South of Bikini 2: E9- To Save an Old Friend

Alex and Emily continue their Recon mission to 1917 Hartford. After which Sand Dollar takes a trip to the North Atlantic. What manner of chaos could a wave cause for Capt. Steinert and her crew and how could it possibly affect the timeline?

 
 

South of Bikini:

Onward

Episode 9

“To Save an Old Friend”

 
 

1310 hours, The Roland Demmit House, Hartford, Connecticut, April 18th, 1917
 
 

“That’s us!” Amelia gasped and pointed as we reappeared in her greenhouse just behind ourselves.

“Yes, let’s listen.” I replied.

“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.” Previous Emily admitted. I now could 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 a 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.” Past Emily said. There was no mistaking the big smile on her face.

“Are you in that big of a hurry, Andrea?”

“Oh, no…um…well, it has been a little awkward, Grandmother.”

We looked on as Amelia glared at my sister.

“Sorry…Amelia.”

Both Amelias 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.” My previous self laughed.

Amelia looked knowingly at me as we continued watching our past selves converse.

“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.”

“Movies?”

“Um…A Nickelodeon. We call them movies in our time.”

“May I see this wondrous place you call Reilly? I can only imagine the miraculous devices stored there!”

We looked on as our past selves placed our pruning snips down on the flowerboxes we had been working on. Each of us knocked the few particles of earth from our aprons, took them off, and placed them beside the cutters.

“Let’s go then.” My past self said offering her hands.

As before, Emily grinned ear to ear and she wasted no time taking the offered hand.

“Are you serious, Allison?”

“Completely.”

“Won’t we be missed?”

I heard our Amelia giggle

“Um…time traveler?” Past Alex smiled. “I can have you back here so that it appears you’ve never left.”

Past Amelia cautiously took the extended hand while our Amelia shook her head in amusement.

“It didn’t seem so comical at the time.” Amelia said, again looking at me.

“How about we go to Reilly Research Station in the year 2029?”

“You can go that far, Allie?”

“Y’all wouldn’t believe how far I’ve gone!”

Previous Amelia closed her eyes tightly.

“Just like Uncle Rick did his first time.” I shook my head and giggled as we continued to watch things unfold. I smiled instinctually knowing what was said next.

“Amelia, is that a bird over there? How on Earth did it get in the greenhouse?”

“What bird? I don’t see any bird over…”

I could feel Amelia jump as our previous selves simply vanished!

“Take one step forward, please.” I asked before I rephased us. To anyone watching we would appear to flicker for an instant and nothing more.

“Oh, it must have been a leaf dropping or a reflection from outside- my mistake.” I continued the previous conversation as if nothing more had happened.

Amelia looked at me in confusion.

“So…I think Andrea and I should start our preparations to leave, Amelia.”

She remained quiet as she looked between Emily and I a few moments. She looked around the greenhouse apparently checking for eavesdroppers.

“Is this what it’s like for you, Al…Allie- all the adventure…the excitement? Then everything just back to normal…as if nothing ever happened?” Amelia asked after she was satisfied we were still alone.

“Amelia, since the arrival of the Empress, nothing has been remotely close to ‘normal’.” Emily smiled sarcastically.

Amelia Demmit thought for a few moments.

“So, what am I to do now, Empress?” She whispered loudly.

“You do what you usually would as if you never met the Empress, of course, but with the added knowledge that your family will continue- growing strong and healthy- for at least the next few centuries.” I told her, shrugging my shoulders.

“Just like that? It’s that easy for you, Allie?”

I lowered my head.

“No. It’s never that easy, Grandma.” I paused to hold back my tears. “It’s never that easy with family.” I continued solemnly. “In all fairness, your life will never be the same, Amelia. You will continue to live this life- taking care of Ruth and Grandfather Roland, but you will never look at them the same way. At first you will blame your obvious discomfort to them on Andrea and I- possibly distracting them by citing our decision to join the Great War. As time drags on, you will begin to wonder if we were just some hallucination- that we were part of some fantastic dream. Until we come calling again, that is.”

“So, I’ll see my granddaughters again? When?” Amelia’s face turned hopeful.

I smiled tensely, “When the time warrants it, Grandma. That’s all I can say for now.”

Andrea looked at me, perplexed by my response.

I twitched an eyebrow ever so slightly, though I didn’t know if Amelia noticed.

“Will you at least stay for dinner?” She asked quickly and literally out of nowhere.

“Of course we will, Amelia, but don’t expect us to eat too much after all we had earlier.”

Grandma Demmit gave us a devilish grin. “As you said, Empress, appearances must be kept.”

“We’ll do the best we can, Amelia.” Emily giggled. “We do have to watch our figures you know!”

“After watching you two and your sisters at that buffet table, I hardly believe that, Andrea!” Amelia said knowingly with a giggle of her own.

“I hate to say this, Amelia, but Andrea and I should go upstairs and start packing. We should be finished well before dinner and can help with the preparations if ya’ll’d allow us.”

“You will do no such thing, Allie! You are my guests and guests do not help with household duties! Besides, you have to go back and impress me, isn’t that right, sweetheart?”

“Yes, ma’am, I do have that chore to do. Come on Andrea, we need to pack.”
 
 

1925 hours, The Roland Demmit House, Hartford, Connecticut, April 18th, 1917
 
 

“So you and Allison are leaving. I was beginning to get used to the idea of having a few more women around. I’m assuming there is nothing I can say to delay your departure?”

“I’m sorry, but no, Uncle Roland. Allie and I must be in Baltimore by the 20th or we miss our ship and are labeled deserters. The Demmit family name will not be soiled by such fowl accusations.” Emily told our ‘Uncle’.

“So, Allison, you never did tell me how you know so much about guns and other ordinance.” Uncle Roland inquired, drudging up the forgotten topic once more.

I lowered my head and thought about how I could present this without revealing my true military history.

“My fiancée is in the Navy, Uncle Roland. He made sure that I knew as much about firearms as was possible. The training I received from him was extensive and encompassed all manner of munitions and weaponry. I still look forward to his return some day.” I decided to use Emily’s version of our previous relationship.

“So you still expect him to return, Allie?” Ruth asked as she stopped eating to listen.

Uncle Roland stopped eating himself and glared at her.

“Roland, dear, Allison’s fiancée, Alexander, was sent on a secret mission over nine months ago and hasn’t been heard from since. This inquiry must be very stressful on her and Andrea. Both have recently lost someone close.” Amelia told him on our behalf.

His mouth dropped open slightly as he remained quiet.

“Ruthie,” I said, looking to my ‘cousin’, “I can only hope that he is still alive and thinking of me just as much as I of him. As I told you the other day, Andie and I are in a unique position to offer each other comfort”

Andrea looked to me with sadness of her own.

“Even if he doesn’t come back, Allie, I’m sure you’ll find someone equally deserving- I just know it.” Ruth said confidently.

It was time I turned the tables on her.

“Are you sure, Ruthie?” I asked, returning her uncertainty from earlier in our visit.

“As sure as I look exactly like you, Allie.” She replied with a confident smile.

I smiled at her and nodded.
 

All too soon dinner ended and Andrea and I excused ourselves from the table.
 
 

“Thank you for having us, Uncle Roland, Aunt Amelia. When we get back from Europe, we’ll be sure to look you up.” I said as we stopped by the front door.

“I apologize for your cousin’s sudden tirade, girls, I think she had hoped to adopt you both.”

“We understand, Uncle Roland. Andie and I have grown fond of her as well.” I admitted.

Ruth had become very emotional and ran off to her room as we began our ‘good-byes’, so it was just Roland and Amelia seeing us off. We both carried new carpetbags filled with new clothing and ‘necessaries’- things we really didn’t need, but were obliged to take anyway.

The doorbell rang, interrupting any more stalling on their part.

“Please excuse me a moment, ladies.” Uncle Roland opened the door to reveal a young man in a dark blue uniform and hat with ‘Western Union” printed on its hatband. “Can I help you young man?”

“Um…telegram for Mr. Roland Demmit, sir.” He announced while looking over at Emily and I with a big smile.

“That’s me son, I’m Roland Demmit.”

“Oh…um…sign here, sir.” The young man indicated a line on his clipboard. He barely took his eyes off the two of us.

Uncle Roland took the message and dug into his pocket, retrieved a silver dollar and handed it to the messenger.

“Thanks, son.”

“Thank you, Mr. Demmit!” The young man said cheerfully at such a large tip.

I slowly reached over and took Emily’s hand. I felt bad for what we were about to do. Amelia noticed and looked confused for a second.

“Mr. Roland Demmit” Uncle Roland started reading as he unfolded the message. “I regret to inform you that your two nieces, Allison and Andrea Demmit, sole heirs to your brother, Alistair’s estate, have met with an unfortunate accident, 11 April, 1917, while traveling from Albany, NY via train. Both have been confirmed deceased and have been interred in Albany Heights Cemetery as per their previously departed father’s prescribed wishes.”

I phased Emily and I out as he continued reading.

“As his attorney, but more as a long-time friend, I understand that your relationship with your brother has been strained these many years, but wished to alert you, despite his explicit wishes, and convey my deepest condolences to you and your family. I know personally that you, Amelia, Richard, and especially young Ruth were at the forefront of Allison and Andrea’s thoughts as they departed Albany in hopes of reuniting the family they so dearly loved. Again, my sincerest condolences, sir. Signed: William Reginald Ashford III, Attorney-at-law.” Uncle Roland finished reading and took a sharp breath.

“Allison, please tell me…” Uncle Roland finished re-reading the letter and looked up at us in shock. From his perspective only he and Amelia now stood in the foyer. Both looked completely devastated by our sudden disappearance.

“Did it really have to be this way, Alex?” Emily asked in a sad, quivering, voice.

I sadly nodded toward Uncle Roland in answer.

“How…how could they have been here, when clearly…?”

Amelia remained quiet, still stunned by the unsettling message.

“Have we just been witness to…?” Roland again failed to finish his question and looked at his wife’s face for any possible answers.

She had only one answer, but its disclosure promised admission to a sanitarium- possibly for the rest of her life! Instead, she remained silent.

Tears ran down both faces as they continued to look at each other. His tears for the lost chance to patch the rift between brothers; her tears for knowing she couldn’t tell him our real identities. As one they looked to where we still stood, albeit out of phase with this time slightly and therefore invisible to them.

“How could I have been such a stubborn, old fool?” He exclaimed as he rubbed his brow.

“More like a stubborn old ass.” Amelia muttered to him.

“Mother, have they gone already? I wanted to apologize for my childish behavior.” Ruthie called down from the second floor balcony.

Roland and Amelia Demmit suddenly broke down and full-out cried at their daughter’s question.

“Time to go, sis.” I said sadly as I sniffed my own tears back.

My office on Atlantis-Minor replaced the depressing scene in the foyer of Roland and Amelia Demmit.
 
 

1314 hours, Atlantis-Minor Base, June 29th, 1944
 
 

“Alex! Emily! Come quick, it’s the Admiral! Hey, you two look very nice…in an old-time sort of way.” Jack actually announced from the door.

“Thanks, but what happened, Jack?” I asked as Emily and I looked at each other in horror as our carpet bags dropped.

We followed her to Uncle Rick’s quarters were we found a very inebriated Admiral Richard Demmit throwing liquor bottles against the walls.

“Empress, could you please phase us out before we get any closer?” Jack pleaded. I offered my hands to her and Emily then phased us out.

“I almossshtt perposed at my nieth! Ta th…th…think I fell ph…ph…phor her! Whath wong gwith me? Thee trave travels through time! Alexth…how couldya dosuch athing to me?” He ranted, smashing another bottle against the finely detailed woodwork as he did so.

“Alex, what’s he going on about? He’s so pickled I can barely read him” Jack asked as she watched in stunned amazement.

“I’m afraid it’s something that happened back in 1917, Jack- family business.” I replied.

“Family business or not, he’s going to hurt himself, Cap. You need to do something.”

“Knock him out, Commander. I’ll deal with the consequences when he wakes up.”

“Alex, I can’t strike a superior officer!”

“Trust me, you’ve already done it at least once that I know of, now do it, Commander!”

“Aye, Cap.” Jack acknowledged with reservation.

Uncle Rick immediately dropped to the floor unconscious.

“Better get him into bed to sleep it off.” I checked the near future. “He’s going to sleep for about six hours.”

“Six hours?” Jack cried out!

I shook my head ‘no’ to her insinuated question.

Jack exhaled through her mouth in relief.

“Shouldn’t we get him ready first, Alex?” Emily asked as she reopened her eyes. My sister had obviously consulted her gift.

“Good idea, sis. We might as well confuse him further since we’re in so deep already.” I giggled in spite of knowing the extent of trouble we were already in.

“Alex, right before I knocked him out, he had your image- as you look now, but in a different old style dress. It looked like something my grandmother used to wear to church when I was little.”

“You mean this dress, Jack?” I asked, selecting my dress from Anna’s wedding in 1917 and triggering my uniform to change.

“That would be the one, Cap. Gosh, you look great in it- better than grandmother ever did!”

I looked at Jack for a second with a raised eyebrow. “I’ll take that as a compliment, Miss Cummins.” I said cautiously before selecting my everyday uniform instead of my ‘travel dress’ from 1917.

Emily and I had our Reilly suits copy the beautiful dresses Amelia had bought for us. We had purposely left the originals behind in Ruth’s huge closet earlier in the day prior to our departure. It seemed like a waste of the family’s money to bring them forward to a time where they wouldn’t be worn. At least everything purchased would fit Ruth…Momma Scott.

“So, what’s the story, Alex? Why would the Admiral be thinking about you, back then, while in a drunken stupor?” Jack pressed.

“Emily and I were pretending to be Uncle Rick’s cousins from Albany- Allison and Andrea Demmit.”

“I already knew that, Alex, but what happened back there?”

“Apparently, a young Richard Demmit started to fall for Cousin Allison at the wedding reception we attended. Remember how he reacted before we left? He realized that I was Allison.”

“Wow! I’d need a drink after learning that one too!” Jack rubbed her head as she blew out her latest breath. “So now what? We wait here for him to wake up and take our lumps?”

“Not really, Jack. You make preparations to get Sand Dollar underway. We slip moorings 0700hrs tomorrow morning. Tell Randi I want all hands in Reilly suits programmed with North Atlantic cold weather gear and personal flotation devices circa 2028. I want the command staff to meet in the Mess Hall at 1835hrs tonight, the rest of the boat crew at 1900hrs.”

“Aye, Cap. She’ll be ready.” Jack said as she left the Admiral’s quarters.

“Alex, what about Uncle Rick? He’s going to realize we redressed him.” Emily asked with concern.

“The Admiral will have to make a decision, sis. Either he understands that we were only protecting him from himself or Russell waits for us to be released from prison.”

“Like any prison on Earth could hold you or Jack, or any of us for that matter, Alex.”

“We aren’t criminals, Emily. Of course we would accept our incarceration.”

“You mean Uncle Rick is actually…”

“I didn’t say that, sis.”

“Good, because that isn’t what I saw happening.”

I reached over to Emily and pulled her to me. “I love you, sis.”
 
 

“So, we’re all here now, Alex. Care to begin?” Chief Samuels said with a little too much irritation in her voice.

“Are we interrupting something, Ricky Lynn? A beauty shop appointment perhaps?” I asked, slightly disturbed by her demeanor tonight.

“Well, no, skip, I just got things to do before we shove off in the morning.” She answered, backing down.

“Good, cause we’re missing two people before I can start.” I stated calmly.

“Captain Steinert, sorry I’m late, ma’am.” Jamie Hilf stopped abruptly and stood to attention as soon as she was inside the Mess Hall door.

“That’s one of the two.” I announced. “Have a seat, Jamie.” I motioned to an open seat.

“But this is an officer’s meeting, Cap.” Jamie looked conflicted as she moved to sit down.

“Very good observation, Miss Hilf. I believe the Admiral gave everyone assigned to Sand Dollar a commission. Am I right in that assumption?”

“Oh ya, that’s right. I forgot, Cap.”

“Sit down, Ensign. We’re still minus one person.

“Captain Steinert! I want to know how and why I woke up in my quarters with my pj’s on? I also want to know why my jaw is sore- as if someone slugged me!” Admiral Demmit growled as he burst through the door in a rage.

“That would be him now.” I concluded flatly.

He stopped abruptly noticing everyone seated with me.

“Admiral on deck!” I shouted.

We all quickly stood to attention.

“At ease, ladies.” His tone backed off slightly.

“Admiral, if you would care to join us? We were just about to start our mission briefing. Miss Peterson one batch of your patented hangover tonic for the Admiral, please?”

“That won’t be necessary, Captain, I’d like to suffer though this one if you don’t mind!” Uncle Rick said in his commanding voice.

“But I insist, Admiral.” Instead of nodding to Ricki Peterson, I instead nodded to Jamie Hilf.

“Admiral Demmit, you really should take something for that nasty hangover.” She looked to him and concentrated. “Perhaps I can assist in your recovery, sir?”

The pain and some of the anger left Uncle Rick’s face.

“A body can’t even suffer from self inflicted misery around you girls!” He huffed, sitting down to my immediate right in defeat.

We all looked at each other around the table for a moment before I took charge of the meeting.

“Alright, the first order of business.” I paused. “I take full responsibility for your condition when you woke up a few minutes ago, sir. When Dr. Scott and I returned from our reconnaissance, you had been drinking uncharacteristically heavy and taking it out on almost every bottle in your private bar. In order to protect you from further harm I ordered Miss Cummins to incapacitate you. We then tried to make you comfortable before taking your alcohol reeking uniform to our base laundry for cleaning. Is there anything else before we move on to the next topic on our meeting agenda, Admiral?” I explained looking directly at him. I kept my voice as level and as commanding as Amelia would have.

Uncle Rick’s jaw dropped open and he remained silent.

“No? Moving along to the second item then. Lieutenant Scott and I were able to ascertain and research the circumstances regarding our next mission. While back in 1917, we were able to determine the appropriate course of action to rescue the lost survivors of U103, a German U-boat struck by the Olympic and mortally damaged. As Admiral Demmit’s initial brief stated, one member of the USS Davis entered the water when one of the German prisoners made an abrupt attempt at escape. Both men were abandoned due to a rogue wave spotted approaching the Davis at an unusually high rate of speed. Both men, along with twenty others were thought to have perished until an exhaustive investigation of Reilly Research Station’s historic archives by Admiral Demmit revealed several discrepancies. One being the missing Davis crewman, one Russell Brackenridge, he is listed as dying in 2020 at the ripe old age of one hundred and twenty-three. Another discrepancy is that he appears in no census, credit, or similar reports between 1920 and May of 1983. Admiral Demmit has requested that Sand Dollar journey back to 12 May 1918 to attempt rescue of Mr. Brackenridge and the twenty other men from the cold North Atlantic off the coast of Ireland.” I paused to sip some coffee from my cup.

“As you all know, I have ordered Sand Dollar made ready for a 0700 departure tomorrow. All crew are required to wear their assigned Reilly suits. Lieutenant Van Pelt you will see to it that all suits are programmed with cold weather gear appropriate for North Atlantic operations and personal floatation devices as they would pertain to 2028. I don’t want to take a chance with our current ‘May Wests’ because of the large wave and severe sea conditions involved. I will transport Admiral Demmit back to Pearl to either drop him off or retrieve his own Reilly suit, if he decides on accompanying us on this mission. Are there any questions?”

“So you bring Rusty up to 1944, Alex?”

“Admiral, please don’t skip to the last few pages of the book, sir. Enjoy the read as it progresses.” I replied to his chagrin. “You are interested in coming along then, Admiral?” I asked.

He simply nodded in astonishment.

“Good. Ladies, I’ll be right back. Admiral, if you would stand and take my hand?”

Uncle Rick and I stood and took each other’s hand. Our Mess Hall became Uncle Rick’s quarters at Pearl Harbor.

“So, you’ve obviously met mother.” He stated as I released his hand.

“We had many a pleasant and informative conversation, Uncle. Mostly though, the topic was Grandfather.”

“He was a hard one to please, Alex- almost disowned me for joining the Navy! I heard from mother when I returned stateside that my cousin ‘Allison’ had ripped him a new one at dinner a couple nights before I arrived for the wedding.”

“We had a detailed tete-a-tete about the comprehension levels females of our species possessed in comparison to males, yes.” I replied feeling my expression turn angry at the recall of that night.

“Ruthie told me that you out stared him- that he backed down in just under five minutes.”

“I didn’t know it was that long, sir. He just made me sooo angry! I guess she mentioned about my pulling my service piece, too?”

“No. She never mentioned that incident! Why would you do something like that to my father, Alex?” Uncle Rick looked surprised and also a little concerned.

“Oh, it was nothing, Uncle Rick, just an impulse to a statement he made, nothing to worry about, sir. We should just forget it- not important.” I shook my head. “You should get changed, sir, I still have the enlisted to brief when we get back.”

“Mother and father never talked about your visit, Alex. I hope it went well?” He asked from the next room- his bedroom.

“Amelia is a very intuitive woman, sir.”

“She saw through your cover, Alex?”

“You could say that, sir. You could say that.”

“She knows about you, I take it?”

I didn’t reply.

Uncle Rick let out a grunt in understanding.

“So how far did you take her, Alex?”

“2029. July 4th, 2029.”

“Oh? Why 2029?”

“Because that was the only July 4th celebration that she wasn’t already in attendence, sir.” I felt my face warm considerably.

His head popped into the open doorway. “What do you mean that was the only celebration she wasn’t there for…?” His eyes grew large. “You mean she…? When, Alex?”

“1937.” I replied.

“’37? That was the year she… That was you?”

“Not exactly, Uncle Rick. Amelia drank Kili’s water while we were at the celebration in 2029, sir. I tried to stop her but Carrol’s Alexis and Randi’s Delilah were soo cute the way they were playing together, and…”

“You took your eyes off her for more than a minute, right?”

“Yes, sir, it may have been a little longer.”

“How did it happen, Alex? I want to know how it happened.” From the look on his face, he was serious.

I waited until he came back into the living room.

“Amelia was heading home from one of her political meetings. A drunk crossed into her lane and ran her Chevrolet off the road and into a ditch. She was trapped, semi-conscious, under the car when it rolled over. The drunk actually had the sense to stop. Seeing her dilemma, being scared, and realizing that she probably wouldn’t make it, he poured the remains of his whiskey bottle into her mouth, thinking it would help her final pain.” I paused to prepare myself for the worst part of the story.

“She woke up on the autopsy table at Hartford General just before the medical examiner applied his scalpel to her chest. Nearly gave the man a coronary. That’s where I come into the story.”

“So you saw this all happen when you were back in 1917? Why didn’t you arrive earlier and save her before she went to the morgue?”

“I had issues of my own to contend with, Admiral- girl issues. On top of that we were in the middle of a cat and mouse game with a Japanese destroyer that just had to expend all of her ash cans on us! I’ve never transported the Sand Dollar and her crew from a depth of three-fifty before. I hope I never have to try.”

“I’m sure Jack wanted to help things along?”

“I won’t let her, sir. With the power build up she can produce, I don’t want to take a chance at her frying every electrical circuit onboard- especially at that depth!”

“I see your point, but why did you arrive so late, Alex?”

“I just misjudged the time of the accident, Uncle Rick, it was my mistake. Amelia said she understood, but I suspect she still has nightmares from it.” I finished by looking down to the floor.

A few tears hit the floor. “I’m sorry I was late, sir.”

“Alex, I was at Reilly for your Empress Conference, why didn’t I see her there? I mean I thought I met everyone that week.”

“You met her, Uncle Rick…Amy Kleis.”

“She uses her maiden name now? Why?”

“Amy didn’t want you to know at the conference. That was your first trip to the future and she wanted to tell you in private after I had a chance to explain what happened.”

“So when can I see and talk to her, Alex?”

“After Germany surrenders next year, sir- that’s all I can reveal at this time, I’m sorry.”

“That possibility to change our future again, Empress?” He asked with a serious expression.

“Again, I’m sorry, Admiral. We better get back to Atlantis-Minor now.” I apologized as I extended my hand to him.

Instead, Uncle Rick pulled me close and hugged me tight.

“Alex, I think I understand your reasoning for withholding certain things from me.” He tightened his arms around me a little more. “I also understand why Jacki Cummins knocked me out earlier today. You took a large gamble by giving that order, young lady! You know I could court marshal all officers involved!”

“Yes, sir. I understood the risks, Admiral.” I admitted as more tears ran down my cheeks. “I insist on taking full responsibility for the incident.”

“I want to thank you, Alex.” He paused as I pushed back from him a little to look him in the eyes.

“I remember parts of what happened. I was out of control over something I didn’t understand. Alex, I fell in love with Allison that night at the wedding reception. I knew she was my cousin, but…I apologize for my behavior at your base today.” He paused again.

“An Admiral should never let himself be seen out of control, inebriated, or incapacitated in any way other than wounded in action. Although, what you did went against military conduct, I appreciate your concern for my wellbeing and you’re protecting my integrity. If I were in your position, I would have done pretty much the same thing, Alex. Thank Miss Cummins for not leaving a mark, for me.”

“You can thank her yourself, sir.”

I wrapped my arms back around him and held on tight.

We were back in Atlantis-Minor’s Mess Hall.

The room erupted in a huge “Ahhhh!” as the two of us rephased. My boat crew was assembled and waiting for my return.

Admiral Demmit immediately released me and looked around with an ashen face.

“If the other brass ever gets wind of this, I’ll have all of you brought up on charges!” He growled.

Giggles now filled the room.

Admiral Demmit shook his head in surrender. After he was seated, I briefed the full crew on our new mission.
 
 

1104 hours, 235 Nautical miles S-SW of Ireland, May 12th, 1918
 
 

“Cmdr. Cummin’s take the boat to battle stations, please.”

“Aye, Cap, Battle Stations.”

The horn sounded as Jack made the announcement and a flurry of activity filled Sand Dollar’s pressure hull.

Several voices echoed through the Con as they came across the squawk.

“All stations manned and ready, Alex.”

“Thanks, Jack. Good job.”

Jack smiled as she looked around to the forward hatch where Admiral Demmit had appeared. He nodded his head in approval.

We had arrived back in 1918 a few hours prior to the recorded start of the incident involving the Olympic, U103, and the Sampson-class Destroyer, Davis. I wanted to make sure we arrived unseen by either side in this conflict for obvious reasons. Foremost of which was the very existence of Sand Dollar- technology that could be misunderstood as the Allies’ new secret weapon, and misinterpreted as the German’s new secret weapon at the same time. Hands down, my Sand Dollar was the largest submersible craft in the Atlantic Ocean at this time in history. I wanted as few people to know about us as was conceivably possible.

“Periscope depth, Miss Cummins.”

“Aye, Cap. Diving control, three, five feet.”

“Three, five feet, aye, Commander.”

“Alex, I haven’t been this cold since I was on the Sandshark. I almost forgot how good we have it working out of Pearl.” Carrol exclaimed as she buttoned up her woolen sweater all the way.

“You should feel it topside, Lieutenant- with the wind ripping into your face at twenty knots!” Admiral Demmit commented.

Carrol visibly shuddered. “Aye, sir.”

“Three, five feet, Miss Cummins.”

“Aye, periscope depth, Alex.” Jack repeated.

“Up periscope, Jack.”

“Aye, ma’am.”

Looking through the eyepiece, I was greeted with an image I had seen years ahead in Flagstaff while watching a historical documentary on World War I. Even as I witnessed it first hand, in natural color and light, it lacked anything but medium to dark shades of gray! What a dismal place, I thought, even nature seemed to have abandoned this period in time!

“Contact! Bearing…one, zero, six, degrees!” Amy Reynolds announced from Sonar, as I spotted the ship several thousand yards away.

“One of ours, Alex?” Admiral Demmit asked.

“You’re the expert, Admiral.” I moved away from the periscope and offered him a look.

“It’s Olympic.” He confirmed.

“Skipper, I’m picking up screws just ahead of the first contact at one, zero, four. I think it’s a sub- sounds similar to a German U-boat only smaller.” Jamie Hilf exclaimed from her station.

The Admiral moved aside so that I could take a look.

Clicking up the magnification, I barely saw the enemy periscope break the surface.

“Admiral, what was periscope depth for the early U-boats?”

“I really don’t remember, Alex. They were only half the size of Sand Dollar as I recall, though.”

“That makes periscope depth around eighteen to twenty-one feet, Alex.” Carrol informed me after some quick math.

“Do you remember what damage the Olympic caused her, Admiral?”

“No, Alex, by the time we arrived all hands were already in lifeboats. We weren’t allowed to talk to the prisoners.”

“Well, from what I’m seeing, the Olympic isn’t going to cause any damage whatsoever. The U-boat has the lead as they cross paths, you sure they collided?”

“That’s what the official report stated and that’s what we were told at the time, Alex.”

“Helm, bring us around to one, zero, six!”

“Aye, Cap, one, zero, six.” Kayla Langford responded.

“Alex?” Admiral Demmit looked at me with a questioning glare.

“If Mohammad won’t come to the mountain, make the mountain come to Mohammad!” I winked.

“Jack, ready tube one for firing!”

“Alex?” She responded. “Won’t that give away our position?”

“Exactly!”

“I thought that was a big no-no, Cap?”

“We’re almost as fast as the Olympic and we can dive deeper than any known boat of the time- twice as deep, as I recall. I plan on sending one past her stern to get her to speed up and turn toward us.”

“Like shoving a stick into a hornet’s nest, Alex?” Admiral Demmit successfully concluded.

I nodded. “Should be enough to get her to change course and ‘collide’ with U103.”

“Captain, may I remind you that engagement rules of the time required the attacking boat to surface and alert the target vessel to lessen the lose of life?”

“We aren’t from this time, Admiral, and I’d rather not surface, thereby putting Sand Dollar on display to either side. This has to happen, sir. We have to make this happen.” I said evenly.

“And why wasn’t I briefed on this, Captain?”

“Would you have believed it, sir?” I asked with a slight smirk.

“Believed that a submarine from 1944 purposely caused a friendly ship to collide with a German U-boat? Having met the Empress and witnessing your…unorthodox attack strategies, yes!”

“You would have tried to stop me, sir. This has to happen though.” I repeated, looking to the deck.

“Another stationary waypoint in time, Alex?”

“I’m afraid so, sir.” I replied quietly.

The Admiral shook his head in resignation. “Carry on, Captain Steinert.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Heading one, zero, six!” Kayla Langford announced from rudder control.

“Alex, forward torpedo room answers ready and waiting. Fire control board is green.” Jack informed me.

“Firing control, tube one on my mark!”

I took another look through the scope and took my bearing.

“Bearing one, zero, six! Two thousand yards- mark!”

“One, zero, six, two thousand yards, aye.”

“Fire tube one.”

We felt the familiar shudder and the faint hiss of compressed air as the fish took to the open sea. With any luck it wouldn’t hit anything and never be seen again.

“Torpedo one away, Skipper.”

“Down scope and take us to two, five, zero feet, adjust course two degrees to starboard, ahead two-thirds, Jack.”

“Aye, Cap.” She said as she passed the orders along.

“Now what, Skipper? Carrol asked.

“We wait.” I said as I watched the chronometer intently.

Roughly five minutes had passed before Jamie Hilf broke the silence in the Con.

“Skipper, I just heard a metallic collision topside and one set of screws has stopped- the U-boat, ma’am.”

“Thank you, Miss Hilf. No explosion though from two degrees off port?”

“Nothing, Skip.”

“What about Olympic?”

“She hasn’t stopped, Skip. Heavy cavitations now! She’s reversed her screws- probably trying to back away. Alex, there’s more metallic groaning in the water now! Sounds like Olympic is scraping her keel on the U-boat!

I, as well as everyone in the Con, winced in reaction to that information. We could only imagine what U 103’s crew must be going through or the nightmare they would soon experience.

Olympic’s massive screws reportedly opened the U-boat up like a can of sardines! They never stood a chance when they decided to crash dive- should have actually stopped and backed away.

History proved valid a few seconds later.

“More metallic growning, Skip. Sounds like she’s still going!”

I noticed Uncle Rick close his eyes tightly.

“Bring us around, Jack, and take us back up to periscope depth.”

“Aye, Cap.”

“Admiral, how long until the Davis arrives?”

“Olympic continued moving away from the scene after spotting another periscope…off…to the…south…”

The old man glared at me in a way similar to when he realized I was actually his cousin Allison.

“You really do enjoy giving your commanding officer heart attacks, don’t you Capt. Steinert?” He growled.

“That was never my intention, Admiral. Adjust course to two, eight, eight, and maintain speed.”

“Aye, Cap. Passing five zero feet.”

“Thanks, Jack. Admiral? How long until the Davis arrives?”

“What? Oh…twenty minutes. We arrived twenty minutes after receiving Olympic’s transmission.”

“Three, five feet.”

“Three, five feet, Alex.”

“Thanks, Jack. Up periscope, let’s continue repairing this spot in time.” I said, but instead of reaching for the scope, I picked up the microphone of the squawk.

“Chief Van Pelt to the Con.” I announced.

Admiral Demmit gave me a confused look.

“What’s up, Skip?

“Randi, how long would it take to rig the radio shack for simple wireless telegraphy?”

“I don’t understand, Alex. Wireless telegraph?”

“I believe it was referred to as ‘Spark Gap’ Wireless or just plain Wireless- like the Titanic used.” I explained.

“Alex, what have you neglected to tell me now?” The old man glared at me again.

“Someone has to point out that rogue wave, Admiral.” I told him calmly.

“Somehow I just knew you would say that, Alex.” He looked to Randi. “Fleet signaling frequency is five hundred cycles, Miss Van Pelt.”

“I wasn’t aware radio went that low, Admiral.” She replied.

“This is 1918, lieutenant, not the stone-age!” Uncle Rick growled.

“Randi, the Detroit uses Ultra-Low Frequency to communicate with CINCPAC while submerged don’t forget.” I reminded her.

“But that’s digital, Skip!”

“Digital, telegraphy- what’s the difference, it’s still on-off- ones and zeros- just with a different protocol.”

“I never thought about it that way before, Alex.”

I rolled my eyes in amazement that she wouldn’t make the connection.

“How long, Chief?”

“About ten minutes, but we have to surface to transmit.”

“I realize that Chief. Get to work. Have Josie help you if necessary. I want a transmission made in twelve minutes!”

“Aye, ma’am!” Randi acknowledged as she hurried back to her equipment.

“Jack, the message won’t be acted on quick enough so you’ll need to persuade the lookouts on the Davis to look to the northeast.”

“I’d have better success if I could see one or the other, Alex.”

“Would full magnification on the scope be good enough?”

“It will have to be, Cap.”
 
 

“Cap, Josie and I are ready for that transmission.” Randi informed me a few minutes later.

“Miss Sheldon, distance from the Davis’ last location?”

“Ten miles, Skip, if she remained stationery.”

“Jack raise the periscope.”

“Aye, Cap.”

Quickly, I checked in the direction I knew the destroyer to be located.

“Good job, Carrol.” I praised her math. “Ex-O, surface the boat!”

“Randi, escort Admiral Demmit back to the radio shack and transmit whatever he tells you.”

Uncle Rick nodded to me as he followed my radio operator.

“We’re topside, Alex.” Jack informed me.

“Thanks, Jack.” I said as I took the few steps back to the aft hatch.

“Miss Van Pelt, you’re on!” I shouted.

“Aye, Skipper, sending now.” Came her reply.

“Jack, you’re with me on the bridge, spare the lookouts.” I told her as my uniform changed into the most advanced cold weather gear we had access to.

The wind and cold stabbed at us as soon as we opened the hatch despite our high-tech gear!

“I never remembered it being this cold when I was stationed out here.” I told Jack as we put binoculars to our eyes and began searching the horizon for the mysterious wave destined to doom twenty-one men this day.

“Bridge, Radio Shack, Skip, message is sent.” Randi’s voice said over the squawk’s loudspeaker.

“Radio, Bridge, thanks Randi. Con, Bridge, ahead two thirds steady on this course.”

“Aye, Skip”. Carrol’s voice replied.

“Time to go below, Jack.” I told her.

“But I didn’t see anything, Alex! Is there going to be a twenty-five foot wave or is that something Amy Reynolds whips up?” She asked as I motioned for her to go down the hatch first.

“Oh, it’s out there, Jack. These things have been clocked at over 170 knots!”

Jack stopped halfway down the ladder, looked back up at me, and whistled.
 
 

Several minutes later Jack was clicking through the different stages of magnification available in the periscope’s eyepiece control.

“I can barely see the port lookout, Alex.”

“You think you can work your magic, Jack?”

“Sorting out his thoughts now, Cap.” She said as she moved back from the scope and smiled at me. “One thing is for certain, his mind really isn’t on his job, Alex.” She giggled. “I’m drawing his attention now.”

“Admiral, what time did the wave hit the Davis?” I asked.

“1252hrs, Alex.”

I looked at the chronometer. 1245 it read.

“Captain, the Davis’ screws have started!”

“The captain was trying to head her into the wave. We were still trying to rescue the U-boat crew when we received his orders to stow everything and get below.” Admiral Demmit reminisced.

“Alex, how are we going to save those men and stay alive? A twenty-five foot wave is sure to give us problems.” Jack asked the question for the rest of the crew.

I looked to the deck as I thought about the answer. A sudden sadness came over me.

“They don’t all make it, do they, Alex?” Jack quickly joined me in disappointment.

“Maybe half, Jack, I’m sorry.”

“Well, like you say, we can’t save them all.” She admitted sadly, still staring at the deck.

“I know, Jack, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.” I said quietly before glancing back at the chronometer. 1250hrs.

I picked up the squawk. “All hands, brace for impact! Damage control teams stand by!”

“Dive control, take us down to one hundred feet as quick as possible.”

“Aye, Cap.”

“This is going to feel like the dips at Coney Island, ladies, so hang on.” I told everyone within the sound of my voice. “We get hit ten seconds after the Davis.”

“You’ve ridden one of these out before, Skip?” Carroll asked innocently.

“Not yet, but I remember it well.” I told her.

“Coming from anybody but you, that would sound ridiculous, Alex!”

“I remember it well enough too, Lieutenant! It was less fun topside!” The old man growled.

“Wait…” Carroll said as she held up her hand. “We’re almost ten miles from her! That would mean that thing is moving…”

“Fast!” I interrupted.
 
 

We all took hold of something stationary and waited.
 
 

Peyton’s crash landing of Meridian back in 1965 was far smoother than what we had just experienced! It was a good thing I had asked her to remain behind on Ni’ihau. No telling what her reaction to this might have been so soon after that mission. Damage though, was limited to a few pipe leaks and a control valve blowout or two.

Some of the crew had sustained superficial cuts and bruises, but would be fine in a few minutes. I, on the other hand, received the full brunt of our turbulent ride as Admiral Demmit lost his grip at one point and ended up knocking me to the floor. As Uncle Rick pushed himself off of me, the sudden and sharp pain in my chest told me that at least two of my ribs had fractured.

Emily was immediately at my side as Uncle Rick and Carroll gently picked me up. It was then that I noticed Jack still lying on the deck!

“Jack,” I gasped as the pain rocketed through me, “Is she okay?” I gasped again as tears caused by the intense pain streamed down my face.

“She just bumped her head, sis. She’ll wake up in a minute or two.” Emily said in her professional voice. “You, on the other hand… Alex, you have four broken ribs and a slight concussion!” She chastised me as if my mother. “You saw this coming so why didn’t you hold on tighter?”

I simply looked to our uncle who in turn, stared back at me with almost no color in his face.

Emily nodded to me in understanding.

“I want you to select the 1880’s corset, Alex. Exhale as much as possible and substitute it for your bra. This is going to hurt, but will support your ribcage until you heal.” Emily prescribed.

Stars filled my vision as the new undergarment formed then tightened around my midsection. A shriek of pain and obscenities surged from my mouth all on their own! More tears burst forth from my eyes. My vision started to narrow and darken.

“Don’t you dare, Alex Steinert! Don’t you dare!” Emily growled as she slapped my cheek hard several times.

“Thanks, sis.” I waved off her offered hand as I steadied myself against the bulkhead.

“Oww, what did I miss? Jack groaned as she slowly picked herself off the deck. She rubbed gently at the knot on her crown.

“Nothing.” I gasped out. This time the pain wasn’t so bad and I stood up straight.

“Are you wearing a corset again, Alex? I thought you hated those things?”

“In lieu of a body cast, Miss Cummins, a tight corset is the next best thing.”

“Alex, things will be fine so please relax and take things easy.” Jamie Hilf suggested as she left her seat and moved the few feet towards me. I could see she was concentrating very hard.

“It’s okay, Jamie. Unfortunately, I’m not affected by your gift. Thank you for trying though.” I thanked her.

“I suppose I should thank you, Alex.” Uncle Rick said finally. “I guess you know what would have happened had you not cushioned my fall?”

“I wouldn’t have gotten four broken ribs, Admiral.” I exclaimed as best I could.

You mean I wouldn’t have suffered any life threatening injury if you hadn’t broken my fall?”

I shook my head side to side twice.

“Then why, Alex? Why injure yourself if it wasn’t necessary?”

“Because it was the right thing to do, Uncle Rick.” I said sheepishly.

The Con was eerily silent for a few moments.

“Miss Cummins, all stop, surface the boat, and prepare to take on survivors.”

Aye, Cap. Maneuvering, all stop. Dive control, take us topside. General quarters, lookouts to the Con.” Jack announced over the squawk.
 
 

Off to our port, floated an overturned life raft- well, what was left of a life raft anyway!

“I count four men in the water to port, Alex.” Jack said as we each looked in separate directions.

“There’s another six to starboard, Jack.” I added.

Usually, my first officer would’ve repeated my information. I looked over to see her concentrating on something intently.

Admiral Demmit joined us on the freezing, wind-swept bridge.

“Jack?” I asked, looking to Uncle Rick and placing a gloved finger to my mouth.

Two men appeared from the water and floated over and onto Sand Dollar’s foredeck and into our rescue party’s waiting care. As they lay on deck, both looked like their chests were being pushed slightly. Water spilled from the two men’s mouths’. Both began coughing as they rolled over on their stomachs.

Four, more animated, men then joined them on deck. Admiral Demmit and I looked at my first officer in silence.

After the six men from starboard had been floated to safety, Jack finally noticed our stares.

“I couldn’t just let them drown, now could I?” She said with a little growl.

“Get those men below with plenty of blankets!” Admiral Demmit shouted to the crew on the foredeck against the howling wind.
 
 

1424 hours, 190 Nautical miles S-SW of Ireland, May 12th, 1918
 
 

“Alex, all survivors have been shown to the wardroom per your orders.”

“Thanks, Jack.”

I had ordered everyone into cold weather gear and to remain that way until all survivors were blanketed and seated in our wardroom. Admiral Demmit posted himself in the doorway with his pistol in hand.

Seaman 1st Class Rachael Morris, our fire elemental, stood directly behind him. Her task was to concentrate on raising the small compartment’s temperature without cooking everyone and everything within. This was the first real test of her gift, which she had received three days prior to our leaving Atlantis-Minor as six full grown palm trees would attest to- if they were still trees and not ash!

“Rachael, how are you holding up?” I asked quietly from beside her in the passageway.

“As long as I don’t let my feelings toward the Germans influence me, fine, Skip. It’s getting easier to control. I barely have to concentrate now.” She told me with a guarded smile. The five-foot-five redhead had been very apprehensive when I had asked her to use her new gift.

“Miss Cummins reassured me that you would know when it was the right time to use my gift.” She admitted sheepishly.

“What, you didn’t trust me, Ensign?” I asked with a hurt pout. Part of that look was still my four partially mended ribs.

“I trust you explicitly, ma’am.” She quickly replied.

“Never trust anyone ‘explicitly’, Ensign. Always think things through carefully and then use your gut to determine if you should do something or not. Never run blindly into anything- ever!” I preached as images of her future came to mind. Why were redheads always so hot-headed, I asked as another redhead entered my thoughts…and my field of view?

“Skipper,” Chief Samuels started, being careful to show the proper respect to me in front of the Admiral. “All repairs have been finished. We can get underway on your order.”

“Thanks, chief, we’ll be doing just that in about half an hour.”

“Aye, Skipper.” She responded and headed aft.

“Skip, the survivors’ clothing should be pretty much dry. I decided that would be the best use of my gift in this case, ma’am.” Rachael said nervously to me.

“Great job, Ensign. Please resume your station. Admiral Demmit and I will take it from here.” I praised her.

She headed forward with a confident smile.

“Ready, Admiral?” I asked. “I’ll follow your lead, sir.”

“Somehow I seriously doubt that, Alex.”

“Which one is Brackenridge, sir?”

“Second from the left, back against the hull, Alex.” Uncle Rick said, looking back at me questioningly.

I nodded as I brought up my suit’s translator. I also mentally told Jack to be on guard.

‘You really didn’t have to tell me that, Alex.’ I heard in my mind.

I decided to retrieve something from my quarters. Hopefully it would help reinforce our cover story.

“Gentlemen, anyone here speak English?” Uncle Rick asked as he officially entered the wardroom after stepping out of view to revert his Reilly suit to its futuristic looking default. We had agreed to use them in lieu of our naval apparel.

I waited in the passageway.

No one answered him, but all eyes were surely staring at him in frightened confusion.

Admiral Demmit repeated his question in German, Polish, French, Italian, and Spanish.

My Uncle was definitely a show off!

No reply came.

“Well then, Mr. Brackenridge, would you please tell me why an American is hiding amongst his enemy?” The old man asked, staring directly at the man. “You both are still at war, are you not?” He added.

“All twelve men remained silent, although they were now exchanging glances.

“Come now, Rusty, I asked you a perfectly valid question.”

“How do you know me? I’ve never seen you before in my life!” He finally responded.

“Oh, I know you, Mr. Brackenridge. Happy belated twenty-first birthday, by the way.”

The man’s eyes went wide!

It was time to make my entrance.

“Admiral, I trust the survivors are not presenting you much of a problem?” I asked him in my regal voice as I appeared in the doorway.

A collective gasp sounded throughout the small room. Rightly so since I had modified my default uniform, making it lower cut in the bosom than normal, or was it because of the tiara I had placed on my head just seconds ago? Looking around the room and following the stares, it was definitely my chest that caused the reaction.

“Empress, I wasn’t expecting you so soon. I had just started to ask these men questions not a minute ago.”

“Have you found the one called Brackenridge yet? I am anxious to hear his report on this…” I paused for effect, “’incident’.”

Now the other men glared at Russell Brackenridge.

“Who are you?” He blurted out in confusion.

“You will not address the Empress in that manner, commoner!” Uncle Rick growled in anger.

I raised my hand to stop the Admiral.

“They have a right to know who offered them rescue, Admiral.” I said with a regal smile. “First, I would like to know which of the archaic tongues to use in answer. Is there a common tongue among you?”

“Most of us speak English, frauline.” One of the other men finally spoke- apparently he was the U-boat’s captain.

“Bitta, Herr Captain. English it is then.” I said putting on my best smile. “Starting with the introductions: I am called Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space. This distinguished gentleman is Royal Admiral Richard Demmit, commander of my Temporal Fleet. Together, we welcome y’all aboard my flagship, Sand Dollar.”

“I’ve never heard of this ‘Temporal Fleet’, ma’am. What country are you from?” Russell asked cautiously as he seemed to recognize Uncle Rick’s name.

Again I raised my hand to stop Uncle Rick.

“We hail from no country in particular, Mr. Brackenridge; we are only visiting this time period for research purposes.”

“Research, ma’am?”

“Yes, Mr. Brackenridge, research! In order for our civilization to move forward, we must look back to the past in order to see what went wrong and why. Only then do we stand any chance of not repeating it.”

‘He’s going to ask where we are from, Alex.’ Jack thought to me.

“As I said, Russell Brackenridge, we do not belong to any country on this backwards planet. It should not surprise me that you have never heard of the ‘Empress of Time and Space’- a name heralded throughout the known universes-” I glared at him in contempt- “this planet, so single-minded, its inhabitants having concluded that theirs is the only civilization in all the cosmos! How conceited y’all are!”

Uncle Rick chuckled at my scolding.

“Empress, Admiral,” Jack interrupted from the passageway, “Sand Dollar is ready for temporal transit at your pleasure.”

“Temporal transit?”

“Yes, Rusty, temporal as in time transit! Surely the people of this small insignificant sphere understand the concept of time travel?” I asked, looking around the small, crowded room.

“Miss Cummins, alert the crew that we will commence transit on the Admiral’s order.

“Yes, my Empress.”

‘All hands, prepare for temporal transit. Please secure yourself to Sand Dollar. Transit will commence on Admiral Demmit’s mark!’ Jack’s voice boomed in our heads, yet she remained in the doorway quietly smiling the whole time.

To say the men before me were stunned was an understatement!

“Commander Jacquelyn Cummins is from the system you call Cygnus. She has the ability to read thoughts among other talents, and can be very persuasive- and very dangerous if provoked!”

‘Cygnus, Alex?’ She asked in my mind.

‘The Swan galaxy, Jack, as in ‘pretty as a swan’.’ I thought back.

The twelve remained silent and unmoving.

“Gentlemen, I suggest you take hold of the table in front of you as time travel can be bumpy at times.” I advised. It was a good way to make sure we left no one behind.

‘Alex, we’re on the surface.’ Jack thought to me.

‘Thanks, Jack. Is everybody holding on?’ I thought back.

‘Aye.’

“Gentlemen, I really think y’all should hold on to something, we’ve done this a few times.” I advised as I reached for the nearest bulkhead and the table. Uncle Rick did the same.

That seemed to persuade the sailors with us to grasp the table they sat around. I nodded to Admiral Demmit. Nodding back, he took the microphone from the squawk and made his announcement.

“All hands, Temporal transit on my mark, commencing in five…four…three…two…one, mark.”

I nodded casually.

From our guests’ perspective, absolutely nothing happened. A few of them began looking at me as if I were some fraud.

‘Temporal transit complete! All hands will please stand down and return to normal stations.’ Jack again announced in our minds. ‘Welcome to 2029.’

“Time travel is impossible!” One of the men shouted out in broken English. He was U103’s first officer- a man that would change his way of thinking in the matter of a day.

“Time travel is indeed possible, Herr Wolmacher, but I will leave that fact for you to decide.” I smiled deviously at the man. “Where are my manners, Admiral? I neglected to offer our guests refreshment. Surely after such a harrowing experience they could use something?”

“I, personally, could use a bottle of the strongest stuff ya got!” Russell Brackenridge commented, awestruck by what he had witnessed so far today.

I nodded to Uncle Rick.

“Miss Cummins, would you have the galley bring some refreshments for our guests?”

“As you wish, Admiral!” She acknowledged before disappearing down the passageway.

‘As we planned it, Alex?’ She thought to me.

‘Unfortunately, yes.’ I thought back to her.

“Admiral, we’ll arrive at the island in thirty minutes.” Carroll’s voice announced through the squawk’s loudspeaker.

“Thank you, Miss Sheldon. Alert the mooring crew when ready to dock.” Uncle Rick responded.

“As you wish, Admiral.”

Eleven glasses of water, an empty glass, and one full whiskey bottle floated into the wardroom and placed themselves before each guest- the empty glass and liquor bottle in front of Mr. Brackenridge.

Again, twelve mouths dropped wide open- in terror this time.

“As I mentioned before, gentlemen, Miss Cummins is not to be trifled with. Her sight both visually and telepathically is superb.”

Admiral Demmit chuckled again.

Russell Brackenridge wasted no time or the clean glass, preferring to drink straight from the bottle after smelling its contents!

“If all you have told us is true, why bring us to the future…’Empress’?” 103’s captain asked with hesitation.

“Would you have liked us to leave you at the nearest seaport, Manfred Heinz?” I asked and waited for him to react. Ireland would have been the closest land, as he well knew.

Heinz sniffed the liquid in his glass. Satisfied that it was water and nothing more, he took a swig. His men followed suit.

Only Jack and I knew which water each man drank. Rusty continued to take tug after tug of his whiskey.

“Why us? He asked, coming up for air. “Why are we the lucky ones- the ones you decided to rescue?”

“What would have been your fate if we had not appeared, Russell?” I asked calmly.

His eyes reflected understanding as to his previous future.

I nodded. “Yes, Mr. Brackenridge, you and the men beside you would be dead. Amazing how you humans suddenly find understanding when faced with your own mortality.”

“You mean you are not human?” the captain asked in surprise.

I smiled deviously. “We were once like you, but we have…evolved- we have made ourselves better. We seek to improve our race and not destroy it.”

“So we are part of your race?”

“Only because this pathetic planet resides in the same universe, yes. Outside of that, you are very primitive. You will only reach equality among the neighboring stars after much more individual development.”

If they only knew how much development it would take, I thought!

Another bottle of whiskey floated into the room and placed itself in front of Russell. The empty hovered off the table then floated out. Brackenridge wasted no time opening the new bottle!

“You might want to go easy on the liquor, Mr. Brackenridge, some people, those of certain species, find time travel physically and mentally altering. I have witnessed many of these arbitrary changes- some being deadly.” I warned.

As he sat the bottle down, U103’s first mate snatched the bottle and gulped the remainder of its contents- almost full- down!

If I had seen things right, he would wander away from us and fall asleep just off the beach. She would awaken to her new life around midnight.

“Admiral, we have arrived at the island and will be fully docked in ten minutes.” Jack announced again appearing at the doorway.

“Thank you, Miss Cummins that will be all.” Admiral Demmit responded.

“Mr. Brackenridge?” Jack smiled brightly. “I hope the whiskey helped warm you up. Let me know if you need something more warming.”

My first officer disappeared from view as she headed back to the Con.

‘What is wrong with you, Jack?’ I thought to her. I was amazed that she was actually flirting with him.

Amazed, but not surprised.

‘That’s what you wanted me to do, right? I mean, when you were laying out the plan, you were thinking that I should seduce him…keep him interested in me and not what was happening to the others, well that’s what I’m doing.’

‘I’m going to have to be more careful and not think about how the future will pan out next time I lay out a plan.’ I thought to myself.

‘What kind of a first officer would I be if I didn’t anticipate my commander’s actions? Besides, he is kind of handsome…not that I’m…not that I’m interested!’

If it were possible to see Jack blush telepathically, I couldn’t see a better opportunity. I giggled.

“Gentlemen, if y’all would behave yourselves and accompany the Admiral and I topside?” I motioned for them to follow me out of the room.

“But it has to be all of ten degrees out there! Where are our coats?” Captain Heinz asked excitedly.

“Unfortunately, we have no resources onboard to effectively dry them, but I think y’all will find that the weather has changed for the better.” I winked as I backed into the passageway and headed for the Con. I waited at the bridge ladder for our guests.

“This is impossible!” Heinz and each of his men in turn gasped as they exited Sand Dollar’s bridge hatch and looked around.

We were docked at Kili Island. It was a wonderful, sunny, ninety degrees with a pleasant breeze blowing onto shore- not bad for high noon. That wasn’t the only pleasant feeling I got.
 
 

1215 hours, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, July 10th, 2029
 
 

“Welcome to our island.” I announced to our guests. “For reasons of security, I cannot tell you exactly where we are- you understand.”

“From the inclination of the sun I presume we are somewhere near the equator. The local fauna and composition of the beach would indicate the Pacific region.”

“An avid geographer and climatologist, Herr Meyer?” I asked as I stopped to look back at U103’s navigator. The five-foot-nine, brown-haired, twenty-three year-old smiled confidently.

“If we were still on Earth you would be quite correct.” I added.

His smile disappeared from his face immediately!

“You see, gentlemen, we have the ability to go anywhere or time in the known universes. We could be on Earth, only in a different universe.” I said matter-of-factly.

“You mean we are still on Earth then? I was not errant in my assumption, Frauline?”

“I never confirmed that, Hans. And I am to be referred to as ‘Empress’ until informed otherwise! Is that understood, Hans Christian Meyer, third son of Deter and Elsa Meyer of Lepzieg?”

“How do you know so much about him- or any of us for that matter?” Capt. Heinz asked in anger.

“Manfred, we know more about you than y’all know about yourselves.” I paused, turned, and began walking along the beach a few paces. I stopped and turned back toward our guests.

“In fact, I even know that you are planning your escape at this very minute. A plan that Miss Cummins will see fit to quell in an instant.”

“How can a woman who is nowhere near possibly thwart any escape attempt?” The Captain asked just before freezing in place, his eyes widening in fright. Apparently Jack was having a word with him. He obviously didn’t notice he was floating two feet off the ground either! His crewmates though, watched in terror as he hovered before them.

He settled gently to the ground, apparently not even noticing!

Russell Brackenridge looked on in amazement, remaining silent.

“Accepting of all this so soon, Seaman Brackenridge?” I asked with a raised brow.

“Commander Cummins informed me to keep my mouth closed and to ‘observe the proceedings’.” He replied sheepishly.

“Wise advice.” I smiled back at him. “Admiral Demmit, please eject the magazine of your firearm.” I asked as I held out my hand and waited patiently. Once in my hand, I again turned and continued down the beach. U103’s first officer was starting to get droopy-eyed and began lagging behind.

Not a bad ploy if it had been one minute earlier.

From the scuffle behind me, I knew that Admiral Demmit had been skillfully relieved of his pistol and that U103’s captain was now taking careful aim between my shoulder blades!

“Capt. Heinz, you can try…”

A shoot rang out as I phased out and quickly rephased.

“To kill me, but I should warn you, that is no easy endeavor.”

Heinz kept pulling on the trigger in desperation until Admiral Demmit calmly held out his hand and retook possession of his sidearm.

Phasing out once more, I hurried behind U103’s flabbergasted captain and rephased.

“Do not trifle with me, Capt. Heinz, and do not try my patience! Is that clear?” I told him angrily as I waved the pistol’s magazine in his terrified face.

Phasing, I quickly returned to my position in front of our guests.

“I heard no response, captain! Do we understand each other?” I growled.

All eleven guests stared at me in sheer terror!

“Shall we keep walking, gentlemen?” I motioned in front of me as if nothing had happened.

“Heinrich! Where has Heinrich gone?” One of the men shouted in concern.

“Heinrich Wolmacher has contracted ‘Temporal Flu’ He has started to undergo…” I paused dramatically, “re-alignment. There is nothing more to be done for him now. Gentlemen, please, come this way.” I informed them sadly.

“He is to die then- after being assured of a second chance, Empress?”
Heinz exclaimed.

“Captain, your first officer is not going to die, he is going to change to fit his new reality, as will more of you in the coming days.” I forewarned using an ominous tone.

“What do you mean he will change to fit his new reality?”

“At first you will not recognize him, Mr. Heinz. That is what I mean.” I said back to him as I turned right and headed inland up a well groomed path to Reilly Research Station.”There will come a time when you will not recognize yourself.” I added mysteriously.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Brackenridge asked intently.

“Rusty, I’d continue to keep my mouth shut if I were you.” Uncle Rick told the man. “Unless you want the Empress to show you personally.”

“So how do I know you, Admiral? Why do you talk as if so familiar with me?”

“You’ll find out soon enough, my friend. For now, be patient and remain observant.” Uncle Rick suggested.
 
 

“RVP?” I called as we neared Reilly’s finicky airlock.

“Welcome Empress. I have been monitoring you and Sand Dollar since your appearance earlier today. I suspect you already know the day, year, and time?” RVP greeted.

“You know me all too well, RVP. We wish to enter the station.”

“Access granted, Empress. Welcome home.” She acknowledged.

“Gentlemen, if you would please follow me.” I requested as the outer airlock hatch unlocked and opened itself.

“RVP, is my daughter, Alexis, here yet?” I asked as soon as Uncle Rick and Brackenridge were in the corridor and the inner hatch was secured.

“The future Empress dropped her off an hour and forty-five minutes ago, Empress. She is waiting for you in the Recreation Room on level two.”

“Thank you, RVP.”

We began walking down the passage when I remembered something.

“RVP, continue monitoring the human male left near the beach. He was entering his Mahanilui and may be dangerous upon waking.” I told the A.I. in the station’s native tongue.

“What did you just say? I didn’t recognize the language.” The captain asked as we proceeded to the Rec. Room.

“I told the Station’s A.I. not to attack your first officer, captain, but to admit him on his arrival to the airlock.”

“What is an A.I., Empress?”

“Someone else who should not be trifled with, Herr Heinz.” I warned.
 
 

“Alexis, you arrived early.” I greeted my daughter as we entered the recreation room. She rose from the table where she had been enjoying a bluish tinted drink and approached me.

“Mother Empress. It is nice to see you. I trust your latest mission has been fruitful?” She asked as we cheerfully embraced.

“It was, Alexis, and how are things at home?”

“Father sends his request that you come join him for a few cycles soon. He has been very moody since your last departure.” Alexis pushed back from me. “Are they the ones, mother?” She tilted her head slightly to our guests.

I nodded.

“Gentlemen,” I said as I turned to my guests. “This is my daughter, Princess Alexis, first born daughter to Tibius, Grand High Counsel of Citadel, Terra.” I announced using the shortened, much-abbreviated form of the Terran greeting protocol.

“Gentlemen.” Alexis bowed courteously. “On behalf of my father, I welcome you to Reilly Research Station. Please make yourselves at home. If you have any special need, ask one of us or RVP.”

“Uncle Rick!” Alexis cried as she hurried over and wrapped her arms around him, totally breaking any and all Terran protocols!

“I’ve missed you too, sweetheart!” He said returning the affection.

Now our guests were completely befuddled!

“You are his niece as well as Empress?” Brackenridge asked in total bewilderment.

I looked at him and shrugged my shoulders. “Hey, someone has to be.”

“Where is ‘Terra’, frauline? I have not heard of that country.” Capt. Heinz asked cautiously.

Alexis released her hold on her uncle and moved to face our bold German guest.

“If you were to face due south, Mr. Heinz…” She carefully turned the bewildered man about ten degrees port. “Then point at a thirty-three degree angle up from the horizon, travel in that direction about one hundred and eight light-years, you would arrive at our planet, Terra.”

She giggled at the expression that flashed to his face.

Heinz said nothing for several minutes- just enough time for Alexis to join me at my side. Together Alexis and I- as well as Uncle Rick, watched in amusement.

“RVP, do you stock anything that might resemble good German Schnapps?”

“That spirit is on file and available from the distribution device four meters to your right, Capt. Heinz.”

The Captain looked completely confused.

“She says the machine you order food or drink from is four meters to your right- on the wall over there.” I translated and pointed.

In the course of two minutes we watched him down half a dozen shot glasses of the stuff!

“Did that make things better, Captain?” I asked as he returned to the group. Four of his men hurried over to the food synthesizer and followed their captain’s lead.

“It might just, yes!”

‘Jack,’ I thought, ‘liberty for all hands tonight. We leave at 1400hrs tomorrow.’

‘Aye, Cap. I’ll spread the word.’

I then turned to my daughter.

‘Honey, do you think you can handle them after their Mahanilui?’ I thought to her, my eyes the only physical indication of my concern.

‘Only the one we rename Honi will cause problems, mother. That is why I brought along father.’

Her expression changed slightly to one of intrigue.

‘You don’t look shocked by that disclosure, mother, why?’ She questioned.

‘I felt him as soon as we arrived, hun.’ I thought to her. ‘He’s waiting for me in my quarters.’ I thought and then looked to the ceiling.

‘Tibius, I’m sorry, but we have work to do and I’m not at liberty to play yet.’

‘That is unfortunate, my love. I had such a night planned for us, but will arrive in your presence momentarily.’ The sad male voice acknowledged in my mind.

‘How can you do that, mother?’ Alexis thought to me in amazement.

‘Do what?’

‘Deny him as much as you do? He can be a very persuasive man, yet you resist without effort. How do you do it?’

‘Believe me, hun, it’s harder than it looks. You forget though, that I understand how men think. Be they from Earth, Terra, the Homeworld, or any other civilized system, men basically all think the same way- they act basically the same way. I was no different before my Mahanilui.’

‘But Alexander Steinert and Aunt Emily did not behave in such a way- I have seen her memories. How were you two so different, mother?’

‘I never said I wasn’t any different, hun. Your aunt just remembers her side of things and only her perception of my feelings. There is a difference.’

‘After all these years you still manage to baffle me, mother!’

‘I’ve heard it is a parent’s responsibility to keep their children guessing, honey.’

‘You excel at that, Empress!’ She thought and physically giggled, unable to restrain herself any longer.

“Having a good conversation, you two?” Uncle Rick asked, seeing our break in concentration.

A trumpet fanfare blared from the loudspeakers around the large room!

“All hail Tibius, Grand High Counsel of Citadel, Terra!” Randi’s voice announced followed by another, shorter fanfare.

Tibius appeared in the open doorway to the Rec. Room. He rolled his eyes and looked to the ceiling before clearing the annoyed look from his face for a more unbiased one.

“I see Miss Van Pelt is quite the humorist, Empress.” He said as he entered the room. “I half expected extravagant pyrotechnics preceding a medieval jousting tournament.”

“Don’t dare her, sire, it will only spur her on.” I laughed.

Whereas Alexis was dressed in her long golden, Terran style, sheath dress, Tibius wore his version of our Reilly suit but with golden epaulets and a single golden shoulder cord on his right side. On his left breast pocket were displayed many campaign ribbons and two golden medals.

I remembered seeing this outfit at a planet-wide business conference on Terra when Alexis was an infant. She had been one Terran year, or eighteen Earth months, old at the time.

“Lord Admiral Richard, it is a pleasure to see you again. I trust your strategies still serve you well?”

“They do, M’lord. We have made great strides forward to restoring the peace.” Uncle Rick said, playing along.

My congratulations on your success thus far, sir.”

“Thank you, M’lord.” The old man smiled and bowed slightly.

Emily arrived just in time to raise an eyebrow to the ‘royal’ spectacle.

“My Lord, Tibius, how good to see you again.” She greeted him pleasantly.

“Lady Physician. It is good to see you also, my dear Lady Emily.”

Eleven forgotten men stared on in silence.

Almost.

“Well, isn’t that just par for the damn course- the leadership’s all related?” Russell Brackenridge burst forth!

We all stopped as the visibly drunken man made another proclamation.

“Isn’t that typical of any government that controls its military? Everyone is related! Doesn’t matter how much actual command experience a body has, just so’s he’s related!”

Brackenridge’s eyes then rolled up into his head and he crumpled to the floor like a rag doll!

Our ten other guests immediately took more than a few steps back from him in horror!

Uncle Rick looked horrified as he looked over to me quickly.

I shook my head slightly and his expression reverted.

“Does he have it? Does he have the Temporal Flu?” Hans Meyer exclaimed as he stared down at the motionless man that was next to him.

Tibius looked at me and almost cracked a smile.

Emily immediately attended the fallen man and felt for a pulse.

“No, he just can’t hold his liquor. He’s out cold.”

“Rusty never was a big drinker.” Admiral Demmit laughed.

Russell began to rise off the floor and proceeded to float out of the room- right past Jack standing in the doorway.

“I’ll see that he gets to his quarters, Admiral, Empress.” She said with a giggle.

“That and nothing more, Miss Cummins.” I reminded her with a giggle of my own.

Jack gave me a questioning nod.

“Gentlemen, Mr. Brackenridge will be fine, he just had a little too much to drink. Please, make yourselves at home. We have plenty of entertainment here in our recreational room. We have board games, video games, television, holographic movies, even a wide range of music from all over the known universes.”

The rest of Sand Dollar’s crew began to arrive. Some immediately ordered food from the food stations; others found seats at the various games or gaming tables around the large room.

“Once again, gentlemen, if you have any questions or concerns about anything in this room just ask one of us.” I said loudly over the higher noise level of the room.

The ten Germans made no move or even flinched!

“A word of advice, gentlemen. My crew is highly trained and all possess abilities similar to Miss Cummins and me. I would not risk physical harm by employing your male charms.”

Scotty materialized in front of Mr. Meyer. For some unknown reason ‘Cleanup in aisle six!’ popped into my head! My future self did have some rather unusual expressions!

“I don’t like the way this one is looking at you, Empress! He’s going to be trouble!” She said loud enough that half the room heard her.

“Gentlemen, this is my head of security, Sandra Williams. She has been watching you since your rescue.” I smiled deviously. “You don’t want to get on her bad side either, guys.”

Scotty faded out again while glaring and pointing at Hans Meyer specifically.

“To use an ancient Earth term, ‘don’t piss her off!’”

Meyer’s eyes immediately shot to Tibius! Apparently, he was demonstrating one of his Terran gifts to the man.
 
 

2203 hours, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, July 10th, 2029
 
 

“Alex, Russell is awake. He’s got one helluva headache too!” Jack caught my attention.

I had been lucky enough to be asked to instruct Capt. Heinz on Reilly’s holographic game system. Before being interrupted, I had been ruthless in the futuristic, first person shooter!

“Capt. Heinz, if you will excuse me, I must check on Mr. Brackenridge. I’m sure Miss Van Pelt will happily take my place.” I told him as Randi walked past. The gleam in her eyes was positively spectacular as I handed her my controller.

Jack and I found Uncle Rick in conversation with Tibius at the far corner of the room. I had made it a point to keep my distance preferring to not lose my virginity to him before I actually lost my virginity to him. Crazy as it sounded, it made perfect sense if used in conjunction with the Empress and her version of temporal flow!
 
 

“Before opening the door, are you sure you want to do this, sir?” I asked Uncle Rick as he, Jack, and I arrived outside of Brackenridge’s guest quarters.

“I feel it only right he knows who and what we are, Alex. Rusty and I were the best of friends on and before the Davis incident.”

I nodded to Jack, satisfied that we should go ahead as planned.

“RVP, may we enter Mr. Brackenridges’ room?”

“Access granted, Empress. Internal scans indicate increased activity of neural pain receptors in the cranial region. Limited volume is suggested.”

“Thanks, hun, I know how a hangover feels.”

The door slid open to reveal Russell Brackenridge staring intently at the floor, watching in curiosity as it slowly absorbed the discarded contents of his stomach.

“I’m sorry, Empress, Admiral. I guess I had way too much to drink. I’m also sorry if I mouthed off- it’s really out of character for me.” He moaned, his hands never leaving his temples.

“You never could handle you whiskey, Rusty, even that night we celebrated your twenty-first.” Uncle Rick laughed quietly.

“What? What did you just say?”

“It’s me, Rusty- Ricky Demmit. Sorry I look so old, but it took me some time to find a way to save you.”

“You’re not Ricky Demmit. Rick was a year younger than me. You have to be in your sixties at least!”

“And there I thought you were smart, Mr. Brackenridge! If you accept that we are indeed in 2029, then you must accept that people from the future can travel back to your initial time period for such a recovery mission.” I reasoned to him.

“It is me, Rusty! And I’m not in my sixties! I just turned forty-five in May.” The old man growled.

I was almost as old as the Admiral now, I thought in surprise.

“I’m sorry, Admiral, I didn’t know we had passed your birthday. Grandmother didn’t tell Emily and I that important fact. The girls and I would have popped in with a birthday cake if we’d known!”

“It’s okay, Alex, I don’t like to celebrate those things. I know I’m getting old, but I refuse to count the years till my demise.”

“You know you wouldn’t have to count if…”

“Alex! That option has never been on the table for consideration!” He snapped at me.

Our guest looked on, but remained silent during our exchange.

“Which May?” He asked just above a whisper.

“What May…oh…16 May, 1944.”

“You aren’t from this time either?” He looked at Uncle Rick, astonished.

“No, Rusty, Alex and her crew are also from 1944. Sand Dollar was just commissioned in April of that year.” He paused a moment. “Being related to the Empress of Time and Space does have its perks!” He chuckled.

“This is hell, right? I mean, I’ve drown to death and this is my punishment for kissing Maggie Stuart against her father’s wishes that afternoon behind Lieghtner’s Dry Goods! How can I make things right? Please tell me?”

“Ya’ll ain’t dead, Rusty Brackenridge- far from it as a matter of fact.” I informed him. “Quite the opposite’s true. Because of your friend’s urging, you have been granted a second chance at life.” I smiled.

“How can I believe any of this?” He waved his arm around the room. “In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t imagine a place like this…with people like you…with your powers…here!”

“Would you care for a demonstration, hun?” I looked at him in as serious a look as possible. “Just pick any year up to 3013AD…and I’ll take y’all there.” I said with a little hesitation.

My pause was enough to allow me to observe Jack and Uncle Rick’s reaction.

“Why just until 3013, if I may ask?”

My face went ashen. “I don’t exist after that.” I replied sheepishly.

“Oh…I’m sorry, ma’am.” Brackenridge replied solemnly.

“Before you ask, Mr. Brackenridge, my gift allows me to see the future and to evaluate different scenarios to assure its proper flow; because of it, I HAVE seen my own death, or at least one version of it.”

“Alex, I would have never known! I’m so sorry, dear, I…”

“It’s too far off to worry about, Uncle Rick. Let’s just keep with the present?” I wiped a stray tear from my eye. How or when it appeared, I missed completely.

“So, Russell, when and where do you want to go?”

“Could I visit my parents? They must have been crushed by my disappearance!” He asked, his face appearing hopeful.

Although knowing what his destination would be, I still felt despair at the answer.

“That is the one place and time I cannot take you.” I answered after looking to the floor. “Your friends and family must continue to believe that Russell Brackenridge is dead, I’m sorry, but that fact must stay true. If you were to return home as if nothing happened, history would forever change- as would the course it would then take.” I decided to explain myself as I looked at his sullen face.

“Russell, there exist certain points in time, most times not the points you would consider important- usually miniscule, random events- quirks, really- that define and steer coming events so the time line can progress normally. If one of these waypoints, as I call them, change, what we call reality will immediately split off and become another reality or dimension entirely. This tangent then becomes the new default timeline, complete with an entirely new future- a future, I might mention, that may or may not include the Empress of Time and Space. It is called a paradox.”

I paused to see if he was following me. A glimmer of understanding met my eyes so I reiterated.

“If reality suddenly jumps to a new reality that does not contain the person that caused the jump…me, how could it have jumped there in the first place? Would it then continue, or would it collapse taking the known universes with it? I, personally, do not want to find out.”

“I don’t know if it’s the hangover or that crazy explanation, but I need to get drunk again! My head is killing me!” He shook his head several times. “So, if I don’t want to mess up the future, I can’t see my parents…”

“I know how difficult temporal mechanics can be to understand, Russell, I don’t completely understand it yet myself, but if you were to suddenly appear at your parents’ house…” I paused, “It would be bad, Mr. Brackenridge! You have to trust me on that. Though I never said you couldn’t SEE them. They just couldn’t be allowed to see you.”

The man’s mouth dropped open.

“Take my hand, Russell, it will all become clear to you.” I said holding out my hand to him.

After a few long minutes he carefully touched, then took my hand.

I immediately phased out.

“No matter what you think, you are perfectly safe, Russell. Please don’t release my hand.” I told him as I slowly moved us toward the hallway.

We walked through Jack and through the room’s wall into the passage beyond. His grip tightened significantly!

My gift allows me to observe reality, but remain slightly out of phase with it. Anyone or anything in contact with me likewise remains out of phase also. While in this condition we can see and hear what transpires, but cannot physically interact with anyone here. As you have witnessed firsthand we can literally walk through anything.

As we stood in the hallway, I rephased us and touched his room’s door access panel to open it. Jack nodded to me as we reentered.

“So do you still want to visit your parents, Russell? Remember, if that is your choice, you must retain my hand and not let go. You must not interact with anyone in that time period else risk terminating your and possibly my existence. Is this your choice of destinations, Russell Brackenridge?” I asked seriously.

“I want to make sure they are alright, Empress- that they have moved on and don’t still mourn my loss! Yes, Empress, I wish to see my parents!” He said with determination.

“And your younger sisters?” I added.

“So you knew already?”

“Part of the job, Russell. Take my hand and we will be on our way.”

Russell’s room in Reilly became a nondescript living room in a nondescript house. It’s furnishings and decorations indicated that it was near Christmas early in the twentieth century.

“This is my house!”

“December of 1918- the eighteenth, I believe.” I acknowledged.

We immediately heard voices coming from the rear of the house. A male voice and three female voices were involved in some sparse conversation. Metal could be heard randomly contacting some sort of ceramic. The home’s occupants were eating a meal. Quickly glancing out a nearby window and seeing darkness outside, I concluded that it must be dinner.

With a slight pull on my companion’s hand, we began walking back toward the voices.

“So how were things at work today, honey?” Rusty’s mother asked of her husband.

“The usual…just the usual.” He answered; a definite sadness was evident in his voice. He continued to slowly, unceremoniously shovel food into his mouth.

“Mother, what are we going to do about Christmas this year?” One of Russell’s sisters, the youngest I believe, asked; her voice also sounded terribly sad.

“The same thing we do every Christmas, Anna, why?”

“It won’t be the same. It’ll never be the same again, mother.” She said sadly.

“No it won’t, sweetie, but we have to move on. I know it’s been hard these many months; we just have to carry on with our own lives as best we can. We’ll just keep him in our prayers.”

“How can we do that without ‘him’, mom?” His other sister asked.

“We just do, Mary! Russ knew the risks when he enlisted! Can we please finish a dinner without this turning into another emotional discussion?” His father growled. He quickly wiped away a tear before his family could see it.

“Your father is right, girls. It’s been nearly seven months now. We should be over it by now.”

“That is so cruel, mother! How could you be so cold- both of you? He was your son!” Mary cried.

Tears openly rolled down their mother’s, as well as both girls’ cheeks.

I looked over to Russell and watched tears roll down his face as well.

“It is so very hard to lose someone you love.” I said to him as the dinner table before us went silent, save for the sounds of utensil on plate.

“How would you know anything about that, ma’am?” He asked slightly agitated by my statement.

“Russell, I didn’t always have my gifts.” I informed him. “Before I became the Empress, I had lost my brother in a surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii- December 7th, 1941. I tried for two years to get there to help recover his body or anything I could find of his! At every requested transfer I was reassigned elsewhere.” I said as I thought about that distant memory from a different reality. My vision became slightly distorted as my eyes began to tear up.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I would have thought you would rescue him after you became Empress.”

“I did, Russell, but the memories, though faded, are still here.” I pointed to my head.

“So everything is better now, right? You have your brother back. You rescued him like you rescued me?”

“That wasn’t the only loved one lost to me.” I admitted wiping both eyes with my free hand. “Imagine having to tell someone that you have revered since childhood- your quintessential role model- that he had to die in order to maintain the timeline!” I cried outright at that memory! My companion looked on as I fought to control myself.

“I had to do just that with Abraham Lincoln only a month ago! It not only broke, but tore out my heart to have to do it, but I had to accomplish the task assigned me or risk the lives of billions of Americans- alive or yet to be!”

Brackenridge remained quiet a minute or so, just staring at me with a sickened look on his face.

“Nothing is certain in our lives, Russell Brackenridge- not even mine, as odd as that seems given my gift. Things must happen in a certain time- a certain sequence- or colossal problems can result. It has fallen to me and my sisters to make sure things happen when and where they are suppose to. This,” I gestured to the sullen family in front of us, “is the part of my job I despise most!” I sniffed.

“Mother, do you think they will ever find him?”

Anna’s question turned our attention back to his family.

“The ocean is a big place, Anna- there is always a chance. The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Mrs. Brackenridge answered her daughter as upbeat as possible.

“But Ricky Demmit told me he would find Rusty come hell or high water!”

“Watch your language, Anna! A girl’s mouth shouldn’t be so foul!” Mr. Brackenridge growled, quickly wiping another tear from his eye.

“But that’s what he said!”

“We know, sweetie, and Richard will do everything he can to find your brother.” Her mother assured.

“As you have just found out, Russell, he never forgot. He spent nearly a whole day in Reilly’s historical archives searching for some small thread of information as to your whereabouts. Uncle Rick is a loyal friend who went to great lengths to keep his promise to your family. He did everything he could possibly do to find a way to save his friend- including breaking the rules!”

“Breaking the rules? I don’t understand. What rules?”

“In searching the files stored in Reilly’s extensive archive for you, Richard Demmit stumbled upon his own obituary. He now knows the exact year, date, and time he will pass beyond this dimension into the next. No one should ever know that specific information.”

“But you know when you’ll die. You said so earlier- back on the island!”

“It was an accidental discovery, Mr. Brackenridge. When I first became the Empress, I had to learn to use my gift- to develop it as you would math, reading, or writing. I inadvertently asked the question: ‘How long will I live- when will I die?’ My gift gave me the answer despite my question’s intended innocence.”

“Mom, will the hurt ever go away?” Mary asked, interrupting our conversation.

“It will never completely go away, sweetie. It does fade to something manageable after a time, though.”

“Like with Grandmother?”

“Just like that, sweetie, now finish your plate. You have school work to finish.”

“Would it be possible to visit another time- further in the future?” Brackenridge pleaded.

The room stayed the same but the people in it were now older. Instead of three women and one man, only two women now sat at the table. Russell’s sister had grown up and was now a beautiful woman in her late teens.

Mrs. Brackenridge looked like the last six years had not been especially kind. Her hair, almost completely white now, only added to her true age and the darkened skin around her eyes indicated many a tearful, sleepless night.

“Mother, if it’s okay with you and Father, I’d like to place this photograph of Rusty in front of the pews on our side of the church next Saturday.” She carefully removed a tattered photograph from her handbag and gently placed it on the table before her mother. “In that way, the whole family would be together again for my wedding.”

Russell’s ma repositioned the picture so she could look at it properly. Tears immediately began flowing from her eyes!

“Where did you get this, Anna?” She cried softly between gentle sobs.

“Rick Demmit gave it to me shortly after he returned from Europe. He said he found it in his things while repacking for Annapolis.”

“I think Rusty would want to see his little sister moving forward and starting a family of her own.” A mature Anna reasoned while laying her hand on her mother’s to comfort her.

It took a few long moments for Mrs. Brackenridge to compose herself.

“I think that’s a wonderful gesture, Anna! I’m sure your father and Father James would have no problem with it.” Russell’s ma replied. For the first time in our visit to this house there was excitement in the two women’s’ voices.

“Anna is getting married? My baby sister is all grown up?” Russell looked at me in amazement.

“It does happen you know. Not even the Empress can stop the march of time.” I looked at him and smiled sadly. “This is 1924, Russell. Anna is eighteen and ready to be on her own. She will face many challenges in the upcoming years that would have been insurmountable had she not learned how to handle extreme heartache. In a macabre way, you helped the rest of your family cope with the tragedies life unceremoniously deals out.”

“Will her and Mary be okay, Empress?”

“To answer that we need to wait here just a bit longer, Mr. Brackenridge.”

The sound of a door slamming made us both turn toward the living room and foyer. As we did so a screaming child of three or four ran straight through us.

“Gramma! An’ Annie! Hi!” The boy shrieked, only stopping as Russell’s ma caught him and snatched him off the floor! The young boy tried to strangle his grandmother’s neck.

“He couldn’t wait for us to get here, Mom. I thought the police would stop me for stealing someone else’s kid!” A woman in her early twenties walked through us. Mary hugged her sister then her mother as the squirming ball of energy was passed from grandmother to aunt.

After trying to strangle his aunt, the boy pointed to the table. “Who’s that mommy?”

“Mary has a son? She got married?”

I nodded.

“Who’s who, Rusty?” Mary asked her young son.

“She named him after me?”

I nodded a second time.

“The man in the photogaf, mommy!” The young boy again pointed at the aged picture on the table.

“Geez, sis, where’d ya find that? I haven’t seen it in years!”

“Anna asked if she could take it to the church- place it on the brides side in front of the pews.” Mrs. Brackenridge replied.

“I think that’s a super idea, Annie. Rusty would think so too.” Her voice quivered slightly as she gave her approval.

“They never forgot you either, Russ. Six years later they still love and hold hope for you.” I sniffed.

“Can…can we leave now, I’ve seen enough.” He whispered.

“We’ll go back to Reilly now, but I’ve got one more place for y’all to see.” I told him.

The Brackenridge dining room became the hallway just outside Russell’s quarters in Reilly.

“Welcome back, Empress.” Jack greeted as I released my hold of Brackenridge’s hand.

He immediately walked over to Uncle Rick.

“I want to thank you, Rick. Thank you for everything! I owe you big for saving my life.” He said as the two men shook hands.

“I never go back on my word, Rusty- even if you weren’t there to actually hear me give it.” Uncle Rick paused. “You owe me nothing, pal.”

“Is it ready, Jack?” I asked while the two men shook hands.

“In the closet, Alex, just as you requested.”

“Thanks.”

“Alex?”

“Ya, Jack?”

“Alex, will he be okay…where you take him next?”

“He’ll be distraught as expected, but should recover enough to make his decision, Jack. I wouldn’t worry about it.” I assured her.

“Mr. Brackenridge, for our next and final stop, I request that you redress in the garment and shoes in your closet, please.” I asked pointing to the plain wall to our left.

He and Uncle Rick dropped hands and looked at me in confusion. Again I motioned to the blank wall.

“What closet, Empress?”

“Just approach the wall and it will open automatically.” I paused a moment. “Russell, my given name is Alexandra. You should call me Alex though.”

Jack and Uncle Rick suddenly stared at me in their own confusion!

I continued to watch Brackenridge, who jumped slightly when the closet door appeared and opened in front of him. The Reilly suit matched our own suits in every detail but personal control. I would issue it commands for now.

“But I’m not a member of your crew, Empress. Rick, I can’t wear this, I don’t belong.” He protested.

“Buddy, it’s been my experience that when Alex tells you something, you don’t ask why, you just do it. She must have your best interests in mind if she has revealed her name and allowed use of our equipment!”

“I haven’t done anything to prove myself worthy, though!”

“Just put the damn uniform on, Rusty!” Admiral Demmit growled.

“Aye, sir!” Brackenridge automatically stood straight as he answered.

Uncle Rick, Jack, and I began to leave so Russell could change.

“Oh!” I suddenly said, stopping mid stride. “The suit utilizes the same technology as this station so don’t retain your civvies. It’ll be strange at first, but y’all will get use to it.” I smiled and continued into the corridor. “We’ll be waiting out here so don’t take all day, hun.”
 
 

“I feel ridiculous in this!” Brackenridge complained as he exited his quarters. “How do you keep them from squeezing…” He suddenly turned red with embarrassment and looked at Uncle Rick.

“You get used to it, buddy. Are you ready to go with Alex?”

“If I have too.” He answered begrudgingly.

“First we need to change our uniforms.” I told him.

“But I just changed into these!” He exclaimed in frustration.

“OakridgeEmpress8716, Activate.” I said as I touched his Reilly suit.

Brackenridge jumped about six inches as his suit’s HUD came to life mentally before his eyes!

“What the hell is that?” He exclaimed looking around the corridor, frantically searching for its source.

Placing my hand back on his shoulder, I selected the ‘autosizing’ feature then the modern Naval officer’s uniform for 1981 and commanded both our Reilly suits to change. I remembered at the last minute to stand on my tiptoes so the regulation heels wouldn’t interfere with my balance.

I thought Russell would pass out!

“How…?” He gasped out.

“It’s the latest technology, hun. Are you really that surprised by it?” I asked with a giggle.

He didn’t answer.

“They come in handy for time travel, Russell- like when we recently traveled back to 1865…” I took a few steps away from everyone and selected my favorite- emphasis on sarcasm- circus tent. I quickly exhaled while staying on my tiptoes.

In a matter of seconds I was the picture of a Federal Belle!

Brackenridge’s eyes bulged!

I quickly changed back to my modern Navy Whites. Despite the knee-length skirt and the silly cover hanging from it, that wasn’t too bad, though I preferred my normal officer’s cover better.

“Ready?” I asked.

“Can I do that?” He asked.

“Sorry, hun, but you wouldn’t look right in one of those things.” Jack and I giggled as he and Uncle Rick stared at me.

“Well I thought it was funny.” I shook my head a few times. “Take my hand, Russell.”

“Alex?” Jack caught my attention and pointed to my head. “It’s not regulation, Captain.”

Reaching up I snagged my tiara from under my regulation cover and removed it from my head.

“I keep forgetting I have it on.” I smiled nervously as I handed it to her.

“This isn’t going to blow up on me is it?” She asked nervously.

“Nope, it’s turned off, but keep Randi away from it. The tiara doesn’t like to lose to her at chess.” I giggled and carefully placed the ultra-feminine regulation cover on my head. Motioning to Russell’s hip, I gestured for him to put his cover under his arm.

I offered Russell my hand. He took it right away this time.

Reilly’s hallway became a sterile white-walled, grey-floored, hospital corridor.

“Where are we, Empress?”

“My name is Alex, hun!” I glared at him to emphasize my statement. “This is 1981. Bridgeport Memorial Hospital, Bridgeport, Connecticut.” I answered concisely.

“Why are we here, Emp…Alex?”

“To visit someone, of course!” I replied flatly.

“Who?”

“To find that out you have to follow me.” I answered and looked around us. The room to our right was empty so I walked us into it and rephased.

“I rephased us, Russell. We can interact with the people of this time now, so no mention of the Empress or your real sir name- got it?”

“Aye…” He looked at my rank and name plate. “Aye, Commander Fleming.” He replied with some hesitation.

“Alex? Why does my nameplate say ‘Scott’ and why am I now a Lieutenant?” He asked after a short delay.

“Ruth Demmit’s married name is Scott, Russell. You are Admiral Demmit’s nephew today. I am your liaison and family friend. For today, I’m Cmdr. Allison Fleming.”

“Is that your real last name, Alex?”

“It will be in about four years.” I winked and motioned for him to follow me into the hallway.

“Hi! We’re lookin’ fer Mrs. Vogel’s room? She’s a patient here isn’t she?” I asked at the nearest nurse’s station.

Russell looked at me in concern.

“Are you relatives…Commander?” The older nurse at the station asked with a dour expression. She seemed to be surprised by my appearance and appraised me critically.

“Lieutenant Scott here is Admiral Richard Demmit’s nephew and served with her grandson Russell, ma’am.” I answered politely. “I’m his liaison officer during his leave and also a niece of the Admiral’s. Allison Fleming, ma’am.” I explained, introduced myself, and offered my hand.

“Mrs. Vogel’s son was just in with her a few minutes ago; he should be back if you’d like to wait?” She said glaring at me with contempt. I got the distinct feeling she recognized me.

Pleasant woman.

“I’m afraid the Admiral was only able to release Lt. Scott on a two day pass, ma’am. We hurried here to see Mrs. Vogel then we have a two-hour ride to Westchester so he can see his sister get married tomorrow afternoon. We really can’t stay here too long, ma’am.”

“Mrs. Vogel isn’t doing so well, lieutenant, I doubt she will even know that you came to visit. You really should wait for her son to come back.”

“Do you know exactly when he’ll return, ma’am?” I asked, looking directly into her eyes.

“No, I don’t, but you really should wait.”

“Ma’am, if I don’t get Lt. Scott to his sister’s wedding rehearsal tonight, family or no family, Admiral Demmit’ll have my clusters! Do you know how hard I’ve had to work for these? A woman has to work doubly hard to attain this rank than her male counterparts- even in this day and age! Can’t we just go in, say hello and leave?” I complained.

“Just a few miniutes then, Commander Fleming.” She responded apprehensively.

“Thank you, ma’am. We promise to be quick and quiet. You won’t even hear us leave.”

“Room 308, down the hall make a right, fourth door on the left.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” Russell replied as we stepped away.
 
 

“I don’t recognize her, Alex. Who is she?” He asked as we entered the private room. Lying in the bed was a woman in her mid seventies. At her side, a heart monitor beeped away slowly. An IV bag hung off to her right- its flexible plastic tube attached to the back of her right hand. She wore what looked like an oxygen feeder tube under her nose.

She appeared to be sleeping.

“This is Anna Vogel, Russell.” I sadly informed him.

He just stared at his sister in silence.

“She’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Russell. She won’t last the night, I’m afraid.”

“This is my baby sister? She named her grandkid Russell also?”

“Rusty?” The woman in the bed moaned quietly. Her head turned toward us slowly.

“She can hear us, Alex?”

“Yes, Russell, of course she can hear us.”

“Rusty, is that you? Is it really you? Even after all these years?”

I nodded for him to go to her.

“Yes, Annie, it’s me. I’m here!” His voice cracked with emotion.

The woman’s heart monitor beeped a little faster.

“I was wondering if I’d see you here, Rusty. I thought it would be a little different, though.”

“We’re in the hospital, Annie. Where did you think you were?”

Her left hand slowly rose and pointed shakily to the ceiling. “Up there. How can you be here, Rusty?” She asked as her eyes opened and gazed at her long lost brother.

Brackenridge quickly turned to me for permission. I shook my head no.

“Someone brought me to see you, Annie- someone very, very special. I’m sorry it took so long for me to get back.”

“Hello, Mrs. Vogel.” I greeted her with little emotion.

Again the beeping from the monitor quickened.

“I’m ready to go now.” She said to me in as confident a voice as she could muster.

“I’m sorry, Anna, but I have no authority in that matter. I am Russell’s escort and he alone is my responsibility.”

“He always did like the blondes.” She replied, forcing a smile.

“So I’ve been informed, ma’am.” I forced a smile also.

“Anna, Russell and I don’t have a lot of time and I know that it has been your deepest wish to see him once more before you move on.” I hated what I now had to say! My heart sank lower than it had in 1865. This part of the job ‘sucked royally’, as my future self would attest!

“I have now fulfilled that standing request and so we must leave before the nurse or your family returns.”

We all remained silent for a few moments- me for the obvious cruelty of my words to these two siblings, Russell, for not wanting to leave so soon, and Anna’s closing her eyes again.

She suddenly opened her eyes, which now appeared full of life and brilliantly youthful! She looked at the both of us in full recognition and awareness.

“Russell, I never stopped hoping- never stopped praying that you would return to us some day.” She said unimpeded by her deteriorating condition. “I now know the reason that return never happened.” Russell’s sister looked my way and a cold shiver went up my spine! “Will we be able to see and talk to each other after I go?”

“Of course, Anna. Russell will be able to visit whenever he is able to arrange it with me.”

“Thank you, Empress. Thank you for saving my brother.”

Brackenridge and I looked at each other in complete astonishment!

“I thought you said…” He began to ask, but I raised my hand to stop him.

“Anna, how do you know that name?” I asked instead.

“Mother and someone calling herself ‘Ruth’ just told me who you were, Alexandra,” She took a large, labored breath, “and the reason you’re here now.” Tears formed in her eyes.

“Take good care of my brother and see that he gets the life his original future cut so short.” She paused to take another labored breath, nodded once to someone or something unseen off to her left, and waited a second before continuing- her heart monitor began to noticeably slow. “You two must leave now, Alexandra. I will fall asleep in a few minutes and Russell mustn’t be here when I do. Thank you again, Empress, for saving my brother’s life.”

Her eyes closed and several more tears ran out their sides. A pleasant smile appeared on her face now.

“Russell, we have to go.” I said sadly. “Please take my hand.”

“But I just got here. Why must we leave so soon, Empress?”

“Please, just take my hand.” I urged.

As soon as he placed his hand in mine the depressing hospital room became the black nothingness, dimly lit by the single unmoving yellow sun, of my personal domain.

“Where are we, Empress?”

I cleared my throat and wiped my tears with my free hand.

“Where are we…Alex?” He rephrased.

“This is my private domain, Russell. I’m not quite sure of its location or importance in the known universes, but I come here when I want to…want to think- when I need…privacy.” I told him, releasing his hand.

Terror filled his face, as he looked around- at me- at the nonexistent floor beneath his feet- at the unmoving yellow sun in the distance.

“Your perfectly safe here, Mr. Brackenridge.” I assured him. “Momma? Ruth Scott, I know you’re here. I know what you did. Please come out so we can talk.”

“You aren’t the only one with gifts, sweetheart.” A familiar female voice said from the darkness ahead of us.

“Momma, why did you do it? Why did you tell her?” I asked as Ruth Scott faded into view just ten feet from us.

“Holy shit! Ruthie, you’re one of them too?” My companion choked out.

“No, Rusty, I’m dead. Alexandra is the one responsible for manifesting me here.” She smiled as she approached and gave me a tight hug.

“I’ve been watching you, Alexandra. You’ve done some really good work.”

“Why did you tell her about me, momma?”

“Let me answer her question, Ruth.” Another female voice called out from the darkness.

Russell’s head twisted around immediately.

“Anna?”

“Hello, Rusty.” The older version of Russell’s sister walked into the dim light. She approached him and, after some hesitation, he allowed her to embrace him.

“This is a much better way to re-acquaint ourselves- wouldn’t you agree, Alexandra?” She glanced my way for a second.

“Yes, ma’am, but let me make you a little more presentable. If you’d allow me?”

“See, I told you it was worth the wait.” Momma smiled to our new guest.

“Let it rip, Alex!” Anna Vogel shouted in excitement. She took two steps back from her brother.

I concentrated on her appearance at their parents’ house the week before her wedding.

Russell’s eyes bulged as his sister became younger and younger in front of him!

Anna Vogel now looked like her eighteen year old self.

“My sincerest thanks, Empress. This manifestation feels soo much better.” She approached me and hugged me warmly.

“How did you do that, Alex?” Russell asked in awe.

“This is the Empress’s private dimension; she can do whatever she wants here, Russell. Here, she is not bound by the physical limits of the rest of the universes. She has even been known to rematerialize a favorite spirit or two.” Ruth Scott giggled.

“Momma! You know it took three of us to bring Billie back. We didn’t even realize we could do that!” I groused.

“Alexandra, as indicated by myth and religion, the power of three is a force to be reckoned with- in any universe.”

“You can actually bring people back from here, Alex?” Russell glanced over to his sister. “Can you bring Annie back for me?”

His sister quickly placed her hand on his jaw gently.

“Rusty, I am happy here. I do not wish to return to my Earthly form. I understand your desire to have me back, but it is only greed that pushes that need. I’m sorry, I will not allow myself to be taken back.”

“But what kind of life do you have now, Annie?”

“You will find out in time, brother- we all find out in our own time.” She kissed his forehead and stepped over to Ruth Scott, they joined hands and she took a large breath.

“Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space.” She addressed me formally. “I wish you to find this lonely, wayward soul a good home. Make sure that he is loved, protected, and kept among good friends. See that his spirit remains true and light so that we may again be a family when the time is right. I commission this of you, kind Empress.”

I didn’t know what to say and remained quiet for a time. I had never before been formally tasked with someone’s eternal soul!

“I’ll do my best, Anna. That’s the most I can promise since I cannot possibly watch over him night and day.”

“That is what you have us for, daughter.” Momma Scott said. There was a gentle forcefulness in her words.

“We will be watching you, Russell Brackenridge.” Anna warned ominously and pointed to him, shaking her finger.

“We?” He gulped, looking between the two women.

“We, Russell. Mary, Mother, Father, and me! Alexandra will be informed of any severe violations!”

Momma nodded at me as Russell looked at his younger sister with a mixture of admiration and horror.

“It’s time for you to start your new life, Mr. Brackenridge.” I said quietly, gently taking his hand into mine.

“We’ll take good care of him, Anna.” I reassured her.

“Thanks again for the makeover, Alex. Maybe you can return soon and do the same for Mother, Mary, and Father?” She replied. I saw Momma Scott’s smile widen.

I nodded slightly. “The next time I bring Russell for a visit, perhaps.”

Anna nodded her approval.

“Until we meet again, Empress.” Momma said in a loud voice as she and Anna slowly backed away from us- back into the darkness, hand in hand.

“You have a wonderful daughter, Ruth. You must be so proud of her.” Anna said, as their voices seemed to grow more distant with every step.

“Anna, you know what upper management says about that, but she is pretty special. She has special friends and many supporters here also. Have I told you how highly Abraham spoke of…”

Their voices faded away completely as they disappeared.

“Let’s get you back to Reilly, hun.” I said, squeezing his hand a little tighter to get his attention.

“Does this happen every time you bring someone to this place, Alex?”

“No, not really. Most of the time, things are pretty predictable and peaceful around here. Oh, just between you and me…I didn’t call those two. They came on their own, Russell.”

Reilly’s corridor appeared around us. Jack and Uncle Rick jumped with a start as we rephased beside them.

“Everything okay, Alex? You look like you’ve been crying.” Uncle Rick asked with genuine concern.

“Everything is as it should be, sir. Russell Brackenridge is now ready to start his new life- to stabilize the timeline in its current state.” I answered. “Let’s go back inside, shall we?” I said, motioning to Russell’s quarters.

“So where do I go from here, ma’am? Where is my ‘new life’ to start?” Russell asked with resignation in his voice.

Jack’s expression showed concern at his somewhat negative tone. What had she just seen in his mind?

“RVP, release Mr. Brackenridge’s Reilly suit restraints, please? Authorization: OakridgeEmpress8716.”

“Acknowledged.”

“Now what the hell just happened?” Brackenridge exclaimed. As before, he began looking around frantically.

Before I could answer, Russell turned to face Jack. Apparently, she was telepathically guiding him through the suit’s setup and instructions. His vocalized answers confirmed it.

“What’s a passwo…oh.”

“Why does this have to be so…Really?”

“People can do that?”

And so the one-side conversation went for a few more minutes.

“Alex, he’s ready.” Jack informed me as both she and Russell looked to me.

“It’s going to be Mr. Brackenridge’s choice where and when he wants to live.” I looked sadly to the confused man. “Unfortunately you can’t choose anytime within Anna’s lifetime or after your parents were born. That period of years is off limits for obvious reasons, I’m sorry.”

“I understand, Alex. If I were to interact with any of them I could conceivably complicate things for you.”

“A rational assumption, Russell.” I smiled. “Take my hand and we’ll be on our way.”

I looked to Jack. She looked so downcast that we…correction…that he was leaving so soon. That gave me an idea that I quickly checked with the properly phrased question.

“Jack, he has a fully operational Reilly Suit. We’ll see him again- many times, in fact.”

“No, it wasn’t that Alex! I was just thinking of how difficult it would be to have to start life over in a different place, with different people- in a different time completely. It’s sad to think that he’ll have to make all new friends- all new relationships. I’m sorry that this had to happen to you, Russell.” She explained, with genuine interest.

“Commander, it’s not that bad. I’m just happy to be able to live past my twenty-first birthday. Alex has given me the greatest gift one could imagine- a second chance!” Brackenridge told her before he turned to Uncle Rick.

“Rick, I owe you the most! You never gave up on me…never surrendered! You are the best friend I’ve ever had, sir!”

He took a step back and went to attention. That hit the Admiral hard! His eyes became wet.

Brackenridge rushed Uncle Rick and embraced him tightly. “I’ll never forget what you did for me, Ricky!”

“It’s time for me to go, Empress.” Russell stepped back from the Admiral, who was trying his best not to break into tears. He took my hand in his. “Thank you all for giving me another chance.”

Reilly’s guest room became a well-manicured front lawn. A couple tall, full maple trees provided ample shade for those walking the brick paved pathway from the street to the front door of the modest two-story, red-brick, home.

I knew exactly where we were. I just had to make sure the time period was right.

Several automobiles going down the street in front provided me with the confirmation I needed.

“I trust Jack showed you the clothing selection process, and how to enable it?”

“Yes, she did. Where are we, Empress?”

I glared at him.

“Where are we, Alex?”

“Springfield, Missouri. 1983.

“Why are we here, Alex? I thought I was to select a time and place to begin my life?”

“I thought we’d try here first, besides, I promised someone I would attend a birthday party. Care to be my date, Mr. Brackenridge?”

“Do I have a choice, ma’am?”

“We always have choices, Russell, but no, not this time.” I smiled. “Try the blue denim trousers with the beige polo shirt, white athletic socks and the white cross-trainers.” I suggested then selected my own casual wear.

It took a minute, but my companion’s clothes changed. He looked every bit like he belonged here, in this time.

“Let me rephase us.”

Making sure the coast was clear, I did just that.

“Shall we make ourselves known?” I asked pulling him forward toward the door.

Brie answered the door with a surprised screech.

“Allie, it’s so good y’all could make it! Dee and Fred was hopin’ you’d be here!” She said as we hugged each other. Pulling herself away from me, she looked at my ‘date’.

“Who’s this here handsome hunk, Allie?” She smiled deviously.

“Allie? I thought you wanted me to call you Alex…I thought that was your real name?”

“I decided that when I traveled to times where I was already present that I- the one who had traveled- would use the name Allie to differentiate us. People would ask too many questions if we referred to ourselves both as ‘Alex’.”

“So you are already here? In this time? In 1983?”

“He catches on fast, Allie. Where did you find him?” Brie asked slyly.

“Him? Oh, I just picked him up, you know.” I downplayed, returning her devious smile.

Brackenridge was now totally lost!

“Oh, where are my manners? Russell Brackenridge, my sister, Brianna.”

The man stood stunned as he looked between us.

“Hi! Well, y’all better come on inside. Alex and the others will be here in just a few minutes.” She said motioning for us to have a seat in the living room.

“Can I get y’all somethin’ to drink?”

“I’ll take the hardest stuff ya got, please.” He quickly responded.

“All I got here is beer, hun. Alex is gonna bring somma’ Pa’s shine though, if that would be good?”

“Best moonshine in Missoura.” I praised with a proud smile.

“Beer would be fine for right now, thank you.”

“One beer comin right up, Rusty.” She giggled on her way out to the kitchen.

Something fell and hit the floor out in the kitchen. It sounded heavy, like maybe a pot or pan of some kind.

“Rusty, could y’all come out here an’ reach this thing back into my cubbert, please?” Brie’s voice sounded desperate.

Brackenridge wasted no time hurrying out to help.

The front door opened quietly and Alex Fleming- my present day self, Jack, Ma and Pa…Freddy, and several more of my fellow crewmates entered. A slightly older looking Admiral Demmit entered last and immediately took the seat next to me. He looked tired, but anxious.

“Does he have any idea, Captain Steinert?” He asked quietly.

I shook my head before I got up and welcomed my future self and the others. I was just hugging Jack when Russell reappeared out of the kitchen.

“I’m sorry for running out on you like that Ale…Allie, but your sister…needed…help…with…” His mouth hung open as everyone in the room shouted ‘Happy Birthday’!

Jack stared at me for a minute before looking around.

“Russell, I didn’t know this was your party?” She said to him.

“It isn’t! My birthday is May…”

“May 9th, right? Today is May 9th, 1983, Rusty, so…Happy Birthday!” She said in a tone I’d never heard her use before.

“Rusty, y’all fergot yer beer.” Brie said as she came out of the kitchen.

Brackenridge waved her off without even looking her way. Good thing too, since Brie wasn’t holding any beer. Her devious smile grew bigger!

I winked at her with a sly smile of my own and nodded to the side for her to join the rest of us in the living room. Everyone found a seat, either on the furniture or the floor. Alex Fleming joined Uncle Rick and I on the Davenport.

“You do realize how much effort it took to keep Miss Prying Eyes out of my head for so many years?” Alex Fleming asked quietly.

“About as much effort as it took to keep Tibius from romancing me again?” I giggled.

“A hundred times worse, Allie.” She admitted with a giggle.

“Speaking of Tibius, I’ll have to thank him when I get back to Reilly.”

“Nothing will happen, sis, don’t worry!” She laughed.

I let my mind browse through the memories of Jack’ upcoming years- without restraint this time.

She turned and glared at me with such anger, I expected the air around us to start buzzing! Her glare quickly turned soft and melted away. Tears formed in her eyes and she tried to wipe them away inconspicuously.

“Ma and Freddy came over and seated themselves on the floor in front of Alex and I.

“Y’all done good, honey.” Ma comforted us both.

“That goes double fer me, hun!” Freddy added. “We’re both real prouda’ y’all!”

A young man and young woman entered by the front door. The woman looked the spittin’ image of ma only with lighter brown hair and the guy looked like Brian, but an inch or two taller.

“It’s about time y’all made it!” Brie growled from her easy chair. “Dee! Fred, Say hello to yer kin!”

“Aunt Allie, how y’all been? I ‘spect this is the first time y’all seen me since I was born? This here’s my brother Fred.”

“Ma’am!” Fred waved nervously to me.

He even sounded like Brian!

“Hey, ain’t you the guy we rescued from 1918?” Ricky Lynn Samuels said suddenly placing the long forgotten face.

“Yes, ma’am, that would be correct.”

“That’s great! Now we don’t have ta listen to Jacki there recallin’ how she shoulda’ stopped Alex from relocatin’ ya! She’s had it bad fer ya these last forty years, Rusty!”

“Almost thirty-nine, Ricky Lynn! An what I say to anybody is to be held confidential…or didn’t I explain that to everyone?” Jack shot back at her as she scanned the gathering!

“Well, he’s here now, so why not tell him, Jacki? Tell him!” Ricky Lynn pushed.

“I really don’t have to now that you announced it to the world, Ricky Lynn!” Jack countered, but her face contained no anger- just embarrassment.

“Don’t let another forty go by Jacki!” Ricky Lynn urged.

The room got quiet suddenly as we all listened.

“Russell, I’ve…” She stopped suddenly and took a few deep breaths. She looked around the room seeing all the expectant faces. “From the first time I saw you on the foredeck, I…”

Jack had never been this lost for words! She paused once more; she shook her head a few times trying to shake off something, her expression changed to one of intense concentration.

“I thought you looked handsome. I think I like you, Russell Brackenridge.” She paused once more.

”There, I said it, is everyone happy?” She growled. Sudden relief washed the anger from her face.

Applause erupted from the group!
 
 

2112 hours, Springfield Missouri, May 9th, 1983
 
 

“It’s time for us to get going, Russell.” I said to my ‘date’ as I stood up. “We have several places that I want to show you before you decide where you want to live.”

Brackenridge had been sitting next to Jack all night. Her smile vanished as I spoke.

“As you wish, Allie.” He replied sadly. “It’s been really keen spending time with you, Jacki. I only wish we had more time.” Russell slowly got to his feet. Jack stood up also.

“You forget that Alex has all the time in the world, Rusty. She could come back for you in the morning- couldn’t you, Alex?” She asked hopefully.

Jack’s hands went to her mouth instantly as the room erupted in whistles, laughter, and clapping!

“Oh God, did I just say that?” She blushed brightly.

I stared intently at the couple as they stared at each other.

“Jacquelyn Cummins! I thought I’d never hear such heresy come from your mouth, young lady!” Ma scolded immediately.

“Give it a rest, Dee! We’re all adults here!” Jack hissed. “You of all people should throw the first stone!”

“That’s not what I meant, Jacki. It’s just strange to hear something so modern from someone so chaste these many years.” Ma reiterated.

“Dee, I have a daughter you know!”

“And Constance is a beautiful young woman in her own right, Jacki. Time to move on.”

“Ma’s right, Jack. Time to live for yourself and not for others.” Alex agreed.

Alex and I nodded to each other.

“Girls, could y’all take Miss Cummins into the backyard for a few minutes? We’d like to go over things with Mr. Brackenridge.“ I asked as Alex and I smiled to them.

“Alex, you better not take him before I have a chance to say goodbye!” Jack threatened.

“Should I go too, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked quietly. He stood up to leave.

Alex and I took each other’s hand and each of us in turn grabbed for one of the men- Alex taking Uncle Rick’s hand, me taking Russell’s.

With another nod to Alex, I phased us out.

“We’re phased, sis. Jack can’t hear us now.” I informed my future twin.

“You know she hates when we do this, Allie.”

“It’s for her own good, Alex.” I replied.

I noticed Uncle Rick put his free hand through the seat back.

“I’ll never get used to this, Alex. What is so important that we have to be transparent?”

“Russell has to make a decision, sir. Do we look for another place and time for him to reside, or would he like to try his luck with the pretty blonde that can break him into microscopic bits as an afterthought?”

Brackenridge immediately stared at me.

“She…she…can do that?” His voice went up an octave.

“That and more, Russell. Do you remember the size and displacement of the Davis?” He nodded in confusion. “She can lift at least ten times the mass with just a thought. On Terra, she disabled the protective telekinetic, neutralizing shield for the entire city of Citadel! No power on that planet had ever been capable of such a feat until Jacquelyn Cummins! Recently, she quite literally brought down an entire mountain in Poland, destroying the converted mine below it! The research facility- it’s corrupt personnel- everything- gone in the blink of an eye, Russell!”

“And that’s the earlier version you met on Sand Dollar, Russ. Think what she can do in the here and now.” Alex added.

“I had no idea she could do such things! She seems so grounded- so mature for her apparent age.”

“Jacki is sixty-five years old, Mr. Brackenridge. She has many hundreds of years left to her.” Alex revealed.

“The women of Sand Dollar and Kili Island, as well as the Terran’s and several other planetary civilizations can live for well over eight centuries.” I informed him.

“That is why you must be absolutely certain that your attraction to her is more than just lust for a pretty girl, Russell.” Alex and I observed his expressions, trying to discern if he understood the ramifications of what he had just learned about us. After a few long minutes, his eyes glared at Alex and I in horror.

“Yes, Mr. Brackenridge, you have put the puzzle together. If you chose to remain here- with Jack, you will grow old while she remains as she is today…as you saw her on Sand Dollar earlier.” Alex confirmed his suspicions.

“There is one alternative, sis.”

“The Mahanilui!” Uncle Rick growled in disdain.

“The Mahanilui? What is that?” Russell asked in total confusion.

“It is a…a process in which tiny machines enter your body and change you, Rusty!” My uncle angrily growled.

“Changes you? How?” Our guest asked.

“My name wasn’t always Alexandra, Russell- it was Alexander before my Mahanilui.” Alex said before I had the chance.

Russell looked to Uncle Rick, who nodded.

“You were a…” He muttered.

I nodded also. “As was the rest of my crew, Mr. Brackenridge.”

“But I met your daughter and granddaughter. Did you adopt?”

“We are complete in every way, Russell. I will have Alexis by natural child birth.” I informed him.

“Will have?”

“For me it hasn’t happened yet. For Alex,” I nodded to my future self, “It happened thirty years ago.”

“Allie, we’re going off topic here.” Alex reminded.

“Know this, Russell Brackenridge. Jack is every bit the normal woman she appears to be. She has the same thoughts, the same urges, and the same concept of love that every woman has. She can be hurt just as easy- mislead just the same by love.”

“However…She can positively act on the old saying ‘a women scorned…’ In short, she can kill you with just a thought if you piss her off, Rusty!” Uncle Rick added.

“Rick,” Brackenridge looked to his friend, “I’d like the chance to get to know Jacki better, but I’m afraid of what will happen to me if she rejects me. What would you do?”

Uncle Rick thought a while.

“Rusty, when I first met Alex in 1944 I doubted what she told me- even that she was who she claimed to be. I’ve been on many adventures with her since then. Not once has she ever done something that worked out badly. Sure things go wrong that even she can’t foresee, but up to now she’s done the impossible job of protecting us from all the little time gremlins that exist to ruin our futures…and our pasts. If I were you, I’d ask her opinion as to what you should do. Ask her to run the scenarios. If she hasn’t already.”

Both men looked at me…us.

“I have, indeed ‘run the scenarios’ Uncle.” Alex admitted for us as I nodded. “Russell is free to ask my opinion, but in the end, it must be his decision alone.”

Brackenridge was silent for some time. I could see the wheels, per say, turning.

“Empress,” Russell began, “is it possible that I might find love and companionship here, in this time and place, with Miss Jacquelyn Cummins?” He paused. “I…I think I would like to spend the rest of my natural life with her if …” Again he paused. “I think I love her, Empress. I wasn’t sure until a moment ago, but I…I love her. Might I choose this time, place, and possible relationship?”

Alex and I looked at each other for a second or two.

“You heard him, sis, he loves her.” Alex said and winked to me.

“Yes, I did, sis. He definitely said he loves her. What shall we do about that, Alex?” I replied, winking back.

Alex and I nodded at the same time and released our hold of the two gentlemen.

As they staggered to find their balance, Uncle Rick glared at us.

“I hate it when you do that, Alex!” He growled half-heartedly.

“What happened, Rick? Where did they go?”

“My niece- both of them- are still here, Rusty, I can still feel her.”

“But, why, Rick?”

“I believe you just got your answer, Buddy.” Uncle Rick laughed.

“Answer to what, Rick? I didn’t ask any question that would result in this.”

“Alexandra Steinert-Fleming, You better not have left with Russell yet or I swear, I will…Russell, you’re still here? Where did Alex go?” Jack stormed into the room with an angry scowl. Her expression immediately softened seeing Brackenridge and Uncle Rick standing alone in the living room.

“I believe Alex got a call from Brianna- in another time-, Jack. She said she had to leave.” Uncle Rick outright lied!

“Jacquelyn Cummins, would it bother you if I decided to stay here, in this time…?”

Jack rushed him, wrapped her arms around him, and squeezed him tight! He couldn’t finish his sentence until she eased up a bit!

“With you?” He finally managed to finish.

She immediately released him and took a step back.

“You…you want…um…you want to stay here with me?” She asked blinking her eyes several times in disbelief.

“I can’t promise anything, or that we could even make things work between us, but I’d like the chance to try…if you want to.”

From our vantage point Alex and I could see our sisters aggressively vying for any available observation point within the constraints of the kitchen doorway!

Jack said nothing; instead she rose on tiptoes, wrapped her arms around his neck, and kissed Brackenridge!

The two remained lip-locked for at least a minute or two! As they broke the passionate kiss we could see tears streaming down Jack’s face as she continued to look into Russell’s eyes. She continued to hang on to his neck for all she was worth.

Finally, she released him and Jack quickly took a step back and wiped her eyes.

“Yes.” She whispered. “Yes, I want you to stay, Russell Brackenridge.”

Looking past her man, she sniffed. “Thank you, Empress! I will never forget this- not ever!”

Could she see us, I wondered? Emily had said she could almost see me that day back in our hotel room in Honolulu- the day I fully realized my gift. Was there some special property of tears that warped the owner’s perception of time just enough?

“I’m needed out in the back yard, sis.” Alex said to me with a bright smile.

“And I have to be getting back to Reilly to return Sand Dollar to the war. There are still a few necessities to take care of before our return to Atlantis-Minor.”

“I remember, sis.” Her face saddened then grew even more depressed as she added, “You know he still passes in 2020, right?”

“At least they both have a wonderful life together!”

“That they do, Empress. That they do!”

“Until another time, then, Empress?” Alex winked at me.

“Until another time, Alex.” I giggled as we released each other’s hand. Alex disappeared completely and reappeared walking into the kitchen behind our sisters.

“What y’all lookin’ at, girls?” She shouted.

There was a loud gasp as everybody that had squeezed into the doorway jumped and collapsed onto each other like a house of cards!

Jack quickly spun around and glared at them. I took the opportunity to approach Russell Brackenridge one last time before I left.

“Remember, Russell, your future is what you and you alone, make of it. Treat Jacki well because she can kill you. I on the other hand, can make you only wish she would have killed you!” I warned with a slight giggle in his ear.

Brackenridge’s face went white!

“Looks like the Empress left him with a parting message, girls!” Brie pointed from her place on the pileup.

Brie’s house became my quarters in Reilly.

“There you are, my Empress!” Tibius greeted me with a wide grin. He approached with his arms outstretched.

“You know we can’t, sire.” I reminded him with a tense smile.

“So you keep telling me, Alexandra.” He said as he wrapped his arms around me. I won’t lie and say that his embrace didn’t feel wonderful.

“So Lady Jacquelyn has found her…soulmate. I think you call it? I’m sure Lady Constance will be overjoyed.”

I delayed my answer in order to enjoy more of his warmth. There was a matter that we had to discuss and this might be the last time he held me in a while.

I took a pensive breath.

“Is your telepathic dampening shield active in this room?”

“As per your request, Alexandra. Has Lady Jacquelyn been listening intently again?”

“No, but there is a matter that needs to be discussed without…” I looked around my quarters nervously.

“She cannot hear anyone’s thoughts in this room if you do not wish it, Empress. What is on your mind, my love?”

I took another pensive breath.

“She will find out she isn’t half Terran, Tibius. How overjoyed do you think she will be, learning her mother had already conceived prior to her visit to Terra?” I asked sharply. “Connie is every bit as powerful as her mother, sire, if not more! You saw how long it took for Jack to break through the mind block you and your team first placed in her mind! What was it- all of three hours?”

“You will not place this all on me, Alexandra. It was at your request- your foresight, that we placed those barriers! You, the Empress of Time and Space- the person who requested we do this to protect them both from the truth. Raising her on Terra would teach her the responsibility and morals her mother naturally possessed- that her father’s temperament would nullify, you claimed.” Tibius argued.

“My lady, Alexandra, I have done everything in my power to help Lady Constance develop the control and morality her gift demands. Now you tell me she will ultimately discover our ruse? What method of logic have you studied, my Empress, for it is very foreign to me?” Tibius was beside himself as his anger towards me continued to build.

“Dear Tibius, I know I sound mad…deranged even, but I have seen how this works out. May I remind you that I have yet to visit Terra for the first time and am unsure of my exact premonition during that stay.” I argued back in my defense.

“What I do know is that Connie will find out…she must find out her true origin to complete her gift’s development. I know it sounds complicated- even convoluted, but Connie was born of a paradox within a paradox within yet another paradox. She is an enigma and must enter into one more paradox to remove her from the whole twisted affair- only then will she fully embrace her gift once knowing her true heritage.”

“Still, Alexandra, I do not wish to place myself, or Terra as a whole, on the opposite side of a full-fledged, relatively inexperienced, Mind Warrior’s wrath. We have just consolidated plans for our relocation to Terra Nuevo and I would like all of our peoples to leave Terra before it is ‘blown to bits’.

“I take full responsibility for her actions, Tibius. I have already found a safe dimension capable of handling the extreme power discharge to be experienced. I alone will deal with her tantrum and my possible early demise. Terra and all Terrans will never know the full extent of energy released by the Mind Warrior’s wrath.”

“My Lady, if it means your possible end, why risk such a reveal at all? Would it not be better to let the child continue on in ignorance?”

“Every scenario I have run has Constance finding out one way or another at precisely the same moment in time. It is one of those waypoints in time that must remain constant and stationary.”

Tibius rubbed his brow in frustration.

“Tell me truthfully, Alexandra, when is this apocalypse to begin?”

“When the tertiary moon eclipses your Solara.”

“That is in five days!” Tibius exclaimed before his mouth dropped open.

“Lady Jacquelyn will be sure to find out about this, if she hasn’t already, Alexandra.”

“Jack will be back in 1944 and hopefully have no knowledge of our conversation or my near death experience, my love. Go with our Granddaughter and daughter back to Terra as planned. I will come for Constance in three days. I give you my word that you will see both of us shortly there after.” I pledged to him.

“Shortly by your definition would mean what: hours, days, years, centuries?”

“Shortly, as in a day at most, my love.” I told him with a nervous smile.

“I pray for the Terran Lords to keep you safe, my beautiful mate.” He whispered as he embraced me again. I could feel him shaking as he tightened his hold on me.

“Sir Tibius, we have guests to take care of. The first is to arrive at Reilly’s airlock in just minutes according to my HUD chronometer.” I said as I fought to push away from him.

“Of course, you are right, my love. We mustn’t keep them waiting.”

All in all, that had gone better than I expected.
 
 

2357 hours, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, July 10th, 2029
 
 

“Alex, there is a Human/Reilly female assaulting Reilly’s airlock. She is quite adamant at gaining entry.”

“Let her in RVP, we’ve been expecting her.”

“I thought you said to expect the first at midnight, Alexandra?” Tibius smiled. The way he phrased the question, he must have been scanning Earth’s classic- ‘A Christmas Carol’ specifically.

“Details.” I replied as I made for the door. Tibius followed as we made our way down two levels and into the hallway leading to Reilly’s airlock.

We stopped. I noticed the airlock and passage unoccupied and took Tibius’ hand in mine. It felt warm and secure there and gave me hope that our previous conversation hadn’t ruined our relationship. With him by my side I felt there was nothing to be afraid of. He would protect me.

If only that were true this time.

An improvised wooden spear thrust out at us with surprising speed and accuracy from an open doorway beside us! My reactive phasing saved Tibius from a trip to the infirmary! A crazed bitch of about five–six, with long, tussled, knotted, dark brown hair and ill-fitting Imperial German uniform, hurried into the corridor and quickly disappeared around the far corner; her screaming cursives in German never stopped during the whole incident!

“RVP, please contain our newest guest and report her location.” I asked after rephasing us.

“Female intruder has been confined to passage four-alpha, level two, east quadrant, Alex.”

“Thanks, RVP.”

“Again I am indebted to you, Alexandra. Why will you never let me rescue you?”

“Dear Tibius, the price you would ask is more than I can pay right now.”

“I would be happy to advance you a loan, my love.”

“Ah, but the interest, Sir Tibius!” I winked.

“I stand out maneuvered again, Empress. Shall we rendezvous with the maddened harpy instead?”

“Let’s.” I suggested with an enthusiastic nod.

The disheveled woman in the ill fitting, Kaiserliche Marine uniform just couldn’t grasp the concept of the force field blocking either end of the corridor she was contained to. As Tibius and I approached, she repeatedly threw herself against them. Her actions only resulted in her getting a moderate jolt of electricity and painful bruising.

“Young lady, I would refrain from slamming into the containment shields if I were you. It will only result in your injury.” I advised her in German as we stopped just outside the invisible shield. Our only indication of where to stop was the yellow band of light running down the corridor’s walls.

“You!” She screamed. “What have you done to me, witch!”

With that she ran directly for me. The intent to do me harm was paramount in her eyes as she again hit the invisible barrier at full gait.

This time she landed on her derriere in the middle of the passageway floor and started crying. She pulled her legs in close and held them tight with her arms. Her face went into her knees and her whole body shook and spasmed.

“Why?” She kept repeating like a mantra.

“If you promise to settle down and remain that way, Heinrich, we will explain.” I told her.

Her crying abruptly stopped and she glared at me through tear-swollen eyes.

“What…what happened…to mmmme?”

“Something wonderful, Miss Wolmacher.” I grinned.

“You are that Empress!” She pointed with a shaky finger to me.

“Yes…I am THE Empress.” I confirmed with a nod.

“This is the change you spoke of?”

I shook my head. “I’m afraid we misled you and your friends. This is what we call the Mahanilui, Miss Wolmacher. You are now part of our sisterhood.”

“But I don’t want to be a part of any…sisterhood!” She hissed. “I want to be me again!”

“I’m afraid the officers of U103 do not exist anymore, Heidi. They were reported missing at sea May 12th, 1918. Heinrich Wolmacher drowns alongside his captain and nine other crewmen that afternoon. Heidi Wolmacher, on the other hand, has a promising future ahead of her on a distant planet with her ten sisters. There, y’all will be taken care of and treated like nobility. Isn’t that right Grand High Counsel?” I looked to Tibius and smiled.

He smiled and nodded.

Phasing myself out, I passed easily through the containment shield and rephased several feet in front of her.

“You must be hungry, Heidi. I know from experience that the Mahanilui uses an awful lot of energy. You also need some proper fitting clothes…frauline.”

Heidi jumped up and rushed my position, ran right through me and slammed into the far containment shield. Her blood-curdling scream became open sobbing as she curled up on the floor again.

“Alexandra, do you require my assistance?” Tibius asked from behind me, still beyond the shield.

“Miss Wolmacher will make no more trouble, Sir Tibius, she now understands.”

“Good, I was beginning to wonder how many more times she would inflict damage to herself by assaulting the shields.”

I offered my hand to the woman, who looked to be nineteen or twenty.

“How was I able to pass straight through you, Empress?” She asked before carefully taking my hand.

“Heidi, we are all special here. My ability to travel through time, to phase in and out of this reality, along with my foresight is what I call my ‘gift’. Everyone in this facility has a gift, as do you now- although your gift will not manifest itself quite yet. When it does, the Mahanilui will have accustomed you to your new body. All our sisters have gone through it and lived.” I explained after getting her to her feet.

“What about Capt. Heinz and the others? Will they undergo this Mahanilui too?”

“As we speak, three of your friends have already fallen asleep. As you now know, that is the first step in their change. The others will follow shortly and by morning chaos will fill level three of this station! By tomorrow afternoon, your sisters should be settled down enough to join you, The Grand High Counsel here, our daughter, Alexis, and our Granddaughter, Alexandra on a journey through the stars to Terra, fourth planet from the star, Solara- your new home.”

She noticeably flinched as I finished answering her question.

“This gift you talk of…what will it be?” She asked and gulped quickly.

“It will be whatever it will be, Heidi. I won’t even hint as to what gift you receive. Why spoil the surprise?” I smiled deviously; recalling the fun one lucky member of Tibius’ staff would have in the upcoming months!

“Now, if I’m not mistaken, Jacquelyn Cummins has some information she wants to pass along to you via her gift. Go ahead, Jack.” I said, raising my eyes to the ceiling.

Our newest sister froze in place- her eyes glazed and unmoving. She remained that way for a few minutes before blinking several times. She stared at Tibius and I in amazement.

“I’m sure you are tired now, Miss Wolmacher. Tibius and I will show you to your guest quarters. In the closet, which opens when you approach the blank wall, you will find the station uniform we affectionately call a Reilly suit. It is comfortable and contains a sanitary system that alleviates traditional lavatory facilities.”

Her response to what I said was predictable.

“…”

She had no clue what I had just told her.

“Ya’ll can mess yer britches an the suit does the rest, Miss Wolmacher.” I rolled my eyes at her. “Comes in real handy every month, too.” I added with a knowing grin.

Tibius grimaced. “What was it about…oh, that’s right, I remember.” I thought, as I answered myself and cringed slightly.

After making sure Heidi Wolmacher was secured in her quarters, I sent Tibius back to his own quarters and retired to mine. After disabling my new telepathic dampener, a short telepathic conversation with Jack confirmed that the others were safely tucked into bed for the night.

The first screams were due to start at 0500hrs. I hoped I could get at least a few hours of sleep before then. I re-enabled my dampener.

As usual, a knock sounded at my door. Just as I was starting to doze too!

“Come in, Jack!” I shouted.

The door opened and she came in and sat down on the foot of my bed.

“So…” She figited a moment, “Did you find Russell a good home, Alex?”

Her voice contradicted the smile on her face.

“Yes, Jack, Mr. Brackenridge has found a new home, new friends and a new relationship. He should lead a happy life.”

She glanced down at the floor a moment.

“Admiral Demmit said that he passes in 2020- nine years ago if I haven’t missed today’s date.”

“That’s right Jack. He chose to live in a more modern era and should adapt quickly.”

“Good…good. I’m glad you found him a good home, Alex. I’m glad he’ll be happy there.”

You’ll see him again, Jack. He has one of our uniforms now. He’s part of our group now.”

“You didn’t give him any water, Alex?” She asked in alarm!

“No, Russell Brackenridge is still a man, Jack. A virile…handsome…twenty-one year old…man.” I taunted with a devious smile.

A relieved look immediately washed over her face! She quickly tried to cover it.

“Oh, I’m so glad! I bet the Admiral is happy we were able to rescue him.”

“Ya, he’s relieved- said he’d sleep better knowing his friend is safe. He was even thrilled Rusty had found someone so fast!”

Jacquelyn Cummins began to squirm even more as she blushed! I detected a very slight hint of ozone in the air around us.

Oh, she had it bad for him!

I smiled at my first officer for several minutes, both of us silent. Jack kept nervously glancing at me, probably expecting some snide retort. I gave her nothing of the sort.

Several more awkward minutes ticked by in silence.

“Well…” She began to say uncomfortably.

“Ya.” I replied, waiting for more.

“See you…um…in the morning, Cap.”

“Good night, Commander.” I answered as I began to giggle. Jack looked so cute when she was nervous and had no idea what I was thinking!



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