South of Bikini 2: E8- Meeting the Relatives

Admiral Demmit arrives with a mission request. Apparently he had found Reilly’s vast historic library on his visit to the future and researched a few old friends…

Copyright 2010 R.G. Beyer

 
 


South of Bikini:

Onward

Episode 8

“Meeting the Relatives”


 
 

“Mommy?” A small girl’s voice whispered in my ear.

“Mommy!” The same girl’s voice whispered with a little more force. A pair of small hands shook my shoulder urgently.

“Mommy, wake up! It’s Christmas morning!” The small hands shook my shoulder harder.

“Mommy needs a few more hours of sleep, hun, go back to bed for a while.” I mumbled, moving my head slightly on my pillow. Why was it wet?

“Mommy, Cassie’s already down in the livin’ room sortin’ presents! I told her you would be mad, but she just kept doin’ it! Mommy, get up!” Samantha’s whisper turned to a quiet hiss as she shook me harder still.

“Sammi, I just came back from a rough mission, hun! Let mommy sleep a little longer.” I pleaded and turned over.

“Alex, you’ve had yourself locked in here for a whole day! As your doctor AND your sister, I ask that you get up!” Emily’s voice suddenly startled me awake.

“And my name is Emily, not Samantha, so get up lazy bones! Revile was thirty minutes ago!”
 
 

0630 hours, Atlantis-Minor Base, June 29th, 1944
 
 

“Revile? What day is it?” I asked, rubbing the sand from my eyes.

“Oh, I am sooo sorry!” My sister said in a sarcastic voice. She brought a fist to her chest in mock homage. “It is 0630, June 29th, 1944, Empress!” She glared at me. “Now get up, Alex!”

“Why is my pillow so wet?” I asked offhandedly as my hand came up to investigate.

“My guess is that you tired yourself out so much- pushed yourself so hard- blamed yourself for everything that happened- as usual, that you did the only human thing possible- you cried yourself to sleep yesterday morning!” She angrily reprimanded.

Emily sat down on the edge of the bed. “Alex, I really think you should go easier on yourself. There is a slight chance that all that stress could do damage.” I felt her touch my hip, noting that it felt warm and smooth.

I was still lying on my right side, but wearing my favorite pink nightie instead of my shorts and ‘T’.

Why did that keep happening?

Emily read the question on my face.

“Why do you keep putting that thing on, Alex? I’m sure you have other…more modest nightclothes programmed in.”

I didn’t answer right away.

“Was it that bad, sis?” She asked, breaking me from thoughts- mindless ones.

“Was what that bad?”

“Your last mission. Was it that bad?”

I nodded cautiously. “Almost lost Brie, Chuck, and Randi.” I mumbled.

Emily gasped quietly. “That’s terrible, Alex! No wonder you looked exhausted yesterday morning! Um, can I ask why you called me Samantha before?”

“I dreamt it was Christmas and Sam was trying to wake me up to tell me that Cassie was sorting presents downstairs. I have no idea why I would dream something like that.”

“Maybe that is your way of escaping and coping? Using pleasant memories to displace bad ones? It is the way the human mind interprets and manages traumas both physical and mental. Pleasant thoughts and dream sequences release endorphins and block unusually high beta waves so that the body can relax and achieve REM sleep.” Emily’s head twitched suddenly and her eyes refocused on me.

“Future Emily or my Emily?” I asked gently with a smile.

“Future, I think. That is the strangest feeling, Alex. How do you deal with that?”

“You get use to it over time, sis.”

“So, are our sister and future brother-in-law safe?”

“I left them in 2010, Em. Brie, Chuck, and Brittany.”

“Brittany?” She seemed to concentrate for a moment. A huge smile flashed to her face.

“Oh! That’s wonderful, Alex!” Emily’s smile waned slightly. “Isn’t that a little ahead of schedule though?”

“Maybe just a little.” I brought my hand up to my face and narrowed my thumb and forefinger. “A little.”

“Mina isn’t going to be happy with you, you know!”

“I’m not happy with the way things turned out either, Em! I made some downright bad choices on this mission! Sometimes, I wonder if I’m really ready for this gig.”

“What’s a…a gig, Alex?” She looked at me, confused.

“Sometimes I wonder if I’m ready to be the Empress, Emily.” I rephrased my concern.

“Oh, come on Alex! How long have you been doing this?” She asked, turning to her right to face me better.

“About three months.” I said sheepishly.

Emily crossed her arms in front of her. “How long have you really been doing this, Alex?” She asked angrily.

I had to really think about that.

“About fourteen years, give or take a few months.” I replied, barely above a whisper.

Emily tried to gasp the air completely out of the room!

“I had no idea, Alex! You need to slow down before you age prematurely!” She looked pleadingly at me. “I’m in no hurry to lose you, Alex.”

“It’s all in the job description…unfortunately.” I reassured her with a smile.

“So, when is the next mission, my Empress?” Emily giggled after a short pause.

“Didn’t you just prescribe taking it easy, Dr. Scott?”

We both laughed at that.

“Uncle Rick is on his way, Alex. He should be here in an hour or two so you better get yourself put together.”

“Why wasn’t I informed of this yesterday?”

“Um…you were sleeping it off, maybe?” Emily giggled again and hurriedly left the room.

“That’s cheating, Alex!” I heard her complain from the short hallway.

Why did she say that?

Wonderful! I don’t even have time to hit the shower, I thought.

Wait, what was I thinking?
 
 

The shower helped me at least feel cleaner! After brushing my teeth and brushing my extremely long hair out, I opened my bathroom door.

“That’s cheating, Alex!” Emily complained from the short hallway as she rushed by.

I smiled and set course for the Mess Hall after waving to my earlier, sleepier self, just getting out of bed.
 
 

The steaming cup of coffee gently placed itself on the table before me.

“Thanks, Jack.” I said softly.

“Skipper, would you like me to put your hair back the way it was?” Corrine Masterson offered as she passed by.

“My eye color, too, if you don’t mind?”

“Your eyes too? Who did this to you, skipper?”

“Your daughter, Corrine.”

“Oh.” She said as she started to gather up my extensive, golden blonde, tresses.

“First you should take your crown off, Empress.” She politely informed me.

When had I put the thing back on? Had I even taken it off to shower?

Maybe I needed more sleep?

“Sorry, I forgot I had it on.” I quickly checked to make sure it was turned off and removed my tiara from my head.

“I’m glad you like it, skip.” Randi said, smiling from her seat at the next row of benches.

Corrine re-gathered my long hair and held it tightly to my head for a minute or two. The decrease in weight was very noticeable when she released it.

I snagged a few strands and brought them into view. It felt good to see my natural hair color again.

“Skipper, I’m not sure I can do your eyes right. Can you put up with them like this until I feel confident enough to try?”

“I’ll live with them for a while longer, hun- when y’all are ready.”

“Wow! They really are blue, Cap!” A tiny voice said into my left ear.

“Sasha, you shouldn’t have realized your gift for another month. Have I changed our present that much?”

“I don’t know about changing our present, Cap, but I was talking with my daughters when we traveled to Kili to kick out Hathor last month. It just took asking a few questions, that’s all.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.

The pixie flew from my shoulder and landed on the table in front of me.

“I kind of liked your hair long too, Cap! It made you look like a top-notch princess- especially with the crown!” Sasha giggled, her hands quickly covering her mouth. Of all the fae I had seen, both here and on Kili, Sasha was the prettiest of all in my opinion.

“So now what, hun?” I asked the miniature woman standing before me.

She crossed her arms in front of her and grimaced. “Now Chief Samuels wants me to help fish wires through the tighter spots in Sand Dollar!”

“So what’s wrong with that? We all have to be ready to use our talents and skills to maintain the boat, Sasha.”

“But if I do that I’ll get my wings oily! I can’t fly so well with oily wings, Cap!”

“Are they still dirty after you grow up and return to pixie mode again, hun?” I asked with a slight smile.

The pixie clasped her hands in front of her and tried to gracefully move a crumb from in front of her with her tiny right foot. “Well, no.” She said shyly, her eyes dropping to avoid mine.

“Sasha, I know it’s hard, but you know you have to spend most of your life at full height. You would burn out too quickly otherwise- and we simply can’t order in that much honey, sweetheart!” I looked at the sad expression on the six-inch, winged fashion doll before me.

“Logistics would start to question Supply, and they would start asking questions that Admiral Demmit would have to answer. Get what I’m sayin’?

“I could start my own Beehive.”

“You could.” I replied flatly.

Sasha’s face beamed!

“I’ll get right on it, Cap!”

She disappeared out the already closing mess hall door in the blink of an eye!

“That didn’t take long, did it, Alex?” Emily commented from beside me.

“Remember, it only took Alexis a few minutes to master her wings, sis!”

“Not that, Alex,” Emily smiled happily, “hopping back into ‘Empress’ mode.” She laughed.

Jamie Hilf came through the mess hall doors before I could respond to my sister’s comment.

“Skipper, Admiral’s plane is twenty miles out and closing, ma’am.”

“Jack, assemble everyone at the dock, I’ll be along after I finish my coffee.”

“Aye, Captain.”
 
 

0814 hours, Atlantis-Minor Base, June 29th, 1944
 
 

“I’ll call when I’m ready to return to Pearl, lieutenant. As always, you have seen nothing unusual here, understand?”

“As usual, Admiral.” The young officer replied as he signaled the pilot to start the engines on the PBY Catalina moored to our dock. He looked towards us, the formation of uniformed, pretty, young women standing at attention, and smiled. “Good hunting, sir!”

“Yes, good hunting, indeed! See you in a few days, Ensign!” Admiral Demmit replied to him squarely.

“Sorry, sir!” He nervously saluted the Admiral and quickly entered the fuselage and closed the hatch.

We remained at attention until the plane broke free of the ocean’s surface and climbed into the sky.

“Welcome to Atlantis-Minor, Admiral.” I said brightly as I saluted. The formation followed suit.

“At ease, Captain Steinert.” He returned the salute haphazardly.

“What brings the Admiral to Atlantis, sir?” I asked in my official tone.

“How are you, Alex?” He asked, looking directly into my eyes.

His response at seeing my blue eyes caused me to cringe. I knew, without a doubt, he would say something.

“I liked the green eyes better, Alex.” He said before I could say anything, or answer his question.

“It was for a mission with the Empress, sir.”

“I’m sure I’ll be reading about it, Commander?”

“Most of it, Admiral, yes.”

“Most, Alex?”

“Some of it was of a personal nature, Admiral. I’d rather not explain in the presence of the crew, sir.”

He uncharacteristically nodded once.

“Captain, I’d like to congratulate you and your crew for the marvelous job you and Sand Dollar did in our last campaign. Unfortunately, because of the… you’re…unique…circumstances, any awards are impossible.” His gaze dropped to the ground momentarily.

“Sir, as long as we were doing our jobs to protect the fleet, our country, and democracy, no awards are necessary.” I told him.

“A noble sentiment, Alex, but it pains me to deny my best boat crew the accolades they so rightly deserve. If times were different, Alex…” He stopped. “I did, however, manage to send Distinguished Service medals to your families.”

There was a hushed murmuring from the crew.

“Thank you, Admiral.” I…we all saluted him again.

Again he nonchalantly saluted back before his eyes dropped to the ground again.

“Sir, is something wrong?” I asked, as I looked to Jack and Emily on either side of me.

“Alex, I need to talk to you and the command staff in my quarters as soon as I get situated- say, in an hour?

“Aye, sir. Jack, see to the Admiral’s things.”

“Aye, Cap.”

Uncle Rick’s gear left the ground and slowly flew towards the compound and the Admiral’s quarters.

The old man just chuckled, shaking his head as his belongings floated away on invisible hands.
 
 

“Alex,” Demmit started after we all took a seat. “There has been a request for the unique talents of Sand Dollar’s crew.”

This was it- word of our gifts had obviously gotten out and we were to be used as weapons! It was my worst nightmare turned reality! I looked around to my friends- my crewmates. We all had similar expressions.

“Admiral Demmit, speaking on behalf of my officers and crew, I must respectfully decline, sir.”

“Hear me out, captain.” Demmit looked conflicted as he almost made eye contact with me. “It’s not what you think.”

“Then what IS ‘it’, Admiral?” I pressed, maybe a little too incensed.

Uncle Rick looked surprised by my response, and stared into my eyes. It wasn’t his usually powerful gaze though. This look was something reserved for his equals- individuals he considered good friends- relatives.

“I’m the person making the request, Alex.”

Each of us looked at the other in silence for several minutes.

“I’m sorry, Admiral, I didn’t know.” I apologized to my superior. “What do you need?”

Again the old man broke eye contact.

“While I was in the future,” He started slowly, “I reviewed the history stored in Reilly’s library.”

“We already know you looked at the archives, Uncle Rick, you told us, remember?” I reminded him as I watched his expression remain unchanged.

“What I didn’t mention was the fact that I researched some of my fellow crewmates from the closing days of the ‘Great War’. Reilly’s archives are very specific and well maintained. Did I ever tell you that, Alex?”

“No sir, you didn’t, but thank you, I’ll relay that to RVP next time I’m there.”

He nodded and continued.

“One of the men, I was surprised to learn, beat fate and somehow managed to live a full and rewarding life despite being listed ‘lost at sea’, 12, May, 1918.” He then paused momentarily.

“I remember as if it were yesterday, Alex. I was assigned to the destroyer, ‘Davis’ DD-65. I was all of nineteen. We were called in to rescue survivors of a U-boat, U-103, that had been hit by one of our convoy transports, the RMS Olympic. We were recovering the men in the water when the lookouts started screaming that a rogue wave was heading our way.”

“We barely had enough time to get thirty-two of the survivors on deck before Capt. Fogbottom…sorry, Capt. Zogbaum, ordered everyone below and to brace for collision. We were ordered to leave the others to fend for themselves. Russell Brackenridge- Rusty we called him- was trying to hurry the last German prisoners onto the deck when one of them decided he would take his chances and dumped him and Rusty overboard into the drink. There wasn’t enough time to fish either of them out before the twenty-five foot wave reached us. I barely made the hatch seal before the water was over the deck. I lost a good friend that day, Alex. I also regret leaving twenty more men to their fate. That was the day I learned exactly how precious…and short life was.”

“If the archives are correct, he must be the luckiest man on the face of this planet, Admiral.” Carroll exclaimed. The rest of us nodded in agreement.

“Exactly, Lt. Sheldon- or Rusty had someone looking out for him.” Uncle Rick stared directly at me.

“After we took one hell of a beating from that wave, we began to make temporary repairs and look for survivors. All we found was wreckage from the U-boat. We assumed no survivors and limped back to Milford Haven.”

“Maybe he was picked up by another ship, Admiral?” I suggested.

“Reilly’s library distinctly states that Russell Brackenridge died in 2020. We celebrated Rusty’s twenty-first birthday 4, May, 1918!

“Wow, he sure did live long- one hundred and twenty-three years,” Carroll interrupted.

Uncle Rick and I stared at Lt. Sheldon again.

“He’s not a sea turtle, Carroll.” Emily scolded.

“Awfully strange that a sailor lost at sea off the coast of Ireland would live so long, wouldn’t you say, Alex?” Uncle Rick raised an eyebrow to me punctuating the statement.

My mind went into high gear searching for his present location- for the locations of everyone lost that day. I didn’t hold out much hope seeing as it had happened over twenty-six years ago- my gift worked better on the future.

“Admiral, I suggest we see what Chief Peterson has for lunch, Alex may be here for a while.” I barely heard Jack say as I focused on my self-imposed assignment.
 
 

“Any luck, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked as I entered the Mess Hall to the amazement of my officers.

“Wow, half an hour. Another new record, Carroll, pay up!” Jack smiled at her like the Cheshire Cat.

Ignoring the comment from my ‘current’ first officer, I informed the Admiral of my findings, which weren’t too promising. “I need to travel back to a time before it happens, sir. I was unsuccessful in seeing anything before today. So, before I risk my boat or crew, I need to see what I’m up against. Have any suggestions on a safe target- someplace I can rephase and remain anonymous?”

“Can’t you just stay unphased or whatever you call it?” Uncle Rick asked looking relieved that I seemed to be taking on the mission.

I just stared at him for a minute. “I’d run the risk of reappearing if I concentrated too long, sir.”

“I guess the safest place would be Kili Island, it’s been there since…forever, hasn’t it?” He said hopefully.

“Only since 2026BC, sir, only a mere four thousand years.”

“Thirty-nine hundred and seventy years to be specific, Alex.” Carroll corrected me.

Uncle Rick and I looked to my navigator.

“Sorry, Skipper, Admiral.”

“Good thought, but it would be too dangerous, sir. Mina and her people would sense me and discover Reilly. I’d never hear the end of that transgression!”

“Why not stay here then? I mean the history of this island is why I chose it. The native stories claim this end of Ni’ihau is haunted! What’s to say you aren’t that spirit?”

“We already drive those people crazy on occasion, Admiral. Just today Sasha was seen by several children hiking the highlands.”

“I was?” A tiny voice asked above me.

I rolled my eyes then looked to the hovering pixie. “Yes…you were, sweetheart. You have to be more careful and not forget that innocent minds can follow you no matter how fast you fly.”

“That would explain the baby in the village pointing and cooing at me as I flew past. Wow, I never thought about that, Cap.” She said- her face filled with concentration.

“Sasha, we’re having a grownup conversation here so either grow up or get out.” I told the tiny woman now hovering a foot in front of me.

“Oh, all right!” Her tiny voice said as she flew into an open area and began to grow.

“No matter how many times I see that, it still amazes me.” Uncle Rick admitted as a full-sized Sasha returned and sat down.

“We could visit mother, Alex. She would have been seventeen in 1918. We could pose as her cousins- the ones that never came to visit? Mother told me on several occasions about how disappointed she was every time they deferred their visit.” Emily told us with some excitement.

“We need some place we can stay for about a week, Emily. Do you think your grandparents’ house would be appropriate for two cousins to stay for that period of time?”

“A week? Why would your reconnaissance take a week, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked even as Emily gave me a knowing wink.

“Because my last mission took a little over three weeks to complete, Admiral. Look, that’s the amount of time Emily and I will need- take it or leave it, sir.”

For the third time today Admiral Demmit stared at me in disbelief.

“Boy are you in a bitchy mood today, Alex.” Carroll complained.

Jack quickly, but gently batted our navigator’s head.

“Oh, ya, right. That makes perfect sense now. Sorry, skipper.” Carroll blushed and looked down at the table in embarrassment.

I wasn’t sure Uncle Rick grasped what had transpired between my Ex-O and Carroll, but his stern glare seemed to subside slightly.

“Alex, you do what you have to do to confirm this apparent mystery. I’ve given Sand Dollar a week’s shore leave on paper. I know you don’t need it, but the Navy needs to know where all its equipment is at all times. If something important comes up I’ll call your sister Brianna stateside, okay?”

“You’ll know tomorrow if we can help, sir.” I told him. “Emily and I have to go prepare for our visit to the Demmit house.”

I turned and started for the door. Emily stood up and joined me.

“Ladies, may I escort you to the Captain’s chambers?” Uncle Rick asked as I heard the bench he was sitting on slide back noisily.

We stopped and waited at the door for him.

“Girls, first I want to thank both of you for doing this. I’m not sure that you’re involved, Alex, but no one I know of lives that long” He glanced over at both of us and shook his head. “Present company excepted.”

“You have doubts, don’t you, Uncle?”

“What I saw in the records at Reilly…they intrigued me, so yes, and I have many doubts as to Rusty’s resilience in the open sea and especially his longevity.”

“Maybe we’ll take a side trip to Kili to read up on our Mr. Brackenridge, sis?” I winked at Emily as we entered my office. Uncle Rick held the door for us.

“That would be prudent, Alex, but you had that planned already.”

“You know me so well, Emily.” I smiled.

“There is that, but I’d do the same, sis.” she laughed.

Uncle Rick gave a chuckle as well.

“So, sis, what are the names of our two cousins?” I asked as I sat behind my desk.

“Their names were Allison and Andrea Demmit.” Uncle Rick volunteered before Emily said one word. “I only met them twice- once at my cousin, Anna’s wedding before I shipped out from Boston in April of ’17. Before that, they visited with us for several weeks when we were children- I was about six or seven years old, I believe. I’m not sure Ruthie would remember them though. Then something happened. Dad never talked about it or kept in touch with Uncle Alistair after that- I don’t think they saw eye-to-eye on something. Anyway, we heard rumors that Uncle Alistair had died just before Christmas of 1916. One thing I do remember is being very surprised by the strong family resemblance between Allison and your mother, Emily! ”

“So, do we have to meet any certain physical appearances, Uncle Rick, or will just looking the way we do suffice?” I asked out of curiosity.

“Not that I’m aware of, Alex. As I recall they both had darkish, blonde hair, both were about your height, and I seem to remember my cousin Allison had these beautiful blue…”

Uncle Rick’s eyes suddenly got big as saucers as he stared intently at me. Instantly, he stood up, turned and headed straight for the door!

“I need a drink!” He growled.

Admiral Demmit disappeared out the door.

“What was that all about?” Emily asked, looking to me intently trying to see what our uncle had seen.

“Me…rather, us, Emily.”

“I’m not getting it, Alex.”

“Uncle Rick just started to describe me.”

“You?”

“Me- as I look right now. In doing so, he gave me the perfect place and time for our stay.”

“A wedding? That’s perfect, Alex. Grandfather and Grandmother Demmit would’ve gladly opened their home to any out of state ‘relatives’ for a wedding!”

“I’m not going to be real pleasant to be around- just a warning, sis.”

“I’m not that dense, Alex, I know what you meant in the Mess hall. Why don’t you bring some of those twenty-first century things with you? They would be far more comfortable than anything from the time period.”

“Let’s not talk about it, sis, even after fourteen years it’s…”

Emily started laughing.

“Even after fourteen years, you’re still such a boy, Alexandra Steinert!” She continued to laugh.

After a moment, she abruptly stopped.

“We’ll need to go shopping for party dresses!”

“Yay.” I said with as little enthusiasm as I could.

“No, really! We’ll need period gowns for the wedding, Alex.”

“That’s what our Reilly suits are for, sis.”

“Still we’ll need to see what styles are out when we get there. Then we design our clothes accordingly.”

“Fine, we’ll leave after I get the specifics from Uncle Rick…before he gets too loaded!”
 
 

1311 hours, The Roland Demmit House, Hartford, Connecticut, April 11th, 1917
 
 

“Y’all never told me your grandparents lived in a mansion, Emily!”

“It’s only three stories, Alex- hardly a mansion.”

“But the thing takes up almost half a city block, sis!”

“Alex, Grandfather only owns a quarter of the block counting the grounds.”

“This place is bigger than Ma an’ Pa’s house, the barn, an’ the wood shed combined, Emily!”

“I’ve seen your barn, Alex, and it’s about half the size of this house! Now, y’all need to drop that drawl! We’re all Yankees in this family.”

“Of course, sister, I knew that. Shall we look around at the local population so that we may find a secure location to reconstitute ourselves into this temporal stream?”

“We were never British, sis! The Demmit’s’ originated in Bavaria. Great-great-great Grandfather was a Hessian soldier attached to a British Regiment. He changed sides shortly after Valley Forge and fled to Long Island. From there he helped the resistance smuggle supplies across Long Island Sound. The story goes he met Gram on one visit to Connecticut. There’s a portrait in my Grandparent’s foyer of them.”

Several couples walked past as we watched and waited. This era’s fashions seemed more modern and sensible- at least the dresses had higher hemlines! One woman stopped to check her heel after almost tripping on a seam in the concrete sidewalk.

“Good, only two inch heels!” I whispered excitedly.

Emily laughed. “I know for a fact they went higher, Alex.”

“Any idea on our foundations, sis?” I asked, feeling my cheeks warm.

“For that we have to either go upstairs, or go into town- your choice, Alex.”

“I’ll feel like a Peeping Tom, but we’re here so let’s go in, sis.”

Emily led me up the short walk and onto the beautiful, ornate front porch.

We easily passed through the wide, solid maple, double front doors and headed up to the second floor. Emily pointed to the first door on the right as we reached the beautiful, wooden railed balcony, which overlooked the huge foyer.

“This was…is my mother’s room. We should be able to discern what the women of this age wore underneath. She should be seventeen and her style of dress should match what we would need.”

I nodded and she pulled me gently into what turned out to be a bedroom suite!

“No, this isn’t a mansion at all, Em! Her closet is bigger than my room back home!” I said as I gazed in awe around the small, centralized living area.

I thought our room at the White House in 1865 was spacious! This made that look like a cheap hotel room in East St. Louie!

“Knock it off, Alex! Her bedroom is over here.”

Emily guided me to the right, through a plain, white painted door. Beyond was a beautiful four-poster bed complete with white, flower-embroidered canopy prominently placed in the center of the room.

“Wow! How many people did you say lived here, sis?” I asked, still in awe of what I was seeing.

“Grandmother, Grandfather, Uncle Rick, and Mother.” She hesitated. “And six servants.” She added quickly with a giggle.

“It’s just a simple country cottage- no big deal.” I rolled my eyes and shook my head.

“Just stay close, Alex Steinert.”

“Um, we’re still phased out, Em.” I reminded her.

“Mother’s dressing closet is over here.” She continued, ignoring me completely.

Before us were prime examples of early twentieth century feminine finery.

“So how do we copy both garment and fabric, Alex?”

“We have to rephase and use our sense of touch, of course!”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Alex. What if mother comes in?”

“I’m working on it.” I replied as I asked the proper questions of my internal friend.

Nodding once to myself, I gave Emily her answer. “We have four minutes starting now. one thousand-one, one thousand-two, one thousand-three…”

My sister dropped my hand and began touching every piece of lingerie and every dress, skirt, and blouse.

A floorboard squeaked as Emily moved farther into the cavernous wardrobe. We gave each other a panicked look.

“Make that one minute, sis!” I whispered as loud as I dared.

I heard the suite’s doorknob jiggle and start to turn in the outer room.

“Or less! Take my hand, sis!”

“Hello? Miss Ruth, are you in here?” An older woman’s voice echoed through the rooms.

“Now Ruthie, you’re too mature to be playing these sorts of games now. Come on out, young lady.” The yet unseen woman said as she closed on our position.

Emily barely touched my hand as the middle-aged housekeeper came into view.

“Huh! I could have sworn someone was in here.” The woman said as she sniffed at the air once or twice.

“She can smell us, Em!” I said in fear of being discovered.

“That’s Mrs. Haroth. She looks the same as I remember!” Emily exclaimed as the woman walked through us examining the giant closet.

“Get enough information for our clothes, sis?” I changed the subject as we quickly left the room the same way as we had come in. Hurrying down the stairs and out the front door, we again found ourselves out on the sidewalk.

“I just finished coordinating our wardrobe, sis.” She told me after a minute or so.

“Good I’ll setup the link between our Reilly suits.”

Almost instantly the file transfer commenced and two minutes later I was browsing through our very own 1917 fashion catalog.

“Great, they still have corsets.” I growled in displeasure.

“I don’t think these will be quite so tight, Alex. The cut and length are less severe than those torture devices from the 1860’s.”

“If you say so, sis. We better change now, I’m starting to get nervous about…you know.”

“Ok, I think I’ll wear the light brown, poplin skirt with the yellow and white striped v-neck, sailor collar, blouse…maybe with the black heels and beige stockings.” Emily said with just the slightest hint of enthusiasm. Her Reilly suit immediately began to change. After it finished, I moved my hands to her hips so she could put our hair up and still be out of phase.

She didn’t look that bad! In fact, with her hair pinned up into what she called a ‘chignon’ she looked quite attractive.

“Alex Steinert, are you jealous?”

Emily must have misread my expression.

“No, you look very pretty, sis.”

I made my own selections and triggered the change; standing on my tiptoes to accommodate the shoes I had chosen.

Just as a precaution, I exhaled.

“I knew you couldn’t pass that one up, sis. You look marvelous.” She praised.

I had chosen a blue and white, sailor collared blouse with some Aztec style design along the collar’s edge and matching scarf, a black and white plaid skirt, white stockings and white heels. I could feel the firm, but acceptable pressure applied to my frame by the corset beneath. To my surprise, it wasn’t too bad…for a corset!

Each of us also had matching blazers and fabric purses…or were they called handbags in this time?

“Are we ready, Andrea? I asked, as I looked Emily over once more.

Something was missing.

“Alex, we have to put our hats on. No self-respecting woman of the day would be caught without her hat.” She whispered as she placed a light blue, slightly floppy brimmed, woven straw hat haphazardly on her head.

That was it! She quickly took my hat from my side, undoing it from the small button at the waist of my skirt. As I held my hand to Emily’s waist she positioned and pinned my white, flower decorated, wide-brimmed, straw hat into my hair. Once she was holding my waist, I did the same for her.

We were now ready to make our appearance at Emily’s Grandparents’ home.

After making sure nobody would see us appear, I rephased us on the front porch directly in front of the doors we had passed through just moments before.

We looked at each other and each of us took in a big breath of air. We were still holding hands.

“Ready?” I asked quietly.

“As I’ll ever be, I guess.” She replied equally apprehensive.

Emily reached for the doorbell knob and pulled.

I felt the first hint of my monthly visitor as we heard the bell tinkle somewhere inside. I squeezed Emily’s hand tighter.

“You really should try to stop cutting it so close, Al…”

The left door opened slightly.

“Ruth? What in heaven’s name are you doing out there?” She looked at me, upset.

I just blinked at her a few times in silence.

“Mrs. Haroth?” Emily asked in a timid voice.

The woman opened the door fully and looked at both of us.

“Oh, I thought you were…” She stopped as she stared into my eyes. She began looking us up and down.

“Yes, dear, I’m Olivia Haroth and who are you?” She continued to evaluate us both.

“I’m Andrea Demmit and this is my sister Allison, ma’am. We’re in town for the Richardson Wedding on Saturday. Father told us to look up Uncle Roland if we should ever be in Hartford?”

“Andrea and Allison Demmit, you say?”

“Yes, ma’am.” I replied quietly as I started to worry that Uncle Rick’s memory might be errant.

“I haven’t seen you girls since you were small!” She smiled at both of us. “Your aunt and uncle neglected to inform me you might be coming.”

“I’m not sure they got our telegram, ma’am. Father was told there was some trouble on the lines between here and Albany when he sent our RSVP.

“Well come in, girls! Your aunt and uncle will be overjoyed that you two came!”

We were warmly ushered in and, after surrendering our hats and jackets, shown to the Parlor room.

“Have a seat here and I’ll get your Aunt Amelia. She’s out in the greenhouse tending to the Easter flowers. Would you girls care for something to eat- something to drink perhaps?”

“Could I have a cup of Earl Grey- two sugars, please, ma’am?”

“Certainly dear. I’m partial to that myself! And anything for you, dear?” Mrs. Haroth looked at me with a strange smile.

“Same for me if you please?” I asked timidly.

“Of course, dear, but I had you pegged for a coffee drinker.” Her face started to sadden a bit.

“Oh, if it’s not too much of an imposition, ma’am? Black, please?” I replied, looking up and giving her a guarded smile.

“I thought as much! Your cousin, Ruth, favors coffee too! I can’t believe how much the two of you look alike, and I just love those blue eyes, dear!” Mrs. Haroth’s face beamed at me.

“Thank you, ma’am.” I blushed.

“I’ll be back in a few.”

The housekeeper turned for the pocket doors that lead out into the foyer, but stopped and sniffed once. She turned back to us with a confused look on her face.

This started me worrying all over again. “Anything wrong, Mrs. Haroth?” I asked in a small voice.

“That scent. I think I’ve smelled that once already today.” She looked directly at me. I felt myself start to tense.

“I told you that you put too much of that on this morning, Allie! She could smell you as soon as we got off the train!”

I caught on immediately. “But I like it, Andie!”

“It’s enough to choke the horses!” Emily groused.

“It’s really not that strong, dear. Don’t let your sister trouble you.” Mrs. Haroth interrupted our little disagreement.

“Yes, ma’am.” I shyly replied.

“Mrs. Haroth, did I hear the doorbell?” A very familiar, but younger voice asked from the foyer.

“Ruth, dear? Come see who just arrived.”

Momma Scott appeared in the wide doorway.

Emily and I stood from our chairs.

It was like looking into a mirror!

“Oh…my…GOD!” Ruth Demmit exclaimed as we stared at each other, face to face.

“Ruth, do you remember your cousins, Allison and Andrea?”

“Allison?” Ruth Demmit repeated as we continued to stare, unmoving. She looked confused.

I knew the feeling, wondering how she hadn’t been a previous ‘Empress’. I could have been looking at a slightly younger version of me- or better yet, my granddaughter, Alexandra!

Ruth’s expression immediately changed to a huge smile.

“Empress!” She chimed out in excitement.

I felt any and all blood drain from my body!
 
 

“She’s coming around, Andie.”

“Well, ‘Empress’, did you have a good snooze?” I heard Emily ask. Why was there humor in her voice?

I opened my eyes to see me staring back.

“Now isn’t the time for a mirror, sis!”

“I’m not a mirror, cousin!” My face replied. It began giggling!

“Don’t you dare pass out on me again Allison Demmit! What would father think?” Emily groused at me from my left. She was busy taking my pulse.

“Ruthie, give her some air.” Emily asked in her professional voice.

Ruth Demmit withdrew a few feet, but continued to stare and giggle. I noticed Mrs. Haroth keeping her distance off to my right. I smelt coffee.

“They know, sis?” I asked as quietly as I could.

“Of course we know, Allison. That’s all you wanted to be called the last time you visited us. Don’t you remember?” Another woman’s voice replied from behind me.

I craned my neck up to see a woman resembling Emily only with medium brown hair. I noticed several streaks of gray running through it.

“Aunt Amelia?” I asked, quickly gathering my thoughts.

“Nice to know you still recognize me, sweetheart.” She giggled and walked around in front of me. “Now, can you two tell me why you’ve never visited until now?”

“Father was always too busy, Aunt Amelia- at least, that’s what he kept telling us.” Emily answered.

“How is my wily brother-in-law doing these days?”

As planned, if asked that or a similar question, Andie and I looked at each other sadly.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, girls. When?”

“Before Christmas, Ma’am.” Emily…Andie said sadly.

Aunt Amelia looked at both of us for a moment- as if debating what to do.

“No more will be said of the matter, girls. Allison, have a drink of your… Olivia, is that coffee in her cup?”

“That’s what she asked for, Mrs. Demmit.”

‘Aunt Amelia’ glared at Ruth, who cowered slightly.

“Olivia, bring my niece some of that fresh lemonade you just prepared.” She looked back at me. “Sweetheart, after that dizzy spell you need something sweet!”

I looked back at Andie. She nodded.

“Thank you, ma’am.” I said looking back to our ‘Aunt’.

“Allison, how old are you now, sweetheart?”

I paused to think about my answer. My calculation surprised me- I was forty!

“She’s twenty, Aunt Amelia, and I’m almost nineteen!” Emily…Andie answered for me.

“Then you are both adults and should call me Amelia or Amy. Is that clear girls?”

Andie and I nodded.

“I’m seventeen. I’m an adult. Can I call you by your first name, mother?” Ruth asked.

“Not in this lifetime, child!”

“oh.”

A memory of my Cassie asking a similar question came to mind.

“Now that’s the face I like to see!” Aunt…Amelia said noticing she had torn me away from my thoughts.

“Two bits for the thought, Allie?” Amelia asked.

“She’s probably thinking about her boyfriend from back in Albany.” Andie replied in a catty tone.

“Well you better snag him soon, sweetheart; time’s a wastin’ as they say!”

I fought hard to control the urge to say ‘I have all the time in the world’; instead I just nodded.

“Allie doesn’t seem to be in a hurry, Amelia. She thinks she has all the time in the world.” I saw a devious smirk appear on my sister’s face.

“You know I’m waiting for him to come home from the war, Andie.” I shot back.

“Oh, he’s fighting in Europe?” Amelia asked, intrigued by my response.

“He’s serving on a supply ship between England and the Mediterranean.”

“Well then there’s a good chance he’s dead already!” A male voice replied from the foyer.

The cruel voice was similar to Uncle Rick’s only more gravelly.

“Roland Walter Demmit! How dare you suddenly appear and dash a young woman’s hopes! Apologize to your niece this instant!”

“Why, I’ll do no such thing, woman! Since when do I take orders from you?”

“Since we married- the day you said ’I do’!”

Amelia didn’t wait for any response and continued chastising her husband. It seemed that company or servant, it didn’t matter…the Demmit family was an open book!

“You will forget about that disagreement with Alistair and apologize to these two young women, Roland! The differences between you and your brother are ancient history and don’t carry on to your nieces! Now apologize!”

I hadn’t expected Amelia to sound so angry or to attack with such tenacity, but I now saw where Emily’s mother got it from!

Grandfather Demmit was an older man- maybe fifty with mostly gray hair- almost white, really. He was about our height with a slight potbelly and wore a black suit with black leather shoes and a matching silk bowtie. Though several years old, it made him look respectable and worldly- not like some of the ‘snake oil salesman’ outfits- ‘dandy’s’ I think they were called, I had seen along the street on our arrival.

Roland Demmit was also the type of man that could carry a grudge for years- and still did!

I felt it my time to engage the potential enemy.

“Sir, I understand that something had transpired between you and our father, but at the time of the disagreement we were small children. I will not have you coming in with guns blazing just after our arrival! So, if you do not apologize, Andrea and I will have no other option than to seek residence elsewhere in Hartford! I refuse to have a member of my family insult my sister and I in such a cruel and rude manner!” I unloaded on the man before me.

We locked eyes and stared into each other’s soul- both of us refusing to yield even an inch!

A minute passed and we still remained locked in ocular combat! Two minutes passed, then three.

Roland Demmit abruptly started laughing. Had I won? I wasn’t sure.

Uncle Roland reached out and pulled me close. He embraced me tightly.

“Welcome to Hartford, Allison. Welcome Andrea.” He looked at my confused face and continued to chuckle. “I sincerely apologize for my rude behavior, ladies. I can see you have the Demmit spirit…and our stubbornness- something my dear brother sorely lacked. I thought I would never meet my equal at soul searching; now I have been bested- by my own niece of all people.”

Uncle Roland hugged me again after kissing the back of my hand. He repeated his welcome with Emi…Andie then left the room shaking his head, still chuckling.

“Gee, I never saw someone stare down father before- and certainly not besting him.” Ruth Demmit whistled.

“Well done, Allison. It’s about time my husband met his match! You two can stay as long as you like. Let me show you to your rooms.”

“We usually share a room when traveling, Amelia. Although we seem to fight a lot, we do enjoy each other’s company.” I deferred.

“As you wish, Allie, but we do have more than enough room.”

“Of that I am certain.” I laughed as I looked around the large Parlor room.

“Do you have a lavatory, Amelia?” I asked, feeling another twinge in my abdomen.

“Yes, dear, there is a water closet, bath, and basin at either end of the upstairs hall, one just off the foyer, and one in the servants’ quarters.”

“Thank you and please excuse me.” I said as I headed into the foyer.
 
 

“Ah, there you are, Allie. Would you girls like to see your room now?” Amelia asked as I returned to the Parlor. I noticed a glass of lemonade waiting for me.

Amelia apparently followed my eyes “Have a drink sweetheart. Olivia makes the best refreshments in Hartford.”

Mrs. Haroth smiled with pride from beside the entranceway to the room.

I looked over to her. “Thank you, Mrs. Haroth.” I took a sip. It did taste refreshing- and sweet! “It tastes wonderful, thank you!”

Taking a few more good swallows, I placed the glass down and looked at our hostess.

“That feels better. I’m ready now, Amelia.”
 
 

As it turned out there were six bedroom suites on the second floor and four for the servants on the third. Amelia escorted us down the nearer side hall to the suite next to Ruth’s. It was just as big, just as beautifully decorated, and just about as big as my office and quarters back on Atlantis-Minor!

“Girls? Where are your things? I didn’t notice them in the foyer.”

“The agent at the station told us he would see that our travel trunks were delivered sometime today.” I told Amelia. The tale had worked in St. Louis so I decided to use it again.

“I shall have Roland and Jeffery go down there with the White.” Our aunt said quickly.

“Amelia, I’m sure our baggage will arrive soon, if not tonight, then tomorrow. You don’t need to make a special trip.” I replied quickly trying to dissuade her.

Amelia Demmit looked at us- at me, for a moment. Her eyes met mine and looked deep. I wondered who had taught who- husband or wife!

Breaking eye contact with me, she took a step back and looked out into the hall in both directions.

“You Demmit’s are all the same- too proud to show weakness!” She scolded as she came back in and closed the door. “If you girls haven’t got baggage just say so! We’re family, that’s all that matters- destitute or not!”

Ruth gasped quietly as she looked between her mother and us.

“We have money, Aunt Amelia.” I produced a small bar of gold from my handbag. Emily had suggested I bring it along just in case, before we had left Reilly.

“Yes and it’s probably the last one if I know my brother-in-law! Ruth, I’m sure you and your cousins are close enough in size to lend them something to wear and sleep in tonight. Be a good hostess and fetch a few things.”

“Aunt Amelia, that won’t be…” Emil…Andie started to tell our hostess.

“Nonsense, sweetheart! And what did I say about calling me Amelia?”

“Amelia, we’re quite able to sleep in our underclothes and wear our dresses over again.” Andie told her.

“No niece of mine will ever wear the same outfit two days in a row, in the same week- is that understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.” We both surrendered.

“What was that, girls?”

“Yes, Amelia.” We chorused.

“And don’t forget it!” She punctuated her warning with a sharp nod of her head.

Amelia pointed to a couch behind us. “Have a seat, girls and tell me exactly why you’ve come to Hartford.”
 
 

“So, the two of you are only here for the ceremony and then you plan to move on? Where on Earth will you go next?” Amelia asked as we told her our well-rehearsed cover story.

“West.” I answered. I wasn’t lying either. I just didn’t tell her how far west. “We aren’t leeches. Andie and I can take care of ourselves, besides; we have friends that are very protective of us.” I added confidently. Nothing we had told her was a lie.

“Mother, I brought a few things as you asked.” Ruth entered our room carrying a large pile of clothes. How she held them all and could still see in front of her, I hadn’t a clue!

“Wonderful, honey, now let’s see what fits and what really looks good on these two!” Amelia walked over to the suite’s door and closed it, locking it in the process.
 
 

1415 hours, Hartford, Connecticut, April 12th, 1917
 
 

“Harriet, these are my two nieces from Albany. They both expect good fittings and I expect the same attention to details that you normally afford me! All purchases will be addressed to me and me exclusively, understood?”

“Of course, Amelia. When have you not known quality from me?”

“That’s why we’re here, dear. When one finds a reputable merchant, one supports her thoroughly. Let’s start with measurements, shall we? Allie, Andie, you know what to do dears.”

I gave Andie a look of dread as we were shown to separate small rooms at the back of the store.

“I want a selection of everyday and one special occasion corset, Harriet.” Aunt Amelia raised her voice from the front of the store. “And don’t let them tell you otherwise.”

“What did you two girls do? I’ve never seen Amelia so headstrong.” The tailor/seamstress asked quietly when out of earshot.

“Our baggage never made it to Hartford, not that we had very much.” Andie replied.

“Oh, that explains it. I take it you’re here for the wedding?”

“Yes, ma’am, we are.”

“Well, I can see that you two are Demmit’s through and through- in fact, Allie, you look surprisingly similar to your cousin Ruthie. The two of you could be twins!”

“I’ve heard that many times since our arrival yesterday, ma’am.”

“So why not borrow some of her clothes, dear?”

“Ruth’s clothes are a little tight on her, ma’am- up top.” Andie answered from next door while I just blushed.

Harriet immediately wrapped her measure around my bosom.

“Yes, I see that. So that is the only difference between you two? Tell me dear, do you like some of Ruth’s garments?”

“I like what I have on today, ma’am. This is one of her’s. A little too tight up here though.” I pointed to my tightly bound chest. “It feels like I’m wearing one of mother’s old whale-boned corsets!”

“Why would you even want to try on one of those old torture devices?”

“I ask myself that very question every time I think of it, ma’am.” I said flatly.

Emi…Andie tried to stifle a giggle. Harriet looked toward the fitting room’s wall in confusion then nodded.

“Let me guess, she goaded you into trying it on?”

“We both wore one.” I admitted.

“Well not to worry, I’ll have you two fitted properly in something that will caress your body, and give you just the right amount of curves!”
 
 

By the end of the day, Aunt Amelia had spent a small fortune on us! Shoes, stockings, dresses, skirts, blouses, even corsets were now in the tailoring stages at various shops around Hartford. Emily and I were dog-tired, run down, and looking forward to our bed- at least that was comfortable!

A formal dinner being served in the house’s large dining room brought about another round of interrogations by Uncle Roland.

“So, how is your father, Alistair these days?” Uncle Roland tried yet again to extract information.

“Roland, you asked the girls that same question last night, time to move on.” Aunt Amelia intercepted.

Emi…Andie and I again looked sadly at each other- the same as last night.

“Where is cousin Richard, Uncle Roland?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Richard will be here Friday eve, Allison. He is preparing to ship out next week.”

“Oh? Where is he being stationed?”

“Richard joined the Navy against my wishes.”

“But Amelia said you were in the Navy, Uncle?” I pressed.

“That was peacetime, Allison, but I’m sure you wouldn’t understand the difference.”

What a slap in the face!

“I’m not so sure about that Uncle Roland. Typically, the American Military has been very lax during peacetime and even around the onset of every such confrontation to this point in history. Although morale was fairly high during peacetime, duty assignments, respect, and attitudes left every branch of the military weak. It seems that until war breaks out, the United States is happy to just sit by and watch. Although, there is the saying ‘practice makes perfect’? I’m sure while deployed, you practiced your duty station constantly?”

I watched as Ruth’s mouth dropped open. Amelia, too, looked shocked by my narrative.

“You see, Amy? This is what happens when women are schooled in things they cannot possibly fathom!”

“The thing I cannot possibly fathom, Uncle, is why you consistently berate women and their cognitive abilities! Clearly you have been oblivious to the actual acuity shown by Amelia and Ruth- or even Olivia for that matter! When you leave for your job every morning the last thing on your mind is you! What will YOU do today? What sort of business will YOU do? What will YOU eat for lunch? Whereas, Amelia or Olivia ask; what should we make for us? What do we need from the market for lunch- for dinner? What needs to be done for the household to continue to function properly?”

“We women have a lot more on our minds beside just worrying about how pretty we look for our man! Tell me, Uncle Roland, do you even remember, let alone know the proper procedure for readying a three-inch deck gun? How about the steps needed to disassemble or reassemble a model 1911 naval issue Colt pistol? Maybe you would like to entertain us with the proper use of sextant and compass for global navigation?”

“I don’t have to sit here and take such abuse from my severely misguided niece!” Uncle Roland started to stand from his place at the head of his table.

“Please sit back down, Uncle, I’m not finished yet!” I told the man calmly as I produced and pulled back the action on my personal 1911 Colt.

Everyone at the table gasped!

“Someone call the police!” He gasped out before sliding back down into his chair.

“I assure you Uncle, I mean you no harm. The weapon is solely for the purpose of illustration.” I told everyone as I ejected the clip and handed it to Amelia. I gently released the action and recocked it to remove the round set in the chamber.

Within five minutes I had demonstrated my prowess with small arms- having set a new record for breaking down my weapon and reassembling it completely.

“I am also comfortable with compass and sextant, navigation by chart calculation, and dead reckoning by the stars. I have also studied military tactics extensively. Feel free to ask me any question about any naval vessel, Uncle!” I retrieved my clip from a stunned Aunt Amelia and reinstalled it before gently placing the Colt back in my handbag.

Everyone at the table remained silent for a number of minutes.

“So you think this impresses me, Allison- familiarity with a pistol? Only a woman would think of such childish escapades.”

“I also know how to use it, sir- very well, in fact.” I raised an eyebrow.

“I wish you and your sister to leave this house at once! Nightfall or not, I will not have such eccentric females in my residence!”

Uncle Roland went to stand again.

“So, Uncle Roland, what will become of your business when prohibition is enacted?”

I must have hit a nerve as everyone at the table stared intently at me.

“It will pass, Uncle, and the family distillery might go under if you don’t modify your product line.”

“How do you know about my business?” Uncle Roland looked angrily at Amelia.

“Amelia has no idea about what I ask, uncle. I know that the nineteenth amendment will pass in the next two years- I have seen it.”

At this point, I saw Emily start to rub her forehead nervously.

“Yes, Uncle, I am what you call clairvoyant.” I paused to watch his reaction.

“So now you can see the future? Tell me, niece, what shall I do in order to stay solvent?”

“Isopropyl alcohol and vinegar.”

“Iso-what alcohol and vinegar?”

“Isopropyl alcohol, Uncle Roland. Medical-grade alcohol. Some people refer to it as wood or rubbing alcohol.” Emil…Andie explained.

Now we both were being stared at like sideshow freaks.

“So now you are a businessman and you, Andrea, are a physician?” Uncle Roland asked.

“In ano…a manner of speaking, yes, she is.” I answered, almost saying too much.

“I have been schooled in battlefield triage, Uncle, we plan to travel to France and assist at a rear area hospital.” Andie revealed. “While enroute, Allie and I will assist the doctor onboard.”

“So tell me, Dr. Demmit, what is my current physical condition?” Roland asked with obvious contempt.

Emil…Andie closed her eyes. I hoped she would go easy on him!

“Currently you are in fine health considering your forty-eight years and constant social drinking. You’ve had three broken bones in the past- two knuckles in your left hand- probably from bar fights, and a compound fracture of your lower right leg. Judging from the calcium deposited around the injury, it happened at an early age, say, ten or twelve. The joints of both hands show signs of advanced arthritis and are also inflamed causing severe pain in cold weather.” Andie rattled away.

“Oh, you are also having problems with your stomach. I suggest you take bicarbonate of soda before every meal for six weeks to rid yourself of that ulcer. Also, I recommend cutting back on the cigars.”

“You told me you stopped smoking those disgusting things last year, Roland!” Amelia interupted.

“Amy, she can’t possibly know by just closing her eyes! There is something wrong here!”

“Then how does she know about your broken leg and knuckles, Roland? How does she know about the constant heartburn you’ve been having?” Amelia questioned.

“Olivia, you should stop being so vein and purchase a pair of shoes that are comfortable and the proper size for your feet. Wearing shoes two sizes smaller than you should will deform the bones of the feet and cause even more severe pain if continued.”

“Ruth,” Andie continued, “You have a problem with…Ouch! Alllllie, that hurt!”

“You were rambling, sis- starting to make no sense, whatsoever.” I said, trying to subtly inform her that she almost went too far.

Mrs. Haroth, I noticed, was busy looking back and forth between her feet and my sister.

“How do you two know these things?” Ruth asked, impressed by our display.

“Ask your father how he is so successful in business, Ruth. It’s a gift passed down on the Demmit side, or so father told us.” I informed her.

“That is absolute nonsense! If we listened to you, you would have us believing my ancestors were some kind of witches or sorcerers!”

“I’m not saying anything of the sort, Uncle Roland. I’m merely saying that somewhere, deep inside of each of us, there is a special trait- gift- talent- ability- whatever, that we either develop or ignore. Sometimes we develop it unknowingly as with your ‘business sense’- that ability you cherish that allows you to look into a client’s mind- ‘judging his character’ you call it. It has been passed down from generation to generation in our family and shall continue to be passed along for many more.” I said before pausing.

“Tell me, Uncle Roland, what did you see last evening when we came eye to eye?”

“That’s my business, no one else’s!”

“Really? I’ll tell you what I saw, sir. I saw a man very much in conflict with his feelings. A man that wishes things had developed differently between him and his brother. A man that worries constantly about his son and his choice to join the Navy- worried that he may not survive the war, but also worried about how far the son will advance above his own final rank of Lieutenant. You sir, are constantly worrying about your business and your employees, but especially you worry about the security and safety of your family, yet you are unwilling to verbally admit anything. So, now that I have revealed my findings, it’s your turn, uncle.”

Uncle Roland looked extremely embarrassed and remained quiet for a few minutes. He kept looking to me as though I had injured him in some way. That hadn’t been my intent.

“When I looked into your eyes, Allison, I” He glanced away for a second. “I saw the soul of a person that was every bit my equal, able to command and garner the respect of those under her?” He shook his head as if clearing some stray thought.

“I saw a woman of timeless wisdom and knowledge- a kind, giving, protective being, unbiased in most of her beliefs. I saw someone driven to do the right things- to right any wrongs encountered.” He paused again.

“When I looked into your eyes, my dear niece, Allison, I…I see the vast and limitless expanse of this wonderful, majestic universe! Looking into your eyes was like looking into infinity!”

Wow, he was good, though I doubted he believed half of what he’d said!

Amelia’s mouth dropped open. She quickly wiped a tear away.

“Allison, I’d like to speak with you and Andie, if you please!”

“Am I to come along too, mother?” Ruth asked.

“Stay and keep your father here, dear!”

“Oh, all right.”
 
 

1825 hours, The Roland Demmit House, Hartford, Connecticut, April 12th, 1917
 
 

“I want the truth from you two this instant! First you tell me that you will be heading west after this wedding. Now all of a sudden you two are hopping a troop ship to Europe! Girls, I’m having a hard time believing either story right now!” Amelia confronted us as soon as we were out of earshot of the dining room.

“And how do you know so much about coming events? I didn’t even know about the temperance bill reaching Congress and I’m a member of the Connecticut Committee! It’s as though you know what’s going to happen- like this is somehow your history!” Amelia glared at me personally.

“Amelia, Allie has already explained that she is a clairvoyant- something passed down from Grandfather Richard.”

“You see? This is what sets me to wondering! You, Andrea, seem to know the family history quite well. Allison,” She motioned to me, “Seems less sure about her family lineage. That observation stands in total disagreement with your physical appearances. Clearly you are both sisters and both Demmit’s, so why do I get the feeling you are not my nieces?”

Emily and I both sighed. What did Chief Samuels call these awkward situations?

Oh ya- an ‘OH SHIT’ moment!

“Excuse me a moment, girls.” Amelia smiled and walked back out to the dining room.

“Olivia, we’ll need two cups, a pot of Earl Grey, and a cup of black coffee in my sewing room, please. Dear, I will be a while and will see you in our room later. Ruth, you have schoolwork to finish, I believe.” She told the occupants there.

“Now then, girls, we have a lot to discuss. Please have a seat, won’t you?” She said as she returned and we entered the sewing room. Amelia shut the door and locked it after Mrs. Haroth delivered our drinks so we wouldn’t be disturbed. Since I was grounded it would also make escape very difficult.

Emily and I looked at each other, unsure of where this conversation might go.

“Now, girls, how about we address your true relationship to me?”

“We are related, Amelia.” Emily stated.

“I understand that, Andie, but how?”

“I guess we’re well beyond blind faith, Amelia?” I asked calmly.

“Unquestionably, Allison.”

“Listen, Grandmother Demmit, our intentions were not to mislead you. Alex and I came here to research a certain incident about to happen.”

“Grandmother Demmit? I have no grandchildren yet, Andrea. And what of this Alex you speak of, or is that your real name, Allison?”

My vision started to narrow.

“Alex, don’t you dare pass out on me again.” Emily slapped my face just as stars began filling my vision.

Amelia looked at me with concern.

“My name, Grandmother, is Emily Amelia Scott. I am the daughter of Ruth Scott. Alexandra IS my sister.”

“Ruth isn’t even married dear, so there is no way I have grandchildren.”

“Not yet she isn’t, ma’am. Y’all will have another weddin’ in fourteen months.” I let my drawl loose, causing Amelia to stare strangely at me for some time.

“Grandmother, I was born in 1920.” Emily admitted while looking at the floor. “Alex was born in 1916.”

Amelia now stared strangely between the two of us. I could see a thousand questions running through her mind. One question in particular kept repeating.

“Yes, I’m from Missouri, ma’am, Oak Ridge to be exact, and proud of it.” I answered her yet to be asked question.

“But your accent, Allison, it’s from…” She stopped the second she realized that I had apparently just read her mind. I proceeded to answer her next two questions.

“No, Mother Ruth didn’t move there, and it’s very complicated, ma’am. If I tried to explain, you would probably require Emily’s medical services.”

“Why will my daughter move…How are you doing this?” Amelia went to pick up her teacup but only managed to lift it a fraction of an inch before letting it drop back to the saucer.

We stayed silent for a number of minutes and watched Amelia’s mind work. I placed my hand on Emily’s to let her know things would work out. She in turn, looked to me and nodded.

“H.G. Wells!” Amelia giggled out nervously. “Girls, you really had me fooled.”

“Grandmother?” Emily asked in surprise.

“The Time Machine! I read that book too, sweetheart.”

“I know what it is, Grandmother. I’m not quite getting the reference though.” Emily said, confused.

“Somehow you two have managed to adapt Wells’ book into a parlor game. How else could you know what I would ask before I actually asked it?”

Silently I reached for my handbag and retrieved my leather billfold, opened it to my Missouri driver’s license and handed it to Amelia.

“What’s this dear?” She asked as she took it in her hand and looked at it.

Her expression changed drastically.

“Why show me this? Who is Alexander Steinert? Why would you have your intended’s billfold?”

“Could you read me the date of issue, Amelia- maybe even observe the date on the currency?”

“Alexander F. Steinert, RD 2 Oak Ridge, Mo. Issued August 14th, 1934.”

Amelia again looked at me very intently and began pulling a few bills from the long sleeve.

“1942, 1942, 1940, 1944.” She mumbled as she read off the dates.

My wallet dropped to the floor, the dollar bills casually floated down as well.

I saw her next question.

“I told you it gets complicated, Amelia.”

“How is this possi…” Amelia glared at me! Her angry expression started to concern me. “Stop that this instant, Allison, or Alex, or whatever you real name is!”

Amelia Demmit began to cry.

“She’ll be okay, sis. She just needs a little time.”

“I know that Alex, I’ve been watching her vital signs since we arrived. And don’t tell me something that I’ve already seen for myself.” Emily warned as she knelt before Amelia and pulled her close.

“Honest, Grandmother, this is the farthest thing from what we intended to happen, please don’t cry? I never liked it when you cried. It always reminded me of the day the angels were cast down from heaven.”

Amelia abruptly pushed Emily back a little and looked into her eyes.

“What did you just say?”

“I asked you not to cry, Grandmother, why?”

“No, you finished with ‘the day the angels were cast down from heaven’!”

“Yes, that’s what you taught me when I was a young girl. We would visit every other weekend when possible.”

Amelia wrapped her arms around Emily and squeezed.

“I have a granddaughter!” She cried, repeating the fact several times.

“I would never lie to you about that, Grandmother.” Emily told her.

I bent down to collect the contents of my billfold.

“But what about you, Allison? What is your real relationship to me?”

I looked at Emily for a minute. “Mother Scott…Ruth…she sort of adopted me, Amelia.”

“Alexandra Steinert is where the relationships become complicated, Grandmother.” Emily hinted.

“Alexandra…Steinert?” She blinked several times. “I’ve heard rumor of the Bohemians in Paris from friends that have traveled there before the war, but I never expected…”

“Amelia, I assure you that I am female- have been for fourteen years now. You saw that earlier today when you brought more clothes for me to try on.”

“You are confusing me, Alexandra. How can such a thing be possible?”

“Believe me, even though I know the science behind it, I’ve still asked that same question several times in the last fourteen years.”

“You keep referring to fourteen years- how old are you, if you don’t mind?”

“Well, right before we left base I figured out that I’m somewhere around forty.”

“Forty?”

“Grandmother, Alex doesn’t measure time the same way we do.”

“You’re not making sense, Andrea.”

“Amelia, if I wasn’t in the middle of my monthly grounding, I’d show you exactly what she means. Until it’s over though, just know that I am able to transit through time- forwards and backwards- to any time and place in any universe. If I wanted to, if I were able to travel, I could go back to the beginning of this conversation and appear…”

I felt a slight breeze on the back of my neck; I also noticed that Amelia was now looking over my head. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes widened substantially. Emily covered her eyes, shook her head, and giggled nervously.

“I’m doing it aren’t I? I’m standing behind myself?”

“You certainly are, Alex. As if you didn’t already know.” I heard myself giggle. “I hope this was not a strain on you, Amelia. We needed you to know whom and what we are; why we came here initially. Next Wednesday, I’ll be able to show you some wonderful things and places. The only thing Emily and I ask is that you tell no one of what you see, hear, or experience. I’ll let this Alex finish explaining things- Emily and I are preparing to travel back to our own time in order to finish this mission. We will meet again, Grandma Demmit. Bye for now.”

I watched Amelia blink twice before she returned her attention to me.

“Believe me now, Amelia?” I asked flatly.

“How did you do that?”

“Alex is what we call ‘The Empress of Time and Space’, Grandmother. As you have seen, she can and does travel across time.”

“And space, Emily, let’s not forget about space.”

“So, that’s why you passed out yesterday when Ruth called you ‘Empress’? You thought she knew your secret?”

I pointed to her with one hand and my nose with the other.

“Grandfather Roland was right in his description of Alex, Grandmother. She travels through time repairing the bumps and discrepancies to keep the timeline or time stream as she calls it, on track.” Emily paused to take a breath, and to gauge how much Amelia believed.

“Uncle Rick asked us to come back and look into a mysterious event that will happen next year. Since Alex can’t travel through time when she gets her monthly, we figured that visiting you and Grandfather would give her a chance to become better acquainted with her adopted family. We never expected that you would become suspicious, or that Grandfather would challenge Alex to a mind duel!”

“Uncle Rick- you mean my Richard?”

We both nodded.

“He asked you to come back and fix something that wasn’t to happen?”

“Something like that, ma’am. When he told us about the wedding, I thought it was the perfect event to weather out my…” I let the sentence drop. Everyone in the room knew what I meant.

“That’s why you wait until next Wednesday to demonstrate your power- when the bleeding stops?”

I looked to the floor. “Yes, ma’am, but we call them our gifts, not powers. That would imply using them to forcibly control things, Amelia.”

“And you intend on showing me…things. Is that correct?”

“Whatever I said just now, Amelia.” I pointed a thumb back behind me.

“Grandmother, I have known Alex for quite some time now, she has never been anything but truthful.” Emily added.

I knew what the next few questions were going to be, so I just answered them.

“Amelia, I could tell you when you would die and how, but that would possibly change your future. I have no desire to say anything that would have you waste your time waiting for that time and place, nor do I desire to reveal the future of any other member, related or otherwise, of our family.”

“If you understand anything about time travel- say from Mr. Wells’ book- you would know that what we say and do or decide in the present, dictates what the future holds for each of us. If you learn too much about your own future, you may end up affecting not only yours, but ours as well. There is the possibility that if we damage the present too much, we may never exist at all.” I explained, motioning to Emily and I.

“That’s why the fewer people that know about us, the easier it is to remedy things and return home.” Emily finished explaining.

The conversation died and we remained silent for some time.

“Andrea, would you like me to freshen your tea, sweetheart?” Amelia broke the silence and Emily nodded, she then looked to me.

“Allison, that coffee has to be ice cold by now. Would you like Olivia to bring a fresh cup?”

“No, ma’am, it’s getting late and I think maybe Emi…Andie and I should turn in for the night.” I went to stand, but Emily stayed seated.

“Grandmother, how can you just sit there and be so understanding? When everything started to happen, I thought I would go crazy! Why are you so calm about all this- about us?”

“Andie, if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes, you two would already be on your way to the sanitarium. Since Allison decided to demonstrate her …her gift, I’m obliged to believe. Your secrets are safe with me, girls. By the way, Andie, what are your gifts?”

“Whereas Al…Allie can see the future of people and places, I am able to see people’s health- their medical future if you will. In fact, seeing my own creation and birth from this viewpoint is somewhat disturbing!”

“So are you really a doctor, dear?” Amelia asked Emily.

“I earned my PHD from Norfolk Naval Medical Hospital in February, 1944, Grandmother, so yes I am a bonified physician.

“You are actually in the Navy, Andie?”

Emily nodded. “Al…Allison is too, Grandmother. She’s a Commander and captains her own submarine.”

“They allow women to command Navy ships in your time?”

“Well, not really, that’s where it gets really complicated. I think we should let you come to terms with the information we just gave you before heading into the really unbelievable stuff.” I explained as Andie looked over to me.

“Allie’s right, Amelia, we should get to bed. I’m sure you have something special planned for us tomorrow.” Andie smiled nervously.

“Oh, indeed I do my nieces! Tomorrow we search the cobbled byways for the elusive formal dress! Who knows, we may even end up in Bridgeport!” Amelia said as she placed the key back in the door and unlocked it.

Opening the door, Amelia almost walked into her daughter. Both women were startled.

“Mother! I’m sorry! I was just about to knock…I didn’t know you three were finished.”

“Ruth, were you spying on us, sweetheart?”

“No! No, I was just coming to ask if Allie or Andie could help me with my history assignment.” Ruth blushed ever so slightly.

Emily and I looked at each other. I had to shrug my shoulders, telling her that I didn’t know if Ruth had over heard any of our conversation.

“I might be able to help you with that, Ruth. I have a penuche for the subject.” I smiled at her.

Ruth smiled broadly at me.

“Don’t you three stay up too late now, we have a lot of things to do tomorrow and you have school in the morning, young lady.”

“No I don’t mother, I’m staying home to get ready for the rehearsal, remember?”

“Who said you could stay home from school, Ruthie?”

“You did.”

“So I did… I want you up and ready to catch the train to Bridgeport by 6:30! If you aren’t ready, we leave without you, understand?”

“Oh yes, mother! I love you!” Ruth grabbed both our hands and yanked us behind her. “Come on you two, we don’t have much time!”
 
 

2340 hours, The Roland Demmit House, Hartford, Connecticut, April 13th, 1917
 
 

“I don’t think I can walk another step, Em! These shoes are killing my feet!” I exclaimed as I fell backwards onto our bed.

Today started out easy enough- get cleaned up and dressed; eat; catch a train to Bridgeport. Then things got tougher- hit ten or so stores looking for the perfect dress; hitting ten cobblers for the perfect pair of shoes; enter a local tavern for lunch and get eyed up then hit on by the patrons; catch the train back to Hartford, and finally change for the wedding rehearsal and dinner afterward!

“I didn’t tell you to wear those old Granny boots, Allie! I thought you hated those three-inch heels? Didn’t you swear you’d never wear them again once we left 1865?”

“I thought they looked good with this dress, Andie. I got a lot of compliments on them in town today.”

“Who wouldn’t compliment someone on a pair of boots fifty years out of date?”

“But they’re brand new, sis.”

“Relatively.”

“I think I’m going to wear something modern to bed tonight, sis.” I told her, having stripped down to my ‘modern’ corset.

It immediately transformed into my favorite pink negligee.

“Gee, there’s something different. Now get under the covers before Momma barges in and sees you!” Emily said with as much sarcasm as she could.

The combination of mattress and nightie felt wonderful and I quickly started to doze off.

“Girls, are you decent?” Amelia called from the suite’s sitting room.

I jumped out of bed and quickly keyed up my friendly 1917 corset.

“How…?”

“Please shut the door, Grandmother!” Emily said, exasperated. “You’re going to explain this one, Allie.” Emily said as she gently sat down on the bed and pulled the covers over her feet. She had elected to wear one of Ruth’s borrowed nightdresses.

“Please have a seat, Amelia.”

I waited while she sat down on the dressing table’s chair.

“You remember what we told you about my ability to travel through time, right?” I started.

“Yes, Alexandra, I’m not completely muddled!”

“No, I never once thought you were, Amelia. Anyway, because I can travel through time…”

“And space!” Emily giggled mischievously.

“Yes, and space, I have the advantage of visiting other worlds.” I paused looking for any hint as to how Amelia would react.

She remained silent and I continued.

“I visited a small world in another universe- actually it’s something called a planetoid.”

“Huh! More like taken hostage, sis.” Emily again added with a devious grin.

Amelia quickly glanced over to Emily then returned her attention to me- her expression showing concern.

“I helped the inhabitants escape a major cataclysm there.”

“She brought the whole darn research station back to Earth!” Emily said interrupting again.

I glared back at my sister!

“Can I finish this story or should I let you giggle through it?”

“You’re doing good so far, sis.”

“The women of the station have gifts like Andie and I. They also have technology more advanced than we do. Along with some brilliant scientists on yet another planet I visited in this universe, we developed clothing that can be made to look like anything in existence…here.”

I pulled on today’s dress, stockings, and shoes, and turned around so that Amelia could watch the garments fasten themselves.

Our guest gasped in surprise as my clothes buttoned themselves shut.

“That’s nothing, watch this.” I said as I selected one of my federal period outfits. I also exhaled to compensate for the change in corset structure.

The only things that didn’t change were my boots.

Amelia gasped again as she watched the drastic changes taking place.

“How can you breathe in that thing?”

“I asked that question the whole time we were in 1865 Washington DC, Amelia. From what I’m told it was all the rage at the time, though.” I giggled- well sort of, if I’d had any air left in my lungs!

“So that’s what women wore during the Civil War? How absolutely torturous! What do you wear in your time, Allie- if you wouldn’t mind a fashion show?”

Why was she taking this all so calmly?

My Federal Era circus tent became my dress whites.

“Wonderful, Allie! I always wondered what we would look like in trousers! Continue, please.”

I just looked at her before continuing.

“Here is the reigning fashion casual for the early twenty-first century.” I told her as I selected my favorite denim shorts, pink ‘T’, and pink sneakers.

“What is it with you and pink, sis?” Emily giggled from the bed. “You used to be more of a khakis kind of guy, Allie.”

“Let me get something before I show you a real heart-stopper.” I told Amelia as I walked over to the dresser and opened my handbag. I retrieved my tiara.

“This is something my wireless operator made for me to help with my last mission.” I said as I placed it on my head and positioned it in the mirror.

“Sweetheart, that looks darling! Are those gems real?”

“Twenty-four carat gold plating and all genuine gemstones, I’m told.” I beamed. “It goes perfect with this.” I added before selecting my ‘Aryan Empress’ costume.

“Heavens! That one is a bit…um…scandalous, Allison! What was your last mission if I may ask?”

I paused as I thought about how much to actually reveal.

“Let’s just say I had to fool a group of arrogant, egotistical murderers’ intent on ruling the world, into giving me something that didn’t belong to them.”

I noticed Emily staring at me.

“What!” I glared at her.

“I just don’t remember seeing that one before, sis. Who designed it?”

“I did, with the help of Brianna, Randi, Jack, and Peyton.”

“That explains it.”

Instead of a response, I turned on the tiara and brought it up in my HUD. Out of habit I engaged the tactical display. Immediately the four walls of the room appeared with places missing to indicate doorways. Several red dots appeared to indicate people. A green dot seemed to be moving closer to our suite’s door. Wait, I hadn’t designated any green dots yet! I’d worry about that later.

“Ruth is coming!” I gasped out. “You didn’t happen to lock the door, did you?” I looked to Amelia.

“”How do you know that?” Amelia glanced to the sitting room. “No, I didn’t!”

I quickly selected my 1917 apparel.

“Allie? Andie? Are you decent back there? I needed some advice on what to wear tomorrow and…Mother? What? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interu… Where did you get that? It’s beautiful!” Ruth rambled.

Obviously I wasn’t fast enough to remove my tiara.

“What, this old thing?” I quickly took the tiara off my head. “You aren’t the only one that calls me Empress, Ruth. A friend made this for me a few weeks ago before we left Albany. I thought, maybe I might wear it if invited to a formal gathering. So, you like it?”

“Absolutely! Are they real- the gems, I mean?” She asked with excitement.

“So I’ve been told. Want to try it on?”

“Can I?” She chirped with even more excitement.

I carefully placed the headpiece on her. Being as we were all the same sizes except for one, it looked perfect on her.

“If this were mine I wouldn’t let anybody get their hands on it!” Ruth exclaimed as she looked in the mirror.

My HUD immediately started complaining! Something about ‘Genetic Mismatch detected! Self-destruct armed! Asserting countdown.’

I gasped!

“Okay, Ruth, I need to put this away now.” I tried to remain calm despite seeing the countdown in my mind.

“I’m not through with it yet, Allison!” Ruth argued in a royal tone. “I may just wear this to the debutant ball.” She continued regally.

Twenty seconds left.

My expression must have changed significantly enough for Amelia to notice.

“Ruth Demmit! You give that back to Allison at once. It isn’t yours.”

“Aw, but mother, just a little longer?”

Amelia glanced back at me as I tried in vain to keep my composure.

Ten seconds.

“I need it back for one second, Ruth.”

“Fine! Take your silly old crown!”

I quickly placed it back on my head and thought out the disarming passcode.

‘Self-destruct aborted. Have a nice day, Empress.’ Came up on my HUD. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

“You like it that much, Allison?” Ruth asked in amazement.

I shut down the tiara’s interface and took it off again.

“Not so much that I wouldn’t let my cousin wear it for a night.” I smiled at her and placed it back on her head. “Be careful with it, Ruthie, I’m not exactly sure how much it’s worth.”

“Oh, I will, Allison! Mother how do I look?”

“Like a princess should, sweetheart. Now, back to your room and get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day.”

“Yes, mother.”

Ruth Demmit glided from the room.

“Mind telling me what almost happened there?” Amelia asked with much concern when we were alone again.

“Somehow she triggered the self-destruct feature in the tiara, Amelia.”

“Self…destruct?”

I nodded.

Amelia calmly waited for more.

“Enough explosive power to level half of Hartford, ma’am. I didn’t know something like that could happen. Honest.”

“Maybe because you two look like identical twins, Allie?”

“I’m not sure, let me check.” I answered as I mentally asked my Reilly suit’s HUD for a diagnostic.

‘Genetic Mismatch of one percent reported from T.I.A.R.A. peripheral system caused designed safeguards to enable. Recommended action: retain custody of any and all peripherals at all times.’

“Is that all?” I heard myself ask aloud.

“Is what all, Allison?” Amelia and Emily asked at the same time.

“My Reilly suit says that the difference between Ruth and I is only one percent…at the genetic level.”

“Well you do have bigger boobs, Allie.” Emily giggled.

“Andie!” Amelia scolded then looked back to me. “Is that thing safe now, Allison?”

“I turned it off, yes.”

“How do you know?”

“The suit interfaces with the human mind and displays the needed information to the optic nerves, Grandmother.” Emily told her.

The confused look on Amelia’s face told me that Emily had talked way over her head!

“Would you like to see for yourself, Amelia?” I asked, hoping I wouldn’t need to undress.

“Is it safe, or will I set off some other doomsday device?”

“There is only one safeguard built into each suit, ma’am, and the wearer would have to be on death’s doorstep to trigger it.”

“Trust her, grandmother; she’s already used it once.” Emily confided all too quickly.

“Being the ‘Empress’ can sometimes get…dangerous.” I admitted with a blush.

“Would it really be okay, Allison?” She asked nervously.

I commanded my suit into stand-by mode and to loosen then removed everything. Emily handed me a borrowed nightdress.

“Just put this on and don’t worry about the fit. I’ll do the rest.

When Amelia was ready, I placed my hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t be alarmed, Amelia. What you will see may at first be very disorienting. It should pass quickly.

Amelia nodded her understanding.

“System capability demonstration mode: OakridgeEmpress8716, Enable.” I said verbally.

Amelia immediately jumped with a start and began looking around the room.

“It’s all in your mind, ma’am. No need to search the walls and ceiling.”

“This is absolutely amazing, Allie! What else can it do?” Her excitement was contagious!

“Think ‘resize’, Amelia.”

Everything immediately changed size to fit her.

Before I told her to do anything else the suit changed again. This time, to my favorite demin shorts, pink ‘T’ and pink sneakers.

I had to admit it looked good on her too!

“Grandmother!” Emily gasped as Amelia found my Aryan Empress costume.

She walked over to the full-length mirror and began evaluating her reflection.

“I think I might be a little too old to carry this look off.” She said to herself mostly.

“You look amazing in it, Amelia!” I told her truthfully. For a middle-aged woman, she was still in remarkable shape.

I saw something coming that I just had to warn her about.

“Before you select the Federal period fashions, I suggest you exhale first, ma’am!”

“Ya, the first time Alex put that one on she broke four ribs.” Emily further defined my warning.

Amelia exhaled and the changes began. She immediately gained three inches and let out a slight squeal.

“You forgot to warn her about the boots.” Emily nagged.

Soon enough, Amelia reselected today’s apparel and began undressing after I told her about the auto-fastening feature. I helped her back into her own clothing.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight!” Amelia exclaimed with a wide smile. “Thank you, Allison, for the demonstration.”

“My pleasure, Grandma.” I replied as she started for the door.

“Oh, about that, girls. May I remind you that my name is Amelia, not Ma’am, Grandmother, or Grandma? Good night ladies.”

When Amelia had closed the suite’s door, a pillow struck the back of my head.

“You almost killed my mother, grandmother and half of Hartford, Alex!” Emily hissed as she glared at me.

“How was I to know Randi had that in the programming?”

“You could have asked her!”

“I’m sorry, sis. It was a mistake and won’t happen again.” I apologized.

“See that it doesn’t, Alexandra Steinert!”

“It won’t! Now are you ready to go to sleep?”

“I have been for the last hour! You know it’s past two don’t you?”

“Two, oh, four to be exact! I answered as my pink nightie reappeared on my body.

Emily groaned as she fluffed the pillow I had just returned and turned over.
 
 

1703 hours, St. Bartholomew Church Hall, Hartford, Connecticut, April 14th, 1917
 
 

“Excuse me, Allison, would you care to dance?” A young Uncle Rick asked as he offered his hand.

“I must warn you cousin, I’m not that good.”

“Neither am I, but I’m willing to try. Shall we?”

He escorted me to the dance floor and placed his hand on my waist and we began to turn and waltz around to the music.

Uncle Rick looked as uncomfortable as I felt.

“What’s the matter, Richard?” I asked quietly as we continued around the floor.

“I’m sorry, Allison, I feel like I’m dancing with my sister, Ruth.”

“Well, I wonder why? Could it be that she is the spitting image of me, cousin?”

“That would be part of it, yes, but there is something else- something about you that I can’t place my finger on, Allison.”

“Well, I’m your first cousin too.” I smiled and giggled quietly. “If you must know I feel just as uncomfortable dancing with you too, Richard. How about we call a truce and ignore the awkwardness?”

“Agreed.”

Uncle Rick proceeded to stare into my eyes.

“I thought we agreed to remain uncomfortable, Richard?”

“We did, but I can’t get over those piercing blue eyes, Allison. They are so beautiful! Has anyone ever told you that?”

“Many people since I got them.”

Richard Demmit stared at me in confusion.

I smiled at him.

“Oh, I get it! Okay, I’ll stop putting my foot in my mouth.”

The song ended and another waltz began to play.

“Shall we stay out, Allison?”

“Sure, but the next couple songs are Andie’s, Richard. I’m sure she would be overjoyed to dance with you.”

“Oh? She told you that?”

“Let’s just say she’s mentioned it a few times before.”

“Are you always so mysterious, Allison? I just realized that you haven’t given me a straight answer to any of my questions so far tonight.

“What fun would that be, Richard?” I smiled deviously. “Some people find a little mystery exciting, I’ll have you know.”

“Oh, you’re mysterious alright- one of a kind, too!”

“I wouldn’t say that, Richard, since there are three of me that I know of.”

This time, Uncle Rick laughed immediately. I giggled along with him, though I hadn’t been lying.

“That would make the world a much better place indeed, Allison.” He continued to chuckle.

“Well, we try, Richard. We try.”

As the song ended, Uncle Rick escorted me back to my seat.

“Andrea, would you do me the honor, cousin?”

Emily’s face lit up as she took his proffered hand.

“For someone who claims not to be very good at dancing, you sure are really graceful, Allie.” Ruth complimented after her brother and Andie were far enough away. I had agreed to allow her to wear my tiara only after Amelia cleared it with ‘my cousin’ Anna, the daughter of Uncle Roland’s sister, Katherine, and bride in today’s wedding.

It was the perfect accessory to her dress, yet I wondered if some ancient history scholar would recognize the runes embedded in its design.

“I never said I couldn’t dance, Ruth, I merely said that I wasn’t very good at it.”

“You could have fooled me.”

She didn’t know the half of it.

“So how is everyone doing here?” Anna, the bride, asked as she and her new husband visited our table. “Allison, how are you and Andrea doing of late? I hear that you both have offered your services with the Red Cross?”

“Andie and I are willing to do what it takes to keep the world safe, Anna.” I told her.

Amelia almost choked on her tea. She looked horrified by my reply.

“We’re ready to go wherever and whenever we’re needed.” I added.

Amelia now had a devious grin on her face as I winked to her.

“Good for you, cousin. Good for you both. Ruthie, dear, I just love your tiara. I understand that Allison leant it to you?”

“Ya, isn’t it great? Allie says it’s all real. Why, I bet the ruby alone is worth a king’s ransom!”

“It may just be, honey! I’ve never seen one so large before. You take good care of that.”

“I will!”

“Amelia…” Anna greeted as she and her new husband moved down the table and out of earshot.

“Allison, how long are you and Andie going to stay?” Ruth asked straight out of the blue.

“What kind of question is that, Ruth?” I was starting to wonder if she was seventeen or just seven.

“I’d like it if you stayed a while longer, Allie. It’s so nice to have someone my own age in the house.”

“Ruth, you have your brother, Richard. Doesn’t he count?”

“He’s leaving day after tomorrow. Father says there’s an excellent chance he may not return from the war.”

“He’ll be back, sweetheart. I’m one hundred percent certain of that.”

“You are?”

“As sure as I look exactly like you, hun!”

“But you have prettier eyes, Allie.”

“I’d trade them in an instant for jade if I could, Ruth.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. I like green eyes better, I guess.”

“But I have green eyes, Allie!”

“I know- you and Andrea both. That’s what I love about green eyes.”

Ruth smiled brightly and a tear came to her eye.

“Do you really mean it, Allie?”

“I rarely say something I don’t mean, hun.”

Ruth’s eyes left me and started tracking something else. I followed her gaze and found a young man at her focal point. The man noticed, met her stare, and began to approach.

“Oh God, Allie, he’s coming over here!” She exclaimed just above a whisper.

She actually tried to hide behind my shoulder!

“What if he asks me to dance? Allie, I don’t know if I can dance with a man!” She gasped from behind me.

“Sure you can, hun, just look into his eyes and try to relax- they don’t bite- not hard anyway!” I giggled.

“I’m not sure I can do it. What if I fall or…”

“Hi! I was wondering…um… well, I noticed you were looking intently at me- I’m normally not so straightforward, I mean I try to blend into the woodwork at these things, but well- I’m a friend of the groom and- see I wasn’t going to come today and…oh…um…I’m Louis Scott- I don’t know why I’m standing here….you and your sister look so beautiful- oh God, what did I just say- what I meant to say…what I meant to ask.” The young man finally stopped to take a much-needed deep breath.

Personally, I thought his babbling preciously cute. It reminded me of a young Alexander Steinert on his first pursuit. I was seeing my former self from the other side now and I began to think about how far I had come since then. Talk about coming full circle!

Ruth was imitating a statue- one with its eyes the size of saucers and mouth slightly open!

“I was…um…I… um…was…um…um…wondering if you’d like to dance.”

Hurray, he finally got around to it, I thought.

Ruth remained quiet and statue-still.

“My cousin Ruth would love to dance with you, Mr. Scott.” I smiled brightly and touched Ruth on the shoulder. “I, of course, would love to dance with you, but I’m awaiting my fiancée’s arrival. Ruth,” I gave her a little shove, “go dance with the nice gentleman. You were just saying how you would dance with him in the matter of an instant if he came over- now’s your chance, hun.”

Ruth turned and glared at me! I winked at her and motioned to him with my eyes.

“I’d love to dance with you…Louis, was it?” She replied to the young man nervously standing before her.

“You would? I mean…um…that would be wonderful, thank you.” He held out his trembling hand and waited for Ruth to accept. The two were heading for the dance floor a split-second later.

“How in the world did you get Ruthie to go with that young man, Allison? I thought she was permanently nailed to her chair.” Amelia asked as she casually reached for her teacup.

“I’m afraid I pushed her into it, Amelia.” I admitted.

“Good for you! Did you catch his name, sweetheart?” She inquired.

“I believe it was Louis Scott, Amelia.” I replied with little emotion.

Amelia Demmit dropped her teacup back to its saucer with a loud ceramic clack!

Evidently she made the connection.

She looked at me stunned, her mouth open wide.

I nodded once and smiled.

Emily returned to her seat beside me all too soon.

“My father is here!” She gasped.

“Like he’s going to recognize you, sis?” I snorted.

“What if he does, Alex?” She whispered conspiratorially.

“Andie?”

“Yes, Allie?”

“You haven’t been born yet, sis. How would he recognize someone that doesn’t exist yet?” I whispered.

Emily was quiet for a while as she thought about that. So long in fact, that the band began playing another song.

“Oh…ya…right.”

“Andie?”

“What Allie.”

“He’s coming back over here with Ruth.”

“He’s what?” She choked!

“Louis, you’ve already met my cousin Allison, this is her sister, Andrea Demmit. Andie, this is Louis Scott.”

Ruth had a broad smile on her face as she introduced Emily to her father.

Louis Scott took ‘Andrea’s’ hand and kissed it.

“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Andrea.”

“Andie? Are you alright?” Ruth exclaimed with some horror at seeing Andie lose all pallor.

“You’ll have to excuse my sister, Mr. Scott, she’s shy around new people.”

“I know the feeling, Miss Allison.” He released my sister’s hand and looked back to Ruth. “Want to dance some more, Ruth?”

“I’d like that.”

The two were off to the dance floor in an instant.

“Allison, is your sister going to be okay?” A concerned Amelia asked from Emily’s left.

“It happens sometimes, Amelia- in our line of work, anyway.” I giggled.

“You’re enjoying this!” Emily accused. “This is just one big comedy for you, isn’t it, Allie?”

“Sis, I wasn’t trying to be…”

“No, you weren’t trying to be funny at all, Al…llllie! You just forced me into something I’d never have done in the first place! Why do you do that?” Emily asked, close to tears.

“Allison, I’ll take this one.” Amelia stood and gently placed her hand on Emily’s shoulder. “Come with me, Andrea. I think I understand your sister’s reasoning and her actions. Let’s go outside and have a chat, shall we?”

Emily nodded silently before glaring at me once more. Once standing up, Amelia offered Emily her hand and both walked hand in hand out of the reception hall.

“Allison? Is something wrong with Andrea?” Richard Demmit asked a moment later as he approached our table. He looked truly concerned.

“It’s a woman type thing, Richard.” Uncle Rick’s face immediately winced in pain. “Amelia thought she could help. It isn’t anything you should be worried about though.”

“Oh, alright then.” Uncle Rich paused a moment. “Um, Allison, would you care to dance again?” He asked, unsure of himself this time.

“Um, Richard, you do remember that we’re first cousins, right?” I smiled at the man. “You’re not sweet on me, are you?”

“What? No…um…why…um…I’d never do that!”

“Just checking, Richard. Let’s go dance.”
 
 

Amelia and Andie were sitting back at the table as Uncle Rick escorted me to my seat.

“For someone that claims she can’t dance, Allison, you seem to glide easily across the dance floor.”

“Thank you, Richard. I think that’s the nicest thing I’ve ever been told.”

Emily remained quiet for the rest of the celebration.
 
 

0500 hours, The Roland Demmit House, Hartford, Connecticut, April 14th, 1917
 
 

“Alex, Are you asleep?” Emily’s voice and her hand shoving at my shoulder brought me back from a recurring dream.

“I am now. What’s the matter?” I replied, still foggy.

“I need to talk to you.”

“It’s only 5AM.” I said after quickly checking my HUD for the local time. “Can’t we talk in the morning?” I asked in a slurred voice.

“It is morning, Alex.”

“Look, Em, we aren’t on base. I’d like to sleep a while longer, if y’all’d please?”

“I’m sorry about last night.” She said quietly.

“Huh?”

“I’m sorry I accused you last night. I didn’t understand what you had…what you were doing- until Grandmother tried to explain her take on things, that is.”

“Oh? And what did Amelia think I did last night?” I asked as I rolled over and looked into Emily’s face in the dim, early morning light.

“She said that you had to push Mother into dancing with Daddy- that she was rooted to her chair until you acted. She told me you claimed to be waiting for your suitor and that Ruth had shown interest in Daddy.”

I yawned despite my attempt not to. All that dancing last night had tired me out.

“Grandmother told me that if you hadn’t intervened, maybe Mother and Daddy wouldn’t have met. So, thank you, and…I’m sorry for being so upset with you, sis.”

“Emily, it’s what I do, remember? And just to remind you, I’ve vowed to protect my family and friends. You, of all people, should know that I would never knowingly place anyone on the spot just for entertainment! Sometimes it really hurts me to have to do the things I have to, but I wanted to make sure we’re still sisters when we get back home.” Another yawn escaped. “Now, can we go back to sleep? Please?”

My sister reached out with one arm and hugged me tightly.

“I’m so sorry I doubted you, Alex…” She paused a second. “Are you wearing one of Ruth’s nightgowns, Alex?” She looked at me in her usual questioning grin.

“No, I had my suit copy it. Things have been heavier than usual this time and I didn’t want to take a chance.”

“I thought you brought enough supplies?”

“I did, but I wanted to save them.”

“You are one strange woman, Alexandra Steinert.”

“Compliment me in the morning, sis- when I’m fully awake.”

There was a quiet knock from our suite’s door.

“Who is it now?” I asked…and received a barrage of information.

So much for sleeping!

“Could you get the door and let Ruth in, Em?”

“What’s she doing here so early?”

“Let’s ask her.” I said, waving Emily off to the sitting room.

“Oh, gosh, I can’t believe it.” Ruth rushed into our bedchamber and jumped on the bed with such force that there was absolutely no way I would ever sleep another wink this morning. As if to further punctuate that, my body decided to join in with a few worse than usual cramps!

I sat up and reached for the source of my pain.

“I’m sorry, Allie, did I hurt you?” Ruth’s face saddened slightly.

“Just cramps, I’ll be…”

“Oh.” She replied unemotionally and got right to the point. “Here. Thanks for letting me wear this, Allie.” She handed me my tiara. “So what do you think about him?”

It was a general question, though we knew exactly who ‘him’ was.

“What do we think of whom, Ruthie?” Emily asked innocently.

I looked at Emily, a little surprised by her response.

“Louis! Tell me what you think about him.” Ruth Demmit asked eagerly.

Her smile was filling our room up with way too much sunshine!

“He seems nice enough, Ruth, why?” Emily replied in a guarded tone.

Ruth scrunched her nose at her cousin’s lack of interest.

“Oh. Allie, what did you think of Louis?” She asked me. Her excitement was just overflowing.

“I think he’s very handsome and courteous, but it’s not what we think, Ruthie- it’s what you think of Louis that counts the most, hun.”

“I think he’s just wonderful!” Ruth swooned. She looked at ‘Andrea’. “Andie, you don’t look happy…ooooooh, I get it! You like him too.”

“What?” Emily gasped. “No…no, you got it all wrong, Ruth.”

“You don’t like him, then?” She pouted.

“No, I like him alright…”

“Oh. Do I have to give him back?”

“Excuse me?” Emily screeched. “No, Ruthie, you don’t understand. I’ve already met the man of my dreams.” She tried to explain.

“I didn’t know you were engaged, Andie. Who is he?”

Emily paused and glanced over at me a moment.

“I wasn’t engaged, Ruth, not officially anyway. We…we met at a small diner. I tagged along with a few friends this one day. We had just sat down and were looking at the menu, when he walked in with his friend. They sat directly across from us. All it took was one glance and I knew.” She paused.

“Knew what, Andie?” Ruth’s face brightened even more if that were possible.

“The same things you experienced last night, Ruth- the butterflies- the feeling that your heart would jump out of your chest to be nearer him- that incredible feeling of joy running through your body- the feeling that everything in the world was just perfect- the feeling you have now.”

“I thought the two of us were perfect for each other. We spent two full, wonderful weeks together- going places…hand in hand. It was like a fantasy come true. That is, before it all came crashing down.”

“Oh, Andie, what happened? Did he fall for someone else?”

“No, Ruth, another guy, one that had shown interest in me earlier, decided to use us to advance his career. He made allegations that nearly cost Alexander his job.”

“Oh, that’s so sad, Andie, I’m sorry. You said almost- so, what happened to him? Did you ever see him again? Are you seeing him now?”

“I did and no. We met up again a few months ago and things were very uncomfortable at first. Slowly, we got reacquainted until…” Emily’s face grew sad.

“Until?” Ruth sat on the edge of our bed in anticipation. “What happened, Andie?”

“Alexander went away on a mission- some simple, yet secret thing. He never told me what it was for, but he never came back.” Tears slowly dripped from my sister’s face- mine too! I had never heard our story told in quiet that way before- a tragedy worthy of the Bard himself.

Ruth moved closer to Emily and hugged her. “I’m so sorry, Andie, I didn’t know. It had to be horrible! How did you ever get over it?”

Emily slowly looked over to me. “My sister. Allison, she helped me through it. She recently had a similar experience and we helped each other through the hardest parts. I don’t know what I would have done without my sister, Ruth.”

“Awwwww. I wish I had a sister, Andie. You two are so lucky to have each other. Are you two sure you can’t stay longer than next Wednesday? It’s so nice to have you here to talk to.”

“Sorry, Ruth, but we have to be in Baltimore by Friday so we don’t miss our boat.” I tried to be gentle about our departure.

“Catch your boat? Where are you going?”

“We volunteered to help the Red Cross, hun. I think we’ll be around England or Ireland first then we’re not sure next.”

“Will I ever see either of you again, Allie?”

I closed my eyes a minute and examined the possibilities.

“You’ll see at least one of us again, Ruthie- I can guarantee that!”

“As sure as you are about Ricky coming home?”

“Doubly sure, hun, promise!”

I saw Emily’s face start to sadden once more.

“But, let me tell you something very important.” I looked Ruth directly in the eyes. “Time has a way of shifting our perspective of things, Ruth. I’m sure you understand that the way you see things now isn’t the way you saw them when you were, say, eight or nine. When you next see Andie or I, we may not look the way we do now.”

“I know. You both would be older, right?”

“Something like that, hun, though we might look younger, or we may not even look like ourselves at all, Ruth. Know this though. No matter what or whom we look like, we will forever remember you. Right here.” I pointed to my head then to my heart. I felt my eyes tearing up again. Emily was already reaching for a handkerchief from the nightstand drawer.

Ruth took an offered hanky from Emily and wiped her eyes. She stood and walked to the doorway before turning around slowly. She had a thoughtful expression.

“I hope that if I ever have children, they’re like you.”

“I’m positive they will, ‘momma’.” I emphasized the title as I tried to smile through my tears unsuccessfully.

Ruth looked to the floor in thought for a moment before leaving.

“See you at breakfast.” She said back at us.

The door to our suite opened and slammed closed.

Do you think you could have given her any bigger hint, Alex?” Emily said as she reached over to punch me.

Instead, she pulled me into a hug. “Thank you, though. You helped me feel better about this whole visit, sis.”

I nodded. “So, did Grandma Emily look like you remembered her, last night?” I asked remembering that Louis Scott’s parents had been invited also.

“I don’t know, Alex, she died right before I was born. That’s why I’m named after her.” She said, slowly turning away from me.

“I’m sorry, Emily, I never thought to look at that side of the family.”

“We can’t save everybody, Alex.” She said quietly.

How I had learned that fact recently!
 
 

1308 hours, The Roland Demmit House, Hartford, Connecticut, April 18th, 1917
 
 

“You two are really good at gardening, Andie. I hope you find it as relaxing as I do?”

“I always enjoyed helping you out here when we visited.” Emily admitted. I could almost see the fond memories on her contented face.

“How about you, Allison? You seem to know your way around a garden.”

“She should, Amelia, Allie grew up on a farm.”

“You did? Why am I just finding out about this, Allie?”

“We’re supposed to be from Albany, Amelia. Ma an Pa have three hundred an eighty-one acres south o’ Oak Ridge- some cattle, a few horses, wheat, barley, an’ corn. Lotsa wheat, barley, an’ corn!”

“Allison, have I told you how much I love that accen…did you just put your hand through that flower bed?”

“Looks like the Empress just got cleared for departure, Amelia.” Emily said with a big smile.

“Are you in that big of a hurry, Andrea?”

“Oh, no…um…well, it has been a little awkward, Grandmother.”

Amelia glared at my sister.

“Sorry…Amelia.”

Amelia smiled.

“I can only imagine meeting my parents before being conceived, sweetheart.”

“Would you like to, Amelia? I know this crazy woman that claims she can travel time and space.” I laughed.

“No, child, but I would like to see beyond my years- to check on my children and their children, and their…”

“Just say how far in the future y’all wanna go, ma’am. All y’all have to do is take my hand- just like ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge!”

“I beg your pardon, young lady?”

“A Christmas Carol, Amelia. Alex has a penchant for quoting literature and movies.” Emily rolled her eyes at me.

“Movies?”

“Um…A Nickelodeon. We call them movies in our time.” I translated.

“May I see this wondrous place you call Reilly? I can only imagine the miraculous machinery stored there!”

I placed the scissor-like snips down on the flowerbox I had been working on, knocked a few particles of earth from my apron, took it off, and placed it beside the cutters. Emily and Amelia followed suit.

“Let’s go then.” I said offering my hands.

Emily grinned ear to ear; she wasted no time taking my right hand.

“Are you serious, Allison?” Amelia stared at me.

“Completely.”

“Won’t we be missed?” She asked in shock.

“Um…time traveler?” I said with a giggle. “I can have you back here so that it appears you’ve never left.”

Amelia cautiously took my extended hand.

“How about we go to Reilly Research Station in the year 2029?” I asked casually.

“You can go that far, Allie?”

“Y’all wouldn’t believe how far I’ve gone!”

Amelia closed her eyes tightly. ‘Just like Uncle Rick’, I thought.

“Amelia, is that a bird over there? How on Earth did it get in the greenhouse?” I asked suddenly.

“What bird? I don’t see any bird over…”

Amelia’s greenhouse became Reilly’s small conference room.

“What happened?”

“Welcome to Reilly, Amelia.”

“I didn’t feel a thing.”

“Did I say you would?” I giggled. “Come with me, please.” I asked as I began to pull my two companions along.

As planned, we missed the doorway by about ten feet and passed straight through the wall into the pleasantly lighted corridor.

Amelia gasped, but smiled like a little girl at Christmas!

I rephased us after making sure we were all in the clear.

“Welcome Empress. It is 1138hours, July 4th, 2029.”

“Who said that?” Amelia asked looking around to find the voice’s owner.

“Thanks, RVP. Station compliment, please?”

“Station attendance stands at one hundred and five, Empress. All current inhabitants are external to the facility preparing for the American celebration of Independence Day. A standing invitation has been extended to all arriving visitors.”

“Who is saying that?” Amelia cried out in confusion.

“I am, Amy.” RVP replied casually.

“RVP, this is Amelia’s first visit to Reilly Research Station.” I informed the A.I. Emily’s head turned quickly. She remained silent but stared at me in disbelief.

I gave her a wry smile.

“I’m sorry, Amelia. I am Reilly’s Artificial Intelligence. I take care of the day-to-day operations to keep this facility functioning. I also assist in most research projects initiated here. You can think of me as caretaker, research assistant, butler, and muse. Should you have any questions or needs just ask.”

“Thank you, um…RVP is it?”

“Yes, Amelia, RVP is my assigned designation and you are welcome.”

“Things sure are different here, Allison.”

“Amelia, we’re not in Hartford anymore so you should call me by my given name- unless of course, there are multiples of me here already. RVP, how many of me are here on site today?”

“At present, two, Alex- present you and you.”

“Okay, thanks RVP! I hope I didn’t just give you a divide by zero error again.”

“External Processor #3-Omega has developed a subroutine she explicitly titled ‘Aspirin’, Alex. It works wonders.”

Emily and I couldn’t help but laugh!

“What is an External something, something, something, Alex?”

“RVP is referring to one of my crewmembers. Randi Van Pelt’s gift allows her to interact with RVP and other A. I.’s around the world.”

“That would be around the galaxy now, Skipper.” Randi’s voice filled the corridor.

“Shouldn’t you be outside with the rest of the party, Randi?” I asked in annoyance.

“We’re all out here, skipper. Just waiting for some late arrivals now.”

“I think she means us, ladies. Follow me.”
 
 

1145 hours, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, July 4th, 2029
 
 

“Welcome to Kili Island, Amelia.” My twin greeted as we arrived on the beach. “Allie, it’s good that you could come.”

Grandma Amelia froze in place as my future twin embraced me and kissed my cheek. The familiar tingle made us both smile.

“There are two of you.” Grandma Amelia pointed to both of us.

“Grandmother, she can do that, remember? So can we ever since the Empress arrived. Hello, Amelia.” Emily’s voice made Grandma Amelia turn quickly. The two Emily’s were already embracing each other. Both jumped slightly as they received a similar tingle.

Amelia…Grandma Amelia silently dropped to the ground.

“I knew it would be too much for her, Alex!” Emily and Amelia growled in unison. “Let’s get her onto one of the tables.” Grandma Amelia’s motionless body rising up and floating over to the nearest tabletop told me that Jack was here. A giggle off to my right confirmed it.

Amelia’s eyes shot open and she shrieked!

“How am I…? Help! Someone get me down from here!”

“Put her down, Jack.”

Grandma Amelia slowly became vertical and gently settled to the ground on her feet.

“Amelia, I’d like you to meet my friend and first officer, Jacquelyn Cummins. Jack, this is Emily’s grandmother, Amelia Demmit.”

“So good to see you again, Amy.” Jack gave her a tight squeeze and kissed her cheek.

“We’ve met before, Ms. Cummins?”

“In another time, ma’am, thanks to the Empress.” She winked.

“Hi, Amy!” A tiny voice greeted Grandma Amelia.

“Who said that?”

“I did!” Sasha replied, hovering about two feet from her left ear- she was quickly joined by three more tiny, flying women.

“Amelia, this is another member of my crew, Sasha Trent- bet you can’t guess what her gift is?” I giggled as Sasha stuck her tiny tongue out at me. “These are three of her daughters, Dahlia, Rose, and Petunia.” Each curtsied in flight as I introduced them.

The pixies each chose one of my shoulders to light on- there being two of me made each choice exclusive.

“My, what pretty wings you all have.” Amelia complimented as she took a closer look.

“Thank you, Amy.” Sasha blushed. “Come on girls, first one to the other side of the island gets more honey!”

All four pixies took off in a blur of color.

I noticed my daughters coming this way. As expected they, as well as their perspective spouses, fell to one knee- right fist to their chests.

“Welcome to Kili Island, Empress…”

“Knock it off, you two!” I growled. All four began to stand. “Not you two!” I pointed to the men. “I was only talking to my daughters.” I giggled evilly.

“Your daughters? How can that be, Alex?” Amelia stared between the four of us.

“They’re actually mine, Amy. Cassandra and Samantha.” Alex introduced as she pointed to each individually. “Allie just likes to pretend that they’re hers until she actually has them.

“Oh.”

A baby’s cry not far away drew everyone’s attention.

Randi Van Pelt approached us carrying six-month old Delilah.

“Hey, skipper, welcome to the party!” She smiled. Motherhood suited her as her smile attested- too bad it took her over ninety years to get around to it.

Randi turned the infant around so that she could see us.

“Look who’s here?” She sang out in semi-baby talk. “It’s Auntie Alex, Dell! Wave hi to Auntie Alex and Auntie Emily!” She continued as she held out her chubby little hand and waved it gently.

Delilah immediately smiled and started gooing and gahing- she even blew a few bubbles!

“Amelia, Randi Van Pelt and her daughter Delilah. Randi, Amelia Demmit, Emily’s Grandmother.” I introduced our special guest.

Randi offered Dell to Emily. Both reached for the child at the same time- with the same motherly expression!

Randi shook Amelia’s hand. “Mrs. Demmit, very nice to finally meet you, ma’am.”

“Amelia, please, Randi. Just call me Amelia.”

“Ok, Amelia. Welcome to Kili and enjoy the party.” Randi then looked toward both Emily’s and her daughter. “Come on, Dell, let’s go find Aunt Carroll and Alexis.”

My Comptroller put her arms out awaiting the return of her child.

“Come on, Emily. Just because you delivered her doesn’t give you exclusive rights!”

Present day Emily begrudgingly handed her over.

“Isn’t there something about possession being nine-tenths the law, Randi?” Emily giggled with a disappointed look.

“You delivered this precious bundle, Emily? You’re really a doctor?”

“Yes Amelia, since February 1944! I told you that back in Hartford.”

“I’m sorry. Amelia, would you like to hold her a minute?” Randi offered.

Without saying a word Amelia took little Delilah and cradled her in her arms. A look of contentment washed over her face.

“It’s been a while since I’ve held something so small and delicate.”

Again Dell blew bubbles and cooed happily.

After a minute Amelia surrendered the girl to her mother.

Amelia looked at Alex and I then over to Sam and Cassie.

“So, Alexandra, are you ever going to introduce me to your sons-in-law?”

Alex and I looked at each other- amazed we had forgotten the two men. I motioned for Alex to answer.

“I am soo sorry, Amelia. This is Jarrod Mitchell, he and Samantha are an item these days.” She giggled.

“Ma’am, pleasure ta meet y’all. Not ever’ day a body gits ta meet somebody’s Great-Granma!” Jarrod greeted cheerfully. He gently shook Amelia’s hand.

“Tennesee?” She asked.

“No, ma’am, Kentucky, but close enough.”

“And you are?” She trailed off looking at Cassie’s new beau, a man of obvious Mediterranean decent.

“I am Nicholi…Gregory…Stantopolis, Mrs. Demmit, and am very happy to make acquaintance.” Nick stumbled on his full name as he embraced Amelia then kissed her forehead and both cheeks lightly.

Amelia looked to Alex then to me looking for an explanation for this man’s strange greeting.

“Nick is from Greece, Amelia.” Alex told her.

“Oh, that is a charming way to greet someone, Nicholi! How long have you been in the United States?”

“Cassandra and I just recently returned from Greece, Amelia. Cassie met Nick back there and fell head over heels. She’s been teaching him English for about two years now.” Alex informed her.

Amelia immediately looked confused!

Alex noticed right away and tried to explain. “Nick is from Greece, Amelia- Greece circa 1500BC. Cassie, I, and a few of our other sisters spent a few years tidying up some discrepancies between a couple City-States.”

“Athens and Carthage.” Cassie added. Nick frowned and growled once.

Amelia’s eyes grew in size. “Well, welcome to my extended family, Nicholi!” Amelia smiled and hugged the young man.

“Amelia, we aren’t married yet. I just met him two years ago!” Cassie huffed in embarrassment.

“Nicholi, what are your intentions toward my Great-Granddaughter, Cassandra?” Amelia stared intently at the young man.

“To eventually join with her, but for now to please her so Empress no take me back to Athens, Matriarch.” He replied, glancing between Alex and I with a fearful expression.

Amelia looked at Cassie a moment then back to the young, black-haired man. “Somehow, I don’t think the Empress is your biggest concern, Nicholi!” She told him, smiling at his discomfort.

Cassie nodded as she smiled evilly.

“Mother, Empress, we should be getting back to the party preparations now. Liz and Sarah are going to need our help in a moment, they still haven’t quite mastered they’re gifts.” Samantha informed us as she touched her forehead gently.

A memory popped into my head as to the difficulty, small as it would be. It was just a polite way for my girls to escape the turmoil that I was about to experience.

“So where is my Richard, Alexandra?” Amelia asked as the girls and they’re beau’s hurried off down the beach.

“Grandma?” I asked as I noticed Alex and Emily cringe.

“Richard, is he here somewhere? Maybe he couldn’t make it? Some important Navy business, perhaps?” She restated her query.

“Grandma, this is 2029.” I stated matter-of-factly.

“You told me that your life expectancy has dramatically increased, Alexandra, did you not offer the same option to Richard?”

“I did.” I replied glumly. Alex’s face also became sad.

“I see.” She said quietly. “When will the Demmit pride and stubbornness cease?” She exclaimed.

“Hopefully it never will, ma’am. Those traits have assured our very existence and the survival of our sisterhood, Amelia. You can only imagine what horrible atrocities our own government would be responsible for had Admiral Richard Demmit not dug in his heels and kept our secret safe his whole amazing life.” Alex told her. “Even Sand Dollar,” she pointed to our boat moored at the end of the pier in the distance, “Would be nothing more than scrap or soup cans somewhere in the world right now!”

“He never married?” She asked.

“The Admiral remained married to the U.S. Navy, Grandmother.” Emily answered. “It was a love affair that started back in August of 1916.”

“The month and year I was born.” I muttered to myself. It was ironic how we were all tied together.

“Well then, where is my Ruth…”

“Grandmother, please, I beg you to stop…” Both Emilys’ broke into tears as one.

I quickly took Amelia’s hand and phased us out.

“Amelia, Emily is still rather sensitive about her mother’s sudden passing.” I told her solemnly. “Ruth Scott contracted typhoid fever in late spring of 1934 and never made it to Decoration Day. Louis Scott re-enlisted in the Army, taking Emily as he transferred from base to base. I’m sure it was because he never got over the loss. Amelia, Emily almost lost him too in 1941! A surprise enemy attack at our base on Hawaii almost killed him. He lost his left foot and carried shrapnel around his spine for the rest of his life.”

“You offered him the same options as Richard?”

I nodded. “And no, he refused, opting for a different path instead, I’m sorry.”

With my answer I also rephased the two of us.

“Why would so many refuse such a wonderful gift, Alexandra?”

“I suppose the risks and loss outweigh the benefits for some people, Amelia.” I answered before Alex could.

“What risks and loss could be considered too costly?”

“Remember when I showed you my driver’s license our second day in Hartford?” Alex asked.

“It stated that your name was originally Alexander- I remember. What does that have to do with it?”

“That has everything to do with the Mahanilui, Amelia. Remember the women I rescued by bringing this research station here? They designed the Mahanilui…”

“I designed the Mahanilui in an effort to save my species, Amelia Demmit.” My voice chimed out from beside me.

“Alex, how did you get here?” I asked in surprise.

“That would be my doing, Grandmother Empress.” My voice rang out again from the opposite side of Alex Reilly.

“Lord in heaven, there are four of you!” Amelia gasped, looking very pale.

“Grandmother!” Emily cried out.

“I have her, Emily! Jamie’s voice shouted as she hurried over to us. “Amy, I’d like you to calm down. You shouldn’t be so surprised by the things you’ve seen here today.

Amelia looked confused.

“Jamie Hilf’s gift allows her to manipulate a person’s physiology and thoughts, Amelia.” Alex informed our confused guest. “Thanks, Jamie. That should be the only time your services are needed, hun.”

“So, Alex, we’re changing the past again? All for the better, I hope?” Alex Reilly greeted Alex and I.

“Only the parts that require changing, Alex.” I replied as we hugged each other.

The exchanged tingle felt more intense than usual.

“Thanks, sis, I needed that! It’s been years since you last visited. Oh wow, have y’all been busy!”

“You as well, Alex.” I smiled brightly as several memories presented themselves.

“Amelia, this is Alexandra Reilly, first director of Reilly Research Station.” My future self introduced.

“Grandmother Empress, it has also been a long time since our last visitation.” Alexandra greeted, embracing me tightly. “Grandmother Amelia, I have looked forward to our first meeting for some time now. I am Alexandra, second daughter to Alexis and Nathan, Second Granddaughter to Tibius, Grand High Counsel of Citadel, Terra and Alexandra of Earth.” Alexandra announced in typical Terran protocol before embracing Amelia warmly.

“My daughter, have you so easily forgotten your manners?” Alexis asked after appearing behind her daughter.

“Alexis! I exclaimed hurrying over and wrapping my arms around her.

“It is good to see you both too, Mother Empress.”

I released my daughter and she moved on to Alex. I looked at Alexandra in disbelief.

“How did you manage to talk her into coming, hun?”

“She does not always play by Terran protocols, Mother! I believe your expression would be: ‘She shanghaied me!’

“What mother is trying to say, Grandmother, is that I decided she could use a much needed vacation.”

“And what about Nathan and Tibius?”

“They wouldn’t come close enough for me to grab their hands!” She giggled.

“Dear invited guests, traditional Fourth of July fare consisting of, but not limited to: hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, potato chips, pretzels, soda, and alcoholic beverages, are now being served dockside. Water, both flavored and filtered can also be had for our guests wishing to abstain from spirits.” Jack’s announcement echoed in our heads.

“Come on ladies. Get it while it’s hot!” My future self giggled.

Amelia followed, rubbing her head and looking around.

“Wait, you haven’t told me the risks of this Mahanilui, Alexandra.” She asked as we walked up the beach.

All four of me stopped and looked at her.

“The risk for a man is the loss of being a man, Amelia.” I stated. At her lack of understanding, I explained further.

“For men the Mahanilui can be a double edged sword so to speak. Initially, it imbues longevity and unprecedented health and healing. Once strong alcohol or spirits are consumed, the full effect of the Mahanilui is triggered. Many men simply cannot abstain from drink, as you have observed in you protests and rallies for temperance.”

“You mean that a man who has undergone this thing will only stay a man as long as he doesn’t get drunk? Who in the world created that stipulation?” Amelia asked, getting a little more animated.

“I’m afraid I am the one responsible, Amy.” Alex Reilly admitted. “I initially programmed my microscopic machines to activate with strong spirits to save our civilization. On our Homeworld, as some places here, it was customary to celebrate ones demise by toasting to life until the end.” She paused with a sad expression, vividly recalling those last moments.

“We, the contingent on Reilly, were the last of our kind. The machines were to originally boost our ability to survive the intense radiation from our Homeworld exploding into what you on Earth call the Sun. Out of vanity, I added the ability for the ‘Nanos’ to enhance our natural abilities, increase the rate at which we repaired ourselves, and decreased the rate at which we aged. What I didn’t consider was to remove the visual indicator that we had programmed into earlier tests to determine if the Nanos truly worked- the complete change of gender and the related familiarity subroutine which enabled the test subjects to accept their changes more rapidly.”

“So you made these things to save your people and instead of offering them a choice, you relied on tradition and human weakness to force participation.” Amelia restated sternly.

“I don’t regret what I did, ma’am!” Alex Reilly defended proudly. “Because of my actions our race survived a millennium and more.” She paused and looked at me a moment.

“Because of what I did, the Empress of Time and Space exists.”

“I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing if put in the same position, Miss Reilly. I do have a problem with removing the ability to continue your race though- and what is this familiarity thing you speak of?” Amelia asked in a proper tone.

“Familiarity is a term I use to describe the machines’ ability to seek out a familiar genetic model- a familiar face or person to make the transition easier to handle. A face that is not so strange when looking in a mirror.”

Amelia stared at me then at Emily.

“A person could become a sister or similar relation to someone through this process if impressed properly?”

Alex Reilly looked at Amelia for a moment dumbstruck. She then glanced at Emily and I before lowering her eyes.

“Yes, ma’am, it has happened on occasion.”

“I see that, Miss Reilly.” Amelia nodded to me.

Alex Reilly remained quiet for a moment, as if contemplating something.

“Alexandra Steinert and Emily Scott are not the only occurrence, Amelia.” She paused as she blushed. “My ‘sister’, Raya, entered Reilly’s airlock over seven hundred revolutions ago and…”

Immediately the name triggered a memory- sad and extremely painful…definitely heartbreaking!

In that memory, a face very similar to Emily’s looked back at me from the other side of a window. The woman’s face looked sad and forlorn as her hand appeared in the lower quadrant and gently touched the glass.

“I’m sorry, Alex.” I recalled her voice saying sadly through the intercom. “I’ve tried to adapt and overcome the changes around the facility. I’ve tried to think of you as my sister, but still I see the love that has been deleted from me! I have failed you and our fellow researchers, Alex! You and the others will endure better without me.”

“Raya, no! No, don’t do this!”

“Be strong, my love- stronger than I ever could be. Set the benchmark for unbiased supervision this facility will need to continue our species well into the future- a luminescent future I know you have seen via your enhanced abilities. Farewell, Alex. May our next revisions fare better. Until we meet in another time, Empress.”

Raya’s tear-streaked face disappeared with a sudden ‘WHUSH’, only silence was heard through the loudspeaker after that.

“Alex? Alex! Alex, why did you suddenly just freeze and start crying?” Emily tersely tried to get my attention.

I looked at my other ‘sisters and noticed that Alex Reilly, my future twin, and my granddaughter, Alexandra, all had the same expression and tear-stained cheeks as I did!

“What just happened here, Emily?” Amelia inquired with a confused look. “All four of them just stopped and started crying.”

“Grandmother, maybe Alex forgot to tell you about the Empress’ ability to share memories with each other. In fact, we all share memories with our temporal counterparts thanks to the Empress.”

I felt the need to comfort my previous revision and wrapped my arms around Alex Reilly.

“I’m sorry, sister, I know it was a memory you’ve tried hard to bury, but you know you now have sisters with which to commiserate and heal.”

“Thanks, Alex. It’s good to have family again.”

‘Sorry to barge in skip, but we’re all waiting for you to get here. Everyone is kind of hungry.” Jack interrupted mentally.

I began to laugh, despite the serious nature of my previous memory.

“Alex?” Emily asked a little concerned.

“Apparently the natives are restless, Dr. Scott, and shall soon succumb to malnutrition.”

My three, fellow Empress’ all nodded to my evaluation. Amelia looked confused.

“They’re waiting on us to start the party, Grandma. Let’s go celebrate our independence!” I declared.



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