Continuing her mission to 1945 Poland, Alex must find a way to safely secret the Meridian Spacecraft and her team out of the heavily defended Wonderwerks facility and preserve the precious timeline. Will she be able to rescue the hundreds of lost souls locked away in the Wenceslas Mine? Can Alex rescue one very lost, very confused soul in particular?
Onward Episode 6 “Out of the fire, a hero”
“Out of the fire, a hero”
Wenceslas Mina, Poland, March 31st, 1945
“Herr Major, wie Sie alle sehen können, bin ich nicht bewaffnet. (I’m not armed as y’all can see, major.)” I said as I followed his order and turned very slowly, the barrel of his pistol didn’t move and I came face to face with it. The Luger now rested gently against my forehead. Trying to remain calm, I mentally brought up my tiara controls on my HUD. I selected Randi’s repulsion shield, but did not finish by mentally ‘selecting’ ‘OK’.
“Ich bin völlig anderer Meinung, mein Fräulein! Tatsache ist, Sie sind mit der tötlichsten Waffe, die je erdacht wurde, bewaffnet! (I disagree completely, Fraulein! In fact, you are armed with the most lethal weapons ever conceived!)” The major leered at me.
What an ass!
“Wie chavinistisch von Ihnen, Herr Major! (How very chauvinistic of you, Major!)” I shot back as I continued to feel the tingle throughout my body. Meridian’s bright shield had dissipated to half its brightness now so I slowly reached to my glasses and removed them from my face.
“Blondes Haar UND blaue Augen! (Blonde hair AND blue eyes!)” The major suddenly seemed shocked by my appearance. “Verzeihung Fräulein. Ich wusste das nicht. (Forgive me Fraulein, I did not know.)”
“Know what, major?” I asked, feigning ignorance.
“That you were one of the ancestors, Fraulein!” He lowered his weapon and quickly turned back to the twelve men holding rifles on me. “I want Colonel Mueller and the Commandant here immediately!” He shouted.
“This woman, why is she here against her will, major?” I asked and pointed to Peyton as two of the soldiers hurried from the chamber.
“I was told she was with you, Fraulein?”
“Why would I have an inferior being travel with me, major?” I asked as I rubbed my chin with my finger and thumb. “Though, she would make an acceptable servant.” I thought out loud.
Peyton glared at me as if suddenly facing the ultimate betrayal!
‘Jack, I need you to untie Peyton when I snap my fingers.’ I thought to her.
‘Aye, Cap.’ She replied.
“I shall release you if…if you will serve me, Persephone, there apparently is no place to run, their technology is too strong. If I am not able to transit time in this chamber nor can you!” I told my angered friend. Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly as she realized my game.
“As you wish, my Empress, you have beaten me…this time.” She acknowledged sheepishly.
“Good, then there is no longer a need for these primitive restraints.” I said quickly as I snapped my fingers.
Peyton’s bonds fell to the floor in pieces. The major stood dumbstruck as he looked down to the tattered ropes lying before him.
“Herr Major, they travel together! She said as much in my officer no more than five minutes ago!” Wilhelm protested as he quickly ventured closer.
‘Wilhelm goes flying on my mark, Commander.’
“Who is this insolent, inferior creature to accuse me of anything? Away from me, bug!” I ordered calmly, making a nonchalant flicking motion with my finger and thumb. Wilhelm flew away from us and hit the rock wall of the chamber with a rib-cracking thud! It was a good twenty-yard flight and many mouths fell open in the huge chamber as he slumped to the floor.
I turned my attention back to the major. “Herr Major,” I smiled before reaching for his chin and raising his face slightly to look into his eyes, “You have acceptable hair, but not the proper tint of the eyes! How dare you display the noble symbols of our elite warrior when you are nothing but a commoner- I suspect a half-breed, or less?” An evil grin appeared on my face.
A very audible gulp escaped the SS Officer as the patented Demmit stare bore into his cold-hearted, soul.
“I have been placed in this position by the Führer, Fraulein!” He replied proudly. I could see him quivering slightly though.
“Is that so, Major? And who appointed him to the position, one of my brothers perhaps?” My evil grin became a predatory smile.
“The people of our Fatherland appointed Hitler, Fuhrer!” He answered in cautious pride.
“The people of Deutschland or the people of the Homeland, major?” I asked as my smile became even more dangerous.
‘Alex, Wilhelm has a pistol and intends to use it.’ Jack informed me. I accessed my tiara and brought up my protective shield immediately.
“She is not Aryan! She is a fraud! I shall prove it!” Wilhelm screamed as he pulled the trigger of his Luger until emptying the magazine.
The reports from the shots echoed throughout the chamber as fast as the bullets ricocheted off my shield. Several of Wilhelm’s fellow scientists fell to the floor dead, or grabbed at newly inflicted bullet wounds. One of the ten soldiers left guarding us made a gurgling sound as blood foamed from his mouth. We watched his eyes roll back before he slowly crumbled to the floor. Nine SS soldiers looked extremely worried as they cautiously looked to their fallen comrade.
“Such primitive weapons.” I laughed evilly as I tried not to let the soldier’s slow death turn my stomach. “You dared eliminate me like your fellow commoners?” I asked Wilhelm as he grabbed at his own blood stained, lab coat sleeve.
I noticed that the major was just finishing his own self-examination. He had been lucky enough to be just inside my shield as it came on. That hadn’t been my plan so now I had to improvise.
“Do not count yourself lucky, Major; I am not done with you yet.” I warned. “This man, however…” I angrily pointed to Wilhelm, as I was interrupted.
“Empress, Herr Wilhelm does not understand, M’lady!” Peyton caught my attention just as the major pulled his own gun.
“Maj. Klingenschmidt! You will not harm this human! Holster that primitive weapon now!” I ordered.
“The Gypsy tried to kill you, Fraulein!” He replied in confusion that I knew his name.
‘Bring him to me, Jack.’
“I will take care of this annoying pest, Major!” I ordered as I giggled deviously and stared angrily at the wounded man.
Wilhelm flew to within ten feet of me, paused in mid-air a moment then dropped to the floor with a groan. It was not one of this man’s better days!
“How dare you instigate my wrath, Gypsy?” I asked with a sneer. “Not even my sister, Hathor, had the means or courage to defeat me! What makes you think any of you weak, pathetic, humans would fare better?”
“Empress, I beg of you, spare the man, Wilhelm! He is one of our people- a commoner with limited ability, but one of our people nonetheless, M’lady.” Peyton pleaded with me as if scripted.
“I spare your life and you dare make demands of me, Persephone? Pledging one’s servitude does not usually include an appeal for a life to be saved!”
“He has obviously been misled by the writings of your conquests, M’lady, or he would not willingly serve these charlatans!”
“Charlatans? We are the Third Reich- the chosen ones! We are the re-emergence of the Aryan race!” Maj. Klingenschmidt spat as he proudly argued the misguided teachings of this terroristic regime.
The tingling in my body had subsided somewhat more as I carefully, deviously, made myself look like the exact opposite of the idealized Empress of legend. The longer I BS’ed these Nazis, the better chance I stood of phasing Peyton and I out of harm’s way.
“Major, how can you claim Aryan status- how can any of you claim that standing, if you are but simple commoners?” I raised an eyebrow. “Do you claim abilities high above your fellow humans? Can you see into the mortal mind with vivid clarity? Can you transit time, dimension, and space as Persephone or I can? Are you even able to see that your beloved Fuhrer is, at this moment, cowering in a subterranean shelter in some place called Berlin, contemplating suicide with another commoner, one Eva Braun?” I questioned- lectured.
‘Jack, relay everything he’s thinking to Peyton and I until I say otherwise.’
‘This woman cannot be Aryan even though she matches the ancient, prescribed profile!’
“I assure you, major, I am exactly who I say I am!”
The major’s expression became befuddled.
‘Her appearance here has to be some Gypsy trick- something learned from the magicians!’
“I am no illusionist, Maj. Klingenschmidt! My abilities flow from my obvious superiority and proper breeding! I am no Gypsy!”
‘Is she reading my mind? What other magic does she possess?’
“Does it bother you that I so easily read a commoner’s mind, Major? Oh, you wish to see what other magic’s I possess? Allow me to show you.” I said calmly and with the same predatory smile.
‘Jack, I’m going to hand this little show over to Peyton for a few minutes.’
I began laughing. “Persephone, would you care to have some fun?” I looked in her direction, my smile never faded.
“Sister?” Peyton began to smile.
Klingenschmidt looked between us in puzzlement.
“You…you just made her your servant!”
“A game, herr major! Thousands of years ago we tired of simply crushing and enslaving the inferior peoples of this planet! Persephone and I decided to play the ultimate game of the hunt, one going after the other through the ages in an attempt to entertain ourselves. Immortality has become so boring since you commoners decided to wrench the planet from us.” I feigned a yawn. “I yearn for the old days when Persephone, myself, and our brothers drew lots and placed bets on the lives of your ancestors!” I made my last statement sound heartless- despicable!
“Alexandra, it has been so long since I have wracked a commoner’s mind, may I indulge?” Peyton now sported a predatory grin and a similar vocal tone.
I answered by raising my hand toward Klingenschmidt.
“Have you noticed, Herr Major,” She asked with a gleam in her eyes and an evil hiss, “that all your soldiers are of African origins?” Peyton simply nodded to the nine remaining guards.
“That is not possible; they have all been hand picked by me!”
“Herr Major, what is your Fuhrer’s edict on Afrikaners?” I pressed.
Klingenschmidt turned around and gasped at the sight of nine dark-skinned SS soldiers. Staring at them a moment, he drew his gun and shot every one of them!
“Your Fuhrer would be proud, major!” I congratulated him sarcastically.
“What is going on here?” An older male voice demanded from the chamber’s entrance.
“Herr Commandant, why was I assigned African soldiers? You know the Fuhrer’s rules on such things!” Klingenschmidt cried as he casually changed the clip and re-holstered his pistol.
“What are you talking about, Major, I see no black skins!” The older officer asked in confusion.
“Major, what is the meaning of this? Why are these women in this test chamber?” Colonel Mueller asked. My brother-in-law was playing his part well.
“These men, they have the dark skin of Africans!” Klingenschmidt turned around to look at the ten dead men- ten dead white men. He turned back and stared at Peyton, perplexed.
“These women! They made me kill my men!” He immediately pointed to us.
Feeling the tingling in my body finally fade, I tried passing my hand through the chair Peyton had been tied to.
“How would mere women convince an SS Major that his own men were not his men?” Chuck…Col. Mueller questioned.
“Commandant, these women are our ancestors- true Arians!” Klingenschmidt argued as he turned to survey his handywork again.
‘We’re done here, Jack. Peyton and I need to disappear from the Commandant’s memory, though. Let Chuck know Peyton and I are going to phase out.’
I phased us out.
“What women, Major? I see no women in this chamber!” Mueller asked, slightly angered.
“The Empress and her sis…” The major stopped midsentence after turning back around to see that the two of us were gone.
“Colonel, you will see to it that the major remains in his quarters until his court marshal?” The Commandant requested of Chuck.
“Yes, sir, Commandant. Major, if you will come with me?” My brother-in-law ordered with a sneer. He drew and waved his pistol in the direction of the entrance door.
Peyton and I watched as Chuck…Col. Mueller disarmed then escorted the severely rattled major out of the huge test chamber. Wilhelm stood off to our left holding his shoulder and looking around at the carnage left by his and Maj. Klingenschmidt’s actions.
I tightened my grip on Peyton’s hand and led her over to the shocked scientist.
“Do you need further proof of my existence and my reason for being here, Lusius?” I asked, leaning close to his ear.
All color drained from his face again as he slowly shook his head in response.
“Are you willing to allow Persephone to assist you with Meridian now?”
“We will meet you in your office, Lusius, and do come alone!”
We didn’t wait for any acknowledgement as Peyton and I casually walked through the desks and monitoring equipment and back the short hallway to his office.
“Alex, you really had me wondering whose side you were on.” Peyton informed me as our hands parted. “You can be very frightening when you want to be.”
“I was actually terrifying myself, sweetheart. It is all too easy to embrace the dark side.” I admitted.
“Alex, why didn’t you just phase out when that officer held his weapon to you?”
“I was trying to. There’s something about Meridian’s protective shield that nullified my phase shift. I felt a tingling running through my whole body as Lusius ramped up the power. It took several minutes to subside enough that I could reactivate my gift. Thanks, Peyton, for playing along. Altering his perspective gave me the time I needed to recover.”
I noticed a tear roll down her cheek.
“Honey, what is it? I thought you would be happy to get away from that arrogant SS major?”
“Ma’am,” She sniffed, “I made a man kill today.”
I saw where this was going.
“Hun, you didn’t make him do anything like that! You changed his visual perception of those men. You didn’t make him kill them!”
“I did! I used his racial discrimination to make him kill!”
No! His own brainwashing left him no other choice but to pull the trigger, Peyton! These Nazis, they consider every race of people other than their own inferior! Sweetheart, the shelling that we heard on our arrival? That was the Allies liberating the work and prison camps scattered throughout Poland! Work camps that unquestioningly carried out Hitler’s order of a ‘Final Solution’- mass annihilation of the Jewish people! Think about how many Terrans lost their lives at Hathor’s hand, Peyton, now take that to the third power! They are monsters! Klingenschmidt is a product of this regime! He had every chance, every opportunity to renounce the sadistic beliefs of this ‘Third Reich’. He didn’t, instead he embraced them- practiced them! He knowingly acted on his false perception!”
“Empress, is what you say true?” Lusius asked from beside us. Neither one of us had heard him enter. “I had heard mention of this ‘final solution’, but heard no specifics.”
“Sit down, Lusius, you are not going to like what you hear, I’m afraid.” I lowered my head slightly as I thought about all the wasted lives.
“I heard you say that the Allies were just starting to liberate the work camps, but you gave details that only someone from the future would know. How?”
“Lusius, Alex really is the Empress of Time and Space. She has the ability to not only see the future, but to travel there too.” Peyton told the man.
“Let’s not forget the ability to travel to the past also, sweetheart.” I added.
“My family…” He mumbled as he looked to either side of the room.
“As of this date, your adapted family is no longer alive…I’m sorry. All have been euthanized because they filled no useful purpose.”
“They promised my family would be unharmed if I cooperated.”
“I’m sorry that you believed them- though I can understand why.”
“Lusius, help us take Meridian away from them- before they use it for more terrifying deeds than have been done here.” Peyton pleaded with him.
“I must continue my experiments. If I do not discover the secret of Meridian, they will kill me and everyone working with me!”
“Lusius, they intend to kill everyone in this complex in a few days! The unofficial history states that sixty scientists and an unknown amount of civilians’ parish when the SS detonates every shaft, every tunnel, and every chamber of this mine! That is why we are here- to make sure that does not happen- we are here to save lives.”
“But the secret of Meridian?”
“Must stay a secret! The Nazis must never obtain access to the Meridian 12, Deep Space Explorer. This world is not ready for knowledge of an alien race crash landing and surviving alongside the people of Earth. There will be a time- several decades into the future, where information begins to surface about us, but until that time arrives, all this must stay buried!”
“How do you intend to suppress such information, Empress? There are hundreds of people in these tunnels. The odds that someone will slip are high.”
“We have our ways, Lusius.”
“Why not just slip into the cavern and take the craft, Empress? Why the cloak and dagger?”
“Because the Nazis must think this Wunderwaffen project is a failure- a dead end. That somehow the experiment caused some catastrophic accident and that everything- everyone was lost!” Peyton explained for me.
“Well put, sister.” I congratulated.
“But you do intend on taking the craft?” Lusius asked.
“We do, indeed.”
“At the time of my choosing. Certain details must fall into place before Meridian again departs a planet for the stars.” I said cryptically. “Right now, though, Persephone and I must talk in private.”
“So you want me to leave my office?”
“Nothing of the sort, hun, we’ll be right back.” I told him as I took Peyton’s hand and we phased out.
“You don’t trust him, Alex.” Peyton declared as soon as the scientist began looking around the room for us.
“Not as far as I can throw him, sweetheart. I could never trust a man that continually tries to read my mind. Even Tibius asked before doing it. I believe the Terrans have a law to that effect?” I looked at my young companion and smiled.
She nodded. “So what do we do?” She asked, watching the man move shelves and tap at various places along the walls.
“Are you able to read him, sweetheart?” I inquired.
“When his concentration is broken, yes, but mostly I can feel his emotions and predict what he will do all the time.
“I see.” I re-examined the images of the coming day in my mind. “Do you know how to gain access to Meridian?”
“My mother told me that its commander ordered Meridian be set to open at the request of the Empress, Alex, so you are the only one it will recognize.”
I leaned over and kissed her forehead.
“What was that for, Alex?” She asked, looking at me strangely.
“For confirming that I’m doing the right thing, sweetheart. You see, I’ve known since we left Pearl that you were holding out on us.” I smiled.
“What? How did you know about that?”
“I talked to your mother when Tibius and I took Anna-Beth back home. Your mom talked for hours about their arrival here and how, fearing the indigenous people of Earth would find other uses for Meridian and possibly use it to conquer Terra, set the controls to only accept the Empress’s voice pattern. It was silly, really- just a last ditch effort to lock out all possibility of misuse or theft of technology. They were surprised when a voice print file was found by the flight computer and enabled.”
“You talked with momma?”
“Sure did, sweetheart. I told her how you stowed away with Hathor’s raiding party and helped defeat her at Kili Island. She was overjoyed that you chose to fight on the Empress’s side- mentioning that you fought for the liberation of both upper and lower kingdoms during her imprisonment. I believe they may even have erected a statue to you in Memphis, hun!”
“I don’t want a statue of me. Many of my friends died to free the kingdom; they each deserve that honor instead.”
“Yes.” I said quietly, brushing a few stray hairs from her face with my free hand. “You’ll do nicely.” I smiled at her before rephasing us.
Peyton continued staring at me, wondering what I meant as we reappeared. Lusius jumped with a start.
“It is settled then. Persephone will assist you in your efforts to gain access to Meridian. I am to be alerted to any discoveries before the SS, is that understood, ‘Wilhelm’?”
“You do not know how it works, Empress?”
“Of course I know how it works, hun.” I giggled.
“Then tell me so that we can escape this prison!” He replied impatiently.
“Must you skip to the last few pages of a good book, Lusius?” I laughed. “You will take good care of my sister, Lusius. See that no harm comes to her.”
I phased out than back in again. Lusius jumped higher this time.
“Oh, almost forgot. Meridian’s external shield is meant for protection against intense solar radiation, asteroids, micro meteors, and nulling the crushing effects of black holes, not triggering the door lock, Herr Scientist! My advice would be to try something else that does not melt test subjects into smoking puddles, comprende?”
I phased out and walked out of the room.
Wenceslas Mina, Poland, April 1st, 1945
‘Jack, today’s the day.’
‘About time! I don’t think I can take any more of these Nazi assholes!’
‘Just hold it back for a few hours more, Commander. Let it build within you.’
‘Then all hell is unleashed?’ She thought to me with a certain amount of excitement.
‘No, not quite, Jack, but it will certainly make you feel better, I guarantee it.’
‘You mean I don’t get to blow anything up like you promised?’ Jack sounded disappointed.
‘I didn’t say that, Jack. You’ll get to blow things up. I’d never take that from you.’ I told her as I physically smiled.
‘How’s Brie and Randi doing?’
‘Chuck came down late last evening and took Brie to do his personal cooking and cleaning. I think she spent the night in his quarters. Randi is climbing the walls and occasionally I catch her talking to herself…I mean, not really talking to herself- more like talking to her Reilly suit. She can’t wait to access Meridian’s computers!’
‘So Brie spent the night with an SS Colonel. I wonder if this is that…nope, oh good!’
‘Nothing, Jack, I just thought that maybe…never mind. I’ll let you know when to start rounding people up, okay?’
‘Aye, Cap. It shouldn’t be much of a problem. The Krauts seem to be busy with other things this morning- if it is morning that is.’
‘It’s quiet because they received orders from Himmler yesterday to destroy this base and everyone in it- no exceptions. You and Peyton can start putting a bug in the locals’ ears about meeting in the test chamber, but wait for my order to trigger it.’
‘Got it, Cap. I’ll be waiting…just slaving away in this rat infested, kitchen…’
I phased out and left my second hiding place and walked through a few solid rock walls to find myself in ‘Wilhelm’s’ office.
“I just cannot seem to find the right sequence!” His voice whined as I emerged from the rock wall of his office.
“Are you sure it is not a homing beacon, Lusius?” Peyton asked calmly. I noticed the slight grin on her face as I appeared in front of her. I stopped right behind Wilhelm’s chair- his elbows firmly planted on the desk before him, his hands holding his head in consternation.
“Why a homing beacon? Wouldn’t they have come for us several millennia ago if they were coming at all?” His voice sounded very despondent.
“Well, it looks like we’ve made no progress at all.” I said loudly, making Wilhelm jump.
“If some useful hints were given, there might have been progress!” He whined.
“If I had given you any useful hints at all, you and the SS storm troopers stationed here would be out there somewhere corrupting another peaceful planet!” I growled in anger as I swept my hand overhead.
“I told you that I despise these barbarians. Why do you continue to doubt that, Empress?”
“Haven’t you been able to read my mind yet, Herr Wilhelm?” I smiled as I asked.
“I cannot see your thoughts, no.”
“But I can see yours, Lusius. Not only that, but I can see many outcomes to many different scenarios in your future. Only one of which, by the way, has you playing on the right side!”
“And which specific fate would that be, Empress?”
“First off, fate has nothing to do with which way your allegiance sways. It is a conscious decision on your part as to what is right or wrong. Secondly, I am not here to influence your future. You still disappear completely from this world- most likely killed in the collapse of the complex. Our mission is to recover Meridian and return it to those who understand its purpose and use.”
“But the Empress is kind and understanding, the stories convey that explicitly!”
“So now you’ve read the stories, how convenient! They also tell of how the Empress punishes those that have done evil, Lusius! Tell me, how many innocent people have stood before Meridian 12’s shield and paid the ultimate price? How many people have you sacrificed in order to give Hitler his ultimate weapon and save your ass? I don’t think that is something to be rewarded for, do you?”
“But it was only to protect my family, Empress!”
“To quote a phrase from back home, hun, ‘Horseshit’!” I said seriously as I glared at him. I felt Peyton gently take my hand. “You’ve never had a real family here, Lusius. The Mossbergs…they only supplied you with authenticity! I doubt you even know what a meaningful relationship is- though, you are quite resourceful at saving your own butt! Did the Nazi’s promise to take you along with them, Lusius? Did you really think that would happen- that they would actually honor that agreement? Seriously?”
Wilhelm’s face turned beat red and he abruptly jumped from his chair for the door.
“Jack, our friend needs a thump to the head, please.” I said aloud.
The scientist’s head noticeably jerked and Lusius…Wilhelm…whoever he was, dropped to the floor unconscious.
“It’s time, Jack. Round up everyone you know to be innocent and meet us in the test chamber. Either carefully avoid the demolition crews or disable them. I don’t care which; let them decide.”
‘Aye, Cap, we’ll be right there.’
“Alex, what will we do with him?” Peyton pointed to the motionless man on the floor.
“We bring him along, of course! Did you think the Empress would ruin her hard earned reputation for this bilge?”
“Of course not, ma’am, but there is always a first time- especially if it were warranted- like it is here.”
“That time will arrive all too soon, sweetheart.” I looked down for a moment. “Come on; let’s get down to stealing us a spacecraft!”
‘Alex, they’ve begun setting charges at the mouth of the mine!’ Jack’s voice sounded excited.
’Where’s Chuck and Brie, Commander?’
‘Brie is helping Chuck to the Test chamber as we think.’
‘He took one for the team?’
‘Aye, Klingenschmidt, hit him pretty hard and escaped, Alex.’
‘Hurry and get everyone here, Jack, they intend to corral everyone in the center of the mine.’
‘What about the major?’
‘He’s going to stow away on Meridian, Jack.’
‘But, I thought the major was a bad guy, Cap?’
‘Sometimes we have to save the bad guys as well, Commander.’
‘In that case, I’d like to lodge a formal complaint, Capt. Steinert!’
‘Duely noted, Commander Cummins. Now y’all get those people here, pronto!’
‘Start your power-up when y’all reach the chamber door.’
‘Aye! Hey, just met up with Brie and Chuck, Alex!’
‘’Is Chuck okay?’
‘He’s a little shaky on his feet yet, but Brie did good! I’ll help her out from here on.’
‘Let me know when you get to the door.’
‘Here now, Alex. No sign of Klingenschmidt though.’
‘He’s here already, Jack. Just get those people in here.’
A loud groan echoed through the chamber as the camouflaged, reinforced steel door yielded to Jack’s mind. All eyes and weapons turned to see the door fly halfway across the cavern. It narrowly missed Meridian!
Now it was my turn to surprise the enemy! I rephased Peyton, a still unconscious Lusius, and me behind the main control console.
“Can I have everyone’s attention, please?” I shouted out through the huge cavern. “Allied forces are just fifty miles from this facility! The SS has been ordered to conceal any and all evidence that this complex ever existed! In a few short minutes this chamber will be flooded with soldiers with only one order- kill everyone!”
‘Jack, I need all the guards disarmed now!’
The sound of weapons hitting the floor in pieces filled the chamber. Several uniformed men ran for the door.
“You soldiers! I strongly suggest you surrender and offer no resistance! My sisters will not harm you unless provoked!”
Several uniformed soldiers flew from the door and landed several feet behind us- the solid rock wall stopping them hard.
The shocked scientists in the chamber eyed their flight path with opened mouths and frightened expressions.
“Resistance is futile!” Brie shouted out with a smile as she and the rest of my team started to lead over three hundred refugees into Meridian’s test chamber.
“The Nazis’ aren’t that far behind, Alex.” Jack advised as she drew closer. “It would be nice if we could get Meridian’s hatch open now.” She pointed to the dislodged hanger type door. It again took to the air and hovered overhead until everyone was inside before ramming itself back against its original doorframe, which miraculously bent itself against the large door, effectively sealing the chamber once more.
“Ask and you shall receive, Commander.” I smiled.
Making my way through the gathered crowd down to the spacecraft, I touched its metallic skin. The material felt smooth and maybe even a little slippery- as if having a thin sheen of oil spread on it. Several people had made comments about my clothing and several more even tried to touch me to see if I was real.
Someone even pinched my ass!
I smiled at all of them and assured the ones that asked if I was indeed the Empress. Jack lifted Wilhelm off the floor beside a struggling Peyton and levitated him nearby.
A hush quickly fell over the crowd.
“Meridian Twelve, please open your outer hatch so that the Empress of Time and Space may enter.” I said loudly in ancient Terran. There was some mumbling from the remaining scientists in the room.
“Specify password for voice print verification, please.” A female voice that sounded similar to my own Alexis’ responded. It echoed throughout the cavern.
“OakridgeEmpress8716.” I replied, again in ancient Terran.
“Password accepted. Welcome aboard, Empress.” The voice acknowledged.
A rectangular seam became visible on the craft’s smooth hull and the resulting door slid open revealing a dark, inner room. No other door was visible. A gasp escaped the scientists and most of the crowd.
“Commander, put our sleeping guest in the airlock, please then prepare to start boarding these people immediately! Randi and I will exit and reseal the inner airlock door. That should reopen the outer door! Randi, are you ready to acquaint yourself with Meridian 12?”
“I’ve been holding my breath for three long days, Alex- can’t wait!”
The two of us entered Meridian’s airlock chamber and the outer hatch closed automatically as suspected.
“Bridge.” I commanded.
The vastly larger-than-expected airlock immediately started moving like an elevator. If the pulsing light directly in front of us was any indication, we traveled up about four floors before coming to a stop.
“Time to get out of this dress.” I said as my suit took on its default form.
“The standard Reilly suit, Alex?” Randi questioned.
“It is a spacesuit after all, hun.” I replied casually. The comfortable garment felt wonderful after wearing the sheer, revealing dress and heels for almost three days straight. My tiara remained on my head though.
“Didn’t realize it was, Skip, but good idea.”
‘Jack, flight crew to default Reilly suits.’
“Welcome to the Command Level, Empress.” The woman’s voice greeted as an unseen door opened in front of us. We had more than a few yards to walk before exiting into the compartment!
The room before us measured about forty to forty-five feet in diameter, its sides filled with equipment consoles or cabinets with readouts and blinking indicator lights of all colors. Several seats were distributed about those consoles as well as several in the middle of the room.
“Meridian hun, are you equipped with an external processor interface port?” I asked the craft.
“Could you direct my companion to it, please?”
“Is external device compatible with Meridian interface protocols?”
“I speak over seven thousand different OS Protocols and am fluent in Binary!” Randi told the computer in an indignant tone. “I think I’m compatible!”
“It’s okay, hun, she’s part of my rescue team. Let her interface with you.”
“Device will proceed to station Alpha-zero-four.”
A light started flashing to indicate the location in the room. I motioned for Randi to go have fun.
“Meridian, what is your crew capacity?”
“Three hundred with four months of supplies, three hundred and twenty without supplies.”
“I don’t think so! I am not THAT old school, Meridian!” Randi exclaimed, her voice raising an octave as well as in volume. It drew my attention momentarily.
“I absolutely refuse to connect to a wired interface!” She paused and angrily stared at a cable of some sort in her hand. “We’re going to do this my way, old girl!”
“Problems, Lieutenant?” I asked Randi.
“Establishing wireless communication with Meridian A.I., Alex! She wanted me to connect through my physical network port!”
“So what’s wrong with that?”
“You would know what was wrong with that if you knew where my network port is located, skip!”
“I would imagine it’s real close to your reset, right?”
“How did you know that, skip?” Randi blushed profusely as her mouth dropped open.
“Experience with a previous revision, hun. Mind your console, Lieutenant.” I motioned her to turn around toward the console.
Randi silently, slowly, turned back to her control panel, her eyes continued to stare at me with deep concern until she had to turn her head away. I returned my attention to the problem at hand.
‘Jack, we have a problem. Meridian can only hold three-twenty, max. How many did you count?’
‘I lost count at three-fifty. Rough guess…three-seventy-five, Alex.’
“Meridian, we have to rescue three hundred and seventy-six. Is there any way to accomplish that?”
“Gravitational thrusters cannot manage equilibrium or sufficient repulsion with requested payload.”
“She’s right, Alex.” Randi confirmed. “Meridian’s fuel cells are at four-five percent. I doubt she would have the power to lift off with just us six onboard.”
‘Cap, the main tunnel entrance just collapsed. Are we ready to go yet?’ Jack suddenly interrupted.
“Meridian, we need to squeeze everyone in here. I’ll leave it to you to distribute them to all habitable levels.”
‘Stuff those people into the airlock, Jack, you, and Brie get up here now! Let Chuck and Peyton handle loading. I want to know when everyone is aboard.’
‘Aye Cap, we’re on our way.’
“Meridian, if you had an additional power source, could we achieve takeoff?”
“Only if gravitational balance can be achieved, Empress.”
“She means if we were already in space, Alex.” Randi translated.
“I know just the person, Miss Van Pelt.”
“You mean you’re going to transport this whole ship out into open space, Skip?”
“I’ve done it before, hun.” I replied nonchalantly.
“But we’re inside a mountain, Alex!”
“I was in the middle of a volcano the last time- shouldn’t be any different.”
“It’s a freakin’ Tardis!” Brie shouted excitedly as the airlock door opened to our compartment.
“What’s a Tardis, Brie?” Jack asked in complete confusion.
“Nothing you’d understand until the mid sixties, Jack.” She told her with a roll of her eyes.
“Time And Relative Dimension In Space.” I deadpanned. I really didn’t know how I knew that though.
“Huh?” Jack responded.
I simply shrugged my shoulders.
“Jack, how’s your energy buildup coming?” I asked, but then I noticed the sweet smell of ozone in the air as she neared.
“Never mind, Commander, it was a dumb question. How’re Chuck and Peyton doing outside?”
“Meridian reports six of ten levels are filled to capacity, Captain.” Randi informed us. “She estimates another ten minutes before payload is secure and recommends we start our preflight.”
“Is she capable of taking power from the mine, Randi?”
“Asking right now, Alex.” Randi sounded a bit rushed. “The electricity from the mine is incompatible without conversion, Alex, so no. She HAS located a source of compatible power however.” Randi turned from her console and nodded over to Jack.
“Me? How am I a power source?”
I just stared at her a minute with one raised eyebrow.
“Let her pull power from you, Jack. Meridian?”
“Hun, Cmdr. Cummins here is going to release some of her energy. Don’t take more than she can release or you both may malfunction.”
I nodded to Jack to proceed and she closed her eyes to concentrate.
“It’s working, Skip. Meridian’s fuel cells are starting to recharge.”
“Good, Miss Van Pelt. How’s the preflight going?”
“System checks are proceeding, but I’m not able to access flight systems, Alex.”
“Any idea why, Lieutenant?” I asked flatly.
“We need a pilot, Alex. I’d recommend a Terran pilot.” Randi sounded a bit worried now.
“Payload status, Randi.” I ordered, already knowing the perfect candidate.
“Eight-five percent, Alex.”
“Jack, have Peyton get up here on the double! Chuck can handle the rest on his own. Have him check in once he’s got the outer airlock closed.”
“Alex, systems preflight is completed and Meridian is go for thruster warm-up once our pilot arrives.” Randi informed me.
“Brie, you take environmental controls and make sure all levels have fresh air, heat and light. Oh, and make sure all the heads are online too, there is going to be reason to use them.”
“Aye, Skipper…um, where would they be located?” She replied.
“The control console is right next to me, Brie.” Randi motioned to the station to her left and patted the seat. “The nearest head is over there.” She pointed to a door with the figures of a man and woman on it.
“What about me, Cap?” Jack asked sounding slighted.
“Where do you think you should be, Jacquelyn Cummins?” I exclaimed in disbelief. “Did you really have to ask that- unless, of course, you need to use the head?”
“No, I just wasn’t sure if the supplemental power source had a designated seat, Alex!”
“You’re next to me, Commander.” I pointed to the leftmost of three seats in the center of the room.
“You needed to see me, Alex?” Peyton asked as she exited the airlock and looked around in amazement. “Wow, you would never guess she was this big from the outside!” She gushed.
“Peyton, Meridian needs a pilot. Think you can handle it?”
“Momma was the pilot, Alex, not me!” She replied in distress.
“I know she taught you how to fly her, hun, I talked with her, remember?”
“I have simulator time on the Meridian series, Empress, it’s not the same!” She emphasized.
“It’s better than nothing, hun, besides, I know you can do it. Take the seat.” I pointed to the empty console in front of the three Command seats. “Take the helm, subcommander!” I used her mother’s rank deliberately.
“Meridian, please start flight system preflight.” Peyton asked the ship quietly as she took her seat and looked at the console before her in wide-eyed amazement.
“Valid rank accepted. Valid pilot login is required.”
“Um…Persephone.” Peyton said timidly as she looked around on the console for something.
“Valid pilot recognition failed, please specify credentials.”
“Empress, this isn’t working!” Peyton cried. “This wasn’t part of the simulation!”
“Peyton, state your parental lineage,” I told her calmly.
“Meridian, I am Persephone, daughter of Natalia and Ahm-Shu- niece of Anna-Beth, Commander of Meridian 12. I am certified with one thousand hours on the Meridian series flight trainer, version epsilon, delta, six.”
Jack, Brie, and Randi immediately looked over at the girl in disbelief.
“Credentials meet recommended criteria. Flight system preflight checklist will commence, Subcommander.”
Peyton looked back at me with a frightened smile. I simply smiled back at her. She quickly turned around and began to touch the console at different points, nodding as she mentally stepped through the checklist.
“So she’s Anna-Beth’s niece? Is that the reason you let her stay in 2028, Alex?”
“Partially, Jack. Her mother and aunt asked me to teach her some responsibility. They considered her plan to take on Hathor independently, irresponsible and reckless.”
“And they wanted you to teach her the proper techniques? Did Anna-Beth even remember how you took Hathor on, Alex?” Jack asked with a slight smirk and a single raised brow.
“Skipper, Meridian reports that all hands are aboard and the outer hatch has been secured. Chuck was the last through it.”
“Thank you, Miss Van Pelt. Peyton, how soon until we can launch?” I shifted my attention to our pilot.
“Almost finished, Skipper, another minute or two!” She replied in a very nervous tone.
“Jack, tell Chuck to get up here and strap in. This is not going to be a smooth trip!”
“Skipper, Meridian’s fuel cells are only at eighty-five percent. We don’t have enough power to break Earth’s gravity!”
“Let me handle that, Miss Van Pelt.” I told her.
The ship suddenly shook violently.
“Peyton, we’re out of time. Unless I miss my guess, the Nazi’s just blew the rest of the side tunnels. This chamber is last on the list.”
“Starting thrusters, Skipper.” She said, quickly touching a dozen sequential points on the panel in quick succession.
“What the hell was that?” Chuck shouted as the airlock door opened. “Holy shit, it’s a bleedin’ Tardis!” He exclaimed in an exaggerated British accent as he looked around the compartment.
“Meridian, this is Maj. Charles Mason, Earth Defense Force. Sit down and fasten your seatbelt, Charles.”
“Welcome aboard, major.”
“Thanks, ma’am.” Chuck answered, looking around.
A high pitched whine began to fill the compartment- like a whole group of jet engines winding up, my shared memories told me. Several alarms sounded from Peyton’s console.
“Skipper! Thruster banks five, eight, and twelve refuse to start, what should I do?”
“Keep trying them, Peyton. I know they’ll start.”
“Alex, the Nazis’ are about to breach the test chamber!” Jack shouted in excitement.
“Can you throw them a little roadblock, Jack?”
“Only if I get to blow something up, Alex.”
The air around us grew sweeter and began to crackle!
“Let out your frustrations, my friend.” I said calmly with a wide smile.
The ship shook and vibrated even more severely than before!
“Outer shields holding at ninety-five percent, Skipper. Proximity sensors indicate no sign of previous life forms in the immediate vicinity around Meridian.” Randi announced as she again turned from her console, this time staring silently at Jack. She looked disappointed.
The volume of the thruster whine increased three-fold in the compartment.
“All thrusters are now online, Skipper.” Peyton announced sounding relieved. “Awaiting your orders.”
“Where am I? What is this place?” Wilhelm drunkenly asked as he started to come to.
“Jack, I don’t need him awake right now.”
Wilhelm’s head immediately jerked back again as if taking another roundhouse to the chin.
“Problem averted, Alex.” Jack smiled brightly.
“Meridian, I need all-hands on the squawk.”
“Please repeat request, Empress.”
“I want to make an announcement to everyone onboard, hun.”
“All level hail is operative, Empress. Proceed.”
“Thanks, hun. Attention, all hands. You are requested to find a handhold on any main structure of this craft. If unable to personally touch some part of the craft, take the empty hand of someone close to you that has. Do not let go until I make another announcement to that effect!” I announced in Ancient Terran. “Jack let me know when you sense everyone is ready.”
I repeated the announcement in Polish, German, Czech, and English before ending the hail.
“Skipper, thrusters are hot and waiting.” Peyton said impatiently.
“Randi, I need an exterior visual.”
A wall-sized, holographic screen in front of Peyton came on and displayed the still swirling, smoke and dust laden, air of the test chamber.
“We’re good to go, Alex. All hands are in contact with the hull.”
“Thank you, Commander. Helm, thrusters to maximum.” I commanded as I stood from my seat and approached her console. The whine of the thrusters tripled in volume again making it harder to hear. “Spatial transit in three,” I shouted, placing my hand on the console’s metallic side panel. “Two,” I shouted again and began to concentrate on a point in orbit high above Earth. “One!” I shouted and pulled the virtual trigger in my mind.
The view screen immediately went black.
Slowly, small pinpoints of light began to show, but seemed to be moving in a circular pattern. I immediately felt slightly dizzy and quickly checked my nose and ears for blood.
There was only a trace from my nose this time. Either I had grown more powerful or Meridian wasn’t as hard to move as Reilly.
“Alex, we’re in a spiral! I’m trying to compensate!” Peyton sounded even more stressed as her hands moved franticly across the controls.
“Remember to go easy on the quads, Peyton. A gentle, calm, touch on the controls will settle her down quicker than slamming gimble to gimble.” I advised her in a calm, level tone.
“How in the world did you know that, Alex?” Chuck asked in amazement.
“An American Astronaut once gave me that advice.” I admitted. “I helped him and his crew out of a jam.”
Charles Mason looked at me like I had a third eye!
“You were on Apollo Thirteen?” He asked, sounding stunned.
“You…were on…Apollo Thirteen!”
“Give it a rest, Charles. We did what was needed and left. Unlike this craft, NASA has a way to go in the amenities department!”
The whine of the thrusters died down to a whisper.
“Captain, I’ve gotten her stabilized, but we have a bigger problem now.” Peyton interrupted.
“Let me guess, we’re caught in Earth’s gravity and lack the power to escape it, right?”
“Um…ya, how did you know?”
“Welcome to 1965, everyone.” I announced sarcastically.
“I kind of thought you were going to say that, Alex.” Jack returned my sarcasm.
“Fifty minutes to re-entry, Alex.” Randi alerted us.
“Peyton, keep us steady and on target, if you can.”
“Easier said than done, Skipper! Um…what target?”
What target indeed, I asked myself?
Once again, the proper question, placed at the proper time, told me everything.
“We’re aiming for a splashdown in the Chesapeake, Peyton, out of the North-northwest.”
“That will take us directly over DC, Alex.” Jack needlessly informed me.
“We’ll never make it that far, remember?”
“Oh ya, right.”
“Skipper, I’m showing a slight loss of atmosphere on level six. Full decom in forty-five minutes.” Brie announced from her station.
“Perfect!” I exclaimed in disgust. “How is the heat shield, Randi?”
“Ninety percent, Alex, I’m showing a slight decrease in hull integrity at section crimson-alpha-three.”
“Schematic, Miss Van Pelt.”
The affected hull section became highlighted on the displayed drawing.
“Damn Nazis! They just had to brand her!” Chuck cursed.
“Just enough to weaken hull integrity. It’s why we’re losing pressure on level six, too.” I added.
“What else did those morons do?” Jack asked needlessly.
“Ask Wilhelm, he should be waking up right…about…now.” I pointed over my shoulder to where the unconscious scientist lay. As if on cue the man began moaning in pain.
“Miss Cummins, would you bring our reluctant friend here please?”
The man floated over our heads and stood before us about two feet off the deck.
“Well hello, Lusius. Or is it really Wilhelm?” I eyed the woozy man curiously.
“Where am I?” He slurred.
“A better set of questions would be: Where and when am I?”
“I…I don’t…don’t understand.”
“Lieutenant Van Pelt, put our objective on the display, please. Commander Cummins, turn him if you will.”
Wilhelm made a slow one-eighty.
“This is where you are, Lusius. Take a good look because this is the closest you’ll ever get to your Homeworld.”
“What planet is that?” He mumbled- his jaw stiff and lips swollen.
“Earth from about one hundred and ten miles up. Isn’t she beautiful from up here?” I asked him as I got up and walked between him and the screen.
He seemed to be taking hovering above the deck surprisingly well for someone who never met a Mind Warrior before.
“So, Lusius, who are you really?” I asked with a giggle- I already knew more about this man than he did himself.
‘Chuck wants to space him, Alex- whatever that means.’
‘It means he wants to throw him out the airlock, Jack.’
‘It would lighten the load a little, Cap.’
‘I have other plans for this one, Commander.’
‘You’re going to play with him, I take it?’
‘Can I help?’
Jack smiled mentally and physically.
“Cmdr. Cummins, have you zeroed in on our other guest yet?” I asked Jack as I stared up at Lusius.
“Level two, section gamma.”
“Can you persuade him into the elevator, Commander?”
“Aye, Captain.” She giggled. “He’s on his way- ouch, that’s gonna leave a mark.”
“What will, Commander?” I asked.
“Seems our other guest forgot to duck, Cap.”
Chuck tried, but failed to stifle his laugh as he shook his head.
“Elevator’s on its way, Captain.” Jack informed me.
“Wellll now, it seems like you have company, Lusius. Let’s wait until he arrives to continue our chat, shall we?”
I didn’t care if I got a response from him or not.
The airlock door opened to reveal our second guest. Instead of being dressed in the Black uniform of the SS, Klingenschmidt was wearing torn gray trousers and an old tattered shirt. His hair was no longer slicked and combed neatly, but dirty and disheveled. No longer was there a smug arrogance on his face either, only fear.
“Welcome to the party, Herr Major.” I hissed the last part in disgust. “I trust you know Herr Wilhelm?”
“Who is this major? I know no major.” Klingenschmidt cried.
Jack moved the man over beside his comrade.
“Do y’all really think we’d be fooled just ‘cause y’all changed your clothes, Major?” I eyed him up and down. “We may be women, but we sure ain’t stupid, hun!” I blew him a kiss and winked.
“Altitude has decreased to one hundred miles, Captain.” Randi informed me.
“Skipper, I need to do a ten second thruster burn to keep us on course.” Peyton added.
“By all means, subcommander.”
The whine of the thrusters increased tenfold in volume again. Meridian shuddered slightly as she wrestled with Earth’s gravity.
“It is just a rocket?” Klingenschmidt questioned over the noise.
The thrusters quieted down again.
“Meridian 12 is far more than just a ‘rocket’, Herr Major. She is an interplanetary spacecraft that arrived here over five thousand years ago. Not only that, but she is the only craft from her planet to ever transcend time and space through a wormhole…and survive.”
“What is a wormhole?” Lusius asked boldly.
“Are you really that clueless, Wilhelm?” I asked. “Surely a learned man such as you would know of one of the most horrifying creations in the known universes?” I laughed. “Charles, would you mind explaining what a wormhole is?”
“Of course, Empress. A wormhole is a theoretical shortcut thought to connect two separate regions of space, the presence of which allows instantaneous transit thereby cutting millions of light-years off travel between the two points. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘Black Hole’ in my century.”
“Thank you, dear brother-in-law that was an excellent description. Might I add though, that it can not only provide a shortcut between two points in space, but time also as in the case of this spacecraft.” I applauded him.
Both Lusius and Klingenschmidt looked confused by what Brie’s husband said.
“You both look confused? Has my brother-in-law talked over your supposed superior intellect, Herr Major? Herr Wilhelm?”
“He said his ‘century’?”
“Yes, I said century, mine Herr. As in the twenty-first century. My wife and I are from the year 2010. Does that frighten you?” Chuck stood up and walked over to the two hovering men. As he did, his Reilly suit changed back into his SS Colonel’s uniform.
Both men’s eyes widened considerably!
“Col. Mueller!” Klingenschmidt gasped. Lusius just looked between the two men and me.
“No, Herr Major, Charles Mason, Springfield, Missouri, United States of America!” Chuck replied proudly as his Reilly suit changed back to its red and blue default.
“So we conquered the United States.” His voice sounded hopeful.
“Try again, asshole! Germany surrendered in April 1945! Hitler committed suicide in his concrete bunker under Berlin just before the Soviets entered the city! All High command officers committed suicide or were found guilty of war crimes, hanged, and or shot! Now give me one good reason why I don’t ask the Empress to throw your sorry-assed, pathetic, bigoted carcass out into the vacuum of space!”
“Charles!” Brie gasped from her station.
“I’m sorry darlin’, but reading about them is nothin’ like havin’ firsthand experience with ‘em! I’m embarrassed to have even considered studying that sociological nightmare!” Chuck admitted in anger.
“Chuck, the major would be the first one to tell you that he had absolutely nothing to do with that- he was just following orders. Weren’t you, Rudolf Goebel Klingenschmidt?” I purred evilly.
“I will see to it that you all are severely punished!” He suddenly roared, severely breaking character.
“Jacquelyn, could you show the major he’s in absolutely no position to threaten anyone?”
“With pleasure, Empress.” Jack smiled brightly then her face took on a very ominous, very dark expression! The air around us sparked and crackled with energy. A wicked grin appeared on Jack’s lips and the major’s neck started to compress inward ever so slightly. He began to choke and gasp for air, his eyes opening wide in fear!
Jack then stood up from her chair and approached him.
“Herr Major, if you haven’t yet guessed, the Empress is not the one you should fear. I am your worst nightmare. I am the avenging angel for all those souls deemed ‘inferior’ by your Fuhrer and I wonder if you have any idea how your victims felt as you tortured them- as you pistol whipped them senseless…as you lead them to slaughter!” She growled in a very dark voice.
Chills actually shot up my spine!
His face violently shuddered from side to side a half dozen times in quick succession. Blood began pouring from his nose and side of his mouth. “Or how they wished for the sweet release of death as you savagely beat and whipped them as if worthless, unruly service animals!”
Klingenschmidt’s tattered shirt ripped away from his body and he lurched forward as if a real whip were thrashing at his back! Blood sprayed from his back several times. “How does it feel, Herr Major? How does it feel to be the recipient of such cruel punishments?”
Klingenschmidt’s arms suddenly flew out perpendicular to his body and he began to cry out in intense pain. His legs stretched closer to the floor.
“Lady Jacquelyn, please stop?” Our pilot asked quietly. The dark, half smiling, expression with which Jack looked back at her was one I had never seen before. Genuine terror filled my soul. Peyton stayed focused and continued her plea.
“If continued, you would be no better than him and his Nazi brethren! Oh please, mighty Mind Warrior, I beg you to show charity.” Peyton requested.
“Peyton’s right, Jack. He will pay for his crimes- the same way as his fellow officers did- through courtroom trial. Stand down, my friend- please?” I said trying to appear calm and not show the obvious fear I had for her at the moment.
“Ninety-five miles and decreasing, Skipper.” Randi broke the thick, tense, air around us.
Jack shook her head to clear her dark thoughts. Tears began streaming down her cheeks. Both men dropped to the deck in a heap as my first officer turned around slowly and walked back to her seat. Chuck got up and pulled her to his shoulder and held her there tightly as loud sobs began to wrack her body.
Klingenschmidt lay on the floor in the fetal position clutching his throat and crying profusely. Lusius sat up and looked at me then Jack- shear terror etched on his face.
“How easy it would have been for her to destroy you both! You are nothing more than common houseflies to my Mind Warrior and you have no idea how close you both came to suddenly exploding into microscopic bits!” I hissed, still shaken as I turned my attention to Maj. Klingenschmidt.
“I was set to just stand by and do nothing.” I admitted. Peyton looked back at me in surprise. “You owe your lives to my pilot, Subcommander Persephone.” I nodded to Peyton. “You see, she has seen her fill of tyranny and torture in her own time and she had absolutely no reason to speak up on your behalf.”
“Was Pharaoh that barbaric, Empress?” Lusius asked with a noticeable quiver in his voice.
“The Great leaders of Egypt were never the problem. Most Pharaoh ruled with equality and fairness. The so-called Gods of Egypt, however, were not so forgiving! One in particular, Hathor, brought slavery, chaos, and disparity to the land of Pharaoh! Persephone, her mother, and her aunt- the original pilot and commander of this vessel, both fought and succumbed to Hathor’s heartless oppression. So, she has absolutely no cause to show any charity whatsoever to monsters whose deeds are several magnitudes worse than what she has already faced.”
I paused to let what I said sink in- not that it would.
“Tell me, Lusius, how many decades have passed beneath your feet since birth?”
Klingenschmidt’s crying was starting to subside and he sat up slightly and wiped the blood from his mouth and nose, his eyes immediately locked onto our conversation, but he wisely remained silent.
Lusius, likewise, remained silent.
“Come now, Lusius, we all know that ‘Egyptians’ live a long time. Persephone, for instance, looks absolutely marvelous for just celebrating her ninety-second birthday.”
Peyton gasped that I knew exactly how old she was.
“I, myself, have seen almost four decades. So tell us, Lusius, how old are you?”
“Louder, hun, I don’t think the others heard you.”
“Six what, hun?”
“Six! Six decades! Are you happy now?”
“Not quite, hun.” I smiled and raised one eyebrow.
“You know you can’t lie to me- I can read your mind, just as Jacquelyn can and I would place your age precisely at two and a half.” Both men lying on the deck looked confused.
“Two hundred and fifty years you’ve been on this planet! I should think any descendant of Janelle Hathor would’ve learned which side was the right side by now, but apparently there is a learning error built into her and all her future revisions!
“How do you think you know so much about me, Empress?”
“Haven’t your ancestors passed on the stories of Reilly Research Station, Lusius?” I asked, grinning at him.
“The story of how Grandmother Hathor was illegitimately deposed by you has been kept throughout time!” He spat.
I started laughing!
“Please, dear Lusius,” I looked to my sisters and brother-in-law, “relate to us the story of how Grandmother Hathor saved the people of Reilly from the expanding fusion giant.”
“What expanding fusion giant? What is a fusion giant?”
“It’s the sun, moron!” Chuck snarled, as he continued to lend comfort to Jack. “Anyone with half a brain knows that!”
I shook my head at the misinformed man. “Jack are you up to setting up a relay link between me and these two?”
Slowly she moved her head away from Chuck’s shoulder and looked at me in confusion.
“Two, Alex? Isn’t it a bad idea to show the Nazi more than he needs to know about us?”
“I can assure you, Jack, that he will take the knowledge to his grave.” I closed my eyes a moment and lowered my head.
“As you wish, Empress.” She replied with a look that questioned the validity of my request. She nodded to Chuck, who begrudgingly retook his seat. “Start when you’re ready.”
“Eight-five miles and still dropping, Skipper.” Randi informed me as I finished my remembrance of Reilly’s passage through universes.
“How do I know that truly happened?” An unimpressed Lusius questioned.
“Believe what you like, hun. I’m not in the habit of lying to anyone and I really don’t care at this point what you think to be true.”
“Fraulein how is it possible to do all these things? Only Gods and Goddesses are capable of such miracles? Greek, Norse, and Roman mythology tell us this.”
“Major, a myth or legend is only an explanation or description for something or someone that is not understood. This ship,” I raised my arm and twirled, pointing around the room, “How would you describe it had you no knowledge of a ‘rocket’?” I waited a moment. “Your sidearm- to early man it would have appeared to be a magical fire stick, yes? The simple dynamics that allow an airplane to fly could be described as angels from heaven. In short, major, some myths and legends exist because of misunderstood technology.”
“What we can do as you have witnessed, is a result of advanced technology- this craft, our uniforms- all technology.”
“How was she able to hold me above the floor and physically abuse me without laying a hand to me? That was not any technology I could recognize.”
“That answer is simple, major. Have you ever heard of Darwin?”
“I had read about his theories on evolution before the Fuhrer ordered it banned from our shelves.”
“Darwin’s theory simply states that any given organism, over time can change and adapt to its environment, and given even more time can become a different organism all together. My sisters and I are what you could call the next step in human evolution. We have developed abilities…abilities, which allow us to help all life forms on this and many other worlds. You have already experienced Jacquelyn’s abilities first hand.” I told him before phasing out and walking through him and Lusius.
“This is but one of my gifts.” I said as I rephased.
Both men jumped at the sound of my voice.
“Major, this ship is a prime example of advanced technology by an advanced people. From the outside, did you expect the inside to be this vast? The race of people that built Meridian, the Terrans, perfected something called ‘Spatial Compression’ hundreds of years ago. They use it for things as common as warehouse storage, apartment buildings, even birthday and Christmas presents. For them it is as common a technology as the light bulb.”
“But how did you…” Klingenschmidt pointed from where I had been to where I was now.
“I’ll show you. Can you stand, major?”
Very slowly the man stood up, his legs shaky and unsure. Jack had really given him a beating!
“Take my hand, major.” I offered.
“Meridian, hun, I’ll be right back.” I informed our ship.
Meridian’s command level did not become anything but the Command level.
“Interesting. Apparently, I can’t transit while inside Meridian.” I noted. Wrinkling my face slightly in disappointment, I released his hand and returned to my seat.
“That demonstration will have to wait, Herr Major.”
Meridian started to shake, gently at first, but I could feel it becoming more violent.
“Peyton, what’s happening?”
“We’re entering the atmosphere, Alex. I can’t hold us in orbit any longer.”
“Meridian, all hail, please?”
“When you are ready, Empress.” She replied.
“All hands, this is the captain. We’re about to start our re-entry. Try to hold on to anything you can. This may get rough.” I repeated the announcement in the other languages as before.
“Subcommander, turn us around one-eighty into re-entry attitude and keep us on approach as best you can. Full thrusters as needed.”
“Aye, Skipper.” She acknowledged.
I noticed our two guests had started slowly inching their way to the airlock door.
“Commander, a holding shield if you would?” I gestured toward them without really looking.
All advancement toward the door was stopped and the two men performed very bad imitations of mimes as the thrusters rapidly increased in volume.
“Y’all don’t want to leave the party now, the fun’s just startin’!” I shouted over the loud whine of the thrusters. Meridian was shuddering fairly hard as she fought with Earth’s gravity and its outer-most atmosphere.
“Hull temperature is rising, but still within tolerance, Alex.” Randi shouted as the engines continued to run flat out.
“Alex, atmosphere on level six is down to one-five percent!” Brie shouted.
“Yeehaw!” Chuck shouted from his seat with a big smile.
I looked over at him in amazement.
“I know we’re going to make it, Alex, I just want to have fun with it! This here’s better than Dollywood!” He continued to shout over the engines.
“Brie, start diverting atmosphere from the other levels onto six.”
“Good idea, sis!”
“Alex, fuel cells are down to twenty percent. Thruster shutdown is imminent in ten seconds.”
“Understood. Peyton, shut ‘em down, hun, we need the reserve power for life-support and egress.”
Everything went quiet in the compartment as we continued to be jostled around. It wasn’t as bad as breaking a new horse, but it soon would be.
“Hull temperature just passed sixteen-hundred cee, Alex- almost at redline!” Randi shouted with excitement.
“What is going on? Why is the ship shaking so much?” A frightened Lusius cried as he continued to search for an exit to his invisible prison.
“Hun, this is what happens when you re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. The air molecules outside create friction against the ship’s hull and create heat. Most hulls are built to handle it.” I answered.
“Unfortunately, you idiots decided to brand Meridian for your own and damaged her hull and heat shield!” Chuck growled at the two Nazis.
“We’re slowing past twelve thousand feet per second, Skipper.” Peyton informed me. “Too steep a glide slope and way too fast to hit our mark, though.”
“Jack, you’re going to want to start searching for the previous you in Kecksburg. The next few minutes are really going to take their toll on you, I’m afraid.” I told her sadly.
“What about those two?”
“One goes to meet his future, the other to meet his maker, Jack.” I told her quietly- sad that it had to happen this way.
Meridian shook violently for an instant then things seemed to smooth out. An eerie calm fell over the Command level- and every other level I assumed.
“That was the first sonic boom, Jack. This is where we first saw her approaching. You remember what you did next, right?”
“Already working…on it…concentrating on…come on where are you, Jacki Cummins?” She said through taught lips. Her face was already beet-red from concentration.
Meridian shook suddenly for a second time and smoothed out again.
“Everyone hold on! We’re going in!” Peyton screamed.
“Gotcha, Jack!” Jack shouted. I noticed a small drop of blood under her left nostril.
The ship lurched forward and we felt gravity pull us to the left.
What we felt next reminded me of one particular mission where my previous boat had been found by a German gunboat and mercilessly depth charged for over an hour. The compartment shook, shimmied, rattled, and bounced every way possible. Lighting on our level flickered and sputtered out.
Then everything went dark and silent.
“Engaging emergency lighting.” Randi’s voice echoed through the room as the sparse emergency lamps came on and provided a dim red hue to see by. Jack had passed out from the extreme amount of energy she had just expended. I knew she would wakeup in a minute.
“Exterior view, if possible, Miss Van Pelt.”
The display came on but was having trouble holding signal- the result was a very intermittent picture.
“Aye, Skip. Alex! The elevator has been activated!” Randi pointed and I saw the door just closing. Lusius and Klingenschmidt had escaped.
Correction, Klingenschmidt had escaped. Lusius lay unconscious next to the wall near the airlock.
“What happened? Did we make it?” Jack asked as she regained consciousness.
We’re on the ground, Commander. We made it, thanks to you.”
Jack just nodded and began to cradle her head.
“Alex, the outer hatch is opening!” Randi shouted. “Hull temperature is still hovering around nine hundred cee!
A high-pitched scream echoed throughout the ship.
“Skip, Meridian…she just over-rode and reclosed the outer hatch! She reports the single lifeform in it is no longer present.”
The command level was quiet for a moment or two, as we now knew what the mysterious scream signified.
“Alex, look!” Peyton shouted as she pointed to the display.
“We look huge!” Chuck gasped as we watched our earlier selves walking around the exterior, Brie taking pictures as we went.
Indeed, we looked to be giants on the view screen- Chuck alone looked the size of a forty-story building!
We- us outside Meridian- suddenly took each other’s hands and disappeared from view.
“Randi, lock down that airlock, we don’t want anyone else meeting the major’s fate.”
“Aye, Skip. Outer airlock hatch is locked and disabled- inter-level transit capability only.”
“Alex? We have company!” Peyton cried a few minutes later.
On the static ridden display a man in a red plaid, felt coat emerged from the dense forest, but stayed well away from Meridian. I suspected the hull was still dissipating a lot of heat. He didn’t stick around for any great length of time though.
“Randi, is Meridian still capable of drawing energy from Jack? I’d like to keep enough in the fuel cells to sustain life support.”
“You can make the request from her, Skip, but I’m not sure how well that system will work. Meridian and I aren’t completely talking at the moment.”
“Meridian, I’d like you to try drawing power from Jacquelyn Cummins again, could you do that for me, hun?”
“Omega wave collector system is damaged, complete cell charging is not possible at this time.”
“Can you at least take some from her, hun?” I asked.
“Partial collection is possible with a fifty percent limit on cell capacity, Empress. It is the best I can do until system repair is completed.”
“Take your time, hun. We’ll be staying with you for a while longer.” I told the AI calmly.
“Jack, you know what to do.”
“Aye, Alex, one supplementary power source coming up.” She replied sarcastically, still holding her head.
“Jack, it’s a three day road trip to Wright-Pat. We need environmental systems working and online.”
“They’re going to take us to Dayton, Alex? Why?”
“Project Bluebook. The Air Force’s answer to investigate the growing number of unidentified flying object sightings in the United States after a UFO supposedly crashes outside Roswell, NM in 1947.”
“And I take it you didn’t have anything to do with that one, right Alex?” Chuck asked sarcastically.
“Not yet, I haven’t.” I giggled.
“I really love traveling with this family, girls- never a dull moment!” He laughed.
“Well if it’s dull y’all are looking for, the next six days are going to be just that, Charles.” I informed him.
“I thought you just said it was a three day trip to Wright-Pat, Alex?” Jack looked confused.
“We have to let the…’experts’…have a look at us, Jack. They’ll be bored with Meridian after three days of observing, measuring, poking, and prodding her seamless hull. After that we can disperse our payload around the world.”
“What about Wilhelm or Lusius, or whatever his real name is? Isn’t it bad to release a ‘bad guy’?”
“Oh, he’s not leaving, Jack. He’s going to become a fixture at Leavenworth. Psych ward, I believe.” I giggled again. “Maybe.”
Jack smiled and giggled with me, but winced slightly.
“Meridian, go easy on the power draw will ya- that one pinched.” She said to the ceiling.
“Precise control of power transfer is not possible, Cmdr. Cummins, I apologize for any discomfort/”
Room lighting came up to normal levels and the disturbed dust from our landing began to exit the command deck through the ventilation system.
“Meridian, what’s on the menu?”
“My food processor terminals are programmed with many common and specialty selections as well as many varieties of beverage.
“Do we have enough to feed everyone, Meridian? I know for a fact that there are three hundred and seventy people that could use a few good meals.”
“Ship’s stores and recycling systems are fully functional, Empress. As long as no excessive celebrations are pending, equilibrium can be maintained.
“Great, I could use a good hamburger with cheese, lettuce, onions, ketchup, pickles, and a good cold beer.”
“Requested files not recognized and/or found. Please enter culinary formulations for each requested item.”
It was going to be a long six days.
0620 hours, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, OH., December 15th, 1965
“Are we there yet?” Brie asked for the ten millionth time in six days.
“Oh, how I wish, sis.” I moaned and rolled my eyes. We had placed everyone- passengers and crew- on a sleep shifts similar to what we used on Sand Dollar so everyone would have a bed to sleep in. Jack and I, Brie and Chuck, and Randi and Peyton shared the captain’s quarters.
“Alex, Meridian’s main systems have all been repaired. All she needs to do is charge the fuel cells.”
“Where’s Jack?” I asked.
‘I’m in the head. Can’t it wait, Alex?’
‘Sorry to interrupt, Commander.’ I thought, rolling my eyes once more.
“Randi, where’s Peyton?” I inquired.
“I saw her down on level five earlier, Alex. She made some acquaintances back in the mine and I believe she feels responsible for them somehow.”
“Alex, what are we going to do with all these people? We can’t return them to 1945 Poland; there would be too many questions. They would be put into psychiatric wards as soon as they claimed to have been rescued by a spaceship.” Brie inquired.
“Not that similar scenarios haven’t been reported before, right sis?” I asked sarcastically.
“You mean we’re THOSE aliens?”
“Oh come on! You know as well as I do that there are many more civilizations out there, Brie. Any number of visitors could be on our planet at any given time.”
“But I don’t want to be an alien, Alex! I just want to go home and be Mrs. Mason- Mrs. Brianna Mason!”
“Oh, so you no longer want to be Agent Brianna of the Empress Hotline?”
“I didn’t say that, Alex. Of course I still want to help you. How could you ask such a question?”
“That’s just my point, sis. Use your gift to see how we get out of this. Use your gift of foresight and run all possible scenarios.” I frowned at her as I raised an eyebrow.
“It might take a while; I’m not as good at it as you, Alex.”
“Just so you use it, Brie, that’s all I want you to do. After all, what good is a gift if you never use it?”
The room stayed silent for some time after Brie closed her eyes and concentrated on my request.
Like clockwork, another building-sized scientist walked around Meridian with a clipboard and pencil. This one had a micrometer of all things!
“Oh look,” I said sarcastically, “another scientist that thinks he has it all figured out.”
Over the last few days, several men- ‘experts’- had examined Meridian from just about all angles. I was almost to the point of having Randi transmit all of the drawings and schematics just so they would finally leave us alone!
“Alex, according to my gift, Lusius is on his way here to talk to you.”
I smiled and nodded my agreement to her prediction.
On cue, the airlock door opened and Lusius entered the compartment.
“Excuse me Empress, I know I am the last person you would want to see, but I humbly request an audience.”
“As long as you wish to engage in intelligent conversation with mere women, hun, have a seat.”
“I was thinking…”
“A noble endeavor one would usually take up in order to not look like a complete horse’s ass in front of his equals, sir.” I smiled as I caught him off guard with my interruption.
“I was thinking that I must look like the biggest…” He looked at me in surprise. “Fool in the world, Empress.”
“Fool, yes, but only for choosing the wrong side, hun. Someone once told me that admitting you have a problem is the first step to a cure. So, did you come here to apologize or have a stimulating conversation?” I smiled at him brightly.
“Yes! No... Maybe, I’m not sure. I just felt that I needed to come up here- that we needed to talk, Empress.”
I nodded as I offered him a seat.
“So…what’s on your mind, Lusius?” I asked as I adjusted myself in the comfortable captain’s chair. After a few days, though, it wasn’t so comfy anymore.
“Why did you allow Major Klingenschmidt to sneak aboard only to allow him to escape if you knew he would be killed? Why show charity only to destroy all hope of freedom?”
“Hun, sometimes you can’t save them all. That’s the hardest thing I had to learn as Empress. As with anything, there are certain factors that cannot be changed- certain parameters that can’t be fooled with or manipulated- even in the tiniest of ways. To those who see the best in everyone, leaving those specifics untouched and unchanged seems harsh, cold, cruel, and even heartless. As one of those people, I still hold out hope that the individuals I meet can be changed for the better, Lusius.”
“But to stand by and allow your friend to physically abuse the man…”
“Did you really know the man that you speak for, hun?” I asked.
“He was the man that secured funding, equipment, and men to research and recover this very craft, Empress.”
“He was a brutal murderer! A barbaric, loathsome, prejudiced, cold-hearted man intent on garnering favor from his Fuhrer- the epitome of the newly redefined Aryan race. He dreamed of nothing more than ruling his own Nazi occupied country- France, Belgium, Britain, America, It didn’t matter as long as he was in control. Uncle Heinrich would’ve been proud of his nephew’s rise to power- in achieving his aspirations.”
“He did not appear so dangerous to me, Empress.”
“Do you remember what he said after the first test trials on Meridian, hun?”
“He joked about needing to get more test subjects, but I thought…”
“He ‘JOKED’ about getting more subjects!?” My voice jumped an octave. “Will you listen to yourself? What kind of person ‘jokes’ about killing a dozen people at a time? What’s more, about needing more to slaughter? No rational mind would ever think in that fashion and not feel some remorse! Face it, Lusius, Klingenschmidt was a monster!”
“But he supported my research!”
“Only until you achieved success, then whose research would it become? Are you really that naive?”
Lusius dropped his head.
Jack appeared and took her seat next to me.
I felt the slightest bit of movement.
“Alex, we’re being moved again.” Randi confirmed.
“Wasn’t me, Alex.” Jack said quickly.
The hanger walls seemed to be moving quite quickly then stopped abruptly. The outside ambient light dimmed significantly.
“Elevation is changing, Alex. I think we’re in an elevator.”
“They’re moving us into storage.” I looked to Lusius. “This is your chance to leave, hun, your decision whether you want to stay with us or not.”
“If I decide to stay, what might happen to me, Empress?” He asked.
“You would be returned to the city of your maternal ancestors and assisted to become integrated into that society. At first you would be seen as an outcast- especially from those hostile to Janelle Hathor. You would learn of her fall from Goddess to ‘normal’ human and realize the truth I told earlier is indeed fact, yet you will experience and participate in the technological achievement that was ‘Ancient’ Egypt. You will eventually find love and a family.”
“And if I chose to leave?”
“You would remain here in 1965. Your detection by US military personnel at this facility is assured and you would be arrested, tried, and sentenced to twenty years incarceration as a suspected saboteur and East German spy. After twenty years in prison you would then be paroled, but the fun wouldn’t be over. The War Crimes Commission’s investigators find evidence of your involvement at an obscure work camp on the border between Poland and the Czech Republic. Charges are filed against you. Conviction and captivity for life awaits you in a horrible Czech prison. Death comes in early 2021 as you become the longest living war criminal in the history of the world! I warn you, there is no happiness, no loving family, no personal fulfillment whatsoever along this course, Lusius. These are the two best choices given you. Choose wisely.”
“Give my regards to Great- great-great- great grandmother, Empress. I shall not be seeing her or my family ever again. Thank you for the choice of my fate, M’lady.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. As I have stated previously, I can only help guide you along the right path.”
Lusius bowed graciously, turned, and quietly…slowly headed for the airlock door.
I reached under my seat and removed what was stored there.
“Jack, just as we discussed.” I held my hand out flat to reveal a miniature, fletched, syringe-like, blowgun dart.
Without any further conversation it took to the air and buried itself in Lusius’ neck momentarily.
“Ouch, what was that?” He cried out and turned around as his hand rose to investigate the wound.
“What was what, hun?” I asked innocently.
“I was stung by something!”
“On a spacecraft, Lusius? Really, how can an insect still be alive in a five thousand year old ship?”
“There was a report of some sort of flying insect on level three the other day, Alex.” Brie reminded me. “It might have come in with the refugees.”
“Oh…ya…right, I almost forgot about that. Was anyone hurt in any way, sis?” I asked.
“Nothing yet, but reports are that it didn’t look like anything seen on this planet. Of course, nobody really got that a good look at it.” Brie continued.
“Well if no one died or got sick yet, I wouldn’t worry about it. Lusius, you wouldn’t want to reconsider your choice, would you? I mean, what kind of existence is sitting around in a crowded jail for the rest of your life anyway?”
“Empress, I’ve made such a disaster of my life already. What I was told to be fact, you proved completely false. Everything in my life thus far has been either a lie or an illusion. Even my career as a scientist has been a charade! It is better that I pay for my sins rather than barricade myself within more. Thank you, Empress, for showing me the charity you have…and for opening my eyes to the reality I have avoided for so long.”
Lusius turned for the airlock again.
“I do think you oughta reconsider, Lusius.” I said, causing him to turn around again.
“Why? I have worn out my welcome here. As Miss Cummins stated numerous times, I’m the bad guy.”
“Sometimes, bad guys aren’t really bad….more like misguided, Lusius. Darkness can be found in everyone- including me. Can’t you feel the darkness inside you, Lusius?” I asked as a devious smile developed on my face.
“I do feel darkness coming…how?…Why?” He answered as he spiraled to the deck.
“That took longer than I thought. How do you think he’ll take it when he wakes up, Alex?”
“Not very well, of course.” I giggled. “But sometimes you just have to smack them in the head to get them to listen, Jack!”
“I can’t believe you drugged him, Alex! He was almost gone from our responsibilities and you went and drugged him!” My sister chastised me.
I just smiled and remained quiet.
“What was that stuff anyway?” She asked with concern. “You did just knock him out…right?”
“In a way you could say I knocked ‘him’ out, Brie.” I told her as Jack looked at me momentarily and rolled her eyes.
“What! What did you just do, Alexandra Steinert? I know that response and evil smile! What did y’all give him?” When I didn’t reply she changed her questioning and target. “Jack, what did she give him?”
“Something to make our resident mad scientist more…productive, Brie.” Jack giggled, displaying a devious grin of her own.
My sister paused and closed her eyes to consult her gift. Her mouth dropped open in surprise. “Is that even ethical?” She gasped.
“About as ethical as using humans for guinea pigs to test Meridian’s defenses or using prisoners of war to test exotic new medical procedures.” I told her in a cold-hearted tone.
“Jack, could you see to it that Lusius is comfortable in my quarters? Oh, and lock the door so he doesn’t disturb the other passengers.”
“Right away, Alex.”
Lusius’ unconscious body floated off the deck and into the elevator. Peyton looked surprised, but stood aside as the door opened on our compartment. Once clear, she entered the bridge.
“Now what did he do, Alex?”
“He chose…poorly.’ Brie answered instead with a nervous grin.
“What? Oh, I get it, another movie reference. Is that all you people of the twenty-first century do- watch movies?” Peyton asked, wrinkling her nose.
“Hey, you guys are always buildin’ pyramids and temples.” Jack giggled.
“Point taken, Commander.” Peyton smiled as she shook her head.
“So when do we start off-loading our passengers, Alex?” Peyton asked after a prolonged silence. “Where and when are we going to take them?”
“Where and when would they like to go, hun? I trust some of them have expressed their wishes to you?”
“They have, but I don’t think it possible or safe for them though.”
“They want to return home to their loved ones.”
“Many want that in the worst way, Empress.” Peyton said sadly- quietly.
“Have you explained the gravity of the situation?”
“I have, ma’am, but many simply cannot understand- or do not wish to.”
“Well, I guess we’ll have to explain it level by level. Come on everyone. Meridian?”
“Hun, you have the Con until we get back. Is that alright?”
“Oh, Meridian, could you re-enable the outer airlock hatch? We’re going to start off-loading our passengers.”
“Will you be returning, Empress?”
“Of course. Why would you ask a question like that, hun?” I asked as I looked around the room.
“Waiting for you to find me took a long time. Will this wait be equally long?”
“We’ll just be gone for an hour or two, hun, nowhere near the previous wait.”
“Good, because I had forgotten how it felt to be useful and populated. Pleasant journeys, Empress.”
“We will have many more, Meridian.”
“I hope so, Empress.”
1020 hours, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, OH., December 15th, 1965
“Welcome back, Empress. Have all our passengers found suitable lodgings?”
“Yes they have, hun, all except a few were happy to be reunited with they’re surviving family.” I answered the A.I. “Sorry we took longer than anticipated.”
“I understand. Empress, there is a strange life form present in your quarters.”
“Strange, hun? How so?” I grinned.
“At first, its life signs indicated a Terran/Human male lying dormant there, since your departure, though, those parameters have steadily changed. My detectors now indicate a female Terran/Human hybrid has regained consciousness. That life form’s heart rate, respirations, blood pressure, physical mobility, and vocal emissions are all elevated.”
“All perfectly normal responses, hun, we’ll take care of it.” I assured the A.I.
“I don’t understand, Alex, what did Meridian mean by ‘a female Terran/Human hybrid’ has regained consciousness?” Peyton asked in confusion.
“It’s very simple, hun. Lusius felt he was no longer contributing to the advancement of our species, so…we made it easier for him to contribute.” I giggled as Jack, Randi, Chuck, and Brie joined in.
“I don’t follow, ma’am.”
“Peyton, do you know the how and why of our origin?” I asked the perplexed woman, pointing to Jack, Randi, Brie, and myself.
“The stories say that you became Empress by the devine hand that commands the known universes.”
Four of us broke out in fits of laughter!
“Honey, ‘divine’ had nothin’ ta do with it!” I fought hard to keep my composure. “It was a simple mistake- a calamity of errors of sorts, perpetrated by my previous revision in order to protect and preserve her civilization from total annihilation!”
“I still cannot see what that has to do with a woman now being locked in your quarters, Alex.”
“Follow me, Persephone. I’m sure y’all will get a little chuckle outta this.”
Taking the elevator down one level put us on level one, or the command crew quarters, as Meridian announced it.
As soon as the door to the level opened, it was apparent that someone- some woman- was not happy about being locked in one of the rooms.
“What have you done to me? Let me out! Help me! Is anyone listening to me? Can anyone hear me?” The woman’s muffled voice echoed through the passage along with pounding on a wall or door panel.
“Did we forget someone, Empress?” Peyton asked as we drew nearer the commotion.
“Lusius, hun, you better move back from the door!” I shouted as we arrived at my quarter’s door. “Meridian, please unlock and open my door?”
Peyton looked confused.
The door silently slid open. A young woman, quite disheveled and wearing very ill-fitting clothes, stormed toward me. She suddenly stopped as if hitting an invisible brick wall and fell backward to the deck, landing on her buttocks.
‘Thanks, Jack.’ I thought.
Peyton and I entered the room, closed, and relocked the door behind us.
“So, Lusius, how do you feel?” I asked with a slight grin. In fact, I knew exactly how she felt.
“How has this been done to me? Why?”
“Hun, I just couldn’t let you waste away in jail- not when your talents can be utilized for good.”
“This is Lusius?” Peyton exclaimed in surprise. “Empress, how?”
The slim, raven-haired woman of maybe nineteen stared up at my pilot and companion as she mentioned the name.
“Sometimes we are made to pay for our sins in new and unique ways, hun.” I told her. “Lusius has been given a chance to start a new life- hopefully a happier, more fruitful life.”
“And just how am I to start a new life in this form, Empress?” The new girl hissed as she roughly motioned to herself.
“The same way I and my entire crew had to when it happened to us, sweetheart!” I hissed back.
Lusuis’ mouth dropped open, as did Peyton’s.
“You, Empress? You, Jack, Randi?”
“Brianna too, sweetheart. We all went through the same change as our girl, Lusius here.”
I offered my hand and helped her to stand. I kept a good grip on her so she wouldn’t try to hit me.
“That is impossible! You cannot possibly have been a man like me.”
“A man like you?” I shook my head in disgust. “Hardly! I could never have been a man like you or I would’ve killed myself years ago! No, we were all men before our change, so was you ancestor, Janelle Hathor, sweetheart.”
Peyton and Lusius both stared at me!
I spent the next thirty or so minutes retelling the events leading up to and including the results of Alexander Reilly’s efforts to save the people of Reilly Research Station as their Homeworld erupted into a searing ball of fusion energy.
“So, my whole heritage is counterfeit as well. Empress, you should have let me leave…or even left me in the mine! I have nothing real left to me.”
“Wrong again, sweetheart. You now have everything to live for! You have the chance to start a whole new life free of your former chains- even persecution. You are a new person, Lusius, use that advantage to better yourself- to better your life.”
“I know nothing about living this way, Empress. How do I survive like this?”
“You do what we did, hun- improvise. Eventually, it all starts making sense and becomes second nature after a very short period of time. I’m also going to ask Persephone to instruct you in the more…feminine aspects of the new you.”
“Can this possibly be reversed, Empress?” Lusius’ voice sounded desperate.
“Not a chance, sweetheart. You’re stuck like this till the day you die.” I shook my head to emphasize the point.
Lusius sat back on the room’s bed to contemplate what I had said. While doing so, she continued to observe the changes by examining her fingers, hands, arms, face, and hair.
“You told Klingenschmidt that you are the next step in our development. Am I to develop such abilities, Empress?” Her tone had softened and Lusius looked to me in desperate hope of a positive answer.
“What gifts did you have before, hun?” I asked.
“I could do what all my people can do- read minds and emotions.” She replied frankly.
“Then you haven’t lost anything, have you? Why would you think we gave you more talents, Alusia? How foolish do you think we are to give a descendent of Hathor more power?”
“Why do you keep eluding that I would challenge you like Grandmother Janelle? I look and act nothing like her!”
“Wrong on both counts, I’m afraid. You see, you now look exactly like Janelle Hathor, only younger, and you show two faces just like your ancestor, Alusia! Your voice is the only characteristic unique to you though. I suggest you find that voice, use it, and distance yourself from her.”
“I resemble her?” Alusia began re-examining herself.
“You do indeed, Alusia. You could be sisters. I have fought against her in numerous battles and know the face of evil quite well!” Peyton assured her.
“Who is ‘Alusia’, Empress?”
“It is now what others call you, hun. It’s your name, and I think it goes well with the young woman I see before me.” I confessed.
“You had this all planned out! I am nothing but a chess piece for you to move about on some grand play board!”
“Not at all, sweetheart. You are being given a chance to change your self-described pathetic, meaningless life and reprehensible association with the National Socialists Party. That is something almost everyone with even the smallest stain would give anything for. Don’t fight to deny the fact that you secretly wished you had never met the likes of Rudolf Klingenschmidt or his unethical methods of persuasion.” I paused. “Honey, this body- you- it has never met him or any other despot yet. You effectively have a blank slate with which to begin anew. Get it?”
“But you have said multiple times that you do not trust me. Why tell me all this and change me?”
“Everyone deserves a second chance, sweetheart. I gave Janelle a similar second chance when I declared that no one would be left behind on the Reilly asteroid. She chose to abandon her sisters’ mid-transport to Kili- to continue her pursuit of power and control among the people loyal to Pharaoh. She refused to see the benefits of remaking herself in a new land. I hope you don’t make me regret my choice to set you on this path- a path I have foreseen enhances and enriches your soul and every other you touch.” I lowered my head in sadness before I continued.
“I’m sorry, but it was the only path that allowed me the option to let you live, Alusia.” I finished with a despondent tone.
The girl stayed quiet for several minutes this time. I didn’t have to be telepathic to know the inner turmoil raging in her mind.
“Do I have any guarantee that you will not seek my destruction if I fail to cleanse my past sins?”
“No guarantee whatsoever- nope; nada; zilch; zip, hun.” I admitted, shaking my head adamantly.
She thought about things for another minute.
“Will my allegiance be tested before your trust is gained?”
“I don’t want your allegiance, sweetheart!” I grew angry. “I want you to be the best person you can be. Period!”
“What you ask sounds Utopian!”
“Nobody is perfect, hun. I’m just asking you to be true to yourself- to do the right things for the right reasons- that’s all. I don’t expect you to be a Boy Scout your whole life.” I had to giggle at that.
“I hardly think I qualify, do you, Empress?” She asked with a slight bit of confusion as to why she would even say a thing like that. The Mahanilui had already started to influence her.
“Just maybe if you stay dressed like that, sweetheart. Meridian, hun, can we find Alusia some proper fitting clothes?”
“Subject must be erect for dimensional evaluation.” The A.I. stated.
Alusia remained stationary.
“She wants you to stand up, hun.” I said motioning for her to stand.
As on Reilly, a narrow, highly focused, blue line of light scanned down Alusia’s body from head to toe. She was thoroughly awestruck by it.
“Crew manifest archives indicate that a garment and accessories of approximate proportions are located on level eight, section beta-four- supply cabinet twelve, Empress.”
“Thanks, hun. Let’s get down there and get you decent, sweetheart.” I said grabbing Alusia’s hand and dragging her out into the passage before she could resist.
“You really expect me to walk in these things?” Alusia stared at the two-inch heeled, black, riding boots I held in my hands.
“This is part of the uniform, hun. Meridian’s decks are not so forgiving to bare feet.” I informed her. “Come on, put the things on and we’ll help you get used to them. If I can wear three-inch granny boots, you can wear these- let me tell you, those three-and-a half-inch stilettos I had on for four days straight? They weren’t exactly comfy!”
“But you looked delightful, Empress. I’m sure every man in the test chamber had his eyes on you. I know I did.”
“Yes, and I’m sure your minds were on something else entirely.” I giggled. “You want to know how the Empress really looks, Alusia?” I asked as I triggered my dress whites.
“You really do look like the angel in the stories.” She gasped out.
“I’m afraid I’ll never fit that category, hun.” I giggled. “Now put the boots on and let’s go back up to command.”
“Alex, I need to…DAMN, she really does look like Hathor!” Randi exclaimed as we stepped onto the command level.
The sweet smell of ozone suddenly became noticeable in the air around us.
“Jack.” I looked at my first officer with one brow raised. “Alusia isn’t going to hurt anybody, so stand down.”
“She just startled me for a minute, Alex.” She replied.
“Alex, I need to speak to you…in private?” Randi asked again, her tone indicated that something might be wrong.
“Meridian, hun, is there some place the lieutenant and I can talk in private? I think she has something personal to speak to me about.”
“The Captain’s office directly behind you is secure, unmonitored, and sound proof, Empress.” The A.I. responded.
“Thanks, hun.” I replied cheerfully.
Once in the nicely appointed office, I tried talking to Meridian. I received no response.
“Alex, I’m sure you already know this, but…” Randi paused, her expression turned ominous. “It’s about Meridian…she…she’s dying, Skip! Her circuits are starting to fail and I suspect her memory and personality files have already begun to degrade.”
Several tears began to roll down her cheeks.
“Alex, I can’t stop it! I just don’t have the resources to repair five thousand year old components. Meridian’s going to die, and I can’t do anything to stop it from happening!” She cried as she wrapped her arms around me and began crying into my shoulder.
“Meridian isn’t going to die, sweetheart, she’s just tired and needs to sleep awhile.” I told her as I gently stroked Randi’s hair.
“Skipper?” She asked as she pushed back from me a little and looked into my eyes.
“Meridian is just going to go into hibernation for a time. You’ll see and talk to her again. There’s nothin’ to get so upset about.” I reassured my technology comptroller.
“But her circuits! I ran the diagnostics three times, Skipper.” She argued.
“Meridian knows what she’s doing, Randi. I have it on good authority that Meridian will wake when she is needed again.”
“When Anna-Beth and I come back for her, Miss Van Pelt.” I said cryptically. I decided to change the subject slightly.
“Are her power cells charged, Lieutenant?”
“Eight-five percent, Alex. As much as Miss Cummins could provide to the collector system while still needing partial repair. Why?”
I revisited the images and memories of Meridian in my mind in order to answer the question truthfully.
“Sixty-eight percent will be more than enough for Ricky Lynn to work with, Randi.”
Again she wrapped her arms around me- this time with a large smile on her face.
“Thank you, Empress. I really appreciate it.” She cried again, this time with tears of happiness.
“Randi, hun, we still have things to do on this mission to ensure its success. We should get to them, don’t ya think?” I told her as I eased her away from me about a foot.
“Aye, Skipper, back to the mission. Thanks again, though.”
“Remember, hun, we never leave anyone behind.” I smiled and winked at her before taking her hand and walking to the door.
“Is everything nominal, Empress?” Meridian asked as Randi and I parted- her going to her station and me standing alongside Alusia and Jack.
“Miss Van Pelt was just concerned by her diagnostics of your systems, hun. She thought you were undergoing a terminal, cascading, systems malfunction.” I explained, but immediately wondered where that line came from. Alex Reilly, I thought, and mentally rolled my eyes.
“I am sorry to have worried you, Randi. The Empress has informed me that I will be stored in this facility for several decades. I had begun placing my systems into something called hyperstasis by my designers. It allows me to conserve power and still maintain system stability over the long and extended term. So don’t worry about me, Lt. Van Pelt, I look forward to dreaming.”
“You…dream?” Randi looked amazed.
“Of course we do, hun.” I quickly answered, hoping that would settle things. Then I added, “Meridian, we have to continue our mission so we must leave in a few minutes. I’d like to reset Commander Anna-Beth as your wake-up trigger.”
“Acknowledged, Empress. Should I also re-register her existing password?”
“Yes, hun, I’m sure she hasn’t forgotten it.”
“Shall I also retain your voiceprint and password as secondary?”
“Alternate, not secondary, Meridian.”
“Ladies and gentleman, we need to be going.” I said as everyone stood and walked to the airlock door- Alusia reluctantly. “Meridian, thank you for transporting us out of harm’s way, you were wonderful, hun.”
“It was my pleasure, Empress.”
The outer door of the airlock slid open to reveal a dark, dry, hanger-sized chamber littered with other ‘things’. All were covered by green canvas tarps and numbered in white stencil except for our Meridian. We stepped out and onto the concrete floor.
“Meridian, continue final hibernation sequence and encode outer hatch to the arranged voice prints.”
“Acknowledged.” We all watched as the hatch closed and sealed itself.
“I’ll see you soon, hun, sleep tight.” I told the ship.
“Until another time, Empress. Travel well.”
“Acknowledged.” I said to trigger Meridian’s final hibernation sequence.
“Everyone join hands quickly.” I whispered.
The dark storage facility became a busy city street crowded with people.
“Everyone hold hands until we can find a private place to rephase. Alusia, don’t you dare let go!” I warned the nervous looking girl.
Finding an empty alley, I rephased us, and those of us wearing Reilly suits changed into our modern street clothes. For me it was my favorite denim shorts, pink ‘T’ and sneakers. I pulled my excessive mane into the best ponytail I could by fighting with something Brie called a ‘scrunchie’.
“Empress, where are we?” Alusia asked, awestruck
“Where, is Warsaw Poland, Alusia, when is something you wouldn’t believe.” I answered.
“Empress, a few days ago I wouldn’t have believed you at all, now…” She gestured down her body and never finished her sentence.
“This is Warsaw, Poland, June 25th, 2010.
1800 hours, Warsaw, Poland, June 25th, 2010
“Hey, honey, like the outfit! Is that new this year?” A woman walking past us asked of Alusia.
“No, it is thousands of years old I am told.” She answered truthfully.
The woman glared at her momentarily then hurried away looking insulted!
Alusia continued to attract stares from passersby before we reached our destination.
“Here we are. Let’s go in and get something to eat, shall we?” I motioned for everyone to follow me into the friendly looking café.
Being a Sunday, we were lucky to find a table for six.
“Um, how are we going to pay the bill? I just have what’s in my wallet and my credit cards might be reported as stolen if I use one of them here. We’re still in Springfield, remember.” He pointed between himself and my sister.
“I got this one, guys.” Randi chirped with a smile as the waitress approached.
“Randi, you’ve barely touched your sandwich. Eat and let work go till later.” I told her.
“What?” She asked before opening her eyes. They had been shut tight for about five minutes. “Oh, I…sorry, I was having trouble logging onto the Wi-Fi here. I forgot about translating network log-ons to Polish in Poland.” She shook her head a few times. “Message sent, Alex, just like you received it Brie:
Have ev. Linkg 2 reilly rs. May involv emprs. U chk? Kecksburg pa 1965 2 strt.
Have ev. Linkg 2 reilly rs.
May involv emprs. U chk?
Kecksburg pa 1965 2 strt.
“Could y’all have made it any more ma’steer-i-us, Randi?” Brie asked as she finished her glass of soda.
“Would you have called Alex, if I hadn’t?”
My sister’s mouth began to open in reply, but she closed it before saying a word.
Randi made up for lost time by gobbling her sandwich down whole.
The waitress brought our check and Randi stood from her chair and produced her leather billfold from her back pocket. Presenting the check to the cashier, she waved the billfold in front of a small dark gray and black device on the counter then signed a slip of paper that action produced.
“That certainly was a tasty meal.” She said with a huge smile on her face. “This café has a very friendly credit charge system. It even asked if I wanted ‘cash back’.”
“You didn’t!” I gasped.
“Naw, but I gave our waitress twenty-five percent.”
I looked up just in time to see the young woman stare at us with her mouth opened slightly. Noticing that I was looking, she gave us a wide toothy smile and waved.
Waving back, I got up from the table and followed the others out to the sidewalk. I thought about her name and asked a few questions.
I would be coming back here in a year.
Finding another quiet alley, we again joined hands.
A bright, sun filled, tropical landscape replaced the quiet, dingy, Warsaw alley. In front of us was a river lined with tall palm trees. Behind us was the sound of a busy marketplace. A pleasant breeze kept the sun’s heat from becoming unbearable.
“Oh, Empress! I have missed this place so much!” Peyton exclaimed as she recognized her hometown of Memphis immediately.
I rephased us.
“Welcome Empress of Time and Space. Welcome to Memphis. I trust my daughter has been detrimental in your mission?”
“Momma!” Peyton cried as she turned quickly quickly and ran into her mother’s outstretched arms.
“Welcome to Egypt, Captain Steinert. I trust my ship is safe?”
“Of course, Commander.” I walked over to the woman. “Anna-Beth, you’re looking well! I trust your husband is happy with Miss Masterson’s cosmetic repair work?” I hugged her and immediately noticed she had gained some weight.
“I think she went a little overboard, Empress.” She answered, rubbing her belly gently. “I just entered my second trimester.”
“Wonderful news, hun. Congratulations!”
“By the Lords of Terra! What is ‘SHE’ doing here?” Anna-Beth growled in sudden anger.
Several of Pharaoh’s guards appeared from nowhere and surrounded us at spear point.
‘Easy, Jack.’ I thought to her.
I noticed Chuck looking curiously at the weapons held before him. The guard holding the spear nearest him appeared shocked that this man at the tip of his weapon seemed unconcerned or even frightened.
“Commander, this is not who you think. Alusia bears you no ill-will or harm.” I informed her as I gently grasped her arm. “She only looks like our nemesis- I assure you, Alusia is harmless.”
“How can I be sure, Alexandra? How can I know that you are not under the power of one of her minions?”
“Just try to work your ability on me if you need convincing, Commander.” I suggested calmly.
I was suddenly looking directly into her eyes- those icy blue, mysterious eyes!
“You will tell me how you have been manipulated and point out the traitor who has bewitched you!”
As with the last time she tried her gift on me, I felt a little sleepy, but I remained unaffected.
“Why on Earth would I tell you a lie, Commander? The first time it was humorous, but this time I’d rather not embarrass you again.” I giggled. “I told y’all your gifts don’t work on me.”
Anna-Beth smiled again.
“You say she is of no consequence then?”
“She has experienced the Mahanilui, Commander.” I said.
“So she has not received her gift yet.” Anna-Beth asked.
“Nor will she. We have used the modified nanos. She will develop no gifts other than the one she already possesses.” Jack informed her.
“And that would be…?”
“The gifts any normal Terran would possess, of course.” I smiled.
Anna-Beth looked past me to my frightened Hathor lookalike companion. Seeing Jack roll her eyes in annoyance told me that Alusia was receiving the third degree from our hostess.
“She is a descendent of Hathor, Empress! She has no place here in Memphis!” Anna-Beth growled.
“And you were under direct control of that sinister bitch, yet I gave you several second chances!” I growled back.
Her demeanor changed abruptly.
“Guards! As you were!” Anna-Beth ordered.
Immediately all thirteen men stood to attention and shouldered their weapons.
“My husband, it is safe to approach. It is our friend, Empress Alexandra and her travel companions.
“Alexandra! How wonderful it is to see you again!” A middle-aged man of about five-ten, wearing white linen shirt and pants, with a leather belt, and a large golden broach around his neck greeted as he approached and opened his arms to me.
“Congratulations on the new addition. I’m thinking y’all like the new Anna-Beth then?”
“I commend your healers on a fabulous job, Alexandra.” He casually nodded to my companions.
“Oh, I’m sorry. These are my associates; Randi Van Pelt, my Technological Comptroller; Jacquelyn Cummins…”
“Ah, the Mind Warrior! Welcome to Memphis, Miss Cummins. I’ve heard many good things about you, my dear.” He interrupted and Jack blushed.
“Persephone, over there, you know.” I pointed to mother and daughter still wrapped in a tight embrace. I then walked over to Brie. “Sir, this is my sister, Brianna and her husband, Charles. Everyone, may I present Khufu, Pharaoh of Egypt.”
Five mouths dropped wide open! Alusia looked on the verge of passing out…
Correction, Alusia crumbled to the ground in a heap!
“Y’all coulda told me she was married to the king, Alex!” Brie chastised me.
“Y’all never once asked, sis!” I shot back.
“But y’all met the most powerful man in the world and never parted them lips once?”
“I didn’t want to seem ta gloat, Brie.” I tried to explain.
“Y’all owe me, Alex! When y’all go ta China, ah wanna meet the Emp’rer!”
“We’ll see, sis, we’ll see.”
“The blazes we’ll see! Y’all take me or ah quit!” She exclaimed with a huff.
“Sir,” Chuck stepped forward and offered his hand. “It is an honor to meet one of the most influential men in Earth’s history.” He continued as the two of them shook forearms.
“It is I who am honored to meet the family of Empress Alexandra, sir.” Khufu smiled. He then pulled Chuck aside. “Do they argue like this all the time, or is this just for my benefit, Charles?”
“It ain’t up to me if’n y’all meet the Chinese Emperor! He likes his privacy an all!”
“You mean you ain’t got his ear like y’all got ever’one elses?”
“I’ll see what I can do, Brie.”
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Chuck looking at the two of us, he smiled.
“No, they do that pert-near ever’ time they’s together, sir! Wouldn’t be sisters if they didn’t!”
“Promise me ah get to meet ol’ Chin, an’ we’s even, Alex!”
“Ah cain’t do that, Brie! Ah gotta check my s’narios first.
“Y’all do that then, hun, ah’m waitin’!”
“I aint gonna do it now! We all’er in the company a’ Pharaoh!”
I noticed Khufu nod to Chuck.
“Everyone! I think it’s time to show you around our fair city!” He shouted to get our attention- well, mine an’ Brie’s anyway.
“As you can see we use the river for most local imports and exports. Air travel is reserved for intercontinental trade.” Khufu was telling us when Jack suddenly stopped and stared at something. We all stopped to see what she spotted.
“Jack? What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Over there.” She motioned with her head.
Four men stood by a boat on blocks about a hundred feet away. Three younger men seemed to be arguing with a fourth, older gentleman. Jack motioned the two of us closer and I noticed that the others, Anna-Beth and Khufu stayed behind. We listened in as we approached.
“You must pay us to float that pathetic raft, old man!” Man one declared.
“But how can I pay when my income is out on the water?”
“That is not our concern. No payment, no services. That is final!” Man one answered.
“How can you treat people like this? Your father would never be so greedy.”
“Father was a fool! He had no real business sense to speak of, now pay us or we take your ‘boat’!” Man two exclaimed and laughed.
“I wish to speak to Ahmad.”
“Father cannot come to you, old man- we have seen to that.” Man three gloated.
“Check with Pharoah first, Jack.” I whispered.
“Already have, Alex.”
“Then, by all means, let’s, Commander.” I motioned to the four.
“What seems to be the problem, boys?” I asked as we stopped a few feet away.
“Keep walking, this has nothing to do with you whores!” Man three growled.
“Unless of course, you two are looking for a good time?” Man one added with a leer in his eyes.
“Brothers, it may not be wise to assume occupations here.” Man two warned, as he was the only one to even look at us. He seemed shaken as he stared at our foreign clothing. Jack and I were still dressed in 2010 style- denim shorts, cotton ‘T’s, and sneakers. I realized my tiara was still on my head also.
“You should listen to your brother, Saleem. He shows the most observance to his surroundings.” I warned. “Sir, why are these men hindering your efforts for financial gain?” I asked the older man.
“I said leave, whore!” Man one, Saleem, snorted. He turned to reach for me and began reaching for his neck, gasping instead.
“You sir, will never talk to my friend in that manner ever again.” Jack said in a pleasant tone.
“How are you doing that? Leave him alone!” Man three shouted before he too started gagging and reached to his neck also.
“Care to try for three, buddy?” Jack asked the third brother with a sinister grin.
“So, tell us why these men are threatening to take away your only means of employment, sir?” I asked the older man once again.
“It was a bad season last year.” The man stated in a frightened voice as he tried to figure out what was happening to the younger men. “My catches were too small to pay my debits entirely and my boat needed repair after the seasonal floods came. I have done business with their father for years without livery problems such as this. Now, I find out the costs to launch my fishing boat have tripled and must be paid in advance. I simply do not have the funds. I must market my catch to earn a living.
“Put us down or I shall kill you, whore!” Saleem croaked out in between gasps for air.
“Wrong thing to say, hun.” I laughed at him. I turned to the older gentleman.
“Is your vessel seaworthy, sir?”
“Yes, I was able to afford the repairs, but barely,” He paused as he looked to my tiara. “M’lady.”
“I’ll tell you what…just climb aboard your vessel and I think my friend can remedy this whole situation.”
The man looked at Jack and I like we were some strange human-like ‘things’!
“No, really, hun, you get onboard and we’ll take care of the rest. Go.” I said as I casually gestured for him to get on his boat.
Man number two finally showed his family loyalty by raising his dagger to me.
“And there I thought you had more common sense than your brothers, hun.”
I watched as his blade started bending until its point touched its hilt.
The man remained stationary staring at the useless dagger in his hand.
“Don’t anger her any more, hun, or you may look like your weapon- or worse.” I warned.
“Sir,” I shouted up to the boat’s deck, “are you prepared to get under way?”
The gentleman just nodded cautiously and decided to hang on to the gunwale.
“When you’re ready, Jack.”
The imitation reed hulled boat started to rise. It hovered for a moment then started moving toward the water. Passersby stopped to witness the event, remaining quiet until the hull settled gently into the waves fifty feet off shore.
Applause filled the air as the older fisherman waved his thanks and started hoisting his sail.
“Now, don’t you three feel stupid,” I asked?
“That was our money you took from us!”
“Wrong! You took that money from yourselves by being greedy! Now. What has become of your father?” I asked deviously.
“He was old and refused to change his ways.”
“So you told him that you would take over for him- that he could enter into retirement?”
Man number three snorted and almost laughed.
That appeared to be everything Pharaoh needed to know.
“Empress Alexandra, there you are. I trust these men made no attempts to your well-being? Surely if they had it would be the death penalty.” Khufu asked as he and Anna-Beth approached from a nearby side street.
“Pharoah!” The three chorused in horror.
“I have business with your father, where is he? I do not see him.”
This one claims he has been retired, sire.” I pointed to the eldest.
“I heard everything I needed, Alexandra. Lady Jacquelyn, could you please release these men?”
The two men almost lost balance and gasped in huge amounts of air now that they could breathe again, the misshapen dagger ripped out of the third man’s hand and flew straight into Jack’s opened hand. It then straightened itself. Jack flipped it to hold the newly straightened blade and handed it over to Khufu.
“A Mind Warrior is the wrong person to anger, gentlemen. In the future you shouldn’t underestimate your enemies. I teach that to my soldiers from an early age. By the way, where are they?” The Pharaoh wondered aloud as he put his hand to his chin.
Suddenly, thirteen guards were pointing spears at the three men. Jack took my hand and we phased out, relocated ourselves outside the dangerous spear points and rephased. The three criminals’ jaws fell to the ground!
“Oh, I thought we had lost you.” Pharaoh said to his guards, never showing any change of expression to our sudden change of location. “These three gentlemen claim they have retired their father. Escort them to their residence and seek out the older gentleman. If no one can be found matching his description, bring them back to be held for trial on three charges of unnecessary termination.”
Without a word, the guards motioned for the men to start walking.
“Bravo, Alexandra. Your sister would be proud of the way you handled that, although, I believe she would’ve done it a bit differently.”
“Although me, she does have her own style, sir.” I giggled.
“And they say Isis changes the direction of the winds.” He raised his hand to the sky and started laughing.
“Alex Reilly would insist that Isabelle Cryetten was behind it, sir.” I continued to giggle.
Pharaoh laughed all the harder!
“Ahh.” Khufu wiped his eyes dry after a few minutes, “You are amazing people, Alexandra. I hope our relations stay common and productive.” He paused again. “You all should join Anna-Beth and I for meals, but first we must catch up to our newly returned hero and her mother, Lady Natalia.”
“I don’t think it looks like me at all, momma, and I don’t deserve it.” Peyton exclaimed as we entered the small square near the palace. People had quietly begun to mill around Natalia and her daughter.
“Pharaoh had it commissioned at my request, Persephone. The artist used the most recent image file I could find for the stone cutting. I think it the perfect likeness, and you do deserve the honor, my child!” Her ma argued back.
“What of the others- those that gave their lives to defeat the evil Hathor? They’re families deserve similar monuments, yet I see none in any other places of honor.”
“You have taught the child humility, Alexandra, well done. She now carries on the family traditions well.” Khufu told me quietly as we stopped before Natalia, Peyton, and her carved granite likeness. The hieroglyphs around its base told of her many victorious clashes with Hathor’s forces, but most of all her final victory over the evil brought by the tyrant.
Peyton heard our conversation and turned to us.
“Pharaoh, I am not worthy of such tribute. Many others have paid the supreme cost for our freedom from Hathor!”
“I assure you, Lady Persephone, they will all be honored for their sacrifice. You though, took the extra step- drew forth an untold amount of courage and dared to protect others from her tyranny. You have also helped return the love of my life to me. In so doing, you have raised the morale of my legions and brought confidence in Pharaoh back to our people. I am forever indebted to you, Lady Persephone!” He exclaimed proudly.
Khufu slowly dropped to one knee with his head bowed and fist held firmly to his heart before the stunned young woman. The square grew uncomfortably quiet.
“Please don’t, sir, you should stand before the people see you and think weakness.” Peyton pleaded in visible discomfort.
“Lady Persephone, look around you.” He told her quietly.
All around us people were paying homage to her. Jack, Brie, Chuck, Randi, Natalia, Anna-Beth- I had also dropped to one knee. I quickly reached up and pulled Alusia down to one knee also.
Peyton’s hands flew to cover her face as she immediately started sobbing. Her ma quickly got to her feet and ran to her daughter’s aid, wrapping her arms around the young woman and gently stroking her hair.
“I thought Pharaoh bowed to no one, Empress.” Alusia whispered to me.
I glared at her!
“By helping me defeat your ancestor, she freed both upper and lower kingdoms, hun- something he couldn’t do while his wife was under Hathor’s control. In a way, Persephone has reached a higher standing than even Pharaoh.”
“But Pharaoh was considered a God on Earth.”
“Yes, and to have that God honor someone like her is the greatest tribute she could ever receive. Another would be to lay claim to traveling with the Empress, Alusia.” I hinted.
“She is new to your kindness, Alexandra?” Khufu leaned his head toward me and whispered.
“Yes, we picked her up in 1945 Poland- a land bordering the North Sea. She was forced into working with villains far worse than Hathor’s forces to subjugate Anna-Beth’s starship.”
“Meridian 12 is again safe?”
“Yes, sir. She’s powered down and awaits her next voyage.”
“I trust you have seen that voyage, Empress?”
“Don’t worry, sir, you have a first class ticket reserved- Captain’s suite, I believe.” I giggled softly so as to not upset the mood of the ceremony.
“I am indebted to you also, Alexandra. Without your unique skill set and those of your sisters, Egypt might well have been lost. Thank you again for defeating Janelle Hathor and releasing those conscripted by her technology.” He said, gently touching my hand with his.
“It was something I had to do, sir. Because of my negligence, Janelle arrived here in the first place and upset the balance of time, history, and power. It was my responsibility to put everything back on its proper course.”
“Still, I thank you, Alexandra. The Empress has helped this land become what it is today. As I said earlier, may our lands remain friends and allied.”
“Pharaoh, I must tell you that Egypt and the other nations around her won’t always be allied…or friends. There is a nation on the north shore of the Mediterranean whose thirst for power and desire for conquest far outpace the land of Pharaoh.”
“I am not so naive, Alexandra. I know this society will all come crashing down some day. It is the way of things- the way of mankind.”
“You are wise, sir.”
“I am also hungry, Empress. Time to conclude this ceremony.” Khufu said, standing up to face the still overwhelmed woman.
“This woman, Persephone, daughter to Natalia and Ahm-Shu, has cast doubt on the Fates and dared challenge those called our Gods to uphold the morals that they themselves have declared upon us. Let all hearing my voice know that I, Pharaoh, as well as all Egypt, owe her a massive debt. Not only do we owe her, but all those who willingly sacrificed their lives to return this land to its previous tranquility and beauty! Please join me, along with the visiting Empress, Alexandra and her sisters, in showing our appreciation and support for everything these courageous patriots endured on behalf of Egypt!” Pharaoh shouted out to the gathered crowd.
The crowd began to stand and clap. The applause became overwhelming.
Peyton rushed to Pharaoh and wrapped her arms around him, her tears continuing to flow freely.
The applause finally died down after several minutes, yet Peyton continued to embrace Khufu.
“Child, my wife may start having jealous thoughts if we remain together any longer.” He quietly told the young woman with a grin.
“I’m sorry, sire. I do not wish to upset Pharaoh, I…” Peyton looked to Anna-Beth, “I merely wanted to convey my sincerest thanks.”
Peyton knelt before Khufu, her fist to her heart. “I am forever your loyal servant, Pharaoh!”
Again the people in the square applauded.
Both Anna-Beth and Khufu turned their heads to me and smiled. Anna-Beth added a quick wink as well.
‘You did good, Alex.’ Jack thought to me.
‘We all did great, Jack.’ I thought back with a bright, physical smile.
‘You think we’re gonna’ get to eat pretty soon?’
I rolled my eyes.
“Yes, Lady Jacquelyn, the meal is being prepared as we…speak.” Anna-Beth giggled.
1234 hours, The Royal Residence of Pharaoh, 2526BC
“Has the meal satisfied your hunger, Lady Jacquelyn?” Khufu chuckled. He and Chuck had been talking quite extensively about the radical differences between the modern interpretations of Ancient Egypt and first hand experience.
“So, you basically use CNC machines to sculpt granite and dolerite?” Chuck asked, wanting to get things straight. He seemed amazed by everything he had learned.
“We have also, thanks to our Terran partners, developed a method of casting a synthetic form of those materials. Once finished and located per plan, they are indistinguishable from natural stone after a curing time of just twelve weeks.”
“Ingenious! The self-proclaimed ‘experts’ back home would never accept the truth. They are under the impression y’all used copper tools and wooden hammers to build the pyramids.” My brother-in-law said with a chuckle.
“By the Lords of Terra, no! If we had been that technologically inept, it would have taken twenty or more years to build something that took us just a little over five! Where ever do these ‘experts’ get their information?”
Chuck shrugged his shoulders.
“Hey, some of those same ‘experts’ tell us that time travel is not possible, or that travel to other planets and dimensions simply cannot be either. Little do they know, huh?” I laughed.
“I submit, Charles, that with the beauty and talent contained within this hall- at this very moment, absolutely anything is possible! Wouldn’t you agree, my dearest Annu-B’th?”
“I told you to stop pronouncing my name in that manner! I still get the shivers every time you do, my love! Kidding or not, it recalls nightmarish memories!”
“My deepest apologies, my mate. Have you and the baby had your fill?”
“Yes, Pharaoh, the royal offspring has been sated.” She giggled.
Khufu nodded with a slight smirk and turned his attention back to Chuck.
“So, Charles, this ‘shuttle’ program you spoke of earlier, is the technology comparable with that of Meridian?”
“No where near, I’m sorry to say. Meridian 12 makes NASA’s Shuttles look like the wood and copper tools you are thought to have used. There is even talk of discontinuing the program after their retirement next year…um, 2011.”
“It seems like a monumental mistake…not exploring space, that is. With all the things we have learned from our space-faring partners, it just escapes me how things might have changed had they not arrived.” Khufu commented as he gently rubbed a finger against Anna-Beth’s cheek.
A look of absolute bliss appeared on her face!
Future thoughts of Sanford filled my mind. Pleasant memories of my own bliss- the happiness at having the one I would love shower me with affection and admiration. Remembrances of our honeymoon in Miami; our many trips to New England; our many visits with Ma and Pa; our trip to Giani in Andromeda- one of the most beautiful and romantic places in this universe- Sandy and I walking along it’s gentle surf, on the green sand, so soft it felt like silk between our toes…”
“Alex? Earth to Alex.” Brie’s voice interrupted and brought me back to reality.
“Lady Brianna, you should have left her to her blissful remembrances. For a chance instant she seemed truly free of all her burdensome responsibilities.” Khufu chastised my sister.
“It’s okay, sir, they have yet to happen. I look forward to experiencing them first hand.”
“You are truly amazing, Empress. Complicated, but amazing no less. As for you, Lady Randi?” Khufu looked at her neutral, expressionless face. She had been sitting that way for at least half the meal.
“Whah? Oh, I’m sorry, sire, were you talking to me?”
“You have seemed preoccupied since your arrival at my residence. What troubles you of this place?”
“Oh…I…I…IIIII’ve been in communication with your household control system. It seems to share similar programming and core components with Meridian.”
Laughter broke out in the large hall.
“She is a marvelous piece of engineering!” Khufu declared.
“Thank you, sire.”
“No, our maintenance system, Lady Randi! Anna-Beth’s specialists designed her exclusively for this abode-as a joining gift.”
“Randi, have you been able to connect to Reilly’s A.I.?” I asked.
“Five hundred years too soon, Skipper, but I’ve been talking to the world network, why?”
“I just wondered if y’all were getting along, that’s all.”
“It’s not just the two of us, Alex; it’s about three billion of us. The whole planet is talking, Skip! The amount of information flying around out there is staggering. The Internet has nothing on this system.”
“Talk about the ultimate geek.”
“Charles! You know Randi likes to gossip with her friends as much as we do.” Brie scolded.
“Alusia, out of everyone at our table, you have been the quietest. Are our conversations not stimulating enough?”
The raven–haired woman remained silent- her eyes horror-filled.
“I believe she fears retaliation since she is a direct descendent of Hathor, sir. I have assured her repeatedly that will not happen- that her mind is her own and I believe she cares little for world domination.” I answered on her behalf.
“Come now, child, just because you resemble the one so recently vanquished does not mean you harbor the same evil.” Anna-Beth cut in. “I trust the Empress has given you the opportunity to start anew?” She smiled and winked.
Alusia gasped quietly. “She has, ma’am.” She replied in a tiny, frightened voice.
“She has done likewise with me, young one. I even chose to reward that initial charity by taking her hostage. Still, she believed in my reprieve. ‘Allow yourself to join the right side’, she advised.” Anna-Beth continued.
“Young woman, since the Empress has spoken so highly of your character, it would only be natural for us to offer you residence should you chose to call Memphis your home.” Khufu told Alusia, who…well, she passed out!
“Am I so frightening, Alexandra?” He asked as Jack and Randi tried to revive our newest club member.
“I have no problem with you, hun. I just think she’s heard so much about you from the anthropologists and archeologists- you know, the ‘experts’? Those types paint a vastly different portrait of life in ‘Ancient Egypt’.”
“It sounds like they portray me as an arrogant, power-hungry, wealth-monger, whose only interests’ center on building tombs and temples that would guarantee my ascension into the after life!”
“That is exactly what they have deduced from the ruins of Karnak, Saqqara, Giza, Abydos, the Valley of Kings…the usual places researchers decide to look when they don’t’ understand.” I complained.
“You should alert them of their inaccuracies, Empress. It is not right to make presumptions without sufficient information.”
“As I said before, Pharaoh, according to the ‘experts’, time travel is not possible, so the Empress of Space and Time surely cannot exist.” I stated evenly, but sarcastically.
“Then I suggest it is their loss.” He submitted.
Alusia had rejoined us and remained silent while Pharaoh and I talked.
“Welcome back, Alusia. I trust I have not frightened you too much?”
“I don’t understand? Why do you say you frightened me?”
“I was shocked that Pharaoh would extend such kindness to one who looked like his enemy.”
“Young lady, if you haven’t already guessed, the Empress holds much favor here. Her kindness, generosity, and wisdom have been known here for several of your centuries.”
“How is that possible?”
“She’s a little slow on the chaotic principles of time travel, sir; otherwise, she is very intelligent.” I informed Pharaoh.
‘Anna-Beth,’ I thought to her, ‘I have seen that she has an opportunity to better herself here in Memphis. She will find happiness and love within six months and create a family in ten more. She is an outstanding research scientist and will be a loyal friend to you, Natalia, Khufu, and Persephone. She must be reminded occasionally however, of her own self-worth.’
She nodded to me with an understanding smile. Jack’s face took on a slight grin also.
“Alusia, I think my mate to be absolutely right, and I think you should stay here at the palace until you become properly acquainted with our city.” Anna-Beth told her- it was more of an order than an acknowledgement. “If you should decide to stay.”
“But Empress, do you not have need of me for other missions?” Alusia asked, searching desperately for a way out of Memphis.
“You have no need to fear your ancestor here, child. She has been rendered harmless and cannot hurt you.” Khufu told her.
“She is deceased?”
“No, she is still very alive, child. Her talents have been limited and her aggressive personality has been…modified.”
“How so? Has she been lobotomized or subjected to electroshock treatments?” Alusia asked with increased tenacity.
“Alusia, we don’t torture people in this outfit.” Jack told her. “We simply installed limiters on her gifts and removed the memories of her experiences with Alex. She no longer has memory of her disagreements or dislike of the Empress or her sabotage attempt of Reilly’s Protoverse Chamber.”
“In fact, Alusia, I have talked at length with Janelle after her return here and she has apologized to me for releasing her hold while I relocated Reilly. Her dislike for me…or rather Alex Reilly, was consuming her like a cancer- slowly eating away at her humanity until just the cold, uncaring evil shell remained and controlled her life. I’ve never seen her happier or more alive. How old is young Ja’el now, Anna-Beth?”
“I haven’t seen them since leaving for the Delta, but I believe the little girl is two, Alex. The child has become Janelle’s world.”
“So she is happy in her new role?” Alusia asked, not quite believing.
“Love is a powerful aphrodisiac, Alusia, you should try it.” Khufu laughed as he put his arm around Anna-Beth and gently pulled her to him. He winked at the young, raven-haired woman.
“So that is your plan, Empress? I am to stay here to begin my new life- to fall in love and start a family?” Alusia looked over to me with suspicion.
“Only if you want to, hun. As I’ve told y’all before, I can only guide a person in the best direction; I can’t make you do anything unnatural.”
A young man walked into the dining hall and quickly approached Pharaoh with his head and eyes lowered.
“Pharaoh, sorry for the interruption, but I seek your approval for the temple modifications at Abydos.” The man said quietly.
I noticed Alusia repeatedly stealing glances of the fit, well-tanned, young man as he conversed with Khufu in a quiet voice. The man in turn gave occasional attention back to her.
Anna-Beth leaned over to me and tried to keep her giggling quiet.
“You do not play fair, Empress. I take it she had little to no chance once she arrived in our fair city?” She whispered.
I simply smiled.
She smiled back then sat straight and silent, graciously taking a sip from her wine glass.
Khufu must have noticed the man’s wavering attention in the conversation.
“Khefra, have you met Lady Jacquelyn, Lady Randi, Lady Brianna, and Sir Charles? Lady Persephone, Empress Alexandra, and Lady Natalia I believe you have already met.”
“No Pharaoh, I have not. Ladies and sir, welcome.” He nodded and smiled to acknowledge us. “I’m pleased to meet you all…” He gently nodded toward the frightened, raven-haired girl trying desperately to melt into her chair.
The Mahanilui was working overtime on this one!
“Oh, please forgive me. This is our nephew Khefra.” Khufu smiled and paused, noticing the anticipation on the man’s face. “Nephew this is Lady Alusia, she was just trying to decide whether to stay on in Memphis after Empress Alexandra leaves. Perhaps you would be interested in showing her around?”
The young man mouthed the word ‘Alusia’ once or twice in my direction. A smile burst across his face! “I would be most humbled to do that, uncle.” He paused and his face went sad. “I must return to Abydos before nightfall though.”
“Alusia, since our conversation is not stimulating enough for your brilliant, young mind, would you like to go with Khefra to Abydos? I guarantee it would be more in line with your interests.”
“You know of acoustical multimedia equipment design?” He asked in disbelief.
I noticed Randi become agitated- squirming nervously in her chair. I caught her gaze and shook my head ‘no’ slightly.
“She knows of public address systems and some basic interfacing techniques, and she is a fast study. You will find her very intelligent, Khefra. Her last employers vastly underestimated her skills and worth.” I informed him on her behalf.
“Would you do me the honor then, Lady Alusia?” Khefra walked around to her and held out his hand.
Alusia looked at me with large, pleading eyes; she looked to be on the verge of tears or lightheadedness.
I smiled and motioned with my eyes for her to take the young man’s hand.
Slowly, she raised her hand and met his, her look of uncertainty never left her face until his arm went around her waist and he guided her out of the room.
“I do hope our societies remain friendly to one another, Alexandra. I would lament any disagreements that would force us into opposition for I would surely suffer severe defeat. You are most devious!” Pharaoh declared as a satisfied smile appeared. “Are you sure about the future of those two, Empress?”
“As sure as I am about your future, hun.” I winked.
“My future? From what I can gather from the little scraps you have given me, my future is set more permanently than the stones we build with!” He looked to me with seriousness.
“You and Anna-Beth will have many years together, of that I can guarantee, Pharaoh. Remember the Empress is just a thought or two away in your time, my time, or Alex Reilly’s time.” I reminded him.
“How would that be possible given Lady Camille is thousands of miles and several hundred years, away? He asked in confusion.
I’m sure if you ask Lady Alusia to contact the Empress, she would find, in her heart, the strength…and the gift to reach out to one of us.” I winked as Jack, Randi, Brie, Charles, Peyton, Natalia, and Anna-Beth all suddenly stared at me as if losing my sanity!
“Yes, “I paused, “I finally told a lie! Alusia will gain her new ability in about six months- give or take. I substituted activated Reilly nanos for those Tibius modified.”
“Why would you do that, Alexandra?” Anna-Beth gasped, appalled by my admission.
“Sometimes you just have to go with your feelings, ma’am. I’m sure you know what I mean- you and Jack that is. Sometimes, seeing the future is just not enough to affect its realignment.”
“But why…of all people, her? Hathor’s own flesh and blood!” Brie asked, appalled that I would do such a thing.
“That’s exactly why I did it, Brie. Lusius grew up hearing the much-exaggerated stories of his ancestor, Janelle. In his mind, he idolized her- hero-worship, I think they’ll call it. Since meeting us, that image has been twisted around on itself. Witnessing, first-hand, our abilities, Alusia can no longer trust the legend of Janelle Hathor, the storied, all-conquering, Goddess Mother of Egypt. We, being who and what we are, have scuttled that legacy completely! Her Mahanilui only added to that dilemma. I felt it necessary to compound and confuse her issues and beliefs until they were no longer recognizable. Even the National Socialists ultimately aided me by proving deceptive and scheming. I’m actually surprised she trusts anyone at all!”
“The girl has effectively lost her heritage, her identity…her very self. She is essentially a clean slate now. If she is to exceed her expectations- which right now rest at zero- she must be given a surprise- a gift if you will- something she never knew she possessed or would ever have. She needs something to live for…other than Khefra and her three future children, of course.”
“How could you have possibly seen that, Alex? I thought you said you couldn’t see the outcome of our mission to Poland before we left Reilly?” Jack asked, still totally bewildered by what I had done.
“It was something you said last month, Jack. You told me you had a ‘feeling’ as to the outcome of one of our adventures.”
“As I recall, you made light of it and let it drop, thinking it silly of me!”
“That’s only the way y’all took it, Commander. Don’t tell me that you just let what I said pass by like so much driftwood?”
“No, I tried to prove to you that it wasn’t just a silly coincidence- that it made sense in a strange, Empress-like way!” Jack answered sternly.
“Exactly!” I raised my voice, pausing with a wide smile on my face for a moment. “In your gut, you knew something was there- something that just couldn’t, or shouldn’t be ignored. You wanted desperately to prove me wrong, Jack!”
“But I never did, Alex. I’ve never gotten the chance to prove it to you.”
“Ya, hun, ya did. Numerous times as a matter of fact.”
All parties were now tightly entranced in our conversation. Khufu placed his elbows on the tabletop, interlaced his fingers, placing his chin on them, and focused his attention on the two of us.
“When did I prove such a thing, Alex?”
“Most recently while in Meridian, Jack, just after I opened the door to debut Alusia.”
Jack’s facial expression never flinched- she showed no recollection.
“Alusia came running at me in a fit of rage. You protected me and set her back on her behind. Why would you do that, Jack? I could have simply phased Peyton and I out and the crazed girl would have impacted on the opposite passageway wall.”
“You needed protection, Cap!” She answered, slightly agitated.
“Cause I felt I needed to keep an eye on you, that’s why! I had a feeling she might hurt one of you!” Her tone had gone up almost an octave in anger.
I remained silent, the wide grin still on my face.
Jack’s anger drained from her face, as she finally understood. Her mouth dropped open.
“You know, Jacquelyn, you really do look cute when perplexed by Alexandra’s logic.” Natalia smiled from across the table. Peyton made a valiant effort to hold her laughter from beside her mother.
“I’ll second that. Its amazing that some guy hasn’t swept you up already, Jacki.” Chuck added.
“Ouch!” He exclaimed and jumped, as Brie must have stomped on his foot. Her angry expression confirmed it.
Khufu began to laugh hysterically.
“Charles, I‘m beginning to see that you are absolutely correct about this ‘family’.” He said after calming down enough to speak.
Brie gave her husband another angry look. One that asked ‘now what did you tell him’!
“You, dear Empress, have a keen eye as well as infinite wisdom. I would be hard-pressed to develop any offence against your sharp intellect and unorthodox strategies. Are you sure you would not consider joining my military, Alexandra?”
“My allegiance is to my home country, the United States of America, but more over to the many peoples throughout the universes, dear Pharaoh. Rest assured, if the fragile course of history requires it, I will be here to advise and guide Egypt in the right direction.”
“Are you sure you desire no political office, Alexandra- a diplomat, possibly?” He laughed.
“Ya’ll know I have no political ambition, hun.”
Khufu laughed again. “Good, because in your line of work, bias has no place, my astute Empress.”
I smiled and decided to change subjects.
“So, Natalia, I trust Persephone has told you how she piloted Meridian to a safe, controlled, crash landing?”
Peyton’s eyes glared at me like two plasma cutters.
What were plasma cutters?
Oh, future memories.
“Noooo, she didn’t tell me about the crash, Alex.” Natalia looked at her daughter with some concern.
“I didn’t expect it to turn out so well given we had three hundred-seventy-six souls on board.” I reassured her.
“You had that many on my Meridian?” Anna-Beth gasped, almost choking.
“Well, plus the six of us, yes.”
“Don’t forget we only had eighty-five percent in the power cells, Alex.” Randi reminded.
Natalia’s mouth fell open! She stared like that at her daughter for several minutes, as did Anna-Beth.
“I knew you could do it, Seph! I knew…even when you doubted yourself, that Meridian was in good hands after my retirement.” Natalia told her, with a wide smile.
I had expected mother and daughter to embrace each other, crying on each other’s shoulder for several minutes.
Instead, mother and daughter each raised a hand and, if future memory held true, gave each other a ‘high five’!
“YEAH!” Both shouted with huge smiles and started laughing.
“Empress, will you be staying on for a time, or will you be leaving us all too soon?” Khufu asked after waiting for the two to settle down.
“I’m afraid we should be going, sire, I have family to return, equipment to stow back on Reilly, and a myriad of paperwork waiting for me back at base. Uncle Rick decried that I write a report of the Empress’s missions. He worries fervently about us, you know.”
“I should like to talk to him more on your return, Empress. Your uncle’s tales of his early military career are fascinating. I could listen to them several times over and still find something that I missed or overlooked.”
‘The Admiral’s been here already?’ Jack’s question echoed loudly in my head.
‘Not yet he hasn’t, Jack.’ I thought back.
The palace’s lights dimmed slightly all of a sudden.
“Now what is going on?” Khufu asked in annoyance.
“Um…sorry, sir…um…but all I did was tell your system that we had to leave.” Randi sputtered out, looking extremely nervous- guilty as sin too!
Khufu smacked his hands on the table once and looked to the ceiling in defeat. “Even the machines adore the Empress and her court!”
Everyone in the large dining hall started laughing.
It was now time for our goodbyes. We exchanged hugs and kisses with Khufu, Anna-Beth, and Natalia. Chuck shook Pharaoh’s forearm and embraced him as well.
There was just one last decision to be made. I had noticed that Peyton seemed to be contemplating something as the rest of us wished each other well.
I looked at Peyton sternly.
“Alex,’ she rephrased and looked back to her mother momentarily. “You have told me that we, ourselves, make the decisions that determine our course through time…”
“That’s right, hun, our choices ultimately determine which path our futures take. Why?”
“I wish to return with you and finish my assignment aboard the Detroit, ma’am.” She said rapidly.
Natalia and Anna-Beth gasped thinking Egypt’s celebrated hero would remain home.
“Persephone, you have completed that assignment, hun. I thought you couldn’t wait to return home?”
Her head fell forward, her eyes to the floor.
“I…I have met…someone, momma. Someone I…I care deeply for. I…I wish to…I wish to join with him…if he will accept me.” She admitted, her voice sounding like a scared child.
If a slight breeze had come through the room, more than one person would’ve been knocked over! I remained quiet and observed the internal debate going on in Natalia’s mind.
Peyton, likewise, waited and wondered about the outcome. At times she would scrunch her nose or her expression would grow depressed. She apparently was eavesdropping on her mother’s thoughts. Jack was such a bad influence!
‘I had nothing to do with it! She thought of it all on her own, Alex!’
I rolled my eyes!
Natalia quietly turned to her daughter and held both forearms. Both women slowly lowered their heads until their foreheads touched.
“I shall miss my little Sephie! I will inform your father on his return from the Western Hemisphere of your decision.” Natalia moved her head back slightly and turned to me. “Would it be asking too much of the Empress to offer transport for her family and friends on her Joining Day?” she asked. I noticed a tear transit her cheek.
“Only as long as we get invited to the ceremony and I provide the location for her bridal shower.” I smiled.
“You drive the hard bargain, M’lady.” Natalia giggled.
“I’ll have my temporal communications agent,” I nodded to Brie. “Contact you temporal communications agent,“ I looked toward the door. “With the specifics- time and place, okay?” I told her, raising my hand to give her a ‘high five’.
“YEAH!” We both shouted as our hands struck.
Peyton began her departure routine and within minutes we had joined hands.
“With a heavy heart I again task you with her well-being, Alexandra.” Natalia said, embracing me again. Her arms quivered slightly this time.
I said nothing, but nodded my understanding.
“Travel safely on Isis’ wind, Empress of Space and Time.” Khufu smiled to me.
“Rule wisely, equitably, and sincerely, Great Pharaoh. I shall look forward to the baby shower invitation, Commander.” I winked at Anna-Beth. Looking at my companions to make sure we were holding hands, I announced our departure.
“All ashore that’s goin’ ashore! Next stop: Kili Island, 2028.”
Reilly’s small conference room replaced the pleasant, subdued lighting of Pharaoh’s dining chamber.
My sincere thanks to JessicaNicole and Puddintane for their help with the German translations in this and the previous episode.
R. G. Beyer
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