South of Bikini 2: E5- New Beginnings and Conspiracy

Concluding their mission to 1865, Alex receives an important call from her sister, Brianna. The mission she proposes will be the strangest and most dangerous the Empress and her sisters have ever faced.

Copyright 2010 R.G. Beyer


South of Bikini:

Onward

Episode 5

“New Beginnings and Conspiracy”


 
 
1355hrs, Flagstaff, Arizona, July 12th, 2028
 
 

“Miss Alexandra?” Sarah called to me as Corrine, Mina, and Jamie joined me at my side.

“Ya Hun?”

Instead of answering, she and Liz rushed me and wrapped their arms around me.

Both girls remained silent, though I could feel quaking and heard muted sniffling from both teenagers.

“Y’all would think they were never gonna to see you ever again, Empress!” Alex Covington said as she shook her head in disbelief. “How do you always get the good stuff, sis?” She asked as her voice raised an octave.

I looked up from the two distraught girls to see my twin smiling at me. I winked at her and she returned the gesture.

“Girls, you do know that I’m still going to be here after we leave, right?”

The two pulled their faces from my shoulder and looked at me in confusion. I nodded over to Alex Covington with a smile.

“Maybe you should try her shoulder for continuity. It may be a little bit older, but should feel the same nonetheless.” I suggested as Alex stuck her tongue out at me momentarily.

I giggled.

“Empaa!” Little Lexie squealed with a happy screech. “Two!”

It came out plain as day! The room fell silent- all attention was on the giggling toddler as we waited to see what else the chubby little pixie would surprise us with!

“Three!” She squealed again followed by more giggling and outright laughing!”

“Three?” Alex and I said at the same time.

“Yes, three.” My voice said from the hallway. “I’m glad I was able to arrive in time for such a monumental occasion.”

Immediately everyone in the room, save three, fell to one knee!

“Welcome Empress! It is 1425hrs July 12th, 2028!” We greeted in harmony.

“What’d I say to y’all about that?” She growled and glared at us- especially Alex Covington and I!

“Its fun, sis!” I laughed as I stood first and approached to embrace her.

The familiar tingle greeted us.

“Y’all sure I ain’t dead, Samantha?” A male voice said from behind me.

“I told you, Jarrod, she’s the Empress. She can do things like this.” Sam laughed. I could imagine her shaking her head behind me.

“Jack, I think your ride’s here.” I said over my shoulder then looked back to my newly arrived twin.

She nodded once.

“Though not exactly from the same time, I assume?” I said quietly.

“’54, sis. I just got Sam weened last month.” She whispered her reply. “I sort of couldn’t come right back for Jack as you can imagine.” She smiled tentatively.

“No, sis, not really.” I giggled at her discomfort.

My newly arrived twin and I stared at each other for a few long minutes. Talk about your ultimate dead draw!

“I’m absolutely impossible!” She raised her voice and her hands to the ceiling in angry defeat. “How do I stand myself sometimes?” She complained as her eyes locked on another target.

Alexandra Fleming stomped past me and stopped before Sam’s beau-to-be.

“Y’all got somethin’ ta say ‘bout me bein’ here thrice, young reb?” She growled as she gave the young man the patented Demmit stare.

Everyone in the now quiet room heard the boy gulp!

“No, ma’am…ah mean no, Empress!” He gulped a second time. Sweat appeared from his forehead and began to trickle down the sides of his face.

“Good! You’ll do!” She continued glaring at him.

“Ma’a…Empress?” He swallowed hard a third time.

“Promise me y’all won’t take shit from him, Sammy!” Alex Fleming’s eyes moved quickly from her target for a brief second.

“Yes, momma.” Samantha replied meekly.

“That’s mah girl!” Alex Fleming said as she looked back to Jarrod Mitchell.

“If ah get another call from her Aunt Brie, ah’ll have ya back in that poor s’cuse of a hospital f’sure! We understand each other, boy?” She growled. I had never heard myself so angry!

‘I’ve heard you sound like this before, Alex!’ Jack’s voice said in my head.

‘JACK!’ I thought back.

Alex Fleming turned and pointed a finger to our Ex-O.

“Don’t!” She shook her finger, her anger burned furiously in her eyes. “Mah breasts er still hurtin’ an ah’m in no mood, Jack!” She glared at her for a moment. “Y’all ready or no?”

“Aye Cap.” Jack timidly answered with some confusion as to my twin’s angry disposition. At first I had no idea, but recall of my memories from the time period provided cause.

Alex Fleming thrust her hand out and grabbed Joss’.

A slight sweet smell wafted into the air around us. I hoped Jacki could handle her twin!

“Alex. Ma’am, you’re doing it again.” Jacki said in an even voice.

My twin’s face went red with embarrassment as she realized Jack was right.

“I’m sorry, y’all.” She apologized to us just above a whisper. The sweet smell of ozone dissipated quickly as Joss powered down and stepped away from my sister.

“I understand, Empress.” I commiserated, lowering my eyes to the floor.

“So do I, Empress.” Alex Covington added.

We both put an arm around her and hugged tightly. Again the tingle felt reassuring.

“Empaa!” Little Lexie screamed, her tone none too happy! The child reached out to our newly arrived Empress as far as her little arms would allow.

Alex Fleming’s face melted immediately.

“Of course, my little pixie! Come to Aunt Alex.” She said crouching down with her arms in front of her.

Carroll helped the little toddler down, supporting her until she stabilized on her own two feet.

The girl made a beeline to our grumpy twin.

Alex Fleming smiled, caught the child, and scooped her up into a hug. Young Lexie wrapped her arms around my twin’s neck and giggled uncontrollably!

“Must be you, sis!” I giggled to Alex Covington.

“Sure y’all ain’t twin sisters, cause that’s how ya’ll act!” Mitchell observed.

“Nope they are one in the same, Jarrod.” Sam told him. “That one’s my present mom,” she pointed to Alex Covington. “That one’s from 1944.” She pointed to me. “The grouchy one is from 1953 or ‘54- shortly after I was born.”

“Protective of her pup…that explains things.” Mitchell said absentmindedly.

Sam looked at the young man in amazement.

“I never thought about it that way, Jarrod.” She admitted. “Maybe there is hope for you after all.”

“I jest wish ah knew what ah did ta piss ‘er off?” He said looking back to the three of us cautiously.

“Alex, don’t worry. I’ll watch him like a hawk, but he has to make that mistake you know! They grow closer together because of it.” Alex Covington told our twin.

“Just following the script, sis. Eat yer heart out, Hepburn!” Alex Fleming giggled. “Honey, Aunt Alex has to give you back now, sweetie.” Alex told the cherub still clinging around her neck.

Carroll came over and retrieved her daughter.

“Girl’s as smart as her ma, Carroll.”

“Thanks, skip.”

“Empaa! Empaa!” Lexie’s fingers again reached out- for Alex Covington this time.

Carroll happily handed her over.

“See, sis? She does like you!”

Alex Fleming and I giggled. Carroll and the rest of my sisters joined in.

“Well, I’d like to get back to my own girls now. Jack, are you ready?”

“Aye, ma’am. Ready when you are. Empress, thank you for the adventure and the second chance. I now know that Mrs. Lincoln was an extraordinary woman.”

“The pleasure was all mine, Jack. You know I always enjoy our travels together. Good luck on Terra.” I looked to Alex Fleming. “Both of you.”

“Take care of Sandy, Alex.” Alex Covington told her with a sad smile.

“Thank you, my sisters.” Alex Fleming’s face turned sad also. “Until another time, Empresses.” She said taking Jack’s offered hand.

“Until another time, Empress.” Everyone in the room chorused. This time the three newest people in the room joined in.

Alex Fleming and Jacquelyn Cummins vanished.

“Bah, bah, Empaa!” Carroll’s daughter laughed excitedly as she clapped her chubby little hands together repeatedly.

“I think it’s time for us to leave too, Alex.” I looked to my future twin sadly.

“Thanks again, Alex.” She said to me with a tear forming in her eyes.

“For what, sis?” I replied in confusion.

“For what.” She looked at me in disbelief. “For bringing all my children home, sis- like you didn’t know!” She glanced at Sarah, Liz, and Jarrod in turn. “I’m sorry it was so hard on us, sis. It had to be done though. Like it or not, it had to be done.”

“I know- didn’t make it any easier though.” I looked over to Corrine, Mina, Emily, and Jamie. “Ready to rejoin the war, ladies?”

“Wait, Miss Alexandra! I wish to address Miss Corrine once more, please.” Sarah interrupted.

I motioned to Corrine.

“Miss Corrine, thank you for healing my wounds and my pain, ma’am.” She wrapped her arms around Corrine and kissed her cheek. Sarah stepped back and wiped the tears from her eyes. “Miss Mina.”

Sarah repeated her goodbyes to Mina, Emily, Jamie and I. Liz did likewise.

“Until another time, my sisters.” I said to everyone as Jamie, Mina, Emily, Corrine, and I joined hands.

“Until another time, Empress!” The rest chorused.

The cramped Con of Sand Dollar replaced Emily’s spacious living room.

“Welcome back, Alex, nothing to report in the five minutes since you left. Oh, I forgot.” Jack informed me before cautiously dropping to one knee.

“Welcome back, Empress. It is 2337hrs, May 18th, 1944.” She exclaimed with a wicked smile. “Is everything resolved now, Alex?” She glanced up to Mina momentarily.

“Everything is…”

“Everything is as it should be, Jacquelyn, though I expected my daughters would be here.” Mina interrupted me.

“Highness, there is only so much room in a Balao class boat; look behind you.” I pointed back to the galley.

“Momma!” Nina shouted as she hurried forward, her sisters following close behind.

I smiled as I brought my HUD online and selected my regulars.
 
 

0730 hours, Atlantis-Minor Base, June 27th, 1944
 
 

‘Empress Headquarters calling Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space! Agent Brianna here!’

“What?” I mumbled as I stirred and turned over, comfy in my own bed for the first time in almost five weeks.

‘Empress Headquarters calling Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space! Agent Brianna here!’

“Not now, Jack. Just let me sleep a while longer.” I mumbled again as I stretched my legs and pointed my toes to their limits.

‘Empress Headquarters calling Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space! Brianna calling!’

“She’s not here. Call back later.” I mumbled as I reached for my alarm clock and vowed to beat the life out of it.

“ALEX, Y’ALL GET THAT LAZY ASS A’YERS OUTTA THAT BED! WE GOT US A JOB!”

I sat straight up!

“Brie?” I asked looking around in confusion.

“No, It’s Marlene Dietrich! Who y’all think it would be talkin’ to ya like this? Wake up, Alex!”

“When are you, sis?”

“April 10th, 2010, Alex.”

“Where am I, Brie?” I asked, wondering why my sister had contacted me instead of me in her time.

“I would guess by the level of stress in your voice, mid 1944. Am I close?”

“You’re right on the money, sis, but that’s not what I meant. Where am I in 2010? Y’all gonna be blonde all yer life, Brie?”

“Hey, sis, I’m just as blonde as you, remember? As far as where my Alex is…well…she’s laid up for awhile and can’t travel. Check her memories for this year and you’ll understand.”

“Don’t have to, Brie. Ah’m carryin’ Alexander, right?”

“You’re just about ta pop, sis. Her an’ Brandon’s at the hospital as we speak. Emily an Spencer’s stuck in traff…aw hell, Alex, y’all give me a migraine! Can we get down ta biz’nis?” Brie sounded really flustered.

“Sure Brie, I’ll be right there. Care to send me a location to transit to?” I acknowledged as I worked up the nerve to climb out from under my warm, comfortable, luxurious, sheets.

“That’s my house in 2010, Alex.” She said as an image of a conservatively decorated room entered my mind.

My light blue silk nightgown changed to my dress whites.

“Sis, you better bring Randi Van Pelt and Jack, and before y’all ask, Jack’s on Terra helping Alexandra with a slight problem and Randi’s busy preparing for this year’s DARPA race.”

“Okay, gotcha, Brie. We’ll be there in a few minutes. See ya then. Empress out!”

“Cute, Alex. Cute.” Brianna replied before she cut her transmission.

I figured I had just enough time to wash up and throw on some war paint before Jack walked through the door.

‘Could I maybe have time to shower, Jack?’ I thought to her.

‘What was that Alex? I’m in the shower.’ She replied.

‘Take your time.’

‘Aye, Cap.’

I rolled my eyes as I started the water and began to undress.
 
 

1300 hours, Brianna and Charles Mason Residence, Springfield, Mo., June 27th, 2010
 
 

“Nice place, sis.” I said as we rephased in my sister’s living room.

“Thanks, Alex. Hi Jack, hi Randi.”

Brianna dropped to one knee.

“Welcome to Springfield, Missouri. The year is 2010 and it’s 1300hrs, Empress.” My sister giggled.

“Not you too?” I rubbed my face in frustration.

A well-built, middle-age man, six-two, salt and pepper brown hair, wearing faded jeans and a black ‘T’ shirt with ‘Coors’ and something about a silver bullet written on the front, walked into the room.

“Hey, Alex, Jacki, Randi. Nice to see you guys again. What’s the occasion?” He said as he walked over and hugged each of us.

“Honey, remember when I told y’all that Alex sees things a tiny bit different then the rest of us?” Brianna asked the man- or was it a hint?

“Oh, I’m sorry.” He quickly stuttered out. “I’m Brianna’s second husband, Charles Wesley Mason III. Welcome to our home, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space.”

“Give it a rest, Chuck. I have my future twin’s memories and remember you quite well. Still, it’s a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Mason.” I said as I shook his hand. “Lt. Cmdr. Jacquelyn Cummins, Lieutenant Randi Van Pelt, as you heard, this is my sister Brianna’s husband, Charles.”

Jack and Randi in turn shook his offered hand.

“Ladies, I gotta tell ya; I love those old Naval uniforms. I wish Brie would wear her’s more often, ya know?”

“Charles, they don’t need ta hear that, now do they? I promise you’ll see me in it later tonight and again when I return home.”

Chuck Mason smiled brightly.

“So where you ladies off to this time or is it ‘FYEO’?” He asked casually.

“I was just going to ask Brie about that, Chuck. Brie?” I deferred to her as the four of us set our attention to my sister.

“I’m not sure how I can define this one, Alex.” She took a small device from the glass topped wooden coffee table and pressed a button on it. The large screen television in the corner of the room came to life. A man and a woman dressed in above average clothing were having a heated discussion about a man named Victor in a lavishly appointed living room.

“Sorry, I forgot that channel was still on.” Brie blushed as she changed the channel.

A screen displaying a map of the United States appeared. On it meteorological symbols indicated the weather for the day.

“Let’s see what else is on.” Randi said as she touched her thumb and forefinger together gently as if clicking an invisible remote’s button.

The television’s screen began sequencing through the available channels.

The screen stopped on a channel that was playing Navy file footage from the war and narrarated by a British gentleman.

“The battle group under the command of Admiral Chester Nimitz…”

“Nah, too recent! Moving on.” Randi sighed and began to push her invisible button once more.

“Randi, could y’all please stop that an’ listen to what I’m sayin’ fer a while?” Brie asked through clinched teeth.

“Sorrrrry! There isn’t much for me to talk to on Atlantis-Minor you know! I’ve already beaten the Grotto field generator’s controller thirty out of fifty times at chess since we got back from our last patrol.”

“Randi, it’s only been eight hours since we tied up.” I reminded her.

“Feels more like eight weeks, Skip!” She shot back.

“Can ah please continue?” Brie interrupted in an annoyed voice.

Quiet laughing could be heard from the seat Chuck had taken. There the man sat, hand over his mouth, eyes closed tightly, unsuccessfully holding back his snickering.

Four pairs of agitated eyes glared at him until he took notice, opened his eyes and stopped.

“I’m sorry!” He snorted. “This family,“ he snorted again, “This family has got to be the craziest ever! If only the networks could get you to make a reality series! The Kardashian’s got nothing on you gals!”

“Charles?”

“Ya, sweetheart?”

“Don’t you have the lawn to cut?”

“Sorry, sweetheart, but I finished that yesterday. Tell ya what though- I could use a beer! Alex, Jacki, Randi, you want one?”

“Sure, Chuck, we’ll all have one, thanks.” I answered for us.

“None for me thanks, dear.” Brie declined with a tense smile.

Chuck Mason walked out of the room and into what I think was the kitchen.

“You’re in luck I have just enough.” He announced from the other room just before a click and loud hissing sound.

“AHHHHH! Jacki Cummins! Why’d you have to do that! Now I have to go down to the store and get more!” Chuck Mason complained. He walked back into the living room wiping his face and shirt with a paper towel.

“Okay, I get the point! I’ll leave you four alone to talk shop. If you think of anything else we need from the store just call, I’ve got my cell with me.” He leaned over, kissed my sister then headed for the door, but stopped and turned around.

“You girls still want a beer, right?” He looked at us confidently.

“Yes, Charles, we still would like a drink.” I answered and motioned him off with my fingers.

“Good. Be back in a couple.” He said as he headed out the door.

“He means well and I love him to pieces.” Brie blushed.”So, can I get through this briefing without more interruptions?”

“We’ve been waiting, sis.” I smiled deviously.

“Sometimes I question why I ever took your hand that morning, Alex!” She stared at me a moment.

“Anyway, I was watching this Conspiracy Theory-slash-documentary on the History Channel the other night. Actually, it was the second time I had seen this episode. A half hour after it was over I got this anonymous email massage on Reilly’s Comm network- here.”

Brie brought up the message and handed me her customized cell phone.
 
 

Consp. Theory? May b : )

Have ev. Linkg 2 reilly rs.

May involv emprs. U chk?

Kecksburg pa 1965 2 strt.


 
 
I was confused as I read the strange text. Brie corrected my pronunciation and Randi translated it into English for us ‘illiterates’.

“I don’t get it. What conspiracy? Where is Kecksburg, Brie?” Jack asked in confusion.

“I want to know who found out about Reilly? You think it could just be coincidence, sis?” I asked.

“It mentioned the Empress, though, Alex!” She answered with concern.

“Randi, see if you can backtrack that communiqué. I’m hoping one of our sisters is playing an April fools day prank on you, sis.”

“Already on it, Skip!” Randi beamed with excitement.

“In the meantime I’ve done a little snooping, Alex. As luck would have it, I recorded the episode I watched that night.” Brie said as she picked up another remote control.

“Here, I’ll get it, Brie.” Randi said with her eyes closed.

The television went black for a moment as we heard a motor quietly run up to speed then stop. A scrambled picture appeared on the screen but cleared and focused immediately.

We watched the well-presented documentary to its full two-hour length.

“Sorry for all the commercials. These days there seem to be more ads than actual material.” Brie apologized.

“Anyone want another beer?” Chuck asked from his recliner. He had returned a half hour into the program and quietly handed each of us a cold, aluminum can, then taken his seat and watched with us.

“Thanks, Chuck, but two’s my limit. I have to drive tonight.” I gracefully declined his offer.

“So, whatcha think- it one of ours, Alex?” He asked after returning from the kitchen with a refill for himself.

“One of ours?” I questioned, staring at him from my position across the room on the Davenport.

“You know, one of Reilly’s shuttle pods. It was an orbiting outpost before you moved it to this universe, right?” He theorized.

“Chuck, have you ever been to Reilly?” I asked candidly.

“A few times, why?”

“Have you ever seen any of these so called shuttle pods there?”

“Welllll no, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”

“Oh, they’re there, but unless they can tunnel through seven hundred feet of volcanic rock just to get airborne, I really don’t think you’ll ever see one operating.” I informed him.

“But can’t you…you know…” He blinked his eyes tightly once then wiggled his nose sideways twice. “Um…just teleport one?”

“Please excuse my husband, Empress, he watched way too much TV as a child.” Brianna apologized for him.

I quickly accessed some future me memories.

“Chuck, do I look like Barbara Eden or Elizabeth Montgomery?”

“Um…kinda….only taller?” He answered timidly.

He had me there as far as hair color and basic figure. Our facial structures and height did differ though- plus I had more on top than either actress.

Wait! Had I just compared myself to two other women?

‘Ya you did, Cap!’

‘That wasn’t a question I wanted an answer to, Jack!’ I thought loudly back to her.

‘Excuuuuse me for answering!’

“What you suggest would work if I knew how to pilot them, Chuck, which I don’t! Another important fact is that they haven’t been touched in over four thousand-nine hundred years!”

“Oh. Then who do you think it belongs to then?”

“If we could get a good look at those ‘mystical runes’ on its exterior, we could run them through our suit translators and find out.”

“So where do we start, Alex?” Charles asked.

“We start by trying to get a look at this thing, Chuck. You start by staying here where it’s safe.” I said seriously.

“I thought as much! You girls get to have a dangerous adventure and ol’ Chuck gets to keep the furniture warm again!” He complained sorrowfully.

He certainly knew how to make me feel bad!

“Chuck, you don’t have a Reilly suit…”

‘Ya, he does, Alex.’ Jack interrupted mentally.

“You haven’t been on a mission befo…”

‘Ya, he has, Cap.’

“Jack, knock it off!” I screamed.

“Sorry.”

“Chuck, I don’t want to risk you falling into the Nazi’s hands! You don’t know how ruthless and cunning they are! I can’t risk my sister losing you.”

“Hey, would y’all look at the time!” Brie started to change the subject. “I’ll have dinner ready in forty-five! Hope y’all don’t mind bar-b-qued steaks? Charles, ya’ll wanna go an start the grill?”

Brianna got up off the Davenport and escorted her man out to the kitchen.

“Alex, I tracked down the initial send point of that email. It’s an Internet bar in Warsaw, Poland. The sender used the business’s anonymous guest logon. No way to tell who sent it exactly, though I’m trying to download surveillance camera video from around the timestamp. Whoever it was is pretty good at bouncing IP’s.”

“And we thought Alex Reilly and her bunch talked funny!” Jack giggled.

I closed my eyes and shook my head a few times.

“Randi, I need to know the time, date, and location for this crash landing. Also, a time for the Military’s arrival on scene.”

“Aye, Skip, printing it up as we speak.”
 
 

“Good ribs, Brie! Whose recipe?” I asked wiping my mouth for what I hoped was the final time this evening.

“Ma give it to me some fifty years ago, sis. She said Grandma give it to her shortly after they was hitched. I give it to you back in ’70.”

I turned to regard Brie’s husband.

“Chuck, how much do you know about us…about me?” I asked cautiously.

“Enough to be scared if I got on your bad side, Empress. Why?”

“I’m thinking about taking you along on the first leg of our adventure. If memory serves you were in the Army, right?”

“Yes, ma’am! Retired early after the first Gulf War- as a First Louie! Why?”

“How would you like to be a General? Think you could pull that off, Chuck?”

“I can be as much of a bastard as they can, Alex, sure.”

“Good, we leave in an hour.” I announced to everyone as we got up to help Brie clear the table.
 
 

“Okay, I want everyone in Army greens. Chuck, you’re a two star, the rest of us are first lieutenants. Ladies, tight sport bras are a necessity and our hair needs tucked under our caps. Remember that the army didn’t have women serving on the front line, just in the chow hall! We get in, check things out quickly then ‘port back here.”

I looked at the faces around me for understanding.

“From the many eyewitness reports Randi found on the net, we won’t be alone out there. At least a dozen civilians tracked through those woods to get a look at our target. If any military personnel should happen upon one or all of us use the cover story of General Mason ordering us to recover any fragments around the crash site. Jack will be monitoring each of us so if in trouble, give a mental call out and I’ll pop in and rescue y’all. Under no circumstances are any of us to get apprehended!”

I looked around again.

“Okay lets get ready then.” I said as I triggerd my suit to change. My chest constricted immediately and I was reminded of our last mission – five weeks ago.

Carefully, I twisted my long hair, held it on top of my head, and quickly pulled on my cap as tight as possible. The end result was that we all looked like fresh privates instead of experienced lieutenants.

Hopefully it would be dark enough that no one would notice.

Brie pulled a small, two by three device out of her Government Issue coat pocket. She noticed me looking intently.

“Just checking to make sure my camera is set for nighttime shots, Alex. Ready when you are.” She said as she replaced the tiny camera back into her pocket.

“Everyone join hands…”

“Oh, I love this part!” Chuck interrupted.

“Um…that didn’t sound very commanding, Chuck.” I deadpanned.

“Can we get on with this, soldier? I want to get home early enough to make my morning tee-time!” He said lowering his voice an octave.

“Yaaaa…don’t push it that far and you should be convincing, hun!” I giggled.

“Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, December 9th, 1965, coming up!” I announced before anyone else interrupted.
 
 

1620 hours, Outside of Kecksburg, PA., December 9th, 1965
 
 

“You think we got here early enough, Alex?” Jack asked for the twentieth time since arriving.

“Are we there yet?” Brianna mocked in a nasally, child’s voice.

We had been holding hands for about fifteen minutes waiting for it to get dark enough to rephase.

“I didn’t know exactly when sunset was, okay? I’ve never been to Western Pennsylvania before! How cold does it get in these parts in December? Anyone know?”

“It’s similar to winter nights back home, sis. Just think Ozark winter.”

“Wonderful.” I said sarcastically.

“Alex, from the descriptions it should descend from that direction and land somewhere down in that valley of trees. We’re standing on the road shown in the documentary so we should see the whole thing as it happens” Randi briefed us.

“Well, when it comes down we rejoin hands and I port us to the exact location. Remember, we get in, get pictures, and get out as quick as possible.” I reminded everyone.

By now the sky had darkened enough to hide our appearance. Dropping our hands, the winter evening air enveloped us. Although seeing our breath, the night chill wasn’t too much to handle and we continued our vigil.

A distant clap of thunder drew our attention to the bright ball of fire streaking toward us.

“It’s coming in awfully fast, Alex. You want me to put on some brakes?” Jack asked with concern.

“Alex!” Randi suddenly cried out. “I’m picking up telemetry from it! There has to be some kind of computer onboard!”

“Slow it down, Jack! Someone may be aboard!”

“Aye, Cap.”

We looked on as the craft neared. It was hard to tell if Jack was having any success decreasing its velocity or rate of decent.

“Jacki, it’s not slowing down, sweetheart.” Chuck Mason observed.

“I can’t get a good grip on the thing! I’ll have to try a different tactic!” Jack admitted through clinched teeth. It was obvious she was straining to control the craft. I reached over and took her hand in mine.

“I’m here if you need more power, Jack.”

Randi and Brie joined hands with her too- even Chuck offered a hand to his wife in support.

Another crack of thunder filled the air as the craft hit the next denser layer of air. I could feel Jack drawing power from me as her hand squeezed down on mine harder.

“Thanks guys, here goes nothing!” Her voice was strained and raspy.

To our relief the object visibly slowed and appeared to make a slight right-hand turn. Within seconds it dropped into the forest below us with the loud crackling of trees snapping before it finally contacted the ground.

“Hold tight, everyone, here we go.”

The ground shook slightly as I gave the order. I thought I heard what sounded like a woman’s scream from the crash site down in the hollow!

Before us sat what could only be called a small spacecraft. Trees crippled in its path burned quietly, set afire by the extreme heat of re-entry. Bushes and small trees crackled as the craft’s glowing exterior sparked small fires all around us.

“Jack, can you effectively deflect some of that heat away from us?”

“Done, Alex. You can rephase us.” She said, her voice already sounding better than before.

I immediately rephased us.

“Brie, get that camera working.”

“Alex, I’m still getting telemetry from this thing! It seems to be some kind of repeating code- could be some kind of tracking signal.” Randi exclaimed as she ventured a step closer.

“Randi, your almost out of my shield range, be careful!” Jack advised her.

“I need to get pictures of every side of this thing, Jack!” Brianna said after taking a few flash pictures.

We all moved closer to Jack and began walking around the still red-hot craft.

“I don’t see any door or access to the interior, Alex. Maybe it’s some kind of probe?” Brie said as she snapped a few more photographs- the flash intermittently lighting the brush and trees around us in bluish-white light.

“Is anyone down there?” A faint voice called through the trees.

“Time to leave, y’all!” I whispered as everyone joined hands again.

The change in light level between the dimly lit crash site and Brie’s living room made us all shield our eyes after I rephased us there.

“Brie, we need those photographs as soon as! Randi, can you transfer that signal to Brie’s computer for analysis, or do you need access to Kili’s AI?”

“I’ll save the files to her computer, Alex. I can sort through them from here.”

“Alex, I can bring these images up on our computer after Randi’s done downloading.” Brie informed me. I had forgotten the capabilities available in this time period. “Randi, don’t forget your file compression options are far more limited here than on Kili! I don’t want the files too big or not readable at all for the hard drive or processor- it’s only an I-7 with two ‘T’ of space!”

“Not gonna be a problem, Brie, I do zip files! I’ll upload any signal processing software I need from Kili, but I think I have everything I need up here.” She tapped her head as the Mason’s computer flashed to life.

“That’s the fastest I’ve ever seen that thing boot up, Randi! How’d you do that?”

“It likes me, Chuck.” Her reply was simple, concise, and typical Randi Van Pelt!
 
 

“Alex, here’s the first of the pictures.” Brie said pointing to the screen after Randi had finished her downloading.

“Can you zoom in on it a little while I bring up my HUD, sis?”

“Sure, Alex.” Randi answered as the image of the so-called ‘runes’ became larger on the screen.

“Kind of looks like hieroglyphics to me, Alex.” Jack voiced her take on the strange symbols.

“Randi, scroll up a little bit…wait…stop there, hun!” I looked closely at the symbol, rune or alien character magnified on the screen.

“I recognize that character! I’ve seen it before!” I said with a little disbelief in my voice.

“You’ve seen it before, Alex? Where?” Brie’s husband, Chuck asked.

“I’ll let y’all know in a moment. “ I said as I brought up my Reilly suit’s HUD, selected translate and zeroed in on the symbol in question.

My HUD display highlighted the symbol and a sidebar appeared with different symbols running quickly from top to bottom in it. A beep sounded and the scrolling stopped on a match. Another box opened before my eyes with information about the matched symbol.

“My translator says it’s ancient Terran.” I told everyone as I read the brief description. “That is the symbol for ‘Latitude’.” I continued. “Randi, can you bring up the next symbol, please?”

“One second, Alex, I have to switch images. I can only get a partial of it on this one.”

Quickly, she brought up the next picture and enlarged the symbol in question on the screen. “Best its gonna get here, Alex.”

“Thanks.” I said as I repeated the process on my HUD.

“That one translates to ‘prime’. Prime latitude.” I said. My eyes grew bigger as it hit home.

“Prime latitude. Prime meridian!” I gasped loudly as it all made sense. “Meridian!” I shouted. “Meridian 12!”

“Meridian 12, Alex?” Brie asked in surprise.

“Randi, access Kili’s AI! Reference the Terran archives that Tibius brought with him to the Empresses’ conference in 2028. See if you can find exterior hull images of the Meridian Deep Space Project- specifically Meridian 12!”

“Aye, Skip. It’ll take a little time to parse such a huge directory- there’s over two hundred and seventy ‘T-flops’.”

“How long?” I asked.

“At least fifteen minutes, Skip! It’s not like I’m attached to RVP right now, you know?” Randi paused a second.

“Um, Skip?”

“What’s the matter, Randi?”

“Um, this is only 2010, Alex. Those files haven’t been uploaded to Reilly’s AI yet.”

How could I forget such a pertinent detail? Maybe I should take a nice quiet vacation after this mission?

“Oh…right. Better try to get a complete three-sixty of the hull markings, Randi. We’ll take that to Kili and have RVP do the comparison and translation based on the information contained in my suit. Wait, you have the identical files in your suit, right, Randi? Once at Reilly we can store our suit data into a temporary, protected, directory and delete it from the system afterwards so the future remains true.”

How did I know that? My little friend started to show me how I knew.

“Um, Cap? Your startin’ to sound like Alex Reilly!” Jack informed me-, which broke my concentration on my gift-, which worked out for the best, I guess. I noticed Randi cover her mouth and yawn.

Maybe I should step back and rethink things.

“Randi, once we get to Reilly, upload what you have and call it a night, hun.”

“You got it, Skip, I’m getting kinda tired anyway.” Randi admitted as she yawned again.

“Chuck, I could use another beer, if you don’t mind.” I looked to the still stunned man.

“Alex, what is this Meridian 12- for those of us not fortunate enough to attend that conference in 2028.” He asked before going out to the kitchen.

Returning, he handed Jack and I each a cold can and kept one. Opening the can, he sat back down, took a drink, and waited for me to relate the occasion.

“In 2028 we hold the first ever Empresses’ convention. In attendance are Alex Reilly, Alex Covington, my Granddaughter Alexandra, and me. The conference was crashed even before it began, though. We found out that my eight year-old Granddaughter had inadvertently transported an old nemesis, one Janelle Hathor and six of her followers, forward in time from ancient Egypt. On arrival, Hathor, who had forcibly taken control of some Terran explorers on Earth, used them to capture our preparations group.”

“There were Terrans here on Earth? In Egypt?” Chuck gasped as he almost choked on his drink.

I looked at him. “Ya, is that so hard to believe? Chuck, yer hitched to the Empress’s sister!” I calmly reminded, raising an eyebrow.

“Anyway, that’s where we met Anna-Beth. She had been captured and forced into this sadistic control suit that compelled her to follow Hathor’s every command.” I paused to take another swig of beer.

“Only a joint effort by Terran and Earther healers saved the woman’s life. As she recovered, Anna-Beth told us that she was one of the survivors from a Terran Deep Space mission. She was the commander of Meridian 12. The spacecraft had become caught up in an…um…gravity well from an uncharted wormhole and traveled temporally through it, ending up in ancient Egypt. I believe we may have found that craft!”

“So all the conspiracy theorists were right; ancient aliens did live on Earth?”

“And married into the local populations, Charles. When she was healthy enough for travel, Tibius and I took Anna-Beth back to her family- real nice people! You can’t believe how far off our ‘experts’ were about that society! Anyway, they persuaded us to stay to watch a few calibration tests of the Giza transmitter before returning to 2028. While enroute to the control room for the transmitter, I observed a small display commemorating the arrival of Meridian 12 to Earth one hundred years before, in the building’s vestibule. I recognized the symbols from the exhibit’s title plate.”

“Giza transmitter? The Great Pyramid? Its a radio?”

“More like a homing beacon, Chuck” Randi interjected.

“How’d y’all know about that, Chuck? All record of that was supposedly destroyed when they burned down the library at Alexandria.” I asked curiously.

“There was just this documentary on cable that suggested it as one of the possible theories.” Chuck answered, totally flabbergasted.

“Alex, I just finished splicing all the symbols together-looks like we have three-quarters of the hull to work with. I’ll start comparing them to the archives we upload at Reilly. RVP will relay them to me on completion.”

“Chuck,” I said looking to my brother-in-law, “You and Brie look like y’all could use a tropical vacation.”
 
 

1900 hours, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, June 27th, 2028
 
 

“I think we’re the only ones here, I don’t remember anything important happening on the island this time of year, sis.” I speculated as we walked toward my favorite airlock door.

“I think you’re right, Alex, unless our niece Alexandra pops in for something.”

“RVP has been alerted and is preparing our quarters, Alex.”

“Thanks, Randi. I take it that you’ll be jacking in to oversee things?”

“Not this time, Alex. I’d like to get some sleep tonight. I have a feeling things are going to get complicated.” She replied with some reserve in her voice.

“Trying to take my job away from me now, Randi? You know computers can only predict so much, right?” I jabbed.

“We probably could do more if we weren’t constantly covering for humans!”

“Um…Randi? Um…you’re still a human, hun, remember?” I smiled deviously and walked into Reilly’s airlock.
 
 

The place was certainly quiet. Probably because of that, the place felt different. I realized I missed the morning conversations, the friendly joking and teasing amongst my sisters, the flying plates… I stopped that thought midstream as a plate and glass of orange juice floated past.

I shook my head and placed another fork of waffle into my mouth.

“It only gets worse ya know.” I heard Brie giggle from behind me.

“Ya, sis, today a plate of sausage and home fries with a glass of orange juice- tomorrow a City class nuclear submarine.” I laughed. “After that, who knows? Maybe she’ll be movin’ a whole research facility? Oh wait, that was me!” I forced a giggle or two.

“Ha ha, Alex! I have to keep in practice, right?” Jack commented from a table away.

Brianna rolled her eyes as she sat down beside me.

“Sometimes I think you’re as bad as she is, Alex.”

Chuck sat down on the other side of her. We all enjoyed a few minutes of laughter on Jack’s account.

“So how’s Dee and Fredrick these days?” I asked finishing my waffle and picking up my coffee cup.

“Dee is in between lives at the moment and Fred is teaching at Missouri State. He wants to get a few more years there then retire and restart after Randi gets a chance to realign and transfer his bank accounts.”

“Seems like I never get to see either of them, Brie. Sometimes I wonder if they even know who I am.”

“Oh they know who you are, Alex!” Chuck Mason chuckled.

“Alex, those two take after their Pa. He never seemed to have time for any of us after they got older- always working or travelling for work or…”

“He was cheatin’ on ya, Brie, I know!” I interrupted. That’s why you had both them at Ma and Pa’s.”

“I was a naïve, love struck child, Alex! He came onto my feminine inexperience and I was weak. I know now that he just wanted to use me; there was no love from him- only lust.”

Chuck put his arm around her. “But now she has me, Alex, and I swore to protect and pamper your sister as best I can, Empress!”

“As long as she remains happy, Mr. Mason.” I replied, giving him the patented Demmit stare.

“Empress, processing has successfully terminated for the requested character recognition of the photographic compilation.” RVP’s voice rang out in the smaller, third level briefing room we were having breakfast in.

“Thanks, RVP. Could you display on the big screen, please?” I asked pleasantly.

“As you wish, Empress. External Processor #3-Omega requests master status for primary display of compiled data- please stand-by.”

“Ya’ll wanna say that again in English, RVP?” Brianna rolled her eyes as she asked for a translation.

“I simply said that Randi Van Pelt wants to present the results, Brianna Mason!” A rather incensed RVP replied.

I started giggling, placing my coffee cup carefully back onto its saucer to avoid any spill.

“What y’all laughin’ at, sis?”

“I keep forgetting that you don’t visit Kili that often, Brie- sorry.” I explained with a smile.

“Well someone got ta watch for d’screpensies, Alex!”

“An’ y’all do the Empress proud, hun!” I congratulated her, touching her hand gently.

“Alex, we’re ready when you are, ma’am.” Randi said, getting my attention.

I turned toward the giant screen on the far wall.

“Please proceed, Miss Van Pelt.”

“First, Alex, I want to thank you for telling me that we’re in 2028! I wasted valuable processing time uploading files that already existed as archives! Not to mention more time running diagnostics because I thought my real-time-clock was malfunctioning!” Randi scolded.

“We’re in 2028, Alex?” Brie gave me an angry look.

“Randi looked real tired yesterday so I figured I’d save her some time, that and I want to make sure you two,” I pointed to Brie and Chuck, “get your Reilly suits upgraded.

“You think things will get that…”

“I just want to be precautionary, sis. Randi, please continue.”

“Here is the augmented compilation of photographic images taken at the 1965 crash site. Although far from complete, three-quarters of the hull has been successfully enlarged and enhanced.” Randi pointed to the image as she narrated.

The image changed.

“This is the raw translation of the previous image. As you can see it makes no sense unless you have the Terran primer.” Randi switched images. “Even then it is only partially readable. ‘Meridian 12. To…understand…universe…us. If we interpolate the missing quarter, the inscription makes more sense. ‘Meridian 12. To better understand the Universe around us.”

The image changed again.

“Several symbols are unrelated and dissociated from the Ancient Terran characters, however.”

“Randi” I stopped her. “Correlate and translate the two on the right with the mystical rune database. I think we all know what the first symbol is.” I told her, looking a bit disgusted by the sight of the stylized swastika.

“Alex, those three look as if chiseled or etched in later.” Chuck observed.

“Running depth variation algorithm for age differential of suspected characters.” RVP and Randi announced simultaneously.

I noticed Randi had become stationary with her eyes closed. Apparently there was some extreme processing going on.

Randi’s eyes fluttered back open and she quickly tilted her head slightly as if to crack her neck.

“Good eye, Charles. The three symbols in question were added approximately four thousand years after the original inscription as indicated by the crude grind marks on them. Apparently the Germans did not possess the technology to successfully engrave this alloy.”

“The Germans?” He asked back.

“Yes, Charles, as you know, the symbol of the National Socialist Party of Germany is the first character in the added sequence. The other two roughly translate to: ‘The future is ours.’ Of course we know better now, right Alex?”

“Right, Alex?” She asked again.

“Randi, I want our Reilly suits loaded with the new and ancient Terran translator, both symbols and language if not already found- include in the download all German dialects, Polish, and Czech!” I ordered.

“Alex, don’t you want to know about the telemetry?” Randi asked, somewhat desperately.

“Is it relevant?”

“Alex, it translates out to: ‘I pray the Empress of Space and Time finds this and rescues us from damnation.’ It’s a prayer…to you Alex! It’s Anna-Beth’s voice! How could she know you even existed that far back, ma’am?” Randi asked in confusion.

“Is that all it says, Miss Van Pelt?” I asked as my mind went into high gear.

“It just gives heading and galactic coordinates of the original crash site, Skip.”

“Galactic coordinates, Randi?” Chuck Mason asked in confusion.

“Earth’s position in the Milky Way Galaxy, Chuck.” I answered. “In essence it tells any would be rescuers how to find them. If reversed, it could tell someone how to find Terra.”

“And Adolph Hitler has obviously found Meridian 12.” He stated matter-of-factly.

“And he has the means of finding Terra too. If he can get Meridian 12 flying again.”

“Won’t the Terrans detect his plan from the crew he sends, Alex? Look how they treated us on our arrival.” Jack asked.

“What if the Nazis had a trump card to play, Jack?” I shot back.

“They have a Terran on the payroll, Cap?”

“What if they decoded the message, Jack? What if they actually believe in the Empress and want to use her to…”

“IT’S A TRAP!” Brie’s husband said in a strange, deep, mush-mouthed, voice.

My sister’s hand met the back of Chuck’s head with a gentle slap.

“Sorry, hun, I couldn’t resist! It was just there!”

“It should have stayed there, Charles! Alex has no idea what Star Wars is! Nor do Randi or Jack!” Brie scolded her husband.

“I got it, Brie. Revenge of the Jedi, the third original movie.” I told her flatly. “I even know how the final Harry Potter movies turn out, thanks to Alex of 2028!” I giggled.

Brie gave her husband an angry stare. “Don’t you even think about it, Charles!”

“Wha?”

“Just don’t!” She threatened.

“You do know that you could ask my sister how things turn out for the young wizard! She can see the future too, ya know!”

“Alex! Don’t encourage him!”

“Cap, I agree with Chuck! Since they love mystical items and hold magical icons sacred, wouldn’t you fall right at the top of things to acquire to dominate the world?” Jack theorized.

“I’m not a thing, Jack!”

“To them you are, Alex. Just like Anna-Beth was to Janelle Hathor! Just another piece of hardware they can exploit to conquer their enemies.” She explained her expression dead serious.

“Okay, so it’s a trap. We go back to early 1945 Poland- to this Wenceslas Mine. How could they possibly have anything that could hold the Empress? Or either one of you for that matter?” I looked toward Jack and Randi.

“Alex, I’m as good as human back there! Remember, no computers, no amazing Randi!”

She had a point, but I still needed her to talk to Meridian..

“Alex, what if they do have one or two Terrans working for them? What if they do have a way to negate our gifts?” Jack urged.

“You have to go back, don’t you Alex?” My brother-in-law asked. “That’s why Meridian crashed in 1965 Kecksburg. You stole it from the Germans, didn’t you?”

Was Chuck Mason actually right? It certainly sounded like something I would do.

I started reviewing my recollections of the crash we witnessed back in 1965. We had gotten to the site just seconds after it came to rest in the shallow gully. In the whole time we were there nothing stirred or tried escaping the craft. If I had stolen the ship wouldn’t I have quickly exited and ported someplace else to avoid detection? What about the woman’s scream I heard just before we jumped to the site from the road above? It was definitely mentioned in at least one eyewitness account.

“Randi, my order stands!”

“Alex, what is the plan?” Chuck Mason asked.

“While Randi makes the necessary additions to our Reilly suits, I’m going to read up on the Empress as related to Homeworld and Terran legends. The more I know about ‘my’ stories, the better I can present myself as that legend.”

“You’re going to try to impersonate yourself, Alex?” Jack asked in confusion.

I didn’t answer.

“We leave for Poland after I finish my research and return with the last member of our party- once we get her suited up! I’ll return in a few seconds.

 
 

1000 hours, Pearl Harbor Naval Station, June 27th, 2028
 
 

The bright sunlit exterior of CINCPAC headquarters, Pearl Harbor replaced Reilly’s briefing room.

Before rephasing, I changed my uniform to twenty-first century dress whites and exchanged my silver cluster for two stars. I also changed my nameplate.

Looking around cautiously, I rephased when the coast was clear.

Walking along through the base in this time was much different than in 1944, not only because of the newer designs and exotic looking craft, but because some of the buildings had changed. I found my way to Hospital Point blocked by a newer looking block building and a paved parking lot! I quickly recalculated my route.

Where had I heard that phrase before- ‘recalculate my route’? Seemed like a silly thing to say or think. Strange.

“Rear Admiral Covington!” A familiar voice called to me as I passed the Officers Club.

I stopped and turned around as Julia Masterson quickened her pace to catch up.

“Alex, I thought you were in Indonesia helping with the Earthquake relief?”

“Oh, hi Jules. No, I’m still there. I’m here to collect the last member of my team.” I told her cryptically.

“Alex….um…Steinert? Why are you out of rank, Alex?” Jules looked surprised.

“I’m not supposed to be here, Jules. I need to find Peyton and get back to Kili. You wouldn’t know if she’s still in the hospital would you?”

“Peyton? Peyton who, Alex?” Jules looked at me curiously.

“Peyton Treibche. She’s been a member of Detroit’s crew for the last three years.”

“Alex, I know every member of my crew and that name rings no bells.”

“Okay then where is Peonie? She would know who I’m talkin’ ‘bout.”

“Peonie went into Honolulu with Dom. I haven’t seen either of them since I dismissed the crew for shore leave.”

“Is Vernon still on base then?”

“Sure, I just left him at the O.C., come on.”
 
 

“Captain Reynolds, look who I found wondering the base?” Jules said as we approached Vernon Reynold’s table. He was busy playing a smaller version of some hologame and hadn’t seen us coming.

“Who is it Jules- another stay ensign with designs on my marital status?” He looked away from his game quickly then jumped to attention.

“Admiral on deck!” He shouted. Everyone in the place jumped to attention!

“Rr. Adm. Covington, ma’am! I had no idea you were even on base!”

“At ease, everyone!” I said loudly to everyone with a slight smile.

I looked to Vern and lowered my voice. “I’m not really here. I just stopped by to get Peyton. You wouldn’t know where she is, do you?”

“She was still at the hospital this morning, Alex. She should still be there. I think they were going to release her in the morning. Why?” He looked closely into my eyes.

“Why haven’t I heard of this Peyton person, Vern?” Julia asked.

“Let’s go for a walk, you two.” I suggested. Vern pushed an unseen button to turn off his game and folded the thing in two. He put the game back into his leather satchel and motioned for us to follow.

“Why can’t I remember this Peyton woman and you can, Vernon Reynolds?” Julia sounded angry.

I raised my hand to quell the brewing confrontation.

“Peyton Treibche is an ancient Terran that came here to depose Janelle Hathor, Jules!” I looked to her as I spoke. “Peyton has the ability to impose herself into people’s memory so that it appears she is familiar and known. Apparently her illness has disabled her gift. Vernon is not affected by Peyton’s gift and therefore remembers her.”

Julia glared at her Captain. “Why didn’t you tell me? As first officer, I am responsible for every member of our crew, Vern!”

“I didn’t know she was doing that until Alex told me, Jules! I thought she told you too!” Vernon Reynolds then glared at me.

“Hey, I had no idea who Alex told! I didn’t even see her that morning before we shoved off from Kili! I don’t even remember much after I got Sand Dollar back to 1944! So don’t glare at me, Mr. Reynolds!” I glared back.

“Alex Steinert?”

“In the flesh!”

“What are you doing in that uniform; don’t you know you could be court marshaled?”

“It can’t be helped! I’m on a high priority mission, you two! I need to find Peyton and get back to 2010!”

“She was pretty bad for a couple of days, Alex. That is, until you and Aunt Emily showed up with the vaccine. What mission are you on? I don’t remember any from 2010?”

“I know how sick she was. I had it too. Emily and Alex came back after I had fought off that nasty thing.” I paused, debating how much they should be told.

“Brie contacted me yesterday- 27, June, 1944- with a special request that I check out a questionable crash site in Western Pennsylvania. She thinks it might tie into a secret Nazi Wonder Weapon. I can’t say anything else though. I need to ask Peyton if she would like to help. We could use her gift.”

Jules and I studied the Third Reich and are pretty knowledgeable on the topic, Alex, plus we have a few days off if you want us to come along.”

“I’m afraid not Vern. Brie, Jack, and Randi are the only ones coming with me on this mission. I’ll be surprised if Brie’s Chuck doesn’t give me a hard time about being left behind!”

“Charles Mason? Empress, Charles Mason is the man you want if you’re going into Nazi Germany! He’s fluent in German, Polish and I believe, Czechoslovakian! The man is very well read on the SS and Gestapo!”

“I appreciate the dossier, Vern. I’ll consider him if Brie agrees. Let’s go find Peyton.”

“This way, Admiral.” Vernon Reynolds smiled.

Admiral…I liked the sound of that.
 
 

I could get used to the respect of this rank! The constant saluting though was getting old.

“Here’s her room, Admiral.” Vernon said as we stopped at the room’s door. He raised a finger for Jules and I to wait outside a minute.

“Peyton, how are you feeling today?” We heard him ask.

“Oh, Captain Reynolds! I wasn’t expecting to see you until tomorrow at the boat. The doctors are to release me just in time for muster.”

“Peyton, someone is here to see you. Are you ready for company?”

“Captain Reynolds, if I stay in this confined cubical any longer I shall commit myself to the heavens!” The girl laughed nervously, as did Vernon.

“Well don’t do that quite yet, my dear, I think your talents may be requested. Come on in.”

“Empress!” Peyton practically leapt from her bed towards me. “Empress, I am so sorry that I have sickened you! I had no idea that the evil Hathor had used me as a pawn in your demise!”

“Ease up, Ensign! This could be taken as assaulting a superior!”

“But you are Commander Steinert, are you not?” She looked at me quizzically.

“You sure you’re ready to leave here, Ensign? I see two stars, not a cluster.” Vern asked the girl with a look of concern. He put a finger to his mouth to quiet the girl. Julia Masterson hadn’t said a word since we entered. She too looked concerned, but for a different reason.

“I’m sorry Miss Masterson! I had no intention of deceiving you! I took ill just after we departed Kili Island and could not retract my influence normally. As a result you forgot about me, as has the rest of our crew.” Peyton looked sadly to the floor as she apologized.

“I’m just disappointed that my CO couldn’t be bothered to inform me of your presence, Peyton. We grew up together- like brother and sister- I thought we kept no secrets!”

“Look you two, I really need to ask Peyton if she would like to help me on this one, so if y’all wouldn’t mind taking this little disagreement outside?” I told the two. I didn’t want to risk being seen in two places at once.

“You need me? The Empress of Time and Space requests my assistance?” Peyton’s hands went to her face in sheer jubilation. “It would honor both me and my family to assist you any way I can, Empress!”

“Fine, I take that as a yes, Ensign. Y’all stay right here. I’ll be back in a moment.”

Walking out of the room, I found the nearest nurses station.

“I’d like to speak to the physician attending Ensign Treibche?”

“Yes ma’am if you would like to make an appoint…” The lieutenant stopped mid sentence as she looked up and saw my rank.

“Admiral!” She stood to attention. “Sorry, ma’am I didn’t know you were here!” She quickly turned off her reading tablet and touched her tiny headset.

“I’ll get him here immediately, ma’am!”

“Thanks, hun. How’s the book?” I inquired politely.

“Not as good as her last one, Admiral, but tolerable, I guess. Dr. Lampert to station 2-6 stat!” She answered before paging the doctor. “Have you read anything from her, ma’am?” She continued.

“No, hun, I’ve been rather busy of late, but thanks for the critique.”

“Doctor, Admiral Covington is here and she would like to speak to you about Ensign Treibche, sir. Okay I’ll let her know, thank you. Admiral, Dr. Lampert will be right over to see you, ma’am.”

“Let him know I’ll be in the Ensign’s room.”

“Certainly, Admiral Covington.” She said.

I smiled and returned to Peyton’s room telling her to get dressed.
 
 

“So, where are you off to now, Alex?” Vern asked as we cleared the hospital doors into the bright sunlight.

“Peyton needs to get fitted for her Reilly suit, get it programmed, and we head back to 1945.” I answered.

“You sure Jules and I can’t come along, Alex? It’s been a while since you and I had an adventure.”

“Vern, the fewer people that know about this, the better. I’ve been unable to see the outcome so far and I’d rather not endanger more lives. Your Ma’s would kill me if I lost either of you back there! I’d just assume take on the Nazi’s than face them!”

“Understood, Admiral…wait…what am I doing? You’re the same rank as me, Alex! Although I must admit that constellation looks good on you, Empress.”

“You always were a smooth one, Vern. Oh, Jules, could you do me a favor?” I asked, suddenly remembering a small detail to my plan.

“Sure, Alex, what?”

“I need to look like the Nazi’s idea of the Empress. Could you change the color of my eyes to blue and lighten my hair to aurum, please?”

“The Arian version of you, Alex?” Vernon repeated with confusion.

I nodded.

“What’s ‘aurum’, Alex?” Julia Masterson inquired.

“Aurum translates into gold, Jules. According to the Empress stories from both Reilly’s Homeword and Terra, ‘The Empress gently caressed her long, flowing mane of rich, fine-spun aurum, her ice blue eyes twinkled with understanding as she contemplated the misbehaving youth’s digressions.’” I quoted one descriptive passage. “So I guess I also need my hair down past my butt.”

“Sure thing, Alex.” Julia giggled. “You want everything ‘aurum’- just in case they decide to search you?”

“Ya, I guess so. Here, let me phase us out for some privacy.” I said as I blushed.

As I did so, I noticed Vernon Reynolds suddenly start looking around at anything but Jules and I. He started whistling. Peyton looked at him, apparently not understanding his nervousness.
 
 

1910 hours, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, June 27th, 2028
 
 

“RVP, Miss Treibche needs a fitting. I need German, Polish, and Czech languages- spoken and written. Include the updated protection protocols as well as emergency comm link encryption.”

“Will the recipient please state name, race origin, and base language for voiceprint verification.”?

I nodded to Peyton, indicating that it was all right and required before continuing.

“Peyton Treibche, Terran, Egyptian.” She said clearly.

“Error! Receipient’s name, race and base language do not correlate! Please restate name, race, and base language.”

Peyton looked worried as she hesitated.

“RVP, Empress Override, OakridgeEmpress8716.”

“Accepted. Empress will please state nature of override.”

“RVP, Peyton Treibche is a Terran-Earther hybrid living in Egypt circa 2085BC. I will personally vouch for her allegiance and security clearance.”

“Accepted.

“Will the recipient please restate name, race origin, and base language for voiceprint verification?”

“Peyton Treibche, Terran, Egyptian.” She repeated

“Voiceprint accepted, please remain stationary for EPG measurement.”

A narrow, focused line of blue light slowly panned down Peyton’s body from head to toe.

“Measurement complete, thank you, Miss Treibche. Completion of garment in two hours.”

“Thank you, RVP.” I said happily.

“You are most welcome, Alex. Empress, External Processor #3-Omega wishes to meet with you and Miss Treibche in the third level conference room at your convenience.”

“Tell her we’ll be right there, RVP. Peyton needs to change into some comfortable clothes first.”

“Reclining Quarters have been established for Miss Peyton- level three-west, room three-three-eight. Voiceprint security level four has been enabled.”

“Thanks, RVP, you’re the best!” I told the efficient AI.

“You are again welcome, director.”
 
 

“This room is mine? It is simply wonderful, Empress!” Peyton exclaimed as she entered her very own room. I began to wonder if she ever had a place of her own before.

“Over there in the closet, you’ll find some casual clothing to wear until your suit is finished. I’ll wait outside for you, hun.” I told her after showing her the amenities of the room.

I didn’t have to wait long for her to change.

“So what do we do now, Empress?” Peyton asked as she exited her room.

“Now we meet the other members of the team and I tell you what I have in mind for this mission, hun. I’m also going to relate to you some very disturbing information.”
 
 

“Ladies and gentleman, I’d like to present Ensign Peyton Treibche. Peyton, Jacquelyn Cummins, Randi Van Pelt, my sister Brianna Mason and her husband, Charles.” I introduced her to everyone.

“My God, Alex, what did you do to your hair?” Brie quickly approached and began running her hand through my silky, extremely long, golden hair. “And yer eyes! Y’all could peirce a reactor chamber with those things!”

“She’s trying the Arian look, dear- blonde haired, blue eyes…etc.” Charles explained.

After a round of handshaking, we all sat down at the tables and Randi brought up the images from earlier.

“Peyton, do you recognize this inscription?” I asked calmly.

“I’ve seen them on the plateau back home, Empress, why?” She answered quickly.

“Could you translate them, please?”

“You saw them on the plateau…back home?” Charles Mason exclaimed.

Peyton cowered slightly at the change in his voice. “Yes, sir. I am from what you term Ancient Egypt. My mother, along with others came here from another arm of this very galaxy you call the Milky Way.”

“Peyton, can you please translate the inscription?” I asked again gently.

“Prime Meridian 12, To…understand…universe…us.” She wrinkled her nose in frustration then restated her translation. “Prime Meridian 12. To better understand the Universe around us.” She filled in the blanks and looked at me.

“Empress, where did you get these images? They look to be from the original Meridian 12 Spacecraft! My mother arrived on Earth in that craft! By her word it sank in the body of water you call the Mediterranean Sea! I thought images of it non-existent.”

“That is the good news, Peyton. Meridian 12 has been found- unfortunately not by us, I’m afraid. Do you recognize these symbols?” I asked as I nodded to Randi for her to advance the image.

“No, Empress, I cannot translate these three symbols. What do they mean?” She looked confused.

“They are a good indicator of who found the Spacecraft, hun. Here’s the bad part. We have to go back to 1945- to a place called Poland. Are you familiar with World War Two, hun? I trust you studied world history while serving on the Detroit?”

“Yes, Empress, it was a conflict that pitted the Allies; America, Britain, France, Canada, Australia, and several smaller countries against the Axis, Germany, Japan, Italy, and their allies.”

Very good, hun, what of the German’s though? Have you studied the Hitler regime at all?”

“Hitler became head of the Nazi or National Socialist’s Party in 1932. The Nazi’s believed in something they called the Arian Rac…” Peyton’s eyes got big, her mouth dropped open slightly. “Empress, did Sir Charles not say you were trying to look Arian?” She gasped. “You have joined this Nazi group?”

“No, hun, The Nazi’s found Meridian and want to use it in their plan to take over this world! I’m going to imitate the Empress of Space and Time as she would be perceived by them, had they access to the stories.”

“Empress, it is a suicide mission! The Nazi regime is most noted for its barbaric treatment of those considered inferior- it’s membership considered arrogant, corrupt, and soulless! Please Empress do not do this, I plead with you!” She cried.

“That’s why I have to go back and reclaim Meridian from those who wish to twist its intended purpose, Peyton. To do this, we need to make use of your gift. In fact, we need to make use of everyone’s gift in this room to achieve this mission’s success.”

“Alex, may I remind you, I have no gift to utilize.” Chuck Mason informed me.

“I disagree, Chuck. You are considered an expert on all things Third Reich?”

“I’ve studied their beliefs and tactics- especially the Gestapo and SS branches. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on anything though.”

“Well, I have it on good authority that you know your stuff, Chuck. It is definitely a gift we can use to our advantage!” I said seriously, with a smile.

“Hear that dear? The Empress says I have a gift!” He chuckled to Brie.

My sister did not look happy about his excitement!

“Are you sure Charles really needs to go, Alex? His recovery abilities aren’t on par with ours. I could lose him, sis! I could lose my husband- the only man I’ve truly loved!”

Tears started to run down her face as she leaned over to her husband’s shoulder, but held herself back.

“NO!” She glared at me. “Charles is not going to go! I refuse to lose the only good thing in my life since Dee and Fred! No way, Alex, y’all find someone else!” She shouted. “I forbid it!”

“Fine, sis, I get it! Chuck stays here! All I ask is that you brief us on what to expect in this Polish Mine the SS has set up for research and development of ‘Die Glocke’, Chuck. We’ll do the rest.”

“You’ll all fare better if I go along, Alex. You see, I’m not going to let Brianna go if I’m not there to protect her. I know this sounds corny as hell, but when I said my vows, I meant to keep them! In short, where she goes, I goes, an’ y’all can take that ta the bank, Sweetheart!”

“Charles, you’ll die!”

“You don’t know that for sure, Brie. Your sister can’t even see what’ll happen- how could you? No, I’m goin’, Alex. Count us both in, Empress.”

“Charles!”

“That’s my final decision, Brie! My minds made up. Either we both stay or we both go.”

“Alex, Peyton Treibche’s garment is finished and has been transferred to her quarters.”

Thanks, RVP.” I said to the ceiling.

“RVP? Have you finished design prototypes for the Empress’s costume, yet?” Randi asked verbally for a change.

“Several variations await final selection by the Empress, Randi.” The AI answered.

“Enable holo-emitters, RVP. Let’s see them.” I requested.

One by one my holographic body displayed the costumes RVP had designed from combining details from both worlds’ versions of the Empress of old. Most seemed too elegant for what I knew about the Nazis. One did stand out as possible though. It was a gold, shimmery, semi-transparent, full-length dress that seemed to flow over my curves, yet looked futuristic enough to appear ‘spacey’. The design reminded me of those worn by the women of Terra. It was transparent enough though, to glimpse my contrasting, bikini-like undergarments.

The term ‘B-flick’ came to mind!

One thing though, was missing from the futuristic ‘Princess’ outfit.

“RVP, this outfit will do, but I need a crown. More like a tiara. I’d like it to be gold, or gold plated and incorporate the mystical runes for peace, harmony, and compassion or fairness. Reference the Disney princesses for viable examples.”

“Compilation is complete, Alex. Applying first headwear design to model.”

After reviewing eight tiaras and disqualifying three full out crowns, I saw the perfect candidate. It was an intricate, feminine design with delicate scrollwork and a few large diamonds added to give it a really royal look! In the center, punctuating the front of the tiara was a very rounded, stylized version of a swastika. It held secure a huge oval ruby and bore only the slightest resemblance to its bloodstained relative. To either side, slightly lower to follow the down facing arc of the gold headpiece, sat two other runes.

“Hold right there, RVP. Ladies, meet the Third Reich’s Empress of Time and Space!” I announced.

“Oh ya, every hot blooded Nazi is going to want a piece of that, Alex!” Chuck said excitedly before Brie elbowed his side.

“Ever’ perv in the installation will be fighting for your virginity, sis! Y’all sure you wanna look like a Nat-zee whore?” My sister asked.

“If I’m right about things, I’ll be declared off limits to all but the high command, Brie. Randi, have this programmed into my suit. Thanks, RVP, you’ve done a wonderful job!” I commended the AI.

“Skip, with your permission I’d like to add a few features to that tiara if you don’t mind.”

“Whatever you think I might need, hun.”

“I’ll get right on it, then.” Randi went to get up, but stopped. “When do we leave, Skip?”

“How about everyone get a good night’s sleep and we leave first thing in the morning?”

“That’ll give me plenty of time, skip, thanks! Please excuse me everyone, I have work to do.” Randi hurried out of the room with a large smile on her face.

“Bets are she’ll have whatever she has in mind finished tonight.” I winked at everyone.

“So, what’s the plan, Cap?” Jack inquired enthusiastically.

“Yes, Alex, how do you propose we get into a top secret facility guarded by the most ruthless cutthroats of the twentieth century?” Brianna asked me sarcastically.

“Wait.” I raised a finger to everyone. “RVP, I’d like y’all to transcribe everything we say from this point on so that Randi can store and recall it when needed.”

“As you wish, Alex.”

“Okay, I was thinking that y’all catch the delivery truck into the place. I assume the SS was constantly having to replace their slave labor quotas, Chuck?”

“You can count on it if they’re experimenting with an alien spacecraft- Any ‘tests’ would naturally be attended by ‘inferior human guinea pigs’ to observe the results. I have to warn you that sixty-some scientists and an unknown number of ‘workers’ were rumored to have lost their lives there, Alex. Buried alive as the tunnels were collapsed with high explosives.”

“Allegedly, Chuck, allegedly.” I reminded him. “Peyton, do you think you can create your little illusion for five people, including yourself?”

“I’m sure I can, Empress. I once got a whole resistance patrol into Hathor’s temple without detection.”

“Did they ever get out, Miss Treibche?” Jack asked with a little bit of contempt.

“Have your archeologists ever found the temple of Hathor, Commander?” She fired back.

Jack looked at me for acknowledgement. I simply raised both hands not knowing the answer.

“There was one in almost every city in Egypt, Peyton!” Chuck informed her.

“Outside Memphis?”

“Honey, they just found the remnants of Memphis twenty years ago.”

Peyton smiled with pure happiness!

Chuck’s mouth dropped open.

“Fine. Peyton you will insert Randi, Chuck, Brianna, and Jack into the consciouses of the transport personnel and replacement workers. You, Jack, Randi and Brie are to be local Polish detainees assigned to the kitchen staff. Chuck will be SS Colonel Charles Sebastian Mueller- an efficiency officer sent by Himmler’s personal order. Chuck, your abilities in German, Polish and Czech make you perfect for this job.”

“RVP we’ll need official documents for everyone.”

“Acknowledged, Director.”

I looked up to the ceiling at her reply.

“Alex, what about you? How will you get into the base?” Brie asked.

“I’m goin’ in directly! After all, wouldn’t one think the Empress of Time and Space should be bold enough to go right for the prize? I’ll get as far as I can while phased to find the ship. Once there, I’ll rephase and let myself be ‘surprised’. I’ll feign ignorance of the language at first then act like I suddenly understand them. Hopefully, I’ll be able to phase out if they start firing at me.”

“Sounds like one helluva plan, Alex!” Chuck said sarcastically.

“Jack, think you’ll have any trouble working your gift in those tunnels?”

“Depends on what kind of counter measures they’ve come up with, Cap. I’ll give it my best shot though!”

Good, cause I might need the Empress to work some miracles to convince them.”

“You and Randi stay to your jobs until I can get us close enough for her to access Meridian’s systems.”

“Any timeframe for completion, Empress?” Chuck asked.

“I’m going to set us down about a week before the supposed elimination of personnel and disappearance of the ship. Any other questions?”

I looked around at the group. Everyone shook they’re heads.

“Good, we leave 0800hrs tomorrow. Everyone try to get some rest. RVP end recording.”

“Acknowledged, Director.”

“Peyton?”

“Empress?”

“Honey, what did I tell you about calling me Empress all the time? My name is Alexandra or Alex. I would be more honored if you could call me Alex, hun.”

“I will, Aaalex. Thank you.” She stuttered. A smile broke out on her face as we all left the conference room for our quarters.

“There will come a time this mission for you to refer to me as ‘Empress’, but I think you’ll know the time for that, hun, all right?”

“Aye, Alex.”
 
 

0750 hours, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, June 28th, 2028
 
 

“Look at you!” Brie commented brightly as she walked into the conference room for some breakfast. Chuck was right behind her

I was already dressed in my ‘Arian Empress’ outfit. I wanted to wear it awhile to see how comfortable the thing would be. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad. I did have initial feelings of vulnerability when I first looked in the mirror. I had parted and braided some of the hair from the peak of my forehead, wrapping the resulting braids around both sides and combining them into one longer braid in back. In the mirror I looked like a bonefied fairytale princess!

“Wow! You look even better in person, Alex.” Her husband complimented.

“After those Federal period circus tents, I thought I’d see how constricting this thing would be. It isn’t as bad as I thought.” I told them.

Jack, Randi and Peyton entered the room and quietly filled their plates before sitting down at the table next to mine.

Something was up! I found it hard to believe that Jack would fetch her breakfast manually!

Suddenly a trumpet fanfare filled the room!

“Presenting the winner of this year’s ‘Miss Empress of Time and Space’ pageant: Miss Alexandra Frances Steinert!” Randi’s voice exploded over the loudspeakers as a shiny, beautifully crafted, gold tiara floated into the room and settled gently onto my head, being careful to pass gently through my braids-, which effectively secured it.

“Nice.” I deadpanned as I silently cursed my selecting of this costume.

“Speech!” Chuck shouted to the ceiling through hands formed into a megaphone.

What the hell, I’ll play along!

I stood up and walked the few steps to the screened wall. An image of some beauty pageant appeared on the screen behind me. It looked like I was standing in front of all the other participants accepting my award.

“Thank you, ladies and gentleman. It‘s truly an honor that y’all chose me to be this year’s Empress of Time and Space! I’d like to personally thank my fellow contestants on their presence, intelligence, and grace!” I smiled brighter and threw in a nervous giggle or two as I looked around the room before continuing.

“I promise y’all that I will strive to uphold the deep trust and responsibility y’all have beset upon me and look forward to attending next year’s competition to present this lovely crown to my successor. Thank you all and may we continue to strive for world peace!”

I waved at everyone in the room as I sat back down and picked up my coffee again.

The room erupted in whistles and applause!

I rolled my eyes as I sipped the hot liquid.

“My big sister…a beauty queen! Oh, Charles, how will we ever live with her now?” Brie said dramatically as she placed the back of her hand to her forehead and closed her eyes.

“Better yet, wait till I tell the rest of the crew! They already think of the Skipper as…” Jack glanced around the table clandestinely by just shifting her narrowed eyes, “Royalty!” She whispered conspiratorially after raising her hand to cover her mouth from my caustic stare.

The room erupted in laughter again! I joined in despite wanting to look hurt by Jack’s comment. We needed this release of tension before starting the most dangerous mission the ‘Empress’ had ever attempted.

“Well, are we ready to start this thing?” I asked having finished my second cup of coffee.

“Alex, before we leave, I’d like to show you some added features of your crown.” Randi said raising a finger to stop me from moving.

“So Moneypenny has informed me. Well, let’s see what you’ve got, Q.” I replied, dropping my voice an octave and adding a Scottish accent.

Charles Mason began to chuckle. “Now that’s the Alexandra I know! Not bad, Alex, but you don’t look anything like Double-Oh-Seven at the moment- more like Domino!”

While Chuck continued to laugh, Brie rolled her eyes a few times. The three other faces in the room remained blank.

“I don’t get it, Cap?” Jack said on behalf of Randi and Peyton.

“Never mind.” I rolled my eyes at them. “I guess you just had to be there. Randi, you were going to show me the additions you made to my costume?”

“Yes, first I’d like our Ex-O to move the tables back and give us some room.”

On cue, all six unused tables in the room moved and stacked themselves against the far end wall.

“Skip, bring up your HUD. You’ll notice an extra icon on the lower left side, marked ‘Tiara’.”

“Okay, I see it.”

“Access it and a pop-up box should appear with several selections, but most importantly, there should be a green bar at the top of the box. Do you see it?”

“Yep, it’s green. What’s that mean?”

“It means that your headpiece is communicating with your suit, Alex. A red bar indicates no communication- either your tiara is damaged or malfunctioning, or you are more than twenty meters away from it. Twenty meters is the maximum communication distance, Alex, so keep it close by.”

I nodded.

“A yellow bar indicates that the headpiece has only partial functionality, meaning a function you may want won’t be available either because of damage or low power. As you use the headpiece, you will notice the bar start to shorten, moving from right to left, this will indicate how much power remains. The headpiece is designed to recharge with your suit anytime a valid power source is within two meters. Power drain on the source is minimal and should not be noticed by the crude instruments of the time.”

“Okay, got it, hun, now what can this thing do?” I asked with a serious expression.

“First select ‘Tactical’. It should be the first item below the status bar.”

Another somewhat larger window opened before my eyes. Five red blips to one side of a green blip appeared close together, they were surrounded by whitish grey ‘walls’- the room’s walls, maybe?

“You should see the five of us indicated in red as ‘alive’. You are the green dot and as you may have already guessed the grey lines are the walls around you. You will note the check mark next to ‘Tactical’ indicating that the function is on or selected.”

“Yep.”

“Alex, I’d like you to now move to the next line and select ‘F/F’.”

Immediately the five red blips started to flash or pulse at a slow rate.

“We should be flashing red dots?”

“Yes.”

“Good, now watch what happens when we enable our suits tracking beacons.”

One by one, the pulsing red blips changed to pulsing blue blips.

“Friend or Foe indicator. Great idea, Randi!” I smiled at her. “The check mark says it’s turned on?”

“You got it, Skip. Okay, next select ‘Shield’. Another box pops up with three options: ‘Force’, ‘Repel’, and ‘Environment’. Everyone please stand back.”

Randi waited for everyone to move away from me before continuing. She slid a chair close to me before joining the others at a safe distance.

“Alex, I’d like you to select ‘Repel’ first. This is a force shield that will repel anything thrown or shot at you. You can enable it now.”

The chair shot across the room, barely missing Chuck!

I felt my smile grow wider.

“Great, you can disable that, Alex. The force option will protect you by nullifying anything approaching you, similar to Jack’s force shield. The environment option provides a hermetic seal between you and the outside world similar to when you phase out. I’d use this option for say, tear-gas, chemical leaks, fire. As you would expect, the air supply contained inside this shield is finite- there are no CO scrubbers incorporated into the design. The more people inside the shield, the faster you deplete the oxygen supply. That reminds me, all three shields have an operational diameter of three and a half meters- about ten feet. Any questions?”

“Hey, Randi? What’s this last selection in the main box?” I asked, wondering why she neglected to mention it.

“’Boom’ is exactly what you think it means, Skip! Selecting ‘Boom’ allows you to set a specific count to begin an overload of the headpiece’s power system. After setting the timer and entering your password, you may want to get far away! Very…far…away!”

“Pretty big boom, I take it?”

“Equal to about a dozen Mark XIV torpedoes, Skip.”

I gulped!

“Wow! BIG-bahdah-boom! OUCH!”

“Stop that Charles! This is serious stuff!” Brianna growled, elbowing her husband in the ribs.

“Alex, this is what I call a doomsday device. Only use it as a last ditch effort!” Randi warned. She looked despondent for even having thought of it.

“I’ll try to curb my lust for blowing things up, Randi. I hope never to need it.

“One other feature, Skip.” She said as she approached. “While using the tactical feature, the headpiece will monitor life signs from everyone within range. As a life form dies the pulsing, be it red or blue, will slow until it finally disappears and is replaced by a hollow, white circle.”

“Randi, one other question?” I asked, observing something strange with my new tactical display. “Why is the blip indicating Peyton flashing faster than the rest of you?”

“Terran hearts are slightly larger than Human hearts- physically, Empress- they also beat faster, and Terrans have a slightly higher body temperature.” Peyton answered timidly as her eyes dropped to the floor.

“Hey, there is nothing wrong with being hot-blooded, hun! As I remember, it felt rather nice on some of those cool Terran nights!” I told the girl, memories of Tibius began filling my mind.

I quickly shook those memories back out of my mind!

“Well, at least I can tell the players apart, now. Y’all ready to leave?”

“We just need to change, Alex.” Brie reminded everyone.

Jack, Peyton, Randi, and Brie’s clothing selections were simple cotton dresses; Randi and Peyton’s were a depressing brown with an old, worn, brown leather belt and dingy, brown, low-heeled shoes. Brianna and Jack’s were different shades of gray with worn black belts and low-heeled, unpolished, black leather shoes. All four looked like they hadn’t seen soap in over a month.

Chuck’s uniform stood in stark contrast to the women. His was the clean, starched, freshly ironed, black uniform of a well-groomed SS Colonel. He looked the epitome of Hitler’s grand vision of world domination!

I had always hoped that I would never come this close to one! Now I was going to be surrounded by them- by my own choice, no less!

A slight sweetness filled the air around us.

“Jack, stand down, he’s one of us!” I growled at my first officer.

“He looks so real though, Alex.” Jack replied with a tense voice, hate evident in her tone.

I heard Chuck swallow hard as he realized she was staring at him.

“That is what’s going to save him, Jack- now stand down!”

“Aye.” She replied cautiously.

“Everyone take hands, please. First I’ll put us along the road to the Mine and wait for the supply trucks then I port us into one of the transport trucks so Peyton can start making the five of you known.”

Reilly’s conference room became a forest-bracketed, single lane, dirt road in Poland somewhere near the Czech border.

I had never been to Europe so far in my life, but given the rolling terrain, thick leafed forests, and general peaceful serenity of the place, it seemed all too familiar.

The area reminded me of home- good old Oak Ridge, Missouri.

We hadn’t been standing on the roadside for more than five minutes before the straining whine of several German-made trucks broke the serene calm. At the same time, off in the distance could be heard the low-pitched thrum of dozens of aircraft engines and muted explosions- a very good indication that Allied bombers were at work. It drove home the reality of where we were, when we were. There was a war going on and we weren’t that far from it!

I waited for the first troop truck to pass before porting us onto it. As predicted it was filled with Polish workers, men and women, and four armed soldiers, one in each corner.

“Jack, gently scoot people around to make room to sit. If I’m to remain unseen, each of you will have to hover over your seat before releasing hands. There will be a slight dizziness associated with this type of rephasing. I’ll remain out of phase, but stay with y’all just in case someone should prove immune to Peyton’s charms.” I nodded for her and Peyton to start using their gifts.

“Chuck, you go first and good luck!”

“Gute Jagd, Kaiserin! (Good hunting, Empress!)” He said to me in German.

I waited until Jack had made enough room for him then carefully watched the shaking and rolling of the wooden seat.

“Release!” I ordered when the clearance was right.

My brother-in-law looked unsteady for a second as he fell the few inches, landing on the narrow wooden plank seat. The soldier beside him gave Chuck a confused look, to which Chuck nodded angrily back at the people he was to be guarding. The young soldier turned back with a disgusted expression.

One by one, Randi, Brie, Peyton, and lastly, Jack, joined the crowded consist in the back of the truck. I did my best to keep from drifting or dropping through the floor boards and remain standing in the bed of the truck until we cleared the barbed wire fenced checkpoint and the vehicle stopped.

I waited patiently until the truck bed had been emptied of its human cargo before porting the short distance to the ground beside it.

Turning on my tactical, I noted that I was entering an anthill of activity- and that was just in the two hundred yard sensor range of my equipment! The display clearly tracked my five companions into the mine portal

For the most part the mine entrance looked like any I had seen back home. A large, nondescript, concrete portal about twenty feet round; a single set of rails entered and disappeared into the darkness. A dozen or so soldiers had marched the new workers into the mine portal while several dozen more stood watch for any rebellion.

The entrance tunnel ran straight into the mountainside with only the slightest hint of downward slope. A lonely lamp every fifty feet or so provided just enough light to show the way.

This facility was huge! I had walked well over three football fields before observing the first side tunnel and estimated the main tunnel went on for another half mile based on the ever-decreasing size and brilliance of the overhead lighting. Echoes of German voices filled the tunnels and made it impossible to determine any directionality.

I did notice, however, that my new equipment came with a memorizing function. Meaning if I continued to explore this facility, I would have an accurate charting of it and would be able to find the fastest way out.

So that’s what I did the first day- charted a few dozen tunnels in the mine’s catacomb. In my exploration I had found several places where I would be safe to rephase and to communicate with my group.

What I hadn’t found yet was the chamber, research area, whatever, where Meridian was being kept. It had to be near the main mine shaft somewhere because of its size. Many of the offshoot tunnels were just to narrow or too low to permit its entry or passage.

A yawn escaped my mouth and I suddenly realized it must have been getting late. I decided it would be best if I checked in with Jack and the others after I hunkered down in one of the safe areas to get some sleep.
 
 

‘Jack, do you read me?’ I thought to her as I rephased in a small, isolated chamber that had been formed by a tunnel collapse in the recent past.

‘Alex? We were all worried! Where are you?’ Jack answered relief very evident in her voice.

‘I found a safe place to rephase about three tunnels away from your position. Is everyone okay?’

‘Randi, Brie, Peyton, and I are fine. They put us to work as soon as we were shown the kitchen, Alex. They finally showed us our ‘quarters’ a few minutes ago. A piece of burlap to lie on and a ratty wool blanket- can you believe it! We were told to find a place to rest amongst about seventy or eighty others in a damp, dim, forty foot square chamber! It’s a regular Waldorf-Astoria down here, Cap!’

‘Will y’all be able to charge your suits in those conditions, Jack?’

‘I’ve got it charging right now, Alex. It’s suckin’ power right from the bulb above my head as we speak. Have you found the ship yet?’

‘Not yet. I have charted over fifty tunnels so far today, though. If I keep it up I may have this place fully charted in another year.’

‘It’s that big? Wow, I’m impressed! These guys don’t do anything small do they?’

‘Has Chuck checked in yet?’

‘About two hours ago, Alex. He wanted me to let Brie know that he was okay. They gave the guy an office and everything, Cap! The Commandant will be taking him on an inspection tour tomorrow sometime. Maybe he’ll be able to find the research chamber for you.’

‘Maybe, but I doubt it. Only a select few officers will know the specifics. Usually visiting dignitaries are spared the details unless very familiar or very related. I think my best bet is to find one of the Terrans and follow them.’

‘Agreed, Alex. How’s Randi’s equipment performing?’

‘Tell her the stuff is great, Jack. I’ve been using the tactical since we got here and I’m only down a quarter of a bar- I should top up my suit though.’

‘Are you close to a power source, Cap?’

‘I have a go indication on suit charging so I must be near enough to some charged wires, Jack. I’m going to try for some sleep. If you feel or hear anything close by, give a yell.”

‘Count on it, Alex. We wouldn’t want you to get caught too soon, would we?’

‘It’s not at the top of my ‘to do’ list, Jack. Try to get some sleep, hun. Alex out.’

Signing off from Jack’s comm network, I changed into something a little warmer- something that would keep the dampness off me while I slept. I decided to leave my tiara’s tactical system in stand bye, though- just in case.
 
 

Day two. At least I think it’s day two! One has a hard time knowing exactly what time of day it is when surrounded by complete darkness. If it hadn’t been for Jack giving me a wake-up call or telling me what time she was told it was, I wouldn’t have known that I had only been asleep for five hours.

My stomach knew exactly what time it was though- time to eat something!

‘Jack, any chance I can grab some chow and not be seen?’

‘Come into the kitchen, Alex. About five feet to my left and down a short tunnel is a storage room. Let me know when you get there and I’ll have something scraped together for you.’

‘Have you and the others had anything yet?’ I asked, almost knowing the answer.

‘You have got to be kidding! I think the mice eat better down here!’

‘Well, sneak what you can, Jack, and make sure the others get their share, too.’

‘Aye, Cap, we all know to keep our strength up. Hey, I’m hearing a lot of voices in your vicinity- be careful!’

‘I see them coming on my tactical, Jack- four Humans and one Terran.’

‘Is Chuck one of them?’

‘No, they’re all red, Jack.’

‘Be careful, Alex’

‘See you in a few minutes, Jack. Alex out.’

I decided to wait a few minutes for the five unknowns to pass by the short blocked tunnel I had rested in. Still, I phased myself out just in case the Terran ‘felt’ me. Until I found out whose side they were on, I resolved to treat everyone displayed in red on my display as hostile until proven otherwise.

“You say that you feel something different in this area, Wilhelm?” A voice said from the other side of the rock cave in.

“A strange feeling I had when I walked by a few hours ago, sir! I do not feel it now, though.” Another voice said.

“I doubt your people have any feelings at all, Wilhelm! You Gypsies have been swindling humanity for years! Throughout history using your tricks, magic, and secrets to get what you want, when you want! How can I be assured this is not another diversion to delay the bell project?” The first voice asked.

“I assure you I am not trying to delay anything, sir! I tell you I felt a presence- a very strong, very powerful presence, in this section of tunnel! Being only meters from the craft research area, I thought you would be more concerned, general?”

“My only concern, Dr. Wilhelm, is that you and your fellow ‘Gypsy Scientists’ discover a way to gain entrance to the bell! The Führer must have its capabilities if he is to achieve his goals! He has no tolerance for delay tactics or inconclusive ‘feelings’!”

“General, if I may, sir. Dr. Wilhelm is the top electrics expert alive today! He will find access to the bell any day now, I personally guarantee it, sir!” Yet a third voice said in defense of the first.

“You better get results quickly then, colonel! The Führer is an impatient man! Now I want to see this bell, colonel!”

“Yes, sir, at once! This way.”

So the Terran could sense me when in phase with this reality? I would have to be extremely careful from now on.

Redressing into my ‘Empress’ garb, I passed through the six-foot thick rock plug between me and the main tunnel and began to follow the five men.

Had I known I was within the same city block as Meridian, I could have tried to get caught last night! Second thought, however, dictated I stay hidden for the sake of my companions. Showing my hand too soon would have the Germans suspicious of how I got here. I could easily consign the entire caravan of new workers to the death squads. I really hoped that I would be able to see at least a small part of how this mission would work out. So far though, I had no clue as to why I couldn’t. Could it be some Terran defensive shield or a long lost ability I knew nothing about?

All I did know was that I had to be extremely careful at all times now!

Within a matter of minutes the ‘Gypsy’ scientist stopped before a nondescript section of seemingly solid tunnel wall. The four SS officers stopped behind him and waited patiently while ‘Wilhelm’ touched several small, differently colored, mineral deposits in the wall.

Above the men, a red stone lit up and, with a sharp click, bright light emanated from a door-sized crack, revealing an entrance.

Unsure of any defense shield in use, I hurried through the five men and moved out of the way behind several cabinets of equipment. My tactical now indicated several Terrans in the large room. In fact there appeared to be twelve Terrans and twenty-five Humans in the aircraft hanger-sized chamber!

“Strange, I thought I felt a draft as we went through the door!”

“Sometimes the air pressure varies in the side tunnels, General. Sometimes it even scatters our research throughout the area!”

Being careful not to contact anything, I cautiously looked out from my hiding spot.

Before me, in the center of the chamber was Meridian! All around her were desks and file cabinets…and people. The vast majority of lamps seemed to be concentrated on her and only small desk lamps provided light for the researchers.

“Why are these lights still on? I ordered them extinguished when the bell has reached full charge! Gasoline is in sparse supply these days! It took me several hours to talk the high command into allocating the meager ration we have just received!” The general shouted in anger.

“The craft has yet to charge to capacity, herr general! Our incandescent lamps severely lack the energy output of full sunlight, thereby hindering the solar collectors in its hull to generate sufficient charge.”

“I want results, Wilhelm, not excuses! Get the bell open!”

“Yes, herr general! We were going to make another try. Would you like to observe?”

“Would it serve any purpose, Wilhelm?”

“We think we might have the combination this time, general!”

“Proceed!”

“Bring in the test subjects!” The colonel shouted as he snapped his fingers.

A dozen frail, destitute looking people were led in with hands tied behind their backs. They were also blindfolded and gagged. Each person was placed around a perimeter of about twenty feet from Meridian. I now noticed several heavy cables running from what looked like a transformer to the wide bottom of the craft.

“Herr General, we need to seek protection behind the lead screen.” Wilhelm motioned for the men to follow him away from the spacecraft.

“Why the test subjects, Major?”

“The belief is that the bell needs a living presence in the near vicinity of the hatch to open. We still have no idea where that is yet, sir. Ready test one hundred and eighty four.”

Someone echoed the order and the lighting dimmed.

“Start the sequencer- code eighty-nine. General, you must protect your eyes, sir. The light given off can blind you in an instant.”

Everyone in the chamber dawned dark, protective, welding goggles as a brilliant white light from Meridian began to fill the chamber. It looked similar in shape to the deflective shield Jack used on our last journey to Pearl Harbor 1941.

I selected eye protection on my suit’s HUD. I hoped that sunglasses would be enough protection. The tiara I was wearing became a full-face helmet and its protective shield came on line. Apparently, Miss Van Pelt had neglected to tell me about this feature!

Several additional generators now sprang to life in the chamber and the light emitted from Meridian intensified by several magnitudes.

Did I just notice several people look in my direction? Was the intense light somehow disrupting my time phasing? I remained still hoping that they had been attracted to something else near me.

The brilliant light grew even more intense and I watched in horror as the people positioned around Meridian shimmered and began to disappear. Not disappearing exactly, but melting away into the floor, their muted, agonizing cries echoing throughout the chamber- even over the drone of the generators.

“Enough!” Someone screamed.

The light’s intensity faded quickly as the extra generators ceased operation. Meridian gently returned to its dull, metallic color.

Not one person remained in the vicinity of the ship! Instead, twelve small discolorations could be seen on the floor in their places!

Twelve innocent people had just been murdered! How many more had perished at the hands of these barbarians? How many more would suffer because of them?

I needed to get out of here I thought, as I disabled my protective helmet and shield.

“The test subjects, where have they gone?”The General said with visible disgust.

“They usually do not survive, herr General.” The major replied frigidly- callously. “Do not worry though, we use only those the Führer has decreed as inferior, herr General.”

That didn’t seem to sit well with the older man. In fact, it didn’t sit well with me either! In my experiences, there was no person on this earth or anywhere in any universe that was any more superior or inferior to anyone else! What monsters these Nazis were! The written accounts of their savagery stood no comparison with the actual beast!

We had to take Meridian away from these heathens before it was used to do more evil- before it could kill more innocent people!

Slowly, carefully, I moved around the chamber and noted the different research stations and who was attending them. Occasionally I would purposely run my hand through something or someone to make sure I was still phased out. All the while I listened to the man called Wilhelm as he continued to cast out theory after theory as to why this trial hadn’t worked.

“We know it requires a living person to open the access hatch- that much is written about in the scrolls! We Gypsies have tried and cannot gain entrance, nor can other races. We have tried both sexes, Herr General, but still we fail. A radio transmission eminates from the craft at such a high frequency that we are barely able to receive it, let alone decode its message. I thought that if played slower, the craft would interpret it and allow access, but this has clearly not worked!”

“If you don’t get this thing working soon, Wilhelm, I shall be forced to find someone who can! Is that understood, ‘Herr Doctor’? The general barked in anger. He turned and headed for the chamber’s concealed door.

“Herr General, wait!”

Reaching for the door’s handle, the General cried out in pain and began to swear. “Why have you shitheads electrified the door? I should have all of you face a firing squad! I want out of this room! NOW!”

“We have placed a strong magnetic field around this chamber to protect the rest of the facility, General! The bell emits radio waves that can be followed by the Allies to target this mine.” The major informed his superior as ‘Wilhelm’ looked on. “Disable the field!”

The green light above the door went red and the major opened the door for the general.

This was my chance to exit also. I wasted no time running through both men as they filed through the door and into the main tunnel.

“There is that strange, cold breeze again!” The General noted as he looked around.

“As I have said, general, it is just the temperature difference in the chamber.”

“Might it also be the tortured souls of those we have just watched die, escaping, major?”

“Our scientists have proven without a doubt those deemed inferior contain nothing of the sort, Herr General! Do you wish to dispute a core belief of the Führer?”

“Do you question my allegiance for the fatherland or to the Führer, major?” The general growled menacingly.

“No, sir!”

“Then leave me! I wish to walk and think of a way to tell the Führer of yet another failure here! Hiel Hitler!”

“Hiel Hitler. Good evening, general.”

I watched as the two men parted ways- the major returning to Meridian’s holding cell, the general, to the section of the mine that contained the living quarters.

“Arrogant asshole! The way we treat those that have been conquered,” The general shook his head as he walked along, “This will come back to haunt us all! How can anyone just decide one life is more important to another? What gives any man the right to assign value to any other?” He asked quietly to himself.

So, some of them actually had a conscious?

“If you will follow me, Colonel Mueller, I will show you more of our facility. Ah, General Sporrenberg! Lucky that we should happen upon you, sir.”

My attention turned to the two men coming toward the general. It was Chuck and another older SS Officer.

“Commandant Kriger, you will forgive me if I cannot join your little tour. I must return to my office to file my report with Berlin. If you will excuse me.” The older man politely excused himself.

“Herr General, I must insist you meet Colonel Mueller, he has been sent to assess this Wunderwaffen facility.” The base commandant pressed the general to stop.

“Oh? I was not made aware of this inspection, Herr Colonel!”

“Nor was I until a week ago, general!” Chuck replied calmly.

“Who sent you, colonel?”

“Sir, I am told the orders came from Himmler directly, though I am surprised, since I have never met him personally.” Chuck replied.

“What is the nature of this visit, Colonel Mueller?”

“I am to observe this facility and report any deficiencies in command and research, Herr General. Though I fear it is to get me away from Berlin for some reason.”

“You have made an enemy and become expendable, Colonel! Tell me, are you married?”

“No, sir, but before receiving this assignment I had just met a stunning blonde Beermaid, why?” Chuck answered, playing his cover story like a true actor.

“Ah! She was already claimed by a higher ranking pair of eyes, Herr Colonel!” The general chuckled.

“So I get sent here? The middle of nowhere- for showing affection?” Chuck responded, becoming more animated.

General Sporrenberg laughed heartily as he turned and continued on his course.

Now that I knew his name, I consulted my little friend to see his fate. I needed to catch up with him.

Waiting for him to stop, I leaned in close. “You must leave. Something disastrous is about to happen that you shouldn’t be involved in.” I whispered into his ear.

“What? Who said that?” The man gasped as he instantly lost all color in his face. He looked around the dank rock walls of the tunnel, searching for the source of the warning.

“If you do not leave now, the blood will be on you, General.” I whispered again.

A slight smell of urine became apparent as the general hurried toward his office area.
 
 

‘Alex to Jack? Come in Jack.’

‘Here, Cap. You find the target yet?’

‘Yes and we have to get Meridian out of here before they kill more innocents!’

‘What are they using her for, Alex?’ Jack’s voice became more concerned.

‘I’d rather not talk about it right now, Jack. It’s too disgusting to even think of!’

‘Say the word, Alex and this place becomes a huge lake of molten lava!’

‘You might get your chance, Commander, just be patient for now.’

‘Aye, Cap.’ Jack sounded somewhat disappointed.

‘I saw Chuck earlier. He seems to be holding his own. How are Peyton and Brie doing?’

‘I have a feeling Chuck will be doing the majority of the housework after this is over, Alex.’

‘Working y’all hard, are they?’

‘Let’s just say that there are entirely too many arrogant, disgusting…’

‘Got it, Jack. Remember where we are, Commander! Believe me, what the kitchen slaves are putting up with is far better than the people the Nazis have labeled inferior.’

‘Brie mentioned something about that but wouldn’t go into detail, Alex. Is what the Allies find really that bad?’

‘Worse.’

‘Wow!’

‘Ya, wow!’

Our conversation fell silent for a few minutes.

‘Jack, you still there?’

‘Ya, Alex, still here.’

‘You sound sad, Jack. I didn’t mean to do that, the images just kind of popped in there- sorry.’

‘Cap, what did they ever do to deserve that?’ Jack sounded like she was crying.

‘Wrong place, wrong time, I guess.’ I replied soberly.

‘Are we going to…are you going to…um, help?’

‘As many as I can, Jack. Not nearly as many as I’d like, though.’

Again there was silence as Jack was apparently thinking about my response.

‘Cap, you have company!’ Jack practically screamed at me suddenly.

Checking my tactical, I indeed had company! Twelve hostiles! One red blip pulsing faster than the rest! I quickly phased out and held my breath.

The red blips stopped right outside the rockslide that effectively sealed off the small chamber I was in. I decided to go out and watch what was going on.

Now that I was out in the main tunnel, I was glad of my decision to leave my hiding place! These twelve men, the major from Meridian’s test chamber, ‘Wilhelm’, and ten others with rifles, were planning on clearing the rock cave-in…with dynamite!

“Herr Major, I do not feel the entity any longer. Maybe it can sense us?” Wilhelm informed the SS officer.

“This ‘entity’ as you call it may be capable of hiding from your senses, Wilhelm, but I doubt it can move through solid rock. Sergeant, place your charges!”

“There is one our ancestors claimed could, Herr Major.”

“Fairy tales! Stories told to the meek and feeble-minded to terrorize them into submission! Just like the Allied radio propaganda trying to make the Führer believe the Soviets are nearing Berlin. Huh! Such nonsense!” The major chuckled.

Never had I seen such conceit…wait, I had seen that much smugness before! I wondered if this buffoon was related to Hathor somehow?

A little teasing was definitely in order.

“Herr Major, sometimes fairytales are real.” I whispered into his ear.

The SS officer quickly turned around and tried to catch me in his arms. Of course, that action bore no fruit- just a hard fist to the back of the nearest soldier.

“Herr Major?” Wilhelm asked in concern.

The soldier receiving the hit looked with concern to his superior.

“Nothing. I thought I heard something. Get those explosives placed!”

“I can pass through rock, I also pass through you, Major.” I whispered in his ear again and this time plunged my arm through him a few times.

“Who is there?” He barked! “Show yourself this instant!”

The other men stopped working and looked at their commanding officer with concern as the major searched his surroundings, gun drawn.

“Get back to work!” He screamed at them, noticing that all eyes were on him.

“Do you think I’m that stupid, Major?” I whispered again.

“Show yourself! Who are you?” He screamed out. His voice resonated through the endless tunnels.

“Who is it you hear, Major?” Wilhelm asked innocently.

“A woman! A woman keeps whispering in my ear!”

Wilhelm’s face instantly lost all color and he looked about ready to crumble to the ground!

“It’s her! She has come to judge us!” Wilhelm babbled repeatedly.

“It is nothing but a myth, Wilhelm! You Gypsies and your pagan beliefs! Why the Führer granted you exclusion from those proven inferior, I will never know! It is probably that Gypsy woman in the kitchen, the one brought here two days ago! She is using the same tricks as you to confound us! I shall have her disposed of before this trickery goes too far!”

“A Gypsie woman?” Wilhelm and I said at the same time.

“She arrived on the last supply convoy. A shipment of undesirables from one of our overcrowded work camps.”

“Herr Major, could I see this ‘Gypsy’ woman? It may be possible that she can be swayed to help in our research! I beg you, major; I could use another secretary since you ordered the last one participate in our latest test.”

Bile rose up from my stomach and burned the back of my throat! I had to get back to Peyton, and fast!

I knew I didn’t have much time after I rephased. Wilhelm would surely sense me and bring the storm troopers! Behind me, a sharp explosion indicated that I needed to use another hiding place.
 
 

‘Jack, is Peyton with you?’ I asked, reaching another sealed off chamber.

‘No, she went back to the storage area for more flour, why?’

‘The Germans know about her, Jack. The lead scientist, someone named Wilhelm wants to talk to her and make her his secretary.’

‘That doesn’t sound so bad, Alex.’

‘His last ‘secretary’ was used in the latest Meridian test, Jack!’

‘Shit! I’ll tell her to stay there and wait for you, Cap.’

‘I’m almost there now, Jack. You and Brie try to stay calm, okay?’

‘Aye!’
 
 

“Peyton, we don’t have much time, I need you to come with me.” I said to her as I appeared in front of her. The tin of flour she was carrying dropped to the ground and a cloud exploded into the air around us.

“Empress! What has happened? Cmdr. Cummins said someone named Wilhelm is coming for me.”

“Take my hand, hun and I’ll tell you about it. We need to phase out before he can sense my whereabouts.” I quickly informed her as I grabbed her hand and we phased out.

Unfortunately, the expelled flour had left unmistakable evidence that two people had been standing there and now were gone- without leaving a trail of flour behind.

I quickly ported us a few feet away- to a clean spot on the floor.

I suddenly heard whistling behind us.

“Boy, Alex, you must have really scared the flour out of ol’ Peyton.” Jack said as she entered to broom up the mess.

“I tell you I felt the Empress in here!” Wilhelm’s voice cried from out in the short passage.

Wilhelm, the major, and four soldiers barged into the room- guns drawn!

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Jack shrieked in Polish as she dropped everything and knelt on the ground.

I wondered what was really going through her head as she produced very believable tears.

“Are you the gypsy?” Wilhelm barked in German as he grabbed Jack’s arm and forcefully pulled her up from the floor.

Jack played her role well. She just stared at the man in terror!

“Are you the gypsy?” He barked again, this time in Polish.

Jack shook her head. She had the terrified part down pat. I just hoped that these men wouldn’t start to explode or something if they pushed her any farther.

“The gypsy woman- where is she?” Wilhelm ordered.

“I have not seen her, sir, our work shifts are not the same.” Jack cried.

“Find the gypsy woman!” The major ordered as he pulled Wilhelm’s hand off Jack’s wrist and shove her to the floor.

All six men stormed out of the small pantry.

Jack stayed on the ground until she felt it was clear.

“And for that, Herr Major, you will definitely pay a high price!” Jack hissed evilly with an expression I had only seen on her face once before. I wondered, for a second, how those two thugs were doing back in Honolulu.

Jack looked around and her expression quickly softened. “All clear, Cap. I’ve got a dampening shield up and Brie is almost here.”

“Peyton, y’all okay?” Brie asked with concern as Jack allowed her entrance through her field. “Hun, why are you an’ Alex covered in flour?”

“Even though warned by the Commander, I admit I am not callus to the Empress’s sudden arrivals. I am sorry for compounding things, Empress!”

“It’s okay, hun, happens all the time- not usually with this kind of result though.” I laughed.

“Thank you, Commander, for cleaning up my mess. Had you not arrived those men would have began to suspect the Empress was real- as we all know she is!”

“Sometimes it pays to listen…huh, Alex?” Jack’s right eyebrow twitched quickly as she smiled at me.

I rolled my eyes in response.

“So, now that we’re all here, what should Peyton’s options be?” I asked, looking at her.

“You want to know what I would like to do, Empress?” Her eyes widened.

“Ya, hun, right after y’all start calling me Alex instead of ‘Empress’!”

“It is a hard habit to break, ma’am…Alex.”

“So, do you think you want to play second fiddle to this Wilhelm character or would you rather me take you home or back to Pearl, hun? You decide, sweetheart.”

Peyton remained quiet for a minute or two.

“Alex?”

“Ya, hun?”

“I think I want to do this, ma’am.” Peyton replied meekly.

“Sweetheart, I want you to decide, there is no ‘I think’ on such a dangerous undertaking. This guy’s last assistant became part of a failed experiment and that SS Major has no qualms about using anybody not considered ‘Arian’ for more testing! In fact, Wilhelm may yet find himself joining his test subjects!”

“How long will I need to acquiesce?”

“I was thinkin’ about tomorrow for the ‘Empress’ to get caught then another day for us to really find and destroy all of the research…then…Jack will get to blow something…ie, someone, up. Think you can holdout that long, Miss Treibche?” I smiled at her.

“Ensign Peyton Triebche reporting for duty, Capt. Steinert!” She stood straight, a look of determination on her face.

“Don’t get overly comfortable with him, Ensign! We still don’t know where his real allegiance falls. Jack, were you able to get a read on him?”

“He’s definitely part Terran, Alex, but aside from that I got nothing specific.”

“He is a descendant of Meridian, Alex, but he seems distracted from putting his full attention to his research, though.” Peyton contributed.

“Ok, he might side our way if you can find out the why, hun. I’d see if he had a wife, children, fiancée’- anything the Nazis would use to coerce him. Jack, I don’t have to tell you to keep an eye on her?

“Aye, Cap.”

“Now Miss Treibche, where would you like to be found?”

“I could use some sleep, Alex.”

“Jack, is it clear for Peyton to appear in the sleeping quarters?”

“Just barely, Cap. The goon squad is almost to that chamber.”

“Okay sweetheart, take my hand and start making yourself sleepy.”

Peyton and I found our selves standing among a sea of people. It was difficult to find a clear place to stand in the almost pitch black chamber. After taking a minute to allow our eyes to adjust, Peyton guided me to her ‘bed’. I motioned for her to lie down and released her hand.

Not a second too soon.

“Check this room next! I want that gypsy found immediately!” The major’s arrogant voice commanded.

I stepped back a few feet as the soldiers, armed with flashlights searched through the sleeping or newly awakened.

“This one! She is the one! Take her!” The major shouted to his men.

“What have I done? Why are you treating me like this? Where are you taking me?” Peyton said in perfect sleep-disturbed Polish.

Within a minute she and the men taking her were gone. A hushed whisper filled the room from those left behind as I hurried to catch up.

I may or may not have allowed myself to phase in and out a few times on my way out of the crowded room.
 
 

“Why are you doing this? Let me go!” Peyton was still fighting for all she was worth as I caught up. We were almost back to Meridian’s test chamber.

Pressing the camouflaged keypad, the red light lit, again the door seals retracted enabling light from the chamber beyond to escape through hidden seams, and Wilhelm opened the door. I hurriedly rushed through the Major, Peyton, and Wilhelm as I had before; Peyton’s well being the only constant on my mind.

As I took refuge behind the familiar bank of electrical equipment, there was a comment or two about the supposed door draft again. The group proceeded into the center of the chamber, to where Meridian sat awaiting its next victims.

“These markings, can you read them, Gypsy?” The major asked brusquely in German.

Peyton looked around after he indicated which markings he wanted her to read. She was doing a good job of feigning any knowledge of German.

“Frauline, do you understand these markings?” He asked again, this time in a gentler voice.

Again Peyton feigned ignorance of the language.

“The gentleman asked if you could read these markings, little one?” Wilhelm tried in Polish.

The scared girl nodded.

“And what do they say?”

“Prime Latitude: to better know the world.” She replied fearfully.

Wilhelm looked up at the major with wide eyes and a slightly open mouth.

“Herr Major, she has deciphered more than we have!”

This wasn’t good, she had revealed too much to them!

“How do you know what these mean?” Wilhelm asked with excitement.

“My mother taught them to me when I was a child, sir.” Came her honest answer.

“What is your name, child?” Wilhelm looked at her closely.

“Persephone.”

Wilhelm’s eyes almost popped from their sockets!

“Herr Major, my I have a few minutes to talk some sense into this Gypsy? I fear she does not understand the significance of our efforts here.”

“If she understands the writing, make use of her and get me the results our Führer demands, ‘Herr Doctor’! If she will not cooperate…” The statement was left hanging, as the Major’s smile became pure evil. There was no confusion as to what he meant!

He nodded for the two soldiers to release Peyton into Wilhelm’s custody.

“Do not make me regret my decision!” The major growled as he turned and left the chamber with his men.

Now that the SS Officer and his death squad had gone, I moved in closer to hear Wilhelm’s conversation.

“It is okay to talk to me now, child, I am Gypsy also.” He told Peyton in a calm controlled voice. “Please tell me your real name. I am Lusius, I am leader of this project.” Wilhelm said in ancient Terran.

“I told you, sir, I am called Persephone. It is the only name my mother ever gave me!”

“That is impossible! The name has not been used among our people in well over three thousand years!”

“Then how should I know the correct translation of the ancient text?” Peyton asked politely. “With exception of that foul scribbling so crudely chiseled onto her hull, Meridian 12 looks exactly the way my mother’s images preserved it before launch! Why do you seek to use it as a weapon against the people of Earth?”

Wilhelm pulled back from her in surprise!

“You cannot be here! It is impossible!” He told her again.

“Do you even know the stories of our arrival here, Lusius?” Peyton looked at the man with amazement.

I leaned in close to Peyton’s ear. “Don’t give him too much information, sweetheart!”

Peyton jumped slightly at hearing my voice.

“She’s here! The Empress does exist!” Wilhelm whispered to her as he looked about the room.

“I don’t know who you talk of, sir.” Peyton replied quietly. “And if she really did exist, you should be worried. You all should be very, very worried!”

The smile that appeared on Peyton’s face was not a pleasant one!

“She is not the one I am worried about, Lady Persephone!” Wilhelm smiled back as he waved to the few SS guards in the room. “Take her to my office and make sure she stays there!”

Wilhelm/Lusius, looked around the room again. “Empress of Time and Space, you should leave while you can. These men will use you the way they have used me. They have ways of getting what they want. Get out now, dear Empress!” He whispered loudly in ancient Terran.

Fat chance on that happening!

“I leave no one behind, Lusius!” I whispered into his ear.

I believe the man soiled himself!

As quickly as possible, I checked my tactical and followed Peyton to Wilhelm’s office.
 
 

The office to which Peyton had been taken was barely one at all. Except for a steel door roughly fastened into the tunnel walls, it was nothing but the end of the tunnel with a desk, chair, and single desk lamp.

The steel door proved no boundary at all.

‘Jack, are we too far away to erect a tight shield around us, or can you connect Peyton and I mentally?’

‘One shield comin’ up, Cap. You should be good, Alex.’

The slight smell of ozone touched my nose. ‘Thanks, Jack.’

I looked at my newest team member for a long minute. She refused to make eye contact.

“Peyton, what made you give him all that information? You pretty much told him how you got here and that I was here also!”

“I felt disclosure was a better approach, Empress.”

“A better approach to what exactly?”

“To gaining his trust. To finding his weakness! Is that what you wanted me to do?”

“Yes, I wanted you to find out why he works for them, but I didn’t want my friends and family to die for that information, Peyton. What if he tells that major of our existence? My sister and her husband, my first officer and communications officer, you- I’d care not to lose any of you!”

‘That’s what I want to know too!’ Jack added mentally.

“Look sweetheart, this isn’t Hathor we’re dealing with! These guys are ruthless murderers, cutthroats, and thieves! They will be entered into the history books as the most evil regime the world has ever known! You cannot trust anyone here- let alone the scientists themselves! Trust me when I say that they have already killed millions of innocent people- men, women, and children! The Third Reich has already wiped out at least two full generations of people- that is information the world will just find out later this year!”

“He is of my race, Empress! I should be able to trust him!” Peyton argued.

“He is working for the Nazis, Peyton! Whether by choice or force, he is working for them and cannot be trusted! Can you understand that?” I countered.

“I do, ma’am, but…”

“But nothing, sweetheart! He will do what he deems necessary to save or continue his good relationship with them- to not be killed by them!”

‘Alex, he’s coming.’ Jack interrupted. Checking my tactical, I saw he was right outside.

‘Kill the shield, Jack!’ I thought as I motioned for Peyton to be silent.

I phased out just in the nick of time.

“So, you want to tell me what you are doing here, Lady Persephone? Maybe start with how…you got here?” Wilhelm asked after closing the door and locking it.

“I came to reclaim what is rightfully our peoples’!”

“I know it is our peoples’ M’lady! I am just using these arrogant beasts in order to reawaken Meridian. Once done, we shall be able to leave this planet and return to our homeworld!”

“Do you really want to do that, Lusius? Have you considered how much time has already passed? Do you really assume the homeworld is as once described?” Peyton asked logically.

“Have you seen our homeworld, M’lady…as it now appears?”

“I can neither confirm nor deny that information, Lusius!” Peyton said while crossing her arms in front of her and turning her head away from the scientist.

“So you do travel with the Empress of storied legend!” Lusius chuckled at his craftiness.

‘Jack, I need a good solid shield up around us now!’ I thought as I rephased.

‘Aye!’

“And what if she were, Lusius?” I asked.

The man jumped about a foot into the air! An almost unmistakable dark mark appeared in his trousers.

“You are…you are…her! You are…are…the…” He stuttered.

“Yes, Lusius, I’m the Empress! But you can call me the Empress of Time and Space!” I paused to let that soak in.

Good pun, I thought.

“Lady Persephone indeed travels with me and together we are going to return Meridian 12 to its rightful owners, Lusius.” I smiled devilishly.

“You are even more beautiful than the stories can describe!” He exclaimed, his eyes scanning me from head to toe.

“Are you listening to me, Lusius? I said we are here to return Meridian 12 to Egypt.”

“No!” He shouted then looked around. “No! You mustn’t! Many lives will be forfeited if the craft goes missing! Many people dear to me will die!”

It seems to me that you do this willingly, Lusius- for personal gain, maybe?”

“I do this for my people! There are hundreds enslaved in these very tunnels and even more held in containment camps! My family, they are being held in a place called Auschwitz. Unless I get Meridian to function again I will lose them all! I will lose my family.” Lusius looked like he was crazed.

“If your family is in that camp of despair, they are already dead, Lusius! That camp in particular is synonymous with Arian supremacy. It will become forever linked to the ‘Holocaust’- the final solution as the Nazi’s call it to purge those deemed inferior!”

“You cannot know that, oh mighty Empress of Time and Space!”

“You should have listened to those stories of me, Lusius! If you had, you would know that I clearly see the future!”

He looked back and forth between Peyton and I for some time. I decided to illustrate.

“In less than one weeks time this facility and all residing inside it will forever be silenced. A force known as the Soviets- a part of the Allied nations, will arrive to find this entire mine complex collapsed. Not much information will exist to prove this Wunderwuffen project ever existed. Speculation will persist for many years and will become conspiracy theories put forward by many so called UFO- unidentified flying object- experts.”

“But it is a flying object!”

I rolled my eyes.

“We know that, but the world’s population has no clue, nor will it for quite some time, Lusius, if Persephone and I are successful.”

“I can’t let you take it! They will kill me!”

“In case you haven’t been listening, you are already dead, Lusius!”

‘He’s thinking about calling the guards, Alex.’ Jack informed me.

I patted Peyton on the shoulder and winked at her.

‘Drop the shield, Jack.’ I thought just before phasing out.

“Guards! Guards!” Lusius shouted.

Two rifled soldiers immediately entered as he unlocked the door.

“Arrest the woman in gold and take her to see the major!” Lusius ordered without even looking back at me.

“What woman in gold, mein herr?” One of the soldiers asked.

“The Empress! She’s right…“ Lusius stopped suddenly as he turned and realized I was no longer there. He cautiously looked around the room searching for my hiding place.

“Boo!” I said into his ear. I just couldn’t resist!

Peyton let a giggle escape as she realized what I might have done.

“Take this woman out to the test chamber and secure her to the bell!” He ordered, half panicked, half angered.

The men did as ordered and Lusius checked the room once more before closing and locking the door behind him.

For a supposed learned man and half Terran, he really didn’t understand the nuances of the Empress of Time and Space!

I rephased.

‘Jack, can you follow Peyton? They just took her into the test chamber.’

‘I see her, Alex. She’s being accompanied by two armed soldiers and that scientist guy.’

‘Jack, tell the others that the Empress will be coming out earlier than expected, and to be ready for anything!’

‘Aye, Cap, we’re standing by!’

The light on the desk dimmed.

‘I have to go, Jack, I think they’re going to run a test with Peyton as the Guinea Pig!’

‘How can I help, Alex?’

‘Keep those auxiliary generators from starting up if you can, Jack.’

‘I’ll add some sparks and flames if you want, Alex.’

‘Sparks, but no flames, Jack. I didn’t see much ventilation in there.’

‘You got it, Cap.’

I quickly phased out and hurried into Meridian’s test chamber. The two goons had already tied Peyton to a chair and positioned her next to the spacecraft.

How am I going to stop this from happening, I asked myself?

It still amazed me how asking the right question at the right time can reveal things!

I took up position beside Peyton just as Meridian’s protective shield came online. The craft started to radiate a bright light as outside power was fed to it.

“Close your eyes tight, Peyton!” I said into her ear. “Don’t look at the light!”

She nodded her head in acknowledgement. I enabled just my sunglasses using my suit HUD.

The light grew brighter as Wilhelm ramped up the power to Meridian- it’s brilliance reminded me of my transit to Reilly the first time.

My body started to tingle! Similar to the way it had felt five weeks before in 1865 Washington DC. I heard a number of voices shouting around the room as the two auxiliary generators began to crank, start, then sputter and die with sparks flying from them in all directions.

Still my body tingled! I decided to test my time phase and touched Peyton’s shoulder.

Oh, shit! I was back in phase for some reason!

Meridian began to dim.

“Guter Tag, Fraulein.” I heard the major’s voice say from close behind me. I also heard the action of his Luger being pulled back. The business end of a cold steel barrel pushed into the back of my head. “Wir haben einen Besuch vom so genannten `Empress'! Bitte erwartet, wenn Sie sich herum langsam drehen würden? (We have been expecting a visit from the so-called ‘Empress’! Please, if you would turn around slowly?)”



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