South of Bikini 2: E10- Setting the Past Right

An offer is made to the women of U103. While giving as much information via a meeting with Grand High Counsel Tibius, Alex tries to fulfill one of the rescued German officer’s wishes- to say goodbye to his wife- who, in 2029, is long deceased. Will the Empress succeed in saving another lost soul?

 

Copyright: R.G. Beyer, 2011


 
 


South of Bikini:

Onward

Episode 10

“Setting the Past Right”


 
 
 

0757 hours, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, July 11th, 2029

“Empress, our presence is requested on level three.” Tibius’ voice said quietly…

From within my room!

“How did you get in here? I know I disabled the outside door controls after Jack left last night.”

“You did, but station protocol is to re-enable the director’s door in case of incident within the station, Alexandra.”

“You WOULD know all about the protocols, Tibius! Lights!” I said covering my eyes from the gradual increase in illumination. Tibius stood just inside my door in his official regalia.

“New nightdressing, Alexandra? I approve, my love!” He asked, looking at me like a wolf would a lone sheep!

Why had I decided to wear my favorite pink nightie? The last thing I wanted to do was present myself to him in such a fashion!

“Like it? It’s a little something I designed myself.”

Why did I say that? Moreover, why did I bat my eyes at him just now and…oh God, did I just pose seductively?

“RVP, Status of the local telepathic dampening field?” I said quickly!

“Dampening field is operational at full power, Alex. Is there a problem, functionally, that my sensors haven’t detected?”

If everything was working it couldn’t be him, it was me! What was I doing? What was happening to me? What was I thinking?

I mentally counted the days since my last monthly. It had been three days since leaving 1917: one day back at base to prepare Sand Dollar, one day at sea in 1918, one day at Brie’s in 1983. In addition there was the unknown time spent in my domain with Russell Brackenridge, Momma Scott, and Russell’s sister, Anna Brackenridge-Vogel. Hours were usually days there so I figured about four days. How long had I been gone while trying to find a safe realm to break the news to Jack’s Connie? I had decided to search directly after I’d left Brie’s. How many dimensions had I examined?

I concentrated harder. When I ran the scenerios, several choices, fifteen in all showed promise. I knew that I hadn’t visited them all yet, so how many did I survey? Six? Seven possibly? Choosing six as a good number, I began to think how long I spent in each. A day sounded good.

So I had spent another six days scouting out a suitable dimension for all hell- a hell named Constance- to break lose.

That only added up to twelve days. I was only in the middle, so why was I flirtin’ like a wanton hussy?

I needed to ask Emily her professional diagnosis when I had the chance. For living in this body the last fourteen years, I still had a lot to learn! Granted, my crewmates would argue that we’d only been like this for three months, but traveling through time adds up quickly.

“Alex? Director, please acknowledge.” RVP broke me from my thoughts. “Is there a functional problem my sensors have not detected?” She repeated.

“No. No, RVP I was just making sure, that’s all, thank you.” I responded as I looked to Tibius, still standing by the door. He was almost laughing at me!

“What’s so funny?” I asked with my best pout.

“You are particularly alluring when bewildered, my love.”

My cheeks burned as I selected my modern dress whites.

“My Empress, were you not going to dress as the alluring Aryan Empress we discussed last evening? I thought we agreed that your new sisters would still be attracted and theoretically comprehend more of what was told to them?”

Inwardly, I cursed that conversation!

“Maybe after I have my coffee and something to eat, Tibius.” I nodded.

“It has already been provided, my Empress.” He motioned to the small table next to my lounge chair.

I glared at him for a moment before walking over and taking the cup of hot liquid. Sipping it, I decided that it was just the right temperature to drink.

“We only have time for my coffee.” I informed him as I drank it straight down.

“There, let’s go, counselor.” I said starting for the door.

“Are you forgetting something, Empress?” He asked with a devious smirk.

Reluctantly, I selected my Aryan Empress costume and stood on my tiptoes before enabling the change.

“Stunning, Alexandra! I believe your ancient Greeks wrote of a woman, Helen, whose features were said to have launched a thousand ships? You, my dearest, could launch a fleet ten times that count to do your bidding- and willingly, I might add!”

“Flattery will get you everywhere, Sire.”

I felt my cheeks burning again!

There I go again, I thought. What was wrong with me today?

“Empress, if I may?” Tibius chuckled and offered his arm.

I smiled involuntarily as my arm intertwined with his. Tibius triggered the door’s control.

Uncle Rick and Jack were waiting for us in the corridor just outside.

I thought the old man would have a heart attack on the spot!

“I told you she cleaned up nice.” Jack told the two men. She then fell to one knee.

“M’lady Alexandra, I took the liberty of retrieving your crown, Empress.” She held my tiara out to me at arm’s length with both hands as she continued to look toward the floor.

“We appreciate the thought and sacrifice, Lady Jacquelyn. You may attend us to our requested destination. Please follow us and attend our esteemed Admiral.” I decreed as I carefully placed my tiara on my head.

Uncle Rick rolled his eyes while Tibius fought valiantly to hold back his laughter!

The four of us proceded, royal fashion, to the elevator and level three.
 
 

The lift’s door opened on a slapstick comedy! My crewmates chased, ducked, retreated, and ineffectively re-corralled ten screaming women, all dressed in ill-fitting Kaiserliche Marine uniforms! The scene before us reminded me of the Buster Keaton, Keystone cops, or Charlie Chaplin silent films of my youth!

The four of us watched the comical escapades for several minutes.

Tibius gently patted my arm.

“Okay, Jack. Enough of the comedy routine for today.”

Ten screaming women suddenly flew off the floor and hung several feet above it along the corridor wall opposite us in silence!

Our crew immediately stopped and turned to us in thanks.

“Ya sure took yer time getting’ here, Commander!” Ricky Lynn growled as she twisted her Reilly back into position.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry things got so out of control. They’re faster than they look, Skipper!” Tammy Richards apologized.

At Jack’s apparent telepathic order, all six crewmen fell into formation and stood to attention while the ten, silenced, securely detained, women squirmed spastically on the wall behind them.

“Admiral Demmit, the security detail is present and accounted for, sir!” Jack announced.

“Thank you, Miss Cummins. Empress, the new recruits are ready for your review.” He announced as he and Jack exited the elevator. Tibius and I followed in royal fashion.

My sisters’ eyes widened, having never seen my Aryan Empress look before!

“Hooooly, shit!” Kaylee Andrews exclaimed quietly.

Chief Samuels whistled.

Tammy Richards gulped loudly.

Jamie Hilf gave me a bright, cheerful smile.

Another ten pair of eyes bulged from behind them!

“Thank you, ladies; that will be all. Miss Cummins?”

“Detail! Dismissed!” Jack said loudly.

All six crewmen broke rank and entered the elevator, bowing slightly as they passed Tibius and I.

Slowly, Tibius and I approached our new ‘recruits’. I eyed each one menacingly.

“They smell as if they haven’t taken a bath in decades!” I exclaimed scrunching up my nose.

“They will receive a proper cleansing, I assure you, Empress. They have just awoken from they’re Mahanilui.” Admiral Demmit explained.

“There is no excuse for lack of proper hygiene, Admiral!” I said raising my hand to stop any more excuses.

“Of course, Empress.” He yielded with his own modest bow.

“What do you have to say for yourselves?” I glared at the one I knew to have been Manfred Heinz. She was now about five-four, had shoulder length brown hair, and a lithe, but athletic body.

Tears streamed from her eyes in response, as her mouth wouldn’t open.

“Allow her to speak, Miss Cummins.” I ordered with a predatory grin.

“As you wish, Empress.” She nodded. “You will answer the Empress, woman!”

“Have we all caught this ‘Temporal Flu’ you spoke of, Empress?”

I laughed evilly. “Miss Heinz, there is no such thing as the Temporal Flu. That is something we made up to entice your consumption of alcohol.”

“You wanted us drunk? Why?”

“Tell me your name and rank, hun.” I commanded.

“You already know my name, Empress!” The girl replied angrily.

“You will answer the Empress in a civil tongue, woman, or it will cease to function once more!”

Heinz looked terrified as Jack took a step toward her.

“Heinz, Manfred H, Captain, Kaiserliche Marine U103.” She answered timidly.

“Well Miss Heinz, I’m afraid Capt. Manfred H. Heinz died one hundred and eleven years ago. In fact, you all died one hundred and eleven years ago. You all look remarkably fit for being that age, but I’d work on the gender issue a little more, girls.”

“But we were men just yesterday.”

“Yesterday is but a memory, Miss Heinz. You yourself said it was impossible to travel back to it.”

“I was the one that said that, Empress.” Hans, now Honi, Meyer volunteered politely, if quietly.

Tibius and I moved in front of her and I stared into her eyes as Admiral Demmit had taught me.

“That one is going to be trouble, mother.” Alexis admitted as she approached from down the hallway. Another brown haired woman of nineteen or twenty walked with her. Both were wearing their default Reilly suits.

Heidi had already acclimated herself to her new body’s feminine gait. Even so, she grew nervous the nearer she got to us.

“Good morning, Heidi. I trust you slept well?”

“Yes, Empress, my room and furnishings were more than adequate, thank you.”

Her German accent was noticed by her former crewmates. Ten heads turned almost simultaneously in her direction.

“You are German?” Miss Honi Meyer accused.

“I am. That is, I was, sister. My name is Heidi…Heidi Wolmacher.”

“Traitor!” Exclaimed Meyer as she fought against the invisible force holding her to the wall.

“Miss Meyer, it is useless to fight my Mind Warrior’s gift. We do not wish you to harm yourself.” I advised calmly.

“Put me down,” Honi ordered! “There are rules protecting prisoners of war from such torture!”

The disheveled girl’s face flushed as she began to slip to the floor!

“Miss Cummins, boost your output, please.” I asked calmly.

The air around us began to smell of ozone.

“Very good, Miss Meyer, you have found your gift.” Alexis congratulated as she approached her.

“What are you talking about, frauline? What gift?”

“Why, the gift your Mahanilui has given you, Honi. If you would let my mother explain, you would learn that each of you has been given a specific gift.” Alexis scolded.

“Hans, it isn’t that bad…being like this.” Heidi told her new sister. “I thought just as you last night before the Empress patiently explained things to me. I feel like a new person! Any ailments I had previously have disappeared completely! Remember my deformed ribcage that I’ve had since birth? Gone! Perfectly normal! This Mahanilui is a miraculous thing, my sisters. Please listen to the Empress, I beg all of you!”

“How can we be sure you are Heinrich Wolmacher, frauline?” Honi questioned, her red face subsided slightly as she examined her supposed crewmate.

“Check your right forearm, Honi, you will find the scar from that Beergarden fight completely gone.”

“How do you know about that?” She asked as Jack allowed her to raise and examine her right arm. She gasped seeing unblemished skin!

“Captain,” Heidi continued, “The fingertip you lost before the war…have you looked at it since waking?”

I nodded to Jack to lower the women to the floor. Once touching it, Heinz wiggled her right ring finger in amazement. A smile crept onto her face as she examined it and her longer fingernails.

Honi Meyer brusquely pushed past Heidi and Alexis and took off running! Heidi shook her head several times, disappointed in her new sister.

She made it halfway around the far corner before we saw her feet reemerge on the corner’s floor. She was apparently lying on her face.

Honi’s unconscious body rejoined her sisters about ten seconds later. Jack put her back against the wall with a devious smirk.

“Would anyone else like to try Miss Cummins’ patience?” I asked the other nine.

After several minutes of silence, Honi began to groan as she awoke.

“Miss Meyer, you may have received your gift quickly, but you are inexperienced and are no match for Lady Jacquelyn. I would listen to Miss Wolmacher if I were you. Oh, and you are not prisoners, my sisters, you are welcome to leave at any time.”

“How are we not prisoners, Empress? You hold us captive?” Heinz spoke for his crew.

“It was for your own safety, Miss Madeline Heinz. From experience, we know how disorienting the Mahanilui can be. I have heard tell that there have even been some who choose death over life as a gifted woman. If y’all promise to behave yerselves, I’ll tell the story of how the Empress came to be… and the part you can choose to play in your new home.”

I nodded to Jack to release Honi Meyer.

“Ladies, if you will please enter the elevator? We’ll go up to my private conference room where you can ask any manner of questions once I have conveyed my information. All we ask is that you listen to what we have to tell you and think about all of it rationally and intelligently.”

“Empress, if you can see the future as you told me last night, then why even give us a choice? Shouldn’t you already know what we decide?” Heidi asked curiously.

“Even though I have seen a satisfactory conclusion to all this, there have been times when Time itself has thrown in a twist or two, Miss Wolmacher. As I have said many times- to many people over the years- your future is what you ultimately decide to make it. I can only advise and guide those I interact with in hopes that they make an intelligent choice, not one based on resentment or hatred toward me. So yes, I saw the proper outcome to all your futures, but you are free to choose whether you take that path or not. I cannot stop you.”

“So, you say we can change our futures- that you will not interfere with that decision?”

“We have already interfered in your lives by rescuing you from the middle of the North Atlantic, Mandy Heinz.”

Our group remained quiet until seated in the fourth level administrative conference room next to the director’s office.

When all ten women gave me their attention, I began my presentation.

“My name is Alexandra Steinert. I am a Commander in the United States Navy in 1944. My submarine, the Sand Dollar, is the first of her kind- built as a weapon of war to help defeat the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. Before March 27th, 1944, I was Commander Alexander Steinert, US Navy. My first mission was to evacuate the residents of this very island in advance of the Japanese invading it…”
 
 

1057 hours, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, July 11th, 2029
 
 

“So now I’ll turn this session over to Grand High Counsel, Tibius of the planet Terra. Thank you all for giving me your time and patience. Sire?” I thanked them then stepped aside to allow Tibius the floor.

“Thank you, Alexandra. Ladies, you have heard the Empress correctly. I am indeed alien to this planet you call Earth. If it wasn’t for Alexandra, and her peaceful excursion to our stricken world, I might not be here under these conditions.”

“Approximately nine hundred of your years ago, we discovered, unfortunately too late, that our sun, Solara, was entering its second stage of existence- that it would shrink in size from a yellow sun such as yours, to what is called a blue dwarf. Its light, heat, and radiation outputs would more than double, causing catastrophic destruction planet-wide. We were doomed unless we could find some way to protect ourselves from these increases!”

A plan was conceived to genetically alter our bodies to make them less susceptible to the expected harsh conditions. It was decided that besides hardening our bodily defenses, that we would also increase our longevity and enhance our natural abilities of telepathy.”

“What we hadn’t counted on was the loss of our ability to produce female offspring. After our plan was set in place and enacted, we found that only male children were born to our mates. Without new females being borne, we realized that we had sealed our fate better than Solara ever could have. Although we now lived longer, our remaining females dwindled and finally became extinct. My generation was the last to be borne on Terra. Until the Empress suddenly appeared one afternoon in Citadel’s city gardens.”

“Alexandra and her companions proved remarkably unaffected by our methods of protection and,”

Ya? You call that unaffected?” Jack interrupted.

Tibius cleared his throat and continued. “And after being assured that they meant us no harm, we welcomed them to our world. As you can see, the Empress and all her sisters possess ageless beauty and several members of my staff took an instant liking to them. My own sights had been set on Alexandra from the first moment I laid eyes on her!”

I felt myself blushing as all eyes landed on me!

“With their cooperation, permission, and…and charity, four female children were born on Terra for the first time in almost nine hundred years. My daughter, Alexis, was the first and I have never been so proud in my long life!”

Tibius smiled to Alexis, who blushed immediately!

“Over the next thirty years, the Empress helped us increase our female population by finding more volunteers to aid in that repopulation- which now stands at one hundred. It seems the combination of you ‘special’ Earth women and our Terran men may have saved our world. Still, there is more work to be done. Before our vain attempt to save our people, women out numbered men four to one. After my precious Alexis was born, she became the rarest commodity on all Terra- imagine, one of only four females on a planet of one billion!”

“As I remember it, the demand for the four of us caused rioting in the streets, Grand High Counsel.” I interjected.

“The male murder rate went up as well, Empress.” He added with a raised eyebrow before continuing his presentation.

“With your permissions, ladies, I would like to take you on a telepathic tour of Citadel, the political center and largest city, on Terra.”
 
 

After three pancakes and another cup of coffee, I noticed the girls’ eyes started blinking as Tibius finished his virtual tour of his hometown.

Honi Meyer’s face grew angry and she glared at him.

“You are asking us to be breeding stock?”

“Do not make it sound so crude, Miss Meyer! The women of Terra are only treated with the highest respect, reverence, and love. There is no division between the sexes as here on Earth. Male and female Terrans alike are treated equally and are given the same tasks and stipends. My ladies, do not think that we are so callus or controlling as to simply take you as breeding stock! You are entirely free to decline my offer and stay with the Empress if you wish. I only ask that you think about what I have presented. It would be an opportunity to help your galactic neighbors and to continue the humanitarian efforts set forth by Ladies Alexandra, Jacquelyn, Randi, and Takashi some ninety-eight of my years ago. Think about it, ladies of the Empress’ sisterhood. Thank you for your time and attention.”

Tibius bowed honorably to everyone at the long table and walked off to the side where he took his seat. It was refreshing to see that all eleven women were deep in thought and hopefully weighing their options.

“Grandmother Empress, may I address our sisters?” Alexandra asked as she appeared in the doorway. “With all due respect, Grandfather, I would like to have my voice heard?”

“Ladies, my granddaughter Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space.”

A confused hush fell over our new sisters! They looked between the two of us repeatedly.

“Yes, ladies, we look and are the same woman. I am what Grandmother refers to as ‘The Future Empress’. Genetically, we are identical. As abilities go, we both manipulate time and space in exactly the same way. I believe she would say we possess the same gift. But, there is a difference between grandmother and I as there are differences between grandmother and the ‘Past Empress’, Alexandra Reilly, the original director of this research facility. Our experiences. Experiences shared between me, grandmother, and Alexandra Reilly are what define the Empress, my sisters. We use the shared knowledge to facilitate repair and guarantee continuance of the time stream in each dimension and universe. Sometimes we even combine our gift when the need warrants.”

“Right now, you feel vengeful toward us- you most likely hate us. That is to be expected considering what you each have given up in the past twenty-four hours. From grandmother’s memories, I can tell you that the vengeance, the hate- even the self-loathing will pass, as will the feeling of loss. If you have yet to be informed, the crew of Sand Dollar shared your frustrations and emotional tirades after experiencing their Mahanilui, but they stand here today fully acclimated and accepting of their changes. They too lost everything they knew and loved. There was even concern that Sand Dollar herself would be scrapped and her crew taken to some laboratory for experimentation! If not for the forward thinking of my Great-Uncle Richard that is exactly what would have happened. Earth is not as liberal as Terra and her peoples. Here, there is bias, bigotry, hate, discrimination, and racism. Women in many countries on Earth are still treated like second or third class citizens- in some cases livestock is treated with more reverence!” She paused and took a sip from my offered coffee cup.

“Do not think Terra is not without her faults and therefore a veritable utopia. There is still much work before we can say the sexes are truly equal and there is still bias, hate, and discrimination within a small distribution of our people, but progress is made every day- more so since Alexandra Steinert-Fleming first visited our world.”

“In case you are wondering, I can attest to the inequalities of Terra personally. Growing up, I was considered ‘different’ from the other children because I lacked the basic ability of telepathy- a genetic characteristic of our world. Because I lacked the ability to read a person’s mind, I was shunned- even bullied, as a child! As my gift developed though, I used it to anticipate what would be said to me and therefore appeared to be telepathic. There was also the advantage of moving through time and using the knowledge gained on my trips to counter any would-be aggressors!”

“A wise traveler once took me with her and explained how I was special- even more special than the individuals around me in that I could influence their lives for the better. She told me how I could make a difference- not just for an individual, but also for the universes.”

“I have never known my grandmother to do anything that would adversely affect anyone or anything. She…we make sure that the changes we make or attempt to make assure time moves securely on track. If the Empress of Time and Space has seen that you bring beneficial contributions to the known universes through your changes, trust our foresight, experience, and impartial decisions. As anyone here can attest, the Empress watches out for and protects those she considers friends and family. If she has brought you here and shared with you our secrets and gifts, we must consider you all sisters and therefore relatives of the Empress of Time and Space.” Alexandra paused to take another sip of coffee and clear her throat before continuing. Her face grew very serious now and she glared at the ten new women seated before her.

“The Grand High Counselor has not asked any of you to prostitute yourselves just to increase our numbers on Terra, he is offering you a chance to do something decent and noble- something you will be proud to have done- not for yourselves, but for humanity! Yes, humanity…we are all human at this table- albeit in varied stages of evolution. You would be surprised how many galaxies humans inhabit- how many different universes we inhabit. Earth isn’t a stronghold for us, as many here think; rather, it is an outpost- just one solar system in a near infinite number of systems.”

“Like my grandmother before me, I have also done my part to assure that a civilization continues. Markus, please come in now.”

A tall man of maybe twenty-five entered with a young child in his arms- a girl with golden hair!

“This is my daughter, Alexia. She is the latest female Terran born just two years ago. She will also be the last female to be born on Terra before Solara enters its third stage of existence.”

Alexis and Tibius gasped, obviously seeing the child for the first time.

“I would ask that each of you explore the feelings this child conjures within you. It is an integral part of who you now are- of what you can be- what is attainable! It can also be very rewarding and gratifying.”

“Because of the Empress’ charity, you now have the power- the ability- to affect a civilization! You have been given the power to grant life, my sisters!”

Alexia started to fuss and Alexandra offered her arms to the child.

Instead of accepting her ma’s outstretched hands, Alexia instead looked directly at me and babbled, “Em’pess!” as she reaching out to me!

“How do you do that, Grandmother? When you are around Alexia always prefers your shoulder to mine. I just don’t understand it.”

“Differences, Alexandra, it’s the differences.” I giggled as I stood to take the child.

Alexia began laughing, clapping her hands together, and drooling.

The emotions I was feeling at the moment brought back future memories of my own children.

Looking around, I noticed the expressions on every woman in the room soften.

Alexandra and I exchanged knowing looks as I passed sweet little Alexia back to her ma. Alexis stood and mother, daughter, and granddaughter embraced in the corner opposite the doorway.

“Thank you, Alexandra, Second granddaughter of the Grand High Counsel of Citadel, Terra.” I said as I glared at the former U103 officers. “Thank you for setting our sisters straight on our motives. I’m sure they will all give a great deal of consideration to our offer of a loving, secure, home on Terra and Terra Nuevo when the time comes.”

Tibius had gone over to Markus and congratulated him. They held forearms and Tibius unexpectedly pulled his Grandson-in-law to him.

“Once again the Empress of Time and Space has out maneuvered this old politician. I’m sorry if I’ve apparently been preoccupied the last few years, son. Planning for the relocation of a whole planet is a time consuming endeavor.”

“Grand High Counsel, you worry too much. The move to Terra Nuevo will proceed smoothly- and in sufficient time as to avoid any distortions from Solara. It is a beautiful world, Grand High Counsel.” The younger man reassured his elder.

“Sire, if you require that the whole planet be moved to another galaxy, allow me to fetch Alex Reilly and together I’m sure the three Empresses could manage the feat with nary a wet brow.” I suggested noticing ten sets of ears perk up.

“No, my love, I must decline. Our computations have proven that the appearance of another planetary mass around Terra Nuevo’s sun would accelerate its decline into its next stage. Of course you have seen that scenario I’m sure, Alexandra.”

Alexandra turned to her grandfather and we both smiled simultaneously at him.

“Richard, does the Empress enjoy these mannerisms in your company also?”

“You should see when four of them get together, High Counsel. It becomes truly intolerable then!”

“High Counsel, Richard? I thought we were well beyond those formalities?”

“I was brought up to respect my elders, sire.”

“Richard, I propose that you have spent too much time in the Empress’ company! I am but a mere six hundred Terran years in this existence.”

“I rest my case, sire.” Uncle Rich chuckled.

“Ouch! Again, out-manuevered by an Earther!” Tibius laughed.

“Alex, shouldn’t we get back to the subject at hand?” Jack asked from her seat at the far end of the table. She and Heidi had been quiet during the whole meeting so far, but talking nonetheless.

‘I take it that Heidi has found a portion of her gift, Jack?’ I thought to her.

‘A portion of my gift, Empress?’ Heidi answered instead.

I smiled toward the other end of the table.

‘You mean there is still something more miraculous, Empress?’ She added in my head.

Again I smiled at her.

“So, ladies, I trust the Empress has provided enough information for each of you to make an intelligent decision about your futures?”

“Empress,” Honi Meyer asked in a tiny voice?

“A question. Good! I was hoping there would be at least a couple.” I responded as Alexandra and I smiled.

“How…um…how do you do it? Keep yourself separate and straight…person-wise?”

“Oh, that’s easy, Honi. I’m the one with the blue eyes- for right now.” I laughed. Her sour expression told me I had answered the question properly- by my perspective!

“Grandmother! Must you continually tease?” Alexandra scolded. “Miss Meyer, I admit it is very confusing. There are still occasions where I forget if I am Alex, Allie, Allison, or Lexi- we share so many memories amongst each other. As we travel together on our missions, you all will warm to the proper references. I would advise bringing an ample supply of anti-inflammatories the first several trips though.” She smiled deviously.

“That’s if we submit to your proposal, of course.” Honi replied with a smug expression.

“Of course.” Alexandra’s smile grew even more evil.

Honi’s expression fell immediately!

“And you accuse me of teasing!” I laughed. “Empress, we are frightening our sisters.”

“Confounding, yes, Empress! Frightening? I seriously doubt that, given their individual gifts.”

“What do you mean? Are we to become monsters of some kind?” Madeline Heinz asked in alarm.

“Nothing a well disciplined Mind Warrior couldn’t cope with, Miss Heinz.”

“You mean I will…”

“No, no, Miss Heinz! Constance, Jacquelyn’s daughter, is the resident senior Mind Warrior on Terra. She will tutor all ten of you in the Terran protocols concerning illegal telepathic intrusion.” I winked toward Heidi Wolmacher and smiled.

Miss Wolmacher quickly turned and stared at Jack in absolute amazement.

I assume more conversation went on between the two.

“How about you?” Heinz turned toward Heidi, contempt in her eyes. “You have been quiet during this entire briefing. Have you made your decision so quickly, Wolmacher?”

Jack and Heidi nodded once to each other as if finishing their silent, private conversation.

“Herr Captain, having already experienced this fantastic Mahanilui, and already developing at least some of my gift, I am actively contemplating starting my new life in another part of the galaxy. As the Empress has stated previously, our prior lives ended off the coast of Ireland that day in 1918. Here in 2029, even my two children are long-since departed, so what importance is it to dwell on what we left behind or what we have lost already?”

“That is exactly the wrong way to think of your past, Heidi! Throughout history those that have forgotten the past have inevitably doomed themselves to repeating the same mistakes. Never forget the experiences in your previous life, Heidi- embrace them! Allow them to teach and guide how you live your life from this day forward!” I scolded.

The woman was quiet for a moment.

“I never got to tell her goodbye.” She said, almost above a whisper. I saw tears forming in her eyes.

It always worried me when things went as prophesized. I walked around the table.

“Miss Wolmacher, please stand up.” I asked gently and offered my hand.

Her unspoken question was obvious in her face.

‘Please take my hand, Heidi. No harm will come to you.’ I thought to her as I smiled.

Standing, she cautiously took my hand.

‘I think someone would like to talk to you, Miss Wolmacher.’ I thought, as the conference room became a void dimly lit by a small unmoving yellow sun.

I immediately felt her grasp tighten.

“This is my private domain, Heidi. It is perfectly safe to release the death grip on my hand.”

“You said there was someone here that wanted to talk to me? I see no one but us.”

“Why am I here? What is this dismal place? How did I get here?” A woman’s voice demanded in heavy German.

“Liebschen?” Wolmacher cried out, slightly recognizing the voice.

“Who calls me? The voice is not known to me!”

“Frau Wolmacher, please follow the sound of my voice and step into the light.” I asked of the unseen voice.

“Why should I follow another strange voice in such a strange place? I demand to know who calls me!” The irate voice demanded.

“Honey, when the Empress of Time and Space calls you, you obey without question? Now come on!” Momma Scott’s voice echoed around us.

Two women emerged from the darkness. Momma Scott appeared first pulling a small, very agitated, elderly woman with short, pure white hair.

Heidi’s expression deflated immediately. “I thought for a second I heard my wife’s voice. Who is this, Empress?”

“Momma Scott, Hilde Wolmacher, my I present Heidi Wolmacher, one of my newest sisters.”

“Who are you, ‘frauline’? Where is this Empress?” The older woman growled!

“Hilde, you will not talk to my daughter in that tone of voice! Show some manners!” Ruth Scott scolded.

“Beggin’ yer pardon madam, I’m the Empress of Time and Space, Alexandra Steinert. I have someone here who was so worried about you that she wanted to talk with you before making a life changing decision. Before we continue let me even things out.” I said as I concentrated on the image of Hilde Wolmacher, as she looked in 1918- that Jack had liberated from Heidi’s mind moments before we left the conference room.

The years began to melt from the elderly woman’s face and frame. The pure white hair returned to its natural red and grew longer. Her spine straightened and a young woman’s dress replaced her present sixties era garb.

The Elder Wolmacher immediately noticed and began running her hands up and down her younger form.

“Thanks Alex, she looks much better now.” Momma Scott smiled.

“My God! Hilde was that really you? How did you get so old?” Heidi exclaimed in surprise.

“Lt. Wolmacher, you have a lot to learn about paying a compliment to a woman!” I chided.

“Who are you child?” Hilde stopped examining herself and looked to my companion. She then looked at me. “How do you know Lt. Wolmacher? That was my husband’s rank when he was lost at sea?” She said in surprise.

“Hildegard Wolmacher, my daughter may look too young, but she has met your Heinrich.”

The younger looking woman glared at me so intensely that I thought both Heidi and I would begin to melt.

“Thanks, Ma; that helped loads.” I said sarcastically.

“What my mother meant to say, Mrs. Wolmacher, is that my submarine crew rescued Lt. Heinrich Wolmacher from the North Atlantic May 12th, 1918, along with ten of his fellow crewmen.”

“Rescued? Why did he not come home after the surrender?” Her eyes grew narrow. “How could a woman use a submersible to rescue anyone? The Kaiserliche Marine only allowed men, as does the American Navy!”

“Hilde, my daughter is the leader of a special group of women! You heard me call her the Empress of Time and Space just a minute ago- well, she can literally travel time and space as she sees fit! Alexandra travels to different periods in time to…to make things right that may have strayed from the path…so to speak.”

Hilde glared at me again; this time she also widened it to include Heidi, who had wisely remained quiet.

“If that is to be believed then where is my Heinie, ‘Empress’?” Her tone lacked no kindness or subtlety!

“First, Mrs. Wolmacher, you must understand the conditions that day.” I began.

She crossed her arms and waited impatiently for me to continue.

I wondered how these two had ever been married.

“When we arrived in 1918, the surface conditions of the North Atlantic were terrible at best. The air temperature was ten degrees Celsius with a sustained wind of twenty knots out of the northeast.” Heidi tapped my shoulder. I let her continue the tale.

“We had been on wolf pack when two of our fellow U-boats sustained failure and signaled that they would attempt to leave the targeted shipping lane to make repairs. Capt. Heinz decided to continue our patrol independently.”

“How can this child relate facts of that day when she clearly…”

“Hilde, let the dear have her say, hun.” Momma interrupted. “The story gets better.”

Heidi closed her eyes for a few seconds and prepared to continue.

“The lookout had spotted smoke on the horizon and the captain ordered us to submerge until we could positively identify the ship. He also ordered us to maximum submerged speed. By his bearings, we would pass well ahead of it and would come about if it looked promising.”

At this point Heidi paused and shook her head a few times. Her eyes began to moisten as she recalled that next half hour of her previous life.

“We had no warning that the Troop ship had changed course and was now heading directly at us. The collision was unavoidable! Heinz ordered us to the surface and we barely had time to take to the lifeboats before the 103 slipped below the waves for the last time.” The ship never stopped, instead proceeding on its way. It never made any attempt to rescue us!”

“For twenty minutes we suffered the raging wind and waves until an American destroyer appeared and began rescue operations. Twenty-two of us were still afloat when they mysteriously ceased recovery! From what we could hear over the furious winds they had spotted something on the horizon. The ship quickly got underway and immediately began to turn into the tempest. It was then that we spotted the reason! A wall of water ten meters in height was bearing down on us! We had no recourse but to pray that it would be over quickly and painlessly.”

Stopping to compose herself, Heidi wiped her cheeks dry and took a big breath.

“To our amazement, nine of us had survived the monstrous wave! Someone pointed to a man swimming, waving and shouting frantically a short distance from our overturned lifeboat. It took several minutes, but we managed to reach him and pull him back to the overturned boat. That is when we first saw the periscope not fifty meters away. It looked like no other we had ever seen before and as we watched it grew in height. Within a minute a strange looking submersible numbered 353, surfaced between four others and us. Several of its crew appeared on the foredeck. We were wondering how they would attempt our safe rescue in such deplorable conditions when suddenly we were lifted from the water, boat and all, and deposited on the strange submersible’s deck. It was only then we heard them speaking English. They were American!”

Hilde Wolmacher remained quiet, but grew visibly agitated.

“So what does this have to do with my Heinie? Is he alive or not, ‘Empress’? She groused, mocking me.

“I survived, Lieben!” Heidi cried out.

“You, Schlampe, are not Heinrich Wolmacher! Why have you wasted my time, you who calls herself ‘Empress’?”

“If you’d shut your trap, frau Wolmacher, the girl will explain! Now hush and listen!” An angered Ruth Scott scolded! “Why must you Germans be so difficult?”

Heidi looked to me with pleading eyes- her face looked so sad, but I nodded for her to continue.

“We were taken below and given blankets and rations- all twelve of us! No one could explain how Johan and Fritz suddenly were among us again! Hans said that he had seen them disappear under the waves just seconds before the submersible had surfaced. They even somehow increased the temperature in the compartment we were seated in to warm us! Within minutes our uniforms had dried and feeling returned to our extremities. That is when we first laid eyes on the Empress.”

“She and her Admiral informed us that we had been brought aboard the Sand Dollar, her flagship, which was part of her Temporal Fleet. One of the men among us turned out to be an American who had somehow fallen overboard from the destroyer. The Admiral apparently knew this American and exposed him to us, but didn’t seem worried that we were enemies.” Heidi took another long breath.

“Hilde, I’ve seen the future! The Empress took us to the future! To the year 2029, Hilde, can you believe it? I’ve seen one hundred and eleven years into the future! Isn’t that amazing?”

“Oh, very interesting, Schlampe! It is very believable evidence to who you claim to be! Tell me, how many of you did Heinrich have in each port?”

“Hilde, I am not a slut, nor was I ever unfaithful to you! I am trying to tell you how I came to look like this!”

“I’ve heard enough! You three have tried my patience long enough, I’m leaving!”

I watched Heidi’s expression fall! This woman was downright rude and I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer! Diplomacy be damned- in all the times and people I’ve called here, Hilde Wolmacher was the most inhospitable entity to date and she needed to be told so!

“Frau Wolmacher!” I hissed in anger. “You WILL leave this place when I say so and not one second sooner! This is my domain and I will have civility!” I began to bring an image into my mind as I continued my warning! “You are my guest here and will behave accordingly or I will repeal any and all generosity!”

The cross, bitter old woman began to shift and change back to her original shape. She now matched her attitude as far as I was concerned! Heidi’s expression turned to one of shock.

“Why has she grown old again, Empress? She asked.

“I just returned her to the form that she, herself conveys, Miss Wolmacher. It was a mistake for me to blindly offer the appearance of youth when there was no reciprocal gratitude! Something offered in friendship and not accepted as such shouldn’t have been given in the first place!” I argued with more anger than I even expected.

“Alexandra! That is not the way you were brought up, young lady! A gift, once given, should never be rescinded- no matter what the recipient’s response!” Ruth Scott reprimanded me.

“Some ‘Empress’!” The old woman spat! “Nothing more than a spoiled child- as I suspected!” The elder Wolmacher mocked! “If this is truly your ‘private’ domain and if you really did change my appearance, then show me that this ‘schlampe’ is indeed my deceased husband, oh mighty ‘Empress’!”

Momma Scott and I stared at the bitter woman, amazed by her venom and audacity! After a few moments we looked to each other.

Could it be done? Could I actually manipulate the appearance of someone on my side of this realm? I had never tried or even considered such a thing! Was it possible?

I raised my eyebrows in wonder, an expression mirrored by Ruth Scott as she looked at me. She then nodded for me to try. I nodded back.

Carefully, I closed my eyes and brought an image of Heinrich Wolmacher back into my mind. I began to concentrate on it intensely while calling the form to me as I would Ruth Scott, Grandpa, or…Hilde Wolmacher.

I wasn’t aware of it working until I opened my eyes to see Hilde Wolmacher and Momma’s eyes bulging! I felt strange, and a bit light-headed. Cautiously, I turned my gaze to Heidi…correction…I turned my gaze to Heinrich! He was already running his hands over his male form in total disbelief!

“You did it, but how?” He stared at me then gasped. “And at what cost to you, Empress?” He asked quietly raising his hand to my face and wiping something from just below my nose.

“Blood…from your nose, Empress!” He said with concern, showing me his finger. “You should not have pushed so hard at this old fool’s challenge! I am sorry you have hurt yourself, frauline!”

“Some all-powerful Deity!” Hilde Wolmacher heckled with an evil sneer! “Such a simple undertaking for someone claiming the power to control time and space! Oh look, she bleeds just like us!” She cackled.

Heinrich’s face grew red with anger. “You cannot possibly be my lovely and kind-hearted, Hilde! How dare you denigrate the Empress in such an arrogant, smug manner, you ignorant, old sow! You will know your place and abide there, old woman! This woman, Empress Alexandra- the woman that saved my life…you will show her the proper respect! How dare you mock the kindness and charity shown to either of us?”

“Heinrich? It is you! Where have you been all these years? I’ve missed you so much!” The elder woman started to come closer to him as her tone softened considerably.

“Stay back you old, misshapen, crone! You do not deserve that which you have not given! The Empress was right to have taken aback her generous gift of youth from you! What has become of you, Hildegard Lesch? Where have your manners gone since that day?”

“They were ripped from me the day the letter arrived, Heinrich! That day, my entire life drained from me as I read that you had been reported missing somewhere in the Atlantic! Did you know it took our government over a year to report your loss? The children, they didn’t…couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t be home- ever!

“That is reason to treat this woman in such an ugly manner?” Heinrich accused as he took a step back from her. “I should think you would be elated that I had survived and that I was being given a second chance! How could you be so cold and evil to this woman whose only mission is to protect our existence and save as many people as the timeline can tolerate?”

As much as I wanted to enjoy her comeuppance, I still felt lightheaded.

Heinrich turned his head and looked at me as he took another step away from what once was his wife.

He gasped again- this time louder and more intensely.

“Empress, holding this form for me is apparently taking a heavy toll on you!” He said calmly. “I fully accept the new life offered me and do not wish you anymore harm on my behalf. Please release me, Empress. Release me from this cursed male form and return me to the form for which I have been given a second chance. I wish to no longer set eyes upon such a wicked and vile creature- the beast that calls herself my beautiful and kind Hilde! Leave my sight, hag, and fill your remaining existence with the thoughts of how this reunion should have developed! Think of the form the Empress willingly granted you and how you simply discarded it without consideration or thanks! Think of how things could have been in your later years had you accepted me for who I am and not just my appearance! Go now and wallow in the evil depression you have brought on this day. I wish to never see you again, Hildegard Lesch!”

My dizziness disappeared immediately as I granted Heidi’s wish to return to her female form. I felt pins and needles in my left leg and I might have stumbled a little. A hand caught me on either side. Ruth Scott held me on the left, while Heidi Wolmacher held my right side.

“Alex, are you okay? You look like you’re ready to pass out!” Momma asked as the two steadied me.

“Heinrich! You can’t do this to me! I’ve waited so long to see you again, Heinrich!” The old crone cried. “Please, you must stay Heinrich! We must be together! You must get me out of here, mine leiben!”

“As you so ardently stated…I am no longer your husband! My name is Heidi Wolmacher, I am nineteen years of age, single, and I am one of the Empress’s sisters!” Heidi turned her back on the old woman. “You may dismiss her now, my Empress, we are through!”

I nodded sadly and mentally released the older woman from my domain.

“Heinrich! Don’t leave me! I need you, Heinrich! You’re the only one that can rescue me from this…place! Heinrich, I’m sorry I was so rude! HEINRICH YOU @#$^%%^!”

Hilde Wolmacher faded from our presence, as did her screams and curses.

Heidi immediately turned her head into my shoulder and began crying.

“What was I thinking? You should have never brought me here, Empress. This was a big mistake. I’m sorry you were hurt by this, ma’am- please forgive me.” She sobbed. “I apologize for the way my wife treated you, Empress. I never thought she could be so cruel.”

“Alex.” I said to her softly.

“What?” She lifted her head slowly and looked into my eyes.

“My name is Alex, Heidi. I’d like y’all to call me Alex.”

“But Empress…!”

“Sweetheart, when my daughter tells someone they should call her ‘Alex’, she’s just made you a bonefide member of the family. You best call her by that name from now on.” Ruth Scott suggested with a giggle. “Welcome to the family, sweetie.” Momma announced as she raised her arms to my companion and pulled her into a tight embrace.

“Momma, I’m afraid we should go.” I said quietly after a minute. “Alexandra is waiting for our return to Reilly. She, Markus, and young Alexia are eager to return to Terra. Also, I must prepare for my next mission.”

“You don’t have to go it alone, Alexandra. You need but to ask and several of us will be there for you, honey.” Momma Scott offered.

“That’s very kind of you momma, but I promised Alex I’d help her. She’s the one that has to face what has been done.”

“Well then I wish you good luck, Empress of Time and Space; my wonderful Alexandra. Heidi, know that we will be watching on your behalf too, child. Never forget that there are others here that care deeply for you and what you are doing for the good of us all. There will always be friends and family watching over you, Heidi Wolmacher.”

“Thank you, Frau Scott. I am sorry for the way Hilde behaved. I would have never thought she would become so spiteful.”

“It wasn’t your fault, dear girl. Some people handle the loss of a loved one very badly. Few though, transfer that hate in such a way as your Hilde did. She will realize her mistakes in time and you may see her again. Believe me, she will have a long time to think things through…especially where you sent her, my dear.”

“But I didin’t send her anywhere, Frau Scott. What do you mean?”

“Some beings call it the ‘underworld’- some call it ‘purgatory’, others simply cut the bull and call it ‘hell’. In our domain though, we simply call it ‘time out’.” Momma Scott explained. She giggled a couple times. “Because you refused her…’cursed’ her, some would say, she has been sent somewhere to think and learn her lesson about how she behaved. We have very strict rules on how we are allowed to interact with the other dimensions, sweetie. Hildegard Wolmacher will learn the true meaning of evil, cold-hearted, rude, and malevolent!” Momma’s expression grew dark and sinister, but then she smiled and laughed. “But then again there are those that say we design our own hell by the choices we make. Heidi Wolmacher, have yourself a wonderful life.” Momma looked to me as she released Heidi. “Empress, may I please be dismissed?”

“Not yet, momma.” I said as I quickly stepped to her and wrapped my arms around her tightly. “Not without saying a proper goodbye, momma.” I told her as I squeezed harder. “Thank you for your help with Hilde. Things may have ended differently without you being here.”

“I should say they would have, Alex. I don’t think your world could handle the likes of Hildegard ‘The Horrible’ Wolmacher in her present character!”

“So that was her plan?” I asked in amazement.

“Even if it cost your life, my daughter! You handled yourself beautifully, child.” Momma Scott beamed as she took a step back from me. “Now we must part and you must return to your dimension to continue your miraculous adventures, Empress. As always, we…will be watching.” Ruth Scott winked. As she stepped back into the darkness, I felt tears rolling down my cheeks.

I felt Heidi slowly take my hand and squeeze gently to let me know she was ready.

I had an idea that I thought might heal some deep wounds.

My private domain became a sidewalk on a nondescript city street. 1920’s vintage cars, as well as horse-drawn wagons slowly clattered along the cobblestone street to our left.

“I think I might recognize this place, Empress!” Heidi gasped.

“The name is Alex, hun. Don’t make me tell y’all again! Did Jacquelyn instruct you on how the suit operates?” I asked her with a little annoyance in my voice.

“She did, Emp…” I glared at her. “She did, Alex.” She replied.

“This is Frankfurt-on-Main, 1922. Select some period clothing and have your Reilly suit change to them. Remain holding my hand until I tell you to let go though.” I informed her just as two children ran right through us.

Heidi gasped in horror at the sight!

“They…they…”

“They ran right through you- yes. At the moment we are what I call out of phase with this reality. We can see and hear what is going on here but cannot be seen nor heard, Miss Wolmacher. Now please change your clothes. If you select high heels, you should stand on your toes so the increase in height will not startle you.” I answered as I stood on my own tiptoes and triggered my suit to change.

In seconds we were dressed in period attire proper for 1922 Germany.

“Frauline Wolmacher, since you speak the language, you may disable your translator. I have selected a dialect of Austrian.” I said giving her a slight tug and we began walking down the sidewalk. Two more children ran through us, screaming and laughing as they played.

Heidi stopped dead in her tracks.

“Alex, I think those are my children!”

“You’re probably right, Heidi.” I answered casually.

“Why are we here?”

“To mend a heart or two, Miss Wolmacher.” I smiled.

Heidi looked over at me in silence. Her eyes again began to tear up.

“I was just about to rephase us, hun. It wouldn’t look good for a pretty thing like y’all to be cryin’ now, would it?”

She shook her head no and wiped her eyes dry with her free hand.

A delivery truck was parked on the side of the street just a few yards ahead of us and I began to look around to see if we would be observed as we rephased. Satisfied we were out of sight, I rephased us as we walked beside the truck. I didn’t tell Heidi I had done it though.

The same two children that had just passed us a moment before appeared again from between two buildings and ran right for us. They appeared to be having such a good time they failed to see us and promptly collided with us!

Heidi was completely surprised and fell backwards to the brick walkway!

“Sorry, frauline, we didn’t see you! Did we hurt you?” The girl asked.

“No, you just surprised us, little one. You’d best watch where you’re going from now on though.” I answered, as I helped a tongue-tied Heidi to her feet.

“We will, frauline! Bye!” The girl replied.

“Leibshen!” I called. “We are looking for Frau Wolmacher. Have you knowledge of her address?”

“She is our mother! What do you want of her?” The girl asked. I was beginning to wonder if the younger boy could even talk.

“I am Alexandra Steinert and this is my friend Heidi Wolmacher, we have arrived from Düsseldorf to see her.” I told the young girl.

“You are related to us, Miss Heidi?” The girl’s eyes grew bigger.

“I am a cousin of your father, Heinrich –heaven rest his weary soul.” Heidi told her while looking to the sidewalk in sadness.

“Is your mother at home, little one?” I asked as I showed concern for my travel companion. “Heidi, come now, it has been four years. You said it was getting easier.”

“No, she won’t be home for another couple hours, Miss Alexandra. Would you like to wait and play with us?” The girl asked as I helped wipe Heidi’s eyes dry.

“That just might help my friend now…” I let the sentence hang waiting for her to introduce her and her brother. Quickly, I saw that I would get no such response! “That is very good, children! Your mother has taught you well to not give such information to strangers. Though, I bet I can guess your names! If I guess correctly, we’ll stay and play games with you. If I don’t we shall come visit your mother when she is home. Would you agree to that?” I asked the girl and looked for any sign her brother would comply.

Heinrich’s daughter thought a moment then nodded her head. I looked at her brother for his answer. He tugged on his sister’s dress sleeve. They turned away from us and I heard some short discussion ensue. The quick huddle concluded with both children nodding to each other.

“You would really stay and play with us?” She asked.

I gave them my brightest smile.

The girl looked to her brother once more. He nodded ever so slightly.

“Okay. You guess our names and you have to play.”

“Deal!” I said continuing to smile.

I put my right pointer finger to my lips and pretended to think and concentrate hard.

“Hmmmm, “ I started, “We know your father’s name was Heinrich…” I paused. “We also know that your mother’s name is Hilde or Hildegard.” I paused again.

“She hates that name, Miss Alexandra!” The girl warned sternly.

“Oh, okay then, she hates Hilde, got it!”

“Noooo! She hates the name Hildegard, Miss Alexandra!” She cried.

“Oooh, I’m sorry! Okay, if I’m not mistaken, I think your name is…” I paused again as if to think hard once more. I looked to Heidi and winked with the eye the kids couldn’t see. Heidi’s eyes pleaded that this might not be a good idea- or maybe she wanted to leave.

“Hmmmm, There are so many good names that would fit such good children as you.” I praised and continued to smile.

I pointed to the boy first. “I know! You are Hansel and you are Gretel!” I said pointing to the girl last.

Her nose immediately wrinkled and she exhaled loudly.

“That’s not our names!” She cried; disappointed that they had lost two play partners.

“May I try again?” I said looking a little disappointed with myself. Her face brightened instantly!

“Ah huh.”

“Oh, okay, thank you.” I now held my chin between my thumb and pointer finger and concentrated harder.

“Okay, I think I have it this time. You are Francis and you are Beatrice. I pointed to each as I said the names.

“No, that’s not our names at all.” She told me, even more disappointed than before. Even her brother dropped his head slightly in disappointment.

I quickly wrinkled my nose and squinted one eye.

“Oh, then you are Beatrice and you must be Francis.” I said pointing to the boy first. I noticed Heidi smile slightly.

“No, those aren’t our names!” The boy said quietly, his head staring at the ground.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” I said. “I thought I could guess your names, but apparently my gift is not working today.” I told them sadly. I turned to Heidi, who had remained deathly silent with the exception of the slight smile a minute ago.

“Then I guess we will leave and come back later when Hilde is home. Come along, Heidi, I couldn’t guess Maria and Joseph’s names, so I guess we can’t stay and play.” I said sadly. We took a few steps in the direction we had come.

A hand tugged a few times at my dress.

“Miss Steinert, you know our names.” Joseph said in a louder voice. “You have to stay and play with us now!”

We turned around to see him looking up at us with a huge grin on his face. His sister stood a few feet back, her eyes wide in astonishment! Heidi looked at me with the same pleading look. I winked at her and smiled.

“You are absolutely correct, Joseph Freidrich Wolmacher, I did say that we would stay and play!”

A smile filled his face. I glanced back at Maria. “Before you ask, hun, I have a gift that allows me to know what you are thinking before you ask it!”

Maria gasped and quickly covered her mouth with both hands in surprise! Her eyes couldn’t get any wider!

“Heidi, we promised these two that we would play, so I see no alternative but to stay and spend time with them. Lead on children.” I told the two. They happily led us to the apartment building they lived in.

We spent two hours playing games I had never known existed. We also played dolls with Maria while Joseph stared out the second floor apartment window in boredom. I had never played with dolls before.

It wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be.
 
 

1657 hours, Hilde Wolmacher Residence, Frankfurt, Germany, June 11th, 1922
 
 

“You’re funny, Alex! How could you not have played with dollies when you were a little girl?” Maria asked in absolute confusion.

“I guess I never had the chance to be a little girl, Maria.”

Heidi suddenly stared at me, alarmed.

“She’s just kidding, Maria. Don’t let Alex tease you so easily.” Heidi advised her former daughter.

The young girl stared at my companion strangely.

“Maria, Joseph, I’m home!” A familiar voice called.

“Momma!” They both screamed and ran for the door.

“So what did you do today, you two?” The voice asked.

“One of Papa’s cousins came to talk to you, Momma! She and her friend were playing dollies with me!” Maria confessed innocently.

“How many times have I told you about strangers, young lady?” Hilde scolded!

“But Alex guessed my name, Momma! She and Heidi have been waiting to talk to you since they arrived!”

“Is that so, Joseph?”

“Yes, Momma! They just appeared beside the delivery truck down the way. And we ran into them when we were playing tag! Maria knocked over Heidi, but she apologized and then Alexandra guessed our names, though I think she already knew them because it sounded like she was already playing with us, so we invited them in and started playing, but I got bored of playing Maria’s games and so I just started looking out the window waiting for you, momma.”

I was amazed that so much had come out of the boy’s mouth at one time! I was also curious as to what he said about us ‘appearing’.

Heidi started to look frightened.

“What do you hear, Miss Wolmacher?” I asked quietly so the people in the next room wouldn’t hear us.

“She thinks we are thieves here to steal from her, Alex.”

“A logical assumption given she has spent the last five years alone with just the children, Heidi.”

“She is debating calling the Burgermeister, Empress.” She said reaching for my hand. “We should not have come here.”

“Nonsense, Heidi. We are two women here to see your cousin by marriage. We mean her no harm.

“Momma, come and meet Alex! She’s fun to play with!”

“I thought you said Alex and Heidi, Maria?”

“Heidi reminds me of you, momma.” Joseph interrupted in a sour tone.

“Is that so? Well, introduce me to them then.” Hilde said with concern.

The three entered the room to find Heidi and I sitting on the floor with our legs crossed.

“Frau Wolmacher.” I said as I tried to get up off the floor. I struggled a bit longer then apologized. “I would get up, but my legs seem to have fallen asleep. Alexandra Steinert.” I instead introduced myself and offered up my hand to her. My legs weren’t really numb, but it was a way to show that I was no threat.

“Hilde, it is so nice to see you again.” Heidi said as she successfully struggled to her feet.

“And you would be Heidi?” The woman asked of her.

“Sorry, I’m Heidi…Heidi Wolmacher. I’m a relative of Heinrich’s.” Her face immediately became sad and her gaze dropped to the floor.

“I don’t remember you…Heidi.” Hilde squinted at her, obviously sizing her up.

“I think we only met once. I was just a girl when we visited from Düsseldorf. You haven’t changed though, Miss Hilde.” She told her former wife. Heidi was holding it together pretty well so far. Her expression easily passed as pensive and awkward.

“And you are related how, Alexandra?”

“I’m not, Frau Wolmacher, I’m just a friend of Heidi’s. We sometimes travel together.” I admitted. “I live in Düsseldorf myself, Frau. My father is a steamship captain.”

“Why do you look familiar, then?” She stared at me intently for a few seconds.

I shrugged my shoulders. “We’ve never met before, Frau.” Not yet anyway, I thought to myself.

“I’m sorry we didn’t send word, Frau, Alex thought I should stop in to see how you were getting on…since we were so close. We won’t be staying long.” Heidi told her nervously.

“And where will you be going from here, Heidi?” Hilde asked. There was a little irritation in her voice.

“We wanted to see the homeland once more before traveling to America, Frau.” I interrupted gently. I wasn’t lying either! Grandpa had always talked about returning here once more before her passed. He would relate his fond memories here to Brian and I whenever he could. I suspect things had changed an awful lot since he left here in 1885, though.

“America? Why would you want to go there?”

“We heard that there is opportunity there, Hilde.”

“And men, Frau! Lots of good looking men!” I added with excitement.

“Don’t be so oblivious, Alexandra! Americans are rude and barbaric…so I’ve been told! Nothing but cutthroats and thieves desiring to relieve you of your possessions and possibly your life! I have been told they are no better than the Stalinists! You should stay here! There are plenty of eligible young men in Germany, Alexandra.”

“Frau Wolmacher, my grandfather has lived in a place called Missouri for several years now and his correspondence says nothing derogatory about the population. He found work on an immense river called the Mississippi, working a steamboat up and down it. He writes that the compensation is much higher than what we would make here. He even has a telephone in his house!” I tried to sound like an over-excited teenager.

“He is telling you stories, Alexandra. Only the deposed Kaiser and the other nobility were rich enough to have something like that in their homes.” She scoffed.

“He claims to have something called a ‘radio’ too, Frau Wolmacher!” I boasted. I realized that I really didn’t know when the first commercial radio station went into operation- oh well.

“I have never heard of such a thing! There is your proof that he is teasing, Alexandra.” Hilde laughed.

“Still, Frau, we have nothing to hold us here now.” I told her with the same amount of enthusiasm. “Our belongings are enroute as we speak.”

I then narrowed my eyes and looked conspiratorially to both sides.

“I hear there is one coming through the political ranks that will soon seize power from the post-Kaiser government. I fear something catastrophic will besiege our homeland when he does. I do not wish to be here when that happens, frau!” I revealed just above a whisper.

“More tales, Alexandra? How do you know this information is not fiction?”

“Hilde, Alex has been known to predict much worse incidents! People of Düsseldorf have referred to her as a seer- a clairvoyant!” Heidi added in my defense.

“A clairvoyant? How much more do you expect me to believe, you naive girls?”

“I assure you, frau, what Heidi tells you is absolute fact.” I looked over to Joseph sitting patiently in the corner of the room. He was writing or coloring in a book. “Allow me to provide proof, Frau Wolmacher.” I petitioned.

I closed my eyes and appeared to concentrate heavily.

“Oh look, Joseph, Alex is going to guess something for momma!” Maria called to her brother with excitement.

“Within the half hour, Joseph will break the cookie jar in the kitchen. He will claim I did it and not him. Maria will claim to see me hiding behind the chair in the corner behind you.”

I opened my eyes to see Hilde looking at me in anger!

“How can you possibly be in two places at once, Alexandra? It is physically impossible!”

“Hilde, it has been my experience that there is a fine line between possible and impossible.” Heidi informed her. She then looked at me in curiosity as to how I could possibly act on my predictions.

I simply twitched my eyebrow ever so slightly.
 
 

“I’m hungry, momma, can I get a cookie, please?” Joseph asked about fifteen minutes later. We had apparently thrown off his feeding schedule.

Hilde suddenly looked at me in suspicion.

“No, leiben, I will start dinner in just a few minutes. You can survive until then.” She told him.

“All right.” He sounded so disappointed!

Hilde smiled in triumph at me.

Five minutes later we heard a crash from the kitchen and Maria scream at almost the same time!

Joseph, hearing the crash, ran into the kitchen to investigate. He came running out of the kitchen with a terrified look on his face. He grew even more terrified when he saw that I hadn’t moved.

Maria was still pointing between the chair in the corner of the room and me. Her eyes and mouth couldn’t open any wider!

“Joseph, what did you do?” Hilde asked in an angry tone.

“I didn’t do anything, momma! Alex knocked the jar off the counter!” He told his mother. Even he looked like he didn’t believe it!

“That can’t be! Momma, I just saw Alex standing behind the chair over there!” She said pointing an accusatory finger.

Hilde turned to her left to follow her daughter’s finger. Heidi quickly glanced over to me with a look that asked ‘how’.

Hilde Wolmacher turned back around and glared at me.

“How did you do that? Are you some kind of witch?” Hilde accused.

“Frau, I never moved. You have been watching me like a vulture watching carrion since I made my prediction. As you say, how could I possibly be in two…three places at the same time?”

“Do that again, Alex!” Maria shouted. Joseph looked less enthusiastic.

“Momma, I’m hungry!” He exclaimed instead.

“Look in the kitchen once more, Joseph.” I suggested with a devious smile.

He didn’t wait for his mother’s approval and just left the room.

“Momma! Someone left a box on the table! It’s warm, too!” The surprised boy exclaimed as he reentered the room carrying a bakery box tied tight with string. He handed it to Hilde, who felt the heat emanating from it with amazement.

“How?” She stared at us.

“What’s in it, Frau?” I asked innocently. Heidi looked on in total confusion as to how I managed this.

“How can it be warm when I know you’ve been here for several hours already?” She asked.

“Maria? Joseph, would you like some fresh strawberry strudel?” I asked as Hilde again glared at me.

“How can you possibly know what is in here?”

“Open the box and find out if I’m right, Frau Wolmacher.” I suggested. “Maria, would you get your momma the scissors? You will find them in the left top drawer under the counter.” I added.

The young girl came back into the room with her jaw scraping the floor! In her outstretched hand were the scissors. Hilde carefully took them from her and snipped the string binding the box closed.

Her eyes went wide as she opened the lid! The smell of fresh-baked strawberries filled the air.

“Do it again, Alex!” Maria exclaimed again while laughing uncontrollably.

Joseph simply reached into the box his mother was still holding and rescued an oozing hunk of strudel. It had no chance of survival as he promptly pushed it into his mouth whole!

I smiled and shook my head at the boy’s nerve.

Maria followed her brother’s lead and soon her mouth was full too!

“How could you have possibly done this?” Hilde asked in disbelief.

“As you have said, frau, it is impossible. Even after Heidi told you that sometimes the impossible is in fact, possible. How I can do such things is readily explainable if one thinks with the mind of a child- of an innocent- unaffected by the limits we are taught by society.” I told her.

“Joseph, earlier you told your momma that Heidi and I just appeared beside the truck down the street. What did you mean by that, hun?” I asked just before his little hand began to dive into the box a third time!

“One minute you weren’t there, the next, you were.”

“You mean we were hurrying up the street and you just saw us at that time?” I asked to clarify.

“No, you and Heidi just appeared there…in that spot. There was no one else on the sidewalk when we ran up the block right before.” He explained.

“Then were did we come from, Joseph?” I asked with a smile.

“Maybe you were invisible!” He laughed.

Heidi raised her eyebrows in surprise!

“How could we be invisible, Joseph? Your momma claims it is impossible?”

“I have an invisible friend.” He admitted casually.

Hilde looked at her son for a minute. Maria was also looking at her brother with a smile.

“Alexandra, how dare you taunt the boy…?” Hilde stopped in mid-sentence as she turned her attention back to me.

“Where did she go, Heidi?” She asked my startled companion.

I made my way out to the kitchen.

“I think the strudel would survive better if it were cut into pieces instead of torn into hunks, Frau.” I said reentering the room with a knife and five plates in my hand.

Maria clapped and giggled at me. “How did you do that, Alex?”

Joseph missed his mouth and now had a big smear of strawberry filling on his right cheek. His eyes were wide as saucers!

Hilde Wolmacher looked at me in fright, her complexion paled noticeably. The mysterious box of strudel toppled out of her hands but miraculously landed right side up about an inch off the floor and looked undisturbed.

“Wow!” Joseph and Maria gasped together.

Heidi said nothing but stared between the box and me, her face was a mixture of fright, surprise, and confusion.

‘Nice catch, sister.’ I thought to her.

Heidi looked like she was going to faint as she stared at me again.

I just nodded once and smiled as the bakery box gently settled to the floor.

“What are you?” Hilde Wolmacher shouted in horror!

“Momma, Alex is magic!” Maria giggled with a wide, bright smile.

The mother’s look to her daughter was precious and spoke volumes!

“How did you do that, Miss Heidi?” Joseph was staring at my companion with wide eyes of his own.

Frau Wolmacher’s head snapped around to see what her son meant.

‘What did I just do? What is happening to me? Why has the Empress brought me back here? I shouldn’t have let the Empress bring me back to see my wife and children! If she hadn’t rescued us from the sea, I wouldn’t be here right now! Oh Lord, how could I have done what I just did? My wife and my children are now terrified of me! Empress, what’s happening to me?’ Heidi’s voice echoed at full volume in my mind. She was looking directly at me waiting for an answer. Had I not experienced it before, I would have been holding my head in agony.

In a similar fashion to Hilde, Maria, and Joseph!

“Heidi, you’re too loud!” Maria shouted as she pressed both hands harder against the sides of her head.

“I’m sorry, Marie! I didn’t mean to hurt you- any of you! Emp…Alex, we need to leave this house before I do something I cannot control!” Heidi exclaimed in tears as she began to panic.

Quickly, she stared at Hilde. “She wants us to leave Alex! Hilde is about to scream for the police!”

Maria ran the few feet to her mother, took her hand, and began tugging on it. “No momma, I don’t want you to call the police! Alex and Heidi won’t hurt us! Please, momma? Please?”

The girl turned to me with tears in her eyes.

“Alex, tell momma that you won’t hurt her! Please, Empress? Please?”

Joseph glared at me from where he stood. “Did you really save Papa, Miss Alexandra?”

Hilde’s mouth began to open so she could scream.

A large hunk of strudel flew from the box on the floor and buried itself in Hilde’s mouth!

“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you alert the police to our existence, my love!” Heidi apologized as tears streamed down her face.

“Do you like the strudel, momma?” Maria giggled.

“Frau Wolmacher, we mean you and your children no harm. I have brought Heidi back to this time to mend a deep wound- a wound that, I fear, will stay with you forever. Please calm yourself and sit. I will try to explain who we really are if you shall allow me. Please, no harm will come to you, Frau. Will you at least give us a few minutes? If, after our explanation. you wish to call local law enforcement, you are free to do so. They will find no trace of us, however.”

I motioned for Heidi to sit down and I sat down on the Davenport.

Maria and Joseph joined us by sitting on either side of me. Both held an arm as if to protect me from their mother.

Slowly, and with shaking legs, Hilde sat back down in her chair. She cautiously moved her jaw to chew the pastry in her mouth.

“Thank you, Frau Wolmacher.” I started. “As I said, we are not here to rob or harm you, Maria, or Joseph. Miss Wolmacher and I are here to right a great wrong done to you in the future. I know that is hard for you to believe, but the wrong stems from something I did several years ago off the coast of Ireland- May 12th, 1918 to be precise.”

The woman’s face saddened abruptly as she connected with the date.

“My uncle, whom I love deeply, asked me and my sisters if we could look into the incident surrounding his best friend’s disappearance at sea during the War. As I researched, it became apparent that I had been involved- that the man had indeed survived and lived until the year 2020.”

“Empress, she does not believe a word of it! She refuses to accept anything you say!” Heidi informed me.

Hilde glared at her and more tears ran down her cheeks.

“Perhaps a little demonstration is in order then?” I suggested calmly.

“Frau, may I touch your hand? It will not melt or some other grotesque thing like that, I assure you. May I?”

I waited as she moved her hand closer to me by a fraction.

“Kids, I’m going to show your mother something wonderful. We will disappear for a minute or two and be right back. I won’t hurt her.” I informed the two.

“Can I come too, Alex?” Joseph, of all people, asked!

“I want to come too, Alex!” Maria exclaimed.

“Heidi? Would you like to come along also? I don’t want to leave you alone in someone else’s apartment.”

She stood and took my other hand, her face unsure if this was the right thing to do.

“Kids, one of you take your mother’s other hand and the other take Heidi’s hand, please.”

“Why do we have to hold hands, Alex? Maria asked innocently.

“Because it won’t work unless we hold hands, hun.” I smiled. “Hilde, you need to stand, hun.”

The woman was shaking like a leaf as she slowly got to her feet.

“Hold tight now, I’m going to make us invisible.” I told the children in a cheery voice. Hilde tightened her grip.

“I thought you said you were going to make us invisible, Alex?” Joseph asked as we stood there.

“Oh, I guess it didn’t work. Maria, could you move the chair over slightly so your mother can sit down again?” I asked the girl.

“Oh, okay, Alex, I guess it didn’t wo…” Maria gasped, as her hand reached nothing tangible.

“Did you see that? My hand went right through the chair, momma!”

Joseph tried his luck at touching the chair.

“Wow! How did you do that, Empress?” He asked in amazement.

“What did you call her, Joseph?” Hilde asked her son in shock.

“Heidi called her ‘Empress’, momma! Didn’t you hear her before?”

“Empress?” Hilde Wolmacher repeated as she stared at me.

“Alex is called the Empress of Time and Space, Hilde- for obvious reasons.” Heidi told her former wife.

“Can we go somewhere, Alex? I want to go somewhere!” Maria exclaimed.

“Where would you like to go, hun?” I asked.

“I want to see Papa!” Joseph shouted.

Tears began running from Heidi’s eyes once more as her face turned sullen.

“How about I take you all to a tropical island instead?” I asked with a smile.

“I wanna see Papa!” Joseph demanded. Heidi became even more distraught.

I observed my companion for a moment.

“How about we do both, hun- visit a tropical island AND see you’re Papa?”

Joseph’s face erupted in a huge smile.

“Good, is everyone ready then?” I asked.

Both children’s heads bobbled like…like something from my future memories!

“Okay, the scenery will change after we count down from five, okay?”

Again two small heads nodded excitedly.

“Okay. Five, four, three,” The kids joined in counting, “Two, one.”

The small Frankfort apartment became the beach next to the dock on Kili Island. Sand Dollar had just tied up and we watched as the gangplank was put in place.

“Are we really here, Alex? Is this the future or the past? Where are we? Where is Papa?” Joseph fired off quickly.

“To answer only the questions you should know, we are really on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and your Papa is onboard my submarine. Her name is Sand Dollar and she is the fastest submarine of her class.” I told him.

“Why,” Hilde began as she found her voice again, “Why won’t you say the year, Alex…Empress, or whatever your name actually is?”

“Hildegard Lesch-Wolmacher, my name is Alexandra Steinert. I am captain of the United States Navy submarine, Sand Dollar, SS353.” I smiled at her. “And just so you do not think I am holding back anything important, welcome to the year 2029AD. The name of this island will remain secret because this is the only place on Earth where my sisters and I can relax from our missions.”

“What kind of missions?” Frau Wolmacher asked cautiously.

“Throughout history, there are instances and occurrences that threaten the correct passage of time. Little ‘errors’ that can sidetrack this progression and change the future drastically! My job is to find those irregularities and repair them before that occurs.”

“Papa!” Maria screamed!

“Maria, please do not let go! You will change the future if you were to appear here! Remain holding our hands, precious one, please?” I urged.

“You bring us here only to deny the children of seeing their father?” Hilde asked in disgust.

“I brought the children here to see their father, Frau Wolmacher! If they want, they will be able to touch him later. Right now it is too dangerous to join this time stream! Watch and learn.” I insisted.

We watched as Admiral Demmit and I started down the beach with Heinrich and the other men of the U103.

“That is Heinrich’s captain, Manfred Heinz! I met him once before Heinrich left port on his last mission!” Hilde exclaimed.

We followed behind the group and listened to their conversations.

“Why are you dressed so funny, Alex?” Maria asked as we walked.

“That’s my Empress uniform, hun. It helps me blend into whatever time period I travel to. Let’s listen.” I nodded to the group ahead of us.

“Welcome to our island. 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? If we were still on Earth you would be quite correct.”

“You see, gentlemen, I have the ability to take us anywhere or time in the known universes. We could be on Earth, only in a different universe.”

“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.”

The previous me stopped and turned back toward our guests. I pulled back to stop the five of us.

“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 children and Hilde gasped as the man rose off the ground and hovered like a statue. He obviously didn’t notice he was floating two feet off the ground. Everyone looked terrified as he hovered above us.

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

“Accepting of all this so soon, Seaman Brackenridge?”

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

“Wise advice. Admiral Demmit, please eject the magazine of your firearm.” We watched as Uncle Rick ejected his clip and handed it to my previous self. Heinrich started to stagger as the Mahanilui started to take effect.

“What’s happening to Papa?” Joseph and Maria shouted in unison.

As the scuffle for Uncle Rick’s gun began I answered the question.

“Something wonderful. Your Papa is starting his transformation. A change that will allow him to live the life he should have had with you three, but was so rudely denied.” I told them.

We watched as U103’s captain was now taking careful aim between my previous self’s shoulder blades.

“Watch out other Alex!” Joseph shouted.

“Capt. Heinz, you can try…” She said.

A shoot rang out! My four companions jumped at the gun’s report!

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

Heinz kept pulling on the trigger in desperation until Uncle Rick calmly held out his hand and retook possession of his pistol.

“Do not trifle with me, Capt. Heinz, and do not try my patience. Is that clear?” The other me told him angrily, appearing beside him for a moment.

That me reappeared in front of them again.

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

“Is that what we looked like when you made us invisible, Alex?” Maria asked excitedly.

“That’s exactly how it looks, hun.”

Maria smiled brightly.

“Shall we keep walking, gentlemen?” The other me said to her group.

Heinrich abruptly and drunkenly turned right to head inland through some pretty heavy underbrush.

“Where is Papa going? Why is he walking so funny?” Joseph said in alarm!

“The transformation has almost taken full effect, hun. Let’s follow your Papa.” I suggested.

“Heinrich! Where has Heinrich gone?” We heard as we passed through the bushes to follow Heinrich.

“Will he be okay, Alex, will Papa be okay?” Maria asked in concern.

“Heinrich Wolmacher will be fine, hun, your father means far too much to us to allow him to die, but be warned, he is going to change.” I smiled to the worried girl. “I think you will understand in a little while.

Heinrich stumbled on a few more yards before falling to the ground and assuming a fetal position. He even started snoring!

“Just like my Heinie to fall asleep- no less start snoring when he needs to do something important.” Hilde quipped. It was the first time her expression lightened since we arrived on Kili.

“He’s sleeping, Alex?” Maria asked in confusion.

“It is the way the change protects, hun, your Papa is completely unaware of the pain coursing through his body as it changes. He will be like this for about six hours. To suffer that much pain for that long would kill him.”

“Are we going to stand here for that long, Alexandra?” Hilde asked, annoyed.

“I think your momma is starting to believe in me, kids.” I said happily. “No, Hilde Wolmacher, we don’t have to stand here that long. We will still stand right here, though.” I answered cryptically.

Suddenly it was dark. A cloud-barren sky allowed the full moon to flood our surroundings with bright moonlight.

Before us Heinrich Wolmacher still slept, but he looked different than before.

“He’s still sleeping! Boy, was he tired, Alex!” Joseph exclaimed in amazement.

“He looks different, Alex, what’s he changing into?” Maria asked as she cocked her head side to side trying to figure it out.

“It will all become clear with our next advance through time, hun.” I answered.

The only thing that changed was the position of our moon-shadows on the ground.

“He looks smaller, Alex! His hair changed too!” Maria whispered in surprise.

Hilde gasped and immediately looked at Heidi.

“You?” She accused quietly.

Maria too, looked up at Heidi then back down at her slumbering father. She smiled.

“Papa?” Joseph asked as he looked at her too.

“Do you understand now, Hilde?” I asked the woman softly.

“No, I don’t! Why?” She answered with glistening streams running down her cheeks.

“Alex, can I answer that? I think she deserves to hear it from me, personally.” Heidi asked calmly.

I nodded and it was daylight again and we were at the beach on the southern end of the island.

“Would you guys like to play in the sand while Heidi and I talk to your momma?” I asked Maria and Joseph.

“Could we, momma?” They both asked.

“Stay along the water’s edge and stay within sight.” Hilde agreed.

I let go of the hands I was holding. “Go have some fun.” I smiled to the children.

“Hilde,” Heidi began, “There was an American ship that came to our assistance after our collision with another warship. They were only able to rescue twenty-one of the crew before a mysterious tidal wave was spotted. The destroyer quickly got underway and came about to put her bow into it. All hands were ordered below to prepare for the collision. Under the conditions and us being at war, those of us still in the water were expendable.”

“I never thought we would make it through alive, but six of us managed to hold onto our lifeboat even though it had overturned and basically splintered to pieces. The Sand Dollar surfaced just in time and pulled us, as well as four others, aboard. Two others thought drown also appeared. They offered us blankets and water…” She stopped suddenly and stared at me.

“It was the water, wasn’t it? The Mahanilui was in the water!” She said in astonishment.

I nodded.

“What is a Mahanilui, Hein…Heidi?” Hilde asked in confusion.

“The change I went through, they call it the Mahanilui. It is the same process that Alex and her entire crew went through! It made them into who they are now! It is what gave them their gifts!”

Heidi looked up into the tree line and scanned it for a minute. A coconut floated clumsily down and landed awkwardly in her hand.

Heidi smiled in triumph!

“It is what gave me my gift, Hilde!” She told her former wife.

The coconut split open with a loud crack and a spray of liquid!

“Would you like some, my love?” She offered.

“Better finish the story, Miss Wolmacher, we must be going in a few minutes, less we be discovered.” I coaxed.

“I still can’t believe this is really you, Heinrich! Did it hurt?”

“Like Alex said Hilde, I felt nothing until I woke up and found that my clothing didn’t fit anymore. I’m afraid I made myself look like a crazed she-beast after I discovered the changes.” She looked at me. “I am sorry for almost killing your mate, Tibius, Alex. I was confused and disoriented.”

“It’s all part of the process, Heidi. I knew what would happen anyway- Empress, remember?” I said.

Looking back to the tree line, I raised an eyebrow.

“Mother, may I complete this story for Miss Wolmacher?” Alexis’ voice asked from behind us. She was wearing blue denim shorts, white sneakers and bobby socks, and a light blue tank top.

“Hilde, this is my daughter, Alexis, first daughter to the Grand High Counsel of Citadel, Terra.” I introduced.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Wolmacher. Now, since there exist valid survivors of U103, anyone mother rescued could never be returned to their original homes and lives. Those onboard the USS Davis saw firsthand, the fury with which that wave battered them. Sand Dollar too, took some damage despite being two hundred feet below it. If Heidi and her sisters…yes, they have all experienced the Mahanilui, ma’am. If they were to return home after the war, the German Navy would expect a full report on their ‘mysterious’ rescue. The Empress and our sisterhood would inevitably be exposed and possibly abused- by any and all sides. Therefore it was imperative mother relocate them.”

“I have never heard of this ‘Terra’. Where is it exactly?” The stunned woman asked timidly.

Alexis rolled her eyes.

“Terra is that way.” She angrily pointed about thirty-three degrees above the horizon.

“Oh, would that be Africa.”

“Noooo,” Alexis lowered her finger level with the horizon and turned East-southeast. “Africa is that way.” She again raised her finger and faced due south. “Terra is that way. You have to go about six hundred trillion miles that way!” She huffed. “Why can’t you Earthers grasp the idea that life exists on other planets- in other solar systems?”

It was lights out for Hilde Wolmacher!

“She’ll be fine, Heidi.” I told my alarmed companion calmly.

“Alex, if we are on Kili Island, why can’t I sense or even hear Jacquelyn Cummins?” Heidi asked as she tried to revive her former wife.

“She hasn’t arrived from 1918 yet, Miss Wolmacher. My father, daughter and I arrived from Terra early as Mother had asked on our last visit here. Sand Dollar isn’t due to arrive for another hour- at which time you should be long gone so that Aunt Jackie won’t sense you.” Alexis explained. “Nice work on the coconut, by the way. You are developing rapidly- much faster than I anticipated when I saw your arrival, Heidi.”

“Hi, lady. Who are you? Are you related to Alex? Why is momma taking a nap? Is she going to change too? Why are you dressed that way?” Joseph asked as he and Maria came back from the water’s edge.

“Yes, I am related to Alex, honey. I’m her daughter, Alexis.” She smiled cheerfully at the children.

“So, is momma going to change like Papa did?” Maria asked the same question.

“No, your momma is going to stay your momma, Maria. You and Joseph needn’t worry. She just fainted when she found out I was from another planet. She’ll wake up shortly.”

“You’re from another planet?” Joseph’s eyes bulged. Maria gasped in surprise.

“I sure am, honey. Why, don’t I look alien enough to you?”

“No?” The little girl answered with some doubt.

“How ‘bout now, honey?” Alexis asked as her Reilly suit changed back to its default red and blue.

Both children inhaled large quantities of air!

“Do that again!” Joseph laughed!

“Okay. How about this? Does this look better?” Alexis asked as her version of a Federal period circus tent formed around her.

“That’s too old!” Maria wrinkled her nose at the gown.

“Oh, okay, how about I show you a real Terran dress? This is what I wear to important functions on my planet.” My daughter asked as her golden full-length sheath dress appeared.

“Owwwwww, I like that one, frauline.” Maria cooed.

“I like this one too, Maria. Maybe you can have one just like it when we get back.”

Heidi’s eyes almost popped from her skull!

“They’re coming with us, Empress?” She choked.

“They’ve seen too much, Heidi. Kids being kids, either they’d be laughed at and taunted mercilessly, or worse yet, they would be believed. Either way their lives have been forever changed by you…by us.” I told her matter-of-factly. “Besides, I thought you loved your kids and longed to be back with them?”

“You missed us, Heidi?” Maria asked her former Papa. Alexis motioned for Heidi to allow her to hold Hilde’s head and go to the two children.

“I sure did, leibshen, you and Joseph both! Not one day went by that I didn’t think about you two as we sailed from one port to another. I only wish I could have retrieved the photograph I kept under my bed in the submersible.” Heidi said sadly.

“You still have us and momma, Heidi. Aren’t we better than an old photograph?” Joseph consoled her.

The woman said nothing; instead, she corralled the two children in her arms and hugged them tight. Tears rolled freely down her cheeks.

“Yes, you two are better than any old photograph!”

Hilde started to stir in Alexis’ care.

“Did you enjoy your respite, Mrs. Wolmacher?”

“What…what happened?” The confused woman slurred out.

“The Mahanilui does not last as long when partaken by a young female, Hilde- less things to change- less to do.” Alexis informed her.

“Mahanilui?” Her eyes flew open!

“How else would you expect to survive on Terra? Our blue dwarf star, Solara, emits far too much ultraviolet radiation and would kill a normal human within hours of their arrival.” Alexis explained.

“Why would we go to this planet with you?”

“Because we know too much, momma! Alex said we can go with Heidi and Alexis! Isn’t that wonderful?”

“My children! Will Joseph change like Hein…Heidi?”

“No, father and his team have developed a modified form of the nanobots that make up the Mahanilui. Instead of modifying the subject’s genetic sex based on a recalled image in memory, this variant saves the genetic code and adds the needed standard enhancements.” Alexis told a bewildered Hilde.

She just stared at my daughter, not comprehending any of what was just said.

“What Alexis means is that Maria and Joseph will only change slightly, but they will still be who they are. All four of you will live many times longer now, and you will heal many times faster too! Oh…and you may have received a gift or two in the deal! Only time will tell, as they say!” I giggled.

“Children, its time to go! Let’s everyone join hands and I’ll show you a really special place!” I offered my hands and we formed a circle. Hilde, as expected, was the last one to join hands.

The sun-drenched beach on the southern end of Kili became one of Reilly’s guest quarters.

“This is not the room you assigned to me, Alex. Whose room is this?”

“Look around and you tell me, Miss Wolmacher.” I smiled deviously.

“Heidi! Look what I found!” Maria shouted as she took a frame off a stand by one of the four, large beds in the room. She handed it to her.

Heidi’s eyes grew wet as she gazed upon the color photograph that I would go back and take- after Heidi told me where and when it was taken tomorrow morning. I would also have to remember not to forget the strawberry strudel Randi Peterson would bake for my secondary trip.

Heidi ran to me and wrapped her arms around me. “Thank you, Empress! You don’t know how much this means to me! I thought I had lost everything- including my life before you rescued us! Now, I not only have my life and family, I also have the one thing that kept me focused on the 103!” She cried as her tears ran down her face in a steady stream!

“This isn’t the same photograph, Heidi! This one looks real! You can even see the true colors of our clothes! How is that possible, Alex?” Hilde pointed out as she examined the picture.

“Frau Wolmacher, there are a great many things that will be new to you and your family from now on- one of which being the advent of color photography. Another technological wonder is the clothing I am going to ask you to change into right now.” I told my companions as I touched the blank wall to open the closet. Three Reilly suits hung side by side- two children’s sized suits and one adult suit.

“Those are for us, Alex?” Maria shouted in excitement! She ran right over and tried to grab a suit from its hanger.

“There is one for each of you and one is enough for anyone, honey!” I smiled as I handed the garment to her. She ran to the other side of the room and immediately began to strip!

Alexis laughed and then stared at me. “Really, mother? Willy Wonka? You had to quote from Willy Wonka?”

“Quote from who, hun?” I asked having no idea what or whom she meant.

Heidi had excused herself and followed Maria across the room to help her change.

“Ladies, all previous clothing must be removed for all suit functions to operate properly. Hilde, you get Joseph changed.” I advised. “Once the children are done, we’ll take them just outside to allow you some privacy.”
 
 

1130 hours, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, July 10th, 2029
 
 

“So, what do you think of our ‘Space-Age’ clothing, Frau Wolmacher?” I asked as we re-entered the guest quarters.

“How can you wear these things? I feel as though I’m being cut in half!” Hilde remarked.

“You get used to them. At first I asked the same questions, Hilde.” I giggled at her discomfort, relating it to my own all those years ago.

Was it truly possible that fourteen years had passed me by since my Mahanilui? Fourteen…wait, that was counting my future self’s memories into the calculation! I started to rethink how long I had visited each place in my travels- just my travels. A few weeks here, a month there- three long frustrating years on Terra the first time then another four months there recuperating from ‘Bad Alex’.

It was five years, not fourteen! I was still in my mid thirties, not mid forties! I outwardly exhaled a sigh of relief.

“What? I’m sorry I don’t like the fit, Alex! Isn’t there something more comfortable to wear instead?” Hilde complained, misled by my response.

“The Reilly suit can become any form of clothing you like, Hilde. We just need to introduce you to the suit first. Alexis could you do the honors, please?”

“Of course, Mother Empress.” She smiled deviously, having gotten a Terran ‘dig’ in on me. Sometimes she reminded me so much of her sister, Cassandra!

‘Cassie is a hardheaded, rule bending copy of you, mother! I, on the other hand, try to follow the rules…when I can!’ She replied in my head.

‘When you feel you might get caught, that is!’ I thought back. ‘I still love you though, despite…’ I started to giggle out loud as I recalled some future memories of Alexis at thirteen. On that visit she had decided to change her hair color. When I arrived to visit, I was met with Alexis sporting some God-awful, iridescent, purple, yellow, and green Mohawk! Not only that, but her skirt was so short you could almost see…

‘MOTHER!’

“But Josie Two-Eagles thought you looked…very…um…cultural!” I said aloud and began laughing.

“Mother, shouldn’t we be preparing our guests for their departure?” Alexis asked tersely.

“RVP, time, please?” I asked the A.I.

“1139hrs, Alex. Sensors have not picked up Sand Dollar yet.”

“Thanks, hun. Wolmachers, we have a little under three minutes before Sand Dollar returns from 1918.” I informed them.

“Who was that, Alex?” Joseph asked me innocently.

“I am RVP, Joseph. I am the voice of this Research Station. I take care of the station systems and assist everyone residing in these walls.”

“Wow!” He said, as his eyes grew larger.

“And I am your ride to your new home, Joseph.” Alexandra said cheerfully as she appeared next to me. On her opposite side was Tibius.

“Do you see that, momma, there’s two of her!” Maria screamed in excitement.

“Almost right, little Maria. I am her granddaughter, Alexandra. Y’all can still call me Alex though.” Alexandra looked to me and smiled. “Are we ready to travel across the galaxy then?” She asked.

“Are you taking us to Terra, Alexandra?” Joseph asked.

“Yep!”

“Wow!”

“Do you not want to go, young squire?” Tibius asked as he bent down to the young boy and gently put his hand on the small shoulder.

“I’m not a squire, I’m a Wolmacher! Joseph Friedrich Wolmacher!” He complained, setting the strangely dressed, older man straight.

“Yes you are son, and when you become a man, you will make your parents proud.” He told the young man with a smile.

“So, before we go, I’d like all of you to think about your decision to live on Terra. I’m afraid you won’t be there for very long as we are preparing to depart our Homeworld and travel to a new planet- in a new solar system. You see, our sun is about to die and therefore we must move or face extinction. Are you each willing to make a new home twice more?” Tibius asked the four, but concentrated on Maria and Joseph individually.

“We go where our momma and Heidi go.” Maria answered confidently for everyone.

Tibius again smiled at the two children then stood up. He looked into Hilde’s eyes in a similar manner to Uncle Rick.

“Lady Hilde, if you are unsure of this venture, you are welcome to stay here on Earth. I cannot guarantee life will be as pleasurable on Terra Nuevo as on Terra. Life will be difficult before we get our basic systems up and running. You may have to manually cook or wash dishes by hand- there may be plenty of walking involved before our transport system becomes active.”

Hilde had looked concerned as Tibius started warning of the difficulties in setting up a new civilization on a new world, but looked relieved when he gave examples.

“I wash dishes and cook meals now! Why would those things be considered hardships?”

Heidi looked relieved at her former wife’s response.

“Time’s running out, Tibius.” I reminded. He looked at me in amazement, but nodded his understanding.

“Heidi Wolmacher, I need to hear your decision, please.”

His eyes got a little bigger and he began to laugh. “Such amazing development! Thank you, M’lady.”

Tibius turned to Hilde. “And you, Lady Hilde? What is your choice?”

The woman’s face turned bright red!

‘YES’ echoed through my skull so loudly, I was amazed I could still hear!

“Momma, you didn’t need to shout so loud! We could hear you well enough already!” Maria scolded her mother.

Tibius smiled and looked my way.

“As usual I am amazed at the swift grasp you Earthers have on gifted abilities, my love!” He chuckled then paused.

“I wish to meet with you on your original arrival to Reilly, Empress!” He looked back at the Wolmachers.

“On behalf of all Terra and especially the city of Citadel. I, Tibius, Grand High Counsel of Citadel, welcome you to our society and our planet. You will make fine citizens, friends, and especially family! May you be happy in your new home!”

Heidi, Hilde, Maria, and Joseph took Alexandra’s outstretched hands.

“Will you come visit us, Alex?” Maria asked. Her smile ebbed slightly.

Had she just read my mind, I wondered?

“I may not visit until after the move to Terra Neuvo, but I will visit, hun.” I told her with a smile. Learn your lessons well and behave for your mommas, you two!” I added.

“Grandmother Empress, aren’t you forgetting something?” Alexandra raised her right eyebrow and tilted her head motioning toward Heidi.

“No I didn’t forget anything, Empress.” I smiled slyly. “Heidi, we have unfinished business to take care of.” I told the woman. “Kids, I need to borrow your Papa for a while. Alexandra will be bringing her back to you momentarily, along with your new aunts.”

“Heidi will be back with y’all in about fifteen minutes, okay?” Alexandra told them.

Both children nodded.

“Until before, Empress.” Alexandra said. Confusing as it sounded, she was exactly right.

“Until then, Empress.” I replied.

The four of them disappeared leaving Tibius, Alexis, Heidi, and I in the room.

I took Heidi’s hand. “We’ll see you tomorrow.” I said to them as I phased us out.

Heidi Wolmacher’s quarters became the director’s conference room.

“It’s about time you two got back, Alex!” Uncle Rick growled.

“RVP, how long have Miss Wolmacher and I been gone?” I asked and winked at my uncle.

“Five minutes and four seconds, Alex.”

“Thank you, RVP.” I giggled.

In a hurry to go somewhere, Admiral?” I asked.

“No, it just seemed to take you forever.” He replied with a little chuckle.

“So how did things go, Heidi?” Alexandra asked as she handed Alexia back to Marcus.

“As Alex would say, ‘everything is as it should be’, Empress. Thank you for your patience, ma’am.”

My granddaughter grinned and winked at her. “Glad to hear it, sister.”

“Empress, I am ready to leave for home when you are.” Heidi added with a nervous smile.

The others stared at their crewmate as if her personality had changed drastically-, which by all accounts, it had. Maybe one day she would reveal to them her exploits with the Empress…then again, they all would have many chances to travel with the Empress of Time and Space!

“What changed in you, lieutenant?” Miss Heinz asked in amazement.

Heidi thought for a moment before answering. “I saw my past and glimpsed my new future, Captain. I saw how I truly made and will make a difference. Alex has given me the opportunity to see how my life will change- how it will affect others- how in many ways it becomes better. She showed me responsibilities I could never have dreamed of previously- responsibilities that will challenge, even test me, my friend! I’m afraid it was too enticing to pass up.” She explained, smiling brightly.

I wondered exactly how much Heidi had been able to see in my mind before I consciously fire walled her prying.

“They have brainwashed you somehow!” Honi Meyer accused. “They will brainwash us all!” She declared as she jumped up from the table, slamming it with her closed fists.

“That will be enough, Honi Meyer.” Heidi told the girl in a calm controlled tone. Her face flushed, as she seemed to concentrate harder.

Honi was suddenly a foot or two taller and looked completely shocked that she couldn’t move!

“You will stay seated and listen to everything these kind people tell you or I WILL demonstrate how far my gift has developed in the hours since my Mahanilui! Now sit back down, Lieutenant!”

Jack was smiling ear to ear as she watched the event unfold. The other new girls watched in horror at the confrontation before them.

“Heidi, I know the action was well intended, but Terrans do not threaten or harm other Terrans, M’lady!” Tibius informed her. “Please put Lady Honi down gently. The Terran people work things out diplomatically and politely! We are not barbarians!”

“What they did to us on our arrival was real polite and diplomatic, eh Alex?” Jack snorted in contempt.

“What we did on your arrival to Terra, Lady Jacquelyn, was detain you and your companions until we could be sure that the Empress was really ‘the’ Empress! Did it not occur to you that the one referred to as ‘Bad Alex’ had paid us a visit before your arrival- or that those six barbarians, hell-bent on destroying anyone or anything in their path, warranted closer scrutiny?” Tibius’ voice conveyed some anger. He took a cleansing breath and paused a moment to compose himself.

“Forgive me Lady Jacquelyn, I forget it is considered humor on this planet to make light of difficult situations one’s self faces. I will use an Earther quote though, if I may?” He paused a second.

“Lady Jacquelyn, please give it a rest!”

Jack’s mouth dropped open and she remained quiet.

“I knew it was only a matter of time!” I giggled and shook my head!

“Empress?” Tibius looked confused by my statement.

“It was only a matter of time before us ‘Earthers’ rubbed off on y’all, Tibius!” I laughed.

“For most of us, time is a constant in our lives, my love.” He laughed back. “That, and my admiration for you, Alexandra Steinert-Fleming!”

“Hun, the hyphen hasn’t happened yet. How many times do I have to remind y’all in one visit?”

“An infinite number, I’m afraid! I will never grow weary of you or your melodious voice, my love.”

For once I didn’t know how to respond! I did, however, feel a strange sensation in my stomach- a very pleasant sensation I remembered feeling on occasion before- a feeling I quickly tried to dispatch to the farthest extents of my conscience before I did something that was foreseen but highly inadvisable!

“This is absolutely amazing!” Alexis chimed out. “Mother is flustered! Does that mean the cosmos and all of the universes are doomed to collapse?”

“Hardly, mother!” Alexandra scoffed. “There will be many more times when Grandmother will be rendered speechless.” She said, smiling deviously and winking once.

Deciding that any response would only lead to more ribbing from the Terrans, I instead looked over our nine guests.

“Are there any other questions we can answer about your new identities, Terra, or us?” I asked and waited.

“Sir Tibius, you referred to Heidi Wolmacher as ‘M’lady’. Back in Germany that term applied to nobility such as the Kaiser’s courtesans. Is that just your term for women on Terra, or are we to be considered actual royalty?” Madeline Heinz asked after a minute.

“Lady Madeline, because we have been without feminine accompaniment for nearly a millennium, all female Terrans are considered rare and therefore royalty! Such nobility is treated with the utmost kindness, love, and compassion that it deserves! On Terra, women are truly considered a treasure, m’lady.” Tibius answered respectfully.

“So we are royalty then- and will be treated accordingly?”

“Mostly, but you will be free to engage in employment and participate in our social events- meaning you will not exactly be waited on hand and foot for the rest of your lives as with royalty here on Earth. As a Terran, you will be required to contribute to society in some form and degree. Lady’s Alexis and Alexandra have agreed to act as mentors to advise and guide all of you through the myriad of protocols, rules, and restraints that protect the rights of every Terran.”

“Empress, what should we look forward to if we choose to stay on Earth?” Heinz asked, looking at me.

“As you live your now extended lives, you will witness the slow transition of attitudes toward women here on Earth. True equality for us will finally arrive in the mid to late twenty-first century. Before then, you can expect to be treated much the same as you yourselves treated you’re wives and female acquaintances. Besides being expected to be predominately submissive where men are concerned, you will be treated by most as beings only useful as secretaries or common housemaids. Also, roughly every half century you will find it necessary to disappear and reinvent yourselves because of our longer lifespans. I can tell you from memory that it is by far the hardest thing to do to a husband or other loved one!” I looked down in sadness as memories of Sanford came to mind. “Makeup can only make you look so old before people start to notice that you really haven’t aged a day, I’m afraid.”

“How long can we expect to live, Empress?” Honi asked.

I paused a minute to think about how I should reply. Uncle Rick was here and I didn’t want to really answer in his presence, but I did say I’d answer any question. I sighed audibly and swallowed hard.

“A few hundred. “ I told them cryptically.

“A few hundred? Like two or three hundred years?” Honi asked in surprise.

I gulped once more and looked over to Uncle Rick nervously. “More like eight or nine…hundred, Goddesses willing.”

I was met with a collective gasp from the table.

“What would we possibly do for that long of an existence, Empress?”

“Anything you put your mind to, Miss Meyer! Start by increasing your knowledge and intellect. Find and experience love. Enrich your long life in ways you’ve only dreamed! In short, Miss Meyer, experience any and everything possible! Live your life to the fullest extent imaginable!”

“How will we do that?” Mandy Heinz asked.

“However you wish within the legal boundaries of whichever society you choose, of course.” I giggled.

“Be advised though, that you stand a much better chance of blending in among people that share similar gifts. I don’t have to tell you how you would be treated on Earth if the general populous found out. That is exactly why we keep this facility actively maintained. It is our respite from those whom wish us harm.” I warned.

“So you are more or less urging us to leave Earth then?”

“Hardly, Mandy. Our sisterhood has not only remained out of the population’s eye, but we have begun to flourish! Where in 1944 we numbered a mere eighty, in 2029 the people of Kili Island have grown to over one thousand. That is not counting the present population of Terran-Earthers and Reilly-Earthers that have called Earth home for over six thousand years.”

“You mean you have been here that long, Empress?” One of the other women, Joanne- previously Johan, finally spoke up.

“Of course. I brought Reilly to this very site over five thousand years ago. Why, I remember it like it was just last month!”

“That’s because to the rest of us it was just last month, Alex.” Jack jeered.

“Frauline RVP, do you have any painkillers I might take to relieve this pounding in my head?” Joanne asked our A.I. as she rubbed her temples.

“I have it, RVP.” Jack said producing and reaching into her purse. “I always carry enough for an extended time trip, Miss Stemp.” Jack told her while looking at me with her eyebrows raised.

“Danke, Frauline.” She thanked Jack after accepting the three tablets offered her.

The woman tossed all three into her mouth and picked up her water glass.

Heidi tensed up visibly!

‘Relax, hun, once you go through the Mahanilui, the water can’t hurt you. The newly introduced Nanos simply accept the resident Nano programming. No further changes will occur.’ I thought to her to reassure her.

‘It would have been nice to tell me that before the others noticed, Alex!’ She thought back.

“You’ll do, hun!” I said aloud and laughed.

Everyone but Jack looked at me in confusion. My Ex-O simply sat and quietly smiled from the far end of the table.

‘Has no one else been listening to our conversation, ladies?’ I thought, hoping to broadcast to the entire table.

Jack, Tibius, Alexis, Alexandra, Markus, and Heidi joined me in looking at each of the others seated around the table. Nine heads slowly glanced down at the table. Only Uncle Rick seemed to be left out.

“So you all understand the problems to be faced here on Earth?” I asked out loud.

“My sisters,” Heidi began, “There has been nothing said about taking up permanent residence on Terra! I’m sure the Empress…”

Alexandra and I cleared our throats simultaneously.

Heidi blushed slightly. “I’m sure Alex would return any of us back here to Earth if we just asked! Why not just agree to reside on Terra and then maybe Terra Nuevo on a trial basis?” Heidi turned to Alexandra and I. “Could you possibly agree to a trial period, Alex? Alexis? Sir Tibius?”

Tibius sat quietly, watching Heidi intensely while Alexis and her daughter waited for his answer.

“By the Lords of Terra! How many times have you called ‘checkmate’ on me these last few days, my love?” He finally asked of me.

“I wasn’t aware we were playing chess, sire.” I smiled deviously.

“Not formally, no, but I do look forward to our one on one skirmishes, Alex.”

“What are you two talking about, Alex?” Heidi looked very confused, as did everyone else not in on our usual banter.

“Lady Heidi, the Empress has once again proven herself a very formidable adversary! On my last visit here she told me she would find a suitable apprentice for me to tutor- that I would immediately be impressed with the way she negotiated and bargained. I wondered how and where such a unique individual would be found. Alex prophesized there would be one with the courage, tact, and patience to be just that, and that I would meet her on my next visit to Earth. Although knowing of the Empress’s reputation, I had my doubts. My experience with Earthers other than those of Reilly show them to be impatient and critical of others,” Tibius glanced at Jack quickly, “and self centered for the most part! Present company excluded, Richard.” He continued, bowing slightly to Uncle Rick.

“You mean me?” Heidi asked with disbelief in her voice. “How can I be that person, Alex? Sir Tibius, I’m afraid I could never take on the duties and responsibilities that a man of your authority carries! I am not the one Alex spoke of, sir.”

“Oh, but you are, M’lady, for to be my apprentice, one must also be understanding, accepting of new things, and especially…unbiased and humble! All requested criteria are met in you, Lady Heidi!” Tibius looked over the unbelieving woman for a moment.

“I offer you position on my advisory team. There you will work alongside my daughter, her husband, Nathan, Alex Reilly’s mate, Gailan, Constance, and I. Please seriously consider the tendered offer, M’lady.”

The entire room went silent! Alexandra looked at me with a huge Cheshire Cat grin. Winking once, she nodded to me. Alexis stared at her daughter in total amazement! Had she even used her gift to see this event, I wondered?

Heidi Wolmacher’s mouth opened slightly a few times, but no words came out. Instead, she looked to me in such a way that asked why- why had I done this? It made me feel proud that I had helped this young woman on her way to a rewarding, thrilling, very challenging, and wonderful new life. The best part was I had even reunited her with her family! They too would enjoy the amazing life ahead of them.

I only hoped Momma Scott could forgive me for upsetting ‘Upper Management’. From what I could imagine, they were capable of making my life far worse than anything the elderly Hilde Wolmacher would’ve faced had we not traveled back and rectified Heidi’s curse on her in my domain.

A cold chill coursed through my body at that exact instant and, for a second it felt like some unseen entity had placed a single kiss to my forehead!

Alexia suddenly began laughing and cooing, as she appeared to be staring at something or someone right in front of her!

My eyes instantly scanned the walls and ceiling around me. Both her parents joined my search of the empty space.

Maybe I was wrong in my last assumption?

Knowing she was probably watching, but unsure of what I had felt or observed, I silently thanked Ruth Scott.

“Alexandra, my love. Could you come back to us?” I heard Tibius calling to get my attention.

I wondered how long I was ‘gone’ this time. I blinked several times on reflex.

“Alex, we need your decision on the issue placed before Council for consideration.” Tibius said in a calm, gentle voice. “Would the Empress be willing to honor the aforementioned contract or does she decline the proposed suggestion?” He continued. “Remember, you are still an active, though member emeritus, of my advisory team, my love.”

“If…” I paused to remember exactly what I was voting on, “If Alexandra has no qualms with that arrangement I have none either, sire. May I suggest a sort of probationary period of say, one year?”

“One Terran year or one Earth year, Empress?”

“One Earth year or nine Terran months, Grand High Counsel.” I specified and winked with a devious smile.

“Lady Heidi, is this amendment acceptable to your clients?” Tibius asked.

Heidi looked stunned by the question placed to her! She looked to concentrate for a moment before her nine new sisters all nodded in agreement.

“Grand High Counsel, the women of U103 are in agreement of the suggested time requirement.” She declared and paused for a second. “Sir Tibius, I have been asked if this contract be binding unilaterally or on an individual basis?”

I giggled before I could cover my mouth. In essence, Heidi had already made her long-term decision, but was camouflaging her personal inquiry!”

Again my future Terran mate was speechless as he stared at me. I simply shrugged as I raised my hands. He started laughing.

“My advisors, as Grand High Counsel, I declare a vote to be in order! How do thou rule?” He finally asked after a minute or two.

‘Empresses?’ I heard him ask in my head.

‘Aye’, Alexandra thought.

‘Aye’, I thought to him after her.

‘Alexis?’

‘Aye, father.’

‘Lady Jacquelyn, in place of your daughter Constance, your choice please?’

‘Aye, sire.’

“Thank you, m’lady!’

‘Richard?’

Tibius nodded to my uncle. ‘Thank you, Richard.’

‘Lady Heidi?’

The girl suddenly looked at him in terror!

‘What is your choice, M’lady? Aye or Ney?’

‘But I haven’t accepted your generous offer yet!’

‘Lady Heidi, your vote please, M’lady?’ Tibius replied in calm thought.

Heidi blushed physically. ‘Aye, Sir Tibius.’

“Thank you, my renowned and trusted advisors!” Tibius said verbally. “Lady’s of…um…U103? The vote was unanimous. The motion to live on Terra for the specified trial period of one Earth year has been ratified! On behalf of the people of Terra and the city and people of Citadel, I welcome you to our society!”

Alexandra gently tapped my shoulder and tilted her head toward the door slightly. The tingle between us felt reassuring.

The conference room became my private, dim void.

“This isn’t what I had in mind, grandmother!”

“I thought maybe you wanted to talk somewhere a little less public.”

“Whatever, grandma! Did you have to be so blunt and obvious? I mean the reference to nine Terran months? Really? Nine months, grandma?”

“Well I had to leave time for them each to find a mate, didn’t I? Besides, a Terran month is roughly nine days longer than an average Earth month, hun.”

“But nine months, grandma? Why not just tell them that they wouldn’t want to leave Terra instead of setting a time limit?”

“This way they can still have the option- should they want to take it, honey.”

“We both know that that won’t happen, now don’t we?”

“But they don’t know that. “ I giggled.

“Alexandra Steinert!” A familiar, but angry voice rang out loudly from all around us.

I gulped reflexively. “Yes, momma?”

Ruth Scott appeared before the two of us- her expression was not pleasant at all!

“Alexandra! You changed the rules yet again! What do you have to say for yourself, young lady?”

“I only did it to save the soul of someone that was dearly loved by one of my sisters, ma’am.” I replied shyly. For whatever reason, I felt like a child getting a good scolding. An image of Pa’s belt came to mind.

“And have I not told you that the higher-ups have specific rules that must be followed in our realm?”

“Yes you have, ma’am- on many occasions.” I admitted quietly.

“So why do you consistently disregard them and do as you please, young lady? Have you no respect for your superiors, Alexandra?”

“I do, ma’am, but sometimes I believe exceptions are warranted…ma’am.” I replied a little louder.

“Warranted? Alexandra, do you know why those rules have been put in place?”

“To keep order in your dimension, ma’am?”

“That and to insulate our ‘dimension’, as you call it, from yours! Think of what would happen if each of us could change the rules at our whim! What do you think would happen?”

“I don’t know, maybe chaos?”

“Don’t be smart with me, young lady! You know exactly what would happen! People on both sides would communicate! There would be no clear barrier between the here and now, and the hereafter! The perception- stigma- fear- of crossing over would become moot! There would be no reason to ‘live’ on your side!”

“Great-grandmother Ruth, aren’t you being a bit too theatrical? The Empress was just doing her job- protecting the ones she loves from harm- all manner of harm. That includes severely broken hearts!”

“That is enough, young Alexandra! You will speak when prompted to do so!” Ruth Scott hissed!

“Mother, she has every right to speak her mind! I will not have you talk that way to my granddaughter!” I said, finally feeling Mother Scott had gone too far. “Alexandra is mah responsibility, not yours! An’ in case y’all hadn’t noticed, ah was’n give the ‘Regs’ manual when ah got throwed to this job! So, ah’m jus gonna wing it ‘til told otherwise! An if ah d’termine one ah mah sisters’ll be happier with her fam’ly, then, by God that’s what um gonna do! If upper man’gement’s got problems with that then they shoulda established the ‘rules’ before now, momma! Just so happens that me an’ Alex err ah the same mind ‘bout Heidi’s kin! If y’all wanna hang us fer that then go right ‘head! Ah’m stickin’ ta the b’lief ah done the right choice, ma’am!”

As Pa would say, I give her both barrels!

“Alexandra.”

“Ya, what now?” I growled!

“The higher-ups agree with you, sweetheart!” Ruth Scott’s angry frown became a pleasant smile and she moved close enough to wrap her arms around me!

“They wish me to convey their pleasure and approval that you saved a lost soul from herself! Marvelous job, both of you!” She smiled and kissed each of us once on the forehead.

A shudder ran up my spine!

“It was you!” I accused.

“What was me?”

“You kissed my forehead in the conference room a little while ago, didn’t you? Little Alexia could see you!”

Alexandra gasped at my accusation and we both glared at our elder as she giggled a few times.

“In the words of the military, I can neither confirm nor deny that accusation, sweetheart!”

“Why read us the riot act, Great-grandmother, if we pleased upper management?” My Alexandra asked.

“Though you did the right thing this and previous times, they wished me to emphasize the need for constraint and order, my children. They didn’t define how I should do that though, so I just approached it as a mother would her children- which you both are.”

“You’re as big a tease as Grandmother!” Alexandra snorted out.

“There is something to be said about family, sweetheart. You, I hear, are quite the tease as well, my great-granddaughter! Apparently the apple does not fall far from the family tree after all, despite the great time and distance between birthplaces.”

“Are we through here, Great-grandmother Scott? I have new recruits to transport back to Terra and I’d like to do that before Alexia’s next birthday?” Alexandra asked in sarcastic defiance.

Ruth Scott smiled evilly.

“Be forewarned that ‘upper management’, as we call them, do have their limits, Empress of Time and Space! If exceeded, you will be called upon to answer for your actions! Remember, your gift as you yourself, proclaimed earlier, can be rescinded! As my children, I would not wish for that to happen to either of you.”

Momma Scott moved her head to the side of mine as she hugged me again. “Keep up the good work, Alex. I’m so proud of you and Alexandra! I’m proud of all my girls!” She whispered in my ear.

I could see a slight glistening at the corners of her eyes when she stepped back from us.

“I will leave you now, Empress. Remember that you are always under a friendly eye and that help is only a dimension away. Until another time, my children. Travel safe.”

Ruth Scott suddenly disappeared and Alexandra and I were left alone in my private domain.

“She left in a rush, didn’t she?”

“Sometimes.” I answered and then looked around us. “I never noticed how lonely this place could get. You ever feel that way, Alex?”

“On occasion, Grandma.”

We stood silent for a few minutes.

“Grandma, I want you to know that this next big thing with Connie…its…well, I’ve seen it’s going to…” She stopped abruptly and embraced me- practically squeezing the breath from my lungs! I felt her body shudder and heard her pain-laden crying begin.

I let her go on for a while. I had seen the results and didn’t want to think or be reminded about it. My granddaughter, though, was still concerned. Had she seen the same scenario only with a different outcome?

“Honey, I’ll be fine. Don’t let doubt cloud what you have seen or know. You know that I have to do this and nobody else. I’ve found a place where Connie can go supercritical and not hurt anyone or thing. You have to trust that I’ve done my homework on this one, Alex.” I told her as I gently combed my fingers through her hair. “I may not be in the best of shape when I appear in Citadel’s Community Park, but I’ll survive. I’ve done so before, now dry those eyes and let’s get back to Reilly, okay?”

“How can you be so accepting? Aren’t you the least bit afraid, grandma?” She asked inching back and looking into my eyes- eyes that, at the moment, were different in color from hers.

“Hun, I’d be lyin’ if I told y’all I’m okay with this.” I said then paused. “Sometimes though, we just have to tell ourselves this is the only way and to just settle up. Whether I survive or not, this must be done…and I’m prepared for whatever happens. We’ve both seen that I make it- my future self is the proof, but I’m ready should something go wrong.”

“I love you grandma.”

“I love you too, hun. Now dry your eyes so the others won’t notice we’ve been gone, okay?”

Alexandra nodded while still blinking her stinging eyes.

After waiting a few moments I slowly reached out and touched her hand. Gently taking it into mine I appraised the woman next to me- my exact duplicate in every way save experience and upbringing. When I thought we were ready, I thought about the exact second that we had left for my domain.

The dim void became the bright, populated director’s conference room.

“Why the long faces, Empress?” Tibius asked as we reappeared. To everyone else watching, we had never left.

“Just some bad memories from one of my recent missions, that’s all, sire.” I told him.

Uncle Demmit looked at me with a discerning eye for a moment. Heidi also showed moderate concern.

“I’ve known you for too long, my love, there is something…”

I broadcast my memories of the ‘A’-bomb test at White Sands, NM.

Everyone but Uncle Rick, Alexandra and I jumped!

“Alex, I wish you would stop doing that every damn time you want a subject to drop!” Jack cursed. “The next time you do that someone may get…!” She added, her face angry with me then melting into confusion. It wasn’t often I shut her out of my thoughts.

Alexandra suddenly stepped back from me and quickly took Marcus’ hand. She, Marcus, and Alexia disappeared instantly.

“I see.” Tibius said simply while the others stared at his calm reaction.

“Well I don’t see!” Heidi said angrily. “I’ve never seen anything or any memory like that in my life! What does it mean, Alex?”

“Earth’s greatest achievment! The harnessing of the atom, Miss Wolmacher.” Tibius answered, as I surprisingly remained quiet.

“What is an atom, sire?”

“Atoms are what we all are made up of, my dear. When energy of some form is introduced into an unstable mass of atoms, a vastly larger amount of energy is released. Used peacefully the resulting fission reaction can be used to create heat and steam, thereby generating electricity. When used as a weapon…” His voice trailed off as he looked over and spied the tears running down my face.

“The Empress has seen her share of tragedies. Let’s leave it at that, shall we, my apprentice?”

Heidi looked at me in deep concern for several minutes then her attention turned back to Tibius.

“Of course, sire. The topic will be breached no more. I’m sorry for asking such a delicate question, Alex. Apparently there are more facets to you than I have seen. Forgive me, my Empress.” She said bowing slightly to me.

Alexandra came walking into the conference room. She had apparently changed clothes. Marcus and Alexia were no longer with her.

“Welcome back, Empress. “ Tibius said as he stood and embraced her. I trust your mate and daughter are safe back home?”

“They are Grand High Counsel.” Alexandra answered somewhat neutrally.

A cold chill shot up my spine!

“Mother, we must take our leave. Counsel, have the women of U103 given their consent?”

“They have, Empress, but you were here for the advisory vote!” Tibius looked confused as he reminded her.

“Alex, I’m sorry for whatever happened.” I said as I moved closer to her and extended my hand.

“Grandmother, you will not touch me! Ah don’t wish for y’all to exchange memories at this time!”

Uncle Rick stood up at this point and approached my granddaughter.

“Alexandra, could I interest you in a hot cup of cocoa?” He said as he touched her arm.

“Some other time, Uncle! I’d like to get back home before Alexia gets back from school.”

“Tibius, as well as Alexis’ mouths dropped.

It was beginning to make sense to me. Whatever would happen would take years for my granddaughter to recover from! Had I been too cavalier in my handling of her concern for my safety?

Maybe I should revisit my plan for the upcoming ‘mission’.

“Mother, Grandfather, we have to leave. If everyone going to Terra would please hold hands.” Alexandra asked calmly. Her eyes never again made contact with mine.

As everyone stood, Uncle Rick, Jack and I stepped back and allowed our newest women to join hands.

Tibius looked over to me.

“Take care, my love. I will be thinking about you and praying that the Lords of Terra protect you no matter what!”

Alexis looked at her father in shock then stared at me in disbelief.

“Empress, until we meet again.” I said to Alexandra.

I noticed a single tear run down her stoic cheek before they disappeared.

“What got into her?” Jack asked as she looked at me. Her question was rhetorical, but had a deeper meaning.

“Alex, what is going to happen? Are you going to be okay?” Uncle Rick asked in concern.

“Why did you shut me out, Cap? You only do that when you’re going to do something very dangerous…and by yourself!” Jack asked as she tried to stare the answer from me.

“It’s none of your concern, Commander! It’s something that should have been taken care of by my future self a long time ago, but has fallen to me instead. I guess it was always destined to fall to me though as I seem to be the ‘center’ or focus Empress!” I growled.

“Can you be more confusing, Capt. Steinert?” Uncle Rick asked sternly.

“Believe me; it makes perfect sense if you understand the issue and the circumstances behind it, Admiral.” I replied.

“Enlighten me, Alex.”

“I’m sorry, uncle, but I can’t! Too many things would change, and I’m not at liberty to allow that to happen, sir.”

The three of us remained quiet for several minutes before I broke the silence.

“Commander, I want the Sand Dollar ready for temporal departure at 0800hrs tomorrow.”

“Aye.” Jack acknowledged sadly. She was still looking at me with concern.

“If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my quarters. Admiral?” I said as I straightened.

“Carry on, Captain.” He said with a skeptical eye.

I turned and quickly walked away not wanting either of them to see my newly forming tears.

Tears of what would happen in the next few days.

Tears of the unknown danger that awaited me.

 
 
 
 

Authors Notes:

This sort of concludes the second season of South of Bikini. Just like the Empress, there may be a little teaser I'll submit in the coming weeks. My thanks for the many comments I've received this season and last.

A special thanks to JessicaNicole and Puddintane for their generous corrections to my 'Google Translate-based German'.

Season 3 will be out after a yet to be determined hiatus if the comments indicate interest.

Thank you all for reading,

R. G. Beyer



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