, it never happened.” I requested, wearing my sweetest smile.

“As you wish, Empress.” Lincoln said as he bowed to me.

“Stop that this instant, sir.” I giggled. “I’m afraid we must be leaving. I have a few stops to make before returning to my task force in 1944.”

The Lincolns stepped back as the rest of us joined hands. The packages slowly flew over to us and were retrieved by Corrine and Jamie’s free hands.

“Wait!” I suddenly cried out as I dropped my hands. “I am not going to travel in these!”

My period dress quickly changed into jeans, T-shirt, and sneakers.

My group followed suit.

“That’s much better!” I sighed heavily, relieved that the constrictor wrapped around my middle had gone. Jack had triggered Jarrod’s suit. He looked well suited to jeans and T-shirts.

We rejoined hands again and I placed my foot on the large trunk at the base of the bed.

“Thank you for the gifts, President and Mrs. Lincoln.” I bowed my head to them.

“Travel well, Alex.” Lincoln said sadly.

“Until another time, Empress.” Mary Lincoln added, bowing her head slightly back to me.

“Until another time, Mary Todd-Lincoln.” I confirmed before phasing us out.

Both Lincolns searched the room for us.

“Think you can do it right this time, Ms. Cummins?” I looked over to her.

“I’ll give it my best shot, Alex. You want the president, too?”

“No, Jack, he must remember everything…unfortunately.” I said sadly.

“Yer talkin’ ‘bout em to their faces, ma’am?” Jarrod stated quietly in confusion.

“They can’t see or hear us, hun. Don’t worry though, y’all will understand in time.” I told him with a giggle.

We all laughed, as the bedroom became Emily’s twenty-first century living room.

“Welcome back. I trust everything went according to plan, Samantha?” My twin asked from her seat. She nodded to the trunk with a smile.

“As well as could be expected, mom. He will need plenty of attention.” Sam answered.

“Mom? How many ma’s y’all got, Samantha Fleming?”

“We’re not sure yet.” Sam smiled at him. “So far there’s been five of her in one place at one time.”

“How in the world…?”

“Beats me! She is the Empress after all! I guess she can do anything she wants…”

“Within reason, Sam, within reason.” I cut her off.

Randi tried to get up off the couch, but Brandon waved her back down.

“What can I get for you, Randi?” He asked.

“I left another manila envelope out in the car. It’s on the back seat.” She replied.

“I’ll be right back, you stay put.” Brandon told her as he made for the basement steps. He returned shortly with the large brown envelope and handed it to her.

“Here you go, Jarrod. I believe this belongs to you.” Randi handed it to Mitchell after checking the contents.

“What’s this?” He asked while figuring out how to open it.

“Your life…should you be serious about starting a new one where ‘they ain’t a feudin’!’ Here, you can settle down…” I left the rest of the quote hang and noticed Sam smile brightly.

“Alex, I should be getting home. It’s getting late and Jack has a curfew, so we’ll be going now.

“Thought y’all said yer ma was this Em’press o’ time ‘n space, Miss Samantha?”

“She is…what about it?”

“Well, ah would think that she could leave an’ re’turn all in the blink of an eye. A gal like that would never be late- not ever!” He reasoned.

“Sometimes, it’s fashionable to be late though, Mr. Mitchell.” I reminded him. I patted him on the head. “Good reasoning though. It seems you do have potential.”



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